How is it possible that you are now eight?

I can still remember getting settled into our pre-op room at Christ Hospital, before the c-section to deliver you.

I recall how many times I repeated our doctor’s mantra for us, “September 17th is going to be a happy day!”

I was afraid to believe we’d really get to bring you home, after all that happened since Sean was born in October 2003.

We wanted so much to have another child and felt so sad when Molly died in April 2008. And then, finally, in September 2009, you came along.

Our miracle.

Our rainbow baby.

And so much more…

This month you began second grade at Keller. It is the last year Sean and you will get to attend the same school and we are all relishing in that.

For as long as I can remember, you have known what you wanted and been determined to get that.

From turning down Chicago Cubs tickets for today’s game via Daddy’s work, because that’s not how to want to spend your birthday (though you did cheer for them when they were in the playoffs last Fall and won their first World Series in 108 years)…

To choosing your extracurricular activities this Fall: dance (ballet, tap and hip hop), musical theater (Alice in Wonderland Jr.), swim team and being a Brownie Girl Scout!

You opted out of some things you’ve done and enjoyed in the past, such as Keller’s soccer team, knowing that could be too much and not wanting to over-program your life. Though your plate is pretty full.

You love to read and do so every night before bed. You recently began the Harry Potter series after Sean told you he started (and finished) all the books when he was your age.

We sometimes joke that you were born in the wrong generation, as some of the items on your birthday wish list included: a lava lamp, a globe and a typewriter!

You are passionate about the Disney Descendants movies, characters and animated tv show, based on the lives and adventures of classic Disney villains’ offspring, including your favorite Mal, daughter to Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

I am excited for our coordinating mother/daughter Halloween costumes portraying Mal and Maleficent!

You enjoy our family adventures, including bike rides, a last-minute spring break trip to Clearwater Beach, FL in April and our summer’s end getaway to NYC last month!

You loved looking for shells on the beach at the gulf coast, getting to see the Statue of Liberty and experiencing your first musical on Broadway, Come From Away!

You continue to be into art and fashion, coming up with such fun, interesting and creative outfits everyday for school or other outings and events!

You love that your hair is getting longer and get a kick out of trying various ways to style it, including pigtails, wearing headbands and having it straightened when we go for our hair cuts with Laura.

You we’re fascinated by the presidential election last year and liked to learn about and discuss the candidates. I was proud to hear that you voted for Hillary Clinton in your first grade class’s mock election on Election Day.

You are so caring and kind. You ask thoughtful questions and really listen to the answers you receive. And then of course follow-up with more questions! That can be tiring for the adults in your life, but we love how much you want to learn about your world.

You have so much fun with your friends, whether playing tag at recess in school, participating in extracurricular activities, summer camp, or playdates and sleepovers.

When we planned our trip to the Big Apple, you agreed (along with Sean) that your birthday celebrations would be lower key and presents would be minimal.

We explained that as you get older (and we do too), we want you to appreciate the value in prioritizing experiences over things.

You continue to help us honor your sister Molly’s memory, even though you never got to meet her in this lifetime. I appreciate the conversations we have about her and what life might be like for her in Heaven, as well as at times when you imagine if she had lived and was still here with us.

When you can tell I am sad or feeling anxious, you often hug and comfort me, which I think is so sweet and means a lot.

Life isn’t always easy and you are learning that. You struggle when things don’t go your way (who doesn’t?!) and we continue to work on using your words and asking for help, when you need it, as opposed to whining and crying.

You love to be silly and laugh, which we do a lot of in our family! You are your older brother’s biggest fan, which he surely appreciates.

I am glad that Sean and you get along so well. As one of my biggest fears, with your 6 year age difference, was that wouldn’t be the case.

Family movie and game nights are among your fav things, most recently you learned to play checkers (in NYC’s Central Park) and are getting better at the many card games our Axe and Benson families enjoy!

You adore your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We are grateful to live close, so that you (and we) can spend as much time with them as we get to, including fun times at the Lake in Michigan and Evanston Adventure Days in the summer, as well family gatherings for holidays and birthday celebrations.

You especially enjoyed our extended Benson family cousins’ camping trip last Fall and keep asking when we will do it again. We definitely need to plan another camping trip soon, even if it’s just the four of us.

I feel blessed and lucky everyday that you are my daughter.

I hope eight is a truly great year in your life!

I look forward to watching you continue to learn and to grow, as the smart, creative and beautiful young lady that you are.

Happy Birthday, my dear Abigail Grace!



This week I have immersed myself in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book What Happened, about her experience with the 2016 Presidential Primary and Election, including why she didn’t win the electoral college and lots of inside scoop on what it was like behind the scenes of her campaign. I’ve struggled with what happened every day since 11/9/16 and I am learning so much from her perspective.

I have found What Happened to be interesting, inspiring and so very moving. I love that she recorded the audio version, to which I am listening, and thus I feel like she is telling me a story, her story.

I’ve been transcribing my favorite quotes, as I go, and sharing on social media, along with call to action questions, inviting those reading them to do more than just digest them.

Here is what I have highlighted so far and I will update this list as I continue reading and find more that speak to me:


 Be grateful for the hard things too. To be grateful even for our flaws, because in the end, they make us stronger, by giving us a chance to reach beyond our grasp. ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton 

What are you grateful for today?


 You’re never guaranteed success. But you are bound to try, again and again and again. ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton 

How are you trying today?


 If (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) can find the time and energy to exercise regularly, so can I and you.
~ Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Did you exercise yet today?


On how her mother learned to stop the cycle of abuse she was raised with:

 She saw that gentle firmness was possible and that families could actually laugh together, and not just sit in stony silence. ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Are you mindful of and do you try to stop cycles of abuse in your life and family?


 One hard truth we all have to face is that we all have implicit biases. ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Are you aware of your implicit biases?


 We don’t always spend enough time thinking about what it takes to actually make the change the we seek. Change is hard. That’s one reason we’re sometimes taken in by leaders who make it sound easy, but don’t have any idea how to get anything done. To often we fail to think big enough or act fast enough and let opportunities for change slip away. Or we don’t have the patience to see things through. ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton 

How will you be patient and see things through today? This week? This month? This year?


16 Years: Never Forget

September 11, 2017

16 years later, I remember. I remember where I was, what I was doing, and how I heard the news. I will never forget that day, the lives that were lost, and how our world changed. 🇺🇸   In April, Sean and I visited the Pentagon Memorial with his 7th grade class on their trip […]

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First Day of School (Then and Now)

September 5, 2017

THEN – 7-year-old Sean, on his first day of second grade, and 23-month-old Abby (September 2011) NOW – 13-year-old Sean, on his first day of eighth grade, and 7-year-old Abby, on her first day of second grade (September 2017)

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Gatekeeping (13th Edition)

May 18, 2017

How are you feeling? What are your plans for tomorrow? Welcome to the thirteenth edition of my “Gatekeeping” blog series. I shared the back story of these simple and yet powerful questions in this post. It’s been almost another two years since we last did some Gatekeeping here. And again, I can hardly believe I let that […]

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LTYM Chicago 2016: We Did It!

May 2, 2017

You read that right. This is about LTYM Chicago 2016. I started writing sometime after the show, one year ago yesterday, about the incredible experience that was Listen to Your Mother Chicago 2016. I would add things to it now and then, getting pretty far with my post, but never finished or shared it until […]

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