Happy Halloween!

Hello friends!  Happy belated Halloween:) hoping everyone had a safe and fun time yesterday.

This was Kai’s 3rd Halloween. Since Kai’s first Halloween, we have taken family pictures.This year was the first one where we felt as though Kai has developed and has his own little personality.

He just turned 2 1/2. He’s really big into Power Rangers right now. Surely (hoping) it’s a phase. Praying it’s a short one (less than six months please).

toddler dressed up as Brody, the red ranger from power rangers ninja steel

You know what’s funny? We initially bought his red ranger costume from Target, but the store only carried Power Rangers Dino Charger costumes. He’s big into Power Rangers Ninja Steel right now; his favorite character being Brody, the red ranger.

So, we ended up returning the Dino Charger costume back to Target and getting him Power Rangers Ninja Steel Toddler Muscle Costume, Red, Large (4-6) on Amazon.com.

Halloween Day

Kai had a zoo field trip instead of doing our traditional “class” on Wednesday mornings. The weather was perfect. While a little chilly, it wasn’t freezing. I didn’t bring Kai’s stroller so he walked the whole way.

power ranger and little red riding hood

mommy and son at roger williams zoo in providence, ri with giraffes

My husband, Michael, had work at the office.

Halloween Night

After eating dinner, Michael took Kai to visit our parents’ places to show off Kai’s costume while I stayed home and gave out candy!

grandparents posing on halloween with grandchild

Overall, we had such a lovely and memorable Halloween and hope you did too!

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Mother’s Day blessings

Warning: some pictures in this blog post might be uncomfortable to look at.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday! I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family. I have one son, Kai, who just turned two. And one dog son, Stanley, who recently turned three.

My very first Mother’s Day with Kai back in 2016 was very tough on our family.

It’s still hard for me to talk about what actually happened to Kai. But I think after two years, it’s time to face my fears.

Kai is Born

Kai was born a healthy baby boy weighing in at 9 lbs 3 oz. As first-time parents I was nervous bringing him home from the hospital on our own. But we did it! We got him in the infant car seat and drove home from the hospital! Stanley, our dog, greeted us happily and loved to sniff him and lick Kai’s baby feet.

Breastfeeding was painful at first, but I totally got into a nice rhythm. I didn’t expect him to eat so frequently, but he did!

Off Day

About 8 days after he was born, I noticed he was having an “off” day. He didn’t want to eat, which was very odd for him. I called his pediatrician around 11am after he didn’t eat for a few hours.

He said to keep an eye on him. Sometimes babies have a weird day. I checked his temperature, and he had a slight one. Nothing too high. He just kept wanted to sleep all day long.

It was about 2pm. He had only nursed for about 20 minutes = very strange. AND, he was starting to make these grunting noises.

I called his doctor again, and they advised me to bring him in to get checked out. I waited until my husband came home from work, about 2:30pm. Then we both took him to see his pediatrician.

The nurse took his temperature, and then a moment later, his doctor came in. He was very calm with us, but informed us Kai needed to go to the emergency room at Hasbro Children’s Hospital because he had a 102 fever. That was not normal. Something was definitely wrong with him. He informed us that we may be there for a couple of days or a week while they did testing on him, so they told us to go back home and pack a few clothes and things before we bring him to the hospital.

I was freaking out.

We only had Kai for a week on our own, and I felt so defeated and helpless.

As we were packing clothes, my husband remained calm and was my rock.

Emergency Room

After we parked at the hospital and walked through the stanchions of the emergency check-in, the nurses checked his temperature. I explained what was going on and Kai’s pediatrician already called to let them know we were coming. He had a 103 fever.

We were immediately directed to a room. I guess we skipped the entire line of people ahead of us. There were kids who were bleeding, and we took priority over them!

My little precious baby was lying on this gigantic metal table. They were trying to draw blood and also hook him up to IVs so he could get the necessary fluids he was lacking.

There must have been 5-6 people working on him at once! The phlebotomist was having a lot of trouble finding a good vein. They went in both of this arms, his hands, his legs, and they finally got something in his foot.

