Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple picking!

Growing up we never went apple picking.  Any kind of pick-your-own apples/berries/what have you was an activity we just didn't do.  Not sure why, it just never happened.  It wasn't until I moved to this area and started having kids that my friend Stephanie introduced me to apple picking in the Fall and blueberry picking at the start of the summer.  From the first time I took Ian when he was a year old, I loved it.  Picking apples directly from the tree has to be one of the coolest things ever.

Over the years I've managed to keep apple picking a recurring event we do each Fall.  I've come to the unfortunate realization that the kids and Jeff don't love it as much as I do.  They tolerate it.  Some years more peacefully than others.  Ian says he'd prefer to go apple picking every 2 years.  He thinks going yearly is a little too much.  Sam enjoys the 'picking' part but doesn't enjoy the 'going' part. 

I plan for us to keep coming back each year.  It is my hope that years from now the kids will look back on our apple picking excursions with fondness and realize how special it is.  They just don't know it yet. :)  For the third year in a row we've gone apple picking with the same family.  It certainly helps for the kids to have friends with them.

No matter how much Sam doesn't want a family picture taken,
I will still get the shot.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More milestones than you can shake a stick at.

This has been an incredible week!  Who would've thought that Jeff starting his job on Monday, would've quickly got overshadowed by a few MAJOR milestones by Sam?  Wow is all we can say.

Sam is growing up!  We've been working on her being able to take a shower on her own.  She does pretty well, but always needed a little assistance getting her hair rinsed completely free of the shampoo and conditioner.  Something magically clicked on Tuesday, when we returned from her gymnastics class. We walked in the door and she asked if she could take a shower.  I said, "Yes, I will come help you."  She went in the bathroom and as she was slamming the door yelling, "NO, I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP!!", she took the shower completely on her own, unassisted.  Setting aside the fact that I got treated with disrespect, it was pretty awesome that she did it.  When she came out of the bathroom in her pajamas and a big smile on her face, I told her I was very proud of her but didn't deserve to be yelled at.  She said she was "Sorry".  Then I explained how I was only trying to help her and she yelled back at me, "I TOLD YOU I WAS SORRY!!".  Lovely, right?  Anyway, I try to focus on the good in this story.  Sam is now showering on her own and she is doing a great job.  Woo-hoo!!

But the milestones just keep coming.  Each morning Sam has been working on tying her shoes.  This is a full year before Ian was able to master this skill at his age.  Something just magically clicked on Thursday morning and the next thing you know, Sam is now tying her shoes.  She can actually tie each sneaker in under 20 seconds.  It's very impressive. 

Sam is getting to be a big girl.  Jeff and I have noticed that her behavior is starting to get better.  I still notice many episodes of her yelling/demanding/whining/exploding at us for no reason, but it appears to be a little less frequent.  I've observed the more she is able to do on her own, the better behaved she is. She likes her independence and to be able to make decisions on her own.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Our rood to eating healthier (at least when we are home) is going swimmingly well.  I feel so good about all the food we are bringing in the house.  Slowly we've eliminated packaged foods that had dyes, high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, preservatives, enriched flour, and lots of refined sugar.

Lunch has posed an issue for Sam.  She is tired of turkey sandwiches and would prefer to eat noodles 24/7.   Um, no.  That is not happening.  Even if it is whole wheat pasta.  I consulted my new bible, "100 Days of Real Food" cookbook and got inspired to think out of the box.


The heart-shaped cut-out item on the left are apple slices (cut horizontally) stacked two high with peanut butter in the middle.  A new take on the peanut butter sandwich.  On the right side of the container, you have carrots, cheese cubes and a banana muffin.  Let me tell you about this muffin!  It is gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and free of refined sugar.  Whoa baby! Now that is a muffin we can feel great eating.  The kids love them!!   Throw in a bottle of water and lunch is ready to go to school.

Here is my new favorite container I pack Sam's lunch in:

 It folds up compactly, keeps everything separate and fits nicely in her lunch box.

I am so proud of this.  If I was in school, I would love this lunch!  The first morning I put this together, Sam came into the kitchen to see what I was up to.  She took one look at the finished product and opened her mouth ready to complain about something.  Get this, she couldn't find one thing to complain about.  She ended up closing her mouth speechless.  Ha!

Since I've done this, Sam has asked me to stop putting so much peanut butter on the apples.  No problem, easy enough to fix.  I can mix up the sections with cucumber slices (another favorite of Sam's), grapes, whole wheat crackers, etc.  The possibilities are endless.

