Monday, August 25, 2014

Don't blink or you'll miss it.

Here is my one cool party trick.  This is basically the only cool thing I can do. I learned how to do this back in the 5th grade.  And I've somehow managed to keep up the ability over 30 years later.  This past Thursday we met up with friends at their pool.  I took out my 'party trick' dusted it off and gave it a go.  I had only done it off the side of pools before.  This time I went beyond my comfort zone and did it off their diving board -- which I'd like to add is higher than a usual diving board.  Whoa baby!  I felt empowered after having done it.   Take a look:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I & S are all about the beach

 My kids caught me writing about our week at the beach and wanted to add their thoughts.  I love listening to them describe their experience.  And, I always find it amusing what they think are the most important things to share.  Enjoy the following!


My week at the beach was very fun.  One downside to it was the ice cream on the boardwalk.  It was very disappointing.  George's ice cream was all icy.  Kohr Bros. strawberry-banana was pretty good, but their plain strawberry wasn't that good in my book.  More about food: The funnel cake at Irving Crepes was basically a big box of fried dough, it was not light and airy at all.  But the stawberries on top were delectable.  Steels Fudge Company was very, very good.  Their cookies and cream fudge was definitely my favorite.  Manco & Manco was definitely my favorite pizza place.  They put the cheese first and then the sauce which made it very unique.  But the biggest slice of pizza I had was at Angelo's.  That slice was 2 paper plates big!  The food off the boardwalk was better than the food on the boardwalk.  One morning we went to this place called Uncle Bill's Pancake House.  It was definitely the best pancakes I've ever had.  We also went to this ice cream place called Aunt Betty's.  Yes, Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill are related if you were wondering. 

The rides at the boardwalk were very fun.  I didn't go on all the rides I wanted to go on, but I went on a lot of them.  My absolute favorite part of the week was riding the Surrey.  For about 5 minutes I was the one steering the whole thing, even though we didn't know it. 

Max and I went boogie boarding almost every day except for one.  The waves were very, very huge.  I got a new boogie board while I was there.  And so did Max.  While we were on the beach, there was a big "lake" on the sand where the high tide went up and left water behind when the tide went back out.  Every day Max and I dug a big hole.

Our house was very nice.  Three bedrooms, two baths.  I shared a bedroom with Sam but we had separate beds.  Mom-mom and Pop-pop Jim got the master.  And Mom and dad got the other bedroom. We also had an additional pull-out couch that no one slept on.

I had an amazing time with my family at the beach.  And I'm finished.  So long.



Ian is weird. (Yes, this is all she had to say.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Us at the beach.

Robyn's Math: 

Packing an insane amount of stuff including but not limited to: sheets for 6 people, bath towels, beach towels, kitchen stuff, beach chairs, beach cart, umbrellas, boogie boards, scooters, clothes, food.
  Dealing with an additional 1.5 hours of traffic driving to Ocean City 
  The cost of renting the house
+   Packing everything back up and getting it all to fit in the car
  Sitting in another additional 1.5 hours of traffic leaving Ocean City 


I found something out about my two kids during our week at Ocean City, NJ.  Ian has a little bit of Jeff in him.  After 3 or so hours, he has had enough of the sand, water, sun and is ready to call it a day.  While my Samantha becomes a total beach bunny and can spend endless hours soaking it all in.  She will never be the first one to put up her hand and say she's had enough.  I won't either.  Together, we make a great pair. 

It took too much effort (and money!) on my part to make our week in Ocean City a reality.  I wasn't going to lose one minute of each gorgeous day and pack up our chairs, umbrellas, cooler, towels, sand toys, sunscreen any sooner than I needed.  And believe me, it was an absolutely gorgeous week to be near the ocean.  You couldn't ask for better weather.  We had only one day (Tuesday) where it was overcast to the point it looked like it could rain at any moment.  The real storm came late in the day and really hit hard.  This was the day we didn't go to the beach and used the time to play miniature golf, arcade games and get some great tasting pizza for lunch.  I made dinner for our whole group and afterwards we played charades.  The kids and adults loved this impromptu game.  What a nice way to spend the evening.

