Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween 2014: I'm Phoning It In This Year

I love Halloween. It is a love that boggles my husband's mind. When I get pumped up about wigs and makeup, there is no stopping my Google searches and my vintage store scouring for the perfect compliments to my costume.

But you know what I love more than Halloween? Sleep. I love sleep. And I don't seem to get much of it these days, between two toddling kids that hate to go to bed and love to wake up at 5 a.m. and working full-time. I had big plans to do an elaborate costume this year, but instead, I've decided to phone it in and catch up on sleep instead. Sure, I'll get into the spirit tomorrow with some sort of get-up. But it will be nothing like what I've committed to in the past.

So, today, in honor of the energy and enthusiasm I know I have buried deep inside my sleep-deprived brain, I bring back two of my favorite costumes from journey into motherhood.


The Bride (and Son) of Frankenstein

Man, I was proud of this costume. I still can't believe that at 29 weeks pregnant, I had this much ambition. And here I am complaining that I can't muster the energy. I'm so ashamed. I was particularly pleased with my makeup.




Last year's challenge was as follows: how do I manage carrying around a 3 week old baby and not miss a minute of my son's first real foray into Trick-or-Treating, while still staying in the spirit of the day? Boom - girls on fire. One night of cutting out construction paper flames and pinning them to my Ergo, followed by 20 minutes of clipping in fake hair and putting on makeup. Easiest costume ever...

Hmmm, maybe I just inspired myself to get off my lazy butt and make a costume happen tomorrow. I'll let you know on Monday whether I went for the gold or simply ate all my son's Snickers from the sidelines.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Let's Really Talk About Metastatic Breast Cancer

This month, we are inundated with pink - pink ribbons, pink football uniforms, pink coffee mugs. I even saw some pink tweezers being sold all in the effort to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. I'm not going to argue that the blast of pink isn't effective for raising awareness for a devastating disease - it absolutely is. I'm also not going to debate how funds are raised for this truly important cause - the money is desperately needed. What I will take issue with is that all this pink covers up what should be shining through: it's the faces of the beautiful women who are battling breast cancer every day and in particular, those that have stage IV breast cancer. So today, I highlight one woman who has touched my life as a friend and as a METAvivor. What is a METAvivor? Read on.


(Photo: Jennie Grimes)

Meet Jennie Grimes. Isn't she gorgeous? I will tell you that this is a beauty that runs deep to her generous and thoughtful soul and through her big, engaging laugh. Jennie has been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and has been battling back for the last four years. She has been through variations of chemo. She has become an expert on barf bags. She rocks the port in her chest for easier chemo intake. She has lost her hair through treatment (though in my opinion, her new look only goes to further highlight her bright blue eyes and her contagious smile). And through it all, she has documented her journey in her blog, projecting positivity and perspective that every person in this world should emote, emulate and cling to on a daily basis. She is a gifted writer and a person to be profoundly admired. I could sing her praises for days, months, years, but to get a true sense of this phenomenal woman, I highly encourage you to read her blog in its entirety: Putting The Grrrrr In Grimes.

And as she has self-proclaimed, she is a METAvivor. Metavivor.org, an organization dedicated to the specific fight of women and men living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, defines a METAvivor as "a thriving community of people living against the odds every day, fighting for the research that could save our lives." In her blog post titled, four, Jennie asks for four things. You can read her post to count them off, but let me emphasize a few important points here.

Only 2% of money raised in cancer research goes towards metastatic disease research; most of the funding goes towards early detection and prevention. While early detection and prevention can and does save lives, the statistics are that 30% of those detected will develop metastatic breast cancer. More money needs to be dedicated to metastatic cancer research so that one day, it too can be considered "preventative".

Please donate to METAvivor.org! This is an organization that gives 100% of your donation to metastatic cancer research. In the spirit of "four", won't you consider giving the price of your daily latte, just $4, or perhaps $14, or $40 or whatever you are compelled to give to make a difference in this fight.

Share Jennie's post, four, on your social media channels. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + or just telling your friends in person to check out Jennie's blog, let's not escape this month of Breast Cancer Awareness without spreading the perspective of someone who is truly living it, every day and every month.

