On Running To and From Dismal.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the strong urge to leave town. It had been a rough summer, and it was the week before the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, and all the blech and sadness and ick was making me quite dismal. I haven’t felt like writing, photographing, staging roadkill, or even running – and it’s not good when I don’t have something I feel like doing.

I don’t like to be dismal. I cannot sit in dismalness. I have to escape dismal.

Chris’ work schedule has been hectic for a few months, so I knew he couldn’t join me in this particular juncture for my need of escapism, but he’s always supportive of me, or me and the kids, taking adventures. We had just started school, so I couldn’t leave my students behind. And I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to do escapism with one-on-two-parenting. So I needed a Daddy Fill-In. My friend Kelly is always up for adventure (she has been fully auditioned, audited, and approved as one of the World’s Best Last Minute Adventure Friends), so even though she was literally in the airport returning from being gone for a week, I texted her and told her I needed to escape and could she please come along as my second adult, and without hesitation she agreed.

Hence why she is the WBLMAF.

I keep a list of places in Alabama that I want to visit when I have the chance, so I perused the list and chose one.

Ironically.

I swear I didn’t even think about the name of the place in regards to what I was escaping until I sat down to write this blog post…

I chose Dismals Canyon.

…Because I guess my subconscious thought there’s nowhere like Dismals Canyon to get away from some serious dismalness.

I didn’t really know much about Dismals Canyon, except that they had really cool moss-covered rock walls and some sort of glowing worm that is very rare and only in a couple places on earth.

They have two cabins for rent, but the park is only open on the weekends. I got kind of confused, so I called to get clarification: if you’re staying at the cabins, you have full access to the canyon, even though the park is closed – and no one was renting the other cabin, so we would have the entire park to ourselves if we came.

That sounded like what I was looking for.

So I rented the cabin for two nights, and told them I might like it for a third but I didn’t know yet. We packed our schoolbooks, our food, our Kelly, and headed for northwest Alabama.

It was quite in the middle of nowhere, and we’d already been told that there was no cell phone service (except for one spot with one bar of coverage in the parking lot that’s about two-tenths of a mile uphill from the cabins), so I wasn’t sure exactly how it would *feel* to be completely alone at this place.

When we arrived, we quickly discovered that we’d be…quite safe.

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We were considerably sure that when we were granted entrance, we would definitely be entering Hogwarts or Narnia or maybe The Gate of Mordor.

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We met the worker who let us in at 4pm, check-in time. She explained to us that we couldn’t go into the canyon that day – we’d have to wait until tomorrow.

“But why? I made sure that we had access to the canyon and trails if we stayed in the cabin…”

“Well yes, but the Canyon is a two hour hike and we don’t let anyone down after 4pm because it gets dark down there early and we don’t want you to get lost or not be able to get out of the canyon before nightfall.”

Okay…

Instead, we explored the creek that was below our cabin, which we presumed led to the canyon but we didn’t dare go that far to find out. Though Kelly and I are rule-breakers at heart (Although Ali and Noah are decidedly rule-loyalists to their core), but we didn’t want to get kicked out the first day there. And anyway, the creek had an eeriness all on its own…we could imagine that we were already on our grand adventure.

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Meanwhile, Noah discovered a giant fluffy friendly cat. He came running and squealing “Mom!! This place is the BEST EVER!!! It COMES with PETS!!!”

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He named her Dismal Cat and was completely in love. She was on the other cabin’s porch, however, and he really wanted her on our porch.

So I said, “Well, pick her up and take her over to our cabin, then.”

His eyes got wide. “I can PICK HER UP??”

Poor kid hasn’t had enough experience with pets.

But pick her up he did, despite her significant girth.

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She was quite content to go limp in his arms and let him tote her around like a reusable grocery bag (filled with bricks) to wherever his heart desired.

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Dismal Cat, whom we later learned was named Tick (to go along with the other cat, named Flea,) was absolutely Noah’s favorite part of the trip. And I think he was her favorite, too, for the first 24 hours. Then she might have needed more alone time.

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The next morning bright and early, we set off on our two hour hike of the Canyon. We were ready to get our adventure on.

