Mamapedia National Voices

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

Photo by: iStock

The Older I Get, the More I Want the Things Money Can't Buy

December 19, 2014

What do I want for Christmas? That’s a question I get asked over and over each year. I never have an answer because I’ve never really been all that materialistic. Sure, I like to have this or that, but most often it’s something small that I usually buy for myself. The majority of my money that gets spent on me – a luxury, as any mom can attest – is usually blown on books. I like to read and write. Pretty simple stuff that doesn’t require much.

Lately, I’ve gotten to thinking, though. There are things I want, but no one is going to be able to hand them over Christmas morning. They simply can’t be given that way. Things I want are…

1. An end to Mom-Shaming.

I cannot express enough how exhausting and devastating this activity is. I hate it so much. Just the other day an older lady saw me buying a boxed item in the baking aisle and said, “You know, it’s just as easy to make that from scratch.” What the little old lady didn’t know is that my attempts at making this particular item from scratch have seriously BLOWN. Like, the dog wouldn’t eat it, kind of BLOWN. I can’t tell you how long I cried about my homeade attempts to make food I could buy in a box. All I can say is… I tried. That should count for something? Mom-shaming means that it doesn’t count, and that is unbearably sad. I’m not Martha Stewart, and that gene was not on the option when I went swimming in my genetic pool.

2. An end to fat-shaming.

Sitting at a restaurant the other day I heard a man ask his wife, “Who is that woman on TV that you watch? You know. The fat one?” That’s all the information his wife needed to name Rosie O’Donnell. Seriously. I nearly stabbed them with my fork. I hate that a person’s weight is what defines them to so many people. It’s truly one of the last acceptable prejudices. It makes me sick. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of Rosie O’Donnell, if your first descriptor of her is that she’s fat, the problem is YOU not HER. If you look at me and all you see is a fat woman, it’s time to consider deepening your pool, because yours is pretty damn shallow.

3. More of the ‘feminist love’ from my sons.

Tony came to me and said, “Mom, my friend shared a meme with me that said something about women needing to be in the kitchen. He thought it was funny. I didn’t get it. What does that even mean?”

My response: “What do you think it means?”

Tony: “The truth?”

Me: (nodding my head)

Tony: “That he’s an idiot.”

Seconds, please.

4. A confidence boost.

I want to stop feeling like I haven’t earned my place at the table. Any table. As a mom, writer, aunt, in-law, wife, friend and human being: I feel like I let people down more than I help. There are days that I win like a boss. There are days that I am barely holding on, trying not to circle the drain. Regardless of what day it is, I’ve done the work. I’ve put in the effort. I need that boost of confidence to help me say to myself, “You are enough.”

5. Less self-imposed stress.

I want to tie a blindfold around the eyes of my Type A personality, offer it one last smoke, and blow its brains against a wall. Nothing has to be perfect. There are no perfect people. We are all our own special brand of f#cked up. We should embrace that and go with the flow. I’ve lost sleep over the fact that someone visited my house and the carpet looked unswept. They came in and looked at the floor with disdain. You know what? They didn’t know that I swept twice that day. They didn’t know that my vacuum bag got full and, much to my chagrin, that was last damn bag I even owned. I didn’t have time to go get another one before they came over with their white gloves and scowl. So what if the dog fur collected in the corner looks like I murdered an old woman or spend my free time shearing dogs? I’ve done my absolute best and that should be all that anyone, especially me, expects.

6. More people going out of their ways to write nice comments.

This one sounds like a no-brainer. I have seen so many folks doing good things and putting goodness out into the world, but that all gets swept away by just one jerk being an idiot and leaving troll comments on articles I (or other writers) have written. It’s not hard to be nice, people. Seriously. I don’t agree with 90% of what I read on the internet. I only comment when I have something positive to add to the conversation, or if I can voice my opinion in a way that shows I’m a grown human being who disagrees with the author and showed up with my manners intact. If the only comments you can leave are your guesses about my I.Q., and how that is impacted by the color of my skin, then just keep on truckin’. Those are personal attacks, not opinions. No time for that B.S. here.