The doctors had to put a tube down Kai’s throat to get air into his lungs because they said he was having trouble breathing because he had an infection. We were fortunate to have a really level-headed and young female doctor who did this successfully.

They also needed to do a spinal tap to see if Kai got pneumonia. The doctor recommended we didn’t watch because it might be too much for us. I ended up pumping because I felt so full from Kai not feeding the entire day.

They had to admit him into the hospital, and he was in the emergency room area and was moved to critical care. The night nurses in the section were so nice and caring. They made sure we were all taken care of.

I was very distraught this whole time, and I was super hungry because we hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner yet.

Family Support

I didn’t want Michael’s parents to see Kai in the emergency room, but we had asked them to take Stanley out and feed him dinner at our house. Then, bring us food because we were so hungry and for them to visit us when Kai was all settled into his room.

Of course, Kai’s grandparents were very worried so they showed up in the emergency room.

It was hard for me to watch them react to Kai lying on the table. They were crying, and it made me even more sad, mainly because we couldn’t do anything. I wanted this time to be a private time for our family, but I think Michael was relieved to see his parents there because he was trying to hold it together and be strong for me.

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, and I found this time to be quite difficult to reach out to the Lord. I prayed in quiet, but I did not feel comfortable and did not trust in group prayer.

Translation: it’s hard for me to openly share when something goes wrong vs. sharing good news. I guess I thought motherhood and parenthood was going to be flowers and bouquets. One week into it, and our son got admitted into the hospital.

Kai was on the breathing machine (ventilator) with the tube down his throat, and feeding tubes through his nostrils for 3 whole days. I pumped and gave my milk to him. I was exhausted. My in-laws were with us the entire time! They stayed with Kai when Michael and I needed to grab some food or take a walk.

It was really very loyal for them to be by Kai’s side. We are so blessed to have them in our lives. They helped us a lot with our dog son, Stanley, during this tough time.

My sister-in-law was going to fly up from Texas to visit Kai, but we really wanted some privacy. At that point, she hadn’t even got to meet her nephew yet. We didn’t want to have more people visiting Kai to be sad together. I know, it sounds weird, but we didn’t really want a pity party. I never really had to go to the hospital before I gave birth to Kai, and I never had to visit anyone in the hospital before 2016. So, I wasn’t familiar with hospital/family etiquette so to speak. Anyways, Michael and I felt very helpless.

My parents had just visited Kai for a week after he was born. So they stayed back home in NY and didn’t visit Kai at the hospital while he was there. I think it was easier for us and them that they decided to stay away.

Testing

During the course of Kai’s stay, they tested him for a wide variety of infections. But everyday the doctors visited, they had no definitive answers as to what was causing Kai to have a fever and have trouble breathing.

Right after they took him off the ventilator, I felt such a strong sense of relief. I was so worried he was going to have trouble breathing on his own because of the infection.

My Turn

I felt feverish.

I asked the nurse at the station for a thermometer. I checked my temperature and sure enough, I had a fever. I also noticed some heavy and irregular vaginal bleeding. Yes, it was postpartum. It was abnormal bleeding.

After calling my GYN, they told me to go back to Women and Infants’, where I delivered Kai. Michael brought me to the emergency room, and my mother-in-law stayed with me while the nurses checked my temperature. And, the doctor came in, and I got checked out.

They admitted me.

I was getting treated for an infection too. They had to insert an IV and test my blood too. Of course, I had an allergic reaction to the first antibiotic they gave me. So, I was getting hives everywhere and they had to give me Benadryl through the IV. Boy, was I tired after that.

My First Mother’s Day

This was my view on my very first Mother’s Day. I did get a lovely text with a picture from my hubby:)

I did get to go see Kai the next day, thankfully.

At that point, they had to change the IV, and couldn’t find a good vein. They did find one right on his forehead, so they could administer the antibiotics.

Results

They found out Kai and I both had Strep A. I think it was at 39 weeks they found out I had Strep B, so when I delivered Kai they gave me antibiotics through the IV. I guess the antibiotics during the delivery didn’t help Kai and me afterwards.

Kai was in the hospital for just over one week while I was in the hospital for 3-4 days.

We both got discharged the same day.