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The day before. as part of their on-trip school assignments, I made the kids study the map and read all the history about each area, so they were ready to see this stuff in person.

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Noah was most thrilled about an area not on the map, for obvious reasons.

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Alas, no snakes were seen. But plenty of gorgeous Leopard Frogs were annoyed at our mid-week disturbance of their quiet time. You could nearly hear the intonation in their croaks… “Ugh. There are CABIN RENTERS this week, Karen.”

The Canyon floor was pretty spectacular. There were multiple extremely tight squeezes,

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Leaning walls looking ready to attack,

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Upper and Lower paths,

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Delightful bridges into dark caverns,

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Waterfalls,

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And some really fun historical spots (did you know that Aaron Burr, a sitting Vice President, was caught in Alabama after he became a fugitive for killing Alexander Hamilton in their duel? Although they later discovered this wasn’t actually his hideout, but another criminal with a similar name, my kids, who have recently fallen in love with the soundtrack to Hamilton, were pretty excited to hide out in Burr’s Hideout anyway.)

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There were, of course, plenty of the promised paths through green mossy rocks.

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We did indeed take two hours on our first canyon visit, but that included a lot of stops, significant exploration, the checking out of every meandering path, and in general taking our time in this glorious natural wonder.

After we got back out of the canyon, Ali, Kelly, and I put on our swimsuits to check out the swimming hole at the top of the waterfall. Despite the temperature being the mid-90s, the swimming hole was extraordinarily cold (I believe it is spring-fed), yet quite refreshing. I definitely screamed when I finally got the courage to jump all the way in.

Noah, not one to be pushed into anything by anyone, was sitting onshore watching. I never even asked him if he wanted to swim because he’s Noah and if was going to, he was going to have to be the decider, not me.

Shockingly, he decided he did indeed want to swim, so he walked all the way back to the cabin, put on his swimsuit, and came back.

His high-pitched never-ending squeal when the water hit the midsection of his shorts was a high point of the trip.

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He was so “touched” by the frigidity that his sister got her first brotherly hug in at least a year – all in an attempt to steal a degree or two of her heat.

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But he braved up and swam across the swimming hole to the diving platform, where he was happy to grumpily watch his sister jump in with all the glee that her heart could conjure.

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After cooling down in the icy water, Kelly and I were discussing our puzzlement over the supposed perilousness of the two hour hike of the canyon floor and its strict closing time. The path was very clearly marked, never difficult (other than some tight squeezes), and seemed less than a mile and a half.

So because we’re cynical rebels, we decided that we needed to know how quickly we could run the entire canyon. So we put on our trail shoes and took off – still in our wet swimsuits – with a stopwatch timing us from the top of the stairs.

Fourteen minutes and fifteen seconds later, we were back.

We could not have been more victorious and prideful in our achievements. We were CERTAIN we’d just set a new Canyon Record. The kids were pretty impressed, too. So impressed that when the store clerk came by to do some paperwork and Noah begged her to let him in the gift shop because he was just DYING to spend some money, he bragged to her about our record-setting canyon time.

Oops.

For that confidentiality overstep (and actually because I value the safety of our family), I did not let Noah buy the Cobra-headed walking stick that’s actually a sword in disguise that he really really wanted.

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At 0ur times in the cabin, we dug out a 500 piece puzzle from the games shelf and set to work.

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I found the escape from my phone and the ability to delve into things like puzzles without beeps or nudges (or internal nudges) to check the outside world was FABULOUS. I mean, we finished a 500 piece puzzle in two days (except for the ONE PIECE THAT WAS MISSING and the one piece that appeared to be chewed up by a former house guest.) I began pondering strategies for taking more breaks from the digital world that so easily fills all the cracks of my life.

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We did do the night tour of the Dismalites, as the glow worms are called, and it was uniquely interesting. The Dismalites, though neat to see, were not bright enough for photography. I was loaded down with camera equipment and UV flashlights and regular flashlights, but ended up not taking any pictures except for this glowing Scorpion (did you know that scorpions glow under UV light? I’m constantly shocked at how many there are in Alabama, yet I’ve never seen a single one without my UV flashlight.)

