Monday, September 30, 2013

a list of books that the kids are reading / sept 2013

Cooler weather is here, which means we have added a few fall-ish books to our book rotation. I can't wholeheartedly recommend that these are MUST READS!, but they do teach the little ones about the fall and the activities that go along with the season. Also, since we read to both kiddos at the same time, I need stories that 1) Will (22 months) can sit through and 2) aren't too baby for Anna (3.5 years), and I feel that these books fit the bill.
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|1| is about Clifford's first autumn...exactly what the title says. Clifford discovers frosty air, pumpkins, fallen leaves, and football. Easy read and we talk about the illustrations.

We read |2| before we went apple picking and afterwards as well. It's a great book about picking apples and what yummy treats you can make with them. Throughout the book, there are lessons in sorting and counting. I personally like nearly all Monica Wellington book.

|3| Another easy read. It's about a family going to a farm to pick apples and pumpkin. Then they carve the pumpkin and go trick or treating on Halloween night. Anna asked if we could carve a pumpkin after reading this book.

|4| A book with rhymes that is sometimes awkward to read, but it's about a girl who likes pumpkins a lot. I give it 2 stars because I am feeling generous.

|5| This story follows a family through the fall season, as they do many activities (racking leaves, picking apples, attending the County Fair) together. Short, easy to read.

|6| A fast-read about Mouse and Minka and lots and lots of leaves. It's a simple read with one or two lines per page. On the boring side, but cute illustrations.

We are getting a head start on reading Halloween books, but I still haven't found a really, really good one. So I am looking for recommendations if you have any!
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If you decide to read |7|, don't try to read it word for word, especially to little kids like mine. The sentences are long and horrible. Instead, we talk about the illustrations, from decorating for Halloween to trick or treating to eating the candies. It's a nice book overall...just skip the words.

|8| Fun book for the kids. They see the monster grow...and then disappear.  My kids love it.

|9| This one looks perfect for the Halloween season, but I haven't actually read it to the kids yet.  Hubs did and he didn't hate it, so that actually says a lot. It has 32 reviews on Amazon and 5 stars.

|10| is an old favorite of mine that I borrowed from the library again for Halloween. I love Julia Donaldson for her clever rhymes. This is a fun read. Anna likes it a lot.  It's probably a bit too advanced for Will.  He doesn't sit through it.

Finally, here are just a couple more books we have checked out from the library.
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|11| is one of my favorite, favorite children's book.  Both Anna and Will love it and ask for it again and again. It cracks them up when I move the book near and far as I read "This is the near sheep, this is the far sheep." They love to turn the last page and find the green sheep "fast asleep." Awesome book.

|12| / |13| / |14| are books on colors. Unbeknownst to me, Anna actually read |12| at school and it was so much fun for ME to discover that she knew the ending as we were trying to guess it. There are many books I get tired of reading quickly, but |14| is not the case. Highly recommend both!

|15| The kids adore this vibrant book - we read it twice in one night. The pages have die cut shapes that build to a dinosaur face that folds out on the last page into a dinosaur.

|16| This is another book that I found out Anna had read it at school. It's a book on counting and Will enjoys counting the apples one by one, page by page. So it actually takes a while to read for us!

What have you been reading to your kids lately?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Afternoon/Evening Schedule as a WOHM (w/ a 3.5 year old preschooler and a 22 month old toddler)

Here is the rest of my day as a WOHM, after I get off from work. You can read about my morning here.

(Anna is 3.5 years old and Will is 22 months old.)

3:45 – 4:00pm – I leave work and arrive home.

4:00 – 4:15pm – I change into my comfy clothes (PJs), chat with Grandma about the day, and she leaves.

4:15 – 5:00pm – This is probably the busiest time of the day, as I try to get dinner on the table while the kids run in circles around me. However, it could also be a pretty easy time, depending on a couple of things. If we are just having leftovers, then I spend time with the kids. Lately, we play Tumblin Monkeys and Let’s Go Fishin’, but both games usually end in frustration. If Luke isn’t busy with work, he takes the kids outside to get mail and play (the other day they had fun with this t-ball set), leaving me in peace to cook.

5:00 – 5:45pm – Dinner time. Anna eats well on her own without much hassling, but I often have to feed Will spoon by spoon. They kids are done first and get down, while Luke and I finish and clean up. I give the kids fruit.

