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Confessions of a NICU Mom

I never anticipated it. I had a relatively easy-going, healthy pregnancy. Some nausea in the beginning, but I wasn’t violently throwing up. I had fatigue in the first trimester and the third, but again, nothing out of the ordinary. And the cravings (oh, the cravings!) were mostly for ice cream, like a stereotypical pregnant woman. At all my checkups and ultrasounds, everything was moving along fine. My pregnancy seemed a primer straight out of the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” playbook.

Until at 34 weeks, when that wasn’t the case. I had to be induced. And because I was six weeks early, my baby would have to stay in the NICU.

Whether your stay in the NICU is a week or six months, it changes you. You never get used to seeing your tiny baby covered in wires and hooked up to machines. Every day is a test. Some days are great — things are plowing along, and you think discharge is just within your reach. But there can be setbacks. And those setbacks are hard pills to swallow.

Because I wasn’t mentally prepared for a NICU stay, I never really knew what to expect. Some days were fine — my son seemed to be progressing rapidly. Other days, it felt like he would be having his senior prom at the hospital. I owe a lot to the staff who saw me at my worst and most unprepared. They calmed me down and assured me it would be OK.

And it did turn out to be OK, whether or not I believed them at the time.

My son is thriving now, and while his first month feels like a distant memory, there are parts that are hard to ever forget: the worry about how he was progressing, the wondering if he would ever come home, the fear every single time any of his alarms went off, and the absolute anxiety throughout his car seat test — the last hurdle he needed to pass in order to be discharged.

There are still memories or moments from the NICU stay and his birth where what lingers is sadness and what could have been. My son’s library has a few books about being a preemie, which always manage to make me cry a little. Reminiscing over his baby book pages from that time period also brings on the tears.

But I also want to advocate for and support current NICU families. I have a list of resources that I share in parenting groups. I will be wearing green on September 30 in honor of NICU Awareness Day, and I plan on running a 5K Your Way for Project Sweet Peas, a national nonprofit organization that provides care packages, financial aid, and other services to NICU families.

Even though our NICU journey seems like a lifetime ago, I want to remember how important it was that we had the help and support system we did, and I want to give back in any way I can.

Five Things I’ve Learned From the Chaos of the “New Normal”

new normal - Boston Moms

The “new normal” is what we’re calling this chaotic time in our lives, and while it is new, it is anything but normal. For a mama who is completely averse to change, this has been a struggle. No amount of cheerleading or hope-mongering has prepared me for what our lives are becoming. But living in this “new normal” has already taught me a few things.

1. Nothing is set in stone. 

As soon as I begin to find comfort in a proposed schedule or a course of action, it changes. Even when things seem certain, they aren’t. I have never been comfortable with uncertainty; so great was my discomfort that I once invested in a book titled “Comfortable with Uncertainty.” (I think it may be time to tug that book off the bookshelf and start reading on a daily basis.) When you’re living through a global pandemic, it feels pointless to get comfortable with anything other than uncertainty and change.

I need to prepare myself for how I respond to these changes, not only for my own well-being but to model appropriate responses to my little ones. They take their cues from me, and if I get upset every time the COVID winds blow our plans askew, they will too, and this will translate to how they react to other difficulties once we are beyond this great unknown.

2. There are no winners, and there are no losers.

For every parent who wants remote learning, there is a parent who wants a full in-person learning model (and a third who wants a hybrid model, but not the one proposed by the school). For every person who happily sports a mask whenever they leave the house, there is a person who is miserable and does so against every fiber of their being (I am grateful they still wear their masks in public).

People vary as much as the colors in a 120-pack of Crayola crayons. They may seem similar (they’re all crayons, after all), but each one has a distinct hue or tint that causes them to be different from the others. Some are dramatically different, while others are more similar. It is like that with our preferences. While some of us may want similar things, there are always small particulars that may differ. As a result, we have to compromise. Compromises keep us safe, but not necessarily happy or unhappy. At this point, the only important victory is the health of my loved ones, and as long as we continue to have our health, I will consider that a mark in the “win” category.

3. Kids are so much more adaptable than adults. 

While my 4-year-old gets that COVID has disrupted her entire life, she does not focus on it the way I can. She does not dwell on how her social skills are now stunted from her lack of play with other children her age. She does not argue with strangers about why masks are or are not important (she just argues with me about where the unicorn mask is, because that’s her favorite). She does know that she loves seeing her teachers again, and even though it’s a modified schedule following COVID guidelines, she is psyched to be back in school. She understands that things are different, but she’s not angry, sad, or defeated by this. I’m amazed and inspired by her resiliency. 

4. Change is hard.

I. Do. Not. Like. Change. I like rituals, schedules, and plans. I enjoy knowing what to expect and when to expect it. I do not like when things are different from what I am used to. This entire “new normal” has been plaguing me since its onset. I liked the old normal. The normal normal.

I want to be in my classroom, teaching my high school students, passing out papers and novels, and yelling at them to put their phones away and listen to me instead of playing with that silly TikGramTokBook. I revel in my antiquity when I’m surrounded by teenagers. But now, I’ve had to step up my game, become Zoom savvy, and learn how to use all the Google whosamawhatsits in order to engage the students as best I can from my new home-school-work-space. And I’ve spent all summer preparing for this, because change is new and hard and worth it in order to be the best teacher-mom-person I can be in a world that is crazy and uncertain and uncomfortable.

5. We will get through this. 

The other day, when I was out for a run and feeling like my legs were done, Peloton coach Robin Arzon came through my AirPods and reminded me that I had already gotten through 100% of my worst days, and I would get through this run as well. And then I did. She was right.

We will get through this. My hope is that we will learn from it and grow in ways we can’t even anticipate right now. I hope that in 30 years, when I’m finishing my teaching career, this will just be a blip on my radar, a tale I tell to the younger teachers of the time when we overcame a pandemic and social distancing and taught our butts off in ways we had never imagined. Because we will get through this, and the stories we will tell will be so much better than walking uphill, both ways, in the middle of a snowstorm, to get to school.

We will find our way through the changes and the uncertainty, we will learn from our kids and from each other, and we will figure out a way to make this time livable. Because we are moms, and that’s what we do. For now, I’ll just keep moving along this new path and absorbing the lessons I learn while continuing to remind myself that we will get through this, one day (or sometimes one minute) at a time.

