Rest in Power

I was excitedly texting a friend Friday night about the new season of “Pen15” when she wrote, “Fuuuuck.” I Haha-ed it and she said, “No. RBG.” “What?!” I texted frantically. “Yeah,” she wrote back. “CNN just reported.” And then the curtain sorta fell. Only it didn’t, because Jerimiah and Jackson had downloaded the new Tony Hawk and were pumped to play it with me. So we played Tony Hawk, while my phone lit up. Text after text. “Can you believe it?!” And “Now what do we do?” I turned my ringer off and tried to master a Kickflip.

I haven’t had the bandwidth to process this and I’m not sure when I will. But it will come. Until then, we answered Jackson’s questions the best we could today. We talked about standing on the steps of the Supreme Court a couple of years ago. Jackson remembered the “big, bronze door” and how we waved to the building, hoping RBG was looking down at us. We watched the RBG documentary on Hulu as a family tonight, then we watched “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, because sometimes you have to laugh when you want to cry.

Jerimiah reminded me not to say Rest In Peace to RBG, after all she’s Jewish, wouldn’t care much for it anyway. I told him I’ll say rest in power then. But the important thing is just that she rests. She did her job, one hellava one at that. And we are so appreciative.

Rest in power, Notorious RBG. We’ll be down here picking up where you left off, and waving like crazy. I hope you can see us.

M.

Friend Funk

Jackson and I have been in a friend funk lately. We’ve been missing our friends, I mean. While we’ve made new ones from going to the pool this summer, the only outing we feel safe doing with other people, we’ve been missing our friends who aren’t near us. Last week Jackson reconnected with a friend from Charlotte, a little girl he went to third and fourth grade with. He was happy and excited, then a little mopey. I asked what was up and he said he misses his Charlotte friends. I agreed and we mourned our losses for a bit and moved on. Well, he did.

I, of course, can’t let it go. I miss my best friend, whom I haven’t lived in the same town with since we were on college. I miss my friends on Lake Norman, I miss my Ozark friends, and I miss my Charlotte friends. I miss my friends I’ve met that have moved far away, living in Rhode Island, in Arizona, in California. This isn’t new, this missing, for me anyway, but it seems exasperated when times are a bit more trying. And I think that’s happening for Jackson now too.

The school board met this week. Decided to keep going virtually for the time being. We are still in “red” as it were. So we wait longer to see people, to make new friends, to reunite with old ones. And we keep missing.

M.

Never Forget

I’ve been unofficially off of Facebook for a week now. I didn’t do anything drastic or dramatic like suspend my account, or deactivate or anything like that. I just stopped logging in and the world didn’t blow up. Of course, this has been a long time coming. Y’all remember back in January when I started limiting myself to fifteen minutes a day? That’s paid off. Really set me up for success for this part. But I did log in yesterday. It was my birthday and I knew my page would be flooded with well wishes, so I logged in last night to comment and thank everyone, and that was about the time the Chiefs’ game started. About the time the “Never Forget” people came out in full force. Then I remembered why I hadn’t logged in for a week. Then I wrote a status and went to bed, sorta full up on birthday wishes, sorta let down by humans again. Life’s a crapshoot these days. Anyway, I’ll share below what I signed off with, but if you do one thing today, please make it be checking your voter registration status. Do it for me. Won’t you?

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

My FB status for 9/11:

I’m heading to bed tonight already being asked to remember that horrific day 19 years ago when thousands of Americans lost their lives on 9/11. Begging me to never forget.

I’m seeing this in between white people complaining that the NFL supports “racial equality” and they “just can’t” support the NFL. I’m seeing true colors shine tonight, and those colors aren’t pretty.

I’m seeing that while I read nearly 200,000 Americans have lost their lives on American soil to COVID-19 in six months.

I’m seeing that the week Homeland Security named white, American, right-wing men the number one terrorist threat to our country.

I’m seeing that as I read 1,100 Black men are murdered by the police in our country every year.

That American police murder 3 people a day, on average.

That thousands of soldiers have lost their lives in the last 19 years. That many thousands more will become wounded and develop such horrific PTSD that they will end their own lives, or the lives of those they love.

I’m seeing all that. Are you?

You’re asking me to never forget. I’m asking you, as I head to bed tonight, to remember too. Every day. Always. All of this. I’m asking you to be a better citizen, a better American, a better human being.

I’m Vintage Now

I had a random memory today of rocking in a rocking chair of my very own when I was little. I’m not sure how old I was, maybe four, and I had on a blue sailor dress and it was my birthday. I’d just plopped down in the rocking chair made for someone like me (a kid) and I rocked and reached television. I’m not sure where the rocking chair came from, but I faintly remember what it looked like so I welcomed the internet in to help search. And I found the one closest to the rocking chair in my memory.

