Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dating My Husband

Last Wednesday my Mothers of Multiples group did a Couple's Night at the Yard House for dinner and drinks and it was SO MUCH FUN to get out with people who get it! We mostly just talked about the kids, but it was so fun to be with adults!
 
We put the babies to bed and my mom listened for them for us. She cuddled and watched a movie with Connor and then put him to bed after we left. It was so nice not to have to worry about a sitter. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mom who does SO MUCH for us!
 Another night we put the kids to bed and Mr. Howard and I went to several places to look for backsplash. We have a tile narrowed down, but I have one more place I want to check out. And then, I want to get a sample of it and put it in the kitchen before we go all out and buy it.

It was late and Mr. Howard was being ridiculously silly. I wanted him to pose for a picture (cue the rolling of his eyes) so instead, in the aisles of a tile shop, he tried to eat my face. Have I told you lately how much I love that man?
 On Friday night we did our first bath date in a long time. We watched The Hobit from the tub (until the water got cold - and then we finished the movie in the living room):
I have always been a red wine drinker, but lately I've been craving cold chardonay with frozen strawberries. It's just so relaxing.
 
 Downstairs movie watching:
I have a feeling that this will be it by way of relaxing date nights for us for a long while. Our nights for the next few months will be replaced with unpacking, painting, and drilling dates!

Monday, April 29, 2013

I want to be a good role model for my kids

Before I had kids, I always thought I'd have a gym membership; I'd take time for myself to do healthy things and that it'd just be a priority. And then I had kids, and it wasn't. I know not everyone has Mama guilt (and you shouldn't), but I did. I don't have Mama guilt about working, because I know for ME, it is the best decision...but I feel guilty working AND going to the gym. I wish I could somehow figure out how to connect my logical brain and my heart (my brain tells me it's good for my kids to see me being healthy and working out and making myself a priority), but my heart tells me when I'm not working I should be home with my babies, snuggling them, loving on them, and giving them my undivided attention (and you know what? Society tells us the same thing! Hello, stupid "Dear iPhone Mom" letter...talk about guilting us into thinking we shouldn't ever do anything for ourselves. Ever.).

On top of having the guilt of not being home with my kids, I have other logistical problems that prevent me from going to the gym. The first? Money. Technically, we can afford a gym membership. But I feel guilty. Oh goodness. There's that guilt thing again. There are a million things we need for the kids, for our home, for our sanity (like date nights) and I feel guilty taking the money I could be spending on buying carseats for the kids, or clothes and shoes for them, on something that seems selfish. To be clear: I am not saying that going to the gym is selfish; I'm just saying it felt selfish to spend family money on something only I would use.

Lastly: time and daycare. I already feel like I'm cramming 9,000 things into 15 hour days. I barely have time to do the kids' laundry - let alone cook dinner, read to my kids, and teach them their colors. And somehow I was going to find time to go work out? When? My husband's schedule is also SO unpredictable that there are weeks when he isn't home in the evening until after the kids go to bed and other weeks when he's home a lot. We also now currently manage three different therapies a week (speech, occupational, and development) with three different therapists for two children. So take those few minutes I had to my self and divide them now by even more - and you'll have my schedule.

It's been a struggle. Maybe some of you can relate?

I know that every Mama has to make the decision that is right for her, but for me, I couldn't justify it. And honestly? If I could go back and do it over again? I think I'd make the exact same decision.

But, now that my kids are getting older and are much more self sufficient, it's getting easier to let them play while I get things done. I can actually somewhat do laundry while they're playing...I can even do dishes now while they're running around...and sometimes I can even sit down with a magazine while they cook each other food in their play kitchen (I'm going to use the word "sometimes" loosely. Because usually it's for a minute or two until they're crawling on me and asking me forty questions). It's been such a breath of fresh air for my sanity. And it's making me feel like I can start to add in things that I felt I needed to give up when I had young children.

