Tag Archives: mother’s day

Spoiled Rotten on Mother’s Day

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My Mother’s Day was full of blessings, despite it being a bit untraditional. Like so many around the world, Mother’s Day was spent at home away from the mothers we love. This Mother’s Day we weren’t able to celebrate our own mothers in person so we opted instead to send a package of love through the mail with the promise of in person hugs and kisses as soon as it is safe to meet again.

I counted myself blessed to have so many of my own children living under my roof during this time of quarantine, as I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day with four of my six kiddos, plus a bonus son (Zach.) Ozzie is still being treated at the residential treatment facility where he has resided for the last 12 months, so he wasn’t with us for the weekend. His facility is still under strict lockdown and isn’t allowing any visits. Braden opted to leave for the weekend, finding Mother’s Day weekend too much to emotionally manage. Instead he went to David’s house (his first adopted father) for a weekend visit.

On Sunday I received the blessed and much appreciated gift of an extra few hours of sleep. After a challenging week it was wonderful to heal under the covers with a few extra winks of sleep.

Everyone dressed for church at home where we enjoyed some thoughtfully and lovingly planned talks about motherhood. It renewed my soul and left me feeling blessed and loved.

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After church, but before the Mother’s Day lunch the kids prepared, I was presented with my Mother’s Day gifts. Each gift was planned and prepared with thoughtfulness.

Each gift was so reflective of the giver.

As is the tradition in our home, we began with the youngest child.

Tyler (with Gracie’s help) bought me a few new candles for the house, saying, “I know you like it when the house doesn’t stink.” It made me smile and touched my heart that he gave thought to what brings me joy (like an un-stinky house!)

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From Rusty I received one of his world famous paintings. I love receiving artwork from Rusty and this Mother’s Day painting was one of his best yet!! There is nothing better than to receive homemade gifts of love from your children!

“Hakuna Matata!”

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Molly also shared her talents with me in the form of poetry. Molly writes beautiful poetry and her gift for me was a Mother’s Day poem she had penned, paired with a matching illustration of her poem. Both were incredibly beautiful and touching.

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Then it was Grace and Zach’s turn. Watching the struggles of the last week led Grace to gift me with a “hyacinth for my soul.” She knows the way I heal the hurts on broken days is through a bubble bath (Calgon, take me away!) so she and Zach gifted me with essential supplies for self care. It was so personal and so perfect!

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The remainder of the day was spent relaxing and being doted on by my family. I recieved a pedicure and manicure.

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Meals were prepared and then cleaned up by my children.

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 I even got a Sunday nap!

My cup overfloweth!

 

 

The first week of May…Thank God it is Over!

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There is no role I value more or invest so much of myself in then the role of mother. It is the title I hold in highest esteem and one I feel has been divinely assigned. Whether my child came to be through biological channels or delivered into my life through a series of “God-incidences,” I know that the children under my care were divinely delivered. Because I hold the role and responsibility of mother in such high esteem, Mother’s Day has always been a cherished holiday for me…

At least it was in the beginning.

In recent years Mother’s Day has become a day that we white-knuckle our way through. Mother’s Day week is our “Hell Week” at Patchwork Farm.

In the world of Navy Seal training, the fourth week of training is dubbed “Hell Week.” 

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This is when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum total of four hours of sleep. Hell Week begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at the end of Friday. During this time, trainees face continuous training evolutions. 

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Pretty much every evolution during Hell Week involves the team (or boat crew) carrying their boat — inflatable rubber Zodiacs– over their heads.

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Timed exercises, runs, and crawling through mud flats are interspersed throughout the five-and-a-half days. The largest number of trainees drops out during Hell Week.

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This extreme training is critical, though. SEALs on missions must be able to operate efficiently, oblivious to sub-zero temperatures and their own physical comfort. Their lives, as well as the lives of others, may depend on it.

This is what the first week of May has become at our house. Triggered by significant traumas, the anniversary of past losses, and the complicated and tangled emotions connected to the title of “mother,” Mother’s Day week is by far the most hurt-filled for my adopted sons and the most challenging week of the year for our family as a whole.

It is understandable.

For a child who has experienced neglect and/or abuse at the hand of the one person who should be their lifeline and source of greatest security, the perception of “motherhood” is skewed. This is a reality I have come to experience firsthand over the last seven years. When raising children with attachment disorders there is no greater threat and no larger villain in their eyes then the mother of the house.

It doesn’t matter how different I may look from the mother that failed them, or how different I act from the mother that hurt them…

Because I am “mother,” I am the enemy.

Gaining a greater understanding of attachment disorders and the effects of early childhood trauma has helped me gain an understanding of why I am public enemy #1. It has helped solidify the reality that, despite all I give and all I do, it will never erase the damage done in those early years. The more I study, the more I understand this on a cerebral level…and that helps…but it doesn’t take away the sting when the attacks that are intended for the woman who hurt my sons are targeted toward me simply because I bear the name of “mother.”