Boston Moms Guide to Corn Mazes :: 2020

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Gather up the family for a fun fall adventure! Wander this way and that as you weave through the intricate designs of corn mazes in the Boston area! Getting lost is part of the fun! 

** Please contact the venue before embarking on your adventure, as many are requiring reservations for the 2020 season. **

Connors Farm

30 Valley Road, Danvers :: (978) 777-1245

The theme of the 2020 maze is “The Music Maze!” Weekday tickets must be purchased in the store, but weekend tickets may be purchased online.

Davis Farm

142 Redstone Hill, Sterling :: (978) 422-8888

Fittingly, the 2020 theme of the Davis Mega Maze is “One Way!” The maze will be open on weekends and holidays, and tickets must be purchased online. Kansas City BBQ and live music will be featured!

Hanson’s Farm

20 Nixon Road, Framingham :: (508) 877-3058

The theme of this year’s corn maze is “Tom and Matt’s Excellent Adventure!”

Honey Pot Hill Orchards

138 Sudbury Road, Stow :: (978) 562-5666

The “Big Green Monster Maze” and the “Little Green Monster Maze” are open at limited capacity, on weekends only.

Marini Farm

259 Linebrook Road, Ipswich :: (978) 356-0430

The educational maze at Marini Farm has 18 stations strategically placed throughout. No maps given — you need to find your own way out! Open weekends in September, and Friday through Sunday in October!

Sauchuk Farm

200 Center Street, Plympton :: (781) 585-1522

The theme of this year’s maze is “Plymouth 400” to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Plymouth colony. Tickets must be purchased online and are valid for specific dates and times.

West End Creamery

481 Purgatory Road, Whitinsville :: (508) 234-2022

Enjoy wandering through not one, but two corn mazes at West End Creamery! Open Friday through Sunday!

To the Teachers I Love :: I’m Still in Your Corner

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To the teachers I know and love, my heart hurts for you right now. 

I see the season of life you’re in — full of anxiety and uncertainty that’s both personal and professional. I know this is the second time you’ve been faced with transforming your teaching practices in less than one calendar year (under intense criticism from parents and administrators). 

I watch as you wrestle with creating the kind of “safe” school environment that’s as healthy and sanitary as possible but know you’re unable to create an emotionally safe school environment where kids can feel secure and socialize. I know the money for plexiglass, disinfectant, and hand sanitizer to help keep your students safe is coming out of your pockets.

I know that on a good day, you have 15 minutes to eat lunch and one hurried bathroom break in between prepping and teaching, and I grieve with you as that time disappears. 

I can envision you planning your lessons, suddenly switching over to an in-person, one-to-one technology model because paper and pencil lessons are just too risky to your health.

I see how hard it is for you, knowing how many students won’t succeed with this model of “hands off” learning but also understanding this is one of the small ways you can still protect yourself. I see you racking your brain for ways to pull your future disengaged students back in without that encouraging high five or in-classroom movement break from GoNoodle. 

I understand your frustration at the, “Well, Asian schools can do it” rhetoric, knowing that educational philosophies and practices in Asia are starkly different than ours here in Massachusetts. It’s frustrating to watch as, over and over, politicians and others who aren’t experts in your field force you to shove a square peg into the round hole.

I stand with you as parents call you “lazy” and imply that since you’ve been able to teach from your couch you simply don’t want to go into work anymore, and I understand that cannot be any further from the truth.

Once again, I saw the point where educators who were regarded as “heroes” in April became demonized for not wanting to sacrifice their safety or the safety of their families in the name of childcare, not education.

I can’t even imagine the terror you feel entering your school buildings, which, even at half capacity, still have ventilation systems from 1958. I feel the wave of familiar dismay as the media and local, state, and federal governments describe schools as “critical infrastructures in our society and workforce,” but they refuse to put their money where their mouths are. 

I watched in dissatisfaction as your school committee and communities voted on a hybrid model of learning that required you to prep twice as much for each class you teach and expected you to have the same lesson online as you did in person, simultaneously, all without your input. 

And then the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education put forth guidelines that encouraged districts to allow the children of teachers to be allowed to go to school full time, and/or spend time in the classroom with their parents so that you can educate their children. I watched the expected social media outrage unfold brutally and with much hostility. I listen as your friends, families, and communities degrade your professional opinions over and over, some blinded with desperation, and not seeing beyond what’s inconvenient and difficult for them. 

Please remember there are still people sitting here in your corner, thankful for what you do and the hard decisions you have to make in order to educate our children. We believe in you, and we love you.

Boston Moms Guide to Pumpkin Patches :: 2020

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Boston pumpkin patches - Boston Moms

Whether you want to carve it, display it, or bake with it, there is something about a pumpkin that really embodies fall in New England! There is nothing quite like a trip to the pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkins!

Boston Moms has rounded up a list of our favorite pumpkin patches to visit. Do you have one to add to our list? Let us know in the comments!

** Please check ahead with the orchards you plan to visit, as many are requiring reservations for the 2020 season. **

Brooksby Farm

54 Felton Street, Peabody :: (978) 531-7456

Pumpkin and apple picking, outdoor donut hut for cider donuts, farm stand

C & C Reading Farm

175 East Center Street, West Bridgewater :: (508) 857-0657 

Pick-your-own pumpkins, farm stand, corn maze

Cider Hill Farm

45 Fern Avenue, Amesbury :: (978) 388-5525

Pumpkin and apple picking, cider donuts, PitchFORK Food Truck on the weekends, pumpkin wagon open for photos

C. N. Smith Farm

325 South Street, East Bridgewater :: (508) 378-2270

Pick-your-own pumpkins and apples, farm stand, hay rides, donut barn

Connors Farm

30 Valley Road, Danvers :: (978) 777-1245

Pick-your-own pumpkins and apples, corn maze, haunted corn maze

Crescent Farms

140 Willow Avenue, Bradford :: (978) 914-3158

Pumpkin picking, ice cream stand, corn maze, hay rides

Four Town Farm

90 George Street, Seekonk :: (508) 336-5587

Pick-your-own pumpkins and vegetables, pumpkin rides

Hanson’s Farm

20 Nixon Road, Framingham :: (508) 877-3058

Pick-your-own pumpkins, corn maze, farm stand

Nihtila Farms

12 Nihtila Lane, Holbrook :: (781) 767-0213

Pick-your-own pumpkins, hay rides, farm stand

Parlee Farms

95 Farwell Road, Tyngsboro :: (978) 649-3854

Pick-your-own pumpkins and apples, cut your own flowers, Mary’s Country Kitchen, Annie’s Animal Barn

