Pack Mule Mom

By: Jessica Aldred

“I’m out of hands!” This has become a common statement at our house. So common, that my four-year-old often uses it himself to get out of doing as asked. With the addition of a third child to an already busy brood, this pack mule mom simply can’t do it all anymore.

While I’m generally still prepared for anything, the expectation of assistance from my elder sons increases with each passing day. Between all the loot a baby requires on any given day, the few things the older children require, and my personal stuff, getting out the door is often a challenge. There have been days when I literally can’t fit through the door because I’ve got so many bags thrown over my aching shoulders and a baby in a car seat adding fire to my tennis elbow. While at times help is available, most of the time I just have to power through and get to our destination with three children in tow.

I often refer to myself as a pack mule mom. Sometimes I even carry the baby and use his stroller just to carry all our stuff. A diaper bag, pocket book, bag chocked full of towels and pool stuff, cooler, juice cups, iPad and random assortment of toys – that we can’t bear to leave the house without – are often in tow. It may seem like overkill, but any mom to little ones will back me up when I say that it’s all very necessary. There have been few times in the past six years – since my first son was born – that I didn’t have exactly what we needed, or was able to make something to work.

Here’s a quick list of the random necessities you’ll find in my possession at any given time:

  1. first aid kitDental floss
  2. Medical kit
  3. Batteries
  4. Lollipops
  5. Nail clippers
  6. Ponchos
  7. Mouth guard
  8. Ear plugs
  9. Pain Relievers
  10. Juice boxes
  11. Wipes, lots of wipes.

While it stresses me out at times, and my body certainly pays the price for carting around all this stuff, I secretly love being prepared. I’m a planner, and in that moment when I whip some random essential out of my bag and save the day, I feel like a complete success. As I’m tossing juice boxes to the third row of my van while traveling to the next scheduled activity, my inner planner is elated that I had exactly what we need, in exactly the right spot, at exactly the right time. My husband thinks I’m nuts, but the first thing I do when I get home from a busy day out is repack for the next day. At any given time I could run out the door with a fully stocked diaper bag. I just need to know that I’m ready for anything. There are certainly days when I fail at this task and feel utterly incompetent, but on the whole I’m prepared. I’m ready for anything and I feel a certain calm as a result.

What random items are a necessity for your busy brood?

Posted in Babies, Family, Infants, Jessica Aldred, Mommy Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Holding On

By: Martianne Stanger

In the past six months, two young women I love as family, one gal who lived in the local community, one older gentleman connected to a loved one, and one world-famous celebrity who was beloved by many all took their own lives. Undoubtedly – and unfortunately – many others did, too.


I cannot stop asking myself this question: Why?

I will never know the personal moment of despair and confusion that propelled each of these precious people to give up on life. I will, however, always understand that each moment these folks chose to hold on was one more moment that many are thankful for. In fact, we all wish they’d held on longer. I, for one, pray daily that everyone I know – and all with whom I have not yet made acquaintance – do what, for some reason, these beloved lost souls could not do: Hold on!

hold on

Hold on for one more day. One more moment. One more breath.

Reach through darkness, trusting that there is life – life worth living.

Please, give life a chance to be beautiful again.

It can be. It is. I know.

Decades ago, on more than one occasion, I got perilously close to saying goodbye. I honestly believed that I had no reason left to live, that any impact I had to make in this world had already been made. Thus, more than once, I was a millisecond away from acting on the choice to let go.

Yet, each time, I did not. I held on.

Thank friends. Thank family. Thank strangers. Thank God.

My 40-something-year-old self could never have told my teen-self that there really was a reason to keep living and that I still had purpose in this world. Thankfully, something else did. As a teen, a miracle happened in the hallways of my high school, and further – albeit less dramatic – miracles happened right through my twenties.

In fact, each time despair brought me to the brink of letting go of life, somehow, I held on for one more moment, one more day, one more year, one more decade, and then longer until that kind of despair simply let go of me.

I am so thankful that it did. I know others who are thankful, as well. People who have always known me and those who I had not yet even met during periods of life when holding on was so difficult. People I had not even imagined would ever exist.

Praises be… those people do exist. And you exist, too. Obviously, you do since you are reading this.

As you read, please know that your existence has value. Your life impacts others. Your choice to hold on is vital… and oh so appreciated!

I truly wish that older selves of the girls that I loved, the gal in the local community, the older man who is no more, the big-time star who so tragically made his final headlines, and all other lost-too-soon folks could one day affirm, as I am now doing, that holding on does defeat despair and life is so very much worth continuing with. I wish each had been able to hold on long enough to offer a living message of hope.

That wish is not reality though. Reality is those folks, for whatever reasons, were unable to hold on any longer.

You are able to, though. As am I. As are so many others.

In honor of the memories of those lost, I ask you do just that.

Please, hold on not only to your own life, but to others around you. Hold on through mourning. Hold one another in remembrance. Hold folks in support, in encouragement, in understanding, in silence, in sharing, in joy – because joy still exists and it awaits in moments to come, if not in this very moment you are in.

Be confident. Light shines through darkness. Holding on defeats despair. Faith, hope and love can – and do –prevail.

