Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I just adore being their mommy!

Even though Connor started school a few days after the twins, I went ahead and did their first day of school photos all at once! And holy moly are they adorable! I just adore being their Mommy!

I love watching the bond between these two! It just melts my heart! It makes me want to have a twin sibling!
They leaned in and waved completely spontaneously!
Isabella also did this on her own. Boy does she love her brother!
I just kept snapping away! I might as well have not even been there; they were in their own little world!
The boys just adore their sissy!
And finally...their first day of school photos! Be still my heart. Look at my big boy (he's wearing cowboy boots behind that frame, and it's my favorite part of the photo!). That child is nothing if not independent and strong willed!
Connor is so big now that he can no longer rest his hands on the frame. I just cannot believe he is so big! I can't wait to see his growth this year.
Everyone says Isabella is the spitting image of me in these pictures and I so want to see it, but I can't. I also can't see Mr. Howard in the boys. She was so proud of her necklace and pierced ears!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Final Hurrah

For our last hurrah before school started, my mom and I took the kids roller skating! They loved it and I wish we had done it earlier in the summer, because we only had time to go once for their open hours for kidsskatefree.com! It'll definitely be on my list for NEXT summer! All you have to do, once you're registered, is pay for the skate rental (or if you have your own skates, you can get in for free!).

My mom even bravely offered to skate up and go with the kids. They were thrilled to have their Nana out there (see photo on the top left)!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

End of Week Randoms

I tried to soak up the last moments of summer, by watching the kids swim a lot towards the end of July and beginning of August!! 
It only took us a month, but we FINALLY got our thank you notes done. It's pretty much just a test in patience for parents.
I can't remember if I mentioned this already, but we got a few begging emails from Connor's soccer league asking for volunteers for coaches. I hoped after the first email that someone else would volunteer. But after the third email, I realized no one was going to step up. So Mr. Howard and I volunteered to co-coach, hoping that someone would step up afterwards to help him out (so that I could be the team parent instead). We were thrown into the world of coaching U8 soccer pretty fast. We got our team roster on a Thursday, called parents on a Friday, and had our first meeting on Monday. It's been a bit insane. I don't know how I keep getting sucked into all this volunteering, but someone is going to have to disable my email account, because Connor's school PTA has sent out a few emails about needing officers to volunteer and I feel so guilty, I may just do it! Then, my union president called me a few weeks ago and asked if I'd be willing to learn and serve on a committee with the idea that I could take on a leadership committee role. Holy Moly. Did I mention we signed Isabella up for ballet and Aiden gets to pick something in the Winter? Geeeeeeesh! My goal for this school year is going to be survival. 
Towards the end of summer, we dug out our popsicle maker and made some raspberry lemonade popsicles.
I'd like to feel sorry for Reese with her 25 pillows stacked on top of her by the kids, but I don't. She antagonizes them too!
I went on my very first run/walk last week. I hadn't run in 16 weeks and so we did 30 second run - 2 minute walk intervals, just to see how our legs would do. My knee did really well, but then I started work (and wore heels!) and it was sooo hard on my knees (a lot more walking than what I did in the summer, getting up on chairs to hang bulletin boards, moving furniture), so I've spent the last week icing and elevating again. I am determined to run again some day. I am not worried about my speed, because I know that'll come back. I just need to get my knees healthy enough for running again and I refuse to do anything too fast, so that I have to start all over again!
Moments like this have to be captured, because they are like unicorns - incredibly rare!!
We got the kids Back to School haircuts this past weekend and they were all so excited! The boys tried a new haircut place and liked it and Isabella and I went to our go-to hair place!! (Daddy forgot to snap a photo of Aiden getting his hair cut!)
 With school starting back up, it can only mean one thing: Meal Prep Sundays! I made 8 salads for hubby and me:
 In anticipation of my girls' weekend coming up, I returned my hair back to its ditzy blonde color.
The twins started school the Monday before Connor did and they kinda loved being the first ones back. This year they are going to school five days a week - which is a big shift for them! We haven't decided if this will be the last year for them or not, before kindergarten. We are leaning towards giving them an extra year, since they are almost July babies and will be very close to the cut-off.
I always break out the dresses on the first couple days back to school! Reese loves to get right under my dress and jump up and try to bat the fabric with her hands. She doesn't know what to do with having me in an outfit that isn't workout clothes or jeans! (Of course, right as I snapped this photo, she stopped and scratched her neck!)
I met my goal of nine books in nine weeks with my very last book. I read Tina Fey's Bossypants and laughed my tooshie off! Woo-hoo! I was worried I wouldn't reach my goal, but I'm glad I did. It definitely gave me something good to do during naptimes and early mornings!
I will have to blog about the kids' first day of school soon!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wine Tasting

For Mother's Day, my sister, Andy, Mr. Howard, and I took my mom wine tasting and we were finally able to schedule it a week ago! The wine tasting was at a winery called Jodar Winery and we were able to do a complete wine tasting (with maybe 10 wines) and enjoy a cheese/meat selection! Also one wine was paired with a cheesecake tasting and another was paired with a salsa!