My rocking chair looked like this one. I think it might have been from The Cass Toy Company, at least that’s what internet sleuths before me have said. The company burned down before I was born, but it’s possible, and likely, this was a hand-me-down, or a garage sell find.

Anyway, I’m wishing I had that little chair now. Some of that four-year-olds energy, and just a smidge of that “vintage” charm around here.

By the way, I had to Google “vintage” in order to find this rocking chair from my childhood. What the hell?!

Maybe, probably we are all vintage by this point.

M.

Reset

Geez, sorry you guys. I’ve been a sad sack lately. I think this is just some of that ebb and flow we always talk about with emotions and the world sits with us. I’ve been particularly stressed lately because of starting school, and Jackson starting school, and a few other things I’m not quite ready to talk about on here, but when I am you know I will talk y’all like crazy about them.

Really what I am wishing for right about now is a reset button. Ever wish for one of those? Like when I was a kid and I would realize I was not going to make it back to the top of the Q-bert stack so I’d just reach over and hit restart on the Nintendo. Ahh, that was a good feeling. A do-over. A mulligan. That’s what I need for this week. Maybe this month. Certainly this year.

Let’s all look for that reset button today, okay? Maybe it’s nature? Maybe it’s a walk by yourself listening to your favorite podcast. Maybe it’s a call to your best friend. Whatever it is, find your reset button and hit it for me. Maybe it will reset us all.

Here’s to wishing.

Take care of yourself, and each other.

M.

Storms

It’s another 4:00 am post. I’ve been waking up each night at 3:00 am, and tossing and turning, waiting patiently to fall back to sleep. Last night I read, tonight I’ll write. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just stare blankly at the cracks of light in the curtains until my eye lids get heavy and my breathing slows.

Yesterday would have been my daughter’s ninth birthday. I’m supposed to have a daughter. Jackson is supposed to have a little sister. She should be nine. Playing Minecraft with her brother, asking for dolls, crazy over the Korean pop bands, or maybe just learning how to braid her own hair. I don’t know. I don’t know what daughters do, or like, or how they live.

Tonight I’m stuck in this same spot. I’ve been here before. I’ll be here again. The weather is changing. There’s are two storms coming up the Gulf. And I just don’t know what daughters do. I’m sure I’ll get more time to think about it. I hope I’ll get more time to think about it. Just not at 4:00 am.

M.

For Posterity

I’m in kindergarten and I’m hunkered behind our living room chair, my back against the wood paneling of our living room, and I have my sister’s portable cassette player. No idea where my sister is. There’s a faint sound of the mower in the background. My mother was probably out mowing the front lawn. I’m eating slices of cheese, the Kraft singles kind, only it’s not really Kraft because we couldn’t afford that kind. It’s an off brand yellow cheese and I’m pulling the piece into smaller pieces and sitting them around a plastic Tupperware plate, while the sound of some newsman blares through the recorded cassette tape I am listening to. The back of the chair has a large piece of wood running along it and I have my feet up against that piece of wood.

So there I am, eating my cheese, my back against wood, my feet on wood, listening to a recording that my mother made five years before. It’s a recording of the news from January 20, 1980. An hour after Reagan is inaugurated. It is a recording of the moment Ayatollah released the 52 American hostages from Iran. I am smitten with this recording and listen to it often.

Today, nearly 35 years after my mom made that recording in her small living room apartment on State Street, I have some questions. How did I get my hands on that tape? Did she want me to hear it? Why was I obsessed with a recording of hostages being released at six years old? Why did my mother feel the need to record that in the first place? She was barely pregnant with me the day the American diplomats were flown to Germany to the welcoming embrace of President Jimmy Carter, who had worked for over a year to free them, but just lost the general election and was robbed of the last heroic act of his presidency. What compelled her? Was it the state of the country at the time? Was everyone gathered around their television screens that afternoon, waiting, anticipating, feeling it was their patriotic duty to listen, to record history unfolding, with their American flag newspapers Scotch-taped into their wooden window frames? I can’t be sure. I just don’t know that country. That world. My mother, at that time.

I do know the feeling though. The feeling that what is happening, right now, in the present moment, feels in some way so important that we have to record it, write it, etch it into our collective memory for future generations to dust off and read, listen to, with their cheesy fingers sliding between pause and play, while the voices of those long gone cry and scream in release.

M.

America, Fuck Yeah!

