By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis
Summers winding down and the reality of the upcoming school year is settling in. Everyone is aware that a new, hectic schedule of school drop offs and pick ups, sports practices and games, and playdates and homework is right around the corner. You can’t even turn on the TV or open your inbox without seeing commercials or fliers advertising back to school sales.
I sit here and start to get overwhelmed and have to stop and remind myself, “We have been here before! We made it through we will make it through again this time.” I always seem to have a plan, and a back up plan, and a back plan for my back up plan. But it’s those rare times we go through all our plans that makes me worry.
We do we drive ourselves crazy?! We do we over plan and over think?! We do we over schedule and stretch ourselves thin?! Why are we teaching our kids how to over schedule and overcommit? When did it become normal to think that not having anything planned or scheduled is a bad thing?
I have to remind myself to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy not having a busy schedule all the time. There is nothing wrong with a sport, or other activity, but why do we have o have something everyday? It’s exhausting having to run from school, to an extracurricular activity, to another activity, to another activity, then home to finish homework, shower and bed- which is probably way later than we should be going to bed- only to wake up and do it all again the next day. I’m tired just thinking about it!
Enjoy a few minutes sitting with the family eating dinner at the table instead of in the car on the go to the next big thing.. You’d be amazed what you can learn about each other just by sitting and talking.
I have learned to slow it down a bit, and with that, teach my children they are not allowed to commit to something that they can’t give their full attention to. My husband and I have agreed on how many extracurriculars my kids will be allowed, and when it becomes time to drop one. School work comes first in our house and is the number one priority. If grades start to drop, those extra activities stop. We still have dinner together as a family almost every night. On the rare occasion we have to eat outside of the home we pack sandwiches and still eat together before a game.
Having a child with autism has helped my other children. My son gets overwhelmed with too much excitement or being rushed out of the house to an activity. He needs to go at a slower pace and time to transition. It has helped my other children to notice they need to slow just a bit. That everyone can’t be at a go go go pace all the time.
By: Sue Anganes
What is it about someone in a wheelchair that makes people uncomfortable? Why do they assume that just because a person isn’t walking that it must mean that they can’t think or speak either?
We ran into a situation a couple of weeks ago where my seventeen year old son, who happens to use a wheelchair, was basically pushed into a corner of an elevator by a complete stranger. My husband had the day off so we decided to spend the day at the Boston Museum of Science. My son’s girlfriend was in town so she came along with us. The parking garage elevators are huge there. We stepped into the elevator which had one other woman in it, and the woman proceeded to grab my son’s chair and rolled him backwards into the corner. It all happened so fast we didn’t even have time to respond or react. My son, who is always polite, just grabbed his wheels and said in a firm voice, “I’m fine! I’m fine!” as he was being dragged backwards.
I was amazed that the event even transpired. My son had wheeled himself into the elevator on his own and his supermodel-esque girlfriend was right beside him. Surely he would not need any “assistance” from a stranger, and surely he did not belong shoved into a corner.
What is proper etiquette when you come across kids, or anyone, using a wheelchair?
Here are a few observations from my experience with my son:
- Say hello- Kids using chairs are social-or- maybe they are not social, but you can still say “hi”. They are individuals like everyone else.
- Address the child or person using the chair, not the people with them. – “What would he like from the menu?” Umm… I don’t know, maybe ask him!
- Don’t help push the person unless asked to do so. I’ve jokingly told my son to yell, “I’m being kidnapped!” from now on and see how fast the pusher lets go!
- If the chair is sitting unoccupied, don’t hop in and try to take it for a joy- ride. That chair was fit specifically for the person who uses it and can often cost as much as a car! You wouldn’t hop into someone’s car and take it for a spin without asking, would you?
- Be yourself. If you really want to know why the person is using a chair, ask. Usually the individual doesn’t mind explaining why. Often it’s a young child who will ask, “Can you walk?” Don’t be embarrassed by your child’s curiosity. Address the question to the person in the chair and start a conversation! Kids are naturally curious and that’s okay.
My son likes history, he loves his girlfriend, he doesn’t like pork chops, he programs computers, and he shoots archery very well. Oh, and he also uses a wheelchair.
By: Danielle McFadden
I recently discovered a gem and I wanted to share it with all of you ladies. It’s a website and app called thredUp that allows you to purchase and consign clothing from the comfort of your home! They only accept and sell name brand clothing and accessories (women and children) in excellent condition so everything you purchase is guaranteed to top of the line.
Recently I cleaned out my closet and ordered a big thredUp bag that I filled to the brim. The bag was sent to me and shipped back at no cost to me! I can’t wait to get the email telling me how much credit I’ve earned (that I will undoubtedly spend in no time at all)!
I also placed an order a couple of weeks ago and got a winter jacket, two shirts and a dress for $52! Everything was in pristine condition and it all came neatly packaged wrapped in tissue paper in a thredUp box.
What a great way to save money, make money and keep clothes out of landfills!
By: Amy Dienta
Every summer we always end up with an abundance of zucchini, so I like to make these muffins. Added bonus is that the kids can’t even tell they’re hidden in the muffin! This year we also got a plot from Mill City Grows. We now have double the fresh veggies we did last year!
