Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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Thoughts On Turning 45

Yesterday was my 45th birthday.  The number “45” does not cause alarm until I think about the 5 short years until I turn 50.  And…THAT number seems ridiculous.   🙂

Like most people, I assume, the arrival of my yearly birthday prompts a slurry of reflective thoughts and winding questions of direction–Where have I been and where do I want to go?

Looking back, my previous life events took some very interesting turns (to say the least), which I honestly–always and continuously–view as gifts and opportunities to evolve.  Like the vinyl stickers on one of the walls in our classroom states, “If it does not challenge you, it does not change you.”

So, for the past few days, I found myself thinking a lot about my unusual path and the significant events I used to form myself into the woman I am today at age 45.

 

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Pic of me, riding in an Amish carriage, on April 26, 2018–my 45th birthday

 

I was raised in a patriarchal dominated home, where individuality, progressive thoughts, and conflicting opinions were not tolerated, often resulted in severe punishment, and significantly stifled free-thinking, creativity and uniqueness–a pit of suffocating quicksand that I would spend 25+ years clawing my way out of to find, uncover and explore my original identity on unbiased solid ground.

A surprise pregnancy at the age of 19 started the growth and evolution.

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The life-altering minute I became responsible for another human being created the defining moment I chose to forge my own, unique path.

As a single mom, I completed college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Studio Art and added an all-level, K-12 teaching certificate.  Studying and learning did not come naturally.  My son, on the other hand, taught himself to read at age 3 and understood simple algebra by age 5.

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I raised my son alone, except for three, not-so-awesome years when I accidentally married a drug addict.  I wish I could write a paragraph to explain those years…oh the enormous mountain of red flags and stupidity I ignored!  It is utterly embarrassing and I am literally shaking my head as I type these words.  Excuse the acronym, but seriously, WTF?

Honestly, I *think* I married him because he formed such a strong bond with my son, who desperately desired a male role model in the absence of his father (whose visits were sporadic and yearly, at best)  I also divorced him because of my son– I REFUSED to subject him to an unstable and unhealthy environment.

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The wedding was March 11, 2000.  By August, I learned about a hidden addiction and immediately went into action, contacting family members, staging an intervention, begging, pleading, blah, blah, blah…  I filed for divorce on October 17, 2002, which was ultimately finalized on April 1, 2003.  Good times, ladies and gentlemen…good times…

During those explosive days, I became the Secondary Teacher of the Year for the entire school district–a title never before awarded to a fine arts teacher.  One guarantee in my public school classroom–individuality was encouraged and celebrated, as was free-thinking and original thought, interpretation and expression.

And that was that.  Bam.  I was a single mom again.  Artist.  Teacher of the year.

 

Eventually, I plan to write an entire post all about my epic love story, but for today, a quick summary will have to pacify you.  🙂

I met my amazing (and current, LOL) husband in 2nd grade.  We were seven years old.  We rode the same school bus and we enjoyed the same awesome teacher that year, 1980. (She had a carpeted bathtub in her classroom for a reading nook!  Seriously, how cool is  that?!?)

We were interested in each other from the very beginning and all through elementary school, but his family moved away at the end of 8th grade.

Our paths crossed uncountable times over the next 16+ years, which resulted in several missed opportunities, a cherished photograph of him holding my 6 week old son and ironically, an encounter with my drug-addicted-then-fiance.

Life is funny sometimes.

Long story short, we finally married on August 29, 2003.  Reminder:  Divorce freed me from a life of heartache and addiction-induced instability on April 1, 2003.  Yes, I am aware that is an alarmingly short amount of time between the end of one marriage and the beginning of a new marriage, but honestly I should have married this man 25 years ago.  I never questioned the time line.

