BB is almost the age where extracurricular activities finally become available, as most activities require children to be at least 5. I'm guessing because trying to wrangle a bunch of younger toddlers is not the best way to impart the joys of painting to a class. We're faced with making a decision about which activities we should put him in.

We all have time and money constraints, of course, but also I feel it's important we don't overload our kids with activities that run them from place to place everyday, cutting away from family time. Decisions, decisions.

My philosophy on extracurriculars in early education is that they should help develop a child's mental pathways and expand their thought processes. Here are the classes I am considering:

1. Art. Specifically a class that works in multiple mediums. As a fan of the Reggio Emelia method, I do believe that children have 100 languages in which they learn and express themselves. Unfortunately, given I am a working mom, it's hard to bring out the messy paints and clays as often as my kids need the exposure. Also, I'm not a very good artist so a professional might be more inspiring in this arena.

2. Foreign Language. I talk a lot about culture for kids on this blog. BB is in Chinese school on Saturday mornings during the traditional school year, in part for the cultural exposure, but also because learning different languages at a young age is one of the best ways to absorb a language. Different languages also expands the brains and makes for better use of all known languages.

A Swedish study showed that the brain actually grows from learning additional languages. (

3. Sports or Martial Arts. Confession, we are not a sports family. At most, I've dabbled in Tennis and Golf, while my husband spent quite a few years in Martial Arts. It wasn't until having kids that I realized how important some kind of physical activity is for overall personal development. I lean towards wanting the kids to be involved in something they can continue their whole lives, which rules out a lot of the more injury prone sports like football and soccer. BB is currently enrolled in Tang Soo Do which has done a lot for his self esteem and social skills as well.

An independent study found that martial arts can improve attention span long term, something I think this technology exposed generation could benefit from as well. (

4. Music. We recently brought home a keyboard for the kids to start taking piano lessons. I've debated putting the kids in a piano school versus having in home lessons but either way feel very strongly that music helps develop a different way of processing information.

A USC study found that music helped children's brains develop faster, specifically in speech and reading skills. (

In the end, I will likely enroll BB in an art class during the summer and spend more time on art on the weekends, from projects to museum trips and do in home piano lessons so that we can be home instead of running off to another class during the week.

How many and what activities are your children involved in outside of school?

My best mommy friend and I were talking about our fond memories making wontons and dumplings with our parents as children and suddenly realized, our kids only memories of these delicious treats are from the local restaurants we order from. They have no memory of the time spent around the table, mass producing these morsels of joy, unknowingly connecting us to every other household that makes dumplings at home. We decided we were going to start getting together to make traditional, albeit labor intensive, traditional foods so that the kids would have a connection from our tables to their grandparents' tables to their greatparents' tables. Because let's be honest, food is the gateway to culture, ya'll. 

And it's Lunar New Year, prime dumpling making time. (Checks one more tradition off the list.)

This was my first time making it in my own home without the help of my genius-in-the-kitchen mother. I wanted to do this super traditionally, made the broth from pork bones, dried fish and shrimp, and shrimp heads and shells. I bought whole head on shrimp that I had to peel and de-vein. I twice boiled and washed the pork bones for a clear broth. This was a two day affair and totally unnecessary. The recipe below will be full of modern day shortcuts for the average American household, that unlike the multi-generational Chinese household with the multiple hands to help and well distributed division of labor, can accomplish in one evening. 

What was totally necessary was having BB and his friends help make these for the experience. Not all kids are going to take to the time intensive nature of folding these. I happen to be a very lucky mommy with a big boy who loves to help and has a penchant for cooking. He made 4 or so before he went back to playing with his friends. The best part was when he ate his fill of wontons, declared them his favorite food and beamed proudly when I thanked him for helping make dinner. This has invigorated my need to spend more time in the kitchen at home and less time in restaurants. I have big plans of guiding my kids through a sense of confidence and cultural identity through their stomachs. 

A note on folding. We picked wontons as our first dumpling attempt because when boiled, wontons are ugly and imperfect. There's no stressing over the perfect creases or folds. In fact, the way the wonton is folded is generally up to how the maker enjoys the skin. Personally, I like a gathered tail that is creased just enough to get a good bite on the flap. Some like a delicate flat fold, preferring other folds with less creasing. 

