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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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15 Halloween Costumes that TRULY Terrify Every Parent

October 30, 2014

When I was 19 I went on a local Haunted Hayride. I left bruises on my boyfriend’s arm from grabbing him when something jumped out and scared me. I was honestly terrified. Twelve years, and mulitple children later, I went on the same ride. I was surprised at how little frightened me on this still, REALLY convincingly scary hayride. Then I realized, the days of being scared by people in masks and fake blood are gone because now I have kids and I know what REAL fear is.

The following things aren’t scary until AFTER you have kids. If one of these things came to my door, I’d probably pee in my pants and hide.

Prepare to scream, slam the laptop shut in fear, and never look at your kids the same way again. Because unlike Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhies, these horrors really do exist … and might actually come knocking on your door one day. I proudly present every parent’s nightmare… in costume form:

1. Head Lice

Deva at My Life Suckers horrifies us with the itchy sensation of head lice! All kids are at risk, and parents never know when it will strike! The only treat I would be giving is prescription hair shampoo!

2. The Girl at Mardis Gras with Beads up to Her Ears

Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense strikes fear into the hearts of every parent with this costume. No Mom wants to think about her daughter flashing “the goods” for beads while she gulps down Hurricanes and Hand Grenades in the French Quarter.

3. Teen with PMS

Those of us with daughters know that the day will come when they hit puberty, and with puberty… comes PMS. The thought of two PMSing daughters clashing with my own haywire hormones is enough to strike me down with fear. Traci from A Day in the Life of a Drama Queen’s Momma reminds us to give her the chocolate-covered Midol so NO ONE GETS HURT!

4. The Teen Who Gets Brought Home by the Police

Uh-Oh. No matter how old our kids get, Julianna from Rants from Mommyland reminds us that we never want to meet this angry face at the front door with our spawn in handcuffs…. although, if it does happen, mine had better be begging for mercy instead of candy.

5. The Freshman Girl Who Goes to Prom with a Senior

It’s scary to contemplate our kids entering the minefield of teenage dating, and even more terrifying when a Senior dude asks your precious little Freshman daughter to Prom. My husband, The High Roller at Herd Management, might follow them to the dance, shotgun in hand, instead of just waiting on the front porch for them to get home.

6. The Neighbor with Twenty Kids and a Yard Full of Dog Poop

Most of us want our kids to have friends over to play occasionally but there are always those moms who take advantage of our hospitality. These women think it’s perfectly acceptable to drop off their gaggle of kids at our houses, unannounced, so they can go do fun things. Lynn at Nomad Mom Diary depicts the terrifying scenario of the neighbor with a Duggar amount of kids showing up on your door attempting to dump said kids as she flicks a cigarette into your petunias.

7. Common Core Math Homework

Just ask any parent with a kid in elementary school – math homework was hard enough before Common Core went and blew all logic and practical reasoning to hell – now it’s an absolute nightmare to have Common Core Math Homework enter your front door. In this picture, Stephanie at When Crazy Meets Exhaustion correctly gives the answer to ALL CC Math problems…

8. A Chemist … with a Meth Lab

There’s a whiz kid in every neighborhood or group who’s cooking up something in his basement that he shouldn’t be messing with. You REALLY don’t want to see HIM at your door because he’s probably going to play a trick on you or let your kids sample his treats." Jessica at "Science of Parenthood reveals the horror that awaits if you don’t have his favorite candy in the bowl.

9. College Expenses

As much as we all want our kids to excel and get into a good college, when that acceptance letter comes through the door, every single dime you’ve been saving runs out to meet it. Michelle at Mommy Back Talk shows us the deceptively sweet disguise of financial ruin.

10. The Pet Hoarding Neighbor

Everyone hates it when the neighbor with a ridiculous amount of pets allows them to run wild and leave treats" all over everyone else’s lawn. Ashley at "Big Top Family reminds us of the disgusting and smelly facts of living next to a pet hoarder…

11. YOU… as a Teen

((Sigh)) Perhaps one of the hardest realizations in parenting is that we are raising a child EXACTLY like ourselves… and that struggle multiplies when a daughter starts dating a sketchy dude she met at Target and she LOVESSSSSS him. Amanda from Questionable Choices in Parenting shows us the horror she might be looking at in a few years when her daughter becomes the teenager she once was.

