Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Fine! Ian is 9!!!

My little boy is not so little anymore.  Ian is now officially 9 years old.  This is the last year ever being a single digit.  Each year that goes by I get more impressed with Ian.  He has shown such maturity, sound judgement, good instincts, and the ability to think on his feet.   He lives in a constant struggle between loving and adoring his little sister while also being annoyed and frustrated by her.  You just don't know which way she is going to roll and Ian keeps coming back for more hoping for a positive outcome.  No matter how much Sam annoys Ian, he refuses to give up caring for his sister.

Jeff and I have given Ian quite a bit of freedom in allowing him to stay home by himself for small amounts of time.  He will get his homework done while on his own, read a book or watch tv.  I have no problem trusting Ian to not get into trouble or do something he shouldn't. 

Ian's sense of humor cracks me up.  He comes out with these one-liners that are hilarious and so perfect for the moment.  The other morning when we were at the dentist, Ian was saying how he didn't want to be there.  The hygienist was attempting to explain how there are many kids who don't get the chance to go to the dentist.  Ian replied with, "They are the lucky ones."

Whenever Ian is about to be honest and tell me something he thinks I'm not going to like, he starts off every thought with this, "I'm sorry to say this but...."  I love how he apologizes first and then lets me have it.  :)

Ian will eat almost anything. He truly has broadened his horizons and is quick to try a bite of anything offered to him. His new favorite foods are lox, bacon and cheeseburgers.  He can make breakfast himself and has learned how to bacon and eggs.

There have been many instances (more than I care to count or even remember) when Ian is beyond grumpy and cranky.  I believe he is going through some kind of growth spurt and growing pains are kicking in. For the most part Ian is cheery and still always has a smile on his face.

You could not ask for a better friend than Ian.  He is very loyal and often helps stand up to kids who are being mean to his friends.  He will not back down if he feels they are being unfair.

First day of 3rd grade.  Ian LOVES school!
Ian loves to practice his religious songs/prayers and breaks into tune at a random moments throughout every day.  I don't think Ian even realizes he is singing.  Another cool thing is how much he loves to read!  He will soar through books at a crazy pace. 

With Jeff's long hours at the office, Ian has stepped up and is doing more chores.  My heart melts each time he seeks me out and asks what he can do to help.  His teacher at school is a big fan of his too and wrote on his latest interim report, "Ian is nearly perfect."   Wow.  I agree! 

Ian has a big fear of heights.  He very badly wants to conquer it and thinks he can, but then he gets to a certain point and freezes.   Once he gets to this point, there is no talking him into continuing on.  He is done and wants out.

Ian's favorite television is watching sports, all shows on the Food Network and the Survivor Man series.  He has really gotten good at catching a ball and throwing it.  I discovered Ian enjoys playing tennis and we've been periodically playing on the tennis courts behind our house.  So much fun!   Ian is still doing gymnastics and has expressed interest in playing football in the Fall.  I am not sure I am ready for that! 

Jeff and Ian doing a boys trip for Spring Training.
This June Ian is going to sleepaway camp for 12 days.  It was a decision he had a difficult time making.  At first he was dead set against being gone for that long.  After a few months, he had a change of heart and decided to go for it.  This time away will either make it or break it for Ian in future Summers attending sleepaway camp.

I wish for Ian an amazing year creating magical moments, continuing growth into a fabulous young man, with lots of love and laughter.  Happy birthday!  I love you more than you can ever know.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The BIG Surprise

My mom and stepfather did something awesome; they surprised the kids with an unplanned visit.   When my mom heard that Sam's patriotic sing-along at school was coinciding with her actual birthday, she just had to be there. 

