Teaching Cursive

Jackson and I were going through his registration packet for middle school yesterday and we got to a page he needed to sign. It was about attendance, being on time for school and each class. He read over it, then grabbed the pen. He stopped short of signing and said, “Can I print?” My instinct was to say no, it asks for your signature. So that’s what I said. Then I offered to write his name in cursive so he could see, and he could copy what I did. I immediately thought those thoughts many people have. Why have they not taught our kids cursive?! Then he said, “Mommy, I just don’t understand why when it says to ‘sign’ your name, it has to be cursive. Why is it that way?” Then I answered the answer I hate, “That’s how it’s always been.” He shook his head and signed a very long, careful signature that, in all honesty, doesn’t have shit to do with literally anything. Literally. Whether or not my rising-sixth grader can sign his name in cursive matters not to a damn person. To a damn thing. And why is it even a thing? And why are people so bent out of shape that learning cursive is not a priority anymore. I would have much rather not learned cursive as a third grader, and instead been pushed to actually learn how fractions work. Or how to play a musical instrument, or how to speak Spanish. I could give two shits that I know how to write just one language in two different ways. Why wasn’t I instead taught how to write in two different languages?!

Okay, whew. I didn’t realize I was so mad about this, but the truth of the matter is, it’s ridiculous what we put on our teachers. It’s ridiculous how little they are paid, how much they do, and now how they will LITERALLY be putting their lives at risk to help you “get back to work” and yet people still have the audacity to say shit like, “Well my kid isn’t learning cursive!” Get your shit together, y’all. Our kids are learning how to hide in closets in case masked gunman storm their classrooms. They are listening to a man run our country into the ground while he says things like, “I like to grab ‘em by the pussy.” They are watching their angry adults say hurtful things like, “All lives matter,” deciding if they can deal with the stress of wearing masks at schools or virtual learning, meanwhile you’re mad that our teachers are pushing back. That our local and state officials want to get this all right the first time so it’s taking longer to get answers to you, and yeah, some of y’all are still mad your kid or grandkid isn’t learning cursive. Get the fuck outta here with that. If you want your kids to learn cursive, teach them. You have no problem teaching them how to hunt or fish, which is as useless today as writing in cursive. You have no problem teaching them how to shoot a gun, how to hate someone not like them, how to go sit in a church pew. Teach them cursive. And give the teachers a fucking break, you couldn’t do their job if your life depended on it, meanwhile our lives do depend on teachers. Because without them, who knows where your kid would be. Where you would be. So shut up, sit down, and vote for schools, for teachers, for education, every, single time.

M.

Heading Home

We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.

So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!

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.

The Portrait

This is a short, necessary story. Yesterday my husband and son made a quick trip over to the Tulsa area to meet up with my father-in-law. I didn’t go for a multitude of reasons, which means I wasn’t there to see my son drive his papa’s 1970 Chevy Blazer all over Hell’s creation. I wasn’t there to see him shoot the 45-magnum revolver. But I did get to hear about how his ears were still ringing when he got home. And lastly I wasn’t there to say, “Ohhh, no thanks,” when Jerimiah was sent off with this creepy portrait that his Uncle JR (Jackson and Jerimiah’s namesake) had commissioned of a preschool Jerimiah in 1985. What’s that? Yeah, that’s a for real thing.

There you go. Now we have this portrait, the same one I had nightmares of the first time I saw, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to hang it over our fireplace because why not? Why not indeed.

Have a safe, creepy-portrait-free day, y’all.

M.

Church

I woke up thinking about church today. Probably because it’s Sunday, certainly not because I’m a churchgoer. I’ve never been a churchgoers. I was never forced to go to church as a child, never had religion thrust upon me. My mom used to say she’d let her kids decide what to believe, though she herself was a Christian, it didn’t much matter back then what we believed in, as long as we were good, kind people. And we are. All of us. But we maybe didn’t go the path she expected.

I’m married to an atheist. The good kind. He doesn’t need a higher power to keep him in line. He likes to say that he does all the raping and pillaging he wants to, which is zero. He isn’t “acting” good in this life for fear of what the next will hold. He’s a good person because he’s a good person.

