Alone…In Target…With A Gift Card…

I am a girl who would spend, on average, 600.00 per month at Target. On mostly crap. I would go on a ‘field trip’ several times per week, armed with a debit card and a voice inside, telling me I just needed to pick up one thing.

I have tailored my spending habits significantly. Now I go to Target maybe 3 times a month and spend about 75.00 for the month. It’s been good for me. So, imagine the glory when I came in possession of one sweet gift card. It shined at me like a beacon of light all dressed up in gold tissue paper and glittery ribbon.

I felt the familiar adrenaline rush I used to get when I would step through those automatic doors underneath the red Target sign, Starbucks in hand. This morning I had no kids and a free morning. Fueled by coffee and pumpkin cake, I headed out and entered the store with a crazed, glassy look in my eye. All the beautiful things beckoned at me to buy them. So many things.

I got the usual Q Tips and boring crap like that but saved the best for last. All the pretties…you know, home decor, candy, books, high waisted jeans, Dr. Who posters and Sons of Anarchy Season 6. I walked through the store like 50 million times and I kid you not, could not figure out nor justify one thing to buy. What the heck? Here I was, ready to roll and nothin’…

It became a contest. I HAVE to buy something. This is ridiculous. I have a gift card in my sweaty hands. I found a pie plate. And a spatula. And licorice. And underwear for my son. Oh, I did find 2 books but instead of buying them, I wrote down the titles to check out at the library. I’m a little disappointed in myself. Surely my priorities aren’t changing? That would be bad, you know to save money and all. Although I admit, I may go back for Sons of Anarchy Season 6….

BIO: Jessica is a wannabe urban homesteader, living in Portland with a blended family of 4 kids, 3 rescue dogs and 4 chickens named after Starbucks drinks. Described by friends as a Feminist Jedi Master, Jessica writes for BLUNTmoms, Scary Mommy, In The Powder Room and Ten To Twenty Parenting. You can find her spreading ‘peace and wisdom’ over at her blog, The Dalai Mama. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @Silverton_F_M

Why Eat Gelato?

Why Eat Gelato-2I can think of many reasons to eat gelato, starting with the obvious; it tastes great! It is one of the most basic joys of traveling in Italy. People travel thousands of miles to eat gelato after all.

In case you don’t know what gelato is, (is that possible?) let me enlighten you. Gelato means frozen, in Italian. So gelato is basically any frozen dessert. But for most people, gelato is Italian ice cream.

Not all ice cream is created equal, however, and there are some key differences between gelato and American-style ice cream. So what makes gelato different?

Gelato is only 2 -10 percent fat, whereas ice cream can be as much as 18 – 30 percent fat. It’s low in fat, high in calcium, protein, and B vitamins! This means that gelato is actually good for you!

Another important difference between the two, gelato is blended differently, so contains less air than ice cream, thereby making the flavor much more intense. You will feel satisfied with eating a little, instead of a lot. I’m speculating on this, but try to work with me. Less air also means it doesn’t have to be served brain numbing cold, like ice cream, which accounts for the creamier texture and, I believe, for the more dense flavors.

I have yet to find gelato in the U.S. that compares with gelato in Italy, so when I am there, I allow myself to dive into this creamier, softer, more richly flavored frozen dessert, with abandon. I’ve eaten gelato for lunch, dinner, and in between meals.

My crush on gelato began in Sorrento. This region of Italy is known for producing huge lemons with a very fragrant skin, which of course are used to make lemon sorbetto. Sorbetto is made without dairy, so it’s lighter and contains even less fat than gelato. I’ll never forget my first lemon sorbetto and still seek to duplicate the experience.

In Rome, I had lemon sorbetto served inside one of those huge lemons from Sorrento. They scoop out the inside and fill it with delicious lemony goodness, then freeze it. Heavenly. I’ve had this version in a few other places in Italy, as well. When I see it on the menu I always order it. I’m a bit obsessive that way. Once I find something I like, I just keep going back for more.

After a few trips to Italy, I became more adventurous and began to try other traditional flavors: chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, strawberry, and coconut. There are endless flavor options for gelato – these are only a few. If you want to try some more exotic flavors check out what fabulous food writer David Lebovitz recommends.

