Christmas stocking stuffer : How to make coupons for kids

Had a short work day today so once I got home I thought I work on some stocking stuffer coupons for Bee and C.  Coupons are easy to make, inexpensive, and fun to give :)  You can choose to be creative or simple.  The best part is that you can personalize each coupon !!!  At our house, they proved to be very popular (favorite) with my hubby.  He even tried to use the same coupon twice !!!  I usually make one book for C every year but it's my first time making a coupons book for Bee this year.  We'll see how she respond when she check her stocking come Christmas morning.

I try to make each coupon unique and special as I really want Bee and hubby to enjoy them !  For C, I know he appreciates some alone time to play his musical instruments, sleep in on Saturday (who doesn't ?), movie date, and no chore day, so his coupons tends to tailored to what I know he would really like.  I also included a coupon for a day trip to a location of his choice.  Bee likes different activities and outings so I made her coupons to include field trip, snowman building, candy treat, swimming, a sleepover at a hotel (she loves sleeping at hotel (she associates it with pool = plenty of swimming time)) and I gave some blank ones to C to fill out for her (I saw he wrote a coupon for a brunch date with him :)

I'm in love with this wood round center piece (from our friend's wedding).  The wood & greeneries are simply beautiful.

I made Bee's coupons book's cover with picture of My Little Ponies.  She loves them !  I wanted to use a picture of each pony on her coupon but there weren't many quality winter theme images so I stuck with Christmas theme.  They're quite cute !!!  For C I used pictures of Forever Friends' teddy bear !  I drew him one in my art class back in 1994 (with Chinese characters as I was obsess with all things Chinese then !  my cassette tapes were filled with songs from Andy Lau, Leon Lai, Jacky Cheung & Aaron Kwok).  It was my first gift to C which he framed it up on his room then and now it's in Bee's room.  I thought it's nice to revisit the memory of that bear again.

Here are the pdf files of the designs I made.  Feel free to print and make your own coupons book.  Enjoy !

CHRISTMAS COUPON PRINTOUTS < this folder has the cute cartoons and the forever friends teddy bear coupons

season of gratitute

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.

Every year when December arrives, I get nostalgic thinking about all Christmases passed.  We didn't have much growing up and decoration for the tree is just mainly lights and fluffed up cotton balls that my brother and I put all over the tree so it looks like snow.  Under those twinkling lights, my brother and I would dance from one end of the room to the other while my mom and grandma smiles at us, encouraging us to dance some more.  There aren't many gifts, just one each to be exact, from my mom, and a couple dollars from my grandma.  I don't remember what gifts we received over the years, but what I remember though, we were happy.  We were happy just to be in each other's presence.  I looked back fondly at all the tree and house decorating times with mom and brother, and memories of my lovely grandma, grinning from ear to ear over a soap box or a chantilly gift set she gets each year. She's always so thankful.  It was wonderful.

It was never about the gift, we didn't have much, but we were filled over with love and laughter and warmth.  It's the time we spent together that stuck with me.  It's those moments that lives on.

In recent years, with the additional of kids, we've received many cards and gifts from families and friends come Christmas time.  We feel blessed for them.   Every year I would watch the kid/kids ripped furiously through boxes and boxes of presents on Christmas morning.  The joy it seems, as though to be in the unwrapping of presents, of ripping up paper.  They do like and play with the toys too, but after like a week, they moved on to something else.  No toy ever was a "favorite" for long.  Witnessing all these, I desire to make Christmas not about just stuff for our kids.  The reason of the season is to celebrate Christ's birth, thankful for His gift of love.  These few days of holiday for us before the year end give us time to be together, to spend with family and friends !  I love sharing meals with them and discuss the world while the children run around, laughing, giggling, and crying !   Those are special times.  I hope our kids embrace those time and also our family traditions !  I hope happy memories will live on in our kids, like how it was with me,.... trim the tree, bake cookies, count down to Christmas day, fill the shoebox, pray for the snow...

Our kids might be too young to fully appreciate the gesture of the person who bought them their Christmas gifts, but I try my best to explain to them so they understand how special it is to be thought of, and to receive a gift, any gift.  I find kids are a bit self centered naturally :)  Everything is "me" and "mine" !  It's a life long practice, the attitude of gratitude, it doesn't come over night or a month or a year.  At 35 I'm still practicing to be grateful !  it does come easier with practice, that I can assure you.  The more we appreciate what we have, the less the "want", the less we feel the need to keep up, or to prove ourselves or's a very healthy mindset.  A grateful heart is a happy heart !

I made some stockings for us and Bee helped me with the fuzz balls decoration.  Inspired by our Hungry
Caterpillar craft time !  Those fuzz balls are quite fun to work with.

