A Letter to My Boys

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Dear Hooper, Van, & Sonny,

You lost one of your Great Grandmothers, Norma Jean (aka Nanny), on the 14th. We drove out to Arizona two days later to attend the funeral. Hooper, my sweet firstborn, you cried; water welled up behind those innocent eyes. You couldn’t stand seeing anyone hurt and saying goodbye made you sad. Van, you stayed close to me for most of the ceremony and, picking up on the emotion in the room, whispered that you loved me. And Sonny, you sat still for about 20 minutes (which truthfully is 20 minutes longer than I anticipated) until you could wave no more to the people behind you and had to be removed; the back of the church, your playground. You crawled wildly, filled with an energy only sugar could fuel. Though you had none.

We drove home through a storm, the rain falling harder than I’d venture to say you guys have seen before; a testament not solely to your limited life experience but more so to the weight of the water falling. Visibility bad enough to necessitate driving with our hazard lights on only to give way to a break in the storm. A part in the clouds. A sliver of blue skies. And a rainbow, fully visible, end to end.

May you hold tight onto memories. Of loved ones, of laughter, of storms, and, of rainbows.

I love you boys,


First & Third Born

brothers San Clemente Family Photographer-42I intentionally have not googled anything in regards to any ‘middle child syndrome’ for fear of some self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I was pregnant with Sonny, I fooled myself into thinking there’d be no chance of such a thing trickling into our lives based on the fact Hooper and Van are so close in age; only 19 months separating them. I assumed Sonny would be a lone duck, which initiated my half-jokingly campaign for a fourth. I envisioned the boys being, well, bros and Sonny, who is 3.5 years younger than Van, being more-or-less on his own.

I’m still not sure what the ‘middle child syndrome’ is about, but I’m starting to gain some insight through my own observations (check me out, Google… didn’t need ya after all). Van has been the most challenging over the past few months and I can’t help but think that hindsight will draw a closer connection between his behavior and the arrival of Sonny and his new found position as the ‘middle child’.

Hooper is older and has lived to welcome a younger brother in Van, and now again, with Sonny. The transition has not only been easy for him, but it’s been filled with genuine brotherly love. The connection between Hooper and Sonny is strong and if I need help, Hooper is oftentimes the first I call on. And he seems to enjoy offering a helping hand. Even his teacher mentioned that he’s taken a liking to the responsibility of cleaning up the tables after centers, which I think coincides with the pride and fulfillment he feels when helping me with Sonny and household duties.

So while I want to take a needle and continuously poke at the center of my eyeballs when dealing with Van, I’m quite happy watching the innate connection between Hooper and Sonny. And I have a sneaking suspicion all of this has everything to do with this new-to-me middle child syndrome, that I really was hoping was not a thing but certainly is proving to be a thing. Unless it’s a age-related, because dem’ fucking fours (that’s what we call them) are just around the corner and we all know – or at least our experience has shown – nothing makes you want to take a needle to your eye more than the lows of a four-year-old.

In any event, let’s just concentrate on the beautiful connection between first and third born and then try your hand at convincing me this middle child thing will pass. Okay, thanks.


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Hooper, you’re becoming the master manipulator, like when you knew you weren’t allowed to watch TV so you had Van bring the remote control to Papa and had him ask instead. When questioned about it you replied, “I have Van do my jobs for me”.


Me: “If you don’t want Hooper to pull your hair, we can cut it”
Van: “Nooooo, I want to keep my hair on”


“Let me help him get on that booby”, said by you, Hooper, when Sonny was pecking like a wood pecker looking for my nipple. You also asked if we could call Sonny ‘drinker’ because he ‘drinks’ a lot.
“We better get out of here, Mom’s got serious face” – Van
We were at the beach when Hooper, you came running up to me while I was nursing Sonny, tears streaming down your face as you said, “My brother! My brother! He’s hurt”. Turns out that Van, you had stepped on a cactus, it’s thorn stuck a solid inch into your foot. You two may fight like cats and dogs, but you’re very protective of one another as well.


Van, whenever you have a friend over to play, you protect Hooper’s toys saying, “Don’t play with that, it’s my brothers”.


