Friday, September 26, 2014

Dirty

I did something I NEVER thought I would do. EVER. Even my husband expressed his shock! "Are you sure you want to do THAT?" he said in a tone that meant, "Do you understand you might get dirty?"

First a little back story. My mom can tell you stories for days, I'm sure, but I have always hated to be dirty. HATED. I also had this weird thing where my sock seams had to line up exactly with my toes because I was so particular - even from a REALLY young age. Seriously. I call myself organized. Efficient. Smart. Particular. My husband calls it crazy. To each their own. I wish I had grown out of it, but I didn't. Even as an adult, I hate to be dirty. I don't even like to fingerpaint, because it gives me such anxiety. You should see me making homemade meat balls - it's comedic.

So, when my friend Sarah asked me if I wanted to do a mud run, it sounded fun - but I was worried about it. Would I be able to handle the mud? Would I have too much anxiety about getting dirty? But, it also sounded like so much fun and my friend really wanted to do it. So, I agreed.

Fast forward to the day of the run. My husband was cracking up because I got up and showered. And blow dried my hair. And did my makeup. I just couldn't help it. I knew I was going to be dirty - but that didn't mean I needed to start my day out dirty.

We showed up and I was so excited. They had a tattoo station and we put tattoos on. This photo below completely cracks me up. We spent about two minutes giggling and talking about "How to look Tough." Obviously we nailed it. Duh. Oh my gosh, it still cracks me up just looking at the photos!

Here was my before photo - all clean. 
 
The obstacles they had, included a slip-n-slide, wire crawl (where you crawl through mud on your stomach), a rope swing (where you swing across a mudpit - or if you're like me, you swing straight into it!), the halfway house (which is a big wooden slanted saw-horse that you have to climb up and down), two cargo climbs (a 10 foot wall with a cargo net - and then a 20 foot one), and then a Border Crossing obstacle, which is a huge wall with a rope that you climb up, and then the other side of the wall has slats of wood that you climb down. Here's a link to the obstacles, if you're curious what they look like. Some of the obstacles were actually pretty hard for me. The big cargo climb scared me a bit. 

Here's our after photo. It's actually sort of deceiving - because the very last obstacle is a slip-n-slide. So, you get significantly cleaned off before finishing. You should have seen us before that obstacle. It was insane. There was so much mud on my arms and hands, you could barely tell I had fingers. 
 Afterwards, there are "showers" that allow you to clean off - showering with your new best friends all covered in mud. I can add that to my bucket list. ;-)

Oh my goodness. I don't even have enough words to describe how fun it was. I literally went directly home, got on the computer, and looked up when the next one was - because it was SO MUCH fun. I would have done another one the next day if they had had one; that gives you an indication of how much I enjoyed it. A 5k in the mud? Check!
There's another one in March and I'm pretty sure my husband will be doing it with me, after he saw how much fun I had!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Third Half Marathon Journey: Weeks 6-8

If you've missed my posts about my Third Half Marathon Training - Check them out HERE.
I've been sticking to my training program pretty well. If we miss a day, we try to move it to another day - so that we get it all in. The exception was this past week (week 8), when we skipped a week-day run since we were doing the 5k Mud Run on Saturday. 

I will never tire of the pretty sunrises!
The Hal Higdon plan is very different than the Fleet Feet training program and it's taking a little time to get used to. We do A LOT more miles. A LOT. I've been so proud of myself. I can't even believe how many more miles I have run this time compared to last. I'm definitely loving all the calories burned - but I just wish I could figure out how to burn them from my mid-section.
We change our location all the time - so we don't get sick of running in the same spots all the time. And that's been so fun! Who knew there were so many amazing places to run around me?!?
 Now that I'm running 4 and 5 miles during the week, we've had to start really early. Like, as in, it's still really, REALLY dark when we run. Don't I take the best dark selfies? Ha! Obviously not.
There were two girls in our group who separately were chased by a man (probably two different men) and it's just reason enough why I NEVER run alone. EVER. Scary stuff.

I'm going to do a separate post of the 5k Mud Run I did - because it was just so fun!

