Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Go BIG or go home!

My friend and I came up with the idea a year ago to take our kids to NYC this summer.  The husbands thought we were crazy and couldn't believe we'd want to tackle something this big.  We did it!  From Sunday, June 21st to Wednesday, June 24th we showed our 5 kids a most excellent time.

I kept everyone updated through my Facebook page on each day's events.  Here are my posts:

That moment when you get so excited and want to video the kids' reaction to being in NYC for the first time as soon as you exit Penn Station and realize you are standing over a heating grate and your skirt has been blowing up above your waist the whole time (a la Marylin Monroe but I didn't even have my hands holding any of it down). Yep, welcome to NY people, we've arrived.


Go BIG or go home, day 1 has come to an end. The train ride was easy and I was able to finish watching OITNB season 3. Yay!

Got off the train and promptly flashed everyone my derriere at the corner of 8th Ave and 31st street for about 2 minutes.

Had lunch at a place called Cosmic Diner. The owner took a liking to Ian, shook his hand and thanked him for coming all the way from Burke, VA. I am sure the guy has no idea where that is, but it sounded far.
Took the kids to their first Broadway show. "Matilda" was excellent and I am not sure who loved it more; me or the kids.

Ended our day at the Stardust Diner (where all the waitstaff sings and longs to be discovered on Broadway.) We ordered dessert to make the time at our table last longer. Funny highlight was when it rained for about 20 minutes while standing in line to get into Stardust. We ran for cover in the nearby parking garage and Ian attempted (and was successful) to hail down a cab to get the heck out of the area. Ha! We don't give up so quickly. I shared an umbrella with a guy from Canada and kept our place in line.

Random highlight was meeting the woman who played the mom in Matilda (she was standing at the street corner as we were walking to the hotel and stuck up a conversation with Susanne). And then we met the guy who plays the wizard in Wicked.(He was eating at the restaurant we had lunch at and struck up a conversation with me.) What are the odds?

So far the biggest negative the kids have had to deal with is the smell. The littlest ones are finding it hard to breathe with all the walking we've done and keep making gaging/vomiting sounds.
Lots of firsts for the kids today (train, show, being in NY). Looking forward to seeing what Day 2's adventures bring.


Go BIG or go home, day 2: We may have met our match in NYC.
Started the day by taking the Hop On, Hop Off bus (complete with open air double decker). This is like an attraction in itself. We did it in Philly 2 years ago and loved it. It's a win-win in my get to where you need to go and you enjoy every minute of the route along the way. We have the best time riding on the top deck, with the wind blowing in our hair and seeing the city unobstructed.

Our first stop was the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Wow is all I've got to say. Its beautifully done and an emotional experience. Tried to explain to the kids the importance of what we were seeing but I am not sure they got it. Ian said he was bored and if he had been around14 years ago and lived it, it might've made more of an impact for him.

Next up, we walked to Battery Park to get the ferry for the Statue of Liberty. Along the way, we stopped at Chipotle for lunch. I think a sure bet and cost-effective was key. Continued on our walk and arrived at Battery Park.

The Statue of Liberty and the walk up to the Pedestal went well. We all enjoyed it. However, the long wait for the ferry back in very hot weather was starting to take its toll. We finally made our way to the Hop On, Hop Off bus stop by Battery Park. We planned to go back to the hotel, have some downtime and then go out for dinner and possibly do the Empire State Building or a horse & carriage ride through Central Park. Ha! I am sure G-d was laughing at us.

The wait for a bus with available seating was not fun. Not at all. By the time the 4th bus came up (and not nearly enough people got off to make more room for the long line of people waiting to get on), we were given the opportunity to get on the bus and sit on the lower level. We were told there was no AC and the windows can't open. How bad could it be?!?! We lasted 15 minutes. We couldn't take it anymore and got off the very next stop. We ended up in Chinatown. Took out a map, got our bearings and walked to Little Italy. Just getting off that bus felt like we landed in Iceland. It was such cool weather with a breeze (in reality it was 86 degrees, but we just came off at bus where it had to be 120 degrees inside).

Dinner was an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, complete with gelato afterwards for dessert. Totally not on the plan to do anything like this, but we took lemons and made lemonade when we realized where we were. After gelato, we got in 2 cabs and headed back to the hotel. Forget trying to do anything more. We called it a day before anyone started melting down. Showers to get the grime and sweat off of us couldn't come fast enough.

We are pooped. Today felt long. And it felt hot. Very hot. Lines and heat are not a good combination. Bring on American Ninja Warrior. Kids and I are in for the night and the kids are thrilled they can watch their favorite show.

We did get some really cool pictures with a very cool Statue in the background.  :)   Kids are doing well. Susanne and I feel like we've been to battle with that whole bus thing trying to get back to the hotel.

Tomorrow brings us a whole new day of adventures. A good night of sleep will get me recharged and ready to go.


Go BIG or go home, day 3: When all else fails, go shopping.

Susanne noticed that a pretty big storm was supposed to come this afternoon, so we revised our day and became very flexible in our plans. In reality, it turned out to be an amazing day.

We've given up on the Hop on, Hop off bus. It has been one our big regret on getting a 2 day ticket/ all loop pass. We've decided it was good in theory, but its much easier to get a cab and be on your way. Not standing around waiting for the bus has made it a better experience for all us. Hailing two cabs at once is much easier than you'd think it would be!

