The Big 5

28 03 2013

5th Birthday Present

5th Birthday Present

Dearest Jason,

I can’t believe you’re five today! I believe times passes quicker the older I get. A day in your life can last for 50 hours; in mine, it lasts for only 10.

I love experiencing life through your eyes. Your wonder of rocks and sticks that has led to the growing “rock garden” in my classroom. Your favorite pocket in your winter jacket where you stash your favorite sticks which may really turn out to be light sabers in disguise. Your sadness and tears at having to part with the twelve pounds of rocks your extended care teacher bagged up for you to take home. I smile at it all.

You can make me smile and laugh like no other. Ever since you first tried out, “Mommy, can I have a sucker since you’re so nice and lovely?” you had me.

My favorite memories from this year are many.
•Wanting to be “bathtized” just you could get your own piece of communion bread.
•Your first yearbook picture followed by a retake that lasted for 10 minutes and required multiple bribes and ended with a long line of frustrated students behind you.
•Learning how to draw and write.
•Your numerous and memorable drawings on my classroom whiteboard, my favorite being “Mommy on Fire Flying Up to Heaven.”
•Starting school at FRA and being so upset many days when I came to pick you up because you were having so much fun.
•Your declining fascination with Tomas the Train and growing obsession with Legos and Star Wars.
•Your ability to out-eat me on pancakes any day.
•Your “forever hugs.”
•Teaching the rest of us prayers to “The Addams Family” and “Superman” theme songs. (Thank you, Ms. Karen!)



To my mid-night smuggler, banana thief, pancake maniac, sweet talker, light saber wielding Padawan, stick collector, rock treasurer . . . I pray you will be stubborn for goodness and righteousness. I pray you will always remember to seek God when you feel scared or sad, lost or alone. I pray you will be known as a friend to all, kind and generous, gracious and compassionate. I pray you will always be ready to forgive and equally ready to apologize. I pray you will be as your name: a healer; a healer of hearts and souls.

I love you to the sky and back, but God loves you even more. Never forget that, little one.


“Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name.”
-Psalm 103:1

"Mommy on Fire Flying Up to Heaven"

“Mommy on Fire Flying Up to Heaven”


This Is Why You’re Not Getting a Christmas Card From Us This Year (or maybe ever again)

6 12 2012

No More Christmas Cards explains how we came to our decision to NOT send Christmas cards this year.

So, the winner of what would have been our Christmas money was Safe Haven Family Shelter, by almost a 3-1 vote.  I was introduced to Safe Haven almost two years ago, and since then, both Caleb and Jason have joined me on various occasions to help provide dinner for the residents.

Besides the money issue, the other reason you are not getting a Christmas card from us is because this is it!  SURPRISE dear readers!  We’re going all-digital this year.

Many of you keep up with us via Facebook anyway, so you already know our year in review.  For those who don’t, here you go:

The Huddleston 2012 Year in Review

Matthew continues to teach physics and launch high altitude balloons at Trevecca Nazarene University.  He loves his job, and even took on the challenge of hosting a national high altitude balloon conference at TNU in June.

He finished his first (and possibly, probably, hopefully last) full marathon in April.  His goal was an ambitious 4:00, but he made it around 4:25.  This is incredibly impressive considering he only “trained” once each week . . . most of the time.

He has also completed several mud runs, the latest rage in running races around the country.  Now that he’s in a new age bracket, he will probably start placing and winning some nice prizes.

On a heavier note, Matthew’s dad, Mark, was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.  He had surgery just a few days after.  The doctors thought they got all of the cancer, but subsequent tests showed a spot on a lymph node.  He is currently undergoing chemo therapy once every two weeks for six months.  His doctors remain very optimistic, but we’d still appreciate your prayers for complete healing and for strength and endurance for Mark and Martha during this time.

Kelly (me) continues to teach technology and journalism/graphic design at Franklin Road Academy.  I also love my job.  I did NOT do a ½ (or full) marathon this year, and I feel great!  Triathlons are my new thing (My First Triathlon).  Having successfully finished three of them, I can no longer qualify for placings in the Beginner category.  However, being really a really weak swimmer, mediocre bicyclist, and slow runner, I wouldn’t qualify for placings in any category anyway.  Maybe when I’m 80 and still doing triathlons will I win something.

