Tuesday, September 29, 2015

the children, fall 2015

_DSC8099
It’s time for an update on the children and our current family life.

A N N A

This is Anna’s fourth week at school and she is doing great. I can see her having lots of fun because every day when I pick her up, she’s always all smiles, with stories to tell.
- “Today we went to the library and guess what?! I got two books this time! I got a princess book and a Pokemon book. Will is going to like the Pokemon book.”
- “Mama, today we had a drill and all the kids AND two teachers were all in the bathroom together.”
- She tells me that she follows directions and does her work all on her own, while the other kids “cut all over the place.”
- She tells me that she never sits in the time-out chair.
- When I asked her, “ Do you think your teacher will tell Mama good stuff about you when I meet with her?” She exclaimed, “YES!”

So all in all, she’s doing absolutely great at school.

Right now, Anna goes to before-care. We got a spot around the middle of August and signed her up immediately. Her kindergarten class doesn’t start until 9:20a, so when I drop her off at school at 8a, she goes to before-care. At first, she cried at drop-off and I thought, OMG, it’s happening all over again, but she's all good now :) Still, I know before-care isn’t her favorite place and I can see why. The teachers aren’t as warm and there are bigger kids all around. But right now, this is our best/only option. Luckily, it’s only an hour before she lines up and go to her kindergarten class, which she adores.

On Saturdays, Anna has ballet and piano. Our Saturday mornings are completely booked because of her activities. I am still debating on whether or not to keep ballet. Anna has lots of fun and all, but I can’t help and think, what’s the point? It just doesn’t seem like a life-long skill to me…. But for now, Anna likes it so we will just keep chugging along.

I am Anna’s #1. She wants to live with me forever and she said so herself. Haha, we will see what she says in a couple of years.

W I L L

Will used to be my golden boy, but now he can be defiant, whiny and a pain in the butt. Ok, so really I don’t think he’s THAT bad, but things have definitely changed. I get so mad and impatient with him when I have to repeat myself, especially when I am trying to get stuff done. And his whines, the are OUT OF THIS WORLD. Anna never whined…..just cried uncontrollably….and I can't believe I am saying this, but that was actually a lot better.

I know, however, that this is just a stage and it will pass :)

Will is doing well at school. He made great friends this summer, and I had hoped that they would all be in the same class this fall, but actually, none of them are in the same class! So he’s starting from scratch. I feel out of touch with Will’s school world because Luke handles Will’s drop-offs and pick-ups. Last Friday was “A” Week show and tell and I had a #momfail moment when I completely forgot about it. Poor guy had to settle for an acorn from his classroom “A” box.

Two weeks ago we went to the “Parent Tea” at his school and learned about the curriculum. It seems so easy -- learning the alphabets, their sounds, numbers. Will knows all that and a lot more. I suspect, academically, school is easy for Will, but that's not a complaint because there is always more to learn in life. Like, how to stop whining and listen to your parents.

T H E S I B L I N G S

Ninety percent of the time, Anna and Will get along fabulously. They play together really well and help each other out. The other 10%, however, involves Anna throwing a book at Will that left a bruise on his face, just in time for picture day. So yes, it’s safe to say they have that normal endearing sibling bond.

They are very competitive…over small matters.
“I want to go potty first!”
“Anna, I just gave Mama 10 hugs and 10 kisses.”
“I gave her 11.”
“I want to get the maaaaaaaail.”

If one sees the other doing something, all of a sudden, that something becomes the cause of a huge battle.

T H E P A R E N T S

Even though it doesn't always feel like it, we are at a pretty sweet parenting stage right now. Kids are still cute and want to hang around us and say fun things, but not old enough to have their own personal lives yet. We have a set routine and life overall is good.

And now that they are older, it's easy to just drop the kids off at my parents' house for a couple of hours and we can go off on our own. As of this month, we have been married for 8 years :) Over the weekend, we finally went on our anniversary lunch date.
_DSC8183
Ramen at Ki No Spoon in Rockville.

I am on a quest to find the best ramen in the area!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, September 21, 2015

One day a year, I love my company.

