Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My new favorite saying

Me to Sam:  I am tired of hearing you whine.  Go to your room.

I think I said this about a dozen times on Friday morning.  It has been working wonders.  Sam stomps up to her room, slams the door shut and takes a few minutes to calm down.

She then comes back downstairs, continues whining and I send her straight back up to her room.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Jeff feels we can no longer call "whining" a phase.  It is now officially personality trait.  Fabulous! (said very sarcastically).   My friend has recently told me that your personality is fully formed by the time you are 5 years old.  Sam has less than one month to form this "whining" into something else.  I am not holding out any hope that it will turn into something magical.  I can not wait for that first kindergarten teacher-parent meeting next year. (again, said very sarcastically). 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Gymnastics No-No.

Ian takes gymnastics (2 hours each, 2x a week) and normally, I drop him off and Jeff picks up after class is over.  Since Sam has been taking a 1 hour gymnastics class now on Wednesdays, it makes more sense for me to stay for the two hours during one of Ian's practices. 

I was in a for a real eye-opener this past Wednesday.  Ian is in a class of 13 boys (this is a tad more than the 8 to 10 boys recommended) and they have tons of energy.  Ian was misbehaving and acting up during class, along with a good portion of his teammates.  Ian wasn't focused and not putting forth any kind of effort.  And the icing on the cake was the non-stop complaining on how he was hot and tired.  Lovely, right?  

Ian's coach is awesome and always complimenting me on what a nice boy and how well-mannered he is.  So surely Ian can't always be like this, right?   I was very frustrated with how the class was going.  After a little more than an hour, I decided to pull Ian from the rest of the class.  I couldn't watch his goofing around and lack of effort any more. 

We still had another 45 minutes to wait for Sam to finish her class.  I used this time to tell Ian how disappointed I was.  I don't need him to be perfect, but I do need him to try.  After the class was over, I went over to talk to his coach and let her know why I took Ian out abruptly.  I wanted her to know I knew Ian was misbehaving and I couldn't stand to watch it anymore.  The kids who did want to be there deserve her attention and help.   Meanwhile, Ian is standing off to the side of me and saying over and over again, "I just want to quit.  I don't want to be here anymore."   I think he was horrified I was talking to his teacher about him.  Ian's coach told me that during class he said, "I hope I make team."   So which is it Ian?  You want to make team or you want to quit?  Because you can't have it both ways.

When we got home, more was discussed between Ian, Jeff and me and how we expect him to behave and try.  And I told Ian to give it a long hard thought on if he wants to continue.  I wasn't going to be paying the kind of money we are spending to send him to gymnastics if he didn't want to be there.

The next day (Thursday), Ian comes to me and says, yes, he wants to continue with gymnastics.  And we came up with the idea to call his coach and apologize to her.  Ian left her a very sweet message that he came up with all on his own (I volunteered to roll play the telephone call first and he said no). 

"Hi, this is Ian Toppall.  I am sorry about gymnastics yesterday.  I was disrespectful to you and it won't happen again.  Please forgive me."

As Ian is leaving this message, his voice is getting higher pitched and shaky.  Clearly he was nervous.

I am extremely proud of Ian.  He made a "wrong" right.  Reports are coming back from his teacher that he is back to doing wonderfully and really trying.  Yay!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heard and Observed #40

Sam loves, loves, loves Kelly Clarkson.  She knows all of her songs by heart and regularly belts out singing her music without the radio even being on.

The other evening, my Toppall team and I were coming back from Gaithersburg, MD.  The radio is on and an older Kelly Clarkson song starts playing on the radio station we were tuned in to.  Sam instantly begins to sing along and then stops about halfway through to make the following comment:

"It's so nice that Kelly Clarkson remembers this one."


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Young at heart.

This just in....I have officially hit 170,000 miles on my car.  It's pretty amazing.  More and more of my friends keep asking when I will be getting a new car.  Ha!  Why do I need a new car?  Everything is working perfectly fine on this one.  And if this car was a person, you wouldn't be trading it in for a younger, sexier model, would you? 

