Thanksgiving Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving! We asked the Merrimack Valley Mom Bloggers about their favorite way to celebrate the holiday. Check out what they had to say and then tell us about your own special traditions. Do you cook a special recipe every year? Take a walk around the neighborhood after the big meal? Simply enjoy connecting with your family? We want to hear!

Thanksgiving 2012Sue:  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love it when we all gather around the table and enjoy conversation, laughs, and food. Our celebration often changes from year to year. Some years I have spent it with my sister and her family at their home; other years I have had it at my house. Now that my oldest two kids are married, often we have extended family celebrating with us. This photo was taken on Thanksgiving 2012. My youngest son was taking the picture, and my oldest son and his wife were at her parent’s home for dinner. I have a nine foot long table and we are outgrowing it quickly! I am fortunate to still have my parents to celebrate with, along with my grandchildren. I am truly thankful for the Lord’s blessing of having four generations at my dinner table this year for Thanksgiving.

Kate: Our tradition is simple: spending Thanksgiving with family. I realize this sounds simple. Like, “Duh, that’s the point of Thanksgiving.” But we don’t have much family in our immediate area. Our nearest family is an hour away (unless you’re driving through traffic, in which case catching a flight from Manchester to Logan, then grabbing a commuter rail might be faster) and our nearest parent is 5 hours away. So getting together with family for Thanksgiving, as wonderful as it is, isn’t always a “given.” So every year, I try to stay home. “This year,” I announce with finality every October, “we are staying home.” And yet, somehow by the last Thursday in November, I find my little family sidled up to a long table filled with turkey, stuffing (or “dressing” if we’re with in in-laws), about 65 side dishes and surrounded with family. This year, I held out until the Sunday before. “No,” I stated with authority every time someone asked, “We are NOT going this year. I love you. It’s not you; it’s me. I just can’t do it this year. I need a break.” But this? This is my family. The chaos. The too loud talking. The too much food. The bickering over whose year it is to do the dishes. The too many kids under foot. The telling and retelling of the same stories. And while the thought of a simple, quiet day with my little, insular family is appealing, this gaggle is my family, too. And I simply can’t stay away. It’s not Thanksgiving, after all, without mom’s butternut squash (or the Orlando favorite Parker House rolls). So, over the river and through the woods we go. Again.

Danielle: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it kicks off the magical holiday season. It is a time when you get to spend time with your family and friends and truly reflect on the things that matter most. As a child I always remember fondly watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and eating my Mom’s delicious ice cream pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving. That Saturday we always put up the Christmas tree, decorate for the holidays, and listen to Christmas music. I love that I get to start sharing these traditions with Zoe and establishing the same memories for her. I feel so lucky!


Michaelene:  Our family celebrates Thanksgiving along with several  birthdays, football, and eating a weeks worth of calories. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. Nearly 8 Thanksgivings ago we gathered to celebrate my Grandmother’s 90th Birthday. Each place setting held a card with these printed words of thanks. This year we continue to do the same.


We Give Thanks

For each high and low tide.

For our children brought up with pride.

For cherished insignificant things.

And for songs our hearts sing.

For loved ones who forgive our failing ways.

For kindness received on dreary days.

For lessons learned without the pain.

For truth that comes with value, our wisdom gained.

For our soldiers and families that serve.

For it is them our freedom was earned.

For friendships sustained through thick and thin.

For your blessing until we gather again.

 ~Author unknown

Jacqueline: Holidays in our house are always a hectic battle. Having a large family is not always the best thing on the holiday. but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our holidays start with planning a few weeks in advance, deciding who will host Thanksgiving dinner. I find this the most important tradition to me. I honestly couldn’t care less on where the dinner is or what food is served, just as long as we are all together. From the time I was little, I knew where I would be on each holiday and who was going to be there. I came from a large family – both my parents were one of seven. Every Sunday we would be at my grandmother’s for a large family dinner. As a kid, sitting at your grandmother’s house was  not always the place you wanted to be. However, as I got older, I started to value this tradition.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago and this tradition of weekly family dinners has sense stopped. I miss getting together with the family, sitting and talking. I miss that close-knit feeling that we knew we would always be there. Over the years my family has slowly been getting smaller. We welcome new cousins, nieces, and nephews into our family. Yet at the same time, we are saying goodbye to other family members.