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The kids both wanted to stay, and we were all having a wonderful escape from reality, so I booked the extra night. Seeing as how we had the entire place to ourselves, it was no problem at all.

A small storm came the next day, which did have the effect of ramping up the waterfalls to the canyon nicely.

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We enjoyed several more adventures down into the canyon, exploring all the quirky walkways and bridges.

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And Kelly and I made sure that we gave the canyon a full introduction to trail runners, which we were pretty sure was its first.

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None of us were ready to leave when the time came, which left us feeling rather, well, dismal.

Because you can only run from dismal to Dismal for so long.

Red Light Therapy: Insights and Updates After Nine Months of Daily Use.

RED LIGHT THERAPY Follow Up

I have now been using my Red Light Therapy panels for nine months, so I wanted to share an update, answer some of the questions I’ve received, and share some stories from friends. Because I’ve gotten so many questions about my lights and how they’ve been performing long term, this post is going to be a little long, but I’ll break it up into sections based on the questions I regularly receive to make it less painful and easy to skip around.

What are you talking about, Rachel? I have no idea what Red Light Therapy Is.

 

The quick version: Red Light Therapy consists of using specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to heal your body. There have been many clinical studies proving their effectiveness at healing and strengthening the body at a cellular level (they have been shown to stimulate mitochondria), and they have been used in many types of medical clinics for quite a while. They have just now become affordable for individuals to own, and I believe in a few years they will be a typical component of households. For me, they replaced daily muscle relaxers, pain medicine, ibuprofen, heating pads, and twice weekly physical therapy within days.

To get the detailed version of my story (and believe me, I was skeptical), click here. I know it sounds weird and hokey, but it is by far the most objectively measurable health improvement I have ever experienced.

I bought my lights originally to help with recurrent and long term back and shoulder pain (after my physical therapist had been urging me to look into it for a year or more), and I experienced immediate relief to that pain within days. Within a month, I noticed that it didn’t hurt to run anymore, and I was able to run significantly faster.

For an expert’s explanation on how they work and what all they can help, read this – it was written by the same author whose book I bought and read before investing in my own lights.

Okay, so they took away your pain. Are you still using them? If so, why? What other changes have you noticed?

 

I am still using my lights on a daily basis. I have had to go without them a couple of times while traveling, and though I missed them, I didn’t experience an immediate back-sliding into symptoms. I did have an uptick in back and shoulder stiffness when I was in Macedonia for ten days, but it was manageable and quickly righted back to zero pain when I got back home to my red lights.

Besides the fact that the lights are relaxing and calming, they keep my back from becoming inflamed again. Also, now that I’ve been using the lights for nine months, I have noticed some more long-term benefits:

Objective Benefits:

– I had deep neck injuries from my car wreck in 2015. Although it didn’t hurt during the day, I hadn’t been able to comfortably sleep on my stomach or side since the wreck. (I was always a stomach sleeper before the wreck, but couldn’t even lay comfortably on my stomach for a minute after the wreck. I know, I know – stomach sleeping isn’t good for you anyway – but it makes me delightfully sleepy.) This May, five months into my light usage, I realized that I was sleeping on my stomach and side again, and my neck wasn’t hurting. I suspect that my neck problems were such deep injuries that it took longer for the light to heal them. But the red light certainly did heal them, as the pain had been present for over three years and I haven’t changed anything else that could have instigated the healing.

– My running is still showing improvement. I ran my fastest 5K this year. I ran it in 27:37, which is a pace of 8:55. Before using the red light and after the wreck (which slowed me down tremendously), I felt like I was doing good to be in an 11 minute pace. I also ran the Lake Martin 27.1 Ultra Trail Marathon this year, and my total time was 1 hour and 19 minutes faster than when I did the same race last year.

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– My ability to run without injury has been exceptional. Before getting my red light, I had never run a race that was 13 miles or longer without ending up with an injury of some sort that required me to go to physical therapy for a few weeks. (My body likes to break. Often.) Since I’ve been using the red light, I’ve run a half marathon and an ultra marathon without having any hint of injury. I have not been back to my Physical Therapist a single time since I got my red lights on December 1st. I have not gone this long without some sort of PT in five years.