Here's another version I've packed for Sam:

The saltine crackers are organic and all natural ingredients.  Next to it is turkey for Sam to put on top of the crackers.  I've also included cucumber slices, grapes and a healthy version of a vanilla wafer.

Here is a link to this awesome new cookbook I've been using.  So far everything I've made has been a winner.

This author also has a wonderful website, facebook page and email newsletter under the same name.  She truly makes the overwhelming task of label reading much easier.  Brings it down to my level.  We are not anywhere near perfect, but we've made huge strides in the last 6 months.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A crazy shoe story

Sam has convinced Jeff that she needs more shoes.  Jeff bought Sam's argument hook, line and sinker.  Together, they tried to persuade me Sam needed to go shoe shopping.  Hey, here's an idea...why don't the both of you go shoe shopping together?   You can drive each other crazy.  Let's leave me out of it.

I armed Jeff with my Stride Rite coupon, loyalty rewards and sent them to the mall.  While Jeff and Sam were headed to Stride Rite, Ian and I went to the movies.  I received text messages from Jeff updating me on how it was going.  Stride Rite was a bust and JC Penny's children's shoe department at the mall was a bust.  The shoe shopping duo were stopping for lunch at Chutzpah and then trying DSW and Target.  With all those stores, they couldn't find one pair, let alone the two pairs they were hoping to score.  Jeff and Sam called it a day and came home.

The next day each child had a friend over the house for a playdate.  Sam's friend left first.  I suggested to Jeff he should take Sam and head to Potomac Mills for the Stride Rite Outlet.  Maybe they'd have better luck there.  Potomac Mills is a bit of a distance from our house, but I figured it would be good to try after having zero luck closer proximity to where we live. 

Success!!  Sam did find a pair of black dress shoes she wanted to replace, but still couldn't find a pair of back-up sneakers with laces.  The majority of shoes have velcro.  That is sooo 2013 in Sam's mind. 

Now here is the crazy ending to the story.  The shoes were originally $35.  But because it was outlet pricing, they were marked down to $25.99.   I had a coupon for Stride Rite that gave 20% off.  That brought the price down to $20.79.  Then I had two $10 off loyalty rewards which brought the cost down to $.79 !  With tax, the total cost of the shoes came to $.84  WOWEE!!  So Jeff has no cash on him...not even a dollar.  He whips out his credit card and the woman behind him in line is in shock that Jeff is going to charge .84 cents.  She refuses to let Jeff charge this small amount and insists he take her $1.00 to pay for the shoes.  After Jeff politely refuses and they go back and forth a few times, Jeff finally caves and takes her dollar.  The guy behind the counter asked who he should give the change to.  hehehehee.

At the end of the day, the shoes ended up costing us nothing!  And Jeff and Sam were very excited to finally have found a pair. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jeff's BIG day!

We are all shouting from the rooftop: Jeff  has gone back to work!  After being home 6 weeks his new job finally starts today.  Yahoo!!! 

I am admitting it; it is bittersweet.  While it is necessary for everyone's sanity that he has a purpose to his day and somewhere to go, it was very nice having him around.  If we didn't need money to live on, I'd actually be fine having him around all the time.  The Jeff we got to experience this past month and a half was relaxed, funny, helpful, and a joy to be around.  Fortunately he didn't freak out at all about being unemployed and having to find a new job.  The first interview he went on after being let go is the company he decided to work for.  Jeff took time and worked the process of checking out a bunch of other companies, going on interviews, speaking with recruiters and making sure this is who he wanted to say 'yes' to. Then it took a while to get the background check finalized and to hear the first official day would be September 22nd.

Each day Sam would look at Jeff and ask when he would finally be getting a job.  Then she'd comment how he should've never left Sapient, the company he was with 5 years before trying something new that didn't work out. Leave it to Sam to tell it like it is. 

Jeff had to dust off his alarm clock and set it once again this morning.  He is back among the working world.  I am no longer the sole breadwinner.  Ha! Ha!  If you knew what I make in a month, you would find this highly entertaining too!  We are extremely fortunate that between the 2 weeks notice, 2 weeks severance, and small amount of vacation time he had built up in only 3 months, we had a little more than 1 week without his paycheck.  But the 6 weeks he got to recover from the disaster that was his last job is priceless.  Believe me it was a nightmare to be around him for those 3 months he was working.  He was constantly stressed, freaking out, and working around the clock not sure he was doing anything right.  Now Jeff is heading to this new company relaxed, rested and ready to do great things!

