Sunday, April 29, 2012

Forty-Three Weeks Old

Aiden and Isabella went in the pool for the first time on Sunday the 22nd! They loved it, but weren't huge fans of the 90 degree weather.

Isabella got her first tooth on Monday, April 23rd! I can't believe it. I totally thought it'd be another week or so. AND THEN, she won for first second tooth (hehe), when it popped up on Wednesday, April 25th! Aiden is close to having his second one pop up, but not yet.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tiny Prints

Anyone who knows me, knows two things for certain: (1) I am obsessed with occasion shirts (I think it stems from my sorority days) and (2) I will make up occasions to send out personalized cards. I probably send more invitations/Christmas/moving announcements/Valentine's Day cards than anyone I know. I just think there are never too many reasons to send someone a customized card!

So when we were looking for birth announcements I shopped around for a long time. I actually started looking at announcements long before I even was pregnant. We knew early on that we were going to use Tiny Prints because of their selection and quality. When we learned our firstborn was a boy, we were overjoyed to find the perfect blue announcements that matched the bow he was wearing in his newborn photos.
When Cole was born we wanted birth announcements to send to just our immediate family. Because we wanted to give our precious angel the same initials as his big brother C.J.H. we found it fitting that we ordered a similar birth announcement too. We settled on this beautiful announcement. We loved that Tiny Prints was so customizable that we could add in "A Moment in our Arms, An Eternity in our Hearts! Some people only dream of angels. We held one in our arms." We felt it was the perfect way to honor his birth and acknowledge that he had gone to Heaven.

**Photo Below: Sorry about the quality. This is a picture of the announcement we have framed in our living room!**

Then, when the twins were born, we instantly went to Tiny Prints for their twin birth announcement selection. We honestly thought they had a better and bigger selection of twin announcements than any other company out there.
 The pictures are small, but if you click on them - they will open much larger.
They also have amazing photo gifts. We had Connor's birth announcement mounted on a canvas. We couldn't do Aiden and Isabella's because of the card we got (we knew that when we ordered it...), and I haven't ordered Cole's yet. But I plan on it:

 This past Christmas, we did something different than we've done before. We took our Christmas Family photo and then went out in search of a card that would color match it well. Did you know that when you're trying to find a Christmas card on Tiny Prints you can search by color? That's how we came up with the card we used this year. We had never done a square card before, but we loved this one with the scalloped edges. It was honestly so hard to chose just one because they had the brightest, most playful holiday cards to chose from.
 The back:
We mailed out invitations for Mr. Howard's ceremony to our immediate family, but I am going to do "Woo-Hoo I graduated" announcement cards with the hubby in his cap and gown after his ceremony to our friends. I personally think that you can never celebrate big occasions too much. =) Their graduation announcements are so amazing!
I'm leaning towards this one:
Graduation Announcements Formal Tag - Front : Black
or this one:
Graduation Announcements Classic Grad - Front : Rich Red
Which do you like better?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Forty-Two Weeks Old

**When I wrote this post last week (I know!! How on earth did I write this last week and NOT publish it?!?),  I wrote (all smugly) that Connor and I weren't sick...and then I got sick. Ha!**

Aiden and Isabella got another cold! Their daddy has it too. Connor must have gotten MY immune system! Still no teeth for Izzy. Can you believe it? She'll be ten months in 8 days.

I can't tell you what OPPOSITES Aiden and Isabella are. My sister and I are pretty different too, but my mom had 3 years of parenting experience before my sissy came along - so she obviously treated us a little differently. But Aiden and Isabella, I have treated EXACTLY the same. It is so interesting to see how different they are! If you blow your nose while you're holding Izzy, she'll cry. If she's talking to you and you "talk" back to her, she looks at you and cries. If a dog barks, she cries. Are you seeing a theme here? She cries a lot. Sometimes I think with all her little attitude, she must be a 13-year-old trapped in a nine-month-old's body. Aiden, on the other hand is so laid back. There isn't a whole lot that gets him riled up, but when he IS mad - he is M-A-D!

