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.

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.

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.

Tentative, Stressful Vaca

The Goodnights are going on vacation! Woohoo, us! If you have been around awhile you might know we are travelers. Nothing soothes our wandering souls like a good road trip out West, or a quick flight to NYC to get some pizza and see a show. But this Covid-19 has put a real damper on traveling plans. As it sits we have five airline flights to anywhere in the US, but we are a little too risk-averse to fly right now, and well, all the places we love to visit are/were hotbeds for the Coronavirus, all except one: Table Rock Lake.

We lived on Table Rock Lake for five years in our early twenties. It was the place I first learned to swim (I was terrified most of my life to swim), it was the place we got married, got pregnant with Jackson. It’s a big lake, surrounded by small towns on the Arkansas/Missouri line, and it just so happens that my MIL owns a place right on the water. We try to get down there every summer, and for awhile it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it off this year, then well, we decided to try. So, I guess what I mean to say is the Goodnights are tentatively going on vacation! We are planning, but we won’t know for sure until we hit the road the day we are slated to leave. Wish us luck that things don’t change too drastically as of June 30th.

In preparation we invited the regular crew down to hang with us, including my best friend Rachel and her daughter Madi. Rachel and Madi and the rest of their family have been quarantining like us for the last 80 days or so, and are happy to continue to do so until they meet us at the lake. But because we are coming from DeKalb County, Georgia (a hotbed for the virus) and going to Southern Missouri, with family from Kansas (both places with low incidence rates of the virus) we are preparing by getting tested before we leave. The idea of even possibly putting anyone is danger horrifies us.

Because of the high-rates in our county and state (about 3,500 cases/45,000 cases) and the fact that we are not trending down (wait, what?! You guys opened like a month ago and the ‘Rona didn’t disappear?) Le sigh. Where was I? Because of high rates in our county and state, drive-thru testing is open to all residents. You don’t have to be showing symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone. All I had to do was call DeKalb County. They gave me a website to pre-register. I did it. Picked a date and time, June 5th, and boom, we are registered. We were sent a confirmation email with a QR code for each of us to bring with us to our appointment, which is actually just a ride through a church parking lot on the other side of town and boom, we are done.

We picked June 5th because we plan on leaving at the end of the month. That gives us a weekend before the test to stock up on food and essentials so we don’t have to leave the house until we head for Missouri. We have scoured the CDC and WHO websites, and we think this a “low-risk vacation,” but a little extra caution never hurt anyone. Honestly the scariest parts for me are the drive (it’s a ten-hour drive, so at least two stops for gas), the risk that we will be exposed by a family member or friend who stops by unannounced (don’t be surprised if we just wave and walk away, we love ya, but we didn’t quarantine for 80 days for you to roll up and hug us without a mask on), and/or exposing the people back home to something we picked up along the way. So this isn’t really a stress-free vacation, but it’s the best we can muster at this point.

So there you have it. Our tentative, stressful, summer vacation! I’m excited, and nervous, and prepping like mad, but I think it will be totally worth it to see our people.

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.

Growing Old is a Trap?

There is this meme that is circulating that says, Growing Old is a Trap! and I laugh every time I see it. It’s funny, absolutely. And I get the sentiment, especially when my 75-year-old friends share it. It’s just that as I age, as I approach (gasp!) 40 years on this planet, I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t feel old. I don’t feel like I’ve been told I will feel my whole life. My whole life I’ve watched my mother, my sisters, my cousins, and friends reach 40, and most of them dread it. Like, absolutely dread 40. They dread it for a multitude of reasons. They say your body starts to break down. You can’t lose weight anymore, your energy level plummets, your hair suddenly turns grey, your family turns on you, wrinkles crawl across your face. I mean, they make it sound horrific, crypt keeper shit, y’all, and at 38.5 years of age I just gotta say, I don’t feel it.

I mean, I guess I have one-and-a-half years for the shit storm that is 40 to get here, but if I’m being honest I already deal with half that list. I already have greying hair. My husband, also 38-and-a-half, is full on salt and pepper now. I have friends in their 30s who have been dying their hair for years to cover grey. I already have creases and wrinkles around my eyes. Laugh lines, reddening skin. It’s been the hardest ever for me to lose weight since my hysterectomy. It used to be that I could workout a little, cut some carbs and bam! I’d lose 20 pounds. Not anymore. My energy level has always been dependent on my mental health, it ebbs and flows. Why should I be scared of turning 40?