I’m in a “complicated” relationship with Jesus. God, well, I’m not a fan. But Jesus seemed cool, the man Jesus anyway. But even on my best days I can’t wrap my mind around church. Around organized religion. Too much hate, judgement, and evil takes places in many of those four walls, and I’ll pass. I’ll get my “church” the old-fashioned way, walking with Jesus alone, communing with nature, talking to y’all on this here blog.

My son has been raised with grandparents who don’t shy away from talking religion with him. My mom taught him to pray (she’s become very religious in her senior years and I’m sure regrets that whole “let my kids figure it out themselves” deal she did). So since Jackson was small she’s talked about her love for God to him, which is why I was pretty surprised the other day when he said, “Santa Claus is real, you know. He’s a real person, not like God who is just a belief.” Ouch. That’s some shit he made up in his own mind. Seems Santa, a jolly man who has magic and cares about all the children in the world, is easier to believe in than a God who makes people spew hate and judgment towards others. Of course my happy, kind, empathetic son believes in a man who has flying reindeer and brings smiles to children. And of course my smart, logical, realistic son can’t get behind a belief that spreads hate and has caused war and killing and disease. A belief people blindly stand behind. A belief that neglects some children based on how they came into this world, where they live, or how they practice their own faith. Of course.

So yeah, we aren’t headed to church today. But we are headed down to the lake for some fun, food, and fellowship. Is there anything else you can ask of a Sunday?

M.

Bitches, Bad and Boujee

I’m a White Claw drinker. That might take me down a peg or two with some of y’all, but I’m willing to risk that to assert my truth. I drink White Claws, and I like them. I’m a fan of seltzer water anyway, so you add alcohol to it and a little bit of watermelon flavoring and let’s be real, I’m fucking in. White Claws have a bad reputation, mainly because people are jealous, and don’t like to have fun, and are boujee with their alcohol choices, so they try to pass judgement on me but it won’t work. Fight me. I’m a bad bitch.

Anyway, White Claws keep me hydrated, and I never seem to get drunk on them, just a little tipsy, which is a good thing. It means I can drink all day at the lake for funsies and not feel bad the next day, which might be why there are no laws when you’re drinking Claws. (Disclaimer: There are in fact laws when you’re drinking Claws, as my 11-year-old likes to remind me.) But I mean, is there? Cause my White Claw koozie says otherwise.

Anyway, White Claw is owned by Mark Anthony brands, the same company who brought us Mike’s Hard Lemonade and totally changed the high school girl experience for the better back in the late 90s. The owner, Anthony (not Mark) started his company by selling wine out of the back of his car, which is both badass and boujee, so who’s a bitch now? Thanks Anthony, for all your hard work. I salute you.

Now go forth and have a safe, happy, law-free day, y’all.

M.

First Four Days

I’ve only been on Table Rock Lake for four days, but the adventures are constant. First, there’s my damn dogs and their “quirks.” The bribing them to be on their best behavior, the training collar (which arrived today), the constant picking up of dog poop, and the ever-present sad eyes when I’m eating a burger. Le sigh. Adventures, yes adventures. Look at these damn dogs.

Then there is the lake. It’s pretty high right now, and it’s recently turned over so there’s an occasional fish odor, but you know, that’s lake life. Still, Jackson and his buddy Tate have been kayaking up a storm!

Then there’s the food. My mother-in-law loves to cook and I love to eat, so it’s a pretty good deal. Not to mention the sunrise and sunset walks with my husband while we wax intellectual on how to save the world.

It’s an interesting dichotomy, this place. A little bit country, a little bit lake. Not at all how I remember it, but also exactly the same as it always is.

I hope you are having a splendid week, friends. Stay safe and sane.

M.

The Dark

My son is afraid of the dark. It’s a remarkably simple, common fear, but surprising to me in a way I can’t quite explain. My strong, brave, smart child is afraid of the dark. I’m part disappointed, but also in awe. I’m disappointed that he can’t look past the reality of the dark. Like when my husband asks him the question, “What is in the dark?” and he responds with, “The same things that are there in the light.” He gets it, he does, but also he doesn’t.

