Friday, October 13, 2017

Disney World Trip Report 2017

Last month, we took a family trip to Disney World!
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It had been 3 years since our last visit and we all very much looked forward to it. We left on a Wednesday after school & work and caught an evening flight out. By the time we checked into Pop Century, it was around 10:30pm.

We stayed at Pop Century again for budget reason but also for nostalgia. All the kids know about Disney resorts is Pop Century and it’s their happy place :) We got a room on the ground level of a building in the 60s. It was convenient to the pool, transportation and food court.

One evening they had props out for pictures. Of course we had to do it :)
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Even though we said again and again that we won’t do Disney Dining Plan again, we did. This time, though, we only had Quick Service, so at least no dining reservations to adhere to. It was great! I didn’t think we overate until the very last day when we were hurrying to use up all the meal credits.
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^^My all-time most favorite meal at Disney!^^

I thought September would be less crowded but I was wrong about that. Boy, don’t kids go to school?? ;) It was also very hot. In a way, it was good that no hurricanes blew through while we were there (Irma had just happened days earlier), but still, the heat. The kids were troopers though -- no strollers, walked in the heat and waited in lines like champs.

But truthfully, it didn’t feel like we waited a lot for rides. For the most part, we used FastPass+ to bypass the lines. For anyone going to Disney World, I am sure you all know that you can make 3 FastPass+ reservations in advance, but did you know that after you used up all 3, you can make more one at a time? That was amazing. One night at Magic Kingdom, we did just that and we were able to just walk-on on soooo many rides!

We experienced some new-to-the-family rides. To name a few: Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Space Mountain, DINOSAUR, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Frozen Ever After, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Some rides I didn’t want to get on because they make me sick, like Mission Space, so Luke did it with the kids while I rested.
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After years of wanting to eat at Be Our Guest, my dream finally came true. I started attempting to make dining reservations as soon as I was able to (180 days out), but had no success. It was actually Luke who somehow miraculously got us not one, but two last-minute breakfast reservations!

So one time, we sat in the ballroom and the next time in the West Wing.
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It was pretty cool to finally see the inside of the castle :), even though on both visits we had a kid throwing up. Yes you read that right. Sheesh!
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Having taken the kids at 2 years, 4 years and, most recently, at 5 and 7 years old, I think to myself, why did I take them when they were younger? I mean I have fond memories of those previous trips, but dealing with diapers and naps couldn’t have been much fun. This time, the kids were able to understand and appreciate, but still young enough to buy-in on the Disney magic. It was perfect!
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We had so much fun on our vacation and miss it already. We plan to return - 2020!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, October 2, 2017

monday morning catch ups.

I can't believe I only blogged twice in September and neither of those posts were about events that actually happened IN that month.

Here is a short catch up:

/1/ Will started back up with soccer. Now that he's in U6, soccer is twice a week -- practice on Thursday and game on Saturday. Practice is at 5:15pm, and luckily it's right at the elementary school so there is no traffic getting there. That was my biggest worry when I signed him up so I am glad that it's working out OK. Will continues to like soccer a lot, which is great to see!
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/2/ More on Will...he's doing so well in piano too. He learns quickly and likes to practice. A very good combination :) Practicing with him is rather pleasant, as oppose to practicing with the other piano player we have in the house. Although to be fair, Anna is making good progress too. I think Will is rubbing off on her and sometimes I will find her practicing without me having to say anything.

/3/ We finally bought the kids bikes (w/ training wheels). Now that the weather is getting cooler, it will probably be next Spring before they really learn, but so far they enjoy it, although paddling for some reason is really difficult for both. 
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/4/ No apple picking this year, but we did pick pears from Grandpa's pear tree.
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That winter melon? INSANE.
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/5/ We have a new favorite series -- Captain Underpants! Kids just dig all that potty talk :-/ We are on book 2, but I can already see us finishing the series soon. The hardest part is trying to find them at the library. I think the books have gotten very popular since the movie, which we watched and the kids found it hilarious .

/6/ Finally, Disney World!

We just got back last week! It was our first trip in 3 years....a new record. Looking forward in sharing pictures and stories sometime soon.
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[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Back to School 2017-2018

Back to School felt VERY big for our family this year – both kids are finally at the same school. One drop off, one pick up, and nooooo more daycare bills. Hooray!
Anna and Will First Day of Second Grade and Kindergarten 2017-2018
We have entered a new stage of parenting!

