6 Things I Wish People Understood About Bipolar Disorder

As a woman who has dealt with bipolar disorder (manic-depression) for many years, I have experienced a variety of responses to and misconceptions about the disease.bipolarmask

Here are 6 of the many things that I wish people understood about bipolar:

1. I feel like I have to hide who I am and what goes on with me if I am struggling. I feel like I have to wear a mask. That makes other people feel better/comfortable, but it is taking everything within me to put on the act. If I show people what is really going on it would scare most people away…even those closest to you sometimes. 

2. Bipolar is a disease, just as diabetes is. It’s treatable with medicine; but, just like diabetes, there are many different factors that can cause an unbalance. It may mean needing a tweek in medicine or trying new medicine, but there are times when none of that works and you just have to deal with it the best you can.

3. Bipolar does not mean you’re crazy. It also doesn’t mean that you have paranoia, schizophrenia, or any other mental illness. Sometimes, those diagnosed with bipolar also have other mental illnesses; but saying that they are all the same or that one always goes with the other is like saying that diabetes is the same as pancreatitis or that those with diabetes are always overweight.

4. You cannot fix me. No matter how much you try to make me laugh or whatever please understand it is a chemical imbalance. The best thing you can do for me is show me you love me, extra hugs, a text saying you are thinking about me etc. The worst thing you can do is put pressure on me to not be depressed anymore. Depression is not just something you can just snap out of.   

5. Sometimes we don’t recognize that we’re in the Mania phase. If you’re close to someone and see the signs of mania help them to stay grounded. Irrational thinking/behavior goes with Mania and it’s called irrational for a reason. Many times we think we can do things that aren’t possible, including thinking “I feel great/better, so I don’t need my medicine anymore!” I need to be gently steered in a different direction.

6. Many times we think the Mania side is great because we get a lot done and we tend to be the life of the party. However, it is hard to concentrate and stay on any one subject for more than 2 seconds. Not to mention the down is coming; and when it does, it comes hard–which can be exhausting not only to the person going through it but to those around them.

Introducing Our New Bloggers


The results are in! After reviewing all of our amazing contest entries and much deliberation, we are excited to announce the moms that will join our team as featured bloggers on the Merrimack Valley Moms Blog.

Please welcome Juli Couture, Cyndy Muchine, Jillian Shillaber, Jenna Mahoney-Pierce, Cassie Van Der Hyde, Sarah Powling, Allie Stilian!

We can’t wait for our readers to get to know all of our new bloggers.

Each mom will write one post per month, beginning in April. The topics will vary greatly, depending on the personalities of the bloggers and their range of daily experiences in the community. Please be sure to stay tuned and to learn more about our new Merrimack Valley Moms bloggers in the coming weeks! Congratulations to our new bloggers and thank you to everyone who entered!

Caring For Kids When You’re Sick

By: Justina Scharf


A couple weeks ago when the bomb cyclone, Winter Storm Grayson, hit our area, the flu cyclone also hit my house.

My 3 and 6 year old boys were both down for the count…but so was mom. So as a single mom, when everyone is sick you want to just huddle down and sleep and it’s good for the kids to sleep; but other mothers out out there–especially boy moms– can attest, the kids don’t stop. In fact sometimes I feel like they get more restless. Cause it’s true, moms don’t take sick days, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t get sick!

So what can you do when the flu hits and you’re all alone trying to take care of the kids and get better yourself? flu18

Here are my 5 tips but I’d love to hear what other moms have to say also:

1)Movies and TV shows

We watched a lot of Handy Manny, Paw Patrol, and even fun movies like Lion King, Toy Story, and the Lego Movie. We don’t usually watch that much television so the kids were enjoying the extra screen time, especially because we all got to watch together.


2) Easy meals

We ate a lot of soup and crackers. Before the storm came, when I first started feeling a little sluggish I had actually made a big thing of crockpot vegetable beef soup. Boy, was I glad I had. That kept the boys and I fed most of the days and toast and cereal filled in the rest of our meals.

I’m also not ashamed to admit that we all were drinking the kids’ juice boxes. They were an easy way to get juice and I just stuck them in my little cooler with ice in the morningsm and we didn’t have to get up as often to go to the other room.


3) Group naptimes!

My boys were so much more willing to lay down for naps when they saw that mommy was going to nap with them. So we mixed it up, sometimes we’d all snuggle up together in my bed, and other times we’d camp out in a fort in the living room. But at least we were getting rest!



4) Easy activities

Puzzles, coloring, and getting out a few of their toys ahead of time so that not not every toy they owned ended strewn across my floor was the easiest thing to do. Also, letting the kids know early that we weren’t going to play board games or any high energy games like hide-and-seek or cops and robbers, made it easier to let them down when they inevitably ended up asking later.


