Wednesday, March 25, 2015

this little light of mine

Last night Anna's school put on a music show!

It was a pretty big production -- the show was held at the auditorium of a local high school. All the kids were up on stage during the entire show, but each class went up to the center one at a time to perform. Being the oldest - the kindergartners - Anna and her classmates went last...which meant I had to watch about a hundred other kids sing first. With an antsy Will wiggling around me, I was definitely getting restless myself too. But when it was time for the kindergartners, my ears perked up and my eyes shined as I watch my little girl perform with such zest. My most favorite part was her smile.

Instead of just one song, her class performed three, so I guess the wait was worth it. Anna also got to present flowers to the teachers too.

Here is one of the videos I took:

Too bad Luke was on travel, but at least the grandparents made it so Anna still got a little cheering section going on. Thanks to them for the beautiful dress too.
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I am so proud of this little light of mine :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 23, 2015

monday morning catch ups.

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/1/ We put up window clings for every major holiday and now that spring is officially here, we have decorated our glass doors with bunnies, eggs, flowers, birds, and butterflies. Normally Luke is very specific about his “windowscape,” but this time he let the kids have free realm (after he carefully put up the ‘Happy Spring’ and ‘Happy Easter’ up on top, of course). Kids loved it. I heard things like: “Will, put the eggs under the flowers so it’s like they are hiding.” “The butterflies are flying with their friends. Yay!” It was much better than what I used to hear: “Anna, put it right here. RIGHT HERE.”
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/2/ My dad had a birthday. We ate out at a restaurant that specializes in hot and spicy Sichuan cuisine. It was very good, although there was one dish that consisted of animal stomach and intestines that grossed me out. I took a bite and literally spat it out. Anyway, my dad is 76 now. Those #6 and #7 candles that we inherited from Luke’s sister have come in handy lately! I’ve already used it twice (6th wedding anniversary, 37th birthday) before. Love reduce, reuse, recycle :)

/3/ The weather was crazy nice the last two days. Since it was already 2 when we came back from my dad’s birthday lunch, we decided to let the kids skip their naps and play outside instead. We were out there enjoying the sunshine for THREE hours! We started out with the basics – bubbles and sidewalk chalk. Then took out various motorized vehicles for the kids to drive around. Finally, we surprised the kids with something new -- scooters! Both kids did very well for first timers. They went up and down our long driveway for over an hour, it seemed. As they get more and more comfortable and build up speed, they will get the balance and I think it will be a lot of fun.
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/4/ While we were outside, we also planted some seeds. In the past, we have always bought little seedlings from Home Depot, but this year, we are growing from scratch. I felt especially creative with yogurt cups for containers and masking tape for labels. Kids were so cute. They would stop in the middle of playing and come sit with the little cups, “Look I see something growing!” Haha. Then the next morning, I found them holding the cups under a lamp (that they turned on themselves) :) Hope they grow soon so the kiddos aren't disappointed!

/5/ Last night we started watching the movie Maleficent. We got through half before it was bedtime and wow it is good! Kids are hooked and I am too. So tonight I am breaking my no-movie-on-school-nights rule and we are finishing it up after dinner. Can't wait! 

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Happy Birthday Anna!

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Anna turned 5 years old last weekend!

I took these pictures the day before her birthday. It was the morning of a school day. She came downstairs and found balloons tied to her chair, birthday banner hung by the windows, and a present. She let out the biggest smile and was just delighted with everything. I was glad that such small effort on my part brought her big joy :)

For Anna's birthday, I wanted to bring cupcakes (“cupcake” cake, to be exact) to her school for a little celebration, but her teacher told me no cupcakes! It annoyed me because I HAD brought cupcakes to her school before (on Halloween) and they were fine with it. Apparently, they changed that rule due to a girl’s severe nut allergy. Instead, I could only bring Oreo cookies. I thought about protesting….but when I told Anna about it, she didn’t even seem to care so I was like, eh, money saved, no big deal. I did buy the spring edition Oreo with yellow cream instead of plain white, though. She happily took that to school and shared it with everyone. Then we picked her up early from school to go to Great Wolf Lodge and that pretty made her day.

Anna actually requested a birthday party this year and wanted to invite all the girls from her class. I looked into the Little Gym, but all the good dates in March were already taken. So I thought about inviting the girls over for a playdate birthday party. It would just be a little drop-off party… But then I realized that the parents of those girls most likely will want to stick around since they don’t know us enough to just drop off their kids. I didn’t feel like entertaining adults, so we dropped that idea quick. If we didn’t have the GWL trip already planned, I would have tried harder, but because we were going away, I figured it was enough. I told her no party this year, but promised one for her 6th birthday.

So on her birthday weekend, we were at GWL. Read about it here and here

On the day after her birthday, I conducted a little interview with her. When I asked her, "Who's your best friend?", she responded, "Mama!" I was sure she would pick a random girl name from school, but she didn't! I had a happy moment right then and there.

Now that Anna is getting older, I struggle with what I should share about her on this blog. I realize that sometimes the stories that I find funny, she might find embarrassing in the future when she reads them. I’ve read similar sentiments on many blogs, so nothing is new, but right now I am still figuring out where her privacy ends and my need to share begins. In the meantime, I’ve kept this birthday post pretty neutral, but I will say that at age 5, Anna is awesome. Incredibly frustrating and nonsensical at time, but is also the sweetest and the bestest. We are pleased to have her around here.