 Even though Mr. Howard participated in the gift giving, he wasn't able to participate in the actual wine tasting, since someone had to watch our kids! But he was missed.
 My sister and I were going to take a picture, and my mom jumped in! Love her!
 My little sister, Andy, and me:
 My sister and I used to both be blonde, but over the years, she has gone darker and darker and that has made us look a little different! It used to be funny watching my students react when she'd walk in the door to my classroom! But we do still look a lot alike.

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's my Party and I Can Cry if I Want to

Every year I have a really hard time remembering how old I am. I can't tell you how many times people have asked my age and I've given them the wrong number. Mostly, I attribute it to the fact that my husband turns the age one number ahead of mine eight months before me. And it throws me off every. single. year. Every time someone asks, I'm left thinking, "Am I 31 or 32?" It's quite embarrassing when I have to use good ol' current year/birth year subtraction to answer the question.

But I'm proud to tell you that today when I was writing this post, I remembered! It's a miracle. I can say with confidence that I am 32. I think.

I wish I could say I had the most amazing birthday ever, but it would be a lie. I felt off all day - everything and nothing was bothering me and I felt on the verge of tears all morning. Thankfully, after a good cry (everyone needs one a couple times a year) and a power nap, I felt 100% better. I am so thankful for my family, but sometimes a girl just needs five minutes alone. Those moments of solitude made me such a better Mama and wife!

Later that afternoon, we went out for Baskin Robbins for some birthday ice cream for all of us (the kids were so excited to use their gift cards from Diana and Sophia to "pay" for their own ice cream!). It's actually chemically impossible to be grumpy when you're eating ice cream, so it was the perfect thing to do on a day when I wasn't feeling quite like myself.

After a low key day and some ice cream and several texts and calls from friends, we headed over to my mom's house for tri tip, baked potatoes, squash casserole, and cake!
I absolutely cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for the life I have. My husband. My kids. My job. They are all such wonderful sources of joy and I am just so thankful for the moments I don't feel myself, because they certainly make the good moments much more appreciated. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A trip to prison...because that's what you do on an 8th Anniversary

A little known fact about 8th Wedding Anniversaries: everyone thinks it's the Bronze Year. But it's actually the Year of the Prisons. Alright, maybe not.

If you read my first post about our 8th anniversary, you might have guessed that we didn't actually end up in a random prison - although that would have been a story to tell; we finished our anniversary adventure with a tour of Alcatraz!

Random note about me: Despite living in California my whole life and Northern California for the last 10 years, I have never been to Alcatraz! We actually have tried to go several times, but they book out months in advance and we've had bad luck with trying to time it for our visits! Mr. Howard has, in fact, gone as a work team building activity a few years ago.
Please take note of my AMAZING hairstyle below. It's all the rage at Alcatraz. Everyone's doing it. And I am nothing if not a follower!
The tour was great; although, I am sure it would have been a million times better if we hadn't had an exhausting day already of walking close to 10 miles. We were a bit tired, to be honest. (If you are planning an Alcatraz visit, I suggest you make it all you do that day - besides some light sightseeing or a fun beach day! In other words, do not plan a 3 hour food and walking tour AND Alcatraz in one day!)
I, personally, am always a fan of tours! I think you get so much more out of an experience than you would just walking around guessing what things are. With the price of your admission, you get an audio tour of the cells, etc.! Do it! It really was the highlight of the experience for me. 
 It is crazy to think about how many famous prisoners were there. It's a little eerie, actually...Especially to see things like the morgue or the open showers with absolutely NO privacy and imagine Al Capone and The Birdman living there!! Eek. In the 29 years it was a prison, 36 inmates attempted escape and five of those have never been found. Of course, it's assumed they never made it and drowned, but I was a little curious if maybe, somehow, there's a prisoner out there who survived escape.
I was very surprised to hear that the prison guards' families lived on Alcatraz (almost, kinda, right among the prisoners)! In fact, when the kids would go to and from school, the prisoners would have to stop what they were doing to move out of the way and they'd watch them! That seemed like it would be an insane experience as a kid (and as a parent!), but those kids (obviously grown up) were interviewed years later and said they loved it! They loved living on Alcatraz and they always felt safe.

