Saturday, December 20, 2008

Simply Having...

We are having a wonderful and busy Christmastime! Here are some pictures from the season so far. We have visited Santa, gone downtown for a fancy dinner and seen all the lights at city & county building and along Larimer (not too far from where Bill works) . We have also bought our tree (a real one- we are purists!) and Connor had a blast decorating it and the house with lots of lights. I am in fear that he might be future Clark W. Griswold!

Last Thursday we had his winter party for school! I along with another Mom, are the "party Moms" and we plan the parties for the class for the whole year. She is such a wonderful person and we work well together, which makes the party for the kids a blast and easy of their teacher. I wonder if we can get our kids in the same class next year???

Punky is getting bigger and bigger, she'll be 5 months on the 28th and acting all the red head that she is! She is feisty and spirited and lets everyone know it! She has been in daycare for 2 weeks now with a wonderful woman who lives in our neighborhood. Her name is Kristen and she has 5 boys (yes FIVE) and her youngest was on Connor's baseball team this past summer. She takes such good care of our baby girl. I hate to leave her, but I know she is being very well cared for. Hopefully in the next month I can can go down to three days a week and work one from home.

Connor is doing fabulous, just learning up a storm! Math is still his favorite and we often have discussions about college and when I told him that in college you can learn about just what you want to. So he was very excited to learn that he could just go to college and do math and science! Watch out MIT! He is loving Christmas and loves sharing all of it with his baby sister. He is so sweet and just loves to be around her and she adores him, she just lights up when she hears her voice!

It has been a weird fall and winter for us, we went from having 60 and even 70 degree days to dropping below zero! Talk about your global warming! But we have been having a lot of fun together! So this would be our "virtual" Christmas letter! Enjoy the pictures and have a wonderful holiday season!

I know I am hardly objective, but aren't they sweet??
See ya, Melinda

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey, Cereal and Snow...

This year our Thanksgiving was smaller than usual. Since my sister and her family moved to Spokane last spring, plus she JUST had a baby a few weeks ago, they could not be with us. And my older brother decided to be with his other terminally bachelor friend, Matt. Lots of beer and football. So it was just the four of us, my Mom, Dad, Grandma and brother Dave and his wife Kristen. I thought it was going to be kind of sad since we were missing a few, but it turned out to be a really relaxing day!

We started the day having "Nate the Great" chocolate chip pancakes. If you haven't heard of "Nate the Great", he is the main character in a book series Connor and I have started reading. Nate is a detective and he always has to have pancakes while solving a case. So in one of his books they printed the recipe he uses, we added the chocolate chips ourselves. They were GOOD!

We headed up to my Mom and Dad's at about 2pm and we had a really great time talking and eating. I think I ate for two, I figured I was making up for last Thanksgiving since I was just newly pregnant and was throwing up and had to sit near an open window since the smell of any meat made me sick! So I ate last year's meal plus this year's- I was FULL! But since we had fewer people, we could all fit at one table!

We also played Monopoly Jr and had a chance to catch up with each other. It was a wonderful day and I have SO much to be thankful for! My family, my friends, my dogs, a new job and safe and warm home with a kitchen full of food! Plus this year we finally have the family we have dreamed of, Punky is here and now our home is full!

Punky slept right through the good food!
Dave & Kristen

Connor and his favorite part of TG- PIE!

Billy, Connor and Gus playing Monopoly and Connor WON!

Here's Sam

and little Nola

Regan was four months old Friday and her checkup was the previous Wednesday. She is now 13 lbs 2 oz and 24 1/2 inches long, she is dead even, in the 50 percentile for both height and weight. She is reaching her milestones and talking up a storm! It is so great to hear, but a little bittersweet, since I now know that since Connor didn't do any of that, it should have been a MAJOR sign something was going on. I am reading an awesome book my good friend Amy, whose son also has ASD, recommended to me. It is so full of great information about ASD, ADHD, asthma & allergies. The doc who wrote the book is not at all anti-vaccine, but just believes they should be given on a safer schedule, so this time she only had to have one shot, which was much better!!
That evening we thought we'd try out a little cereal. Now I must explain that having two children 7 years apart is like having your first baby all over again- except that your stomach doesn't snap back quite the way it did the first time! ;-) All the rules have changed since starting solids with Connor. Now they really aren't supposed to be on a regular schedule of cereal until 5 months, but our doc told us we could just begin slowly with a little each day. I am using oatmeal, instead of the typical rice cereal, we ran into some problems with rice cereal with Connor and his sister seems to have a bit of that same "problem", so I am not even going to try rice cereal! So we gave her about 6-7 tiny spoonfuls, which she did pretty well with. She has the most expressive face I have ever seen on a baby! She furrows her brow when she is unsure of something or is just checking things out. A look that comes straight from my Dad, she is like his mini-me!

