Friday, August 31, 2012

Pool for one.

Strangest feeling in the world is showing up to the pool by myself.  This has been my hang out each afternoon -- as soon as General Hospital is over and until the time Jeff comes home at 6:05pm, I can be found lounging on a pool chair, reading my kindle. 

It's been a bittersweet week.  On one hand, I've seriously enjoyed not having to look after anyone and do as I please.  On the other hand, it has been hard not having Ian and Sam home with me.  The house is VERY quiet, even if all the tvs are on.  I greatly miss them and feel like a big part of me is not complete.  I feel selfish that I have all this time to myself.  But then I remember how much I need a break. 

Every day my to-do list seems to take up a big part of the morning.  I've been able to volunteer at Ian's school, set-up a chore chart (oh boy, the kids are going to love this!- said very sarcastically), drop off Jeff's dry cleaning, bring in his pants to get fixed, get to Costco, get a haircut, be home for the Orkin guy and so on.  I could make phone calls, research things, and write emails in peace. One of the best things was going to Target and not having a set time I needed to be out of the store.  Wowee!  And I got the whole house clean on my schedule when I wanted to do it, rather than squeezing it in, in between activities. 

And remember how last year at Ian's Open House orientation (Sam at her worst - click here if you need to be reminded just how bad it was) I vowed I would never do that again?  Guess what?  This year I got to go by myself.  Yeah, it sucks that Ian couldn't meet his teacher in advance of the first day of school, but for all concerned it was best the kids were in FL.  A repeat performance was not going to happen!

Each day, I make sure to have things wrapped up by 3:00pm.  That was my time to stop being so productive.  Sitting on the couch watching General Hospital was my reward, followed by a trip to the pool.  It has been devine.  I am making sure I rest up for the craziness the new school year is about to bring. 

Tomorrow, I fly in the morning to go get the kids.  My plane lands at 11:00am.  And at 6:00pm, the three of us are on a flight headed back home.  This is the last hurdle.  Flying with Sam.  I am coming armed with some new coloring/activity books for the flight.  My friend Heather came up with a great idea.  When we get to the airport, let Sam (and Ian) pick out 3 pieces of candy.  Every 30 minutes when airborne, give her one of her selections to eat.  And whatever I do, don't say no.  No matter how oversized, gigantic, sugar-high inducing her choice is, let her get it. And if she tries to negotiate and want 4 pieces instead of 3, be okay with that.  And then Heather added in for good measure, if after 20 minutes Sam is ready for her next piece, be okay with that too and don't make her wait an additional 10 minutes.  Heather figures that at some point, Sam will be so sick from the candy she won't want to finish all she picked out, but she will be a good girl for the flight.  I have a feeling I will have her throwing up within 1 hour 10 minutes of the 2 hour flight.   But I am game for anything and will give it a try.

We will start off the flight with dinner.  Since the flight is at 6:00pm, I figure the fast food take-out chicken nuggets (complete with fries!) I bring on board will buy me at least 20 minutes of quiet before I have to start hitting the candy stash.

As always, my number one goal is to not make the news or get thrown off the plane.  Ah, I can't wait for the day when my aspirations are a little less ambitious. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

THE Bet!

Ever since I discovered the tv show "Breaking Bad" I can't stop thinking about it.  Going from watching 48 shows as fast as I could to waiting now 7 full days for each new episode is an exercise in patience, one that I am not very good at.  Man, this show is good!  And I am not the only one who thinks so.  Around the time I discovered it, so many of my facebook friends did too.  It was really neat for us all to compare notes on which season we were in the middle of streaming and devouring.  Or, you'd hear bits and pieces of people talking about it and how crazy-insane-good this series is.  Just when you think it can't get any crazier, something happens that blows your mind.

I know Jeff appreciates quality television and would enjoy watching this show as much as I have.  And he too has been around a completely different crowd than my own, all commenting the same thing...."You've got to watch this!!"  Television doesn't get any better than this.

I was firmly convinced that once Jeff watched the first 3 episodes, he'd be hooked like I was and not be able to walk away.  I was so certain of this, that I made a bet with him over it.

ME:  I challenge you to watch the first 3 episodes of "Breaking Bad" and not feel the need to watch the next episode.

JEFF:  What will I get out of it if I do?

ME:  2 hours of really great television.

JEFF:  That's not enough.

ME:  Ok, then, what if I give up using the Amex card for the month of September?

JEFF:  Really?  You'll go without using the credit card for 30 days? 

ME:  Yes.  Not a problem.

JEFF:  How will you pay for things?

ME:  I will only use our check card, knowing that we have a limited amount in checking to use and will make sure I stay within those limits.

JEFF:  You got a deal.

ME:  Ok, but we have to watch the first 3 shows together.  I want to make sure you are not napping during them or on your computer or reading a magazine.  Your full attention has to be to the tv show.   And I need your word that you won't wikipedia the 4th show or any others.  Plus, I am trusting you that you won't watch any episodes when I am not around to catch you.

JEFF:  Ok.

Jeff and I watched all 3 episodes together on Saturday.  He said the show was good, but that he can easily not watch anymore until after he's won the bet.  Hmmm.  I do believe he so badly wants to win the bet that he has mentally turned himself off to wanting to watch this show.  I'll be interested to see what happens come October and I've got the credit card back.  How quickly he tunes into episode #4.  Should be interesting.