Over the last seven years Mother’s Day has gone from being my favorite holiday to being my most dreaded. Once filled with childhood drawings and burnt toast in bed, delivered by sticky fingers, it is now a day filled with misplaced rage, deep hurts, and destructive behaviors. It has become our “Hell Week.”

It is the most trying week of the year at Patchwork Farm. It is the week we all brace ourselves for, knowing it will not only fall short of the Hallmark image of Mother’s Day, but will more closely resemble a documentary on Navy Seal’s “Hell Week.” It is a week of “minimal sleep and continuous training exercises” in which our fortitude and inner strength are tested to the extreme. It is a week of slugging through emotional mudflats and fighting the emotional fatigue of hefting the heavy weight of trauma above our heads for days at a time. It is a battle of endurance and more that once I have considered just not showing up for “Hell Week.”

This year was one of those years.

This year I had a pass to skip out on “Hell Week.” A year ago Toby and I began plans to take a trip we have been dreaming about for two decades. We were taking our long-dreamed about cruise to Alaska and we were planning on leaving the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Needless to say, that trip was canceled as the cruise industry shut down in the wake of Covid-19. I was disappointed on many fronts. As we entered into Mother’s Day week I mourned the loss of our long-anticipated trip, but I also mourned the reprieve from the abuse so closely connected to Mother’s day week. It was the “Hell Week”  we have come to expect from our kids that have suffered so much hurt, heartache, and loss in their short lives, but the chaos playing out at the hands of the hurt were countered by the efforts of my children who haven’t experienced trauma at the hands of a mother.

We lost our opportunity to escape to Alaska, so they brought Alaska to us.

On Saturday, following a quick run to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, Toby and I returned home to this:

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We were sent to our room to dress for dinner, as the kids finished transforming the dinning room into an Alaskan escape,

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Complete with mountains and evergreen trees,

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And wild animals!

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By raiding the camping supplies in the basement, they created recreated the Alaskan wilderness in our own home.

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Their creativity and efforts made me feel incredibly loved and cherished.

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Grace cooked a delicious dinner of Alaskan salmon, lemon pepper green bean, and croissants, with mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert,

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While Molly served as our onboard waitress.

It was a perfect night and such a gift of selfless love after an especially hard week.

That is the wonderful thing about “Hell Week.” It doesn’t last forever.

It is a season of extreem challenges and intensive training. It builds muscles that are otherwise untouched and reveals to us inner abilities and our strengths. It is a time when our will is tested and we demonstrate, through our fortitude, that we will stand by our commitments and stay true to the cause.

It is choosing to fight when giving up would be easier.

It is giving our all when we feel completely spent.

It is choosing to endure rather than “ring out.”

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And it is holding on to the hope and the promise that this too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

A different sort of Mother’s Day

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I recently revisited a book I first picked up in high school. It is funny how two decades and a boatload of life experiences can alter a piece of literature. The words on the page may remain static and unchanging, but the interpretation and affect of those words are as varied as the hands that pick it up to read it.

The book I am reading is called, “A Child Called IT,” by Dave Pelzer. I don’t remember which friend first recommended it, but I remember the first time I read it. I was enthralled and horrified, as well as a bit skeptical. Surely, there is a sprinkling of fiction in this author’s recounting of a childhood riddled with the most horrific of abuse, I thought to myself.  Surely it wasn’t as bad as he recounts on paper. I thought there must have been some level of sensationalism added to sell the book. I couldn’t fathom the idea that a mother would hurt a child…so horrifically…so intentionally.

Last Saturday, while spending the day in Wooster with my mother for Mother’s Day, we stopped in her local bookstore and I saw this same book sitting on the shelf. I picked it up and found myself adding it to my pile of books to purchase. I felt compelled to revisit the story again. I began reading it two days later and devoured it in a day.

I still find the story of abuse horrifying, but far more believable than I did at age 17. What’s more, I found myself reading the account through new eyes. Not only did I believe its truth, but I found myself paralleling the story of young David with the stories of my boys and their own journey through neglect and abuse on their road to safety. As the author spoke the thoughts, worries, and reasons for his behaviors through the mindset of a little boy in survival mode, I felt like I was listening into the thoughts of my own adopted sons, who while now in a safe and secure home, still live with a survival mindset and struggle with survival behaviors.

When we chose to adopt our lives were changed forever. There is not one aspect of our lives that has remain the same. God has used this journey to mold all of us into beings far different than who we were five years ago. It has been the hardest journey of our lives but by far the most affecting. God has expanded our hearts, revealed our flaws, given us a depth of character and capacity for compassion that can only come from Him and His work.

