Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in review

Well, as I sit down at my computer, there are only about 8 hours left in 2013, and I don't really have a lot to say.  It's sort of strange to look back on the last year.  It feels like we didn't do anything, but yet, we really did a lot.  I suppose I could try to look back on the entire year and wax poetic and all that jazz, but I'm not going to.  Instead, because it's late in the day, and I have a baby with croup and double ear infections and I'm tired, our "year in review" blog post is just going to be a video of some of my favorite pictures of the year and the text from my Christmas letter.

Happy New Year!
Bring it on, 2014.

Hello to all our family and friends.  We hope that 2013 has been a great year for you and your family.  In the Howden Home, we had a pretty good year ourselves.  Everyone got a year older and wiser (ha!).  Ross and Annie celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.  Annies brother got his LDS mission call to Lithuania.  And, we made an extended family trek to Disneyland, surviving plane flights with a then seven month old.
Ross had a busy year at work, wrapping up a multi-year project and starting another. He traveled to France, Switzerland, Latvia, and Poland this year and was able to see some pretty amazing places, when he wasn't stuck in an office.  He also is the Scoutmaster, our boys’ baseball, soccer and basketball coach, and Quinns personal travel system.  He willingly carries that heavy baby everywhere! Ross has also made sure that we have indulged in his hobby, eating great food, as much as possible this year. 
Annie is constantly running out of time!  It's amazing how chaotic life can get with three busy, growing and hungry boys.  In addition to her domestic duties, she has taken up sewing and made 10 quilts in the last four months, perfected her skills as a short order cook and is wrapping up the last of her classes to renew her teaching license.  It’s been three years since she took an early retirementand feels pretty lucky that she gets to hang out at home with her boys every day.  It is pretty crazy how fast life is flying by.
Elliott will turn 7 in January and is the smartest kid we know.  He is in a dual immersion program at school and spends half his day learning in Spanish.  He loves school and his teachers.  He is the nicest boy, is almost as tall as Rossmom and takes good care of his little brothers, especially Quinn.  He is a hard worker and a fantastic reader.  He is always hungry, a good little athlete, playing baseball, soccer, and basketball and he loves to swim, ask questions, and play Star Wars Angry Birds on his Kindle. 
Wyatt is 4.5 years old and a pretty good kid.  He is in his second year of preschool, is learning to read like a wild man, and is pretty athletic himself playing t-ball and soccer. He is obsessed with all things Lego and Star Wars and hums the "Imperial March" as he walks around the house.  He loves to watch movies and eat cheetos, is always willing to sit on your lap and has an infectious laugh.  He regularly surprises us with his insights, knowledge and great feats of tattle-telling.  He is also a great brother and when he isn't trying to annoy Elliott, he is being a best friend to Quinn.
Quinn turned one in September and is the sweetest baby boy in the world.  He is a walking, babbling, funny little kid with a unique personality.  We don't know what we would do without him to entertain us every single day.  He always wants to be outside, loves to eat books (yes, eat themwe sometimes read them, too), play with dinosaurs and watch Sesame Street videos on YouTube.  If he could, he would live in the bathtub.  He loves his dad and his brothers the most, which is probably as it should be.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Birthday to my little Brother!

Man Alive!  I was looking through some old blog posts the other day and found my "happy 13th birthday, Willie" post.  Elliott was almost one when you turned thirteen and today, you are nineteen.

Blows my mind that you've grown up.  You still meow at us on the phone every once in a while, and were reminded on Christmas day that you used to call your bathrobe that Grandma Huber had given you, your George Foreman, but you also have adult conversations.  And eat salads.

This past year has been so great for you.  SB Pres., valedictorian, region champs in football and basketball and a decent showing in the region/state tennis tournament.  You were the outstanding senior male, were academic all-state in three sports, and you were on TV rapping with Big Buddha.

This fall in particular, I have so much loved having you as my brother.  My children adore you and something has clicked in little Quinner's head....he loves you the most.  He will sit on your lap for hours.  And me?  It's been so much fun having you show up at our house all summer and this fall to hang out, take the boys hunting Sasquatch at the lake, and meeting you at the bookstore to get Christmas Eve presents.

Mostly though, I am so excited for you to leave on your mission.  It's sad, that you'll be gone for two whole years - there is so much that you'll miss of us and we'll miss of you.  But!  But, the experiences you are going to have in Lithuania will be amazing!  You will be as good of a missionary as you are uncle and little brother.

