The birthday celebrations that cram into the first week of June end with my mom’s birthday today. It has unfortunately fallen on my school’s graduation the past 4 years and I have not been able to celebrate with her personally. Hopefully, though she knows how much I love her and how much I wish I could be there to celebrate her birthday with her today. At least this year, in just four days, we will see each other for a mini-Florida vacation. Growing up, my mom worked tirelessly to ensure that Bryan and I were not only basically well fed and sheltered, but truly loved, challenged, and thriving. She focused on our education and helped us hone our writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Each day after school, we would make camp at the kitchen table while she prepared dinner and we worked on our homework. There we munched on snacks, chatted about the days events, and struggled with Spanish, grammar and, of course, math. In between sautéing vegetables, she would quiz us for our upcoming assessments, help us create a variety of projects from scratch, and go over our work with us making sure we asked questions but more importantly that we could explain why we had the answers to her questions. I believe I am teacher today because she was always a present teacher in my daily life. She balanced this strength and determination though with a soft side and I can recall many times snuggling on the couch with her and talking about her own childhood memories. My mom was my partner in crime. Many afternoons we would sneak out to the mall together and shop for dresses for school dances. While we sometimes argued in the fitting room over the style of dress (I always aimed for something a little too mature and she for something a little more immature), we designed a veto system to turn these tiffs into productive discussions in which we explained why a particular outfit was unappealing to one of us. By the time, it came to buying my wedding dress, we had mastered our veto system and the experience of being just with my mom on the day we found “the dress” is a memory I will always cherish. My brother and I were so lucky to have our mother home with us each day. She modeled unconditional love, patience, support, and she always believed in the beauty of our dreams. I hope today my lovely mother has a truly lovely day.