30 Things I Want My Sons to Know

Last month I began counting down to my 30th birthday with my first post in my List of 30 series: 30 Things That Make Me Happy.

This month has been all about my boys who turned one on October 8. We have celebrated them and reminisced all month long. I finally got around to writing down our birth story. So, this month’s list of 30 is dedicated to them.

I never imagined I would be a mom before I turned 30. Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever have kids at all, but always thought if I did, 30 was a good age to start. Now I’m five months away from my 30th birthday and looking forward to ringing in a new decade with my baby boys by my side.

In honor of Ace and G-man, I’ve written a letter to them–Thirty Things I Want My Sons to Know.

Dear Atticus and Gryffin,

You’re one whole year old. I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. You will hear that your whole life, that time flies, but you will have no idea just how fast it goes by until you have babies of your own. Those are both things I hated for people to say to me before I had kids: “time flies” and “you won’t understand until you have kids”. Now look at me, saying them. They’re both true though.

I have never truly felt the weight of responsibility more than I do now that I am a mom. Your mom. I have so many hopes and dreams for you. I want to be so much for you: a mom, a cheerleader, an encourager, a teacher, and, when you’re adults, a friend.

As we tackle the next 30 years together, here are 30 things I want you to know.

1. Respect others

I hope you learn how to show respect to others even when you do not like them or do not agree with them.

I read once that some people view respect as being treated like a person while some view respect as being treated like an authority. And sometimes people say “If you don’t respect me, I won’t respect you.” But what they mean is “If you don’t treat me like an authority, I won’t treat you like a person.”

I want you to know that people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity just because they are people. You don’t have to respect others’ choices, perceived authority, or beliefs, but you have to treat them like they are people. And people deserve to be treated with respect.  

2. No means no

The end. Period. No is no. No is not “maybe” “kind of” “later” “not right now” or “ask me again”. No is no. And yes can become no at any time.

3. Learn to cook

Everyone should know how to cook. You may not be interested in learning how to be a fancy chef, but you should be able to cook enough that when you no longer live with Mommom and me you do not have to rely on fast food to survive.

I enjoy having you play in the kitchen while I am cooking, even if all you do now is make messes. When you were really little, Mommom would wear you while she cooked. She would say “Someday you’re going to call me and say ‘Mommom, how do you make pancakes?’ because you’re going to want to make them for someone special. Well, this is how you do it.”

So what I’m saying is, pay attention.

4. Learn how to throw a ball.

Mommom and Gryffin–the boys’ first college basketball game.

Okay, what I mean by this is that I hope Mommom teaches you how to throw a ball. I never did learn how to do it right. Even if you’re like me and not naturally athletic, and even if you don’t necessarily enjoy sports, I want you to have the opportunity to try. I don’t want you to be afraid to try new things or give up on something before you even give it a shot. I’ve missed out on too many experiences because of fear to let you develop the same attitude.

5. White privilege is real

You have an advantage because you are white, American males. White privilege is both something you must recognize as an unfair, unspoken advantage, and a cause of racism.  Having white privilege is not in and of itself racist. Neither is recognizing it.

This also doesn’t mean that white people don’t or never will struggle. There are historic inequities that have created institutional and systemic racist disadvantages for people of color.  Being aware of your actions, your words, and your position in society can change all of that. Educate yourself. Know when to speak up.

Having this privilege does not make you bad, but how you choose to use it can. I hope I teach you to make the world better. I hope I instill in you a passion for justice and equality. And I hope you learn to ask and then live out the answers to these two questions: What can I do to help build a new system?  What is my role in creating a new normal?

6. Win and lose gracefully

A sore loser sucks. But you know what sucks worse than a sore loser? A sore winner.

When you lose, it is okay to be upset, but you should still congratulate the winner and  mean it.

When you win, congratulate the loser on a job well done and genuinely compliment something they did well. Show them respect as a worthy competitor.

7. I will always love you.

There are no conditions or exceptions. There is not a subordinate clause that goes with that sentence. That’s the whole sentence, the whole thought, and the most important thing for you to learn. I will always love you.

8. Show kindness to customer service employees

Customer service is a difficult field. You will probably have a customer service position at some point in your life, and once you do you will finally understand how hard it is. Say “please” and “thank you”, look the cashier/waiter/whomever in the eye, be patient, use a kind tone, and show true appreciation when they go above and beyond. And always, always tip well.

9. It is important to stand up for yourself

Know that there is a line between defending yourself and being a jerk.  Don’t be a jerk.

And remember,  it is even more important to stand up for people who cannot defend themselves.

