Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A not-so-good-day for the beach

While I was down in Orlando, we went with my mom and stepfather to the beach for the day.  We loaded up the car with everything we'd need (plus, the kitchen sink!) and headed to New Smyrna Beach.  It is approx. a 1.5 hour drive each way.  No one minds the drive, because when we get there, it is well worth it.  My kids and I LOVE the beach and easily can spend hours upon hours enjoying the sand and surf. 

We took Jim's new car to the beach.  We made sure to bring a change of clothes for everyone so that no one was sitting in wet suits in his car on the ride home.  Jim asked for us to be careful with tracking sand in his car too.

As we are on our way, we notice the dark sky and a little rain shower.  It's well known that in Florida during the Summer, you get a quick shower and then it is over.  The sun will come out and you can proceed with your plans.  The last thing you should do is turn around and go home. 

We stop at Subway on the way, pick up sandwiches for everyone and a few minutes later, we are one the beach.  Within 10 minutes, we have the car completely unpacked and our stuff is set-up by the water (umbrella in the sand, 5 chairs, cooler, boogie boards, sand toys, sunscreen, and mom's big bag with all her essential stuff that she is never without).  We are sitting on the chairs and begin eating our lunch. Ian is the first to comment that he feels a drop of rain.  My mom says to him, "let's just keep eating, the rain will pass by." 

Bad move on our part.  Ha!  Before you know it, we are drenched!!  Completely soaked through. The rain is coming down something fierce and the winds have now kicked in.  It is getting really bad out - monsoon like conditions.  We went from a sprinkle to a torrential downpour in like 5 seconds flat.  Ian and Sam take their subs and make a run for it to the car.  Mom puts one hand on the umbrella to keep it from blowing away.  Only the wind is stronger than her and she is in jeopardy of blowing away with it.  The remaining beach chairs have all fallen over and are now headed on the fast track towards the ocean.  Jim and I are scrambling to gather all our stuff and bring it back to the car, which is a good 30 feet or so from where we set up.  If its possible to get more soaked than we are, we've accomplished it.  The umbrella my mom is still clinging to has turned itself inside out now.  We are mess!

It takes us 4 or 5 trips running back and forth from our beach set-up to the car.  We manage to contain all of our stuff and help rescue mom from the situation she is in holding on to the umbrella.  We seek shelter in the car and finish eating our lunch.  There is sand everywhere in the car.  And, to make matters worse, the seats in the car are soaked.  We are so wet, you could wring us out.  Oh my!  We weren't even at the beach for 5 minutes, before we completely trash Jim's car.

Knowing Florida and the Summer rains the way we do, we wait out the storm.  After about 15 minutes, the sun is shining and we head back out to the beach.  This time we leave the umbrella and cooler behind and bring the rest of the stuff with us.

We don't make it more than 10 minutes before the whole scene repeats itself again.  Seriously, we all make a run for it and hide for cover in the car again.  Now the car is even more wet and sandy in the inside.  It's not looking good.  But, still we are determined to have our day at the beach and wait it out.  After another 10 minutes, the rain has stopped and we ventured out again.  This time we leave the umbrella, the cooler, the boogie boards and 3 of the chairs behind.  We are getting more efficient at packing up the stuff and making a run for it.

Unfortunately, we don't make it another 15 minutes before the 3rd wave of storms hits.  Still not discouraged, we wait out this storm too.  When we go to set-up our spot again by the water, we are now down to 2 chairs.  We do add in the sand toys after realizing the kids are having fun playing.

By the time we get to the 4th set of storms, we've been there a total of 2 hours and we are ready to call it a day.  We are beyond the point of it being ridiculous.  Funny enough, there are many people around us who stayed and did the same as us.  Typically, you get only one storm and then the rest of the day is good.  This was unusual. 

We all found the situation very humorous, with the exception of Jim.  He was in shock over what his car looked like.  It was not pretty.  Jim did a great job of presenting a good front, but inside I knew he was freaking out like a little girl.  When we got back home, I helped him clean it out and vacuum up the equivalent of about 2 gallons of sand, some even mixed in with water to create a thick, sticky mud.  Ugh. 

As I was putting Ian down to bed that night, he said to me, "This was the best day ever!"  It will definitely be one we remember for a very long time.

