The Life of a “Normal” Mommy – Tracy’s Story

I am normal. Probably normal-er than you. I live on a normal street with regular neighbors and routine traffic. I reside in a normal house, with standard paint colors and beige carpet. I drive an ordinary car, reliable and clean. My kids, though spectacular to me, are probably pretty normal to everyone else. My husband, while in my opinion is the most handsome and intelligent of them all, has all of his normalness as well. I have no amazing history, no out-of-the-ordinary story that will astound you. I’m just me. I simply live my life.

In this day of blogging and everyone’s-business-is-everyone-else’s-business on social media, I find myself less than competitive on inspirational accounts. For me, everything is mostly similar day in and day out, pretty much the same thing over and over again. This is probably the point in which you expect me to pull some sort of rousing message that will, after all, be incredible and dumbfounding. But I’ll just tell you right now, it ain’t coming. I don’t have anything in my back pocket that proves that I am actually cool. I don’t secretly run a million dollar charity for poor children across the world. I don’t hand-make all of our clothing out of pesticide-free hemp fabric. Our home isn’t set up to convert our neighbor’s sewage into fuel that will supplement our monthly electricity bill. I don’t hold any secrets to the purpose of life and mommyhood. I am simply living my life.

I wake up each morning in flannel sheets to the sound of my husband’s alarm clock ringing out a local radio station. I sometimes do a work-out video with what are probably considered old fashioned techniques. But sometimes I don’t. I let myself bend and flex and feel ok about not having rock hard abs. My husband kisses us goodbye while I make breakfast for the kids. We get dressed, we tie our shoes and we head off to school. Are we rushed? No. Are we tired? No. Are we joyful? Yes, mostly.
Once the kids are at school I usually go for a walk, and if I’m lucky, sometimes a friend will join me. My friends make me happy. We talk about regular stuff. We don’t try to solve all of the problems of the world. We don’t try to patent our inventions (of which we have none). We just talk about life. And it is enough. It is, in fact, more than enough. It is perfectly, simply normal.
After school we usually just go home. Sometimes we have sports practice or dance lessons. But mostly we just go home. We don’t have to drive from place to place, filling our days with hustle and bustle. We are normal; I told you so. Are we busy and hurried? No. Are we peaceful and playful? Yes, usually.
For dinner I don’t milk our own cow. I don’t butcher our own farm raised, vegetarian-fed chicken. We have neither a farm nor cows and chickens. But I create something smart and fresh and it smells like home. With regular conversation we eat around our old oak table. We laugh. We aren’t anxious for the next thing on our schedule. We aren’t watching the clock with concern that we will miss our next appointment. We are just happy to be together. We live the moment.
At the end of the day my husband and I kiss our sweet kidlets goodnight and tuck them in. They are warm and peaceful, safe and calm. We stay up for a while, spending time together as husband and wife. We talk about our day, our plans and our lives; our very normal yet beautiful lives. I’m not dressed to impress him. I’m wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt that is too big even for him. I don’t have makeup on anymore; I was ready to wash that off as soon as dinner was over. I don’t have to shine for him, I simply do because I am me and he loves me just the way I am. Are we always full of fresh conversation? No. Are we wildly passionate about each other at each moment? Not at all. Are we at ease? Absolutely. And I know that the next day of my life will look much the same.

This isn’t to say that we aren’t involved, we are very involved. We work in marriage ministries at our local church. I volunteer in my children’s classrooms and on the school’s parent team. I serve as a board member for our neighborhood association. We love our community and we desire to enhance the lives of those around us. But I don’t let it get out of control. I have mastered the art of saying no. No to anything that will detract from the lives we want. The very normal, very sweet and sound lives that we have.

We delight in slow. We play soccer in our TV room and football in the backyard. We sing and dance and enjoy each other. We take pleasure in leisurely camping-trips. We take time to see the wilderness, to hear the wind and watch the stars. We ride bikes, we build campfires and we take it all in. We aren’t boring, we are different. We aren’t bored, we are contented.
Our schedules aren’t busy. Our lives aren’t rushed. Our days are (mostly) tranquil and composed. We don’t get caught up in the standard of busyness and overexertion. It is intentional. We choose this life. We don’t fill our every moment, we leave time to live. And live we do. We know each other, all of us. We take time to talk. We make room for rest. We listen and teach; we grow and tend to each other.

I am quite certain that when I am old and gray I won’t regret this choice. I don’t suspect that I will look back and wish that I would have signed my kids up for another lesson or event. I don’t think I will long for all of the fast food that we didn’t eat while we weren’t driving from one place to another. I’m confident that I will remember those days at the table, those nights in our camp chairs, and realize that normal was not a bad way to live. I think I will look back and say that I wouldn’t have traded it for anything out of the ordinary. We are simple. We are just naturally, wonderfully uncomplicated and normal. And perhaps normal, as it might turn out, is actually extraordinary.

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Tracy lives in Central Oregon with her husband of twelve years, Bradley, and their two children, Noah and Gracie. She has spent the last several years as a stay-at-home mom, but with her youngest nearing full-time school, she is excited to see what the next phase of her life will bring. Tracy’s greatest passions are working with Bradley in marriage ministries, followed closely by photography, throwing parties and baking.
You can read Tracy’s blog at http://dearassailant.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/1999/

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The Story of How I Became a Parent Coach – Guest Post by Hannah at Foundations Parent and Life Coaching

I’m going to be honest. The past 18 months of my life’s story have been hard. Hard down to the deepest parts of my soul. My heart has grieved as my dream of life and family have been shifted and refined. There have been days that waking up and moving through the simple rhythms of the day has taken all my energy and focus.

