Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas-The Day After

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you probably know that the day after Christmas is my very favorite day of the year.  So, in the spirit of that-Happy December 26th!

I hope your Christmas was just what you hoped it would be.

We had a great Christmas.  And it was mostly because I didn't have any major hopes concerning what it would be.  This year, the theme of my Christmas was "The Christmas of flexibility".

In the past, I have been a little dictator-esque when it comes to Christmas.  I love to have my house decorated perfectly, presents in matching paper and big cloth bows, lots of festivities, fun, and of course, appetizers.

The last three years of my life have been all about letting go of what I want, and leaning into what is.

So, lean in I did.  My plans changed all the way up until the last minute.  I got the cheapest Christmas cards I could (and mostly just felt proud I had one.  Even if the picture was of poor quality...)  I bought exactly zero new wrapping paper and just used what I had on hand.  I wrapped all my gifts with packing tape.  Big Dan's gift came in a big box and it looked awesome with two different kinds of paper on it.  I prepared nothing for Christmas morning breakfast.  Emily had a chocolate Santa first thing in the morning.  I did cook breakfast, just later.  No stressing the night before.  Santa got all the kids' stocking stuffers at the Dollar Tree (he LOVES that place), and I made my husband and my brother-in-law fend for themselves for lunch.  Which, of course, was chinese because it was the only thing open!

And guess what?  Christmas was still wonderful!  My children will still have wonderful memories from this Christmas without all the trappings and guilt I've heaped on in years past.  The truth is, none of it matters at all.  That's the whole point.  The whole point God has been imprinting on me over an over.  I'm a slow learner.  It is who I am to want everything to be It is sometimes confusing that God would create us one way only to seemingly spend our whole lives working it out of us. But, I guess what He is working out is the dark parts of who we are.  He is moving us toward the version of ourselves we can't even see.  It's who He's made us to be without all the trash.

The potter's wheel, the refining fire, the winepress, the threshing floor.  None of these are places of comfort or laziness.  I think I have spent lots of time in my life building altars to comfort and safety.  Sometimes those altars look pretty and organized. Wrapped up with big cloth bows.  The truth is, comfort and safety are tyrants.

So, I did my part this Christmas to chip away at the chains.  I loved every single minute of being with my family.  The letting go felt really good.  Maybe next year I'll wrap with duct tape.

Peace and Blessings!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve is here!  Even though I'm in my thirties, and I'm a worn out, emotional mess, there is still something just a little exciting about the anticipation of Christmas morning.  Especially when you have little ones in the house!

The kids are very excited.  We did a little elfing last night and this morning and they were absolutely fantastic!  We've had so much fun the last couple of days.  The slower pace (and the reigning in of the red #40) has led to much sweeter children (and mommy!) all the way around.

One of my very favorite things about Christmas is a good excuse to eat lots of appetizers.  Did you ever see that movie "Mermaids" with Cher and Wynona Ryder?  I love that movie.  Cher plays the mom in the movie, and while I'm nothing like her (long-legged, sassy, um..."friendly") one thing we do have in common is our love for the appetizer.  Like her, I could easily make my family eat appetizers for every meal.  My kids would probably love it.  Big Dan prefers grown man food.

I've been thinking about some of my favorites.  They are all easy things I put out whenever we have Christmas guests.

Hot Pepper Jelly with Cream Cheese
I got this picture from Deep South Dish, but you can find a million pictures of this.  As I look at this picture, I realize it doesn't look all that appetizing.  But, it is ah-mazing.  I love that they have paired it with a good old fashioned Ritz cracker!  I like it on anything and it is always gone in a big hurry.

Rosemary Cashews

I have Katy to thank for this one.  It's new to me this year, but man oh man, they are DELICIOUS! The ones she made were full of rosemary flavor (one of my faves) with an added little kick.  Addictive. Definitely worth making and just keeping on hand.  They make a great little mason jar gift, too.

Cocktail Wieners
I'm so very mature that I don't struggle at all with writing the word wiener in a post. Also because I'm mature, when I went to to look up how to spell it, I definitely didn't push the little button to hear the automated lady say it.  I'm genteel and dignified.  Which is why I love these so much. These are kind of a redneck dish, but man oh man do I appreciate them.  The recipe I use has grape jelly in it which makes it even more redneck and delicious!! People may act like they are too high brow for the cocktail wiener, but you'll soon find them sneaking by the crockpot toothpick in hand!

Sausage Balls

The old stand-by.  Look, I realize I'm not getting invited to any foodie conventions with any of these recipes.  And that's fine by me, because they probably don't have any cocktail wieners or sausage balls at a foodie convention.  How could that be any fun?? This is another dish that someone might pretend they are too good for, but check their purse on the way out the door.  I'll bet it'll be filled with sausage balls.  

I'm hoping I get to eat each one of these things sometime in the next couple of weeks. If I don't, well, my kids should get ready!  It's appetizers for dinner!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Let the Christmas-ing Commence!

I am officially on Christmas break!!  Woo and Hoo!!!

Y'all know how much I love my kiddos-always-but I'm just plain old worn out.  This semester has seen me going 6, sometimes 7 days a week, and almost everything I've been working on has required me to be a major extrovert for the majority of the time.  Me? An extrovert for 6 straight days?  Thanks but no thanks!!

In case I haven't mentioned it, I commend every teacher everywhere.  Even the slightly shady ones.  Teaching is a command performance day after day.  If you think kids (especially little ones) are going to let you get away with coasting, you can forget it! They will watch you like a hawk.  And call you out.  Usually in front of their parents.

So, I haven't been able to fully engage with Christmas time around the homestead just yet.  I needed to close a few other file drawers.  Grad school drawer-closed. And locked! Preschool drawer-closed.  Home drawer-OPEN for business!!

We started our Christmas-ing a couple nights ago when I forced my children to listen to chapter one of my favorite Christmas book:

I have loved this book so much since the first time I read it in fourth grade.  Drew is pretty into it even though he doesn't love reading a chapter book (sad face) but Emily declared the book is too long and she decided to watch Letter Factory instead.  I refuse to give up hope that my kids will be book lovers. Wonder how many of my favorites they'll have  get to enjoy??

Today we followed up with decorating a gingerbread house.  I got a special pre-fab edition that pretty much just requires slapping on some icing and putting on the candies.  Pre-fab is perfect for my current stage of life.  Once upon a time I built an Eiffel Tower out of gingerbread for my sister's bridesmaid luncheon.  I laugh at that self who thought she was so busy!

The gingerbread pre-fab home decorating consisted largely of Emily licking icing and eating decorations (she is so her mother's child...) and of Drew telling Emily to stop eating the decorations and acting as the top quality control director (also...his mother's child...)  It was a little intense and I had to keep reminding them to HAVE FUN, for pity's sake.  But, it turned out pretty spectacular.

Do you see the little star there?  That's Drew's doorknob.  It's my favorite part of the whole thing.

I'm looking forward to some more Christmas fun.  I can't believe Christmas will be here in FOUR days.

That means it's only five days until my favorite day of the year! The day AFTER Christmas.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give! Him! Six!

Disclaimer: It feels wrong to move right along to posting about birthdays and parties when the long line of funerals is just beginning in CT.  I'm not sure what else to do, though.  So, I'm moving along with stories here, but my heart is still with Friday.  Praying for the whole town of Newtown today.

This guy is SIX.  Six years old.  I'm flabbergasted.  In the blink of an eye he went from three years old to six.  I could not be more proud of the young man he is.  I post plenty of antics here, so bear with me while I brag.  Again.  Drew is a kind, compassionate and very conscientious boy.  And while he is introverted, he has a heart to be a good friend to others.  His heart is often heavy because he is a feeler.  He is learning how to manage his feelings.  He works VERY hard at school and is an A student!  He loves to read and is very excited he gets to participate in the AR reading program at his school. (Nobody tell him his mother pretty much despises the AR program!!  She's a snob anyway!) He is a great helper in his classroom and is a HUGE help to me at home.  Emily could not have a better big brother.

His tender heart makes him ripe for growing spiritually.  He loves church and he loves to have discussions about God.  Like all of us, he has had a hard time reconciling Grammy's death with the goodness of God.  I pray for his faith everyday, that it would grow and he would learn to see God's love in all areas of his life.

