Thursday, February 23, 2012

A present for you

Sunday morning found us at a friend's house for the kids to get together & play and for the adults to catch-up & chat.  All the kids were downstairs in the basement and the grown-ups lounging on the couch chilling.  After about 40 minutes, Sam comes up the stairs, with her finger held out high and makes a bee-line for Jeff.

Sam:  "Daddy, daddy, look what I found!"  

Sam is carrying an item, green in nature, bigger than her hand. It is balancing at the end of her finger.  This thing is so large in size, that a fellow friend of the couple we were visiting, could clearly see this thing from way across the family room.

Sam:  "Daddy, look!!"

Sam is now wiping this thing on Jeff's chest.

Me:  "Sam, where did you find this?  Did you find it in your nose?"

Sam shakes her head yes.

Jeff:  "Sam, is this a booger?"

As Sam keeps shaking her head up and down, "Yes!"

We all couldn't stop laughing and only wished we caught this whole scene on video.  It surely would've gone viral.  And for many years, Sam would've been known as 'Booger Girl'.  :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Adding it all up

When I first got married, I delusionally thought Jeff and I would be able to have a date night every Saturday.  In my dream of what it would be like to be married, we'd have a babysitter on retainer and some Saturdays we'd go out with other couples and some Saturdays it would be just Jeff and me.  I had no idea just how much I was in a fantasy world, until I realized how expensive it would be to pull this off.  Not only do Jeff and I not go out every Saturday, we don't even go out one Saturday a month.  More than likely, our need for a babysitter has dwindled down to when we HAVE to have one.  For example, a party invite that is not kid-friendly, an office holiday party, etc.  Getting a babysitter for Jeff and I to go do something just for fun, for us is a luxury indeed.  It involves careful planning; who wants to go to restaurant that ends up having lousy service or a long wait, or a movie that you want to walk out of?

This past Saturday, Jeff surprised me with lining up a babysitter, just because.  I can't remember the last time we went out, just because.  I thought it would be fun if we did something other than dinner and a movie.  We went to a comedy club and saw two very funny comedians.  Well worth the ticket price.  But it all adds up:

Pizza for kids/babysitter = $14
2 Tickets = $50
Parking at garage in D.C. = $22
Food at comedy club (dinner) = $60
Babysitter from 5:15pm to 10:30pm = $60

Total for the evening:  $206. 

Seriously, is this crazy or what?!?!  Why does it have to be so ridiculously expensive to go out for an evening with your husband?  Even if we did the dinner and movie combo, we'd only be saving about $40.

It would be so nice to live close enough to family where babysitting wouldn't be an issue.  I am not a jealous person by nature, but the one area I really wish we could be more like some of the other families we know is when the grandparents live close by.  How nice it must be when they can take the kids for the evening, even just going out for dinner.  By the time we get a babysitter, I feel like it needs to be this great event and well worth the energy and money invested in to our evening out.  Who wants to spend $150+ on a movie that sucks?

Fortunately Jeff and I enjoyed our evening out.  Good thing too, because it will be many, many months before we can do that again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The power of speaking up.

So these swim lessons I keep talking about...let me tell you a thing or two about them.  The place the kids are taking them at is very well run and highly organized.  I was super impressed with the set-up and couldn't ask for a more convenient location or easier parking. 

In previous years, we had Ian doing private lessons at the local university's aquatic center, but at $30 a pop, I could hardly justify or afford spending this for 2 kids at the same time.  We decided to do the group lesson thing at the nearby Swim club.

Sam's group is the basic preschooler 1 class that meets at 10:00am, for 25 minutes.  Ian's group (the infamous level 2) meets at 11:00am, for 30 minutes.  There are approx. 60 kids that span these two hours partaking in various group lessons, at all levels.  And easily 8 teachers and another 6 or 7 assistants that lead the lessons. 

Lo and behold, Ian and Sam got the same exact teacher.  Let's call her Ellie. At first I thought Ellie was great and perfect for Sam.  Sam's class was on the small side and the teacher/assistant to student ratio was amazing.  I couldn't have gotten a better deal than if I paid for Sam to have private lessons. 

