Dear Zoey,

This past year was a big one for you!   You have flourished in many ways! What a joy and privilege to watch you grow spiritually, emotionally and physically over the past 12 months.

This has been the year of Legos, Disney princesses, Disney movies (all things Disney!), flourishing friendships, soccer, boba drinking, learning Chinese and Katie Perry dance parties. We got to travel to Hawaii, Sonoma, Portland and numerous trips to your favorite place on earth: Irvine. As always, you approached everything with an exuberance for life. Your spunky, enthusiastic spirit continues to spread joy and fun in whatever you do and wherever you go.


This year your relationship with Skylar has really blossomed. Now that she is 1 years old, the two of you are playing together more and nothing warms my mama heart more than watching you sisters convulsing in giggle fits. She loves you so much. Whenever you are not around, she asks for you and when you are present, she is always by your side, wanting to do whatever you are doing, trying hard to keep up with those chubby thighs of hers. You are her hero and she, your best friend. We moved Skylar into your bedroom at night and I catch you sometimes on the baby monitor climbing into her crib and singing SkyeSkye her favorite Elmo songs.  Though you don’t always enjoy her breaking your lego masterpieces or sharing my attention, I hope that you will truly cherish Skylar and be a great role model for your baby sister.


You started a new school full-time this fall and while the beginning was rough on all of us, you made us proud with your bravery.  For weeks you cried every morning and evening, not wanting to be separated from your family but one morning in the car you bravely wiped away tears and stunned us by declaring “I can do this!  Jesus gives me courage!” and you were right! You did it.  You were right, Jesus gave you courage. Though I was scared to send you out alone into this big scary world,  I, too, am comforted that God is with you and and gives you courage. He loves you more than I ever can.

This past summer at vacation bible school you learned:

Jesus gives you courage.
Jesus gives you hope.
Jesus gives you love.
Jesus gives you strength.
Jesus gives you direction.

Hold on to these truths, baby girl, for these simple truths will sustain you in this increasingly frightening world. Ingrain these truths in your heart and commit them to memory. As you grow older and I fear that I cannot protect you and your sister from all the heartaches that will come your way, I pray that your growing faith in the Lord will sustain you. God will be your strength and your refuge (Psalm 46:1) in those tough times.  Girl, be strong and courageous and do not be afraid for God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).  What a joy it has been to watch you grow in knowledge and love of Jesus this past year.  Not only do you finally enjoy going to Sunday school, your daddy and I are constantly amazed by all the Bible verses you memorize, praise songs you sing and the Bible stories you have learned.  You ask to read the Bible and ask me good questions about God. (“Where is Heaven? Why can’t I see it? Did God create Ahma, too?”) When you pray, you not only ask for yourself but also blessings for your family and best friends. We are proud of you in so many ways but nothing makes mommy’s heart burst with pride more than you growing to know and display God’s love.


Baby girl, I love you so much. Now that you have started school full-time, my time with you is precious.  Our time together is sadly shrinking but that makes me  even more  dedicated to learning all about you, specifically what makes you shriek with laughter and what makes you smile that big Zoey gap-toothed grin. I promise to be your biggest cheerleader and help you pursue those things that bring you joy. I love you so much….to infinity and beyond!! Forever and ever!!

Happy 4th birthday, my Zoey!

Read my letter to Zoey on her first birthday.

Read my letter to Zoey on her second birthday.

Ready my letter to Zoey on her third birthday.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

by ilene on February 14, 2016

in Uncategorized



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Glowstick Valentines

by ilene on February 9, 2016 · 1 comment

in holidays, valentines day


These are the valentines that Zoey is bringing for her friends at school this year- glowstick valentines!  Easy, cheap, not sugar and fun for the kids!

No joke, it took me about 75 snaps to get one decent photo of Zoey. I used photoshop to add the text:


Materials: printed photos, glowsticks and hole punch. It doesn’t get any easier:


Punch one hole each at the top and bottom of the photo and string a glowstick through. Tada!

