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.

Why I Love Lightsabers and Not Barbie Shoes

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Sometimes, you have to be thankful that God gives you what you need, and not always what it is that you think you want.

Being the youngest of two children and the only girl, I grew up in the 80’s surrounded by GI Joe’s, Star Wars figurines, wrestlers, baseballs and footballs.  While I had Barbies and was a Cabbage Patch Kid collector (last count was 10 or 11, I think), I always dreamed of being Princess Leia.  I had a brother who, while I idolized him, tried out on me every wrestling move the 80’s gave us, so of course, if I were Princess Leia I could kick butt and take names later.  I wasn’t really a “tom boy,” but I wasn’t really a “girlie” girl either.

As I got older, got married, and then started planning a family, I dreamed, though, of having my own little girl to dress and spoil.  I could think of nothing more than beautiful smocked dresses and hair bows galore.  When I got pregnant with my first child, I prayed to have a little girl.  Yes, I wanted to have a healthy child, but in my mind health and gender were two separate issues completely, so I prayed for a healthy child, but I really wanted “it” to be a girl.  That June ultrasound brought the news that I was most definitely NOT having a girl.  I’ll be honest, I cried for 4 days.  I caught all manner of flack for seemingly being ungrateful for carrying a healthy baby.  I was very grateful, but I was disappointed.  I’m also brutally honest, and so I let my feelings and thoughts show.  December 7, 2005 arrived and at 8:00 a.m. I fell in love with a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed little boy named Samuel Pierce Kirby, II.

Fast forward about 2 years.

By this time, I’ve got a 2-year-old and am 4 months pregnant.  I am also roughly 9 months removed from a miscarriage.  I go in for my routine 16-week ultrasound and the baby will not cooperate, so we end the session knowing that “baby” is healthy, but refusing to share its gender with us.  My wonderful OB-GYN takes pity on me and agrees to bring me back in the following week for an “unofficial” ultrasound the week before Christmas so that I will, hopefully, know the gender before the holidays.  We spend one week sure that this baby is a girl because it was being stubborn like me.  When we get to the office for the ultrasound, I’ve had orange juice and Coke hoping to excite this little one into telling us whether it is a “he” or a “she.”  The answer is obvious the moment the transducer is placed on my stomach.  It was very clear, immediately, that I was, again, NOT having a little girl.  Again, I was devastated, but not quite as upset as before, I cried for only 2 days this time.  I worried that I would not be able to equally love another little boy like I loved Pierce, but at 8:07 on May 5, 2008; I was proven wrong when John Smith Kirby made his appearance and I, once again, fell in love with a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed little man.

Fast forward almost 5 years, and I’m the single mom to these two precious and beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed “lady killers.”  I’ve been able to buy some smocked clothing, but at 6 and 4, those outfits are slowly becoming just a memory.  My house is covered in Thomas the Train, Buzz, Woody and the whole gang.  My boys know the names of almost every character from Harry Potter and can even pronounce them correctly.  We’ve watched all six Star Wars movies, and we have enough light sabers around to single-handedly save the Republic.  At least the lightsabers are larger than Barbie shoes, so you can typically avoid them in the middle of the night.

Obviously, I have no experience with little girls, but I know that during the last 3 years when I was at my lowest point, these little men knew, instinctively, how to lift my spirits.  There is something to be said for the “Mama’s Boy” syndrome; in each little boy lies the honesty, utter love and loyalty every woman desires.  Nothing lifts my spirit or makes me smile brighter than hearing an unsolicited “Mommy, I like that dress on you” or “Mommy, you look pretty.”  I always had short hair until life kept me from getting it cut as frequently as I had before, now I may never have short hair again as my little fellows have told me that they like my hair long.  After my trim the other night, Pierce told me that he liked my haircut.  And speaking of hair, during my most trying moments, I didn’t have to worry about ponytails or pigtails or braids.  I also have the simple pleasure of just handing the boys the clothes they will wear and hearing little to no protests.  I even asked Pierce one morning if he wanted to help pick out his clothes; his lifesaving response was that he would rather I just pick them out for him.  All of this certainly has made my life much easier.

Today, if you were to ask me, I would tell you that I would not trade my two little men for a million little girls and their smocked dresses and hair bows and Barbie shoes.  I often wonder if I ever re-marry and desire more children, what I would do if I did actually have a little girl?  I would almost tell you that I would rather I have another little boy, because at the end of the day, I do really prefer lightsabers to Barbie shoes.