While cleaning out under the sofa:
Me: “Why is there so much garbage under the sofa?”
Van: “Well, sometimes we forget where the garbage is” (master of excuses)
Van to Hooper: “Hahahaha, look at Mom’s butt up in the air” (said as I’m crouched down like the bitch that I am picking up their trash)


Hooper & Van, I caught you both upstairs with your baseball gloves on using one of Sonny’s rolled up poop filled diapers as a ball.


I found you both in the downstairs bathroom with the door shut. Van, you were taking a dump and Hooper, you were dispensing candy that you had stashed away and hidden under the bathroom sink. I didn’t stop it nor confiscate the candy because it seemed as if hiding from your mom in the bathroom, taking a dump together, and eating stolen candy is like a right of passage.


“Let’s chase her and put peanuts in her butt” – Van to Hooper in regards to Hooper’s on-again-off-again girlfriend at school.


Hooper: “Mama, how come Sonny’s balls are bigger than mine?” (said while watching me change Sonny’s diaper while simultaneously pulling his underwear down to compare)

Me: “Because when you’re cold your balls get smaller”

Van: “Ya, his are bigger than mine too!!” (also pulls down his underwear to compare)

Hooper: (pointing at Van’s penis) “Look Van, your peep is big!”

Van: (proceeds to flex his “peep”, making it go up and down)


“Mama, he’s copying my words” – said by either of you depending on who’s being the copycat asshole in the present moment.


Then there was the sword fight in the bathroom that ended in a real fight and resulted on a fair amount of urine on the wall. At least you guys didn’t make fun of my butt while I cleaned it up.


Hooper: “Mama, I know why Sonny is crying”
Me: “Why?”
Hooper: “I pinched him because he pulled my hair”

My Boys

San Clemente Family Photographer-4621 San Clemente Family Photographer-4640“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding he is exactly the person he’s supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, he might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.” -The Water Giver

Post Birth Ramblings

San Clemente Family Photographer-3749 Sonny San Clemente Family Photographer-3914Hooper came home from school with his belly button painted purple and red looking like a makeup artist got ahold of him and gave his belly button a good bruising. When questioned about it, he said he wanted his belly button to look like Sonny’s.

As Sonny laid curled up into me in the hospital bed, I couldn’t help but think how the kicks from him while inside me were so reminiscent of the kicks I felt with him lying next to me.

One of the nurses commented as I ate my meal over a breastfeeding Sonny that I must not be a first time mom. It sure is a lot easier the third time around.

I’ve always said that the newborn phase isn’t really for Willy and I, that we’d rather jump right into the toddler phase. But I guess with each child you gain a better sense of just how fleeting and unforgiving time is and for whatever reason, I’m really enjoying this newborn phase. Willy too.

Questions asked by the boys: Why doesn’t he open his eyes? Can we watch him suck your booby? Mama, when are you going to fill your belly up again? When will he be able to tell jokes?

Hooper broke out into full crocodile tears when he had to go home from the hospital without Sonny and I. Through choked up words and flowing tears, he said, “I want mama and Sonny to come home too”. Broke. My. Heart. He also cried heavily after Jimmie accidentally scratched Sonny.

Highlights from the hospital: lavender towels delivered by the sweetest of volunteers and home made chocolate chip cookies.

My first day home I watched Van pick a very large sized booger and was actually relieved when he put it in his mouth, allowing me to stay sitting on my injured lady parts.

Van, being to boob man that he is, shared the following observation: “Wow, mama, that is the biggest I have ever seen your booby”. Followed by, “Can I squeeze it?”.

Speaking of boobs, Hooper made one out of his legos. He used a long stick looking lego for the nipple and it resembled the fembots from Austin Powers.

Jimmie spent the first week of Sonny’s life rather out of sorts. He welcomed him home by peeing all over the hallway floor, the stairs, and the landing area.

I’ve rediscovered sleeping on my back, which never felt like something to write home about before but is nothing short of a privilege now.

My doctor’s response when I told him we’d like to save the placenta, “Um, okay. Gross”.

