A Love Letter To My Daughter On Her Third Birthday

51078369_10103073984926620_4062535618834464768_nDearest Hannah,

Every time I sit down to write one of these birthday letters I am conflicted. On one hand I am  overjoyed at having known you and loved you for one more glorious year. On the other hand, however, a piece of me grieves that yet another year has already passed us by. I know that the time we have together is finite, so I want to treasure each precious year for what it is worth: a priceless, fleeting gift. This was the only year in your life that you will ever be two; and for me, it is the last time I will have a child who is two. Today you turn three–THREE!–and together we will enter a whole new phase of your life.

I have noticed that more significant than the ages you are, you kids go through important stages. It’s easy enough to tell when you are in the throes of a stage, but the endings are somewhat more subtle. There’s Newborn Stage, marked by sleepless nights and endless feedings, and…well, that’s really all I remember because I think one of the defining factors of Newborn Stage is maternal memory loss. When you are in the middle of Newborn Stage it feels long and arduous and incessant, and then suddenly one morning you wake up and realize that you are actually now in Toddler Stage.

This was your last year in Toddler Stage as you learned how walk (and climb and run and jump and dance) and to speak (something you have learned quite WELL, my dear!). Toddler Stage was marked by daily new discoveries and growing into the little girl who we knew was inside that baby. And now, without hardly realizing it, you have shifted into the next stage: Little Girl Stage.

And what a remarkable little girl has emerged! You are perhaps the most persistent child I have ever met–once you set your mind to something you can not, will not let it go. You are kind. You are silly (you’re also the only girl I know who will have full-on “tooting contests” with her brothers while wearing a sparkly pink tutu!). You are incredibly smart and you have an uncanny ability to remember minute details (Thank goodness I have you to help me because I wold be lost without your reminders!). You love ballet and all things pink and your crazy big brothers and singing “Jesus Loves Me” and making espresso with Daddy and cleaning up messes and stroking your worn pink gigi when you want comfort. You are amazing. And you are you. And that is the best.

So now as we enter Little Girl Stage I can not wait to see who else you become. What will be your passions? What will drive you and what will make you stop in your tracks? Who will you choose for friends and what will you play together? What new places and new passions will you discover? The world will open up more and more to you each day, and I can’t wait to see the mark you make on it.

Our family and, indeed, the world has been better these last 3 years because you have been a part of them. Happy third birthday, sweet Hannah–and may this be your best one yet!

I love you always and forever,

Mommy

A Love Letter To My Daughter on Her Second Birthday

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Dear Hannah,

Happy birthday, baby girl! Or can I even say that anymore? Because two is hardly a baby…no, it’s official: my baby is no longer a baby. And, while part of me is grieving that you’re no longer the tiny infant you used to be, the whole of me is excited for who you are now and who you are becoming.

This has been a year of incredible growth and change for you. This week I was looking back at some photos of you from this past year and I couldn’t believe how much you have grown in 12 short months.

You went from being a tiny bald baby who was just learning how to crawl (and by crawl, I mean that adorable little mermaid scoot that you used to do!) to a bright-eyed toddler in her mis-matched outfit that she picked out for herself, running after her brothers with her pigtails bobbing. You went from tasting your first mashed-up foods to out-eating me at most meals (which is really saying something!). You went from spending 90% of your time getting carried to and fro in your Ergo to an independent little girl who can’t stand to sit still for more than two seconds (which made for a very interesting and exhausting trans-Atlantic flight with you a few months ago). Every day I look at you I see a bit more of the girl you are becoming, and it’s beautiful.

Your personality has grown with you this year, too. You are incredibly caring and your favorite thing to do is dote on your “babies”. Whether it is a doll or an injured brother, you have a tender compassion that helps everyone feel loved and comforted (Sidenote: when yo

And as sweet as you usually are, in the last few months we have also seen your feisty side come out (Hello, hair-pulling and itty-bitty-fingernail pinching!). You are bold and adventurous and definitely able to hold your own. All I can say is, good luck to anyone who messes with you! Between your over-protective father and two big brothers–and your ability to take down a full-grown adult with your “slams”–nobody should ever give you any trouble! I’m also pretty sure that you’re not going to be allowed to date until you’re in your 30’s, but we can have that conversation later.

