Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 - A Review

Truthfully, 2014 wasn't all happy all the time for our little family, but reflecting back it was still a great year. Yes, the family went through some growing pains when we unexpectedly lost grandma-care and I went back to work full-time, but we came out of the other end mostly unscathed, and, dare I say, older and wiser.

We spent January trapped inside the house, first due to snow and then due to illness.
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In February, we ushered in the Year of the Horse and had a snowy Valentine's Day at home. Anna and I made these awesome glow stick Valentines.
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Anna turned 4 in March! We hosted a family birthday party at home to celebrate our favorite girl and her beloved bear. After the celebration ended, we faced the two biggest changes of the year -- the kids started daycare and I went back to work full-time.
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After a very long winter, we welcomed April with open arms. We took the kids to a number of places -- from digging up dinosaur bones to hunting for eggs to viewing cherry trees to going on our first family hike!
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In May, we watched Anna sing and dance as the cutest cowgirl and over the Memorial Day weekend, we took a little trip to Willamsburg.
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(click here for picture comparison)

June was mostly spent vacationing. In the beginning of the month, Luke and I escaped to Aruba. Then we took a week of family vacation to (you guessed it!) Williamsburg. We went with friends and had a wonderful time soaking up some sun. In between those two trips, Anna finished up her second year of preschool.
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Summer 2014 (July and August) was pale in comparison to Summer 2013. In 2013, I had a 4-day weekend every weekend and took the kids on lots of adventures. This year, they just went to daycare. I wrote about our daily summer schedule (morning and evening). Some of our summer highlights were: POTTY TRAINING, Baltimore, playgrounds and parks and creeks, carnival, and the Washington Monument. We also mulled over this tough decision all summer before finally deciding that it was a no-go.
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September brought on the usual -- going back to school. Some of our fall fun included, Kings Dominiona wedding, pumpkins, apples, and zoo.
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In October, we carved pumpkins. But then the whole house got hit with a stomach virus. At least we were all better by Halloween.
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We went to Disney World in November for Will's 3rd birthday. Luke and I were both ridiculously sick all through it, but the kids had a wonderful, wonderful time. Then we had a very low-key Thanksgiving at home, just the 5 (dog included) of us.
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Anna gave me the best present in December -- she finally decided that school wasn't bad after all! The year ended with Santa coming to our house and we hosting a warm and cozy Christmas at home.
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Cheers to 2015!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, December 26, 2014

“hey, he didn’t finish the cookie!”

That was what Will said when he saw that Santa left a tiny piece of cookie on the plate. I told him that Santa was in a rush to get to other kids’ houses so couldn't finish.

He bought it.

Anyway, how was your Christmas day? Ours wasn't too bad! Shortly after 6:30a, Anna came bouncing to our bed. We snuggled for a bit, but she couldn’t wait any longer to go downstairs to check if Santa came to our house. I gave her the green night and she went running and was thrilled to find that Santa ate the cookie and left her an unicorn toy under the tree! Just what she asked for, haha. Will came down a few minutes later and was thoroughly confused by the commotion, but was happy that Santa brought him the robot he wanted.

By then since we were all gathered, we went ahead and tore into the presents!

Anna said Santa brought her the best toy. One little beanie baby made her soooo happy.
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Hubs’ favorite present were the nuts. It was either that or chips, haha.
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Will? TURTLES!
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As for me, I love love LOVE the 2015 calendar Anna made at school. It features 12 of her original artwork! We actually didn't have a calendar for the new year so this was perfect.
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The rest of the morning was spent playing with various new toys (including this very long board game), but the highlight was taking this new jeep out for a drive (my brother Andy specializes in giving the biggest toys). Anna is a pro already. Will needs more practice.
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And I also got a decent picture with me in it! And a couple of cute ones of the kiddos :)
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In the evening, we hosted both sides of our family for dinner. Earlier in the afternoon when both kids were napping, I went out to a Chinese restaurant (the only type of restaurant that’s open on Christmas day) and bought 4 huge trays of food. Then everyone else brought a dish or two to share. It was plenty of food for 16 people and we still have leftovers. This year Luke wanted to make the house as Christmas-y as possible for the gathering so he got poinsettias and even lit a balsam & cedar scented candle :) Oh, we also had a flower arrangement for the center of the table so we really had some holiday cheer!