I have learned so many life lessons along the way. Too many to count…too many to name. But one of the greatest lessons I have learned about myself is how naïve I was about the reality of life for so many, and how easy it is to judge the path of those who chose differently than us because of life circumstances far darker than any I’ve ever had to navigate.

When I was little and we would hear the story of another’s struggle or burden or misguided choice, my mother would wisely pull us away from the path of judgement and lead us towards the path of compassion with a single phrase:

“There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Oh, the power in that simple phrase.

It is a humbling reminder that all that I am, all that I have, all that I have accomplished, is because of God’s good grace.

Who is to say how my life would have played out had I been dealt a different set of cards.

I recognize that a huge part of my blessings come from having been blessed with a good mother and father…healthy parents, who learned from generations of good, healthy, capable, loving parents before them. I used to take this blessing for granted. A loving mother was all I have ever known and I assumed all were blessed in the same way. My perception changed when we began reading the files of children in foster care and we got a small peek into what reality looks like for millions of children. It humbled me and made me realize that all that I am, and all that is good in my life, is not because of anything I did or didn’t do. I didn’t make the right choice because I am awesome. I was able to make healthy life choices because it had been modeled for me my loving parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

We are currently fully immersed in the TBRI world of Karyn Purvis, as we relearn how to parent children from hard places. Our journey began a little over a month ago with the Empowered to Connect conference we attended. Oh, how it has changed our world, and our perception of our boys and their stories. It has made me realize the great, intrinsic value the relationship between mother and child has on every aspect of a child, from their brain chemistry, to their relationships with others, to how they perceive their world. What it takes to grow a healthy human being begins with the simplest ritual of holding a baby when it cries and meeting a baby’s most basic needs. The result of that not occurring as it should is horrific and heart breaking and life affecting for that child and everyone that attempts to attach to them. I am better understanding the great, divine role of mothers in God’s plan and how a disruption in God’s plan causes chaos and destruction. I also now better understand that a mother’s inability to meet these most basic needs in her child is usually a result of a history of unhealthy relationships perpetuating over time. A “bad” mother isn’t made, she is taught.

As I celebrated Mother’s Day this year my heart was in a different place. It meant something different this year. It meant something more. It was less about my role as a mother and more about reflecting on how blessed I have been to learn from the best. I come from a long line of women who have been loved and nurtured and as result have loved and nurtured me. This is a gift I don’t know that I fully acknowledged before. Toby comes from a long line of women who were loved and nurtured, and thus were capable of loving and nurturing him. The result is being able to raise healthy, happy, stable, loved children. And we can take no credit for their goodness, for who knows who we would be and what our life would look like had we been dealt different cards.

“There but for the Grace of God, go I.”

I also find myself remembering the women who gave birth to my adopted sons. I am grateful for their gift of life to two of the most important people in my life. Women who parented the only way they knew how. My connection with them is complicated and wrought with mixed emotions. I hate the hurt they inflicted on my boys, and I hate the hurt that they must have endured to make the choices they did.

“There but for the Grace of God, go I”

Mother’s Day is a hard holiday in my home. My boys struggle through that day dedicated to the celebration of the role of mothers and all the emotional baggage and great feelings of loss that brings it with it, but that said, this was the healthiest and happiest Mother’s Day we have had in the last 4 years, due in part to the TBRI principles we are applying and a lot of upfront prevention we invested in the day.

To begin we went into the holiday with a new approach. I began by putting myself in a good place emotionally. Past Mother’s Days have been hard. Ozzie struggles with such anger and feelings of hurt towards his biological mother that Mother’s Day has been a day full of sabotage and hurts directed at me. Prior to the Empowered to Connect conference I struggled with understanding the complex, over-the-top emotions that drive his behaviors on special holidays, and as a result didn’t approach the day with the level of compassion I should have.

I have learned better and now can do better.

This year I hedged my bets for having a more loving and compassionate response to his sabotage efforts by celebrating Mother’s Day on Saturday with my own Mom. I drove out to Ohio to spend the day, one-on-one, with my own mommy and by doing so filled her love tank and had mine filled in return. We shopped, had a fun lunch, and celebrated motherhood together.

And in doing so was able to return home Saturday night filled with love and peaceful acceptance for however Sunday would play out. I met my own emotional needs so that I could better meet Ozzie’s emotional needs.

While I was gone, the big kids and Toby hedged their bets too. They wanted me to have a special day, but knew all too well how most holidays play out in our home, so they were proactive and invested a huge amount of love and time into surprising me Saturday night with a beautiful yard.

While I was gone they went shopping at Home Depot, bought mulch and flowers, and mowed, trimmed, weeded, and planted their love into my heart. They spoke to me in my love language of service, and made me feel so loved and valued for Mother’s Day.

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I am so grateful for my kids and their big hearts!

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Tyler made my Mother’s Day sign.

