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An “Unglued” Mama

When I am feeling unglued, my husband and kids can sense it from a mile away.  Commence the walking on eggshells.

So when I recently heard about a new book being released entitled, “Unglued,” I thought, “Hey, that sounds like me more times than I’d like to admit!”  But, I didn’t just hear about the book.  I think if God could have hit me upside the head with the book, He would have.  I have felt like an unglued mama for a looonnnggggg time now.  With all the demands of motherhood, a full-time job and a household to manage, I am just one spill of milk away from becoming unglued on a daily basis.

So, when Lysa TurKeurst’s book was being released recently, it seemed as though I could not get it out of my head.  I kept hearing about it and reading about it and listening to Lysa talk about it on the radio.  How could I not read it?  I downloaded it to my iPad and read the first two chapters.  It was right on point!  And then life got in the way and I didn’t read anymore of the book.

And then God thumped me again.  He showed me through Facebook an online Bible study led by Melissa Taylor of Proverbs 31 Ministries that started on September 23.  And I accepted the challenge!  Work, laundry, homework, grocery shopping, gym, potty training, stomach flu and all!  I have committed to completing my first online Bible Study along with 15,000 other women who know what it feels like to become unglued.  And I can’t wait!!

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Toddler Lesson # 342

“The only way to cultivate freedom is through experiencing and learning how to handle an increasing number of options.” ~ Danny Lee Silk

What my toddler taught me last night: it doesn’t always have to be a fight – it can be a choice.

William will be three on September 25.  As it usually happens about this time, I have been trying to figure out how to get rid of his beloved paci, or “Ba,” as he has come to call it.  He has been napping without it at school for a while, but it is permattached to his mouth at home.  He actually slept his first night without it a few nights ago.  We lost it and couldn’t find it.  I was shocked when he actually went to bed without it.  But as sure as he woke up in the morning, he commenced to freaking out about not having it.  I am a sucker, and I gave it back.  Yeah, I know.

Yesterday, William seemed emotionally strong enough to try again (not overly tired, whiny, crabby, etc).  So I told him that he was a big boy (afterall, he had just pooped on the potty), and that he did not need his Ba to go to sleep.  He was reluctant, but didn’t cry or whine like I thought he would.  He went to bed with his other safeguard, his monkey blankie, and all seemed OK at first.

Several minutes later, he came out of his room and firmly told me that he needed his Ba.  I replied with the same schpiel about him not using it at school, he’s a big boy, yadda, yadda yadda.  He hesitated, obviously knowing that I was right about him not using it at school.  But, he is a persistent little thing.  He said, “But I need my Baaaaa….”  This back and forth went on for a couple of minutes as he slowly creeped down the steps toward the kitchen where he knows his beloved Ba’s have been kept.  I sat on the steps letting him go by me, having that internal debate with myself: “This has been such a long weekend already, do I really want to do this right now, I mean, he’s not 3 yet…”

As I’m mulling this over, William stops at the bottom of the steps and says, “I need a toy…” with a voice of hope like I will allow a toy in bed in lieu of his Ba, you know, as a compromise.  Wait, a compromise?  Really?  I thought, why not?  At least he won’t suck on a race car and ruin his teeth.  So I tentatively said OK, as he walked to the toy box and pulled out not a car but a piece of one of Zachary’s Nerf guns.  Hmm, I thought, I guess that would be just sufficient to ward of the boogey monster as any old rubber Ba would be.

William walked back up the stairs with the gun piece as his new armor against all things that go bump in the night.  Now, since his mouth was free to talk, he chatted away after I closed the door to their bedroom, much to Zachary’s dismay, I’m sure, but at least he wasn’t talking with a blue rubber Ba hanging out of his mouth.

Now, ask me if he went to bed tonight with or without his Ba.  And, I’m not going to tell you.  Because a Mama has to get some rest some time.  And he’s not even 3 yet.  So there’s still time to make that final leap, right?!  Right.

