Finding the Gold in the Dark

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My family shows up. We are never alone.

It seems lately as we approach the holiday season and should be surrounding ourselves with all things “joyful” that instead, so many families I know, including my own, has been forced into one tragic event after another.

One of these awful tragedies was the death of one of my cousins a few weeks ago. The unexpected loss of this great young man leaves behind voids that I can only begin to imagine. I will say, however, that the intense grief, love, unwavering faith, and even some good ol’ fashioned laughter that I experienced during my brief visit with friends and family for the services left a remarkable impression on me. Seeing his teenage children weep for the loss of their father. Or the strength in his wife as she constantly kept watch over her two kids to make sure they were okay when the easier thing to have done was to simply not get out of bed. Hearing story after story of the lives my cousin touched and the hundreds of people he’s helped to better their lives. [That certainly made me realize how very little I actually do to make this world a better place. But that’s a different therapy session for a different day.] Seeing and being a part of such deep, emotional experiences left me spinning. Whether you’re 21, 41 or 91, these are pivotal moments in a person’s life. I do often wonder why it takes the death of someone to have some of these “Ah Ha” kind of realizations but I suppose no one ever said hind sight was anything less than a bitch.

But anyway after I got back home after the services, I spent the next week or so just asking myself “Why” over and over. And then later in the week, I came across a line in a book. It read:

“There is gold in every piece of your story.”

As simple as that line is, it stopped me in my tracks. Because my brain does not think that way. I focus only on the negative, and it ends up being a downward spiral of one bad thing after another until I’m only seeing bad things in every situation. And that’s not life. But seeing that line made me realize that I was asking myself the wrong question. Because at the end of the day, the “Why” will never be understood nor will it change the outcome. So instead, I started thinking about what I should be learning from this situation and what I would want my children to learn. I wanted – I needed – to see “the gold” in this part of my cousin’s story because from the outside all I saw was heartache. When I started thinking about the situation in a different light, I was amazed at all the “good” (and I use this word loosely in relation to anyone dying) things that I had seen and heard just in those two days.

While I could ramble on, for me I simply wanted to focus on what I believe to be THE most important message or the “gold” that I gained out of this situation. And that is simply: I AM [YOU ARE] NEVER ALONE. Life can be shitty. This year in particular seems to be exceptionally awful for so many. But damn, what I witnessed at this funeral, and even others this year, has just been phenomenal. Friends and family come out of the woodwork during these tragedies. And maybe you don’t see or even talk to them that often but just knowing that they are indeed there should provide some level of comfort. Because even when you think you’re at your lowest; when you think you’re all alone and no one can help you, all you have to do is look around because there will always be at least one, or 10 or even 100 people right there, wanting and waiting to help you.

For some reason I’ve always thought that it was best to deal with my problems by myself, inside my own head. (Brilliant, right?! Insert eye-rolling emoji.) But that simply isn’t how life should be. I suppose I can say I’ve always known that but I think this funeral actually helped me see that. Don’t stay inside your head. It can get dangerous there. Try to find the gold among even the darkest parts to our stories. Because it is there; it just isn’t always easy to see. God or Buddha or the Stars or Someone gave us each other for a reason. Remember that. And repeat after me: You Are Not Alone.

The Year of the Cup

IMG_9001As parents we experience hundreds, if not thousands of milestones. Our kids’ first food, first steps, first word, first sleepover and the list goes on and on. I think for the most part, we’re pretty familiar with the basics and what to expect. But there’s always those ones that end up sneaking up on you – the ones that you may or may not have even known about, making them that much more… well interesting, let’s just say.

