Thursday, September 30, 2010

October's New Year's Resolution Experiment

I feel great!! My change for the month of September was to be less connected throughout the night. To not have access to my iTouch and be able to check email or Facebook once I went upstairs to bed. This actually wasn't as tough as I thought it would be. I didn't have any kind of withdrawal symptoms nor did I miss not being able to see what was going on online. For the most part, I slept better and when I did wake-up, it didn't take as long to fall back asleep. I am going to keep this change going. I am so glad I finally got some perspective on how obsessive I was getting with needing to check email and Facebook.

Now, to announce my change for October. I am going to not use credit cards (including the checking debit card) for the entire month. Talk about a challenge! It's cash all the way baby. I will take out $250 a week and live off this. This includes groceries (yes, paid in cash), gas, and any incidentals that come along. If I don't have the cash for it, then I won't get it. I think the key for this succeeding is to go grocery shopping first and see what is left to spend the rest of the week. And my last priority is going to Target, because if I made this my first stop early in the week, then there wouldn't be anything left for groceries. :)

The only downside to this plan is that we won't be earning any reward points for money charged on the Amex card. This is a tough one for me to swallow because I am all about getting points and using them for things we wouldn't normally be able to do; like Jeff and I going to Mexico right after Thanksgiving and saving points for our dream trip to Australia. But, I have a feeling the reward will be even greater when Jeff reads this October challenge and knows that when I do something, I do it all the way.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art imitating life

Many thanks to Amy (a great mommy friend) who saw this comic strip and thought of me. This is so true that it borders on not being funny. If you ever wanted to see what my calendar hanging in the kitchen looks like...just see below. This is us to a tee!  Pretty scary, but its good to know that we are not alone out there. Either the artist who did this is spying on us or is closely related to their own version of what life is like for the Toppall family.  For as much as I love electronics and the latest gadgets, I love my old-fashioned calendar hanging on the wall more.  There is something comforting to me to be able to walk by at any given moment and see where it is I need to be next. 

I believe you can click on this comic strip and it will appear bigger. Or, here is a link to read the comic online.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Can you hear me now?

I admit it, Ian will be one of those kids who has a cell phone at an extremely early age. He will be the kid who other parents hate because it means they now need to get their child a cell phone. Yes, we will be those parents. In fact, there was a moment two weeks ago when Jeff & I actually had a conversation about possibly getting him a cell phone for him now, at age 5.

Please allow me to explain before you start to judge. When kindergarten first started, Ian was having a difficult time waiting for me in the kiss & ride line. I wanted desperately to let him know he wasn't alone and I was only a few cars away from him seeing me. The patrol (older kid at the elementary school) would get him from his classroom and take him to the kiss & ride area where the cars come up and collect the kids who do not take the bus. The patrol leaves the little ones, lets go of their hands and walks away. Ian is left standing there feeling completely alone and abandoned. In reality, there are two adults who are standing there assisting the kids who are getting to their parents' cars, but Ian didn't know this. Nor, were any other in kids in his class doing kiss & ride. I would pull up and Ian would be in tears or very close to crying waiting for me.

It didn't take long until I figured out a solution to the problem. Getting one of the adults who assists the kiss & ride area to introduce herself to Ian did the trick. She was very understanding and told Ian he could come stand next to her until I drove up. I held my breath that first day after the introduction was made. I was #9 in line and knew I was too far back to beat Ian to the punch and be pulled up waiting for him to come out. I texted Jeff and said, "#9 in line, let's hope Ian keeps it together until I can get up there." Jeff texted back with "maybe we should get him a kid-friendly cell phone, you know the kind that can only call 3 numbers". And in that instant I knew, it is only going to be a matter of time. I do think age 5 is too young. And, I am not sure what the appropriate age is. But I do know, that I don't want Ian to feel alone. I want him to know that I am a quick phone call away if he is scared.

There is going to come a time (granted, in a few years) when Ian is somewhere, without me, and plans change. Soccer practice gets called off early or the movie he and his friend is seeing breaks in the middle and Ian needs a ride home sooner than anticipated. Or, Ian is at the mall and I want to reach him. I want to know I can reach him at any point. True, growing up I never had a cell phone and managed to survive just fine. However, there were pay phones back then and I clearly remember using them to call my parents.

