Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival!

Moon Festival celebrations, though still relatively new to North America, have been held throughout Asia for well over 1,000 years. This holiday is a time to reflect upon the bounty of the summer harvest and the fullness of the moon. The Moon Festival is often compared to a sort of "Chinese Thanksgiving" because of its spirit of gratitude and its inclusion of abundant food - including the popular moon cake. Moon cakes are flaky, round, semi-sweet pastries often filled with bean or lotus-seed paste and topped with a duck egg, echoing the shape of the full moon…or so I’m told.  The only ‘Moon Cakes’ I’ve eaten are sugar cookies iced with a soft orange icing, tinted to mimic the colour of the Autumn Moon.   (Hmmm, celebrating Thanksgiving in September/ October.  Sounds like the perfect time of year! Right Stacey??  Winking smile)
Hannah and I have had lots of fun this past week celebrating the Mid-Autumn moon with many friends.  First off we met with another travel group from our agency whose sweet girls are also from Hunan.  It was also during this get together that we realized even though our DD’s came home from China 10 months apart from one another that all the girls will enter JK (Junior Kindergarten) next September.   They seemed so far apart in age the first time we were together and now as they’re growing that age gap is quickly vanishing.  IMG_7984
I am so thankful for the friendships we have developed not only with our own travel group but with this one too!  When they were planning their travel to China Hannah and I were invited to go and I shared of our experience in China.  From the day we met this group welcomed us with open arms and it’s wonderful!  Thank you friends!  We enjoy celebrating these special events with you.
While we were there Hannah made a beautiful Chinese lantern.  It’s amazing to see how much more intricate Hannah’s crafts can be now compared to a year ago.  She did a great job!!IMG_7992
Our second party was hosted last Tuesday by our friends Ange and Gavin and their boys.  There were more beautiful lanterns to create.IMG_8006
A picture of the ‘big kids’ minus the adorable two little babies who were busy cruisin’ around.IMG_8012
After supper we took the kiddos out for their lantern walk and found the moon.IMG_8021
We attempted one final group shot with the littles but since it was almost an hour past most of the kiddos bedtimes…oye!  They had done really well all evening but by now were ready to call it a day.  Hannah crashed within minutes of her head hitting the pillow when we got home. IMG_8030
Tonight was the true Autumn Moon so Hannah and I went out for a quick walk with her lanterns in search of the moon.  Unfortunately it was hidden behind the clouds but we had fun anyway.
Searching for the moon while wearing her super hero cape.DSC_0538
I love you XiaoFen!  It’s been such fun celebrating this festival with you!DSC_0547

Friday, September 28, 2012

Which Princess Shall I Be Today?

Hannah is all about dressing up these days and her favourites are princesses.  I’ve been scouring Kijiji and have picked up a few costumes for her there.  It’s fun to watch her flit around the house wearing a variety of combination of costumes and I’ll admit that she has a pair of pink wings she often asks me to wear too.  No pictures of that though.  Phew!!

Here is my little princess in action over the past few weeks.  You’ll see by the blur in some pictures that it’s hard to catch her still when she’s letting her true princess emerge! Smile

Tinker Bell IMG_7897

Cute ArielIMG_7905

Sumo wrestler ArielIMG_7906

Dancing CinderellaIMG_8002

I love 3!  Sometimes my little princess wears her costumes when we go out and the people she makes smile are numerous!  Any reason to make someone smile is a good one.

Right now she’s saying that she wants to have either a Cinderella (her current favourite princess) or ‘princesses in general’ birthday.  I can work with that theme for sure!  Wonder what the chances are of keeping her on track with that for the next 5 months?  Time will tell.

This last picture was one I just had to take.  Hannah was dressed in her Cinderella dress when she noticed that some water had spilled on the floor.  She hasn’t seen the movie yet so didn’t know why mommy was giggling but she sure made me smile when I saw this!IMG_7929

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Disney?

