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Archive for the ‘Things to do & places to go’ Category

Yesterday we had an early celebration for CC’s birthday. My not so little boy will turn 6 tomorrow. For weeks I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to throw him a birthday party this year, not because he had asked for one, but because for some crazy reason I thought I’d be less of a mother if I didn’t. It seemed like ALL his little friends got birthday parties and I didn’t want him to feel left out. In all honesty though, we are not birthday party people in this house. Things like that tend to get me stressed because I feel like I have to get everything perfect and pinterest-worthy. Kind of like when I tried to bake the fire engine cake when he turned 3…I don’t need to remind you all how that turned out.

So Larry finally put an end to my hemming and hawing and put his foot down and said we would just celebrate CC’s birthday as a family. I complained for all of 5 minutes but was inwardly relieved. I told CC we would go out for dinner for his birthday and he can pick the restaurant. Just as I predicted, he picked Homeroom, a very hipster joint in Oakland touted to have the best Mac and Cheese this side of the bay. So yesterday afternoon, before heading out to Homeroom, we let CC open his one present from us (more on that later) and Face Timed briefly with his grandparents. The place was super crowded, even at 5:45, but we scored a table outside relatively quickly. We ordered two kinds of Mac and Cheese, a side of buttery minty peas and a Limeade for me, and watched my soon to be 6 year old son chow down more calories than he probably ordinarily gets in a week. He was happy as a clam, and I was too, knowing I didn’t have to frost any cakes or fill any goodie bags.

After dinner, the boys of course asked for dessert. Larry, thinking ahead, had printed out a coupon for a free birthday scoop from Ben & Jerry’s for CC. We asked CC in the car what he wanted for dessert and he said ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Score! Isn’t it great when what your kids ask for is actually the same as what you plan? So we made a stop at B&J and even though we were planning to get Turner his own scoop, CC very graciously said he would share his cone with his little brother. So we walked out with free ice cream and two very happy boys.

When we got home, CC had about half an hour to play with his birthday present before he had to get ready for bed. For his birthday, we got him a box of 125 Zoob building pieces. Recently he’s really been into Legos and can spend hours by himself just building things. So we wanted to get him something similar – open ended creative building toys. The Zoobs are pretty cool, basically ball and socket type pieces you can fit into different configurations. It also comes with guides with instructions of different things you can build. CC got into it right away, and for half an hour we all joined him in building things. Definitely quality family bonding time.

We got the boys ready for bed and CC thanked the Lord for his new present. I thanked the Lord for giving us such a simple yet wonderful day. My son will only turn six once. I’m glad I didn’t miss it because I was too busy planning a party he never asked for. When he looks back on his 6th birthday, I hope he’ll remember that we had mac and cheese and ice cream and that his mommy and daddy sat down and built Zoob robots and animals with him. I know that’s what I’ll remember. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy birthday CC!

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We just got back from our epic summer family adventure to the East Coast and what an adventure it was! We hit three cities, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, in nine days relying on a single umbrella stroller, an ergo, and public transportation. The last time we were out on the East Coast was more than two years ago when CC could still fly for free. I was determined that we make it out there again before Turner’s second birthday in June. We had a long list of people to see so each day we set off to visit friends and every night we were in a different home enjoying food and fellowship around the table while the kids caroused happily with new found playmates. Some days we were so busy getting from place to place, catching trains and buses, that Larry and I felt like we were competing in Amazing Race, only with kids. (By the way, I think that would be a great idea for a show – Amazing Race, Parents with Kids Edition – I would totally watch it). We managed to fit in a little bit of sight seeing, but we didn’t stress out about having to see everything, and in all honesty the kids were usually more happy to just stop at a local playground or run around someone’s back yard than walking the Freedom Trail or seeing the Statue of Liberty.

 

Swan boat ride!

Swan boat ride!

