Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ian is now officially 7!

Every day I take Ian to school, he opens the car door and bolts for the school's doors.  The staff who helps with the kiss-n-ride all smile when they see Ian coming and give me a nod of the head.  They get a chuckle out of watching Ian doing his best imitation of a speed walk because he isn't allowed to run.  Ian's enthusiasm for first grade never diminished, even slightly.  Ian loves school and would prefer to get there as early as possible.  The few times I made it in to Ian's school during the year, his music teacher, Chinese teacher and reading teacher all voluntarily told me how much they love Ian.  Each one commented how funny Ian is, and without even realizing I was going to be in the school, they all had a story ready to tell to prove their point.

This past year, we finally found a sport that Ian is good at -- gymnastics.  He has a smile on his face all through class and it is actually refreshing to not cringe when watching him trying to participate.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I've become "that mom" who can't take her eyes off their child and whisper to myself cheers and clap from the sidelines when I see him doing well.  I have a feeling that if Ian wanted to, he could go far with this sport.  His upper body strength is phenomenal.

Ian's reading finally took off.  You can now hear Ian reading all over town, every time he sees something written.  I joke that if Ian didn't get even the littlest bit better, his reading skills as they are now, are enough to get him through life.  I never really thought we'd see that day.

For the most part Ian is incredibly easy-going.  The complete opposite of his sister.  He goes with the flow and as long as it makes sense, he is game for anything.  Ian loves to negotiate and all it usually it takes is a Vanilla Bean Frappacino or Josie's Frozen Yogurt to make him happy.  

Ian is still very considerate and thoughtful.  He makes me so proud with his manners and how he behaves not only at home, but other people's houses too.

This past year Ian has really gotten into watching professional sports.  He loves to watch football and Baseball and give us a play-by-play recap of every single play.   We don't have to watch the game when Ian is filling us in every 30 seconds. 

And all on his own, Ian has learned how to take showers and prefers this method (rather than taking a bath) to getting clean each night.  It is a wonderful milestone that I didn't realize how great to have gotten to.  The other thing Ian will do where the bathroom is concerned is to stop going in the women's restroom with me.  I am not sure exactly when this started, but I remember us being at Target and I said to Ian we were going to the bathroom before shopping in the store.  Ian stood firmly outside the door and said he'd wait for us. I felt a little uneasy leaving him by himself, but he was very adamant about not wanting to go in with me.  I gave him a quick speech about not moving one square inch from that spot and to not talk to anyone who looks twice at him.  After that first time, it got a little easier and easier to let him not be tortured in the women's restroom.   Ian has this way of letting us know when he is ready to take something to the next level.  I pride myself on trusting him and letting him have a little more freedom. 

To my enthusiastic, energetic, sharp, super-smart newly 7 year old,  I wish you the happiest of birthdays.  May this year bring you awesome adventures, whimsical moments and endless laughter.  I love you more than you'll ever know.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Party Favor Saga.

Every year I say I am not doing party favors at the kids' birthday parties.  I think this has got to be my least favorite thing about the parties.  I not only stress-out each year trying to come up with useful, fun items to hand out that won't break the bank, but I cringe when the kids come home with a bag of typical party favor type stuff.  Sometimes they really pile up at our house, as the kids can go to anywhere from 1 to 3 parties in a single weekend.  That's a lot of little plastic crap, bouncy balls, candy, bubbles, stickers and tattoos if you ask me.  And for the most part, the kids don't even play with any of it.  As soon as they walk in the door, it becomes my responsibility to find a home for it all. 

Unfortunately for me, all kids LOVE to get a goody bag.  Not sure when this became the rule and not the exception, but the goody bag seems to be a birthday party staple.  I just know that if all the moms banded together and said "Let's stop the madness and end goody bags forever", the kids would get used to it and come to accept it.

I've been trying hard each year now to be "that mom" to start the trend and hope all other moms behind me follow. This is the year I was determined to do it. I even joked that I was going to write on the kids' invitations, "Don't expect a goody bag". But alas, I've chickened out. However, I am getting better and decided to not buy party favors, but make something instead. My frosted sugar cookies are a huge hit every time I've ever made them. Kids and adults all go crazy for them.

