Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More differences to note.

I do the kids' laundry only once a week.  They have plenty of clothes to go longer, but I feel once a week is a good amount of time before it gets too crazy having to fold and put everything away.  Last week I noticed a huge difference between Ian's pile of newly folded, clean pile of clothes and Sam's.  Ian's had 7 pairs of pajamas ready to be put back in his dresser and Sam had none.  Zip, zilch, zero, nada.  Not a pair of pajamas to be found anywhere in her clean mountain of clothing to be folded and put away.  She did however, have upwards of 21 outfits that had just been washed. 

You see, Sam has now gone from wearing pajamas all day long, (especially to school) and refusing to get dressed, to wearing only clothes non-stop.  After her bath each night, Sam insists on wearing clothes to sleep in.  As with everything that has no major impact on the state of things, this is an area Jeff and I will not fight with her on.  I do request she puts on clean clothing.  Who wants to return to clothes you've played in, ate in and wore for 12 hours?  Then upon waking the next morning, Sam takes off the clothes she slept in and picks out a fresh outfit to go about her day.   90% of the time, Sam requires a complete outfit change somewhere in the middle of the day.  Hence, we are seeing 3 new looks all within 24 hours.

Maybe Sam is in training for hosting the Academy Awards?  Maybe Sam really loves messing with us and keeps it interesting by going from one end of the spectrum (only pajamas!) to the other end (never pajamas!).  One night she even slept in her shoes.  What in the world was she thinking?  I need to be ready in case of an emergency?

The funny thing is, you think you are prepared to raise another child when you already have one.  You think you know what to expect and feel ready to tackle pretty much anything they can throw at you.  Ha!  I feel like I am aging faster than the President.

Who knows why she is doing this?  But each month we seem to enter a new phase.  Can't wait to see what the next one brings. Let's just hope we are ready for it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Biting my tongue

I find parenting to be a tough balance of wanting to do the right thing; making the most healthy, safest, and independence building choices for your children and then on the other the hand, taking the easy way out and giving in to avoid the same "discussion" over and over again.

Ian has a running list of everything his friends can do that he is not allowed to yet.  For example, Greg has the rated "T" ("T" for teens) Star Wars Wii game and we will only allow Ian to play the rated "E" version ("E" for everyone).  His friend Jonathan has been in a backless booster seat since he was four.  Jeff and I, on the other hand had kept Ian in a 5 point harness-type car seat until 2 weeks ago.  Every time we got in the car, Ian would give me a rundown of all the kids who were allowed to sit in a booster seat and exactly what the date was that they made the switch.  And each time, I'd counter with, "But Ian, I want you to be the safest possible and the car seat you are in will be perfect for you for the next 3 or 4 years."  I even joked that Ian would be using this monster of a car seat when it was time to learn to drive.  And maybe even throw in wearing a helmet for good measure.  :)

Every time Ian and I have these discussions about what we feel is in his best interest, I come so close to saying to Ian, "We must love you more than so & so's parents."  Of course, I am kidding about this and  I know it is a mean thing to say, so I bite my tongue and make sure I stay silent.  I know Ian wouldn't see my subtle dark humor in this statement or pick-up on the sarcasm with which I say it.  But it kills me that this 5 year old boy is playing a video game meant for teenagers.  I am sure there are plenty of other parents questioning the amount of time Ian is allowed to play wii, watch tv or play gaming websites on the computer. I guess I do a pretty good job of justifying this to myself that it becomes ok.  I can fully see the irony in this pot calling the kettle black.

Eventually Ian is going to be old enough to play all versions of Wii games, and eventually he'll outgrow his booster seat completely and not need anything but a seat belt.  But until then I wished we lived in a world where everyone had the same values as me.  It would make everything so much easier.  And it would be wonderful to live in a world where I could say to Ian, "I guess we just love you more" without fear of Ian going back to his friend and making him feel bad by repeating what I said.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A strange (and embarrassing) shoe story

I had been trying to convince Ian for a few days to let me take him to get new shoes.  His main pair of sneakers he always wears were falling apart.  It took until Jeff noticed the condition of his shoes last Saturday at Popes Head Park, that immediate action was about to take place and new shoes would be purchased within the next hour.

As a family we headed to Kohl's and invaded the boy's shoe aisle.  Have you seen just how wide these aisles are?  Not very.  There was an Asian woman (sans kids) already in the same section we wanted.  Even though she was on the petite side, she seemed to take up a lot of space, directly where I wanted to be.  I realize she had every right to be there, but it was incredibly annoying and after 3 hours at Popes Head Park running around, the kids (and Jeff) were starting to meltdown.  It got even more absurd when this woman crouched down and took up even more space not allowing me to pass by her or check out the section of shoes directly behind her. 

