Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Art of "Momfulness"

This week is Vacation Bible School at our church. It's always a lot of work ... but also a lot of fun. I enjoy doing music with the kids, teaching them the little ditties my mother used to sing with us. This year, we're learning about Moses, so one of the songs goes like this:

How did Moses cross the Red Sea? (march, march)
Did he swim? No, no. (swing arms like windmills)
Did he sail? No, no. (did they even have pontoons on the Red Sea? I don't know.)
Did he fly? No, no, no, no! (make like a bird)
Did he run? No, no. (Well, maybe a bit when Pharaoh was chasing him.)
Did he row? No, no.
How did he get across?
God blew with the wind (puff, puff, puff, puff)
He blew just enough (nuff, nuff, nuff, nuff)
And through the sea he made a path (big arm effects).
That's how he got across!
All that sailing and running and puffing ... It's the perfect metaphor for Bible school week, isn't it? Of course, my kids always seem to sense when I'm needed elsewhere, and choose that precise moment to hang around my waist like little grass skirts. Augh!!!

But this week, I cannot raise my voice. Not if I'm going to teach music all week ... And so, I practice what Denise Roy (author of My Monastery is a Minivan) calls Momfulness (Jossey Bass Publishers). That's the art of stepping back, assessing both the situation and my own reaction to it, and making a deliberate choice to breathe and live fully in that moment without rushing ahead to the next one.

Its New-Agey cover notwithstanding, this book is a helpful resource for Mommy Monsters everywhere (those of us who struggle with temper). I wish I'd had it five years ago, when I really struggled to keep things in perspective. While it would have been even better if she had tied the exercises more firmly to the Catholic monastic tradition, the mental disciplines she describes are important for all mothers to acquire in order to maintain the serenity every household needs.

If you find yourself blowing up or raising your voice unnecessarily, pick up a copy. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Blast from the Past

Yesterday was an eventful day. Craig had an altercation with a semi truck (he lost, and totalled the car). Fortunately, that's all we lost -- he was shaken, but none the worse for wear. Thank God.

When I heard about the accident, my first thought was an unhappy exchange we'd had just before he left for work. Neither of us had gotten much sleep the night before, and both of us were feeling a bit punchy (figuratively speaking, of course). I snipped, he grumped ... then left for work. The next thing I knew, I had four messages on my cell phone to call my husband immediately. You'd better believe he got the royal treatment for the rest of the day!

On our way in to work this morning (I get to play chauffer until we get another car), Craig and I talked about how easy it can be to take each other for granted. He once observed to me that the time a couple spends together before the kids come is like money in the bank in terms of a marriage investment; after they arrive, the couple has to make regular withdrawals from the "love bank" just to tend to those little gifts from God. If we're smart, we find ways to make additional deposits ... those that don't often find themselves in divorce court!

Many times, it's a matter of keeping perspective -- what's worth getting upset over, and what isn't. Yesterday I got an unexpected e-mail from a high-school friend of mine, who gifted me with a little trip down memory lane, from the first week the kids came to stay with us. So much has changed in the interim ... Sarah is getting ready to start kindergarten in the fall, and Christopher will be in 2nd grade. Cheyenne is thriving with her new forever family ... and I will be forever grateful that, despite all the bumps, we were gifted with these little lives. This was dated August 5, 2002.

Our first week with Cheyenne (4-1/2), Christopher (2-1/2) and Sarah (6 months) is now over, and we have had a few days to rest and reflect. It was a busy week, as you might imagine. Most parents start with one squirmy baby at a time!

However, there were a lot of bright points -- the kids loved blueberry picking, and visiting "Aunt Katy" and her chickens, and going to the petting zoo with Grandma and Grandpa Hess. I learned the trick to long car rides (put kids tapes in the cassette player, and keep pelting them with goldfish crackers). Craig learned that there is such a thing as playing TOO MUCH with a baby... after a certain point, she gets so tired that she won't eat, so that someone has to get up at 4 a.m. to give her a midnight feeding.

It about broke my heart to leave them at the agency, to visit their parents and go back to their regular foster mom. I could hear Christopher's howls all the way down the stairs, and the baby started crying when Craig said "bye-bye." At first we were too sick and exhausted to notice the silence when we returned home, but a few days later we picked up the pictures we had taken during that week together, and realized how happy we looked.

In short, starting next week, there will be three long-term additions to the Saxton house. (We went out shopping for a swing set last night.) We want to thank everyone for all the encouragement and support we have been given the past few weeks. It means a lot.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Today on my Streams of Mercy blog, there are two posts that may interest you.

The first is a miracle. Gabriel Sullivan's cancer seems to be going into remission with inordinate speed! Praise the Lord! Read about it here.

The second is a piece I wrote that will appear sometime in the near future on CatholicExchange. But you got to read it here first! I put this on the "Monster" blog because I think this message about the Jesuit priest has a special application to mothers. It offers us an opportunity to examine our own hearts, and see what longings are present that need to be offered back to the One who knows best how to fulfill each one.
In the article, I do not mention an "inordinate longing" that kept me emotionally stalled for nearly five years. It involved a broken heart, and my inability to let go of that individual. Longing turned into bitterness, creating a hard place in my heart that took many years to soften enough to be ready for the real gift God had for me: my husband Craig. For other women, it is their dreams of motherhood.

These "spiritual calluses" -- hard, angry places that linger on the soul -- are a sign that there is something disordered that we need to offer back to God. The best place I can think of to do that is in the sacrament of confession.

May God grant you the desires of His bountiful, merciful Heart!

Blessings-- Heidi