Beach Bumming It With A One Year Old

By: Danielle McFadden 

We were total beach bums over Memorial Day weekend. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes! Last year Zoe was 8 months old and going to the beach was a less than enticing endevour. This year we can’t keep her off the beach! She spent hours playing in the sand and splashing in the water. I love the fearlessness at that age.

unnamedHere are a few things that made our trips to the beach so enjoyable (and entertaining for Zoe):

- Bathing suit with sleeves and a hat to shield the sun (virtually every kid on the beach had one on)

- Sport-Brella to provide plenty of shade while Zoe was playing in the sand (bonus: it never blows over like a regular umbrella)

- Beach cart so we could load it up and go to the beach in one trip (we had A LOT of stuff and it all fit)

- Sand toys & bubbles

- A plastic bag for my phone and keys to protect them from the water and sand

One thing I could have done with out… bringing a book. Did I really think I’d have time to read?

What are some of your beach tips and must-haves? Tweet me at @dmcfaddenlowell

Food Safety Tips For Summer

barbecue-94681_640This holiday weekend many of us will gather and celebrate Memorial Day outside with picnics and barbecues. Before you dig in it’s a good idea to brush up on your food safety tips to ensure that everyone stays safe!

Eating outdoors in warm weather can present a food safety challenge. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important.

Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to keep your family and friends from becoming ill.

1. Wash Your Hands

While it may seem basic, not everyone does this! Wash hands well, and often, with soap and water after using the bathroom and before cooking and eating. And always wash your hands between touching raw food and other food items or surfaces. Keep anti-bacterial wipes or hand sanitizer near by, in case your find yourself outside with nowhere to wash your hands.

2. Avoid Cross Contamination

Don’t use a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless it has been properly washed in hot, soapy water first. Keep utensils and surfaces clean. Thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables that you plan on eating.

3. Marinate Food in the Fridge, Not On the Counter

Also, never reuse marinade that was used on raw meat. If you want to use marinade for cooked food be sure to reserve a separate portion.

4. Food Temperature 

To be certain that foods are all the way cooked, be sure to use a food thermometer. Internal temperatures should be at least 165°F for poultry, at least 160°F for burgers and egg products, and at least 140°F for steaks.

5. Refrigerate and Freeze Food Right Away

This may be hard to remember while a party is going on, but food should never be left out of the cooler or off the grill for more than two hours. When the temperature is above 90°F, food should not stay out for longer than an hour. Not sure how long the food has been sitting out? When in doubt, throw it out. 

6. Keep Hot Food Hot

Hot food should be kept at or above 140°F and should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container. If you are bringing hot take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecue to an outdoor party, eat it within two hours of purchase. In addition to bringing a grill and fuel for cooking to an outdoor location, remember to pack a food thermometer to check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When re-heating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165°F.

7. Keep Cold Food Cold

Cold food should be held at or below 40°F. Foods like chicken salad and desserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.

School Drop off and Pick-ups

By: Michaelene Koskela

From an outward perspective this appears to be a simple concept- driving your children to and from school. How hard can it possibly be? This anxiety kept me awake at night prior to my daughters first days of school last fall. Coupled with my thoughts of 300 other parents doing the same thing at the exact same time, adding in the smelly exhaust fumes of school buses, I was WAAAY out of my comfort zone. The below unwritten rules have been my observations learned through my daughters current Pre-school drop off and pick up routine.Brooke Pre-K

1. You must drive in the same direction as all of the other cars. The signs and arrows and the principal waving his arms and pointing are all keys to the way you should enter and exit the parent lanes.

2. You can not park where ever you want. The moving car lane is moving for a reason if you stop and park and leave your car you are in the way. Parking in front of the school blocking the buses will prevent any of the other parents from collecting or dropping children.

3. You are not special. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but if you see a line, a long very obvious down the hill beyond a stop sign and into a street line, it is there for a reason. For the love of all, get in it. If you want to be closer to the building arrive sooner. No cutzies.
4. You will be moved. Should you think you are fine driving up next to a bus, passing all others, double parking and exiting your car standing and waving? You will be asked to move to the back of the line, nobody cares that you have your blinker engaged.

5. There is a hierarchy. Bus lane, pre-school parent lane, kindergarten lane, parking parents, walking or biking area, and all other grades 1-6 lane. Know the grade of your child and your position. Buses are king.

6. This is not social hour. This is clearly not the time to visit with other parents to find out what he/she has donated for the spring fling baskets, do not flag down the school nurse to ask about her recent vacation or get classroom updates on your child from his or her teacher.

7. Pay attention. If you are in your car reading a book, on your phone talking, tweeting, texting, pinterest searching or FB creeping. Make sure you are aware that if the line moves forward or a school bell rings it means all systems go. Put your devices down and focus. No one cares that you are searching for a dinner recipe for a partially defrosted pound of ground meat.

coffee lilacs8. DO not get OUT of your car. When you have arrived at the curb at your designated spot and the teacher opens the back door either to get your child or your child is in tow. You have 3 seconds before pulling away from the curb. It goes that fast. Do not get out: walk around the car, talk to the teacher, or proceed to buckle or unbuckle your child. This is also not the time to hand in permission slips or ask for something from inside the school.