5:45 – 7:00pm – Family time, it's different every day, but it always include some snacking. Normally on Wednsdays (like yesterday), my parents come over (from 4:15 to 6:30pm) and they spend time with the kids.

7:00pm – Hallelujah! We are near the end! Luke gives the kids a bath and brush their teeth, while I prep for bedtime and then hop into shower.

7:25pm – I am clean and browse a bit on the Kindle before going to get the kids from bath. I get Anna first – dry and PJs on. Then she’s off to get books for us to read. Then I go back to get Will – dry and PJs on. Luke showers.

By about 7:40pm – We are all on the bed, ready to read books.

By 8:15 – 8:30pm – Last potty break for Anna. A drink of water for both and they are in bed!

After the kids are in bed, it’s free time for us. I may spend 15-20 minutes doing blog pictures, but normally we spend the rest of the night together watching shows or movies or documentaries. After that, I go upstairs, tuck myself in bed, and browse before falling asleep between 10:00 – 11:00pm.

The kids crawl into our bed sometime after 1am. And then the day starts again.

Read more about my schedules:
As a SAHM to a 5 month old
As a Working Mom to a 11 month old
As a Working Mom to a 16.5 month old
As a SAHM to a 22.5 month old and a 2.5 month old
As a Working Mom to a 3.5 year old and a 22 month old (morning)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Kids' First Apple Picking Experience!

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It's Apple Week at Anna's school so I thought it was the perfect time to take the family apple picking. The entire week, I hoped the forecast would be wrong about the impending rain, but it ended up raining hard on Saturday, throughout the night. I was worried that the ground would be muddy for our early Sunday outing, but it wasn't at all. On top of that, the weather was perfect - sunny and cool. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day! We went back to the same farm where we strawberry-picked in June and had a great time!

We used a wheelbarrow to wheel the kids to the orchards.... (Thank goodness for it because the orchards were just-a-little-bit-too-far for the kids to walk and it would had been difficult to carry the kids and a barrel of apples.)
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and it wasn't long before we saw TONS of big round apples.

I was happily surprised at how easily accessible the apples were for the kids.  They could just walk up and pick on their own.  No assistance required. It was perfect.
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Anna was in love with picking apples...we had to tell her to stop because, well, they were sold by the pound. In all, we picked $20 worth of apples.
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Will and I shared an apple.  It was super crunchy and sweet.
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Besides the apples, Will really liked paying visits to the chickens, goats, and little piglets.
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It took a lot of convincing, but the kids ended up having a blast jumping on the pile of haystack.  Their first!
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I really like Homestead Farm for apple picking (and strawberry picking too).  There were lots of families and kids running around, but we never felt crowded.  In fact, while we picked the apples, we hardly saw anyone and felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.  The farm is beautiful on its own and has plenty to see and do.  Overall, it was wonderful to be outdoors and enjoy the crisp fall air!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Morning Schedule as a WOHM (w/ a 3.5 year old preschooler and a 22 month old toddler)

I haven’t done a “schedule” post in a while, so this is overdue. As a working mom, 8.5 hours of my day is spent outside of the house, so this post will just document the time when I am at home.

Now that the kids are older, things aren’t as crazy/busy anymore. We have a good routine down pat and the kids are generally well-behaved and happy. They also play together or independently, so we are mostly hands off in the morning.

(Anna is 3.5 years old and Will is 22 months old.)

6:30 – 6:45am – I wake up to find both kids waking up in our bed. They fall asleep in their kids’ room, but migrate to our room in the middle of the night. Luke wakes up a little bit earlier to let the dog out and to warm up Will’s milk (yep, he is still on the bottle, but I am not sweating it).

6:45 – 7:10am – I give Will his bottle and chat with Anna, who is still slowly waking up. I ask her to get her clothes for the day. Will is pretty quick with drinking his milk so I can get both kids ready (change diaper, potty, clothes on) all during a short amount of time. The kids know what to expect so we are all very efficient. I start getting ready for work.

Grandma also arrives during this time.

After the kids are dressed, they can do whatever they want. Sometimes they play upstairs for a bit, sometimes they go downstairs to hang out. Now that the gate is removed, they have more freedom.

7:10 – 7:20ish-am – I finish getting ready for work (hair, makeup, clothes), fix the bed, and tidy up the kids’ room.

By 7:25am – We are all downstairs and I am cooking Anna’s breakfast. Grandma is more than capable of fixing Anna’s breakfast, but since I’ve always done it, I just do it. No matter how late I am running, I always make her breakfast. My job is very flexible.

