Thursday, September 26, 2013

Super CB's Super Party!

Choi Boy's birthday always falls during or right after the first week of school. As a teacher, it's a time that's always a *wee* bit hectic and stressful...just a wee bit. ;) But, since we love parties and and we love partying with our friends, and we especially love celebrating our little superhero, a party is always added to the mix!

This year, we combined two of CB's big loves: superheroes and golf! We found a great party package at a local county park that combined mini golf, carousel rides and a party tent. We kept things low-key with catered food from Chick-fil-A and brought some desserts and decor that fit in with the superhero/comic book theme. We told the little guests that they were all welcome and encouraged to come dressed as their favorite superhero, and delightfully, all of them came sporting some superhero costume or accessory! Even the hubs and I got in on the fun and wore Superman and Supergirl shirts. The kids had a blast playing mini-golf, riding on the carousel, playing on the playground, making superhero masks, giving themselves superhero tattoos and just stuffing their faces with super sugary sweets!

Here are some of my favorite snaps and moments from CB's Super Party (photographs courtesy of my very talented friend at Three Continents Photography):

CB and some of his best buddies!

The one crafty DIY project I did for the party... The felt banner is from the Spritz line at Target and I made Choi Boy's name out of construction paper, drawing freehand and using 3 different sizes of plates to trace out the circular pieces. It took just over an hour to make and was lots of fun to do!

An antique carousel chock full of small superheroes!

One of the never-ending games of mini-golf!

In lieu of a cake, I made cupcakes and used (a lot of) food coloring to dye the frosting red, yellow, and blue -- the colors of Superman's uniform. The cupcake toppers came from Oriental Trading. I also made M&M cookies with red, yellow, and blue M&Ms and displayed the rest of the M&Ms in mason jars around the cupcakes.

Lil' CB did not mind blowing out his candle on a tower of cupcakes!

We had so much fun at Choi Boy's party that I barely got any pictures on my own camera! I did manage to get some snaps on my can see the balls of cookie dough before I popped them in the freezer overnight (that's my trade secret for baking cookies!), as well as some other snaps of the little guests and my sister and me in our superhero masks! ;)

We had a super time celebrating our Super CB!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fantastic Four!

It's hard to believe that I now have a four year-old child. I mean, seriously, where did the time go?? And, as silly as this sounds, FOUR just sounds's fully out of toddlerhood and quickly moving into school-age territory...Yikes!

But, nevertheless, it's time to celebrate my little old man! Here are some tidbits about our newly 4 year-old Choi Boy:

Four is fun:
Without going into a lot of detail, I'll just say that three had its fair share of challenges. ;) The tail-end of three, however, was lots of fun and I think we're in for a great year! Now that CB knows more, he *gets* more and is quite amusing and entertaining. The conversations we are able to have now are so interesting and insightful and often hilarious. We've really enjoyed hearing his interpretations of things and listening to him explain his thoughts and reasoning. Of course, they don't always make sense, but that's part of the fun! For example, a few weeks ago, CB explained to me that people are like berries "...because berries can be all different colors like blue, and red, and purple. And people can be all different colors, peach, and brown, and tan, and blue and silver." See? Fun. ;)

Four year-old Foodie:
We are grateful that Choi Boy has always been a great eater. He continues to be an adventurous little foodie and his latest favorites include blue crab, tuna rolls, anchovies, clams, mussels (do you sense a theme here??), roasted red peppers, and salad. Thankfully, he hasn't yet discovered lobster yet and my dad grills an amazing steak, so CB won't be depleting our finances with his eating habits...yet. And, also, don't let his fancy palate fool you. The boy also loves mac and cheese, french fries and all sorts of junk food goodness. We get along quite well in that department!

Four is fearless:
Throughout the summer, Choi Boy was conquering fears left and right! And within this past week, he's conquered a big one: swimming a few strokes with his head underwater! This is a huge accomplishment for our little fish who was not a fan of water in his face. We're still a ways off from really swimming, but he's definitely making progress. CB also learned to ride a two-wheeler and has loved cruising around the neighborhood on his "big boy bike". I'll say it again, those balance bikes really are amazing! Last week, as an early birthday present, we bought CB a 12" bike with training wheels, brought it home, promptly took off the training wheels and gave CB a push and told him to pedal. He did. And he took off pedaling and riding his bike on that very first try! It's been incredible to watch him zoom around and he is so very proud of himself!

