Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I can breathe again.

Back in June, my friend Jen and I signed up our kids for this great deal Certifikid was promoting.  One week of camp at JW Tumbles for kids ages 3 to 7.  It would be from 11:30am to 4:00pm each day, Monday thru Friday.  All for $99.  Yippee!!  Both kids could go, to the same place, during the same week, for a good amount of time.  And the icing on the cake was Jen signed up her two boys (same ages as my two) and we'd be able to carpool. 

We picked this past week for them to attend and the theme was going to be Gymnastics.  How wonderful given the fact that Ian is in to gymnastics right now and would really enjoy getting to do cartwheels and flips to his heart's content.  The only hitch was, everything we read said the kids had to be "Restroom Independent".  Oy!  I was assured by my friend that by the time the camp actually happened, Sam would be well on her way to being fully potty trained.  We had the WHOLE SUMMER to work on it, how could she not be?

Yep, you guessed it.  Fast forward to this past week, and as far as I could tell, Sam was more "Restroom Retarded"  than independent. She doesn't wear diapers anymore, but she may as well have for how she treats the pull-ups she sports.  I was very stressed thinking about the situation and wasn't sure what to do.  I knew if I never mentioned anything to JW Tumbles, I'd be holding my breath the whole week just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Put Sam in a dry pull-up as soon as she gets dropped off.  Give a bag of back-up clothing, stick a few pull-ups in there and hope for the best.  The staff at JW Tumbles said they take lots of bathroom breaks and everything would be fine.  I figured I had one good day before we got busted trying to fool them.

As soon as I was told she wasn't allowed to stay at the camp anymore, I would hang out there the whole 4.5 hour session each day and attend to Sam's bathroom needs myself.  I'd bring my kindle and blend into the background not bothering anyone until I had to intervene.  At least Sam would be able to have fun and take advantage of this great camp.


Monday and Tuesday came and went.  They never mentioned anything.  I did notice a pull-up was missing from the bag I left with her.

Wednesday, when I went to pick her up, the very nice lady in charge said, "I just want you to know she peed in her pants.  But she had a pull-up on, so everything is fine." 
"Yeah, I figured that was going to happen.  Are you throwing her out of here?", I timidly asked?  
"No, never.", my new best friend answered.

Thursday, we took it up a notch and Sam pooped, not once, but TWICE!!!  And get this, they didn't even mention it.  I heard about it from Ian. But another pull-up was missing and they took care of the situation.

Friday was the last day, and I knew we were in the clear.  But guess what?  Sam pooped again, BOTH pull-ups I left with her were used and they still never said anything.

The kids had an awesome time and loved every second being at JW Tumbles summer camp.  It was so much fun for them and I hope that Certifikid has this deal again next year.  It's a little too far distance-wise to justify paying the full amount ($225 for each kid, plus $50 member fee), but in a heartbeat, I'd sign up again at the discounted fee.  And we do have one more year where both kids will fall within the correct age span.

As for me being able to enjoy Plan A and not having to resort to Plan B, let's have this be our little secret, shall we?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My crazy collision story


In the morning driving the kids to gymnastics camp, while on the Fairfax County Parkway, a woman in her gold colored Lexus hit my car.  It was very minor and thank G-d no one was hurt, but it was an accident none-the-less. 

We pulled over to the side of the road and the first thing the woman says to me is, "Do you know what happened?"

Me:  Yeah, you hit my car.

Woman (who I come to find out is named, Judy):  I'm so sorry.  I am starting teaching again next week and I have so much on my mind.  I was thinking about everything I have to do.  It doesn't look like a lot of damage; why don't you get me an estimate and I'll write you a check?

Me (looking at the damage on my car and it was really, really minor.  You could barely tell anything was amiss unless I specifically pointed it out):  That's fine.  Let me get all your info. 

Judy apologizes profusely and tells me how bad she feels on how much I am getting inconvenienced.  "Hey, these things happen and the important thing is no one was hurt.", I reply back.