This year my son tried out and made the “travel” baseball team. And when I say travel, it just means the next town or two over. Thank God, we’re not shelling out millions for long road trips and hotels…just yet. This kid absolutely loves baseball. When asked, his favorite things in life are “baseball and family.” Although I’ll have to admit I wonder if he realizes his sisters are part of that whole “family” thing. My husband has him pretty well trained, and he knows more facts and stats about the Cubs than probably most adult Cubs fans. He’s obsessed but it’s a good thing. Anyway, apparently for this travel team one of the rules is that the kids must wear a cup. Now as an adult and mother, I know what that is. I know its job. Basically I know the minimal basics that surround this contraption. Thankfully my husband handles 99 percent of all things related to baseball, which just so happens to include any necessary supply shopping. (PHEW!)

Now picture this if you will. I’m busy cooking dinner one evening and trying to get things ready. In walks my son and husband from somewhere. I tend not to ask too many questions when the husband takes any of the kids, because all I really need to know is I’m down one less kid to worry about. Hooray. Anyway, my son immediately heads to the bathroom and walks out a minute later. He walks right up to me and says, “Mom, hit me in the wiener.” I may or may not have gotten whip lash from turning my head so quickly to him as I was still trying to compute what was just said to me. I quickly put two and two together and figured out the surrounding story to his insane request and while secretly dying inside, calmly reminded him to please don’t ever ask ME (or anyone for that matter) to hit his privates.

To say this kid was excited about his new piece of equipment would be a complete understatement. I guess maybe I kinda sorta understand if you can equate it to getting one’s first training bra? I don’t know but regardless it resulted in a lengthy show and tell to his sisters. Explaining what it was for. Inviting them to inspect it (not on, of course!) It was all pretty comical. But I think the icing on the cake, however, was when he asked me if he could SLEEP WITH IT AND/OR WEAR IT TO BED. Yes, you read that right. My kid wanted to sleep with his cup – like it was his beloved stuffed animal or pet dog. Certainly not a request I ever imagined I’d hear. Alas my husband just reminded him it’s simply part of our uniform and we don’t wear our uniform to bed.

Children certainly are odd creatures, but it’s these kind of moments that I revel in as a parent. The nutty. The unexpected. The hilarious, yet innocent, requests. These are the things that are meant to be remembered (well for me that means written down because I can’t remember what happened five seconds ago) and used as possible blackmail when your children are older. Because every kid learns to walk and talk. But not every parent gets to experience the hilarity of being asked if their kid can sleep with their cup. This milestone is undoubtedly one for the books.

Mistakes Aren’t Just for Idiots

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My pride. My joy. The reasons I stress.

Although the weather certainly hasn’t been given the memo, based on the calendar, warmer temperatures are certainly upon us sometime in the (hopefully) near future. And with the warmer weather comes a plethora of fun-filled outdoor activities and fun in the sun. BUT…how come there always seems to be a caveat associated with good things?

Warmer temperatures mean WAY warmer cars. We’ve all seen the horror stories in the news. We know about the accidents. We know what can and has happened. And we all think no way in hell could I ever be that irresponsible. And for the most part I think none of us really are. However I wanted to share my experience from the weekend which hopefully just gives everyone the gentle reminder – okay, I’m actually not going for gentle here; I’m going for IN YOUR FACE PSA – that shit happens, and as parents it’s simply imperative to always be on our A game.

So the hubs was away this weekend, and since we finally had some nice weather, I used the opportunity to get some yard work done. Meanwhile, of course, I had the kids play outside. But before all this, for some strange reason I made a horrible judgement call and took my herd to Costco. (PSA #2: Never, ever take your kids to Costco by yourself on a weekend! You’re just asking to end up needing a stiff drink before noon.) Anyway we were in and out as quick as can be… and by quick I mean barely less than two hours. Insert through-the-roof stress levels here. We got home and I had all the kids help load in the 100 pounds of Goldfish we bought along with a few other things. Once we got everything put away, we went outside. Now normally I always park in our garage but since I knew the kids would be carrying stuff inside I parked outside thinking it would be easier for them. I checked to make sure the kids closed the hatch and the car was locked – which they both were.

