Houston Local: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

It always amuses me when people say “I’m bored”; I feel like theres so many things to do in this life that even our time on this earth would not be enough. It might be just a matter of perspective and I’m trying to raise Cassie to see things the way Marco and I see it. As much as my little family and I would like to travel and go on a lot of adventures I truly believe that not all adventures entail money (well, maybe gas money), that’s when being resourceful kicks in.

Unconsciously, I’ve been on a mission to prove my point, locally this community has a lot of things to offer and its a matter of learning how to take advantage of it. We’ve visited the Houston zoo for free but you’d have to know that they do that mostly on the first Tuesday of each month, Thursdays are usually free admission days for museums especially the Children’s museum where I’d like to take Cassie soon and then there’s one and a million parks here in Houston and the near outskirts that are waiting to be explored.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was a gem that we discovered 17 minutes away from home. It’s a local Hindu temple that opens their doors to visitors even those of different religion and their architectural construct does not fall short from what India is known for. I could go on and on about our visit to the temple but I’ll let the pictures speak for itself.

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The first photo we took as soon as we entered the premises, I had to tell him to stop acting all goofy since we were in a temple and all

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I though that the temple would be a good place to take pictures of Cassie but she fell asleep right before entering the gates

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Today’s #OOTD

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The fountains opposite side from where we entered

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Steps going up to the Mandir (temple), no photographs and no shoes allowed beyond this point

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Had to check out the intricate details up close, that college class I took on India really taught me to appreciate not only their architecture but everything else that’s embedded in their culture

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Coming out of the mandir. The walls, the ceilings, the floor and everything else was breathtaking, if only we cold’ve taken pictures inside.

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It does make a beautiful background thus acquiring that unofficial nickname of “Houston’s mini Taj Mahal”

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…he just had to pose that way. Ugh

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The temple vicinity is very friendly to visitors, they have signs and guides all over the place

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Family photo by the structure across the mandir, thanks to a friendly temple-goer who randomly offered to take our picture

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Color pop against the plain white details. Can’t get enough of these carvings.

I was a bit disappointed that Cassie slept the entire time because I wanted her to explore the grounds and run around to check out the fountains but on the other hand I’m glad she slept so Marco and I could appreciate the place without any crazy distractions, haha. We can always bring Cassie  back here next time. If you’re a Houston local, this place is a must-see but before you come visit please check their website and familiarize with their rules as this is a sacred place to them and a place of worship. Before you leave the area, please visit their gift shop, make a donation or try their daily vegetarian lunch buffet (we have yet to do that). Oh yeah, I hear that they light up the temple at night and it looks magical, you should definitely drive by to check it out.

Well, there you go…that’s another thing to do here in Houston. I don’t think this place will ever bore me. Enjoy!

~Rhea

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Destination: Little Rock, Arkansas

The search for a possible residency program for Marco continues and I honestly shouldn’t call it search since we don’t really have the final say where he ends up in but he ended up getting an interview in Little Rock, Arkansas and since it’s a city and state that I’ve never been to and the drive from Houston wasn’t too long of a drive, Cassie and I tagged along.

When I was single and younger, I made a bucket list to visit all 50 states before I turned 30 and needless to say I failed doing that. I’m not saying that I’ve given up on that list, I guess my priorities just changed throughout the years and it wasn’t like I wasn’t in a long distance relationship for 7 years ( up to this day, I still don’t know how Marco and I did that) so our savings went to our wedding sinking fund, travel costs and what not so I’ve only managed to go to a bunch of them (not even half).

Ever since Cassie was born, we’ve been blessed to have traveled to a few more places for family visits, reunions and Marco’s interviews and so far she’s been to 7 states (including this) and 1 international destination. Not bad for a year old who won’t even remember half the places we’ve been to (but I guess thats why mommy takes a billion and one photos all the time, right). The only wonderful thing about not having ticked of that particular thing on my bucket list is that I have the rest of my lifetime to do that but I won’t be alone this time, I’ll have my little family with me and we’ll have our own adventures together.

