Well, Paul and I are doing the Color Run for SeriousFun Children’s Network. It takes place in Brooklyn in July, so, you know, really ideal running weather. 😉

It’s a 5K (a little over 3 miles) during which we will be blasted with colored powder. The benefits of this run go beyond our health and fitness. All of the funds we raise go to SeriousFun Children’s Network, which is a network of camps for children with serious and life-threatening illnesses. The Network has a bit of  glam to it as well, as it was founded by none other than Paul Newman, AKA Cool Hand Luke. The original rebel.

The Monster and the Beast have graciously offered to help us with our training.

Rocco and Robbie helping Mommy motivating Mommy to go on a run

Goodness knows I have a ways to go. I used to love to run. I ran almost every day, and for many, many miles. When we moved to Illinois I sort of dropped running. And then when I was pregnant I just found running really uncomfortable, so it completely fell off. In a way, this Color Run is giving me a great reason to rediscover an old love of mine.

Monster keeping the Best in check

Monster keeping the Beast in check

I’ve started running a few mornings a week with the Beast, which exercises my body but my patience as well as I still have to battle with him whenever he gets whiff of a squirrel nearby. Either way, I’m out, I’m running  jogging, and it is Spring in New York, so I really can’t complain.

Spring in Forest Hills

Spring in Forest Hills

The Beast telling me I'm not going fast enough

The Beast telling me I’m not going fast enough

I’m really excited to be participating in the Color Run, especially for such a great cause. While I’ve started training and using the Color Run as a way to get back into running, my race partner is choosing a different training path.

Paul's version of "training"

Paul’s version of “training”

Looks like the Monster and the Beast need to turn their running-coach eyes onto Daddy….

 

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Am I turning the Monster into a bona fide Mama’s Boy? Lately he has been all about Mama. It is a Mama or Bust attitude in our house right now. (Insert play on words joke with “Mama” and “Bust” here.) He’ll be playing happily with Daddy or by himself with some toys, and then look up and realize that I’m not there, or that I just walked by and didn’t pick him up. When that happens, we get this.

Meltdown #12,897

It’s like a switch just went off. If I pick him up, he returns to the happy, babbling Baby Monster we know and love. It’ like he needs some part of him touching some part of me at all times. I realize how endearing this might sound, but it can also be really tiring for me, and at times lead to some major Mama-guilt. I know, I know, first piece of advice will probably be to not pick him up each time he cries. And I really don’t, but there are times when I just want the path of least resistance. Is that so bad? I’m new to this parenting gig, and I’m already exhausted and he’s not even a year old!

Putting things into buckets. Very important work.

One MAJOR saving grace in all of this has been my baby carriers. When he is particularly Mama-focused, I can strap him into my Ergo or BobaAir and have my hands free to do other things. Like write this blog.

But I’ll admit, I still pick him up and spend a lot of time just snuggling with him. Can you blame me?

Snuggling with Mama

OMG! OMG! OMG! The Beast is flying out here this FRIDAY and I am so EXCITED!!!

When we first got the Beast

He has been staying with my friend A in CA the past few months. I am beyond grateful for her generosity in opening her house to a 70+ lb labrador. She already has three kids, so it’s not exactly as if she didn’t have other things going on.

So, how exactly does one fly a labrador across the country? Well, it turns out that there are multiple options, including working directly with an airline, pet relocation services, pet airline services, and even ground transportation services. We decided to work directly with United Airlines for several reasons; they have a dedicated PetSafe desk with a live 24/7 800 number, we could fly him direct from SFO to JFK, and he’ll fly cargo, so he will be the last thing loaded and the first thing unloaded.

Beast and his new travel kennel

At first I was a little concerned about the whole flying as cargo part of it. But after talking with United’s reps, it does seem that is a better route for him. Since he’s flying as cargo, he’s basically another revenue stream from cabin passengers (and their checked luggage) which means he is of a higher concern than a piece of checked luggage. Also, United will have an agent in charge of the cargo for the Beast’s flight and will ensure that he is put in the plane right side up (eek!) and is not left on the tarmac with the luggage until the handlers are ready to load the plane. Honestly, while I’m a little soothed, I’m still pretty nervous.

I have tried to do most of the coordinating from my side. I have to say, each of my conversations with United’s PetSafe Program were very helpful and reassuring. I really appreciate the fact that they have a dedicated desk to pets. A has graciously stepped in and helped with several important items. Namely, the travel kennel and the drop-off. I seriously owe A and her family something HUGE and AMAZING! Any ideas?