12. The Boomerang Kid

Oh No… you’ve sent them off to college with all they needed to succeed and the beer-drinking good times have gotten the best of their grades and um, admission status. Chrissy from Full Metal Mommy shows us the horror of “They’re BACCCCKKK”… with laundry bag and guitar in hand.

13. The Stomach Flu

No. NO NO NO NO NO! When the stomach flu comes knocking at your door, you SLAM it. Kathryn at Foxy Wine Pocket shows the nasty effect a stomach virus can have on a holiday.

14. That Person at the Door Who Just Needs a “Minute” of Your Time

Jennifer at Real Life Parenting makes us remember the times we wish others would keep the “opportunity” of their treats to themselves, because whenever they knock on your door and need just a “minute” of your time to change your life with insurance or a new business or innovative productive or a Watchtower pamphlet… your kids will run around destroying your house while you’re held hostage at the door… for much more than just a minute.

15. Toddlers That Won’t Sleep

All parents know the pain of sleep deprivation. Stacia at Dried On Milk shows us the adorable mask of nightly terror!

Just like we never really know what’s waiting behind the door when we hear a knock, or who’s really behind the mask of a Halloween disguise, we also never know what Tricks or Treats will be waiting for us along the perilous journey of parenthood.

Have a great Halloween with your kids. Enjoy them in their adorable costumes, and try not to think about the horrors that lurk beyond the happiness of the evening.

Like the Halloween Candy detox.

Jessica McNeill Azar, author of the popular blog, Herd-Management.com, is a happily married SAHM to four kids ages 8, 6, 5 and 2. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Minor in Writing from Auburn University Montgomery, is a Huffington Post Contributing Blogger and also writes for websites like Venn Magazine, Scary Mommy, and BLUNTMoms. Her work will appear in three humor anthologies that will be published later this year. Jessica is also a NickMom Brand Ambassador. As a writer and Mental Health Advocate, Jessica is co-authoring an Anthology called Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor, due out in March 2015. She enjoys running, and drinking single malt Scotch in the evenings to soothe her kid-rattled nerves. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Is Your Vagina a Fixer-Upper?

October 29, 2014

The other day I asked my husband how I was looking “down there”. He thought about it for a minute, and then used the words, “homey, charming and slightly rustic” to describe my womanly real estate.

Apparently my vagina is a fixer-upper. What was once the jewel of the neighborhood has turned into a shabby lean-to with an overgrown lawn and a leak problem.

Now I’m sitting here on the couch with my laptop wondering what I should do about it? Should I embrace it’s warm feelings of home-cooked meals and echoes of children’s laughter? Or is it time for a complete overhaul?

I put my browser into incognito mode, because I seriously do not need enhanced vagina ads chasing me all over the internet, and then I do a little search.

“Vaginal Rejuvenation”

It seems I have a few options:

Option #1: Back my truck WAY up and put the good old hymen back in place. Tempting? Let’s see… I remember nervous laughs, fumbling, pawing and a final act that arrives before I even get seated. No. Not tempting. Not at all.

Option #2: Buccal (oral) mucosa. My husband couldn’t imagine a better renovation plan if he tried. Basically, they take some tissue from inside your cheek, as in face, and move it down to shore up the walls of the love canal. So… If I opt for this one can I get credit for a BJ every time we have sex? Tempting… but no. Because ick.

Option #3: The good old labiaplasty. A few snips here, some extra support beams there and suddenly my hooha is ready to be shown off at parties. Just one minor problem: decreased sensation. Aww man, you have GOT to be kidding me. What’s the point of building a mcmansion if I gotta sleep on a blow-up mattress inside it?

Option #4: I don’t have any clue what option 4 is because I accidentally clicked on the image search tab and now I’m clawing my eyeballs out.

I could start with a snip, and a stitch, and move on to a nip, and a tuck; round it out with a lift, and then tone and shine the whole package up with collagen and botox injections. I’d be a blow-up doll with the pleasure sensations to match. But let’s face it, no matter how much reconstructing I do, the lot that this vagina is sitting on is showing its age.

