5 Free Spots for Autumn Adventures

By: Martianne Stanger

As we approach autumn, stores scream, “Back-to-school!” I, on the other hand, cheer, “Stay outside!”

When summer winds down and unfolds into fall, I think it is more important than ever to ensure ample time for children to play and explore outside. Young bodies (and, truthfully even old ones, like mine) are not meant to be inside and sedentary all day every day. In fact, everyone needs good-old-fashioned exercise and fresh air!

Thus, each fall, I compile a go-to list of local spots to tempt my children and I toward abundant outdoor adventure. Since we are homeschoolers, I tend to start our experiences with nature, art or science study, which, inevitably unfolds into something we all delight in: child-led, unstructured time.

If my children were in traditional school, I would likely start with a simple hike to unwind between school and homework and then let our adventures unfold as they would. And, in the case of afternoons or evenings with other planned activities or a lot of homework, I might combine things: Take a back pack with homework papers in it to do next to a river or on rocks overlooking a bay. Plan a quick jaunt to stretch legs between school and extra-curricular activities. Prepare a picnic dinner to enjoy at a park or preserve.

Regardless of how children are schooled, I truly believe all benefit from time in nature!

So, I encourage you to think of back-to-school time as enjoy-a-trial time, too!

Trails to Start With

Some easy trails you might start with are:

Eel River to Russell Mill Pond,

Eel River to Russell Mill Pond, which we were introduced to at an awesome Moth Ball we attended.

Lloyd Center The trails around the Lloyd Center for the Environment, where we enjoyed one of our Marine Biology Co-op lessons this past summer.

Bay Farm Conservation AreaBay Farm Conservation Area, which is a favorite spot of ours for walking and picnicking.

Pratt Farm

Pratt Farm, where I led a 4-session Habitat Explorers co-op in the fall.

Great River Preserve

Great River Preserve, where I kicked off a fall Art-n-Nature Club last year with an Element of Line hike.

I’d love to hear some of your favorites, too!

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Shingles Pain Like No Other

By: Kathy Trainor

Your know how people say they feel like crawling out of their skin?  I now know the meaning of this phrase.

In July, I had a horrible back ache in my bra line and I felt like I had the flu. Since I work with children, I though it was a virus that would go away.  Even with the most excellent hand washing, it seems like children often end up sharing germs.

One night, I was up all night. Even the touch of my soft sheets made me cry. I lay awake wondering what was wrong. WHY was my skin so sore, burning, numb, and itchy?  Why did I feel so ill when my muscles didn’t hurt.  My hands, arm, and shoulder were numb and weak. Did I hurt myself or was something greater going on?

By 3am I knew I had to go to the doctor. I knew that whatever was wrong with me was more than the stomach bug or flu. Around 7am, after a very painful, tear-filled shower, I was getting changed and I couldn’t even put on my bra. My husband said “Hun, I think you have poison ivy.”

I snapped back, “Ya, ok, I am itchy but poison ivy doesn’t hurt and I have had that in areas it should never be…”

I got dressed, even more mad than before, and I realized I’d have to go to the doctor’s bra-free. (I know, totally exciting.) I knew that Signature Healthcare’s Urgent Care Center opened at 8 a.m. and I really didn’t want to go to the ER.

The nurse checked me in and I sounded like a nut trying to explain I was hurting, burning, itching and numb in a spot that makes and L on my back.  (I was sure she was thinking, “Oh man, it’s Saturday at 8 a.m. and I get a wild one.”)

The PA came in and reviewed everything. She took a deep breath and told me in a calm voice,  “Please don’t be stressed. It’s ok.” ( OK, great, she could see I was losing my mind…)  She looked at my back and touches it ever so lightly. I jumped in pain. She stopped and calmly said,  “I am so sorry. Please know you are ok. You have Shingles.”

She then explained fully what shingles are and how anyone can get them.

Shingles is defined by the Mayo Clinic as:

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Signs and symptoms may include:

-Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
– A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
– Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
– Itching

Some people also experience:

- Fever and chills
– General achiness
– Headache
– Fatigue

Here is what my shoulder looked like:

Shingles

That may not seem like much, but it feels like someone is stabbing you, punching you and scratching you so deep in your body that even a light brush past you makes you want to drop the ground in full tears.

I was given an anti viral made just for shingles and was told I can’t spread it unless I have someone touch the rash. Since there is nothing topical I can put on it, I knew I wouldn’t spread the rash to anyone.  The pain was managed with over the counter acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

After about 10 days my pain was less and the rash was gone.

Have you ever had Shingles? What was the experience like for you?