My mom loves a good surprise.  She came up with an elaborate plan on surprising the kids. I came up with a simpler, just as effective plan for the kids to be surprised. I was going to take the kids to Cold Stone for ice cream and as we were enjoying our treat, my mom and Jim would just happen to walk in.  We had a bit of a bump in the road when they got to NoVa area earlier than expected.  As I was driving back from Sam's therapy appointment, I got a call on my cell phone that they were only 10 minutes away.  Oh my!!  Since the kids hadn't had dinner yet, I couldn't very well make our next stop Cold Stone. Without hesitation I told my mom on the cell phone that the kids and I were headed to Chipotle for dinner.  I said it like I was reporting on the weather.  Since I speak with my mom a gazillion times a day, it is not unheard of for me to report on something as trivial as this.

Upon walking in, the kids always go grab a table.  Chipotle always has a line.  I go to stand in line with camera in hand, ready to get a picture of the kids seeing their Mom-mom and Pop-pop Jim.  I am walking backwards through the line. I don't want to miss this Kodak moment.  I order the kids and I dinner with my back towards the counter.  I am sure the woman taking my order thinks I am completely off my rocker.  I make it all the way to the register and pay for the food, still with my eyes focused on the door.  I now juggle the tray of food and my camera, still ready to take a picture.  Looking back, it's probably best that I made it to the table with the food before they walked in.  I would've either abandoned the line (and pissed everyone off behind me if I was in mid-order) or dropped the tray of food in my excitement.

I get to the table and Ian instantly starts to complain there is too much lettuce on his chicken tacos.  OMG!  I tell him to take off whatever lettuce he doesn't want.  He tells me the next time to just ask for a lettuce taco and it would be the same thing he is eating now.

Meanwhile, Mom and Jim walk in.  We make eye contact and they go stand in line to order.  Sam who doesn't miss a trick, is looking around the restaurant taking it all in. She loves to people watch.  Within 30 seconds of Mom and Jim getting in line, Sam looks over and says, "Mom-mom?  Mom-mom is here?"  Ian then looks over to where Sam is looking and gets the biggest smile on his face.  Both kids are beside themselves with giddiness and shock.  They can't believe that Mom-mom and Pop-pop Jim are in Chipotle.   Sam and Ian instantly get out of their seats to hug and kiss Mom and Jim.  Sam asks what they are doing there.  Mom answers with, "We made a wrong turn and this is where we ended up."  Got to love it!

Sam saying,  "Mom-mom?  Mom-mom is here?"

Ian realizing that Mom-mom and Pop-pop Jim are really here.

From Thursday night to early Tuesday morning, we had a spectacular visit.  I love that mom and Jim don't mind driving 1,300 miles each direction to spend 4 days with us.  That is love!

The next day my mom asks Ian what he thought when he saw them in Chipotle.  Ian says that he saw them before Sam even said anything but he thought to himself they were just another old couple.  Ian quickly turned red in the face when he realized what he said out loud.  It was pretty funny.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Heard and Observed #47

There is this little boy in Samantha's kindergarten class that is absolutely adorable.  He is outgoing, all smiles and says "Please" and "Thank you" without prompting.  I am convinced that Mikey likes Sam but doesn't know the proper way to communicate it.  Sam came home the other day and couldn't wait to tell me the following.

Sam (said very emphatically):  MIKEY LIED TO ME!  MIKEY LIED TO ME!!

Me:  What did he do?

Sam:  He said he was going to spank me!  So I went to Mrs. Parker and told her what Mikey said.  She went to Mikey and said, "Mikey that is not nice!  I don't ever want to hear something like that come out of your mouth again."

Me:  You did the right thing Sam going to your teacher. So how did Mikey lie to you?

Sam:  He didn't spank me!


A couple of days later we are sitting down for dinner and Sam fills me in on Mikey's latest thing he likes to do to her.   Mikey knows that Sam will only buy her lunch from the school cafeteria when they offer chicken nuggets or spaghetti.  All other times, Sam would prefer for me to make her lunch.

Mikey:  Samantha, today is chicken nuggets and you've brought your lunch.

Sam:  No, its not.

Mikey:  Yes, it is.

Sam:  No, its not.

Mikey: Yes, it is and you are missing out on it.

Me:  Wow Sam, it sounds like Mikey really likes you.