To celebrate all this greatness, we had a football birthday party at our house on Saturday.  He decided he wanted to have a party at home because he likes it when I put up decorations! Ha! THANK GOODNESS the rain held off.  There were 19 kids here and they had total blast!  Drew is so blessed to have very sweet kids in his class.  The boys played football for a long time while the girls played in the playroom.  We made pennant flags and all the kids (girls and boys) loved doing this.

As always, I was more stressed than you should be about a child's birthday party!  And I got exactly zero pictures.  Well, except for one picture of the fabulous cookies Aunt Katy made:

It is so handy to be related to the cookie lady!!  (THANK YOU KATY!)

I wish I had a picture of how clean my house was.  And you all know it wasn't me who made that happen!  Kristin was here and she worked her "Hints from Heloise" magic and the place has never looked better.  It just confirmed what we all know-I need a maid! =)

Drew had a blast.  And as always, a birthday weekend always includes lots of cousin time!  He has cried twice this week because he is missing Weston!  Drew got lots of really cool presents for his birthday, including some nerf guns.  The boys and Big Dan had a huge nerf fight on Sunday.  I have spent the last week rescuing nerf darts from various "high places".  Here's hoping Santa brings some extra darts!

As the grand finale to birthday weekend, Drew and Big Dan went to see the Titans play for Monday Night Football.  Any given Monday night you will find Drew and Big Dan sitting on the family room floor in front of the TV watching the game.  On commercials you will find them practicing passing and catching.  You will find me hoping they don't throw a football through the glass door! So, for them to BE at an actual game was one of those forever memories.

Currently, Drew has a party hangover like nothing you've ever seen!  Thankfully, his Christmas break has arrived.  If I had my way, I'd make him nap from now until Christmas morning.  He does not support that idea!

So proud of my boy.  It is the epitome of bittersweet to watch him grow up.  And this week especially, I'm thankful for every single moment I get to spend with him.  Even when he's declaring me the meanest mom ever!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Wish...

I wish I had never heard of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I wish teachers in Newtown, Connecticut were going about their pre-break business.  I wish they were taking down Christmas decor, and sending home projects, and day dreaming about a few days when they didn't have to ties shoes and wipe noses.

I wish students were drinking hot chocolate, having cookies, wearing their pajamas and watching "Polar Express"

I wish Sandy Hook Elementary were just another run of the mill elementary school full of hard working teachers.

I wish.

I wish there were not parents with empty arms and emptier hearts tonight.  I wish there were not families of teachers weeping.  I wish the teachers were not afraid.

I wish there had not been a security vehicle and security officer in front of my own child's elementary school today.  I wish I could go on believing that nothing like this could ever happen here.

I wish the world was not so dark.  I wish I could go back to the days of believing every day coming could only be better than the one before. I wish my heart had any idea what to do with all the sadness.

I wish I knew for sure that my Mom was assigned to care for those new little souls in heaven.  There is surely no one else more fit for the job.

My heart and my soul are overwhelmed with grief.  I hold tight to the One who sees.  I hold tight to the One who is, without doubt, weeping over the darkness here, too.  I hold tight to the one who has watched over humanity since its beginning and has seen worse. Much worse.  I hold tight to the One who looks past the darkness and extends His loving-kindness towards us.

I hold tight to Emmanuel. God with us. Please, God, be with us.

I cannot fathom how the parents and others affected by this tragedy will start to put one foot in front of the other. I am praying for them today and everyday they are separated from those they love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It Takes A Village

*Disclaimer: If you are reading my blog for the first time, you have to promise you won't get offended. Humor and sarcasm are my coping mechanisms, but I mean no harm in ANYTHING I say.  Whoever you are, I like you and so appreciate everything you do.  So, read at your own risk!!

And here begins the longest, largest thank you note I've ever written:

On Saturday I finished my Master's degree.  I know people do this virtually all the time.  But I feel very proud.  The year and a half I spent in graduate school were not the kindest years I've had.  I almost quit. Twice. But I didn't.

The ONLY reason I finished is because of the amazing people who came alongside me and pushed me through.  The list is long.  My village is big.  So, settle in.

First, the very biggest thanks goes to my family.  Big Dan and the kids have sacrificed and given so much as I have spent so many Saturdays away.  I have spent afternoons glued to my computer finishing homework and have worked late into the night, neglecting dishes, laundry and, well, let's face it, dinner.  My kids have been shuffled and schlepped from one end of town to the other.  I have told them to their face that I know it has been hard.  They are my troopers.  My sidekicks.  I just hope their strongest memories are not of me saying, "SHHHHH!  I'm trying to write a paper!"

My sisters and my brother.  Oh, my siblings.  This would not have happened without them, and that is not an exaggeration.  All have listened to me whine more than any human should ever have to, they have cheered me on, and commiserated with me.  My sister Katy, literally became an extension of me.  She picked up the slack I left behind, when she has more than enough on her own plate. She cared for my kids like they are her own. And, let's face it, they like her better anyway! (As a side note I should mention that her husband, Jon, was pursuing a Master's at the very same time as me.  For as much as she's put up with, she should be awarded her own graduate degree).

To all my people at St. Bs.  You have been my cleft in the rock.  Thank you for standing beside me, supporting me, and caring for my kids.  Thank you for all the grace you've thrown my way when I've been a less than stellar teacher.  Thank you for praying for every paper, every presentation and every stinkin' Praxis exam.

To my cohort-TMA 46.  The finest group of people to ever grace the MAT program!!  I feel so blessed to have walked this journey with you.  I've said it many times-I would LOVE for my children to have each of you for a teacher.  I admire the courage and integrity with which you walk out your lives.  Children in our communities are blessed to have you coming into such a demanding profession.  I CAN'T WAIT to hear all of your stories!!

To my church family at TVC, particularly the Children's Ministry.  Thank you for being home.  Thank you for loving my children so well.  I'm happy to have finally found my place.

To all of my friends who are still my friends even though I've been crappy!!!!!!!  For all the texts and emails letting me know you're still on my side-you have no idea how much I love and appreciate each of you.

The past two and a half years have made me a big believer in the village.  I did not come around easily. I'm prideful and stubborn, and like to believe I can do it all myself.  I can't. I still spend some days mad about that fact.  But, being in the place of need, which has been at times miserably uncomfortable, has led me to the deepest community I have had in a long time.  And that, friends, is a post for another day!

So, to all of you who have walked this path with me.  Thank you.  It is not, nor will it ever be enough. But know that when I finally get a diploma, I will see all your names on there along with mine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All Done

Remember the list?

Complete coursework: Teaching the Exceptional Learner
*Write one information brief (note to self: figure out what an information brief is...)
*5 online modules/forum entries
*One teaching philosophy paper
*One InTasc reflection (don't ask, I promise you don't want to know)
*Prepare a presentation on students with Emotional Disturbance

6 practicum hours

1 E*portfolio presentation
*Revise any InTasc reflections that need revising
*Prepare a new resume
*Try not to panic

Not one single thing left to do.  Nada. Zip. Zilch.  I am now the proud owner of a Master's Degree.  The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of a comedy routine bordering on a nightmare.  Take for instance the night I had to present my e*portfolio.  For starters, I had no voice at all.  I had a nasty sinus infection that required a trip to the Little Clinic and antibiotics for the first time in six years.  Add to that freaking Nashville traffic.  I was barely to campus on time.  Because I decided to try and look sass (never, ever a good decision when it comes to me) I wore my boots with heels.  It was raining and there were leaves covering the ground.  I have no idea how I avoided falling.  After I ran-walked to the building where I was supposed to be, there was a sign posted there telling me the presentations had been moved.  TERRIFIC. So, me and the sassy boots headed over to the right room, only to discover three people had already presented.  I was a little late, but I mean, three people???

It all ended up just fine, of course.  The good news is I can BS my way through virtually any type of presentation.  I'd rather talk in front of a room full of 1,000 people than small talk with 3 strangers.  I'm sure my neck was all manner of blotchy red awesomeness (if you've known me for a while, you've witnessed this) but I didn't care.  At least I wasn't the one out there listening to my scratchy voice.

I think I'm still in shock that I'm finished.  I opted out of student teaching next semester, so I'm like, done-done.  This time of year is never tame, so I'm not sure when it will soak in.  Probably about the fifth Saturday in a row I don't have to go to school.