In the summer of 2012, my life turned upside down. My marriage of over ten years suddenly and dramatically fell apart and I found myself waking up to the reality that I was drowning in the busyness of life. It had been my desire to live with purpose and intention for many years but I had allowed small and seemingly harmless things to take up residence in my life. The constant checking of Facebook, the obsessive following of blogs and the pursuit of a “perfect” body had robbed me of living present and purposeful for each day. Fear had taken up residence and was driving my choices and my beliefs about myself as a woman, wife, and mother. I have known from a young age that I was created for relationship with God and that I am loved by Jesus. But there is a difference between knowing and living. And there is no fear when I choose to live by faith.

As the physical aspects of my life seemed to crumble around me, a beautiful awakening was growing inside of me. I remember walking one day and crying over the sheer disbelief of what was happening to me and to my family. In that moment I realized I had two choices. Either I could wallow in self-pity, bitterness and anger, or I could choose to embrace this season and what it was teaching about myself and who God created me to be as a woman, mother and friend. During this time of my life I am learning what it means to live free from fear and fully present in the gifts of today. I am learning that even when life doesn’t look like what I want it to, there are gifts in that place that must be recognized. By identifying the gifts, my heart overflows with hope and joy. I am learning to put my phone down and to step away from the computer. I am learning to stop being busy and start playing with my kids. I am learning to let go of how far or fast I can run and enjoy the act of moving and being. And I am learning to laugh and to find joy even in the midst of a painful season.

Practically, I looked to the future and wondered how I was going to support myself and my two young boys. My thought and desire had been to stay home with my boys until they were in school full time. But with the ending of my marriage that was no longer financially possible. Late one night I was roaming the web looking for ideas. As I researched different options, I stumbled across the Parent Coaching Institute. As I read the description of the program, I knew it fit my giftings, knowledge and my desire to partner with others to experience an engaged and wholehearted life. Parent Coaches team up with parents in a unique relationship that equips parents to engage in life from their strengths and giftings as a parent and person to move them towards their dream for their family.

I graduated this month as a Certified PCI Parent Coach® and have started my own coaching practice called Foundations Parent and Life Coaching. My heart is to work with parents and individuals who want to build a solid foundation for a thriving life. Parenting and just living in general require being purposeful; otherwise busyness and distractions will crowd out the things that are truly important. Sometimes we come to a season of life where we need to be purposeful in establishing healthy, sustainable practices for ourselves and our families. That is when working with a coach can be beneficial. The coaching relationship is all about partnership. We work together to establish the rhythms that will help you and your family be your best selves.  People come to coaching for a variety of reasons. For some it is when they have a newborn and are learning about who they are as a parent and what they want for their family. For others, it is when their child is school aged and they are struggling to find balance between screen time and physical activity. Some parents finding coaching helps them navigate a diagnosis. No matter the reason, what I know to be true is that when we are working towards being our best self, we give a gift to our children that will impact their future in the best way possible.

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Hannah is a teacher with a background in early childhood development and is now certified as a parent and life coach. You can find more about the exceptional Parent and Life Coaching services she offers on her website Foundations Parent and Life Coaching or read her thoughts about thriving daily rhythms at her blog The Daily Rhythms of Life.

 

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Being Myself: An Unconventional Mom – Sarah’s Story

I never planned on being a mother. While other little girls were rocking little dolls to sleep I was spending time in my room doing…well, I don’t really remember what but it was important! I spent hours upon hours of my childhood alone in my room and was perfectly content there. Things were organized to my liking and I could read, daydream and listen to music. Basically, I could be myself.
You see, when I was growing up, I thought that becoming a mother meant that you lost yourself. I was raised by a fantastic stay-at-home mom who sacrificed every bit of herself for her family. She got up early and stayed up late. She cooked, cleaned (sort of) and basically ran herself ragged being a wonderful mother. This was my example and while it wasn’t bad, it gave me pause. I didn’t want to be like that; I wanted to be ME.

It has never been important to me to following others’ expectations or typical life patterns. I had my eldest daughter a month before I turned nineteen. Right out of high school and dating a boy my parents detested, I rebelled and married him just to spite them. I had my daughter in the summer of 2001 and, at the time it was strongly suggested by well-meaning family and friends that I should give her up for adoption. I refused. And while I concede that it is certainly not the right choice for everyone, I knew the moment I found out I was pregnant that I wanted the baby. I didn’t really know why, except that everyone was telling me that I couldn’t do it. And them’s fightin’ words to me! I would prove them all wrong!
I didn’t go to birthing classes, nor read any books; I just had a baby and worked it out. Truthfully I think that was the best way for me. There was no pressure to conform to certain standards because there was so little expectation of my success. So I was just ME, with a baby. I parented the way I lived my life; with many mistakes and awesome comebacks.
The demise of that first marriage came upon the realization that my husband was an angry alcoholic and also using methamphetamines. I just couldn’t stand to see my daughter exposed to that and so I did my next rebellious act and left my marriage. I say it was rebellious merely from the standpoint of my parents, who were initially adamantly opposed to the marriage and, as it turned out, equally opposed to me getting divorced.
I took my daughter and moved 35 miles away from all my family and most of my friends and started over from scratch at the ripe age of twenty. It was during that time, fighting for custody of my daughter for two years, that I really came to understand my full potential as a mother. I had always been someone who was easily intimidated and now I faced down an angry, verbally abusive man for the right to raise my child on my own. It is the times like these, when we are forced to do things that make us petrified, that we understand how much we are willing to do for our kids and then to realize how much we actually CAN do for our kids.