Just trust.

Posted in Martianne Stanger, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Son Has a Male Kindergarten Teacher

By: Kathy Trainor


Today we found out that John has a male Kindergarten teacher. Many parents were chatting, saying they were “weirded out” by it – so much so that some are requesting that their child be transferred out of his class.

I will be the first to admit that most of the time early learning teachers tend to be women, but I would have NO problem with my children having a male kindergarten teacher.

It is 2014 – not 1914.  He has been a teacher for a few years in the school and has always taught Kindergarten. The school system does an amazing job at selecting teachers that meet the needs of students. Like any and all schools, there are background checks.

How many times do you hear, “Why don’t males teach in Elementary level?” Well, maybe it is because society as a whole is still close minded. Maybe being faced with comments like “my kids are not having a male teacher” discourage them from teaching younger children. This man picked teaching and wanted Kindergarten for a reason. What is the problem with wanting to do something you love? 

In my years of teaching, I have found that males in the teaching profession tend to be kind and calm. They offer a sense of humor and also act as great role models for many students, even leading some males into teaching themselves.

What do you think? Would you like a male Kindergarten teacher for your child?

Posted in Kathy Trainor, School | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Co-Parenting 101

By: Angela Semeta

As we all may know, a divorce or a separation between two parents isn’t easy for anyone, especially the child/children. When my daughter’s father and I decided to go our separate ways it was not an easy decision but we knew that in the end it was the best for everyone. We Co-parentingknew that it would mean putting our daughter’s best interest above our own and that we would have to come together and find a way to make particular sacrifices for our daughter. Now that we were new to the co-parent world, things would be much different but we would have to make things work and learn to be civil for the sake of our daughter.

It is important to remember that even though your disagreements may be part of what got you to this point in the first place, you must try not to put your child in the middle of your heat-of-the-moment discussions. Children are not equipped to understand adult problems, nor should they have to bear the stress. Find time when the two of you can discuss differences you may have that focus on the needs of your child. Never try to get in the middle of your child’s relationship with the other parent or use your child to get back at your ex, as it will promote feelings of insecurity.

It is also very important to come to an agreement on visitation, vacation and holidays. We normally switch off holidays, and then the following year we get our daughter on the holidays we didn’t get her on the year prior. Another difficult topic of discussion is when your ex or yourself is ready to start a new relationship. At some point it is bound to happen. Luckily for myself and my ex, we have been able to remain friends throughout the process and are able to communicate. Though neither of us is in a relationship at this point, we have discussed the topic.  We agreed to keep each other informed and cross that bridge when we get to it.

I have seen many couples go through many bitter divorces and breakups, and it is so important to remember to put your child’s needs first. In some circumstances the courts must get involved for custody or visitation purposes. But at the end of the day if you can just sit down together and avoid any type of conflict, then everyone wins. Most importantly, your child will see you both as role models and know that you were able to handle the situation in a responsible fashion. He or she will know that they are not to blame for the relationship not working out.

Posted in Angela Semeta, Divorce, Family, Parenting Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living With Diabetes, Part 2

By: Rachel Ventura

Rachel VenturaTo read Part 1 of Rachel’s journey to manage her diabetes, click here

Within the past year, I started experiencing hypoglycemia unawareness, which can happen to people who have had diabetes for a long time. In my case, it has been 20 years. Very scary stuff, especially with two little ones almost always with me.

Normally, when your blood sugar begins to get low, around 70, you can feel it. Many of you who do not have diabetes have experienced low blood sugar, or as it’s medically known, hypoglycemia. If you haven’t eaten or have done a lot of exercise, or in a diabetic’s case, taken too much insulin, you may begin to feel shaky, sweaty, weak and/or hungry. These are signs of hypoglycemia. You eat something or drink some juice, and your blood sugar goes up. You feel better. But what was happening to me, I was no longer feeling these signs. All of a sudden, I would feel really disoriented. The best word for me to describe it is loopy. I just felt really silly. I knew I was acting off, but I couldn’t stop it. It was scary. When I would finally test my blood sugar after one of these episodes, it was usually somewhere between 30 and 40. That’s extremely low, close to becoming unconscious and/or having a seizure. Too close. I started telling my 4 year old daughter that if I’m acting like that she needs to remind me I need to eat something, or if we were out somewhere, to get me help. That’s a scary thing – for me and for her!

When I told my endocrinologist about this, she suggested I get the Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system, another piece of technology I am forever grateful for. I contacted the Dexcom representative and within three weeks, I had the system in my possession. I had my training and have now been using the system for almost two months. It. Is. Amazing.

The Dexcom is tubeless and wireless, just like my OmniPod. I wear the small sensor with a cannula under my skin and it tests my blood sugar every few minutes. It communicates with a small receiver about the size of an iPod that I must keep within 20 feet of myself. I change the sensor every seven days. The receiver shows me a graph with all of my blood sugars and – the thing that helps me the most – it shows me where my blood sugar is heading: if it’s staying steady, going up or down, and if it’s heading in either direction quickly or slowly. This makes all the difference in the world. Now I can see if my blood sugar is low, or getting there, even if I don’t feel the symptoms! I can completely cut off those scary, loopy episodes, and my daughter can worry much less about me.