Today is my favorite holiday. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a fuck about our independence, or how wrong (or wronged) our founding fathers were. I don’t give a fuck about our founding fathers. I don’t even like the phrase “Founding Fathers,” it reminds me of that piece of shit “Birth of a Nation” notion and it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Eww. Gross. Stop it.

Today is my favorite holiday cause I like fireworks! Ahhh! They are so pretty. And yeah, maybe they represent the casting off of bombs, and the old ways of war and rebellion, but to me they mean something much more personal. To me they mean summer nights. And summer nights don’t conjure up images of war, or bombs, or even old, white fathers who were super racist and gross. Summer means popsicles, softball, street kickball under the lamppost before my mom whistled for me to come inside. Summer reminds me of cantaloupe and sweaty baseball caps with my hair pulled up tight underneath. It reminds me of backyard camping at a friend’s house, and learning to shoot hoops in the driveway, of catching lightening bugs, and talking on the telephone very late. Summertime reminds me of my childhood, the good parts, the times when I got to feel and act like I kid. The parts where I didn’t worry about things, or people, or how this whole thing would turn out. I just worried if we’d win the game, or I’d get to stay the weekend at Lee Anne’s house, or if someone would take me to a cool fireworks show on the 4th of July. Luckily for me, someone usually did.

So happy 4th of July today, y’all. May this day of freedom and independence conjure up the best of memories for you, and remind you that although this isn’t the way we thought we’d be spending our day today, it could always be worse. At least there’s such a thing as fireworks!

Stay safe and sane out there.

M.

Summer Lovin’

Had me a blast! Summer lovin’ happened so faaaaast! You know the rest. We’ve been watching movies before bed. Sometimes we just fast asleep to “Fresh Prince” or “Bob’s Burgers,” other nights we’ve been introducing the kids to classics like “Teen Wolf” (“Is this supposed to be a comedy?”) and “Uncle Buck” (“What is wrong with that guy?”) and we’ve been talking and thinking about other movies to watch. Rachel and Madi brought their projector with them, so we are trying to decide what to watch for a fun movie, double feature outside one evening, and there is some disagreement. I say we watch “Twister” or maybe “Dirty Dancing”, while Jackson says we should just watch John Oliver, and Madi is like “What about a scary movie?” Yesterday Jackson suggested “Beetlejuice” as a compromise, hellbent that he’d never seen it before. Face to palm. He’s seen it. We watch it every Halloween along with “Hocus Pocus” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost”. This child of mine…

“Grease” came up in conversation however and everyone sort of nodded their heads up and down. “Oh yeah, ‘Grease’ that’s a good one.” Madi has watched it, but Jackson hasn’t. How have I failed him in this manner? Is it as good as I remember? I haven’t seen it in literal years. A decade or more maybe. And I’m in this weird space where I think he will like the cool cars, but does it hold up like the other movies? I’ve been disappointed recently by some old favorites.

So who knows. I’m throwing in the towel. Or maybe it’s caution to the wind. Or maybe it’s none of those things. I’m on the hunt for the perfect place to stick the projector, the rest will work itself out. Fingers crossed the right movie shows itself, and fingers crossed my kid won’t be afraid, or sad, or snapping his fingers while he greases back his hair and sings, “Summer lovin’ had me a blaaaast…”

M.

First Grade

First grade was a trip for me. Mrs. Heim was my teacher, and by then I had developed into a shy child, who was advanced in reading, and a little behind in math. Go figure. I have always heard first grade is tough. Some kids just don’t “get it” yet. Kindergarten didn’t set them up for success, or they were still too young to dive into the “real” work, and maybe that is the case for some kids, but it wasn’t for Jackson. The only real problem in first grade was that I didn’t like his teacher. It wasn’t for any particular reason. She was never rude to me. She liked Jackson. She had been teaching for years and she was smart, straightforward. She wasn’t a beat around the bush kinda gal, and that can come off as abrasive, especially when his kindergarten teacher was the exact opposite.

But mainly I didn’t like her because one of my friends didn’t like her. My friend had subbed for the first grade classes and heard “things” about Mrs. Mattner. She spent the whole summer scaring me. And I fell for it it hook, line, and sinker. And because of that I never gave her a fair shot. But I also never let Jackson hear any of it, and up until this year, fifth grade, if you were to ask him who his all-time favorite teacher is, he would tell you it was his first grade teacher, Mrs. Mattner! He adored her! He thought she was “hilarious.” That was one of the first things she said about him, matter of fact, that she would make some funny joke that the kids weren’t really supposed to get, and Jackson would crack up. That’s when she knew he was “different.”

