2014 McDonald's Houston Children's Festival

This weekend was jam packed full of fun!  One of the highlights of our busy weekend was the McDonald's Houston Children's Festival benefiting Child Advocates, Inc.  I was lucky enough to receive free tickets in exchange for blogging about our experience(and of course, all opinions are my own) , but we still would've gone to the festival.  This is the largest children's festival in the United States and is rated as one of the world's 300 must-see events by Fromer's Travel Guides.  And it was awesome.  I already can't wait for next year's.

City Hall and the Circus area
We planned on getting to the festival early, but Jack took an unusually long nap that day (probably from all of the other crazy stuff we did this weekend), and we ended up arriving around 2 pm.  I was worried about finding parking that late in the day, especially in downtown Houston, but we were able to park in the Theatre District parking right across the street.  Win!

The festival was packed and much, much larger than I expected (even after looking at the map and passing on all the info to my readers, I was still surprised at how huge the festival was).  Somehow 7 stages, 11 adventure zones, and over 300 activities listed on paper didn't translate into how massive this festival actually was, live and in person.  We managed to see most of the festival, but unwittingly missed the huge toddler zone that would've been perfect for Jack (guess I should've consulted the map - duh!), but he still had a blast.  My favorite zones were the science zone and the circus zone.


Jack gets a bandage for a fake boo-boo

Giant Shoe Car!

Hmmmm, what's this?!?

At the end of the day, we were completely worn out, but in the best way possible.  We saw some cool stuff, ate some yummy food, and learned some new things.  What more can you ask for?

If you're interested in more information about the Houston Children's Festival, you can like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and if you want to know more about Child Advocates, Inc., you can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.


Literary Junkies: March

Pink Heels Pink Truck

I missed last month's Literary Junkies link-up with Pink Heels Pink Truck and Life With a Side of Coffee,  but I managed to remember it's the third Tuesday of the month and not the fourth, so I'm back on track for March.  Maybe I should start using a calendar.  So far, I'm ahead of schedule for my 2014 Good Reads Reading Challenge at 5 of 16 books, although I feel myself slowing down for now.  It's tough to fit everything into my days!

This month's questions are:

  1. What are you reading right now?  Tell us about it.
  2. What was your favorite series to read when you were a kid?
  3. The world is ending:  What 3 books do you save from your collection in hopes to contribute to whatever new society forms?
  4. What is your favorite genre to read?  Why?
  5. If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
  6. What's next on your "to-read" list?  Tell us about it.
My answers:
  1. What are you reading right now?  Tell us about it.  I am reading The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  It's the first of three companion novels that go with Life As We Knew It, a book about a family surviving in apocalyptic conditions after the moon is knocked out of orbit by an asteroid  It's told through one year's worth of diary entries and I found it to be absolutely riveting.  The Dead & The Gone tells the story of a different family struggling to survive after the same event, only this time it's told in third person.  I have to admit that I'm struggling to get through this one.  I'm not nearly as captivated with The Dead & The Gone as I was with Life As We Knew It.  I think I was more connected to the characters in the first story because it was told through first person diary entries; I just don't find myself caring much about the characters in the second book, but I will still give at least the third book in the series a try.
  2. What was your favorite series to read when you were a kid?  This is a hard question to answer.  My Mom and I read so many series of books together it's hard to choose!  The Little House On the Prairie books have always been some of my favorites; I remember my Mom reading all of them out loud to me while I would do my homework at the kitchen table.  We also enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia, the Bunnicula series, and The Lord of the Rings.  I also remember reading a series of books about a girls baseball team, but can't remember the name of them to save my life.  And I read everything by Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine.  It's too hard to pick a favorite!
  3. The world is ending:  What 3 books do you save from your collection in hopes to contribute to whatever new society forms?  Definitely not The Hunger Games Trilogy, although they are some of my favorite books; we just don't need a society based on them.  As much as I would want to save a novel, I think I would have to stick with non-fiction in order to contribute to a newly forming society.  I think I'd have to go with How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by the Dali Lama, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, and The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex W. Bealer (okay, technically this is one of Den's books, but I guess I'm assuming a loss of technology in this end of the world scenario and being able to make and fix things would come in pretty handy).
  4. What is your favorite genre to read?  Why?  I love to read post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, especially if they're set in the near future.  Most novels in this genre are so believably possible that it's easy to identify with the world of the characters.  It also shows how quickly and simply things could go wrong; we're never more than a few degrees away from the worlds in those stories.
  5. If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?  Red Hot Mess:  Adventures in Mayhem
  6. What's next on your "to-read" list?  Tell us about it.  I'm not actually sure what's next on my to-read list.  I got so many books for Christmas (along with all the ones I haven't read from my birthday) that I have plenty to choose from.  The short list would include The Fault in Our Stars (although I'm not thrilled with the casting choices for the film), The Book Thief, or The Silver Linings Playbook.  But who knows what I'll be in the mood for when I finish my current book.
I'd love to see the answers to your questions, too!  There's still time to join the link-up; just click the image at the top of this post!  Happy reading!

