When book reports go undone, gym shoes get strewed across just-mopped floors and cereal fights ensue between siblings, it's easy to forget about the everyday joys of parenting.
There might be a general appreciation for children and for being the guiding force in their young lives, but the romance of it all can often fade too quickly.
Thankfully, there are people in the world like Vicki Reece of Lake County, who remind the tired, the weary and the stressed-out parent that there are still plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Reece recently published her first book, "The Joy of Mom: Celebrating a Mother's Love" ($12.99, Simple Truths) as a remedy and reminder that parenting, and motherhood in particular, is a gift.
"I wanted to be able to inspire moms," she says of her book, "because when you blink, children grow from a baby to college. It's really about being in those moments and treasuring them."
Reece's book is a culmination of all of the work that she has done up to this point, and it has led her to produce this picturesque ode-to-mom page-turner. Yet her campaign to get mothers to bask and delight in mommyhood began years ago.
A mother of three, Reece and her husband endured two miscarriages before having their first son in 1991. She was determined to provide her growing tot with the very best, and searched in vain to find the positive play options she wanted him to have. Instead, she found herself having to tiptoe through minefields of violent, "mean-spirited" video games and cartoons and felt that she had to do something about it.
So, the former media ad executive, who once owned an ad agency, pulled from her professional experience and innate passion and developed fun software, music and videos for kids to watch and moms to use to help with everything from potty training to fitness workouts. With no money and no know-how, Reece taught herself how to create software games, and she made sure that they were devoid of the negative themes she found consistently in big box stores.
"I just couldn't stand by," she recalls. "I wanted to be part of the solution." Against all odds, her products were eventually picked up and sold by mass merchants, specialty shops, retail shops and catalogs. She even sold some on QVC.
Reece's first software game was "Jack's House," then that was followed up by "Jack's Attic" (which became a Discovery Toys best-seller). Her potty training video, "Gotta Go," sold well for a stint at Walmart, too.
It didn't take long for the media to follow her successes. Reece has been featured on radio and on every major TV network. She's been highlighted in hundreds of publications, including Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal.
As her family grew and technology became more sophisticated, Reece's focus turned toward moms, and she used the Internet and social media to share her brand of inspiration.
She recalled several nights when she sat with her laptop on an overturned laundry basket, and she scribbled out notes to encourage mothers. In 2011, she began to post the notes on Facebook. "I just felt that if one mom could be reached by it, it would be worth it" she says. "The first one I put up on Facebook, a woman immediately responded, saying, 'I needed to hear this message right now.' It got over 200,000 likes."
No one could have imagined that Reece's passion to support other mothers would balloon so quickly. Her Facebook page includes brief stories, quotes and animations about motherhood. And in every instance they are paired with dreamy, funny, heartfelt photographs that she curated from artists and photographers around the globe. The response has been overwhelming. Her Facebook page has amassed more than 760,000 likes to date, with some single postings regularly garnering thousands, if not millions, of views.
"I organized it, and it resonated so. It's all organic and viral," Reece says of her Facebook campaign. "It's a real movement, with real families. You feel the moment when it's authentic."
Last year, she created the blog, The Joy of Mom (www.joyofmom.com), to provide a platform for mothers to share their loves, wants, and wishes. "I've been building 'Joy of Mom' to bring women together in a space and destination where there is a chain of good to share mom stories," she explains.
Now, her book brings both worlds together in a tangible form. It shows crisp photos of little fingers touching mommy-round bellies, fragile crowns being cradled by loving parents; little tykes sharing a kiss, a run, or hugs with the big people in their lives and there are lots of twinkling bright eyes to melt the heart.
Reece's book reminds parents that life's busyness is no match for the greatest gift of all: motherhood. "I just think that being a mom is the greatest honor and privilege in the world," she says. "And, if I can help moms navigate, that is the greatest gift of all."
Her own children are now, ages 23, 22 and 20, and two of them help in her venture. But pretty soon, she and her husband will be empty nesters. "I'm not ready for it yet," she laments.
Reece says she hopes that her book helps other mothers -- and fathers -- to cherish each moment that they have with their children, whether they are yet small or all grown up. "Things are so fast-paced. Parents are always multi-tasking, and life is just not simple," Reece concludes, adding, "And, I have yet to meet a mom that doesn't wish she could hit the reset button for a moment."