Zoe’s First Birthday

By: Danielle McFadden

On September 26th, Zoe turned one. I still can’t believe I have a one-year-old. The clichés about parenthood are absolutely true… It does change your life forever. You don’t have any time to yourself. It’s the hardest and most rewarding job you’ll ever have. You don’t know how it’s possible to love someone so much. Time goes by so quickly.

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, I thought I’d share some photos from Zoe’s 1st Birthday. If you are looking to get photos taken of your kids, I highly recommend Jeremy Madore from Captured in Moments Photography.

Zoe's first birthday

And here are just a few from her ducky-themed 1st Birthday Party!

Zoe's 1st birthday

 

For more photos, please visit my Pinterest board created for all those ducky lovers and party planners out there!

What are some of your favorite party themes for little ones? Comment below!

Twitter – @DMcFaddenLowell

Instagram – @danimcfadden

Pinterest – daniellemb1483


First Love

By: Kate Henderson

I have a first love. I’m not sure he remembers he is my first love…to say it was unrequited would be an understatement. But there you have it. Someday, when my girl is crying in her pillow over an unrequited love of her own, or when my boy is the object of affection to a girl and he is obviously happy to remain friends (or vice versa), I will tell them about the crushing heartbreak I endured. And survived.

Since then, I have gone on to have other loves. All mostly two-sided. Or at least I was loved back by those I loved. I think. (There’s some depressing food for thought.) I do wonder if I ever obliviously remained friends with someone for whom I was the love of their life. Probably. I mean, I’m pretty amazing like that. (For the record, I believe we are all amazing like that. Yes, YOU are amazing like that. Pinky promise.)

But for all my loves, for all the people in my life I thought the sun rose and set upon, for all the times I thought my heart would break into a million tiny pieces, for all the times (and by “all,” I mean “the one”) I stood at an alter and promised to love forever, for all those times, I never really understood.

Until I had my son. (I love my daughter as much. But he was first. Sorry, baby girl. Someone has to be first.)

FIrst love

I was snuggled up close to him last night as he slept. I watched the little nostrils on his perfect little button nose flare ever so slightly with every breath. I watched his eyes flutter in dream. I watched his chest rise and fall in the quiet rhythm of sleep. I watched as he crossed his legs in what has been noted as the traditional sleep position for the men in my family. I watched him doing nothing. For an hour. My heart was so full. And I thought, “I did that. I made that. THAT is mine. THAT is the most perfect physical expression of love.” And he is.

Ok. He is not perfect. Oh my goodness, is he not perfect. He is loud. And impulsive.  And hyperactive. He’s a terrible listener…so, so bad. He likes to argue. (Genetics can be cruel… when your parents say you’ll get one just like you, they do not lie.) He has an almost pathological need to understand everything around him. (Read: so. many. questions.) He likes to jump on his sister. And he refuses to just eat his dinner already. He changes the rules to the game he made up just when you’re about to win. He is really good at enforcing the rules…for everyone else. Did I mention he is loud? And runs a LOT. Yes, even in the house.

Yup, he’s not perfect.

But he is so amazingly perfect. So amazingly wonderful. So someday, when a girl hovers around with the doe-eyed look only a girl in love can offer, I will understand so completely how she feels.

Then I’ll knock some sense in to my boy, because I’m sure her mother will think she is amazingly perfect. And she’ll be right.


This Halloween

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller

HalloweenIt has been a very rough couple of weeks since losing my Mom and my husband’s Dad. My family is now beginning the healing process.

Having my children has helped me in more ways than I could ever imagine. They have needed me to be strong for them, talk with them when they have questions, or even just snuggle so they can cry. Matthew and Kelsie have been supportive, giving me a hug when I need it, or telling me that Nana and Papa are now in heaven with little Grampa (my Dad) and Grandma (my husband’s Mom) and that they are all watching over us. I thought it would take us much longer to find the strength to get through our days.

Children are the world’s greatest medicine, in my opinion. They rely on you for so much, but can give much back with the littlest gestures and the simplest words. No one should ever underestimate their power.

