Letter to My New Mom Self

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m getting ready to go out of town for a few days, and so I wanted to reprise something for Mother’s Day from a few years back. This year Christopher turns 18, and is reconnecting with some of his birth family, so it seems like the right time to get a little retrospective. (If that’s the right word.)

Oh, and if you caught my Mother’s Day article over at “The Perennial Gen” and have wandered over here … Welcome! (Don’t get scared off by the post under this one. I promise I can’t remember the last time I blogged about anything political. I have enough drama in my life without adding to it — don’t you?)

And so, without further ado … Pour yourself a cup of tea and meander with me to 2015.

Next weekend we celebrate a decade of “official” family life. Ten years since the adoptions were finalized and the kids were officially welcomed into the family . . . and baptized into God’s. We plan to go to Cedar Point with their godparents, to celebrate. This weekend, though, as Sarah and I sit in the living room — her painting designs on her fingernails and watching Girl Meets World, and me typing, my mind drifts back to those first few weeks together. Some parts are such a blur, but others come back with crystal clarity. And so, before those bits get fuzzy, too, I thought I’d write a little letter to my new-mom self.

Dear New-Mom Heidi:

I know it seems impossible right now, when every hour drags as you try to cope with enormous mounds of laundry and unending chaos. Poop on the walls. Food splattered on the ceiling. Kids screaming you awake at one-hour intervals. A husband who spends L-O-N-G hours at work and leaves you alone from dawn to dusk with these ornery little dickenses. I know. I know. But trust me, it won’t always be like this.

Be as gentle with yourself and your family as you possibly can. You have undertaken the most difficult challenge of your adult life, infinitely harder than you thought it would be. But trust me when I tell you this: You can make it easier, or you can make it MUCH harder, just by what you choose to see. This is not the time for your “volunteer” gene to go into overdrive at church, or to take on a forty-hour work week. Because you will never get this time back. And neither will your kids.

Don’t worry about your job right now, and get some help if you possibly can so you can catch up on your sleep. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Every moment you spend with them now will pay rich dividends down the line. But now it’s time to pay up.

Breathe. Laugh. Relax. These kids won’t get calmer, or sleepier, or happier if you are a stressed-out mess. So do everyone a favor. Don’t set the bar too high. Get some help — since you don’t have family nearby, au pairs are worth their weight in gold. Keeping them at home, close to you, is going to help the trauma heal. Read about trauma. And stop yelling, or you’ll make it worse.

Protect them, and never let them out of your direct line of vision, even with other kids. Yes, you need a break, and yes those breaks are few and far between. But trauma attracts trauma, and the worst kinds of abuse breeds sneakiness. Keep your kids close, as close as you possibly can as much as you possibly can, if you want those broken little hearts to heal. When you want their attention, whisper. And don’t forget to teach them “feelings” words. Or to get down on their level, and touch them gently when you want to make eye contact.

Resign your dreams and expectations. They may always struggle academically, no matter how many story hours and silly songs you share with them. No matter how many specialists and therapists they see. They may never make the honor roll, but if they keep talking to you, you’re ahead of the game. Spend more time focusing on their gifts, and less on their challenges.

Expect it to hurt . . . but look for the joy. The kids won’t remember if you stood over them while they struggled through their homework. But they’ll never forget it when you put down the rake, and jump in the leaf pile with them! Let them eat the raw cookie dough and sprinkles, and don’t ration the M&Ms so much.

Adoption is hard work. Don’t forget to enjoy the perks!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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Alaska Dreaming

alaskaFor as long as I can recall, my mother has talked of wanting to go to Alaska. When she was younger she dreamed of wanting to go and work as a missionary among the Native Americans. As a wife and mother, she set this dream aside … but the longing has never gone away. Something about the place fires her imagination.

When I used to visit her at the memory care facility in Georgia, one of the hardest parts of walking away and leaving her behind was knowing that, although she was still living, her life was pretty much over. An occasional visitor was the only relief of monotony in days filled with the drone of the television set or staring at the four walls of her bedroom. This, for a woman who had filled her own days with quilt making, cookie baking, and volunteering at church every time the doors opened. (After tending to her own home and husband, of course.) She and Dad traveled all over the country those last years of their marriage, making a special trip on their fiftieth anniversary. But they never made it to Alaska.

Now that she’s with me, her life has gotten better. Her lift recliner is squarely in the middle of the family room, where she is in the middle of all our comings and goings. She goes to daycare four days a week, so she can interact with people her own age. I’ve made efforts to help her find a church home, but she seems content going with us. And when we go places, she hops in the car and rides along. This summer she’s going to go visit my sister Kathy … and if I can manage it, we’re going to go visit my other sister in Washington, too. I’ve never been to Seattle, so this is on my bucket list, too.

As I think about making the trip west, though … Alaska is just a little further, beckoning me. We could take a train to Vancouver (another place I’ve always wanted to see), and then … what would it take to make it to Alaska?

I don’t know if we can do it. But I’d sure like to try. What wouldn’t I give to be able to say that I was able to make my mother’s dreams come true?

 

 

“‘Tis the Season of Christmas”

A couple of years ago I was asked to write something for St. Andrew’s upcoming post-Christmas pageant, a fundraiser that benefits the St. Louis Boy’s Center. In writing up this little ditty, I came across a number of intriguing customs and details about Christmas around the world that I wanted to share with you today . . . While my family and I enjoy one more day on the beach in West Palm Beach!