For Sam's party, I made "S", dresses, and high heeled shoes cookies and gave everyone a full set in a white paper bag decorated with stickers. For Ian's party, I made "I", airplanes, stars, and circle cookies and gave everyone a full set in a white paper bag decorated with stickers. It was easy and I think the kids liked it.  Ian and Sam helped me every step of the way, from making the cookie dough, rolling it out, using the cookie cutters, and finally, frosting them.  They love to help me bake.

Kudos to my family who walked in the house Friday night, expecting dinner to be ready, and found Ian, Sam and me in the midst of frosting 7 dozen cookies.  Without batting an eye, they jumped right in and helped us finish them.

I am hoping that by next year, Ian will no longer be having big birthday parties (again, another idea I say we are going to do each year and I fail miserably at) and the need for goody bags goes away.  Sam still has a few more years of parties coming her way.  Maybe this cookie idea will be our thing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This is the big-time, baby!

Since Ian was 5 years old, I told him every time we went to buy him sneakers, we were going to take the plunge and get shoes with laces.  No more going for what is the easiest for both of us and having velcro at your fingertips.  I figured the only was he going to learn how to tie his shoes is if he had to in order to wear them. 
It only took me 2 years to make good on my threat. The time finally came to buy shoes again and we didn't take the easy way out.  Score one for mommy!  We headed into Stride Rite and I told Ian he could pick any pair of sneakers he wanted, as long as they had laces.  To my surprise, Ian picked these sneakers in the photo.  Ian chose a pair of Nike's.  Wow!  How old school!  I remember wearing Nike's growing up.  With a big smile on my face, I said, "Yes!".

So Jeff is in charge of teaching Ian how to tie his shoes.  Jeff wanted to start right away, but Ian requested he hold off learning until the weekend.  At least we've got the shoes purchased, right?  Baby steps.  But these baby steps come in a size 12.5  :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

One Beautiful Day.

Saturday, May 19:

We headed to one of our most favorite spots in the Washington, D.C. Metro area...Gravelly Point.  It is located next to Reagan National Airport and has one side bordering the landing strip of the airport and another side bordering the water of the Potomac.  On a sunny, beautiful day, there are few places our Toppall team enjoys more than being in the shade of this park.

We packed up our stuff and headed to the park.  We didn't pack for the 2 to 3 hours we expected to hang out, but packed like we were never coming back.  That's the way we roll.  It is a bit obnoxious, but we are ready for any adventure that comes our way.

We had the following:

Picnic Blanket
Hats for everyone
Bug spray
2 soccer balls - one for Ian, a pink princess one for Sam
Assorted balls to throw
2 gloves - one for Ian, one for Jeff
Cooler - filled with snacks, fruit and drinks
Barbie Wii game instruction book - Sam wanted to bring this.
Change of clothes for Sam (you know, just in case)
Pull-ups, Wipes
Ian's bike
Sam's tricycle
Helmets for each kid
Nail polish, nail polish remover - Sam wanted me to do her nails
Sunglasses for everyone
Robyn's kindle
2 Brookstone portable, battery-operated fans - you know, in case we get hot.
Band-aids, neosporin

Yep, that about sums up our list.  Believe it or not, we used it all. Well, except for my kindle.  That got utilized by being a hard, flat surface for me to paint Sam's nails.  Sam even "read" her Barbie Wii game instruction book.  It was a gorgeous day and we had a great time.  The kids played ball, rode their bikes on the trail, climbed trees, and I did Sam's nails.  Ian even made a new friend Riley, who hit a few baseballs together.  And of course, every 10 minutes or so, we looked up and watched planes go over our heads, very, very low as it took off into the big, blue, sun-shiny sky.

Some favorite pics:

Ian and Sam doing a great job, biking and staying in their lane.

 Two funny moments:

Sam kept asking, "Why do we have so much stuff?!?!?"  "I just don't understand why we have so much stuff."

Ian, at one point asked, "Do you think they have wifi out here?" 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fabulously Four!

Somewhere in the last 4 months, I got my daughter back. She became human again and the little girl I knew that was buried deep within her, came to the surface.

Sam is feisty, strong-willed, and loud, but under it all, it is very easy to love her and she how amazingly sweet she is.  She loves to be funny, silly and will totally do things to annoy her brother, because she knows exactly which buttons to push.

Every day, Sam wakes up and asks, "What do I have going on today?"  If I only answer "school", she looks disappointed.  Her favorite day of the week is Wednesdays when she has school, music class and dance class.  Bonus if we do Ledo's afterwards with everyone.  Sam loves her activities and the more I have her scheduled in, the better. 