Playing charades.  The kids didn't want the game to end.

My cousin Leslie and her family joined us this past week.  I rented one house (it had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms) and right next door, Leslie rented an identical unit.  It was perfect. Her two kids match up wonderfully with Ian and Sam.  Ian and Max (only 6 weeks apart in age) are like two peas in a pod.  And Ellie and Sam (only 7 months apart in age) are like 2 peas in a pod.  For not planning our pregnancies (or doing the near impossible and trying to match up the genders!), it is amazing how it turned out.  Additionally, we had the added treat of having my mom and Jim with us for the whole week.  And Leslie's parents and in-laws came and went throughout the week as well.  It was a win-win-win spending time with the family.  As we all know, being with family is one of the things I love most.

We had the place on the left, Leslie had the place on the right.

 It's funny, our week started out with us getting to the beach super-duper early. I think that first day we were set-up and ready to rock as early as 9:30am.  As the week wore on, we set-up camp later and later each day.  By our last full day, we didn't even get to the beach until 12:30pm.   Sam and I didn't leave until well past the time the lifeguard called it a day at 5:00pm.  The best time of the day is when it approaches 4:30pm and the sun has started setting even a tiny bit.  What a beautiful sky and such a peaceful time to be out.

We had everything on the beach but the kitchen sink!
Our Summer days seemed to go on forever.  It was wonderful feeling like we had so many hours to play.  The kids didn't go to sleep until 9:30pm/10:00pm (or even 11:00pm) most of the nights.  It was not uncommon to be getting ice cream at 9:00pm when the kids traditionally are going to bed.

Burning the midnight oil...way past the kids' bedtimes.
Some of my favorite memories from this past week are ones that weren't even planned...they just happened.  Here is a Top 10 list of the best of the best spending the week at Ocean City, NJ.

10.  Having a house that was an easy walk to the beach.

9.    Taking 4 mile walks each morning, just me by myself as the sun was rising.  I either walked on the boardwalk or walked down to Dunkin Donuts and surprised the family with donuts for breakfast when I returned.

8.    Enjoying gluten free pizza from 3 different pizza places (!), ridiculously delicious gluten free pancakes and even finding a gluten free ice cream cone at a local ice cream shop.  How yummy!

Believe it or not there are gluten free pancakes under all this apple-cinnamon deliciousness
7.   Seeing the kids have so much fun playing with their cousins.  Up until this year, we've only gotten together at the most for a weekend visit (once a year) at my aunt and uncle's house in Cherry Hill.

Riding scooters on the boardwalk

Playing miniature golf

6.  The weather...OMG, the weather.  Perfect!

5.  Seeing how much fun the kids had flying a kite my mom bought Sam. We flew that kite on 4 different occasions.  Each and every time we easily got it up to the whole 100 feet of string.  It was such an awesome experience!!

4.  Meeting up with Heather and her group for the rides and dinner on the boardwalk.  Heather stays at Sea Isle City, NJ each year and it just so happened we were there for the same week.  How could we not meet up?  I love Heather!  I love Heather!  Did I tell you I love Heather?  I do!

 3. Discovering Johnson's Popcorn.  No more info needed than that.

2. Ian and Max boogie boarding to their heart's content for 6 days!  Sam and Ellie playing in the sand to their heart's content for 6 days!

And the #1 best thing about spending the week at the beach:
1. Renting a Surrey to ride on the boardwalk on Wednesday morning with my kids and Leslie & her family.  We all loved it!

So. Much. Fun.
A bonus #1:  Experiencing Sam becoming a very tranquil and peaceful girl when on the beach.  It's like she transformed into a different person. It was wonderful being around her and sharing with her one of my most favorite places to be.  Nothing bothered her out there.

** You are not seeing things.  Sam got her haircut mid-week in Ocean City.  So some of the pictures her hair is much longer than others. 