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Fun, Local Events

By: Angela Semeta

Boy does time FLY when you’re having fun! Before you know it the kids will be back to school, but there is still time to get in some excitement for the family that won’t break the bank and won’t empty your gas tank! I’m keeping it local, as promised, and have some pretty amazing ways for you to get involved in the community.

I’ll begin with Brockton’s Second Annual Peace March & Unity Festival. 
Last year, my 6-year-old daughter and I were proud to march for peace here in our city. Hundreds of people showed up with signs in hand featuring photos of loved ones lost, peace signs, and balloons for a release. We chanted through the streets “We want peace on Brockton streets!” It was monumental! 
I tell you, I was proud to march with my community, but even more so to have my daughter march beside me. I could tell she was proud to hold her sign and march as well.

Brockton’s Second Annual Peace March & Unity Festival

This year, the Second Annual Peace March & Unity Festival will be held on August 2nd. It will begin at noon at the Arnone School at 135 Belmont Street Brockton, MA. The event will feature music, poetry, community service awards and face painting, as well as a balloon release for loved ones lost. There will also be local vendors on hand and a chance to meet local law enforcement and members of your community.

Brockton’s Second Annual Peace March & Unity Festival

Another fantastic and free way to entertain the family is to come check out Fuller Craft Museum located at 455 Oak Street Brockton, MA. Come celebrate Free Fun Friday’s on Friday August 8th, 2014 from 10am to 5pm as part of the 10-week summer program presented by the Highland Street Foundation. The event will feature crafts and activities for children and adults including wood turning, weaving, and storytelling.

Movies on the mall

Lastly, come check out Movies At The Mall. Every Tuesday for the remaining month of August/school vacation, Westgate Mall here in Brockton will feature a film at 11am in the children’s play area. Events will take place Tuesday, August 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th.

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Disney

By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

Disney WorldI did it.

I can’t believe I actually did it.

I booked a trip to Walt Disney World.

I booked a trip to Walt Disney World … in August.

The temperature and the crowds will most likely be unbearable …. But I couldn’t be more excited!

This will be our first “big” vacation since our honeymoon. Sure, we’ve planned weekend and day trips, but nothing like a week in the happiest place on earth!

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a Disney-fanatic family. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and mother will be joining us.

There is so much planning that actually goes into a trip like this. The adults have all been to Disney multiple times. My brother and I actually worked there on the Walt Disney World College Program, so our expectations may be a little more extreme than others who are traveling down for the first time.

I want this vacation to be exciting, fun and filled with joy, but I also want to enjoy some down time – relaxing by the pool, soaking in a little sun and letting my kids take pleasure in the world that is Disney.

The kids have no idea that we are going. I’ve told my boys that we need to “save our money.” They both got piggy banks and have been stuffing loose change and small bills into their banks. This has worked well when we are out and about and they ask for something in a store. My reply, “would you rather have that toy or go on vacation?” The vacation always wins, thankfully!

With about two weeks to go until our departure, my husband and I sat down with the boys to see what they came up with. I figured we’d have anywhere from $20-$25…we counted $75! I’m not sure where or how a 6- and 3-year-old could come up with this amount but they did! We’ve been adding to the piles every chance we can and the plan is to tell them the night before that we finally have enough saved and we should leave in the morning!

I have small backpacks with activities for the plane (books, sticker books, invisible marker pads, etc.), personalized “My first time at Disney” t-shirts and special snacks for each of the children. My sister-in-law has created a special message from Mickey and Minnie with bags containing autograph books, lanyards decorated with special pins and fan/water bottles for the parks.

The adults have downloaded the “My Disney Experience” app, arranged for airport transportation, placed an order with the grocery store to deliver essentials to our room (milk, fruit, etc), made the dining reservations, booked the fast passes and made reservations for the Pirate League (the boys will be made into real pirates) and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (my niece will be made into a beautiful princess).

I think we’ve covered all of our bases.

I’ve got plenty of sunscreen and space on the camera to capture the magic.

I’m giddy with excitement to share this with my children, niece and nephew.

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes as planned and that there is somewhat of a cool breeze in central Florida.

Posted in Family, Heather Desmond O'Neill, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Son, His Basketball, My World:

By: Carolyn Coleman

A father’s pride and a mother’s joy. The birth a male child speaks to lineage, longevity and perceived success. As soon as he breaks the womb into this world the dreams start to rise.

student athleteSometimes I don’t think people realize the dedication it takes from a parent and child to raise a student athlete. My son is now 15-years-old and will be a sophomore in high school this fall. He has been playing organized sports since the age of 5. My husband and I put in countless hours traveling with him, bringing him to practice, and making sure he understands that his education comes first.