As the dust settled from my divorce battle, I met someone new. I had my second child within the context of a second marriage, and found the experience both wonderfully different and yet distressing all at the same time. For this child I was married first (as opposed to being married nine months into the pregnancy with the first one). People had different expectations of me. I was no longer just the teenage girl who got knocked up and would surely fail at any attempt to parent on her own. Now I was the responsible mother who everyone expected to register for baby gifts and go to ‘mommy and me’ yoga classes. Fortunately for me I was already used to bucking the trend as a parent. While I embraced some of these different expectations, I tossed most of them to the wind. I didn’t need all that societal pressure to conform into the perfect parent! I already was a good parent, with a beautiful and accomplished seven year-old child to my credit.
When my younger daughter was not quite a year and a half I went through a second divorce and, similar to the first time, I plowed ahead on my own. Yet, as is always true, it was different this time as well. I had lived on my own before and raised a child. I could do it again. There were no drugs or alcohol concerns involved and we resolved our divorce amicably, without fighting. This time around I was not nearly as devastated by the divorce because I had already proven to myself and those around me that I could be a good mother even if I was single.

So far, through all the ups and downs of being a parent of now twelve and five year-olds, I have come to the conclusion that I am a good mother because I am ME as a mother. Being a mom has not robbed me of the opportunity to be myself. I am still me. I still like to thumb my nose at the rules and be a non-traditional parent in many ways and in other ways I have found great comfort in traditional methods of child-rearing. I have not ceased experimenting with wild ideas like going vegan for ten months, homeschooling while working full-time, trying to learn Italian, extreme home-cooking everything from bread to condiments and making my five-year-old do her own laundry. I also have strict bedtimes and chore charts and make sure they eat their vegetables and behave respectfully.
The key here is that I have refused to let my own preconceived ideas about motherhood and those thrust upon me by society to define what it means to be a good mother. I am a good mom because God made me to be the mother of my children. In His infinite wisdom He knew that my children should be with me and I with them. He knew that we would grow, learn and fight with each other and come out on the other side exactly who we were meant to be. I have not lost myself; I have gained an expanded version of myself.
From the divorces, custody battles, moves, financial crises and blessings, vacations, snuggle times and every other kind of curve or victory life gives me I have remained ME. The biggest blessing I can give my girls is a mother who is herself! How else can my daughters learn to be confident, secure women who will go out and conquer the world? If they don’t have a mother who is willing to be herself then will they ever learn to be themselves? I must model the behavior I wish them to exhibit and so I have come full-circle. I want to be myself and being myself is ultimately the best way for me to be a mother and being a mother is the best way to be myself.

~~~~~

Sarah is currently living in Damascus, Oregon raising her two daughters the best way she knows how with the loving support of her family and church. She works in the health care field and chronicles her thoughts on faith in her blog, Musings of a Christian Black Sheep.

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Moms’ Night Out – Motherhood Monday Movie Review and Link Up!

I got the chance last week to see a special screening of the upcoming movie, Mom’s Night Out. I convinced my sweet hubbie to come along, and despite him being one of only three or four men in a packed theater full of giggling and shrieking women, he laughed right along with us. That is how true this movie reflects motherhood and all of our mama-isms.

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Movie Background
Allyson (played by the adorable Sarah Drew) is a stay-at-home mom of three little ones with a husband that travels often for his job. As a way of reminding herself that she is still a productive member of adult society, she blogs as a “mommy blogger,” with three followers. Yesterday she had four. She is also a clean freak, germ-a-phobe with “nerve endings in the carpet.”

As the movie begins we see Allyson unable to sleep and frantically cleaning her home at 4 a.m. on Mother’s Day. It’s spotless when she finally falls into bed, but when she gets up a few hours later all hell has broken loose. The kids have DESTROYED the house to make her breakfast and through her OCD eyes, she sees them covered in salmonella. Meanwhile, her husband, Sean (Sean Astin), calls from the airport and while she is trying to get the kids ready for church, she finds her daughter drawing pictures on the wall and nearly loses it. Or, as she calls it, has a “moment.”
Several scenes (and “moments”) later, she arrives at church, disheveled and with mascara smeared all over her eyelids (from her daughter’s insistence on playing make-over). She sees and silently judges the beautiful, together moms (“I bet she has a nanny”) and brushes past the seemingly perfectly composed pastor’s wife, Sondra (Patricia Heaton), who well-meaningly consoles her “just give it five years.”

Allyson drops her kids off at Sunday school with the teacher, her best friend, Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and heads to the bathroom to clean herself up. But the “no touch” automatic paper towel dispenser will not come out, no matter how hysterically she gestures and dances in front of it.