Give yourself a hug. That's right. Jennie wants you to hug yourself because that is who she is. She spreads sunshine, sparkles and glitter where ever she goes. Literally. I opened a card from her once and a pile of glitter fell on my lap. She has cancer-kicking bedazzled cowboy boots and she's been known to rock a tiara during the royal wedding. To quote Jennie:

"Through all of the ups and downs, losses and gains over the past years– the lesson I have truly learned in living a life well-lived…is making a difference. Leaving this world a little better than you found.  And sprinkling love and goodness along the way.  Sprinkle on, xoxo"

For this woman who gives back so much to the world, I ask that all of you give back to her and other METAvivors by spreading real awareness, not just the color pink.



(Photo: Jennie Grimes)


Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Boden Activewear - Fashion and Function!

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When Boden contacted me to review their new Activewear line, my response was: "Perfect timing!" After two kids who are now both walking, my last excuse keeping me from working out is that I don't have any new running gear. I've signed up for a 10K in November and I have a sweet new outfit to sport while I train. I love the dynamic pattern and the leg lengthening stripe down the side.

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I'm not joking when I say that this is the most comfortable gear I've ever worn. With most work out gear I own, I face two common issues - shirts that ride up over my belly button and the length of the pants. With Boden Activewear, I had a perfect fit.

In my jog around the neighborhood, the shirt stayed put. It has a built-in bra, though busty gals can easily double up with a sports bra. I'm comfortably wearing a racer back bra in this photo. And the leggings actually go to my ankles! The ankle zippers are tight and the material is thick and very high quality. Plus, there is a hidden zipper on the back just below the waistband that opens to a large pocket. If you need to carry a key, cash or even a cell phone, it provides the perfect space.

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The Run Faster Sweatshirt is going to see heavy rotation this fall, from my training runs to my weekend jaunts out to get coffee. Like the pants, it has a thick, heavy feel that is perfect for warming up against the fall wind. One of my favorite things about this jacket and the entire line is that it is sized 2-18, rather than your typical S-M-L offerings, which can be hard to fit. I am wearing my current true size and the fit is spectacular.

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And guess what? You can pick up your own gear at 15% off between now and November 9! Just use the promo code YOGA at checkout when you visit Boden Activewear. I enthusiastically recommend this line. It is priced right - the same that you would pay for Nike or Adidas - and you know you are buying a quality product for the long-term in a fashion-forward style. If you aren't into patterns, Boden is adding basic black to the collection in a few short weeks, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Boden, for letting me try out your gear!

Disclosure: Boden hooked me up with this fantastic gear, but the opinions expressed are my own and totally legit. I love this line!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Patch Play Time

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Gingham and plaid - your go-to prints for Pumpkin Patch photos.

Button up: Banana Republic
Jeans: Old Navy
Oxfords: Naturalizers

Pumpkin patch photos are obligatory this time of year. You see them all over your Facebook feed and populating the blogs, with hues of orange, yellow and green popping on your screen. I'm no different. I succumb to the madness and the happiness of the whole scene. We are a funny bunch in California, though. I looked around the little patch we chose this past weekend and saw all of the patrons dresssed in jeans, sweaters and long sleeves in 75 degree heat. Let's just pretend it is fall, OK?

It is on moments like these where I realize that I've dressed up for the day, I've done my hair in something other than a ponytail and I've put on makeup. In other words, it is a momentous day. I realize, I should take outfit photos! I hand the camera over to my husband and tell him to quickly and awkwardly snap away while the rest of the public wonders why I'm standing there alone and posing.

I've fallen out of the "outfit of the day posts" for a number of reasons. First, I don't have the time to stop and snap some photos. My day begins at 5 AM when my daughter wakes and ends at 7:30 PM when my son goes to bed. By 7:30 PM, there is a solid chance I'm already in my pajamas. Second, I'm in a bit of a clothes funk. I've been trying to lose all my baby weight and I'm getting close to my end goal. Everything piece of clothing I own is either way too tight or way too big. I'm looking at the picture I posted above and as cute as I felt that day, I'm now wondering how I survived drowning in that shirt.

My new plan is to post outfit photos maybe twice a month, when I'm feeling super cute or if I have a purpose in sharing a specific item. Then again, maybe it is better to demonstrate reality - that sometimes, you just have to put on a button up and some jeans and call it a day, and that is totally OK and, in most cases, preferable to chasing the latest trends. I'll work on walking that fine line while I enjoy the moment with my sweet family.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Clear Mind, Happy Heart

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Breathing deep and letting go feels a bit more soothing when you are in front of lapping waves and giggling children. After a hard couple of weeks mourning the passing of our sweet Turbo, a change of scenery was welcome. Everything in the house, despite my vacuuming, Febreezing, and tidying, seemed to remind me of our loss. I needed some respite from the norm.