I often get asked, ‘Why Disney?  Why do you enjoy going back time and time again?  Wouldn’t you like to try someplace new?’
There are so many answers to this and it’s hard to capture even some of them but I’ll try.  The one answer I can say with confidence is, ‘We really enjoy going back over and over and no, we’re not looking into other vacation destinations at this time.’  Hmmm….unless you were to mention Disneyland and/or a Disney Cruise.  I’m hoping to take Hannah on our first cruise in 2014!
Some of the many reasons we love Disney…..
It’s great that our luggage is cared for from the moment we check into our departing airport until it’s in our room.  It’s just nice not to have to think about it. 
When we arrive in Orlando we walk to Disney’s Magical Express welcome kiosk, let them scan our tickets and board our bus right away.  There are 2 special moments for me on the Magical Express.  The first one is as we pull away from the Orlando airport and their Welcome video begins to play and the second is when we’re drive under the ‘Walt Disney World’ sign.  Wheee…we’re here!!!Walt Disney World sign
Disney does a great job at entertaining kiddos.  (No surprise there.)  This year there was a cast member outside the resort with a bubble gun, hula hoops and sidewalk chalk when our Magical Express bus pulled up.  IMG_7045
Before I began the check-in process Hannah was given a colouring book and crayons.  Helpful when she’s super excited to be at Disney and Mommy needs a few minutes to get things organized.IMG_7049
I appreciate that there is no need for me to rent a car.  Nice!  Magical Express picks us up at the airport and takes us back there and while we’re at Disney we can use a variety of their transportation systems:  buses, boats, monorails and more.Disney Bus
Heh….this could be a long post if I keep going like this since so far we aren’t even in our room so I’ll skip to some of the other reasons I love Disney.
Disney is consciously making waiting in lines easier and easier.  The Dumbo ride was recently refurbished.  Not only did they add a second ride thus doubling the seating capacity of this fun ride, they also added a great, indoor interactive play area!IMG_7061
The best way to explain it is you enter the waiting area and are soon given one of those light-up, buzzy things like they use in restaurants.  At that point there is an indoor, air conditioned play area for the kids and seating for the parents.  Ah!  When it’s your turn to ride Dumbo your thingy lights up and buzzes, you gather your kiddos and get in line for the next ride.  That works!
Winnie-the-Pooh recently refurbished their ride too and it now has a whole area of fun activities for the kids to play with during the wait.

Even waiting to meet characters is more fun.  While waiting to meet Merida there was a colouring station and also a cast member helping the kids try out their archery skills!  All these things and more make line time much more fun.IMG_7139
Disney also has many rides and shows that feature a pre-show as preparation.  Not only does it help you prepare for what’s coming in a fun way but it’s entertaining too.  You can also see from the pic above that lines and queues are not just cement slabs with chains.  They’re full of things to look at, appreciate and explore.
Another fun thing to do during the wait is to look for ‘Hidden Mickey’s’.  That little mouse is everywhere and you can just look around and try to find him (such as in this fence below) or, by using the official ‘Hidden Mickeys’ book.hidden-mickey-s-everywhere
This visit we also found some new character spots for autographs.  At Disney’s Hollywood Studios while waiting to meet Buzz and Woody there were lots of great little places to take pictures.  This time Hannah and I both took pics of one another and she did a great job!IMG_7529
Even waiting for the evening parade was made more fun when cast members came out and created a hop scotch board on the ground using masking tape and the the kids had fun playing on it without even realizing we were passing the time.IMG_7379
Since our major trip each year takes place in August it’s hot, hot, hot at Disney!  I’m thankful for the splash pads that are in many of the parks and also for the complimentary glasses of ice water that are available at every counter restaurant and location that serves fountain pop.  IMG_7177
As the Mom of a 3yo this next ‘little’ thing is a wonderful help!  The majority of restrooms at Disney have a ‘teeny tiny sink’ for kids.  SO much easier then trying to lift them up to wash their hands each time they use the restroom.IMG_7321
This next ‘I love Disney because….’ moment was new to me this visit and I was so enthralled by these 2 great people that I barely watched the first 10 minutes of the musical as I just watched them.  I love that Disney does their best to include everyone!

