PO BOX 294 Cranford NJ 07016 motherscentercnj@gmail.com

Rhythms and Rituals

When I first became a mom, my own mother assured me that I would quickly settle into a routine.  I, however, rolled my eyes. I didn’t want to the be the mom with a rigid schedule. I wanted to be spontaneous and embrace the freedom that being home with my kids provided.  And my always hungry, never tired, unpredictable first child seemed to agree. But much to my surprise, once a winter full of ear infections turned to spring, our spontaneous life began to organize itself around activities we repeated over and over, which I referred to as little “rituals”.

My particular favorite example is how a completely impractical and overpriced smoothie from Whole Foods became a regular part of this cheap girl’s Friday grocery shopping routine.  One day when feeling particularly exhausted, I bought us a smoothie as a treat because, a) I was pregnant with daughter #2 and starving, and b) it contained kale. My little grocery store runner astonished me by sitting in the cart drinking almost the whole thing herself and then staying put for the rest of the trip.  And now week after week, she insists on the same.

And so I started to wonder, what makes some random activities stick and become something more, something our kids demand to do over and over again?  

Now, while I am not one for routine, I am a planner.  And each year as the skies grow dark I start to feel the pressure to plan Christmas magic for my kids.  We celebrate outside of any religious traditions, so the options are endless. But just as during the early days home with my first child, the combination of great expectations and endless possibilities can leave me feeling adrift.  Our first few holiday seasons were filled with lots of magical moments, but also too long to-do lists, photo retakes, OCD gingerbread house disasters, and two exhausted parents crumbling under the pressure by Christmas Eve. They also contained surprises about what my daughter embraced and what she didn’t.

As she has grown, it has been her questions that have helped me most to focus our holiday effort and find the answer as to what transforms a one time event into a tradition.  She wondered why some of her friends celebrated different holidays or celebrate Christmas differently. My answer to her has been that though our traditions look different, we are all really celebrating the same thing: that which sustains us when times are dark – friends, family, memories of past obstacles overcome, music, laughter, ritual itself – whatever nourishes our souls. And I believe that it is also the answer as to why we hang on to these sometimes random little moments.  Something about it fulfilled a need we might not have even known we had and left an impression that’s worn deep into who we are.

And so this year it is with great intention that I fill my holiday calendar to focus on what is most meaningful to all of us.  Fewer gifts, more walks to see lights, time to focus on small tokens of gratitude for all those we hold dear, a whole day for rolling cookies, more reading, more music. Less buying, less wrapping, less perfecting, less cooking, more sharing.  More listening to the stories my daughters tell of their own holiday memories, however random they may be, and celebrating that which has spoken to their souls.

And as I lay out our holiday calendar, I know to keep our Fridays clear, for on Fridays we drink kale.

What are your traditions with your family?

-Allison M.

Thank you, My Village!

We lost a baby. I was seventeen weeks pregnant.

All the hopes, dreams, aspirations of the family I thought we were creating changed in an instant. It has been the most challenging event of my life. I wondered why it happened, but getting test after test to find a cause turned up nothing. I’m a person who needs control, and I think the most frustrating part of this whole journey has been the fact that there is no answer. Such a loss can rip families apart. We all grieve differently, and learning how to accept that has brought my husband and I closer. I hug my son a little tighter these days, taking in the smell of his skin. I kiss his forehead longer and try to get lost in the moment. I take a deep breath when he tests my patience, just grateful that he exists. We exist. The range of emotions that flows through me in a single day is endless, but the one I always come back to is thankfulness.

It’s the word I think of this time of year. The leaves have turned extraordinary shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown. The rain falls on our windows. The seasons are changing. I can feel it in the air, in the chilly mornings, in the darkness of our skies early in the evening. I love fall. It’s the season when I married my best friend. The fall makes me thankful, and this year I am particularly thankful for my life. When an unimaginable event happens, we need an army to pick us back up. The Mothers’ Center is my army. As trying as a miscarriage can be, when I look back at the days and weeks that followed, I recall support more than sadness. I remember calling a member in the hospital and her talking me through her experience so that I could be less scared about mine. I remember coming home to a fresh bouquet of flowers picked from a member’s backyard. I remember talking on the phone with member after member helping me work through the grief of the loss. I remember the month of meals that came from members who wanted to make my day just a little bit easier. I am thankful for all the members of the Mothers’ Center who reached out during a terrible time to support my family and who continue to support us.

So as we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I hope that we remember to be thankful for all that we have and not take for granted the extraordinary changing of the leaves or the sweet sound of the rain falling outside our windows. The fact that we are a part of such a group of women who help each other through the ups and downs of this journey called motherhood is a gift, and I am truly thankful for that.

– Trina J.

Register Now for the 2018 Winter Mini-Session

Online registration is now open for the 2018 Winter Mini-Session! The session will span from the last week in November through December. Programs include Playgroup, Mom & Baby, Mom “Get It Done Time”, Creative Kids, Discussion Group, and Parenting Workshop. We’ll also be holding a number of great special events, including a holiday party on December 14th.

Check out our latest newsletter, which outlines all the details for this mini-session.

Click here to register!

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We’re excited to announce that we’ve added a new feature to help our members stay connected! You can now receive email updates about our latest news and events. Sign up at https://motherscentercnj.org/subscribe/ to make sure you don’t miss out!

