Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mom College

I have decided to start a new Master's Level program. For moms. Because here's the thing. There is so much about being a mom that you just don't know! And I'm not talking about diapering and feeding and swaddling. There are actual classes for those things. But, seriously, there are some things that no one tells you. Things that nobody teaches you. And apparently, we all just have to figure it out as we go. Wing it, so to speak. So, I'm proposing a few courses just to bring us all up to speed.

1. Application and removal of the temporary tattoo-Learn the proper technique for applying temporary tattoos without ripping the head/arm/feet off the beloved character of the week. Included is the tips and tricks for removing headless tattoos.

2. Overview of children's clothing sizes-Learn the fundamental difference between 6 months and 6-9 months. Will also cover diaper sizing and what the sizes mean. (You know, like when to just give it up and stop cramming your daughter in a diaper that's too small because you're cheap...) As bonus material we will cover how 4T is not the same as 4.

3. A Primer of Superheros-Covers any and all super heroes, both modern day and retro. Learn all super heroes' alternate identities and powers. Is combined with a lab teaching moms how to make adequate gun and laser noises. (A Primer of Princesses offered for moms of girls)

4. 101 ways to answer the question "Why?"

5. Psychology of a 3 year old. Discuss the inevitability of public bathroom visits, the grocery store meltdown out of nowhere, and why loud noises are so scary.

Students who complete this program will be able to handle all of life's little curve balls with a preschooler. This degree only covers you to age 6. After that you will have to pursue the school-age mom's degree-the last prerequisite for the Doctoral Degree for moms of teenagers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When You Become a Mom

This seems like kind of an obvious thing. It seems clear that once you conceive a child, you become a mom. But somehow, there's also this part of it that creeps up on you.

I did a lot of baby sitting back in the day. A lot. In fact, even after Big Dan and I were married we had a couple of families that we still baby sat for when the parents were gone for weekends and the like. And you do a lot of mom-like things when you babysit. But, after those two or three or four days, the real parents come back and you go back to your cush life that you don't even realize is cush.

When you're the mom, no one comes to take over!!

There have been a few moments over the past 3 and almost a half years where something happens and I go, "Wow. I'm really the mom here."

The first such moment for me came the first time I had a bottle of pink bubble gum medicine in my refrigerator. I went to retrieve something from the fridge (why does fridge have a "d" but refrigerator doesn't?? maybe because "fridge" is not a word...) and when I opened up the door, there was a bottle of antibiotics in my fridge. In my fridge. I must be a mom now. I am the possessor of amoxicillin. It doesn't get any more mom than that.

I remember the first time I heard a kid say, "Look! That's Drew's mommy!" To the kids in Drew's class I only exist as Drew's mommy.

Anytime I fill out any kind of form relating to my kids it kind of drives home the point. Parent's Name:______________ Yeah, turns out that's me.

When we went to the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt this year Drew participated in a "hopping" contest. I got teary eyed. Don't judge! It was his first race. And, ONLY something a mom would get teary about. What? Not all moms, only sappy ones like me? Fine. But still, it was a moment of "That's MY child. In a race." Sniff.

To say the emotions that come along with being a mom are overwhelming would be a major understatement. It can be all consuming. Sometimes, though, that girl you were before taps on your heart. She can't believe how old you are. Or that you, crazy old you, are really a mom.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Mother's Heart

Before the flood, I had planned to do a post about moms or mothering every day this week. And let's be honest-not a real stretch since most of what I write about is about being a mom. What I had planned was my attempt to make light of the hard parts of being a mom. Handling tough things the way I handle any tough thing-with humor. But I started to worry it would all ring a bit hollow. Especially to my own ears.

After yesterday I thought maybe I had moved on. Maybe things were starting to get better for everyone. At least I could pretend so when I just stayed home all day. But today the harsh reality of the whole situation showed back up. I saw a dumping area where they were dumping and sorting all of the debris pulled from people's homes. Piles and piles of what once represented "home" to people. I saw a hand written sign propped against a mailbox on Highway 100-"Need Help" it said. And most profoundly for me it showed back up in a mom and her son. And so, i will write about moms after all.

