I’m a Control Freak

To hear a seven-year-old girl lament “I guess  I’m a control freak” is a bit surprising to say the least.  But this is what the Bear told  me on Monday night.  She had a better day at school on Monday and I was much relieved  about that.  It meant there was a good chance that our night at home would be somewhat peaceful.  At the very least, I didn’t have to mete out any consequence the minute we got home, due to bad behavior at school.  I breathed a little.

After Joseph got home from work, he decided to make some mashed potatoes to go with our dinner.  The Bear and I were snuggled up on the couch looking at the Christmas Toys ‘r Us catalog (heavy sigh) and she was talking to me about her Christmas wish list.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw PaPaw and Dozer in the kitchen . . . and lo and behold PaPaw had the mixer out which must mean they are baking a cake!  She immediately sprang into action and took off toward the kitchen elbowing her way into the middle of them.  When we put a stop to that and told her no, she proceeded to have a complete come-apart.  It began with the normal whining and carrying on and progressed into a full-blown meltdown with screaming and slamming and crying.  While  I was on the phone with my best friend, I could hear Joseph and the Bear and I knew  the Bear had succeeded in causing PaPaw’s head to explode (so to speak).

I quickly got off of the telephone and talked to Joseph to see what had transpired.  He told  me what happened after I left the room and then looked at me sorrowfully and said “I just wanted to teach him how to make mashed potatoes.”  We listened to  her rage in her room for a few more minutes, and then I went and started a bath.  Now normally it kind be a dicey thing to put her in the tub when she’s raging – once a few years ago when I tried to do that to calm her  down, she almost drowned herself in the tub by flinging her head into the water and  getting a mouth and nose full of water.  It was bad.  So although Joseph told me he’d rather I didn’t put her in the tub, I knew  I had  to get her calmed down . . . she had reached the point of no return.

I went and got her  from her bedroom, told her she  was taking a soaking bath and basically got her into the tub as you might an infant.  I lit a candle.  I turned off the lights. I sat in the floor beside the bathtub while she calmed down.  It didn’t take  long before the screaming and crying ended.  She began  to take deep breaths and despite her best efforts maybe, she began to relax.  I asked her why she got so upset and she told me that she felt  left out because PaPaw and Dozer  were making a cake without her.  I quickly explained to her that they were only making mashed potatoes while she and I were working on her Christmas list.  I reminded her of how many times she’s been in  the kitchen with either myself or PaPaw, cooking, without Dozer, because he was too young.  I told her that now Dozer is getting older so he’s ready to learn and help like she has.  She heard  what I said and  calmed  down more, and then looked at me and said “I guess I’m just a control freak.”  What?!  A seven-year old kid has the wherewithal to make that assessment about herself and verbalize it?  I don’t think she’s ever heard me use that phrase, so I was even more taken aback.

I asked her what she meant by being  a control freak and she rather calmly told me that she knows she wants to control everything and she gets mad when she can’t.  Wow.  To be honest, she was dead-on accurate.  I took this opportunity to ask her some questions about her mom and dad to try to get her to talk.  We talked about the fact  that when she was with mom and dad,  she had no control over what they did.  She agreed.  I acknowledged  to her that she had absolutely no control over the decision to no longer live with either of her parents and that must have been scary.  She acknowledged it was.  We talked about the fact  that one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in my life is the fact that I can only control myself and no one else, so I’ve learned to let go of those things I can’t change or control.  We talked about ways she could learn to let go . . . and we talked about the fact that because we have a God that is in total control . . . and already knows our story, because He wrote it . . . then really we have nothing to worry about that is out of our control.  Those are huge concepts for an adult to live by and process, much less a child of seven.

The night got better for all of us and she has had a decent week at school.  Actually it’s been a complete turn-around from last week, which was hellish each day.  Then Wednesday came . . . she had a good day at school, earned forty-five  minutes worth of time playing on my phone after she completed homework and bounced into church that night like she had not a care in the world.  When we got home from church that night, my plan was for her to get clean and watch The Voice with me (she loves to dance to the show – so I don’t actually get to see the performances) . . . but that didn’t quite work out.  She immediately became defiant.  She argued and yelled at me regardless of what I said and finally I’d reached my limit.  I told her she had to go to bed early and she would have no TV.  Needless to say that didn’t go well.  She flipped out.  She entered full-blown rage mode again.  I closed her bedroom door to try to muffle her screaming (no tears mind you) but that didn’t work.  I felt my blood pressure rise and went marching back into her room, screaming at her to stop screaming . . . and the whole time that was coming out of my mouth I realized how stupid my approach was.

First of all I didn’t stop and think about those words out of James . . . about taming my tongue; nor did I give her feelings any validity because I was tired and when that last straw was laid across my back, it was too much.  But this time, after I screamed at her to stop, I stopped.  I took a step back.  I left the room and waited until she calmed down.  Then I went back.

She was curled up in her bed writing in a notebook, softly snubbing after all of the venting she’d done.  I didn’t say a word to her, I just laid down beside her.  She immediately snuggled up close and we started talking.  I apologized to her for screaming at her.  I asked her if something had happened at church that caused her to get all of those yucky feelings rolling around in her again and she said yes . . . that she had been thinking about her mom.  She cried, worried that her mom would have no place to live when she gets out of prison.  Mind you, that will be in eight years if all goes well . . . but her mom having a home is front and center in her mind.  Then she talked about what will happen when her mom gets out and her parents see one another . . . will everything start again?  Will they fight?