Sam:  It wasn't really chicken nuggets, was it?

Me:  Hehehehehee.  No, don't worry, it wasn't. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jeff's new gig

A couple of months ago, my husband was contacted with a job opportunity too good to pass up.  After much research and thinking on Jeff's part to make sure he was making the right choice, he started working for this new company on May 5th.  They are based in Boston, but have a Washington, D.C. office.  It's all very exciting and I know Jeff will do amazing in this new position.

I am still trying to get used to Jeff's new work schedule.  He is giving this job everything he's got.  He leaves for work by 6:35am in the mornings and doesn't usually get home until 8:00pmish.  It makes for a long day for him, me and the kids. The past few weeks have been challenging.  I am sure in a few months he will have gotten in a groove and make having dinner with the family a regular thing again. 

The biggest change for me is not hearing from him throughout the day.  Since we met over 11 years ago, Jeff has always called or texted to see how my day is going.  We usually spoke at least once, sometimes twice each day.  Now, I don't hear from Jeff at all. It is so weird.  Something I am not getting used to.

Until the dust settles and Jeff can get his head above water, I am single mothering it.  I meet my friend each morning at 5:15am to walk. I get back home at 6:30am before Jeff leaves for work.  I get the kids to school, work my part-time jobs, handle all after-school activities with the kids and make us dinner, while keeping Jeff's warm in the oven. I then work on getting Sam down to bed.  It makes for a very long day.  A huge round of cheers for moms (or dads) who do this by themselves all the time, since day one.  It's not easy.

I am not complaining.  I am just stating things the way they are.  Its our new normal.  Just need to get used to it. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Holy Moly! Samantha is 6!

Sam is 6!  I'd like to say this last year getting Sam to her 6th birthday has been easy, but it's been anything but easy.  She is more spirited, precoucious, sassy and fiercely determined than ever before.  With another year of age, has come another year of her getting stronger -- good and bad.  Sam is as loving and wonderful to be around as she is explosive and unpredictable.

This year Sam started elementary school.  Her kindergarten class was made up of 22 other children she didn't know.  I didn't realize how intensely shy Sam was until that first week of school when Sam refused to go.  It was a rocky road those first few weeks until Sam got more comfortable.  Sam made a few really good friends and that helped her adjustment.  Once Sam was okay with the concept of going to school, she really excelled! Her teachers called her a model student many times. What a nice compliment to hear. The plan is for all kindergartners to learn 100 sight words by the last day of school.  Sight words are sent home in batches of 10.  Your child has as much time as they need to learn these 10 words.  When they are ready, the 10 words go back to school and another set of 10 is sent home, until eventually, all 100 words are learned.  When Samantha realized what the plan was, her level of motivation to learn all 100 words skyrocketed.  Sam used her powers for good and learned all 100 words by December 31st.  It was incredibly exciting and Sam has been working on her reading almost daily.  It has been truly a pleasure to work with her on this.  I love hearing her sound out words and try to read everything that comes in front of her.  There is no stopping Sam when she sets her mind to it.

First day of Kindergarten.  Not happy about it.  Not one bit.
The other area that Sam truly has flourished in is helping me in the kitchen.  She absolutely loves to cook, whether its dinner or baking some kind of tasty treat.  She puts on her apron, takes her step stool to wherever I am standing and makes herself useful.  She loves to be a part of it. 

Samantha enjoys drawing pictures of all kinds of things, from hearts, butterflies, rainbows, to drawings of us.  She never lets a free moment of time get away from her without sitting at the table and drawing a picture.  She loves to make Jeff and I notes and put them on our pillows to find later.  She is very methodical in her drawing and every color has to be just the right shade.

Her love of fashion has not diminished this past year.  Sam still changes her outfits about 4 times a day.  She has embraced wearing jeans (something she refused to put on in the past) and I have to say, she looks so flippin cute wearing a pair.  Sam is also ok with wearing shorts now.  Another type of clothing that was self-imposed off-limits to her.  Sam most definitely has her own ideas of what tops and bottoms should match.  It's interesting (and entertaining!) to get her take on what goes together.  This is where I pick my battles and have given in much more than I ever thought I would when it comes to getting out the door in time for wherever we need to be.