The photo above kinda sums up the stages they're in - teething, moving, not wanting to sit still for one second!!

I. Love. It.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I am linking up with Jamie for What I'm Loving Wednesday!
I am loving, LOVING the photo I captured on my iPhone of two of my three boys!
I am loving that when I went to go get Isabella Lynn out of her crib, she was waving to me!
I am loving these chicken gyros I found on pinterest:
I am loving this train room we saw when we were looking at model homes. The wall is brick wallpaper.
I am loving this first birthday photo! I love, love, love the idea of Aiden wearing a tie and nothing else.
I am loving these first birthday photos outside.

I am loving all the Mamas I've found from Kelly's Linkup. I love blogging, as it's such a great community of support and mama friendships.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sophia's Birthday

I can't believe I forgot to blog these pictures! The weekend before last we went to Miss Sophia's 4th birthday. How on earth she is four, I have no idea. I swear her mom, my best friend, was just pregnant. It was a cookie decorating party at the park, which translated into an "eat sprinkles, m&m's, and frosting (oh and maybe a cookie) and then run around" party - which was absolutely perfect! They got hyped up on sugar and then ran around the park and burned off all the steam! He slept really well that night!

All the party guests decorating cookies:
 Running around the park: Connor, Daddy, and Izzy:
 The birthday girl with her candles and cupcakes:
 The four-year-old birthday girl:
 I think she was pondering what to wish for (I think girlfriend on the right was trying to help her blow the candles out):
 The hubby and I on our way home! Fun day!
 Cookie decorating: Connor, Izzy, and Daddy
I didn't get a single picture of Aiden (I was wearing him). Poor guy. But he was adorable as ever!

Monday, April 23, 2012

This Weekend

What a weekend! The hubby worked nights all weekend, which meant I was in charge of bedtime by myself. Whew! I definitely think it's good once and a while to do it on my own because it definitely makes me thankful when I have the help! I don't know how single parents do it...or you men and women whose spouses are in the military. You are seriously my hero. Sabrina, I'm talking to you!

On Saturday morning, we let the kids play in the backyard. We were having our house appraised and the guy needed to walk around the house - so we thought it'd be best if we got the kids out of the house. Connor loved the swings (in fact, for the rest of the day all I heard about was, "Mama, I go on the slide? Please? Please?") When the appraiser left, we went shopping for groceries and a few new articles of clothing for me. I bought my first skirt post having four babies. My legs are SOO white, it's unbelievable (last summer I was majorly pregnant with twins and on bed rest...then when I had the babies I couldn't swim because of the it's been a while since my legs have seen the sun). I've been looking for a dress to wear to the hubby's graduation and I can't find anything. Eeek! The kids went down for a nap and 12:30 and two of the three didn't wake up until 4:30. I went into their rooms about 10 times to check to make sure they were okay! A four hour nap? That's amazing!

On Sunday we went to a barbecue hosted by the hubby's work for employees and their families. They had footballs, Frisbees, beach balls, badminton, a baseball bat & ball...and it was at a park with a million slides. Connor ran and ran and ran. It was the perfect way to wear him out for a good, long nap. The babies weren't quite as thrilled with the 90 degree weather. My camera was broken so I didn't get a single photo. We came home afterwards, took a nap, and then I headed right back out to my mom's house to take the kids in the pool for the first time. It was Aiden and Isabella's first time in the pool ever!! Mr. Howard wasn't with us because he was working.