– I’m still sleeping well and quickly. I haven’t had any periods of insomnia since I started using my lights.

– I have significantly less overall soreness after running.

– Chris and Ali also used my red lights before and after Lake Martin (Ali, my 12 year old, ran the 27.1 mile race with me, and Chris, my husband, ran the 100 mile race.) Both of them had significantly shortened recovery time. Ali woke up the next morning and said “Welp, my legs are healed!!” Chris bounced back from his epic adventure in just a few days. 

Subjective Benefits:

– Red Lights are supposed to help reverse some skin aging, wrinkles, and discoloration. I didn’t notice any results in my first couple of months. However, I do think I have less wrinkles around my eyes and mouth now. The results aren’t spectacular and I didn’t take before and after pictures, though, so I cannot say for sure. 

– I definitely have significantly less cellulite. Again, no before and after pictures. Nobody wants to see my thighs like that.

No Results:

– The Red Light Therapy has not helped with my tinnitus (ear ringing), though there weren’t any studies that showed it would. I was so hopeful, though.

– I still haven’t seen a significant change in my cognitive functions that were decimated by my dysautonomia. I’m holding out hope that I just have a thick skull and it’s going to take a little longer to repair my brain.

Sure, they worked for you. But has anyone else used these lights with success?

 

I have had eight other people come to my house to use my “spa”, and most of them have subsequently bought their own lights because they found it helpful and wanted daily access. Here are a couple of their stories:

Kris:

It’s a gross understatement to say I’ve tried everything in the last 20 years to alleviate the horrible joint and muscle pain, exhaustion and fog from Fibromyalgia. I was often bed-ridden and when I could walk it was with a painful limp. Becoming sugar, gluten and dairy free has helped immensely but this red light of mine has taken away ALL of the residual joint and muscle pain. It’s just incredible!

And even more miraculous, I just got my bone scan back to find that the osteopenia in my spine is IMPROVING! I HAVE MORE BONE MASS! The only change to my lifestyle has been a daily dose of my glorious red light.

Nikki:

I have chronic lower back pain, ranging from unpleasant to unbearable, and it has been a recurring issue for the past seven years. It very much escalated last year and resulted in numerous MRIs, doctors, chiropractors, and extensive physical therapy. I’m thankful for each of those options, and they all play a role in bringing my back to a better place. Nonetheless, it is a fact that my issues are here to stay, and there isn’t just a “fix” for them. We were, however, able to determine that inflammation is a huge part of my problem. When I have inflammation in my lower back, it greatly exacerbates the issue and leads to nerve pain as the inflammation pushes my spine into a nerve cluster.

Rachel encouraged me to try the red light therapy as a way to possibly combat the inflammation. I began using the light a few times a week at a friend’s house about 8 months ago. Initially, I was uncertain as to whether or not it was working. I wasn’t having any big flares, but I’d had good spells before. How could I know it was the light?

I became convinced when I had to go on an 8 hour road trip and stay in a hotel for three nights then drive back another 8 hours. I hadn’t been able to do more than 2 hours in the car without a flare for years, but I made this trip with nothing more than some minor discomfort in the car. The BIG test came when I decided to go on a trip to Macedonia. I had been convinced for years that an international flight was permanently off the table for me. There was no way I could sit in an airplane that long. To prep, I ramped up to using the red light everyday for a week and a half before the trip. I traveled over 24 hours both coming and going, slept on a not-so-hot mattress for ten nights, and had to ride on the worst van ride ever from the airport a couple of hours away. Afterwards, I was tired and miserable just like my travel companions. JUST LIKE THEM! I wasn’t having searing nerve pain shooting through my back and down my leg. I was just really stiff and tired like a normal person after a whole lot of travel. That’s when I was truly sold.

I saved up and bought my own light, and I use it every day now. It is not a magic cure all. I recently had a car wreck and have been experiencing lower back pain since then. It has not escalated though and is improving much quicker than a flare used to improve. I haven’t had any nerve pain whatsoever. The red light therapy has kept my inflammation at bay.