SO MANY people were a part of making this happen for me.  Be on the lookout for the world's largest thank you note.  You might be wondering what's next for me.  There is a plan.  But, for now, it's top secret.  I didn't see it coming, but I'm so glad it did.

In the meantime, I'll be stalking Pinterest trying to figure out what to do with the blasted Elf. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life in the Fast Lane

It's Thanksgiving eve-eve and I'm trying to stay awake and get everything packed up for our travel this weekend.  It has been quite a while since we've road tripped with the kids due to my grad school schedule, and I'm actually a little excited.  Which means that about an hour into the trip, I'll be

Remember the list I posted a couple of days ago, outlining the remaining things I needed to get done in order to finish school?  Well, here's how it looks now:

Complete coursework: Teaching the Exceptional Learner
*Write one information brief (note to self: figure out what an information brief is...)
*5 online modules/forum entries
*One teaching philosophy paper
*One InTasc reflection (don't ask, I promise you don't want to know)
*Prepare a presentation on students with Emotional Disturbance

6 practicum hours

1 E*portfolio presentation
*Revise any InTasc reflections that need revising
*Prepare a new resume
*Try not to panic

I'm feeling pretty dang good about that.  I present my e*portfolio in less than a week.  I'm taking my computer with me this weekend, but I can't even imagine a scenario which includes me having time to work on it.  Which means Sunday night is going to be a doozy!!

In other news, I got honked at in the car line today.  We can put that under the column heading of things I've never experienced before.  You'll be happy to know I resisted the urge to flip the bird to the woman behind me.  Here's the thing.  I try really hard to be a diligent member of the car line community.  It is beyond annoying when someone is not paying attention and they get left behind.  However.  I literally looked down at my phone for two seconds-which, naturally, were the exact two seconds the line finally decided to move.  I think you should hold off on the honking until I'm at least 5 car lengths behind.  I'm thinking of submitting this as a policy to the school handbook.  And do you want to know the really weird part?  The woman was right behind me during the portion of pick-up where we get out of our cars to wait for our kids.  And she kept LOOKING at me.  Seriously lady.  It was almost like she wanted me to thank her for honking at me.  She was a bold one, oh yes she was.  I did my best to avoid her awkward staring, which is something I've developed real skills in.  And then Drew didn't make it to my car in time, so I had to make another lap.  Yep, nothing like an HOUR in the car line.  I have never felt more incompetent than I do trying to navigate kindergarten!

I hope I'll have the chance to check in over the next few days.  If I don't, I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Like me, for some of you, there is always a tinge of sadness on days like these.  I hope you are able to find space for the melancholy.  I will be thinking of you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nothing Worked for Seinfeld

I have absolutely nothing of import to report today.

But, I'm writing this post because a) I'm procrastinating homework and b) I just felt like I wanted to stop by.  And chit chat.  I do love a good chit chat session.  Although, not usually on the phone.  I do talk to my sisters on the phone fairly regularly, but that's because when my kids start acting like mental patients (which is GUARANTEED the minute I pick up the phone) I can act mean without fear of judgement.

After yesterday's marathon day I could not get into bed fast enough.  Only, I'd had some late afternoon caffeine which hindered my falling asleep abilities.  This is the rub.  By 4:00 every day, I'm ready to cash it in.  Sadly, at 4:00, I still have a solid 3 1/2 hours of hard Mom labor ahead of me.  So, I usually end up having a caffeinated beverage to get me through.  And then it gets me through to at least midnight.  Which would be fine if I didn't have to get up at the preamble to the crack of dawn.  It's a conundrum, without doubt.

I cleaned out my car today for the first time in a long time.  When we have several busy weeks in a row, we basically live in the car.  I told someone not too long ago that if we got stranded in my car for two weeks, we could probably survive just from all the junk in there.  I cleaned out a lot of random stuff today, including, but not limited to: a whiffle ball bat, footy pajamas, a battery powered alarm clock, a purse, Buzz Lightyear, 4 pairs of Emily's shoes, and fingernail polish.  Don't ask, because I have no explanation.

Tonight at karate Drew got his sparring gear and his first go at sparring.  I'm here to tell you that nothing is funnier than little kids, in sparring gear that is slightly too big, trying to spar.  It's weird, because if you put these same kids on the playground without protective head gear, they are much rougher.  In the gym, all padded up, they all act scared.  I could feel my inner "sideline mom" rearing her ugly head tonight.  I did let some "encouragement" slip out, but it was nothing compared to what was happening in my mind.  Some really appropriate things like, "HIT HIM, Drew.  Don't let him push you back!! Punch him in the chest! Go for the head!"  The other kid was 4.  Maybe it's best if we don't involve Drew in any other sports.  I'd hate to have to explain a restraining order to my boss...

Tomorrow I am staying home.  All day.  Just Em and I (and maybe a visit from my best buddy, Van) and I couldn't be happier about it.  Even if I will spend all day doing laundry and washing dishes, at least I can do all of that in my pajamas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tick Tock


I am so close to having a completed graduate degree.

My life, right now, is about 75 degrees past bananas.  But the light? The one at the end of the tunnel? It grows nearer every day.

Today was a marathon day.  A day when I just don't think too hard about everything to be done, how many people I'm inconveniencing, or how ragged out my kids are.  A day that you just put your head down and make it all happen.

BUT.  I finished a large chunk of practicum hours today.  And my list of things that have to happen before I graduate is growing small.  Let me make this annotation-the actual list is small.  The work that will go into the list?  Not small.

Here is what is left to be done:

Complete coursework: Teaching the Exceptional Learner
*Write one information brief (note to self: figure out what an information brief is...)
*5 online modules/forum entries
*One teaching philosophy paper
*One InTasc reflection (don't ask, I promise you don't want to know)
*Prepare a presentation on students with Emotional Disturbance

6 practicum hours

1 E*portfolio presentation
*Revise any InTasc reflections that need revising
*Prepare a new resume
*Try not to panic

9 things left to do.  That's less than 10!  I can count those with my fingers!!

My real life?  I'm just about to get it back...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

It's barely still Monday.

I meant to wrap up our weekend last night.  And then, well, I didn't.

Let's start our discussion of the weekend with the great news that for the second weekend in a row, I did not have to go to grad school.  Hallelujah. Amen.

Friday afternoon I picked Drew up from school.  Sometime during the day he acquired a Sweet CeCe's sticker, reminding us to go there and eat frozen yogurt so his school could get some more money.  Emily noticed the sticker and asked if we could go.  I said yes.  There was complete silence in the backseat.  They were totally stunned!  Hahahaha.  They did not think I would say yes.  I love a moment like that.

We turned the car around and headed over to load up on frozen yogurt and toppings.  After we hit the bathroom of course, because that's what we do.  The kids wanted to eat outside, so we did.  The weather was amazing.  I was relaxed and thoroughly enjoying myself, trying to soak in the Hallmark moment of it all.  Then it sort of went from Hallmark to Modern Family when one child complained that the other child had more yogurt than they did, and CRIED about it.  There may or may not have been a long lecture concerning OH MY GOSH, ARE YOU SERIOUS?  YOU'RE SITTING HERE EATING YOGURT ON A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND YOU'RE CRYING BECAUSE THEY HAVE A LITTLE MORE THAN YOU??? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY KIDS IN THIS WORLD WOULD LOVE TO BE YOU RIGHT NOW??  Annnnndddd...relaxing afternoon over.

We all stayed in on Friday night.  We watched The Grinch on TV (the Jim Carey version). Emily fosters a complete love/hate relationship with the Grinch.  Fascinated, yet terrified.  Drew asked if he could stay up and watch basketball with Big Dan (only because there was no football on).  I told him yes, as long as he didn't wake me up in the morning, or let Emily wake me up.  I laid out breakfast (left over mini boxes of cereal from preschool) and left strict instructions to let me sleep.  And they totally did!  When I got up (at 8, by the way.  In case you were worried that my kids were on their own half the day.  In my dreams!) they were snuggled together in Drew's bed and he was reading to her.  Do you see how we ride the pendulum each and every day?

