School is OUT!

Kindergarten in our house ended much like it started–quietly and with little fanfare. There were no end of the year parties, no tiny processional of gowned children. And this was okay with us–JC is not the party type.

Instead, I mentioned to him that he had completed his first year of homeschool and that after the summer, he’d be starting first grade.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

A year ago, a comment like that would have thrown me off-kilter. Not this time.

“Well, everyone has some type of school. So what should we call it?”

“Super awesome dinosaur battle time.”

Alright, then.

Just because we’re not the last-day-of-school-party type doesn’t mean I’m not taking some time to reflect on out first year of homeschooling. I’m working on a yearbook for him, noting not only his academic achievements but his emotional and developmental ones, too.

I feel like this year went…differently than I thought it was going to be. I made a lot of tweaks and changes as we went. The phrase “unschooling” has always turned me off–but I have a suspicious feeling that we leaned a little to that side in the end. Some things that I thought went well:

  • JC continues to stay at the level of or excel the public school standards. I was concerned about his writing and word recognition/spelling earlier this year, but the moment I stopped pressuring him was the moment he started doing it. His strong subjects are still science and math.

  

  • He is finally warming up to hanging out with other kids. I think he still prefers the company of adults, but he’s learning there are perks to finding a crowd his size who like superheroes as much as he does.

  

  • We have found a co-op we really like and we’re looking forward to their summer sessions and joining them again in the fall.
  • Project based learning really works for JC. I love watching him getting excited about learning–especially when he doesn’t realize he’s learning. Favorite topics this year were the solar system, trains (of course), dinosaurs and World War One.

 

soldiers vs. jedi in an epic battle

 
It is a little bittersweet to see kindergarten come to a close. We had a lot of ups and downs as a family during the school year, and I’m excited to sink into summer. While there’s always things to work on, my singular goal for this summer is to have fun and play–because after all, that’s the way we all learn best.

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?

It’s Not Starting Over, It’s Just Going On

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged, dear readers. And it isn’t because I’ve had nothing to write about–it’s because I’ve had too much to write about. I haven’t known where to start, feeling like I needed to write something deep and meaningful about the changes in my world. I started a dozen different posts, but none of them felt right.

During my bouts of useless perfectionism, JC has become increasingly adept at using Apple Music. He carries around my old iPhone, listening to Star Wars soundtracks and music from the Muppet Movies. In one of the songs from Muppets Most Wanted, Josh Groban (in a delightful cameo) sings:

It’s not starting over, it’s just going on…

  

That sums up the way I feel about this year. There’s only so many times that you can start over. Eventually it just becomes going on. Doing life. It is with that mindset that I jump back into regular blogging. I’ll fill you in on all the changes as we go, and I hope you do the same for me. 

The last time we talked, it was spring. What’s new with you?

Seasons in the South

Seasons are tricky in the south.

It’s the first day of spring, but it’s cold out. And it seems even colder than the number on the thermometer because we had a glorious few days of warm, sunny weather last week. We were lulled into a false sense of security that winter was over for the year–but we were wrong.

That’s because winter in the south is like a cantankerous old uncle. He shows up around Thanksgiving. He kind of hangs around through Christmas, coming and going, and then camps out nonstop until February. By early March, you’re tired of him and you give him the boot to make way for the spring that you’re oh-so-ready for.

Spring in the south is like that friend we all had in our early 20’s. She’s fun. She’s hilarious. She throws the best parties and she’s always up for adventure. And she’s totally unreliable.

She comes and spends a weekend, maybe a whole week–and then disappears for a few days, leaving you shivering in the sweatshirt you had to dig back out because she’d convinced you she’s here to stay and that you have no need for scarves, long sleeves, or anything with down in it. And when you finally think you have her pinned down, and that those lovely spring days are here to stay, she disappears for a whole year.

And in comes summer.

If spring is a flamboyant, youthful friend, then summer in the south is like a three-year-old.

Instense and extreme, there is no middle ground in a southern summer. Much like a toddler, you can be having a wonderful and sunny time in the pool and then BAM–the winds change and there’s a torrential downpour.