So we exchange info and I get back in my car to continue to Herndon for the kids' camp.  First thing out of Ian's mouth was, "We just lost 3 minutes."  heheheheee.  "Yes, Ian.  Don't worry, we've got plenty of time to get there."

After dropping the kids off at camp, I found an auto body shop nearby and got an estimate on the damage. It came to $495.  Yowzer!  It really didn't look like that much happened to my car.

As I made my way back home, I stopped at another body shop (much closer to home) and got a second estimate.  $487.  Wow!  Maybe it really is going to cost this much.  And believe me, I told both places not to worry about the slight scratch on the black looks like normal wear and tear of a car that is almost 10 years old.  No need to replace it.  Both places said it would take 2 to 2.5 days to fix.

I made it home and went to the passenger door to get my stuff out of the front seat.  It was then that I noticed the door wasn't completely aligned and a loud creaking noise was being heard when I opened and closed the door.  CRAP!!  I am almost certain both body shop places wasn't aware of this either and now I was going to need to go back and make sure the estimate would cover this getting fixed before submitting the estimate to Judy.


I couldn't handle going back out there again on Monday.  I decided I would tackle this the next day.  I wasn't going all the way back to Herndon for the re-estimate, but decided I would go back to the place in Fairfax and a new one very close by on the same street.  On my way to the body shop place in Fairfax, I come to Collision Specialists and decide to get the estimate from them first.  I hadn't been there yet and would be starting from scratch.

While in the parking lot with Al who is looking at my car, a woman comes up to me and says, "Robyn?" 

Me:  Hi Judy! 

Judy:  I thought it was you.  I'm dropping my car off here.  I have to tell you, I was driving my husband's car yesterday.  Normally, I drive a 15 year old SUV.  I've gotten a ding in it before and brought it here.  They are wonderful and will take good care of you. 

Me:  Thanks, Judy.  If you are okay with me just getting this one estimate, I'll have them fix the car.

Judy:  That is fine.

Me:  I'll tell them to put the repair on your credit card.  They said it will only take 1 day to fix.  I am going to get a rental car for the day.

Judy:  Just let me know how much the rental car is and I'll reimburse you.  I am so sorry that you have to do all this.  I feel awful.  I wish there was some way I could compensate you for your time.

Me:  That's ok.  The important thing is, no one was hurt.  Everything else can be fixed.

While Al is working up the estimate, Judy and I take a couple of seats and have a great 10 minute conversation.  Seriously, we bonded over everything from Fairview to cancer to marathons.  It was like talking to an old friend.   Al came back with the estimate.....$105.  Seriously!!  I couldn't believe it.  A good $380 less than the other places.  I told Al I'd be back the next day so that they can have a full day to fix it.  Judy and I said our good-byes and I left.


I drop off the car at Collision Specialists and get the rental car.  All goes well and at the end of the day, I go back and pick up my car.  I see Al and he gives me my car key and we walk out the car to inspect the work and make sure it is satisfactory.

ME:  Al, what are the odds that the woman who hit me would be at the same body shop, at the same exact time as me getting her car fixed?  Isn't that crazy?!?!

AL:  Yes, it is.  She's been here 3 times before with that car.  She is very nice, but always in a hurry.

ME:  Ha, I thought so.  She must be some driver.  Al, you guys are great and I have a big mouth, so if I ever hear of anyone needing body work, I will definitely recommend you.

AL:  Thanks, that's how we stay in business.


Collision Specialists of Fairfax calls and leaves a message for me.  They want to make sure everything is okay with my car.  OH MY GAWD!!  I am seriously impressed with these guys.  Their customer service rocks!  As Jeff said, this whole experience was sort of worth it just to know a place like this exists.

All's well that ends well.  I put in the mail the receipt for the rental car.  I wrote a little note to Judy and said, I hope our paths cross again, just not in a car.

And, that is my crazy collision story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My favorite things #2

I am dedicating this blog of My favorite things to my mom.  After she read about how much I loved the new packaged ketchup container, my mom told me what her favorite thing was.  It turns out that I was the one, a few years ago, to tell her about this product.  And then it dawned on me....anyone who doesn't have little kids may not know about this.  People everywhere could very well be clueless on how awesome this item is.