I have to admit I wasn't in the best of moods Saturday.  My family would probably call that an understatement.  At one point Big Dan said, "I think you might need to go take a nap!"  Ha! The bottom line is that I was feeling so much pressure to get 2 weeks worth of housework done in one day. We all know how that goes.  It's just darn hard to be productive with other people in the house.  I totally blew it.  I was really thankful when Sunday rolled around and I got another chance.  New mercies are my favorite.

Sunday we did church and then Sunday afternoon nap.  I've started laying down with Em on Sunday afternoons just for a little bonding time.  It's heavenly. Sunday afternoon was spent constructing a wood sculpture for Drew's kindergarten class.  Did you get that?  We had to make a wood sculpture. How fast can we order up a clone of me?  Drew did a great job coming up with his idea-a wooden turtle.  We glued and drilled and hammered until we had us a great, big, wooden turtle.  Today we carried it in school in the rain.  It was epic.

I'm so sad the weekend is over.  But, it gave me a taste of weekends to come.  Weekends with no school and weeks between with no homework.  I have the grad school equivalent to senior-itis.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Funnies

I have never been so happy for a Friday in my whole life!

That might be an exaggeration considering I can't remember anything beyond about a week ago.

In any case, I'm glad to close the book on this one, kids.

I thought I'd leave you with a couple of random tidbits that made me giggle.

First, a couple of weeks ago we were in music class at the preschool.  The music teacher is a good friend of mine and she is pretty much like Elvis to the 3-5 year old set.  They ADORE her.  And it's because she's really good.  Anyway, she does this song with them sometimes called "Don't Throw Your Junk In My Backyard".  I hope you're familiar with it.  It's super fun.  In case you're not, basically she asks for volunteers to tell things not to throw in the backyard.  It's always funny.  Kids say some weird stuff.  But.  The last time we did the song, she asked a little girl in my class for her answer.  And she said kitties.  Only she's three and has some speech issues and used a "t" instead of a "k".  I'll give you a minute to mull it over...


I wish, wish, wish you could have seen the look on Mrs. Ruth's face!!  She froze.  And didn't know what to do!  I quickly came to the rescue with an interpretation and then set forth to DIE LAUGHING for the rest of the song.  "Don't throw your kitties in my backyard, my backyard, my backyard. Don't throw your kitties in my backyard, my backyard's full...of kitties."  Seriously.  Not to mention that with those friends the "girls" will henceforth be known as the "kitties".

Then there was the time I changed my pants in the car line at school.  That time was today.

We had a pajama party in my class today at school, complete with little individual boxes of cereal.  Because, really? Is there a better snack than your own little box of cereal?  Doubtful.  Anyway, I had to pop into Drew's classroom to talk to his teacher this morning, so I packed my p.j. pants in my teacher bag and put them on when I got to school.  Because, listen, I may not have much pride left at this point, but the shred that remains strictly prohibits me from wearing pajamas in public. Skip to the afternoon when I have exactly zero minutes between school getting over and the time I need to leave in order to make it to Drew's school on time.  So, I did what any slightly insane person might do.  I changed my pants in the car.  In the car line.  At school.  I had to do it fast because the last thing you want is to get honked at in the car line.  Particularly if you aren't wearing pants at the time.

Happy weekend, everyone!  I'm going to spend mine concentrating on not putting my phone in the washing machine.  Hope yours is filled with lofty goals too!

Render Unto Caesar

I bet you think this is going to be a post about politics.  It's totally not.  I told you I'm pretending none of that happened.  Although, it has been nice to see gas prices come down a little bit.  I'm sure they're headed right back through the roof until the next time it benefits a candidate for them to come down, but I'll count the blessing for today anyway.

Nope, this post is about the big, bad state assessment that took place at my school Wednesday.  When I first started my job I raged against the insanity of all the regulations.  Because, honestly, some of them are stupid.  I still have issues telling parents what to pack in their child's lunch, because, well, I'm not a socialist.  (To be honest, I don't know if socialists really dictate people's lunches, but in my imaginary world, they do)  I also work at a school where all the teachers are kind, loving, creative, and smart.  And I feel like sometimes these guidelines don't allow people to be who they are when they teach.

But guess what? Throwing a tantrum about ECERS did not make it go away.  Mercifully, I was not chosen my first year.  It's just not something you want to add to your plate your first time around the block.  Last year I decided to quit wasting my energy being a hater and do what I do when something makes me nervous.  I learned the material backwards and forwards.  (This sometimes does not pay off in my life, like when I google medical conditions and what not...still, it's how I cope)  I could have taken a bubble-in test, or an essay test, or given a speech all about the environmental rating scale.  I made myself look at the ways it made me a better teacher.  I also spent a lot of time thinking about those kids who don't have the option of going to a preschool like mine.  My school is, for sure, an exception. There really is nowhere else like it.  There are lots of great preschools and childcare facilities.  But we all know there are some that are not.  These standards GREATLY benefit kids in those places.  No parent wants their child in a subpar childcare environment.  But, sometimes they don't have a choice.

Anywho, I was picked last year, and because I have stellar luck, I was chosen again this year!  In some ways, I wish I had a hilarious story for you about something zany that happened in my classroom.  But I don't!  Everything we've worked on to this point in class, my kids followed through on without missing a beat!

We don't find out our scores until after Christmas.  And there's really no way to tell how you did.  It's fairly subjective.  All you can do is hope you don't get the school shut down.  Which, if we're all honest, would be a story I would end up telling.  I don't think it happened this year.  So, I did what any good citizen of the state does after a day like Wednesday.  I went to dinner with my teacher friends and tossed back some vino.

And then the next day I taught a really shady lesson on the "Triangle of Trade" to some fourth graders. And I may have laughed out loud, hard, when one student kept shouting, "I need rum! I need rum!"

I hear ya, buddy, I hear ya.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Talking Points

1. The Election-Don't be afraid.  I'm not about to post one, single opinion here.  That would be because I don't have have one, single opinion.  Let's just say I will not be receiving any outstanding citizen awards this election cycle.  All in all, I have pretty much pretended none of it is happening.  I just didn't have one ounce of space for any sort of social action stress.  I figure if I have to be in denial about some part of life, this is a pretty benign place to put my head in the sand.

2. Today I picked up some Burt's Bees Milk and Honey lotion.  I have forgotten how much I adore it.  When I opened the bottle and sniffed, I immediately felt so happy.  I am keeping it in my classroom for my chapped hands.  It's sort of like dishpan hands only it's from washing my hands 237 times a day to appease the Department of Human Services.

3. Speaking of DHS, our big 3-star evaluation is tomorrow.  I can't remember if I blogged about it last year, but I ended up being picked.  So, I'm not as afraid this year.  I might be a tiny bit apathetic.  But, my classroom looks pretty fab.  My actual class on the other hand?  Loose cannons, all eight of them.  There is just no predicting what mayhem and foolishness they will be into.  At least the evaluator will be entertained.

4.  Wanna know what I'm watching on TV right now?  Well.  I should say, "Wanna know what I'm watching on Netflix these days?"  I have a serious problem.  I like to call it a show binge.  When I hit on a show I love I have a tendency to make really poor choices, like staying up until 2 a.m. to watch  It's a sickness. (You might remember the Friday Night Lights incident...)  I have been obsessed with Dr. Who (which is way out of my normal genre, but completely addictive), Revenge, and Army Wives.  And now I have to wait a whole week for a new episode of Revenge.  It's like the TV dark ages.  I am also super in love with Duck Dynasty.  If I could grow a beard, I totally would.

5. Being a sports fan in Tennessee is just brutal right now.  I'm sad over the state of things at UT, particularly with the football team.  The problem is, I get overly emotional about coaches.  I need to harden up and just say, "Hey, your team is sucking up it.  Peace out."  But, I can't.  I have a tendency to think about how devastating this must all feel to a man who probably thought he'd found his dream job.  This causes my husband to roll his eyes.  I am a fairly great football wife because I love it.  However, my inability to separate my emotions causes me to lose points.  I'm not sure what's going to happen.  Chances are I'll shed a tear or two before it's all done.

Get some sleep, kids.  We may wake up to a whole new nation tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

BOO! (Yippee!)

This is the post that almost never happened.  It almost never happened because the mother in this scenario is a complete mental case.  She put her phone in the WASHING MACHINE.  But, because of superior product (and by superior product I mean rice) her phone has been revived.  Don't call it a comeback.  Boom!