Stay tuned:  One last blog about the beach.  Both Ian and Sam would like to tell you what they their own words. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Jersey Shore

The last of our epic summer is coming to an end. The kids and I had one last hurrah and did a week at the beach.  We rented a house in Ocean City, NJ right next door to the house my cousin and her family rented.  Getting a house at the beach is dream of mine and as long as I made it clear Jeff didn't have to step foot on the beach (he HATES sand and the ocean), he was game too.  I had been fortunate in the past to go with my mommy friends and their kids to use a relative's beach condo (two summers in a row!), but this was the first year we took the plunge and spent $$ on a place of our own for the week.

While this summer has been filled with all these amazing adventures and experiences (I promise you, I don't normally have summers like this one...EVER!), it hasn't been all sunshine and roses.

Within the past month, two of my best friends lost people close to them; Wendy lost her mother-in-law, and Jennifer lost her father.  Additionally, one of The Girls got some very upsetting medical news about her mom and another is dealing with some challening medical info about her dad.  It is hard to be happy about my wonderful summer when people I am close to are having one of their worst summers ever. 

Furthermore, Jeff lost his job two weeks ago (yes, the new one that he was at for only 3 months) and this has put a big damper on things.  He is doing a good job of holding it together for the family, but I know how terrifying it is each day for him that goes by without new employment lined up.    If there has to be a silver lining in this whole ordeal its that we did get Jeff to join us at the beach from Saturday to Tuesday evening.  And Thursday evening to Saturday.  He went back home for a day and a half for an interview.  I couldn't persuade him to go on the beach, but it was very nice having him around to join us for the rest of our activities.  This would not have been possible due to lack of accumulated vacation time if he was still at his job.  Although if you ask Jeff, he'd much rather have the paychecks coming in than be available for a week at the beach. 

So while I am having the time of my life with the kids, there is a big gray cloud over our heads reminding me that not everyone is enjoying themselves.  Especially when all of these events have happened within the last 4 weeks.  Ugh.

In my next post, I will share highlights of our week in Ocean City, NJ.  It was filled with great weather, meeting up with best friends, spending time with my wonderful extended family, and experiencing some new things we've never done before.  In a nutshell, I'd say it was winner.  Jeff may even agree to us doing this again next Summer, as long he gets a job soon. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Taking a bite out of the big apple.

Times Square; where all the action is.
In what is being defined as an “epic” summer for me, the amazing adventures keep coming.  Jeff and I will be celebrating 10 years being married Labor Day weekend.   Jeff came up with the idea to spend the weekend in NYC to mark this marvelous milestone.  Given that the kids were in Orlando and childcare would not be an issue, we decided to celebrate a month early and go the weekend of Aug 2nd to 3rd, 2014. 
I love that Jeff came up with this idea.  My original plan was for us to take a cruise around the Mediterranean (you know, Greece, Italy, Spain).  Ha!  Once my trip to Israel looked like it was definitely happening, and Jeff got a new job with no vacation time accumulated any time soon, and we didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend on booking a cruise, I let go of that idea.  There wasn’t much to build my case in persuading Jeff to get on board.  I let go of any idea that involved packing a suitcase.  So I was pleasantly surprised when he ran past me the idea to do a weekend in NYC.   I LOVE New York!  Of course, I said yes, pretty enthusiastically I might add.
The icing on the cake was Jeff’s Uncle Larry getting us tickets to two of his shows he has a producing role in.   “Beautiful” and “Rocky” was where you could find us on Saturday.  We had these insanely amazing seats for “Beautiful” at the 2:00pm show, met Uncle Larry for dinner afterwards and then hit the 8:00pm show of “Rocky”.  What a fabulous day!
Show #1
“Beautiful” is so incredibly well done.  We loved it.  The actress who plays Carole King (Jessie Mueller) is simply mesmerizing. She definitely deserved the Tony for best actress.  I love the way they tell the story of her music.  It has made me want to download the soundtrack.  I highly recommend everyone go see it.  It is well worth the trip to NYC just to see this show. The craziest thing was when I bumped into a boy who was in my sister's class in high school.  I haven't seen him in like 26 years.  He was sitting 3 rows behind us.  Through the magic of Facebook he knew I was there and sent me a message telling me he was there too.  How crazy is that!!?

