Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Lovin', Had me a Blast

I thought that I would blog more than once while on vacation but that just meant two things. One, we played hard and two, when the kids napped I rested too. Both great things. But now that I am back and mostly recovered, it's time to share the places we went to with a picture overload.

::JAMESTOWN BEACH (ALONG THE COLONIAL PARKWAY)::

This was our first river experience on this trip. Anna jumped right into the river and never looked back, but Will was reluctant. I spent all my time on land with him, but it was a good time nevertheless. We walked along the shore, played in the sand, and threw rocks.
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::VIRGINIA BEACH::

While we didn't have any specific plans on this vacation, I did want to make a day trip to VA Beach. We left Williamsburg at 9:10 in the morning and got to VA Beach around 10:30. The ride was somewhat scenic toward the end with water view on both sides (it reminded me a little bit of the drive to Key West) and the kids enjoyed a long tunnel. Once we got to the beach, we immediately laid our towels down and went for a dip in the Atlantic. The waves were strong so the kids stayed mostly on shore, but they had so much fun chasing and running from the waves. Will especially. It was so fun watching the chubby guy pitter-pattering on the sand. I took a dozen of videos, haha.

I think to really see VA Beach with little kids, an overnight stay is necessary. I would've loved to walk the boardwalk and see the sights, but it was the middle of the day and the kids were tired. So it was a short stay for us, but I am definitely glad we made it happen anyway!
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::YORKTOWN BEACH::

I love Yorktown, especially along the river front. It has several shops, restaurants, but for us, the main attraction is the beach. It's gentle enough for little kids to play safely. Again, Anna had lots of fun floating in the river and Will finally conquered his fear and did too this time!
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Taking little kids to the beach is a lot of work, do you agree? But after this vacation I can honestly say that we are getting better at it. Sure it's messy (sand everywhere!) and tiring (lugging children and bags!), but the moments of fun that the kids have is worth it for me :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Start of a Great Summer! We are in Williamsburg!

My coworker-turned-friend invited us to stay a week at his timeshare and how can we say no? So until Friday, we are here again in Williamsburg :) Seriously, we are practically locals by now, but we love this slower pace of life (i.e. perfect for kids) and uninterrupted family time (i.e. perfect for us). We have been looking forward to this vacation since January!
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So far besides the pool, we haven't done anything that we couldn't have done at home :) Before we left home, we borrowed a bunch of library books and took them down here with us. Each night, we have been reading, just like we do at home. The kids finally finished their B&N summer reading program yesterday so we ran to the nearest B&N to redeem the free books. Such a fun rewarding program. If you didn't already know about it, I highly recommend it!
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We also went to Sweet Frog for some fro yo. It was a perfect summer day to eat some cool treats outside. I adore Will's smile face. I want to capture as many of it as I can before he learns to smile for real, haha.
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As I said, we are here with my coworker's family, staying at Williamsburg Plantation. He's got two girls, ages 1 and 3. They are in the downstairs unit and we are upstairs, completely separate living quarters. The kids get along fabulously and it's nice to have other adults to talk to. This is our first time vacationing with another family and so far loving it.
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We don't have any day to day plans for this vacation. Just going to chill and roll with the punches :) But since we are here for a whole week, I do want to make a day trip to Virginia Beach. We have never been so it will be a first. I hope we can make it happen.

Cheers to a memorable vacation!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Begins!

Hooray! We made it to the last day of school!

Comparison time.

Here is Anna, taken just this morning, before I took her to school:
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One with her "baby" brother Will:
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This was her back in September 2013, 9 months ago:
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Definitely a little bit taller, but other than that, not much has changed?

I wish I could say that this had been a smooth year for Anna, but I can't. After a great first day of school, I thought we were on our way to a drama-free school year. But it all started in October when she started whining for about two seconds at drop-off. It continued to be like that for the next several months. Beginning in May, a little whine turned into full-blown cry that lasted on and off throughout the day. Then in late May/June, cries turned into screams. High-pitch screams. On some days she screamed so hard that she had to be removed from the classroom. Picture me sitting in my office and getting a call from the Director. Not pleasant.

The teachers were just as clueless as us as to why she was behaving this way. It could had been the transition from Grandma-care to daycare, but no amount of talking, bribing, and umm..yelling could make her stop. So we just took it one day at a time, and finally now on the last day, I think I am probably happier than her that school is out. Happy that I don't have to deal with her going to school for the next two months.

But whining/crying/screaming aside, she actually really did have fun in the classroom. She loved having jobs, doing art projects, and participating during circle. And every. single. day, when we went to pick up her, she always walked down the steps happily.

I am hoping that her resistance to school is just a stage and she will grow out of it this fall. I am also hoping that with Will going to school with her (fingers crossed that he gets potty trained in time!), it will calm her down a bit.

