Tuesday, March 30, 2010

April New Year's Resolution Experiment

To recap, my change for the month of March was going to be no longer double and triple book ourselves with playdates and events. Overall, I think I did a much better job than before, but I am not cured yet. I do believe Jeff wishes that we had more downtime at home and the running around all the time was cut back some. Jeff now regularly books time on the calendar to mow the lawn, watch important play-offs/golfing events, and general home/car maintenance because he knows that if it isn't on the calendar, there will be something else in its place that he is expected to go to.

I don't have a problem with saying no anymore. If the day looks like it is getting too packed with activities, I just reply back with new date options for getting together.

And now, to announce my April New Year's Resolution change. I am going to take better care of my cuticles. I've never had nails that I've been particularly proud of. My cuticles are dry and brittle, and seem to be begging to be picked and ripped off - causing ugly looking fingertips and pretty gross nails. No more!! My plan of action is to every night use cuticle cream and keep the area moisturized and less likely to tear. Furthermore, I'll do a better job strengthening my nails and helping the overall appearance of each finger. This may sound like a silly change, but I am tired of looking at my fingers and seeing redness, scabs and generally raw-looking cuticles. I believe the cuticle is the foundation for the whole nail and hope that this care of the cuticle helps the nail look better too.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

CARS - the sequel

Ian has seen the movie "CARS" at least 60 times. Every time we are on a road trip to his grandparents in the Baltimore area, every time we find ourselves on an airplane to Florida, and generally when we are at home and he gets bored watching regular tv, he'll eagerly turn to the movie "CARS" to pass the time.

What is amazing about this feat is that not only does he not get tired of watching the movie, but he watches it like it is the first time he has ever seen it. Being in the car on our way to NJ a few weekends ago, I was quite impressed with how Ian makes each viewing a new and fresh experience for him. He'll comment "Come'on McQueen, you can beat him!!" or "Oh no, look out" or, one of the best lines we heard come out of his mouth was "Please, please just win this one race."

Ian even knows all the lines by heart. He'll say his favorites along with the movie and still watch in anticipation wondering what is going to happen next. You've got to give the boy credit. Watching it with this much enthusiasm, hoping each of the races and plot twists have a different outcome, keeps it very exciting for him. How nice to be able to get so much mileage out of one download on iTunes. (Mileage, get it? Pun intended.) Now this is a deal we could even justify getting him other movies to watch. If only he would stop watching CARS.

Friday, March 26, 2010


When I was pregnant with each of the kids, my big craving was McDonald's McFlurries. It was strange, because it wasn't something I was used to eating before getting pregnant, but once the craving kicked in, I HAD to have one. There was something about the McDonald's frozen treat that was not easily replicated by any other brand of ice cream or dessert-type restaurant. Only a McDonald's McFlurry would do.

A few times we would be driving on I-95 through Maryland and of course buzzing by all the exits with signs for McDonald's would get me salivating for a McFlurry. I would tell Jeff to do a quick drive-by and get me one. Much easier said then done. First let me say, it is very deceiving when there is a sign posted that a McDonald's is going to be off the exit and when you go to drive there, you find you are more than a 5 minute drive from the exit ramp. What is up with that?!?! There should be a law that makes it illegal to advertise it as an exit stop if it is more than 1 mile off the highway. This is just my opinion, but I think it would cut down on road rage. Apparently no one at the Department of Transportation agrees with me because all along I-95, every exit advertising a McDonald's is a good 10 minute drive off the interstate. How frustrating!! And then when you do finally get there, the McFlurry machine is not working or they are all out of the ice cream mix. On one particular trip, it got to be incredibly frustrating after making three non-successful stops, which took up a good 45 minutes of our time, that I felt compelled to call the Governor of Maryland at the time (Gov. Ehrlich) and tell him what I thought. Considering it was a Friday night, I had to leave him a voicemail. For some reason, he never returned my call. I am sure it was the pregnancy hormones talking, but I was OVER IT thinking a McDonald's would be thisclose to the exit and then come to find out it was more trouble than it was worth to get to it.

It got to be a joke between Jeff and I that it usually took 3 or 4 McDonald's before we could find one that actually had the item I wanted and could sell it to me. Not just on I-95, but McDonald's everywhere in NoVa were having McFlurry machine operating problems. The harder it was for me to get one, the more I wanted it.

