By: Michaelene Koskela

Barre Class

Hello April! Finally seeing signs of spring after an extraordinary New England winter of snowfall and consecutive days of frigid temperatures is uplifting and rejuvenating.

Spring time brings us longer days that afford us an extra boost of energy to clean our homes from top to bottom, to start much anticipated outdoor projects and to prep the ground for vegetable gardens. For me it is also the perfect opportunity to recommit or dig a little deeper into personal goals.

If you did not make a goal or resolution in January now is ALWAYS the perfect time. Start with defining your goal, aim high make it big; get it on paper. The best method for me is to use the SMART mnemonic.  This helps you dig deeper into what you truly desire, to live the life that makes YOU happy.  This process also lets you break it down into steps, achievable steps that motivate you to continue forward with a higher success rate of achievement.

  1. Specific or Significant
  2. Measurable or Meaningful
  3. Attainable or Action-oriented
  4. Relevant or Rewarding
  5. Time bound or Tractable

For myself I had made the resolution to delve deeper and achieve my magna opus or female nirvana! Or in summary, a healthy self image and body; this goal includes daily self care replacing negative thoughts with positive, embracing gratefulness, acceptance without judging and a combination of healthy food choices with exercise.  My established time frame to meet the emotional or mental portion of my goal is undefined, as I had taken most of my adulthood comparing compromising and choosing to allow myself to prioritize others. The healthy body timeline I established was 5 months, believing i would take that amount of time to feel confident and stronger in shorts and swim attire.

Immediately I made the conscience decision to stop being negative toward myself I realized the majority of my self-belief was bad conditioning. Positive measurable results my stinkin’ thinkin’ gave me a face of a grumpy deep in thought furrowed brow. Releasing the negative thoughts and focusing on positives attributed to me smiling, my eyes appeared brighter and my skin improved. My loved ones benefited from this change as well. A smile begets smiles.

However, during month three I called myself out and faced the fact that winter sadness, the death of a loved pet, my husband’s month long battle with shingles are not viable excuses to eat sugar laden treats, nachos or skip a workout; I was sabotaging myself and my positive goal was slowly self-destructing.  Without question the desired results were not showing on the scale, I actually stopped documenting my measurements and put away my food log. In turn, I had put on a ridiculous amount of weight in a short period of time and was doing well to revert back to bad habits which gave momentum to negative thinking. Smiles as in earlier months began to waiver.

Shortly after my realization and facing up to myself I had an epiphany. I needed to get uncomfortable, not in the temper tantrum child in the grocery store discomfort; rather I had to get out of my rut do something that would make ME uncomfortable yet steer me in the direction of my intended goal. What did I do you ask?

I signed up for a FREE class at a local Barre studio. I had wanted to try barre, yet never had the courage to take a class; my perception was that you needed to have a ballet perfect body and to also have everything that my body does not have naturally; coordination, grace, and poise.  The fear of being in a room full of strangers with my significant signs of wear -which I am slowly learning to appreciate and love -was beyond uncomfortable.   A visit to the website hastened my insecurities as the images posted are of beautiful people in perfect tippy toe barre poses, tight fannies and flat bellies. It scared the bologna out of me and I needed to tell everyone that I knew that I had signed up so I would become accountable and would not cancel. (Thank you Y sisters you know who you are.)

The day came, despite the fact that was 27 degrees out, I was perspiring and drenched like a wart hog due to fear.  The studio had three walls of mirrors and I selected the darkest furthest corner without a mirror to set my towel, weights, ball and band.  The instructor greeted me and was super warm and friendly. Told me to take things at my pace she listened to my concerns certain my voice crack as I spoke.  The class was 55 minutes it was low impact, small moves that were easy to understand. Getting my body to cooperate is part of the art.  All ages, all sizes and all levels tucked, pulsed, and squeezed. I conquered a fear and tried something new.

Surprisingly I went back and I am hooked! 7 classes in and I have already lost a few pounds & inches. I stand taller and feel muscles that I never knew existed; the unexpected transformation is how good it makes me feel about myself and the time I give to myself. The classes are challenging the isometric movements are designed to exhaust your muscles in a good way.

Falling off track sometimes leads us to greater beginnings.