Gourmet cupcakes are my newest indulgence so if you are ever looking for a gift . . .  (I also love chocolate and a good extra sharp cheddar cheese.)  However, I really need to be eating more fruit and vegetables, so a membership in some sort of fruit-of-the-month club would be a better gift.

Matthew and Kelly’s (our) international trip this year took us to Nicaragua in July.  We met another one of the kids we sponsor through Compassion International.  Always an eye-opening, life-changing event, you can read about it here:  Open My Eyes.  You can also read about the amazing amount of fun hell we had as we hiked a volcano on Ometepe Island.

Next year’s trip is another once-in-a-lifetime trip:  india!  For three weeks we will traverse a good chunk of the country in June.  The first 10 days or so will be spent in Chennai and traveling up the Indian Ocean coast of south eastern India, mainly to visit two more kids they sponsor through Compassion International (link) as well as spend some time with a friend who pastors a church in a small village there.  During the second half of the trip, we will get to play tourist:  visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants and camels in the dessert, visit Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, and take a boat tour along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the heart of the Hindu culture.  Expect great blog posts to come from this adventure.

Other big news for 2012 included placing membership in a new church, Priest Lake Christian Fellowship.  Our former home church group, the Gathering, fizzled out as families found new churches around the Nashville area, so we started looking, too.  Being less than a mile from our home was a great benefit, but the people were the main draw.  We have never been to a more humble church where the Holy Spirit is so alive and thriving among its members.  It’s inspiring and challenging and moving each week.

Caleb is in fourth grade at Franklin Road Academy and continues to love school and excel in his academics.  To brag on this child for a moment, he has yet to receive a B in any term grade since he started PK.  He’s got his Daddy’s brains and aptitude for math and building things.  Caleb continues to love all things Star Wars, but his Pokemon obsession (thank goodness!) has come to an end.  If you know of anyone interested in buying a 700+ card Pokemon collection, please let us know.

Caleb’s newest obsession is legos.  The kid lives and breathes legos, which we are fine with.  He actually builds some really cool things, like a working flashlight—complete with an on/off lever and working bulb.

Caleb is also learning to play the recorder and trumpet, and we (as in Kelly) are trying desperately (and futilely) to get him to sing “This Song is Just Six Words Long” by Weird Al Yankovic in the Fourth Grade Variety Show in January.  Weird Al is another recent obsession of Caleb’s, and being the cool parents we are, for his birthday we bought him tickets to see Weird Al in concert in April when he comes to Nashville.

Caleb is a Webelo scout this year, and is a popcorn selling machine!  He sold over $1500 to win first place again in his cub scout pack.  He won an archery set, 8% of his total sales in cash, a $50 Walmart gift card, an LED head lamp, a patch, Predators’ tickets, and a trophy.  (Don’t get me started on winning trophies for something like selling popcorn.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of the practice.)

Caleb’s most exciting adventure this year, though, was his ER trip that led to a hospital stay for a couple of days at the end of August for pneumonia.  Despite this bump in the road, we are still tremendously blessed.  His asthma and allergies have plagued him something fierce this fall, much worse than normal.  We have an appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist next week so we are praying for something to help manage this better.

Jason started preK at FRA this year, and is loving it.  Being the second child, we did not work with him on things like the alphabet, drawing, writing, or reading much (hardly at all) before he started school.  Thankfully, the kid has a mind like a sponge and is taking off in the writing and reading department.  He also loves to draw.

Jason, too, is obsessed with Star Wars and legos.  At three he could recite entire scenes from Star Wars.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed by this.  Did I mention he was three at the time?  The kid can build lego creations with the best of them . . . well, maybe not a working flashlight yet, but he can build really cool spaceships, race cars, jails, mouse traps, and monsters.