Anyway, I digress. We found ourselves back on I-95 the weekend of March 20th to go to Cherry Hill, NJ and do a playdate with my 1st cousin Leslie and her two kids. It was a fabulous weekend trip and the weather was gorgeous. On the way back home, we needed to stop for lunch and decided on McDonald's. It wasn't our first choice, but the restaurant options in Jessup, MD were pretty slim pickings. And, this McD's just happen to be located near the exit. I can count on one hand how many times a year the kids eat McDonald's. Eating fast food is not something I want them to get in the habit of and start asking for. I'd much rather seek out a Panera Bread or a Cosi for a fast food type lunch option. I have to say, this McDonald's was stunning. Really. The bathroom was beyond clean and the whole restaurant was sparkling. I made a comment to the manager behind the counter how great his place was and he said it was relatively new. Ah, maybe Gov. Ehrlich did get my message and had the powers-that-be build this McDonalds just for me!

While sitting at the table eating our lunch, I got nostalgic for my old McFlurry cravings and commented to Jeff on how I would love to get one, but I really didn't want to eat it in front of the kids and giving them sugary sweets was not something we wanted to do at this time of the day. Jeff said we could all get in the car when we were done eating, go thru the drive-thru and I could probably get away with having it without them seeing while continuing our drive home. I thought about it a little longer and decided, I would get one and all of us would split it. I knew the kids would enjoy it and it would help control how much I was eating if I had to share it with the others. I enthusiastically went up to the counter and ordered a M&M McFlurry. Only to be told that the machine is not working and they can't do any kind of ice cream treat. I couldn't believe it! More than 5 years later after getting pregnant with Ian and I am still having problems finding a McFlurry. It was actually pretty funny and without even needing to explain to Jeff why I came back to the table empty-handed, I just sat down and we laughed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I remember the first time I went into a DSW Shoe Warehouse. My mom and I had discovered one in New Jersey years ago. I had never seen so many wonderful pairs of shoes all lined up, just waiting for me to consider each and every one. There were shoes of every kind; dressy, flats, boots, flip-flops, sneakers, slip-on, wedges, stilleto, formal, casual and so forth.

With the warmer weather now finally upon us, I decided to spruce up my sandal wearing choices and head to DSW one morning while Ian was in school. I had Samantha with me and this was going to be her first visit, old enough to be aware of what is going on. We park the car and I put Samantha in the stroller, hoping to be able to cruise through the aisles with minimum disruptions. The minute we walked through the doors, I realized I was in trouble and truly had a mini-me on my hands. Sam's eyes got as big as saucers when she saw where we were headed. She instantly put her hands to the shoes on her own two feet and started to take them off. She had big plans to try on all these shoes laid out in front of her!! I quickly tharwted the ideas in her head and told her we were here for me. She put her feet back down and hopped out of the stroller. She made a beeline for the first set of shoes she could run to and promptly handed me a pair to try on. It was absolutely adorable. I started tearing up, right there in the store at how much she was enjoying shoe shopping with me.

I took Sam to the back of the store and we did a quick run thru of the clearance section. It was here that Sam couldn't resist it a moment longer and started trying on some shoes herself. Of course they were 10 times too big for her, but it made it easier for her to not have to take her own pair of shoes off. A woman next to us saw Sam and commented, "She is starting young." Ha! You have no idea.

Once we made our way out of the clearance section, it was at this time that Sam noticed each of the little benches you sit on to try shoes had a mirror on it. She got such a kick going from bench to bench checking out her reflection.

While I didn't need the stroller; it was quite foolish of me to think that Sam would be content sitting in it admist this shoetopia, we did put it to good use and had it hold the boxes of shoes we were deciding on.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The giving boy

Ian is not a big candy eater. Besides lollipops (and he usually doesn't even finish a whole one), he'll only eat M&M's. They are his favorite. Everything else in his candy bucket at Halloween he could care less about. Just give him all the M&M's and he is one happy camper. In fact when I took him trick-or-treating this past Halloween, he kept count of how many packages of M&M's he was given. Each time another homeowner handed him a pack, he'd yell back to me, "I now have 8 bags of M&M's!!" We have quite a collection of M&M's for Ian to have when he has been especially good or eaten an exceptionally healthy meal, or our go-to treat for bribing him.

