Fun Summer Activities to Keep the Boredom Away

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Don’t let boredom settle in this summer. Don’t worry if it’s not the summer for sleepaway camps because we have a fun itinerary planned for your kids.  From water balloon fights to backyard campouts, we have just the right activates to keep your kids, young and old, entertained.

Camping tentBackyard Campout

Travel no further than your backyard for old-fashioned fun. Pitch a tent and bring out sleeping bags all while enjoying the comfort and convenience of your own yard. As an added bonus, the bathroom will be just a few steps away! With popcorn, flashlights and books you can turn the night into a real adventure. When the stars come out, your kids will feel like true campers.

When you’ve got lemons…

Teach your kids about owning a business by helping them start a lemonade stand. This fun and refreshing neighborhood pastime will have your kids busy all afternoon. All you’ll need is a table, lemonade, cups, and a sign to catch drivers’ attention. Beat the heat and add an umbrella for sun protection. If your kids aren’t satisfied with just lemonade, bring out some cookies or – better yet – turn it into a bake sale.

Scrapbooking

Documenting childhood memories takes time, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Your kids may enjoy helping out by scrapbooking and bringing out their inner-craftiness. With some color paper, stickers, and cool scissors your kids can turn pictures into works of art. You’ll have a fun time reliving all those past birthday parties and holiday celebrations.

A water park in your yard

Watering your yard with sprinklers while kids run around in their bathing suits is the ultimate idea of killing two birds in one stone. During hot summer days when your kids (and your lawn!) need some cooling off, turn on the hose and bring out the slip n slide for a water day without having to pack up and go to the pool.

Plant a garden

There is nothing like the responsibility and pride of growing a garden.  Watching flowers or produce grow is very rewarding and will keep your kids occupied each day. Tending to a garden requires attention and care, but doesn’t have to be done in a yard. Indoor containers or potting boxes on the porch are both great alternatives.

How do you keep your kids occupied during the school-free summer days?

5 Healthy Summer Recipes

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Summer is finally here and so are the fresh and sizzling recipes that we’ve all been waiting for. These light, mouth-watering recipes are perfect for hot summer nights.

grilled vegetables1. Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables

This colorful vegetable recipe is a crowd pleaser and accompanies any dish beautifully. Toss fresh zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and scallions on the grill and serve over couscous for a flavorful side dish or main meal.

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/grilled-mediterranean-vegetables-00000000058350/index.html

2. Fish Tacos with Watermelon Salsa

Nothing says summer like fish tacos. Try pairing them with watermelon salsa for a fresh spin on a classic recipe. Pairing the two warm-weather favorites will have your senses souring and is a healthy option for all ages to enjoy.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/fish-tacos-with-watermelon-salsa-recipe.html

3. Pomegranate Glazed Chicken

It’s time to add a twist to your go-to chicken recipe. Pomegranate not only adds bold flavors but also creates a vibrant dish that will stand out beautifully. This sweet and spicy marinade is perfect for any occasion and will be the talk of the night.

http://recipes.prevention.com/Recipe/pomegranate-glazed-chicken.aspx

4. Shrimp Arrabiata

Shrimp cooked with whole grain spaghetti and fresh tomatoes is the perfect formula for a satisfying meal. Try this recipe when you’re pressed for time and you need to feed the whole family.

http://www.prevention.com/food/cook/summer-slow-cooker-recipes?s=4 

5. Summer Peach & Tomato Salad

Fresh peaches and tomatoes are already a summer hit, but when combined them in this simple and light dish, the colorful ingredients will satisfy any taste buds.  This juicy salad is the perfect combination of colors, sizes and shapes. The variety is stunning and can be paired with your favorite fish or meat, or can kick off a fresh summer meal as the appetizer.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/summer-peach-tomato-salad-10000001988538/

 

Independence Day

By: Dawn Thompson

Independence Day

Independence Day is a National Holiday marked by patriotic displays and celebration.  What could be finer than a US Marine standing before his family, friends, and country to accept the highest enlisted rank after 20 years of dedicated service?  Having family and friends there to share in the moment, that’s what!

I once heard a saying, “If you are lucky enough to have one good friend in your life, you are lucky enough.” I have thought about that long and good and realize how blessed some of us really are.

