The Winner of Our 2015 Housing Search!

Let me start by qualifying that this is the result of the 2015 housing search. I don’t want you to get confused because, with the exception of 2007 and 2011, we have moved at least once every year for the past decade. Now that we’ve cleared that up, drumroll please…

And the winner is: Los Gatos Mountain Home!
(House #3 for those of you who participated in my Facebook poll yesterday comparing the three houses we were considering)

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We are thrilled at the opportunity to live in this amazing house! The most amazing part of the house, though, is the story of how we came to it.

On a cold morning in January I was getting the boys ready for school when I heard a knock at our door. It was our gardener, and he had some news: our landlord had passed away. Since he was also the gardener for our landlord’s other house–the one he was actually living in–he was the first to know the news of our landlord’s passing (freebie life lesson: people who work in service fields–secretaries, janitors, gardeners–are always the first to know important news. Treat them well.). I spoke with our rental manager that afternoon and he confirmed that our landlord had indeed passed away, and his family was sorting through what to do with his assets (our house included).

A week or so later I got curious about our landlord–Who was this man that had so suddenly expired? I knew his name and address, so I decided to Google his obituary. What I discovered was shocking–instead of an obituary, all I found were news articles about his murder. Whaaaaat?!?!  Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m living in the middle of a real-life urban legend.

Over the next few months, our landlord’s brother and daughter battled in out in court to see who would gain possession of his assets. We knew that as soon as the court case was resolved or our lease expired–whichever came first–we’d probably be asked to move out. Sure enough, in early July we got notice that we would need to be out of the house at the termination of our lease (August 31).

For the first few weeks of July I went into housing-search panic-mode. I still have PTSD from looking for houses here last summer, and I was NOT looking forward to going through the whole process again. Why, you might ask, were you so worried about the housing search? Well, imagine you’re looking for a house to rent because the only houses you can afford to buy are not in the same state you live in. And because the cost to buy is so high, everyone is forced to rent. And there are approximately 5 bajillion people at any given time who are fighting over the same crappy “affordable” houses to rent. And you have a dog and two obviously loud children (which, for some reason, is not as appealing a combination to leasing agents as a young power couple who work 80 hours a week and summer in Nantucket). You get the picture.

So began the house-stalking. I would literally wake up every morning, open my computer, and refresh my housing searches on Craigslist and Zillow. Any and every house/townhouse/condo/shack in the woods that met our criteria was starred and I’d send them an email or text. Every single listing said “No pets, NO DOGS, DON’T EVEN ASK”, but I’d ask anyway because–hey, ya never know. I’d do this whole process again 5 or 6 times during the day, and again right before I went to sleep. It’s a full-time job.

Between online searches, I’d load the two obviously loud children up in the car and we’d drive around to all of the houses that wrote back that they’d consider accepting a pet as long as we gave a deposit of half our life savings and a blood promise that the dog was not a savage beast with giant dragon talons hiding under her sweet furry paws. In the 2.5 weeks that I was actively searching for houses, we visited well over a dozen houses all over this traffic-ridden region. It was raucous fun.

By Wednesday of last week, I was spent. Not a single house had panned out. One house smelled distinctly of death and urine. One house had 20 people waiting outside in the driveway for the open house–10 minutes before the open house was even scheduled to begin. One house was literally falling apart every time you touched it (this would go GREAT with my never-destructive boys). One house was in a neighborhood surrounded by barbed wire fences (not actually, but that maybe would have been a good idea). It was, in short, discouraging. Heart-breaking. Exhausting. I was spent.

After having a good long ugly cry over the fact that we would NEVER NOT EVER find a house in this awful-yet-somehow-still-wonderful place, I decided to try a new strategy. I was getting desperate. I reached out to a mommy-runner Facebook group that I’m a part of, San Jose Moms Run This Town. It’s a great network of local moms, and I thought if anyone would know anything around here it would be moms who spend their days carting children around and running through local neighborhoods.

Within a few hours of posting my housing woes to the Facebook page, I had several women from the group respond that they would help me look for houses in their neighborhoods. By the next day, I’d connected with another mom whose neighbor was about to put his house up for rent. She gave me his contact information, and I turned my house-stalking instincts to him. I’m sure he appreciated this.

As soon as the owner gave me the home’s address, I loaded up the boys in the car to drive up and see the house in person. From the owner’s description of the house when we spoke on the phone, it sounded too good to be true. Plus, the rent was significantly lower than any other house I’d found–I figured there must be some massive flaw that I was missing. I just had to see it with my own two eyes.

