New Years Eve 2013

Happy New Year, from our family to yours! We welcomed the new year with a very low key dinner gathering at my mom’s, in the company of my parents and our family’s three dogs: Louis, Baci and Toby. The pups did not disappoint, and as expected, provided us with hours of entertainment, chasing and wrestling one another to their hearts’ content. Not surprisingly, they were the first to checkout for the night, succumbing to exhaustion and sleep by 9pm.

Happy New Year from the Contreras Family!

This night was particularly memorable for Jose and I as it marked a pretty fantastic milestone in my pregnancy. First let me set the scene. We had just settled down on the couch at home, with a piece of pecan pie and vanilla bean ice cream, and with just 15 minutes before midnight, tuned into the NYE countdown broadcast. Up until this day, I hadn’t really felt obvious sensations of movement from the baby. I might have felt some flutters a few days prior, but nothing that stopped me in my tracks with the realization of “this is it”! But on this night, no more than 5 minutes after our last bite of pie and ice cream, the baby started dancing and kicking furiously, in an obvious response to the sugar rush. To make the moment even sweeter, I quickly placed Jose’s palm on my upper belly and he was able to feel all of the activity for himself! What a treat! Our new year was off to the most amazing start – a sweet and tender moment with our little miracle, the purest expression of our love.

Our honeymoon surprise!

How can one possibly top a honeymoon adventure as magnificent and magical as the two weeks we spent in Thailand and the Maldives? We certainly couldn’t think of anything, unless you consider the wonderful news we received just a few weeks after returning home to DC.

Our little honeymoon surprise!

Our little family is gaining a new member! Yes, Toby will be getting a new sibling, a little partner in crime, expected to arrive in late May 2013!

We feel so incredibly blessed and overjoyed for this next chapter in our lives together – being newlyweds and expectant parents! We’ve had to contain our excitement for many weeks, first sharing our news with our immediate families, and then slowly revealing our little secret to our extended network of friends.

There will be more to come as we document some highlights of our journey as expectant parents, culminating with the spring arrival of our little one!

Well Wishes from the White House!

After such an amazing weekend, we received another surprise from a neighbor of ours that lives downtown.  This neighbor was gracious enough to allow me to use his home to propose to my wife.  Unfortunately, this neighbor wasn’t able to make the wedding.  But, I totally understand.  He and the Mrs. are a little busy criss-crossing the country making a case to the American people.  He did send us a nice card wishing us well.  We also wish him well, and hope to see him pull out a win for the American people in November!

Iron Girl Half Marathon

Toby kept us up a good portion of the night. But, here we are at the Mall in Columbia waiting for María to kick butt in the first of two 1/2 marathons in the span of a week.

Today she participates in the inaugural Iron Girl Half Marathon! Next Sunday we will both run in the Frederick Half Marathon. For her troubles María will get an awesome medal for running both half marathons. That way we will both get our special triple medals for running our respective double races. María’s is more rockstar because she will get hers for running a marathon in the span of a week. I’ll have a whole summer to prepare for the second leg of my feat.

Poor little Toby couldn’t run alongside the runners because of his leg. He did hang out on the sidewalk with his dad, waving at the runners with his good paw. He saw mommy pass by and got excited. You could tell he wanted nothing more than to run with his mommy. We got a few good pics and are taking a break until the runners swing back towards the finish line.

Un Negrito Comes Into Our Lives

El Negrito

El Negrito - our new little puppy

So, after months of looking at puppy pictures, the holiday spirit inspired me to fulfill Maria’s dream of becoming a mommy to a four-legged bundle of joy.  Jennifer kept sending Maria pictures of Chihuaha puppies and links to doggie rescue and puppy ads.  Maria and I even visited one of the DC Animal Rescue shelters to see what doggies they had for adoption.  We even inquired about a beautiful female Miniature Pinscher that had given birth to MinPin-mixed puppies.  Alas, we were a little late and she had been adopted.

During our search I came across, which happened to let one search by breed and location.  I immediately started searching for Miniature Pinschers in the DMV.  Funny enough, the only breeders that had Min Pin pups at the time were in Virginia.  After exchanging a few emails with the breeder, Gretchen Post, I decided we would get a beautiful little Black and Tan Miniature Pinscher.

As luck would have it the week I decided on this purchase, I was away on business.  I had to purchase a money order and send it priority mail to reserve our little puppy.

A week later the puppy was just old enough to come home, and not a moment too soon!  That weekend was Christmas and I wanted to welcome our little guy home in time for the holiday.