Below is the recipe for my kids favorite zucchini muffins, but they don’t know there is zucchini in them, and please don’t tell them.
3 cups zucchini
2/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional if using chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Use food processor to grind up zucchini. Remove excess water from zucchini grounds if any. Stir in the zucchini and then melt the butter in the microwave and add it. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.
Step 2: Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a liner or spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown. Insert a tooth pick in to the middle of one muffin to make sure the middle is completely cooked.
By: Jaqueline Koutsoufis
Here it is that time of year again.. When I go through my waves of emotions. I know it’s coming and I’m trying to brace myself.
For anyone who says with time heals all wounds, I don’t believe you. It seems that it’s just something to say because you don’t know what else to say. It will be nine years this month that I lost my son. And I can say it hurts just as much now as it did nine years ago. I still get teary eyed, anxiety, a heaviness in my chest and an aching pain like someone is ripping out my heart.
I sit here wondering what he would look like today. Who would he act most like? Me, his dad, or perhaps one of his siblings. What would his strengths be? What would he want to be when he grew up? I know that he would have done amazing things! And he would have been great at whatever he did. Most importantly, he would have been loved to no end.
I can close my eyes and remember the last few movements I felt- the kick to my ribs and the creepy crawly feeling of the movements in my stomach.
And at the time when I was feeling so uncomfortable I wish I had known that these were going to be some of my last happiest moments with him. While we shared our beating hearts and we where still connected. I close my eyes and remember the sorrow I felt when they said they couldn’t find his heart beat any more. The numbness of the emergency c-section. The awe I felt when I saw his beautiful face. He was perfect in every way- my little red headed baby boy that I had hoped and dreamed for. Everything I had planned for came crashing down on 8/7/06. This day is forever etched in my brain and has a painful mark on my heart! Every year, around this time, the emotion affects me differently. The waves of loss still hit me through out the year. I still sit back and wonder and dream what life was supposed to be like and how would it have been different, and imagine what he would look like each year as he aged. I also wonder what my son Anthony would be like had he had a brother that would have been close to his age- they would have been Irish twins! But instead he had only sisters.
To every parent who has lost a child.. Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone! Take comfort when someone says it will get easier they are not saying it to be cold hearted, or insensitive, they are saying it because there are no words to say that are comforting. It sucks! It hurts. The pain will always be there. What gets easier is you know it’s there. You know it will always be there. And you will know how to cope and handle your feelings.
Have you ever sat back and listened to a child’s stories and wonder where they came up with there stories? Those wonderful toddler stories where they are so innocent.
Rebecca’s last story hit home with me. She’s only three and a half! She wasn’t around for most of the things she was telling me about. And I know some people would say she had to have over heard someone talking about it.
Well let me tell you our discussion we had and you be the judge.
Setting the stage: Me asking Rebecca how her day was and what she did at camp.
I played with my angel friend who came down from the sky to play with me at the park.
Me: You have an angel friend?! Do they have a name?
Rebecca: Yes! His name is Joseph..
Me: (tears in my eyes) What does he look like?!
Rebecca: He’s white, like the color white.. And he’s little but big.
Me: What do you mean?!
Rebecca bigger than me but smaller than Katie, like Emily…
Me: Does he talk to you?
Me: What does he talk to you about?
Rebecca: He talks about his angel friends and his cat. He has an angel cat that’s black..
Rebecca: He plays on the slide with me and he goes down really fast then he leaves and goes back up to the sky.
Me: Does he only see you at the park?!
Rebecca: No, he comes home and sees me when I’m sad and scared says he’s here to protect me… And makes me laugh he’s really silly. And likes to play.
And that was our conversation..
She has told me numerous times she has an angel friend and I never asked.. But this one day I just asked to see if she was making it up. I asked a few different times after this conversation her answers never changed.
She doesn’t know about her brother Joseph, or our black cat that we had to put down when she was just born.
I knew some time I would have to tell her that she had a brother! Well another brother that doesn’t live with us and was taken far to early.
But this made it easy and felt amazing to say. That’s your angel brother who lives up in the sky and goes to see you. And please do mommy and Daddy a favor, tell him we say hi and love him very much.
Some people may not believe in angels or ghost what ever you wish to call them, but I find peace in my daughter’s stories of an angel boy who protects and comforts her, and tells her all these wonderful things he does up in the sky..
It fills me with a sense of peace that he is not alone and has friends and family.
Rest easy my angle boy!
You are forever missed and loved! See you again some day until then I will listen to my sweet daughters stories of her angel friend.
By: Danielle McFadden
As Moms, we all wish for sunny skies and warm weather all summer long. When the sun is shining there’s always something to do from playing at the park to spending the day at the beach. When we’re stuck inside it can be a whole other story… Here are a few ideas to help cure the rainy day boredom blues!
Fun with Stickers: You can’t go wrong with stickers and a stack of construction paper! At my house we are a big fan of the Melissa & Doug sticker books. You can usually find them at Marshall’s for $3.99 – a steal for hundreds of stickers!