5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Usually, my parents are able to pitch in and lend a hand when illness hits: whether it’s picking the kids up, dropping them off or even dropping off a load of groceries if needed. With the storm keeping us separate for a few days it made it so that I was a bit more on my own, but it also made it easy to not have to worry about trying to figure out what I was going to do with the kids while I went to work or they went to school. Since things were closed for a couple days, it was easy to stay home with them.

But if you have a support system, don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need it!


Leave your tips in the comments! We moms gotta stick together!

Snow Day Activities



It’s that time of year when the snow begins accumulating and the winter outdoor activities such as sledding, skiing, and making snowmen take over our children’s lives. Let’s face it, the winter wonderland is quite beautiful, but we all know when the snowstorms come school cancelations become a reality. And for parents, school cancellations are a nuisance that leave parents scrambling to either find someone to watch the kids for the day or to quickly come up with some activities to do with the kids to keep them busy. For those frustrated parents, there is hope! Meredith Johns is a freelance writer in St. Louis and she has some really cool tips when you’re in a pinch. To read Meredith Johns full blog post, visit: https://www.care.com/c/stories/3946/8-fun-snow-day-activities-for-kids/



Here are Meredith Johns tips:

Create Snow Art

Bring some color into the outdoor fun. Deanna Garretson, a mom who blogs at Domestic Chicky, recommends filling empty spray bottles or liquid dishwasher bottles with food coloring and water, then letting the kids unleash their inner winter wonderland artist! As Garretson says, “adding color to the snow is so much fun and really allows them the chance to be creative and do something different than the typical outdoor, snowy activities.” Kids can design rainbows, flowers or self-portraits or even add color to snowmen.


Build a Living Room Campsite

Kids love when their parents flip normal household routines upside down. Creating a campsite in the living room is the perfect way to take them by surprise! Turn out the lights, wear PJs, bust out the sleeping bags and sit around telling stories. If you don’t have a tent, be creative and build a fort using blankets, couch cushions and pillows. Hide marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers in the pantry for snow day s’mores.


Schedule a Neighborhood Play Date

For New Yorker Denise Albert, co-founder of the Moms, snow days are all about neighbors. Living in a big, urban building makes for instant play dates when friends are just down the hall or a floor above or below. Albert suggests, “at the beginning of each school year, make a snow day roster with neighbors who want to participate in the same building or, for parents in suburban areas, on the same block. When the snow hits, play dates are already lined up!” Make rotating shifts throughout the day, allowing each parent a little peace and quiet to catch up on their own tasks as well.


Make Magazine Mosaics

Use old magazines in creative, artistic ways. Have kids cut out different colors from the pages into small squares. Next, sketch a design on a paper plate. Then use glue and a paint brush to make a colorful mosaic. You can make designs using different shades of one color or lots of different colors. Or download free color-by-number printables and fill them in with the paper squares instead of crayons.


Bake, Bake, Bake

If it’s too cold to enjoy the snow outside, bring the fun into the kitchen. Make some yummy treats that everyone will enjoy. According to Carrie, who blogs at Making Lemonade, “Oreo snowballs are the perfect treat to make with stir-crazy snowbound kiddos because there is no baking involved. They’re also great for partnering with hot chocolate after a morning spent sledding.”


Craft an Indoor Snowman

You don’t always have to freeze outside to build a snowman–be creative and make one using marshmallows. Outline a snowman on construction paper and trace glue around each circle. Place mini marshmallows onto the glue. Add details with other materials from around the house. Grab scraps of felt for his hat or yarn for his scarf and color in his face with markers or dried food products. When he’s dry, the kids can name and hang him up in the house. Don’t have mini marshmallows? Use cotton balls for a fluffier snowman.

Make Homemade Play Dough

On her site, Skip to my Lou, blogger Cindy Hopper gives a step-by-step tutorial on how to make colorful play dough from basic household baking ingredients. Follow her simple instructions and the kids will be kneading and rolling their play dough all day long to create fun designs.


Whip up Snow Cones

After playing in the snow with the kids, gather up clean, freshly fallen snow and bring it inside. Divide it into cups and pour lemon juice and a little sugar or frozen juice concentrate over each and you and the kids can enjoy some scrumptious homemade snow cones.



New Year, New Goals


Have you made your New Year’s resolution yet? The Merrimack Valley moms are sharing some of theirs to help you get started.

Share yours with us in the comments!


Amy: To not let little things stress me out. 

Danielle: I always go into the New Year will be big ideas of grandeur! In 2018, I want to focus on my families finances and make sure we are saving as much as possible for retirement and college. It may not sound exciting, but it sure is necessary. 