This is just one of the ways that Disney strives to include all people.  There are many forms of assistance available which warms my heart.  There are interpretive headphones that are available free of charge that will translate many of the rides and shows into French, German and Spanish.
Another thing Disney is known for is their ability to assist people who live with food allergies.  On our recent trip we spent time with kiddos who have a nut allergy.  Every food cart and restaurant has a binder which lists every food they offer and all the ingredients in each item.  When we’d go someplace new to eat the binder was readily accessible and often it was the manager who came to the window and spoke with the parents.  When we went for dinner one of the chefs came right to our table, talked about every food on the buffet (and offered to walk us through the buffet area and let them know what foods may contain nuts or may have come in contact with nuts) and also offered to make all 3 of the kiddos a special dessert even though Hannah was fully able to eat from the buffet.  IMG_7667I know it was a big relief for my friends to travel without as many food concerns as they normally faced.
One more thing Hannah and I both enjoyed was going back to our room each night to see what Mousekeeping had done with her stuffed animals.  How much fun are these little displays!IMG_7551
IMG_7213  IMG_7393
There is SO MUCH that I love about Disney but this post has been about the more unusual things that we don’t always think about.
I love that every single cast member treats people like they matter and with great respect.    The motto at Disney is ‘Have a Magical Day’ and that’s exactly what each day at Disney is!
I’m guessing as soon as I hit ‘publish’ I’m going to remember some other reasons I love Disney.  What are some of your favourite unusual reasons?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Meeting Cousin Kallen

My brother Dave and his wife Trish were parents to 5 great kiddosDave, Trish and Family  Aug16, 2012 and this week their family grew by one teeny, tiny, precious little boy!  Trish was scheduled for a c-section on Friday morning but Kallen had other ideas and she went into labour with him Wednesday and he was born that afternoon at 2:55pm weighing just 5.4 lbs.  What a precious little pumpkin!


I popped up for a first visit at lunch on Thursday and then Hannah was introduced to her new little cousin Friday.  He was having his first bath when we arrived and was none too impressed about that.  This picture is blurry but I thought it captured her sweet 3yo self perfectly!IMG_7980

Once he was a little more content she gazed at him with wonder.   I love this picture!IMG_7979

I was excited to be invited to hold him Friday.  With him being so small I was quite prepared to need to wait a while before holding him but when Trish offered I enjoyed our first snuggle!IMG_7981b

Congratulations Dave, Trish and family!  Your new little son is absolutely adorable and we’re so happy he’s here!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Anatomy of our Disney Stroller

