A Birthday Letter To My 4-Year Old Son

Birth and Coming Home 530Before my oldest son was born, I started writing letters to him. It was my way of sharing with him some of our journey together. I would document important days, like the day I found out I was pregnant and the day he was born. And now, four years later, the tradition continues.

Today is David’s 4th birthday and, like most days as a parent, I find myself wondering where the time has gone. It must have been just yesterday that I first gazed into those newborn eyes and held his warm little body close to my heart for the first time. And, as much as I’d like it to, time does not stand still. In fact, when you have young children, I think you actually enter some sort of warp-speed time zone where the years actually melt away every time you blink (perhaps the lack of sleep that comes with the territory has something to do with it!).

At any rate, time goes on and our children grow up a little bit more each day. There will never be another today, and yesterday is already a day behind us. As a way to help preserve some of these precious moments, I write them down (which is a good thing for posterity, because I think I’m literally losing my mind most days).

So, today on this momentous day in David’s life, I have written him a letter. This is a letter to my son from my mother’s heart. Happy birthday, little Day-Day. I love you most!

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October 27, 2014
Campbell, California
You are 4 years old!

Dearest David,
As I sit down to write your annual birthday letter this year I am struck by something that makes me both excited and a bit sad at the same time–you are no longer a baby. I started writing to you before you were even born. With each letter I imagined what you would be like, who this baby would be. And now, 4 years later, I am starting to see. You are no longer a baby, but a boy who is “fearfully and wonderfully made”, a unique person who God created and chose to be part of our family.

Now that you are such a big boy, I see more and more of YOU every day–the you that makes you David, and nobody else. You are outgoing. You are confident. You are brave. You are independent. You are strong. You are adventurous. You are passionate. You are loving. You are exactly who God wanted you to be, and I am so grateful that I get to watch you grow into YOU each and every day.

This has been a big year for you, monumental. You have adapted to every change and adventure that we threw at you–and there have been lots of them! From living in Ireland to traveling the world to moving around the world for the second time in your short life, you have handled everything like a pro. In every new place and new situation you welcomed the change and carried on with confidence. You were quick to make new friends and explore your new surroundings. I’m sure that these things–seeing the world, meeting new people, exploring–will always be a part of your life.

About a month ago we moved into  our new house in California–your 4th house in 4 years! Almost every day you make some remark about how it’s always sunny in California. Other people think it’s funny, but I totally get it! After all of our years living in the rain, sun is a gift. You spend most of every day outside playing in our back yard, walking to the park, throwing balls for Bota, and inviting friends over for play dates (your new best friend, Presley, lives next door and you two play at each others’ houses every day!).

When you aren’t playing outside, you enjoy playing “Toy Story”. You love the movie “Toy Story” and you already have several of the toys from the movie. Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Head are your favorites, but you also love the army guys (and you’re hoping to get your own Woody and Rex for your birthday).

You still play ball, but you aren’t obsessed with balls any more like you were when you were younger. Basketball is your favorite, so we’re going to try to sign you up for a team this winter. You also love swimming, but hate riding bikes (for some reason I just can’t understand). 

Mimi is still your lovey and she sleeps with you every night. Some day I’m sure you’ll decide you’re too big to sleep with a stuffed monkey, but for now she is your friend and your protector.

And, as far as protectors go, you are starting to be quite a good one yourself! You love your little brother and, when you aren’t trying to wrestle him or steal his toys, you are very caring toward him. You insist on being the one to go get Jacob up from his nap every day. I stand outside the door when you go in to get him and I love listening to you greet him with “Good morning, Honey!”. I pray that God would grow the love you have for your brother and that you would care for, lead, and protect him throughout your life.

David, my son, it has been a joy watching you grow and change and mature this year. I am so pleased with the boy that you are, and I can’t wait to see the man who you become some day. Your middle name, Jeremiah, comes from this verse:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

Today on your fourth birthday, that is my prayer for you. That your life would follow God’s plan–and that I would be able to help you see that plan. That God would prosper you with the love of His Son, the Lord Jesus. That you would have hope in God, your first parent. That your future would be as bright and magnificent as your little 4-year old dreams. That you would continue to grow into YOU with the joy that comes from Above.

David, you are no longer a baby. What you are is a gift, a blessing, a privilege. You are no longer a baby, but as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be. Thank you for letting me be your mommy.

I love you most!

