First Day of School

Do you remember them as fondly as I do?

The first day of school each year?

Oh, the smells of new notebooks and pencils and books.  The untouched notebook, still brand-spanking new.  The quiet hush of the early morning, rising before the sun.  We never got up that early during the summer.  Well rarely anyway.  Breakfast on the table, Mama standing in the kitchen.  Daddy sitting at the end of the table, reading a bit of the paper and finishing his morning bowl of cereal or slab of pound cake with peanut butter or big ol’ bowl of grits.   Waiting to drive us to our respective schools.  Hugs from Mama, wishes for a most excellent day, instructions to be our very best selves, packed bookbags and lunchboxes and out the door.

New schedules.  Homeroom teachers.  Fingers crossed we’d be in the same classes with our best friends.  My least favorite year was the one where we stayed in the same room all day and the teachers changed rooms.  I found out then how important it was for me to be able to visualize the classroom to remember assignments.  It didn’t work so well that year, with everything in the same room.  I don’t know what kind of experiment that was, but I’m thinking the teachers probably weren’t too crazy about it either.  It was only that one year we did that. I can understand why.

Four years ago we made the decision to homeschool our Princess.  After lots of talk and thoughts and meditating on it, Aub came to me two days before public school was set to start and said she’d made up her mind.  She wanted to be homeschooled too.  Wow.  Okay.  Monday found us at the school withdrawing her from the school system, and Tuesday found me handing her a stack of books, saying “Read.”  For some reason I had it in my head we needed to follow the public school schedule.  As curriculum was ordered and we waited, she read and read.  And then we began in earnest.  It was a good choice for us.  If for no other reason (though there were many), it gave us freedom.  Just a few weeks after we started our homeschooling, Daddy went into the hospital and didn’t come out for six weeks.  The year he was diagnosed with lymphoma.  We were able to throw books in the car and go.  I’m so thankful for that.

That FIRST first day of homeschooling though?  I had no clue.  I was winging it.  Fortunately Kindergarten and 8th grade are not easy to mess up.  But still, that first morning I was a little nervous.  I pulled out the parachute I’d gotten, and we played games to start our day before we dug into our new texts and reading material.  I think back to those parachute games and see how far we’ve come.

Oh we have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.  Little by little.  Year by year.

Getting all of our books together for tomorrow.
Getting all of our books together for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is our first day of school around here.  Early?  Yes.  Crazy early?  Possibly.  But here’s the thing.  One year I was so overwhelmed with schooling and everything else that I didn’t get to really enjoy December, the festivities, and all that is beautiful in that season.  I didn’t get to ponder Advent and anticipate Christmas.  It was all a blur.  Each year since, I’ve had as my goal to be able to take off most or all of December from our diehard lesson plans.  (We never really put the learning down, but it’s nice when we have the opportunity to relax a bit.)  So once more, I’m attempting it.  We’ll see how it goes.

And so.  Tomorrow.

Making my plans ahead.  Wonder how long that will last.
Making my plans ahead. My attempt to be organized.  Wonder how long that will last.

 

Tonight I’ve been going through my materials, resources, and books once more.  I’m excited.  For the first time, I’m pulling things from different curriculums and putting together my own plans.  It was somewhat inspired by our trip to the Mouse House and travelling around the world, all in one afternoon.  So this will be something of an “Around the World in 180 Days,” I suppose.  For whatever reason we’re starting with Australia.  I have books that describe the lives of children in different countries.  We will have passports and look at maps and prepare foods from different cultures.  Our science studies will revolve around the wildlife of the different countries and continents.  We are starting with some Australian “bush music” and some aboriginal art.  I have stories from Australia for us to read aloud, in addition to our reading “Swiss Family Robinson” together.  Oh, it’s just too much fun.  Especially now that they are both reading.  I think my college sophomore may even enjoy being with us the next few weeks as we travel and learn.

What’s that?  Math?  What are we doing about that?