We talked again about control.  I talked to her again about how we can’t control what someone else chooses to do or not do, that we are only responsible for our actions.  I talked to her  about  the  fact  that when it is time  for her mom to get out, there will be a plan in place for her to have a home.  We talked  about  the fact  that God already knows when and how that will happen, so we do  not have to worry about those things.  She expressed to me how much she misses her mom, but  that she doesn’t want to talk to her on the phone anymore for a while . .  . I guess it keeps  things raw for her.  She wants to go back to just writing letters and so  that’s  what we shall do.  I will have to be the one to tell her mom that  she won’t be talking on the phone with her  for  a while . . .  I will be the one to again hurt my daughter’s feelings  in an effort to keep my granddaughter safe.  I will do that every single day if I have to . . . I would move  mountains for these children so that they feel  safe and loved and wanted.

Then she told me I was the best.  Seriously?!  I thought about my anger and how I lash out at her when she’s lashing out.  I thought about how some days I’ve wondered how we’re going to survive this.  I thanked her and told her that I’m  not the best, but that she makes me  want to be the best . . . for  her and her brothers.  Then she looked  at me and said “but MaMaw you are the best because you teach me” and that stopped  me cold.  We are teaching her.  She is growing.  Her heart is hearing us.  She’s so much better than she was two years ago.  But here’s what I told her:  Soul Sister, you teach me more than I could ever teach me.  You teach me how to be brave, have courage, be strong, be loyal and how to love completely.  I told her that although we get angry with one another, the joy I see on  her face at times makes my heart smile.  I told  her that regardless of any bad day, I thank God all the time that He has allowed us to have her and Dozer in our lives and I couldn’t think of any different life that I would want.  I told her she makes me what to be a better person every single day.  We cried together some more.

The thing  is she’s  right:  she wants to control every possible situation because very bad things have happened in her world when she can’t.  She knows, without being able to verbalize it, that her parents’ relationship is toxic and, again, bad things happen when they are together.  She still reverts back to that survival mode instinct she honed so well in her first five years of life.  But she is better.  She is learning.  She is healing.  She is beginning to give us little nuggets as it relates to things that have happened to her or in her presence so we can begin to work through them.  Some things have been so scary and violent . . . and she’s survived, while also taking care of baby brother.

In the past  two years,  she has begun to learn that she is no longer responsible for anyone except herself.  She is learning that saying your sorry can lead to healing hurts.  She is learning to trust.  She is learning that the things her parents told her to lie about, or conceal, can come to light and she will survive.  She is learning to be a child.

For me, I thank God that he is the Creator  and the Author of our story.  I thank Him that He is in control, therefore we don’t have to be.  I thank Him that Joy Comes in the Morning . . . and we get a new chance each day to do right by one another.  I just pray for strength for all of us . . . my daughter and  my grandchildren especially.

 

 

Advertisements

I. Am. Over. It!

Growing up in a home with four kids was an adventure to say the least.  There is approximately ten years difference from the oldest to the youngest and for all of mine and my brother’s years at home, our mom was a stay-at-home mom.  She is an amazing, fiery little red-head that can do more in one day than I can in a week.  She went back to school when her youngest entered elementary school and completed her education and retired as a public middle school teacher.  She is truly a superhero in my eyes.

But when mom would be at the edge of losing all sense of sanity and composure, she would utter the phrase:  “I’m getting ready to run down the road naked!” and when she did, we scattered like little bugs do when a light comes on.  We  knew what  that sentence meant.  It meant she was fed-up – she was done – she was over it – and if she ran down the road naked, someone would spot her and take her to a quiet place with “padded” walls where she could find peace.  As I type that sentence, I realize it’s  probably not politically correct but . . . it is what it is.

The past week and weekend for me has had me pondering that prospect myself.  I’ve thought to myself a dozen times that I am going to run down the road naked!  It’s been bad.  But we made it through the weekend and I did a happy dance the whole  way home after dropping the kids off at school.  I am wallowing in the silence that fills our home and absorbing every single moment.

Before I share  a few things that occurred over  the weekend, I’ll preface it with the fact:  it is OPENING SEASON for deer hunting.  Therefore, Joseph was gone most of the weekend, so I was on my own with them.  Here are a few things that happened this weekend:  Dozer man ran the Bear’s little battery-powered  car into our fence twice, he then drove it over his sister’s foot once, and ran it into an old cement eagle that belonged to my grandparents and destroyed the eagle.  Somehow my angel got broken that my best friend sent me when my grandmother died . . . “not me” did that one.  The Dozer’s TV somehow got pulled off into the floor, leaving the Bear with a pump knot on her forehead.  Corn chips were thrown at each other during lunch time (while I was doing laundry) and it looked as if it had  rained corn chips all  over the living room  and kitchen floors . .  . “not me” had a hand in that as well.  Twice the Dozer’s bed got completely stripped and moved about two feet from the wall.  Once I went in Dozer’s room and they were both jumping on the bed as fast as they could . . . all of this knowing that they are no longer allowed to play in one another’s rooms because they fight too much.  And . . . oh yeah . . . the Bear had more  memories to discuss and she and I had to have that dreaded s-e-x talk . . . albeit briefly and in generic form!  Did I say before – I.  Am.  Over.  It.