Definitely not a beach day.

The lifeguard is all bundled up.  When do you typically see that in July in Florida?

In the short time we were out of the car, the kids made a friend named, Jake.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's a great day to fly.

Never in a million years did I think I'd be able to write this blog entry.  But, here goes.  On Monday, July 22nd, I flew with my 2 kids to Orlando.  It went well.  Really well.  Like the kind of greatness when you think at some point something bad has got to happen and you are just waiting for it.  But nothing bad ever came.  Like ever.  The three of us acted like we were completely normal.  From start to finish, Ian and Sam were rockstars.  I have nothing else to write or even say about the experience.  There is no story here to tell.  :)

iPad for each kid, full control of what to watch on their own tv, and JetBlue = Happiness.

I enjoyed a great week with my family. As planned, I left the kids down in Orlando and flew back by myself on Saturday.  This coming Thursday, I'll fly back and get the kids.  Jeff and I are looking forward to spending a few days in Annapolis while the kids are away.

It's hard to believe we have only one month to go until school begins.  Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Size Small? Really?

Last weekend I went away for a few days to Solomon's Island, MD with some of my girlfriends.  We had a great 48 hours.  On our way out of town, a few of us seeked out the one and only retail shop that sold clothes.  We had no idea what kind of store we were walking into, but we were women on a mission and as long as shopping was involved, we were game. 

The store we stumbled upon was like nothing I've ever seen before.  There was women's clothing everywhere!!  It appeared to be a house with many rooms (all on the main floor) that was converted into a boutique type shop.  The clothes seemed to be color coordinated and grouped together.  It was big-time sensory overload trying to take it all in.  You could literally be in the same small room for 20 minutes and still keep discovering new items.  Some clothes were piled on top of each other, some were on hangers, and others were artfully draped on various arm chairs.  There weren't more than 2 or 3 of each item, and if you were lucky, your size was one of them. 

The clothing was unique and you felt compelled to keep looking through each room to see what treasures were within.  Since the clothing was a little on the pricey side, all four of us spent more time in the 50% off room than any of the others.  I went into this store thinking I shouldn't be was ok to look, but I really didn't need to buy anything.  However, when we moved into the main room where the register was located, it was then while my friends were paying for their purchases, that a dress spoke to me.  It was really pretty and quite different than the usual clothes I wear.  I am not a person who usually wears dresses.  More than anything because I don't easily find dresses that look good for my body type, which can best be described as short-waisted, round and lumpy. 

It didn't take long for encouragement from my friends telling me to try on the dress.  There was only one small hitch, it was a size small.  I wasn't even born a size small.  There was no way it was going to fit.  This was silly to even consider trying it on.  But, hey, when your friends start encouraging you, it can become a very persuasive voice.  I joked that if this dress fits, I'd be wearing it on the drive home. 

Guess what?  It fit!  And not only did it fit, but it looked good.

Now, I don't foolishly think that I am actually a size-small wearing girl.  Hardly!  I am positive that this dress was miss-sized.  The label in the dress and the tag itself both said "Small", but again, its hard to believe that I would ever fit in something actually a size small. 

It didn't take long to convince me to buy it.  Heck, just knowing it said "Small" in the dress was enough to make me start taking out my wallet.  I think this could be a new marketing move, put the size "Small" in more upscale clothing and watch the bigger-size women flock to buy it. 

The card attached to the dress described it as "An everyday dress".  I could easily wear this dress every day, just knowing I am walking around in something sized "Small."   Isn't it great how your mind can play with you like that?  So when you bump into me around town, and I wearing the same thing over and over again, just know that I do have other clothes in my closet, but none are a size small. 

I didn't wear the dress home, but I did wear a smile on my face for the 1.5 hour drive back to NoVa. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heard and Observed #44

Jeff to Sam (as he is putting her down to bed):  Samantha, tomorrow is Mommy's birthday.  Please do your best to be a good girl and be very nice to Mommy. It is a special day.

Sam (whispering to herself):  Please no, please no

Jeff:  What?

Sam:  Please no Great Falls, please no Great Falls.


We were driving in the car with our friends talking about dance class and all the various things having to do with that.  Sam is listening and decides to contribute to the conversation.

Sam:  Well, my dance class used to be a prison.