To whoever is reading this, this isn’t a “travel blog”. Yes, it may just give you ideas on where to go, food places to go to, things to try out but it won’t consistently give you a breakdown or a rough estimate of how much to spend or a detailed review of a hotel or B&B ( well, it might, maybe when I’m ranting or raving about things) but so much of my posts are personal thoughts that I’ve allowed people to have access to. This is somewhat a personal online journal of mine, I’m sure I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, my entries are mostly there to keep track of memories. For a person who wanted to be on stage and memorize lines for a living, I suck in remembering details, dates and people. I’ve explained this to my husband before, I only remember things when they strike some kind of emotion within me, I remember little details based on what I felt at that particular situation and that’s how its always been. Okay….enough ranting, without further ado here are photos from our recent travel to Little Rock.

Old State House

Address to Google: 300 W Markham St, Little Rock, AR 72201

Anyone who’s read a few of my past entries know that I have a thing for historical landmarks and buildings so you would understand how delighted I was that we found this in the heart of the city. The weather seems perfect in the photos but it was actually quite chilly when we went to visit. That one I didn’t quite anticipate so its a good thing I wore leggings under my skirt or else I would’ve been sporting Marilyn Monroe the entire time.

This building with Greek Revival Architecture contains a hodge podge of Arkansas history.

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Cassie and Daddy being silly at the museum

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Reading up on some Arkansas history on the spot

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Old school Clinton Memorabilia

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We’re not big on politics so it was intriguing for us to have found out that the Clintons were originally from there. Of course they had an entire section dedicated to their rise to power and the role they played starting with local politics.

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We found out that they had a play place for kids after we toured the museum so Cassie got to spend a few minutes playing before closing time.

Star of India Restaurant

Address to Google: 301 N Shackleford Rd, Little Rock, AR 72211

As cheesy as their name sounds and as plain and boring as the outside of their restaurant looks, I swear to you they are, if not the best, one of the best Indian restaurants we’ve been to. I’m no foodie but I’d like to think my husband is because he does love to eat all sorts of food and Indian cuisine is one of his favorites and he was extremely impressed. The ambiance was pretty legit and as we were dining you could see a lot of customers were coming in and we were actually lucky to have walked in early because by the time we ended our meal the place was packed. What I’ve noticed is that these customers were regulars, locals who just kept coming back and you could tell because the owner or the host rather addressed almost every single one of them by their first names and he somewhat knew their life story.

I was impressed with their customer service and did I mention that the first thing they did when they saw us walk in with a baby was put us in an area convenient for us and Cassie, they placed a large manila paper under her high chair discreetly saying “babies are babies, let them make a mess—we are ready”, unlike those snooty restaurants who claim they’re open to families but they give you a disgruntled look when your baby starts making a mess while eating. Oh and before I forget, they’re only one $ sign…super duper affordable, besides with the kind of food that they served us and their impeccable customer service I was willing to pay more. We will definitely be back if we happen to be in town.

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Choctaw Route Station

Address to Google: 1010 E. Third St.reet Little Rock, AR 72201

Upon picking up Marco after his interview, this little brick red building caught my eye. I wish we had more time to explore it but since I was so intrigued and we couldn’t go in to check it out I had to look into it.

This old building used to be a railroad passenger depot of a train route that no longer exists. They restored the building and converted it to a library under the Clinton School of Public Service.

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Leo’s Greek Castle

Address to Google: 2925 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock, AR 72205

Now this is what I’d call a hole in the wall, the place seemed shady or maybe it seemed that way since it was night time and we weren’t familiar with the territory. The building structure was old, others might even consider it run down but inside it was quaint and clean, food was cheap and the gyros were to die for. Yep, the ratings don’t lie…so far every food hub we’ve tried here in Little Rock was a success.

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The Old Mill

Address to Google: 3800 Lakeshore Dr, North Little Rock, AR 72116

If you like classic movies then you shouldn’t have a hard time recognizing this place in the opening credits of Gone with the Wind. This picturesque mill really looks like it popped out of a fairy tale story book. I would have loved to explore the vast area surrounding the mill but we were on a tight schedule, I still can’t believe theres no admission cost to this landmark, it stands plainly in the middle of T.R Pugh Memorial Park. You won’t miss it.

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Our little bunny dozed off, she missed the whole thing.