Selfie at Beautiful
“Rocky” is another story.  The show is closing on August 17th because it is not making any money.  However, the last 20 minutes of the show is like nothing you’ve ever seen.  It is pretty wild.  I’ve seen a lot of shows on Broadway over the years and this has got to be the most spectacular ending ever done.  The reason I think the show is not making it is because of the first act.  It’s pretty bad.  All the original music written for the show is not those catchy/memorable Broadway type songs you want to fall in love with.  The actors are great, have fantastic voices, and the storyline follows the movie.  They even work in the music from the movie, which instantly gets everyone tapping their toes in the audience.  But the original score is so lackluster.  There is only one song that I looked at Jeff and said, “this is a great song!”   I bet someone else wrote that one.  J   With that said, the show is worth seeing for the ending – actually all of Act 2 is fun.  That’s when Rocky does the training for his big fight.  They even recreate him running up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps.   The people who created the show did an amazing job of capturing all of the excitement from the movie and bringing it to the live stage.  The choreography, the music, the action and getting the audience involved is pretty fantastic. 
Show #2

Dinner with Uncle Larry. 
I thnk you can see the Toppall family resemblence.
After the two shows were over I asked Jeff which he liked better; “The whole show of ‘Beautiful’ or the last 20 minutes of ‘Rocky’”.  His answer was dead-on!  Jeff replied, “I LOVED Beautiful, however, the ending of Rocky was more impressive.”  I completely agree.   Believe me, it was a good problem to have to be able to compare these two shows.   There is nothing like a live performance and to have the seats we had is phenomenal.  Jeff and I wouldn’t have been able to swing those kind of seats.
On Sunday we woke up late (7:30am!) and after breakfast hit the city.  I convinced Jeff we wouldn’t die if we took the subway.  Our first stop was Canal Street.  I love shopping for the knock-off designer bags.  Back in the day, my friend Amanda and I used to come to Chinatown and have a ball.  There is nothing like it. 
Jeff on the subway. 
Much to his disbelief we were not killed using New York public transportation.
  As soon Jeff and I got off the subway on Canal Street, a woman is standing on the sidewalk asking if we wanted to see Louis Vuitton, Coach, etc.  We followed her to this guy who has a catalog of all the bags for me to look at.  I pick one out and he communicates to someone in his walkie talkie and says it will be 5 minutes.  Got to love the counterfeit designer bag market!   I ended up not getting that bag, but I had a lot of fun.  In one of the other shops, the guy takes me to his back room and shows me what is available to be purchased.  Jeff was a very good sport and let me have as much fun as I wanted. 
We then made our way to Little Italy (Mulberry Street, baby!) and had an awesome lunch.  After Jeff’s incredibly delicious Veal Marsala and my gluten-free pasta with a pesto sauce, he started to get very un-Jeff-like and saying how much he enjoys New York City and all it has to offer.    Yes!  I wholeheartedly agree! 
Enjoying lunch a sidewalk cafe in Little Italy.

Jeff telling me how great New York City is.
After lunch we made our way to the High Line Park.  It is a mile long park that is above the city.  It was created over railroad tracks and is a neat addition to the city.   They did a great job creating this area with places to sit and trees, grass and flowers along the way on either side of the path.
Selfie at High Line Park
 Our last stop before getting the bus back to D.C. was Chelsea Market.  I can’t believe I’ve never been here before.  What a cool place.  Jeff and I enjoyed walking through the market and checking everything out.  
By the time the bus departed, we had walked 5 miles!  What a great way to spend the day.  My love affair with New York and this amazing Summer I am having continues.  The weather forecast had rain both days we were away.  We packed umbrellas just in case and didn’t need them.  The weather was great…no humidity, no rain and the right amount of cloudiness so it wasn’t hot. 
Jeff and I have already discussed the next time we come back to NYC, we will walk around Greenwich Village.  And in another un-Jeff-like move, he actually verbalized a trip he can see us doing when “Frozen” comes out on Broadway and we bring Sam to see it.   Who is this guy?  I am not going to question it and keep him.