Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

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I was worried that we would miss out on Halloween this year due to Hurricane Sandy, but luckily, the rain stopped just in time and we made it out for Will's first trick or treat!

This year we have cute little fish and shark. Someday I will try my hands at making costumes, but today wasn't it. I showed Anna her options at Old Navy and she picked the fish. It was perfect because Will was going as a shark. I had bought his costume last year...before he was even born. Haha. I bought it in size 6-12 mos, thinking that it would fit just fine. Well, I had to squeeze him in. Thankfully, he didn't have a big dinner.

We took pictures out on the porch when it was still light out and managed to get a few decent shots. It's almost next to impossible to take good pictures of a toddler and a baby. My lack of photography skills doesn't help either. Oh well.

After the pictures, we just went trick or treating around the neighborhood! Anna did great and was super polite to everyone -- said trick or treat and thank you. But after the fourth house, she was done with it and said she wanted to go home. So after that we came home and we let her have - gasp! - four pieces of candy. One for each house, I suppose. She was a happy girl. I think Will also has a sweet tooth, too.

It was a fun night. Happy Halloween!

Anna couldn't wait until we got inside to dig in. At least she shared.
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PS. Halloween 2010 and 2011.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recently /

The weather was seriously GORGEOUS last Sunday. Sunny, cool, and not a cloud in the sky. Meadowlark Gardens was filled to the brim with people taking pictures. While I don't think we caught the peak of foliage, it was still very very pretty. Our little family took a bunch of pictures, but I really like this one below. No one was looking at the camera, but they were just really into those crinkly leaves. And they would have played a lot longer if Will didn't have a diaper blowout.
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The good weather continued all week. We spent time outside one evening after dinner. Will is 49 weeks now. He's walking really well with us just holding one hand. I love this boy through and through.
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We took the kids to my parents' neighborhood. Near their house is a field that we used to take the dogs before we moved. Anna had a ball running around. Pesto, too. Will just crawled a lot.
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And today, Sunday again. This is hubs cleaning the gutters, preparing for Hurricane Sandy/Frankenstorm. The rain is already coming down as I type...
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Monday, October 22, 2012

pumpkins, pumpkins!

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I typically get my pumpkins from the grocery store, but this year, I wanted to have a fun pumpkin picking experience. So when I learned about Krop’s Crops, I couldn’t wait to take the kids there.

There weren't much to do, but this small farm was perfect for us. There were some animals to pet and a corn bin to play in, but the highlight of the visit was, of course, the hayride. The old tractor pulled us around the farm to a big grassy area full of pumpkins. We got some good pictures there! Anna searched for her perfect tiny pumpkin, but she couldn’t find any tiny enough. So in the end, we didn’t pick any pumpkins from the “patch” but we did end up buying 3 small pumpkins that they had in a bin at the farm store.

We have been reading about fall, pumpkins, and Halloween at home, so it was great to finally give Anna that experience. Her eyes sparkled when she saw those pumpkins. I am your typical parent and that alone was worth it for me.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anna is 2 Years and 7 Months Old.

(All these never-seen-before pictures were taken in September and October, using my phone.)Untitled
My precious firstborn is 2 years and 7 months old.

She’s bright, sweet, kind, stubborn, and totally lovable!

Potty Training

Anna didn’t nail the potty right off the bat, but over the course of a month, she was potty trained during daytime. She still wears a diaper when she sleeps, but I think we can easily eliminate diapering her during nap because she almost always wake up dry. I hope she can be completely trained well before she turns 3. When we are out, she’s really good about using the potty, even without our little portable potty seat. We haven’t had any accidents for weeks now. Oops – I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

Social Skills and Friends

Anna doesn’t have any proper friends at the moment. I will say that’s the biggest thing she’s missing out on. When I was on maternity leave, I took Anna to story time, music and art classes, and the playground, hoping we could both meet new friends. Although I talked to a few Moms there, nothing was ever established because I knew I was going back to work. Now that I am back at work, it’s even harder to get Anna out there and socialize. I am looking forward in sending her to preschool when she turns 3 next March…even though she will be arriving at the tail-end of the school year. I suspect she will have a difficult time adjusting because she has never been in that kind of environment before. But I know once she adjusts, she will have fun.
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Eating

The biggest news in the eating department since my last update on Anna is that she now eats at the dining table! By herself! No TV necessary!

But, ah, she is still a fussy, particular eater. Currently, she has been eating pasta for the last 4 weeks or so. Every single day. For lunch and dinner. We give her bits and pieces of meat and veggies, but the bulk of her diet is empty carbohydrates. It’s terrible.

