Jeremy and Jackson on Children’s Sunday

Our sweet boys participated in Children’s Sunday at our church a few weeks ago. Jackson read scripture and Jeremy gave a three-minute meditation alongside five other young people. The sound is not fantastic, so in the video I’ve provided subtitles. I apologize if the words fly by too fast. Perhaps between the sound and captions you can get the gist of what Jeremy is saying.

For those of you who turn your nose down at photos and videos taken during a church service, I don’t mean to offend you. Simply, a mom needs footage of events like these.

(Turn up the volume! Also, move your cursor off-screen so the video frame will disappear and you can read the captions. Or, you can maximize the video to full-screen and read them that way.)

Tennessee may have lost to Florida, but…

…Jackson got a hug from a Tennessee cheerleader. Focus on the positive, people.

Jackson gets a hug

Here are a few other photos from the Vol Walk this morning. No comment on the game. Continue reading

“I cannot live without books.”

This morning, on my way from the bedroom to the kitchen, the tornado of books in the living room gave me pause. Judy Moody, Big Nate, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda… they were everywhere. My perfectionism surged and I started stacking books by size on the coffee table. Jackson, who was waiting patiently in the kitchen for his Strawberry Mini Wheats, got concerned.

“What are you doing?”

“The living room is a mess,” I told him. “There are too many books in here.”

I cannot live without books,” he said calmly.

My heart beamed.

“I know. Me neither. But we can at least stack them neatly.”

Continue reading

A story from the other writer

Y’all, we have another writer in the house. I didn’t edit his story, but I did format it properly. Jackson has been really into writing over the summer and lately he’s been begging me to type his stories out on the computer. As if I’d say no!

Super Cat!
by Jackson Miller

Super Cat

One night a cat was playing with a ball. He was A TALKING CAT! He heard a (bang) then a (clang). He went outside.

Oh, he thought.

The next day he went to Target to get cat food and some books. Then he went down the new movie aisle and he saw tons of them: Lego Movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: the Winter Soldier, all kinds of them!

After that he started going home and then he heard a scream again! It was the evil teddy bear!

“What are you doing?” Super Cat asked.

“DESTROYING STUFF!” he yelled.

Super Cat ran home really fast! He had super speed! He found a package and scratched it open: TADA! It was a suit with a mask and a cape! It had the letters SC on it. When he found evil teddy bear he said, “You are no match for me!”

And then he killed him.

The End.


Video: Jack and I interview each other

I really hope we’re raising a film maker because his interest in television and movies isn’t waning one bit. Jackson’s interest goes far beyond the zombie-like state of zoning out in front of a screen. He memorizes actor and director names, recognizes production companies, and studies action scenes like there’s going to be a quiz.

We’ve been very clear about his career aspirations: If you succeed, you will buy us a beach house.


In this video Jackson and I interview each other. We discuss books, movies, Mad Men and Big Bang Theory.

And girls.

Enjoy ♥

Jackson’s loot and totally awesome cupcakes

Jackson’s birthDAY ended up spreading out to a week-long celebration on account of cards and packages arriving on Thursday and Friday. There’s still another package on its way (he spent a Barnes & Noble gift card from my sister in 2.5 seconds online. Books, books, and more books.)

We ditched the huge birthday party/craziness years ago and focused our celebrating on making each boy feel special and loved. Normally, I make a cake but this year I decided to take Jackson to a bakery in town to choose his own cupcakes. Y’all, best decision ever.


The beauties you see above are from KupKatie’s and they were magnificent. I’m sure they were a thousand calories each, but as we all know and agree, birthday cupcakes don’t count. Jackson and I picked them out together and we all rode that sugar high like champs. When we woke up from our comas we went back for more.

Per my eight-year-old’s request, I hid his presents. He got the idea from Jeremy’s tenth birthday, when I hid his presents around the house and yard and sent him on a hunt for them. Jackson immediately asked that I do that for him. Okay! No problem! Even though you’ve got the worst male blindness ever! 

Hidden presents

Jeremy helped, of course. Jack was pleased with all of his goodies and exclaimed several times, “This is the best birthday ever!” Aw, shucks, kid. I love you too ♥

Jackson's birthday loot

Jackson is eight!

Here he is on the last night of being seven. This child has talked about his birthday every day, nearly all day, for the last two weeks. If you’ve seen him in that time, chances are he’s told you all about  it.Last night as 7And then first thing this morning:

First morning as 8

Reminisce with me, won’t you?