Four year-old obsessions:
It seems we are truly phasing out of all things trains...they're still here, but they don't get played with as often, which means I'm not always stepping over or tripping on train tracks! In their place, it seems superheroes are here to stay...which is fine by me and my nerdy self! Though we try to avoid a lot of the "bad guy" stuff, we've been having lots of fun with the watered down versions of our favorite superheroes through the Superhero Squad and the DC Super Friends. In fact, we just threw a superhero party for CB which I hope to blog about later this week!

Four is full of learning:
It has been amazing to watch how much Choi Boy has grown and learned this past year. His incredible memory and interest in just about everything continues to impress us and we hope his curiosity only builds and continues. CB will head to preschool again in a few weeks in the same program he was in last year. We are excited for another year with his fantastic teachers and can't wait to see all he will learn! Before we know it, he'll be 5 and heading off to Kindergarten, so we're going to soak up this year as best as we can! It's gonna be a great one -- I can feel it!

We love our little four-year old! Happy 4th Birthday, CB!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bubble Painting

Bubbles are such a quintessential summer activity, don't you think? If you're like us, they often become a year-round activity, too -- bubbles in the bathtub in the dead of winter are always a big hit at our house!

And even though blowing bubbles is a classic activity, finding a fun twist to add to it is always exciting. In that vein, here's an easy activity to do with your little ones that is part bubble blowing, part craft, and on our Summer Fun List: Bubble Painting!

Here's what you'll need:

*Bubble solution (or bubble juice, as it's called in our house)

*Bubble wands of different shapes and sizes

*Plastic cups

*Food coloring (you can also use squeezable watercolor base)

*Large paper (we used 4 sheets of scrapbook paper taped together)

Take the food color or watercolor, and mix it into the bubble juice in separate cups for each color. We used four basic colors: red, yellow, green, and blue

Tape the paper to a large upright surface -- we used our garage door; an easel would also work and probably be way easier! ;)

Then, take the bubble wands, dip them into the colored solution and blow towards the paper:

That's it!

It was fun to experiment with blowing big bubbles versus little bubbles; standing close versus farther away, and also seeing how the breeze affected the direction of the bubble. The best part was that it was rather unpredictable, so we weren't sure what our masterpiece would look like in the end... but because of the fun colors and different patterns, no matter what, it was sure to look great!

Once you are done with your bubble painting and it has dried, you can leave it as is, or use it as wrapping paper or as a card -- a great way to incorporate your kiddo's artwork into gift-giving!

We had a lot of fun with this activity and will definitely be trying it again, perhaps with different colors next time!

*A quick note about clean-up: the food coloring bubble solution does require warm water with a spritz of cleaning solution to get off of surfaces -- it came off our garage door right away that way. We also got a few splashes on our clothes, but a quick squirt of stain remover and a wash in the laundry got those out, too!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Fun List 2013

Yikes! I haven't been around these parts since MAY! Eeeeee...What can I say? I've been procrastinating busy! ;) Actually, there is truth in that. June always brings end-of-the-year madness and since school got out 2 weeks ago, we've been busy having fun!

And to help document our fun, it's time for our annual Summer Fun List!

Last year, we had so much fun with our Summer Fun List and were able to complete almost all of the activities on it, so we knew that it would be a continuing summer tradition for our family. For this summer's list, I added many of the same activities that were tried and true because I knew that Choi Boy would love them, and I also thought that any repeated activities would also be met with new understanding and appreciation now that CB is older. We also added some new activities and included trips we had already planned onto our list, because who doesn't love things you can check off right away? ;)

For easiness' (or laziness' depending on how you look at it!) sake, I wrote up our Summer Fun List on our chalkboard this year. I figured if we wanted to erase a particular activity that for some reason we knew wouldn't work and add a new one in its place, it would be easy to do with the list on a chalkboard.

Here's what this year's list looks like:

Again, like last year, I wanted to make sure that the list had a good mix of activities, projects, and outings. I also wanted to make sure the list included a lot of low cost or free things (I LOVE free things!!). Finally, I also wanted to make sure the list wasn't too overwhelming and that completing most of it was attainable.

We've already checked off some of the things on our list and have scheduled dates to complete many others!

So far, we've already taken our first trip of the summer to Boston:

(Do you recognize some familiar faces??)

And we really enjoyed a concert at a local outdoor theatre!

(This is Elizabeth Mitchell and her band in concert. She is our favorite children's musician and is AMAZING in concert -- definitely worth catching if she's ever in your area!)

We've also taken a trip to our farmer's market and have begun our library's summer reading program. And even though some of the items on our list our things we do semi-regularly (such as visiting the farmer's market or going to our local farm), somehow, because they are on our list and we get to check them off, it makes the activities even more fun!

