When my kids are grown and I’m no longer around, they will have their books.
I like to think of the kids flipping through the pages and laughing about the funny things they did. They’ll see my handwriting on the page and hear my voice. They’ll read about the fun we had, the silly memories, our time together as a family, and they will be reminded of how much I love them.
Because sometimes kids don’t get to have their moms.
My aunt and four little cousins died in a tragic house fire. A family friend passed away suddenly and left behind her two kids. When my Auntie Carolyn died, I watched my cousins try to move on without her. From a young age, I learned that we can die at any time; death is not just for those in their 80s and 90s.
When I hear a story of a young mom passing away and leaving behind her babies or toddlers, I think to myself – they will never know their mom. They will never know their mom. And that’s heart breaking to me.
Because there’s something about our moms.
They carry us inside of them. We can recognize their voices before birth. They are the ones we turn to when we need emotional support because they have known us since the beginning. They are our roots. And our stories begin with our moms.
And I never want my kids to feel alone. I want them to feel like I am with them always and the way I can do that is through writing. I can share pieces of their story so they always have them. I can tell them how much I love them and they can read the words when they are old and grey. I will be there with every flip of the page because writing is timeless.
And so now I embark on two big projects that are really important to me: writing our family story for the kids and writing my life story. The family story is beautiful. I have it drafted and ready to move into a program to print. The universal threads through it are touching and profound. It’s my way of showing the kids that they are a part of something so much bigger.
And my life story feels like a weird one to write. It seems a little self-absorbed to write a story about myself. And at the same time, I want them to know their mom.
So in March I start the family book and hope to have it printed by April. In April or May (I might need a bit of a break before tackling another one), I’ll start my life story.
I feel like if those two pieces are done, if something were to ever happen to me, I’ve left them with their stories, their family, and their mom.
You haven’t been yourself the last week. You seem angry and upset. The other day I finally picked you up and brought you upstairs so we could be alone. We cuddled in bed and as I hugged you close, I said that we needed to talk. I would ask you questions and you could answer just by shaking your head either yes or no. You haven’t been talking lately so this was my attempt to get you communicating with me.
Are you upset about not being up at the cabin anymore? Head nods no. Are you upset about going back to school soon? Head nods no. Are you upset about not seeing mom as much when you go back to school? Head nods yes.
You began to tear up, and rubbed your eyes discretely as though you didn’t want me to see. Your back was facing me so you couldn’t see me cry either.
I asked if you’d like to have lunch at home some days (my way of spending more time with you during the week). You seemed happy about that and I felt relieved. Relieved because you let me into that little head of yours just enough to understand how you’re feeling right now.
Tate Tate, I love you so much. There are days where I think you should be home with us. And I know the first week, I will keep looking in the back seat for you – as we drive to the beach or out to run an errand. I will miss you. I will miss your questions and our chats.
And I know that you learn so much at school. You are now able to write your first and last name so legibly. You even want to include your middle name now. You can add things in your head and your drawings are becoming quite detailed. You are very observant.
You have a great little mind. You’re the first to ask why the cement truck driving in front of us has a hook on the chute and the one at the window watching the house across the street get their metal roofing installed. You also tried to convince me the other day that we could turn the bunk bed into a three person bed by suspending a bed for your sister in between you and your brother. You had a whole plan worked out for how to secure it to the underside of your mattress. I love how you think.
And I’m worried about you going to school. I remember what it was like last September – watching your bottom lip quiver while you stood in line with your classmates. You wouldn’t take your eyes off of me. You were trying so hard to hold it together and not cry. And the day you burst into a loud sob and held desperately onto my legs (so not your usual behaviour) – it took everything for me to not cry along with you. I waited until you went into the school and we rounded the corner of the building on our way home. I could have worn sunglasses the first month of school to hide my red and watery eyes.
I’m also worried about how the Henry’s will treat you (Henry B pinches you and Henry K says unkind things to you). I hope that I will teach you to communicate with them and with your teacher. I want you to love school and to stay curious. School should be a place you are excited to go.
So tonight we will pack your bag and talk about the morning. We will take your first day of school photo and I will do my best to smile and encourage you. And I’ll probably still be teary as I leave the schoolyard without you. Maybe we’ll have lunch together tomorrow.
Celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s simple pleasures…
This Dutch magazine is a gift. With monthly international issues (available in English), it’s filled with surprises. You might find cute stickers tucked inside, a little notebook to jot down your gratitudes, or bookmarks for your next read. The articles span topics of self care, enjoying life, and creativity.
They are pricey at $24.99 but I find them well worth it. They can be hard to find at times. You can order them online but I’ve also found them at: Walmart, some Shoppers Drugmarts, and Chapters.
smith JOURNAL is published quarterly out of Australia. It’s filled with great little stories and eccentric pieces. For example, in the issue above, was the story of an artist who loved the typography and design on old racing cars. He found old cars and removed their doors to create an exhibit. It’s a fun read that aims to take unexpected, interesting, funny and sometimes complicated stories and tell them the way you would to a bunch of friends at the pub.
You need to try it. It’s only a few questions and my results were bang on.
According to the quiz, I’m a visionary.
