Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday Hannah XiaoFen!!!

4 years old?!!  WOW!!!  How can my ‘baby’ be 4 already?
Hannah and I shared an amazing day together today!  I took the day off and we enjoyed every moment of her 4th birthday together.  Well…except when she was running and playing with her friends at her party.
I have a lot of great pics, videos and stories to share with you but for tonight I’ll leave you with a few.
Happy 4th Birthday Hannah!  Mommy loves you more than words can express!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hannah’s First Tap Recital

Tonight was a fun evening as Grandma, Grandpa, Papa and I attended Hannah’s first tap recital.   She was standing so proud as we entered the gym to watch her dance!IMG_0229 - CopyAt one point families were invited to dance with their girls and Hannah quickly pulled us onto the dance floor.  Fun!  I skipped out for a moment to capture this sweet picture.  IMG_0240

Hannah really enjoyed her 8 week tap class and I’m just sorry that the night has been changed for the next session to a night that does not work with our schedule.  Hopefully in the fall they’ll move it back to Tuesdays. 

Here is my sweetie on the final evening of being 3, dancing with heart….and umm, movement!  Personal space is not yet on my kiddos radar.

Holding her final pose….even after the other girls had stood up.  That’s my independent little girl!  Winking smileIMG_0237

My little tap graduate complete with the rose each student received from their teachers.  IMG_0246 - Copy

I’m so proud of you Hannah!  You danced beautifully sweetie!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wow!!! It Won’t Be Long Now!

Tonight Hannah and I sat down to read some little books that are some beginner readers.  When she started preschool in September she recognized the letters in her name but that was all.  I noticed her growing and learning immediately and she loves to soak in new things.  By nature she’s my ‘get it done quickly’ gal and we’re working on that but that seems to be changing bit by bit too.  I see differences in her tap lessons and gymnastics and she’s beginning to slow down and work on how she accomplishes something rather than racing for the sake of being done.

Tonight we sat down to read a great little set of books that we’ve read twice before.  What happened shocked and amazed me!!  I know that she’s not technically ‘reading’ this book because if I gave her the words without the pics she wouldn’t know them yet but oh my – she sure is close!  I’m sure it won’t be long until Hannah really is reading!  I will be moving her into French Immersion when she enters Grade 1 so it’s important to me that she has a foundation in reading English before that happens.  I realized tonight that that will not be a problem at all!

Here is my 3yo (okay – 3 days shy of 4yo) ‘reading’ for the very first time!  Way to go Hannah XiaoFen!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Family Day = PJ Day!

Monday was Family Day here in Ontario and Hannah and I tucked in for a day of fun together.  It’s not often that we don’t have anywhere to go so we chose to stay in our pj’s all day.  Nice! 

I bought some edible markers the day before and surprised Hannah with Snowman Hot ChocolateIMG_0089

and yummy scones.  (Recipe to come)


Much of our day was spent playing games, reading, baking and doing crafts.IMG_0085

The perfect way to spend family day – together with my girl!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Phew! Now That Was Some Crazy Driving!!!

Saturday afternoon Hannah and I headed to visit friends who live about and hour from us.  There were flurries in the air at home and nothing was really forecasted but whoooeee….what blew in was freaky and BEAUTIFUL!! I think this may have been the worst storm I’ve ever driven in although I will say due to the slow speed we were driving and it being daytime I never felt in danger or frightened.  We just took our time and enjoyed the beauty of the snow and laughed a lot!  For about 30 mins of our drive we were moving between 8 and 12 kms/hour (6-10 mph) according to the GPS!

This is what we were seeing as we drove along.  Beyond beautiful!  Along this stretch of highway there are tall buildings lining each side of the highway but we couldn’t see them even though there were only about 200’ away!  Only the GPS gave me any idea of where we were.

I called the friend we were going to visit to tell her we’d be delayed (normally about a 15 min drive from where we were at the time) and can you believe it wasn’t snowing a flake there?!!  This was a weird snow band being brought in over a lake so one moment you’re in the sun and the next moment you’re in the midst of a blizzard!