Now that we are 3 weeks into the new school year, I can safely say that Will is rocking kindergarten. He has transitioned seamlessly. I am sure having Anna there helped, but I am also positive that the reason why Anna is also doing so well is because she has Will. In time like this, I am so glad that they have each other to depend on and watch over each other.

Our schedule looks like this: I drop the kids off at before-care at around 7:20am and meet them back at school for pick up at 4:05pm. GET THIS -- at drop off, I don't even get out of the car anymore. I push a little button and the minivan door slides open, both kids get out, walk into the building and classroom, wave me goodbye at the window and I drive off. A-MAH-zing.

Anyway, through some nudging on my part, Will has Anna's old kindergarten teacher, Ms. R, who I love. For some reason, she especially adores Anna and when she found out that Will is on her class list, she excitedly emailed me to let me know. This was BEFORE we got the classroom assignment in the mail. haha. I have no doubt that this is going to be a great year for Will. He says that his favorite part about school is "playing with Ayaan" and least favorite is quiet time :)

As for Anna, second grade seems to demand more academically. When I asked, she said that second grade is "okay", no longer "easy" like she had said about the previous years. I guess I will just need to gather all my patience superpower and work on things with her at home.
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^^The school theme for this year!^^

Here's to a great school year! I hope to have many happy news to share as we journey through the next 9 months!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dairy Days at Sully Plantation

A couple of weeks ago, I took the kids to Sully Plantation in Chantilly (VA). It was another place I have long wanted to visit :) My plan was to just walk around and visit the buildings (nearly all original from the late 18th century), such as the main house, dairy house, smoke house, etc. I knew there was a special event, Dairy Days, happening that day, but at $7 per person, I was planning on skipping it.

However, once we got there and the kids saw that they could make their own ICE CREAM, they begged to do it. So, thanks to their generous grandma (who was along for the trip), they did :)

On top of hand-cranking their very own vanilla ice cream, they also learned the process of churning and washing butter and played some historic games.
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Haha, for some reason, we were the only ones there for the special event. I guess it wasn't all that popular ;) Since the kids were the only participants, they did all the muscle work. The two of them took turns going between ice cream cranking and butter churning and did all the work. The end result was extra sweet.
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I thought Sully Plantation was very nice, but on its own, the kids probably wouldn't have gotten much out of it. Hopefully, with the hands-on activities from Dairy Days, they will have some kind of recollection. Maybe next summer, we will do the house (above) tour during Camp Mama. I can't wait :)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

summer stories

I couldn't bear to throw these cute stories away, but I also don't want extra papers around the house. So what to do? Scan them and post on the blog! :)
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(by Anna : age 7) 
Translation: We went to Williamsburg with Mama's family. We played with Andrew our cousin. He had lots of trains. Me and Will played with his trains. It was fun. We also went to Busch Gardens and Water Country. It was so much fun there. We miss Williamsburg, but we like home too!

CampStory_Will
(by Will : age 5) 
Translation: I love camp because I like it because we play zip zap.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Camp Mama 2017

This past week I took the entire week off to stay home with the kids. It was their last few days of summer break, I had extra hours with my part time work status, so I figured we could have a staycation of some sort at home. My goal was to take them around on local field trips. We called it Camp Mama :) It turned out to be a fantastic week. We all enjoyed it very much. Next year I plan to do two weeks, maybe even three if I can swing it :)

On the first day of camp, we came up with camp rules and taped it on the wall:
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Monday: We went to Upton Hill Regional Park, first to play mini golf and then to the water park. Thanks to our summer reading program coupon books, the activities were completely free for the kids. Then we saw the solar eclipse in the afternoon! This day ended up being the kids' favorite day of the week!
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Tuesday: We met up with my friend and her kids and rode the metro into DC. It was a hot day and could have easily been another pool day, but I wanted to go to the butterfly pavilion at the Natural History Museum (free on Tuesday). Besides the butterfly pavilion, also new to us on this visit was the kid-friendly discovery room. Then we went next door to the American History Museum.
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Wednesday: We drove about two and half hours round-trip to visit Great Country Farms in Bluemont, VA. My purpose was to do some peach picking, but that turned out to be a very small part of our trip. I think we were there for over 3 hours, but the actual peach picking part was only 30 minutes. The kids loved the 5-acre family playground that included mazes, rope/obstacle course, slides, etc. It was a great place to spend the day, but admittedly a very far drive. (Tip: Get this deal from CertifiKid if you go!)
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Thursday: I have long wanted to visit Yards Park and we finally made it happen :) The kids had fun splashing in the water...and that was about it? In the afternoon we went to another mini golf course (free of course :)).
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Friday: It was open house at the elementary school and afterwards we went bowling with some friends. It was Anna's first time bowling!
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Some thoughts:
- We didn't spend too much at all on Camp Mama. Most of the activities were free, and I packed lunch on most days. Altogether, we definitely spent less than $100, which is a lot cheaper than real camps (averaged $600/wk for both kids).
- Next year when we do Camp Mama again, I will have a lot more pool days, because the kids have the most fun in the water.
- Overall, kids were super, super good the entire week. I enjoyed spending time with them!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

wednesday morning catch ups.