9. Speed racer. Driving like a lunatic and coming in on two wheels is frowned upon. We all are guilty of having appointments that run a little long or getting delayed at the grocery store. Relax, breath your child will be happier if you are not causing accidents or horn beeps as you approach.

10. Summer is coming. There are 24 school days remaining before summer vacation. The end is in sight. I will gain these wasted minutes back to my weeks. However, my daughter starts kindergarten in the fall. New times and new rules I will do my best to not think about it until August.


Coping With Stress

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

How many parents feel like they need more time in the day? Or that their children have so many activities scheduled that you wonder how you will ever manage it.

Why do we feel the need to go big or go home? That we need to have the best of the best or that our children need to do this or that?

It seems now a days moms and dads are competing with other parents to be the better parent, and instead of showing them how to be good people, they buy things or push them into as many activities as possible.

There’s competition to take their child on a better vacation than so and so or to sign your child up for more activities than so and so. Themed parties and Pinterest this and that.

Our children are watching us run around and drive ourselves crazy and becoming more and more stressed, but for what? What are they going to get out of watching us go crazy?

I recently took on a full time job and am now out of the house 50-60 hours during the week. My children are only doing one sport and yet I’m stressed trying to balance the time and commitment of getting them home from their games and practice.

I won’t lie,  I have envied those parents that can devote all their time to pampering their child’s every need. However, I can’t be that kind of parent.

My children are going to know yes, I love them, and yes they are my world, but they get what I can give. Not more than I can handle. I can’t put on the happy face and pretend that I can do more when I’m already doing as much as I can.

I’m facing the fact that even I need help! I need help from not only my husband and children, but my parents and friends. I’m one person with five children and work to make ends meet and realizing that I’m doing what I can- no more and no less- and it’s enough. I don’t need to worry or compete with so and so because I’m not them, and I don’t want to be. I’m content with what I have and who I am. I’m content with what my children have and what they see! They see two working parents who love them to the end of the earth and back. They see two parents who try and make it to whatever event they have scheduled or what ever game or meet they have and show them that we enjoy being with them.

We value our family time. We would much rather teach them that less is more. Quality not quantity! Camping verses Disney! Beach verses cruise. Excel in one sport verses spreading themselves too thin across too many activities. And in the end we are less stressed because we are not competing or spreading ourselves too thin.

Mommy Blogger Sue Celebrates Her Family’s Latest Addition

By: Sue Anganes

There was great excitement in my family this week as my third grandchild arrived on May 12, at The Birthplace! Our whole family rallied around this exciting event. Aunty Tessa was in charge of the older two siblings as mom and dad left for the hospital. She held down the fort by cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and wiping noses.

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Later in the evening, Aunty Tessa took the older siblings to see their new baby brother and they were in love with him at first sight.

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And of course I couldn’t wait to hold him, too!

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My son-in-law is quite the experienced father now. He even fed the baby while my daughter took a shower.

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Everyone was happy to pitch in and help. Even Uncle Andrew soothed the baby to sleep with a unique lullaby

In case you are wondering why I haven’t posted the baby’s name yet, it is because I’m saving the best for last. In our family, we often name our children after someone else in the family. I even wrote a post about this a while back. This new little baby boy is named Ari Theodore, after his Uncle Theodore! Here is my fourteen year old son Theodore holding his new nephew Ari Theodore. I don’t think this could have melted my heart any more than it did.

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I have been so blessed. I have a happy, healthy daughter, and a beautiful new grandson!

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Great job, Cassie and Mark!

Social Media Do’s & Don’ts for the Working Mom

By: Danielle McFadden 


For this post I decided to put on my Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce hat (my full-time job besides being a Mom) and offer some Social Media tips for other working Moms like myself. These tips would be very useful for home-based businesses too.

Social Media Do’s

  • - Post content that is of value to your followers: things to do, upcoming events, useful information, quotes, interesting/beautiful photos, news, fun facts, etc.
  • - Respond to people in real time
  • - Ask for the share, retweet or like (on occasion)
  • - Work with other individuals and organizations to increase your reach and theirs (RT each other’s tweets, reply to each other, etc.)
  • - Proofread your posts before hitting send
  • - Check-in when you are at an event/place that would be of interest to your followers (they may even come and join you!)
  • - Stay active on Social Media (if you have a profile, use it)
  • - Treat each Social Media platform as very different from the others

Social Media Don’ts

  • - TMI: Let your personality shine, but watch out for too much irrelevant or personal information
  • - Watch your language – be authentic, but appropriate
  • - Be respectful – social media is not a place to pick fights, complain, etc…
  • - Post negative posts or pictures
  • - Post too much or not enough (you should be able to determine that with time)