At least when we sit down for a proper lunch or dinner meal, she will eat at least 80% of it until she claims she’s all done. Then we bribe her to eat a bit more. Then we give her gummy vitamins.
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“Education” / Activities / Skills

I do some kind of art project with Anna when I get home from work on most days. We do two letter crafts a week (currently on letter H) and then we may do few other projects related to the current season or an upcoming holiday. We recently made a bat handprint and a ghost footprint in honor of Halloween. Not only she gets to do something different, but it also helps with her fine motor skills. She’s getting better at peeling stickers, gluing things, and drawing “smiley” faces.

Anna can solve simple problems such as identifying which picture is different, completing a sequence of events, and she’s really good at matching. She can sort, by color, by size, by shapes. She’s still trying to grasp the concept of counting, though.

When I am at work, I suspect Anna gets a lot of independent play since Grandma simply can’t take care of baby Will and play with her at the same time.

Anna really enjoys reading. I think she finds a lot of comfort in it. Not only she likes to be read to, she also “reads” independently. Whenever I sit down and really listen to what she’s reading, I am always surprised by how much she memorized. Whenever we read to her, we use that as an opportunity to teach her things. Like letter reorganization (upper and lower) and phonics. We are also trying to teach her to read simple words.

She hasn’t show much interest in learning to write. And I admit it – it is something I am trying to push on her. Maybe I am just getting ahead of myself.

But I do that, because…

Personality

Anna doesn’t like to go outside her comfort zone. She doesn’t like to try new things. She’s not very adventurous. She likes her routine. I prep her by saying stuff like, “See those school buses, Anna? One day you will have to ride them and go to school!” And she tells me, “No school. I want to just stay home.” Or we would try to mix our playground routine with “Hey Anna, want to go to the zoo today?” She says back, “No thanks. Just park, please.” She prefers to do things her way, and if things don’t go the way she expects, she cries about. It drives me insane!

But we insist, we are firm, we try to convince her and argue with her, and in the end after we do the new thing, she is usually very happy.

Anna has been in that I-want-to-do-it-myself phase for a while now. God forbid if we try to help her. Hubs and I joke that we have to walk on eggshells around her. Asking HER for permission before helping her or she will flip out. Like, she insists on getting her undies out of the drawer in the morning. One time I forgot and got it out for her, she threw a big stink about it. I had to put it back, shut the drawer, just so she could do it herself. But then on some things, she always want our help. It would be soooo much easier if she learns to pull up her pants on her own after going to the potty, but nope. She instructs me “Mama, you do it.”

But despite all this, she’s a kind, gentle, and sweet girl with a sunny personality. She is quiet and mild-mannered when she’s with strangers, but she’s bold and loud when she’s with her family.

It's so awesome that I can have conversations with her, I can reason with her, she can make me laugh.

She’s so expressive and adorable with her words and speech – she’s at a great age.
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I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Anna as she hurdles toward being 3 years old!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Will 11 Months Update

Will turned 11 months old yesterday. For the longest time in his baby life, I dressed him in one-piece outfits with animal-print designs. Nowadays, I put him in long-sleeve graphic tees and sweatpants and, all of a sudden, he looks so much older to me! Will has been so great the past couple of months. He’s happy, eats well, sleeps well, and active. He’s one content baby.
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Eat and Sleep

I started supplementing Will with formula 3 days before he turned 10 months. He was getting two bottles of Mama’s milk and two bottles of formula a day. But sometime this month, my supply plunged so instead of pumping twice, I just pump once now to start the weaning process. Will now only gets one bottle of Mama’s milk a day. I think within the next week, I am going to stop pumping completely. It’s going to feel so good to break free from the pump and finally get my body back. It’s hard to believe that for the last 40 months, I have either been pregnant or pumping/nursing!! Craziness!

Will is an early bird. He wakes up between 6-7a. Way too early for me. But on the bright side, I get to spend a little time with him before I take off for work. He takes two solid naps (on an average of 1.5 hours long) on weekdays. On weekends, when we run around, he takes his first nap in the car and it is no more than 30 minutes long. But he’s a mellow little man that as long as he gets a catnap in, he’s good. It’s bad that he doesn’t get his proper nap, though, but we will be housebound if we have to work around his nap schedule. Once he’s down to one nap, it will be easier. I can just imagine Anna and Will sharing the same napping schedule…it’s going to be glorious!

Teeth

Will finally grew some teeth this month. Not one, not two, but THREE of them! We used to do laundry because we would run out of bibs for him, but ever since his teeth appeared, he drools a lot less now. Last time I folded laundry, I was surprised at how much clothes there were too fold. Then I counted and it had been 7 days since our last wash! At the same time, less drool also means his eczema is finally under control. He face (especially the chin area) is still not smooth, but at least it is not red all the time. With his eczema under control, he’s just that much more easier to take care of.