We kept giving Ian shoes to try on and each pair he said, they were too tight.  He went in wearing a size 11 and we were now up to a size 2 trying to find a pair that felt good to him.  There was no way Ian went up 3 shoes sizes in the last 5 months.  Finally, I had enough and was ready to stop the madness.  My Toppall team and I needed to get outside, breathe in some fresh air and take up more space than the 2x2 square we were confined in.   Jeff was ready to try Target, but I insisted that Ian needed to have his foot properly measured and we should go to Stride Rite. 

We decided we would stop at the Stride Rite at Tyson's Mall on our way to Baltimore the next day.  You do the math...Sunday, Stride Rite, Tyson's, Sale..... yep, there was a long wait and we were on the 2nd page of the sign-in sheet waiting to be called.  It was buy one, get one 1/2 off.  Since these shoes are on the pricey side to begin with, we decided Sam could pick out a pair of sandals and take advantage of getting them at 50% off.  No need to even tell this to Sam.  She immediately made a beeline for the little girl's section and started looking at her choices.  Ian and Sam each decide which shoes they would like to try on, now all we have to do is wait.  Sam says she is hungry and goes to my big mommy bag to find herself a snack.  I am distracted by something or other and don't really pay attention to Sam when she says the first time, "Mommy, what is this?"  No, I make her wait and find the need to repeat it again to get my attention.  What is Sam holding up high in the air wanting to know what it is, you ask?  A tampon.  Talk about embarrassing.

Meanwhile, I notice the strange Asian woman that bugged me at Kohl's has now shown up at Stride Rite. Really.  Pretty unbelievable, especially given that the Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Mall Stride Rite locations would be much closer and easier to get to from where Kohl's is located.  She is still without kids and still taking up too much space.  Sooooo incredibly bizarre.  I asked Jeff if he thought we were being followed, he said, "No, only you are." 

It is finally our time to be helped.  Ian measured in at an 11.5  (makes much more sense!) and Sam felt the need to sleep in her new shoes the whole night when we got back from Baltimore.  As Sam proclaimed, "I LOVE my new shoes."   Can't really argue with her.  At least we are getting our money's worth by Sam wearing them 24 hours a day.

And from now on, I keep looking over my shoulder to see if anyone freaky is behind me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A twofer!

I am making progress!  I made it in to Ian's kindergarten class twice during the week of March 15th to help.  This is HUGE! 

I've come to find out that I am not crazy.  There is an exclusive little group, headed by the co-room moms to keep other moms out.  I was not imagining it.  No sireee bob!  I can't explain how I found this out, but I know for a fact that another mother feels the same way I do.  Ha! If two of us feel like this, then it has to be true, right?

However, I've broken through and feel victorious.  Here's how it went down:  One of the moms I am friends with and really like sent out an email asking if ANYONE would like to come to the library on Wednesday and help the kids write their wish lists for the book fair.  Hello!  I am ANYONE and immediately signed up.  I figured this was meant to be as it was Sam's first Wednesday to be attending school and I'd be flying solo.  And I am thinking the library job is not that popular as the co-room moms had nothing to do with this.

The opportunity to go inside the school walls again came the very next day. A while back, I had offered to make a treat for the class for one of the holidays they celebrate.  I was told that I'd be put on a waiting list.  Really?  Yes, this is what I am dealing with.  Finally my time came and I was able to provide the treat for the St. Patrick's day party.  Ian, Sam and I made the shamrock-shaped, green frosted cookies to bring to his class.  It took 3 times as long to make with all the extra help I had, but was well worth it.  Everyone really liked the cookies and I loved being in his class.  Watching Ian and all the other children brings a smile to my face.  They are just so cute. 

Now I just need to figure out how to get back in there again.  I've gotten a taste for it and I want more!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Haircut now, please!

My dream haircut for Ian is pictured here on the left.  I would love for his hair to be like Hugh Grant's.  Full on top, and cut close & short on the sides and bottom.  You know, something you can run your fingers through....something that can be styled or at the very least, require a comb.

Ian, however, has very different plans for his head and the first words out of his mouth every 6 weeks in Abby's chair at Cartoon Cuts (the best child's hair cutter EVER) is "Buzz cut, please."

So I try to push the time in between visits, hoping Ian's hair would grow fast and get past this point of major awkwardness....the cowlick.  OMG!  Ian's cowlicks have cowlicks of their own.  His head is one hot mess.  I've counted no less than 4 cowlicks.  Ian not only has a cowlick on each side of the front part of his forehead where his hair line starts, but he also has a DOUBLE cowlick going on in the back.  It literally starts on the side and wraps itself completely around his head. 

My days of dreaming that Ian can have a really cool hair style is coming to an end.  The other morning Ian was pleading with me to take him to Cartoon Cuts.  He had this sort of "Flock of Seagulls" 'do going on...very unintentionally I might add.  I figured we had maybe another 2 months to go and possibly one of the cowlicks might have been under control from the weight of his hair.  I was trying to put off the hair cut for as long as possible. This particular morning I was walking out of my Weight Watchers meeting and speaking to a fellow member who noticed Ian's hair and was commenting that her son has the same cowlick issues Ian has.  Then Ian and I went to Golden Nails where I get my eyebrows waxed.  There really is no place that I won't take my son with me.  He is going to make a FANTASTIC husband one day.  :)  It had been several months since he had gone with me and as the Korean lady was doing her thing, she took one look at Ian and said, "Wow, he has A LOT of hair."  Even she couldn't believe what was going on with Ian's head. 