Society, I guess. Women who are 40 have been programmed to think they are dead. Their life is over. Omigod, you’re 40! But you look so young! Yeah, bitch, cause she is young. Or, Omigod, you’re 40! Do you knit now? No bitch, I have ass-slapping sex with my husband every night, so I don’t have time for knitting.

Truth be told I am just beginning to feel like myself again after all the shit my 20s and early 30s did to me. I feel like I’m just starting to blossom. I was always a late-bloomer, so this doesn’t’ bother me much, but I absolutely look forward to my next 38-and-a-half years because I honestly feel like my life is just beginning again. I’m in regular therapy, which has been a game changer. I have a firm-ass grip on reality, something that eluded me most of my life. I’ve lived through just enough grief to know how it works, but I haven’t let it make me jaded. Not yet, anyway. Will my hair go grey? You bet. I might not even dye it, don’t know yet, haven’t decided. Will my wrinkles set in? Will my hands start to bend? I hope so, shows character. Will I wear grandma sweaters? Shit yeah I will, I know I will because I already do. They are warm. And have pockets. Who doesn’t love a fucking sweater with pockets? And what is that, is that a peppermint in the pocket?! Oh shit, just what I needed to settle my stomach after my third cup of dark roast!

Look, I love you 20-somethings, you’re adorable. You’ll also really dumb, but that’s how it is supposed to be! You have A LOT of living and learning to do. A lot of it. And no one wants to take that from you, lest not me. Live, girl! And keep living, and being dumb, even well into your thirties. Then, grow up. Cause it’s honestly not that bad. It’s not a trap at all. You might even learn a thing or two, about the world, about yourselves. After all, you live, you learn, then you get Luv’s (but not really, you only get Pampers cause all the others leak loose stool out yo’ baby’s ass all over the backseat of your new car.) See that? I taught you something. If you let us teach you, we will. But for real, I love you. You make me happy to see, to watch you do your beer pong and your whatsy-daisy, it’s just that one day, when the avocado toast is gone, and the wrinkles have set in, and your 40 and you still don’t have any idea what you want to be when you grow up, I want you to know that it won’t be as scary as it sounds. Trust me, I know.

So let’s stop this 40 is death thing, and embrace who we are. And while I’m at it, 50 isn’t death either! Neither is 60! OMIGOD, stop it Missy, is 70 death?! No! You know what death is, death. You dead. So stop living like you already are and do some shit to wake up. It doesn’t matter how old you are, today is your day.

M.

Update after talking to my husband. I was telling him I was frustrated with how people think growing and learning and evolving is bad and while he agrees with me, he politely reminded me that you only grow, learn, and evolve if you allow yourself to. Not everyone will. Or wants to. He reminded me that you have to, “know better to be better.” Man, he’s so spot on. All the stuff above only works if you allow yourself to not be burdened by structural pressures. If you educate yourself. If you love yourself enough to show yourself some grace. Please do that, y’all. ❤️

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”…

Warning: I’m Mad

A few sessions ago Patsy and I were discussing the way children of alcoholics turn out. There are three ways that children of alcoholics combat what they see. Let’s say there are three siblings. As they age one of them will become self-indulgent and most likely repeat the behavior they saw as children. So they themselves will become an addict of some kind. Find a way to numb the pain. Then there is the martyr. The one who feels like they have to take care of all the people and all the things and it is the way they deal with their childhood. Then there is the functioning adult. The one who escapes it all, seemingly unscathed (usually with plenty of mental illness) but who can see it all, and them all, for who they are. This lines up perfectly with my family. Guess which one Patsy says I am: The Functional Adult! I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are. Here’s the thing though, that word “martyr” kept popping up in my brain. Because I don’t always feel like a functioning adult and when I don’t, I feel like a martyr. And I’m really fucking tired of feeling that way, but I think I’ve been programed to feel that way. I think all women have.

