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!