Weird Mom Moments: EMN Mini-Carnival

Congratulations to Kate Sherwin at “Rosemary Sauce.” Her entry, “Like Mother, Like Son” was this month’s winner of the “Weird Mom Moments” Carnival Contest! Kate won $50, since she had the EMN button prominently displayed on her site! Good work, Kate!

Every mom must have them at one time or another … the moments she looks down at herself and say, “What have I DONE to myself?!” I know I have, as my daughter reminded me only recently. “Don’t be weird, mom…”

I can’t help it. I was born and raised that way … by a woman who clearly did not mind appearing ridiculous for the benefit of her girls (and their respective Girl Scout/religious education/school friends). She would burst into song … loudly, though usually on key … with all sorts of ditties, like:

“I’m wild about horns on automobiles that go WAH_AH_AH_AH_AH_AH_AH (ooga, ooga)”

“John Jacob Jingerheimer Schmidt, his name is my name too. Whenever we go out, the people always shout, there goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA.”

“Oh, an Austrian went yodeling on the mountaintop high…” (and proceeded to tangle with a grizzly bear, St. Bernard, Jersey Cow, and pretty girl with the appropriate gestures and sound effects).

She’d do stuff, too … weird mom stuff. Like the day she took us on a Girl Scout Hike through High Point State Park to teach us trail-making … and we wound up 10 miles up the Appalacian Trail. Or the time she took us camping, and left the bubble gum in our tent; that night we watched the squirrels blowing bubbles as they jumped from tree to tree. Or the time, shortly after my sister had her leg operated on, she brought a hand puppet to stick on my sister’s foot, to give the doctors (and my sister) a good laugh when they pulled back the covers. Or the time our dog got in the house when she was putting the finishing touches on a wedding cake (she made wedding cakes as a sideline when we were little), and she was forced to “fix” the cake rather than make a new one. (I’ll spare you the gory details.)

Judging from how few entries that were submitted for this contest, I’d have to say that there are a lot of moms out there who don’t want to let on about all the weirdness that goes on in their houses. There were a galliant few, however … and my hat goes off to you, too!

“If you jump off that and breakyour leg, don’t come running to me!” Moms are famous for all sorts of homespun wisdom. Barb Szyszkiewicz of “SFO Mom” adds a few memorable zingers of her own in her contribution to the EMN Carnival,  “Things Parents Say (when they live at my house.”

And Sarah (A.K.A. my favorite humor blogger, “Mighty Mom”) adds to the weirdness with her own “Look Before You Touch!”

Thanks, ladies for participating!

Weird Mom Stories: Writer’s Contest

Today I noticed that one of the “hits” on this site came from someone who was looking for “wierd mom stories” (sic).

OK … why not? We could all use a giggle. So … this month’s EMN Carnival is dedicated to “weird mom stories.” You could send in …

*  Most embarrassing “mommy moment” (or most embarrassing thing we’ve subjected our own children to)

*  Most compelling evidence of the “things we do for love” for our kids (pictures earn extra points)

*  Strangest love offering from your kids (hey, they must get it somewhere)

*  Things you never thought you’d say to your kids (but did anyway)

*  Weird things YOUR mom (or other mom you admire) did, that now you see the wisdom of.

All submissions received by SEPTEMBER 20 will be eligible for a drawing, to be held Sept 25. Winner receives $25 CASH MONEY!!! (I’ll double it if I find you have the EMN logo on your blog.)

Other details: 

*  500 words or less
*  G rated
*  All entries must be received by midnight on September 20, 2008 to qualify for the drawing, which will take place on September 25.
*  Winner receives $25 cash — prize doubles if your blog (or the blog in which your post appears) has the EMN button.
*  All links will be posted in the Oct 1 Carnival … winner will be announced at the Carnival. (Except for my newsletter readers, who will find out as soon as I pull the name!)
*  Submit a link here: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/cprof_5163.html or directly at hsaxton@christianword.com
*  Entries must be in the form of a BLOG or WEBSITE LINK (no e-mail entries, please). Please include your name (handles OK), blog name and URL (e.g. “http://extraordinarymomsnetwork.wordpress.com), post name and post URL.
 *  EMN retains non-exclusive rights to all entries.