Before you ask, no I have not read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, per my last post, but I do want to and I know she talks about this because I have heard her talk about the book on her Insta stories and I’m ordering the book today and it’s now catapulted to the top of my reading list. But this word “martyr” and I go way back. Way, way back. Back to the day I chose to end my pregnancy in 2011 because my daughter was “incompatible with life.” Since I made that decision I have always felt part murderer, part martyr. But what I didn’t see, or realize until Patsy told me about this whole idea, is that that word and I actually go back even further than that. Way, way back.

When I was a little girl I would not tell my mom, for example, that my friend was having a birthday party because I knew I couldn’t afford to bring a present. So instead I would stay home, call my other friends after and ask all about it. I would feel this rage fill up inside of me, but I had nowhere for it to go. Or on Friday nights I would sit at home alone all night and wait for my mom to come back after the bars closed at 2am, just to make sure I unlocked the door for her (because she never could, she was too drunk), make sure she got into pajamas, had some bread and milk so she didn’t vomit, and then fall asleep. That’s a thing 10-year-old Missy did. And 10-year-old Missy was trained to do that. Not intentionally, but still, trained to do. The next day I wasn’t allowed to talk about it with others. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, or laugh at my mom for falling down the steps, or bring it up at all to anyone else, because that isn’t what good girls do. And that’s when this whole thing with this word and I started. And I think it happens, nay, I know it happens, to all little girls in different ways.

Be quiet. Be sweet. Say thank you and hello. Hug your relatives. Offer your assistance. Always be helpful. Don’t tell your business to strangers (something my family still attempts to make me feel guilty about for doing).

These little girls grow up to become women who are partners, and mothers, and daughters, and friends, and members of the community. And they are active. Active to the point of having breakdowns because they do too much. Give too freely. Don’t talk openly about their problems. We actually want to be viewed as martyrs, because that’s how we are supposed to be. We want people to look at us and go, “Oh poor Missy, she has so much on her plate.” We think that means we are doing what we are supposed to do as women. Meanwhile, we are suffering. We start to take less care of ourselves. We start to skip doing things we want to do, we start to give more and more to people who now expect it. If we are lucky we have partners, like mine, who try to tell us to stop. Show us what we are doing. Tell us to take care of ourselves. But we don’t listen. We are programmed to know what is best for us. What is best for everyone.

We hide behind lies. We hide behind PTAs, room-parent responsibilities, we hide behind “hectic” jobs, behind “challenging” children, or ailing parents, or partners who don’t know how to do their own laundry. Guess what, they are adults, they can learn to do their own fucking laundry! We hide behind “projects.” We hide behind “my time management skills are not great.” You’re an adult. Learn better time management. We hide. It’s all just excuses, and we as women nod at each other and say we understand. Because we do, we are trained to. We hide and do all the things for all the people, then when there is a little bit of time for us we squander it by faking a headache to get alone time. Or crying in the shower (raising my hand here). Or, or, or…

I’m done with that shit, y’all. Done. And I’m done coddling family and friends who are okay playing the martyrs too. I love y’all, but if you can’t stand up to people, say things like, “No, I need this time for myself.” Or “Hey, cook your own dinner, clean your own laundry, let someone else worry about the thing” and take care of yourself first, I can’t help you.

I have yet, in my life, to meet a woman who does all the things for all the people, who keeps herself feeling well, and who keeps herself happy by doing what makes her happy with regularity and doesn’t drink a ton. Or doesn’t have to hide in her closet from time to time, or who is told she can’t share her truths with the masses, so she holds it all in until the first chance she gets to spew all the things to her best friend because she has no other way to let it all out. I haven’t met her. She doesn’t exist.

Listen, I know this is hard for some of you to read. It was hard for me to process. I kept thinking of people in my life who seem to have it all together and then I would be like, “Ope, wait, she hates her husband,” or “Hold on now, she has a secret gambling addiction,” or “She thinks she is a horrible mother” or “Now I remember, she’s the one who lost her shit at the PTA meeting.” We are all flawed, every single one of us. And most of the flaws come from deep, deep family shit from way, way back in our childhood. Our alcoholic parents. Our absent parents. Our abusive parents. And most of us are repeating that cycle, just in a different way. We are repeating the cycle of making ourselves feel less than. And our children are watching. Jesus, they are watching. That’s the biggest problem, children are always watching. We were watching as children, that’s how we got here. We were watching, and listening, and learning, and repeating. So ask yourself this, just this one thing today: When my children look at me what do they see? I hope what you think they see, and what you want them to see line up.