So, What lights do you have? And where do you buy these things?

 

NOT from Amazon. There are a lot of really cheap options out there that have no therapeutic benefit because they’re the wrong wavelengths.

I read a book (highly recommended) about red light therapy before purchasing any. The book is awesome because it takes the thousands of clinical studies and puts them into plain English. It’s also a great resource to look up specific ailments to see if the light helps them, as well as to help pick out an effective light. The author of the book had tried out dozens of different brands of lights and had tested their wavelength and output. He only recommended three or four brands.

I researched/stalked the brands he mentioned and landed on one company, Platinum LED Therapy Lights. After my extensive stalking, I felt they were the least expensive, most effective, least sketchy company out there (for instance, one of the other companies that was recommended in the book stated on their website that they had a 90 day return period on their lights. But when I read the fine print, it said the return period applied to regularly-priced items only. Yet they only had one product and that product was permanently on sale. Therefore, nothing was *actually* returnable.) I have been extremely impressed with Platinum LED – the lights are very high quality, obviously effective, and their customer service and responsiveness has been really spectacular. For example, one of my friends had a question about how to set the lights up for a clinical setting, and the president of the company gave him his direct number to discuss it and figure it out.

My original light purchases were two of Platinum LED’s BIO-600s, which makes my setup a little more more than body length. A few months after my original blog post, the company found my post, contacted me, and sent me a BIOMAX-900 before it was released to the public to try out and give them feedback. The BIOMAX series has more wavelengths to provide more benefits, and also has a system built in to where you can link the lights together for more seamless operating. The merging of five wavelengths makes the lights able to penetrate farther, including to and through bone (and the skull – so maybe my brain has hope after all.)

The previous line of lights had 660nm and 850nm wavelengths. The BIOMAX lights have those and add 630nm, 810nm, an d 830nm. 630nm is good for the skin layer, including wrinkles, psoriasis, hair regrowth, and acne. 810nm has shown benefits for brain injuries, wound healing, stroke recovery, and improvement in psychiatric conditions. 830nm offers the “feel good” endorphins, improved bone repair, and accelerated healing and reduced infection.

(You can read about the new BIOMAX series’ benefits here in more detail.)

So now I use a combination of one or both of my BIO-600s and the BIOMAX-900.

Having already been using the BIO lights for six months, I could tell an immediate difference to the heat output and penetration of the BIOMAX, and it definitely made me significantly happier feeling the first time I used it. I started noticing the facial wrinkle reductions after I got the BIOMAX, so that could be why that result took so long – I needed that 630nm wavelength. I also like how the red and near infrared lights are spaced in the BIOMAX – it makes a lot more sense and doesn’t give a whole strip of your body just red or near infrared light.

However, the BIO lights dropped in price by $100 after they came out with the BIOMAX lights, so if you’re looking for the least expensive option, the BIO lights are excellent.

The company also gave me a discount code to share on my blog, so the code “ObjectivityLight” gets you 5% off any purchase at Platinum LED Therapy Lights.

You don’t need three light panels to get the results I have had, but you want a light big enough so that getting red light to a large part of your body doesn’t take all day. If you want the least expensive but still practical option, I would go with one BIO-600 (make sure you get the dual light option.) If you want the most effective, most wavelengths, quickest option, I would go with either a combination of one BIOMAX-300 and one BIOMAX-600 or one  BIOMAX-900 and one BIOMAX-450.

Platinum LED Light Comparison

Tell me exactly what it looks like to use these red lights of yours. Like, do you lay on them or what??

 

I lay my lights end to end on their side and have a yoga mat next to them. I use an app on my iPhone called “Interval Timer” that will beep at me at the intervals I set up (“every x minutes.”) I lay on my back six inches away from the lights to get my right side lit, on my right side to get my back lit, on my left side to get my front lit, and then flip to the opposite end of my yoga mat (so that my feet are where my head was) and lay on my back again to get my left side lit. I usually give my back an extra rotation when I’m laying the opposite way so that both my shoulders get equal attention. I typically do 6 minute intervals (a total of 30 minutes), but if I’m in a hurry, I’ll do 4 or 5 minute intervals. 

