Saturday, June 2, 2018

School today? No way!

This is what you call 4th quarter parenting...both kids didn't not go to school on their birthdays.  Samantha on May 23rd took the day off and Ian on May 31st took the day off.  Why not?

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have gone to school nearly as much as I did.  I mean, I went every day!   What is up with that?  I think a skip day every now and then is a good thing.  And once SOLs (standardized testing) is over, we can all use a day to decompress.

I've done this for years, letting each kid take a skip day of their choosing.  Fortunately their birthdays are at the end of the school year so it worked out well that they could take their birthday off this year.

The county we live in places so much academic pressure on our kids.  It's insane.  I love being able to do this for them.  And getting one-on-one time with each kid while the rest of the world is at school or at work is priceless.  I hope they look back at these days and find them to be as special as I do.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Alert the news! We have a teenager in the house!

Ian had a tough time transitioning to middle school.  Given how social and friendly Ian is, it surprised us all and really threw us for a loop. But once he got the hang of changing classes, having a Gold schedule and a Blue schedule to follow every other day and the much longer class periods (90 minutes each!), he found his groove.  Although I have yet to really see him study for tests or do homework, his grades are awesome. So the kid must be doing something right.

Ian has discovered a fondness for improv and stayed at school many times on Thursday afternoons to be a part of this group. Improv makes sense as Ian still loves acting and the two activities both have to do with performing.  He loves to be on stage.

Ian tried out for the play his middle school does each year.  He didn't get a part in the play and volunteered to do lighting.  After the first show, Ian realized just how boring doing the lighting for the play was going to be and dreaded having to do the next 11 shows.  Of course, there were many more interesting things he had to turn down because the play schedule got in the way. I am proud of my boy for sticking with it and doing the lighting at every show.  He saw his obligation thru to the end.

This year was a busy one as most of his friends were Bar/Bat Mitzvahed.  A huge amount of time was spent going to services on Saturday mornings and many, many parties were attended.   I think every Jewish kid experiences this growing up-- one very busy year and then it settles down to the usual level of activity.  Most of the parties it was just Ian invited.  It was fun to pick him up afterwards and hear about the party.  This was the year that Ian slow danced with a girl for the first time.  And second time, and third time.  All in the same party!  No, Ian does not have a girlfriend (although, if you ask me, I do think he really, really likes this girl).  I am proud of Ian for having the courage to ask a girl to dance.  And in other parties that followed too, Ian continued to slow dance with the same girl and would even request the DJ to play slow music to dance too.  Really?  This is my son?  GO Ian!  And yes, you must really, really like this girl. Stop denying it.

Ian is growing in to such a kind, compassionate, sweet young man. Ian is quick to lend a hand and help whenever he can.  He is your average American teen that texts, plays video games and loves to be with his friends.

This was the year of all those superhero and Star Wars movies took over the theatres.  Jeff and Ian were at each and every one the first Friday evening it opened.  It's cool that they have this to do together.  I couldn't get Ian to go to one chick flick with me.  I guess that's another sign he is getting older too.

One of the funniest moments we had this past year is when Ian declared he will start to cuss.  He says, as long as he isn't saying a bad word to someone directly (ie - you are a b*tch), then its perfectly acceptable to let a bullsh*t to be said every now and then.  Ha!  No, Ian.  You can't.  However, I am sure when Jeff and I aren't around, it's a different story.

 Ian is looking forward to going to camp this year and seeing what the "B" side is like.  This is the side that is for older kids.

Happy 13th birthday Ian!  You are now officially a teenager!  How exciting.  I hope you have a year filled with classes you enjoy, a sister who doesn't drive you crazy, and a big starring role in the next play you perform in.  Daddy and I love you very much.

1st day of 7th grade!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Jeff and I have to be the least handiest people ever.  While I have big ambitions to do things around the house, we just aren't those people who can renovate a bathroom, install appliances, or hang a light fixture.  I think it is the most awesome thing when I hear from one of my friends they are currently ripping out their kitchen and installing new cabinets and counter tops.  Or, they tell me they are putting in hardwood floors or creating a tile back splash in their kitchen.  That will never be us.  I repeat, that will never be us!   We feel fortunate when we can assemble Ikea furniture and we don't have a piece installed upside down or have extra nuts and bolts left in a pile.

