Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Teacher's Holiday Gifts

'Tis the Season for Giving!

And because of that, this is what we are giving to the teachers in our lives this holiday season – a mason jar filled with Hershey's Kisses and an Amazon gift card.
Like all my projects, this was very easy to assemble once I laid out all the supplies. The hardest job was finding those mason jars, which fell on hubs again. He went to 3 stores before finding them at Michael’s at the best price ever. A dozen for $10! I only needed 4 for the project, but I love mason jar so I know I can definitely find a use for them eventually.
Anyway, the assembly. I put paper crinkle on the bottom and the kids filled the jars with chocolates. I didn't do a good job of quality control, but each jar had about 8 Hershey's Kisses, plus or minus a couple. For the final packaging, the "Hugs & Kisses" label was found here and I just trimmed a holiday-y scrapbook paper to size and tied it around the jar with baker's twine. Anna wrote "From Anna" on the back of hers and I wrote it for Will.

They are excited to hand these out tomorrow at school!
I have read it over and over again that teacher's gifts aren't necessary (a heartfelt note is most appreciated, which I am including), but I am so happy with both Anna and Will’s teachers that I don’t mind spending a little to show my gratitude :)

PS. See other ways to give gift cards (1, 2, 3)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Christmas-ing

Yesterday morning we made our traditional annual trip to see the National Christmas Tree in DC. We took a bunch of family selfies, but I like this picture the most. The kids are at that age where they will stand still and smile nicely at the camera for me.
This year our visit to see the trees was super short. Normally the state and territory trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree are decorated with ornaments…which takes time to look at…but this year they are only decorated with strings of lights. And only at dark, when the lights are on, you can see the different colors and patterns of the lights on the trees. It’s all part of Google’s Made with Code initiative, which I just learned about it myself. I am sure it’s very pretty at night when it is all lit up, but not much to see during the daytime, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, I am glad we were able to carry this tradition on for another year :)

DC area locals -- If you are planning to make a trip to see the trees, I highly recommend going at night to make the trip worthwhile!
gingerbread village
Another Christmas activity we did yesterday was building a gingerbread village! It was the first time ever for our family! We used a kit that included everything so it was relatively simple + easy. The trickiest and most time-consuming part was building the little houses, which was Luke’s job. After the houses were built, the kids went at it and I got to assist, even though they both said they wanted to do everything themselves. The kids had lots of fun decorating (and eating the broken pieces)! We actually have another kit (gingerbread house), but Luke lost his momentum and said we will build it on Christmas day. We will see.

Lastly, posting this picture just because.
Happiness is new pjs.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, December 12, 2014

“Mama, come get me later tomorrow.”

Blogging has been slow of late since we haven’t really been out and I thought I would do a little update on Anna and her school life. There is a lot of good things to say :)
Anna is 4 3/4 years old now and she just loves school! She loves being at school, playing with her friends, listening to teachers, following instructions, earning stickers on her “good-behavior” card, doing craft, doing new things, and learning new things. Her social skills have developed so well this past few months. She’s friends with all the girls in her class and talks about them often at home.

This is all very exciting for me because as you know, Anna was never a fan of school (or I think she has always liked school alright, but just not OK with the drop-off). She was never one of those kids who runs off to school. In fact, up until recently, taking her to school was one of the most annoying moments in my daily life. But then -- magic happened -- it was like something clicked, the stars aligned, and the tears suddenly stopped. She smiles happily as she walks into the classroom and yells, "Hi!" to everyone. The first time it happened I thought it was a fluke, but it has been consistent since.

It's so awesome to see her finally enjoying a whole day of school. Her teachers are pleased with her and so happy....for ME. We make discreet eye contact and smile at each other. Haha.