On a happier note, our favorite day (ok, tied with Christmas and their birthdays) is coming: Halloween. Boy, have we been busy. We have had parties, parades, and haunted hayrides to attend. The kids were so excited to get their costumes. Matt was determined to be a grim reaper, but changed his mind with everything we have just been through. Instead, he will be a Ninja. Kelsie chose Cleopatra. She is so enthralled with the headpiece that she wants to wear it to school every day. We have some spirited discussions in the mornings about this. I can usually win, but some days we compromise so she can wear it in the car. I let her have the small victory, especially since she feels so smart for having “won.”

I love seeing the kids happy and enjoying the best time of year. They have been working on our trick-or-treating map, planning which houses to go to. One landmark on their list is a house on the street that runs parallel to us, where there is a big black pig.  They are determined to see this pig up close. Every day we have to drive by the house on our way home to see if it is still there, which it has been for several years. (I’m sure it will be there for years to come.) The kids also intend to light our firepit and roast marshmellows when we get home from trick-or-treating.

I am really looking forward to this Halloween, more than I have ever looked forward to any others. We need a happy time with some great people who we love – with some family members and friends who are now more like family to us. The kids love running through the neighborhood and seeing neighbors who are so good to them. They have such anticipation for that day.

I have one question, though. With a party happening at school and a party happening at their YMCA after-school program, will they make it to the fire pit or will they crash and burn while changing? Regardless, it is going to be a wonderful night. I hope you all have a fantastic Halloween. Enjoy and take care.

Until my next entry,

Val


Parenthood and Infant Fingernails

By: Michaelene Koskela

baby fingernailsSometimes being a grown-up stinks. It stinks having to manage responsibilities you wish did not exist. We succumb to the process, gripe, and carry on.

For me, being a parent is a whole different level of being a grown-up. Parenthood allows us to peer at our child-self with our children. We take in the scent of a new box of crayons, attempt a cart wheel, hum every other word to a nursery rhyme (hoping the missed words won’t be noticed), or draw hopscotch in chalk with only six squares. These little moments of happiness will become grand memories.

Parenthood is also hard – especially the unexpected tasks that seem like they should be simple and routine. For example, cutting infant fingernails. I know I don’t stand alone with this anxiety – even the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie agrees with me. (You can read her thoughts here.)

Alas I had a prior history with a set of nail clippers before children. It’s a dark tale with an industrial pair of dog nail clippers that make teeny tiny baby clippers seem innocuous. Tootsie, my Labrador, who is currently snoring at my feet, concurs. The amount of blood was extraordinary; cornstarch was my salvation.

Eyeglasses clippersBack to baby nails. Did my child wear mittens until her first birthday? Certainly not, but it was tempting. At three weeks old, during a morning nap, I found the courage to take on my mission. I was armed with tiny clippers, had all the lights ablaze (at 10 a.m. in May), and wore a pair of +2.50 magnifying readers. I took a few deep breaths and repeated my inner mantra in the voice of Jillian Michaels. Suck it up, cupcake. Swiftly, and without injury, nails were clipped. Baby slept on. Triumphantly, my arms shot high in the air. My lips silently synced the words to “Eye of the Tiger.” I took a few laps with an air guitar through the kitchen and back. Sleeping check! Breathing check! Slaying the dragon of a fear felt incredible. More importantly, my parenting technique – albeit raw and a tad self-deprecating – had some merit.

Try this on for size: Your day begins outside at 6:30 a.m. You are wearing a bathrobe, chasing a 12-year-old dog with a frying pan to gather a urine sample. (Which will be test positive for an UTI.) Your child will be partly clothed on the front porch, in hysterics, holding pants, one sock and a flip-flop. The tears are because somebody wants to participate. Take a deep breath. Tighten up that bathrobe. Be mindful, be the grown up. Suck it up, cupcake. They need us to be strong; in turn we remind ourselves how strong we are.  And maybe – just maybe – one day your child will be Skyping you, asking how to clip your grandchild’s teeny fingernails.


A New Chapter: Autism Spectrum Disorder

By: Amy Dienta

Autism Spectrum Disorder DiagnosisSince Omar was one, we realized something was going on with his development. He didn’t talk and only made this car noise. He was very particular in how he drove his car and made these circles of perfectly lined up cars.

We called early intervention, and Omar started working with a developmental specialist. One day, we met with her and she told me to make an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. The appointment we made was over 6 month away and Omar still wasn’t speaking.