Somehow she manages to squeeze into a packed pew and, sure enough, moments later gets paged to return to the nursery because of her son’s latest antic. When the day is over and Sean returns home late from his business trip, he sees the disaster that is their house and follows the trail of chocolate wrappers to find Allyson hiding in their closet, stress-paralyzed and unable to take her eyes off a live, internet feed of an Eagle’s nest.

Later that week, while at a church book club (an elusive dream of being able to read books as a mom of three, but going to the book club nonetheless because it makes her feel better) and texting with Izzy, sitting right next to her, Allyson realizes she needs a night out. They invite Sondra, because she looks like she is stressed too, having a teenage daughter and being unable to text legibly.
But when Saturday comes and it’s time to go out, Allyson has visions of the craziness that will ensue if she leaves her children with Sean. Despite this, she takes the minivan to pick up Izzy, who is in the midst of her own troubles in the bathroom, surrounded by five positive pregnancy sticks, to prove to herself that it really is true. Meanwhile Izzy’s husband, Marco (Robert Amaya), is freaking out about watching their twin boys alone. But off the girls go to pick up Sondra and head to their fancy Groupon restaurant for dinner.

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What ensues next is a mom’s night out nightmare…and then some! Miscommunicated dinner reservations, unexpected hospital visits and a wild goose chase all over town that leads them to a stoner’s house, a tattoo parlor, a police chase and ends up at jail. And through this crazy weaving of every mom’s struggles and worst nightmares, there runs the sweet truth and tender moments that make us all say that although we have the hardest of jobs as a mom, it is also very important. We love our children and their quirks. And even their art scribbled on the wall is frame-worthy.

My Review
I seriously loved this movie. I loved how real it was. I loved how it reminded me that even with kids that sometimes make me feel like I am going figuratively insane, I am not alone on the battlefield of motherhood. And a reminder of this on a daily basis is soooo important for my mental stability!
I loved that everyone in the theater laughed at the things my husband and I laughed at…because what they were talking about or showing was all true! Things like comparing ourselves to Bruce Banner…we don’t WANT to turn into a mommy hulk. And sometimes we can’t help being the wild woman leaning out the minivan window to reality-check the “just married” couple in the car next to us, right?!

I resonated so much with Allyson. There are seriously moments every day in my life as a mom where it could be me in that movie. And even though on those days I would so much like to just throw my hands in the air and scream or eat a whole bag of chocolate and crumble onto my closet floor in a sobbing mess, sometimes it helps to just laugh at it. Which is why I also loved how Patricia Heaton prefaced the movie by saying, “You need to laugh at motherhood. Because if you don’t laugh, you will go CRAZY. And the kids will WIN!”
I, like Allyson, wanted to be a mommy when I grew up. This was my dream as a child. I am literally living my dream and yet I am still not happy. I’m stressed, exhausted, short-fused and most of the days, I feel like I am not enough. But, as Trace Adkins’s “Bones” character so poignantly asked Allyson, “not enough for who?” my answer would be the same as hers. I feel like I am not enough for my husband, for my kids, my mother or for God. And when it really boils down to it, I feel like I am not enough for myself. I spend so much time beating myself up for feeling inadequate, but no one else sees that except me. My children always want to give me hugs, tell me that I am pretty or draw beautiful pictures of our family. My husband daily thanks me for a job well done and weekly insists that I take some time out for myself. I may sometimes feel like I am not enough and that I am often a failure, but as this movie makes clear, we ARE enough, right where we’re at.

Moms’ Night Out takes this message of laughing at motherhood and “you are enough” further than just the comedic, mothers uniting in comradery of silly mommy-isms. It shares a message of hope and of love. And not just love from family, but of the Divine. This movie does a fantastic job of showing the love of Jesus to an often skipped-over and unreached group; stay-at-home-mothers. It is so easy for a mom who does not work outside of the home to sometimes feel that what they do is of little value with almost no reward. They need to hear that most of the reward is eternal and we have a heavenly Father, who can see past the temporary, even when we can’t. And that IS enough!

So look for Moms’ Night Out, coming to 1500 theaters nationwide on May 9, 2014. Check your local listings or Fandango.com and make it your very own, much-deserved mom’s night out! You can check out the movie trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Leb6Vnhbp1A and learn more about the movie and the people who produced it at: http://www.momsnightoutmovie.com/

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And now for the Link Up! Please also visit M2M on Twitter @made2mother and like on Facebook.com/madetomother!

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The Made to Mother Project is dedicated to encouraging, supporting and inspiring women by sharing their stories of motherhood. I hope that this link-up will continue to grow our community of mothers. Please read the guidelines below for information on how to join!

Link Up Guidelines

  • Please post topics/websites that has to do with mothering
  • Be sure to link back to your blog post not your homepage.
  • Share the Linky love – visit a page or two linked up here and leave them a nice comment.
  • Oh, and a link back to Made to Mother using the button above would be awesome!

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A Life Spent Loving Others – Mary’s Story

