Monday, November 18, 2013

Not a humbug

I'm here to clear up some misconceptions that are floating around about me.

I am not a Christmas hater.

In fact, I love Christmas. I love the music, and the smells and the festivities and the wonder and of course, the baby Jesus.

I love Christmas.

When it's Christmas time.

I do not love Christmas when it's two weeks past Halloween and I'm still trying to enjoy my favorite season, which goes by way too fast in Tennessee as it is. It takes Tennessee a solid month to get its weather sorted out for fall time. There are just too few nip in the air, blue in the sky, color in the leaves days to go giving ANY of them away to Christmas.

I love Fall. I love the month of November. It feels like the deep breath month. After the rush of the start of school, and before the rush of Christmas, November is a chance to take a deep breath and just be for a minute. I am a fan of "just being".

I want to savor every moment of fall leaves and pumpkins and squash and my favorite color palette-orange and brown. It would be inappropriate to be relishing that stuff come December 1, so I have to use up every last drop of November to cherish it.

Therefore, when my grocery store decides they will only stock Christmas patterned paper towels in their store brand? Nope. I bought name brand paper towels for the first time in at least a year. And I didn't buy napkins at all.

So. Here's to the few and the proud, still standing up for their autumn loving rights. Take a breath friends, take a breath.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Highly Sensitive Family Goes to the Mall

This is really a weekend update, but this title popped in my head yesterday and made me chuckle.

As per usual, we started our Saturday at Cracker Barrel. I'm so grateful that my children are in a phase where they are really fun to take out to eat. We're lucky in the fact that both of our kids have always been pretty good restaurant kids. But good or not, it requires a special "energy" to take a really little kid to a restaurant. These days, the crayons and kids' menus really do provide entertainment.

We saw some sights at the Crack this week. First of all, the place was super packed. Even more than normal. I witnessed some of the most mean spirited people I have seen in a while. Listen, I need you to know that I did a brief stint as a restaurant hostess. There are few things restaurant hostesses cannot control, no matter how badly you want them to be able to. 1) A restaurant hostess cannot control how long people hang out after they eat. 2) A restaurant hostess cannot control the speed at which a table is bussed. 3) A restaurant hostess cannot control the number of people who come into a restaurant on a given day.

Y'all, there were some ladies who were just being plain ugly. You always have a choice, you know. If the wait is taking too long, you are free to leave at any time. What you shouldn't be free to do is bless out the hostess and then proceed to talk loudly about your dissatisfaction in her general direction. I was just edgy enough that I came thisclose to saying something to two different women. They both needed a spanking!

So then, there was this mom with her little boy. They were having some breakfast. He was standing in his chair most of the time. He was chewing up some bacon and spitting it back on his plate. And then he needed to go to the bathroom. I watched his mom make a comment to one of the workers that she was just going to the bathroom. Because it was just the two of them, there was no one left at the table. You know what's coming, don't you? They totally bussed her table! My heart rate went up by about 100. I was pretty worried about what that mom was going to say when she came back. And yes, I realize it was none of my business, but this is who I am! I watched the manager stop her on her way back to her seat, and apparently they offered her some free food. She got some pancakes for her little boy. He was mostly interested in taking the butter glob from the top and trying to cut it with a knife. While he held it in his hand. I wish I was joking.

After breakfast, we headed to the mall. We went with a singular purpose. Big Dan needed one specific item from the Big & Tall shop at Dillards. I have no idea what possessed us to venture into the mall proper. But we did. Since we were already swept up in the mayhem, I decided to duck into Children's Place to pick up some socks for Emily. Apparently, they were having some sort of open house situation. There were cookies and lemonade. Let me take this opportunity to tell you that I witnessed a little girl DRINK DIRECTLY FROM THE LEMONADE BOTTLE. Beware of free, unmonitored lemonade at the mall. The store was packed and I was in there with my stroller. I'm pretty sure I was already breaking out in hives. And then, I waited in line no less than 15 minutes for four pair of white socks.

While we were in the store, Emily fell madly in love with a really special pink shirt, bedazzled with a peace sign. And by special, I mean terrible. I told her we weren't getting any clothes. But, because Daddy is madly in love with Emily, he told her she could pick out an outfit. I tried with all my heart to steer her towards something other than the peace sign shirt. She just did not feel passionately about anything else.

In the meantime, Drew and Big Dan had finished their shopping. We bumped into them in the corridor. One look at Big Dan and I knew he had met his limit. His eyes were bulging and he was breaking a sweat. He was not happy to know that we were still in progress. The guys would be waiting in the car.

So...Emily found her peace sign shirt by some miracle, and lo and behold it was her size. (Rats!) She was ecstatic. We get so many hand-me-downs that she doesn't get many chances to really pick out clothes. It was SO fun to watch her! I finally gave into the moment and bought her some peace sign leggings to go with her shirt. She was so excited that we had to go straight to the bathroom and put her new outfit on.

And that's when the girls hit their limit.

First of all, we had to take her shoes off. In the public bathroom. GAH. I was trying to have her stand on top of her shoes, but she wasn't getting it. So I was just trying to hurry. Meanwhile, they have those super sonic hand dryers in the bathroom. You know the kind that blow so hard that your skin ripples and threatens to blow off? Yeah. Those. And they are LOUD. Try dressing a four year old who refuses to take her hands off her ears. Now I was sweating.

By the time we were done, I could not get out of there fast enough. When I got in the car Big Dan showed me a video of what he had experienced. It was a kid who would.not.stop.screaming.

Suffice to say, I think the Hulls can check "yearly visit to the mall" off the list for at least 365 more days.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fan/Not a Fan

You know how sometimes you see something and you think, "Well, I like that, but on the other hand, I hate it."


That's just me?


Well, I was thinking just the other night about this and decided this could be a fun feature. Let's just be honest and say upfront that I'm sure I'm going to offend someone. We are a very easily offended people these days. So, if I offend you? Let's talk, like for real, and fix it.

In the mean time, my very first fan/not a fan.

Fan: I love when kids start grasping important biblical truths. I love it so much that I have spent a great deal of my life teaching kids things about God. I believe deep down in my bones that children are capable of real, vibrant, saving relationships with God. Even little children.

Not a fan: People who brag about how spiritual their children are on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.  I get it. It's tempting to do this because as a parent, it's super cool to watch this start to happen in your own children's lives. The thing is, there is just no way to post this on social media without it being a giant boast. "Hey, everybody, look at how amazingly spiritual my kid is. This, by deduction, means I'm rocking it as a parent." See what I mean?

You have no idea how tempted I am when I see this to slap a big #humblebrag right in the comment section. Just because it's about Jesus doesn't mean it's not about your ego, too.

It's fun to brag on our kids. That's what grandmas are for. Or friends who adore your kids like grandmas do.

Otherwise, keep all your kids prayers in the prayer closet. I'd hate to have to slap you with a hashtag!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekend Update

Well hey there! It's me again.

It's a little dusty around here. October just about killed me. It was filled to the brim with all manner of unbloggable events, so I apologize if you've been waiting for a new post.

I just love writing on this little ol' blog. But, it takes some space and quiet. It also takes me getting some sleep so I can form a coherent sentence.

I was not sad to see October go. Because, honestly? October=Drama. I don't know how well you know me, but I am not a fan of the drama. Particularly when my little family is minding it's own business and some drama gets plopped down in our laps. So you see? You're glad I didn't blog last month. It would've been vague and bitter. No one appreciates vague and bitter. You know those people who post something cryptic on Facebook like, "I just don't know how I'm going to make it..."? Don't you just want to comment to them in all caps and say something like IF YOU'RE GOING TO PUT YOUR BUSINESS OUT THERE, PUT IT ALL OUT THERE. I'M NOSEY AND I DON'T APPRECIATE YOUR ALLUSIONS TO YOUR DRAMA. Am I right? If you're going to broadcast your dysfunction, go ahead and tell me the whole story so I can spend a good chunk of time analyzing the situation. It's like my hobby.

Moving on...

This weekend marked our first weekend without sports in quite some time. I know most parents complain about their kids' activities, but I have just had the best time watching Drew play baseball and football. I'm sure some of the sheen will wear off if he's still playing in 10 more years, but for now it's just so much fun. It also helps that he adores sports. He is not the best player out there, but he gives it everything he's got. It's been so fun to watch him put his mind to something and really get better. Plus, he's so freaking adorable in his little uniforms. I could just about shed a tear every time he goes out there to play.

