Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We are never going into DC to see those cherry blossoms again.

With little kids in tow, Luke and I just don't deal well in crowds and traffic, so this year we skipped going into DC to see the cherry blossoms and, instead, drove 10 minutes to Meadowlark Gardens. Best decision ever. Not only the blossoms were just as beautiful, but there was zero agitation and annoyance and frustration on our part. Bonus: no one photo-bombed our pictures either :) We took many pictures and I thought I would share a few of my favorites. The nice, breezy weather, combined with the gorgeous scenery of fluffy pink and white blooms, made this a perfect Sunday morning outing for our family.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, April 14, 2014

We Went on an Egg Hunt

The weather over the weekend was simply marvelous and we got to do everything that I planned and I am here to tell you all about it :)
Easter egg hunt 2014 at Colvin Run Mill. Anna waiting for the show to start.

About a week ago, I signed the kids up for an Easter egg hunt at Colvin Run Mill, the same place where we saw Santa during the holidays, and the event took place this Saturday. Despite the threatened rain, it never happened so it was a perfect spring day for hunting eggs.

The kids' excitement started way before we even left the house. After a long winter, they were thrilled to just put on shorts and short sleeves. Look at me! I want to wear my pink bike shirt! Yellow shirt! YAY! Haha, so cute.

Then after breakfast I handed each of them an empty basket for the egg hunt and they couldn't stop beaming about that. I am going to get 5 eggs! No 10! Thanks Mama, I love my basket!

They just went on and on like this for ages. And I thought it was so adorable and hilarious and beautiful and innocent and just an example of how children enjoy such simple things with sure pure joy. I watched them with a huge smile on my face.

Once we finally got there, they were practically skipping. Where are the eggs??! Can we get them now??!

The event was very organized, but there was a lot of waiting around on our part since we got two kids and they were in two different age groups. Will's group started at 10:25 and Anna's at 11:15. Luckily, walking around, taking pictures, and doing ALL the crafts that were available filled our time so it didn't seem too bad.
At home Will wants nothing to do with art projects, but here he did (or tried) them all.

As for the egg hunt, I followed Will around, but he didn't need any help looking for those colorful eggs. I was only there for moral support since all the parents were following their little ones. Anna didn't need me at all. She DASHED OFF after the countdown was done. I ran after her to get some obligatory pictures. In the end, Will got 10 eggs and Anna got 14.
One thing to note -- the ticket was $6 per kid so I expected better candy, but it was pretty much just Tootsie Rolls. No Cadbury eggs here. But along with a piece of candy in each egg, there was also a small toy such as bouncy balls, tattoos, stickers, etc. The kids liked the trinkets more.
We all had an enjoyable time at the event and I just loved watching my kids being happy :) It's the best. Any egg hunts happened for you this weekend? Got any good candies?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Anna's Easter Party at School

Today Anna's preschool class had an Easter Party!
The goody bag that I made and Anna helped to pass out.

I, along with another mom, signed up to participate at the beginning of the school year, back when I was still working part-time. I am back on full-time status now, but I didn't want to back out on the committment so I just took the morning off from work. It's pretty great how flexible my job is and how close (2 minutes!) it is to home. It makes participating in school events possible, without having to take too much time off :)

Anyway, the other mom and I arrived just as the kids came in from the playground. We jumped right in and did a bunny nose craft with them. I was busy helping the kids with the whiskers, so no pictures got taken here. Then they washed up and had a special snack - jellybean cupcakes.

While they read books, us volunteers went outside to hide the eggs throughout the yard. Each kid had brought 3 hard-boiled eggs from home, which -- flashback -- we dyed and decorated last night when the grandparents were here:
I made my own dye (warm water, food coloring, vinegar) this year and the colors turned out much more vibrant. Then the kids decorated with stickers.

--end flashback--

Then came the biggest event of all -- the Easter egg hunt. My little hopping bunny had no problems finding the 3 eggs that she was allowed to put in her basket. She was so excited about everything. We ended up having time to spare so we hid the eggs again and the kids had two rounds of Easter egg hunt.
Group picture time!
Say "Chocolate egg!"