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Birthday. A Scavenger Hunt. And a Deal.

My sister somehow managed to find a man with the exact same birthday as her, which will make planning their birthday dinner pretty easy every year. :-) A few weekends ago, my whole family got together to celebrate their birthday with a family dinner. It was fun for my sister to get gifts and give gifts on her birthday! I would definitely say she is one of those people who speaks the love language of giving gifts. It's her favorite thing to do for people.

Somehow I didn't get a picture on my camera from their actual dinner; I took them on my sister's phone, so she's got them hiding somewhere. Instead, I stole these from her page. These were all the photos she posted from the night of their dinner or the weekend that they celebrated their birthdays just the two of them!

Aren't they a ridiculously good looking couple? It really isn't fair actually.
I can't remember if I'm mentioned it or not, but my sister and her boyfriend are actually professional photographers! Isn't that so funny - same birthday...same profession. So much in common!
They actually opened their own joint business venture and have booked so many weddings, showers, and family shoots. IN FACT, if you want, they are doing fall portraits for a great price! For $85, you can have a mini shoot with them at Bishops Pumpkin Patch! Here's the link to the information, if you live in the Sacramento area: Awe Captures Photography. PS They did not pay me to say that. I swear. I just totally think it's an amazing deal! She shoots all of my Howard Bunch family photos, because she's amazing!
 For Andy's birthday, my sister (in partnership with his family) bought him a bike - so that they could bike ride together! She put together an adorable scavenger hunt for him to find his present. So cute.
Happy birthday to my little sis and the man who makes her so ridiculously happy. We are so blessed to have you both in our lives.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Behind Every Smile, There Lies a Story...

Time Heals All Wounds. Or so they tell me. Every year September 17th should get easier. It should get easier because, after all, time heals all wounds. Right? RIGHT?

Let me tell you. I do not believe time will heal me. I think time definitely makes the day-to-day easier. But healing. I just don't know.

From the moment I woke up, until the moment I laid my head on my pillow to go to sleep, I was sad about Cole's birthday. Undeniably broken-hearted. I tried to laugh. And I did. I tried to take my mind off of everything by engaging with my friends. And I did. But, still, all day I felt on the edge of a breakdown. It just goes to show: You absolutely never know what a person is going through. I often forget that behind every smile, everyone is fighting their own battles. And I'm no different.

In so many ways, the day-to-day is so much better. I rarely cry about Cole or the memories lost, because my life is so full with things to feel grateful over. And, let me just say for one minute - I am blessed. I have so much to smile and laugh about. Every day.

But, his birthday, for me, is different. He doesn't get phone calls from my family wanting to sing to him; he doesn't get birthday parties planned in his honor; he doesn't get adorable texts wanting to wish him a wonderful day. And that's hard. For me. The more time passes, the harder it gets for me because people move on. And I get it. I swear I do. I wonder how many anniversaries and birthdays I haven't acknowledged for my friends who were grieving. I am certain I have missed plenty.

This year, for the first time ever, I went to work. That had it's own challenges. Then, for the first year ever, aside from one text from Jen and a card from Jeanne, no one mentioned it. I want to be very clear. I love all my friends and family and it isn't their job to keep track of the days I might be sad. It's not their responsibility at all. I only mention it to give an insight into the reminder we all need - that you never know what someone is going through.

Really there's nothing left to be said about September 17th for me that hasn't already been said. My heart is broken. Four years ago, I eagerly awaited the nurse to wrap up my second child and hand him over to me. I held my precious son in my arms and tried, desperately, to memorize every single thing about him. His cheeks; his nose; his precious five fingers and toes. I smiled at the beautiful clothes that some very sweet women had sewed just for tiny babies like him. I held him up to my face to feel the warmth I knew I'd never feel again. I cried and cried over him. I rocked him in my arms and sobbed some more. I cried to my husband that it wasn't fair we had to decide when to let him go. I literally gasped for air as the nurse came and took my son out of my arms and walked him away, saying, "Okay sweetheart. It is time to go." I cried even more when we arrived at the funeral home and were asked to pick an urn for him on a designated shelf for babies his size. I sobbed the first night after we received his ashes and had him in the house, home with us for the very first time. Tears streamed down my face as I read the obituary we wrote for him in our local newspaper...
And tears stream down my face as I type this out. There's nothing left to say.