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Big Dam Bridge

Address to Google: 7600 Rebsamen Park Rd, Little Rock, AR 72207

The first time I heard about this bridge I thought the name was a pun, I don’t know but I find it hilarious that they named it the BIG DAM BRIDGE. I’d have to say though the bridge was entirely true to its name. This bridge is said to be the longest bicycle and pedestrian in the entire US and no, we didn’t try to cross the bridge, we just took pictures. Haha.

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Junction Bridge at Little Rock River Market District

Address to Google: 200 Ottenheimer Plaza Little Rock, AR 72201

It’s not just another pedestrian bridge, this old railroad bridge is said to be 150 years old and it’s another convenient stop for tourists to take pictures since its located in between the River Market District and North Little Rock (must see areas in Little Rock from my understanding). Let’s not forget that there are also unique art installations/ pieces that are hard to miss.

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David’s Burgers

Address to Google: 200 Ottenheimer Plaza Little Rock, AR 72201

Who doesn’t love traditional American burgers? We went to the one within the River Market District coz it was the closest one at that time and we knew we had to try it out before heading home to Houston because consumer ratings varied from 4 stars to 4.5 online and true enough it didn’t disappoint, best part is the menu is $10 and under.

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And that wraps up our Little Rock trip. 😀

~Rhea

Destination: Big Bear Lake, California

January 2-4, 2017

Seeing snow while spending the holidays in California was like the cherry on top, the Mendezonas planned a skiing/snowboarding trip to Big Bear but I was more excited that Cassie was going to have her first snow experience. I was already assuming that she would fall in love with snow so quickly given the fact that she has a current obsession with things cold (ice, A/C, freezer, ref…and the list goes on) also explaining one of her all-time favorite expressions “told told” (cold cold).

There were 14 Mendezonas and half of us haven’t encountered snow long enough or don’t live in snow. Period. It’s a good thing the L.A-Mendezonas had enough snow gear for the rest of the Mendezona boys while Mami made sure the ones who didn’t have snow gear had one especially the babies. We even visited the snow gear outlet store a few days before the road trip. Wow, I didn’t think staying warm and comfortable at the same time would be a lot of serious work . I guess its different when you take solo skiing trips, I remembered my first trip to Colorado a few years back and packing wasn’t this crazy but when you prepare for a family of 14—it is a PRODUCTION. Imagine all the snow boots, all the thick jackets, all the thermals, all the mittens, all the gloves, all the snow goggles not even counting the snowboards and the ski equipment, yes, it was definitely a production.

Day 1

Our drive there has got to be one of the least boring drives I’ve taken in my life, not because Cassie was screaming until almost half way through the drive but because the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. For some reason snow makes things look so magical.

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3 cars and 2 hours later the Mendezonas made it to their Air bnb cabin in Big Bear and the boys were in charge of most of the hard labor of carrying the luggages up the stairs. (photo below for reference, hahaha).

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The kitchen and dining area. Excuse our luggage.

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The living room by the fireplace

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Bedroom on the 1st floor

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Upstairs bathroom had one of Cassie’s favorite animals—Owl.

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The loft upstairs aka the boys area

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The second floor’s very own cozy nook

Once we kinda got settled in and we semi-explored the house, we headed out for late lunch at this local place that was called Mountain Munchies. It might have presented itself like a hole-in-the wall but service was excellent in the form of our server being really patient with us.

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What I got, chicken Fried Steak. It was meh.

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Our view from outside the diner.

After late lunch, we headed out to a play area where the kids could play with snow but Cassie was fast asleep so I decided not to wake her up so we decided to stay inside the car to keep warm. The remainder of the day was spent on cooking, running errands, settling down and family bonding time over random movies by the fire place. Oh,  and marshmallows by the fire place.

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This one is out cold and missed playing with snow.

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What dinner preparations looked like

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These two cousins bonding over giant marshmallows

Day 2

Of course we tried to follow our planned schedule to leave by 9am for our snow activities and of course we failed miserably. Did I mention there were 14 of us and 2 bathrooms? One thing I’ve learned from situations like these is the “Early bird gets to bathe in hot water”, I’m telling you icy baths are no fun especially when they’re least expected.

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Good Morning!

