Aug 15

Five and a Half

Work in ProgressHi sweets,

It’s been a busy time since my last letter to you! We just got back from our honeymoon and we’re pretty excited for the weekend since we haven’t gotten to hang out with you since the wedding.

You were amazing. During rehearsals you fidgeted and had trouble staying put and we adults all basically agreed that if you needed to run around during the actual ceremony we were just going to have to get right with that. But when the day came, you were a total pro. You walked with me down the aisle, and held my hand, and stuck with us through the whole thing. It was your one request, when we first told you that we were engaged: you wanted to be the one standing with us. I don’t know what precisely that meant to you, but it meant an awful lot to the two of us.

Your dress is, of course, destroyed. This tells us that you had a good time.

The other thing going on in your life, that you already know but most other folk don’t yet, is that you’re going to be a big sister. This is another one of those things that parents get really nervous about but that you totally sailed through. When we told you, you jumped up and down on the couch. You were so excited that you weren’t going to be an “only kid” anymore. And now you tell us how you’re going to teach the baby everything. The other day you ran up to a stranger at Ikea and said, “You know what? My step-mom’s not fat! There’s a baby in her tummy!”

So that was helpful.

In a few weeks you start senior kindergarten which means moving to a big kid school and being the smallest class around instead of the biggest class at your preschool/junior kindergarten. This makes my heart clenchy. Sometimes already you come home with stories of someone being a bully or someone not liking you and I have all kinds of feelings about it that I try not to let you see since this is normal and you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. But it’s not easy. I heard a quote once from a writer named Elizabeth Stone that sums it up beautifully in a way that I really didn’t understand until I was a parent. She says,

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

It’s so true. Watching you grow and run around and scrape your knees and hurt your heart and figure out how to say hello to an older kid and deal with disputes and try to stay awake at a party to be a big kid when it’s way past your bedtime. All of it feels like it acts directly on my chest – it’s so forceful, potent. I’m so proud of the kid you’ve become and the person you’re becoming and the way you handle everything that comes your way.

I love you, Lil,


PS – You’ve started calling me Dad. What’s that about?


Feb 15

Home for a Rest

Earlier today, I sent this note to the global mozilla employees list. It was not an easy send button to push.


One of the many, many things Mozilla has taught me over the years is not to bury the lede, so here goes:

March 31 will be my last day at Mozilla.

2014 was an incredible year, and it ended so much better than it started. I’m really proud of what we all accomplished, and I’m so hopeful for Mozilla’s future. But it took a lot out of me. I need to take a break. And as the dust settled on 2014 I realized, for the first time in a while, that I could take one.

You can live the Mozilla mission, feel it in your bones, and still worry about the future; I’ve had those moments over the last 8 years. Maybe you have, too. But Mozilla today is stronger than I’ve seen it in a long time. Our new strategy in search gives us a solid foundation and room to breathe, to experiment, and to make things better for our users and the web. We’re executing better than we ever have, and we’re seeing the shift in our internal numbers, while we wait for the rest of the world to catch up. January’s desktop download numbers are the best they’ve been in years. Accounts are being counted in tens of millions. We’re approaching 100MM downloads on Android. Dev Edition is blowing away targets faster than we can set them; Firefox on iOS doesn’t even exist yet, and already you can debug it with our devtools. Firefox today has a fierce momentum.

None of which will stop the trolls, of course. When this news gets out, I imagine someone will say something stupid. That it’s a Sign Of Doom. Predictable, and dead wrong; it misunderstands us completely. When things looked really rough, at the beginning of 2014, say, and people wanted to write about rats and sinking ships, that’s when I, and all of you, stayed.

You stayed or, in Chris’ case, you came back. And I’ve gotta say, having Chris in the seat is one of the things that gives me the most confidence. I didn’t know what Mozilla would feel like with Chris at the helm, but my CEO in 2014 was a person who pushed me and my team to do better, smarter work, to measure our results, and to keep the human beings who use our stuff at the center of every conversation. In fact, the whole senior team blows me away with their talent and their dedication.

You all do. And it makes me feel like a chump to be packing up in the midst of it all; but it’s time. And no, I haven’t been poached by facebook. I don’t actually know what my next thing will be. I want to take some time to catch up on what’s happened in the world around me. I want to take some time with my kid before she finishes her too-fast sprint to adulthood. I want to plant deeper roots in Toronto tech, which is incredibly exciting right now and may be a place where I can help. And I want a nap.