Keep the Beast in your thoughts as he flies over the country on Friday! I am one excited and anxious puppy mama!!

Beast at the beach

Awwwww!!!

 

 

I suppose I should start at the beginning. Usually the best place to start, right? After a few years in Carbondale, IL, P and I decided it might be time for a change. He began looking for jobs and was offered a position in New York. And we took it!!! We became Queens, NY’s newest residents in September.

What a ride it has been! We arrived late Monday night and took a taxi from JFK to our new place in Queens. Fortunately, we got a mini-van taxi because we had several LARGE bags, two strollers, a car seat, 4 carry-on pieces, and a diaper bag. Oh, and a 10 month old who just went through a cross-country, 5 hour flight. He was a champ.

Arriving late at night to JFK

P found the house through some colleagues and signed the lease before I ever saw it. So, I was moving into a house, unseen. We totally lucked out, though. The house has many of the amenities that one might worry they would lose when moving to a city, including our own washer/dryer and a dishwasher.

I should stop here and acknowledge a MAJOR absence. Where are the Beast and the Diva? Rest assured, they are still a part of our family. P and I are very lucky to have some generous, and animal-loving, friends and family. The Diva is spending the summer and fall at Grandma’s house in Illinois and the Beast is spending two months at a dear friend’s house in CA. She has three kids, so I’m pretty sure he’s having a good time. They will both be joining us in a few weeks.

Beast loving it at A’s house

My one concern is that they are going to try and turn him into a Giants fan. We can’t have that. 😉

So, back to NY! We’re here and I certainly still feel overwhelmed and nervous. P really likes his new job, so that does help ease some of the concern about being here. The Monster and I are in a few Mommy and Me and Playgroups, and are meeting other babies and toddlers. There is no shortage of little ones in our neighborhood.

While the last month has been focused on settling in, we’ve still managed to go do some quintessential New York things. Namely, go to Central Park and Central Park Zoo.

Monster in Central Park

Taking it all in in Central Park

I love the park! There are so many things to watch and incredible people-watching. But it also provides a nice respite from the city around it. One thing we’ve checked out is the Central Park Zoo. P’s sister gave us a family membership as a bday/moving gift. After our first use, we realized what a valuable gift it really is. We joked/really mean it when we say that the membership is probably something we’ll have to factor in our yearly budget.

Monster and Daddy next to the Seals at Central Park Zoo

The Family Premium Membership gives free admission to two adults and all kids in the household to all of the major zoos in NYC. Plus there are a bunch of other free goodies, such as free parking, admission to education programs, and a free shirt! (Who doesn’t love a free shirt?) Thanks B and family for the very thoughtful and useful gift!

Whew! It has been a long time since I’ve posted. And, if you’ll hear me out, you’ll find that I had pretty good reason for my absence.

1) My little sister got married earlier this month! I know everyone thinks their, or their family member’s, wedding was the best, but truly, V’s wedding was incredible! She held it in my parents’ backyard, which gave the wedding a sweet, intimate, and romantic feel. My sister and I declared myself the World’s Worst Maid of Honor (WWMH) as I barely took any pictures, planned the bachelorette party more or less the day of the party, and was pretty hands-off. In my defense, she wanted me to be that way. When the time came, I definitely stepped it up with all of the tears and smiles that are expected of MOH’s.

My sister is a very creative lady. She designed her own wedding dress and found someone to make it for $80!!!! She did not want this to be a break-the-bank kind of wedding, so she had all of the bridesmaids wear a dress of their choice. We were all in different colors and styles. It was perfect for the theme of her wedding. I found my dress, a 1950’s” wiggle” dress, on etsy.com for $28! A little tailoring and it fit beautifully.

One, of the many, thing she did was change into a different dress for the reception. I absolutely love this idea. And, true to V’s independent spirit, she changed into a not-your-typical reception dress.

Like I said, I didn’t take many pictures myself, so I’m having to swipe a lot of these from other people’s albums.

Once I get all of my pictures together, I want to do a more dedicated post to the wedding. V + J are perfect for each other and will have a beautiful life together.

2) Our other big change is that we moved to New York! We’re Queens, NY’s newest residents and we are loving it so far. And that will all be in another post…soon….I hope…

 

P recently had a birthday and I surprised him with a morning of kayaking in the Monterey Bay. He thought we were going horseback riding.

