Parenthood and Infant Fingernails

By: Michaelene Koskela baby fingernailsSometimes being a grown-up stinks. It stinks having to manage responsibilities you wish did not exist. We succumb to the process, gripe, and carry on. For me, being a parent is a whole different level of being a grown-up. Parenthood allows us to peer at our child-self with our children. We take in the scent of a new box of crayons, attempt a cart wheel, hum every other word to a nursery rhyme (hoping the missed words won’t be noticed), or draw hopscotch in chalk with only six squares. These little moments of happiness will become grand memories. Parenthood is also hard – especially the unexpected tasks that seem like they should be simple and routine. For example, cutting infant fingernails. I know I don’t stand alone with this anxiety – even the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie agrees with me. (You can read her thoughts here.) Alas I had a prior history with a set of nail clippers before children. It’s a dark tale with an industrial pair of dog nail clippers that make teeny tiny baby clippers seem innocuous. Tootsie, my Labrador, who is currently snoring at my feet, concurs. The amount of blood was extraordinary; cornstarch was my salvation. Eyeglasses clippersBack to baby nails. Did my child wear mittens until her first birthday? Certainly not, but it was tempting. At three weeks old, during a morning nap, I found the courage to take on my mission. I was armed with tiny clippers, had all the lights ablaze (at 10 a.m. in May), and wore a pair of +2.50 magnifying readers. I took a few deep breaths and repeated my inner mantra in the voice of Jillian Michaels. Suck it up, cupcake. Swiftly, and without injury, nails were clipped. Baby slept on. Triumphantly, my arms shot high in the air. My lips silent synced the words to “Eye of the Tiger.” I took a few laps with an air guitar through the kitchen and back. Sleeping check! Breathing check! Slaying the dragon of a fear felt incredible. More importantly, my parent technique – albeit raw and a tad self-deprecating, had some merit. Try this on for size: Your day begins outside at 6:30am. You are wearing a bathrobe, chasing a 12-year-old dog with a frying pan to gather a urine sample. (Which will be test positive for an UTI.) Your child will be partly clothed on the front porch, in hysterics, holding pants, one sock and a flip-flop. The tears are because somebody wants to participate. Take a deep breath. Tighten up that bathrobe. Be mindful, be the grown up. Suck it up, cupcake. They need us to be strong; in turn we remind ourselves how strong we are.  And maybe – just maybe – one day your child will be skyping you, asking how to clip your grandchild’s teeny fingernails.

A New Chapter: Autism Spectrum Disorder

By: Amy Dienta

Autism Spectrum Disorder DiagnosisSince Omar was one, we realized something was going on with his development. He didn’t talk and only made this car noise. He was very particular in how he drove his car and made these circles of perfectly lined up cars.

We called early intervention, and Omar started working with a developmental specialist. One day, we met with her and she told me to make an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. The appointment we made was over 6 month away and Omar still wasn’t speaking.

September finally came and he had an initial appointment and testing. At the testing I knew something was wrong. I knew Omar didn’t do what he was asked to do. I knew that after the test that he would be diagnosed.

The day of the next appointment, I went by myself to meet with the doctor. I knew what she was going to say. It didn’t make me feel better knowing. This boy who I carried for nine months, who sleeps close to me every night, and who, at the age of three, was finally calling me “mom,” has autism spectrum disorder.

After that the doctor printed the diagnosis and the letter for the school, I went on my way to work. But when I got there, I could not function. My brain was trying to process what I had just heard. How would I get Omar the help he needs? What help does he need? And how do we pay for it all? 

Every day I dig through a pile of paperwork, make phone calls and attend school meetings, just trying to figure out what to do. Omar needs to get help, to get more therapy and to figure out what he can accomplish.

It’s been a little over a week now and I’m still not sure I’m ready for this. I may not ever be ready, but for Omar I must fight on. I must fight to get him the help he deserves.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance

By: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s not an easy topic for some women or moms to talk about.