The last thing I want is for Ian to be made fun of.  Buzz cut it is.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Buh-Bye Baby Stuff!

I have finally gotten motivated to list on Craigslist a big layer of baby gear (toys, strollers) that we no longer use and will have no need for in the future.  Jeff and I came to the decision a long time ago that two kids were enough and with the recent behavior of Sam, I am now fully convinced that we are done, done, done.

I sometimes feel that listing items on Craigslist is a big pain in the butt and would rather just donate everything to a worthy charity.  Especially if it is an organization like Purple Heart where they will come to you for pick-up.  What can be easier than leaving all your unwanted stuff on the front porch and not even needing to be home when they drive by on a pre-determined day? 

However, I realized that we had some really valuable items in fantastic, like-new condition that I could make the family a few extra bucks.  These things were just taking up space in our shed (anywhere from a few months to several years) and I was ready to clean house!

Over the course of one particular day I listed 8 items.  I looked up online what a brand new one would cost and then compared it to see what other people were listing their used items for on Craigslist.  I priced my stuff appropriately (usually at 50%) off the brand new cost and included pictures.  Including pictures I found to be key! 

I successfully sold everything listed and no one tried to negotiate the price!  It was amazing.  And in a few of these transactions, I was given $10 more than what I was asking and when I tried to give back change, I was told, no it was not necessary.  The guy who came to get my bookshelves (I know, this is not baby gear, but I had these bookshelves sitting in my shed for 5 years now and they weren't ever going to see the light of day), not only gave me more than money than I was asking, but also threw in his business card for a free pizza!  He apparently just opened a new pizza place in Falls Church and said the kids would love it there.

Now that I've cleared out these items, I am working on a new list of stuff to sell.  I find it easier to advertise a bunch of items all at once, then having to keep up the momentum of answering questions and replying back to emails over a longer period of time.

To the parental units reading this:  Don't worry, I am being safe!  In almost all cases, I am dealing with stay-at-home moms or I try to arrange pick-up on the weekend when Jeff is home too.  In the case of the guy with bookshelves, I had googled him beforehand, read his FB page, and told Heather exactly when he was coming over. Um, maybe this guy should've been worried about me...I turned into a cyber-stalker!! Heather and I spoke right before and right after he left  (yeah, I know, no big surprise there!).  And I always make sure to have whatever the item is right by the front door so there is no need to come through the house.

Watch out world, I am on a mission!  If the kids haven't played with it in the last 8 months or it has been sitting in our shed for more than a year, I am cleaning house.  :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Heard and Observed XXI

Sometimes Sam's personality comes shining through in a good way.  She has this way of cracking me up and giving me reason to smile all day long when I think of something she said or did.

Sam has names for each piece of her clothing and in order to ensure a smooth morning (or smoother than normal), you only hope that you are familiar with what she is calling each item and that it is clean and ready to be worn again. 

On Tuesday morning, Sam picked out her clothing (Heart shirt, black tutu skirt, heart on butt tights).  This is one of her most favorite outfits and I had just done her wash.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

SAM:  I need help with my tights (she scrunches up her face like she is smelling something rotten), they are hard, but I can do my shirt and tutu skirt all by myself.

I get Sam's tights on her. 

SAM:  You can go now.  I can do my shirt and skirt all by myself!

I stay in her room wanting to watch and be close by in case she needs help. 

SAM:  Go now!! And close door.  I can do this all by myself.

ME:  Fine, I am leaving.  (You pick your battles and this is sooooo not something I am going to fight with her about.)

Two minutes later, Sam comes downstairs to the kitchen where I am.

SAM:  Look at me!!!  I did it all by myself!!!

And she had completely and perfectly put her shirt and skirt on herself.

Ian comes to the kitchen 1 minute later, complaining about having to eat oatmeal again for breakfast. 

SAM: Ian, take deep breaths.  Deep breaths Ian.

(Not sure where she got those words.  I take deep breaths all the time when dealing with Sam in one of her moods, but I've never said them out loud.)

Ian is now really complaining about having to eat oatmeal.

SAM:  Ian, go downstairs.  Leave the kitchen.  Go!

Ian didn't say another word and went right back downstairs.

My two year old (when well-rested and in a good mood) takes control of the situation and has no problems showing us all who is boss.

This gets filed under  "Battles Not Worth Fighting:"

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Sam decided her pink dress-up princess shoes would go best with the outfit she picked to go to school.