I pop up to the loo to take a gander at the old girl and see if there might be a slightly less invasive solution I could consider. A few minutes with the weed-wacker, a couple of coats of shimmer body paint and I’m starting to feel like a new old woman.

Maybe I have this all wrong. My vagina is not a fixer-upper. It’s a family home, full of character, rich with history, and, most importantly, the only damn place my husband is guaranteed to find comfort on a cold night.

Lynn Morrison is a smart-ass American raising two prim princesses with her obnoxiously skinny Italian husband in Oxford, England. If you’ve ever hidden pizza boxes at the bottom of the trash or worn maternity pants when not pregnant, chances are you’ll like her blog The Nomad Mom Diary. You can also find Lynn over on Facebook, Twitter and in the awesome new book ‘I Just Want to Be Alone’.

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Why Homework in Elementary School is a Bad Idea

October 28, 2014

My family recently had an extraordinarily good week. It was more relaxing, less stressful, and more harmonious than usual. I am saddened by the reason why — my third grader had a significantly reduced homework load last week. The weekly homework packet did not go out as usual due to parent-teacher conferences, a third grade musical and an early release day. Instead of a 5-page packet with language, spelling, math, and writing activities, 4 daily math homework sheets, and a weekly reading log… we had two days of math homework and our weekly reading log. It felt like vacation.

Our afternoons and evenings were less chaotic and slower-paced, our weekends were free of the mandatory homework packet work, and we entirely avoided that “night-before-the-packet-is-due” freakout when we realize we’d procrastinated too long on the writing assignment. It dawned on me at the end of the week that we simply hadn’t experienced that familiar strain of rushing to get homework done. It had been such a pleasant treat. And next week, it would be back to normal. I felt depressed.

The weekly homework packet isn’t terribly difficult, but it is time consuming. The kids complete several pages of spelling and vocabulary work, and then there is a fun! math game that generally takes for freaking ever. It usually involves dice, colored pencils, 45 minutes that I don’t have, and a glass of Syrah. After that comes the writing assignment, which as a writer myself I don’t dislike, but it also takes quite a bit of time, as the kids are expected to first brainstorm ideas, then revise and proofread their work, and finally neatly write or type (Ohmygawd have you ever stood behind a third grader and watched them type 5 sentences? 20 solid minutes of restraining yourself from intervening and screaming, “Jesus take the wheel!”)

And here’s the sad reality, folks — we don’t even have it as bad as some other elementary school students. A close friend of mine has a second grader at another school, and in addition to 4 days a week of math homework, they also have regular spelling homework, the reading log, and a Physical Education Log. That’s right—they’re expected to log their child’s physical exercise. If it were me, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from scrawling snide and passive-aggressive entries such as “Johnny ran across the yard 42 times today!” or “Suzy jumped on the couch for 8 whole minutes while watching Austin and Ally!” Can you even imagine having to record that stuff?

I am fully aware that my anti-homework stance will be interpreted by some as whiny and lazy. Perhaps so. Maybe my attitude even merits being slapped with a condescending hashtag: I mean, if too much homework doesn’t qualify as a #FirstWorldProblem, what does? It’s right up there with me lamenting that my minivan needs an oil change and I don’t have time between my mani-pedi and Zumba class. (That’s a lie, by the way. I don’t get manicures and I suck at Zumba.)

But what if it’s about more than just an irritated working mother being pissed off that Homework Time has become the new Happy Hour? (Because, duh, you likely need to pour a cocktail to survive it.) What if it really is a bad idea in general to have such rigorous homework expectations for kids in the primary grades? Beneath any layer of laziness and annoyance, I honestly believe that too much homework is absolutely the wrong thing for our children. Here are a few reasons why:

1. There is plenty of time for children to learn the value of hard work outside of school when they’re a little bit older. When do our children get time to just be kids, the way we did 30 years ago? Parents who were raised in the 70s and 80s enjoyed so much more unstructured time than this generation of children does, and I personally don’t know anyone who had regular homework in elementary school in 1984. And for crying out loud, we turned out just fine. Let’s let kids be kids, and other clichés about things “going so fast.” Because it’s true.