Driving up to the house was surreal. Jon’s dream ever since we moved here has been to move to the “mountains” (not mountains like you PNW’ers know, but large hills covered in Redwoods and gurgling streams). The house is located just past the town of Los Gatos (Imagine your quintessential all-American town with historic Victorians and Art Deco architecture. Now throw in a bunch of multi-millionaires driving Lamborghinis, and that is Los Gatos.). The house is nestled in the woods so you feel like you’re a million miles away from everything, yet you can still be at the closest winery and local coffee roaster in 5 minutes.

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When we got to the house Jacob had fallen asleep in his carseat (this is what happens when your loony mommy throws you in the car for yet another house expedition right in the middle of nap time). I parked the car on the side of the house (because it’s a one-lane road and I didn’t know where else to discreetly spy from). The current tenant was out working in his garage and somehow he noticed my conspicuous SUV parked outside his house. Thankfully he was a friendly and  pretty normal looking guy, and he invited us in for a quick look around while we were there.

I grabbed the sleeping child and the crazy one, and we trekked in for our unscheduled house tour. When we got inside, I was floored. This wasn’t just a house, this was a great house.

The living room has sweeping vaulted ceilings covered in gorgeous cedar. There’s a wood-burning fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows leading out to one of five decks.

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The kitchen is massive. And all appliances stay (not the case in most of the rentals we looked at because, I don’t know, if they charge you an arm and a leg for rent I guess they feel like they can punch you in the stomach, too, while they’re at it).

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The master bedroom is not even a bedroom. It’s a sanctuary. It has those same huge gorgeous ceilings as the living room. There’s a gas fireplace to warm your toesies as you snuggle into bed. There’s a walk-in closet the size of most Silicon Valley homes. There’s an en-suite bathroom with a soaking tub and a glass shower. There are not one, but two private decks.

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Downstairs has two bedrooms with views of the creek, a full laundry room (complete with cabinets and counter space for all of your sorting-and-folding needs), and a two-car garage.

The community consists of about 50 homes along a 1 mile stretch of private road. From what I hear, it’s a close-knit group of people with oodles of children running amuck. Perfect.

Or nearly perfect, at least. There are a few aspects of the house that will take some getting used to. Like the fact that there’s no yard–the house faces the road and backs up to a creek so any time we go outside I will need to have my eagle eyes watching kids and dogs. And there’s no cell service (which Jon assures me he will remedy). The house is heated with propane (propane = $$$…good thing we don’t get real winters in California!). For the few sacrifices we will be making, though, we knew that this house was The One.

We called the owner back that night and emailed him our application (and for good measure I also attached the cutest family photo I could find and a personal letter that I wrote in hopes of helping our case right along). The next day the owner called us back and gave us the news I never thought we’d hear: WE GOT THE HOUSE!!! Jon still hasn’t even seen the inside of the house, but we knew it was the right one and we signed the lease.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this whole story is how perfectly perfect everything turned out. We had a list of everything we needed in a house, and the things we wanted but didn’t think we could ever get. We prayed over that list every night and (not-so-patiently, on my part) waited to see how our prayers would be answered.

Now I can tell you for certain, those prayers were answered. Every prayer–from the location to the price to the timing of the move-in–are exactly what we prayed for. Or better. Because that’s how God answers His children. He always gives His best–not good–the best. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-learn this lesson, it always leaves me in a state of sheer amazement.

So, in not so few words, that is our house story. I am grateful to Jon for putting up with my irrational fear of homelessness. I am grateful to my new friend and neighbor-to-be Melodie for leading us to this house. I am grateful to the owner for taking us with our crazy kids and our sweet, calm dog (dragon talons excluded). I am grateful. And that’s a good place to be.

Almost as good as being home.

The Gift Registry You ACTUALLY Need For A Baby Boy

Jacob week 1 - 0459There must be something in the water, because it seems like everyone I know is having a baby in the next few months. New babies, of course, mean baby showers–the silly games (where else is it socially acceptable to sniff melted candy bars in a diaper or measure your friends’ midsections with satin ribbons?), enough pink and blue to make you think you’re going color blind, the gifts.

The gifts are what really got me thinking. Sure, muslin swaddle blankets and frilly onesies are cute–but are they practical? What are the gifts that a new mom or dad truly need as they set out on this adventure of parenthood?

Well, my friends, I have the answer. In order to survive the first few years of parenthood, there are some practical gifts that would make everything oh-so-much easier. Since my parenting experience is limited to the two boys who call me Mommy, I’ll focus this list specifically on what parents of boys need. Hint: there’s nary a frilly onesie in sight.

