Sunday, May 31, 2015

10! Double digits! That's Ian.

Ian decided to play Flag Football this year.  He not only has the enthusiasm and gusto we've come to expect from Ian, but he also does a great job playing the game.  Ian is a go-getter and there is no better demonstration of this than on the football field.   He has this signature move for when he captures his opponent's flag.  He takes the flag in one hand, gives it a twirl and then with a slam dunk tosses the flag to the ground.  It is quite adorable.  Ian keeps asking when I will be ok with him playing tackle football.  Um, that is going to be half past never!  Let's stick to flag football and keep it  a non-contact sport.  I don't think my heart could take it watching a bigger kid plow into Ian.  Maybe if I had him bubble wrapped from head to toe and then another layer of pillows attached to his body, I might consider it.  Might. Until then, flag football rules!

Ian has become a foodie!  He now becomes offended when the host at a restaurant sees him and offers the kids menu. He loves to try new foods and follows "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" on the Food Network.  He actually enjoys all the cooking shows.  Ian was fortunate to have experienced a restaurant that was featured by Guy Fieri in Philadelphia over Winter Break.  My uncle took him to Nick's Original Roast Beef.  Ian still raves about the roast beef sandwich he ate.  It's fun watching Ian eat all the food I wouldn't dream of trying.

This year Ian has taken responsibility for making his own breakfast and lunch.  It is interesting to see what Ian puts together for his lunch.  Most mornings he'll make himself scrambled eggs or oatmeal. And in a wonderful act of kindness, Ian will make my GF oatmeal for me to have for breakfast.  We will watch The Today Show in the morning before school and make comments on the stories.  I love this! One of the stories they recently featured was of the 65 year old woman who gave birth to quadruplets, making her now a mom to 13 kids.  OMG!  Ian and I are watching this story and all Ian could do was say, "Those babies could live with her in the retirement home."  How witty!!

Ian's love of reading continues to amaze us.  I was most impressed that he read all the Hunger Games trilogy books.  He reads books at an incredibly fast rate and has kept up with all the new releases on the following series: I Survived..., Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Little League, and many other books written by his favorite authors.  Even with all the reading, Ian still finds time to play his Xbox One.  I think if you ask him, getting this video game system for Hanukkah was the high point of his year.  Ian has a love of history that has to come from Jeff.  His memory for dates, facts and figures  has him resemble a walking encyclopedia.

Braces happened in December!  It has completely transformed Ian's face.  He looks so much older with the shiny metal peeking out of his smile.  And somewhere along the year, Ian lost his baby face and cheeks.  He has gotten noticeably taller, lost his belly and looks like he is ready to be a tween. Ian's hair has taken on a life of its own. Ian doesn't want to cut it, so it keeps growing and growing (and growing).  I joke with him if we are ever lacking a mop, we can turn him upside down and use all that hair to clean up what we need to. 

Check out this hair!  Oh my!!!

I sometimes can't believe Ian is 10. 

Ian with braces!
School was not a happy place for Ian this year. This was the first year that he lost his enthusiasm for going to school.  Most days he was absolutely miserable due to his teacher's style of teaching.  Jeff and I tried to help him, but mostly he needed to just deal with it and do the best he could to make it through each week.  Fortunately he kept up with his school work and still enjoyed learning.  I hope that next year he gets his smile back with a new teacher and a new year.

Ian picked the violin to play as his string instrument for school.  Jeff and I are amazed at how quickly he has learned to play.  He loves to give impromptu concerts for anyone who stops by the house or relatives we skype with.  Sometimes he'll serenade me in the kitchen as I'm making dinner. Unfortunately this makes me feel like I am on the titanic as the ship is sinking and the musicians won't stop playing. But it's so cool to listen to Ian play an instrument.  Jeff and I don't have a musical bone in our body and fortunately that seems to have skipped a generation. 

Ian is growing into the most awesome person.  I love being his mom.  He is funny, kind, compassionate, and smart.  Let's not forget, he has wonderful manners.

Happy 10th birthday to my fabulous son!  May this year bring you amazing days and wonderful new experiences. I love you to the moon and back.