Rogers Spring Hill Garden and Farm Center

1269 Boston Road Ward Hill, Haverhill :: (978) 372-4780 

Pick-your-own pumpkins and apples, hay rides

Sauchuk Farm

53 Palmer Road, Plympton :: (781) 585-1522

Pick-your-own pumpkins, corn maze, farm stand

Simcock Farm

293 Marvel Street, Swansea:: (508) 673-5721

Pick-your-own pumpkins, sunflower maze, corn maze, ice cream stand, “Spooky Sundae” stand

Tangerini’s Farm

139 Spring Street, Millis :: (508) 376-5024

Pick-your-own pumpkins, farm stand, ice cream, Farmer’s Porch

You Are My Sunshine :: A Letter to My NICU Baby

NICU - Boston Moms

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.

We were sure we couldn’t get pregnant naturally and were making moves to start IVF. But then, my baby girl, you surprised us all. You have been my sunshine since the very beginning. Now, post-hysterectomy, I know you will forever be my only sunshine.

You make me happy
When skies are grey.

We had a very difficult pregnancy, and I was on bed rest on three separate occasions. We could have lost you during every single one, but you fought your way through so many grey skies, over and over. There was no happier moment than when I would hear your little heartbeat or feel your tiny kicks as assurances that you were still healthy and safe. 

You’ll never know dear,
How much I love you.

My whole life, I dreamed about having babies. I had other career aspirations, but I really “just” wanted to be a mom. Being a mom has always meant everything to me and seemed like the most important job I could ever have. I love you more than you could ever imagine.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Your heartbeat rapidly declined several times while the doctors were trying to induce me more than four weeks early. You were measuring too small, and Mama’s blood pressure was way too high, so the safest route was to deliver you early. You only weighed 3 pounds and 12 ounces, and even though you had a healthy cry they whisked you immediately away to get checked out in the NICU. No snuggles on my chest, no chance to breastfeed, no kisses on your tiny forehead. I got one peek at your face, and then you were gone. I made your dad follow you while I laid on the operating table, alone and shivering, as they stitched me up post-C-section. I waited almost four hours before I could see you for a too-brief visit — they had to wheel my bed into the NICU. 

The other night dear,
As I lay sleeping.

Fast forward to three days later, when we were discharged from the hospital. The ride down to the hospital lobby, with all our balloons and flowers, was excruciating. I’d just had a beautiful baby, and now I was leaving the hospital without you. It felt so empty. Walking into the door of our home without you that first time made me vomit, and I had never felt so desperately lonely in my whole life.

I dreamed I held you,
In my arms.

You weren’t in a fancy NICU, we didn’t have our own room to stay there with you overnight, and there were no cameras or monitors that we could see you on from our home. The staff was amazing, and we were thankful for that, but as a new mom all I wanted to do was see my baby and hold you in my arms. I wanted to snuggle you close and smell your tiny head, but you were in an isolette 35 minutes away. I spent my days holding your little hand, but the nights were long and mostly spent pumping and looking at pictures and videos of you to try to remind my body that I needed to produce breast milk. I missed you desperately.

And when I woke up,
I was mistaken.

I swear I could feel you crying, and I woke up every time the nurses fed you during the night. I would dream that you were swaddled right in front of me, and yet I still couldn’t reach you. With every sleepy moment, you moved further and further away. I just wanted to be able to keep you safe — I wanted my body to have kept you safe. Reality felt like a nightmare. 

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.

Then, 10 long days later, you finally passed your car seat test. You had just made it above four pounds and were able to come home. I was so relieved that I could finally feel like your mom. I know you didn’t have the longest NICU stay in comparison with others, but for us it felt like an eternity.

You make me happy,
When skies are grey.

I never once minded waking up four times every night to feed you, and I felt thankful I could hear you cry for me at every hour of the day.

You’ll never know dear,
How much I love you.

About 10 months later, your neurologist confirmed that you’d had a stroke in utero (while I was pregnant). I swear I know the exact moment it happened, even though science can never confirm that. Chalk it up to mother’s intuition.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Every day, I’m thankful for your life. The world is a better place because you are in it. Your strong, beautiful, sparkly self exudes more love than I could have ever imagined. You teach me lessons and bring people into our lives that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have the privilege of knowing. Every day with you is a gift. You are the bravest, most determined person I’ve ever met — the perfect mix of femininity and warrior. You have fought a lifetime of battles in your short four years, emerging from the dark places even stronger, every single time. I love you with my whole heart, and then some.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Boston Moms Guide to Apple Picking :: 2020

Crisp fall air is entering New England, and that can only mean one thing — it’s apple picking time! Apple orchards are speckled throughout the Boston area, and each has something special (and delicious!) to offer! 

** Please contact the orchard before your trip, as many are now requiring reservations. ** 

Autumn Hill

495 Chicopee Row, Groton :: (978) 448-8388

Come enjoy the beautiful views over 84 acres of scenic farmland as you pick from 25 varieties of apples! Families are asked to stay together as a “pod” while on the orchard. If your group is larger than 10 people, please call ahead to make a reservation.

Belkin Family Lookout Farm

89 Pleasant Street, South Natick :: 508-653-0653

Belkin Family Lookout Farm offers a large variety of apples to pick, plus hayrides to the orchards! Reservations and masks are required in 2020.

Berlin Orchards

310 Sawyer Hill Road, Berlin :: (978) 838-2400

The orchard offers 12 varieties of apples, plus hay wagon rides. Masks are required in areas where guests cannot social distance. Guests are encouraged to pick apples Monday through Friday when the orchard is quietest!

Boston Hill Farm

1370 Turnpike Street, North Andover :: 978-681-8556

Modified fall festivals begin September 19 and run each weekend through October. Look for live music, a petting zoo, ice cream, and so much more!

Carlson Orchards

115 Oak Hill Road, Harvard :: (978) 456-3916

Visit the cider barn and the Souped Up food truck while enjoying over 14 varieties of apples! Guests must wear a mask while near others.