The Bear displayed much anger, screaming, stomping, one door slam and received multiple timeouts this weekend.  She’s been banned from all electronics since last week and found an old radio that she now has in her room so she can sing even louder while in timeout!  Dozer has had multiple timeouts as well, his is more of a passive, quiet defiance and if he rolls his eyes in his head when I’m talking to him again, it could get ugly.  I know that  they feed off of one another . . . and too often my  reactions just add fuel to the fire.

After such a rough few days, I loaded them up and we went to church yesterday morning.  Last week our preacher began a series called “You make me crazy” so I was ready for Sunday’s  message . . . and once the kids left for little church, I had my Bible ready and he opened his mouth – and the first dad-gummed scripture he refers to is out of James about taming our tongues!  Are you kidding me?!  Kinda like a kick to the gut for me and every single word he said was directed right at me . . . God’s slick like that sometimes, isn’t he?  After church I shook Brother Gary’s hand and told him that if he continues to craft his sermons specifically for me – we’re gonna have to have a talk!  I said that with a smile and laugh . . . and we both knew, God had a message for me.

Joseph and I have spoken lately about how we can be more effective in earning the kids’ respect, and we’ve both acknowledged that too often, probably, our temper gets in the way.  I guess anytime our tempers flare and we lash out in frustration with the kids, it always gets in the way.  I love these kids desperately, but there are times I don’t like them very much.  There are times when I think it’s crazy to think that we have the task of raising up this generation and I wonder how we are going to survive it.  It’s hard when your home becomes a battleground.  It’s hard to not take their defiance and anger personal but sometimes I am at fault for that as well.  Although I know down deep that it’s not personal – that maybe the Bear in particular is testing our resolve . . . will we stick it out with her?  Will we abandon her as her parent’s did?  Will we get so fed up we quit trying?  Will we stop loving her?  While the Dozer is simply feeding off of her.  People do that.

In some reading this morning I was reminded of a few things:  don’t get into a debate or argument with a child; pay very close attention to the tone of your voice; praise as often as you can; have them look you in the eye when you are speaking to them; and, help them re-train their brain when it comes to their behavior.  There are many times when I tell the Bear:  okay, I’m going to give you a minute to re-do this or go think about how you reacted and come back to try that again.  Honestly, she doesn’t always take this opportunity, but I’ve noticed she is doing so more frequently.  Last night on the way home from getting drive-thru for supper (I couldn’t have cooked a meal if someone had paid me too last night) I heard her in the backseat having a discussion with Dozer . . . asking him empathy type questions to work on his answers:  if I told you I hate your hair, would you feel sad or mad?  If someone did so and so would you be mad or sad?  What could you say to make someone feel better?  And I thought to myself (through my internal anger) she’s hearing me.  She’s hearing Joseph when he talks to her about respect.  She’s hearing God when He weighs something upon her heart.  She has actually apologized a few times in the past week or more and they were sincere, honest, unprompted apologies to either myself or her PaPaw about her behavior.  She admits she doesn’t know why she lashes out . . . besides missing her mom.

She misses her mom.  She’s afraid of and doesn’t want to see her dad.  She doesn’t want her life to change anymore.  She wants to do good . . . she gets very lost along the way.  She is attempting to process scary, oftentimes violent memories and it’s like the floodgates have finally loosened their seal in her mind.  Now begins the process of teaching her right and left brain to communicate and learning soothing mechanisms to help her upper brain “simmer down” her lower brain . . . that still basic fight or flight instinct when she perceives any type of threat.  I’ve said before – she’s a fighter – she’s the strongest little person I’ve ever known.  She makes me weak in the knees when she smiles at me, but at the same time I allow her to anger me quicker than anyone.

That’s not acceptable.  I get the fact it’s human, maybe, and part of me is responding based on fear and sorrow at the mistakes and losses I’ve experienced with my children, but it’s still not acceptable.  We have to learn to be firm – be consistent – have a unified front – love her regardless – help her knit together the memories she is having so that words can be put to them and she can begin to heal.  She has a story that we still haven’t heard.  I believe that story is beginning to emerge.  Sometimes I feel an overwhelming sadness and sometimes it’s anger, not anger at her, but anger at the adults who were supposed to protect her.  Then I think back to how she was two years ago and how far she’s come.  I see so many moments of pure joy on her face and I know she will heal.

I found this passage this morning with a notation written in the margin:  Psalm 119:105 . . . Your word is a lamp to  my feet and a light for my path.  My notation read . . . enough light for one step at a time.  Maybe God’s preparing my heart  and Joseph’s heart to accept more of the Bear’s story by providing enough for one step  at a time.  I can take hold of the promise in Psalm 89:33 . . . but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.

As the parents of our grand’s, we have to take one step at a time.  Sometimes it seems torturous . . . because God is preparing us to be their parents one step at a time.  Because we are loved and are promised God’s faithfulness in all things, and really, his deliberateness in all things . . . we can rest assured He’s got this.  We just have to learn how to be the vessel so that we can mold these two.