Anyway, to show a token of my appreciation for the teachers, I handed out gifts this morning! This year, I put very little effort in the entire thing (tsk tsk). I bought two Amazon gift cards, printed this at Walgreens, and sat down with Anna after dinner one night to pull it all together. As simple as the gift was, it was honestly pretty perfect. All teachers are great, but I think that those selected few who are "lucky" enough to call Anna her student are extra amazing ;)
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And so it begins again. Summer starts! We are off to a VACATION!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Opportunity: What Would You Do?

- I have an exciting news to share!

- Hubs has been offered an opportunity to work in Asia! We will get to live in TAIWAN! MY HOMELAND! We need to make a decision and would love to get your perspective.

- But before I go any further, I will back up a little bit.

- Back in March, the hubs started a conversation with the APAC folks within his company regarding a position in Asia. The short version is that there are lots of business opportunities in HK and they need someone who knows the company technology and Cantonese to help with the said business opportunities. The hubs was chosen to be that person. It was all very exciting, until we looked into the cost of living in HK. And the competitiveness of getting kids into schools. And the price tag that comes with the schools. It was all very, very crazy and we kind of just said yeah, this isn’t going to happen. We can't afford to live in HK. Simple as that.

- So we forgot about it….until it came up again in Aruba. The APAC leaders met with Luke face-to-face and they really wanted to make it happen.

- And this time, they said what about Taiwan? It's much cheaper to live there.

- Taiwan! The place where I was born, where I spent the first 10 years of my life. I have such fond memories.

- How it would work is this: We live in Taipei, and Luke travels weekly to HK or other parts of Asia, wherever the business is. There is no company office in Taipei so he works from home whenever he’s not traveling. The contract term is for two years, with an one year option. We can use our expat package ($60,000 USD) however we like, but all moving expenses, relocation, air tickets, etcetera come from this bucket. The purpose of the package is to move the family there and to pay for the kids’ tuition, not to cover our daily expenses.

- While this is a decision that will be made by two people, I am the bigger deciding factor because I would be the one giving up my career and taking on bulk of the parenting in Taiwan. There is a lot for me to consider.

- So here is my take. I honestly think this is an exciting opportunity to have and kudos to the hubs for being so valued at his company, but of course, there are buts:

- As I said, my career. It’s not that I love what I do, but my job has offered us many luxuries. The ability to take multiple vacations a year, the ability to help us live (relatively) worry-free of money, the ability to do save for retirement and do many things! It’s a stress-free, good-paying job. A job that a lot of people would like to have, I think. And the icing on the cake? I have a TWO-MINUTE commute. I don’t ever have to face traffic and I can be at daycare to pick up the kids almost as soon as I hit shutdown.

- But the thing is? I kind of want to be a stay-at-home-mom. I just don’t have the guts to walk away from the easy money. Taiwan is the perfect opportunity for me to make that leap because I am not just giving up the job to stay home, but also to do something brand new.

- Unfortunately, my career is not one that I can take a two-year sabbatical and pick up where I left off. So when we come back to the States, I would have to start fresh, find something new. Sure it may not pay nearly as much and I will start from scratch, but isn’t that what a lot of people do when they get lay off unexpectedly?

- However, the one thing I worry the most is SOLO PARENTING. As I said, Luke will be traveling all over Asia and I will be left with the kids alone most of the time. That will be a big dynamic change for our family. Sure being a SAHM means more solo parenting anyway, but to not have Luke’s help at night is something to dread about. How will the kids do without their father?

- And then there is the concern about the kids adjusting. Anna worries me the most because of her attitude toward anything new, especially when it comes school. I will have to write a separate post later, but that girl is giving us such a hard time about school lately. How will she do at new school in a foreign country? Unless she surprises me completely, I already know the answer. What about the air pollution, the hot humid weather, and apartment-living?

- But I think about the great possibilities of living in Taiwan! I get to spend 24/7 with the kids! Living the life of a stay at home mom :)

- The kids will be fully immersed in Chinese, because let’s face it, learning Chinese while living in Northern VA just isn’t going to happen. And I think about the food that will be available to us. Not having to cook every day – because it is actually cheaper to eat out than in. I think I would absolutely LOVE that. And oh the places we could go while over in Taiwan! :) :) :)  

- Last but not least, I also believe that Luke would do great in Asia. A chance for him because he has wanted it for so long. A chance for him to make it big.

- So tell me, what would you do if you were in my shoes? Keep banking it here and live a cushy life? Or take on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and figure out the rest later?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Aruba Recap

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Last week, Luke and I were in Aruba for 5 days!

It was a big, exciting trip for us in a lot of ways.

First of all: um...Aruba!