If the weather holds up, we will be going to two more egg hunts before Easter is over. Will is participating too! Can't wait!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones

Considering how much the kids (Will especially) love dinosaurs, I couldn't wait to take them to see dinosaur bones at the Maryland Science Center. I mean, we have only read this book for like a thousand times so of course they were going to love seeing real life bones in person, right?

Wrong! The towering full size dinosaurs scared the heck out of them and the loud roaring sound from the speakers didn't help either. It took a long time before Anna was even comfortable walking through the exhibits without freaking out. She was even too afraid to touch her favorite triceratops. So yeah...dinosaurs? We are sticking with books about them and the plush toy versions for now.
Luckily, things got better.

We had only been at the museum for less than 10 minutes when two employees separately suggested us to head straight to the Kids Room instead. So we did....and the kids finally relaxed and smiled. They both loved the water play area, but also had fun with lots of other random things, like the pinscreen and deep water fishing. It was a great place to hang out for little kids.
I think the kids could have stayed at the Kids Room a lot longer, but we had to leave catch a show at the planetarium. There were several shows to choose from, but we picked a children friendly one featuring Big Bird and Elmo. It was a spectacle of light and color and music and we all enjoyed it very much. It was the kids' first planetarium experience! Fun!
Our tickets also came with a showing of an IMAX movie. Honestly, our time could have been used more wisely had we gone back to the Kids Room or walked around other exhibits. I don't blame Will for falling asleep half way through it :)
We actually bought our tickets through a LivingSocial deal and still have two tickets left to use before the end of July. Next time, we will stay overnight at the Inner Harbor and make a weekend trip out of it.

That was our Saturday.

On Sunday morning, we went to Clemenjontri (aka "the rainbow park"). It was a gorgeous day and the park was full of people. The merry-go-round had just opened for the season so that was the first thing we did. We have been going to this park ever since Anna was a little over 1 and it's so neat to see that some of the play structures she used to struggle with are easy for her to do now. Same with Will -- I can see him navigating around easier compared to last summer. Both kids love this park! We will be back often.
That was our weekend! Pretty full and good.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

lately /

Well, after a super nutty last week, things have slowed down quite a bit. This week I have been home, waiting for some paperwork to come through before I can report to my next project. It's gonna happen any day, so in the meantime, I am doing my best to take advantage of these lazy days. If Luke's mom were still coming over to watch the kids, I would tell her not to come this week. But since we already paid for daycare, the kids still go...while I have the whole house to myself (!!). Peace and quiet...I've missed you!

Since I wasn't in a rush to get to work, the kids didn't have to rush either. Here they were on Tuesday morning, enjoying breakfast. Instead of nagging at them to hurry up, which I normally do, I picked up the phone and took this picture.
This was me taking a stroll around the neighborhood, admiring the daffodils that are (finally) popping out, before picking the kids up from daycare.
I even cleaned the stove burner! It was completely disgusting, but I am not embarrassed to show a before picture because they are now sparkly clean. After all the scrubbing, my arms were so tired that I laid in bed for about an hour. I didn't sleep, just laid there. haha, it was niiiiice :)
The weather has been great this week that after I pick up the kids, we just stay outside for a little bit longer. Last night after dinner, we went back out to play with bubbles and the kids took turn riding in the buggy. Spring is in the air! It puts me in a happy mood.
Despite of some spurts of time wasting on the Internet, I am staying pretty productive overall -- I already finished the kids' Easter baskets and put together the goody bags for Anna's Easter party at school happening next week. I purged and threw away a bunch of stuff and gave a box of toys for baby Andrew to my dad. Tomorrow I plan to take Will out of daycare in the morning so I can take him to music class (didn't think we were going to make it, but the timing is perfect). Then this weekend, we are taking the kids to see dinosaur (bones). Hope your week is going great, like mine!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 28, 2014

streaming...part 2

- I will give you the short version first.