Carver Hill Orchard

101 Brookside Avenue, Stow :: (978) 897-6117

Pick some apples, grab some cider donuts from the farm store, spread out a blanket, and enjoy a picnic! Masks are required when picking and while visiting the farm store.

Connor’s Farm

30 Valley Road, Danvers :: 978-777-1245

The corn maze and play area are open for the season! If possible, please purchase apple bags online during the 2020 season to make transactions as cashless/contactless as possible.

C. N. Smith Farm

325 South Street, East Bridgewater :: (508) 378-2270

Enjoy a hayride to the orchard, plus farm animals, delicious cider donuts, and a farm stand! Online reservations are required for pick-your-own, and groups are restricted to six people.

Doe’s Orchard

327 Ayer Road, Harvard :: (978) 772-4139

Pick your own apples, pumpkins, and gourds, and enjoy some local honey, cider, and maple syrup! Masks must be worn.

Drew Farm

31 Tadmuck Road, Westford :: (978) 807-0719

Enjoy the beautiful views with a picnic lunch! Tractor rides will not be running during the 2020 season, and guests must wear masks while in the orchards.

Hill Orchard

4 Hunt Road, Westford :: 437 Parker Road, Dracut :: (978) 349-1952

Hayrides to the orchards are available! Guests are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Honey Pot Hill Orchards

138 Sudbury Road, Stowe :: (978) 562-5666

The mini hedge maze is open with limited capacity, and hayrides are for transportation only during the 2020 season. Apple picking is cash only! 

Meadowbrook Orchards

209 Chace Hill Road, Sterling :: (978) 365-7617

Enjoy picking four kinds of apples, then enjoy a delicious dinner at the restaurant and bakery inside! Children must remain no further than three feet from their adults while in the orchard, and everyone must wear a mask.

Nicewicz Family Farm

116 Sawyer Road, Bolton :: (978) 779-6423

Enjoy a hayride while you pick your own apples! Masks must be worn while in the farm stand and while close to other patrons.

Parlee Farms

95 Farwell Road, Tyngsboro :: (978) 649-3854

Hayrides are running at 40% capacity during the 2020 season. Mary’s Country Kitchen and the picnic area are open for delicious snacks!

Shelburne Farm

106 West Acton Road, Stow :: (978) 897-9287

No cash or checks accepted during the 2020 season. Guests can pre-order and pay online, or use ApplePay. All major credit cards are accepted on the farm.

Rogers Spring Hill Garden and Farm Center

1269 Boston Road Ward Hill, Haverhill :: (978) 372-4780 

Enjoy a hayride to the orchard to pick your own apples and pumpkins! Pick-your-own is open on the weekends, and masks must be worn.

Russell Orchards

143 Argilla Road, Ipswich :: (978) 356-5366

Guests must wear masks and adhere to social distancing policies. In addition to picking apples, adults can enjoy the orchard’s delicious wines and hard ciders!

Tougas Family Farm

234 Ball Street, Northborough :: (508) 393-6406 

Reservations are required to pick in the mornings. Adult-only and family picking times will be offered. Walk-ins will be allowed in the afternoons if supplies allow. Please call ahead! 

Westward Orchards

178 Mass Avenue, Harvard :: (978) 456-8363

In an effort to keep staff and customers safe, customers will not be allowed into the building. All pick-your-own bag sales will take place outside to the left of the building, and delicious cider donuts and drinks will be available to the right of the building! Items in the farm stand are available for online order and porch pickup!

Breakfast Smoothies for the Win

Breakfast can be a stressful experience (particularly during the business week) in a house with children. It can feel like there’s never enough time to just relax and enjoy. Either your picky eater has chosen to reject the several options you’ve offered, your slow eater takes the tiniest pieces and basically chews until the food has liquefied, or your mini believes that two small bites is enough to be “all done.”

Meanwhile, your morning conference call is rapidly approaching, or you know that if you don’t leave in the next few minutes you will most certainly be late for work. To top it all off, we were all told as children and young adults that, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Cue the mom guilt.

So when I discovered that smoothies make a great breakfast substitute or breakfast supplement, it completely changed the morning vibes in our home.

One morning I’d prepared some sliced fruit, a piece of multigrain toast with avo, and a small scrambled egg for the baby. I put her in her high chair and served her what I believed was a beautiful, balanced, healthy, and tasty breakfast. She licked the avocado, spit out the eggs, took a few bites of fruit, and declared that she was done. While I argued with my toddler about our difference of opinion on what it means to be “done,” I ran around the kitchen grabbing things to put into my breakfast smoothie. I used a mix of spinach and bok choy because both looked like they were starting to turn. I added some ripe mango, half of a banana, and half of a pitaya (aka dragonfruit). I blended my selections together while we argued.

Her: Ah done
Me: Not all done. Eat your food.
Her: No, no mommy. Ah done.

I poured my smoothie into a mason jar over ice and decided she’d won the battle for the day. I strapped her into the car seat, and we hustled off to daycare. While we waited in the drop-off queue I sipped my smoothie, and in typical toddler fashion, she wanted a “tase” of whatever I was having. I gave her a sip and… she refused to give it back. She finished the entire jar. I knew I’d be buying an overpriced smoothie downtown for my own breakfast later, but I was so pleased that she’d unknowingly downed a couple of days’ worth of greens in one sitting. VICTORY!

Thus began the morning routine of making mommy-and-me smoothies. I still try to get her to eat solid food in the morning, but it feels a lot less stressful now. I know she’ll get more than enough nutrients in her smoothie, and it’ll fill her up until morning snack.

Below you’ll find a couple of pointers and some of our favorite recipes. Wishing you smooth and easy mornings!

Pro tips

  • If you have older kids, get them involved in selecting the ingredients for the smoothies. Take them with you to the grocery store to pick out ingredients. Show them how to find new smoothie recipes on Pinterest or even on menus at places like Jamba Juice. Make your own version of those smoothies at home.
  • If you’re busy in the mornings, don’t try to make a new recipe every day. Instead, try cutting and freezing all the ingredients over the weekend. Portion and blend in the mornings.
  • OR blend large batches on the weekend and freeze into silicone ice molds. Pop out a few cubes in the morning and blend.
  • If you have a child under 4, you can also pour the mix into reusable food pouches and freeze. Defrost one in the refrigerator overnight. Serve cold.
  • In the spirit of encouraging food and nutrient diversity, try occasionally selecting a vegetable or fruit you’ve never had, and look up a smoothie recipe that includes the new food.
  • Taste as you go. Recipes are a great place to start, but always taste as you blend to make sure the flavors are pleasing to you and your family.
  • While most fruit is naturally sweet, your child or teen with an affinity for sweet things may not find the smoothies sweet enough to enjoy. Try adding small amounts of honey, agave, or date syrup as needed.