Bayou City Classic 5K

Last weekend, I ran in my first 5K since 1990, the Bayou City Classic.  The Bayou City Classic was originally just a 10K race, but in 2012, a 5K fun run was added to the lineup.  Proceeds from the race go towards helping maintain trails in Houston area parks.  I signed up on a whim because I'm not finished with my 5K training yet, but my friend, Jenny, was walking the 10K and I figured I had nothing to lose by participating.  I'm so glad I went ahead and signed up for this run because I had a FANTASTIC time (and the entry fee was super cheap)!

I was totally unprepared for this race.  Not only had I not finished my couch to 5k training, but I also only managed to get about 3 hours of sleep the night before.  My original plan was to stay home, lay out everything I would need the next morning, and go to bed early since I'm not a morning person at all.  Instead, Dennis, Jack, and I met up with some friends to see some camel races and didn't get home until 1am.  Jack didn't sleep well and I almost cancelled when I could hardly get out of bed that morning.  I barely had time for half a cup of coffee and I didn't have time for any breakfast before Jenny came to pick me up.  It was definitely looking like I'd pretty much only be walking this 5K.  Let's just say I wasn't at my best.

It was a great morning for a run.  The temperature was in the mid-60's and it was overcast but still bright.  We got downtown early and met up with Jenny's friend, Kristine who was also doing the 10K.  The three of us milled around watching all the elite runners warm up.  There was a lot of fanfare going on with the 10K.  An MC was calling out a countdown to race time, music was being played, and there was a really nice start line.  Jenny and Kristine lined up for the 10K start and I pulled out my iPhone to get some video of the race start.  I really wanted to get the whole, "runners take your mark" and BANG! of the start, but the MC obviously had no idea how to read a clock.  She said, "One minute to the start! One minute! Runners take your mar--" and then in the middle of what she was saying (and only about 15 seconds after she made the one minute call) BANG!  And the race started.  But in this video you can see most of the runners start the 10K.

I had to wait around for another 20 minutes for the start of the 5K and it wasn't nearly as ceremonious as the 10K start.  We didn't have a fancy start line, music, or (and I might not have heard this) a call for the runners to take our marks before the start gun.  Not that that mattered much to me since I'm so super slow there's no need for me to be front and center at the start line anyway.  I wasn't planning on running the whole way, either.  I was using my phone's Ease into 5K app to track my time/distance but not to time out my intervals.  My plan was to run as long as I could and then walk till I felt like I could run again.  At this point in my training, I had just finished Week 5, and should've been wrapping up Week 6, but Jack had been sick all week and I didn't have a chance to go run.   My only goal was to cross the finish line.

Dennis and Jack were going to come out to cheer me on along the race route, but at the start of the run, I hadn't heard from them yet.  I was a little disappointed because I really wanted the chance to run past them (and the route ran a circle around downtown before going down a parkway, so they could've seen me from a couple of spots), but it's never easy to get anywhere on time when you're traveling with a baby.  I just hoped they'd make it in time to see me cross the finish line.

The race started, and off I went.  I told myself to take it nice and slow and not to burn all my energy in the first hundred yards of the run and that when I needed to walk that it was okay to walk.  The first part of the race took us in a loop around part of downtown.  I love downtown Houston and really enjoyed the loop.  I tried taking a couple of shaky pics while I was running.  The streets weren't 100% blocked off for the runners; instead one lane of traffic was allowed and there were traffic cops at every intersection.  It was interesting to basically run into oncoming traffic!  I ended up keeping pace with the couple in front of me in this picture (in purple and in black) for most of the race.  I also used to work in the tall building you can see in the center of this picture (it's the tallest building in Houston).

I kept my head down and my feet moving, and when I finally checked my GPS to see how far I'd gone, it said 1.01 miles and at a pace of 11:23!!!  Never in my life, not even as a kid, had I run a mile without walking part of the way!!!  I couldn't believe it!!!  And I still felt great.  I wasn't too winded, and my legs didn't feel heavy at all, so i kept on running jogging.  I was still hoping to hear from Dennis while I was still downtown, but I certainly wasn't going to slow down to give them extra time to arrive.  I finally got a text from him as I was almost done with the downtown loop and was heading onto the parkway.  I told him to just wait for me at the finish line.  I was so relieved that they were going to see me at the finish!