My part of the bet starts on September 2nd.  It should be interesting to see how well I do too.  :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hitting bottom

Putting Sam to bed each night while in FL was not a day at the beach.  She fought me tooth and nail on going to sleep.  I started taking away reading her a story, using her iPad the next day and so on in the hopes she would get in bed and stay there.  I scream and tell her in a very loud, stern voice - "DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR AGAIN!!".  She stays inside the room and bangs and screams to no end.  Finally exhaustion sets in and she collapses against the door.  Then I need to push the door away, moving her body with it so that I can squeeze in and move her to bed. 

One evening I did something I never thought I'd do.  I spanked her.  I am not perfect.  Far from it.  Sam was taunting me and pushing all my buttons.  I had already taken her iPad use away for the next day as well as reading her a book at bedtime.  I pulled out the big guns and threatened with spanking her if she got out of bed again.  I wasn't 2 feet away when she said, "I'm out of bed" in a sing-songy voice.  I had to go through with my threat and I spanked her.  Ugh. I hate that I did that.  And I hate even more that I am now resorting to threatening spanking to get her to behave.  Isn't there a better way?

Fortunately, all reports from Florida is that she is doing great for my family and going to bed easily.  They aren't having any of the issues I had.  And when she gets back to town, Jeff can take over again putting her to bed each night.  This is my idea of a happily ever after.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Best 13 hours!

The drive back from Florida to Virginia could not have gone better.  Honestly, it was the best 13 hours ever spent in a car.  One of the best decisions we made was to leave earlier in the day, rather than drive thru the night.  Jen was pretty certain her boys would do well in the car and hoping they spend most of the time asleep wouldn't be necessary.  Boy, was she right!   And because we didn't have to spend most of Thursday keeping the kids entertained before starting the drive in the evening, Jen and I were refreshed and full of energy to stay awake.

Without Sam in the car, the drive was peaceful.  Quiet.  Relaxing.  Really!  Her 3 boys were amazing and not one peep was heard out of them.   We stopped a total of 2 times for a quick gas, bathroom, drive-thru for dinner combo.   Evan (the 2 year old) didn't even get out of his car seat once -- not once!

One of the coolest things was that Jen drove the whole, entire way.  She is amazing. I actually started and finished a 362 page book in the time it took us to drive home.  We left at 10:45am and arrived at Jen's house at 11:20pm.  We timed the trip to miss the traffic in Orlando, Jacksonville, Richmond and the D.C. Metro area.  Other than 2 construction zones along the way, the drive was smooth sailing and uneventful.  No alligators crossing I-95 this time!

It was very nice to end our 11 day trip extravaganza on a high note.  Without hesitation, I can say, I'd travel anywhere with Jen. 


Lies told on the drive down to Florida:

  • Trying to convince Sam she needs to keep her overnight pull-up on  (this was all in hopes that she would fall asleep at some point).

Me:  Sam, everyone is wearing a pull-up right now.  Even Ian.
Sam:  He is?
Ian:  No, I'M NOT!
Me:  Yes, Ian, you are!!  Right?  Right?
Ian:  Oh yeah, I am.
Sam:  Ok then.

  • Evan wanting to get out of his car seat.
Jen:  Yes, Evan, you can get out in a few minutes.  (We had 8 hours left to go!)

While in Florida:

  • The toilet in the bathroom attached to the bedroom I stayed in was making a very high pitched noise.  Before our visit, Ben fixed the problem.  Now the thing is, you have to flush before you go and then flush again afterwards if want the bowl to clear out.  It's the strangest thing ever.  Flush before you go!  But somehow it does the trick and then you can easily flush afterwards.  If you forget to flush before you go, then you are standing there flushing repeatedly until the toilet actually flushes.  Lori was so excited that Ben fixed the noise, that this is something she is overlooking as needing to get further fixed.  Plus, it is a bathroom they never use.  So incredibly weird though.  I never seen anything like it.

  • Sam is on Ex-lax at night and sometimes miralax during the day (if the ex-lax hasn't done its thing).  One night we found Evan getting into Sam's supply of Ex-lax.  The next day we found Evan drinking Sam's juice that had miralax in it.  I got a good laugh out of it; I am not sure Jen did.

  • Jen and I cooked or prepared at least one meal each day in Lori and Ben's kitchen.  One evening when Ben and Lori were out of the house, we were making the kids dinner and using their stove.  Boy, did we get a shock when we left the kitchen momentarily and walked back in to find flames shooting out from the burner.  OMG!  For a moment we thought we were going to burn the house down.  It was a very scary moment and we decided to stop using that burner the rest of our stay.  Apparently this has never happened to Ben (who cooks all the time).  I have a feeling that a new stove is needed.

  • While Sam was in the midst of some of her more crazier temper-tantrums, Nathan would look at us and ask, "What's wrong with Sam?".  Yep, my thoughts exactly.  I wish I knew.

  • Evan (2 year old) loved Ben!  Whenever Ben was home, Evan would follow him around the house.  It was like his shadow.  So incredibly cute.  Good thing Ben loves kids!

On the drive back to VA:

  • When I was down in Orlando in June to help my mom with her surgery, Lori had bought me a delicious gluten-free cake for my birthday.  It was awesome and I was so excited to tell Ben and Lori to store the rest of it in their freezer for when I came back in August.  It wasn't until the night before that Ben reminded me I had the cake in the freezer.  I couldn't believe I had been their 10 days and wasn't eating it.  I had a big slice that night and said I was bringing the rest back with me on the drive home the next day.   Right before we left, I took the cake out of their fridge, packed some paper plates and plastic forks to take with me.  Around 3:00pm, I reached down to grab the cake and get a piece to eat.  OH MY!  What a surprise.  I hadn't grabbed the leftover cake...I took Ben's roasted chicken he had made 2 days before.  It was a whole chicken!  Soooo not what I was expecting.  Ha!