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I read while I’m lighting, or play on my phone. It’s actually a lovely forced break somewhere during my day which I look forward to quite a bit. The light is warm and comforting and definitely makes me feel happier and calmer.

…And, you aren’t supposed to have clothing between you and the lights, so…. Yeah. We also keep Lysol antibacterial wipes next to our yoga mat to complete our spa health regulations.

What time of the day do you lay in front of these magical red lights of yours?

 

Whenever it fits in my schedule. I move my lighting time around quite a bit. I try not to do it right before bed, or if I do, I wear sunglasses or don’t face the light. A couple hours before bed and it makes me sleepy at bedtime. But right before bed it makes me feel awake and alert. Chris uses it every morning before work while he’s drinking his coffee, and he said it helps him start the work day off more calmly and positively.

Also I’ve noticed the best results for my runs is to light about two hours beforehand. It makes me more energized, prevents soreness or achiness while running and after, and makes me run faster. If I have a really long run, I’ll use my lights afterwards as well to speed up healing and prevent any soreness.

Are there any dangers of red light therapy?

 

Not that I can find, nor have I seen any studies that have shown negative side effects. I’ve read a lot of studies, and I’ve read the book that breaks down a lot of the scientific studies into normal language. The only thing I can find is that if you use the light too long, the benefits are negated. One of my friends felt achy and flulike the first couple days after she started using the lights, but that faded, and the lights really helped her quite a bit. I did find that when I went from one light to two lights, I felt kind of achy at first (double the power and all), so I backed my time down. Other than that, I have not experienced any negative side effects.

Is this a sponsored post? What is your relationship with Platinum LED?

 

I bought their lights (at full price) because in my research, they were the most effective, least expensive lights on the market. I have been extremely happy with them.

A few months AFTER writing my original post, Platinum LED contacted me because they’d been getting a number of link-throughs from my post. They offered to send me one of their new lights to try out since I had been so studiously documenting my results and could study the differences objectively. They also gave me the coupon code mentioned above, which does pay me a referral percentage. They did not pay me to write this post, nor did they have any part in the writing of it.

As my regular readers know, I typically do not promote things on my blog – I like my blog to be my personal space, that is only a reflection of my life and the things I love. These lights have been so life changing to me that they absolutely are a huge part of my life – I would never give anything 30 minutes of my day every day if it weren’t life changing. I’ve been thrilled to see how it’s helped my friends and other people who have contacted me from the internet, and I’ve had many people ask for a follow-up post.

All opinions are my own and will always continue to be.

What are some of the other things that the studies have shown that the red light therapy can help?

 

There are quite a number of things I haven’t mentioned yet. Click to this article for a more comprehensive list.  Some of the other things that studies have shown it helps includes:

  • Lose fat (nearly twice as with diet and exercise alone)
  • Rid the body of chronic inflammation
  • Fight the oxidative damage that leads to aging
  • Combat some autoimmune conditions and improve hormonal health
  • Overcome fatigue and improve energy levels
  • Combat other skin conditions like acne, keloids, vitiligo, burns, herpes virus sores, and psoriasis
  • Reduction of cellulite: one study found that when it is combined with massage, it created a 71% reduction in cellulite
  • Enhanced quality of life for fibromyalgia patients, including decreased pain, muscle spasms, and tender points.
  • The most amazing benefits I’ve read about were for for autoimmune hypothyroidism. A randomized, placebo-controlled study in hypothyroid patients demonstrated that in people who got near-infrared light therapy, thyroid function dramatically improved, and thyroid antibody levels were massively reduced. 47% of patients were able to stop medication completely. The researchers also followed up 9 months after treatment and found that they did not have to restart their medication even after ending their red light treatment.
  • Speed up bone healing
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Potentially increase fertility

I know – it sounds way too good to be true. But I have experienced such inexplicably amazing results of my own that I do not doubt the results of these research projects.

How can I try a light out before buying?

 

If you are local and know me IRL, send me an email.