By the time Ellie was working with Ian's group, I was highly annoyed by her.  It was embarrassing how she was talking to these 6 and 7 years old kids and the majority of the lesson was spent with the kids doing very little in the water.  You could watch Ellie looking around at everyone and everything but the kids.  You could see her look at the clock on the wall repeatedly.  You could watch her have a side conversation with another teacher/assistant, while the kids did nothing but stand there.  You could see the kids be told to float on their backs, but not offer any assistance with this move.  You could see that minutes would go by with the kids sitting on the side of the pool with only their legs in the water and told to kick.  Really?  Weren't we beyond this already?  Let's help these kids float on their back.  Let's help these kids start to learn strokes.  Let's help these kids learn to breathe with their face in the water.  Ellie was a hot mess and I was not happy.

At the end of the lesson, I approached the Swim Director and voiced my concerns.  She said the first week is one of adjustment for the kids and teachers and to give it a week.  No problem.  I can do that.

One week later, I was ready to jump in the pool and drown this Ellie.  I think you could tell how upset I was - not just at Sam's lessons, but Ian's too.  It was more of the same, but only worse.  This time it took 4 minutes until Sam's class was called in to the water.  THEN Ellie gets out of the pool to gather the necessary tools/toys to use for the class.  WHAT??  Why wouldn't you come to the class prepared!?!?!

With Ian's class, Ellie didn't even look in Ian's direction once!  And her assistant looked like she was too cold to even move in the water.  She stood there with her arms crossed and never moved.  She didn't even get wet.  Nor did she do her job and help the kids. 

You can just imagine my reaction.  The following Tuesday, Sam and I went in person to talk to the swim director.  I told her I gave it a week to see if it got any better and I was ready to pull the kids out of the lessons.  I'd rather lose the money than be aggravated each week.  The swim director offered to switch out their teachers and have someone else teach their class.  Then she made it a point to tell me how qualified all of these teachers are and they all have the same credentials.  Oh and the dad of the little boy in Sam's class (the only other child) LOVES Ellie.  Whatever.  Just as long as my kids don't get her again.

Fast forward  to yesterday -- Sam got a new teacher and assistant. Both were phenomenal.  Sam did triple the amount in yesterday's lesson than both the previous two combined.  And, she jumped out of the water saying, "I want to do that again and again and again!" Music to my ears. 

Ian got a different teacher and assistant too. Same ratio as before (teacher/assistant to kids) and he actually got hands-on help the whole entire time.  He even said his teacher told him he'll be swimming in the level 3 class in no time.  As you know before from earlier blog entries, this made Ian's day. 

From the moment both kids got in the water for their lesson, there was no down-time.  They were doing laps, floating on their back, jumping in, and actually getting a swim lesson. Imagine that.  I was so happy, that yes I was tearing up.  Score one for this mommy!

You know how I know this was the right thing to do?  Because I watched Ellie teach a different class during Sam's time slot.  It was a more advanced preschool class.  One of the mom's from that class looked at me in outrage when Ellie told the kids to put their heads underwater and never told them to close their mouth first.  Apparently her daughter swallowed a huge amount of pool water and wasn't happy.  And then the mom quickly listed everything this Ellie did wrong in her opinion.  Funny enough, it was my same exact list.  I told her I was sorry about the switch and that it happened because of me.  Hopefully this mom will speak up too.

You have to be your child's best advocate.  No one else is going to be.  I am very happy that all is right with the swim lessons.  Because of this experience and how it got the attention it needed, this Swim Club is about to receive a whole lot of business from the Toppall family.  I've booked Ian's birthday party there, going for the big enchilada party package.  Plus, Ian will be doing a few camps there over the summer.  And, lets not forget, the kids will continue taking swim lessons too.  Just as long as we don't get Ellie. 

Friday, February 17, 2012


It's funny how something you think will be easy can become quite difficult, and something that should be difficult can be very easy.  Case in point -- both of these experiences happened to me in the span of 24 hours over one weekend.