It was one of those storms when I had to do the ‘Wiper Snap.’  I’m guessing most Canadians have experienced that little dance at least once or twice during their driving years.  The Wiper Snap is when you reach out while the wipers are going and try to grab hold of one when you can reach it and quickly lift it away from the window, allowing it to snap back onto the window to break off the accumulated snow and ice.  It was a must as this was what our window looked like and there was no way I was stopping!  IMG_0077

Our car was quickly becoming covered in snow so Hannah and I played with the snow in the car.  Smile


We drove out of the storm as quickly as we drove into it and it was clear sailing after that.  Our normal 60 min drive took about 2 3/4 hours but we arrived having had a fun time together and with stories to share!  Our car in turn arrived with a coat of ice and snow, telling it’s own tale of our blizzard adventure!IMG_0079

Thank you Lord for keeping us safe during this crazy drive!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Hannah and I had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!!  I take many opportunities daily to tell her how much I love her and Valentine’s Day is just one more opportunity to tell her again and again…and again how much I love her and how thankful I am to be her Mommy!

We had such fun this week preparing for this day of love and I saw a new little girl this year compared to last year and the ones before.  In the past I prepared most of our Valentine cards and she added her adorable little ‘H’.  This year she was confident and independent and capably handled the Valentines prep.  I watched in awe as the writing of her name progressed between the first and last card that she wrote.IMG_0015

This little video made me giggle as she signed her cards while singing, ‘Jingle Bells.’  Hehe!

I also smiled last night at Mom and Dad’s when she signed one of her Valentines for them.  For some reason she started to the far right side of the page and wrote her name from right to left.  The great thing about having a name that’s a palindrome is that it still turned out just fine and no one was any the wiser! 

Hannah handed out Princess Valentines as well as these cute little ones we made.  They’re the same as last year’s with an updated pic but it works since she’s in preschool this year so the kids are new.IMG_0031

Valentine’s Day morning she was excited to see what the ‘Easter Bunny’ had brought her!  (Oh how I love 3!!) 

I was invited to join Hannah at preschool part way through the morning and we were both really excited!!  I joined her during their circle time and was able to hear her sing with her friends.  I loved being with Hannah in her environment!  We started with her making a sweet card IMG_0033

and then a beautiful necklace.IMG_0039

I cannot tell you how excited I was to spend this time with Hannah at her school!  It helped me to realize that I’m going to need to portion out my vacation days so that I can volunteer in her classroom when she begins junior kindergarten in September.  Thank you for sharing your Valentine’s party with me Xiao Xiao!IMG_0034

After preschool I took her to Ange’s where she gave me a beautiful card she had made and then because it was a piano teaching evening, Hannah spent part of the evening with Grandma and Grandpa and her cousin Makenna.  I’m so thankful for the time she has together with my parents each week and since she and I couldn’t be together for supper on Valentine’s Day I was so thankful they could spend that time together.  (Unfortunately by the time I picked her up we were in the midst of a nasty storm and I forgot my camera.  I was just thankful to arrive after seeing numerous cars in the ditch on my way to pick her up.)  When I arrived she gave me this beautiful rose that she had chosen.IMG_0050

Hannah and I are blessed not only to have one another but to be surrounded by family and friends whom we love and who love us!  Wednesday night we stopped in to visit Nana at work and she had this cute little bear that Hannah has named Cinderella, for her.IMG_0021

Thursday evening I received a call from a wonderful friend asking if I could pop over on my way to pick up Hannah.  Deb had stepped up in a huge way last month and watched Hannah for me on a day when Ange was enjoying a well deserved vacation day.  It was a teaching day for me so Hannah shared 11 wonderful hours with Auntie Deb and Uncle Scott.  She came home with many beautiful crafts and homemade cookies that day and I didn’t think anything more about it.  Yesterday I found out they had one more surprise saved for Mommy.  I cried when I opened this beautiful card and saw Hannah’s hand written message of love inside.  IMG_0048

(I also laughed as they shared the photo shoot challenge it was to get the pic above.  30 mins of photo taking to get the one they wanted.  Oh how I understand!  The pic I used with the sucker was one of 80 some taken one day, trying to get the right one…and when she wasn’t laying on the floor or hiding her eyes.  Oy!)

