Friday, July 29, 2011

Say cheese!

Last time we took a formal picture with Jeff's family was more than 5 years ago.  Ian was approx. 6 months old and Sam wasn't even close to being on the radar.  For the past 3 years, we've tried hard to update this picture and for one reason or another, it never happened.  Finally, we picked a date on the calendar, far enough in advance, that this picture was taking place no matter what. 

As I've previously reported, it is always tricky when involving my kids and what to expect.  You never know if they are going to smile on command, leave my side, sit still, or be in a good enough mood to cooperate.  After one or two minutes of warming up, we hit paydirt!  I couldn't have asked for a better photo taking session from my Toppall team.

Here are a few of my favorites:

From left to right:  Matthew, Elaine, Howard (nephew, Jeff's sister, brother-in-law)
Front row: Marcia, Harold (Jeff's parents)
Right-hand side:  Us

Now that we've managed the big family photo on both sides of our family (all within weeks of each other), you can stick a fork in us.  We are done.  At least until the holidays come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Meet Steven.

One evening while in FL, the kids and I went to a very good friend's house for dinner and a playdate.  Amanda has a little girl, also named Samantha that they call "Sammy".  Sammy is 3 months younger than my Sam.  I've known Amanda since I was 5.  We went to the same private schools from kindergarten, all the way through to graduating high school.  She probably knows me best outside of family.  The fact that her daughter has the same name as mine is complete coincidence.

Anyway, when I reintroduced Sammy to Ian, she couldn't seem to get the name correctly and kept calling Ian, "Steven".  It was very funny.  Ian, of course, didn't find it funny and was getting more and more frustrated as the evening wore on.  Amanda and I laughing as each incident occurred certainly didn't help the situation.  Ian got very upset and started to ignore Sammy whenever he was called the wrong name.  At one point Sammy caught on to what was happening and purposely called Ian "Steven".  Thus, getting Ian even angrier.

Fast forward a very full 2.5 weeks later.  We are back in Burke and in the car one morning headed to camp.  Ian and Sam are fighting like cats and dogs.  Its amazing the distance their arms can go and cross over to the other's car seat, even when they are completely buckled.  Ian starts in on Sam and yells something to the following:  "I don't like you anymore.  I don't want to be your brother.  I am done with you.  I wish you weren't here."

Before I can interject and tell Ian that I never want to hear him say anything like that again, Sam, in a very calm and controlled voice, looks at Ian and says, "Steven".

I was completely amazed at how brilliant Sam's comeback was. One word.  That's all that was needed.  The playing field just got leveled.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Uncharttered Territory

Sam (pointing to her private area down below):  What is this?

Me:  Your vagina  (I think its best to be honest and use the correct terminology.  Took us awhile to get Ian to stop using the word "wee-wee".)

Sam:  My vagina?

Me:  Yes, girls have vaginas and boys have penises

Sam:  What does mommy have?

Me:  Vagina

Sam:  Ian?

Me:  Penis

Sam:  Daddy?

Me:  Penis

Sam:  The Wiggles?

Me:  They all have penises.

Sam:  Princesses?

Me:  They all have vaginas.

Sam:  Darth Vader?

Me:  Penis

Sam:  Ok.

As long as we got the important characters covered.  Hopefully she won't go to camp today and tell the kids what she learned this morning.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A date I am quite fond of.

To most people, today, July 23rd is another ordinary day.   A day that falls in mid-Summer and has no special significance.  But to me, the 23rd day in July will always have a place near and dear to my heart.  For it is this day, 8 years ago, that Jeff proposed marriage. 

A guy who loved me enough that he wanted me take his name, start a family with and for better or for worse, start and end each day with me.  You can always tell someone you love them and want to be with them when everything is going great. When the skies are blue and the birds are chirping, it is very easy to be in love.  But its when the days get challenging and less-than-stellar situations are presented, that the love you feel for your significant other is tested.  That's when it takes all your strength to still be in love and want to stick around for those better days you hope come soon. 