  • Somewhere in South Carolina, Jen and I hear this alarm sounding.  It sounded like the Emergency Broadcast sound you hear on the tv.  We couldn't figure out where this sound was coming from.  Turned out it was an alarm coming from her cell phone.  She received an alert message saying that there was a tornado watch in the area and we should take shelter now!    We just kept driving.  Obviously, no tornado was seen.

All in it was a fun trip and a great way to spend a couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All smiles!

Tuesday found us back in the big leagues, doing the Disney thing.  We planned to go to Hollywood Studios in the morning and then if all was well, we'd move on to Epcot.  Hollywood Studios is small enough that it can easily be done in a day.  But could we accomplish all we wanted having 5 young kids with us?  The answer is yes!

When Sam is good, she is VERY good.  And when she is bad, I can only liken it to being outside in a hurricane while trees are crashing down all around you.  You know you need to get out of the way, you just aren't sure which way to go.  And as we've experienced, this storm can last hours upon hours with no relief.   But I am pleased to report that just like the Tuesday before, Sam was amazing.  Exceptional even. All 5 kids were at their best.  It was the most phenomenal day. Even being caught in at least 3 major rain showers didn't slow us down one bit. 

We arrived at Hollywood Studios right when they opened and 7 wet hours later, we were heading back to the car.  Here is a list of all we saw and did:

Star Tours
Muppet Vision 3D
Met Phineas and Ferb
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
Lunch at Backlot Express
Toy Story Mania!
Voyage of the Little Mermaid
The Magic of Disney Animation
Disney Junior Live on Stage

Toy Story Mania!  It is as great as everyone says!!

Hanging with Phineas and Ferb

We hadn't fully decided if we would go back to my sister's house for some downtime or continue on to Epcot without a break.  Once all the kids were strapped in their seats, Jen and I looked at each other and decided to go for it.  As previously mentioned, neither of us is going to be the voice of reason.  It made more sense to keep going than lose any time.

Here is a list of what we saw and did at Epcot:

Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Living with The Land
Dinner at Seasons
Journey into Immagincation with Figment
Phineas and Ferb World Showcase

In between rain showers, we arrive at Epcot.

Everything was a winner except our last thing at Epcot.  Saving the world with Phineas and Ferb is too hard to do after a long day at Disney.  It was too challenging to hear the clues with all the people around you and one device for 4 kids is just not fair.  The world is going to have to be saved by someone else.  We turned in our device and headed home.  Stick a fork in us, we had enough.

By far, the most favorite thing we all loved was Toy Story Mania!  This ride was so awesome and I can see why it is the most popular thing at Hollywood Studios.  

On so many levels we got lucky on both Tuesdays spent at Disney -- we managed to have little to no wait on every single ride we went on.  And then we'd look behind us, and there would be a big line of people!!   And when we approached a show to see when the next showtime was, it would be within the next 5 minutes, with plenty of seats still available.  The other thing that worked in our favor was the fast passes.  This is the best thing ever.  Fast passes has got to be one of the best inventions ever.   Toy Story Mania! for example had an 85 minute wait, but we walked right on with the fast pass.  Sweet!!   

Our stay in Orlando is winding down.  Wednesday was our last full day.  We met up with my mom and stepfather for lunch at T-Rex Cafe in downtown Disney and then took it easy back at my sister's house.

Mom-Mom and Ian...together again.

Today (Thursday) is our drive back to NoVa.  We decided to do the drive back during the day and hopefully get home by midnight.  If timed correctly, we will miss the traffic in Orlando, Jacksonville, Richmond and the D.C. Metro area.  It is going to be good to get back home.  I miss Jeff.  The kids are going to have a wonderful time here in Orlando with my family and I am in desparate need of a break.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The good times keep rolling...

I can now say I've been to Hell and back and back again.  I spent approx. 5 hours there on Sunday.  For that is the amount of time that Sam took her lunacy to all new heights.  I am not sure it is possible for her to have acted out worse than what we experienced at Gatorland.  I really wish I understood why it took me so long to get to the point where I threw in the towel and called it quits.  Looking back now, I should've told Jen we'd be waiting for her in the car about 3 hours sooner than when I did.  I guess part of me was hoping that Sam would snap out of it and start enjoying being at Gatorland.  Throw in how hot it was, and I am not sure I've ever felt more miserable. 

Rigth before we entered.  This is the quietest and
Sam's best behaved moment all day.

Every scenario was running through my head on what I could do differently.   You know it's bad when you are standing in line to buy lunch and the guy in front of you gives a heavy sigh and says, "I can't believe she is still screaming!".  I told him, "Yep, that's my daughter."  He replied back with, "Wow, its amazing how she hasn't stopped."   That current battle was tipped in my favor when I refused to let her eat a pretzel for lunch and had to have something more substantial.  It only took 25 minutes before I got satisfaction and Sam ate a turkey wrap before getting the pretzel.  Which by the way, after eating the turkey wrap and finally getting the pretzel she so desperately wanted, Sam took one look at it and said, "I no longer want it."  Yes, this is what I am dealing with.

Jen and I hit the jackpot on Sunday evening. Lori and Ben asked us if they could watch the kids for us so that Jen and I could go out.  Um, yeah, you don't have to even finish that sentence before I said "YES!!".  Jen and I decided to go to The Enzian Theatre and see the movie "The Queen of Versailles".  Love the Enzian!  It's the kind of place where you get seated at tables and can order food.  How convenient we picked the 6:30pm showing and got some yummy salads to eat for dinner.  Meanwhile, Lori and Ben took all 5 kids out for pizza and frozen yogurt.  Then got them home and into their beds.  What a rockstar sister and brother-in-law I have.  This was a very much needed break for me and helped me face Sam again on Monday.