After dinner and dessert, then the kids opened more presents. Books, art supplies, puzzles. They were pleased and wanted to play with everything all at once.
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I am most excited about Anna’s sticker maker. I am going to have so much fun with that.

So that was our Christmas day. There will be more get-togethers in the upcoming days as we still have family in town...so festivities continue on. Wishing your all a happy holiday season!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve

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Last night we made cookies for Santa.

I definitely messed up somewhere along the way in the makings of these Chocolate Chip Amish Puff Cookies because they tasted nothing like the "lighter, buttery texture" description.

But either way, the kids had fun helping. And by that I meant licking the sugars off the counter-top and, when that was gone, reaching in the bag for more. I will say that Will didn't contribute much, but Anna actually helped me roll the dough balls. She used to be crazy neurotic about getting her hands dirty, but no more. She actually asked to make sugar cookies so "we can decorate with icing and sprinkles." It sounded like disaster for a weeknight activity...maybe we will tackle that over the Christmas break. MAYBE.

Will was so cute. As he was eating the leftover M&Ms (I altered the recipe and used M&Ms in addition to chocolate chips. Maybe that was why the cookies didn't turn out?), he said, "I hope Santa Claus likes the cookies." Oh buddy :) We actually didn't make it to see Santa this year. We had it all planned, but then Santa went to Anna's school and we knew that Will wouldn't have cared anyway (we asked to double check) so we skipped it and saved $20. Here is a picture of Anna's picture from school though, just for the 2014 record:
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Also, last night after the kids gone to bed, I finished wrapping all the presents. I kept it all very simple without pretty bows and ribbons, but I am calling it a win because it's done. The kids' eyes grew even wider when the came downstairs and saw more presents under the tree this morning. Tonight the kids will wear their new Christmas pjs and watch Frosty the Snowman. We will put cookies and milk out for Santa (and carrots for his reindeers) and read a Christmas story or two.

Then tomorrow the countdown will finally be done!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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 about...so I thought I would do a little update on Anna and her school life. There is a lot of good things to say :)
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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!!
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|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.
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|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 dislike 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Disney World 2014! A Quick Trip Report!

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I thought I was going to do several posts to highlight our Disney vacation, but I am feeling lazy so here is a bullet list to sum it all up:

THE DETAILS

- We spent 6 days at Disney World and went to one of the parks every day. We allocated 1 day each for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, and 3 days at the Magic Kingdom. I think we agreed that 2 days at the Magic Kingdom would be plenty in the future - although having 3 gave us the opportunity to take it slow.

- Also in the future, I think we will skip the Disney Dining Plan promotion. Sure it was nice to have all the food covered, but we ate way too much. We didn't like being tied to dining reservations either -- there were some days where we had to stay in the parks because of them. Instead we will take advantage of other discounts, like room or tickets.

- If you like to know, we spent $2000 on the Disney portion of our vacation. That included the hotel, park tickets, and food. Very affordable, but keep in mind that we stayed at a budget hotel. When we stayed at a Hampton Inn on the drive back home, I exclaimed that the towels here were so thick and so fluffy and the bed was so comfortable. Haha! And this was just a Hampton Inn! So you know that Pop Century definitely wasn't luxurious by any means.

- This was the first time we went to Disney in November and I expected a light(er) crowd, especially given that it was before the Thanksgiving holiday. I was wrong. There were so SO many people. We had to stand in line for everything. Even the PeopleMover had a line! For those who are familiar with that ride, you know that's just plain crazy.

- Having said that, it WAS nice to go to Disney in a different season. In the past, we had always gone in September or October and it was pumpkins everywhere. This time, we saw the parks all decked out in Christmas decor and it was honestly pretty magical :)

THE PARKS, RIDES, AND CHARACTERS

- The kids went on their first roller coaster ride - The Barnstormer. It was great! They both loved it! I just love Disney roller coasters. They don't make me completely nauseous, but still have little thrills here and there. Unfortunately, Will was an inch too short for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but Anna and I went on it and it was excellent ride. However, everything was pale in comparison to It's A Small World. We went on that 3 times. There is something about that ride that captivated them completely.

- Anna wanted to take pictures with anyone and everyone this year. In the end, we got pictures with Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Mickey, Daisy, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Pooh, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella. OH, and ANNA and ELSA. We waited for about an hour and half for the Frozen girls. Still can't believe we did that, but Anna was happy. Will said he wanted pictures with Anna and Elsa too, but at the last minute he copped out.