Independence Day

On July 1st, my husband Dean and I attended the frocking ceremony of his friend since grade school. It was awesome to see this marine with his loving wife, children, parents, fellow Marines, and longtime friends by his side.  Sometimes we forget the sacrifices these families make on a daily basis to ensure us the freedom and comforts we so readily enjoy. With one glimpse, we are reminded that our freedom is not free.

Independence Day

As celebrated this 4th of July, we held our family, friends, brothers and sisters near and dear.  We realize how uncertain life can be and we know should cherish every moment.

We do not need to be political to be patrioti; just inspired by PATRIOTISM and having a LOVE for your country. Hope you had a safe, happy and healthy 4th of July celebration.

Congratulations Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Olmeda, Jr. and thank you for your service!

(Photo courtesy of Joe Harrington)

The Fourth of July

By: Sue Anganes

 

July Fourth Parade

When does summer start? For me it’s the Fourth of July! There hasn’t been a year yet that I’ve missed the Chelmsford Fourth of July Parade. When I was young and growing up in Chelmsford, the parade was much smaller and less crowded. When I was nine or ten years old I would decorate my bicycle by running red, white, and blue crepe paper through the spokes on my wheels and taping long streamers to my handlebars. My parents would let me ride the two miles into the center of town by myself. Things were much simpler then, and I don’t think my parents had any worries about me being off on my own.

After my sister and I were both married with kids, my brother-in-law Dave started the tradition of running in the John Carson Road Race with our kids. The race always takes place right before the parade. My oldest four kids ran in many races, and a couple of times they placed very well in their age categories. My brother-in-law, who is a runner, was great at organizing and keeping track of the kids during and after the race. My husband and I were better at cheering from the sidelines. My oldest two sons still run the race each year. Unfortunately my youngest two sons have never run the race because of their neurotransmitter disease. They still enjoy cheering their brothers and cousins on from the sidelines.

Amelia and Uncle Charlie

Andrew and Charlie returning from the Race

My family, as well as my sister’s, has grown very large over the past thirty years (we have thirteen kids between us, not including the spouses and grandchildren). But every year, we all meet at a certain place on the parade route. We take up a good chunk of the sidewalk! I love to see the excitement in my grandchildren’s faces while the parade marches past.

One of the most emotional moments I’ve ever had at the parade was two years ago when a serviceman got out of his Humvee and approached my son Raymond who was sitting in his wheelchair. The serviceman shook Ray’s hand and told him, “You are my hero.” He gave Ray an army medallion which Ray wears around his neck to this day. I was amazed that this man, a true American Hero, took the time to single my son out and encourage him. It left a huge impression on Ray and all of us.

Ray receives a medal

After the parade we always head to my sister and brother-in-law’s house for the best cookout ever, and in the evening we always try to catch a fireworks display.

Fireworks

 

July 4th Festivities for the Entire Family

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Independence DayWhether it is an annual parade or a concert under the fireworks, we have the events to entertain children and adults of all ages. Bring your family to celebrate with locals and tourists for a fun-filled day of red, white and blue.

1. Independence Day Celebration in the City of Lowell

Friday, July 4 at LeLacheur Park will be filled with activities for the kids such as face painting, balloon animals and games. Gates will open at 7 pm and live music will play from 7:30-9 pm. A spectacular fireworks show will start at 9 pm in the park for all family members to enjoy.

Rain date: Saturday, July 5.

More information: http://www.lowell.org/Pages/fireworks2014.aspx

 

2. Chelmsford Fourth of July Parade

Join the town of Chelmsford at 10:00am for the 47th Annual 4th of July Parade, rain or shine. (Sue and her family will be there!) The event will take place at McCarthy Middle School and raffle tickets can be purchased throughout the event for cash prizes and sporting events. A variety of neighborhoods, organizations and businesses will enter floats into the parade while a marching band leads the way.

More information: http://www.chelmsfordparade.com/

 

3. Family Fun in the Park

Andover firefighters will be hosting a pancake breakfast in the park on the 4th from 8:00am-11:00am. The Horribles Parade will start at 9:30am in front of Doherty Middle School followed by a jazz band and Middlesex concert band in the park from 10:00am-11:30am. This event provides entertainment for the whole family to enjoy to kick start the holiday.