That said, I was not sad to have the chance to ease into the day on Saturday. When there aren't ballgames to be watched you can usually find the Hulls at Cracker Barrel on a Saturday morning. Or a Saturday afternoon depending on how sluggish the parents are/what time the UT game comes on. The past few Saturdays I have basically come a complete stop. This really comes back to bite me on Sunday, but at the time? It's delightful. I hope you had a restful weekend.

I'm off to try and read my book for book club. We're reading "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbreath (aka JK Rowling). Book club is on Thursday. I started reading the book today. Riiiiight.

Also? Blacklist is on the TV tonight. Do you watch this show? Let's discuss shows soon.

Here's to having Monday under our belts!

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Don't Even Like Dogs


There is so much hilarity happening in the Hull household right now. So.much. The bad news? I can't tell you about any of it.

I know. So mean. You need to really be hoping that someday I feel the freedom to share. Because this is stuff you can't make up. Pure comedic gold.

In the meantime, we are wrapping up a busy month only to get ready to head into another busy month, followed by a busy month, and then another busy month. I like to refer to this time of year as the slide of doom that leads to the post-Christmas coma. Not that I'm thinking about Christmas. Because, no. Just no.

Besides all the un-postable hilarity happening, there's lots to catch you up on. Most notably, Drew's school hired a new first grade teacher and he was moved to her class. After 6 weeks of school. Let's just say I had some opinions on this.

Also, I'm planning to run a 5K. I know you went back to read that again, because, whaaaat?? I know. I promise you didn't slip into bizarro world. There is a 5K supporting pancreatic cancer in a couple of weeks. I've been using the Couch 25K program and it has been amazing. I would highly recommend it to lazy bums who never run. Totally works.

Have I mentioned that I'm teaching Spanish at the preschool this year? You didn't know I spoke Spanish? Well, that would be because I don't. You feel good about the next generation of learners, don't you?? Yeah, so does Big Dan who actually speaks Spanish. He might have said something like, "They hired YOU to teach Spanish??" But listen, I've been through the Pre-K Spanish class THREE times. I'm practically a Pre-K Spanish prodigy at this point. I also have a puppet that I use. I'm dropping all kinds of crazy info on you today, huh? A PUPPET.

I'm going to leave you to it today. I don't want to stir up any more feelings of envy in you. I'd hate to make you stumble in that way. Just know that I'm sitting on the porch at Whole Foods mooching wifi. I might also be eavesdropping on every conversation going on around me. I think it's safe to say that I'm the only one here with a puppet in their bag.

Carry on...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Got Nothing

Listen. I apologize for the title. I could not for the life of me think of anything remotely title-ish. So, I went with honesty.

Holy cow.

I have SO much to tell you about. I could start with any number of stories. It has been an eventful month. But, I think I'll start with how I almost burned the house down tonight.

If you have known me for any length of time, you know that only a small spurt of time will pass before I do something really dumb/slightly dangerous. These things almost always happen on a "cycle", if you will. Dudes, you may want to look away briefly. Something about my hormones makes me lose my mind, my ability to control my limbs, and think beyond one second in the future. I'm really a delight to live with.

In fact, the almost burning down of the house was the second near-accident encounter I had this week. Tuesday night as I was driving to the church I almost had a wreck. Because I was rubber-necking. You can judge me all you want, but when I tell you what I was looking at, don't even act like you wouldn't have been rubber-necking, too. There was this girl out for a jog, and not to be weird, but she was a young, attractive, fit girl. And behind her was a dude on some kind of odd, long bicycle situation that I'm pretty sure was partially motorized. He was wearing a suit, a yarmulke, and a long ponytail. He was riding behind this girl completely leering at her with a creepy grin on his face. She had no idea he was behind her. I guess his bike motor is whisper quiet. ANYWAY. I was concerned for her safety/fascinated by the whole affair. I looked up just in time to swerve before ramming into the car in front of me. Complete with a tire squeal. I think it's fair to say I might have saved her life.

I am hosting book club at my house tonight. I am beyond paranoid that my house is stinky all the time. So, I decided to try out an idea I saw on Pinterest. *cue ominous music* Pinterest told me that if I put a small candle in a bowl with coffee beans, the warmth of the candle would bring out the delightful aroma of the coffee, filling my house with a pleasant smell. Which, considering I'm having guests, I was up for. We have had two bags of coffee beans in our freezer for nigh on 7 years. Someone gave them to us as a gift. But we have no coffee grinder. The frugal part of me was thrilled. FREE AROMA!

So, I filled two little ramekins with coffee beans and added a small candle to each. I placed them strategically and waited for coffee smell. The technique worked only so-so in my opinion. I like my aromas strong. Which is fortunate, because when I woke up at 2:30 a.m. the best word to describe the smell? STRONG. My thought process, while asleep mind you, went something like this: hmmmm...weird....burning...BURNING!!!...I left the candles burning! I bolted down the stairs to the kitchen where a ramekin full of coffee beans sat smoldering. Like little teeny miniature coals. I ran to the other ramekin and it had gone out (I thought) without with smoldering.

You should know that Big Dan stays up all hours of the night. I'm really thankful for this, because it is often after I've gone to bed that the consequences of one of my disasters flares up. Or, you know, a kid pukes. As I was running around, I failed to notice Big Dan watching me flail about in my sleepy, panicked stupor. He finally said, calmly, "Your coffee beans were on fire." And I said, "I know, they were smoldering so I ran them under some water." He said, "No. I came in a bit a go and there were FLAMES coming from the bowl."  Thank goodness he was awake. He also said when he started smelling burning he thought he might be having a stroke. Thank goodness he didn't have a stroke.

Lessons learned: 1. Sometimes it's better to just go ahead and splurge on a candle. I'm going to need a good one to rid my house of burnt coffee bean smell before tonight. 2. I will awake and spring into action if there is ever a fire. 3. The adrenaline from aforementioned springing will cause me to be up for the day at 3 a.m. Sleep deprivation is going to do wonders for my mental agility and coordination today.

You might want to steer clear.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Sound Out

It's that time again. When I air my grievances. Get excited!

Before I get started, I need to say that both of my children have succumbed to the "start of school sickies". These are the very special germs made when hundreds of grubby little people spend all day breathing on each other. Right now, it's only a cold. I'm hoping it doesn't get worse. Big Dan has a sore throat. Last year was the sickest year he's had in recent memory. He was no match for brand new kindergarten germs. I'm hoping he built up some immunity during all those days sick. As for me, my immune system has been fortified by literal years of wiping tiny noses, holding grubby hands, and hugging and kissing kiddos who should've stayed home.

Suffice to say, it's going to be a rough week around here.

Because tired+hungry+sick=HELP!!!!!

Now. On to the business at hand.

I'm a really big fan of Fall. I love when Fall is approaching and every now and then you feel that little crisp in the air. I love Fall smells, and colors, and football, and fires. All that. Love every bit of it. I haven't been as anxious for Fall to come this year because the weather has just been so delightful. Last year, when my face was melting off on a daily basis, I longed for Fall to come.

And I'm excited this year. I am.

Just NOT excited enough to be ok with Fall decor being out in full force ALREADY. (This post is dedicated to my friend, Jen, who is a strong voice on the subject of holiday creepage.) You wanna know what holiday creepage is? Well, holiday creepage is when a holiday and it's garb start creeping onto the scene too early. We are all used to seeing this happen with Christmas. At the stroke of midnight on November 1, the spider webs and skeletons come down and Santa and his reindeer go up. It's pure madness.

But these days, holiday creepage is not limited to Christmas. EVERY holiday is now officially in on the act. When I went to Kroger yesterday, and they had some ceramic jack-o-lanterns out FRONT? Oh no you did not. We're not even going to ease in with some mums? We're going straight to jack-o-lanterns??

Then today, I was in Walgreens (buying cold medicine, obviously) when I noticed their HALLOWEEN CANDY was out. Really? Do I really want some candy someone bought a full 10 weeks before Halloween??? I mean, Walgreens, you're a delightful little drug store. Can't you just do without some hoopla for one minute? Focus on your meds and your delicious snacks. And your tempting Kate +8 People Magazine cover. Just take a breath. Aren't you tired after all the "Back to School" drama?

I am putting up a protest. I refuse to buy anything Fall related until October 1. And I refuse to buy any Halloween Candy until WAY closer to the actual day of Halloween.

So take that holiday creepage! You're no match for my one woman demonstration.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Growth Spurt

During the summer there were many times I looked at Drew and thought, "Dang. He is skinny." We've had trouble keeping his swimming trunks up. There have been many an inadvertent "moon" at the pool. Our school has a strict rule against "sagging" and I have to stay on top of the adjustable waist in Drew's shorts so he doesn't land in in-school suspension.

I don't know if they really have in-school suspension (or ISS if you will) at his school.