Now growing up in small town I don’t think I ever locked a car – like truly not ever. My dad didn’t even think he owned a key to the house. So even in the burbs I don’t necessarily worry about theft at my house, but my husband did make a point last summer to stress the importance of locking the car, if for no other reason than so the kids couldn’t get in. Like on a hot summer day. And be trapped. And while I typically forget 99.9% of the things my husband says to me, I actually did remember that one. Hence me remembering to check to see if the car was locked.

But moving on with my story. Now my son had gone over to the neighbor’s house to play baseball, and I had seen the girls follow him. As I was moving around in the yard I noticed that my littlest wasn’t with the others, and of course no one seemed to know where she went. Frustrated – but not worried – I began looking for her. I didn’t see her anywhere in the yard, or the neighbor’s and she wasn’t responding to me when I called for her in the house. At this point I was starting to get on edge just a little. Mind you it had only been maybe five minutes since I’d last seen her. But after a few more laps both in and out of the house, my mind started racing and I began to think of ALL the nightmares that could potentially be waiting for me. Now after probably another two minutes, my middle daughter found her – IN THE CAR. Somehow the car, that I had even checked to make sure was locked, had the driver’s side door open even though all other doors were locked. I have no idea how that happened. But it doesn’t matter HOW it happened, it only matters that it DID happen.

Of course I pulled her out immediately, and she was happy as a clam rubbing chapstick all over her face. BUT she was soaked in sweat. She was in there less than 10 minutes and it was barely 70 degrees outside. Now granted she got in through the driver’s side door, which does not have the child safety lock on it so technically she wasn’t trapped. But she’s three and had crawled in to the backseat. The odds of her being able to figure out to climb back to the front and open the door are slim.

After quite a bit of swearing and yelling and crying – followed by drinking a giant beer – I did a whole lot of thanking my lucky stars yesterday. Because while I may be an idiot when it comes to a lot of things in life, the safety of my kids is certainly not one of them. HOWEVER…I also know how I get. I get focused. I lose track of time. I get on a role in getting things done. I ASSUME my kids are playing together, because the majority of the time they are. And while I do make a point to check on them fairly often, sometimes there may be like 20-minute gaps in between me actually seeing what they’re doing. It’s been proven kids need approximately 0.02 seconds to get into trouble. Or maybe that’s just a proven fact for my kids?!

Now for my own mental well being I refuse to dive into the what ifs. And by dive into I mean write the words here. Because don’t think I haven’t thought about them for two days straight. Instead, I’m using this as a teaching moment for myself and all of you, my loyal five followers. (Insert smiley face.) This is real life. I’m a real person. I’m not an idiot, but I’m human. We don’t always get second chances, so we must always use our first ones wisely.

(PSA #3: Don’t count on your five year old to monitor the three year old. It doesn’t always work out like you think it should.)

Four-Legged Family Members are Real

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The night we brought Desota home.

Well today my three-year-old daughter pretty much summed up life. She said, “When you turn into a grownup you have to do tricky stuff.” As kids you don’t even ever really think about just what all the “tricky stuff” ever entails either because a) you’re a clueless kid and b) if you have good parents they tend to shield you from the tough stuff.

Well this past weekend was one of those tricky adult situations for my husband and I. It started off great. We had a date night where we drank too much awesome beer and ate too much awesome food. But the best part was yet to come – we were going to be able to sleep in! However around 2 a.m. I got my first wake-up call when my dog barked as she needed help up. Ok, sure. I was sort of getting used to these barks as they were becoming more frequent. So I helped her up and didn’t think much of it. Then around 4 a.m. the same thing happened. Only this time she wanted outside and refused to come back in. She looked awful, and I began to fear the worst. I got my husband to help carry her back inside and we both sat with her, afraid to leave her side. Eventually we attempted to go back to bed even though I merely laid there willing my dog to peacefully drift away on her own. But around 7 a.m. we heard her bark again and we repeated the process. She went out in the snow, lied down and refused to get back up. At this point, the tears were flowing, and we pretty much knew what we had to do – you know that whole tricky adult thing where you’re forced to make awful decisions that you know are the right thing yet every bone in your body screams “No!” Yeah, that.