There is a boy in Ian's class who has started a candy store in his house. From what I understand, he sells candy to relatives and friends who happen to stop by for a visit. This little boy takes the money he makes from selling the candy and does good deeds with it. He is a very special little boy and in the past has given money to the homeless.

Over the past few months, Ian has heard about Dylan's candy store and vowed to do what he could to help stock it. You guessed it, with his very favorite candy in the whole wide world, his M&Ms. Every week, Ian would continue his mission to add to his M&M's supply and he no longer asked to eat any of it. He kept saying that as soon as Dylan and him had a playdate, he would give him his M&M's for his candy store.

Sure enough, the playdate happened last week and Ian handed over the big ziploc bag full of bags of M&M's. It was very sweet of Ian to do this. However, there seems to be no end to his generosity. At the mall over the weekend, Jeff took Ian into the candy store for him to pick out a treat. Ian filled up a bag of M&M's (like there would be any other choice) in his favorite colors - blue and green. When I met up with them a few minutes later, Ian proudly showed me his bag of M&M's and then he said, "I'm giving these to Dylan for his candy store." Uh, I don't think so.

It's a tough situation to be in. We want Ian to continue to be generous and think of others. But yet, we don't want to continually be buying M&M's for someone else's child. Especially when M&M's are so yummy and I enjoy them just as much as Ian used to.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

5 Star Hotel

Ian has turned his bedroom into something similar to a stay at a hotel. Jeff is the main parent to put him down to bed each night. Their routine is practice writing, bath, books, and then lights-out. However, Jeff is a sucker for hearing the words "I'm hungry" and refuses to say no to Ian when hearing these words. Ian has figured out this persuasive stalling tactic and is not afraid to use it nightly.

I'll be at the dining room table on our computer and see Jeff come downstairs and put together a snack for Ian. I'll ask what he is doing and Jeff says, "Ian is hungry. I am getting him some insert various snack item here" Really? You think Ian is hungry? Sure. Right. This is his sure-fire way to stay up another 10 minutes. According to Jeff, he'll never say no and make Ian go to bed hungry. The only saving grace is that whatever snack is brought to Ian is uber-healthy. There will be no offerings of goldfish, pretzels, or cheez-its. It is fruit, cheesestick, or go-gurt all the way.

Funny that whenever I have to put Ian to bed, he never once says he is hungry. I guess room service at Chez Toppall Inn is only available during Daddy's shift.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Daylight Savings Time is for the birds

It is time for me to rant. Why, oh why do we have to do Daylight Savings Time twice a year? I find it to be a ridiculous exercise that only disrupts our regular schedule. Just when you get in a really good stage, DST wreaks havoc on going to bed and waking up. Of course I find it to be more problematic now having not one, but two kids dealing with the time change. I am sure daylight savings time never really bothered me before I had kids. But, this is the world I live in now and it pains me that two times a year, we purposely go out of our way to mess with something that was working perfectly fine and should be left alone.

I can guarantee you that the person who invented DST never had kids. I realize that the origin of creating DST was to help conserve electricity and make use of longer periods of sunlight later in the day. However, this is no longer needed and the reason for it is obsolete.

Mentally, DST does a real number on you. For days after switching our clocks either moving forward an hour in the Spring or falling back an hour in the Fall, you tend to think in terms of, 'well, if they are going to sleep now, it is because their bodies think it is really 7:00pm, not 8:00pm.' And, 'If the kids are waking up at 6:00am, it is because they really think it is 7:00am'. Oy! There is no end to this madness. This line of thinking even extends to meal times, nap times and general crankiness. It is nuts! Eventually everyone adjusts to the new time difference, but until then, all hell breaks loose when kids are involved.

I'd like to raise my hand and vote that we stop Daylight Savings Time right now!! Let's leave it with more sunlight in the late afternoon. This is the better time change anyway and would be a good opportunity to put a kibosh from any further changes.

Anyone with me?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yes, that's my boy!

Please allow me to kvell (Yiddish word: to be extraordinarily proud; rejoice) for a moment.