*  Questions? Write to hsaxton@christianword.com. If you would like to receive my newsletter, and are not yet a subscriber, please drop me an e-mail with “subscribe” in the subject line.

 

Happy writing!

(Photo credit: Thanks to “Tha Love DaSpencer”)

In the Company of God … and Mary … and Mom

My parents were visiting with us this week. Dad put in the dog fence (thanks, Dad!) … and Mom roped me into one of “those” conversations. You know the kind: high in drama, low in resolution.

This time, the subject was Catholicism … my practice of it, to be precise. I’ve had six years of intensive formal faith formation … but because in her mind I’ve rejected everything she taught me, she can only conclude I’ve been “brainwashed.” She accused me of considering her a pagan going to hell because she’s not Catholic (where she got that, I have no idea). Yet clearly believes that the only reason I have any chance at heaven at all is because at one point in my childhood I prayed the “sinner’s prayer.” Not because I’m a Catholic Christian … but despite it.

*Sigh* “I never said you were a pagan, Mom. I never even thought it.”

“You say it all the time, with your actions! You wouldn’t even go to church with us at Easter!”

And there it was. For her, the fact that I won’t take my kids to their church when we visit them, or at the very least insist on finding a Catholic service that we can attend in addition to theirs, is proof positive to them that we consider ourselves better Christians than they are.

“It’s not that we’re better Christians, Mom. It’s that I need all the help I can get to stay spiritually strong … and the Catholic Church is the only place I can receive the Eucharist. It’s the only place I can be part of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Christ.”

She rolled her eyes. “By what you do, you are teaching your children that Grandma and Grandpa aren’t real Christians.”

“Actually … by not taking them to your church, especially when you have a communion service, I avoid having them asking questions about why you aren’t Catholic. They notice stuff, Mom. They see that you don’t make the sign of the cross when we say grace. They wonder why you aren’t as excited as we are about Christopher receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. They want to know why Jesus isn’t present in the tabernacle at your church, as He is at our church. They notice everything. I tell them that you are Christians, but not Catholic Christians, and we pray for the time when we can all go to church together … in the Catholic Church.”

“So you DO think you’re better Christians than your father and me.”

“Not better Christians … just Christians who have access to graces that right now you do not. I’d be so happy if one day you would look more into the history of the sacraments, and let yourself consider what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you.’ I know how much the sacraments have changed my life … and I think they would bless you, too.”

“I don’t need sacraments. I have my faith. I can read the Bible for myself. I didn’t raise you this way … and I’ll never understand why you felt the need to forsake your spiritual roots.”

A light hit. “Mom, how did Grandma feel when you decided to stop going to the church you were raised in?”

“It’s not the same. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God until I was in my thirties. I was baptized in Grandma’s church, but I didn’t know God.”

“I met God in a profoundly personal way in my thirties, too … through the Church. I came to know my brothers and sisters in faith — all the saints in heaven. I came to understand that I have a spiritual mother who loves me and prays for me in heaven, just as you do here on earth.” (I knew I was treading dangerous waters here, since Mom has told me how hurtful it is that I consider Mary my mother.) “And just like you, Mom … I’m trying to raise my children to love God and serve Him with everything they have. That, I got from you.”

She sniffed, considering this. “I do get a kick out of watching you lead VBS and doing all the arts and crafts I used to do when you were little.”

“You were a great Sunday school teacher. You understood how important it is to be consistent with kids, to keep things simple and straightforward until they get older and can handle more complex issues. You brought us to church every Sunday, because Sunday is God’s day.

“And that is what I’m doing with my kids, too. We go to church … to our church … because that is the faith we are practicing. We go to that church because, as Catholics, we are obligated to go … and, because I want to be there. It’s not that I don’t want to be with you during that hour. It’s that I have a higher responsibility, one that I take very seriously.

“Mom, I want you to know that I understand that you don’t feel entirely comfortable at Mass, and that if you decide to go to your old church when you’re visiting us, I won’t be at all offended. If it means that much to you, I’m even willing to go with you to your church, by myself, on a Sunday when your church isn’t serving communion … so long as you don’t give me a hard time about going to a second service to fulfill my obligation to God.”

