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Mamapedia City Voices highlights the inside scoop on your city by selected writers, from up-and-coming mom bloggers to well-known mom experts.

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Sometimes You Have to Get Lost, So You Can Be Found

July 22, 2014

As I was sliding down the hill in the middle of the woods, I had to question the wisdom of taking the trail my 12-year-old son, Tom, wanted to take.

I figured that because I was with my dad, it would be OK. But my dear 71-year-young father was way ahead of me and wasn’t looking back. I’d lost sight of him. Tom was behind me, exclaiming that this was the best day of his life.

For a minute I panicked. We were 15 minutes from home in a state park I’ve known since the age of nine, but I feared we were hopelessly lost. There are few things I hate more than being lost. I’ll do anything to avoid it. I have the worse sense of direction in all of human history. I can get lost getting out of a paper bag.

Tom had no idea anything was wrong. All he knew was that he was with his mom and grandfather having a great time. He trusted me completely. Poor kid. Then it happened. I had a flashback to 34 years earlier.

I was 11, at a sleepaway camp deep in the woods of Upstate New York. I had just successfully spent my first night in my new sleeping bag. I woke up that morning before anyone else and needed the bathroom. Not wanting to bother my counselor, I declined her sleepy offer to walk me the short distance to the outhouse. Getting to the outhouse was fine. But the return trip?

I must have walked out a different door and turned in the wrong direction because TWO HOURS LATER, I still hadn’t found my way back to my cabin.

There I was in my little baby doll pajamas, going from cabin to cabin, hoping to find mine. Each time a counselor would give me directions to get back to my cabin. Not wanting to look any more foolish than I already did, I acted like I understood just fine. Off I would go, only to get more lost.

Finally, I stumbled onto a cabin of boys, and that counselor brought me back to my group. I was lost for almost THREE hours.

Oddly enough I don’t remember ever crying or showing anyone just how terrified I was. Even at the age of 11, far from home, completely lost, I still wanted to look like I had it all together.

I was always terrified that people would think I was dumb.

Being dyslexic is never easy, but when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was extremely difficult. At times I felt so lost in school. I often felt as if I was on a different planet where everyone spoke another language. I was desperate to find someplace to belong. Somewhere it didn’t require so much effort to fit in.

Who knew that the place I was looking for was the one that I would end up creating with a guy I met on a blind date 24 years ago this month? Joe understood and listened to me when I said I couldn’t do something. Then he told me I could do it anyway. For the first time, I believed it.

“I can’t type. I can’t go to college. I can’t drive. I can’t blog.” Each of my fears was countered by a “Yes you can.” And then I did.

Learning to find my way home that day and all the subsequent other times I was lost, both literally and figuratively, has allowed me to teach our three children that they, too, can go wherever they want to. Even when it feels impossible. Even when there are people saying that they can’t.

I know how hard it is to feel completely lost, and I know the joy when you find your way and realize you can do what you once thought was impossible.

I snapped out of my flashback and finished down the hill, Tom following right behind me. We soon found the path and my waiting dad. None the worse for the wear.

Tom couldn’t wait to do it again. Neither could I.

Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog, My dishwasher’s possessed. She is honored to have essays in two anthologies, Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother, and The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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What I Learned When I Fell in the Pool in Front of the Thigh Gap Crew

July 21, 2014

I’ve already made peace with the extra ten pounds I possess and the fact that they afford me the ability to eat cake, so the proliferation of moms with thigh gap on the pool deck is totally not affecting my self-esteem, I swear. Normally the kids and I have the pool to ourselves, so I really have no freaking clue where they all came from, but like I said, it’s totally not bothering me at all. I’m not comparing my cellulite to my neighbors’ firm, brown thighs, and I’m not even going to mention their perfectly round boobs (seriously, are those for real?), every set of them precariously supported by strapless bikini tops.

I can’t help wondering, do their kids really never pull down their bikini tops? If I wore a strapless top like that, the chances of one of my kids absent-mindedly yanking it off would be one hundred percent. But I’m not going to speculate as to what sorcery these women possess to make those types bathing suit choices possible, because I’m totally confident and done with trying to be perfect.

One of the thigh gap ladies squats down at the edge of the pool with a glob of sunblock on her fingertips, and reaches for a little blonde boy. She balances on her toes in a position I doubt I could pull off. “Come here, Carter! Come’ere, honey. Come’ere. Carter. CARTER. COME. HERE. NOW. One… two… Don’t make me get to three, Carter!

I kind of want to roll my eyes, but it would mean peeling my attention away from this perfectly-toned mother and her wriggly young child, and I simply can’t do that. I stare in open fascination as Carter finally shimmies close enough that his mother can smear the cream on his face. I’m in awe that she can accomplish this task without a) falling in the pool or b) flashing everybody. I thought people like this only existed in movies.