So, that Friday I decided to take off of work so that I could bring the little guy home.  Traffic was horrible!  I-95 was a parking lot.  I got off near Fredericksburg and took local roads all the way to Mineral, Virginia.  Yes, this is the same Mineral, VA that was the epicenter of the big earthquake in the DMV area last summer.

When I arrived, I visited with Gretchen and her huge MinPin family.  I met lots of cute puppies, while we talked about the breed and general care.  After about an hour, I was ready to pick between the puppies that were ready to come home.

There were two little brothers that I was able to choose from.  One puppy was very skittish and hid under the sofa.  He was not really having any of me.  The other one was very curious about the tall two-legged creature that had come to visit.  We played for a little while and realized he was a complete ball of furry love.  He was definitely the one!

Puppy Car ride home

Our new little puppy on his car ride home.

On the ride back I began to get phone calls from Maria.  I had visited with Gretchen and the puppies for a good 2-1/2 hours and it was now close to rush hour.  Maria had gone to her mom’s house to cook some carne desmechada and she wanted to know if I wanted to come over and eat.  I told her that I was just getting off work and wasn’t sure I would make it over the river in time.

Meanwhile, I was racing up I-95 and cutting through DC to make sure I could get home before Maria would.  When I got home, I had to work fast.  Maria was on her way, and I had to prepare the little guy for his mommy’s arrival.  As I saw Maria pull up in her car, I went to hide in the bedroom.

I had the surprise all planned out.  I had purchased a little dog tag with the little guy’s temporary name, Negrito.  I would tell Maria that her Christmas present was on the island with the hopes that she would put two and two together.  Unfortunately, I had also left the puppy’s dog food on the island.  So, when Maria comes in, I tell her to check the island for her present.  The first thing she sees is the dog food and thinks it’s cereal or some sort of snack.  I tell her to look for a little black thing on the island.

Honestly, at this time all I cared about was that her back was turned to the bedroom.  I place the puppy on the floor and tell Maria to turn around.  She sees the little puppy and in a flash she is on the floor hugging and kissing the little guy!  She was ecstatic to be a mommy, just in time for Christmas!!!

PIcture of El Negrito

PIcture of El Negrito

El Negrito

PIcture of El Negrito

The Proposal

Jose Manuel Contreras proposing to Maria Fernanda Garcia

Jose Manuel Contreras proposing to Maria Fernanda Garcia -- The White House, December 8, 2010

Well….. It finally happened! I finally mustered up the courage to ask María the all important question, “Will you marry me?” In fact, that’s all I really had to say. Usually you can’t shut me up. However, I had no time and was too nervous to dream up something long winded and epic. Besides, the act itself was epic and noteworthy. For those of you who have been asking for details, here is the unabridged story of how I came to propose to the love of my life, María Fernanda Garcia, in the Red Room of the White House.

When we last left our hero, he had just become the Lord of the Ring (not two, not three, just one) and was plotting a way to propose to such a special woman.

A minor annoyance becomes a pleasant coincidence
When I ordered the ring I was told it would be ready in about 10 days.  About 10 business days had passed and I had begun to wonder what the deal was with the ring.  As if on command, I receive a voice-mail from the the jeweler telling me that my ring had come in and I could pick it up whenever I was ready.  SCORE!!  I could pick it up the next day and then — Oh crap!  I have to go to this White House thing….  Oh…. wait….  I have  to go to the WHITE HOUSE!!!  The gears start turning.  The vision starts out foggy, but begins to clear up.  We’re walking through the White House, the proposal is grand, the President congratulates me and an era of peace and understanding spreads throughout the world!

Reality sets in.  Is this way too over the top and cheesy?  Would I get ridiculed like the Salahis on Real Housewives of DC (blame the fiancée for that reference).  Ok scratch that, we actually were confirmed to be on the list.  But, how would I get past the metal detectors without taking the ring out and risk spoiling the suprise?  I needed some outside advice.  I send June a text asking if I should do it.  She responds, “yup.”  I send my LB Tony a text and he says, “F@ck yea.”  Forgive him, he gets excited sometimes.

Most importantly, I hadn’t asked her parents for her hand in marriage.  Okay, for those of our fans who haven’t figured it out, María and I come from very traditional Latino families.  I gchat, text and finally call my friend Susie to get one last vote of confidence on the idea.  So I’m on the phone with her as I am leaving work to go pick up the ring.  She asks me if I had asked María’s parents for her hand in marriage.  I tell her that I hadn’t and that it was weighing heavily on my mind.  I had envisioned taking them out to dinner (public settings are a good choice to avoid a scene, just in case), but since this idea popped into my head literally less than 18 hours ago I couldn’t quite make that happen.  Of course she reminds me of how important that occasion is to the parents of the bride-to-be, especially in a Latino family.  So she bluntly tells me, “get off the phone with me and start calling her parents!”