With me, this is when I love Jeff even more.  When I see how he deals with $3,000 in unexpected car repairs.  When, a few years ago, he got laid off and we weren't sure how long it would be before the next job opportunity came along and with it, a very much needed paycheck.   How he handles a baby whose neck refused to rotate all the way around and we weren't sure Ian would ever be able to sit-up, crawl, or walk because of the condition.  When an emergency appendectomy comes out of blue and puts me out of commission for a few days.  How supportive Jeff was with my Celiac diagnosis and instantly offered to eat gluten-free too in the house.  And the day to day dealing with all the little stresses and challenges life brings on, magnified even more by yours truly.

When the chips are down is when my love for Jeff is at an all time high.  When I know we can lean on each other and weather any storm that comes our way.  I had no idea 8 years ago when Jeff got down on one knee that while it is easy to love someone during the fun, light-hearted days, it was during the heavy periods I would feel my love for him go to whole new levels.

And without hesitation, if Jeff were to propose again, I'd say "yes", a million times "yes" to be engaged to this kind of man.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Sunshine State

The kids and I are back!  Being gone from June 26th to July 15th is a long amount of time, no matter how old you are.  Ian commented a few times to me, once I joined the kids down in FL, that he felt like he lived there permanently. 

We have now gotten back into our routine and once again, living la vida loca. My co-conspirator (my mom) and I came up with a crazy idea, over a year ago, and I crossed my fingers and used up a lot of wishes hoping the plan would come to fruition. It involved many layers.  Mom and Jim would drive up and take the kids back down with them to FL.  Jeff and I would be able to spend some time together without the kids.  It was then that I came up with the idea to go to Vegas. Once back from Vegas,  I would fly to Orlando and spend a little less than 2 weeks visiting the family and friends with the kids before flying back.

My biggest obstacle was Jeff, who really didn't want the kids gone that long or thought the drive from Burke to Orlando with our 2 kids in the car driven by my mom and stepfather was going to work.  He had visions of getting a phone call some time during the 14 hour drive and asking us to come take the kids.  No one has ever attempted having Ian and Sam in the car that long before.  We had no idea what to expect.  We just knew that if it didn't work, it would be a disaster of enormous proportions.

Lo and behold, I am happy to report that my marriage is still in tact, Jeff is still talking to me, and to boot, my mom and stepfather more than survived the road trip.  In fact, my mom can not believe how well the kids did.  It was even beyond their expectations.  The whole time the kids were in my family's care they were rockstars.  They ate EVERYTHING put in front of them (none of this, "I don't like it."  or "I don't want that.").  They went to sleep without any stalling tactics, slept through the night, and furthermore, slept to a reasonable time the next morning.  Yes, really!  Of course, I am describing Sam here more than Ian.  I knew Ian wasn't going to cause any problems.  The kids totally went with the flow without me and Jeff around.  No matter whose house they slept at (my dad's, my mom's, my sister's, or the 3 different hotels when they drove down and also went to the beach), they adapted beautifully to the new surroundings.

Then, of course, I come to town and before you know it, the Sam I said good-bye to and love unconditionally, came back in full force.  She went back to her old tricks and it was refreshing having multiple relatives around as back-up and reinforcement.

I am so happy that this trip went as well as it did.  Each year we do this, it will get easier and easier.  Although, I think Ian realizes now that he could've easily flown down and not needed to do the 2 day, 14 hour car ride.  So we may need to adjust the logistics on next year's trip.  However, if it was up to me, I'd rather Sam drive in both directions.  Let's just say we are very lucky we didn't get thrown off the plane coming back home.  It wasn't pretty and Sam is still not the best to fly with.

Three cheers for my SUPER-HERO mom!  Most of my friends couldn't believe she wanted to do this.  She is simply amazing.  And more thanks and kudos to my dad, stepmom Rita, sister Meghan, sister Lori and brother-in-law Ben, all who pitched in and took over for a few days here and there.  What a team!  This was definitely a summer vacation that will have the kids smiling for a long time to come.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Velcro: The way of the future?

