Autumn 2019

More has gone on here than our trip to England and Wales, so it would be a shame to make it seem like that’s been the entirety of our October and November. It would be terrible if you missed Jackson’s Halloween costume when he dressed up at a retired clown.

He and his friend, Libby, trick-or-treated together again this year, and Jackson received many compliments on his costume!

Jeremy competed in another chess tournament and brought home two more trophies. Between soccer and chess, the shelves in his bedroom are filling up quickly!

In early November, we went to see Ryan Bingham at the Tennessee Theatre, which was a fancy venue for his style of music, I have to say. But that meant Corey came to visit and that’s always worthwhile!

The following weekend we took a quick trip to Chattanooga to celebrate Matt’s 41st birthday, which meant I got some time with Amy!

We became instant friends after Matt started dating her in 2000. So much of my early years of motherhood unfolded alongside Amy’s. Now, whenever we squeeze in a visit, we unload all the toils and joys of raising teenagers, which is a far cry from naptimes, midnight feedings, and what happened on the latest episode of The Backyardigans.

These three have been friends since middle and high school.

In other news, Jackson wrapped his fall session of equine therapy, and Jeremy finally got a proper haircut. I decided it was time he started seeing my stylist. His hair deserves it, after all.

Peak colors didn’t show up in East Tennessee until early November, but when they finally popped, they were bright and vibrant. I snapped this photo while on a run one foggy morning.

Lastly, we had a brief and glorious snowfall that dropped the same day as Disney+. It was a Tuesday, but it felt just like Christmas morning. Somehow we managed to do some school work.

However, I did notice that this was the first year that the boys didn’t race to play in the snow upon waking up. The last time we had a decent snowfall was January of this year. It was gorgeous, and the boys couldn’t wait to play in it. This time, however, they didn’t mention sledding or a snowball fight. They didn’t even have the curiosity to go outside and touch the flakes. It felt significant, like a piece of their childhood was over.

Maybe that won’t be the case if we get another big snowfall, something grander and long-lasting. Or maybe it means I need to suit up and go out with them.


Thanksgiving is this week, and we’re going to have a full house of family members on Thursday. For the first time in 20 years, we’re mixing sides. We’ve always taken turns – Thanksgiving with one side, Christmas with the other. We’re on the same rotation as my sister and her family, and doing it this way kept holidays fair and uncomplicated.

But as family members have passed away, and others have moved closer to us, it seems silly to keep things separated. We can all be together. We can all share the table. On Thursday, we’ll have ten people here, and I’m happy to cook for all of them.

16 and a quick trip to West Virginia

I seem to average one post a month these days, so that’s a good indication of how busy we’ve been and how poorly I’ve prioritized this blog.

Over Labor Day weekend, I tagged along with my parents on a 24-hour trip to West Virginia to attend a family reunion. Mamaw was the guest of honor, and it had been too long since I’d seen her. I don’t get enough time with Mamaw or my Aunt Gloria, so seeing them, no matter how briefly, was well worth the trip.

We also visited Papaw’s grave as a family, which is where I caught this sweet moment between my father and his mother. (You can also see Dallas and Gloria leaning in for a kiss in the background!)


With September brought Jeremy’s 16th birthday, and we celebrated with a low-key party at our house with his friends. (We even sent little brother away to Grandma’s house for the weekend!) We hung string lights in a tree, made a campfire, and provided them a ton of food. Then we kept our distance and checked in periodically to make sure there were no shenanigans going on under our noses. I didn’t even take pictures, which is so unlike me! But, Jeremy wanted to be with his friends, and I don’t blame him. I remember being 16 very well. My friends were everything too.

Since I was so good about not taking photos of his party, I demanded I take his photo on Sunday, his actual birthday. He obliged.

We even snatched a family photo:

I haven’t been sad about him turning 16, just as I wasn’t sad about turning 40 last year. I’ll admit, though, on the actual day I felt surprised, as if I didn’t know it was coming. I was taken aback, like no one told me we’d ever make it this far, that the days really are long but the years really are short. I can’t imagine him turning 18 or 21 or 40 – which is something my own mother says: “I can’t believe my youngest is 41!”

Well, I can’t either, but here we are.