3 teeth - 2 bottom, 1 top
I GOT TEETH!
Milestones

Will can stand up without holding onto anything, but all he does is sit right back down on his padded bum. Haha. When Anna was his age, she already took her first steps. Will walks pretty good when we hold his hands, but I don’t think he will be working dependently before he turns 1. No worries, I am not in a hurry for him to grow up anyway.

Will is babbling more than ever, and he can clap and wave on cue. I love making him laugh by blowing on his tummy and he makes himself laugh by throwing stuff and burying his face into Pesto. With Anna I read her tons of books. Will isn’t showing much interest except for chewing on them. It’s rare that he sits through a book from start to finish. He just doesn’t sit still anymore. Diaper change can be a battle. Putting on his pants can take longer than necessary. When he doesn’t want to be held, he will try to break free and drop his body like a dead weight. Funny little guy.

Anna had terrible stranger anxiety for the longest time. Will is better but he’s definitely not a baby who will jump from one person’s arms to the next either. Hubs and I think that Will is sensitive, just like his sister. I hope that translates into kind and compassionate. I really like the sound of that!

Life with Anna

Whenever Anna decides to sit down and play with Will, we can always count on a break. Anna wakes up early, just like Will, and sometimes we will just put both on the bedroom floor, shut the door, drop some toys down, and we get to lay in bed for a bit longer. He just loves it when he has another little person to play with. Although Will isn’t hitting his motor skills as quickly as Anna, but I know he’s going to learn a lot faster just because he will have her to teach him.
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It makes me weepy that Will is turning one next month. But I am also so looking forward to his first steps, his first words, and all other firsts. He’s my little buddy and I just love watching him grow!

How big is Will?
so big!
So big!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Low-Budget Fall Weekend

While we slowly working to fatten our bank account back up, I am trying to keep our spending to a minimum. This fall weekend was all about not spending a cent, and we were somewhat successful. Saturday morning we took the kids to a nearby playground. Anna always has lots of fun there. It has a carousel, but this time, instead of riding the horse, she wanted to ride in the spinning tea cup. Will joined her for the ride and I think she liked that especially. Since my mom gave us the tokens (one of the perks of working for the parks), this outing was completely free.
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We usually eat out for Saturday lunch, but I had cooked a big pot of chicken "pho" soup that morning so we went home and had that instead. Then while the kids napped, hubby mowed the lawn and I prepped for dinner. After the kids woke up from their nap, we packed up Pesto and went to another park. It was good to walk Pesto, we don’t do that nearly enough.
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After running around all morning, we did order pizza for lunch on Sunday, but Anna ate so well that it was worth it for me. The wings from Pizza Hut? Finger-licking gooood! It’s my new favorite. We wrapped up Sunday with a little trip to Great Falls Park. Again, free thanks to my parents’ senior status.

So there you have it. Our low-budget fall weekend. It's definitely doable to have fun without spending too much.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's a Plane!

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On Saturday we took the kids to Gravelly Point, a spot near the Ronald Regan Airport where giant planes fly right over your head. Since the airport runway is right within eyeshot, the planes are super low and really loud. A very cool sight to see. I have heard and read that kids go wild for the experience, so I was expecting to see some fist pumping. I even dressed Will in his airplane shirt.

So what really happened?

Haha, no fist pumping from my kids. They weren't so crazy about the planes being so low and so loud and so close and both jumped on us whenever the planes flew near. You can see that Will freaked out when he was left to fend for himself in the video. Haha. At least now I know how to get the munchkins to snuggle with us – just take them to the airplane park!

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Living on the Edge

by Guest
Well I finally did it. I managed to put the family in the poor house. We are literally living paycheck to paycheck - for the next two weeks anyways. How did I manage to do that? I bought a new car! A used one actually, but it's a 2012 with about 6k miles on it. My old beater 2001 Civic hand-me-down from Joyce had only just crossed the 79k mile marker. It would still be parked snugly this cold Fall nite in the garage if its driver-side door hadn't gone tits-up on me somewhere on the Garden State Parkway in Jersey a few months back. Something about electrical fires and smoke inches from my body just sets me off.

Joyce wanted a memento shot of her car before I sent it off to trade-in heaven.

Now back to the situation at hand, it's been interesting to say the least. We could easily remedy it by moving some savings or investments around to shore up the checking account, but that would ruin the experience. Joyce gets paid at the beginning of every month while my bacon comes in every two weeks. So basically, our checking account will be near zero until the 19th (c'mon commission check!).