Today, I was dropping Drew off at school. We were doing our hand washing routine about the time Nathan and his mom came in. Nathan's mom works at the school, and usually Nathan is the first one in the class. As I was behind the door at the sink, I started to hear bits and pieces of the conversation Nathan's mom was having with Ms. Judy. "It's kind of awkward to say, " she said, "but we can really only use money or gift cards at this point. We don't have anywhere to put stuff." My heart clenched up. Nathan's family were victims of the flooding. On the way to school, no kidding, Drew said these words, "Mommy, I like Nathan. He is a nice friend and fun to play with." What happened next nearly pushed me over the edge. As Nathan's mom was ready to leave he clung to her neck and sobbed. Not three year old whining-sobbing. He did not want his mom to go. And it was obvious she did not want to leave him. She was crying, too.

I walked to my car just praying for both of them. I was unable to imagine trying to go about the business of teaching four year olds when your whole life had just taken a dramatic turn. And to think about what it means to be a mom in that situation...

Being a mom means protecting your children. It is agony when you can't. Being a mom means making sure their little lives work. It is heart breaking when that doesn't happen. Something in a mom drives her to be her best and do her best for those littles she is in charge of. It's a full time pursuit. She knows which toys mean the most. Just how to make the sandwich right. The right way to wash the hair. What kind of snack would make his day.

I'm so thankful for Nathan that despite his great loss, he still has his mom. Because I know she will work with everything inside her to make things right for him.

Say a special prayer for all those moms whose homes have been ravaged. Say a prayer for them as they work to make things right again for their babies.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Back to "Normal"

Bellevue had a quiet weekend-well, weather wise-anyway. On Friday it was hot as blue blazes (which is very hot for all of you non-southerners!) but Saturday and Sunday were unseasonably cool, and all I could think about was what a blessing it was for all of those doing manual labor all day. Churches all over the city mobilized what I would wager to be thousands of volunteers. Big Dan spent Saturday morning at El Shaddai church-a Spanish speaking congregation that our church partners with. The church, at it's worst, had five feet of water in the sanctuary. Later, he was called over to an elderly woman's house. No one had been to her home since the day of the flood. Needless to say, the mold had set in. I'm trying to get Big Dan to do a guest post about his experience. He's reluctant. No idea why!!! Ha!

Meanwhile, I was stuck in some kind of weird inertia all weekend. I just couldn't get moving in any area. Finally, I sorted out my feelings and realized that the thought of going back to my normal life just seemed so wrong. How can I just go about my business when so many will be struggling for least?? Then I realized that I'm not doing anyone any good just sitting around feeling weird. So I decided to work towards getting us back into our routine, while keeping my ear to the ground for ways we can help.

So today we got back to "normal". And, if you know us at all, you know "normal" is anything but! Our washing machine is broken. I spent Saturday on the phone with my Dad (who is an appliance guy, remember??) and he talked me through the diagnostics. Luckily, it was just some leaky hoses causing the problems. Which, if I'm really honest with you I was kind of hoping it was something fatal that would allow me the freedom to push my washing machine off a cliff and get a brand spanking new one. No such luck. We have one of the hoses repaired. Mostly. And the other hose is on its' way. Poor Emily had no clean p.j.s so I headed to Lana's to wash some clothes. Good thing she loves me!

Big Dan bought Drew a dvd with all four original Super Man movies on it. He is super enthralled with them. And I kept getting sucked in, too. I realized why I was so sad when Christopher Reeve died. Those movies are great. So, I've been in "distress" all day, but luckily Superman lives right here in my own house, so I'm constantly getting saved! But, if I have to change out a Batman outift for a Superman outfit one more time, I'm going to have to get all Wonder Woman on somebody. Just sayin'...