But no part of this scenario is causing me to doubt my newfound preference of tankinis over bikinis. I am at peace with myself. And besides, I’m too focused on the accomplishments of my four-year-old, Mari, who is not only swimming like a dolphin, but has just learned to do somersaults in the water. I get my phone so I can take a video of her new trick to send to her daddy.

“Good job, Mari!” I tell her, “Now sit on the pool steps with the other kids while I put my phone back in the pool bag.”

I send a quick text to my husband with the video attached, and as I deposit my phone back into the bag I see that Mari has migrated from the steps and is treading water, inches from the side. I’m not in the least bit worried, as she has become such a good swimmer, and plus I’m only about five feet from her. But then she says, “help,” which I have instructed her to say if she gets in a jam.

I quickly survey the situation: There are children blocking my way of jumping in the pool. I would land on one of them if I tried to jump to Mari, not to mention I would look like a lunatic as she is still treading water and doesn’t actually seem to be in any distress. I decide to take the steps. I rush though, because, I mean, who wouldn’t? She said “help.” That’s what you do when your kid is in the water and says “help.” You freaking hurry your ass up.

And everything is going fine… until my foot hits the first step and slides out from underneath me the way a cartoon character’s does when he slips on a banana peel. My arms flail hopelessly and time slows down to the kind of unbearable crawl especially reserved for moments such as these. I’m sure I’m going to land on someone else’s child, but there’s no controlling it; no amount of twisting or flailing can salvage the situation. My tankini top is riding all the way up to my boobs and my bottoms have lodged in my butt crack. In the chaos, I manage to think, This is why I can’t wear strapless bikinis.

My shin scrapes agonizingly along the edge of one of the steps and I jam my toe on the concrete. But whatever pain I’m experiencing pales in comparison to the mortification I know is coming. I’m submerged now, but my legs are over my head and out of the water somehow, brazenly defying the laws of physics. I wonder if the thigh gap ladies can see my poorly-groomed lady stubble.

I finally resurface after what feels like forty-six years, but was probably only about two seconds. I grab Mari’s arm as I discreetly tuck a wayward boob back into my bathing suit.

I sit on the steps with Mari on my lap, surveying her and my surrounding area as I gather my faculties, only now listening for the screaming of whichever child I surely pummeled to death in my glorious descent into to the pool to rescue my daughter who really needs to learn the goddamn definition of “help.” She is perfectly fine, by the way, staring at me all perplexed-like, as if to say, “Are you insane?”

And not one child is crying. In fact, the entire pool area has gone ominously quiet. I glance around and realize that everyone is either staring at me with their jaws on their laps or pretending to be totally engrossed in something fascinating that their kid is doing. Even the kids are like, “What the…?”

Finally, one of the thigh gap ladies – whose bathing suit top actually does have one strap – picks her jaw up off her lap and says, “Are you… are you okay?”

(No.)

“Um… I think I’m bleeding somewhere… but… I’m fine?”

I pull my tankini top back down and dig my wedgie out of my butt as delicately as one can accomplish those tasks. For the next thirty minutes, I spend all my energy pretending that I have not just experienced one of the most mortifying moments of my life.

The End.

Yeah, sorry, there is no life lesson. I fell in the pool and my boob fell out in front of the thigh gap crew and it was humiliating and that’s it, The End. It was super duper embarrassing and I’ll never forget it. I’ll be ninety-five years old, on my death bed, Mari hovering over me with tears welling in her eyes, and she’ll say, “Mom? Is there anything you want to say before… well, you know.”

And with my last dying breath, I’ll say, “Only ask for help if you really need it, you little twit.”

Kristen Mae is a devoted wife and mother, ADHD momma-warrior, violist, health-nut, and writer. She is the voice of Abandoning Pretense, where her goal is to provide a community where women are free to be honest about their struggles with marriage, parenthood, and life. In addition to her blog, Mae shares hilarious and heart-warming tidbits of her life on her Facebook page, Google+, and Twitter.

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The Night My Son Gave Up On Me

July 20, 2014

Ever since our two sons began sharing a room, their bedtime routine has been the same. Baths, PJs, teeth, stories, cuddles. And every night as I leave their room, Eli always says, “Remember to come up, cuddle, and bring water!”

I head down the stairs with a quick, “Okay!” knowing full well that the likelihood of following through on that promise is next to nothing. The days are long, and by bedtime I’m ready for some downtime. Even then, I still need to finish cleaning the kitchen, pick up stray toys in the living room, and pack a lunch for my kindergartener before I can even consider sitting down.

