Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let the music play!

Living in the Washington D.C. metro area provides us with a wealth of activities; things to do and see.  During the Summertime especially there are always outdoor movies and concerts you can attend.  The best part?  The majority of them are family-friendly and free!

On a beautiful Summer night, there is nothing better than enjoying the great outdoors, taking in some type of culture and hanging out, relaxing.

Jeff and I have discovered the Pops on the Potomac series at National Harbor.  A different big band orchestra plays each Saturday night, during the Summer months, starting at 7:00pm.   Between last year and this year, Jeff and I have a gone few times without the kids (when they were in Florida) and had a great time.  We decided to bring the whole family this past Saturday night.  Bonus that my mom and Jim were in town visiting and could join us.   We have a system that works.  We bring our own chairs (more comfy than the ones they provide) and grab some take-out from one of the many nearby restaurants for dinner.

My mom and Jim enjoying the wonderful music.

I had a feeling the kids would really enjoy it.  I was right!

Ian starts moving to the music in his seat.

Next thing you know, both kids are out of their seats and dancing.


After the concert, a short walk to see The Awakening statue.

It was a picture perfect evening.  How nice that we can do something as a family that everyone liked.  No one complained, no one asked to leave early.  And, there was no whining.  My kind of evening.  :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

That's Mr. Franklin to you.

My friend and I took our combined 5 kids (2 for me, 3 for her) and hit the road earlier this week for two nights and two very full days of sightseeing.  Our destination?  Philadelphia, PA.

We know how to pack it in!  Here was our itinerary:

  • Franklin Institute - we were there for 5 hours!

  • Liberty Bell

  • Betsy Ross' House
I can't believe I didn't take one picture of the Betsy Ross' house visit!

  • Took a ride on the top, open-air deck of the trolley back to our hotel.

  • Please Touch Museum

  • National Constitution Center

  • Adventure Aquarium in Camden

The fun officially started on Monday at 5:00pm, when we arrived in the City of Brotherly Love.  We picked up our City Passes (What an amazing value!!  The only way to see so much and not spend a fortune) and then headed to the hotel to check-in. 

We had adjoining rooms, but only one was ready when we arrived.  Not a problem!  We'll put all our luggage in one room, grab some dinner and then get access to our 2nd room.  By the time we made it to the restaurant, which was recommended as a kid-friendly place to go by the concierge desk, the kids were melting down.  We are now approaching 7:30pm, and it is getting seriously late for dinner.  The restaurant was ANYTHING BUT kid-friendly.  It was pretty empty and yet it took them 10 minutes to notice our crowd of 7 was standing there to give us a table.  There was no kid menu and the prices were on the high side ($18 for a burger).  Then after waiting another 10 minutes or so for our drinks to arrive (we still aren't sure how much longer they actually took to come), we decided to leave the scene and head elsewhere.  At our next stop, things moved more quickly and the kid menu rocked for our little ones.  Still, it was 8:15pm by the time food hit the table.  Oh my! 

Upon getting back to the hotel, we tried to get the kids down to bed as soon as possible.  I think we were successful in this task by 10:30pm.  Oy!  At 3:00am, a gentleman tried to come in our room.  By the 5th try of the key, I told him the room was taken.  It turns out the front desk never officially checked us into the 2nd room when I went to get the key after dinner.  Oh no!  

By the time Tuesday afternoon rolled around, Susanne and I vowed to get the kids dinner on the early side and make sure they were in bed by 8:00pm.  It was a long day and having my two kids be cranky from being over-tired wasn't my idea of fun.  We were at a Mexican restaurant by 4:45pm and I had a margarita in my hands by 5:05pm.  :)   We even made it back to the hotel pool for a swim before bedtime.  As you can imagine, no one had trouble falling asleep Tuesday night.

I've come to realize that Philadelphia has a well-established spot on my list of top 5 favorite cities.  I love this city!   It is a wonderful place to take the kids, or you know, run a marathon. 

Other than one MAJOR temper tantrum from Sam (I'm sure the staff and fellow moms are still talking about the craziness and out-of-control display we had going on) at the aquarium on Wednesday afternoon, the kids were mostly rockstars.  Sure, they had their moments of being hungry and tired, but once we took steps to remedy that, all was good. 

When I look back on our trip with my friend and our kids, I am always amazed at how much we do and how fearless we are traveling on our own.  I am mommy, hear me roar!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My mom's green thumb!