Monday was a bit better for us.  We went to the Orlando Science Center.  I have such fond memories of this place and knew that our group of kids would have a great time.  Plus, it was indoors and didn't matter how hot it got outside.  The timing of our visit could not have been better.  School has already started in Orlando and the place was pretty much deserted.  Having to keep an eye on 5 kids was super easy.  We spent close to 5 hours going from room to room.  The kids did love it as much as I hoped. Sam had 2 temper tantrums, but managed to contain both of them within 20 minutes each.  Not too horrible, considering how bad it could've been.  The Orlando Science Center still holds a high position in my favorite things to do list. 

Ian doing the weather forecast.

Simulating being on a bridge during an earthquake.

Simulating being in a hurricane.  That's a smile on her face.
Sam is actually happy in this picture. 

I am not sure if Sam being off her routine is causing this horrendous behavior or maybe that she is overtired.  Sam has become demanding, yells frequently and is quick to explode when she doesn't get her way.  I've spoken to my mom repeatedly who has offered to take Sam from me and keep her for a few days to give me a break.  Oh, how I would love that.  However, Sam refuses to go (and frankly its another fight I really don't want to have) and I'd feel very guilty if we were all having fun and she wasn't with us. 

We've got 2 full days left and then I head back to NoVa with Jen and her boys.  As of this moment, Dad/Rita, Lori/Ben, Mom/Jim are all very excited to spend time with Ian and Sam.  I hope they get the Sam that most everyone else sees -- the one who listens, behaves and goes with the flow.  It would be nice if this Sam is the one that hung out with my family while I am gone.

Stay tuned for more of Robyn's crazy FL adventure....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hanging in there...barely

This trip for me has been challenging.  Enjoying where we are or what we are doing, all depends on how Sam is acting.  She has been extremely temperamental and quick to explode.  My patience is constantly being tested. There are some occasional very sweet moments, but those have been too far and few between.  I guess I should consider myself very lucky that our visit to the Magic Kingdom went so well.

It is very hard to be around Sam 24/7 and have no break.  I didn't realize how much I rely on Jeff when he comes home from work and on the weekends.  Kudos to all the single moms out there raising very spirited, head-strong, explosive children.

I feel this self-imposed pressure to find activities to keep the kids entertained, aren't too expensive and is close to Lori's house.  Not an easy task and usually I am only successful in acheiving 2 out of 3.  Some stuff we've been doing are hits, while the other are misses.  I found this awesome glow-in-the-dark miniature putt-putt deal on Groupon a few months pack.  We decided to go on Wednesday and have an 'easy' day after our marathon session at the Magic Kingdom the day prior.   However, holes 7 to 10 found Sam throwing a world class temper tantrum and it soured the experience for me and a bit for the kids.  The concept was cool but I don't think it was worth the full price they were charging.  Definitely on the cheesy side.

On Thursday, our original plans didn't work out quite like we wanted and we came up with a back-up plan that surprised and delighted us all.  We found a very cool splash pad, complete with playground and picnic pavilion.  We were able to enjoy a few hours playing and was very thankful for the shaded, well-designed park.  They hit a home run with this place and it made me wistful for this kind of layout back in NoVa.

A really cool (literally and figuratively) playground.  Well done FL!

On Friday, my friend Molly invited us to hang out at her house for dinner and a pool playdate. Sam was at her all-time best being a lunatic and gave them a great performance.  This was actually her 2nd one that day.  Her fit lasted a good hour and a half and all of it done without wearing any bathing suit bottoms.  Oh fun!  Fortunately, I've known Molly for more than 29 years and there is not much that can throw her or her family.  For the most part, we tuned Sam out and kept the good times rolling. 

Saturday, we met my dad, stepmother, and sister for brunch.  It was nice to spend time with the family.  Afterwards, we went to Monkey Joes to let the kids jump on inflatables to their hearts content.  Being Saturday and rainy, Monkey Joes could've been renamed Monkey Zoo and it would've been appropriate.  After about 2 hours, we were done and needed a break from worrying we would lose a kid, they'd get hurt, or potentially both.

A fun moment...Seeing Nana makes everything better.
Even being in an environment where it is ok for Sam to go off and make lots of noise, it is still very stressful. Being in a group of 7 (Jen, me and the 5 kids) makes me feel bad for all the others.  Whether we are trying to leave to go somewhere, enjoy where we are, or leave the place we are at to head home, I fear the next time Sam acts out and how much it will delay us or stress me out.  It's not only me and Ian her behavior is affecting, we are now involving others.

With our group size, one of the best things about this trip is staying at my sister's house.  There is plenty of space and the pool in the backyard is a nice touch for the kids to use in the downtime.   Also her washer and dryer rocks.  I am in love with them and joke that I can probably fit either the washer or the dryer in Jen's minivan and take it back home.

Ben's birthday present we got him (the floating tennis table set)
came in very handy for the kids to play with.

Stay tuned for more of Robyn's crazy Florida adventure....

Friday, August 17, 2012

The happiest place on Earth

This easily could've gone in another direction.  Heat. Crowds.  Disney.  5 young kids (ESPECIALLY my 4 year old).   It didn't have the makings for being a good day.  A fun day.  One we'd want to look back on, smile and be happy about it.

However, It couldn't have gone any better.  Really.  I know, I know.  I can't believe I am writing that sentence either.  Especially given our rocky start trying to get Sam out of the house.  She was being, well, herself, and it was not looking good for the day that followed.  I threatened her many times to behave or else she wasn't going to come with us. Miraculously, Jen was able to get her in her car seat.  More miraculously, by the time we got to the Magic Kingdom, Sam became agreeable and in a better mood.