Besides the personal growth that you’ve done this year, you’ve also experienced so much change–and you’ve handled it all like a champ! On your birthday last year we were living in sunny California and spending our weekends at the beach in Santa Cruz…and this year we’re in Washington, surrounded by family and pine trees and the occasional snowflake. And even when your whole world has changed around you, you’ve carried on: brave, happy, and ready to embrace any adventure that comes your way.

And speaking of adventures, can you even imagine what adventures still lie ahead?! This year, your third year of life, will bring so many new opportunities. This year will bring preschool (WHAT?!), potty training (Which means we will officially be a diaper-free household–sweet Jesus, pinch me if this is real!), our first multi-word conversations, and so much more. Hannah, I just can’t wait! Life with you is so exciting!

Thinking back on how far you’ve come in two short years, I can’t help but be amazed. It feels like just yesterday we were welcoming you into the world, and yet at the same time it feels like you’ve always been a part of our lives. And maybe that’s true. Maybe a piece of my heart has always belonged to you, even before you were born–it just wasn’t until I met you that I knew who that piece belonged to.

Well, Hannah, I am so glad that my heart belongs to you. You bring so much light, laughter, and love to our family, and I still can’t believe that you’re mine. Happy birthday, baby girl. Two down, and many more to go!

Much love,

Mommy

David’s Pokémon Birthday Party!

This week marks a momentous occasion: The seventh anniversary of the culmination of the most treacherous 48 hours of my life. Also known as the day I gave birth to my first child. Also known as my son’s birthday. So, happy almost-birthday, David!

Birthdays are a big deal in our house and I always try to make sure the birthday-boy or birthday-girl feels extra-special on their special day. We have a slew of birthday traditions and it seems like every year the celebrations stretch out for longer and longer. Which is totally fine by me, because what’s more fun than…having fun?!

Part of the birthday week celebration usually involves a birthday party. This year we gave David a sensible choice of birthday party options David told us he wanted to invite his whole class over to our house for a party and we naively obliged to his demands. So it was set: we invited 22 first graders and their entire families (because I was NOT about to invite 22 first graders without parental supervision alone into my house) over for a fun-filled afternoon of birthday shenannigans.

David’s current obsession is Pokémon (and when I say “obsession”, I mean that his world literally revolves around mythical creatures that are carried in the pockets of their teenage trainers. I think he would actually keel over and never revive if Pokémon were somehow removed from the universe.), so the theme was already set. Winning already. I found this awesome website that lets you customize and print your own Pokémon cards, so I used that to create the invitations (Which we then passed out to all. 22. Kids. At. School.):

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I’ll be honest–the days and moments leading up to the party were not my finest. If you’ve ever stress-planned an event that is highly weather-dependent then you know why. I had planned (hoped) that the weather would be at least not totally-sucky the day of the party so all 50-or-so guests could spend time outside (I even had a super awesome bounce house obstacle course reserved if the weather cooperated). I even prayed for partial afternoon clearing like Jeff Renner taught me. But, alas. The weather has a mind of it’s own and it decided not to listen to me that day (Don’t worry, I’m a mom. I’m used to people not listening to me. No offense taken.).

The day of the party was the rainiest day of the year with a high-wind advisory and thunder showers predicted during the exact hours of the party. Lovely. So we scrapped the outdoor activities, cancelled the totally awesome bounce house obstacle course, and moved everything inside *confetti emoji*!

Thankfully, my dear husband had decided the week before the party to start tackling the downstairs remodel that we were forced into when our hot water tank unexpectedly exploded this summer. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the project before party day. So this is what most of our downstairs party zone looked like up until about an hour before the guests arrived:

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My husband’s a good man, though, and he knows how to quickly shove tools into a closet when his wife starts running around the house with bulging eyeballs, screaming, “The guests are coming! The guests are coming!”.