Where in the world have I been

In my former life, blogging was an almost-every-other-day thing. I had so much to say, so much to post, so much to SHARE about our life. It was easier then, when my world was a little less public and there were fewer eyes reading the posts. I didn’t care to share (almost) everything. This site has been a scrapbook of sorts, and I remain immensely grateful for the ability to look back several years, even a decade if I want to, and catch a glimpse at where we were.

Today, however, it’s a little more complicated. I’m sensitive to the boys’ privacy, I’m careful with my own, and I want to be sure that, while I’m more selective about what I share, I am still showing you what is real and true.

That being said, here’s a quick glimpse into 2019 so far:

Jackson continues to enjoy equine therapy (aka, “Horse Hangout Hour’) and finally found the courage to trot! It was a huge hurdle for him to cross since trotting makes him feel off balance and the fear of falling off the horse entirely is real. A couple of weeks ago, after tons of encouragement, he finally did it. You can see a video here.

Yesterday, the weather was so delightful that the class rode their horses in the field next to the barn. It was a beautiful way to wrap up the winter session.

Jeremy has been enjoying success on the local chess tournament circuit. After playing chess for several years at our co-op, and finally getting a quality chess coach, he entered a few tournaments recently and has had a great time playing other students in the area. The most recent win was a team win, and since I don’t have permission to post other kiddos’ photos in this space, I’ve blurred their faces. 🙂

We are nearing that time of year when we’re tired of school and aching for summer, a level of academic fatigue that comes full circle in April. Still, I’m enjoying my role as an English teacher at our co-op and am already preparing for next year’s courses. It is still a surprise to me that I like teaching, but I also recognize that I get to teach in a space with limited restraints (unlike the traditional school system). Perhaps that’s made all the difference. Plus, it’s only once a week.

On co-op days, I’ve made a habit of using my lunch break to visit Grandpa Thomas, who moved here in January. I still can’t believe he’s here, actually. (Hi, Grandpa!) I’ve never lived in the same city as any of my grandparents, and I’m still getting used to the fact that my parents are only 45 minutes away. If you’d told me this time last year that both Grandpa and my parents would be here with us, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Finally, East Tennessee received a beating on Saturday with a record-setting 17+ inches of rainfall. By Sunday morning, entire neighborhoods and streets were underwater. Our neighborhood, mercifully, was spared any damage, but that isn’t the case for thousands of other Tennesseans. In fact, on the way home from equine therapy last night, a couple of the roads we usually take were still underwater, along with adjacent homes.

Chuck and I took time to drive the missing link Sunday afternoon and stopped by the Townsend Wye to see what the water levels looked like. The usual Class I and II rapids were easily Class III and IV on account of all the water. The area in the photo below is typically a calm pool for swimming in the summertime. Not the case this week!

Finally, there’s an addition to this website, but it’s not my personal work. Jackson decided he wanted to start writing book and movie reviews for tweens and teens, and I made his year by telling him I’d post them on the blog. Overjoyed, he got right to work on The Reviewing Rabbit. I assume the quality of content will improve over time, but he’s already doing a good job! He’s created a backlog of posts, and three are already live.

That being said, if there’s an age-appropriate film or book you’d like Jackson to review, please email me and I’ll pass it along to him. 🙂

First Snow Day of 2019

We don’t get a lot of snow around here, but when there’s a threat of an inch, schools and businesses close in precaution. (Don’t make fun. We don’t know how to drive in that stuff.) Unfortunately for Jeremy and Jackson, the Miller School for Boys is open every day, snow or no snow.

Still, we make little allowances for the delightful weather. It’s nice to not have to go anywhere. We sleep in a little later, take our time getting to school work, and this morning was no different. Jeremy, who protested that one to three inches of snow was no big deal, was the first one to throw on some layers and take the dog out. It’s Major, after all, who loves snow the most.

The meteorologist called for one to three inches in our specific area, and sure enough, that’s what fell. It was beautiful.

I tried to get pictures of our neighbors, but the snowflakes were so fast and fat that I couldn’t get the horses in focus, and it was too cold to cross the road to get closer.

The temperatures will continue to drop overnight, which gives me pause when I think of the surrounding trees and the heavy snow covering all the limbs.

Major really is the happiest boy in the snow.

Salem, on the other hand, took one look…

…and went back inside.

Once the snow stopped and the clouds cleared, we had blue skies once again and the sun melted all the remaining ice on the roads.