Our big saving grace was that we didn't have to pay to get in.  Knowing that we weren't shelling out almost $600 dollars to get in to the Magic Kingdom made it a little more tolerable that so much money wasn't on the line.  Many thanks to my stepfather who took his day off from work and spent time with us.  5 kids and 2 adults may have had us outnumbered, but honestly, the kids did really well. 

Since having kids I've never done the traditional full day at Disney.  Since Jim can get himself and 3 others in at any time, it was never necessary to try to fit everything in, in one day.  But because we had Jen and her kids with us, we needed to use his special passes he is given.  He doesn't get very many of these and it was important we got the most out of them.  Therefore, our plan was to go when Magic Kingdom opened, spend a few hours and then return in the evening for the electrical parade and fireworks.   The time flew by and before we knew it, it was already 6:00pm.  Yes, we spent over 8.5 hours at the Magic Kingdom during the day and another 3 hours at night!  Jen and I worked the Fast Pass system and it was amazing.  We barely had a wait for anything and walked right on most rides.  I am still in awe over how well the day unfolded.

Sam had one crazy meltdown at lunch, but after 10 minutes, she rebounded.   Ian complained of his legs hurting from all the walking, but it was manageable and not enough to make me want to go running screaming from our group.

Such a great moment!  Sam was so excited
that Minnie was there too!

And if that wasn't good enough, we pushed our luck even further and took the kids back to the Magic Kingdom 2 hours after leaving.  Yes, at 8:00pm, the kids were loaded in the car and we were going back for the electrical parade and the fireworks.  We are crazy like that.  What an amazing day it was!

Sshhh!  Don't tell Jeff how late it is and these kids' night
is just getting started!

Because you simply can't go to Disney and not get ice cream, right?
Jen and I are so the fun moms!
Here is a list of all we saw and did --

  • Philhar Magic Show
  • It's a small world
  • The many adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Dumbo the flying elephant
  • Lunch - at the park (btw, Sam does not like meatball subs, contrary to her insistence that she NEEDS to have one).
  • Peter Pan's flight
  • Prince Charming regal carousel
  • Monster's, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Buzz Lightyear's space ranger spin
  • Tomorrowland transit authority people mover
  • Walt Disney's carousel of progress
  • The magic carpets of Aladdin
  • Pirates of Caribbean
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Met Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Dinner break at Lori's house

  • Main Street electrical parade
  • Ice cream
  • The magic, memories and you! - show
  • Wishes nighttime spectacular - fireworks

Pretty impressive, huh?  Yeah, it blew me away too. And not once did I threaten Sam that she was going to be sent to my mom's house in a taxi.  Sam really turned it around once we got moving and behaved quite well.   I have to say, there was not one thing we did that I wouldn't do again.  Everything was a winner!

A funny moment:
Within 5 minutes of getting the kids back in the car, Evan, Sam and Nathan were fast asleep.  Well, 8:00pm is their normal bedtime, not to mention the very full, active day they just had.  We parked the car and began unloading all the kids. Jen took Nathan out of his carseat and stood him next to her minivan.  Nathan continued sleeping standing up!  And then all of a sudden, he was running keeping up with us walking back into the park.  It was hilarious!

Once our day was finally over, and we were headed back to Lori's house, all 5 kids were fast asleep before we even left the parking lot.  This was something we were unsuccessful in achieving the whole drive down to Orlando. I guess you need to spend 12 hours at Disney to get results like that.

Wow!  Pretty impressive.  Too bad we have to move them.

Talk about funny, Jen and I each took one kid at a time from the car and put them directly to bed.  When it came to Ethan and Ian, we needed to wake them up to get out of the car.  Their seats were all the way in the back and it was impossible to reach them.  I said, "Ian, you need to wake-up."  Ian woke up and in the time it took him to move his hand to his seat belt latch, he fell back asleep.  These kids had hit their fun limit for the day!!

I have come to the conclusion that neither Jen or I are the voice of reason.  We will not talk each other out of anything, no matter how far fetched it sounds.  Drive 5 young kids to Orlando, straight-thru the night?  Sure!  Do Magic Kingdom, clearly outnumbered during a very hot summer day?  Sure!  Go back to the park again, and keep them up very late into the night to see the parade and fireworks?  Sure!  Give them ice cream way past their bed time?  Sure!  We seem to keep moving the bar higher and higher on how adventurous we are getting.

Some times you've just got to go for the whole experience!

Stay tuned for more from Robyn's crazy adventure to FL....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Are we there yet?

File this idea as "Seemed like a good one at the time".  Driving to Orlando with 5 kids, straight thru the night, is now something I have first hand knowledge on just how traumatizing it can be.  You would think that eventually a certain 4 year old little girl would be so exhausted, she'd fall asleep at some point during the 6:00pm to 7:00am time frame, but I can tell you that it is not a given. Sam maybe got a combined one hour of sleep the whole drive to Orlando.  And she wasn't even quiet during the time she slept.  She still managed to scream loudly while being asleep. 

The whole experience was bad.  Very bad.  Ian was irritable because Sam was so loud that it kept him from being able to fall asleep easily.  Nathan would wake up from being asleep because Sam was screaming and whining so ridiculously loud.  So on the rare chance Sam wasn't shattering our ear drums, the noise was coming from some other kid in the car.  The only child who was completely quiet and never made one peep was Ethan.  It didn't matter to him what was going on around him.  Ethan deserves a big round of applause for being able to do the near impossible in this situation and go with the flow.  Actually, Ethan may need to get his ears checked.