Their First time in the pool:
 Izzy in her glasses:
 Aiden in her glasses:
 All Three:

Hope your weekend was filled with joy. My heart has been so heavy reading all the stories of the moms who've lost children. I want you to know I'm praying for all you moms.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Show Us Your Life

I'm linking up with Kelly's Korner Blog today for
I would rather not be linking up today. It would be wonderful to not be part of this club. But I am. And I am grateful for all the mamas out there who've been such a support system for me.
Pregnant with Cole July 2010
When our firstborn son, Connor was almost a one-year-old (June of 2010), we learned we were going to have a little brother or sister to add to our family and were overjoyed. At our 20 week ultrasound, on September 15th, 2010, we had a very "abnormal experience" and  knew that something was not right (the technician didn't say anything, but we just KNEW). At about 4:30 that afternoon, I got a missed phone call from Kaiser. As soon as I saw the number, I knew that something was wrong. When I spoke to the geneticist, it became clear that our life was turning upside down. The next few days were filled with prayers, counseling from doctors, our friends, and families, and horrible decisions. It is surreal to me now that any of that happened. There isn't a day or week that goes by that I don't question everything that happened, or wonder what God's plan was for us. But on September 17th, 2010 at 5:40am we welcomed our beautiful precious angel Cole Jayden Howard, who was born sleeping.
I was able to hold him first and I don't remember how long I was able to hold him in my arms before I handed him to Mr. Howard. It felt like a long time, but I wonder if it felt longer to Mr. Howard. We stared at his tiny little face in wonderment and silently acknowledged the unspoken reality: this was it. This was the last time we'd hold him. This was the last time we'd see him (here on Earth, anyways). This was the last time we'd ever dress him or wrap him in a blanket. We studied his features, trying to memorize everything. These 4 hours are an absolute blur to me. I know that Mr. Howard held him while I slept and I held Cole while he slept. I know that at some point Cole had to leave for his photographs and that at another time they attempted to get better hand prints of him. I know that there weren't a lot of tears during this time, because it was so unbelievably surreal.
I had imagined that they'd put Cole in my arms and I'd burst into tears. I imagined that I would sob and sob and sob while staring at him and that there would be no way I could ever smile in a photo with him. But this was not the reality. While I was holding him, I was quiet. Somber. No tears. While I stared at him, I looked at his features and decided he had his Daddy's nose. No tears. Somber. I posed for a photo with him and smiled. How could I not? I was holding my son. I was holding my precious baby. I was holding Cole. This was the little boy I had wanted to meet from the very minute I had found out I was expecting. There was happiness amidst all the sadness because we had given birth to a precious baby boy. I look at the pictures now and see me smiling with Cole and can't understand it. I have no happiness now when I think of him. I think this is perhaps one of the big differences between losing a child who is older. I don't have any fond memories or funny stories. So even though in the moment I was happy holding my son, I look back and see only pain and sadness.
The next few weeks were a complete blur. We accomplished firsts we never thought possible. We handed over our baby to go to the morgue. We cried. We drove home empty handed. We told friends, coworkers, and family. We made the decision to cremate him. We went to the funeral home. We picked out an urn. We continued to wake up. We met with a social worker. We cried. We wrote an obituary in the newspaper. We continued to wake up. We held a memorial service for him. We received the photos the hospital had taken of him. We continued to breath. We opened his autopsy report and read it. We called the funeral home to pick up his urn. We continued to parent our other child Connor. We picked up Cole's ashes. We brought him home. We received food and flowers. We cried. We wrote thank you's. We went back to work. We answered questions like, "how many kids do you have?" and "how old are they?" We stared at his footprints. Our hearts continued to beat. We tried to remember the moments we had with him. We sobbed. We survived his due date. We talked about him constantly.

If you would have asked me two years ago if I could ever do what I did, I would have said emphatically, "Never! I would die." But somehow you don't. Somehow you keep waking up. Somehow you keep breathing, despite your nightly prayers to just be taken away. And somehow months pass and you think, "how on earth did I get here?"
Afterwards, we learned that Cole had multicystic dysplastic kidney disease in both kidneys. Only 1 in 10,000 people have it in both kidneys, but it is "incompatable with life" (if I never hear that phrase again, it will be too soon). While we are heartbroken and miss our precious angel every single waking moment, we are blessed. What we have endured is nothing compared to all the moms and dads who've encouraged us, cried with us, sent us emails and called us to share their stories. We feel humbled by our experience and grateful that we will someday be able to hold Cole in our arms. As we wrote in his obituary, "Some people only dream of angels. We were able to hold one in our arms."