Ian's teacher in the pre-k class started a new system to encourage good behavior among the kids. Each day, the children start off with 3 points and over the course of the day, they can lose a point or regain a point depending on how well they listen, act, share, etc. Upon dropping Ian off at class one day last week, Ms. Beth (his teacher) asked if I heard about this new behavior chart. Instantly, Ian spoke up and said, "I forgot to tell my parents about it." Regardless of the fact that every day at dinner, we ask Ian to tell us all about school and what he did that day, I will continue on with my story and get to the good part.

After Ms. Beth explained the new system they are implementing, she pointed to the chalk board and showed me all the kids' names and the numbers assigned next to them. I fully expected Ian to have a 3 by his name, but wasn't expecting him to be the only one with a 3+. Ms. Beth felt compelled to give Ian the "+" because he was the only child to say "thank you" when being given snack that morning. Out of 12 kids, my little guy came through and showed that he has manners.

I was smiling all morning long, until it occured to me -- could I have an Eddie Haskell in the making? You know, the boy from "Leave it to Beaver" who had impeccable manners and was the epitomy of being polite in front of adults/parents? And the minute Eddie was left alone with Wally and the Beaver, all the scheming and trouble would begin -- usually being led by Eddie.

I'd like to think that Jeff and I are doing something right and Ian being polite is just coming naturally. He is only 4 1/2 years old, so for the time being I'll continue to be naiive. Way to go Ian!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

If only she could will it to happen

Last Sunday after picking Ian up at religious school, we decided to go to Panera Bread for lunch. While standing in a rather long line waiting to put in our order, Ian noticed this family right in front of us who had a little boy a tad bit younger than him. They exchanged the usual pleasantries saying hi to each other and engaged in some toddler banter back and forth. Without using words, the boys soon started a jumping contest. The little boy jumped first to show Ian how high he could go, and then Ian (not one to be outdone) had to show the little boy how high he could go.

Within seconds of watching these boys get some air between them and the ground, Samantha decided she needed to participate too. She took one big step forward to be closer to where the boys were jumping. Sam crouched down, put her arms towards her back and stood there waiting for it to happen. She looked down at her feet and waited some more. Poor thing didn't leave the ground. She decided to try again. She went back to standing fully upright and put hands back by her side. Sam then squatted low once more, put her arms towards her back and tried with all her might to make it happen again. Nope. None of her moved. Not even a little bit.

Sam definitely looked disappointed. She was watching her brother and this little boy get high off the ground and desperately wanted to join them. If there was any way I could've twitched my nose to help her jump, I would've done it in a second. Once I got done laughing, I realized this will probably be the first of many disappointments to come her way. Oh, how hard it was to not shield her from this and make it all better. If only they were selling ponys across from Panera Bread.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The next generation

I wrote about our last trip to the dentist "Say AHHHHHHHHH" and how Ian was maturing and getting better about going. This past Tuesday morning's scheduled visit was his best yet!! There was no hesitation walking through the dentist's door and he proudly wore a smile that screamed, "look at me, I'm going to the dentist." Ian sat in the chair like a pro. To our delight, no one was needed to hold him down or even throw any bribes his way. It was remarkable and boy, have we come far.

Ian blew us away with how good he was. I actually didn't recognize him and was certain my boy had switched places with someone else's. Then we had Samantha take her turn and it reminded me very quickly how bad the appointment can go. Sam quietly watched Ian from the sidelines and we were hoping that when she saw Ian was living through the experience, that it would be okay for her too. Unfortunately this was not the case, and Jeff and I assumed our positions. I got her hands & arms, and Jeff got her legs. When she screams it opens her mouth wide and the hygienist can do her thing. She screamed the whole time. Dr. B. said she is currently getting her two year molars in right now. Yes, this very minute. Lovely. :)

A very sweet moment came when Dr. B. was doing his after-the-cleaning exam, and Ian tried to console his little sister. He said, "Don't worry Sam, the dentist is just counting your teeth; it doesn't hurt at all." Too bad Sam was being too loud screaming to hear him say this.

We are good to go for another 6 months. And despite being 10 minutes late, they are letting us keep the 8:00am appointment time slot. Bonus! I actually know a mommy friend who is banned from getting the 8:00am slot because they are so late getting there.