7:30am – Breakfast is served for Anna. Her breakfast lately has been either 1) scramble eggs on toast or 2) Nutella on toast. Sometimes I sit down to eat cereal with her, more often I eat standing up in the kitchen. Will may get a bowl of dry cereal and eat at the table with her, but he’s not big on breakfast.

By 7:45am – I grab my lunch (always leftovers from dinner) and put it in my lunch box, along with some fruit and snack. I gather all my other belongings (purse – check, phone – check), while spewing out special instructions for Grandma, if any. I say goodbye to everyone and head out of the door!

8:00am – At work!

To be continued...

Few notes:
1. This is the schedule for T-W-TH. I am home on M and F.
2. When the kids wake up closer to 6:30am, the schedule shifts and I get to work earlier, usually around 7:45am.
3. After I leave for work, the kids get their morning screen time while they each get yogurt and gummi vitamins. Then Anna leaves for school at 8:40ish-am. She’s at school from 9:00 to 12:00 noon. Will hangs out with Grandma during that time. Then nap for both kids at 1:00ish-pm.

Read more about my schedules:
As a SAHM to a 5 month old
As a Working Mom to a 11 month old
As a Working Mom to a 16.5 month old
As a SAHM to a 22.5 month old and a 2.5 month old

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 16, 2013

lately / the September edition

It’s been a few months since my last “lately /” post, so here is a short + sweet post as I am feeling lazy.
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A week or two before school started for Anna, we were on a roll with cranking out crafts. Paper plate crafts, to be more specific. I had no idea that paper plates could be so versatile! And fun! We have a few animals in the queue that she has requested we make next. Penguin, mouse, and hippo.
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9/12/2013...3 days before turning 3.5 years old...Anna wrote out her name completely and legibly!
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Last Friday morning, while I was on Will-watch, I somehow let him drop a can of corn on his big toe. I watched in horror as blood flooded under his toenail and turned black. He eventually stopped wailing and screaming (I gave him a lollipop) and because I kind of knew that it wasn't broken, I carried on the day as normal. The rest of Friday and Saturday we were faced with a very irritable Will. I suspect the toe was very tender and was hurting a lot.  On Saturday night, the skin around it was getting redder and swollen, so we followed Dr. Google's advice and poked a hole (with hot, sterile needle) through the nail to allow the blood to be released. Then I instagram'ed the picture above. Instagram beautifies everything because it actually looked a lot worse in person.  Luckily, after the little procedure, the red disappeared and swollen went down. He slept soundly through the night and was his old self again on Sunday.  The toe will take a while to heal, but he's no longer in pain and can dance and skip once again.

Lesson here -- don't let your toddler help with putting canned goods away.
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There is no way around it. I am no longer in that gray area. It's official -- I am in my mid-thirties. *sob* Honestly? I feel alright about it. I have a husband who makes me laugh, two beautiful kids who are the light of my life, and a cute dog who worships me. Life is good.

And - And! - Anna wrapped her favorite Minnie doll and gave it to me as birthday present. Seriously, what else could I possibly want?

(PS. She now gets a kick out of it that I sleep with Minnie.)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

a short weekend trip, part 2 (Kings Dominion)

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The Carousel is an old favorite of theirs.
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They were so excited to be high above!

After having a very good time at Kings Dominion last year, I couldn’t wait to take the family back again this year, especially since Will was now old enough to go on the rides. But, I suppose I jinxed myself for having a high expectation, because we only went on exactly THREE rides! Bummer. Our first ride of choice was the spinning teacups at Planet Snoopy. After waiting 15-miniute-ish under the scorching sun, while watching the employee moving like molasses doing his job, we were just about done. However, we did go on the Carousel and the Ferris wheel because the lines were a lot shorter.

After lunch and ice cream, our time there got significantly better. We escaped the crowed and went to the water section of the park. There is nothing like water to make my kids laugh and scream like crazy. There was no waiting, just lots of splashing. Luke and I agreed that this part alone was worth the drive.
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We were so proud that he climbed up there all on his own!
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On the way out, we continued our tradition of family picture in front of the fountains. We are a bit too far away, but we got smiles from everyone! Win.
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Because of budget cut happening everywhere, I don’t know if I will still be with my company next year. If I am, we will most definitely be back. :) Next time though, we will just bring our own lunch and head straight for water.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

a short weekend trip, part 1 (Williamsburg)

It had been over a year since we took the family to Williamsburg, so when we saw a deal on LivingSocial for a 2-night stay, we booked it right away. That was a couple of weeks ago and the trip was this past weekend.