10. Be the kind of person who easily earns the trust and love of children and dogs.

No one is a better judge of character than dogs and babies. It takes them less than 10 seconds to know if you are worthy of their affection and trust. Be men who can win their affection.

Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sandi come to mind. The first time they met you was the first week of maternity leave that I had you all alone. Mommom had gone back to work and Nana was at home and it was just the three of us. At that point, Atticus, you only really loved Mommom. I mean, you loved me and let me take care of you, but you spent the whole day waiting for Mommom to come home. Then you would snuggle into her and go right to sleep. And Gryffin, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but I had the hardest time getting you to eat. There were days that you might not have eaten if Auntie Michelle hadn’t come over to feed you.

Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sandi came in. Grandma Sandi fed Gryffin the last of his bottle that he wouldn’t eat for me. Grandpa Bob held Atticus. I was nervous because you didn’t really like for anyone to hold you yet, but when he took you in his arms you woke up and looked around and sat so still. You snuggled into him and fell asleep. I already knew Bob and Sandi were pretty great, but you guys–at 5 whole weeks old–confirmed it. You knew they were trustworthy within ten seconds.

Be like them. It’s been a year and you still love them. You’re still genuinely happy to see them.

11. Experience as much of the world as you can.

I hope so much that you inherit your Mommom’s wanderlust. I hope you gain new perspectives by truly experiencing and respecting and loving other cultures.

12. Question everything

I don’t mean question everything the way I do–with doubts and conspiracy theories and cynicism. I mean explore all angles and possibilities. Don’t assume something is correct because someone in a position of authority said it. Sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes Mommom is wrong. And sometimes teachers, principals, preachers, bosses, managers, and spouses are wrong. Just because someone you trust says something does not make it true. Ask questions. Research. Read. Ask more questions.

Mommom and I will teach you how to identify a reliable source. Don’t go looking for answers that support your opinion. Go looking for correct answers and be willing to change your opinions because of unbiased facts.

13. Violence should always be an absolute last resort.

Violence breeds violence, which adds more hate and hurt to the world. You would not believe how much better you have already made this world in your first year of life. You have brought so much healing and joy to so many people just because you exist. I hope I teach you how to resolve conflicts peacefully. I hope you continue to make improvements in society by avoiding violence.

14. Don’t drink and drive.

Call me or Mommom or Auntie Michelle or anyone you can, but DO NOT ever, ever, EVER get behind the wheel drunk. Do not get in the car with a driver who is drunk. There are a lot of risky things you can do, but avoid the ones that can kill or otherwise negatively affect you and/or other people.

There is too much at risk.  Even if someone tells you that they “Aren’t really that drunk” it isn’t worth it. Just call someone else.

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15. Learn the custodian’s name

At school and when you are an adult in the workforce, learn the custodian’s name. Greet them by name every time you see them. Ask them how they are doing and how their family is doing. Thank them for their contribution to your school/workplace. Remember to give them a Christmas card. Try to learn when their birthday is. They have a thankless job. Many people demean them, but their job is very important. I promise you if they don’t do their job well or are out sick, you will notice and you will be inconvenienced. Make sure they know you value them.

16. Understand the weight of your words

In Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore says, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

Your words can cause a lot of damage. Once you say something, you cannot unsay it. You cannot make someone else unhear it. It’s done. Remember that when you are angry, sad, or disappointed.

Your words can also brighten someone’s day. Tell the people you love what they mean to you. Compliment strangers. Encourage classmates and coworkers. Words can be beautiful. They can be healing. They can be life-giving. Remember that, too.

17. Call your grandparents

You have no idea how much they love you or how much a phone call from you means to them. This includes all of your grandparents–even the ones we are not actually related to.

18. Learn basic home repairs

Since moms bought our house, we have replaced every single light fixture. Do you have any idea how much money we saved because Mommom could do that herself? (I get to stand at the bottom of the ladder and pass stuff to her, and I’ve learned a lot from that.)

Mommom has also renovated our bathroom and our kitchen cabinets, and she has cut a pass-through in the wall between the living room and the kitchen. She has re-tiled the floor in front of the door and just about any time something comes up, she fixes it.

A couple of weeks ago the kitchen sink broke and Mommom wasn’t home. I had to get help from the neighbor. And she didn’t have time to figure out how to fix it when she did get home, so we had to call a plumber. Paying other people to fix stuff in your house is expensive and inconvenient. Even if we have to learn it together, I am going to make sure you know how to do as much as you can on your own.