2. Many parents aren’t equipped to help their children with homework. I’m not just talking about the plight of the two-working-parent family and a lack of hours in the day. For those of us children of the 70s and 80s, the math our kids are learning is a completely different ballgame. We memorized problems, a practice that is discouraged in most elementary schools today. I know there are a plethora of angry Facebook groups of “Parents Against the Common Core!” but I’m not here to dispute that the “new math” is a solid program. Most of my teacher friends swear that it is a superior method of instruction, and I believe them. But most parents haven’t the first clue how to help our kids do it the “right way,” and nothing infuriates a first grader more than their parent using the wrong lingo during homework time. We parents don’t get a tutorial on how to teach this stuff, so if a 6-7 hour school day, 5 days a week, isn’t enough time for a child to learn a new concept, they shouldn’t be learning it. Expecting parents to have the necessary skills to back up a new style of learning is setting everyone up for failure.

3. In our too-busy culture, there simply isn’t time for daily homework. I personally do not belong to the “over-scheduled family” club; it’s just too much for my sensitive temperament. Our third grader has one weekly dance class, and her poor three-year-old sister does jack squat outside of preschool. But that’s another pressure lurking in the cul-de-sac of modern families: aren’t we supposed to be doing at least one sport, learning a foreign language, perhaps a martial art, and obviously an instrument, too? Shouldn’t our child be playing competitive soccer on the weekends, traveling for gymnastic meets, and meeting weekly for Spanish club? Aren’t we supposed to be enriching our children’s lives, if not preparing them to look good on their college applications? And shit, I forgot all about Scouts, and church youth group, and let’s be mindful that if we don’t preserve “Family Meal Time” every night, our kids will turn into narcissists! And we can just forget about that archaic practice of “playing with one’s friends.” That’s so 20th century.

4. It puts too much pressure and stress on children. When a first grader is in tears regularly because he or she can’t figure out their daily math homework, something is wrong. My daughter is not in the coveted GT (gifted and talented) program, but she does just fine in school; she is a good student and a great reader. Given that she has frequently become frustrated with homework in the past few years, I can only imagine the feeling of dread that accompanies homework time for the family of a student with learning or attention challenges or special needs.

Maybe I sound like another angry mom who’s tired of being too busy. But I don’t really believe this is about me. What are we teaching our kids by putting so much on their plates at such a young age? What is there to be gained from it? There are other ways of teaching our children responsibility and work ethic. To be honest, I’m not even sure where to direct my frustration. The amount of homework given is not the directive of one teacher, or even the school itself. It begins with the district, the state, and even national standards. Many parents feel that there is nothing we can do to make a change. I am not in opposition to homework altogether — by all means, let’s give them a reading log, the occasional special project, and maybe even a night or two of math homework. But I believe that anything more than that is excessive. It’s counterproductive, it’s unnecessarily stressful, and it’s contributing to the very real phenomenon of families stretched to their breaking points.

Stephanie Sprenger is a writer, music therapist, and mother of two young girls. She blogs at Mommy, for Real about the imperfect reality of surviving the daily grind with kids, and is the co-editor of the new anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. She can also be found squandering her precious free time on Facebook and Twitter.

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How I Became a Mom Who Still Breastfeeds Her Toddler

October 27, 2014

I don’t fancy myself some hippie chick, though I really wish I was. I wish I made granola from scratch and mixed up my own organic deodorant. I wish I composted my garbage and my closet was filled with stylishly chic, long, flowing, flowery skirts. But alas, my cabinets are filled with canned soups, boxed cereals (probably filled with GMO corn though I’m afraid to check) and I create a frightening amount of trash I hope actually gets recycled. I put God knows what chemicals on my skin and countertops to “clean” and my wardrobe consists of short and t-shirts from Old Navy. I have vinegar to clean but my use of it is spotty at best. My spirit is hippie. My person is not.

So conceptually, I knew I wanted to nurse my children. But no pressure. I have sisters and friends who made it clear that nursing is not as natural as it may seem. I was formula fed and I turned out okay.