Back Home

Where we both got antibiotics to take at home. That was such a difficult time in our lives. We are happy to have that behind us, but I do think the hospital visit has made our family stronger.

We are blessed to have such a healthy, happy and smart 2 year old and are thankful for everything God has blessed us with throughout the years.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there who do such an amazing job <3

 

Feel Better Chicken Soup

Kai caught a cold towards the end of our Caribbean cruise. He had a runny nose two nights ago, and last night he had a slight fever. Today, he has a cough. Poor kid. 🤧🤒

We got home earlier today, and I bought some fresh veggies to make him some chicken soup.

Hopefully this will help him get through the next few days. Here’s my take on a basic homestyle chicken soup!

Prep time: 10-20 minutes

Cook time: 1 -2 hours
Number of servings: 6-8

Veggies:

2-3 cloves of garlic- minced
1 onion – diced
4-5 carrots- diced (remove ends)
4 celery stalks- sliced (remove ends)
1/2 lemon, juiced (optional)

Meat:

I like to use dark meat because it’s more tender. And I usually have some drumsticks in the freezer if I buy in bulk. So I’m using drumsticks in this recipe. If you like white meat, you can use chicken breasts.
5 chicken drumsticks or 2 chicken breasts (without rib meat)

Rice/Pasta:

I usually use whatever I have. Today I’m using orzo because I have a half a box left over in my pantry. Sometimes I’ll use brown rice, white rice, or another pasta…like shells, elbow macaroni, or rotini!
8 oz orzo, dry and uncooked

Seasonings + other:

2-3 tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
32 oz chicken stock
1 teaspoon parsley or a 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
Water, as needed
Lemon juice, to taste

Cooking instruments:

Large pot
Stovetop range

Directions:

Add butter to pot. Brown garlic, onion, celery, and carrots using medium to high heat, until onions are soft and clear-looking. Add chicken stock and drumsticks. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover. Cook for about 10-15 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked fully, remove drumsticks from pot. You can leave the pot simmering with or without the lid at this point.

Be careful. The drumsticks are hot! You can use oven mitts or just use tongs and a fork. Take meat off the bones and shred chicken with fork. Throw bones and skin away. If you are using chicken breast, just shred the chicken and return back to pot. Add shredded chicken back to the pot. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Add parsley and oregano.

Cook until boiling. Add orzo. Cook time (based on brand), usually around 10 minutes. Keep a close eye to make sure orzo doesn’t stick to bottom of pot and burn. Stir frequently. Add water as needed.

Once finished, serve with crackers or French banquette!

Thanks for reading 😋

Note: I ended up taking a little bit of soup and transferring it to another bowl for Kai. I added some firm tofu for extra protein. My hubby doesn’t like tofu, so his portion is sans tofu.

Note 2: You may find that the soup doesn’t have much broth once it cools down. That’s because the orzo is constantly aborning the liquid. If you are saving some for leftovers the next day, you can just use the more concentrated version of the soup and add water and salt as needed when you are heating it up.  Then enjoy!

Full-Time Mommy in Training, Present!

It’s busy season for my hubby. Between January 25th – April 1st, he typically leaves for work around 6 or 6:30am and comes back between 8:30 – 9pm. The only day he has off is Friday.

After tax season, he works about 3-4 days a week. Because Michael is an active and involved father to our son Kai, this time of year feels drastically different. It’s quite an adjustment for our family.

I have been a full-time stay at home mom for about 16 months now. During this time, the most challenging part of my job is actually staying at home. I love going out. Whether it is going grocery shopping, going for walk, or just talking to people.

It’s tough to juggle everything. This job has truthfully been the most challenging yet most rewarding one.

Survival

I’ve had to figure out how to tackle an obstacle as it comes. These days, parenthood is figuring out how to survive the day with my toddler. One thing I am truly grateful for is the support I have received from family and friends. Most are always willing to watch and play with Kai.

Trade-offs

Sometimes daily routines and schedules get messy a day or two after Kai sleeps over at his grandparents. And, Daddy misses him because he rarely gets to see him this time of year. So, keep in mind there are always trade-offs when you pawn your kid off.