1. NO clothes
Truth: little boys are just tiny nudists. Each morning I help my boys get dressed for the day and, by the time I emerge from the kitchen with breakfast, their clothes have inevitably been exchanged for the more-comfortable and oh-so-stylish birthday suits that they prefer. This exchange happens at least three times a day. It’s really a wonder I ever get them to wear clothing at all. My advice: just don’t buy them any clothes. Find some cheap second-hand stuff (that you know they’ll ruin anyway, see #7) and call it a day.

2. A storage unit for all of your nice stuff
What do you have that you consider precious or priceless? What do you have that you’d like to still see in one piece a decade from now? Well, take all of those things and lock them away. Because, honestly, there is nothing that is safe from the havoc of growing boys. Nothing.

3. Excellent Health Insurance
I figure that it’s not a matter of if we’ll ever make a trip to the emergency room for our boys, but when. I carry a first-aid kit in my purse, a larger one in my car, and I have a full arsenal of medical equipment in my home. Boys like to explore and experiment…sometimes that goes well, and often times it does not. Just call it like it is, and sign up for the premium health plan.

4. Empty boxes and garbage bags
I don’t know what it is about boxes and bags, but my boys are obsessed with them. Anytime we get a package, the first thing they do is grab the empty box out of my hands and carry it off to their lair where they proceed to fill it with toys or poke it with crayons or dissect it or whatever else strikes their fancy. The same goes for garbage bags (not the safest toy, I admit, but the lowly garbage bag has afforded me countless hours of peace as the boys fill, then dump, then fill, then dump objects from the bag).
*Bonus points if the box is big enough for the boy to fit inside.

5. Tape and ropes
Again, not the safest toys–but, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before your boys find them and discover their magical properties. So, the tape. It doesn’t matter what kind it is: duct, Scotch, packing, electrical, washi, painters…they’re all equally glorious in a boys’ eyes. Tape is sticky and can be pulled and torn and adhered to various objects/people/pets. Perfection. Rope is nearly as exciting as tape, with the added benefit of being able to pull and swing objects that are tied to it. Plus, they’ll come in handy on those days you just need your kids to PLEASE SIT STILL FOR A MOMENT.

6. Heavy duty cleaning supplies
Now, what mom wouldn’t love to get a basket full of cleaning agents for her baby shower? At a minimum, the boy-mom must have Shout, OxiClean, Spot Shot, and about a dozen gallons of Febreze at the ready. You may also consider gifting her with an industrial-grade carpet shampooer and an incinerator. Also, make sure to include a few sets of rubber gloves that she can stash around her house.

7. In-home trampoline park/ rock climbing gym / high-ropes course/ zipline
Because boy = endless energy

8. A fully-laminated, easy to hose down bathroom complete with a full-wall urinal
See #6

9. Earplugs/ noise-canceling headphones
Because boy = noise

10. Locks
Perhaps the single-most useful object in our house. Locks. We put them on our snack cabinet (because they won’t eat a single meal that I cook, but they have an endless capacity for goldfish crackers and fruit snacks); the front door…and the back door…and, well, just about ever door in our house (because they’re stealthy ninja escapees); our under-sink storage (not because of the potentially-lethal chemicals that are down there, but because they like to steal al of my garbage bags–see #4); their dresser drawers (because their favorite pastime is constructing Mt. Laundry out of the entire contents of their wardrobe); and…you get the picture.

Happy gifting!

Reflections At One Year Post-Ireland

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I actually don’t even know where to start this one. Every time I try to write this post I get overly emotional and I can’t get the words out. You’d think that after a year things would get easier, but they don’t. The truth is, I loved Ireland and most everyone and everything in it, and I miss it deeply. Tomorrow marks one year since we left Ireland for our next adventure in California–and what an adventure it has been! Since moving to California we’ve experienced the highest of highs…and the lowest of lows. And the manic-depressive nature of this year has me missing Ireland even more.

On the “high” side, we’ve relished in the daily sunshine–we spend time outside every day, and for the first time in my life I didn’t experience a single day of SAD (if you don’t know what SAD is, then you obviously don’t live in a rain cloud like we used to, so don’t worry about it). We’ve been blessed to reconnect with old friends (you know, the dear friends who you visit wearing sweatpants and messy hair so you can laugh and cry together). We’ve met incredible new friends and neighbors who already feel like family. Jon’s job gives him joy and fulfillment like he’s never had in his career before. We’ve spent countless days exploring the beauty and excitement that surrounds us in the Bay Area. Our children have flourished in their new environment and are truly happy. Life is good.