We managed to keep life as close to normal as possible while the fate of when Jeff would be bringing home the 'bacon' was getting figured out.  Other than not signing Sam up for gymnastics or being able to follow through with all the donations I've verbally committed to, we did ok. Oh yeah, and now I can order my photo books I made from my trip to Israel and our week at the beach.  Kudos to Jeff for not being ultra-conservative and suggesting we stop the newspaper being delivered and/or get cable tv turned off.  Or G-d forbid, asking me not to go to the movies. 

We will go back to our regularly scheduled life with Jeff leaving the house bright and early each weekday morning.  And I am back to juggling the kids before and after school solo.  It will take some getting used to, but I think we will adjust just fine. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Made by Ian

Ian asked if he cold make us dinner.  Oh yeah!  I asked Ian what he wanted to make.  Chicken meatballs, spaghetti and broccoli was his answer.  I reassured Ian if he needed any help I'd be nearby.  I gave Ian my recipe for meatballs and let him call the shots.  When all was said and done, I maybe assisted with 5% of the total preparation.  Ian did it on his own.  I am very proud of him. 
The cutest part was when Ian was heating the spaghetti sauce and decided to give it more flavor.  He cut up an onion, sprinkled in oregano, and then wanted to give it a "hint" (his words) of green bell pepper.   It was very yummy.

As Ian was cooking dinner and I was in the kitchen nearby to answer questions, Jeff tells me to turn the tv to channel to 232.  The broadway show turned movie "Rent" was on.  Without missing a beat, Ian starts signing along.  No, he hasn't seen the show or the movie.  But he certainly has heard the music enough in the car when I am behind the wheel.  I feel like my work here is done. :)

You can see Ian's 'hint' of green bell pepper.  :)
As we were eating I jokingly asked Ian what he plans to make next week.  He said he may do this again next month!  I think it was a bit overwhelming for him to be juggling the additions to the sauce he wanted to do, getting the pasta boiled and needing to take the meatballs out of the oven when it was time.  Ian did say he will try quesadillas next time.

Gosh, I love this kid.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Girls with their dolls - Take 4

Back to school means one thing.... a visit to the American Girl store in Tyson's Corner.  It's time for our annual lunch with our friends and the dolls.   This is our fourth year in a row.  Gosh, I love a good tradition.  And it is still as much fun for us as it was the first year. I am not sure who looks forward to this afternoon more; Sam or me. 

Each year we wonder out loud if our girls are ever going to stop wanting to do this.  At some point, they will outgrow the American Girl store, right?  And I am sure it will not be cool to be hanging with your mom. Or they will be too busy with other things and not have time for us.  When that time comes, my mommy friends and I plan to still come here for lunch.  We will just show up without them. :)

Caroline got to join us for lunch this year.

Sam and her signature shake. 

Monday, September 15, 2014


When Ian was less than a year old, we bought a set of Magna-Tiles.  Over 8 years later, this is still the toy the kids play with the most.  We not only have the original set we bought Ian, but added another set to it about 3 years ago.  Both are in mint condition.  Magna-Tiles is the perfect toy.  They are incredibly durable, don't require batteries, doesn't make any kind of noise, and takes up very little space.  They are perfect for both girls and boys.  And here is the icing on the cake:  You have to use your imagination!

Magna-Tiles are a bit pricey, but believe me, they are worth every penny.  There are thousands upon thousands different designs you can do with them.  Sam plays with them daily.  Ian sees Sam playing with them and then he wants to play too.  It is hands-down a big two thumbs up from these parents.  With every toy we have bought over the years, this is probably the only one (other than a regular set of blocks) that has made the cut time and time again during each yearly clean-out we do.  Considering how many girl toys, boy toys, gender neutral toys we've had come and go for the past 9 years, that is really impressive.

If Sam becomes an architect, I can say it is because of this toy.  She has this amazing ability to make all her designs so unique and symmetrical.  It is really nice seeing her focus her energy and attention on something good.

Here are a few of Sam's designs:  I took these pictures randomly over the last year as I would walk by our family room and see what had been created.



Best. Toy. Ever.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fondue for 4.

We had a great celebration to mark 10 years; a fun weekend in NYC seeing amazing broadway shows was perfect.  As the actual day was approaching, Jeff asked if I wanted to go out for dinner on September 5th.  I said, "Heck ya!"  Would I ever willingly want to stay in and cook dinner?  No way!

