The Breaking of Spring

Three months ago we were planning a trip to Florida for spring break. We were deciding which Disney parks we wanted to visit. We decided just Epcot and Magic Kingdom, maybe a stopover at Legoland, since Universal is still out. (Jackson hasn’t finished the Harry Potter series yet. We are on the last book as a family, but that’s the deal, we have to finish it before we go to Universal. We read at a pace he sets, so honestly this is on him.) But none of that matters because Florida is closed. Well, unless we want to go to church. Or to a gun store. Or to Publix. But I think we will skip all that nonsense. So what are we doing now? We are deciding where to camp in the backyard. For real. Things are a little smaller and slower now.

Traditionally we have spent time with loved ones during spring break or gone to a really cool place, like NYC. Last year we had just moved to Georgia during spring break, so we spent the week unpacking our house and getting pumped up for a new school. This year we thought would be totally different and fun. We were wrong. I mean different? Sure! A worldwide pandemic is different, but fun… Well, we are working on it.

It’s been three weeks now of hanging at home together, and although virtual learning is a real thing that has been happening, our days have been a mixture of games, and walking the neighborhood, and doing nice things for our community, and cleaning. Ah the dreaded cleaning. Jerimiah is still working, which means (even though he sets up shop most days at our dining room table) he still has stuff to do most hours of the day between 8am and 5pm. Jackson, on the other hand, has been finishing his school work in record time on account of the whole “he doesn’t have classmates causing distractions” thing. It’s amazing what he can get done in a short amount of time when his friends aren’t sitting next to him chatting about Minecraft.

Which means he’s been FaceTiming friends and playing Roblox with them. Or Minecraft, or dutifully taking part in whatever “fun project” I have come up with that day. Then there’s been the deep cleaning of his room. The yard work we’ve been doing (for real, I’m sunburned from it. It looks like I actually just came back from the beach, but alas no. I’ve just been pruning and what not.) The most fun has indeed been sitting in the hot tub at night listening to music while we relax our tired muscles and talk about what we will do and where we will go when we can in fact, go again. Current favorite plan: Southern California with friends in the fall!

Until then, we think we have a solid spring break plan. Backyard campout. Maybe in the tent, maybe just pulling the blowup mattress into the sunporch (which we spent an entire afternoon cleaning, so much damn pollen). S’mores on the table top fire pit? Sure! Ghost stories? Absolutely! Card games and a cookout? You betcha! All in the comforts of our own home. Uh huh! This might be a new tradition. Who knows! If nothing else, it’s the best we can come up with and it’s fairly exciting, so let’s do this!

Hope you are finding new and fun ways to get by!

Stay safe!

M.

If That Ain’t the Truth…

“I’ll tell you what…” What, Missy? That’s what my Mom says, she says, “I’ll tell you what…” usually followed by something Dr. Phil said on t.v. or how mad she is at Trump. (My Mom’s a secret Democrat, shh, don’t tell anyone. She voted for Hillary.) My Mom also says things like, “Shit! Ope! I didn’t mean to say that.” Cause she’s a Baptist. But when I was a kid she used to say things like, “Well fuck me runnin’,” and “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” I don’t know about that last one. What are you even talking about today, Missy? I don’t know. Listen, I don’t know you guys. I just got off the phone with my mom and she said “I’ll tell you what, Dr. Phil said mothers should be paid $100,000 a year salary, and if that ain’t the truth.” That’s another of Mom’s lines, “If that ain’t the truth…well then I don’t know what is.”

I think what you are seeing now is a small glimpse inside my brain and how it is functioning nowadays. It’s off kilter. To say the least. I think probably everyone’s is. My husband’s is. My son’s is. My Mom’s is. It’s mainly stress-induced, yeah? And we are all battling it. If you aren’t battling it right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. This is a trying time. A chaotic, miserable, traumatic time, and if you are getting up everyday, opening up the blinds, reaching out by telephone or text to someone, saying hello to a neighbor when you check the mail, actually walking to the end of the driveway or the end of the porch to check the mail, well then, you’re doing it! Look at you! You’re making it work. Because this sucks, y’all. There’s no way around it. And if that ain’t the truth…

Yesterday Jackson painted small birdhouses that I had bought eons ago and stashed away for a rainy-day art project. He painted them and rode his scooter around the neighborhood sticking them on front porches to brighten up our neighbors’ days. We hope it worked to put a smile on their faces, but what it really did was brighten up our day. Then I shared pictures of him doing it on Instagram to hopefully brighten up friends’ days. I hope that worked too. I’ll share them now with you guys too.