 

The scope of Gracie’s love acts spread even further when she took Tyler shopping for ingredients for my Mother’s Day dinner. She had the lovely idea of buying a dozen roses and then letting Tyler hand them out, a rose at a time, while they grocery shopped, to mothers with children.

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I felt like this was a gift to me too, as she (with her own sacrifice of time and money) taught the valuable lesson of “love of service to Tyler” and showed him that the greatest joy in life comes from giving to others.

We were also proactive this year in choosing to not attend church for Mother’s Day, but worship at home. I knew Ozzie was unstable with all the emotions connected to Mother’s Day and I recognized that the kindest, healthiest way to help him through the day would be to hibernate at home, away from the Mother’s Day talks and lessons about loving mothers and gratitude for mothers, all which tear new wounds into an already fragile soul. I knew we needed to just lock the doors, and connect as a family, without external stimuli, so that is what we did.

And the love of God permeated our home.

The kids gave me their gifts of love and heartfelt, homemade cards, and we just hugged, loved, and prayed our way through the most difficult day of the year.

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Gracie gifted me with a manicure date with her and Molly this coming Friday. I was so touched!

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Fancy Bath and Body Works hand soaps from Molly.

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Molly’s words of love.

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A new paper towel holder from Rusty.

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And the cutest cookie jar ever from Tyler!!

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Tyler made his card all by himself this year. The portrait of the two of us melts my heart. He loves my eyes! 🙂

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Candles from Ozzie.

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Oh, those words. ❤

 

That day we felt the strengthening love of God as we celebrated mothers…The birth mothers that bore them, the foster mothers who raised them, and this mother who tries daily to live worthy of calling them her forever sons.

God is here.

God is healing.

God is Good!

Happy Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day has been a favorite holiday since 1998 when I celebrated my first Mother’s Day with a two-month-old perfectly precious baby girl. I had every reason to delight in this spring holiday. I have been blessed abundantly with wonderful, righteous, giving and loving women in my life and I had all the reason in the world to celebrate…

celebrate not only my new role as a mother, but more importantly, celebrate all the women who walked before me who taught me how to be a mother.

Since adopting our two sons from foster care I find that my outlook on Mother’s Day has changed a bit. For the first time in my life I am exposed to the heartache and heartbreak often connected to this holiday. It isn’t a day of joy for everyone. It can be a day of great sadness and grieving.

Mother’s Day has become a hard holiday in our home as we acknowledge the great loss associated with this holiday for our sons who, while celebrating me, are grieving the absence of the woman they loved first…the woman who gave them birth.

With this grieving inevitably comes a mound of messy baggage and tough behaviors on this day that Hallmark totes as a day of ease and spoiling for Momma…haha!

With these tough emotions and behaviors come feelings of frustration and resentment for the older kids as they deal with younger brothers hijacking their efforts to make the day special for Mom.

I also find myself struggling under a mound of mixed emotions as I contemplate the great loss and sadness two particular women are feeling as their sons hand me flowers and homemade cards instead of them.

Mother’s Day has become a glad/sad holiday for me.

While I relish and cherish this role of mother,

Mother’s Day is a tough day.

My children (especially my big kids and Toby) went all out to salvage the day and make me feel loved, despite the struggles of the day.

Here is a look into their acts of love:

The day began with breakfast in bed. Grace and Rusty woke early to make breakfast and then woke the other kids when they were ready to wake me up and surprise me.

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Since we had to get ready for church, and because the kids wanted me to be able to take my time as I opened gifts, they decided to wait until after church to give me my gifts.

At church Molly was one of five youth speaking on the topic of mothers. She did a wonderful job and I was touched by her words and her tribute.

After church Tyler came to find me so that her could give me the Mother’s Day gift he made with his teacher in class. It is always a treat to see what charming homemade gift comes home from primary on Mother’s Day. It is usually the best gift of the day!

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When we arrived home the kids worked together to make lunch. Grace had taken everyone shopping earlier in the week to buy supplies for Mother’s Day gifts and to buy the makings for shish kabobs. Yum!

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While the kabobs cooked on the grill the kids sat me down to present their gifts:

From Tyler I received roses. Grace later informed me that great love and thought went into the gift as Tyler sniffed every bouquet at the store in search of the best bouquet. While Tyler’s flowers were a special gift, Gracie’s angelic patience in taking her little brothers gift shopping was the REAL gift!

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Ozzie bought me a new cup for cold drinks,

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and Rusty bought be a new “Mom” mug for hot drinks. (The boys must think I have a “drinking” problem!) 😉

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Molly made me a picture for my wall.

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and Grace made me homemade soaps.

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Together the girls, knowing how much Momma loves her bubble baths, researched how to make homemade bath bombs, and gifted me with a box of beautiful lavender bath bombs for the ultimate soaking experience.

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The remainder of the day spent managing the hard emotions and behaviors connected to Mother’s Day.