When the opportunity came up to organize a fitness class/boot camp after school with a group of teachers, I thought it would be the perfect time to start to do a little more to get me back on my journey of working out. So, I brought it to my staff to get interest and when everyone said they'd LOVE it, I organized it! We're doing a 6 week, twice weekly boot camp with about 10-15 people and a personal trainer who does a sort of boot camp/cross fit training.
It has been so hard and I have been more sore than I can ever remember. But you know what? I am happier about it than I have been in a long time. There is nothing better than working your butt off and accomplishing something you didn't think you could do! That's pretty much my relationship with burpees and mountain climbers. I hate, hate, hate them - but when I do them and push through my arms and legs shaking uncontrollably and do 100 of them, I feel pretty darn good. Let me rephrase, I don't feel so great in the minutes afterwards. In the minutes afterwards I'd like to give some obscene hand gestures to the personal trainer who just told me he's not moving on until I finish 50 more, but then afterwards when I calm down, I feel fantastic. And realize he was right. I COULD do it.
 
So, I'm going to make myself a priority from now on and find a way to stay active and healthy. More important than losing weight, I want to be a good role model for my kids.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Building Our House - A Kitchen Island

This was the second weekend Mr. Howard and my dad worked on the island. I got him to pose with the kids below. This side will be where the cabinets go (we'll have hidden cabinets behind our barstools on the bar-side that will serve to house things we don't use that often - like serving trays and the crockpot):
Here was my dad measuring and installing the tracking for the drawers in the island. There will be four big, deep drawers for my pots and pans and then two smaller drawers on the top for miscellaneous kitchen stuff:
 Here are the finished drawers:
 My parents have drawers for their pots and pans and it's amazing. You don't have to try to sort through them in a cabinet or stack them exactly perfectly in order to close the cabinet doors. So, when I knew we were going to be custom doing an island, I knew I wanted drawers for my pots and pans:
Below is the side of the island that will house my new spice cabinet. This will be enclosed with cabinet fronts (oh my goodness. Can you imagine with three kids where my spices would be if I didn't have cabinet fronts on these?!? Yikes!) and wire holders across the front of them. 
 Here's sort of a mock up of the island put together (there will be pot/pan drawers on one side, cabinets for infrequently used items on another, small spice cabinets on one side, and then one side will be for my vinegars, oils, and bigger spice items):
Last weekend they laminated the wood and started all the drawer and cabinet fronts (there are 14 fronts they have to make). They have another weekend or two, left of work to do and then we'll have it stained/painted (we're going to hire the company who is painting our house to stain or antique paint it for us).
 
We also need to pick out our hardware (handles). Nothing else in our kitchen has hardware, so we're going to add drawer pulls/handles to all the rest of our kitchen cabinets to match too. We are matching the granite (santa cecilia) to the rest of our kitchen and already have gotten two granite quotes. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How to get your kids to think you are AMAZING!

Step 1: Buy a Slip-n-Slide
 
Step 2: Set it up
 
Step 3: Sit on a lawn chair and enjoy the two hour entertainment that will ensue!

So I'm pretty sure our kids think we're the coolest parents ever. I think Connor told us so about 24 times last Saturday.

Last Friday, Connor repeatedly asked us if he could go to the water park. Knowing that a) the water park wasn't open in April and b) Connor can't swim yet - we decided to come up with the second best plan. We bought a slip and slide.

Saturday morning we got it set up while the kids were inside.
At first Isabella would only stand about 15 feet away or crawl into my arms:
But then, she got a little braver:
 
Aiden, on the other hand, went from afraid and sitting on my lap to excited and running in the water!
 In the video below Aiden was on my lap:  

But then he got brave and started putting his hand in the water. He wouldn't slide on his own or stand fully under the water, but he would get adventurous from time to time.
 
