The Importance of Education

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller

The day I became a Mom was the day my entire world as I knew it changed. Although I had been a responsible adult for many years, this whole new world of responsibility was foreign to me.

This little person was depending on me to make the best possible decisions for him that I could.  I agonized over what kind of diapers I should use; bottle-feeding vs. breastfeeding; to vaccinate or not (I read many articles on the pros and cons); even if I should have Matthew christened. It seemed like this list of decisions grew longer every day.  Even though I was enjoying all the milestones he was reaching, I found myself feeling overwhelmed at times.

Then came the age where Matthew should have been babbling or saying a few words and he wasn’t.  There was nothing. He had been born tongue-tied and it was snipped when he was 2 weeks old, and then again at 16 months after some scar tissue grew back. I began questioning myself. I had been an Early Childhood Education teacher for many years before becoming a stay at home mom. Why was I suddenly having issues with the choices I had? Because he was my child, that’s why, and it was my responsibility to advocate for him. So, I made the call to an Early Intervention Center, he was evaluated and qualified for services. We spent nearly 2 years in EI services and then it was off to the public school system for further therapy.

I met many professionals at the school in our town and they were very helpful with suggesting activities to do at home with Matthew, giving him the help he needed to get on track for kindergarten.

His kindergarten teacher was a very patient women, who had years of experience with children Matthew’s age and was able to understand his speech well- this was a huge relief for this neurotic mom! Then came 1st grade, and I could not have asked for a better teacher! She was fun, nurturing, and held the attention of all the children in her class. I was fortunate to be able to volunteer in her classroom throughout the year and it was such an eye opening experience! I was so impressed- not only did she dedicate herself to the kids in her class, but to the entire school. Every parent, whose kid’s had her as a teacher, loved her! Not to mention that the kids loved her, as well. Our school district is very lucky to have a teacher of this caliber in their midst.

My son is now in 2nd grade and Kelsie, my daughter, has started kindergarten. Matthew was lucky again and has another phenomenal teacher! She is one of a kind. She goes above and beyond the call of duty in nurturing the kids, every last one of them. She may have 25 children in her classroom, but I feel as though Matthew is her only student when we talk about his progress. I also volunteer with her and it is evident just how much she loves what she is doing.

Kelsie doesn’t have the same teacher that Matthew had, but her teacher has a level of energy that keeps her class moving and holds their attention throughout the day. She is a caring, dedicated, and invested in her class and the school. She motivates the children and teaches them to be independent.

I have been very fortunate to see not just these teachers in action, but many more as well. The level of commitment they have to their students and their school is truly amazing. They go in early to get their class ready for day and they stay late prepping for the next day. You can tell that they really listen when the kids talk to them. They are honest and dedicated professionals who have been working without a contract for quite some time, and yet there they are giving it their all- as any real professional does, without calling people names. I find it to be bothersome that it has been going on for so long.  They come in everyday ready to educate, motivate, and enlighten their students and to not be recognized by authority figures really makes me sad.

Everyday they are full of anticipation for what they are going to be teaching their students that day. The kids respond with enthusiasm for the possibilities put before them. As a parent who only wants the best for my children, I believe the teachers deserve fairness and respect. Their level of professionalism has far exceeded that of the school committee. I take offense to a teacher being called “disgusting,” and find it to be very immature on this person’s part.

Matthew and Kelsie want to be a paleontologist and doctor, respectfully, when they grow up, and without these awesome professionals setting the educational foundations they need, they may not reach these goal. Yes, my husband and I will help nurture these choices in any way we can, but we need to keep these teachers in this field to encourage all the children in their classes. I wish for a solution where it is a win- win for all parties involved… so please continue talking and communicating positively.

My best wishes for the teachers and the school committee in this matter. Let’s come together and make this happen, I know you can…Val.