Stand up for yourselves, ladies. Reclaim your time. Take care of yourselves.

I’ll be here, trying to sort this all out.

M.

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!

Third Grade

Ahh, third grade. Third grade was unique because we moved from a large house on the lake in the suburbs, into a small, urban house about four minutes from Uptown (which is what Charlotte calls downtown). It was an amazing experience, living close enough to walk, or catch the train into the city whenever we wanted to, and we did that a lot. Jackson got involved in the Children’s Theater in Charlotte, and met new friends and had plenty of new experiences.

The first half of Third Grade was spent in Mrs. Fay’s class, another one of those “I hope he gets Mrs. Fay next year, ahem, cough, cough” instances, that worked. Again, I think it was because she got most of the higher-thinking kids, but still, we were excited. We knew, early on we might not make it through the year there, and we started to look at alternatives for school.

We knew we wanted to live in Charlotte, as close to Uptown as possible, but we also knew that some of the schools in that area were not great. I researched and researched, trying to find the best fit for him. We weren’t scared of Title One, or anything like that, but by this time Jackson was starting to show a lot of promise in STEM and we knew we wanted him to follow that track, which led us to Mallard Creek STEM Academy.

The great thing about Mallard Creek STEM was that you didn’t need to live in a certain neighborhood to go there. You didn’t even need to live in the Charlotte city limits. We had friends that went to school there that lived in several of the small, suburban towns around the city. And we got lucky to snag the spot of a kid who left mid-year. The stars aligned, you might say, and while we started Third Grade at St. James, we said goodbye on the last day of the semester and moved on to the next school, the next phase of our lives, and while we cherish the memories at the first school, the next one offered us even more fun and excitement. Here are some pics of the beginning of Third Grade. The last ones are of the pillow case his class made him and presented to him the day he left. Which of course he still has!

If I’m being honest when I saw that Jackson wrote, “I have a big house” on his “Things about Jackson” paper, I knew it was time to leave. I didn’t want my kid thinking that a person’s “goodness” or “worthiness” depends on how big your house is, and I saw some of the other kids “About Me” and this was something that several of the middle-class, white kids wrote. Hey, you live, you learn.

The two coolest things about Mallard Creek STEM, in Jackson’s opinion, was the fact that he FINALLY got to wear a uniform. Seriously, he had been asking to go to a school where uniforms were required since he knew that was a thing, I think in first grade. The other cool thing was that it was two stories, a brand-new building, with a brand-new ELEVATOR! I assumed him he would not be allowed to use the elevator, then around his third week of school he fell on the playground and sprained his damn ankle! Guess who got crutches AND access to the elevator?! Geez.

Anyway, the second half of third grade started at Mallard Creek STEM Academy, which was just off I-485 in a Charlotte. Jackson went from being a bus rider, to sitting in morning traffic with me. He enjoyed the ride in though, and it always gave us more time to catch up before and after school. He was placed into a class that just had a child move, and so he filled a spot already there. The transition seemed seamless, at first, though every once in a while he would cry and say he missed St. James. That is when we learned the busier the better for him, and when the first snow hit our Charlotte house, suddenly there were kids knocking on our door to see if Jackson could play, and well, that was it. There were about five kids on our block, and sooner rather than later he forgot all about our “big house” with the pool near St. James.

Kids are resilient. That is what we learned. And we were glad to learn that, because unbeknownst to us at this time, things were cooking in Jerimiah’s office, and he was about to be faced with a choice: Either stay with the company and move, or find a new job. And well, you know what we picked. But before we left for Georgia, we spent 13 glorious months in our tiny (1200 sq. feet) city house in Villa Heights. Where we met amazing people, had so much fun, roamed the city day and night, and ate at the best places, saw the best shows, and truly dug our heels into city-living. Something that was surprisingly fun and easy for all three of us.

Here are some pics from the second half of third grade, in Ms. Achee’s class at Mallard Creek STEM, as well as Jackson involved with the school’s production of “The Wiz Jr.” What an amazing experience that was, and one we never would have had if we hadn’t taken a chance!

Thanks for reading!

M.