As I get older, and now that I have my own family, I have come to realize that our traditions are not always the same each year. My husband is not always with us to celebrate the actual meal. My kids are sometimes upset about this, although they understand that he has a very important job as a firefighter. This coming Thanksgiving, my husband will be at work while my children and I will start our day with breakfast and a parade followed by cooking at my in-laws. My brother-in-law and I will be cooking for everyone. Our family will celebrate my youngest daughter, Rebecca, who will turn three on Thanksgiving Day. On our way home from my in-laws’ house, we will make a stop to see my husband at the firehouse to bring him some dinner and dessert. Then, we’ll go for another round of dessert with my family. We have no rhyme or reason to where we are, but we know exactly who we will see. As long as we see our family, we are happy.

Lucky Turkey Shoot

By: Sue Anganes

Teddy's Turkey ShootNo, my son Teddy didn’t shoot a live turkey. He did shoot at a 3D foam archery turkey target from sixty feet away! He hit the target numerous times and won a ticket that gave him a chance at winning a turkey. His ticket was drawn and he came home with a frozen turkey. I will truly enjoy cooking it for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Learning a skill at any sport takes time and practice. It is a fantastic feeling for our kids when their practice and efforts pays off.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Moms!

Our Favorite Toys (0-14 Months)

By: Danielle McFadden


Back almost two years ago when we were registering for my baby shower, Adam made the joke that we should only let our baby play with things that didn’t play music… Well the joke is on us because almost all of Zoe’s favorite things are musical – including me! I find myself constantly singing the silly songs that her toys play. And to top it off, she asks me (in a language only I can understand) to sing these songs over… and over… and over again. I’ve become one of her favorite sources of entertainment.

Luckily for us 21st century parents, there are so many entertaining and educational toys out there! And with Christmas around the corner, it got me to thinking about Zoe’s favorite toys over the past 14 months. Here’s a Pinterest board with the toys that have gotten the most use in our household. What are the big toys in your house? Let me know by commenting below or sending me a tweet!

Twitter – @DMcFaddenLowell

Instagram – @danimcfadden




Daughter, my written advice…should you neglect to hear my chirping

By Michaelene Koskela

Love your body. From your moment of birth every ounce of you was inspected. You are perfectly beautiful. Magazines, media, and marketing will attempt to tell you otherwise. Why? So you buy a product or services to repair the damage the high priced advertising and marketing companies have paid to create. Do not buy into this jargon. Know who you are and love who you are. One caveat- should you have a need to go through a self expressive phase. Choose hair dye to make your statement. Stay clear of piercings and tattoos, these forms of art will require a skilled professional holding either a tattoo gun or a piercing gun. It’s my opinion that tattoos and extra body piercings before the age of 21 should require a parental signed and notarized permission slip. If a child cannot obtain parental approval the next in line to authorize underage procedures will be Cardinal O’Malley and Oprah. No substitutes accepted.

smoke thru Keyhole b&W

Fall in love. As parents we will bite our tongues, it is possible that one of your first boyfriends will be from a summer job at the mall. You will find him cute and irresistible. We will see him as lazy and disrespectful. He will sit in his 2015 cobalt Yaris, in our driveway, honking the miniscule horn demanding you race out. It would be a great surprise, if your 61 year old mother gets to his car before you do, wielding a wooden spoon and giving directives of were she is willing to place said spoon, should he beep again. You will casually thank me 10 years later when you find out he is still living in his mother’s basement and working the same job at the mall. The secret to love is heartbreak. Every time your heartbreaks you learn. For when it’s real love, all else will pale in
comparison. I love that you are loved.

Dream Big, but live small actions of your dream each day. You may start out not knowing what you want or what makes you happy. I challenge you to find out, explore who you are. Nothing makes me sadder than to come across a person that lives solely to be accepted by his/her peers or worries about what other people think. Make decisions; have a voice, what makes your heart sing? Be compassionate, have humor, be sympathetic, mistakes are your guide, share your talents, volunteer and aspire to learn from others. Once you set your goals, do something small everyday that leads you to your goal. You are amazing.

Have Friends. Have many friends and trust your instincts. A friend is not someone who calls to boast about he new “Benz” or to talk smack about another friend. Do not let peer pressure lead you. If you find yourself ever under a beer funnel, remember who picked all of the raisins out of your granola, if that makes you still want to participate, be responsible, stay safe. A true friend can go long bursts of time between visits and pick up where you left off. Your BFF will show up when you need her most, she will arrive holding a bottle and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. She will never tell you “I told you so” and that evening mixed with laughter, ugly crying and you will dance with reckless abandonment to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”. Be that friend.