*sigh* You had to ask, didn’t you?  It’s not a favorite subject for either of my littles, especially not for our Princess.  But this is the year we are going to conquer that disdain and make it another subject we can’t wait to jump into.  I have some interesting books to start us out.  One thing I’ve learned in my years of homeschooling is if one curriculum isn’t working, there’s another one that will.  Ask questions, get samples, try try again.  Sister taught me that.  She believes in test runs and returning curriculum during the grace period if it doesn’t click.

So yes, reading, writing, ‘rithmetic. All covered.  And then the really fun stuff.  Travelling in our minds to places far away.  Nature studies.  Reading Shakespeare for the first time.  Oh I’ve got an ambitious year mapped out. The enthusiasm and excitement are almost palpable.

But then again, it’s just July.  I have a sneaking suspicion that when October rolls around, we might be dragging a bit.  (But wait, that’s Fair time–FIELD TRIP!)

Time for me to call it a night, y’all.  I have another first day of school to put in the books tomorrow.

Here’s to fresh beginnings and the excitement that comes with them.  Love to all.

 

reflection of the good

For you, baby girl, not quite what you asked for, but this has been on my heart for a while.  Thankful for the gift you are.  Always. 

 

 

I think it is ironic

that of all the people

who miss him

and all he was,

it is I who gets to see

his smile

anytime I want–

well nearly anyway

there are times the frown

he perfected shows too

mostly when I frustrate her

or tease her unmercifully

just as my Daddy did me

When she smiles

it is with the smile of the one

who first laid eyes on her as she was being born

when she laughs

it is an echo of his delight

and when she cannot believe what she is hearing

she shares his surprise at such audacity

Of all who loved and miss him

I’m the one who sees him

most every day

Her face is a reflection of

all that was good in his life–

his joys, hopes, and dreams

She is beautiful

and she is mine

the gift he gave me

that I give thanks for always

even when the frown is showing

for she makes me who I am

by letting me love her

and share her dreams

and she makes my heart glad

 

 

Ode To My Pajama Pants

My pajama pants.  And their pocket.
My pajama pants. And their pocket.

This.  This made me smile.  And giggle.

I mean, there’s a pocket.

On my pajama pants.

I’ve never seen such before.

Isn’t that precious?

And–shhh, don’t let them hear us talking–a bit unnecessary?

I mean, I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I put on my pajama pants, I’m all about the sleep.  As we say around here when we get tired and giddy or cranky, “I need to use the sleep.”  I can’t fathom anything that I would do once I don the pants that would require a pocket.

A back pocket at that.

But these pants are bold.  They are brave.  They are ready–they are outside the box of what is normally expected of pajama pants.  They say, “Hey, if something comes up, and we need to dash quickly, I got this.  No need to change back into those other pants–those uncomfortable ones…..Not only am I comfortable, but I’m functional too.  Look, I have a pocket.”

Yeah, you do.

Over the years, I’ve been known to call my pajama bottoms “silly pants.”  And y’all, if we are honest here, isn’t a back pocket on pajamas really silly?

Ahem.

Or is it?

Maybe, just maybe, this pocket, these pants with what looks unnecessary, maybe they should inspire me instead.  To step outside the norm, beyond what is expected, and be unique.  Original.  Be me.  Even if it looks like I’m a bit off or odd or eccentric.  There’s nothing wrong with being different, even if folks might laugh.

Ah, I’m sorry, Pajama Pants.

So what’s your back pocket?  What about you makes you stand out?  What’s different?  What makes you, YOU?

Embrace it.  Love it.  Accept and celebrate who you are.  Let the whole world see your “back pocket.”  Who cares if folks think it’s crazy.  Off the wall.  It’s what makes you you, and that’s as perfectly wonderful as it can get.

And–do the same for others.  Let them be who they are.  Maybe their back pockets work for them and give them hope.  You never know.

 

 

*****Tonight’s post was, as my Mama used to say, just for the fun of it.  (And then she’d say, if it’s not fun, don’t do it.  I hear you, Mama.  Thanks.  Love you.)