I gave her the cereal and she gave her "Jack face", but seemed to like it! But that only lasted a bit before she got frustrated because it was coming fast enough for her, so we switched back to her bottle. It was a good try for the first time!

Here comes the first bite!

Faster Mom, faster!

Hmm, not bad...

Ok I've had enough, give me the old standby.

See what a happy girl I am?

So it finally snowed here in Denver, we had gotten one morning earlier in November where we had some flurries and then it was melted by the time we left to take Connor to school. I cannot remember it EVER snowing this late or having such weird temps- it got up to almost 80 on one day this month! The week of Thanksgiving I saw a guy putting the top down on his car! Global warming much?

Here are some pretty shots during and the morning after.

Chase always loves the snow.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Now let the shopping commence!

See ya, Melinda

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This year has had so many changes in it, I am surprised we have all kept up so well! And this past two weeks have meant more changes for us. But I feel we are and ready for the challenge!

I have accepted a position at our church on the Children's Ministry team. I will be working with Sunday school, but also Vacation Bible School and really all programs that are related to that. I am very excited, because after almost 10 years of not working outside the home, I am getting a chance to be with other people and do something I am good at! It contains a lot of detail work and organization and those are things I am very good at it! I really love it! It is semi-part time and I can still do my other insurance CSR work around that schedule. Connor is in school from 9-4 everyday, so he's settled....but Punky, ah my sweet Irish Princess.

I am having a hard time finding daycare, so right now my Dad (or 'Da' as Connor calls him) takes care of her when she can't be in the childcare at the church. I actually wasn't going to take the job when the first person I had lined up to care for her fell through, but my Dad stepped up and so "no you are not going to quit, I will take care of her until you find something permanent!" Which is a HUGE relief off of me, since I am feeling a LOT of maternal guilt! I waited FOUR years for this baby girl to come along and I feel like I am just shipping her off! And the thing is, yes we could use the extra income, but also I LIKE the job! And I really like the people I am working with! So now I feel guilty for liking working again! Ugh! How does a Mother reconcile those feelings?

And we have all had some adjustments. I am not home to the normal housework, grocery shopping, etc., but Bill has really stepped up to help me. And I have also had to learn to curb my potty mouth! I am working at church for crying out loud! Can't be cursing at the computer!

So in this year of changes, we have had one more. But we Howards are a strong bunch and we will keep rolling with it!

I wish everyone a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving! We are all so very grateful for all the great family and friends in our loves- that means YOU!

See ya, Melinda

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Regan's Baptism...

Our family has had some great things happen over this past week. This past Sunday our beautiful little girl, Regan Jamie Marie was baptized at our church. It was really wonderful and special for all of us. We have decided to become members of St. Andrew's and have gotten to know a few people there, it just feels great to have finally found a church home for our family.

Punky was wearing the same gown my sister and I had both worn. The Pastor who baptized her, Jerry, used to be a stand-up comedian in LA, before he felt called to become a minister. He is so sweet and funny and was so kind with our little one. My older brother, Christopher is her Godfather and my best friend, Tami, is her Godmother. Tami couldn't be there, she lives in the UK, so my Mom was her "stand-in" at the baptism. And most of our family and good friends were there to help us celebrate.

After the baptism we had a reception at my parent's home. My Dad is quite the chef and everyone loves when he gets in the kitchen and does his "thing"! So there were a lot of happy people! We changed Regan from her baptismal gown to a beautiful dress her Aunt Tami sent from England, it is GORGEOUS! And she got to wear little tights and black patent leather shoes, too sweet.

We ended the party with an Irish toast to Bill's brother and Connor and Regan's Uncle Jimmy, who passed away this past March. It has left a hole in the life of all who knew him and since part of Regan's middle name came from him, we wanted to honor his memory and his place in our hearts.

Pastor Jerry, Chris, Mel, Punky, Billy and my Mom

Regan being baptized (the red ribbon Bill is wearing is for Veterans Day)

Punky and Mommy at the party

Punky is partied out!!

Connor with his baby sister and his Gus!

