Thursday, April 30, 2015

Look Who's Talking: 18 Months!

Well, it happened. My baby turned 18 months old. He is officially a toddler, though, let’s be honest, he’s been mostly toddler for the past few months. He is quickly outgrowing his 24 Month clothes and wears size 8 shoes. He can beat me in a foot race, say over 60 words, and go up and down stairs without my assistance. 
I thought year 1 was dynamic, but year 2 is bringing its fair share of changes as well. The adventures into independence are both rewarding and challenging as a parent. In some ways, babies are pretty straight forward and you can control most of what they do, eat, wear. But as time ticks on, Forest’s main goal seems to be to test every limit and to challenge every rule. It’s exhausting work but it helps that he is as sweet as pie and as cute as a button. 
Well that’s enough from me. I’ll have my turn next week when I post my 18 month summary. For now I will turn the post over to guest blogger, Forest Alexander. 
Hiya guys. How’ve ya been? I’ve been alright. So-so. Up and down. My mom says I’m a tad bi-polar, but I’m pretty sure that’s just part of the toddler package. Here’s the scoop. 

1) Ear infections. I am just recovering from my first major ear infection and wowza, it was painful. I was pretty miserable but don’t worry, I made sure to take everyone down with me with my night wakings, short naps, hunger strikes and round the clock temper tantrums. Just a really fun time all around.   
2) The Gym Daycare. It used to be alright but now I usually demand that the workers go find my parents to bring me home after about an hour or so. Sorry mom- your “me time” has expired. 

3) Food. Just in general. It’s not easy to eat when your ears are aching and you’re constantly sprouting new teeth. Lately I’ve been on a strict milk and mac n cheese diet. My mom has been in a frenzy reading everything she can on how to avoid picky eating. French kids might eat everything, but last time I checked I was American so get that sushi roll off of my tray table before I toss it to the dog. 

1) Swim Class.  
Finally a place where my fearlessness is applauded and celebrated! My mom even puts me underwater, let’s me go and I get to swim up to the surface all on my own. And my momma actually encourages me to jump from the wall of the pool into her arms. But for some reason when I try to jump to her from the top of the jungle gym she is not as enthused. Whatevs. Women are confusing. 

2) Giving my mom a heart attack. By jumping off the top of jungle gyms, mostly. Oh man, when I pull this stunt you should see her face. Priceless. 

3) Cars. Big cars, small cars. Play cars, real cars. Tractors, Diggers, Mail trucks, Mini Vans. I love them all. But I especially love this Step 2 toddler sized push car that I’m borrowing from my buddy Ryan. 
I love going for ‘drives’ through the neighborhood and honking my horn at all the pups I see. 
The only issue is when my mom insists we take the stupid stroller or ride in her car instead. Trust me, I let her know very loudly how ridiculous I find this arrangement. 
Alright folks, that’s about the jist of it. See you in a month. 

He's very cooperative with these photo sessions. (Sarcasm)

 P.S. I don’t know how much longer I will need to help Forest with these guest posts. I asked him what things he loves and he said: ‘Cars, Thomas, Cheese, Daddy’. I was so impressed that I couldn’t even be bothered to take it personally that ‘momma’ didn’t make his favorites list…(sniff, sniff).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday, Samson!

Samson is 10 years old today which means that he's already outlived his breed's average lifespan of 9 years. Samson came to us through adoption when we looked to Cavalier Rescue USA to expand our family. I had always been charmed by the breed's good looks and friendly personality and when my mom and dad got a Cavalier puppy 6 years ago I just couldn't wait any longer to adopt one of our own. He was 4 when we adopted him, but he's been with us the past 6 years.  

He 100% lives up to his breed's fancy name of 'Cavalier King Charles Spaniel'.  Sam is regal, aristocratic, and princely in his appearance, behavior and attitude. He loves to climb into your lap for a snuggle and lives for his daily walks to the park. He greets everyone he meets with a vivacious wag of the tail and will gently hop up for a scratch behind the ear. He has made a dog lover out of everyone he comes across and taking him for a walk feels a bit like being friends with a celebrity. Forget Forest's stunning blue eyes--everyone wants to know about the cute dog walking next to his stroller. 
About 2 years ago Samson was diagnosed with a heart murmur, the beginning of a genetic disease which kills the majority of Cavs. Because it came on acutely and progressed rapidly, our veterinarian in Scotland told us that all we could do was manage his quality of life. She told us he likely wouldn't be able to make the move to California with us since his health would be too far gone to travel. We were really devastated and overwhelmed with the prospect of leaving him behind. Luckily as our move date approached, our vet cleared him to fly. His condition had stabilized and he wasn't showing any symptoms so we were overjoyed to move him to California with us. 