The most fun I've had in a very long time was the road trip we went on after Thanksgiving.  Haley and I were talking about how, because of our age gap, you just missed out on a lot of stuff with us - even though you've done a lot of stuff too.  But, being able to take a whirlwind trip to the ocean, just the three of us, was the best mission send off I hope all three of us could ask for.  I hadn't laughed so hard , had the music so loud, or sang along so much in ages, and you and Haley are, and will always be my best friends.

Happy Birthday Willie!

We all love you very much!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Christmas Blur

Christmas Eve was nice.  We had a great day at home and a nice evening at my grandpa's house.  It was a smallish crowd, only 30 people or so, and pretty much just my mom, her sisters, and their families.  We had a good program.  I sang with Haley and James and Willie in the family band, and we had a good nativity program as well.  My only contribution to the feast was chocolate fudge, but it was really yummy.

Christmas day was nice, too.  It was LONG, but it was nice.  We started our morning, Wyatt and I, having to get everyone else out of bed.  My whole life, I've been the first one up on Christmas day and I was the first up this year, too.  I got up at 5:30, showered, and just waited for someone else to be interested.  Our gift opening at home was frenzied and frantic, just as it should be with three small boys.  And, we even had time this year to skype with Ross' family in Arizona before we started on the days adventuring.

Our first stop was my Aunt LeeAnn's for Christmas brunch.  Almost everyone was there, the food was great (oh, scones!) and the gift opening speedy and festive.  I love to be in a big group laughing and having fun.  Once we left my aunt's house, it was a quick stop at the only open gas station in Roy for one of many diet cokes for the day, and then off to my parents.

There, we opened more presents - my mom is too generous - and hung out in our Christmas hangover waiting for my sister and her family to arrive from her in-laws home.  All the natives under 7 were pretty restless upon her arrival so we hurried some more and then headed out to my grandpa's house.

By the time we arrived, everyone was gone, the house was quiet, and the tree was glowing.  I've never been to my grandparents house so late on Christmas day before and it was kind of nice.  The stillness was appreciated after a frantic day.  The kids opened a few more presents and then finally, we were headed home, about 11 hours after we'd left the house that day.

We are very blessed.  We are very lucky.  Our children are very much loved.

It was a pretty good day.

A couple of things to note:
1 - Wyatt wore his new "go Utes" shirt that he picked out himself.  We didn't realize until halfway through the day that his new shirt was a girls shirt with ruffle sleeves.  We chose not to tell him, but to just not remind him to take his jacket off the rest of the day.

2 - Grandma Judy gave the big boys noisy guns.  Quinn had a cow because he didn't have a noisy gun.  My mom sent Willie downstairs and he brought up a third gun, for Quinn.  There was no point in getting him "age appropriate" gifts....all he wanted were the things his brothers had.

3 - 2013 was the year of the Lego: Chima, Star Wars, Ninjago and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And, this year, Elliott can build everything all by himself, which is pretty cool.

4 - Wyatt got a fart gun from Santa Claus.  He's been running around holding up to people's butts and laughing for days now.

5 - I gave nearly all homemade gifts this year.  I made 9 quilts, 10 pillow covers and countless other things.  Not too sure how all my gifts were received, but I thought that they turned out nice.  I think I spent between 50-80 hours sewing from the beginning of August until the first week of December when I finished my last quilt.

Monday, December 23, 2013

'Tis the Season....

For lots of sugar....

Early present opening......

Blurry picture taking......

Watching new movies (the sandlot) with real people and new words.....

Tasty treats and gifts to and from neighbors.....

And lots and lots of present wrapping.

It's also the season for daily list checking and rechecking and daily mental breakdowns (me); sick kids (Elliott); greedy boys (Wyatt), crazy babies (Quinner) and dads who don't go to work, but don't really know what to do when they are at home.  There have been and will be more tears shed.  I miss my grandma's terribly and nearly every time I've wrapped a present in the last few weeks I've cried.  Wrapping my grandma's hundreds of presents every year was something I always looked forward to.

We've watched all our Christmas movies and the advent calendar is almost finished.   All our parties have been held, hosted, and attended.  The gifts are wrapped, charities have been donated to and neighbor gifts have been delivered.  I've wavered between thinking we've gone overboard with too much to thinking that we don't have enough, and adding a couple extra things.

I read in a book a few weeks ago, that Christmas is hard for women.  We all want to create those perfect movie moments for our families so we go out of our heads to prepare: food and gifts and wrapping and generosity and "over the toppedness", just to make sure our children, husbands and other family members are in sugar and toy comas and dancing with sugar plum fairies.....all that work just to let the credit go to Santa and his elves.  And we end up curled on the couch, wishing for a xanex at the end of the day.  Or maybe that's just my Christmas wish.  (kidding.......)