So I ask my readers this question -- when is an appropriate age to get your child a cell phone? 10 years old? 12 years old? Yes, this is with the assumption that many parental controls will be set in place (texting, Internet access, unlimited calling to anyone, etc). I'd be very interested in hearing all opinions; those who think I am off my rocker and those who agree with me and have a definite age in mind when the time would be right.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Heard and Observed XV

Walking back in the house after knowing Jeff and the kids watched football:

Me: Sammy, did you watch Football today on tv?
Sam: uh-huh (this is her way of saying yes)
Me: Who was winning?
Sam: Barney

Me: Sam, you get to go to school today.
Sam: No way. No school. Apple picking.
Me: We are going to go apple picking on Sunday. School today.
Sam: No way. No School. Apple picking.
Me: No apple picking. Apple picking on Sunday.
Sam: Apple picking soon. Apple picking. Apple picking.

This exact conversation carried on all the way to preschool. Then when I picked Sam up and we get in the car to go home, she says, "apple picking soon." Three hours being in school and she hadn't forgotten our conversation.


We frequently Skype with my mom in the mornings and the kids eat their breakfast while Mom-Mom hangs out on the kitchen table. 

One recent afternoon, Sam went up the computer monitor and knocked on the screen, saying:  "Hello in there.....Mom-Mom, hello in there."


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All plugged in!

I have a lot of things that needs to be plugged in and charged. Here's my list of items that require a charge until the battery runs out and then needs to be recharged:

Cell phone
iTouch (x2) - each kid has one
Garmin Forerunner - I use this for running
Digital camera

Plugs today have gotten bigger and bulkier. They no longer contain a small two- or three-prong plug. These days, there is a huge box at the end of the cord. Not sure why it is needed, but most of the electronics seem to have them. Makes it very hard to use a classic type surge protector. One plug could easily take up 2 or 3 outlets. Oy! At home I'd have to divide and conquer, using various outlets in different rooms to fit all the cords of things that needed to be charged.

Then I took a trip at the end of June to Martha's Vineyard and discovered something that I didn't know existed. In our hotel room was the ROUND surge protector!

Oh, how life has become simplified and easier. I have revolutionized the way I give our electronics a charge and created The Charging Station. The Charging Station is located in our living room, nicely hidden on an end table that is in between the sofa and oversized chair, tucked away in the corner. The lower shelf holds the round surge protector and the top shelf has the end of the plugs and any electronics that need to be charged. It is genius, if I do say so myself! I've got 6 cords plugged in all the time. I can charge everything at the same time, in one place. The only thing that needs to get switched out are the iTouches, because they use the same cable. 

Now I just need to hope I don't blow an electrical circuit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This little piggy got some polish!

Two nights ago, we were all sitting on the couch watching tv, counting down the minutes till bedtime.  Sam looked at me and said, "Pedicure me."  I couldn't refuse her request and promptly got out a bottle of nail polish and painted her toenails.  This was a first for us.  Sam and Ian had done pretend pedicures in the past and Ian would "paint" Sam's toenails with a variety of crayons that Sam had picked out.  But when Sam looked at me and asked for a pedicure, I went for it. It was the real deal and I painted her toenails a very nice shade of hot pink.

When I was done, I had to explain to Sam she couldn't move her feet and needed to give them a couple minutes to dry.  Together we blew on her little toes to help the drying process go faster.  Sam took one look at her feet and said, "Soooooo pretty.  Soooooo pretty." 

It is no secret that I can't wait to take Sam with me for regular pedicures.  I think 2 years old is too young, but will probably take her on her 4th birthday as a special treat.  This is not something I ever did with my mom, but it is something I'd like to with my little girl.  What a better time to bond than while getting our feet pampered?  This is what makes having a girl special.  Ok, just one of many reasons. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

All the news you need to know re: Ian

Here's an update on a few hot topics these days at the Toppall house. In no way do I apologize for coming off as an over-protective, overly sensitive mother. This is my job and I am taking it more seriously than I ever thought I would. I don't see myself changing anytime soon either. :)


After 9 days of school, the child I have grown to love more than anything (equally tied of course with his sister, Sam) has returned. I was more than a little worried when each day I'd ask Ian if he talked with any of his classmates and he would tell me no one or just this one boy, James. How could this be? Ian is a non-stop Mr. Chatterbox and I couldn't imagine him not speaking to any kids his age for 3 hours, 20 minutes each day (2 hours on Mondays). I was concerned that this is how it was going to be for the next 13 years and Ian wouldn't form any friendships. If I could get access to his classroom and find a few kids to bribe to be his friends, I would've. My heart was breaking each time I asked Ian the question and heard his answer. Then towards the middle of week #2 at school, the tide had changed. I'd ask Ian if he talked to anyone and he would list 3 or 4 kids and have a big smile on his face as he was saying their names. On Thursday we got up to 6 kids.