Sand by Brookstone: All the fun of sand at the beach, without the mess! It’s soft, stretchy, sticks together and will provide hours of fun!
Paint Rocks or Shells: Next time you are at the beach or in the yard, collect some rocks or shells. Provide some paint and glitter and let your child’s imagination do the rest! The rocks or shells make great garden decorations or napkin weights when you’re eating al fresco.
Set Up a Craft Station: Collect buttons, postcards, magazines, beads, scraps, etc. and turn your kitchen into a craft station. You’ll be amazed what your budding artist will create!
Decorate Cookies: Purchase breakaway sugar cookies (or make some from scratch) and set up a decorating station complete with sprinkles, candy, frosting, food coloring and icing. It may be your most delicious project to day!
What are some of your cure-alls for rainy days?
By: Michaelene Koskela
To yell, or not to yell, was never a question I asked myself prior to becoming a parent.
Yelling did come naturally for me. Yelling was a good way to show frustration, make a point, when I was happy, excited to tell a colorful story or being lazy (i.e. shouting “Can you bring down my hairbrush I do not want to walk up to get it.”)
I was a yeller from a very young age… though I could have gone either way as I come from a split family. My father heirs from a long line of shouters, he is the baby boy of 7 children, the family meals at my grandmother’s house if you were not seated at an end seat often your cries for a pat of butter or a salt shaker were unheard. His discipline was always in holler form.
My mother and her family did not raise their voices, they were the whisper angry, My mom would make eye contact, firmly grab/pinch the top of your arm in the sensitive tender area adjacent to your armpit, and with a haunted low tone blown thru her clench teeth she would tell you exactly what you did wrong, needed to do, and how you would do it. You listened or at least pretend you understood so that your arm would be released.
As I matured my yelling was less frequent and reserved for umpires and unknown commuters without blinkers on 128.
Until I had a three year old, I had a habit of triple word yelling. “No, No, No” and “Stop, Stop, Stop” it reached the point one night at bedtime my daughter asked “Why do Mommy’s yell and not Daddy’s?” This question made me take note. Why do I repeat myself and believe that a yell would be more effective to teach a child? The real Ah-ha moment; a few days later my daughter stood like a teacup, shouting “Now, Now, Now.” Her tiny voice commanded in the triple word demand for me to open the lid to her Playdoh.
I heard and learned in that moment why I had not gotten the desired cooperation from my child. Obviously if I needed to repeat the words or holler to get her to mind me, what was I teaching her? Mommy yells so do not take my commands seriously? Fear me? Resent me?
Times do warrant shouting when a child may be in danger and you need to shout to protect them, however that is rare- not the constant, my child whom I love and adore is not waking up each day and saying let’s see what we can get away with or see how long it takes to make my mother frustrated.
We do that to our selves by assuming our child will behave ALL THE TIME when WE want them to or NEED them too because it is how we may have been taught.
To teach our children in our immediate gratification society has to go both ways for us as parents and for the children to reach an understanding.
Children need limits, boundaries and rules to grow as whole human beings they also need to understand who they are and to be accountable for their actions or decisions.
We need to treat them and teach them as such. We as parents need to have our children learn as we would like to be taught ourselves.
I am not suggesting that we become wet noodle push over parents. Limits and boundaries always exist but have empathetic discussions, welcome questions, your child should want to explore and see what the world has to offer, none of which requires yelling. I am uncomfortable around raised voices and do not learn anything valuable other than avoidance.
Proudly, I was taught by my daughter not to triple yell.
Umpires with bad calls, and what I determine to be bad drivers on 128 … it is still a work in progress.
By: Amy Dienta
Someone posted these questions on Facebook and you were instructed to ask your child to answer them about you. So I asked my 12 year old, what he thought about me. I know a pretty dangerous thing!!! Here’s what he had to say:
1. What is something mom always says to you? I love you. She tells me way too much!
2. What makes mom happy? Spending time with us
3. What makes mom sad? Not listening
4. How does your mom make you laugh? She doesn’t
5. What was your mom like as a child? Childish
6. How old is your mom? Old but not as old as dad
7. How tall is your mom? The same height as me!
8. What is her favorite thing to do? Spend time with family
9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Shopping or working
10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Her Generosity
11. What is your mom really good at? Her job
12. What is your mom not very good at? Baseball and soccer coach
13. What does your mom do for a job? She plays on computers all day and drives a lot.
14.What is your mom’s favorite food? Broccoli and spinach and feta calzone
15.What makes you proud of your mom? When she does good at work
16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Mother goose
17. What do you and your mom do together? A lot of thing. Travel, go to the doctors. She’s been to every baseball game I had.
18. How do you know your mom loves you? She tells me too much
19. How are you and your mom different? She doesn’t like baseball
20. How do you know your mom loves you? She tells me too much
21. What does your mom like most about your dad? His pancakes
22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Beach
I learned a few things from his answers.
1. He thinks I’m not funny!
2. I tell then I love them way tooooo much! (Note to self cut down on this as to not embarrass him.)
3. He thinks we are not alike, yet he loves my veggie loaded calzone!!
This was a quick and fun activity, try it with your kids and see what they think of you!! You maybe surprised.