Mary was born March 12, 1980, the second child to Dan and Kathy. She became the younger sister and mentor to Leo-Paul (LP) and the older sister and friend to Tanika. From the very first moment of Mary’s arrival, she touched people’s lives physically and emotionally. At the tender age of 9 months while watching LP work with his speech specialist, she began mimicking the therapist through a two-way mirror. LP laughed at the sound behind the wall and then he too began to make the sounds that the therapist wanted to hear. Physically challenged from birth, LP learned to speak, walk and read following Mary’s lead.

When she was four, Mary’s family became a medical foster home for infants born to chemically-addicted parents. She became a voluntary consummate ‘mommy,’ changing diapers, diagnosing bottom rashes, redressing and feeding any baby that needed it. Burping them, burrito-wrapping them and singing them to sleep along with all her dolls and the dogs and the neighbor kids that routinely stopped in. By the time Mary was nine, she was carrying car seats and diaper bags and heading off to another hospital for another baby to bring home.
At 13 she met her sister Tanika, weighing only 3 pounds 11 ounces and measuring 14 inches long. Mary would soon call her “my shoe box baby.” Mary would take extra special care of this little bundle for the rest of her life. When she was fourteen Mary was the only person allowed to pick up and hold Tanika’s medically fragile twin sister, Tanisha. Tanisha lived in an infant hospice foster home and shortly after her visit with Tanika and Mary, Jesus moved Tanisha home. Mary held Tanika close to her for a very long time. She loved Jesus but she wasn’t ready to let Tanika follow Tanisha’s lead.

At 16 years old, Mary’s parents divorced, but that did not hinder her spirit. She was a cheerleader to all around her. She coaxed, prodded, pulled and harangued many people out of some of life’s deepest ruts. Two years later, in 1998 at the age of 18, she started doing foster care on her own while attending nursing school and became one of the youngest licensed foster parents in the state of Oregon. Over the next thirteen years, she would become a caregiver to more than forty children but ‘momma’ to only thirteen very especially loved babies of all ethnicities and all manner of health and drug-related problems. Her heart was always ready to love just one more little one. She was an encourager, inspiring babies who could not feel, to live and learn how to love. God blessed Mary with the gift to love those among us who are difficult to love.

After receiving her RN license, she continued doing foster care and began caring for the elderly and mentally challenged as well; the population pushed away from society. While physically caring for her patients, she also prayed mightily over them. She encouraged them and listened to their life stories. Every life mattered to the Lord and she wanted even those lost within themselves to understand how important they were to Jesus. She sang daily their heart-songs to Jesus.
God also blessed Mary with the gift to share Jesus with anyone needing to know Him prior to their earthly departure. One woman that Mary became especially close with asked her to pray that God would take pity on her and allow her a small place in Heaven. Mary assured her that Jesus already had her mansion built and that He was just waiting to bring her home. That evening, Mary’s friend moved into her mansion built with Jesus’ own hands.

Woefully, Mary had her own health problems. For years she had suffered from genetic endometriosis and ovarian cysts and the doctors had told her she would never be able to conceive her own baby. But when she had a miscarriage early on in her marriage, she was devastated. Not long after, in 2003, at only 23 years old, she was diagnosed with HPV and had to have a complete emergency hysterectomy. They would have never found out about the cancer if it wasn’t for that precious, lost baby.
Mary had also contracted a rare strand of bacteria during her second year of nursing school, which began to attack her vital organs causing sustained damage. The mounting health problems forced her to give up working as an RN. However, Mary’s joy and enthusiasm for helping others did not end, and so she worked more creatively at being a better foster mom to medically fragile infants. Her patience was limitless and her zeal for life inspirational.

In December of 2004 Mary picked up a two-day-old boy, Baby “J,” from the hospital with the intent to adopt. He was a drug baby, so she knew he would suffer from many developmental issues and probably have to have years of therapy and special education. Mary took it all in stride. She loved him as if he were her own flesh and blood. Two years later and two weeks away from signing Baby “J’s” adoption finalization papers, Mary’s husband abandoned them. After that, the state determined that as a single parent she could not adopt any child, but as a top-notch foster parent she would be allowed to keep “J” in her home as a foster child until he reached the legal age of eighteen years old. If he were allowed to stay in one foster home for seven years, permanency might be ensured. Her hope fervently changed to emergent prayers.
Mary kept and raised her boy and for the next four years he called her his momma and she called him her son. In fact, one time in mental health therapy, “J” was told that Mary was not the mom that carried him in her tummy, but he didn’t like that. He told Mary later that it made him mad at God because he loved her and wanted to have come from her tummy! Mary reassured him that she loved him with all her heart and that she couldn’t love him more if he had come from her tummy.

Just three months prior to his 7th birthday, in September 2011, after a state-induced whirlwind adoption process, “J” was placed in his “forever home” 2500 miles from where he had lived and grown up with Mary. She only got to say a quick goodbye before he was taken away by what seemed like the perfect family for him. Under the guise of an open adoption, the state caseworker told her she had to wait six months before contacting the adoptive family. Later, however, the adoption worker told Mary the family said there would be no more contact, ever. Mary’s heart was broken and she felt betrayed by the adoption worker, the state caseworker and his new family.