Playing baseball in the park

Playing baseball in the park

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Taking the T to Amtrak

We took the Amtrak from Boston to New York where my whole family lives and introduced Turner to his brood of cousins. I have two siblings who each have four children, ranging from 19 years old to 8 years old. It was a challenge, to say the least, to do things with a group of 10 children and 8 adults and there was a lot of chaos and noise, but it helped that there were so many extra people to take care of and entertain the kids. It was so heart warming to see all the older cousins take a genuine interest in our boys. Being with the cousins was by far CC’s favorite part of the whole trip and probably what he will miss the most.

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Our clan

 

Waiting for our flight

Waiting for our flight

Normally when we get home from vacations, I’m exhausted and happy to be home. But this time coming home was a little bit bittersweet knowing that it will probably be a while before we’ll be able to see our family and friends on the East Coast again. Instead of being exhausted, I feel like this trip has refreshed me in so many ways. Now I’m a firm believer that families should take every opportunity to travel, especially with young kids. There’s something so healthy and beneficial about seeing and being with people from another part of the country or the world. It’s also a precious time to bond as a family; CC and Turner spent a lot of time fighting, but also played together in ways we haven’t seen them do at home before. The biggest reason for us not traveling more is the expense, but now I think it’s worth it to scrounge and save to give our kids and ourselves this valuable experience.

What is your experience of traveling with small kids in tow?

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Happy new year, my friends! Sorry I’ve been pretty silent on this blog in the last couple of weeks. We’ve been down in So Cal staying with Larry’s parents and I just got lazy. But now we’re back home and I’m slowly starting to ease back into the swing of things, which I hope will mean that you’ll hear from me at least twice a week again.

So a few things from our recent winter vacay…

  • We attended the semi-annual training, a week long Bible conference, this time covering Genesis chapters 12-24. It was awesome and faith infusing. I hope to share some highlights with you in next week’s Truth Tuesday post.

 

  • We explored some more museums in LA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Natural History Museum. CC loved both and could not stop talking about saber tooth cats, mastodons and of course dinosaurs. The charge for admission is the same at both museums, but the Natural History museum is waaayyy bigger and in my opinion, more bang for the buck. You can get a combo ticket that gets you into both (and you don’t have to go to both on the same day, just within two weeks time), which is probably what we should have done.

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  • So you know how I often complain about CC’s eating…or more like his not eating? My mother in law suggested that we take him to see her Chinese doctor, who’s a combination of a chiropractor and a chi gung master. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these kind of things, but I thought, “Hey, if it doesn’t hurt, why not?” So she made an appointment for him and we all went along. The guy put CC on the massage table, showed us how part of his spine was not aligned (which I couldn’t really see), gave him some gentle adjustments, did some special massages on his back and hands which were supposed to stimulate his appetite and told us he was cured. We were instructed to do those same massages on him once a week. For the next few days CC ate like a ravenous wolf, all without any prompting. I’m not saying I’m a believer now, but I’d happily do little finger dances and pinches up his spine once a week if it means there will be less battles at the dinner table.

 

  • On our winter break I started this book with CC – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I picked up a copy at Barnes and Nobles before we left for So Cal. My background and training is in teaching ESL, but surprisingly enough, I’ve never had any experience or exposure to teaching phonics. This book is broken down into 100 short lessons and you’re supposed to do one a day. The great thing is that it actually scripts out everything you’re supposed to say to the child word for word, so anyone can use it, even if you have no background in teaching. It really is amazing. Each lesson only takes us about 10 minutes and by Lesson 7, CC was already sounding out three letter words all by himself. I totally wished I had started this with him earlier.

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  • We had a pretty uneventful New Year’s Eve. While Larry’s parents went out to party, we had dinner at a mediocre Japanese restaurant, came home to do laundry and pack, and then put the kids to bed. Larry and I did however each spend some time to pray personally and then together to freshly consecrate ourselves and our family to the Lord. For us, it was the best way to end the year. I was in bed and asleep by 11. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope you all had a wonderful end to 2013, whatever that means for you, and I’m excited and looking forward to a new year which I hope will be full of more pearls of wisdom to share with you all!