Love to all.

 

The Teacher I Never Had

Yesterday, my friend Baddest Mother Ever asked the question, “Who was your favorite teacher and why?”

I started to respond, but then my mind ran around and around in circles.  Whom would I choose?  I mean, really–ONE?  I’m the girl who always made my Daddy laugh by giving him 2 or 3 cards on Father’s Day and birthdays because I could never choose just ONE.

I started thinking through them.  Those who were not in the running were painfully obvious.  Moving on…..

My favorite?  Favorites?  My very first teacher, Mrs. Partain?  The one who gave me a “B” in conduct the second six weeks because I only quit talking when she asked me to–for a few minutes anyway.  The same one who laughed when I finally told her what Daddy had been saying all year–that he wasn’t old enough to have a daughter in the first grade?  Or Mrs. Crouch? She and Mama became such good friends that Mess Cat was the flower girl in her daughter’s wedding.  What about Mrs. Turner in third grade? The one who read aloud “Charlotte’s Web” in the dark during quiet time and knew I was crying with my head folded down on my desk.  She’s also the one who let me sit next to her chair on the playground as she taught me to crochet.  What a gift that was.   There were many other good ones in elementary and junior high.  I dearly loved Mrs. Scott who had gone to school with Aunt and my Uncle.  Such a sweet spirit.  Mrs. Watson was an awesome pre-algebra teacher.  Turned out she’d been teaching us Algebra 1 all along, so ninth grade was a breeze.  And speaking of math, there was Miss Bell.

*moment of silence here please*

She was just that good.  She taught my Daddy and his siblings and my siblings and cousins after me.  I had her for three years, and I loved her.  From the beginning perhaps it was only because of that link to the past.  But she was an awesome teacher who commanded the classroom in her quiet way.  You did your homework or you wiggled through the whole class because she KNEW.  I don’t know how, but she did.  One time a classmate who hadn’t done his assignment was asked what answer he got for an algebra problem.  He tossed something out there.  Standing next to his desk, she looked down at him and raised her glasses as she did and said her signature line, “Do wha-uut?”  Before she could say her next line, “Go to the board” (oh the fear that could put into you–working the problem in front of the whole class and HER), he looked up and said,  pointing at the board in the front of the room, “Well Miss Bell if you go up to the board, I can tell you what I did to get it.”  He was buying time and she knew it.  She called his full name–“I can walk faster than you can think.”  Ha.  That was classic.  She knew how to laugh when things were funny, and she cared that you learned it.  That was it.  She wanted to impart knowledge.  I loved her dearly.

But was she my favorite?  Close.  But no.  I don’t think so.

My favorite teacher is one I never had a class with.  I never sat and called her by the name that she went by then.  I knew her many years later, when I was grown, sitting a few pews over from her in church.  I recognized her name, and she asked me if I was his daughter.  I beamed.  “Yes ma’am.  Yes I am.”

She was my Daddy’s third grade teacher.  Miss Ann.

Daddy didn’t care much for school before that.  He didn’t apply himself.  He told me this.  My Daddy used to say to us children we couldn’t complain about anything, because at least we weren’t hoeing cotton.  I think he did a lot of that.  Shoes weren’t a given year round for him.  He came from hard-working, good people.  But school?  It just wasn’t for him.

Until that year.  Miss Ann saw something in him and brought it out.  She asked him to clean the chalkboard, dust the erasers.  She encouraged him.  He learned to love learning.  He became enraptured with words and knowledge and books and writing.  He once told me she changed his life.

And bless her, she changed so many after that, simply because she took time with one little boy whom she thought could do better.

He passed on his love of reading to his little sister with a trip to the used bookstore, who later took a little girl in the third grade to her very first used book sale.  That little sister loves books to this day, as does that little girl, whose library overfloweth.  (literally) He held us all to high standards in the field of learning.  There might be things we couldn’t do, but we could apply ourselves and try our best, and that’s what he expected of all of us.  From his oldest child to his youngest grandchild.  He knew an education was something that couldn’t be taken away from us by anyone.