Her determination working for good here. 
Sam refused to give up until she could do the monkey bars all on her own.

Sam is truly brilliant.  She demonstrates out of the box thinking all the time.  One of the best examples I have of this is when she knew she wasn't allowed out of her room after Jeff or I put her down to bed at night.  Rather than break the rules, Sam used the phone in her room to call our cell phones and tell us what she needed; which of course, was a stalling tactic to actually going to sleep.  I was impressed with her creativity and blown away with her ability to come up with another way to reach us.   Sam's mind is razor sharp and her memory is a limitless bucket able to store everything. 

While Sam and I butt heads constantly, I know these qualities will get her far in life.  She is going to be a force to be reckon with.  She is loyal, helpful, funny, quirky, deep, loving and full of energy.  She is also loud, expressive, incredibly verbal and a bit on the demanding side. 

My little girl is growing up!  I love her so much and hope that this coming year is one of leaving temper tantrums behind, giggling more, whining less and above all full of hugs and kisses!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Food Renovation

I have a few friends who have done (and currently are doing) an amazing job getting their families to eat healthier.  For some time now, I've been hearing all about the crazy stuff that is getting put into our foods.  It's pretty disgusting when you take a closer look at the food label and notice that the majority of the ingredients is stuff you can't even pronounce, let alone know what it even is.

My one amazingly brilliant friend recommends that if you have to purchase packaged foods to keep it to 5 ingredients or less (if at all possible).  Then there are the tips that you should shop mainly in the perimeter of the grocery store (where all the fresh food lives), only get foods that have whole wheat/grains, and stay away from High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Or, any added sugar for that matter. There are so many names given for sugar, it's crazy!

I had a great thing going with Jeff doing all the grocery shopping for close to two years.  I have to tell you, it was really nice coming up with a list and letting him do all the work.  However, I am taking back control and going back to the grocery store.  I want to read every single label and make sure it makes sense for our family to eat.

I am drawing my line in the sand on the following:
  • Enriched white flour or any white flour,
  • High fructose corn syrup / corn syrup,
  • Ridiculous amounts of added sugar,  
  • Red 40, Yellow 12
It's not easy, but I am trying.  I freaked out (quietly on the inside) when I looked at the cheese we had in our fridge to make grilled cheese sandwiches and one of the main ingredients listed was "corn syrup".  Also, the applesauce we get the kids had the 2nd ingredient listed at "high fructose corn syrup."   Unfortunately the greek yogurt I absolutely LOVE is no longer allowed in our house -- that had HFCS in it too.  Really.  That sucked the most to me.  Buh-bye favorite yogurt.

It's interesting, Katie Couric did a show on this topic a couple of weeks ago.  I had already started making huge strides in what we are stocking our kitchen with, but her show reinforced the need to take it up a notch and really look at the amount of sugar in our foods.   An interesting example she gave was, you think you are doing the healthy thing by eating your yogurt at breakfast, however, some yogurts are WORSE than 2 glazed donuts.  From the neck down, your body has no idea you didn't eat the donuts.  Such a powerful example.  The other statistic that was mind-blowing is we are raising a generation of kids that will have a shorter life span than their parents.  How scary is that!?!?!?!   Katie was promoting a documentary she was part of called "Fed Up".  I went and saw it last Sunday evening.  It was a mix of being a huge wake-up call and incredibly depressing.  What the food industry is allowed to get away with is disgusting.  I feel like everyone in America should be required to watch this movie.  I challenge anyone to watch this movie and not start looking at food labels with a more discerning eye. 

I know that the kids will be visiting relative's, friend's, and other people's houses throughout their lives -- this is where whatever they have in terms of food at someone else's house is ok with me.  And when we go to restaurants, I am not going to be a stickler for what the kids order.  It's when we are at home, that I want to keep the options healthy and to feel good about it.

