Friday, April 21, 2017

5 Things To Do With Kids In Harrisonburg Virginia

Last week the kids were on Spring Break.

Actually, to be completely accurate, Anna was on Spring Break...Will's school was still in session, but since Anna was home, we just kept him home as well. We didn't plan to go anywhere originally, but we ended up finding ourselves about 2 hours away from home in Harrisonburg (Shenandoah Valley) for 2 nights/3 days. It was a very low key and inexpensive trip. The single most expensive thing we spent on was boarding the dog. Money aside though, we found Mango a very good pet sitter and it was great knowing that he was having fun while we were doing the same. Without further ado, here is a list of notable things we did in H'burg!

1. Harrisonburg Farmers Market
At this moment, the farmers market in downtown Harrisonburg is open twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday, so we totally lucked out that our short stay included one of those days. The unfortunate part was that since it was still so early in the season, vendors were sparse. However, the most important one was there...a homemade lollipop stand :) The lollipops were 50 cents each and came in assorted shapes. Both kids got the bunny shape, and they behaved like angels for the rest of the day, just happily sucking on their lollipop as we drove around. Best dollar spent.

2. A Dream Come True Playground
This playground, just outside of JMU, is very similar to Clemyjontri up here in Northern VA. We spent about an hour here, enjoying the sunshine. After the kids got all hot and sweaty, we cooled down at...

3. Kline's Dairy Bar
^^"I have a brain freeze!"^^

When I was doing research on things to do in Harrisonburg, Kline's Dairy Bar kept on popping up, so I decided it was a must visit. Surprisingly, they only have 3 flavors available on any given day -- chocolate, vanilla and the special favor of the week. When we visited, it was strawberry. So, anyway, we got vanilla and strawberry. The ice cream was indeed very good, the kids scraped their cups clean, but turned out the lavender lemon ice cream we had later was even better. But, I want to remember that as we were eating our ice cream next to the parking lot, an old gentleman walked by and said to me, "You have nice kids."

4. White Oak Lavender Farm
For $3 per person, we got to enjoy more great outdoors in a beautiful surrounding. The lavenders were not in bloom yet (we were told not until June), but it was still a great visit. We saw some farm animals and the kids really liked chasing those ducks. Definitely one of the top memories from the entire trip.
By the way, if you ever find yourself at White Oak Lavender Farm, do not skip their homemade ice cream. We got the lavender lemon flavor and it was SO good. Lightly flavored, creamy and delicious! Yes we had a lot of ice cream on this trip!
5. Massanutten Resort
We stayed at Massanutten Resort, which is about 15-20 minutes away from Harrisonburg. This is probably not the best picture to depict Massanutten, but watching TV was what the kids did the most. And having a TV in their own room? Mind blown. I will elaborate on Massanutten in my next post.

I actually had another place planned, Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, but unfortunately, we couldn't find parking (there were only like 5 spots dedicated to this place). I didn't feel like risking a ticket parking at nearby lots that clearly said "JMU Permit Required". So, we skipped it.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

tuesday morning catch ups.

Time for another catch ups post!

/1/ Will's school puts on a music show every year and this year, it happened back in March. Having attended the last two years (2015 and 2016), I was feeling meh about the whole thing. I mean, the show didn't start until 7:30pm, which is when the children are usually in bed, and I just haaaate messing with routine, especially when it cuts into my TV time, ha. Well, it turned out to be a great show, definitely worth the later bedtime and missed shows :) I adored seeing Will dance and perform on stage! The last few songs sang by the kindergartners (but the whole school performed in the back) brought back so much memories as well. I think I actually teared up during "The Tree Song." In two short months, we will be saying goodbye to this school forever. It's going to be the saddest day ever.
^^So handsome! Click here for a picture comparison -- same shirt!^^

/2/ We got a hammock for the screened-in porch and it has been a great source of entertainment for the kids. On a good day when they get along really well, they can spend hours out there. It's great for me because they are outside, but I don't need to keep an eye on them like I do if they are out in the front yard.
/3/ Mr. Mango is settling in well with the family. He's becoming really good at letting us know when he needs to go outside. He will hang around by the front door, waiting for us to notice him. Or sometimes he will even ring the bell that we have hanging by the door. And to the kids, he's still the best thing ever.
/4/ I didn't "go" anywhere to view the cherry blossoms this year, but when I saw the cherry trees in bloom at the elementary school, I took the shot below. I didn't filter it or anything, the sky was really that blue that day. So pretty, right?!
/5/ April Fool's Day....and this was the only trick I got:
/6/ We went away for 2 nights/3 days for Spring Break. I will blog about it soon!
/7/ The day before Easter, I came across this cute idea and just had to try it out before the kids get any bigger. #nailedit
The kids ended up drawing their own set of bunny ears.