Without further ado, I'd like to announce my next favorite thing:  Mr. Clean Magic Clean Eraser.

Crayon drawings on the wall?  Magic marker on a white desk?  Weird stains on appliances?  Major dirt in the microwave?  Not a problem for the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  Yes, it is truly magic.  Just get the sponge a little wet and voila!, the wall/appliance/desk/microwave is back to looking like new.  It can clean just about anything and is safe for many different types of surfaces.  And, the best part is, you can reuse it over and over again. 

Love, love, love the Magic Eraser.  And I think you will too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taking stock

The other day Jeff asked me yet again if I am going to purchase the iPad 2.  I had been saving my money (since I don't have any kind of income this is not an easy task) and had collected a few Apple gift cards for my birthday.  Between the two, I have enough to get the model I want - the iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G - 32 GB, which retails for $729.  Plus, you can't forget the cool cover, which is an additional $39. 

It is very exciting and something I have been dreaming about for some time.  However, I am hesitant to get it.  Why, you ask?  I am not entirely sure what is holding me back.  I "heart" technology in a very big way.  I am also experiencing similar feelings on wanting a new cell phone.  I've had the same blackberry now for 2.5 years.  There are much, much cooler phones out on the market and I could take advantage of my upgrade availability and get one.  But yet, I am not running to the Verizon store to do that either.

It's all very strange and new territory for me to be in.  Part of me feels like enough is enough.  Everything the iPad 2 and a new cell phone can do, I already have the ability to do that now - maybe not in one singular device, but most definitely in multiple devices.  I am definitely not missing out on being able to check email, surf the web, update my FB status or run an app on what I currently own.

But the part of me that is thinking I want the latest and greatest, is that as soon as I spend the several hundred dollars on an iPad 2, a new model will be released within the next month or two.  Isn't that always the case?  If am able to go this long without it, why not wait for the newer model?

As for the cell phone my plan is to wait until Verizon announces the iPhone 5.  It should be coming out in the Fall of '11.

My new strategy is to sit it out and wait.  There is no harm in giving it a few more months and seeing what is on the market as we enter the Holiday season.

I came across the following title to a book; this is a basic summary of what it said:  "Love what you have, have what you need, be happier with less."   I really like this message. I am going to try to incorporate it more in my day to day.  It sort of puts into perspective all of these gadgets and makes it less important and necessary to have.  So I will tell Jeff that I am not ready to get the iPad 2 just yet.  Maybe the iPad 3.  :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Heard and Observed XXVII

We were driving in the car the other day and completely out of the blue, Ian says to me, "I need to tell you what happened with Sarah."

Me:  Sarah?  Who's Sarah?

Ian:  You know, Sarah from my class?

Me:  Yeah, I know Sarah.  You haven't seen her since school got out in June.  What do you need to tell me?
(At this point, I am bracing myself for some type of confession that he has held in now for 2.5 months and can't go one day longer without letting me know).

Ian:  She liked me, but I wasn't attracted to her.

Me:  Ok, Ian.  Thanks for letting me know.  Were there any girls you were attracted to?

Ian:  Yeah, Julia, Jessica and Veronica all told me they liked me and I like them back too.  I mean, I like everyone in my class, but I just wasn't attracted to Sarah.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The fundamentals

It is like pulling teeth getting Ian to want to learn to read.  I fear we are so far behind other kids his age and having only 1/2 day kindergarten last year didn't help the situation.  This Summer, I had big plans to work with him and at least get him reading level 1/ Kindergarten books.  Unfortunately the Summer is almost over and Ian is no where closer to being able to read the books on his own.  Every time I suggested to Ian to work on his reading, he resisted and I will admit I didn't force the issue.

