Saturday, August 31, 2013

We can make an adventure out of the everyday!

A few weekends ago we decided to be tourists in our own town (everyone should do that a time or two) and go to Downtown Sacramento! We had such fun walking around and seeing everyone in period costumes! There was this group of women in costumes walking around with Women's Suffrage signs. They were stopping men and asking them if they believed that women should have the right to vote. When men would agree with them, they'd all shout "hip hip! Hooray!" So fun!
 Afterwards, we went and got some salt water taffy in one of the riverfront shops! The kids were in heaven!
 Aiden clearly wanted me to have a piece! He was by far the most excited about the barrels of candy and kept walking around saying, "Mama, LOOK!!!!"
 He was ALL about the candy!
 After that, we took a walk to look at the river! That pyramid building is The Ziggurat Building, which is an office building. It's 10 stories and has 320,000 square feet office space. The kids were enthralled with that!
 The Sacramento Tower Bridge
 There is a train museum and all sorts of trains you can ride on and watch downtown. This was Connor's happy place.
 Obviously, Aiden had a blast too!
 We rounded out our little excursion with a nice, relaxing milk and salt water taffy break (little confession: I hate salt water taffy. So, the kids had a blast eating all of "Mama's taffy" too!). This was Isabella's favorite part! She kept asking for, "more!"
For more of our "Adventures in Northern California" Series Click HERE.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hi My name is Mrs. Howard and I am an addict.

It's true. I am undeniably addicted to being busy.

I read some amazing quotes about being busy and they really struck a chord with me last week when I was feeling overwhelmed.
Busy is a drug that people are addicted to.
It's not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?
Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life.

I've been so busy. And sometimes I feed off of that energy. In order to feel productive and powerful and important, sometimes I feel the need to just be busy. "Oh, I'm so busy with my littles that I don't have time to work out...Oh, really? You read novels? Not ME. I'm too busy with my kids and job...We're too busy with three kids four-years-old and younger to have time to go out on dates..." Have you ever found yourself saying that? The act of being "busy" isn't important and sometimes I need to remember that.

In honor of that realization this week, I've made an honest effort to slow down and enjoy the moments I have, instead of focusing on all the moments I don't have time to do something. That isn't to say that I'm not busy. I am. But I am going to be conscious about WHAT I'm busy about.

Mr. Howard made pancakes with the twins on Saturday morning and they loved every second of it! Sometimes it's easier to just feed the kids, than it is to have them help. But every now and then, it's important to slow down. On Saturday we vowed to not be too busy to let them help.
We had a "paver" estimate done for our backyard on Saturday and the kids stood at the window for about 15 minutes watching Daddy outside. It's amazing, isn't it? They don't need a lesson on not being busy. They can take so much of their time just staring out a window enjoying the scenery. Of course, I wish they could devote 15 minutes of undivided attention to helping me fold the laundry. ;-) But...alas, until that time - I vowed to let them peer out a window for as long as they needed on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, I prioritized taking care of myself and being good to my body. That's the "too busy for that" I've prioritized out of my life for too many years. I ran/walked 6.09 miles (I do a 1.5min run : 1min walk interval) and averaged a 14.5 minute mile. To date we've only done timed runs (run for 30 minutes one way and then 30 minutes back...45 minutes...and then 50 minutes), but this upcoming weekend, we start distance runs. We'll have to do 7 miles this upcoming Sunday and I'm not as scared now that I've done 6 miles.
On Monday, Isabella had speech therapy. She's been doing so well and it's been awesome to see her progress. It's so nice to devote a solid 40 minutes to absolutely nothing but playing with her and talking to her.
How about you? Am I the only one addicted to being busy? Am I the only one who really had NO idea I was even addicted to it?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time Flies When You Have Babies...and Work. Ha!