And, yet. The lows. The lows this year have challenged me to my core. In many ways, this has been one of the most demanding years of my life. We’ve had to make difficult decisions: parenting decisions and financial decisions and housing decisions and school decisions. Seemingly endless decisions. Decisions with long-term repercussions that took some serious thinking and planning and praying. We had a miscarriage which, alone, was the most difficult season I’ve ever walked through. Add onto that the fact that I still feel a bit like a foreigner in this big, new place, and it’s a lot to take in.

This year has made me yearn for a simpler time, like our year in Ireland. I know that I look back at Ireland with rose-colored glasses because, as difficult as this year has been, Ireland had even more challenges. And, yet.

In Ireland we were connected with people so kind and so welcoming, who poured their love into our lives from the first day we met, that a lot of the challenges just seemed to melt away. I’m still searching for “my people” here–the community who you live life with every day, both the highs and the lows, for better or worse.

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In Ireland things were, quite simply, more simple. Stores didn’t open until lunchtime, and they closed before dinner (ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t the everything-you-want-when-you-want-it mentality that we Americans are so accustomed to). It took an hour to drive to a town 10 miles away, because the only way to get there was to drive through your man’s field and about a dozen sheep paddocks. You ordered goods off a CATALOG…using your TELEPHONE. You spent cold rainy nights (which is near enough every night in Ireland) cozied up in a pub with your family, a pint, and some good craic. You paused every day to drink tea. You didn’t hustle and bustle because there was no reason and no place to hustle and bustle to. Ireland was a lot of slowing down and being still. It was good for my soul, and it is the polar opposite of living in the high-paced conundrum that is Silicon Valley. After a year, I find myself yearning again for the simple.

And, yet. Life goes on, and life IS good. Our year in Ireland impacted me profoundly, but so has this first year in California.

In this year I have learned to follow God more closely. There has been little time for complacency, and endless opportunities for seeking His will. All of the decisions and difficult times have drawn me closer to Him than ever before, and I could not have gotten there without facing the challenges that I did this year.

This year has taught me to cherish the relationships I have, and to hold my loved ones both in my hands and in my heart.

I have learned this year to be bold in who I am, even if that is different from the status quo. This has meant learning to block out the other voices so that I can trust my gut and my instincts. I have seen that sometimes the right thing to do is to quit, and it’s usually good to try again. I have learned to be confident in my faith and my foundation, and that is priceless.

IMG_4256This year has taught me to appreciate the special, ordinary moments. Finding my kids snuggled up together in the same bed, sleeping in each others’ arms. Accomplishing a goal–running a race, finishing a long-anticipated project, learning something new, potty training a toddler. Making a favorite recipe from scratch. Calling an old friend at just the right time. Enjoying a cold treat on a hot day. My boys playing happily in the sandbox for over an hour so I can write a blog post in peace :)

One year is plenty of time to learn and to yearn–and I’ve done plenty of both this year. Ireland will always keep a piece of my heart but, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that my heart has an endless capacity for growth to make room for the new loves and experiences that come my way.

An Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

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You Know You’re Living In Silicon Valley When…

IMG_0168In a few weeks we will be celebrating yet another momentous occasion: the one-year anniversary of our move to Silicon Valley! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a whole year–especially since, in a lot of ways, I still feel like I’m getting my bearings and learning the ropes. Which is understandable, because there are a LOT of new ropes to learn here. It’s difficult to explain, but Silicon Valley is a unique bubble that is truly unlike anywhere else in the world. After living here for nearly a year, I am still baffled by the idiosyncrasies that make Silicon Valley distinct.