Do not post pictures attempting to break the internet. Your rule for posting and sharing: do not post anything you would not want your children to see. Clearly the Kardashians love to share. If you have any doubt about the length of time images stay up on the World Wide Web and who has access, google North West the daughter of Kim and Kanye and let’s see if she follows her parents’ examples. Be humble, accomplishments are greatest when felt.

Time flies. Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) in The Bucket List declared“Forty-Five years goes by pretty fast.” Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) replied “Like smoke through a keyhole.” Today you are four; it’s inevitable you will grow. You will leave the nest. I will always be here for you. Fly baby sparrow, fly.

Forever my love,
Mommy bird

bird on nest


By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis
Yes, I’m one of those moms that you secretly judge when you see their child having a tantrum. I’m that mom that makes some of you say to yourself, “Better her than me.” I’m that mom with multiple children, who makes you wonder, “Why does she have so many children if she can’t control them?!”

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.17.46 AMWell, the pure and simple fact is that my son, who looks like your typical boy on the outside, is not so typical. Unless you have a child on the spectrum, you wouldn’t know. My son looks like your average boy – until you get up close.

He gets the deer-in-the-headlights look as his anxiety takes over when we are out in public and loud noises take over his senses. He has social anxiety and OCD. He needs to touch everything and find out how it works and why. He gets stuck on topics and doesn’t understand or fully grasp the two-way conversation. We went years with constant noise and screaming if you tried to stop him from a preferred activity. We have almost daily battles with simple activities such as brushing our teeth and washing our hands. And we have never ending battles over what is for dinner, homework, and bedtime.

Taking your child out of the house for a simple, fun activity should not be so hard – no matter if you have one child, or five, or ten, or more. Parents should not be afraid of being judged because your child acts out in public.

Why do we, as mothers, fear how others will judge us or our family for simply trying to be a family?

My family is complicated. My son is autistic – he is not some spoiled brat who gets whatever he wants.

I’m not an abusive mom that is trying to restrain my child just for pure fun when you see me on the ground giving my child a bear hug while he is screaming, throwing himself around, and kicking. He is not an awful child. He is my child who feels overwhelmed and scared. I am on the ground with him, holding him, trying to comfort and protect him from himself. I am trying to protect him from the injuries he can cause to himself because he will bang his head against the ground or hit himself. Instead, I turn my whole body into a shield while everyone stares and silently – or sometimes not-so-silently – judges or makes comments. At the same time, my other children are subjected to watching their mother and brother get dirty looks.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 9.27.08 AMWe all want the best for our kids. We want them to grow up and be successful. Labeling and judging others is not going to help our children to grow into the best they can be. We are teaching our kids to judge the book by the cover instead of what is on the inside. My “autistic” son is labeled and judged daily. He is a great, hardworking kid who loves to please people and loves to learn how the world and things around him work. I’m his mom who will protect him and help him succeed at what ever he does.

It’s 2014. We, as parents, should be showing our children that everyone is different and teaching them to be tolerant of others. I used dread going out with my children for fear of receiving the stares and comments. Yes, my son is autistic. Yes I have five children. Yes, they are all mine. Yes, I know what caused this. No, I do not know how to control my children – they are little people. I do the best I can I keep them safe and help them learn right from wrong.

I teach my children to help others and not to judge people. I teach them to love others as you love yourself and to treat others how you want to be treated. I teach them that if they don’t like something, they should try to fix it!

I will not hide my children from the world. I’m not going to hide from the world. I’m a proud mom of five wonderful children who have tantrums in public! My children will not stare, point or laugh at your children if they are having a tough day. I will not whisper and judge you for having your child or children out in public while they’re having a tantrum. Instead, I will applaud you for taking on the challenge. I will have compassion for you for doing the best you possibly can. My children will follow suit. They will not whisper about your family. Instead, they may give a smile and say to me later, “He is just like my Anthony! I wonder what had him so nervous today! I hope he will be ok soon.”

Don’t get me wrong – my girls have days when they get angry or annoyed that their brother caused a scene. Sometimes they ask why we had to leave a certain activity so early and we have to explain to them that it’s not fair for their brother’s behavior to ruin it for everyone – not just our family! We also have to explain to them that it’s not fair for their brother to be anxious, scared and uncomfortable for a long period of time so we can do something fun. And we explain to them that we will try it again another time, with or without their brother.