I had to get creative and take matters in my own hand.  While driving the other day, I pulled out our Sight Word Flash Cards and started  holding them up to Ian to read to me.  He threw a mini-fit and told me that I needed to stop wanting him to be perfect.  "Huh?  I don't want you to be perfect, I just want you to try", I replied back. In one of my finer mommy moments, I said, "Fine, Ian. Don't work on learning how to read and then at the end of the year when you still can't, you will have to do 1st grade over again."   Of course, this got Ian crying even harder and now he was saying, "I WANT to go to 2nd grade!!!!!"  Whoa, baby.  Get a hold of yourself.  Let's do 1st grade first before worrying about 2nd grade. 

I guess my idle threat of Ian having to repeat a grade he hasn't even started yet worked.  Because as soon as we got in the car on our next outing, he pulled out the flash cards and gave me a handful to show him.  It was fabulous!!   We zoom through the words he knows well and spend a few extra minutes going over the words he needs help with.  I take those cards and put them in a separate pile.  Once we pull into our destination and into a parking spot, I take out the ones that caused Ian a little trouble and have him read them again. 

When we are back in the car, I take out the trouble pile yet again and re-review.  If they are still a problem, we put them back in the big stack of new cards to review.  I pull out a pile of new flashcards and start the process all over again.

I believe we are making progress!  We got through those sight word cards and I got the next level of flash cards, simple sentences using the sight words.  I am very excited that Ian hasn't resisted on wanting to do these and eagerly reads the cards as we drive to our next destination.  There may be hope yet for him to go to 2nd grade on the first try. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My favorite things

I think I am going to start a series on My Favorite Things.  I'll just pick up where Oprah has left off.   I am not sure how frequent I'll blog about it, but when something comes into my life that I am ga-ga over and want to shout from the rooftops, I'll know that this is an item to add to My Favorite Things.

I'd like to introduce the best thing that has happened to ketchup since the plastic squeeze bottles.

The kids and I went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch one day and upon going to the condiment bar to grab napkins, straws, and utensils, I discovered the ketchup.  Whao, baby!!  Look at how the traditional foil packet of ketchup has transformed.  You can twist off the cap and squeeze out the ketchup or you can remove the top and use the container for dipping.  It has become so much more user-friendly, less messy and a more efficient use of ketchup.  I can't wait to try it out on a road trip when we find ourselves eating in the car.  Watch out fries, there is a new way to dip in your future!

Now, in the tradition of how Oprah does her Favorite Things, I have a ketchup packet I'd like to give to each of you.  Yes, I stocked up before leaving Chick-Fil-A.  :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Must see!

I love books. I love to read.  I love losing myself in the story and having the characters come alive in my mind.  And when I find a good book, I can not put it down.  I simply must finish it at whatever cost.  

More than a year ago, I read this amazing book called, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.  It came recommended by a few people, but hadn't really reached the enormous popularity it knows until after I read it. Probably because of my big mouth telling everyone I knew to read it.  I remember having a hard time fitting the book in during the day and was reading it at night before I went to bed.  Before long, the book sucked me in and I was losing whole nights of sleep to finish it.  No matter how tired I was, I couldn't put it down.  Finally, after the 2nd night of no sleep, I finished the book.  I was torn between not wanting it to end and wishing I could get to the last page as quickly as possible so I could finally get to sleep. 

And, when I returned the book to the library (this was before the Kindle), I asked the librarian if she had read it as I handed it over.  When she replied yes, I had a 15 minute conversation with this person I had never seen before on how great I thought the book was.  I had to talk about it with someone....anyone.  It was such a good book and it had been awhile since I read anything that great.  I knew no matter what I followed that book up with, it was going to pale in comparison and not stand a chance in my opinion.

So they made "The Help" into a movie.  Usually they mess with the book so much that the movie has a very different feel to it and you walk away disappointed.  Whether the ending is completely different, huge chunks of the story are missing or the cast is completely wrong from what you envisioned, you wish they didn't touch it with a 10 foot pool if this was going to be the result. 

This is not the case with "The Help".  From the beginning to the very end, the movie was brilliantly done. The book was brought to life in a way that did it justice and made you smile, cry and be in awe of how fantastic this story was to see on the big screen.  Oh, how I loved it. 

