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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Monday, September 8, 2014

The Littlest Model

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There are lots of things I really like in this world. Beautiful photos of my kids, for one. I also appreciate a great consignment store. I love a good bargain. When you combine these things, you have the perfect storm that leads to me jumping, clapping and laughing in place.

Recently, a new baby and kid consignment store opened up in Marin County: Ella Bunbee. The store is still in the process of opening, slowly rolling out hours and collecting gently used treasures for moms to take advantage, so get in there early! Ella Bunbee enlisted in the talents of Capturing Grace Photography, a San Francisco-based family photographer, to build out their website. They had an open contest for little models to take part and keep some of the professional photos afterward. Guess who couldn't resist submitting? This mama right here, who was proud when her little lady was chosen.

Sutton was dressed up in the role of "rocker", complete with a handmade handkerchief top and a tiny leather jacket. I squealed in delight at the leather jacket since I have one in Sutton's closet I've been saving for this winter. Even with no afternoon nap (because, of course kids don't take naps when you need them to), Sutton got past her initial confusion with the situation and lit up after a few rounds of the Hot Dog song and some Frozen sing-alongs. I simply cannot wait to see the final prints which, of course, I will share here later.

Check out Ella Bunbee and Capturing Grace Photography!

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**Disclosure: while I will be receiving some prints, they were not a condition of this post. I wrote this simply because I am a fan and obviously, I'm bragging about my cute little lady.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Finding a Bridesmaid Dress You Can Wear Again

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I'm one of the lucky ones - I was in a wedding where the bride let me pick my own dress.

Dress: Ralph Lauren
Heels: Madden Girl
Clutch: Banana Republic

The only direction the bridal party was given was blue. Not teal (lovely color, though), not sky, but true blue. When given the green light to pick my own bridesmaid dress, I was thrilled to be unleashed into the shopping world. Your average bridesmaid dress does not come cheap and I love to find dresses that will have some longevity. I tend to drift toward classic silhouettes so that five years from now, should the occasion arise, I have a dress on hand that doesn't look dated.

It was not hard to fall in love with this Ralph Lauren one shoulder dress. It felt sleek (though I'm not gonna lie - I broke out the Spanx for this one), the color was vibrant and Ralph Lauren seems to remain pretty timeless. Plus, I scored it on sale for about $110 so it didn't break the bank. If you are in a wedding where the bride is as cool as mine and let's you pick your own dress, I highly recommend this one. I see it reappearing in future fancy events!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crushing on Roland Mouret for Banana Republic and Faux Hawks

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I'm not gonna lie. I was feeling pretty good about myself last Friday night. The trip to Santa Monica for my best girl's wedding was made solo. Just me, no husband (sadly), no kids (not as sadly). When I showed up to the rehearsal dinner all done up in my new Roland Mouret for Banana Republic dress, my response to people's kind compliments was to be slightly embarrassed and reply "Mama doesn't get out of the house much." I guess that when I do, I like to get fancy.

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Dress: Banana Republic
Heels: Steve Madden
Clutch: Banana Republic
Earrings: Stella & Dot

I'm obsessed with this dress. I haven't felt compelled to wear anything body-con since giving birth to my daughter. My ongoing tummy pooch was not ready and many clothes these days cause me to feel self-conscious, regardless of how proud I am for creeping ever closer to my pre-pregnancy weight. However, this dress feels like it has its own built in Spanx system. The stretch material sucks you in and curves in all the right places. At $150 (or less if you can time a great 40% off sale - I bought the dress for about $100 during a weekend promotion), you are investing in a dress with a true designer feel. It has leaped into first place in my closet - you can't go wrong with a beautiful little black dress for the long haul. I'm debating buying a couple other dresses while the collection is still in stores.

But while I have you here, can I please brag about my hair for a moment? I worked my butt off to get it just right and finally nailed a Pinterest hair obsession - the faux hawk.

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If I had a spare hour, I would do this every day! It really wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. All it took was lots of curling, bobby pins, helmet head hair spray and patience. Breaking out of my dirty ponytail mode was such a joy. Granted, I had to be a few hundred miles away from my kids to have the time to do it, but I'll take it. I think I may have to start venturing into Pinterest searches again in the near future!

Cheers to celebrating with great friends and taking the time to break out of the mom mode with a fun new look!