This was how the conversation ended. It’s not ideal, when issues of faith divide families. God intended religion to unite people, to draw them closer together as they approach transcendent reality together, on their knees. And I suppose if we were all completely rational about it, and worked hard to understand each other’s sensitivities and needs, the differences wouldn’t hurt so much.

As it is, I could relate to what Moses said to God in today’s first reading:

Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own” (Exodus 34:8-9).

“Oh, Lord … come along in our company. Even when at times that company is divided. Even at times when we can’t understand each other. Even when at times we find it impossible to get past certain hurts, certain realities, certain conflicts. There comes a time when we have to make allowances whenever possible for the feelings of others … but we cannot allow those feelings to deter us from doing what is right. And so, today I’d like to offer this prayer for those of us who have family on the other side of the Tiber … close enough that we can see their tears through our own.

Lord of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
God of Sarah and Rebecca and Rachel,
From the beginning You created family.
From the beginning You ARE family.

One and holy Triune God, unify with bonds of love.
Soothe angry hearts and enlighten blinded minds.
Make us forgiving, consoling, kind.
Render us family, just like You.

Mother Mary, Queen of Sorrows,
See our pain and pray for us.
We are waiting for a miracle …
Send out a miracle of love today.
This column may be reprinted with the following credit line: “Copyright 2008 Heidi Hess Saxton (http://mommymonsters.blogspot.com/). Used with permission. All rights reserved.”

Come Be My Light: Thoughts on Spiritual Motherhood

Persistent. Fearless. Noble. These are words frequently associated with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. I had heard (who hasn’t?) that an oppressive spiritual cloud had plagued her during all but the earliest years of religious life. Some (hack journalist with ulterior motives, mainly) were quick to denounce her when these letters first surfaced, claiming they were proof of Mother Teresa’s lack of sanctity. Fortunately, wiser and more discerning heads prevailed, as this lack of consolation is not unprecedented among Catholic mystics.

So when I began to pore over Brian Kolodiejchuk’s Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” (see Resources), I was expecting the darkness.

What surprised me was the light … the sense that I had found a kindred spirit, someone who could help me to make sense of my own vocation.

In fact, as I delved into the book it occurred to me that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is the perfect patroness for adoptive and foster mothers. She embodied a number of qualities and gifts that foster and adoptive parents need to emulate in order to succeed:

In the early chapters of the book, the thing that struck me is that when she received the “call within a call,” she responded to it despite the fact that (1) she was perfectly happy where she was and (2) her perseverance nearly ruined her reputation with her superiors (who had difficulty reining in the diminutive Albanian) as well as her own sisters, and caused great consternation within her religious order.

Mother Teresa had every reason to ignore the call, and only one reason to persevere: to satiate the thirst of Christ for souls. She writes:

I used to get goose bumps at the thought of suffering – but now I embrace suffering before it actually comes, and like this Jesus and I live in love. Do not think that my spiritual life is strewn with roses – that is a flower which I hardly ever find on my way. Quite the contrary, I have more often as my companion “darkness.” And when the night becomes very thick – and it seems to me as if I will end up in hell – then I simply offer myself to Jesus (p.20).

When Craig and I first started the process to become foster parents, Johnnette reminded me that spiritual motherhood (which is what she saw me doing with Christopher and Sarah, as I had not given birth to them myself) was an important component of the feminine vocation.

At first I resisted this strongly – there was nothing “spiritual,” I thought, about changing dirty diapers and wiping down walls. I felt that by calling me a “spiritual” mother, she was diminishing the role I was going to play in the life of these kids. As far as I was concerned, I was their honest-to-goodness real mother, especially after the adoption came through.

As I make my way through these pages, however, I’ve come to see this differently. Despite the fact that her work was as down-and-dirty as it could possibly be, bathing and feeding the indigent and dying, and educating the children left in the gutter, the primary battle Mother Teresa fought was an intrinsically spiritual one – one within herself, and often by herself.

She and her sisters went into the worst slums and gutters of Calcutta to touch the lives of thousands of men, women, and children who had known only suffering, in order to break the bonds of the spiritual forces that enslaved them. She believed her most important task was to “bring souls to Jesus, and bring Jesus to souls.”