It was very, very funny.  And very true!  Sam took dance classes at the Lorton Workhouse, which back in the day, used to be a prison.  How funny that she remembers this.  And if anyone didn't know where Sam took dance, they'd think she was making this up.


Jeff and I went for a walk one evening.  He had a particular route in mind. I had no idea where he was going and hadn't gone this way before.

Me to Jeff:  Ok, I will follow you, but I want to be in front.

It was only after this came out of my mouth, did I realize how absurd it sounded.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's all about family.

 "You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." -- Desmond Tutu

"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."  ~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, "Identity Crisis," M*A*S*H

"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts."  ~Author Unknown

A favorite week for me this Summer just recently ended.  We started it off with Ian and Sam going to "Gramps Camp".  From Monday to Thursday, they had a most excellent time with Jeff's parents.  They went bowling, to the movies, to the pool, the Science Center and many restaurants for lunches and dinners.  Sam and Ian were on their best behavior and a glowing report was given upon their return.  I definitely see more Gramps Camp in their future.  Yay! 

Picking the kids up on Thursday.
Grandpa and Ian at lunch.

It was wonderful to have a few days kid-free and get stuff done.  I took a pediatric first-aid/CPR class (for my upcoming preschool job), worked for the Crazy Man, and spent some quality time at the movies.  I recommend "The Way, Way, Back."  if you are looking for something to see. 

The fun continued for all of us as Jeff and I picked Ian and Sam up from Grandma and Grandpa's house on Thursday and traveled North to New Jersey.  We had planned a play date with my cousin Leslie and her kids.  They live in CT, so meeting at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Cherry Hill is the halfway point for each of us.  It's perfect and gives me the opportunity to spend time with my Aunt and Uncle too.

Many, many months ago, we had planned for Jeff/Ian to go to a baseball game with Max and Max's father, Matt.  Matt wasn't able to come, so my Uncle Bernard took his place.   Ian is a big National's fan and Max is a big Phillies fan.  We made sure to pick them playing against each other at Citizen Park Stadium in Philadelphia.

I most nervous about the gloomy forecast (thunderstorms!) and the possibility the game would get cancelled.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a beautiful night and the boys made it to the very end of the game.  They had a fantastic time, filled with tons of stadium food, great seats and a deep love for their respective teams.  The Phillies won 3 to 1 if you want to know.

Two peas in a pod.  When they come together, its like no time has passed.
While they were at the game, the girls (me, Sam, my Aunt Beth, Cousin Leslie and her daughter Ellie - age 4 1/2), went out to dinner and to Rita's Water Ice.  It was a great evening.  

Ellie doesn't like getting her picture taken. 
She was pretty sure she wasn't going to be included in this picture.  She was wrong.  :)

The next morning, the kids played a bit, I went for a 5 mile walk (!!!!) and we hit the road home.

I love it when plans work out.  Even better when the weather cooperates too. And, I love getting to see my relatives.  There is nothing like family.  My Toppall team and I are so fortunate to be related to the most amazing people -- both sides, Jeff and me.

I only wish we lived closer and could see grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and sister-in-laws/brother-in-laws more often.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Introducing Mr. Wright

Right before school let out, Ian had to do a whopper of a project for his second grade class. The students did this thing called a "Living Wax Museum".  All the kids in second grade were assigned a historical figure who made some kind of significant contribution to society. 

The project had 3 parts to it: 

1. Create a tri-fold presentation board that incorporated a timeline of the person's life, pictures, what contribution they made, interesting facts, etc.

2. Write and MEMORIZE a 2 minute speech.  Yes, I said MEMORIZE!  (Holy smokes!)

3. Dress like the person they are portraying.

Who did Ian get for his project?  The Wright Brothers -- Orville and Wilbur.  For weeks leading up to the big presentation day, Ian worked hard on his speech and tri-fold board.  He practiced reciting his speech two, three times a day until it was memorized cold. 

When it was finally time for Orville and Wilbur to come to life, I was a mixture of excited and nervous for him.  I knew he knew these two brothers as well as he knew himself.  I couldn't wait to see him in action.  My mom and stepfather made it back to Burke so they could come see Ian too. We arrived at the school and headed to the cafeteria where all the second graders were set-up.  Boy, was it noisy and crowded! 