Get People Excited About Your Profile/Posts

  • - The more people Know, Like and Trust you, the more enthusiastic they will be about sharing and responding to your posts
  • - Respond in real time when someone comments or responds to your posts
  • - Thank people when they RT your tweets
  • - Check-in and ask your Social Media friends to join you
  • - Find out what your audience is already talking about and participate
  • - Make sure your posts are of value
  • - Post different types of things (photos, event info, fun facts, contests, etc.), see what gets the most interaction and do more of that

Extend Your Social Media Reach (Go Viral)

  • - Use popular hash tags (search on Twitter and go to sites like and
  • - Use a great image to go along with your posts (Word Swag, PicMonkey and Canva are great tools)
  • - Your post must be of value (news, freebies, how-tos, contests)
  • - Have fun! Things that tend to go viral are of great entertainment value
  • - Remember that going viral is a little (or a lot) about chance

Retweets on Twitter

  • - Include a weblink
  • - Ask for the RT (you are 4x more likely to be retweeted if you ask for it)
  • - Don’t use the full 140 characters (think 110 characters or less)
  • - Use hash tags
  • - You’re more likely to get a RT if it’s not directly about you

How the Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers Celebrate Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! To celebrate we asked the Merrimack Valley Mommy Bloggers how they planned to celebrate their special day!

Sue - Even though I’ve been a mom for thirty years and a Yiayia for six, I still feel as though Mother’s UnknownDay is foremost for my mom. I am blessed to still have her here with me, and I’m looking forward to honoring her on Mother’s Day again this year.

Danielle - My favorite Mother’s Day memory is from last year. Not only was it my first Mother’s Day as a mother, but my brother came home from California to surprise my mother. She was absolutely speechless! It was so special to spend the weekend with the whole family.

Michaelene - We as a family try to get together with our mothers. My Mother has lived in Florida nearly 10 years so its rare that my sisters and I celebrate with her, we usually talk via phone.  My twin sister and I have often gotten together with our children for lunch or brunch. My husband and his siblings try to do the same.  Last year it was nearly 80+ degrees and we found ourselves in Ogunquit, Maine. We stumbled upon a cute little beach side restaurant. We were forced to sip drinks adorned with neon colored plastic dolphins and mermaids.  My vote this year is to have a repeat of last year. Let’s see if the mother of all mothers’, Mother Nature, cooperates!

Feeding The Wolf

By: Michaelene Koskela 

An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”

The boy thought about it, and asked. “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied. “The one you feed.”

~Author Unknown 

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As a stay at home mother many of my waking hours have become routine. The rushed moments begin at wake-up. The conversations of my day tend to be in broken sentences, snippet commands or in the forms of questions. Through the powerful magic of motherhood I know the answers before the words leave my mouth.

“Have you gone to the bathroom?”

“Where is your other sock?”

“Do you have your backpack?”

“Let’s go! Let’s go. We need to go out the door NOW!”

“Stop tormenting the cat.”

“Did you eat your …(insert mealtime here)?”

“5 more minutes….”

“What? I am in here, let me finish. ”

“Your father will be home in 6 hours, I do not know if he will want to ….”

“It is bath time.”

“This is your last sip of water go to sleep.”

“Goodnight, yes goodnight”

“What? Yes…. I Love you too.”

Throughout the day most of my conversations take place internally, sprinkled with interruptions from a 5 year old. As I stuff the rewashed load of  yesterday’s forgotten laundry into the dryer, I realize, without a question, I am feeding the wrong wolf.

“I wish my daughter had a sibling to play with; she wouldn’t be alone.”

“My Dad is sad.”

“How is it possible that we are always late?”

“I am worried about the health of my parents.”

“I had so many things on my to-do list and only finished one.”

“That telephone pole has more flexibility than I have.”

“Did my daughter eat enough today?”

Time for my yearly physical, they will weigh me, I have to reschedule.”

“Is that rash appearing on her arm normal?”

“I don’t do enough.”

“I am so busy.”

These days, whether they are good or difficult, it has become clear to me that I should not abandon myself and get lost in the routine. Much of the time many of us get distracted. Rather than stop and have that conversation with a sibling about a parent. We rush to dismiss them because we need to write a check to pay the landscaper. We can’t be bothered to hear about an upcoming dance recital because we need to print a 128 page document for a board meeting or we don’t pick up the phone to call someone, rather shoot them a text and hope that a lengthy conversation will prohibit the completion of yard work. In the end we are constantly teaching our children, joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth by our actions, how we interact with others, how we treat ourselves and mostly how we give love through our time and availability.

This Mother’s Day weekend take the time to let the women in your life know how much they mean to you. We all have good and evil to battle, some debilitating and life threatening. Certainly that makes a smelly wet load of laundry, a check, running out of printer ink or crab grass rather inconsequential.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love you, Mom.