Anyway, Anna is doing very well academically too, according to her teachers. I didn't write about the parent-teacher conference that happened back in October, but her teachers had so many positive things to say about Anna. Her curiosity, her eagerness to learn, her smart questions. They said, "You can just tell that Anna has been read to at home." That comment alone almost brought tears to my eyes :)

Nowadays we are working on reading. Her school sends phonics storybooks home and we are supposed to have her read to us. So every night after the dishes are done, Anna and I sit down to read. To be honest, it can be painful reading with her ("What do you mean you don't know this word, you just read it on the other page!" or "Try to SOUND IT OUT!"), but I try to remind myself not to be all tiger mom about it. I know whatever she learns right now is "bonus" and she will be more than well prepared for public school Kindergarten next year.

Anna goes to school 5 days a week, from 9am to 4:45pm. At the end of the day, she's pretty tired and she falls asleep easily at 8pm.

So on the weekends, I am mostly fine with just staying home. A lot of time, playing with her little brother ends with both of them hitting one another, but when Will goes off to nap, she gets a chance to play by herself quietly.

She then blossoms into this wonderful, happy, imaginative, focused child. She makes little notebooks and decorates them with stickers. She writes letters, draws pictures, and makes cards for me to find. She organizes picnics for her little figurines and builds them a city.

Of course, she's also very happy when we give her Kindle time or a movie. I don't mind technology as long as it is in moderation. I think it's great that she can figure out a new game easily or understand a complicated storyline.

So all in all, Anna is doing wonderful and being her Mama is a total pleasure.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

a list of books that the kids are reading / dec 2014

I keep on thinking about how last December we did so many Christmas activities, but so far this year we have practically done none. Nowadays, after getting home from work around 5, I head straight for the kitchen...who has the time to sit down with the kids and make hand-print reindeer or shaving cream snowman? I am still hoping to do a few fun things with the kids though, but in the meantime, we have been reading lots of Christmas books instead. Out of the many books we borrowed from the library, here are my top 10 picks!!
|1| The book follows the traditional tale of The Little Red Hen so the kids were already familiar with the story, but I love the Christmas twist on an old classic. Such a cute book with equally cute illustrations! The ending was a bit weird, but other than that, a good read :)

|2| Ever wonder what Santa was like as a child? This book tells you all about it. Easy to read and easy to understand – perfect for preschoolers. I don’t mind reading this one over and over.

|3| The message in this book is so sweet – it’s about how giving just keeps going. The story flows beautifully and has lovely illustrations to boot. It is a hit with my kids. Highly recommend.

|4| Santa is sad because Christmas is over, but in the end he learns that the spirit of Christmas doesn't have to last just one day, it can last throughout the year. Perfect holiday read, definitely a new favorite in our family!

|5| Not only this is a cute Christmas book, but it also teaches other things such as sequencing, perseverance, and building on skills. Another new favorite.
|6| I enjoyed |5| so much that I went back to the library and borrowed this one. The story is just as delightful and it helps the kids understand that faster isn't always better. Sometimes it’s the personal touches that makes something special.

|7| This is a sweet story written in rhyme with beautiful illustrations. It is a story of 10 mice who need to find shelter on Christmas night. They each find their own shelter but eventually come back together in a place where they can once again celebrate their love and friendship for each other. Awww.

|8| The timing of this book is perfect because Anna is just learning about Hanukkah at school. But beyond that, this heartwarming book shares a wonderful message of gratitude and generosity. Surely that's a message all parents hope their kids will take to heart.

|9| It's a lovely book that shows the joys of Christmas in a quiet way! Not my favorite of the bunch, but a quick read.

|10| What a fun book! The pictures are very eye catching and the story makes Anna (Will wasn't around) laugh and giggle.

how we borrow library books, books from sept 2014, books from april 2014, books from nov 2013, books from sept 2013, books from april 2013

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Gifts for the Kids, the 2014 Edition

Holiday gift guides are popping up all over the blogsphere so here is my little contribution :)

Just a note -- this is not a “gift guide” per se since I don’t claim myself to be an expert of anything, but this is what the kids are getting from us this year, one or two (or four) things in each of the “want, need, wear, read” giving philosophy.

