A Birthday Love Note To My Son

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As a mother, I am the first woman who will love my sons. I want to love them well. I want to show them what true, genuine love looks like so they will recognize it when they are older. For now, though, they are still my babies. My babies who are growing and changing every single day. Last week, in fact, my youngest son celebrated his second birthday and I found myself wondering again, “Where does the time go?”.

Since before my boys were even born, I’ve been writing them love letters. Every year on their birthday I write them a special birthday letter to commemorate their special day. Last year I shared Jacob’s first birthday letter and now that another year has passed, it’s time to share birthday letter #2. Happy (belated) birthday, sweet Jacob: may all of your dreams come true!

A Love Letter To My Son On His Second Birthday

July 26, 2014
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
You are 2 years old!

Dearest Jacob,

Happy second birthday, Snuggle Bear! This has been one incredible year for you, for all of us. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that you have experienced more in your two short years than many people do in their entire lives! This has been a busy year for our family, to say the least. In fact, right now as I write this letter we are flying over the Atlantic Ocean toward our next adventure. Life never slows down, so I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

This year we were living in Cork, Ireland. We moved from Seattle all the way to Ireland just a few weeks before your your first birthday. I was just thinking about how you have had three birthdays now, and have woken up in a different country on each of your birthdays thus far (born in Seattle, first birthday in Ireland and today, your second birthday, started off in London). I don’t think we’ll be able to keep that trajectory up for much longer, but it is pretty interesting!

We had so many exciting adventures this year in Ireland that it’s hard to even remember them all. We visited castles and cliffs and beaches. We drove tractors and milked cows. We spent countless afternoons watching the animals at Fota Wildlife Park (the giraffes were always your favorite). We visited medieval towns and Viking villages and ancient landmarks. I know that you won’t remember any of this, but you did it and you were there and it was incredible. As you get older I will show you pictures and tell you stories about Ireland. I will remind you of the wonderful friends we had there and the beautiful places we visited together. And, even if my words become your only memories of that time in your life, Ireland will always be a part of your story.

While we were living in Ireland we seized the opportunity to travel through Europe. You were a trooper and a fantastic little traveller! In London you saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and the massive Tower of London. In Paris, you went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and gazed into Mona Lisa’s eyes at the Louvre. In Spain you rode on camels and learned how to say “Hola! Adios!”. You saw the world this year, and travel will always be a part of your story.

And when we weren’t out traveling or “adventuring”, as I called it, we had our daily life. The life where we walked David to preschool in the morning and then went running on the trail by the water. The life where we went to the Farmer’s Market and drank hot chocolates. The life where Daddy would come home from work and give you wrestles and helicopter rides. The life where you loved reading books and playing with “colors” and chasing Bota through the back yard. The life where Day-Day was your friend and your mentor and your hero. The life where, in this one short year, you learned how to talk and walk and run and jump and climb and hit your brother back. It’s been a big year for growing and changing and learning. All that you have learned is now a part of your story.

And the story continues. We are traveling across the world again, right back to Seattle where it all began. We are spending a few weeks in Seattle visiting our family and our friends and our favorite places. Then we will move on to the next chapter of your story: California. I don’t know what this next year will bring us, but I’m just happy I get to spend it with you.

This year you have been to so many places, done so many things and experienced so many changes. And, despite all of the changes and crazy adventures we’ve taken you on, you have stayed the same: sweet, cuddly, attentive, curious, gentle. You have a magical way of brightening our days and calming our fears with your sweet smile and your snuggly hugs. I love you more than words can say, Jacob, and I am so glad that I get to be your mom. Happy second birthday, sweetheart, and may God bless you this year and always!

All My Love,
Mommy

Angry Birds Birthday Party

One of the gifts we received at David’s baby shower was a classic red sock monkey. When David was born I thought it was pretty cute that he and the sock monkey were roughly the same size, so I snapped this photo of him with his little monkey friend when David was 1 week old:

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From there, I just couldn’t stop. Every month during his first year of life we took a photo of David with the sock monkey until, after one whole year, the friends looked like this. Oh, the difference a year can make!

1-year-old_Sock_Monkey_0015And, now, a tradition has been born. Every year on David’s birthday we have him pose with his sock monkey. Here he is at age two:

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Then, last week, he turned 3. THREE! I can hardly believe it. My little baby is now a big boy with his own personality and interests and quirks and thoughts and sense of humor. I love him to pieces.