We headed to Aptos, CA, to stay for a night with my in-laws, who were renting a house just steps from the beach. The ocean has such a calming effect on me - even my daughter's white noise machine is tuned to "ocean." Keagan galloped along the shore where the waves sloshed at his ankles, squealing in delight. Sutton tasted at least three handfuls of sand before figuring out that there was no meal to be had here. Kevin stood on guard as Keagan tested his bravery against the waves and the undertow of low tide. I breathed in the salty air, marveling at the pelicans fishing with huge, swooping dives in the break past the waves, and pointing out the occasional sea lion body surfing just yards before me.

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On day two, we took lots of long walks down the beach. Sutton is testing out her newly discovered language - some of which is comprised of real words, such as "baby", "wa-wa" and "uh-oh" and some of which simply sounds like what she is trying to imply through tone and inflection - by pointing at things and going, "Es saaa?" (meaning, what's that?) Birds, houses, trees and cars were all points of curiosity and excitement.

But it was my excitement that was peaked when from the window of our place, we saw a pod of dolphins surfacing just past the break in the waves. I took off at light speed to the beach. With my feet in the wet sand and the waves hitting my toes, I watched their fins curve up and down as they streaked along the coast line. It may sound corny, but seeing them made me have this feeling of relief, as though they represented that there are still good, pure things in the world. I could have watched them all day and took great pleasure in pointing out their presence to my son.

When we left, I felt relaxed and peaceful. Kevin made the offhand comment, "Turbo would have loved this place." I nodded and smiled. This was the first time that I didn't well up at the mention of his name and instead, made jokes about how we would have gotten soaked when we would inevitably have had to fish him out of the water.

Nothing like the beach to give you a clear head and a happy heart.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Turbo - A Good Dog, A Beautiful Life

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I laid down next to him on the couch, stroking his still-damp fur. He hadn't been himself for a few weeks, but now, he was simply too tired to muster the energy to growl, to whine or to simply be the stubborn boy he has always been. Instead, he stretched his limbs and let his paw land softly on my shoulder. The smell of salt water puffed forward from his breath and I wanted to inhale the scent so that it would linger in my nose for the days to come. I knew he was in a happy state. I couldn't be bothered to wipe away my tears; my hands were too busy caressing his ears and the soft wrinkles of his jowls. I knew we would have to make the inevitable trip to the vet that afternoon. But that half hour of couch time - it belonged to us.

I've waited almost two weeks to post about the passing of my beloved bulldog, Turbo. The pain I have felt, combined with the flood of happy memories, has been too strong, too overwhelming, to let myself stop and think about the fact that my little buddy is gone. Even now as I type, that uncomfortable ball that rises in the throat is threatening to leap out and form a sob. It would be a disservice to simply pass over and not write about the loss of Turbo. He has simply been too important in my life, as I hope has been evidenced by his presence on this blog.

When it came time to make the decision to say goodbye, Kevin and I decided to be sure the last 24 hours of Turbo's beautiful life with us would be filled with his favorite things. As a family, we went to our local park with hands full of tennis balls. Keagan delighted in throwing balls over and over, as this was a feat we rarely attempted anymore due to Turbo's growing arthritis. Turbo ran with abandon and it made me think of the first week we brought him home.

In 2007, we had just rescued him and brought him back to San Francisco. The first stop was Fort Mason, where the expansive grass fields provided ample room for a 1 1/2 year old dog to run wild. The emphasis is on the word wild. He took off like a shot and didn't return when we shouted his name. We chased after him at full sprint to catch him before he fell off over the side of the ravine. This wouldn't be the first time he took off in a mad dash across a field...or down a busy street...or after a mailman...but I digress.

Turbo ran along side Keagan at our local park, hoarding tennis balls in his possessive way and panting happily. It wasn't just Turbo's happiness that concerned me. I wanted my son's last memories of his first dog to be filled with joy. The evening was a blur, both from the fast-paced play and from the tears that were ever-present in my swollen eyes.