Honestly, I would LOVE a new car, but realistically it is not happening any time soon.  There has been a huge a pay-off to me waiting as long as I have.  Honda has announced their 2014 Odyessy (minivan) will now be equipped with a vacuum cleaner built-in.  Seriously, how cool is that!?!?  While I have no desire to drive a minivan, I can easily wait another year or two until all the Honda vehicles come equipped with a vacuum cleaner. I have to believe this can't be too far behind to the minivan having it available. This is the kind of accessory that is right up there with a electric windows and locks.  Too cool.

Until then, and oh yeah, a huge amount of money becomes available for a monthly car payment, me and my CR-V will be driving around the streets of NoVa. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

GWL :)

I am now on an all-initial nickname with my new fave place....GWL, you know Great Wolf Lodge.

We went back for a 3rd visit (yes, this is 3 times in 3 years).  I believe this was our best trip yet!  We decided this go-around would be kept a surprise for the kids until the morning we were leaving.  Many parents make the "We are going to Disney World" announcement a really cool surprise for the kids, but since we could never do that, I wanted this to be our version of an unexpected treat that would get the kids excited. 

It worked!  It was a Sunday morning and I made pancakes for breakfast so that we would all have reason to eat at the table together.  We went around the table and asked the kids what they would like to do that day.  Ian said, "Nothing", and Sam replied with "Go for a bike ride".   Jeff and I smiled at each other and said "How about we go to Great Wolf Lodge?"   Their expressions were priceless and the surprise was very well received.  When we told them all their friends who were joining us, it got even better.

We had a group of 27!  Wowee!!!  This trip had been planned for months and my Fairfax County friends and us were taking advantage of the public school teacher work day that next day (Monday, April 15th).

Can you believe one entire family is not even in this picture!?!?!

Our visits to GWL get easier and easier.  It was so wonderful to walk in any direction and see people we love to hang out with enjoying the water park.  Our kids effortlessly went from group to group of kids to be with.  There were plenty of moms/dads to keep an eye on them.  But, honestly we got to the point where we knew they'd be ok also on their own -- the older kids at least.

Dinner was the restaurant (as we've done in the past) in the GWL parking lot, "Jungle Jims".  Believe it or not, we met up with everyone at 5:30pm and didn't have any kind of wait.  And we all got tables together.  The boys all sat at one table, the girls at another, the men at their own table and the women at another.  It was awesome!

Gosh I love this place.  The kids love this place.  And Jeff does a great job of pretending to love this place.   :)

Playing in the arcade and winning!

The kids getting ready to bowl.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The joke is on you!

Mom-mom (my mom) and Sam talk on the phone frequently.  Apparently, Mom-mom likes to tell Sam she is "going to bite her cheeks" when she sees her.  To everyone else, we know this is just a saying and in no way is Mom-mom really going to bite Sam's cheeks.

However, when we went on our recent trip to see the family, Sam remembered Mom-mom's intentions and had no desire to get close for fear of her cheeks getting huge bites out of them.  Not being able to give Sam kisses didn't sit well with my mom.  It wasn't until we were 36 hours into our 4 day trip, that we both figured out what Sam's hesitation was.  As Sam put her hands to cover her cheeks, she moved closer to Mom-mom for a long-awaited kiss.   We all got a good laugh out of how literal Sam took Mom-mom's words and quickly explained Sam could keep her cheeks.


Ian's been having issues during his school's recess. Apparently the kids in the older grades are not allowing him to play kickball.  Like ever.  This makes Ian feel very left-out, especially when the rest of the boys in his class are able to play the game. We've come to find out that Ian can not play kickball to save his life.  All the boys tell him he can't kick and running to the base only results in him tripping and falling on the way there. I am sure it is not a pretty sight.  Jeff has offered to practice with Ian, but Ian has turned down his offer.  How can you help someone when they don't want to help themselves?