Anyway, both kids had their check-ups last month and I was very interested to see what his growth curve was looking like. Let me just say that while the height has been freakishly on the move, the weight? Notsomuch. The BMI curve is starting to look like a sad face.

Because Drew was in the room I didn't want to act like my crazy, irrational mom self. So, I just raised my eyebrows and low-talked to the ped. "Are you concerned?" I said. He laughed, because, well, I've been asking this questions regularly for the past 6.5 years. Then he said, "Are YOU concerned?" So, I low-talked again, out the side of my mouth, "He's just so thin!" He laughed at me again. I'm sure he means it in love. He told me he was not concerned, but to bring him back for a weight check in 6 months.

Skip ahead 3 weeks, and I think it's safe to say Drew's bod is in catch-up mode. I cannot keep the kid fed! You know how most kids chub up a little right before a growth spurt? I think Drew might go opposite. Like he grows 3 inches in 18 months and then his body goes into super eating mode to catch-up.

Welcome, friends, to super eating mode.

I'm not going to lie. My grocery budget is taking a beating. I've taken to hiding some things in the pantry just so they'll last longer than one day. You think I'm kidding. I'm totally not.

The hunger has also created a rather unpleasant demeanor. I mean, I can get down right ugly when I'm hungry. And, since Drew is apparently hungry all the see where I'm going? Grumpy city. Basically, it goes like this: Drew gets up-get food in him RIGHT away unless you want to pay the price. Lunch is packed (last week he told me he needed WAY more food in his lunch), a snack is packed. Then when we pick him up from school, I have to hand him something to eat right then or the walk home will be a little less delightful. When we get home, he eats what I like to call 2nd lunch (or 1st dinner-whichever you prefer). I've found that if I fix him a meal right after school, he's less likely to snack all afternoon. And, if you're worried that the 1st dinner will spoil real dinner, don't be. He'll eat his and probably half of Emily's.

Are you exhausted yet? Because I feel sort of like Alice from Mel's Diner.

I'm hoping this is a phase and not our new normal. I know it's coming, the eating machine phase of a boy's life. But I'm not really ready for it to be right now.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a 6 month weight check might not be necessary...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Loves to Bake. Not a Baker.

You might have guessed from the title of this post that I am still solidly off the wagon.

Today I made peanut butter cookies. You know what goes good with peanut butter cookies? Wine.

Houston? We have a problem.

I have loved baking things for a long time. I also happen to LOVE to cook. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized that most people are either really good bakers or they are really good cooks. The reason most people aren't awesome at both is because the approach to these two things is completely different.

My sister, Katy, is an unbelievable baker. You might be familiar with her cookie art, which, in my opinion is the best you can find. If you live in Nashville and you need cookies for a special occasion, let me know. I'll hook you up. If you can think it, she can cookie it. Obviously, I'm biased towards her as a person, but I don't mess around when it comes to cookies. Not only do hers look amazing, they taste amazing, too.

The reason that Katy is an amazing baker is because deep in her heart she's a scientist. She's precise, meticulous, ridiculously patient, and a perfectionist. Believe me, I know. I've been a major partaker in delicious cast-offs. Bakers are like this:

I am not this. In fact, I'm pretty much the opposite of this. And I've learned to embrace it as a good thing. When Paula Deen (scandal alert) got her start, she was on a show called Door Knock Dinners. The basic premise of the show was that Gordon Elliot (I'm a sucker for Brits-who grew up in Australia. Whatever.) and an up-and-coming food personality would show up at someone's door, pilfer their pantry, and come up with a delicious dinner. I swear I could be on that show.

I'm not trying to brag. Clearly, we are all aware of my many foibles. But one thing I'm pretty darn good at is making do in the kitchen. I can make a meal out of all kinds of random items and mama ain't afraid to throw some random spices in the pot on a whim. Sometimes the contents of my pantry/fridge swim around in my head all day. When it's finally time to cook (assuming there isn't a plan already in place) I'm just as happy as I can be. A cook is more like this:

Last night I texted Katy about what would happen if I substituted brown sugar for white sugar in a cookie recipe. Basically, my requirement is "will my family eat it". I wasn't planning on baking for an audience. (FYI-you can substitute. There's more to it but...) When I got busy on the cookies this morning, my inner cook came out. I tasted the dough, didn't love it and went all Swedish Chef throwing things at random into the bowl until "it tasted right".  I wasn't sure AT ALL what the end result would be. You will be happy to know that I did read the recipe all the way through and managed to get the dough chilled in time for an after school snack. Were they the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had. Definitely not. They did earn me "you're the best mom ever" from both kids (I think they will both be cooks as well. Not a very refined palate on either one of them...) 

Also? Did I mention the wine?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Sound Out

Buckle your seat belts, friends. This is going to be a super random post in which I  a) continue confessing my cookie problem  b) tell you about some more free stuff I got and c) get up on ye old soap box and harp for a minute.


First, hopping back on the wagon? Did not happen. In fact, I basically walked over to the wagon and kicked its tires. Suffice to sayI have some serious work to do once I finally decide to get going again. Notice I said "when". It is not today. Obviously.

Second, I feel like I have a duty to report to you any time I get something for free at my local Kroger (or anywhere for that matter). My first free item was a package of Hormel natural lunch meat. I feel like it's important to tell you it's all natural because of what I'm getting ready to tell you next. The second item I got for free was a bag of Cheetos. Clearly, not all natural. I don't really buy Cheetos, but as I've mentioned before, if they're giving them away? For free? Who am I to turn that down?

Finally, I've got a BEE in my bonnet. My friend and neighbor already heard me rant about this. You would think that talking about it out loud would get it out of my system. It didn't. It just kind of riled it up even more. Now you probably think it's something really important. It's not.

I read this article on-line last week (I have no idea where-I landed on it after following some worm hole around the web. I apologize for the lack of referencing) about how we are too hard on our kids. The basic gist of the article suggested that "we" aren't allowing our children to be people because we don't let them have bad days, be angry, and express emotion.

Listen. It is true of me that I would do well to LIGHTEN UP on lots of occasions. I know this about myself. I'm hard on me and I am sometimes hard on my kids. I know it, and I really do work to have some balance in my parenting.

However. I do believe it is my job to teach my children how to properly manage their feelings. And this does not mean that because they are children they have free reign to emote all over everyone in sight. Because they don't.

Here's the thing. Yes, kids should be allowed to be angry, grumpy, grouchy and whiny. But they should be taught the right way to express their emotions, and sometimes, the right place to express their emotions. You know what's worse than a whiny child? A whiny grown-up. And thanks to things like facebook and twitter, it has become painfully obvious that some folks were not taught how to express their emotions properly. Like, you know, not in a public forum.

As a person, I have the right to feel any way I want. But, I do not have the right to inflict those feelings on innocent by-standers. I've talked so many times here about the need for "your people". My people are usually the ones who have to deal with my emoting. Those same people will tell me when it's time to, you know, deal.

Kids do not need more time and space to be a wreck. They just don't. They need safe places to express themselves and good training on emotional boundaries.

If we teach our kids these simple things, facebook will thank us some day.

End rant.

You're welcome.

Thursday, August 8, 2013



I have to tell you the worst thing.

I totally ate a chocolate crinkle cookie. Or four. Whatever.


Today was going to be the day I told you all about the Whole 30. But that cookie sang its dang siren song to me and before I knew what was happening I was eating it. And it tasted just like I wanted it to taste. Which is why I had more.

Not good, friends, not good.

I did package some up and send them to Drew's teacher. Which was nice of me, right? Because if I hadn't, then more for me!

So. I think that means I get to start over. Which, you know, not awesome. Because that probably means I will have another detox hangover which is LOADS of fun. Stupid cookies.

In other news, it is raining like none other here in Music City. But the best thing? Every day this week it has been NOT raining right at the times we've been walking to school and walking home. I'm happy to report that we are all still thoroughly enjoying the walking. It is a delightful way to begin and end a school day. Today Drew walked right beside me and told me about his day. I didn't even have to ask. When you have a 6 year old boy, these moments are rare. You have to treat them delicately. Like when you watch a deer in your backyard. Any sudden movements and the moment is gone. Which is hard for me. Because I'm the kind of person that if you crack open the door to your personal life a tiny bit, I'm right there all up in your business. I have learned that Drew does not appreciate this. Ahem. Probably most others don't either.

Tomorrow morning is just around the corner. It's going to be hard work hoisting myself back up on that wagon of healthy eating. Especially with the cookies of chocolate perfection mocking me from the counter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

All the Things

I'm standing in my kitchen waiting for a batch of cookies to bake. I'm not going to eat any of these cookies because I'm on a cleanse. Did you know that's what we're saying now, instead of diet? It's cleanse, not diet. That's your public service announcement portion of the program.