And you are going to be so glad.  When you see all the cuteness you're going to want to thank me.

See what I mean???  I thought we'd start with this one.  My sister Kristin came across a lady who makes super cute custom dresses for little ladies.  And she has purchased a few for Emily.  Three cheers for an aunt who spoils you rotten!!

I am currently in a phase of my life where I literally live one day at a time.  This means that I did not think about Halloween until, well, Halloween.  Thankfully, Lyla had a costume party for her birthday, so we already had costumes.  Because if we didn't, there's a good chance we would've hit up Target on the way home from school Wednesday.  While we had costumes, we did not have a pumpkin.  And Kroger was out.  OUT of pumpkins.  Sheesh.  I had a slight moment of panic where I envisioned me having to hop the fence at the pumpkin farm to procure a pumpkin. Luckily, it's the 21st century and there is another grocery store within .1 miles of the Kroger.  And they had pumpkins.  Crisis averted.  So, just in the nick of time we cleaned out our pumpkin and carved him up.  Sadly, I just realized I did not get a picture of our finished pumpkin.  And, well, today he was chopped up and put in a plastic jar. So my class can watch him decompose.  I know, I know.  My job is glamourous.

Don't you love her face in this one??

After a good dinner, we costumed up and got ready to hit the 'hood.  

This was, without a doubt, our best go at Trick or Treat yet.  Both kids were big enough to really get into it.  Emily was especially into it as she made BFFs with every neighbor we visited.  She kept close tabs on things like how many dogs people had and what they were watching on TV.  Drew was much more get the candy and get out.  

We hit quite a few houses and then Drew waved the white flag. He was ready to get home, and I feel sure he was motivated by needing to eat some candy stat.  We examined the stash, stuffed our faces, and put the rest in a communal treat box.  Big Dan and I are currently imposing the candy tax as often as possible!

It turns out you can still make memories and have a great time even when you don't have a plan.  This is big news for me!  I am so, so thankful for my babies.  I am having a blast being their mom.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The One Supposed to be Titled "Boo!"

I was so excited.

I snapped some great pictures of the kids cleaning out our pumpkin.  I got some great shots of them in their costumes.  I even had a few pictures of them trick or treating.

I was going to write a witty post about how I waited until the.last.minute. to do all things Halloween related.  About how we almost didn't have a pumpkin to carve and how we almost didn't get it done in time.

And then I was going to wrap up with what a wonderful night it turned out to be.  How my kids were awesome and hilarious trick or treaters.  How they had no problem dumping all the candy into a communal treat box and how they encouraged me to eat some, too!

It was going to be amazing.

And then.

I washed my iphone in the washing machine. My iphone is where all my pictures are because my camera got lost.  I had been putting off downloading the pictures onto my computer.  Too bad about that because now my iphone is sitting on my counter in a bag of rice.  I'm telling you, I would put anointing oil on it and try out speaking in tongues if I thought it would help revive my phone.

I thought I was going to throw up.  And I may or may not have thrown a giant tantrum in my car on the way to the store to get rice.  In the middle of a thunderstorm.  It was not a proud moment.

It's kind of been one of those weeks, you know?  The kind that ends with a bang when you somehow manage to load your phone in the washer with the laundry.  I did not want to find things to be thankful for like you're supposed to do when things start going wrong.  I didn't want to count my blessings, dang it.  I wanted to scream and spew and stomp my feet.

And then, I found a little note tucked away in a pile of paper in my kitchen.  In tiny kindergarten writing were the words "I love mom!"  Did you notice the exclamation mark?  Because I did.

Perspective.  And without even meaning to, I started naming things I am thankful for.  Counting my blessings, one by one.  Slowly but surely, I was able to take baby steps back from the ledge.

I was ready to get my blog cranked back up again.  I was going to start with a fun little Halloween post.  You probably know by now that I can't really outrun the "real", you know?  So, my phone is in a bag of rice on my counter, but I have two healthy babies asleep in their ample beds upstairs.  They are warm.  They are fed.  They are kind and hilarious and beautiful.  I have a hard working husband upstairs in my ample bed.  And although I do exasperating things like put my phone in the spin cycle, he's here.  I have a God who takes all of my mistakes and uses them to teach.

I have that little note from my sweet boy taped to the top of my computer.  Just so I remember.

Besides, it's not like I love to talk on the phone anyway...

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Spirit is Gonna Get Ya

Spirit week is over.  Hallelujah and Amen.

It has been an intense week and I was just not prepared.  Not prepared for all the hoopla and drama and five million extra things to remember to send in.  My boy and I are tired. We're slap out of hound dog spirit.

It all started on Monday.  If you're friends with me on facebook you know this story already.  Drew was PUMPED for red, white, and blue day.  He was so pumped that he wanted to have red hair.  And paint his whole face.  I'm a fun mom, y'all, so I went to Party City and picked up a can of red hair spray.  And some face paint.  I knew that his sensory issues would not mesh well with a full face painting, so I talked him out of that.  But, I thought the red hairspray would be a blast, so we did it.  Well.  When we got into the drop off line that morning, he started to notice that no one else had red hair.  He panicked.  However, one minute before you're getting out of the car is not a lot of time to reverse the situation.  We had a quick pep talk about how to be yourself, and how if you think it's cool, then it's cool.  And if another kid makes fun of you, just punch him in the throat.  Alright, fine.  I didn't say that.  I watched that little body trudge up the sidewalk and I didn't know how on earth I was going to make it through the day.

I'll tell you how I made it.  I emailed his teacher.  Yep.  I was that mom.  I needed to know he was ok.  She was so sweet to email me back and assured me other kids were dressed up and he was just fine.  And he was.  Only, we didn't really think through what would happen when he started sweating.  By the time I picked him up red had spread all over his white shirt, on his hands, his face.  It was a complete nightmare.  I'm sure teachers all day long were cracking up.  Rookie mistake.  We survived, and while he now has pink hair (and is not AT ALL happy about it) I don't think I ever need to worry about him doing something funky with his hair.  Lesson learned.

The rest of the week, we faired pretty well.  Until today.  Today was what they call the "Hound Dog Run." It is like a little race where the kids get sponsors and run some laps and then have a popsicle.  (For a quarter.  That I forgot to send.  Don't worry, it gets worse.)  I knew there would be some parents there, but there was just no way for me to make it.  I don't work at a job where I can take a lunch break.  Or any kind of break for that matter!  I already got a sub to go on a field trip with him next week, and I just couldn't justify getting a sub to watch him run for 15 minutes.  However.

He got in the car today and told me he had a great time.  And then he said, "But there was one thing mom."  I told him to go on and he said, "At the end of the race the teachers said, 'Go find your mom', and I couldn't because you weren't there."  And then he burst into tears.


So, I did what any sane, grown adult would do.  I burst into tears, too.  Which freaked out my daughter who also burst into tears while she said over and over, "Are you happy yet, Mommy?"  This should give you an indication as to the amount of tears I've shed in her short life.  We were quite a sight.  It was one of those days when I was feeling the weight of not being enough.  I'm stretched so thin and the pressure is super high.  And the truth of the matter is, the only thing I really want to be doing is going and sitting at things like the Hound Dog Run.  I kept thinking all day that I just needed to have a good cry.  I just didn't plan to do it in the pick up line!!

Thank goodness we were able to turn things around.  We went out to dinner as a family and then took the kids to the school for the big PTO give us all your money jamboree.  They had a blast.  Big Dan and I tried not to go over the edge at the crowd of it all (we're not exactly big crowd people).  I should mention that when we arrived we ran into two of Drew's friends from class.  They had sprayed their hair blue.   As we were leaving, Drew looked at me and said, "Thanks for letting us come tonight, Mommy. I had a lot of fun. And it's ok you couldn't come today."  That boy.  He slays me.  Every time.

This chapter of wacky elementary school antics has come to a close.  I'm really hoping this is the big push for the year, and we can be done with hoopla for a while.  And if you could say a prayer that they would schedule some special events for a Tuesday or a Thursday, I'd definitely appreciate it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If Mom decides to clean the bathroom...