If not, some gyms, physical therapists, aestheticians, and other types of health clinics do have red lights. If your gym has one, it’s worth googling the brand to see if it’s a the right wavelengths or not before wasting your time on it (I’ve heard that some are not.) I bought my lights instead of trying them out elsewhere, fully intending on taking advantage of the return window (60 day window, minus a 20% restocking fee) if it didn’t work for me. I wanted the freedom to try it out in my own home, on my own time, every day to see if it really worked.

What do your neighbors think about the totally sketch “red room” in your house?

 

I haven’t asked them. Sometimes it’s best just to leave things up to the imagination.

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WHY IS THIS POST SO LONG, RACHEL?!!

 

Because I’ve gotten so many questions about these lights, and there is far too little public awareness about them. Forgive me? 

…But let me know if I didn’t address your particular question – I’ll be glad to email you back or answer in the comments!

Summer Reading For Rebels.

Guilty Confession: I don’t hate the library, per se, but I might believe that the library hates me.

Our branch is always crowded and loud and I struggle mightily to find the books we’re looking for. I used to try and do the right, the expected, the moral thing, and take my children to the library regularly. But then I realized that we could just go to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale twice a year, stock up on books for super cheap, and never have to enter the doors of the place that so overwhelms me.

…Except for the summertime, when my kids absolutely expect to participate in the Summer Reading Program.

Okay maybe I do hate the library. Or actually maybe it’s my own laziness.

Summer Reading Programs are great. Really. But oh my goodness they’re so much work with the app changing every year and the tracking type changing and also papers that you have to bring in and you have to come every week or it doesn’t count and the suspicious looks that the librarian gives me if Ali reads too many pages.

The last couple of summers we’ve started out with good intentions, but it doesn’t take long for us to fall off the radar of those weekly check-in visits and then sometime in October the kids say “Hey, whatever happened to our Summer Reading? Do we have any more rewards we can get?”

(Okay clearly it’s my fault and not the library’s. But you gotta work with what you got.)

So this year I decided to do my own Summer Reading Program.

No Libraries Needed!

Less Paperwork!!

No Suspicious Librarians!!!

No App Passwords that you don’t remember from last year, only to find out that they’re using a new app!

AND the kids are responsible for all their own paperwork and no one will complain about their handwriting!!

It’s going swimmingly well, so I decided to share it here, with the thought that some of you may already find yourself flagging in your library visits and needing a new way to motivate your poor libraryless children.

It’s simple, it’s been quite motivating, and it’s given the kids some summer structure, which is something they’re always craving.

Here were my steps in implementation:

1. I suspended allowance for the summer – they normally get $5 a week.

2. I replaced it with Mom’s Summer Reading Program, giving them the opportunity to earn up to $10 a week.

3. I made a simple tracking spreadsheet that included…

A. What they had to accomplish every day to earn their alotted iPad time (this doesn’t really have to do with Summer Reading but ya gotta stay on top of chores somehow)

B. The tracking area for their books and pages read.

4. I explained the system to them:

A. Ali, 12 years old and about to go into 7th grade, gets $1 for every 50 pages she reads, with a max of $10 a week. BUT rollover pages are allowed, and I encouraged getting ahead for weeks like when we’re on vacation and they’ll read less, or when they’re going to day camp and will be too exhausted to read.

Do It Yourself Summer Reading Form

B. Noah, 8 years old and about to go into 3rd grade, gets $1 for every 25 pages he reads, with a max of $10 a week, and rollover allowed.

Do It Yourself Summer Reading Form2

C. Every Monday morning, they present their Reading Logs to me for me to check their math and pay out their totals. So far, they’ve each gotten $10 every week.

It’s that simple. But they’re OBSESSED with it. And reading a ton. And keeping up with their own paperwork. And not begging me to take them to the library constantly. And have yet to tell me that they’re bored.

(And Noah can be reading as many books at once as he wants without having to finish the books to get his summer reading credit. The kid has a short book attention span.)

Reading Log IMG_9445

So if you’d like our Summer Reading Log to enact your own Personal Summer Reading Program, click here to download it and give it a try.