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Dear Bristol Palin, I'll Be Happy for You

June 30, 2015

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of the Palin’s. I’m not NOT a fan of them. I am technically a nothing of the Palins, but I am a big fan of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, Tina Fey as Tina Fey and also Tina Fey as anyone else. (I love you Tina!)

Bristol announced her second pregnancy last week in an extremely brief blog post. The announcement begins like a Band-Aid being ripped off and goes on to say…

“I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment, to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.”

Even as someone who gets in her cardio by actively avoiding feeling things, I couldn’t help but feel for her. I climbed into my time machine of emotions and traveled back to when I was pregnant with my first.

I found out I was pregnant two months before my 20th birthday. I missed the Teen Mom casting call by the length of a pop stars first marriage. From the outside, I know that must have looked like an absolute train wreck. I had been dating my boyfriend for a whole two months, so obviously we were head over heels in love, totally excited to bring another human into our lives, and blissfully ignorant as to how unqualified we were to do so.. but he was the one. We were ecstatic! At least, I was on the inside where the view was anything but grim.

The reality was: he was barely employed, I was a college drop out/soon to be beauty school drop out, and we were living in a house my mom bought. Unbeknownst to me, I was still a kid. You are always still a kid until something forces you to grow up. (Which, side note, is why Disney always kills off the main character’s parents)

Like Bristol Palin, my mother is a successful woman. She’s made a name for herself in her industry, and the amazing life she was able to provide for me was something she worked hard for. She had me at 21 and by 30 was divorced, raising me on her own while working and attending school full time. She’s a cliché, small-town-moved-to-the-big-city, success story. I know now that the disappointment in her voice when I told her I was pregnant was out of her wanting my life to be easier than hers. At any age, disappointing your parents feels shitty.

I pride myself on my ability to spot a phony from a mile away, so the barrage of fake smiles and forced congratulations quickly became more than my fragile, -reality TV star-, ego could take.

I was alone in my joy.

I immediately stopped making announcements to people and just let the rumor mill run its course. In Small Southern Town Time (SSTT) that’s roughly an hour, maybe less, depending on when the nosey neighbor “down the holler” gets wind of your condition.

We had baby number two 18 months after our first bundle of joy was born. That pregnancy announcement came when I was already six months pregnant (we already knew it was a girl) and even then, it was nearly non-existent. I didn’t think the great new job my now husband had would incite sincere congratulations and thankfully, we had moved to Washington, D.C so at the very least we didn’t have to SEE the disappointment on anyone’s face. You can, however, feel judgment, particularly from people you love, from 300 miles away.

This was a long time ago. My youngest baby is nine now. This was before social media and elaborate Pinterest-worthy pregnancy announcements & gender reveal parties became a thing. A thing I still find obnoxious.

And now I’ve had enough therapy to diagnose myself with a serious case of “Bitter Betty-ness” over this issue.

I thought I was the only recorded case of “Bitter Betty-ness” in history until one day my friend Maria made a comment on Facebook. It was an extremely subtle comment, one you wouldn’t have picked up unless you had been stricken with the same affliction. I couldn’t text her fast enough.

“OMG no one was happy for me either!”

We compared shitty reaction stories. It was just like therapy, except I didn’t have to give her my insurance card or sit on a ugly mauve couch with awkwardly placed pillows and overthink a game plan for hiding just enough of my crazy.

Maria and I agreed that if either of us had another kid we would be happy for each other. We would be each others person. And now I’d like to extend that same kindness to Bristol.

Dear Bristol,

If you are reading this, and lets be honest why wouldn’t you be? I am happy for you. Unconditionally. As President of the “Bitter Betty” support group just know that all of the members (aka Maria and myself) are rooting for you! You can sit with us.

Despite her name sounding like a cartoon character, Sarah Barry is actually a real person. She blogs about life with a husband who enjoys fixing all of the electronics she breaks, a son with ADHD who would take over the world if he wasn’t so easily distracted, a daughter who is so seriously concerned about world issues that Sarah would insist was switched at birth if she didn’t look exactly like her. Her unhealthy obsession with her mini-schnauzer Frank is well documented on her Instagram account. She can also be found fan-girling on Twitter, Pinning recipes she will never make on Pinterest, posting all of the thoughts she has out loud on Facebook, and fulfilling her dreams of being a blogger at www.SarahSomething.com.