So you have to realize how HUGE this next sentence is for me to write.  Jeff and I installed the Ring Pro Video Doorbell.  All by ourselves!  We did it together.  Without any frustration, without any cussing, and without having to make multiple attempts during any of the steps, we did it.   We worked with the electricity inside the house doorbell box, and we worked with the electricity in the outside door bell.  Yes!  We did it!!!  We managed to figure out the circuit breaker the door bell resides on (it was not labeled!) and rewired both inside the house and outside the house.  Even when being thrown a small curve ball when we took off the old doorbell and the wires literally broke off in our hands due to how old the wiring was (circa 1978), we went with the flow and exposed new wire to use.  Take that old wiring!

The end result of being able to do this ourselves feels great!  Will we be inspired to try more complex do-it-yourself projects in the future?  Probably not.  I mean after all, we most likely just got lucky on this one.  But we will now be able to live the rest of our lives knowing we got it done and lived to tell about it.  I think Jeff was a little worried we'd electrocute ourselves or burn the house down.

Here is a picture of what our video doorbell captures:

Saturday, May 19, 2018 will now be known as the day the universe was kind to Jeff and Robyn, they ventured outside their comfort zone and came out victorious.  

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Simcha, part 3

Once services at the synagogue ended, it was time to celebrate!  We planned a party for Saturday night at the Maggiano's in Tyson's Galleria.  They have a set of banquet rooms that can open up for as big of a space as you need it.   We used 5 rooms and was pretty much at max capacity with our 127 guests.  Our theme for the evening was "Casino and Games".  We had 2 black jack tables, 2 poker tables, 1 roulette wheel, a 4 person Pac-man game, a Foosball table and double shot (which is a 2 person basket ball throwing game).

Every guest got $25,000 in fake money to gamble with.  At the end of a 3 hour time span, the casino and games would shut down and you would get a raffle ticket for every $10,000 you had remaining.  Even if you blew through all your money, you still got one raffle ticket. We had five baskets in various themes that you could put a raffle ticket in and try to win.  At the end of the evening, Ian picked a winner from each fishbowl and gave the basket to them. 

The five baskets' themes were: 
-Lazy Sunday Morning (specialty teas, scone mix, starbucks gift car, starbucks hot/cold travel mug, and hot chocolate flavored spoons),
-Game On! (Dave and Buster's gift card, Huge Puzzle book, mini Pac-man machine, and Uno cards),
-With a Cherry on Top (Cold Stone gift card, 4 ice cream cone shaped ceramic bowls with spoons, ice cream scooper and a container of sprinkles),
-Chillaxin on a Saturday Night (Regal cinema gift card, microwave popcorn maker, popcorn kernels, and popcorn seasoning salts)
-All About George (filled with an undisclosed amount of $1 bills - there was $75 of them)

Jeff, Ian and I didn't really want go the DJ route.  Every party Ian has attended has done a DJ and we really wanted to do something that was a bit more unique.  Additionally, the DJ is usually loud (very loud in some instances) and the adults can't really have a conversation without talking very loudly.  Most DJs are geared to focusing on keeping the kids entertained and that is completely fine,  as this is a party for the Bar Mitzvah kid.  However, this tends to leave the adults off the dance floor while games are being played and orchestrated by the DJ and his crew.

As we were coming up with ideas on what we wanted Ian's party to be, it was like a light bulb went off at the same time for all of us.  The casino and games theme was just the unique thing we were looking for that would be entertaining for both the adults and kids.

We had fun carrying the theme throughout the evening.  We had custom decks of playing cards made and used the back of the box as a place card for our guests. 


The cake had a casino theme with fondant dice, chips, and playing cards.

The centerpieces were a work of art (if I do say so myself) with a martini glass filled with either dice or poker chips set on a mirror base.  There was confetti that had the heart, spade, diamond, clubs, "IAN", and "13" decorating the base.  Additionally, there were 3 balloons attached to each martini glass with a string of lights so it looked like the balloons were floating on the lights.

 It was a Mazer team effort getting the room set-up and ready in time.  Everyone played an important part and together we got it done (without a moment to spare!).  Here is a great picture of my dad and stepdad holding all the balloons until we could grab a few to put in place and come back for some more.

And along the perimeter of the room were big 22'' mylar balloon in the shape/design of queen of hearts, king of spades, and all the suits of cards.  These balloons were anchored with the string of lights too.

In addition to the casino and games, we also had a green screen photo booth.  This was a special request by Ian.  The photographer put together an album for Ian with a copy of every picture taken.  When looking thru the album, I hardly saw any pictures of Ian and his friends.  I asked him why this was and replied with, "They didn't want to leave the casino tables."    That is a sign of a successful event!