Our homemade count down mailbox !  When the "Open Me" arm is up, it signaled Bee to check
the mailbox.  Some day there's treat in there for her and Lovebug, some day there's an invite
for cookie baking or book reading.  I try to be creative :)

life with kids

I'm not a kid person.  Before being a mom I (choose to) spend very little time around the wee ones.  I have no interest in baby.  Unlike my 2nd cousin Cynthia, who loves and adores baby.  She would squeals at the sight of a baby, would ask to hold them, would ask if it's ok to kiss them, and would ooh and ahh and cooo over them.  I'm the opposite of all of that.  I held maybe 2 or 3 babies (before my own) in my life and it's because the parents insisted I try to hold them (saying that they're helping to train me to be a mom).  I don't dislike or like kids, just indifferent to them.

When Bee came into our life, she was the prettiest little thing to me.  She's my precious.  Then Lovebug came, and my heart grew larger.  She's exquisite.  I love looking at my girls, cuddling with them, talking to them, and the best part, kissing them.  Oh I'm addicted to my kids.  Our girls add hours of entertainment into our lives.  The things Bee said to me some time make me laugh for days on after.  Our kids also make us think, make us give full attention to the little things, make us brave (I touch a spider with my bare hand !!!), and make us feel like superman/woman. Their hugs and their kisses are very addictive.  I go back for more each time.  Our kids teach us to enjoy the ordinary thing in life, like a rock or the flight of a bird.

However, being the wonderful kids they are, they do come with some quirks  !!!   Somewhere in my head (before kid), I pictured them sitting quietly sipping milk and gently playing with their toys.  How naive.  KIDS ARE SO LOUD  !  and smelly (ugh, solid in diaper, nuff said), and hyper and loud, and jumpy and indecisive and sneaky and demanding and they test you and push the limits all.the.time.  They cry when they're happy and when they're sad and just because.  Our home is a chaotic battle field and we, "the judges", must ensure that all is always fair, or else there will be lots and lots of tears.

People often commended me on all the activities I do with my girls !  I get the "you're such a fun mom" comment a lot.  Little do they know, doing activities, whether it's craft or art, reading or playing games, out in the garden or at a park, they are done to help me keep my sanity while entertaining the girls !  they help our little energizer bunnies to have a focal point to focus all their energy on !  instead of pulling on my pants, my hair, my arm, hanging on my shoulder, my leg, or jumping on me and see if they will stick !!  And not all activities are a hit with the kids.  They will alter stories, make up things and expect me to do something about it. What am I ?  a puppet ?  Aish !  One can't deny their children of their creativities.  So it goes, we're always up to something :) for everyone's benefit !

In addition to the family activities, there're always work awaiting for us parents !  toys to clean up, clothes to pick up, laundry to do (there's always so much laundry), dishes to clear/clean, tables to wipe, snacks to prep, milk to pour, hands to wash, nose to clean, bodies to bathe, bums to wipe, etc. and the never ending conversation regarding their development, health concerns, bad habits, what they like/don't like, and on and on it goes. 
I head into being a mom some what prepare for hard physical labor work, and that, I can say now, is the easy part.   It's the mental and emotional work that I didn't expect, along with all the hormonal stuff !!!  I find I'm always looking for the common factors that work for me, them, us, our family as a whole.  The challenges we face change through season !  but they don't end :)  we will be mom and dad our whole life.  That title isn't for the faint at heart  :)  I must say though, that I have a better handle on things now than before.  I learning and getting to know my kids by listening to them, watching them, talking and playing with them.  The more we know our kids the better problem solver we become.  I can identify by the sound of Love's cry if it's for comfort, sleepy or for attention.  We gained so many skills over these past few years.  
Our days are unpredictable and some days are so bad we feel like a failure. If the thought of "what did I get myself into?" flashes across your mind, it's OK !  Just remember it's temporary pain :). Remove yourself from the situation, take a min. out alone and breathe.  If you lost it, forgive yourself and carry on.  All moms have one of those day and when the screaming and tears stop flowing, a smile, a giggle from the little ones will make all awesome again.  We're all going through learning pain together, you and your kids.  Not complaining here, just simply sharing the thoughts of a mom.  I hope it doesn't turn off those who's planning for kid/s or parent-to-be or new parents !

Some day Mr. C and I feel like we're running a relay race.   It's a whirlwind of one activity after another.  We each are an activity station for the kids and when one is exhausted, heaving for oxygen, the baton gets handed over to the other.  Our ultimate goal is to drain all the energy from the kids but sometime, most time, it's us that go down first !  some day we bribe and beg the kids to go to sleep.

Our days are eventful until the kids are tucked in bed.  Then we hold each other and talk about how cute they are and the things they said.  We would kiss them til our heart is content.  My 4 yr. old doesn't give out enough kisses :(  Kids are a lot of work but nothing great and worth while come easy right ?  I ingrained that fact in me and it helped me to be more accepting and relax/chill a bit !  C and I know all these are temporary and as each day, week, month, year passed, the kids will grow independently from us and no longer they will fight over who hug us first or kiss us the most.

And when that day come, we will miss them and we will long for days like today !  Loud, messy, and silly !   It's important to look for joy in our everyday.  Whenever other parents tell me "enjoy them !  they go by fast", I know exactly what they mean.