If You’re Hungry, Eat and Be Satisfied

It’s different when you work full time in what most people refer to as the “real world”, and you have a daily routine that consists of sending your kids to daycare, a babysitter/nanny, their grandparents or other relatives, while you work to earn a living. I’m definitely not saying this is this easy because you may be internally grappling with the fact that you’re not with your child. Although, I know plenty of parents who successfully do this!

Before I started staying at home, I worked full time in an office. While I was fulfilling my career goals, I wasn’t completely satisfied or happy. I was yearning for something more. I was struggling with work-life balance.

Performance Metrics

At one point, I worked for Hasbro, the toy company, and felt like a number. I contributed to my team and did my job. I, however, didn’t directly see the results come to life. I enjoy making a difference and an impact. This is one of the reasons I truly enjoy spending this time with my toddler.

In the workplace, you may have to meet with your superior and discuss your goals for the year or review your past accomplishments and set expectations for achieving future milestones or develop specific action plans. In my current place of ’employment’, I try to set mini goals along my journey of parenting full time.

There is no pre-determined set of performance metrics in this position. Sometimes I wish it was a little more cut and dried than this. While I’m a planner, I love the spontaneity of parenthood!

Failing or Feeling Like It

Don’t be afraid of failure. Kai is getting potty trained now. We just got him his first pack of easy-ups or pull up diapers for him to test out since he’s been pretty consistent with peeing in the potty. I try to make it fun for him. Some days we have our setbacks. It’s usually when we don’t stick to a daily routine that he gets too comfortable with simply going in his diaper.

It’s funny because back when he was between 6 months old to about when he started walking, he was such a pro at going on the potty. Once he started walking and being a busy body, he didn’t want to sit still and go on the potty anymore. We have reintroduced potty training now that he has been understanding a lot of other concepts.

The other day, I feel like I failed. I got really mad at Kai for not going potty that I ended up not putting any diapers on him. I just put pants and socks on him. He, of course, peed his pants while we were in playing with our trains. I’m not sure if that helped him realize that it really does not feel good, but I feel like I failed because I lost my temper. Think motivation!

Some days are harder than others. Some days I feel extremely lonely, even though I have support. It just gets tough, emotionally.

And sometimes even physically. Kai is getting to be such a big boy! When he gets tired of walking when we go out, and I don’t bring a stroller, it takes a toll on my body to carry him. On the flip side, I’m burning calories woot woot.

Trial and Error

A lot of what I’m doing as a parent is experimenting. Everyday he learns something new. And I feel a strong purpose in life because I feel like I am directly contributing to his successes and development. I am constantly trying to figure out new ways to be a good parent.

While there are good habits, there are also bad ones. I need to be more conscientious about my language, emotions and my actions. Kai feels what I feel. Gets upset when I do. Gets frustrated when I am annoyed. Repeats almost everything I say. I have to constantly remind myself to be a good role model to him and for him to respect my rules because I am in charge. Not him. Don’t let your toddler bully you.

Learning by Doing

Yes, all of this is easier said than done. Every day I am learning so much about myself and my limits as a full-time mommy. There’s just so much to learn along the way. I have been learning by experiencing and learning by doing along my journey of parenthood.

It’s very hard to believe, but I honestly have never changed anyone’s diaper before my own child’s. Fast forward to the present: full-time mommy and owning it.

🐶 Year of the Dog Greeting Cards

This year, Chinese New Year falls on Friday, 2/16. Usually, we celebrate by cooking a big family-style meal or going out to eat authentic Chinese food. Well at least, the most authentic we can find in the area:)

Kai and I will be on a cruise with my parents that week, so I ended up mailing out greeting cards early.

When I was on a Target run with Kai, I noticed this really cute pack of blank red greeting cards. Of course it was in that very first section when you walk in through those large red automatic doors. You know, that bargain section where you just spend way too much time getting more than you had planned on getting? Yeah that one. I’m assuming these red cards were on display for Valentine’s Day. Anyways, those cards gave me the inspiration to get crafty! I also noticed some heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cards, so I grabbed a pack of those and got to work. See the final product here!

Each card is unique because Kai helped paint or color the origami dog face that I folded and designed.

