Thursday, February 27, 2014

How a Trip to LA reminds me that I have the best husband in the world

Let me first start off this post by saying that I have the best husband in the world. He doesn't read this blog, so I'll have to come up with a creative way to show it to him - but I just wanted to publicly proclaim it to the world. After I write this post, you'll be on Team Mr. Howard too - but I wanted to acknowledge that I KNOW how blessed I am.  

Before I can write about my weekend, I have to first say that this trip has been a long time coming. When my husband went to Canada for work on two separate occasions, I kept joking that the 17 cumulative days I spent by myself with three small children had earned me a stay in a hotel with room service and Mai Tais. I was joking, of course, but my husband responded by saying, "You SHOULD go take a weekend for yourself!" and so I did what any sane wife would do and quickly got on the computer and booked my flight before he could change his mind. 

I was all set to spend a weekend in L.A. several months ago and then, shockingly, my friend Jen's mom got very sick. After a scary few days, they found out she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I know I sent out an email to some of you asking to pray for her and I so appreciate those prayers!! They spent the next several months fighting. Fighting for her life. Fighting through chemo. Fighting through transplant surgery. Fighting to kick cancer's butt and she is now in remission! Hallelujah! So, it seemed like the perfect time to reschedule my trip!!

I left for LAX on Friday morning and was so excited to sit in the airport and read gossip magazines. It's a little crazy that sitting in the airport is considered a vacation. It's just a luxury I'm not used to. I know Jen and Brett thought I was crazy for being so excited, but there is rarely a time when I can just sit. 
On Friday, Brett met me at the airport and took me out for coffee. Jen had a meeting, so he wanted to take me to the beach (since I never get to see it) and then we went and had an amazing capri espresso at the North End Cafe in Manhattan Beach. The espresso had white chocolate, lemon, and steamed milk. It was like nothing I'd ever had before! But it was so good! Afterwards, Brett dropped me off at Jen's work and she and I headed out for a visit with her mom! It was SO nice to see her. I've been praying for her every day and asking Jen to give me updates every chance I get and it was just so nice to finally hug her in person. We went out to lunch and just spent time hanging out together.

That evening we drove back to Jen and Brett's house and got ready for dinner. We went to this little place called Okie Dokie sushi and it was so good! They had the most amazing sashimi salad that I am totally going to recreate for Mr. Howard. I just need to find a good salad dressing! After dinner, we came home and watched TV. Jen and Brett did a major remodel of their house and it looks AMAZING!
The next morning we woke up and went to the beach for breakfast. We had a paradise bowl in Manhattan Beach. It was this blended, almost sorbet-like texture, in the bottom of the bowl with acai, strawberries, peaches, and banana. And then on top of it was granola, chopped banana, and strawberries. Oh my goodness. It was so good! I felt like I was almost eating ice cream for breakfast! We came down to the beach and ate our breakfast with this view below! Ridiculous!
After breakfast, we came home and got ready to go to a Spa, called Terranea. Oh my goodness! If you are planning a trip to Southern California and want a resort to visit, you MUST go to Terranea. It was spectacular. Absolutely breathtaking. We brought magazines and books and spent the whole day in our robes in the Jacuzzi and treatments. I was supposed to bring my swimsuit, but I completely forgot - so I was a free spirit under my robe. Haha! I read the book Gone Girl, while I was there. I literally devoured it because it was SO good. If you're looking for a book club book, you have to read it!
Jen snapped this photo of me at the Jacuzzi reading.
We ate at a cafĂ© at the pool and had a mediterranean chicken pita and guacamole. And then we came back and did a whole lot more sitting and reading! Look how much of the book I had read by this point!
 Jen got me a "Skin Specifics" Facial, which felt AMAZING! The esthetician helped identify why my skin has been struggling lately (I thought it was because I had turned 30!) and gave me two things I can try. I've already noticed a difference with washing my face directly after I run (seems like a simple idea - but I hadn't thought of it!)! Have you ever had a facial? They are SOO relaxing! I love when they rub your shoulders and neck and chest. It always feels so heavenly. Can you see our view from the spa?
Is this view not spectacular? This was after our treatments!
I read and read...and talked...and read all afternoon...and then talked...and then read some more.
After our treatments, and lounging, and reading, and talking - we took showers, did our makeup, and got dressed up right around sunset.
We went to a restaurant at Terranea called Nelson's (I linked to it, if you want to pin it!). I wish I could have captured how beautiful it was. There are a million people who captured it on their real cameras, much better than my iPhone could have captured - so google it. Jen and I met her friends Kathryn and Scott there and we all had dinner and drinks! My beautiful best friend Jen:
I'm pretty sure this is the only photo Jen and I got together the entire weekend. I really am SO blessed in this friendship. I cannot imagine my life without her in it! Who knew that in 2005 when we met for a few minutes in sorority recruitment, that I'd have met my sister for life!
This was the view from the restaurant at sunset!
Can you believe it?
After dinner, we drove to Pinkberry and had dessert. Then Jen and I came home to Brett and watched TV.

