Sunday, August 19, 2012

college preparatory... growing up

So, this is college move in time of the year...  Two weeks ago, we moved my nephew Brett in for his Freshman year...  And just yesterday, we moved Brittany and Brooke (his two best friends) into their college dorm.  It was really the first dorm room experience I had trying to figure out twin beds, (stack them or not...)  the quickest way to make a boys dorm room sanitized and smell good, and of course I learned really quick the boys dorm room only needed bean bags and an X-Box while the girls couldn't survive without sequins and Scenty's!  Ultimately the time was about getting the kids settled in, but knowing the outcome of the day would be saying goodbye... This may have been my first dorm experience but this was not my first in saying goodbye to someone I loved so much and then have to figure out how to survive in their absence as I know many of these mothers on these days are feeling.

I have had nephews and nieces go off to college through the years, and it still hurt my heart for my sister when she cried last week when her 2 boys left for college, and this isn't even her first year at this... her boys are a junior and a senior at Ole Miss.  Thus, by my own indications of watching my sister, it doesn't get easier as the years pass. (My mom always said "it gets harder as your children get older"- I think I understand what she was talking about now)

Clearly, when we are preparing to be a mother, we DREAM about what he or she will be like when they are born, when they grow up... what kindergarten will bring, then middle school... and of course, where will they be sitting the night that they say goodbye to their high school journey and head to greet life in trade school or college... we are full of HOPE that they will make great choices, be the best they can be, and hope that their dream is bigger than ours...

I sometimes think at birth, we go into 'college preparatory" mode and never come out... everything we do is geared around raising our children for the next step in life, from introducing solid foods to potty training, from high school to college... we daily prepare them (and ourselves) to be ready for what comes next.  That's what parents do. We hold their hands until they can walk and then (sigh), 'let go....'

I remember so much being pregnant with Nathan, (now 12 yrs old and in 7th grade) and I used to wonder ALL of the time what he would be like... would he like Ole Miss like his daddy?  Would he love peanut butter like me?  Would he?  Will he?  Is he?  I DREAMED, I HOPED for the VERY BEST FOR HIM!  And today, I see a beautiful, solid young man.  His heart, full of compassion and life... and his eyes full of faith.  He sees, often times, what I cannot!  Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Nathan has had to live being sure of his faith... he held and kissed his baby brother after he passed away, he saw his mama on life support, he sat at the end of the hospital hallway at 5 years old beside his daddy as they pleaded with God to keep me here on earth.  He BELIEVED, HE DREAMED AND HE HOPED.  And although life  has given to him many challenges, he has remained driven and determined to persevere through adversity.  A recent purchase of new cleats, size 10, let me know just how much and how fast Nathan was growing up!  Tomorrow night I will be his biggest fan as he plays his first middle school football game, and at the same time, I will be tenderly aware that so many won't get that opportunity of seeing their boys on the field.  

And then I remember being pregnant with Matthew... Oh the DREAMS AND HOPES I had for him!  I "knew what to expect!"  Because I had a son already... I "knew" what it would be like to give birth, to experience that rush of goodness and grace as the first cry would  come... Oh how I anticipated hearing him, loving him as he grew up... watching him grow up... seeing him learn to ride a bike... I wondered would he be like his daddy and need 4 coats of sunscreen on or would he be a beach bunny like me?  I wondered if he would have my eyes or his daddy's hair... what he would like to eat, to do, would he like baseball or football better... (I can honestly say, I never wondered if any of my boys would like basketball, in my mind that wasn't an option)  Sorry to all of my sweet basketball friends..,, I love you but the squeaking of the tennis shoes coupled with the wardrobe (ugly shorts) drive me crazy!

My heart, my mind, my soul and with every breath I had, my hopes and dreams were so misplaced - so very broken - so NOT what I EVER thought it would be!  I would learn to live my hopes and my dreams in a new way.  I would learn to believe in heaven more than I ever did before.  I would learn to be broken and still be able to stand.  I would learn to love him and be his mother on this side of heaven.  I would learn to let go of the hopes and dreams I had for him on earth and pour all of that into helping others through his story.  This is how he is 'GROWING' with us... in our home... in our hearts... this is how he is 'REMEMBERED AND LOVED'  by many...  Matthew left the earth, but remained in our hearts and our lives and continues to grow daily... daily with us.