When the little boys were put to bed at the end of the day I finally was able to rest…emotionally rest. I sat with Toby and older three children and we watched National Park videos of the places we are going to visit later this summer. It was a joy to sit and look forward to our fun, family trip and let go of some of the weight of worry I had been shouldering all day.

It was a beautiful day made all the more special by my husband and children…

but I must admit I felt a sense of relief as the day drew to a close. As nice as holidays are, sometimes plain old boring Mondays are easier.

Does that make me a bad mom?

Happy Mother’s Day to all my favorite Moms.

Mother’s Day Love

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What a blessed Mother’s Day!

I was spoiled by my family and felt incredibly loved!

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The morning began with not so quiet whispers outside my bedroom door,

“Is she awake yet? Can I wake up Momma?”

So I emerged and was greeted by eager, enthusiastic kiddos,

a bouquet of flowers, and a pile of kid-wrapped gifts.

I felt incredibly loved as I was guided to the seat of honor and the debate began as to who got to give me their gift first. 🙂

Such love, thought and creativity went into the gifts that the kids created for me. It was fun to open each one and see how the gift reflected the giver.

Here is a glimpse into the “Momma love” that was shown to me for Mother’s Day 2015.

Rusty surprised me with a candygram-

A heartfelt letter written on paper with candy bars replacing some of the words in the note.

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Here is his letter:

“We wanted to show our appreciation by giving you 100 Grand but the money slipped through our Butterfinger.It was not PayDay so we couldn’t give you a shopping Spree in New York. We thought about an Orbit around the MilkyWay but that would cost Extra so we just made you this card.

Love, Rusty, Ellie, Winnie, Brownie and Teddy”

🙂

Molly’s gift was a thoughtful expression of love. She gave me a certificate for her to do my nails, but she also gave me a gift I will forever treasure…

A stack of sealed letters written by her,

to open over the course of the next year.

On the outside of each envelope was a description of when I should read the letter. Here are the notes on the outside of the letters that correspond with the message inside:

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“Open when you need to know how much I love you.”

“Open when you are feeling mad.”

“Open when you need to feel better about yourself.”

“Open when you need to feel encouraged.”

“Open when you’ve had a bad day.”

“Open when you need a smile.”

“Open when you are feeling sad.”

“Open when you need to know that you are doing a great job as a mom.”

I look forward to opening each of Molly’s letters and know they will be a special treasure forever.

Gracie’s gift came wrapped up in a tube. On it was a tag that read:

“I know that we often track mud through the house, but know that your 5 muddy footprints love you!”

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Inside was a floor mat that Gracie had personalized by painting each kid’s foot and stamping it on the mat with fabric paint. It was so thoughtful and creative and will forever be cherished!

Gracie also gave me a certificate for an ice cream date. She told me that she will drive me and treat me to ice cream, just her and I. I can’t wait!

The little boys also had a surprise for me. With Gracie’s help they made me an “All about Mom book.” Gracie asked them questions and then recorded their answers on index cards which she placed in a photo album. As I read their answers I laughed and I cried. It was such a gift! And it was so special to see the boys so eager and proud of their Mother’s Day gift.

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Here are some of the questions they answered in the books:

What is Mom’s favorite color?

Tyler: Purple   Ozzie: Red

What is Mom’s favorite food?

Tyler: Donuts    Ozzie: Chicken

How old is Mom?

Tyler: 27   Ozzie: 29

How tall is Mom?

Tyler: 5 feet   Ozzie: 7 feet

What is the best thing Mom cooks?

Tyler: Mac N’ Cheese   Ozzie: Pumpkin Chili

What is Mom’s favorite song?

Tyler: Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree   Ozzie: Any Rock Music

What is Mom’s favorite flower?

Tyler: Tulips   Ozzie: Dandelions

How much do you love Mommy?

Tyler: A lot!    Ozzie: To the end of the Solar System!

How blessed I am!!

After opening gifts and getting hugs and kisses from all my treasures we left for church. The spoiling continued as I was treated to a special surprise: Tyler and Ozzie (and the other primary kids) serenading me and all the other mothers as part of a Mother’s Day musical number. At church the boys also decorated tiles to give me as a Mother’s Day gift.

The afternoon was spent relaxing and enjoying time outside as a family.

Piggy back races

Piggy back races

Crab races...

Crab races…

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Water balloon toss...

Water balloon toss…

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It was a perfect day.

A Mother’s Tears

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Happy belated Mother’s Day.

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“A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that priviledge are not lost on me.” -Jody Landers

I know Mother’s Day is a hard holiday for a lot of women. Some struggle because of a loss…loss of a mother, loss of a child. Some struggle because of an absence felt in their lives…the absence of the love they should have been given as a child, or perhaps the absence of a child of their own to receive the abundance of love that they so long to give. Like so many holidays it can bring a heartache of loss and disappointment, or simply a mourning for times gone past.  There are expectations and intense emotions connected with the day regardless of what your life story is.