At Vanilla Gelateria in Milan, I tried coconut and watermelon. I really had no idea where to go, to find the best gelato. I just decided the constant line outside the door was a good sign. I wasn’t disappointed. Vanilla has been in business since the 1950’s. Using only seasonal ingredients from around Italy, each spoonful was like biting into a piece of fresh fruit. I also liked this place because they had some pretty tables outside to sit and rest your weary feet. Many gelaterias are strictly walk away.

During my last trip to Rome, I discovered Fatamorgana gelateria. Fatamorgana was like falling in love all over again. I went crazy and tried all sorts of new and avant-garde flavors: ricotta with citrus, vanilla rice, madagascar chocolate, blueberry chocolate, even balsamic and basil. The flavors were all pure and fresh, but my favorite was the almond orange. It had small bits of ground nuts in it, and managed to be rich and refreshing all at the same time.

Pistachio ice cream, has always been a favorite of mine. Since eating pistachio gelato, I don’t even order ice cream anymore. Pistachio gelato is like popping a handful of freshly shelled nuts into your mouth all at once; with each bite you get a burst of fresh, creamy, nutty flavor. Pistachio ice cream is sort of a pale minty green color, and often doesn’t even have any nuts in it. Pistachio gelato is a green-brown color, with plenty of finely crushed nuts in it: makes me wonder what I was eating before – was it food?

Gelato is made with all natural, seasonal ingredients most of the time. If you’re not certain you’re getting the real deal, look for signs that say gelato naturale or gelato artigianale.

Eating good food, and good gelato, is simply part of Italian culture – just as taking an evening stroll with family, friends, and neighbors (passeggiata), is. It’s a social event, and one not to be missed. As far as I know, it’s not duplicated anywhere else in the world. I don’t know if ALL Italians eat gelato, but when I’ve been out for la passeggiata, it sure seems as if everyone I see is eating gelato. When in Rome…

How far will you travel for gelato?

Bio: Penny Sadler is a writer, photographer, blogger, and freelance makeup artist. Her background in film and television has given her an eye for detail that inspires her  storytelling, be it in visual or written form.  She loves traveling, prosecco, Italy, and is a wannabe flautist. Penny writes for several online magazines as well as her personal travel site, Adventures of a Carry-on. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Recipe For Good Mothering

suzprofileStanding at my bookshelf, my fingers follow the worn, familiar feeling of my books, old friends that I have forgotten. There are books of poetry, art and religion; books on growing things and making things; books on building business; books of dreams once pursued. Mysteries, memoirs and fiction that used to carry me far, far away.

I have come here now for a book of recipes, yet still, I am drawn to the now-dusty books about parenting. A shelf that started with a copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting and was filled to overflowing when the unexpected happened. Books on epilepsy and illness, advice and encouragement, books I once feverishly read my way through — looking for answers, that only life would bring.

I find the baking book I have come for, it’s sunshine yellow cover calling out to me, the vintage rose color calming me. I bring it to the kitchen where my daughter Zoe is waiting. No longer does she need the step-stool, or even for me to stand behind her. She stands by herself, leaning against her walker for balance. In middle school now, she has grown out of the little girl apron she used to wear, and favors a pink t-shirt instead. She smiles at me, her confidence and excitement radiating as she finds the page and begins to read the recipe aloud. Her supplies at the ready, she starts with slow, careful movements.

And with patience I stand back, knowing that what makes this recipe work is not my help or what is written on the page.

It is the shallow pan that will catch the overflow of flour and sugar, carefully measured by a shaky hand. It is the notepad nearby that will keep count, by Zoe’s written ” X’s, the number of cups she has poured. It is the flattened bowl that will hold a steady surface for eggs to be cracked and pieces of eggshells extracted.

This is different from when I bake with Zoe’s big sister, when it is a team effort to try new techniques, perfectly fill each measured cup and and correctly approximate each teaspoon, that puts my teen girl and I in unison. When it is her idea of what to make, her confidence growing with each new creation. Our collaboration brings us closer together.

Later, when I am alone, the recipe book still lays open, the written words worn, splattered and sometimes hard to read, this recipe replaced by real life.

I know now it is the real result that is better than the expected. It is the authentic, on-hand ingredients that deliver goodness. It is the directions we ignore, the techniques we adapt and the new processes we create that make each batch wonderfully unique — and never exactly the same.