I find it fascinating that Ian and Sam will never know how to work a rotary phone.  Or, understand that tvs didn't always come with remotes and the ability to record a tv show wasn't always possible.  And before computers, typing on typewriter is how you filled out a form or wrote a letter.  And of course the biggie, heating up a hot dog and chicken nuggets took a lot longer when a stove was needed because microwaves didn't exist yet.

For the last 6 years, we've bought our kids the specific shoes they wear for many different reasons; color, style, cool character design they like, and because they offer velcro straps.  Each year, we put off the inevitable on teaching Ian how to tie laces.  Every time I take him for new shoes, I say, "After this pair, you are getting sneakers with laces and learning how to tie them."  And every year, when its time to get that next new pair, I cave again and do the easy thing...go with velcro.  Call me lazy, but its so much easier to get out the door, repeatedly through the day, when you don't have to stop and help tie shoes.

It's really pathetic.  Ian is now 6 and wouldn't be able to tie his own shoes.  Growing up, I know by the time I was 5, I was fully able to tie any laces put in front of me.  Being able to tie your shoes is a rite of passage, right? 

I was firmly putting my foot down and saying this is it.  This Fall is the year that we will invest in shoes that require tying a bow.  However, my good friend was at Potomac Mills yesterday and found an awesome deal on Stride Rite sneakers she knew Ian would love. She texted me and asked what size.  I went up one size from what Ian is currently wearing and replied back.  Got to love texting!   It was a bit of a relief when the shoes were put in my hand, that yes, these don't have laces either.  It's velcro all the way baby! 

And so, we will go another year now without Ian having to learn this fundamental necessity of life, or is it?  Could laces actually go the way of rotary phones?  Does Ian ever have to really learn how to tie his shoes?  Or, will the size he needs keep offering the velcro closure as his feet get bigger?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

He just didn't see it coming.

While the kids and I were in Florida, my sister Lori and her husband Ben hosted their annual salsa-making, pool party.  It is a fun event they've now done for 3 or 4 years and this was the first one we attended.  Ben is known around town for his delicious salsa and was all too happy to give a few lessons and have guests try their own hand at making fresh salsa. 

Ian was very excited and got into the act making his salsa on the sweet side (apples!) and with absolutely no spice or kick to it.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, we all changed into our bathing suits (or "bathing soup" as Sam refers to it) and went in the pool.  One of Lori's friends, Alex, is a big guy at 6'7", with a heart of gold and as gentle as they come despite his looming stature.  Alex and Ian were playfully splashing each other and without any warning, Alex picked Ian up from behind and lifted him up towards the sky - way up high, above the pool water - and threw him in the deep end.  Ian, who only up until this past Spring was even comfortable putting his head underwater didn't see it coming.  Those who were witness to this spontaneous act of craziness on Alex's part were in awe and shock waiting for Ian to come to the surface.  I couldn't believe anyone would do this to a 6 year old and not find out if it would be okay first (if not with the child, then at least with their mom).  Alex had absolutely no idea that this was something Ian wouldn't like.  When Ian finally was able to breathe, he had the most traumatized, shocked look on his face and within 5 seconds realized he should be crying.  We got him out of the pool and to a nearby chair to calm down.  I looked at Alex and said, "He didn't even have his googles on."  It was bad. Very bad.  Alex felt horrible and wanted to make it up to Ian.  He kept apologizing over and over again.  Alex offered to let Ian push him in or do anything he wanted so that he'd feel better. 

Within 10 minutes, Ian was back in the pool. And believe it or not, was playfully splashing with Alex again. This time with his googles on.  And, this time we all told Alex that he might not want to make that mistake again.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The grilled cheese story

On Sunday afternoon the kids and I were at my sister Lori's house and it was approaching lunch time.  I came up with an easy idea to make the kids grilled cheese sandwiches to eat.  Lori offered to run to the grocery store and get bread and cheese while I took a shower.  Before Lori left, I specifically told her that the kids like Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread and Kraft American cheese singles.