Playing sports requires a commitment of time and energy, but the benefits far exceed the disadvantages. Playing sports will teach my son commitment, dependability, motivation, and teamwork. He will also gain a wealth of knowledge about his overall physical health.

I feel as though the last two months has been a whirlwind of traveling for basketball. My son has been to Providence, New Jersey, Virginia and, most recently, to Pennsylvania twice. I welcome the break from basketball for a few weeks.

Basketball gives a mother a chance to scream from the stands and a father a chance to raise a man. As I watch my son approach each and every game with such determination to help his team to a victory, it brings me joy to know that we are raising such an amazing young man.

As I close, I’d like to remind you to help your child balance life as a student-athlete. Be sure they find time to unwind, stay focused, socialize, and remember that school always comes first.

I welcome your thoughts on the student athlete, artist, dancer, etc. you are raising.

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Life’s a Beach

By: Rachel Ventura

I may make some enemies for this, especially right now in the middle of Summer, but I’m just going to come right out and say it. I don’t like the beach. I’ve just never been a fan. My relationship with the sun and history with melanoma is one of the reasons, but even more than that, I just don’t enjoy the sand and water. Unless I am in Florida or someplace tropical, I think the sand is dirty and gross, and the water is cold, dirty, and murky. Not to mention all the planning, travelling, lugging, changing clothes, and sand everywhere. It’s all just more of a hassle than I care to deal with.

At one of our most recent trips, I was disgusted at the site of the sand. I won’t mention the name of the beach, as it’s a place we enjoy and I’m really hoping it was a fluke. But the beach was covered in cigarette butts, animal feces, dirty band aids, and bones. Yes, bones. I’m pretty sure they were from ribs and chicken wings. Seriously, who eats those things at the beach? And way more importantly, who throws them on the ground and leaves them there? How inconsiderate can you be? There were plenty of trash cans all around. I just don’t get it. It was so gross that I felt sick to my stomach the whole time we were there.

But all that being said, my kids LOVE the beach. Since I’m not going to let my idiosyncrasies (read: craziness) rule their life, I do manage at least a handful of beach trips each summer. I’m sharing with you the few favorite places that we frequent. Also, one of the best tips I ever got is to pack light. I am an over-packer. For sure. But for the beach, I truly believe less is more. I take 1 bag, and it’s my trusty zip-top organizing utility tote from Thirty-One. It is seriously the most perfect beach bag. It’s not too big (but big enough), has tons of pockets, zips closed, and is water resistant. Inside, I pack 2 towels, all of my necessities, lunch (if needed), snacks, and any other items we may need. We also bring a beach bucket, with assorted beach toys inside, and a blanket to sit on. That’s it. It makes the trip so much easier not to have too much stuff to lug in and out of the car. I bring a change of clothes for the kids as well, but leave them in the car, and change the kids there before we leave.

That’s it!

That’s it!

Our favorite spot is Town Neck Beach in Sandwich. It helps that my parents live there. My kids love to go visit Grammy and Pop at “the cottage,” which almost always includes a trip to the beach. We always walk from my parents’ house. I do they know charge for parking during the day, though I’m not even sure how much it is. I don’t think it’s too much, and whatever it is, it’s worth it. It’s a beautiful beach! There are port-a-potties and though there is no permanent snack shack, there is almost always a truck in the parking lot selling food and treats. One side is the real beach where you can see the beginning of the Cape Cod Canal. It’s fun to watch all sorts of boats coming in and going out. The beach starts off with dunes and very nice sand, but then it gets very rocky. The water is also very cold. For these reasons, we usually stay on the river side of the beach. Here you have the Sandwich Boardwalk, which is fun to take a stroll, or for the adventurous, to jump off during high tide! The beach on this side is sandy, the water isn’t too deep, and it’s much warmer. There are always crabs, fish, even shrimp to check out, which is always fun. It’s also a wonderful place to take family photos, as we did just the other night with Captured Memories! Here are a few photos from the shoot, as well as some other favorites that showcase the beauty of this beach!

Beach

Beach

 

Beach

Beach

Beach

Beach

We recently checked out Nelson Beach in Plymouth for the first time and really enjoyed it! We’ll definitely be going back. The splash pad and playground is a definite plus, but we had the most fun on the beach. We went during low tide and were able to walk out pretty far. We found all sorts of shells, sea glass, periwinkles, and seaweed. Tons of fun!

Beach

Beach

Beach

It’s not the ocean, but we love visiting Houghton’s Pond in Milton. There are lifeguards, bathrooms, a bathhouse, and a snack shop. There are also trails to hike and explore and a really nice playground. It’s a beautiful spot to spend the day! My kids love to swim and build sandcastles while here, and on the way out, we grab an ice cream at the snack shop. Perfect day!