7. More love, less hate.

You’d think this one is a no-brainer, but it’s not. Who in this world couldn’t use a little more understanding, love or kindness? Who could deal with a lot less hate? There are easy answers to these easy questions, but somehow, as human beings, we lack follow-through. Some people get so blinded by their anger, or are so very married to their opinions, that they don’t take the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Hate grows like weeds. It needs no attention whatsoever to take over this world. Weeds choke out the flowers just like hate chokes out love. When given the right attention, and making a concerted effort to eradicate hate, love will bloom. Mightily. Heartily.

If I were to get everything on my list, in the immortal words of Louis Armstrong, what a wonderful world it would be.

Miranda Gargasz is a writer from a small suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio. She is a contributor at What the Flicka? and The Huffington Post. In February of 2014, she published her first collection of essays entitled ‘Lemonade and Holy Stuff’. You can read more on her Blog, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by: iStock

Battling the Holiday Bulge: It's About More than Just Yummy Food

December 18, 2014

There is something about this time of year that makes me want to eat. I realize with the holidays we all battle this. We are surrounded by desserts, delicious dishes, family foods, and drinks made to please the pallet. It’s more than that for me right now. I feel I am also not able to eat the foods I want on a daily basis.

The change of seasons has made grocery shopping less appealing for me. I love fruits and veggies. Have you seen how the fruits look this time a year?! Not only are they not as fresh and ripe as I would like, they are over priced. I find myself standing in front of the strawberries and blueberries pondering if I want to spend five dollars on them or keep walking. I am frugal in my shopping. I will bring a calculator and try to keep it at the allowed amount that day. When I see an item I want that I consider over priced, I sadly walk away.

It is important to me to eat healthy. It is equally, if not more, important for me to try to feed my children healthy foods as well. If you have a toddler, then you may know how hard it can be to feed them a balanced meal. Since both my boys love fruits I try to be sure I have an assortment in our house. These days, it’s slim pickings.

I have resorted to buying frozen fruits. They hold the same nutritional value, and when I use them in my daily smoothies, they taste just as good. Frozen fruit is cheaper and you can get a little more for your money. Bonus right?! Yes and no. Have you tried to thaw some strawberries to hand to your wee one? They are still on the mushy side. There really is nothing like fresh fruit! I love strawberry and blueberry season. Right now I am mourning both.

Vegetables, too, are not at their peak. Luckily my grocery store has a good selection, and I’m not as disappointing in this area. As with fruits, I am not one to buy canned veggies or frozen veggies. I keep a few on hand – the kids love peas – I just enjoy cooking and eating handful’s of fresh fruits and veggies. I am missing our box garden to pick from.

Also, the cold is now setting in and the nightly salad I would have with dinner is becoming less appealing to me. I want warmer, more comfort food these days.

My diet is a way of life for me. What I put into my body is important. I work at keeping myself in shape. I am not one that can eat whatever I want and not have it affect me. Since having children, my body needs extra attention. Let’s face it, I am not 21 anymore. There used to be a time it didn’t matter… I am no longer in that time.

I have surrendered myself to the fact that during the holiday season I may gain a few extra pounds. I am okay with that. I do believe in indulging! Over the next couple of weeks there will be gatherings with friends and family, and I fully intend to enjoy these times without restrictions. It doesn’t mean that doesn’t come with guilt though. (I will be honest, I get food-guilt after consuming that piece of chocolate cake or had that extra glass of wine.)

This just means I will work a little harder after the holidays. It is me against the battle of the holiday bulge. I will win in the end!

What do you do to fight the holiday/ winter bulge? How to you satisfy your craving for fresh foods and stay away from the cookies?

I am the mother of two amazing creatures, my boys. I am a SAHM, and also work part-time as a Veterinary Technician. I am the creator of the blog, Discovering Me In Them, and author for VT Mommies. I am addicted to running, love taking pictures, and enjoy good food, beer and wine. You can also find me on Facebook.