He found a little blonde girl to impress, day one. And if you’ll notice here, he isn’t wearing his glasses (and he has his boot on his ankle) because she said, “I bet you’d be cute without your glasses on.” (Eye roll)

Second Grade

When Jackson was in first grade, I started substitute teaching. I went back to grad school, had a 20-hour-a-week GA-ship on campus, and then subbed a couple days a week. I was busy, but I picked up most of my sub jobs at his school. Which meant that I could drop him off, go to class, see him throughout the day, and then he’d just walk to whatever class I was in at the end of the day. It was a win-win. Plus I made $100 a day, and the kids in the school were pretty good kids. I knew the teachers and admin, so it made sense. I also got to check out all the classrooms and teachers. Like Mrs. Martin’s second grade classroom. The first time I watched them walk down the hallway, hands behind their back, silent and smiling, I was like, “Umm, how do I ensure Jackson gets into her class next year?!”

I’m not sure exactly how I did it. Or if it was even something I did. I may have overtly said to Mrs. Mattner, “Hey, can you make sure he gets Mrs. Martin?” I may have written a letter to the principal. I may have just hung around enough that Mrs. Martin started to recognize me. If could have had nothing to do with me. She seemed to get the “higher” kids, even though they vehemently denied doing this, so maybe I just lucked out because Jackson is supersonic? I don’t know. But sure enough he was in Mrs. Martin’s class for second grade, and suddenly I was welcomed with open arms back into the classroom again.

I spent a lot of time with that class. I went in every Thursday and did math problems with kids who needed the extra attention. I read with reading groups. I subbed for Mrs. Martin whenever she had to be out. I wasn’t the official “room parent” but the actual room parent was kind of a mess (I couldn’t stand her and she had this really annoying, squeaky voice). The good news was she’d often flake out and email me and be like, “Can you take care of this, Missy?” Sure thing, crazy lady. This is when I learned to navigate that role. Where I learned what NOT to do. How NOT to be. How you probably shouldn’t be a room mom if you spend all your time talking shit on the other parents, it’s uhh, not really a good thing.

Jackson, well, he sailed through second grade. I was starting to wonder if school would just be easy for him like this forever. Still not letter grades, but you know, all capital “Ss” on his report cards. A leader in the classroom. Talk started this year about the “gifted” class in third grade.

The class was good, for the most part, with the exception of a couple of teacher kids, who were like, legit nightmares. One of them was already a little racist, and the other one would sometimes stand on desks and scream things. This is when I started to feel really bad for teachers. Mrs. Martin took it all in stride and was often like, “Oh (insert name) stop being crazy and get down.” But I was like damn, how do you tell a woman you work with that her kid is fucking nightmare? I guess you don’t, you just deal with it.

By mid-year I was on to all the “behavior” kids, and had their number. They’d see me roll in and be like, “DAAAAMN IT!” But they also always had fun with me. Jackson had started to set himself apart from the crowd at this point. He’d come home and say things like, “I told so and so that he was being crazy and needed to calm down, or I was telling Mrs. Martin.” He’d walk the playground with his gaggle of little bling girls, and “Patrol” ensuring that the “problem” kids were being nice. He was well liked and trusted. Kids started to say things like, “Mrs. Goodnight, I’m trying to be more like Jackson.” And they really were.

Second grade is also the time our home life was changing, and Jerimiah and I had secretly began discussing moving into Charlotte. We had good friends there. I was driving there three sometimes four times a week, and Jerimiah worked in Uptown, so he drove in everyday. There schools offered more. They had STEM schools, Charter Schools, Private Schools with rigorous course loads. We dragged our feet for too long, and Jackson ended up starting third grade at the same school, but we were already looking at houses on the first day of third grade.

But second grade taught us some important lessons. Mrs. Martin was very organized. She always had a plan, and she was incredibly communicative. She always had a good handle on what each kid needed, and she strived to get them to do their best work everyday. She expected a lot from the kids like Jackson, and she pushed them. And he was definitely better for the experience. He doesn’t look back so fondly on that year because he said he was “too busy.” Ha! That was exactly what he needed to be, and it would pay off later. Even learning how to learn with “behavioral distractions.” It all came in handy.

Thanks, Mrs. Martin, and whomever stuck Jackson in her class. Thanks for being welcoming to us, for always being fair, and for teaching Jackson that not everyone would act and think like him, but his life would be better for knowing those people, and having those experiences.

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