Food Label Awareness – Do not be fooled

By: Michaelene  Koskela

As a mom there have been moments where I have been short on time and patience, this combination is a true test to motherhood.  It’s when we have 10 minutes to rush out to an appointment only to arrive at our destination, one or both of us is unfed, having to use the restroom and wearing two different shoes.

Recently we had such a morning which led to a trip to the grocery store.  The market we frequent has a small dining area that you can sit and dine prior to shopping.  This worked out perfect for us as they also had a restroom.  My daughter chose a package of deviled eggs, a fruit cup and orange juice.  I do attempt to limit sugar and with her selections of the fresh squeezed O.J. and the fruit I felt that both were high with natural sugars. I quickly scanned the deviled egg label and the sugar content listed zero.  The items were purchased and while we sat to dine, my daughter ate one small nibble of an egg. She claimed it was TOO sweet.  How many children would declare too sweet as being a problem?

My haste I had not read the full ingredient list. The nutrition facts were for the egg portion ONLY.  The mayonnaise dressing was not part of the nutritional facts, but was listed in the ingredients description and it contained HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, and SUGAR, DEXTROSE, & MALTODEXTRIN.  The deviled egg manufacture had by law listed the ingredients, but how much of these sugars were added? We have no idea of measurement. How many other consumers would have done just as I did never venturing to read the full list? How many even read labels? Ingredients are listed by order of how much is contained. So in my case eggs were listed first and were the main ingredient. The filling which was not part of the facts was 75% of the product. Sugar was a good portion of the filling.

Deviled eggs 2


Here are 25 different names sugar can be found as:

1. Brown Sugar
2. Corn Syrup
3. Demerara Sugar
4. Dextrose
5. Free Flowing Brown Sugars
6. Fructose
7. Galactose
8. Glucose
9. High Fructose Corn Syrup
10. Honey
11. Invert Sugar
12. Lactose
13. Malt
14. Maltodextrin
15. Maltose
16. Maple Syrup
17. Molasses
18. Muscovado or Barbados Sugar
19. Panocha
20. Powdered or Confectioners’ Sugar
21. Rice Syrup
22. Sucrose
23. Sugar (granulated)
24. Treacle
25. Turbinado Sugar

The responsibility is ours to read food labels; take the necessary time to read the entire label not just the nutrition facts. I felt duped, not to mentioned alarmed because a misrepresentation of a food label can be catastrophic to those who suffer from food allergies, or diseases.

As for the remainder of my grocery shopping with two different shoes, I was thankful that the different shoes had similar heels; it made me feel a little less awkward behind the cart.

Autism Support Day – 2/28

By: Amy Dienta

Come join us on February 28th as the Greater Lowell Families of Autistic Children holds an Autism Support Day at Lowell Day Nursery, located at 119 Hall St, Lowell, MA.  Families are encouraged to drop-in from 2-4pm.

Learn more about the community support is available in the Lowell Area, make a picture schedule to take home, and talk to other parents.

We can’t wait to see you!


Rare Disease Day – February 28

By: Sue Anganes 


On the last day of February millions of people around the world will be celebrating Rare Disease Day, including my family. In more than 80 countries there will be events taking place to focus attention on rare diseases as a public health issue.

There is a good chance that we all know at least one person who has been diagnosed with a rare disease.  In our country, 1 in 10 people have a rare disease.  Families often have trouble getting access to life-saving medical treatment or other services because elected, insurance, medical, and other officials may not be familiar with their diseases.  In our case, the developing drug company denied my boys a trial of a medication because it was not developed for their specific disease. It is considered “off label use” and is therefore not even available for them to try. Despite the fact that the drug has a very good chance of helping them, we are denied access because of FDA and other regulations involving orphan drugs. Hopefully, through legislation and by other means we can fight for more access to life saving drugs for those with rare diseases.