Asking the parents
As I am waiting to pick up the ring I am texting María’s parents.  Her mother replies first thinking something is wrong. I don’t think I had ever texted her before.  I tell her nothing is wrong and that I just needed to talk to her about something important.  María’s dad was at work, so I wasn’t sure if I could get a hold of him in time.  I’m thinking this might be an exercise in futility.  Maybe I was starting to get cold feet about the whole idea of proposing at the White House.  Maybe it was all too rushed.  Perhaps I was worried I would forget a detail.  Then her father calls back.  I had rehearsed the convo in my head multiple times, but I wasn’t sure how to apologize for doing it over the phone and asking for his permission at the same time.  After apologizing a few times and explaining the urgency of my predicament the words finally come out.  I asked his permission to propose to María.  I think he was as nervous as I was!  He immediately replied yes, but seemed at a loss for words.  According to María, he is the quiet type, but a real softy.  He welcomes me to the family and I thank him over and over again.  That wasn’t so hard!  I tend to get along with fathers anyway.

Next up, querida Mamá Luz!  In a way I was glad I got the easy one out of the way.  I had the father’s permission. According to Latino Macho Code, this is a decision amongst men.  Of course, I knew that would not fly whatsoever.  María’s mom had tried calling me while I was on the phone with María’s father.  So, I call her back and start my bumbling apology again and end my nervous monologue by asking her permission as well.  She asks me, “are you sure you want to marry my daughter?”  I tell her of course!  She begins to tell me, it’s not something one takes lightly.  I tell her I am in total agreement and want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with her daughter.  I guess she had to make it seem a  little tough on me.  She tells me she is about to give her daughter away.  I tell her she isn’t losing her daughter, she is gaining the son she never had!! Y que negrito ese nene! Of course she tells me that she holds me in high esteem and welcomes me to the family.  Yes!! I can breathe again!  And just in time!  I’m pulling into my parking lot to meet María so we can head to the White House.

Recruiting an accomplice
Operation “Put a Ring On It” was now a go!  Step one would be to figure out a way to get “The Item” through security without detection by the “Primary Target,” María Fernanda García.  Were I to carry “The Item” on my person it would surely set off the metal detectors and would have to produce “The Item” in prior to its scheduled unveiling.  I would have to recruit a capable asset to carry “The Item” through security and handle the process to clear “The Item” past security.  Besides the “Primary Target” my only known contact at the White House would be our dear friend Desiree, who invited us on this Holiday Tour.  As the “Primary Target became distracted by something I quickly flash Des “The Item” to let her know my intentions.  I immediately begin to chat her up so she has time to calm down and process what is about to occur.  As we get past the first two checkpoints (yes, our names were on both lists) I slip “The Item” into her purse. María and I go through security first.  She starts to walk towards the pictures and I join her and begin to chat about the pics and make sure she keeps facing forward,  Meanwhile my accomplice works her way through security.  She shows the Secret Service the ring and we make our way to the White House.

Choosing the room
Prior to this day, I hadn’t been in the White House since I was little boy and came here on a school field trip.  I remember there being a bunch of different colored rooms, but had no sense of what was where.  The girls must have thought I was really intrigued by the tour program.  It was nice and all, but I was looking for the perfect room to propose to María.  As I read the descriptions I felt drawn to the Red Room.  I know, I know, red is the color of love.  Red is a Christmas color.  I guess it was really a no brainer.   But, I needed to be sure.  I wanted to get a look at all the rooms and then go back to the room I felt was the most appropriate.

After having gone through all the rooms I finally decided the Red Room was going to be the setting of our very special moment.  We had made our way to the State Dining Room, so I asked Des and María to double back and take a picture by the Christmas trees in the Red Room.  I had dropped hints that I wanted to double back to the other side of the room.

María suggested that we take off our coats for this picture.  Maybe she felt a premonition.  Maybe The Fates inspired her to prepare for a special moment.  She hands her coat to Des and I hand my coat to Des as I try to retrieve the ring from her purse.  We struggle to find it since it was placed in another pocket of her purse when she went through security.  María moves in to see what’s holding things up!  Oh no! Near disaster.  Just as María moves in we find the ring and I retrieve it before she sees anything.