Back to "normal", but the reminders remain. Our prayers are still going up, asking God to bless all those who are struggling with their own new "normal".

Friday, May 7, 2010

On Why I Am Not In Sales

Late yesterday afternoon I got an email from a woman in my mom's club who was hosting a "Sack Lunch Prep" play date. We would gather together, make sack lunches and then take them into the community to hand out to those working on recovery. I was ecstatic. I had been feeling like my hands were tied. It wouldn't really be safe for me to strap Emily in the Baby Bjorn and start ripping out drywall. I was excited to help. So, I volunteered to bring drinks and help deliver the lunches.

We prepared 88 sack lunches. And by "we" I mean the other ladies. I had to let Emily nap. So, another club member and I headed out with our lunches and drinks. We had two target areas in mind. The first was the home of a former club member. When we got there, we had been beat to the punch by the YMCA. They had delivered lunches all over the neighborhood. So we gave out a few drinks and headed to the next spot.

We had good word that the folks in the next spot had been passed over when it came to food. Turns out Cheeseburger Charleys heard that same word. And really, no offense to the hard working lunch packers, but who is going to want PB & J when you could have a cheeseburger? So far we had not handed out a single lunch. I was on a serious countdown to both of my kids losing it. I was sweating. Doesn't anyone want my sack lunches???

At the Bellevue Community Center they had set up an information station. I thought for sure we could unload our lunches here. We had to park quite a ways from the center. I left my car running and had my friend watching my car. While I ran up the sidewalk to ask the Salvation Army if they wanted our lunches, a lady decided my kids were being neglected and was on the verge of calling the police. My friend was shouting from the parking lot "I'm watching them! I"m watching them!" I came down the hill at about that time and said, "I'm coming". I had a big smile on my face. You should have seen the look that lady gave me. She had no idea how dangerously close she came to having her teeth punched out. Oh and, the Salvation Army is not allowed to accept outside food. Are you keeping count? ZERO lunches distributed.

I had no choice but to head home at this point. Emily was beside herself with hunger and Drew was beside himself because of Emily's crying. I would just try to give out the meals for dinner.

I fed the baby, put the kids down for a nap, and watched Survivor.

When the kids woke up I piled them back in the car to get those meal out. Because I'm a slave driver like that. We headed to another part of Bellevue and to make a long, hot story short, we gave out exactly ZERO lunches. I was unable to give away free food. I will say that my ice cold Powerades were a big hit this afternoon and you should have SEEN Drew handing out those drinks. My child, who will barely say hi to people he knows well, was walking up to total strangers asking, "Would you like a cold drink?" Who could say no to a tiny guy in a Superman outfit peddling Powerade?? Don't think I didn't consider giving him some sack lunches.

Tough day for team Hull, it's true. But, there is good news here. The Bellevue community, staying true to its' southern roots, is keeping everyone well fed. I love it. One group had two different deliveries of sack lunches that they had not finished when another woman showed up with three pans of lasagna! I'm not going to be one bit surprised when the casseroles start rolling out.

The piles of debris are growing higher. I visited one home today, far away from the Bellevue epicenter that had been flooded on both floors. It was a large two story house and the water line reached almost to the top of the second story shutters. The other houses on the street, all ranch style homes, had been completely submerged. More homes where people had poured their life savings into renovating the house.

Even with all the pain, the attitude I keep encountering is one of "Yes it's awful, but there's work to do." People all over the city have put their hands to the task of making things better.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nashville Flood 2010-Part Three

At around 11:00 on Monday night the power came back on. Big Dan crept down the stairs and we both gave some silent fist pumps so as not to wake the sleeping children. And can I just take a minute to ask how in the world two tiny beings can take up that much space in a bed??

Drew got up with the birds again, but Emily was asleep, so he got to sit quietly and look at books until she woke up. When we were all up and moving it dawned on him that we had power again. He was so excited! And then came the let down. I think he had been very stressed through all of this ordeal and somehow the power coming back on was his signal to let it all out. I was sad for him. Drew is a very thoughtful kid. Not much gets by him. He listens to and processes every conversation he overhears. I listened to him pray, asking God to use His broom to clean up the flood on Highway 100. He was watching and listening.