Holy Cow. I can't even believe how quickly the last few weeks have gone. It is amazing how quickly my days go when I'm repeating myself 9,087 times...then come home and repeat myself another 4,854 times with my three kids and husband.
I have a lot of students this year (two periods are at 33 students and two are at a period with 20 and a homeroom with 24) and it is amazing the difference in having four PACKED periods. Normally I have every single kid's name down pat by the first day, but this year it took me the first two days and there are still a few students whose names I reverse. That's not acceptable for me and I just feel awful about it. But we're all just chugging along. Before I know it, they'll be family and I won't be able to remember a time when I didn't remember their names.
In the meantime, my kids have been SO enjoying preschool again. Isabella barely looks at us when we drop her off, which makes my Mama heart so happy because I know how loved and cared for she is. Aiden's language has just exploded since we started back up and it's confirmation, once again, at how important preschool is for Aiden. And Connor is so happy to see his friends. He keeps talking about how excited he is to go to kindergarten and I think that's a testament to how fun they make learning for him! Mr. Howard and I have been loving hearing their conversations in the bath and dinner telling us all about their day, or mimicking things they've learned in school with each other.
 Colin and Rebecca are still living with us and the kids could NOT be more excited. They wake up every morning asking where they are and go to bed shouting from their cribs, "Nighhhhttttt Becca...looovvvvve you Colin!" Last night when they got home from school, Colin and Becca weren't here and the kids went running from room to room trying to find them, calling out to them as they searched, "Whhhere are you???" It's also been wonderful having other adults to talk with at night after we put the kids to bed, and just having four extra hands for taking care of the kids and house.
 A few nights ago, Colin helped hubby put the kids in the bath - while Rebecca helped me with dinner. Our kids have no idea how lucky they are to have four adults in their home who love them so much.
 Even the nightly teeth-brushing wrestling match is fun when Uncle Colin is taking pictures! Isabella even cracked a few smiles!
 Aiden, all wrapped up in his burrito towel, was thrilled to have his Uncle play with him in the bath.
This week is going to be a little calmer now that back-to-school night is over and I'm a little more settled with my students, schedule, and grading. I have so much to fill you in on, as we've been keeping busy with life outside of work and my goal is to get caught up on a few posts this week!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I'm a Working Mom Again & Midweek Randoms

Whoa! I'm a working mom again. I always forget how hard that is too. I focus on how being a stay at home mama is so hard for me (and wonderful too! Don't get me's awesome and amazing too!), but then I go back to work and think "WOW! This is so hard too!" At the end of the day, it's just all hard, isn't it?!? Working Mom...Work at home Moms...Stay at home Moms...we're all super heroes!
My favorite part of the beginning of the year is once we start getting work on the walls. It drives me nuts to have empty walls. These were their self portraits they did. I'm really loving the way they turned out. I got the directions from THIS site.  I will have two groups of self-portraits on my walls: my 3/6th period and my homeroom. I only have one other group of students (1/3rd period) and their self portraits are hanging in my partner teacher's classroom. I'll make sure to put something else from that period on my wall - so that all my students are represented!
We celebrated my 30th birthday with my family on Sunday night and I got the BEST birthday present ever from my parents. I am SO ridiculously excited about my new Nikon and as soon as work calms down, I'm going to find some online classes or community college classes I can take to figure it all out (if anyone knows of any, let me know!). My brother got me this cool thing that plugs into the camera that puts the photos onto my iPhone as well!! And my sister made me these beautiful paintings for the house for each kid. I can't wait to frame them and post about them, because they're awesome! Stay tuned!
I am still running a lot. I meet with my half marathon training group twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays) and the Wednesday runs are HARD. It's just so hot! Last week it was 101 degrees and I thought I might die. Okay, I'm being slightly dramatic. But holy moly. We do speed on Wednesdays and there is nothing fast about me in that kind of heat. Last Wednesday, I did 2.67 miles in 40 minutes. This past Sunday (while it was nice and cool), I did about 5 miles (I don't have an exact number because I stopped my app in the middle to use the restroom and forgot to restart it) in a little over an hour. Sunday was the first time I started to really doubt myself and my ability to do this. Am I really going to be able to do 13 miles?!? Please tell me this is normal to feel this way. I've had a few people ask me what my goal is and, honestly, it's just to finish it. I don't care if it takes me four hours the first time; I just want to do it. I'll worry about a time goal the next time I do a half marathon.
Adviser's Guide
I am the Yearbook Advisor this year for my school and I'm so nervous. I've never been this nervous about any teacher related duties, but I just don't want teachers to be upset if there are mistakes in the book. I believe strongly in that the students who create the yearbook should be held responsible and what they put out is what should go out, but I don't want any students' names to be wrong or anything like that. It's just a lot of responsibility! Eeek!

We're starting the year by examining picture taking skills and I've had a lot of fun teaching about composition and the rule of thirds and all sorts of stuff. Hopefully I learn a lot too!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sushi and Mud

We have been so busy. My brother and his girlfriend moved in with us last Saturday and they've been getting unpacked and settled. Then this week was also my first week of school. I'm pretty sure I could not have packed anything else into my days (I also had my first Wednesday half marathon training session, a back-to-school "Meet the Teacher" picnic, and speech therapy for the babies). So, I was exhausted come Friday afternoon. My brother and his girlfriend so graciously offered to watch the babies for us so that we could go out with our friends Whitney and Jared to sushi and we had SOO much fun. I am so thankful for all the people in our lives who let us take little breaks for our sanity.