We left on Friday early afternoon, after Anna got out from school, and spent Friday and Saturday night there. Then on Sunday, on the way home, we went to an annual event sponsored by my company, a family day at Kings Dominion. All in all, we were only away from home for a little over 50 hours, but we did a lot. Two tired parents + two tired kids = a busy, fun-filled weekend.

We reserved a 1-bedroom condo at The Historic Powhatan Resort, but upon arrival, they gave us a 2-bedroom instead. Super! There were two bathrooms, a full kitchen, 6-seat dining table, living room, and a washer & dryer (which we did use to do a load of laundry despite of our short stay!). When traveling with kids, it's always nice to have extra room to stretch. This unit was plenty big for our family.

As for the stuff we did, it was the usual. We drove the Colonial Parkway toward Jamestown and stopped at our favorite pit stop to play in the water. The water was calm and serene and, given the opportunity, I think the kids could stay out there forever. They found the most mundane things to keep them busy.
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On Saturday evening, we went to Colonial Williamsburg and something memorable (or, if you are Anna, horrifying) happened...

Both kids were doing this - having a good time climbing and watching the horses from a safe distance.
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Until one of them came running toward us and this was what happened next:

Poor Anna was terrified, which made me feel kind of lousy that I didn't rescue her fast enough. :( Now she has it in her mind that horses are big and scary. Just for the record though, she pretty much stop crying as soon as I picked her up, but we couldn't convince her otherwise about those horses.
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Luke doing his attempt to show Will that horses aren't so scary.

Other pictures from our walk around Colonial Williamsburg:
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Will kept on saying "Open? Play sheep?" and jerking on the lock.
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Spinning and having a few laughs in front of the Governor's Palace.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was past 8, but Anna really wanted to go for a swim. So we did!
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I didn't get in the water, I just lounged and browsed my favorite website. Haha, mine.

I will finish up the rest of the trip later, but before I end the post...

Happy 6th Anniversary to us!

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. And look! My husband made a cake! And we even had that #6 candle laying around the house. Pretty perfect.
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We told Anna that six years ago, Mama and Baba got married and our little family was formed. I don't know if she truly understood that so then we just told her that it was Mama and Baba's birthday. After cake, she said happily, "This is the best birthday ever!"

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Will - 21.5 months update

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This month’s update is extra late, but here it is. Will is already 21.5 months old!

Eat and Sleep

I miss my champion eater and sleeper. Now he’s just a typical toddler who’s picky about his food and isn’t sleeping enough. Meal time is the most frustrating time of my day. He eats a couple of bites and takes off his bib and says that he’s full and done. So then I have to take over and feed him spoon by spoon, while distracting him with various objects. I did this with Anna as well, and eventually as she got older, we got over it, so hopefully it will be the same with Will. Unlike Anna who hardly eats meat, Will can eat a lot of fish and chicken if the mood is right. He doesn’t eat much greens, though. We recently gave him his first Dum Dum and he laughed the entire time while eating. Haha.
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Since the siblings share a room, they go to sleep at the same time. Sometimes I think Will should go to sleep earlier, and Anna could stay up later, but I know that he will never be okay with going to sleep on his own so we just set 8:30p as their bedtime. They are usually quiet and go to sleep without fuss. In the middle of the night, they both crawl into our bed and we wake up in the morning together, around 6:30a.
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Will naps for 2 to 3 hours in the afternoon.

No more gate!

We removed the gate on the top of the stairs the other day. Will is good with going up and down the steps now so we feel it is safe. I was kind of against it in the beginning (since he does walk past the stairs to get to our room in the dark), but now I see how convenient it is for me as well. I can leave the kids upstairs to play and when they are ready to come downstairs, I don’t need to go back upstairs to make sure the gate was unlocked. And believe it or not, they actually listen to me and come downstairs when I ask. I guess when I give them a little freedom, they listen better to my requests.

It was pretty funny that one day after nap, he just came downstairs on his own without making a sound. Definitely caught us by surprise!