You know you’re living in Silicon Valley when…

  • You and/or your spouse works in high tech, and you moved here for The Job.
  • Teslas and Ferraris are as common place as Ford Escapes and Toyota Corollas were “back home”.
  • You have finally accepted the fact that paying $4,000 per month for rent is your new normal.
  • You can smell if it’s time for the garlic festival when you drive through Gilroy.
  • Every person you meet is from NOT-Silicon Valley. Your neighbors, friends, and co-workers are recent transplants from some other state/region/country.
  • You contemplate playing Keeping Up With The Joneses…until you realize that your family just can’t handle weekly Lacrosse games, soccer practices, piano recitals, Physics tutoring, Mandarin classes, performance dance class, and art enrichment. You hope that your poor deprived children will survive to adulthood in one happy, under-achieved piece.
  • You have a “Brown is the New Green” sign staked in your front yard so passers-by will approve of your golden “drought-conscious” lawn.
  • You’ve eaten pizza at Mountain Mikes while about 200 little boys wearing Little League uniforms play Pinball in the arcade room.
  • Go, Giants! Go, Golden State Warriors! Go, Sharks! Go, Earthquakes! Go, (enter name of fanatical sports team)!
  • Your housing development is located in a former apricot orchard.
  • You spend the morning hiking in your neighborhood Open Space Preserve, your afternoon sipping vino at a local winery, and your evening lounging at the beach.
  • You’ve managed to untangle the spiderweb of freeways in your mind so that you can travel a 15-mile stretch on 5 different freeways: When going from Milpitas to Cupertino, simply take the 880 to the 101 to the 280 to the 17 to the 85 right back to 280. Easy-peasy.
  • When you need a lemon (or a persimmon or a pomegranate or an apricot) you just go pick one off the tree in your backyard.
  • You spent more on preschool tuition for your 3-year old this year than you did for your undergrad at the state university.
  • When somebody calls you on FaceTime there are 4 simultaneous rings going off throughout your house: your iPhone, your iPad, your MacBook, and your AppleWatch.
  • You’re wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops. And it’s February.
  • If you value personal space and your sanity, you know very well to avoid all public venues on weekends and holidays.
  • You <3 BART and CalTrain.
  • You’re playing with your kids at the neighborhood park and you realize that everybody is speaking another language: The mom pushing her toddler on the swing is rattling off German into her cell phone, the kids playing on the monkey bars are speaking to each other in Spanish, the little girl on the slide is calling for her mom in French, the little boy digging in the sandbox is giving directions to his brother in Mandarin, and the family at the picnic table is conversing in Hindi.
  • Tesora from Philz is your new best friend.
  • You have a membership to the local Classic Car Wash. You can’t remember the last time you washed your own car (we’ll just say it’s because you’re being drought-conscious).
  • You don’t pay for home internet service because your entire city is covered with free WiFi, courtesy of Google.
  • You used to think an Ivy League education was special.
  • You are awoken every Tuesday morning by your gardener blowing leaves off your front lawn.
  • You spend your summers at your local Cabana Club.
  • Your children–who spent the first part of their lives LIVING IN A RAIN CLOUD–do an ecstatic happy dance whenever the clouds darken and spit out a few drops of precipitation.
  • You were simultaneously creeped out and riveted by your tour at the Winchester Mystery House.
  • You have at least one robot in your home (Mommy after 5 PM not included).
  • Your 1952 Ranch house is worth more than a Manhattan penthouse.
  • You certainly do NOT have more than 2.1 children.
  • You freak out every time a motorcycle zips by you between lanes of stalled traffic on the freeway.
  • You plan outdoor events during winter months.
  • Your Google Shopping Express order is waiting for you on your front porch in its cute little white box with the blue parachute.
  • ANTS.
  • You’ve eaten authentic Dim Sum at least once in the last month.
  • You compulsively check school scores to determine which neighborhoods you may possibly consider living in.
  • The fragrance of jasmine and orange blossoms outside your window fills your bedroom while you’re sleeping.
  • While you curse the crowds and the high cost of living, you can’t imagine ever leaving this unique corner of the globe.

Silicon Valley: I love it, I hate it…and, honestly, I can’t get enough of it. Strange as it may be here, this is our new home. And, for what it’s worth, I think we’ll keep it.

Bedtime

IMG_6734Parenting can be ROUGH.

There are times in parenting where everything is sunshine and lollipops but, to be honest, most days are filled with a lot of hair pulling and silent prayers offered up for my sanity. Case in point:

This month–amongst the lack of schedule and routine that is knowns as “summer”–we’ve been struggling with this little thing called “bedtime”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, because apparently my children have NOT. Bedtime is supposed to be this magical time of the night where children go into their rooms and nod off so their parents can get an hour or two ALONE so they can muster up the courage to face another day in the morning.

Someone forgot to tell my kids about the whole “stay in your bed and sleep” part of bedtime, though, and recently we’ve had a few eventful nights as a result.