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Photo by: iStock

I'm Tired of Your Facebook Lives

June 29, 2015

I jumped on the Facebook train in the same fashion I tackle a churro station at an amusement park – all over it. I was posting pictures of my food, my dogs, my socks, my new accent pillows, kitchen appliances, a new pack of Sharpie markers because… BONUS MARKER! Until I stopped and asked myself, What the hell am I doing? Who wants to see this shit?!

I tried to go back and delete as many of the offenders as possible, but seeing my incompetency with all things computer related, and my self-diagnosed case of ADHD, I only managed to delete a few. It was an embarrassing day. There were more Elf on the Shelf photos and cheesy food pics than I’d care to admit. Pun sadly intended.

However, I’ve noticed something even more alarming, and I, too, am often a guilty offender.

Facebook photos have now turned into a mere image of how you wish or want your life to appear.

You’ll never see a happy picture of my family at the dinner table chowing down. Why? Because that rarely happens, and when it does, the last thing I want to do is bust out my phone. Someone is always bitching. It might be that there are “green flakes” in their food, or their drink is “soggy.” How can a drink be effin’ soggy? Ask a seven year old with intriguing insight for the answer to that one.

I scroll my Facebook feed and see pictures that may as well be gracing the pages of Target’s weekly ad or better yet, Pottery Barn. Everyone’s hair is in place, they smile with big teethie smiles, and there is not a fixture nor toy out of place. Some of these homes don’t even looked lived in. Are there model homes you can rent to take your ‘Facebook Family Shots’?

I’ll snap a picture and then tell my daughter to swivel approximately four inches to the right where there is no presence of a sky-high laundry pile in the soon-to-be-posted Facebook photo. It is ridiculous. I am ridiculous.

Where are the pictures of the mothers pulling their hair out in the Costco line up? I’ve seen some cute Target pics with kids giddy over a new set of oven mitts, but no hair-pulling mamas.

Once, I took a snap on my iPhone, posted it to Facebook and realized there was a box of tampons in the background. I immediately deleted it because it was embarrassing. However, that was the true state of my home in that minute; a mother, mid-Aunt Flo, snapping a picture of her child and her newest Barbie. I posted a photo recently on Facebook that a friend commented on saying, “This seriously looks like a prison mugshot." You know what? She was right, and I laughed right along with her. I kept it up. Why? Because it was real. Because that was me in that moment. It was not a Lindsay Lohan nor Paris Hilton mugshot, more so Amanda Bynes with her wig on backwards mugshot, but nonetheless, it was real.

Even worse offenders, the “selfie” takers. (I am also guilty.) Ever since iPhone released the selfie feature camera, the internet-world went to hell in a iPhone hand basket. Eyelash pictures, root canal pictures, duck lip pictures, “new sunglasses pictures,” “new eyebrow wax pictures,” #PicturesWithHashtagsIdontFuckingUnderstand; if Facebook didn’t have a “no nude photos” clause, I’m sure I’d have seen Brazilian wax selfie by now. Shit’s gone crazy.

To take it up a notch, Apple has integrated ways to make yourself look “even better with the touch of a button!” I downloaded some of those apps, and while they were semi-entertaining, I found ones that were FAR superior. I like the ones that age you 50 years to give you idea what Mother Nature might do to your face, or better yet, the Mustache App! There is nothing more entertaining than seeing what you’d look like if you stopped waxing your upper lip once a month.

So, lets start a new tradition – I’m speaking to myself on this one too – let’s make our pictures realistic. If your house looks like a category 5 Hurricane struck, but your kids are having the time of their lives… snap that shit up! That’s what memories are made of, right? I love seeing babies with food smeared all over their faces. I love seeing the candid photos taken of someone else when they weren’t looking. #JustSayYesToTheDoubleChin. As for food, I love seeing your successes, but more so, your kitchen fails. Everyone likes to feel like they relate, not that they’re a shitty housekeeper with a disaster for a home; a crappy mom because they fed their kid a hot dog and boxed mac n’ cheese for dinner. And, while you’re at it, if you’re going to take a selfie, let’s make an agreement to do “morning selfies”, when you’re at your “realest.” I’m willing to start the movement.

