Reaching For Your Dreams

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller

Growing up in my family was very eventful. My parents were not just busy raising me and my five siblings, they also had interests like antiquing and cooking. My Mom was a professional seamstress and my Dad was a painter who traveled throughout New England painting grocery stores or hotels. They owned an antique store for many years and my Mom and Aunt had a party planning business. I have been thinking of these memories quite a bit lately and they have made me realize that I really want to start my own business. I have actually created munch mixes with many different flavors, such as, Strawberry, orange creamsicle, raspberry white chocolate cheesecake, taco, etc.  I’ve even decided on a name: MATTCHU MUNCH, after my son and his nickname. I have a small clientele right now who buy them, but as they’ve started giving them as gifts or putting it out at parties, the more new orders I have received.

As a stay at home Mom for 7 years, I had time on my hands to try new things. For parties I’d like to offer new snacks, use them as favors or bring them with me to offer hostess. Many people fell in love with the munches. So, a business was born as people placed orders and made flavor requests. I love the challenge to create new flavors. The kids enjoy helping me to come up with flavors and ingredients. I feel as though I have found something that I can call my own and be proud of. I thank my Mom and Dad for showing me to reach for the stars because you never know when you grab hold of a galaxy. DSCN2971

Under the Flowering Magnolia Tree

By: Michaelene Koskela 

On July 21, 1941, surrounded by family and friends, a wedding celebration took place.

memere and pepere wedding day

If time travel were possible I would set the dial to this day.

I would have loved to be present with this sparkling 25-year-old bride as she readied herself for her special day. It would have been so special to hear her anxious chatter and open laughter. I imagine her gloved hands caressing the satin ribbon of her bouquet, taking in the scent of baby’s breath and stephanotis, and her electric blue eyes full of hope for her future life of love. She has no idea what is in store for her but cannot wait for it to happen.

I can picture the true gentleman of a groom, two years her senior, dressed in his Sunday best. As he stood at the alter he chose his words wisely and held not an ounce nerves. For he believed he had already been granted a great chunk of life’s luck and love was certainly a gift he cherished. He made sure he didn’t take a single day on this earth for granted. He had survived polio and so many others were lost. This proud man lived each day thankfully. On this day his thoughts had remained on the celebration, but the others, as they gathered near the chicken coop smoking hand rolled cigarettes, were tangled around the war in Europe. No one could have predicted that 5 short months later, Pearl Harbor would catapult America into the Second World War.

The bride’s family home was the location of the reception on that beautiful July day. Everyone celebrating under the magnolia trees could feel the breeze flowing slowly down the base of Mount Tom and they were confident that it carried relief, hope, love and the promise of better tomorrows.

Sadly, all the individuals in the photos have passed on. It’s important that we keep the photos close to serve as a reminder to hold family tight, ask to hear the stories, and live each day with the strength of those who loved, fought and even died for us. Make the time to be together this holiday season. Perhaps one day, you will be the center of a cherished photograph that your granddaughter will share.


Christmas is almost here!

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

Christmas is almost here! It’s that time of the year when parents stress over what to get their kids for the holiday, while the kids are busy writing letters to the big guy in the red suit asking him to make their Christmas dreams come true.  All of this means Girl writing a letter to Santacausing more stress on ourselves than needed and parents worrying whether they can afford to buy their kids what they ask for.

So why do we as parents help in aiding the “gimme” attitude?

It’s true, kids do need some access to a computer or tablet, but do they really need a gaming system and games and do they need their own personal device?  These days it seems like every time you look around a kid has a smart-phone, tablet, iPad, nook, Nintendo DS, or some other form of electronic. Some maybe even have one of each, but why?!

For kids growing up today, it’s important to know how to operate these electronics to aid in being successful in higher grades for school and to help in getting a job. I wonder, however, where are your child’s imagination skills? How are they learning to solve problems?

I’ll be honest- we do have some of these electronics in our house, but we also have rules to go along with them. Fore example, no electronics unless needed for a project. We encourage legos, board games, and arts and crafts. Our kids really love these inexpensive, simple activities and they really help their creativity flourish!