And what did Sam rant about for 13 hours?  Here's a small sampling --
"I AM BEING SQUISHED!!!"  It should be noted, her car seat happens to be by far the biggest in the car. Her car seat is so big and wide that another child could sit in there with her. 
"I NEED TO GO POTTY!!!!"   Really?  You just went 5 minutes ago.  You have to go again?  And again?  And again?  This phrase seemed to be a favorite of hers.
"I NEED TO GO POOPY!!!!"  Sorry, I don't believe you.
"I CAN'T WEAR THIS PULL-UP!  IT"S GOING UP MY BUM!!!!"  You're in a pull-up because you are supposed to be falling asleep during the car ride and when you wake-up, we'll be there. 

With each passing torturous hour, I kept thinking to myself, "Thank G-d she is not doing the drive back with us."  I seriously don't think I'd make it and would most likely fly her home and then come back down again to help Jen with the drive.  2 hours on a plane sucks too for all my fellow passengers, but just imagine dragging that experience out again to 13 hours?

If you took Sam out of the equation, the rest of the trip was quite pleasant.  We hit no traffic, whatsoever.  Majority of the time, there were very few cars even on the road.  We only had to stop a total of 3 times (twice for gas, once on the side of the road for a potty break).  Jen drove for 9 hours without needing me to take over.  That girl could easily be a truck driver if she wanted.  It's amazing how she can go, go, go, and not need a break from driving and has the ability to tune Sam out. 

The craziest thing to occur on the drive was when Jen ran over an alligator crossing I-95, somewhere in South Carolina during the 2:00am hour.  So bizzare.  It was pretty shocking and took us by surprise.  Next time, Jen promises me she'll stop so I can take a picture.

Once we pulled into my Sister's house, Jen and I are were beat.  Beyond tired doesn't come close to our condition. Unfortunately a nap never happened for either of us (or any of the kids for that matter).  The passing of every hour seemed to go slower and slower.  It reminded me of those nightmares you have about school when they show the clock going in the wrong direction.  That is what it felt like.  You mean it is only 10:00am?  Surely, it feels like it should 10:00pm by now. Although, every time I sat down on Lori and Ben's couch, I'd instantly fall asleep.  Unfortunately when I woke-up not enough time passed to make me happy about my impromptu nap.

I told my two kids we were going to sleep at 7:30pm.  We came very close to this goal and managed to be in bed by 8:00pm.  Sleep was very needed and the next morning, we all woke-up feeling human again.  It's amazing what 11 solid hours and a shower can do for a person.

We had a big day planned for Tuesday and I desperately wanted us all in good spirits for our next outing -- going to the Magic Kingdom.

Stay tuned for more on Robyn's crazy Summer FL adventure....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Take a look at me now!

We've lived in our house going on 8 years.  About a month ago, my eyes opened for the first time and I noticed what Jeff & I had created in the family room.  A mess of wires coming from the tv, a dated looking fireplace and ugly media components on an even uglier shelf.   Then the wii entered our life 3 years ago and the mess got messier. I hate clutter!


The overall look.

On the left side of the fireplace -- DVD player,
Fios DVR, wireless router, external hard drive, phone

On the left side of the fireplace - the wii,
all the controllers, and about 25 wii games

The new overall look!

Fireplace is now painted white!  Check out the
black trim around the fireplace -- no more ugly brass.

Nothing on the left side of the fireplace. 

Right side of the fireplace -- new media cabinet that holds
all the stuff -- Fios DVR, DVD player, wii, wireless router,
and external hard drive.  In the side cabinets are all the wii games,
and controllers.  On top sits the phone.

All the wires/cables are hidden as best as possible without doing
 a lot of damage to the fireplace or the wall. 

I came up with an idea to do a layer of fake bricks to hide
the cables behind.  They are painted white to blend with the
other bricks.

I put my pictures of Bailey back in the same place to hide
the cables coming out from the holes.

The view from far away.  Love it!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Just call us crazy!

This next adventure I have planned this summer with the kids will either be one of the biggest, bestest ideas EVER or a complete disaster.  I am hoping it is the former and our fun sky-rockets off the "Are we having a good time?" meter.

I am taking my theory that it is always fun to travel with friends and testing it to the max.  Tomorrow, my friend Jen and I are loading up our 5 kids (ages 2 to 7) in her minivan and hitting I-95.  We will be on I-95 for approx. 13 hours until we reach Orlando.  We won't be stopping at South of the Border and checking out the tacky souvenir shop.  We won't be stopping for lunch.  And we won't be stopping for dinner.  We are driving straight thru the night.  My fingers are permanently crossed that the kids will fall asleep in the car and stay that way -- for at least 10 hours. 

Once we get to Orlando, hopefully bright and early on Monday morning, we will be staying with my sister, Lori and her husband, Ben.  They are currently residing in a 5 bedroom house (owned by my dad/stepmother) and will have 3 bedrooms available for us to use.  Plus, they have a pool in the backyard and a playground down the street.  The icing on the cake is that they are located approx. a 20 minute drive to Disney.  Sounds perfect once we get there, right?  Here is my next hurdle -- Lori and Ben don't have kids.  None, zip, zilch.  I can see our 11 day stay with them being one that provides enough birth control to last a lifetime.   Lori has already given me some ground rules -- Ben's room he has all his computers and music equipment is off limits, as is their bedroom.  Plus, when Lori gets home from work, she gets full use of the tv.  Seeing as I hope we are off busy doing other things, I don't think this will be a problem.  Then my mom on a phone call said to me, "Be nice to your sister."   Um, yeah.  I am always nice to Lori.  :)

Thanks to my stepfather who works for Disney, we have 2 days we can do the Magic Kingdom and/or a Disney theme park.  We do not plan to do these days back to back and will divide up one day for each week we are there.  This will give us all a day or two to recover.  In my opinion, this could be another hurdle.  Disney.  August.  Heat.  Crowds.  -- doesn't really add up to anything but meltdowns and crankiness.  And that's just me I am describing, not even the kids. 