Photo by:

Admit It... The Toys You Buy Your Kids are for YOU: A Retro Toy Guide

December 17, 2014

Admit it: you don’t buy toys for your kids. Oh, you purchase mounds of them all right. But they aren’t for the rugrats gathered ‘round the Christmas tree. Nope. You buy toys for yourself. Oh, the kids might play with the toys, but we’re living vicariously. It’s a hard truth. It’s an embarrassing truth. But that stuffed sloth? That was all about me, people.

Toy companies have finally gotten hip to this truth.

So, this Christmas, Matel and company have rolled out some serious 80s and 90s toy envy. Buy yourself the childhood you always wanted with this year’s top toy picks – for you, not them.

Star Wars

Han, Luke, and Chewie are back. There’s an animated series. There’s a new movie on the horizon. And Lucas & Co. knows you’ll succumb to the siren song of a plastic Jabba the Hutt figure. While the new stuff might confound you – who the hell is Ezra Bridger? – you’ll find plenty of the old school trilogy to keep you happy. I hear Target’s even stocking a limited edition, super-slutty Slave Leia.


Sure, Barbie never died. She’s sexist, unrealistic, with proportions that would make it impossible for her to even stand. But the accessories! Buy that Barbie Dreamhouse. Buy the pink corvette. She’s an astronaut. She’s a fairy. You can buy her a unicorn. Because, somehow, that acid-trip pink explosion was never complete without a unicorn.

My Little Pony

These ponies definitely look, well, sluttier than the ponies of yore. They’ve somehow contracted Barbie’s eating disorder and acquired anime-freak eyes. But you can brush their manes. That’s all you ever cared about, anyway.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Heroes in a halfshell! Turtle power! These make exactly as much sense as they did when you were ten. But just like when you were ten, you totally don’t care, because you can buy a strap-on shell and some nunchucks.

Giant Stuffed Animals

I mean, these were always around, but your parents never bought them for you. You really, really, really wanted that life-size stuffed dog, didn’t you? Your parents bought you the tiny one instead. You knew they couldn’t afford the big one, but dammit you really wanted that dog. Buy your kids a five foot tall Melissa and Doug giraffe to assuage that inner child.

Care Bears

Ah, the rainbow-colored fuzzy bears that live in the clouds and shoot love from their bellies. Like many products from the 1980s, they can only be explained by the excessive use of cocaine. But damn if they aren’t fuzzy and cute. The reboot bears look much like the old ones, and even include Funshine Bear and Tenderheart Bear. I’m buying them right now, even if they are a thinly-veiled advertisement for ecstacy.

Old School Lego Sets

Screw all that canned complicated Lego bullshit. Lego Bricks & More are all simple sets meant to encourage the same messing around you always loved about Legos. Sit down and build without some super-confusing instructions and tiny, specific pieces. Or just say screw it, and buy your kids the Lego Millenium Falcon. The choice is yours.


Complicated bakery playsets that encourage eating the inedible? Or just a giant pack of dough in a rainbow of colors? The fun comes from mixing them all up, anyway. Roll it into snakes. Make a ball. Feels good, doesn’t it? Only now you’re the one scrubbing it out of the carpet.

Easy Bake Oven

Complicated bakery playsets that encourage eating the marginally edible. You could always let your kids use the real oven, but where’s the fun in that? The Easy Bake oven’s so much cuter. Bonus: your kid can scar themselves the same way you did two decades ago. Sort of like matching tattoos, except burn marks!

Snoopy Snow Cone Maker

Grind the ice. Cover in dye-laden, artificially flavored syrup. Eat. It’s still a pain in the ass to turn that crank, but damn it: you’re eating a snowcone. For almost thirty bucks, you’ll use it twice. But snowcones!

Cabbage Patch Dolls

Your parents beat each other up to buy one for you. Now you can purchase identical dolls at Target, complete with weird birth certificates and Xavier Roberts signed across the ass. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. But their creepy mythology and unsatisfyingly unbrushable yarn hair remains.

What retro toys are you buying this holiday season?