Phenomenal is the adjective that comes to mind.  All of it.  The screenplay, the cast, the acting; I couldn't get enough.  2 hours and 17 minutes was not enough time.  I wanted more!  Just llike the book, I didn't want it to end!  Usually in a movie, I start looking at my watch about an hour in to it and see how long I've been there and guess how much longer there is left to see.  And these are movies I am enjoying!  But not "The Help" sireee bob!  I didn't check the time once.  I suppressed the urge to pee and I sat captivated through it all.

It has been a fantastic summer for movies.  From "Bridesmaids" to "Horrible Bosses" I've been enjoying the movies like no other summer in a very long time.  But I have to say, "The Help" has now been added to my list of all time favorites.

And if you haven't seen it yet, go now!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why yes, I am!

We used to bank with Wachovia.  Now through the power of the merger, we bank with Wells Fargo.  The other morning, I called Wells Fargo to ask a few questions about the electronic bill pay on their Website.  I was most concerned that our recurring monthly payment for the mortgage was about to come out 3 weeks early and cause some really big problems for us.

The kids were doing well and I decided I had a few minutes I could squeeze this call in.  The representative Marion took my call and couldn't be more sincere and happy to welcome me to Wells Fargo.  "Welcome!  Welcome!  Welcome!  We are so happy to have you here" is exactly how she greeted me.  I loved it!  Within a few minutes of trying to explain to her why I was calling, all hell started to break and the kids seriously sounded like they were killing each other.  Doors were slamming over and over again, blood-curdling screams were being heard, and very high-pitched and loud screaming/shouting/crying was added in nicely for more chaos.  It was very out-of-control, very quickly.  You would've thought I had about 10 kids in an all out war, rather than just the 2 I have.

In a very calm voice, Marion tells me, "Why don't you put the phone down for a few minutes, I'll stay on the line and you can go take care of that."

Take care of what I am thinking?  This is completely normal in my house.  hehehehehee.  I replied, "No, your coming with me.  This will only take a second."

I went up to Ian's room where the scene was going down, grabbed Sam and said, "Get out of your brother's room NOW!".  I carried her downstairs and gave her a cup of juice.  I figured by now, she was very thirsty from all the screaming and having her put a straw in her mouth would keep her from protesting having to leave Ian's room.

Within 30 seconds, the house was completely quiet and you would've thought I was alone and kid-free. 

Marion was the first to talk, "Wow. You are awesome. That was amazing."  

I will now be calling Marion daily.  I liked talking to her.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Summer of Pizza

If this summer will be known to me as the summer I sweat, than clearly this is "the summer of pizza" for the kids.  I am afraid the kids are going to turn into pizzas themselves.  Oy!  It is a little embarrassing how often it has become our go-to meal for lunch or dinner this summer. 

Is there any food easier to obtain, more reasonably priced, easier to eat (requiring very little utensils) and so kid-friendly?  I think not.  Pizza is one of those miracle meals in my opinion and makes dinner a snap, especially when you are with a group of friends and don't want the good times to end because something like dinner needs to happen.

I used to try to space out the kids having pizza on back-to-back days.  Now, my main concern is that they don't eat it in back-to-back meals.  Yes, pizza has become that prevalent in our lives this season.  It was very humorous when Jeff said, we need to get chicken nuggets back in the rotation.  Ha!! 

I know once Fall comes, we will get back into our routine and pizza will become its usual, once-a-week Sunday night treat.  However, until then, I am keeping the pizza place on speed dial.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Remember to say I love you.

This week is a very sad one for my husband's family.  Jeff's sister's husband lost his father very unexpectedly.  According to reports, he was in the car driving to pick up his other son, had a heart attack and crashed into a tree.  It sounds like it was instant and pain-free.

I had the good fortune of knowing Harold Salter.  Even though Howard's parents live in Michigan, they'd come to MD often to visit their son, daughter-in-law and grandson.  From time to time, we'd all get together and I got to know what a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather he was.  I always enjoyed our time together.