And fortunately, I figured out the issue with the kiss and ride pick-up and why Ian was in tears or close to tears by the time my car came around the bend. All it took was a simple introduction to one of the adults standing there assisting and Ian no longer felt isolated or abandoned. Now each afternoon when Sam and I go to get Ian, he is standing next to Ms. Rolander and has a big smile on his face. It makes me feel good to know that no matter what car number I am in line, Ian will be just fine until I get there. Again, you can't imagine how hard it was for me to see Ian in tears when pulling up to the school curb.

I know there is always going to be something that needs to be addressed, but I really didn't want Ian discouraged so early in his school career. I think for the time being he is going to be okay. And, so am I.


Ugh! On Wednesday, I got a call from Parktakes (the Fairfax County division for classes and all things rec centers related) and was told that Ian's T-Ball class on Tuesday mornings was cancelled due to low enrollment. I quickly tried to find a replacement class of some sort before having to tell Ian the bad news. Unfortunately there was no other class that met for his age group at the time of day we needed. I wasn't sure how I was going to break the news and decided to sit on it for a day or so and see if I could put some kind of positive spin on it. However, things didn't go as planned and on Thursday morning when dropping Sam off at preschool, a fellow preschool parent who Ian knows very well asked him when T-Ball starts. Oy! I broke the news to Ian then and there. While Ian was disappointed, he took the news surprisingly well. I think I took the news harder! I knew how much Ian was looking forward to this class.


Back at the beginning of summer when Ian turned 5, he said he was old enough to take the training wheels off his bike. Ian's Aunt Elaine had just given him a bigger bike and we decided this would be the bike for him to learn. After 3 quick sessions (think 10 minutes or less), Ian never really had the confidence to get the hang of riding without a little help. Ian was scared and would let himself fall gently to the ground and then say he was done. We didn't push it and since Ian turned his attention to the new scooter he received from his grandparents, the bike sat there collecting dust.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday when we met our friends Beth and her kids at Popes Head Park. I asked Ian what kind of wheels did he want to bring with him; scooter? bike with training wheels? bike without training wheels? Ian said he didn't want to go back to riding a bike with training wheels. I came up with a brilliant idea and decided to take off the training wheels on the bike he was comfortable with. It was smaller in size and he knew this bike like the back of his hand.

When we got to the park, Ian took off and never looked back. It was most impressive how well he did from the moment he got on his bike, until the moment we left 2 1/2 hours later. It was like Ian was always riding just two wheels. I admit I was tearing up a bit at how great he was doing and not having to struggle.


Jeff came downstairs the other night to tell me this story. He went into Ian's room and saw Sam on his bed watching "Barney". Jeff asked Ian how this came to be. Apparently Sam walked into Ian's room and asked him to put the show on his tv. Ian did this completely on his own and allowed Sam to be in his room watching what she wanted instead of something he wanted to see. Anyway, Jeff was looking for Sam to give her a bath. He could hear Ian telling Sam to hide under his comforter so daddy wouldn't find her. Sam listened and did just as Ian instructed. It was really cute. How wonderful these two get along. They are so close and it makes me incredibly happy that Ian looks out for his little sister. Even if it is to escape getting clean.


Ian was invited to give the sleepover thing another try. This time he went to Ethan's house and along with Ian, another boy joined them named, Andrew. So in essence, this was also Ian's first slumber party. All reports came back that it went well and the boys were asleep by 9:30pm. Ian didn't ask to come home once or even want to give us a call.

Below is video of Ian riding without training wheels.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's back to school! Yay! Sam finally got to start preschool on Tuesday. I was positive drop-off was going to go super smooth and she would be bouncing for joy, eager to get to her classroom. If you saw me on Tuesday morning, you couldn't miss the size of my smile as I think it clearly started from one ear and went all the way to the other. So why shouldn't Sam be just as thrilled as I was?