These are all the photos I can share until the photographer sends me the photos she took.  I didn't take any pictures all day!  I think everyone had a good time.  Honestly, the day went by so incredibly fast and I felt like in the span of a finger snap the 4 hour party was all of 30 seconds long.  It probably didn't help much that I had 3 cosmopolitans and 1 white Russian to drink.  But after a long, long day, it felt good to have a few.  ;)

A part of me wishes we could go back in time and I could attend the day's events as a guest.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Holy moly, Samantha is 10!

When reviewing what I wrote over the years about Samantha turning 7, turning 8, turning 9, etc, one thing has become very clear.  Samantha's personality has not changed over the years, she is just being more of it.  She is more spirited, more determined, more spunky than ever before.  She also can be more loving, more funny, and more sarcastic than ever before.  We basically have our 3 year old daughter in a current 10 year old body.  Samantha does not go easy on us. She will never be a people pleaser or do something just to make you happy or keep the peace.  That's not her.  She has her own ideas and likes to do it on her terms.

Samantha has a huge presence.  She is loud, when both happy and mad. She is loyal to her friends and somehow has managed to keep these friendships - despite things I've witnessed that would make me run in the other direction if Samantha interacted with me like that.  For example - the other day a neighbor that has a girl similar to Samantha's age rings our doorbell to see if Samantha would like to play.  Neighbor: "Would you like to play?"  Samantha responds quite curt and aggressively: "I can't see you right now." and slams the door in our neighbor's face.  I told Samantha to open the door back up and explain why she can't come out and play and offer a time when she will be available.

Samantha is honest.  Too honest sometimes and has no qualms if what she is telling you will inevitably hurt your feelings, as long as this is her view on things, she will say it and not sugar coat it.  Most days I hear how Samantha doesn't like something I am wearing and questioning why did I buy it to begin with.  Give her a present she isn't crazy about?  She will let you know before it even fully gets unwrapped.  Social grace is something that doesn't come naturally, or at all. But you will always know where you stand with her.  There is no second guessing that.

Many times this past year, I've been so surprised at Samantha's ability to figure things out.  And to take the initiative to do things.  Her mind works in impressive ways.  She is creative and can think out of he box.  This makes me happy.

Once sufficient motivation is given, Samantha is able to complete any task.  But if there is no motivating factors, then you might as well pull your hair out to get her to do anything.

Samantha does not like wearing dresses or skirts of any kind.  You will always find her in some kind of leggings or shorts and a simple t-shirt on top.  She is not one to gravitate from this 'uniform' she created for herself.  I am sure to the outside world it looks like she is wearing the same pair of black leggings every day, when in reality, she has 15 pairs.

Horseback riding is still Sam's activity of choice.  This seems to be her thing. I doubt it will ever get to the point where she is competing, but for the time being, she enjoys it very much.  It's a wonderful to watch her in action and see how different horses' personalities bring out either the best or worst with Sam.  She is very funny sometimes trying to get a stubborn horse to move when it has other ideas.  Talk about meeting your match.

Happy birthday my big girl!  10 is a very cool number to be.  Double digits from here on out.  I wish for you peaceful days, tranquil moods, and an open mind.  The ability to fall asleep easily, your school work to be less of a challenge, and a harmonious existence with your parents and brother.  You are very much destined for greatness.  I have no doubt that you will take the world on fire and go on to show everyone what all this spunk and spiritedness can do.  But in the meantime, it's important we all survive.  I love you!  Like unconditional, no matter how much you yell at me, or refuse to cooperate love you.  That's how much I love you.  :)

Not at all happy about Colonial Day at school.

First day of 4th grade!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Simcha, part 2

Once I officially finished working for The Crazy Man in early January, I was able to transition into Bar Mitzvah planning mode with my free afternoons.  It became my part-time job and I soon ate, slept, breathed all things Bar Mitzvah.  My mindset quickly became something of "Before Bar Mitzvah" and "After Bar Mitzvah".   Life for me didn't exist after May 12 and I knew if I could just make it to the magical day, I'd be able to resume my regular routine and start making all my crazy plans again. Kids wanted to know when they were going to Orlando in the Summer?  Sorry, ask me that again on May 13th.  Jeff wanted to plan our road trip to take the kids to camp at the end of July?  Nope!  We can figure it out after May 12th.  Get my car in for an oil change?  No way, José.  I'll wait until the week after May 12th.  I needed to make plans to see some girlfriends for a birthday dinner?  Sure, I'm available - NOTHING had been scheduled after May 12th. I knew my calendar was open.  Ask me where they decided to go eat?  No clue.  I'll find out after May 12th.  Every spare moment was spent strategizing and figuring out the best way to execute my vision.  Whether it was realistic to pull off or completely crazy for me to think this would work, I was determined to see it thru.  And let me tell you Amazon was around for all of it.  I knew I had a hard stop two days before Saturday, May 12th.  That's when you can no longer get things in their famously known 2 day shipping policy for prime members. 