I am a firm believer that when it is your time to go, there is little you can do to cheat death.  I am not saying that it is a license to do drugs or live dangerously because it wouldn't matter one way or another.  And I am certainly not saying that if given a diagnosis of some kind of disease, you shouldn't fight like hell to recover, but at some point, you've been given a hand to play by G-d, and when the cards are done, your time is up. 

I try to find the good in any situation (no matter how much it sucks) and have come to the following conclusions:

Howard and Matthew were currently up in Michigan and had a wonderful 3 or 4 days visiting with Harold before the tragic event.  This to me is HUGE, as they have some very recent, great memories of their father/grandfather.
My in-laws were not currently on a trip somewhere and had the opportunity to easily leave Baltimore as soon as they heard the news and be a comforting presence for Howard and his family.
No one else was in the car with Harold and he didn't involve any other cars in the accident.
It was quick and hopefully, relatively pain-free.

To my sister-in-law and her family, I will be thinking of you today and extend my deepest sympathies during this difficult time. You and the family are in my thoughts and prayers.  May you remember Harold as the wonderful, caring, loving man that he was.

Once again, we are reminded it can all change on a dime.  Your here one minute, taken in the next.  I try so hard to always tell those around me how much I love them.  Whenever I talk to my family, we always end every call with "I love you". 

And so if your reading this right now, there is a good chance that you are very special to me.  I love that you are in my life and treasure our time together.  I hope I don't take our friendship for granted.  And if I am lucky enough to be related to you, please know that I couldn't ask for a better family.  While I have little in terms of material possessions, it matters more that I am very rich in love, friendship, and family.  Thank you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A water park surprise!

A Certifikid deal came out a few months ago.  Admission for 4 to one of five local water parks, all for $10.  Such a great deal!  Immediately, emails started going back and forth between some of us deciding which water park we wanted to go to and what day would work for all of our schedules.  The coupon specified we could only use it on weekdays, starting at 3:00pm.  We decided to go last Thursday to Pirates Cove Water park in Lorton.

We arrived right at 3:00pm and upon entry was handed 3 tickets.  I asked the guy what it was for and he said, "Starting at 5:00pm, the ticket will get us a hot dog, soda, chips and ice cream."  Wow!  Apparently we picked "Family Fun Night" as our day to go.  This occurs each week, every Thursday through the summer.  Who knew?  What a great surprise and this made the Certifiked deal even sweeter!  Dinner was now taken care of.  In addition, the family fun night included music being played and various games for the kids to play in.  Sam even participated in the air guitar contest. 

I think I was expecting a little more to the water park.  There was one big main structure in the middle of the pool for the kids to play on, with slides and things to climb on.  And there was an infant wading pool with another little slide.  The boys had a blast and didn't stop playing for a second.  Sam was tall enough to stand in the main pool, but I was still nervous about her ability to stay upright in water that went up to her shoulders and held her hand or kept her in sight the whole time. 

We had a great afternoon and after 3.5 hours, I was ready to pack up my kids and head home.  They would've been very happy being there until close (at 7:00pm), but its always better, in my experience, to leave with them wanting more.

While we don't have it on the calendar to go back again this summer, I will definitely go back next year.

Friday, August 5, 2011


I can sum up Summer 2011 in one word, "SWEAT". 

This is the summer I seem to have started sweating and can't stop.  Yuck!  I don't "glisten", "glow" or "perspire" like some people.  I sweat!  There are few things grosser than feeling a drip of wetness start at the top of your back or front and drip all the way down.  And then it repeats over and over until you are soaked. There is only so much protection you can ask from your deodorant.  I am finding the heat unbearable and to make matters worse, I seem to be outdoors much more than I'd like to be. 

With the marathon training well underway, I can't seem to start early enough to escape the extreme sweating that is taking place.  A few weeks ago, we did a 12 mile run, starting at 5:00am.  It was still completely dark out and the temps were already 80 degrees. Oh my!  You can imagine what I looked like 2.5 hours later when the run was over. Fortunately I survived our Saturday runs in June and July and now just need to make it through August. 