Fall 2013

Now that Anna is back at school (5x a week, in the morning), Will hangs out with Grandma 3x a week and 2x with me. Grandma still takes him to the mall play area, but we supplement that with trips to the library for story time. I enrolled him in a music class and we are starting that next Friday. And then he (+ Anna) will have swim class in November. We will try to give him his own activities, but he will be chauffeured around a lot due to Anna’s school pick up / drop off. I guess that’s just the way it is with the second child.
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Speech

I love hearing Will’s little baby voice. He’s not quite a chatterbox yet, but the stuff he says is darling. At least to us the doting parents.

“Will too!” – Everything is “Will too!” He wants everything that his sister has.
“Hi Buddy!” – Luke says that to him and now he will say that to us.
Anna taught him to say “please” for when he asks for stuff.
Sometimes he says “thank you” and “welcome”.
We were all watching Kai-Lan the other day and Kai-Lan was saying, “Wo jiao Kai-Lan.” Chinese translation: “My name is Kai-Lan.” So Luke said, “Wo jiao Baba.” I said, “Wo jiao Mama.” Anna said, “Wo jiao Anna.” And I was floored when Will said, “Wo jiao Will.”
He directs who he’s talking to by calling our name first.
Luke was sitting on the bed and I asked him, “Where is Will?” Will stuck his head out behind him and said, “Right here.” We both had a good laugh.
I was in the other room and called, “Will!” He said, “What?”
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Things He Likes

Kindle
Team Umizoomi – TV show
Ni Hao, Kai-Lan – TV show
Kai-Lan doll – he can’t sleep without her
Getting in and out of the car / car seat all by himself
Being held when we are out
baby seal – a plastic bath toy
eating banana in the car
a silly game that I made up while reading “Here Comes the Big Mean Dust Bunny”. I hold up my hands and say, “here comes the big mean dust bunny!” and pushes him down. He loves it. Ha. He does it to us too.
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Will is an amazing little boy and it’s been so much fun watching him grow. I can’t wait to find out what the future holds for him.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

School is back in session!

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Super happy + excited on her first day day back at school.
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I've had some sleepless nights lately – thinking and worrying about how school would go for Anna this year. As many of you know, she was our little trouble maker last school year and worked her teachers hard. And although all signs pointed to positive weeks leading up to the big day, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Would she be alright with the separation now that she has some school experience under her belt and a little bit older?

I was anxious, excited, nervous to find out.

Turned out I worried for nothing.

She did so, SO great. This morning, after her usual TV time, instead of asking for one more, she said, "Now can we go to school?" Say WHAAAAAAAA? Right then, I knew it was going to be alright.

Then we got to school.

She was shy, but walked right into her classroom. She followed the teachers’ instructions – hung up her backpack and washed her hands. The teachers got her settled to do some number pegs, we chatted for a bit…..and then it was time for me to go. The moment of truth. I walked up, gave her a hug, cheerfully said “have a good day!”, and left.

And…..silence.

No tears. No screaming. No drama. I was so relieved!!

I even took a picture behind closed door.
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This is going to be a good school year, I just know it. I can't wait to see her grow into an even bigger girl.

----
Update: After I typed this post, I called home to hear about Anna’s day. Grandma reported that the teachers said she did “excellent.” And then I got on the phone with her and she sounded absolutely thrilled about her day!
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Will was ready for school, too.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our Special Harbor Spray Ground!

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It took the entire summer, but we finally made it to this wonderful spray park over the weekend. The kids had a fantastic time!  And we had a fantastic time watching them!

I can't say enough good things about the park - it's got all the typical array of fountains, dumping buckets, various spraying elements - however, what made it great for us was that all the elements were gentle enough for my kids (ages 3.5 and almost-2) to enjoy without feeling scared. The spray park was also bigger than the ones we had been to - lots of space to run around!

The bottom line: Lots of fun, the kids loved it, can't believe it's free, will be back a lot in 2014.
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But that wasn't everything!

Adjacent to the spray park was this equally wonderful woodland-themed play structure. We stopped only for a little bit because, by then, the kids had been in the sun for too long. So instead, we sat in the shade, munched on apples, and watched the other kids play. The entire structure was well designed with lots of nooks and crannies to discover.
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After the apples, we walked through the last of the "attractions" - the tree house.
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Overall, I was so impressed with everything. I can imagine our family easily spending half a day here next summer. So much to do and you know I love it even more because it was all for a grand total of $0.00.

On the way back home, Will kept on chanting "Fun! Fun! Fun!" Always good to hear for the parents. :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!