Jacqueline: One of our New Years resolutions is to try and treat each other in the house with more respect. Over the past year, we have noticed the children have gotten mouthy not only with each other but will talk back and yell at each other and us parents. So we decided that we all need to take a step back and work on how we talk to and treat each other. This will extend to outside the house as well: to treat everyone with the respect they deserve. 

Susan: Going on more walks.

Emily: To remember to take time out for myself. Self-care is important!

Justina: Being a single mom means that I don’t get to spend the time with my kids that I’d like, so this year my resolution is to be more present in the moments that I have with them.

Our Favorite Holiday Traditions

The holidays are a magical time to share with family and friends, so some of our bloggers wanted to share some of their favorite holiday memories and traditions.

Share yours with us in the comments!


tree-2998015_1920Jacqueline: One of our favorite Christmas traditions is the day after thanksgiving we go out as a family and we pick out our Christmas tree. We set it up in the stand in the early afternoon and let it settle so we can decorate it later that night. We cook one of our favorite meals and play Christmas music while decorating the tree. 


Amy:  My favorite tradition is having a huge family Christmas party a few weeks before Christmas with my mom’s family.  


Sue: Picking a Christmas tree has become a family tradition and a big event. It’s even become more exciting than when the kids were little. For the past five years or so we’ve all headed together to Rollie’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lowell, MA and picked out fresh trees.



Danielle: Every Christmas morning, I would wake up and my stocking would be outside my bedroom door. It was so exciting to sit in my bed and go through my stocking before the rest of the house woke up. 

I credit my parents with this brilliant idea. It bought them more time before they had to get out of bed to watch my brothers and I open our presents from Santa. 


Emily: Every year we get a new ornament for our tree. Some years it’s a handmade one from the kids; other years it’s a store bought ornament that symbolizes something that happened that year. When we’re putting these special ornaments on the tree, we like to share the stories and memories that go with them.buckeyes-152000_1280


Susan: My sisters and our kids get together every year and have a cookie decorating party. It’s loud and crowded and more cookies get eaten than decorated but we always have the best time!



Put A Lid on Your Kid!

By: Colin Thomas


Winter is just about here, and in New England, winter includes snow and some excellent skiing locations. My wife and I are avid skiers and the past several years we have introduced the sport to our two young sons, Aiden (4) and Tyler (6). When we take our sons skiing we always make sure they are wearing a helmet. I see way too many young children skiing or snowboarding without one and it shocks me. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated number of 78,538 snow sports-related head injuries among children and adolescents were treated in emergency rooms during the 14-year study period (1996 to 2010). Among these, 77.2% were traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s).


Knowing this alarming statistic, I don’t know why any parent allows their child to ski or snowboard without a helmet. What’s also alarming about this statistic is that during that NIH study (from 1996 to 2010), the incidence of TBI increased over the 14-year period among adolescents. Given the increasing incidence of TBI among adolescents and the increased recognition of the importance of concussions, greater awareness efforts are needed to ensure safety, especially helmet use, as youth engage in snow sports.

Now, I understand that wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding does not prevent a fatal injury, but what it is going to do is lower the risk of sustaining a serious injury. Some experts have said that helmets perhaps encouraged risky behavior, creating more problems than they solved. It’s definitely a valid point. I can’t count the number of times I see these fearless little “bombers” shooting down trails at Mach 3. But the evidence is clear—those who do not wear a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, sustain a significantly greater burden of injury and more severe head injuries.

So why take the risk? My wife and I say, better safe than sorry. So put a lid on your kid!

Extending New Blogger Contest

We’re extending our search for new bloggers through December 31st!

OCOM checklistHave you been wondering if you have what it takes to be a blogger for Our Circle of Moms? 


Do you live in the Merrimack Valley?

Do you care for children? Are you a mom or dad? Are you a foster, adoptive, or step parent that has chosen to be a special part of a child’s life? Have your children grown up and left the nest? If you care for children or have cared for children, then you have what it takes!

Worried about what to write about each month? Many of our bloggers share anything from funny stories about their kids, reconnecting with family, recipes and crafts, to struggles with diabetes and autism. We’ve included links to examples below:

Enjoy All the Tired, Messy, Blessed Moments

Pokemon Go Means Family Go Out Together

Handprint Tote Made for Mom

A Cool Summer Snack – Tzatziki

The Uncertainty of Autism

Growing up with Juvenile Diabetes


So if you checked those boxes and also want to be a part of a great parenting community plus want the chance to win $250 (and who doesn’t?), then visit http://bit.ly/OCOMcontest and tell us about yourself!