 

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Our wedding day

 

I will share this fun, little tidbit that will certainly be mentioned in my longer love story post:  Ironically, our first daughter was born on April 1, 2004–exactly 1 year after my divorce was finalized.  Internally and quietly, I celebrate that day each year as another significant, life evolving-freedom-granting event–AND I usually get to eat cake and ice cream!  HELLO!  Who gets to celebrate an escape from a suffocating marriage like that every year!?!  ME!  Pretty awesome, right?  🙂

 

If you are familiar with my blog, you know all about my extraordinary family.  But, for the new comers, I will share a few details and will attach some links at the bottom of this rambling if you find yourself interested with nothing else to do today.  LOL

My children are profoundly gifted–All three of them, though my son was never professionally tested.  He began college level classes at the age of 15 through the public school, dual-credit system and he is a mathematical genius and forward-thinker.  My daughters began taking college classes at the local community college at age 10 and 12.

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One daughter is fluent in French, is a 2nd degree black belt and runs her own charity.  Her passions include human rights and marine biology.  Our other daughter is fluent in American Sign Language and has completed 25 college hours. (She is 12.)  She plans to become an OB/GYN for Deaf and hearing women.

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We started a homeschooling journey almost 7 years ago to accommodate the need for our daughters’ extreme academic accelerations.  My son was already in college by the time our family initiated this evolution.

Sometimes people ask me about the origin of all of this intelligence.  The short answer is I have no idea.  The funny answer is that it skipped a generation, mainly me. LOL.  My husband likes to take all of the credit, but I like to remind him that does not explain my son.  🙂

So…the truth–if I am 100% honest–obviously the mega-brain power originated with some deeply buried DNA trait, which resides dormant inside of MY genetic make up.

And here is where my 45th birthday becomes a swirling, inner reflection, self-evaluating event.

I am surrounded by brilliant people.

My dad was a very successful attorney.  My niece is about to earn her master’s degree and she is married to an attorney.  My son’s girlfriend is an attorney. (There seems to be  a trend here.)  My sister has a master’s degree in special education and my husband will graduate in June with his graduate degree–having earned his undergrad from West Point.  My brother-in-law is an orthopaedic surgeon.  My daughters are geniuses and my intelligent, mature son was progressive in his bravity to walk away from a suffocating corprotate job to seek happiness over wealth.

Seriously.

That’s a tough crowd to compare yourself to.

I can’t help but wonder, at the ripe age of 45,  if I somehow missed the academic boat–am I just some sort of super under-achiever?

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My thoughts keep going back and forth, an internal conversation I regularly have with myself, but my annual birthday tends to highlight the significance.

Could I be more?  Should I be more?  What really is “more”?

I don’t have regrets.  I really don’t.  Even the botched marriage taught me life lessons that allow me to be a better wife to my wonderful husband.  Do I wish I could have learned those lessons a different way?  Sure.  Do I wish I was raised in a different kind of household?  Yes.  If my surprise pregnancy never happened, would my life have taken a different path?  Maybe.  Probably.  I don’t know.

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It really doesn’t matter.  I would not change it.

All of these significant events created the Jen I present to the world each and every day.  I am the glue that holds my family together when my military husband deploys and the fierce momma-bear that fights an age discriminating college system for my girls.

When my adult son needs something, I am his person.  When my husband’s work pulls him away, he never, EVER wonders or worries about how I will handle things.  My daughters both know that I will do whatever it takes to help them succeed–THEIR definition of success, not my own.

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I constantly seek a better way.  A better path.  A better understanding.  A better acceptance.

An evolution into better.

I **think** that is what 45 looks like for me.

 

 

Want to read some more random writings about my unique family?

Read this!

And this.

And this.

And this.

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44 years and 1 day

Yesterday, I turned 44 years and one day old.  I wrote a blog post (read it here!) all about my birthday and what my actual day looked liked, but I woke up this morning with more to share.  So, what did 44 years and 1 day bring?

On Thursday, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. as a 44 year and 1 day old woman.  Constantly, for the last 24 years and 21 days, at least one person calls me “mom”, meaning I happily put my desires on the back burner…a deliberate, daily action for more than half my life.

So, I’m up at 6:30 a.m. to begin my day because Tuesdays and Thursdays are college days.  Not for me…I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1997.  Tu/Th means college classes for my 11 and 13-year-old daughters.  Read 5 reasons why we homeschool here.

