Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oh so sweet!

A week ago, the Toppall team loaded up the car and went to Hershey, PA for the weekend.   We went with two other families and did Hershey Park on Saturday and Chocolate World on Sunday.  It was very sweet (literally).  The kids did great traveling and we had a wonderful time.

Despite no one in my family (including me) liking rollercoasters, Hershey Park was perfect for us. There were a ton of rides the kids could go on and from 10:45am (when we arrived) until 4:00pm, we stayed dry.  Then the rain hit.  And we got wet.  Really wet. I joke that Jeff plans for every situation possible and was more than prepared for the rain.  Heck, we could be taken hostage in the park and survive just fine with the snacks, drinks, back-up clothing for Sam, umbrellas and rain jackets Jeff had going on.  But even with the kids wearing their rain gear, sitting on a ride while rain is pouring down, you are still going to get soaked.  I was able to wring out Ian's UNDERWEAR!!! when he was finally able to put on dry clothes again.  We did stay another hour in the rain and then made our way to the car.

The next day we were standing at Chocolate World when the doors opened.  Oh, what fun we had!  We all made our own Hershey bars, the kids did the Hershey Kiss packaging activity, we took the ride through how chocolate is made, and of course, checked out the enormous gift shop. 

We arrived home on Sunday afternoon and told the kids how proud we were of them.  You know a good time was had when the kids asked when we will be going back for a return visit.  It was a great mini-getaway. 

Very first stop once inside the park -- to get Kettle Corn.  Really.


3 bald guys needing to wear a hair net.  :)

It should be noted this was our very first trip that we all managed to pack our stuff into one bag --the same bag!  This has never happened before.  As the kids get older, we are needing to bring much less with us when staying overnight somewhere.  And I am getting over my hang-up on having my clothes touch Jeff's in the suitcase.  It's actually quite exciting to look like we have our act together and we aren't bringing everything (plus the kitchen sink) into the hotel when checking in.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oh Baby!

When I got married, I wanted everyone I knew to get married and experience this awesome kind of love.  Then when I had a baby, I wanted everyone I knew to have a baby and experience this amazing kind of love.

It is happening!  My sister Lori is due to give birth to a little girl on November 4th.  I could not wait to throw her a baby shower. What a great reason to have a party.  Lori's 4 close friends wanted to help and along with my other sister, Meghan (6 of us total!  Oh my!) we hosted a wonderful celebration for Lori and her condition.  :)  It was simply perfect.

We held the shower at an Italian restaurant in the Orlando area. The restaurant is normally closed for lunch on Saturday and Sundays, but they opened special for us.  Our group of women fit perfectly in their screened-in (air conditioned!) patio.  We chose a "Onesie" theme and carried it through everything you could imagine. The colors were pink and brown.  It was adorable, if I do say so myself.

Banner that said "Baby Wronsky"

Cake - looked just like the invitation.

We had a clothesline with onesies hanging.  A few of the onesies said: 
"Mom thinks she's In charge.  That's so cute."
"Watch out Daddy, Mommy has a new shopping buddy."
"My daddy can play the guitar better than yours."
"BYOB.  Party at my crib 2:00am"

We had paper in the shape of onesies to write advice to Lori
on having a baby.  We put it in a binder and presented it to her.

Place setting at the table.

The room all set-up.

All 6 of us who hosted.

Decorated cookie to give as favor to our guests.

The guest of honor entering the room.

Mom, Lori, me, Meghan, Rita.

Ben (future daddy) stops by at the end to say hello.

I loved how it turned out.  Lori did too!  I am anxiously awaiting the next 6 weeks when we get to meet the newest member of the family. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It doesn't get better than this.

Each time I visit my family in Orlando, I get a nagging thought in my head that maybe I should've moved back to my hometown after college.  I am super close with both parents and siblings.  It's hard only seeing them around 4 times a year. 

When we are together, it's like all the pieces of a puzzle are back in place.  At the core of it, we love to spend time together.  We really do love each other's company.  I am so blessed to have these wonderful people as my family.  We have a great time and the laughter, teasing, and reminiscing is usually non-stop.  We are there for each other and look out for each other.  In times of need, we can count on each other - no matter what the distance.

Me and my two sisters. I am not only the oldest, but also the shortest.  :)

Even with my parents divorced and each remarried, we still get together as group.  It is pretty spectacular to fly into town and have your stepmother plan for us to all have dinner together on a Friday night, even though we will all be seeing each other again the next night at Lori's house.  And of course again, at the baby shower on Sunday.