Oh, how wrong I was! Sam seemed happy with the idea of going to school and happily pulled her backpack through the parking lot and into the Synagogue where she attends preschool. However, a few feet from her classroom door, she realized what was happening and decided this wasn't for her. She started screaming, crying and letting everyone around her know that she didn't want to be there and it was time for her to go back home.

Miss Virginia, her preschool teacher, looked at me and said it was best to leave. Hanging around was just going to prolong her outburst. So Ian and I took off and made a speedy exit. The school has my phone number and I knew would call if it was necessary for me to come back.

The weird thing is, Sam went to camp at this same exact place over the summer, with mostly the same exact classmates and even the same teacher for a few of the weeks. Sam is very comfortable at this Synagogue and I know she is looked after with great care. I think the 4 week break in between camp and school starting may have been too long of a time span to the keep the momentum we had going.

I know in no time Sam will be happy once again at drop-off. When it came time to pick her up, I spied on her through the window of the door. Sam was having a great time and had a big smile on her face during circle time.

Sam, a happy 2 year old realizing she is going home.

Now that Sam has started school and Ian is attending 1/2 day kindergarten, I officially get 45 minutes of "me" time, twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays). And this includes the travel time necessary to get to my destination. Ah, a whole 45 minutes. It's just enough time to get to Target, but not too much time to do much damage. You would think a higher power planned it that way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson

Allow me a little flight of fantasy with this blog entry. When Jeff and I visited Monticello and toured Thomas Jefferson's home, I felt this weird connection to Jefferson. I am not big into history and really didn't know anything about Thomas Jefferson, other than he was our 3rd President of the United States. I can't really explain it, but after listening to the tour guide do his thing, I've come to the conclusion that Ian was Thomas Jefferson in a past life.

Yes, I know this is kooky. But hear me out; I have a lot of supporting evidence.

1. Jefferson was obsessed with time. He had clocks everywhere in his house. When he'd wake up in the morning, the first thing he saw on the wall, was a clock. When you walked into the foyer of his house, he invented/designed a clock that also kept track of the days of the week.

Um, hello?!?! Have you met Ian? He is obsessed with time.

2. Jefferson would keep track of the temperature and log the high & low temps each day.

Ian reports on what the weather forecast is and will be in the coming days. He has been doing this since he could talk at age 2.

3. Jefferson made french fries and mac & cheese popular in the United States. He brought these culinary delights over from Europe.

Yes, you guessed it...Ian LOVES french fries!

4. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote, "...all men are created equal".

Ian is one of the most fair-minded people I know. No matter what he is doing with his friends or sister, he makes sure it is done in the most fair manner for everyone.

5. Thomas Jefferson was very energetic. He had a lot going on all the time.

Ian is a non-stop body of motion.

6. Jefferson had a desire to see what was on the West Coast and sent Lewis & Clark on their famous expedition to explore.

Ian is dying to go to California (ok, so its to be a contestant on Wipe Out, but still, take this leap of faith with me!).

7. Jefferson had all these wonderful ideas he put into action. He was brilliant and really ahead of his time.

Ian has short-term plans, long-term plans, and ideas up the wazoo with things he is going to do, when he will do it, and with who he will include. Right now, Ian is limited by his age and ability to go places without me. But just wait, if his current level of thinking continues, we will see many great things come from Ian too.

8. Jefferson was best friends with James Madison. He designed a bedroom for him and his wife Dolly to stay at Monticello. They came to visit many times. Jefferson recommended Madison be made the 4th President of the United States.

Ian values his friendships very much and has a deep loyalty to his friends too.

9. When all the books in the White House burned down in 1812, Jefferson gave his personal library of over 3,000 books to Congress for a fair price. In turn, this started the Library of Congress.

I could totally see Ian doing something like this. He is so generous and would think nothing to help another person out if he has the means to.

So there you have it. Call me crazy, but who knows, maybe I have another Thomas Jefferson in our midst. I wonder if Jefferson's mother saw the potential I see when she looked at her son at age 5.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Let the fun begin!

It's happened! Ian officially started kindergarten. I feel like just yesterday I was bringing him home from the hospital and now I've got a kindergartner in my midst.

We got off to a bit of a rocky start when dropping Ian off. He was super excited about starting kindergarten, but when it came time to say good-bye at the school, he got very nervous and didn't want to stay. Fortunately, he got over his nerves and went on to have a fantastic first day. Yay!