I'm working on my third Whole 30. I really want to write a whole post about this, but it ain't happening tonight. Why? Well, because it's Wednesday and apparently Drew and I both run out of steam in the middle of the week.

Of course, the cleanse begs the question of why I'm standing in my kitchen at 10 p.m. baking cookies. This, my friends, is a mommy project gone awry. I told my kids that today after we picked up Drew from school we would make cookies. The main problem is that ol' Mom forgot to read the recipe all the way through. She might have skipped over the part where it said, "Allow dough to chill for at least four hours." Do you know how long four hours sounds to a kid? ETERNITY. Upon announcing my discovery, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, despite the licking of the beaters. So, in my usual rational fashion, I told the kids that they could have a cookie for "breakfast dessert" if they would quit complaining. Hence the being stuck in kitchen purgatory while my bed is calling my name.

Besides the Whole 30 I have other things in my brain that I want to dump out here. I hope some of them will be encouraging, or challenging. I mean, you know, beyond being encouraged that you are a much more sane, normal person than me based on all of my other posts.

But for tonight, I'll leave you with a link to the chocolate crinkle cookies that are baking in my oven. It only seems fair.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to School

Here it is. The obligatory back to school post. Complete with pictures. I know. Wonders never cease.

My firstborn child, who was a baby five minutes ago, just started first grade. I wish I was kidding. I mean, LOOK AT HIM. He's like a full-blown kid. I'm beside myself. It's weird, because both times around the baby block, I did not enjoy myself. I had two extremely high maintenance, scream-y, pukey babies. But, somewhere around 3 and a half, I reached that mushy mom point where you just want time to stop. 

When you add in the fact that my brother-in-law mentioned we only have 11 more years with the big kids at home? Full blown panic attack. 

If you are the mom of a baby, toddler or young preschooler and they are wearing you slap out? I'm here to say that it gets SO much better! It does. I mean it.  I would not lie about this to you. (Of course, if you're one of the lucky ones with dreamy babies and sweet toddlers, then your heartache will only be deeper because you had longer to enjoy them!) 

Back to school kicked up some anxiety around the Hull household. Most of it originated with me. I know you're shocked. I have lived in complete denial about the start of school for weeks. But then, all of a sudden I started hearing that teachers were calling their new students and I started freaking out. Internally, of course. I was try to maintain a calm facade for the sake of the one who was actually going to be headed to school. I was just hoping for ONE of his little buddies from his class last year. Just ONE. And honestly, that little class was so amazing, I would've been thrilled with any of the boys. 

Instead, he is in a class with just one little girl he knows. Granted, if he had to choose ANY girl from his class last year, it would be her. And I agree. But it didn't make the first day any easier when he had to start all over. 

This is Drew with his new teacher, Mrs. Hall. (Do you love that little adorable photo bomber in the background??) Despite his initial disappointment, Drew has handled the start of school like a CHAMP! And the best news is, all his besties are with him on the playground. 

The best development of this new school year is that we have figured out we can walk to school! I know this makes me sound idiotic. Because how would one NOT know one could walk to school? The thing is, I knew we could physically walk to school, but I was unclear on procedures. And it was all I could do to deal with the car line without my head exploding. So, I just never looked into it. This year, several neighbors are walking, including a very good friend. We've tried it, and we love it! 

Drew loves it because he doesn't have to sit in the cafeteria during "talk and you die" time. Emily loves it because she is not strapped in her car seat for a sweet forever while we languish in the car line. And I love it because a) no car line! and b) I get in a little exercise. Currently, we are walking too and from school. We'll see if the novelty wears off, but I'm definitely going to enjoy it for now!

I've sent him off on another adventure. Only God knows what he will learn, how he will grow and what he will experience in the coming months. Every time I walk away from him, I ask God to go with him since I can't. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ode to Summer

Well, dang. I'm totally behind once again. I have no excuse. Except all the regs. I'll spare you.

This summer has been, hands down, my favorite one in recent memory. This is not because of anything fancy or spectacular. It's pretty much because it has been the opposite of that.

As I've mentioned before, we were all barely crawling when we came to the end of May. The rat race had officially handed us our tails. We were tired. The one thing I wanted from this summer was to slow down for just a cotton pickin' minute. To rest. Maybe even relax. Summer delivered, and I think I need to thank her publicly.

First, let me just say this. For the past couple of years I've had a little camp at my house in the summer for some sweet preschool children I know. Doing this was a HUGE blessing for me. I got to hand pick the kids I had here. Which also means I got to hand pick the moms. And all of them were some of my faves! It was wonderful to be able to generate income and still spend the summer with my own kids.

But it was work. A LOT of work. Gratifying? Definitely! Exhausting? Yep!

This summer, because of my new work situation, I opted not to do summer school. My kids were super bummed. Some moms were super bummed! Ha! But I knew we needed a chance to sort of move at our own pace. And by our own pace, I mean, slow.

So that's what we did. I was not a very good friend this summer. I did not plan as many play dates as I thought I might. I didn't initiate very often. But I did rest. And I did relax.

More people have told me that I look "rested" in the past few weeks than in my entire life combined. I think this is a nice way of saying, "Wow. You are starting to look less and less like someone who's been dragged behind a bus." Because that's how I've spent the last two years looking. For real.

We spent time at the library. We had dinner at the pool. We visited some fun places around town. We saw friends. We saw movies. We got free lunch.

We made a list at the beginning of the summer of things we wanted to do. Tonight I moved it to the "Trash" on my desktop. At first, I was going to open it and read up on what we forgot or never got around to. Then, I decided I wasn't going to do that. I think everything shook out just the way it was supposed to. No frills. No fuss.

Here's to you summer! You've been a true friend!

Leaving Knox-Vegas

**Uh. Yeah. I started this post two weeks ago. Super. So I'm posting it. And then another new one. I'm one awesome blogger.

One of the main things on our summer to-do list was "Get to Knoxville as much as possible." The reason for this is simple-COUSINS! One of the biggest blessings in my life is my siblings and then in turn, their children. As I've mentioned once, or a hundred times, I am beyond blessed to have one sister with me here. Her kids are like my kids. In fact, Van looked at me just yesterday and said, "You're almost my mom." Yes, little buddy, I am. And I couldn't be happier about it!

Yesterday, we returned from our second trip to Knoxville. We went to celebrate my oldest nephew's birthday. Weston is 7. SEVEN. He has no front teeth and he's almost as tall as me already. And he's SEVEN. I can't even deal. It is not only hard for me to accept that he is seven, I also have to come to terms with the fact that my girl Lyla will be seven soon. And shortly after that? I can't even handle it a little bit.

The party was an absolute blast and so cute-baseball theme. You should have seen the adorable decorations made especially by Nana. I would love to show you a picture. Only, I didn't take a single one. My favorite feature was the Big League Chew my kids got to bring home. I may have had some. Twice. Whatever.

It just makes my heart so happy to see my kids playing with all their cousins. And that doesn't even cover the good it does my soul to be with my people: my sisters, my brother and my dad. And yes, being there, and together makes the ache of missing Mom burn a little hotter. But there is also nothing better for the ache than being able to be together and talk about her. My sister has a beautiful picture of Mom in her kitchen. We have gotten to the place where we can have some humor about the picture. For example, I needed to work on the little table where her picture sits. So I moved her! I said I didn't think she'd mind because I was working on church work, after all!

I don't know about you, but there is nothing better than my tribe. I do hope you have one. They all look a little different. And, in fact, your tribe may change over the years. But there is nothing more comforting than the people who hold you close, call you out, hug you tight, listen to you rant, pray for you and love you no matter what, for real.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More of the Free

You might be tempted to think that dressing up like cows and dodging the cow mascot would be enough excitement for one day. You would be wrong. We were just getting started.

Drew lost his first tooth! FINALLY. Poor kid has been waiting all year. As you might expect the whole thing was fraught with drama. I was not allowed to touch the tooth. Only dad would suffice as the tooth puller, and frankly, I was more than happy to pass the buck on that guy. I do not enjoy a loose tooth. This is something I'm going to need to work on if I'm ever going to teach kindergarten. You think they offer a continuing ed course in tooth pulling??

Anyway, Drew's tooth fairy money was burning a hole in his pocket, so off to Target we went. Drew is the most deliberate shopper on planet earth. He needs to look at and ponder over ALL of his choices. Luckily, on this day, we weren't in a hurry, so he was able to shop at his own pace. He also learned the sad lesson that things cost a lot more than you might think they should. I told him it was a sad fact of life! Being the kid that he is, he was insistent on getting something for Emily and himself. This is why I have no problem giving this kid money. He has the most generous heart ever. He gives away toys without thinking twice if he knows the kid on the receiving end, and he always, always considers Emily in every equation.  So, while Drew spent some money at Target, I did not. By 1 p.m. and I was still at $0.