What activities do you have planned for you and your littles this summer?

P.S. On my Summer To-Do List is blogging. For reals, yo.

Monday, May 20, 2013

the easiest outdoor fine motor activity.

Building and strengthening those little fine motor muscles are crucial in the early childhood years. Strong fine motor skills will come in handy as children learn self-help skills (for example, getting dressed, especially buttoning and zipping) and they take center stage with skills like drawing and writing. Because of that, I'm always looking for ways to help Lil' CB develop those little muscles in his hands and fingers.

Enter the Easiest Outdoor Fine Motor Activity. Ever.

This is an activity that I often suggest to parents and something I started with Lil' CB when he was about 18 months old. Here's what you need:
  • a cup of water
  • a paintbrush
And here's what you do: take the paintbrush, dip it in some water, and paint on the sidewalk (or the side of the house; or the deck; or the bench; or garage door; or the chalkboard, etc.). That's it!

As simple as this activity is, it has always proven to be a hit. It's just like painting, but there's no mess (holla!!!), and what's really cool is that the water quickly disappears, so it adds another element of fun.

When I first started doing this with Choi Boy, I just let him go to town and he had a ton of fun just painting the ground and exploring how to use the paintbrush. Plus, dipping the brush in the water cup was a great way to help him with his hand-eye coordination. Now that he's 3 and a half, he still enjoys freely painting, but we also use the opportunity to practice letters:

And do some pre-writing activities, like practicing lines,


and squiggles!

We also use the evaporating water to add a few twists...we'll try to see how many letters we can write before the first one disappears or CB will call out a word and I'll say the letters out loud as I write them to see if we can finish the word before the first letter is gone.

This is an activity we'll pull out several times a week and I'm always happy to do so because again, there is little to no mess! Hopefully your little one will enjoy this just as much as Lil' CB did and still does!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Non-Uniform Uniform

(Originally posted on Hellobee!)

I tend to be a creature of habit. At the same time, I will admit that I love clothes and accessories (sometimes a little too much) and enjoy putting together daily outfits. Blend those two together and I often find myself wearing different versions of essentially the same ensemble!

Our dress code at school is somewhere between business casual and casual (blue jeans only on Fridays), and since I'm often sitting on the floor or dancing with my students or just being altogether unladylike at school, I also need to think about being my work clothes being comfortable and functional. Because of that, and because of my habits mentioned above, I've discovered that a mix of a loosely fitted top, skinny pants, statement jewelry, and flats tends to be my just-right outfit for work and often on weekends, too.

See Exhibits A, B, and C:

Here are some other pieces that I either own or would love to own that would fit right in with my "uniform":

Tops: I prefer to wear tops that are fitted, but loosely so, so that they don't cling all over my momma muffin top but aren't too boxy and still show some shape.

1) J Crew Boy Shirt in Dots | 2) J Crew Factory Crochet Eyelet Tee | 3) Old Navy Slub Knit Tee | 4) J Crew Featherweight French Terry Sweatshirt | 5) J Crew Stripe Boatneck Top

Bottoms: When skinny pants first came back on the scene in a big way several years ago, I resisted for a while because I don't love the shape of my legs (they're a bit bowed on the bottom). But, I soon discovered the awesomeness of skinny pants and they're about all I wear now. My favorite thing about them is that the bottom hems stay in tact because they don't drag on the floor!

1) J Crew Cafe Capri in bright poppy | 2) Target Skinny Denim in black | 3) AE Cropped Moto Pant in olive | 4) Target Skinny Pant in Mint Polka Dot | 5) J Crew Toothpick Jean in Fresh Purple

Shoes: I cannot wear heels. In fact, the last time I wore them, I fell down a flight of stairs (and I was completely sober!). I hope flats are around forever because they're my favorite and I love the variety of flats that are available.

1) TOMS Classic Slip on | 2) Target Mossimo Ballet Flat | 3) TOMS Linen Ballet Flat | 4) Target Mossimo Flat Strappy Sandal | 5) Maria Sharapova by Cole Haan Air Bacara Flat

Jewelry: I love big, bold and fun statement necklaces that accent my otherwise plain shirts. I don't like to spend a ton of money on costume jewelry, though, and have been very happy with my inexpensive pieces!