19. Strive to make good first impressions.

A strong, firm handshake, eye contact, and appropriate clothing are instrumental to making a good first impression. Employers will be looking for these things. Parents of people you date will be looking for them. Potential dates will be looking for them. Mortgage brokers will be looking for them.

20. Be thankful

Life isn’t always good. When it is good, be thankful. When it’s bad, try to still be thankful. Besides, bad times are what make the good times so good.

21. Live with someone before you marry them.

Living with someone is a huge step. It is a big deal, so don’t do it unless you are sure you are ready because breaking a lease early and moving out is very expensive.

You know what is an even bigger deal? Marriage. You know what is even more expensive? Divorce.

There is a whole lot you just can’t learn about someone unless you live with them. When you’re dating, you can veil a lot of undesirable traits by retreating to your home, but you can only keep that up for so long when you share a space 24/7.

Break ups hurt and they are awful, but it is easier to break up and move out than it is to go to court and file for divorce.

Also, while we are on this topic, never have unprotected sex unless you are married.

Don’t trust that someone is on the pill.

Don’t trust that someone is disease-free. Sometimes they might not even know they

have a disease because they haven’t been to the doctor yet. OR the doctor might not have told them. Yeah. That happens.

And never, ever, EVER just assume someone is disease free. That’s just dumb.

It is your job to be prepared. If you are not responsible enough to be prepared, then you are not responsible enough to handle the consequences that can result from having unprotected sex. Stay safe.

22. Never settle

Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t half-ass your way through life. Mommom and I have high expectations for you, but that can only take you so far. You need to have high expectations for yourself and you need to have the self-discipline to achieve your goals.

I’ll do whatever I can to support you, but I’m not going to do it for you. I can’t do it for you. So when it gets hard, don’t settle. Pick yourself up and keep going. Work hard.

23. Marry someone who loves you as much as Mommom loves me.

And when you find that person, love them as much as I love Mommom. Even more if you can.   

24. Find the smartest person in any room.

The smartest person is the best person to have a conversation with. They will be able to teach you, challenge you, and expand your horizons. Find them and talk to them.

If it so happens you are the smartest person in the room, first check yourself. Are you really–or are you just being arrogant? If you really are the smartest person, find a different room. Never ever think you know enough to stop learning. There’s always more to discover.

25. Practice self care.

Practicing self care is not only for girls. It is not bubble baths and face masks*.

Self care is taking care of yourself. Eat well, work out, meditate, reflect, treat yourself, get enough sleep, get a dog–do what you need to do to stay balanced and happy.

*There is nothing wrong with boys enjoying bubble baths and proper skin care is good for every gender. Don’t be limited by society’s imposed gender norms.

26. Be trustworthy

I’m going to be honest, sometimes having integrity, being the bigger person, telling the truth just really sucks. It’s necessary, though, to earn and keep others’ trust. Once you lose someone’s trust, regaining it is pretty close to impossible and takes a whole lot more work than it would have just to be trustworthy in the first place.

Sometimes there are consequences to having integrity that make it feel like it wasn’t worth it. And sometimes being the bigger person is the worst. But it is worth it. It is always worth it. Be someone who can be trusted.

27. Trust your gut

If your gut feeling is that you should not do something or go somewhere or trust someone, then don’t. Your gut instinct is very rarely going to be wrong.

Duncan, Gryffin, Atticus, Oliver–LOVE makes a family.

If you discover that your gut instincts aren’t all that great, adopt a dog and listen to his/her instincts. My general rule in life, “You don’t have to like my dog, but if my dog doesn’t like you, neither do I.” Lots of people have lead me astray. Zero dogs have done the same.

28. It is okay to be emotional

It is okay to cry and hurt and be sad. And it is okay to be angry. Disappointments will happen

and it is okay to be upset. Sometimes life isn’t fair, and it is okay if that bothers you. Don’t for a second think that just because you are a boy, you are not allowed to feel all the feels**. Also, don’t react or make a decision from a place of strong emotion. You will probably regret that later.

**It’s worth repeating. Don’t be limited by society’s imposed gender norms.

29. Love your brother

Having a sibling is pretty special, but because you’re twins, you two have an extra

special bond. You will have a connection with one another I will never understand. It is unique to the two of you. So love each other. Be best friends. Support one another. Be there for one another.

I love watching the two of you play together. I laugh because when one of you gets in trouble the other one gets upset, too. This week, you had to get your 12 month shots. Atticus cried when it was Gryffin’s turn and vice versa. It melts my heart when I put you in my bed instead of your cribs and you snuggle each other.