I got to spend a great afternoon with my dad on Friday. He picked me up at the airport and then we ran errands together.  It was very ordinary, but so special getting to go around with him.  Just like old times.  And on Saturday, my sister Meghan and I spent  few hours pool side and then headed to the movies with Lori and Rita.  What a great way to pass the time.

If I had moved back, I know that I wouldn't have met Jeff or had the kids I have now, so I am grateful that I did stay up in this area.  I guess this means I just need to plan more trips down to Florida to see everyone.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sam has found her groove.

We've turned a corner.  Sam has settled into kindergarten.  Towards the latter part of the week, I could see a change in her. No longer did we need to put her lovey, Pinky, in her backpack each day. And on Thursday and Friday, she didn't once chant to herself, "I don't want to go.  I don't want to go."

Sam has started learning some of the girls' names in her class. This is HUGE!  She is even telling us about the funny things that are going on in her day. 

I am still waiting for the moment that Sam discovers the school nurse.  One trip to see her and I get a call to come pick Sam up early from school.   I know Sam is smart enough to figure this out. How long will it be before that light bulb goes off over head?

Friday, September 20, 2013


The school year has started off with a bang!  For the most part, all of our scheduled activities have kicked in and are underway.  All we need is for Ian and Sam's religious school on Sunday mornings and Ian's session on Tuesday evenings to begin.

Mondays (school lets out at 1:15pm): 
Sam has swimming from 3:00pm to 3:30pm
Ian has gymnastics from 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Ian has religious school from 4:30pm to 6:15pm

Sam and I are in therapy together from 5:00pm to 6:00pm
Ian has gymnastics from 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Sam and Ian have religious school from 9:00am to 12:00pm

It's a good thing that both kids are at the same school for the same hours, because I am busier than a one-armed paper hanger!  My job at the preschool is now fully up to speed. For three of the days during the week, I leave the preschool and go straight to work for The Crazy Man.  I end my time with him at 3:30pm and get the kids from school at 3:45pm. 

I am doing something new this year and walking to get the kids.  I have just enough time to park the car at my house and do the 6 minute walk to the kid's school.  I am really enjoying the few minutes I get to breathe in some fresh air and decompress a bit from my day.  Plus it gives me a few minutes to chat with Ian and Sam on the way back home, about their day and not be distracted with other things.

Some drawbacks to working every single minute the kids are in school?  I'm definitely hitting my limits on what I can remember in my head.  I need to write every thing down.  I have an endless list on the refrigerator of household-type stuff to do.  And I have a notebook for each of the jobs with their list of to-dos.  It's the only thing keeping me sane.  Plus, I am way behind on writing this blog.  I love being able to keep a diary of our lives.  I have a list of about 10 blog entries I want to write and just don't have a spare 10 minutes to do so.  I usually try to catch-up on the weekends, but this past weekend was my trip to Orlando for Lori's baby shower (more on that later) and this coming weekend is another getaway. 

The house being clean has suffered too.  Actually, Jeff has cleaned the bathrooms and done the kids' wash more than I have this past month.  Thanks, honey!  It's hard to see areas I want to "attack" and not have chunks of time to do so.  By the time dinner is done, the dishes are washed and homework has been completed (both kids),  I am done for the day.  No matter how badly I want to write or clean, it just ain't happening.  Waking up at 5:30am (to get to the gym) comes very quickly!  I am proud of myself for not getting too hung up on this, but its still hard to let it go.

I can't complain.  I am enjoying everything I am doing and can't beat the flexibility.  When the kids are off from school, so am I.  I don't have to worry about after-school childcare or what happens when they get sick.  I can still be there for them and bring in a little money.  Not a bad combo.  And I've built in my schedule an hour or so on Fridays that I can meet friends for lunch.  Or you know, surprise the kids at school during their lunch. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sam and school.

This past Monday, starting off the 2nd week of school:

Sam wakes up.  I catch her before she comes downstairs.

Me:  Sam, let's get you dressed while you are still up here.
Sam:  What do I have today?
Me:  It's school.
Sam:  AW!  Not again!!