Fourteen months later and he's still stable. What a blessing! Our vets here are pretty shocked that he still remains asymptomatic and loves to go for 2 mile romps on a daily basis, tugging on the lead the whole way. We have been warned that when the end comes, it may come quickly, and I certainly hold my breath every time a wheeze or cough comes from his mouth thinking it may be the onset of heart failure. 

We try our best to treat him as if nothing has changed but he surely gets more nights in bed with us and more treats than he did before the diagnosis. Celebrating his 10th birthday feels like a bit of a miracle. Two years ago I certainly never thought we'd get to celebrate this milestone but we are overjoyed to still have him as part of our family. 
He is truly a gift from heaven. He brings us joy every single day. He is the warmest, gentlest, snuggliest pup I have ever met. He is a super big brother to an obnoxiously rough toddler but he never loses his patience with Forest. 
Happy birthday, Sam. I don't know what we ever did to deserve you but I thank God every day that you found your way to us. Thanks for being the most beautiful dog inside and out and for tagging along without complaint as we drag you all over the world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Auditioning for the Amazing Race

Recently a new momma, Angela, joined our play group and we clicked instantly. She is new to the area (like me!) has a rambunctious baby boy (like me!) and has a weakness for reality television (like me!). We bonded quickly over our mutual boy-mom-ness, new-kid-in-town-ness, and Reality- TV-super-fan-ness. 

When the Amazing Race broadcasted that they were holding open auditions on April 18 in San Francisco, Angela got together with a long time friend of hers and planned to try out. They had matching outfits and a whole bit planned to grab the producers’ attention. However, her friend had to back out at the absolute last minute so I volunteered to go in her place. Of course I warned her that I would make the worst Amazing Race teammate ever because:

1) I am afraid of literally everything. Heights. Water. Eating bugs. Basically everything the race requires. 

2) I would surely need to stop at least once an hour to use the potty since I have the world’s smallest bladder. 

3) I can’t drive a manual. 

Still, Angela was kind of out of options on such short notice so she allowed me to complete her twosome for the audition. We decided to go for the whole ‘stay-at-home-mom’ team angle. 

We arrived at the Marmot storefront at 8 AM where auditions were being held from 9-2. There was already a line wrapping around the block and it was clear that some people had camped out over night. 

However at 9 AM the first 250 teams in line were handed a number and told that they would try to see 70 teams an hour so to come back around when it was nearing your team's time to be called. We were Team 187 so had about 2.5 hours to just wander the city before reporting back at around 11:30 to wait our turn. 
Angela grew up in Central California but spent a good bit of her adult life in the Bay Area so has a local’s knowledge of San Francisco. She was the perfect person to show me around. Jon and I took a trip to San Fran before moving to Aberdeen (and before having a baby) and we loved the city. Since living in the Bay Area we have only gone into the city with Forest twice and both times were sort of disastrous with traffic so we have been too intimidated to venture there again. 

Going with Angela made the city seem so much more accessible. First she took me to the Four Seasons which is where she and her hubby got married. Then we walked to The Ferry Building to get some yummy baked goods, get a view of the bay, and of course use the public potty (just giving her a taste of what running the race with me would be like!). 

By the time we walked to the water and back it was about time to report back to Marmot. We found our place in line and got to know our fellow line-mates and just enjoyed having uninterrupted adult conversations until we were called in to the store. We underestimated how long we had to go because we ended up not getting called in for our interview until 12:45 or so. 

There were 3 camera crews working and each team was given about 60 seconds to give their pitch and answer any questions. We got a little nervous watching the teams in front of us who were super prepared with rehearsed bits and even rap songs. We sort of went off the cuff but Angela has a super bubbly and bright personality so she compensated for my wall-flower-ness. We were asked where we were from, how we knew each other and how we would manage to leave our toddlers for filming. Then we were told to ‘sell ourselves’ in 30 seconds which is where Angela took over:) 

We aren’t really expecting a call back but it was really fun nonetheless. If nothing else, I got to spend some good girl-time wandering San Francisco on a beautiful Saturday morning which is not too shabby. 

