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MOMS find strength in numbers

Ripon-Salida club brings mothers, kids together

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MOMS find strength in numbers

The Ripon-Salida MOMS Club recently took a daytrip to the Serpentarium in Lodi. Here, members and children pose with “Crazy Legs,” an 11-foot Albino Burmese Python.

Photo contributed/

POSTED March 9, 2013 1:36 a.m.

Dot Veltkamp wrapped her grandson Lincoln in a hug, kissing the shy 4-year-old on the top of his head.

Then, she collected the books strewn about the table – a series of “I Spy…” picture books – and disappeared down an aisle at the Ripon Library.

“Now I have to make an appointment just to see my daughter and grandson,” Veltkamp later quipped.

Kathy Cragin, a bubbly stay-at-home mother, sits behind a binder, calendar and dayplanner. She’d like to spend more time with her mom, a substitute librarian, but …

There’s a reason why she carries a binder, calendar and dayplanner.

Her afternoons and evenings are dominated by two young children, a foreign exchange student and husband, piano lessons for 21, a singing troop and her leadership role with the Ripon-Salida MOMS Club.

“When I want to do something,” she said, pulling her curly locks out of her face, “I put everything I have into it.”

Cragin’s life wasn’t always so busy; she wasn’t always so sure of herself and her purpose.

In fact, there was a time when she felt alone and lost and without options.

She was a new mom to a strong-willed child – her oldest, 7-year-old Jayne.

Cragin had traded her full-time teaching position at the now-defunct Manteca Christian School for full-time mommy duty, and the transition was a like a cold-water shock to her system.

Her home began to feel like a prison, and her sentence: Days filled with baby talk, blocks and Barney.

“You have to get out of the house. You can only talk to 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds for so long,” she said. “You just want to talk to someone who’s not 4.

“It got kind of lonely. I transitioned from a full-time job, where I was teaching and I was around people all the time. Then, all of sudden, I wasn’t.

“I loved being a mom, but it was lonely.”

She found comfort and advice from an unlikely source – other lonely, lost and confused mothers.

Jayne wasn’t quite 2 when Cragin joined the Ripon-Salida chapter of the Mothers Offering Mothers Support (MOMS) Club.

Her sister-in-law introduced her to the group, showing her a world of friendship and support.

Her initiation into MOMS, though, didn’t come until after a play date. In a parking lot, of all places.

Cragin was trying to buckle Jayne into her car seat, but the toddler fought her. She arched her back. She squirmed. She cried. She kicked. She threw a tantrum until both mom and daughter were red in the face.

Just when Cragin was at her wit’s end, MOMS member and current alumni Gretta Bruno intervened.

Bruno worked on calming Cragin down first, talking her fellow mommy down from red alert, and then she snapped Jayne into her seat.

“She understood what I was going through,” Cragin said. “It’s a no judgment zone. We all parent a little differently. Our utmost goal is to love of our child.”

Now it’s Cragin’s turn to pay it forward.

She is president of a chapter that has approximately 70 dues-paying members.

They meet regularly for play dates and activities. There were 16 events last month, ranging from coffee socials at Jake’s in the morning to a trip to the Serpentarium in Lodi.

There is a monthly business meeting, recipe club and weekly walk or jog. Each event is hosted by a member.

The atmosphere is casual, always kid-friendly, and run with the efficiency of a small business.

Cragin is surrounded by a leadership team. Her officers include: Bernie Jamero, membership vice president; Crista Swier, administrative vice president; Heather McKenzie, treasurer; and Amy Stotzer, secretary.

Together they carry out the MOMS Club mission statement, providing a resource for at-home mothers in need of friendship and advice.

“When I came in, I was the one seeking the advice,” Cragin said. “Now I’m the one giving it.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and my closest friends are in the MOMS Club,” she later added. “…It’s a place for moms to come and be comfortable.”

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