The Monterey Bay is home to all kinds of animals, including sea lions, seals, and otters. In the center of the Bay is the Monterey Canyon, which has a bottom 2 miles below the ocean’s surface. To give some perspective, the Grand Canyon is about 1 mile deep. Our kayaking guide from Monterey Bay Kayaks told us that this canyon helps to support the seal and sea lion populations because they don’t have to go too far to get their food, which is usually at deeper points in the ocean.

Otter

Otter in Monterey Bay, CA

I signed us up for the Monterey Bay Natural History Tour, which gives us about 3 hours of guided kayaking around the Bay. The great part about having a guide is that he knew where to go to see some of the truly unique to Monterey Bay sites, like the “otter raft”. The otter raft is a kelp forest not far from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in which the otter will tie themselves up so they can eat, sleep, and just hang out.

Sea Lions

Sea lions at Monterey Bay, CA

One of the otters’ co-Bay-habiters are the sea lions. These guys are MASSIVE, reaching up to over 800 pounds. And they are loud. Most of all, I thought they were super cute and reminded me of the Beast. If the Beast had to become a marine animal, he’d be a sea lion. The sea lions were friendly and curious and swam right by our kayaks several times.

Sea lion and bird, Monterey Bay, CA

After checking out the otters and the sea lions, we kayaked over to Seal Harbor, where the more peaceful and quieter seals liked to hang out. Our guide surprised us by bringing some of the ocean into our kayaks.

Sea star, Monterey Bay, CA

I had always called them starfish, but our guide said he preferred calling them sea star, as they aren’t really a fish. Either way, these stars of the sea are pretty fascinating. Each leg has its own set of organs and can recreate itself into another sea star if it were ever cut off.

We wrapped up the tour and kayaked back to the beach. It was such a great day to be out that we decided to walk around the wharf and grab some clam chowder. I hope P enjoyed his birthday!

 

 

P has spent the last few summers teaching at Stanford. It’s a nice gig with interesting students and beautiful surroundings. At the end of the session, the program hosts a graduation ceremony for the students. This year it was held in The New Guinea Sculpture Garden, which houses some beautiful carvings from New Guinea carvers.

The ThinkerStanford and the Papua New Guinea artists in-residence collaborated on the carvings and the overall aesthetic of the garden. The focus was on a combination of traditional Papua New Guinea art in a western landscape. The combination of the Northern California landscape with the New Guinea traditional art makes for a peaceful and quiet retreat on campus.

It’s like taking a little vacation while strolling around campus. If you’re ever at Stanford, I recommend grabbing a cup of tea from the union and then strolling over and checking it out.

We got the Beast at the Southern Illinois Humane Society in February of 2011. About a week after we got him I found out I was pregnant with the Monster. We were enjoying having the Beast around, but we had to stop and consider: Can we handle a lab puppy and a baby at the same time? The short answer: Sometimes. Admittedly, there are some days when the Beast just doesn’t get the love and attention he would like to get. To make up for this, we have the dog beach.

 

Lighthouse Dog Beach

Dog beach, Lighthouse Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

He LOVES the beach. The chance to run into water, chase some birds, wrestle with other dogs, and eat some kelp is just too much for him. And of course, it makes for some darn cute photo ops.

 

Beast at Lighthouse Beach

Dog Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

P and the Beast

P and the Beast, Lighthouse Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Here’s to you, Beast.

The Lighthouse Beach is just off of Hwy 1 in Santa Cruz.

 

I might argue that one of the benefits of being in a long-term relationship is that you have more free places to stay via your partner’s family. For example, P’s sister lives in San Diego, which gives us not only a reason to visit San Diego, but the above mentioned free place to stay as well!

We flew down on Southwest. I have to take a second here and acknowledge how awesome Southwest has been for us for flying. We have flown between Illinois and California and Colorado with Monster several times and we have always been treated well and, knock on wood, have arrived with all of our luggage. And you still get free pretzels, albeit teeny tiny bags of pretzels, but they are still free! So, thanks Southwest! Monster, P, and I appreciate it!

We started off our visit with the standard family dinner. P’s sister has three kids and a husband, so obviously they were all there. We were also joined by P’s uncle, aunt, cousin, and cousin’s wife. I love family gatherings, and it was so great to introduce Monster to everyone. Friday morning we took Monster to visit P’s grandmother with P’s uncle, four generations in one room! A beautiful memory.