Happy fourth birthday, my sweet sweet boy. It may be sad for us here on earth, but I know it is a celebration for you, my little love.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Overnight Date Night - Dating my Husband

A week ago, my sister-in-law and brother asked if the kids could come for a sleepover. I'm pretty sure I started packing their bags the second I got the text. My kids just ADORE their aunt and uncle and we just adore the tiny break we get. We dropped them off around 6pm and picked them up the next morning early - so that we could go to our Mothers of Multiples Picnic. But those few hours were glorious.

We began the night by going to Hock Farm in Midtown Sacramento. They have a seasonal menu, which I love. You know the ingredients are going to be really fresh and delicious.

 We had drinks first. It's been a long time since one of us could have a couple drinks at dinner. I had a lemon drop and wine. Hubby had a locally brewed beer.
 Then we had Fanta Pork Sliders, which were Orange soda-braised Beeler Farms pork with apple-cabbage slaw, as our starter. They were so delicious. Hubby ordered them for us and I didn't even know they had the orange soda flavor to them. 
 And then we each ordered something different. Hubby had Soy-Braised Pork Belly, which also came with a fried green tomato (and a sunnyside-up egg on top), bitter greens, and a bacon vinaigrette. He ordered garlic mashed potatoes on the side. Mine wasn't on the menu, so I can't tell you exactly what it was. But it had asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, and a delicious halibut. The menu was really cool too, because every item told you the farm that it came from. Mr. Howard and I really wanted to eat somewhere different, a little eclectic, with an interesting menu - and I thought Hock Farm was perfect and completely fit the bill.
 Afterwards, we had planned on going to a movie - but we were both so tired and just wanted to crawl into bed and have the house to ourselves. So, instead we stopped at pinkberry to get frozen yogurt, walked around a little, and then came home to a quiet house. We enjoyed our sleeping in (even though it was only until 7am) and woke up early to go have breakfast together at Early Toast Mimosa House. We had been wanting to try the outdoor patio of the restaurant, but never had a chance, because it's not the best place to take three children. So we had never gone before.
 Apparently, hubby and I equate not having kids with getting to drink alcohol, because we both ordered delicious mimosas. His was a red bull mimosa. Mine was called A Flirt. It was passionfruit, lemon, and raspberry. So ridiculously good. Then he had chicken fried steak and I had an egg and avocado sandwich. The food was very good, but the drinks were even better.
After our breakfast and about an hour and a half of talking and leisurely eating on the patio, we made our way to my brother's house to get the kids for the Mothers of Multiples Picnic.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Midweek Randoms

It's been forever since I did a midweek random post! I had every intention of posting this on Wednesday, but life got the better of me.

The first, most important thing, I MUST tell you about is a recipe for a Mason Jar Salad. I used THIS recipe for the dressing (I'm not a huge fan of store bought salad dressings - and this one seriously took me about 3 minutes to make) and I used THIS recipe for the salad. This week I made two different mason jar salads and this one is my favorite by far! Seriously! DELICIOUS! You could make it as a side salad for dinner too and it would be amazing, I'm sure.

