Saturday, June 29, 2013

Beach Happy

My Toppall team and I lucked out again.  For the second summer in a row, we've been offered an amazing invitation to travel with good friends and use their relative's beach condo for a week.  This time it was with Kelly and her girls.  She has two girls, one is a year older than Ian (and in the same grade as him) and the other is a year younger than Ian (and in the grade below him).  Sam, being the big girl that she is, did her best to keep up.  For the most part, it was like we had 4 kids all the same age.

Our beach destination?  Emerald Isle, NC.  It was a gorgeous week at the beach.  The sun was shining each day, it wasn't too hot and there was a breeze in the air that kept us very happy to log many hours outside. 

The condo was stayed in was fabulous.  It had two bedrooms and two full bathrooms.  Ian, Sam and I slept in one bedroom and Kelly and her girls slept in the other.  I am always amazed when my kids and I can manage to sleep in the same room together.  I keep thinking back to the days when Sam had to be completely by herself and no one could even dare turn the door knob to check on her.  We've come far from those days and even managed to get a good night's sleep each night with all of us in the same room.  Of course, my kids and I are very early risers and by 6:15/6:30am each morning, we were hanging out in the living room ready to get our day started.  By day two, we finally got in the groove of enjoying the downtime and hanging out for a few hours -- by then it would only be 9:30/10:00am!

The four kids (who don't normally have many playdates together -- Kelly and I see each other way more than our kids do) were amazing together.  I am blown away how they instantly came together and created this bond.  It was awesome they had each other. They really had a great time being together.  Whether we were at the pool, beach, chilling at the condo, eating at a restaurant, walking around the town, the kids kept themselves entertained all on their own.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is nothing like traveling with friends to make the trip much sweeter for all of us.

We spent the majority of the morning and afternoon at the pool and beach each day.  Unfortunately the ocean was super rough, and we couldn't go much past our waist before a humongous wave would come crashing down and knock us over.  Both Kelly and I noticed that the waves in the ocean didn't have any set patterns and it made it difficult to anticipate what would happen next.  I think it had to do something with a big storm that recently had come through up North. 

Later in the day, we made it out for some fun (and crazy!) adventures.  Thanks to us, Kelly's girls have now experienced Go-Karting.  Fortunately, Kelly is still talking to me.  If they do this with us again, it might be wearing helmets.  :)  

We also tried Bumper Boats.  This was much more harmless.  Be warned!  You do get wet!!

One of the highlights for me was the restaurant Flipperz.  They had gluten-free bread!  And this place was so yummy!  I had a grilled chicken sandwich.  Loved it!  The homemade potato chips were uh-amazing!

We even made it to the movies and saw "Monster's University".  It was a wonderful week of fun, sun and hanging out with good friends.

The timing of our trip was perfect.  Jeff was traveling for work anyway and wasn't home.  I can't wait to see next Summer who invites us to join them at the beach.  :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Heard and Observerd #43

We are currently spending the week at the beach -- Emerald Isle, NC.  I have lots to share about our trip and will do so when we get back to town.  But first, I have another "Heard and Observed".

The day before we left for our trip, we did an ice cream meet-up with my friend Heather and her kids at Cold Stone on Sunday afternoon.  Heather and Ian have a great relationship and ever since Ian was 3, she quizzes him on various math problems.  9 times out of 10, Ian gets it right -- usually coming up with the answer pretty quickly in his head.  It is actually very impressive to watch.

SIDE NOTE:  How this even started that Heather thought Ian could handle these math problems?   When I was potty training Ian (just after turning 3), he had an accident and I was changing him out of the dirty underwear and into a clean pair.  I was simultaneously on the phone with Heather and made the offhanded remark that we were now down another pair of underwear.  But it's ok, we had 25 pairs and lost 3 in the last 2 days.  Ian said, without missing a beat, "that means we only have 22 pairs left."   Heather couldn't believe what she was hearing and asked me how in the world Ian could do that math.  I didn't think it was anything special and was under the impression that all kids could do math like that.  And that's how Ian's relationship started with Heather asking him math problems to solve.