Hannah and I are blessed beyond measure to be Mother and Daughter and at the same time are amazed and humbled by the love that is showered on us by others.  You know who you are and please know that we love you very, very much too!IMG_0051 - Copy

Happy Valentine’s Day Hannah XiaoFen!  Mommy loves you!!  xoxoxoxoxo

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gung Hay Fat Choi!

This past week has been one filled with lots of wonderful celebrations as Hannah and I celebrated Chinese New Year with many friends.

Our first party was a large one with many other families and was hosted by our local Families with Children from China (FCC) group.  We attended it with a group of friends from our agency who travelled to Hunan the summer after Hannah and I were there.  Hannah was most excited to have her face painted like a beautiful butterfly and she spent much time enjoying her new look in a little mirror they gave her.IMG_9847

Hannah and Charlotte enjoy playing together whenever our families are together.IMG_9868

We enjoyed a delicious 10 course Chinese dinner with friends and my sweet butterfly fell asleep in the car on the way home.   She was sad but understanding the next morning when we had to use moisturizer and a few baby wipes to remove her butterfly before church.IMG_9870

The second CNY party was a bit of an impromptu one when last Friday’s storm caused us to reschedule a party with friends.  I live on a major street so it was kept ploughed.  Some of the side streets, Ange’s included did not have their streets ploughed until more than 24 hours after the storm which kept them housebound.  Liz had ordered a cake that needed to be picked up so she also picked up Asian food  for us in the same plaza.  She had to be creative when she came to some snow drifts but made it through.  These storms cause for creative driving for sure!

When she and Ava arrived we took some pics of our little sweeties dressed in their Chinese finery.IMG_9929


This is one the Liz snapped and it made me LOL as it captures (errr….tries to capture!) Hannah perfectly!  This is my girl for sure!!CNY 1

e are the girls posing with the beautiful cake Liz had ordered for our party. It’s easy to say we only put a dent into it but it appeared bigger as the girls both wanted the snake so we cut it right down the middle!IMG_9940

Sunday afternoon Hannah and I volunteered to take dessert to lunch at Nana and Papa’s house so we made a combo Valentine’s/CNY cake.IMG_9966

We were able to reschedule Friday’s party to Sunday afternoon.  Here Hannah is playing with Ava’s lion costume.


IMG_9969It was wonderful to celebrate this special day with great friends!  Julia brought fun snake crafts for the kids.



Not to be outdone by the bigger kids, Grayson worked on a craft too but quickly ditched the plate in favour of painting the tray of his high chair.IMG_9986

As the kids are getting older it’s getting a little easier to take a group shot.IMG_9992

My cheesy girl showing off her red envelopes.IMG_0009

From Hannah and I, Gung Hay Fat Choi!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Snow Much Fun!

Often the weather forecasters call for snow storms that don’t materialize into much.  Today that was NOT the case!  Wheee…we had so much fun!  24 hours of beautiful weather – as long as we didn’t need to drive in it!  Driving was not fun!

We woke up to about 4” so I headed outside and shovelled the driveway.  We left less than an hour later and as the garage door went up I realized I’d need to shovel again before we could leave.  Hannah was sitting in the car and I suddenly heard her call out, ‘Way to go Mommy!’  I tell you!  That’s the BEST feeling!  When I was all done she hopped out of the car and ran to me.  She said, ‘Mommy, you did great!’ and gave me a high 5!  She melts me!  I love her amazing personality!