Like most teachers, Mrs. Mattner was saddled with a mix of kids. It is different here in Georgia. It seems they put kids who are alike together. But in first grade there is a broad stroke of “smart” and some straggling “behavior” issues and while Mrs. Mattner had been saddled with some really gifted kids whose talents were just starting to emerge, like Jackson, there were some kids who weren’t quite there. I didn’t spend much time in that classroom, because I still didn’t really like her, even mid-year (and I had started grad school, and substitute teaching, and I had a GA-ship) but from the things I heard about the classroom, they struggled a bit to get things rolling, but by the end of the year they were pretty close to a cohesive, fun, again really kind and sweet group of kids.

I went on every field trip with this group, and while I did see some of the “behavior” issues that Mrs. Mattner had to deal with, I mainly saw a group of kids that loved each other, supported each other, and said kind things. This was from the top down, no doubt about it. Turns out we were blessed with another awesome set of teachers in Mrs. Mattner and Mrs. Smith, and by May I had realized my errors, apologized to Mrs. Mattner for not trusting her more, and stopped taking things that friend said so seriously. Ehh, you live, you learn.

All in all, first grade was fun, albeit stressful at times, but again Jackson sailed through it, even on our his last field trip, the famed First Grade Zoo Trip, when it rained, oppressively, ALL DAY LONG, Jackson, along with the rest of Mrs. Mattner’s Class were the only kids out there dancing in it. While she yelled to, “Be careful!” and also, “Nice moves!”

Growing pains sometimes hurt, but they always heal.

Thanks, Mrs. Mattner and Mrs. Smith, and the kiddos of first grade. We will always remember you.

M.

Saying hi to Mrs. Mattner in 2nd grade

Kindergarten

My post yesterday was about fifth grade, and Jackson, so I decided to keep a theme this week, since it is the last week of school here in Georgia and start in kindergarten and work my way up. More for posterity for anything else. More because I have a kid that can’t always remember things like his teacher’s names, or who his friends were, and while the last six years has been a little crazy, and we’ve moved a few times, it is all still fresh in my mind, as it is with most parents. If you want to read about my traumatic and awkward kindergarten experience please read this post. I was not a “normal” kindergartner, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever been considered “normal.” And lucky, neither has my kid.

Jackson started elementary school in Branson, Missouri. We applied for the preschool program there and he was accepted, though they did tell us that while he could obviously read, knew his colors and numbers, he didn’t know how to “skip” and also, when instructed to build a tower from blocks, he first sorted the blocks by size and color. We weren’t 100% how to take that. They seemed bothered by it, meanwhile we watched the kid next to him licking the table, so… we just took it that our kid was a little advanced and maybe, I dunno, in the wrong place. He was, and he only did half a year of preschool because of it. We noticed he was not really learning, just picking up bad habits from other kids, so we pulled him out. But his teacher was the sweetest, Mrs. Rosebrough, she was just totally overwhelmed by kids licking tables and still pooping their pants, and when we pulled him she was all, “Yeah, Jackson doesn’t really NEED preschool.” Got it. Glad we payed $500 a month until that point. (Let’s talk about how preschool should be free. Another post? Okay.)

In the summer between preschool and kindergarten we sold a vehicle, our boat, and most of the rest of our shit, packed up a U-Haul, and hauled ass to North Carolina in search of better opportunity, which of course we found, and Jackson settled nicely into a school in a suburban part of Charlotte. He was there from kindergarten until halfway through third grade, when we moved into Charlotte and transferred him into a STEM Charter School. But this is about Kindergarten, so Kindergarten we shall discuss.

Look at this:

This kid of mine was made to go to school. Of course he already knew all the basics of kindergarten, how to read, write, and count, but he was such a social kid, who relied on friendships and fun, and Miss Gamble and Mrs. Turner (the BEST of kindergarten) made the classroom just that. Ms. Gamble was a young teacher, just her second year in the classroom, but she was one of those people who was born to do what she does. She recognized Jackson’s abilities quickly and he became a leader in the classroom. Often sitting in the rocking chair behind him reading stories to his class, which they just thought was the coolest. Kindergarten was a rough year for me, and having that classroom and those people around helped tremendously. I often joke that I grew more than Jackson did that year, because it is true.