Sam is a born "mother" and loves to take care of us.  Whether it is helping to make dinner, pick out her brother's clothes, or make sure we are all where we are supposed to be, Sam is sometimes running our house.  I firmly believe she has no idea that she is the younger sibling and feels like Ian's equal.  To her, everything must be fair and square.  She loves to play Ian's favorite games and apps, even though she can't read them yet. 

Actually, not everything has to be fair and square.  Sam plays by her own set of rules and will create whatever game she wants that makes her the winner.  Lately Jeff, Sam and Ian have been playing ball outside.  Sam will call the shots, run around with the ball, while Jeff and Ian get to watch.  After a long sprint to the other side of the field, Sam will yell "I won! I won!".  Poor Jeff and Ian never even got to chance to touch the ball.  It wasn't in Sam's plans to let them have a chance with it.  Fortunately for Sam, Jeff and Ian are quite amused watching Sam have fun winning, each and every single time. And then, they'll shake their heads with wonderment, exclaiming, "What was that?!!?  I didn't even understand the rules."

Sam's aptitude for technology is through the roof.  She can work any gadget with the best of them.  She absolutely loves to play her favorite songs over and over again.  Most of the week, you can catch her dancing around the house, practicing her moves from dance class. 

Sam's temper tantrums are based on some perceived emotional distress that we usually can't figure out what got her so upset.  She'll storm up to her room, slam the door shut, bury her head in her pillow and cry, "THAT'S NOT FAIR".  It is pretty funny and I am sure she would be even more upset with us if she knew we were laughing.  After a few minutes, she'll calm herself down and re-emerge downstairs to be with the rest of us, or I'll find her quietly playing with her dollhouse in her room.  There have been many a days, these past months, when she'll have had enough and put herself to bed, all on her own and usually a good hour before her usual bedtime.

Sam picks out all her own clothing and decides what she wants to wear.  Sometimes she'll say she loves it and has to have it in the store, only to find out that when we've brought the outfit home, she wants nothing to do with it.  Oh joy!  I've learned very quickly to keep the receipt close by and the tags on it until she is literally in the clothing.  Some days she is okay with ruffles, but then that will change for no reason.  Other days she likes zippers or buttons, but that can change just as easily too.  If the clothing has anything that looks itchy, you can pretty much forget it.  Sometimes I get pleasantly surprised when she wants to wear a t-shirt and leggings.  Usually she'll only wear dresses or skirts.  And then of course, there are tons of days when she'll have one outfit on and then 10 minutes later she is ready to change her clothes into something else. 

Sam loves her friends.  She is incredibly social and gets very excited about being with them.  Whenever she talks about her best buds from preschool, Sam will start every sentence with "You know, my friend Ruby from preschool"..., or, "You know, my friend Jacob from preschool...".  It is really cute.  Believe me, she only has one friend named, friend named, Jacob, etc.

One of Sam's favorite activities is to snuggle.  Curling up on the couch and just cuddling.  It is very sweet and a rare moment when Sam is both quiet and still at the same time.  Another thing she loves to do is to memorize all her favorite books.  Pick out any Pinkalicious book and Sam can recite it pretty much word for word from memory.  It is so cute to hear her tell the story.  Each page gets its own unique little spin. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to instantly fall in love with her. 

Over the past year, we've had more than our share of challenging times. And I am certain the road ahead is still a long one until we are no longer under a therapist's or pediatric GI dr's care.  But I love my little girl so much and wouldn't trade one day for what we have now.  Being around her brings me intense joy.  I love that she will now freely give me hugs, tell me she loves me or misses me if I've gone away.  Jeff says she is exactly like me, but I don't see it. 

Happy 4th birthday to my spunky, beautiful, spirited, outgoing, fearless, delightful daughter.  You keep me on my toes and help me to appreciate the good times. I love you so much and wish a year filled with many giggles, fun surprises and enchanting experiences.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


It's a sad day.  I've been in a bit of a funk since the email arrived in my inbox.  Kodak Gallery has officially been bought out by Shutterfly.  Wow.  I know their camera business wasn't doing well, but I really thought that was extremely profitable and able to sustain life beyond the main business unit.  Wasn't I single-handedly keeping them in business each year? 