I knew just what I wanted to do.  I wanted to go to the Melting Pot AND I wanted to bring the kids.  Yes!! I wanted to celebrate the actual day we got married with both of the kids.  I thought it would be nice to include them.  I love the Melting Pot, but it is more like a special occasion kind of restaurant.  Between the cost, distance (Reston is our closest location), the need to make reservations in advance, and the amount of time it takes to eat dinner, it is not something you go to on a whim.  

The kids had never been before and I knew they would get a kick out of it.  I was right!  We all had a lot of fun eating fondue style.  When it dawned on Sam that we were going to be given a huge pot of chocolate for her to dip things in for dessert, she looked at Jeff, gave him a huge hug and said, "I LOVE THIS PLACE!  IT IS AMAZING!!"  

At the end of the meal, Ian asked if waiters/waitresses get to eat there for free. I have a feeling Ian has his eyes on getting job at The Melting Pot.   Both kids (almost at the same exact time) said they will be picking this place for their restaurant of choice when it comes time for their birthday dinner.  Ha!  That would be two visits within 1 week of each other at the end of May.  We may need to come up with some kind of compromise.  Who does that?  Goes to The Melting Pot weekly?  Heheheheeh.

Note to self for future visits:  The kids didn't need their own kid's meals. They could've easily shared what Jeff and I ordered.  Or, if they get a kid's meal, they can split one and Jeff and I could've easily split an entree.  We had so much meat left over, that we cooked it all up and put it in a to-go box for a future meal at home.  

A nice ending to the meal.  Because we were celebrating our anniversary, the waitress gave us a box of chocolate-covered strawberries to take home.  How sweet is that?

What nice surprise!!

Yummmm, Cheese fondue!

McKenna joined us for dinner.

After dinner we waddled our way to the fountain and took a picture.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

105.7 and I am not talking about a dial on the radio.

The day after we got back from our week at Ocean City, NJ Sam picked up a nasty virus.  We are still not sure where she got it or exactly when it invaded her, but it certainly took residence in her body and wreaked havoc.

For over 24 hours, Sam had a fever of 105.7  My kids have never gotten fevers like this (and for the most part are very healthy), so it really made us take notice. It was hard not to freak out.  All the medicine we gave Sam did nothing to bring down the fever because she was also vomiting non-stop.  The medicine wouldn't stay down.  Not even water. Oh my!

Of course we were in constant contact with Sam's doctor for 2 days, even like at 1:30am.  Do we bring her to the ER/hospital?  What else can we do to get the fever down?   We brought her in for an office visit to rule our strep and a urinary tract infection (given her many potty issues).  There was no underlying cause we could find.  The only treatment prescribed was to give her alternating doses of Tylenol and Motrin every 3 hours around the clock - even waking her up during the night.  Use cold compresses, give her a lukewarm bath and try to get her to eat popsicles.  

Once she was finally able to get some of the medicine to stay in her, her fever finally broke.  I will never forget how deliriously happy I was at 4:00am when I took her temperature and it registered 103.1.  Who in their right mind would be happy seeing a number this high?  Me!  When you've gone more than 24 hours at 105+ temps, 103 is looking mighty good.  That morning Sam kept it steady at 101.3 for the next 12 hours, but that was ok.  The medicine was working and her body was doing what it needed to and fight the virus.  A full 3 days later (from when all this initially started) Sam got her temperature back to normal.

Here is the craziest thing about all this.  At no point did Sam become lethargic, delirious or being out of it.  Every time we spoke with her doctor, she asked us how Sam's temperament was.  Sam could be heard in the background being her usually feisty self.  She certainly didn't sound sick.  And as much as she was throwing up, she was still hungry. 

With the 3 days Sam was stuck at home this particular week and the 2 days Sam was stuck in the house the following week (with her GI clean out), Sam was a trooper.  Ian had friends pick him up for playdates and get him out of the house.  But Sam had no choice but to be home.  She did great.  At one point, Ian comes home at the end of the day spent at a local waterpark with friends. He walks in the house telling us all the fun he had.  Sam just looks at us and asks, "You think I can be let out tomorrow?"   It was very funny.   

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Express route to Hopkins

Yes, this is still happening.  We are still dealing with bathroom issues with Sam.  She is 6 years old and we still hold our breath every day if or when she will have an accident.  It can be anything from a few drops to something needing a new pair of underwear and change of clothes.

