Becoming Empty Nesters

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Empty nestDid you recently send your kids off to college or help them move into their very own apartment? After 18 (or more) years of parenting, it can be hard to let go. Getting used to a house with no kids can be an emotional roller coaster. Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the ups and downs letting your kids move on.

1. Talking to other parents:

When looking for advice and comfort, it can be helpful to reach out to parents who recently sent a child off to school. Being able to relate to other families with similar experiences will put you at ease to ask questions that any worried parent may have.

2. Understanding your child’s anxiety:

Your child is in the middle of letting go of the past and moving on to an exciting future. During this confusing transition, it is important to understand your child may anxious and nervous for what’s ahead. This could also explain their short temper or desire for independence.

3. Fulfilling your to-do list:

Once your child moves out, you may feel lost and unsure of how to fill the time. Redirect the focus onto yourself and your hobbies that you didn’t have time for when your kids lived at home. Make a list of hobbies, books, trips or house projects that will keep you busy.

4. Out of sight but not out of mind:

Maintaining balanced communication is key for the transitional period. Don’t be upset if your child doesn’t want to talk every day. New friends, demanding college course loads and the excitement of a new environment will keep them busy. But no matter how busy they are, all new college kids appreciate a care package or a letter to show they are missed.

How have you gotten used to an empty house? Share your favorite tips in the comment section below.

What’s in a Name?

By: Sue Anganes

Family immigration recordsOn August 28, 1909, my husband’s grandfather, Anastasios Andrew Anganes, arrived at Ellis Island, on the ship The SS Patris.  He emigrated from a little Greek village called Loganikos, and had set sail from Kalamata, Greece on August 13. It took him fifteen days to cross the Atlantic, reach New York City, and to make America his new home.

Anastasios settled in Lowell, married, and had a son. Following Greek tradition, he named his son after himself, only switching the first and middle name. His son (my husband’s father) was named Andrew Anastasios. When my husband was born, he was christened, Anastasios Andrew. Our oldest son was then named Andrew Anastasios. There are four generations of Anganes men (that I am aware of) that carried on this tradition of having the same first and middle names. I am not sure if my son, Andrew Anastasios, and his wife will continue with the tradition if they are blessed with a boy, but it would be nice. Of course, it is entirely their decision. (No pressure, Andrew and Amanda!)

My son, Andrew Anastasios, and his great grandfather, Anastasios Andrew also share something else in common. Andrew was married exactly one hundred-one years to the day after his great grandfather arrived on Ellis Island from Greece. This year, August 28, is the 105th anniversary of his arrival, and my son and his wife’s fourth wedding anniversary.

Ship Manifest Documents Hanging in our LivingroomNaming our children was always very important to us. We wanted to give our children names that would connect them to their family and their family’s history in a special and unique way. My mom was named Barbara Jean. I am Susan Jean, my daughter is Cassandra Jean, and her daughter (my granddaughter) is Amelia Jean. My second son was named Charles Raymond, after his great grandfather, Charles Raymond. My daughter, Anastasia Eleni, was named after my husband. Anastasia is the feminine form of Anastasios. Her middle name, Eleni, is the Greek form of the name Helen, which was her grandmother’s name. My son, Raymond, was named after my father, Raymond, and my youngest son, Theodore, was named after his Great Uncle Theodore, who served our country in WWII and paid the ultimate price for his service.

We have framed copies of the SS Patris’ manifest hanging on the wall of our living room. I gave them to my husband as a gift on Father’s Day a few years ago. They are a continual reminder of how one man’s journey across the ocean brought us to where we are today as a family. Our names and the names of our children carry the legacy of our family on to the next generation. Hopefully our legacy brings honor to those who came before us and offers an example to those who are after us.

Stay Organized During the Back-to-School Transition

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor 

Back to schoolAs the lazy days of summer start winding down, it will soon be time to put away the beach towels and grab the book bags for school. This can be a challenging transition for the family but with these helpful tips you will feel organized and stress-free during the busy months ahead.