If history repeats itself, the countdown is on until Sam is ready to embrace the bi-annual trip to the dentist too. 2 1/2 years to go, or in an easier measurement to swallow, just 4 more visits.

Please enjoy this picture of Ian and see how amazing he is. I'd love to share a picture of Samantha with you, but there was no one left in the room available to take the picture.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From Soaps to Sports

Sometime over the last year and a half, Ian has become his own person when it comes to watching tv.

Ian used to go along with whatever I wanted to watch. I easily could turn on General Hospital every weekday afternoon, and know that my little buddy would be by my side joining me. Ian would ask questions like "why is he in the hospital?" Or, "who's the mommy for that little boy?" All good questions and believe me, sometimes you just don't know who the mommy is going to be.

Then over the months, the tide started to change and Ian began to develop his own mind and preferences. Slowly I was banished from putting on General Hospital in front of him. "Go watch it upstairs Momma" was his request when the clock struck 3:000pm. Even though I was a bit disappointed, I could hardly force him to watch a soap opera. On his own, Ian developed an interest in sports. Basketball, race car driving, and football has him asking us the questions now. Over and over again, Ian wants to know who's playing, what team is wearing which colors, who's winning, how much longer in the game, etc. The questions are endless and start up the minute he sees any kind of sport highlight or game on the tv. Ian has a memory like an elephant and remembers everything you tell him. He is getting really good recognizing different team's logos, player's numbers, and all their colors. In addition, he can tell you now what the score is and what is needed for the other team to tie or even take the lead. It is quite exciting seeing Ian learn valuable math skills that will be with him for the rest of his life. Granted, General Hospital was only going to teach him that yes, you can get away with murder if you are good looking enough.

Now when Ian is allowed to watch tv, he'll ask to see if we can find a basketball or football game to watch. Ah, somewhere along the way, I lost my soap opera watching buddy and gained a sports fan. Ian is a boy through and through. There is always hope for Samantha.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pocket Change

About 1.5 years ago, my friend Molly came into town for business and we met for dinner. I picked her up at her hotel and we drove to a nearby restaurant. Right away, Molly asked what that noise was. "What noise?" was my answer. I had gotten so used to it, that I didn't even hear it anymore.
"The sound of money clinking together.", Molly replied.
"Oh, THAT noise." I came back with.

There was a time when Ian would love to sit in the driver's seat and play with every button, switch, dial he could get his hands on. Thinking back, I believe Ian was either just about 2 or approaching his 2nd birthday. As long as the keys to the car were in my hands, I didn't mind and actually enjoyed knowing he was in one spot long enough to allow me to unload the car of groceries, packages and such. I just always had to be prepared when turning the car on again that the air or heat would be on at full speed, the windshield wipers would be on full force and the radio would be loud enough for my parents to hear it in Florida. Sometimes it would be a few hours before getting back in the driver's seat and it would get ya by surprise. Other times, I'd be ready for it.

One day Ian discovered the little compartment that held spare change. I didn't realize what evil things he could dream up with the coins until I went to buckle my seat belt. Yes, there would be a pesky little penny or dime sitting in the slot. OMG! That was a hard one to get out. And then I realized what else he could do with the change. Ian managed to put the coins in the steering wheel. Somehow he could get pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters in this tiny amount of space of the steering wheel where the air bag lives. Every time you go to turn the wheel, which as you know is a constant thing when driving, the change jingles back and forth. How annoying! I tried to get the change back out, but was unsuccessful. All I could think about was what if I got into an accident major enough to deploy the air bag? Not only would that come shooting at my face, but the spare change too. I can't imagine that would feel very good.

A few months passed and the next time I was at the dealership for an oil change I asked them to get the change out. The service rep said it would cost $100 as they have to work around the air bag and get it back in working order. At this point it wasn't worth spending $100 on it and I was willing to live with it. Like I said to my friend Molly, I don't even really hear it anymore. It has become background noise.

The day has come! We took the car into Honda for some maintenance on Saturday and come to find out there was an air bag recall on the driver's side. Woo-hoo!!!! Now the change would be taken out on someone else's dime (no pun intended!). Gone for good. I am sure the tech would be surprised when opening it up and seeing all this change come out. But then, he just needs to look in the back seat and see the two car seats for an easy explanation.