On our way to sushi!

While we were gone, we got a text from my brother and his girlfriend saying they were letting the kids play in the mud. Ha! Better they deal with the mess than me! =) I feel incredibly blessed that my family loves my kids and purposely does special things with them that we don't normally get to do. 
Look at this photo they snapped of Aiden mid-air. This captures him to a T.
I am pretty sure Connor was having the time of his life!
What a fun mess!
Isabella put her feet into the mud, apparently, and then got really upset. Story of my life. I hate being dirty. I want to like it; I really do. But it freaks me out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Midweek Randoms

On Saturday, Mr. Howard flew down to San Diego to help drive my brother's car up to Northern California, because they had too many cars and not enough people. I was going to be home with the kids by myself Friday afternoon and all day/early night Saturday. My mom knew I needed a break BIG TIME and offered to take the kids with me to the Discovery Museum. My sister was able to come with us too. I am going to have to do a separate post on that because I have the most ridiculously adorable photos to share, but here's one of my mom and Izzy: 
 Afterwards, she treated my sister and I to manicures and pedicures, while she watched the kids. Ummm. Hello Heaven!!!! It was amazing! And my sister and I were able to catch up on a lot without the kids being adorable and taking our attention away from each other.
 Then, on Saturday evening, she took Connor over to her house for a sleepover and I was left with these cuties to spend time with! I had a blast with them, giving them my undivided attention. And, because they go to bed so much earlier than Connor, I also got a pretty early evening all to myself (until Colin, Rebecca, and Mr. Howard arrived at around 11:30pm).
That night, my brother and his girlfriend moved in with us! The kids are SO excited!!

 On Sunday I woke up early and headed to my first half marathon training. I have been staying active (running and walking) all summer, so I was surprised at how nervous I actually was come Sunday. I wasn't worried about walking the 13 miles; I just was nervous about adding running in there!
The training group I am using has three groups: (1) Runners (NOT ME!), (2) Run/Walkers, and (3) Walkers. I really considered doing the walker group, but figured I'd give the run/walk group a try and see...worst case scenario being that I'd have to move back down to the walker group. Well, the first day went really well. With the help of my awesome friend Leslie, I did a 5 mile/run walk. Our intervals were set to a 1.5 minute run and a 1 minute walk. And I was able to keep that up for 5 miles. I'm majorly impressed with myself because when Leslie first told me she had set our intervals to 1.5 to 1, I thought there'd be NO way I could keep up. I was thinking I could probably handle a 1.5 min run to 4 min walk ratio. Ha! (When I'm doing my own workouts I usually run until I'm tired...walk until I'm until I'm tired...etc. So I had never done a consistent interval run and I think interval running is a LOT harder than doing it the way I was doing it before. But obviously, the interval running is much better for building endurance. We averaged about a 14 minute mile. I don't think that's too bad for my first official training.
On Monday I headed back into work to start getting my classroom ready. The nice part about teaching middle school is that I don't have as much actual classroom type prep before school starts (pocket charts, bulletin boards, stations, directions, signs, labels, etc.), but I did still have some cleaning, organizing, lesson planning, and furniture arranging to do. This was my classroom when I arrived Monday morning, after a summer of being empty: 
 Yesterday was our first official day (paid) of work and we had a district rally. Our principal bought us "My team is made up of super heroes" shirts to wear. Mr. Howard took this photo of me before I left for work and clearly didn't understand the purpose of the photo, because he let me stand there with my hair covering half my shirt. Really?
The rally went really well and I left feeling super uplifted about inspiring students. It's hard to overcome the attitudes, the defiance, the family chaos, the hunger, the drug abuse, and all the normal middle school issues that my students face every day, but I just need to do my best to be the soft place to land for my students. I really try to focus on that day-in and day-out when I am feeling defeated. It isn't easy working at a Title 1 school where we seem to never be able to meet the proficiency goals set by No Child Left Behind and it can be discouraging and seem like an unrealistic, uphill battle. But I just need to continue to challenge my students and hold them to high expectations. I owe it to them. Our superintendent said something that stuck out to me: As teachers, we tend to set the limits for our students (not in a malicious way, but just in a "here is the end goal we want you to have" way). And we need to let THEM set the limits, so that they can go further than we thought they could.