On the inside of the card, I used red card stock paper and punched out circles for the “lanterns”. Initially I wanted to write 新年快乐, which is the more common way to say Happy New Year, but I realized that I could only fit three lanterns on each card with the circle puncher I had bought last year. I ended up writing 新年好 in Chinese. Word for word it translates to New Year Good. It’s another way to wish another person a happy new year, but it just feels a little more formal to me. Then, I wrote Happy New Year in English underneath the Chinese characters.

To make the lanterns I used made tiny holes in the top and bottoms of the circles and the used a long gold twisty tie that was left over from a holiday cookie decorating kit. I simply taped everything down, and voila, pop-up lanterns!

Using a gold Sharpie, I wrote “Year of the Dog” on the front underneath the dog face and “2018” on the backs on the cards (centered and towards the bottom). I finished the cards with a signature from the family.

I hope you like the cards:) 🏮Happy Chinese New Year everyone! 🐶

How I keep my toddler busy in winter

Go to the mall = FREE, aside from shopping
Some malls have indoor play areas with adult supervision so kids are able to play. I sometimes head to the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, MA when it’s raining outside or if I’m planning on doing light shopping. I would choose that mall vs. the Providence Place Mall because there is an indoor play area so he can put his energy somewhere:) There’s also the Warwick Mall near us which has a Carousel for entertainment.

Visit Chick-Fil-A or similar place – $
This fast-food chain usually has an indoor play area for kids. While small, it does the trick! You can always just get a little something to snack or a simple beverage and then your toddler can play! One thing to keep in mind is you typically cannot bring food into the play area and you may need to bring socks for your baby if they have a no shoe policy.

Work out! = FREE – $
Every week, I go to the gym at least once. At my gym there is child care in the morning from 9am-12pm and then again from 4pm-8pm on the weekdays. During the weekend, they are open from 9am-11am on Saturdays. It’s not too bad! If I want to just take an hour class, I can drop Kai off with the caregiver. He usually has fun with the other kids. this also is a great way for him to socialize with other children. It was tough for him to leave me at first, but after 2-3 times, he got used to it. I never leave him for more than 1.5 hours. One perk is there is a sauna and showers as well as tanning beds (if you tan). I haven’t gotten to take advantage of those amenities, but they sound nice huh?

Can’t afford a gym membership or don’t like to get sweaty in public? There’s always the option of doing an exercise routine at home! You can find videos online or just make up your own and get your toddler involved! Make it fun to work out. Kai loves music, especially dancing to the best. You can try to make up a routine at home and have a dance party while breaking in a sweat! Just remember to be safe and consult with a medical professional before doing anything out of the ordinary!

Go to an indoor play area – $
Such places include Chuck E. Cheese. One local place in Warwick, RI is called Kidz Kastle. There is also a place in Taunton, MA called Round 1, which is a place for the whole family. That’s pretty much an all-in-one arcade, pool hall, bowling alley, bar and kids indoor play area. In my area, in Seekonk, MA there are Fantasyland and the Seekonk Speedway.

Visit a local pet store – FREE – $
My son loves animals! Sometimes when our dog runs out of dog food or is in need of a little something special, I bring Kai with me to run errands. Meanwhile, there are usually some fun, cute and also creepy little critters on display and for sale at the local pet store.

Kai loves running up to the fish tanks on display and pointing to the different species. And he loves dinosaurs, so naturally he is drawn to the prehistoric-looking lizards and reptiles on display too!

And who doesn’t love watching little rodents run a muck in their little confined spaces? Gerbils, mice, ferrets, and more. Sometimes there’s also some rabbits. Although most of the time, they’re just sleeping.

Oh and don’t forget about the little birds flying about in their cages and mingling with their companions!

Visit your local library  = FREE
The library is a great resource. The libraries in my local area have wonderful programs, such as story time, play time, or music and dance programs. It’s a great place to network with other parents, grandparents, and caretakers. It also serves as a wonderful place to get your little one interested in reading books!

Take swim lessons – $$
Since we live in RI, I was initially drawn Pods Swimming, which is a local aquatic swimming education center. They were building a brand new facility last year, and unfortunately construction was a month behind. Therefore, I enrolled my then-10-month old child in a swim class at my local YMCA. They start accepting children as early at 6 months old! We had so much fun. Although, just keep in mind these are introductory classes to get your baby familiar with the water. Safety was emphasized in these classes along with fun activities.