Connor never got OUT of the water. He played for a solid two hours out in the water, running around yelling, "Watch this!...Watch this Aiden!...Izzy come slide with me!" So fun!
How have you been celebrating this Spring weather?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Building Our Home: Landscape, Appliances, and Granite

We knew the landscape crew were getting ready to do sod because they had graded the yard and also put the separation between where the planter and grass were going to be (and had already planted two trees and several plants), so we were stalking the house. When we showed up on April 15, 2013 the house looked like this:
 They had also completed the roof (this is obviously taken from very far away - which is why you can see the dumpster that is across the street from our house and the light post):
 They had also started the fence for the side of our house:
 On April 16, 2013 they installed the sod!!! It looked amazing!! The only thing they had left to do on the outside of the house was paint the front door and do paint touch-ups.
 
 Then when we went inside we saw they had installed our beautiful santa cecilia granite:
 And our not-so-beautiful linoleum (our plans are to replace that with tile in the next year...I'd like to say that we'll do that in the next few months, but our "to do in the next few months" list seems to be growing at an exponential rate):
 Here's a better angle of our front landscape
On April 18, 2013 we saw that they had installed our stainless steel cooktop:
 And the stainless steel sink (Yikes! Do you see the faucet? We just ordered a new one that should be here in a few days!). I posted the picture of our new faucet on instagram:
 Here's a picture of the cooktop and oven. I love, love, love it!!
They also installed the mirrors in the bathrooms:
 Here's a zoomed out view of our kitchen (complete with cabinets, granite, and stainless steel appliances):
 On April 20, 2013 my mom came over to check out the house and so she was able to get a photo of us in front of the house! They painted the front door and the trim:
We saw that they had completed our staircase. I just adore it! It was an expensive upgrade, but I'm really glad we did it - because I think it's something we would have regretted NOT doing. Connor and Izzy were willing to pose for the photo. Aiden, on the other hand, only wanted to be held by his Mama.
 The top of the stairs (Plus Daddy and Isabella):
By Monday, they were completely done with the house, minus a few tiny paint touch-ups and nicks in the wall and the carpet installation. By Tuesday, they were already installing the carpet! The superintendent told us on Monday that he was actually ahead of schedule. Woot Woot! He will meet his 100% completion date by April 29 (in 5 days) and then it's up to escrow how quickly we're able to get into the house. We are set to sign our papers at the end of this week and they are hoping we can close on the 30th or May 1st. Oh please, please, please let us meet the deadline for our painter to start on May 2nd!!
 
I have been taking pictures of our kitchen island progress and I can't wait to show you those! It really is going to be amazing!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm not retiring my Super Mom Cape just yet, but it's nice to have to wear it less!

I did something completely crazy last weekend. I took all three kids to the park by myself. Yikes. I'm pretty sure I got about 100 more gray hairs from 2 hours of constant, "Where's Aiden?"..."Shoot. Is Izzy up in that slide?"...."Connor, where are you?" It's a good thing I dye my hair blonde anyway - gotta cover up all the evidence of any aging.
 If I'm being honest, it actually was pretty manageable  (minus the time when Aiden decided to run out into the street over and over and over again. That was about the point where I decided to pack up and leave).
 I love this park because I can bring their bikes/scooters for them to play on the sidewalk, or they can play on the playground equipment, or they can run around in the grass field. They are always so worn out by the end of the couple of hours!
 We ate a little snack at the park too and they did so well. They're really getting so big. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!?
 They've also started posing for photos. I'll be taking an "action shot," and they'll stop, turn towards the camera, smile and pose. So funny.
After we got home, I thought I'd get the perfect photo of all the kids (considering how good at smiling and posing they've gotten). Instead I got these:
Now, seriously, these kissing ones are the most adorable photos I've ever seen in my whole life. I know they're mine and I'm obligated to think they're beautiful, but, seriously...I dare you to think these kids aren't cute.
After he gave Isabella a kiss, he crawled over her so he could give one to Aiden (without any prompting from me). He's nothing if not equitable.
And then I said to Aiden, "Will you give your sister a kiss?" This is what I got!
 And lest you think that it's easy getting photos of the kids where they're all sitting and looking at the camera...here's what life is really like with 1.5 year old twins and a 3.5 year old. They are such crackups!
I am madly in love with this stage of parenting. Anyone who says that parenting does not get easier clearly hasn't ever experienced the difference between taking care of three kids who are two-years-old and younger versus taking care of three kids who are (almost) four-years-old and younger. It gets easier every day. I only have to put my Super Mom cape once a day, instead of 12 now. Oh, and don't worry, I won't retire my cape. I know I'll need it again when they're teenagers and I'm sure a million times in between now and then - but I am just enjoying being a Mom and not a full-time "never-get-to-sit-down-and-rest-because-one-child-is-always-crying-and-two-are-getting-into-trouble-or-need-me-to-do-something" referee! This is FUN!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The hard path is the one that will make you grow

