Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lucky us! or is it Lucky us?

Leading up to Spring Break, it was a crazy week for the Toppall family.  Both Jeff and I got picked to be chaperones on back-to-back field trips.

We live in a very competitive school district and getting picked to chaperone a field trip is like winning the lottery.  Apparently every parent under the sun wants one of the very few spots available and the teacher has to do a drawing to see which lucky child gets their mom or dad to accompany them.  For Wednesday's field trip, Jeff got picked as the sole chaperone for Ian's entire 4th grade class.  And I got picked as one of five chaperones needed for Sam's 1st grade class on Thursday.

Here's a secret few people know and my kids may never know --I can't think of anything worse than going on a field trip.  And yet, every year, every field trip I will fill out the form and hope that I can make either Ian or Samantha's day by going.  My kids want me to get picked.  However, I can only hope that my spot goes to someone else. This is why I have 3 part-time jobs with flexibility so that I can do these things.  Believe me, I put on a good game face.  Not one of the teachers or the class knows that I was wishing I was somewhere far, far away. 

Jeff is a rockstar!  Plain and simple.  He wanted to go on Ian's field trip to Jamestown and Yorktown.  He knew going into it, it would be a very long day (6:15am to 6:15pm).  I believe he was more excited than the kids.  Everyone around him warned Jeff what he was signing up for -- apparently it's been called the "bus ride from hell".  Knowing Jeff and his level of discomfort with loud noises, no escape route and the ridiculous number of children to adult ratio, I was very concerned about his mental state.  I wasn't worried about Ian in the least.  It was only Jeff that had my anxiety up high.  He did great!  And he had a wonderful day.  Jeff would text me throughout the day and each time it was another joke about what was going on.  For example, "We arrived!  We've only lost 3 kids so far.  Good thing we've got plenty of spares."  It was texts like this every few hours or so that made me know he was doing well.  If Jeff can make a joke, he is feeling ok.

I got to go to The Udvar-Hazy Museum by Dulles Airport on the field trip I chaperoned. I was given 5 girls (including Samantha) to be in charge of.  It wasn't too bad.  I have to say the girls were great and very well behaved.  I think Sam's teacher likes me and intentionally put together a fun group for me to have.  The field trip went from 9:00am to 12:50pm.  We got a late start and didn't arrive to the museum about 45 minutes later than planned.  Before I knew it, we were back at the elementary school.  The time really flew by.  I can't believe I am saying this, but I could've used another hour or so to show the girls more of the planes. 

I actually thought everything was wonderful; no kid thew up on the bus this time.  It wasn't stiffing hot, we weren't stuck in traffic and the bus didn't lurch back and forth repeatedly.  It wasn't until I was back in my own car headed to Wegman's that I realized I had a killer headache.  Ah, yes!  There it is, the reason I don't like field trips.  All I wanted was to sit in a dark, empty/noiseless room and decompress.  I think I take my chaperoning responsibilities very intensely and can't relax or breathe normal the whole time I've got other people's kids under my watch.  It is stressful!   It's different when I am out with Sam and Ian's friends and I am responsible for them.  I know those kids and I know what to expect.  But when it is someone I don't know and I don't know the parent, I am going to watch these particular kids even more closely.  Believe me, if you trust me with your kid, they will be looked after really well.  But, we will still have fun!

I am hoping that we are done with field trips for the rest of the school year.  I love that my kids get to experience them, I just don't want to experience them too!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tales from the crypt

I've  resigned myself that that I am in it for the long haul.  Quitting working for the Crazy Man is not going to happen any time soon.  So let's settle in and get comfy.  Here's a little story to bring a smile to your face.

While the Crazy Man was on his trip in February, he met a magician.  I think the magician was employed on the cruise, but generally works trade shows in Vegas.  The Crazy Man considers himself a bit of an amateur magician, so I can see how he would want to associate himself with a real, professional magician.

There have been many phone conversations with this magician.  The Crazy Man has taken him under his wing and is giving him tips and pointers on how to make his business more successful.  The magician is not young (maybe mid-40's?) and seems to be doing just fine.  His big hook is that if you hire him, he will drive traffic to your trade show booth.