Thursday will be the first day of my first group of fifth graders' SENIOR YEAR of high school. Wow! I already told the high school principal he needs to send me tickets because I wouldn't miss their graduation for the world! I can't even believe I have been at my school site now for 7 going on 8 years.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'm retiring

Every summer, come August, I retire from my job of being a Stay at Home Mama and go back to the world of being a working Mama. How lucky am I to be able to experience both?

Yesterday was the kids' first day back at school and boy had they missed their teachers. Not a single kid cried/whined about leaving us at drop-off this morning. Ummmm. I'm shocked!

I made the frame below for their photos. It was probably the easiest DIY project I've ever done. I just bought a frame from IKEA for about $6, painted the frame yellow, and painted the cardboard (that came in the frame) with black chalkboard paint. Bam! Adorable chalkboard frame for under $10.

 I decided to digitally add the wording on the frame for these pictures (because I would need to change the board from Connor's "pre-k" wording to the twins' "pre-school" wording in between pictures), but I'm going to do chalk art in the frame when it's hanging in the playroom.
 This will be Connor's last year of Pre-School and the babies still have another 3 years.
Yesterday I headed into work (unofficially) to get in my classroom and get a head start on arranging the room, printing out welcome letters, hanging things on the wall, and a million other things. Today is my first official (paid) day of work and we have a rally first thing this morning, teacher meetings during the day, and a picnic at dinner time with my students, their families, and all the teachers.

I am really looking forward to the routine of being a working Mama again and I'm kinda shocked I'm saying that, because the thing I love most about summers is a LACK of a routine! I really have enjoyed this summer of being a stay at home Mama. It's hard. SOOOO hard. And I don't think I'm the best at it, but it is so rewarding to see your kids do everything - meet every milestone, say every word, do every adorable, special thing, be able to pick up and go to the lake on a Tuesday at 10am, have dance parties and coffee snuggles in the morning, rock my babies to sleep for their naps - and to be able to get a few things done during the day or naptime. Those are the parts I will miss. But honestly, I am so lucky because my kids have the best teachers and I know they are learning and being exposed to SO much more than what I am capable of teaching them (and, of course, in turn I am able to expose them to so much that they can't get at school). It takes a village, right?

Please stick around for the next few weeks while I figure out a good balance of blogging/working/parenting/cooking/cleaning/organizing/entertaining. It always takes a bit to get it right.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Midweek Randoms

  • Ummm. I have 7 more days of being a summer stay-at-home-mama, before I go back to teaching my middle schoolers. Whoa that went fast!

  • I never updated you all on our bottle transitions. On the twins' birthday, we got rid of all their bottles. I knew that if we had them in the house, I'd rely on them as a crutch, so it was just easier to say goodbye to them all at once. We went back and forth about letting them have a sippy cup of milk before bed or if we should just transition that altogether and ultimately, we did different things for each child. Isabella does not get a sippy cup of milk before bed, because she got too mad about it. She just drinks her milk at dinner and that's it. Aiden does still need the sippy cup of milk before bed. And that's okay. Eventually our hope is he won't need it. BUT we did go ahead and transition them during the day away from sippy cups. So, if they want to walk around with water, I put it in a sippy. But if we're sitting down at dinner or lunch, I put it in a cup (see Aiden mastering it below). They're doing so well with cups!!
  • I hope you don't get sick of hearing about this, but I am going to be doing a half marathon in October. My goal isn't to run the whole thing or make a record; my goal is just to FINISH it and be a good role model for my kids. I had a couple people already ask if I'm using a training or anything and I am. I actually decided to go with a Fleet Feet training group that meets twice a week and so I'll have coaches along the way. The first thing I needed to do was go get shoes. Oh goodness. I had no idea all that I didn't know about shoes. I went to a Fleet Feet store, where they measure your feet, analyze how you walk/run/squat, and then fit the perfect shoe to your feet. What a difference that makes! I don't think I can ever buy fitness shoes again without doing that! I have my first official training this upcoming Sunday at 7am (although, if you've been following me on instagram @thehowardbunch, you'll see I've been walking/running a TON at home to get ready). Yay!
  • I ended up with the Brooks Ravenna 4, because they offered support, but also cushion. I have really high arches from years of ballet and so I really wanted to make sure I got that support. I told the woman working with me before we looked at my feet that I had high arches and then we focused on a few other things. Later, when she saw my bare feet, she said "WHOA! You have high arches!" Ha. Yep...
  • A certain little stinker (ahem Aiden) has learned how to crawl out of his crib and walk out of his room. I know...I'm lucky it took him this long. Connor figured it out before his first birthday and it was SOO hard. But it's been an adventure trying to figure out how to get him to stay in his room with two other kids near his room. Once they hear Aiden open his door, laughing and making a ton of noise, they are ready to get up too. We've gone about three different days with no naps for any of the kids. And I may or may not be hatching plans to cast Harry Potter magical spells on my kids to get them to sleep...or googling "natural ways to get your kids to be sleepy." Anyone know someone trained in hypnotism maybe? Any other ideas?
  • My brother and his girlfriend are moving in with us this weekend and will be living with us for however long they want (hear that Colin? You don't have to hurry! We're happy to have you!), while they figure out where they are going to live and find jobs. My brother has been trying to find a law job, but has been having such trouble. We are SOOO excited that we'll have all the Kirkpatrick children (plus significant others) reunited and living in the same city for the first time in 10 years!!! Now my siblings need to get married and start having babies so that my three kids can have some cousins! Because, you know, at the end of the day it's all about me, right?