I am speaking on my own personal experience on this one. With a heaviness in my heart, I still remember my pregnancy. It was a rather uneventful, joyous time. My son was due any day, and I went for my last scheduled ultrasound… only to find out there was no longer a heartbeat. I was shocked and saddened. I prayed they were wrong! I was rushed in for an emergency c-Infant Loss & Remembrance Daysection. I remember just saying to myself, “Please just let him cry! Please just let him cry, they are wrong.” But we had a room of silence…no crying. My son was a full term, still born baby due to cord entanglement and a true knot.

I still find myself lost, and it’s been eight long years sense I lost Joseph. It was a long battle not only with myself, but with everyone and everything around me. My precious baby was no longer with me, and I didn’t know who to blame.

I blamed myself. I was supposed to protect him and nurture him and help him grow. I blamed God! How could he allow me to become pregnant and take my baby before he was even born? It was like a cruel joke. I blamed my husband and doctors for not listening when I told them something was wrong. And I became this anxious mom who became over-the-top worried over every single illness. I was deeply worried that if I could lose one child, then my other children where not safe. I was in a daze.

It took a great deal of time and therapy to look past this horrific loss of a child, which was not caused by anything. There was no one to blame for his loss of life. For the longest time I couldn’t walk into the hospital where I delivered his lifeless body. I would have an anxiety attack and the feelings would all come rushing back. My love for God had changed for the worse, and I was angry for a long time. I tried going to church with my family but my heart wasn’t in it. I tried to be a good Catholic mom, bring my kids to church, and sit with my husband, who was looking for closure himself. I couldn’t do it!!! It was not a battle that I could overcome quickly.

It took me a few years to welcome God back into my life. My life had changed; I was not the same person I had been. The loss of my son changed me, changed my values, and changed how I viewed things. I grew as a person, a mother, a wife, and a friend.

I still have a heaviness in my heart for my son. I still sit back and wonder how things would have been different had he actually survived his birth, if the cord had not been wrapped around his neck, if there was no knot. I wonder how my whole family would have been different. My two youngest girls would not be here today if he had survived. I would not have the job I have. And close friends would not have become extended members of my family.

To this day, I still have a hard time answering the simple question, “How many kids do you have?” I still struggle with the answer. Do I have five or do I have six? In my heart I have six, but to explain to strangers and even medical professionals, I only have five surviving children. It gets so complicated and it’s like adding salt to a wound. I am at peace with myself and with God. I am a stronger mother and woman because of my son. I have my angel with me, watching over us, loved and missed and never forgotten. My heart goes out to all moms, dads, and families that have struggled to carry a baby or lost a child at any age. May you find peace in your heartache!

Things We Couldn’t Live Without During Our First Year of Being Parents

By: Danielle McFadden

On September 26th, I officially became the mother of a one-year-old. It’s still mind boggling to me how fast the year went by. I’ll be sure to share some pictures of Zoe’s first birthday in my next post. I’m just waiting for the cake smash pictures from the photographer (Jeremy Madore from Captured in Moments – he’s awesome!).

In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of some of the things Adam and I couldn’t live without during our first year as parents:

  • essential baby productsSwaddleMe blankets – These blankets take the guesswork out of swaddling. Granted, it’s not that complicated, but when you’ve barely slept and have a fidgety baby why not take a shortcut? It’s all about survival mode the first few weeks!
  • Boppy – We loved our Boppy for not only feeding and holding Zoe, but to prop her up for the hundreds of pictures we took of her over the past year. We brought the Boppy with us to the hospital and all of our friends and family used it when holding her.
  • SleepSack – It seemed cruel to me that I’d curl up under the covers while Zoe was in her big crib without a blanket. She had several SleepSacks to help keep her warm and make me feel a little better!
  • Carter’s Zip-Up Sleep & Play – When we were hanging around the house (which was a lot during the first few months) Zoe always had on a zip-up sleeper. They were comfortable and the zipper made diaper changes easy peasy!
  • Cloth diapers AKA burp cloths – We had cloth diapers in almost every room of the house, the diaper bag, stroller, our cars, etc. You never know when you are going to need one!
  • WubbaNub – A soothie pacifier with a stuffed attached…. Why didn’t I think of that? Like cloth diapers, we seemed to have one of these everywhere!
  • Infant carrier stroller base – We loved our Chicco KeyFit Caddy! We could just click the infant carrier in it and go anywhere. Not to mention, it’s easy to open and close, and has a ton of storage in the bottom. Somehow I can’t seem to fit as many shopping bags in the bottom of my jogger. ;)
  • Bouncy seat – I didn’t even register for this, but I’m so glad a very thoughtful person gave me one as a shower gift. Zoe not only played in this for months, but she also napped in it. This seat traveled with us so much that we ended up buying a second one for my parent’s house.
  • Space saver high chair – We take our space saver with us everywhere – including when we go out to eat. It may seem like a pain to lug into a restaurant, but it’s totally worth it. It gives Zoe a comfortable (and safe) place to sit and the tray provides a clean surface for her food and toys. The tray also serves as a buffer between her and everything on the table that she’d be grabbing if she were in the highchair provided by the restaurant. We’ve taken her to a lot of restaurants and her space saver has fit nicely on every type of seat – including a sturdy plastic one.

