raising teens
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Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly… and so does that child of mine…

little bird on branch at dusk
photo credit: greg westfall

First smile..

First tears..

First word..

First cold..

First steps..

First friend..

First day of preschool..

Chickenpox..

First “A”..

First fight..

First kiss..

First dance..

First pageant..

First time driving… and first car..

Graduation from high school..

Bid Day=becoming sisters and the legacy lives on..

Graduation from college..

So many memories…

8330 days…

And it’s over in a heartbeat…

And now my little bird is ready to spread her wings and show the world how she can fly..

So proud of you Sarah, go on now..

fly to great heights!

10 Things you should chat with your teenage daughter about

10. Positive Self image. With images of teen models and stars these days it is amazing that girls are not all anorexic and emulating their “role models” bad behavior. I believe that beauty comes from within. Work on your daughters feeling of self worth before worrying about looking like an Abercrombie Model “who most likely isn’t wearing any clothes” or a Disney Princess whose gone bad.

9. The “s” word, try and keep an open mind and ear when you talk to your daughter about sex. I have always had a very open relationship with my daughter and told her I wanted her to be honest with me if she had any questions; I would rather her come to me no matter how embarrassing, rather than have her get information or misinformation from a friend. Remember if you don’t talk about it most definitely does not mean she isn’t thinking about it and putting your head in the sand is not the solution!

8. What things are important to her? Listen, encourage, and show up! Is she interested in school politics, sports, or saving the world? Whatever it is be interested, support her anyway you can even if it is just showing up for a game or an event! This will mean the world to her, she might not tell you but believe me she will feel it in her heart.

7. What is your daughter doing after school? Is she keeping up with her homework or coming home and spending 3 hours in front of the TV watching Sponge Bob Square Pants. You need to teach her responsibility so that when she gets her midyear grades you aren’t surprised with her failing exam scores. Sometimes you need to be proactive and “ask” again “I know said holding your breath” about her grades. How is she doing? Is anything difficult? Might she need some extra help, all asked in the most supportive way.

6. The boy factor- Is she one who “loves” boys? How do boys react to her? Does she chat with them on facebook? Get one! Know what she is doing !! If she is involved in after school activities, stop by a game or go to a show. Just promise her; you, or in our families case, my husband won’t embarrass her.

5. The girlfriends: Know them, all of them… Encourage your daughter to have her girlfriends come over so you can meet them and get to know them. There is always one in the bunch you will need to keep your “eye” on. Sit down and talk to them as a group to see “What’s new in school?” “Who is the latest heart throb?” “What things are going on at school” It is amazing what you can learn when you sit down and listen! Notice I didn’t say jump in the conversation or become part of a “fight” because there will be lots and lots of fighting and drama with girls, unfortunately it’s in the genes somehow but be there to understand the dynamics of the group and where your daughter fits in.

4. Eat Healthy: It really is monkey see monkey do… Not that I’m saying any of you are monkey’s. What I’m saying is when you are out with your kids; set an example of what you know is good nutrition for them, needless to say eating at McDonald’s 7 days a week is not! So if you work, pack a lunch or at least a snack of veggies and fruits, so your teen will follow suit, hopefully!

3. Set Rules and let them know there are consequences: Texting and driving, do I dare have to say drinking and driving, to me these are both the lesser of all evil! No No No! I don’t think I need to say more…

2. What is going on in her daily life? In this day and age where our teens spend hours and hours online or texting on the phone; know who your teen is chatting with. If you have any suspicions that she is being bullied step up, and for pete sake, step in and help her. Cyber bullying has gone way out of this world to the point where teens are taking their lives. Keep the lines of communication open be there to listen and support her but always be the “mother” or “father”!

1. Know and understand sometimes what she says is not actually what she means! As I call them “the three dreaded words”; I hate you! Is not what she means… She means I’m frustrated… I’m scared… I don’t know what to do… just listen to me and… help!

Now I don’t claim to be a psychologist or anyone with any kind of medical background, I’m just a mom who has been there through those “wonderful years” we call teens, and the good news is I’m Still Standing! And so will you!!

Disney Girls Gone Wild

female teen stars
Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Lynn Spears. (Vanity Fair, Chris Pizzello/Associated Press, Lucas Jackson/Reuters

What is up with parents of teens these days? I just don’t understand…. I know the world has changed greatly since we were teens but my goodness are parents just not being “parents” anymore? Are they so interested in their “children” becoming famous and making money? Who is the money for anyhow? The children or them? And at what expense is this costing their children’s lives?