Happy Birthday my dearest Anna! Love you to the infinity!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Great Wolf Lodge was ok, nothing special. (Part II)

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If it wasn’t for the $100 Bonus Bucks that we had to spend, we would not had done as much as we did outside of the waterpark. But because the money was either use it or lose it, we were high rollers :) We ate at the on-site restaurant, ordered pizza, played at the arcade, and even got presents for the kids.

We ate at the Loose Moose Bar & Grill on Saturday, Anna’s birthday, for breakfast. I purchased the Wolf Wakeup Breakfast package in advance and saved 25%. It was $44 for a very nice breakfast buffet, drinks and gratuities included. We all found something we liked and left with full bellies, ready to take on the waterpark. (Tip: In every guest room, there is a microwave and a mini fridge so people can bring their food from home to save money.)

My breakfast :)
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On Saturday night, we ordered a whole cheese pizza at Hungry As A Wolf and ate it inside our room. We were all very hungry by the time we dug in so it tasted especially good. I think it was around $14 to feed all of us. After this pizza birthday dinner, we had cupcakes (from a Walmart 2 minutes away).
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(Tip: The Walmart near GWL has a huge bakery and offers customized cakes/cupcakes. I wish I had known that. If I did, I would've ordered something personalized for Anna -- like butterflies and flowers -- in advance. A 24-hour notice is required.)
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After pizza and cupcakes, we killed time at the Northern Lights Arcade for the rest of the night. It reminded me of Chuck E. Cheese’s. Anyway, we bought $20 worth of tokens and actually won some stuff (Elsa and a stuffed dog) in return! The kids definitely had lots of fun here. Maybe Anna more so than Will. Whenever Will is at loud, flashy spaces, he gets a little bit dazed and tunes out. I had wanted to use some of the tokens for a game at Ten Paw Alley (bowling), but the lines were too long, unfortunately.
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We still had $30 left to blow at this point, so we just went to Buckhorn Exchange Gift Shop and the kids got to pick out something to take home. Anna a gray wolf (that Luke is trying to cut off the tag below) and Will an excavator light hat (that he is modeling).
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Would we had done all this without the “free” money? Likely not. But because the kids didn’t enjoy the waterpark as much as we hoped, it was fun for them to do some extras outside of it.

We also did ALL the free resort daily activities, including Wolf Walk (a walk around the lobby to learn about animals, both kids did not like this one), Great Clock Tower Show (animatronic trees and woodland creatures discussed the importance of protecting our environment), and Story Time (honestly very chaotic so we left in the middle).
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Oh and we also caught a few character appearances and took pictures with them.

So that was our Great Wolf Lodge trip! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

(read part i here)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Great Wolf Lodge was ok, nothing special. (Part I)

This past Saturday Anna turned 5! I will write a 5 year old update as soon as I get my thoughts together, but today is all about the little trip we took over the weekend to celebrate.

So...Great Wolf Lodge. This place seems to be all the rage. I mean, everyone (friends & coworkers) I talked to all said this place was da bomb. After we came back from Disney World in November, I was itching to put another trip on our calendar so when I saw a great promotion, I ran it by Luke and booked it for Anna’s birthday weekend. In total, we paid $500 for two nights in a standard family suite, with $100 in Bonus Bucks to spend at the resort.

Bottom Line: The kids had fun...just not the kind of fun we wanted them to have. With a giant waterpark in front of them, all Anna wanted to do was swim/soak in the hot tub. Will was more or less the same except he was a little more adventurous. Seriously? Between that and the average accommodation, this place was definitely not "da bomb" I was expecting. At least, not for our family. I mean, if the kids had the time of their lives, then it would be worth it. Expensive still, but worth it.
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The Details: We picked up Anna early from school on Friday and arrived to GWL (in Williamsburg) at 4pm, right in time for check-in. We quickly changed into our bathing suits and hit the waterpark. We found out that half of the park was closed due to various reasons, so we were forced to join everyone else at the wave pool. That was fine, the kids seemed to like it. After a while, we decided to go to another attraction that was open -- the family hot tub. That was a big mistake because once we introduced that to them, they were reluctant to do anything else. Luke did convince Will to do a tube waterslide with him and they both loved it (I later did it myself and it was really fun, lots of twists and turns). As other attractions opened up, we also did a round in the lazy river as family, but other than that, it was more hot-tubbing.

The next day we did it all over again. Everything was open this time so we told them (Anna specifically) no hot tub until we tried everything else. And they did...but in the end, it was back to the hot tub we went.

In the meantime, Will just wanted to do this the entire time:
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Lesson Learned: I do think GWL is great for kids that are more adventurous (and older?) than mine. It's nice for the parents -- play for 2 or 3 hours and then up to the room to rest -- without having to drive anywhere, to have everything under one roof. However, for my kids? Next time I am taking them to a swimming pool (and hot tub!) at any old hotel, with their floaties. Because that's all they really care about.
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Few more things I want to mention:
1. Guests can use the waterpark anytime between 1pm on the day of check-in until closing on the day of check-out, which is a pretty sweet deal. We didn't take advantage of that, though. We didn't go back to the waterpark on the day we checked out.
2. The waterpark still felt cold to me, even at (supposedly) 84 degrees.
3. For the money, the waterpark really didn't seem that big or special.
4. The resort room was average. The carpet was visibly dirty (also stinky). It was old.
5. The employees didn't always know how to handle Bonus Bucks, so whenever I used them, there was a long (actually, LONG) wait.
6. An overnight trip would be enough, but I still liked our two-night stay so we didn't have driving days back to back.

There are other things to do at GWL beside the waterpark. Tomorrow/this week, I will highlight them all.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!