Regan and her Great-Grandmother Cudney
Our second wonderful family event happened on Election Day (no not just that Obama was elected, although that was GREAT!). My sister, Emily and her husband welcomed their second son, Wyatt Jackson into the world. He weighed in at 8lbs 4oz and 20 1/2 inches long. Now as many of you know, we Cudneys tend to grow them BIG- Em's oldest, Declan was 9lbs 14oz and Connor was almost 9lbs. So we feel like we had preemies with our second two!
Wyatt is doing well and home with his family now. He looks like his big brother, except that he has a full head of white blonde hair! Em is recovering from this c-section better than the first and my Mom is in Spokane now to help her for the week. I know my sister is thrilled to have this long awaited miracle! And we are happy our family just grew one bigger!!

D and Wyatt
Hope your families have as many blessings as ours has this week!
See ya, Melinda
PS I have to give credit to Tami for this song, she introduced me to it this last week. It has become one of her standards with all that she is dealing with. And I think we should all listen hard to it no matter what we are dealing with. So here's your shout out Tam!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Halloweenie!

We had a great Halloween, considering how the week started out for us! Monday Regan began having trouble breathing so I called our dr office and they recommended I take her straight to the urgent care center. So we went and the doc there took one look at her slightly graying face and said she would most likely need to be hospitalized! Ok scary thought. They put her on a nebulizer treatment, which is miserable for anyone who hasn't tried to hold a mask over a three month old's face and watch her scream and cry. Then they did a chest x-ray, which was clear. The neb treatment brought her O2 stats up to 93, then they dropped down to 87, then back up. By this time Bill had met me at the urgent care and the doc had made arrangements to take Punk over to the hospital and have her admitted.

She had to be taken by ambulance, which was scary and funny at the same time. They took her in her carrier and strapped it to a gurney and it was sitting almost upright. She has pretty good head control now and she was wearing the nasal O2 and I swear she looked like a pissed off little old man! So I rode with her and Bill followed. The admitted her for the night and had her on a 1/4 liter of O2 and brought it down to an 1/8 by 1am and then she was on room air by 3am. And her O2 stats were holding in the upper 90's. By 11am she was ready to be discharged, she just had a upper respiratory infection and we had to watch her little nose and suck it out a few times a day. And since her immune system has taken a hit, everyone in close contact with her had to get a flu shot. Bill, Connor and I already have had ours (Connor had the influenza virus twice at 2 and 3 and was in the ER- don't want to repeat that again!) and my Mom who never gets one, bravely went and got it. So by now she is doing well, the time change has screwed her up a bit, but otherwise she is fine.

Now onto Halloween! I am one of the Mom's that plans the holiday partied for Connor's first grade class and my "co-Mom" Kelly and I had it all planned out. But since Punk got sick, I could not go, not even to see the parade! Which was very disappointing, but Kelly took lots of pictures and said all of the kids had a great time.
Thursday night we carved our two pumpkins, one was Billy & Connor's. Connor wanted it to look like the guy had lost his body and Regan and I took the more traditional approach! I was very surprised my very sensory sensitive son got in there and tried to scoop most of the goop out! We had a good time and I think they turned out great!
Connor decided to change things up in costume department (a little anyway). He was Optimus Prime, a transformer and leader of the autobots (the good guys). He loved it so much. He and Bill went trick or treating with our neighbors, Larry and his son Josh- Josh was "Thing Two", which was very cute. Bill went as a disgruntled Cubs fan, he wanted to carry a six-pack of Bud with him in honor of Harry Caray, but we decided it might not be wise to carry around alcohol while trying to watch your hyper 7 year old! Connor was very good at teaching Josh how to trick or treat, since he is only 3 and by the end Josh was no longer shy and walked right up to the doors with Connor.
My Mom and Dad came over for dinner and to help me watch Punky and control my wild dogs with all of the door bell ringing. It was VERY warm here, around 80 earlier in the day. Since Connor was born there has NEVER been a Halloween that was not at least below freezing or snowing- or both. So it was a little weird, but kind of nice not to have to bundle him up. All in all, it was a great night!

Connor scooping out the goop!

The carvers and helpers

Quite spooky!

Mr. Cub, the pumpkin girl and Optimus Prime

Punky's little pumpkin butt!

Optimus Prime and Thing Two

Last bit of news. This coming Sunday is Regan's Baptism. We are so excited to have her baptized in our new church! She is going to wear the same gown that both my sister and I wore when were baptized. And we are having a little reception afterwards at my Mom and Dad's house. Her Aunt Tami bought her a beautiful dress to wear for the party. We will take lots of pictures and post them next week.

Hope you all had a great Halloween!
See ya, Melinda

Ok I have NO IDEA why blogger hates me. My posts look like one long paragraph and I swear I indent! I have spent 15 minutes going back and forth trying to fix this so it looks right, but I can't and it won't, so it is how it is....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Eight years...

