No one’s life is perfect. We all go through our own storms and have our own troubles. Sometimes the storms we face are more than we can handle on our own. Some of us have great support systems and some of us do not. Even those of us with great family and friends don’t want to burden them with our problems, or maybe we don’t want them to worry about us. So, then what do we do when we are facing a mega-storm and feel completely alone? Seek help, professionally.

Over the years, I have had many friends who would talk about how alone they felt or how they couldn’t move past the fact they lost someone important. My response is the same every time: seek help, talk to a counselor. I’m not just talking here folks; I went to counseling myself. I was just as apprehensive about the experience as you are. I didn’t want someone analyzing my every thought. I couldn’t see myself sitting there spilling my every thought to a stranger who talks to me like they actually know me. I had seen enough television medical shows to know what to expect. And then 9/11 happened, just 25 days after my husband died.

I just knew this had to be the end. I had lost my past, present, and future and now New York was erupting in fire, people were jumping from buildings, and the streets covered in dust and debris. It’s nearly identical to how I had pictured ‘the end’. Nothing was making sense, it all was a blur. One day, in a relative moment of clarity, I noticed I was sitting on my bed, watching people jump from a building in the endless news coverage of 9/11, rocking and shaking. For a moment, I thought I might have finally gone crazy. But, then it hit me, this was bigger than me. This was more than I could handle and for my sanity and the future of my kids, I had to get help.

Mind you, I didn’t jump up off the bed and dial the phone. It was very overwhelming. It took me awhile to do what I knew I needed to do. I couldn’t shake the TV image of counseling. I just dreaded making the call. I didn’t know where to start anyway. It was too complicated. Those were all the excuses I fed myself. As I laid on the couch one day, trying to talk my 8 month old baby into taking a nap, again, so I didn’t have to get up and do anything, I realized that wasn’t fair to her and I really did have to do something.

I found my husband’s employee handbook from Illinois Power. I was only 25 and ignorant to the ways of the world, but I did remember looking at the book with him and I remembered there was an Employee Assistant Program (EAP) that offered counseling. I didn’t know anything EAPs. I took a deep breath and dialed the phone. The person on the other side was very nice, and knowledgable. It was a man, his name was Jeff.

We found a place that was close. He told me if I didn’t like that place, we would try again. I took the number, thanked him for his time, and hung up. Now came the really hard part–I had to call and make the appointment. Every part of me was screaming at me to put it off, but I knew if I did, I might never follow through. I knew I had to follow through.

Again, the woman on the other end was fairly nice, although I could tell they were busy. I made the appointment. I made it for just a few days later. I asked my grandma to babysit the baby so I could go alone the first time. I wasn’t sure this is what I wanted. And, I wasn’t sure how this worked, but I knew it wouldn’t work if I didn’t like the person. I wanted to be able to talk without the disruption of the kids.

Appointment day came fast. I cried all morning. I did not want to do this. I just didn’t. I tried to think of a way to get out of it, but I had already told Grandma why I needed her. There was no way she was going to let me out of this, at least not easily. It probably would be easier to go to the appointment. I tried to look decent, like I hadn’t been crying for a month. When Grandma showed up, I headed out. The one upside is I knew even though my house was clean, it would be better when I got back. Chances are, supper would even be done. Grandma could not resist cooking and cleaning. My standards were never as high as hers, so if nothing else, I wouldn’t have to clean or cook for the rest of the day. I figured that alone, made it worth it.

I cried all the way to the appointment, in between deep breathing to calm myself. I walked through the door to see a rather long, nearly empty waiting room. The office had several therapists/counselors in it. The only thing I knew about my counselor was her name: Tamra. After what seemed like an eternity of completing paperwork, I turned it all in. Just a few short minutes later there was a woman at the door calling my name.