I've also come up with a list of other things we can do when we are down there.  In my opinion, we should have an outdoor day followed by an indoor, AC filled day.  And then there is always the beach and pool to cool us down.  Throw in an invite to a friend's house for a fun afternoon of a dinner/pool playdate with her kids and hopefully the days will fly by.

I am excited about our trip.  I am also just as nervous.  I want it to go well.  I hope the kids can look back one day and say, "Wow, our moms were really brave to do this trip.  We had a great time!  I hope our moms take us other places again next Summer."

And when the 11 days are over, I am leaving Ian and Sam down there with my family for a week and doing the drive back to NoVa with Jen and her boys.  It will be straight thru the night on the way back too. Eight days later, I'll fly in to Orlando, get the kids and fly back.  And that brings me to another hurdle -- flying with the kids on my own.  It's been a year, we'll see if Sam has gotten any better flying or just louder!

And that is how the rest of our Summer is being spent.  My number one goal on this trip?  As always,  not to make the news.  :)

As a side note - I will try my best to blog through out the next 2 weeks. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

So, what are you doing next month?

My first date with Jeff was on October 25, 2002.  It was a blind date, and therefore, starting off from scratch getting to know each other.  One month later was Thanksgiving and I had invited my family (many months prior) to come up to Arlington to celebrate the holiday with me.  Everyone (Dad, Rita, Mom, Jim, Meghan) was able to make it except Lori.  She was living in Paris at the time and it really didn't make sense for her to make the journey overseas for essentially a 3 day trip.  However, Lori decided to surprise everyone and showed up on my doorstep Wednesday night.  It was very exciting for me to cook Thanksgiving dinner that year and have everyone together.

At this point, Jeff and I had dated for a month.  I knew my family was eager to meet this new boy I had started to get to know and any opportunity for him to meet my whole family would be far and few between.  I arranged for us to go to lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill the day after Thanksgiving.  My dad loves Old Ebbitt Grill because he likes to think he will run into a Senator or some VIP at the table to next to us.  Plus, I think he enjoys dining so close to the White House.  And, the food is pretty good.

So there we were, all sitting at the table giving Jeff the opportunity to meet my family and my family the opportunity to meet Jeff.  Please remember, I had only known him one month.  Halfway through the meal, I get up and go to the bathroom.  When I return, Jeff leans over and says, "Your dad just invited me come to Orlando for New Year's."  WHAT!?!?!  Of course my dad waited until I left the table to do this.  I was mortified!  We are fast approaching the 10th anniversary of this infamous lunch and I can still feel how hot my face got when Jeff clued me in on what happened.

 It wasn't until a few days later, that Jeff and I were driving in the car and he brought up my dad's invitation.  If I remember correctly, Jeff said very casually, "So, what do you think about your dad asking me to come next month?"  I replied back with a shrug, "Sure, if you want to."  And with a tip of the hat to Paul Harvey, 'and that's the rest of the story.'

I guess my dad wanted to make sure I didn't let this one get away. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was ready to go back to the bathroom and stay there.  And this story is the reason why I silently chuckle to myself when I hear the words "Old Ebbitt Grill".

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And Coming Up On Our Left...

Last night we met long-time family friends from when I grew up for dinner.  They were in town for 2 nights, 3 days to show their 10 year old daughter Washington, D.C.   We arranged to meet at Old Ebbitt Grill so they would be within walking distance of their hotel.  Plus, as a bonus, it was super easy for Jeff to metro and meet us after work.  I grabbed the kids and headed into the big city to get to the restaurant.

In the Spring of this past year, Ian's first grade class went to D.C. and hit all the major monuments.  It was actually quite impressive how many landmarks they made it to within a 4 hour trip.  Sam fell asleep in the car as I was crossing the 14th Street Bridge, so I started pointing out various buildings to Ian and saying what their significance was.  I pointed out the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  I pointed out the Holocaust Museum.  As we were crossing over Constitution Ave., Ian excitedly exclaims, "Oh! I remember that tree!!  That's where the bus dropped us off."

It was so funny!  I then quickly realized, it's all relative on what Ian finds to be noteworthy and I what I do.

Dinner went swimmingly well and a good time was had by all.  I was very proud of the kids and even though this was a "grown-up" restaurant (read: no balloons!), we didn't cause a scene and can easily show our faces again. 

On the drive home, Sam, now completely awake, is taking in her surroundings and asks how tall the Washington Monument is.  Actually, her question was, "How tall is that brick building?".  Jeff says, "I think its like 150 feet.".  Ian then corrects Jeff and says, "No, its really 555 feet."   A little stunned that Ian had such an exact answer said with such confidence, I picked up my iPhone and asked Siri how tall she thought the Washington Monument was.  Wouldn't you know, Ian was correct!   This was something Ian learned during his field trip (5 months ago).  Way to go Ian!

Stay tuned for why there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Old Ebbitt Grill.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fashion Police Majorly Needed!

Since we have spent the majority of our summer getting wet, I am noticing women and men everywhere are wearing bathing suits not suited for their body type. I am not sure what set of mirrors they used when trying on these suits that made them think it looked acceptable, but surely the mirrors could not have created this big of an illusion.  Most of the time it is frightening to look straight at them.  Certainly, it can't be done on a full stomach. 