Since Ian was born, I've sent out online pictures to a group of people each and every month.  This has been going on for 7 years!  Those emails with the photos posted, trigger at least four people I know who buy prints from them.  Not to mention, at the end of every May, I spend quite a bit of money on photo books for each of the kids that chronicles their year from birthday to birthday.  We're talking like 80 page photo books for each of them.  And, let's not forget the small mini photo books I do for each of them that is just their birthday parties.

But maybe I was the only one.  Maybe the competition was too tough and there are too many other players in the photo sharing war. 

As with all technology, I will need to adapt and change to this different website.  I've been told all my photos and albums will seamlessly switch to Shutterfly.  But any photo books or projects I've created will not make the move.  The only saving grace is that the timing could not be more perfect for me.  I build the kids' photo books each month.  Then when their birthdays come in May, it's very easy to add one last picture of them on their actual birthday and order the book.  Fortunately, I am not going to have to recreate the my photo books on Shutterfly.  I have until July 2nd to put the order in for these books.  And I can start the new books for next year on Shutterfly without losing any work. 

It's almost like the powers that be saw my activity each year and made this buy-out just a little bit easier on me.  Hmmm, maybe I was the only one on their site.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Too funny not to share!

If I ever need a quick pick-me-up, all I have to do is think back to the events that happened on Friday, May 18th.

I had just taken the full bag of trash out of our kitchen trash can, which by the way, looks exactly like this one pictured on the left, when Ian comes along and throws away a food wrapper. I hadn't had a chance yet to put in a new bag.  Ian realized too late that the wrapper went in an empty can.

I said, "Ian, stay there for a second and you can help me get the wrapper back out."  Ian waited until I came back in the house from taking the trash out.  In a spur-of-a-moment-fun move, I picked Ian up, turned him upside down and lowered him in the trash can, head first, to retrieve the wrapper.  Ian grabbed the wrapper and I began to pull him back out.  Ian was almost completely free of the trash can, when the wrapper fell out of his hands and ended back at the bottom of the can.  I am still holding onto Ian this whole time and feel that I can adequately lower him back in the trash can again, head first.  Ha!  I totally misjudged how much Ian weighs and how heavy he was feeling in my hands.  Yeah, you know where this is going.  I dropped him!  Head first into the trash can.  Only from the knees to his feet were visible.

When I started laughing at what happened, I lost all my strength and couldn't even budge Ian to get him back out.  I was as weak as a wet noodle.  Of course, this made me laugh even harder.  Fortunately, I could hear laughing coming from inside the big metal cylinder and I knew Ian wasn't hurt. 

I had no other option and needed to turn the trash can on its side so Ian could get free.  Once he crawled out, we had another good laugh,  Fortunately, he was able to grab the wrapper with him this time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A little balance

I am now going on 5 months working for The Man.  To my surprise, I've gotten into a groove and am quite happy with our arrangement.  I have amazing flexibility with the days and hours I work and have even started to grow fond of this crazy guy.  His mind is as sharp as a tack and I have to respect that.  Although he is quick to anger and get frustrated, not to mention is very disorganized, he is on top of things.  At 75, The Man is incredibly active and gets around. 

A large portion of my time is being utilized contacting and writing people all over the country with his latest complaints.  The Man knows how to work the system.  He takes pleasure in finding something wrong with whatever business he has used and makes a complaint.  A not to just one person, but a whole string of people associated with the business, all the way on up to the President/CEO in charge.  I believe The Man wishes for something to go askew just so he can complain about it.  His big thing is trying to get reimbursed for whatever it was he just paid for. And if they won't refund his money, then he'd like a free week of a rental car, or a hotel stay, or tickets to the theatre, etc. 

I find the whole thing very funny.  I've spoken to more Secretary's to the President than I can count.  These (mostly) women are very nice and want to do whatever they can to fix the situation and make The Man happy again.  Because if it gets to their boss (the President), then they will be told to make him happy any way.  Once we've gotten a phone number for the secretary and a name, we put it in his rolodex for future use.  When it comes time to patronize their business again (Avis, American Airlines, Hilton, etc), he's already established a relationship with them and he goes right to the top for reservations to be made and to be taken care of.  You got to admit, he has this system perfected.

