Mama’s Getting a Promotion

Well, hello there.

The last time we talked it was January. I had every intention of starting 2017 off with a blogging boom. I had lists and schedules and all that stuff–and then I was offered a freelance writing job that took up every free moment of my life until mid-March. Almost immediately after it wrapped up, I got an even bigger promotion. The biggest promotion a stay-at-home mom/writer mama can get.


Nugget will be arriving just in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and we’re all excited about the addition of a Little Brother for JC. In fact, when we told him the big news, his first reaction was, “Finally!” JC has been asking for a sibling since he was 3, and  in his opinion, his father and I have been taking our sweet time fulfilling that particular request.

The first trimester was…rough. I got really sick right after I found out I was expecting, then got sciatica so badly that some days I didn’t leave the couch. The first half of the second trimester wasn’t much better. Then summer came, and I was very focused on having a slow and engaged summer with JC. It has been really nice just to taking our time for the past couple of months: wake up when we feel like it (even though JC “feels like it” at 6 AM), exploring our favorite city haunts, and spending long afternoons reading Harry Potter together.

But fall is right around the corner. Homeschooling starts back up in just a couple weeks, along with my 3rd trimester. Change is in the air for JC, my family and for my little corner of the internet. I’ve enjoyed our slow summer but I’m happy to pick up the pace again.

Are you back to school or still enjoying summer? Are you ready for fall or still clinging to that summer feeling?

 

Creating New Rituals

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you all had a wonderful and fulfilling holiday break. My family and I had many relaxing moments, but I am very happy to be back to the real world today. The week between Christmas and New Years was a bit of a haze for me.

Our homeschool co-op doesn’t pick back up until next week, but we started our second half of first grade today. I’m excited about all the things JC is excited for this year, and I’ll be writing a full blog on it soon.

But for today, I want to talk about creating new rituals for a fresh year. This year I’m not setting any resolutions, because I feel like making a list of things to do and ways to be better is just setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. I know I’m not the only one who had a rough go of 2016, and this year, I really want to be good to myself. Here are some of the rituals I hope to create this year for myself and my family:

  • Ending our day with music: At the end of the day when dinner is done, parents are exhausted and the kids get that wild, pre-bedtime wind, we often turn on the TV to kill time before bed. I would like to start trading the TV for music and audiobooks. I’d love to see what playlists my family come up with.
  • The Best Year Ever jar: I’ve made room on our kitchen bookshelf for a big empty jar, and I’m encouraging my family to drop a note inside when something good happens or when they’re thankful for something. At the end of the year, we’ll have a whole jar of happy memories.
  • Using essential oils in my showers: Most days, a shower is the only time I get to myself–and some days even then I have a small visitor pushing trains around the bathroom. I would like to utilize some essential oils and scents to help set a tone for my day.
  • Starting my writing time each day with a writing prompt: I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to writing prompts and at least 3 books full of them, all for when “I have time”–and this year, I will make the time.
  • I want to set aside a time each week to be creative outside of writing: I used to love to sew and scrapbook and do crafty things. As a homeschooling mom, it was very easy to let those side projects slide. I’d love to pick some of them back up, though. I started a Harry Potter pillow almost 3 years ago I haven’t finished. Is there really any excuse for that?
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It should not take 4 years to make a pillow.

 


I’d love to know: what rituals do you have? 

I’m Going Back to Kindergarten

I think it is time to go back to kindergarten.

No, I’m not talking about JC. I’m talking about us. People. Everywhere.

I don’t have to recap for you what has been going on in the world. I know you, like me, are probably overwhelmed by 24-hour news coverage of shootings, bombs, rape cases, racial tension and a presidential election that makes me wish I could actually vote for the Hermione Granger ticket.

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I’m not going to rehash the details, and I’m not going to give you my opinion. In fact, I thought for days about even pressing “publish” on this blog. The beauty and the nightmare of social media is that when anything happens–good, bad, controversial–people can post their opinions about it. But it seems recently that people have forgotten the most basic etiquette and manners. And so I think it is time to go back to kindergarten and remember a few things.

Like to BE NICE. When bad things happen, and when people get hurt, we want to put the blame somewhere. You know that saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? I feel like social media needs a gigantic dose of that.

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And to TAKE TURNS. Social media allows us to talk. And talk. And not pay attention to what other people might be saying.

Or to PLAY. Being connected all the time is exhausting. Go outside, read a book that is made of paper and has no buttons. Walk around a zoo and see real animals, not just videos of them acting cute on YouTube.

Make sure to have a SNACK. When you’re hungry, you’re crabby. When you’re crabby, you take it out on other people.

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Do something with FOCUS. Little kids have an amazing ability to focus intently on things–whether it be building with legos, poking things with a stick, or walking very, very, carefully on an imaginary path when you’re in a hurry. Can you remember the last time you focused on one thing because you loved it, and not because you had to?

That we need to USE OUR WORDS, NOT OUR HANDS. Is it just me, or is the violence out of control? Situations escalate far too quickly. It is so, so frightening.

Finally, DON’T LIE. Just don’t. It will eventually come back to get you–and if it doesn’t, you know what they say about karma.

