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!

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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 ❤ 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.