 

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The prompt for this week is…

Last

GO

This is our last precious week of summer before everyone goes back to school next week. Okay so technically only CC is going back to school (half day preschool, that is), but since my husband works with college students, I feel like we perpetually operate on the University schedule. Next week will be official back to school week for all of us.

I’ve been wanting to blog about our last summer hurrah but just haven’t gotten around to it, so I’m going to be lazy and combine it with my FMF post for the week. Last weekend we had to attend a wedding down in the Santa Cruz area so a few families we knew who were also attending the wedding decided to get together and rent a vacation house for the weekend. Four couples, six children under 3 (and a baby on the way), two nights and two beach cottages. Doesn’t that sound like a load of fun? Sure, it was chaotic but all worth it. We’ve never vacationed with other families like this before and I’m hoping this won’t be the last time. It was fun, cost effective (vacation rentals are way cheaper than hotels and we made all our own food), and so convenient that we could walk down to the beach and come home for naps whenever we needed to. And it was great for the kids to have friends to play with and for me to have much needed bonding time with other moms.


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But that epic trip was not the last hurrah for us. We got home from Santa Cruz, did some laundry, slept in our beds for one night, repacked and left for a camping trip with about 30 college students. I guess technically this was a work trip for my husband and me and kids just tagged along. I was kind of hesitant about going camping after such a great but tiring weekend, but I’m so glad we did. The boys had so much fun running and crawling around and they slept better that first night in the tent than they normally would at home. It was also nice to have so many willing babysitters around so it was actually a nice break for me.

As this last week of summer draws to a close, I’m glad we made time to do some fun things as a family. Having made these memories, I feel like I can now be ready for the school year to start. I’m actually looking forward to having more structure in my days and finally unpacking the boxes piled up in our new bedroom.

What will you remember from this summer?

STOP

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Apologies for missing Five Minute Friday last week, but for the first time this year, we went on a real staying-in-a-hotel, eating-out-every-meal, napping-schedule-out-the-window family vacation. We’ve done the drive down to So Cal where Larry’s parents live tons of times, but this time we decided to forgo our usual route down the I-5 and stop at some places along the way that we’ve never been to. Despite both kids getting sick and coming back exhausted after logging over 1000 miles on the road, I would say that our vacation was a success and I think we all will have some good memories to refer back to of our summer.

Here are some of the highlights from our trip.

First stop was Morro Bay, where we got to see sea otters up close and Christopher got to play on the beach next to Morro Rock. Really beautiful and there was a short paved stroller friendly trail around the beach.

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We stayed two nights in Solvang, a small quaint Danish town close to Santa Barbara. Our hotel was right in downtown so we could walk to all the restaurants and shops. Make sure you go to Paula’s Pancake House and Ostrichland if you ever find yourself in Solvang.

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These are actually emus, not ostriches.

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We took a day trip into Santa Barbara and upon the recommendation of a friend who’s a local, we took the kids to Alameda Park. We bought some sandwiches and ate lunch at Kids’ World, an awesome playground built by the community. Then we crossed the street and the boys had a great time looking at koi fish, turtles, and ducks in the big pond. Before heading back to Solvang, we went to Arroyo Burro beach and CC had fun jumping in the waves with Daddy while I stayed on the beach and tried to keep Turner from picking up and eating all the cheerios he dumped in the sand.

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On our way down to Larry’s parents’ house, we stopped at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Larry and I have made it a goal to go to as many presidential libraries as we can; so far this is our fourth one. This one was really well done, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I could have actually stopped to read about the exhibits instead of rushing through them with a squirmy baby. CC’s favorite part was being able to go inside a real Airforce One plane.

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The last big thing we went to was the California Science Center where the Endeavor space shuttle is housed now as a permanent exhibit. My favorite thing about this place was that it was FREE. It’s an awesome science museum and all we had to pay was $10 for parking and $2 for tickets to see the Endeavor (which is a must-see). The boys had a great time watching the divers feed the fish. There were a lot of exhibits we didn’t get to see, but since it was free, we didn’t feel like we had to rush to see everything in order to get our money’s worth. We’ll definitely be back here on our next trip to So Cal.