It is the sweetness that rises above, that masks the imperfections and the missed ingredients.

This is the real recipe of mothering.

Bio: Suzanne celebrates the simple, every day one inspiring story at a time at Special Needs Mom . She has been featured online at BlogHer, Huffington Post Parents, HP Tech, HP Women, HPost Live, ScaryMommy.com, AOL online, MSN Living and more. She was honored to be chosen as a 2013 Blogher Voice Of The Year.

Friday Favorites (December 8-12)

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Check out this hilarious post by Foxy Wine Pocket: How to Win at Your Next Butt Inspection

Tarana shares the ways her expat family celebrates festivals

Enjoy this post by Galit: This is what an interfaith family looks like

Becky shares a list of 25 Reasons Why Our Elf Forgot to Move

And don’t forget to check out our great submissions from this week:

The Diagnosis by Sarah Hawk

Weight by Jessica Roberts

The One Word You Can’t Say on a Crowded Playground by Jessica Rapisarda

The Diagnosis

When my first child Oliver was born I didn’t feel like a Mother. I felt all encompassing love, but I also felt confused and overwhelmed. I felt like something was missing. My darling son was born with a disability, which seemed to upset our medical team, family, and friends. But to me he was natural and right. There was no question in my heart or mind that anything about him was wrong or different, that was just who he was. He came into this world fully as he is.

I understand why I was lost now but in those first few weeks I was devastated and fearful. I wanted to wrap my darling son up in my arms and never let another soul near him. Everyone around us was antagonizing my fears by their poor treatment of him. My son was also a constant handful. He didn’t seem to be able to see anything and relied heavily on what he heard and smelled. If he was out of my arms for a second he would get upset. We wrapped ourselves up in each other while we feared the world.

Our medical team seemed sure of his diagnosis, but was unwilling to confirm. We spent weeks visiting doctors, specialists, and interested parties. Strangers would stop us at stores and acquaintances would make jokes about our “demon eyed baby.” We even left a restaurant because the harsh words from other people.

The wait for a formal diagnosis was excruciating. I knew he was blind, I knew he had albinism, but no one would listen to me. I felt crazed and lost. I hoped that knowing would somehow help prepare me. I thought if I could spread knowledge to the ignorant comments, I could make the world better. I wanted to remake the world safer and happier for him. I was completely lost in how to do anything.

I did the only thing I knew to do. I loved him as any mother loves her son. I cared for his needs and tried to adapt to his demands. I starting talking to him when I would put him down, so he would know he was safe. I would carry him with me everywhere and tell him what he was hearing me do. I was so shut off from the world that I talked to my little newborn about everything. The only conversation off limits was what he couldn’t do.

After many attempts we found a doctor that could diagnose him, a Pediatric Ophthalmologist. Joyfully, we took the first available appointment and drove the hour to see him. My husband and I were full of happy hopes. As if just getting the diagnosis would make all things possible again. We shared dreams for our son and excitedly waited for the big moment.

Trying to get a stroller, two adults, a newborn, and diaper bag in the office took more time than our check in wait. At first meeting we liked our eye doctor. He was personable and seemed knowledgeable by the number of children that looked like our son on his wall. I was so entranced by all the pictures I hardly even looked at him while he talked. I wanted desperately to know that my son would be okay. At two weeks old I was already trying to build Oliver’s life.

An efficient nurse stopped in to dilate Ollie’s eyes and we went back to waiting. This time my husband and I shared whispered concerns. The pictures were our confirmation, we knew something was coming and we were scared. My darling son was fretful and frustrated by having even less vision. We didn’t understand how light affected him, we just knew that it did. I nursed him, neither of us were good at that, and he rested.

Waking Ollie up to examine him should have been the hardest part. Our tiny boy sat on his father’s lap as the doctor put a light in each eye. In moments it was over. It seemed anticlimactic after the number of doctors we’d seen recently; that dilated pupils and a light were all it took.

As I held Ollie to calm him from the lights we were told the diagnosis. “Your son is blind, will likely always be legally blind.” Neither my husband and I could cope with it. How could an instant look tell him that? We asked logical questions like “how could you tell, can you tell us how blind or if he can see at all?” Instead we got a long list of the things our newborn would never do.