I overheard The Crazy Man on the phone with him about 2 weeks ago.  His suggestions included, but not limited to:  The magician should change his costume multiple times.  Apparently what he wears is nice, but not very memorable.  The Crazy Man said that Green would be a good color for him.  Another suggestion was offered to the magician that he should try to get his wife in his act.  According to The Crazy Man, people like to see couples performing together.

Meanwhile, he had me mail the magician a letter for the sole purpose of the magician seeing the outside of the envelope.  It was a business size, #10 envelope with a "Burn after reading", "Top Secret!" and "This document does not exist" stamped all over the outside.

I guess I should be thankful that this is the only thing that resulted from The Crazy Man traveling to Florida and going on the cruise.  The highlight of March was being able to gather all his tax documents and get it mailed to the accountant the earliest I've ever done in the last 3 years. This is despite him accidentally throwing away the first set of tax forms that came in the mail in February.  Yay!  And when The Crazy Man wanted me to call around to compare Michelin tire prices getting installed on his car, I merely found my research from back in October and was good to go. 

Crazy Man 0, Robyn 1. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Channeling Ian's inner Jefferson

I am in love with how Ian writes. I adore his thought process, his phrasing and his choice of words.  I could read things Ian writes all day long.  Maybe I am biased.  Heck, I probably am.  

Ian had some assignment he did while in school.  As an after thought, he showed me what he turned in.  He said the writing and typing took him 5 minutes!  And he was most pleased with his choice of font. I am too!

I scanned the note in and included it as an attachment.  But this is what it says:

Dear Mr. Jouett,

     Thank you for warning me and the rest of the General Assembly that British troops were going to arrest us.  I know it must have been an incredibly hard ride to ride 40 miles through the deep backwoods of Virginia to go to my home, Monticello, and then still go to swan tavern in Charlottesville to warn some more members of the Assembly.
   Your horse must have been terribly tired after that heroic ride of yours.  You are definitely a great horseback rider and a amazing man.  Once General George Washington hears about this he will know he can win the war.
     Thomas Jefferson

How adorable is this note???  I was so impressed that I yelled for Jeff to come take a look.  He quickly reads it and says, "Wow, Thomas Jefferson wrote this?"    Ha! No, but I admit it sounds like something Tommy could've penned. 

After reading what Ian is capable of, his thank you notes he writes as himself will now need to be taken up a notch.  :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Math in the Internet Age

I'd like to thank Al Gore for inventing the Internet.  Ha! Ha!  I couldn't resist this joke.  Because if Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet, then there would be no YouTube.  And let me tell you, YouTube is what is getting me through 4th grade math.

Ian's homework assignment was to write/design a two step math word problem and tell what the hidden question was in his scenario.  Additionally, Ian had to define what a hidden question is in general.

Can I say for the record, I am 43 years old and never, ever had to know what a hidden question was or come up with word problems using a hidden question.  I think I've done ok for myself without having to know this apparently very vital piece of information.

Ian was as clueless as I was.  Unfortunately neither of us were going to be able to stay clueless much longer.  I did a search on YouTube for the Hidden Question and found a 4th grade teacher demonstrating it to his math class.  THANK YOU G-D! (or should I say, Al Gore?).  Ian and I watched the video about 3 times and completely understood what his assignment was asking.

I am still not entirely sure why Ian's teacher didn't cover this in his class before sending homework to be done.  Whatever, I can't worry about that and everything else going on.  YouTube to the rescue, yet again!

And if you too are wondering what a hidden question is, please let me take a moment to explain it to you.  In a nutshell, it's the implied steps you do to get to part of the equation that can solve the problem.

Here is an example:

John has 3 red apples
Sara has 4 red apples
How many more red apples do they need to get to a dozen?

So the hidden question in the above word problem would be adding 3 + 4 and knowing that together they have 7 red apples.  Doing that part of the equation is the hidden question.   You know you need to add the two together, but it still doesn't get you the answer to the problem.

After you've figured out the hidden question, you can then proceed with solving the problem.  12-7 = 5 more red apples needed.  Ta-da!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Twice a day? Maybe twice a week. :)

It's questionable at best how good of a job Sam does brushing her teeth.  In fact, we are not quite sure if you can call what she does "brushing''.   Most of the time I am convinced she goes into the bathroom and just stares at herself in the mirror for an appropriate amount of time and then leaves.  Or, she will get dressed in the morning and emerge from her bedroom saying, "I've already brushed my teeth!"   Yeah, sure, the last time I checked, her bedroom did not have a sink in it.