Months went by and then a year without any update on “J” from the adoptive family or his caseworker. Mary continued to grieve the loss of her son and wrote this to a friend:

“I know God will give me answers in time or when my time ends. I know eventually “J” is going to grow up beyond their control and want to seek out answers to those questions they could not answer, but that I can. So I’m praying that someday he will return to me with memories and we can be reunited.”

Mary did not foster any more children after “J” was adopted and her health began to quickly fail. She was devastated and heartbroken on the inside, and even though she knew that “J” was where God wanted him to be and the family was a good match for him, she confided in her mom quietly that she felt her life was over. She had no energy to date again or make many friends and she was lonely. What she didn’t realize is that through the thousands of people that she touched, she had more friends than many people would gain in a lifetime. Mary’s heart-warming spirit encouraged veterans, the disabled, first responders, medical personnel on all levels, patients waiting for care, patients exiting care, surviving family members of newly departed loved ones and people from sea to shining sea. But she still prayed daily that God would send her a good friend and He answered that many times over as she rekindled old friendships through the internet.

Mary’s health continued to deteriorate with each passing week. The bacteria had compromised her entire immune system. She developed Crohn’s and Sweet’s syndrome in her GI tract and pseudo tumor cerebrii in her brain which began multiple types of seizures. By the middle of 2013, Mary’s lungs weakened to the point where she was getting pneumonia ever couple of months and her kidneys were functioning only at a 20-30% rate. Her liver, pancreas, gall bladder and spleen were enlarged and she could not stop vomiting. The doctors could not seem to diagnose her worsening condition. The disease continuously ravaged her already scarred young body over the years, requiring multiple hospital stays, serious surgeries and demanding test after test after test.
Her struggles were grueling to say the least, but her words were always uplifting for those around her. She would pray for the first responders that were urgently called to her home. She would pray for her family, hoping they would forgive her this ‘one last time’ for making them rush her to the ER when her heart wouldn’t stop hurting. She prayed for the nurses, doctors and technicians and that their jobs would be a little less ‘crazy because of her illness this time.’ She talked to God all the time.

In mid-November of 2013, she was finally diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect (a hole in her heart) and while she awaited more testing and the possibility of another surgery, Mary was near bedridden and had to have daily supplements of IV fluids and oxygen. She insisted on staying in the comfort of her own home, demanding that she not return to the hospital. Her family knew that under no circumstances were any resuscitation methods to be made if she slipped quietly away from them.

Although she was getting weaker and weaker, she still made the time to email a dear friend from grade school who was grieving a miscarriage. Feeling her friend’s deep pain of loss and the hopelessness of having to pick up the pieces after everything is said and done, Mary wrote this to her:

“I seem to miss my babies first thing in the morning. They are on my mind at noon, around dinner and then again at bedtime. They are the last thing I think of before I go to sleep and the first thing I think of upon waking. Each year seems to get better, but the pain doesn’t seem to go all the way away. Grief is so complicated. I can’t wait to get to Heaven to ask the Lord why He allows our Angel babies to be taken back to heaven and ask Him if we can touch them, hold them and smell them.”

On November 17, 2013 at 12:33 p.m., Mary, our daughter, sister, family member and friend solidly grasped Jesus’ hand and walked Heaven’s distant road home. She left a legacy reflective of a life filled with love for the Lord, a willingness to help no matter the chores because it meant doing ‘as Jesus would do if He were here.’ She left memories of her ability to laugh loudly, heartily and unashamedly. She left memories of her skill to sing off key, on key, or just forget the key and sing out loudly. And, she left us with the memory of her smile; her bright, enthusiastic, encouraging, dreamy and ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me’ smiles. Mary believed smiling broke through armored, tough exteriors and she proved that action correct more times than not. How can you not smile when twin dimples and blue eyes are flashing you?

                       2008 Mary (3)

Mary grew to become the woman Jesus wanted her to be. Her life lesson is twofold. First, her pain-filled illness was God’s rendering of Mary as a Masterpiece. The pain drove Mary into His open, embracing arms. He nestled her there, spoke loving kindness and mercy over her there, healed her a bit and returned her back to us. He honed her as only the Maker can. And secondly, her mother’s heart loved first her babies, but also that same heart loved the disabled, the hard-wrought, the lost and the found. Her mother’s heart beat with life for all connecting with her. Be rendered to God. Connect love with others’ heart beats.

Mary is whole, healthy and perfect in eternity. She is in heaven holding her angel babies and every other angel child up there. She is singing praises with the saints and dancing with her Savior. Her amazing, selfless personality is there blessing everyone in the next life.  And we, her family and friends still on earth, rejoice in the fact that we will one day see her face again. She will be there by Jesus’ side as one of the first to welcome us when we journey home as well.