I do believe we have the pooping part under control and Sam being on more than a full cap full of miralax every single morning is ensuring she goes regularly.  Fortunately those accidents have stopped over a year and a half ago.  Now we are dealing with the urinating. We are still trying to figure out if it is medical (there is something physically wrong with Sam) or if it is behavioral (she doesn't want to go and holds it until the last possible minute making it way too hard to get to the toilet in time).  Sam claims she doesn't feel the need to pee.  Is this because she has years and years of demonstrated behavior of holding it in and now its an unconscious part of who she is?  Hello, back in the day, the girl went 19 days between pooping.  Or, is there really a medical reason that is keeping her from feeling the urge to go?

Our pediatrician had Sam go for a pre- and post- void ultrasound at the end of last school year.  It showed that she wasn't fully emptying her bladder.  We were then referred to the Voiding Dysfunction Clinic at John Hopkin's in Baltimore.  Who knew they even had something like this available?!?!   The urologist we met with had Sam get an x-ray and we are to measure all her pee to see how much is coming out.  Fortunately we only have to do this at home.  The x-ray showed a few things.  1. Her colon is still backed up with stool.  Really?  How is this even possible with all the miralax and pooping she does on a daily basis?  So our first step is to do another major clean out.  Sam stayed home for 2 entire days.  After 5 (yes 5!) cap fulls of miralax and two doses of ex-lax ALL WITHIN 8 HOURS!, the girl finally started going the next day.  Wow, she is one tough chick to have taken all that in before it started producing any kind of results.  2.  Apparently two of the lumbar bones (at the bottom of tail bone) are smaller one side than the other.  This could be partially impairing her bladder and it could also be a sign of future scoliosis.

From the results of the x-ray we are now going back for an MRI, follow-up with their GI department, a follow-up with the urologist and potentially follow-up an orthopedist.  All at Hopkins.

I am exhausted at just writing that above sentence let alone doing all these appointments.  Sam has a really great handle on all this and realizes we are trying to find out what is wrong and fix it.  The majority of these appointments are in October. Hopefully by the end of next month we will have a good handle on what future treatments we need to do.  And if it turns out to be all behavioral, well then, Sam is still rocking therapy on Thursdays.  Fortunately that is local.

I must add that dealing with John Hopkins has been nothing less than spectacular.  They have their act together and all the departments do a stellar job of communicating.  It has been a pleasure scheduling and showing up for the few things we've already done.  It makes me feel really good to know that we have this caliber of medical care in our backyard.  And I LOVE their parking garage.  Electronically it will tell you exactly how many spaces are available down each aisle before you decide if you want to turn down it.  A little red light above each spot alerts you that the spot is taken. A green light lets you know the spot is available.  Even parking at Hopkins is great.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Heard and Observed #49

In Orlando when the kids were with my parents during part of their summer break:

Sam is in the shower and my mom is helping her with her hair.

Sam:  You don't need to worry about the back of my head.

Mom-Mom:  Why do I not need to put shampoo back there?

Sam:  Because I don't see that part of my head.

Ha! My mom quickly set her straight about that. :)


At the beginning of August, Ian gets home from being away for 5 weeks and is eager to talk to his friend from school.  Mind you, this is a pretty close friend of Ian's.  He calls Johnny up and this is the conversation I overhear:

Ian:  Hi Johnny......

I am presuming Johnny is saying "Hi" back.

Ian: I just want to say we are about to start a new school year and it will be a new start for you.  I'm sorry that I wasn't with you much last year.  You see, Jimmy was at the top of being popular and you were at the bottom.  But it can change this year.  It will be a new start.

(UGH!! This is probably Ian's way of saying he is sorry -- which makes me wonder for what exactly..did he ignore his good friend once he got to know Jimmy better???   Overhearing this conversation made me CRINGE!!!   As soon as Ian got off the phone I spoke with him about how that would be for him to hear if a friend said that to him.  And we had a much needed conversation about friendships.)


Friday, September 5, 2014

Single best decision ever

10 years.  A decade.  Almost 25% of my life.  That's how long I've now been married.  It's amazes me that I am still ridiculously in love with this guy I call my husband.  We have our moments where I want to kill him.  Moments where I am not sure a husband and kids are a good idea.  But the good days far outweigh the bad ones.   The times when I gaze across a room and fall deeper in love with him outnumber those times when I want stick my tongue out at him. 