HOMEMADE | How to make safe finger paint with cornstarch

Jeremiah 17: 7, 8 “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water and sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

The girls wanted to do some finger painting and I just finally picked up some food coloring the day before so it was perfect timing.  My eager helpers and I set out to make some home made paint !  10 min. of taking turns stirring the mixture, rearranging (they like to rearrange things) the paper plates lay out, and debating over what color we should have, we settled on 5 colors:  blue, green, red, purple, and yellow.  We divided the mixture onto each plate, put a drop or two of food coloring on top and the girls take turn mixing the color in.  It was nice seeing all the swirls of colors.

The kids had a great time playing with the paint !  squishing paint between fingers, drawing on paper, painting on paper, and then they took their kitchen toys out and pretend they're cooking with them.  There were drops of gooey color all over the floor, table, and their aprons.  It's very very messy but oh so much fun !  I was mushing them on my fingers too.  It's like playing with sticky goo :)  We make a lot of messies around here :D  Anything fun will come with some kind of mess !  The kids love it and I love it.  The best part about this is that, cleaning is just as easy as making it !  you can wipe the paint off all surfaces with a damp cloth and all is nice and all is good again.

For this safe-to-eat paint, you will need corn starch, cold water, boiling water, and food coloring.  1/2 cup of corn starch, about 1/4 cup of cold water, and depending on how you like the paint texture to be, any where between 1 1/2 cup of boiling water to 2 cups.  Although the paint is safe to ingest, I still discourage the kids to put in their mouth.  I rather them think that paint is not food :D


Non cook method:
  1. put 1/2 cup of cornstarch into a measuring cup
  2. pour in 1/4 cup of cold water on top of the starch - DON'T MIX it just yet.  Just gently swirl the hand whisk around, for the water to mix in with the TOP LAYER of the starch, the bottom should be dry still.
  3. slowly pour in 1/2 cup of boiling water in (it should immediately thicken up the liquid), with the hand whisk, slowly mix all the starch into the water.  Pour in another 1/2 cup of boiling water and mix around, make sure you get all the dry starch at the bottom.  It's very thick and uneven texture right now but it's just temporary.  Pour in another 1/2 cup of boiling water in and mix well.  Repeat this with the rest of the boiling water.  It should slowly loosen up and turn into a translucent smooth jelly like consistency.
  4. divide mixture into individual containers (or paper plates) and add food coloring to each.  Use a paint brush to mix the color around.
Cook method:

Another way to do this is to mix 1/2 cup of corn starch with 1 1/2 cup of cold water in pot.  Put the pot on the stove, turn heat on to medium and continuously stir the mixture around until it reached your desired consistency.  If too thick, add more water and stir well.

Enjoy !

ipad withdrawal | day 1 & 2

It's day 2 without the ipad.  I didn't notice anything on day 1 as I was a bit busy with the kids and after putting them to sleep I fell asleep shortly after !  usually this is the time I'm on the ipad checking up on emails and fb and reading a variety of things.

While waiting for the pot of water to boil so I can start cooking my vietnamese sweet/sour fish soup for dinner,  I had to stop the urge of wanting to use the ipad.  By habit, I went to grab it, then I remembered what I'm trying to do so I put it down.  Everything can wait.

What I noticed about me (from being disconnected less) during this withdrawal time is, whenever I have some free time, I'm plugged in the net :(  I'm reading news, articles, scriptures, responding to posts/comments, and shopping.  They are not bad activities, they just consume a lot of time, time I already don't have too much of.   However, taking some time off, made me realized that I overload myself with both useless/useful information and the cycle starts again after I wake up.  Like a machine, I spend a lot of time "downloading" and have very little time "processing" them.  All these time on the net and I must say it added very little beneficial qualities to my life.  Many of them are just distractions, fruitless entertainment, aimed to keep my brain busy.  What I really need is less brain activities !  I need quiet down time to reflect and pray.  To examine, to give thoughts in my daily plan, and to pay attention to where God is leading me.  Because my life is so hectic, I need to spend more time with the One who knows my tomorrows, my source of wisdom and who is my strength.

Tonight 5 min. into story time and Bee was out, shortly after Lovebug followed.  While they were sleeping I kiss them repeatedly.  Hubby wanted to hold them a little bit longer before taking them to their bed (which is next to our bed :)  I must say night time is the happiest time of my day.  Us four snuggling in bed together, giggling, talking, listening to Bee praying.  Such sweet time.

Usually after they sleep I would go online and check emails & messages and do some reading.  Keeping to my goal of using the ipad less, I've added a few more hours of sleep the past 2 nights which I'm sure my body and brain are very thankful for.  So far so good !

Frozen Elsa dazzling dress purchases

Bee is fanatic, hog wild, about Elsa (Frozen) !  I have yet to meet any kids (preschooler age) who aren't.  We watched the movies more than a hundred times already and my head on a constant repeat play mode with "let it go" and "do you want to built a snowman?".  Whenever I'm in the bathroom, behind closed door, Bee would sing through the door's gap "do you want to built a snow man ?".  Until the next Disney's hit,  I think Elsa will be a part of our family for the next while.