She was a heavier woman, dressed very nicely. She was pretty. Her hair and make up nearly perfect. We took a short walk to her office. She sat in a chair off to the side of her desk and I sat in the nice comfy chair in front of her. She introduced herself and shook my hand. “What brings you in today?” She asked. I knew she had read the paperwork.

“Well,” I started, not exactly sure what to say, “I guess you know my husband died.”

She nodded. “I did see that.”

I could feel my lip trembling. I was trying so hard not to cry. Instead, I rambled “So, that’s why I’m here. I’ve never done this before and I’m not sure what its like. I’m not even sure I can do this. I called the EAP because I think I need to be here. The one thing, the only thing I know is I have to be comfortable, and no offense, I have to like you, or this won’t work. Please don’t be offended if I move on and find someone else. I might like you, I hope I do, but I just want to be upfront about this.” I stopped when I ran out of things to say.

“I completely understand,” She said so sincerely, “the most important thing is that you are comfortable and if you aren’t with me, I want you to find someone you are comfortable with.” She explained her credentials, what she does, and how it all worked.

Whew. I was so glad all of that uncomfortable talk was over. It was such a relief, I almost smiled.

“Why don’t you tell me what happened to your husband?”

I did just that. I spilled my entire story about Randy from start to finish. She listened patiently, asked only questions to clarify. She showed intense, sincere concern.  Every once in a while she would hand me a tissue. It took awhile to get through it all, sobbing makes everything take longer, but I did make it to the end. She looked at me and said two words. With teary eyes she said, “I’m sorry.”

She meant it. I could feel she meant it. The only thing I could say back was, “Me, too.”

“Sara, I don’t usually share anything personal, but I want you to know that I have been through some of this in my personal life. My sister’s husband was also killed by a drunk driver. She was alone with children, too. I helped her through some of her hardest times, as a sister, not a counselor. I really do understand. I really think I can help you and together I think we can get through this.”

Instantly, I felt at ease. I knew she was the one. I had a million and one questions about her sister, but I refrained.

“I wish we could go on, but our hour is up. Do you think you want to make another appointment?”

I nodded. “Thanks. I know this might be a strange way to do things, but I want my kids to have the same benefit I do. Is there anyway I can bring them with me sometimes, or every time if they want to?”

“Absolutely, Sara. I think that is a great idea. I know it’s hard, but it really sounds like you have a natural way to deal with stuff like this. I really like the things you have said to your kids and the way you are handling this. Bringing the kids if they need to is an example of that.”

Wow. That almost made me feel human and gave me an air of hope. Made me feel like we might make it out of this as whole people.

We walked out of the office together. She went into the back and I walked to the front window to make another appointment. The goal was to go 2-3 times a week for a three weeks. And, then step down to 1-2 times a week.

Before every appoint, I spent a lot of time taking deep breaths and searching for a way out.    There were a couple of appointments I succeeded. When I missed an appointment, she called me. I didn’t miss many, but when I did she worried. She knew how complicated and sad my life was at that point. She genuinely cared.

Every appointment started with “So, Sara, how is everything going?” And, every appointment, I told her my struggles and my accomplishments. Sometimes my accomplishments were as simple as taking a shower every day, falling asleep with the TV off, and getting all the kids homework done for the week. She was so proud of me when she learned I was volunteering and working out. Those were huge steps. She even helped me identify and end my panic attacks. She listened to Kayla. She played with Brendan and Emily. Sometimes, if it was a particularly bad week for me, or if I wanted to talk about something I didn’t want to burden the kids with, I left them with my Grandma or made the appointment for when the older ones were in school.

Those appointments had a lot of emotion and a lot of tears, especially the first six months or so of counseling. It felt like the tears washed away the anxiety and the fear. I didn’t see many people then, except family. Seeing her face really made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I could tell her anything, literally. After I spilled my thoughts, we would talk about them. We would talk about how that was helpful or how far I had come. We would look at some of the things I had struggled with that week and try to find tips or solutions to make it easier next time. We glanced ahead to see if she could help me gain some confidence or give advice to make the coming days easier until we could meet again.