And yesterday was that day :) Kings Dominion...entirely freeeeee!!
kings_dominion1
We only stayed for 3 hours, but it felt like we did all the rides that we wanted anyway. Both kids had a great time at Planet Snoopy. I, on the other hand, am definitely becoming more and more indifferent about theme parks. I mean, I love watching the kids laugh and have fun, but I am happy to just watch them from the sidelines. I got on a grand total of 2 rides yesterday and that was plenty enough for me.
kings_dominion
The highlight of the trip was winning those Pikachu stuffies. For the first game, it was Anna, Will, and hubs competing so it was a sure win. The second game, we competed against someone else and luckily we (Luke, but Will "helped") won! The kids have been watching Pokemon cartoons lately and they were thrilled with their prizes. In fact, Anna was so happy she said, "I hope this isn't a dream!" Haha, kids are funny.

The only thing I cared about was getting my family picture in front of the fountains. See my collection: 2012, 2013, and 2014.
_DSC8174
Until next September!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My LA Favorites

It's funny because most of the time, I don't have enough content to keep this old blog of mine going, but when I do have things to post (so many things to say about LA), I can't muster up the energy to recap the vacation day by day. So...I am taking the easy way out. Here is my last post on LA to cover all the nuts and bolts of our trip...enjoy!

Favorite #1: Haha, I think the Hollywood Blvd is about as touristy as you can get in LA. The kids were completely bored by it, but I sure had a great time walking up and down the Walk of Fame and browsing cheesy souvenir shops. So glad that Luke's relatives took us there even though it wasn't on my list of things to see.
_DSC7257
^^Me and the kids posing with George Cloony's hand and foot prints.^^
_DSC7240
^^Spider-Man, Will, Uncle Vincent^^

Favorite #2: Santa Monica Pier is a local landmark and a must-visit. The kids had just as much fun here than they had at Disneyland. We all went on the giant Ferris wheel and the kids went on all the kiddie rides, including driving their very first bumper cars! We finished it off with hot funnel cake with powdered sugar on top. The kids were in heaven.
_DSC7891
Favorite #3: The Little Tokyo in LA was a fun place to browse and shop after a big bowl of ramen. The kids spent most of their vacation money here. They both got a sword and a teeny tiny plush toy (lion for Anna, whale for Will). Unfortunately, the swords are already broken and Will lost his whale :( Update: Whale found!
_DSC7325
Favorite #4: Ranch 99!! More specifically, its hot Taiwanese breakfast. I especially loved the congee (皮蛋瘦肉粥) and rice roll (飯糰). So good and cheap! Wish we had something like this close to home.
_DSC7394
Favorite #5: Speaking of Ranch 99 breakfast....one day we ordered a bunch of food to go and had a picnic at the Griffith Observatory. We ate at the top of LA with the Hollywood sign (can you see it?) as our view.
_DSC7790
_DSC7770
^^We walked a little trail to get a better view of downtown LA.^^

Favorite #6: Need I say more?
_DSC7471
_DSC8032
Favorite #7: This 21 year old car (Luke remembers when his uncle first bought it!) that took us everywhere.
_DSC7201
_DSC7301
^^The kids called it "fluffy car" because it was so comfortable.^^

Favorite #8: No trip to LA would be complete without dipping our toes in the ocean. We visited so many beaches during our week-long stay! A word to the wise: California sun is strong...a beach tent is a must!
_DSC7135
_DSC7188
^^This was actually under our shady tent.^^

Favorite #9: This. Right across the street from Luke's uncle's place.
_DSC7082
Favorite #9: Disneyland, which I already wrote a whole post on it.
_DSC7661
Favorite #10: Honestly, everything about LA is a favorite :) From Luke's cousin teaching the kids how to swim (he works as a swim instructor and is great with kids) to meeting up with my own aunts and uncles for a great authentic Taiwanese meal in Rowland Heights. But but but, if I had to pick one most favorite....it would be this guy right here:
_DSC7020
He (and his family) made our vacation they way vacations are supposed to be -- relaxing, fun, adventurous, full of good food and good company.

Other LA Posts: Back from LA! and Disneyland Report

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Disneyland Report

_DSC7503
- I have been to Disney World too many time to remember, but this was my first to Disneyland! Of course, it was also a first for the kids. Luke had been there once, many many moons ago.