Jackson’s second movie: Iron Cat and Thicken

If he had his way, he’d make a new movie everyday. In fact, we’ve just signed Jackson up for drama camp. ♥


Iron Cat and Thicken poster

Last batch from Jax

Because I need to move on with life, this will be the last batch of beach photos, and it’s going to be a small one. We drove down to Jacksonville for a few hours one day just to see the beach and have lunch. Of course, Jackson thought it was way cool to be in Jacksonville, so we went one step further and let him put his feet in the ocean at Jax Beach. Parents of the Year, people.

Jack in Jacksonville

Boys at Jax

Bridge at Jax Beach


Before driving back to Amelia Island, we grabbed lunch at Salt Life, where I had the most massive stack of nachos ever in my life. I ate through three layers and surrendered.

Hangry nachosAnd Chuck had this:

Seafood at Salt Life

T’was a great week, friends. We all had a great time, save a few sunburns and bouts of chaffing. Even though it was a quick five days, it was worth the drive just to put our feet in the sand.

Feet in the sand



Revenge of the Fox: A Jackson T. Miller Movie

For many months Jackson has been writing and directing movies in his bedroom. His stuffed animals are the actors and the plot always involves a myriad of superheroes and villans. (No surprise there.) Also for many months he’s been asking me to film it. Yesterday, I conceded, and when it came time to edit the footage, Jackson was involved entirely. He chose the sound effects, timing, and wording. I simply put it together at his request.

Then I made a movie poster, to which he replied, “That’s OUTSTANDING!”

Revenge of the Fox movie poster

A new video, per Jackson’s request

We need something happy today, don’t we?

Jeremy has been practicing archery more often than Jackson, and I’m proud to say he’s gotten quite good. He went outside with the bow and arrow every day last week.

Ace archer

Jackson practices too, but he doesn’t have the upper body strength to loose the arrow with any sort of power. His heart is in it, though. All the way.

Cap's shield

Call me Kitten

It went something like this.

Jackson: What’s your nickname?
Me: I don’t really have one.
Jackson: But you call me Rabbit.
Me: Cause you’re my little Jack Rabbit. I’ve always called you that.
Jackson: What can I call you?
Me: Call me Mom.
Jackson: I’m gonna call you Kitten.
Me: Don’t call me Kitten.
Jackson: Why not, Kitten?
Me (laughing): I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Jackson: But it’s cute, Kitten.
Me (laughing harder): Please, stop.
Jackson (giggle): Okay… Kitten.

This conversation happened a week ago, and though he doesn’t call me Kitten all day every day, he says it enough to warrant a giggle, which is just enough encouragement for him to continue.

pet me

Silent Videos from 2005 and 2006

My first digital camera was a Kodak EasyShare that took sketchy video with no audio. Chuck gave it to me for Mother’s Day in 2005. I loved it because it meant I could take digital photos and video without developing film or hooking up the video camera to the television. It all seemed so convenient. Instant gratification and all.

Then, in December 2006, I got a second Kodak EasyShare that took video with sound. What a concept! That meant we were left with a year and a half of silent footage. Toddler Jeremy and newborn Jackson didn’t make a peep.

Earlier this week, I decided to pull bits of those videos together into one compilation set to music. It’s nearly nine minutes, so I realize only family and friends will commit to that sort of length. The first 4:45 minutes are all Jeremy. Then Jackson is born and there’s footage from the first time we saw him through the nursery window. He was less than 24 hours old.

There are also a few cameos of friends and cousins. Grace is at 2:45, Hank is at 4:15, Jacob makes an appearance at 4:30 and again at 5:56. Jackson is born at 4:54 and there’s a brief glimpse of Brenda, Chuck’s mother, at 5:37.

(Ignore the ads. Just click the little X in the righthand corner to close them.)

Then and Now

It was 2008. Chuck was in the academy while the boys and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment awaiting the big move to Texas. Jackson was two, Jeremy was nearly five, and Hank, our beloved coonhound, was eight. I snapped this photo with my flip-phone. It was a weekend, so they were likely anticipating a trip to the pool or play date with friends.

2008 with Hank

Now it’s 2014 and we’ve long since moved back to Tennessee from Texas. Jackson is seven, Jeremy is ten, and Hank has been gone for three and a half years. In spite of all his quirks, Major is just as loyal.