Now carry on warriors pulse up an inch, down an inch.


By: Amy Dienta 

I almost feel that if your child is so behind that you shouldn’t get a report card. My son is three, almost four years old,but has the verbal skills of an 12-18 month old. To be honest, it’s depressing to see this written in ink on paper. 

Then recently I realized that he used to be worse than he is now and every word and sound is progress! Every day is a new chance to teach him one more word!!  To get him to say his name one more time and tell me he is three!image

Showing Kindness To Others

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis 

Most of us can recall growing up and being taught not to talk to strangers. I have even been guilty of telling my children not to talk to someone that they didn’t know even though I believe it’s built in us from a young age to want to talk and meet new people. We would go to the local park and start talking to a kid and ask them to play with us. We never asked them their name, but instantly they where our new best friend. And as a child you would see someone struggling and you would offer help, or pick up a dropped object and hand it back. 


Why is it as adults that we can sit back and watch other struggle and not extend a hand? How can we see someone sitting alone and not offer a simple hello? Or see a mom struggling with her children and offer her a hand with what ever she may need? Why don’t we offer help to an elderly person struggling with their belongings or un steady on their feet? Or even a seat on the train or bus to someone who may need it more?

The older we get, the more self absorbed we seem to become. We care only about ourselves and our family. I think that one of the best lessons we can teach our younger crowd is: Not everyone is evil or out to hurt us. People are, and can be good, but it starts with you.

Not only sharing and playing nice while little, but to give to others what we no longer need. Being polite and saying hello and making proper eye contact with people. Showing our children that everyone deserves respect. Even if we don’t agree with their choices, they are still a living person. 

My advice to you is to hold a door open, offer to help when you see someone struggling with what ever it maybe! If we live a life of fear and go through thinking that there are truly no good people, then fear takes over and all the good in people will truly disappear. I have started to teach my children to say hello. And to show them to watch there surroundings.

Swing Into Spring

By: Danielle McFadden

Like every child (and parent) in the Merrimack Valley, Zoe is ready to get outside and play! It’s been a long a winter and I’m looking forward to watching the season change through Zoe’s eyes. It’s her first Spring walking and talking and everything is new and exciting to her. As my cousin brilliantly said, “These are the moments we live for as parents.”

Here’s a video of Zoe having a blast at the park down the street from our house. She still needs a hat and her nose is red, but the snow is almost gone and we are READY for some fun in the sun!

I think she likes the swing… We are ready for spring!

What are you looking forward to this Spring?


Swing into Spring

You May Forget…

By: Michaelene Koskela 

What a silent house is. Your house is filled with the constant chaos of your children’s laughter, multiple disagreements over toys, random motor noises and little feet pounding.

What it is like to not be interrupted.  “Mommy, Mom, Mommy can you open this?” “What is this?” “Who is that for?” “I will help!” “M….O…..M…”  Special note- any of these commands urgently hollered from a bathroom usually warrants immediate attention.

Brooke drawing at vetWhat your carpets or floors look like clean. Your endless routine includes wiping spills or picking up errant Lego pieces, Barbie parts, discarded stickers, and crayon nubs.

What it feels like to sleep through the night. Your sleep hearing is amplified to reach all corners of the house you know when a top sheet is rustled, when a stuffed animal falls to the floor, or the tiniest of sneezes occurs. You awake a minimum of 10-15 times a night.

How you are always needed.  Your children need you the moment you go into the bathroom. The minute the phone rings. When you are Google searching how to remove permanent marker off of the dog.

How fast they grow. The first year your child grows so fast that many items are donated with tags. However you get used to 2T that they wear long after they are 3 and items finally have evident signs of wear. Yet you’re surprised when the off white winter coat gets folded and tucked into the donation bag you have to interrupt your progress to find a tissue for your tears.

What it’s like to be in constant motion.  Preparing meals, packing sports bags, being on time (hardly ever) running out of time (always), drop offs and pickups from school, dance recitals, practices, games, birthday parties, needing to bake, what to wear, planning ahead for spills, or bathroom accidents.

Children are always hungry. Breakfast dishes are loaded into the dishwasher the sponge is returned to its caddy after wiping down the counters. Your moment of celebration is short lived as a voice is heard from the adjacent room, “Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a snack?”