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The next morning, while Keagan was at school, Kevin and I took Turbo and Sutton to Crissy Field. I have always called Crissy Field our "happy spot", with its stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the dozens of dogs at play in the lapping waves. Sutton sat in the sand, trying to take the occasional mouthful while Turbo ran through the water, more tennis balls being flung about. I could see the top of the Palace of Fine Arts from our location, where Kevin proposed to me in 2008. I smiled when I thought about how Kevin got down on one knee. He blamed Turbo for jumping up on him and getting his jacket dirty - a totally plausible excuse - while he brushed himself off and slyly reached for the ring. Turbo rode with us around the bay in the limo Kevin had arranged, staring at us with confusion from his perch next to the mini-bar while we clinked champagne flutes and kissed.

Turbo limped back to the car following his beach play, but he held his tennis ball with determined force for as long as we would let him. His old age, his graying fur and his weakened limbs couldn't hide the traces of puppy enthusiasm that he has always held.

After the long couch cuddle at home, Kevin and I left the kids with a sitter and took Turbo on a long walk around our neighborhood. Until this moment, I had been the one shedding giant tears when the kids were in bed. I had been leaning on Kevin for support during one of the most difficult moments in my life and he was stoic. He was the proverbial rock. He was so steady that I was feeling like perhaps I was leaning towards being emotionally unstable. On our final walk with Turbo, Kevin let his tears fall and it was almost a flood of relief for me that I wasn't the only one feeling this deep sadness and love. We cried, hugged each other, caressed Turbo and told him he was a good boy. We told each other that we would focus on the happy memories and they would carry us through. Turbo had a good life with us. Turbo is loved.

We stayed with him until the end. I laid with him, big spoon to his little spoon, just like we did every night, while Kevin kissed his face and told him how much we love him. It was peaceful. It was calm. It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life.

I won't even begin to profess to be an expert on how to tell your children about the passing of a beloved pet. I asked friends for advice, which they thankfully gave, along with their support. We decided to go with a straightforward approach - that Turbo got old and that he is gone. It's okay to be sad and we will always miss him. But, he will always be in our hearts because we loved him and he loved us. These are concepts that are tough for a 3-year-old to grasp, so as recent as last night, questions about Turbo have still come up. We have just remained consistent in this statement and I've grinned through watery eyes when Keagan talks to Turbo, or as he puts it, "I'm pretending to talk to Turbo." Time and photos will reinforce what Turbo means to our family.

We are going to scatter Turbo's ashes - half at Crissy Field and half will be saved to plant with a tree when we buy our forever home in the Bay Area. I'm still struggling to come to terms with the new normal - I find myself looking around the house for him every night before reality sets back in and my heart seems to drop deep in my chest. At least I can take comfort in the fact that we loved Turbo fiercely and gave him an ending full of joy, family, dignity and peace.

My veterinarian told me, "That is the hard part about being a pet person. In most cases, they don't outlive you, so you have to go through this again and again." I know that someday we will welcome another fantastic dog into our home. But there will never be a dog as funny, stubborn, silly, hungry, wild and perfect as him. I will love you forever, Turbo.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Reflection of Wonderment

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This is quite possibly my favorite photo that I've ever taken of my son (and trust me, I've taken thousands of photos in the last 3 years). His reflection demonstrates all that I love so much about him - his sweet fascination with animals, the way he absorbs knowledge through his beautiful blue eyes, and his vigorous enthusiasm for life. I always say that it is such a joy to be able to see things in a whole new perspective through his eyes. This photo serves as the literal reflection of all that I am privileged to witness every day.

Our trip to the California Academy of Science was plagued with a bit of strife to begin. The line for Free Admission day was a city-block long and I wasn't about to brave the wait, even for a terrific deal. His eyes watered as I began to waffle on whether or not we should go in, which prompted me to suck it up and by a membership so we could enjoy our day. I'm now thrilled that I made that choice because we will be back very soon. He ran from sight to sight, exclaiming "Look at this! Look at that!" and he repeated all the names of the creatures "An-a-con-da!" He even corrected a woman later by saying, "That's not a bird, that's a macaw." I gave the woman a sheepish grin and steered my little tour guide on his way.

The highlights for him were the aquarium and the rain forest exhibit. The highlights for me were watching my children shine like the sun in the midst of their discoveries.

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