Watching you grow up is the most wonderful privilege I have ever been granted. I pray that as you grow up you also grow together. I hope you two always love each other.

30. Be you

In the words of Grandpa Bob “They’re twins, but they’re not alike.” You have two very distinct personalities. And I love it.

Atticus, Granny calls you Mr Hard and Fast. You fall all the time because “walk” isn’t in your vocabulary. You run everywhere you go, and you climb anything and everything you can. Nothing holds you back. You never meet a stranger. You’re vocal and mischievous and so silly. But you are also really sweet. You love to give hugs and kisses and you love to be snuggled. Sometimes you take a break from playing to give hugs and then run back to your toys.

Gryffin, from the moment you were born, you have done everything in “Gryffin Time.” It scares me that you might be my equal in stubbornness. You march to the beat of your own drum in everything you do. You are shy and particular about who can hold you or touch you. I can always count on you for a smile. You are equally as loving and affectionate as your brother, but you show it in completely different ways. Security is more important to you than adventure. You’re cautious and observant.

You are both perfect. I love who you are. Anyone who doesn’t like you for exactly who you are, doesn’t deserve you or your friendship. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not and don’t try to change who you are to make someone else happy. Be you. Just you.

Every single day for the past year I have said the same thing to each of you, and every single day I have meant it. And I will keep saying it as long as I live:

I love you. I love being your mama. Thank you for being my baby.   

Love,

Mama

What do you want the next generation to know? Tell me in the comments!

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How to Decorate a Twin Nursery on a Budget

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Twin Nursery

Decorating a nursery is so exciting!

I know that having a perfectly decorated nursery is not a necessity, but preparing for a new baby is such a joyous time that the combination of excitement and pregnancy hormones makes it seem like it is. Decorating a nursery for our twin boys was so much fun! We wanted something that wasn’t “cookie-cutter.” We both love the “vintage” feel, and we definitely wanted two coordinating themes so that each kiddo had his own space defined. We are more than pleased with how our twin boy nursery turned out.

Is there anyone who has watched Chip and Joanna Gaines and not immediately fallen in love? I think it’s impossible. I tried to avoid watching their show, I tried to avoid jumping on the Chip and Jo Bandwagon…but I failed… and I am obsessed (does that really count as a failure? I think having the Gaines as part of your life is always a win.) I was still avoiding Chip and Joanna when we were decorating our nursery, but lucky for me, I have my own personal decorator who is every bit as wonderful as Joanna Gaines–my wife!

Steph is truly fantastic at making any space feel cozy and inviting–whether it is a one-bedroom apartment, a house, or a classroom.

I am not a decorator. I have never been a decorator. When my parents bought their house when I was eight, I chose a paint color for my room (pink) and it didn’t change until I moved out for college. When I met Steph, she came to my apartment for the first time and I had zero decorations. I was renting a duplex that had hunter green carpet, a coordinating green linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom, and green counters. In addition to that, I had a giant red couch, and I wasn’t going to buy a new couch to match a home I was renting, especially considering I wasn’t even sure how long I would be there. I had no idea how to decorate around a shade of green I didn’t like and a bright red couch, so I didn’t. I didn’t even have curtains.


Here’s how we managed to create a twin nursery we love on a budget.

1. Don’t Rush

Needless to say, when we moved in together, Steph did the decorating. So when we found out we were expecting we made a deal–I would grow the babies if she would make the nursery. 9 months later, and I still think it’s absolutely perfect. 

I am not usually superstitious very superstitious, but most of the time I am not very adamant about sticking to my superstitions. Decorating the nursery was a time I put my foot down. I had heard an old wives tale about it being bad luck to decorate the nursery before 20 weeks, so I wouldn’t let Steph do anything. It drove her crazy.

Honestly, I was just trying to protect myself and her. If something had happened to one or both of the babies and we had to undo a nursery, it would have done us in. In the meantime, Steph sketched out all of her plans, so when it was time to start shopping and decorating, she knew exactly what she was looking for and what she wanted to do.

2. Choose a Theme for the Nursery

One of the first steps in making a space for your little one should be to choose a theme or color scheme. We wanted two themes so we could have a specific theme for each baby. Since we had two boys, we chose airplanes and hot air balloons. If we’d had a girl and a boy or two girls we probably would have done hot air balloons and kites. Everything is an object that flies. But we had two boys–baby A would have his side of the room decorated with airplanes and baby B would have his side decorated with hot air balloons.

There are so many cute things to choose from, and people are not afraid to offer their input on how they think it should look. Babies are exciting for a lot of people and it’s fun to talk to others and dream about it. However make sure that whatever you choose is true to you, fits the personality of your family, and is something that you genuinely love.