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Three is certainly a special birthday–probably the first birthday he’ll actually remember when he’s older–so we had to have a very special birthday party. David is a bit obsessed with the computer game “Angry Birds” right now, so we decided to have an Angry Birds-themed party.

Since I’ve never actually played Angry Birds myself, the internet became my party-planning partner. I found this great website called angrybirds365 that had tons of great party ideas and free downloads. I found this invitation on their website, printed it off on cardstock, and filled in all of the party details for our little guests. Free, simple, and a bit more personal than a Facebook invite 🙂

While I was on the site, I also printed off some Angry Bird faces that we attached to balloons for decoration, some small angry bird pictures that I attached to toothpicks for cupcake toppers, and a slingshot that we used for one of the party games.

This is the first birthday that Aunt Stefanie hasn’t been able to make David’s birthday cake–and I’m no baking brainchild (as in, I’m not patient enough to make those beautiful detailed cakes that I oggle on Pinterest). As a consolation, I told David we could make whatever kind of cupcake he wanted.  David wanted red, blue and yellow cupcakes (because those are the colors of his favorite Angry Birds). Done. We took one box of white cake mix, divided the batter into 3 bowls, added a different color of food coloring to each bowl, and baked the cupcakes. After licking out all 3 bowls of cupcake batter it was time for David’s next job: decorating. I frosted all of the cupcakes, set out bowls of sprinkles, and invited David  to unleash his artistic side. I can’t remember the last time I saw him this concentrated on a single task.

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After the cupcakes were decorated we inserted some homemade cake toppers and–TA-DA!–red, yellow and blue Angry Bird cupcakes.

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I had a lot of fun planning the menu for the party. The party was at 4:30, so we had snacks and “light dinner” fare.  Our menu included:

– “Angry Bird BBQ” (Pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches)
– “Angry Eggs” (Deviled eggs)
– “Smashed Piggies” (fruit salad made with green grapes, strawberries and raspberries)
– “Broken Towers” (veggie sticks and dip)
– “Twigs” (pretzel sticks)
– “Nests” (chips)
– “Bird Nectar” (juice)

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After dinner we brought out the cupcakes for a little “Happy Birthday” time. David stared blankly at us while we sang but he still performed expertly in the candle-blowing-out department:

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And, before he got too covered in frosting, we managed to snap a family photo (thank you to Rachel for stopping everyone and insisting we do this. Somehow I always forget stuff like this!). We were so blessed to have my parents visiting us all the way from Seattle this week to share in David’s special day!

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After we all filled our tummies, it was time for some fun and games. I found a book that had about a dozen make-your-own Angry Bird masks in it, so before the party David and I put them all together for the kids to wear. Everyone looks relatively happy in this photo, but that’s only because you can’t actually see their faces. The kids were TERRIFIED of the masks. As soon as we started putting them on, the babies started crying and kids were hiding behind their moms. Note to self: the preschool crowd is NOT entertained by face-hiding, person-shifting deception devices like masks. Moving on.

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One of the kids’ favorite party games is called “Pass the Parcel”. To play, you just wrap a small gift (packets of candy in our case) with wrapping paper, then you wrap that package and another small gift inside another layer of paper, and then that package along with another small gift inside another layer, and so on. At the party, the kids pass the parcel around a circle while music is playing (kind of like musical chairs)–then, when the music stops, whoever has the parcel gets to open it and keep the gift that’s inside. The game continues until all of the layers of the parcel has been unwrapped (and, if your planning is good, every child walks away with a treat).

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We also played “Pin the Angry Bird on the Slingshot”. I just printed off a picture of the Angry Birds slingshot and several angry bird pictures, cut them out, and put tape balls on the back of the Angry Birds. Each child got a different Angry Bird and had a turn to try to get their bird in the center of the slingshot (the older kids were blindfolded, but we let the babies cheat a bit).

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By the time games were over, it was already starting to get late and we moved on to presents. David received so many generous gifts from his friends and family! Toys and games and clothes and movies–incredible. And he really did appreciate them–it was awesome to see David go up to each friend and thank them for their gift after it was opened.

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It was a truly memorable birthday. I am so grateful we could celebrate this milestone with so many loved ones, near and far.

David: you are my sunshine and, no matter how big you get, you will always be my baby. Happy 3rd birthday, little David!

Happy Birthday, Bota!

Today is a very special day: our dog’s birthday. Now a dog’s birthday may not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve just spent countless hours and thousands of dollars arranging travel for your dog to move halfway around the world–it’s a big deal. At least, I’m going to make it a big deal.  Plus, I love any excuse to celebrate (read: eat cake) and I really do love my dog (thus my willingness to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars to move her halfway around the world). So, happy birthday, Bota! We’re going to celebrate you in style.