We also hung part of David’s prolific Pokémon drawing collection around the house to help cover up the patches in the walls and spots where we still need to paint:

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Our other saving grace was our friends Abe and Val who came over to help us pre-funk for the party. They came over about an hour before party time and they helped us finish setting things up, played with our kids, and helped us break into the snacks before they all disappeared into the mouths of 6-year olds:

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Speaking of snacks, I’m quite proud of the Pokéball pizzas I made (The recipe: 1 frozen cheese pizza, 1 package pepperoni, 1 can of chopped black olives (drained). Cover the top half of the pizza with pepperoni. Double layer it up if you’re feeling extra-adventurous. Use the olives to make a line down the center of the pizza, with an open-circle in the center. Bake per frozen pizza directions on the box. Take a photo and Instagram it before it gets messed up. Slice and serve.):

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Before we knew it, guests were arriving and it was officially party time!

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While everyone was arriving I had the kid-guests play a game. I had made these “Pokedex” booklets for each kid (print-your-own sources here) and I had little Pokémon printouts hidden around the house. The kids had to find each Pokémon and cross it out of their Pokedex.

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This game kept everyone occupied for the better part of an hour (Woohoo! Indoor activities for the win!):

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During this time I also had several arts-and-crafts stations and games set up downstairs (As an added bonus, since this whole level of our house was already torn up, we didn’t care at all about any messes that might occur!).

The kids made “Pokémon power bead bracelets, did Pokémon coloring pages/mazes/word searches, created their own Pokémon out of Play Doh, and played the Pokémon Headbandz game.

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After our initial “welcoming hour” we played a few games that David had planned.

The first was a “wake the Snoralax game” where the kids got to play a song on their flute (Designed by David from a toilet paper tube) and then place a Z over the sleeping Snoralax:

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The next game was “Pin the Flame on Charizard”. You know how this one goes: Creature missing an integral body part hanging on the wall, blindfolded child holding the integral body part, stick it on the wall, and try to make a target:

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And, finally, we had a Pokeball hunt. I’d ordered about a million little Pokémon figures off Amazon and entombed them all in vending machine balls with red lids. They didn’t quite look like Pokeballs, but it was good enough for me:

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I took all of the kids downstairs to decorate party bags while Jon and some of the other parents hid the “Pokeballs” upstairs. IMG_7134

Then, in Easter egg hunt-fashion, we set the kids loose on the loot. Most kids found about 5 Pokeballs, but some filled their bags to the brim (I’d saved a few Pokeballs out of the hunt for the kids who didn’t find any…and there were a couple who I shared my stash with). Then, since they were all such good Pokémon hunters, we gave them all candy to feed their Pokémon (Although most of the kids just ate the candy themselves. Learning about osmosis from such a young age.):

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Next, it was time for CAKE!!!!

I purchased this beauty from the same place I got our wedding cake: Costco. What can I say? If the wheel ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

I just ordered a plain cake with no design and asked for our theme colors to be piped around the border. Then we topped the cake with some Pokémon toys, and voíla! Custom Pokémon cake to feed 50 people for under $20:

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And, just like that, it was over. We posed for a family photo, wished our guests well, and relished in a successful (if not chaotic) birthday party.

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We had an incredible day celebrating our incredible not-so-little boy, and I’m so glad we could have all of his friends over to join in the fu! It was wonderful getting to visit with some of the parents and see the looks of joy on the kids’ faces. And you know what? I bet none of the kids even knew or cared that it was the rainiest day of the year.

The night of the party I was tucking David into bed and he looked up at me and said, “Mom, that was the best day EVER!”.

And you know what? It kind of was.

P.S. My husband is the best ever and the day after the party he surprised me by sending me off for a massage. By myself. Alone. And you know what? It was the actual best day ever!

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Dear Hannah: A Love Letter To My Daughter On Her First Birthday

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Dear Hannah,

Happy first birthday, darling! As I gaze at your sweet face I am at once questioning how a whole year has already passed since I first met you, and at the same time feeling as if you’ve been a part of me–a part of us–forever. I am so blessed to have shared this, your first year of many yet to come, with you.

Looking back at this year is like viewing a mosaic–many small pieces that come together to form a full picture. Small pieces like your first smile at 8 weeks old, and the thousands of smiles that have lit up the world since then. Small pieces like your tender cuddles,  your tiny body sinking into mine. Small pieces like your snarl nose when you’re feeling feisty. Small pieces like the way you sneeze three times every time you see a bright light. Small pieces every day, a thousand moments meshed together.