Play in the snow = FREE
Kai went sledding for the first time a few weeks ago. While it only lasted about a half an hour to 45 minutes, we were able to both indulge in some rich hot chocolate!

Sometimes when it snows a lot, I choose to take our dog Stanley in the backyard to do his business instead of going out for a walk with Kai’s stroller. So, I suit Kai up and we run around and explore our snow-covered backyard!

Get a Children’s Museum or Discovery Center Membership = $$
We were fortunate enough to be gifted an annual pass to the Providence Children’s Museum for Kai’s Christmas present! We opted to go with the Family Plus Membership, which was $150. It allows a total of 6 people to visit the museum. Kids who are 12 months and older have to pay full price. He loves playing with the water. It’s a great place to bring your child during the winter!

Meet up with family and friends = FREE
While I thoroughly enjoy spending time with Kai and Stanley I also like to have some time to have a conversation or two with other adults. Also, if your friends and family have kids of their own, they can play together! If you have family nearby, take advantage! If they’re anything like my parents or in-laws, they love bonding with their grandchild. I also have a few friends who love hanging with Kai. It’s a win-win. Maybe you can even cook together and plan out meals!

Get a zoo membership
Sometimes when there’s a warmer winter day, I like to take Kai to the zoo. It’s usually or crowded at all during the weekday, especially in the wintertime! I guess it also depends on where you live though. We sometimes just watch the animals for a longer period of time, and since Kai loves those pre-historic looking creatures, we watch the Komodo dragon (which is in an indoor area of the zoo).

Read – FREE
Kai asks me to read to him about five times a day! He tends to gravitate towards busy books. The peek-a-boo ones where you lift the flaps up and see something. He really likes me to read the same book several times, or go to a specific page and gets mad if we don’t read that page many times.

While I like borrowing books at the library, I also enjoy owning them because he can always go back to them whenever he wants to. I’ve discovered a local second-hand store where you can buy and sell your old baby items. It’s called Once Upon a Child in Warwick, RI. You know when you go into a Savers, a Goodwill or a Salvation Army and there’s a weird musty stench? This used store isn’t anything like that. I’ve only gone there twice, but they have a ton of toys and clothes. I have gotten three of Kai’s current favorite books there.

The other day, I celebrated my friend’s birthday by going to trivia at this bookstore and cafe called An Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA. It has a wonderful children’s section! I plan on going back one of these days for story time.

Visit a local botanical garden – $
Most of these gardens have large a large or multiple greenhouses you can visit with a wide variety of plant species! Kai enjoys exploring new areas and appreciates large open spaces so he can run around.

Join a support group = FREE or $
If you are a new mom, there are usually local support groups you can join! There are Meetup Groups, which are usually private, that you can request to join. There’s sometimes a small fee (maybe $10-$50 a year) to participate. Kai and I ended up going to a mommy Bible study at a local church. There was nursery during the session, so Kai was able to interact with other kids. It was a wonderful way to fellowship as well as grow closer to God.

Get your toddler involved in cleaning:) = FREE
Kai keeps me on my toes. He loves to see people cleaning, especially sweeping or mopping. And shoveling or raking. I guess he just has a fascination with sticks. Sometimes, when we are hanging at out home, he asks me to sweep and clean the floors because it is “dirty”. He also begs me to take the vacuum cleaner out and use it.

Enroll in a music class = $$
This year, we decided to enroll Kai in a music class. He absolutely loves it.  Last year we ended up going to a free introductory music class to get a taste for what to expect if we decided to sign up this year. It was nice to see the different activities and just a a little taste of everything. At the time, Kai was still just beginning to take his first steps, so I selected swimming vs. music class. This year, we selected Lori’s Music Together. It has been such a fun few weeks already! It’s amazing to see Kai’s progress. He’s singing parts of songs and mimicking all of the dance moves at home! You just need to show him one time, and he remembers! It’s hard to believe because I sometimes think he’s not paying any attention to what the teacher is doing.