Our next stop was McKay's bookstore, which I've written about a million times. My whole family, including Big Dan, are in love with the place. A few weeks ago, on a rainy day, we made it our project to go through our books and take the ones we were finished with to McKay's. The kids did a great job culling a lot of books, so we have racked up quite a bit of credit. Here's another amazing miracle of my summer. When we go to McKay's now, my kids will hang out in the kids section and I am free to BROWSE. In a leisurely fashion. The first time it happened I almost burst out laughing! When you are the mother of young kids you hear about things getting easier, but honestly, you don't believe the hype. So, when it starts happening, it's like a fabulous little surprise every time! The kids had a blast looking at books and picking some out. I turned in some movies, so by the time we left McKay's I made $13 on the day. Not too shabby.

Our last stop was Kroger. I haven't mentioned yet that my Kroger just recently rearranged the whole store. This has put a serious kink in my shopping efficiency. However, when you're in the grocery store around three times a week, it's a little easier to get the new lay of the land. Kroger has also started doing something really fun-on Friday's they put up a digital coupon for a free product. You can load the coupon to your Kroger card and get the item for free. Generally, these are things I wouldn't pay money for, but I mean, if you're giving it away, count me in! The last time they issued a coupon, the product was already sold out in the store. So, this week we got two free snacks!

Brown sugar cinnamon caramel corn? Yeah, never coming in my house again.! If you invited me to jump in a vat of it with you? I totally would. Of course, I had to pay tax, so these two snacks cost me $0.25.

I ended a full day in the black by $12.75. Who says frugal can't be fun??

Friday, July 12, 2013


If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I enjoy a good bargain. And really, there is no better bargain than FREE!.

Thanks to the ever informational Facebook, I found out today was dress like a cow day at Chik-fil-a. If you dressed up like a cow, you got free lunch. A whole meal... at Chik-fil-a... for free. Um, we were totally going to make that happen! The reaction of my two kids pretty much sums up their personalities to a tee. Emily was pumped. She couldn't wait to get dressed up. Drew totally refused. No way, not happening, I'm not doing that, it's dumb. We were locked tight in negotiations. Me, threatening to just take Emily, him still refusing. Me, saying things like, "Free! Do you hear me?? Free!" Him saying, "Still dumb." Finally, he got a sly little grin on his face and he said, "I'll dress up if you dress up." The kid nailed me. The truth of the matter is, I'm just like him. Or he's just like me. Or whatever. We are the "please don't look at me" kind of people in any and all situations. Walking into a public place in costume does not rank high on the list of things we want to do. But, the cheapskate in me sucker punched the introvert. Costumes all around!

By the time we were ready to go, Drew was pumped. It was fun, not dumb. I was the best mom ever, not the worst. This is the pendulum we get seasick on everyday!

I made sure we got to the restaurant early, knowing that it would probably be crowded. When we got there it was me and one other lady there dressed up, with our kids. Gulp. But, because my kid did not need to see me flinch, I marched in there like wearing construction paper cow ears was THE COOLEST THING EVER. Did I mention I made pink balloon udders? Yeah. I did. The costumes were a hit and all my embarrassment melted away when I got three meals for $0.

The kids were having a blast and getting ready to go into the play area when I spotted something outside that made my blood run cold. A cow mascot. Have I mentioned how my daughter feels about a mascot? Not good, friends, not good. So, I said in my most mild mannered voice, "Emily. Don't freak out. I just want you to know there is a cow mascot outside." Her eyes got as big as saucers. She whipped her head around and looked back at me in a state of sheer panic. A few minutes later, the cow mascot came inside. I could feel her panic rising from across the table. So, I beelined it to the "cow handler" and asked her to please keep the cow FAR AWAY from my kid. Convinced that the cow would keep his distance, Emily went off to play.

They were having a big time playing. Emily, in true fashion, had already made a new friend. And that's when I saw the cow make a break for it. He was leaving the capable company of his handler and was walking straight towards the play area. I looked over to the giant fishbowl-esque window only to see my daughter plastered to the window, SCREAMING her head off. I jumped up and grabbed her as quick as I could. By this point, the cow handler had steered the cow back towards the other end of the restaurant. But, sadly, we were done. Emily was shaking. Her heart was beating a million miles a minute and she was sweating. Poor girl. This is a seriously real phobia.

On the other hand, I'm the kind of mom who gets cracked up about inappropriate things. As Emily sat on my lap trying to catch her breath, all I could think about was her plastered to that window in panic. I started laughing and I couldn't stop. It was like inappropriate church service laughter that you can't contain. There is nothing like a little girl with wild hair, in a cow costume, freaking out behind sound proof glass. Good times.

At least I didn't have to pay for lunch.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sick Day

I was starting to worry that I really had jinxed myself. After writing the post about the BEST SUMMER EVER, we had a tough day. Now listen, it wasn't horrible. It just gave me pause after all of my gloating the day before. Things were just a little bit off all the way around.

One thing you should know is that I have been very blessed that when my kids get sick (as older kids) they typically get things in a mild fashion. I recognize what a HUGE blessing this is. And I also recognize that any moment one of my kids is going to get some raging sickness just because I put that in writing. I only tell you that to say that sometimes it is hard for me to know what's happening. Yesterday, Drew was just a wreck. Short tempered and fragile. He said at least 100 times, "You guys are just IRRITATING me." I kept a close eye out, because this is not typical. Especially during the summer when his stress level is relatively low. Finally, last night at bedtime, he requested a Tums and told me his stomach hurt. A-ha. I snuggled him a little and put him to bed.

During the night it became clear that he has some sort of bug. There was no puke. There rarely is. I would like to think that I paid my dues in puke early on, and am now being given a reprieve from it!! It was obvious that he was not feeling good this morning, so we called a home day. Well, after we went to the grocery, because it could not be put off any longer.

I tried to put my agenda aside and tune in to what would really help my little buddy. He was needing some serious Mom time. So, after lunch we all piled in my bed and had a little movie/nap time. Emily got busy "darking up the room" and it was all just what the doctor ordered.

I'm really hoping he's feeling much better tomorrow. It's hard for a growing boy to deal with a diet of crackers and jell-o!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summa Time

We are well into summer and I just have to tell you, it's pretty much the best summer I've had in a really long time. There are just so many reasons for this, but regardless of the reasons, I'm in love with summer.

First, the weather has been just downright delightful. It's the last week of June and it's just now making me sweat. I mean, last year, before school was even out I couldn't stand to be outside because of all the hot. This year, it's been less humid and breezy. I don't know what's up with all the breeze in Nashville right now, but I'm totally digging it. My son would live his entire life outside. His blonde highlights and brown skin are a testament to what he's been doing this summer.

Second, the pace? Slow. We made the decision not to put Drew in any camps this summer, which goes against the collective mentality here in Nashville. Some people put their kids in camp every week. When it came down to it, though, I just didn't want to have to be on the clock. The thing I hated most about the school year was the scramble to get out the door on time in the mornings. And listen, I did all the tricks-prepping the night before, routines, etc., and it still just felt stressful everyday. I wanted to take a break from the rat race. And we have done just that. I am getting up early (which, I know is not like me at all!) to work, then we go do some sort of activity, I work some more during rest time and then we usually head to the pool. It's just a dream to be able to work and fit in tons of summer fun at the same time. I hope you will get tired of me talking about how thankful I am for my job. Because I should say it everyday. Blessed.

Third, my kids are best friends. This summer has marked the turning of the corner in many ways, and this way is my favorite. Emily is now big enough to really play with her brother. They have been so good to play great together while I am working. I love listening to what they are doing. And, yes, sometimes at the end of the day when I go upstairs the place looks like a frat party has just happened. But it's just so darn hard to care when they have had a total blast with each other all day. Don't get me wrong-they are siblings. There is fighting and grumpy days and attitude. But, I've been working to be very intentional about teaching them to work out their conflicts on their own, without tattling. This has been a hard lesson. But, because I'm starting to get some of my brain back, I've been able to be a little more consistent. When I listen to them solve a problem on their own, apologize without prompting, and move on, I want to stand up and clap. Sort of like how I feel when they eat salad.

Drew starts back to school at the very beginning of August and I already dread it. I know that I will always look back on this summer and wish we could go back. It's a little pocket of time that is pretty dang close to perfect.