And, we continued our first day of school tradition of going out for ice cream after dinner. I think this is a treat for all of us, not just the kids!

Sam starts school this Tuesday. I am just as excited for her. I think she did great at camp this past summer and loved getting to experience what the big kids do. I love her teacher in the 2's class and I know she will not only learn so much, but have fun doing it. The neat thing is that a large majority of the kids in her class are the siblings of kids that Ian went to preschool with. Sam is already very familiar with this younger set and it will be a comfortable setting for her to be in.

To fill in the time, I signed up the kids for a few classes/activities. I am going to be spending a lot of time in the car shuffling everyone back and forth.

Ian kindergarten: 10:25am to 12:30pm

Sam preschool: 9:30am - 12:30pm
Ian T-ball : 10:30am to 11:15am
Ian kindergarten: 11:40am to 3:00pm

Sam ballet/tap class: 9:30am -10:30am
Ian kindergarten: 11:40am to 3:00pm

Sam preschool 9:30am -12:30pm
Ian kindergarten: 11:40am to 3:00pm
Ian soccer practice: 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Ian kindergarten: 11:40am to 3:00pm

Sam gymnastics: 10:00am to 11:00am
Ian - soccer game: time changes each week

Ian religious school: 9:00am to 11:15am

I realize this is a lot, but you need to understand that my kids have tons of energy. I want to keep them active. Plus, it isn't fair that I only enroll Ian in activities without letting Sam try some too. Fortunately I have Jeff and we can divide and conquer if there is any overlap of activities/religious school/birthday parties on the weekend. We work well as a team and really do enjoy taking the kids to their events.

My plan is still hit the gym each weekday - with either one or both kids. We will see how that goes. A lot of Ian's close friends have PM kindergarten too, so he will get to see them in the morning at the kids' club at Gold's Gym. This will make it a win-win situation for me. I get to workout and Ian & Sam are happy getting to play with their buddies.

And at 1:00pm each day, I will be home for Sam to take her nap. I am hoping this nap continues through the whole year. Ian gave up his nap by the time he was 2 1/2 years old. It was not a fun time I tell you!

I am not sure how parents with more than 2 kids manage to do this. I already feel like I need to check the calendar each hour to make sure I am where I need to be. This year is going to be tough with all the juggling of schedules. Now that Sam is getting a little older and can do more, the stay-at-home-mom-part of my job is getting less and less being at home. :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lego Exhibit - Take 2

Well we made it to the Lego Exhibit at the National Building Museum. We got our tickets in advance and showed up right on time, as the museum was opening. Since we knew we were guaranteed entry, we planned our arrival to minimize any waiting and at exactly 10:59am (1 minute before the museum opens on Sundays) we were pulling up in front, looking for a parking spot. Jeff blew me away with his parallel parking skills (something he doesn't normally excel in) and got the car in a spot, many others I am sure, didn't even attempt to try. This spot was calling our name as it was directly in front of the doors.

Here is a picture of the most beautiful parking job I have seen a long time. I was so proud of Jeff for having an open mind that the car would make it in between these two cars. He didn't even come as close as tapping either the front or back of the cars too. Way to go honey!

We walked inside and discovered, that if we had shown up on this day, without tickets, we would've had no problems getting some. Who knew!?!?!

The Lego exhibit was definitely cool. Some of these models were unbelievable and the amount of time to design and build them were crazy time-intensive. Unfortunately, I think Ian was not as impressed or amazed as we'd hoped. I don't think he realizes the amount of talent that went into building something like this. And, of course, it went way over two-year-old Sam's head. I can pretty much tell you she got nothing from our walk-thru of the exhibit or even understood why we were back at the same building again. But, Jeff and I appreciated the works of art we were seeing and loved that we had the opportunity to check it out.

Afterwards, we went to the playroom at the museum (designed for 2 to 6 year olds) and the kids enjoyed getting to touch stuff and create things. It was time for lunch, and we made our way to the Green Turtle, a restaurant which was 1.5 blocks down from the National Building Museum. To our delight, kids get to eat free when an accompanying adult is getting an entree. Yay!!

The timing for Jeff and Ian's next activity - a Washington Nationals Game with Ian's buddy Ethan and his daddy - was perfect. Sam and I dropped them off and made our way home.

All in all, it was a great day and I loved that we were able to take advantage of this great city we live so close to.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

48 hours - on your mark, get set, go!