~~~~~

In loving memory of Mary Jo Lippincott, March 12, 1980 – November 17, 2013.
To see her memory slideshow, please click here.

Five o’clock Failure – Scary Mommy, Reposted with Permission

Today is the puppy’s birthday. The. Damn. Crazy. Hyper. @#&*n puppy!!!
Yes, you know the one. The one that I told my husband we could NOT get until our 3rd child was weaned. The one that was so stinkin’ cute when we picked her out of the litter. The one we had to take a 2nd mortgage on the home to purchase from the breeder. The one that although curled up so adorably on my lap for the first week, then every night for the next four weeks made it feel like we had a newborn all over again. And in the ten months since we got her, she has peed all over our new carpets. Chewed every toy, paper, ANYTHING left on the floor in her path. Dug holes all over our yard. Jumped up on tables, counters and children for a lick of food. AND eats her own poop. Yes, THAT puppy turns one today.

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Kalua, our German Shorthair Pointer got her own birthday cake and birthday hat (both of which she devoured/destroyed less than 30 seconds after these pictures were taken. Happy birthday Kalua, you crazy puppy! And many more…!

~~~~~

Now, for your Friday Funny…Thank you, again, Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy, for so eloquently describing how each of us SAHMs feel during that witching hour, the Five o’clock Failure:

No matter how wonderful of a day I’ve had with the kids, how many hours we’ve spent outside at the playground or digging for worms in the yard or reading endless books or baking cupcakes or playing with play-doh or brainstorming on how to cure cancer or achieve world peace, there is a point every day where I feel like a total and utter failure of a mother.

It’s called five o’clock and it blows.

Without fail, everyday around five o’clock, I can be found banging my head against the wall and moaning, “why me?” I get on Twitter or Facebook to whine about my out of control offspring. I question just what I have done to deserve such raging lunatics as children. I’ve been known to lock myself in the bathroom and it’s a marvel I’m not completely certifiably insane. Everyday, I wonder what I have done wrong and who the hell these creatures are.

Like magic, my previously well- behaved, sweet and kind children will suddenly transform into wild animals. They’ll decide to “play boxing” and punch and push each other, ignoring my warnings of upcoming I-told-you-so’s. They’ll do laps around the first floor, feed their dinners to the dog and talk back to me. They’ll climb on furniture, pretending to be superhero’s and scream at the top of their lungs. They’ll push my every button and relish in doing so.

And, then, just when I can’t possibly take anymore, they will tire out and become my children again. The human children who listen and cuddle and behave and don’t sport horns and fangs. This transformation will, of course, occur just in time for Jeff to waltz through the door and wonder why I look like hell as the children happily run to him. Just in time for me to kiss them good night and crawl into bed, knowing it will all happen again tomorrow.

At five o’clock.

Scary Mommy

Reposted with permission from Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy. Original post can be found here.

Grown to Mother – Kara’s Story

When I was very little, there were many things I wanted to be when I grew up, from Wonder Woman to a Charlie’s Angel to a garbage man. I always thought I would be something other than just a wife and mother. This was instilled in me by my own mother. But when someone asked who I wanted to be like when I grew up, I knew that I wanted to be like my grandmother. She was always kind, remembered everyone’s birthday; she crocheted doilies and sat in her rocking chair and was always ready to hug me when we visited. Everyone in the family loved her and considering she’d had 11 children, and by 1986, 44 grandchildren and 44 great grandchildren (a much larger number now), that was no small thing. I wanted to be the recipient of that vast amount of love and I wanted to always be smiling, never angry or sad. To me, my grandma represented unending love and happiness. Of course I could not comprehend as a child how much she had struggled in her life and I never saw it on her face until she learned that she was dying. It was as if all the years of poverty, pregnancy, hard work and worry had revisited itself on her face at the age of 85, and the realization that the love she had given and received would not earn her immortality was too much to bear. After she died, on my eighteenth birthday, I idolized her even more for having hidden those years of struggle for so long, never putting it on anyone else.

My mother could not compete with that as I grew up. She had worked her whole life; first on a Minnesota farm as a child, taking care of three younger brothers, and then as a waitress, a stewardess and eventually an employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad, where she met my father. By 1986, she was a high-level supervisor for the State of California’s Department of Justice and proud to say that she made more money than my father. She warned me to never be dependent on anyone for money or for happiness. “No one can be everything to anyone,” she would say. “Eventually even the best of men will disappoint you and then you will need to find ways to make yourself happy.” Much of this view had been born out of seeing my grandmother on a farm, pregnant or nursing for twenty straight years with a husband who was a lousy farmer and a difficult father. Ten of her eleven babies were born at home, one of whom was 14 pounds and caused her to be sick for months after delivery. As we all do, my grandma found joy in her children, but also great difficulty, due to her lack of options. And while my mom had seen the years my grandma suffered, I had only seen her rocking, crocheting and smiling.

Feminism was not an issue of debate in our house; it was assumed that women should have the same opportunities as men and have reproductive choices. Again, Mom had seen what life was like for women without these rights. In 1968, at thirty-five years old with a fifteen year-old son, my mother was surprised to find out that she was pregnant with me. She was a full-time working woman with very limited maternity leave, so I was put in daycare at three weeks old and stayed with one babysitter or another until I was ten. She decided to go back to school while maintaining her full-time job in 1973, and by 1986 she had a Bachelor’s Degree in English.

I felt quite deprived of her as a little girl and it didn’t matter how many vacations, mini-golf games or trips to the mall we took together, I always wanted more attention. I pestered her every minute I had with her; in the mornings, the evenings and on weekends. My mom would tell me how she had to fight ten other siblings to get any alone time with her mother, even though my grandma never worked off the farm. She thought I was getting more attention and more things than any child could want. After all, every other mom in my neighborhood worked, as well as almost every woman in my extended family. Staying home with children was seen as an option only for the very wealthy or the exceedingly poor. Why, my mother thought, would anyone do that when they could work outside the home? Her generation had secured a place for women in the workforce and staying home, financially-dependent on a man, seemed like a terrible step backward.

My parents were not religious. The subject of religion honestly didn’t come up in discussion in my house. No one told me not to believe in God, but we never went to church, or Mass, and all holidays were secular. My primary babysitter was Lutheran and I had two good friends who were Catholic. Some of my Great Aunts were 7th Day Adventist and I lived in a black neighborhood, where many of our neighbors were Baptist. I joined a Baptist church at eleven years old and quit going by twelve. What struck me was that each religious friend or family member positively knew they were going to heaven when they died, but each was also sure that my other friends were not. I once asked at Sunday school whether my father, who was not religious, but a good man, would go to heaven when he died, and the answer was “no.” So I began to ask, “How does anyone know who else will go to heaven?” As an adult, I did not choose to be atheist. I am simply unpersuaded by religious arguments, in the same way that many Christians are unpersuaded by Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. They did not choose not to be Mormons; they are just not convinced that he was a recent prophet. And so I remain unpersuaded.