This trip would already be amazing enough if it ended there, but it didn't!! We still had a whole other day together.

Do you see why I said you'd be Team Mr. Howard after this post? Isn't he amazing to encourage me to go spend a weekend with my best friend doing nothing but reading, laughing, lounging, and talking?!?  I am so blessed that he watched the kids without a single second thought. Everytime I called, he'd say, "things are so great! We miss you, but we're having a great time!" I never felt guilty or sad, because he was so encouraging for me to enjoy my time with my friends!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Family Adventure

Last week on Thursday when Mr. Howard and I had the week off from work, we took the kids to the Jelly Belly Factory for a jelly bean making Tour!

The tour itself is about 40 minutes, but there's a lot to see in the factory, even if you don't go on the tour. The pictures behind Mr. Howard are all made from Jelly Beans.
Crazy, right? There's even a portrait of Ronald Reagan made out of jelly beans that hangs in the Reagan Library, because he was obsessed with them. He had them in the oval office and Air Force One (they even invented a special holder for Air Force One, so the jelly beans wouldn't spill). Ha!
There's obviously a giant jelly bean character on the ceiling of the storefront.
They made us wear these hats during the tour. =)
Oh my goodness, this photo below. Can I tell you the story behind it? Mr. Howard was trying to take a picture of me, but the camera chord was dangling in front of the lens. I tried for a few minutes to get his attention, but he was completely oblivious and kept snapping away. So, here's the best photo of me with my kids on the tour. Ha! Real life, I guess. 
Do you see Connor's face? I am pretty sure this sums up how he felt about the tour. He was not super thrilled, which was SO surprising. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that we told him we were going somewhere special as a surprise. When we got close, I asked him where he thought we were going and he said, "DISNEYLAND!" Ummm. No. That's about a 9 hour drive from us. Of course, any surprise I supplied him with after that, was going to be a letdown compared to Disneyland. Boo.
Here's hubby and Connor standing in the jelly bean art gallery room.
The factory tour was probably not the smartest idea we've ever had. It was crowded (we came in after two school busses) and the babies were too little to understand anything and thus had to be strapped into their stroller. It was certainly an adventure, but not one I'd recommend to anyone with kids under 4-5. We did however get to taste LOTS of jelly beans, fudge, and new flavors. So the kids LOVED that part. Heck...Mr. Howard LOVED that part!

Interested in our other Northern California Adventures, click HERE.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week 6 Half Marathon Training

To follow along on my Second Half Marathon journey, click HERE. This week, here is what I was supposed to do: 

Here's what I really did:
Monday - I was supposed to rest, but I went on a 3.54 mile hike with the family.
Tuesday - I did over 55 minutes. I ran from my house to the kids' preschool. It ended up being 4.37 miles. 
Wednesday - Hubby and I went on a little walk around the block (maybe a mile).
Thursday - I rested. We went on a tour at the jelly belly factory - which certainly wasn't "cross training," but it was a lot of walking. So at least I wasn't sitting around in the house.
Friday - Nada. I traveled early in the morning to go to L.A.
Saturday - I was in Los Angeles with my friend Jen. We were going to go on our long run this day, but we spent the day at the spa and moved our run to Sunday. So this was my rest day.
Sunday - We had plans to do 9 miles, but we only did 6. We were on a track at the high school and on a strict timeline, as we had reservations for brunch. Going around in circles isn't exactly our thing, but thankfully we had each other to talk to! 
Next week I have to do 11 miles! Ahhhhh!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sometimes the Rockiest Paths Lead to the Most Beautiful Places

Is that a metaphor for life or what? Talk about ringing true for me. Life is all about rocky paths - but when we choose to go down them anyway - great things await us!

