Wednesday, August 09, 2017

We went to California, Part 3


Well, since the trip had included an event for Ross (soccer), for the big boys (Harry Potter) we figured we'd better do something just for Quinn.  That meant on our last full day of vacation, we would drive to San Diego (and get there faster than it took us to get to Universal) and take Quinn to Sea World.

We'd been watching Sea World commercials on TV for a while, and Quinn seemed pretty into it, but he was so excited once we got there.  He got a map, and we let him direct the day - wherever Quinn wanted to go we went.  We started with the dolphin show, then crossed the park to the penguins and arctic animals, then crossed the park again to the seals and sea lions.  He had us marching back and forth all day long.  We walked more at Sea World than the previous day at Universal Studios.  Phew!

There were some definite highlights of the day.  In no particular order:
Walrus are insanely huge and gigantic animals and it was fun to see one so close.


The boys fed sea lions - they touched dead fish and Elliott had a fish stolen out of his hand from a very daring bird.



We saw a sea lion, killer whale, dolphin and sea turtle poop in the water.  Always a highlight of any boy experience.

Quinn grinned ear to ear the entire Orca show.  Killer whales are amazing majestic animals.  They were my favorite.  I could have sat and watched them swim all day long.




Ross and the big boys rode the big rides - getting soaking wet on one of them and Quinn thought it was pretty funny that his dad looked like he'd pee'd his pants.


The boys touched horseshoe crabs, small sharks and other sea creatures.

The sea lion show was fun and the boys saw baby hammerhead sharks.

One thing that I thought was pretty cool at Sea World had nothing to do with aquatic creatures.  If you buy a souvenir cup at the park, you can refill it for free at any self-serve food kiosk for the entire day.  We bought two $12 souvenir cups (with lids and straws) and easily filled each of them 10 times.  That was a bargain!

San Diego is a great town.  The weather was a perfect 73 all day.  The park wasn't too crowded and the lines for attractions weren't too long.  Sea World is really a great way to spend a day.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

We went to California, Part 2

On the second full day of our vacation, Thursday I think, we headed to Universal Studios.  When we decided to take the trip for the soccer game, we figured that we might as well take a trip to Universal Studios so that Elliott and Wyatt's Harry Potter dreams could come true.  The night we told the boys about the trip, about a week before we left, Elliott looked like maybe he was going to stop breathing when he learned of the trip to HP land.

I'm pretty sure it didn't disappoint.

LA traffic is rotten, and it took us, no joke, 2 hours to travel I think 26 miles through the heart of LA and Hollywood to even get to the Universal Studios parking structure.  Man alive, LA traffic is bad.  We saw the Hollywood sign, the big planetarium on the hill, the Staples Center so it was a pretty interesting and scenic drive, especially looking at all the dejected and depressed single car drivers who have to sit in that traffic every single day of their lives.

But, as soon as we got out of the car and headed to Universal, it was worth it.  The boys were so excited.  A good friend of mine told us that we needed to head straight to Harry Potter, ride the ride and then get our wands.  Well, the main ride already had a 70 minute wait, so we skipped that, rode the smaller roller coaster and then headed to Olivander's wand shop's....line.  About 20 minutes later, we had the greatest experience of the day.

We were led into a small room and instructed that we would be entering another small room, and that it was imperative we listen to all instructions.  Once in that second room, we were met by a female wizard who talked to us about the importance of wand selection and that a wand chooses it's owner, not an owner choosing a wand.  As she spoke, she wandered the room, looking for a perfect young muggle/wizard to help select a wand.

She chose Elliott.  He didn't quite know what to do, and wanted to play it cool, but I know he was melting a little on the inside.  After three wands and three spells, Elliott found his wand and we were all released into the actual wand store which was very small and very crowded.  The other boys selected their wands, we paid for our wands and were on our way to cast magic spells throughout the park.  It was a pretty fun morning.




The rest of our day at Universal is a blur.  It was pretty crowded, very hot and sweaty, and very expensive.  It felt more expensive than Disneyland, but I'm not sure that it was - probably the same.  We rode all the rides the boys were big enough/old enough/mature enough to ride (no mummy and no walking dead).  We did the tram, saw some very strange people, listened to a lot of languages.

My "highlight" of the day was getting blasted in the face with a wall of water on the Jurassic Park ride.  My hair was drenched.  My make-up removed.  I was furious.  I might have cried a little and thought about marching to the front of the park and demanding my money back.  After I had to use a bathroom hand dryer to dry my hair a bit with a woman standing and staring and laughing at me the whole time, I finally calmed down a bit.  If the only person that throws a fit at a theme park is the mom, I guess you call it a good day?