The following conversation took place:
Van: “How come your tummy is still big?”
Me: “Cuz there’s still gunk in there”.
Van: “But gunk only comes out of your ears”.

Willy, on having another boy: “It’s nice not having to wipe poop out of a vagina”…

My vagina itched in the worst way possible following the delivery. It’s one thing to be awoken by your newborn baby, but it’s an entirely different thing to be awoken by my own labia. In any event, desitin worked magically. Take notes.

I had made a list of things to do once I felt labor coming on on the back of a tear away calendar. When I came home from the hospital, I turned the list over only to discover that I had written it on March 17. Here I am visiting the magic eight ball’s website trying to figure out when this baby would come when all I had to do was look on the back of my pre-labor to-do list.

Van peed in his bed one night, followed by throwing up in his bed the night after that. Willy has been in charge of household duties so Van spent the next two nights sleeping on semi-barf sheets.

I texted my mom “shit just got real” the morning Van woke up with said throw up. I thought that day would be the day that would do me in but it was the next day, when Van was back to being healthy, that the first I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this tears started flowing. Luckily, they came and went.

I’m eating my placenta, which sounds better than the truth which is I had it encapsulated. I’ve never had post partum depression but as soon as I heard that it could* help with post partum hair loos, you better believe I was in.

Sonny’s belly button stump smells like an ape’s armpit. We ended up using alcohol on it to speed up the falling-off-process and I’m happy to report that the problem has been resolved.

Willy caught a video of me giving birth and I’ve only been able to watch it once or twice. In fact, every time Sonny cries that high-pitched newborn cry I am reminded of that video and equally troubled as the first time I saw it.

Sonny’s balls are the size of the rock of Gibraltar.

Van refers to the suction/bottle part of my breast pump as “water blasters” and has taken to carrying them around the house, one in each hand, shooting them like you would a gun.

Hooper asked if he could carry Sonny down the stairs, pointing out the fact he’s 5 and therefore totally trustworthy.


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I overheard you guys up in your room laughing and saying “Let’s go show mom our poo butts”. Moments later you both came running into my room, naked, and started sticking your little bums in my face.
You self sufficiently made yourselves your own breakfast the other morning. It consisted of leftover stale Cheetos. Which you shared. So there is that.

I had to break up a fight that involved one of you with your peep out threatening to pee on the other.

You’re both in a stick-your-tongue-out and spit phase. That’s fun.

You fight over cars that we pass by. It goes a little something like this, “Wow, Hoo-par, check out that coo car”, to-which-Hooper, you say, “I want it!”. This is always followed by an additional “No! I want it!”. And a full on fight breaks out over a car that doesn’t belong to any of us.

Along the same lines you recently saw a car tugging a boat and fought over who would be the captain.

You both like to take all your clothes off and tackle on the sofa. Not sure why you have to be naked for this to happen, but it’s definitely become a thing.

Every once in a blue moon you’re embrace each other with arms wide open and almost sarcastically say “it’s so nice to see you” as you embrace. I’m pretty sure you’re mocking me, but whatever.

We’ve caught you trying to kiss one another’s buttholes. It’s gotten to the point that your Papa and I have decided that the next time we see it happen we’re washing both of your mouths out with soap and water.

Hooper, you always want to wake Van up while he’s napping. Just. Can’t. Wait. To. Play. And then fight.

We put you to bed the other night but then found both of you, completely naked, standing in your bathroom pointing and laughing at the pee Van made on the floor. We re-dressed you and put you back in bed because doing it twice is so much more fun. As is cleaning up pee.

I’m realizing a lot of these tidbits have to do with poo, pee, butts and private parts, spit, or nudity. Welcome to our life at the moment.