And you should see her run in them too!  Tina Turner could learn a thing or two from Sam.  By the way, it should be noted that in her bag she is carrying to take to school, it includes 4 more pairs of princess shoes in all colors.  I guess she wanted to be prepared should it be necessary to change her heels mid-morning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making time for friends

There has been some discussion in our house on how frequently I go out.  I am not talking about partying or drinking (because that is soooo not me), I am referring to all the times I am out for bookclub, movies, running/participating in races, meeting friends for dinner, hiking, and other social opportunities.  I try to keep meeting my friends to weeknights and leave the weekends mostly for family time.  I am not always successful, but I try my best. I do admit, sometimes without my realizing the activities add up and I am out 2 or 3 nights each week.  It's just hard to say no!  I enjoy being with my friends and most times can really use the escape after a trying day with the kids.  Plus, I seem to have a lot of friends!  This is a great problem to have and I don't want to short change spending time with one group for another.

I received validation yesterday in The Washington Post on how important these friendships are.   The Health section had an article on the great benefits a woman receives by having friends and socializing with them.  According to the artcle, you will live longer and have a healthier life.  And, get this -- if you have too few connections, it was similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Really. 

I know I've said this before, but I am so blessed to have so many wonderful women in my life I call my friends.  Like the title of the article says, they've got my back, my heart and brain too.

For your reading pleasure:

Friends get your back. Your heart and brain, too.

With no offense to my husband or the rest of my family, I really don’t think that I could make it through the day — much less have weathered all the ups and downs of the last three decades or so — without my friends.
Whether it’s comparing child-rearing notes with Puffin, gossiping over coffee with Hannah and Maggie, hashing out long-term goals with my power-walk partner Sara, parsing last night’s festivities with Stacie or commiserating with Janet about a major setback, each of these women helps keep me balanced and sane.
My inner circle has been there for me in countless ways over the years, and I’ve always tried to reciprocate with as much time, support and love as possible.

Not that I ever need an excuse for a girls’ night out, but research suggests that good friends may actually be great medicine: Strong social ties may help stave off memory loss as you age; reduce stress; boost immunity; help you lose weight and keep it off; and buffer against depression, among other health benefits. There’s also a strong longevity link, says Carl Latkin, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: “If you have supportive relationships, you’re going to live longer.”

In fact, a 2010 review of nearly 150 studies that was published in PLoS Medicine found that people with strong social ties had a 50 percent better chance of survival, regardless of age, sex, health status and cause of death, than those with weaker ties. This conclusion was based on information about more than 300,000 individuals who were followed for an average of 7.5 years. According to the researchers, the health risk of having few connections was akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and more dangerous than being obese or not exercising in terms of shaving years off your life.

And numerous studies have shown that friends may affect your health even more than family members: The 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging found that close relationships with children and other relatives had little impact on longevity, while people with the most friends tended to outlive those with the fewest by 22 percent.

Close comrades seem to be a valuable advantage when it comes to battling specific medical conditions such as heart disease and obesity. A study of 2,230 breast cancer patients in China published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology last month found that social quality of life – including the strength of friendships — was the most important predictor of both cancer recurrence and survival. “It’s very exciting, because we believe social quality of life is modifiable — it’s something that we can change,” says the study’s lead author, Meira Epplein, an assistant professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Still, experts stress that it remains unclear exactly why the buddy system seems to convey benefits. “If you have a larger social network, is it material resources like those people taking you to the doctor and making sure you take your medication? Does that make a difference?” asks Latkin. “Or does having a confidant result in some emotional or psychological process that might increase well-being and reduce depression? In other words, are friends protecting you from bad things or promoting good things?”

Much has been made of the remarkable power and influence of female friendships in particular. (See: “Fried Green Tomatoes, ” “Thelma and Louise,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”) But both sexes seem to benefit by having close confidants, says Latkin. “It used to be thought that men had larger social networks while women had more intimate networks, but . . . that’s not necessarily a tried-and-true statement anymore,” he says. If men manage to gather similar emotion support around them, they’ll likely experience the same benefits.

A 1993 study of 736 middle-aged Swedish men, for instance, makes that point: It found that having a strong social network seemed to significantly decrease the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease.
Even so, as anyone with a wide social network can probably tell you, chums aren’t always a positive thing. “There are downsides … like if you have a lot of network members who are requesting support and demanding resources from you, which can be highly stressful,” says Latkin. He adds that having people in your friendship network with whom you have conflicts or whom you can’t stand tends to overcome the positive effects of true friendship within that group. And sometimes the behavior of good pals can cause problems: A 2007 study suggested that if your friends gain too much weight, you’re more likely to do so, too.

For the Internet generation, it’s also worth noting that “it’s both the density and quality of social relationships that make a real difference in people’s lives,” says psychologist David Shern, president and chief executive of Mental Health America, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Alexandria.

“Simply having 1,000 friends on Facebook is much less important than having a few friends with whom have a very high-quality, mutually supportive relationship with integrity — meaning that you can count on people to be straight with you, and ... to rely on when you find yourself in need.”