Smoothie recipes we love:

  1. Banana, Pineapple, and Mango
  2. Strawberry and Peach
  3. Caribbean Passion Smoothie
  4. Papaya and Oats Breakfast Smoothie
  5. Green Smoothie — Pear, Vanilla, Avocado, and Spinach 

Lowell: There’s STILL a Lot to Like

Lowell - Boston Moms

My family loves living in Lowell. If you only know a few things about Lowell, you might think that’s odd. But my top five reasons are a pretty good place to start. 

  1. We’re no more than 10 minutes from a major highway. 
  2. It’s a city! Which means we’re not more than 5 minutes by car (or 10 minutes walking) to a convenience store, grocery store, toy store, or restaurant. 
  3. The UMass Lowell section of Lowell is filled with old mansions on quiet streets and is perfect for a drive-around date night. 
  4. The Blue Taleh has the best sushi I have ever eaten outside of Japan. 
  5. It is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever seen in Massachusetts. 

When I told my friends I was moving to Lowell, they’d jokingly say, “There’s a lot to like about Lowell.” Not being from Massachusetts, I thought it was a statewide inside joke. At some point, I figured out the city had very recently revived the old tourism slogan, “There’s a lot to like about Lowell.” 

Now the catchphrase is “#Lowell: There’s a Lot to Like” — a little different from the original, but not by much. Which is really the perfect way to describe Lowell. UMass Lowell bought and spruced up some of the buildings downtown specifically related to music or arts. You’ll still find a completely functioning Worthen House and Raven Grille. If this were a good year, you could hear Trombone Shorty at the Folk Festival or eat Mill City BBQ at the BBQ and Brews Fest. One day, those things will be back. 

Lowell has lots of little treasures for vegans, musicians, artists, and architecture lovers. And you’ll find some of the most scenic views the city has to offer along the Lowell Riverwalk! We’ve taken lots of post-dinner walks this summer, and we’re always greeted by other families doing the same thing. Even in the time of a pandemic, mutual acknowledgment is expected; seeing anyone is like seeing your neighbor.

We get asked by family and friends when we’ll move closer, and maybe someday we’ll find another place that feels right for our family. But for now, we’re right where we’re supposed to be.

The Sweetest Surprise :: Gabriel’s NICU Journey

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My youngest son has always been full of surprises. This isn’t shocking, considering he, himself, was the biggest surprise of my life. I was on birth control and breastfeeding but decided to take a pregnancy test just for peace of mind (all the while knowing it would be negative). I nearly keeled over when that plus sign appeared.  

Throughout my pregnancy, my then 7-year-old insisted he wanted his baby brother to be his “birthday buddy.” For 34 weeks, I assured him this wouldn’t happen, as his birthday was in August and his baby brother was not due to be born until the first week in October. 

Their birthdays are two days apart.

I had a history of pre-eclampsia with my four previous pregnancies. With all four, I was induced due to skyrocketing blood pressure between 35-38 weeks. To say that my obstetrician was cautious with my surprise “geriatric pregnancy” was an understatement. Though my blood pressure had been slowly rising throughout my pregnancy, it was still within a “safe to monitor” range when she left for a week-long vacation during my 33rd week of pregnancy.

I stepped into her colleague’s office two days later for a “quick blood pressure check,” with my then 2-year-old on my hip. A nurse took my blood pressure and looked flustered. She mumbled something about not hearing it correctly and took it again. A look of panic crossed her face and she mumbled “I have never gotten that high of a reading…” Within minutes, the high-risk obstetrician was listing options for how to get me to the hospital — and what to do with my son. Against her wishes, I was allowed to drive him home and pick up my husband, under the stipulation that if I was not back at the hospital within two hours, they would call an ambulance to meet me at my house. 

The next 24 hours were a haze of attempting to lower my blood pressure and “keep the baby cooking” for a few more days. By the second day, my arms and legs had swelled to the point where the nurses couldn’t insert an IV, and the head of anesthesiology had to be called in to insert an IV into my upper arm using ultrasound assist. Magnesium made me feel like I was dying, and though it brought my blood pressure down, the rest of the symptoms of pre-eclampsia continued to worsen. When my liver function began to waver, the head of obstetrics deemed delivery necessary.

After 28 hours of labor, I told a nurse the baby was crowning. She didn’t believe me. Thankfully, my husband did, and he went to the hallway in search of a doctor. As the doctor positioned herself at the end of my bed, the nurse told me to do a practice push. I pushed once, and the nurse said, “Oh honey, you are never going to push a baby out like that.”

With my rage-fueled second push, the doctor dropped the fabric she had been unfolding and caught my baby as he slammed into her chest. I was known as “the mom who pushed her baby out like a football” for the rest of our hospital stay. (Also, that nurse left the room and I never saw her again.)

Gabriel Fynn was born at 34.5 weeks, weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces. He was a terrifying shade of purple. They placed him on my chest just long enough to snap a picture then whisked him from the room. He was intubated in the NICU while I was in recovery.

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Because my blood pressure was still dangerously high, I was not allowed to leave the recovery ward to be with my baby. My husband sent an endless stream of pictures of my other children and their grandparents meeting the baby, while I sat alone four floors down. A nurse came in to check on me and noticed my tears. I told her I had yet to hold my baby, and she said simply, “That is not acceptable.”

Five minutes later, curtains were whipped open, a transport team was brought in to help me into a wheelchair, and I was wheeled through the halls of the hospital with nurses holding IV bags and blood pressure monitors in their hands. I will be forever grateful to that amazing woman for giving me those precious moments.