Back to Sunday -- Here's the conversation:

Heather:  Ian, what's 96-12?

Ian:  84.  The same year that Detroit Tigers took the pennant.

Heather:  WHAT!?!?!?  Really?

Jeff:  Yes, Ian's right.  They won in 1984.

Heather:  OMG!  That's crazy.

Heather then moves off to math and begins asking baseball questions.  She is quite impressed with Ian's knowledge of everything baseball. 

Heather:  Ian, who is pitching the Nats game on Wednesday?

Ian (thinking about who has pitched recently and who is left to pitch in the rotation):  What day is today?

We all busted out laughing.  Ian is like a mini-Rainman with all his math and baseball knowledge. Honestly, I'd think he was on the Autism spectrum if he wasn't so social and had good eye-contact.  But when it came to something so easy as what the day of the week was, he didn't know.  It was pretty funny.  We all had a good laugh. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Heard and Observed #42

Ian:  Sam, your a little whiny, but your still the best sister I could ever have.


After picking Sam from school one day, our conversation in the car:

Sam:  Mommy, when you have baby in your tummy, does it hurt to get the baby out of you?

Me:  Yes, a little.  But they have pain medicine they will give you, so you don't feel anything.

Sam: Then I don't want to be a girl


Friday, June 21, 2013

Three Cheers for Graduation!

Hip, Hip, Hooray!  Hip, Hip, Hooray!  Hip, Hip, Hooray!   Sam is now officially done with preschool.  I am the mother to not one, but two preschool graduates.  I am pretty sure you would be hard pressed to find a mom more proud of her little girl on this momentous occasion.

It was a very exciting morning.  We had two sets of grandparents in attendance and Jeff was fortunately not on travel and could join us too. 

The teachers had taught the class several songs to sing and entertain us with.  Sam did a stellar job of singing louder than anyone else in her class.  A few attendees even remarked she stole the show.  That's my girl! 

A lot of people are sad when their youngest (or first, or only) is done with preschool.  But not me, I've been waiting for this day for 6 years - from when Ian started in the 2's class.  The only thing I am sad about is not seeing my preschool mommy friends.   There is a group of 5 of us and we have formed a very close and special bond over the years.  It will be hard to go each day and not see their smiling faces.  It will be hard to not have someone to vent to first thing in the morning.  And it will be hard to not have all our kids seamlessly be connected together.  It truly does take a village.   I guess we will have to meet more frequently at our fave place for margaritas.  And of course, we have our infamous text conversation that will continue.   Fortunately, we will all be in religious school together.  Uh, I mean, the KIDS will all be in religious school together.

Sam is now officially a kindergartner.  It's so very exciting.  Two kids in the same school, for the same hours each day -- wow, I feel like I won the lottery.

Outfit - designed completely by Sam.  This girl's got style!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My thoughts exactly.

I've been saying for a while now that we are raising a society of wimps and cry babies.  I am not excluding my children in this statement.  This is just how I feel.  Watching Ian's friends interact, they look at each other and break into tears.  And these are good kids.  They are not bullies, not mean to each other, and not intentionally doing anything to hurt the other kids' feelings.  These kids are too sensitive.  I'm talking 2nd grade boys too!  It is crazy.  I just want to look at them and say, toughen up!  Although, that would get them crying even more. 

An article from Psychology Today came to my attention last week.  I couldn't believe what I was reading. This (very long) article spoke to me.  It is sad, but true.  Again, my kids aren't excluded in this.  I am the first one to stand up and say I am overprotective and too much of a helicopter mom.  But it is a scary world out there and I want to do what I can to make sure my kids are safe.  If it means being there 24/7 and letting them know I am a quick cell phone call away for help, then so be it.   And believe me, if you are going to mess with one of my kids, you are going to hear about it from me. 