We were given official papers of some kind and a card and an appointment to come back. But I can’t tell you much about any of it. I carefully packed my son back into his car-seat, gathered our things, and walked mournfully to the car. If my husband spoke I have no recollection. I was in deep shock.

I focused only on getting Oliver safely into the car. I sang to him as he fell asleep on the road, continuing long after he fell asleep. My tears didn’t fall gently or slow. The eruption happened at once and with devastating honesty. I poured out every fear and failure I had as his mother. I felt broken and like I had robbed him of a true life. I didn’t understand how to make my blind boy do any of those things I was told he would NEVER do and everything was overwhelming.

My husband tried gallantly to calm me. He understood every thought I had but he would not accept that any of it was my fault, or that our son couldn’t do anything. We didn’t know what he could do but in that moment my husband decided we didn’t know what Ollie couldn’t do.

It’s a transformative thought, that no matter your ability, it’s important not to limit yourselves by can’t. With the exceptions of driving and reading, my son has accomplished everything on the NEVER list. He walked at one, with 6 months of physical therapy. He has worked hard for every milestone but he reaches them. He has taught me that challenge and adversity are reasons to adapt not quit.

We hired a much better eye doctor, we get full yearly examinations. We know to what degree he can and can’t see. But we know unequivocally that he can do anything. The diagnosis didn’t define our son, it defined our family. We will never accept when our team tells us it’s impossible or he can’t. We surround ourselves with educators, supporters, and enablers that show him how and help him. We will not allow him to settle for never.

What I didn’t have in those first weeks was my voice as his mother. I didn’t have the confidence in my position or the surety of my abilities. Years later I am sure of all those things. I am his advocate. I am his mother. I am his supporter, teacher, therapists… As a special needs mom I must be many things. In all of them he taught me that I must first be positive and adapt to adversity. I will not cave to the nevers.

Bio: Sarah Hawk blogs at Truly Capable. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Weight

Olivia Grace (1)“See,” my best friend explained during a sleepover, “you circle your fingers halfway down your arm. If your thumb and middle finger can touch, you’re not fat.” She watched me administer the test on myself. My fingers didn’t touch easily, the way hers did. We were 10 and I was starting to notice that I was shorter and wider than some of the girls my age.

“Hmm,” she said, genuinely puzzled. “Well, you’re not fat,” she pronounced. Because she was funnier, more outgoing, prettier (and thinner) than me, I decided to believe her.
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I was 14 and bored. My parents had gone house-hunting before we moved to Costa Rica for two years, thanks to my father’s job. It was a promotion for him, but it felt like a punishment to me. They left us with my grandparents for 10 days, where I tried to spend as much time as possible reading by myself.

Restless, I slipped down to my grandfather’s home gym after dinner, running a couple of miles on the treadmill. I wasn’t going to be completing a marathon anytime soon, but it was something. Feeling pleased with myself, I came back upstairs into the kitchen, where my grandmother was asking my siblings and cousins, “Who wants ice cream?”

I raised my hand along with everyone else. Brandishing the scooper in my direction she clicked her tongue. “What was the point of all that exercise if you’re just going to eat ice cream?”

I didn’t know what the right answer was. I just wanted to eat some ice cream with everybody else.
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I liked living in Costa Rica better than I had originally expected. I made friends easily since lots of people were like me, transplants due to a parent’s job.

My friend asked me to go to the mall with her, to pick out a present for another one of our friends who was having a birthday party soon. We stopped at a sweater we thought she might like. They only had a tiny size out so my friend, who had much better Spanish skills than I, asked the saleslady hovering nearby, “Excuse me, do you have this sweater in a larger size? It’s for my friend, who is on the bigger side.”

The lady looked at me, perhaps thinking my silence meant I wouldn’t understand. “Mas gorda que ella?”

Fatter than her?

My friend looked mortified. “Nevermind,” she said to me. “Let’s keep looking.”
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I stared in the mirror at night, poking my chunky cheeks, and resolved to go to college as a thin girl.

At night I started to slink off to the basement to ride the stationary bike, jump around frenetically to Billy Blanks’s Tae Bo routines, or exercise with Gilad. I liked Gilad’s “Bodies in Motion” the best; his shows were set in Hawaii with two ladies in leotards. It seemed like he was really rooting for me through the screen.