For the kids, we had them sit in front of plates, allowed them to remove one wrapper from the package each and gave them spoons to scoop a little bit of filling onto the wrapper. We showed them how to trace the edgings with wet fingertips and fold the wrapper from a square to a triangle and then trace the edges again with wet fingertips.  Then they pinched and creased the best they could and their wontons were added to the growing platter of ready to boil dumplings.

I decided that painstakingly making broth is unnecessary. Chicken broth simmered, with some pork bones, onions and dried shrimp and seasoned to taste, for however long it takes to make the wontons would likely have been acceptable. Without the need for shrimp peels, shelled and deveined shrimp would have been just fine as well. 


For wontons:
  • 1 package wonton wrapped (approximately 60 count)
  • 1/2 pound shelled and deveined shrimp, chopped and washed with salt and baking soda
  • 1 pound ground pork (20% fat)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
For broth:
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 lb pork neck bones, boiled and rinsed to remove scum
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp 
  • 1 package thin Hong Kong style egg noodles
  • 2 heads baby bokchoy, quartered
  • Chopped green onion for garnish
  • White pepper to taste
  • Chili oil to taste (optional)


  1. Bring chicken broth, pork neck bones, medium onion and dried shrimp to boil and reduce to a simmer. 
  2. Mix pork, shrimp, soy sauce, sesame oil, shallots, chives, fish sauce and white pepper. 
  3. Fold pork mixture into wonton wrappers using preferred method. Fold until running out of filling or out of wrappers. 
  4. Bring a stockpot full of water to boil while forming the wontons.
  5. Divide the egg noodles and bokchoy by bowl and boil egg noodles and place into serving bowls. 
  6. Boil a dozen wontons at a time, removing from the water when they rise to the top. Place around 6-8 wontons in each bowl. 
  7. Remove the pork neck bones and onion from the broth. Pour ladles of hot broth into the wonton noodle bowls until noodles and wontons are submerged. 
  8. Garnish with chopped green onion and white pepper. And chili oil if desired.
  9. Watch the kids devour the dumplings. 

Freeze any leftover wontons well spaced on a cookie sheet before placing them in a storage bag. 

Critter Country is one of the smallest lands left at the Disneyland Resort. In fact, not many even remember the movies that some of the attractions like Splash Mountain are based on, mainly because films like the Song of the South, have in recent years fallen out of favor due to racial overtones that are insensitive in the more culturally aware society we live in today. For that reason, there has been long speculation that Critter Country, in the ever evolving landscape of Disneyland, will be one of the future lands to be rebranded. Until then, experience all Critter Country has to offer with the following itinerary.

If you are someone who likes to start the day with sweets, try a coffee and the famed funnel cake creations at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. As the park gears back up for the return of Fantasmic, new menu items like the Milk and Honey Funnel Cake, with features condensed milk, clover honey, edible flowers and whipped cream, is worth the visit. For visitors who prefer a coffee and churro, limited edition s’mores churros are heading to the Critter Country Churro Cart as well.
If planning on a trip to Splash Mountain, do yourself on a favor on cold days and bring a change of clothes. It’s no fun being cold and wet walking through Disneyland. But on warm days, take a ride on Splash Mountain early enough in the day to have time to dry off and maybe even go again. This attraction features the steepest drop in the park as well as a photo finish to capture the fear, or rather joy, at the midpoint of the drop.

For the littles, or those with a fond memory of Winnie the Pooh, the Many Adventures of Winnie Pooh, my oldest son’s first Disney ride ever, is a little bit of the kid friendly Fantasyland buggy attraction style with all the animal fun of Critter Country. The line tends to be on the short side as well because not many spend much time in this area.

By this time, it’s probably time for a wind down lunch. There’s a little known quick service restaurant in the park called Harbour Galley that serves affordable lobster. Yes, previously known for its Lobster Roll, the new menu items rolled out include Lobster Mac and Cheese Hot Dog and Leaded Lobster Chips, particularly good for all the Cove Bar fans who are unable to get their Lobster Nachos during the Paradise Pier renovation. It’s made with house chips topped with lobster, cheddar cheese sauce, spicy-lime mayo and chives.  Seating around the well themed restaurant is quite nice. Lucky families who can scores seats on the steps near where the Columbia is docked get a real harbor feeling.