There are some things you just don't mess with.  And when you know the kids will eat a given combination of foods, you don't fix something that isn't broken.  Well, I think you can guess where I am going with this.  Lori came back with Kraft PepperJack cheese and Pepperidge Farm 15 Grain bread.  Right away, I saw the bread wasn't right and asked Lori why, oh why she'd do that.  She said the 15 Grain bread is healthier for them.  Fine. I can almost be okay with that change.  Then in mid-grilled cheese making, I noticed that the cheese Ben was using wasn't the orange color I am used to seeing.  I investigated further the package the cheese was coming from and saw the PepperJack label.  OMG!  Now, this switcheroo was too much and I knew for sure there was no way the kids would eat it.  WHY?  WHY?  WHY Lori? 

We quietly had it out in the kitchen without drawing too much attention to ourselves, lest Ian and Sam get wise that the grilled cheese sandwich they were about to eat was going to have a kick to it.  I know Ian doesn't like spice of any kind and this wasn't going to go down well.  I was furious and couldn't believe she was doing this.  PepperJack is not a mild cheese and Ian was hungry.  This was soo not cool to do him.  I already had it in my head that if he didn't like the first bite, I would get in the car and hurry to Publix to get the right kind of cheese (and bread too if necessary).

So the grilled cheese is done and we give it to Ian.  We all wait and watch, without being too obvious.  Ian  takes a bite and then another and then another.  I think it helps that he is very hungry.  He comes up for air and says, "It's delicious."  Yay!  I am so happy I was proven wrong.  However, I still feel firmly that you don't mess with something that works.

Ian ate the entire the sandwich.  It was only at the last bite that he said, "That cheese tasted sour."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heard and Observed XXVI

While hanging out at my sister and brother-in-law's house one night, Ian and Ben were playing on the Playstation.  Ben was currently playing a game (he designed and helped create!!) and Ian was a captive audience watching his every move.  It was 8:56pm and I had told Ian earlier his bedtime could be 9:00pm this particular evening.  I saw how much fun Ian was having and quickly changed my mind and told him he could go to sleep at 9:15pm instead.  Ian, happy that he gets another 15 minutes, looked at Ben and said, "uh, do you think I can play now?"   Ben replied with "yeah, I was just thinking the same thing."  Ian instantly came back with, "Well, great minds think alike."


Ian meeting one of my sister's friends:

Ryan:  Ian, how old are you?

Ian:  I'm six.

Ryan:  Wow, I thought you were like 15.

Ian:  Well, I feel like I am 15.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vegas, Baby: One last blog, promise!

I guess I have one more left in me to write about our trip.  I have some photos to share with you --

Can't seem to escape the potty training.  :)

Because Vegas is not complete without an
Elvis sighting!

I found Cabo Wabo!  Now what flavor was that again!?!?
(A bit of an inside joke to some who will be reading this.)

Really cool restaurant inside City Center.  It looked like it was
just floating.

Ian would be right at home - Star Wars slot machines.

Ok, I am done.  Promise.  No more. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vegas, Baby: Hotels that rock and ones that don't

Jeff and I didn't get a chance to go in all of the hotels on The Strip, but we did check out quite a few.  The below list is my opinion only.  I apologize in advance if I talk badly about any that may be your favorite.


Bellagio.  Wow.  This place is simply gorgeous.  I absolutely loved everything about it. From the fountain show outside to the vibrant colors, larger-than-life displays of flowers, hot air balloons and carousel inside, this hotel is breath-taking.

This was part of the ceiling.

Yes, this is inside the lobby area.

Awesome fountain show to the song, "My heart will go on'

The sweet shop - Gelato!

Huge chocolate fountain that went from ceiling to floor.

Waiting for the fountain show to begin.