I arrived to college some 30 pounds lighter, but in my mind, I still had more to lose. By the end of my sophomore year, I had figured out how to subsist on 800 calories a day. I’d tried to get by on 600 but I found it made my already agonizing hunger intolerable. Every night I put on my workout clothes in lieu of pajamas and set my alarm for 3 hours before my first class. When the beeping started, I got out of bed, slipped on my tennis shoes, and trudged, sometimes in the rain or knee-deep in a freshly-fallen snow, to the gym, where I mandated that I burn off as many calories as I planned to eat for the day.
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My mother didn’t believe me when I said I was fine on the phone, and drove out in the spring to visit me for the weekend. After pushing around the food on my plate during dinner, I fell asleep in the movie theater, unable to muster the extra energy for socializing.

The next morning, pointing to my hip bones jutting out above my pants, that kept sliding down no matter how tightly I belted them, she put down an ultimatum, “Start eating, or we are pulling you out of school.”
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“My fear is that if I let you walk out of here today, you will die in your sleep some time in the next few days.”

I stared at the doctor, not really believing that being 87 pounds was as problematic as she seemed to think it was.

“You need to hear this the same way a cancer patient hears they have cancer. We have to act quickly. Your body is shutting down. So I want you to let me put you into the hospital. Now.”

I left anyway, convinced I could fix myself by just eating a little more for a while.
I always wonder if refusing in-patient treatment is what made my recovery such a protracted process, pocked with multiple relapses and clinging to disordered behaviors even when maintaining a healthy (enough) weight.
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My husband and I weren’t enjoying our first few months of marriage as much as we should have been. I was back down to my lowest weight, experiencing heart problems, fainting spells, and dramatic blood sugar issues. I was afraid to leave the house. I was afraid to eat the broccoli in the restaurant, convinced they had put butter on it. I was afraid to go to sleep at night, not sure if I’d wake up.

“You don’t look that sick,” the therapist said to me. “Do you dance?”

“No,” I replied, taken aback that someone who claimed expertise in treating patients with eating disorders would tell me I wasn’t sick enough to be there.

“Oh. You have a dancer’s body.” She ran her eye appreciatively – and with some sort of longing – over my depleted frame. “Are you afraid your husband will leave you if you gain weight?”

“Of course not,” I sputtered. “He wants me to gain weight.”

She smirked. “Well, just be careful. My husband left me because I gained weight. I used to look just like you. And then I got over a 100 pounds. And he left me, because I got too fat.” She gestured to her girth. “And now look – I’m morbidly obese!”

I told her a) I would not be booking a second session and b) she should not be promoting herself as someone qualified to assist clients struggling with anorexia. “I know enough that I’m going to go home and try and forget everything you said to me today, ” I told her. “But you might cause someone else – someone younger or more vulnerable – serious harm.”

She was genuinely confused.
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“109!” declared my powerlifting coach happily. “Great work!” He had been helping me restore weight safely over a period of nine months, combined with training for my first powerlifting competition.

I didn’t want to weight 109 pounds. I didn’t want to weight 100 pounds. I didn’t want to weight anything at all.

But I did want a baby. The weight creeped up a little more, and I let it.

Finally, my body declared it was ready to reproduce.

At first I marveled privately, I’m pregnant! Then I watched in horror as the first trimester bloat set in. I felt puffy and soft. I panicked. I fought a daily internal war to eat enough for the baby, while wanting to never eat again until my arms, legs, stomach, and face looked the way I liked – thin, thin, thin.
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“You’re so tiny!”
“You’re bump is so small!”
“You’re how many months? No way!”

For the first time, I don’t feel good about being seen as “small.” I filter it as criticism and worry I am not adequately nourishing my baby.

And then I’m a little angry. Why, even when pregnant, do we still celebrate small?

I started to appreciate my growing belly. I patted it. I looked at it in the mirror. I dressed to accentuate it, rather than try to clumsily camouflage my rapidly disappearing waistline.

I bought maternity dresses and bigger bras instead of fighting it. I did my hair, applied makeup, slipped on my sparkliest jewelry, and wore heels.

I like Pregnant Me.

My husband likes Pregnant Me.