Our life story makes Mother’s day a mixed bag of emotions as well. As we celebrate our family and the blessing of gaining two sons through adoption I can’t help but mourn for the women who lost so much. I wonder if they have come to realize the full consequence of their choices. I wonder if they lie awake at night, regretting the path they took that led them to have their children taken away. I wonder if they are dealing with heartbreak this Mother’s Day as they wonder where their child is this night and what woman is receiving the sticky kisses that should have been theirs.

My heart breaks for the women that bore my sons. I know that the choices they made led them to this point, but I also know that so much of their story is hidden from my eyes. There is so much that I don’t know about the women who have blessed me so abundantly. I don’t know what hurts they lived through to pass those hurts onto their child. I don’t know what emptiness they must have felt to be driven into the arms of such a hurtful man. I don’t know anything about fear so paralyzing that it keeps you from stepping in between the abuser and your innocent child. I don’t know what it must feel like to feel so trapped, so alone, so helpless…

I can not judge the women who bore my sons because,

although I hate what they allowed,

I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what they must have suffered to allow their child to suffer so.

Who might I have become had I not been blessed by this life I’ve lived? What type of mother would I have become if I had not had such a glorious example in my own mother? At her hands I learned the lessons of self-care, unconditional love, sacrifice for the ones you care about, faith in someone bigger than myself. She showed me what a mother looks like. She showed me how to love.

I have lived a life of privilege..

I have had the privilege of being raised by loving and encouraging parents.

I have had the privilege of never going to bed hungry.

I have had the privilege of being a citizen of a free country.

I have had the privilege of knowing Christ from an early age, learning to pray to Him, and hope in Him.

I have never faced the moral dilemma of having to choose whether to sell my soul, body, and dignity or watch my children go hungry.

I have always had the privilege of clean water and a roof over my head.

I have never known paralyzing fear,

or demoralizing abuse at the hands of an abusive man.

Who is to say what I might have become had I not lived a life of such abundant blessings…

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Like so many other women who face Mother’s Day with sadness, or dread, or fear, or regret…

I wonder today about the mothers who bore my sons.

And I pray for them.

And I give thanks for their sacrifice.

It may not have been a deliberate act of love or sacrifice,

but it is a sacrifice none the less.

I am forever connected to these faceless women whom I have never met.

 I hold the babies that have their eyes and their lips and mannerisms. I dry the tears made by the life lived before I arrived. I tend to the wounds that happened under their care, wounds that perhaps they were unable to prevent or care for themselves.

We share a child, these women and I.

She gave my child life…

and now he is my life.

Today I pray for her,

and all the other women whose tears fall freely on this holiest of days.

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Happy Mother’s Day

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The kids woke me up with Mother's Day surprises.

The kids woke me up with Mother’s Day surprises and breakfast in bed.

Sometimes my heart aches. It is not an ache of sadness but an ache that comes from intense love. Sometimes in the midst of living life I catch a glimpse of one of my blessings racing past me on their way to the next task or adventure and my heart catches in my chest. Sometimes it is a look across a room or a moment of catching them in an act of kindness.  It can be a word whispered, a quick embrace, or the dirty boy smell I breathe in as I kiss their heads. Sometimes the heart pull comes just from the thought of them as I reflect on the blessing of being called, “Momma.” My heart hurts when I consider the enormous blessings my Father in Heaven has gifted me with. I am humbled that He has entrusted such gems to me when I am so unworthy of the task. My heart is full, so full of love, for the 5 treasures who have come into my life by different paths but have all found a place in this Momma’s heart. The love and gratitude I feel is overwhelming and it sometimes makes my heart feel to big for my chest. I am profoundly humbled as I sit and ponder on the blessings of the life I have been given and the blessings of this day.

Gracie's gift to me.

Gracie’s gift to me.

There was a time in my life when I had no desire to be a Momma and felt children would simply be a hindrance in my grand plans to change the world. I had a change of heart as I felt God’s call. I married and soon gave birth to Grace. My heart began to hurt and I understood the feeling described by Elizabeth Stone when she said, “The decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I had little understanding of the heart’s capacity for love until I held Gracie in my arms.

Then came the decision to grow our family and give Grace a sibling. I remember the very real fears I struggled with as I carried Molly within me, fears that my heart lacked the capacity to love another as I loved my first. It is silly, really, as I look back on the fears I battled during that pregnancy. I know now of the heart’s great ability to stretch and grow and no sooner had I held Molly in my arms, my heart doubled in size.