We ended up walking A LOT that day! A LOT! 11.43 miles, to be exact. I'm pretty sure if we ever lived in a city, we'd be hitting this mileage pretty regularly. I wish I could show you the elevation of those 11.43 miles because it seemed like every time we turned around, we were trekking up some ginormous hill.
Our anniversary trip came to an end when we got back to San Francisco and started our drive (in tons and tons of traffic) home to our little ones. My mom was so wonderful in keeping the kids for us! They made jewelry and pinewood cars...they went swimming...they watched movies...they cuddled on a mattress on the floor of her room (pretty much the highlight of the trip for them! They keep asking when they can camp out on Nana's floor again over night! I keep asking Nana too! Haha.)...and they went to the park! They were definitely loved! Thank you, Nana! We all love you!

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Night Without Kids, a Trip to San Francisco, a Food Tour of Chinatown - Our 8th Wedding Anniversary

Our eighth wedding anniversary was on July 14th, but we weren't able to celebrate it until July 25th-26th, when my mom graciously agreed to watch the kids overnight for us!

So, we got dressed up, dropped the kids at my mom's with an overnight bag, and headed off to celebrate!

The first half of our celebration was for dinner and drinks at Boneshaker Public House! We loved the beer and hubby loved his Buffalo Bacon Mac and Cheese! We had a mix-up where they actually lost our food ticket and we waited and waited and waited. After over 40 minutes, we went up and asked and they realized they had thrown it away when they brought us our appetizer. But, let me tell you, they did an AMAZING job making it up to us! They came and apologized; they asked if we wanted another round on them; they brought us a not-on-the-menu dessert; and comped our dinners! Mistakes are bound to happen at restaurants, but it's how they fix their mistakes that matter to me, and they really had great customer service!

That night we went home to our EMPTY, QUIET house with no kids!

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed to San Francisco to enjoy part two of our anniversary!
It was actually the weekend of the San Francisco Marathon (which made the town very busy!) and it was chilly and foggy, so we went to the pier and snuggled with hot coffee!
Then we headed off to an adventure I've been wanting to do for a while: A Sidewalk Food Tour of San Francisco! If you haven't done one of these yet, YOU MUST ADD IT TO YOUR LIST! We did the Chinatown one, because we felt like it's the area we are the most afraid of exploring on our own! I'm so grateful we did it and I feel so much more comfortable going on my own, now! It was over three hours and it had a great mix of food information and history and city facts! Because we did the Chinatown tour, it gave a very detailed account of how the Chinese emigrated to San Francisco (which I especially love because in my world history class, I teach a unit on China!). Our first stop was for green onion buns (photo below on left) and a delicious warm baked pork bun (photo below on right), which were buttery buns filled with barbecue-flavored cha siu por.
On our tour we also had tea at a few different places, pork dumplings, Beijing Peking Duck (which I didn't love, but hubby thought was AMAZING!) with steamed pancakes, pot stickers, and tan tan noodles (Szechuan cuisine), which is the bottom right photo. We also got a special appetizer (that wasn't on the menu) and I can't remember if it was a Szechuan pickled cabbage or a cold sour bean dish, but it was one of my favorites!
For dessert we went to the Golden Gate fortune cookie factory for some fortune cookies and had a freshly made, warm, Hong Kong-style egg tart with a flaky buttery crust. I really liked the egg tart and have never had anything like it!
In terms of the historical part of the tour, we visited the Tien Hau Temple (unfortunately, no photos were allowed. Look HERE to see what it looked like, though. It was spectacular!), which is the oldest Buddhist Temple in the United States (built in 1852) and it actually survived the fire and earthquake of 1906, which is pretty unheard of. 
We also visited Wentworth Alley, which was nicknamed the Salty Fish Alley, and Ross Alley (where the barber Jun Yu from Pursuit of Happiness plays the erhu...and where the brothels in the 1900's were located), the street of painted balconies, the oldest telephone exchange (from 1891) which is now a bank, and probably a lot of other places I've already forgotten about!
I really liked this street art painting of a map of Chinatown on one of the side buildings!
The Sidewalk Food Tour ended right around 1pm and then we rushed off to our next exciting adventure, which I will have to recap in a separate post since this one is getting too long! I really cannot recommend the food tours enough, though! We already have plans to go back and do the Mission District and North Beach food tours. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Soaking up the Last few Moments of Summer

While soaking up the last few moments of summer break, we decided to pack up the car with a picnic lunch and head to the Lake (unless we have a wet, wet winter - this may be the last time in a LONG time, we'll actually be able to go to this lake!). The kids were so excited, but really they just wanted to know when we were getting in the water with them. Ha!

We even brought Reese for the first time. She's still not completely able to be off the leash (we can let her for short periods of time, but then she gets excited and tries to run away), so this was a good practice for her. She loved the lake! She'd probably have loved it a bit more if there was less mud (because the lake is soo low because of our drought, the areas where you can walk around at the water's edge are normally the bottom of the lake. So it's not very sandy; it's actually silt.
It was a fun, easy day at the lake!

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