And then there are the bigger moments. The loving relationship you’ve already developed with your big brothers (May you always keep your big brothers close. Especially when you’re a teenager and claim that you’re ready for a boyfriend.). The bond you’ve created with your daddy (May you train him in what a princess is and how to treat her.). The growth you’ve made from a tiny, squirmy infant to an independent mover and self-feeder (May you continue to become more self-sufficient. Maybe even learn to wipe your own bum some day…and teach your brothers, too, will ya?).

This year has been a big year for our family, and I’m glad you got to join us on the journey! This year we gazed into the depths of the Grand Canyon and wondered at the massive granite walls of Yosemite. We dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean (…and ate lots of Pacific Ocean sand. Lots of it. And by we, I mean you.). We flew on airplanes and drove the entire length of the West Coast. We fueled old relationships and made new friends. We learned and laughed and loved together. We had ups and downs and learning curves, but we made it. And, truly, we are all better for it.

So now, as you begin your second year, my prayer is that you will continue to grow into you. That you will realize more each day the you that God created you to be, and that he would bless that growth.  That you would learn to depend on God in the same way you now depend on me–for your very sustenance and life. I pray that you would know the same love and joy that you bring to me each and every day.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure called life–I can’t wait to see where life takes us this next year! Happiest of birthdays to you!

All my love,

Mommy

Thoughts on 33

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When I was a little girl, about 5 years old, I was riding home in the car and my mom was driving. I don’t remember where we had been or the circumstances surrounding this day, I just remember my feelings at that particular moment. As I rode in the back seat of that car I looked at my mom with all of her freedom–getting to drive her own car anywhere she wanted and make all of her own decisions–and I felt jealous. I asked her how old she was because I wanted to know how old I’d have to be before I got to enjoy that same freedom. 33, she said. She was 33.

Today, my friends, I have finally arrived. Today is my birthday, and I am 33.

And, while it’s silly looking back at 5-year old me who was jealous of adulthood (what I wouldn’t give to be a kid and able to do cartwheels without throwing out my back or wear skinny jeans because I was actually too skinny to wear anything else…) I think I was on to something. Childhood is wonderful and magical and all that jazz, but adulthood is pretty awesome, too.

In honor of the fact that I’ve finally achieved the perfection that is 33, here are 33 reasons why being 33 really is better than being 5:

  1. I don’t have a bedtime–as I write this post I am, in fact, up past my “bedtime”. And who cares? (Tomorrow me will care, that’s who. But tomorrow me already appreciates the sacrifice.)
  2. I can ride on roller coasters all by myself.
  3. I can lick the cake batter out of my own bowl and not have to share with anybody (I may have told my children that it’s poisonous and could make them die, so they’d better not ever touch my cake batter or else.)
  4. I can drive my own car anywhere I want it to go–If I feel like taking a mid-morning jaunt to “the candy store” (Starbucks), I just get in the car and go. No permission needed.
  5. I don’t have to play house–I have my own real husband and three mini-me’s running around our real house every day. How cool is that?
  6. I get to actually be a teacher, and not just play school.
  7. I have money to buy things I actually want–When you’re a kid, it sure takes a lot of $1 weekly allowances to buy that trinket at the toy store.
  8. I’ve traveled and experienced many parts of the world
  9. I can wear high heels and lipstick (not that I ever really do, but I can, and that’s what really matters)
  10. I don’t have to get shots every time I go to the doctor.
  11. I can watch any movie I want, even if it’s not made by Disney.
  12. I’m in charge–I get to make rules for other (little) people and they have to follow them, not the other way around.
  13. I can eat really spicy food and actually enjoy the experience.
  14. I can reach the top shelf without having to stand on a step stool.
  15. I know how to tame my own hair (and I don’t even scream every time I brush it).
  16. I get my own phone so I can play Angry Birds and PBS Kids any time I want (That’s what phones are for, right?).
  17. I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL.
  18. I don’t eat cold hot dogs or soggy pizza for lunch (My diet as a 5-year old was questionable, at best. We can get into that more later.)
  19. I know how to ride a bike. And it’s fun.
  20. If I want to eat ice cream for dinner I just do it.
  21. I get to have my mom, my dad, and my sisters as some of my closest friends.
  22. I get to stare into my baby’s eyes and know that I helped make that. One of the true miracles of life.
  23. I can read bedtime stories to myself.
  24. Pedicures.
  25. I can cut up my own steak.
  26. I get the big bedroom, and my bed is the comfiest one in the house.
  27. I don’t have to wait for recess to play with my friends.
  28. Wine.
  29. I know how to count past 100…which is helpful when paying $1500 veterinarian bills (one of the downsides of being a grown-up, but let’s focus on the positives).
  30. Nobody monitors my screen time.
  31. I can appreciate sleep for what it is: a daily miracle.
  32. Nobody cares how “cool” my clothes are. I can even wear yoga pants every day, and those aren’t even real pants. Bliss.
  33. I control my own destiny–If I want to do something, I make it happen.