It was touch and go for about an hour about whether I would go to work or not but I decided to give it a try and play it by ear depending on how the roads were.  The main roads were slippery although not too bad but as we neared Ange’s place there was a smallish hill to go up.  Because it’s a side street it had not yet been ploughed.  I began to skid, slide and the car almost ground to a halt.  It took about 5 mins of going back and forth to go the remaining 100’ to Ange’s place.  I dropped Hannah off and headed to work.  All the way there I went back and forth about continuing on or going back to get my girl to spend a day snuggled in at home.  Knowing I could leave at any time and clock the remainder as a vacation day I went on to work.  About 25% of the staff made it in and many chose to telework which is something I am not a participant in.  After today I might need to reconsider that!

Lunchtime arrived and my friend Pat and I decided to go for a walk in the gorgeous snow and pick up some lunch.  Isn’t this amazing?IMG_9911

Two crazy gals out for a snowy little stroll.IMG_9912


We had such fun walking in the snow!

I went back to work and then just before 2:00 was told I could leave.  Yay!  As I neared my car I was really glad I was being sent home early.  It was easy to see that just getting my car onto the road was going to be a challenge! IMG_9916

What’s difficult to see in this picture is that the snow bank created by the snow ploughs was about 3’ wide!  Yikes!  IMG_9915

Thankfully the owner of our lot was there and used his pick-up truck to plough through.  I still ended up getting stuck but he and another guy helped me out.  So thankful!  About 10 mins of rocking the car back and forth, shovelling and them pushing finally had me on my way to my baby girl!IMG_9918

Ange’s street was now impassable so I parked at the end of it and walked up to pick up Hannah and took the opportunity on my way to stop and help push someone else who was stuck.  Once I got to her we had fun walking back to our car and then heading home to shovel our driveway one final time.  We were originally going to have a Chinese New Year’s party at Ange’s tonight but postponed that due to the

When I arrived home it was easy to see that I had quite the job in front of me.  Hannah helped for a bit but then decided a snack and Mickey Mouse were calling her inside.  I appreciate what she did though before she went in…I think!  Just like last year she had more fun shovelling snow onto the driveway than off of it.  (I’d forgotten about the video posted in the link above and oh how it made me giggle!  I love how this blog offers me to opportunity to record things I’d otherwise forget!)  One of these years I’ll teach her the proper way to shovel but for now she provides wonderful moments of entertainment!  Thankfully the young guy next door came out to help and we had it cleared in about 20 mins.  I love how a snow storm brings out the good in so many people! 

One final pic.  24 hours earlier there was no snow on my front lawn.  Check it out now!IMG_9919

I’ll end this post as I did last year’s. 

We’re ready for spring!!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Disney Q & A: Disney Dining Plans

There was a question asked about the Free Dining that Disney sometimes offers. 

First I'll explain the options that are available and comprise different Disney Dining Plans.  You need to know that Dining plans are available to those staying on Disney property.  Unfortunately if your accommodations are not at Disney resort then dining plans are not an option you can choose.

Here are the 3 main components that may make up a Dining Plan:

Snacks can be everything from a bottle of water to an apple, popcorn, an  ice-cream float and more.  There are hundreds of options to use your snack credits on at your resort, in the parks and also Downtown Disney.

Counter Service Dining
Counter Service dining is pretty much what I would consider fast-food although sometimes it's 'fancy' fast-food when you eat at a place like Wolfgang Puck's Cafe!  Once again there are many, many options of where to use these credits and can include everything from a hamburger and fries to a salad, a cheese and fruit plate, a waffle with Nutella, bananas and strawberries (mmm...we recommend this one) to pretty much anything your tummy desires!  Counter service meals do not require reservations and also include a beverage and dessert.

Table Service Dining
Table Service dining is a treat at Disney although I must say that advanced planning is a huge help if you choose one of the dining plans that includes Table Service dining.  Table service dining is restaurant dining which should be reserved in advance if at all possible.  These restaurants may or may not accept walk-ups the day of so planning early makes life easier.  These restaurants may be a buffet, family style or ordering from a menu depending on where you choose and also include a beverage and dessert. 