1. Have a positive attitude:

Talk about the fun and excitement of seeing old friends and making new ones. Transitioning from a carefree summer into a routine can be challenging but helping your kids get excited for a new year will make the process much easier.

2. Schedule a physical:

Visit the pediatrician to ensure vaccinations and physicals are completed and updated for the new school year. Not having medical requirements up-to-date may prevent your child from enrolling in school or participating in sports.

 3. Establish a “get ready the night before” policy:

Getting everyone ready before school in the morning is a rushed process. It is important to establish a routine the night before for a smooth morning ahead. Pick out clothes, establish a bedtime, and determine a deadline when homework must be completed. This will prevent any last minute surprises when it’s time to head out the door.

4. Adjust sleep schedules:

Your kids will already be restless the night before school starts so making sure they are back to a normal bedtime routine a few days before is key for a well-rested start. If the summer has been filled with late nights and lazy mornings, make sure your kids are ready for an early to bed and early to rise routine.

5. Establish rules & schedules:

Determine wake up times, who will make lunches, when to shower and when to leave and pick up from school. If your child is riding the bus or in a carpool, make sure to establish schedules and safety rules beforehand for a smooth transition.

 6. Organize school information:

From the start of the first day of school, you will be bombarded with papers your kids bring home. Go ahead and make a folder for school newsletters and other papers from teachers so they all stay in one place for quick reference.

7. Update the fall calendar:

With sports and school activities, your calendar will fill up fast. It’s important to put important dates on the calendar to prevent scheduling conflicts. School holidays, parent-teacher conferences, and sporting events are all dates sent out early so that your family can plan ahead.

Meet Our Soon-To-Be Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers!

Merrimack Valley Moms Blog

The results are in! After reviewing all of our outstanding contest entries, we have selected five local moms to join Sue Anganes, Amy Dienta, Sandy Egan and Dawn Thompson as featured bloggers on the Merrimack Valley Moms Blog. Congratulations to all of the women who have been selected to become Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers! We can’t wait for our readers to get to know our new bloggers.

Below is a sneak peak at the women who will join our amazing group of Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers:

  • Kate Henderson: A busy mom juggling studying for a second college degree, parenting two kids, and training for a marathon.
  • Michaelene Gaudet Koskela: Michaelene left her corporate job to care for her sons and is exploring a new life as a stay-at-home mom.
  • Jacqueline Koutsoufis: As mom of five, there’s never a dull moment in Jacqueline’s house!
  • Danielle McFaddon: A mom balancing life with a baby and working full time as the President of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce.
  • Vallery Schofield-Miller: A Merrimack Valley native who loves sharing her parenting challenges and successes with her peers.

Each mom will write one to two posts per month, beginning in September. The topics will vary greatly, depending on the personalities of the bloggers and their range of daily experiences in the community. Please be sure to stay tuned and to learn more about our new Merrimack Valley Moms bloggers in the coming weeks! Congratulations to our new bloggers and thank you to everyone who entered!



Southwest Style Egg Cups

By: Amy Dienta

Egg Cups

Looking for a creative breakfast that your family will love? Try out these Southwest Style Egg Cups! As an added bonus, you can freeze the egg cups in ziplock bags and reheat them in microwave for 30 seconds – perfect for mornings when you’re in a rush!


  • 1 carton of southwest style egg whites
  • 1 wheat English muffin, toasted
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut up the toasted English muffin in to cubes.
  3. Mix all 3 ingredients together.
  4. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
  5. Ladle mixture into muffin tins.
  6. Cook at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the eggs are brown on top.

 Makes 6 egg cups. You can freeze in ziplock bags and reheat in microwave for 30 seconds

If Today is a Good Day…

By: Dawn Thompson

A doctor once told me, “If today is a good day, then, it’s a GOOD day!”