Here's a little peak at some of what we've been doing:
*Free doughnut day! We ate our free doughnuts and then took in a movie. (Sorry about the poor quality of this picture. Insert some kind smart photo talk here.)

*We are getting in plenty of pool time! This picture shows our favorite "drying off" activity-a rousing game of "would you rather?'

*At Bicentennial Park splash ground. SO many fun (free) things to do around Nashville! 

*And then there's this. For which I have no words. Girlfriend has rocked her winter boots all summer long. Whatevs, baby sis, whatevs.

I hope you are having the best summer ever. Because I think we might be. And now I'm hoping I haven't just jinxed us!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Kids-Part 2

I swear. Every time I think I'm back on the regular blogging bandwagon, well, I'm not. We are having a FABULOUS summer and I really want to tell you all about it. First, I gotta finish what I started.

Here is Emily on her last day of school!!! There are so many words I could say about this child! She has rounded the corner to 3 and a half, and if you've never lived with a 3 and a half year old child, well, let's just say it is an adventure!

She is 100% all girl. She changes her clothes approximately 400 times a day and would wear my high heels in public if I would let her. (Yes, I have some high heels. Like two pair...) She is my child who does all the things you hear parents talk about. Changing her clothes, saying loud, embarrassing things, hurting herself-a lot. She is spunky, and sassy, but oh so sweet.

She ADORES her big brother and she is so lucky that he adores her right back. And while she may keep him on his toes, she is also the first one to comfort him if he is hurt or sad.

Emily is downright hilarious. She says and does funny things all the time. Her latest saying is, "Well, hello fuzzy!" I'm not even sure where she heard that!

She had a great year in preschool and staying with my friend, Robin. Thankfully, she is very sweet in a classroom setting. Just last week I got to see this in action. She took a little dance class (pics to come) and I was able to watch her through this little window while she was in class. I felt a little dorky-most of the others moms were laid back and chit-chatting, but I couldn't stop watching her. I feel like it was a chance to see her in a way I haven't before. I almost cried the whole time. Sap alert! She was a good listener and watched her teacher so closely. It was super sweet. She also slept in her "ballet outfit" every night. Bless.

Towards the end of school her behavior was WAY out of whack. At first, I attributed it to her being run ragged by our end of the year schedule. But, the more I watched and talked with friends, I began to realize she had some stomach issues going on. Every single time this happens I feel so dumb. Why, after 6 years of dealing with this garbage, does it take me so long to realize what's happening?? It is usually after talking out loud about it that it dawns on me. The dairy devil strikes again. This was about our fourth attempt at getting Emily on the dairy wagon. She does great for a few months and then one day, all the wheels just fall right off. This is a lot of fun. Like, lay in the floor screaming over everything kind of fun. Like, not wanting to eat anything but hot dogs kind of fun. Like, ohmywordhowmuchlongertilbedtime kind of fun. She was in trouble almost every day. It's those moments as a parent when you finally just have to say, "Look. Something isn't right."

It was a testament to how bad she was feeling that she was totally on board with cutting dairy back out of her diet. That was about three weeks ago, and she is feeling so much better. In fact, it's like someone who needs anti-depressants, then feels better and thinks, "Oh good, I don't need to take these any more because I feel awesome." I keep reminding her the reason she feels better is because she's not eating ice-cream cones. Which, is easy for a three year old to get. Only it's not.

Anyway, all of that to say, life is like a dream now. Seriously. My sweet, smart, loving little girl is taking center stage, in front of the little troll who had been hanging around. She still has those 3 and half year old tendencies, but she is much more able to control her emotions. And, as with any female, this is a good thing.

It is my absolute joy having a daughter. I have no idea whether I'm getting it right, but I pray for grace everyday to be the kind of mom Emily needs. I am so excited to have the next two years with her. I'm excited she has two years before kindergarten. I plan to soak up every single drop of her Emily-ness between now and then.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Kids-Part 1

Wait. Before I update you on my bebes, I need to make an addendum to my last post. I know what you're thinking. How can there possibly be an addendum after so.many.words? But there is.

I forgot to say the very best part of my new job! The very best part is that I am working with my sister, Katy. She is also on the Children's Ministry staff so we are like, for real, working together. And it is about 26 different kinds of fabulous.

Shew. That's been bugging me all week.

I did want to put up a few current pictures and tell a few current stories about my two sweeties. I'll shoot straight-the month of May about did us in. It was a close call. But, we made it to summer and we have already been busy having loads of fun.

Let's start with my favorite boy on the planet. Here he is on his last day of kindergarten. Sniff.

I don't even know where to start with this kid. Talk about brave. Drew has faced SO many first time experiences this year and has handled every one of them like a champ! Not only is he brave, he is kind. His teacher reported that kids in the class like him because he is a good, loyal, kind friend. Man. There are no sweeter words to a mama's ears. I know that as the years go by those attributes may not make him "popular", but I pray every day he finds a way to hold on to that tender heart.

Besides conquering the big, bad world of for real school, Drew also decided he wanted to play baseball this year. I'm not gonna lie. I was skeered. Not about him getting hurt physically, but I was worried about his little spirit. Much like his mom, Drew likes to be awesome at things right out of the shoot. Taking karate has really helped with this-shown him that hard work and practice really do make you better. We managed to get him on a team with three of his best buddies from class. All of whom had played baseball before. Eek! Also, the coach decided to go ahead and move the team up to the "machine pitch" league. Folks, we do not joke around about baseball in Bellevue! At first, this only added to my terror, but it actually worked out for the best. Mostly because zero kids on his team could hit the ball at all. Y'all. It was a looooong season. We won exactly no games. We cheered like maniacs when a kid hit the ball. AT ALL. But Drew loved every minute. He is in full sports obsession mode. This started with football last summer and has now grown to include any and all sports. In case you've missed it, Drew, um, HONES IN, on whatever is interesting to him at the moment. All, and I mean all, of our conversations somehow end up back around to sports. Which, I must say, I'm much more well versed in than the last obsession-Star Wars.

I am absolutely loving the stage he is in. I could spend every waking minute with him and not get tired of it. He is beyond helpful, smart, insightful and so loving. I love playing backyard baseball with him and I love when he still snuggles me up when we're together on the couch. He only gets 2 months off for summer and I'm doing everything I can to soak up every second.

Can I tell you a secret? I started this post LAST WEEK. But it was taking a sweet forever for my pictures to load, so I did what I do when things get a wee bit hard. I bailed. Just shut my computer and walked away. True story. So, I'll be back for part 2 at some point. I can't wait to tell you about Emily. Prepare yourselves. There will be words. Lots of words.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I'm not going to be a teacher

I bet you think this is going to be a rant against government interference and TCAPs. You might be prepared to jump up on the soap box with me, or click away in utter disgust, because enough with the complaining already.

I hate to disappoint everyone. It is kind of a specialty of mine, though.

This post has nothing to do with the current issues in Education. (And if ever there were a big pile of issues, it is surely in public education) This post is about my current life. And some changes.

As all of you are well aware, I toiled for 18 months to complete my Master's degree. Do you like how I said toiled? That is probably extreme. I think the word "toil" should be reserved for people who really have to do hard labor. Reading, doing 10,000 power point presentations and making some posters probably doesn't count as toil. Anyway. Master's degree-check.

I have mentioned before that my little blog is only a slice of my story and the reasons for my going back to school were varied and serious. Some of those things have remained the same and some have changed. (Sorry to be vague. Boundaries, and what have you.) It has been a long, twisty journey to get where I am right now, but there is so much blessing in it. So. much.

The first detour on my teaching journey came in my Reading class. Mom had just died. I was a HOT MESS and I was seriously considering dropping out.  And then I met Dr. Suzanne Harris. I mentioned this briefly in a post last summer, but Dr. Harris is an amazing woman. She overcame a horrifying childhood to become a loving teacher and now the loving Dean of the College of Education at Trevecca. I adore her. Her class was amazing. She was unique to my program in that she did not spend her teaching career teaching public school. Trevecca's education department is filled with serious warriors who gave their hearts away to kids all over Nashville. And I love them for it. Sometimes, though, my heart felt a little out of step. As the program went on, I kept coming back to the spiritual lives of children. How desperately I want them to know Jesus, and how much He loves them. I ran up against how taboo religion is in a public school.

Listen. I KNOW that there are thousands of Christian teachers who go into public schools everyday and shine their lights in completely politically correct ways. They love children and help shape their character. I totally get that.


In my own heart I keep running up against this call-this call to share Christ with the littlest ones. And that's why I loved Dr. Harris. Because she spent her career teaching in Christian schools. The words she spoke about her teaching experience were picked out just for me. And it was the first step on the journey God was taking me on to where I am today.