When it came to Mothering, as a feminist and an atheist, I had no set rules or traditions or texts to instruct me as to what I should do. Even though my grandmother, my mother and I haven’t any religious notions of what a mother should be, they both taught me to have a solid innate belief of what a mother should be; kind, understanding, loving and when necessary, demanding.

Despite my grandmother’s hard work and my mother’s independence and career, when I became a mother at twenty-eight in 1995, I decided to stay home to raise my babies myself. My husband’s work was very demanding with twelve-hour graveyard shifts and we only had one car for several years. We lived in small apartments until we bought a small house. Having only worked in secretarial positions, I told my mom that I just couldn’t see any job as satisfying as watching my children grow every day. “You may change your mind about that,” she replied. “It may not turn out to be as satisfying as you think.” Even so, I determined that I should raise my children based on empirical evidence. I knew from experience that babysitters often think of the kids they watch merely as paychecks; that they instill in them their own ideas of God, morality and politics and they make them eat lima beans even if their moms don’t. Who could I trust to love my kids and teach them better than me? No one. I also worried that I would never know how my child’s day was in daycare until they could talk. A baby can’t tell you he was shaken to quiet him, or how much Benedryl she was given so that she would nap, or whether that bruise really came from a stumble while learning to walk. Until a child can speak, you don’t know. And even then, if you do learn something awful has happened, it’s too late. So I made the firm decision that I would stay home. Over time I was able to babysit other children for a little extra income and prove that it could be done with love and compassion. And, contrary to what my mother said, it was satisfying. Until it wasn’t.

As much as I wanted and loved each of my three babies, I have found that my mom was right. It has not always been satisfying. She saw while growing up the eighth of eleven children that most of motherhood is hard, emotionally-draining work. Changing diapers for the first week may be adorable, but if you’ve had more than one child, you know fairly quickly that the third or fourth year of diapering is messy and tedious. Children are also relentless in their demands and their basic needs and pregnancies don’t always go smoothly. I found that after fifty-three hours of labor and an emergency caesarian my body did not know how to deliver a baby instinctively. I don’t think the medical community takes into consideration just how traumatic pregnancy and delivery can be for many women. They may say that post-partum depression is chemical, but it is just one of many extremes a mother’s body and mental state suffers in nine short months. And if you are a woman for whom motherhood and bonding does not come easily; if you are desperately poor or if you have no partner to help you, you can become very isolated very quickly. What comes naturally to most parents doesn’t come to us all, and babies suffer when this is the case.

My mother was also right that it was a mistake financially for me to be dependent on another person. Even a perfect couple can have insurmountable difficulties and my husband and I were not close to perfect. After seventeen years of marriage and for a variety of reasons, my husband decided he wanted a divorce. I never expected this would happen, as few people do, and it remains the one great disaster of my life and my kids’ lives.

I know that the title of this grouping of essays is Made to Mother, but as an atheist and evolutionist, the only issue I take with it is that the word, “made,” implies a Maker. Instead, I believe that I have grown to Mother. When I first held my baby Austin, I finally knew why my arms were the way they were. They were shaped to hold him. I see my daughter, now 10, cradle her cat and rock her to soothe her. But a cat is never rocked in the cat world. Her mother did not hold her and rock her and hum to her. My daughter does this instinctively because she is growing to become a mother, and someday, she will learn that these actions are meant for babies.

I finally understood the purpose of my body. When the breast milk comes, it finally makes sense. When you pat the baby over your shoulder, it finally makes sense. This is what my body is supposed to do. This is how humans have survived for millennia. A baby can’t see clearly, and so seeks out the two eyes and mouth of its mother. We never lose this instinct to find faces; in mountains, on toast and even on Mars. A baby smiles and is rewarded with smiles, cooing and praise, and so it learns to smile again. Newborns grasp a finger because as primates, we evolved from having fur and babies had to grab on and enjoy the ride. As mothers, we feel this beautiful happiness in caring for a newborn, so that we will bond sufficiently with them before they grow into toddlers. This bonding must sustain us for eighteen years; a very long time compared to the rest of the animal world. Mothers have existed since humans have existed, and certainly our methods of mothering are different across the ages and across the world. But the desire to nurture, to mother is almost universal. It is not the same for fathers; they have evolved to deal with different aspects of parenthood.

It’s been 114 years since my grandmother was born, and the issues surrounding motherhood and mothering have changed greatly. Birth control or saying, “No,” to your husband, or working for a decent wage were not options for my grandmother. My mother has often said that if birth control was around in 1932, she would have never been born. She does not say this arrogantly, as if she had no right to live, but with sorrow for her mother. Knowing that her very existence was a tremendous burden on the one woman she loved the most has been hard for my mother to live with. And yet my grandma never put that burden upon my mom or any of her children. My mom may not have been a conscious choice, but she was loved and wanted. She raised me in a different time, a time of choices for women. When people tell me that women shouldn’t work, shouldn’t put their kids in daycare and have an obligation to stay home, I think of my mother. While she got great satisfaction from raising my brother and me, she also loved to work and I would never want to take that away from her. How selfish a notion, that my life should have caused my mother to limit her education, ambition or independence in any way. And because of her skills and financial prowess, my divorce has not landed my children and me in a shelter.

What I learned from my grandmother and mother is that there is no one right way to mother a child. Each mother must take advantage of the options afforded to her in her time, place and circumstance and according to her personality. Do what works for you, your children and your family. My Mom played on the farm. My brother got to watch TV. I got to play Ms. Pacman. My kids have every Lego kit we could afford. Enjoy them, your husband, your friends and yourself, and like the baby-bonding, it can sustain you through the inevitable times of uncertainty and insecurity.

I chose to stay home and I hope I’ve done a good job raising my children, but now it’s time for me to become independent, by circumstance and by choice. I trust my kids will understand, particularly when it’s their turn to parent. I still would like to be like grandma someday, rocking, crocheting and smiling, with open arms and no trace of past worries on my face. But first, I need to be like my mom, with an education and a steady job that I enjoy. How lucky I’ve been to be loved and influenced by both women.

~~~~~

Kara was born in 1968 and raised in Sacramento, CA. She lost her father in 1985, got married in 1994 and has three great kids. She moved to Forest Grove, Oregon in 1998 and divorced in 2012. She has studied philosophy since 2001, has stayed home with her kids for 18 years and provided daycare for 8 years. She is currently going back to school to obtain a degree in paralegal and hopes to one day go to law school. Her mother lives on the Oregon coast, an hour away, and they talk every day.

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