Most of the time we let it slide.  I pick my battles and making sure Sam has brushed her teeth isn't even on my top 20.  Just put this down as reason #455 why I am such a wonderful mother.  (Written with the most sarcasm possible).

On a rare evening recently, Jeff decided to call Sam out on her shady teeth brushing operation he was certain she was running.   Sam is getting ready for bed and announces (like normal) she has brushed her teeth.  This time Jeff goes into the bathroom and touches the toothbrush bristles.

Jeff:  Sam!  Your toothbrush isn't even wet!!  This is bone dry!  BONE DRY!!!!
Jeff is saying this as he is waving a toothbrush in Sam's direction.

Sam:  That's Ian's toothbrush.

OOPS!  Guess Jeff is sort of looking like a fool on this one.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pure Magic.

While Ian and Jeff were away for the weekend, the company I used to work for Arnold Advertising (now Arnold Communications) had a reunion Happy Hour.  Everyone whoever worked at DDB/Needham (which then became) Arnold Advertising (which then became) Arnold Communications or was invited to attend. 

I worked at Arnold right out of college from 1994 to 1999.   My naive 20-something self thought every workplace was like this one and had no idea what the real world was really like.  To say working with this group of people was special is an understatement.  It was pure magic.  Don't get me wrong, we worked hard and put in long hours, but it didn't feel like work.  We really enjoyed being around each other. It was like a 60 hour party each week.  Seriously, we'd watch full length movies during lunch time in the conference room.  We'd have these unbelievable happy hours that went in to all hours of the night.   We'd happily stay late to work on a presentation or a new business pitch and order dinner together 3 to 4 nights each week.

The Happy Hour reunion was held at the bar area of a local steakhouse.  Easily 70 or so former Arnold employees attended.  We took over that bar and then some!  Almost every single person there was from the 5 years I worked at Arnold.  What a wonderful, wonderful trip down memory lane.  The laughs, the reminiscing, the smiles were flowing non-stop. 

It's funny, I have no desire whatsoever to go to a high school reunion.  The thought of walking back in a room full of my school mates from 7th to 12th grades makes me nausea.  I keep in touch with  maybe 3 or 4 people and that's fine with me.  I never need to increase that number.  Although, I do admit it is fun to hear what is happening to a few others, but I can get those updates from my close friends. 

When I heard this Arnold reunion was being formed, I couldn't wait to attend.  It didn't bother me that I'd be going solo because Jeff was out of town.  I wasn't concerned about how much weight I've gained in the last 20 years, or what I looked like or if I was going to say something stupid.  I didn't care that I no longer had a career I was proud of or making impressive waves in the work world.  I wasn't nervous walking in.

It was like a time machine transported me back to 1994.  Everyone looked exactly the same!  No one aged in the last 18 years (other than maybe 1 or 2 people).  And like no time had been lost, we all picked up where we left off.

I didn't realize how many people I had shared an office with.  At least 6 conversations started with different people coming up to me saying, "Remember when we shared an office together?"  HA! I guess I got around.  

After the happy hour, Kristin/Mike, John/Dana and I went to dinner at Wildfire.  We had reservations for 8:00pm. The great evening continued with a delicious dinner.  And of course the memories and laughs kept flowing.  We had opened Pandora's box at the happy hour and kept it going reminiscing during dinner. Gosh I love Kristin and John.  It is so wonderful to be around people who truly get how amazing this job was with the people we were lucky to work with.

Without a doubt that had to have been the best 5 years of my life working in an office.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Boy's Weekend 2015

Jeff oozes his love for history from the inside out.  Ian is following in his footsteps and a mini-me has been created.  The two of them together are dangerous with dates and facts. 

This past weekend Jeff and Ian went to Gettysburg and basked in battlefields, civil wars, and all things 1860's.  They went on the History Nerds Tour (yes! That's the name of it).  Can there be anything more aptly named for these two?  Probably not. 

Jeff and Ian stayed overnight at an Inn that was built in 1804, right near the center of town.  That's about all I know.   Because what happens during Boy's Weekend stays in Boy's Weekend.  I think they had a great time.  Although they didn't come home with any shopping bags or new shoes.  So I am not sure just how good of a time they could've had.  ;)

My two favorite nerds.