A few weeks ago on my birthday, for instance, Jon and I were sitting on the couch in our living room watching a movie after “bedtime” when we heard a knock on our door. “Strange,” we thought, “Who would be coming to our house at 9:00 on a Wednesday night?” Turns out it was a Good Samaritan neighbor who had been walking his dog when saw two NAKED boys playing in our pitch-black front yard. The boys claimed that they came from a zoo, but Good Sam could see right through their ruse and thought it best to try and locate some parental figures. Turns out it was our children, who had sneaked out the back door, removed a loose board in our fence, walked through the neighbors yard to the sidewalk, and eventually found their way to our front yard. As for the nakednes of said children, I can’t even fathom.

After getting the fence repaired we had some peace of mind about the boys’ late-night wanderings–even though they still managed to break out of the back door several times before I caught on to the idea of setting booby traps (an ironing board leaned against the inside of the door that makes a disruptive crashing noise when the door is opened has proved quite effective.). Now that the boys are relatively contained to the interior of our house, however, we’re still facing the fact that they will. Not. SLEEP.

Last week the boys came out of their room at bedtime so many times that I was starting to feel like we were participating in marching band practice. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, backandforthbackandforthbackandforth…

Then there was the night that I went in to check on them before I went to bed and they were sleeping peacefully in their closet. On the upper shelves of their closet, that is (Don’t worry, they’d brought their pillows and blankets up there with them. They actually looked quite cozy.).

But the events of two nights ago took the cake. After however many nights of this not-a-bedtime charade I was exhausted and I just wanted to go to bed at a decent hour for once. At about 9:30 I did my final check and the boys were awake, but each was laying quietly in their own beds. I counted this as a victory and decided to hit the sack. After all, how much trouble could they get in? (Famous last words, right?)

Around midnight I was awoken by the shaking of my bed–at first I thought it was an earthquake so I sat bolt upright and, in a daze, took in my surroundings. Turns out it was even worse than an earthquake: the children were still awake (and bouncing on my bed, naked of course.). When I brought them back to their room I surveyed the damage: An entire box of Pull-Ups (that we’d bought at Costco that morning) was strewn about the room (we’re talking, Pull-Ups hanging from the fan and used as mattress stuffing); every article of clothing they own was piled into Mount Wardrobe in the center of the room; the drawer pulls had all been pulled off of their dresser drawers and thrown in miscellaneous places (including, but not limited to: the windowsill, under the dresser, inside socks, and inside the diaper pail); an entire box of TEN THOUSAND MILLION toothpicks were scattered about the floor; and several empty food boxes littered the landscape. It was Armageddon.

So I did what any self-respecting parent would do: After my head stopped spinning circles around my neck and my eyeballs popped back into their sockets, I backed out of the room and shut the door so I wouldn’t say or do anything that might end up in the local newspaper’s Police Beat. Then I promptly got on Amazon to check their selection of child tranquilizers and muzzles. (Just kidding. Sort of. You’d be amazed what deals you can get with Amazon Prime…)

The next morning we spent HOURS cleaning up The Mess…and then we moved on with our lives. Because, really, in the scheme of things bedtime disasters are just a drop in the bucket. By dinnertime both boys were begging me to go to bed–it turns out pulling all-nighters is not for the faint of heart. Or for toddlers.

So here’s the big takeaway: If you are a new parent with a baby who keeps you up all night, just know that it won’t get better for a long, looooooong time…If you are a veteran parent who struggles with your own children–be it bedtime or convincing them to wear clothing in public or whatever their particular “poison” is–know that you are NOT ever alone…and if you don’t have young children at home: help us! Every one of us parents-in-the-trenches needs you!

Power on, parents, power on. And get some sleep, now, will you?

A Father’s Day Interview With The World’s BEST Father (No, Seriously, The BEST)

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Seeing as it will be Father’s Day on Sunday, I thought it would be fitting to write a post for all of the fathers out there. The thing is, though, I’m not a dad. Nor will I ever be. So, I decided to seek out an expert source to help with this one. Lucky for you, dear reader, I managed to secure The World’s BEST Father (that’s his official title) for an exclusive Father’s Day interview.

With over 32 years of fathering experience, he has enough wisdom to fill entire internet blogs (but for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep this to one post for now). He has survived raising not one, not two, but THREE daughters into adulthood (including a *charming* oldest child and twins, who all happened to be teenagers in overlapping years. Can you imagine the drama he’s witnessed?). He is, in short, a saint. He is also my father.

Here’s a snapshot of my dad’s take on this whole fatherhood experience:

We Love Teach Grow: Hi, Dad! Are you ready to spill the beans on what it’s like to be The World’s Best Dad?

Dad: Hi, honey. I’m only the world’s best dad because I have the world’s best daughter.*
(*Intro sequence imagined by the author)

WLTG: Seriously, Dad, what is the best part of being a father?