Table service dining also includes Character meals.  For example, if you choose to go to Chef Mickey's for a meal, as you eat Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto will visit your table, sign autographs and pose for pictures.  As you can tell from the link above and many previous posts, we love the character dining!  That being said, we also enjoy many wonderful meals that do not include characters and the food is delicious!  I enjoy these quiet meals with Hannah that are time for us to sit together and talk about our day and vacation.  2 of our favourites that we will be repeating when we go again in August are Coral Reef (beside a huge aquarium) and Kona Cafe (wonderful food!)

This list shows all 239 counter service and table service options that are available for your dining pleasure!  It's easy to see that you won't go hungry at Disney and the bigger challenge will be deciding how to narrow down your choices.

I must also put in a plug here for how Disney aids those who may have restricted diets.  Every restaurant, counter service cafe and even every food cart has a binder that lists all of the ingredients in each item.  Should your choice be vegan, you'll find options for what you want.  If your child has a gluten or peanut allergy for example, a chef will come to your table and either tell you what options are available or, offer to make your child what they want.  The last time we traveled with friends their children had nut allergies.  Not only were special desserts made for them, the chef also made one for Hannah so that she didn't feel left out.  Please don't let food restrictions hold you back.  Disney is only too happy to cater to you and do all they can to meet your dietary requirements!

Now, let's talk Dining Plans!
I’ll start first by explaining the 2 most popular dining plans and how they work.  There are others too and you can find more details about those here

2013 Basic Dining Plan
The first plan is the one that Hannah and I get most often when we visit. It’s called the Basic Dining Plan(BDP). The BDP includes 1 snack, 1 counter service meal and 1 table service meal per person, per night of your stay in a Disney resort. It also includes 1 Refillable Mug per person that can be refilled at your resort (but not within the parks.)   

Currently the cost of the Basic Dining Plan per person per night of your stay is $55.59* for adults and $17.16* for children.  (Disney considers children aged 10+ as adults for dining.  )  *These prices may increase slightly during peak times.

If your family of 4 is staying 7 nights in a Disney Resort and purchase the Basic Dining Plan, upon check-in your Key to the World cards (soon to be MyMagic+ bands) will be credited with 28 snacks, 28 Counter Service credits and 28 Table Service credits.   The credits for the family are on all the cards which makes it easy at checkout.  Grab the card closest to you and your purchases are deducted from the group's totals.  

Snacks and counter service meals can be shared but table service credits require 1 per person.  An example of this is Hannah and I often share a breakfast before leaving our resort but then when we go to a table service restaurant for supper we must each use 1 table service credit.

2013 Quick Service Dining Plan
Another popular option for dining plans is the Quick Service Dining Plan (QSDP).  The QSDP includes 1 snack and 2 counter service meals per person, per night of your stay in a Disney resort. It also includes 1 Refillable Mug per person that can be refilled at your resort (but not within the parks.)

Currently the cost of the Quick Service Dining Plan per person per night of your stay is $37.58 for adults and $14.32 for children.  (Disney considers children aged 10+ as adults for dining.  )

If your family of 4 is staying 7 nights in a Disney Resort and purchase the Quick Service Dining Plan, upon check-in your Key to the World cards (soon to be MyMagic+ bands) will be credited with 28 snacks and 56 Counter Service credits.

Now, finally to the question about Free Dining:  How many "Free Dining's" can a family have?

I'm hoping that the information above helped to explain about the dining plan and how many credits are issued to a family during their stay.

In the past (as rumor has it the winds of change may be a blowing....) when Free Dining (FD) was offered, Value Resorts included the QSDP while Moderate and Deluxe Resorts included the BDP.  (Rumor has it that if/when the next FD offer comes out it might be that value resorts do not qualify and Moderate and Deluxe resorts will receive QSDPs.  Time will tell.)

Hannah and I have always stayed in value resorts so our FD was the QSDP.  That being said, paying the difference in price between QSDP and BDP allowed us to upgrade to the BDP for just under $20/day.  For us it's well worth it as we love the character dining and also the table service dining.