The size of Ian's burger.  It looks like it is bigger than his face. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's all about the prime!

My love affair with Amazon Prime continues.  Truly, you can get everything your heart desires.  And it will arrive in 2 days.  TWO DAYS, PEOPLE!!! It's pretty fantastic.

My cousin Leslie's son, Max (who is in 4th grade too) had a project for school that he wanted Ian to help him with.  There were two parts to the assignment. 1., Fill out the travel journal and send it on to someone else in another state to fill out.  It asked basic questions like, where do you live, what is the climate like, what is the area known for, interesting info about the area, etc.   Part 2., Send a postcard from the area you live in to Max's school, addressed to him.

What a fun project!  I briefly debated do we send a postcard from Washington, D.C. (we live only 25 minutes away and it is a much bigger tourist destination) or do we find a postcard from Virginia?  I decided Virginia is where we live, Virginia is what we will send.  Now I just had to locate a postcard.  Ha!  Jeff thought I could pick one up at the post office. Um, no.  I am at the post office way too much and I've never seen one there before.  Then Jeff suggested I should drive to the closest hotel and get one from them. Hmmmm.  Again, I am not sure the business hotels near us would have touristy postcards either.  I had a feeling this was going to be a wild goose chase.  Quicker than I could finish the sentence "Let me see if Amazon has anything...", I found exactly what we needed.  A pack of 20 of them to be exact!  And they would be here in 2 days.  How great is that!!  It was well worth the $6.86 to save myself from driving all over the city looking for a post card. 

Amazon Prime rocks!  I have yet to find something they don't carry.  And in just 2 days you can have it too. I love, love, love Amazon Prime.  Don't tell them, but they can keep raising the membership price and I'd still happily pay it. 

Here is what we ordered: 

Sunday, March 15, 2015


After the last snow we had, everyone got their car washed.  It's just the thing you do.  Sort of like after Love Bug season is over in Florida.  The lines to get your car washed can be on the long side, but you try to pick an off time and do it. Last week I went after the preschool school job; got my car filled with gas and got in line for the car wash.  I was 9th in line and felt a small victory the line wasn't worse than that.  My friend Tami had texted me the day before and said she was 15th in line.  Yowzer!

Just so you know, when you are 9th in line, it will take appprox. 40 minutes from when you get in line to when you enter the car wash.  You have time to look around, take in the scenery and contemplate the meaning of life.  heheheheehe.  After about 5 minutes, I noticed that the car first in line was a 4 door sedan and their trunk was open.  Completely open!  Like if they looked in the rear view mirror all they would see is their trunk lid blocking their view.

Here's the really strange thing.  No one in line (cars #2 thru #8) told them about their trunk.  I find most fault with the minivan directly behind the car.  This was this woman's view out her front windshield!  What is wrong with people? 

As the gentleman is putting in their code to get the car wash started, I open my door and sprint past the 8 cars ahead of me and notify the couple their trunk is open.  They are shocked to learn this news.  Obviously they had no idea.  The woman jumped out and closed the trunk.  A minute later they enter the car wash and everyone moves up a spot.

I try to think the best of people, but seriously I have to wonder what is wrong with the human race that the people sitting in this car wash line had no problem letting this poor couple enter a car wash with their trunk open. 

Are we that busy texting, reading emails/ facebook, that you can't look up every now and then and take note of what is around you?  Or worse, you see someone needing a little help and you can't be bothered to help a brother out?  I am disappointed in the people I was in line with.  Shame on them.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Snow Tubing, take 2

We went Snow Tubing 2 years ago. After 2 runs down the hill, Sam and Ian were both done.  DONE!  The marvelous grandma Marcia (Jeff's mom) came to our rescue and hung out with the kids so Jeff and I could get more runs in.

Fast forward to this Winter.  I was eager to try again. Call me glutton for punishment, but I wanted to go back.  I had put on the calendar the words "Snow Tubing ?" for Saturday, March 6th. I was keeping the day free of any other plans unless something really great came along.  I put the "?" on there so we all could get used to the idea but know it could also just be a fleeting thought.