We are a week and half away from the first day of school! This week is the last week of summer camp for the kids. And for the first time the entire summer, they are at different camps (Gymnastic and Dance for Anna & Jr. ROCS for Will). Both are doing just fine, but they said they would rather still be together :) Next week, I am staying home with the kids. I have a few field trips planned and I hope we will get to all of them. After a whole summer of camps (with an exception of two weeks of vacation), it will be good to have a break in the routine before school starts.

/1/ Last week the kids passed the "deep water" test at camp! All summer they played at the shallow end of the pool, but last week they finally worked up the courage to take the test (swimming from end to end without stopping). They were just so elated about the fact that they passed. Luke and I were soooo proud!
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^^Showing off their swim test bracelets!^^

/2/ Mango turned ONE YEAR OLD. We made him a peanut butter cake, lit a candle, sang Happy Birthday, got him presents and everything :)
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Unlike our other dogs who never played with toys, Mango actually plays and it's so fun watching him chasing and catching balls, tossing and thrashing his stuffies.
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He's also a good sport when the kids want to involve him in whatever it is they are doing. In the picture above, they were playing "Moana"....Mango was Haihei.

/3/ Have I mentioned that I started Will on piano lessons? He has had 3 lessons so far and it's going well! I used to think that kids just need parents to push them to practice, but now with Will, I see that not all kids need that. Seriously, Will practices on his own without me saying a word. When we practice together, he begs to play more. Such a difference! Anyway, he's doing great -- flew through the first book (yes already!) and starting on the second one.

/3/ I took the kids on an outing to Glen Echo Park in Bethesda (MD), which is a park very close to my workplace and I drive by it every day. When I saw this deal on CertifiKid, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do some activities there while visiting for the first time. Turned out the deal was just OK...the kids have already forgotten about the jellyfish they made at Saturday Art Explorers and two rounds on the carousel was an overkill.
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But, the park itself was pretty good, lots of artsy things/exhibits such as pottery and glass blowing. We saw a pottery demonstration inside a yurt and the kids seemed fascinated. However, the most memorable and fun part of the outing was probably this wacky water fountain.
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^^Haha, kid.^^

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

thursday afternoon catch ups.

I haven't been good about taking pictures of our everyday this summer. It seems like I only take pictures on vacations... But it has been a month since my last catch ups, so I will share what I can with the pictures I have :)

/1/ No summer is complete without getting soaked at Mosaic District. I have been saying that the kids are way too big for this little splash area for the last, oh, 3 years, but they always still manage to have fun. We came here one evening after pho with friends and it was such a great summer night!
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/2/ We went to Wegmans specifically to pick up this strawberry shortcake. It tasted amazing, very very similar to those Asian sponge cakes that I love, but without the high price tag. It was $15, I think. Kids and hubs didn't like it (said it was tasteless), so I ate nearly the whole thing myself. I didn't complain :-p
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/3/ I took the kids to Flight with a few of my college friends and their kids. It was the kids' first trampoline park experience. Will liked it more than Anna, but overall it was very fun. We used Groupon to make the outing more affordable :)
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/4/ That same weekend we also went back to Mosaic for an outdoor movie. While I think the concept of watching a movie outside is cool, the reality of it is this: why would you do that when you can watch the same movie from the comfort of your couch, without having to sweat? So, we never tried it...until that weekend when Anna's friend's mom invited us to go along. Since I want to foster Anna's friendship with this friend, I happily agreed. What did I think? Well, I was glad that at least the movie was only 1.5 hours :), but Anna and Will had fun hanging out with other kids so it was all good. Besides, an outdoor movie experience? Check! 
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/5/ Every day I drive the kids to camp and pick them up. I am going to miss this routine when it ends in a couple of weeks. They are always SO HAPPY about going to camp and picking them up is fun too. I am just thrilled that camp is going well this summer. These two literally spend every waking moment together.
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(For my own personal records, this year I have them both enrolled in Jr. ROCS, a variety camp, at the rec center. This is one of the few camps that they can do it together so I went with it. They have daily swim and play lots of group games. Next year when they are 8 and 6, there will be more options to choose from and I will be able to mix it up a little, but this year I am happy that they are just having lots of playtime.)
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/6/ The kids are officially done with their swim lessons and they have improved so much. In total, since the end of April, they went through 12 half-hour semi-private lessons. Hundreds of dollars later, they are now REALLY comfortable in the water. Unfortunately, since this swim school is so darn expensive, I am not planning on going back. I think the kids should be fine with rec center swim lessons now, so we will do that instead. I will wait until after Will turns 6 so they can be in the same class. It's all about convenience for me!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Family Reunion in Williamsburg (July 23 - 28, 2017)