2018 Fall Welcome

Welcome to the Mother’s Center of Central NJ (MCCNJ)! Whether you are new to the area, new to mom-hood or just looking to make new friends, we welcome you with open arms. This time last year, I was new to the area and joining MCCNJ was one of the best decisions I made. There are always fun activities for families going on between music class, creative expressions, holiday parties, cooking with the kids and last minute meetups, just to name a few.  And let’s not forget mom’s nights out, the cookie exchange party, brunches and year-end dinner.  There is always something going on.  We look forward to meeting everyone and making new friends, kids and moms alike.

– Vanessa

Mothers’ Center Sponsors a Free Little Library

Little Free Libraries are being installed all over the country. The book exchanges have grown to 36,000 around the world in 70 countries. In Union County, little libraries have been popping up on front lawns! Now, a new Little Free Library at Union County’s Unami Park will join the movement to share books, bring families together, and create communities of readers.

The Mothers’ Center of Central New Jersey (MCCNJ) is proud to sponsor a Free Little Library in partnership with the Union County Freeholder Board. To celebrate the launch, we will host a party at Unami Park on Sunday July 29th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The event is open to the public and will include light refreshments, family story time, and a book swap.

“We always look at new ways to expand resources being provided in our parks system–from the free WiFi we have introduced to new recreational activities, and this is another new service, which expands educational offerings to residents—both young and old–attending our parks,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados.

“One of our missions at the Mothers’ Center is to pursue opportunities to make the local community a better place for moms and their children and partners. By installing a Little Free Library in our local park, it is our hope this this Little Free Library will bring the surrounding communities together through literacy.”

And in a blink of an eye, another year’s gone by…

With the help of volunteer time and effort and led by our Co-Chairs Amanda P. and Trish J., the Center had a successful 2017-2018 year. Last fall, we set three main priorities for this year: increasing membership, digitizing payments and registration, and community outreach. As we reflect on our work this year, we are thrilled to announce that we exceeded our goals on all fronts! Through efforts of our Steering Committee and many other members, membership nearly doubled over the last ten months to about 100 members, and an online registration and payment option were added to our website. We launched multiple community outreach programs.  

During our annual year-end dinner this year at Bistro 1051, we reflected on our wonderful accomplishments and celebrated all the friendships we have made and maintained throughout the year. We also presented the Mothers’ Center Essence Award to a member who embodies the spirit of the Center, cares passionately about the Center and her enthusiasm is reflected in her work and commitment to the organization. This year four members were nominated: Amanda P. for her leadership as a Co-Chair, Brittani J. for her commitment to the spirit of the Center, HaVi J. for her thoughtful work with our Mom and Baby group and her leadership with our 5K fundraiser, and Melissa B. for her role as the 5K Marketing Lead promoting our race so expertly that we garnered a record number of registrations (over 200!).

With the new Co-Chairs Allison M. and Brittani J. at the helm, we are confident that next year is going to be even better! Our main goals for the upcoming year include increasing the diversity of our membership by expanding into surrounding communities, increasing the awareness of the Center within our local towns, continuing to offer worthwhile groups and events for members, and exploring ways to make new members feel a sense of belonging in the group by establishing a buddy system that pairs older and newer members together.  

So, if you are a mom or mom-to-be looking to connect with other moms, join us!

2018 Summer Registration OPEN

Summer is finally here! The weather played tricks with us for a while but the sun is out, the days are longer, flowers are blooming and summer activities are posted! Our summer session is special because we get to see our members, their spouses (yes the husbands!) and friends at our outings. In case you forgot, there is no membership fee for the summer so come check us out!

Our signature groups continue to run through the summer (Mom and Baby, playgroup, playground meetup, walking group, Creative Expressions, and Discussion group) and many exciting outings for the family as well as moms. Checkout our latest newsletter and register online here.

We hope to see you this summer!

A Fun Morning Outdoors at the Miles with Moms Fundraiser

Over the weekend, we welcomed everyone from devoted runners to happy babies in strollers at our 7th annual NJ Miles with Moms fundraiser at Nomahegan Park in Cranford. It was so much fun to cheer on familiar faces and new ones as they made their way towards the finish line in the 5K and 1-mile races. And our “kids fun run” that featured children racing their hearts out to the cheers of proud parents was just as exciting as the race itself.

We would like to thank all participants, sponsors, volunteers, EMS, the Cranford Police Department, Union County College, the Union County Police Department, and our planning committee members for making this event a success. It was a wonderful morning filled with happy cheers, activities by Tinkergarten, Creative Kids, Exercise Outside the Box, face painting, and giveaways. Enjoy the below collection of photos from our fundraiser. See you next year!

A new season, a new look!

We are so excited to reveal our new Mothers’ Center of Central NJ logo! Designed in partnership with Gregory Flores, a very talented local graphic designer, our logo truly represents who we are – an organization that provides support to all moms and their children through programs that promote peer-to-peer interactions, socialization and support. The result is three moms – one expecting, the other holding an infant and the third holding a toddler – joined together in the journey of motherhood. In addition to all that our logo represents, it also reflects another change in the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ. After our parent organization, Mom-mentum, suspended operations last year, we spent a large part of 2017 organizing ourselves as an independent non-profit. In the upcoming weeks we will be updating our website and promotional materials. Stay tuned for updated bumper stickers!