You don’t even know how much you love each other. Despite fighting often, you long for one another. Whenever Van is sleeping, you, Hooper, want to make him up. And when you play together, it’s clear you adore one another. You are best friends whether you want to admit it to yourselves or not, though sometimes you do actually refer to one another as your best friend. So there’s that.
Hooper, you convinced Van to carry your boots that were bothering you on a hike. Van, you were stoked to be carrying the boots and seemed unaware that you were manipulated into carrying them.
Van, you’re better at sharing with Hooper than Hooper is at sharing with you.
You both call fire hydrants “firemen boo-pas” and Ninja Turtles “engine turtles” and every now and again you both refer to me as “Coco” (no idea why) or “Princess” (also no idea why); the latter not as delightful as it sounds when said in the context in which it’s used, “Princess, can you make me a snack?” or “Clean my butt, Princess”.
You defend each other. If one of you gets in trouble, the other one will say “stop being mean to my brother”.  Anytime you get in trouble, it’s obviously justified, but I can’t help setting my anger aside when you stand up for one another.
You both love the song “You & Me” by Penny & The Quarters. You both ask, “Mama, was dis song?” every time it comes on.
I came home to a large pile of hair on the counter. I’m pretty sure you left a bald spot on Hooper’s head that will take a least a year to grow back. Van, you can be relentless with your hair pulling. You’re lucky we shave your head.

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An Interview

Dear Hooper & Van,
My days with you two are rarely easy. You both have a ton of energy and when you’re going, you go non-stop. And yet, I don’t want these days to ever end. I want to remember everything about them. Here’s a small attempt at doing so. I hope one day you will enjoy these videos.

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Hooper tells Van to put his finger in the fan. He’ll do almost anything Hooper tells him to do. He’s touched several cacti around the house, per Hooper’s request.
Dance parties. They involve both boys hopping around on one foot and pumping one arm up in the air like a monkey.
They get upset about imaginary things that don’t even really happen, like when Hooper pretends to poor water out of an empty tube and Van comes crying to me about Hooper dumping water on him. Or when they’re strapped into their car seats and Hooper says, “Van, I’m going to hit you” even though he can’t even reach him and Van cries and tells on Hooper for hitting him.
They get asked often if they’re twins. It’s hard for me to see; they’re so different developmentally.
They spend the majority of their time at home in the garage, where they ride their bikes in small circles or build forts or play with dead cockroaches.
The other morning I heard Hoop say, “Van, your hair is so awkward”.
Both ask to see their poo. If I’m changing Van’s diaper, Hooper wants to see it. If Hooper takes a dump in the toilet, Van wants to see it. And Hooper wants to tell everyone all about his dumps.
Along the same lines, Hooper prefers that Van take him to the bathroom. Willy and I are always asked to wait outside, but he’ll pull Van by the hand and ask him to take him potty. I can hear them whispering to one another about really random things through the door.
They’re both eating a lot of raspberries because they like putting them on their fingers and eating them off. They giggle at one another the whole time.
Van is only bothered by a toy being taken from him half of the time. Unfortunately, this happens 1,000 times a day which means I’m guaranteed to referee at least 500 fights.

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An Interview

It’s always my intention to do these more often because they grow and change so fast. It’s not easy to get them to sit still and it takes some time to edit the pieces together, so despite the fact Hooper answered so many questions wrong to questions he normally knows the answer to, I decided to post anyway. I’ll force myself to do another before Summer is over. Hope you enjoy.
The Stork & The Beanstalk on Vimeo.

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It’s monkey see, monkey do around these parts as of late with Van being the monkey that sees and then the monkey that does but probably shouldn’t have. Like the day Hooper kept kicking me in the leg and you, Van, came up and started doing the same. Or when I scold Hooper for spitting only to turn around and find saliva catapulting out of your mouth. 
You still have a “hands-on” relationship and though the fighting has lessened to some degree, it definitely still exists. And whether it’s intentional or not, you both have battle wounds to show for it. Like the day you, Hooper, were running behind Van and accidentally sent him flying forward onto his face resulting in a nice size scrape next to his left eye. Or the other day when you both met around a corner resulting in your first shiner and a little bruise on Van’s forehead as well. 
You do like one another from time to time. The other day you, Van, brought Hooper his sippy cup and every now and again you, Hooper, will help your brother down from a step on the playground. These moments are few and far between, but ya know, they are there.