It always felt like I was lighter when I left the office. I felt like I had handed off some of the weeks problems to someone else and like I had a step up on the days ahead. Gradually, I spent less and less time crying, I could focus better and for longer periods of time. I remember the first time I genuinely smiled. I remember the first day I didn’t cry.

The EAP paid 100% at first, then it went down, and down, until they paid nothing. Your EAP, or your husband’s, might be different. I saw her for over a year. She helped me enter the dating world and navigate my way through it. She helped the kids through it too.

When it was time to say goodbye, it was as hard as meeting her for the first time. If someone would have told me that in the beginning, I never would have believe them! I actually cried leaving. Part of that was her. I knew I would miss her. Part of it was knowing that I was on my own now. She had given me the tools, confidence, and knowledge, but now I had to put it into play, everyday. Oh, that was scary!

I did it though. I did it and I did it well. Looking back, I don’t know if I could have gone through that without her. If I would have been able to make it without her, it would have been much harder and taken much longer.

I am constantly telling people, “Get help.” I tell them I did it and that it was hard, but I have never explained what you can expect when you see a counselor. Not every counselor is the same. That is great news! It’s great because we all are different too. None of our experiences are the same and we don’t react to experiences the same. I wanted to take some time and explain how I started seeing a counselor and what I experienced, in better detail.

I should mention, not only did Tamra influence my re-build after the storm, but she also shaped my career. She told me she was a social worker and explained what they did. She asked me if I had ever considered social work (I had no college education at this point) because I seemed to have natural instincts that would help me with social work. I hadn’t ever thought about it, but I started researching. Within months of ending our time together, I was enrolled full-time in college. I also got an entry-level social work job working with at-risk youth who were lockouts or runaways. My goal for my degree was social work. I completed my degree 4 years later. It turns out, many of my professors and my boss agreed with Tamra. Social Work doesn’t come easy to everyone, some have to work at it. Apparently, I am a natural.  That education, combined with my experiences and my personality lead me to follow my passion for helping widows.

Counseling really did help me, in more ways than one might imagine. Now that you know how counseling works, hopefully you will give it a shot. Your sanity and future are worth it. You are worth it.

Kids Grieve Too

When Randy died, my kids were 7 years old, almost 5 years old, and 7 months old. I hoped the older two would remember their dad, but I knew there was no chance for my 7 month old to ever know her dad.

The oldest, Kayla, remembers certain things about her dad. She even remembers things I don’t. Her perspective was different from mine. She noticed things that I took for granted. When we compare notes, it’s interesting to see the differences. Together, we create a whole picture. Her memory wasn’t always so clear. After her dad died, she placed him on pedestal higher than God. No, really, she did. He was the best at everything and bad at nothing.

No one could measure up, not even me. Out of frustration, or maybe jealousy, and sometimes out of wanting a good chuckle, I would mention something about him that was not so flattering. Like, I might mention that he was really great at annoying people. So much so,his dad referred to him as ‘annoying man’. Randy would sit and flip the remote over and over or tap his fingers or whistle or anything he thought might grate on your nerves the tiniest bit…then he’d giggle. That was enough to send Kayla off the deep end. I would have to listen to all kinds of negative talk about how I must be glad he was gone and how I just wanted to date (it all stemmed back to that time period when we weren’t getting along). Eventually, as she healed, Randy joined the land of the mortals and the pedestal came tumbling down. Now, 11 years later, she can talk about the good, the annoying, and even some of his bad habits with honesty and a smile.

The important thing is, she has a whole picture. He mattered and I want her to know it, but I want her to have a healthy memory. If she left him on that pedestal, she would never be happy with a step-father, or probably any man. I didn’t want her to turn away boyfriends because she compared everyone to this unrealistic image of her father.