Hey, I’d love for my home to look like the interior of one the Kardashian’s homes, however, I don’t have a budget for six 24/7 housekeepers, I don’t have 40,000 square feet to sprawl out in, and furthermore, I don’t have a Kanye. Thank GOD.

Ashley Alteman is known for her love of dinosaurs, ponies wearing sweaters, and overuse of commas. She is an editor’s nightmare. She won a spelling bee in the 8th grade for correctly spelling “carrot” and knew from that moment she was destined to be an amazing journalist, or a sarcastic blogger; she went with the latter. Ashley details her laugh-out-loud parenting and personal fails at Smashley Ashley. You can also find this hot mess fumbling around on Facebook.

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Photo by: iStock

The Day I Forgot to be Self Conscious

June 28, 2015

Last year I spent June at the beach with my family while eight months pregnant. I was contracting regularly, and unable to keep anything down except ice chips and protein shakes. The beach is both the greatest place and the worst place to be in this situation. I watched from the sidelines as my two boys dug sandcastles, jumped waves and floated in the pool. I also waved goodbye as they headed off to a giant water slide park knowing that I couldn’t even walk from the car to the park much less go down a slide in my condition. I layed on the couch and thought “next summer I am going to do all those things”.

If I am being honest though, before I was the pregnant, contracting, sick mom who doesn’t get in the water… I was just the mom who doesn’t get in the water. Before that, I was the wife who doesn’t get in the water. And before that, I was the girlfriend who doesn’t get in the water. I can’t remember the last time I was the girl who got in the water and had fun, but it was surely 7th or 8th grade at least. That’s not to say I hadn’t ever been in the water since then, but I wasn’t enjoying it. It was too cold and I was too insecure in a swimsuit. Too insecure to be seen without make up. Just too… self conscious.

I would say to my sons “That’s what Daddy is for!” and they would slink over to him and he would take them in the pool.

When the pools opened a few weeks ago, I almost forgot about my pledge to get in the water. Because remembering the pledge meant I had to forget about my self consiousness. But that day, when my son was swimming, the water was frigid. Of course none of the kids cared. My son is almost swimming on his own, and he’s been working really hard at it. My girlfriends got in the water with the kids and I stayed on the pool deck, observing. Then I walked over to where he was, and I just did it. I canonballed practically right on top of him. Once he recovered from the shock of it his eyes lit up with joy and disbelief “mommy, you’re in the water!”

This week at the beach he asked me to jump waves with him and I automatically said no. His shoulders dropped and he headed out on his own. What was I doing? I quickly snuck up behind him and swung his feet out into the water. “I knew you’d come!” he said smiling over his shoulder at me. Later, I took his little brother in the waves and we screamed when we got splashed, and we laughed as the waves pulled the sand back from under our toes as they receded into the ocean.

Today, we left the baby with her grandparents and they waved us goodbye as we headed out to the big waterslide park. I told myself I was going to say yes to everything – slides, wave pools, whatever. I was going to do it all. Max wanted to conquer the Toucan Twist water slide, a medium sized one, perfect for an almost 7 year old. I told him I would go first and catch him. We did this over and over before we headed over to the pirate ship and the kids played while my husband and our friends lounged on chairs watching them and chatting.

It wasn’t long before Max wanted to do that slide again and I said yes, again. He ran alongside me saying this time he would catch me. I smiled and laughing played my part “Will you? Meet me at the bottom!”

Suddenly, I realized the whole day had gone by and what was this I was having? Was this, fun? Real, genuine fun?!

Yes. That’s what I was having. I hadn’t thought about how I looked in my swimsuit all day. I wasn’t spending energy trying to hide that lovely varicose vein, I hadn’t even sucked in my stomach once!