The second detour came about when I had to make a decision about student teaching. My cohort was set to student teach in Spring 2013. If I made the choice to do that, it meant that I would not be teaching at St. B's for the 2012-2013 school year. It also meant I would be 9 months without a job. So, I knew that option was not going to work for me. At first, I thought I would just put off student teaching until Fall 2013.

Then came the final detour. (I'm sure you are like, "Finally. Longest prelude ever!") Last fall the Children's Minister at my church approached me about taking the childcare coordinator position in her ministry. This job coordinates all the childcare workers, etc., for events that happen outside of Sunday. The job has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years and wasn't just a side gig anymore. In our earliest talks, I thought I was going to be able to do that job and continue on at the preschool. But, as time went on, it became clear there were more ways I could serve at the church, the job was going to be quite large and I had to choose.

Instead of choosing, I cried for two weeks.

Y'all.  I was not interested in leaving the preschool. St. B's had been my cleft in the rock for two solid years. After six years of living in Nashville, I had finally found "my people". I could not imagine leaving. In my heart, though, I knew it was coming. Part-time pay for full time work is just not an option for me right now. Every minute I am away from my kids has to be worth it!

After I got done crying, I started praying. I knew pretty quick what direction I was to take.

Which brings me to where I am today. I am back on a church staff. Back in Children's Ministry. I work for a fabulous woman who has amazing vision for kids. (And my own kids adore her! I won't even get started on the obsession Drew and Emily have with her two teenagers!)

I did not see this coming. Seriously. But as I'm spending my summer working on curriculum and organizing, I just feel so incredibly blessed. Only God knew those deep desires of my heart, and, for now anyway, I am getting to walk in those places. And the best part? I get to work from home. It is quite literally a direct answer to a prayer I prayed about a year ago. My time with my little ones is precious to me. Even on those days when they are not being exactly precious. I am humbled and grateful that God has given me the chance to do all the things I love, all at once.

I super love being a teacher. And I super doubt that my degree will go to waste. But we all know the normal path forward is never my path. One day, I'll look back and it will all make sense...


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why I Write a blog

I know what you're thinking.

I have no business claiming to write a blog, when I rarely, in fact, write one.

I must say I was not prepared for the emotional onslaught that would follow the "12 Days of Mom" series. When I pushed publish on that final post, I closed my computer and walked away. I thought I might be done. I have toyed with the idea of just closing her down.

My life lies in stark contrast today to the life that existed when I started this blog. And I really had to take some time to think about whether it made sense for me to keep writing here. Why was I writing? When I started this blog, it was about keeping long distance grandparents up to date on their grandson. Due to all manner of things, that sort of stopped being the purpose.

I really don't want to fill up page after page about myself. Because, hello? Narcissus, anyone? So, why would I come here to write?

I backed the thought train up and asked myself why I like to read other people's blogs. Why do I love to read about mundane, everyday things in someone else's life. Because, I really do. I prefer it to TV or magazines. It's my way to relax. But why?

All of this was swirling around in my head when it was time to read The Great Gatsby for book club. I don't know if you've heard, but there's a film version coming out. I predict a lot of gin will be consumed this month.

I started reading the book and around the three-quarter mark said out loud for the first time ever, "I simply don't like this book." I know. I KNOW.  You are shaking your head in despair and disappointment. Listen. It's not that I don't appreciate the art-the amazing writing-because I get it. What I don't like is the story.

And there it was. Finally, my mind strung together a long line of random thoughts I had been having and my soul said, "I love stories".  I can appreciate the beauty of amazing words put together in extraordinary ways. But what really gets my blood pumping, what I'm passionate about, is a person's story. (Perhaps we will discuss at another time why I don't like the story in Gatsby...but do I really need to explain it???)

What I love about people is that each of them carries with them a different story. And I want to know it. Every single detail of their story, no matter what kind of details are held within. This is how I connect with other humans. And this is why I hate small talk, and cocktail parties. Because when people are talking about the surface details of their life, I really want to say, "Tell me about yourself as a kid". I will go ahead and mention that I rarely do this. Maybe I should. I think I've also mentioned that I'm somewhat of a social nightmare. So, I think diving deep at a cocktail party is rather unwise. For me, anyway!

All of this mental workout led me back to my blog. And why I blog. Because it is my story. Granted, it is not all of my story. It never really can be, because it is rare that our own stories aren't somehow intertwined with someone else's stories. There is nothing worse than having someone else tell your story.

So, I've decided to keep coming here and writing down some of my stories. Maybe you are like me-maybe the story is what connects us. Maybe reading about my mundane life is how you will relax. Maybe something I face, or something I am wrestling with connects with you. It is the very worst feeling to believe you are facing something alone. Sharing my story might help you know that you are so not alone.

I don't know that it matters to anyone but me that I'm going to continue to blog. But it was an important conclusion for me to reach. To understand what it is I love about reading and, to follow, what I love about writing.

So, here's to some stories! You know I can't go a week without making a total fool of myself. Maybe at the very least you can get a good laugh!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

12 Days of Mom-Day 12

*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom.  As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.

Well, here we are. Day 12. Can I tell you something? I have no idea how to close this deal out. When I started, I didn't really think about what it would look like to finish. (Welcome to all of my life...) I suppose in my mind I imagined twelve neat and tidy stories with the last one wrapping everything up nicely. This process, for me, has been anything but neat and tidy. I'm a big ol' giant mess currently. And finishing this series just reinforces the whole finality of the whole thing. I mean, I know I can write stories about her whenever I want. I know I can think about her and talk about her whenever I want. But passing that dreaded "year" mark did not bring the relief I was hoping for at all. It is a difficult thing knowing I will face this hole in my life for the rest of my life.

Also, I know all of these stories have painted an amazing picture of my Mom. I meant for it to be that way. Did Mom have flaws? Of course. Did we always get along in an amazing way? Of course not. I thought long and hard about writing these stories. I want to live my life and write about my life in a real way. No single person out there is looking to see more things they are not living up to. I surely hope none of these stories has made you feel that way. Mom would not approve!! At the same time, I decided if you get terminal cancer and pass away before you're sixty, then we get to talk about only the best parts of you! Sometime I hope to share all of Mom's story. It is a story full of hope and grace. Mom's life was not easy, not for even one single day. That's honest truth. But, I have never known anyone who fought harder for joy and love.

One of the reasons I was (am) so angry at her cancer is because it seemed like her life was on the up-tick for the first time in a while. It felt like a corner had been turned. That maybe her final chapter would be an easy one. Instead, her final days were lived out in one of the hardest ways possible. I'm still working on reconciling all of that in my heart. It's a dirty job.

I'm putting my hope in the fact that she is sporting one hell of a crown.

I'm all out of words. So, I leave you with a list of things that I will forever remember about Mom.

1. Bananas with milk and sugar
2. Clover flower necklaces
3. Her "neapolitan" bathrobe
4. How she was a morning person
5. The song she sang to us when it was time to go to church (which, by the way, was all the time!)
6. The one time she stopped answering to Mom and would only answer to Shelia (not her name) because she couldn't handle hearing "Mom" another single time.
7. The summer fun schedule she made out each year during summer break.
8. Her love of bread dough. Raw.
9. Her lap
10. Her love

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

12 Days of Mom-Day Eleven

*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom.  As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.

Well, it turns out that yesterday, the day, was a non-writing day. While it was a non-writing day, it was a pro look like a slob and eat ice-cream day. So there's that. Onward and upward...

There are certain opportunities that come around in life that simply overwhelm. They overwhelm in the moment and they overwhelm in hindsight. I was afforded one of these opportunities around 11 years ago. And when I look back, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

I was working in the Children's Ministry department of my church in Knoxville. My job was in flux. (Oh wait. That would sum up my entire "career" there...) I was trying to decide what to do with the church and the church was trying to decide what to do with me. During this time I was approached by the missions pastor (at the time...a lot of flux was going around...) and he asked me how I would feel about leading a trip of Children's Ministry folks who would provide children's programming for a missionary conference in Central Europe.

Let me take a minute and back the story up. When I was in high school I was given another amazing opportunity. I joined two great friends from my church and a few other girls from across the state and  traveled to Santiago, Chile to serve missionary kids at a conference. I was young and the whole experience was overwhelming and amazing all at the same time.  I walked away from that trip with a huge heart for missionary kids. I had spent my life learning about missionaries. But that trip gave me eyes to see the missionaries as real people, not just names on paper. They were real families, living real lives. They missed their grandparents, they felt torn between cultures, they experienced all the same things I experienced, but with about 10 extra layers of stuff to deal with.