First there was Britney Spears, then, Lindsay Lohan, Vanessa Hudgens and her nude photos scandal and now Demi Lovato, and the funny thing is these were all “Disney children.” The cute, adorable, talented, money making machines who lived up to Disney’s clean image.

Watching each one of these girls lives spiral out of control has been heart wrenching, I just don’t understand to what extent fame is worth the price. These girls will never get back their “childhoods” actually I’m not sure any of them had “normal” childhoods.

I’m a mom of two young ladies as most of you know one who is 18 and disabled so she never had the opportunity that these girls did. But my oldest was in the “pageant world” for most of her teen years and it had its wonderful and exciting moments but there were also a lot of some not so pleasant moments; so having just a taste of raising a “celeb teen” is an experience I can say I have “touched on”. But I was always the “mom.” There were plenty of times I said “NO.” Just ask Sarah, I’m sure she’d be happy to share a number of these times with you. LOL

Anyhow, I don’t want to seem “preachy” just want to let mom’s know it is important to be the “mom” first and friend second. Always be there for your child to guide them the best that you can. Teach them right from wrong at an early age… And if you do let your child get a “taste” of the limelight always be there for the ups of fame to keep them grounded and remind them of the lessons you taught them, as well as the times that they will be down for the rejection to let them know that they are wonderful young ladies just the way they are.

That’s it in this month of “thanks” I’m thankful that my daughter both had experiences in the limelight and came out on the other end as beautiful young ladies! Love you Sarah and Hadley xoxo

Bullying has gone “out of this world!”

Many of you know who follow me know that I have two beautiful daughters one who has special needs and one who has taken her beauty and used it to help those less fortunate than herself, by using this as a platform with various titles she has held. But beauty has come at a cost to her.

When she was a senior in high school a boy who she was very good friends with for many years, who she defended when other kids “bullied “him on the bus and elsewhere, got mad at her and decided to make a hurtful fake facebook page which he called “antiprincess” and had her picture with an ex thru it as it’s icon. This boy originally created a fake facebook with a different name and no photo and friended his circle of friends included my daughter who thought this was just “a student from school” and then when he had a lot of friends he switched the name and the photo. It was with a blood curdling scream one afternoon that Rebeka saw this was done.

I thank god, she came to us first. We had a pretty good idea of who was behind this because the boy had just gotten in a huge fight with Rebeka right before this, and figured this was his “retaliation.” Geoffrey called the boy’s parents but unfortunately his parents defended him and basically told us it was untrue, but they did say “I guess you are calling because you heard boos when they crowned Rebeka as Homecoming Queen.” Um, no, first not true we were there, there was no booing; and what are we 3 years old? We were talking about something more serious!

In the mean time, other students came forward after realizing what he did by switching the name and photo and told us. When we were informed by other students who indeed the creator was and knew his parents wouldn’t take responsibility we went to talk to the principal who did little more than talk to him with a “slap on the wrist” and say “bad boy.” They told us since facebook is an “out of school activity” they could not do too much to get involved. But I will say that “miraculously” after that the page “disappeared.” Although the pain and embarrassment of this was awful for my daughter.

We also attempted to contact facebook. This was 4 years ago when cyberbullying was a “new” thing and facebook did not have anything in place for reports like this.

Mean girls, bullying has always been around but with the cyber world this has gone on into a new dimension that no one could even have believed possible. It is now possible to hurt a child so bad that people all over the internet around the world will know, and children are dying over this!

On Tuesday October 12th I had the privilege of being invited to the Wired Safety Stopcyberbullying Coalition Roundtable at the US Senate by Mary from WiredMoms. When Mary contacted me about this coalition I was all ears since it was something that touched my family’s life.

I went and listened to two families stories that were not as lucky as mine. Debbie Johnston shared the story of her son Jeffery who fell prey to two years of cyberbulling and torment and at the age of 15 he took his own life. His mother through her hard work had the state of Florida adopt “The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act,” which requires schools in the state to adopt policies to discourage bullying in person and online.

And Cynthia Logan spoke about her ongoing fight to teach schools how to handle sexting-related harassment among students. Her 18-year old adorable daughter Jessie tried desperately to teach others the risks of sexting after her private nude image she sent to her than 19-year old boyfriend was broadcast to more than 1000 people. After no one would help her, she too took her own life.