Each evening at dinner I ask Ian how that day's recess went for him and what he ended up doing to pass the time.  Most nights we all feel bad for Ian and try to come up with ways for him to either do other things or tactics he can try to get in the game.

One evening Sam looks at me and says that none of the kids would play with her on the playground.  I ask her to tell me what's going on and she says she needs to talk to me up in her room.  We go upstairs and she closes the door to her room.  We both take a seat on her bed and I say, "Sam, tell me why the kids don't want to play with you."  She gets very quiet, takes the smile off her face and begins to give me a very sad tale of how no one will play with her.  I ask her what happened when she told her teacher and Sam says with much enthusiasm, "I'm just kidding!!!  EVERYONE wants to play with me!  They all love me!   They all want to be with me." 

Oy!  Thank G-d she didn't say this in front of Ian.  It would've only made him feel worse. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Four Very Special Days, Part 2.

It was Sam's turn to go down to Florida and spend some time with my family.  We had an amazing trip!  We boarded a plane on Friday, March 29th and made it in time for a birthday celebration dinner with my sister Meghan.  How nice that each of our trips allowed us the opportunity to celebrate one of my sister's birthdays.

I'll let the pictures tell the story of our four day adventure.

We went to Kobe, a Japanese steak house to celebrate Meghan's Birthday.  Sam loved the show!
Sam successfully ate with chopsticks


Spent 10+ hours at the Magic Kingdom with my mom, Amanda and her little girl Sammy.  I've known Amanda since I was 5 years old.  Her daughter is just 2 months younger than mine.  Coincidentally, they are both named Samantha.

The girls became princesses at Bippity Bobbity Boutique.  Afterwards we had lunch at Cinderella's Royal Table and enjoyed lunch with the princesses.  It was a magical day!

The girls bonded quickly!


We spent the day with my dad, stepmom, and sister Meghan at Green Meadows Farm.  This place was great and very hands-on. 

Sam milked a cow!


It was time to hit the beach with my mom.  A sunny, breezy day with temps in the 80's.

Sam loves to pose on the beach!


Chilled at my mom's house until it was time to leave for the airport.  Lori (my other sister) came over for lunch.

Mom-mom and Sam used their time wisely and made a pumpkin pie together.

I loved that I could do these trips with the kids.  It means the world to me that we could spend some quality time with my family doing things that each kid would love.   Next year I think there is competition for my trip.  Jeff and Ian have plans to go down for Baseball Spring training.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The middle

I recently did my trip to Orlando with Sam.  It occurred to me as we were seated in row 13, seats F and E on the plane, that from now on I will forever be stuck in the middle seat.  As long as I am traveling with one or both kids, I am doomed to be sitting in the middle seat coming and going.  This is just a matter of fact.  There really is nothing I can do to change it.

I believe we've finally gotten to the point that we can get on a plane and my 3 worst fears won't come true - 1. do something that causes an emergency landing, 2. get us kicked off the plane, or 3. make the 6:00pm news.  The flight with Ian in January was a dream.  And my flight with Sam in March was almost perfect.  We managed to go the entire flight (both ways) without alerting any of our fellow passengers we were on board.   This is HUGE!  Most certainly I never thought I'd see this day coming.  The woman next to me on the flight back home gave Sam a major compliment on how great she was behaving.  If she only knew what it was like in previous years! 

I am no longer holding my breath for the two hours we are in the air.  I don't even need to come armed with tons of toys, snacks or bribes.  It is a pleasure to get from Point A to Point B (in the most efficient mode of transportation possible) and not be a stress case.

As for ALWAYS getting stuck in the middle seat, this will be a small price to pay.

A funny ha-ha moment:  Sam had to go to the bathroom during our flight back.  While she was sitting on the toilet, she looked over and noticed how close the sink was to her.  She said, "How great is this!  You can wash your hands and pee at the same time."  Only Samantha would find a benefit to a very small bathroom.  :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Gluten-Free Hero!