I don't know if you are familiar with Laura Numeroff's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie".  If not, you should definitely, at the very least, check it out from your local library.  It is a spunky book that is adored by kids of lots of ages.  She also has some other books that follow the same pattern of antics.  Currently, in my class, the favorite is "If You Take A Mouse to School."

As I spent half the day on Sunday attempting to get my master bathroom clean, I thought about how like these books my life is.  Especially when it comes to completing any sort of household task.  So, I'm putting it down for you, just a little taste of the insanity that is my life.  And every other mother's life I'm guessing.  Without further ado...

If Mom decides to clean her bathroom, she'll remember that her bathroom is the gateway to the attic, so all the crap in the floor has to be moved to the attic first.

When she remembers that all the crap in the floor has to be moved to the attic, she'll remember the giant pile of clothes of her husbands that need to be put in a tote to go in the attic, so she'll head downstairs with a tote.

When she arrives downstairs, she'll decide she should go ahead and run a load of laundry since it can be washing while she is cleaning.  And packing.  She'll load the washer (and restart the dryer for a third time) and proceed to the office to pack up hubby's clothes.

When she arrives in the office to pack up the clothes, she'll remember that hubby likes to be consulted before clothes are packed away, so they'll play a quick game of "Keep, Toss, Donate" (a game that 11 years later has been perfected into a quick, decisive display).  Once keep items are packed she'll head back upstairs to work on the bathroom.

Once the attic stairs are pulled down she'll begin loading aforementioned crap into the attic.  Upon arrival in the attic, she'll realize she has two boxes of clothes to be returned to a sister who will be visiting in a couple of weeks.  She pulls those totes down after the others are put up.

Since she pulled two totes down from the attic, she heads to her son's room to try and make space in his closet for said totes for two weeks.  When they don't fit there she piles them in the playroom, because, well, what else?  She heads back to the bathroom to get busy cleaning.

She sprays the shower down with what she hopes amounts to some magical soap scum fairy dust that will magically banish all soap scum from her shower.  When the shower is sprayed down, she hears the dryer timer go off, so she hurries to fold the clothes before they wrinkle.  Because heaven forbid-ironing!

Once the clothes are folded she'll realize it's creeping ever closer to dinner time, so she'll put on a large pot of water to boil.  Back upstairs she gets the toilet cleaned and then remembers she forgot to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Back downstairs.

While she's downstairs she peeks at the water on the stove. No boiling. So she heads back upstairs to work on the bathroom.  She sprays down the sinks and then remembers that about 45 minutes ago she sprayed the shower.  The magical fairy dust has dried.  So she sprays it again.  Cleans the sinks and the mirror.

Once the sinks and the mirrors are clean she takes a time out to put on a princess dress and explain why a giant black and gold tutu really doesn't work with the princess dress.  There is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The wailing and gnashing remind her that the kids might be getting hungry.  So, she goes downstairs to check the water.  It's definitely boiling.  Good thing she put a lot of water in that pot.  It's about half volume by now.  Fancy pasta from a box is added.  She heads back upstairs to clean the bathroom.

She makes it just in time-before the shower spray dries again, so she cleans the shower.  Next, she removes Mt. Washmore from the hamper (and, ok fine, from the floor, too.)  In the process she uncovers the scale *shudder* and remembers she promised to take the kids for a walk.  She quickly puts on her tennis shoes and hollers for the kids to get their shoes on.

She races down the stairs (because she has on tennis shoes) to check the pasta.  It's done.  Now for the fancy sauce from a jar.  Except there's not enough.  She then proceeds to freak out a tiny bit about the lack of sauce.  Husband wanders in (she might be causing a commotion), looks in the pot, and remarks (in jest, of course), "Is that all the sauce you have?"  She resists the urge to smack him with a wooden spoon.  Then, because she's now the best mom ever, she finds more sauce.

Once the pasta is sauced, she and the kids head out the door for a walk that includes lots of complaining and one episode of a two year old getting dumped out of the stroller.  On accident.  I swear.

When they return home, the fancy pasta/sauce combo is lukewarm-just how they like it.  So, she sits down with the kids while they eat their dinner.  After dinner it's pajamas, books, and bed.

After the kids are in bed Mom heads up the steps with the mop.  Hubby looks at her like she's nuts (can you really blame him??) and FINALLY finishes cleaning the bathroom.

After cleaning the bathroom, she falls into bed, dreaming about her very own maid.  But when she wakes up...

...she remembers there is still another bathroom to clean!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Right Now...

Right now...

...I'm blogging for the first time in many, many days.  Hello, old friends! fine china is in the dishwasher because tonight we had "fancy dinner".  To celebrate the fact that I actually cooked.  And, yes, my fine china is dishwasher safe (thank you Lennox) because do you really think those two times a year I use my fine china I'm gonna hand wash it?  Of course not.   The kids drank root beer out of fancy stemmed glasses.  I laughed when I washed them because of the grimy film on the outside of the glasses.  Not something you see everyday.  Or if you do, you should probably reconsider your guest list for dinner!

...I feel like I should've stood by the sink all day while kids just brought me dishes to wash.  Maybe then they would all get done.

...I'm on a 30 minutes work/30 minutes relax schedule.  I do this on nights I have no motivation and lots to get done.  I work for 30 minutes and then do something fun for 30 minutes.  Yes, this doubles the time it takes me to get things done, but they get done.  Otherwise I'd just go to bed at 8:30.

...I'm excited my outfit for tomorrow is already prepared.  I've started this new system where I select all of my outfits for the week on Sunday afternoon, all the way down to the accessories.  I love it.  Of course, said system has only been in place for two weeks.  We all know how I am with the follow-through.  I do love to put a system in place.  It's the maintaining of the system I'm not so hot at.  I need to employ a systems maintainer.  I think that is called "a maid" and is reserved for "rich people".

...I am having a serious love affair with A&W diet cream soda.  And by love affair, I mean I think I might need an intervention.  Not since the Diet Mtn. Dew binge of the early 2000s have I had this much soda to drink.  Hello.  I'm Kelly and I love a Diet Cream Soda.

...I'm being freaking nickled and dimed to death by Drew's ever-lovin' school.  Seriously, I want to shout from the rooftops, "Hey PTO, the!!!!!!!!!"  Not to mention the complete tedium of being told by your FIVE YEAR OLD that the school "needs our money".  Nice brainwashing, school, really nice.

...I'm looking towards December when I finally finish my Masters.  Between now and then?  Crazy town central.  But I'll be DONE!!!!!!!!!

...I'm tired just thinking about tomorrow.  My new class of little monkeys are a fast-paced bunch!  They are sweet and smart, but law, they do not do anything slow.  And heaven forbid you take your eyes off them for one second!  By the end of the day on Monday I felt like I'd spent the whole day on a treadmill!

...I have precious few minutes left of relaxing time before I get to do something awesome like pack lunches.

'Til next time!

Monday, July 30, 2012

In The Morning

It has been a busy summer.  I still live in the mental land where summer is supposed to equal lazy days and no agendas.  It's probably been since about 1989 since I've had a summer like that, but still, it's ingrained in my mind that summer should feel this way.  Maybe it's too many Old Navy commercials...

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I am an introvert.  If you looked at the spectrum of extrovert to introvert, I would be way over on the introvert side hovering near "hermit".  I have always required a lot of personal space.  As all you moms knows, this is now a laughable thought in my life. Personal space, if this were the black market of such things, would cost 1 million dollars in this home.  This is based on the quite limited supply and the very high demand.  I know-my economic prowess is stunning.

I've had days of feeling really boxed in.  Suffocated, if I get gut-level honest.  And as I've looked at my life, I just couldn't figure out how to make it any better.  So, I just started praying about it.  I needed help finding some margin before I, well, flipped out.  I was really hoping the answer to this prayer would be a large "nanny stipend" such that I would hire Mary Poppins to come to my house for 3 hours a day to play with the kids while I loaded up on personal space.  And if she could toss in her fancy clean a room while singing a song gig, that'd be great.  As you might imagine, this was not the answer I got.

The answer I got, loud and clear, was to start getting up before my kids.  Holy moly.  We've discussed many times my complete aversion to mornings.  Surely this could not be the solution to my situation. But there was no denying the call to do this.  It was almost like a dare.  "Try this, Kel, and just see if it doesn't make everything better."  As a part of the plan, I decided not to be strict about this time.  When I thought about digging in to a bible study during this time, it just felt heavy, like another big have to. (And yes, I know this is my issue...I'm working on it...)  Of course, the idea is to spend time with God, but I decided it could look different every day.  And I'm sure God wouldn't mind poking around on Pinterest some mornings.