This is where Jackson met his first little friends, some he still writes letters to or plays Minecraft with! He showed his true self in those years, and set himself on a path different than many of the kids. A top student, a true leader, a kind friend. Loyal, to a fault, and always, always interested in the cute, little blonde girls. (Eye roll)

This is also where his true fashion began to shine. The kids in that class were unbelievably kind (even if some of the parents were a total nightmare) and that kindness, love, and loyalty was fostered by Miss Gamble. The important thing was being nice, everything else would fall into place she said, and it did. When kindergarten was over we were so upset that Jackson and I literally sat in bed and cried all morning on the first day of summer break. We were so thankful to be part of such a wonderful classroom, and we cherish those memories, still today. We would love to reach out and thank every, single one of those parents, teachers, and kids who welcomed us that year, who made us feel special, and who still want to be part of our lives. We hope you always feel as special as we did.

So there you have it. Kindergarten. Not much to report. My kid got a line straight “S” and “P” or whatever letters they used. He maybe was a little advanced, but he learned that kindness was key, how to stick up for his friends, how to accept others, how to adapt, how to make friends, how to keep friends, and how to feel safe somewhere other than home. It set us up for success for the next five years and we could not be happier. Now for the pictures!

Thanks for reading!

M.

Saying hi to Miss Gamble in 2nd grade

Fifth Grade

I distinctly remember my last day of fifth grade. I remember loading up my desk remnants into my bookbag. Broken pencils, smashed pieces of crayons, and little nubs of erasers falling out all over my area. I remember Mrs. Coughran, my fifth grade teacher, the one who had terrified me on the first day of school, for her direct eye contact and her “strict” reputation. I remember her being a little sad, but also proud. I remember her telling us that we would go on to do great things, all of us. I remember walking through the halls of the elementary school I had walked into as a shy, crying kindergartener. I remember stopping in to see my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, who had taught us about outlining and fractions. I remember Mrs. Heim, my first grade teacher, grabbing me into a big hug and saying how she would miss my smiling face. I remember walking out of the building that day with my friends, waving, proud of what we had accomplished, but so uncertain and sad about what we were leaving, what lay ahead.

Yesterday was Jackson’s last instructional day of classes. In the real world, that would mean the rest of the week would be pure nonsense. Days of fun! Teacher versus Fifth Grade Kickball, a Fifth Grade Day of Fun, a graduation, to promote them to middle schoolers, to recognize their achievements, an all-school awards ceremony, where surely he would clean up. Instead, he logged onto a Zoom call to play a trivia game. (The teachers smoked the fifth graders, by the way, surely not the turnout the kickball game would have had.)

But it was fun. It was nice to see the smiling faces. It was something we’ve become accustomed to over the last two months, and it surely worked so well because of the relationship that had already formed in those seven months together as a cohesive unit. We don’t know at this point what next year will look like, and honestly, we aren’t trying to think too much about it. We are focusing on staying safe, talking to our friends when we can, and planning summer activities to take our minds far from where we are, even if our bodies don’t leave the house. In short: This has been different than what we expected, but we learned how to adjust our expectations. We learned to adapt. We learned, and isn’t that what school is all about?

Today Jackson is working on a letter to the fifth graders next year, a rite of passage the kids get on the first day. They get to read advice from the kids who sat in their seats the year before, they get let in on secrets, and jokes, and advice on how to get through fifth grade. He’s taking it seriously. He knows the importance of being a fifth grader, of being a leader, and he knows now, that not everything happens the way we wanted it to, or planned it to, and that’s okay. We will all be okay.

Hope you are okay today.

M.

Just Jackson!

Jackson’s teacher is cooking up something cool for the end-of-year festivities next week and he asked for baby pics of all the kids. This sent me down memory lane, as one goes from time to time, and I ended up staring at pictures of my son in various stages of his life and well, he’s just so adorable I decided to share. Each picture has a special story of course, so I am writing what I remember about that picture in the caption. If you are not into baby pics I’d skip the rest of this blog and come back when I’m having a breakdown, or trying to tear down the system, or something like that. For those of you who do like baby pics, enjoy! Ps… all this end-of-elementary-school stuff got me like, “WHYYYYYY?!” Expect a post of elementary school pics this week too.