Another shot of the lobby, gorgeous flowers everywhere!


The Venetian - Incredibly beautiful.  I think the gondola ride is a very nice touch.  Did you know you can get married on one of their gondolas?  The designers did a great job making you feel like you were walking around outside in Italy.  I'd stay here in a heart beat!

Cesar's - I think they have the best decorated casino.  Nice and airy, not congested.  Got a great vibe when walking through this hotel/casino.

New York, New York - LOVED the personality of this one.  I think they did such a great job recreating the neighborhoods of New York and the outside is awesome with the building skyline and roller coaster. 

The Cosmopolitan - Very sparkly and modern.  I was mesmerized by the decor.


Paris - While the Eiffel Tower is really cool, I just wasn't impressed overall.  The hotel has no good flow to it and we even had to ask where the official main entrance and lobby was.  It felt very congested.    The one really neat thing I liked was how the legs of the Eiffel Tower come through the hotel from the outside. 

Wynn and Encore - Really?  This is what all the hype was about?  Yes, it is beautiful and elegant, but I am not sure what all the fuss is about.  I'd rather be at the Bellagio or Venetian.

MGM Grand - Yowzer!  This hotel is simply too big and too filled with smoke.  We found ourselves having to go through this hotel many times and each time, the cigarette smoke got worse.  Not a fan of this place.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vegas, Baby: Observations

Here are a few observations I made during our trip to Vegas.

1. Smokers are everywhere!  What is up with that?!!?  Have these people not gotten the memo that smoking is bad for your health?   I guess I've gotten a bit spoiled by living in a state where smoking in public areas has been banned.  I really can not stand the cigeratte smoke anymore and did what I could to avoid it. 

2. Bad cleavage.  Women everywhere were hanging out.  It didn't matter if they were tall, short, fat, thin, fake, real, beautiful or ugly.  These women had no taste, definintely were not wearing a bra, and were low class.  It was digusting.  There is something to be said for leaving something to the imagination.  A major "What not to wear" intervention needs to happen in Vegas.  If I never see bad cleavage again, it won't be a moment too soon.

3. Putting a $20 in a one cent slot machine doesn't last as long as you think it would. 

4.  It appears that 8 inch (or higher!) high-heeled shoes seem to be in fashion.  I am so not cut out to keep up with this trend.  I'd love to know how these women can around in these shoes.  A few of them looked like they were holding on to their significant other for dear life.  I took a few pictures because I couldn't believe how high these heels were. I'd have to say, at least 75% of the women were wearing shoes like this. Yowzer!!

5. It's never too early to start gambling in Vegas.  It helps that there are no clocks ANYWHERE and you never are exactly sure what time it is.

6. The customer service at the 1/2 price ticket booth is amazing!  The agents were even standing there holding an umbrella over your head to shield the sun while you waited in line.  They were incredibly friendly and knew so much about each of the shows. 

7.  Vegas is not a family destination.  Not one bit.  However, with all the kids that were visiting, you'd think they relocated Disney World.  It was crazy.  And we saw young, young kids (like babies, 3 year olds, 5 year olds, etc) out at all hours of the night.  Why in the world were these kids not in bed?  And where in the world were these kids walking to?  It made no sense and I felt bad that they had to be subjected to this.

8.  The music coming outside from each of the hotels was fun.  I liked how it seemed to be a party atmosphere, even if it was 8:00am in the morning.  Very similar to New Orleans where you can carry your alcoholic beverage out on the open in the streets and the appropriate time to be drinking doesn't seem to matter.