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A portrait of my boys, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: Still sucks the thumb on his left hand and uses his right hand for what we’ve coined “hand hat”. I’m filing it under “things I never want to forget about my children”. I miss the days Hooper used to suck on his two fingers, so I’m savoring these days – while they last – with Van.
Hooper: Waiting for his turn on the tractor. He seemed content with his initial tractor ride until he got down and Van climbed up, at-which-point he solemnly waited for another turn. Oh, brotherhood.
Click here to check out the series, in its entirety

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A few things about boys

As the mother of two boys, I cannot speak on behalf of raising a girl. What I can say is that when I was a teenager, I told my mom I hated her. More than once. I remember a senior trip to Mexico that my friends and I all planned on going to to celebrate graduation from high school. High school, as in I was seventeen and wanting to go to Mexico… where they flip you upside down and shake you after taking shots of tequila so it gets to your brain faster and where you can buy just about anything you need a prescription for here without a prescription, like Viagra. Not that I wanted Viagra or to be shook upside down for that matter. I couldn’t understand, at the time, why my mom wouldn’t let me go (somehow my dad got out of these things scotch-free… all my disgust was always directed toward my mom even when the decisions – like not allowing me to go to Mexico – were made between the two of them). Every boundary felt so personal; it never felt like a decision made for my personal well-being but instead like a decision made to ruin my life. In hindsight, it was out of love, of course.
When I became pregnant with Van a lot of the other nurses at work were hoping it was a girl. People told me I needed a girl. I couldn’t, and still can’t, wrap my head around needinga daughter. Karma is a bitch, so-they-say, and – well – the idea of having a daughter who will eventually hate me when I won’t let her go to Mexico because of fear she’d be gang raped doesn’t sound so peachy. When I found out Van was indeed a boy, there was a lot of sighs and encouragement to have a third. Willy wanted Van to be a girl as well. I always wanted him to be a boy. I always knew, even before becoming pregnant, that I would be a mother to boys. And yet, I felt this weird sort of disappointment when I found out Van was a boy; it was a feeling similar to “another husband?”… “but I already have one of those“. As the reality sunk in, it hit me that my disappointment was not disappointment at all but rather projected disappointment that others were feeling for me. It clouded my own excitement for what I instinctively knew all along: I was going to be the mother to two boys.
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I cannot sit at my computer for more than five minutes without one of my munchkins climbing onto my lap and requesting to watch a tractor video. These are not cartoons, but literally tractors working on construction sites. I know all about excavators, vacuum trucks, impact hammers, bulldozers, and dump trucks. Every Friday, you’ll find the three of us sitting curbside as the garbage trucks go by. Outside our front door is a beloved pile of sticks. I’ve had a worm in my bed. Hooper has told me he likes the dress I have on and he rubs my arm in a sweet loving embrace and tells me he loves me multiple times a day.
Sure, there will be hard times with boys too. It isn’t always going to be easy and fun. It isn’t always easy and fun even now. They too may hate me one day when I don’t let them go to Mexico. The point being, I don’t think I’m missing out.
I think of having a third often. The more my body heals, the less daunting it seems. I’ve always said I wanted three. And, for the record, it won’t be a final attempt at having a girl. I would love three boys.

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There was a point in time, mostly around the holidays, that you guys could not keep your hands off one another. I think a lot of it, in hindsight, had to do with all the gifts and new toys. Too many things to fight over. Hooper, you liked to do this drop kick maneuver that inevitably ended with you on top of Van. You guys were at each other non-stop; biting, pushing, shoving, toy-stealing, hair pulling… it seemed ending. You both had battle wounds to show for it; bite marks, bruises, and even some missing tufts of hair. The last few weeks, however, have been much smoother and you guys actually seem to be enjoying one another.  
Van, you get jealous when Hooper and I cuddle. You also do not like sharing my lap with Hooper when I read you guys a book.  
You like to “cheers” your cups together, Van more so than Hooper.  
You have screaming contests. It’s awesome when you do this in public.
Hooper, you see it as your duty to reprimand Van. When I tell Van to stop or scold him, you are quick to jump in and hit him.
Van, your defense is pulling Hooper’s hair. I’ve considered shaving Hooper’s head because it looks so painful.  
Every now and again, I’ll catch you guys playing in a room peacefully. My heart practically beats out of my chest when I overhear you, Hooper, teaching your brother something or directing him in some way or another. More and more you guys are becoming friends and it’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold. There are even times, as shown above, that you even  – dare I say – console your little brother.

