Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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

What have you been reading to the kids lately? Here are some good ones we are reading!
|1| I think this is a book that all families can relate to -- the importance of intentionally spending time together. When I read it to the kids, we talked about the illustrations and Anna was able to tell the story in her own words just from the pictures. I like that it’s a quick read but with a profound message :)

|2| Will has been learning about colors and mixing colors at school so this book is a hit with him. It’s also a win for me as well because I like books that are easy and quick to read. This book is both.

|3| The hubs read this book and we all listened. Such a cute and fun book with clever rhymes, just like all other Julia Donaldson books. My other favorite books by the same author is What the Ladybug Heard, The Snail and the Whale, and Room on the Broom (perfect for Halloween).

|4| Iggy Peck is no regular toddler -- he makes towers out of diapers, cathedrals out of apples, and a chateau of chalk. This book encourages imagination and perseverance, which are both great things. Highly recommend! I will have to pick up the companion book, Rosie Revere, Engineer from the library.

|5| You can't go wrong with any of the Elephant and Piggie books. My kids always get a kick out of them and it's great for teaching word recognition.

|6| I am a 36-year-old grown woman and I really REALLY like this book. Lots of pictures, not too many words, and hilariously funny and sweet.
|7| I love this book and author. The story is so cute and simple with great drawings. It's definitely a book that I can read over and over again and not get tired of it.

|8| I can't comment on this one because Luke read it to the kids. I got it based on the raving reviews on Amazon -- a perfect 5-star....I had to give it a try.

|9| I loved the Berenstain Bears growing up and now we are slowly reading through every single book in the series with the kids. With Halloween coming up, this book is perfect. This one actually has 3 stories, all with just the right amount of spookiness and all with happy endings.

|10| A super cute story about friendship and taking turns! We all love it and I have already reserved more books by Helen Cooper at the library. Seriously, I am a new fan.

|11| Since we grew our own pumpkins this year, this was a fitting book to read. My kids are probably too young to fully understand the science behind it, but the illustrations are great. I will probably check it out from the library again next year when they are older.

|12| This is a funny, charming Halloween story that introduces some of the traditional frightening monsters of Halloween like a green-faced witch, vampire, ghost, bat, and a mummy but in a non-scary fun-filled way. Great book!!

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

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fall Zoo Day

Earlier this month I saw a Family Zoo Package deal on LivingSocial –- the deal included parking (normally $22), four carousel rides ($3/ride), zoo map (another $3), two panda ears, and two packs of animal “zookies” – all for $25. I clicked on the link…mulled over it…and closed the browser. Later when I clicked the link again, the price showed $22 (yay!) for a limited time, so I jumped on it immediately. Normally a trip to the zoo would cost that much just for parking so this was a terrific deal to me.

Sunday was a nice day, weather-wise, so we decided to make it a zoo day.
Every time I go to the zoo, I see something that I have never seen before. This time it was the American Trail. Here is a tip: if you start the trail at the Elephant Outpost, the trail is an easy and shady down-slope walk. _DSC1104
Not many animals to be seen on the trail but toward the end is SPLASH PAD and a wonderful viewing area of the sea lions. I think the splash pad would be awesome on hot summer days, but it wasn’t hot so we didn’t stay long. The kids did like the sea lions a lot, though.
When we existed the trail, we found ourselves at the entrance of Amazonia, one of our favorite places at the zoo. I am trying to get myself in the pictures more with the kids so here is one of us at the rainforest:
We promised the kids carousel after Amazonia. This carousel was unique in the sense that it featured a lot of exotic animals, not just your typical horse. Of course, my kids didn’t pick anything unique. Will rode the lion and Anna wanted the goat. I ended up on a rhino and hubs on an ostrich just because they were right next to the lion and goat. Pretty fun. I think they are going to expect carousel rides whenever we come to the zoo now.
The last thing we did before we left was seeing the big cats – lions and tigers. We actually packed the kids pbj sandwiches and chips so we found a bench near the big cats and they ate while watching lion cubs play. Believe it or not, this was our first time packing lunch on outings. Usually whenever we are out and about on weekends, we just grab pho on the way home. But this was great, we saved some money and we stayed at the zoo a bit longer.
Oh, not pictured, but we also saw pandas (including Bao Bao who was in a tree), elephant, orangutan, bison, wolf, farm animals, and a bunch of sea creatures and reptiles. I am probably missing a couple, though. Overall, we saw more animals than ever before.
We had a great day at the zoo and I love LivingSocial for making it more affordable and fun!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, September 26, 2014

this morning's conversation while on the way to school

It's part of my daily morning routine to drop the kids off at school. Sometimes we ride in silence, but today we had a pretty lively talk. I forgot how the conversation actually started but here is a snippet of it. I forget so many cute things that the kids say, but I definitely want to remember this one :)