~Mommy

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Real Life Facebook Photo Captions

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted a link to this blog. The blog features these idealized, picture-perfect stock photos of families that they edit to include true-to-life captions. It’s hilarious.

At the same time, though, it was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I mean, how many times do I post a photo on Facebook or Instagram that is “picture-perfect”, only to have the underlying story be so much more “realistic”? If the photo includes my children, there is almost certainly an unpleasant reality to the happy photos I share with the world. For instance, if I were telling the truth about these photos, this is what the captions would actually read:

“My mom is a drill sergeant. She woke me up at 6 AM to make me fold the mountain of clothes that I threw around my room last night when I was supposed to be in bed sleeping. Now I’m exhausted and I can’t even stay awake through the thrilling experience that is shopping at Costco.” 

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“My parents tried to do something really nice for my birthday by taking me to watch my heroes, the toys from Toy Story, skating at Disney on Ice. I repaid them for their generosity by having a meltdown at the souvenir stand when they said I couldn’t have all of the ridiculously overpriced toys they were selling at the show. I was throwing such a royal fit that I got carried out of the arena like I was Prince Ali.”IMG_0002“The only reason we’re sitting still right now is because we are licking jam off our fingers. We spent the rest of this playdate stealing toys from our guests and screaming any time it was suggested that we might share.”photo
“Our new bunkbeds are great. We like trying to fly off of them. And the rails taste really good. It’s also quite entertaining watching mom try to change sheets on the top bunk after I pee on them.”IMG_0005 “I begged mom to buy me a new ball and, since she wanted to have a pleasant day, she broke under pressure and actually gave me what I wanted. It only took about 5 minutes for my little brother to throw the ball off the pier into the ocean. Mom hasn’t bought me another ball since then.”IMG_0006 “Mom told me she’d give me a lollipop if I kissed my brother.”IMG_0007 “Mom made the mistake of giving me “choices” on school picture day. She offered me three shirts to choose from, and I chose all three. When she tried to make me choose just one, I tore off all my clothes and refused to get dressed until I could choose my own outfit. I wore all three shirts for school picture day. #ftw”

IMG_9999So you see, life isn’t picture-perfect–especially life with kids. Every day is filled with its own challenges and meltdowns and refusals and fits. But thankfully, life is also filled with beautiful moments. Either way, get your cameras ready. We’re making memories here, folks–even if they are a bit shy of reality.

20 Things Little Boys Do

boynoisewithdirtblueSo, I grew up in a family of all girls (my dad is a saint). My childhood was all pink and ballet-y and sweet. Nothing could have prepared me, then, for my current situation. The tables have turned, and now I find myself the mother of boys (thank goodness at least the dog is on my team).

Before my sons were born, I was either naive or ignorant or blind. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I now stand corrected. You see, little boys are not just a variance on little girls–they are a totally different creature. My boys do things every day that literally stop me in my tracks and say, “Huh….?”.

To illustrate my point, here is a sampling of 20 things little boys do:

1. Think they can fly–It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…DAVID, GET OFF THAT ROOF RIGHT THIS INSTANT!!!!

2. Throw All The Stuff–balls, rocks, toys, their shoes, feces (sorry, but if that one got to you, you may want to stop reading this post right now).

3. Despise shoes. And pants.–A home with little boys is basically a tiny nudist colony.

4. Urinate in inappropriate places–Forget “missing the toilet” (which they will do without fail every time they pee, by the way). Just wait until you see the very unusual and, sometimes, shocking, public places they choose to drop their pants. I have photographic evidence of the horrendous places my son has chosen to relieve himself. I would share the photos here, but I’m saving them for blackmail when he’s a teenager.

5. Make it their personal mission to destroy All The Stuff–Have something you like? Yeah? Really? Well, if you have a little boy, you might as well kiss it goodbye right now. It will just make the future destruction more bearable.

6. Shred to pieces every pair of pants they own–Since they’re never actually wearing pants, I don’t know how it’s possible for them to wear holes and tears into every pair they own.

7. Lick All The Stuff–I mostly just try to ignore it because my stomach just can’t handle the truth.

8. Be fascinated with their own male anatomy–It starts young, folks.

9. Relate to their favorite super hero on a deeply personal level–They will literally think they are Superman/Batman/Spider Man/The Hulk/Wolverine/Captain America/Luke Skywalker/Buzz Lightyear.