- Something significant happened this Monday -- the kids started daycare! The adjustment has been…well, an adjustment…but slowly but surely we will get use to the new routine.

- Now for the long version.

- Luke’s mom, who was the kids' primary caretaker, hasn’t been feeling well. I won’t go into details since she’s still undergoing tests, but it all comes down to the fact that she couldn’t take care of the kids anymore. Or rather, we SHOULDN’T be asking her to take care of the kids anymore. She had been doing us a favor for the last 3.5 years, but it was time for us to grow up and seek other options.

- We considered au pair and nanny options, but we were running against time and needed childcare ASAP. So last Wednesday, on 3/19, we visited two in-home daycares around the neighborhood. Luckily, we ended up really liking one of them because “ASAP” turned out to be sooner than we expected. Luke’s mom stopped coming over on Friday, 3/21, so I took that day off to stay home with the kids, but they officially started daycare this Monday, 3/24.

- As for the other in-home daycare we visited? It was horrible. Dark. Small. Dirty. Smelly. I would quit my job to stay home with the kids before sending them there.

- So all in all, we were really lucky to find one that we like and trust so quickly. And it's a two-minute drive from home. I am less than enthused about our new childcare expense, though.

- There was one issue left. I still want to keep Anna at her half-day preschool but Luke and I couldn’t consistently pick her up at noon and take her to daycare in the middle of a workday. So we’ve enlisted my dad’s help and so far making it work.

- So now our routine looks like this – if Luke is around, he takes Will to daycare around 8:30am, then Anna to school at 8:45am. Then my dad picks up Anna at school and drops her off at daycare. I pick the kids up on the way home from work, between 4:30 to 4:45pm. If Luke isn’t around, then I have to do the drop offs in the morning, which means I arrive to work later and stay later. My dad helps out with Anna regardless. I think I will always do the pick up.

- You won't believe what difference it makes in terms of business now that we have kids outside of home! When I get home from work and daycare, I unload and start on dinner immediately. Pizza night will be, without a doubt, more frequent. We eat around 5:15pm and clean up by 6pm. Then we only have one precious hour of family time before bath.

- As for how the kids are doing…they are doing fine. Both still need to work on the eating department, but napping is progressively getting better. Will is a little bit whining in the mornings when it’s time to leave the house, but considering that Anna cried the entire first year of preschool, I am not a bit worried.

- So that’s what’s been going on around here.

- PS: This was also my first full week back at work (actually, to be accurate, last week was, but Monday was a snow day and Friday I stayed home with the kids as mentioned). Impeccable timing, right? Happy Friday indeed.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 24, 2014

How To Celebrate Your Pooh Bear

For the longest time, Anna was indecisive on the kind of party she wanted for her birthday. At first, she wanted a train party. Then it was dinosaurs. Finally, last month, she went back to her roots and decided on Winnie the Pooh. I was glad because if there is anything this girl truly adores, it’s that silly old bear.

The party happened this weekend. It was a week late because it was family-only and we wanted to accommodate everyone’s schedules as best as we can. But even though I had an additional week to work on the party details….I didn't. It In fact, I wasn't sure how I would even write this post because I don’t have pictures of pretty details from the party to share... But then I reminded myself that when it came down to it, smiles from Anna were the only details that mattered to me. And we saw them…over and over:
LOVE this picture!!

We made sure to have lots of food because what's a party without people over-eating? The spread included Piglets in a Blanket (hot dogs in crescent rolls), Pooh's Chicken Tender with Honey Pot Dip, Rabbit's Spring Rolls, Roo's Pizza Rolls, Tigger's Tail Mix (Chex mix and Cheetos), Eeyore's Rain Clouds (blue jello with cool whip), Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwiches, a tray of Vietnamese rice flour wraps with pork, and homemade sushi. Of couse, we also had cake that fed double the crowd we had.
For decorations, we had several mylar balloons (some Pooh bear themed) floating around, but none actually made into the pictures. But here a little tip for you: Pooh bear balloons are hard to find in the store, but 3rd party sellers on Amazon actually sell them pretty cheap at around $2.50. Then hubs just took them to the Dollar Tree to get them blown up for a dollar each.