- We picked to go on a Wednesday. With local schools already back in session and a weekday, I crossed my fingers for a light crowd. It seemed like I was still constantly dodging people, but Luke's uncle and aunt all agreed that the park was not busy at all. We didn't have to wait for more than 15 minutes for any rides, and more often, the wait was less than 5. It was great.

- The day we went to Disneyland was by far the most expensive day of our LA trip. It was nearly $400 for our family just for the tickets (one-day pass, no park hopper) and another $50 for food. We skipped renting a stroller.

- My first impression of Disneyland when I walked in was how strikingly similar it was to the Magic Kingdom (of Disney World). That is, until I saw the castle. Haha, it was like the dwarf version of the one in MK. Although I think the castle in Disneyland is actually Sleeping Beauty's and the one in Disney World is Cinderella's?
_DSC7506
- Without the luxury of a stroller, the kids were on their feet the entire day. I could tell they were tired, so we took lots of breaks, but all in all, I was proud of them for lasting from 10:15 in the morning all the way to 9:30 at night. It was definitely nice to not have to deal with stroller parking, but a pain to have to carry a backpack though.
_DSC7508
- The first ride we went on was the spinning tea cup ride. And by "we", I just meant Luke and Anna. The rest of us opted out. There were several more rides (Dumbo, the carrousel, Buzz Lightyear) that I didn't get on either, but Luke did with the kids. It was nice to just sit in the shade and relax!

- My most favorite ride was Indiana Jones!! So, so good. The kids were too short to get on, but they sure missed out!
_DSC7521
- Will just made the 40-inch requirement to go on Space Mountain. It was so funny. He wasn't really standing straight, feet weren't together. So the Cast Member (haha, gotta use the proper terminology) asked him to do all that and he was still a wee bit under. Finally, the CM told him to raise his arms and he passed the test! But what did the kids think of Space Mountain? HATE IT. Too dark, too many twists and turns, too fast. Anna was next to me, btw.
space_mountain
- We ate lunch at Village Haus in Fantasyland. We had a corner table with a wrap-around bench and, after lunch, it was the perfect spot for the kids to take a nap. Luke's uncle laid down some towels and made a "bed" for the kids. I didn't even know he had brought towels from home and was impressed at how thoughtful he was. Both fell asleep quick and we woke them up about 75 minutes later. After that, they were recharged for the rest of the day.

- While the kids napped, Luke and I went off on our own. We went on the Pinocchio ride nearby and then Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Let me just say we totally lucked out because just as our train ride came to an end and we were pulling into the station, there was suddenly a mechanical problem. Fortunately, we were already at the station so the CMs manually pulled on the bars to let us out. As we left, we saw a train stuck high up in the mountain. I wonder how long they had to wait.
_DSC7610
- Now that Anna is 5, she can be quite moody. I will be honest and say that she was a PITA on our Disneyland day. Not the whole day, but definitely in the afternoon. Maybe it was because we had to wake her up from nap? Maybe she was tired? Whatever the reason was, it was inexcusable because we had to wake up Will and he was tired too, but he was still very happy. Anyway, toward the end of the day Luke's aunt and uncle bought the kids light-up bubble guns in Tomorrowland. She finally let out a genuine smile :)
_DSC7694
- We stayed for Disneyland Forever. Yay, Anna finally appreciates fireworks and enjoyed it! Will covered his ears with his hands the whole time. FYI, the best place to view the fireworks is near It's a Small World. Trust me, we had an inside guide.

- Our very last ride of the day was Disney Railroad. I just want to remember this one detail.

- The kids fell asleep fast on the way home. When we got home, we transferred them straight to bed. No shower that night....AFTER A DAY OF SWEATING. We scrubbed them clean the next morning.

- We had reservations to go to Disney World in December over the holidays. I canceled them a couple of days ago. I am all Disney-ed out. For real, this time.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

BACK TO SCHOOL 2015

The kids started school yesterday and here are the first-day photos!
_DSC8048
The day finally came -- Anna officially entered public school! I am happy that our monthly tuition bill just got cut in half, but sad at the same time that she's one year closer to college :( Time goes by way too fast. Yesterday morning was a rush. The kids are still on west coast time, sleeping in later than normal. But there I was, trying to hurry everyone along so I could get to work, get my hours in, and then leave to pick up my kindergartner in the afternoon. We did it, but not without some bumps and bruises.