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Desota was often used as a soft pillow for reading time.

Now even as I’m writing this I get that it sounds like I’m talking about a person. And for anyone who isn’t a dog/pet lover, they probably think I’m crazy. And maybe I am, but these dogs and these pets are more than just animals to most of us. They become a huge part of the family. Desota, in particular, was my husband’s and my first pet as adults. We got her shortly after we were married and she was our baby. We trained her (well, we tried, she kind of flunked out of puppy school.) We scolded her when she ate pair after pair of my flip flops and at least three remotes. We panicked and chased her down when she ran away. And we found out when she was sneaking things while we were away at work. We basically went though all the same things with her that we’ve gone through with our three kids – well except maybe not the flip flop part. But overall, Desota was the starting foundation for our family.

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Wet kisses were given out often.

I’ll never forget bringing home Jaycob for the first time. Desota was very curious and very anxious. She knew that something was different but wasn’t quite sure what. She paced the entire night of his first night home. But after that, she never left his side. With each kid we brought home, unfortunately she received less and less attention. But she adjusted and continued to love on all three of them. They climbed on her. They pulled her hair. They fell on her. But she never even flinched and was always rewarded with plenty of spilled food and snuggles. Even up until recently when she no longer was sleeping upstairs with us, any night there was a storm she would pace and whimper all night unless I left the kids’ doors open so she could go into their rooms and check on them. She was the most loving and kindhearted dog any family could ever hope for. She helped raise my kids, and like my aunt said, I suppose she did kinda sorta help raise me too.

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Desota never turned down a hug.

Maybe I’m slightly biased being raised as a veterinarian’s daughter, but in my opinion, dogs, and just animals in general, are such an important part of growing up. They provide unconditional companionship and love. They teach responsibility. They help clean up your floors. And eventually they help with processing the biggest lesson of them all – the circle of life. At 41, I’m still struggling with that lesson.

Sure they’re a pain in the ass at times. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of hair that floats through my house. I’ll be cleaning that up for years to come. They cost a lot of money. They require a lot of maintenance and care. And when they’re gone you’re left with a giant-sized hole in your heart. But you know what? It’s all worth it because I’m also left with 13 years of memories. And no amount of grief can erase all the good that we got from her. I can only hope that our next dog, whenever that may be, will be half as good as she was. (And yes, I’m already Googling puppies…do NOT tell my husband! It’s for therapeutic grieving purposes only. Wink. Wink.)

Rest in peace, Desota. January 10, 2006 – April 28, 2019.

May Today Always Count

IMG_7123Today was just another ordinary day. My kids drove me crazy. I yelled a lot. There were timeouts and tears. Nothing too good and nothing too bad. Just a normal day. Which, in hindsight, as my dad always likes to remind me, is not necessarily a bad thing. But then I thought I’d take a few minutes to zone out and peruse the “Book.” And the first post that popped up was from the husband of a girl I went to journalism college with stating that his wife had passed away after battling breast cancer. Say what?! Now granted, I hadn’t spoken to her in years but this was a girl I had partied with. Studied with. Done projects with. And endured all the same classes, headaches and learning experiences that one encounters at college. And now she’s gone. But even more sadly is that she leaves behind a husband and her five-year-old son.

