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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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!

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

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

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.