It was not soon after that we found out we were pregnant with baby #3. We soon found out that I was carrying a boy. Well, that brought its own set of fears. I was a “girls” mom. I didn’t know what I was going to do with a dirty, noisy, busy, bouncing boy. I feared I would never be able to connect and bond with him like I had with the girls. “I have nothing in common with little boys,” I expressed to Toby. Then Rusty was born. I held him and kissed the rolls at the back of his neck and my heart doubled in size again. I discovered the magical love that grows between a Momma and her son.

Tyler's card and his picture of him and I.

Tyler’s card and his picture of us holding hands.

My heart was full. Due to a diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis we knew that we couldn’t have anymore babies and so I loved on the blessings I had. My heart was filled and our life was good. The kids grew and the challenges of the early years of parenting were waning and then God whispered. God whispered his plan to grow our family again and although we were fearful of the road we were being asked to walk down we stepped forward in faith. Like each of our pregnancies we rode the rollercoaster of emotions. We were excited and anxious and impatient to meet our new child but also fearful of all the unknowns that come from a life altering change. I worried that I wouldn’t bond with another woman’s child. I worried that I was somehow hurting the children we had. I feared that it wouldn’t work, that the child wouldn’t “fit” or that I wouldn’t love him like I loved my own… and then we met Tyler. He stepped out of the car for his first visit, a little sullen boy with baby fat cheeks and big brown eyes, and I was in love. My heart doubled in size.

Ozzie made me a clay flower.

Ozzie made me a clay flower.

The next year was challenging, and tiring, and hard. There were days I wanted to throw in the towel or just run away but then God would give me a moment of clarity. It would come unexpectedly in the form of a look or a word or a touch and my heart would ache and I would be reminded of the intensity of love I felt for a child born to another mother. The adoption was finalized, he took our name, and things were easier. Then God whispered again. This time he called us to open our home to child who needed a place to go for Christmas. We opened our doors having no idea we would be opening our hearts to child #5. Then we met him. His love for life was contagious and we were charmed by this little 9-year-old boy with glasses and a chipped tooth smile. When we got the call asking us if we wanted to move forward with adopting Ozzie we had already fallen in love and my heart doubled in size once more.

There was a time in my life that I questioned my heart’s capacity for love, but this is what I have learned over the years: The heart muscle has great pliability and the more you stretch it the bigger it grows…

which isn’t to say that it doesn’t ache every now and then. 🙂

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Flowers for Mother’s Day!

 

 

The blessing of mothers

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This weekend was a celebration..an opportunity to embrace the spirit of Mother’s Day and give thanks for the women who mean so much to me. It was a chance to acknowledge how my life has been touched by their lives. I have been blessed with wonderful women in my life. They have come in the form of  a loving mother, sister, grandmothers, mother-in-law, aunts, friends, and daughters. I am grateful for the examples they are to me, the lessons they teach me, and the love they so freely give me. I am blessed to have them in my life…

Crazy kids!

Crazy kids!

Friday night was a celebration of the two youngest women in my life..my daughters. How grateful I am for my daughters! On Friday night there was a Father/Son activity sponsored by our church so it was “girl night” at home. The boys packed their tent and sleeping bags while rain and golf ball sized hail fell outside. I could tell that the last thing Toby wanted to do was camp in the rain but he didn’t want to disappoint the boys. The Father/Son campout is the highlight of Rusty’s year and Tyler was excited because he had never been camping before so Toby (aka Father of the YEAR!) packed up the truck and left with his boys to make some memories. While the boys were gone the girls and I packed up half of our house to take to church to decorate for the Mother’s Day brunch that we had the next morning. We arrived at the church around 7:00 pm after stopping to buy last-minute items we needed for  and then the girls helped me decorate for a few hours. They were a big help! After we finished decorating we grabbed dinner, rented a movie, and stopped at the grocery store to buy the ingredients needed for some of the food I was making for the Mother’s Day brunch. We were home by 10:30 pm. We changed into our PJs, grabbed blankets for snuggling on the couch, filled the side table with movie snacks and drinks and sat down to begin our “girls’ night!” It was a lot of fun but by 2:00 am I had to throw in the towel and head to bed for a little sleep.. much to the disappointment of the girls. It was a wonderful night..just what I needed! I am so proud of my girls and the young women they have become. They bring me so much joy!

Mother's Day brunch

Mother’s Day brunch

The next morning we were up early, slightly regretting our late night, as we prepared for our Mother’s Day brunch. The theme was a pioneer theme. One reason we chose it was because following the brunch we were having an old-fashioned sewing bee to help the young women sew pioneer skirts for a pioneer trek  activity they will take part in this summer but we also chose that theme in honor of Mother’s Day. It gave us the opportunity to celebrate the legacy of all the mothers, grandmothers and women who came before us. This brunch was a celebration of another group of women in my life..the women from church who I am blessed to call friends.

3 of my favorite girls!

3 of my favorite girls!