I just ask that you please keep your glares and comments to yourself, and talk about it when we are not in earshot. It’s hurtful and you may think it’s harmless, but it can cause innocent children unneeded shame and anxiety.

Mom’s Hobby

By: Sue Anganes

Being a mom is an all-encompassing task. There is rarely time to devote to one’s own interests, especially when your children are very young. It is important, though, to have an interest in something other than work, the home, and the kids. Every mom needs something to awaken a spark of excitement, a pursuit outside of her regular occupation. Every mom needs to be engaged in something especially for relaxation. We need a hobby!

For as long as I can remember, my hobby has been the weather. I have had a weather station on my roof for many years. I love the science behind the weather and devote much of my free time using computer models to try to forecast the weather. I read weather blogs and enjoy posting pictures to some weather sites. You can often find me standing in the middle of my street, taking pictures and videos of the sky, when a storm is approaching.

Watching the storm

I’ve even been known to stand barefoot in the street to get a great video of tornado clouds rolling in.

videoing the tornado warning clouds

My weather station uploads information to a weather site and my information is used to help forecast the weather for everyone!

My friends and family have labeled me a “weather geek,” but who do you think they call when they want to know what the weather will be like for their party, hike, or yard sale? Me! My husband lovingly calls me “The Weather Wife.” I know he is happy that I have a hobby that keeps me mentally energized. Who wouldn’t be energized by the weather in New England?!

As a surprise for me, my husband registered me for the Southern New England Weather Conference this year. It’s a conference geared to professional and amateur weather enthusiasts. We decided to make it a two-day getaway and left for the conference a day early to spend some time together. The conference was held at the foot of the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton, MA.  We ended up lacing up our hiking boots and hiking to the top of Blue Hill where we took a tour of the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory.


It was amazing to climb out of the hatch onto the roof of the observatory and to be able to see the Boston skyline and harbor, Mount Monadnock, and Mount Wachusett all in the distance.

view from the observatory

Th following day, we arrived at 7:30 am for the weather conference. We spent the whole day listening to various presenters speak about water to snow ratios, Atlantic hurricanes, ski weather, weather satellites, and tornado chasing. My husband was a VERY good sport sitting through all the hours of speakers. Some of the information was over my head, but I learned so much. The whole day just gave me a psychological boost knowing that I was able to participate in something that I truly enjoyed. The topper of the day was when my husband and I sat at an empty table at lunch. Who asked to sit in the empty seats but several of the local news meteorologists! I got to meet them up close and in person.

It was so refreshing to spend a couple of days immersed in something that I truly enjoy. It’s good for every mom to expand her interests and keep current on whatever she enjoys doing. My weekend away left me relaxed and also secretly hoping my husband will go along with me again to next years’ conference.

I’d love to hear what interests other female bloggers and readers have. I’m sure we’d be surprised by some of the hobbies. Maybe there are a few more weather geeks out there?

Warning: Nut Free Zone

By: Danielle McFadden

Nut Free Zone

Last week Zoe was diagnosed with peanut and tree nut allergies. It may have been denial or wishful thinking, but I honestly didn’t think we’d leave the allergist with this diagnosis. We went into the appointment allergy free (in my mind, at least) and we left armed with the warning signs of anaphylaxis and how to use an Epi Pen during a life-threatening reaction to nuts. It’s overwhelming to know that you can’t keep your baby in a bubble and shield them from this crazy (but wonderful) world that we live in.

This past week Adam and I have armed ourselves with the resources to help us navigate this new normal for our family. I honestly feel blessed that this has happened during a time when there are so many resources online dedicated to supporting parents of children with allergies. I even started a Pinterest board to keep all of the resources I find helpful in one place –

So, when I’m at the grocery store wandering the aisles aimlessly and completely overwhelmed reading food labels, or when I go over the contents of Zoe’s diaper bag to make sure I remember her Epi Pen, I have to keep things into perspective.  I give myself a gut check when I feel my stomach sinking or my eyes watering. Yes, it stinks that Zoe has food allergies. It’s scary. It’s unchartered territory for us. But aside from that, Zoe is happy, healthy and bright. I am blessed and will be counting my blessings while I’m traveling along this bumpy road with Zoe, Adam and the rest of my family!