Both kids said MY egg hunt was the best one ever!
/8/ Lastly, family movies this month: Monster House and Leap! Also, Luke took Will to see Power Rangers in the theater.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, April 14, 2017

easter egg hunts 2017 (& two strategies for attending those free ones)

This year as I was searching for Easter egg hunts to take the kids, I noticed that a lot of them have an age cap at 8 years old...which means Anna’s egg hunt years are almost numbered! Sad face! So, I decided to take the kids to more than one hunt this year just to make sure we are all sick and tired of them by the end. Now, I swore off those free egg hunts a few years ago due to a bad experience, but this year, I had two strategies up my sleeves to make them enjoyable. The egg hunts we attended are listed below, along with my strategies :)

EGGnormous Egg Hunt (Lake Fairfax): We lucked out on this one and here is why. At the oldest age group (7-8), there was significantly less kids than all other age groups, so even though Will was supposed to be with another age group (5-6), he hunted with Anna instead. Strategy #1: Unless the age difference is really obvious, find the group with the least number of kids and get more eggs that way! I noticed that there were some really young kids at the oldest age group, but no one cared. I think as long as the kids move up, instead of down, it's okay. For example, I wouldn't let the kids hunt in the toddler group. The kids ended up getting a bunch of eggs here, but all just Tootsie rolls, so nothing too exciting.
Easter Eggstravaganza (Tysons Corner Mall): The egg hunt portion of this event was a mess. Everyone (adults and children) all moved in one direction and soooo many eggs got stepped on and cracked. But this turned out to be a great event for us because I did one of the smartest things ever. Strategy #2: Don’t try to do it all! In this case, we did do it all, but toward the end, instead of grabbing for more eggs, we went on with other free activities while other children were still scrambling for them. In fact, by the time we got our balloons and face painted, people were just starting to line up. WIN. My kids actually haven’t gotten their faces painted all that many times (maybe once or twice?), so it was awesome for them. Also, the Easter Bunny happened to be one of Anna’s before-care teachers from school, so we got extra attention :)
Old-Fashioned Egg Roll and Easter Fun (Vienna Town Green): There were a lot of people at this event but using Strategy #2, we still had a nice experience at this annual town tradition. While many people stood in line for more popular activities, when I saw the bounce house nearly empty, we went there instead.
SACC (Anna’s Before-Care) Eggstravaganza: I think the kids said this was their favorite because instead of just candies, there were small toys. Rubber duckies, erasers, yo-yos, stickers, tattoos, slinkies. Also, Anna was extra happy about this hunt because she got to help stuff the eggs that morning. In fact, it was a rainy day and I wasn’t even going to take the kids, but because Anna was so excited about it, I just had to :)

This weekend, on actual Easter, we will wrap it up with one last hunt. In our front yard :) And if I can get my act together and buy some lollipops, I will do this again.
easter coloring page_Will

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

first 33 days with Mango

I can't believe we have been a dog family for over a month already!
Here is a compilation of dog-related stuff that I want to remember:

-- The kids are still over-the-moon excited about having a dog.
-- They each have a job of making sure Mango has access to water and food whenever it's time, but they are not 100% reliable about it.
-- Luke and I are the main caretakers (surprise, surprise), but between me and him, it's definitely him more. He does all the grooming and washing. We brush him at least twice a day and wipe his eyes often too. Now instead of grabbing my phone to browse, I grab the brush.
-- Since Luke works from home, Mango spends the most time with him, yet whenever we are all laying on the couch, I am his favorite pick :)
-- We are working on basic commands - stay, come and stop. He doesn't listen well yet, so we have to leash him when we are out, even if it's just to go potty.
-- We recently found a pet sitter for Mango for when we are away. After talking to several boarding facilities, we just preferred a more home-like environment for Mango. Luckily our neighbors with 3 dogs recommended their sitter so we contacted her. She will be watching Mango for the first time next week. I hope it all works out and that we've found a long term solution.

-- If Mango does his business whenever we take him outside, he's free to roam around the house. One day last week it poured rain and I literally stood outside holding an umbrella for 20 minutes. Mango was drenched when he came back in, and no, he did not pee :(
-- Luke and I are obsessed with his little mouth, haha. We also find it very amusing that Mango is a "regular" dog that fetches and chases. We kept on comparing him to Pargo...who never fetched or chased...who was a cat in a dog's body.
-- It still makes me laugh to see him with his hind legs stretch out like this:
-- We don't let Mango sleep with us and we all get better sleep this way. Instead he sleeps in a portable crate that we put on top of the nightstand next to our bed. 