But why wait until you’re in need, given how beneficial a little friendly face time can be? I, for one, am planning my next girls’ night out right now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update on living with Sam

Sometimes I think Sam is bipolar.  She can go from being so incredibly sweet and charming to a raving lunatic in under 10 seconds flat.  But I guess this is what a very strong-willed, brilliant two year old can be like.

A little while ago, we had 5 days in a row of Sam being near perfect.  She didn't have one temper tantrum or meltdown in 5 days.  I am not expecting her to be like this all the time -- hey, she is two and I do expect she'll push my buttons at least once or twice a day.  But to go 5 days without one screaming fit was a dream come true.  Of course, just when you get used to this and you think it can't get any better, the other shoe drops and Sam is back to being the Sam I've come to know and love unconditionally.  That first day we were back to our usual existence was like getting hit blindsided.  WHOOOSH!  SHE'S BAAAAACK!  Any tolerance I had built up to the crazy loud, stubborn and mean Sam I had quickly lost.  I was pulling my hair out trying to deal with her all over again.  Only now, I had been teased with a glimpse of what the good life was like and how loving and sweet my little girl could be.

A few of my friends had asked if anything changed during the 5 days she was wonderful.  No, her food, her activity, her lack of naps and her routine all were the same.  The only thing I could think of was that her sleeping through the night (without waking even once) got back to being on track and was consistent long enough that maybe she was no longer in sleep deficit.  It was wonderful greeting her in the mornings with her smiling and having her be happy as soon as she got out of bed.

For those 5 days, I started second guessing my action plan.  But then I was slapped with a cold dose of reality and the action plan is back to being in full force.  So here's my update on where we currently stand:

1. I found the most awesome high schooler, named Gabby, to come help.  Currently her schedule is crazy busy, so she is only able to give me one afternoon a week.  But I have high hopes that when the school play is over, she might be able to give me another day or two. The best part is that Gabby lives within walking distance and doesn't require me driving her home.  Hearing Sam laugh so hard and deep when Gabby is over is music to my ears.  This girl has a way with Sam and it's like a breath of fresh air having her come and take over.

2. I signed up for the parenting class, "Managing Temper Tantrums and Whining".  It's on April 14th.  Yes, I am counting down the days until this class and keeping a running log of various situations I need to know the best way to deal with.

3. Sam is now officially going to preschool 3 days a week.  It is more running back and forth for me because of having to get Ian to kindergarten, but I think she needs to be in a structured environment for an additional day a week more than I need to conserve gas.

There are days when I am not sure I am going to make it until Jeff comes home at the end of the day.  Days when Sam will scream for 2 hours straight and go from one thing to another that is upsetting her.  Days when I think this can't be normal, even for a two year old.  And if they say the three's are worse, what in the world am I in store for?

But then there are moments when she is so sweet and loving and fun to be around.  When she gets in a playful mode and loves to laugh endlessly.  Those are the days I live for and the times I recall when I just want to pack a bag and run away.

Fortunately, Sam is sleeping again at night and staying asleep the whole time.  She usually wakes up sometime in the first half of the 6:00am hour.  This is not too bad considering the alternative and I am certainly not complaining.  Me being able to sleep again through the night is helping too.  I wake up feeling rested and ready to tackle the world that has Samantha in it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Drying out

At 7:00am Jeff goes down to the parking lot to try starting my car.  Nope, nothing. Back to being dead.  He gets the hotel to jump start the car again and makes his way to Williamsburg Honda, which is conveniently located just down the road.  They checked the car in and made Jeff priority number 1 about 5 minutes before they even officially opened.  Within 15 minutes, Jeff reported back to me it was only the battery.  Yay!!  And within 1 hour of being gone, Jeff was back in his bathing suit and joining us for some last water park fun.  It really couldn't have worked out any better.

The only problem was at this point, Sam has had enough!  She is done with a capital D.  I think the last 2 days were all she could handle and now she no longer wanted in her swim diaper or wanted to get wet.  She was a big-time Miss Cranky Pants.  I am still contributing any and all behavior issues to sleep deprivation.  When we arrived on Saturday, she was having the time of her life.  And even on Sunday, she was doing ok, but starting to turn a little.  At one point, we took a little break on Sunday and Sam fell asleep on me.  This usually never happens.  I think I can count on one hand how many times Sam fell asleep in my lap since she was born.  As our time wore on at Great Wolf Lodge, Sam  was getting less and less sleep than she needed.  The girl can only take so much fun.

I am most proud of Ian.  On Sunday he was really enjoying the wake boarding until he had a sensational crash.  According to reports, Ian's boogie board slipped out from underneath him and it resulted in Ian doing a 180 degree turn in the water, essentially doing a back flip and having his head end up where his feet should've been.  Ian then got thrown upwards to the top of the ride.  Jeff was even concerned that Ian had broken his neck by the way this crash resulted.  Rightfully so Ian was scared and not planning to go back on this ride any time soon. The next day (our last morning at Great Wolf Lodge), Ian said he wanted to give it a try again.  Gooooo Ian!  He faced his fear and didn't let his fall ruin this ride for him.