Believe me – no one wants to see  this old woman run down the road naked.  And yes I am completely over it as it relates to our last week to ten days.  I have no assurance of what  our afternoon will bring, but I pray God helps me to tame  my tongue, take my personal feelings out of the equation, and view the moment in the way God wants to use it to teach our Bear and our Dozer how to walk in this world.

 

 

Family Pictures

 

The holidays are inching closer by the day.  I love Thanksgiving the most because there is no pressure.  I begin making Christmas lists in October and I drive myself crazy with the lists.  I was the mom that made sure each child had either  the same amount of gifts or the same amount of money spent on said gifts and I can easily wear Joseph out with my lists.  Because both our family and financial situations have changed over the past few years, with gaining custody of two little ones  and  retiring from full-time employment, I try to be careful when it comes to spending during Christmas.

With that groundwork laid,  I will say that I believe that if you are lucky enough to have a best friend, that one person that you can turn to no matter what; the one that knows all of your secrets; and, who loves you enough to be honest with you throughout your life, you are a lucky person.  I have that person in my world.  I’ll be honest, I’m not a real people person . . . I don’t let many people in, other than close family members, but Meshea and I have been best friends since we were seventeen years old.  One of the things I love the most about her is  that  she can find a bargain or deal unlike anyone I’ve ever known.  She has always had the ability to shove me out of my comfort zone and I have always (most of the time) gone along willingly when it comes to her ideas.

Having family pictures made of my little family  was one of her latest great ideas.  Thankfully it also helps that her beautiful daughter-in-law is a talented photographer amongst other things.  So Meshea coordinated a day for us to get together so that we could have family pictures made, which will be Christmas gifts for family.  We were all in!  It meant a quick day trip, but our two love their Aunt Meshea and Mike better than good so everyone was excited.

As is normally the case, we began our journey running a bit behind.  Anyone with multiple people to get dressed, in the car and on the road  knows how difficult it can be to get anywhere on time.  On the way there, we decided to make a quick stop so that we could feed the kids  lunch.  Once that little  jaunt was complete, we were on the road again and I made the comment that Aunt ‘Shea would be wondering where we are.  The Bear quickly reminded me that everyone will wait for us, because they are waiting on Aunt Brandi and her family as well.  When I asked the Bear why Aunt ‘Shea would be waiting for Aunt Brandi, she looked at  me like I had a third eye-ball  and  reminded me that if we are having family pictures made, our Zebra would have to be there and in them as well.  Baby brother.  He’s part of our family, right?

That led to a discussion about families and how different they can look.  You see, out of respect to my youngest sister,  I haven’t really talked much about my middle grandson, my daughter’s third biological child, who I will continue to call our Zebra.  Now he’s not referred to as a Zebra because he has black  and white stripes . . . but because just this past summer he was  diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder which makes him literally a 1 in 10 million kind of kid.  As sweet as the older two kids are, I’ve always said he may be the sweetest.  Oh my goodness that child.  Although he is a half-brother to the Bear and Dozer, my daughter in a moment of clarity, terminated her parental rights to our Zebra and allowed her Aunt and Uncle to adopt him.  She knew in that moment that she could  not give him the life he deserved, and although she was battling drug addiction, she loved him  enough to choose to give him the life God intended – a life with a family that could love and nurture him.  I could have never chosen better parents for  my grandchild than my sister and her husband.  I  am not going to divulge the lengthy story of how this adoption came to be today, but I would encourage you to visit my sister’s blog:  thebarefoothomeschooler.com to read the stories that she has included, this month, especially, in honor of National Adoption Month.

So when the Bear reminded me that brother should be there as well if we are having family pictures made, it gave me a bit of pause as to how to explain to her that our “family” picture for this trip was just for the family members that live in our home.  That leads to comments such  as:  well if they adopted him, then we are his cousins and you are his aunt.  Uh no . . . no Bear girl you will always be his sister and I will always be his MaMaw . . . which again leads to a discussion about how different families can look.  But I have to be honest, the whole time we were having our pictures taken, I was thinking  about Zebra.  I was thinking about how the definition of family has truly changed shape in my life.  I was thinking about how blessed I am, regardless of my daughter’s incarceration or my son’s continued drug abuse or my sweet grandchild’s diagnosis.

But explaining those nuances to a seven-year old can be treacherous.  I want her to understand the dynamics of family regardless of  whose home someone may live in.  I want her  to understand unconditional love that should exist in families and that so often is exhibited first and  foremost by our parents when we are children.  I  want all  three of these children to recognize that their mother showed  that unconditional, sacrificial  love  when she chose to allow one’s  adoption and when she blessed our raising the other two, although it  has  not been  without pain.

My hope is that my grandchildren will always know that family supports, strengthens, holds accountable, and unconditionally loves one another.  My bible study this morning talked about our foundation . .  . on  Christ  the solid  rock I stand . . .  and I pray that if nothing else, I can teach them that regardless of who is in the family picture, God created our families and our soul knows who our family is.  For that I am eternally grateful.

familypic Kaylen Kor Woodall . . . and Beau Michael . . . you captured the true essence of our little tribe in this photo and I am so grateful you did.  Meshea . . . what would I ever do in my life without you and your love and ideas?!  And to my family . . . as crazy and different and messy as we are . . . how could I ever pick  anyone better to share my life with?  God is pretty cool.