Adios Tonsils and Adenoids

Last week Jeremy got his tonsils and adenoids taken out after we realized that more than 50 percent of his airway closed up when he laid down to sleep. A tonsillectomy wasn’t something on our radar, but after consulting an ENT in December, we realized it was a solid possibility. Then, after an early January appointment, we decided to move forward with it sooner than later so he’s all healed up for soccer season.

Having no experience with surgery, Jeremy was nervous, particularly the morning of. He was worried about needles and having things cut out of his body, along with how he might feel under the influence of anesthesia. Understandably so! He kept his anxieties well hidden, so it was only when the nurse administered the IV that his eyes got wide and I saw how scared he really was. I reassured him as best I could – telling him that it was totally normal to be nervous about the unknown, that kids have tonsillectomies all the time, that his doctor was wonderful and would do a good job. Then, having no frame of reference, I could only admit that I’d be nervous too.

The procedure took a mere 45 minutes, but when you throw in the prep and recovery time, we ended up being at the hospital nearly five hours. When I was finally able to be with him in the recovery room, I could tell he was truly miserable. He was not prepared for how uncomfortable he was going to feel.

Tomorrow marks one week post-surgery and he’s still eating soft foods. This morning he tried grits, and after eating an entire bowl he said it was the first time in a week that he’s actually felt full. (I guess ice cream and sorbet is exciting for only so long.) It’s cruel to have to limit food when, at fourteen years old, your appetite is bottomless.

When all is healed and back to normal, the hope is that Jeremy will sleep better at night because his airway will be open and clear. Thanks to all of you who’ve prayed for him, checked on him, and sent him well wishes! 

Anniversary week and fall break

Our anniversary fell on a Saturday this year, and while last year’s anniversary celebration was bigger and better, this year was just as sweet. There was no trip, no big event to signify No. 17, no big gifts or hurrahs. Just a lazy day at home and a lovely dinner in town, just the two of us. Contentment means life is good wherever you are.

Our anniversary kicked off fall break, so the week has been punctuated by long runs (me), hunting (Chuck and Jeremy), and lots of sleeping in and reading (Jackson).

Yesterday we went to Dollywood, the one thing we said we’d do over fall break. We had season passes in 2011, and I’m pretty sure we took the boys again in 2012 or 2013, but my memory fails me so I can’t be sure. Regardless, it’s been a minute since we’ve been to Dollywood.

Much like our experience last summer at Hershey Park, we rode a few coasters together, then the old people bowed out. Jeremy and Jackson love riding roller coasters together, which is a gift to these two parents. Have at it, boys. Have at it.

As the day wore down and the crowds increased, we ran into Jimmy and the kids (Lesli arrived later, but we missed her!). Since Jimmy was flying solo for a couple of hours, we stepped in as co-pilots for a few rides.

Be still my heart when Catherine, the sweet, shy introvert who takes her time with people, insisted I ride a kiddie coaster with her! Foolish to resist, I agreed enthusiastically and off we went to stand in line. She instructed me on how to hold her close on the ride – just like Mama does – and even held her arms in the air on the last go around. I’ve been around this little one since birth, since she eagle-eyed me in the hospital: 

Now she snaps pictures with me willingly, not shy, not reserved, and I couldn’t be happier:

The other thing I’ve done over fall break is clean out the boys’ closets and dressers. They are blessed with so many hand-me-downs that I haven’t bought clothes for them in years. After sorting through the many things I found underneath Jackson’s bed, I held my breath at this last little gem – a note from Jeremy to Jackson, many years old now:

It is a sweet reminder that while we may be in a rough season of picking and prodding, there is love there. Thank goodness, y’all, because 11 and 14 are tough ages. I’ll take every reminder I can get.

Jeremy turns 14

Welp, I have a 14-year-old. Not sure how that happened, yet here we are. For his birthday, Jeremy wanted to gather a few friends to go go-carting. His actual birthday was on Friday, but we celebrated on Saturday. The day started with a big breakfast followed by his first soccer game of the season.

First, a little pre-game practice with Foster:

Ethan spent the weekend with us, and since he was born five hours after Jeremy, it was a double-birthday celebration. He really wanted to play soccer too. That kid came out of the womb an athlete.

The game went on and they tied 3-3. This photo characterizes Jeremy so well. The tongue is his expression of concentration and effort:

Once we got Noah, the group was complete, so we headed to the Nascar Speedpark to drop some cash and let the boys wear themselves out. I was the payer, the driver, and the photographer.