A few months ago, I was struggling. Struggling with living with my parents. Struggling with the kids. Struggling with my routines. Struggling with having a place to put things (I know it's not the biggest deal to not have a place for everything, but having three small children and working a full-time job means we need to be organized and efficient). Just struggling.
 
I haven't lived with my parents since I was 17. I moved out for college and never moved back home. I'm so thankful that my parents opened their home up to our crazy family of five (plus two dogs), but I would be lying if I said that moving in as a thirty-year-old with my own family and structure and routines wasn't a ginormous adjustment. I haven't had to run decisions or scheduling by my parents for 12 years and suddenly I was asking my mom what she was cooking for dinner, running my calendar by my parents for scheduled therapy appointments, feeling guilty if I even wanted my dogs to come in the house, and asking permission to have friends come over for lunch. So, while I was immensely grateful and feeling so blessed that my parents were willing and able to let us live with them, I was also struggling to redefine my life and my role as a mom. It's an odd thing to be in charge of three small people (plus one big person, my husband) and also have to ask my mom if we could have a particular thing for dinner.
 
I can only imagine the other side of it too, though: my mom having to suddenly adjust her schedule to allow for our weekly therapists to come into her house; having to think about what to cook for dinner that will accommodate me, Mr. Howard, AND our three kids; and having to let us know when they're running to the store or even going out to dinner. That doesn't even include having five people move into your house and touch/move all your belongings when they're putting away dishes or straightening up the house. We've had to rearrange their furniture (putting a bed in their pool table room), buy additional furniture (clothing racks for our clothes), and take over their family room television when Connor's watching cartoons on the weekend. Their life has been just as flipped upside down.
 
But slowly, over the past month, we've gotten into a routine. I have a place for our things. I know how to put away dishes in the kitchen in their proper place. I know what my role is with the kids and when to say, "Hey, Mom and Dad, I'll take care of disciplining the kids." It isn't perfect and I'm not always the best at communicating, but we've figured it out. I told Mr. Howard just the other night that while I'm thankful we're moving into our new house soon, I actually think we've got it all figured out so much - that I could live with them for several more months (don't worry, Mom and Dad! We have no plans to stay).
 
Have you heard the quote, “Often the right path is the one that may be hardest for you to follow. But the hard path is also the one that will make you grow as a human being.” Karen Mueller Coombs. Boy have I grown and NOW, now there is so much that I'm going to miss.
 
Since we're only going to be living with them for the next few weeks, we've taken advantage of their wonderful backyard. They really do have the best area to ride bikes (nice, big, mostly flat, paved concrete). The weather here in California has been so nice the past few weekends and we've really prioritized going outside with the kids.
 