Going to Ski Liberty (3.5 hour drive roundtrip) would either be an Epic Fail (!!!) or a Huge Victory (!!!) complete with a great lesson in not giving up and trying again.  I always have the highest of expectations that everything will be amazing...I envision the skies blue, the birds singing, the kids getting along, and no lines or waiting whatsoever.  Basically, I have a Norman Rockwell type of landscape in my head at all times.  This is the downside of being as optimistic and the positive person I am.

We had plans to leave the house at 8:00am.  We actually had a relaxed morning and didn't get in the car until 8:40am.  No one was stressing out that we were 40 minutes beyond our suggested time to leave.  We were not meeting up with any friends and had no plans the rest of the day, so it was actually ok that we were not following a schedule.  We arrived, parked and purchased our tickets for the 11:00am to 1:00pm tubing session.  Team Toppall was off to a great start.

As we get up to the top of the hill Ian starts saying he is scared.  Oh no!!  His look of fear gets more pronounced as we are in position to fly down the hill.  Ian refuses to go.  He won't do it.  We give it 5 minutes and then Sam and I go down the hill for our first run.   We leave Jeff and Ian up at the top of the mountain.  Fortunately, Sam instantly loved it and wanted to go again and again and again.  Whew!  So we are down to just one child having issues.

Sam and I make our way back up the hill.  Jeff and Ian are still there working thru Ian's nervousness and fear.  He says he will give it a try.  We find out that we are allowed to tie our tubes together and I can go down with Ian.  This makes Ian a bit happier and ready to give it a go.

It took Ian 40 minutes to be ok going down, but when he did, he loved it!  I am now breathing a big sigh of relief.  The next hour and 20 minutes will be ok.  Team Toppall can go snow tubing as a family.   Ian's first words out of his mouth were, "Can we do this every year?"  Why yes we can!

We managed to go down the hill 5 more times as a family.  The kids loved getting tethered to either me or Jeff.  Sam said next year we need to bring a selfie stick.  I totally agree!  After tubing, we ate lunch at the main lodge.  I was pleasantly surprised to see they had Gluten Free bread for their sandwiches.  What a nice treat!    The price of lunch wasn't a nice treat, however.  For a cafeteria type place where you pick up sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc, lunch for the 4 of us came to $60. (Only food, no tip, no waitress). And Sam ordered a kids meal and didn't need a drink.  Yowzer!   

It was a gamble trying tubing again.  Fortunately it was one that paid off.  Let it be known that Saturday, March 6th was a gorgeous day; the sun was shining, the birds were singing and even the kids were getting along until we got back in the car for the drive home.   My Norman Rockwell vision almost fully realized.  I'll take it!

I absolutely this picture of us!

Picture of Ian as he is flying down the hill. Love that smile!

Awesome day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Heard and Observed #52

Early one morning before school, Ian and Sam are in the middle of a fight. 

Ian:  Do you know why Mom and Dad got me the XBOX?  DO YOU!?!?!?!  I'll tell you why, to make up for YOU driving me crazy for 6 years!!!!

Sam:  6 1/2 years.

I love how Sam doesn't even try to reason with Ian, but instead corrects him with how long its actually been. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Puppy please.

One of the families in the preschool I work at recently got a German Shepherd.  The mom has brought the four month old puppy into the school on a few occasions at pick-up time.  I got to meet Ike the other day.  Those who know me, know I have a soft spot for German Shepherds. 

As I was petting this dog, I started tearing up.  My eyes were watering over missing Bailey and over currently not having a dog in my life.  Growing up, we always had dogs.  Sometimes more than one at a time.  As soon as I graduated college and could support a four-legged friend, I got one. I always thought I would have one in my life. And I always thought my kids would grow up with dogs too. 

Bailey was with me when I met Jeff.  Jeff loved Bailey as much as I did.  I know he did.  I don't question that.  I also know Jeff loves me very much.  Again, I don't question that either.  It was hard for all of us when we lost Bailey 5 years ago.  Sam was just about to turn 2 years old. 

The kids and I very much want another dog in our lives. We talk about it all the time. We toss around names we'd give a puppy.  Late at night I've started looking online at German Shepherd rescue websites and local German Shepherd breeders.  I found this one rescue dog who was described as "Spunky".  Apparently he needed to have emergency spleen surgery.  Within 36 hours of the surgery being over, this little guy who I am presuming is still in foster care, pulled out his own catheter and escaped his crate.  Yeah, I don't think that's one for us. 