What’s In a Name?

Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

William David Griffin.  That is what I chose to call my second-born son.  God spoke to me while I was carrying him and told me to name him William after my late grandfather, Martin William Bates.  He also told me to name him after my husband’s father, David Morris Griffin.  Hence his name… William David Griffin.

This past Sunday, on Mother’s Day, we dedicated William to God at Mosaic Church Charlotte.  Before the dedication, Pastor Mike researched our baby’s name and learned that it meant Beloved Protector.  Yes, Beloved (David) Protector (William).  I realized as Mike spoke that, after suffering a heartbreaking miscarriage on Christmas Eve of 2008, God had chosen to bless me with a beloved protector, William David Griffin.  And for that, I am so very thankful.

Every night before bed I read a Bible story to my boys from a “My First Message Bible,” and tonight we read the story of David and Goliath.  Zachary, my 8-year-old, is very familiar with the story because we read it over and over when he was little, at his request.  But tonight the story was new for William, who is 2 1/2.  As we settled in to read, thunder rolled outside as a gentle rain began.  William creeped behind his bed and hid from the thunder, unsure of what he was hearing.  I told him everything was fine and he sprinted into my lap and gripped me in a hug, telling me he was scared of the thunder.  I reassured him again and began to read.

Well, you know how the story goes.  David steps up to fight Goliath with his sling and stones, and he slays the giant with a single pebble with God’s strength behind him.  William, who has a tendency to run circles around the bedroom instead of sitting quietly through my story, sat very still tonight and seemed to hear every word.  After the story we prayed as we always do, based on suggestions from the book.  The suggestion was to tell God about some of the things of which we are afraid.  Of course, William said, “Thunder.”  I suggested that William pray to God to stop the thunder so that he could go to bed in peace, and, of course, He came through.  There were no more rolls of thunder after we prayed our prayer.  God is Good!

And we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

I was all set to post tonight about the possibility of reincarnation and communicating with the dead, when something very real brought me back to this realm.  My 8-year-old, Zachary, was in rare form tonight and was not his usual, happy self.  I know he was bullied by a couple of 4th grade boys a couple of days ago, but he came home tonight and told me that school went fine today, so I didn’t think his attitude had anything to do with bullying.  I was giving him and his 2-year-old brother, William, a bath later tonight when Zach busted out with “You don’t do a good enough job trying to be a mom to both of us.”  Um, excuse me?  Did I just hear that correctly?  Wait, let me clean out my ears and repeat that, please.  Sure enough, I had heard him correctly.  Whoa, I thought.  This is huge.  And I didn’t really know how to respond.  I told him that I tried to do the best that I could and that some days were harder than others (especially now that my husband and I are voluntarily separated – but that’s another post).  To which he replied that I didn’t do good enough and then broke out into tears.

I have to admit that I was stunned because I always thought that Zach and I had a good, solid relationship.  But, it turns out that he did a really good job of pretending that we did sometimes, and that hurt me deeply.  I, of course, told him that I was sorry that he felt that way, and he told me that William always comes first.  Ouch, another blow.  So, I went into a schpiel about William being younger and needing me more, yadda, yadda, yadda… And I explained how hard it was to work 40 hours a week and then come home and try to be the best mom I could be.  And then I looked at him as he continued to cry and realized that those were just excuses for my inadequacies as a mom.  Yes, I admit it.  Inadequacies.  And I realized just how much work I have to do to BE the intentional mother that I haven’t always been.  And now I have even more of a reason to continue on my quest to be a better, more purposeful mom.  Please, everyone (including Zach), continue to keep me accountable for my mothering.  Please and thank you!

Hello World!