One of the best holdovers from Walt’s time in Disneyland is Davey Crockett’s Explorer Canoes. It’s a good time to remind the new generation of the wilderness man that was Davey Crockett and take them on the canoes for a paddle around the Rivers of America. Despite what many believe, the canoes are not on tracks or are they motorized so please, help the cast members paddle on this attraction, or at the very least, don’t drag the paddles making it even harder to move the canoe forward.

There’s not a lot of shopping in Critter Country but for families who shy away from characters purchases, Critter Country’s Briar Patch is not a bad place to buy some souvenirs that are themed after actual woodland creatures instead of the most recent Pixar movie.

After all that rowing and shopping, the last stop of the day in this land should definitely be for a final snack. One of the best places to get some of the greatest instagrammable sweets in the park in Pooh’s Corner. From Tigger Tail Marshmallow sticks, to baked goods and chocolate covered items galore, it is a great place to grab a treat.

Visitor Information
Critter Country at Disneyland
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: (714) 781-4565
Southern California has no shortage of ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year between the Huntington Gardens Chinese New Year Celebration to the OC Fairground Tet Festival, this holiday is finally getting the coverage so many Asian communities in the south land are looking for to preserve a sense of culture for their American raised children. Not surprisingly, one of the best shows of the multicultural aspect of the Lunar New Year is found at the Disneyland resort. Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities are represented by food, performances and education. Cerritos even plays a special role in this celebration as the Cerritos Chinese School has teachers participating in different areas of the celebration in the park.

Start the day by heading over to the Vietnamese food options for a Banh Chung (rice tamale), Café Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk) and a Banh Khoai Lang Tim (taro macaron). Classic Vietnamese flavors in appetizing forms perfect for breakfast for even the pickiest of palates.

With bellies full, head over to the Wishing Wall where Disney provides the tags and guests provide their wishes for the New Year. Traditionally, Chinese families write their wishes and resolutions and attach them to trees in the Temples. In more recent times, in the Beijing Mall a beautiful Wishing Wall was created and this nod to that traditional is delightfully authentic.

What sets the Disney event apart from the multitude of other celebrations in the Southern California area, other than the long span of time the festival runs and the fact that it covers multiple cultures and has a lot of Disney Magic is the big name acts they were able to secure to perform. Dat Nguyen of Vietnam, Luna Lee of Korea, and the GuGu Drum Group from Shanghai all have regularly scheduled performances during the Celebration. Make sure to take some time to take in their amazing talent. 

By the afternoon, it’s probably a good time to head over to lunch on the Chinese food options. Xiao Long Bao, the magical soup dumplings that somehow manage to deliver a mouth full of broth and dumpling in one bite, are available. These are hard to get perfectly even by the best Chinese restaurants but worth trying to see the Disney interpretation. Dan Ta, also known as an egg tart interestingly originally adopted from Portuguese cuisine is also available Tsingtao is the featured beer for the Chinese food booth as well.

Cerritos Chinese School, along with others, help run the arts and culture section of the celebration. Guests are able to give their names to Chinese calligraphers who will beautifully write out each name in a very special complementary souvenir. There are also crafts for kids, like lantern making, and face painting to make the experience extra special.

No Disney celebration is complete without a parade and Disney characters. Appropriately, Mulan and Mushu have a New Year’s Procession featuring music from Mulan and a sea of performers to evoke the crowds and celebration in the streets of so many Asian cities during this holiday. Mickey and Minnie also walk around in red Asian themed costumes.

Lunar New Year merchandise kiosks feature Year of the Dog t-shirts, pins and even red envelopes. Definitely pick up some of those Hong Baos if you have Disney loving little ones you are giving Lai See to this year. Annual Passholders also have a special area where they have special photo opportunities, commemorative pins and exclusive merchandise as well.

The last food stop of the day has to be the Korean booth where the Disney chefs serve up bokkeumbap, a kimchi-vegetable fried rice and yang gaeng, a sweet red bean and raspberry jelly. The Korean beer available at this booth is Hite.