A mama to three sons, 4 and under, Elizabeth dropped out of academia to procreate and spend way too much time tie-dying. A certified educator with Babywearing International, she still misses teaching freshman English. Elizabeth practices attachment parenting out of sheer laziness, and writes about social justice and crunchy parenting at Manic Pixie Dream Mama. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, xojane, Mamapedia, Today Show Parents, and

Photo by: iStock

What Happened When We Tried to Raise Our Kids Without Believing in Santa

December 16, 2014

When my oldest was a toddler, the question my friends and I asked one another at Christmas was: Will you do Santa? And if so, how and when? If not, what will you tell your kids?

My husband and I decided (well, I obsessed, decided, told him what we were doing, and then he agreed) that we weren’t going to lie to our kids. Christmas could be magical without the big man in a red suit coming down our chimney. We decided Santa would NOT be a part of our Christmas traditions.

Oh, we were so naive.

Our plan was fine and good until my son went to preschool. One day, he came home and told me Santa was coming in a few weeks. I told him, “Your mom and dad give you presents because we love you. Santa is a myth, and he’s a lot of fun, but he’s not really coming to your house.”

My son argued with me. “No. My teacher said Santa’s real, and he’s coming soon.” I repeated my line about parents and love and presents. He shook his head emphatically. “Watch,” he said. “Santa is bringing presents.”

Thankfully on Christmas morning, he really didn’t notice, or care, who’d left presents under the tree. He opened, and enjoyed them, without bringing Santa up again.

But the protests continued. His younger brother was equally convinced we were wrong about Santa, and every Christmas someone would argue with us about it. We watched the story of Saint Nicholas and talked about the origin of the Santa story; we lit Advent candles and read the Nativity story. I wanted them to understand what we were really celebrating at Christmas. I didn’t Santa to steal the show.

But as I looked at the season through their eyes, I saw why they were so sure I was wrong. Santa was everywhere. I mean, everywhere – in their cartoons, in their coloring books, on lighted front lawns, on cereal boxes, on billboards along the road – you couldn’t walk ten yards without running into a Santa Claus in December.

I had been naive to think I could tell them the truth, and they would believe my words over the thousand images around them. Of course they believed in Santa. He was everywhere they looked.

These days, I tell my kids something different.

I tell them Santa represents the spirit of giving. Christmas is all about giving – we give presents to the people we love and we fill our lives with magic and wonder, because a long time ago a baby was born who would change the world for everyone. The world around you isn’t lying to you. Santa is real. Because giving is real, and magic and wonder are real. Christmas is the one time of the year when the whole world – both secular and religious – celebrate together. If you want to believe in Santa, please do. Don’t ever give up on the spirit of giving – it is one of the best ideas in all of life.

When my kids were babies, I thought telling them the truth about Santa was best for them. Now I see how the truth is simpler than that. Religious and secular views aren’t at odds right now. It’s the one time of year we all celebrate the spirit of giving together… and that celebration takes the form of a big man in a red suit. And my kids, thank goodness, are believers.

I am Stephanie – mom to four beautifully rambunctious little kids and wife to a guy who still makes me smile. Last spring I moved to Colorado, where I fell in love with the mountain air and the Anglican church. If you have ever abandoned religion in search of faith, ever had to leave your hometown to find your home, or ever climbed to the very tip-top of a jungle gym to rescue an overzealous toddler, come sit by me. We’ll talk. You can visit my blog at A Wide Mercy.

Photo by: iStock

Chicken Nuggets and Feeling Your Feelings

December 15, 2014

If I’ve done one thing right as a mother, it’s been telling my kids that it’s okay to feel however you feel. We talk about feelings constantly in our house, and my kids are encouraged to express how they feel whenever the impulse arises.

Which is basically all the f-ing time. But whatevs, it’s how we do around here.

My husband and I spend quite a bit of time guiding the kids toward modes of expression that don’t hurt other people physically or emotionally, and we make it clear that while they’re allowed to scream and yell about how angry or sad they are about a rule or decision we’ve made, they can’t always do those things in the same room as us; we can tolerate high-pitched screaming in close proximity for only so long.

Just this morning, Isla pitched a truly epic fit because I wouldn’t let her get school lunch. “I KNOW WHY I CAN’T HAVE IT!” she screamed. “BECAUSE YOU DON’T LIKE THE FARMS WHERE THE CHICKEN COMES FROM!”