- He was not into the characters AT ALL, but poor boy couldn't escape Anastasia. The wicked stepsister from Cinderella gave Will his very first kiss from a non-family member. Hehe.

- The day we went to the Animal Kingdom was the worse day for me. I had this terrible headache. We stuck around because we had a lunch reservation. The highlight on this day for the kids was the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Those two laughed and laughed throughout the bumpy ride. Hubs took a video and I need to remember to show it to them. They will love it!

- We went back to Pop Century early that day and the hubs took the kids swimming so I could rest. This was the only time that the kids got to swim during our stay. I went to look for them after my nap and I could hear my kids as soon as I stepped outside. They are loud when they are having fun.

- I just went back through the pictures to help me remember what we did at Epcot. Beside the usual rides, the kids got soaked at a splash pad. It really wasn't a particularly hot day either so I bet people thought we were crazy to let the kids play like that. We had to change them into dry clothes behind a bench. We also ate at a new-to-us restaurant - the San Angel Inn Restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion. Thumbs down on that one.

REMEMBER WHEN

- Will wore the "Happy Birthday" celebration button during the vacation, which made sense since it was his birthday. Anna, however, picked her buttons based on design. She alternated between "Happy Anniversary" and "Happily Ever After" buttons. What is it with kids and buttons?

- The kids watched so much TV during the trip. Like calories, screen time on vacations don't count right? And they probably ate double their weight in sweets. It's good that we don't vacation often.

- We loved going into the stores and trying on various hats and ears. Speaking of ears, my mom gave the kids $30 of vacation money. Anna spent hers in one fell swoop on a set of pink sparkly Minnie ears. Will got a light-up glow stick, a snow globe, and a little Lotso bear thingy. Kids nowadays are so luckily. When I was little, going on vacations was already enough. We never bought souvenirs!

- This is one of my favorite memories. At check-in, we were given vouchers for 3 refillable mugs. They came in red, blue, green, and purple. Anna got purple, Will picked blue (no yellow available), and I ended up with green. For the entire trip, every time Will saw someone with the same color of mug we have, he pointed and shouted, "Look! Purple cup! Just like yours Anna!" or "Blue cup, just like mine!" And he always ended with a disappointment, "Too bad there is no yellow cup..." So funny, cracked me up every time.

- I want to remember that the kids were so well behaved the entire trip.

LASTLY...

- We pushed two strollers around this time. It was no big deal for us the parents and the kids were happy. But hopefully the next time we go back, there will be NO strollers!

- Luke and I have decided no more Disney vacations for a while. While the kids really had a wonderful time, we were kind of meh about it. I think it was mostly due to us being sick, but the waiting in line sucked too. I am sad to say, but maybe Disney is losing its appeal on us.

- Besides, now that Anna will be starting real school next year, I doubt we will be vacationing while school is in session. Even though she goes to school mostly for fun right now, she still missed a lot of work and we are still playing catch up with the worksheets a week and half later. And I can't imagine going to Disney during the summer months (too hot) and the holidays (too expensive).

- So basically, no more Disney in the foreseeable future. But - a big but - we have made that bold statement before and we are known to go to Disney year after year...so I am not making myself accountable ;)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Will Turns Three

I took this picture on the last day of our vacation, on Will's 3rd birthday. We were about to start the drive home, but before that, I found a yellow wall and asked him to, "Smile!"
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Will faced a lot of changes this year. The biggest being that he went from staying home with Grandma to starting daycare (in March) to starting school (in September). I wasn't prepared for the daycare change, but Will made it so easy for me because he took it all in strides and adjusted so well. He didn't warm up to school as easily. For a while he was so upset when I drop him off at school...he howled and whined and kicked like you won't believe...so the teacher suggested doing curbside drop-off (instead of walking him to the classroom). I took her suggestion and now not even a couple of weeks later, he's completely tear-free! I am thrilled!

Right now, Will's daily weekday schedule looks like this: school from 9am-12pm and daycare from 12:15pm to 4:45pm. I don't like that he has to be at two places every day, but this will last at the most till the summer. Starting in June, the plan for Will is to attend full-day summer camp at Anna's school, which he will continue to attend for the 2015-2016 school year. But in the meantime, Will is learning and thriving and having fun at various places.