Bota turned 7 today, which is 49 in dog-years: she’s officially over the hill. If she were a human she’d already be scrutinizing her 401-K and buying a Harley Davidson. To us, though, she will always be our “baby”. It seems like just yesterday that we were bringing our tiny puppy home from the Christmas tree farm where she was born:

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Bota is a trusted companion and she has been through a lot with us. She’s an expert at moving, and has helped us transition to 3 new homes:

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She has been my hiking/running/exploring partner who is always up for an adventure and who never lets me sit around getting lazy for too long:

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And she has helped us raise our boys (Dogs and boys are a great combination, by the way. They have a lot in common: both love getting dirty, running around in circles until they pass out, and conspiring to destroy my house one piece at a time).

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Today we decided to celebrate our puppy-friend with a birthday party just for her. We had some delicious party food: Hot Doggies for dinner and David “helped” me bake a cake for dessert (which Bota can’t eat but, really, I do love any excuse to bake a cake!):

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We played some party games: ball-throwing and TWO walks in the woods!

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And no party would be complete without some festive party wear. Bota even tolerated her party hat long enough for me to snap a photo:

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Happy birthday, Bota! You really are man’s (and woman’s, and boys’) best friend!

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A Love Letter To My Baby On His First Birthday

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Today is my baby’s first birthday. How did that happen? I really can’t believe that it’s already been a year–turns out, time moves forward in warp speed when you have two young children. Each day is a balancing act of making memories and basic survival. I’ve mostly got the survival part down now, and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job in the “making memories” department this year, as well.

When I was pregnant with my first child I started writing him letters. I didn’t know who this baby would be yet, but I already knew that I loved him. I wrote my first “baby love letter” the day I found out I was pregnant–and I continued writing to him throughout my pregnancy. I did the same thing with my second child, and I still write my boys letters periodically. Whenever something important happens I will write my son a letter to let him know what I was thinking and feeling in that moment. I want to capture the memories.

Maybe some day when my boys are much older and I give them these letters, they’ll enjoy seeing what was going on in their crazy mom’s mind as they were growing up. And, even if they don’t appreciate them, I know that I’ll be glad I wrote down my thoughts during this busy time in our life where I usually can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.

I always hand-write the letters–there’s something so much more personal and intimate about a hand-written letter. It shows that I took the time and the care to pull out some nice paper and get sore fingers from gripping the pen. I start by writing the date, location, and age of my son at the top of the page. The rest is just my un-edited thoughts–whatever first comes to my mind get’s put on the page.

So, on this most momentous of days, I had to write a letter to my dear little Jacob (transcription below). Happy birthday, little snuggle bear!

July 26, 2013
Cork, Ireland
You are 1 year old!

Dear Jacob,

Wow–I can’t believe you are already ONE! Where did this year go?! It seems like just yesterday that I met you and held your sweet, tiny body next to mine for the first time. And, yet, here we are a whole year later.

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This has been a truly remarkable year. You have grown and changed so much from that tiny bundle we brought home last July. Now you are crawling all over the place– gotta keep up with your big brother David! you pull up on furniture and even try to climb the stairs. For most of this year you’ve been content to stay where I put you, but now your adventurous side is starting to come out! I hope that as you grow older you are bold to take new risks–and that you learn from your journeys, no matter the outcome.

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0251Speaking of journeys, this has been quite the year of journeys for you! At 12 months old you’ve already seen more of the world than many people get to see in their lives. We’ve taken you all around the great state of Washington, to Arizona, to California, and even 2 trips to Europe!

About 2 weeks ago we moved to Cork, Ireland. Your dad and I were just talking about how your first memories in life will take place here in Ireland. Your first steps, first conversations, and first friends will all begin in this beautiful place. We know that as you get older you probably won’t remember a lot about our years here in Ireland, but I hope that our time here will lay a strong foundation for your life.

On this very special day, Jacob, I am praying for you and your foundation. My greatest hope and prayer for you is that with each passing day and each passing year you will grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. If you’ve got Jesus, you will be set for life. Don’t ever forget that!

I pray that you will always draw close to God–the same way that you draw close to me now whenever you are tired or scared or needing some extra love. God will give you rest, He will protect you, and–most importantly–He will always love you. He is the only one who could ever possible love you more than I do–and that’s a big, big love!