When my old life fell apart, he sat me down and encouraged me to get my Master’s, “so you can take care of you and that baby.”  And he was right.  He made that possible because he believed in education.  And the power it has to make lives better.  He was a lifelong learner, constantly reading books that imparted knowledge–about all kinds of things from quantum physics to theology to children’s books that he held in highest regard.

All because of Miss Ann.

We, each one of us, have the power to change lives like that.  It’s a bit scary, isn’t it?  I don’t know if Miss Ann ever realized what she did, but I know.  And the best way I can thank her is by doing what my Daddy did–pass it on–this love of learning, this encouraging someone to be their very best.  Listening, sharing, letting curiosity grow.  And being present.  It all comes back to #bethefeather, it seems, doesn’t it?  Being kind, caring about another, taking care of those around us……doing unto others, as Mama was always preaching.

Do me a favor.  Please.  If you get the chance to encourage someone tomorrow or the next day or next month, will you take a moment and do so?  You don’t have to be in charge of a classroom to do it.  In honor of a great teacher, Miss Ann, and all those teachers who step outside the box and change a child’s life and the lives of future generations all down the line, let’s make a difference by caring. And doing.

Thanks.  That is huge.  Love to all.

 

 

Parading It on the Front Porch

On my way home from my OutandAbouts today, I took the backroads.

It’s how I roll.

I’d rather take a backroad anywhere than ride on the main roads.  Especially with all this construction of the main highway near our house–I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

So I drove through the old part of our little community, stopped at the four-way, crossed, and drove past the log cabin that we all love.  They have the best decorating sense–exactly my taste: old farmhouse style.

I was on autopilot, so I almost missed what was sitting on the other side of the road.  Up next to the little road, since they were throwing it out.  As I glanced back, I could see that it was an old broken chair of sorts.

My treasure I rescued from the side of the road.  Every single piece of it.
My treasure I rescued from the side of the road. Every single piece of it.

It is not far to go from there to the stop sign near the old church and its cemetery; but I promise you that, in my imagination, I had used that chair in about five different ways and places around my abode before I could STOP at the sign.  I was about to shrug it off and keep on trucking home, when I thought about it once more before my foot pressed the gas to move forward.

Forward.  That’s exactly what I need to do.  Move.  Forward.

A lot of times I let life happen to me and a lot of those times I have no choice.  But many times I do.  And way too often I just shrug an idea or plan off, and go on with whatever is in front of me.

Sometimes that’s okay.  But sometimes I wind up regretting–that which I did not try.

And somehow I had a feeling that if I didn’t go back for the chair, I would regret it.  A small thing, I know, but I knew it was symbolic of bigger, more important things.  If there’s something there for the taking, and I want it, why do I just walk (or drive) away?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that today I didn’t.

I turned the go-mobile around and headed back down the street where the speed limit is about 15 I think.  I pulled over, turned on my hazards just in case, and opened the door to load it.  There were broken pieces laying on the ground.  I picked them all up and threw them in the vehicle.  I didn’t want to be that kind of scavenger–one who just takes the goody and leaves the other.  If I was in, I was ALL in.

This evening after the sun drifted behind the trees back of us, giving us a little bit of a reprieve from the heat, I unloaded the pieces.  It was a beautiful rocker in its heyday.  Nice wood, solid.  I can’t imagine how it came to be all broken like this.  Maybe fell off the back of the truck as they were moving?  Someone got scared late one night playing in the yard, and knocked it off the porch in their haste to get inside?  Too much wear and tear and not enough know how for fixing it?  I don’t know.  But I’m tickled to say I found a spot for all the pieces.  It was fun and only a little challenging to find a use for all of it.  I think my porch is the better for it.  Not sure the Fella feels the same, but since he didn’t express a preference, it’s staying put for a while.