1. Traveling with friends makes the trip so much better.  It was wonderful enjoying this experience with another family. And it was so nice for Ian and Samantha to each have someone they are good friends with.

2.  They say the temperature is 84 degrees.  There's no way!  It was freezing when you came out of the water.  Some of the rides the water would be nice and warm, and some of the rides the water would be freezing.  If there is one thing I could change, it would be for them to heat everything to a warmer temperature and make it consistent.

3. The wrist bands are the coolest!  This wrist band is designed to be your room key (really, you swipe your wrist in front of the scanner on the room door and it opens), your ability to pay for every single thing in the entire hotel, and it is proof that you are a guest at the hotel.  It is quite amazing how if you have the wrist band on, you don't really need to carry anything with you.

4. Obviously you shouldn't book the room at the rate advertised on the website. Sign up for the email alerts and wait for a sale.  There is a huge range of rates for these rooms.  It is crazy what the full price is...wait for a sale!

5. Sunday seemed like the best day for when the crowds were the smallest.  Most everything we were able to walk on without a line.  Saturday was crazy busy, but it was still manageable. And Monday seemed to bring in a new flock of people to start the crowds again.

6. The lazy river is too narrow!  It gets very congested, very quickly. However, it didn't keep me from going on it.  I could sit on the lazy river for hours and hours.  What fun!

7. Two nights was a good amount of time.  Our 48 hours away felt like we were gone for much longer.  There was plenty of stuff to do, but we also felt there was enough time to do and see everything.

So, here's my plan...go back in 6 years.  Ian will be 11, Sam will be 8.  We take the Wilson's back with us and rent a private cabana for Jeff to lounge in and watch tv, and still feel like he is part of the group.  Ian and Ethan can have the freedom to walk around on their own (within reason) and the little ones are close by, but given some flexibility on being on their own - under a very watchful eye.  In other words, we don't have to go down the water slide first and catch them as they come down. 

We can now officially check Great Wolf Lodge off the list.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

All wet!

I had the perfect plan.  Pack a cooler with every snack, drink, and lunch food we would need for the whole day and camp out at the water park from 9:00am to 4:00pm our first full day at Great Wolf Lodge.  Jen and I the night before scoped out which tables I would get for us as soon as the doors opened at 9:00am.

A few things kept me from my plan being 100% successful; 
1. Despite hearing from someone or reading somewhere (of course I can't remember who or where now) that I could bring a cooler in with me, there was a big sign on the doors, stating "No coolers, no outside food and drink."  I even asked a staff member about this and they were pretty clear - no food/drinks allowed.  Of course you are welcome to purchase whatever you need or want from the snack bar inside the water park. 

At 9:00am the next morning, I noticed the size of the bags people were carrying inside the water park; I knew they had to be smuggling in food and drinks.  There was no way I was going to play by the rules and not everyone else.  Ha!  I invented not playing by the rules. While I didn't use the big cooler (on wheels) I brought with us, I did pack everything I wanted in a bag and carried it in with no problem. 

2. The other thing going against my plan of being at the water park from 9 until 4, was the company I was with.  2 five year olds and 2 two years old burn out quite easily.  By the time 1:00pm came around, the kids were done with being wet and playing in the water and needed some downtime.  We decided to go back to the rooms, take showers and meet at the arcade at 2:30pm.  An hour of playing video games was just what the doctor ordered.  Sometimes you just got to go with the flow.

We decided on an Italian restaurant close by (2.5 miles away) to eat for the dinner.  The Wilson's went to their car and Jeff went to get ours.  It was raining pretty heavily and he was bringing the car under the overhang for us to get in.  Jen calls me a minute later and tells me that their car won't start.  She asks if Jeff can take us to the restaurant and then come back and take her and the family.  "Great idea!" was my reply.  Jeff comes back a minute later from attempting to get our car and his head is shaking back and forth.  He tells me that our car is dead too.  Zilch, zip, zero, no life whatsoever.  Seriously?  What are the odds that would happen to both our cars at the same exact time!?!?!?!

Obviously this was a pretty big sign that we shouldn't go out to dinner.  In a very funny scene, Jeff and Ryan go up to the front desk together and tell the check-in person that BOTH of their cars won't start and can someone help them get it jumped.  They sent a maintenance guy with a tool to jump the cars and get them started again.  Jeff and Ryan then take the next 30 minutes to drive around and get the cars charged.

Jen came up with a fabulous idea to order take-out from the restaurant we were going to visit.  Jeff could drive me there, pick up the food and make our way back to the hotel, all without turning off the car.  Jen took the kids up to her room and within 20 minutes we had dinner ready for us all to eat.  It ended up working out pretty well.  Dinner was relaxed and it was still nice being all together.