After working for The Man, on average 6 to 8 hours a week, I feel the need to do the complete opposite and give a little balance to the world.  Don't get me wrong, if I feel I've been given lousy service, I will most definitely speak-up, but I am not going out of my way to look for it.  I am more aware now of fantastic customer service and am doing my best to let the powers that be know, they've got a great employee representing their business.  For example, we went to Cheff Geoff's on a Saturday night a few weeks ago.  It was a pretty big party (8 people for the reservations and then an extra 2 people surprised us and sat at the table with us).  The service was impeccable and the waiter did a great job taking care of us.  I had made the reservation on Open and was given the opportunity to review the restaurant after our visit.  Of course, I was going to give it glowing remarks and make sure that they knew our waiter and the food was top notch.

In my opinion, you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  I don't know if The Man has always been like this, but I do think its a game to him.  Fortunately, I'm around to give all his complaining a little nicer edge to it.  After all, it's me making the phone calls on his behalf.  They don't get transferred to speak to The Man until I've given them a quick rundown of what is going on.  The Man is lucky to have me.  :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Love you like a love song, baby

Sam has taken to pop music like a fish takes to water.  It's nice really, that we can both listen to the radio and it's grown-up music.  No more Wiggles CDs for us!

Sam has become obsessed with the song, "Love you like a love song" by Selena Gomez.  It's a catchy tune, I'll give you that.  But after listening to it at least 10 times a day, if not more, you become ready for something else.  Not Sam!  She has learned how to queue the song on my iPhone and her iPad. And she knows how to play it again and again and again. 

The other day, while driving in the car, Sam asked if she could play the song on my iPhone.  I said ok and handed her my phone.  She starts playing the song and within 1 minute, I realize all 3 of us are singing along.  And not quietly either!  Ian, Sam and I are belting out this tune like we are auditioning for American Idol. Without wanting it to happen, somewhere along the way, Ian and I have all the words memorized. 

Then Sam decides to add a dash of annoying to our fun sing-a-long and starts playing the song over again, after it gets about 1/2 way through playing.  I don't think Ian and I even realized what was happening.  But we'd start off singing, then she'd hit the play button again and we'd start singing the song over again.  We are so conditioned to hearing this song play, I am pretty sure we didn't realize what she was doing.  I know it took me about 10 minutes before I realized it. 

I sometimes go to sleep at night hearing this song play in my head.  Sam also likes Kelly Clarkson's music a lot too.  But it will take a pretty powerful new song to get "Love you like a love song" to become old news.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pet Peeve

Yes, I know this is very minor in the big scheme of things.  I get that.  And I realize that nothing will change, at all, by my writing this.  But I will feel much better writing and getting it out there.

First I must stress that whoever is reading this, IT IS NOT YOU who I am talking about.  Really!  I promise you that YOU are not at which my angst is intended.  I have a pretty good idea of who reads my blog (even if it is on a very sporadic basis) and these aren't the individuals that are guilty.

Ok, enough with the build-up.  What is my pet peeve, you ask?  I am frustrated when I write emails or send snail mail and I don't get any kind of reply.  Nada, zip, zilch, nothing.  No kind of acknowledgement in the least.  How do I even know it made it to its destination?  How do I know that you received it and read it? 

It is very frustrating and I am resetting my expectations.  I no longer have a desire to be helpful.  I no longer want to go out of my way and reply with as much information as possible. And dropping a card or something extra in the mail is not going to occur!  I will keep it short and sweet and get on with my day.  Why bother!??! 

I realize we all are busy, and I am not looking for a huge novel written back to me.  Just a quick two word acknowledgement "Got it".  Or even one word if two are too many, "Thanks".  will suffice.

Is it really that hard to be considerate?   I don't think so.  But maybe my breed is the rare kind that feels these kind of manners are necessary.  With all this technology we have at our fingertips, texting, email, phone are all reasonable ways to communicate.  It is so easy to reach out.  I am not sure why more people don't respond.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Life Lessons

I tell Ian all the time, a job worth doing, is worth doing well.  No matter how insignificant or small the job seems to be, give it your all and do the very best you can. 

A great example of this has been put in action every time we are in the car driving.  With the warmer weather, high schools are doing car wash fundraisers at gas stations all over town.  The kids lined up on the side of the road, holding signs and promoting the car wash drive home the message I am conveying to Ian. 