Occasionally, after several minutes of quiet, the hollering will begin. Although it’s low at first, it quickly gains volume and frequency. “Mommy. Mooommmyyyy. MOOOOMMMMMMYYYY!!!”

So I stand at the bottom of the stairs and yell back in annoyance, “What??”

“Can you bring up water?”

“I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

I finish my current task, fill a couple of water bottles, and begrudgingly climb the stairs, annoyed that my ‘me time’ has been cut into. Quickly handing out the waters, I give one last round of kisses, and skedaddle on out of there as fast as possible, telling myself that my children need sleep. I’m just looking out for their best interests.

For over two years, some form of this scenario has played out nearly every night, which makes it all the more surprising that I didn’t notice when it recently changed.

I was cuddling with Samuel and listening with one ear as he told me his latest superhero tale while with the other I caught snippets of the conversation between Eli and my husband. ‘Mommy’ and ‘grump’ were the two words that stood out. I jokingly reached across the beds to tickle or pinch whatever flesh my hand could reach while crying, “Hey, who are you calling a grump??”

Not long after, I plopped myself in the living room chair beside my husband. As I settled in, he said, “Did you hear what Eli said? ‘Mommy was always grumpy when I’d call her to come back up to cuddle, so I stopped asking.’”

Immediately, I felt the old familiar weight of guilt drape itself over my shoulders like an unwelcome blanket on a hot day. I stood, dashed up the stairs, and rounded the corner into the boys’ bedroom. Eli had just dozed off. As I lay down on the bed, he stirred and I took the opportunity to whisper in his ear, “I love to cuddle you.”

He mumbled something back and drifted off again, arm around my neck, face pressed in close to mine, just the way he likes it. All was forgiven; the situation rectified.

But as I lay beside him, the true weight of his words hit me.

“I stopped asking.”

I never gave much thought to the way he perceived our nighttime ritual, always assuming my words and actions were inconsequential. Unbeknownst to me, however, my hurry to be somewhere else did not escape him, nor did my attitude. At some point he decided that it wasn’t even worth the trouble anymore.

Which makes me wonder what else he might eventually stop asking.

“Mommy, will you read to me?”

“Will you play with me?”

“Mom, listen to this joke!”

“Guess what happened at school today.”

“Will you watch me shoot hoops?”

“What do you think of this girl?”

“Can I talk to you about something important?”

And what will be my reply? What will be my attitude?

“In a minute.” That turns into three, four, ten, twenty minutes.

“I don’t have time right now,” mumbled in frustrated distraction.

“We’ll do it later.” And the pile of broken promises builds and builds.

My excuses may be valid and sometimes even necessary. Children need to learn patience and that sometimes something other than them must take priority. But it is my words coupled with my attitude, week after week, month after month, year after year: At some point maybe he’ll stop asking again, and it might be about something a lot more important than a glass of water and an extra hug.

So lately I’ve been giving longer cuddles at night and I’ve been making sure that when I say ‘Just a minute’, it really is just one minute.

My son gave up on me, but I realized it early enough to make it right. I shudder to think how life might turn out if I had learned that lesson too late.

Lauren is a SAHM of three who realized a couple of years ago that trying to make other people think she has it all together is exhausting and ridiculous. Due to her epiphany she began the blog, Oh, Honestly! where she shares her real life (messy house, meltdowns, and all) in hopes to inspire others to drop their act as well. When she’s not blogging, Lauren can be found breaking up fights, sneaking chocolate in the pantry, and talking about how cute her kids are. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram

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Marriage: Giving Up a Little

July 19, 2014

I’m going to talk a bit about marriage. If you haven’t started rolling your eyes yet, just give me 2 minutes. Hang in there.

My husband and I are entering our 10th year of marriage. It does not get easier. It’s a little like the sand in the bottom of your shoes at the end of a beach day. Persistent and sometimes annoying and mostly, a lovely reminder of that great day at the beach.

And then there’s the changing. No one is ever done changing. As Michelangelo said at age 87, “Ancora imparo. [I am still learning.]”

We were 25 and 32.

We are now 35 and almost 42.

A lot of learning happens. A lot of changing happens. And yet, we’re still here.

The thing about binding yourself in perpetuity to another is really the whole permanence of it. Our generation is not one of sticking. We are into growing and changing. We are into development. We are into our kids; epically into our kids. We are not so much into ourselves. We are not so much into each other. Therefore, we stick like those craft googly eyes to yarn – not very well.

Many of our parents divorced. Hey, we all turned out alright. And, we did. It’s true. We turned to Annie and The Neverending Story and E.T. – the real-life stories of broken homes healed us. We found a way to be resilient. And it worked because our parents were happier apart than they were together. We learned that if you cannot be happy in your own skin, you should never inhabit the skin of another.