Our view outside the cabin.

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The girls and one little pikachu photo bomber, my godson Teo. Haha

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She just wanted me to put her down so she could play with snow

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“let go of my hand mommy”

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Chilling (literally) by the side snow with these cuties while waiting for everyone to head down

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Photo op before heading out to the slopes

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Two hours and thirty minutes after our planned time we made it there.

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We parked our snowboards. What a stash, haha.

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And even then we still took long in buying our lift tickets and renting out snowboard boots and what not

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This one wasted no time and started exploring

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Ordering lunch to this view

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Cassie wanted to see the view for herself

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The scenery from up the slopes

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Cassie: It’s about time daddy

Marco, finally came down after a few rounds of snowboarding and he decided to play with the kids in the snow

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Me and Pilica with the babies

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Mami and Mikel had to make a miniature snowman to stop Teo from crying, he loved it but wouldn’t take a picture with it. (Yes, that’s beans and mac and cheese. )

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Although someone gladly posed next to the itty bitty snowman. Haha, Hi Dieg.

A short recap of today’s events, most went snowboarding, some went skiing, one got sprained and mami and I stayed with the kids. The highlight of my day was seeing Cassie go crazy over snow, she loved it so much that she’d get mad at me for taking her back to our waiting area. In fact she loved it so much she was willing to go with anyone who could take her back to the play area even if it wasn’t mommy.

Day 3

Everyone else had the rest of the morning to do more snow activities but Marco, Javi, Mami, Pilica, Anya, Cassie and I had to go down first since Marco had to fly to Houston earlier a day before me and Cassie for an interview.

~Rhea

Destination: Palm Springs, California

December 25, 2016 (Christmas Day )

Found myself on the road on Christmas Day for the very first time in my 30 years of existence. Christmas day was always spent at home and it always seemed like a perfect day to take breather from all of the Christmas hustle and bustle, it was just family tradition for both sides but this year we decided to break the norm and do something different. We accepted a complimentary stay at Palm Springs, the younger Mendezonas (and when I say younger I mean the unmarried ones— Javi, Dino, Pilica, Mikel and Anya) had to leave in the wee hours of the morning to check in, I guess they’re kinda staying there for two nights. The rest of us including abu had a convoy to Palm Springs as soon as we were all ready.

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Since we were all hungry, Elmer’s was our first food stop. There was a 30-40 minute wait so we ended up playing with the kids up front.

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Me and My mini-me in our coats in Palm Springs. Yes, it was kinda cool.

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Our family on Christmas Day, waiting for our food to be served.

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Teo’s pretty excited about the shake.

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And this little one was just on the floor in her Christmas suit, picking up crayons, without a care in the world.

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Cassie’s pancake. is this a bear or a mouse?

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My cutie patootie

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Merry Christmas from my family to yours. 😀 Checking in the hotel in awhile.

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Once we were all settled in mami, Pilica, Anya and I left to go buy bathing suits since we all forgot to bring ours. We completely forgot that it was Christmas Day and most of the stores were closed, we found ourselves in Walgreens buying groceries and drink for our over night stay. After dinner we had family game time—Charades and Munchkin.

December 26, 2016

Checked out just in time for lunch, we ended up eating in Sammy G’s Tuscan Grill. The name personally didn’t sound so inviting but it supposedly had good ratings and everyone at that point just wanted to settle down.

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It was Christmas Candyland at the reception area.

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The inside of the restaurant just felt warm and inviting, very apt for Christmas and they were playing classic Christmas songs as well.

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The family enjoying our appetizer—Calamari (except for little Cassie I guess, look at that face, haha)

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Loved the intricate wood carving on the pillars within the restaurant

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Cassie, Ninong Dingz and Baba posing with the snowman

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Explored the strip after lunch

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These palm trees are intriguing

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The girls (missing Pauline, Abu and yaya Diday)

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Twinning with this one for the millionth time

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If you find yourself in Palm Springs, Great Shakes is a MUST visit and a big stress on the “must. It’s said to have one of the best shakes in the whole world

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And you’ll see a bunch of this around the store just validating that claim. You can even check yelp or google this place, ratings are excellent.