More information: http://andoverma.gov/news/images/July4.pdf

 

4. Acton Independence Day Celebration

NARA Park is the place to be in Acton on July 4th. Family fun activities take place from 3-7pm followed by a free concert featuring the Rolling Stones Tribute Band. Food vendors will be set up around the park and a colorful fireworks show will wrap up the night at 9:30pm.

Rain date: Fireworks only. Saturday, July 5, at dusk.

More information: http://www.acton-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2933

 

5. Picnic in the Park

Relax with the family and enjoy an afternoon program of favorite patriotic tunes by the 50-year-old concert band at Emerson Field on Stow Street in Concord, MA. The band will start performing at 3:00pm, providing the perfect outdoor activity for the entire family. 

In case of rain, the music will be moved indoors.

More information: http://concord.wickedlocal.com/article/20140626/NEWS/140628431/12445/LIFESTYLE

 

6. Fourth of July at Salisbury Beach

Enjoy the sea and surf, ice cream, cotton candy and more while listening to music on a big oceanfront deck. Bring your furry friends to the Pet Parade at 5:00pm and stay for the Island Beach Party Show at 7:00pm.

If you’re staying at the beach all weekend, make sure to check out the Special Fireworks Extravaganza on Saturday, July 5th at 10:15pm.

More information: http://www.beachfests.org/fourth-of-july.html

 

 

7. Danvers Family Festival

The Fireworks Festival will take place at Plains Park on Saturday, July 5  from 4:00-9:00pm. A variety of musical performances and concessions will be available to entertain the whole family. Games and rides will be available for kids along with a stunt plane show and a military flyover. The fireworks show begins at 9:30pm to wrap up the festivities.

More information: http://www.danversfamilyfestival.com/ 

Beef & Broccoli With Rice

By: Amy Dienta

Looking for a quick, easy meal that your entire family will enjoy? Here’s one of my family’s favorite meals.

Beef & Broccoli With Rice

Beef and Broccoli With Rice 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1 lb steak for stir-fry
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper as desired

Preparation

1. Cook rice in rice cooker

2. Combine soy sauce and hoisin in a medium bowl. Add beef; toss to coat. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove beef, reserving marinade. Add beef to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove beef from pan. Add broccoli and next 4 ingredients to pan; cook 5 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add reserved marinade to pan; bring to a boil. Add beef to pan; cook until thoroughly heated.

Put rice on the plate and then sauce and meat and vegetables on top.

Serves 4 

Merrimack Valley Moms Blog Contest

Merrimack Valley Moms BlogThere’s only 3 days left to enter the Merrimack Valley Moms Blog contest – it ends on Thursday, July 3rd! All mothers in the Merrimack Valley area of Massachusetts are invited to enter to win $250 and become a Merrimack Valley Mom Blogger.

To enter the contest, visit Lowell General Hospital’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LowellGeneralHosp and become a fan by clicking the Like button. Upload a video or post a short essay on why you’d be a great mommy blogger.

Take a look at the great entries we have received so far. Which is your favorite?

Michaelene Gaudet Koskela:

Why Me? I was fortunate to become a stay-at-home mother after the birth of my daughter in 2010. I also was advanced maternal. Yes, I was horrified to learn what the RED capital letters “A M A” clearly marked across my OB/GYN file. At present, I am closer to being 50 than 40. I am all for celebrating the year – it certainly beats the alternative. My previous career was corporate – this offered no help to my early months of motherhood. If Apple could create an app that includes transition steps they may be on to something. I encountered a few obstacles as a “ROOKIE” which came as an equal surprise, as I felt I had an arsenal of life skills. I learned I was unprepared and overly prepared at the same time. The new frontiers I had to explore as a SAHM. ~Meeting other mothers. ~What to do during naptimes beyond daytime television. ~What is your identity beyond Mommy? What enriches you? ~How to not bombard hubby with thousands of questions the minute he gets home from work. ~Fitting in fitness. ~How to survive car shaped grocery carts with bad wheels. ~Stay on track with your dreams. And there is much more. The underlying fact is that my life has NEVER been richer. I love motherhood; these are the best years of my life and hopefully my daughters as well. Love is mandatory, humor a plus, a glass of wine optional. This is why I would like to be a mommy blogger.