When all is said and done, we are a good team.  Scratch that, we are an AMAZING team.  I love how much fun we have together, how we can still find things to talk about other than the kids, how we can daydream on what we would do if we won the lottery (actually playing it might be a good first step!), how sometimes its us against the kids, how he can look at me and instantly tell what kind of day I'm having. And most of all, how he makes me laugh.  Boy, does Jeff make me laugh.  There is a wonderful tender side that most people don't see.  There is a playful side that most people don't see.  There is an incredibly generous, charitable side that most people don't see.  And there is a sappy, love-sick side that most people don't see.  But I see it.  Jeff is truly a remarkable guy.

And now, let me have a bit of fun with the Top 10 Things I Had To Get Used To When Marrying Jeff:

10.  Sometimes I will find the burned out bulbs back in the light bulb package when I go to get a new bulb.  Most of the time I get tricked thinking I took out a good light bulb to use.

9: I usually have to double check the trash can that is on the curb and make sure it is the one that actually has trash in it.

8. Expiration dates on milk, yogurt, meat, and cheese don't mean a whole lot when grocery shopping.

7.  Being ready to go on time means having to be ready 10 minutes early or else you will get told "Let's go already!!!  We are going to be late!!  You do this every time!!"

6.  Walking into a room after Jeff has been in it might be best with a gas mask or a can of fabreeze. I swear he didn't fart when we were dating.

5.  Watching a television show is near impossible as Jeff will flip through all the channels constantly and not settle on one. Ever.  Watching a movie with Jeff is great until he figures out the ending (even those sappy romantic movies I drag him too) and makes sure to fill me in too how he thinks it will go.

4. The ability to never see anything right in front of his face. There is an absolutely wonderful cartoon that depicts this beautifully.  This could easily be Jeff.

3. Jeff will always check out restaurant's menu online before we go.  He will figure out what he wants to order and comment how he can't wait to eat this.  Then we get to the restaurant, the waitress comes over and he says, "uh...uh....uh...." and then randomly picks something very quickly.

2. The best way to get Jeff to agree to something radically out of his comfort zone is to subtly bring it up in conversation a few dozen times.  Eventually he gets used to the idea and is game.

And the number 1 thing I had to get used to when marrying Jeff:

1.  How much I love him, like he is the air necessary for me to breathe, the last person I want to see before I go to sleep and the first one I want to see when I wake up, the person I want to grow old with and face all the best life has to offer. 

Happy 10 year anniversary Jeff!  There is no one I'd rather go through this crazy ride with than you. 

And now Jeff wants a chance to have a say.  This is HUGE as I am not usually even allowed to mention him.  Now he wants to be a guest writer.  Wow.   

Top Ten Things I Needed To Get Used To Being Married to Robyn

10)  Her cold feet.  They weren't cold before we got married.  But now penguins visit our house to snuggle with Robyn's feet when they are feeling homesick. 

9)  Robyn's habit of laughing at my wounds.  Physical injuries such as stubbing my toe or banging my knee are typically met with boisterous laughter.  Emotional wounds are treated with the verbal equivilant of mixing lemon juice, salt, hot sauce, and bleach.  She kids because she loves.   

8)  Robyn's views on money. For example, spending $100 you haven't earned on items you don't need but using a 25% off coupon means you've saved $25, not spent $75.  I'm praying this never makes sense to me. 

7)  Robyn's insistence on packing 30 minutes of activity into the 15 minutes before we are going to leave somewhere, then complaining about feeling rushed.  No, this isn't meant to be funny.

6) Robyn's perverse joy in not listening to me.  For example, when I say "You are driving me to the brink of total insanity and risking bankruptcy" she translates that into "So, you want a dog?".

5) Robyn's tendency to choose entertainment options that make her miserable. Her favorite books and movies make her cry uncontrollably and she loves TV shows that induce the obsessive need to binge watch (Breaking Bad, House of Cards) or cause heart attacks with each episode (Prison Break). 

4)  The extreme nature of Robyn's parking snob behavior (This is actually a Mazer family trait).  We can spend ten minutes finding a prime parking space for a three minute shoppping trip. 

3)  Being asked an endless series of pointless questions such as  "Are you asleep?", "Can I put my feet on you to warm them up?" and "Can my mother come for a visit?"

2)  The degree of totally unjustified criticism I get to take. For example, Robyn either reads before going to bed or is asleep in five minutes.  Her attention span isn't long enough to care about my channel flipping. 

And the number one thing I had to get used to being married to Robyn....How much more I love her every day of my life. I wouldn't put up with all this crap for anyone but her.  Before we met I couldn't envision a world with her.  Now I can't envision a world without her.  Before we met I had no idea what I was truly meant to do with my life.  From the moment I told her I loved her, I knew my purpose was to build a happy and prosperous life for her and our children. 