1st day of 4th grade!

Last Summer when Ian still had his cheeks.

The taller, slimmed down, older version of Ian.  Still adorable!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Make room for cookie.

We have a new addition to the family.  Meet "Cookie, the bear".

Apparently Sam had secret conversations with my mom and told her what she wanted for her birthday.  A stuffed animal bear.  A really BIG stuffed animal bear. One that was bigger than her.  Of course my mom will never say no to the kids and did everything in her power to make this happen.  Here is what arrived at our house last Tuesday.  It came in a box that was busting open. Inside the box was a big ziploc bag that had a vacuum-packed bear inside.  Once you opened the bag even a little bit and let air in, the bear came to life.  He kept growing and growing and growing.

Sam couldn't believe it and was incredibly excited to see her birthday present.  We had Mom-mom on skype so she could witness Sam opening the gift.  Sam was screaming with glee and jumping around like a crazy person.

If you take the total square footage of our house and compare it to the size of this bear, we are vastly out of proportion.  In fact, it was a very good thing that this bear arrived after Lori, Ben and Rachel left to go back to Florida.  I am not sure there would've been room for everyone. 

Hahahaha!  Have you ever seen Jeff look so small??

So this how Cookie and Sam sleep at night.  Good thing Sam has a queen size bed. :)

Cookie makes a great pillow.

Don't even get me started that Ian wants one now too.  Mom-mom said for him to think about it and if he still wants one by the time Hanukkah rolls around, she will get him one of his own.  Ian's room is a 1/3rd of the size of Sam's.  If Ian gets a bear this big, Ian will have to sleep in the bathroom.  Fingers crossed he realizes this is not practical and decides he is too old to get a stuffed animal. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spring Training Toppall Style

Early this month we had a great outing as a family.  Kudos to Jeff for coming up with this idea.  We went to the batting cages.  We all took turns hitting balls and had a blast!

I recently got a selfie stick and decided to take a group photo of us as we were winding down and getting ready to leave.  I didn't realize that "video" was on my cell phone camera setting and when I went to take the picture, I ended up recording us.  It is a very funny clip and makes me laugh every time I watch it.  The best part is listening to Sam say "Take the picture. Just take the picture."  All the while she is smiling and her lips aren't moving.  It's hilarious.  I call this clip, "Selfie stick gone wrong."

Ah, here's the selfie picture that worked out!
I was so impressed how well Sam hit the balls too.  Her eye-hand coordination was amazing.  I'd say she was able to successfully hit 80% of the balls that came to her.  After visiting the batting cages we made our way to Starbucks for frappacinos.   It was a great afternoon.  Goooo Team Toppall!!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Time to Party! Part 1

We've entered that time of the year when we double everything.  Sam's birthday, BAM!  Ian's birthday, BAM!...Sam's birthday party, BAM!, Ian's birthday party, BAM!, Sam's choice of restaurants for her birthday dinner, BAM!, and Ian's choice of restaurants for his birthday dinner, BAM!   The kid's birthdays are only 8 days apart, so everything happens in quick succession. 

Up until this year, I've had both kid's birthday parties occur within the same weekend, usually the same day.  It makes for a painfully LONG day/weekend doing it this way, but I liken it to ripping off a band-aid.  Do it quickly and it hurts less.  :)

This was the first year we've split the birthday celebrations up.  Samantha and Ian's actual birth day fell on a Saturday (for Samantha) and Sunday (for Ian) so it made sense to let them have a party on their actual days.  BTW, I use the word "party" to describe the event, but it is really a very small gathering of the kid's closest friends.  Sam only invited 4 girls to come.  These girls should feel very honored to have made the cut.

Sam's birthday was a dream day for her.  American Girl is where we celebrated with her bestest friends.  All four girls were able to make it, plus Grandma and the mom of one of Sam's friends.  Ladies only!  American Girl makes it so very easy; everything is included!...tasty lunch- Yes!...yummy cake - Yes!...awesome-filled goody bags-Yes!  You just have to show up.  Got to love that. 