On Monday, we got the kids ready and went on a hike. I can't even tell you how many people stop us while we're hiking to tell us we have our hands full...or tell us we're outnumbered...or ask how we do it! It's all said with big smiles on their faces and a tone that is almost congratulatory. There used to be a time when it bugged me, but honestly, I take pride it in. I think it's their way of saying, "WOW! Good for you for getting out here and not letting three small children deter you from your adventures!" And, honestly, go us! It's not easy. But boy is it ridiculously fun!

I wanted a new rocky path to explore, so I did some research and found the Black Hole of Calcutta Falls. It's a waterfall that flows all year round in Cool, California. I wasn't too sure with our drought if it would have water, but I thought it'd be worth the trip anyway.

The twins are 2.5 and they're getting hard to carry on our backs, but we're going to stretch the backpacks a little bit longer - because boy is it convenient! Aiden is so adventurous - he'd scare the living daylights out of me (Connor is already daredevil enough for this scared Mama and he's not nearly as adventurous as Aiden; they definitely take after their daddy in that respect). The twins LOVE the backpacks! Love!

Isabella likes to rub my arms and shoulders while we're hiking. No joke. She's SUCH a little love.
Connor got these new sunglasses and hat from Nana and he was SO excited to wear them on his hike; that is, until about five minutes into the hike. Then, I carried them for the other two hours. Ha!
Daddy had the camelbak hydration pack and Aiden was so excited. He kept the tube in his mouth the entire time! He really is by far our most excited child. He is just so content to be adventurous and is SO animated about everything. He's constantly telling us to "Look!" or "Watch!" or pointing out animals/plants we should look at with the most expressive little eyes. I love how ridiculously excited he gets!
Isn't this a beautiful view of the American River?
It was a pretty easy hike for Connor, but we've learned little tricks to make hiking with a four-year-old pretty do-able. The most important thing is that we always bring snacks - which is a big motivator for him. We tell him we'll have a nature valley granola bar when we get "there" (for example: when we get to the falls) - which gets him moving the whole way there and then he gets his other half when we get back to the car. The hike was about 3 miles and we didn't carry him one bit of it. We also use lots of praise. Connor responds REALLY well to praise. "Wow, you're such a great hiker! I can tell it isn't easy for you - but you're working so hard at it! I can't believe it. I wish I could go as fast as you!" He is so much more willing to hustle it along when he knows what a great job he's doing. We do have a major rule that we are HUGE sticklers about and that is that we absolutely do NOT whine while we're hiking. Period. It's okay to be tired. It's okay to need a break. But we do not whine at all while we're out there. Mr. Howard and I model this a lot (even when our backs hurt and we're tired).
This very sweet couple asked if we wanted a picture of our whole family. How sweet was that?
On our way back to the Mountain Quarry Bridge, Connor asked if we could hike down to the American River. It was cool on our hike, but it sounded like such a great idea to take my shoes off and get in the water. Well, just in case you're wondering - the water was cold. Cold, cold, cold. The water was in the 50's and since it was probably only 60 degrees out, it felt wayyyy too cold for me. Connor, of course, waded right on in (he even went all the way to his waist in the water).
Aiden wanted to be right with his big brother in the water - so he was right there with Connor doing everything he did. If Connor threw a rock, Aiden threw one. If Connor explored in the water, Aiden did too. Isabella REFUSED to get out of her backpack. We tried - but she kept saying, "No Mama. Stay in backpack!"
American River:
This photo below is my favorite. Mr. Howard and I were holding hands while we were hiking. And all of a sudden out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Isabella's hand sticking out. I realized that Aiden and Izzy were holding hands too. Talk about adorable. 
Here was the waterfall. We had to cross a creek to get to the other side of it. This was the only thing that made me nervous with a baby on my back. 
This is Calcutta Falls below. There are MUCH prettier pictures of it out there, but I had a baby on my back and I was perched on a little ledge on slippery rocks - so I wasn't really in the best position to get the perfect shot. 
Interested in our other Northern California Adventures, click HERE

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Saturday marked my first day of a week long break I have from work. This year, and for the first time ever, Mr. Howard also took the whole week off - so that we could have the gift of time. My normal vacations from work, usually coincide with a super busy time for my hubby at work, so we were thrilled that he could take this vacation with me! I got my wires crossed and kept thinking that the girl's weekend I was taking came at the beginning of my break - but it's actually next weekend. So it was such a fun realization that I had a long weekend of nothingness.