They played mini-golf but kept no score and followed no rules.

The game resembled hockey more than golf.

My child was at his happiest – surrounded by friends and being silly.

Noah’s side-eye is my favorite.

We left the park for pizza but returned by sundown for more racing and taking a turn on the rickety fair rides in the back.

Contemplating the Starship 3000…

Yep, they all went in…

As the night wound down, their level of fatigue increased. The park closed at 10 p.m., and we had been there since 4 p.m. How much longer could they go?

By 9:55 we left, but I got them to take one last photo:

Yep, they still had energy. In fact, after I collected devices and went to bed at 1:30 a.m., they stayed up playing hide and seek in a dark house for another hour.

Thanks to everyone who sent well wishes to Jeremy for his birthday. So far, 14 has been great.

BrickUniverse LEGO Convention

When word got out that a LEGO convention was coming to Knoxville, Jeremy insisted we attend. As if there was any doubt! We love LEGOs in this house. It’s one of the few things I enjoy playing alongside my boys, as well as the LEGO video games (LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO Marvel, etc.). We bought our tickets as soon as they went on sale, so it was a long summer countdown to the last weekend in August.

The first section of displays were cityscapes, impressive constructions that required hundreds of hours of concentration. Here’s Chicago:

LEGO County Fair and concert:

 

I love that the professional LEGO builders have a sense of humor. Always look for the hidden gems in every display. For example, this looks like a regular LEGO town:

But the Avengers are always watching:

Apparently Princess Leia and Darth Vader have an office above Starbucks:

LEGO Mardi Gras:

Emmet and Wyldstyle at Mardi Gras:

C3PO and R2D2 in a standoff at Mardi Gras:

Any Lady Gaga fans out there?

Jeremy was particularly in awe of the ginormous, eight-story Death Star:

However, the vendor Jeremy and his friends were most looking forward to seeing was BrickMania, a group who builds and sells custom historical scenes, vehicles, ships, and other paraphernalia. Here is their version of the USS Nicholas:

Of course, they also have a sense of humor:

Here were my favorites:

1980s LEGO Minifigures!

Jeremy and Foster participated in a building contest where they were given a mishmash of random LEGO bricks and told to construct a house. A younger kiddo won their round, to which they replied, “That was rigged! They let the little kid win cause he was cute.”

For those uninterested in competition, there were dozens of tables scattered throughout the room with loose bricks for building:

All the kids had a great time! They even let me snap a group photo on the way out:

Until next time!

 

 

Friday in Nashville

Jeremy woke up with an unsettled stomach Friday morning, so despite the mound of food on his plate below, he didn’t eat much of it. Whatever stomach bug he had lasted throughout the day and into the weekend. Fortunately he kept his spirits up and we enjoyed Day Two in Nashville.

These boys love hotel breakfast!

First on the agenda was a quick stop at Vanderbilt to see the final stadium on Jackson’s list. He particularly loved the Barnes and Noble around the corner that had a large collection of Commodore goodies, where he bought himself a t-shirt.

Next was a quick look at the Parthenon:

Finally it was Jeremy’s turn to enjoy something specifically for him – The LEGO Store. It was the only time throughout the whole weekend when Jeremy wasn’t playful or talking. He got very quiet and serious while among the LEGO bricks. He had a strategy in mind and wanted to the make the most of his spending money. (Funny how that happens when it’s their own money!)

The last thing we had planned was a walk around The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s family home and resting place. Though Chuck had been to The Hermitage as a kid, the rest of us have never been.

Photography wasn’t allowed inside the house, which is a crying shame. I was so tempted to cheat, but I definitely would’ve been caught and the boys would’ve never let me forget it.

By far my favorite part was the garden:

Andrew and his wife, Rachel, are buried in the garden.

Directly next to theirs is the grave of Uncle Alfred, Jackson’s personal servant, who’d been enslaved by the Jackson family since birth. After Emancipation, Alfred returned to the family farm as a tenant farmer and even purchased some furniture from the Jackson home. He died at 99, and per his request, he was buried next to the Jacksons.

The final part of our Hermitage experience was to watch a reenactment of a duel and a retelling of the famous duel between Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson. The host did a fabulous job of explaining the gentlemanly art of a duel – that it’s not a brawl or fight or spur-of-the-moment scuffle in the street. Rather, it’s an organized confrontation designed to preserve honor and dignity.