It's amazing what happens when we obey.  Now listen, one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone hits upon a spiritual strategy that works for them and then begins prescribing it all around to everyone.  This is not a post about how you should be getting up early.  I would never do it to you!  Every person's relationship with God is personal.  How He deals with me, and how He deals with you probably look wildly different.  But for me, in this season, it's working.  Getting up at the prelude to the crack of dawn is changing my days.  For the better.

Every single morning looks different.  Some days, I've got three commentaries open in different windows on my computer.  I'm in the word and am amazed at the richness.  Some days I can barely stumble through three verses of the Psalms because I feel exactly like I've been hit by a truck. Some days I read a little of my current book (The Ragamuffin Gospel...again), and some days, yes, God and I peruse Pinterest.  The thing is, it doesn't really matter what I do (don't get upset-I know the Word does not return void and all that-it's valuable.  So is grace) It seems that the sheer act of getting out of bed early, just to have a minute, makes the difference.

It's almost midnight here.  I'll probably be up for a while, still, and yet, I'm sort of excited about getting up in the morning.

It's like I don't even know myself anymore!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Week

Remember that Bare Naked Ladies song "One Week" from the late '90s?  Back in college Big Dan could sing all the words to that song.  Those were the days when we had nothing better to do than listen to a song 10,000 times and take on the challenge of memorizing it.  

This post has nothing to do with that.

In one week my oldest son will be a kindergartner.  He will go in a class and begin his journey outside our home.  To say I'm emotional about this is the world's largest understatement. 

Remember this tiny guy?

He came into the world after A LOT of persuasion.  He was perfectly content to stay right where he was, thankyouverymuch.  I get tickled thinking about it, because he is still just that way today.  Every new venture  is met with trepidation.  I have watched him grow so much.  In days past new experiences were met with, at the very least, tears and at worst a full-blown meltdown.  Now, I see him screwing up his courage and forging ahead.  I can picture, right now, the look he gets on his face when he is working to be brave.  And to know that the feeling on the inside is just the same as it has always been makes me so proud of how far we have come.  

Anyone who asks him about kindergarten can expect to be met with eyes cast down, and if he's in proximity of me, hiding.  This is his way of saying, "Would you mind changing the subject immediately?"  He is nervous.  As I was thinking about it the other day (fine-every day) I realized he has nothing to compare this experience to.  When I say it's time for kindergarten all his mind sees is a big black abyss.  Instinctively, he knows it's a big deal because everyone around him is acting like it's a big deal.  

I know that one day this step will be a blip on the radar.  And while I'm so sad I won't be with him everyday, I am also so proud of the strength and independence he's gained over the past year or so.  Life has been hard in the Hull household for the past couple of years.  But Drew has been the gold to come out of the refining fire.  He has emerged from this season a whole new little person.  I am amazed at what God has done.  And, it gives me great perspective.  I have worked hard being his mom, and while I know all of the glory goes to God, it reminds me to persevere in those hard parenting seasons.  The fruit is worth the pruning. 

And of course, I am missing my mom so much.  I remember when she was first diagnosed I kept thinking, "Oh, if she could please just make it to see the Bigs start kindergarten." Like so many days, I wish I could call her and talk all about it.  We would talk about every bit of it.  The mundane parts like glue sticks and standard attire and the heart parts of it-how the only consistent part of being a mom is the letting go.  

So. Next Wednesday between 8 and 11, if you need me, I'll be in my bed with the covers over my head.  Emily will be in charge should you need anything.  Only kidding.  I am giving myself the day to go ahead and be "that mom", though.  Our school has a "boo hoo breakfast" for moms after they drop off their kiddos.  Which, there is nothing more fun than awkward small talk on one of those milestone days.  I'm probably going to skip the breakfast, grab Emily and head straight for some ice-cream.  

And try my best not to blink for the next 12 years...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Job of Mom

You may wonder why there was no Friday Fun Day post for last week.  It's because our Friday started out on the fun-side and then slid slowly downhill into the decidedly un-fun category. We started the day at Monkey's Treehouse-a local indoor play place.  The kids played while I worked on some miscellaneous items and tried to think about some more fun things we could do.  And then it dawned on me that I desperately needed an oil change.  On Saturday, while I had fun in an Assessments class (note the sarcasm), Big Dan was taking the kids to Knoxville for Weston's birthday party.  Leading up to this trip, we have driven to Knoxville about 15 times while overdue for an oil change.  I could hear my dad's voice in my head and knew we needed to just buckle down and get it done.  I pulled up stakes  right quick and headed to the dealership. (Yes, I know a Jiffy-Lube-esque type place is quicker, jiffy if you will, but I have also had bad luck with them forgetting to put all the pieces back together properly which results in a lake of oil on my garage floor.) Typically, when I take the kids along for something like this, I pack a bag full of activities and snacks and whathaveyou.  But, with this being a spur of the moment adventure, I had none of that.  I was scared, ya'll.

While it was not the most exciting two hours of any of our lives, we managed to get through it without the building coming down around us.  Did I mention it was Emily's nap time??  In fact, one lady who was lucky enough to be sharing the waiting room with us complimented their behavior before she left.  It was a proud moment.  Because, honestly, there have not been many moments like that this summer.  It has been a summer of my neck breaking out because my kids are acting insane in public places.  Repeatedly.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  I realize that was quite a lead up.  As much as I have tried to make this summer about memories and fun, it has turned out to be more of a, um, training time for my children. What I'm trying to say, is that, well, it's been a hard run for the past two months.  Most days I feel like all I've done all day is correct my kids.  And by correct I mean put them in time out.  Or in their rooms, or take away privileges.  I have spent a lot of time feeling sad.  I don't want what my kids remember about me to be my near constant frustration with them.  I don't want them to grow up feeling like I am "mad" at them all the time.  I want to have fun and relish the slower pace of summer.

The thing is, parenting isn't really about having fun.  I know, that sounds so awful.  But, in reality, parenting is about training my children.  Pointing them to God, teaching them how to follow his ways, and therefore, our ways as we parent.  We all enter this world with a bent to head in exactly the opposite direction.  It takes some amount of pressure to help bend us around the other way.  I'm definitely not saying all of my frustration is justified or excusable.  Sometimes my frustration towards my kids comes from my own bent toward the wrong direction.  When I realize this, I try my best to apologize to my kids.  But, I won't apologize for asking them to try their best to follow the standards we have in our family.

I have reflected a lot about how these years of having very young children IS about bringing them up.  It is not a job for the faint hearted.  Or the lazy.  Ahem.  I've spent the last few days trying to explain to my kids (Drew, mainly.  Emily is a tad outside the "reason with" category just now...) that when I expend all of my energy correcting and disciplining, I don't have energy left for hanging out and having fun.  I think that information is difficult to remember in the heat of the moment.

I do feel like we are turning a corner.  With Em especially.  Both of my kids respond well to tight boundaries when they are in a season like this.  And it is work.  Hard work.  To be proactive and consistent, firm but merciful, takes more than what I have.  Which is why I'm trying to be thankful for this patch.  When I am at the end of what I can do, I must depend on God.  I know.  I should do this first, not when I'm all out of gas.  But, sometimes I don't, and it takes reminding.  I feel like I don't have enough to give, because I don't.  I'm not meant to.  In my shortcoming, HE is there to meet me.  HE is on this parenting journey with me. I can't do it without HIM.  I shouldn't do it without HIM.  I'm not meant to.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mid Summer Blow Out

Kids, if you think much fun was being had up to this point, well, just hang on.  Apparently I felt inclined to cram  as much fun as possible into last week.  And by cram, I mean run my kids completely ragged.  After cousin camp all weekend, we spent Monday swimming with friends.  Another set of friends-the kind who are a part of the "upper crust"-left town for the week.  Another friend (this is a lot of friends-are you keeping up?) was house-sitting for them, so we crashed their fabulous pad and spent the day swimming.  They live in a neighborhood that Big Dan and I used to drive around in and gawk.  Pretty funny that we were swimming in a pool there.  Life is weird.