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Here’s my cranky baby…

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Here’s my no-longer cranky baby thanks to Great Shakes’ shakes. Haha. I’m telling you they don’t disappoint

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And lastly a family photo of us three before we leave this place. Of course we took it at a random parking lot but its okay, at least you still see some palm trees in the picture. Haha.

Again, Merry Christmas one and all.

~Rhea

My Little Game-Changer

I started blogging a few years back not for anything else but to destress— destress from work, destress from my family, destress from my Long Distance Relationship, destress in general. All kinds and all sorts. So I blogged; I blogged about my family, I blogged about my little adventures/travels here and there, I blogged about Marco and I blogged about what I liked to wear, and that made me feel good. I don’t know why but it just did. The Social Tumbleweed was what it was, it was a semi-online journal where I could just log in whenever I felt like it and write about the most random things in my life.

Since Cassie, things have been a bit more different, I barely have time to sleep let alone blog and another thing that bothered me was losing all that pregnancy weight. I didn’t like doing #OOTDs because most of the clothes that I normally wear didn’t fit me yet and I refused to buy anything bigger. Well, its been a year and a month since Cassie and I’m slowly finding a way to my “new norm” , life with a baby. I’ve lost my pregnancy weight but I still have that little pouch in my belly that I need to work on, I still enjoy clothes but I’ve realized that I enjoy dressing up Cassie as much as I enjoy dressing up myself, maybe even more.

So here it is, probably my first decent OOTD since I had Cassie.

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(JUMPSUIT:Black; Material Girl/ JACKET: thrifted denim band jacket; Plato’s Closet/ BEANIE: Gray knitted; Wet Seal/ SOCKS: gray slouched knee high socks; Wet Seal/ SHOES: Olive military boot wedges, Charlotte Russe)

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I’ve slowly started fitting back to my old clothes hence today’s OOTD but I think the main reason why I’m posting one today is because I’m discreetly twinning with Cassie. Did I ever mention that I like to match my baby A LOT? Haha. I’ll probably keep doing that until she’s old enough to tell me to stop. 😀

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(BEANIE: gifted, part of a set/ SWEATER: knitted band jacket; Baby Gap/ DRESS: thrifted/ SHOES: black high cut boots; Teeny Toes from Payless)

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Today, I am blogging because I think yesterday’s events deserve an entry. Two CRAZY things happened:

ONE– Cassie pooped in her potty for the 1st time (Yay!) I was about to bathe her in the bathtub when I saw her make her “poopie face” and so I grabbed her quickly and had her sit in her potty. Ta-da. Out came the poop. Proud mom here. After I cleaned her up I bathed her, I turned my back for a millisecond to wash the soap of my hands and as soon as I was about to pick her up I saw it…two little poopies floating in the bath tub and she was playing with it.I guess she wasn’t done pooping when I cleaned her up. I freaked out a bit, screamed for my husband to help me and then proceed to bathe her AGAIN and I got over it.

TWO– It was lunch and I was feeding Cassie rice and sausage, I know she’s supposed to sit down in her high chair the entire duration of the meal but she kept whining wanting to go down and I just didn’t want to deal with it after the morning incident so I let her walk around. One of my sisters fed our house dog, Todd, some of her rice scraps earlier and Cassie somehow managed to find her way to Todd’s bowl and rummaged through it. I found her with rice in her hand and she was chewing. Now I honestly don’t know if she was still chewing the rice I gave her or if she placed some of that “dirty rice” in her mouth so of course I freaked out again. Yes, I felt like I won “The Worst Mother of the Year” award  for that day and I decided that I couldn’t handle anymore so I took a break and told Marco he had to take over.

Today, we’re making up for yesterday’s events, we heard mass and had brunch at Black Walnut Cafe with Cassie’s Ninang Gela and Unclie Pierre from Florida. Here’s what my baby and I look like when I’m not making her swim with poop or making her eat dog scraps. I’m kidding.

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How it is most of the time, mommy chasing Cassie. 😀

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This is my own version of motherhood, it’s far from perfect and full of crazy, disgusting, frustrating accidents that I welcome whole heartedly (as long as I learn from them and most importantly as long as they don’t hurt Cassie). Still loving every single moment of it.

~Rhea