So as I said, I don't have many pictures, but I am glad I asked the hubs to take this picture of me and the birthday girl, digging into Eeyore's Rain Clouds. By the way, it was in the high 60s the day of the party so we all migrated outside. I can't believe it's forecasting for more snow tomorrow.
Whenever the kids get together, they always seem to find stuff to do and have fun. I bet Anna was happy that her cousins showed up to party with her!
I hope this little party was memorable for Anna and she will talk about it for years to come. All in all, it was really fun to celebrate our big 4 year old and her favorite bear. We love you, Anna!

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ― A.A. Milne

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anna's 4 Years Old Update

My little Anna turned 4 last week…and aaah just look at her beautiful face, gorgeous smile, and twinkling eyes!
Anna_4 year old
Anna_4 year old _
These are some things I want to remember about Anna at this age:

- She is a happy and imaginative child – so delighted to sit on the floor and build a village for Will’s plastic dinosaur toys. So thrilled to line up her toy characters for “school.” She makes cards and decorates them with stickers. She organizes picnics for her stuffed animals. She pretends she’s a doctor. She sets up stores with trinkets to sell and yells, “Customers! Customers! I have toys for sale!” She puts on musical dance shows. She hides Easter eggs for Will to find. And she does it all by herself.

- Her favorite toy is her Pooh bear. She plays with him every day, can’t go to bed without him, and sneaks him off to school in her backpack. She swaddles him and pretends he’s her baby, tells us to be quiet because Pooh is sleeping. One time she made a paper hat/crown for him on his birthday.

- She’s really good at cleaning up toys, as long as there is an incentive at the end. She sings “clean up, pick up, put away” (from Daniel Tiger) as she does it.

- She loves to craft. Our house is completely over-run with her artwork, both the stuff she does at school and the stuff she brings home from school. I need to come up with a system to display these artwork better because she adores seeing them around the house. Once I handed her a tape dispenser and she hung them up on her own!

- She likes to take pictures and videos and knows how to operate an old point-and-shoot that I allow her to play with. When she first started, she took pictures of random objects, but she has since then moved on to taking selfies and even recording videos of herself singing. She loves watching videos of herself.

- She can sit through as many books as I can muster up the energy to read. She enjoy Disney stories, but man, those stories are long!

- She’s in the very beginning stages of learning how to read and has successfully sounded out a few simple words. It’s exciting!

- Anna is warm and sweet. I love hearing what she has to say and she says the sweetest things. “Mama, you are the best mama in the whole world.” “Mama, you are my best friend and I want to be with you forever.” “Mama, you are the best cook.” Hehe :)

- She is stubborn and sassy and dramatic. She cries over little things, like accidentally tripping or hurting her finger. The difference between her and Will in this regard is comical. When we discipline her, she gets sad, but is quick to apologize for her mistakes. She's happiest when we make up afterwards.

- She copies Will. For example, she’s not physically affectionate, but if she sees me giving Will tons of bedtime kisses, she will want them too even though I know she’s happy with just one tiny peck.

- She is very un-adventurous when it comes to food, but has actually gotten better because I don’t fight it anymore. I feed her what she likes and mealtime is peaceful this way. Currently her favorite foods are: fried rice, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza, deli turkey, pb&j, mushrooms, corn, egg sandwiches, toast with Nutella, and pasta & noodles. She will eat broccoli and spinach when we put it in her bowl and eats lots of fruit. She doesn't drink milk, but has yogurt every morning. She eats slowly most of the time, unless it’s anything sweet which is gone before I can blink. Overall, she eats some decent foods (not all junk) so I call that a win and move on.

- She requests music all the time (current favorite is the Frozen soundtrack) and dances to it. Sometimes I play the piano and she has fun with that too, but she tells me that “this music is too slow and I can’t dance to it.”