We've been doing some stuff right from the get-go; my kids do not drink soda.  They never have.  Yay for me on this one.  And 95% of the time, they don't even drink fruit juice.  It's plain water for them.  It's just the way it is and Ian & Sam are very used to it.  The other night we went to a restaurant for dinner and given any choice on what to order for a drink, all the kids said "water". 

The other thing we've gotten away from is this notion that you have to have dessert after dinner.  Jeff and I were on the same page that if the kids ate well (meaning: did a great job with their vegetables and protein on their plate), we were inclined to let them have something sweet; whether it be a cookie, lollipop, or a bite of their chocolate bar (YES!!  It is still around).  No more!  Now getting a treat after dinner is a more once a week type of thing, not an every day thing.   I am most proud that I stopped putting a cookie in their school lunch and they haven't once asked where it went.  Again, yay for me on this one!

I am only replacing our food with the better alternative as we finish what we already have in the house.  I've already switched out our sandwich bread, yogurt, cheese, crackers, peanut butter and oatmeal.  And, I've gotten rid of cheez-its, goldfish, and plain bagels for good.  Not once have the kids complained or asked what happened to a particular product.  I've been making changes now for a month and it feels awesome to know the kids are eating good-for-you food.

There are so many things that need to be fixed with the food industry -- from RED 40, Yellow 12 (WTH!?!?!  We need to dye our foods to look pretty?  Studies have shown these dyes cause hyperactivity.), to all the added sugar, preservatives (Food shouldn't have an indefinite shelf life!), and hormones.  It's just not right.  I totally get it now why people shop organic.  I even understand the gluten-free craze for those that don't need to follow-it for medical reasons. I mean if you want to stay away from the white or enriched flour, there is no better way to do that then with gluten-free pasta or bread.

I am now gravitating towards Whole Foods for some of our groceries. And I am spending more time in the healthy foods section of Wegman's. It takes time to read all the labels and it takes more money too.  Even when something says "All Natural", I still need to make sure it doesn't have a lot of sugar.  After hearing what these processed foods and added sugar is doing to us, it more than justifies it in my opinion to take the time and extra money to do a better job feeding the family.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Compound words

Sam is learning all about compound words in Kindergarten.  For more than a few weeks now she has been randomly asking me if a specific word she heard or thought of is a compound word.

Sam:  Is "Sunday" a compound word?  You know, "Sun" and "Day".

Me:  Yes, that is a compound word.  Good job!  (I did go on to explain that the other days of the week are not compound words.)

Sam:  Is "Playground" a compound word?  You know, "Play" and "Ground".

Me:  Yes, they are compound words.  You've got this!

It's very cute.  Sam is trying so hard to find compound words in everything.

Sam:  Is "Jacket" a compound word?  You know, "Jack" and "it".

Me:  No, that is not a compound word.  Jacket ends in "et", not "it". 

Sam:  What about "Window"?  You know, "Win" and "Dough"

Now if Sam only knew how to spell as well as she is able to dissect compound words, she'd be all set!


With the warmer weather these past few days, Sam and I keep seeing men working in their yards not wearing a shirt. 

Sam:  Why are all these people not wearing a shirt?

Me:  Because its too hot for them to be outside.  By not wearing a shirt they are able to be a little cooler.   What do you think, Sam?  Do you like them better with a shirt on or without?

Sam:  WITH a shirt on!!!!  Who wants to see their belly buttons?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The chocolate bar story

It took me awhile to start eating my chocolate bar I made when we went to Hershey's Chocolate World during Spring Break.  For some reason I was showing major restraint in unwrapping my tasty creation.  The kids and Jeff were doing a fantastic job of regulating how much they ate from their bars.  In fact, to this day the kids and Jeff still each have at least half their candy bars available for consumption. 

Once I got started on mine, it took all of 3 sittings to devour and finish it.  And believe me, I showed some restraint in not eating it all at once.  Yes, I have a problem.  I can admit it.