These are just a few of our must-haves for new parents. We have many more favorites that I’ve pinned on a Pinterest board I created just for this post. I also asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers what their must-haves were. Here are some of their answers: SwaddleMe, SleepSacks, a good recliner, noise machine, exersaucer, jumperoo, soothie pacifiers, rock and play sleeper, swing, onesies and the rock and play.

I’d also love to hear what your must-haves are. Please comment below or send me a tweet!

Twitter – @DMcFaddenLowell

Instagram – @danimcfadden

Pinterest – daniellemb1483


By: Kate Henderson

When you have a baby, people are quick and happy to give all kinds of advice.

Co-sleep. Don’t co-sleep. Cloth diaper. Don’t waste your time. Sleep train early. Rock them till they’re 12…or in college; whichever comes first. The list goes on and on.

Some of this advice is really quite good and useful; some of it sounds good but is functionally impossible. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Surely you jest. That perfect specimen of all that is good in your world will grunt, squeak, and moan its way through nap time. Or worse, be silent. A silent baby is a scary baby, because now you have to get up and see if the only thing that matters in your world is still breathing. Yes, nobody naps with a newborn. This is a lie made up by the same people who have trainers and cooks to help them get back into “Pre-baby” jeans before the next awards show.

CoffeeI am here to tell you that none of it matters. Not one piece of advice, no matter how good you think it is, makes one lick of difference. Here’s what matters: coffee and PBS Kids.

You thought I was going to say love. Nope. Love is a given. Nobody needs to tell you to love your kids. What you need to hear is that you should invest in a single-pod brewer, because when you have two kids dancing at your feet at 5:30 in the morning, after being up all night, begging for breakfast or, even worse, for you to play with them, you do not want to be messing with coffee grounds. What you want, nay need, is that hot, life-giving elixir in your hands NOW. Toss on a little “Super Why” or “Word Girl” and you are a veritable Mother of the Year. It’s like sending them to school without having to wrangle your two-year-old daughter into tights.

Now go enjoy your coffee while Word Girl saves the world. You’re welcome.

A Shock to Our World

By: Vallery Schofield-Miller

writing a eulogyLife here in Miller house had been going rather smoothly, we were all falling into our new grooves. I went back to work, and my husband, well..he’s been doing the same the same thing for many years, so he has his groove down.

We were humming right along until one weekend, when our worlds got knocked around, flipped upside down, and rocked back and forth. On Saturday, October 4th we lost my mom, Matthew and Kelsie’s loving Nana. What a shock to our world, so very unexpected.

Then, on Sunday, October 5th my father-in-law passed away, again very unexpected. It was so unreal for us!

So tonight I sit here writing not two eulogies, thinking how therapeutic this is for my soul. So, I guess my advice to anyone and everyone who is faced with the passing of a loved one, is to sit down and write a eulogy. This doesn’t mean you need to actually be the one to give it (as I am- wish me luck). But I promise the act of writing a eulogy for your loved one will help you immensely.