And like elephants, we remember.

Marriage is hard. It’s give and take and mostly, it feels like you’re the one doing all the giving. Of course, both parties feel this way. It’s love and unrequited love and both parties take turns feeling the pangs of rejection. It’s the day-to-day with small children and nights when you want to talk, but then, sleep wins. Because sleep always wins.

It’s sex and no sex and not enough sex. The sex, it matters.

And it’s hard. And, it’s wonderful. And, it’s f#cking hard.

Then, there are times when you come to a cross-road. It’s not about one thing. It’s about all things. You look at that face you know so well and wonder if you really know it at all. You do a lot of wondering…

The changing is happening every moment. You have very little control over how you change and how you grow. You just do and you expect the people you love to come with you.

Sometimes, they don’t. But, sometimes… they insist upon it.

I’ve only packed a bag once and I meant it.

And yet, we’re still here.

It’s not perfect and it never will be, but, it’s really quite beautiful in its difficulty.

My husband and I had a stand-off last week; a This Is Who I Am vs. I May Not Like Who You Are Becoming. It was intense and there was no give.

And then, there was give. Because someone gives instead of giving up. It’s part of the growing. It’s not all synchronized swimming. It’s bloody knees and stopping to help each other back up.

This is my marriage. It’s ugly and beautiful and hard and ultimately, perfect.

But, it’s never easy.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bethany Thies is a writer and the proud mother to four, young Vikings. She is the author of the blog, Bad Parenting Moments and the chronically unread poetry blog, Room for Cream. She can often be found searching for socks, keys, discount non-perishables and a bathroom lock her children can not pick. Bethany’s work has been published on several parenting sites and, when they’ll have her, in old fashioned black and white in her local, independent newspaper. Her children are unimpressed. You can throw tomatoes at Bethany on Facebook. You can chit-chat with her on Twitter, and, re-pin her barely edible recipes on Pinterest.

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Photo by: Alisa Schindler

I Dream of Bikini

July 18, 2014

I’m going to share an embarrassing superficial secret.

For years, decades really, I have wanted to wear a bikini. In my mind I saw the perfect one. It was always bubblegum pink with those 70’s strings hanging from the sides of the bottoms. I also imaged smooth, thin tanned legs that those sexy ties would be resting against, as well as the long lean torso showcased in the middle.

This would explain why besides the three times in my distant memory, I have never worn a bikini. The fantasy is not the reality and for a long time I was the kind of girl who thought if you can’t do something right, don’t do it. I’m still sort of that kind of girl.

Thus, years of swim dresses and cover-ups ensued. I even successfully managed to go without wearing a bathing suit for an entire summer – twice. Of course, all of this is unnecessary. I could certainly comfortably wear a swim suit, but that doesn’t mean that I am comfortable doing it. Also, since I dislike the water – both pool and ocean – turns out bathing suits are easier to avoid than you’d imagine.

I worked within these confines for basically my entire life, but the other day I was flipping through a bathing suit catalogue that somehow mistakenly wound up in my mailbox, and I came across a suit that almost fit my fantasy… as did the model wearing it. I lingered on the page; silently coveting and felt a shift within me.

I wanted that suit.

I couldn’t believe it. Now that I was over 40, had three children come out my pooched, overstretched stomach, I was going to cave? Was this some trick of middle age? I knew I couldn’t see distance well anymore, but could I no longer see myself clearly either? Did I really think I could get away with this?

Logically the answer was no, at least not in the way I’d like to, yet still I felt gripped by urgency. This was probably my last chance to wear something like this before middle age really set in around the middle.

I’m already done with having children. I’m done with going out late nights and dancing till dawn – okay, I don’t think I ever danced till dawn, but you know what I’m saying. I’ve got wrinkles and pains. I’m happy to be in bed by 10pm. I like hot water and lemon. I carry hard mints in a Ziplock bag. I’m – Aaaaccck – getting older.

I’ve noticed other emotional changes in myself as well, now that I’m further up the maturity chain. I’m a little more ready to take chances, a little less judgmental, more appreciative, less giving a shit. I’ve also gotten simultaneously more and less vain; which means, I notice many more things that bother me but I also don’t care as much.

Which brings me back to the bikini I’ve coveted but never owned much less worn; it was now or never. Without thinking any more, I added it to my cart and clicked purchase.

I don’t know if I’ll ever wear it, but lately I’m full of surprises.

Alisa is a SAHM with three delicious boys who she eats up day and night, except when they go bad, then she eats ice cream instead. On any given day she can be found throwing baseballs on the lawn, burning cupcakes and being dragged with her kids by her crazy husband on some fakakta adventure. Follow her at Ice Scream Mama or on Facebook or Twitter.

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