Enjoy!

 

‘Tis the season of Christmas,

And since the Word became Man,

Every nation and culture

Has told the story most grand.

 

Posadas[i] and crèches and szopkes[ii] abound,

And carolers make music[iii], heard all the world ‘round.

In Ghana[iv] and Holland[v], Belize and Brazil[vi]

All gather together with joy and good will.

 

In the islands[vii], the most festive carols are played

With singers and dancers in bright masquerade.

In Egyptian legend, a large cherry tree[viii]

Bent low to feed the dear Lord’s family.

 

In England[ix], the “Holly” and “Ivy” entwine[x]

As they worship the wonderful Child divine.[xi]

In Russia, a miserly old woman[xii] brings

To children the gifts[xiii] she kept from the Three Kings[xiv]!

 

Near the City of David, a star from the east[xv]

Still beckons to you, both the greatest and least[xvi].

In China, paper lanterns all beckon and gleam,[xvii]

In Japan, feast on cakes with strawberries and cream.

 

Down under, Australia spells joy “barbecue”

As Saint Nick comes riding a large kangaroo.[xviii]

And here in the States, land of plenty and more,

We stop from our labors, bow down, and adore.[xix]

 

The angels[xx], ethereal; the shepherds[xxi], so lowly.

The Mother, so gentle; the Infant, so holy.

And as ornate Wise Men in tribute bend down,[xxii]

“O Come, All Ye Faithful,” to Bethlehem Town!

 

Copyright 2008 by Heidi Hess Saxton

  Continue reading

Enjoy the Ride! Two inspiring videos for you…

p3230067Yesterday was a hard day. Although I don’t cry a lot, I found myself weeping profusely … twice.

I’d prefer to keep the details of the first occasion to myself, but I wanted to share the second one with you here. This snippet from “Britain Has Talent” is a rare gem from a middle-aged Catholic woman named Susan Boyle who dedicated her entire life to tending to her parents … and only after they had died got a chance to fulfill her own dream and her mother’s last request, to share her gift, publicly, with the world. Check out this YouTube bit … you’ll be glad to hear that some dreams never die … and reminded that not all Extraordinary Moms tend to children. Some care for parents as well.

And if you’re still feeling a bit blue, check out this beautiful video sent to me by my friend Deb Elmore. If anyone knows the original artist please let me know, as I would love to give credit to him or her!

I’ve put both links in the “inspirational” section of the blogroll, in case you need them again.

Quote for the Day — from Julie at “Happy Catholic”

copy-of-grandma-and-sarah“…some people live in such a way that it is impossible to have any kind of happiness in their home, but then they go to church and sing songs and pray ‘in the spirit,’ hoping that God will somehow give them an infusion of joy to make it through the day. They are looking for some kind of heavenly transfusion that will bypass the misery of their daily lives and give them joy. But God’s desire is to transform their misery, not to bypass it.”

Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster

Thanks, Julie!

Miracle Monday: Ben’s Bells Project

ben_collage

Update: On April 15 I got a note from Ben’s mother, thanking me for the post … and letting me know that, two years after Ben’s death, they adopted two girls from Russia!

On March 29, 2002 — Good Friday seven years ago — three-year-old Ben Packard suddenly died of croup. His parents desperately wanted to find a way to bring some kind of healing out of their personal tragedy.

They created “Ben’s Bells” to recognize acts of kindness in their community — in their own words, “to inspire, educate, and motivate each other to realize the impact of intentional kindness and to empower individuals to act accordingly to that awareness, thereby changing our world.”

“Ben’s Bells,” grew to become a community effort that recognizes the power of kindness. In memory of little Ben, people in the Tucson, Arizona area gather to create these beautiful ceramic windchimes … and send them to selected recipients (it’s called “belling”), whose act of kindness has made a difference in the life of local residents. To date more than 11,000 sets of bells have been distributed.

One of the recent recipients of this award are foster parents Barbara and James Reyes, whose story was run in the Arizona Daily Star last February.

Ben’s mother Jeannette tells their story here.  The site offers instructions on how to start a chapter of the “Bells” in your own community as well!

Marriage and the Single Mom: Now @ Mommy Monsters!

peek-babyCome on over to “Mommy Monsters” for an article I posted there today: “Marriage and the Single Mom: Some Thoughts.”

Today I’d like to offer a prayer for single moms everywhere … Those who are raising children on their own, temporarily or permanently. Military moms. Adoptive and foster moms. Divorced and separated moms. Never-married mothers who are doing their best, one day at a time.

I’d especially like to request prayers for my sister, Jennifer, who is divorcing her husband. Pray that God will provide for her needs, and the needs of her children. You might toss up a prayer for Jerry, too … Frankly, I have a hard time doing that without feeling like a total hypocrite, but you don’t know the twit, so you feel free. (Throw in one for me, too.)

Heavenly Father, bless single parents everywhere.
Those who are content, and those who are scared.
Those who are struggling, and those who feel secure.
Those who need a tangible, practical reminder
That you love them, and have called them
To imitate You in selfless, boundless love,
And to lead their children to heaven,
one prayer at a time.

Mary, Queen of Saints, pray for us.
St. Joseph, patron of families, pray for us.
St. Jude, patron of the hopeless, pray for us.