I am happy to report that at 120,000 miles my car is back to sounding almost quiet. Unfortunately there is still a penny or two floating around. It's okay though, when we are all back in our assigned seats, the noise level more than makes up for the sound of coins clinking together.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


So I was in the midst of wrangling Sam one morning, trying to get her pajamas off and change her diaper, when Jeff popped his head in through the door and asked if he could try. "Oh yeah! Be my guest" without hesitation the words flew out of my mouth. Jeff went over to the crib, picked Sam up and put her on the changing table without one bit of argument from Sam. He easily finished taking off her pajamas. Sam then laid back and put her legs in the air for a new diaper. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was no longer able to put her diaper on her laying down and here she was putting her legs up in the air to help out! I was getting quite good at it doing it with her standing up or completely backwards when she refuses to be still for me laying on her back.

For the record let me say, I had given up getting her out of the crib to get her pajamas and diaper off. It was easier to keep her contained. Plus, once she was naked, I would give her the clothes for the day and let her attempt to put them on herself. Once she did the best she could (and, she would get pretty far in the process), then and only then, she would let me help.

Jeff was able to dress her and do her hair. All the while, Sam was perfectly content and even happy.

This was unbelievable!!! I was in awe. I'm happy that Jeff didn't have to go through what I normally do most days, but still a little part of me was wondering what I am doing wrong.

Does Jeff have the magic touch? Is Sam just sick of me? Or, could Sam be daddy's girl? My money is on the latter.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The age of innocence

The other day in Ian's Pre-K class, reports came back to me that there was a wedding. The wedding was between Ian and his buddy Andrew. The other kids in the class took on the roles of their parents and they play-acted out a wedding. I find this so sweet and love that these kids don't realize it is nontraditional. They act on their instincts and follow their feelings.

And in the same week, two girls Ian is friends with drew him pictures. One picture had the little girl, her mother, me, Samantha and Ian all holding hands together. The other picture was a bunch of letters and drawings on the paper - more of an abstract work of art. Both gestures were incredibly sweet and it makes me feel good that Ian is doing well getting along with both sexes and is genuinely liked by each.

Ah, what a great age this is. It is all so innocent and pure. I hope it continues for a long time. When the boys hug each other hello and good-bye. When they feel it is okay to do spontaneous weddings. When they can't wait to see each other at school and have playdates with the same kids afterwards because they feel like they haven't spent enough time together.

It is magical watching all this through their eyes. Please stay sweet and unguarded for a long time. And, next time remember to invite your mother to the wedding!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time machine

On Wednesday I was at Sam's My Gym class and Miss Carmen had the movie soundtrack "Footloose" playing in the background. First let me say, I never felt so old when some of the moms in the class hadn't even been born yet when this movie came out in 1984. I can remember like it was yesterday sitting in the theatre watching it.

When the song, "Holding out for Hero" came on, I was instantly transported back in time to when I first got my drivers license. I was driving my dad's convertible Corvette, with the top down, blasting this song, taking the car to 100mph and more. Looking back, I can see this was foolish and consider myself very lucky that I never got stopped or worse, got into a horrible car accident going so fast. But this song calls for speed! And there is something about having the wind rush through your hair, leaving the dorky teenager behind and feeling cool, if only for 3 1/2 minutes.

Ah, how my life has changed! Now, 23 years later you can find me in a My Gym class for toddlers, listening to the same song, playing with my 21 month old. I hadn't heard or thought of that song in years. I went home and downloaded it on iTunes, adding it to my playlist "running". What a great, fast-paced melody it will be for me to run to. On Friday, when I was nearing the end of a 5 mile training run, the song came on my iPod. I heard the familiar beat and my feet picked up the pace feeling a little lighter. I upped the speed on the treadmill and ran a little faster. I did this for the awkward teenager I felt like back then, and the empowered woman I've turned into today. It was a great feeling.

BTW, to any parental units who may be reading this, I only drove like this a few times. And my top speed of 135mph only happened once. :) Don't worry, I definitely don't drive like this now; especially with 2 kids in the car. I never go more than 8 mph over the speed limit these days.

To hear the song to which I am referencing, please click below.