Unfortunately a thunderstorm hit before shots were fired, so the duel (and its audience) promptly moved into the education center.

The rain continued throughout the afternoon, which made the drive home less enjoyable, but for the most part we had a great two days in Nashville and feel well-prepared to start the school year. This is our last week of summer, and though we don’t have anything planned, we intend to make the most of it.

Miller Camp for Boys 2017

Last summer Jake came to stay with us, and this summer it only felt right to have him here again. Jake belongs to Matt and Amy, our besties from Chattanooga, whom we’ve parented alongside from the beginning. Jeremy and Grace were born two months apart,  then came Jake two years later and Jackson a year after that. These kiddos don’t see each other often, but you wouldn’t know it. As soon as we’re together, it’s like we never moved away.

We picked up Jake on a Tuesday night and returned him Friday, but in those four short days, they accomplished a lot. It all started Tuesday evening with Jake introducing us to the strangest movie I’ve seen in a long time: Trolls.

I don’t know what to say about Trolls other than it’s completely weird. The music was fun, and the cloud guy was funny, but otherwise, I’m at a loss. The kids enjoyed it, which is all that matters!

Wednesday brought a few hours of pool time with another favorite family of ours. The weather was perfect!

We brought home with us another of Jeremy’s friends, which meant I was outnumbered four to one. The boys exhausted themselves in the heat outside, cooled off inside with video games, and stayed up late that night with a board game marathon. The next morning, they made themselves breakfast and cleaned up afterward.

On Thursday Jake was a good sport and suffered alongside me at the boys’ orthodontic appointments. He and Jeremy worked on card tricks in the waiting room.

We wrapped up Jake’s visit with more board games. This time, I joined them in a two-hour Monopoly session.

We should’ve planned for a longer stay, and honestly, we should’ve had Grace with us. When I look at this photo, she is glaringly absent.

I continue to be thankful for the friendships we’ve maintained since our earliest days as a couple. It means our kids are growing up with friends who are more like family. It means our tribe of people is rooted in loyalty and love. I will never forget when Matt and Amy told us they were pregnant with Grace, and then came Jake, and soon we had this squad of four beautiful children who played together seamlessly.

These two were the sweet pair from birth to Kindergarten.

Excuse me while I go mourn the early years.

Oh, and the Miller Camp for Boys 2017 continues next week when my nephews arrive. Woohoo!

Crawling to summer

This is how the school day begins:

Crawling from the bed to the floor in the school room. Lounging until the last minute. Taking advantage of Mom’s fatigue because I don’t want to start school either.

Let’s start at 9. No, 9:30. Okay, 10.

How many more pages in math? Okay, just do two. Take your time. Yes, go on the front porch. It’s a beautiful morning. Yes, you can finish that later. Go play basketball and listen to your audiobook. I’ll be in the garden.

The day is so lovely! Go play outside.

We’re in the hardest part of the school year. Summer is RIGHT THERE. We can almost touch it. Lazy days of sleeping in and goofing off are within arm’s reach. It’s immensely difficult to stay focused, and while I grant the boys (and myself) a lot of slack, I can’t let us slip too far because we’ll only regret it in August.

But man oh man, how I’d love to just slack… slack like Salem on an afternoon nap.

We will finish the school year in two weeks and check the boxes for fifth and seventh grade. I will wrap up my first year of teaching at our co-op, which has been light years better than I anticipated. (I prepared to struggle. I did not prepare to love these kids as much as I do.)

Our plans for the summer are minimal since I am fiercely protective of our time. With school on hiatus, I’ll have more time to devote to writing fiction, which I’ve missed. There’s soccer camp and a wedding to photograph and time with my nephews. I’m crossing my fingers for a trip to Amarillo to see Michele. There are other things I’d like to do or the boys want to do, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

For now, though, we are crawling. Inching. Looking into the bright light at the end of this short tunnel.

See you soon, summer. We’ve missed you.

 

Jeremy and the Five-Point Buck

After a handful of attempts last year, Chuck and Jeremy were unsuccessful on their hunting trips.

This year is another story. Chuck got a doe two weeks ago, and then on December 9, Jeremy had his moment.