No sooner than I thought this, I became overwhelmingly away of my thighs wobbling as I climbed the wooden steps. I heard my doctors voice in my head, “You’re skinny fat, do you know what that is? You’re not big, but you have a high level of fat. There’s not a lot of muscle. It’s not healthy.” Though I conquered my eating disorder ages ago, that comment hurt. All I heard was “You are fat.” Now every step I took I felt heavier, the curve of my belly, rounded from three babies grew outward with every moment. I felt big, I felt out of place, I felt like I couldn’t have any fun.

Just then my son grabbed my hand and with a big smile said, “I love love you!” He was so happy we were doing this together. With a quick wave from the lifeguard he headed down the fast moving slide with a smile back at me. "Ill catch you mommy!” he wailed, his voice washing away with the water as he slipped down the water tube.

I decided to take Taylor Swift’s advice and shake it off. I perched at the top of the Toucan Twist, and when I got the nod, I layed back, crossed my arms and my ankles just like instructed and swooshed my way around and around until I splashed into the pool where my son caught me.

I’ve never felt more beautiful.

Stephanie Dulli is a former actress and stand up comic who left Los Angeles for the suburbs of Maryland to raise her three kids with her husband Zach. She is director of the Washington, D.C. Listen to Your Mother Show, she blogs at Stephanie Says, and tweets to stave off Caillou Stockholm Syndrome and also manages to live with her mother in law. That may be her greatest accomplishment to date.

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Photo by: Mic/ Texas Leftist

You Want an Honest Peek at What Gay Marriage Looks Like?

June 27, 2015

It happened. Wow.

Many of our friends and family members are celebrating right now. My Mom just sent us a text message expressing her excitement about the decision from SCOTUS on marriage equality. To me, it’s always a beautiful thing when love wins.

For those wondering what gay marriage – which from now on will just be referred to as marriage – looks like, I wrote this post to fill you in. First though, some background.

We’ve been married, in one form or another, since 2003, having had our actual marriage ceremony (the non-legal one) on the beach in Maui. Then, a few years later we got our legal domestic partnership in Oregon (I think it was 2007?), and finally we were legally married in Illinois last year.

We’ve never needed paperwork to tell us who we are or to define our relationship. We’ve always known. And in fact, we’ve only actually had one ceremony, that day on the beach in Maui, just the two of us, all those years ago. The rest of it, for us, has just been about getting the paperwork, making it legal. And being legal matters because we wanted the same privileges when it comes to protections for each other, rights to be enjoyed, etc. We celebrated each time we took a step in that direction; each time we were afforded another set of rights, protections, and privileges. And we are celebrating again today, because now so many of our friends, if they choose to, can make that same legal commitment to each other. It’s a beautiful moment.

But what does “gay” marriage look like you ask? What exactly is “gay” marriage?

Every day we get up when the alarm goes off. We grumble a little, sometimes just laying there, petting the dogs, wishing it was a no alarm day. But it is, so we get up. We open the doggie door and put the water on for coffee. Coffee is essential. If there are dishes in the sink from the night before they get loaded into the dishwasher. The dogs get breakfast. My honey fires up her work computer in the office and gets to the task of ruling the world from her pajamas. I pay some bills and get an appointment made to get our Jeep serviced. Breakfast of some sort gets made. The morning goes on, turning into afternoon. Sometimes I run errands, we may get a visit from the grand kids, we take the dogs for a walk. In the spring and summer we find time to pull weeds in the garden, dead head some flowers, fill the bird feeders. We say hello to our mail lady and sometimes have a friendly chat with our neighbors as on both sides of the fence the barbecues get fired up to make dinner. We laugh together. We talk about our upcoming vacation and get excited about the places we’re going and the beauty we hope to see there. We talk about the news and the grandkids and our parents. My honey’s birthday is coming up and I’m excited about the present I got for her this year. She’s hard to buy for, but I think I did it right this time. I hope so. We make dinner, barbecuing some steaks, steaming some vegetables, and feed the dogs their dinner. They are, as always, excited about getting fed. We head down to the family room where we sit in our recliners, which are side by side, and watch whatever shows we happened to have recorded. I’m a huge fan of the tiny house shows at the moment so we usually watch one of them. My honey enjoys them too, but mostly I think she watches them because I love them. That’s how we are. We hold hands and pet the dogs who seem to always find their way onto our laps. We chat, we make each other laugh. Every day it seems we have to take turns emptying the dehumidifier which always seems to be full this time of year. My honey heads up to the kitchen and comes back down with some small sweet dessert. I throw in a load of laundry. We finish up our evening, wander back upstairs, do the dishes so they won’t be in the sink the next morning, make sure the dogs go out and then shut the doggie door. We turn off the lights, brush our teeth, and make our way back into bed. We flip on the tv for a little bit, the dogs snuggle in with us, we watch, we chat, we laugh, we say I love you, and then we shut off the tv and go to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll do it again. And the next day. And the day after that. It’s our life. Our beautiful, wonderful, regular life.