As I made my way onto the parkway, I was about halfway through the race and I was still feeling pretty good.  I was definitely breathing harder and my legs were starting to get tired, but I felt like I could keep going.  When I made it to the halfway point, I decided to give myself a break and walk a little so I could make sure I'd be able to actually finish.  As soon as I started walking my legs were pretty confused.  They wanted to keep running!  I walked for about 10 seconds, then listened to my legs and started jogging again.  At this point I really started thinking of trying to run the whole way.  A motivating factor was also seeing other 10K runners and even 5K runners on their way back into downtown.  I checked my phone and I was already at mile 2!  And my pace had actually increased to 11:15, even though I'd done a little walking (probably because of the couple I was keeping pace with)!  I couldn't believe that, either!!!  I told myself to slow down a little since I still had over a mile to go to get to the finish line.

By the time I made it to the turnaround, I was still feeling good, but I could tell I was starting to run out of steam.  I only had a mile or so to go at this point (according to my app; in reality I had a slightly longer distance to cover) so I decided to push through and run the rest of the way; I'd come this far, I might as well finish with a bang.  I was really starting to feel it with about half a mile to go.  Despite the cool temperatures, I was sweating like crazy and I was completely short of breath and my legs were being replaced with bricks.  I could tell I was slowing down because the couple in front of me were quickly pulling away from me.  I decided I needed to go ahead a walk a little before coming back into downtown and the finish.  I definitely didn't want to walk through the finish line and I knew I needed to save some energy to run across the line.  I walked for about 30-45 seconds, to catch my breath, and then decided to push through and run the entire rest of the way.  After all, I'd come this far.

Dennis sent me another text as I was coming back into downtown; he and Jack were waiting at the last turn before the finish line.  I was too tired to try and text him back to let him know I was almost there.  All I could think was, "Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running."  I knew I was so close to finishing and pretty much running the whole way.  I wasn't about to do any walking at this point.  Plus by this time, I was so ready to be finished I didn't want to prolong things by slowing down and walking.  Finally, in the distance, I spotted them waiting for me at the corner.  I wanted to get a picture of them, but I was so tired, I didn't want anything to distract me from the finish line.  Before the race started, I pictured myself running past Dennis and Jack and stopping to give them kisses.  Instead, I waved and ran right past them.  If I stopped for kisses, I might not have started running again.

Den's view from the final turn
(I'm not in this pic)

I was so excited to come around that last corner and see the finish line!  I didn't have the energy left to sprint to the finish, but I didn't walk across the line, either.  I know it was only 3.1 miles (3.25 according to my map), but I almost started crying at the finish; I can definitely see why first time half and full marathoners all cry at the end.  The rush of endorphins and the sense of accomplishment is pretty overwhelming (plus the relief that it's finally over).  I didn't know that Dennis and Jack had taken off down the sidewalk after me so they could see me cross the finish line.  He got a great pic of me at the finish line, too.  I wish the 5K finish line was as grand as the 10K, but after the less than ceremonious start line, I wasn't all that surprised by the finish.

I waited at the finish line for them to come find me because there were a ton of people there and I didn't want to get lost in the crowd.  I think I was hoping Dennis would just carry me around for the rest of the morning.  Jack offered me some of his PB&J sandwich as soon as he saw me; he must've been able to tell I hadn't eaten!  I immediately got in the post-race food line for some bananas, oranges, and breakfast burritos (I skipped the free beer line - yuck!), and then I picked up my finishers shirt.  About this time, Jenny and Kristine finished the 10K.  I waited around for a free massage while they picked up their t-shirts.  I think I was pretty loopy on sleep deprivation and adrenaline at this point because the rest of the morning was a blur.  There was a band, and I ran into a few other people I knew, and Jack charmed the pants off of just about everyone.  Oh, and I waited around way too long for a free 5 minute massage, but I'm stubborn, and I wasn't in my right mind.

All in all, I had a great time at this race.  I can't believe that I pretty much ran the entire way.  I can't cross off "be able to run (not walk) a 5K" off my 101 list quite yet because I did walk some of the way, but I came a lot closer to that goal than I expected (or ever have before).  I guess my formula for success is not enough sleep, no food, and not enough training!  Yeah, maybe not.  I can't wait for the next race!