We've seen the gamut; teenagers looking lifeless, barely holding their signs up and even sitting down on the curb, not caring if they make eye contact with the cars passing by.  And then just a mile or two down the road, we'll see teenagers promoting another car wash, really getting into the spirit of it and doing a fantastic job; waving their signs high in the air, dancing back and forth, and cheering for drivers to pull in and get their car washed. 

I ask Ian each time we see kids doing a car wash.  What do you think of the job their doing?  Would you take your car to their car wash?  Do you think they'll get a lot of business this way?

It's been fun having these conversations with Ian.  And by default, Sam is getting an earful too.  It is just a matter of time before Sam tells these teenagers the kind of job they're doing.  She knows how to work her window and is not afraid of to use it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Perfectly Powerful in Pink

I may have been the one out there walking, but I couldn't have done it without you.  Each step I took, some more painfully than others, I did it with you in mind.  Yes, you!  For you helped me get to the start line.  You believed in me and knew what an amazing cause this was. 
Because of all of you, I was able to raise more than $2,500.00 for breast cancer research, finding a cure, prevention, and making treatment available for everyone, regardless of income and/or being under-insured.  I am very happy to report that among the Washington, D.C.area Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, more than $5 million dollars was raised!  And the best news is that the majority of the money stays locally.

It was an amazing weekend.  I thank all of you so very much for making it possible for me to participate.  The minimum I needed to fundraise was $1,800.  I knocked that out of the ballpark by bringing in more than $700 more.  Woo-hoo!  I am so proud and grateful for all your support. 

It was a crazy emotional journey for me.  Listening to everyone's stories, seeing who came out to support, cheer and thank us for walking and remembering my Grandmother and the fight she gave and lost, had me on the verge of tears for 2 days straight.  Fortunately, I was walking with a fabulous group of women and the tears and laughter came and went easily for me.

A picture is worth a 1,000 words.  Please enjoy the highlights of my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer adventure through these photos.

At the opening ceremony.  Moments before we started walking.  This is The Rack Pack. 

This fireman spoke at the opening ceremonies. He had 3 sisters all diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the same time. Within 2 years he lost all 3 sisters. There wasn't a dry eye listening to his and the other stories. The fireman kept popping up though out the route to cheer us on.

Our first step!

The halfway point on Day 1.  13.1 miles done!

The woman in the wheel chair is an 18 month survivor.  When we came upon her, her friend was pushing her uphill.  How could you not stop to help push?!?!  We took turns pushing her a few miles to the next rest stop. 

I love this picture!!  After two days together, we started getting very loopy.  Anna wanted us to follow the rules and wait our turn to cross the street.  Susanne and I had other ideas to keep going.  We used the extra time waiting for the light (again!) taking this photo.

Waiting to start walking on the morning of Day 2.  We've gotten very little sleep, we are sore and it is drizzling outside.  Not a fun combo.  But we still manage to have smiles on our faces.

At the finish line.  We did it and we are proud!

Other highlights:

It was Amy's 35th birthday on Saturday.  We sang her "Happy Birthday" every time we hit a new mile.  Yes, 26 times!  Plus an extra at the restaurant that night.  We had reservations at Cheff Geoff's for her birthday dinner.    What a fantastic meal and a great place to celebrate a special occasion.  Out of the blue, Amy's parents come from the other room in the restaurant and surprise her and her sister (who was also walking).  Both sister's had no idea that they were in town.  It was a fabulous surprise and so wonderful to be a part of.  Amy's parents are great!!!  I love how close this family is. I want to have the same kind of relationship and surprise my kids when they least expect it and have it be a good thing.
One of the funniest moments came, at the beginning of day 2, when we started chatting with a woman who was not happy.  She told us that she was upset with her team.  They made fun of her for walking so slow and pretty much left her behind to walk on her own.  She said this was one of the worst days of her life.  I tried to friend her and said she could walk with us.  As we went from one block to another, I said to her, "I think it is rotten that your team dissed you.  Just so you know, we would never do that."  Then Anna and Susanne quickly listed all the people we had left behind up to this point.  It turned out, that yes, we were capable of that.  Then I said, "But we aren't The Mean Girls".  At which point, Anna said, "Well, yes, we are Mean Girls."  We were literally doubled-over laughing and walking at the same time.  It was hilarious.  Within the next 5 minutes, this new girl we met, took off and never looked back.  It was no big loss.  She was very whiny as it was.