As I sit here trying to write my way through my feelings, because that’s just what I do, I find myself really struggling. Obviously I don’t have the right to truly grieve my old friend. We haven’t kept up in our friendship, and I had no idea what was going on in her life. But my heart can’t stop aching for her sweet little boy. Because I too was that motherless little child. I know what it’s like to grow up without a mother. Him and his father have a difficult road ahead of them. They will adapt and persevere because they have no choice, but it won’t be easy. However, that isn’t even what truly has me struggling about all of this. What I can’t seem to wrap my brain around is the fact that someone my age, someone I knew, died. And not from some random accident. But from cancer. My dad is supposed to be in the era of losing people he knows from terminal illnesses, not me. Hell in my mind I’m still in the time frame of people getting married and having kids. (Obviously I know I’m way past that but if we’re being completely honest I’ll just admit I still think I’m 17. At this point I think I’ll feel that way forever.)

Last year I had a dear friend battle breast cancer – and beat it, YAY. Now, did I worry about her? Yes. Did I ache for the pain and suffering she was going through? Yes. Did I think she was a bad ass warrior for not only beating it, but simultaneously continuing to work, be a mother, a wife and a partner in managing a household? Yes. BUT, did I for even one second consider the fact that she could possibly die? HELL NO. Because people my age don’t get terminal illnesses and die. They just don’t. So hearing about the loss of a classmate to cancer has certainly given me a hard slap in the face back into reality.

I’m no stranger to death. As a result, I live my life with one eye open at all times because I’m just waiting for another freak accident to claim the next victim. I waste so many brain cells trying to come up with every possible (and a lot of impossible) situation(s) that could potentially harm one of my family members. It’s just my demented way of trying to “prepare” myself mentally. Because that’s what I know. I rarely think about normal harmful situations. And I certainly never, ever think about anything happening to me. That’s just one more worry that I don’t think my brain can take on.

Because as I sit here worrying about that poor boy, or worrying about just the possibility of losing someone in my own family, I’m reminded about a quote that I saw recently. It read: “One day you’ll look back and realize that you worried too much about things that don’t really matter.” Obviously I’m not saying things like death or illness or other similar scary things don’t matter. Because of course they do. But do the mere ideas or just the possibility of them matter? They shouldn’t. Because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is ultimately going to be whatever it’s going to be. And worrying about all the things that might happen won’t change a damn thing. Does that mean that I won’t worry? (Can you hear me laughing hysterically at this question?!) Of course not; worrying is my jam. But at some point I have to take solace in the fact that my family itself and also our support system is strong. Just as I’m sure this grieving father and son will be what they need to be and have what they need to have to in order to get through this horrible tragedy.

Life is full of curve balls. At any given unexpected time. And yes, some may get more than others. And even though I’m an expert on knowing how short life can be, it doesn’t necessarily make me always appreciate it as much as I should. But today as I’m reminded once again on life’s fragility, I’m going to yell at my kids with a bit more love. And even if they grow up with memories of having a crazy lunatic for a mother, and I look back at all the tattling and sibling fighting, the fact that we’re lucky enough to have any of these memories will make me forever grateful. Today we have everything. Tomorrow we may not. May we always make today count.

Rest in Peace, old friend. May your memory live on forever.

 

The Warrior I Strive to Be

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My grandma and I on my 40th birthday

When my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer something like a million years ago, the twenty-something me was a tad different than the current 40-year-old me. And while obviously no one likes death or losing someone, witnessing the fast demise of my grandpa was just not something I was able to mentally handle. So instead I chose to write him a brief, but heart-felt letter so I knew for certain that he knew just how special he was to me. My aunt read it to him sometime before he died, and while I don’t believe he was communicating too much in the end, she assured me that he had indeed heard my words and understood.

Now this time last year my grandmother took a turn for the worse and none of us believed she would make it to see Christmas. We all got in our extra visits, and she was given her last Rites. And yet miraculously somehow she rallied. For an entire year. She struggled with dementia, her body was failing her and yet she continued to fight. That is until last week. My aunt called me last Sunday and suggested I go visit her as she wasn’t doing so well. Thankfully we had no plans that day so I was able to go and spend a few hours with her. But I never in a million years thought it was going to be my last visit. So when my aunt called me Wednesday suggesting I come again, while I was concerned over her urgency I still thought to myself, we’ve been here before, she’s struggling but she’ll work her way out of it. She always does. I finished up my errands. and Evelyn and I headed over. But I got there five minutes too late.