I rediscovered something about myself that I knew and hadn't experienced in some time.  As I get closer and closer to a really important day, my mind goes into overdrive while I'm sleeping and I get some crazy nightmares.  In no particular order here are some of the crazier ones I remembered.

1. I get glaucoma and can't see a thing on May 12th.  I am running around town trying to find someone to do emergency glaucoma surgery hours before services are scheduled to start. 

2.  I had booked my photographer back in October.  There was no reason to keep in contact with her until early May when we'd touch base again.  In my nightmare, the photographer had died and no one told me.  I didn't find out until May 11th when the family was at the synagogue ready to take pictures.

3. There was a little person convention in the hotel family and friends were staying at.  The lobby was packed solid with midgets and the family couldn't get thru the crowd to exit the hotel and make it to services.

Now, you have to understand, while I know during waking hours, these are absolutely absurd to think it would occur, in my sleep I am actually panicking and freaking out. Ah, how wonderful is our subconscious?

I think the reason I had much anxiety imagining everything that could go wrong is because you only get one chance to get it right.  Ian is never having another bar mitzvah.  And there is so much that is out of your control that you have to hope all the planning and preparation is enough to see you thru to a successful event.

I can't keep a plant alive, but I now have a son who can read from the Torah. That's pretty cool!   At the end of the day, that's all that matters.  While the party was fun and its a great thing to celebrate with all your friends and family, you can't lose sight on why you are there in the first place.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


"Simcha" is a Hebrew word that means gladness or joy.  It's also used to describe a Jewish private party or celebration.

Ian's Hebrew name is Simcha.  How fortuitous of us to have given Ian this as his Hebrew name.  One week ago, we experienced the greatest of simchas when Ian became a bar mitzvah.  It is pretty spectacular as a parent to see your baby grow and 13 years later be standing on the Bimah in front of a congregation of over 300 people. 

There is so much preparation that proceeds this day.  Since Kindergarten, Ian has attended religious school during the school year (3 hours every Sunday and 2 hours every Tuesday afternoon).  In addition, the 10 months leading up to his Bar Mitzvah date, he attended a weekly tutoring session to specifically work on the readings of the Torah and the various prayers he will be in charge of reciting.  And let's not forget, 6 weeks out, those tutoring sessions are expanded to 2 times a week; bringing the days we are at the synagogue to 5 different visits each week.  The amount of time and work put into making the big day goes as smooth and polished as possible is nothing short of mind-blowing.  Then when you throw in starting middle school, keeping up with school and it's demands, any extracurricular activities kids are partaking in, it becomes a stressful and taxing year.  I'm not going to lie, we had our moments where Ian's attitude was less than stellar and he couldn't take much more.  But somehow he persevered and did us all proud.  So proud.   Ian was poised, confident, articulate, and simply outstanding.  There have been many times over the years that I've been proud of Ian.  But May 12, 2018 is now topping my list.

What they don't tell the parents is that when your child is in front of the congregation, you are watching your child while holding your breath.  You know they know the prayers and readings and practiced their speech many times, but you just don't know how they will hold it together in front of so many people and having all their eyes on you.  There is no practice session for that.  Ian presented himself as if he had been in this position dozens of times. If he was nervous, he didn't show it.  If wanted to fidget or get antsy, he didn't let it happen.  

I absolutely loved looking out into the congregation and seeing so many family and friends sitting among the regular congregants.  It was so nice to feel the love and be surrounded with all this wonderful support.

No matter what life throws Ian's way over the years, he will always be able to look back and take pride on how he rose to the occasion and hit it out of the ballpark.  He can draw upon his experience and take whatever confidence or work is needed and know that he is capable.  More than capable.  Because if you can do it once (at age 13 no less!), you know its in you to do it again.

What a special day for us all to witness.

We gave Ian the choice to continue his religious education or take a long, long, long (as long as he wants to) break.  Ian has opted to continue.  Jeff and I are delighted.  This exceeds our expectations.   He has a great group of friends through the religious school and its so cool to see him want to continue.