It’s important to me to be sitting there helping my kids while they write their lists to Santa. I like to ask them if they need the item, or if they want the item.  I’m not saying there shouldn’t be items that they simply want, I just want them to understand the difference. Something we like to do after the lists are made is go through our drawers, closets, and toy boxes and find items to donate to the families that need help. We have a conversation with our kids as to why we go through these things and that there are other kids who have nothing. We explain that if you don’t need or want an item, someone else might be able to enjoy it. It also keeps the over flow down and allows them to think of others- not just themselves.

Something we enjoy not only during the holidays, but all year long, is our family game nights! Some of our favorite toys in our house don’t include batteries and don’t even need to be bought at the store. We like to make our own bubbles for outside, our own play doh and our own paint. It brings a sense of bonding when they all work together to make a craft.

Here are some great sites to check out if your into crafts , ,

What are some of your favorite activities to do with your little ones?

Christmas Memories and Traditions

By: Danielle McFadden

Zoe & Santa

I have the fondest memories of Christmas growing up. Decorating the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving while listening to the Carpenters’ Christmas Portrait album (to this day it’s still my all time favorite), spending Christmas Eve at my Memere’s house with my 14 aunts & uncles and 25 cousins, and of course, the excitement on Christmas morning after discovering that Santa had visited.

Last year Zoe was just shy of three months on Christmas and what a difference a year makes! This weekend was a big one in our house. Zoe met Santa and watched us set up and decorate the Christmas tree. There’s nothing like seeing the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes. I hope I can bottle up her excitement and remember the look on her face for all of these firsts. It’s also gotten me thinking about some of the traditions I loved as a child that I want to continue with Zoe.

On Christmas morning we would wake up and our stockings would be outside of our bedroom doors for us to open. Talk about brilliant! It kept my brothers and I busy for a while and allowed my parents an extra hour or so of much needed (and deserved) sleep! When we finally made our way downstairs to open presents, all of our presents would be wrapped in wrapping paper specific for us. Santa would write our names on one of our gifts and we’d know that pile was ours. Then we’d patiently wait as the three of us took turns opening presents. The day after Christmas we’d all just hang out and play with our new toys! We always knew my Dad would be off for a few days and that was a Christmas present within its self.

I just love this time of year… can’t you tell?!

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories and traditions? Comment below or send me a tweet!

Twitter – @DMcFaddenLowell
Instagram – @danimcfadden
Pinterest – daniellemb1483

The Black Friday Experience

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller


So we are staring down the week before Thanksgiving and preparations are underway for our day. The turkey is purchased, side dishes are planned, desserts are going to be baked- the best one being homemade pumpkin pie, and other good ones like cookies and homemade white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. HOWEVER, before any of that can happen, a gathering must take place. I’m talking about a Thanksgiving breakfast where we meet up with one of my nieces, Danielle, and her family.

While we are eating breakfast we are going through different ads and making plans for BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING. We make lists of what we need, plan our routes, and decide which stores area the most important to hit first. This is a tradition we have been doing this for 12 years now, the very first time was with my Mom, Danielle, and myself. This year will be a little bittersweet as Mom is not here for us to call her throughout shopping. She stopped going about nine years ago, but always liked hearing about the fun we had and if we got everything on our lists.

Once we are in line at the first store (there are about 6-8 of us now) we split up and we each take a section, sometimes it even requires two to go together. We divide up items on the lists, hurry to get what we need, then meet up to check out and move on to next store.

Around 4-5 a.m. when we are all starting to get a little hungry and beginning to feel the effects of lack of sleep, I reach into the cooler I packed and grab a snack reenergize and get ready for next excursion. I always make sure to pack snacks and plenty of ice-cold water (I believe it helps revives you.) I usually return home around 7 or 8 a.m. At this point the kids are just waking up ready for breakfast, which means there is no rest for me, my day has started. I know from this point on until after the New Year, I will not be getting much sleep as we will be very busy, with parties, cookie swaps, family activities and such. Looking forward to this fun crazy insane time of year.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

New Mom’s Support Group Holiday Party

santaOne of the things we love about the holiday season is the abundance of parties and events – they provide the perfect excuse to catch up with loved ones and friends.