And then our little Will. our JOY, our LIGHT came into this world through the selfless and admirable love of someone who chose to let him live... our most amazing GIFT of life is now almost 6 years old and I am so honored to be his mommy!  I cannot express how much joy he gives to us.  I found myself learning how  to HOPE AND DREAM again... I remember the day when I realized I get another chance to be a mama!  Could anything be better?  All of the things I had to let go of with Matthew, I could now embrace again!  There would be bedtime stories... and tooth fairies and riding a bike!  And as we are in his 3rd week of kindergarten, I am looking ahead HOPING and DREAMING of what he will  become... how he will grow up... where will he go to college... what kind of car or truck will he want?  He is so tall that everyone always says he should play basketball! (cough, cough... didn't they get my memo?)   He has filled our home with more laughter and complete JOY than I could ever explain!!!

Hopes and dreams... hopes and dreams...

As I was looking around yesterday at the college students and parents, it didn't go unnoticed in my heart that I would never get this experience with Matthew... and it broke my heart all over again.  I know I let go of the hopes and dreams I had for him on earth in a physical way... but my mama heart still longs to hold him again, see a smiley face on his school paper or hug him goodbye as I leave the college campus.  SURREAL. All the while being SO VERY GRATEFUL for the 2 precious boys I have here with me.

There were boxes surrounding the hallway with names and room numbers on them...  There will never be boxes at college with his room number or name... NEVER.  There will never be a campus security guard to check his student ID... NEVER.  Once again, SURREAL...  but all the while SO VERY GRATEFUL for the 2 precious boys I have here with me!

The absence of Matthew, in a physical sense, causes such random and unbearable heartache. I can honestly say that NEVER goes away.  Deep within my heart, I know I will never be able to experience life with him on earth and it stings. Period.

Ronnie looked at Will the other day and said he couldn't believe Will was already almost 6 years old... and then he said, he wished  he would stay 6 forever.  I said, not me... because as much as I don't want him to grow up too fast... I still want him to grow up... because that means he will still be here with me.  I want my boys to grow up... to experience life... to graduate from high school...and yes, I want them to go to college... I want to be all up in their dorm room cleaning and rearranging.... and praying.  I want to kiss them goodbye on the campus before I drive off.... why?  Because growing up is a gift... and I want to have that gift forever.  And one day, after I am gone... I want them to come back to me and Matthew in heaven.

If you have a child going off to college, I hope you know what a gift that is... it is truly a blessing to be able to raise your children.... pray for your children and understand that with each new chapter comes a new heart string...  One that can be pulled from so far away... even from heaven!

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably one of the most read and gifted Bible verses at graduation time and college move in days... it says "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Here's to hope and a good future to each one of you... and here's to hearing "goodbye mom" and then getting a phone call an hour later with a great big "I love you" on the other end!  Here's to the tears as you close the door and drive off campus and here's to the tears as you get the dirty laundry basket at the first visit home!  GIFTS!  THOSE ARE GIFTS!!!

My love and well wishes to all of you kids who are experiencing these fresh new days of college life~ and to you parents, I know hearing "Bye Mom" may be so hard, but I am SO THANKFUL you are getting to experience that with your child.  I haven't been in your shoes yet... but God willing, I will be... 2 times!



Monday, August 6, 2012

My last first day of kindergarten...

Well, it is here..."my last first day of kindergarten!"

I am totally unsure of how I 'feel...'

You see, 7 years ago was my 'last first day of kindergarten too.'

I was supposed to be driving Nathan to his first day of kindergarten with a brand new baby in tow... As you know, there was a beautiful baby, but the only car ride I ever went on with him was to the cemetery.  But in all of my accounts, my plans... I was to have Matthew here with me to take care of and tend to as Nathan went off to his first day of school.  I had nothing in the back seat after bringing Nathan to school.  Nothing.