Susanne's flourless peanut butter cookies literally saved my life.  She made a batch to bring on the walk with us.  I was told in advance by the Avon people that I would have to transport my own food because they won't have gluten-free options.  I was very unprepared for how true this statement was.  It was quite pathetic how little I was able to eat of the food they provided.  It pretty much came down to fruit.  Even the chips they offered (and can usually be counted on to be gluten-free) was Sun Chips and had wheat in them.  I had packed a few things for me to eat, but it wasn't nearly enough and I ended up feeling very lightheaded on Saturday, around the halfway point.  The heat was unbearable and my heart started racing.  Fortunately Susanne's cookies were available and perfect for a quick energy boost.  Thank G-d she made them or I have a feeling the weekend would have had a very different ending for me.

I called it a day and decided to get swept to the Wellness Village.  While sitting on the bus, the woman next to me asked if I had any Alleeve on me.  I said, "Yes, do you need some?"  She replied back, "No, it looks like you do." 

I am so blessed to have been able to do the walk with these women.  They are powerful, brilliant, and beautiful on the inside and out.  This weekend, along with the 60 mile-3 day walk I did back in 2001, will stand out to be some of the most rewarding in my life.  Together, we can accomplish anything.  My hope is that by the time Samantha is old enough to do a walk like this, it won't be necessary. 

Again, thank you for making this possible.  And, a big shout-out to my husband, who yet again, did a fantastic job holding down the fort with the kids, while I did my own thing.  You had me at hello.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Little People

Jeff and I have been walking around the house the last couple of weeks in shock.  We can't believe, at the end of this month, that Ian is going to turn 7 and Sam is going to be 4.   Seriously, where has the time gone?  It seems like only yesterday we were bringing a 5 pound, little baby girl home from the hospital and introducing her to her big brother.  Our kids are no longer babies or even toddlers for that matter.  These little people are full-fledged children. 

You get so caught up in the day-to-day that you don't realize another year has gone by.  And another, and another.  Before you know it, you are now parents to a 7 year old and 4 year old.  Absolutely crazy!  Our two kids couldn't be more different from each other.  Seeing their personalities develop and who they take after has been highly entertaining.  What fascinating little people we get to love and adore!

Each year, we've been fortunate to do more with the kids as they are able to experience new things and explore new interests.  Seeing life through their eyes is never dull and boring.  I absolutely treasure the good times and patiently wait out the more challenging times knowing it is just a stage.

Having children is a blessing.  And being parents to Ian and Sam are two blessings I thank G-d for every day.  Ages 4 and 7?  I'm ready for you.  Let me just enjoy the rest of the month of them being 3 and 6 first.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The art of being Subtle.

I had a mommy friend ask me if Ian, without being obvious, could provide a little confidence-booster to her son about an extra-curricular activity he does each week.  Her son was questioning his participation and she knew that if Ian just mentioned it casually, that he looked like he was having fun and was doing a good job, it would be enough to keep his spirits up to continue.  Her son David looks up to Ian (who is a year older) and it would go far if Ian mentioned it in passing.

On the way to our activity, I asked Ian if he knew what the word "subtle" meant.  Ian said no, and I then took about 15 minutes to explain it and how sometimes being subtle can work to your advantage.  After Ian got the gist of what it meant, I was waiting for him to ask me what I wanted him to do that required him to be subtle.  Funny enough, Ian never asked.  I then explained to Ian what I hoped he would say to David (subtly) and help him feel better about participating in the activity we were going to.

Very quickly Ian replied:

Ian:  "But I've never watched David play.  Why would I say that to him?  Why do you want me to lie?"

Uh-oh!  Good point, Ian.

Me:  You're right Ian.  Don't lie.  Don't say anything.  Please forget we even had this conversation."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Apps R Us!

Yes, we've become those parents.  You know, the obnoxious ones that give their kids expensive electronics way before they should be given.  It all started with a free iPod Touch, sent accidentally from Amazon about 4 years ago, and has grown since then innocently enough to two iPad 2's, one for each child.  While it doesn't seem right that a 3 year old has her own iPad, while many adults (including me!) still want one, it was the best decision for us as family. Keeping peace and harmony among our kids is key.  And with all the traveling we have coming up, it made sense for the kids to have something that would have a long battery life and provide multiple ways to entertain them in one convenient package.  You really can't beat the ability to watch movies, videos, and play games/apps.