On Tuesday, December 9th, Lowell General Hospital’s New Mom’s Support Group will host a holiday party. The event will a cookie swap, light refreshments, and a visit from Santa Claus! All attendees are welcome to bring their children to take a picture with Santa.

New Mom’s Support Group Holiday Party

Tuesday, December 9

10 am – noon

Lowell General Hospital, Main Campus, Hanchett Auditorium

295 Varnum Avenue

Lowell, MA 01854

Please contact the Maternal Child Health Education Coordinator at (978)788-7224 with any questions.

We hope to see you there!

That dude…is my baby

By: Michaelene Koskela 

Our four-year-old daughter is beautiful. If you looked at her today, you would never question that she is a girl. Her love of clothing is apparent with her outfit choices and she often has more wardrobe changes in a given day than Anne Hathaway did hosting the Oscars.

However, we went through a period, albeit brief, that our “she” was mistaken multiple times for a “he”.

The first few times it was easy to brush off by putting the blame on clothing. She has on too much blue or a brown shirt being dude-ish. These random comments from strangers assuming ‘her” for a “he” became more frequent and my parental response was to make certain she was dressed very much like a girl whenever we left home.

One memorable incident occurred at the grocery store while my baby was sitting in the shopping cart. She wore a floral outfit trimmed with purple lace, in her pink/grey infant car seat, covered in a gingham pink blanket, and a fuchsia Gerber daisy headband. She was all smiles and checking out the sights and sounds when a random elderly lady approached and took hold of her hand (argh.) “Oh he is so adorable, how old?” As if on cue my “she” scrunched up her face at the lady as I answered, “SHEEEE is 11 months.” The stranger appeared surprised and went on to argue that “she knew babies and babies knew her and that baby was a boy.”  (My reply was curt and referenced a recent diaper change and knowing the difference between male and female parts.) The miffed woman in an effort to exit the aisle veered her cart into the banana display. Observation: Banana bunches land on linoleum with awkward thuds.

Brooke dog dish

The face my little girl made to the cereal aisle stranger was so common that my brother-in-law began addressing her as “Chuckie.” I was not thrilled with the horror movie character reference, but perhaps it was these faces that made her appear boyish?

During this time my husband also pointed out that our daughter resembled Jon Gruden. I found this humorous and it was hard to deny some of their similar characteristics.

Brooke & Jon

Do you agree?

We are happy that phase was just that- a phase, to any parent who has to deal with bananas’ in the cereal aisle calling your “she” a “he” or your “he” a “she,” take it in stride. In time your cherub will have a voice, a personality and a style all their own.

Each age has its memorable phases- some cause pause or discomfort, like the “all underwear gives me a wedge” phase.  This prompted her to tell everyone and anyone how much she disliked wedgies. Be it a “he” or “she” we all can agree that wedgies are not fun.

A Difficult Decision: Why I decided not to have anymore children

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis


As I sit here snuggled up to my almost three-year-old watching Bubble Guppies, it’s starting to fully sink in that my baby is no longer a baby. She has grown into a toddler and now a preschooler. She has fully potty trained both day and night. I’m both excited and yet somewhat sad that diapers are no longer a part of my life. Bottles and nighttime feedings are all a blurred past. I made the decision after my last pregnancy and birth to have a tubal ligation. After six full term pregnancies, it was not an easy decision to make since I loved being pregnant, but my body had told me enough was enough!

My first two pregnancies where pretty uneventful- your normal, textbook deliveries. With my third child, my son, he decided to give us a run for our money. I was induced and he decided last minute he was going to turn and try to come out feet first. This came as a great surprise for the doctor and myself and I was whisked away for an emergency c-section. I was incredibly surprised at how fast I bounced back after an unplanned c-section and I found myself pregnant a lot sooner than expected. At the time, I had no idea that it was considered a high risk to be pregnant only three months after a c-section. I loved this pregnancy and I was pregnant with another boy so I thought that this was it. I was going to have two girls and two boys, a perfect balance of children. I made the decision to have my tubes tied after the delivery and be finished with having children- not knowing there was going to be a change of plans. I lost my son unexpectedly four days before my scheduled c-section and was again whisked away for another emergency c-section. The decision for my tubal ligation had now changed, even if I had wanted they told me under the circumstances they would not let me make that decision at the time. I was comfortable with that.