1) Forever 21 Rhinestone Wreath Necklace | 2) Target Stone Shower Necklace | 3) Francescas Champs-Elysees Necklace | 4) Bauble Bar Green Ariel Necklace | 5) Forever 21 Opaque Rhinestone Chain Necklace

What about you? What's your go-to non-uniform uniform?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why I Hate Thomas the Tank Engine

I've shared in a few previous blog posts about my disdain for a certain little blue tank engine. But, I've never shared exactly why I dislike him so much. So, indulge me for a moment while I dive into the incredible annoyingness that is Thomas the Tank Engine.

First off, he and his buddies are freaky. In fact, it took Choi Boy a while to actually warm up to Thomas and his friends and he called them scary for a long time (while I not-so-silently-cheered and happily directed him towards other toys and characters). The exaggerated facial expressions scared CB and I was happy to keep him away from them. However, once CB became super interested in the trains, the exaggerated faces became hilarious to him and I'm sad to say that he often imitates them. Especially the angry faces. Grrr. Literally. (On the other hand, check out this fascinating study about children with autism and their connection with Thomas and Friends' exaggerated expressions!)

Secondly, Thomas and his friends are often whiny and pouty and boastful and mean to each other. They make fun of each other; play tricks on one another; and everything is always a competition between the trains. And they're always getting into trouble with Sir Topham Hatt! Their behavior is just not what I want my 3 year-old to watch and absorb.

Finally, he's eeeeeeverywhere. I'm not kidding. EVERYWHERE. When we were in Korea in 2010 he was everywhere there, too! You're probably wondering why on earth I would expose my child to Thomas when I dislike him so much. The thing is, I don't. Not really. But, if we walk into the book store or library, the Thomas books are prominently displayed. And when we go to friends' houses, and all the kids want to watch Thomas, I'm not going to be *that* mom and not let my child watch. And, of course, when Choi Boy doting aunts, uncles, grandparents, great uncles and great aunts find out he likes Thomas, Thomas he gets. What's worse is that, as Mrs. Yo-Yo once said, Thomas is the gateway train and only sets some major train-lovin' in motion. Sigh.

Since that darn tank engine is everywhere, we do try to limit his exposure to him when we can, esepecially when it comes to watching the Thomas and Friends show. At home, I don't let CB watch Thomas. We don't get the channels that show it on our TV, so the only way CB can watch is online or on DVD. We once borrowed a couple Thomas DVDs from the library and quickly decided we would not be borrowing anymore. I do let CB borrow one Thomas book from the library on each visit, because as silly as it sounds, I do want to respect his literary choices.

We've really cut back on CB's screen time, but when he does watch something on the tube (maybe a total of 1-2 hours on the weekends only), here are the shows that are momma approved for Choi Boy (and while I still have almost full control of what he does and doesn't watch, we'll be sticking to this list!):

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: People, I love this show. LOVE it. (Confession: sometimes I watch it on my own. On purpose.) It is so developmentally appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers and the songs are so catchy and fun. I love the connection to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (an old favorite of mine) and the lessons are simple, yet powerful. Plus, the characters are so darn cute!

Curious George: Yes, it's true, George is a mischievious little monkey. But he's never malicious, and I always play up the fact that George is a monkey and not a child which can be used to explain some of his crazy antics. I also love that there is a Math or Science lesson embedded within each 12 minute episode.

Super Why: I feel that some shows that try to integrate letter learning and early reading skills can often feel forced, but I don't feel that with Super Why. Also, the methods the characters use to boost phonological awareness are actually pretty sound.

Chuggington: Chuggington has become our great train compromise. While there is a little more silliness and poking fun in this show versus the ones listed above, it is still presented in an age-appropriate way with much more easy-to-read redemption in those situations. Plus, this show has many more positive female characters, which is something that is seriously lacking in the Thomas stories. I really love the fact that the fastest chugger is a girl!

While I can't keep Choi Boy totally and completely away from Thomas the Tank Engine, I am not ashamed to admit that I will excitedly tout the awesomeness of of the characters on my "approved" list in order to downplay Thomas...I'm so bad. ;)

Tell me I can't be the only one...what children's characters do you hate? Which do you love?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chores for CB

I'm a firm believer in chores. Not so much to earn an allowance, but to instill a sense of responsibility and partnership in helping your family at home. Since young children love "helping" out, it was easy to capitalize on that desire at a very early age and help Choi Boy develop the routine of doing his chores.

For example, CB has always loved helping with the laundry and helps by putting clothes into the washer and pulling clothes out of the dryer. He also likes to pour detergent into the washer and he firmly believes it is his job to press the "play" button on both the washer and dryer. He also loves Swiffer-ing the hardwood floors and loves to have a turn after I've done an initial sweep. While both of those examples require direct adult guidance and set-up, we've also been working on chores that CB can do with near complete independence.