Unfortunately we had to rush home as soon as we finished auditioning because Jonathan needed to head into the city himself for a Giants game that night. 
I wish we could have stayed in the city for a toddler-free lunch but we will just have to go back another time. And who knows, maybe we will get up to 4 weeks of girl-time as we race around the world for a million dollar prize. You just never know! I may or may not have added weight to my bar in Body Pump this morning just in case I'm going to need to run through an airport with a giant backpack on my back in the near future. Fingers crossed!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Easter Jammies Photo Shoot

It's a little late, but my mom got Forest the cuuuuuteest Easter Bunny PJs complete with a personalized stuffed bunny who is wearing matching adorable pajamas. 
A bit of cuteness overkill, dontcha think? 

F wore these jammies on Easter Sunday but in the rush to get all packed and headed home from Napa, there just wasn't time for a proper photo shoot. This week I decided to rectify that and did a little formal shoot with Forest the bunny and Forest the baby. The resulting cuteness is borderline obnoxious. 

Sometimes the only way to get him to sit still is to offer my lens cap as a teething apparatus.

And sometimes I just embrace the wiggliness.

A few tears. He really hates sitting still.

Wait---I have permission to stand up on the furniture? Big smiles!

The pointed toe. I can't even. It's too much.
Cute PJs ordered from Chasing Fireflies. Photos edited using The Coffee Shop Blog's Luminous Color Burst Photoshop action.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Napa Valley Vacation!

One of the perks of living in beautiful Northern California is that you can bribe people to come and visit you by saying things like ‘we can all meet in Napa!’.  My parents and brother decided to take me up on the offer and we had a great Easter Holiday in the wine country. 

My parents flew into San Francisco on a Tuesday and made the drive out to San Ramon for the night. Forest was very excited to have them and was in full-on performer mode. For such a shy guy, he sure does love to be the center of attention, and his Nana and Pops were happy to oblige him. 

The next day we all packed up and headed up to a house we rented in Calistoga. We found the house on VRBO and were sold on the view and the pool. 
The house itself was pretty great as well. The owners have a toddler so it was pretty well child proofed already and had a pack n play on the premises. 
On the first afternoon we just got settled and made a trip into Calistoga for a grocery run and also made time to enjoy a bottle of bubbly on the porch. 

My brother flew in that evening and arrived pretty late that night. The next morning we decided to take our first wine tour at Sterling. Sterling is a pretty commercial and well known winery. You take a gondola up to their estate and do a self-guided wine tour with tastings interspersed on scenic terraces. 

Wine in one hand, sippy cup in the other...

I think it’s a pretty good and non-intimidating introduction to the wine country of Napa Valley, especially when you have a grumpy toddler in tow. 
Not all Napa wineries and tasting rooms are kid friendly, but Sterling was very accommodating. I will say- don’t bring a stroller! We did but the hassle of getting on and off the gondola and up and down stairs just made it stressful. I’d recommend an Ergo/carrier or if you have a well behaved tot, just let them navigate by themselves. 

After the tasting, we drove 15 minutes back to the house for Forest’s nap while my brother and parents headed south for a few more tastings. Forest was crazy tired from waking up at 5:40 AM (he must not have gotten the memo that we were on vacation) and fell asleep 2 seconds within our 15 minute drive home. 
This usually spells disaster as he’s quite hard to transfer from the car to the crib, but he surprised me by waking up briefly as I got him out of the car, pointing to the house and exclaiming ‘BARN!’ (just go with it…), and then promptly falling back asleep in my arms. He didn’t move a muscle when I put him in his pack n play and then took a big honking nap while Jon napped and I read by the pool. 

After naptime, the whole family got into the pool and had some fun before my mom and dad volunteered to babysit so that Jon and I could do some exploring of our own. 

That night Forest slept great and even slept in so we went for a run while my mom took over morning baby duty (so nice to have grandparents around on vacations!). After our run we did some more exploring in nearby St. Helena before heading back for Forest’s nap. My parents and brother did some shopping and wine tasting while Forest took another monster nap, Jonathan swam, and I did some more reading in the sunshine. 
It was actually feeling like a vacation! Forest woke up just in time for us to leave for a 3 PM wine tasting in Downtown Yountville at Hope&Grace. My brother discovered Hope&Grace a few trips back and became a member. He swears by their Pinot Noir and since that’s my wine of choice I had to give it a try. 