Isaiah 28:16 . . . Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.

 

 

Memories

I find that memory is a funny thing. When I attempt to look back on my life,  especially my childhood, I realize that I have very few sharp, clear memories of years, but I can recall many events.  There are so many memories tied in to songs, smells or traditions that I experienced.  Even to this day there are certain  smells that can take  me back . . . the smell of sawdust reminds me of my daddy; the smell of fresh cut grass and fields reminds  me of granny and granddaddy’s farm.  I can’t look at a jar of blackberry jam without tasting granny’s.  The smell of  diesel oil and gas remind  me of my grandpa; and, I can hear my Mama Nene telling stories every year when I make her chocolate coconut balls and buckeyes for Christmas. Memories of time with my mom are always of her laughter, and there is no other smell like her.

But  while  most of my memories of childhood are ones that I cherish and hold tightly, not everyone can say that.  I know that even as loved and cherished as my siblings and I are by our parents, there were days when we drove our parents crazy.  I mean, come  on,  there  were four of us kids in the home, and we all know how crazy things  could be sometimes.  I’m sure  there were days my parents were angry with one of us or frustrated or scratched their heads wanting to know who this person  was . . . but no matter what,  we knew and still  know, that we  could wholly depend on them to support and love us.

Then there are memories that are not warm and fuzzy.  Memories of times that I would rather forget, but that I know are a reason for  who I am today.  No bad thing in my life will ever be wasted as long as I remember God has got me and  will teach me, if I allow it.  Sometimes memories are so traumatic that our brain and, maybe,  God, shows us mercy so that the painful memories can be kept in a locked compartment until we are ready to face them and work through them.

Yesterday  I believe that our Bear unlocked a compartment.  I  cannot even begin to fathom what all  she has seen or heard during her first five years on this planet.  We had a very busy day yesterday.  One that was filled with counseling, horse therapy and soccer practice.  It was one of those afternoons when I knew  that  we had to move forward like clockwork in order to be on time for each appointment, and I had a suspicion that when we were late leaving counseling, with  the Bear holding a brand new stuffed animal because of her “hard work”, that maybe she had finally opened up.

The Bear has been characterized as one of the toughest little people to get to the core of.  She holds many things close to her heart.  Oftentimes those things she holds close to her heart poison her thoughts and her feelings and cause many issues.  Lashing out, anger, defiance, and drama come spewing out sometimes . . . and although we know that she’s working  through things in her mind, it’s difficult not to respond in kind in so many of those instances.  I know that  she is teaching me how to be a better person.  I know that I feel as if I fail in that  regard too often.  But this isn’t about me . . . at soccer practice last night things  didn’t go well.  She acted out in ways she hasn’t done before in  front of her teammates.  A lot of the things  she was doing were subtle, not  everyone noticed . . . but this tired old mom did.  Her lack of respect for her coach and teammates floored me and I was not a happy camper.

When she got in the car I breathed deeply and told her that I saw her  behavior.  I told her  that she represented herself as someone other than who we were teaching her to be, but  that I was angry and we would discuss consequences tomorrow.  I took a different route home after practice because Joseph had called needing heartburn medication.  I decided to go the store that was close to our home,  but off the main highway to avoid traffic.  My error was that I drove past the place where bad things happened to her.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was angry.  I was embarrassed.  I’d said my piece and in the backseat I heard her begin to cry then it sounded like she was hyperventilating.  I told her that she could cut the drama, and that if she wanted to say something to me she should just say it.

The floodgate opened.  The lid on the locked compartment was pried open.  For a moment, she was remembering.  Her words to me about crying were, “I can’t help it! I remember everything!”  It seemed like I couldn’t get to the store fast enough.  I parked, crawled in the backseat and rocked her.  She’s wounded.  She started talking a little.  She misses her mom.  She doesn’t want to be  a teen when her mom gets out of prison.  She doesn’t want to see her dad.  At all.  She’s scared.  Life hasn’t been fair.

We both cried.  As we pulled into  the driveway at our home, she said she was going into the house to hug PaPaw and tell him how  much she loves him.  She did just that.  She then jumped with joy when she saw PaPaw had gone to get Chinese takeout for supper and the night went on.

Then the morning light.  Why would I think that just because she had a good night’s rest, she would be all better today?  Why would I think she didn’t need a bit of extra encouragement this morning?  Why did I allow my anger, driven by my frustrations and fear for her, overtake our morning?  I don’t know why . . . but I own the fact it did.  Our days sometimes take extreme dips into valleys and peaks . . . this morning was certainly an extreme dip in to the valley.  By the time we got in the car for school, she and I had both cried.  I offered my profound apology to her because I am one of  two people in this home right now that have a God-breathed duty to keep her from harm, and not bring harm to her in any way.  I  made her a solemn vow that my reaction and behavior would change toward her when I lose my temper.  She reminded me that we just need to love each other and be good to one  another.

I make no excuses for my reaction to her this morning.  I went to bed last night with her words in my head, the counselor’s words in my head, and my fear that there is so much more to be unlocked in her memory bank.  I allowed my fear and frustration, coupled with her defiance and unwillingness to obey, to set up the perfect storm for me to throw a temper tantrum.  It was wrong.  When I dropped her off at school this morning, she leaned up and kissed me and told  me “you are the best”.  I could barely breathe.  I cried silently (so as not to startle the Dozer) as I pulled away.  In reality, she is forcing me to strive to be “the best” for her and her brothers.