Today is Billy and my anniversary- eight years ago we were married on a beautiful fall day. And sometimes late at night we gaze at each other and scream- "WHAT WERE WE THINKING???"
In all seriousness and everyone who is married knows that there is NO such thing as a perfect marriage- it just doesn't exist. But what there is in marriage is your version of perfect. And Bill and I have worked out our perfect version of ying and yang. For whatever reason God saw to it that the eternal bachelor living alone in Florida met the naive little girl from suburban Colorado. We did meet on the internet, but not in the typical fashion one does on dating sites. It was in a chat room by pure chance, pure fate or divine intervention.

But Bill has always been there when I wasn't expecting him to be. I had other relationships in the past where I wasn't treated the way I thought a man should treat a woman, the way I saw my Father treat my Mother, with love and respect and LOTS of laughter. And then there was Billy.

We were engaged after only a month and he moved 1700 miles from warm Florida to freezing Colorado in January. Took a job where he had to commute 2 hours a day and came into my life at an extraordinarily bumpy time for me. But yet he just loved me. It took a few months of being engaged for me to realize that I really did want to marry this man. And I can tell you the exact moment it happened too. I have this beautiful full bred Australian Shepherd, Chase, with an extremely sensitive tummy! And he generally pukes often. One night I saw him clean up yet another Chase mess and then very sweetly sat on the couch and rubbed his tummy and talked to him. My heart melted! I had only had Chase about a year at that point, but I loved him like he was my child. Now Bill will deny this ever happened, but it did. He took me and this pukey dog because he knew how much I loved the dog. And that is Bill.

He always says that love is just a feeling and we all know feelings are fleeting. But to love someone is to do it out of your will. And that is what he has done. Our eight years have not been easy, we had Connor very fast and we dealt with his challenges. Then Bill had a heart attack, which was terrifying, but he recovered quickly and takes very good care of that heart of his. And I had my own issues over the years and we also dealt with infertility. Then we had Regan and she has just sparked up our whole life, mine, Bill's and Connor's. She is like the person we knew was missing had finally arrived.

Women always say they fall more in love with their husbands after watching them become fathers and that is certainly true for me. Connor loves Bill like the sun rises and sets with him and Bill does the same for Connor. He watches him struggle, which I know pains him, but he cries tears of joy when he triumphs. And with Punky, ahh little Princess Punky, she has him wrapped around her tiny little finger. She has from the moment she came into this world and he was the first one to hold her and the first one to feed her. And now when she sees him, she just lights up like a firefly! Bill gets up with her in the middle of the night, even though he gets up very early and still travels that hour to work downtown. He does that for me and our children, so that we can live in a safe place with good schools.

There are so many things I love about my husband, his knowledge of the Bible and his walk with Christ, but yet letting me develop my own walk and not pushing me, but teaching me when I ask. Realizing that I am younger than he is and haven't gone through all of my growing phases just yet. That he loves baseball so much that when we went to our first Rockies game he made me go early to watch batting practice- I didn't know they let you watch! And during that game (a game which I learned from my father) when the pitcher was struggling, I looked over to the bullpin and wondered out loud why they didn't have anyone warming up- he looked at me with amazement and said "I knew there was a reason I loved you!" That he is calm when I am not and that he will kill the spider for me. And that he makes me laugh like no one has ever been able to! And if you know me, you know how very important laughter is to me!

But the biggest and main reason I love William Howard so much is that during these eight years he has seen me at my ugliest and my most hurt and vulnerable and at my most angry and he has never, not once turned away and not looked at me with love in his eyes.

My best friend lost her husband quite suddenly a few weeks ago and she told me to always love him, always cherish him (even when he is annoying) and to remember how blessed I am to have such a man in my life. My heart aches for her, but at the same time it soars for me!

So happy anniversary babe! Love you love you, Melinda

Friday, October 17, 2008

A blog about a blog...

I have to do a post about my friend Molly's blog from a few days ago. She was writing about her oldest Drew, who I believe is almost 4, and that he has learned a new word- damn. I had to laugh because of two reasons, the first being the fact that my son has been in speech therapy since he was 2 and couldn't even say 'Mommy' until he was three! But one evening when was about 3, he was brushing his teeth and dropped his toothbrush and I heard him say "aw f**k it" in his little toddler voice! Now I will freely admit that I do not set the greatest example for my son when it comes to those words, I have tried not to use certain ones, but when some moron cuts me off- things happen! But the really good thing about Connor is that if you tell him certain words are only for grown ups, he won't say them again. My sister, on the otherhand, has had to start using German curse words instead! Great until her son starts taking German!