It's true that we aren't letting the kids do things for themselves.  We aren't letting them get hurt and figure things out.  I am doing my best to make Ian more independent, but it's challenging for me everyday.  I don't want him to fail or come up short.  I want him to have the best day he can, every day. 

Anyway, here's the article in its entirety.  I think it is interesting to read what is happening to this next generation. 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

We are NOT an outdoorsy family

There, I've said it.  My family does not enjoy the great outdoors.  Actually, let me correct myself and say the conditions have to be absolutely perfect in order to take them outside and not hear any complaints.  The weather should be a little overcast (too much sun shining and it just gets in your eyes, you know?), absolutely no humidity and a light breeze would be preferred.  Anything above 73 degrees and you are going to hear how hot it is.  And, let me add, there should be no uphill elevation.  If all of the above conditions are met, you better hope that Jeff and the kids aren't the least bit hungry or thirsty.  Going more than 1 hour without a snack or drink handy is not possible for my Toppall team.  We are one well-quenched foursome. 

We attempted to return to one of my most favorite spots (Great Falls) and do a hike with two other families. 

We look like a happy bunch.  Soon, all will change!

Once the kids realized we weren't going to only climb the rocks, but actually follow a trail and enjoy getting some exercise, the complaining was non-stop.  It was train wreck being on the Gold Mine Loop with our friends.  Ian was not a happy camper.  Therefore, Jeff was a not a happy camper.  And, Sam quickly chimed in about being expected to actually walk and got a lift from Jeff on his shoulders.

Because if Jeff wasn't having enough fun, let's hike a few miles with Sam on his shoulders.  :)
 After about 50 minutes, we saw a jogger go by and stopped her.  The question we asked  -- how do we get out of here the fastest?   Are we better off finishing the loop or is there a faster exit on one of the Spur trails?   This runner was very nice and explained that our best option was to turn around and where to take a trail that broke off the loop we were on.   We said good-bye to our friends and hightailed it out of Great Falls. 

Ian, taking a break, but still complaining.
By the time we made our way back to the car, we ended up walking/hiking 3 miles.  If we stayed with our friends, we would've done the whole loop and that was 3.2 miles.  In between hearing the kids complain, I was really enjoying myself.  It was nice to be outside and moving.  Doing something active with the family is an increasing priority for me.  I don't want us to turn into four couch potatoes, unhealthy and dealing with weight issues.  I guess in the future we will have to better time when we go and what we do.

As we made our way to the car, Sam declared, "We are NEVER going to do that again.  Not even on Mother's day."   Wow!  Sounds so final, doesn't it?  To my delight (and surprise), Jeff answered her back with, "We can come back when the weather is a little cooler."    Yay!  Guess Jeff didn't hate it as much as we all thought.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another bad habit bites the dust.

Not to make Jeff feel too bad, but him being gone 4 days for work was incredible.  It was our first week with our new schedule and I had high hopes that all would go well.  We had prepped the kids that we needed to work as a team and to help out more than usual.  The result of Jeff being gone went beyond my highest expectations.

Sam has officially been broken of a really bad, annoying habit.  Her inability to stay in bed (after reading her a story, singing her some songs and snuggling with her) was riddled with insanity.  She would come out of her room repeatedly with one or all of the following reasons:  my eyeballs hurt, my knee hurts, my arm hurts, my hair hurts, it's too light, its too dark, I need to wash my hands, my pillow itches,  my pillow's too lumpy, my blankets keep falling off my bed, I can't find pinky, it's too quiet, it's too loud, I'm thirsty, I'm starving, it's too cold, it's too hot, I have a question, I have something to say, and on and on and on.   It was enough to drive a person mad.

This had been going on for a ridiculous amount of time.  Since Jeff was the main person to put Sam down each night, he would deal with her craziness.  I stayed out of it and would completely ignore Sam each and every time she came out of her room.  After about 5 or 6 instances, Jeff would get really mad and yell at the top of his lungs for her to stay in her room.  At which point, Sam would turn around, run into her room and cry herself to sleep.  None of this was ideal.  Jeff did his best to be patient and help Sam with whatever issue she was having.  Until he couldn't take anymore.  Sam never knew at which point Jeff would have enough and explode.