- She’s hilarious with her speech without knowing it. The other night after two books, I was exhausted and said with a heavy sigh, “Okay, done, Mama is off commission.” She responded, “No Mama! You are ON commission.” During a separate conversation, Luke told her that when spring comes, it will be time to plant herbs. She said, “Yeah, it’s time to plant dandelions too.” Too funny.

- She often reminds us what we said/promised. “Did you fix my toy train yet?” “I went first yesterday, so it’s Will’s turn today.”

- Anna does great at school, but she still has problems with separation. She literally lets out a two second whine or cry as she steps into the classroom, but is fine as soon as the door is closed. She doesn’t talk about school voluntarily, but will say a few words when I ask. The teacher has good things to say about Anna on her report cards and she always has a smile plastered on her face when we pick her up. I am happy that she has this time away from home daily.

- She picks out her clothes, but I help with dressing. She can probably (?) do it herself, but it’s a routine that I haven’t had time to break. (Although funny because if I did break it, it would actually SAVE me time.) She doesn’t like to be told what to wear. One time when she was moving slow, I went into her closet and picked out her favorite star shirt (which is ALWAYS her first pick), but she told me no, she wanted something else...just so she could exercise her autonomy.

- Bedtime is different now at age 4 versus 3. She shares a room with Will and loves it. She’s good about sleeping in her bed all night, while Will comes to sleep with us in the middle of the night. She still naps on average of 1.5 to 2.5 hours, and bedtime is around 8:30pm.

- She loves TV, but I have limits. She watches the same 22-minute shows that Will watches, which I think are too babyish for her. We have weekly movie night where we introduce her to Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks movies, but she hasn’t been fond of them. She can’t seem to handle conflict in movies and lots of things scare her. The latest we watched was Frozen and she seemed to like the songs more than the movie itself. She can watch her Winnie the Pooh movies over and over, though.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 17, 2014

another snow day! happy st. patrick's day!

This morning, we woke up to a blanket of fresh snow:
This time we got about 6-8 inches? Which meant school was closed and work, too.

I was determined to do something intentional with the kids, instead of just letting them run wild like monkeys. So after a little snow time outside, we sat down and created this simple rainbow collage craft. It was super easy. I filled an egg carton with pieces - Anna helped with cutting - of cardstock in rainbow colors. Next I drew a rainbow with seven sections on a white cardstock so the kids knew where to glue their color pieces. And then I just watched them go.
Will needed a lot of assistance (read: I basically took over), but Anna worked until almost the end. I ended up helping her with the indigo and purple pieces, but she got her energy back when I told her she could use her St. Patrick's Day stickers to decorate. Love that pot of gold at the end of her rainbow. I added clouds (stretched out cotton balls) to Will's.
Turned out pretty cute!

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Anna's 4th birthday at school!

Yesterday my precious first born turned 4 years old! Happy birthday, Anna!!
Since it was a school day, I decided long ago that I would bring cupcakes to her class for snack time. When we showed up, she was so excited and happy to see all of us. It was hugs all around. The class was still in the middle of cleaning up, which gave me time to put on those cake toppers that we made a while back.
They looked good, but pretty much ignored by all the children.

Anna got to pass out the cupcakes. She asked each of her classmates, "Pink or green?"
We all sang happy birthday and she blew out the candle.
Will said he wanted juice and crackers too.

Will really enjoyed being there -- his normal day at home isn't nearly as exciting. With Anna nearby, he wasn't timid at all and jumped right into the chaos. He even sat next to Anna during circle and got to participate. Here is a video of the class doing the leprechaun dance. Anna was really into it, haha.

I think we made it really special for Anna, being at her school for her birthday. She said to me, "Mama, I am so happy you are here." So sweet....I hope this is something she will remember for along time.

And for me, I loved every second of the one hour that I was there. I got to see a piece of her school life and met her school friends. During individual book time, all the kids kept on bringing books to Luke and me to read. So fun :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!