This is the first vacation we've "taken" together, where our plans consist of staying home, sleeping in, spending time together, crossing off a million house to-do's, and maybe even going on a date or two - but nothing else. No driving. No flying. No landscaping the yard or doing manual labor. No big plans (except for the girl's weekend I'm taking at the end of the week!) and no stressful activities. Just time.

On Saturday, I snapped this photo of Mr. Howard with the kids! The kids were all wearing their "What Does the Fox Say" shirts from Grandma!

We also had a "Behind the Scenes" What Does the Fox Say Dance Party right before snapping the photos with Daddy!
After our photoshoot, my dad, brother, and Mr. Howard all took Aiden to a carshow! He was in heaven! Connor went over to my mom's house to go shopping and to see The Lego Movie. Isabella went with Aunt Becca to go shopping and have lunch! Which meant...that I had the WHOLE MORNING TO MYSELF! I blogged, organized, and then had grand plans to go for a run. I even got dressed in my workout clothes. But instead, I watched Vanderpump rules and Real Housewives on the couch. Shh. Don't judge. I was super unproductive, but boy was it nice to be in the house alone. 
As I mentioned before, I am leaving to go on a girl's weekend at the end of the week and I needed to give hubby a crash course on doing Isabella's hair. Goodness Gracious. I have no idea why it is so hard for him to put a hairtie in her hair, but Lordy is it comical. I am either a horrible teacher or my husband is a horrible student, because her hair looked like a hot mess afterwards (I photobombed the picture on accident).
I have the entire week off and one of my absolute FAVORITE parts about it, is that I get to cook! My favorite meal to make is an Olive Gardenesque Chicken Scampi and angel hair pasta. I made the one in the photo below on Saturday night. Oh my heaven. Last night I made Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi and tonight I'm going to make my homemade meatballs (some for dinner and some to freeze for another night!). 
We have a lot of birthdays in February and March and it seems that every weekend we are having someone's party! My mom's birthday was up this weekend and my brother and his fiance got her this 6 layer chocolate cake. She laughed and laughed when she saw it:
Can you see Connor's excitement. My brother was afraid he'd drop it! How much do you think a six layer cake weighs?!?

Aiden was pretty thrilled about it too:
Is that not completely ridiculous?
On Monday, Mr. Howard and I tackled some of our to-do's (cleaning the garage, doing laundry, sewing, organizing, and shopping). Connor got this monkey, which is his "lovey" that he sleeps with, and it has been destroyed over the years. I have probably sewn this 20 different times and I really need to restuff it. Connor is so experienced in the "my monkey's stuffing is falling out" routine, that he knows he just needs to tell me his monkey needs to "go to the doctor," which is code for, "Mama, get your sewing kit out."
I thought long and hard about putting this picture of our garage on the blogosphere just now, but alas, transparency ruled. We spent several hours (and by "we," I mean my husband did - while I wrangled kids) cleaning the garage and getting it all organized. It was a RIDICULOUS mess. Everything is completely cleaned out now and I can even park my car in there, but we still have about 20 boxes that we need to go through (they are all from our office and we need to figure out what to save/put in our guest bedroom and what to throw away). 
We also finally got our curtains hung in our living room and family room. We want to add another one on the window by the fireplace still:
 And the front windows in the far right of the picture below:
We also finally got our Christmas Lights off the house. Can you believe it's already February? That's embarassing. Up next, we're going to finally install the doggie door for Harley and I need to pick invitations for the bridal shower I'm hosting for my soon-to-be sister-in-law! Oh and lots of dancing, eating, laughing, and spending time together!

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