Maybe it is possible to be a healthy weight and enjoy my life.
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I’ve faced my biggest fear – the uncontrollable expansion of my most-hated body part – THE STOMACH – and lived to not only endure, but embrace, the change.
I think I can do this, this weight thing.

I think I can have a baby and not obsess about when and where and how the weight goes away or perhaps lingers for a while or becomes a permanent fixture.

I think I can believe my husband when he says he wants me happy and healthy, and being underweight contributes to neither of these things.

I think I can model for my daughter how to put on a swimsuit and wear it in public because every body is already “swimsuit-ready.”

I think I can remember all these things that I’ve made happen or have happened to me in relation to my weight and say, Ok, that was then.

This is now. The future is weightless.

Author’s Note:
My daughter, Olivia Grace Roberts, was born November 1, 2014. I’ve been enjoying motherhood more than I ever could have imagined, and have never felt more at peace with my body. For the first time, I’m deriving my self-worth from things independent of my body – who I am as a wife, mother, and working mom. My daughter is teaching me so much already, just by virtue of her existence. There is a reason we chose “Grace” as her middle name.

Bio: Jessica Roberts is a new mom, writer, and business owner. In addition to working as a Higher Education Consultant and running Aim High Writing College Consulting, she is a regular contributor to various online and print publications. She maintains a personal writing website, Absurd, She Wrote, where she explores the intersection between professionalism, motherhood, and body image, and how these three impact a woman’s sense of self-worth. Find her blogging at Absurd She Wrote and Aim High Writing, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @jpeyroberts. 

The One Word You Can’t Say on a Crowded Playground

1984 was a tough year. I had a bowl haircut, I read dictionaries for fun, and I lost my mom to cancer. I wanted so badly to feel normal. After school let out for the day, I’d hang back from the mass of kids swarming the parking lot of St. Dominic’s Catholic school. I studied the crowd like I studied the dictionary, eager to learn something new, something that might make me just a little bit cool. And, to me, the 8th graders were a bottomless font of cool. I let my socks slouch like they did. I doused myself in Love’s Baby Soft cologne like they did. I tried to talk like they did, even though most of what they said was a complete mystery: Why were they always discussing the time of the month? And what made a kiss French, as opposed to American or, say, Mexican?

But if 1984 was a tough year for me, it had to be downright unbearable for my dad. He was suddenly the single father of three little girls, ages 8, 6, and 2. But even through the grief and the fear and the exhaustion, my dad made time to play – to toss a softball in the backyard, to hold impromptu Michael Jackson dance parties in our living room, to go to the park. Our favorite destination was Baltimore’s Burdick Park, just a block from my grandparent’s row home. On the outskirts of the city, it was a few bucolic acres of oak trees and wide, grassy fields. The park featured a much beloved twisty sliding board, rows of swings, and enough 80s-era metal playground equipment to simultaneously break the bones of a hundred different kids. It was paradise.

So on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon, my dad packed us into the Chevy Chevette and headed to Burdick. Kids lined up twenty-deep for the sliding board and the swings were occupied, but my dad was unfazed. He challenged us to a game of tag.

While my youngest sister, Sarah, contentedly ate playground mulch, my middle sister and I crouched at the ready.

“On your marks. Get set. Go!”

Kim and I rocketed around the see-saw and toward the park maintenance building.

“I’m gonna get you guys!” my dad shouted, sprinting after us.

“No way!” Kim shouted back as she suddenly peeled off, cutting through the middle of a basketball game.

Left alone, with my dad gaining on me, I double-timed it toward the corner of the maintenance building. As he neared, my chest buzzed with adrenalin. I’d covertly eaten two packages of Little Debbie Swiss rolls after lunch. My head buzzed with white sugar. Time and space took on a fluorescent, Kubrickian quality.

I turned boldly toward my father and called to mind a word I’d heard the 8th-grade girls lob at the 8th-grade boys — a word with heft, a word with a short fuse, a very cool word.

“Get away from me, you pervert!” I yelled. Then I disappeared around the side of the building.

A young mom pushing a stroller stopped dead in her tracks to stare at me.

“Ha! You’ll never catch me, you pervert!” I screamed as I rounded the back of the building.

“Pervert, pervert, pervert!” I chanted as I took off toward the merry-go-round, drunk on speed and the vocabulary of abandon.