Hola, friends!  My name is Brittany.  And, yes, as the mother of a 13-year-old (step) son, Keaton, an 8-year old (biological) son, Zachary, and a 2 1/2-year-old (biological) son, William, (yes, my friends, 3, count them, 3 boys!), I have watched entirely too many episodes of Dora the Explorer!  I do sometimes wish I had her backpack though, because that thing is super-magical and would have come in handy on many occasions.  Ever toted around a baby and all its required baby things thinking you had it all under control and then realize you had forgotten something vital, you know, like DIAPERS?.  Yeah, I’ve been there a few times over the years.  Then all I would have to have done was holler “BACKPACK!” about 15 times for it to appear and spit out just what I needed, like my own personal vending machine!  “Yum, yum, yum, delicioso!”  I wouldn’t have had to find one of those machines they have in airports now for parents who have forgotten something vitally important at the most inopportune time.  You know, like extra diapers and a change of clothes when the dreaded up-the-back, nose-burningly pungent, blow-out diaper occurs in public (been there!).  But, I digress…

Yes, as the mother of 3 amazing boys, I have my hands full at all times.  Throw in the fact that I work outside the home 37.5 hours a week, and that means that I have to be even more well-organized.  It was a good thing I was born the daughter of a “planner,” as my mom has always been called by those that know her, and that I inherited that “planner” gene.  Having the innate ability to be a good planner sure does make being a full-time working mother a little easier at times.  I still think that pretty purple talking backpack would come in handy for those times that I’m off my game, though.

After all of these years, I like to think that I for the most part have effectively learned to manage my kids in such a way that they get to school on time, I get to work (usually) on time, we get to after-school activities, have food on the table for dinner, even if that means the occasional (or frequent) take-out meal, get homework done, baths taken, prayers said and off to dreamland at a reasonable time.  Sometimes we even get to throw in a little TV and play time.  I used to think I did pretty well at “having things under control,”  most days anyway.  I had learned to make task lists at work and at home, to organize everyone’s activities,  and to make sure that we all, including Seth, my husband of 4 years, ran on a smooth, tight schedule.

Over the years I had become a mostly efficient, “functional mother,” and was cruising through life raising my two biological boys, Zachary and William, until about a year ago in March 2011 when my normal, safe, rather ordinary life began to slowly unravel.  Up until that point, the most difficult thing I had to endure and then learn to manage had been the unexpected diagnosis that we received when Zachary was 8 weeks old.  Zachary had inherited a genetic condition called albinism, characterized by a lack of pigment in his skin, hair and eyes.  The lack of pigment in his eyes along with other physical changes cause him to have a visual impairment.  Now, at the age of 8, his vision is stable at about 20/70, which is fantastic for a person with albinism.  Suffice it to say, however, that getting to this total acceptance of Zachary’s condition, which he has as a result of gene mutations that both his father (not Seth – another story for another day), and I passed down to him.  I carried a lot of mommy guilt for that for a long time, but I learned as the years went by that albinism would only be a small part of the whole that makes up my beautiful, intelligent, first-born son.  I have called him my angel on Earth since he was a baby,with his platinum blond hair and deep blue eyes, and it has only been within the last year that I have begun to understand the full extent of his role and purpose in my life as his mother, for which I am so grateful.  But, more to come on that later…

Now, let’s return to March 2011 when I began to realize that the tapestry of my otherwise normal life had begun to unravel…  Although it took me a while to comprehend the full extent of the unraveling that was life as I had known it, I realized quickly that things were beginning to come apart at the seams.  It all began when my mostly quiet, cruise-control life took an entirely unexpected turn when my step-son, Keaton, revealed unthinkable things about his life at home with his mother and step-father.  This led to my husband and I taking emergency, and then permanent, full custody of Keaton.  I will save the sordid details for a future post, but suffice it to say that this event opened up a whole new proverbial can of worms for our family, and although we loved him deeply and wanted so desperately to help him and change his life for the better, we began to realize that we had been totally unprepared for what it would be like to take in a child that we had not raised.  And not just a child, but a preteen!