Lucky for me, my oldest was an “easy” baby. He liked to sleep. After some initial hurdles, including mastitis and a healthy dose of new mom paranoia, we figured out nursing relatively quickly. I was lucky enough to stay home with him until he turned six months, and then I went back to work. I made every effort to pump, learning how to do so in some pretty ridiculous circumstances (driving in the car, huddled in a public bathroom, trying to make dinner). But pumping, and working, and day care was difficult. As we limped to the 12 month mark, I seriously considered ceremoniously bashing the pump. Popular opinion suggested that nursing for one year is ideal and when we reached that milestone, it felt like both my son and I were more than ready to move on (my hippie spirit was slightly sad).

I knew there was a growing number of women who nursed for longer but they were eccentric Hollywood moms and fringe moms who were testing societal norms. These were the REAL hippie moms who never used a stroller but effortlessly swaddled their babies in wraps and quoted books about African tribes where kids never cry. These were the moms who never gave their kids sugar, never said no, and were horrified if you didn’t co-sleep. (They seemed judge-y even though many probably were not.)

I didn’t really care if I saw a toddler breastfeeding, but with my own toddler happily running, jumping and drinking independently, it just seemed strange to me. I saw the cover of Time magazine with the little boy standing next to his mother breastfeeding. I didn’t find it offensive. I just couldn’t see myself nursing someone who was more like a little boy than a little baby. I knew moms who were breastfeeding their 18 and 24 month olds and I was the epitome of “great for you, just not for us.”

Until it was.

My second was born a mere 18 months after our first, and just a couple of months before we relocated to Shanghai, China. My second didn’t take to a bottle the way my first, and since I knew I wasn’t going back to work in the immediate future, I thankfully, gloriously, didn’t pump. My second was more fidgety, less sleepy and less mild mannered than my first. Nursing became my go-to soothing technique. He plumped up and chilled out. We survived flights around the world by nursing. We slept through the night nursing. We found quiet in nursing.

He kept growing and we kept nursing. Faced with other upcoming 15 hour flights, neither of us were ready to wean. He was reaching the 12 month mark but still nursing regularly. He’d drink out of sippy cup but still wanted to nurse. Maybe it was because I was home with him. Maybe it was because I had never pumped with him but nursing seemed natural and normal. It kept him happy which made me happy.

He started walking but we kept nursing. It was the easiest way to get him to sleep and still the easiest way to calm him when he’d get upset. We were down to three times a day and that felt normal. “When are you going to stop,” family and friends would ask with a just a hint of “this is weird” laced into the question. I didn’t know. It didn’t seem strange to me. I completely understood it was weird to others but when it’s your own child and your own body, it’s not weird. Just as wiping anyone else’s bum, cleaning their nose with your bare hand, and drinking water that clearly has bits of someone else’s leftovers is weird… until it’s your own child.

My son started talking more, and more clearly, but still wanted to nurse, not always and he didn’t always need it to calm down. He started drinking cow’s milk and eagerly drank from a sippy cup. But still, he wanted to nurse. Trying to wean him when he clearly didn’t want to started to seem the strange thing to do.

He’s two and a half now. He goes to school. He runs and jumps and speaks in full sentences. We still nurse. Mostly just before bed, and in the early morning when he wakes up cranky and too early. I know we are at the point where it is strange to people who feel just as I used to feel. But I can’t see it that way anymore. The reflection back is not the mother/son duo on the cover of Time magazine, it’s just me and my baby.

People say women who breastfeed toddlers are doing it for selfish reasons. That somehow we want to keep our babies babies, or that it is filling some desire to still feel maternally needed. Somehow, after the AAP’s recommended 12 months, people have concluded that breastfeeding then becomes more about my needs, not my child’s. Those arguments seem ridiculous to this mother who is breastfeeding her toddler.

I’m ready to give it up when he is. I know he is getting older, his needs are changing and at some point we will stop. I don’t know when that is. I have tried to push him to stop, but really, what’s the point? So I don’t have to make other people uncomfortable? He’s going to go off to college independently. He is going to go off to second grade independently. He is not currently traumatized nor will he end up with deep-seeded mommy-issues. (Ok, he might, but probably not because of this. He’s not yet three. I have plenty more time to screw him up.) In fact, I’m giving him all sorts of physical and emotional benefits by continuing.