Tears... oh  my mercy, yes I had tears!  I was completely stressed out to leave my only son I had here on earth in a place that I could not be.  I even thought of homeschooling... for a brief moment, anyway.  But I knew it was best for Nathan to have friends, and field trips and cafeteria lunches...(well... maybe not best for cafeteria lunches, but you know what I mean.)

Taking the first step in letting his hand go that day was extremely difficult.  I had just lost Matthew and I didn't want to 'trust' anyone with my surviving child.  Thank God for his wonderful teacher... Mrs. Perniciaro!  I knew she would love him for me and she did just that!

I was so sick in those days of kindergarten for Nathan.  I remember all of my hair was almost gone and I had to get a wig.  When I would visit the school, the kids would notice and ask me about my hair.  In the midst of all my health issues... hair was just hair!  I could have cared less about hair on my head, hair on a wig, or anything like that.  BUT I needed hair so that Nathan would not see the evidence of just how sick I was.  (My sweet friend, JoAn Nicely at Pink Heart Funds donated my first wig to me... if you have not visited her site, please do! PHF is an incredible non-profit organization!  A lot of people don't realize I was once in need of hair and it was graciously given to me- I donated the wig back to her when my hair grew back and I was no longer wearing it) - However, I did purchase a long hair wig that I kept and bring her out from time to time! :)

My body was so sick and weak.  I was sick and weak.  I missed so much of Nathan's life in those days due to my injuries and the sickness in my body.  My sister would attend field trips.  I don't hesitate to say I was envious that she was able to be with him... but at the same time I was so grateful she was there for him.  It was tough.

Somehow, we survived 'my last first day of kindergarten...'
P.S.- I had a hysterectomy so I couldn't have any more children. This was the only kindergarten I would get!  It would be my first and my last.  So I thought!

BUT... who knew that my last first day of kindergarten would come again?  God knew!!!  And He has given me a REDO with Will!  I am so happy and grateful that it will be ME taking field trips with him this year!  I don't have to stay in the bed because I am so sick!  I don't have to have a 'substitute' for me!  I can be me!  I can be Will's mama!

Lynette was talking to me earlier about how emotional she got sharing how much better I am doing as Will is starting school than when Nathan did.  She was sharing my testimony with Arbonne and that she used to have to do field trips, etc and that this year as Will is starting, she won't have too!  What an emotional moment for me as I understand where I was 7 years ago... thinking it was my last first day of kindergarten and that I would never get to experience the things I missed with Nathan in those early days... well, woo hoo on the kazoo, because Mama has another 'last first day of kindergarten' and I couldn't be happier for that GIFT or the incredible blessing of being Will's mama!

So, now... I still don't know how I 'feel' about all of this... because I 'feel' so grateful, happy, full of joy, and at the same time my heart hurts because my baby is growing up... but I also know how much growing up is so important and that every day he is here with us to grow up is a blessing!  I know I will never get a redo with Nathan in kindergarten, but God sure made a great Nay Nay to take my place during that time... and I will never get to take Matthew to school... but I am taking great delight and having an extra serving of gratefulness as the tears will be different on this 'first last day of kindergarten!'

Tomorrow starts our new adventure!  7th grade and kindergarten!  Whew!  Am I ready?  I don't know... but it is here!  And I certainly am thankful that I get this gift again!

I am signing off a little emotional about looking back on what I thought was to be my last first day of kindergarten and now I am sending Nate off to 7th grade...  what a difference these years have made!

As Will has been preparing this week to go to 'big boy school,' God has been preparing my heart for a new season...a new season of motherhood, a new season of writing, a new season of our Arbonne business and a new season of change.  I embrace it...  I accept it and I challenge myself to be the best wife and mother I can be and remain as pro-active with my health as I can be for them.  They are so worth it!

They are SO worth it! 

I think I am all smiles and then a tear or two falls... but I get to do it again! :)  I get another last first day of kindergarten!  And that dear friends is a miracle, Will is our miracle... and tomorrow my last first day of kindergarten is no less than a blessing from above!  God is such a restoring God!  All the way around!

Here is to a new season and a new last first day of kindergarten!  Gonna smile on that one! :)