3. Choose the Space That Will Work Best for Your Nursery

When we moved into our house, we set up the master bedroom (room with the largest closet) for us. The second largest room was a guest room, and the smallest room as an office with the intention of turning it into a nursery someday. Then two sweet babies appeared on the ultrasound and we knew there was no way they could share that room. So we did some major rearranging.

We moved the office downstairs to the extra room in the basement, moved the guest room to the small room, turned the guest room into the master bedroom, and turned the master into the nursery. And when I say “we,” I mean Steph. I was pregnant, so I was very little help.

Don’t be afraid of re-purposing spaces. Could we have stayed in the master bedroom and moved the babies in the guest room? Yes. But we didn’t want to repaint and that room is pink while the master is a soft green. Also, we needed the closet to store the baby supplies we were gifted until the boys were older. 

4. Find Ways to Save Money on Nursery Decorations

We are frugal people anyway, but with TWO babies on the way, we had to be extra frugal. One kid is expensive enough.

One way we saved money was by letting go of the Type A tendency for everything to match and be brand new. Our whole house has a kind of comfortable, eclectic/primitive mis-matchy vibe. We had already painted the room a nice, soft green. It was gender neutral and baby appropriate. All we had to do was a few touch ups.  Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on all matching, brand new furniture, we pieced together coordinating furniture from a few different places. One crib came from Facebook Marketplace. We bought all the other furniture from an auction. The wagon we use to hold books our neighbors took out of their flower garden and handed to us. We furnished the entire room (2 cribs, 2 rocking chairs, a bookshelf, and a changing table) for less than the cost of one crib.

We bought vintage suitcases for cheap at a thrift store. Besides super cute decor, we have re-purposed them as props in a photo session and storage for toys. 

Re-purposing furniture for the nursery is a great idea, too.

Have a nice desk or dresser that is going unused? Put a changing pad on top of it and you have a super cute changing table. Baby furniture is a niche market that is designed to look cute and make money. You can still have an adorable nursery using items you already own–as long as it is safe for the baby.

There are some things that should be bought new, though. The big one for me was crib mattresses. I didn’t mind buying a used crib, but the mattress needed to be new. Luckily, we found them for a great price at Target.

4. DIY What You Can for the Nursery (Or Ask Friends To Help)

Another way we saved money was by using a lot of DIY.

We decoupaged wooden cut-outs together (which was a super fun date night) using the same scrapbook paper I am using in their baby books.

We put together a shadow box of vintage baby clothes. A local antique store had the vintage baby clothes for very cheap, and the shoes were my mom’s when she was a baby, which makes it even more special.

One of my amazing, wonderful co-workers cross-stitched the quilt that hangs on the wall. Another incredible coworker used an old quilt I had to make custom crib bumpers.

We bought the Bessie Pease Gutmann prints for cheap from a little Mom and Pop place in town and matted and framed them ourselves.

We also painted the letters that spell their names over their cribs.

5. Shop Smart

Finally, we shopped for the best deals. We wanted giant clothespins on their collages above their cribs, which we found at Hobby Lobby for 60% off. Our original plan was to repaint them, but once we got them in the room we liked they way they looked so we left them alone. The picture frames are from the Dollar Tree. We snapped the photos ourselves (the day the boys came home from the NICU, but that’s a different story entirely).

6. Splurge Sparingly   

Finally, we splurged on a few items. Our idea of splurging is very different from others’. Even a “splurge” was fairly inexpensive. Steph found these incredible string art pictures on Etsy, as well as the dictionary prints. The dictionary page prints were a fun addition; Steph and I are both English teachers, we had a literary themed wedding, and ALL our boys (human and doggo) have literary names.

We bought the hot air balloon and metal planes hanging from the shelf above the changing table on Amazon. After we decorated the shelf with a few thrift store finds, we were done.

I love the way the room turned out. It’s adorable, unique, functional, and–best of all–thrifty!

What are your best thrifty nursery decorating tips? Share in the comments! Want more decorating ideas from The Same Sunset team? Sign up for our email list so you never miss out!

I asked a friend for advice on simplifying my home and what she said was the best advice I could have received. “For me personally, it didn’t start with the ‘stuff’ in my home. It began with a decluttering of the stuff in my heart, mind and soul.” She is so right! So I am offering–for free!!!–a 28 Day Follow Your Dreams Inspirational Journal, where you can work on letting go of some of the clutter in YOUR mind, body, and soul and work toward a fresh, confident future!