Go on a movie date at home – FREE
Since my almost-two year old cannot typically sit still for more than ten minutes or so, we haven’t yet attempted to go to a real movie theater. He usually does pretty well when he’s a little tired, but not over-tired.

On certain days, especially if he’s feeling under the weather and he needs a little more TLC, I will make some popcorn, get a juice box for him and maybe even think about giving him little lollipop treat while we watch a G or PG-rated movie together. Since he is still taking naps during the day (well mostly just one long nap now), he sometimes falls asleep watching a movie.

His current favorite movie is Moana. Michael thinks he has a crush on her.

Play at home – FREE
There are ways to make play time fun, creative and interactive! Playing with your toddler and teaching him to play pretend expands his imagination. Don’t be afraid to get messy either! You can always take a bath afterwards!

You can play with the idea of planning activities around different themes matching holidays or cultural traditions. Or, tailor play and activity time at home for your toddler to learn about the basics, such as colors or numbers.

You can invite his little friends over too! This also teaches your child or children to be more social with other kids. While this can be challenging at first, it’s good to be consistent with it. Since Kai is an only-child he doesn’t understand the concept of sharing. Well he’s getting more used to the idea, at least:)

Some of his favorite things to play with now are play-doh and instruments; play dirt and monster trucks; his train wooden tracks and train set; his CAT diggers, bulldozers, dump trucks, and front-end loaders; his Hot Wheels cars; cutting his wooden fruits and vegetables with this Melissa & Doug set; and watching PBS Kids!

Got any more ideas?
These are just some ideas! There are plenty of ways to entertain your toddler. I have honestly bonded so much with my 21 month year old. It has been such a joy to watch him learn things so quickly. I feel so lucky to be spending this time with him.  If anyone has any other ideas, please share! I am totally open to trying new things to keep busy.

How my employer paid for my graduate degree

Did you know that some employers will pay for a portion or the full amount of tuition for your graduate program?

The Job
After receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in International Business in 2009, I worked abroad for a little while. I ended up getting a full-time job at the U.S.-China Institute at Bryant University, my alma mater. It was a great opportunity for me to work with the schools and educators in the local community to help foster the development of their cultural programming. I really enjoyed working with students, planning events, traveling to conferences in the U.S. and in China, networking, working on budgets + grants, and taking administrators and students to visit China.

Benefits
I knew I wanted to get my MBA. Since I had an orientation by our Human Resources Department, I remembered them indicating to me that as a full-time staff member of the university, I was able to take advantage of their tuition remission program. It was a great program they offered so that employees have the opportunity to take classes for free!

Challenges
Now comes the not-so-great part of working for a specific department within the university. Being the unseasoned employee I was, I thought it would be in my best interest to be very transparent with my supervisor about my goals and aspirations to pursue a higher degree. I don’t think she was very pleased about my decision because she was very concerned I would not be able to keep up with my workload. She highly advised against me getting a higher degree and told me there was a wait period of one year before I could start.

I ended up speaking with my supervisor’s boss about this, and then someone from HR ended up calling and telling me that there is no waiting period for me to start taking classes for free. Because I did not want to upset my supervisor, I ended up taking her advice and waiting one full year before applying for the university’s graduate program. I took that time to study for my GMATs, and spoke with advisors about the potential workload.

Acceptance + Graduation 🎓
Bryant University has a wonderful 2-year part-time MBA program! This truly catered to those students who work full-time (during the day), and take evening classes. I got accepted in the summer of 2012 and graduated in the summer of 2014.

There were definitely some long and gruesome nights and weekend group meetings, but we all (most of us) made it through.

Taxes
One thing to keep in mind: while I did get my tuition waived, my employer did include my tuition remission as income on my W2. Therefore, I did have to pay taxes on the amount of tuition.

Trust
Timing is everything, and I have to trust in the Lord with everything. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to get my graduate degree for free, when I did.

Thanks for reading!

Aged: 3 years

Michael and I celebrated our 3-year wedding anniversary on 11/29. A lot has changed since we started this chapter together: we moved out of my in-laws, bought a house, got Stanley (our Cairn terrier), had a baby Kai, and recently became an uncle/aunt duo (unfortunately, we have yet to meet our beautiful niece—but we can’t wait to this weekend).