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I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well the boys did on the trip, despite all the time they had to spend strapped down in their car seats. We actually didn’t even have to whip out the ipad too much for CC. I think one secret to having a fun road trip is to have a good playlist. For us, the Biblestory Song CDs and the Les Mis soundtrack really saved the day.

We will be spending this week decompressing from our vacation, driving as little as possible, and packing up our stuff to move (more on that later). No promises, but hopefully I’ll be able to get to my Five Minute Friday post tomorrow.

Hope you all are having a great summer! Anyone else have good vacation stories to share?

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Next week will be CC’s last week of preschool and let’s just say I’m not counting down the days. It’ll be time to say goodbye to those quiet lazy late mornings when Turner is snoozing in his crib and I can actually have time to sip coffee and get into the Word. Goodbye to shower time, brush and even flatiron my hair time, pick up the mess in peace time, grocery shop with only one kid in the cart time. I’m really going to miss those three lovely morning hours.

Time to say hello to actually having a plan for the day and resisting the temptation to let CC watch videos three hours in a row. To evening showers and picking up the mess and doing dishes the night before so that at least I don’t begin the day with chaos. To finding creative ways to occupy an active three and half year old while his baby brother is napping. To getting used to spending personal time with the Lord with the theme song of Dinosaur Train playing in the background.

On the bright side, it will also mean that the boys will get to spend more time together going to places we haven’t been to for awhile. Here are some of our favorite spots, so if you’re a mom who will be going through school withdrawal after next week, come and join us!

  • Habitot awesome indoor hands-on play museum for younger kids in downtown Berkeley. I love how it’s not too big so it’s easy to keep an eye on all your kids even when they’re doing different activities. There are frequently deals on Livingsocial or Groupon for multiple visits and the Berkeley Public Library also offers free passes. You can also purchase a special summer membership which gives you unlimited visits until the end of September.ย 
  • Oakland Zoo – admission is pricey, but again library offers free passes. You don’t have to pay admission for the rides and train located outside of the zoo, just the price of the ride tickets.
  • Little Farm at Tilden – make sure you stock up on celery and lettuce before you go!
  • Lawrence Hall of Science – fun for all ages. Great indoor hands-on exhibits and fun outdoor play areas. Once again, look for a library pass!
  • Children’s Fairyland – such a fun place for the little ones – rides, animals, train, carousels, puppet theater, just to name a few. I scored a livingsocial deal for a year membership which I split with another mom, which gives me and the kids unlimited visits for a year for about $20. Sounds like a fairy tale to me!

What places will you be taking your kids to this summer?

Mission control at Habitot

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Last week was another staycation for us, and as with all our vacations, it involved a train ride. This time though, we took CC on a real Amtrak train and not just a kiddie train. We took the train from Berkeley to Sacramento (about an hour and fifty minute ride) to visit the train museum. Yes, it was quite a train filled day. CC was in train heaven.

We went with our friends Seng and Jess, their two year old son Ethan, and a college student from our small group. The boys could barely contain their excitement and pretty much narrated everything they saw out the window on the way there – water, bridges, ships, the Bart train, trucks – just to name a few. Luckily we snagged some seats in the dining car so we didn’t disturb any sleeping or working passengers. The boys also enjoyed roaming through the cars with their dads.

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Once we got to Sacramento, it was a short walk to the train museum from the station. The museum has two floors, the first houses replicas of old steam trains from different eras and goes through the history of the railroad. The second floor has model train exhibits and Thomas the train tables for kids to play with, which of course was the boys’ favorite part of the museum.

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steamtrain

 

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We had lunch in Old Sac, also only a short walk from the museum. Tons of families were out and occasionally you’d see policemen riding around on horses or people walking around dressed like pioneers. After lunch we got some Gunther’s ice cream and headed back to the Amtrak station. Turner pretty much slept the whole way back and CC sacked out on the seat for about half an hour. All in all it was a great way to spend a Saturday. ๐Ÿ™‚

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