The time came to get started.  Ian took his place and got very still, wax-like.  Then you had to press this button on his hand and The Wright Brothers would come to life.  It was hard to hear him with all the noise of everyone else doing their thing, but Ian did great!!!

This was a big project for second grade!  All the kids did a wonderful job creating their presentation boards and memorizing their speeches.  Way to go!

Ian being very still, waiting for someone to press his hand.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sam, Swimming, and Survival.

I have one last post about our week at the beach.  This one involves Sam and her ability to swim. 

My dream is to be sitting on a chair (wearing regular clothes) with my kindle in one hand, reading a book, while the kids are splashing around in the pool having a great time with their friends.   I see other moms regularly doing this and I drool with envy. I figure I am about 2 years away from it being optional if I get wet or not. 

My reality is that I HAVE TO wear a bathing suit and need to be in the water, within arm's reach of Samantha, G-d forbid something should happen.  Even with lifeguards around, I take full responsibility for watching my kids in the water.  This is my job to make sure they are safe.

While we were at the pool during our week at Emerald Isle, I stepped out of the pool and sat on a nearby chair to dry off.  I kept my eye on Sam who was hanging on to her inner tube, floating around the pool.  At one point, Sam and her float wandered to the middle of the pool, where the water was way over her head.  She accidentally came out of the inner tube and slipped under the water.  I got to my feet and quickly walked to the edge of the pool that was the closest to where she was.  I was very ready to jump in and get her, but noticed something very cool.  As soon as Sam realized her inner tube floated away from her and she was in over her head, her survival instincts kicked in and she began the swim to the side of the pool.  She didn't panic and used her head.  She instantly knew what she needed to do and did it.  I was so proud of her!  When she reached the side, I pulled her out and gave her a HUGE hug and kiss. 

And as I was describing what just happened to my friend Kelly, Sam went right back in the water and ended up doing the whole thing again.  This second situation was also an accident on her part.   Sam did it twice!

Sam has been taking swim lessons all year long.  I knew she can swim, but I would never have known that she could hold her own in a 'crisis' situation, unless I had seen it for myself.  She didn't panic!  That's my girl! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013


We stopped at Chick Fil A for lunch on the way to Emerald Isle.  We loved it so much we stopped at the same one on the way back too.  What a great alternative to McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell. You know how sometimes you walk into a restaurant and you feel like a burden asking them to get you food?  Food you are paying for?  Asking people who are getting paid to be there for this food?  Well, you don't feel like that at Chick Fil A.  They like you being there.

While we were eating, a Chick Fil A employee came up to us and asked if we needed our drinks refreshed.  How awesome was that!?!?  In fact, we got better service and more delicious food than we did at the first restaurant we went to that night in Emerald Isle.

I had the most amazing salad -- Grilled Chicken Market Salad.  It was fresh, full of wonderful fruit, delicious grilled chicken, chunks of cheese and they even had a few crunchy nut toppings to add.  Yummy!!  Loved it!

I enjoyed my salad so much I had to take a picture of it.  Wow!  What a great salad. And what a wonderful surprise when stopping for fast food.

The other really cool thing about Chick Fil A are the straws. They offer the bendy straws as well as the regular straight kind. 

You have to respect a restaurant that doesn't open on Sundays due to religious reasons.  Anywhere in the country!  How many people would actually give up being open for one of the busiest days of the week because of their beliefs?  I think that is amazing...sad for me when I want to go on a Sunday, but a wonderful testament to how strong their faith is.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer lovin'

Ian has a crush.  A big crush.  He likes Emily.  And I am pretty sure Emily likes Ian back.  The two of them were like two peas in a pod at the beach.  They did everything together.  Their personalities are very similar and they had a blast together. 

One of the funniest moments was when we were in one of the stores looking around and Ian was sitting in the only chair, taking a break.  Emily really wanted a turn in the chair too.  Ian wouldn't get up.  I said to Emily, "there is only one thing left to do, I guess you will have to sit in Ian's lap."   Ian got really red in the face (he blushes very easily) and said, "I wouldn't mind that."   Oh my!  I guess I better be careful about what I suggest in the future.