Beach

Beach

Beach

Beach

What are your favorite local beaches? Please share so my clan and I can check them out and hopefully, add them to our list of favorites!

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Breastfeeding Failure

By: Jessica Aldred

Jessica AldredI just finished breastfeeding my newborn son. It’s such an intimate experience that can only be explained by woman blessed with the opportunity to do so. Shortly after I finished feeding him, my husband handed me a 3-ounce bottle of milk-free formula to complete the feeding. You see, I’m lucky if my little man gets an ounce per feeding from me.  This is my third attempt to take advantage of the health and financial benefits of breastfeeding my children.  While the reality that I can’t do something that comes so naturally to so many moms, and critics, was easier to handle this time, it was by no means easy.

Please know this, I did not choose for this happen. I did not set out to fail. I am just a mother trying all I can to keep my children healthy and happy, which means having a healthy and happy mother as well. In hindsight, I realized that while I did have a maternal need to feed my children, I also felt pressured to do so, like I was less of a woman and less of a mom because I couldn’t do it. I’d read articles about it in which they made it seem like breastfeeding was a decision, like you were selfish if you chose not to, or perhaps lazy if you opted for formula. Not once in any of the articles did they address those of us who didn’t have a choice, and that hurt me. I just wanted to scream, “Don’t you think I want to do this? Don’t you think I want to do it the way nature intended?” In the years that would follow my first delivery I constantly ran into woman just like me! They gave breastfeeding a whole-hearted attempt and when they realized it wasn’t working out, they either supplemented or moved on. Time after time I sat with or talked to another mom with tears in her eyes as she realized she wasn’t alone, that she wasn’t some freak of nature that couldn’t provide for her child. I remember how much it meant to each of them to find a kindred mother who she could vent her frustration to who would not only listen but could also empathize with her experience.

I found out within the first week after I delivered my eldest son via scheduled c-section that I wasn’t providing what he needed in the food department. I found a great support group and an amazing lactation consultant. I also tried all sorts of supplements, vitamins and even some prescription medications that were known to enhance milk supply. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t provide more than a few ounces a day for my son. In my lowest postpartum moments I felt like such a failure, like perhaps I wasn’t meant to be a mother if I couldn’t provide for such a basic need of my child. I felt so much pressure to fix my problem and create milk, but at the end of the day I just needed to feed my healthy, happy little boy. We supplemented with formula and were very quickly dealt another blow in the feeding department. My son had a pretty bad milk allergy and had to switch to a milk-free formula, which costs twice what normal formula does. Because our insurance did not cover it, we had to deal with an unexpected financial blow on top of the emotional roller coaster that came with not being able to breastfeed.

With my second son, I felt like I knew what I was up against and I had a realistic expectation.  I’d attempt to feed him and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work. I’d go right with the milk-free formula and that would be it. Again, I gave it a shot and gave him all I could produce but, alas, it was not meant to be. As I approached my due date with #3 I figured this was my last shot to do this and gave it my all. I visited my lactation consultant weeks prior, saved what I could produce prior to delivery and froze it, and did all I could to prepare my body to produce as much milk as possible.

My beautiful little man was delivered healthy and perfect! I breastfed the second I was able to hold him and every time he made a peep for the next three days. I recollect a moment where my husband expressed frustration that he couldn’t help me feed him as I sobbed through my exhaustion. But he knew that this was what I wanted, that I had to give this all I had before I could go the formula route. I still remember standing next to the scale each night as they weighed him, praying we could stay above the 10% weight loss limit. If he lost more than 10% of his weight, they would make me supplement and I was working so hard to not let that happen. Luckily, because I had some frozen from prior to delivery I was able to supplement with my own milk stores. However, the fear that I was heading down that all too familiar road set in.  But this time was different. I was mentally prepared for this and to date, I have followed through with my plan. I’ll do whatever I can naturally to enhance my milk supply and I’ll get him whatever I can for as long as I can. I’ll pay for the doubly priced milk-free formula that my insurance won’t cover, and I’ll supplement as much as I need to in order to fill his cute little tummy. And I won’t feel guilty about it.

My amazing husband often reminds me that I have two perfectly healthy older sons who were ultimately formula fed and if this one needs to follow suit then so be it. As my baby approaches 6 weeks of age I’m happy to say that I’ve stuck to my plan. We enjoy the time we’re able to spend quietly breastfeeding, but I certainly don’t feel guilty when I’m running out the door to karate leaving my husband to finish up a feeding. My boys are healthy and perfect regardless of what they were fed as infants and I’m finally able to say I’m okay with that.

Posted in Babies, Family, Health, Infants, Jessica Aldred, Mommy Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment