Raising Readers

By: Crissie Kirby

Let’s face it . . . we ALL have one or two (or more) guilty pleasures in which we indulge.  Some of these might not be good for us (smoking, excessive alcohol intake, overeating, etc.), but some might not be terrible (working out, writing, crafting, etc.). For me, my number one guilty pleasure is reading . . . few things excite me as much as beginning a new book and delving in to the world created by the author. I don’t know when my obsession with books began, though I do vividly remember reading issue after issue of Reader’s Digest as a child and any other book that even remotely piqued my curiosity.  Reading isn’t a terrible habit to have, other than I could easily while away any number of hours in a land where dirty laundry and dirty dishes and messy floors don’t exist. I fully believe that being a voracious reader has allowed me to become a semi-decent writer.  When I had children, I just KNEW that I would have children who would LOVE books as much I did, so to ensure that, I bought a small library of children’s books. We had Goodnight Moon and Rainbow Fish and lots of Dr. Seuss and many other not so famous children’s books.  Then the unthinkable happened . . .

I had two very busy little boys.

Little boys who wouldn’t sit still for books.  Little boys who exhausted me to the point that I could often not finish a book we started before bedtime because I would, myself, fall asleep before they even blinked one tiny eyelid. I was failing as a reading parent.

As the boys got older, I would try to tempt them by buying books that I (again) just KNEW they would love. Captain Underpants and The Magic Treehouse and other not so famous short chapter books adorned the bookshelves above the aforementioned little kids books that were ever so subtly gathering dust from years of not being touched, much less read.

Unfortunately, most of these books, too, met with the same dust-encrusted fate as the earlier ones.

I was crushed. I was heartbroken. The one habit I had that I had literally waited years to share with my offspring was falling quickly by the wayside. In many ways, I resigned myself that my children were going to be like so many other boys who just didn’t like to read.

But, I kept on reading when I could. Vacations. Late nights. When I should have been folding laundry. I read. I read because it was my one little guilty pleasure that I couldn’t give up. Sometimes it would be with actual paper in my hands; other times it might be with my Kindle or on the Kindle app on my phone, but read I did. I continued encouraging the boys to read. I accompanied them to book fairs where I bought books that I silently prayed wouldn’t just become more dust magnets in our house.

Then, the tide began to shift. As surely as the sun rises slowly each morning, I would catch the boys reading books or magazines (mostly the Lego magazine, but, hey, whatever works, right?) when they weren’t required to by school. For my eldest, the reading bug sort of hit him after watching Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and he began to read one of the Heroes of Olympus books. I was dumbfounded. I had tried buying the short little chapter books in an effort to ease them into reading and he picks up a 500+ page book and starts reading it willingly? His recreational reading has taken an even more dramatic turn in the last few weeks and he has been quickly devouring more than more than one book at a time. At bedtime, he reads. On the way to and from school, he reads.  The other night, I found him reading at 1 a.m. How could I fuss at him? As my mom replied when I relayed the story to her, it sounded like something I probably did as a child too. My previously devastated reading heart swells each time I look around and notice my son with a book in his hands sitting in the car or sprawled on the couch or nestled under his covers.

Study after study has shown that reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge and helps teach patience.  As with learning to walk and talk, developing a love of reading, it would appear, is just something that develops when the time and conditions are right.  And I’m so grateful to finally be sharing my guilty pleasure with my sons.

Tough Love

By: Crissie Kirby

tough love
“Ms. Kirby”, the voice said, “guess what?” I cringed a little when I heard the voice; it was one of the directors of the SC National Guard Youth Camp. My fear was that, after only a day, Pierce had gotten injured. The words she uttered were honestly more difficult for me to hear.

“Pierce is homesick and wants to come home”

UGH. That was honestly the LAST news I expected to get from camp. I suppose I went into the whole sleepaway camp idea a bit naïve. My children spend a week to ten days away from home with their grandparents. We are a family that does sleepovers for crying out loud. BUT, this mom totally failed to take into account that Pierce had never been away somewhere with people he did not know. And when he went to camp, he, literally, knew no one. No other campers. No counselors. No one.

I was at a loss. Pierce is my independent, never-meet-a -stranger kid. Even as a two or three year old, he would stand on the balcony in Hilton Head and talk to every random person that walked towards the pool. But, oh the tears that I knew were falling and the despair I could audibly hear in his little voice rocked me to my core. However, my core told me that going to pick him up, to rescue him, was not the lesson we sent him to camp to learn. I told him that I wanted him to stay at least one more night. The director and I spoke again and we agreed that maybe it was a combination of just adjusting and being tired and that staying was to his benefit. We made the decision to talk on Tuesday. On Facebook, I posted a passionate plea for prayers of peace and comfort . . . for both Pierce and me!

Tuesday rolled around and I thought we were in the clear. I posted a grateful message of thanks. At about 7:45 p.m. my phone rang. My heart sank as I heard my son’s tears before I heard his voice. He begged and pleaded with me to come pick him up. He declared that he could NOT stay one more night. I tried being nice. I tried being stern. Finally I spoke with his head counselor who relayed that Pierce had had a good day, until he got mail from home. I got my ex-husband on the phone because frankly, I was cracking. The weight of the tears and the despair was weakening my soul. Still, I didn’t feel “right” about picking him up early from camp. Together, the adults made some tough decisions that night. We decided that unless Pierce was injured, there were to be no more phone calls home. That ability was totally taken off of the table. We also made the seemingly cruel decision to withhold ALL of his mail for the remainder of the week. He would get his mail on Saturday after graduation when we were there to pick him up. I asked his counselor only one small favor . . . could he just text me and let me know that Pierce was ok at night. He was immediately receptive and followed through with this and Pierce was none the wiser.

tough loveSaturday morning rolled around and the two hour ride to Summerton and Camp Bob Cooper felt like it might as well have been ten hours long. We arrived and gathered Pierce’s belongings. We waited on the graduation ceremony to begin. My son beamed when he saw us. My heart swelled to see that other than having a little tan, he looked no worse for the wear. The campers marched in and performed their group cadences. As the sun rose higher and the temperature crept up, the ceremony began to draw to a close; there was only the awarding of the two camp awards left. The first was the MVPeavy award (camper of the year). As the description was read off, Pierce’s dad and I looked at each other and whispered that it sounded like it was Pierce they were talking about. What? It was Pierce. Tears fell from my eyes as my ten year old’s name was called out as having been chosen as the MVP of the entire camp. My child, who had called home twice, adamant that he could not spend one more night there, had just been called out for displaying notable assistance to other campers during activities and for having a positive and helpful attitude. Suffice to say, I was, and am, proud beyond words of my son.

However, my pride is not rooted so much in him having received the award as it is in his overcoming a challenge that seemed insurmountable. What would have happened had I caved on the first night, or even the second, and gone and picked him up? I would have sent him a solid message that I would rescue him at any point in time when life gets just a little tough. Make no mistake, tough love is HARD; I cried that week; I barely slept that week; my concentration was at an all time low that week. Every day it seems that we hear, see, or read some article about the increasing role of helicopter parents in today’s children. We see parents who constantly rescue their children from any level of difficulty or disappointment in life, whether it be in school, on the playground, or even in college of all places!! Was Pierce disappointed in my not coming to pick him up? I’m sure that he was. Was being away from home with no familiar face difficult for Pierce? Again, I’m sure that it was. But, when my son looks at me on a regular basis and tells me “thank you for sending me to camp” and how excited he seems to be about attending camp next year, it makes the tears, worry, sleeplessness, and, most importantly, the tough love completely worth it. Are there some situations from which we, as parents, need to rescue our children? Certainly. But there comes a point in time when we, as parents, must learn what is really helping them out of harm’s way and what is just interfering with a part of growing up and requires just a smidge of “tough love”.

To The Mom of the Little Boy in Church

By: Crissie Kirby

boy in church

I see you enter the church with him and his precious smile lights up the entire sanctuary. I see you settle him with a snack or drink or with books or coloring pages and crayons. I hear you quietly try to shush him during the service when he talks. I smile at you and think that one day I’m going to tell you how much I enjoy seeing him in service, but I fail to do so because well, most days, I’m busy watching my own boys who (most of the time) settle in quietly on their own, but still have questions or are involved in the service and are perched quietly at the front of the church waiting to light or extinguish the candles. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll get teary-eyed talking of the time, not so long ago, when my boys were doing exactly what your son is doing now. A wise woman used to tell me not to worry about the noises my boys made in church because she enjoyed seeing them there. Some days I would just smile and silently think that she had to have lost her mind when it seemed that something was being dropped every five seconds or someone was asking questions every two.

The old saying “with age comes wisdom” comes quickly to mind because now I understand what she was saying and why she told me to stop worrying so much. First off, you are doing your son a great service by bringing him to church and keeping him in “big church”. He’s learning from an early age what takes place during the entire service and how to behave during those times, even if it seems that it is taking forever for him to learn and you really question if he ever will. (Please no one get bent out of shape if you think I’m shaming you for utilizing a children’s church because I’m not – every family does what works for them.) You are exposing him to your family’s belief system and I applaud you for that. For me, though, I am grateful for those moments when I can see your precious son holding your hand as you return from communion, and remember my own two little boys who no longer hold my hand as we walk quietly down the side aisle from communion. I can glimpse my past in your little boy as one, or both, of mine participate in the church service, leaving me sitting alone in my pew.

So to the mom with the little boy in church, please just let him be little, let those of us around you soak up his innocence and laughter and questions. Allow us to quietly congratulate your decision to bring him to church, even when we fail to verbally tell you so. Allow us to remember the days when our little boys were the ones laughing and making noise and asking questions. One day, I promise, you will be in my position wondering where the days and moments went.

Saying Good-Bye

By: Crissie Kirby

As you have no doubt come to realize over the last few years, I am a deeply sentimental person. As such, good-byes do not come easily for me. As an adult, I have only had 4 jobs since completing college and, even for the ones from which I was happily leaving, I have shed some tears. I develop strong attachments and bonds to people, places, and movingthings. Does this make me materialistic? I don’t think it does. Rather, I tend to attach memories to items that probably aren’t as important as they should be. As several of my Every Woman Blog counterparts did, I, too, have recently had to say a fond farewell to a home in which I have developed many memories.

I still remember the feeling as I stood on the porch, a 22-year-old newlywed, moving in to the home I would occupy for the next 14 ½ years. Home is where the heart is and my heart developed a very strong attachment to that little house in Leesville. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in that little tan house. Both of my boys came home from the hospital to it as well. It is the only home they have ever known.

The little house on Long Terrace has seen much over nearly fifteen years; many happy memories and some that need not be remembered. She bears the scars of a young family with two growing little boys and a small circus of cats, dogs, and even a couple of hamsters. Her once-white walls are now all painted and most of her carpet was replaced in favor of more durable flooring. I like to think that she has a little more character than the day we moved in.

As time and circumstances have a way of dictating the certainty of change, an opportunity to start anew presented itself in the late spring of 2015, and it was one that I could not really pass up. After nearly forty years and much hard work, my parents decided that they were ready for a change and purchased a new home not far from my childhood home. As my childhood home sits on “family land,” my parents offered the boys and me the chance to make the move to their old house.

I cannot really say that I jumped on the chance. I mulled it over. I shed some tears. In the end, I opted to take the chance and to begin the moving process. Although my heart hurt to begin saying good-bye to my adult home, there was something comforting about “going home”. In truth, I had spent 22 years of my life there, but my boys had not. As they definitely have some of their mama’s genes, the move was not totally easy, emotionally, for them either. And for someone who has a slight tendency to be a hoarder, moving has not been a physical or logistical piece of cake either. But, for the most part, it is finally over and I have said my good-byes as I have steam cleaned the remaining carpet and swept her floors. And, yes, I have shed a few more tears.

But, over the last few months, we have begun to develop our own attachment to the house in the country; the house to which I was brought home from the hospital as a newborn. In the end, I suppose, we aren’t really saying good-bye, so much as we are saying “Welcome Home.”

Why I Love Melissa McCarthy

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

I love Melissa McCarthy. I think she’s hysterical and extremely talented. I loved watching her in Gilmore Girls (albeit I didn’t watch it until it came on Netflix), in The Heat with Sandra Bullock and in Bridesmaids. Yes, she can be a bit vulgar and crass; but I still honestly think she’s a great actress and I can’t wait to see the Ghostbusters remake that is currently in production. But, this isn’t the main reason I love Melissa McCarthy.

Melissa McCarthy is not, if you haven’t noticed, built like most other Hollywood stars. She’s a full figured woman; what society has deemed as “plus sized”. Maybe I love her because I, too, am what society considers “plus sized”, and I think we “larger” woman should unite. In all actuality, I think that all women should unite because being a woman has never been an easy title to bear, much less one to bear with other titles and labels attached. I’ve never been what one would call a “little girl” and I’m not sure that I ever will be. I’ve shared those shopping trips where I am relegated to going to a different section of the store to buy my clothes, and, nine times out of ten, if I see something cute in the shopping-606993_640 2“regular” sizes, it won’t be available in the “larger” sizes. (Let me stop here and say that I completely and whole-heartedly subscribe to the idiom that just because something is made in a certain size doesn’t mean one should wear it, nor should one always think that “just because it zips, it fits.”) It would be great if clothing and department stores, along with society, would realize that “birds of a feather” don’t always flock together; women are friends with other women who may not be the exact same shape and size as themselves, and maybe, just maybe, we would like to shop together. This leads me to why I really love Melissa McCarthy . . .

As one who wanted to be a fashion designer before her acting career took off, McCarthy has now designed a line of clothing that will be available to women of almost all sizes. She has also requested that her clothing not be housed separately from other women’s clothing simply because of the size of said clothing, nor did she want it labeled “plus size”. She’s taken a very personal stand against something that many people overlook on a daily basis; that larger women are people and want to dress fashionably too. We don’t want to wear clothing that hides our size. Many of us are proud, confident, and successful women; in fact, I’d say the vast majority of us are because the average woman wears roughly a size 12-14 (14 is typically the start of the so labeled “plus sizes”). While this may seem like a very minor issue or even a non-issue, if you’ve ever been shopping and just left because your choices were pretty much limited to a muu-muu, then you understand why this is an important issue. However, every day it seems that, as a society, we talk out of both sides our mouth on the issues of size and clothing, etc. We talk about changing the perception of young girls feeling the need to be model-stick thin and to be confident in themselves, regardless of size, etc; however, on the other hand, we teach them, by simply segregating clothing sizes in stores, that being above a certain size isn’t desirable by having minuscule plus size sections with frumpy, dowdy clothing options that often tend to flow right on in to the maternity section. How can we expect our next generation of young women to feel when we send mixed signals like this? (I won’t even, right now, touch the clothing choices that are presented to our girls.)

Melissa McCarthy gets it. And that is why I love her.

Now . . . it would be great if someone could pass the word to plus size clothing manufacturers that not all plus sized women are close to six feet tall, that’d be great! Imagine being 5’ 2” and buying petite length jeans that still have to have 4-6” cut off . . . oh, but that’s a blog for another day!

Why We Need to Stop Calling for Anna Duggar to Walk Away

By: Crissie Kirby

By now there’s no point in recounting all the Duggar family has been faced with over the last few months; I have my own personal feelings and opinions about Josh Duggar and divorcethe situation, but, honestly, they have no bearing on what I feel led to say to in this post.

I cannot truly comment on the Duggar molestation scandal, other than to say that, apparently, and regardless of the public’s feelings and opinions on the matter, Anna Duggar knew about that matter before she and Josh ever married. She was not, if I understand correctly, blindsided with the information as the general population was. The more recent scandal, though, involving some type of unfaithfulness on Josh’s part is what has me heartbroken for Anna and her children.

When the whole Ashley Madison / Duggar connection came out, all I could think about was Anna and her children. Then the comments and articles came, as I knew they would, calling for her to leave Josh. Rumor has it that this has even been publicly stated by some of Anna’s own family members. Regardless of who says it, the comments that Anna should leave Josh need to stop; as a whole, our society needs to not call for Anna Duggar to walk away from her marriage. “But Crissie, you’ve walked that walk . . . why shouldn’t she leave Josh? After all that he has done . . .” Because, folks, it’s just not that easy.

Walking away from a marriage is never as simple and easy as it seems. The words roll out of our brains and out of our mouths and it seems like it’s an easy fix to a big problem. But, it’s not. No, I don’t know Anna personally and probably never will, but I know that the last thing she needs to hear is that she needs to leave her marriage. Our society has come to accept divorce as a commonplace occurrence, not much different than buying a new car or a new house. “This one just doesn’t suit me anymore, so let’s get a new one” appears to be the mentality that many have. But we need to stop encouraging that manner of thinking.

First, Anna is probably still in shock over learning about this indiscretion; she hasn’t had time to process the information. When I first learned that news in my own marriage, it took me weeks to process it and years, yes YEARS, to get over what I had been through enough to even desire leaving my marriage. Stop telling her to walk away when she probably still feels like she is in the worst dream she has ever had and cannot seem to wake up enough to fully function.

Secondly, we need to stop telling her to, essentially, cut off part of her body. When you are married and you truly take the words from your wedding to heart; you accept that “two have become one.” Her marriage to Josh is part of both her public and private identity. Imagine being in an accident, losing a limb, and then waking up to realize it’s gone. Pretty traumatic, right? I tend to think so. Stop telling her to cut off her arm.

Third, think about their children. I don’t advocate staying in a marriage just for your children; however, you have to take them into consideration before making any major life changes. How are they going to be affected mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually? Stop telling her to walk away before she has been able to give each of these facets the level of thought and consideration they truly deserve; this goes for her own personal well-being as well.

Fourth, remember that the Duggars are people of great faith and in those tenets we know that God does not advocate divorce. As a fellow Christian, I believe that even though God allows divorce on the grounds of adultery, He never says that one must divorce if that happens. Yes, adultery is a sin. There’s no getting around it. But do we always need to totally give up on sinful people?

Staying in a marriage where someone has been unfaithful is hard. Infidelity does great mental and emotional damage to the spouse who was cheated on. They are already reeling from learning that, in some sense, they have been replaced in the heart and mind of their beloved; the last thing that he or she needs to hear is that they need to immediately and completely cut their losses and move on. It was comforting to me to read this morning that Anna is seeking her own form of counsel while Josh enters some type of rehabilitation facility. She needs impartiality and comfort and guidance on what might be the best avenue for her and her children. It’s hard to hear from family and friends (who you know love and care for you deeply in truth) that you need to just walk away from a marriage that maybe you just aren’t ready to give up on yet. I know. I heard it from family and friends. It left me feeling isolated and like every decision I was making was being scrutinized by those who obviously knew better what my children and I needed. In the end, yes, I wound up divorced. However, I can confidently say that divorce was not my first option; it was the final option. For me, I needed it to be that way. I needed to know that I had done everything I could do to prevent a divorce. Four years later, I can still hold my head high and know that I made the right decision for me and my boys. Not everyone supported the decision I made to stay for 2 years; most people didn’t understand why I stayed; some probably still think I was crazy. I survived without hearing a lot of positive reinforcement for my decision, but it doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be that way for spouses dealing with the knowledge that they have been cheated upon. Encouragement and support are what Anna Duggar needs now; don’t call for her to walk away from her marriage. Call for her to be lifted up mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally in such a way that she can make the best decisions, going forward, for both herself and her children.

Straight Talk about Sleep

By: Crissie Kirby

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the worse my sleep habits have become. I’ve always been an “early to bed, early to rise” sort of person; however, over the last few sleeplessyears, this has evolved into a sleeping pattern/cycle that, frankly, stinks.

I swore I would never let my children sleep with me; and yet, sometimes, they do. Even worse, sometimes I fall asleep with them. I will go in to read to them and, more often than not, I fall asleep before they do. It is not uncommon for me to fall asleep between 9:00 and 9:30, then wake around 1:00 or 2:00 am and fight getting back to sleep for upwards of 2 hours; thus leaving me only about an hour or two before the alarm is calling me to get up and start my day. This all leaves me feeling exhausted most days.

Part of my issue is ADHD-related, and part of it is being the single head of my household. Regardless, when I wake up at those random hours my mind is usually racing. What can I fix for supper? Did I leave that load of laundry in the washer (again)? Did I finish grading those tests? Do the boys have clean underwear? Where are the dogs and cats? Did we remember to feed said dogs and cats? What bill(s) do I need to pay today? Did I remember/forget to get gas in the car? The list could, and often literally does, go on for hours.

What is a sane person to do?

Fortunately, on one of those sleepless nights, I happened upon an article that discussed different apps one might use to help himself or herself fall asleep and stay asleep. As a direct result of that app, I have become a fervent believer in one of those apps ~ Relax Melodies by Ipnos Soft. Consistently, when I have trouble sleeping, I can turn on this app and be asleep in less then twenty minutes; often less. And I stay asleep as long as I just let it play. The beauty in the app is that it is essentially a sound machine, but one with endless possibilities as it provides you with a plethora of sounds that you can mix and match and save as favorites. You can upgrade to the paid version, but I’ve had great success with the free version. My “go-to” sound is one I created that I call Stormy SC Day – lots of rain sounds, mixed with some thunder and lightening. Sometimes, when I remember, I will have the app play on my alarm clock through the bluetooth wireless connection.

Do any of you suffer with lack of sleep or lack of quality of sleep? If so, what are some of your tried and true methods for getting that oh-so-important 7-9 hours each night?