Jackson was just a few weeks old when I snapped this. He was laying in his basinet staring at this damn bird, which I had picked up when I was pregnant because I read that babies liked colorful things. He would stare at this bird for long periods of time, and it had to come everywhere with us. His stroller, his carseat, sometimes when he would have a fit (he was colicky) this was the only thing he wanted. That or turning on the vacuum. Bizarre.
He was just learning how to stand up while holding onto things around this time, and he sauntered over to Bentley who was sleeping on the green couch in the picture. His favorite thing to hold on to was her tail! She hated it, but would usually let him, until she’d jump down and run away. In this instance she jumped down to run away and he had a FIT because he wanted to grab her tail. This is the beginning of that tantrum.
Rocks. I let him eat rocks. Listen, that’s probably bad. But he didn’t have any teeth to speak of, and it was his first time at the lake, and he had just learned how to sit up all by himself. So it was a celebration of sorts. Plus, he didn’t really eat them, he just sucked the mud off of them, geesh, leave me alone.
This was his first time at Silver Dollar City, and we were on the train. He thought it was absolutely awesome, until the train whistle blew. It took us years to get him back on it after that. When he was five he still refused to get on that damn train. It was just too loud!
This was right after his first birthday party. He had very few toys before his birthday party, then our house exploded. People kept telling me not to buy him toys because his birthday would change it all, and they were right! One of his gifts was a gift card to The Disney Store, so we took him shopping after his party and he picked out this Woody doll and it was his most favorite for years.
This is one of my favorites! I was putting make-up on (back when I still did that) and he came in the bathroom and asked to join me. So I put him on the counter and gave him a make-up brush and hilarity ensued. He loved to look at “the baby in the mirror” and tell him hello and make faces. This was one of those times.
This was another first birthday present. A friend of ours bought it and when he opened it he didn’t care about any other presents. He even had a meltdown because we wouldn’t let him stop opening presents and play on his “Mickey Plane” which he just called, “Mimmy Ma.” Not sure about the elephant hat, but this seems like it was just a normal day around our house. Daddy was at work, I was trying to do something, figure out dinner, work on homework, line up some play dates, and he was just being Jackson. I miss those days dearly.
Ahh, the old nap time routine. So he got to the point, as most little ones do, where he liked to refuse a nap. I didn’t care what happened, he knew that everyday at “nap” time he would go into his room and close the door. If he slept, cool. If not, well, we all hoped that he slept. He would scream, “Not tired” from the bedroom, throw toys, try to talk to joggers out his window, etc, etc. Then suddenly it would be quiet. I would open the door to sneak a peek and usually find this: A disastrous room and him asleep anywhere but his toddler bed. As long as he had “Cloud Blanket” he was fine.
There’s so much to say about this seemingly mundane picture! First thing, that is Bentley in the background. She had just eaten an entire box of Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats (you can see one on his shorts in the pic). They were his favorite snack, and he brought the box out for our “picnic” which was just sitting out on the front lawn before it was going to storm that day. When he tried to sit in this unsteady chair (duck duck chair) with the entire box, he fell onto the ground and the box poured out. Bentley was there quicker than a flash, and while I was consoling a sad Jackson she ate what she could, which was most of it. I suspect she had a tummy ache later. Then there’s the red Crocs. Listen, these shoes were a gift from our cousin Alycia, who would babysit him sometimes when Jerimiah and I had night classes at Missouri State (see cup, Go Bears!). She was the only family member we had in Branson at the time, and she loved Jackson so much. She was a middle school math teacher in Branson (still is!) and she would teach him all kinds of cool things. But the day she brought him those shoes is a day that will live in our minds forever. He refused to take them off. Thus began the “red Crocs” phase that lasted literal months. Months of fighting about taking those shoes off. Months of “We aren’t going anywhere” and “They stink I have to wash them.” It was gross. He eventually could not put them on his feet anymore and that was the worst day ever. We never found another pair that he liked, and eventually he grew out of Crocs (thank goodness) but man, that was torture. Thanks Alycia! 🙂
Another gift. This kid was gifted all the time! This one came from Aunt Sissy (my sister Khristi). We were visiting for Thanksgiving and she said for Christmas she wanted to buy him one of these Cozy Coupes. All her boys had one when they were little and she said it was a must have. We were like, okay, cause sure why not. Oh my goodness! It is safe to say the “Mickey Plane” was no longer a thing. This Cozy Coupe spent the next SEVERAL years in our lives, and the day we gave it away was one of the saddest days. He actually could not fit into it anymore, I think he was five years old and he tried and tried to fit into it to prove that we should keep it, but alas. By that point he had moved on to Power Wheels anyway, but still, that is how much we loved this damn Cozy Coupe. Get your kids a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (there’s a million different cool ones out there now.) You won’t regret it! Thanks, Aunt Sissy! This is just one of about a billion photos I have with this damn car in it. I could do a whole Cozy Coupe post…
You guessed it, another gift. I think the real thing here is that we were super poor, and people felt sorry for us. Yeah, that must have been it. We were two twenty-somethings with a baby, both in college, and J was working a full-time job and bartending on weekends, so yeah, people gifted Jackson cool shit that we would never buy because we were too busy buying diapers and wipes. PawPaw bought this here John Deere lawnmower and it actually made grass-cutting and gas-chugging noises. Like for real! And this kid of mine would go out everyday that he could and “cut the grass,” even when it was the middle of winter and there was no “grass” to be cut. Also, let’s talk about this shirt. I thought it was adorable when I bought it, I mean it was like a 2T shirt, and he was a little boy, and… It’s pretty disturbing. “Lock Up Your Daughters” eww. Good thing my kid isn’t that kind of guy you need to lock up your daughter from, and I dunno, shame on me for buying it, and shame on Children’s Place for selling it. (It had to be Children’s Place because he only got new, “fancy” shit like that from the consignment store or Children’s Place sales with their 40% off coupons they mailed out.) #KnowBetterDoBetter
I stand corrected. I distinctly remember pulling this suit off the Kohl’s clearance rack the winter before this picture was taken. So the off-season shit on Kohl’s clearance rack was the actual bomb. I want to say I paid like $6 for this seersucker suit, that as you can see, ended up being his Easter attire. And this could be when his love of suits first surfaced, because this is another item of clothing he refused to take off, and he would randomly ask for the suit jacket to wear with his diaper around the house. Oh no. I did this to him. Kohl’s off-season clearance rack and me.
Seersucker suit, mount up! Another day, another cool shirt. I guess I spent all our money on punny shirts and shit. Listen, this is one of my favorite pics of toddler Jackson, not because he was sporting his suit pants and a cool shirt, but rather because I remember snapping this picture. I remember the scratch on his nose was from his own fingernails that he refused to let me cut (we had to hold him down when it was fingernail cutting time, it was a whole thing and I hated doing it) and we had just scored that bomb-ass kitchen in the background from a woman on Craigslist for $10 and it was HIS favorite, especially because he had been playing with a “kitchen” that I made out of cardboard boxes for months. I told y’all we was real poor! I love everything about this picture. It isn’t perfect, but we were and are far from perfect. He had been teething around that time (you can see his pearly whites) and we were not sleeping, but he was so happy in this picture. And his hair! Look at those curls. They were freshly washed, that’s how you can tell he was clean! Ha! His curls came out. And last but not least, we had just found out that we were pregnant, and we were about to tell the family that day. I was pregnant with Lydia when I took this picture and we had told Jackson and well, it was a good day. Our friend Melody knew how much I loved this picture and had her photographer dad blow it up for us, and print it in black and white (except for his blue eyes), and it was the cornerstone of our fireplace for many moons. It will always be my favorite.