Take care until next time,


Meet Our New Mom Bloggers: Michaelene Koskela

“You are the closest I will ever come to magic.”
Suzanne Finnamore

MK August 2014 VacationUnlike my mother, grandmother and several generations before me, I did not start my family in my twenties. I’ve always carved my own path and chose to wait to start a family so that I could provide my child with the life lessons and financial rewards that my late twenties – thirties would yield.

Our daughter Brooke was born April 26, 2010. At the time of her birth, my AMA (advanced maternal age) was 44.

My husband Bruce and I met playing softball nine years ago we will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary in February.

As we neared the end of my maternity leave, we decided that I would become a SAHM (stay-at-home-mother). This was not a decision we took lightly. Our backgrounds held a BBA and my husband’s college experience and 4 years of U.S. Air Force service. Combined, we had over 50 years of corporate experience, and yet we entered parenthood as everyone else does, no matter what age, distinction or background: both as rookies.

As parents, we all start in the same place, with an extraordinarily humungous responsibly to raise a human being and prepare them to function in society as an adult.

It’s a tall order. My intent was to not screw up and to slightly enhance what my permissive parents taught me in the early stages of my development during the 70′s.  As my Father states today when looking back at my childhood, “There’s no reason she’s still alive.”

Motherhood has had a profound effect on me, as I have found patience (something I LACKED). Weekly craft projects and baking lessons have overtaken my calendar where conference meetings once stood. I laugh more and sing often (though poorly) to the delight of my daughter. Watching her development and my contribution to her learning is allowing me to become the happiest person I know. That alone proves that motherhood agrees with me. Certainly in these past 1,620 days of joy, there may have been a moment or seven when I may have wanted to run away or hide.

I look forward to sharing my daily adventures, successes, advice on how to minimize challenges. I look forward to celebrating the triumphs and sometimes even the tears in my posts. I also want to learn about you (please, comment below!) and in doing so, gather pearls of wisdom to add to my parental bag of tricks.

Meet Our New Mom Bloggers: Jacqueline Koutsoufis

Jacqueline KoutsoufisHello everyone! I’m Jacqueline (also known as Jackie), one of the new moms who will be joining the Merrimack Valley Moms Blog.

I have been married to my husband, Daniel, for thirteen years. We have five wonderful, all very different and somewhat complex, children who range in ages from two to twelve.

Kaitlyn is my oldest daughter, who is twelve. She is an amazing, smart young lady who is full of wit and helps whenever and whoever she can. Kaitlyn battles asthma and gerd, but she doesn’t let that stop her from trying something new.

Emily is next at the great age of ten. She is my happy-go-lucky girl who is struggling with ADD/ADHD while entering middle school and starting a new school. She makes friends easily and there is no one that doesn’t like her wherever she goes.

At the wonderful age of nine, Anthony is my only boy. He is my lovable, happy guy who loves to make everyone happy. At the young age of two he was diagnosed with autism and a speech delay. Anthony works hard every day to make progress and to keep his anxiety under control.

Madelyn is my seven-year-old daughter. She is a spit fire who loves to help whenever she is able. She also has ADHD/ADD. She is a creative, happy girl who likes to give me a run for my money.

My youngest is Rebecca, who is almost three. She is your typical toddler/ preschooler who is stubborn, smart, and full of energy. She has given me a run for my money from the day she was born. She has had some minor health problems from day one and continues to struggle a bit.

Jacqueline KoutsoufisAnd if five kids weren’t enough, we have a chocolate lab and three cats in our house. The more the merrier, we like to say. What’s just one more?

I spent the first eight years home with my children before I decided to go back to school and work. I am a medical assistant who is currently working in the home healthcare field. I have been blessed with a great job that has become more of family than a job.

I hope to blog about what is near and dear to me, and I hope to share some comic relief in our daily struggles, from dealing with children with special needs and IEP’s, to the nightly homework battle. You’ll see my sarcastic sense of humor as I try to stay sane with the daily tantrums and a hectic daily life. And, I’d like to give moms some hope when things seem to be difficult, to show you that you are not alone.

I look forward to hearing from you! I hope you get some good laughs like I do when I sit back and play my day over in my head.