My son’s 8th birthday party happened as I sat next to his “birthday buddy’s” incubator. We opened his presents together in the hallway outside of the NICU. As the family left to go home, my little boy leaned in close and whispered that he had slipped away from his bounce house party and hidden in the bathroom to cry because I wasn’t there. As I sat sobbing in the hospital hallway after they left, a hospital cleaning woman wrapped her arms around me and whispered over and over, “You a good mama. You a good mama.” 

I was discharged from the hospital after three days — and I had to leave my son there. Walking out the door of the hospital without my baby was the hardest thing I have ever done. My husband and I spent the next 10 days driving back and forth from our home on the South Shore to Beth Israel in Boston — 40 minutes each way. We switched off shifts, one of us staying with the baby while the other stayed with our four other children.

As I dropped my sons off to their first day of school, we all broke down crying in the school parking lot. I managed only the words, “The baby…” before a teacher I had never met scooped us into her arms and whisked us through the crowd to get us inside. By the end of the day, I had received no less than a dozen messages from various teachers, updating me on how the boys were handling the school day and offering to help in any way they could.

Each day in the NICU brought its own challenges. Gabriel was severely jaundiced and had to spend three days in an incubator under the bili lights. He had difficulty keeping his body temperature up. His oxygen level kept dipping into the 80s. Every time I was told my baby could come home, something would happen that would cause another day or two to be added to his stay. When the doctor finally cleared him to go home, I was in disbelief. I was so nervous he would change his mind at the last instant that I didn’t even accept the nurse’s offer to take our picture as we walked out the door, for fear that his discharge would be reversed in the time it took me to remove my camera from my bag. I practically ran out of the hospital.

Gabriel’s complications from prematurity did not end with our NICU stay. Once home, he experienced difficulty gaining weight due to his body being unable to absorb the fats in milk. He did not reach 10 pounds until he was 6 months old and wore newborn-sized clothing until 7 months. Our neighbor’s baby was born when Gabriel was 3 months old, and his newborn buddy outweighed him by a full pound.

We saw a specialist who wanted to admit him to the hospital on a feeding tube to force weight gain. In a last-ditch effort before allowing that to happen, we tried an “old school treatment” suggested by our pediatrician — a few drops of MCT oil before feedings. This simple measure was exactly what Gabe needed, and he began to gain weight rapidly. He finally registered at 1% on the growth chart just before his first birthday. He experienced a severe speech delay and difficulty with fine motor skills. We worked closely with Early Intervention, and he has nearly caught up to his peers.

Now, at 5 years old, Gabe is still a tiny little peanut, but he is healthy and thriving. He never (ever) stops talking. He will begin kindergarten this fall, and we are forever thankful for the care the labor and delivery and NICU teams at Beth Israel gave us.

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Guide to Boston-Area Private Schools and Preschools {2020–2021}

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Open houses, application deadlines, the right fit, OH MY!

If you are going through the daunting task of trying to pick a preschool or a private school, we’re here for you! We’ve put together a fantastic list of preschools and private schools in Boston and beyond. There’s something for everyone here, and we hope it helps you figure out what is best for you and your family!

This Guide is sponsored by the incredible private schools and preschools featured below.

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There is something truly magical about seeing a child excited about going to school and learning. With Delphi Academy of Boston, your kids loving school is no longer just a hope for the future but a sure reality of the present.

The way students are taught at Delphi Academy is what makes the school unique. In each classroom you can see the fostering of self-confidence and independence. Delphi Academy strives to ensure each child reaches their full potential.

Get more information on this unique approach, and contact Delphi Academy today!

564 Blue Hill Avenue
Milton, MA 02186

617-390-8214

The Pine Village Preschool mission is to educate and nurture each child’s individuality within a culturally diverse, bilingual community so that every child develops a true passion for learning and an ability to engage in any environment and community.

Founded in 2001, Pine Village Preschool offers Spanish immersion preschool for ages 15 months through pre-K, providing parents of toddlers and preschoolers a modern approach to child development. In the Pine Village Preschool program, the seeds of creativity, acceptance, and inclusion are planted and encouraged to grow.

Pine Village has 10 locations throughout the greater Boston area: Brookline, Brighton, Needham, Newton Highlands, West Newton, South End, Porter Square, Kendall Square, and two in Jamaica Plain. Please visit the Pine Village website for more information.

10 locations in the Boston area!

617-416-7763

Dedham Country Day School

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Dedham Country Day believes balance matters — in learning and life. DCD combines academic challenge with support, pedagogical tradition with innovation. Strong scholastics together with outstanding arts, athletics, and service-learning create a program that is balanced and whole. Children learn who they are as diverse individuals and how to be part of something bigger. At DCD, a premium is placed on both academic and emotional intelligence. For 117 years, DCD has been welcoming young children, passionate teachers, and committed families to its pre-kindergarten through grade 8 learning community. Though DCD may look a bit different this fall to keep its community safe and healthy, the school’s ability to deliver a DCD education reflective of its mission remains unchanged — they are ready and resilient. Visit the Dedham Country Day website for a schedule of virtual events and live connections to get to know the DCD community!

90 Sandy Valley Road
Dedham, MA 02026

781-329-0850

Bay Farm Montessori Academy

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Bay Farm Montessori Academy is an independent Montessori school in Duxbury, MA, serving children ages 12 months to 14 years. Bay Farm offers strong academic programs rooted in Montessori philosophy that inspire children to grow with joy, purpose, and compassion. The school’s well-rounded academic curriculum and hands-on learning develop the skills and experience that enable its students to emerge as self-confident learners and leaders upon graduation. Bay Farm‘s nine-acre campus allows for in-person learning with safe practices as it relates to COVID-19. Students will have plenty of classroom space for physical distancing, outdoor classroom activities, access to handwashing stations, as well as the technology needed for Bay Farm at Home online learning in the event of a mandated school closure. To learn more about Bay Farm’s philosophy and its various programs, visit bfarm.org.

145 Loring Street
Duxbury, MA 02332

781-934-7101

Tenacre Country Day School

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Tenacre is a welcoming, coed school community for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 6. Its Wellesley location is easily accessible from many metro Boston communities. Tenacre’s mission is simple: Tenacre nurtures and challenges each child, every day. The school is dedicated to delivering its curriculum in any learning situation. Its small size and dedication to the elementary years focus on building a critical foundation for future successes academically, emotionally, socially, and morally in children. Tenacre wants to do more than raise test scores — they want to expand horizons, spark curiosity, and build character.