In true modern-life fashion, the first thing I reach for in the morning is my phone.  About 3 months ago, I finally started to flip my ringer off at night.  Since my son left for college in 2011, I worry about him constantly and always keep the phone on my nightstand, ringer on full-blast.  Now that the ringer is off at night, I check the phone first thing, just incase.  Full disclosure:  He graduated from college in 2015 and I still have my phone on vibrate (just incase).  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

I typically spend 10 ish minutes looking through Facebook, maybe Twitter, and seldomly Instagram.  Come on, I am 44.  Facebook is my jam.

A friend sent me a Facebook message asking about the mesh laundry baskets we use to protect, raise and house our monarch caterpillars.  I wanted to verbally describe the containers, but felt a picture would be better.  In my pj’s and clunky old-lady Vionic house-shoes (plantar fasciitis, remember?), I went to the garage to grab an empty habitat for an outdoor photo shoot.  I took the pic, put the basket back into the garage and stepped down onto the drive way.

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Well…I sort of “stepped down”.  The clunky house-shoe on my right foot slipped off as I stepped down from the garage doorway.  I twisted my ankle and fell directly on my rear, jarring my spine from my tailbone to my skull on the not-so-shock-absorbent concrete.  Of course, I used my left hand to brace myself, which in reality, only added to the list of injuries.  I laid on the driveway for a few minutes, accessing all damage, and laughing/crying at my old lady self…so thankful we live in the country, where neighbors are few and far between.

Besides my pride and ego, the other injuries are minor, mostly bruising and sore muscles.

Gingerly, I returned to the house, made oatmeal and negotiated two peace treaties between the conflicting ideals of my two daughters–at least I was not naked this time.  It’s a miracle.

On April 21, my family made the excruciating decision to help our beloved 13 year-old family dog cross the rainbow bridge.  A cloud of sadness and emptiness lingers over our house and hearts these days.  It has been tough on everyone.  For me, added misery stems from her absence in my daily routines.

Having a dog is like having another child.  Her needs always came before my own.  If she needed to go out and I needed to pee, I always took her first.  In fact, most mornings, I walked her outside before I barely opened my eyes and I always served her breakfast before I fed my children or myself.

As I was getting dressed, her absence overwhelmed me and I cried.  Cried in the shower, cried brushing my teeth, cried until it was time to leave for school.  I miss her.

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Part of my daily routine is calling my husband while I drive to the first college campus.  (My girls take classes at two different campuses this semester.) (And, since you might not know me personally, I use my car’s Bluetooth just to be safe.  I never speed and I never text while driving.)  I am a rule follower.

The phone call is a quick opportunity to check in with my man while my daughters are plugged in and watching a DVD in the car.  Movies create a much-needed quick escape for my girls from their very active brains.  What do they watch?  Well…let me just say, my daughters display an eclectic taste when it comes to films.  I am going to walk out to my car (slowly and carefully) and take a pic of the movies just for your viewing pleasure.  Here you go:

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Yes, all of these movies are currently in my car and yes, we spend a lot of money on DVD’s.  Someone should set up a GoFundMe account.

So, back to the chitty-chat with my husband.  He always asks about my morning first–even if I protest and ask about his day, he refuses to answer until I share my stuff.  I gave an overview of everyone’s morning emotions and a recap of my graceful, old lady fall and waited for his summation.

He starts by causally mentioning his name made the Colonel promotion list–a SUPER big deal.  We have waited AND waited AND waited for this amazing news.  As I am giddy with excitement and congratulations, I bounce in my driver’s seat (as much as humanly possible) and proceed to twerk my neck and back even more than the morning’s tumble on the concrete.  Damn this 44 year and 1 day old body.

Seriously, my husband is so humble.  Green Berets are called “The Quiet Professionals” for a reason.  He is a rock star, but he keeps it a secret.

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LOL.  I am just kidding.  That is not my husband.  This is a picture of my daughter at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  I wanted to throw a little Disney love into this post.  Who needs more Disney in their life?  This girl.  Yes, me.  Duh.