With the lights on he’s fine, he can plainly see the trees, or that building, or the closet doors. Then the light goes off and his creativity (and anxiety) starts to rise, and before he can stop it, the realities of the dark: the trees, that building, those closet doors, become dinosaurs, and scary people, and tigers ready to pounce. It’s really a fear of the unknown, in a place he knows. And aren’t we all a little afraid of the unknown?

I was in therapy last week and I told Patsy that I was afraid of what our world looked like when this was all over. “This” being the pandemic, the current administration, the hatred in our world. She nodded in agreement. “We all are,” she said, coolly. “We all are.”

I guess I’m still afraid of the dark too. We all are.

Be safe out there today, y’all.

M.

On the Road Again

If you’re reading this, I’m loading up the truck with Jerimiah, while Jackson walks around in circles complaining that he is tired, and the dogs bark from inside the house because they think we are leaving them, and going on a super, cool vacation in the tropics. Probably. Most likely. It’s Saturday morning and we are headed on an 11-hour road trip this morning and I’m already stressed about all the things. Things like: Where will we use the bathroom, how bad are the places we are headed into, is it safer to use gloves at the gas pump or not, will Winnie vomit all over everyone like she usually does, why do we have to go anywhere near Little Rock, and should we have just packed food and not relied on drive-thrus? But the motion has already started, and like most things in life we will just have to wait and see.

That doesn’t stop the mind from wandering though. That’s what medication is for, so damn it I hope I remembered to pack the Klonopin, and where did I put those “Relieve Stress” Gummies?

There you have it, 11 hours through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, a teeny bit of Tennessee (not the good part), and Arkansas. I mean, under normal circumstance this isn’t a worrisome trip. Whenever you’re going to pass Elvis’s birthplace AND Johnny Cash’s in the same trip, well, Lord help us all.

See you on the other side.

Be safe!

M.

Whatha Devil?!

We had an 18 pack of eggs sitting in our refrigerator. Brand new. Not expired. Farm fresh, free range, college educated. We leave for vacation in three days. We looked at each other. At our smart eggs. Then back at each other. Quiche? I wondered aloud. Maybe, Jerimiah said. How else would we eat 18 eggs in three days? Boiled? Take them with us? He pondered, while he moved expired cottage cheese out of the way. Huh, I remarked, slinging rotten green peppers into the trash can. Give them to a neighbor, I questioned. He shook his head. Would that be weird? Maybe, plus we are the ones who raised them. They’re ours. Oh, I’ll make deviled eggs! I half screamed, half cried. Dear Recipe Goddess, you have reigned supreme again.

Two days later, as I stood over the sink and peeled the boiled eggs that I had let boil for too long the night before because I was also cooking dinner at the same time and it was a Hello Fresh meal and you have to follow the damn directions with those and the puppy ran in and peed on the floor and Jackson tried to tell me about this TikTok guy who does presidential impersonations and Jerimiah tried to help by standing next to me asking what he can do, I sorta, maybe, lost it a little bit and slammed the plates on the table and said, I CAN’T WITH THIS SHIT! And then went upstairs to sit on the fluffy ottoman at the end of my bed and contemplate how my damn life had come to this. About 20 minutes later, I remembered the boiling eggs.

Here’s the thing about deviled eggs, it’s a process, y’all. A long, arduous process, and it starts with the perfect boiled egg. Now sure, you can Google “How to Boil an Egg for Deviled Eggs” and you will get a million different opinions, but every Mommy, Grandma, Great Grandma, and even a couple Grandpa’s have their own way of doing it. My way is to heavily boil the eggs in salted water for three to five minutes, then turn the stove off and let them sit in the hot water for about 20 minutes, until I sink them into a cold bath, let them sit in fridge overnight, then crack them all over before peeling the next day as I listen to Adele sing about how life is not the way she imagined it when she was a child. I can relate. And usually what happens is that the eggs just slide right out. Unless one thing is not right. Then, you’re fucked.

That’s how I came to be screaming into a bowl of yellow yesterday morning.

That’s how I came to be teaching Jackson how to make deviled eggs, literally because I CAN’T WITH THIS SHIT!