We opened and closed the park, and the boys had fun so it was all worth it - even if I looked like a haggard old woman for the entire day.  I guess that means I'll do just about anything to see all my boys (Ross included) happy.



Thursday, August 03, 2017

We went to California, Part 1


Everything our little family does is done quickly and our vacations are no exception.  In the spring, Ross found out about a soccer game between Manchester City and Real Madrid being played in Los Angeles in the Summer and a trip was born.

We had three days, book ended by half days of travel, to get as much sight-seeing and fun in as we could.  Now, nearly a week later, I'm still tired.

We left on a Tuesday afternoon and I realized that we always leave for vacations, at least when we are flying, and it's really stressful so in the future, we need to leave in the morning or at least mid day, not 4 pm.

We arrived at the Long Beach airport.  We found the house we were renting and I had a mini panic attack that it was too hot and too musty and it wasn't going to work.  After dinner at Wahoo's I calmed down a bit.  It was a cute but very old house with bad wifi, no TV (even though it was promised and yes we complained), and one bathroom.  But, we survived.

Day two had us up bright and early in the morning to head along the Pacific Coast Highway to Crystal Cove State Park Beach.  It's my new favorite.  We had the beach to ourselves for a very long time and the boys had so much fun playing in the water, hunting for crabs and urchins in the tide pools and getting covered in sand.  We wrapped up the morning with a walk up a hundred or so stairs to Ruby's Diner Shake Shack and it wad delicious.  The beach is just so calming and great.





After that, we headed back to the house, got cleaned up and drove into Los Angeles to go to the LaBrea Tar Pits.  Pretty cool.  Smelled like asphalt.  Boys had fun.



We ate a quick snack at the Farmer's Market food place at the Grove shopping center, found a MUJI for me to buy notebooks to my hearts contentment and then headed to the soccer game at the LA Colosseum.

The Colosseum is incredibly old, outdated, unsafe, and gross.  The seats were rusty and had holes and were covered in spider webs.  Quinn wouldn't even sit in his and spent the first half of the game on my lap.  There were also no railings anywhere in the stadium.  When the stairs are THAT steep, and everyone is THAT drunk, you'd figure some railings would come in handy (get it, handy!) .   We however, persevered and watched the game.




We were directly across the aisle from a huge contingency of Man City fans, which made Ross pretty happy.  They were fairly calm the first half and we only endured a little rowdy behavoir.  That was however made up for in the second half.  People without seats in the section were filling the stairs (fire hazard), the 32 oz beers in souvenir cups were flowing and the borderline appropriate songs were being sung.  Once Man City was up 3-0, I convinced Ross that we could leave.  It was a pretty interesting experience and when I left to use the restroom in the middle of the second half, I ratted out all those crazy fans as a fire hazard to the first security person I could find.

Rule follower I am.

The great thing about going to a soccer match that doesn't start at 8:30 pm, when your kids brains thing it's 9:30 pm is that everyone falls asleep on the way back to the rental and minus the fact that the house was pretty warm, slept like babies for the whole night.

Day 1 was a victory!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An update on Grandpa


My grandpa has seen better days.  Today, he is an outpatient at the Riverton Hospital, getting a blood transfusion.  The last two weeks he has been residing at the Legacy Village Rehabilitation Center because of a hospital stay, and a feeding tube (he never passes the swallow tests).  The two weeks (or maybe just 10 days) before that, he was in the hospital.  He had a bad infection, stemming from a UTI because of a catheter and had two heart attacks and got a pace maker.


The months prior to the last several weeks haven't been so great either.

But, there he is, plugging along, unwilling to give in or give up.  He keeps fighting, to stay with us for another day.

I'm not the best grand-daughter - it's really hard for me to visit.  It's hard for me to see people sick and weak - I want my memories of them to always be strong and healthy.  Knowing that my grandpa isn't doing well is also hard because when he decides it's finally time to leave us (hopefully not too soon), then that's it for me in the grandparent department.  I realize that I'm pretty lucky that at 39 years old, I've still got a grandparent alive to learn from and love.  But, it's touchy for me none the less.

Since January, I've been writing my grandpa letters.  I have written a letter every single week, not missing one.  He is my pen pal, only, a pen pal that doesn't write back.  It's a little one sided I suppose, but I sort of like it that way.  I know he likes to read, and I it's a good way for me to talk to him, because I've struggled with that my whole life, too.