THIS is my man, leaving for deployment in 2010.

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He is an amazing soldier and an amazing husband.

If I made the rank of Colonel, it would be the first thing I blurted out when I answered a call.  But, not my husband…he is always more concerned and interested in what I have going on in my world.  I am a lucky gal.

First college stop every Tuesday and Thursday is yoga class for my 11 year-old.  I am happy to report it is not an easy, blow-off course.  Though the focus is yoga and health, the professor spends a lot of time lecturing about yoga philosophy, morals, ethics, and practices.  My daughter continues to learn about Hindi culture, vegetarianism and historical traditions.

During yoga, my 13 year-old and I sit at tables outside of the classroom–she works on geometry, French or marine biology while I answer emails, make calls or write blog posts for you guys.  After yoga, my daughter changes into regular clothing and we drive to the next campus.

Yesterday, however, she realized she forgot her regular bra and reacted with a full, emotional meltdown in the women’s restroom.  Have you read about my life with profoundly gifted kids?  Click here.

I calmly suggested the sports bra was sufficient, but she shot that down pretty quick.  Next, I offered a switch–she could wear my bra and I would gladly wear the sports bra…anything to minimize her anxiety.  Apparently, the thought of wearing her mom’s bra was mortifying enough to make the wearing of the sports bra acceptable.  That is a parenting win, my friends.

We drove to the next college campus, where my 13 year-old takes Acting I and my 11 year-old attends two different ASL classes.  I create a home base–what I call our “nest”–and I sit there for the next 9 hours while my daughters come and go to the rest of their classes.  I read, watch entirely too many Netflix shows and I do research for this blog.  Yea Wi-Fi.

On campus, the Deaf and ASL interpreting college students were interacting with visiting Deaf junior high students.  One of the professors introduced my daughter and the students asked a lot of questions.  She confidently signed and communicated with several of the kids, which was exciting because these students were her age.  That NEVER happens.

One fascinating facet of Deaf culture is sign names.  A Deaf person MUST give the sign name to a hearing person.  Until a sign name is given, names are finger-spelled using the ASL alphabet.  My daughter has studied American Sign Language for 6 years and has waited 6 years, hoping someday to receive her sign name from a Deaf individual.

The sign name is an act of acceptance into the Deaf culture.

I was writing a blog post when my daughter RAN up to our nest, all out of breath, and almost cried as she told me that a Deaf student bestowed her a sign name.  It was the best day of her life!

Through happy tears, I watched my daughter walk into her Visual and Gestural Communications class with a sign name.  It was like she was a new person.

For Christmas, I gave my daughters tickets to see Alton Brown Live:  Eat Your Science.  When I purchased the tickets, we thought my husband would be in Qatar, so I only bought three.  Life is funny sometimes, right?  Plans change constantly around here.

So, we skipped my 11 year-old’s last class (Yes, she told the professor in advance.) and we met my husband for dinner before the show.  My husband loves Alton Brown and since he is not in Qatar, I gave him the chance to take our daughters on a date.  I REALLY wanted to go, but I was thrilled to give up my ticket for my awesome husband.

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Alton Brown is so cool, isn’t he?

After dinner, my husband took our daughters to see Alton Brown Live and I started the long drive home.  I made a last minute decision to visit my fabulous sister because Google Maps sent me right by her house.

I love spending quality time with my sister, my nephew and one of my nieces.  (The other one was out for the evening…bummer!)

They gave me some super awesome birthday presents, like this Haunted Mansion (my all-time favorite Disney ride!!!) plate.

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And, I got this adorable dress to wear during my next Walt Disney World vacation!

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I am sooooooo excited!!!

Last May, I was diagnosed with skin cancer.  Ugh.  Too many years using baby oil in the sun and too many trips to the tanning bed in my teens and 20’s…use sunscreen my friends.