The heat wave the D.C. Metro area is experiencing isn't helping the situation.  This past month has officially gone down in the record books as the warmest July on average.  Oy!  Walking from the car to indoors throughout the day has me worn out and gasping for cool air.  The high temps of 98+ degree weather is enough for me to hibernate until Fall.  There are some days that even going to the pool isn't refreshing enough and the water is too warm.  It's much easier to stay indoors where the AC is blowing strong and I can temporarily forget it is 102 degrees outside, with a heat index of 112. I am generally a happy person, but this heat has me becoming miserable.

This Saturday, our schedule has us running 14 miles.  We will be meeting at 4:30am to accomplish this.  The training plan I am following says the long runs should be 90 seconds to 2 minutes per mile slower than normal and to go even slower to safely train when heat and humidity are factors.  I am already going slow; if I go much slower, the heat is really going to catch up to me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two wishes granted continued...


Once we heard that Hollywood Studios does Jedi Training, we knew Ian had to do it.  This would be such an amazing experience for him and the highlight of his summer.  There were many rumors swirling around online about how one gets selected for the Jedi Training.  One of the things we heard is that you show up and get randomly selected out of the line up of kids wanting to participate.  Another thing we read is that one of the best ways to get picked is to be wearing Star Wars clothing gear.  My sister Lori ran out and bought Ian a Star Wars shirt to wear (he had a few at home, but I didn't pack them). We also read that if the guy picking out the kids in line said, "Hey you, in the blue shirt" and your kid was wearing a blue shirt too, to just push him out front.  He wouldn't get rejected.  This sounded quite exciting and I was gearing up for the challenge.  Ian was going to get picked!

I did find out the night before that Hollywood Studios no longer picks the kids randomly and it is now a first come, first serve basis.  We just now needed to make sure we got there first.  The park opened at 9:00am and we planned to get there by 8:30am.  When we arrived, there was already a line waiting to get in.  We went to the far right where Disney employees and their guests go and slowly made our way to about 2/3rds up the line before I didn't feel ok sneaking in front of unsuspecting people who really weren't in an organized line and were all over the place.  They opened the gates at 8:45am and Jim, Ian and I made our way to the waiting area for the ropes to drop and the park to officially open.  We took a guess that we were in the right area.  A sizeable group had already formed and I wedged our way up front to ask the guy on the other side of the rope if we were where we wanted to be and what we should expect once the rope officially dropped.  Everyone who was already waiting, looked at me and said thank you for asking these questions.  There was no signage and no one knew what was going on.  We were all in the dark and once the park officially opened, we knew every second counted. 

Juan explained to us that once they open the park, to follow him and he will take us to the building where the kids sign up for the Jedi Training Academy.  They pick 11 kids for each of the shows and there are about 10 shows throughout the day.  Jim and I really wanted to get Ian in the first show and not be hanging around the park all day long.  Plus, as each hour passed, it was only going to get hotter and hotter.

I told Ian once the crowd got moving to get as close to Juan as possible and not worry about me.  I'll keep up and be right behind him.  There was no organized line behind Juan and the kids and obsessed moms who want their kids to participate in this were having to do a slow run to keep up. It was like a sort of  "Running of the bulls", but with moms and kids instead of bulls. The excitement was building and the lack of line and organization behind Juan was adding to the moment.  We were thisclose to making the Jedi Training Academy a reality!

While in the waiting area, I had made friends with some of the moms whose kids rightfully should've been in the first 3 positions and we were all excited that it looked like our kids would get to be in the first show.  But this one mom and kid came out of the blue and started elbowing and pushing a few moms to get behind her.  It was crazy and I was a little shocked watching it happen.  The mom in front of me started pushing back and then the yelling between the two of them started. This was all while we were still trailing Juan.  Whoa!  I said, "Ladies, really.  We are far up enough that all of our kids will be in the first show.  There is no need to get ugly about it."  The instigator stopped pushing and took her place before me.  I went with the flow and kept moving to keep up with Ian.  We finally made our way to the building to officially sign up and this is where the line got organized and snaked around the ropes.  It was pretty impressive how we managed to get in front of all the families that were in the same spot we were.  Not sure there will be enough spaces to accommodate all these kids, but it didn't matter.  Ian was #5 in line and we were golden.  There would be no wait and Ian was going to be in the first show.  I am not sure who was more excited, me or Ian.