As it turned out, I found myself pregnant again pretty much right away. This time I knew I was considered a high-risk pregnancy. I had a really hard time enjoying this pregnancy as much as the past ones, not because I didn’t want to be pregnant, but because I was a nervous wreck on a daily basis. Carrying a baby full term only to lose them right at the end was like a cruel joke. My heart ached, my mind raced and the tears flowed. I was well taken care of by my doctors and was told I was absolutely going to deliver before 38 weeks.  It was another great delivery.  I was a wreck during this c-section. I think I may have held my breath a few times waiting for that wonderful cry of a newborn baby.

Which now brings me to my youngest, my sixth and final pregnancy. I was beyond thrilled to become pregnant again! I had said I wanted one more and I went into this pregnancy feeling great. I decided, since I was still young and healthy, that I was going to work up to the very end and just try and take it all in. My husband and I continued to discuss the possibility of another child later on, if the time was right. After all- I loved being pregnant! Then came the complications! All the sudden I was a high-risk pregnancy again. My blood pressure was high and I was on the verge of preeclampsia. I was put on bed rest and was told that I couldn’t work anymore. Being on bed rest with multiple children already is not an easy task, but we would manage- I was not going to lose another baby. My husband and my mother were a huge help. My mom would come and stay with me while my husband worked his 24-hour shifts. I was closely monitored and had stress test done to monitor the baby. I also had my blood pressure checked daily. Nothing seemed to be working and I was put on medication for my blood pressure because the bed rest alone wasn’t cutting it. I also had to change my diet, which meant limiting my salt intake and increasing fresh veggies versus the canned ones.

I was saddened that this pregnancy was proving to be more difficult than I had expected and I was confronted with the difficult topic of having to possibly deliver early if my blood pressure did not respond soon. My doctor also presented the facts on how early it was in the pregnancy and how my baby would fare if we decided to deliver. He shared the likelihood of her not surviving since her lungs had not completely formed. Oh this was not going to happen again! I was determined to carry my little girl as long as possible and give her the best chance of survival- even if I had to put my health on the line. I was not going to bury another child. Fortunately, we made it to the last month of the pregnancy.  It was then that I had to make the choice that even if I wanted more children, I couldn’t. I had to listen to my body. I had such a hard time this last pregnancy and my daughter had to fight to make it this far. No matter how sad it was for me to make this decision, it had to be done!  I needed to have the tubal ligation for my health, since it was not safe for me to carry any more children.

So as I sit here with my youngest, it still makes me sad that I know I will never have another baby. I still miss being pregnant, but it’s nice to sit back and remember all my joys and struggles it took to deliver the wonderful children I have. As I plan my daughter’s third birthday party I’m looking forward to the uncharted waters that come with my children growing up. Don’t get me wrong- there are still sleepless nights and unnerving decisions to be made, but I’m realizing there are no perfect decisions and we can only do what feel is right and hope for the best. When I write my next blog I will no longer have a two year old and I’ll begin the transition from the terrible two’s into the wonderful world of tantrum-ing three’s. For anyone who thought two was bad, don’t expect three to be any better. There’s a whole lot more tantrums and tears at three. Also, a lot more attitude that follows the “I know what I want and I want it now stage.” We have reached the “battle of the wills” stage. Yes-who can out last who and hold their ground. All I’ve got to say is- momma hold strong! Hold your ground now! You will thank yourself later when they can’t push you to get their way. They will respect your decision for what it is even if they don’t like it.

Wish me luck as I enter this stage one last time, as Rebecca turns three on Thanksgiving this year. We will have her party the day after where we will be “bubble guppy-ing” it up with our family and very best friends. Stay tuned to see how many tantrums will unfold on this new stage of our lives.