Robyn.. I love you more than my own life and words cannot describe how much I'm looking forward the rest of our journey together. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another Summer in the books.

Here's a sentence that may knock your socks off:  At no point during this summer did I look at the calendar and start a countdown until when school would start.  Hard to believe, right? Also, the kids didn't do even one day of day camps during the weeks they were at home.  Again, so hard to believe.  Furthermore,  I didn't even have an excel chart mapping out each day and what was getting scheduled months and months in advance to make sure every day had plenty of coverage to entertain and dazzle the kids.  Whoa baby!  Crazy, I know.   

I call the Summer of 2014 "Epic".  It has to have been the best summer of my life.  I don't see how I will ever be able to top my adventures or destinations in the coming years.  The most I can hope for is something comparable.  While it was epic for me in a good way, it was epic for Jeff in a horrible way.  The majority of the summer (May to August) was spent with him being miserable in a job that was a bad fit and the final weeks of the summer was spent with him being unemployed.  Due to great effort on Jeff's part and former colleagues, friends, and an awesome network, Jeff has done a wonderful job of speaking to recruiters, lining of interviews, and getting a job offer.  Whew.  I have to say living with Jeff when he was at his former job was unbearable (for all of us).  The unemployed version was very pleasant to be around.  Jeff said he wouldn't freak out about his lack of paychecks until the end of September/early October. I am happy to report we didn't see the freaked-out version. It was nice having Jeff around.

We don't lack drama or excitement around here.  Between Israel, Camp Ramah in New England, NYC, Orlando, Ocean City NJ, Gramps Camp in Baltimore, and Dutch Wonderland/Hershey Park, we had more than our share of fun leaving our small town of Burke.

The first day of school was yesterday.  I am looking forward to getting back into our routine and the kids getting back to a decent bedtime each night.  10:30pm on a consistent basis was a bit ridiculous, right? 

First day of 1st grade!

First day of 4th grade!

Sam got all excited that she was assigned the same teacher Ian had.  However, when it came time to bring Sam to hear classroom yesterday, she broke down in tears.  Fortunately Jeff and I had lots of experience with this in kindergarten.  We gave her a quick hug & kiss and said good-bye.  There was no lingering and extending the separation even more.  As we all know, Sam crying is only for our benefit. She is fine as soon as we leave the room.  

Ian loves school.  Plain and simple, he loves it.

Sam is not entirely certain that school is a good thing.

Not sure if you can fully tell how excited I am.
Ian is thrilled with the boys who got assigned the same teacher as him.  This is Ian's first year without needing to have a snack brought to class.  Ian is most excited about a field trip to Jamestown he gets to do in 4th grade. 

Our back to school tradition each year is go to out for ice cream after dinner on the first day of school.  This year Sam chose Friendly's.  It was a big hit and we were all loving our sundaes.  Sort of makes having to go back to school just a little sweeter.  :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Toppall's *try* tubing.

Looks like fun, right?

You see this picture of people tubing?  Don't bother looking for us.  We aren't in it.  Nope, No Siree, No How, No Way.  We tried, believe me, we tried.  But we had A LOT going against us.  Specifically named Jeff, Ian and Samantha. 

My friend Beth and I planned an outing to go tubing with the kids one weekday about two weeks ago.  It was going to be the moms and the kids.  Beth found a great place in the Shenandoah, near Luray for us to go to.  It was going to be great and I was excited to bring the kids tubing for the first time.  However, as Jeff kept saying to me (over and over and over again) this was a very bad idea.  Given Sam's 'explosive' tendencies he didn't see how Sam was going to be ok on a river for 4+ hours with no escape route.  I am fearless when it comes to trying new things with the kids and was determined to go despite the words of warning. 

The forecast called for rain on our original date and our back-up rescheduled date was for Saturday, Aug. 30th.  This time the dads would be able to join us.  Jeff said he would come with us, not for the enjoyment factor (this is so not his 'thing') but to help with damage control. Again he is certain that Sam will explode and I will need another set of hands.  We got a very early start, packed an awesome picnic lunch and made our way to Beth's house.  We caravaned with her family to Luray.  It was a little less than a 2 hour drive.  After approx. 25 minutes into the drive Sam says she is going to be sick and needs a bag to throw-up in.  Really.  So we quickly produce a bag for her to use.  She does not throw-up.  Nope, not even a little spit.  However, every 15 minutes for the next 1.5 hours in the drive, Sam gives a very realistic sounding (FAKE!) cough as if something bigger is going happen.  Our day is off to a fantastic start and now Jeff is back to grumbling what a horrible idea this is.