We also started painting rocks to hide for kids to find on our walks, because we have been walking everyday and everyday we see families out and about with small ones, burning off energy. Today we started another family art project. Because art seems to bring us back to center. I think it does a lot of people, if you let it.

Our governor finally did the right thing this week, and he announced a shelter-in-place order, and he announced that we won’t be going back to school this year. And I know, man I know, it’s tough for kids, espeically my kid. My kid, who’s been to three elementary schools and who really wanted to finish strong at this one, with the best teacher, and the coolest, smartest, kindest classmates anyone could ask for. But we are making it work, and we know it’s sad that they won’t have a fifth-grade graduation or a fifth-grade day ‘o’ fun, but it’s okay. It’s one more way we are learning about selfless acts, and helping the greater good. Fifth grade is turning out to be a massive learning experience.

So that’s the bright side, yeah? The one I’m looking at anyway. The learning, the loving, the community that is going on around us. I’ll tell you what, we are watching our world change, in real time, and it’s scary, and sad, and traumatizing on the bad days. But on the good days, it’s an exercise in patience, in kindness, and in love. Geez, if that ain’t the truth.

Stay well and safe, y’all.

M.

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.

Disney World, Part Three

If you’re still around this is the third and last installment of our whirlwind trip to Disney World back when Jackson was in first grade (the perfect time to go). We did a three-day park hopper ticket, and we stayed on property which afforded us some perks. Day one was Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Day two was Magic Kingdom and Epcot (we LOVE Epcot) and day three was Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then we ended our night and our first trip to Disney at Magic Kingdom where we got to meet Anna and Elsa and see the best fireworks show we have ever watched. Again, Disney just gets us.

At Hollywood Studio’s we rode some awesome roller coasters like the Rockin’ Roller featuring Aerosmith (Jackson was all,”Who’s Aerosmith?” Face palm. Then was terrified of the speed, then said he didn’t like Aerosmith and never wanted to ride that ride again. See pic below!) We saw a car chase with a whole blow up scene, walked some familiar streets, and I got to FINALLY see the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground which I have literally dreamed about since it was built when I was a kid! Jerimiah was less impressed than I was, but Jackson and I had a great time climbing on the giant ants, just like in the movie!

Everything was giant at Hollywood Studios! Even the characters! We got to meet the Monsters Inc. guys here, along with Doc McStuffins, Jake, AND Sophia! We were big fans of these three when Jackson was little! We even found our way over the Hotel of Terror and the Haunted Mansion. What fun!

Disney Pixar Studios is there as well, and the Star Wars people. I have never watched Star Wars, and Jackson is ehh about the whole thing, but when the Storm Troopers came through he did stop and stare. He was a little nervous around them. But then we saw a cool Star Wars 3D movie, met Darth Vadar, and learned how to battle with light sabers and he was feeling much better about the whole thing.

Jerimiah and I really liked Hollywood Studios. Jackson was a little less happy with it, but we think he was a little young for that particular park, and not knowing the Star Wars guys very well was difficult. We want to take him back now, we think he’d give the Aerosmith ride another shot! Haha! Plus, the Tower of Terror and Haunted Mansion kinda spooked him. Again, 11-year-old Jackson would probably be better suited for this park.

By this time it was our last night at Disney World and we wanted to end it at Magic Kingdom. We got to see the fireworks at Epcot, but we wanted to see the Castle fireworks, and there were a couple of princesses that Jackson had told us he didn’t want to see, then faced with the idea of not getting to see them, he changed his mind. He did in fact want to meet Anna and Elsa, so we ended the night eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate under the finest fireworks display we have ever seen at Magic Kingdom. It was the best way to end our whirlwind trip!

First came the Electrical Parade, then came the fireworks and awesome lights on Cinderella’s Castle. It was magical, just like Disney World, and we wouldn’t have wanted to end it any other way.

