Lori Degman might not be a household name yet. But this month, her face will grace the boxes of Cheerios you bring home to the kids.
"Sometimes I just think is this really happening? I had one sentence pop into my head. ... Now that my one little idea turned into a whole book is just amazing," says Degman, 52, a mom of two from Vernon Hills who teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the Special Education District of Lake County.
That one little idea won Degman the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest with her rhyming book, 1 Zany Zoo. Not only will the bilingual picture book, illustrated by Colin Jack of "Max & Ruby" fame, appear on 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios, it will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
The story follows the antics of the zoo animals after one fearless fox steals the zookeeper's keys, all witnessed by a little boy.
"I never actually imagined that somebody would some day say 'oh I want to publish that.' I hoped, but I never really expected it."
Degman read constantly to her boys (they are now 20 and 23) and fell in love with Dr. Seuss. Now she imagines her future grandchildren and their grandchildren reading her book.
The best thing about being a mom: "My answer would change based on my kids' ages. When they were in school, being the center of the universe was the best possible thing to me. They loved being with me, and we were always together. Now that they are older, the best part I think is that we still have a great relationship, just seeing they are successful. … I feel like OK, job well done."
Advice to parents: "Read, read, read to your kids and read to them even when they are older." Plus, get involved with their schools. "It's a win-win all the way around. And spend time with your kids. Before you know it, they don't want to be with you. You are not the center of their universe anymore. Enjoy it while it lasts."
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.