At the time, my four-year-old was hospitalized for acute ataxia of unknown origin. He could not sit, stand or even hold his own head up. Normally this would not have been as big of a concern except for the fact that this was not following a virus or illness and also that it was the second episode within a six-month period. In addition, he was able to talk clearly, so this event did not make sense with his known condition of Neurofibromatosis, a neurological disorder that causes tumors to grow along nerves anywhere at anytime.

The first day he was admitted to the hospital, we were so scared that it was a brain tumor causing this. After that was ruled out, we feared there was something wrong with his liver. When the immediate life-threatening possible causes were eliminated by a team of experts during a ten day period, we were plagued by disheartening thoughts of whether or not Dylan would ever regain his balance or if he would stay “shaky” and need to wear a helmet for the rest of his life.

We had no answers at all, not as to what was causing it, how to prevent it, or if it would ever go away. We lost sight of the MOST important factor of all, which was the ability to enjoy Dylan enjoying anything! We were so worried about the future, we somehow lost focus of the here and now. It wasn’t until one morning when the team came in and asked how Dylan was doing. I started off by listing all his problems (so that they could fix them, of course). Then I added, “Despite all this, Dylan has got to be one of the HAPPIEST kids.” He was not fussing through all of it, but was cheerful and loving. I added that overall, it was a good day but then quickly followed that with a comment about what the future may hold for our little one. The doctor answered, “If TODAY is a good day, then it’s a GOOD day.” After hearing that, I understood a few things.

Even though some conditions and disorders make life uncertain for some children, life is uncertain for everyone and so we need to enjoy each day, each gift, without expectation. We also realized is that our fears and concerns were based on expectation. We had the mentality that our child was entitled to the average childhood of that of a healthy child and had nothing else to compare it to. Now, we can see that not only was his childhood not average, it was EXCEPTIONAL in many blessed ways.

Dylan at the doctor's

This is a picture of Dylan mocking a doctor, under his desk. Don’t worry, this specialist has known him since he was little and understands how kids would rather “play” than listen to all the medical jargon. I say “jargon” because it sounds like nonsense to a kid that is not only half deaf, but who is also having a good day 🙂

As we get ready to go school shopping this year, we are preparing for Dylan’s upcoming visit to the surgeon in hopes of getting his feeding tube out before sixth grade! He has worked really hard to become independent and we are grateful that he is able.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy new school year ahead!

Back-to-School Shopping the Smart Way

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Back to school

Shopping for new clothes and school supplies may seem like the only good thing about starting a new school year. Even though the school supply lists can be lengthy, doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. Here are several smart ways to buy the things you need without cleaning out your wallet.

Take advantage of tax-free weekend

Save some money during this year’s sales tax holiday. From Saturday, August 16th to Sunday, August 17th shoppers will be able to skip the 6.25% state sales tax.

Shop end-of-summer sales

Back-to-school shopping is a great excuse for a new fall wardrobe, but it can be costly. Wait until the end of summer when blowout sales are in full swing to buy new clothes.

Stick to the list

The teacher supply list is usually daunting enough before you start buying all the extra gadgets. Have your list ready before stepping into the store and make sure your kids are on board too, or they will be ready to buy additional items that never get used.

Shop the dollar store

Stock up on the basics such as pens, pencils, folders and tissues where everything is sold for a dollar. If you have a college student, you may even find microwavable dishes or accessories for their dorm. You can stock up on supplies for the year and leave feeling guilt free.

Shop online

Online shopping is convenient and just as affordable during back-to-school promotions. Free shipping and coupon codes are very common during the back-to-school season so don’t forget to check online and compare prices before getting in your car.

Plan ahead

Buy for the future while the sales are in full swing. Buying extra supplies while sales are running can prevent you from buying higher-priced items midway through the year. Just make sure you don’t go overboard! 

Raid the home supply office

Always check at home to see what’s lying around from the year before. Turn a plain white binder into a fun statement piece by slipping in photos or a personalized drawing to add color. Scissors, pens and pencils are always lying around so make sure to check the miscellaneous drawers around the house before hitting the stores.

