Originally Published: January 20, 2008 8:49 p.m.
In July Dina Mountcastle left the busy corporate world of Wall Street and moved to Prescott, her 2-year-old toddler in tow. Now she is a full-time mom expecting her second child. The transition was mind-blowing.
"Thank God I found this place. I was going stir-crazy," she said during a recent get-together with dozens of other mothers of pre-schoolers at the American Evangelical Lutheran Church on Scott Drive.
Mountcastle's reaction is one most women who join one of four tri-city area MOPS groups share, says MOPS coordinator Jennifer Garber.
MOPS stands for Mothers Of Preschoolers. The international organization reaches out to moms from all walks of life, whether they stay at home full-time or work outside the home. Either way, a life with small children in it can be tough.
That is where MOPS comes in. The organization can be a lifesaver for stressed-out moms.
"It gives them an opportunity to connect with other moms who are in that same place," Garber explained, adding that most moms of preschoolers walk around "sleepless with goop all over us."
Each twice-monthly meeting offers breakfast, a speaker, time to learn a craft and social time.
Guest speakers instruct the mothers on various topics such as how to protect children from Internet predators or how to keep their marriages alive and well even though they spend their time dealing with the everyday calamities of childhood.
A handful of older, mentor moms and grandmothers in each MOPS group shepherd the newer moms through the ups and downs of having a young one who always wants to know why, who never wants to take a nap and who can spike a triple-digit fever in the time it takes to say, "Sweetie, you don't look so good."
It helps to know others are close by who are going through the same things you are going through, Garber said.
"Connection is probably the biggest thing we do," she said.
While the mothers visit for a few hours, volunteers watch over the children in nearby rooms.
Ruth Eichhammer, Mary Drake and John Gardner are three of the volunteers. They stand in the church fellowship hall sipping coffee and nibbling on brownies before heading back to their duties.
"Every couple of weeks these kids get to dive into a large social structure and it's good for them," Gardner said.
Eichhammer agreed: "We have seen such great strides in the kids that come here." It's a big change from the first few times a child comes, agreed Drake.
"They're so scared and they're crying and they don't want to be left," she said.
But after a few visits, the kids cannot wait to run off and play with their new friends, the women agreed.
The mothers are the same way.
"Once they get here, we have a hard time getting them to leave," Garber said laughing.
It is no wonder. On this day, Thursday, the MOPS group was having its yearly spa day. About a dozen local businesses volunteered their services and products to make sure the moms had a great time.
As soft music plays in the background, groups of women gathered throughout the fellowship hall, some getting facials, some soaking tired feet in hot wax baths, some polishing their toenails, some getting their hair trimmed. MOPS officials walked quietly among them offering the moms glasses of ice water from clear, plastic pitchers afloat with lemon slices.
"Some of these moms haven't had a haircut since they had a child," Garber noted.
The church's food supervisor laid out a fancy breakfast of deviled eggs, shrimp and crab tartlets, salmon canapés, fruit kabobs with lime yogurt, double chocolate brownies and angel food cake dipped in a butterscotch fondue. Candles burn on the table.
"Our real life is hiding in the closet to take a phone call," Garber said. "When I leave here, I feel like a new person."
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ON THE INTERNET
To find a MOPS group to fit your schedule and location visit the organization's main website at www.MOPS.org. The site tells you whom to call to arrange a visit, the cost of joining and more about the organization.