It's okay though.  I love to give gifts.  I like to get them, too, but I love to give them.  I'm so excited to give my gifts this year.  Hopefully, they are well received.  So dumb to worry about such things, but I do.   And I'm excited to see my boys faces on Christmas morning.  Hopefully Santa won't disappoint.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

These boys!

Happy thanksgiving from the monsters and our messy house.

These boys of mine!  I tell you what...the closer we get to Christmas the more wild they get.

The big boys mailed letters to Santa.  They got letters back from the North Pole on Friday night in the mail.  Pretty exciting!  Elliott took his letter to his dad and said, "Dad!  These letters are not in your handwriting OR in mom's handwriting.  They must REALLY be from Santa."  I do not, in fact, know who they are from either.....so they must be from Santa, too.  And Santa has very feminine handwriting.

Every morning while driving Wyatt to school we drive past the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, and just south of the temple, in the dirt, is a large, long, bright orange tube sandbag.  It's been there since the summer, probably protecting a drain, or trying to direct water run-off somewhere else.  Anyway, Wyatt sees it every single morning and tells me, "mom, the worm is still there."  I tell him, every morning, that I think it's an orange sandbag.  He kindly disagrees and tells me, "Mom.  I'm pretty sure it has a head.  It's a worm.  Maybe though, it is so big it cannot really move so good."  Then, I ask him why it doesn't go underground to get out of the snow.  He simply says, "Maybe it likes the cold."

Quinner Quinner Chicken Dinner is officially walking everywhere as of about 2 weeks ago.  Walking is pretty liberating and it's saving his pants.  I've been mending holes in knees like crazy so now that there is no more crawling, the pants will survive!  He is such a funny kid, but lately he has figured out how to blink, loves to mimic anyone and anything, and is super into all animals, but mostly dinosaurs.  On Saturday night, Ross was trying to put Quinn to bed and it wasn't working.  He'd had a long and late nap, and the other boys were already out cold, so for a father and son activity they turned the tv on to find a movie.  Ross found Jurassic Park, right before the T-Rex attacks the little jeep things.  That boy of mine, who doesn't know what fear is, apparently hooted and hollered and made roaring sounds at the tv.  And shortly after the little frilled dinosaur ate Newman, he fell fast asleep.

Christmas cannot get here soon enough and I cannot wait to see their overwhelmed and emotionally charged faces all day long.  I can however, wait for the meltdowns that also come with Christmas.  I'd prefer to skip those all together.

Friday, December 06, 2013

2002 caught up with me at the gym

Me, high school teacher, circa 2002

In 2002 I was a high school history teacher.  I was still pretty new and still figuring things out.  And, perhaps most importantly, I was still very young.  I was 23-24 and my students were 16-17...there wasn't much of an age gap there.  Every year that I taught high school, there were always one or two young men who, for whatever reason, be it the way I taught, the things I said, the music I played, or because I tended to wear tight sweaters,  took a fancy to me.  It was always easy to spot the kid with the crush.  He was always in my classroom before or after school.  He wasn't the best student, but did okay in my class.  He tried to hangout in my room while ditching other classes.  He figured out when my birthday was and gave me a small gift or note.  He tried to call me by my first name instead of my formal "Ms. Petersen".

Anyway, in 2002 there was one of these boys.  He fit the bill and was sort of a shadow.  He struggled a bit, was sort of a Gothic wanna be without much of a crowd of his own.  Nice kid though.  Never one to assume that I was high school boy crush worthy, it was obvious by the way he'd look at me, the occasional inability to finish a sentence when talking to me, and the hand written notes in a book about slavery that this kid liked me.  The truth came out though at spring parent teacher conferences when he came with his mom and she looked at me, looked at him and said, "Oh, this is the teacher you think is hot!"  He turned purple.  His mom smiled.  I pretended not to hear.

Anyway, fast forward ELEVEN YEARS!  Monday night I was at the gym, working my way through the circuit my trainer had given me for the week.  Yes, I have a "trainer" now, but that's another post.  Anyway, over by the free weights I saw this kid staring at me.  Really staring at me.  It took me about two minutes to realize that, though he was bulkier than in high school, it was this kid.  The kid with the mom.  Now, because I'm an awkward social weirdo, and because I don't like to talk to people, and because he was a former student, once I'd realized I knew him, I made a beeline for the other end of the gym.  Complete avoidance was my goal.  But, out of the corner of my eye, it was obvious that not only was he still staring, but he was sort of following me around the gym.

There was no way to escape.

As I finished on one my last machine and headed to a treadmill, headphones blaring looking at the floor, I walked past him.  He jumped up behind me and grabbed me by the arm.  I could tell that he knew who I was and that playing dumb wasn't an option.