This is how the morning started:

how-hunting-started

But then it quickly escalated to this:

jeremys-first-deer

My apologies if you don’t care for photos like these. In all honesty, I don’t either. However, I can tame my animal-loving heart-strings and look at this as a proud moment for my son. Not only was it exciting for Jeremy, but it was a moment of immense pride for Chuck and both grandfathers. In fact, the gun Jeremy used was given to him by my dad. This is family history in the making.

Jeremy called me right after it happened, all breathy and excited. I praised him and congratulated him and said, “You are helping to feed our family.” He paused and said, “I never thought of it that way.”

I could feel him smiling through the phone.

chuck-and-jeremy-with-the-gun

 

Jeremy, Before 13

I have not gotten sentimental with any other birthday or milestone when it comes to my boys. I didn’t cry when they started school or learned to ride a bike or turned double-digits. I did not tear up on their first Christmas or when they learned to walk. Everything has come along in its due time.

But there’s just something about 13. I’m feeling it.

Jeremy and I spent an hour watching old videos this afternoon and it left me feeling nostalgic for the sweet days when nap time was our biggest hurdle. I had to share the best ones with you all. Here’s my boy, our firstborn, before the teen years.


Wherein I prepare my heart for the next phase

I have never been the mother who says things like, “Time slow down!” or “My babies are growing up too fast!” Not once have I felt like time was spinning at an unnatural pace. Part of that has to do with my personality, but I also recognize that our life is set up in a way that allows me oodles of time with my kids. We are together every day, all day. I’m not missing anything.

And yet, Jeremy turns 13 years old next week. As in, there will be a teenager living in this house next week. As in, I’m going to be the mom of a teenager NEXT WEEK.

Excuse me, what? 

I’m still not saying “Time slow down!” or “My babies are growing up too fast!” but instead I’m saying, “How in the world did this happen?”

Jeremy has been reminding us of his impending age for months with comments like, “In three years I’ll be driving,” and “In five years I’ll be graduating from high school,” and “Come on, can’t I stay up later? I’m practically a teenager.”

Can I start school early

Bit by bit, we’ve been letting out the reins. In fact, Chuck had been wanting to re-watch Stranger Things, and knowing that some of Jeremy’s peers watched it, I suggested, “Hey, why not watch it with Jeremy?” Yes, there’s language, yes, it’s startling, but… baby steps.

Furthermore, since he’s about to have the word “teen” in his age, he’s eligible to attend dances and social events hosted by our homeschool co-op. It’s something we’ve already talked about – how to ask a girl to a dance, whether or not to even ask a girl but instead go with friends, how girls are just as nervous about being asked as boys are nervous about doing the asking. These are conversations I knew were coming, but still.

Today we were at the orthodontist, and while we sat in the waiting room a light flickered directly above us. It jolted us from our book reading so I teased, “Maybe that’s Will in the Upside Down?” a reference to Stranger Things. Jeremy looked at me wide-eyed, then laughed, shaking his head, “Don’t joke about that!” I like that we had this between us, a banter that was above Jackson’s understanding. In that moment I liked that I had an older child to joke about something PG-13.

It’s all gonna be fine. I’m probably going to cry a little on September 8th, but it will be fine.

But man. This face…

Jeremy April 2008

 

The Start of Fifth and Seventh Grade

We started school today, and afterward I took a two-hour nap. I love homeschooling.

Fifth and Seventh Grade

The boys are in fifth and seventh grade at The Miller School for Boys, which means this is our sixth year of homeschooling. NEVER EVER DID I THINK we’d be a homeschooling family. Sometimes, I’m still surprised that this is what we’re doing.

Brothers August 2016

Jackson, Age 10

Jackson age 10

Our fifth grader is all sports, all the time. He loves wearing football jerseys and reading his ESPN Encyclopedias.

ESPN encyclopedia reader

Football loverAn avid reader of all things, he spends a lot of his free time on the couch or front porch with a book. This year he’ll play flag football and participate in a younger youth group at church that uses Harry Potter-inspired curriculum. Jackson hopes he’ll be sorted into the Hufflepuff House.

Jackson August 2016

He’s still as cheerful and smiley as ever, always happy to chat with anyone about sports and share his random bits of statistical knowledge.

Jackson fifth grade

This year Jackson is taking Geography, Science Survey, Language Arts, Reading Comprehension, P.E., and Bible. Today he started fractions and reading The One and Only Ivan.