In the U.S., a disease is considered rare if it affects fewer than 200,000 people.  My boys are so very rare that we don’t know of anyone else in the country with the same disease. Medical research does not often happen for rare diseases because there usually aren’t enough individuals to participate in medical trials. Advances are being made daily in genetic testing and more people affected with a rare diseases are finding others with the same conditions. Hopefully that will help contribute to a greater pool of research participants.


Our family does not lose hope even though my boys are very rare and at this point we have no treatment for their neurometabolic disease. We traveled with them on two separate weeks to Bethesda, MD, to the National Institutes of Health in late 2013. They were enrolled in the Undiagnosed Diseases Program and went through a year’s worth of testing in the first week they were there. We traveled back to the NIH for another week a month later for a trial of medication which unfortunately did not help them. At this point, knowing that the boys are enrolled in a medical study with the top specialists on earth trying to figure out a diagnosis and a treatment is our greatest hope. We are waiting for results from exome sequencing (genetic testing) of our whole family (six kids and my husband and me) hoping it will give us an exact genetic answer to the disease. We are not giving up!

Raising public awareness truly makes a difference.  It gives my family hope and can lead to new, life-saving treatments.  One of the ways I’m going to participate in Rare Disease Day is to wear “Jeans for Genes” on February 28.  Maybe you can think to support rare disease by putting on your “Jeans for Genes” on February 28, too!

#RDD2015  #RareDiseaseDay



What I Learned from the Braverman’s

By: Danielle McFadden


It’s official. The show Parenthood had their last curtain call on January 29th. After watching the Braverman family for 6 seasons, I started to feel like I was a part of their family. I laughed with them, I cried with them and I wish I could have jumped into my TV to join in on one of their sibling dance parties. There is truly no other show on TV that felt so real and focused on the true triumphs and tribulations that families face. Why did it have to end again?

Over the span of 103 emotional episodes, I’ve learned a lot from the Braverman’s about life, love and family!

Zeek: When you truly love someone you have to compromise and be willing to put your partners needs above your own. Zeek loved the house that the Braverman’s called home for decades, but was willing to sell it because Camile had a burning desire to move and start their ‘third act.’

Camille: You’re never too old to find your passion and rediscover yourself. Camille spent decades raising her family and putting herself second. Once her children grew up she took the time to develop her love of painting and travel.

Adam: Life can throw a lot at you. It’s what you do with these curveballs that can make or break your outlook on the life. Adam was the backbone of the Braverman family constantly looking at the positive, rolling up his sleeves and being a source of support and advice for his siblings and parents.

Sarah: When you follow your heart it can lead you astray, but it also makes you a stronger and better person. It’s not always an easy path, but if it leads you to exactly where you should be then it’s worth it in the end.

Crosby: Love is a game changer. At the beginning of the show Crosby was the ultimate bachelor and extremely selfish. He evolved- falling in the love with the son he didn’t know he had and eventually the mother of his child. After several bumps along the way they got married, had another child and Crosby was a different person for it. True love can change you and make you a better man (or woman).

Julia: Girl power and forgiveness. The first few seasons of Parenthood showed Julia as a high-powered lawyer, breadwinner of her family and a great mother and wife. This changed as the seasons went on and Julia’s life took a different turn. Ultimately, this lead Julia back to the life she had at the beginning of the show – great marriage, wonderful family and a job she loves. It took a while and a lot of forgiveness but in the end the show gave us what we all hoped for Julia and Joel.

So Braverman Family, thanks for teaching us that family is everything. And of course, to dance.

Valentine’s Day

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller

I am not really a card giving person…I don’t like spending money on something I know is just going to get thrown out. If I am giving a gift I like to find a picture of the recipient and write a great memory on the back. I believe that this makes the gift a little more personalized and gives them something that connects us. With that being said, I recently racked my brain for Valentine’s Day ideas for my kids at school…what to give their friends?

I looked through all my old activity cards (from my days of teaching) and there it was… melted multicolored crayons. Now that I had my idea I just needed to sell Matthew and Kelsie on it. They happily agreed as long as they got to help, which was fine by me! Somebody needed to be there to peel the wrapper off all those crayons!