I also test my blood sugar much less often. I was testing 8-10 times a day. My fingertips looked like pin cushions! Now with the Dexcom, I test 2-4 times a day. Amazing!

So I have these 2 pods attached to me at all times, and I must keep these two receivers in my purse.


Sometimes I do feel like a bionic diabetic. Ha! But let’s hear it for technology!! The strides they are making towards a bionic pancreas are unbelievable. I truly believe I will see a cure in my lifetime. I have to believe it. Not even for me, but for our future generation. I know that at any moment, one of my nieces or nephews or one of my own children, could be diagnosed. But thanks to technology, I am living an almost completely normal life. And they would be able to as well. Of course, still with pokes and needles, counting carbs all day, figuring out insulin ratios, and watching pretty much every move we make. Normal. Almost. But amazing!

Posted in Health, Rachel Ventura | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

HeatherThat pit in your stomach when you lose, or you think you have lost, your child.

My 6-year-old son and I were in Target. We had been looking for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bracelet for his brother. They didn’t have any in the boy’s department, so as we were checking out, I thought there may be some in the aisles where they sell all of the “impulse buy” merchandise. I mean, who doesn’t need a Tide-to-Go pen, or a small batch of wet wipes or some extra hair ties?

We happened to be shopping on a rather busy day, and all of the registers were running with lines of at least 3-4 people in them.  I searched the aisle we were in. He said he would look at the few around us.

I put my merchandise on the belt and waited the few minutes in line.

Jameson did not return.

I looked around behind me, left my line and went to the aisles around where I was standing.


I called a few times. Not loudly, but enough that he could hear me if he was within earshot.


I go back to my line figuring he would return to where he thought I was.


Now I could care less about my place in line and walk in front of the line I was in. Now I am starting to panic. I call a little louder.


A little louder.

Still nothing.

People are staring at me.  I want to scream at them.

I raise my voice – “Has anyone seen a little boy with a blue Spiderman shirt?”  “JAMESON! JAMESON!”

Pure panic.

Some woman points to the service desk and tells me I should go report it.  I want to kick her in the throat.

Why would I want to stop looking for my son to talk to the customer service desk?

There are, what seem like a million people staring at me. Silent. No one is looking. No one is saying a word.

What is wrong with them?


It feels as though an hour has gone by.

My mind is racing.  I am tearing up.  The door to the store is right there. I know he didn’t leave. He wouldn’t leave without me. Plus, we didn’t come in that door. But anyone could have grabbed his hand and walked him out. WHERE IS HE?!?

No one is moving!

Finally – “He’s here!”  Some angel of a woman calls out to me.

He’s coming this way.”  More songs from heaven call out.


“MAMA!”  And I see his angelic face with big crocodile tears streaming down them.

We are both crying.

I hug him and pull him aside, away from all of the people still staring at us.

“Where were you?”  I say through tears and hugs.

“I was looking for the bracelet and walked too far away.” He is clearly shaken up. He has no idea the panic and relief I have just experienced.

I make my way back to the line I was in, pay for our merchandise and cannot wait to get out of this store.

People are still staring.

A woman touches my arm as we are leaving and says she lost (and found) her son once.  She understands the range of emotions I am going through.

I never want to experience this again. I know it is inevitable. My children will wander, we will become separated. For now, I will hug them a little closer. Kiss their faces a little bit more. I will embrace the fact that I am blessed to have my two children home, safe, with me.

To the bystanders: please don’t stare at a woman who is clearly in panic mode. Offer support and assistance. Look for the child! Staring in silence does nothing to help the situation.

Posted in Family, Heather Desmond O'Neill, Mommy Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texting and Driving

By: Carolyn Coleman

Now that my son is 15 years old, he has this idea that he will be driving himself to school as of next school year. The thought of this sends chills through my body.

texting drivingOver the past few months I’ve taken a special interest in watching drivers and the things they do while they are behind the wheel. I see people with books on the steering wheel. However, most of what I see is drivers with one hand on the wheel while holding the phone in the other hand. On my daily drive to and from work I’m amazed at the number of drivers I see texting.

Of course, as I am writing this I decided to go to the Internet to see what is being said about this new trend:

“Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers.”

“We found out she was injured by a man that was texting and driving.

“Texting and drivingis a scourge that jeopardizes the lives of every single person who uses public roads.”

“Texting while driving is a major cause of traffic crashes and fatalities. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident than non-texting.”

“At least 59% of young people know that texting and driving is dangerous… but 46% still admit to driving while distracted.”

“Bans on texting while driving cut traffic deaths by 3 percent for all drivers, and 11 percent for those between 15- and 21-years-old”

I feel as though every day I am adding topics to my list of things to talk to my son about. It’s so true that the older they get, the tougher the discussion becomes. For now, the texting and driving issue is at the top of our list. As a parent, I try to make sure I talk to my son about life issues. I like to keep the line of communication open so that he always feels comfortable coming to talk to me.

My son and I are on board with the no texting while driving ban in my car. I welcome you to get on board with this idea, too.

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