Brendan was just days away from his 5th birthday when Randy was killed. In fact, his party was supposed to be that day. Because Brendan was so young, I worried about his memories. I know that I remember very little from when I was four and five. I worried he would only remember the traumatic memories. I worried they would trump the good memories. I was right, they have. He remembers one or two things about his dad. What he remembers how it felt losing him, what it was like looking at him in the casket, and other things I wish he could forget.

Brendan is quieter than his siblings, much like his father. He rarely says anything, but when he does, it’s because it is important to him. Occasionally, he will ask something about his dad that we haven’t talked about. When Kayla and I talk about Randy, he is always listening. He gets very emotionally, very fast, whereas Kayla usually is a little calmer. We all have our moments, but his emotional responses come much faster. When they come, he’s done talking. His response has stayed fairly consistent since I told him his dad died.

When I told him Randy was dead, he intentionally fell asleep. It still hurts bad enough, that when emotions surface, he is out of there. There have been moments when he has asked me questions and finished the conversation, even through the tears. I see very gradual change in him. He functions well and we have had no problems with him. I do wish he had more memories and I hope if we talk about Randy enough, he will be able to picture it in his head and at least have some non-traumatic memories. Poor Emily has no memories at all.

Emily was only 7 months when Randy died. In some ways she is the luckiest of all, and in others, the most impaired. She doesn’t know the pain we knew. She doesn’t remember how terrible it was to walk that path. That’s the good and the bad news.

I often wondered as she was growing up when she would ask about Randy. When, or if, she would ever grieve him. Would she be the crazy kid who fought the law and parents her whole life because she never heard my incessant speeches about compassion, strength, and faith? Would she end up pregnant at 16 to fill the void of her dad?

I got remarried to my current husband in April 2004. It had been 3 years since Randy died. Tim entered our lives, as a friend first, when Emily was only about 16 months old. No one told any of the kids to call him dad. No one told Tim he had to be their dad. The two pieces just fell together. All of the kids think of him as dad. They tell everyone else he is their dad. When we are at home, usually the older two call him Tim. He doesn’t take place of their dad, but he is one of their dads. How lucky are they to have not only ONE dad who loved them, but to have TWO? That is amazing. I know that Randy and his family are happy to know there is a man out there, here on earth, who loves them and treats them as if they were always his. Everyone needs a dad and Tim makes a great one. Emily and Brendan do not remember a time when he wasn’t their dad. We differentiate between the two when we need to by using the names ‘Daddy Randy’ and ‘Daddy Tim’.

Since we think of Randy as their dad in Heaven and Tim as their dad on earth, we feel no need to clarify to others. Tim isn’t a step-dad and Randy isn’t the biological dad. They are both dads. How that came to be is no one’s business, but ours. When we mention ‘dad’ or ‘daddy’ to others, usually it refers to Tim.

One summer, when Emily was about 8 years old, she started talking about death a lot. She also started asking question after question about her dad. We spent every day at the pool because she was on summer swim team. One day I go strolling into the pool, sun shining bright, with the intent to grab a chair and soak up some morning sun during their two-hour practice. Before I could even get comfortable one of the other moms hurried towards me. I waited for her since it seemed important. She placed her hand on my arm with concern and said, “Oh my gosh! Emily told me her dad died.”

“What?” I said, quite confused.

“She said he was killed in car wreck.”

“Ohhhh!” I replied with a small smile.

I explained the situation. I think that mom was more concerned about Emily’s strange e obsession with her dad’s death after the explanation. I don’t think she understood what was going on with Emily.

To me, it suddenly made sense. Emily had told everyone about Randy’s death. All the concern and fascination about death and Randy all made sense. It had been almost 8 years since his death and she was grieving. Apparently, she was telling everyone we knew that her dad had died. She was going through all the questions the kids had been through. Just like Kayla and Brendan, she was concerned I would die too. She needed to picture that sad time in her mind and work through all the exact issues that the other kids had already mastered.