The family and I went for a walk one evening after dinner.  When we got back home, Ian headed for the shower and I made a beeline for the 3rd and final opportunity to eat my chocolate bar.  I was still in the kitchen when Ian came down and said the following:

Ian:  The next time I am allowed to have a treat, I am eating my candy bar.  I just need one bite.  I can't stand it anymore.

Me: (feeling very guilty that unbeknownst to Ian I FINISHED mine and all Ian wanted was a bite):  Ian, if you want a bite, you can have one.  It's okay.

Ian:  Really?

Me: Yes, in fact I just finished mine!  (and then I proceed to show Ian the empty box in the kitchen trash can).

Ian gets his candy bar and starts to take a bite.  He then looks at me and says the following in a very calm voice:  "Mine is not gluten-free.  Don't you even dare think about it."

Hahahahahaha! Ian quickly did the math in his head -- hey, if mom doesn't have her chocolate bar to eat anymore, then the rest of us are in trouble.  This kid knows me sooooo well. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It's time for a rant

....And from a page from Crazy Man's book, I've now been influenced enough by him to write a letter of my own.  This burns me up.  What about the customer always being right?  I am done with them. D. O. N. E.  

May 3, 2014

To the owners of ----- Cleaners:

I feel it is important to let you know why I won’t be giving you any future business.  Over the years, I’ve taken my son’s pants (many, many pairs) to get hemmed at your cleaners.  On February 17th, I brought in 2 pairs of the same exact track pants, in different colors to have tailored.   This past week I noticed both pairs’ hems are starting to unravel.  I ran in to ----- on Friday afternoon to see if they could be fixed.  I was met with resistance from the young lady who always works there.  She indicated that Ian’s pants had got caught on something and it caused the hem to unravel.  I said this was not the case.  There was no way BOTH pairs could’ve gotten caught on something.  It was in a weird spot to be unraveling.  The only way this was happening was the thread was coming loose, ON BOTH PAIRS!!   Then I was told that ----- only guarantees work for one week and this was 2.5 months later.  I assured her that Ian had worn these pants only a handful of times, at the most 4 times since we bought them. 

I asked her again if she could fix them.  She said it would get fixed if I agreed to split the cost.  Seriously?  I was not going to stay there and argue with her.  I took my pants and walked out.  I will not be back. 

I had been a good customer for several years, since you opened the dry cleaners under the new ownership and name.  I value the small business owner and do my best to choose them over a bigger chain.  I can not stay loyal to a company that does not provide good customer service.  I had never brought anything back to be fixed before.  And I’ve never once complained that work on your part was done poorly.  I had been happy up until now and never even questioned what I had been told by my friends were high prices for getting clothes tailored.  I am sorry to say you won’t see me coming back.  I highly suggest you do some research on the business model Nordstrom has made famous for handling their customers.  It’s too small of a town to be treating customers like this. 


Robyn Toppall

Friday, May 2, 2014


The other day I had raised my voice a bit to communicate something to Jeff and Sam.  I wasn't yelling or upset with them.  Nope, not one bit.  Jeff and Sam were in the other room and I had something quick to tell them.

I don't even remember what I was trying to say.  I guess I wasn't very clear and they couldn't hear me well.  Jeff replies back with; "What did you just call us?  Speedy and Cueball?"

As soon as he said this, we all busted out laughing.  Jeff and Sam sincerely thought I had just called them "Speedy" and "Cueball".   We must've laughed for a good solid 15 minutes.  Actually, as I am writing this now, almost 6 days later, I am still laughing hysterically.

The irony is, this would be the most PERFECT nickname for Jeff.  Not only does he have no hair on his head; he loves to play pool!  And the name "Cueball" gives him a bit of a bad boy edge to him.  Which as we all know, Jeff could use a little toughening up on his image.  He is anything but a bad boy. 

As for Sam, I can think of many nicknames better suited for her.  "Speedy" is ok, but my preference would be "The Loud One" or "Firecracker".