Monday, September 19, 2016

monday morning catch ups.

/1/ I keep on thinking about what to do with this blog. On one hand, I want to quit blogging completely. It will give me so much time back and I won’t have the constant pressure (completely self-imposed) of posting frequently. If I stop blogging though, I worry about losing memories. This blog is a family diary for us, and I do like having a record of our life. But of course, this blog isn’t ALL of our family life, only the parts I want to share. So the argument then becomes if it’s not a COMPLETE record of our family life, then why bother? Instead of spending time blogging, I can use my time more wisely – like sorting pictures, printing them out, and actually putting them in albums. That to me is much more tangible than a blog. Anyway, my blog domain expires next February and I already told hubs that I want to go back to blogspot.sugarlens.com. That will be my first step.

/2/ Anyway, I haven’t been blogging much about September because I like to keep events in chronological order, but travel posts take forever to write and I don’t want to wait any longer. I already blogged about school starting, but here is our September so far, catching up to present day...

/3/ My brother and his family visited over Labor Day and we went to:

National Zoo -- It was our first time visiting in two years. Parking was $$$, but at least we saw all three pandas :) FYI, the zoo is a great place to play Pokémon Go. At each animal stop is a sign to flip. I have been recommending it to everyone.
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^The cousins...with another one coming soon in November!^^
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^^My kids have little interests in animals, but they loved watching the seals.^^

Homestead Farm -- We don't usually go apple picking the first weekend of September, but the weather that day was actually Fall-ish, so it worked out well.
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It was a quick trip with so many hands helping. We ended up picking over $100 worth of apples altogether. Several apple pies have already been made and ate. 
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Udvar-Hazy Center -- A complete waste of time. No further comments or pictures.

/4/ It's official, Luke and I have been married for 9 years! That Friday night, we had dinner (with kids) at Maggiano’s. After dinner, we went upstairs to the banquet rooms where our wedding luncheon was held :) I love Maggiano’s. Every time after we go there, I always question why we don’t go there more often. We got to take home two pasta dishes, which ended up being Anna’s school lunch for 3 days the following week. Such good bargain.
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^^Next year is the big 10. Lets see if Luke will plan us a trip somewhere! ;)^^

/5/ I turned another year older last week. For some reason, it didn’t feel too depressing this year, haha. Some things I want to remember: my parents took me out for lunch (ramen) the weekend prior, Luke got me a Pikachu cake (kids were pleased), I received cards from the family, and we had Popeyes for dinner that night :) It was a great birthday!

/6/ Yesterday was our annual company-hosted Kings Dominion trip. This year, it seemed like there were a lot less people. We got there right around 10a, and was able to get on 5 rides at Planet Snoopy without any wait. We rode on two new rides this year – Woodstock Express (a fairly thrilling roller coaster for the kids) and Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (I said to Luke, "This is definitely not Andy's Room.")
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After the rides and lunch, we went to Soak City, which is Kings Dominion’s newer and better water park. The kids loved Splash Island, a splash area with jets and slides, but the wave pool and lazy river were pale in comparison to Water Country. We all agreed that Busch Gardens is much better, but hey, the price was right. 

Usually we take our annual family picture on the way out, but this time we decided to do it first, while everyone was still happy. Just for the record though, we were still happy on the way out. It was another good trip! 
Kings Dominion 2016
^^(2012, 20132014, 2015)^^

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Friday, September 16, 2016

First Day of School 2016

The “First Day of School” was actually two weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to posting the pictures.
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So far, the school year is going well. Anna loves first grade…but hates before-care. She still gets upset when I drop her off at before-care in the morning. Sigh. Luckily, before-care is only a small part of her day and once she gets to her first grade classroom, she’s good for the remainder of the day. Last night was actually back to school night. I have been looking forward to it, even though it seems like it always fall on my birthday (same thing happened last year!). Anyway, the part where the school board members and the principal ramble was mind-numbing, but I loved visiting the classroom and hearing her actual teacher talk. I talked to the teacher for a bit as I was leaving and she said Anna is doing great so far. Very sociable apparently. I can’t wait to hear more details at our parent teacher conference. Oh, there are only 19 kids in her class, which I think is amazing.
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^^@ the Open House on 9/1. We had just gotten back from Williamsburg.^^
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Will is in his final year of preschool. This year, he’s in the "Yellowbird" classroom, 12 kids 2 teachers. He has his good buddies in the class with him and is just living it up as one of the bigger kids at school. Because of his birthday, he’s actually THE oldest kid in his class. Anyway, I know I will be super sad when we no longer have ties to his preschool, but I am looking forward to life without preschool tuition. EIGHT more payments left…!!
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Our routine in the morning: Everyone up by 6:20am-ish, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack lunch, brush teeth/wipe face, and we all leave at around 7:35am. I take Anna, Luke takes Will. We will be on this schedule until my work moves to Bethesda in December. At that time, we will have to figure something else out :(