As you can see from Jackson’s expression in the above picture, Disney World was well worth the money, time, and planning. It lived up to every expectation that we had, and in most cases blew right past our expectations. We are forever fans and will go back anytime. Wanna come along?!

Thanks for reading about our trip to Disney. I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures from some cool things we found around our hotel.

And remember to always believe in the magic!

M.

Disney World, Part Two

When I left you, we were making our way to Cinderella’s Castle in an old-timey car that you can catch a ride in if you are up early and committed. And that’s what we were. After all, this wasn’t just Jackson’s first time at Disney World, this was Jerimiah’s first time and mine as well. We didn’t have childhood that afforded us a special trip like this, so we knew, even though we only had three days, we were going to make the most of it. And that’s exactly what we did. As a recap, we bought a package deal with Disney, which I highly recommend, because it comes with perks. We also added the “Photo Package” to our deal, because you know how I like pictures. Which I also recommend because it totally freed me up from ever having to take pictures. With the photo package, you just find a photographer, and there are a ton of them, scan your Magic Bracelet, and ask them to take your picture. They have all sorts of cool shots to do, and every night you can download all your pictures. I have over 500 pictures from our three days at Disney, and I took about 30 of them. The rest were awesome ones like these:

That right there, that’s Cinderella’s Castle, the most magical of places. This was early on during day two of our trip and we had big plans. Huge! First stop was the castle.

Those yellow buttons we had on said “This is My First Time!” and we all wore them proudly. And see how we are all in sneakers, that’s your best bet. Because the first day we walked 15 miles. The second day, well, we walked even more. And rode the shuttle bus. And hopped on the monorail. So yeah.

Even thought it was the first week of January, it’s Florida, so it was just light jacket weather. The highs were in the fifties, the lows in the 40s, but all the hotel pools are heated, so no worries there. Though to be honest, we didn’t swim. Not once. We left each morning and headed to a park, and got back to our room so late and exhausted each night we passed out before we could turn the lights off. Well, they did. I stayed awake and looked at all our cool pictures of the day.

At Magic Kingdom we spent the whole day doing all the things! We met Alice (my one wish) and the Mad Hatter after we rode the Tea Cups. We rode every ride we came across. We met every character we saw. We even saw one of the day parades and visited the Hall of Presidents. But after all that Jackson still insisted we go back to Epcot. He REALLY loved Epcot. So after a bite to eat for dinner at one of the casual places at Magic Kingdom we headed back to Epcot to close that bitch down on our second night. Here are more pics from the second day, including my favorite of us, the one on Splash Mountain. It’s such a metaphor for this trip, and for how we live our lives. Everyone else was covered and cowered. We were free with our hands up screaming our minds out. Cause that’s how you do things. 🙂

Enjoy the other pics from day two, and I’ll meet you tomorrow for our last day at Disney World.

Thanks for reading.

M.

Disney World, Part One

As recently as two weeks ago we were planning a trip to Florida for Spring Break. It seems crazy now, but we had already booked our hotel in Tampa. We had already asked Jackson which park he would visit if he could visit any, and he yelled, “Epcot!” In fact he passed up Legoland and Magic Kingdom for it. (Universal was not on the table because we haven’t finished Harry Potter yet.) Now all our plans are cancelled, but for a little while we were excited to go to Disney again. We haven’t been in years. Which got me to thinking that I wasn’t blogging back when we first took Jackson to Disney World, so I thought I’d share now. So this is a three-part series of pics and stories from our first trip to Disney in 2016, when Jackson was a first grader. It’s part posterity, part “Look people used to have happy days!” I hope you enjoy. And if Disney is not your thing, just come back in four days.

Now before I dive in here, which is mainly just pics with our favorite character, let’s get real first. I know there are people who do not like Disney, and I get the reasons. You hate people. You don’t like crowds. You can’t get over the cost. You’ve heard horror stories. You’ve been once, and then swore it off ever again because you saw a kid vomit, or a piece of trash on the ground, or the pool was too warm. Whatever the reason, leave that shit at the door with me because I LOVE Disney! Still, to this day, it was one of our best vacations. And sure, it was because we were all allowed to be kids all day, every day, and live out our fantasy of meeting these beloved characters, but so what? We should all be kids sometimes.