Anyway, I had some fun basal cell carcinoma removed from my shoulder and the scar is YUCK-Y.  I call it “my third nipple”, which my husband hates, but I think it’s funny–it is a sick way of coping…

My 4 year old nephew (He is the love of my life!) told me to take off my jacket, revealing my shoulder because I was wearing a tank top underneath.  He immediately started asking questions about my scar and poking it with his finger.  He said it looked like gum and I could not stop laughing.

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I guess calling it “gum” is better than “my third nipple”.  lol.

This is my nephew.  I could look at his precious face all day long.

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It was dark by the time I arrived home and I immediately felt the absence of our Pepper Dog.  Last night marked the first time I was home alone without her.  The house was too quiet and too empty.  I could not stop thinking about her.

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I decided a melatonin made the best nighttime snack and I snuggled into bed, watching a few episodes of “Scrubs”.

At 11:30 p.m., my husband (a new Colonel) and daughters (one with a sign name) finally came through the door, exhausted from a long day of school and Alton Brown.

I feel asleep with sore muscles and tight joints from the morning’s fall, but I have this chunk of gum on my shoulder and it kind of makes me laugh.

Here’s to being 44 years and 1 day old.


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What Does 44 Look Like?

So…yesterday was my 44th birthday.  Quite honestly, I can NOT believe I just typed that sentence.  It’s a bit surreal.  In some ways, I totally feel every bit of 44.  At other times, I sit in complete amazement at how quickly my 20’s and 30’s faded.

Each year represents an evolving season and 44 looks different on different people.  What does turning 44 look like for me?

Well…for my actual birth DAY, my super thoughtful, youngest daughter (age 11) made (from scratch) vegan and gluten-free pancakes and chocolate dipped strawberries for breakfast in bed.  The pancakes were inedible (for real), but the strawberries were super fresh and juicy.  She knew the pancakes missed the mark, so thankfully, I was off the hook.

My two daughters got dressed and I took a shower.  I handled 3 separate sister-sibling arguments before I put on clothing.  Everyone sees me naked.  Yea 44.

I took my middle child to the orthodontist to get a poky wire clipped.  Our monthly payment for braces costs more than my husband’s car payment.  And, the payment plan continues for 28 months.  Yea 44.

After the orthodontist, I drove to a podiatrist appointment, where I learned a severe case of plantar fasciitis and a large bone spur is causing my constant and excruciating heel pain.  Awesome.  Yea 44.

My girls read Harry Potter books in the waiting room while I was in the examination and x-ray room for over an hour.

Side note:  As a homeschooling momma, my daughters go everywhere with me–haircuts, errands, gynecologist, mammograms, dentist, podiatrist, etc., etc.  I am NEVER alone.  Christmas shopping would be non-existent without Amazon.  Click here to read 5 reasons why we homeschool.

As for the Harry Potter reading:  My girls are VERY late to the Harry Potter craze.  At 11 and 13, they show absolutely no interest.  The 11 year old HATES fiction and thinks it is silly to read something that is not true.

But, after our most recent Disney vacation, my husband and I decided a trip to Universal Studios would not happen until their brother’s old Harry Potter books were cracked open…hence, the new-found interest.  That’s a parenting win, folks.  Yea 44.

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The podiatrist wanted to administer a steroid injection in my heel.  I asked about the pain involved with the procedure, the steroids, and alternative solutions.  (I don’t like excessive meds or chemicals in my body.)

She asked if I had children.  I said, “Yes, three.”  She then proceeded to tell me that if I could endure childbirth, I could endure the needle in my foot.

NOPE…Not interested in going through the same level of pain as childbirth (or anything compared to such) on my birthday.  Plus, it’s a no-go on the steroids.  I declined the injection.

I don’t think the doctor was very happy.

But, I no longer make decisions based on what other people think.  Yea 44.

I walked out of the doctor’s office and took my two daughters to lunch.

We chose a quaint, but popular tearoom because of the delicious, fluffy homemade bread and fantastic desserts.  (It was my birthday, after all.)  Plus, the restaurant is less than a mile from the podiatrist and my daughters love the food.