I have to remind myself  again  that God has set me in this particular place,  at this particular time for a purpose.  As I told her last night while  we were rocking in a store parking  lot, God always uses bad stuff in our lives for good . . . to bring something  good.  I want to  be one of  those good things for this child.  I  want to keep my promise  to her.  I want her  to know she is safe.  She is loved.  She  will never, ever be left by us . . . and she will never, ever have to face any person that has harmed her if she doesn’t want to, regardless of who that person is.

Hebrews 6:18-20 . . . to  take hold  of the  hope offered to us may be  greatly encouraged.  We have  this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.

To know that God says hope will  never fail – and that it serves as an anchor for our soul is very encouraging for me.  I can have hope that not only will my own heart be changed for the good, but hers will be healed and will remain firm and secure with God’s mercy and grace.

James 5:11 . . . the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  For me, that means I should exhibit that even more than I ever have to these children, for that is what they deserve.  They didn’t ask for the life-changing decisions that were made by their parents that led them to our home.  But they can be shown compassion and mercy, especially in those moments when behaviors are at their worst.  Because oftentimes, that’s when the pain is closest to the surface.

 

 

Halloween Hangover

Today has been a cold,  rainy yucky day.  It’s one of those where you would prefer to stay home, snuggled  in, with a good movie or good book.  But alas, it is Wednesday, the day after Halloween and we all have responsibilities.  According to one of  the teacher’s earlier today, a majority of her kids had quite a few struggles today . . . as did our two.  Maybe it’s a hangover from so much sugar and  excitement.

On the flip side, however, we did make it through the festivities last night none the worse for wear.  Once we got home, the Bear washed all of the hairspray out of her Belle hair and decided she wanted to snuggle with MaMaw.  Oh my goodness.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  So while she got comfy and snuggly laying on me across our bed, I got to smell how delicious she was,  all fresh and clean.  You know those moments when you simply want to inhale them.  The longer we laid there watching a sitcom, the quieter she became and I knew she was asleep.  Before bedtime!  Hallelujah!  It was a treasured moment for me.

And then came morning.  Dreary, cold, rainy . . . and the problems began.  How quickly things can turn in our home still takes me by surprise sometimes.  We have a routine  every morning that involves making our beds, getting dressed, eating, etc . . . I almost have it down to the exact minute they need to be up and at ’em so that they aren’t too rushed.  Neither of them respond well to being rushed.  But for some reason this morning the Bear was having  none of it.  It was a battle from the word go.

While I was processing the defiant, smart mouthed little princess this morning I could feel my blood pressure rise.  I will be honest to say that I didn’t handle things as well as I should have and truthfully the majority of my day has been spent pushing those snarky voices out of my head . . . you know those accusations . . . you can’t do this – you aren’t helping her – why did you say that – why did you do that – has her entire school day been put at risk because she was defiant and stubborn this morning, and I allowed her to push me to the limit of losing my temper?  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t beat her . . . but our words can inflict as much pain as a spanking might.

As I did some reading today, I was reminded that we should always be aware of where she came from.  How she learned to cope and manage stress in situations that no child should ever be confronted with.  I have come  to realize that while reading and studying about children from hard places, I have to make myself step back and think about how much she’s been through.  Why she reacts so over the top sometimes . . . why she still wants to see just how far she can push me or PaPaw . . . why she would rather argue than eat some days . . . and I have to stop and remember how her stress coping mechanisms have been developed, how her brain has been hardwired to constantly deal with stress and that she has to be basically re-trained in order to not only deal with conflict, but also to learn to trust and accept unconditional love.

Plus she may be missing her mom or dad.  Holidays tend to do that.  She was able to talk to her mom for a bit on the phone last night and I know that  it has weighed on her mind, although she would never admit to it.  I did ask her last night while we were snuggling if she was missing her mom and dad extra?  She acknowledged she was.  What a powerful sadness that must instill in her sometimes.  And as a seven year old, what do you do with all of it?

You test the boundaries.  You determine if these people caring for you love you regardless of how you act.  You determine if  this home is permanent and one that will accept and love you in spite of difficult moments.  You, I’m sure, have to learn how to cope with any confrontation, learn how to take direction and learn how to accept the word no because in the past there was no direction and the parents were too caught up in their own addictions that they couldn’t provide any one-on-one care or nurturing.  You find ways in which to release all of the pain and hurt you feel by lashing out.  And as fifty-something year old grandparents, what do we in reaction?

We try to reassure her she is safe and loved.   We try to make her stop before a bad behavior takes hold.  We try to instill in her that God commands we obey our fathers and  mothers and that we are truthful.  We try to teach her to respect others.  We try very hard  not to lose our tempers because that invariably escalates things.  I try to be ever cognizant of my tone or the expression on my face because any change in either of those things she immediately notices.  We do these things day in and day out and sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees.