Anna (4 ¾ years old)
Want : Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash plushes.
Wear : I just placed an order for 4 pairs of these leggings this morning for Anna. She wears leggings to school every Tuesday and Thursday for tumbling class and has been needing thicker ones for the winter. Also, PJs.
Need : Cute cozy socks.
Read : Anna is starting to like Tinker Bell and has been watching the movie series so I think this fairy book will be a hit with her. Also, a My Little Pony Book & Figurines set (a T.J.Maxx find, no link available).

Will (3 years old)
Want : Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pillow pals. Yes, he's getting ALL 4 OF THEM.
Wear : PJs.
Need : Not sure, cute cozy socks?
Read : Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book & Figurines set (another T.J.Maxx find)

I am sure the kids will also be receiving a few other things from family. I already know that one of their uncles is buying them this doll house :) But for those that are reading and need ideas, Anna likes this music box, and I would love to add some board games (The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel, Sorry!, Jenga, Game of Life) and puzzles (around 100-piece, like this and this) to our cabinet.

Are you almost done with Christmas shopping? For me, shopping is easy, just click click click! Wrapping is what I fear the most.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Snowman Juice Box

All my free time has been taken over by this show, but I did do something crafty last night!

For Anna's holiday day party at school, I am bringing juice boxes. But instead of leaving them the way they are (so plain and boring), I decided to dress them up for the holidays.
Here are the supplies I used, but there are so many other options. Googly eyes, buttons, ribbons, just to name a few. However, I highly recommend using construction paper for the wrapper - copier paper is too thin and cardstock might be too thick.
It took me about an hour to crank out 16 snowman juice boxes. At first I was doing them one by one, but eventually I created a little assembly line and that was much more efficient. Oh, just a note that I removed the straws in the back so I could cover the juice boxes completely. *Must remember to bring the straws and put them next to the juice boxes the day of the party* However I have seen people covering just the front or just the front and sides.
Anna found them super cute and I hope her classmates will like them too!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Trees 2014

We definitely got the better end of the bargain when Luke’s sister decided to swap Christmas tree with us. In exchange for our Charlie Brown-ish one, we received something the complete opposite.
Meet our new-to-us tree. It’s 7 1/2-foot tall and 5 1/2-foot across. When we first took it out of the box, we were afraid that it might be too gigantic for our modest living room, but after it was all set-up, it actually fits quite nicely.

The tree swap happened about a week and half ago and, instead of taking the box down to storage, we decided to just go ahead and put it up, even though it was still before Thanksgiving... So yes, our halls have been decked for a week now :)

As for the decorating process, it was the first year that both kids had a real active interest in helping us the entire time, and we even let them hang the breakable ornaments. I am happy to say that zero ornaments were harmed in the making of this tree, and although it was more chaotic with the kids, I was glad that we involved them from start to finish.
Continuing with our tradition, we also put up the kids' tree in the family room. After the little tree went up, we let the kids do their thing and shut our mouths. Sure there are some unusual objects on that tree, but it's most definitely their own creation. The first thing they do after coming down the stairs every morning is turning on the lights. They love it!
Some of you might remember that last December I did something Christmas-y all 24 days leading up to Christmas with the kids. Since I am back to working full-time, that won't be happening again. But I am still hoping to make some new home-made ornaments this year, starting with a family of penguins that we made from a kit. They weren't actually meant to be ornaments, but with a hole punch and some ribbons, Anna got her wish.

Do you put up your Christmas tree early like me or wait until well into December?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Howdy and a lovely Thanksgiving to all of you!

If you are looking for a quick craft to do with the kids before digging into the turkey, here is one that we made last week. I can't find the template that I used anymore, but google "thankful turkey template" and you will get a bunch of options. In the past few years, we have also made toilet paper roll turkey with coffee filter, family thankful tree, and handprint turkey (probably the most popular Thanksgiving craft out there). All very fun and easy.

What are your plans today? We are spending a quiet day at home with just our little family. Perfectly fine by me! And instead of spending the day sweating in the kitchen, I am leaving the cooking to Boston Market :)

I hope, for those of you that are celebrating, that you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Otherwise, have a good Thursday!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!