I spent the morning on the phone with the pediatrician's office. Well, with their automated answering system, anyway. Emily had been running a fever since Saturday and she was miserable. i knew the office in my part of town was open and I assumed my pediatrician was there since he lives just down the road.

Our trip to the doctor's office was our first trip out since the flood came. The computers were down at the office and no pharmacies in Bellevue were filling prescriptions. Luckily, our ped's office has a pharmacy that fills basic prescriptions, but they were only taking cash. I had to take quite an adventure to find a working ATM. Drew had lunch and his nap in the car! As I drove to find some cash, I drove through Belle Meade-the upscale part of Nashville. Mud and debris littered the sides of the road and pavement was torn up all along the way. A large, prominent church building there had around six ServicePro vans sucking water out of their sanctuary.

Now that I was able to get online, I could not stop looking at reports and pictures of the damage.

It's a weird feeling. And I know what you're thinking. "Why are you so torqued up over this when nothing bad even happened to you?" Again, I'm not trying to take someone else's tragedy on as my own. I'm not. I don't know how to explain the sadness and the anxiety. But I do know that these feelings are bringing out the activist in me. I'm sure some of you are sort of tired of hearing about it. You may wonder why people are throwing a fit about the lack of national media coverage, presidential involvment, fill-in-the-gripe blank. I would say to you, just remember that all of it is coming from a place of pain. Even for those, like me, who did not suffer personal loss, something changes when a tragedy hits your community.

So now we turn the page and focus on how in the world we help our neighbors recover when they have lost everything. Big Dan visited a man from our church who lives nearby. Ray. He and his wife recently bought their home and spent their savings renovating their home. Big Dan said when he walked in the house it looked like a house that was being built. It was stripped to the bare studs and sub-flooring. Ray's wife and 2 year old son left town just as things got bad and are staying with family in Louisiana. When Big Dan called Ray to ask what he could bring by, Ray said he would love some clean socks. Seriously. Across the street from Ray's house, the houses were untouched.

I hope you will forgive the amount of times I mention the flood in upcoming posts. It will probably sneak in even when I go back to posting about the very riveting life of a stay at home mom. It's a part of Bellevue now. And, so, it's a part of me.

Nashville Flood 2010-Part Two

On Monday morning the sun came out.

We got up early...because it was light! Alas, the power had not come back on during the night. Drew was out playing in the mud at around 6:30 a.m. I am always excited to see the sun, but on this day, it was an unbelievable feeling. Because hot sun=water drying up.

We were so blessed during this ordeal. And it's kind of hard to say that because what does that mean for the families who lost everything? I don't know. But, we have a gas stove, and so, I was able to heat Emily's bottles and get them sterilized. I called my neighbor and suggested she clean out her freezer and bring over anything we could cook on the stove top. I couldn't believe how much food I had to throw away. She and I are both big couponers. All those freezer deals down the drain.

My mom struck out to see if she could find a way out of town. We joked that she was like the bird Noah sent out. If she didn't come back, we'd know it was dry! A few hours later she called to say she was still sitting on Highway 96 on the way to Franklin. It was the only way around Bellevue and everyone was trying to go that way. Just for reference, I can usually make it to Franklin in 20-25 minutes. We were praying she wouldn't run out of gas.

Drew and I took a walk. So many neighbors were out discussing bits of news they had heard from friends in other places. We speculated about roads opening and water safety and when the power might come back on. I have great neighbors and I have never been more thankful-knowing that if we needed anything someone would help. We walked to the front of the neighborhood. There are houses there that back right up to the creek. Somehow they were unscathed!!! Not one single house in the neighborhood had been touched by the flood. Amazing.