Saturday we were treated to crêpes made by our 12 year old nephew. Very impressive, I must say! I must also say that his mom did the actual cooking of the crêpes, but he did the conversions (we were a larger group than what the recipe could serve), measuring, mixing, etc. After herding the cats gathering the family into one minivan and one CRV, we headed out to San Diego’s Chicano Park to see the murals. P had read an article about it in the New York Times and thought it would be cool to go see.

Chicano Park

The park is underneath the 5 freeway and the bridge that goes to Coronado Island. Many of the murals are painted on the overpass support pillars and depict stories and images from Hispanic and Latino cultures.

Virgin Mary

Earth Goddess

Earth Goddess, Chicano Park

The Park, which is in the Barrio Logan, has a rich history involving several take-overs and disputes over who got to do what with the land. A young student named Mario Solis is credited with rallying the community to organize and demand that a park be put in instead of a police parking log. Ultimately, the Barrio Logan community residents won and the park was created. (http://chicano-park.org/) The murals are stunning and reflective, expressing Chicano history and stories.

Of course, Monster managed to get some swing time in at the playground in the park. (That adorable half face you see there is my niece.)

Monster on swings

After getting our art and culture fix, we headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant we found on yelp, Las Cuatro Milpas. There was a line, but it was worth the wait. The menu was small, the decor was lacking, and the food was straightforward and simple. And it was all good. Classic P&J, we ordered just about everything, including a pork burrito, two tamales, side of rice and beans (with chorizo, of course), and a taco. And we ate it all.

Since we had been artistically and culturally fed by the murals and then physically fed by Las Cuatro Milpas, we headed over to Coronado Island to get our outside (and fro-yo) fix. A nice stroll along the beach on the island was just what we needed to wake ourselves from our food coma and feel revived from our weekend of family and fun in San Diego.

Coronado Island

A friend’s GroupOn mishap resulted in an unexpectedly awesome father’s day gift for Paul this year: Surfing lessons. Admittedly, surfing lessons would not be the first thing I would think to get him, but it turned out to be fun and totally radical!

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The lessons were through Adventure Out and took place at Pacifica Beach. Although there was some fog in the morning, the setting was beautiful for both the passive observers/kid-runner-afters and participants. It is also a dog-friendly beach, as long as dog stays on leash, so Beast got to come along! At first it was a bit torturous for him as there were birds and water and kids and birds and kids with food all around him, but he settled down after a while.

The surfing lessons were, I’m told, a LOT of fun. Paul even got up and rode a couple of waves in! After a brief on-land lesson (they sat in a circle which reminded me of summer camp), they headed into the water.

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They stayed in the water for about 2-2.5 hours! This allowed them plenty of time to practice “reading” the waves and jumping up onto their boards. The instructors were very “zen-like” and very helpful with tips and getting the students onto a wave. You could just see them all picturing themselves as the next Kelly Slater. 😉

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good photos of people getting up on their boards, so you’ll just have to trust me that people really did get up! Paul said part of what made it enjoyable for him was just sitting on his board and looking at the beautiful scenery.
While Paul bopped around on his board in the Pacific, Monster, Beast, and I strolled along the beach and spent some time with a couple of friends of mine and their own monsters. The other little ones could walk and run on their own so their moms got a good work out chasing them around the beach and trying to stop them from eating all of the sand. I popped Monster in his Ergo carrier and was able to enjoy a relatively easy day at the beach. In fact, I’d say Beast required more of my attention and disciplining, as in “No! You will never catch that seagull! You don’t have wings!” (Yes, I do talk to my dog as if he can understand me. I know, it is endearing.)

After the lessons and the obligatory beer on the beach, we headed south on scenic Highway 1 for a late lunch at the Moss Beach Distillery. We enjoyed some delicious garlic fries, a creative and very Nor-Cal Salmon club which had salmon, avocado, and bacon, and some clam chowder. We were able to score some seats on the gorgeous deck and let the views of the Pacific take our minds off of less attractive things. Image

Oh, did I mention they have fire pits out there to ward off the chilly Nor-Cal summer air?
And, of course, they are dog friendly!

After all of this people time, we decided to take Beast to the dog beach at the Lighthouse Beach in Santa Cruz. He got to romp around with other dogs and finally chase whatever brave, or stupid, seagulls that were hanging around. All in all, a fun and memorable day! Now off to clean out the sand that has moved into Monster’s ears.