Dad: Honestly, just having your kids tell you that they love you!

WLTG: Awww…I love you, Dad! See, this is why you’re The World’s Best Dad! I’m obviously not a dad, but I have a husband who’s a dad and loads of friends who are dads. What is some advice you would give to other dads who are just starting out with this whole fatherhood gig?

Dad: There will be times…lots of times…where it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You brought this new person into the world, and now you have to provide for it…it’s a huge burden to carry. I realize now–and I wish I would have realized earlier–that it’s not my burden to carry alone. First, marry a wife who will be a great mother. And then, when you have children, lean on God. The Bible says that God will “never leave you nor forsake you”, and that goes for parents, too! When you feel the heaviness of parenting weighing you down, lean on God and He will help you. That, and just love your kids.

WLTG: I feel like I need that reminder all the time! What else would you advise fathers, maybe as their children get older?

Dad: You only have your children for a short while. Parenting is essentially a process of letting go, little by little. It starts when they are babies and they begin to crawl and walk and explore on their own, then you realize they are their own person, and you have to let go a little. Then your kids are in elementary school and they want to go to their friend’s house for their first sleepover, and you have to let go a little bit more. And then they’re teenagers and they want to DRIVE, and you have to let go a lot. And then they start college and get married, and you just have to keep letting go. In the end, you realize that they belong to God, not you, and you have been entrusted with them for a time. As you’re letting go, remember that they still belong to God, and He still has them.

WLTG: I can’t even talk about driving or college… Moving on. You raised three daughters and, I have to say, they all turned out GREAT. What tips do you have specifically for fathers of girls?

Dad: I’ll say this again: Just love them. Watch their ballet recitals. Learn how to make a ponytail or “princess hair”. Embrace the color pink in your life. Just love them.

Another thing I would suggest is to “date” your daughters. There is something so special about building that bond with your child and creating memories together.
(*Every year my dad takes each of his daughters out on a birthday date. We’ve been “dating” for nearly 30 years now, and none of us have never missed a birthday date in all that time–even when living in different states and countries! Now as an adult, our daddy-daughter dates are some of my favorite childhood memories–and something that I still look forward to every year.).

WLTG: Speaking of memories, what are some suggestions you have for building memories and traditions with your family?

Dad: Blow some dough! I made a decision before I even became a father that I would make sacrifices in order to make memories. For our family, that meant spending some money doing some outrageously fun things together. We spent our winters skiing together. We took road trips to National Parks. We traveled to Europe and ate gelato until our tummies hurt. It cost a lot in terms of time and money, but I’ve never regretted a penny or a moment we spent together.

WLTG: Any last words?

Dad: Be there…like, physically be there. If your kid has a recital or a sporting event or a teacher conference, make room in your schedule and be there. Years down the road your kid may not remember how well they danced at that recital or the score of that track meet, but they’ll remember who was in the stands watching them. Be there.

Also, model for your children what a good parent should look like. I am the father I am today because my parents showed me how to be a parent. They supported me, they respected me, they loved me. Parents need to be the kinds of parents that they hope their kids will grow up to be some day.

And, remember: just love your kids.

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10 Lessons I’ve Learned In 10 Years of Marriage

Our Wedding 0425We’ve been celebrating for the better part of a month now, but today is the actual day: our tenth wedding anniversary. TEN YEARS. Holy moly, how did that happen? I swear, just yesterday we were mere babies (seriously, at 22 years old we WERE mere babies) walking down the aisle and swearing our forever love for each other before God and everyone. Then I blinked, we had two babies of our own, we moved NINE TIMES, and here we are today: ten years older and wiser.

These past 10 years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs and exciting twists and turns that we never anticipated in our wildest dreams. They’ve been wonderful years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Yet, as I look back at our 10 years of marriage, I realize that the roller coaster has also been full of learning.

We’ve learned about each other, about ourselves, about what it means to be fused to another human being…for LIFE. So, yes, these first 10 years have been wonderful, but they’ve also been incredibly humbling. In the scheme of things I’m still just getting started on this whole marriage gig, but here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned during my first decade as a wife:

1. Pray together every day.
I received a simple piece of advice at my bridal shower, and it stuck: Pray together every day. We took this counsel to heart, and we have never missed a day praying together–even if we’re tired, or cranky with each other, or the kids drove us bonkers that evening, or whatever–we always end our day in prayer together. For 3,650 days in a row, we have come together in prayer. And you know what? It’s done wonders for our marriage. Some of our biggest decisions and greatest joys have come as a direct result of our daily prayer time. Simple, yes, but profound.