Bee loves Elsa's dress.  She asks me for one whenever we watch Frozen, or see any Frozen's products at the mall or other kids with a Frozen t-shirt/shoes.  Anything that reminded her of Elsa reminded her that she "needs" an Elsa dress. Why ?  because Elsa is brave, she has power, and she has a pretty dress !!!  Hearing enough of her "reasons" and I partially wanting her to have one too, I decided I'm going to get her one.  Bee is rough with her play-dress-up dresses, so I can't justify paying so much for something that will get ruin with days.  What a mama to do ?  I googled cheap Elsa dress :)  and amongst the search results, was

I shopped here once or twice before.  If you never been, it can come across as overwhelming because there's just so much stuff on it !  My first impression with this website was > is the seller trustworthy ? they're a world away, they can send me junk and I'm stuck with it !  There's buyer protection from the site but it's one of those "open a dispute" kind of clause and I dread it !!!  It's safe to say, shopping on this site is "buyer beware".

Will your info. and credit card get compromised on such site ?  No, the company itself is secure.  They are on the stock exchange so it's legit (?).  It's just the sellers on the site that you need to care for, if the image is exact of the item itself, ship out on time, etc.  It's kinda like ebay, minus the bidding :)

The thing you should keep in mind with Aliexpress is that you never know what you're going to get.  The material quality, the fit, and the print quality.  So it's important to read reviews.  Also, the shipment ETA (estimated time of arrival) is unpredictable (most, if not all, are ship from china, like everything else).  Don't order and expect it in two weeks.  I suggest give it a month or two at least.   I look for FREE SHIPPING to Canada.  Just because shipping overseas are costly.

The reviews tab is there for a reason.  READ READ READ REVIEWS.  It's the only way to know about the item's quality and fit (and sometime the length of shipment).  I try to avoid anything with less than 4 stars.  Keep in mind also, that quality is subjective between people, but there's a "decent, good enough" median that we all can agreed with ! so don't expect Gucci if you paid for George :)

*Below are my orders (free shipping to Canada) and both came in less than 2 weeks after payment.

This one, the reviews said it fits small so I ordered a 6.  It's a tad big on Bee (she's 4).  A 5 would have been a perfect fit.  It's not a 'Disney' dress, so don't expect too much.  However, I must say that the quality of the dress was more than "decent", it was good.  It even have a layer slip, which I didn't expect.  Bee loves this dress as it looks like Elsa's dress.  She wants to wear it to school but it's too long (touching the ground), so I ordered a different Elsa dress for her to wear to school :)

This dress fits true to size !  Bee is 4, I ordered a 4T and it fits her with a bit of room.  It's really cute and the quality was alright.  Good fabric and good stitching.  No complaint.

The website also have a lot of Anna's dresses too.  I'm planning on napping up one for Bee for days she feels like Anna (not too many but it's fun to play dress up :)  If you do plan to order these for Christmas, I suggest you do it sooner rather than later.  This way, even if shipping is slow, you are still in the clear !  Have fun dressing up your little Elsa and Anna :)

family vacation | cruising with kids

If you're here you're probably considering a cruise with your kid (s).  Thought I would share a few things I learned while I was planning for the cruise and while cruising.

*BOOK EARLY*  we booked late so it was slim picking !  I was hoping for a cancellation but nop !  The ship sailed full.

First things first, if you're on a budget, it's best to work out the cost of cruising vs flying.  With flying, kids under 2 are free.  With cruises, there's no discount for kids, ours paid the 3rd and 4th passenger's cost (about 20% less than us).  Cruise is all inclusive vs eating out/cooking if you're flying somewhere.  You should work out the cost of food, entertainment, transportation, etc and compare notes.  For me, seeing that our kids ate barely anything, we had 3 dinners in the "fancy" dining room and didn't get to watch any show :( it's way too expensive to cruise with a toddler (under 4).

Our 10-day sailing itinerary:  Vancouver - Victoria - San Francisco  - Santa Barbara - Catalina - LA - then sail straight back to Vancouver


- kids are different when they're on vacation !  esp. on a cruise where we're on this huge boat for days, and everything is new, everything is exciting.  They  want to touch everything, look at everything, try all things, swim in all the pools, talk to everyone, etc etc !!!  It's overwhelming for them.

- despite the massive size of the ship, out there in open water, the waves can be scary !  I got motion sickness when we sail pass Oregon and was in bed for a good part of the day (Gravol didn't help).   When I did make it out for some fresh air, I noticed everyone walk like they're drunk ! After Oregon, the Cali. water it was nice and calm.

- 70% of the ship was seniors or close to senior's age.  I didn't expect that many (1st timer here).  They love to talk to the kids, ask us about the kids, going out of their way to approach us, engage in games with the kids, and tease them.  On a ship with 2596 other passengers and 500 crew members (who also like playing & chatting with the kids) expect to have more than a few 'small talks" each day !!!