My Creative Strengths: Full of big ideas, ability to see potential and possibility everywhere
Untapped Potential: Using your visions to fuel consistent daily action
Ideal Collaborator: The Thinker
You live in a world of infinite possibilities, preferring to see things not as they are but as they could be. You know that life is limited only by the boundaries of your own beliefs, and you’re driven to push the limits of, well, everything.
passion-driven, and full of ideas, the VISIONARY combines a vivid
imagination with a desire for practical solutions. Your introspective and intuitive nature is balanced by a keen interest in the world around you and a desire to contribute to society.
Charismatic and expressive,
you love sharing your ideas and visions with others and creating
community around shared values and ideals. Your greatest gift? The
ability to see the spark of potential in everything and everyone, and to
inspire others to see it, too. You’re able to guide people toward an
invisible horizon with a rare generosity of spirit and strength of
Don’t get stuck in the dreaming stage, VISIONARY. Your greatest challenge—and true power—lies in learning to take consistent daily action to create the future you envision.
Seek out the “voice of reason” of the THINKER type to help you take a grounded, rational approach to your creative work. The THINKER’s deep perception and probing intellect lend a powerful clarity that can bring your visions into sharper focus.
So needless to say, I need to find some thinkers out there to help me get my ideas together and out there! Take the quiz and let me know what you get.
It’s easy to make your own little readers at home.
Books based on your child’s interests and experiences will make reading relatable and enjoyable for them.
Here’s how you do it…
1. Find a story structure.
You’ll start to notice repeating sentence stems in books for early readers.
My Family. This is my mom. This is my dad. This is my brother. This is my sister. This is my grandma. This is my grandpa. This is me! This is my family.
This is my is repeated over and over. This is a story structure that you could use in your little reader.
Other examples of repeating sentence stems:
Here is ___________. Here is ___________. Here is ___________. …
Look at the ___________. Look at the ___________. Look at the ___________. …
The _______ is here. The _______ is here. The _______ is here. …
and many more!
2. Choose a Topic that Your Child would Love.
Does your child love cars? Create a book that highlights their interests.
Do they have a favourite stuffed animal? Create a book that features objects around home that have meaning to them.
Is the local farm their favourite place to go in the world? Create a book about a recent trip or adventure you went on (…adventures can be to the park near your house).
The overall goal is to create a book that has meaning for them. Just add your own words to the sentence stems and you’re on your way.
3. Take Some Photos
This is the fun part! Get creative and take some photos for their book.
It’s easy to go overboard (as in taking waaay too many pictures); it’s fun, right?! But try to keep your book to 8 pages or so (I notice that in most early readers, there are 8 pages total). Use this as a guideline to keep your book short and engaging for your little one. You don’t want a book that seems to drag on.
4. Create the Book.
Set up your Document
I use Google Docs to create books for my kids. Whatever word processor you use is totally fine (e.g., MS Word), just try to keep it easy and quick for you – otherwise you won’t feel like making them.
Feel free to make yourself a copy of the document so you don’t have to start from scratch (Just go to ‘File’ and then ‘Make a Copy’). Personalize it with your own photos and change up the text. My hope in sharing it is that you can see what it looks like as a document.
I use Comic Sans font because it’s the only font that has a proper shaped ‘a’.
Upload your Photos.
I found that the fastest thing to do was use AirDrop. If you have a MAC computer, go to that magnifying glass (search / find) icon in the top right hand corner of your screen. Then search AirDrop.
Then open up the camera roll on your phone. Select the photos you want to send yourself. You’ll notice once you hit the arrow in the bottom left hand corner to send it (either through text, email, etc.), tap AirDrop instead. Your photos will instantly go into the downloads folder in your computer. Save your pics and drag them into your document.
If you don’t have Apple products, email yourself the photos and save them to your desktop. I used to do that before I figured out AirDrop.
5. Print your Book, Cut & Staple. Done!
This baby doesn’t need to be perfect. Let’s be honest, there are going to be little hands all over it. That’s the whole point. We want them to read the book over and over. It’s going to get wrinkled and crumpled, and we can just print off another copy. No big deal.
I stack the pages and hold them up to the window to see through them. I quickly hack across with scissors doing my best not to cut off the words. Seriously. It’s meant to be quick and easy.
Arrange the pages as you wish and staple together. I use multiple staples along the edge versus one in the corner because I don’t want pages being ripped off while turning. It’s totally up to you.
Note from the writer (Lainie):
I decided to start making little readers for our son, Tate, when he started getting leveled books sent home from his junior kindergarten class. The books felt so outdated and low interest. The book about family was very nuclear and the book about Dad was about fixing things and working out. It’s not a judgment of the school or the teacher. You use what you have. I just decided to make my own.
I thought Tate might find it fun to read books about his favourite stuffed animal doing silly things (he has a funny little sense of humour) or to see photos of his family. Now we have three books and are looking forward to making more.
Although I was once a teacher, I do not have the same background in early reading as my friends and colleagues, so I reached out and asked them to share their knowledge and experiences with you by commenting on this post. Make sure you read the comments below. Just in reading them, I learned more. Thank you, Heather!
I hope you found this post helpful.
You can see other projects I do with and for the kids on my website: verylainie.ca There’s an option to follow my site to get updates right to your inbox (because who has time to search out someone’s website regularly). I’m also on Instagram sharing crafty projects at @verylainie.