My future grandchildren

Jackson: I’m gonna tell my wife that our kids’ names will be Clark and Peter.
Me: What if she doesn’t like those names?
Jackson: She will.
Me: But what if she doesn’t? What if you have girls?
Jackson: We’ll have boys.
Me: But what if you don’t? What if you have twin girls?
Jackson: Then we’ll name them Jennie and Natasha.

Superhero Cheat Sheet
 Clark (Kent) = Superman
  Peter (Parker) = Spiderman
  Natasha (Romanoff) = Black Widow

Mr. Monopoly

There’s been a ton of Monopoly played this week. We had our fourth round this morning. The game began at nine and finally ended at 12:45, but only because I martyred myself and Jackson surrendered. Jeremy had us by the horns.

Yesterday, on our first outing since the big snow, we picked up the newest version of the game. We’d been playing with my childhood addition of Monopoly, sporting crinkled money and missing deeds. We splurged on the new version when I realized it was only $12. Plus, Hasbro introduced a new token: the cat. That sealed the deal.

Monopoly CatPer usual, Jackson started out on top. He’s regularly in the lead at the beginning, always the first to buy full color sets and establish hotels. Sure enough, as soon as he set up the first hotels on the board, he announced with confidence, “Beware the pink!”Beware the PinkA good startRound fourIt causes Jeremy and I to worry, but only for a short time. Jack doesn’t maintain momentum for long. This morning, Jeremy was the clear winner well into the second hour.

Mr. MoneybagsSee all those hotels on the yellows, greens, and blues? Everything on the lefthand side of the board? Yeah. All Jeremy. And he wouldn’t let us end the game until we were completely wiped out.

“You’re going to win. Can’t we just end it?” I asked.

“No, not until all your money and property are gone.”

“Why? What does it matter?”

He smirked.

“Cause I want to tell Aunt Tami that I won the whole thing.”

To Sell or Not to Sell

It’s hard to type this. It even feels a little wrong. But logic and economics tell me that it’s time to sell the children’s books.

You know the ones – those pretty picture books that you actually enjoyed reading to your kids as much as they enjoyed hearing them. The Llama Llama books, the classic Sesame Street story books, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give a Moose a Muffin...

My boys don’t read them anymore. They don’t even flip through them. Now they read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and stories about superheroes. They read non-fiction books about ocean life or American History. They’ve not glanced at Curious George in probably two years.

Yet, I’ve kept them anyway, on the off chance they’d like me to read to them You are My I Love You or God Gave Me You. Or maybe I’d catch them flipping through There’s an Alligator Under My Bed and it would be reason enough to keep them all.

Children's Books

But I don’t think there are enough reasons to keep ten shelves of books I used to read aloud to them three years ago. Actually, the last book I read aloud was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and we all know I’m not getting rid of those.

The decision has been made. I’m just stalling. It may seem silly to fuss over these things, but selling these books is like packing away their baby things. Getting rid of the crib. Getting rid of the high chair. Buying their first backpack for school. It’s a marked shift in their age, a mile marker that’s been passed. I will keep my favorite books for sure, as well as some of the Caldecott winners, but I suspect McKay’s Used Books will get a large addition to their collection soon. I’ll probably make a whopping fifty bucks from five bins of books, but I’ll get over it. What I won’t get over is missing that sweet story time with two little boys who’d pick out three books each (but argue for five) for me to read aloud before bedtime.
balloon of books

The Same, but Different

Ten-year-old boy hormones. Yay, fun.

We are now parenting two very different children. Some rules are the same for both: obey instructions, do your best, show respect, no backtalk, be kind. But the rest is all compartmentalized by personality, ability, expectation, and, more recently, emotional state. Lots and lots of emotions, particularly from the elder. The younger is still in his happy place for the most part.

The following books have been sitting in my Amazon shopping cart for many months:

I think it’s time to pull the trigger on the first book because I feel entirely ill-equipped to handle the tears, the anger, the bursts of injustice, and the occasional curt eyes. None of this is new in the life of child rearing, of course, and I’m sure all of you seasoned parents are nodding your heads, saying been there, done that. (For the record, I welcome your advice.) But since I didn’t grow up with boys, and I’m not a boy, I’m blown away by the reactions I get sometimes after a simple request or a quick correction. Chuck is stepping in more now than ever as the nurturer, when hasn’t always been his primary role. It’s new territory for all of us.