Glowsticks are pretty cheap, about $1.50 for a dozen.  I got the 4×6 photos printed at Costco for 17 cents/photo so each valentine ended up being about 30 cents each.  So affordable!  Zoey helped me put the cards together. She can’t wait to pass them out to her friends!

Need another easy fast valentine idea? Check out the bunny valentines we made last year!


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Happy Chinese New Year!

by ilene on February 7, 2016 · 1 comment

in holidays, Skylar's First Year

Happy Chinese New Year!!  We have hung up our red lanterns, handed out red envelopes and now ready to eat some yummy Chinese food.



This holiday is especially special to us because Skylar was born last year on Chinese new year.  Its one of those holidays that go by the lunar calendar so it came a few weeks earlier this year.  We can’t wait to introduce all the traditions to Skye this year!chinesenewyear_skye2


Happy year of the monkey!!  From my two little monkeys:chinesenewyear2016_1


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In my last post, I shared the details of Zoey’s 3rd birthday party, a drive in movie theater.  In this post, I’ll share how I put together the cardboard cars for the drive in.  The cars made the whole theme come together.drivin_title2


To make the cardboard cars, I searched everywhere to find the perfect affordable cardboard boxes that were the right size and in the right quantities.  Boxes can be pricey and I needed 18 of them.  I also wanted them without any logos on them in case it would show through the paint.  Originally, I bought the medium size moving boxes from Lowes but found them to be too deep. When Zoey sat in it, she couldn’t see out of the box!  Taking measurements, I found that the boxes couldn’t be taller than 14 inches for an average height 3 year old toddler sitting down.  I ended up finding the perfect size and quantity of cardboard boxes on Amazon.  They were 20″ long, 16″ wide and 14″ tall. And a steal at only $1.63 a box.  They ended up being great quality and really sturdy.

Originally I wasn’t planning on painting the boxes because, seriously, who has the time to paint almost 20 boxes?   I’m really glad I did though because the paint really transformed the cars from ordinary cardboard boxes to adorable little cars.  I used huge bottles of regular acrylic paint and used the largest foam brushes that I could find:


I needed a lot of paint since the cardboard really soaked it up. I timed myself and each box took about 10 minutes to paint. The yellow boxes needed two coats so those took 20 minutes each. Every night, I would try to paint 3-4 boxes after I put both kids to bed. Jeff thought I was nuts. Especially because I was trying to hide what I was doing from Zoey so I had to wait and make sure she was sound asleep before I took out all the supplies, laid out all the tarps and then cleaned it all up before the kids woke up the next morning.  We live in a small condo in the city with very little space so I  strategically stacked each box to dry in our kitchen:



After the paint dried, I used colored duct tape to make racing stripes down the front of each car:cardboardbox1

You can now buy colored duct tape at Michaels, Target and even Lowe’s.  Such an awesome product.

To assemble the cars, I folded three sides of the box flaps down and left one side up for the “hood”. The hood is held up by two pieces of tape underneath.  For the wheels and steering wheel, I used 7 inch plastic plates that were hot glued on:


Each car was personalized with the guest’s name on a license plate. I drew these license plates  in photoshop and downloaded this license plate font. I printed them out on full page sticker labels so that I could just peel them off and stick them on the back:licenseplate

Here are all the mini cars all lined up  for their little drivers:


Before the movie started, kids could decorate their cars. Each kid got a little red and white striped popcorn box with stickers and markers. This is how the birthday girl decorated her car:


Because our home is small, I kept all the cars folded up until the party.  We transported all the boxes while they were flat and stacked and then assembled them at the venue.  My friends S and A were rock stars and worked frantically before the party to get the cars ready to go. They used painters tape to tape the hoods up and and hot glue to adhere the wheels and steering wheel. Big thanks to S and A for getting these cars assembled in time!

Because we used painters tape to tape the cars, the tape was easy to pull off and guests were able to collapse their cars easily and take them home with them.

Here is Zoey and her friends enjoying the movie:


Whew! That was a lot of info! Hopefully this is helpful to someone out there!




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