-- This is Mango's morning routine: In the morning, immediately after we wake up, we take him out to potty. After we come back home, he runs around the house and gives everyone kisses before we put the fence up so he can concentrate on his breakfast. After he's done with breakfast, he plays in the crate with all his toys. Then just as Anna and I leave for school/work, Luke lets him out for another potty break. It's working out pretty well!
-- When we sit down to eat dinner, that's when we put down his kibbles too. We have been giving Mango some table food, but ONLY after we are done eating. Now that he knows sometimes he will get better food, he will wait for it (but usually before we are actually done eating, he will have already started on his kibbles). One amazing thing about Mango is that he doesn't whine/beg for food. Pesto whined for food all the time, and that was sooo annoying.
--Now that we have a dog, I still think I would be absolutely fine without one too. But seeing the kids enjoying Mango so much is worth the trouble....sometimes :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Art Friday, No. 05

I missed last week's Art Friday, but here is this week's installment. Have a great weekend everyone! My weekend has actually already started. Since yesterday. Working part-time has been nice, but I feel like I should be staying productive at home. But, "feel" is the keyword here...because right now I am sitting on the couch, browsing (currently obsessed on how to maximize those SPG points) and watching Grey's Anatomy reruns :)
(by Anna : age 7 : Hen)
The assignment was to draw a rooster, but because she added eyelashes, it's a hen instead. I just love the details and colors of this drawing!

(by Will : age 5 : Sunflower) 
According to Will: "This is me watering my sunflower." 

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Anna is SEVEN!

Last week Anna turned seven. (Gah, doesn't that just sound old??) As always, I am at a loss for words when it comes to birthday posts. I feel like I should be writing a very in-depth post that captures the birthday kid at this very moment, but I have no creative energy or words, so a post on what we did to celebrate our girl will have to do. I will say this though -- at seven years old, Anna can be as sweet as can be one minute and a hot mess the next. She's still super sensitive and cries somewhat easily. Yet, she's a superstar when it comes to school and her teachers just love her.

Now onto the birthday celebrations!

Since my dad's and Anna's birthday is only a week apart, we had a joint birthday lunch at Maggiano's. Maggiano's is always a win for us. We have celebrated many birthdays there. Not to mention that we hosted our wedding luncheon there too. This time, we got two "Marco's Meal", which included two appetizers, four pastas, two desserts, AND four pastas to take home. We told our server that we were celebrating two birthdays and he brought out cookies and candles. A nice touch!
The night before Maggiano's, I ordered a cake from a new-to-us bakery nearby called Sweet City Desserts. I had only learned about it from a coworker a few days prior and decided to give it a try. The bakery is Filipino owned so they specialize in Asian desserts, which I prefer heavily over American desserts. I ordered their signature traditional ube cake with macapuno filling and ube icing. 
The cake was so good. Not too sweet and did you know that ube is in the same family as taro? My favorite! Everyone else liked it too. I am definitely going to be a repeat customer.

This year Anna's birthday fell on a Tuesday and it happened to be snowing so school was closed and we ended up spending the entire day together. She woke up to balloons and presents. Haha, her big smiles for simple presents such as these cute erasers are just so sweet and innocent. I want to remember them always.  
At her request, we went to McDonald's for lunch. Luke and I both agreed that we are never having McDonald's again but the kids were happy with their Happy Meal toys (Barbie for Anna and car for Will). Other than that, we just hung out at home.
That night we had leftover Maggiano's and sang another round of Happy Birthday before we dug into the leftover ube cake. Before she fell asleep that day, I distinctly remember her saying that she had a great day :)

Then on Friday night, after picking up the kids from school, we headed straight to Cheesecake Factory for a proper birthday dinner.
The next day, Saturday, came the main event -- movie theater party!

Now that Anna is older, birthday means doing fun stuff with friends. BUT I wasn't up for a full-blown party either. It worked out perfectly that the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie was debuting right around her birthday so we decided to invite two friends to come along for a movie date/party. 
We purchased the tickets in advance and reserved our seats, so on the morning of the movie, we didn't have to worry about getting to the theater early or anything. I ended up sitting in one row with the girls and Luke and Will sat one row behind us. Originally we planned for all the kids to sit together, but it worked out better this way because I was able to refill the popcorn cups (we bought a giant tub of popcorn and asked for small complementary cups) for the kids more easily. **In the future, though, I would reserve the seats all together in one row and have an adult on the other end.**