78 Benvenue Street
Wellesley, MA 02482

781-235-2282

Notre Dame Academy, Hingham

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Notre Dame Academy, a Catholic school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, educates and empowers young women in grades 7–12. Notre Dame Academy is an academically rigorous learning community that cultivates life-long learners, critical thinkers, and open-minded leaders committed to social justice. Following guidelines for returning to school, NDA will open for full-time, in-person learning in September. To reopen responsibly, every member of the community must do their part to abide by new protocols that will allow everyone to learn and lead together while preserving the health and safety of all.

1073 Main Street
Hingham, MA 02043

781-749-5930

The Sage School

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The Sage School mission is to prepare gifted students to excel by providing a comprehensive program of academic rigor and social growth inspired by passionate teachers within a nurturing community.

171 Mechanic Street
Foxboro, MA 02035

508-543-9619

Ethos Early Learning Center

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Ethos Early Learning Center, located in South Boston, serves as a new mindset and model for child care and early education for children aged 6 weeks to 5 years. With a holistic educational approach that draws from research-based pedagogies from Montessori, Reggio, Pratt, and Waldorf, Ethos nurtures and enables future generations of socially, emotionally, and physically resilient people. To learn more about part-time and full-time availability, Ethos encourages you to schedule a virtual tour at ethoslearn.com/moreinfo/.

416 West Broadway
South Boston, MA 02127

617-315-7166

Why choose a private school?

  • Low student-teacher ratios
  • Academic excellence
  • Freedom from state standards/school autonomy
  • Opportunity to choose a school that aligns with your family’s beliefs, philosophy, and values
  • Legacy
  • Excellent teachers
  • Inclusiveness
  • Community

Important Considerations

Cost: What is the tuition range your family is comfortable with? Is financial aid going to be important to your family? If so, does the school you are interested in offer aid?

Correct fit: Does the mission of this school align with your family’s values?

Admissions criteria: Are you prepared to fulfill all the requirements for the application process?

Financial Aid

Each school has its own process for determining financial aid packages. If you are interested in a private school but aren’t sure you can afford the cost, we encourage you to inquire with the school directly!

Other helpful links:

About Financial Aid
Tax Benefits for Education

Comprehensive List of Greater Boston Private Schools and Preschools

Want to be a part of our 2020/21 Private School Guide?

We want to show our readers all the great private schools available right here in the Greater Boston area. Partnering with us allows your business greater visibility with a large targeted market of local families. Join us and help enrich the lives of Greater Boston Moms!

Happy Grandparents Day!

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National Grandparents Day - Boston Moms

There seems to be a holiday for everything these days. (Just a few days ago, it was National Toasted Marshmallow Day!) But one holiday that my family celebrates annually is National Grandparents Day.

While it might sound like a greeting card holiday, this day to honor our parents’ parents was first celebrated in 1979 after President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation naming the Sunday after Labor Day National Grandparents Day.

I’ve always considered my Gram one of my favorite people. She was the one I would write essays about for school when I was younger. Visiting her was special growing up because it usually only happened once a year.

My grandmother, who turned 97 this year, remains sassy as ever, with the Red Sox and sneaking her great-grandson cookies when she thinks no one is looking as her vices. She bakes for her local firemen and is now a Netflix master.

The toughest part of the pandemic was limiting our visits to drive-bys, and her not being able to hug or kiss my son Jackson. He refers to my grandmother as Big Gram and loves helping guide her walker. As an adult and parent, I appreciate how my mom felt when she saw me being “spoiled,” and how special my relationship with my Gram was as a child.

Between Big Gram, Grandma, Pop Pop, Nana, and Grandpa, Jackson gets to spend frequent quality time with all his grandparents.

And on National Grandparents Day, we celebrate them all!

Life is busy. It can be tough to get everyone together. But one of the joys of social media and video calls is that you can share moments and memories no matter where you are.

If you have lost a grandparent or are looking to spread some cheer on Grandparents Day this Sunday, contact your local community senior center or local senior living community and ask about sending cards and letters!

My Baby Turned 1 — and So Did My Postpartum Body

After my son Leo turned 1, I had a LOT of thoughts swirling in my brain.

I had a real good cry about how he was growing up — and how horrible that is. Let’s face it, mamas — you feel me, right? It’s awful.

And then I felt really weird about my body.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about privilege. I think there’s a privilege that doesn’t get discussed. It’s the privilege of never having had to worry about your body before. I know this certainly applied to me. I never once worried about my weight or how I looked before I had a baby.

I remember one time my jeans were tight when I was in high school, and I gave up potato chips and ate pretzels instead. (It worked, by the way.) And that was probably the only time I ever worried about how I looked.

I don’t really cry about my body. I love my body for its ability to create an amazing human being. I can’t believe I was able to do that. Leo is brilliant, precocious, wiggly, and so much fun. We affectionately call him Bam Bam — which should tell you a lot about him.

And yet on his first birthday, I felt weird suddenly about my body. I looked at pictures of us from the past year, and I began to wonder what people thought about me. Did they think, “She doesn’t look one year postpartum — she looks one month postpartum!” Or did they think, “Wow, Liz looks great!”

And then I thought, Oh my God, who cares?

I remember being about a month postpartum and seeing a Facebook post from one of my friends. She’d just had her baby about five minutes before and was already fitting into her old jeans.

OK, maybe it was more than five minutes. But seriously, she’d JUST had her baby.

A good friend would be impressed, but I felt frustrated. After a C-section scar, a year of Zumba classes, and a sensible amount of salads, I still don’t fit into old jeans. I can tell you I look fabulous naked, and I think looking good without clothes is a better barometer than old denim, but I digress.

Here’s the point: Why do we force ourselves to fit into jeans? Jeans should fit us! We’re worth more than our tired $20 jeans from Target, and yet we keep them for “motivation.” Motivation to do what, exactly? Eat more kale and never have a milkshake? No thanks. I’m happy to be the size that I am, have an occasional milkshake, look good naked, and buy newer clothes that make me feel confident.

Settling on this positive self-talk helps, but it’s only half the battle. Society is the other half of the problem. Everyone is commenting about how they’ve lost weight, or how they’ve gained the “quarantine 15” (what a socially damaging new turn of phrase), or how someone else they know has gained or lost weight. When in truth, the very need to comment on someone’s weight is a mirror of that person commenting on how they feel about their own body.