Monday, August 5, 2013

"I'm not really 30, I'm 18 with 12 years of experience"

I read that quote in my title somewhere and cracked up. I really am excited I'm 30. Age is just a number, after all. And I finally feel like that number now matches how I've felt for a while.

Hubby and I were sitting on the couch at about 11:40pm the night before my birthday, when we realized I only had a few minutes left of being in my 20's. So, obviously, we felt the need to document the moment with a silly photo! A lot of people ask if I have trouble talking my husband into all the photos we take. Nope. I'm pretty sure he likes them as much as me. (And he's learned that if he just goes along with it, it'll save me from taking 9,000 photos to get the perfect one). Ha!

Unfortunately, I had a teacher training to attend on my birthday. The big bummer was that Mr. Howard was home with the kids just playing and having fun. Boo! Can I tell you a piece of information that is going to be WAYY too much information? I arrived at my training and was getting all set up with my binders and pens and such when I realized I had forgotten to put a bra on. I mean...are there any words? Is that a sign that I'm getting old or what?!? I am pretty sure that is the first time in my entire life I've just completely forgotten. I texted my best friend and asked her if that's what I had to look forward to in my 30's (the slow, or maybe quick, progression of a loss of memory!).

My old principal, whom I adore, (he was also the person to hire me!!) was in my training and was so sweet when he found out it was my birthday. When I came back from lunch, there was a Starbucks brownie on my desk with a happy birthday message. Such a happy treat!
After I got home, I changed quickly into some workout clothes (and put on a bra!) and packed Isabella up with me. She and I took out the single stroller (WHAT?!? Who knew I even had one of those! I haven't used it in at least 2.5 years.) and went on a run. Girlfriend sat eating her little fishy crackers and water. I didn't hear a single peep from her the entire time! She was probably so thrilled to get a break from her wild brothers.
 I did a little over 2 miles, but it was just nice to get moving (after being in a training all day!) and made me feel a little less guilty about indulging in sushi for my birthday dinner than night. I've mentioned this before, but my 30th birthday goal is to complete a half marathon before I turn 31. I've registered for one on October 6th! I love, love, love walking. And I'm not sure yet how I feel about running. But my goal isn't to run the whole thing. It's just to finish. And to model to my kids how important it is to move your body!
For my birthday celebration, Mr. Howard had my sister come over and spend the night so that we could go out to dinner and a movie. Here we were before we left:
He took me to Mikuni Kaizen, which is an amazing sushi place. The bottom left photo shows these amazing scallops. I swear I could have eaten all 6 of those in about 30 seconds. They are spectacular!! I know the pictures are less than awesome. I was so stinkin' hungry, I barely even got a photo!
We rounded out our time taking advantage of a babysitter with a 10:30pm 3D showing of Man of Steel. We're lucky we stayed up until the end - because it was touch and go there for a second. I know. It's ridiculous how old I am. But in all fairness, I also had to be back at a training at 8am the next morning. Boo!
And the evidence that the kids had as much fun as we did while we were gone? When we went to get Connor up in the morning, he loudly yelled, "No!!" We were confused. But before we could even ask what was wrong, he told us that he didn't want us. He wanted Aunt Katie. Well, we missed you too, buddy.
Because I am such a lucky girl, I still have two more birthday celebrations. The first is with my mom, sister, and brother's girlfriend. We are going to see Chicago and go out to a nice dinner. And then, I am also going to spend a girl's weekend with my best friend next weekend (a whole weekend away being able to eat meals without being interrupted...without changing a single diaper...and without having to do the teeth-brushing, baths, bedtime routine times three!). I am clearly spoiled. Woot. Woot.

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