Stop the world
Take a picture
Try to capture
To ensure this moment lasts
We’re still in it, but in a minute –
That’s the limit –
and this present will be past

~ Sankoff and Hein (Come from Away)

As you enter this second year of being a teen, I find myself wanting to freeze time, as the world does seem to be spinning, and the time flying by, too fast for me.

You often speak of 13 being an unlucky number, but it sure was an epic year in your life!

And the Cubs actually won the World Series for the first time since 1908!

It’s hard to know where to begin, when I think back to all the awesome adventures you’ve had since you became a teenager and I feel so blessed and lucky that I got to experience many of them with you.

From seeing Hamilton in Chicago, in December, after listening to the original broadway cast recording (OBC) non-stop for months to our fun and relaxing last-minute family spring break trip to Clearwater Beach, FL…

Then we got to travel together with your 7th grade class (and some of their parents) to our nation’s capital in April, for four jammed-packed wonderfully exhausting days seeing everything from Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon Memorial to Mt. Vernon, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

And of course there was our family trip to NYC in August, which included getting to see Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, as well as two Broadway musicals, with most of their original broadway casts, that were nominated for and won Tony awards this year: Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away! Immersing ourselves in both OBC recordings all summer made seeing them live and meeting some of the cast members at the stages doors all the more incredible!

You continue to love all things Nintendo, Pokémon and video game related, which made your first time at the Nintendo World Store, while we were in New York City, as amazing as you imagined it would be!

You added Nifty Fifties, Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Antigone, and Into the Woods to your own theater credits, loving every show you participate and perform in at our local Beverly Arts Center. And it was bittersweet to see Mr. Tim, your long-time mentor/director, leave for graduate school, after working with and learning from him for so many years there.

I am proud of the ways you have made service a significant part of your life: as a boy scout, an alter server at our parish, with your religious education class (making lunches for those who are less fortunate in a nearby suburb), as a member of National Junior Honor Society at Keller, and volunteering with the Summer Learning Program at our neighborhood library.

And I love that you are interested in discussing and trying to make sense of current events, as I was at your age. You seem to share my frustration witnessing the fallout from, and reality of, having Donald Trump as President. You know how heartbroken I was when Hillary Clinton, whom I worked to elect and wanted so much to lead our country after President Obama, did not win the electoral college. That said, I am not giving up and will continue to try to be (and work for) the change I wish to see in our (country and) world.

I am impressed with how you are becoming more independent and responsible, riding your bike to/from so many of your extra-curricular activities, babysitting for your sister, and doing chores around our house.

You are so good with Abby and I am grateful for all the ways that you help her when she needs or asks for it, including answering homework questions and walking her home from the bus stop after school. I am glad that you get along so well (most of the time) as, with your six-year age difference, I wasn’t sure that would be the case.

Thank you also for helping us honor your sister Molly’s short life. From our visits to her grave at the cemetery, to participating in events like the Walk to Remember with other local bereaved families yesterday, and all the other thoughtful ways you help us her memory alive.

I am so happy that you continue be part of a group of friends at school you have so much in common and enjoy hanging out with. When I chaperone field trips or volunteer at Keller, I enjoy getting to chat with you and them together, which reminds me how special it is to find people who get you and vice versa.

It is an exciting and somewhat overwhelming time, as we navigate the high school search with you. I am so curious where you will end up next year and know that you will make it work and thrive, wherever that may be.

This weekend we celebrated Abby and your birthdays together with our Axe and Benson family, as we do every year, and I was reminded how much I appreciate that our loved ones live close and we are able to gather to celebrate these special milestones. As you know, I didn’t grow up living near to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and am glad you get to see and spend time with our extended family often.

Being your mom is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have done, and will likely ever do, in my life. There is no map and you know I am often making it up as I go.

As our first-born, you get to be a guinea pig much of the time for Daddy and me. Thank you for your patience as we do our best to help you find your way in this world.

I often wonder if I am being too hard on you, or not hard enough, as I attempt to set boundaries, and encourage you to develop healthy habits and routines that will set you up for success in school, work, your relationships and life in general.

I love you so much, Sean!

We have so much fun together and I look forward to many more awesome adventures in this next year of your life!

I wish you a very Happy 14th Birthday!

Sincerely,
Me

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Seriously?!

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!

Love,
Mommy

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Her Perspective

September 13, 2017

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 […]

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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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