When I was given the chance to get to know a whole new group of them? Well, I didn't hesitate to say yes!

The first year we traveled to the conference we left on December 31, 2001. Three and a half months after 9/11. I was terrified and had worked out several scenarios of what I would do if we ended up with a terrorist on our flight. You think I'm kidding. The scary plane ride aside, the trip was one of the most rich and fulfilling experiences of my life. It was hard work and there were team "dynamics" that I was ill-equipped to deal with, yet had to deal with. But, in the middle of all that real life stuff, I met some of the most amazing kids I would ever meet. I fell head over heels in love with all those Central Europe MKs.

The following year, as I began to assemble the team, Big Dan decided to stay home. He had gone on the trip the year before and he loved it as well. But, it was his first year in law school, and missing class wasn't an option. This left a unique opening on the team. You'll never guess who wanted to go...


Of course you guessed. Because by now you know she did not miss the opportunity for an adventure. (Well, and I guess you knew this post was going to be about her, too, huh?)

Do you see the whole picture of the opportunity I was given here? My heart just swells with gratitude when I think about it. My mom and I had the opportunity to travel together to Budapest, Hungary to minister to missionary kids. This was like the be all, end all of full circle moments.

Mom went on the trip because she loved adventure. She went on the trip because she loved missionaries and their kids. But mostly, she went on the trip because she loved me. She always loved the things that were most important to me. She wanted to see the faces of the ones I had told her all about. She wanted to see the places I saw and go the places I went. What mattered to me, mattered to her. (And I know my siblings would all say the same...)

So, off we went like Thelma and Louise on a crazy trans-atlantic adventure. I'll start by telling you that we nearly lost her in the Amsterdam airport. Like, for real. She took off like a shot (because I may have mentioned we needed to move fast), only she took off in the complete wrong direction!!  It was a close call!

We roomed together, and ate together, and prayed together and cried together. If she were here right now, I'd remind her about the "cabbage hall". We had to walk in this one hallway every morning. It had a very distinct smell. I almost hurled every day. We would hold our breath and run down the hallway.

After the conference, we had time to explore Budapest. We walked arm and arm in and out of shops, trying to stay warm! AND as if all of that were not enough, we got to travel to Germany at the end of our trip. Some friends of ours (the same man who made all these trips happen for me) were on the brink of moving to Germany to be missionaries. They were trying to figure out where they would be living. We were more than happy to help them explore! :) Never mind the fact that I'm pretty sure it was a record breaking-ly COLD winter, we made the best of it and made memories as fast as we could.

When you lose someone important you think about what you might do if you had just one more day with them. If I had one more day, I would for sure want to spend it with mom and my siblings piled on a couch somewhere. But, if I had two days? We would bundle up, take off arm and arm, and see the sights.

Monday, March 11, 2013

12 Days of Mom-Day Ten

*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom.  As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.

A few nights ago, I was hanging out with Drew before bed. He has been doing some work around the house to earn an allowance. That night, he was admiring one of his dollar bills (he refuses any sort of coin payment) and decided he wanted to put it under his pillow. I laughed and said, "It will be just like the tooth fairy came!" Then we discussed the reasons why he still has not lost a single tooth, and he pointed out that it might be worth investing in some fake teeth as a money making scheme.  Then he looked me right in the eyes and said, "Mom, is the tooth fairy real??"

Well, shoot.

This is one of those moments that, if you're a raging, psycho parenting freak like myself, you've prepared yourself for. Most normal people probably don't plan for stuff like this, but we've established I'm far outside the "normal" box. I think you'll see from my response that I totally nailed it...

"Do you think the tooth fairy is real?"

See? Nailed it.


I know where this is headed. This is headed for a discussion around a jolly old elf. I got kind of sad thinking we were headed there. If I'm honest, I'd tell you that I'm surprised Drew has believed in Santa this long. He's a gigantic skeptic. I was gloomy until I remembered how Mom handled it when I asked her if Santa was real.

I can't remember exactly how old I was when I asked her if Santa was real. I can remember feeling nervous to ask her, fearing somehow I was going to disappoint her. There was no real pressure to believe in Santa at my house growing up. I mean, we did, but when we asked, Mom told us the truth. But the way she did it took away the sting of the disappointment and helped me understand where the "warm" feeling came from at Christmas time.

When I asked her, she pulled me onto her lap (which does little to narrow down the time table-I sat on her lap well into my twenties!) and told me the story of St. Nicholas. You know, the real guy. I'm sure if she'd had access to Google, she would've shown me a picture. She shared with me his heart for Christ and his heart for children. Because I had watched Mom give to those in need so many times, I totally understood the story. She talked with me about why we gave and received gifts, why it was fun to have surprises, and why she let us believe in Santa. She wanted to be sure I knew she hadn't lied to me-that Santa was for fun, and she also wanted me to know that the fun wouldn't be over now that I knew the bigger story.

Christmas wasn't ruined at all for me when I stopped believing in Santa Claus. Mom made Christmas magical every year, and it was even more special when I understood the heart behind it. Not to mention the fun of being in on the "secret" before any of my siblings!

So. The day of revealing is drawing nigh for me. I can't wait to tell Drew about St. Nicholas. I hope that I am able to convey the warmth and excitement about giving that Mom did. Besides, I won't mind having my own little "elf" for helping on Christmas Eve, either!

12 Days of Mom-Day Nine

*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom.  As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.

Um, so sorry about my unannounced absence. Big Dan and I spent the weekend with some soul friends doing what the four of us do best-eating, sleeping and being hilarious. It was a beyond welcome hiatus from reality. I took my computer along, but I couldn't risk the ugly cry ruining all the laughing. So, I'll be a few days behind on these posts. It seems appropriate-running behind is the Hamilton way.

Some of you know that I work at a church. Some of you knew me when I worked at another church. Some of you have no idea that I have ever worked at a church. Now you know-I work at a church.

When I was 15 years old, I experienced what was termed "a call to ministry" in the church I grew up in. (Baptist, remember?) I think I would probably still call it that, but in case those terms are not familiar, it has meant to me, that I'm a church person. Only in the last couple of years has some of the fog cleared around this for me. I have realized how much I love, and have always loved, the local church. It's my place. Some of it is a comfort thing. I know how to navigate there. I know what's expected. I know where I fit and what I do well. I also know the things I won't be asked to do-anything music related. One summer at camp I talked my way into the worship band as the "egg shaker". I live in Nashville now. Even the "egg shakers" are professionals.

My love for the church comes straight from one place. Mom.

Mom and I have very different stories of how we came to the church. Mom was in her twenties, with me slung on her hip when she fell madly in love with Jesus. The grace she had been longing for her entire life, well, she found it. And when she did, she wanted to make sure others found it, too.

Some of my earliest memories of Mom are memories at church. I remember being 3 and 4 with her teaching my "Mission Friends" class. She was a hands on teacher-I feel like I remember making banana fritters every year as we studied a certain country. (No idea exactly where we would be studying that required making banana fritters...perhaps the curriculum was stretching it a bit!) We learned what missionaries did and we prayed for them.

Mom was also THE QUEEN of VBS. When I was very young we attended a church that was 20 or so minutes away from our home. So, everyday of VBS, Mom drove a great big blue church van and picked up as many kids as would fit on her way. Many of them were from our own neighborhood. She made crafts and signs and banners. She taught every grade and led every special area. She served cookies. She served red kool-aid. She LOVED kids.

It wasn't long before Mom was employed by a church. It was her first job after being home with us for many years. Church was place where she finally felt she belonged.

My first job after college was working at my home church. My mom was my secretary. Bahahahahaha! We laughed about it then and we laughed about it many times after that. In case you are thinking we had a traditional employer/employee relationship, you can think again.

As with any place filled with people, church was not always easy for Mom.  Sometimes when life gets too real, people don't really know what to do. It's hard to know how to help people who have been hit by one of life's tidal waves, it is. But even in her hardest days, her greatest longing was to find a place again. A church where she fit and felt a part. I'm SO grateful that she did. Because in those last weeks her people-her church people-did not shy away from her suffering. They came around her and loved her in ways both tangible and intangible. And so many from her communities before were there.

I know church can be hard. I know for some of you reading this church has not offered what you were hoping for. I try to keep in mind that it's only part of God's plan for my walk with him. But, it is a part. When we bump up against others, it exposes those places in us that need examining. Maybe the point of church is not to make us feel good, but to show us the places we need to grow, and to let go.

My memories of Wednesday night supper, of hymn singing, and youth choir and VBS are all wrapped up by the memory of Mom. I'm thankful she passed along her love of the church to me. I hope I am doing the same for Drew and Emily.