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What lesson do you think the world needs to remember right now?

Roots, Wings, and the Places We Leave our Hearts

They say the most important things you can give your children are roots and wings. My parents did an excellent job of giving me roots. They run deep into the red soil of north Georgia. I very much love being able to go “home”: the place where I grew up, with familiar landmarks, people and patterns. My wings are akin to those of a penguin: I have them but they’re not terribly practical. 

My husband is the opposite. His wings want to soar. He travels light and often, whereas I overpack to go grocery shopping. 

We have managed to create a child who is a delightful combination. JC travels with excellent ease, but likes his “normal” routine in the morning and evening. As long as I can bookend his days with a semblance of his normal, he is open to adventure in between.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of home recently. We’ve had two household moves in less than a year, and we’re on the tail end of a month long business trip with my husband. His new job has locations in Hawaii and California, and when he travels for long periods, the boy and I get to join him. Next up is Fort Lauderdale. So needless to say, home is kind of a fluid concept right now.

 

Have buddies, will travel

 
I’ve really come to believe that home is less about where you hang you hat, and more about where you leave a peice of your heart.

It’s why home is a house on a hill in a small North Georgia town. It’s where I grew up, both literally and figuratively. It’s where I still run into people I know, and where the twang returns to voice no matter how hard I try to keep it out.

Home is a small campus in Covington, Georgia. Emory University started on the cozy Oxford Campus, and in a way, so did I. Oxford was the first place I lived away from where I grew up, and I love to return in the fall to see the leaves turn and make the campus it’s most beautiful. I always feel like I could run into a younger, more naive version of myself around every corner.

Home is a tangled mess of Atlanta city streets where there is always traffic and I still manage to get lost despite the fact I’ve lived there most of my adult life. Atlanta was the first place I consciously chose to dwell, and I love it. I still get starry-eyed over the skyline, and there are certain city spots that give me comfort like an old friend.

 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

 
Home is a made-up place, where there’s a castle and a mouse and fairy tales unfold every day. Some people call Disney a tourist trap, but I call it home: it’s where my father walked me down the aisle, where my family and I go to focus on each other, and where I can shut out reality every once and awhile.

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And finally, I’m coming to realize home doesn’t have to be a place. It’s the way my husband knows how to hug me just the right way to make the stress of the day melt away. It’s the smell of my husband’s cologne. It’s the way I can just relax around my mom.

It’s sort of a comforting thought, to be honest, that home is not a singular place. That I can find home 5,000 miles away on a tropical island or on a phone call with a familiar voice. That it isn’t just where your heart is, but where you give your heart out.

Where have you left pieces of your heart?

Just Yell “Plot Twist!”

Oh, 2016. You are a doozie.

2015 was a very trying year for my family. I had hoped that when we ushered 2016 in, we would be done with transition and change. I was wrong.

Two weeks ago, my husband abruptly lost his job. No warning, no signs. Any time a job is lost, it hits a family hard. But when you’re a single-income homeschooling family, it’s a Really Big Issue.

The night we found out, I sat down with my computer and applied for every job I could find. I was so lucky and so blessed to find a job in under a week as an editor for an Atlanta-area publishing company. And I’m actually getting to use my English degree, which is awesome.

But it’s a huge change.

It’s a change for me, a change for JC, and a change for my husband. It’s a change for our schedule, our co-ops, and my writing. And, to put it lightly, I am change adverse.

I wish I could say that this was going to be the last change for awhile, and that my family was going to sail along smoothly through the rest of 2016. But I don’t think it it. I think there’s a lot more transition in store for us.

There’s a funny thing about being a parent: when things happen, or the sh!t hits the fan, or something happens that you need time to process…well, tough. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl panties and slap a big smile on your face to keep things normal for your kid. And that’s just what I’ve been doing.

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We’re having a major plot twist right now. But every good story needs a couple of plot twists, right? That’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it better.

There’s always a silver lining. I love editing, and I’m getting to put that fancy degree that’s hanging on my wall to use. JC is getting to experience different teaching styles and ideas while his dad pitches in with homeschooling. And I get a chance to be the parent he’s SUPER excited to see at the end of the day…which is pretty cool.

Have you had any major life changes happen recently? How do you deal with life’s plot twists?

How Do You Vacation From Homeschool?

It’s Christmas week! It’s Christmas week! All over our town, school-aged kiddos slept in, got up and DID NOT put on their uniforms, and headed to the mall/museum/zoo to enjoy the first day of holiday break.

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I remember so well how special Christmas vacation was when I was little. It made the holidays feel real. It was my chance to watch bad day time TV and read FOR AS LONG AS I WANTED. My friends and I would go to the mall in the middle of the day, which felt decadent and a little bit naughty. You know the feeling, right?

So while this was going on all around us this morning, JC and I got up as usual. We had our morning routine (because holiday or no holiday, if you mess with my kid’s morning or night routine, our entire day falls apart). And then we…had a regular day. We read for as long as we wanted. He worked on his “novel” about Hoth, the ice planet from Star Wars (AKA he dictated to me and I typed as fast as I could). Nana came over and we went to the mall to finish up our shopping. We had lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. He’s currently drawing one AT-AT Walker after another in his “animation” notebook. It is essentially just another day for us. It was a fun, happy day, but it leaves me questioning: how do you have a vacation from project based homeschooling?