Kate Henderson:

Boring? Ha! I strive for boring. Between shuttling my kids (5 and 2) to appointments, activities, and play dates, I squeeze in a second college degree (pre-med? Don’t mind if I do!) and marathon training. All with a husband who can work up to 12 (or more!) hours a day. Oh yes, I’m an infertility surviving, pre-med studying, two kid having, weight loss working, marathon running (you know, in theory) momma. Did I mention I’m on the nursery coordinator of my church and my son has ADHD? Allow me to toss that on the fire. I do it all–laundry, dishes, cooking, lawn mowing, butt wiping, hand holding, phonics teaching, over night rocking, argument solving, and hugging and kissing. Then I let my husband take over on the weekends while I run and study. And I do all of the above because you know a mom is never “off duty.” Would I change it!? Never! Boring is well… boring! And I have a lot to say. I *could* use a house cleaner, though….

Jacqueline Koutsoufis:

Never a dull moment in my house. With five children one with autism and two with ADD/ADHD and one is in her terrible twos stage. Mommy who attends school part time while also working. And a husband who is a firefighter and also works a second job. Raising a large family in the city has some of its own problems. Battling the school system year round so your child can get what they need and deserve.

Danielle McFadden:

Here’s my submission to be one of your Merrimack Valley Moms bloggers! :-) I would gladly tweet a link to all of my posts on my Twitter page (https://twitter.com/dmcfaddenlowell) and promote on Facebook. I think this is a great resource for local moms and would love to see the blog grow!

Heather Quintal Condo: 

I don’t know for sure how interesting I would be as a mommy blogger, but I sure could try!  I am a stay at home mom to 3 kids (8, 5 1/2, and 2) each with their own little quirks, annoyances, and strengths.  All 3 have completely different personalities. I also babysit other children on occasion.

I am trying to figure out a balance (does this really exist? Lol) of trying to lose weight and keep up with the kids along with all my newly developed food allergies. I have Oral Allergy Syndrome to every fruit and vegetable imaginable, so I can only eat them cooked. I have a true allergy to bananas, tree nuts, peanuts, all shellfish, coconuts, raw eggs, and we even found out possibly tomatoes. I am trying to find my food balance too, of course. We love trying new recipes and do it often. I love to talk about what we tried, pros and cons, and what we did to make it healthier, if needed, or just ingredient alterations we had to make. And I love passing all my recipe reviews off to my friends. I am very lucky to have a husband who does help with all the cooking and who is very attentive to all of my food “issues.”

Marisa Veiga:

Life after child #2, has certainly put a spin on boring (5 year old boy and 20 month boy).

Never boring with the kids, however. Life has consumed me with being all about balancing my work life and kids, that, in reality, living a fairly boring life . I wouldn’t change it for the world, but, so need to find more ‘ME’ time!!

Thanks LGH!!

Summer Safety Tips

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Summer is a time for playing outside, soaking up the bright sun and cooling off in the pool. But with outdoor activities come several safety precautions that are often overlooked.  Because June is National Safety Month, we have compiled a list of 5 safety tips that will ensure fun, stress-free family summer adventures.

  1. Bites & Stings: Keep the mosquitos and ticks from bugging you and your kids this summer with insect repellent. While repellants don’t kill insects, they do help reduce the amount of bites. Never use insect repellant on infants and use products containing DEET sparingly. Stick with a concentration of DEET between 10% and 30%.  Make sure to cover up arms and legs to prevent itchy bug bites.  If you are bitten, relieve the itchiness by applying hydrocortisone cream or a cold pack to the area.water safety
  1. Water Safety: Spending time in the pool or ocean is a great way to cool off, but parents should take precautions to avoid risks while maintaining an enjoyable environment. Make sure to enroll your kids in swim lessons and to swim in areas patrolled by lifeguards in order to decrease risk of drowning. The “no running” and “no diving” signs are more than just decorations so make sure your child obeys the rules at the pool.  Whoever is monitoring your kids should know CPR in case of an emergency.
  1. Hydration: During the hottest months of the year it is important for your children to stay hydrated even if they aren’t thirsty. Dehydration is very common among children during summer months due to sports and outdoor activities in the heat. Dizziness, dry mouth, cramps, fatigue and dark yellow urine are all possible indicators of dehydration. Drinking water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes throughout the day are the best options for hydration.
  1. Sunburns: Blistering sunburns are painful, but can be easily avoided with all ages and skin types. Make sure to apply and reapply a water-resistant sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Hats, umbrellas and tents are also helpful for providing protection from the sun.
  1. Travel Safety: Spontaneous trips with the family throughout the summer can be very fun, but safety is key for these moments of easy living.  Always travel with your child’s car seat or make sure they remain buckled up in the back seat while on the road.  Never leave children in the car during the heat of the summer.  Also, bad driving habits can pick up in the summer so make sure to hit the road during lighter traffic hours when wrecks are less common.