There you have it, my observations.  Stay tuned for the last installment of "Vegas, Baby: Hotels - ones that rock and ones that don't."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

I've never been to Las Vegas before and wanted to go when the opportunity presented itself that we would have childcare for the kids already in place.  Being that it was also my 40th birthday during our stay was icing on the cake.  I have to say, hands down, this was the best birthday ever.  From all the family and friend's many celebrations during the past several weeks to the 4 nights Jeff & I spent in Vegas, I've loved every minute of it.  It was perfect from beginning to end.  In fact, I had so much fun, I want to do this every year.  :)

Jeff and I made the most of our time away.  It helped that our bodies never seemed to adjust to the 3 hour time difference and we were always awake!  No matter how late we went to bed the night before, we were still up at the crack of dawn every morning at 5:30am.  It would've been perfect for me to sneak to the hotel gym and get a few runs in during these early hours, but right before the trip, I came down with a nasty head cold and could barely breathe.  No worries!  It didn't slow me down any from sightseeing.  Jeff and I travel very well together and always seem to be on the same page on what to do, where to go and what to see.   I am going to break up our trip over the next 3 blogs and give some highlights.  Because as you know, what happens in Vegas, doesn't stay in Vegas when it happens to the newly turned 40 year old with the big mouth.   Hope you enjoy!


We didn't purchase tickets in advance for any of the shows and it proved to be one of the smartest decisions we ever made.  Jeff and I had at the top of our list to see a Cirque du Soleil show (he had never seen one, I only had seen 2 of the traveling ones).  Everyone raves about "Ka" and how it is a must-see before going to any of the others that are playing.  On our way to the box office at MGM Grand to inquire about tickets, we were offered the opportunity to sit through a 2 hour sales pitch on timeshares and get our tickets practically for free ($10 each!).  Sure, why not?  Neither of us had done the timeshare thing before and it was very educational.  We learned a lot and decided that once we are done with preschool costs, we could see ourselves signing up for one of the many timeshare deals out there.  Our seats at Ka were fabulous and we were blown away by the show.  I really think seeing this show is worth the trip to Las Vegas all on its own.  The set, the stage, the performers were unreal.  It was truly incredible.

The other show we saw was "Vegas, the Show".  This was fun, entertaining and a neat, little review of what Vegas used to be like.  There was a magician, showgirls, impersonators, singing and dancing.  Jeff and I both had the same thought -- it was typical of the type of thing you'd see on a cruise ship, only better talent.


Jeff had seen on The Food Network channel a segment on "The best thing I ever ate". They featured a dish from the Jose Andres restaurant, "China Poblano".  It was the 20 vegetable fried rice.  Jeff is a bit of a foodie and was eager to check it out.  Let me tell you, it lived up to the hype and was amazing.  This dish was so flavorful and literally melted in your mouth.  Yum-O!  The restaurant was very unique in that it featured tapas type dishes and had an eclectic mix of Chinese and Mexican food.

Here is a picture of the 20 vegetable fried rice.

Unfortunately we ate about 1/2 of the dish before I
realized I wanted to take a picture of it.  :)

For my birthday dinner on Thursday evening, I had done some research prior to leaving and found this awesome place called, "Sammys Woodfired Pizza".  They had a wonderful gluten-free menu and I was excited to go.  They have 5 locations in Vegas, but the closest one to where we were staying, was still 7 miles away the strip.  The restaurant was priced reasonably, but the cab ride to and from was approx. double what we paid to eat there.  Oh my!  Jeff and I got a good laugh about that (ok, me more than him) and we both enjoyed a very tasty meal.

This is a gluten-free pizza with brie cheese and artichoke.
It was worth the cab ride!

The waitress surprised me with this for
dessert.  It is called "Messy Sundae" and
boy, was it ever!  Jeff and I both couldn't
finish it.  We gave it our best shot!


Neither Jeff or I had been to the Grand Canyon before. This was something we wanted to check out and since we had the time, we went for it.  A groupon had become available for doing the bus tour at 1/2 off the regular price.  Score!  However, while the price was right, we learned why Jeff and I don't like doing organized tours.  It takes too long to accommodate a big group of people.  Between all the stops to stretch your legs and get something to eat, we easily added on an additional 4 hours to our day.  Next time we will rent a car and do it on our own -- not quite like Thelma and Louise because it will be a round trip.  Jeff couldn't handle the rental car charges if the car never made it back.  :)

I have to say this, the Grand Canyon is spectacular.  Wowee!!  And I couldn't have asked for better weather walking around.  It was only a high of 87 degrees, there was a breeze (yes, really!) and at one point we were sprinkled with a few showers.  It was delightful.