For our anniversary, we decided to take the leap to leave our 19-month old Kai and take a short trip up to Essex, VT. Michael was looking forward to going back to the Cabot Visitor Center and Ben & Jerry’s Factory. I was looking forward to taking some scenic pictures during the fall/winter. And, we both wanted to spend some quality time together, with Stanley. We have been very fortunate to have Grammy and Papa watch Kai, since they’re having their annual holiday “aunt” party this weekend:)

It was a very pleasant holiday with Stanley. He was such a good dog!

Wed night – Surf and Turf cooking academy class at the Essex Resort & Spa. It was just us, so it was very personalized, and we were able to be very creative with ingredients! Chef Dante was super nice and taught us a lot!

Thursday – had breakfast at the Tavern in our resort; went to Lake Champlain Factory in Burlington for a mini tour and had the BEST mocha ever; explored Waterfront Park with Stanley, made a pit stop at Church Street Marketplace; went back to the resort and changed, then headed to our 1.5 hour drop-in tennis class at The Edge in Essex (it was a very large sports facility with tennis courts – there are member and non-member tennis classes); went back to the hotel and got changed; went to a tasting at Citizen Cider in Burlington (amazing ciders and wonderful ambiance – had the Stan Up garlic dip and it was SO good); grabbed dinner at ¡Duino! (Duende) which we stumbled across when searching for nightlife in Burlington -it’s connected to Radio Bean which is a coffee house. I got the cheeseburger and Michael got the chicken and waffles (both were soooooo good!).

Friday – tour day! — ate breakfast at Butler’s Pantry in Stowe (not very good – definitely does not live up to all of the 5-star reviews on yelp- I got the biscuit with sausage gravy and Michael got the pantry breakfast with maple sausage and biscuit); toured Cabot Cheese Factory and sampled numerous cheeses (they are discontinuing tours starting in Jan 2018- so Dec is the last month to go behind the scenes); toured and shopped at Bragg Farm Maple Sugarhouse in East Montpelier (hard to believe they make everything and pack everything on site, the maple soft serve ice cream was very good, the workers were so nice and welcoming = we bought a lot); went to Cold Hollow Cider Mill – quoting Michael here – “their cider may be cold, but the workers are colder” i agree in a sense – it was like night and day going from Bragg to Cold = they didn’t get a lot of our business = i would skip this stop altogether…however, when we went to Boyden Valley Winery Tasting, the worker was so nice and we went in for a quick tasting – we bought a few things; Ben & Jerry’s was the final stop – just had some ice cream and skipped the tour since we had gone twice before. We had dinner at the Junction at the Essex – I definitely say they are bold, daring and try to be creative with their menu items, but when it came to execution, they didn’t fare as well…so it was nothing to rave about — and the serving staff seemed all to pompous for my palette.

Saturday – breakfast at JP’s Restaurant (i got the Irish Eggs Benedict and Michael got the biscuits and gravy- it was typical cheap diner food–most, if not all of the dishes were under $10 ); took Stanley to the Essex Dog Park; played tennis at Edge (we signed up for a class late Friday night, so the tennis pro didn’t end up showing up, so we just ended up renting a court and playing together); attended the Vermont International Festival where we ended up getting a few unique pieces from Kenya and Ghana, visited Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington (just took a free tour, which was interesting); went back to Church Street Marketplace for some dinner and additional holiday shopping (mainly we had to get matching PJ’s and found this place called Little Blue House by Hatley which had what we were looking for); and finally went for a short stroll at a park in Essex:)

We left Vermont on Sunday, feeling very “ful”filled rom our culinary tour:)

Until next trip!

Red Mountains

Back in September I took a solo trip to Utah to Red Mountain Resort in St. George. I think the last time I traveled, for pleasure, on my own was to Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia, back in 2010. I can’t believe it’s been that long. This 4-day, 3-night mini escape gave me an opportunity to unwind and clear my mind. The spa package I got was amazing! Also, the food was so tasty and healthy. I also had a chance to visit Zion National Park, which was stunning despite the rain.

Here are some highlights:)