Tag Archives: reading

A Matter of Opinion

My daughter informed me of something tonight that I’d never really thought about.

She told me that I, and my wife when she was alive, both gave her something very meaningful: an opinion.

Little Abbi
Little Abbi

Now, that may seem a bit odd or even slightly self-aggrandizing, but it’s not.  You see, we never inflicted an opinion on our daughter and I, for one, never forced mine on her unless it was for her own good.  It’s pretty interesting to think about, Abbi, even as a 3 or 4-year-old kid, wouldn’t accept that she couldn’t be part of “adult conversation.”  Part of that was bad.  When her mother, who loved to express opinions about others sometimes (sometimes, not always, she wasn’t a bad person don’t get that opinion) she didn’t want Abbi around to then repeat that opinion.

But what we did do, something that was honestly second nature to us, was let her have one.  Well, not just have an opinion, we let her express it . . . and accepted her opinion as worthwhile.

Kids, you see, are smarter than we give them credit.  You can tell me I’m wrong all you want, but the reality is you’d be wrong yourself.  Abbi grew up to be smart, certain, confident, and willing to stand by her morals, her opinions, her thoughts and her values regardless of the situation.  Tonight, she informed me that our raising her to believe that her opinion counted – because it did – helped her to become what she is today.

Is she finished growing?  No, she’s not.  Will she change later?  Yes.

But at her core, the days of my reading aloud to her, using a different voice for every character of the book Drummer Hoff and memorizing How the Grinch Stole Christmas were all big parts of her upbringing.  They allowed her to see it was okay to act like someone else or have fun with material in front of you.  You can make a fort and say “hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat” with full authority and verve.

Abbi before graduation
Abbi before graduation

When Abbi auditioned for her college drama department she told them how her father would read books with a different voice for each character.  She said how she knew the Grinch by heart and could read the Drummer Hoff book by heart before she could read because how we spent so much time on each page.  When they said she was a “born actor” she informed them she was born, she just was encouraged and allowed to do what she loved.  To me, they’re the same thing, but not everyone encourages that feeling.

Abbi is now all but grown up.  I really can’t say I’d be able to do a better job with her today than I did.  Most of what I did raising that little girl was instinct, imprinted in my DNA by two wonderful parents of my own.

Still . . . you wonder when you let them go, as I prep for morning when I put her on a plane, alone, to visit her grandparents in Nebraska, whether you’ve done a good job or not.  Today, just for a few hours, she informed me herself that we had.

But then, that’s her opinion.


DSi Free Days


My kids – all four of them – have Nintendo game systems.  They’re throwbacks to when we had two incomes into the house and the need to make Christmas be bigger, better, brighter, and shinier than they were the year before.  Now, I realize that I didn’t exactly diminish that expectation after this year, but the bright spot of that is that my kids didn’t have an expectation that they would have as huge a Christmas as years before.  Where new Nintendos were the norm before, this year Sam got a bicycle and Noah a beginner guitar.  Sure, Abbi got a Prom dress, but she also does an awful lot for me in our household.

But last year, over the Summer, the kids started electronics-free days.  It’s a day a week, usually Friday, that there’s just no Nintendo or Wii or other electronics.  The first couple weeks, sure, they weren’t easy.  But it wasn’t something that was killing them.  In fact, they got to the point where there was no real need to use them.

This year I got the boys the new version of that Nintendo for their birthdays, but they had to wait until that IRS refund check arrived.  When it did, it was more than a couple months past their birthday.  But I couldn’t just buy them the new systems.  I made them sell their old ones, the original game boy DSi, that they both had, in order to offset the cost of the new one.  Thankfully, Nintendo dropped the cost of the new one, a 3D version of the system.  There were two reasons for my doing this:

First, they got the idea that they had to get rid of one system to get another, they didn’t need both.  Second, there was also a caveat to the use of the new ones: they couldn’t use them for more than 1/2 hour a day.  The new system can cause headaches or their eyes to hurt, etc.  They are OK with that, it seems, and they know it will be enforce.

The other bright spot, though it might be harder on their grandparents, is the fact that they are not able to have them over the Summer.  I have them sitting here in a bag and am a little worried about sending brand new game systems in the mail to them.  So they sit here and they . . . read.

That’s right, they have made trips nearly once a week to the library.  The games are amazing little things, but when I spotted a new book that Sam would want in Target the other day, I showed it to him via FaceTime and he was more excited, I think, than when he heard he was getting the Nintendo.



This comes after a number of other books that my kids have read.  Noah has reached near the middle of the Lemony Snickett series A Series of Unfortunate Events and he’s been flying through them.  So much so, that he’s now asking if we can pre-order the new Lemony Snickett series so that he can read it when it comes out in October.


Where my kids have had times when their lives were filled with video games and television this last year or more they’ve gone to the park, walked with me, ridden their bikes over the Summer, and been influenced and filled with reading.  The boys’ biggest wish for their bedroom right now is that they get bookshelves for their books.  They begged me for library cards of their own so that their older sister could take them during the week when she picks them up from school.

Don’t get me wrong, my wife used to take them to the library, but it wasn’t her first thought.  Now it’s a financial necessity, but it’s also practical.  The library is down the street from me and it’s also the way to go…just in case they’re not sure they’ll like the book they get.

On top of this, my kids also know good writers and authors.  When I went to support a local author who I know named James Rollins – a man with an interesting story all his own – they came along, just to make sure that they got him to sign their copy of his young adult series Jake Ransom .

James Rollins at the Roseville Barnes and Noble

My kids have expanded their imaginations and their activity…something that’s rubbed off on me.  I write this in a hurry tonight as I need to get up early so I can wake up to exercise in the morning.

It’s a DSi free day everyday this Summer, but they haven’t missed it near as much as they might have.