Yep.  Better get used to it.  :)

On Tuesday, we had our best day yet.  She didn't utter one word about not wanting to go.  She happily got dressed, eagerly brushed her teeth, and with a smile on her face made her way to the bus.  I was so excited and optimistically hoped we were out of the woods.

Wednesday, however, brought on real tears.  It started as the bus pulled up to the curb.  She looked at me and said she didn't want to go to school.  I told her it was not optional and she had to go.  She was the first one on the bus (kindergartners get on first), but was not pleased about climbing onboard.  The bus driver looked at Sam and asked her what was wrong.  I am thinking to myself:  Don't slow her down!  She is walking up the steps, let her continue.  Asking her what is wrong is like opening Pandora's box...not a wise move.  Sam mumbled something and kept going.  Once seated, she looked out the window.  I was standing there making funny faces getting her to smile. Eventually the bus pulled away and Sam was on her way.

Later that afternoon, I had a surprising turn of events and The Crazy Man called me at 12:30pm and said he wasn't feeling well.  He asked me not to come work for him.  I decided to take a chance and surprise Sam at school for lunch.  My only concern was that she would have a hard time saying good-bye to me again when her lunch period was over.  Fortunately, all went well and Sam loved seeing me.  She was completely okay with me leaving her side 35 minutes later.  Sam had no issues giving me a hug and lining up with her class.  Whew!  It was the right thing to do going to see her.  It made my day and I am pretty sure it made hers too.  As a bonus,  I was able to get there 15 minutes early and find Ian in the cafeteria.  Oh, how I love to surprise him too!  He never knows when I am going to show up.  It's pretty fabulous -- probably more for me, than for him.  :)

Sam and I having lunch together at school.
It's funny watching the kids at Sam's table eat lunch.  None of them speak to each other.  They just all sit there and silently eat.  Meanwhile, the rest of the cafeteria is loud enough to burst an ear drum or two.  I attempted conversation with all of Sam's classmates sitting directly around us, but none of them were talkers. It will be interesting to see when these kids start to come out of their shells.

Seeing Sam's face light up when she spotted me at lunch was definitely the bright spot of my day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Girls with their dolls - Take 3

Our tradition of going to the American Girl Doll Store with our friends to celebrate the return of school is alive and kicking.  Sam's behavior this year was the best yet.  She earned her new outfit for McKenna and was very happy going shopping before sitting down to lunch.  And in a move that shows how smart Sam really is, she prepped me far in advance that she wanted a strawberry milkshake with lunch (just like she got last year).  The sun was shinning, the birds were singing, and I was happy Sam was in a great mood.  How could I say no?

I love our tradition.  I love traditions in general.  This was our third year in a row to go with our friends.  And there are no signs of stopping.  I am sure at some point the girls will be too old to want to do this and of course, do it with us, but I hope that's a long way off in the future.

All whining stopped when we got out of the car.

School is back in session = one happy group!

Sam and her milkshake!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kindergarten Blues

Sam is not enjoying going to school.  She doesn't like getting dressed for school.  And, she doesn't like wanting to eat breakfast before school.  I can't do her hair for school or tell her to brush her teeth for school.  And, let's not forget, I can't mention school is about to happen. 

Sam has told me that she doesn't want homework.  She doesn't want to make new friends.  And she doesn't want to be in school for "soooooo long".  She doesn't want to eat the cafeteria food EVER.  She doesn't want to color in class or learn new things.  And she doesn't want to leave my side.  Her list of reasons to not go to kindergarten grows daily.

Not a happy camper walking to get on the bus.
I love how she has perfected the "I'm going to be sick" look.

It was not a fun first week.  We celebrated Rosh Hashanah on Thursday.  Any momentum we achieved on Tuesday and Wednesday, came to a screeching halt when the kids were out of school for the High Holiday.  Friday was back to the tears and refusal to cooperate.  I have no idea what happens when Samantha makes it to school.  When I say good-bye to her in the morning at the bus stop, I hope for the best that she will get on the bus and not cause a scene.  When I pick her up in the afternoon, she tells me she had a great day.  She is all smiles and even acknowledges that school will continue the next day.  So go figure...I've always claimed its like parenting Jekyll and Hyde.

Friday afternoon, I couldn't take the suspense any longer and stopped in her classroom to ask the teacher how Samantha was doing.  Was she an active participant?  Or was she off by the side holding back the tears all day long?  Was Sam interacting with the other students?  Or was she ignoring the other kids in her class who might be trying to have a conversation with her? 