Jeremy and Two on the planeIn other news, I started my spring semester today. Instead of novel writing, I have short story. It feels like I’ve gone from running a marathon to jogging a 5K. I’m also taking a screenwriting class, which is completely new information. My hope is that both of these classes will hone my skills when writing dialogue and body language, particularly for the novel. I’m currently at 108,000+ words and still moving forward.

Back to School

Now that Literary Theory is officially over (THANK THE SWEET LORD), I can put my entire brain back into homeschooling. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Like I let the boys flounder while I drank high dollar coffee and read philosophy drivel. That’s not what happened, at least, not entirely. We’re doing fine on all of the core subjects, but we’re miserably behind on electives. It’s my intention to spend the next three weeks catching up to a significant stopping point before Christmas. The boys aren’t thrilled, let me tell you. They preferred it when I passed out on Norton’s Anthology and they watched documentaries from National Geographic.

Back to school

My brain is still on the novel, but I reserve that work for the evening after they’ve gone to bed and Major is sufficiently passed out for the night. I’ve already registered for next semester and, from what I can tell, there should be no philosophy or theory or anything written above my pay grade. Short Story and Performance Writing should be manageable.

I’ve not taken photos of Timmy yet, but he’s reemerged. So far he’s just hiding in different places around the house, but I’m sure he’ll start his mischief soon. We’ve also begun our Advent tradition, where the boys receive a note each morning telling them something special. They either get a small piece of chocolate or we do an activity together. Today we played Candyland. Jackson smoked us and won all four rounds.

Speaking of Jackson. For all of his simplicities, he has a fantastic imagination. I’ve been putting words on a white board each week and having the boys write stories using all of them. I purposely give them words that generally don’t go together – like feather, star, sword, garbage – just to see how they’ll weave them together. Jackson never fails to write full scenes with dialogue and sound effects (you knew it would be an action story). He’s also started setting up his stuffed animals on his bed and giving them lines to say, as if he’s directing a film. Am I raising a George Lucas? A Joss Whedon? A Christopher Nolan? Can’t wait to find out.

End of the Season Win

The boys are officially done with their Peewee and Grasshopper football seasons. I’m a bit relieved for scheduling purposes, but overall the season was a great deal of fun. Jeremy, in particular, loved every minute of it. It didn’t matter if practice lasted longer than two hours, or if it rained, or if it was freezing cold or blistering hot. He will be counting the days until spring practice.

Jackson did not love football as much as he thought he would, so he’s fine that it’s over. His team worked so hard this year and actually won the Grasshopper Superbowl last night. The crowd erupted, the team screamed, the coaches cried. Even though Jackson has already said he won’t play again next year (he’s an archer now, remember?), he was quite proud of himself and happy to receive a medal last night. This is the first award he’s ever received for a sport.

This photo was taken on the night of Jeremy’s last game:Boys with their dadAfter last night’s win: Us with JacksonVictory! Victory

Jackson’s new recess

We bought Jackson a very basic bow set and he was instantly smitten. Keep your fingers crossed because I’m loving how this looks.InstructionArrows up

Our official Archer:The Archer

The Archer

Several weeks ago Jackson told us that he doesn’t want to play football again next year. (This was not a surprise. He is far too imaginative and sociable to play a contact sport that requires so much focus.) In the next breath, he said he wanted to try soccer. That’s fine, I told him. But you cannot tackle or touch anyone in soccer.

Until last week, we were aiming for soccer. And then this happened:

Feeling inspired by Hawkeye, Jackson popped into the library to show me his new moves. The light bulb went off. ARCHERY.

Hand-eye coordination, self control, balance, upper body strength, mental focus… Yes, yes, yes.

I quickly started talking to him about archery as an Olympic sport, as a method for hunting, as a hobby, and then Googled a few videos to watch. We were mostly inspired by the seven year old who loosed arrows at a bullseye and hit the center every time. Jackson was sold.

Lest we jump on a sinking ship, we’re waiting a few weeks to see if his interest in archery continues. If it looks semi-consistent, we’ll buy Jackson a very basic bow and arrow set to see how he handles it.

Personally, I’d love to nurture this interest in archery STAT. My maternal instinct tells me that team sports aren’t a fit for Jackson (for the record, they weren’t, and still aren’t, a fit for me). However, I also need to keep an open mind that another interest may develop in the next week (or month, or year) that is better suited for Jackson’s abilities and talents.

Jeremy, on the other hand, has his sites set on the NFL. As long as he buys his mama a beach house…