You are the very best I’ve met. It’s been a privilege to call myself your colleague, and to hand out a business card with the Firefox logo. I’m so immensely grateful for my time at Mozilla, and got so much more done here than I could have hoped. I’m talking with Chris and others about how I can meaningfully stay involved after March as an advisor, alumnus, and cheerleader. Once a Mozillian, always.



Feb 15


Saturday morning light. #lilyHi sweets,

Today you turn 5, which makes this the tenth one of these letters I’ve written (A letter, 6 months, 1 year old, 18 months, 2 years old, Two and a Half, 3 years old, Three and a Half, Four, Four and a Half). Every time I write a new one, I read all the other ones and then I fall down the rabbit hole of looking at old pictures of you, and I land in a big pile of feels. That happened again this morning, and I’m sitting in the Mozilla office sniffling like a goober.

You’re the coolest little kid, Lil. You’re big into Monopoly Junior right now, and you cackle a little when something good happens, but when you’re winning by too much, you give everyone else some of your money, “so that we all have a nice time.” You’ve got friends on the street and go over to hang out with them, which is totally normal and great, but also a hard thing to get used to. You’re developing all these mannerisms that are so big kid that it hurts, even though it’s awesome. There’s a lot of that in parenthood – heart-swelling-to-painful awesomeness. When you need my help to undo a button at the back of your dress, you gather up all your hair in your hands and tip your neck forward and I’d swear you were 17.

You’re working through having two homes, just like I did when I was your age. Which is expected and normal and still heart-achy. So far you’re just curious and trying to puzzle it out. For our part, as we muddle through it, we talk to other “bonus moms” who have been at it longer than we have, and try to pay it forward by talking to friends who are becoming step parents for the first time, to share what little we’ve learned. Take it from me, kid, there’s no quick road to the other side of this one – you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about it, well into adulthood. But I’ll always be here, if you want to talk about it.

You refuse to go to sleep. You sleep like a cat, you’re out for 9-10 hours a night at least, but getting you to close your eyes is a daily, ridiculous struggle. A few months ago I taught you the word, “stalling”, but naming it hasn’t eliminated it. You want another story. You want to pee. You want to cuddle. Your newest trick is to ask wide open questions about the world. Smart, thoughtful questions and they are my achilles heel, because of course I will talk to you about stars and planets and plants and animals and dinosaurs. Last week’s 9pm gambit was, “Daddy, how does light work?”

I pretend to get annoyed, and tell you to go to sleep, but I’m not really annoyed at all. I love our conversations. They’re the best part of my day. I love watching you experience the world, and watching you grow. It hurts sometimes, but in the best way.

I love you, Lil. Happy birthday.

Aug 14

Four and a Half

Hiya kiddo,

I’m writing this one from your mom’s place. It’s bedtime, and you do a better job of falling asleep when I stay in your room in the rocking chair. We’re doing this thing right now where, during the week, our visits happen at your mom’s place instead of ours. In some ways it’s a holdover from when you were a littler kid and it would have been too much driving to bring you across town and then back the next morning. I suspect, by the time you read any of these letters, your mom and I will have tried several different arrangements. I hope you’ll feel like we were trying our best to give you lots of time in both homes, without making you feel like a ping pong ball. I also hope ping pong will still be a thing, and that we will play.

You’re an even bigger kid now, and in a few weeks you start kindergarten. Two weeks ago you read a book to me cover to cover for the first time. Last week you rode a really-for-real-not-pretend pony, and told half of Centre Island that you were a cowgirl. You also conned another kid’s grandmother out of a piece of watermelon. You can talk to strangers with less shyness now, but after a day full of people, you get that same quietness that I do, and explain to me that you’re all out of words, and need to rest your voice.

I think you mostly don’t yet know that not everyone has a Missy. You’ve probably never really heard the word stepmom, or at least not processed it. Sometimes you’ll correct people who call her your mom, and say, “That’s not my mom. That’s my Missy.” It’s a very matter-of-fact thing, though; it’s not biting. We’re both braced for the first time it is. I had my share of step parents growing up, but there’s still not much advice I can give her: you’re not her mom, but you’re not her fun aunt, either; care for her, love her, be able to set and enforce rules, and find your own kind of relationship. She knows those things. She thinks about them a lot, and talks with other stepmoms. We both do. I don’t know if you do. You make it seem easy. She’s your Missy, and that’s just fine. Thanks for that.