A few months ago, I hit my breaking point one day while Jeff was at work and it was just me and the two kids. I needed a break! And, even more so, I needed to spend some quality time with my husband. Other than a few hours here and there with a babysitter, Jeff and I hadn't had any time together without the kids for almost an entire year. Something that I feel is very necessary for any relationship.

I looked at the calendar and realized that one weekend we had free coming up was Labor day weekend. And, this particular weekend coincided with our 6 year wedding anniversary. I called up my in-laws and asked if they could take the kids for a few days and give me and Jeff a much needed break.

The amazing duo of Harold and Marcia looked fear directly in the face and said yes. It wasn't Ian that had us worried, it was Sam. She is a big unknown these days on how she will sleep and if she would be willing to let anyone other than her parents take care of her. If she wasn't up to this idea, then it could be complete torture for 48 hours. In addition, if she didn't go to bed easily at night, or sleep through the night, and of course, woke up extraordinarily early, it would be difficult for my mother-in-law to function until we drove back to Baltimore. Our fingers were crossed that all would go well and my in-laws would still be talking to us Monday morning, when it came time for us to get the kids.

Jeff and I didn't have plans to go far; we simply wanted be at the house and not have the kids around. So we drove the kids up to Baltimore on Saturday morning and our 48 hours began. I believe we made amazing use of our time and really enjoyed our two day break.


Parkway Deli (Silver Spring, MD) - Jeff wanted to stop here for lunch on the way back home. This is one of his most favorite restaurants ever.

Gym - we were actually going to go to the movies, but couldn't find a movie we had to see. Too funny when you think about it. Going to the movies is the one activity I miss the most, and here was our opportunity to go without paying for a babysitter, and we couldn't find a movie to see. (Full disclosure: I am saving "Going the Distance" for a girl's movie night on 9/21). We each had a great workout and it made me very happy that Jeff suggested we do this.

Rosa Mexicana (National Harbor) - We stopped here for a bite to eat before our next activity.

Sunset Cruise (National Harbor) - We took a 2 hour sunset cruise on the Minnie V (a 104 year old SkipJack sailboat) around the Potomac. It was very peaceful and a great way to relax and end the day.


We spent the day in Monticello (a 2 hour drive from the Fairfax, VA area).

Burnley Vineyards (20 miles from Monticello) - We stopped here for a wine tasting and to do a picnic lunch. I researched and researched wineries in the area and decided upon this one because they had a great sounding selection of white wines/sweeter wines and they offered a chocolate wine. I realized I picked just the right vineyard when we drove up and a German Shepherd was there to greet us. Oh my! This was my first up close meeting with another German Shepherd since Bailey. And, let me tell you what a sweetie Cooper was. He was 8 years old and very lovable. Of course, I start tearing up and it was all I could do to not tell Cooper to jump in my car for me to kidnap.

Monticello - Jeff has always wanted to visit Thomas Jefferson's house. Personally, I am not into history and this wouldn't have been a high priority of a destination for me. However, I must say that Monticello is beautiful and we had a great time touring the house. I really enjoyed myself and was surprised at how much I got out of the experience.

Downtown Charlottesville/Historic area (4 miles from Monticello) - After Monticello, we walked the outdoor area that was filled with shops/boutiques and restaurants. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and a nice way to spend an hour or two walking around.

Fellini's #9 (part of the downtown area): I had researched gluten-free friendly restaurants and found this one came recommended. I made reservations and told them I had a gluten allergy. They brought in gluten-free pasta and bread for me. Jeff and I had a very leisurely dinner (meaning we were there longer than 40 minutes!) and enjoyed the food very much.

Now here's a really cool ending to an already fabulous day. I got an email from my friend Kelly telling me she made me a gluten-free treat and asked when she could drop it by. Since I was checking email on the drive home, I called her and said that we could do a drive-by and pick it up. The picture below is what she made. WOWEEE!! And let me tell you, this cake tasted amazing. It was as delicious on the inside as it was beautiful on the outside. I have no idea what I did to deserve such a sweet gesture, but it made our anniversary that much sweeter.

We picked the kids up the next morning (exactly 48 hours later) and went back to full-time parenting.