My mom has been trying for years to grow something...anything.  She usually comes to my house in May, gets some seeds and plants them with the kids.  It's always been a bust.  I get more frustrated from her trying over and over again.  In fact, I've started getting snippy every time she brings it up that her and the kids will be planting more stuff in our backyard.  Because after she leaves to return home in Florida, it is up to ME (!!) to keep an eye on things and make sure it is getting properly watered and cared for.  Not to mention I have to make sure Jeff doesn't mow over it.
This Summer, my mom took her gardening skills to her own backyard and planted watermelon seeds.  Guess what?  It worked.  My mom actually grew watermelons.  When the kids and I were there in July, we picked one out of the ground from her little watermelon patch and brought it indoors. 
I do have to admit this was very exciting!
This watermelon appears to be huge!  But just wait....the size is deceiving.

When you compare the watermelon to the size of a bottle of sunscreen, you can see just how small it really is.  It was adorable!

When we cut it open, it was perfect!  And it tasted delicious!!

Way to go Mom!  I am very proud of you.  :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ian's thoughts

Ian takes over my blog and becomes a guest writer.  There is no better way to hear about his week at camp then directly from him.

As told to me by Ian:

I thought it was a good experience for me to try out.  I had a good time.  The food was good.  My favorite food was the spaghetti and meatballs.  And my favorite breakfast food was the scrambled eggs.  Both of them were DELICIOUS!  For the desserts, there were cookies, brownies, one time we had cake, more cookies and brownies, chocolate bars.  To drink they gave us: fruit punch, orange juice, water, and lemonade.  For snacks, they gave us the choice of chocolate bars, twizzlers, oreo cookies, and I don't remember the last one.  To drink with the snacks they gave us all different kinds of gatorade.  My favorite kind of gatorade is the red kind.  Also to drink they gave us the choice of water.  And that's it; water and gatorade.   On the last day for breakfast, we had french toast with syrup, yogurt, oatmeal, and bagels.  For lunch we had taco meat, hamburger buns (but they forgot to give us these until we were cleaning up).  And for every meal there was salad, buttered noodles (even for breakfast) and tuna fish.  I had salad with every meal.  Basically all I put in there was pineapple and lettuce.  Sometimes we had french fries.  The french fries were delicious!  And when we had hot dogs and hamburgers, I had one of the best hamburgers I ever had!

My favorite thing to do was go to the mud course.  What we did was what the Marines had to do.  But the Marines had less than a minute to do this.  And our times were about one minute, five seconds.

My least favorite thing to do was go to the lake.  The water was way too cold. It was freezing!  And I just wanted to get out of there.  But on the second time we went to the lake, me and Dagan built a castle with a waterfall with beach toys the lifeguard gave us.  And we used the bucket to scoop up water and made a waterfall that connected into the lake, in small creek we made.  It looked very cool!

We also had to do some chores at camp.  We made our beds. We helped clear the tables. And, no one asked us to brush our teeth or get dressed, but we did that on our own.  We did this when the counselors were still sleeping and surprised them.

I went with two of my friends, Dagan and Jeremy.  And I met a new friend named, Zach.  There were also two other kids in my cabin named Bennett and Micah.  And we had four counselors for the six of us.  Their names were Ron, Joe, Aaron, and Adir.  My favorite counselor was Joe.  Ron let me borrow his back pack.  I had so much fun with all my counselors.

I shared a bunk bed with Jeremy.  He got the top bunk and I got the bottom bunk.  Just like both of us wanted.  Zach and Dagan shared the bunk bed right next to us. Zach got the bottom and Dagan got the top. And Bennett and Micah shared another set of bunk beds.  Bennett was on the bottom, Micah was on the top.  There were little closets on the end of the bunk beds.  Jeremy and I both unpacked our clothes and hung our laundry bags on the bunk beds. We were the first ones to pick out our bunk beds.  That's how we chose where we wanted to sleep.

I had so much fun at Sleepaway camp.  But I don't want to go next year because I don't want to be away from my family for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or 4 weeks.  I wish they had one week sessions for the regular campers who return.

The first night we put on a little play.  And we did our bunk name (Mem) and we did "Mem was for Madness" and acted it out.  Then we went on with all that and did "Mem was for Magic", but most of all "Mem is for Menucha (rest)"  And then we all acted like we were asleep.

On the third night, there was a talent show.  Our talent was soccer and I kept diving in trying to block the ball from getting into goal.  Zach tried kicking it in, but I kept blocking it. He did all these tricks.  He kicked the ball into the crowd.  Then the last time he finally made a goal on the 5th time.