I got an email from the DMV alerting me that car was up for renewal on its registration.  I got all excited that I could do this online and promptly filled out the form.  That is until I got to the question asking me for my emissions info.  Uh-oh!  I totally forgot I would need to get the emissions done for the renewal.  It is now 2:00pm on a Saturday and I call the station across the street to find out how late they will be there for emissions testing.  3:30pm was the answer I was given. Cool!  I got in the car and drove to my favorite place to get the car tested.   Upon arrival I saw there were 3 cars in line and the last car had the sign attached to its rear windshield wiper "LAST CAR OF THE DAY".  Yikes.  So I went inside the station and asked if that really was the case or could they fit one more car in.  I told them I only needed the emissions, not the inspection.  Which ended up being a lie, because I am clueless and needed both!  The mechanic was super nice and said yes, they'd be happy to help me.  He comes to the line of cars and puts the "LAST CAR OF THE DAY" sign now on my car.  SWEET!  I am very happy about this and settle in the driver's seat with my kindle and a big cup of tea. 

Not more than 40 minutes later, my car is pulled into the service bay and within 15 minutes, I am back on the road ready to go with my emissions test and inspection completed.  I go home, finish filling out the online renewal form.  In Wednesdays mail, I receive the new stickers to put on my car's license plate.  Seriously, this process could not have gone better. 


My friend (Heather) raves about Redbox and how convenient it is and an all-around awesome service.  Since we do Netflix, there really hasn't been a reason to try Redbox.  The kids and I walked across the street to get some ice cream at Cold Stone.  As we passed by the Redbox machine, Ian notices they have the updated version of the Wii Wipeout game on display.  Ian asked if we could rent it.  "Sure, why not?"  So I put my credit card in the slot and a $2.00 charge later, we now have the Wii Wipeout game for us to play for 24 hours.  The game is due back by 9:00pm the next night.

Ian has a blast playing the game and up until his bedtime the next night, we get our money's worth.  At 8:40pm, I get in the car to drive it across the street and return it.  Upon trying to insert the disc in the return slot, I get a message that says, "Disc can not be returned.  Please call customer service at xxx-xxx-xxxx"

So I call customer service and speak to a woman who tells me that I am getting that error message because the machine is filled to capacity with returned discs and can't hold anymore.  OMG!  Seriously?  She then tells me that I need to drive around until I find a Redbox machine that can accept the disc.  YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and I've got exactly 10 minutes now until the game is considered overdue.  I tell the woman that I will drive to exactly one additional location and then after that, this is her problem, not mine.  I am already thinking I'll put it in my mailbox and mail it to Redbox a la Netflix style.  She then says she will look up Redbox locations in my zip code and direct me to another spot.  2 miles down the road later, I find a new Redbox and successfully return the disc. Just in the nick of time. 

Just goes to show you, you can never judge a book by its cover.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Journal writing

Here's a little chuckle for you today;

Every Monday at school Ian's class writes in their journals what they did over the weekend.  It wasn't until after Ian's first swim lesson was over, when Jeff was helping Ian get out of his wet bathing suit in the Men's locker room, that Ian saw his fellow classmate, Amar.  Amar was taking swim lessons too, just in a different level.

Ian's jounal writing that Monday:

"I saw Amar in the shower."

No mention of the swim lesson. No mention where this shower was located.  Nothing else at all having to do with that Saturday.  Nope.  Just, "I saw Amar in the shower."

Mondays at dinner, I usually ask Ian what he wrote about in his journal.  When he said the above, Jeff and I laughed pretty hard.  We can just imagine what the teacher thought when she read it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A fast one!

Ian feels like he doesn't need swim lessons and can swim as good as the next kid.  I love the self-confidence this kid has, but between me and you, Ian shouldn't be swimming in water deeper than 4 feet.  And even then, I'll feel better knowing a lifeguard is close by.

I told Ian last month, I was signing him and Sam up for lessons.  He said, "That's ok, I don't need them.  I know how to swim."  Yes, this may be true, but you can't swim for more than 7 feet without stopping to stand, catch your breath, take a moment to regroup and then decide to keep going to the other side.  This is not swimming!!  Swimming is being able to tread water, float on your back, do a few strokes, and know how to breathe without stopping.

So I agreed with Ian that maybe he doesn't need the lessons.  I told Ian they will evaluate him at the beginning and decide if lessons are even necessary.  Ian loved hearing this and was certain that once the instructors saw what he was capable of, swim lessons were going to be history!  In actuality, I knew they were going to do evaluations to decide which level was best suited for him.

I wasn't sure if he should be placed in level 2 or level 3 when signing up and said on the registration form it could be either one. I knew he hadn't been in a pool in a few months and was probably a little rusty.  Lo and behold, Ian didn't even place in the upper end of level 2.  Lower level 2 it was. 