A stake for my "Phoenix" tomato plant.
A stake for my “Phoenix” tomato plant.

This is my “Phoenix” tomato plant.  I don’t know what variety it is really, but it rose from an empty pot–there was nothing alive there in April and now look at her.  Better than she ever did last summer.  Amazing.  Rising from the ashes, just like a phoenix.  I was proud to give her a spindle as the high-falutin’ stake she deserves.

One arm made a lovely backdrop for our fairy garden.
One arm made a lovely backdrop for our fairy garden.

This was my belated Mother’s Day project.  A fairy garden.  The birdbaths are especially dear to me–the frog is for Mama and the cardinal for Daddy.  The arm off the old rocker makes an interesting backdrop I think.  We could even hang a fairy swing from it later on if we find one around here–which I’m sure we will.  😉

Beside our front door.
Beside our front door.

This plant has never looked so happy.  Neither has Madam Frog, as long as the cats don’t knock her off.  There’s a little fairy wishing well in the pot if you look closely.  I love this old broken rocker turned plantstand.  I don’t know if it’s too tacky to be quaint by normal standards, but around here we embrace the brokenness.  And the crazy.  And we parade them all on our front porch.  Literally.

This was a good day.  It felt good to have a vision, and instead of thinking of a million reasons why I shouldn’t do it–go and pick up a broken rocking chair that once belonged to the folks who live right there and are probably watching thinking “whoo hoo it’s gone” or “can you believe that crazy chick is actually loading that into her go-mobile?”–I just took a deep breath, leapt, and did it.  I know it’s a small, small thing.  It’s not like starting a non-profit or writing a book that can change the world.  It’s not like putting grief aside and moving along towards a new and different future.  It’s not even like doing something handy such as making a clever supper out of minimal ingredients or having all of the laundry done and folded AND put away all at once.

But it is a step.  A baby step.  And one that fed my soul on this sultry summer evening.  And for a Thursday in June, that’ll do.

May you have a vision and go for it without thinking too hard.  Just go forward.

Love to all.

 

wishing on a star

 

for those who still wish on stars and believe and cross their fingers and pinky promise, stay young and always let the light in…..

 

when she hears his name and remembers

she is eighteen again and she smiles

always eighteen, nineteen, twenty

though the lines in the mirror tell a different story now

but then, she was young, filled with hope and dreams

and wonder

and wishing on stars in the sky

that twinkled back down

winking conspiratorially, as if to say

“we got this”

she loved without reason

or attention to convention

she wrote long into the night before turning twenty

her last words written as a teenager,

she wrote that on the paper too

she can no longer find those words, but she knows

them by heart

the same heart she carried on her sleeve back then

only with a few more cracks now

patched together by the promises kept by those who love her

the cracks let the light in, they say

and she craves the light

as the memory of the smile of the first one she loved

and the sound of her name lifted into the air by his voice

take her back in time to see dreams that never were to be

and promises that were never kept

and words that were never written

“how did that story go?” she thinks now

the one she wrote, when she loved from afar and wished upon a star

for the one

to come along

filled with enough light to

pour over into her soul

and fill the darkness

forever

 

The Sisterhood of Mamas

She rose up from that bed a mother, and ready to fight for the rest of her days.  What does it matter for a woman to give up her self, and live quietly, with the choices she has made?  But when the woman becomes a mother, she can no longer participate in the slow rot.  Because no one’s going to rot the child.  And anyone who tries will suffer the mother’s consequences.” –Lydia Netzer, shine shine shine

 

There is a sisterhood of these women, the ones who rise up from their delivery beds or from the desk where papers were signed, a newly created soul, that of Mama. Fierce and protective and loving and tender. We see each other and nod.  We each make our own choices for these who have been entrusted to us.  But there is a camaraderie that cannot be broken. We need each other.  This came to life for me in the midst of a miserably hot and humid Sunday afternoon.  When my little guy vomited in public.