You're Killin' Me Smalls

Jackson is playing baseball* for the first time since he played t-ball at age four. Back then it was adorable and exciting. Back then it didn’t matter so much about the game, but about teaching simple skills like wearing a glove, and not picking flowers, and cheering on your teammates. I remember the first time someone hit the ball and the whole team went running to it to “catch it first” and the batter was so excited he ran out to the infield to celebrate with them, rather than to going to first base. Seriously, seriously cute.

The league we are playing on isn’t a competitive, year-round, $5,000 league. Thankfully we found one sponsored by a local church where the parents say things like, “Listen, no one here is going pro.” That’s what I like to hear, because let’s be real, the chances of your kid “going pro” in any sport are the same as my kid getting accepted into MIT and me not having to pay for it, it ain’t gonna happen, and the sooner you realize that, the better the experience is for everyone involved. And trust, I’m not saying this because my kid sucks, cause he doesn’t. He seems to have a natural ability toward baseball, not like soccer, where he had to work at it, and work at it, each season to get just a little bit better. We’ve been practicing in the backyard to get ready for this season for about three weeks now and he’s pleasantly surprised us. He isn’t gonna be the best kid on the team, but he might actually make some good, solid plays this season, and we are excited to see what he does.

All this talk about baseball has brought up all the memories for Jerimiah and me. We didn’t realize how excited we would be when/if Jackson ever decided to play, but we are WAY excited. Remember how I said we’ve been practicing for weeks now. Yeah, we didn’t do that for soccer. He never wanted to, and we never wanted to, and we were like, “ehh.” We like to watch soccer, but not play it. Meanwhile, he’s been running in from school asking to “hit a few balls” in the backyard and I’m super pumped about it.

That’s when Jerimiah and I started to share stories of our baseball/softball days and we blew his mind with how much we played. I even have an old scrapbook filled with pictures, and newspaper clippings from when I was a kid (thanks to my mom for clipping them out each game, and underlining my name, and our coaches for actually writing them up and submitting them for girls’ league softball). For real, we had the best coaches and parents (including my best friend’s dad and sister, who pretty much rocked, even though they made LeeAnne and me run laps when we were messing around). Check this out:

Oh trust, there are more of this bad boys, for several years, this was just the first season I played. But we won’t share them now. They deserve their very own post with accompanying pics.