When I knew I was going to have to take over putting Sam down, I decided to put an end to this nonsense, once and for all. 

THE FIRST NIGHT:  Sam comes out of her room, I tell her she lost TV the next day.  The 2nd time Sam came out of her room, I told her she lost the use of her iPad the next day.  Sam ran into her room crying and fell asleep.

THE SECOND NIGHT:  As I was putting Sam down to bed, I told her she was excellent all day.  She definitely deserved tv and her iPad the next day.  However, if she came out of her room, I would take each away again.  AND, if she managed to stay in her room all night, then I would give her a special surprise the next morning.  Sam stayed in her room all night!

THE NEXT MORNING:  When Sam woke up, we did a dance of joy and cheered for her being in her room the whole night.  I gave her a choice of 4 special treats:  1. A new game for her iPad, 2. $1.00,  3. Frozen yogurt after school, and 4. A small cookie before breakfast.   Sam chose a new game for her iPad.

THE THIRD NIGHT:  Sam stayed in her room all night!

THE NEXT MORNING:  Gave her 4 choices again.  She loved it!  This time she chose a lollipop.

THE FOURTH NIGHT:  Jeff came home and it was up to him to put her down.  I begged him to back me up on this and keep it going.  He did!  I went out with some friends and called in to find out how it went.  Sam came out of her room once and he promptly told her she lost tv the next day.  That was it and she stayed in her room the rest of the night.  Yay!!  Sam was definitely testing Jeff to see what he was going to do.  Thank G-d Jeff stuck to the program.  This will make my life so much easier for when he leaves town again.

THE FIFTH NIGHT AND SO ON:  Sam stays in her room and doesn't come out.  She knows she can go to the bathroom if needed, but that's it.  It is a real pleasure putting her down and we've cut out so much stress and angst not having to deal with a crazy-long extended bedtime routine.

When I offer her a treat in the morning, she tells me what the choices should be.  The other day, she added to the list "Be good to mommy and daddy".   WOW!  Now, that's a treat for me.  :)

The other benefit to Jeff being gone, was not having to load or unload the dishwasher -- at all!  I managed to go the whole week and not accumulate any dirty dishes.  We met friends for dinner, ate on paper plates and kept all food prep to a minimum.  It wasn't our healthiest week of dinners, but it was super nice after long days of running around to not prepare a full-blown meal.

Ian was super adorable and kept asking me how I thought it was going.  On Monday afternoon at 4:00pm, he gets in the car after school pick-up and says, "Mom, are you doing ok?  Did you have a good day?  I think we are doing ok with Daddy being gone."   The funny thing is, so far nothing was different than if Jeff was working out of his office locally.  It was only once we got past the 6:00pm hour that it would be a difference with him out of town.

The next morning, I was running late getting us out the door to meet Ian's bus.  I looked at Ian and asked if it would be okay if we went to bus stop #3 instead of our usual #1.  He said fine and that gave me another 5 minutes.  However, by the time we actually got to the car, it was now 10 minutes later.  Ian looked at the time and said, "I don't think we are doing so good today."  Hehehehehe.

Jeff stayed in town this week and was able to go to Sam's preschool graduation.  I was so happy he could attend this.  The next 2 weeks he is back to traveling.  We are going to be just fine!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My new gig.

I am pleased to announce that come Fall 2013, I will be the Administrative person in the office at a local preschool.  I am so excited!! 

In my quest to continue to have a flexible schedule so that I can be there for the kids -- school holidays, snow days, Winter break, Spring break, Summer, afternoons, and driving to their activities, I am doing my best to stay out of a traditional 9 to 5 office job.   I believe I have finally succeeded in finding my dream job. 

I will work 12 hours a week (most likely 3 hours a day, 4 days a week) and assist the preschool director, plus jump in where needed.  I am going to tell The Man I can work for him 2.5 hours, 3 afternoons a week.  And, I will still continue to do billing for my friend, which is from my house.  I actually think I am taking on another person do their billing too.  She is currently ironing out some details with the insurance company.