September finally came and he had an initial appointment and testing. At the testing I knew something was wrong. I knew Omar didn’t do what he was asked to do. I knew that after the test that he would be diagnosed.

The day of the next appointment, I went by myself to meet with the doctor. I knew what she was going to say. It didn’t make me feel better knowing. This boy who I carried for nine months, who sleeps close to me every night, and who, at the age of three, was finally calling me “mom,” has autism spectrum disorder.

After that the doctor printed the diagnosis and the letter for the school, I went on my way to work. But when I got there, I could not function. My brain was trying to process what I had just heard. How would I get Omar the help he needs? What help does he need? And how do we pay for it all? 

Every day I dig through a pile of paperwork, make phone calls and attend school meetings, just trying to figure out what to do. Omar needs to get help, to get more therapy and to figure out what he can accomplish.

It’s been a little over a week now and I’m still not sure I’m ready for this. I may not ever be ready, but for Omar I must fight on. I must fight to get him the help he deserves.


Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s not an easy topic for some women or moms to talk about.

I am speaking on my own personal experience on this one. With a heaviness in my heart, I still remember my pregnancy. It was a rather uneventful, joyous time. My son was due any day, and I went for my last scheduled ultrasound… only to find out there was no longer a heartbeat. I was shocked and saddened. I prayed they were wrong! I was rushed in for an emergency c-Infant Loss & Remembrance Daysection. I remember just saying to myself, “Please just let him cry! Please just let him cry, they are wrong.” But we had a room of silence…no crying. My son was a full term, still born baby due to cord entanglement and a true knot.

I still find myself lost, and it’s been eight long years sense I lost Joseph. It was a long battle not only with myself, but with everyone and everything around me. My precious baby was no longer with me, and I didn’t know who to blame.

I blamed myself. I was supposed to protect him and nurture him and help him grow. I blamed God! How could he allow me to become pregnant and take my baby before he was even born? It was like a cruel joke. I blamed my husband and doctors for not listening when I told them something was wrong. And I became this anxious mom who became over-the-top worried over every single illness. I was deeply worried that if I could lose one child, then my other children where not safe. I was in a daze.

It took a great deal of time and therapy to look past this horrific loss of a child, which was not caused by anything. There was no one to blame for his loss of life. For the longest time I couldn’t walk into the hospital where I delivered his lifeless body. I would have an anxiety attack and the feelings would all come rushing back. My love for God had changed for the worse, and I was angry for a long time. I tried going to church with my family but my heart wasn’t in it. I tried to be a good Catholic mom, bring my kids to church, and sit with my husband, who was looking for closure himself. I couldn’t do it!!! It was not a battle that I could overcome quickly.

It took me a few years to welcome God back into my life. My life had changed; I was not the same person I had been. The loss of my son changed me, changed my values, and changed how I viewed things. I grew as a person, a mother, a wife, and a friend.

I still have a heaviness in my heart for my son. I still sit back and wonder how things would have been different had he actually survived his birth, if the cord had not been wrapped around his neck, if there was no knot. I wonder how my whole family would have been different. My two youngest girls would not be here today if he had survived. I would not have the job I have. And close friends would not have become extended members of my family.

To this day, I still have a hard time answering the simple question, “How many kids do you have?” I still struggle with the answer. Do I have five or do I have six? In my heart I have six, but to explain to strangers and even medical professionals, I only have five surviving children. It gets so complicated and it’s like adding salt to a wound. I am at peace with myself and with God. I am a stronger mother and woman because of my son. I have my angel with me, watching over us, loved and missed and never forgotten. My heart goes out to all moms, dads, and families that have struggled to carry a baby or lost a child at any age. May you find peace in your heartache!


Things We Couldn’t Live Without During Our First Year of Being Parents

By: Danielle McFadden

On September 26th, I officially became the mother of a one-year-old. It’s still mind boggling to me how fast the year went by. I’ll be sure to share some pictures of Zoe’s first birthday in my next post. I’m just waiting for the cake smash pictures from the photographer (Jeremy Madore from Captured in Moments – he’s awesome!).