One thing  I must work on is trying to help her name her feelings.  Putting a name to the emotions she feels can help her not only articulate them when they occur, but lay claim to them so they do not completely control her.  That’s a difficult task to learn as an adult and it’s difficult to teach in the day-to-day minutiae of our lives.  I keep reading that I shouldn’t view times of misbehavior or correction as another laborious task that must be dolled out or feel like this is the last straw or take any sign of disrespect or misbehavior as personal  . . . but I should keep using  these times to extend not only grace and mercy to this child, but love.  Unconditional love.  Having conversations with her can be difficult.  She’s very closed off.  She has only allowed small glimpses into her difficult years with her parents.  There are many things she still will not discuss.  I’ve learned to step back and examine the small nuggets she gives me and think about how much she’s been through and how far she’s come.  But it’s easy to get discouraged on the challenging days.  I do remind her frequently though of how much she is loved and how thankful we are that we get to take care of her.  Above all I want her to feel  valued and loved.

I keep remembering how sweet she was curled up next to me last night.  I keep thinking about teachers that have approached me to say that  she is a different child than she was when she began preschool three years ago.  I know they have told me that she walks with a lightness to her step and a smile on her face that she didn’t have when she began school.  Those things I cling too because on days like today when we  didn’t start out well, I have to remind myself that we are what she needs.

We didn’t come to this place of our own choosing.   We accepted the fact that we can never truly be grandparents to these two precious souls because they need us to be their parents.  We have willingly sacrificed many things in our relationship in order to meet their needs.  God chose us.  God will supply us every day what we need to teach them, to grow them, to show them mercy and to love them.

Hebrews 4:16 . . . Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

If I’m receiving mercy daily – multiple times a day – then I am expected  to show it to this child especially.  God’s got us . . . ’cause we sure can’t do this on our own.

Halloween & Chiggers

It’s Halloween!  And yes I know that not everyone celebrates Halloween, but we do.  This year we have Belle, who looks entirely too grown in her yellow ball gown and we have a construction worker.  I’ve already been to one Halloween school party today and am going to my second one soon, then rounding them up to freshen their costumes and we’re off to trick-or-treat.  The upside to this is:  once they are in the bed, Joseph and I will have lots of candy to pick from for our late night snack.  Yum!  I’ve never met a chocolate I didn’t like.

It seems to also be chigger season at our house.  Have you ever been bit by a chigger?  Those tiny little bugs you can’t see while you’re wading through thickets outside, but that wreak havoc on you once you start itching.  We’ve got a big ole’ chigger in our house that’s about to burst because it’s Halloween but not quite time for trick or treating.  Our Dozer Man is also referred to as a Chigger.  He gets all up in your personal bubble, just to be close to you.  He’s been trying to convince me for the past fifteen minutes to take his stinky socks off his feet . . . to see if they stink.  He’s the kind of boy that stays so close to your backside that if you stop walking, he immediately has a nose in your nether-region. But he’s got the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen and his smile lights up any room.  He’s rather tolerant of me when I spend time typing in the afternoons . . . until he’s tired of being tolerant.

But back to the beginning – it’s Halloween.  I  was naïve enough to think after our kids became teenagers that I wouldn’t have to do the whole Halloween thing anymore.  As fun as it is, let’s face it – it’s exhausting for parents.  Growing up, we didn’t live in a subdivision, we lived out in the “country”.  Our dad always drove us four kids (with mom riding shotgun) from house to house to trick or treat.  We had  huge fun . . . but looking back, I’m not so sure mom  and dad did.  Think about it – four little ones, all in costumes, in and out of a vehicle regardless of the weather.  It’s  a wonder we were taken at all when you think about it!

And for me, this is  the beginning of what I sense as the holiday season.  I begin mentally making my lists, and am always surprised when November 1st rolls around.  Historically I dread these last months of every year.  Sometimes melancholy can take over if I let it on days like today, but instead of remembering with any sadness or heaviness, I will choose to tell the kids stories about their mom and Aunt Amber and Uncle Aaron and how much fun they would have getting dressed up on Halloween.  I will instead absorb days like today and the memories we are making for  the kids, all the while praying that we all survive until bedtime . . . hopefully before the sugar crash occurs.

But these holidays can be tough.  It brings to the forefront of children again that their parent is not present.  Thankfully Halloween was never a big deal for my daughter to spend with the kids.  I can think of only one, maybe two, Halloweens where she was truly present and accounted for, therefore they don’t have a lot of memories tangled up for this observance.  But kids can have a difficult time on days like today when their parents or their grown-up comes to the school  to join in the festivities.  Although most elementary school children have no concept of the fact other kids don’t live with their parents either, it can still be a tricky tightrope to walk.  The Bear decided again last night that she would start calling me mom . . . but she’s  not sure she’s ready to say that out loud at school.  I reminded her last night that she can have enough room in her heart for more than one mom.  I reminded  her that I have two mothers in my heart – my mom  and her best friend of almost fifty years who is my other mother in my heart.  I reminded her that her mommy loves her and knows that if she chooses to refer to me as mom, it doesn’t mean she loves her mother less.

