Be Still

Being a single stay at home mom affords some unique opportunities and challenges. After doing this for a few years, I’ve discovered meaningful connections are key for my success. I’m an introvert. My kids are generally in bed by 7pm. So I have evenings to myself. That really helps me recharge for the next day, but isn’t always enough.

So I make a point of connecting with at least one life-giving friend a week. This week, however, afforded me the opportunity to connect with 5 great friends in two short days.

Wednesday morning we arrived slightly late for story & craft time at Chapters. It was a struggle to get out the door. The night before, Athena destroyed the bathroom. Because I was downstairs working on the other bathroom, this went unnoticed until long after she was asleep. So first thing in the morning we chatted about the chunk she’d torn off the wall and the pieces of soap shoved down the drain. In to time out she went. It was not pleasant.

Then Raine decided she wouldn’t take her medication. As much as I understand, she really can’t function without it. After failing to find a pharmaceutical that works for her, we’ve found an herbal product that helps take the edge off without diminishing who Raine is.

I knew she wouldn’t be able to cope with out the medication. A lengthy battle ensued in which Raine told me she was leaving to return to her birth mom. “Because it’s so much better there!” Eventually, after the contents of one capsule was thrown around the kitchen, Raine complied.

We arrived in our nice dresses and I ordered myself some coffee. The day got better.

samples of chai tea! Athena's favourite

Samples of chai tea! Athena’s favourite.

“I can’t believe it,” my friend said when I relayed the story of our morning. “I never would have guessed.”

I am a firm believer in the beauty of adoption. The fact remains, parenting kids from hard places is hard. That doesn’t change my belief that it’s right, necessary, and worth it. The reality isn’t as lovely as we looked walking into Chapters Wednesday morning. That’s ok. My life is a beautiful mess as we navigate the experience of family that is uniquely ours.

IMG_20140604_113011

Raine, eying some interesting books.

Sipping coffee with my friend while my girls were enraptured by the story being read by the Chapter’s employee, gave me a chance to be still. The struggles of our morning faded away.

Last night, after the kids were “in bed”, another friend came by. There were a dozen reasons my normally compliant kids found to leave their rooms. Mainly they wanted to be part of the conversation going on in the living room. I let them say hello then sent them back to bed. When they settled, I got to pray with my friend – something that energizes my spirit. It was so refreshing to be still in the presence of the Lord.

This morning was another race. Up so late, the kids slept in. For the first time since becoming a mom 6yrs ago, I got out of bed at 8:30am. Normally it’s 6:30am or 7am if all goes well. Lovely – except we needed to be at the chiropractor’s for 9am. It was a rush. And Raine ended up on the floor of her bedroom crying that the capri’s I picked out were completely unsuitable. “It’s freezing outside!” she sobbed. “I’m going to freeze!”

Being perfect, I wouldn’t have let the looming appointment dictate how much time I spent consoling and convincing her. Far from perfect, I told her it would soon warm up outside and offered her some pants. That didn’t help. She kept crying, for reasons I didn’t quite catch as I tried to grab a couple of granola bars for the kids’ breakfast (to be eaten in the car).

We made it to the appointment, then went on to a park where I was having an informal business meeting with a friend. She was a little late, so Raine pushed Athena and I on a swing. I loved the chance to be still and let my body move with the rhythm of the swing.

Our meeting went long. The kids were playing so well, I didn’t notice the time.

Exhausted and happy after a day of play, the kids rested while I made dinner.

Exhausted and happy after a day of play, kids rested while I made dinner.

We rushed from there to a play date at an indoor playground with two other friends. The place, normally crowded, was completely empty. Our kids – six in total – loved it.

Normally, I’m somewhat nervous when Raine’s around kids & parents we aren’t familiar with. Sometimes her reactions are out of sync with what’s going on. Often she’s loud and bossy. Maybe no one else cares, but I worry. Not having any unknown kids or parents around I could be still and enjoy the conversation with my friends. It was blissful.

This is what helps me carry on – the moments I’m able to be still and drink in the company of a like minded, trusted friend. I’m so grateful for those the Lord has brought into my life – including the ones I didn’t manage to connect with this week.

 

 

What’s in a Name?

William-Shakespeare-quote-530x256

It’s Thursday and time for an adoption process update. I don’t have anything new to share. I’ve been busy getting ready for my trip among other things.