There were some loud parts in the movie and the girls got a little scared, but overall, not bad at all. I was a bit worried when I overheard one girl telling Anna that she wanted to go home during the wolves scene, but I just kind of ignore it and in the end, they all sat through the entire 2 hours and 9 minutes of the movie without any problems. As for the movie itself, I don't know about the others, but I LOVED IT :)

After the movie, we went back home for pizza and ice cream cake. Originally we thought about taking the girls out to eat at a restaurant, but pizza and cake at home sounded better and less stressful, so we went with that instead. The girls got to meet Mango and between pizza and cake, they had fun with Wii.
We drove the girls home right around 1:30p with goody bags that Anna put together with stuff from Target Dollar Spot. I made the tags last minute and thought they turned out fantastic!
Birthdays are so exhausting even for me who really don't do much at all, so I am glad it's over! Hope Anna had a memorable birthday!

And here we are, another year closer to college. Luckily, me and her already made a pact. Either she will stay close to home for college or I will move to wherever she chooses go ;) And if she keeps her word, she will buy the house next door and we will never be too far apart anyway. Getting bigger doesn't sound bad at all. No, not at all....

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 20, 2017

monday morning catch ups.

/1/ Years ago, I bought several sets of Lego Friends (they were on sale) and stowed them in the basement for when Anna was ready for them. Well, as a newly minted 7yo, she's finally old enough to build them completely on her own. In the last week or so, she has built this one and this one.
And just because Will couldn't be left out, Luke got him this Ninjago set that he had his eyes on from the Lego catalog that came in the mail. This set looked so complex and I had my doubts that Will could do it on his own, but he did. At least 90% of it....which is still amazing in my opinion. We had a snow day and he worked on it all morning, took a break for lunch and TV, and finished it on the same day. Luke was so proud of him that he's getting him more. Honestly, I am kind of torn when it comes to these building blocks. Yes, the kids are following instructions, thinking in three dimensions, developing problem solving skills blah blah blah, but those sets are definitely not cheap. But worst of all, THE CLUTTER.
/2/ So as I said, we had a snow day. It was only maybe two inches, but enough to give our first (and probably the only) snow day of the school year. Mango met snow for the first time and was not impressed. He had the toughest time going potty outside even though Luke cleared a path and a section of grass for him. Haha, as frustrating (and cold!) as it was, he was also so cute in the snow :)
/3/ We finished reading James and the Giant Peach and are taking a break from reading Roald Dahl books. Right now, we are in the middle of The Chocolate Touch -- a much easier read.

/4/ Family movies: Sing, Beauty and the Beast (the new live action one), and Moana (again).

/5/ Luke and I just finished the first season of This Is Us. Does anyone else watch that show? I like it so much, it's my new favorite. The story goes back and forth between past and present, and I just love that. All the characters on the show are pretty likable, especially the men :) It's just such a well done show! 😍

/6/ This picture summarizes how we feel about Mango. Sometimes I still shake my head at Luke and say something along the line of "spending money to buy problems", but I will admit, he's a cool little dog. The kids are enjoying him so much.
/7/ Here is a close-up of the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies that I made. Right after they came out of the oven, Luke inhaled EIGHT of 'em, haha. They were so good and made with simple ingredients that you are sure to have around the house.
/8/ Anna turned 7 and a big post on how we celebrated our girl is coming up soon!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Art Friday, No. 04

Annnnnnd....just 29 days after I hit our garage, this happened to hubs' car:
An old lady hit him. It wasn't even because of was because she didn't know to stop at a four-way stop. Luckily everyone is fine (Will was in the car, but on the other side), so there is that, but the whole thing is all sorts of inconvenient.
(by Anna : age 7 : Circles)
We gave Anna this Spirograph set as one of her birthday presents.
(by Will : age 5 : Butterfly) 
Spring starts in three days so this picture is appropriate :) 

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Art Friday, No. 03

The dog beds arrived and all of a sudden we have 3 puppies!
Luke got these beds at Walmart for less than $5 a pop. It's good to save wherever we can because this owning-a-dog business is more expensive than I remembered.
(by Anna : age 6 [for 4 more days] : Princesses)
This week I volunteered in Anna's classroom and I saw a bunch of these drawings in her mailbox. Apparently she has been working on them during quiet time and is turning them into a book. I asked if I could use them for this week's Art Friday and she agreed to let me borrow them for a day :) My favorite of the bunch is the girl dressed up as Pikachu. "It's me!" she explained.
(by Will : age 5 : Sailboats)
At our house, everyone has an assigned color. Luke is green, Anna is purple, I am blue, and Will yellow. I love the little stick figure family sailing together. And the whale-fish is just fabulous.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!