A group of kids near the monkey bars fell strangely quiet.

My dad finally caught up with me as I reached the merry-go-round. His face was red. His mouth looked stiff. “Geez, he’s taking this game pretty seriously,” I thought, just as he grabbed me by the arm.

“Let go of me, you pervert,” I laughed.

With his eyes wide, he leaned down and hissed, “For the love of Christ, Jessie, shut up!”

Suffice it to say that our day at the park ended then and there. On the ride home, my dad wanted to know where I’d picked up “an expression like that,” but I guess he was just too tapped out to explain what the word actually meant. I had to sleuth out the definition on my own during recess later that week. It was a gut-churning revelation.

After thirty years, I still remember how my dad hustled us out of the park that day, his hand held gently at my back, urging me to walk a bit more quickly. I remember hearing him sigh as he sank into the driver’s seat, pausing before he put the key into the ignition. “What are ya gonna do?” I heard him mumble to himself. I didn’t know what any of it meant. And neither, I guess, did he.

Bio: Jessica Rapisarda is an editor, freelance writer, and blogger living just outside Washington, DC. She holds an MFA in poetry, but now that she’s a mom, most of her rhymes are of the nursery variety. Her writing has been featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, MSN Living, and Mamapedia, and she was a 2014 cast member of Listen to Your Mother DC. She blogs about parenting, guilt, and other redundancies at Welcome to the Bundle. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter (@rappadappa).

Friday Favorites (December 1-5)

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An Open Letter to my Daughter’s Step-Mom – a wonderful look at co-parenting!

Cristie shares why she is a football hypocrite.

Melissa lists her social media pet peeves.

Spec-Tacular? Roz tells you her story.

And don’t forget to show some love to this week’s submission writers:

The Sisterhood of Moms

The Glamorous Life

What I Like/Don’t Like about Homeschooling

The Sisterhood Of Moms

Now that my babies aren’t necessarily babies anymore life has changed a bit.

Let’s take errands, for example.

Errands have morphed into an entirely different experience now that my children are in school.

I no longer need to wear my son on my front with my daughter strapped on my back while I frantically grocery shop before the next diaper blow out.

I no longer need to leave a cart full of shit from Costco and exit the store to deal with hysterical sobbing over a melted frozen yogurt

I can finish a conversation with the cashier and oddly enough, bag my own purchases (that part sucks, actually).

As mothers of older kids we kinda need to keep an eye out on moms of the wee ones. Deep down I want to defend and have their backs because I have lived what they are experiencing now. I remember the early days of passing other moms in the store aisles. We would move like dazed ghosts in our sweats and messy ponytails. We would give each other that look of solidarity while silently clinking our triple shot espressos because talking was way overrated at that hour. During our times of sleep deprivation and cranky children it helped to know we weren’t alone.

Nowadays, I find I still make eye contact with the moms of the littles, except now with more intention, more empathy, more compassion and an understanding smile. I’ve been there, momma.

I want to hug the sweet mom who feels she needs to apologize in the store for the volume of her crying baby.

I want to kick the balls in of the jackass prick who lets the door slam in her face while she is carrying 50 million packages and babies, all on her own.

I want to high five mom when her toddler throws a sippy cup with incredible aim and cold cocks someone being an asshole, right in the head.

So with that in mind I have been attempting to be more conscious in offering even the smallest of gestures such as holding the door, picking up random shoes when their kiddos throw them out of the cart, smiling and commenting on their kid’s good behavior or manners. I remember that stuff went a long way with me and started to make me wonder if my role as a mother had more value than what I was giving it credit for.

Rather than criticizing a mom for the volume of her baby’s voice in a public setting or the fact her kids are still in jammies at 4 pm, we really should be thanking them for their tireless efforts in raising these little things we like to call humans.

Since the “Your kids will be grown before you know it” cliche bullshit is proving itself to be true, I’m counting on the moms who have kids in their teens to help me out in the same way. Let’s pay it forward and clink our triple espressos together while we are at it. After all we are a sisterhood of moms who need look out for each other.