What a great weekend. And many thanks to Jeff's parents giving us this opportunity to do so many non-kid-friendly activities. Everything we saw and did, we didn't feel like the kids were missing out. We had a great time and didn't worry for one minute that they weren't in excellent care, having fun too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sweet Summer Fun - Part 8

Last summer we practically lived at the bowling alley. They had a wonderful "kids bowl free" promotion and we took full advantage of it. Ian and his friends LOVE bowling and it was a great indoor activity to do while the heat was a scorcher outside. We found a very kid-friendly bowling alley to go to and felt right at home inside. No smoking is allowed, it is extremely clean and the staff caters to you, especially if they see you with little ones. Throw in a couple bumper guards, a rail to line up the ball to roll perfectly down the middle and everyone is getting strikes and spares galore!

Believe it or not, we hadn't been bowling once this summer. Not sure why, because our favorite bowling alley was doing the same "kids bowl for free" promotion, but for some reason it never came up in our plans. One Tuesday not too long ago, our plans to go to the pool got rained out and we met up with some good friends (Carol and her daughter Madison) at the bowling alley.

I knew Ian was going to have fun, but I didn't count on Sam having even more fun than all of us put together. She had a blast bowling and loved getting to do a game with a big kids. She played two games and carried the ball all on her own, to the tune of 40 times (2 turns/10 frames each game for 2 games). It was quite impressive.

How far we've come, when not even a year ago, Sam was first learning how to walk and was staggering around the bowling alley. This 2nd video is from October 2009.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Heard and Observed XIV

Recently we watched the Wilson boys at our house one Sunday afternoon. Nathan who is just a few weeks older than Samantha had a dirty diaper that needed to be changed. As I was changing him, Ian comes over and says to me, "See, I told you, Nathan always poops during the play dates. That's why we call him the Poopinater."


Thinking WAY ahead:

Going to the kids' club at Gold's Gym to get Ian and Sam after my workout. Ian was talking non-stop about starting school in a few weeks.

Ian: In just 2 weeks, 1 day and a 1 year from now, I'll be starting 1st grade.


Ian: I think Batman is the best superhero ever, because he gets an assistant.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Summer Fun - Part 7

Summer is winding down and we are in the home stretch until school begins. These past 2 weeks have been wild cards and anything goes. Camp is over and each day is a new opportunity to find something to do to keep the kids entertained and busy.

On Monday, August 23rd, my friend Beth and her two kids joined us for an adventure to the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester, VA. It takes a little more than hour to get there (1 hr, 11 minutes to be exact) and I wasn't sure what we were going to find. I had asked around and even put an inquiry on one of my mommy message boards to find out what it was like and if it was worth the trip. No one responded and most people didn't know this place even existed. I was very skeptical because when you look at the picture on their website, the museum is not a stand-alone building. It is just a small looking space in the middle of a strip of stores and restaurants.

Fortunately Beth is always up for trying something new, was willing to drive us all in her car (got to love that!) and had the great attitude that anywhere you go can turn into a fun experience for the kids if you put the right spin on it. This is why I surround myself with friends like her.

What a wonderful surprise when we got there and discovered this place was awesome. It was quite narrow, but the space went on and on and on. The discovery museum utilized every square inch of wall and floor space with something the kids could create, touch, or pretend play. It wasn't cluttered or over-crowded with stuff, but well organized. Admittedly, the place needed new carpet, but everything else was in good working order and appeared clean. Sam and Kyle, who are 2 years old, had just as much fun as Ian and Haley, who are 5 years old. And older kids who were there had a blast too. There was something for everyone. Some of the exhibits included: A play hospital (with stretchers, diagnostic machine, x-rays, dr lab coats, wheelchair, crutches, cast), a simulated ambulance, fish aquarium/snake aquarium, play house complete with 2nd story loft for the kids to climb, rock climbing wall, a room to build a race track, with oversize tracks including loop-de-loops, pulley and conveyor belt with apples, buckets, pipes set-up like an organ to play music using flip-flops. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

I do have to say that one of the reasons I think this was so successful was that Ian and Sam each had a friend. In my opinion it helps for them to have someone to check everything out and play with.

Once we had been there for a couple of hours, we were ready to venture down the cobblestone street in historic Winchester and find lunch. The area was filled with all kinds of restaurants and we easily settled on Union Jacks. They had a front patio with outside seating, No humidity, a tasty-looking menu for both adults and kids, and four extremely well-behaved kids who exhausted themselves from playing and discovering something new -- this is what makes for one FABULOUS ADVENTURE!