Mrs. J. said that Sam is doing well.  She is listening and was actually used as the example earlier in the day to the other students on how to sit in the circle (criss-cross applesauce....that's my girl!).  Furthermore, she pointed out she is not in distress and hasn't been crying.  Whew!  That's a relief.

Every morning I struggle with getting Samantha ready for school, it's all for show.  How great for me.  It's going to be a long 12 years.  I try to look at the bright side and cling to the fact that she can go to the bathroom like all the other kids.  I never thought I would survive that, so I know I can survive this. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer 2013

One of the many places the kids have been this Summer.
Whirlwindesque.  I am not sure if this a word or not, but I find it best describes our summer.  The past 3 months have been a blur.  The kids and I were on the go and managed to do a little bit of everything. 

It's funny, at the end of the school year this past June, I was very much looking forward to Summer so that we could have some downtime, lazy Summer days and take it easy.  RELAXING was going to be priority number one!   Ha!  Summer started off with a bang and before I knew it, I was longing for the start of school to slow things down a bit.

Week at the beach with friends (Emerald Isle, NC)

Two days in Cherry Hill, NJ visiting relatives and going to the Phillies/Nationals game.
Kids at Jeff's parents for 3 days.
Girls Weekend for Robyn in Solomon's Island.
10 days in Orlando for the kids.  3 days in Annapolis with Jeff.

Sleepaway camp for Ian
Three days in Philadelphia with friends.
Mom and Jim visit for 10 days.

And in the weeks the kids were at home, I had them at various camps and we made it to our pool more than I thought we would. Additionally, Jeff did several business trips to Pennsylvania for work.  And I worked my two part-time jobs, which has now successfully turned into 3 part-time jobs (the crazy guy, billing for my friend, and the admin preschool job).

I feel like we got the most bang for our buck every single day.  When we do have that rare day with nothing planned, it's nice to stay home and veg.  Summer 2013.  Been there, done that.  :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's time for back to school.

Two kids.  In the same school.  For the same hours.  First time ever. 

It has been a long 5 years, 3 months waiting for this day to come.  The day when my life of juggling two schools, two very different locations, two very different set of hours would come to an end. At last we are here!  It feels great.  Well, let me correct myself and say, it feels great to everyone but Samantha.  She doesn't want to go to kindergarten.  No how, no way.  Leading up to the first day of school she has been very vocal about her feelings.  Samantha has no desire to go to Kindergarten.  And if Sam doesn't want to do something, she won't do it.  I think I was looking forward to her first day less than she was.  Could you imagine if I had to "convince" her to go each and every day of the school year?

Meanwhile, the other one could not be more excited about his first day of 3rd grade.  He was a ball of energy and litterally jumping up and down with joy at his open house the Friday before school started.  It was a bizzare show of emotions.  One child crazy-excited and his sibling, crying hysterically and shaking with fear.

As the first day loomed near, we knew a game plan was needed.  Something to turn the hysterics around and help Samantha (and us) survive drop-off.  Jeff and I were going to implement a first day, first week, and 3 month "incentive" strategy.  If Sam could keep the tears to a minimum, have no meltdowns or screaming then she could pick the place we went for ice cream after dinner in our back-to-school treat we do each year.  For a successful first week, Sam gets a new outfit for Mckenna (American Girl Doll) at the lunch we have planned on Sunday.  For a successful 3 months, Sam gets a new American Girl Doll at Hanukkah.

Our plan worked as well as could be expected.  Sam was not a happy camper and she had a few tears rolling down her cheeks.  But she let Jeff and I get her settled in her classroom, give her a hug and leave the room. There was no struggle or running after us.  The teachers didn't need to intervene and Sam did not cause a scene.  What more could you ask for?

Happy about school!
Not so happy about school.

 Sam is a combination of looking like she is going to be sick and is crying.
One big hug from daddy.

Dealing with the fact we are about to leave.
Pinky understands how tough it is.

Walking away from Sam and she is not screaming = success!

Checking in on Ian.

I was hoping for a spectacular first day experience.  This was the only way I knew Sam would return to school without a struggle.  I am happy to report she was all smiles when I picked her up.  The first day was a success!  She even told me she knew what she wanted to wear to school the next day. 

Now we get to tackle her taking the bus in the mornings....fingers crossed Sam thinks this is a good idea too.