Bio: Jessica is a wannabe urban homesteader, living in Portland with her blended family of 4 kids, 3 rescue dogs and 4 chickens named after Starbucks drinks. Described by her colleagues as a “Feminist Jedi Master”, Jessica writes for Blunt Moms, Scary Mommy and The Epistolarians. She can be found spreading ‘peace and wisdom’ over at her blog, The Dalai Mama. Find her on Facebook and Twitter

The Glamorous Life

unnamed (2)There has been much talk lately about what kind of mother one should be. Funnily enough, the voices of dissent are coming from the smallest population of mothers on the planet: celebrity mothers.
To be fair, there are celebrity mothers I worship (Gwen Stefani), celebrity mothers I roll my eyes at (Jenny McCarthy) and celebrity mothers who make me vomit at the very mention of their name (Gwyneth Paltrow). As a parent, I take what’s out there and I pick and choose what I will or will not take with a grain of salt. The majority of the mothering advice that I accept from celebrities revolves around fashion (for PJ, not me, since I usually look like a bag lady), but if Mama Gwen said that she feeds little Kingston an all-quinoa diet that makes his mohawk lustrous and has him reading at college level, I might be tempted to switch out my son PJ’s Zebra Cakes for some fancy grains.
It’s a bit of a weird sell — we have women who aren’t really any more or less knowledgeable than the common folk but have the means and the soapbox to appear as if they do. Just like the advice we get from moms on Facebook, around the sandbox or from our own family members, some of the advice is perfect for us, some is not, and some is insanity all around.
The voice of the celeb mom is a powerful one. Jenny McCarthy was able to strike fear in the hearts of thousands of mothers who have children with autism (or are searching for a way to prevent it). I am one of those moms now, and I took her words to heart. I sometimes have to think hard to remember that PJ was showing signs of autism long before he had his MMR vaccine. I think every mother sometimes has to break free of the norm to find the right path of her child, but I take issue with the mother who trumpets her story as one that fits every other child. I admire Jenny McCarthy for setting fire to it all and blazing a path that worked for her gorgeous son, but I want to shake her for allowing her platform of fame to put so many children in danger. There’s also a part of me who wants to shake the moms who took her word as gospel, but I know how hard it is to want an answer and have the one you want right in front of you.
Even though I fall prey to comparisons (we all do, let’s not lie), I do my best to avoid them because the fact is if I compare my life and parenting and self-worth to the affluent, shiny life of Victoria Beckham or Madonna, I. Will. Lose. Every time. It is hard enough to keep from comparing my life to the Facebook selfies and cheery updates of so many of my friends. If I let myself wonder why I don’t look like Halle Berry when I wake up in the morning, I’ll end up knifing myself in the eyeballs. That, right there, is what makes the advice of the celebrity mom so heady — how can someone who looks so pretty and seems so perfect be wrong?
The truth is this: If you are doing parenting right, it’s a little bit hard. It will be hard in different ways — let’s not pretend that a mom who makes millions making a movie has the same hard as a mom who works 14-hour days at a “regular” job (and thank you, Angelina, for realizing that). But hard is hard, and it does not do anybody any good to draw comparisons. Don’t beat yourself up for not looking like Jessica Alba when you drop your kid off at school and don’t fall into the temptation of trying out a textile cleanse or homemade acai berry, gluten-free fruit snacks unless you honestly feel that this is the right choice for your family. What “works” for Gwyneth Paltrow might not work for you (in fact, I’d wager she would be the first to tell you that).
Hey, mamas? Guess what? You’re doing fine. In fact, you’re damn amazing! There’s bound to be comparison and mommy guilt and second-guessing, which makes us human, not poor parents. We feel that way, and I bet Heidi Klum does, too. Money and affluence and privilege do not change that. So, please, be easy on yourself.

Bio: Brie Latini is a thirty-something mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and fan of guilty-pleasure television. She currently lives in Collingswood, NJ with her husband Pete and son PJ. A work-a-holic turned stay-at-home-mom, Brie is enjoying her emerging second career as a writer as it now gives her a better excuse to pass on housework (“You load the dishwasher; I have to write!”). Brie’s work has been featured at Jersey Moms Blog, Mamalode, and MetroKids Magazine Online. You can read more about Brie’s journey through life as the mother of a special-needs child at her personal blog, {…a breezy life} or join her on Facebook. Reach Brie via e-mail at abreezylife@gmail.com.

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