Nicole’s family and ours ended up having breakfast reservations at the same restaurant on the first day of their trip so we decided to meet there after our meal and spend the day together.  When she got to the restaurant she said she could tell we were there by our blinged out stroller.  Heh!  Our stroller does triple duty while at Disney and it is ummm….busy shall we say?
1. It carries all our park stuff which believe it or not was far less this year than it was last!
2. Our bling helps me more easily find our stroller in the sea of strollers outside of rides and shows.  It is not uncommon for Cast Members to move strollers around the stroller parking areas as they are constantly trying to condense and make room for new strollers.  Here’s a pic I took a number of years back of 1 stroller parking area.  You can see why it’s good to have an easily recognizable stroller!!stroller parking
3.  Oh yah, it carries my little princess all over!  We fondly refer to her stroller as her chariot as she rolls through the parks.  Even though she’s 3 I’m guessing we’ll take her stroller to Disney for at least 1 more year and possibly 2.  They say it’s not unusual to walk 10-12 miles a day at Disney and I really believe that’s true!   Having this with us means many less steps that mommy is carrying an exhausted little girl in her arms.  That still happens sometimes and I’m happy to do it but it’s great to let the stroller handle the bulk of the transportation.  It’s also great for keeping us together as we exit the parks with thousands of other people.  I guess that’s 4 things it does as it provides safety too!
So, without further adieu I give you Hannah and Mommy’s Disney stroller!IMG_7465 - Copy
It looks crazy busy but to fold it up I only needed to pull out the backpack and the rest stayed right where it was.  When I look at it now and consider the ‘stuff’ I realized the things noted above we used numerous times each and every day!
Here are some links to where I found some of the items on our stroller:
  • Rain ponchos – Dollar store
  • Stroller Rain Cover
  • Sippy cup strap
  • Cup holder/Carrying Case
  • Stroller Hooks
  • Net side sling bag
  • Walking straps – Made these by taking strips of cotton cloth and creating loops at each hand.  They were a great way for Hannah to walk with the stroller but not the challenge of running over her little toes.
  • I found making laminated cards of our daily activities and reservations to be a big help.   On these cards were our park of the day (if it was decided for sure), Dining Reservations, anticipated crowd levels at each park based on information from and special notes (ie. Spending the day with Nicole, Kevvie and kiddos)
A couple of my thoughts about strollers at Disney:
  1. Even if your child is older (4, 5, 6 or older) consider taking/renting a stroller.  There is A LOT of walking at Disney.  If your child is one that might want to be carried or will find walking long distances a challenge, take a stroller.  If you don’t need it you can leave it in your room but you just may use it.  My experience with my niece was:  At 5 yo she used the stroller every day.  At 6 she used it a couple of evenings.  At 7 there was no need for a stroller.
  2. Consider how easily it pushes and the height of the handles.  Yes, an umbrella stroller is light and small to fold up but if the wheels don’t move easily and/or you’re at all hunched over when you push it it might not be your best option.
  3. How much stuff do you plan to take to the parks each day compared to the size of the basket.  As you can tell I’m an over packer.  My motto is that I’d rather have it and not need it then to need it and not have it.  Because of this I needed a stroller with a large basket.
  4. How sturdy is your stroller when your child is not in it?  Once your child is old enough to hop in and out it will happen many times during your trip.  Consider the stability of your stroller when this happens.
  5. How easy is it to fold up?  If you’re using Disney transportation strollers must be folded up on the buses and some other forms of transportation too.  This is almost a mute point these days as folding strollers is normally pretty easy but I wanted to mention it as it is something that will happen often.
  6. Is your baby/child comfortable sleeping in their stroller?  Some people go back to their resorts for a rest time each day.  That’s not the way we choose to do Disney so I needed to take a stroller Hannah was comfortable sleeping in.
  7. Is your front bar/tray detachable?  Last year we needed the front bar on the stroller due to Hannah’s age but this year it was a huge help leaving that bar at home which offered her the freedom to get in and out as she wanted.  We discussed on the very first day that for safety reasons I needed her to ask before getting out of the stroller if I was pushing it so that she didn’t get run over and that tactic worked wonderfully for us.  I must say that it was easy to do a trip with Hannah on my own with her at age 3 1/2.  At 2 1/2 or younger I couldn’t have done it and still enjoyed myself.  3 1/2 is a great age!!
  8. Take your own stroller or rent a stroller?  I preferred to take our own as not only was I familiar with it but it also saved me the cost of renting.  Until this trip it was also nice to use in the airport.  That’s not part of the equation for us any longer as we don’t need it for normal everyday stuff. 
  9. If you choose to rent do you want to rent from Disney or from a local stroller rental company?  My personal preference if I was considering this would be to rent from a local outside company for many reasons.  They bring the stroller to your resort and you have use of it until the end of your trip.  If you rent from Disney a stroller is picked up at each park and must be returned before leaving that park.  Hannah was often asleep before we reached our room at night and it would have been a challenge to carry my sleeping little girl to our room each evening.   Rental strollers recline.  Disney strollers are hard plastic and do not recline.  Strollers from an outside company are often less expensive to rent too.  A couple of things in favour of Disney strollers are that they push like a dream, work great for older children and also save you the challenge of carrying them on the bus.
What are your Disney stroller tips?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Welcome to Canada Baby Grace!

Last night Hannah and I were excited to go to the airport to welcome home our newest little Canadian – Baby Grace!  (She looked extra adorable wearing one of Hannah’s baby outfits!)DSC_0300 - Copy

This picture was taken just moments after they entered the terminal and poor little Grace was a little overwhelmed by all that was happening around her.  From the safety and familiarity of Mommy’s arms she soon began to take in all that was happening around her.

Suzanne and I met through the waiting Mom’s group that gets together every-other month for dinner.  Suzanne has patiently waited year after year and celebrated with others as many babies have come home.  This time we couldn’t be more thrilled that it was Grace’s homecoming that we were able to celebrate last night!!