We decided to surprise Jackson with Disney, which was of course, a blast. We told him we were going to the beach in Florida. Of which we did. We woke up one snowy January morning (the slowest week at Disney, cause I ain’t no fool) and we headed down to Florida. We drove nonstop from Charlotte to Daytona Beach. We made the drive in about seven hours, and set to exploring. That day we were able to jump in the ocean and visit the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, which really is a sight to behold. We walked to the top of it, how many stairs, I don’t know, a million? And we were rewarded with marvelous views.

When we got back to our hotel we started asking Jackson what he wanted to do the next day. He said play on the beach, and we were like cool, cool, but here, open this surprise we got for you. We gave him a bag filled with Disney toys and apparel for the next three days. He was opening his gifts, getting more and more excited, then we asked him if he saw a theme. He yelled, “Disney!” And we were like what do you think that means? And he was all, “You know I love Disney!” Ha. He wasn’t getting it. So we said, “We’re going to Disney tomorrow!” And then he threw himself back on the bed in exasperation.

The next day we left Daytona bright and early and were in Orlando in no time. We checked into our hotel, one of the less expensive ones on the Disney property. We chose to go this route because you get extended hours to all the parks, and other perks, like a shuttle ride to the park. Plus, the package deals save you the most money and well, we are savvy shoppers. We ended up in a “Little Mermaid” room, which was ready and waiting for us super early that morning.

I will say this like 800 more times, but Disney has their shit together, y’all. We got to the hotel, checked in, threw out bags in our room, loaded up our backpacks with food (you can bring outside snacks into the park to save on food) and headed to Animal Kingdom. This first picture was of the second morning. Right as we were about to head out for the day, Jackson noticed this dragonfly by our room door. It was the most chill dragon fly. It never moved while we were standing there watching it. I even thought for a split second it was fake. Like Disney had planted it there to make us go “Ohhhh” and “Ahhh” which at this point was something I could see them doing. But it was gone when we got back, so probably not.

I had read all the reviews of all the parks leading up to this trip, and I knew that Animal Kingdom would be the least exciting for our family. We aren’t too fond of zoos. Mainly the whole animals in cages thing, but I knew we had to experience it once, so we decided to knock it out the first day. We had also bought the park hopper tickets, which means that we could visit multiple parks in one day. So we knew we would start our day at Animal Kingdom and end it at somewhere else. Where we hadn’t decided yet. But we were ready for some excitement.

Animal Kingdom, though our least favorite park, did not disappoint! Even a giant zoo was magical at Disney, but Jackson’s favorite part was the roller coaster, Expedition Everest, and meeting Chip and Dale, who brought our attention to the fact that like Dale, Jackson was also missing teeth.

We also got to meet the cast of The Jungle Book at Animal Kingdom and others, while we followed a scouting adventure around all the islands of the park:

By the time the park was ready to close (it closes early on account of taking care of the animals) we knew where we were headed, the park Jackson was the most pumped about, EPCOT! Epcot did not disappoint. It was awesome! Futuristic and technologically driven, just the sort of place our kid likes. Plus, we got there just in time to meet some very cool people. The coolest in fact.

Epcot was epic! There is Mission to Mars, which actually scared the actual shit out of me and I refuse to ever ride again. There is Test Track, where you can design your own car then drive it on “the track.” Coolest thing ever to our gear head.

Then there was the Coca-cola tasting room. The chance (as you can see) to meet Baymax, and fireworks, great food (from all over the world), and a Finding Nemo encounter where Jackson got to meet and talk with the sea turtles. Epcot was also the place that we first caught a glimpse of the Monorail and it had a giant theater that played all the old school Mickey Mouse cartoons like Steamboat Willie. It was a 4-D theater, and we had an awesome time watching the characters come to life right before our eyes. It was by far Jackson’s best, most favorite park, and when we discuss going back to Disney he only talks about Epcot. It is also where Jackson got his Mickey ears and his Test Track “Driver’s License” that he was so proud of. In short, Epcot=Epic. Most epic.