And it is this that takes my breath away: She did it all with a smile. She smiled at Jesus, no matter how the darkness raged, how the isolation threatened to smother her. She gave Him everything she had, and then she gave even her poverty.

She did not worry, or look for escape clauses. The work was not hers, but God’s. She had only to give it her all … and trust God for the results.

And, I need to do the same. What a challenge … and what a relief!

Blessed Teresa, Mother of Calcutta and of all the poor and powerless,
You saw America as a land of desperate poverty, despite our wealth.
Hundreds of thousands of children are neglected, abused, unloved.
Pray, please pray for them and for us, that the Lord of the Harvest
Will wake up His servants, who will gather the harvest not into barns
But into our very hearts and homes.

Blessed Teresa, Patroness of Spiritual Parents, Pray for Us!

Family We Don’t Get to Pick

If you enjoy this post, check out more quality Catholic reading at the Catholic Carnival #147, hosted this week by our fearless facilitator Jay at “Living Catholicism.com.”

The other day I talked with Maureen, whose granddaughter “Janie” – her son’s child – was a ward in another state. Little Janie has two half-siblings (by a different father) who were also in the system, and were about to be adopted by a gay couple. Because the older children were unrelated to her, Maureen wanted to adopt only Janie.

Maureen was upset because the agency had recommended to the family court judge that Janie be placed with the other two children, rather than sent to live with Maureen. They didn’t want to separate the siblings unless it was absolutely necessary.

Maureen thought this was ridiculous. “Why should I take the older two? They aren’t my grandchildren, just a reminder of their no-good father. Besides, that judge should choose family over a gay couple!” Clearly there was a long, sad story behind Maureen’s words, and my heart went out to her. But I was pretty sure the judge wouldn’t rule in her favor.

What I really wanted to say to her was, “Are you sure you can’t find it in your heart to take in the other two children? They can’t help who their father is.” We use the same reasoning to explain why a woman who has been raped should not abort her child: Children should not be forced to pay for the sins of their parents.

Maureen has a difficult choice to make: relinquish her grandchild or welcome Janie’s siblings as well. Not to thwart the adoption plan of the gay couple, but because it is in the little girl’s best interest to stay with her brothers. If she were to be separated from them now, Janie may forget them for a while. However, her brothers’ grief would be compounded … and one day, when Janie finds out what happened, she could very well come to resent her grandmother from pulling her away from the rest of her family.

There are situations when there are serious reasons for siblings to be separated – my own children have two older siblings that do not live with us. We’ve done our best to keep the kids in touch with one another through periodic visits, though it isn’t the same as being able to run down the hall and jump on a sibling’s bed every morning. But in order to keep them safe, we had to make a tough call knowing that one day we will have to answer for that decision.

In the world of adoption – particularly with the prevalence of “open adoption” – the traditional definitions of family become rather fluid. Yes, our children are really ours … but the relationship between other family members is less clear-cut. We find ourselves being tangentially related to people we would just as soon disappear. The temptation, of course, is to ignore the connection and write them off – after all, these people mean nothing to us.

But it isn’t that simple. Even when the bonds of birth are stretched, they are never wholly broken. Separation may be the better of two bad choices. The pain and longing remains. Periodic visits are no substitute for being able to giggle over Cheerios every morning.

We do not choose to have these people in our lives. But in a very real sense, they are the “family we didn’t pick.”

“We’re going to see birth-mom and dad,” I tell my noisy bunch.
They squeal and jump in car seats, ready for their junk-food lunch.
I’ll pay for their indulgence; As they bounce till they get sick.
Thank you, dear birth parents, family I didn’t pick.

Time for Christmas with some people who are clearly less than glad
“those children” are still with us since we’re not “Real Mom and Dad.”
Hand-me-downs and garage sale finds will have to do, St Nick.
Give me patience,” I pray gamely, “with these folks I didn’t pick.”

When asking for a sibling group, we only wanted two.
The social worker asked us if instead we would take you.
Who’d have guessed it? It was madness! What a dirty, rotten trick!
That we should fall so much in love with three we didn’t pick!

H.H.Saxton, 2004