I ordered a salad with blue cheese dressing on the side (a BIG treat for me).  It was utterly divine.  I also ate a super yummy veggie sandwich with spinach, avocado and sprouts.  For dessert, I chose warm peach cobbler a la mode.  Cobbler of any kind is my fav.  DELICIOUS.

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My daughters and I stopped at Marshall’s and did a little shopping because my son’s girlfriend is graduating from law school in May and we need dresses.  A cute bag and a few tops made it home…but we were unsuccessful in the dress department.  My 13 year old daughter said I was too old to wear the one possibility.  Awesome.  Yea 44.

Once we returned home, my girls started school, while I worked on laundry.  A sweet friend sent me a reminder text–she needed something I stored in our safe.  Two days before, I stuck a reminder sticky note on my mirror, but I forgot, of course–soooooo thankful for friends and reminder texts.  Yea 44.

As I dug in the safe, I came across my most prized possession.

In 1998, I took my son to the mall to get pictures taken–that’s what we did back in the day–long before beautiful outdoor location family photographers and cell phones with fancy cameras existed.

While I chose the pictures I wanted to purchase, my son (age 5) was getting restless.  From my purse, I hurriedly gave him a random receipt and a pen so he could doodle and be occupied for a minute.  He handed me this:

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“I love you Mommy so much that I want to squ (squeeze) the juice out of you.”

(He ran out of room for the E-E-Z-E.  lol.)

This piece of paper is my favorite thing.  Swaddled within a tiny pocket in my wallet for many years, I eventually placed it in a plastic baggie and tucked it inside a fireproof container.  A burglar would certainly be disappointed with the contents of our safe since it is full of memories and photographs.  Not money.  Like not a dime.  Yea 44.

The contents of that safe represent what we value as a family–ultrasound videos, pregnancy journals, thousands of photographs of our children, military medals and awards, birth certificates and our marriage license–our family treasures.  Yea 44.

Click here to read everything about my unusual family.

After reminiscing for an hour or so, I returned to the mountain of laundry.

I watched “Scrubs” on Netflix and drank some unsweet iced tea (my fav) as I sat on the bed and tackled the clothing.  Yea 44.

My sweet husband came home from work a little early with my favorite tofu spring rolls from my fav Vietnamese restaurant, a ton of fresh berries (my fav) and a box of Milk Duds (my fav candy).  My stomach was already “iffy” from the dairy indulgence at lunch and I didn’t want to add to the madness, so I skipped the candy.  Yea 44.

My birthday gift this year, you ask?  A ton of milkweed plants.  My daughters and I are passionately involved in providing food and habitats for the monarch butterfly migration through south Texas and my awesome husband bought all of this for our garden.  He is the best.

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My 13 year old daughter participated in a scheduled, 1.5 hour-long web meeting with her college French professor from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.. so we planned to stay home.

I put on my comfy PJ’s, finished the laundry and ate my spring rolls while sitting in bed and catching up with my husband’s daily events.  We binge-watched several more ‘Scrubs” episodes until it was time to call it a night.  Yea 44.

Throughout the day, I received sooooooooooooo many texts, calls, and Facebook birthday messages!  I felt like the luckiest woman on Earth.  The BEST day to be on social media is always your birthday, right?!?

I even opened my “real” mailbox to find a birthday card from one of my most treasured, lifelong friends–we met in 3rd grade.  How very lucky I am to still have her in my life!  Yea 44.

As I was closing my eyes to finally rest, I noticed an unfamiliar glow of light coming from the classroom.

Side note:  Our 11 year old sleeps on the floor of our homeschool classroom–it’s been 2 years now.  Yes, she has a bedroom and yes, she has a delightful bed and yes, she chooses to sleep on the hardwood floor.  Click here to read about my life with profoundly gifted children.

From my side of the bed, I can always see her little pile of blankets.   I asked her where the light was coming from and she said she was reading Harry Potter with a book light.  (This is the daughter that believes there is no benefit to reading fiction.)

She wanted to know what happens next in the story.

I smiled and told her she could read for as long as she wanted.  Then, I fell asleep.

Yea 44.