This was Mr. Howard and my view a few weekends ago:
 See how perfect it is for riding bikes? Connor switches between his scooter and bike:
My mom got them badminton rackets and birdies to play with. So they take turns with the rackets and bounce back between playing badminton (i.e. basically carrying the rackets around) and riding bikes. Connor tries so hard to hit the birdies, but he hasn't mastered it yet.
 Isabella, try as she might, cannot figure out how to make contact with the birdie. She throws it in the air, but by the time she swings - she's already missed. I've tried throwing the birdie to her too, but we're working on her hand-eye coordination.
 Umm. Could you die over Isabella's dress? I found it at target and HAD to have it!
I posted this on instagram, so if you follow me @thehowardbunch you've already seen it. But it was too cute to not to include again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ordinary, Every Day Moments

This is a random Wednesday post. I've been so sad about Boston and hate feeling helpless. I'm so heartbroken for the parents, kids, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews who have to bury their loved ones or make heartrending medical decisions. I'm just sad. It feels weird to go on with our lives, but the reality is that we can't let evil win. We can't stop doing the things we love or talking about the little things. So I decided to continue to write about the little moments with my kids and pray that the world gets it figured out before they are old enough to understand.
 
These little memories, below, from the last few weeks are just ordinary, every day moments in our lives. But it's the ordinary that I don't want to forget.
 
Aiden has been in love with his baby doll. He carries him with him everywhere, including car trips. He calls him his "baby" and gives him kisses and cuddles. He rocks him, feeds him, and even sets his baby with him in his high chair and the couch. He is going to be such a sweet daddy when he's older. (Isabella could care less. She refuses to hold the "baby" and throws it whenever I hand it to her!). Such opposites. 
 He thinks he's so cute!
 One morning I was running late and trying to do a million things (including packing a car with all the things we need for work and school - plus wrangling three kids into their carseats) at 7am. Apparently, I was a little distracted, because I drove for a good 3 minutes until I looked over and saw my coffee cup sitting on the hood of the car. The miraculous thing was that the porcelain mug (not even rubber!) made it past two pretty strong turns. Obviously, this means that I am the smoothest, most wonderful driver ever. Ha!
 Connor has been in such a kissing phase lately. One afternoon we were snuggling in my bed watching a cartoon and he said, "Mama, I kiss you and you take a picture. Okay?" Umm seriously. My heart exploded. I love this sweet boy.
He continued his kissing phase another day in another picture. So precious.
 I've mentioned this to my friends. Hopefully we're not the only one who experiences it, but the twins HATE having their teeth brushed. Hate, hate, hate. As in it is a battle EVERY. SINGLE NIGHT. We started doing this baby burrito thing where we basically straight-jacket their arms away so that we can brush their teeth without them swatting us (thereby extending what should take 2 minutes into a 10 minute wrestling match). We sing all sorts of songs and try to make it as fun as we can, but it's hard. We didn't really have this problem with Connor, so this is all new to us. We've done a little research and tried a few things (they each have their own special tooth brush with their own special toothpaste...we sing songs and make it fun...we let them play with their toothbrushes...let them brush our teeth...let them see us brush our teeth), but nothing seems to work. She's smiling in the picture below only because she hasn't figured out what we're doing yet.
I thought it would be funny to take a picture of what Isabella sees when we're engaged in our straight-jacket wrestling match:
Lately the kids have been enamoured with looking at pictures. My mom was showing them pictures of all of us on her computer. So precious. Aiden and Izzy point to the screen and call out who they think it is. "Daddy?" "Mama?" Connor, lovingly, with a giggle says, "That's not Mama, Isabella, You're SILLY!" I need to make a little picture book for each of them to have, because I think they'd just love it.
Connor calls Isabella a princess whenever she's wearing a dress. He also calls dresses "princesses," as in "Isabella, you're wearing a princess" or "that princess is so pretty!" I have absolutely no idea where he has learned that, as I don't think I've ever said the word princess when referring to Isabella. They must play it at school. My mother-in-law made this adorable dress below for Isabella to wear. It has pants that go with it, but they are a little too big for her to wear yet. Isn't it just the most adorable dress?!?

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