On the last day of camp, they had a slide show and I was in there 11 times!!  I had no idea I was so popular at camp!  And every different picture, I was in a different set of clothes.  Mom thought that was very weird that I kept changing my clothes so many times.  But I didn't think it was weird because they told me to change clothes every time.  Every time I changed clothes, I felt more comfortable and lighter. 

After we woke up, got dressed and packed our bag for the day, we went to breakfast about 8:00am.  Then we did some activities after breakfast, then we had lunch at 12:00pm.  Then after a couple more activities and showers (during the 5:00pm shower hour), we had dinner at 6:00pm.  Every time we had breakfast, lunch and dinner, everyone of us was so hungry. 

I liked camp a lot. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

And....he's back!

It was a very long 4 days not hearing from Ian.  I was glued to my computer each morning, eagerly (and obnoxiously) checking for the newsletter and photos that were taken of the kids from the day before.  Boy, did I miss that kid.  The photos all looked like he was having a blast. But hearing from him "I'm ok." would've been worth millions to me.

As mentioned previously, we were able to send emails, but no return communication could be given.  Kudos to my family and Jeff's for going above and beyond on writing to Ian.  He said he received more email than all the other campers in his bunk combined!  

Finally, Friday afternoon came and it was time to go meet his bus.  I picked Sam up from camp early and we got to the meeting spot a good 10 minutes before necessary -- you know, just in case.  Unfortunately, the bus was more than 30 minutes late (it was supposed to arrive between 3:00 to 3:30pm and didn't show up until close to 4:00pm).  Each minute waiting felt like an hour. 

Sam entertained herself playing with my sunroof.

I've never been so happy to see a bus pull up. 
Here comes the bus!

Ian getting off the bus.

As I am hugging Ian and giving him lots of kisses, he says to me, "Can I have control of the tv for the rest of the day?"   Yes, Ian, Yes!  Of course you can.

Sam:  NO WAY!  I WANT THE TV TOO!  I haven't had it all day.  I've been stuck at camp.  That's not fair to let Ian have it the rest of the day.

Me:  Sam, let's remember we missed Ian and want to welcome him home.


Yes, that's what went down in the parking lot.  Moments after getting to see Ian again.  Lovely.  Everything is back to normal.

Stay tuned for Ian's thoughts about sleepaway camp.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sleepaway camp. It's happening right now.

Ian woke-up yesterday with a huge smile on his face and said, "I can't believe today is finally here."

All packed and ready to go. Everything but the kitchen sink is
in that bag.

Yes, the day FINALLY arrived!  It seemed like forever ago that we made the trek to Capital Camps in Waynesboro, PA and took a tour of the place.   And it seemed like it was months ago that I filled out the gazillion forms and sent them in, along with our check. 

It was easy to come up with this idea to let Ian go to sleepaway camp.  Surely, when you are talking about something back in January, the day to actually say good-bye was never going to materialize.  August 13th seemed a ridculous amount of time into the future.  We had so many plans and life to live before that day ever came. 

But. Yesterday. Happened.  Sam got dropped off at her camp at 8:00am.  We needed to be at Ian's drop-off at point to meet the bus at 8:30am.  Perfect timing.  They don't let the parents drive up to the camp to drop off the kids.  And, they don't let them drive back to the camp to pick them up.  I can totally understand why now.  I am pretty sure I wouldn't have left.  I can see myself now saying, "Oh, this twin bunk bed is perfectly big enough for the both of us.  I'll just leave in the morning."  Or, "How about I just stay through dinner and then take-off?"   Ha!  Plus, all the unpacking would've been done by me.  I would make sure everything was perfectly in its place and probably even put his clothes in the order he should wear them, making sure each top matched its intended bottom.  And don't even get me started about making his bed for him. 

I thought it would be relatively easy to say "Bye Ian. Have a great time.  I love you."  I've had a few years experience now doing it every Summer with my family.  But here's the thing that I forgot to remember with that situation -- those people he had been left with for a week or two each Summer were MY FAMILY (or Jeff's).  These are people who were responsible for our upbringing.  I know they are in great hands.  I know they will be fine.  And I know I can call as much as I want; usually 2 to 3 times a day.  And I can skype! 

With Ian at sleepaway camp, it will be a one-way communication.  And I need to be ok with that.  I sent one letter in the mail.  It had to be mailed last week to ensure it got to him while he was still there.  And we can email him each day.  There is a link to a newsletter each morning by 9:30am, letting us know what the campers did the day before.  And there will be pictures posted that we can look for Ian and hopefully see him.