I am not practicing Attachment Parenting or Baby Wise or Dr. Sears or Dr. Ferber or any other parenting style or theory as outlined in some book. I’m not trying to make some political statement about women’s rights and modern-motherhood. Like everyone else, I’m just doing what feels best for my kid.

And so, here I am – just a regular, normal, pro-vaccination, semi-organic, non-hippie, not eccentric Hollywood mother who is breastfeeding her toddler. Also, maybe hoping to normalize and de-stigmatize a practice that really should become more mainstream.

Kathleen Siddell has been living with her husband and two boys in Shanghai, China. She is excited to be relocating to Singapore this summer. While she resists the term ‘mommy blogger,’ she reluctantly admits she is a mom with a blog. Follow her family’s adventures at Avery’s Adventures.

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Photo by: Toys R Us

Breaking Bad Action Figures? What Were They Thinking?!?

October 26, 2014

I don’t want to break bad all over your Breaking Bad action figures, but who came up with the idea of meth lab action figures?

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the Florida woman who launched a Change.org petition challenging the sale of Breaking Bad dolls at Toy ‘R’ Us. By last Thursday morning, she succeeded in convincing the toy store chain to pull from the shelves what was bound to be the hot Christmas item of the year.

From what I gathered on Facebook, my primary news source, people seemed to think the woman’s actions were a little extreme. I mean, I wouldn’t have worked up a petition (because I just don’t care enough), but I can’t say I entirely disagree with her either.

Listen, I love Breaking Bad as much as the next Netflix streamer, but selling drug-dealing dolls complete with mini meth strikes me as a little odd. What really got me were the accessories. I can almost see a toy company manufacturing Walter White and Jesse Pinkman dolls because, really, who doesn’t want those lovable characters? I might even stock up on them before the Black Friday stampede on the toys. But something about a toy store selling a bag of mini crystal meth and a wad of cash – even though they are completely adorable – seems to be in bad taste.

That’s one boardroom meeting I would have liked to sat in on. I can hear the marketing team now, “Oh, I know! Let’s package it with little, miniature meth crystals. That’ll be cute!”

The president’s eyes would widen, “Yeah, and a tiny gas mask to go with it because you can’t make meth without a mask? Safety first! And kids can take it on and off for more realistic play.”

“Maybe we can even do a tie-in with Mattel for girls. You know, like Meth-head Barbie.” The marketing exec replies, now seeing the drug-dealing toy market coming together. Sweeping an arm in front of her to paint a picture, “She’s all strung out and has to prostitute herself to get a fix. Her name is Crystal and she’s the perfect blend of Business Barbie and Bratz Doll.” She places both hands on the glass-top table and looks back at the president, “We don’t want anyone saying the toy is sexist because it excludes girls. This is a toy for every child.”

To be fair the toy chain, along with some others, have argued the product’s packaging “clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up.” So not to worry parents. Except that I’m a bit confused. That’s good because…?

I hate to point this out but isn’t that about the age parents might want to refrain from buying their kids drug-related toys? I’m no expert, but I believe it’s around that age when kids get curious and rebellious and arrogant and dumb and might be interested in pushing the limits and experimenting with illegal substances. I’m not sure that packaging information indicating that it’s intended for ages 15 and up – on a toy which glamorizes drug and criminal activity – really bolsters their case.

The store (and others) further argue the toys were “located in the adult action figure area.” This only creates another problem. Mainly, that there is an “adult action figure area” in the store. I don’t know which is more disturbing, the drug-dealing dolls or the adult market for action figures?

I understand Toy R Us may sell items to anyone, man or child, willing to pay the money, but I’m going to give Toys ‘R’ Us a little tip. If you have “Toys” in your name, don’t sell meth dolls. Ok?

Stacey is an award-winning writer and blogger who, without any guidance or advanced degrees in child psychology, single-handedly founded the Detached Parenting Movement. She writes about modern motherhood, providing incisive cultural commentary (otherwise known as common sense) on her blog, One Funny Motha.

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