Anna: When I grow up I am going to have my own house with my own family.
Me: Oooo, can Mama go visit you?
Anna: Sure!
Will: When I grow up I am going to have my own house with my own family.
Me: Ok, can Mama go visit you too?
Will: Yes.
Me: Will I have my own room?
Anna: Yes you will have your own room, but you can sleep next to me.
Will: You can sleep next to me too.
Anna: What about Baba?
Me: I don’t know. Maybe Baba will just stay home in Rohoboth.
Anna: My house will be next to your house.
Will: My house will be next to your house.
Anna: Mama’s house will be in the middle. Then when I want to visit, I will just drive over. I will bring my kids.
Me: Hey Anna, your kids will call me Grandma.
Anna: Why?
Me: It’s just like you call Mama’s mama Grandma.
Anna: I will still just call you Mama.
Me: Ok.

(Anna - 4.5 years old :: Will - 2 years and 10 1/2 months old)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 22, 2014

apple picking @ homestead farm (aka the best farm ever!)

Luke and I have our differences, but I love that we are on the same page when it comes to getting an early start to avoid the masses. On Saturday morning, as soon as my mom arrived to our house, we were on the road by 8:45 for our apple picking outing. By the time we parked on the dirt road, we were one of the first few cars there and the weather was still nice and cool.

It wasn’t long before we wheeled the kids to the orchard... (last year)
and started picking (and tasting) apples.

We started out with Fuji (they were small so perfect for the kids/Anna to take to school), then Granny Smith (we turned them into apple pies later that afternoon), and Jonagold (which were huge and delicious looking).
Since you save 40 cents a pound once it is over 20 pounds, my mom insisted we kept on picking. In total, we ended up picking over 33 pounds!

As always, we visited some farm animals. There was virtually no typical farm smell so even Anna liked it. I think both of them let this goat lick their hands.
The kids then climbed and jumped on bales of hay while the adults sat and watched from far away. The hubs zoomed in to get this shot.
And this cut out board was perfect for the grand kids and grandma.
Apple picking is such a quintessential fall activity and I am glad we were able to do it again this year. Definitely will come back to Homestead Farm again...it's a great place catered to families with young kids. I had wanted to do blueberry or peach picking this summer, but it never happened. Maybe next year! Oh and I would love to take advantage of the picnic tables available and eat lunch here one day.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Eight Little Pumpkins

Remember our accidental pumpkin patch? Well, it was harvest time!!
Here is Anna holding up the very first pumpkin we harvested.
We ended up harvesting eight pumpkins, all around the same size. Unfortunately, they never got any bigger than a small pumpkin you would buy at the store, no matter how long we waited. Luke cut the pumpkins from the vine and got rid of the thorns (so many thorns...) and the kids had fun bringing them inside and decorating the house with them. It now feels like fall in our little home. We still have a couple (maybe 5?) growing but I noticed that with the cooler weather, the growth has definitely slowed down so I just hope they make it to maturity.
I have enjoyed watching the pumpkins grow. Every morning, while Luke got the kids in the car, I would take a stroll to the patch and count pumpkins. It gave me so much joy whenever I saw new little green pumpkins forming. Haha, loved it.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wedding Crashers

(Okay not really because we were actually invited, but it made a good post title.)

This past weekend we attended the wedding of a very good friend!

Here is my fine-looking family :) Too bad we didn't think to get a family shot...it's rare that we all get dressed up.
The kids and I actually skipped the ceremony because there was no way I was going to handle two kids on my own while Luke performed his best man duties (he had to be there several hours before the ceremony and there was a two-hour gap between the ceremony and reception and it was at a church AND it was raining - yes, NO FREAKING WAY). So instead we had a nice relaxing morning at home - my parents came over and I went grocery shopping solo and then we all went out to eat for my birthday! Then hubs came back to pick us up just when the kids woke up from their nap and off went went to "Uncle Paul's Party."

The reception was at a historic house in Old Town Alexandria, held outside under a tent with twinkling lights. The hardest part for the kids (and me) was waiting for the food because they were so hungry, but once they were fed, the party started. They had a really really good time. They danced, they laughed, they were soooooo cute.

I have another video of the hubs and the kids on the actual dance floor, but he probably won't appreciate me posting that so here is one of Anna:

Haha, she was kind of happy.

I hadn't given any thought on what to wear until the morning of the wedding. I dug this dressed out from the closet - 10 years and 2 kids later - still fits. OK, a bit snug :p
Uncle Paul is one of my favorite friends of hubs. He has a way with the kids and although we don't see him often, the kids warm up to him immediately each time.
Congratulations Paul and Jean! Have a very happy marriage!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, September 12, 2014

That time when we grew sunflowers and harvested the seeds.

Before Summer 2014 fades into a distance memory, I want to write about these sunflowers.