I sat and of course tried very hard to keep all my tears in check but just kept thinking thank God Rebeka is still here with us today! Thank God, this didn’t take her life too! So now I’m on a mission to help WiredMoms and WiredSafety spread awareness to as many parents as I can, because every child deserves to be safe!

I know there are many questions out there and many of you are probably thinking first what the heck is “sexting?” The definition of sexting is when a sexual picture is transported thru media. I know a lot of you are shaking your heads but this is a big problem with teens and tweens today, a lot brought on by advertising, media, TV, but the fact of the matter is we need to talk to our kids and let them know this is NOT to ever be done! NEVER!! First of all it is now a federal offense, and if convicted which many children now in fact are it is a federal offense, and you will be listed on the “Sex Offenders List.” Yes, that is the same list as pedophiles who we are trying to keep away from our kids! And if your child has forwarded a photo they received on to others your child can now be convicted as an accomplice of “child pornography” and there you go, if convicted, which again they are doing now, your child will also end up on the same Sex Offenders List. So number one talk to your kids!

I was astounded to learn that kids as young as 2nd grade have cell phones. Come on what is that about? Who at 7 needs a cell phone? But even scarier is that children this young today are ALL on the internet. 97% of teens today are on facebook, and a poll of the same age teens 85% of them say they have been cyberbullied to some extent. 1 in 10 kids will be like Rebeka and talk to their parents that means 9 in 10 don’t! And there are an astounding 160,000 kids a day who don’t go to school because of their cyberbulling experience.

I learned that 85% of kids share their passwords with their friends. Well that’s all it takes for someone to start cyberbulling. Send out messages to all of your friends from ”you” but it’s not really you… this is what happened to Jeff Johnson. It’s called “locking the door folks!” You lock the door to your house to keep it safe don’t you? Passwords are your lock to your computers!

The roundtable was unbelievable with representatives from just about everyone from MTV to Google to Disney. Thirty different companies came together and spoke about the problem of keeping our kids safe and how as an industry they can implement change and rules but the fact of the matter is it needs to also be monitored at home. Know who your kids are “chatting” with. Talk to them about bullying what they should do if they don’t feel safe… “Stop, block, and tell” is what Parry Aftab says. Parry is the heart behind this mission and Executive Director of WiredSafety. If your child feels threatened they should stop chatting, block the person and tell their parent.

The Department of Education was also present to figure out how to add this to curriculum which I am happy to say some states are already doing. New York City’s Mayor’s office just created a wonderful 3 part Video series made by teens which will be shown to all middle school children in New York City schools premiering soon.

There are so many things that can happen in our children’s lives, I beg you please take 5 minutes today to sit down with your tweens and teens and talk to them about this important cause, it might just save their life!

Dove nourishes more than beauty skin deep!

Last month I was contacted by a gentleman who works for an agency that represents Dove and was asked if I would like to test a new product that Dove had recently come out with. I have always been a “Dove girl” washing my face daily with Dove soap and I love new products. Who doesn’t love trying something for free so of course I was happy to oblige.

A few weeks later my little package arrived with 3 different bottles; Deep Moisture Nourishing Beauty Wash, Gentle Exfoliating Nourishing Body Wash, and Sensitive Skin Nourishing Body Wash. Needless to say 3 different bottles took me a few weeks to use and “test” in my shower. I used these body washes at different times of the day, morning, after working in the garden, with a headache, after work, after taking care of a sick child and exhausted, so you can say I was “trying” them to see just how they worked their “magic.”

Did you know that in generally body washes can remove your skins own natural moisturizer while they cleanse. I always wondered about this as I used to “lather up” and scrub off; ”what exactly were we exfoliating in addition to little skin cells.” So in essence we were exfoliating away our essential nourishment that keeps our skin looking younger longer, OK being in my late 40’s not so sure I want to exfoliate away any essential nourishment that keeps my skin looking young, that is one of my best features, and I do not want to do anything to help wreck that!

Most body washes add heavy moisturizes but they just “sit” on the skin and are not absorbed into the skin the way the new Dove products have been tested to do. I loved each one of these body washes, so now Dove has me hooked on a new product line.

I also took a few moments to go to the Dove website and research the products that I was about to test and I have to tell you I was actually impressed. I invite you to stop by there they have wonderful videos which explain how the Nourishing Body Washes work, and explain exactly what the active ingredients in the wash are for those of you who are interested in this.