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Malibu Creek

Oh there is something to be said for allowing time for boys to be boys. Skipping rocks, collecting sticks, dirt under the nails… it’s all part of childhood and it’s such a beautiful thing. I still need help getting the boys to and fro, but

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regardless, it’s been so nice to be feeling better and getting out a little bit more. I feel as though I’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months and I much prefer skipping rocks into the creek instead.

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Childhood Unplugged

The toy store is still safe. And by “safe”, I mean we can take them there without them thinking they can have everything; or anything for that matter (note to self: don’t take Van away from the bikes). We came home empty handed and without any tears (any lingering tears, that is), so I came home and wrote this day down in the books because I’m pretty sure it was the last time we’ll be so lucky.
Please click here to see the submissions of my fellow photographers taking part in the Childhood Unplugged movement. And remember to follow on facebook and instagram (use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured). 

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Hooper, you’ve taken to holding Van’s hand and leading him around. I’m not gonna lie, I couldn’t wait for Van to walk for the pure joy of watching you walk side by side. It really is a beautiful thing.
When you’re not holding hands, you two are at each other constantly. Hooper, you’re lucky you’re still bigger than your soon-to-be little-big-bro because one of these days he’s going to tackle you. And I may even pretend not to see. You can be so mean at times; biting him, grabbing his arm with all your might (note photo above with your teeth clinched n’ all), pushing him (especially from behind when he has no idea it’s coming), and taking every toy away that he manages to get his hands on. Some days it’s just easier to put on Curious George so we can all have a moment of peace.
Van, you copy everything Hooper does. If he’s fixing his wheel with a hammer, as soon as you can get that hammer, you’ll bend down and mimic exactly what Hooper was doing. You really idolize your big brother and take so much pride in doing the things he does.
Hooper, you like to “help” wash Van in the bathtub. This consists of rubbing soap on his back and dumping water on his head. It’s really a big “help”.
Hooper, you love to hold Van’s cheeks in your hands and say “ca-uuuuut”. You also enjoy giving him a hug and a kiss every night before bed.

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“Now then, Pooh,” said Chirstopher Robin, “where’s your boat?”
“I ought to say,” explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, “that it isn’t just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it’s a Boat, and sometimes it’s more of an Accident. It all depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“On whether I’m on the top of it or underneath it.”
-A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
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Van, you scoot a lot faster when Hooper’s bottle is within sight. Hooper, you know your brother is fond of your cup. I watched the other day as you moved your cup close enough for Van to reach, waited for him to put his hands on it, at-which-point you grabbed the cup and ran away.
You were both playing with door. Van, you put your hand down on the ground and, Hooper, you proceeded to close the door over Van’s hand on purpose.
Van, you love grabbing Hooper’s hair. We’ve found a screaming toddler only to look down and discover a fistful of blond locks in your grimmy hand. You can be kinda aggressive.
Van, you love to make your way to Hooper’s room every night as Papa gets Hooper ready for bed. Hooper, each night as you put on your pajamas and brush your teeth, your brother is sitting in the doorway, watching. He idolizes your world.
Hooper, we played airplane the other day and with your chest resting on the bottoms of my feet high up in the air, you waved to your brother who was below, “Hi brodher”.
In general, you two are quite fond of each other and play well together most of the time.
You two are my world,
Side note: I’ll be announcing the winner to the Little Flourishes giveaway on Monday!

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One night, as some friends and I walked out of our book club meeting, I said, “Lately I’ve been feeling very wistful. Childhood is speeding by so fast. It’s such a cliche, but it’s true.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” one friend answered. “Whenever I get annoyed by the mess stuck to our refrigerator door, or about having to keep a stroller in the hallway of my apartment, I remind myself that these are the good old days.”Gretchen Rubin (as seen here too)
Side note: Many congrats to Darby, you are the winner of the Little Sweet Pea

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