I get lots of people asking me all the time about these mason jar salads. They always want to know if the lettuce is crisp or if things get soggy. Honestly, if you layer your salads correctly, they taste just exactly the same 6 days after you make them. The lettuce should never touch any wet ingredients. Then the dressing should only touch the vegetables that can be "marinated" or hearty veggies that won't get soggy. If you follow those two main rules, your salad will be great!
Last week the kids, hubby, and I went out for breakfast with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. I had just come from a run and literally ran in the house, got the kids in the car, and we all headed out. I love that my family is so close now that we can just plan a quick family breakfast and all eat together. I never thought my whole family would live in the same city again. We were a tiny bit early to the restaurant and didn't want to take everyone into the restaurant until we were close to ready (anyone with kids knows what it's like distracting three littles in a restaurant) - so we distracted our oldest with car selfies before my parents and siblings arrived. 
Aiden has been extra cuddly lately. I don't know where it's come from, but I am loving it. We were watching a show one night and he came right up and cuddled up to me.
Once a week, Luke has to drop the kids off at my work because he works a night shift. It's only about a 15 minute overlap that the kids are at my work (and it's during my homeroom/class meeting period, so I don't actually have to teach). They have been SO ridiculously excited about seeing the big kids and playing with my blocks. My big kids have probably been even more excited. So adorable.
This past weekend, we took the kids Christmas shopping with us (we weren't shopping for them...we were shopping for extended family, because we like to spread out our shopping over four months), but the twins were in a bit of a mood. They wanted to be carried and held and I only have so many arms. So we made a fair deal. I stayed in the car with the twins while Daddy and Connor went shopping. We watched Finding Nemo on the screen in the car and they were thrilled (disclaimer lest I get emails about Isabella's seatbelt: We weren't moving. I told her it was fine if she wanted to smoosh it down so it wasn't at her chest level):
On Sunday night, my brother and husband wanted to watch the football game, so we headed to our favorite go-to restaurant. The kids can play on a playground structure and make their own pizzas and then my sister-in-law and I can just chat and hang out, while the boys watch the game. It's a win win for everyone.
This time Connor chose to make a happy face on his pizza, which excited him to no end. So funny!
I love being able to document our tiny little day-to-day events, but never seem to have time to do it. I love looking back on these posts the most - because these are the real memories. The special occasions - they only come once in a while - these days and activities are the ones that fill our days.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Not me. Nope. No Way.

A few weekends ago, right before we sent our oldest off to kindergarten, I was talking to my husband about a couple of things - namely how we were going to handle school drop-offs, when it hit me that Connor was going off to school.

If you would have asked me a year ago if I'd have any sad emotions about Connor going off to kinder, I probably would have chuckled. Not me. Not teacher Mama whose children have gone to daycare and preschool their whole lives. Nope. No way. My son has been so independent practically from birth. Heck he weaned himself from breast feeding because, I'm convinced, he hated cuddling and wanted to hold a bottle on his own. He's just always been so strong. And so, if you would have asked me about sending him off, I would have told you that the only emotion I'd feel would be just EXCITEMENT. Excitement for this new journey he would be blessed to go on.

So Mr. Howard and I were talking about Wednesday drop offs, when I burst out into tears. Full on ugly cry. It caught me SO OFF GUARD. I just couldn't even help it. My husband was so shocked, he didn't know what to do. He stared at me for a second, trying to process it. "Is she really crying? Or is she being funny?" I'm sure he was thinking. Once he realized I was really crying, he came over and grabbed me. I couldn't even help it. I just collapsed in tears. In between sobs, I got out my questions, "What if he doesn't know where to go after school?"..."What if someone yells at him?"..."How is he going to know what to do when the bell rings?"..."What if he gets into the hot lunch line and doesn't have any money?"

All my fears about Connor growing up spilled out. Logically I know that if someone yells at him, he'll learn and grow from it. Logically I know he won't know what to do when the bell rings the first time, but he'll learn. Logically I know that if he gets into the hot lunch line, someone will help explain it to him. But my Mama heart hurts knowing that he may experience fear and frustration and hurt. I don't want him to have to feel that. I know he needs to; I know it's part of growth, but I just want to protect him from pain.

I hate when people say, "you just never know until you have a child," but there really is no other way to say it. I just never-ever knew it was possible to have your heart traveling outside of your body...in a little person...a little person who is going off to kindergarten today and college tomorrow. It is one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I can't even imagine what I'm going to be like when my kids go off to college. Holy Moly. Deep breaths, Mama....We've got 13 years until that day.

That whole experience has given me a new perspective about family time...a new understanding of Mamas in different stages of life...and a new appreciation for holding on and truly, truly appreciating life's moments in the moment as they come.