My grandpa is stoic.  He is strong and brave.  He is faithful and courageous.  During my life, he has shared opinions, wisdom and stories of his life with me...mostly through my grandma but on a good day, he can tell some tales.

On Monday, we were driving home from swimming lessons and I had the following conversation with Quinn.  It's a little morbid, but he's four and a half and like all almost 5 year olds, he only speaks the truth.

Q: Mom, is Great Grandpa at home or still in the place?
M:  He is still in the place, but he is doing okay.  Should we go and visit him?
Q:  Yes, we should visit him.
M:  Should we draw him some pictures to decorate his room at the place?
Q:  Yes, I want to make him a card.  How do you spell, "I'm glad you're not dead!"

(Elliott and Wyatt laughing hysterically)
M:  Well, maybe we should say, "I'm glad you are still alive, instead?"
Q:  No, mom.  I'm glad he is not dead.

Well, Quinner.  So am I.

So.  Am. I.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spring sports

June is almost over.

The boys last day of school is June 30.

And spring sports?  They just about blew up this tired mama's brain.

Quinn played t-ball with cousin Jack.  Ross was the coach.  He did a great job always trying really hard and I don't think he ever had to use the tee, always hitting one of his dad's pitches.  I was very proud of him, even though he called every game "soccer practice" all season.

Wyatt played soccer on a team with a bunch of friends from school.  He had fun and played especially hard when grandma or grandpa were there to watch him.   He also played kid pitch baseball and it was mostly a disaster.  His team was very small (in stature and skill), very young, and he had a first time coach - recipe for...very LONG baseball games.  Add in all the spring rain-outs, it felt like the season was never. going. to. end.  Oh, and he pitched many innings in many games.  He did his best, and I'm proud of him for that, but this child of mine maybe isn't destined to be a pitcher.

Baseball did, in-spite of everything, end on a win.  The second win of the season.  Want to know something good about being on the bad news bears?  No post season tournaments.

Elliott played spring soccer.  He seemed to be the glue that held his team together, most games only sitting at half-time.  His team had its struggles in the spring, losing two players and their dads who were the assistant coaches.  I'm not sure what happened there, but it's hard to win games when you lose kids from the team and the majority of the rest of the team doesn't come to practice.  But, they ended strong and Elliott did a great job.

I tell my boys the exact same thing before every single game:  win or lose, you need to be able to walk off the field knowing that you did your best.  Elliott has figured this out.  Wyatt, well Wyatt is still working on it.

And, it is indicative of the craziness of spring sports that I failed to take any pictures of Elliott playing soccer; took my nice camera to Wyatt's last baseball game to take pictures and realized when I got there that I left the memory card at home; and managed to get a few pictures of Quinn at one of his last games.




Now - with summer here officially (summer solstice yesterday) we are knee deep in soccer.  Elliott and Wyatt are both on competitive soccer teams for USA (Utah Soccer Association) soccer.  I'm finally getting over the amount of money we've paid for the boys to play - and now I need to get over the summer practice and tournament schedule.

Good thing I like these kids.  A lot!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The passing of Aunt LeeAnn


On May 11, my Aunt LeeAnn passed away.  She had fought a tough battle against a terminal cancer called multiple myeloma.  It is a bone marrow cancer that was super aggressive and after 18 months, multiple different forms of chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant, she passed away on May 11th.

The few weeks before her death and the week after were really sad and exhausting, and I'm not even her immediate family.  She seemed to get really sick, really quickly and her death was sudden.  Lots of tears have been shed over the last couple of weeks.

Her funeral however, was a very touching and beautiful service.  Two of her children (Matt and Jodi) and my Aunt Karen spoke and Melanie played a piano piece.  Matt, her youngest son, gave the most eloquent and emotional tribute to his mom.  His words were inspired and I was so moved and touched by the beautiful things he said about his mom, and the testimony he bore at the end of his talk.  I've been thinking about his words quite a bit since the funeral, and I hope that if my sons' were ever tasked with speaking at my funeral, they would give half as kind of a tribute.

Ross and I talk a lot about aging, we are at the point where it really is "weddings and funerals" that bring people together.  It's sad to think about, so I try not to think about it too much, but I am so grateful for my faith and belief that I will see family members again, and will get to participate in the most beautiful heavenly reunions one day.





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birthday, Baptism Bonanza Weekend


The weekend of Wyatt's birthday party was exhausting, I tell you what.  But, it was fun and worth it.