- cabin steward loves to clean your room !  Ours vacuumed and cleaned our room 3 times a day.  The min. we're out they're in there cleaning.  It's great seeing the bed made and floor spotless every few hours.  They earned the gratuity for sure (we did give extra too, on top of the manditory $12/per day/per person (baby included)).

- the disembarkation time on the itinerary is not the exact time you get out of the ship.  If the ship docked at 8, we don't get out til at least 11 or 12.  There are 2596 people who wants to get out in the same time as us :)  We also lined up later too, as the kids can't wait in line for that long.

We went on the Grand Princess.  There was NO kiddie pool, all the pools on the ship were 6-7 feet deep.  I decided to let our kids swim in the 1 1/2 feet dipping pool (meant for those who are tanning to go in for a dip to cool down).  People were tanning at the front of the ship so this doesn't get use that much anyway.   I also brought a blowup pool but we didn't use it.  IF you plan on bringing one, remember to bring a pump and you just have to ask the pool steward to fill it up with water for you.  If pool are on your must-haves list, make sure to check in advance with the ship.

Was there any kids program ?  Yes there is.  We went to one, and it's a craft session and movie. My eldest prefers being with us and her sister (I wanted her to keep her sister's company anyways so we opted out (my youngest was too young for the program, they need to be 3 or older)).  If you have kids under 3, I recommend going on a Disney cruise (friends went and loved it), where there are more activities and amenities for baby/toddler, a "normal" cruise would be better for older kids, 3+.   I can imagine it would be quite fun (+relaxing) with older kids as there's a bit of everything for everyone.

Did we have a good time overall ?  The girls had the time of their life.  Bee told me "I want to be here  forever !!!".  We did have a great time too just with a bit of extra work we didn't foresee.  But isn't that always the case with kids ?  they're so unpredictable !  that's what makes them fun right ?  :)  and also very very exhausting.  Thank god for sleep !  Our kids are good sleepers (although they stayed up later when on the cruise) so when they are out, we finally get some quiet time.  But not for long, because they tired us out during the day so we often sleep soon after them.  Eat and sleep is what we did most on this trip.   In a way, it's a good thing :)

What I enjoyed most on this trip was the conversations we had.  We are together, day and night, so we do what we are good at, talk !  I get to hear Bee's take on things, her plans/suggestions, her ideas, and overall, just getting to know her as a tiny person.  Love's vocab gained a few new words, "go", "sawwie" (sorry), "boi" (swim in viet), "ban mi" (bread in viet).  She adores her sister.  Despite the fact that they are super duper off-the-wall hyper when together on the ship, I love that they always want to be together, do everything together.  They are sisters :)

The time out of the ship and visiting cities were excellent.  Perfect weather and beautiful cities.  The time we're on the ship is a mix bag !  As parents you quickly learn to be creative with what you have so all it all, we managed not to be too stressed.  We play lots of games, sports, draw, dance, talk, and play a lot of "I spy...".  We did watch a few movies under the stars (outdoor movies).  We also discovered an excellent basketball court at the very very top of the ship that's fully covered with net so it was the perfect spot for the kids to run free, scream to their hearts content, draw, play games, etc.  My hubby gets to shoot some hoops there while I get to sit back, watch the kids having fun, watch the sun shine and the waves.

How was the food ?  Excellent.   There 3 times we made to the "fancy" restaurants was excellent.  Service was good as well as the food.  A more-than-adequate main course menu, fancy desserts (like creme bulee, exotic gelato, etc), "fancy" kid's menu, and beautiful presentation.  The only thing I don't like about restaurant is that it's slow.  It takes a while for food to come so the whole thing takes about 2 hours.  Which was rough on us as my toddler can't sit in her high chair for that long.  I gave her the sugar packets, the salt shaker, the fresh flowers on the table, ice, and bread sticks to play with in between courses.  It's a good experience but we prefer food doesn't take this long to prep :-)  We also use their free room service for breakfasts and it was excellent !

The BUFFET was perfect for us.  There are so many varieties in the buffet and there are so many place to eat so it was nice.  If the kids are edgy, we eat outside where they can run around while we eat.  There are food in the buffet dining room throughout the day (closed at 10pm) so we did eat a lot.  There were rows and rows of enticing desserts so it's hard to try out one or two :)  It was really nice not having to worry about cooking or cleaning or figuring out what the kids want to eat or scouting out kids-friendly restaurant or waiting for food to be prepped.  Everything is there for you, hot and tasty !