So I went to get boxes of crayons and a pan that had small hearts to melt the crayons in. That was the HARDEST part- the pan! I went to many stores looking for it and finally found it at the very last one- I still believe this was the last one on the face of this earth! This pan just happened to be at a party store located in Milford, New Hampshire.

1059eae8b35ea0985cf876dc8c15699cOnce home I let the kids go crazy peeling and breaking up the crayons. After the crayons were peeled and broken, they started picking out the 5-7 crayons needed to fill the hearts. We put them in oven, turned the light on, and sat on floor watching the wax melt into a new shape. They needed to cool for about 15 minutes after we took them out- which the kids said felt like an eternity! We popped them out of pan when completely cooled and bagged them in clear cellophane baggies. We also attached a sticker label we printed that said “YOUR FRIENDSHIP COLORS MY WORLD, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY…and their name.”

My daughter’s teacher was very impressed with them as we brought them in early to avoid the chaos of 24 student’s Valentines’ coming in on the same day. My son has decided to wait until Friday to bring in his.

If you would like to create these crayons- here are the directions. You need a metal pan with tiny shapes (whatever ones you want…they make great birthday favors!) and a box of crayons. Heat the over to 300 degrees. From there, peel the paper off the crayons and break them into small pieces. Put the pieces into sha
pes of pan and place in the oven. They take roughly 5-9 minutes to completely melt. Take out and let cool for about 15 minutes, then pop them out of the pan and enjoy!

Have fun making the world more colorful…Val

Where Is Mom?

By: Michaelene Koskela

Are you absent or hiding from photos? As a mom, you take it upon yourself to plan and organize events, adventures and experiences for your family and you manage to capture the moments of everyone. But looking back you do not find yourself in a single photograph. Ask yourself if this is by design- have you been avoiding the camera on purpose? Are you too critical? Do you think, “If I was 10, 20 pounds lighter,” “I need more definition in my arms,” “I need to see my colorist,” “I have a zit,” etc… sound familiar?

You have my understanding 100% as I am guilty of this myself. The reality is that we will never reverse time; time does not workMom & Brooke that way. Do you believe that when our child needs a hug that they even recognize a single self deprecating flaw that we have instilled on ourselves? No and nor will they hold a single negative thought about a fun filled adventure as long as you are present. Present, as in taking part not hidden behind an electronic device or observing from the sideline.

A defining moment for me was when my niece was preparing for to leave home for her freshman year of college. She made a collage of photos to hang in her dorm room. What surprised me was that she didn’t choose the pictures that were taken by a professional photographer, but instead she chose real life pictures that meant something to her. Real honest candid life photos of her friends, family and pets. When I scrolled over the pictures and saw what and who were instrumental and important enough to be chosen to join her, I was honored to discover that I was a part of this group. I was able to accompany her on her first college adventure; these chosen faces of home would ease her mind and provide happiness when she needed it.

You can chose to be present, a part of the memory not just special events but every day. Allow yourself to be photographed. Children learn by example, if you give love they see you as love. Love is not measured by dress size. Every expression of love is beautiful.

Here I am.

Join the Conversation!

Moms all across the Merrimack Valley are logging in and joining the conversations! Don’t miss your chance to be apart of our growing online community. Simply create a username and start discussing. This is your forum, moms! This is your place to ask question, share advice, exchange recipes, or discuss things going on throughout the Merrimack Valley.

Click here to browse through some of the existing conversations, or feel free to start one of your own! Whether you have a teenager or you’re a first time mom, this is a place for you to share and discuss with other moms! And while you’re here, be sure to check out our forum called “Why I love being a Mom.” If you share a reason why you love being a mom you will automatically be entered to win a $250 spa gift package in our random drawing during March! And let’s be serious…what mom wouldn’t love a chance to get pampered at the spa?

We can’t wait to hear from you!