“Yes. You’re right. It’s okay that you’re mad. You can get as mad as you want. I’m proud of you for showing me how you feel.”

She proceeded to jump up and down, screech until my eardrums said, Hey, SHUT IT, and then rolled around on the floor begging and kicking and screaming for chicken nuggets.

This went on for so very, very long.

Finally, I offered, “If I showed you videos of where the chicken live, you’d have nightmares. That’s how bad their lives are.”

“I wanna see!” enthused Osiah, who, at 4.5 years old, enjoys watching snakes eat rats on YouTube.

So I showed them. Bringing a bit of real into things is, again, how we do up in here. After watching, my girl quieted a bit, pondering the deeper implications of why I might not want her to eat the government-issued chicken nuggets. (Note: I’ve let her eat these very nuggets many times before. But we’re trying to live more consciously these days, which isn’t always more convenient, especially when tantrums result.)


By pick-up this afternoon, all was well. “Did you do okay at lunch, honey?” I asked gently.

“I felt a little sad when I saw the other kids eating their chicken nuggets,” she said. And that was that; she ran off to play Push-Each-Other-Over with her brother.

My kids have a clear concept of “The Golden Middle,” as I call it, or, the piece of divinity I believe sits inside of every person, waiting to shine. We talk about what we can do to help dig for others, and about what we can do to stop dirt from collecting on our own Golden Middles.

Moreover, I believe with utter confidence that, in the majority of circumstances, a kid that feels good emotionally will behave well. I’ve used this idea as a compass with my children, taking note of the direction of their moods and actions; when I feel out of control as a mother, my children act like they’re living without the comfort of sturdy boundaries – because, in those moments, they are. When I can get really Zen with it, when the tantrums don’t fluster me and the “You’re the worst Mama EVER!”s zing their way across the kitchen without stinging a bit, they see that all is well and tend to act that way soon after experimenting with hating me.

The other night, Isla told me about how a girl named Molly (not her real name, obvs), a fellow first-grader, had brought her to tears with her words. More had gone on later at recess, and my girl was confused by the whole scene. We talked about why people sometimes act like Molly acted. I told her stories from my own childhood, when, in fifth and sixth and seventh grades, I was Molly. “I didn’t feel good a lot of the time, and I thought that I’d feel better if I made other people feel bad, too.”

“But it didn’t work?” she asked.

“No. It didn’t work.”

Without knowing much about Molly’s life or circumstances, we spoke in generalizations. We talked about how, a lot of the time, people who feel bad on the inside act icky on the outside. We talked about how it’s possible that Molly senses that Isla usually feels good on the inside, and how that could make someone jealous.

We talked about the stuff of life.

“Mama, do I need to change things about me because Molly’s mean to me?”

I kept my gasp under wraps and held my daughter’s face in my hands. “Never, ever change who you are because it makes someone else uncomfortable. If you feel icky on the inside? Then you make a change. But when you don’t have dirt on your Golden? And you’re acting in a loving way? That never needs to change.”

She smiled, relieved.

We have a responsibility. We owe it not only to our kids, but to the fabric of our quilted-together communities to teach our young people how to process their feelings – how to sit with discomfort, how to express it, and how to move on from it.

And that has to start with us, the adults in their lives. Because our children? They see like we do, they act like we do, and they say like we do. If we’re living muted, plugged emotional lives, they will too. It’s up to us – because we are the ones with the current shot at parenting – to set a new standard, to create new expectations.

Instead of telling our children to ignore bad behavior in others, instead of telling them to just get over the chicken nuggets already, we’ve got to encourage them to tell us how they feel.

Even if how they feel is inconvenient and stomp-y and shriek-y. Because we’re not just raising kids here – we’re bringing forth the next generation of adults. And I want to live among the feelers.

Emily Ballard is a writer and spiritual searcher who’s way into tattoos, espresso, raucous laughter, great food, and interesting people. She writes as honestly as she can about her gritty and her pretty because she believes that truth breeds connection, and connection is where it’s at. Check out Emily’s Facebook page, where she tries to be funny, real, and as brave as she can be. You can also find her on Instagram.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.