Since I don’t have a progress report, let’s explore an adoption issue. Names. Adopting an older child from foster care limits one’s options. For me that’s been challenging. I am a connoisseur of names. One of my first purchases as a teenager was a baby name book. I’ve carried it with me all these years. Whenever I meet someone, I check to see the meaning of their name.

Since childhood I’ve had a list entitled, “What I Want to Name My Kids.” Over the years the list has changed and evolved. The main criteria is names that are uncommon with a meaning that resonates with me.

Looking forward to adopting again, I’d love to be able to choose one of my children’s names. I have a revised list ready. There are several selections for boys and girls depending on the child’s personality and/or given name.

I love my daughter’s names. They never appeared on my list – but are lovely and meet my criteria. Because of the spelling of Raine’s name it means queen. Athena means wisdom. Both of those concepts have great meaning for me. When I met with their birth mom last year, I asked why she’d chosen their names. The question surprised her. Apparently she hadn’t given much thought to the reasons.

Since my girls were young and accepting, I was able to choose middle names for them. That was lots of fun. Still, there’s a lingering desire to select a first name. If it doesn’t happen, I will survived. I can continue to name companies, books, and characters I write about. That might have to suffice. We shall see.

The Truth About Mother’s Day

Now that the fanfare’s over, let’s be honest. Mother’s Day can lightstock_82211_max_user_637824be hard for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.

At breakfast Raine asked if I thought her birth mother was sad when she lost her. “I’m sure she was sad,” I answered. “Losing a child is very sad.”

“Do you think she cried?” was the next question. No doubt she did. She may even have been crying yesterday.

There are so many others who mourn on Mother’s Day – women who haven’t been able to have biological children. A friend in my teen years was adopted. Occasionally his mom and I would sit down for a cup of tea. I’ll never forget the day she broke down crying. She was completely devoted to her four adopted children. But there was still a sting that she hadn’t been able to give birth to them herself. Then there are women who have never obtained the title of mother in any form.

I read a post about one woman’s church asking moms to stand on Sunday. Flowers were given out in celebration of Mother’s Day. The past few years my church has given a donation to a charity caring for women in lieu of gifts on Mother’s Day. But when there were gifts, they went to all women over 18yrs. I remember the years of longing before I became a mom. I can imagine the sadness of being singled out on an already difficult day.

Then there’s the reality that, for some, there isn’t much to celebrate about their mothers. The truth is parents fail. Some in small ways, but others do so completely. Being a foster parent, I know this all too well. Not only do some parents fail to provide the love and security needed while their children grow up, they also fail to provide an example worth replicating. So, when grown, who do you turn to for advice? Who do you imitate as you raise your own kids? Besides being nothing like your parents, how do you know you’re doing a good job?

If your mom’s failed in big ways, a day celebrating her might just be too much. That’s the truth.

So if you know of someone in any of these situations, maybe next year ask them or the Lord how you can ease the pain of Mother’s Day. As glorious as it is for many, the day falls short of happy for more people than you realize. This year, for the first time, we were able to move past the pain and enjoy being a family. Praying for you if that wasn’t the case. Praying the God of all comfort will wrap you in His arms. Let Him reveal to you, the truth that you are loved.

The Love of a Sister

Yesterday, I saw my sister and her family – husband, 4yr old son, and baby on the way – for the first time in a long time. We last visited in February 2013. After 7yrs in western Canada, she’s moved back to Ontario. They’ll be settling about 3hrs away, but that’s much better than a two day drive.

my sister, my nephew, & my girls. So happy to be together.

my sister, my nephew, & my girls. So happy to be together.

We went to a handmade artisan sale at a local winery. I really love this region! A friend from church handcrafts gourmet ice cream. We all enjoyed a taste.

My sister is two years younger than me. The legend goes, when she was born – in the month of May – I insisted upon wearing a snowsuit to meet her in the hospital. My dad brought me and fed me Smarties along the way. I arrived a colourful, chocolate mess wearing a pink snowsuit. Jumping up beside my mom on the hospital bed, I shouted, “Where’s my Jennie Mae?”

My sister and I in 2009 holding a picture of us

My sister and I in 2009 holding a picture of us

Since then we’ve always been the best of friends. Some of our tastes overlap – literature, music, films – while others diverge – fashion, food, fun. Regardless of our differences, having someone who fully accepts me and lovingly challenges me is invaluable. I can’t imagine any portion of my life without my sister.

