Mommy Monster … 13 Years Later

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Thirteen years ago today, the Extraordinary Mom’s Network was born. Just one bleary-eyed mom leaning over her keyboard and frantically shouting into the void to see if anyone in the whole, wide world felt the same way….

One morning when you least expect it, you’ll look in the mirror and find it looking back at you. The phantasm bears a slight resemblance to your familiar self, except… Is it possible that your husband installed a trick mirror while you were dozing, just for kicks? This gal has…

  • Stomach is rumbling from not eating a decent meal since… What is this? May?
  • Throat is raw from screaming like a fishwife, just to hear yourself above the din.
  • In the same set of sweats you’ve worn all week, sans bra. Even to the doctor’s office.

And as the bathroom door reverberates with the pounding of three insistent sets of little fists, you pray the lock will hold long enough for you to sit down for five seconds and have one coherent thought.

Suddenly, it hits you:

This is not what I signed up for. I don’t recognize that ghoulish figure in the mirror. She’s grouchy. She’s wrinkled and rumpled, and so are her clothes. She smells like baby barf. Make her go away.

Easier said than done. But if you watch my back, and I watch yours, maybe we can figure this out together. We’ll get those Mommy Monsters.

To be perfectly honest, my experiment in virtual communication was not an unqualified success. Although I did meet some amazing women along the way who were just doing the best they could at the time. Some true heroes.

I also met individuals who had been so wounded and broken, I soon found myself in the middle of angry internet wars I had neither the time nor energy (nor, in some cases, the experience) to win. And so, when I grew tired of having my head handed to me on a platter, I stopped writing about adoption for a time.

But as the kids have grown older, and I’ve seen the next round of adoptive and foster parents rise up and encourage others to enter the fray, I feel as though I’ve found my second wind. Because after thirteen years, I have learned a few things about what it takes to do this. After thirteen years, I’ve made enough mistakes to recognize a jackpot before I step into it, and had enough successes that I can encourage those who are just starting out.

The Mommy Monsters still raise their ugly heads from time to time. But then, it’s part of being an Extraordinary Mom — extraordinary in the “Eucharistic sense”: One who comes alongside to serve the ordinary mom, to feed and nurture the hungry souls who step into our lives. Heaven knows, we usually don’t feel very out-of-the-ordinary ourselves. But the task we’ve been given … well, that is remarkable indeed.

So, whether this is your first time on the blog, or you’ve been reading for years — thanks for sharing the journey!

Mighty Mom Monday: Lessons in Gratitude

Thanks to “Mighty Mom” for reprising this heartfelt post here at EMN. In this season of Advent, may we always be mindful of those for whom the “holidays” are a painful reminder of what they need … first and foremost, the preservation of dignity.

OK, when I was a child we lived in what I now know was poverty. However, because my then step-father was going to SMU to seminary (he never finished) we lived for a year and a half in the richest part of Dallas. It was very hard to be “the poor kid.”

Well, during the second of those Decembers we got an envelope in the mail that said “To the parents of Sarah …..” return address was Santa Claus. Inside were $100 in gift certificates to the local grocery store. Our Christmas was not big, but we did have one. Because of the former step-father’s poor spending habits, we would have had Christmas regardless…but then wouldn’t have had money for food. Those gift certificates were perfect. A month’s worth of food (give or take) that can’t be spent on anything else. (This was long before you could get groceries and “stuff” like clothes and toys at the same store.)

I have a younger brother with a different last name. Why was it addressed to my parents? Who sent it? How did they know that just sending money wouldn’t be as helpful as the gift certificates? Did they know? How can you accept a gift when you don’t know who to tell thank you?

These questions have no answers.

But I do know this. I was 12 years old and very depressed. Ready to lose hope in everything. My Mom was in the process of kicking out the former step-father with poor spending habits. The world as I knew it was falling apart. Out of nowhere Santa sent me a gift. Not just a gift of money for food for the family, but a gift to me of hope, an example that people aren’t all hateful and snide, and the assurance that I could and would make it and be able to move on to a better life. Also, the knowledge that there’d be help along the way through the Grace of God.

Christmas is about the Birth of Christ. However, Santa Claus is about spreading hope and joy to those most in need. And every December I celebrate BOTH. Yes, I DO believe in Santa Claus and I DO believe that he still lives.

He lives in our hearts every December when we make a point of spreading hope and joy to someone else.

“And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

“Weird Moms” – A Belated Tribute

Karen at “Odd Moms” invited me to check out her blog the other day …  “I know the ‘Weird Mom’ contest is over, but I wanted to pass this along,” she wrote. 

I’m so glad she did.  I was especially touched by this tribute to her mother.  Neither Karen nor her mother have had an easy life. But they managed to impart to their children important lessons about self-reliance and courage — first and foremost, by their own example as courageous single moms.

Karen’s blog is a good reminder that not all EMs are adoptive or foster moms. Some of them are moms who are simply doing the best they can with what life hands them, one day at a time.

An Adoptive Mother’s Story: Guest Post from Mighty Mom

Editor’s Note:  I was about ten when my mother led my Brownie troop on a trail-marking expedition in High Point State Park (NJ). Nearly twenty of us, along with three adults, divided into three groups: One to mark the trail, one to follow it, and one to clear away the markings as they followed the second group.