I'm sure that you can tell by my blog pictures that my story doesn't end there. On December 15th , when I would have been 32 weeks pregnant with Cole, at an ultrasound to see the heartbeat of our third precious baby, we SHOCKINGLY discovered we were expecting twins. And then on June 30th, together with their big brothers Connor and Cole, we welcomed Aiden and Isabella into our hearts and families.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I am loving that my husband is so happy with his new job!! He comes home every day rejuvenated, motivated, and excited! I think his love language is actually "well-organized, productive, fortune 500 companies!" I haven't seen him this happy in years!

I am loving that in less than a month Mr. Howard will walk across the Chapman University stage in a cap and gown! I am especially excited that his kids will get to see it. What a role model that you're never too old or settled to finish your degree...for his kids. Without that degree he would not have been able to get the job that he currently has!

I am loving that we have 31 days left of school before Spring Break. AND two of those days are all-day field trips! I think I'm probably more excited about it than my students!!!

I am loving that we are going to be going to Disneyland for a family vacation this summer! I just wish the hubby would find out his permanent home (for work) so we could put in the request. My mother-in-law has made the kids some really adorable matching outfits to wear! You know me and matching outfits?!? 
Picture Above: Connor was a little over 1-years-old the last time we went to Disneyland
I am loving the pictures of the Easter Bunny and the twins that finally arrived. Connor refused to be near him. Surprised?
Picture Above: There was no option to buy digital prints. So this is a picture of a picture. Sorry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Zoo Re-Do

The last time we had gone to the zoo, Connor was in a bit of a mood. We went at about 11 and by the time we had walked around for a little while, Connor was hungry and having a melt-down. We stopped for lunch and made the rookie mistake of taking Connor out of the stroller. Oh holy moly. We then spent the next half of the zoo trip either running after him and attempting to get him down from the animal cages (okay, slightly dramatic...but pretty close) or battling him to stay in his stroller because he was ANGRY that we were asking him to be contained.

This weekend we decided to do a do-over. We decided to go at opening instead and thought it would be so much better. I'm not sure what was going on, but we had a similar day (no stroller issues, but everything else issues). Someone told me that the "terrible threes" are worse than the "terrible twos" and while I hate calling any stage my child is going through terrible, I have to say - it's been an interesting transition. I don't necessarily think it's worse, but Connor is definitely a lot more vocal about what he wants and doesn't. =) The amazing flipside to it though, is he is so much more vocal and hilarious. Man he makes me heart melt!

Funny story - I was putting on spanks the other day and Connor was watching me hop around trying to squeeze in them. He said, "No! Mama, those pants Isabella's?!?" I could not stop laughing. I could hardly even breath when I retold the story to the hubby.

Do you see how adorable my baby boy is??
 She was so happy at the zoo!
 Connor LOVED the giraffes today. Loved.
 Mr. Howard, Izzy, and Connor looking at the giraffes:
 Connor entranced:
 Mama and her boys:
 Isabella Lynn in her brother's glasses:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter Egg Decorating

Shhhh. Don't tell the kids, but we died Easter eggs about a week after Easter. I actually hard-boiled the eggs a few days before Easter, but then we got busy (aka: found better, more interesting things to do). And then, while we were dying them, I suddenly remembered how un-fun it is. I know, I know. Ms. Queen of everything crafty and holiday related found a holiday related craft she doesn't enjoy. Good thing the hubby likes it. He can do it with the kids next year.

Bella loved watching Connor dye them. Aiden wanted nothing to do with being set down, so we held him.
 I know he looks unhappy, but he wasn't:
 We bribed him to take a photo with us while his eggs were soaking. Yay for a picture where he's both smiling AND looking at the camera.
They were excited:
 Connor had such a fun time and loved using the dipper.
 I didn't really get the whole thing:
 He loved it so much:
 Proud of his eggs:
(Just in case: I just don't want to get emails about how my child is too old for a sippy cup. It isn't his. We're working on sippy cups with the babies.)

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