We had a conversation.  It was awkward and a little uncomfortable.  He looked at me, even with me being sweaty and zitty and no make-up on, just like he had in high school.  He asked, "Are you married?"  "Yes, very happily for ten years with three boys!" I replied.  He asked if I still taught, if I lived near the gym, ("Do you come here often?  I've never seen you before.", he said) what my husband does for a living....you know, small talk trying to sound grown-up.  He told me about his life - he's a police officer at the jail, lives alone with his dog, but that he has a girlfriend....

Who is 34. (about my age.) Then he said the kicker....."If my girlfriend knew I was at the gym talking to my old high school history teacher, she might come find you and beat you up."  Um...huh?  That either means that his girlfriend is a man,  that she's very protective of her boyfriend or that he has talked about me and that she knows who I am.

After about 10 minutes of awkward I bowed my way out of the conversation and ran a mile on the treadmill to clear my head.

I'm not sure I want to go back to the gym.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

#siblingagogo13 :: Food

I grew up in burgers and fries family.  I am still a burger and fries girl.  Probably, if it wasn't embarrassing or strange or super unhealthy, I'd eat a hamburger every day.  My husband is a ham sandwich and pickle person.  He likes deli's and all that stuff and when we go to Crown Burgers, he gets chicken kebab's and rice, not a burger and fries.

But, throughout our marriage, food has become just as important part of a vacation as the location and the company.  That being said, I cannot tell you the last vacation I went on where I intentionally ate at a big chain restaurant.  I like to keep it local and new.

On our way to the ocean, our first stop was "Swig" in St. George for dirty diet cokes and sugar cookies.  My first experience with a dirty diet coke didn't win me over...there was too much coconut, perhaps?  And not enough lime that I could even taste it?  And, the after burn tasted like what sunscreen smells like.  I'd be willing to try it again, but with my own ratios.  The cookies though?  They were pretty great.  We each got two, sugar and chocolate chip, and snarfed them down pretty quickly.

My first dirty diet coke...tasted like sunscreen.  #siblingagogo13

Next up was the food highlight of my trip.  Raising Cane's in Las Vegas.  I know, it's just chicken fingers but until you try them, and go back for seconds and thirds, then don't mock.  There are about 6 Raising Cane's in Las Vegas and we hit one on the way to the ocean and one on the way back home.  Divine.  Melt in your mouth.  Tastes like real chicken.  And, the Texas toast is heavenly.  I would actually be willing to drive to Las Vegas just to gorge myself at a Raising Cane's.  I would even eat there twice in the same day!

Raising canes.  My most favorite place ever to eat! #siblingagogo13 #roadfood

By the time we got around to being hungry in California on Friday night, pretty much everything was closed.  It was late.  But, the manager of Johnny Rockets (who was closing up) told me of a small local burger place just a few blocks over on Huntington Main Street called, "Bomb Burger".  It was excellent.  I got a bacon BBQ burger and the skinniest, cutest, tastiest french fries I've ever had.  It was, well, the bomb!

Late night post hunger games burgers! #siblingagogo13


On Saturday morning, thanks to the recommendation of my friend Erin, who used to live in Huntington, we had breakfast at the Sugar Shack.  Breakfast really isn't our thing, but this place was awesome.  Giant pancakes, great bacon and amazing hash browns.  Locally owned and operated since, like, 1967, the kid that was our server looked like he came to work straight from surfing, and was a pretty authentic beach bum.  The service was fast and it was tasty.


Our final real food destination of the trip was a pretty regular spot for us.  Ruby's Diner on the Huntington Beach Pier.  We love Ruby's.  The food is yummy.  The atmosphere is cool and they bring your milk shakes BEFORE you food!  Who doesn't like that.  I got a salad, Willie a grilled cheese, and Haley a burger.  We each got laughing to hard during dinner that our waitress came to ask us if we were okay.  And, we made Willie put dinner on his debit card.  It was the first time he had ever done that, and the first time he had to calculate a tip.  We were so proud of him!


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

#siblingagogo13 - the ocean


My mom, brother and I have a fascination with the ocean.  I could sit on the beach all day long and watch the waves, the surfers, the kids in the sand.  Hunting for seashells is one of the most relaxing activities around.

My sister, she doesn't love the ocean so much.  She and I share an irrational fear that if we get much wetter than our ankles, a shark will jump out of the water and eat us.  But, she humored us, and spending hours sitting on the beach, had a great nap and read on of the first books she's read in years.