A few years ago I noticed that Dove started using “real looking woman” of all shapes, colors and sizes in their ads. I applauded them for reaching out to “real woman and girls” in the world not just the tiny weenie stereotype of what Hollywood makes girls believe girls should look like. Show me a real woman using this, don’t buy a product because some skinny mini Hollywood type is endorse it, show me someone who lives a real life, with real kids, eats real food therefore is a real size, and then maybe I’ll listen, hmmmm isn’t that what I’m doing here with you now! LOL

In addition to being a wonderful new product I love supporting companies that “give back” to the community they serve. Dove has recently launched a new campaign to give back called “the Dove self esteem fund.” The program is part of the companies’ bigger commitment called “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.” It was started to help the next generation of girls from self-limiting beauty types. Exactly what their ad’s portray! I love that! Caring about what one looks like and personal hygiene has always been important to me as a woman and as a mom. In this day and age where to many teens are getting caught up in what I will call the “skinny mini Abercrombie image.” Dove is working with Girl Scouts of America and to inspire girls to understand the wider definition of beauty. The Dove Self Esteem Fund is committed to helping girls, all around the world; build positive self-esteem and healthy body image hoping to reach 5 million girls by 2010. To date the Dove Self Esteem Fund has helped over 2 million young women through educational programs. There is a great area on their website designed “for girls only” which has some wonderful tools which girls can spend some time on. If you have a teen I invite you to take a look! There is also a great area of the site that is dedicated to mom’s and mentors of girls that gives you tips to help foster positive healthy self-esteem living for young girls.

And for all of my coupon and sample friends they have an area on their site just for you where you can get samples, sweepstakes, coupons and exclusives.

Now that is what I call beauty skin deep!

The folks at Dove have generously offered to give away a bottle of their new Nourishing Body Wash to one of my readers. All you have to do to enter is:

Giveaway Starts September 27, 2009 and ends October 5, 2009. Please make sure your email address is on your comment, if the winner does not respond within 24 hours another winner will be chosen. The giveaway will be coming directly from Dove.

How to Enter:
There are a few ways you can enter and you can increase your entries:

1. Follow I’m Still Standing Blog
• if you already follow comment below that you’re a follower, leave me a message & you will be entered

2. Go to Dove’s site and comment here to let me know what your favorite thing about their site is.

3. Grab my button and post the link to your page showing the button

4. Write a blog about this new product and link back to I’m Still Standing and leave a message with the link.

5. Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/shelleyellen• if you already follow comment below that you’re a follower & you will be entered

6. Tweet this on Twitter:
• RT @shelleyellen Dove nourishes more than beauty skin deep http://tinyurl.com/y8hrmg5
• leave a separate comment here with a link to your tweet on twitter

Now go on and have a fabulously squeaky clean and beautiful day!

Update: The giveaway is long over however I will continue to write about the importance of beauty from the inside out. I’d love to have you stick around for more and share your views with me. Please stay in touch through one of my subscription methods. Also feel free to connect on Twitter, LinkedIn and Join my Wellnesss Makeover on Facebook. You can always contact me, I’d love to hear from you!

Rush=Sisterhood and Sometimes the Legacy Does Live On.

I can’t believe that Rebeka is a senior in college to her that means lots of things; getting ready for graduation, finishing things up, studying for her GRE’s, and yup, her last year participating in “Rush.”

So what exactly is “Rush?” one might ask, well according to Webster: It is a noun which can mean many things one of which is a drive by a fraternity or sorority to recruit new members.

Back in the early 80’s I joined the sisterhood of Alpha Delta Pi thru an “informal” Rush. I went through the regular rituals one does as a pledge and became a sister of the sorority. To this day, I have kept in touch with several of my sisters and most recently thru the joy and wonder of facebook became reacquainted with sisters who I lost touch with along the way, somehow we are all bound together and we pick up where we left off like nothing has changed.

Our recruitment for Rebeka was much different than mine; it actually started her senior year of high school when we attended “Pan-Hellenic Weekend.” This in itself was a mini-rush and HUGE eye opener to me as to how different Greek Life is in different parts of the country. Geoffrey and I both went down, thank goodness he had packed the best of his Vineyard Vines, and she her best of Lilly! Or we would have stuck out like a sore thumb. This was our introduction to school in the south. I don’t think I had ever been called “Ma’am” so much or had girls refer to my husband as “Sir.”