I also realized I had become somewhat burnt out with work about that same time.  I have been working as a paralegal for insurance defense firms in Charlotte, North Carolina for over 11 years.  While I am very happy with my current work environment and the relationships that I have cultivated there, the work had become somewhat mundane.  I had also turned 35 in February of that year, and it hit me that I was already past my 15th(!) high school reunion.  I began thinking to myself, “Where in the world has the time gone?”  Surely I hadn’t graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill  a full 12 years earlier?!

Yes, 2011 was supposed to be the start of a new, happier time for me.  And it did start with a bang, just not the promising kind for which I had hoped.  Not long after we took Keaton in, my marriage became strained as Seth and I realized that we had to find a new reality.  We also had to figure out how to help Keaton overcome his past and the inevitable feelings that all of us would face as a new, even more blended family.   The summer was just the beginning of the struggle.  Things got even harder when the school year began, and Keaton struggled to find his place in his new school with new peers.  I faced a kind of stress that I have never really felt as a full-time working mother.  Sure, managing 2 kids was difficult at times, but 3?  Could I do it and still maintain my sanity?  Some days I really began to wonder if I was still sane at all.

As 2012 began, it began to seem like every time I turned around, a new layer of difficulty was being added to our already complicated lives.  My mom’s father, Granddaddy Bill, fell at his home in January and entered a rather fast, 3-week decline that ended in his death.  I have dealt with death before in my 35 years, such as the unexpected death of my step-mother Jeanne in 2010 following a heart attack, but I have never had the opportunity to watch such a fast decline from life to death.  I literally watched my grandfather die, and that has had a profound effect on my life and my desire to be a better person and mother.  I do not want to reach my death-bed, whenever that time comes, and have regrets about how I had lived or treated my family and the others around me.  Not long after my grandfather’s death, my step-sister Allison was diagnosed with grade II brain cancer.  Again, I was staring the reality of death in the face again as I waited at the hospital with family for the doctors to remove a tumor the size of her entire left front lobe.  Allison has made an excellent recovery, thankfully, and is taking her recovery one day at a time.  No doubt Allison has a new appreciation for life and death.  I know I do.  As one of her family members said during surgery, “Life turns on a dime.”  You just never know what you are going to face from day-to-day, so you can only do the best you can to appreciate and make the absolute best of the present.

As I began to reflect on the events of the last year, I couldn’t help but think that these events happened in my life as a part of a greater plan to help me overcome the personal struggles that were beginning to take over my life, turning me into a person that I didn’t quite recognize anymore, or, quite frankly, like very much.  Death and cancer are pretty strong motivators.  They made me re-examine my life, under a self-imposed microscope at times, to figure out exactly what had happened to my marriage and why I didn’t feel like I was as successful a mother as I had hoped to be.  Yes, I was maintaining at work and at home, but I didn’t feel as though I was LIVING any longer.  Why was that, I wondered?  Did I make wrong choices or take a wrong turn somewhere?

It was time to untangle all of the confusion and to really SEE what I had become.  To determine why I felt like my marriage might fail.  To figure out where I had lost my joy for parenting and how to get it back.  I knew I loved my husband and my children, but I felt like I was missing and had missed a lot because I had become buried in the day-to-day struggles of being a full-time working mother, managing my family instead of enjoying them.

Hence why I have turned to one of my very favorite things, writing, to find my way back to the light and to regain the joy I lost somewhere in the everyday living of my life.  I invite you to join me on my journey, for I think it will be an interesting and insightful ride.  And because I need someone to hold me accountable for the inevitable changes that will need to be made in my life in order to accomplish my goal.  I don’t just want to be a functioning wife and mother, but a purposeful, intentional, loving wife and mother.  I want to parent with intention and not just schedules, rules and discipline.  I don’t want to manage my kids, but to raise them with love and compassion.  I want to learn the patience to listen to and hear my husband and children in order to better recognize what they need and want from me.  How can I better serve them in my roles as wife and mother?  It is time to put the work in and find out.