That’s how we thought it would be a good idea to eat 18 eggs the days leading up to a 10-hour road trip.

Hope you CAN with this shit today, y’all.

M.

Well Hello…

I have some new followers! I love new followers, but I hate that word “follower.” I prefer friends! I have some new friends! We shall all welcome them with open arms. Hello, friends! Welcome! Grab a White Claw, or a bottle of wine, or maybe some iced tea (we are in The South after all) and sit a spell while I tell you a bit about myself. My name is Missy. (Really it’s Melissa but when I was a born in the 80s my stone-washed jeans wearing sisters thought Missy sounded radical, so there you have it.) I go by Melissa when I am feeling “formal” or when I don’t know people very well, but I do prefer Missy. I’m not the type of person to offer that up when we first meet, nicknames sometimes scare people, so you’ll usually know me a little while when someone will call me Missy and you’ll be all, Wait, who is Missy? You mean Melissa? And they will be all, Who is Melissa? And that’s pretty much all you need to know about me. Just kidding.

I’m married to a lovely middle-aged, white man whom I often make fun of for being a middle-aged, white man but check this, he is faaaaar from the kinda guy you are thinking of. Sure, on the outside he looks the part, and a lot of old ladies grab his hand to tell them all about his church (like his atheist-ass cares), but he politely listens, nods along, and says, That sounds really nice! Occasionally other middle-aged, white men who do not know him very well will suggest having a beer, and they will end up saying some whacked-out racist shit, or something about how our current president is “fiscally responsible” or maybe throw in a homophobic joke, and my husband will be all, Oh, so you’re an asshole. Then he will pay his tab (but not theirs) and leave. He’s cool like that.

We have an 11-year-old son who is starting sixth grade in the fall. Middle school. I’m not going any further than that because I remember middle school, vividly, and I am terrified for him and for me. He’s supersonic smart though. He’s in the STEM program, robotics team, band, etc, etc. You’ll like him a lot and often remark how mature he is for his age, but that’s just because he doesn’t feel comfortable enough around you to make fart noises under his arm. Just yet. Otherwise he is honest, kind, considerate, and his three favorite television shows are: The Office, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The dogs, Jesus I forgot about the dogs. Okay listen, we had this amazing dog for nearly 14 years. Her name was Bentley and she was my actual ride-or-die (yeah, I say ride or die and I don’t know if it is hyphenated or not). She was a chocolate lab mix and also the best dog in the whole world. But in 2018 her health problems caught up with her and we had to put her down a couple months shy of her 14th birthday. Then I did what I always do, I had a breakdown and over-compensated by getting not one, but two dogs. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte came first. He is a standard poodle and he’s hella fancy and honestly I can’t with him sometimes. He wears bow ties, and prefers to be professionally groomed with a blow out. We just celebrated his second birthday with a surprise celebration on April 30th, because quarantine.

Then there is Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta. Winnie came to us at the beginning of quarantine because who didn’t think it was the perfect time to go on Craigslist and adopt a dog that someone had bought and realized they were allergic to and didn’t know what to do with?! She’s part standard poodle and part great pyranees and I know what you are thinking, what does that dog look like? Answer: A hot fucking mess. But we love her.

Okay, so I think that’s the gist of life around here. We live in Metro Atlanta. We are pro-choice (I’ll tell you about my daughter sometime), LGBTQIA+ allies, active members in the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we are Bernie supporters who will be voting for Biden in November because shiiiiiiit. My husband has his MBA and works in finance, I write and piddle around the house yelling about politics and who the hell shit on the floor?! It’s usually a dog.

This blog houses everything from my distorted, meandering thoughts to stories of my childhood, to actual lists of whatever I am thinking at any given moment. I talk a lot about mental health, family, and writing. I made a promise to myself to blog everyday this year, and with the exception of two weeks ago when I took a break to help #MuteTheWhiteNoise and #AmplifyBlackVoices I have written everyday this year. So, there’s a lot to read and digest here. I also have a page with my published writings if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading today and thanks for being on this crazy ride!