Ross parents arrived on Wednesday night for the week.  The big boys were off-track and ready to party.

Friday was Wyatt's birthday.  In our family, you get a friend birthday party when you turn eight, and Wyatt chose to invite a few of his good friends to "Bricks and MiniFigs" a cool lego shop by our house that hosts birthday parties.  The kids got to build legos, build lego race cars and race them down a track, and then build a mini figure to take home.  We had juice boxes and doughnuts and right at the end of the party, after all the Lego building was over, our Arizona cousins, Isaac, Luke and Jonah arrived with their mom from Arizona.




After the party we went to the food trucks at Petersen farm for dinner and nearly blew away in the wind, but the food was good.  Friday night was Wyatt's family party.  Wyatt got more lego's for his birthday than I thought was possible.  He wanted to build them all immediately, but luckily we were able to space them out a bit.

On Saturday morning, Wyatt was baptized.  There was some confusion with the stake baptism, but we ended up having a really nice program for Wyatt.  Elliott gave the baptism talk, Aunt Cindy the Holy Ghost talk, and Wyatt was swiftly shoved under water and baptized and confirmed by his dad.  This was the first time all the Howden cousins had been together since Elliott's baptism two years prior.  Hopefully it won't be another two years before we get together again.

We finished Saturday with a really great soccer game for Elliott, one where they actually WON (Woo Hoo!) and had a bbq at our house in the evening.




Sunday, church and Mother's Day.  Ross' brother's family had to travel back home but we hosted his parents and my family for a delicious dinner of prime rib, scalloped potatoes and a bunch of other stuff.  By Sunday night, I was exhausted but it was a really nice weekend.

Friday, May 12, 2017

It's great to be EIGHT! Happy Birthday, Wyatt!


Happy Happy Birthday, William Wyatt Howden.

Can you believe you are EIGHT YEARS OLD!  I can hardly believe it.

Second grade is almost over.  You are great at math and have had almost perfect spelling tests all year long.  You can figure out how to spell words you don't even know.  And, you can calculate change in your head which is something I cannot even figure out - unless it's really easy math.

The last year of your life has seen you become a greater lego master, artist, and dancer.  I've been able to help out at school a couple of times and you have some of the cutest friends.  Mason, Wilson, Andrew and Cooper, Ronan, and Ethan just to name a few.  Before Christmas when I was doing a Fun Friday at school, Ronan told me I was the tallest mom in the world.  I'm probably not, but it made me laugh.

You play basketball, soccer and this year baseball, even though you've decided to skip baseball next season for competitive soccer.  It's fun to watch you "turn it on" in a game, especially when you've spent a little too much time cherry picking.  When you want to hustle, you can zoom.  You are pretty good all around athlete, and I'm pretty sure you get it from me.  Ha!

You've started to read Harry Potter and have almost finished the first book.  You have a photographic memory for music, and after only hearing a song once, you remember the lyrics forever.


I'll admit, year seven was a pretty moody one, but I'm hoping that eight years old see's you like me, your dad, and your brother's a little bit more. I'm pretty sure Grandma and Willie are your favorite people and if I'd let you, you would just watch TV and play on your ipod all day long.  You still know everything and always manage to see on the bright side of life.  You wear your heart on your sleeve, and mom and dad are usually pretty sure of your emotional state.  Like dad, you are an early riser finding it nearly impossible to sleep in.

It's pretty rare when you and I get to spend time together, just one-on-one, but when we get the chance, it's so much fun.  You are a great conversationalist, and are never at a loss for words, stories, or telling me when I've done something wrong.

Turning eight will be the greatest.  You get to be baptized, have a friend birthday party, and start cub scouts.  Woo hoo!


Have a happy birthday boy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Because April is almost over

Blogging isn't what it used to be.

I'm not sure if it's because we are busier, or there is just too much going on to document, or because my interests have moved on to other forms of memory preservation, but blogging just isn't as much of a priority.

That being said, we've got a lot going on.

Wyatt turns 8 in a few weeks.  He is playing baseball and doing a lot of pitching,  and soccer and is halfway through his first Harry Potter book.  He is a good boy with a big heart and pretty much gets 100% on every single school assignment he completes, including weekly spelling tests.  He's pretty smart this kid.

Quinn has been sick this week.  First ever puking stomach bug, which for an almost 5 year old is a pretty good stretch.  He loves school and the warmer weather because it means he can jump on the trampoline.  He was outside so much on Saturday he got a sunburn.  He is playing t-ball with Jack and although he's only had one game, he says he likes it.