Sam's restaurant of choice for her birthday dinner was The Melting Pot.  Could this day be any more decadent?  I don't think so!   We had a wonderful dinner and then drove down to The Reston Town Center to walk around.  The weather was gorgeous and we enjoyed people watching.  What a great day!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Seven and Sassy, that's Samantha!

If you ask Sam a question, there is a good chance she will spell out her answer.  "Y-E-S" or "N-O".    That's just one of the new things she's started doing this past year.  It's been a year of major independence; learning to tie her shoes (at a much quicker pace than Ian and a full year younger too), learning to ride a bike without training wheels (a full 2 years past when Ian learned -- who wanted to deal with her falling?), putting away her clean laundry, making her bed, and getting showered (shampoo & conditioner) complete with getting dressed on her own.

Another major event was Samantha coming out of her shell a bit more.  Either credit her with getting another year older or progress being made with her social skills group, but it makes my heart melt each time she says "hello" to a fellow classmate, looks them in the eye and uses their name.  There was even a day not too long ago when she allowed one girl from her class to give her a hug good-bye and another girl hold her hand on the walk home from school.  This is amazing progress.

First day of 1st grade!

This past year Sam's tv watching has turned towards the house flipping shows, specifically "Flipping Vegas".  It is seriously cute when she walks into someone's house for the first time and says, "Ooooh Amy would like this light fixture." Or, "Amy, would not be happy with that wall color."  For a few months Sam has been commenting that when/if we redo the kitchen, this one particular wall could be a load-bearing wall and we probably can't take it down.  Seriously.  What 6 year old talks like this?

Samantha is very inquisitive.  She will ask why something is the way it is and have this amazing understanding of the bigger picture.  It's very impressive how observant Sam is.  And her memory could rival an elephant.  It has come to my attention this past month that Sam is brilliant and I should have her tested.  I believe I've known that all along, but its interesting when you hear a professional tell you.  Unlike Ian, I don't see Sam applying herself.  When her report card came, she had no desire to know how she did.  Even when I said, "Sam, want to hear what your teacher wrote?"  She spelled the word  "no" and couldn't be bothered.  It's interesting to think of the road that lies ahead and wonder how it will be best to challenge Sam and keep her motivated.

Sam still loves coloring and creating pictures. Her favorite things to draw are rainbows, hearts and flowers. It doesn't matter if she uses crayons, markers, or paints to make the pictures as long as she has an endless supply of paper to use.

Another new development in how Sam chooses to spend her time is to be in her room alone on her iPad.  Initially we thought she was watching YouTube videos on Minecraft.  But after further investigation, Sam was playing a strategy game called "Free Flow".  She had made it to level 9x9, which is a very challenging level.  I've spoken with her therapist about the time Sam is spending in her room and so far, it's ok.  She apparently needs the downtime.   As long as Sam comes out periodically and is up for leaving the house when we want to go somewhere, we should give her space.   And believe me, she is still mixing it up with Ian quite a bit.

Sam's love of music has continued beyond Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift, who are her favorites.  She can easily sing along to most every song played on the pop stations.  It is very cute listening to her sing, especially when her headphones are on and you realize just how little of the actual words she knows.  

This past year Sam took gymnastics as her sport of choice.  She enjoyed the class and tried her best to learn what she had to, to advance to the next level.  At the end of last month, Sam made it to level 3-4.   I wanted to sign Sam up for swim lessons before Summer begins. We spend so much of our time in the water, it was important she had a refresher course.   She made a deal with me; she would willingly take swim lessons if I got her a frappacuino after each lesson.  Deal!  She actually enjoyed the lessons more than she expected and said after the first one, it was ok if we only got frappacunios every other week.  It didn't have to be every single time.  Ha!  How very nice of her!

I am learning to embrace the qualities that will make Sam a force to be reckon with later on in life, or you know, when she's 7.  She is silly, wicked smart, incredibly focused when she wants to be, creative, and a master manipulator!  She is also honest, straight-forward, and outspoken.  She stands her ground, gets her point across and thinks out of the box.