So this is our first week of Robotics, Honor Band Practice, Baseball Practice, then bed. Our nights are as full as they can get right now, but Jackson is learning some valuable lessons. Sure, he’s learning to square up home plate and “elbows up,” but he also learning about time management, that practice makes progress, and that there are some things you just can’t half-ass. In short, it’s the stuff he’s learning off the field that will pay in dividends. But isn’t that how it usually goes.

Good luck this season to the Braves (Jackson’s team, not the Atlanta Braves, though I guess good luck to them too!) We can’t wait to see how proud you are of yourselves!

M.

*Edit: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and then forgot about it when shit hit the fan. I wrote it back when life still felt “normal-ish” and I was optimistic that there would be a baseball season. Turns out the baseball season follows the school calendar, so the chances of us playing this year are slim, but Jackson still likes to practice in the backyard, and for that I am grateful. I still wanted to share this story though, for the reason I write most of this shit, for posterity. But for real, stay in your home, don’t go play baseball with the neighborhood kids.

City Living

I’ve always been partial to living in the city. So close that I can feel the heartbeat of the place. I never knew why. I was born and raised in a small town in Kansas. At least that’s what I tell people, but since I’ve left Leavenworth I’ve realized how much it wasn’t a “normal” small town, like other places I have lived since. Or like the place my husband grew up, or friends who tell me stories about the same 25 kids they went from elementary through high school with. When I was growing up in Leavenworth I felt stifled. But I’m learning it was more about my fear of never breaking the poverty cycle. Of never striking out to other places, meeting new faces, tacking chances. I didn’t want to fall in a rut, stay put, never grow as a person.

But Leavenworth itself wasn’t too bad of a place to grow up in. There was plenty of diversity and culture (for Kansas anyway) and it was a short 20 miles to Kansas City (Missouri or Kansas, take your pick). It had museums (if you took the time to find them), multiple elementary, middle, and high schools. Private and public. It had Fort Leavenworth, the Federal Penitentiary, and we were a cool 20-minute drive the other way to the University of Kansas. It was actually an okay place.

And because my mother rarely had a car when I was very young, we walked a lot of places. Which meant we were always near the places we needed to get to with regularity. The bank, the grocery store, the hospital (just in case) and my school. Which also means we were usually in the heart of the city. In fact, one of the coolest places we ever lived (in my opinion) was in this large house half a block from the main artery in Leavenworth, Highway 7, aka 4th Street. Here I am, standing in the front yard in an awesome bathing suit (probably had me a kick-ass Slip ‘n Slide).

I think I’ve shared this pic before, but for a different reason. Trying to figure out who that truck belonged to (I’m pretty sure it was my sister’s friend Shane) and how/why we had a Polaroid camera. Might have been Shane’s too, as she was obviously very rich with a vehicle and what not.

The house sat diagonally, as you can see, from Burger King. It also shared an alley with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where my sister worked in high school, and Taco Johns was just across the street. Why yes, I do have a weight problem, but no, I have no idea why. Also, that BK had the most KICK-ASS play place, with a ball pit! A Ball Pit! Outside! I mean yeah, it makes me shake with nervousness just thinking about it now, and I’m compulsively dowsing hand sani all over my body, but it was pretty awesome in 1987. And I’m pretty sure my mom would scrape change together on nice afternoons, enough to buy a Diet Coke, and we’d walk over, and she’d sit and sip Diet Coke while I played all afternoon in the ball pit with whatever random kids happened over. So it was sort of like my own personal jungle gym. Cool. Maybe that’s why my pain threshold is so high?

McDonalds had the only indoor play place, with one of those really cool slides and that Hamburgler-Jail thing. So when it was cold, she’d scrounge up enough change for a cup of coffee and a Happy Meal, and we’d walk the extra half mile to McDonalds to play.

I’ve spun off topic. Imagine that.

I lived in the heart of the city. That’s my point, but I’ve lived in the country too. And fallen asleep to the sound of the lake, or the sound of the frogs chirping, or the crickets singing, or the Meth heads next door out at three am looking for their horse that got loose (true story). The country is nice, for awhile, but it just isn’t my thing.

I like the bustle of the city. The ease of public transportation. The events that are always happening. The people to watch. I like the way that, if I fall asleep with my windows open on a cool, crisp spring night here in the Atlanta metro, I can be lulled to sleep by the train, or the ambulance sirens speeding to the Perimeter. It’s not the Burger King play place, but it will rightly do.

Enjoy wherever your home is right now. Just make sure to stay there until it’s safe to go out again.

M.