I called my neighbor again and asked if she wanted to go out driving around for a bit before we started cooking. She wanted to go see the preschool where her son goes each day. Reports were that there was massive flooding at the school. We laughed and joked on the way there. And then, what we saw, struck us dumb. We were speechless. On the roadway we both traveled every day there was water as far as the eye could see. In my mind's eye I knew that somewhere under all that water was a golf center. And an entire neighborhood.

One of the teachers from the preschool was there with her husband and their canoe. They had been delivering people to the rescue boats when the rescue boats could not reach certain homes. The current had become too strong, so they had to quit. And then I saw her. The woman who lives in the house with the school bus. When Drew was little he loved seeing school buses, and every time we passed this house we waved to the school bus. She was sitting on the curb, head in hands. Her home was flooded and she had just been pulled out by the rescue boat. The drive home was somber.

In all this time, I had not felt panicky. I was stocked up on formula. We had plenty of diapers. Plenty of food. And, if worse came to worse, we could walk to the store. But after seeing the lake on Old Harding Road, a knot started forming in my stomach. People were lined up four deep at the Kroger gas pumps for gas that would not be turned on for several hours. Were we going to run out of gas?? And, by the way, why did we even need gas when we couldn't go anywhere??

Lana and I cooked up a storm and our families ate the most random selection of food you have ever seen! We started filling up empty containers with water...just in case. My mom finally got some gas in her tank and off Highway 96. As the sun started setting, the flashlights and candles came out, camp was set back up and we crossed our fingers for the power to come back on.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville Flood 2010-Part One

It happened when it started raining and wouldn't stop.

Saturday was supposed to be about a party. A first birthday party for my sweet nephew Van. My blog today should be pictures of the birthday boy. Instead there are pictures of a historic flood. In my town.

I have not really known what to say about everything I have seen in the last four days. But I want to say something. I want people who are not Nashvillians to have some stories of real people who were (and will continue to be) effected by the flood. I don't want to be one of those people who overly attaches to some major event and unnecessarily kicks up a lot of drama. I would be remiss, though, if I didn't admit that I'm still reeling from the events of the weekend.

As we celebrated Van's birthday, the local news broke in on the T.V. to report the flooding of I-24 in Nashville. We could not believe what we were seeing. Cars and semis floating down the interstate. And then, a BUILDING. How was this happening? It had just started raining.

I left my sister's house Saturday evening with my kids and my mom in the car. As we came into my part of town, a suburb of Nashville called Bellevue, things were starting to get bizarre. On my normal route home we were turned away-the road was closed. On our alternate route we passed Ensworth High School where my brother-in-law works. Instead of soccer fields there was a lake. The soccer goals were completely submerged. I'll admit at this point, though it was strange, I still did not really grasp the amount of water that would eventually cover Bellevue. We went to bed wondering what the morning would hold.

I began preparing brunch on Sunday morning. We were going to be celebrating Mother's Day since we were all together. But, as it continued to rain, I had a feeling it would not be a good idea for my sisters and their families to venture to this part of town. Big Dan headed out on a scouting mission and returned with some bad news. If they did come, they should be prepared to stay...for a long time. It would not be long before the roads leading into Bellevue would be impassable. Shortly after we cancelled brunch, our power went out.

We watched as it continued to rain relentlessly. Only now, we had no way of knowing what was happening outside of our home. I made frequent calls to Katy who kept us up to date on the advancing flood. Big Dan took a drive and returned with a jaw-dropping report. At an intersection just down the road, the water was up to the stoplight. I couldn't believe it, so I loaded up Drew and went to see for myself.

These pictures were taken just in front of the Publix grocery store within walking distance from my house. In fact, Drew and I have walked to the ice-cream shop in this same center more than once. The store was open, running on generator power and it looked like a refugee scene inside. Long lines of scared people stocking up for an unknown amount of time.

Back at home I gathered up flashlights and candles and set up camp for the kids and myself in the family room. We opened all the windows and went to bed early, because it was dark. Mom went to bed wondering when she would ever make it back to Knoxville.

To be continued...