With all the snow we've been getting, I frequently think about how much Bailey loved the snow.  I think about showing a puppy snow for the first time.  Or, taking it to the park or on long walks. 

Unfortunately Jeff isn't ready yet to jump back into making our family of 4, now 5.  There are many reasons he gives; not enough income to support one and any medical issues/extra costs that may come with a dog, too noisy in our already small house, shedding is an issue, etc. I could go on and on.  Jeff doesn't lack reasons why a dog is a bad idea.  And its not just a German Shepherd that would be an issue.  He would have a problem even with a toy, non-shedding breed that doesn't bark.

I feel very strongly that we can make it work.  In fact, if not now, then when?  Why do we work as hard as we do, if we can't do things that will make us happy?  Life is too fragile and it can all end tomorrow. The last thing I want is another 5 years to go by and realize we still haven't enriched our lives to amazing depths I know a dog would give us.

The kids know I want a dog as much as they do.  But they don't know just how deep this feeling goes.  I am pretty sure Jeff does though. 

I want to respect Jeff's wishes and be okay waiting until he is ready, but I don't see any end in sight.  It's frustrating.   There is a big part of me that wants to bring home a dog and just deal with the consequences.  That's not right, is it?  I wish it didn't have to be all or nothing.  There is no compromise to this problem.  When Jeff gets his way, I don't get something I always thought I would have be a part of my life.  And if I get my way, Jeff could make living with him very ugly; which of course, I don't want.  I actually like being married and don't want to jeopardize that.

It's more than just bringing a dog home and hoping for the best, I want this to be Jeff's idea too.  I want him to say, "Hey, I think getting a dog is just what we need.  Let's start the process now because it won't happen overnight.  I am 100% in for the craziness, noise, mess, and love a dog will bring to our lives.  I can't believe I haven't been ready before, but I am now.  Let's do it!"   Ok, so maybe that is a little over-the-top for Jeff to ever say, but you get the idea. 

I've waited 5 years, I guess I'll be waiting even longer. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Binge watching.

I love binge watching television.  It's a wonderful way to spend 13 hours.  Netflix recently released Season 3 of House of Cards.  I was drooling at the thought of this show releasing more episodes.  They were posted on Friday, February 27th.  Of course, this would be the Friday that I volunteer in Ian's class from 12:30pm to 3:45pm.  OMG!  I could've watched 3 episodes during that time!  Having a full Saturday and a busy Sunday with all of our usual running around kept me from watching season 3 as fast as I would've liked.  But I persevered and stayed up late watching and woke up early to keep watching.  By 11:30pm on Sunday night, I did it!  I managed to squeeze in 13 awesome episodes. 

Is there anything more delicious than having extremely high expectations on how great something is going to be and then having those expectations met and then some?  That's House of Cards.  Specifically, that was House of Cards season 2.  And now I can say that was House of Cards season 3 too.   Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are absolutely brilliant.  The casting, script, storylines and acting is phenomenal.  I just can't get enough of it. 

Just like after finishing my binge watching of the first four seasons of Breaking Bad, having to wait for new episodes to be created is challenging. It almost makes me wish that I watch these shows at a slower pace and savor each & every one.  It's way too tempting to plow through and see what happens.  It gets the better of me and I will happily stay up for most of the night getting my fix.

Good thing I am not alone in my binge watching. The more of us there are, the more likely Netflix will keep this good thing going.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Best playdates EVER.

"There are some friends you know you'll have for the rest of your life. You're welded together by love, memories, trust, and respect."-anonymous

My kids are very fortunate to have these amazing friendships.  The kids I am specifically talking about have been in their lives since Ian was 2 years old and before Sam was even born.  It is a beautiful thing to watch them grow up together.  They don't go to the same elementary school, but we do see them regularly through religious school, various events/holidays and the many days we've had off from school. 

It's the kind of friends that I know I can call, text or email at the very last minute and arrange some much needed playdates or sleepovers.  Likewise, the friendships are reciprocal and I welcome their kids into our homes and lives whenever it is desired.  It has become a semi-regular thing to ask for sleepovers because plans have been made that might otherwise require a babysitter. 