For the most part, we don’t follow a strict schedule. There are certainly parts our day that are more “school” than others, but the majority of the time we’re pretty free flowing. So how do I make “school breaks” special? Should I even have school breaks? I mean, for a 5-year-old, he has it pretty easy. And I’m certainly not going to stop him from working on something I would consider a homeschool project (even if it’s just considered “play” to him) while we’re technically on a break. But I find myself longing a little bit for that excited feeling of freedom, for both he and I. I don’t work a 9 to 5 job, so there’s no time off or Christmas party or holiday bonus. And he doesn’t school traditionally, so there’s nothing to break from.

This is one of these moments when I have to step back and think about the situation, long and hard. Why was it that I felt such freedom and happiness during Christmas break? It was the mental freedom from having to think and the physical freedom from being in school all day. When I look at it like that, I’m glad that JC doesn’t notice when we have a homeschool break. When I let go of something I have been conditioned to think (“school is out! I don’t have to learn anything!”) I realize that for my  kid, and my situation, I’m doing it right.

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I’m sure there will come a time when homeschool isn’t as fun as it is now. And we’ll take that break, and we’ll savor it. But for now, back to creating.

Is Target on Target or did They Miss the Bullseye?

You won’t often see me writing about current events and even more rarely about politics. Of course I have an opinion, but I feel like the internet is so full of people spouting off that I don’t necessarily need to add to the noise. However, this story has popped up on my news feed so many times this week, and it hits close to home.

Target announced earlier this week that it would be removing gender separation from its children’s bedding and toy section, meaning instead of having  “boy” and “girl” sections, it’s just going to be kids. They’ve been applauded for this decision by some and dragged  through the coals by others.

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As you all know, I have a son. I also have years of experience working with children in many capacities, so I’ve seen gender stereotyping–and the fight against it–firsthand for most of my adult life. I’m going to say this, and it’s going to tick some people off: gender stereotypes exist for a reason. They exist because, as a whole, little girls like girl stuff and little boys like boy stuff.

Before I lose half of you, let me point out that obviously this is not cut and dry. Take JC for example. He is obsessed with trains. And crashing them. He likes giant construction vehicles, dinosaurs and race cars.

Know what else he likes? Tucking his favorite stuffed animals in for a nap, rocking them to sleep if he deems them fussy, and making them food in his pretend kitchen–a play kitchen, I might add, that we received second-hand, and is a bright and glittery pink. I thought about spray painting it, and then I thought, why? It’s fine how it is. Why should JC feel like he can’t like pink?

He’s a boy. He likes “boy” things. And that’s okay. He also likes “girl” things. And that’s okay, too. Why can’t they just be “kid” things?

And that’s exactly where Target was trying to go with the choice they made–taking away the stigma between girl toys and boy toys. But since Target doesn’t manufacture many of the toys, all they’re doing is taking down signs. They can put Lego City sets next to Lego Friends sets and it’s still going to be clear which gender they are marketing to. If you really feel like you need to remove gender stereotypes from toys, the problem is much deeper than taking the signs down.

Why can’t we just let kids play with what they want to, dress like they want to, be who they want to? When we go to Target, or The Disney Store, or Toys R Us, we look at all the toys…because toys are fun. We never say, “no, don’t look at this because it’s for girls.” We let him choose what he wants, whether that’s a superhero lego set or a Doc McStuffins play set.  This Target decision is the tip of an iceberg that encompasses a lot more: like the fact that girls can be anything, do anything boys do, and be considered strong–but if boys want to take on traditional girl roles, it comes with a stigma. Like the whole #LikeAGirl campaign that popped up earlier this year. If you run fast and win the race, it’s okay to be #LikeAGirl. Go you! If you’re a boy and you do the same thing, you don’t get to celebrate–because, well, you’re a boy. It’s expected.

(Also, can I point out that the #LikeAGirl campaign was started by a feminine hygiene company? That’s just…backwards).

I got to grow up and be exactly what I wanted to be: a mother who gets to stay at home and write. Did I want to do this because I felt like it was my role as a woman? Nope. My three best female friends are all successful career women in their own industries, and I applaud them, because it’s what they wanted. I’m thankful that JC gets that point of view as well. He is surrounded by people who love him, and every single one of them is different. They run the gamut from traditional married couples, like myself and his father, to long-term unmarried relationships and same-sex marriages. Some of these people break gender stereotypes. All of these people are good people. And frankly, that’s what I really care about.

I suppose my point is that we need to stop focusing on doing what is right for our kids and just DO what is right for our kids. If you have a little girl, let her dress up like a princess. Princesses are pretty and it’s fun to be pretty. If you have a boy, let him be rough and tumble. Playing with sticks is awesome and sticks are free. And when the little girl wants to dig in the mud and the little boy puts the crown on his head, applaud and be happy they are figuring out who they want to be.

Do you think Target taking down the gender specific signs will make a difference? Do you let your kid play with toys that aren’t marketed to their gender?