So for Labor Day, when a friend texted us and said they were going to the Lake and wondered if we wanted to come, we jumped at the chance. We had a million things to do...Mr. Howard had to work that night...the kids weren't going to be able to really go down for naps on time...and I was not feeling well. But we were determined to soak up these memories and moments in time. We packed up the kids, our coolers, and headed down to the lake.
The boys were SO VERY excited!
One of our friends brought a paddleboard and I'm pretty sure we desperately need to invest in one because the boys were OBSESSED.
Connor even got to paddle a little by himself (that's Aiden sitting in the front). If you know anything about Aiden, it is that he is go, go, go, go, go. And that child sat for a total of probably 30 minutes on that paddleboard. Can you tell he loved it?
Our friends also brought an inflatable sail boat and I took Connor out with me on it. Here was my view forward:
And here was my little riding buddy behind me:
Aiden was having so much fun, it took a LOT to get him to pose in a photo with me. A lot. But we did it. 
Isabella liked looking at the water, but didn't want to go in it - which I would have predicted.
Nova Pup was the saddest of everyone. She had an injury and couldn't get in the water. Poor babe.
Connor was excited about everything. The lake is definitely his element. Water, sand, boats, paddleboards, food, running around, and sand. His idea of heaven.
 I know Isabella doesn't look thrilled to be taking a picture with me, but she WAS thrilled about spending time with friends.
Some day, I hope I look back and remember the little details. My kids will never be littler than they were that day. I hope I remember my boys with sticks running around, giggling and laughing at the mud they got on their faces. I hope I remember Isabella building sand castles under our tent. I hope I remember the dancing and the tantrums. I just hope I remember.
Because, before I know it, I'll be crying in my husband's lap asking, "but what if he doesn't make any friends in his dorm?"..."And what if his alarm goes off and he doesn't make it to his final?" 

**Disclaimer, hubby spent a lot of time grilling with his friend and then, eventually, offroading around the lake - which is why I didn't get any photos of him at the lake.**

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Teacher Mama

I have had a rocky journey the past few weeks.

I am in my nineth year of teaching at my school, and my fifth (or is it fourth?) year of teaching middle school. I have mentioned this before, but I feel at home teaching middle school. I truly, truly think it's what I was BORN to do.
There have been some talks that my district may eliminate the middle school grades at our k-8's and that would mean that I couldn't teach English and World History anymore (because I don't have a single subject credential) and I am going to be SO VERY sad if that happens. Of course, I'll find something else I'm passionate about. I'll have to.
I have been doing more and more trainings for teachers (last year I did three all-day trainings for all the 7-12th grade English teachers in my district) and LOVED it. I didn't love the content I was teaching, but I loved teaching teachers. This year, I will be doing a few other trainings for teachers (including one in a couple of weeks on a new Assessment Training System) and I am being led in that direction of teaching adults too!

With all the possible changes coming up, it's been a weird start to a year. I can't even pinpoint why I've had such a weird feeling, but it's just felt so different. This year, I have over 80 new students (between my homeroom, yearbook class, English, and World History) and probably about 40 students I had last year. This year is the first year I didn't play a million name games and stress myself out with all the names, trying to learn them in the first couple days. Instead, I learned named organically. I passed out papers with their names, looked at students when I took attendance, and walked around while they were working, checking out the names on their papers. And I have to say, THAT part of the year has gone really well! We are now in our third full week of school and I have all 120 students names completely down. Whew! That is by far my least favorite task of the year. I can't even imagine how many new students' names I'd have to learn if I taught high school! Eeek.

In addition to the weird start and name learning change this year - I also really wasn't at all ready to give up my Stay at Home Mama job this past August. I enjoyed being a SAHM this summer, now that the kids are a little more independent (the previous four summers I had infants and/or non-potty trained toddlers) and this was the first time we could actually go out and do things. The summers before that, with three kids three-years-old and younger, it was too much to enjoyably handle by myself and so I was so pleasantly surprised when I was so sad to give it up this time around.