I am one of those rare birds who LOVES Passover foods.  Other than twizzlers, the biggest disappoint to me in having to go gluten-free was never getting to eat a Matzo Ball again.  Oy, the travesty!

Enter Stage Right:  My fabulous mother-in-law who has single-handedly brought back my long lost love and many other amazing gluten-free foods.   Jeff's mom lives in Pikesville (outside of Baltimore) and not too far from Seven Mile Market.  It is a one-stop shop for all your Kosher needs and a wonderland of Gluten-Free Passover foods.  They have EVERYTHING...panko crumbs, matzo meal, enough desserts to put you in a diabetic coma, noodles, matzo ball mix, and so much more!  All gluten-free!!   My mother-in-law called me frequently from the middle of the store, saying she felt like a kid in a candy store telling me all gluten-free offerings.  How wonderful of her to think of me, shop and stock-up on my behalf.

I am no longer in a matzo ball depraved world.  I actually don't even need the rest of the meal.  Just give me a big bowl of matzo ball soup and I am loving life.  Yum-O!  And let me tell you, these matzo balls are SCRUMPTIOUS!!

Passover may have come and gone, but I am one lucky duck who gets to enjoy these treats for the better part of a year.  It's good to be connected. 

Monday, April 8, 2013


Ian is now able to do a pullover in gymnastics, all on his own.  Before he needed his coach's help to get himself completely over.  Ian has got the move down.  Woo-hoo!   I am so excited for him.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hitting a new milestone

A few weeks ago, I picked Ian up from school and was reminding him that we had about 30 minutes before having to leave the house and make our way to Sam's swim lesson.  Ian asked if he could stay at the house by himself.  Hmmmm, why not?  At age 8 (according to the State of VA), Ian is technically allowed to stay by himself for up to 1.5 hours during the daytime. 

Ian turns 8 years old in about 2 months. In anticipation of this, we've been quizzing Ian at random times what he would do in various situations if Jeff and/or I am not at home...the doorbell rings (does he answer it?  Nooooo!), the phone rings (does he answer it?  Yes, if he recognizes the number, but never say we are not home.), he gets hungry (does he cook himself something?  Noooooooooo!  But he can get himself a snack, piece of fruit, drink), etc.

Ian has a great head on his shoulders.  I was ok with him staying home when I took Sam to her swim lesson.  From the time we pulled out of the driveway to our return, it would be almost a full hour.  We called Jeff and asked him his opinion.  I wasn't about to make this monumental decision on my own.  Jeff spoke with Ian for a few minutes and then gave his blessing too.

During the 55 minutes we were gone, I called Ian 3 times.  Every 15 minutes, I checked in on him to make sure he was ok.  The first two calls his voice sounded a little shaky.   By the 3rd call, he said it was going great and he was very happy to be home. 

I can't wait for 3 more years when Sam turns 8 and she can stay home too.  Then I can go to the swim lesson all by myself.  :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Heard and Observed #39

The other day Ian did something that really upset me.  I yelled at him (frankly, I can't even remember over what) and he sulked off, leaving the room I was in.  

As he moped away, Sam says to him:

Don't worry Ian, I still like you.



Monday, April 1, 2013

Here's a little tale from the Crypt

The Crazy Man:  We need to call the FBI.  I think I received a fraudulent letter and I want them to take a look at it.  

Me:  Ok.  How important is this?

The Crazy Man:  Let's do it tomorrow.

Me:  Ok.

 The next day --

Me:  Do you still want me to call the FBI?

The Crazy Man:  Yes!  This is very important.  I am almost certain it is a fraudulent letter.

Me:  Do you have a copy of the letter?  Because I don't have it.

The Crazy Man:  No, I can't find it.

Me:  Um...(REALLY!?!?!?  OMG!).... the FBI's first question is going to be to show them the letter.

The Crazy Man:  Yeah, your right.  Let's do this another day then.

Me:  Ok.

Seriously, I can't make this stuff up.  :)