We move on to taking pictures.  The first picture is a normal Xmas picture by the tree.  I tell Des to take another picture just in case.  As Des gets ready to take that picture, I drop to one knee and ask María a question…


She cups her mouth in surprise and says, “YES!”

Prince William and Kate, The Kardashians, Brad and Angelina, José and María, we all had to deal with the paparazzi.  It just so happens that as this moment unfolded it was captured by Toby Knapp of Hot 99.5.  I recall hearing all these clicks behind me, not knowing that the media is documenting our moment.  Desiree gets business cards from Toby, Tim and Dan, our first set of paprazzi.  Many thanks to them for taking the pictures.  I’m sure historians will be glad they were able to capture history in the making.

To make things even more interesting it seems that they talked about the proposal on the radio!

The following morning I receive an email from one of the bros with the following link: Toby Knapp – Dude pops the question in the Red Room of the White House

Needless to say, word began to spread amongst our friends.  We raced to tell those closest to us either by phone or by text or by email.  We are excited to begin this new phase of our life and begin preparations for a 2012 wedding!

The Lord of the Ring

Lord of The RingsSo, Thanksgiving was a truly wonderful event. In fact it sealed the deal for me in multiple ways. The entire family was telling me how highly they thought of Maria and that I should stop delaying the inevitable and just marry the girl! Even my dear abuelita, who had always told me that I shouldn’t rush to get married, the one who told me I need to see the world — yes, that dear abuelita sold her grandson out. She said I needed someone to share in my travels. My mom was at wits end as to how else she could impress upon me her desire for me to get married to such a wonderful and caring woman. The cousins all love her. My friends all love her. Most importantly, I LOVE HER! But I digress….

So the thought had been in my head that it was just about that time for me to take that next step. I had already taken her to a jewelry store to see what kind of rings she liked. I even put money down on a particular ring, but after some research decided I could do better.

So, I called on my trusted jewelry advisor, June Jimenez, to visit a few jewelry stores with me and give me some unbiased input. We visited a few stores and probably learned more about diamonds and the diamond selling business than I truly care to know.  Between my online research and visiting multiple jewelers, we were both getting pretty tired.  We decided to go to happy hour (is it truly Happy Hour on Saturday?) and try one more jeweler.

This last jeweler caught my attention.  I came armed with all this knowledge and my vision of what the perfect diamond would be.  He sat me down and showed me different diamonds for comparison.  If there was something that I asked for he called his diamond dealer and asked for a price.  This is pretty standard, I guess.  What I did notice is that he didn’t steer me to the top of my budget.  He found me the most brilliant diamond he had and recommended it to me as the right diamond for the perfect woman.  Funny that I kept staring looking at others and I tried to compare against what I had seen earlier in the day.  Something about this diamond called to me, almost as if it were saying, “my precious!”  It truly was the most beautiful diamond I had seen the entire day.

So, I went for it!  I chose the diamond and was ready to pick a setting.  Maria had fallen in love with this one particular setting, both for aesthetic reasons, but true to her utilitarian mindset, for the way the diamond was secured in the setting.  I explained to the jeweler what I was looking for and he breaks out an entire catalog with pages of variations on that setting.  So June and I rub our eyes, trying to focus and go through the different variations.  Again, one setting in particular kept calling out to us, “my precious,” letting us know it was The One.  Then came the discussion, platinum, white gold, palladium.  What?!?!  Que es palladium?  Okay class, take out your books and open to the periodic table.  Okay, I won’t go into the detailed lesson, but damn! I was impressed.  Sold!

So after a little paperwork and a bag of gold coins later I was the proud owner of a ring designed by myself and June, with an assist from the jeweler.  Of course June starts squealing in excitement and jumping up and down.  I’m kind of calm about, probably in shock from taking that next step.  It was all so very real for me.  The next step would be when to propose

To be continued…

Nationals Game & Steel Pulse Concert


For our first baseball game this season, we were joined by Maria’s dad, Efren, and sister, Jennifer, for the ‘Battle of the Beltways’ – Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles.




Later that evening, we headed over to the 9:30 Club,  in the U Street corridor and grooved to the irie reggae sounds from Steel Pulse! Not only was this Jose’s first time at the 9:30 club, but it was also our first time going to a concert together. Needless to say, the reggae rhythms evoked all kinds of gyrations and movements from the crowd. We soon found ourselves feeling overheated and crowded, but the music was in one word, amazing!