The weekend started off with an introduction from the Board of the Pan-Hellenic Association. Then we said good bye to our girls as they broke up in “tour groups” and we did the same thing. We went through all of houses in the sweltering heat. We stopped in each house for a 15 minute overview of their house; who they are, what they do for their philanthropy and a short skit. My husband and I walked out of at least 2 houses shaking our heads saying “nope not the house for her,” but we found that Rebeka being as well rounded as she was could have nicely fit into most of these houses. Although secretly I was hoping that she would want to join my house.

Rebeka and I had already been down to visit the University a few months earlier and stopped over at Alpha Delta Pi to introduce ourselves and to see the house; we did this at every school she applied to. For me it was a “hoot” to see the diversity of the sorority in various parts of the country. But in each it brought back a warm and “at home” feeling. I was hoping that Rebeka would have that “feeling” when she went to ADPi during her rush.

Pan Hellenic weekend was exhausting to say the least for both Rebeka and us. When we went home I understood that I needed to get my tush in gear and get going with “recs” for her, so I wrote to friends near and far in all of the sororities to ask that they write a letter of recommendation for Rebeka, I was fortunate to have had a bunch of friends who were happy to do this. Rebeka’s senior year ended, and summer came to a rapid end and Rebeka headed down south in early August 2006. Leaving her down there was one of the hardest things we had to do; just watching her thru the back of the taxi wave to us was heartbreaking. Although I promised her that I would return the following week for bid day, secretly crossing my fingers that she would be getting a bid from my house.

Rebeka called us daily to give us the updates of everything from her meticulously picked out clothing to her views on the houses that she toured. She fared very well during the two days of open house tours and was only dropped by one house. So she had some picking to do, she told me what houses she chose to go back to and ended with “of course ADPi.”

Next day was Philanthropy day where she went back to 10 houses which she chose to listen to their Philanthropy, I knew this was going to be an important one for Rebeka with as much as she had done in her life, I knew she wanted a house that put their money where their mouth was so to speak. She was very impressed with a few houses and narrowed her list down again.

Next day she went to the 6 houses which she kept on her list, I was a little surprised at a few of the houses she dropped but I told you philanthropy is important to her and I’m glad that we raised her to understand that giving begins at home.

Then came the hardest decision she had to make, cutting her list to a wee 3 houses for Preference. But that is what Preference is all about, that final chance to see if you can see yourself in that house, forever… After the final ceremony she and all 1500 other girls walked to the student union where they signed in and ranked the houses in their preference and they did this in total silence! This was mandatory, no one could talk to one another, it was made very clear to the girls that they needed to make this choice on their own. So she went and put her choices in order. After that she called me and was very teary eyed about all three houses. And then she had until 5 pm the next day to sit and wonder, “What house did I get into?” and me to wonder “Did she make the cut?” I felt like I was back at a pageant waiting to see if she made “top 10.”

It was at that time my plane was hitting the ground. I couldn’t wait to see her although it had only been a week; it had been such a long week for her mentally. I now can appreciate why they do this in the south before school actually begins it is sooo intense that they don’t want to mess with the academics which I was happy about.

At 4 o’clock Rebeka had to report to the NFL sized football stadium and look for her touring group she started out with. Each girl found her group and her “spot” which had an envelope with her name on it and “fate” inside. Would it be number 1, her favorite, number 2 or number 3? There was a small ceremony and then they were asked to pick up their envelopes which they had been sitting on till this point and open them. There were cheers and screams you could hear all over sorority row. Parents, friends, and all members of sororities and fraternities waited anxiously outside their houses to see who the “next generations, newest and brightest” would be.

I was on the street corner just outside Rebeka’s dorm. The girls came running out of the stadium in alphabetic order… It was something to see, like the “running of the bull!” TV Stations were even there filming it. Presidents and various other officers of each house were holding up HUGE life-size letters with the new pledges behind them running… The first house was Alpha Chi Omega which I knew Rebeka hadn’t chosen and next was Alpha Delta Pi, I was standing there watching and waiting and praying that she made the cut, and so they ran and ran and ran and ran, and my heart sank it looked like 100 girls, I almost started crying because I thought o crap, “first runner up again,” and then the very very last one running was my Rebeka, you know her and the heat! But there she was… An Alpha Delta Pi pledge, I was so proud because now we shared one more bond, mother, daughter and now sister forever!! Pi love…

Proms, Princesses and Promises

Well, it is May and that means a few things, summer is almost here, barbecue season is in full swing and it’s Prom season, with excited girls all over the country.

Over the past few days I have seen several pictures of beautiful young girls getting ready to go to their prom; experiencing that ever so big rite of passage, and celebrating the end of high school, the beginning of college and adulthood! So much has changed in high school and so much has stayed the same.