Here's the big question, would we cruise again ?  We can't say a definite no as it depends on a few things !  like cost, or cruising with families (who can help babysit :) etc.  If it's just us, I would say probably not anytime soon.  Maybe in 2 years time, when Lovebug can some what communicate what she wants instead of screaming :) 

will travel on water

We're going on a cruise soon.  We're excited.  Why we are excited to be on a floating dish with thousand of others for weeks ???  we don't want to fly as our noisy kids can't sit still and don't like restaurant.  Cruising sounds like the least stress option as other parents highly recommended it to us, and both the parents and kids love it.  I like that we can eat anytime on the ship and that we get to stop off at different ports to explore for a day or two.  I don't know how baby Love will do but I know for sure there's plenty of room on the cruise's deck for her to screams to her heart's content and will disrupt no one :)  Of course I booked this trip with our kids in mind.  Picky eater and screamer, we got it cover baby !  I plan to relax, eat hot food, get a massage or two, then eat again.  If you're a parent you know what I mean when it comes to meal time !  Cold meal ?  yeah, won't happen here :)  I hope anyways.

Since this is our first cruise, I've done extensive research and thought I share my pre-cruise findings (will report back after trip):

- book early !  A LOT of people cruise !!!  price doesn't get cheaper closer to departure date.
- pick low mid ship (less movement if sailing through rough sea) and not near elevator, not underneath a common area (dining room, shops, clubs, pool, etc) for less noise disturbance !
- be prepare to pay even for baby !!!  unlike plane, where baby is free under 2, on a cruise, it's still the 3rd/4th person rate, there's no discount !  and you have to pay for her gratuity too ($12 a day per person).
- read reviews on different ships, the destinations (itineraries), best time to cruise, the food, service, etc.
- make your own itineraries for each docking port
- pack for sun and rain, light and warm clothes, even if travelling to warm places (many travelers suggested this)

Bee is super excited so I created a calendar for her to X out each day.  I can see her being in the pool everyday.  The travel agent I spoke with suggested I bring a kiddie pool so when I'm on top of the deck relaxing, the attendant can fill up the pool for the kids to play in next to me.  I will take her advice on that.

Why we decided to take a cruise instead of flying ?  Besides the fact the hubby and I dislike flying, it is because we have a very active toddler.  My eldest is an excellent traveler so I know she would do well, while my youngest, my fearless wild child, was a bit of a concern.  You see, she loves to run around and talk to strangers, dogs, poles, tables, chairs, anything and climb on to everything.  A little explorer she is.  She isn't fit for plan ride or restaurant.  And my eldest is feeding on her energy and gets really hyper too.  Trust me, a mother knows what her kids are capable of.  We wanted a family vacation and decided that taking a cruise is the best for all us. 

Cruise has a bit of everything for everyone and if everyone is having a bad day we can stay in our room and order room service !  Cruising seems to check off a lot of items for us.  Stuff like food availability (eat at your own schedule), comfort of our own room (within short distance), kids friendly menu (many choices of food to choose from (within arm's reach :), swimming pools, and kids play room.  We also like that on the ship, everything is close by for the kids (we have one willing walker and one who doesn't like to walk more than 5 min., doesn't like to be strap on a stroller, and doesn't like to be carried).  If we were to be at a hotel the restaurant might a block or two away, there's no kids playing area, or there might be no pool available.  Cruise was our ultimate vacation plan.

*** while we did book for a cruise, I still prefer road trip :)  prefer a drive down the coast.  I like travelling in car, making impromptu stops, exploring roads off the beaten path, checking out small towns along the way.  But Lovebug can't sit too long on long drive yet so we will have to wait until next year for a road trip.  Yeah, flying would be fast but you see, we don't like flying :) 

If you didn't know already, I have a fear of height !  no make that 2 of us :)  both hubby and I.  This contributed (I'm sure) to our deep dislike for flying.  Most people equal our dislike of flying = to fear of dying but for us it's more about being up in the air, miles and miles off the earth.  It's an unsettling feeling.  Sure there's also the "I don't like putting my life in the hand of the pilot" part parked at the back end of our head but majority of the time, when we really have to fly, thoughts cities diminishes behind the clouds frightened us. 

I hope our cruise will be a good experience for all of us.  I look forward to spending a lot of time with the kids and make memories.  They're growing so fast.  I'm going to go and kiss them now.

outburst of emotion

Lately, we're been seeing a lot of frequent outburst from Bee, unpleasant ones I'm afraid.  She would cross her arms, pout and push me away.  I thought she was just not sure how to express her "feeling" so I do what I know best, ask her what's wrong, encourage her to tell me her feeling, and well, she did just that.  "I don't like you telling me what to do". 

I tried to reason with Bee.  Explained to her I need to tell her what she can and can't do because I care, because I love her and don't want her to hurt herself or others.  She's like "I'm still mad at you".  The more I explained myself, I realized her little tantrum also lengthen (taking longer to calm down).  I'm doing something wrong !!! Feeling the need to cure this before it gets out of hand, I seek for advices from her school moms.

As it turned out, other kids at the school were doing it too.  OK, so this is where she might have learned it (or she could be the one started it !).  I spoke to 5 moms and all said their kids have been behaving like that in the past while.  It's a phrase they said, but still need to be dealt with.  One mom shared that she encourages her son to talk to her BUT she doesn't give him any attention when he gives her attitude or has a melt down.  She would wait until he calms down then she would have a talk with him.  She would explain to him the consequences of bad behavior and take away his privilege for a block of time.  She said it doesn't stop in a day or two but by keep on doing it, she noticed he doesn't act up as often.  I'm going to take up on her advice.