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Ménage à Cheese

“You wanna do like a cheese-on-cheese situation?” I asked my husband the other day while I was standing with the refrigerator door opened, looking frantically from one plastic bin to another. I thought it was a rather straightforward question, but he looked at me with a mix of disgust and sadness, so I offered in a loud tone, “DO YOU WANT TO DOUBLE DOWN ON SOME CHEESE WIT ME?” Nothing. Silence. This MFer needs clarification on this? I proceeded to pull out three different types of cheese, slice them, stack them on top of each other, and eat the stack. Directly in front of him. As my lunch. Then I walked away.

I don’t know about you guys but I am not made for this type of living. I am not made for thinking up what to feed two adults, a child, two dogs, and the large family of nuisance ants that have taken up residence in my house (even though the exterminator has been here TWO TIMES.) I can’t do this. I can’t have all these beings relying on me to feed them all day and night.

Under normal conditions my husband fends for himself for both breakfast and lunch, having an eight-to-five-ish-type office job. My son would normally be eating whatever the hell I pulled together last minute at 7:15 am while he followed me around and said, We have to leave or I’ll be late for band practice. And if I forget, no problem, school would feed him. That just left me and up until two months ago, Sir Duke Barkington, my standard poodle, to nibble on this or that throughout the day. But now we have two dogs, one of which is a 16-week-old puppy who is OBSESSED with food, so she overeats her damn puppy chow then vomits, and then eats the vomit. And since March 15th, I’ve had my son and husband looking at me like, Hey Gir, what’s for lunch? Yeah, they call me Gir.

Early on my husband got the hint, and he just started cooking breakfast late, around 10:30, for all of us. That was our brunch. Everyday. The same thing. Everyday. Eggs. Wrapped in a carb-conscious tortilla. Everyday. I finally had to say, I can’t do this. I can’t live this way. I appreciate you trying to feed us, but I can’t eat another egg. That was almost a month ago and I had my first egg yesterday and it was, I mean, it was okay.

That was also the day I sort of just, umm, opted out of being part of my family’s cooking and eating life. Yes. I’m a horrible partner and mother. I just walked out of the kitchen and didn’t look back. Now my son comes to greet me in my office in the mornings with string cheese hanging out of his mouth, or a frozen waffle cause he’s too lazy to toast it in the oven, or maybe some cereal with no milk because, Mommy the milk shocked me a little, like when you stick a battery on your tongue.

That’s how I got to the ménage à cheese situation the other day. That’s how my husband and I came to a three week take-out bender. We are better now. Detoxed. Ordered HelloFresh.

That’s how things are going in my life. Hope yours is better.

M.

Begin Running!

Warm up walk, run, walk, run, walk, run, walk, run, walk, cool down. That is what the Couch to Five k is like. It’s an app. To be fair there are several of them. But I use the “C25K” one because it’s the one I have always used and I’m a creature of habit. But they all help you train to go from not running to running for long periods of time. To be fair here when I say “run” I don’t mean sprints or anything even remotely close to that, I mean more of a slow, turtle jog. I mean that someone who runs marathons could walk next to me talking their head off while I “run” without the ability to talk and with sweat seeping out of every, single orifice of my body. My ear canals sweat, y’all. My ear canals. I know this because sometimes my headphones fall out from all the moisture.

It’s week four of the couch to five k training for Jackson and me. He is doing it with me, and so far it has been good, bad, horrific, tolerable, and stupid. Stupid. A word we don’t even use in our house. It’s stupid on some days. Some days we look at each other while we are lacing up our shoes, or while I am taping my shins, and we shrug and think, This is so fucking stupid. Probably my 11-year-old doesn’t think exactly that, but I do.

While it is technically our fourth week of training, I repeated week two last week because it felt hard, so hard, to keep up. Then Jackson repeated week three this week, so we are back on the same week. I asked him if he was doing it to make me feel better and he straight-up said, No Mommy, my feet hurt. So, there’s that.

The app talks you through the process. The first five minutes are a warm-up, wherein we walk at a steady pace, get our AirPods all situated, our running mixes loaded, chat about our running path, then take long, deep breathes while we wait for the other one to be like, I dunno, you wanna skip today? Neither of us ever says it.