10. Turn All The Stuff into guns/lasers/shooters/swords/canons/projectile-spewing objects–This is not taught, it is ingrained in their psyche.

11. Produce a disproportionate level of noise for the size of their body–My ears hurt too much to comment on this one.

12. Eat All The Stuff–SERIOUSLY.

13. Sleep in unusual places–Beds are for wusses.

14. Put All The Stuff in their pockets–I could start a small (but growing) art gallery with the collection I have removed from pockets on laundry day. Perhaps I’ll donate our gallery to the Guggenheim some day.

15. Fall down randomly like they’re fainting goats or something–Running, running, running, DOWN.

16. Think you are ACTUALLY CUTTING OFF THEIR FINGERS every time you trim their fingernails. Every. Single. Time.

17. Think their own bodily functions are hilarious–Nothing in God’s green earth can produce as much joy in a boy’s heart as the sound of a burp or a fart.

18. Spend hours enthralled by nothing but a pile of sticks and rocks–Oooh! Can we break them? Can we throw them? Can we eat them? Can we stuff them all in our pockets?

19. Injure themselves incessantly–see #1 and #15. And make sure you know the fastest route to the E.R. from your home, your son’s school, and your son’s favorite parks.

20. Think their mommy is a princess/The Queen/their wife–You can now disregard #’s 1-19, because this is the truth. If you are the mother of a little boy he will absolutely adore you. He will think you are royalty. He will guard and protect you as if his own little life depended on it. His cuddles will melt your heart anew every single day, and you will know that you are the luckiest person in the world. The luckiest, happiest, most exhausted person in the world–because you are the mother of a little boy.

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How To Shop Childrens’ Consignment Sales. Like A Boss.

JBF1Two weeks ago something rare happened: it rained in California. Seeing as we are in the middle of Autumn the presence of precipitation should come as no surprise, yet we were all caught off-guard. The toys we’d left strewn about the yard overnight got drenched. The laundry I had on the line got re-washed by nature. And when I went to get David ready for school in the morning, I came to an unfortunate realization: he didn’t have a single pair of shoes that fit him.

After spending all summer barefoot or in sandals, we hadn’t donned a pair of shoes in months. And in those months, my boy’s feet had grown gargantuan. Just like the rest of him. So, then I came to the even more disheartening realization: it was time to buy the boy a new (larger) wardrobe–which would undoubtedly come with a massive price tag to match.

Fact: kids cost money. Oodles and oodles of money, all the time. Any time I can save a bit of that money, I’m all for it. And that, my friends, is why God created children’s consignment sales.

If you’ve never been to a children’s consignment sale, just imagine a massive garage sale taking place inside of a Costco warehouse–full of all the stuff you keep having to buy for your very expensive offpring. Children’s consignment sales are a collection of consignors (aka “moms”) who are selling merchandise (aka the stuff their kids don’t use/have outgrown/just don’t want any more). They sell everything from toys and books to clothes and shoes to baby gear and maternity wear. In short, consignment sales are da bomb.

With two growing boys who DON’T EVEN HAVE SHOES THAT FIT THEM, I have become a bit of a consignment sale shopping expert. You might call me a professional shopper-saver, if you were so inclined. And now, dear friends, I will share my wisdom with you:

How To Shop Consignment Sales. Like A Boss.

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Research the sales
Consignment sales tend to happen seasonally, so research your local area for a schedule of sales that will be coming up soon (a quick looky-loo on Google should pull up several results). There are several large consignment sale organizations that franchise around the country, like Just Between Friends and Rhea Lana’s and locally, like Outrageous Outgrowns (California Bay Area) and Jack and Jill (my favorite in the Seattle area). Sign up for the email list on consignment sale websites so you’ll be notified of sale dates and special discounts.

Always visit the sale’s website before you go to the sale so you have accurate information on the sale dates and location. Sometimes you can also print off coupons from the sale’s website for free or discounted parking or admission.

Selling vs. shopping
If you have baby and/or kid stuff that you want to sell, sign up to be a consignor. As a consignor you’ll make money off every item you sell and get special privileges like shopping the sale before the public. If you don’t have anything to sell you can always attend the event as a shopper.