Surely enough, on the way home Bee got angry at me !!  We were having a walking race, in the same time I was loading a picture of a squirrel I took to show her !  She stopped but I kept going a few steps of her, like 3 !  Thats all, and she's mad and her bottom lip stuck out as far as she can will it !!!!!  She sat down in the middle of the road.  I decided to ignore her behavior, and carry on as if it's no big deal, talking about the squirrel, showed her the pic. and even snapped a picture of her.  I stood there next to her for a few minutes, let her be "mad", when I sensed it's "cool', I told her I'm going to keep walking home, if she wants to join me she will need to get up and walk with me.  She got up slowly but up she did and we walked home.  I started to ask her about her day and she was excited to share with me about her new friend Robin.  On our way home we played silly games, she ran circles around me, and we raced to the front door.  It was as if nothing happened.

I don't know if the next flare-up can be diffused this easy but I learned something today.  Kids don't hold on to their anger for long.  At least in Bee's case.  Look back, I see her pattern.  She gets mad then she gets over it.  It's still new water for me anyways so I'm treading it carefully while observing her behaviors.

I asked Bee why she was mad earlier and she said she doesn't know = she doesn't remember (which makes it hard for me to give her a timed out !!!  I need to figure this out as I don't want bad attitude to to unnoticed/unattended).  I noticed though, that at this age, it seems its all about discovering for them.  What can I do, how far can I push, what is the outcomes, etc.   They expressed their displease, anger, etc. and then wait to see our reactions and then either repeat or move on.  By taking my attention away from Bee (and the tantrum itself) when she's throwing a tantrum, I'm showing her that it is the wrong way to get my attention or get what she wants.  I now see that even if my goal was to understand why she's angry and what is it that she wants, by responding every time to her tantrum, I'm encouraging this behavior.  I will gain better insight from her when she's not angry and she can absorb what I'm saying to her when she's calm.  Now that I think about it, aren't we adults the same ?  :)  Let's see what the next few days will be like !  Wish me luck !

Baby Love, my baby love

Lovebug grew so much this past summer.  Which also means taking care of her is becoming easier too (but on come new challenges :)   She no longer cry when we strap her into her car seat, can sit for a good distance, she can feed herself (with spoon/fork), drink from a cup, and she tells us when to change her (she points at us to get our attention then points at her diaper).  We can point and sign to each other.  Things are definitely looking up !  Although she's still not ready for formal restaurant yet !  Bubble tea joints are still our frequent hangout  :)

Her current vocab:
- mam, mammy
- dad ddy
- yaya (can't pronounce her sister's name yet)
- molk (milk)
- jus (juice)
- no
- jeet (cheese)
- bubba (bubble)

- ba
- cho
- om
- noc
- thit ga
- me

I feel like she can understand more than she speak.  She's learning to sound out what we said and reading our expressions.  She can point out her eyes, mouth, tongue, nose, ears, head, hair, tummy, bum bum and can show how old she is, with her finger, when being asked "how old are you?".  I can ask her to go to her dresser and get me a new shirt or pants, to put her toys away, to get her own bowl and cup.  When she's thirsty or hungry she would grab hold of my hand and lead me to the kitchen and sign to open the fridge.  Once opened, she would point at the milk, or water if she wants a drink.  She would point at the fruits, cheese or whatever in the fridge that she wants to eat.  It sure makes life a lot easier now that she knows what she wants and at the least, point us where to get it for her :)

She's maturing a lot faster than what I remembered of Bee.  She's no longer a baby :(  Seeing her running around in a PLAYGROUND, climbing up stairs and going down the slide all on her own, makes me realized she's like a toddler now !!!  It still feel strange for me some day, seeing her running around, running towards me and yell "mammy !"  17 months ago I didn't even know what she looks like and now here she is, running, screaming, talking, attempting things.....Aish, don't grow too fast love !

let there be cake

We celebrated C over the weekend !  He doesn't want us to fuss but his family and I like to fuss over him.  3 days of excellent tasty food really put me in a food coma though.  We had ice cream for brunch on Sat.  The kids had 2 each !!!!!!!  sugar high !!!!  Then we had dinner at his parents with amazing dishes made by his mom and 2 sisters.  His dad did all the bbqing and deep frying.  It was a total family affair.  After our meal together, we sang the birthday song with Jules dancing to the tune, Bee blowing out the candles too early and C cutting and serving us cake !  It was delicioso !