Anna had a great first day of school (the teacher told me herself), except for a hiccup at the end. In summary: her teacher didn't know that I was coming to pick her up and sent her to the bus line instead. Luckily, Anna stayed firm and told them that "Mama said no bus, she's coming to pick me up." But when I found her in the office (after waiting outside in the car rider line for over 15 minutes under the scorching sun), she was sobbing and obviously feeling very distressed. I felt so sad. Now that the miscommunication has been cleared up, I hope today goes better for her. All that aside though, we were so proud of her for standing her ground. (Haha, Luke said he would've got on.)
_DSC8052
As for Will, he's back at the school where he enjoyed his entire summer. Not much transition for him, which is very nice. He might be missing his sister though.

Anyway, here's to a great school year!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back from LA!

We are back from one of the greatest trips ever. I took over 600 photos and I literally don't know where to start in sharing our stories with you. In case I never get around to it, I just want to quickly summarize our trip in a post for posterity. In short: it was a blast, so many highs, can't remember any lows.

Here is the rambly version, though.

We started considering a family vacation to LA when Luke received a $500 United voucher for giving up his seat on an overbooked flight. From then on, every so often, I would check on the airfare and, one day in May, a great price popped up. Before we took the plunge, Luke contacted his uncle in Cerritos and asked about staying with him and his family. His question was met with great enthusiasm and we bought the tickets immediately :)

We traveled super light. One small green carry-on, a big blue duffle bag (checked-in), car seats (checked-in, but free), and everyone carried a backpack. We were gone for 8 nights, but we knew that we could do laundry there. Both departure and return flights were non-eventful. We tossed two tablets at the kids and we were good to go.
_DSC6962
As for the stuff we did in LA...we did a lot. More than we ever did on any vacation. Our usual recipe for a non-stressful vacation day -- an outing in the morning, back to hotel to rest at noon/early afternoon, and something simple in the evening. On this trip, we broke all the rules. We started the day later (10a-ish), kids napped in the car between destinations, and we stayed out past dinner time. Luke's uncle was an amazing host and wanted to show us everything. It was lots of fun, and yes, the kids were exhausted from playing all day, but in the end, they adjusted and I relaxed about keeping them on a schedule.

Few things we did:

It seemed like we visited nearly all the beaches around LA. This one here was taken at Huntington beach. We set up a tent, brought a cooler, and stayed for over 3 hours.
_DSC7159
This was us dodging traffic to get a picture with the Hollywood sign.
_DSC7295
DISNEYLAND! There will be a separate post on this for sure.
_DSC7566
Of our entire stay there, our family was alone on our own just once (seriously, we had the most awesome hosts). On that day, we went to Griffith Observatory and saw LA from above.
_DSC7816
Of course, I can't forget about the food.

One of the things I looked forward to was eating lots of Taiwanese food. And I did :) Popcorn chicken (鹽酥雞), oyster pancakes (蚵仔煎), pig's blood (豬血糕), bubble tea, shaved snow. YUM!

But beyond that I had my first ramen at Little Tokyo at this place called Daikokuya. Absolutely delicious. I have no prior ramen experience to compare it to, but my expectations are high now.
_DSC7317
No she did not eat the burger, but I did :)
_DSC7106
I can't write about LA without this picture. OMG, the traffic. All day, every day.
_DSC8020
_DSC7010
This vacation was great because of one thing: Luke's uncle and his family. They showed us absolute kindness and generosity. His uncle drove us in his "fluffy car" tirelessly in LA traffic (see pictures above) and also helped carry the kids when we were out and about. He encouraged me and Luke to go off on our own (his family would babysit) and, although we never did, just having him and his family around felt like a true vacation already. It was so nice to have willing extras to help wrangle the kids. 6 adults to 2 kids was a great ratio.
_DSC8007
Luke's relatives live in a house that is across the street from an expansive park. A big field for sports and summer concerts, climb structures, walking trails, an ISLAND with more play things. Even if we hadn't gone anywhere in LA, the Heritage Park would had been enough to keep the kids happy. (And the abundance of Taiwan eateries all within 5-minute drive would had kept ME happy.) 
_DSC7435
So that was our vacation in nutshell. I hope to write more later. In the meantime, it's back to school for us today. Time to get back to routine.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!