We arrive at Shennandoah River Outfitters, use the bathroom, check-in, pay for the tubes (complete with an extra cooler tube), put on sunscreen, preventative bug-spray (Jeff thinks of everything to make this a more pleasant experience), sign the waivers and pick out life jackets to wear while tubing.  There has already been some rumbling from Jeff and Ian on how they don't want to do this.  Sam is now protesting loudly that her kid-size life jacket is not comfy.  I offer $5 at the end of the day if she wears it and doesn't complain. She quickly quiets down and is back to being good.

We board the bus to take us to the launch site.  We will be doing a three mile trip down the river.  Pick-up at mile 19 will start at 2:00pm and occur at every hour.  Right before boarding Jeff offers me $500 to change my mind on this outing and to head back home.  I know in my heart this will be fun for all of us if we can just give it a chance. 

As the bus is making its way down the bumpy road, Jeff increases his offer to a $1,000 if I change my mind on going through with this.  The amount of support I am receiving from my family is overwhelming (said very sarcastically).  As we all know, Jeff does not take spending money lightly, nor is he currently employed. So for him to offer me a $1,000 for me to do whatever I want with is not something I am dismissing easily.  However, I really think we will enjoy this activity.  I am even thinking we can do this every summer.  Boy am I living in a fantasy world or what!?!?

We get off the bus and gather our tubes.  I am going to tie my and Samantha's tube together.  I also volunteer to tie the cooler tube to me too.  Ian is having a full blown temper tantrum and can't seem to calm down.  Jeff is freaking out too, more so because his prophecy of the kids not enjoying this is coming true.  However, Jeff has fully projected his feelings to the kids and now Ian has picked-up where Jeff has left off.  Sam is surprisingly calm and is up for tubing. (I believe she has her eyes firmly set on the $5 bribe).  In a twist of fate, Sam is now telling Ian to chill and relax.  Beth keeps looking at me and mouthing "Just let me know what I can do to help."  I am completely clueless.  We have more than caused a scene with all the other people on the bus and even a few of the fellow tubers look at Ian and tell him he will have fun. Of course, Ian is screaming/crying/throwing a fit too much to hear any of it. 

For those keeping score, Jeff is now trying to help and get Ian to calm down.  He has finally provided the much needed emotional support I need to parent the kids as a team. Jeff is no longer working against me, but with me. (HOWEVER, this change of attitude has come too late and the damage to the kids has been done).  He is trying to convince Ian tubing will be ok and to give it a try.  Sam and I are making our way to the water.  Ian is being escorted forcefully by Jeff to the water.  Everyone from the bus has already launched.  Beth and her family have just gotten in the water. 

We are finally getting in our tubes.  Sam and I are settled. Jeff and Ian are having more issues with getting in theirs. I am not certain why they can't get in their tubes, but they are acting like it is foreign language and they don't even know how to say one word.  Ian is still freaking out loudly.  I have now hit my breaking point.  The next bus pulls up to drop off a new set of participants.  We have spent more than 40 minutes and have gotten no further than this next set of people about to start tubing.  I tell my Toppall Team we are not going through with this. Let's make our way out of the water and take this bus back to the main building.  I yell to Beth and her family we are sorry and will talk later. 

We reverse our steps.  Ian starts apologizing immediately and says he knows his behavior was wrong.  I am in no position to want to be gracious and say thanks for the apology.  Jeff is fully aware of the part he played in all this too and feels bad.  I am so disappointed in my family (not so much Sam funny enough).  I tried to explain to Ian that it's ok for him to not like something.  It's ok for him to not want to do an activity again.  IT'S NOT OKAY TO NOT TRY.  It is so important to me that I raise children who are willing to try everything at least once before deciding if it is something they like or not. 

Ian did not have an open mind.  He had some preconceived notion that he wasn't going to like it.  This makes me sad.  I don't want either of my children living their life like this. I hope I have set many examples for them on how I will try everything once. 

The rest of the day Jeff and the kids did their best to make it up to me.  They realized how wrong they were and kept apologizing on whatever part they had in making our trip to go tubing a disaster.  Late in the day Ian asked me if we could try again in a few years.  I told him I will need some time to get over what happened yesterday.  I am not ready to repeat this again any time soon.

Next summer I am going back.  This time I will go with my girlfriends and leave the family behind. Fortunately I have many, many friends who have the same sense for adventure I do.