It’s time for me to head home. You just sighed the most beautiful sigh which is how I know that you’ve conked out. You couldn’t sleep for a while because you had Rainbow Dash in your bed, and you wanted Twilight Sparkle. Later in life I will tease you about this.

Love you, wonderful girl,


Feb 14


FourFour is a big deal. Big girl bed. Big girl bike. You explain this to me, in case I’d missed it.

“Soon I will be four, and then I’ll be a teenager.”


I travel a lot these days. Not constantly, probably not even 25% of the time, but enough that I often go a week without giving you a hug. And being the overthinker dad that I am, that makes me wonder what effect it has on you. We video chat when I’m gone, whenever the internet connection is good enough. When it isn’t, I record videos for you and send them to your mom to play. I’ve never missed a weekend with you, though it’s sometimes been quite a trick to make that work. I think I’m a really present dad, I try to be, but I wonder how you feel about it, and how you’ll think about it years from now. I hope you’ll agree.

My dad, your grandpa, tells me that when I was a kid and he had a weekend with me, he felt protective. Like he didn’t want to share. Like he wanted me all to himself. And how that wasn’t very helpful and we had a much better time once he got past it and made room. Boy do I understand that, now. Time with you is the best thing, and sometimes I don’t want to share. But grandpa’s wise, and sharing you with others is great, and watching you venture off and be social and own a room is just wonderful. But I’m still glad that you let me read you stories and tuck you into bed at night.

Today was your birthday and you ran around like an idiot with a birthday cake tiara and a birthday bear and made goofy faces any time I tried to take your picture. You ordered pizza and oreo cake and tried to splash me with bathwater. And you fell asleep while I stroked your hair and you snored a little and it was the best thing ever.

Goodnight, Lil. Sweet dreams. I love you.

Aug 13

Three and a Half

Lily eating a pearWell, Lil, I have some news for you: I think you’re an introvert.

I don’t want to box you in, and anyhow it’s more of a continuum than a yes/no, but I see things I recognize. The way you play for an hour by yourself without any outside stimulation. The way you stand at the edge of a group of kids at the park, watching them and trying to figure them out. You come by it honestly, but it still makes my heart hurt a bit. Not because I disapprove; far from it. Introverts are some of my very favourite people, and also pretty in vogue among the techie, cerebral, introspective types I tend to run with. But introversion is tricky. You’ll pick up labels like “shy” and “awkward” and you’ll either take those in as parts of your identity or you’ll rebel against them. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be a perfectly well-adjusted human. It is a pretty consistent folly of your dad’s to extrapolate from today to your entire future life. It’s probably silly and I probably shouldn’t, but I do. And sometimes it makes my heart hurt.

Speaking of extrapolation, I’ve been thinking about who, what, and where you’ll be when you read these. I imagine you in your 20s. I don’t know why. I don’t know how I expect to keep them secret from you that long. But I think of you reading them in your 20s, all of them in a sitting, and I wonder what you’ll want to know about being three and a half. You like pears and corn on the cob and sausages with mustard. You love the beach. You’re in circus school on Sunday mornings. You find the word “toots” hilarious. Your youtube favourites are vihart’s math videos, and goats yelling like humans.

That will change. You change quickly now. You went away to California for a few weeks to visit some friends and you came back a different kid. It made me feel protective for a minute. Like I didn’t want you influenced by the outside world. Which is stupid, because those influences are wonderful kids, but also because your life is going to be full of other influences and the last thing I would want to do is stop it. But parenthood is a conservative force – we love you the way you are, and we resist change that we didn’t initiate. Forgive me that, if it happens again when you’re old enough to notice. It’s not a rational response; it’s a reflex. Parental lizard brain.

The world will be different, too. Right now, we — the collective we — worry about some things. We worry about the planet – we think we’re heating it up and we think that’s going to cause big problems. We’re spending a frustrating lot of time debating the evidence and agreeing with each other, but we also have lots of excellent people trying to make it better. We worry about humanity – it’s getting easier for one angry person to hurt a lot of people, and the fear of that is pushing governments into reactions straight out of science fiction: armed drone patrols, global mass surveillance. I don’t talk about this much with the three and a half year old you, but I want the adult you to know that we see these things happening, and we’re not sure how to fix them, but we’ll try. I have hope that we’ll succeed.