Round out the night with story of a little Chinese lantern. Hurry Home is a small show highlighting the musical score of the opening of the Shanghai resort by renowned composer Tan Dun played shortly before and in conjugation with World of Color. Make sure to get a fast pass to secure a seat as the area gets crowded and the show starts at 9pm.

Visitor Information
Disney California Adventure
1313 Disneyland Dr. Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: (714) 781-4565

There are few lands in Disneyland that are as untouched by the passage of time as Frontierland. Not originally themed after any Disney movie or characters, this area of Disneyland is an ode to the love of the Old West characteristic of the time that Disneyland was built. A day in Frontierland today is probably fairly close experience to the Frontierland Walt walked through, with the exception of the modern Fantasmic.

Originally, Frontierland did not have any rides. In fact, it was just a wide expanse of land until Big Thunder Mountain was built. Over time, more attractions were added but they all stayed true to the old timey natural feel of the land. Recently, Frontierland was closed, some of the key areas were co-opted into the new Star Wars land, but when reopened still stayed true to its original theme.

As always, when starting in any land, it’s best to get a meal in before heading onto any lines for rides. Turns out, a funnel cake is a completely acceptable breakfast. It’s almost a waffle and conveniently located at the Stage Door Café. Another acceptable brunch option is the corndogs which some claim to rival the Main Street Little Red Wagon corndog. High praise indeed.
After filling those bellies, head over to the Mark Twain Riverboat. It’s a nice ride around the picturesque Rivers of America. If the steam paddle boat isn’t too crowded, consider asking a Cast Member if you and the little can ride up in the wheel house. If blessed with this opportunity, make sure to get that souvenir certificate and take a pull on the horn exhaust. “Hooonnnk, Hooooonk,” as they say.

More interested in an open air ride? Head over to the the Sailing Ship Columbia where the ship, based on a real 18th-century schooner, features replicas of flags from the American revolution. A great dose of history for kids learning about United States history.  

The big thrill of Frontierland is Big Thunder Mountain. This beloved attraction is one of the longer lines in the land but worth experiencing the rugged Gold Rush feel that in imbued in so much of the area. Experts riders may consider staring at the billy goat on the peak during the big turns as it’s supposed to make the ride more thrilling by inducing an extra level of dizziness.
After working up a bit of an appetite, stop into the Golden Horseshoe Café. Walt and Lillian Disney actually celebrated their 30th anniversary in this venue. It now features a show that has changed over the years and currently features a humorous country music and comedy act. Tuck into some Fish and Chips or Chili Cheese Fries in a bread bowl here but make sure to save room for the star of the Café: Sundaes. House-made browned butter chocolate chunk cookie sundae is on the menu but it’s rumored that one can order a special off menu ice cream nachos dessert that is ideal for groups.

Work off all that sugar by hopping a raft over to Tom Sawyer’s Island. It has been rethemed as Pirate’s Lair but still features the same open ended play that the original island was known for. There are nooks and crannies, caves and bridges to explore. Quite frankly, it’s one of the few places in the park where it actually feels like a park. There is very little by way of pirate themes on the island other than some treasure chests and one or two references to the Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s definitely one of the less crowded areas of Disneyland in general but it closes by sunset or 5pm.

After hopping off the island, the shooting gallery next to Silver Spur Supplies is a nostalgic way to start wrapping up the day. This is sadly one of the more neglected parts of the area as the shooting gallery is not in 100% functioning order but maybe that’s the point. Step into Silver Spur Supplies for some trading post action; pin trading that is. Or if your littles happened to really enjoy the shooting gallery, pick up a now orange and green toy gun at Pioneer Merchantile, a more colorful version of an old favorite souvenir for many.

Lastly, round the night out with a Riverbelle Terrace and Fantasmic dinner package. One of only two restaurants that offers special seating for Fantasmic, with a reservation and the cost of $45 per adult and $25 per child between 3 and 9, a 3 course dinner and specialty reserved seat viewing is included. For another $25, seats on the Riverbelle Terrace that overlook Fantasmic are also available. The 3 courses includes either a salad or soup, entre and dessert and completely worth it considering the time it saves families from having to camp out for a good seat for the show.

Vistor Information
1313 S Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: (714) 781-4636