Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Keeping it Real

Blogging has created this amazing glimpse into average people's lives. It's been amazing. We've been able to get advice, comfort, a laugh, perspective, and ideas. But, it has also created this sense that maybe we're not doing enough. Have you heard that saying, "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight real." Yep. That pretty much sums it up, right?

I always get these comments wondering how I have the time to do x, y, and z. And that's the thing about blogging. You don't get to see the areas of my life that I'm majorly failing at (because why on earth would I put that on the blog?). Instead, you see my polished, perfectly planned, highly organized life.

So, in honor, of keeping it real. I wanted to do my own version of Show us Your Life. But this one is Show us Your REAL life.

First up? Laundry. Yep. I hate it. Loath. I do not wash the sheets on my bed once a week. I do not wash my towels every time I use them. I just don't. So there you have it.

My mother-in-law left a week ago and stripped the bed for me. And now it has become my catch-all for laundry. This is all clean, by the way. I guess I should clarify. I don't mind doing laundry! I hate putting it away! Ugh.

Next up? Projects. My living room has been half painted for 3 weeks. It's embarrassing. I mean SERIOUSLY embarrassing. We've had people from ALTA in our house a couple times and I feel like I need to profusely apologize. I look at the blogosphere and see all these gorgeous, perfectly put together houses and I see pictures of their perfect children and I wonder how they do it all. But I'm sure there's something else they've put on the backburner. Right? RIGHT?!? 
 And finally? Our yard. I'd like to blame this on my husband. But let's be real. He'd do it if I wasn't always saying, "Don't you want to cuddle on the couch with me?...The kids are sleeping, do you want to take a nap with me?...The kids are asleep; let's a rent a movie!!" (Wow! A lot of our conversations revolve around the kids napping...). The number one fight we have is over time. I want more of his time. I want him to work less. I want to have to work less. I'd be happy cuddling on the couch with our kids 5 days a week. Seriously. And yard work...Well, that just isn't my priority at this stage in my life. Some day we'll have a gardener. I keep saying that the next promotion Mr. Howard gets will go towards a housekeeper and gardener, but then instead it goes to daycare...or Disneyland...or the twins' first birthday party...or saving for a bigger mortgage payment. I know; we lead very exciting lives.

So, perhaps I have answered some of your questions about how I have the time with three kids to plan fun, decorative birthday parties, blog, or go on dates with my hubby. I just prioritize the things I like doing over the things I hate doing. 

But now that I've posted my laundry for the world to see, I absolutely, positively MUST put it away before I pick the kids up from school.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Connor: Potty Training Days 1-5

If you don't like words like potty, pee, poop. This post might not be for you!

I have mentioned before that Connor has been beyond ready to be completely potty trained. Even in a diaper he has been telling us when he needs to go potty pretty regularly. We had planned to do it the summer the twins arrived. And then, well. We had twins! So we knew this was the summer to do it! Initially I had planned on doing it the very first week of my summer break. I even started for a whole day. And then I remembered that we were going to Disneyland. I honestly thought it'd be so impractical to try to potty train him right before putting him the car for 7 hours. And I thought it'd be more confusing to him if I let him be in diapers while we were in the car and at the park. So I delayed it again. We officially started the day we got back from Disneyland.

Below: First Potty Training Chart
I had meant to create a potty chart and go buy cute, matching stickers. And then, well... Life happened. So I quickly went and printed a free one from the computer, went to my scrapbooking stickers, and grabbed what I could find. My selection was dismal, but I found some cute driving stickers. And we started on July 25th. On the 26th, I couldn't take the mismatched stickers any longer, so I had the hubby pick some more that matched a little better. And then I created my own potty chart because I didn't love the one that I found. The free printable one I found had these boxes which were too small and there were only 7 for each day. Connor was filling those up. I know. I'm obsessive. And crazy. My husband gives me such a hard time because when I put the kids down for naps and bedtime, I stay up creating potty charts, and blogging. Oh well. Good thing he's married to me.
Below: New Potty Chart
It wasn't much better. I still ran out of room.
It *may* have had something to do with the ridiculously big Cars stickers we used