I worried about her, often. I wondered if I should take her to counseling, like I did with the other kids. We spent hours talking. Sometimes the topic came up at strange times, but we always talked. I answered her questions, we talked about her concerns. We talked about how it was okay to go through this and that it all would work out. I offered her the chance to go to counseling and she declined. Eventually, the topic subsided and she was content with her knowledge. The stage lasted for about 6 months.

At 12 years old, there is much unknown about her future, but some of my questions are answered. She will grieve him just like the other kids did and she will work through it and heal just like the other kids did.

Even kids walk their own path when it comes to grief. It’s our job to support them. Try not to be shocked by what they say. Kids are very direct. They are trying to figure the world out and decide how they feel about it. They are not big picture thinkers. They have little or no thought about how their words might hurt someone else. So, keep up your armor when talking to them about sensitive subjects. Talking about it might be painful for you, too. Doing it together might allow you to learn something about your child or yourself. It also might help you heal a bit more. It was always easier for me to deal with my own grief when it seemed like my kids were healing too.

However you do it, remember there are no right or wrong answers. There are no hard and fast rules. And, whatever the age of your child, they might experience their own grief and will need your support. Together, you can do anything.



English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)




There are certain things in our lives that you are never too old to enjoy. Traditions, what ever they may be, is one of those. I loved the traditions of home. To me, childhood traditions define home. Time spent with loved ones on Christmas. Bar-B-Que get togethers for birthdays. Coloring Easter eggs as a family. Traditions made memories.


I was a young mother. I took my new family and ventured to our very first apartment at just 18 years old. We had no money. When I say we had no money what I mean is Randy’s parents helped us, my parents helped us, and my grandparents helped us and we still could not pay all the bills. We were poor.


After we moved out, we had no money to do those things. Traditions looked like they might be a thing of the past. At least for a while. We couldn’t really buy Christmas gifts either. We couldn’t host Bar-B-Que dinners for birthdays. Heck, we were lucky to buy groceries for ourselves. So, we created our own traditions. One of those traditions was making Christmas gifts with my kids.


No one in our family wanted us to buy them gifts and they certainly didn’t need a gift. They could buy what they wanted. Christmas really isn’t about the gift anyway, right? Wrong. It is about the gift. It’s all about the gift. There is the obvious gift of Jesus, of course. The reason for the season. There is even more than that.


When I get a gift, especially unexpected gifts, it lights me up. It makes me shine from the inside out. It shows me someone cares about me enough to put time, thought, and money into a gift to make me happy. It works, every time. A gift isn’t only about the person who receives it.


The person who gives that gift lights up too, from the inside out. There is an awesome feeling that comes with knowing someone else feels good because of something so simple. Something so simple that you did.


Our families were the only reason we were able to make our new little family work. They deserved a lot more than we could give. I had to give something though. I had to let them know we appreciated everything.


I certainly wanted Kayla to feel that special feeling of watching someone light up when they get a gift. I also recognized every moment is a teaching moment. It was one of the first times that message actually resonated with me. If we spend our whole lives just taking, how does a baby learn to give? I wanted Kayla to learn how to give. Give even when it is hard. Give even when you don’t have much to give. Give something.


A tradition was born from that moment. I bought a $20 soap making kit with a couple of extra fragrance oils and additives, a jar of applesauce, a container of cinnamon, a package of cheap plastic cookie cutters, and 2 rolls of thin ribbon (red and green). Kayla and I made cinnamon applesauce ornaments that year. When I say we, I mean mostly me. She was not quite 2 years old; she did what she could. When she was asleep, I made little soaps. We wrapped our gifts and handed them out at Christmas.


They were not expensive gifts, or anything special at all for that matter, but they were from us. It took a little thought, a little money, and a little time, but those gifts made a big impression. No one expected anything. They enjoyed those gifts. Kayla enjoyed giving them.