It's been quite the transition not snuggling and napping with all my little cuties during the day:
 It's also made it hard on my hubby and me. It's always quite the transition for everyone when I go back to work, especially because we're used to spending one weekday a week together and suddenly I only get to see him every other weekend. We need a date like nobody's business.
I know all women can relate to this next struggle I've been trying to figure out: fitting it all in. There just aren't enough hours in the day. Seriously.

We're trying to find time to fit in volunteer days (we volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House with Mr. Howard's coworkers in the photo below), volunteering for Connor's kindergarten teacher, finding time to run and train for my half marathon, still going to our Mothers of Multiples Group events...plus I just joined PTA for Connor's school. Insane. Oh and, of course, all the normal life craziness with two full-time working parents and three kids!
Two nights ago, my husband surprised me with a couch date night and movie Mom's Night Out. Have you seen the opening scene? Oh Holy Moly. I laughed my TOOSH off. That scene where she wakes up to her kids making noise in the kitchen and comes out to find they're cooking for her (aka making a HUGE mess!). She then tries to clean kids off, only to hear one of her kids shouting, "Mom, Beck's playing in the toilet again." Then as she's running to handle that, she sees another child with a marker in the kitchen drawing on the wall. While I haven't had those exact things happen at one time in that order, I certainly have had moments where I've thought, someone seriously needs to be taping this. This is so ridiculous it could be in a movie. No joke. That's how I've felt the last few weeks. I could tell you poop stories for days. But I won't. 


Instead, if you want to know what my life is like (minus the police station and not being able to find a child), just watch Mom's Night Out. They absolutely nail the exasperated Mama scenes. I feel like I'm eternally asking my husband, "just tell me it's going to be okay." In the wise words of Patricia Heaton's character, I have to keep reminding myself, "It's all going to be okay...Just give it five years...five...or...seven...years"

But, you know what, while this job is hard. Oh so very hard. It is also the most important job I have ever done. Ever. And when I'm having a bad or hard week, I try to remember how quickly these days go and how much my kids love me unconditionally. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Third Half Marathon Journey: Weeks 4-5

If you missed my first post, on Weeks 1-3, you can find it here

I've been pretty accurate with my schedule - except for the cross training days. I've been using those as rest days. My version of rest isn't really rest anyway - since I'm going up and down stairs about a thousand times and wrangling three small children from sun-up to sun-down. We usually take the kids on some sort of walk or hike on the weekends too. 

We've seen some really pretty sunrises.
This particular morning, below, I got up at 5-something, got dressed, (notice I did not write, "did my makeup". I'm embracing my 30's aux naturel), drove 10 minutes to meet my friends, ran one mile and realized there was no way I was going to make it without a bra. Seriously. I'm an idiot. What a waste of a 5am wake-up!
 This sunrise was on our four mile run one morning!
 The sky was seriously on fire!
 My running group and I take a picture every single morning that we run. It's sort of their way of encouraging everyone else in the group. We post those for the other women in the group to see! But I hate posting the big group ones because I don't know how people feel about them being on a blog. But follow me on @thehowardbunch on instagram. I hashtag all my runs with #mrshshalf

I've mentioned before that I haven't, in the past, really called myself a runner. My first half marathon, I did a 1:1 ratio, so I officially walked as much as I ran. For my second half, I did a 2:1 ratio, so I ran twice as much. But now? Now I run a 3:1. That's a big deal for me. On my 10k I did last week, I looked up my running time on my watch and you know what? Out of 81 minutes, I was running for 61 minutes. Holy Moly. I am a runner. 

See that time below? I did 6.2 miles in 1:21:02. For a lot of people, that is slow. But you know what? I keep running. I don't let my insecurities of being "slow" stop me from achieving my goals. I used to care too much. I wouldn't run, because I couldn't do it quickly. And then I decided that "fast" was arbitrary. I sure am running a whole lot faster than all those people still in bed...I'm running faster than the people who let their fear of being slow stop them from running at all...and I'm definitely running faster than I did 5 months ago. And all of that is good enough for me.
Don't let the word "slow" stop you. If you're worried about someone else's opinion of your speed, I say go out anyway. Do it. You'll feel a million times better after you achieve it!

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