I don’t know why I never wrote my grandma a letter like I had my grandpa. I always told her I loved her, and she of course knew it but did she know everything? While it’s too late for her to ever hear my words aloud, I have to think she’s somewhere still listening. So Wednesday evening as I was in emotional turmoil filled with uncontrollable grief, confusion, and disbelief, my only solution was to put my thoughts on paper (well, a computer). It’s my therapy after all. It didn’t, nor will it ever, end my grief, but it did give me some sense of momentary peace.

Dear grandma,

Just two days ago we were bonding over Suze Orman, admiring her stilettos and discussing how she could take a man out with them. And you were telling me your plans of wanting to get a dog. You know, one that could just go in and out the back door so it wouldn’t be much trouble, you said. And now you’re gone. But a funny thing is as I was typing this the auto correct said you were “home” not gone. Maybe that’s you giving me my sign. Because right now I feel like you’re the only one in the world who can truly comfort me. I wish I had been brave enough to talk to you about the “end” when it was actually significant and ask your feelings about it. I know you weren’t afraid because I used to make you talk about death all the time. We used to always joke that you were too healthy and while it was silly, I still took comfort in it. Because I don’t think I ever accepted the truth that you wouldn’t actually be here forever. But I can only assume and imagine that Grandpa and my mom were waiting for you with open arms and the biggest box of wine you ever did see. So maybe you are indeed home.

My cousins have always teased me that I was the Golden Child. And that’s ok because obviously I am. Duh. But truthfully you were the Golden Grandma. I know you took pity on me for not having a mother and I was your only grandchild for a long time, but circumstances aside, we had a bond that I will cherish forever. You and Grandpa did everything for me. Endless supplies of donuts, homemade fried shrimp, trips to the city, New year’s Eve (virgin) pink squirrels, letting me drive (on the highway!!) well before I had my license. These are the memories that I’ll never forget. And yes even those long road trips to Kansas where you and Grandpa hot boxed me with your horrific cigarette smoke for hours on end. Even those memories I’ll always look back on and smile.

You were such an influential and special person in my life. You helped fill a void that I didn’t even understand. You mesmerized me with your stories of faith and you were always 100 percent honest with every question I threw at you. I appreciate that more than I ever told you. My aunt told me today that you were the strongest person she ever knew. And aside from my stepmom I would completely agree with that. You were a role model to us all even when you didn’t mean to be. You showed us just what unwavering strength and faith truly is. And you always said exactly how you felt, no bull shit. Your life wasn’t easy. You didn’t grow up with much, but you had a loving family. You outlived a daughter, a grandson and a husband. You showed us all just what it looks like not to quit when times are hard, but more importantly what it looks like to preserver.  And end up stronger because of it. You were the epitome of a true fighter, grandma.

I’ll miss your spunk, our crazy conversations (even if we had the same ones over and over the past few years), but most of all I’ll miss our laughs because you made me laugh like no other. I don’t think most grandmas are nearly as funny as you were. Just one of the many reasons why I was so lucky to have had you for as long as I did.

I’m sorry I missed you at the end. But I know that was just you simply looking out for me as you always have. Because now I won’t remember you in death. Instead I’ll chuckle about our last moments together with Suze and your soon-to-be dog. I love you with all my heart, grandma. I hope to someday see you again.

Love, The Golden Child

We laid my grandma to rest this weekend, and while it was such a sad day, I think we all did a pretty good job of celebrating her life. We came together as the strong family that she taught us to be. We cried. We laughed. We drank (way too much). We sang. We danced. And we lived. And in doing so, I know that her spirit lives on in each of us. Rest in peace, Grandma.