I very much enjoyed walking around and checking out the different hotels and the various personalities of each.  Two kitschy things we did was the Gondola Ride at The Venetian and go to the top of The Eiffel Tower in Paris.  I very much enjoyed both.

At the Paris Hotel:

Jeff and I at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

This is Vearn.  He had more knowledge on
the subject of Vegas than anyone on this
planet.  He was able to tell me the opening
date of every single hotel on The Strip. 
I had a lot of fun quizzing him.  He rocked!
 At The Venetian:

Our Gondola driver sang "Happy Birthday to Me"
in Italian.  It was really neat.

So that about wraps up the hightlights.  Stay tuned for the following "Vegas, Baby" installments; Observations seen around town and Which hotels wowed me & which ones are taking up space.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Just a little past the point of done.

Taking a formal family picture with my Toppall team is always an experience that is best done with having gotten a good night of sleep, not being hungry, and hoping that the stars and moon are aligned.  My fingers are crossed and I hold my breath that all goes well until we are told by the photographer, she got at least one good photo taken.

During the weekend when the family came to surprise me, my sister Lori arranged for us all to have our picture taken on Sunday.  Again, another surprise! She had coordinated what we were going to wear. Lori shopped in advance and brought with her the clothes in the selected colors to make sure that we had the appropriate look.  Yes, that's the way sister rolls and one of the many reasons I love her.

You never know what you are going to get with my kids in front of the camera.  You only hope that there will be at least one good group shot.

Here it is:

Once we knew we got the great group shot, we tried different combinations.  Dad & Rita wanted a picture with just their family.    At this point, the kids were done, done, done.  How do I know?  Check out Ian and Samantha's expressions. 

This is one of my favorites.  My dad with his 3 daughters.

This is a pose that Ian always wants a picture taken.  He calls it his 3-legged dog and makes sure we get at least one photo like this.  This has been going on since Ian was 3.

This will be good practice for July 17th.  That is when we go back and do a picture with Jeff's parents and sister's family.  Wish us well.  At least we don't have a big German Shepherd to fit in the picture, right?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kicking off summer in style!

As soon as school let out, we had a few fun-filled days planned before the kids left for Florida.

Pirate Cruise (Baltimore)*
A group of us (4 moms, 8 kids) sailed the water near Fells Point for a pirate adventure.  Sam was a little unsure what was going on, but was very well behaved and did great.  Ian had a blast and couldn't wait to tell everyone how he shot the cannons filled with water at the pirate circling our boat, stealing our treasure. 

Ian doing the limbo.

Hmmm, I'm not sure about this.

*For anyone looking to do this, check out this pirate cruise adventure instead:  Chesapeake Pirates. My friend Jen said that she has done both and really liked the Chesapeake version better.  However, Ian and I had nothing to compare it to and really enjoyed the Baltimore version as well.

Blueberry Picking (Germantown, MD)
We go blueberry picking every year.  I have to say this year was the best yet and I will never go anywhere else ever again.  Butlers Orchard  is the place to go.  What an amazing crop of blueberries they had to offer.  The blueberries were the size of grapes and were so bountiful that we didn't need to move from our blueberry bush. 

Seriously, look at all these blueberries. Wowee!!

Sam and her friend Ashley, sharing blueberry picking tips.

Ian and his friend James.

Under the cherry trees
 We made the most of our last few days before seeing the kids off on their big adventure with the grandparents.  We got to spend loads of time with friends, eat lots and lots of pizza (at least once daily either for lunch or dinner -- oy!) and enjoy all the great fun of sitting in traffic on the beltway in the Tyson's Corner area more than I'd like to remember.  Summer has officially started!