Either these women are squeezing a size 20+ body  into a size 4 bathing suit or, the bathing suit is the right size, but there is just too much of them hanging out because they think they can pull off a bikini.  Yes, I am talking about a string bikini -- not a tankini that covers the tummy, but something so small that rolls of fat actually hang over the string of the bathing suit.  It is a train wreck...hard to not look at, but at the same time you wish you hadn't. 

Or men are wearing these speedo-type bathing suits a la an Olympic athlete.  However, the athlete body type is so well hidden, it appears to have developed many layers of insulation. 

I guess in years past, we've been sheltered by mostly going to our neighborhood community pools where we hang out with moms and kids. Moms who know how to bathing suit shop.   Now, with my kids a little older, our bathing suit wearing environment has expanded to water parks, the beach and various other pools. 

My other observation this summer is that there seems to be an unusually high percentage of the population covered in tattoos.  Like all over their body tattoos.  And not pretty ones either.  When these same people as the ones mentioned above are also covered in ugly tattoos, it becomes a major fashion disaster. 

I wonder what these people are going to look like when they turn 70, 80 years old and their skin has gotten all wrinkly and wobbly?  What will those tattoos look like then?  Hopefully they'll still be viewing themselves with the same set of eyes and mirrors they used to buy a bathing suit. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Snack Revolution

Good-bye Cheezits.  Good-bye Gold Fish.  Good-bye Muffin Bites.  Good-bye Granola Bars.  Good-bye Pretzels.  Good-bye Animal Crackers (frosted, iced, and plain!).  Good-bye anything-with-empty-calories and no-nutritional-value.

In a little less than a month, I am changing the way my kids think about snacking. I've come up with a plan and will implement it as soon as we get back from Florida.  As of September 2nd, any snacks Ian and Sam eat will need to be one of the following:
  • Fruit - any kind (grapes, strawberries, bananas, apples, etc)
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Raisins
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Go-Gurt
  • Dried Fruit - as long as that is its only ingredient.  Trader Joe's Mango is the kids' favorite flavor.

I am making a sign with the above list and putting it on the refrigerator.  When the kids say they are hungry, they will be directed to make a choice from the list.  It's that simple.  No exceptions.  When we leave the house, a selection of snacks from the approved list will travel with us, packed in a small cooler if need be to stay fresh.

Ian and Sam are not overweight.  I do not make a big deal about what they eat and try to make sure they aren't snacking too much and are hungry for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  But their choices on snacks aren't the best.  That is no one's fault but mine.  Again, let me state -- I created this problem by buying these type of snacks in the first place.  They eat plenty of fresh fruit, but gold fish and cheezits win out the majority of the time.  By transitioning to healthier choices, I'll be helping them the rest of their life.  Not only hopefully from getting obese, but better cholesterol, better nutrition and habits that stay with them for the long haul.

I am so impressed with how easily we were able to wean drinking juice, that I've been inspired to try revolutionizing how the kids snack in between meals.  This is exciting!  As with juice, anything goes when the kids are at a friend's house or hanging out with other moms who have different types of snacks.  I am not going to completely ban it from their lives or else they will go crazy when they have the opportunity to eat it.  However, I am not going to buy it or have it in the house.  This will be enough of a change for them. 

Now, I just need to find the right time to tell them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


There are few things more thrilling than when you see your child do something for the first time.  It doesn't matter that an older sibling acquired that skill years ago and is a master at it now.  When each child learns how to crawl, walk, talk, read, write, etc., it becomes a monumental moment all on its own.  This is what makes being a mother worth it.  Seeing the delight and surprise when they realize they are actually doing it is so exciting.  It is a wonderful mix of emotions for me too. I love watching the kids grow, blossom into little people and become their own person.  I do find it a little bittersweet that it means this is it...there is no going back to the way things were. We can only build on this skill and keep moving on, developing more and needing me less. 

We hit a huge milestone during our week in N.C.  After each morning after the beach, we'd spend a few hours at the pool.  Sam was very content wearing her arm floaties and doing her own thing in the pool.  It was actually nice not having to worry about her safety and know that she would stay afloat as long as the water wings were on her arm.  On our 2nd afternoon in the pool, Sam took off her arm floaties and asked for her goggles.  She usually likes to put them on her head for all of a minute and then the novelty wears off.  However, this time, she put the goggles on her head and told me to stand back a couple of feet.  Sam took the plunge and swam to me.  Yes, she held her breath, put her head underwater and used her arms and feet to kick to me.  It was an incredibly surreal moment.  Sam can swim!  She can really swim!  Then Sam did it again and again and again.  There was no stopping her.  Each time she told me to move further away from her.  Towards the end of our time at the pool, Sam was swimming at least 1/4 of the length of the pool.  She could go as far as her breath being held would allow her. 

We are light years ahead of where Ian was in his swimming skills at age 4.  Ian was still afraid to get his head wet and wouldn't go in water that would get him wet above his shoulders.  I never expected Sam to take to swimming like she has.  Ian had lessons upon lesson upon lessons, pretty much year round (mostly private lessons at that) since he was 18 months old.  It took forever for him to be comfortable in the pool.  Sam, on the other hand, has only had group lessons this past year and then when it came time to do private lessons this summer, our fave swim instructor had to drop us due to a conflict of interest.  So I let it go and didn't look for someone else to take over.  With very minimal instruction, Sam has figured out how to swim all on her own.  Of course, we will continue with instruction this school year so she can keep it up and get better, but it is amazing how well she is doing.

Time and time again, Sam has proven she does every thing on her own timetable.  She is amazing that girl.