The Skill of a Lifetime

img_5277So a thing has started happening at my house and I could not be any more excited. My middle daughter is just starting to read. In my opinion, this is a huge milestone for all kids and as everyone knows, reading is especially near and dear to my heart. And the other week, for the first time ever, Spawn #2 picked up Green Eggs and Ham and read the majority of the book – on her very own. I think that child got a year’s quota of high fives and shouts of joy from me in that moment. Now I remember being super excited when Jaycob first learned to read too but I just don’t think I fully appreciated the greatness of it as much mainly because I had a newborn attached to me 24/7 as well as a needy three year old. So unfortunately for the first born, he might not have gotten quite as much attention. Or maybe he did, and I just simply forgot because, well, Mom Brain.

But a few weeks ago as I sat and watched Addy furrow her little brows as she concentrated on sounding each and every word out, I just kept thinking to myself: girlfriend, your world is about to open up in ways you never dreamed it could. It’s hard for me to even vocalize how proud I was/am of her. Granted I know reading is nothing “special” or unique – obviously everybody learns this skill. But regardless, it’s just so gosh darn important. I want to relish the pride and jubilation I’m feeling so I thought I’d write her a brief note so that maybe someday she’ll never forget just how momentous this time is for both of us.

To My Favorite Middle Challenge,

Learning to read is one of the most detailed first memories I have. I’ll never forget the day the letters just “clicked” in my own mind, and they went from being merely letters thrown together on a page to actual words jumping out at me. And while I don’t remember my first book’s title, I do remember it was a “thicker” book (well, thick for first grade) with complete sentences. I remember rushing to my dad when I got home from school and insisting he listen to me read. I was so excited and proud. It was one of the greatest feelings of my life and even today it still ranks pretty high up on the list. I hope you feel the same when you’re older because while you might not realize it now, your world is about to change. And not just because I can no longer spell out words to your father with you having no idea what I’m talking about. (Although I am slightly sad about that.) But because with each page you read and each new word you learn, you are gaining the knowledge and know how needed to change the world. Reading gives you power. It is THE tool needed to ultimately do and become whatever you dream. It can take you places you’ve never dreamed of all the while providing you with new ideas and insight that you might never come up with on your own. It can offer you new perspectives and transport you to another world in the blink of an eye. With reading the possibilities are endless, and I hope you never underestimate the power in this milestone.

Love Always,
Your voracious reading Mother

There’s a lot of things that I do wrong as a parent. I’m crazy. I yell a lot. I love to say no. (Dad, that’s ALL your fault!) But if there’s one thing I do well, it’s modeling my love for reading. Any spare chance I get, my kids see me with a book (even if it’s an e-book) in my hand. They see me reading the history section of our local Barrington magazine (really, the only section I can handle!) They see me reading my weekly Mt. Carroll newspaper. And most often when everyone else is glued to the television, they see me go find a quiet spot on the couch and curl up with a book. I grew up watching my own dad constantly read, and I think that really shaped my own love for it. I certainly hope that among all the negative traits I’m ultimately passing down, my love for reading is one of the positive ones.

There’s been a few times when I’ve caught my second grader still reading with his flashlight in bed at 10:00 at night. Now granted, I’m not happy the next day when he’s overtired and throwing fits, but secretly my heart is swelled with pride because that’s what I used to do. Give me a Christopher Pike book any day during my adolescent years, and I too would stay up way too late reading. Hell, that’s me every night now still. It’s my me time. My time away from reality where I can zone out and forget about all the things I need to do or how many times the kids sent me over the edge that day. Without that time, I couldn’t function.

So while ultimately I want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy and kind – you know, the staple things that every other parent on the planet wants for their kids – I also can’t help but wish they turn into the biggest book-loving nerds that ever could be. Because someday, whether they like or not, I too will make them plow through Atlas Shrugged over their summer vacation. Isn’t that every kids’ dream?! Hashtag sorry not sorry.