One of my favorite stories from this past year of Sam being creative, thinking out of the box, taking matters into her own hands is from a day during Spring Break.  My friend Anna and I had taken 8 kids with us to a rock climbing place in Laurel, MD.  Due to the distance we'd be in the car, each child had their own individual iPad to play with for the drive there and back.  We had Susanne's 3 kids with us and on the way back home, was going to drop them off at her office where she was working.  We arrived a little early and decided to entertain all the kids until Susanne was done.  All the kids wanted to do was continue playing on their iPads.  But the weather was gorgeous and there was no reason they couldn't be up and moving.  I decided to play a game of "Simon Says" with everyone.  Instantly Sam asks if she could be Simon for the next round.  I got all excited that Sam was so eager to play. The kids did great during the round I was leading as Simon.  We were having fun.  It's now Sam's turn to be Simon. Her very first command?...."Simon says play with your iPad."  And with that, the game was over. 

I hope Sam knows how much I love her.  How I so very much want her to be happy and be open to new ideas and experiences.  I wish for her to jump feet first into the deep end and make friends along the way.

Happy 7th birthday Samantha!  You are our shining star, keeping us on our toes and in awe of how hip you are. I love you more today than I did yesterday. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One heckuva cutie patootie

We had another stellar weekend at Casa de Toppall.  My sister, her husband and their 18 month old daughter came for a visit.  They landed on Friday morning and didn't go back home to Florida until Tuesday morning.  From Saturday morning to Monday evening they left Rachel with us and went to NYC.

Rachel has never been left overnight without one of her parents EVER!  Well, there is one exception to this -- it was one overnight stay at my mom's house.  But everyone knows that Mom-Mom is Rachel's favorite.  She'd prefer to be with my mom over her own parents.  I'm not kidding when I say this.  They have this crazy tight bond.  It's very cute and a little creepy. :)

This long weekend consisting of 3 full days and two nights could've gone bad, very bad.  I think we all had visions of Rachel crying non-stop wanting her mommy and daddy.  Or, Rachel refusing to go to sleep for her naps and at night.  We are happy to report it wasn't like that at all.  Rachel was a dream.  She was an angel the whole entire time.  She does a phenomenal job going down for her nap each day from 12:45pm to 3:30pm.  And come 7:30pm, she is back down sleeping thru the night until 6:45am in the morning. Honestly, you can't ask for a better sleeper.  Or a better behaved little girl for that matter. 

Ian and Sam had something new to bicker about.  It was all about Rachel this weekend.  Who got to sit next to her, who got to help feed her, who got to play with her, who got to push her stroller, who pushed her on the swings, and more. If it involved Rachel, my duo were quick to be by her side.

You forget how far your kids have come until you are thrown back in to the baby stage. It's been a long, long time since we've had to help the kids bathe, or use a stroller, or change diapers, or give sippy cups of milk, or help get dressed.  We are far from the days when everything comes to complete standstill because we need to be home for naps, or we worry about getting snacks and feeding them.  Even strapping in a car seat and getting in and out of the car is a thing of the past.  With Rachel, we dove in the deep end of the pool and picked up where Lori & Ben left off.  I'd like to think we did more than ok.  Rachel went with the flow, had a great time with her cousins and was up for all our regularly scheduled activities (flag football, religious school end-of-the-year program).   I think it can be best summed up as we are in the stage where we require less luggage to travel and my sister requires A LOT of luggage. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm exhausted.  But it helped that there was 4 of us and only one of her.

Here are some great pictures from our time together:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Say what??

Sam has started talking like someone I don’t recognize.  The other day she said to Jeff, “We need a dog ASAP.”   I kid you not.  I didn’t know what “ASAP” meant or used it in a sentence until I was fully entrenched in the working world.

Then I caught Sam saying something was “Cray, cray” as in crazy. 

Seriously, where is she getting this stuff?  Sam is far more hip at almost 7 years old than I am now at 43.  :)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Magical, Part 3

Wrapping it up with Sunday.