When we were doing the bumper boats, Emily was in the boat with her sister and mom.  Anna was squirting Ian with the water.  Emily was very quick to shout at her sister, "Don't do that!!  Ian doesn't want to get wet!".   Another time during the bumper boats, Ian looked over at Emily and saw she wasn't happy because she wasn't driving the boat.  Ian asked loudly over to them, "Why isn't Emily happy?"   Too cute how they were looking out for each other. 

I love watching Ian and getting a glimpse of the boy he is going to be when he gets older.  If you ask me, he is going to be an amazing catch!  So will Emily.  :)   I know I am projecting far ahead into the future and so many things will happen between now and then, but if for some reason these two do end up together, we've got so many wonderful pics of them through the years growing up together.

Ian's got game!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Beach Happy or Not

Each year with Sam gets a little easier.  I firmly believe the scales of her being good versus her being "challenging" are tipping her favor.   We've come far from the days when her temper tantrums would outnumber the good moments in any given day.   During our week at the beach there were a few explosive episodes and everyone around us knew Sam was not a happy camper.  Some of these were hard not to laugh out.  The ones on the beach, I just let her explode and get it out of her system.  I mean, if you can't scream at the top of your lungs at the beach, where can you?  :)

Sam in the middle of a temper tantrum.

At one point during our week at the beach, Sam lost her iPad for 2.5 days.  She went all of Wednesday without it and then had an opportunity to earn it back with good behavior.  I am pleased to say, she got it back on Thursday morning.  Whew!  It would've been a bumpy car ride home if Sam couldn't use her iPad.

Sam's whining hasn't been too horrible. I think her being around the older kids has helped greatly.  It's like she can hold it in only for so long and then has to let it out.  Sometimes it is exhausting to be around her, not knowing if she is going to explode at any moment.  Other times, she is this amazing, sweet, lovable little girl who can't stop giving you kisses.  It when she's like this that helps me get through the more challenging times.

Sam being adorable and sweet.
Sam's most epic meltdown came on our last evening in Emerald Isle.  We spent a long span of time at the pool in the late morning until afternoon.  It was a lot of activity and swimming for Sam.  We came back inside, took quick showers and headed to the movies.  Afterwards, we went for pizza at a nearby restaurant.  It was then that Sam started throwing her fit.  She was yelling about being starving and not hungry at the same time.  She was causing quite a scene and I took her out of the restaurant twice.  It didn't help.  We left the place in a hurry and as I was carrying her out, I apologized to all those eating that I am sorry we ruined their dinner.   I know that Sam was overtired.  She gets to the point of being irrational and doesn't even know what she is saying.  It's hard to talk her off the ledge and you just have to get her down to bed as soon as possible.

I am most thankful that my friends are very understanding when it comes to Sam.  I don't ever feel like I am alone and they're support means the world to me. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

A magical moment

On Monday, when we arrived at Emerald Isle, NC, we unpacked the car, got settled in the condo and had a little downtime before deciding what to do next.  It was approaching the dinner hour,  so out to a restaurant we headed. 

After dinner, we took the kids go-carting and came back to the condo.  Instead of going straight upstairs, we did an impromptu walk on the beach to check things out.  We told the kids they could take their shoes off and stick their feet in the water.  One thing led to another and the next thing you know, the four kids are playing in the ocean, fully dressed in their clothes.  The 45 minutes that followed weren't planned and or discussed in advance.  It was a total spur-of-the-moment experience.

There are few occasions in life that will stand out to me like this one did.  Seeing the joy on the kids' faces was priceless.  It was magical watching them ever-so-slowly get in the water deeper and deeper, until "oops!" they fell in one by one.  The laughter and playfulness was immeasurable.  The kids were having a blast.  And I loved getting to see this unfold.  These moments were full of such lightheartedness.  As the saying goes, "The living was easy."

The kids weren't wearing their bathing suits, there were no towels ready to dry them off, and certainly no beach toys and goggles for them to use.  No whining occurred, no screaming, and no one was upset.  It was pure fun in every way.  It was a moment that can't ever be repeated in the same manner.  Now there is a precedent for our impromptu swim in the ocean.  Forever more, this time will be compared with whatever is like it in the future. 

It was so magical how it happened.  This is a memory I will treasure. This is what childhood is all about.  This is the stuff that makes the trip worth it.  These are the times that will get talked about over and over again.  And I got to be a part of it.  Pure awesomeness.