Sometimes, I think people just don’t know what to say.

I remember going to a Zumba class before the pandemic, and one of the women was like, “Wow, you’ve really slimmed down.” And I thought to myself, “Oh, so I looked like a Hungry Hungry Hippo before? And now that I look less repugnant, you feel the need to tell me about it?” Now, when people compare me to Kelly Clarkson, I wonder if it’s because of her fluctuating size or her personality because of how totally body-obsessed I’ve become.

Anyway, I would love to try (and I hope you’ll join me) to stop commenting on other people’s weight. If you’re tempted to comment about someone’s body, please try to stop yourself before you say something stupid. Because what you were about to say, flattering or not, was undoubtedly a bad idea.


Our Guest Writer

Liz Theresa, business mentor and founder of LizTheresa.com, has been helping entrepreneurs find clarity and uniquely market themselves with confidence for a near decade through her strategic website design, intuitive business mentorship, and clever copywriting services. She wants every entrepreneur to rise and be the star of their own business. She’s also the creator of Concept to Creation, her flagship branding and web design program, and you can download a free copywriting training video from her at freecopyvideo.com.

To Trend or Not to Trend? The Pros and Cons of the Fanny Pack for Moms

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fanny pack for moms - Boston Moms

If ever there was a trend that I didn’t think would return, it’s the fanny pack. I proudly rocked the look back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We’ve got dozens of family vacation photos from those days, each family member with a fanny pack strapped around his or her waist. Back then they were mostly made from nylon and came in a rainbow of neon colors. 

Now, the fanny pack is back!

Only now they’re calling it a belt bag. Celebrities are wearing them on the street and on the red carpet. Gwyneth Paltrow wore one on a walk to the farmers market with her husband. My best friend asked me to track it down for her because she wanted to buy one. That was my first inkling that the fanny pack might be back for real people, in real life. But I still didn’t think I could do it myself. 

Then I saw a mom wearing a fanny pack on a putt-putt course with her family.

And I thought, “How convenient! She can carry all of her stuff but doesn’t have a purse or giant diaper bag getting in her way!” Then I thought about all the times I needed more than just a pocket to carry my wallet and my phone (and maybe a single diaper and small pack of wipes) but didn’t want to bother with a purse. Or something to leave my hands free that wasn’t as bulky as a backpack. Bike rides. A walk to the corner store or the coffee shop. Trips to the playground. Maybe the fanny pack is actually a fashion trend that, unlike most others, makes mom life easier! And maybe that means I can get on board with a fanny pack after all…

Now where’s my credit card?

6 Easy Ideas for Better Sleep

I know I’m not alone when it comes to having trouble sleeping. I have friends and family members who report difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. Others seem to wake up each morning exhausted. It is reported that a third of American adults are not getting adequate sleep. Since I’m not alone in my quest for rest, I figured I would share a few simple steps toward better sleep!

1. After-dinner drinks

One way I’m working to fight fatigue is through vitamins and supplements. One of my favorite supplements is magnesium, not only because it seems to help me relax, but also because it is easy to consume. Currently, I am adding a teaspoon to seltzer water after dinner, and in the winter I add it to a raspberry herbal tea — complete with honey! While studies have not proven magnesium to assist with sleep, the ritual helps me. Another simple way to promote sleep is to try honey on a spoon with a pinch of salt. 

2. Make your bedroom cell-phone free

When my phone recently died and I went a week without it, I realized the positive impact it had on my bedtime routine and general health. Once I got my new phone, I vowed to have healthier phone habits. In order to avoid scrolling mindlessly in bed (as I have done until 2 a.m. before — ugh), I now leave my phone charging in my kitchen. I purchased a $3 digital clock from Goodwill last January and have used that as an alarm clock since. (But, let’s be real: My true alarm clock is 3 feet tall, has blonde hair, and is adorable.)

Invest in an alarm clock, relaxing lighting, and good books to read before bed.

3. Set the scene

Creating a space that is restful to you is important. It always feels better to me to have my bedroom free of excess laundry (that one time a week). Try to replace your late-night screen time with a new habit. Get that book you’ve been meaning to read, purchase a journal, set up a yoga mat for stretching or an acupressure mat to promote better sleep. Make your bedroom a place of rest, and it will help the process of relaxing before bed. Because blue light can trick our minds into producing less melatonin than necessary, it is helpful to not only put down your cellphone before bed but to dim the lights. In our house, once we get the kids to bed, we turn off all the ceiling lights and use lamps instead. Once I go to bed, I use a Himalayan salt lamp as my bedside light. 

4. Weighted blankets

We call this “the hug” in our house, because that’s exactly what it feels like. A light hug. A quick search online can help you determine weight recommendations for your body — I prefer a 12-pound blanket. Here you can see it at the foot of my bed, in a white case. It looks exactly like a blanket but with weighted beads inside instead of feathers. I often place it on my lower half or legs at night when I sleep.

Relaxing before bed.

5. Write it down (aka brain dumping) 

It always seems so tempting to scroll Instagram one last time before bed. But I started to realize I was spending some of my precious free time checking out what other people had done that day, instead of reflecting on my own day. Now I try to relax before bedtime and even jot down on paper things that had an impression on me (or left a painful mark). I read about brain dumping once and have since purposefully left a notepad and pen near my bed for those nights I need to jot down my stressors. It’s been especially helpful for me to write down a few to-dos for the following day — I know that in that moment before bed there is little I can do to achieve those goals, so the best thing I can do is sleep so I will be able to tackle them with a well-rested body and mind the next day. Reflect. Relax. Rest.

6. Read to relax

Find a book to read. I have been reading before bed to calm my mind for years. Because I love reading so much and don’t have much time to read during the day, bedtime is my free reading time. It helps me to calm my mind and focus (and sometimes even puts me to sleep!). It is easier to be motivated to put away the phone if I have a good book going. I alternate between fiction and non-fiction, and both help me to slow down and relax before bed.

Creating a routine has helped me, so apparently bedtime routines aren’t just for kids. We all thrive with a little routine! What helps you sleep better at night?

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Guide To Boston

Boston Moms Guide to Corn Mazes :: 2020

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Gather up the family for a fun fall adventure! Wander this way and that as you weave through the intricate designs of corn mazes...