Cooter was dehydrated, I’m convinced.  We were at the MouseHouse and it had been a busy day, most of it out in the hot, hot sun.  Waiting in line for cool, long-anticipated autographs, standing as the sun beat down on us watching a parade, and walking from one attraction to the other.  Hot.

It was our first day there, so we hadn’t gotten the routine of pouring water down our throats–constantly–down yet.  I had my little guy drinking but I think it was too late.  He was wilting like a petunia in the full sunlight.  Right before my eyes.  I bought a cold drink, and we sat down in the shade.

The Fella took a baby wipe and got it really wet so I could rub Cooter’s neck and forehead with it.  He liked that, but he was still miserable.  He was barely sipping anything.  One Mama with her child looked over and gave me the “I understand” look and told her child they would move to give us more space, since he didn’t feel good.

After getting him to suck on some ice and sip some water, Cooter seemed to be a little better.  We got him to stand up, but no, he wanted to be held.  His Daddy picked him up.  He just melted in the Fella’s arms.

Rather suddenly he scrambled to get down.  The instant his feet hit the ground he was throwing up.  And it wasn’t quiet.  At all.

Oh my.  Bless him.

After I got him settled back down as comfortably as I could with ice and a cool cloth, I set to work using the last of my baby wipes to clean up the “mess.”  And I noticed that the mama/preteen girl pair that had jumped up when it happened were seated back exactly where they had been before.  Fairly close to the EVENT.

I don’t know why exactly but that comforted me.  That put some normalcy in what had happened–no big deal, happens every day, right?

Well maybe not, but it sure helped my feelings.  I leaned over and said, “I am so sorry.  I think he got too hot.  I apologize for this.”

The Mama looked over and smiled, waving her hand.  “I have children too.  It happens. Don’t worry.  Hope he feels better.”

Well I’ll be.

And that.  That is what I’m talking about.  The grace that comes from this sisterhood of one day anticipating the life you carry within, or the child that waits for you at the end of a long labor of paperwork, and the next day the child is in your arms and from that day on–you are the One.  The Mama.  Mother.  Madre.  Mommy.  Mom.  The one who wipes the bottoms and noses.  Who dries the tears.  Who holds the hands.  And who cleans up the vomit.  The one who finds a clean outfit when an accident happens.  And who says, “It will be okay” and sets out to make it so.  The grace that looks another Mama in the store in the eyes and says, “No, you go ahead–my crew are at home today, but I know what it’s like to have one begging for a toy and the other crying from lack of sleep and a third trying to wander off.  I get it.”  The grace that takes another Mama by the hand and says, “I don’t know where this journey is headed, but I’ll walk with you because someone forgot to give any of us the instruction manual.  We’re all winging it around here.”  The grace that doesn’t hear the whining or the tears or screams nearly as much as the child’s Mama does because hey, what Mama hasn’t had to deal with that out in public?

Grace.  The Sisterhood of Mamas.

Tonight I’m thankful for the kindness of that Mama sitting there, very likely in the–ahem–“splash zone,” who didn’t blink an eye.  I was close to tears but seeing her stay cool and near about nonchalant calmed my spirit and my anxieties.  I will take care of my children.  I will fight.  I will protect.  I will cherish.  I will teach.  I will love.  Forever and always.  Whatever that looks like.  Even if, as in that moment, it means being down on my hands and knees cleaning up “unloveliness” as fast as I can with baby wipes.  And holding my sick baby, trying to get him well the best I know how.  The other Mama, this sister, was a gift to me in that moment; she was my feather.  I think of her, and hope that one day I can pass on that grace and comfort to someone else.

Love to all.  #bethefeather

 

*****Cooter did recuperate just fine.  An hour later he was sitting in air conditioning, drinking some apple juice (thanks to my SIL for suggesting that) and eating his supper.  He even had an ice cream sundae for dessert (yes, I know, I was asking for it).  He bounced back and was fine from then on.  Thankful for that.