Once again, my momma babysat Master Forest while we sipped wine.
Jon and I were both really impressed by all the wines at Hope&Grace and left with 3 bottles. We even left with a bottle of Riesling and Malbec which is usually not our thing but we were totally smitten. Of course we scooped up a bottle of the praised Pinot Noir as well! Yum! 

After our tasting in Yountville we headed to the nearby Mustard Grill for an early dinner. The food was good but the meal took forever which was pretty excruciating with a rambunctious and impatient 17 month old. We made it through alive with the help of Baby Einstein. 

Forest has historically been well behaved in restaurants so this was a new experience for us as parents. Maybe that ship has sailed now that he’s a toddler? I hope not! 

The next day we decided to give my parents a morning off and took the little one with us to tour MUMM (known for their sparkling wine). Unfortunately, Forest was throwing a total bratty tantrum (apparently this seems to be his new thing) right before the hour long tour was supposed to start so we opted for a refund and just did a tasting instead. 

Jon’s not really a fan of sparkling wine but enjoyed one of their reserve bottles enough to purchase one. Forest even had a tasting of non-alcoholic sparkling Chardonnay juice. It was his first taste of juice and he wasn't too impressed. He's more of a milk guy, I guess! 

I enjoyed all the samples, and certainly needed some bubbly to relax about Forest’s grouchy demeanor that morning. We’ve taken him to several wine tastings before and he’s always been an absolute prince. I think this vacation made us realize that we've reached a new era of parenthood. Having a toddler is easier than having a baby in so many respects but going out in public is definitely not one of them! He certainly did not want to sit still and quiet while we sipped champagne. 

We ended up once again falling back on some Baby Einstein to keep him entertained while we finished up. I will give that to Forest- a little B.E. and he will not move a muscle for the duration of the program. We had to pull it out way more than I would have like to on this trip, but alas, vacation is not the time to crack the whip on restaurant etiquette. 

When we got home my mom offered to babysit so that the rest of us could do a proper tour and tasting. We chose Del Dotto off of the recommendation of our house owner. 
We were warned at the beginning of the tour that we would be sampling 8+ wines so not to feel bad if we needed to pour wine out of our glasses into the designated buckets along the tour. I’m glad I knew this ahead of time because I would have passed out if I drank all I was given! Del Dotto (and Napa in general) are known for their Cabernets, which I’m not classically a fan of. Still this tour was great because you got to taste straight out of the wine barrels kept in their caves. 
We tasted Cabs that were aged in different types of barrels(American vs French Oak, Heavy toasted vs medium toasted, etc) side by side so you really got an idea of how that affects a wine. They also are very smart and serve pizza and tapas toward the end of the tour so that you can taste how the wine pairs with food and also so that your belly has some assistance soaking up all that wine! 
We were impressed with both the wine and the tour experience and we purchased another 3 bottles (7 total for the trip). Two of the bottles we purchased were straight from the barrel and will be mailed to us once they are bottled in a few months so that’s something to look forward to. 

After Del Dotto we headed next door for a tatsing at Whitehall Lane, another recommendation from our house owner. By this time I was definitely feeling like I’d better slow down so I only took a few sips and just let the boys do most of the drinking. 
After our wine tasting we met my mom and Forest in Calistoga to eat at JoLe, a farm to table restaurant recommended by a friend. 
The food (and wine) was delicious but Forest’s behavior was once again atrocious. Luckily the server had a toddler as well so he was very understanding of F’s obnoxious antics. Baby Einstein came to our rescue once again and Forest happily watched puppet shows while we finished eating. 

Sunday was our last day and we had planned to take Forest to Train Town in Sonoma for a special Easter treat. However, Train Town is closed when it’s raining and by some fluke it happened to rain on Easter (seriously it never rains here!). So yay for much needed rain but boo for our plans. 

Instead we packed up and headed into Yountville for Sunday brunch. From there we headed home to San Ramon while my brother and parents headed in San Francisco for some sight seeing before catching their afternoon flight home. It was a really great trip. It’s awesome vacationing with grandparents because they help with so much of the child-minding duties so that momma and daddy can actually relax. 
Napa is beautiful and the food and wine is first class all the way. I for sure feel like I know more about wine after visiting Napa and will have much more of an appreciation for wines from this region from now on. I’m so thankful that my family made the trip out to visit us for Easter and we cannot believe how lucky we are that we live within an hour’s drive of such a wonderful destination. Thanks Mom and Dad and Clint!!!

So who’s coming to visit us next??????? If you're lucky,  might even let you babysit...:)