The whole point of our road trip was to see the ocean.  Willie wanted to play his ukulele on the beach.  I wanted to sit somewhere beautiful without anyone asking me for anything.  I think Haley wated a nap.  And she got one.  Our hours on the beach were excellent.  In all the trips to California I've taken in my life, I've never been able to spend some time just hanging out at the beach.  Isn't that crazy?  The beach is wonderful.  In my lawn chair, with my diet coke, my shells, and my brother's ukulele.  The three of us hardly talked on the beach, we were just there.  We took turns guarding our stuff to walk through the surf and watch the surfers wipe out.  The beach is a pretty good place to watch people.  A good place to relax.  A good place to have your hair go all frizzy crazy and never look back.

And a pretty good place to get sand in your toes.  If getting sand in your toes is what you're after.




Its like that Jack Johnson song...sitting, staring, playing, reading... #siblingagogo13

And a beach sunset?  That's a pretty spectacular thing.  Even if you almost miss it while trying to find the beach again and have to get your sister to stop, dump you out of the car to go and watch it while she circles in a parking lot.  A good sunset and a good sister.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013


I got an e-mail from my brother back sometime in October.  He asked me if I was feeling adventurous and wanted to fly with him to see our favorite band, Guster, perform in New York City some special commemorative concerts, over Thanksgiving weekend.  He said we could fly, see the show, and then just sleep in the airport and head back home on the next available flight.

At first, I said sure.  But then after checking the price of airfare, trying to find tickets from third parties for the sold out shows and insisting on staying in a hotel it was obvious that the plan wasn't going to pan out.  So, I e-mailed him.  I told him that I'd give him the weekend and asked him where he wanted to go.

He said: The Ocean.

After a week or so of plotting, we told Haley about our plan.  After a little more convincing, she was in and #siblingagogo13 was born.

Haley and Willie met me at my house at 6:00 am (I'm so thankful for punctual siblings!) and we were off on our adventure.  With as few stops as possible, we made it to the ocean on Friday night, just in time to see the sun setting.  We stayed at the Shorebreak Inn right off the pier on Huntington Beach and with our balcony door open, could feel the ocean air and hear the waves crashing on the beach.

It was one of the best trips I've ever been on.  I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard, or sang so loudly to the radio.  I love my sister and brother so much.  They are two of my bestus friends and, especially with Willie leaving in a few months for Lithuania, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  It's funny how, when the three of us are together, we just sort of flow.  We all like enough of the same stuff, and enough of the same food, that there aren't a lot of questions.  We just get up and go and everything worked perfectly.  We couldn't have asked for a better weekend - weather, traffic, company, food, surfers.

So much fun.

Totally worth driving all day. #siblingagogo13

My own personal ukulele concert with the sound of waves #siblingagogo13

We went to the ocean after it closed.   It closes at 10 in case you didn't know.  #rebels #siblingagogo13

Monday, December 02, 2013

Quinner :: 15 months

He will eat the whole bowl all by himself!
Hi Baby Boy!
Big news this month?  Well, you broke my Digital SLR camera a while back.  The fix-it-shop couldn't fix it so now I have a broken camera and my phone.  Sufficed to say, there hasn't been that much documenting going on lately.
Let's see what I can think of.
You are really good at using a spoon and a fork.
You like to eat pizza and pears and  three scoops of ice cream with crackly syrup and get mad when we cut things up to make them smaller....you only want big kid sized pieces.
More animal sounds, however subtle, are coming out of your mouth.  Dad, Grandpas, and Uncle Willie are all "Dad", and the girls are pretty irrelevant.
You are pretty much walking.  If holding someones hand, you could walk a mile really really fast.  On your own, it's limited to about 12 steps before you give up and start crawling, but, you can do it.  Yeah!  We are proud of you....we just need a little more bravery. 

#familytraditions.  Weve been sitting in the same seats for like, 30 years.
Basketball season has started for the Runnin' Utes and you have been a bit of a bear at the games we've been to so far, but it's okay.  I'm not sure if it's harder to carry your 30 pounds freestanding or you in your bucket car seat like we did last year, but you seem to like the games because there is a lot to look at and all your favorite people are there for you to hug and climb on.
You love to fight light sabers with your brothers and chew on toothbrushes.  Lately, your favorite game is to have Elliott and Wyatt copy everything you do and it's pretty amazing the stuff your one year old brain comes up with.  I've tried to get it on video, but once the camera turns on, the action stops.  But, it gets us all laughing pretty good.  The facial expressions and noises you make have always been pretty entertaining and as you get older, they seem to get funnier.
Besides stealing all my diet coke, you are awesome and life is moving along pretty splendidly.  Just wait until you see what you are getting for Christmas.  It will blow your mind.


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