First family reunion trip is in the books!

(7/23 - 7/28/17)
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Sun. : Peking Restaurant, Busch Gardens
Mon. : Water Country, Chopsticks Pho & Grill, Colonial W'burg, Baskin-Robbins, pool
Tues. : Yorktown Beach, Food For Thought, pool
Wed. : Busch Gardens, Peter Chang, Sweet Frog, playground
Thurs. : Water Country, Chinese take-out, Jamestown sand bank (our secret spot), Papa John's

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Delaware Beaches and OC: Things To Do

Previously || Delaware Beaches and OC: Where We Stayed

I have been thinking about a fun way to write about our latest beach vacation, but I am fresh out of ideas. So instead I am just going to summarize it quickly before we pack up and leave for our next trip...this Sunday! :)

As I said in my previous post, the best thing about this vacation was how easy it was. The hotel booking process was easy, the drive was just about 3 hours long (crossing over the Bay Bridge on a Sunday morning is a breeze), and once we got there, we had no fix schedule to tie us down. We literally did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

So what exactly did we do? Well...

We spent a lot of time at the pool.
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Time and time again, I would make a comment to Luke about how much we could save if we had stayed at a rental property, but honestly, that wouldn’t have given us access to a pool and the vacation definitely would not have been as fun.

Although it was a beach vacation, we sadly did not spend too much time at the beach. I was super disappointed. The weather was gorgeous (sunny, upper 70s) all week for laying out and playing in the sand...but the water was freezing. Not that the kids would have swam in the ocean anyway, but for whatever reason, they just wanted nothing to do with the beach. We even had a great setup -- toys, beach chairs, towels, snacks. Oh, and we had free shuttle to the beach too! 
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But even though they hated the beach during the day, we couldn't pull them away in the evening. When they are fully dressed and shouldn't be getting wet, they love the beach! Go figure.
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Before the trip I knew I wanted to eat all the quintessential boardwalk food – salty fries, funnel cake, ice cream, caramel popcorn, pizza.
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^^The kids didn't like caramel popcorn so Luke and I ate the entire tub.^^
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^^$21 for 4 scoops of ice cream. When in Rome...^^
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^^@ The Dough Roller^^

And we did!!

We also went to Funland, a little amusement park with carnival rides and arcade games. I had read and heard many good things about it so my expectations were high. Eh, it was just okay. The most annoying thing was the arcade games kept on eating our quarters and there was no staff around to ask for our money back.
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One day, we got in our van and hit up other Delaware beaches in the area.

Bethany Beach...cute, posh, clean, family friendly. We spotted dolphins! If we go back to Delaware beaches again, we want to stay here next time :)
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Fenwick Island...where we saw the smallest "boardwalk" ever.
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^^"It's not even near the water," Luke commented.^^

We even drove all the way to Ocean City, but a certain girl didn't want to walk.
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But it worked out okay because had we walked all the way to the busy part of the boardwalk on that first visit, we would not have gone back to OC and stayed there for a night on the last day.

These pictures are from our second visit to OC:
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^^We made it to the end of the boardwalk!^^
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^^Will took this picture for us, haha, his finger.^^
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On another day we went to Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes.

Among other things (less crowds, nature trails, a calmer beach scene), we were all looking forward to exploring tide pools. Turned out the way to the tide pools were blocked off because of nesting birds so it wasn't all that great of a visit.

But the kids found of the most seashells here...
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touched a stingray...
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and climbed to the top of a tower.
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Then we walked around downtown Lewes (cute and quaint) and cooled down with a banana split.
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--
Hmmm...this post is all over the place. I hope when I come back to reminisce years from now, I will be able to understand my ramblings. I have one more post to wrap it all up and I hope to hit publish on Friday!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!