Save your receipts

Once the school year kicks off your kids may realize they don’t need the special binder or pens they had anticipated. You will be glad to have a receipt on file if you plan on returning those items to the store.

Favorite Things

By: Amy Dienta

My 10 favorite things, in random order:

1. image copy 2Watching Sunday Morning on CBS (channel 4) in bed with my husband with coffee. It has today’s issues, art, music and random stories.

2. Hugging my 2 year old when he’s sleeping. He’s so busy I don’t always get his hugs anymore. Once his eyes open he’s gone!

3. BBQ in our backyard.

4. Driving home after a long day with my boys and the big guy!

Favorite things5. Walking outside, enjoying nature.

6. Coffee – no matter when, where, or where it’s from.

7. Fresh sheets from the dryer.

8. When the house is clean for a minute.

9. Taking my kids to new places and showing them the world.

10. Enjoying life and being happy.

What are some of your favorite things?

Running the Race

By: Sue Anganes

Last weekend my son Andrew left for Vermont to run the Vermont 100 Endurance Race. He ran 100K (62.5 miles) in 16 hours and 22 minutes. Last weekend was also my son Ray’s sixteenth birthday. The juxtaposition of Andrew running 62 miles up and down mountains, and Ray, because of his disease, being unable to stand for only a small amount of time was overwhelming to me as a mom. Last year when Andrew ran the race I cried and cried when I considered the contrast.

Andrew after the race 2014

Andrew after the race in 2014

However, in many ways my sons are both the same. One runs a race for a day, and one is running a race for a lifetime. Both run with courage, endurance, strength, and a goal. I admire them equally for their accomplishments. Each son has a different race in life to complete- as we all do.

Ray at the beach

Ray at the beach

Let us all run our races to the best of our ability. HAPPY SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY, Ray! Wonderful race, Andrew! I love you and am proud of you both!

Happy National Blueberry Month!

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

What’s not to love about blueberries? This fresh and flavorful fruit is a superfood that just happens to be in peak season. Not only do blueberries provide us with strong antioxidants, they are high in fiber and low in calories. The vitamin-rich berries have lots of Vitamin C to boost immunity and polyphenols to help fight chrnoic diseases.

With that being said, we are ringing in National Blueberry Month with these delicious and fresh recipes for your family to try. From pizzas to popsicles, there are all types of dishes that the family will enjoy.


Blueberry Coffee Cake:

Start your morning off right with this warm and flavorful cake recipe. The combination of fresh blueberries, almonds and cinnamon will perfectly compliment a cup of coffee in the morning. Mix the dry ingredients the night before and you’ll have a beautiful homemade breakfast for the whole family in no time.

Blueberry Lime Salsa:

Nothing beats the bold favors of blueberries, strawberries, lime juice and cilantro blended together for the perfect salsa. This colorful recipe also includes avocado, and red onions to brighten any dish. Whether pairing it with chips or using it on top of your favorite fish, this fresh and zesty salsa will be a crowd favorite.

Blueberry Pizza with Honeyed Goat Cheese and Prosciutto:

Fans of pizza and fresh produce, need to look no further than this crispy and flavorful recipe. The combination of goat cheese, honey, prosciutto and blueberries makes for a delicious and creative dinner recipe that can be cooked in the oven or on the grill.

Apple Blueberry Pie Bars:

This blueberry recipe is as easy as pie but without the hassle of a pie crust. Adding tart green apples to traditional blueberry bars give this recipe a twist of originality. The juicy and crumbly dessert is the perfect balance of tart, sweet and chewy. So grab the forks and the family for this summery dessert.

Blueberry-Peach Ice Pops:

This cold berry treat is perfect for your children on a hot summer day. These popsicles consist of layers of blueberries and creamy summer peaches for a refreshing and colorful treat.

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