You plan out your entire vacation, book your airline tickets and pack your suitcase. Then you look at summer the wrong way, or you give it the wrong color cup at breakfast…and then there’s a hurricane and you have to stay home and wait it out.

And finally when summer is over and you’re ready to be back on a schedule comes the most elusive of southern seasons–autumn.

Autumn, the responsible daughter, gives us an extra hour of sleep. She paints the mountains in beautiful colors. She brings cool breezes that are a relief after summer’s temper tantrums and we revel in slipping on coats and curling up with blankets and hot drinks.

The summer stomps it’s feet and refuses to stay in bed like a good child and it gets hot again and we all sweat for a week or two, determinedly drinking our pumpkin spice lattes because it’s supposed to be fall, darn it. 

Before we know it, autumn has slipped away, off to her college courses at a prestigious university somewhere, leaving us with an empty space for old uncle winter to move in once more.

And we begin again.

Happy spring everyone! Are you bundled up or enjoying the sunshine?

 

If Book Nerds Ran the World

I saw this meme the other day and loved it:

  
I saw it the same day of the announcement that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be released in print this summer. I was already thinking, hmm, what am I going to have to cancel so I can sit and devour the script in one sitting? And so the funny little meme hit close to home.

Happy Friday, friends!

If you ruled the world, what proclamations would you make?

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?

January Book Round Up

My literary goals for 2016: read 100 books, and don’t waste time finishing books I don’t like (I’m really bad about this). In January I read seven books for pleasure. I started and stopped reading three books. Here are my mini reviews (and, as always, no spoilers).

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The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: This book was dark from beginning to end. Mia Dennett, daughter of a prominent judge, goes missing for 6 months–then is returned home with amnesia. If that’s not mystery enough, add on the questionable morals of her family, a weird case of Stockholm syndrome, and hints that the kidnapping may not be as black and white as it originally seemed to be and you’ve got yourself a pretty legit thriller with a  satisfyingly twisted ending.

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas: This was a pretty good piece of historical fiction, and it will definitely please the feminist readers out there. Gracy Brookens, the sole midwife of a mining town in Colorado in the late 1800s, is accused of murdering an infant. The town splits as the trial convenes, and things come out about the community–and Gracy’s own family–give this slow-to-start novel the startling end it needs.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight: We know from the start that Amelia, a 15-year-old private school student, is dead from an apparent suicide. What we don’t know is why. Told from the perspective of Amelia’s mother as she researches her daughter’s life and Amelia herself as she lives out the days before her death, it becomes apparent that the truth is not always what it seems on the outside. This book made me really, really happy that I was mothering a five-year-old boy and not a teenage girl.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella: Oh, how I wanted to love this book. The original handful of Shopaholic books were great. The last one, Shopaholic to the Stars, was tedious at best. But I read this one, it’s sequel, out of loyalty. However, the things that made Becky, the main character, endearing in the previous books were grating and annoying. It was way too “out there”. I skipped huge chunks of the last part just so I could get to the end and see how it finally wrapped up.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalain: Loved it. Read my full review here.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This YA read was clever. When Clay, the main character, finds a box of cassette tapes on his porch after school, he realizes they’re a narrative from a girl he secretly crushed on for years–a girl who has recently committed suicide. Much like Reconstructing Amelia, this was an interesting but deeply sad story about the complicated web of teen suicide.

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant: When Lizzie goes to put flowers on the crash site where her husband perished a year ago, she finds that someone has beat her there–and the flowers are signed by a woman she has never heard of. Her decision to find out leads her down a path that unwinds life as she thought she knew it. This book is also an excellent commentary on domestic violence and how easy it can be to miss (as an outsider) and escape (as a victim). This book was genuinely creepy, and had me looking over my shoulder more than once.

I just realized that most of the books I read this month were dark and a little depressing. I’m not as into thrillers as much as my January reading selection would lead you to believe–but I will say that most of these books were delicious to sink into and kept my attention until the last word.

What did you read in January?