Jeremy, Age Almost 13

Jeremy August 2016

Our middle schooler wakes up every morning hoping he’s actually 30 years old and living either in a big city as a head chef or on the pacific coast as a marine biologist. When he realizes he’s still a kid who lives with his parents, he forges ahead with anticipation. Super mature and thoughtful, Jeremy is an old soul who loves to be with people. He’s in youth at church, still enjoying soccer, and carries a very heavy backpack to co-op.

Jeremy age almost-13

Be still my heart, he still loves to play with Legos. 

Still loves legos

This will likely be his last year playing soccer with Parks and Rec. He’s ready for stiffer competition.

Soccer lover

Jeremy seventh grade

Jeremy has a heart for animals, something he and I share, as well as a deep curiosity and desire to understand God. Sometimes I want to peek into the future to see where this guy ends up because he could go ten different directions and succeed.

Forever competitive

This year Jeremy is taking pre-algebra, French, Physical Science, Mock Congress, World History (specifically the Middle Ages), and the MARS Project. He’s also in my Literature and Creative Writing class at co-op. (We’ll see how that goes!) Today he started reading Wonder.

I feel like we hit the jackpot with these two.

Love them

Finally, a word from our mascot, who didn’t care that we were trying to take photos…

Salem interrupts

Cheers to a productive school year and happy attitudes every morning!

The Miller Camp for Boys

Miller Camp for Boys

This week marks the start of The Miller Camp for Boys, which is my way of bookmarking two weeks of having house guests from out of town. From August to May, we are The Miller School for Boys, so this makes total sense in my brain.

Our first camper is Jake, the son of our best friends in Chattanooga, folks we’ve known and loved before any of us were married. When we see each other, it’s usually both families getting together, with all for kids in a lump sum – Grace and Jake, Jeremy and Jackson – but this is a house for boys, and while I’d love to take Grace to Ulta and spend a fortune, she’d be terrifically bored the rest of the time.

So Jake is here and the boys have been going non-stop since he arrived last night – playing outside, group video gaming, and board games during down time. They are hardly stopping to eat. We plan to see The Secret Life of Pets and either get to a swimming pool or creek for cooling off. We’ll get pizza one night and I might let them loose with the water hose. Whatever we do, it’s wonderful to have Jake here so we can continue making deposits in this long-distance friendship.

Plus, it’s really fun to walk around saying, “Jake, from State Farm,” to which Jeremy replies, “She sounds hideous.”

Boys of summer

Also, it doesn’t hurt to have another face around the house to split the tension between Jeremy and Jackson. Those two? They could use some space from one another. #brothers

Backstage at the Orange and White Game

A few weeks ago, an opportunity was presented to us for Jackson to meet the University of Tennessee, Knoxville statisticians – the guys who keep track of every yard, every punt, every point for the home football games – a career possibility that Chuck and I have encouraged for Jackson. He’s an excellent math student and has an unquenchable passion for sports. When Jackson realized that a real person was responsible for those recording numbers, all those tiny details that he loves to read and memorize, he latched on to the idea of becoming a statistician.

So, did he want to meet the UT Vols statistician? ABSOLUTELY YES.

Better still, would you like to meet him at the Orange and White Game and sit in the press box and learn all about being a statistician?

There were no words, just one huge smile and eyes that welled with tears. A definite YES. 

Fan Day 2016

Charles Child has been keeping the Vols’ stats for three decades, and in recent years he’s been joined by his son, Brian, and son-in-law, David. We met them a couple of hours before kick-off to get a tour of the press box and the field.

Going on the field

Two brace faces on the field

SEC Pylon

Press box at Neyland

We watched the players practice and saw what the stands look like from the ground level. The stadium wasn’t full like it normally is on game day, but it was still impressive.

Time to practice

College footballs

Peyton Manning hall

We met Tim Priest, the familiar voice of the Vol Radio Network and former Tennessee player coached by Doug Dickey.

Tim Priest

We ate lunch and enjoyed ice cream and took our seats in the press box as Charles, Brian, and David readied themselves for the game. They were generous to give the boys plenty of media guides and record sheets – piles of information for Jackson to study.

Jack in the press box

Jeremy and I aren’t stats people, but we enjoyed the special treatment nonetheless.

Jeremy in the press box

Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, kicked off the game by landing on the field. It was beautiful! (Here’s a video.)

Navy Seals

Steve Spurrier received the Neyland Award, a short ceremony that received both cheers and jeers. (More cheers, though.)