I am going to be a busy bee!  But I will have a schedule that works for me and the kids.  I will be able to move things around when needed and not worry about childcare if Ian or Sam get sick. 

If everything goes as planned, I'll be in great shape for the next several years.  Or you know, until The Man is no longer causing mayhem and needs me. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013


If this was a play, it would be worthy of a standing ovation.

If this was a movie, it would surely deserve an academy award for best performance.

If this was a book, you can bet it would get the Noble prize in literature.

If this was a Broadway musical, you can count on it winning a Tony.

And, if this was a record, it would go triple platinum within days.

What am I describing?  Sam's behavior at her 5 year doctor's check-up and her dentist appointment to get 2 (of 4) cavities filled. 

In both situations (on back to back days, no less), she was an absolute dream.   The doctor and dentist who both know her well, couldn't believe what we were all experiencing.  All of our mouth's dropped open and hit the floor when we saw we weren't in store for a fight or needing to hold her down.  It was downright unbelievable.  And in each instance, she left the office with a smile on her face. 

Sam brought her own reinforcements to prepare for the shots given at her 5 year appt. 
The nurse got a good laugh when walking in the room and seeing Sam like this.

At the dentist getting 2 cavities filled.

Here's Sam chilling at the dentist. 
This is the appt. that diagnosed the cavities.

For those that know what Sam is like, her past appointments at the doctor's office have been legendary.  To the point, that I end the appointment asking about medicating her and when can we have a serious discussion about that.  Yes, its that bad.

This past year has been one of amazing growth for Sam.  It is so exciting to think we've turned a corner.  Yay!  It was about damn time.  :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The grocery store effect

For some time now (a year?  longer?), Jeff has taken over a very important aspect to keeping our family running shopping. 

95% of the time, he has his sidekick Sam with him and they descend upon Wegman's -- usually Sunday mornings (while Ian is in religious school) or some time during the weekend.  I do the menu for the upcoming week, write out the grocery list and hand-off the recyclable bags.  They do an awesome job! 

It was originally hard to give up control, but we've seen a huge impact on our grocery store charges.

I go to Wegman's with the same exact list I send Jeff with:  It costs an average of $240 to $260 each week.

Jeff goes to Wegman's:  Spends on average $130 to $140 each week.  One week he only spent $97!

Um, hello!  You don't have to knock me over with a feather to let me know its in our best interest to let Jeff do the grocery shopping.  I am impressed!  He sticks to the list and doesn't get easily sidetracked or tempted with unneeded items that look so appealing sitting there on the shelves.

Most weeks, Jeff will include one or two new items he finds that are Gluten-Free.  The latest surprise was a frozen pizza wrap.  Yum-O!  And he always manages to bring home a frosted cookie from the bakery for Ian.  Sam devours her during the grocery shopping.

I used to have help unpack the groceries with one eye closed.  It was hard to see the milk being so close to expiring or the huge quantities of yogurt that wasn't needed or going to be eaten within the amount of time needed.  Or finding a kosher, barbecue rotisserie chicken when I asked for a plain-flavored rotisserie chicken.  But no more!  It's been a few months since Jeff has messed anything up.  He certainly has gotten into a good groove.

The most adorable thing was when I came into the kitchen one Sunday morning and saw Jeff taking 409 to the inside of each of the Wegman's bags.  We had just seen a news report on how there is a good amount of bacteria breeding in these bags.  Jeff took it upon himself to make sure the bags were clean.

A big shout-out to Jeff who does an outstanding job (and I don't mean learning where to find all the food!).  Is it just me or does Wegman's change the placement of produce a ridiculous number of times?   And don't get me started on the mexican food aisle or the canned goods. It's a good thing I am not in there as much as I used to be.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Single mom parenting starts now.