A year changed a lot of things. Randy graduated from college and landed a nice job. Money was starting to flow. We also had another baby. We made gifts again that year. Kayla loved it and could help more than the year before. Again, those gifts were appreciated.


A tradition had been created. Even after Randy started making enough money to buy what we wanted, we still made our gifts. Each year it got harder to get the gifts done. The kids were growing up and life was moving faster than we could keep up with. I tried to quit making those gifts. It was too much to get done. Kayla insisted we continue. In fact, she was insulted that I even considered such a ridiculous idea.


That tradition started out of necessity, yet continues today. It has morphed over the years, but it is still going strong. Every year my kids all gather around our large square table to paint ornaments, shape clay, bake cookies, and form chocolates to give out as presents. We also give to needy families every year. We try to buy gifts for one whole family, or we give small things to several families.  These are traditions that my kids probably will take with them to make their own houses feel like home.


It’s those moments that bring families together. It’s those traditions that live on long after we are gone.


April 12, 2002: Eight Months After My World Quit Turning.

This is a journal entry that I kept online after Randy died. It is as it was when I wrote it. Mistakes, passion, and at times unintelligible blabbering all included. It isn’t pretty. It was real, though. This was a vent. If you haven’t been where I was during the time I wrote this, then don’t judge. If you have been in this state… then, you completely understand.

April 12, 2002

I am so tired of being by myself. I am tired of having little conversation outside of this house and the only communication inside the house consisting of direction to my children. I am tired of everyone depending on me to come up with the best answers. I am tired of it being me alone that cleans up everyone’s messes all the time. I am tired of falling asleep to the cold pillow on my face. I am tired of having no one to depend on for the type of support I need. I am tired of not being hugged or kissed. They say that it is proven to be necessary for people to thrive. While the kids give all kinds of them to me, there are feelings between a man and a woman that no family member can offer. I want those feelings. I need those feelings, and without them, I am just one heap of sludge. If the sludge doesn’t show, it is only because no one wants to see it. I am angry. I am oh so lonely. I miss Randy so much. I miss the talks, hugs, and even aggravation.

I am making it, but I am tired of trying. I am tired of never having down time. I am anything but energized and happy.  I find times that make me smile. Often I can hide how distraught I am by the whole ordeal. I can even keep trudging through, but how I would love to have some type of the peace that I long for. Just a few moments of an ant free house, no kids yelling, time to breathe and not have to clean house at the same time. I need a vacation from life, but I don’t know where to find one.

I am going to stop somewhere and take a break. I am going to smell the roses, I am going to breathe. I am going to catch up on everything I need to catch up on. I want to find myself …

I want to know who I am. Before I can find anyone that I want, or who will want me. I have to know what I want and who I am.  I have to know what I want and who I want. I have to find the laugh that I used to have and the time I used to have and the fun that I know that lies deep within me. I need that piece of me that calms me when the world is in complete chaos.

I need my life back. So, how do I do that?

Developing Story

Often people are amazed at my family. Why? Because I have five children. Yeah. I said five. They range in age from eighteen down to one.

The Kids, in Order. 

My oldest, Kayla, was born when I was only seventeen (and a half). She was a surprise and definitely complicated my senior year of high school. Brendan, the first boy, was planned. Why? I’m not sure. We were young, struggling with each other and to pay the bills. I think I was hoping he would be the gift that would draw us together (that’s how a 20 year old thinks). Stupid. I know that now. Nonetheless, he was a gift. He didn’t help or hurt the relationship. He did come at a time when we were starting to get our act together. Shortly after Bren was born, I was able to be a stay at home mom. We also bought our first house and our first new-to-us car.

With all of that good stuff, our relationship still had problems. I had reached my final straw with Randy. Some how (thank ya, Jesus), we managed to come back together and work towards (and achieve) a truly wonderful marriage.We were finally on a path to success. Our finances were finally on track, his job was on track, our relationship was on track, our spirituality was on track, and, we were finally mature enough to be the parents we should have been all along. We wanted to pull us together as a family. Sort of like the cherry on the sundae. We wanted another, and last, baby. We tried for 5 months and finally, we were pregnant with Emily. She was amazing. Our story was finally developing into a happy one.