Timing your visit
Sales typically happen over a weekend and last 2-4 days. If you have specific items you want to buy, or if you are particular about the types and quality of the products you buy, you’ll want to go on the first day of the sale while the inventory is fresh. If you want to save even more money, visit on the last day of the sale when the remaining items are typically sold at half-off. Or, if you’re really serious about this whole consignment sale thing, you could always visit twice: once on the first day of the sale and again on the last day of the sale to pick up some bargains.

Try to arrive at the sale early in the day. Like when they open. Or, better yet, before they open. Think of it practice for Black Friday. These things get packed, and fast. The earlier you can get in and out, the better off you’ll be. Otherwise, aim for lunch or dinner time so you can take advantage of the lull when most shoppers go home to eat.

Set your expectations
This is not Nordstrom’s–heck, this is not even Nordstrom Rack. You are buying used kids stuff. And if you have kids, you know what kids do to their stuff. They beat up their toys, they spill juice on their shirts, they draw with Sharpie’s on their furniture. Consignment sales are full of bargains–if you’re willing to compromise. The nicer and newer the condition of the item, the more expensive it will be. If you’re willing to put up with a few bent pages in a book or a dress that has obviously been off the rack since last season, then you’ll be grand. If you’re expecting perfection, sales may not be for you (but please give me your contact info so we can get in touch when you’re ready to offload your kids’ gear…).

To kid or not to kid
Consignment sales are for kids, but they are not FOR kids. Yes, you buy kid stuff at the sale. No, you should not bring your kid to the sale. Why? Because it’s a Costco warehouse-sized kids garage sale. There are toys and books and bouncy things and all sorts of other temptations everywhere you look. Your children will whine about literally every item in the sale. All 20,000 items. And you will get so fed up that you will just throw up your hands and say WHATEVER and get in line so you can check out and get the heck out of there. And then you will realize, as you are trying to find the end of the line that snakes around the Costco-sized-kids-garage-sale that there is not back of the line. The back of the line is in Mexico. Or Canada. Or whatever country is furthest away from where you are right now. And then you will finally get to the front of the line and you will wonder was it all worth it. (I brought my kids with me to a sale last week)

Have a shopping game plan
If there is something special that you know you want to get, make a beeline for that section as soon as you arrive. Big-ticket items like cribs, strollers and rockers can go faster than a toddler’s temper. Seasonal items like Halloween costumes, outdoor gear, and fancy Easter clothes also get picked over quickly, so grab yours before they’re gone.

Plan for the future
Since sales typically only happen a few times a year, think ahead to what you might need in the months between now and the next sale. Will your child be moving up a size soon? Will the seasons change so you’ll need more seasonal clothing? Will your baby become a crawler/walker/toddler and require different types of toys or gear? Do you have birthdays or Christmas coming up that you want to buy gifts for? Take advantage of the bargains now so you won’t have to break the bank in a month or two.

Bring cash
Some sales create special (shorter) check-out lines for people who are paying with cash. With the average consignment sale check-out line lasting about an hour, bringing cash has saved me countless hours of line-waiting.

Bring the right gear
Bring these things with you to the sale. Just because I said so.
-wagon, empty stroller or shopping trolley (like the ones you see little old ladies bring on the bus) so you have somewhere to put all the cool stuff you find at the sale
-baby carrier–Sometimes you just have to bring the baby with you. With a baby in tow, it will usually be easier to put your baby in a carrier and have your hands and (now empty) stroller available for shopping.
-shopping bags–most sales do not offer you a way to cart your stuff home. Bring your own.
-snacks and water–this shopping is serious business (especially if you find yourself stuck at the end of a 2-hour check-out line)
-cash (see above)
-empty back seat and/or car trunk–you may go to the sale for one thing, but we all know how that’s going to end…

 Happy shopping, and happy saving!

Seattle Mom vs. Silicon Valley Mom

Photo credit: SeattleTimes.com

Photo credit: SeattleTimes.com

In my nearly-four years of motherhood I have had the unique privilege of “momming” in several cities around the world. And you know what I’ve noticed? Moms, and how they do the whole Mom-Thing, are as distinct as the cities they inhabit. Now I am no expert in sociology, but I do like to secretly judge people based on my biased observations of their behavior. Moms happen to make the perfect target for my not-so-scientific evaluations.