Jason and Caleb took their first official swimming lessons this summer.  Lesson 1 involved Jason crying and screaming for the full 45 minute session.  He had snot running out of both nostrils to his belly button when I picked him up.  He only cried for about 15 minutes of lesson 2, and by lesson 3 he was actually excited to go.  Now, of course, the kid is terrified to put his head in the water, which reminds Kelly of herself as a child forced to take swimming lessons.

Packer, our dog, continues to love to eat anything that falls on the floor including baby spit-up (true story) as well as grass to later make herself throw-up said baby spit-up.  She loves to sleep during the day and wake us up around 4:00 a.m. to pee and play.

Finley Bubbles the VIII, our beta fish, didn’t last the year.  At this time, we are uncertain if we will buy Finley Bubbles the IX.

Hopes and prayers for 2013:

  • Good health for everyone
  • A safe and amazing trip to India
  • Jobs we love
  • Caleb and Jason would continue to grow and mature in their faith, following Christ
  • Matthew and Kelly possibly beginning a new Marriage Builders home church group
  • Kelly hopes to begin working on her MBA at Trevecca in the fall

As we reflect back and look forward, may we always remember WHY we celebrate.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:14

Love and prayers to all,
the Huddleston Family

PS.  If any of you find yourselves in Nashville and need a place to stay, we’ve got plenty of room and love house guests.

Things That Make Me a Bad Parent (Part II)

26 10 2012

A year ago, I posted Things That Make Me a Bad Parent.  After a discussion with some of my students today, I realized I needed to update my list.

  1. I laughed out loud when I saw Jason’s first yearbook photo.  It was taken seconds before a full-blown meltdown.  His face was contorted, his eyes red and puffy, his hair disheveled.  I still laugh whenever I look at it.
  2. I will save the photo from item #1 for his senior yearbook ad in 14 years.  I may also use a photo taken last year of an epic sneeze that ended with snot from both nostrils hanging down to his belly button.
  3. I often tell Jason I can’t read him a bedtime story because my throat hurts.  This is usually a lie.  I just don’t like reading out loud.  I will, however, sing to him and pray with him before bed.  Daddy gets story time.
  4. If Caleb complains about a meal, his punishment for the next day is to consume nothing but bread and water.  Yes, we really have done this.  Yes, it’s quite effective.  However, if we have Publix bakery bread or any of Matthew’s homemade bread products in the house, it’s really not a punishment.
  5. My kids can quote any Star Wars movie.  The entire script.  They will kick your butt at Star Wars trivia.  Did I mention Jason is only four?  Yes, he’s seen all six Star Wars movies at least 500 times each.
  6. Jason knows most of the lyrics to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.  Hilarious, but not really age-appropriate.  Thankfully, they don’t get most of the grown-up jokes.
  7. I cuss in front of my kids.  Darn it!
  8. I throw away 99% of their art projects from church and school.
  9. New iPad?  Kids . . . what kids?
  10. I will undoubtedly eat at least half of their Halloween candy but claim that I gave it to the school counselor for the candy jar in her office.

I still do plenty of things right.  Jason brings me rocks from the playground on a regular basis, and I now have “Mommy’s Rock Garden” on the ledge of the whiteboard in my room.  I play light sabers and legos.  We collect leaves and poke at bugs together.  Jason and I still snuggle at nap time, and I encourage Caleb to practice his recorder in the van on the way to school—30 minutes of “Hot Cross Buns” anyone?  We pray a lot, we laugh a lot, we hug a lot, we love a lot.

To My 4-Year-Old Blessing

28 03 2012

Jason - at Central Park in NYC, March 2012. Notice the cloud over his left shoulder looks like a heart.

To My 4-Year-Old Blessing,

You turned four this morning at 12:34 a.m.  I have to record these memories now, before I forget all the details (or before the story changes too much from what really happened).

You were due on the 20th, just like your brother, but arrived eight days late, just like your brother, and on the 28th of the month, just like your brother.  That’s pretty much where the similarities end.   

There is so much I could write about, but this will simply be the story of your birth. 