When we got back that night to our hotel room we were actually, 100% beat. We all passed out pretty quickly after walking more than 15 miles that day. But we were up and at ’em the next morning at 7 am, because we heard that if you are one of the first inside Magic Kingdom you can hop a ride in an old car to Cinderella’s Castle. I wasn’t super sure if it was true or not, but we decided to take the chance and it just so happened that it was an “early morning” for those staying at a Disney property. Which means one of those perks I mentioned earlier came in handy and we were one of the first in the doors and check this out:

Yep! We got to ride an old-time car to Cinderella’s Castle. I guess this is a lesser-known secret. As we passed down Main Street, the driver was giving us a tour and honking at people. We were like royalty. People thought we were VIPs. Nope. Just savvy shoppers.

I think this might be a good spot to end in for today. I’m tired just writing about all that we accomplished. Tomorrow, Magic Kingdom!

Thanks for reading!

M.

You Are Not Alone

I’m sitting here waiting for my coffee to brew this morning, and I’m wondering about my friends. I’m hoping that you are all safe, and I don’t just mean safe physically. I know you all are taking the pandemic seriously. I also know that like me, you have family members who aren’t taking it seriously and you are worried about them. I know, like me, you have kids starting school online today. I know, like me, you are nervous about a myriad of things and it feels sometimes like you’re going through a dark tunnel and there is no end in sight. I just want to tell you that you are not alone.

There were moments yesterday that it felt like a regular Sunday. There were moments when I didn’t even realize our country or the world was in crisis. Then something would happen to bring me back into reality. At noon we got our daily check-in from our governor. The numbers doubled overnight in the State of Georgia. Again.

A few hours later I was happily staining wood in my carport, when I got an alert on my phone that the local Waffle House employee had just been brought out of quarantine and was walking. He tested positive for Covid-19 two weeks ago, but he has recovered.

Later that day Jerimiah and I were discussing hot tub essentials and I said, “Oh, I can just run to Lowe’s.” And he said, “We should probably order from Amazon so we don’t have to go out.” Oh, right. Shit, that’s right.

In and out of this way of thinking. Remembering, forgetting. Remembering, forgetting. I limit my social media time so I don’t get so wrapped up in things, and that has been good for me during this pandemic. May I suggest that to you all? I know it seems hard, harder now with more time on your hands, but let us not forget all the books that need to be read. All the kids that need help doing schoolwork. All the dogs that need walking. There are other ways to pass the time. And believe me, it is worth it.

Because I see things like this: A family member of mine asked the question on social media the other day, “How bad would Coronavirus be if there was no social media?” The question itself was asinine, put out in the universe to ruffle feathers, and maybe, probably to get conspiracy theories flying, but the point I took from it was that there are still people with blinders on. Still people who thing this is just a big hoax. And that has to be negatively impacting those of us (the large majority, mind you) who know better.

Another family member shared a meme that said, “Do you know anyone who is actually sick? I don’t. This is the media shutting down America.”

Bleh. This is real life, unfortunately. And it’s top down, as we all know by now.

I read a quote yesterday that said, “This isn’t prophecy, this is math.” And I gotta be honest it hit home for me because I have family members saying things like, “I can go where I want and do what I want, because God has my back.” It’s scary and it’s sad, and it’s so terribly wrong. This way of thinking is going to kill people.

I want you to know though, that if you have people around you who are talking and feeling this way, and it is making you crazy, know that you are not alone. We are all watching this unfold. We are all having moments of normalcy, sandwiched in between breakdowns. Wondering what will happen next. What alert will come across our phones. Whether our loved ones will be okay. Wondering if we are doing the right things. Wondering what to say to those of us not taking this seriously. Who do not understand how to flatten the curve. Who believe this is the end of times.

Just remember. There are some people you can’t change, you can’t help. And it’s best not to waste your time with them. Focus on the people you can help. Focus on the people in your house. The people on your street. The people in your community. Focus on stopping the spread. Taking less risks. Focus on doing the most good for the most amount of people. If we all lived our lives this way, it would be so magical.

And remember, when it feels like you’re in the pits, when you just can’t crawl out, when the news it too much, and your family members are too much, and this is all too much, remember there are others like you. Most people in fact. And reach out. I’m here.

Stay safe and sane.

M.