I am so incredibly excited for Ian that he is getting this experience.  I know it will be good for him.  We loved the tour we took.  And this week is a special "Yotair" week.  It means, rookie.  All the campers are rising 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders who have never done sleepaway camp before.  They are all first-timers.  I really like that.  Ian will be among 119 other kids all in the same boat.  That makes me feel better too.  And knowing he has two friends with him helps greatly.

Ian is a great kid.  He has an amazing head on his shoulders and uses good judgement.  But he is still my baby.  And I want to do whatever I can to protect him.  I like hearing about his day.  I like being excited for him, giving him a high five when something cool happened to him.  And I like being able to give him hugs if something unpleasant happened with a friend.  How can all this wait until the end of the week?  How will he remember every thing he wants to tell me 4 days later? 

This is a pretty big milestone.  Ian is now creating many memories and experiences all on his own, for days at a time.  There can be no interference or guidance from me.  I have to hope that he makes smart choices and remembers to say "please" and "thank you" all by himself. 

I held it together until I saw the bus pull away.  Then it hit me.  Ian was really going.  I looked at my good friend, who dropped off TWO of her kids for this Yotair week, and the tears started to form.  I was a bit of a mess getting in the car, making my way to work for The Crazy Man.  I took a wrong turn and went 8 minutes out of my way.   Then the email came that the bus arrived safely.  Wow, that news caused me to tear up all over again.  He is now officially there.

The bus pulling away.
I'm still stnading there, in the parking lot, waving like a big fool!

Admittedly so, I am a helicopter parent.  And I've been grounded until Friday afternoon.  By the way, before he even left, Ian had already been making plans to be gone all next summer.  I'm starting the collections now for that deposit check and the big box of kleenex I'll need.  Oy!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, the kids were down in Orlando hanging with the family.  Jeff was able to take a few days off from work and we headed to Annapolis.  Our 3 days together can best be summed up as "We had a map, but no plan!"

Jeff with his map.

Jeff and I are uber planners!  It is so not like us to go anywhere and not have every hour figured out.  We had in the back of our heads a few things we were interested in doing, but for the most part we winged everything!  I have to say, this new way of traveling was liberating. 

We stayed at The Westin.  What a beautiful hotel.  We parked the car on Monday morning and didn't get back into it until Wednesday afternoon.  Our preferred mode of transportation was WALKING!!  The weather was beautiful (high 82 degrees, no humidity) and the miles flew by.  There was a free shuttle offered by the city that did a loop starting at our hotel.  We did take that once on Monday and another time on Tuesday.  But for the most part, we walked upwards of 6 miles going back and forth each day. How wonderful!

Monday night, we had dinner at The Chart House.
We managed to score a table up front and could watch the boats
and sunset. 

Did the Naval Academy Tour. 
We saw the famous "lunch formation" drill with the Plebes.
Our tour was supposed to be an hour, 15 minutes long.  Oh lucky us!  We got a retired Naval Doctor who gave us our tour.  He LOVED to talk.  After close to 2 hours, I started walking in front of him as we made our way to the next building.  Jeff said to me, "Robyn, you can't walk in front of the tour guide!  You don't know where we are going."  I replied, "I'm trying to move things along.  This tour is getting ridiculously long.  I feel like the Freshmen class is going to graduate before we are done with this tour!".
Sunset cruise in Annapolis on Tuesday night.
After dinner one evening.

How beautiful!


I love traveling with Jeff.  We do well together and have a lot of fun. Our 3 days together were delightful.

Some fun things along the way:

These "works of art" / Birds were scattered around the city everywhere.  I took a picture of a few of my favorite.  Each one had a different theme.

I can't finish this blog without a few words about the food. 

I found this place, "Miss Shirley's Café" completely by random the night before we left.  They offer an unbelievable gluten-free menu.  Needless to say, I enjoyed the food so much, we went there for either breakfast or lunch 3 times over our 3 day visit.   The restaurant was right around the corner from our hotel.  Maybe that's why I loved staying at The Westin so much.  :)

AH-MAZING!  Gluten-free Cinnamon Danish Pancakes. 

About 8 years ago, I read about this place called "Potato Valley Café". All they do are baked potatoes!   It was located in Annapolis and I knew someday I might even get to go there.  The time had come!   

My potato "Before"

My potato "After"  
Funny sign seen in a bar window:

My new motto (picture taken at the Navel Academy):

Love this!