Because they arranged the kids by height, Ian was placed front and center.  Seriously, I was jumping up and down at this point and couldn't stop texting Jeff and Heather with the news, while simultaneously also updating Facebook and taking video and pictures.  This was such a HUGE moment in Ian's life. 

Ian getting dressed in Jedi clothing

Ian learning the offical Jedi moves
Ian is in the front, right-hand side.
Ian practicing his moves and fighting Darth Vader

The group graduating the Jedi Training Academy

The kids were given a certificate for graduating.  Ian immediately said when he gets back home, he was going to give Jedi lessons to his friends.  The whole thing lasted 20 minutes and except for the initial confusion at the beginning on where to go, it was incredibly well done and so much fun.  Mission completed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Two wishes granted

One thing my mom wanted to do for the kids when they were down in Orlando is get Ian into the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios and for Sam to be able to meet the princesses at Magic Kingdom. 

Both events didn't take place until the last 2 days of their trip.  With my stepfather working for Disney, the biggest benefit we take advantage of is free entry into all the Disney parks.  However, this does not allow any other shortcuts to take place and we stand in line or wait to get picked for something like every other Joe Shmoe at the park.


Over the years, we have yet to spend the money on a character breakfast, lunch or dinner for either of the kids.  While this surprises some of my friends, I believe it is a very expensive activity and one that neither of the kids would fully appreciate unless it was a character they were really into.   Sam loves all things princesses and next year when she has turned 4, we will indulge in her getting the Bippity Boppity treatment and do a princess breakfast.  This Summer, my mom thought it would be very cool for Sam to get to see some of the princesses without going to all of the expense.  So we decided on a Tuesday, after dinner and hopefully with the hottest part of the day winding down, we'd go to the Magic Kingdom and find the princesses that you can stand in line to meet.

As we left the restaurant where we had dinner, the sky was full of rain clouds and an ominous shade of gray and black.  It was going to rain and it was going to rain hard!  In the 20 minute car ride to the theme park, the sky lit up over and over again giving us a crazy lightning display.  As Florida is known for its lightning, you can imagine it was pretty spectacular.  The rain started and became blinding rain in a flash.  Did this stop my mom and stepfather from their plans of taking us to Disney?  Noooooooooooooo!  They were fearless and knew all too well, that the rain would stop as quick as it began and the skies would be clear in no time. 

The lighting and rain was the best thing that could've happened.  Tourists everywhere left the park and the temperature outside was now a good 10 degrees cooler.  We got a rockstar parking spot, entered the park and within 15 magically short minutes, Sam was standing in front of 3 of her favorite princesses; Belle, Cinderella, and Aurora. 

As we were walking in, there was a pretty sweet rainbow in the sky greeting us.  Unfortunately this picture doesn't do it justice.

Totally star-struck
It was really neat to see Sam look at the princesses for the first time.  She was in awe and couldn't take her eyes off of them.

For some reason, Sam needed to show Aurora her foot.

Sam is not entirely certain of Cinderella's intentions.

Belle is Sam's all-time favorite and the only
princess she would leave my side for.

And, because anything goes when you are hanging with the grandparents and on vacation, we took advantage of the near-empty park and literally walked-on a few rides after we were done with the princesses.  It wasn't until 10:00pm, that Ian looked at me and said, "are we going to still get ice cream before we leave here?"  "Yes, sure Ian", I answered.  Because what kind of mother would I be to say no to the kids getting ice cream at 10:30pm, a good 3 hours past their bedtime and still a good 30 minutes from actually being in bed?

Stay tuned for how Ian got into the Jedi Training Academy!