The other part of her blog that made me laugh was the conversation Connor was having with a friend the other day. I had taken him to the doctor for his 7 yr checkup and told him there would be no shots. But then our doc offered to give he and I a flu shot right then so we wouldn't have to come back for the clinic they will hold. So naturally he was not happy with me. So I promised him that if he was good and did not scream, I would call and see if his buddy Elijah could come to the library with us. He was good, so we picked up Elijah and went to the library. On our way home, the two of them are sitting in the way back of the Durango and Connor said something was "stupid" and Elijah said that "stupid" was a bad word and Connor said "no shit is a bad word, stupid is just not a nice word!" So I am trying to hold in my laughter at his logic as Elijah asks him if I let him say "shit" and Connor says "no, but she says it all the time!" GREAT! Fortunately I know Elijah's Mom and I am sure she would not be shocked in horror knowing that I don't have the greatest restraint in my vocab!

I know we don't want our kids to curse, but man I happen to think it is hysterical when they do and then create their own logic around it! Connor makes me laugh, even if I don't let him know it. So Molly, go into your room and shut the door and laugh!!!!! Drew will never know!

Have a great weekend!

See ya, Mel

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Connor's 7th Birthday Party!

We had Connor's 7th birthday party last Saturday and he had a blast! I kept it low-key and decided to stop trying to compete with all of the Highlands Ranch Moms and did not shell out hundreds for my son's party. And I think he had the most fun at this one!

We did a SpongeBob theme, it was a movie and pizza party. He invited four of his friends and we rented "SpongeBob Squarepants: The Movie" and set up a theater in our family room. I spread out a huge quilt to make it cozy (and to keep the carpets I JUST had cleaned protected!) and each boy got a pillow to lay on.

We started out with some pizza, then moved on to the movie. I had to let them have a massive pillow fight first to get some energy out and then they all sat down. We turned the lights off and the stereo on and they each got little boxes for popcorn. After the movie was half way through, we stopped for cake, cupcakes actually. Connor is not a kid who likes sweets AT ALL, which is a little strange. So instead of buying or making a huge cake, I decided to make cupcakes and ice them and then let each kids decorate 2, one to eat then and one to take home. They had gummy worms, mini m&m's, and sprinkles. Connor covered his with m&m's and we put a #7 candle on top and sang happy birthday and he never even touched the cupcake!

Then after running up and sliding down the staircase about a billion times, Connor opened his gifts. He got great transformers and a new game for us to try on game night! Then the boys managed to sit long enough to finish the movie (I was wondering if I would get a visit from DCFS if I shoved a Xanax down one kid's throat) and then we let them run around outside until their parents came.

And while we were outside, I was holding Punky all wrapped in a cozy blanket and I wanted Bill to gather the boys in the yard and take a picture of them all. But during the hand off of the camera there was a fumble and the camera hit the sidewalk and broke! And I have not even had the thing for a year! SO MAD! And when I went to see how much it would take to fix it, the guy said it would be a minimum of $150 since they are required to send this particular brand back to the manufacturer! So I guess we'll be doing some camera shopping!

Once the party was over, we surveyed the damage. Abby and Chase cleaned up any remaining popcorn on the floor and Bill and I cleaned up the kitchen. It wasn't too big of a mess and I managed to get the house back in order before bedtime. We decided 3 hours was WAY too long to have them all here, but we are very glad that we decided to have the party at home and did not succumb to the HR pressure of shelling out hundreds for C's 7th birthday!

Here are some shots of the crazy event!

Connor with buddies Elijah, Tim and Tyler

Tim, Tyler and Jack on the stairs

The pillow fight!

Ahh, all quiet for the movie!

Pizza time (thank God for plastic table cloths!)


Happy Birthday sweet boy!

And now for an update on Punky....

She had her two month checkup on September 26th. She weighed in at 9lbs. 14oz and is 23 1/2 inches long. She is TINY! At this age Connor was almost 14lbs and 26 inches long! But our doctor said she is eating well and is healthy. Her arm is doing great and she is getting very steady with that head. I broke down and got her vaccinations due at 2 months. I am just so conflicted! I do not believe that they are the reason Connor has ASD, but it stills scares the life out of me! So my doc agreed we will stay on schedule for all of them except the MMR, which we will wait until she is 2 years old.

Other than that, she is doing great! Most nights she makes it about 7 hours. She is sleeping in her crib in her own room and it feels so great to have my house full! She is smiling like crazy and loves to see her big brother and listen to all the songs he makes up about her. We have scheduled her baptism at our church on November 9th. She will wear the gown that both my sister and I were baptized in!

We are doing well here this fall! Hope you all are too!

See ya, Melinda