(Side note for new parents: I have found it helpful to have infant Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl in our house. We needed Motrin when Zoe had a scary high fever and Tylenol wasn’t working and we needed Benadryl when she had a reaction to peanut butter. Both instances required unnerving trips to the pharmacy on the way to the doctors.)

5 Lies We All Tell

By: Kate Henderson

liarYou, my friend, are a liar liar pants on fire. Don’t worry. So am I.

If you’re anything like me, before you had kids, you swore up and down you would never lie to them. Ever. But, much like your plan to lose the baby weight before you started paying college tuition, that was a pipe dream. Kids are like little detectives – they will stop at nothing to get what they want. Sometimes you have to tell a little white (or giant white whale) lie to maintain your own sanity. It’s really not because you are a big meanie face…though your kids might disagree.

What you say: We are out of cookies.

Why you say it: Look, they can see you wiping crumbs from the sides of your mouth. Heck, when you told them you were out, you spit little pieces of cookie dust into their eager little faces. There is no denying you ate a cookie. But it’s 15 minutes before dinner (bed, bath, school…) and you’re not feeding a baked round of sugar and fat deliciousness to your sugar- and fat-activated child. You’re not stupid. No, you’re a liar. And that’s ok. Welcome to the club.

What you say: I will make dinner (breakfast, lunch, snack…) in two minutes.

Why you say it: You are in the middle of something *very* important. Like texting your friends about your next mom’s night out or pinning delicious, healthy recipes and need a few more minutes. You know this will take more than two minutes. You know you will keep saying, “two more minutes” until they scream loud enough to get you out of your chair and slap together peanut (or sun) butter sandwiches with a whole apple (come on, we all know the real reason we make them eat the skin is so we don’t have to peel and slice them) on the side. It’s OK. We all have days like that. Welcome to the club.

What you say: If we have time…

Why you say it: You know you will not have time to play that board game (go to the toy store, ride the little mechanical school bus in the mall…). And even if you do have time, it’s never going to happen. You know this. And yet, you say it anyway. Why? Because it’s way easier than hearing the cries of protest when you say no. So you lie. You lie like a rug. And that’s ok. Welcome to the club.

What you say: It’s bedtime.

Why you say it: It’s only 7:24. Bedtime isn’t technically until 8. But they have been up since 5:30 and nobody has napped. One of them just fed the fish a chicken nugget and the other is using permanent markers to draw a comic book… on the wall. Look, you’re done. You are so done. And there is no way you can hold it together for 36 more minutes. So… it’s bedtime! Yay! Except it’s not. And you know it. But you don’t care. So you lie. Welcome to the club.

What you say: We’re out of batteries.

Why you say it: You are not out of batteries. You have a whole stash of them in the hall closet. Up high. Where the kids can’t find them. Those are the batteries for the TV remote (and probably for flashlights and smoke detectors, but really for the TV) and you know they are there. And you know that they will fit into singing, dancing, back-flipping Elmo and the remote control ambulance with “real siren sounds!” You know this. But your sanity simply will not allow you to put them in those favorite toys. And come on, they have played with them non-stop for days. Everyone (read: you) could use a break for something new. How ‘bout some nice, quiet crayons? So you lie. It’s OK. Welcome to the club.

What you say: I don’t know.

Why you say it: This is my favorite. My kids probably think I’m the dumbest person they know. I’m totally fine with that. I think I bust this one out 20 or 30 times a day. At least. What does that word mean? I don’t know. Except I do know, I just don’t feel like explaining why I called that man a bad word. What’s for dinner? I don’t know. Except I do know. I just don’t feel like listening to you complain about it. Tuna noodle casserole is a perfectly acceptable meal. Why can’t I play with Susie? I don’t know. Except I do know. But I can’t tell you that Susie is a biter and her mommy thinks we need to indulge her oral needs. Yup, “I don’t know” is a glorious catchall lie. You know you use it. It’s ok. Welcome to the club.

I want to be clear: I am not suggesting we lie about big things. I think it is very important that our kids know they can trust us. So whenever possible, I tell the truth. They know about the birds and bees (age appropriate, of course). They know that our sweet cats have gone on to the giant little box in the sky. They know it’s ok to not always like everyone but you always have to be nice. I have confessed to accidentally breaking favorite toys. Whenever possible, it’s best to go with the truth. But sometimes my own sanity (or keeping them from repeating things on the playground) is more important. And so is yours.

And that’s OK.