I distinctly remember it was Easter weekend when we planted those sunflower seeds (I posted about it here) and I said something like, "it would be so exciting if they really pop!" Ha, boy DID they?! Once they sprouted, they started growing taller and taller than we ever imagined. I had never seen such towering sunflowers as the ones in front of our house this summer. They reached our bedroom window.

Then they finally flowered and those were humongous too.
But sadly a storm came through one day in early August and we came home to find all the sunflowers knocked down. I was too busy with the kids to deal with the mess outside so Luke took care of it when he came home. It was fortunate that he did because I would have tossed them in the trash, but Luke saved the large flower heads -- said he was going to wait for them to dry and harvest the seeds. That guy is a wealth of knowledge and ideas :)

So a week or two later, once they were dried, he and Anna, sat out in the back, rubbed the seeds out one by one. It was like pulling little individual kernels from the cob. Anna was really into helping. It was a great hands-on learning experience. For me too. We cracked open the shells and ate a couple as we worked. It felt great eating from our garden! Living off our land!
remember those giant sunflowers?  we are picking the seeds and eating them!
Our bounty! We harvested all seven flower heads and had enough seeds to fill up a big zip lock bag. We ended roasting them and the hubs loved having them as snacks.
When we planted the seeds in the spring, I expected to get some yellow blooms in the front yard but what we got was much more. What a fun (and educational) activity it turned out to be - from digging holes in the ground to cracking open the shells with our teeth. We plan to do it again next year and hope to see the same amazing result!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Day at Kings Dominion, the 2014 Edition

Yesterday was our annual Kings Dominion trip, courtesy of my company. It was our third year attending the event and DEFINITELY our best year yet. The kids had a really fun time! We arrived early and Planet Snoopy was nearly empty so we were able to get on a couple of kiddie rides right off the bat.

This year was the first year that we actually got on the kiddie rides with the kids, since for some they weren't tall enough to ride on their own. After riding on the Flying Ace Balloon Race, which was essentially a spinning tea cup ride in the air, my head was...well, spinning...so I skipped the next ride on Lucy's Tugboat and took this video instead:

Kids had a blast!

After that we headed to a different section of the park because the crowd was starting to build up. Over there, we all got on the carousel (it never gets old for the kids) and an antique car ride for the entire family (Luke pedaled, Anna steered).

We said we wouldn't eat at the catered lunch this year, but we still did anyway :p After a very unhealthy lunch (fried chicken, hot dog, ice cream), I was glad that we remembered to bring the kids' bathing suits (forgot the towels though!) because it got hot all of a sudden. So similar to last year, we went to the water park to cool off. The kiddos had a fun time splashing and playing on their own for a long time. We actually just sat on the sideline, relaxed and watched. In the end, Anna actually got her face wet and went down the slide. I had a super proud moment right then and there :) Oh, and it was also neat to bump into an old classmate of Anna's and his family. Small world.
I had been waiting all year to get another family picture in front of the fountains. Yay for making it happen! Love my little family and this tradition of ours.
I also took this picture of the kids at Planet Snoopy. Maybe this will become an annual shot too?
I am already looking forward to go back again next year. It's so great that my company sponsors this event annually...it's such a fun family tradition to have, to visit the same place at the beginning of every September. Sure I may just be getting one percent raises, but this definitely makes me less bitter about the whole thing :)

(PS. See 2012 and 2013)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

School Time!!

It’s the day after Labor Day so that means it’s back to school time for us!

I am feeling a bit of sadness and excitement as I send both kids off to school this year. Seriously where did the time go? My little Will is starting school for the very first time in his life and big-girl Anna is enrolled in a full-day program!

This morning I continued our “Back to School” photo tradition at the front of our house.

His smile kills me...
And Anna with her sweetest face...
As I mentioned, Anna is going to a new school this year. She technically should be in the 4’s class (pre-k), but she’s actually in the school’s kindergarten class. Back in late July, we heard from the school that they had openings in its kindergarten class and was looking for older 4’s to fill the spots. We had planned for her to return to her old school, but this seemed like a good opportunity. The program is definitely more rigorous (with reading, writing, math, science, social studies, PE), but I think Anna is capable of handling it. She will be exposed to a lot more at the new school and be much more prepared for public school next year. The only downside is an additional drop-off and pick-up for this working mama, but if she’s happy and learning, it's worth it. Oh, I also signed her up for after-school ballet too!
So how did my students do on their first day?

Will walked right in and never looked back. His teacher said that he had a great day of smiling and singing. I am not naive to think that this transition will be without bumps, but I am hoping that a good first day is an indication of a smooth year.
As for Anna, of course there were some tears. BUT when I picked her up, I saw her laughing and jumping at the playground and she excitedly told me about her day. I will take it.
Lets hope that this is a wonderful year for all!!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!