For more safety, tips, visit http://1.usa.gov/1wu0UEa.

Have a happy and safe summer!

The Problem with “Perfect”

By: Dawn Thompson 

Perfect Mother's Day GiftOn Mother’s Day, my daughter Brittany informed me that she had the “BEST Mother’s Day Gift EVER” and boy was she right :)  My pretty little princess (age 25) came around the corner of our new house with this BIG ole whopping sign with different slats that read, “Game Time, Pool, Napping, Apples, Farm and Family Time.” While she knew I would absolutely love it, she also knew that the nails she used to make it where just a tad too short; still, she brought it around the corner and dug a hole with such grace and confidence, she knew it was made just right.

At first, one of the slats fell off.  As we hammered it back in, another popped off and so on. After a few laughs and some steady hammering, we got the sign to stand, “perfectly.” We were given advice about how to use longer nails or screws and Brittany said she thought it might crack the wood and that’s why she didn’t use bigger ones. It was standing just fine, so we left it.

About three weeks later, I was doing work in the yard and disturbed the sign and the “Pool” slat fell off.  My husband said he had long screws in the truck. I though GREAT, We have been meaning to “fix it.” As he screwed in the sign, I noticed the wood started to crack.  I also didn’t like the way the black screw stood out over the “o” in Pool and most importantly, I really disliked trying to change something I loved just the way it was.  I asked him to stop trying to “fix” it because it wasn’t broken. I also asked him to help me tack the other three slats that fell off while we were working on the pool one.  After a few laughs, some teamwork hammering and fancy footwork, we got them all back on in original condition.  While we were working on it, I noticed all the little imperfections that were perfectly placed on each sign. All hand painted and purposeful scratch marks and antiquing that Brittany had painstakingly created.  I was in awe at the construction and creativeness that went into her work and could almost imagine her doing every bit of it. The gift really came to life and I wouldn’t have noticed it all unless I was interacting with it like that. It was the Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever.

Today, it stands just right in the back yard.  We live near a farm and people driving by often slow down to read it. It is sound and stable as long as you don’t mess with it, and it reminds me of a lot of things in my life.

All too often, we try to “fix” things that aren’t broken. With our son Dylan (who has neurofibromatosis), we used to try to fix some of his problems like his eyesight.  After conservative treatment and then multiple surgeries, each eye did get a little better  - but not like we planned.  We couldn’t save his right eye vision and often wonder if he was better off in his original condition. We sometimes feel guilty about trying to help him live up to a standard of what’s good, right or expected.  Now we realize that Dylan sees what he sees and hears what he hears; to him, he sees and hears perfectly.  Not only can he use these gifts for himself, but he often helps others “see” things more clearly and “listen” more deeply than they can with two working eyes and ears.

I am grateful to my daughter for reminding me again what matters most: be creative, be unique be beautiful in spirit! That some things are better off when we don’t mess with them and, most importantly, that imperfections are sometimes what makes things “prefect.”

Have a safe and happy summer! :)

Father’s Day

By: Amy Dienta

Father's Day

I saw this poem and it make me think of my dad. He has done and continues to do so much for me and my kids. So here’s to you, Dad:

Life Lessons

You may have thought I didn’t see,

Or that I hadn’t heard,

Life lessons that you taught to me,

But I got every word.

Perhaps you thought I missed it all,

And that we’d grow apart,

But Dad, I picked up everything,

It’s written on my heart.

Without you, Dad, I wouldn’t be

The person I am today;

You built a strong foundation

No one can take away.

I’ve grown up with your values,

And I’m very glad I did;

So here’s to you, dear father,

From your forever grateful kid.

–  Joanna Fuechs

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