Now that I’m 33 years old, I can honestly say that this age is everything that little 5-year-old-me had hoped it would be. I’m excited for this next year and all that it will bring…maybe I’ll even fit into those skinny jeans again.

 

To My Daughter On The Eve Of Her Birth

Disclaimer: I started writing this post a few days ago in preparation for my scheduled C-section today. Baby had other plans, though, and arrived on her own schedule a day early! I still wanted to share my thoughts leading up to her birth, though, so I’ll share this with you on the day AFTER her birth! Watch for her whole birth story coming soon! 

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Dear baby girl,
Tomorrow our world will change forever!

We have been waiting these past nine months–and for years before that–for this very moment. And now that it is here, I can hardly believe it. Tomorrow will be the culmination of our prayers and our wondering and our waiting: you will be born. No longer will we hold you in just our hearts and in my womb, but we will hold you close in our arms. I. Can’t. Wait.

Even though we haven’t officially met yet, I feel like I already know you so well. We’ve already had 39 weeks together as one being, intimately connected through every moment of your life thus far. I have to thank you, because during this pregnancy you have been very good to me (well, as long as you don’t count those first three months when I constantly felt like I was stumbling off the teacup ride and would puke any time I saw a salad). Our doctor has commented several times that we are a model pregnancy and she wishes that every patient of hers would be so “easy”. I think we’ll make a great team!

At every prenatal appointment when I hear your heartbeat on the doppler I still get tears in my eyes because it is the sound of your beautiful life.  I can’t wait to meet you and see who you become–to witness the outpourings of that beautiful heart and to share in the love that will come from it. I want to know what will touch your heart and what will trouble it, what will make it content and what will make it beat a bit faster. I look forward to knowing who you are, from the inside out.

I can’t wait to see you. I keep wondering what you will look like–will you resemble your brothers with light hair and piercing blue eyes? Or will you be the kid who picks up some of my genes and have my green eyes…maybe even red hair like your grandpa? Will you be soft and squishy or long and lean? Tomorrow I will gaze at your face for the first time and it will be like meeting a stranger–a stranger who I already love.

Your brothers can’t wait to meet you, either. Every day they smother my belly with kisses and whisper sweet words to you.  David is excited to show you all of his toys and share his favorite movies with you. Jacob still thinks that you’ll be sleeping with him in his bed every night so he can give you extra cuddles. They adore you already, baby girl.

As you grow up, your brothers will care for you and defend you, teach you and–most likely–drive you completely bananas. Just know that they love you very much–and I’ll do my best to remind you of this when I have to unbury you from a mountain of Toy Story toys or rock you back to sleep because they’re running around outside your bedroom during nap time like the wild banshees that they are. They mean well, and I pray that the three of you will have an amazing relationship throughout your lives.

Speaking of amazing relationships, I can’t wait to see your daddy doting on you. He has wanted a daughter for as long as I’ve known him, and I know that you will be his little princess! Your daddy is an incredible man and he will treat you the way you should be treated: with love, respect, encouragement, and dedication. I am proud that you will have such a worthy man as your role model–he will be your daddy, but he will also be your biggest fan.

So, as we close in on these last few hours before our first meeting, know that you are already cherished. Sure, there will be lots of craziness in your life–that just goes with the territory when you’re the third child born into a busy family. But know this: no matter how crazy life may get, you are loved, you are treasured, and you will be welcomed with the most open of arms.