Meanwhile Jeff isn't handling the idea of my car not working properly very well.  He would like to leave at 8:00am the next morning and make our way back home so that my car can get looked at as early as possible. This way if something is wrong with it, the mechanic will have the majority of the day to fix it.  I obviously, was on a very different page as him with my intent to leave.  While him and Ryan were getting the cars jump started, I went to the front desk and requested a later check-out time than the one they give you.  I figured we could go to the water park for a 1.5 hours in the morning, come back to the room to take showers and finish packing.  Check out of the hotel at 12:00pm (instead of 11:00am) and then play a quick round of putt-putt before hitting the road.  Jeff and I came to great compromise and we decided he would take the car to get looked at in Williamsburg and try to get it fixed locally.  I could take the kids to the water park and enjoy the last few hours we had at Great Wolf Lodge.

We identified a Honda Dealership just 2.5 miles away and found out they opened at 8:00am.  Jeff was happier knowing he would be getting the car looked at and I was happy knowing we could go back to the water park one last time.

Did the car start the next morning when Jeff went to take it for service?  Was it a ridiculously expensive repair that kept us in Williamsburg all day long waiting for it to get fixed?  Or, was it something incredibly minor and Jeff made it back to the water park just 10 minutes after they opened at 9:00am?  Stay tuned for the final recap of Our Great Wolf Adventure.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Great Wolf Adventure!

I have found a new nirvana...traveling with friends.  This past weekend my four teamed up with another family and made our way to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg.  For anyone not familiar with what Great Wolf Lodge is, in a nutshell, it is a big indoor water park.  In order to gain entry to the water park, you have stay overnight at the hotel.  We planned two nights (Saturday to Monday) and booked a pretty cool room that has the kids sleeping in an area reminiscent of a cave, complete with bunk beds, and their own tv and gaming system.

We've never traveled with another family before.  It was a fantastic experience and makes me want to take the Wilson's wherever we go.  :)  Hopefully I didn't scare Jen with that last sentence.  They have Ethan who is Ian's age, Nathan who is Sam's age and Jen, who I love.  Plus, Ryan and Jeff do a good job of getting along too.  We were able to get our rooms near each other and it was quite helpful in the logistics.  It should be noted that Jen and Ryan also have a 3rd boy, Evan, but he was a little too young to fully participate and stayed back home at his grandparents.

When we arrived,  I was overwhelmed by the size of the crowd waiting to check in.  Yowzer!  This place is POPULAR!  We hit the water park as soon as we got here and the kids had a smile on their face that went from ear to ear.  It was a hit!  It was the perfect amount of time to get wet and enjoy a few of the water slides before leaving the water park, taking showers and getting ready for dinner.

We divided and conquered.  Jeff and Ryan had the big kids and Jen and me had the little ones.  We decided we would take the small ones on this one water slide, pictured on the left.  We climb our way to the top, wait in line and find out that Sam and Nathan can't ride down in our laps.  The staff member at the top explains to us that these little guys can ride down the slide on their own.  Jen offers to go down first and be at the bottom to catch them as they come down.  She makes it down fine and I send Nathan.  Then I send Sam. Well actually, Sam sends herself down before I get the chance to hold on to her and tell her to wait the appropriate amount of time for Nathan to clear it.  Then I go down.  OH! MY! G-D!  DUDE!!  What was that!?!?!?!  That was the craziest ride down and I just sent my youngest child (who can't swim!!!) down it on her own.  My heart is racing the whole time as I gain speed and take these hair pin turns at a lightning fast pace.  This slide just kept going and going.  The ride didn't seem to end...EVER!  I couldn't believe I just sent these two small, innocent children down this thing.  Yowzer!!!  Believe it or not, they survived just fine and Sam even said, "I do it again."  Um, no.  Not today at least.  :)  

Jen said that if she could've told me not to send the kids down, she would've.  There was no way to communicate.  Once I saw she got out, I instantly sent Nathan down.  Sam didn't even wait for Nathan to clear the water slide before she got in position and pushed herself off.   Sam has no fear!

**Unfortunately the majority of the pictures I took were on an waterproof/underwater camera that uses real film.  Once I find a place to process these photos, I'll be able to see if they even turned out.  Oh, how I've gotten so spoiled with digital.  Instant gratification...the ability to know right away if you got the shot, and the ability to process the photos without going to the trouble to find someone to do it for you.**

Stay tuned for a recap of day 2 and the freakiest thing to ever occur. Really. The most incredible coincidence and one heckuva story you will find hard to believe.  The kind of thing you just had to be there.  Ok, maybe I am blowing this up more than it should be.  Or am I? 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weight Watchers - Month 3 (Humming along nicely)

I can't complain; this has been a good month following the program.  I think I've gotten into a good groove and I am happy with each week's loss.  The WW experts say you should lose between 1/2 lb to 2 lbs weekly.  If you average the 12 weeks I've been on the program by the almost 10 lbs I've lost, I am following this formula nicely. My pattern seems to be each month there is a week I show a gain.  I am okay with this, as this is the way life goes and it's not all going to be a downward slope each week.  I am only human and will make some big-time mistakes in my food choices from time to time.  The victory comes not in the numbers on the scale, but the ability to get back on track and not keep the gain going.