Sunday was dinner with just our little family of 4 at C's favorite Greek restaurant.  Baby Love fell asleep on the ride there, leaving us 3 with a peaceful and enjoyable dinner !  We're not complaining :)  We did have a few  interruptions from Bee, who wants C to help decorate her Fluttershy's (My Little Pony) long hair during our meal but it was fine.  His patience and attentiveness with the girls are admirable.  I have very little patience for kiddies stuff like that, feed the dolls, comb their hair, decorate them, pretend they talk to each other, etc.  I'm better at craft, physical activities/games with the girls.  At least between us two we got the kids covered :D

After dinner we sat in our backyard and enjoy the last glow of the sun.  We really like being in our back yard.  Our garden is very fruitful this year, plenty of tomatoes, herbs, and cucumbers.  The carrots and beets are growing bigger by the day.  The highlight for me must be the figs !  The tree yield about 30 this year with about 50 that didn't get ripened.  Next summer is going to be a promising one !!!

the girls love playing with this slimy creature !

Monday came, C's actual birth date.  My mom suggested a dinner for him and my side of family.  She bought some huge prawns and let me do what I wish with them.  I lightly seasoned them with seasoning salt then brushed them with olive oil, garlic and rosemary then throw them on the bbq. They were heavenly delicious.  Baby love devoured 3 skewers on top of other fixings !  A record !

This weekend, we discovered C has a slight lactose intolerance.  It just happened.  In past couple of months, he noticed that after eating anything dairy they don't sit well in his tummy.  Poor thing because he loves cheese.

So for C's special day, I wanted to get him a cake, a dairy free cake.  I hope it's just the dairy and nothing else...we might have to go vegan !!!  Oh man.  I so don't want to.  Any who, since I work near Whole Food I thought I ask them if they have any dairy free cake and lo and behold, they have 1 chocolate one available.  I quickly napped it up and carried it home.

After dinner we sang the happy song to C !  Our girls and I were very excited to eat cake.  I want to know what dairy free chocolate cake tastes like.  They helped him blow out the candles and we proceed to cake cutting and eating.  It was chocolatey yummy tasty !  Very rich creamy chocolate taste and it doesn't taste like it lacks anything at all, like milk or butter.  I wonder what they substituted them with because the icing was heavenly.  Bee ate all her icing and asked to have mine !

I made a card for C and Bee made him a card and a box of gifts (little paper stuff she cut up and folded).  I wanted to get him shoes but all my searches have left me empty handed.  There's none I found that I think he would like (he's a picky one, that man).  I will have to delay my gift.

Another day, another cake, another year older.  We celebrate and cherish C.  My prayer for him this year is for the Lord to guide him and bless the work of his hands. Amen.

girl meets dress

All Bee wants to wear recently is dress !!!  She picks out a dress everyday for school and some she repeats 3 days in a row.  I don't know what to make of it as she's a girl after all and I did buy her A LOT of dresses.  I just didn't think she would want to wear them everyday but every day she did.  She has shorts on underneath though :)  I see way too many kid's underwear (not intentionally of course) and I don't want mine to be one of them.  


Spent our 11th year anniversary with these kiddos.  We had a party at home with our friends the night before and today is just us 4.  We ate all our favorite food, wander around Steveston, ate some more then call it a day !  A perfect well spent day.  

camping with kids

We love being in the outdoor !  Camping is our must do every summer.  Lovebug went on her first camping trip when she was only 6 months old.  I brought along an Ergo carrier and a walker so I can be hands free.  We had such a great time.  If you plan to go with a baby, a playpen and a carrier is a must have.  Carrier is great for walk and hike, and the playpen is great for baby to nap or crawl around in at the campsite, freeing you up to do your own things.

The second thing that's dreadful while at camp is MOSQUITOES (first is Out House !!!!).  Them blood suckers love young meat :-(  If you're bringing baby and young kids, it's good to invest in a tent that's has a net room attached or buy a standalone net tent (bug tent).  You can get those spray on stuff but if it can be avoided it's better as they're not good on kids.

Here on the west coast, I like camping in Golden Ears and Sasquatch provincial parks.  They have beautiful lakes, lots of green spaces, are not too far from the city but far enough that cell phone doesn't work !  Booking has to be done 3 months in advance and they are usually all booked up during the first hour that registration is open.  The campground has some first come/first serve sites but it's a shoot in the dark.  I wouldn't attempt it with the kids along.  Reason is they will be too excited and if we can't secure a site then they will be disappointed then whined over it and we'll hear it the whole way back home.

Below are some pictures of us at Alouette Lake campground in Golden Ears.  We went in a group of 6 families !  Our site unfortunately have no shower so to keep cool and clean we go in the lake each day :-)  The kids had such a blast running around in the wood, climbing on tree stumps, swimming, boating and digging in the sand.  Us parents get to relax, eat, sit around, enjoy each other's companies and enjoy nature.  When we were there it was during fire banned time so we had lanterns & candles going at night, played charade and attempted to roast marshmallows on the candles.  Lots of laughter all around.  Camping is such a great time to bond.

Getting ready to go to the lake

Fish watching !  C caught some small fishes for the kids to look at (we released them after)

Getting ready for soccer !

Worse part of camp !  Out house !  Glad I brought mask along.