While you hung around in my womb for an extra week and then some, once you decided you wanted out, you wanted OUT!  NOW!

I was at the doctor the afternoon of your birth, and I was apparently having contractions every few minutes that I was not feeling.  At.  All.  The nurse was amazed.  I went home, had dinner, took the dog on a walk with my mom, and then I finally started feeling those twinges of contractions later that evening.

You daddy was busy working on getting his grades entered as they were due the very next day, and finally around 10:00 p.m. we decided to head to the hospital.  We stopped to return a movie on the way.

I had a hard time standing by the time we got to the ER, and the staff at check-in was in no particular hurry with me.  Daddy made it up to my room before I did.

The doctor, not my regular OB-GYN, but another from his office, checked me, and I was dilated a measly 5 centimeters.  If all went well, I figured I had a good 4-5 hours of painful contractions ahead of me.

I didn’t want any drugs; I wanted to do this naturally.  However, less than an hour later, I was in unreal pain and asked for the anesthesiologist.  The thought of enduring that much pain for several more hours was not appealing to me.  I had given birth to your brother without drugs, so I felt that I didn’t really have anything to lose by getting an epidural.  (Although, I really knew that if I caved and got an epidural I would have been disappointed with myself later.)

I was checked again while the anesthesiologist was taking my history, and I was now dilated to 8 centimeters.  No wonder the pain had intensified exponentially in such a short time!  It was also too late at that point for me to receive an epidural.  I was checked again about 15 minutes later and heard the sweetest words a woman can hear during labor, “You are ready to start pushing.”

It was just over an hour since we had checked in, and I was at 10 centimeters and ready to go.  I think I pushed for maybe three minutes, and out you came.  A resident at Vanderbilt was actually the one who delivered you.  I was glad that your birth provided experience to a new doctor.  (How else are they going to learn?)

You were 6 lb. 9 oz. and 19.5” long, a tiny little one.  I was amazed at how much you looked like your brother, but I actually thought that when I saw your ultrasound.  You also had the famous Huddleston mole on the left side of your forehead.  All Huddleston males–at least in Daddy’s immediate family for the past two generations–have a mole somewhere on them (so I have been told.)

You are also the second son of a second son of a second son of a second son of a second son—five generations!  (No pressure for when you start a family.)

Some of my favorite memories from your third year:

  • You say Dark Vader.  I tried to correct your pronunciation to Darth Vader (focusing on the “th” sound).  Your response was, “Well, but he is dark.”
  • You can make light sabers out of anything:  sticks, toothpicks, screws, straws, q-tips . . . anything.
  • After seeing several people get baptized at church in a Jacuzzi-type-tub, you began to refer to it as being bathtized.
  • Your memory is amazing, especially in retelling Bible stories.  One night at dinner, Daddy and I were talking about helpers.  You broke in with, “Jesus had 12 helpers.  They were . . .” and you proceeded to name all 12 disciples.  We had no idea you even knew this, but you learned it from the Bible story/song CD you listen to at bedtime.
  • You also need the least sleep of all of us, so it seems.  You can go to bed at 11:00 p.m. and be raring to go at 6:00 a.m.  Every. Day.  While not a favorite memory, it’s still something I won’t forget.
  • You request “the dancing song” almost every night before bed time.
  • Your favorite meal time prayer is “Share and Share.”
  • You LOVE to sing! One of your favorite songs is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” You also do a hilarious rendition of Styx’s “Renegade.”
  • You still love trains, but they are slowly being replaced by all things Star Wars.
  • You heard Daddy and me talking about the gathering (our house church group).  You broke in excitedly and said, “I want to go to the gathering.”  Then you proceeded to sing the chorus to Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” “a gathering of angels appeared above my head . . .”

There you go, my sweet, silly, train loving but not as much since Star Wars entered your life, light saber obsessing, fierce, head strong, stubborn, hilarious, ready to go at the crack of the sun’s first ray of light, song singing (especially at meals), Bible storytelling, strawberry eating, come play with me begging, midnight snuggler.

I love you with everything that is in me.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
-Psalm 103:1