In the past week, we had one of Sam's friends over who came with us to Baltimore for the Hamentaschen baking, spent the night and then accompanied us to the Purim Carnival at our synagogue the next morning.  It is not an exaggeration to say that having 1 more kid is like having 2 less. Ruby and Sam did beautifully together.  Not once did we hear Sam say, "I am bored".  Not once did Sam whine, scream, meltdown or be demanding.  It was refreshing they had each other to keep entertained. In a heartbeat I would have Ruby over again.  What a dream it was having these girls together for all that time.

With all the snow days we've been experiencing, the best thing ever is when a text comes and asks what are you up to?  It's a wonderful thing to fill that unexpected free day with good friends.  On one of our most recent snow days (this past Monday), we met up with Susanne and her kids for lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Afterwards, I took 2 of her 3 kids and had them play at our house while she put in a few hours of work at her office nearby.  For close to 5 hours, the four kids (2 of hers, 2 of mine) were in Ian's room (the smallest room in the house!) and played Minecraft on their iPads, all creating the same town being connected through our wifi.  5 hours!  The kids didn't come out of Ian's room for 5 hours!!  They played harmoniously together.   I'd check on them periodically and ask if they needed a drink or snack.   Nope, they were good to go and just wanted to keep playing.  Crazy!

Having Susanne's kids at my house was just the thing I needed to survive yet another day off from school.  First thing the same exact morning, Ian and Sam woke up ready for battle.  It didn't take long from when I told them there was no school today (due to all the ice) to non-stop fighting.  By 7:50am I had them go to separate rooms.   Thank G-d for friends to come through and help the make the time go by faster.  Peace may not be in the Middle East, but it certainly was in our house.

"Best friends make the good times better and the hard times easier." ~Author Unknown

Can we adopt all of them, please?

At the Purim Carnival.  Come dressed in your pajamas!

These were the 4 kids in Ian's room for 5 hours! 
All on iPads playing Minecraft.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It's time for Hamentaschen!

The snow, ice or cold couldn't keep us away.  Matthew's basketball games couldn't keep us away.  Jeff's crazy schedule of conference calls over the weekend couldn't keep us away.  And, House of Cards streaming season 3 on Netflix couldn't keep us away.  Nope, nothing, nada, zilch, zip, zero was going to stop this crew.

It was time to come together and honor a very important Toppall tradition....baking Hamentaschen!

Since Elaine was 2 years old, baking those awesome triangle shaped cookies has been an annual event with Jeff's family.  I married into it and Sam & Ian were born into the tradition.

Each year, the group gets better and better at baking.  It's crazy how we all take our places and within an hour, we've churned out over 130 cookies.  This year we mixed it up a bit and in addition to the fruit fillings (apple, pineapple, raspberry,and strawberry), we also made chocolate filled hamentaschen.   The chocolate was inspired by Ian who made a special call to Grandma to ask her. 

We had a special guest join us this year.  Sam's friend was spending the night and it just made sense to bring her to Baltimore with us.  She had never made Hamentaschen before, but caught on quickly.  By the time we were done, Ruby was an expert too. 

I do think chocolate was the favorite!  As soon as they came out of the oven, everyone grabbed the chocolate ones first.  We will have to make even more next year.  Between neighbors, friends, and ourselves, the cookies go fast!  It's a good thing we can count on making these each year.  It's a fun day that everyone looks forward to.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rocking Colonial Day.

The schools in Northern Virginia do something really cool during the kids' 4th grade year.  During the school year, the students study in-depth Virginia's history. A special day is devoted to Colonial Day.  The kids are encouraged to dress-up from the era and spend the school day absorbing all things straight from the 1600's. 

I knew Colonial Day was approaching because we received information from the school on how the kids should dress.  There was also a sign-up genius created to volunteer and help out with the festivities.  What I didn't know was that for months Ian was learning the dance The Virginia Reel and was assigned a classmate to do the dance with.  Ian kept very quiet about this.  And here I thought Ian told me everything!  

I recorded the dance and have uploaded part of it here.  It is too cute watching Ian dance.  All the kids did a great job. 

After the dance was over, the kids rotated through each of their four classrooms and had something special waiting for them.  One classroom had the kids making crafts that were indicative of Colonial times.  Another room taught the kids manners and how to do tea.  A third room gave them a unique Colonial experience and demonstration.  And the fourth room was set-up with games that kids would've played during the Colonial times.  

Ian drinking tea!

I love our school system.  They do a great job making learning fun and have it come alive for the kids.