It was also only the second time ever that we’ve been away from our kids together overnight. (My parents came over and stayed with the kids the first 3 days and Luke's sister took care of them for 2 days. They all survived.)

Oh and did I mentioned that this trip was free? Yup, Luke made his numbers at work and the entire vacation was hosted by his company. What's better than a vacation? A FREE vacation :)

We stayed at The Ritz-Carlton for 4 nights. The hotel wasn't as ritzy (pun intended) as I had expected, but the service was top-notch. We were offered ice pops while lounging on the beach and slices of cantaloupe by the pool. Lounge chairs were set up for us. Luggage was delivered to our room. We didn't have to lift a finger. I was unaccustomed to such royal treatment!

I really just wanted to relax on the trip so we spent most of the time doing just that. The company did provide an excursion of our choosing and we picked a catamaran & snorkeling trip. Alas I didn't see much fish, but it was a beautiful day to ride on a catamaran. Our first! There was an open bar (not that we drink) and lunch. Usually when we go on snorkeling excursions, we are lucky if they give us a bottle of water. This was definitely a treat.
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We also tried stand up paddle board. Or actually Luke did because I never stood up. We shared one paddle board -- I sat and he paddled :) But the strong wind kept blowing us away! We were later told that the way we did it was the worst possible way to do it. Hmm...something about the center of gravity? It was fun nevertheless. Here is a picture of just Luke on the paddle board:
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We ate all our meals at the Ritz except on two occasions. We went on a company-sponsored dinner at Papiamento, a very fancy restaurant in Aruba? The ambiance was great, but I thought the food was just meh. The next night, we ditched the company gala and ventured off on our own. We took a cab to downtown (Oranjestad) and ate at Hung Paradise. You wouldn't think that Chinese food in Aruba would be any good, but it was delicious. We cleaned our plates. Haha, we need our Chinese food wherever we go.
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When we couldn't take any more sun, we spent a lot of time in our comfy room -- just relaxing, sleeping, watching TV, browsing. No parenting, no crying kids, no worries about what to make for dinner. It was glorious.
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I said I wouldn't miss the kids because they were sooo naughty a few days prior to the trip and I couldn't wait to get away. But of course I missed them. We talked/Skyped every day. Twice. Sometimes three. Sometimes four. Anna was still awake in her bed the night we came back and when I went to say goodnight, I saw her smiling in the dark. She was just as happy to see me as I was to see her. Then I found Will in our bed and I snuggled up to him. 
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So that was our trip in a nutshell! Overall, it was a trip to remember and the hubs and I enjoyed the time away. But...there is always a but...it's good to be home too.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wish You Were Here :)

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[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, June 2, 2014

First Time Riding the Metro! To the Zoo!

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The weather was too nice to stay home so we took the kids on a little adventure. A ride on the Metro! Destination? The ZOO!

Instead of taking the Orange line all the way into the city, which would have taken forever, we decided to drive in and park near the Smithsonian stop. Then from there, we took the Orange train to Metro Center and then hopped on the Red train to Woodley Park. The entire experience was a first for the kids. Anna felt a bit scared after I mistakenly told her that would we be inside a dark tunnel (which she loves to go through in the car so I thought that might excite her), but felt better pretty quickly and ended up really liking it. Will enjoyed everything :)
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We were stroller-free so we used a large backpack to carry everything. Extra clothes, diapers, wipes, snacks, water, etc. The trains run slower on the weekends, so there was lot of waiting, but they kids didn't have any problems with that. New sights kept them occupied. And once we were on the trains, we only had a few stops before getting off.
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Then after we got off the Metro at Woodly Park, it was a 10 to 15 minute walk to the zoo entrance. The kids did pretty well walking this stretch, but by the time we actually GOT to the zoo, they were so tired.
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I got my shot with the kids - May 2011, April 2012, and July 2013.
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So this is exactly what we did at the zoo:

Anna took a potty break at the Visitor Center.
We rested and ate grapes and people watched.
Saw zebras.
Saw an elephant.
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They did this.
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More resting while Will ate a fruit pouch.
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The end.

The return trip to Smithsonian was tiring because both kids were beat. Although I am going to give my little girl a shout-out because she did so good. She was tired, but marched on. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about Will. But he was happy as long as he was in my arms. The picture below may look like he was screaming and kicking, but it was actually his 'smile for the camera' face.
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The main purpose of this entire outing was letting the kids ride on the Metro so I am not disappointed at all that we didn't see more than two animals. But now that the kids had the experience, I am not riding with them for fun again. Driving is soooooo much easier!

PS. For our late lunch we tried a new pho place in Falls Church City. We had a Groupon deal. However, after this meal, we added one more reason to stick with our tried and true from now on.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!