Anyway, turning THREE was a very exciting moment for Will. We have been talking about it and celebrating it all month long. On the eve of his birthday, he said, "When I wake up tomorrow, I will be 3." Yep, he got it right exactly.

On his actual birthday, we were just wrapping up our 10-day stint in Orlando and spent much of the day driving toward home. He had Burger King chicken nuggets for lunch and shrimp lo-mein for dinner. Eh, not very healthy. We sang happy birthday altogether in the car at the top of our lungs. He cuddled to sleep that night with hubs (I bunked with Anna) at a Hampton Inn in North Carolina. It was a very uneventful birthday, but he was very happy.

We didn't give Will a party this year, but we did bring cupcakes to his classroom. I found these dinosaur ring toppers online. They were perfect for my dino-loving boy. I also made "Make-Your-Own Dinosaur Fossil" goody bags for his classmates. He helped me package everything.
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It was so fun to spend an hour with Will in his school environment. I bet it made him feel really special for us to be there. Luke even read 3 books to the kids and THEY ALL LOVED IT. During our visit, I learned a song that they sing about the weather and now, whenever he will humor me, I love singing it together with him.
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Overall…Will is growing up and becoming his own person, but yet he is still a sweet and caring little kid and always soooo adorable and squeezable. He is super active, super mischievous, super talkative, and super loud. He's my most favorite son ever. And there is not a day that goes by without me telling him that.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Anna's School Picture, the Second Edition

What a difference a year makes!
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(Anna, taken on 10.10.14, at 4 years and 7 months old)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Disney World 2014! The Pre-Disney Days!

We booked our Disney vacation back in May when the annual FREE Disney Dining Plan promotion came out. Since there were only few dates available in October and I didn't want the kids to miss out on Halloween back home, we picked to go in November, around Will's birthday. The package included a 6-night stay at Disney's Pop Century Resort, theme park tickets (6 days for 3 people - Will was free), and of course, the DDP (!!!). So the original plan was just that - drive to Disney World, spend about a week there, and drive back.

But sometime in July, the Hilton Vacation Club contacted Luke with a relatively cheap 3-night stay at a Hilton property in Orlando (plus a few other freebies) if we sit through a sales pitch. We had done it before at Myrtle Beach, knew what to expect, and figured why the heck not? We were already going to be there anyway so we might as well extend our vacation and explore Orlando/outside of Disney, something we had never done before.

Well, it turned out we didn't explore much of anything in those 3 days...but I still want to document it for posterity. Even though it was uneventful, it was still memorable!

Day 1: After a 13-hour overnight drive, we tried checking in at the hotel at 9am, only to be told that there were no rooms available. Luke was half dead by this point so it was just me and the kids. Luckily, the hotel had a nice playground and we were just in time for a storytime/craft activity, but ultimately, the pool kept the kids extremely happy. The room was finally ready 2 or 3 hours (more like 3 if I remember it correctly because Luke was annoyed) later. We unpacked, cleaned up, ate a snack-y kind of lunch and everyone took a nap. We didn't do much for the rest of the day - had a great dinner at a Chinese buffet (we need Chinese food wherever we go) on International Drive and that was about it? All I know is that the kids were in good spirits - they loved being away from home and on vacation!!
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Day 2: The morning was spent at the Hilton Vacation Club sales pitch. We didn't buy, but it still took over two hours. Luke and I agreed that we are never going to sign up to do such things again NO MATTER WHAT. Such a waste of time. After the pitch, we went back to the same Chinese buffet (we really need Chinese food wherever we go) for lunch. I think it was around 1pm - nap time - when we got back to the resort, but the kids really wanted to go swimming so we did. We spent a good amount at the pool and it was reaffirmed again for me that a pool is all the kids need. They asked to go to the pool every single day for the rest of the vacation and I think they would actually choose the pool over the Magic Kingdom.

Anyway, by the time we went back to our room and cleaned up, it was past 4pm and time for a late nap. And guess what? The next thing I knew, it was like 8pm when I woke up. And the kids were still sleeping! As it turned out, Will just kept on sleeping till the next morning. Anna woke up for about half an hour, ate a cereal bar and apple, and went back to bed. I thought I would never be able to fall back to sleep after my 4-hour nap, but I did without any problems. Luke, still sick, woke up for a bit but went right back to sleep too. I guess we were all so tired!