Then the app’s sweet, female voice pops up and says, Begin running! She’s so cheerful that at first it is hard to be mad at her. But by the third, Begin running! you want to slam your $1000 phone onto the ground and hop up and down on top of it while you scream to the empty, humid air above your head, I hate you, you piece of shit!

Okay, you’re all caught up now. I’m gonna go ice my shins. Maybe drink a gallon of water. Maybe drink a gallon of wine. Whichever is handy.

Cheers to running, running buddies, and wine.

M.

Not looking forward to “week four”…

And Just Like That…

Poof! Elementary school is over. I’m sitting here in a bit of a haze, trying to remember how it all started. The day I dropped him off for Kindergarten, kissed my husband bye in the school parking lot, then drove to Walmart, alone, crying. Then proceeded to sit in the car at Walmart, alone, and cry. I wasn’t used to being alone. I was used to my little 50-pound shadow following me everywhere I went. I was used to arguing about whether or not he could ride in the cart. Used to having to hit the toy aisle to look at Hot Wheels, when all I needed was milk and bread. Used to a little voice coming from the backseat to ask, “Can we stop for ice cream if I’m good?” Of course we stopped for ice cream. Of course he was always good.

Today when I do a Target run he says he doesn’t want to go. He’d rather log onto Minecraft with friends. But then right before I walk out the door he comes running up, throws his arms around me. “Mommy, bring me back something,” he will say. It’s pretty different now, but also pretty much the same. Now I have a 100-pound shadow. This shadow follows me around to tell me about YouTube videos and this “sick” arrest he made in this “pretty cool” cops and robbers game on Roblox. Now I have to remind my 100-pound shadow to wear deodorant, to do the dishes, to figure out where that smell is coming from in his room. And I hear it only gets worse.

Friday morning we all gathered around the living room television to watch the live stream of Jackson’s Fifth Grade Graduation. Jackson wore a suit, with my cap and gown on top of it. Jerimiah wore a button-up, I donned a summer dress. We watched for an hour as the teachers and administrators shared touching memories, heartfelt messages, and love, so much love, with the only class in the school’s history to not have a Fifth Grade Graduation on stage. It was different, but also the same.

Jackson won several awards, including being named a DeKalb County Board Scholar, along with five other fifth graders. He is one of the smartest, the brightest, of the group. Of course we didn’t need an award to tell us that, but it was nice to be recognized for all the hard work. His hard work, our hard work as parents, and his teachers’ hard work as well. For being a kid that went to four different elementary schools, in four different districts, in three different states, you certainly would never know it. He’s been steadfast about two things: Making friends and doing his best, and that has been abundantly clear over the last few months. His friends blow up his phone all day with messages, emails, FaceTimes, and then there are the cards that arrive in the mail from different places. We shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes we are.

Mr. Budd read a poem to his class this afternoon and it was the only time that I wanted to cry. The past two months have been a blur of activity and of hard work. Of moving from one fire to another, but the hardest part was stopping myself every time I made a decision about my son. Was this going to be good for him? Help in some way? Do I make him structure his day like school? Take breaks? Get it all done in one setting? Do I let him play Minecraft for four hours on a Tuesday while he Facetimes a friend? Of course the answer to that one is yes, because I have a social child who needs interaction. He saw his classmates six hours a day, now he could sit in isolation all day long if I let him, but I refuse to do that. I don’t want him to be lonely, to feel left behind. I want him to know that there is a wide world of people out there just like him, and hopefully they have parents that understand this too. The poem reminded me of this. Reminded me of the way we are all probably feeling from time to time right now. Alone, without a clear path. The poem Mr. Budd read was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. The last two lines go like this, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

We have a running joke in the house. Jackson was working on a project early in the school year and as usual his mind was working quicker than his mouth and he was trying to say, “I’m in fifth grade” and “I’m a fifth grader” at the same time and he blurted out, “I grade five!” We all cracked up. And all year whenever he thinks too hard, or gets frustrated with himself because he thinks he can’t “get” a math question, we stop and say, “I grade five!” It gets us back on track. Let’s us laugh. Slow down a minute. Reminds us that we are all in this together. That we have each other. It means love. So yeah, we are proud of this kid of ours beyond measure. And yeah, we hope that his successes in elementary school equate to big successes in life, but we know there will be struggles along the way. We know there will be crying in parking lots. There will be hours upon hours of virtual playdates. We will feel lonely. He will feel lonely. Because we know this isn’t fifth grade anymore. But we are ready.