In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of some of the things Adam and I couldn’t live without during our first year as parents:

  • essential baby productsSwaddleMe blankets – These blankets take the guesswork out of swaddling. Granted, it’s not that complicated, but when you’ve barely slept and have a fidgety baby why not take a shortcut? It’s all about survival mode the first few weeks!
  • Boppy – We loved our Boppy for not only feeding and holding Zoe, but to prop her up for the hundreds of pictures we took of her over the past year. We brought the Boppy with us to the hospital and all of our friends and family used it when holding her.
  • SleepSack – It seemed cruel to me that I’d curl up under the covers while Zoe was in her big crib without a blanket. She had several SleepSacks to help keep her warm and make me feel a little better!
  • Carter’s Zip-Up Sleep & Play – When we were hanging around the house (which was a lot during the first few months) Zoe always had on a zip-up sleeper. They were comfortable and the zipper made diaper changes easy peasy!
  • Cloth diapers AKA burp cloths – We had cloth diapers in almost every room of the house, the diaper bag, stroller, our cars, etc. You never know when you are going to need one!
  • WubbaNub – A soothie pacifier with a stuffed attached…. Why didn’t I think of that? Like cloth diapers, we seemed to have one of these everywhere!
  • Infant carrier stroller base – We loved our Chicco KeyFit Caddy! We could just click the infant carrier in it and go anywhere. Not to mention, it’s easy to open and close, and has a ton of storage in the bottom. Somehow I can’t seem to fit as many shopping bags in the bottom of my jogger. ;)
  • Bouncy seat – I didn’t even register for this, but I’m so glad a very thoughtful person gave me one as a shower gift. Zoe not only played in this for months, but she also napped in it. This seat traveled with us so much that we ended up buying a second one for my parent’s house.
  • Space saver high chair – We take our space saver with us everywhere – including when we go out to eat. It may seem like a pain to lug into a restaurant, but it’s totally worth it. It gives Zoe a comfortable (and safe) place to sit and the tray provides a clean surface for her food and toys. The tray also serves as a buffer between her and everything on the table that she’d be grabbing if she were in the highchair provided by the restaurant. We’ve taken her to a lot of restaurants and her space saver has fit nicely on every type of seat – including a sturdy plastic one.

These are just a few of our must-haves for new parents. We have many more favorites that I’ve pinned on a Pinterest board I created just for this post. I also asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers what their must-haves were. Here are some of their answers: SwaddleMe, SleepSacks, a good recliner, noise machine, exersaucer, jumperoo, soothie pacifiers, rock and play sleeper, swing, onesies and the rock and play.

I’d also love to hear what your must-haves are. Please comment below or send me a tweet!

Twitter – @DMcFaddenLowell

Instagram – @danimcfadden

Pinterest – daniellemb1483


Coffee

By: Kate Henderson

When you have a baby, people are quick and happy to give all kinds of advice.

Co-sleep. Don’t co-sleep. Cloth diaper. Don’t waste your time. Sleep train early. Rock them till they’re 12…or in college; whichever comes first. The list goes on and on.

Some of this advice is really quite good and useful; some of it sounds good but is functionally impossible. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Surely you jest. That perfect specimen of all that is good in your world will grunt, squeak, and moan its way through nap time. Or worse, be silent. A silent baby is a scary baby, because now you have to get up and see if the only thing that matters in your world is still breathing. Yes, nobody naps with a newborn. This is a lie made up by the same people who have trainers and cooks to help them get back into “Pre-baby” jeans before the next awards show.

CoffeeI am here to tell you that none of it matters. Not one piece of advice, no matter how good you think it is, makes one lick of difference. Here’s what matters: coffee and PBS Kids.

You thought I was going to say love. Nope. Love is a given. Nobody needs to tell you to love your kids. What you need to hear is that you should invest in a single-pod brewer, because when you have two kids dancing at your feet at 5:30 in the morning, after being up all night, begging for breakfast or, even worse, for you to play with them, you do not want to be messing with coffee grounds. What you want, nay need, is that hot, life-giving elixir in your hands NOW. Toss on a little “Super Why” or “Word Girl” and you are a veritable Mother of the Year. It’s like sending them to school without having to wrangle your two-year-old daughter into tights.

Now go enjoy your coffee while Word Girl saves the world. You’re welcome.