I’ve learned that when I get close to a point of concern for the Bear, she suddenly doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.  So our conversation didn’t  last real long.  I can’t bear the thought that my presence at a celebration at her school could cause her anxiety.  I told her that one of her friends asked me at the fall festival if I’m her mom.  Naturally she wanted to know what my response was and I told her . . . I told her that I asked her friend if a  mom is someone that loves you and takes care of you and looks out for you?  Her friend said yes.  I smiled then and said – yep, that’s me so I’m  her mom.  And her little friend accepted  that with no questions asked.  The look of relief on the Bear’s face last night was priceless.  It was almost  like you could see  a shift of the weight she carries on  her  shoulders.  The things that child has to process at seven makes my heart hurt.

So I’m going to take the Chigger to my mom’s for a visit with her while I go to celebrate Halloween at school with the Bear.  I will be whoever she needs me to be . . . for as long as she needs me.  As her PaPaw tells her – we’ve got your back – no questions asked – always and forever.  We  will continue to talk about her mom and I will continue to share stories about her so that they can come to know the girl I raised.  I will not stew in the thought that this isn’t the way it should be for the kids – instead I will choose to be thankful we get to share this crazy ride with them and find joy in their faces while they go trick or treating!  For anyone else who’s venturing out . . . good luck and happy chocolate hunting!

 

 

 

On the Move.

She’s on the move.  A few days ago I received a call from the county jail where my daughter was being housed.  I thought it was her calling, but instead it was a cellmate who wanted me to know that she was officially on the move with federal agents.  I immediately asked how my daughter was, emotionally, if she was anxious and ready for the transport and her friend assured me that she was not scared, but thankful she was one step closer to her end destination.  The place where she will likely serve her sentence.  When I got off the phone I had one of those overwhelming, grief driven moments of tears.  I began to ponder where she was, how was she traveling, where was she going, how lonesome did she feel?  You know that feeling when something bad has happened that has shaken your entire life; eventually, you think that you’ve accepted your new normal, but out of the blue the waves wash over you?  Yeah . . . sometimes it can take your breath away.  But I, quickly, as my mama would say, washed my face and swallowed.

Last night was a horse-riding therapy session for the Bear and while there, I received two back-to-back calls from a correctional facility several hours away from us, in a state south of here, close to where my middle sister lives.  I immediately looked the facility up on Google and called my sister to see how far the facility was from her home.  The thought of my girl being close to family was a positive one.

Then my daughter called and I was able to speak to her.  She said she’d been flying all day.  She was in a county facility and had a sick headache.  The only other time she has flown was to Phoenix and she ended up with a bad sinus/ear infection from the flight.  She told me she is only going to be at that facility for a day or so and she then told me the name of the state where she believes she will end up for the majority of her time.  Again, it’s a few states south of here, several hours away, where we have no family.

After I spoke to her I was relieved.  Relieved to hear her voice.  Anxious because I knew she didn’t feel well, and you can’t just get a Tylenol or sinus meds while you’re locked up.  I then contacted both of her grandmothers.  My mom was pretty strong.  God love her – I can’t imagine my life without her.  My former mother-in-law was just so sad.  She’s like me, she’s not much of a crier but she cried.  Quite a bit.  She is so afraid that she won’t live to see my daughter released from prison.  Those were hard phone calls.  Maybe people don’t always think of that part of the equation.  The devastation that addiction causes in people’s hearts tends to scar, no matter how  strong a person is.  If my child had been sober she would have never dreamed of hurting her grandparents and her loved  ones in these deep, lasting  ways.  But she wasn’t.  I don’t think addicts can process the amount of collateral damage that occurs.  In some ways, it wasn’t personal.  It  was  her  need  to fill something inside  her  that  was missing or damaged and  she spent way too much time chasing that same high she got  the very first time.

So now she’s on the move.  My entire morning has been that thought running through my head.  Where is she?  Does she feel better?  She is alone . . . she is alone . . . she is completely at the mercy of the federal agents transporting her.  But God goes before her.  God already knows her path.  Honestly I tried to tell God about the two places closer to us.  Ones that could be a short drive or a day trip to see her.  Maybe God knows better.  You think?!  In moments like this it’s hard not to be scared.  It’s  hard  not to  feel like I’m grieving, again, the loss of so much in my child’s life.  But . . . she is alive.  She is alive.  She can be healed.  She will have a future.  She will always be my child.

She just called.  She sounded good.  She told me about her trip.  She talked to a girl who has been where she’s going to do her time.  She let me cry.  I don’t do that often for her, but she let me cry.  And here’s what she told me:  “I’m okay mom.  I promise.  I’m not feeling lonesome.  As bad as yesterday was it was the first time I have ever felt the tangible hand of God on me.  It gave me peace mom.  He took care of me.  I’m okay.  I promise.”

Then we got to laugh over some stories about the kids and we both felt better.  God knew exactly what I needed this morning – to hear her voice and know she’s okay.  The verse I looked up this morning sums up how I feel today:  Mark 9:23-24 . . . “If you can?” said Jesus.  “Everything is possible for him who believes”.  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”

I do believe God is the author of our lives.  I do believe that He has a plan for each of us.  I do believe He’s “got this” . . . but I also, sometimes too often, need help to overcome my unbelief.  Faith causes us to be stronger.  As my mama would say – He’s building character in us so that if a hurricane blows, not a hair on our head will  move!  The hurricane has been swirling . . . but maybe the eye has passed for a bit.

And on another note . . . my son went to jail yesterday.  Heavy Sigh.