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back to Williamsburg :)

I am skipping ahead to write about the Williamsburg part of our end-of-summer NYC/Williamsburg trip even though I am not quite done with NYC yet :)
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This summer we went to Williamsburg twice. The first time was for 6 nights, just after school ended in June. We tried Busch Gardens and Water Country USA for the first time and loved both parks. Will was sick off and on, so while we did the theme parks, we didn’t do not much else. When we canceled our Disney trip, Luke and I decided to go to Williamsburg again for 5 nights. This time, at the end of August. Our park tickets were still valid, so we did theme parks again, but because everyone was healthy, we also did a lot more. Off the top of my head, I remember us walking up & down Colonial Williamsburg, getting our feet wet at Yorktown, re-visiting “our” spot on the Colonial Pky, and shopping at the outlets.
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The biggest highlight on this trip for me was watching the kids getting better at swimming. They went from afraid of jumping into the pool to boldly doing so AND swimming a small distance AND flipping onto their backs AND swimming another small distance. We spent so much time at the pool!

We didn’t do anything new in Busch Gardens, but Luke captured this video of the kids on Grover’s Alpine Express. The kids rode on it so many times that by the end, Luke and I just waited for them in a shady spot somewhere. Love those kind of hands-off parenting!

The kids (and Luke) played so much Pokémon Go at Busch Gardens. Apparently there were lots of signs to flip. I got annoyed watching them staring at their phones and not wanting to ride all the rides, but as Luke pointed out, "You don't even ride the rides yourself." Touché.
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^^I liked walking around and browsing gift shops the best.^^
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^^"Mama likes pictures. You do this and she will let you play Pokémon."^^

As for Water Country, last time we missed two raft rides that the kids were tall enough for - Wild Thang and Malibu Pipeline - so this time, I made sure we rode them before letting the kids pick what they wanted to do. Now I can finally say that WE DID IT ALL in Water Country :)

Other than that, the kids did a lot of this, lounging and reviewing their Pokédex:
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^^Pokémon Go, Pokémon cards, Pokémon stuffies. They are Pokémon obsessed.^^

We always have fun in Williamsburg so it wasn't a surprised that we had another great visit. Next year I am not sure I will take that many personal days to go Williamsburg, but we will most definitely go back again.
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^^The family at the end of summer 2016 :)^^

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Monday, September 12, 2016

NYC 2016! Part II!

Day 2: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Grimaldi's Pizzeria, Central Park

On the second day, we woke up bright and early and headed to Brooklyn! Our destination: Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of my favorite places to be. It’s on the waterfront underneath the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, so the views were dramatic and amazing. It was also a super nice day to be out. We really got lucky. Despite the heat wave we experienced overall this summer, it was low to mid 80s when we were in NYC. I don't know how we (Anna) would have dealt otherwise.
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The last time when we visited NYC back in 2012, we parked right near Pier 6, where the kids had so much fun playing at the various playgrounds. This time, the kids and I rode the subway to High Street and started at the very beginning -- Pier 1. The kids whined about walking so we didn't get far. Haha, we got to Pier 2. But, I had set my expectations low and knew that we weren't going to walk the whole way, so I was completely fine with it.