Hannah made a sign to welcome home baby Grace and she and her little friend Mhyia waited excitedly for their new little friend to arrive!DSC_0289 - Copy

New China sisters!  Our family is growing!DSC_0322

Congratulations Suzanne and Grace!  Welcome home Mommy!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First Day of Preschool

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I held this beautiful little ‘baby’ in my arms for the first time?  DSC_0242

How can it be that Hannah is ready for preschool???DSC_0228

Yesterday was her first day and she was super excited!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grandma and Grandpa came by to join us for a few pics and to see Hannah off on her first day of school.DSC_0268

As we were taking pics there were also moments when I sensed the questions that might be running around her little mind.DSC_0203

When she was tired of Mommy and Grandpa taking tons of pics she pulled out her adorable 3yo stink eye.  As long as she saves this one for family we’re all good!  DSC_0251

Her stink eye was followed seconds later by this adorable little face when she reassured us she was, ‘just teasing!’DSC_0253

When it was time to leave I gave Hannah her backpack (aka: pack pack) to put on.  Rather the put it on her back she placed it on the floor and opened it.  When I questioned what she was doing she said, ‘I’m just checking to make sure everything is here.  That’s what big girls do!’  Heh!! 

Upon arrival at the church I guess we weren’t moving quite quickly enough for my little love.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we arrived in her class she found her hook, hung up pack pack and then humoured mom with another pic.  IMG_7882

Family were invited to stay for the first bit of class so I followed Hannah around as she explored her new classroom.  Her first stop was one of her favourite play areas – the kitchen.


She also found the play-doh place and set to work making cookies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She is also in the class with one of Nana’s co-worker’s little girls so we introduced Hannah and Mya to one another and they quickly set to playing together.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At 9:00 everyone was called to circle time.  We sang together, talked about some of the fun things the kids will do at preschool and then the teacher read, ‘The Kissing Hand.’

In this book Chester Racoon is nervous about his first day at school and leaving Mommy behind.  Mommy places a kiss in each of his paws to remind him that she loves him and that she’s always close.  The next day as Chester prepares to go to school he asks Mommy for her paws and he places a kiss in each of them to remind her that he loves her. 

Hannah hopped up on my lap for the reading of the story and held my thumbs which is something she does for comfort.  I don’t think she was overly nervous but just the normal bit of concern about something new.  The Thumbs Have It

When the story was over the teacher said it was time to say goodbye to Mommy, Grandma and Grandpa and that we’d be back soon.   She hopped off my lap, spun around and grabbed my hands and placed kisses in each palm.  I did the same for her, told her I loved her and then she was off and running!  She ran across the room to Grandma and Grandpa, kissed their hands too and then she was off playing!  Neither of us cried (ok, Mommy teared up a bit when we first waked in the classroom and I saw the hook with her name above it) but not when it was time to go.  Hannah was so happy and the goodbye happened so quickly that I just kinda walked out and that was it – my baby was at preschool!

I had taken the day off work (and tomorrow morning also) so was now ‘free’ for 2 hours and wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.   Mom, Dad and I went out for breakfast and then I did a little running around but I tell you, I missed my little munchkin the entire time!  When it was time to pick her up she came running and was excited to tell me all about her first day!  She had a great time, made and alligator out of the letter A, coloured an apple and much more!  In the car she began to sing the ‘Welcome’ song that the teacher sang at the beginning of the class after hearing it only once.  I know my little girl is ready for preschool and I’m excited to watch her grow, learn and flourish!!  When she woke up this morning one of her first questions was, ‘Do I get to go to preschool today?’ 

I realized something new yesterday.  In the past whenever I heard about parents crying when their children went to school I thought it was because they were going to miss them.  Yesterday I realized the tears I had were not because I would miss Hannah but that my baby girl is growing up and life will never be quite as it has been.  School will now be part of our lives and will be for a very long time.  My baby is no longer a baby.  She’s a ‘big girl’ (as she would tell you) and there will now be many outside influences on her little life that I cannot control.  I know it’s a good thing and that I’ll be there every step of the way learning with her and helping her but yes, my little girl is officially in preschool….and she’s ready to soar!DSC_0221

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