I'll admit, I kinda freaked out a bit when I thought about how low I was taking our balance to. So I've been scrambling to get some cash flow going. Business expenses that I don't normally file until the end of the month just got submitted today for reimbursement. I cleaned out my American Express Blue Cash balance so that'll be another source of credit this month. Hell, I even cashed out my FatWallet account. And fortunately, we don't have any outgoing bills to pay via Bank of America until the 19th. So as long as no emergencies happen within the next two weeks, we should be able to scrape by. I'll have to cheat a little by grabbing a few bills out of our petty cash envelope for some upcoming work travel, but that's it.

Having never experienced anything like this before, it has me counting my blessings. Our work affords us some stability, but our penny pinching lifestyle is what really attributes to our financial peace of mind. I'm just glad Joyce is even more frugal than I when it comes to mindless spending. Somehow, I can always justify that new receiver or pair of speakers or PS3 game or dumbbells or.... Then again, she's the root cause whenever UPS drops off a new bag of children's clothes. In all honesty though, she's a good gal that doesn't spend enough on herself at all.

We've been teaching Anna about the value of money and I hope it registers. We explain why we head off to work and what modern civilization requires in order to survive. Will, of course, only sees money as shiny circles and crinkly paper. If only life could be so simple again. I also need to start figuring out how to get some sort of passive income going. Man, if only I were Walter White! Then again, depending on how the season closes out next summer, maybe not.

Will was the first passenger. He approves!
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Toddler Art Projects

I have been doing more arts & crafts activities with Anna lately. Each week do two letter crafts and then we will do few other random ones related to the letters. It’s fun and doesn’t take a lot of work. I love that there are so many ideas and freebies out there.

Anna looks forward to our little crafty time. Every day I get home from work, one of the first things she says to me is, “Want to do an art project today, Mom?” It does get a little crazy when Will crawls all over us and wants to be a part of it. Or when Anna gets frustrated and starts throwing stuff. But for the most part, it’s good and she’s learning and I hope we can continue to do this often.

Here are a sample of our recent projects. None of these ideas are originally mine. Pinterest is amazing. I find that Anna enjoys it more when less tools are involved, such as scissors, since she doesn’t know how to cut yet. She seemed to like the hand-print caterpillar project the most. Definitely going to do more of those!

A is for Alligator / E is for Elephant
letter crafts
(The Very Hungry Little) Caterpillar Handprint
Hand-Print Caterpiller

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Bathroom Renovation & Other Things

ONE. The bathroom is done. Completely. Down to the nitty-gritty, such as switching out the light bulbs. This project was started back in July and it took the entire summer + a few weeks of fall to finish. I did nothing to help out (except being on kids-duty whenever hubs worked with his dad), but if you ask if I would support doing it again, my answer would be a big fat HELL NO. Luckily, hubs is with me on this one. Being two full-time working parents with two small children, I one hundred percent believe that sometimes we just need to outsource so we can spend more time together as a family.

I did a pretty poor job of documenting the renovation, so here are exactly four pictures. Hubs picked out everything, from the tiles, to the mirrors, to the countertop, to the fixtures. As I said, I had zero involvement. It turned out very nice! I love the two sinks.
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TWO. We went to a Fall Festival over the weekend. It was just okay. Nothing too exciting. As hubs put it, “Now we know why it’s free.” Haha. I still think it was time well spent. Anna and Will don’t get out during the week anymore since I went back to work and it’s good to go places other than the playground. Besides, I think the train ride, pinwheel, and the balloon kept Anna happy and entertained. There was even a small petting zoo, but she has never been into farm animals. The tiny little piglets were so cute, but she didn’t give them a second glance. I think Will was amused by the llamas though. Too bad we ended our visit there with The Moonbounce Incident. Some boy rolled and bumped into Anna and hubs had to go in to rescue her. I hope she isn't scarred for life.
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THREE. Hubs has been gone on an average of two nights a week since early September. It's hard holding down the fort on my own. When he's here, he's in charge of bath time and that helps so much.

Anyway, one day last week, after a long night of Me vs Two Kids, I handed Anna an ice cream sandwich (wrapped) and told her to wait for me while I went to check on Will. I came back not a minute later and found that she had squished the sandwich. It wasn’t ruined, but she should’ve have known better. I didn’t yell, but definitely showed my annoyance. She told me, completed with hand gestures and body movements:

Mom, just caaallllm down. Don’t be mad. Sway side to side. Just calm down, Mom. It’s okay.

I think I was even more peeved after her little comment.
PS. She learned the “sway side to side” bit from Kai-Lan.

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