My partner in crime (as known as the father to my children) will be starting a new assignment for work.  He will be in Malvern, PA from Sunday evening to Wednesday evening each week.  This week he is gone from Monday to Thursday night.  Thie travel schedule is supposed to go for the next 8 weeks.  I am not holding my breath that it magically stops in 2 months.  I could see it extending or periodic trips continuing after this time period.

This will be a whole new world for the kids and I.  We don't know what it is like to not have Jeff home in the evenings.  Sure, there is the occasional work event or late meeting, but he still manages to get home in time to put the kids down almost every single night since Ian has been born.

I know how fortunate I am.  I can count on Jeff to pick Ian up from his gymnastics classes and religious school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.  We eat dinner together as a family 98% of the time.  As soon as Jeff walks in the door, he takes over.  Most of the time, it is very necessary with how emotionally drained I am parenting Sam.  Furthermore, I've been free to plan evenings out with my friends for movies, exercise classes or dinners.  It's been really nice and this is the only life I know.

No more.  Now, I'll be single parenting it and putting the kids down 4 nights of the week on my own.  I know I can do this.  I see my good friends live this life all the time and they not only survive, but thrive in this situation.  I am not scared.  The kids and I will work as a team.  We will probably eat out more than usual, but can you really expect me to cook a homemade meal every single night!?!?!

And, I had another thought that could be seen as a bonus to this situation.  I could have a dog for 4 days before Jeff even discovered it.  By the time he got back home Wednesday night, Jeff will have missed us so much, he might even overlook the 4-legged puppy peeing everywhere, barking and sleeping on his side of the bed.

Hey, we've all got to used to this new normal, right?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Call me crazy

Last weekend was birthday party central at Casa del Toppall.  We threw not one, but two birthday parties that spanned a total of 19 hours. Yowzer! 

Ian's party was the biggie.  6 boys (all in 2nd grade) descended upon the house starting at 4:30pm Friday and the last duo left at 10:20am Saturday morning.  Sam's party started at 1:00pm and we said good-bye to the last child around 3:30pm.  I discovered my first gray hair later that Saturday.  I really think all these events are closely linked together.  :)

It was manageable.  All the kids were very well behaved, but let me say, never again.  It was way too many boys.  At any given moment, one of them had some kind of issue.  The boys got along great and enjoyed all the activities we had planned, but it was exhausting being around these kids who cry at the drop of a hat.  I really think we are raising a society of cry babies and wimps (I am not excluding my kids in this statement).  But that is a rant for another time.  Don't get me wrong, I love all the boys one on one when they've had playdates with Ian, but together as a group was too much!

Sam was super cute during Ian's party and tried very hard to hang with the older kids.  When the boys were eating their pizzas they each made themselves, Sam had her own in front of her to eat too.  The conversation turned into potty humor (very typical of 8 year old boys) and Sam had her own offering, "Hey, everyone say 'Stinky Pinky Underwear'.  hehehehee.

The kids making their own pizzas.

Let the games begin!

The boys didn't mind Sam hanging around and she loved being included.  At one point, they asked her to join their soccer game to help even out the teams.

The boys went to sleep pretty easily (by 10:30pm) and were all awake by 6:00am. Not too bad.

By the time we got to Sam's party, the living was easy and it was a breeze.  We only had a small gathering of kids and having it at the house, actually worked out perfectly.  The weather was gorgeous and we were able to be outside the whole time.  I had a woman from Waddle Dawdle come and entertain the kids for a solid hour.  She did a great job and they had fun.

Having fun in our backyard

The piƱata that wouldn't fall apart!  30 minutes later we had to manually rip it apart.

Every year I say this is it for birthday parties.  And every year around February, the kids start figuring out what kind of party they would like to have.   But this year I think I really mean it.  I'd much rather Ian pick 2 friends and Jeff takes them to a baseball game or something fun to do.  As for Sam, I am sure we will continue down the birthday party path for another couple of years.   I am making some progress.  I didn't hand out goody bags for either party.  Woo-hoo!  One small step for mankind, one giant leap for moms who dislike goody bags everywhere!