Here's how it went:
Wednesday, July 25th - Started after naptime!
  • No Accidents!
  • 6 pees and 1 poop
Thursday, July 26th - all day (diaper at naptime)
  • One Pee Accident during afternoon snack
  • 8 pees and 1 poop
  • We even went on a one-hour car ride and had NO ACCIDENTS!!!
Friday, July 27th - all day (diaper at naptime)
  • No Accidents
  • 6 pees and 0 poops
  • We went on a two-hour car ride in the morning and had NO ACCIDENTS!
  • We took the twins to their well baby visit (we left the house at 1:30 and got home at 3:30) and didn't have a single accident!
Saturday, July 28th - all day (diaper at naptime)
  • 2 Accidents (a slight reversion)
  • 6 pees and 1 poops
  • One accident was the car ride that we took to my mom's. I totally forgot to remind him to go potty before we got in the car (Hey! I'm a rookie!)
Sunday, July 29th - all day (diaper at naptime)
  • No Accidents
  • 7 pees and 2 poops
  • We didn't go anywhere today. I thought it'd be good to have a day at home (given the accidents yesterday)
Connor was super motivated by the stickers. We did give one m&m each time the first couple days, but then stopped and just kept doing the stickers. That was motivation enough. I have talked to a few friends who all say that the reversion is totally normal. Two steps forward. One back. We're still doing diapers at naptime and bedtime - mainly because I'm not ready to take him out of his crib yet. Don't judge. I have three kids three-years-old and younger and naptime and bedtime are my only breaks. =)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Social Media Buttons

I posted an image on instagram of my new social media buttons and got a comment and two emails asking me how to do it and I thought I'd share.

I've been getting more and more daring in my blog layout. I still don't have the time to do my own header, etc. so I still hire out for that (I use Sweetie Baby's Design and am super happy with her services). But I really wanted Social Media Buttons and didn't want to pay money for something I thought I could do myself.

This was SOO easy that once I found the right tutorial (that's the key part...because, for me, finding the right tutorial took me another 30 minutes), it only took me about 20 minutes.
So, first, you'll need to google "free social media icons" to find pictures of the ones you like. I used Her New Leaf's freebie Friday set and downloaded the cobalt ones. I only downloaded the facebook, pinterest, email, and instagram ones because I don't have a twitter or any of the other things.

The next step is to follow THIS tutorial. Honestly, once I had the icons I wanted to use, this step only took me about 10 minutes. In this tutorial, Sylvia has you upload the icons to photobucket, copy the html code, change out the link to the actual link of your facebook/pinterest/etc. and then upload it to blogger by adding an HTML gadget. So easy!

A few helpful tips:
If you create social media buttons on your blog, I'd love to know! Good luck!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

New Family Photos

We had new family photos taken before we left for Disneyland in July, by who other than my very talented sister at Katie Taylor Photography. She did such a great job!!
 I know you can't see it, but I ALWAYS wear Cole's footprint in our formal family photos.
 The Howards:
Daddy, Aiden, Connor, Mama, Isabella, and Grandma
 Aiden and Isabella
 On the move:
We were given this dress by a friend before Isabella was born and it was the perfect opportunity to put her in it:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 4 Evening and Day 5 of our Trip

Day 4 Evening

We were finally able to see Cars Land at night (an absolute "MUST SEE")

 The way they light up the "mountain" is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously!

 This is on the Radiator Springs Racers ride
 And this, right here, is BEYOND my favorite photo from the whole vacation. Because it's the only one that has ALL my kids in it. Connor's hat was given to us a few years ago by our daycare and we got Cole's hat the first time we went to Disney after having him. We added Aiden and Isabella's hats this trip (we actually had to get Isabella two hats - because the first one the lady spelled "Isbellla"). Isn't the picture just perfect? It's hard to believe I have FOUR kids. I just adore them all.
 Another view of the hats! People were oohing and ahhing at my idea to take a picture of my hats. Little did they know how significant it was to us!
Our initial plan was to put all three kids in front of the castle and take a photo with Cole's hat sitting next to them. Well. Yeah. Trying to get three kids to sit still long enough to take a photo...while trying not to block other people from walking or taking pictures...yeah I didn't think it'd work. Maybe when they're older.

 My mom, Isabella, and Aiden in front of Flo's Cafe
 Mr. Howard and Connor
 We paid $12 for this light up balloon. Ridiculous. Good thing Daddy's a sucker. =)

Day 5
We just had a travel day. We did stop by Mr. Howard's alma mater to buy a few alumni things (a shirt, a license plate frame, and a coffee mug).
And I had to post our "go-to" snack for the babies in the car. They love them! I'll be honest. The ride home was pretty rough. They were done. We were done. My "check engine" light came on. It was hard. But we made it! I posted that night on facebook that we all needed a vacation after our five-day vacation. I hope I'm not the only one who feels that way traveling with kids. I adore it. I can't imagine my life without kids, but man does it make for a non-relaxing vacation. 

Day 4 of our Trip

We had SUCH a goof. We were meeting our family, The Snyders, and Cuellars and we thought they were going to text us when they got to the park and they thought we were going to text them after breakfast. So, while we were both at the park for several hours - neither of us texted the other one. OOPS!!!

We started Monday, July 23rd in Disneyland!