All this to say that we really like the dining plan (and love the dining plan when it's free!) but it's not necessary to have a dining plan to enjoy wonderful time at Disney.  Personally I like the freedom of not checking prices every single time we're hungry.  I like the fact that my food is paid for before I leave home so that I'm not constantly adding up the cost in my head.  But, that's me.  Each person is different and each family does what is best for them.

So, that's a lot of info I've tossed at you.  Please feel free to leave a comment asking for clarification if anything is unclear.  It's a great system that works well but is not easy to condense into one blog post.

Happy Dining!  I'm off to begin planning our dining for this coming August's trip.  Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance of your arrival date so for us that date is quickly approaching!  Time to organize what I want to eat.....6 months from now!  :)

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

He Cares For Us

This morning as we pulled out of the garage I said, 'Oh Hannah!  Someone put salt on our driveway for us.  Isn't that nice?'  (We're expecting more snow today.)

Hannah's response was beautiful!

'Mommy, I think Jesus did it  because He cares for us!'

I just sat there with a huge grin on my face and agreed with her.  'Yes sweetie, maybe Jesus did put that salt there.'

Her sweet response?

'Thank you Jesus!'

Oh how I pray she continues to grow in her precious faith!  Faith of a little child.  And may she always hold Jesus close in her heart.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Either a Very Early or Little Late Christmas Concert…in February

This morning as Hannah and I were on our way to church she began to sing and I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough!  I didn’t care where we needed to be or when we were supposed to get there.  This moment was all about the beautiful concert Hannah was offering and I wanted to soak up every single moment.  Love her ‘creative’ wording and rap style of ‘Twinkle Twinkle.’  I’m sad to realize that by next Christmas her creative words will be left far behind so I was thankful to catch this and appreciate it today!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Disney Q&A Part I: What age should a child be to go to Disney?

Yay!  The questions are coming in!  Here are my thoughts about one of the first questions asked.

How old was Hannah when you went the first time?  
The first time Hannah was on Disney property was when she was 13 months old and had her passport for umm...2 weeks!  :)  You know Mommy was itching to take her to her favourite vacation spot so when the opportunity arose to head to FL for a few days and spend time with special friends we were all over that!  During that trip we stayed on Disney property, swam in their pools, went to Downtown Disney and met Mickey and the gang at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort.  We didn't visit any of the parks that trip but I sure was tempted!!  I'm so thankful for the few days we had to spend with D and her sweet baby girl!

The reason we didn't visit the parks in April was that I knew that November when she would be 18 months old we'd be going to Disney with Grandma, Grandpa, Nana and Papa!  How exciting it would be for her very first Disney experience to be surrounded by all her grandparents!  That trip we visited the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

What is the best Age to bring a child to Disney for the first time?
I have a couple of answers to this question. 

If you're able to visit Disney on a somewhat regular basis then I truly think no age is too early!  At 18 months Hannah was able to enjoy many rides, shows and admire the characters.  Will she remember it?  Only through pictures, videos, this blog and stories I share with her but I do so on a regular basis.  The next time she went she was 2 1/2 and it was a whole new wonderful experience with her at that age too!  From that time on Disney talk became a daily occurrence in our home!

That being said, if Disney will only be something you do once or occasionally I would recommend waiting until your child is around age 3-4.  By this age they are able to enjoy so much about the parks!  They will remember more parts of the trip and be able to interact with the characters a little more and better appreciate all that is around them!  One thing to note though is that even if your child is 4, 5 or 6 consider taking a stroller or renting one there.  There is a lot of walking at Disney and everybody is happier if you not consoling a whiny child or carrying them great distances after a long day at a park.

So truly, it's up to you.  Whatever age you decide to introduce your child to Disney it will be wonderful!  This year a friend is taking her teenage nephew and grandchildren and they're all excited as 2 of them have never been!  Disney brings out the kid in all of us so give it a try whether you're 1 or 81!

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