Steve Spurrier

Then my favorite – Smokey – took the field and the game was officially on the clock.

Smokey and the gang

They team was split into orange and white, but there were a handful of players in gray. Why? Because gray meant “Do Not Touch.”

Gray is no touch

Of course, it wasn’t a regular game but rather a scrimmage. A “let’s show them how we’re doing” sort of game. The view from the press box was great.

Orange and White

Orange and White at Neyland

Smokey in the checkerboard

It wasn’t just about the perks. We learned all about how serious the statistician’s work is, how folks from ESPN hover over them on game days to get all the numbers to all the stations. Though the stats wind up computerized, they keep official records the old-fashioned way – pencil and paper.

Stats sheet

While the game is going, all excitement and frustration is tabled. They are record-keeping, not rooting. Aside from high-level math, this is the hurdle Jackson will have to jump. He kept mostly quiet during the scrimmage, but that wouldn’t be the case in a real game. This is the kid who asked to leave the Tennessee-Arkansas game early last year because he was getting too emotional and knew he was going to blow.

Statisticians

On the way home on Saturday, Jackson said that the whole experience had been a dream come true. He didn’t stop smiling the entire day, and while most of us wouldn’t care about the mounds of stats and records, Jackson has been reading them at length and regurgitating random facts like revelations.

So many times I’ve looked at the face of this sweet child and wondered, “Where will you end up? Where will you go? What will you do?” Perhaps those questions got answered on Saturday.

Throwback Thursday: Twelve years of friendship

We send Ethan home today after being my third son for a short week. I wasn’t present at his birth because while Ethan was making his arrival in Chattanooga Chuck and I were in North Carolina waiting on Jeremy. The boys are five hours apart. It was the sort of supernatural gift only God could orchestrate for two best friends.

Jeremy and Ethan collage

In 2007:

jeremy and ethan in 2007

In 2014:

Jeremy and Ethan in 2014

They’re quite a pair. No matter how much time passes they seem to pick right up and forget they live in different cities. My hope is that this friendship goes on infinitely, that it matures and sticks. Eventually our parental efforts will wane and it will be up to them to carry it on. Until then, we’ll continue these visits as little deposits into their future.

Yesterday we went to the Sunsphere and a local playground. The weather was completely perfect.

Knoxville Sunsphere

From atop the sunsphere

The water they can't play in

I love how Jackson smiles with his eyes.  

Jack smiles with his eyes

Thanks for coming to visit Ethan! You always have a place here.

Jeremy and Ethan Knoxville 2015

Jeremy and Ethan at the playground

Jeremy and Ethan play 2015

Fourth and Sixth Grade

We start the academic year on Monday so it felt proper to take some school photos. We may not have a yearbook or a sit-and-smile photography studio, but we do have the flexibility for me to say, “Go put on some nice clothes and come out in the driveway! It’s time for school pictures!”

Let’s do this.

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Jeremy’s first trip to Disney World

Do I even have to tell you that he had a wonderful time?

Jeremy at the Disney castle

Jeremy is now suffering a post-Disney depression, which I’ve tried to mitigate by indulging stories about all the things he loved about Disney World and reminding him that he can go back when he’s older. “When I grow up, I’m definitely taking my kids to Disney World,” he says.

Jedi training

Fighting Darth Vader

I’m glad he went with people who know that place inside out (my sister and her family), so Jeremy’s time was well-managed and he was able to hit all the high points. He did Jedi training and ate breakfast with characters. He raced a car he created and rode all the big rides. He even went on the Tower of Terror. Jeremy did not want the week to end.

On a ride with Jacob

But of course the vacation ended, as they always do. In two years, Jackson will go to Disney World and I have no doubt his experience will be equally as magical.

Before our family headed back north, we made an evening trip to Menchie’s, where another patron took our photo. I hate that it’s blurry, but I’m grateful for the time spent with these precious people. The geographical distance between us is just too far.

Millers Przyluckis April 2015

We are now in the home stretch of the school year and you can tell this by our lack of enthusiasm. Truth be told, Jackson will be finished with his math curriculum this week and he’s already started fourth grade vocabulary… He could be done with third grade by Friday, but I can’t fathom that long of a break in school years – April to August? So we’ll spend the remaining time in review and working to master the skills he learned this year.

If you’re ready for summer, raise your hand.