I got our grocery shopping done at Wegman’s while the kids went to religious school and Jeff had a religious school committee meeting.  We sprung the kids free after 1.5 hours and went to Choices by Shawn for brunch.  Boy, do I love this place.  They had an incredibly tasty Mother’s day brunch buffet, where 95% of the food was gluten-free.  Woo-hoo!!  We all enjoyed brunch very much and left there feeling content.  

The 3 people responsible for making me a mom.  :)

On the way home, Sam and I stopped at my local nail shop and we got our annual Mother/daughter pedicures.  The women all know Sam and even commented how cute it is we come in together each Mother’s day.  

We went home, changed our clothes and acquired one of Ian’s friends to hang with us.  We made our way to Great Falls for some hiking and rock climbing.  I was sure this was going to be the experience that had me push my luck.  Everything was going too well and attempting a return visit to Great Falls could easily bring us to not speaking to each other.  To my delight, the kids loved being there.  Even Jeff was doing a good job of tolerating it.  We hung out for 1.5 hours before heading back home.  

For dinner we invited the rest of our friend’s family to come over for pizza.  They had a party at their house the night before and still had a ton of food left over.  It was a yummy offering of caprese salad, green salad, fruit salad, tiramisu, and chocolate pie.  We got pizzas from Coal Fire.  Yum-O!

What a great ending to a GREAT day and an overall fantastic weekend.  There was no fighting, no meltdowns/temper tantrums, and no whining.  Everything fell into place.  We had a great mix of being social with family, friends, being productive (grass got cut, grocery shopping done, sneakers bought, haircut) and lots of fun mixed in.  I loved everything about our weekend.

Like I said, I am sure these 3 days were a fluke and it's all downhill from here.  Even optimistic me is admitting this streak can't continue.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Magical, Part 2

Moving on to SATURDAY!

The day got started at 6:30am.  I have this wonderful group of women who I do the Race for the Cure 5k Breast Cancer walk each year.  We had shirts made with our team name (Committed.), we've added a breast cancer bracelet, necklace, earrings and a boa.  Each year, our list of bling gets a little longer.  Bright and early Saturday morning we came together to do the walk.  Gosh, I love these women.  I can't quite put into words what it means to have them in my life.  But its pretty wonderful.  After the walk was over, we had lunch at Busboy and Poets in Shirlington.  Everyone loved the restaurant choice.

A most lovely group of women.  Team Committed.

While I was busy doing the walk, Jeff was juggling the kids' activities.  He was in charge of Ian's flag football practice and two games which started at 8:15am and Sam's swim lesson which was at 11:00am.  There was a bit of an overlap with the kids having to be in two different places at the same time, but Jeff handled it like an expert.  The kids were in good hands and everyone got to where they needed to be.

By 12:30pm, we were all back at home.  Sam wanted to get her hair cut and she needed a new pair of sneakers.  I was back up at bat being a mom and took her for both.  When we walked into Kohls for Sam's sneakers, we immediately run into Heather and her entire family (including her mom/stepdad).  I think if I ever feel lonely, I will just walk into Kohls and wait until I see someone I know.  Crazy, right?

Sam got a very cool pair of sneakers and I scored a cute pair of shoes too.  In fact my shoe purchase has a crazy story to go with it, which I will share in another blog.

We had about an hour of downtime and got in the car to meet Jeff’s family at CafĂ© Deluxe.  We found rockstar parking (of course, right?) and had what I think was one of the best dining experiences in a restaurant ever with Jeff’s family.  We were there for 2 hours!!  And it didn’t feel like 2 hours.  The service was great, the food was tasty and it was just a fun evening hanging with Jeff’s parents, sister and nephew.  What a wonderful time we had.  It’s so funny to think back to the days when we’d have 40 minutes we could count on the kids being well behaved in a restaurant.  We would literally have to be seated, order, eat, and pay for the meal all within 40 minutes.  If any part of the process got delayed, you can forget about salvaging the meal.  I’m not thinking that we are out of the woods yet (who would normally be ok sitting still for 2 hours to eat one meal?), but this past Saturday evening it worked for us.  It was a lovely evening and a great time being with family.  

Saturday rocked!  And wait until you hear about Sunday….My dream Mother’s day.  Stay tuned….