We love you, Jackson. We are so proud of you. We hope you always listen to the geese.

I grade six.

Mommy

Fourth Grade

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, was sorta a hot mess. At least that is what I thought of her in fourth grade. She seemed a little scatterbrained, when in reality I think she was one of those people whose brains worked faster and harder than she could communicate her thoughts. Plus, she was a fourth grade teacher at a Title One school in the middle of Leavenworth, Kansas, she had other troubles. Jackson’s fourth grade teachers were absolute saints and you won’t change my mind. And he had several of them.

We were still in Charlotte, still at Mallard Creek STEM when fourth grade started, and he got Mrs. Duggins, the teacher I had met at the end of the school year, heard amazing things about, and decided I wanted Jackson to have. I tried to figure out how I could to that, but you have to remember I was new at this school, not well known, and my pull wasn’t that great. But I did know people… Anywho, you know the deal, he got the teacher I wanted him to get, she had some smart kids, and he even tested right into the “Gifted” program during the first week of school, which means he also had a new teacher, Mrs. Campbell. And she was THE BEST!

At this point at Mallard Creek STEM we already knew most of the other teachers, and had our favorites, like the STEM teacher Mrs. Chambers, who introduced Jackson to Lego Robots and his first foray into the STEM Club. Matter fact, in Mrs. Duggins class they had their very own 3D printer! Right there in the classroom! This was a very tech-savvy group of teachers, and Jackson fell right into line with them.

The only problem was that we knew by mid-november we would not be finishing fourth grade there. We had already been told we would be moving to the Atlanta Metro, and I had already started freaking out. Two moved in less than two years! AHHHHH! But Jackson took it all in stride. We often reminded him that had we not left St. James, he wouldn’t have all these awesome new friends, nor would he have been in a school play, or be able to 3D print in his classroom! He recognized his luck and began the process of leaving again.

Before we left though, we did some cool field trip, made some kick-ass robots, and secured some lifelong friends, as one does.

In December of fourth grade, Mrs. Duggins had her baby, and went out for maternity leave. This threw a small wrench in the plan, but I was already very involved with the classroom, I was a room-parent again, and Jackson had a steady stream of work with Mrs. Campbell keeping him busy. Plus their long-term sub, Mrs. Kinney, was sweet and smart and funny, so it all worked out. Jackson became her “tech guy” always getting her connected to what she needed to connect to and generally fixing glitches around the classroom.

Truth be told, Jackson did most of the year there. We didn’t move to Georgia until April 1, 2019 which was the first day of spring break down here, so he only did about seven weeks of school in his new Georgia school, but it was just long enough to make some friends and make a name for himself as a funny, smart, trustworthy guy, which made his transition into fifth grade much easier. In fact, we had only been there for six weeks when I was asked to help out in the classroom, which also made my transition into a room parent easy for fifth grade as well. The more you know… stars and what not.

Mrs. Butler was his fourth grade teacher at Midvale, and she was young and sweet and totally reminded me of Miss Honey from Matilda. As soon as we saw her we looked at each other and Jackson mouthed, “Miss Honey.” I was all, “I know right?!” She turned out to be just as sweet, albeit a little overwhelmed, and she recognized Jackson’s potential pretty early on, which is usually the mark of a great teacher. Though we didn’t get to know her much, we are appreciative of the time she gave to Jackson, and the trust she instilled in us from the beginning.

There you have it, fourth grade. Short, but long. Long, but short. Five important teachers, two schools, and two states. It was much easier than fifth grade, and the whole mess we found ourselves in over the last few months. Though to be fair, it wasn’t so bad. Sad that we missed so much, or feel like we did, but we are healthy, we are safe, and so are all of our friends, so we count ourselves lucky. We hope you are safe too.

M.

New school!
New deal: We were al close we could walk/ride bikes to school!