I love you, baby girl, and I so look forward to being your mother!

Always and forever,

Mommy

P.S. Happy early birthday–I just wanted to be the first one to say it! Tomorrow we shall have cake 🙂

 

 

Happy Birthday, Husband (33 Reasons Why I Love You)

This a monumental, magnificent, marvelous, metamorphic day. Thirty-three years ago on this day, my life changed. I hadn’t even been born yet, but the course of my life was already being set by one simple event. You see, thirty-three years ago on this day my husband was born. It would still be another 20 years until we met, and yet it was a day that would (some day) forever change my life.

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Jon, you have changed my life in every way that is good, and I truly can not imagine what this world would be like without you. I love you more today than the day that I met you, more than the day that we said “I do”. I love you infinity ways, but since this is your 33rd birthday, I’ll start with 33 reasons why I love you:

1. You love me well–even when I’m being unlovable. Which is practically never.

2. You never give up–even if that dang rocket set that we bought off the internet is a dud, and even if the second rocket set that we bought off the internet is still a dud, and even if the third rocket set that we bought off the internet still won’t work, you never give up. Amazon thanks you.

3. You have convinced our children that you are actually a cartoon superhero with an alternate life. Seriously, major props.

4. You let me win at Scattergories. Every time.

5. You feed our dog ice cream cones…while she’s sitting in your passenger seat at the drive-thru.

6. You work at one of the most prestigious companies in the world, and yet you still sneaked in wearing a fake mustache and a monocle in your I.D. card photos. How very Colonel Mustard of you…

7. You respect the proper way to drink whiskey: Jameson in a Jameson glass.

8. You put up with my annoying-to-some-people habits (like chewing with my mouth open).

9. You snap flies out of the air like you’re some sort of kung-fu ninja or something.

10. You can carry our whole family on your back. At the same time.

11. You lay on the couch at night and whine with me about how our feet hurt and our backs hurt and how old we’re getting now that we’re in our 30’s.

12. You make me chai tea in the morning. Not in the microwave like I make it for myself, but with steamed milk and perfectly frothy foam on top.

13. You read our boys bedtime stories, and you do all the voices.

14. You eat every morsel of food I ever set before you. Unlike some other members of our family (who shall remain nameless), never once have you thrown it on the floor or spit on it or smeared it in your hair.

15. You always put the toilet seat down and you refill the toilet paper roll facing the correct way.

16. You drove for 18 straight hours in a car with me, a preschooler, a toddler, and a dog. Enough said.

17. You have fixed Buzz Lightyear literally 1,000 times.

18. You give melt-in-your-arms hugs.

19. You stopped me from wearing gauchos. The fashion police applaud you.

20. You let me cry when I see the Johson & Johnson baby ads on TV.

21. You sneak-attack me with marshmallow fights.

22. You know all of your baristas by name and even get invited to their parties. How much do you tip them, anyway?

23. You can cook just about anything en papillote.

24. You laugh at my corny jokes, even when I forget the punchline.

25. You know the power of texting back with a good emoji sequence.

26. You have an impeccable memory. Not that I ever forget things or get information incorrect. Almost never. Ever.

27. No matter how tired you are after a long day, you always come home and wrestle our boys. Even though they punch you in the face.

28. You always do your very best, even when nobody’s watching, and even when some people might find it unnecessary. For instance, when measuring a child’s height on a growth chart, some people might free-hand it or trace the straight edge of a ruler. But not you, because you know there’s a better way. You are the only person I know who has a custom-made, scientifically exact tool for precisely measuring a child’s height to the nearest nano-millimeter.

29. You never criticize me when the only thing I notice about a car is its color.

30. You derive great enjoyment from watching YouTube videos about the Shapeoko 3. Heck, I love that you even know what a Shapeoko 3 IS.

31. You can rock Vibram 5-fingers like it’s nobody’s business.

32. You invented “Zurg Spears”, the single-most effective way to get our boys to eat their dinner.

33. You love me wholly, truly, unconditionally.  And, really, what else do we need?

Happy birthday, Sweetie! To 33 years, and many more!

XxX Wifey