(Belated) February Wrap-Up and Photo Dump

all four, yes four, posts from February

I wasn't sure whether or not to write a February wrap-up post since I was so prolific in my blog postings last month
, but I would at least like to get my photo dump out there.  Maybe I'll be able to catch up on some of the things I didn't have a chance to write about in February because I'm definitely behind on #73 of my 101 in 1,001 list, write 150 blog posts in one calendar year.  I'd better get cracking!
So what did I manage to write about last month?  I linked up with my Day in the Life post, I kept on running (and am still running; I'm up to week 6!), I chopped off all my hair, and I wore one of my favorite outfits for Valentine's Day.  And that's it.  A lot  more happened in February, but things got so busy I just didn't have any time to write about it.  Some highlights include:  The Houston Rodeo Barbecue Cook-off, Sherwood Faire, finishing the upstairs bathroom, and going to the Contemporary Arts Museum with my BFF, Daniel.  And running, lots of running.  Hopefully I'll get around to writing at least about these few things.

Now for the fun part:  the photo dump!

I tried teaching Jack about selfies.

We got an awesome new vintage wood high-chair.  I've been looking for one for quite a while now and I plan on painting it a bright vibrant color; I'm just not sure which bright vibrant color.

Dennis had an obscenely large brinner one night.  He ate the whole thing, too.

Dennis and Jack made French toast.

I had fun making some inappropriate memes with my cat Squeak for Valentine's Day.

I decimated my plate of BBQ.

Jack took a couple of naps on my runs

And it was pretty cold on most of those runs, so I had to get creative in keeping Jack's gloves on his hands

I also painted out tenant's bathroom after the tub installation was complete.

And there you have it, my February!

Song of the Day:


Giveaway: Win Tickets to McDonald's Houston Children's Festival and Debbie Ryan Meet and Greet

The McDonald's Houston Children's Festival benefiting Child Advocates is coming to Houston's Tranquility Park March 29th and 30th.  It's the largest children's festival in the United States with expected attendance of 50,000, and I'm giving away a family 4 pack of admission tickets to either day of the festival!

At the festival, you'll find 7 stages of music and entertainment, 11 big family adventure zones, and over 300 activities for the whole family!  Debbie Ryan from Disney's hit series Jessie will be there along with China Anne McClain from Disney's hit series A.N.T Farm.  You can also expect to see Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba and Sid the Science Kid!

The Houston Children's Festival benefits Child Advocates, Inc.  Child Advocates mobilizes court appointed volunteers to break the vicious cycle of child abuse.  Volunteers speak up for abused children who are lost in the system and guide them into safe environments where they can thrive.  In 2013, Child Advocates provided advocacy for 2, 018 abused and neglected children, trained 1,219 new court appointed advocate volunteers, worked on 1,300 cases, and 740 volunteers collectively gave more than 60,000 hours of their time.  The cost for Child Advocates to serve a child was $1,700 and they raised $38,000.

Tickets for the Children's Festival are available for purchase online for $10 + processing or at the gate for $12 ($10 if you show a 2014 McDonald's receipt!).  You can also enter to win a Family 4 Pack right here along with another chance to win a meet and greet with Debbie Ryan!  I'll see you there!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!  I'm back from visiting my Mom in Louisiana and I was lucky enough to be there at the tail end of Mardi Gras season.  My hometown has several parades, one of which goes right past my Mom's house.  It's the coolest thing ever.  Mardi Gras is rather new to my hometown; parades have only been happening there since 1989.  I remember as a kid learning about Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  I knew they had parades, but when I found out they had parades that went through neighborhoods and not just major thoroughfares I thought that was the most amazing thing I had ever heard.  The Krewe of Highland parade first started either right before or right after I moved to Houston and it goes right through my Mom's neighborhood!!!  Sunday was the first time I got to actually see the parade, though.

The weather was dismal.  The temperature dropped 25 degrees in the hour we waited for the parade to start and it started raining as soon as the parade got to us, but we still had a great time. I know you weren't there with us, but here are some pictures to enjoy.  Grab a piece of King Cake, use your imagination, and pretend you're at Mardi Gras with us!!!  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Jack and Grandma pretend to parade
notice the t-shirts

Throw Me Something, Mister!!


This video is of some guys who weren't actually part of the parade.  They would dance alomg with the floats for a few blocks and then dance back.  They were so much fun to watch!

And this video gives you a small glimpse of the pandemonium associated with free beads.

Song of the Day:

Editor's note: I'm publishing this on Wednesday, dated for Tuesday.  Jack is running a fever and I didn't get this done until Wednesday morning, but the post is about Fat Tuesday, so I want it dated on Fat Tuesday.  So there!
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