I am still in awe at how our soon-to-be-four-year old can operate the iPad with the best of them.  To her, this kind of technology has always existed and no learning curve was needed.  She plays her favorite songs while maneuvering between apps and games with a quick touch of her finger. 

Sam and Ian know all about the App Store.  It's quite scary how quickly the realized there was a whole world of new games and apps to explore.  It seemed like every 10 minutes I was being asked by one child or the other to put in my pin number and approve a download of another game.  I'd do a quick search and make sure it was age appropriate (no violence! and hopefully, educational) and let them have it.

After a few weeks of this, it was getting ridiculous and I decided to put my foot down.  No new downloads for a while.  Enjoy what you have! 

Me:  Ian and Sam, really, you both have tons of games and apps.  Stop looking for something new to get.  Let's give it a rest for a few weeks, at least.

Sam:  Oh, I don't want anything new.  I am very happy with what I have.  I REALLY don't need a new game.

Me:  Good for you, Sam.

Sam:  I am just going to see what is in the app store.  But I don't need anything.

Me:  Ok, Sam.  Fine.

Sam (bringing the App store up on her iPad):  Mom, do you think you could put in the word "girls" in the search and see what comes up?  I just want to see what is there.  I don't need anything.

Me:  sigh, Ok.

Sam:  Oh, this one looks good.  And this one looks interesting.  Ohhhh, I like the way this one looks.   I bet this one is fun.

Really, Sam!?!?!  Why are you tempting yourself like this?  But, believe it or not, she didn't ask me for one single game.  :)

One reason that Jeff and I aren't very concerned about the kids having their own iPads is because the majority of what they do on it is very educational.  Whether giving them life skills like thinking through strategies or learning math, geography or reading, it is much better than them watching tv.

A favorite game Ian and Sam both like to play is "Stack the States".  While Sam can't read what the question is, she is getting ridiculously good at identifying the different states (either by name or shape) and getting a sense of how big the state is relative to the rest of the country.   I was watching over her shoulder one day and observing Sam playing.

The game asks a question about a particular state and will give you 4 choices to chose from.  If you get the question wrong, the other 3 stares will disappear and the correct state will stay on the screen for an extra couple of seconds so that you can learn the right answer.  Sam, unable to read the question, picked what she thought was the right answer.  When she got it wrong, the correct state was still on the screen.  Sam, with an exasperated tone to her voice said, "OOOOOOOH, KENTUCKY".  And yes, the answer was Kentucky.  It was so adorable. 

Yes, I am in awe how much these kids know at such a young age.  It is a much different world that I had growing up. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Humor even when sick

About a week and a half ago, I got sick.  A nasty cold came out of the blue and did me in.  However, since my position of CEO of Ian Industries does not offer sick leave, I plowed through it and managed to keep up with all the plans we had.  Jeff and I continued to divide and conquer and I never missed a beat doing everything written on the calendar.  However, my voice did take a beating and before I knew it, I lost it completely.  I am sure I sounded like someone was torturing me every time I opened my mouth.

Two funny moments stood out during my week of walking around in a fog, wishing a big mac truck would just do me in and put me out of my misery.

1. The kids in Ian's class get to report on Good News/ Bad News each morning if they have something to share.  The following conversation happened during the height of my sickness:

Ian:  I've got Good News/ Bad News to report on!!

Me (in a very raspy, hard to hear squeak):  What?

Ian:  My mom lost her voice!!

Me (while my voice is going in and out of being audible):  Which is that, the good news or the bad news?

Ian:  Both!!

2. While driving in the car one afternoon with both kids, my head was pounding. It felt heavier than a 15 pound bowling ball and I wasn't sure I was going to live through the next hour with how much pressure had built from the neck up.  The kids incessant chattering and asking a gazillion questions was doing me in.  I needed to think of something quick to bring silence to the car.  I pulled out a gem from my childhood days and said, "We are going to have silence contest.  The first one to talk loses.  Let's see if we can make it all the way home and we will all be winners." 

Sam quickly asked if sneezing and coughing count.  I replied back, "No, if you need to cough or sneeze, that is ok.".

Me:  Ok, on your mark, get set, go!

Sam:  Fake cough, fake sneeze OVER AND OVER AGAIN! 

Oh my!  It did take my mind off my pounding head temporarily, while I chuckled to myself on Sam finding a loophole and playing it for all it was worth.  Got to give her credit, she is clever.