When Choi Boy came home at 15 months, he had good comprehension of things we were saying and was able to understand simple one-step directions like, "Put your shirt in the hamper." That soon became one of his jobs and he knows that it is his job to put his dirty clothes in his hamper. Now at three and a half, he also asks whether his clothes go in the hamper or on top, since he re-wears some pieces of clothing (pajamas for 2 nights, jeans and sweatshirts for 2 or 3 wears, etc).

As his physical ability and agility developed, we added more to the list of chores he is able and expected to with little to no help. When introducing the idea of independent chores to CB, we framed it by telling him that these would be ways for him to help his family. We told him that we all have jobs outside the house (his being going to school) and that we also have jobs inside the house. We also told him that since he was able to do so much more, we were trusting him with doing these jobs because we knew he could do them and do them well.
I toyed with the idea of creating an actual chore chart, but in the end decided that right now it might be more work for him and me to keep up the routine of a chore chart since he does so well either remembering his jobs on his own or does them with one reminder. I think when CB is older and able to handle chores that are more specific and less time-dependent (for example, vacuuming or dusting) and/or he is able to read and keep track of time and days of the week (for chores like "take the recycling out on Thursday"), we will implement a chore chart.

So, what are CB's chores? At three and a half, he has 4 "major" chores in addition to small responsibilities such as getting dressed or putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. His current jobs are: setting the table (this is also a great way to practice counting and sorting!); wiping the table with a wet cloth after meals -- he does the initial wipe to take care of the crumbs and then I do another wipe with cleaner; keeping his shoes lined up and orderly on the stairs (our tiny garage does not have enough space for all of our shoes and since we are a shoe-free house, keeping them on the stairs helps CB quickly get his shoes on before leaving the house); and feeding the dog before breakfast and dinner.
All of these chores are ones that CB can do independently and without much supervision (except when he's standing on the chair like that!). He is so proud that he can help in these ways and takes great care in doing his jobs. We did have some issues with him feeding the dog (because it was just too tempting not play around with all that kibble!), so he lost the "privilege" of doing that chore for a few days and once he "earned" it back, he has shown greater responsibility and restraint when scooping our pup's kibble. ;) Funny story, CB truly does take pride in being able to care for our dog and has been overheard many times saying things like, "Be patient, girl...I have to help you because you don't have arms, okay?"

We'll continue to build on this list of chores as CB grows older and we hope that it continues to build a sense of responsibility in our little dude. I'm sure there'll come a day that CB will see these chores as, well, a chore, but our hope is that even then, the idea of helping at home will be so ingrained in him that he'll do them anyway without much of a fight. (Haha...I can just picture a middle school-aged CB just rolling his eyes at that!)

What are some ways your kiddo helps around your home?

Friday, April 19, 2013

a lovely day on the farm.

Have I mentioned before how much I love where we live? Well, I do, I really do. One of the things I love most is our parks authority and all of the awesome (and free!) places that are available to us through it. Here we are just outside a major city and a few miles down the road, nestled in between suburban subdivisions, is a working farm, complete with an old farmhouse, preserved to interpret a farm during the 1920s-1950s. It's one of my favorite places around here and we love to visit throughout the year.
At first glance, you'd think this sweet farm was out in the country, but nope, it's just down the road!

Yesterday was one of those Spring days when you just had to get outside and bask in the breezy sunshine, allergies be darned. ;) We headed over to the farm with some of our favorite friends and we were met with the exciting news that the barns were filled with new babies, including baby goats born just that morning!
Those piggies were so cute! And I love how they look like they're walking around on high heels. ;)

Unfortunately, Choi Boy was acting like a total city slicker and did this the entire time we were around the animals:
I'm not kidding. The ENTIRE time.
So embarrassing.

We even got to watch and help with the daily cow milking!

Of course, CB wanted nothing to do with cow milking...
...and eventually walked himself out of the barn and waited for us by the door.

Fortunately for CB, the old tractors were not as smelly.
And, really, the mommies cared more about the sweet little baby animals more than the kiddos, who were happy to just run and run and run around the farm and playground. (I wish I had even a quarter of that kiddo energy!)

Of course, since we were there with CB's little lady, we were able to capture some more sweetness for their future wedding slideshow...;)
Can't even stand it. 

So thankful for sweet friends, sweet Spring days and sweet outings...