While we were eating and sewing the boys were having a different sort of adventure. Poor Toby didn’t get much sleep on his campout. Tyler was up most of the night excited to be camping, cold from being water-logged, and itchy. Tyler contracted poison ivy a few days ago and despite our best efforts to heal it ourselves it has only spread over more of his body. So after coming home from the campout and taking Tyler to his soccer game Toby took him to the doctor’s office to have him checked out. The doctor confirmed our suspicion that it was now in his bloodstream and was popping out all over his body. The doctor prescribed medicine to be taken orally and some to be applied topically..hopefully the will bring Tyler some relief. Poor kid!!

poor Tyler!

Poor Tyler!

In the evening we had the opportunity to celebrate another woman in my life..my mother-in-law. I am grateful for her and the wonderful job she did raising my husband. I know that I would not be blessed with the hard-working, loving, gentle, generous and kind husband I have been blessed with if not for her mothering. I only hope that my children turn out half as well as her son has. We met Mimi Joy at Applebee’s for dinner and had a fun time catching up, eating yummy food and exchanging gifts. We said our goodbyes at the end of dinner and headed home for bed. Everyone was tired from a late night and a sleepless campout the previous night.

Mimi Joy, Molly and Gracie

Mimi Joy, Molly and Gracie

The next morning we slept in a little. That was a Mother’s Day gift in itself! The kids we eager to give me their gifts so we gathered in the livingroom soon after everyone woke up. I felt incredibly blessed as the kids took turns bringing me the homemade gifts they had created with such love and laying their love offerings on my lap. The boys each gave me a card with a message of love written inside, Molly made a tote bag for me and filled the inside with things that I enjoy, and Gracie painted a picture of our home on a canvas that she purchased at a craft store. It was beautiful and will be something I will treasure forever. I am so grateful for these children that my Heavenly Father has blessed me with. This was my first Mother’s Day with Tyler as my son. He may not have grown in my womb, as the others had, but he has certainly grown in my heart!

My Mother's Day gift from Gracie

My Mother’s Day gift from Gracie

Gracie..blessing #1

Gracie..blessing #1

Molly..blessing # 2

Molly..blessing # 2

Rusty..blessing # 3

Rusty..blessing # 3

Tyler..blessing # 4

Tyler..blessing # 4

Sunday we drove to Ohio to celebrate three more wonderful women. My mother’s aunt and cousin were visiting from Utah so we were able to see family that we don’t get to see very often..what a treat!!  I am grateful for the female relatives in my life. I am grateful for my aunts and great aunts, my grandmothers, and  my cousins but I’m especially grateful on this Mother’s Day for my mom. I have been blessed with the best mother in the world and have learned so many things from her example. From her I have learned to laugh and not take myself too seriously..I have learned the joy that come from serving others..I have learned the importance of family..I have learned that making a house a home is not just a chore but an art form. At my mother’s knee I have learned the lessons of kindness, patience, empathy, gentleness, finding joy in the journey and unconditional love..especially unconditional love. I have never doubted my mom’s love for me even when I wasn’t all that loveable  (Sorry about those teenage years, Mom!) but I never really understood the depth of that love until I had children of my own. I remember laying in the dim lights of the hospital room the night after Gracie was born, holding my baby in my arms and thinking, “This is how my mother feels about me,” and being amazed at the enormity of that love. I finally “got it” and was humbled at the realization of how loved I truly was.

Three beautiful ladies!

Three beautiful ladies!

We had a wonderful day with family. The kids enjoyed being at the farm, playing with the animals, milking the goats and playing games. It was a blessed day!

Mimi and Tyler playing soccer..

Mimi and Tyler playing soccer..

Toby taming "mean Eddie" the grumpy rooster.

Toby taming “mean Eddie”… the grumpy rooster.

Eddie had to have a "time out" on the fence post, much to Tyler's delight.

Eddie had to have a “time out” on the fence post, much to Tyler’s delight.

Toby making friends :)

Toby making friends 🙂

When it was time to go we said good-bye to family and headed down the driveway. About halfway down the long dirt road Tyler started getting upset and refused to buckle up. “I’m not leaving,” he said, “I’m going to live here forever!” He refused to buckle up and so Toby scooped him out of the car and dropped him in the grass to finish his temper tantrum outside. We sat in the car and waited for him to calm down. I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what we were doing as we sat in the driveway staring off into the field where Tyler sat.  As I watched Tyler work his way through the frustration he was feeling I thought to myself..”Happy Mother’s Day to me!”

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It had been a long weekend, a tiring weekend, but also a blessed weekend as I celebrated the women I love and the joy of motherhood. I am grateful for my babies, each and every one of them…

even that dirty little boy

with the tear streaked face

who is frightening away all the field mice

in the tall grass

of rural Ohio…

Happy Mother’s Day!

Look who lost a tooth on the way home!

Look who lost a tooth on the way home!