All babies have their issues, but overall, they were wonderful and amazing babies. So far, amazing kids, too.

If Randy were still living, I’d be standing at a count of three. That didn’t happen. I met someone else, Tim, and several years later we were married. I started and finished college with a BA. It was time to put school on hold before continuing on. It was time for a baby. Tim didn’t have any children of his own. He wanted me to decide when and how many children we had. I didn’t think he would ever want to have any. I had three and he considered those his. Most men, would be more than fine with that. And, he was. He said he loved those kids and if we never had kids together, he would be okay. Just like Randy and I wanted to do, Tim and I wanted to have a living expression of our love.We wanted a child together. So, when the older three were sixteen, thirteen, and eight, Nora joined our family.

Eleanora (Nora) was born with two ecstatic sisters and one brother. Her daddy, over the moon! She cried often and smiled sometimes. She was demanding and serious, but miles ahead in all areas of development (except size, she’s a tiny thing).

About 16 months later, while practicing ‘whatever happens, happens’ method, I discovered I was pregnant again. I wasn’t so sure this time. Four was a lot and I just wasn’t sure how all this would work out. A baby is a baby and there is no greater miracle. I only hoped this one would be a little less demanding than Miss Nora. Cason was born just shy of 2 years after Nora. Thank goodness, my prayers were answered. He was a fantastic baby.

Their Stories.

There are a lot of things you don’t hear from other mothers or experts. Like, no one tells you how hard breastfeeding can really be! No one tells you that having a newborn, fluid coming from several places, and no sleep can leave you feeling on edge and lonely! No one tells you that you will have to say things like, “Quit rubbing that peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your hair,” or the words “Why would you drink someone else’s medicine?” No one prepares you to talk about periods and erections.  No one explained to me that I would have to teach them how to be a human being.

There is nothing more fascinating to me than watching the little pieces of their personalities and intelligence develop, often faster than I can process. It has been so amazing. One day, so it seems, they are drawing a circle with dots and calling it a face. The next, they are learning calculus and picking out colleges. It really feels that fast!

I have enjoyed every second (well, almost!) of every child’s story. The single most amazing part of their story is the moment I realized they are developing their own story! I can tell them how to do things while encouraging their independence, but the moment I notice they have their own ideas solidifies the process for me. It’s working.

I can remember all of their ‘my own story moments’, but will spare you the boredom. I will share Emily’s because she is the last one to reach this point (so far). She was always bugging me to eat lunch with her at school. I couldn’t usually do it because I was in college at the time. If I wasn’t at school, I was trying to get homework done because having three older children and being in college isn’t exactly easy. One day, I surprised her. I knew she would be happy. She bought lunch that day. She sat down at the table with her tray.

“Emily, don’t they have two lunch options?”

“Yeah.” she answered with a confused look on her face.

“Didn’t you like the other option? I know you don’t like that soup. It’s tomato.”

She had the sweetest look on her face as if she was thinking how silly I was. “Yes I do. I love tomato soup. I love to dip my grilled cheese in it. Geez, Mom. Where have you been?”

Well, there ya go, she had her own brain and had likes and dislikes different than me, Tim, and her siblings. She, was her own person.

They all continue to surprise me with how many of our ‘lessons’ we teach that they seem to just blow off. Years later, I am noticing in our older children, those lessons, actually stuck like glue and they have adopted them as their own. When I call them out on how much they used to hate that rule or seemed to ignore this rule, they laugh. They hadn’t even realized we finally agreed. And then there are other things that I watch and think, ‘Where in the world did that come from and why?’

Just proof, and it’s wonderful, that they are their own people. I gave them the slate and the instructions, but they are writing the story.