My mother led the first group along the path, on what was supposed to be a two-hour hike; we were to wind up back at the parked cars that held our post-hike refreshments.  Instead, Mom took a wrong turn, and led our troop several miles up the Appalachian Trail (which runs from Maine to Georgia).

Three hours later, we were still hiking. Exhausted. Hungry. Thirsty. We sat down to wait for the two other groups to catch up … and one of them eventually did.  (In their excitement, the second group had obiterated the carefully laid trail, so there were no marks remaining for the third group, who simply gave up and returned to the car to wait for us.)

Another hour passed, and finally Mom decided we would make our way to the interstate for help. So there we were — a dozen bedraggled, hungry, whiny tweenagers and two adults who were doing their best to hold it together — huddled by the side of the road somewhere in upstate New York, trying to bum a ride. (Sadly, there was no “hitchhiker” badge in the Brownie Hand Book.)

Finally, some vacuum salesman from Poughkeepsie gave my mother a lift back to her car, and a full six hours after we were originally supposed to have returned, we pulled in to the school parking lot. This was in the days before cell phones, and by that time parents were frantic.

We had less than half our troop at the next meeting. But it wasn’t so bad: I had a story that stayed with me for life.

These past two weeks I feel as though I’ve been hiking that Appalachian Trail again — this time as the leader. Trying to read the signs, to point the way for those who follow, and to keep “my troops” (my own family) safe and happy and well-fed.  And these two weeks, I feel as though I’ve allowed myself to wander far afield.

The purpose of EMN is — and always will be — to support the mothers of adopted, foster, and special-needs children.  Our vocation is not an easy one, and most of us have enough ugliness and pain in our lives that we don’t need to go looking for more.  

And so, it’s time to get back on track. The other two sides of the adoption triad — natural/birth mothers and adult adoptees — already have plenty of places where they can go to address their needs and wants, and to express their pain and loss.

This site … is for extraordinary mothers.  Our hopes. Our struggles. Our faith. Our journeys.  If and when other voices chime in, their comments should reflect an understanding of the needs of  mothers of adopted, foster, and special needs kids.  

And so, let’s head back to the parking lot, shall we? Here’s a guest post from “Mighty Mom” to lead us there — to remind us of the realities of adoption from the ADOPTIVE parents’ point of view. (My notes are in brackets).

Continue reading

Amazing Mom Monday: Andrea Roberts at “Reeces Rainbow”

“Mighty Mom” Sarah is taking a break … and so, I’ve decided to use this space to tell you about some other Extraordinary Moms!  “Mighty Mom Monday” is now “Amazing Mom Monday.”

“Atlanta mother Andrea Roberts has helped arrange more than 100 international adoptions in two years. Her Web site, http://reecesrainbow.com, focuses on children with Down syndrome, listing page after page of toddlers from Serbia, Ukraine and other countries where children with mental disabilities are often put in orphanages or mental hospitals. ”

Thanks to Barb Curtis, who sent me a link to this story in “The Washington Post” about Andrea and other women who are working to make a difference in the lives of Down syndrome children.

Outstanding International Adoption Websites

Today I found an international adoption website that I can’t refer specifically by name because they need to keep the blog private for the present due to the special circumstances related to their adoption.

However, I wanted to share with my readers three sites that those who are seeking international adoption will find particularly helpful. I’ve saved them in the “International Adoption” blogroll.

The first, “Informed Adoptions,” offers a wide variety of articles that are especially good for transracial adoption, particularly those from Guatemala.

The second, “The Hague Convention Guide for Prospective Adoptive Parents” is a primer for those who want to better understand the changes in the adoption this year.

 “Adoption Agency Ratings” offers a list of 1200 adoption agencies, there for your researching pleasure.

Finally, those interested in foster-adoption may be interested in this online resource, the “Child Welfare Information Gateway”

When I get permission to list my “source” I will do just that — thanks, K!

Mighty Mom Mondays: Lessons Grandma Taught Me

As is our custom here at EMN, Sarah has chimed in with her weekly post of wisdom and took this month’s EMN Carnival on extraordinary moms to a whole new level! To catch more of Mighty Mom, go to her blog “My Wonderful Life.” Thank you, Sarah!!!

 

My Grandma taught me …

To speak softly and carry a big jar of cookies.

The amount of time it takes to put on a pair of knee-highs and keds is exactly equal to the amount of time it takes to start a conversation that’ll last all day.

There is never any reason to be jealous, for you will always have a special place in the heart of someone who loves you, a place that no one else can ever take.

Homemade pickles taste better.

The best beginning to any sentence is “Say, how’s so and so doing (or such and such going) these days?”

How to handle walking in on two kids (my brother and cousin) after they’ve used the wheel of your stationary bike to grind an entire package of cheetos into a big pile of dust…on your white carpet….”Well, you’ve been having fun!”

Talking about your hurts doesn’t make them go away, but focusing on your happys will make the hurts smaller.

Rolls can be bought frozen ….but cookies must be made from scratch.

Every morning when you wake up, you decide if you’re going to have a good day.

Make each child feel as if he or she is your favorite. (This from a woman with 5 kids and 11 grandkids.) 

Putting a lit match behind your teeth only makes you look like a jack-o-lantern if you have a really big smile (she did).

You can get glad in the same shoes you got mad in.

Spraying perfume on your grandchildren’s homemade yarn flowers makes them “just like real.”

Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds you up or polishes you up depends on what you’re made of.