While we were spending the day in the pool with no naps and pruney fingers, we all decided to meet back at the fabulous house for a 4th cookout.  The plan was set, but we had some more fun to get to before then.  First, we had a day of summer school, cleaned up in a rush and then headed out to the Nashville Sounds Baseball game.  Last year we went for the 4th of July game and fireworks following. It was so much fun we decided to make it a tradition.  Of course, when I decided that, I didn't know we'd be smack in the middle of a 10 day record breaking temperature streak!  It was a tiny bit hot...

We had a lot of Powerade, and some raspberry lemonade, and a snow cone to share!!  You know, just trying to keep hydrated.  And adequately sugared up! We definitely made the most of the night.  The kids visited the kids area and bounced in a bounce house.  There were some unruly kids who were acting like maniacs.  It took me approximately 3 seconds to put my teacher voice on and try to organize the chaos.  No one punched me and one mom thanked me, so I consider that a success!!  I just feel so comfortable bossing kids...

This blow up version of "Ozzie" was scary for Emily until she realized she could punch it.  Then Drew got a tiny bit carried away and knocked it over.  I walked away muttering about how someone should get control of their kids.  Oh, I'm kidding.  I grabbed blow-up Ozzie by the hand and set him back up.  And then gave Drew the evil eye.  And tried to get the bright red blotches on my neck to disappear.

Baseball games are long, ya'll, and the kids did a really good job being patient.  Finally, just before the 7th inning stretch we got up and went to walk around for a bit.  We found this guy just sitting around...

We happened upon him just before 6,547 kids descended on him and had to wait in line for 30 minutes.  I'll have to say I was super excited we got to skip the line!  We spent the next fifteen minutes in the "pro shop" looking at the same 10 items because the store was air conditioned!!  After some cool air and a potty break, we all go our second wind and we made it all the way to the end of the game.  Finally, it was time for what I had come for!  The fireworks!  I don't know if you know this about me, but fireworks are one of my very favorite things in all the earth.  They make me giggle like a little child every.time.  Emily tolerated the fireworks, held her ears the whole time, but didn't cry.  At the end she said, "I did not like that one bit."  Ha!  For the grand finale, Drew decided he wanted to run the bases with the rest of the 6,547 kids at the game.  So we fell into the great throng of people and finally made our way to the field.  Drew LOVED it and gave Ozzie a giant high five as he rounded 2nd base.  Even though it was 11:30 by the time we reached the car, it was totally worth it.

Thankfully, I had the where with all to pack pjs for both kids.  By the time we got through traffic and out of the parking lot, they were both asleep.  I had a nice, cool, quiet drive home.  Just as I was turning onto the main highway near home, I was treated to another amazing fireworks show, right near the car! Honestly? It was the best part of my night.

The next day we all slept in (!!) and then headed over to our 4th of July cookout.  We spent literally the whole day in the pool.  By the time we got home, my kids were zombies.  After a full day of summer school the next day, they were a hot mess.

Turns out there is something as too much fun.  And, we, my friends, have reached that point!

Monday, July 2, 2012

About A Boy

I think, by far, one of the hardest things you can do in life is watch your child grieve.  It's part of what made Mom's illness and dying so excruciating.  We wanted nothing more than to be with her as much as we could.  But, when we were with her, she was watching her children grieve and it ripped her heart out.  There was no good way to navigate it, except with lots of talking and being honest.  There are so many reasons that I can't imagine being in her place during those last three months, but watching us be so sad is probably the top reason.

My own child has done his fair share of grieving this year.  The most obvious being with losing his Grammy.  It really started before she died, for him.  Nothing gets past Drew, and he knew long before I told him anything that something was terribly wrong.  He knew it hurt Grammy to sit on her lap, so he kept his distance.  He knew she needed to rest, so he didn't ask her to play.  It was heart wrenching, both for Mom and for me.

When I finally got brave and told him Mom was dying, well, it was one of the worst moments of the whole ordeal.  He sobbed great big heaving sobs.  In some ways, I think he had known for a while.  Speaking it out loud gave him the freedom to grieve openly.  He said, "But Grammy hasn't had enough birthdays, yet!"  No truer words were spoken.  In his anger he proclaimed, "You got to have Grammy for 35 years, I only got her for 5.  It's not fair!"  Somehow, in his simple way, he expressed what everyone around him was feeling.  My heart has broken for him over and over again.

In May, Drew graduated from preschool.  I guess for most kids this milestone zips right past without a second thought.  But, Drew spent several weeks working through how he was feeling.  He said, "I'm just SO SAD about leaving my best buddies."  We have been so blessed at St. B's.  It has been the exact right place for all of us.  Before I even started working there I had been praying for a friend for Drew.  Someone who was like him-fun, and boyish, but quiet and sensitive.  God put just that boy and two other great friends in his class two years ago.  God also matched that amazing class with an amazing teacher.  It was a sight to behold.  As those kids moved into the Pre-K class, their bond remained.  Drew will attend kindergarten at a school where he knows no one.  Do I trust that God will bring new friends?  Of course!  But in the meantime, his heart is hurting.  He doesn't have the life experience to tell him that new friends will come.  And let's not even talk about how he feels about not being in class with Lyla.

He said, "Mom, it really is too much for Grammy to die AND for me to leave St. B's."

And now our dog has run away.  We have searched high and low for him and he is nowhere to be found.  Drew keeps waiting for him to come back.  Big Dan and I have a hunch he won't be back.  I'm not ready to tell Drew that.  Maybe I'm a coward.  Mostly, my momma's heart just can't take it.

I'm trying my best to point Drew to God during this hard time.  It seems absurd to shepherd a five year old through so much loss.  But, as I've told Drew, God doesn't waste anything.  He will use this sadness to shape Drew into who He intends Drew to be.  I must say, I'm pretty amazed at what He's done so far.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Friday Fun Day

No pictures of this Friday Fun Day, but it was extra special because it bled into Saturday Fun Day!  My Knoxville sister and her two boys came down on Friday.  We joined Aunt Katy and we ALL went to a birthday party.  You know I have good friends when they say, "Bring the whole gang!"

It was a swim party at a really fun pool.  My anxiety level was at an ORANGE (get it, like a terrorist threat level??) because the pool was BIG.  Drew was super excited and was having a blast, but I'm still not totally confident in his ability to handle himself if he gets in a jam.  But, at no point did he seem to be in said jam, so that was a relief!  Emily played with Wade in the baby pool for a long time, but then, of course, wanted to show off her swimming skills.  She will finally swim around with her floaty on, without clinging to me like a spider monkey. The days of me lying on a chair while they swim are just within reach...

I had to leave the party early in order to make it across town in time for class.  Let me just say: Nashville traffic on Friday afternoons is BEYOND a nightmare.  On a Saturday morning I can make it to campus in thirty minutes easy.  Friday afternoons it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes. At least.  For the love. Needless to say, I took a hiatus from all the fun and spent three hours in a math class.  While I was on a break from the fun, the kids were still having fun.  They had pizza and cupcakes (yes, sleeping through the night cupcakes!!) and watched a movie.  I rejoined the fun when I got home to BOTH of my sisters. (Apparently a lot about this post is super exciting.  Lot of CAPS!!) When I came in, my kitchen was spotless and Kristin was wiping down cabinets.  This was at 9:30 p.m. mind you.  I can say with confidence that I have never wiped down a cabinet at 9:30 p.m.  This is why the three of us wish we could all live together.  But not like sister wives.  We'd each like our own husband, thankyouverymuch.

Saturday I headed back to math class. (I have contemplated writing about this class, but it would basically devolve into a complete rant, probably WITH A LOT OF CAPS, so I'll skip the details.)  The kids however, indulged in a full day of cousin camp.  They played outside and hit the splash pad.  Went to the store with Aunt Kristin, which is an amazing activity in itself because she is the queen of the fun snack!

I adore having sisters.  And I adore my sisters.  Sometimes we take for granted that our relationship is "normal".  I know, without a doubt, that we are beyond blessed to have each other.  We learned to be there for each other from Mom.  It was one of her greatest hearts desires for us to all be close.  We made sure to tell her she did a good job!  I could not do my life without them.  And I wouldn't want to!

So, in sum, sisters-not sister wives!