I love you, Jacob Daniel. I love your cuddles, I love your giggles, I love your little snarl nose, I love your laid-back approach to life (I’m learning a bit of this from you already!). I love the way you trill your tongue when you’re upset and the way you bubble your lips when you’re happy. I love your curly hair, your bright blue eyes and your chubby little thighs. I love the way you play with my hair ALL THE TIME (thanks to you, my new–and only–hairstyle is a tight bun). I love the way you watch to learn, the way you imitate those around you, and the way you tolerate–even enjoy–your brother’s antics. You are a very special boy, Jacob, and I love you very much.

Happy first birthday to my sweet little son. May this be just the beginning of many wonderful years to come! Thank you for letting me be your mommy!

Love,
Mama

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Note: If you enjoyed reading this post, check out my most recent letter to Jacob for his second birthday! Read the letter here.

Happy (30th) Birthday To Me!

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Whelp. It’s here. Today I turn 30–THE BIG 3-0! This seems like quite the milestone, so I felt like I should devote a post here to my thoughts on entering a new decade of life. I’ve had a lot of people asking me if I’m nervous about turning 30. Contrary to what some people may expect, I’m actually quite excited about it. The truth is, I’ve been waiting a long time for this birthday!

This will just go to show what a precocious child I was, but I have dreamed of this day since I was a little girl. I remember driving somewhere with my mom–I was about 5 years old–and I was frustrated about something that I couldn’t do yet (I don’t remember exactly what it was–maybe it was being able to drive a car, or getting to choose the radio station or, most likely, having the authority to tell someone younger than me what they should or should not do). At any rate, I was feeling rather remorse and I asked my mom how old she was. “33,” she told me. That’s it, I decided–once I reach that age, I will have it made. And from that moment on I have dreamed of being in my 30’s.

Some people associate this magic age with being “old”–it seems like every woman just wants to remain in her 20’s forever (like a certain friend of mine who, on every birthday, says “I’m 29 for the __th time”). I remember seeing an episode of Friends where Rachel turned 30 and it was such a big deal–they acted like she was dying or something! For me, though, it’s just the opposite. Gone are my 20’s when I had to worry about passing college exams, getting that cute boy in the front row to notice me, and start a career. I am moving on now to bigger and better things.

I feel like I have finally hit my prime. My body is strong–I’m even running a half-marathon this weekend to prove to myself that I’ve still got “it”. I have everything I could possibly want at this point in my life–a loving husband, two beautiful babies, wonderful friends, and a comfortable home to share life with my loved ones. And life just keeps getting more exciting–with our Big Move coming up shortly I don’t even know what my life will look like a year from now. And I think that’s amazing–that at 30 years old I can have both stability and adventure, the known paired with the unknown.

So, happy 30th birthday to me. Little 5-year old Allison, you can stop waiting for better days. They have arrived. Carpe diem.

DIY iDad Father’s Day/Birthday Card For A Tech-Savvy Dad

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My kids are incredibly lucky. They have an amazing daddy who loves them with all of his heart. He does so much for all of us, and I want to make sure that he knows how much we appreciate him.

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With Father’s Day coming up, I decided to make him an extra-special one-of-a-kind card that is suited just to him. Jon is, shall we say, a “techy” guy. He is an electrical engineer, so all things technology-oriented are right up his alley. He loves gadgets–and he loves no other gadgets more than his iDevices. This week I counted up the Apple devices currently in use in our house and we have 13 of them. THIRTEEN! Yes, the man loves his iThings. Nothing seemed more appropriate, then, than an Apple-inspired Father’s Day card.

I call this the “iDad” (kinda looks like an iPad…hehe!). This is not a totally original idea, but I thought it would make a cute Father’s Day (or birthday!) card. Here’s the how-to if you want to give it a try:

DIY iDad Father’s Day Card

Materials:
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  • 2 pieces each of black and white cardstock (Or you can do a cardstock hack like I did. I just printed off two black rectangles from my computer and glued them to old file folders. I glued plain white computer paper to the back side of the file folders and cut them out so that one side was black and the other side was white.)
  • Paper cutter or scissors
  • Xacto knife or box cutter (and a cutting mat or other cutting surface, NOT your nice dining room table!)
  • white crayon or colored pencil
  • standard white glue and/or spray adhesive glue
  • app icons (I printed mine from this site. I just did a Google search for app icons and looked under images–there were lots of pictures to choose from. I also printed off some small photos of Jon and the boys that I cut down to the same size as the app icons.)