Here are the numbers:
Started out with wanting to lose:  36.4 lbs

# of pounds already lost:  5.2 lbs

Week 9 -   lost 2.6 lbs
Week 10 - lost .6 lbs
Week 11 - gained 1.6 lbs (um, hello trip to Hershey!)
Week 12 - lost 3 lbs

Lost this month:  4.6 lbs


Total left to lose:   26.6 lbs
80 lbs lighter, what an inspiration!  You go girl!

I can't help but start calculating when I could actually hit my goal weight. If I lose just 4 lbs a month, I could be jumping for joy and doing a happy dance as early as September.  Wowee!!  This keeps me motivated to not plan a return trip to Hershey to make my own candy bar again. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Meet Gertrude.

We have a very important new addition to the family.  Her name is Gertrude, but for short, I call her Gertie.  She is instrumental in my day-to-day activities and a Godsend when traveling to new destinations, or for that matter anything further than 5 miles from my house.  Yes, that's right, I am referring to my GPS.

Despite my love of all things technology and gadgets, I resisted getting one for years now.  I was holding out hope that eventually a new car would have the GPS integrated in the dashboard and it wouldn't be necessary to spend a few hundred dollars on a portable one.  However, the reality of getting a new car seems to keep getting further and further into the distance and in the meantime, I get lost more than socks in a dryer.

I don't even know how to work a compass
 I have no sense of direction.  None what-so-ever.  It is incredibly pathetic. I can go to the same place multiple times and never remember which direction will get me back home.  I believe I am actually retarded when it comes to having a sense of direction.  The only time I ever knew where we were, was in Florence.  Yes, as in Florence, Italy.  Maybe this is just how bad my sense of direction is, as it seems to be located in a completely different continent from where I reside.  For some reason, when Jeff and I went to Italy a few years ago, I felt very comfortable navigating our way around Florence and could always seem to find our way back to the hotel -- on the first try.  Jeff and I were both amazed by how my sense of direction seemed to kick in.  Funny enough, it was in a city where I didn't know the language and had never been before.

My mom has been offering to get me a GPS for many years now.  Each gift giving occasion her first suggestion is how about I get this for you.  Finally I caved and said yes, please do.  I am finally ready to admit just how bad I need help.  Poor Jen -- I drove us to the "Love the Run You're With 5k" in the Pentagon Row (Arlington) area a few weeks ago.  We made it there just fine, but the trip back (one I've done thousands of times!) was a sightseeing adventure that included Rosslyn (soooo in the wrong direction) all the way to Fort Belvoir (again, soooo in the wrong direction).  We made it home eventually, but it was pretty bad how off track we were.

Forget trying to read a map!

When my mom came to visit, we went together and picked out a pretty cool Garmin Nuvi GPS.  I love it and can't believe I've gone this long without it in my life. I keep it handy at all times and I can honestly say, it has already saved me (and those traveling with me) a handful of times.  For example, I met my friend in Bethesda for dinner.  I put the address in the navigation screen and it took me such a roundabout way that didn't have me touch the beltway.  This was so I didn't get stuck in traffic.  495 had a 50 minute delay and the route I was told to take (through D.C., snaking my way to Wisconsin Ave) had me moving the whole time.  I actually made it to the restaurant on time instead of being an hour late.  I would've NEVER been able to figure this out without the help of Gertie.  And, I wouldn't have known just how bad the delay was going to be on 495.

My mom excitedly got me the GPS in time for our trip to Hershey and the trip we are taking this weekend to Great Wolf Lodge.  She wanted me to have it as soon as possible and not wait until the end of June when my birthday actually occurs.  Unlike me, my mom knew how necessary this was.  Mom always does know best.

My new BFF
Gertie rocks and I will always have room in the car for her.  Fortunately she doesn't need a car seat, because I only have room for 2 of those.  :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


After much consideration, I decided changes needed to be made.  Waiting for Samantha to stop throwing temper tantrums and meltdowns at the drop of a hat was going to take an indefinite amount of time, waiting for her to outgrow this behavior.  Time is something I don't have on my side, as my patience wears thinner each day.

In an effort to keep us all getting along, I am going to implement the following:

Starting Wednesday, March 16th - Sam will attend preschool an additional day each week.  Her schedule will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays from 9:30am to 1:30pm.

One afternoon a week, I am going to have a high school student come babysit and work with Sam.   This will be for just a couple of hours, but will give me a break and give Sam someone new to be around.  She behaves amazingly well around everyone but me (and sometimes Jeff). 

Jeff and I are going to take the parenting class:  "Managing Tantrums and Whining" by Dr. Renee Hackney.  It is a 2 hour session on April 14th.  I think getting a new perspective will do a world of good.

I am hopeful that little by little, Sam changes her ways and I do too.  Somewhere we can meet in the middle and start having fun again.