How long it took to paint the bathroom. Before children your spring cleaning or household painting projects normally would take 24-48 hours. Now you find your planning starts in March and if the painting, reorganizing and cleaning happens before the 4th of July you are thrilled.

How large the spare room is. Until all of the oversized plastic bins of toys, clothing and baby items are finally brought to consignment, the room remains as storage.  You will design this room in your mind multiple times over the years. On moving day this room once empty will hold your only regrets on what it never was, and you’re OK with this.

How much you matter.  The laughter and chaos of happy and even arguing children is growth. They are learning and you are a witness to these moments albeit we may forget when we are challenged.

When we feel as if our days are back to back breathless moments of chasing, catching, running, what is for dinner and what has been forgotten.  We forget our value in these spilled over routines of our young little’s lives; WE do matter. Let me remind you of your importance.

Be thankful. Happy spring!

Spring Flowers

What My Son’s Autism Diagnosis Means

By: Amy Dienta

imageMy son was diagnosed with autism back in October 2014. Since then there has been a constant barrage of appointments and meetings, paperwork to fill out, and phone calls to make. With all the constant moving, I never really got the chance to stop and think about what this diagnosis means.

Last night I was looking at old videos on my phone. Then one video came on, it was from last July and I remember it clearly. Omar would not go to bed. He was singing about water. “Www water, wah wah water,” he sang. At the time I was amazed that he could do this and recorded it on my phone.

Fast forward to last night, this video made me realize he’s regressed in his speech. I can’t believe it! He can’t and doesn’t do that anymore. I started crying and hugging him. I guess I never thought about this before. I guess the constant flow of appointments, phone calls, paperwork, etc., kept me from realizing that he indeed has autism. He’s going to regress, but he’s also going to do new things and learn different words, but he no longer sings.

He’s asleep in my arms and for the moment all is right in my world. For this moment I want to pretend autism doesn’t exist.  I want to forget that he’s regressed a little and live in the moment. I want to hug him for all he’s accomplished and forget his diagnosis.

Look out Boston!

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

As you all know, I have five children between the ages of 3 and 13 (Wow! That happened!) I have worked part time for the last four years, but I have spent most of my time at home with my kids. I have always had the flexibility to care for my children when needed. But everything is about to change next week!

I have accepted a full time position at a hospital in Boston. I am really excited about this, yet scared and sad at the same time. For the first time in my life I have leapt at an opportunity with out having a fully developed plan. For a long time I have put my career on hold for my family, but when an opportunity came knocking I leapt!

I accepted a position without knowing who would be there to help take care of my children. With my husband working 24 hour shifts at the fire station I knew there was going to be some conflicts. After sharing my situation with a friend, she offered to be around to help with the children. And so will my parents!  One hurdle crossed!

Now for the sadness. I am going to miss all the school activities that I have always been able to attend and sporting events during the week. This will all be new to me and the children. We both have to adjust to me missing events that I have always been at. I have had a chance to talk about this with them. I explained that Mommy is sorry she can’t be at your school’s presentation this time, but I have someone that will come and take pictures and/or a video for me. And I can’t wait for you to tell me all about it. We have had all those other times that I was able to go.

I have been battling all this inner turmoil. Was this the right choice? Am I ready for this? Are the children ready for this?

Well I am not completely sure just yet, but I am going to give it a shot! I’m ready to take this big step and work on my career, not just for me, but for my family. I’m sure we all can make this work. We have a lot of changes coming over the next week. But ready or not, Boston, we are going to make this work!

Grab a Towel!

By: Sue Anganes

RATI heard the screams while I was still in the shower. They weren’t the usual screams of my kids fooling around or teasing each other. They were the screams of fear. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my body and dashed into the kitchen. On the floor was a cereal box with a rat inside; the rat evidently eating to its heart’s content. All I could see were its hind legs and its thick ugly rat tail sticking out of the box. I grabbed the broom to whack it and scare it away when everyone shouted at once, “April Fools!”

We all had a good laugh.  I don’t think there was ever such a great April Fools’ Day joke played again that matched the prank that the six of them pulled on me that day with a rubber rat. Moms, watch your backs!