This is what marriage looks like.

Tamra Parker is a photographer and writer living in Central Illinois who loves nothing better than hanging out with her wife, grandkids, and their two crazy schnoodles. Follow Tam at her Blog, Tam’s Think Tank or her photography site, tj parker photography.

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Photo by: iStock

The Upside of Loving Someone with ADHD

June 26, 2015

Loving someone who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or any similar condition, is not always easy. There are definitely struggles, and arguments, and hard days when you love someone who is always moving, always thinking, always busy, and so easily distracted you can hardly stand it. This is especially true for someone like me, who is happy with a quiet room, a book, and nowhere to go and no one to talk to outside the people and stories I’m creating in my imagination.

The saying opposites attract is definitely true! My husband and son are the opposite of me in many ways. They are like me in other ways, but those ways are hidden beneath the layers of ADHD, so unless you’re close enough to love them you might miss them entirely.

A day that sounds heavenly to me, sounds like pure torture to them. Conversely, their dream day sounds totally exhausting to me.

But I count my blessings and thank God every day that I get to love someone with ADHD, and here are just a few of the reasons:

  • They have the ability to keep going and not give up because they get tired, or hungry. I’m like a cell phone, once my battery runs down, you’re not getting anything else out of me until I recharge. They are like the Energizer Bunny, they don’t give up until the job is done no matter how tired they get. They can accomplish an amazing number of things in the course of a single day or weekend when they set their minds to it!
  • They are so creative with their thinking. Often, where I see a wall that can’t be climbed they see a challenge that will be fun to tackle. Their never-give-up attitude is inspiring to me even when it secretly drives me crazy. I have seen my son build amazing things out of an empty cardboard box I would have tossed into the trash without a thought. I have seen my husband figure out a way to make our home remodel project work when I thought it was time to throw in the towel. The fact that their minds literally never rest, means they will always come up with something to do, or a solution to a problem one way or another.
  • They’re blessed with an endless curiosity and the world is their oyster. They’re constant curiosity means they are always looking for the next thing they can learn, or the next thing that will spark their interest. Physical challenges are their favorite, if there’s a new tree to climb, or a new trick to learn on his skateboard, my son is happy for hours upon hours! Just like they will push their minds to new limits, they will also push their body to meet new challenges.
  • My son is endlessly funny. He has such a unique way of looking at the world, and is always coming up with a creative way to see things that will leave me laughing. The endless “what if…” questions will make you see the world through his eyes and that’s a pretty beautiful way to see things.
  • If you don’t know anyone with ADHD, or don’t know much about it, this one might surprise you — but when their hyper-focus kicks in, their ability to tune out the entire world and focus on a single task is amazing to witness. (Granted I wish there was a little control over what the hyper-focus lasers in on, but I’ll just stand here in amazement anyway.)

I believe that people are put in our lives for a reason, whether that reason be that we need to learn a lesson from them, or they need to learn a lesson from us. I believe that my ADHD family members were sent to me to help push me outside of my comfort zone, into the world, and away from my happy place filled with books and stories I create in my head. They are blessings to me that I didn’t even know that I needed in my life.

I am truly blessed to love people with ADHD, and I envy their superpower more often than not!

Angela is a social media and online community professional who has always dreamed of being a writer. Blogging combines two of her passions, social media and writing! She blogs about anything that strikes her fancy and is always thrilled (and a little surprised!) when someone lets her know they enjoy reading her work. You can find her on her blog www.writermomblog.com, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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