My own girls, full biological sisters, haven’t always been together. A good portion of their short lives have been spent apart. Because of how much I value my own sister, I’ve worked hard to form a connection for them. It’s grown slowly but I’m happy to say it’s there. While Athena’s at school and Raine enjoys a particular adventure she’ll say, “Can we do this again with my sister?” Now days when I send them upstairs to put their pajamas on, they end up playing joyously together. There was a time when arguments would erupt the moment I was out of sight.

Both of my girls are fiercely competitive. It assaults my senses since I am not. Never did my sister or I complete against each other. It wasn’t in our nature. We worked endlessly to build each other up – offering the other our success at every turn. After resisting for ages, I’ve given in. There are times when I suggest a race if the girls aren’t responsive to my instructions. It works. It’s not helpful in obliterating their competitive edge. Perhaps that’s alright. I’m not sure. It remains a completely foreign concept to me – especially in the context of family. But I’m happy to see more helping than competing between them these days. They’re beginning to experience the love of a sister.

Athena & Raine making sweet potato pie

Athena & Raine making sweet potato pie

Social Media Fail

I’ve not ventured into the world of Instagram, despite many suggestions.

I received some lovely flowers. My friends know me well!

I received some lovely flowers. My friends know me well!

The problem is, I’m forever forgetting to take pictures. Even with the ease of having a camera on my phone, the thought doesn’t generally doesn’t stay in my mind.

Today I celebrated my 37th birthday with a few friends. Hosting a party became a grand undertaking, especially with three extra little ones underfoot. The 6, 5, and 2yr old who visited us not long ago (Now That was Fun) returned this weekend. I must say this time, with something else on the agenda, it wasn’t as much fun.

The house was an absolute disaster an hour before the party. There was no time for pictures of the freshly polished silver all put out. I tried to capture my daughters in the dresses I made them for the occasion, but didn’t get a clear shot. They dance, and jump, and prefer to pick their noses whenever the camera comes out.

More lovely flowers - I can't properly capture in a picture.

More lovely flowers – I can’t properly capture in a picture.

Bribing the children with candy got the toys at least out from underfoot before our guests arrived. We enjoyed a chocolate fountain with fruit, nuts, and cookies to dip. I put out my grandmother’s wedding china. There were flavoured syrups – gingerbread, French vanilla, Swiss chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut – to mix with sparkling water for my own take on soda pop.

It was lovely. Not all my friends were able to make it. But there was a nice turn out. I may have neglected some guests in favour of two friends I rarely see. We grew up together but live a bit of distance from each other now.

the aftermath of our table

the aftermath of our table

Each guest is a gift to me. Their kind words, encouragement, and willingness to lend a hand make my life possible. Indeed, I would have given up on the party preparations had it not been for a friend who arrived early.

I believe the party to have been a success. But I’ve not pictures to prove it. The thought crossed my mind before the guests arrived, then didn’t enter again until they were gone. At which point I snapped a few. Entire chapters of my life have passed without a single snapshot. Some of my most precious moments have not been captured. I do apologize. My life doesn’t quite fit into Instagram or other forms of social media.

A sentiment expressed in one of my favourite novels by my favourite author makes this fact marginally less tragic.

We owned a Kodak Brownie camera – everyone in Rochester did – but my mother forbade its use. “They stop things,” she would announce whenever the subject of cameras arose. “They interrupt the normal flow of event. Furthermore, they eliminate things. If I take a photograph of this,” she would say, pointing to a beer factory across the Genesee River, “I obliterate this and this.” Even now I can see the way she gestured as she spoke, her arms sweeping back and forth, conjuring the rest of the world, the world that a photograph might have obliterated……

The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart

Perhaps the fear of obliteration is what keeps me from excelling in photographing my life. Maybe it’s the fact that things are never quite picture perfect. I’d like to think it’s because I’m too busy enjoying myself. Today that was certainly the case.

My place, not yet cleared.

My place, not yet cleared.

Athena helping me to tidy up.

Athena helping me to tidy up.

Raine

Raine happy after an afternoon outdoors with friends. The mud and chocolate may not show up in the photo – but they’re there.