My older daughter graduated from high school three years ago and we went through the “prom” excitement with her, although in our home she went to two proms; her boyfriends’ at the time, who is a charming guy from Tulsa, Oklahoma and hers which was a huge run around until she found “Mr. Wrong” who she took but that is a whole different story. In any event getting ready for both was a huge production, one of which I didn’t see as she was many states away but her boyfriends’ mom took very good care of my sweet daughter, and hers at home which no matter who she went with was a night designed for a “Princess.”

So what is the prom really all about? I myself didn’t go to my prom mostly because my parents actually moved me in the middle of my senior year of high school from basically one world which I was a part of since kindergarten to another not so friendly world where I spent a very lonely 5 months; who wants to make friends with the “new girl” when we were all getting ready to leave for college? Anyhow, I knew the day that my daughter started dressing up like a “princess” at the mere age of two that someday her prom was going to be a special night for her.

So back to the prom and what is it all about? If you ask any 17 or 18 year old girl and they will tell you; it’s about the dress, the hair, the make-up, the dinner, and sometimes the date. It seems though that even if I didn’t’ go to my prom, I am sure that back in 1979 when hair was big and fluffy like “Farah” or short like “Dorothy Hamill” and Studio 54 was the rage with disco, that girls everywhere still cared about the same things, the dress, hair, make-up, and that special date, and being with your friends that you promised to always stay in touch with.

One thing I know is true is that high school today is soooo different then when I went to school, technology has moved things so far ahead of where we were but at the same time things still remain constant; teenagers remain basically the same. The friends, the promises, no matter who you were and who your group of friends was, you thought you would always be friends. Well come on at 17 that’s what you thought, right? High school will always be high school, the “cast of characters” will change but there will always be the “popular kids” the “sporty kids,” the “freaks” and the “geeks,” no matter what the prom is a celebration for them all..

To quote one of our families’ favorite movies, “The Breakfast Club…”

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… and a basket case… a princess… and a criminal… Does that answer your question?… Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”

Happy Prom to each of you out there and hope it is as magical a night as you had dreamed!

This little hand

Once upon a time there was the smallest, sweetest most precious miracle that god gifted to us. She came into the world eight weeks early and under some not so great circumstances but none the less after her birth and short stay in the hospital we both went home to start our new lives together.

First there were bottles and diapers, and eventually music groups with other tots. Soon she began talking and walking and making new little friends. Play dates took over most of our lives and watching her develop her own personality really was fun, slowly this small little miracle was becoming her own person. She had likes and dislikes of foods and was very opinionated when it came to dressing, who knew a one year old would be so fashion conscious?

As she grew and met friends my friends changed as our circles revolved around pre-school and ballet. Our days were filled with lots of laughter and love and an occasional temper tantrum usually revolving around the “dressing drama,” but there were always lots of hugs and kisses.

I loved being “mom,” it was the best job in the world. I often thought how lucky I was to have this job and prepare this little gift to one day leave the nest and go out on her own even as scary a thought as it was. I loved holding her little hand!

Pre-school turned into kindergarten and then our friends changed again, and a new home and a new sister, and all of this changed her more and more. At the same time I still loved the kisses and hugs and the feel of her little hand as I watched her learn looking at the world through her “child’s eyes.”

She played so many sports, she skated, she rode, she even played softball for a season, she was what I called the “seasoned” sports player as each only lasted that long but each taught her a different lesson.

At one point in her childhood I became the “voice” for families who did not have an accessible place to play and she joined in and even spoke before the House and Senate. I know this taught her a great lesson. But going to Annapolis I remember we walked into the Capital and I was holding her hand.

Soon came junior high and high school each with lots of lessons, there was driving and curfews and family rules she had to learn to live by. I know I stopped to think at least once or twice that this is going way to fast and I wanted it all to slow down.

I enjoyed the time we had eating lunch together when she called me at her lunch break just so she could eat with me, and when we just sat in bed to “chat” as she used to say when she was a little girl.

I knew and could feel the time was getting close and there were still so many things I wanted to say and still wanted to hold that little hand but I could feel she was getting ready to leave the nest. And then her college acceptances arrive and spring turned to summer.

And in early August as we stood on her college dorm steps saying our goodbyes’, I realized what a wonderful young woman this miracle from god had developed into.

She is everything that I dreamed she would be! I am so proud of this little girl whose hand it was time to let go of…