I was surprised at how affordable Jane's Carousel was -- only $2 per ticket.
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After a spin on the carousel, it was time for lunch. Since it was a weekday, the usually busy Grimaldi's Pizzaria on Front Street only had a short line. We only ordered a small with mushroom and sausage to share, but without Luke, we still couldn't even finish it. So...it was my first time having the famous Grimaldi's pizza, and I actually think that Papa John's is better. I guess I am not a pizza connoisseur :)
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That early afternoon we met up with Luke's sister, brother-in-law, and their brand new twin girls in Central Park. It was our first seeing the new parents in over half a year and first time meeting the babies period. And sadly, it will probably be a long time before we see them again. The new family of four is leaving the city and moving to Boston (today happens to be their moving day) to be closer to the brother-in-law's parents. Moving with two infants? Oh MAN.
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^^The cousins' first photo together.^^
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It started to rain lightly but we still walked quite a bit. I think it was probably the most the kids walked in NYC. Thank god for Pokemon Go and the distraction it provided. Apparently they caught some new ones.
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It really seemed like we were walking all over Central Park (although after we got home and I looked at the map, we only did a tiny bit) that even I was getting tired, but the scenery kept me motivated.
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We walked down the Fifth Avenue (stopped at The Plaza for a potty break, very fancy toilets) and ate at a small ramen shop for dinner. We all liked the ramen, except the babies who just drank milk :)
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After dinner we had the best gelato at Grom Gelato. Seriously, so good. But also so expensive. We planned to enjoy our dessert sitting near the fountains at Columbus Circle, but came a downpour that forced us to run for cover at the Time Warner Center. It was getting late, the babies had to get home, the kids were tired, so we called it a night and said our goodbyes.

Back at the hotel...capping off the night with a swim. One big reason why we picked to stay at the Hilton Millenium was because of the pool, so even though we only used it for 30 minutes, at least we can say that we did :)
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We climbed into bed that night happy and tired, and the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes were those city lights outside my window. Heaven!

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

NYC 2016! Part I!

As I mentioned previously, our trip to NYC was very last minute. Luke had a work thing and we decided to all tag along :) So, for the most part of the trip, it was just me and the kids vs. the Big Apple. I didn't plan our days full to the brim because I knew that I wouldn't be able to handle it. Each day the kids and I visited one or two places in the morning on our own. We would leave our hotel early in the morning, and go back to the room after lunch. Then Luke joined us in the late afternoon just as the kids woke up from nap for dinner and post-dinner adventures. It worked out PERFECTLY!! I loved our NYC trip so much.

I am recapping our trip day by day, and here is the first day.

Day 1: Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, Chinatown, Brooklyn Bridge, 9/11 Memorial

The very first thing the kids and I did was going to the top of the Empire State Building! I am hardly ever in the pictures so I made sure to take a selfie with the kids right when we got up. After that, we were free to roam around with worries. It was such a beautiful and clear day to be up on that skyscraper!
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If I remember it correctly, we got there just before 9a and there was hardly a crowd. See the tallest building below? That's One World Trade Center and our hotel was right across the street from it. I loved waking up every morning to the sight of it and exclaiming, "It's another beautiful day in New York!" Haha.
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After the ESB, we found our way back to the subway and rode the B train uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. The AMNH was massive and we got lost no less than a dozen times. One time I was looking for a certain exhibit and it turned out we were on the wrong FLOOR. We didn't stay for long, since the kids and museums don't mix, but I only paid $10 for all of us (the entry fee is a suggested donation and you can pay whatever you like), so that was fine with me.
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The family-friendly Discovery Room was the best for my little kids -- they enjoyed digging for fossils and assembling a life-sized cast skeleton of Prestosuchus. There were also lots of volunteers around to explain nerdy science stuff to them. We could have stayed longer, but ran out of time.
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That night after Luke met up with us, we walked to Chinatown for some yummy Taiwanese food at Taiwan Pork Chop House. I can't believe this was the only time I had bubble tea during the entire trip...
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After our bellies were full, our post-dinner adventure was to walk the Brooklyn Bridge! We didn't walk the entire way to Brooklyn, maybe a third, but it was still very exciting. I have been to NYC many times, but this was a first for me.
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The views of the Manhattan skyline were stunning, especially at night.
What a great night to walk the Brooklyn Bridge!
Just before we went back to our hotel, we stopped at the 9/11 memorial.
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We had a long, fun-filled day in NYC!

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