Right now, that’s not your biggest concern, though. And that’s fine. Right now your biggest concerns are whether there is ice cream at the beach (there is), and whether tonight is a hair-washing night (it is), and whether I will read you one more story (I will). Thank you for adding so much silly to my life. Thank you for asking “why?” about everything. Thank you for sneaking quietly into the bedroom on Saturday morning, staring at me inches from my face until I startle awake, and then announcing that it’s time for pancakes.

I love you, Lil, and I love the person you’re becoming.



Mar 13


I want to make a point about changing the world, but first we need to talk about the horse head.

For Christmas last year I bought my brother a horse head and, while I was at it, picked one up for the office. It felt like the kind of thing that Mozilla Toronto would enjoy.

Good times.

Between meetings we needed a place to store it; the sad, flat way it sort of collapsed when left on a desk was unsatisfying. So Madhava and I went out in search of a head on which to mount it. Steps from our office is a mannequin supply store, which helped.

I put the horse head on its styrofoam mount and, for giggles, set it up in the window. Facing outwards. Staring at the office in the next building.

For 2 weeks it sat there and I was pretty happy with it. And then something happened. Something wonderful and magical happened. I wasn’t there for it, but lmandel and overholt were.

The other office responded.

They taped a note to the glass.

“What’s with the horse?”

We responded.

“Who you callin’ a horse?”

They responded.

“Why you, of course!”

And so it went. Back and forth.

Stick with me, I’m getting to the world changing.

So last week we bought them their own horse head. And yesterday mconley delivered it to their office. They invited him in. They brought the box over to the window where we could see. They gathered around their window and we gathered around ours. And when they opened it and realised what it was they actually jumped up and down, and applauded, and mouthed “thank you” through the window at us.

In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam’s utterly definitive work on society and community, he writes that the best predictor of a school’s success is the activity of its PTA, and that the activity level of a PTA can be changed dramatically by one or two committed parents. Derek Sivers’ TED talk is all about the powerful change that happens when one person being silly becomes two people being silly, and cognitive scientists have been talking about the power of allies for 50 years.

The horse head(s) didn’t change the world; I’m not that pompous. But changing the world is hard work and it’s worth getting some practice in. So go start something. And, this is crucial, if you see someone else starting something: play along. Maybe the thing you’re playing with draws a great big crowd and changes the world. Maybe it never amounts to more than an office of strangers 50ft away silently jumping up and down and saying thanks.

It’s not such a terrible downside.


UPDATE: The world keeps getting more awesome. Denise from the other office just sent me email saying that the 4th floor office in our building saw their “best day ever” sign, and posted a reply. They don’t even know about the horses. They just wanted to share in the happy.

and tomorrow will be even better (photo credit: denise)

Feb 13

3 Years Old

Photog, pt 2Hi Lil,

You’re three. You can count, you can sound out words with help, and you can sing. Thanks to your mom you’re a big fan of Mary Poppins and thanks to me you’re a big fan of O Brother Where Art Thou but I think you still sing mostly to Raffi and One Direction. For One Direction you also dance, which involves more hip motion than I’m really comfortable with.

You seemed to understand Halloween and Christmas much better this year, and you definitely understand your birthday. You want 3 star-shaped candles on your cake. You want star candles because your mom put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling of your room. Every night when I put you to bed we turn off the lights and we sit in the rocking chair and we stare at the stars and talk about which one is your favourite. It’s basically the best thing ever.

You’re developing complex thoughts and emotions now at a dizzying pace. Like “awkwardness of forgetting someone’s name.” You try to remember, wrestle with it visibly, and then call them, “that one,” quietly, half-embarrassed. “Patience with daddy clearly being an idiot” is another one that’s coming along nicely.

The one that stopped my heart, though, was a story from day care. You’ve been in day care for 6 months, and I wondered how it would go since it was your first real socialization with other kids outside of occasional visits. It’s a big day care with a different groups for different ages. A month or two ago, a new boy came in to the group next to yours in the facility. He was pretty sad on his first day and, during naptime, he was lying on his mat and crying. Your mat was nearby, on the other side of a half-height dividing wall. When your daycare supervisor walked over, she saw that you were awake, and speaking softly to him through the wall saying,

It’s okay. You don’t need to cry. Your mommy will come back. Mommies and daddies always come back.

You break my heart, kiddo, in all the very best ways. Happy birthday. I love you I love you I love you.