On the day of the first lesson, Ian saw my friend Kelly and said, "I may not even need these lessons". He was all excited to get in the pool and show them what he had.  Poor thing didn't even see it coming.  Ian did the lesson and said he will go back.  So this is a good thing.  And a big pat on my back for coming up with this brilliant twist to what could've been a not-so-fun-situation, trying to let Ian know that yes, swim lessons were going to happen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A very close call

The other day the kids and I were leaving the mall and making our way to where the car was parked.  Sam spotted my car and ran up a few feet ahead of us.  Right next to our car, was a car backing out of its spot. 

Before I had time to think, I yelled at the top of my lungs, "STOP!!!!!  SAM!!!!!!!  WATCH OUT!!!!!" 

I actually don't remember even thinking about what to say.  It was all instinct and while yelling it, I ran towards Sam to grab her from being behind this car, which still had its back-up lights on and was still backing out.  Again, another reaction that came very natural and didn't require any fore thought. It totally freaked me out. 

It was insane how close we were to watching Sam get run over.  Fortunately my yelling stopped the driver. And Sam hearing me yell, got scared and turned around to run back to me.  It all went down within 2 seconds, but those 2 seconds felt like 2 minutes of action.  My heart was racing and as I grabbed Sam to do a combination of pulling her away from danger and giving her a hug, I swear I started shaking.

I looked at Ian and he said, "My heart just broke."

I think both Ian and I couldn't believe what was about to happen.  Ian summed up his feelings in 4 words.  It was beautiful, terrifying, and earth-shattering, all in the same moment with those 4 words.

My thoughts exactly Ian.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Swimming with the fishies

And in other news....

I am very pleased to announce that Bubbly and Bubbly remain in good health and continue to thrive living in the Toppall house.

We had a few very scary days (ok, maybe a whole week, possibly 2) when the water got murkier and murkier.  Jeff and I each went into crisis mode trying to figure out what we were doing wrong.  We changed the filter two weeks earlier than needed.  And we kept adding more and more neutralizer to the water (not realizing the other of us was also doing this!).  Finally, like fog rising on cloudy day, the water started clearing up and presto, you can now see the fish clearly.  But for a while there, I would walk by Sam's room frequently and take a look at the aquarium with one eye closed.  I figured if they weren't going to survive, it would be better for me to find them floating belly up than Sam.

The little guys seem happy.  And Sam loves having them under her care and close by.  She is motivated to get dressed faster in the morning and put her pajamas on at night, knowing she can feed them after she is done. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tales from the Crypt

I've been settling in to my new job.  I have to say, it is a bit refreshing to be doing something that doesn't involve kids. Every day I work for The Man is like stringing together a bunch of clues and solving little mysteries.  Most days I leave his place shaking my head on what I was able to accomplish with the very little information I was given.  This job is not for the faint of heart or those who wish for everything to have a sense of order.

For the first 45 minutes or so each time we meet, we spend going over his to-do list.  WHY, OH WHY can't I just get started on completing the list from yesterday?  No, because now the #1s may no longer be a #1.  These items may get demoted to a #3.  And then the other day, I was a given a #Two and a half.  Really.   Then you get something important like make 2 reservations for an upcoming performance and that is given a #3.  Really?  Hello!  This is a show you want to go to.  It is in less than a month.  Let me get you these tickets now!   No, that's not the way it works.  You take care of all the Top Priorities and then the #1s before even thinking of tackling a #2.  At this rate, I'll never get to the #3s.   And each day it starts all over again.

Our conversation the other day:

The Man:  I need you to make this call, email this person, oh and this is a top priority to do this.... and, within the 1st five calls, I want you to get this person on the phone.  A #1 is to find out if this bill is on auto pay.  See if you can locate the back-up list of my cell phone numbers -- not sure where you should look for that.  That is an item for Today.   And here is the fax number for my church. xxx-xxx-xxxx.  In the first 5 calls, we need to contact this person.  Find out if Costco carries the toner I need in the xerox machine.  Need to do a bank wire transfer - How much information can I put in the memo on the transfer?  Get the bank manager on the line.  Need to speak to the manager of Avis in the California location -- that is a Top Priority.  I want to write a letter to the postmaster telling them how pleased I was they found the right address for a letter they forwarded to me.  We need to find out who the postmaster is to send this to.  That is a Top Priority.