Day 3: This was the day I started to get sick (still felt alright, though), but it was the third day of our vacation and we haven't really done anything super exciting so off we went to Downtown Disney. It was nice to walk around and enjoy the beautiful warm weather. We browsed from store to store (Mickey memorabilia galore!) and had a great morning there. For lunch, we ate at T-Rex, similar to Rainforest Cafe, but with dinosaurs. The food was subpar, but we were there for the dinos!
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We went back to the resort after lunch, showered, and napped. We didn't sleep the day away this time, but when we woke up, Luke was feeling horrible. His throat had gotten much worse and he wasn't looking so hot. He ended up deciding to go to a local clinic -- the man NEVER go see doctors so I knew it was bad. The doctor (nurse?) diagnosed him with a sinus infection and gave him antibiotics. When he came back with dinner (Papa John's), he said he was feeling a million times better and we thought that he was on his way to recovery. Little did we know that we would BOTH be sick for the rest of the vacation...

In the meantime, the kids were having all kinds of fun.
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Whoa - this was a long post. If you made it this far, thanks! The next day, Day 4, we checked out and started our official Disney vacation at Pop Century. I won't be blogging about the vacation day by day from this point forward, instead I will just be sharing some highlights. Stay tuned :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Disney World 2014!

We are back from Disney World! Luke and I were both sick throughout the vacation, but as a family we still made some wonderful memories and had a great time together! I will be blogging all about our trip in the upcoming weeks so get ready for some Disney overload!

This was the first time we drove to Disney World so I am focusing this first post on just that.

Last year we purchased a minivan so the family could take more road trips in the years to come. While we have driven to Williamsburg (3 hours away) several times, I consider Disney as our first big road trip. It was great -- I had the whole back row to myself and was able to help the kids with whatever the needed. And yes, with all the space, I was able to lay down and take naps too. Driving also meant money saved on airfare. We would probably had to add another $1000 to our vacation total had we flown.

For our trip there, we decided to drive during the night time hours so we could drive without distractions from the kids. We left home at 7:46pm (I checked the clock) and started the 12+ hour drive. As soon as we were on our way, I settled the kids in with pillows and blankets and told them to go to sleep. Both kids were out within the first hour and all was good.
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Luke drove for the first 4 hours and, when we stopped for gas, I took over. Even though I had worked all day, I was pretty alert and enjoyed the drive through the Carolinas. I lasted for 3 hours and Luke drove the rest of the way to Orlando. Ultimately, it took us 13 hours, with a stop at McDonald’s for breakfast.

As for the kids, they did SO good – slept the entire time except for the last 2 hours.
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Once we arrived at the hotel at 9am, Luke was exhausted. He hadn’t gotten a good night sleep the night before (woke up at 4am to take my parents to the airport) and was at the beginning of his sickness. I was doing ok (I didn’t get sick until a few days later) since I got some sleep in the car and I knew that I had to be awake for the kids. Unfortunately our room wasn’t ready so Luke could only rest outside while the kids got into their bathing suits and splashed away.
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(Just a note that we stayed at a Hilton near SeaWorld the first 3 days before checking in at Disney’s Pop Century for the next 6 days.)

For our drive home, we broke it into two days. We left Pop Century around 9:20am and drove until 6pm-ish to Fayettesville NC. I will always remember this day because it was Will's birthday! The birthday boy spent most of his 3rd birthday in the car and had Chinese take-out at a Hampton Inn :) Shrimp lo-mein!! I loved this night at the hotel with my little family :)
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Then the next day, after breakfast at the hotel, we all piled back in the van a little after 8am and survived the rest of the drive home. We pulled into our garage just before 2:30pm, after stopping to get groceries and picking up Pesto dog.

Overall, the kids did wonderfully in the car with the help of tablets.
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Luke and I have talked about our future trips and decided that we are no longer going to drive through the night – it’s unsafe and it takes a toll to stay up. I definitely feel that it was particularly worse for Luke this time because he wasn’t feeling well – but since he does the bulk of the driving wherever we go, I will leave it up to him. I thought driving during the day would cause lots of stress (dealing with kids and all), but it was actually okay! Of course, there were some hard moments, but nothing terrible. Next time for any long drives, we will definitely break it up to make it more manageable.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!