Elliott is wrapping up band for the school year this week with a final concert on Thursday night.  He loves band and does a great job.  He is still playing on his competitive soccer team, though right now they are the bad news bears of soccer - but without a major turnaround insight.  We've got some major soccer soul searching to do in the next few weeks.  Elliott is a nice boy, a good brother, and though he had a conflict and couldn't attend, was invited to his first birthday party for a girl.

Aunt Christina and cousin Isaac came to Utah for general conference and we were able to take them out to dinner.  Over spring break we, with the rest of Utah, went to the broadway performance of The Lion King at the new Eccles Theater.  It was fabulous by the way and the boys, particularly Wyatt, were just enthralled by the whole thing.

We celebrated Easter with shaving cream dyed eggs and talks in sacrament meeting.  Ross and I "celebrated" our anniversary with me having a gigantic freak out meltdown and ruining the whole day.  We have lots of homework, school projects, practices and games, meetings and church responsibilities sucking up all our time.

But, we like each other and look forward to Sunday dinner at grandma's house every single week.







Friday, March 03, 2017

Random thoughts from a four year old


Quinn says some funny things.  He's probably the funniest person in our family.  Here are a few of the things he's said this week that were pretty amusing.

At bedtime:
"Dad, when guys sing songs sometimes they say 'baby', but they mean girl."

In the car:
"Mom, why do some boys and girls kiss each other on the mouth?"
"Mom, have you ever kissed dad?
"Why would you kiss dad, he has the stinkiest farts in the whole world!"

In the bathtub:
"Mom, which animal is bigger an indominous rex or a blue whale?"
"Which animal is bigger, a blue whale or a mosasaur?"

Thursday, March 02, 2017


My brother wanted to go to a wedding in Temecula, California, of a sister missionary he had served with in Lithuania.  I wanted a day or too off, with only myself to worry about.  (Selfish?  Yes!  But I'll deal with the guilt of that later.)  The two of us decided to make a mini vacation of it and spend the weekend in Southern California.  We invited our sister, but she couldn't make it.


The plan was simple.  Fly to California, drive the PCH from Long Beach to Oceanside stopping at every single beach along the way, and then drive back to Long Beach and fly home.

Our Saturday morning flight had us on the ground in California at 7:30 am.  Yes, you can do the math on that one, but it meant I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning.  I don't have hungry babies anymore, so that early of a morning, something I haven't done willingly for years was a bit of a killer.  But, it meant we could maximize our time in the sunshine.

We arrived, had breakfast at our favorite place, The Sugar Shack Cafe, in Huntington Beach and then we hit the coast.  We were at Huntington all alone, minus a few surfers.  We played in the tide pools at Laguna Beach and ate a delicious, yet greasy and stomach unsettling burger in Oceanside.

The drive to the wedding was dark and winding.  We spent a total of 5 minutes at the reception - typical Mormon thing if you get my drift - and then drove back to Oceanside to sleep harder and deeper on a hotel bed than I've ever slept maybe in my life.  And, I'm a professional sleeper.

The next morning, Sunday, we toured Oceanside.  There wasn't much to see if you get rid of the grime and the homeless folks on every corner.  But, the pier was cool - pelican unafraid of humans and wooden planks, and the California Surfer museum, though small, was packed full of useful and interesting surfing information.  A topic I know nothing about.

The Oceanside beach is small.  At Dana Point, we watched a surf competition in the rain, and got drenched ourselves.  Walking up a steep hill, in a minor downpour, on a cold and blustery morning with sandy feet isn't my favorite way to travel.


Once we got back to Laguna Beach for lunch, the rain was making way for a perfectly beachy California afternoon.  We decided to spend a good part of our Sunday at the church of Crystal Cove beach, tucked away from most tourists, noise, and worldly chaos.  The beach is such a fantastic and magical and marvelous place sometimes.  I lost my brother, but I was perfectly content sitting in the silence, soaking up the waves and the sunshine.  A perfect revival for a tired soul.


We drove past the Newport Temple and scared a trespasser, watching him take a flying leap into some shrubbery.  Instead of heading up the coast for one more beach, Seal Beach, we decided to watch the sun set behind the waves at our beloved Huntington Beach.  The Sunday drum circle was pounding away, the crowd was happy, the surf appeared to be good, and the sky was a bright orange as we walked out to Ruby's Diner, got a malt to split and walked back down the pier.

surfer watercolor

One of the faster weekends of my life, but a memorable one.

Thanks Willie for the invitation.



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