2. Set your priorities: Jesus, spouse, family, everything else.
Here’s the thing: life is BUSY. And the longer you’re married, the busier it seems to get. It helps, then, to set your priorities straight from the beginning. Number one has to be Jesus–this is the firm foundation upon which your marriage can be built and stand the test of time. There is nothing–NOTHING–that a marriage can not overcome as long as Jesus remains at the center.

After Jesus comes your spouse. This is the one person in the world who you have committed your entire self to, and that takes an extreme amount of sacrifice. This means that you support your spouse, you stand up for your spouse, you love your spouse, you choose your spouse–even when you don’t want to. They are yours forever–cherish them!

Next comes your family. Notice that “family” comes after “spouse”. Kids are wonderful, important, life-changing additions to a marriage. But they are not THE marriage. In a flash, your kids will grow up and move out and begin independent lives. And you will be left with–you guessed it–your spouse! Even though children are seemingly all-consuming (of your time, your energy, your money, your food, your sanity) they must take second seat to your spouse. Nurture your children, but never neglect your spouse at their expense.

Finally comes everything else: your job, your hobbies, your (dis)comfort with noise/mess/obnoxious eating habits. ‘Nuf said.

3. Be honest.
Without a doubt, this has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned in our marriage. So much confusion, hurt, and anger could have been avoided if we’d simply been honest with each other.  This goes from the trivial (Saying “I don’t care” when he asks you what movie you want to watch tonight…even though you’re hoping he remembers that you already mentioned 4 days ago that you’d love to see that new Bradley Cooper movie…) to the über-serious (your baggage from your past, your finances, your fears and dreams). In marriage as in life, honesty is the best policy.

4. Have fun together!
Oh, what a drag marriage would be if you weren’t having any fun! On a scale of 1 – awesome, I’d rate our marriage as EXTREMELY awesome. We try to find fun in the mundane (like when we crank up the music and have a dance party as we clean the house). We laugh together. We go fun places together. We look for opportunities to sneak in fun where it really doesn’t belong. After all, life is a lot more enjoyable if you’re…well…enjoying it!

5. Don’t always win the argument. 
Truth: Jon and I don’t always agree on everything (probably because I’m pretty much always right). In the end, though, it usually doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong (or righter or wronger). Some things are just not worth the battle. Peace in your relationship is worth more than being right (even if you are almost always right).

6. Honor your spouse’s differences.
This is one that I keep re-learning, pretty much every day. As much as I love him, Jon is NOT me. He thinks differently, behaves differently, has different preferences and aversions. He likes beer, and I like NOT-beer. He could spend every waking moment of his life tinkering with electronics, and I don’t even know the basics of a circuit board. He likes to relax after dinner, and I like to let nobody relax until the dishes are washed and put away. You see? We’re different. We were created different, and we are supposed to be different. I’m working to learn what makes him different so I can let him be him, without trying to make him be me. Bam.

7. Learn his favorites.
Nothing screams love like giving someone their favorite whatever. When you remember someone’s favorites, it shows that you are paying attention to them and that you care about their personal enjoyment. This can take on many different forms: making his favorite breakfast on the weekend, stocking his favorite brand of facial tissue (this is kind of a big deal in our house), tucking his favorite treat into his work bag, buying a few extra pairs of his favorite jeans when they go on sale. Related to this is learning to speak your spouse’s “Love Language”–which may be quite different from your own.

8. Be the kind of souse I want him to be.
This definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done”. Seriously, though, it’s crucial. If I want him to be patient, I need to be patient. If I want him to spend his weekends working on x, y, and z around the house, then I need to be willing to help him achieve those goals. If I want him to happily send me off for my mom’s nights out, then I need to let him enjoy those beer bashes after work (without making him feel guilty for abandoning me in my greatest hour of need: dinner time with two cranky children).

9. Carry your weight in the relationship.
Imagine a teeter-totter: on one side there is a child, and on the opposite end there is a grown man. No matter how much each of them teeters and totters, that teeter-totter will never find balance. The same is true in a marriage. If one person is doing all of the giving, and the other is doing all of the taking, there will never be balance. You do your share, and help your spouse to be successful in doing their’s.

10. Tell him you love him. Often.
Word.

So, there you have it: My sage advice from a decade of “I do’s”. I hope that you have found some encouragement in these words, and may God bless your relationships as He has blessed mine!

Now excuse me while I go find some cake to shove in my handsome husband’s face.

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