This week I went to my first official Silicon Valley playgroup. It was terrifying and fascinating. The people, the conversations, the baby gear–it was all so new and compelling. But mostly, it was different. So very different from our last gig in Ireland, and so very different from my intro-to-motherhood years in Seattle (in fact, I am finding more differences between Silicon Valley and Seattle than I did between Seattle and Ireland). Here’s the breakdown:

Seattle Mom’s family consists of…her husband (an engineer at Boeing), three kids, and the family dog.
Silicon Valley Mom’s family consists of…her husband (an entrepreneur/tech mogul), two children (and she wouldn’t even DREAM of having more), and her childrens’ au pair who lives in the backyard guesthouse.

Seattle Mom is originally from…somewhere in the greater Puget Sound area. Maybe Sequim or Puyallup.
Silicon Valley Mom is originally from…Not-Silicon-Valley, most likely Not-California, and quite likely Not-America. She can’t fathom how you would pronounce “Sequim” or “Puyallup”.

Seattle Mom spends her day…going to Baby Bootcamp in the morning followed by a park play date. While her baby naps in the afternoon she prepares dinner, using mostly fresh and local ingredients.
Silicon Valley Mom spends her day…managing a tech startup. She uses an app on her iPhone to order food from The French Laundry or Coi so she can pick up dinner on her way home.

Seattle Mom lives in…a split-level home in the suburbs with a nice big yard for their organic vegetable garden.
Silicon Valley Mom lives in…a $1 Million rambler built in the 1950’s (but she’s working with an architect now on design plans to tear down the rambler and rebuild a $2.6 Million “cottage” on the property).

Seattle Mom wears…a Gore Tex jacket over her North Face puffy vest, jeans, and a pair of Chucks or rain boots.
Silicon Valley Mom wears…a fully coordinated Lululemon outfit (from this season), wedge sandals (so you can see her perfectly pedicured toesies), and a Coach purse.

Seattle Mom drives…a minivan (she just traded in her Subaru Outback).
Silicon Valley Mom drives…a Tesla Model S (she just traded in her BMW X6 so she could get the coveted “Clean Air Decal” and use the carpool lane when she’s solo-driving to her Friday morning spin class at Equinox).

Seattle Mom commutes…on I-5. There is no other option.
Silicon Vally Mom commutes…on “The Five”. Or 101. Or 280. Or 880. Or 85. Or 87. Or 17. Or CalTrain. Or BART.

Seattle Mom washes her car…in the rain. Why would you ever wash a car?
Silicon Valley Mom washes her car…at any of the thousands of “hand touch” car washes that line every street everywhere. Her car is washed and detailed at least once a week.

Seattle Mom spends her weekends…taking family bike rides along the Burke-Gilman, shopping at the Ballard Farmer’s Market, and walking her dog at Greenlake.
Silicon Valley Mom spends her weekends…shuttling her children between lacrosse games, karate belt tests, ballet recitals, Chinese school, engineering daycamp, violin lessons and water polo practice.

Seattle Mom’s preschool choice for her children…was based upon which school would nurture her child’s individuality. It’s affordable and there’s a good community of parents at the school.
Silicon Valley Mom’s preschool choice for her children…was already applied for before she left the maternity wing of Stanford Hospital. The preschool is nationally ranked for it’s strong emphasis on the Arts and college prep. There is daily instruction in foreign language and advanced circuit design. The Annual tuition is equivalent to the cost of a new home in Seattle.

Seattle Mom’s grass…is mowed by her, or her husband (if she’s lucky) or the neighbor boy (if she’s really lucky), or by nobody at all (during the months of October-April when the grass doesn’t grow because it’s just too dang cold outside).
Silicon Valley Mom’s grass…is mowed by The Gardener who comes every Tuesday morning like clockwork.

Seattle Mom’s favorite grocery store…Whole Foods and Metropolitan Market (but she actually does most of her shopping in the bulk section at WinCo).
Silicon Valley Mom’s favorite grocery store…Nob Hill Foods and Google Shopping Express.

In regard to weather, Seattle Mom dreams of…the sun. That is all.
In regard to weather, Silicon Valley Mom dreams of…just a touch of rain to get rid of this drought. As long as the rain doesn’t stick around long enough to force her under an umbrella.

Seattle Mom loves…her kids more than anything else in the world.
Silicon Valley Mom loves…her kids more than anything else in the world.

So, differences aside, maybe that’s all that really matters anyway. No matter where we’re from or where we find ourselves, this Mom Thing all boils down to one thing: loving our kids. Rain or shine, here or there, just loving those kids. And that will never change–even if you do decide to trade out your rain boots for some flip flops.