Directions:

  • Glue your black and white cardstock back-to-back so one side is black and the other side is white. I used spray adhesive glue for this because it dries quickly, sticks better, and leaves no wrinkles, but standard glue would work just fine. After the glue has dried, cut each piece down to the same size (whatever size you want your card to be).
  • Cut out the app icons you want to use and arrange them on top of one piece of black cardstock. I used 12 app icons on my card. Once you have them set up how you like them, glue each app icon into place.
  • Use the white crayon to draw the home button under the app icons. If you want to, you can also put an apple on the other piece of black cardstock (I happened to have apple stickers lying around from one of our many Apple product purchases).
  • Using an xacto knife, cut down the sides and bottom of each app icon so you can lift them from the bottom like a tab (do NOT cut the top of the app icon).
  • After you have cut each app icon into a tab, glue the two pieces of cardstock together back-t0-back so the black side is showing on each side. Make sure you don’t put any glue on the back of the app icons! Put something heavy on top of the card and let it dry flat for a few hours.
  • After your card is dry, lift each app icon tab and write a little Father’s Day sentiment. Under my tabs I wrote things like “Happy Father’s Day” (for the notes app), “We love you!” (for the photo of Jon with our boys), “You’re off the charts!” (for a stock quote app), and “Father’s Day: June 16, 2013” (for the calendar app).

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  • Present your card to Dad and watch his little techy heart melt!
The "iDad" card next to a real iPad. Can you tell which is which? :)

The “iDad” card next to a real iPad. Can you tell which is which? 🙂

To all of you amazing father’s out there, thank you for all that you do! Enjoy your special day, dads!

Date With My Dad: The Seattle Great Wheel, Dahlia Lounge, and…A Mishap

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My dad and I have a tradition of going out for a “Daddy-Daughter Date” for my birthday. We’ve done this every year since I was a little girl, and it’s something I always look forward to. My birthday is not until June but, with our big move looming on the horizon, we decided to do our date a bit early this year before things get too crazy.

I wanted to do something Seattle-y, so we went downtown for a little adventure. We started at the Seattle Great Wheel, a giant new ferris wheel on the Seattle waterfront.

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My dad had called ahead and scheduled us for the VIP treatment at the wheel. We got to go to the very front of the line where they had some nice cushy chairs–thrones, if you will– waiting for us so we didn’t have to stand while we were waiting to board. Then we got to ride in a deluxe “pod”–instead of the usual benches we got nice leather chairs with seat warmers, we had a port where we could plug in our phones for music, and we had a glass bottom on our pod so we could see below us as we lifted into the air and over the water.

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We even got T-shirts and a champagne toast! The views weren’t too shabby either.

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It really was a fun experience and I would definitely go back there with my tourist-friends (hint, hint–anyone want to come up for a visit?!).

After the Wheel we hailed a cab (my first time actually waving one down–can’t believe I’d never done that before!) and headed back downtown for dinner. We dined at Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Lounge and it was incredible. We had fresh baked bread from the Dahlia Bakery, Tuscan Bread Salad (probably the best salad I’ve ever eaten), and spice-rubbed pork. Delicious. Everything was just amazing. We finished off the meal with the most decadent Coconut Creme Pie, also from the Dahlia Bakery. Everything was perfect.

Until…

After dinner my dad walked me across the street to the parking garage where I’d parked my car (such a gentleman!). When we got there, however, there was something a bit strange–all of the garage doors were shut. Hmmm….

We took the elevator down to the level where my car was parked and saw that the parking attendant was still in his kiosk. Alright, I thought, they must just close the garage doors when it’s getting late so nobody else will come in to park. Well, that’s partly true. But they also close the garage doors when it’s getting late so nobody will go out.

Turns out my garage closed at 8:00 (who closes anything at 8:00???) and we were there at 8:03. And that parking attendant? He was just locking up the kiosk and in the 1 minute (literally one minute, I was parked as close to the exit as you could be parked) that it took me to get there, he was gone. Vanished. Never to be seen again.

All of the phone numbers in the parking garage took me to centralized answering stations somewhere NOT in Seattle and all they could say was, “Well, someone will be back tomorrow.” Tomorrow. Uggh.

So, long story short (OK, long story long) my helpful dad drove me all the way back home (in the opposite direction of his home, by the way). Then, at 5 AM this morning (WOOHOO!) my ever-endearing husband drove me and two sleepy children back down to Seattle to retrieve my poor, caged-up car before Dear Husband had to get to work. Lesson learned: always know when things close if you need them to be open.

It was a birthday date we will always remember–for better and worse!