 Aren't these photos fun? We did the photopass CD and loved it!
Before meeting up with our family, we did THE MOST AMAZING THING that I would highly recommend to anyone going to Disney with small kids: a character breakfast!!
This was our picture they took of us before we sat down:

Chip and Dale.
Sorry I couldn't tell them apart. So I made one collage for both of them. 
 Tigger from Winnie and the Pooh
Minnie Mouse
Winnie the Pooh
And all the rest of the characters...
Connor absolutely LOVED it! I so want to do this again when the twins are a little older. It was just so fun!

 This is one of my all time favorite photos ever:
 Mama, Izzy, Connor, Daddy
 Grandma, Nana, and Aiden
I mean...seriously...we're starting a fashion trend!
 My handsome boys
After some fun rides, we went to lunch at Lunch Flo's V8 Cafe.
 And drank out of Cozy Cone cup!
Afterwards, my mom and I took the kids back to our place for nap time. Mr. Howard and Kathe stayed to go on rides and see if they could get ahold of Kathe's sister. That is when we discovered our mistake (that they were there waiting for us to call!)

 I found this photo on the camera. It was taken during nap time. Hmmm. Wonder who could have taken it...
After naptime, I brought the kids back to the park and finally met up with the Snyders and Cynthia. While Mr. Howard and I went on Radiator Springs Racers, everyone else hung out with McQueen.

We went in the single rider line so that we didn't have to wait 3 hours!!!
 And then we went to dinner. Everyone split up and went to different restaurants and then sat together. My family went to The Lucky Fortune Cookery and had Chinese food. While we ate, Connor played with his friends (gosh...are they second cousins?). They were so cute together!!
I have yet to post my absolute favorite photos from the whole trip. So I'm going to continue Day 4 Evening in a separate post.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 3 of Our Trip

We had planned on waking up early Sunday, July 22nd and getting into Cars Land right when they opened for Magic Morning at 7am (one hour earlier than the regular opening time), but we were so tired from the night before (and we didn't realize that this would be our last magic morning opportunity). Instead, we got to the park after 9. By this time Connor was SOOO stinkin' excited about Cars Land that we thought we'd need to go to California Adventures immediately. We weren't sure if we'd stay in that park or not for the day, but we knew we'd at least start there. My mother-in-law made us all matching shirts and I can't tell you how many compliments and comments we got! Even the Disney cast members were complimenting us on them. We took this picture at my parents' house before we left.

And some from California Adventures
I don't know who was more excited about Cars Land: Mr. Howard or Connor. The first ride we did in Cars Land was Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and even it had a 45 minute wait. That's a long time to wait with a three-year-old in a line.

 Grandma on the ride:
 Mama, Connor, and Daddy on the ride
With Grandma in the background!

We loved Cars Land and spent a lot of time just looking at all the details (it is surreal to be in a town you've seen in a movie about 10,000 times). For breakfast, we had the most healthy thing you could imagine - Cozy Cone Motel Churro bites dipped in chocolate. Don't worry we fed Connor oatmeal before we left our condo.
We were standing in line to meet Mater, but he had to go on his break. So instead we got to meet Lightning McQueen! Connor was so excited!
Here's a picture of him at night too. Isn't he handsome?
We also got to see the desert landscape and it was amazing! I posted these on instagram too (follow me @thehowardbunch)!

We were so lucky because we had some friends join us that day! Our dear friends Allison, Jack, Madison, and Jackson...and my cousin and Uncle Kira and John came. It was so nice to see everyone.
We went to lunch on the Pacific Wharf because we knew there'd be lots of choices for everyone. We got perfect seats right next to the water, in the shade. My family went to the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. It was so good!

After lunch, Mr. Howard took all the kids back for naps (I offered to go, but he wouldn't let me!), so that I could stay with my family and friends! Isn't he a sweet husband? I think secretly, it was because he wanted a nap...and a break! We went on a few fun rides (Soarin' Over California, the swings, and California Screamin'), visited Starbucks, and Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream and talked a lot. Afterwards, we caught the tail end of the California Adventure Pixar Play Parade. I was bummed we didn't get to see the whole thing, because the part we did see was pretty cool. Allison and Jack had to leave to take their little ones home, and right around that time Mr. Howard was ready to drop the babies back off so he could park in the structure.

We left the theme park to meet my other cousin Adam for dinner and went to Naples Ristorante e Pizzaria. The pizza was so good! I had spaghetti with meatballs and I ate the entire bowl in about 5 minutes. Mmm. The following is the only picture I got from dinner and it was one Kathe snapped. Adam is to Isabella's left and my mom is to her right.
Afterwards, I took the kids to the stroller outside (they were super restless) and stood next to Camille Grammer for about 10 minutes (you may have seen my facebook post about this!). After dinner, it was already 9pm, so we all headed home so we could get an early start the next day!

Overall, we loved Cars Land - but I can't wait to go back when the crowds have died down (in a year or so) because there were just SOO many people. The fast passes for Radiator Springs Racers were sold out by about 10am every morning. Crazy!

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