Me:  I have a question -- do you want me to put the fax # to the church in your rolodex?

The Man:  No, it's already in there.

Me:  Ok, under what circumstances do you see me needing the fax # to your church?  You don't have a fax machine to fax them anything.

The Man:  You probably don't need the fax # at all.  I just want you to have it.

Me:  Um, Ok.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Adventures are us!

I am absolutely loving this time with Ian.  He is at wonderful age to try new things. Ian's spirit for adventure is at an all-time high.  There have been many things that up until last year, Ian was simply too young to partake.  No more.  For the past several months, I've been getting in some quality one-on-one time with my son while having fun on the weekends.

Ice Sakting!

Looking very serious getting ready for Laser Tag!
Rock Climbing!
Go Ian!
 I look forward to our next adventure...Ian has mentioned wanting to ski.  Maybe next Winter we will make that happen.  Have helmet, will travel.  :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Heard and Observed XXXIII

Sam's bedtime is 7:30pm.  Sometimes even earlier if she is extra cranky as we head into the 7:00pm hour.  The other night, Jeff gave Sam her bath and got her into pajamas.  As he was telling her it was time for her to pick out a book to read, Sam decides to head downstairs to join Ian in playing.

Jeff:  Sam, no. Come back here.  It's time for bed. 


Jeff:  What?


How bizzare!  8:33pm?  What an odd time for her to say. And we've never told her that her bedtime was anything later than 7:30pm.


Sam puts her finger in her ear and pulls out some ear wax.  She looks at it and says, "How did that booger get in there?"


Me:  Ian, tell me my phone number again (testing to make sure he still remembers my cell phone #).

Before Ian can open his mouth to answer, Sam quickly recites the home phone number.

OMG!  This is unbelievable. What a surprise!!  Way to go Sam!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


In my circle of peeps, I am not known for my cooking.  There was an incident back in my single days, when I had to knock on the door of my neighbor (who also happens to be one of my BFFs, Ivy) and figure out what I was doing wrong in making pancakes (from a mix!).

And knowing I was about to get married, my biggest fear was how I'd get dinner on the table every day when I was more than happy to eat popcorn and call it a night.  Jeff is still in shock that in my 30+ years, I never learned how to make a basic grilled cheese sandwhich.

Unfortunately the kids and husband have come to learn that when the smoke detector goes off, it means dinner is done and ready. Scary that no one is worried the house is on fire and should run to safety.  Instead, everyone runs to the table.

Every now and then I hit upon a winner.  A dish so simple and easy to make, that you can't mess it up.  A dish so tasty and mouth watering, that everyone wants seconds and thirds.  A dish that can feed a good number of people, and makes vegetarians and meat-eaters both equally happy.  And most importantly, a dish that can be assembled the night before and cooked right before it will be served.  This dish is good for breakfast, brunch and most definitely entertaining.  Actually, my mom just made it and served it with dinner at a little party she hosted.

I didn't realize how insanely popular my CHEESY EGG CASSEROLE was until last week, when I had not one, but two people request the recipe from me again.  I believe I first debuted this dish about 6 years ago.  Since then I've probably made it for approx. 4 or 5 different groups of people over the years who came to the house for brunch.  Even when I don't make it for several months, I still get requests all the time wanting the recipe.  These people are still remembering how great it was that one time I made it for them.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you all to one of the best recipes I know.  Credit needs to be given to Al Gore, who invented the internet.  heheehheehee.  No seriously, I did a google search one day (many moons ago) and found it online.  It is a favorite recipe of a bed and breakfast in Nacogdoches, Texas; The Haden Edwards Inn.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
One 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
One 4-ounce jar whole pimentos
Combine flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl; add eggs, cottage cheese, chilies, and shredded cheese. Mix well. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 10 x 6 x 2-inch baking dish. Garnish with pimentos. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. This can be prepared the night before and cooked the next morning.

Serves: 6 to 8

Some items to note:  I double the whole thing to make it a little thicker.  Therefore, it needs additional cooking closer to 40 minutes, maybe 45.  Just check it frequently to see if it still looks loose or not.  Also, I cut out using the pimentos.  I think this taste took away from the dish.

Oh and for the record, I make a mean grilled cheese sandwhich now.  :)