We started out at the Sony Wonder Tech Lab. We had called in advanced and reserved tickets, which were free. They said it will take approx. 1.5 to 2 hours to visit. We were there for 2 hours, 20 minutes and the kids would've been very happy staying longer. There are 4 floors of all interactive technology for the kids and adults to play with; from video, to animation, to music, to games, to things we didn't even know existed yet, we got to play to our hearts content. It was a spectacular find on Susanne's part.

The plan for lunch was to hit Carnegie Deli. I was so excited to show Ian this restaurant. Unfortunately, we got there and a sign on the door said they were closed for repairs. I was so not expecting that. We didn't stand outside longer than 10 seconds in disappointment before going to the deli right next door for lunch. It fit our needs and got us on our way to our next destination.
It was too hot for the horse and carriage ride through Central Park, so we took a cab and went straight to Dylan's Candy Bar. When I die, I hope this is what Heaven is like. It was everything you could ever wish for in a candy store and then some. We had FUN and I quickly forgot about how bummed I was that Carnegie Deli was not open.

Our shopping continued and we hit 5th avenue for FAO Schwarz and the American Girl Store, both are the flagship stores and a sight to behold. What a trifecta we had with those 3 places. And yes, the kids played on the piano from the movie "BIG".

Susanne's husband recommended a great pizza place near our hotel. We are experts now at walking and navigating our way through the city. A quick stop to buy a Yankees shirt for me and we arrived at the restaurant just in time to miss the rain. You couldn't ask for better timing. The food was delicious and it was like they were expecting us with a table for 7 ready!

We made it back to the hotel, had about an hour of downtime and let the rain finish falling. We rallied the troops and headed to the Empire State Building. Coolest thing ever was watching the sunset (we had minutes to spare in making this happen) and then we watched the buildings light up all over the city. It was awesome! We seriously had the best of both worlds of twilight and night time. Doing the Empire State Building at this time of the day was a definite highlight of the whole trip for me. Bonus was that it was not crowded, we didn't have any lines and sailed right to the observation deck.

Today was mostly filled with making it up as we go along and I've got to say, it was a home run (other than that carnegie deli thing).

We have two items left on our list of things to do -- The Today Show outside plaza (our signs are ready!) and the horse and carriage ride through Central Park. The weather will be substantially cooler and hopefully can make it happen.

While we did take a few cabs today, I am most impressed with all the walking the kids have been doing and being able to keep up. 15,000 steps today. Yowzer!


Go BIG or go home, day 4: Ending it with a bang!

We woke up super early and made our way to Rockefeller Plaza to be at The Today Show outside area where they film the show. MAJOR SCORE in getting picked to do a shout-out on air. Plus, Ian shook Al Rooker's hand and got to pet Wrangler. AND, if that wasn't enough, we met Hoda Kotb and got a selfie with her. I am pretty sure the smile of all this happening before 7:30am stayed on our faces all day long.

Afterwards we hit Starbucks, got a snack and took a few minutes to chill. We made our way to Central Park and did a Horse & Carriage ride. After spending 3 full days getting around NYC, the kids were pretty delighted to see open space with green grass, lots of things to climb on and no smell. :)   The horse and carriage ride gave them a glimpse of what Central Park has to offer. We let the kids climb on the rocks and explore a very small section.

We started the walk back to the hotel, stopped in a tourist gift shop for the kids to get t-shirts, picked up some lunch and headed to the hotel.

It was time to check out and make our way to Penn Station for the train to head home. WOW! What a trip! I loved seeing NYC through the kid's eyes.

Funny highlight -- When we first arrived at Union Station on Sunday, Sam was not able to navigate the escalator with her rolling suitcase. By the time we arrived back at Union Station on the return trip home, Sam was an expert getting her suitcase on and off the moving escalator and didn't even hesitate. Having to get on multiple escalators in Penn Station with tons of people around made her learn very quickly.

I've wanted to take the kids to NYC for some time. Jeff thought I was crazy and was very concerned that something that would happen to the kids. However, my friend and I are fearless when it comes to doing things with the kids. I do believe we took it up a notch by doing our NYC trip. Once we got back on the train headed home, I looked at my friend and said, there is absolutely nothing we can't do now. We made it. Because if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

Sam loved the cabs! She couldn't believe how many there were driving around. She never did get used to the smell of the city. And the horse & carriage ride was her favorite thing.

Ian was in awe of the buildings and how tall they were. He was quick to chat to the people we came in contact with and fortunately they were very nice back to him. His favorite thing was the broadway play "Matilda" and Dylan's Candy Bar.

As for me, I loved being at the top of the Empire State Building as the sun was setting. And this morning accomplishing what we did at The Today Show made me happy that we got our troops up early and moving.

We had dinner at Union Station before getting in the car and I asked everyone what their most favorite thing was we did. I find it fascinating that almost everyone one of us had a different answer. Its so neat to see what made an impact on these 5 kids. It has been a jam packed 4 days. We will all be sleeping well tonight. :)

Pretty awesome.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

9/11 Memorial and Museum

While we were in NYC, we visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  Our tickets were for 9:30am and we arrived at 8:45am.  It was a very peaceful beautiful morning and the area we were at hadn't fully come to life yet.  Meaning that the noises coming from our group of 7 wasn't masked by anything.  We moved to the benches to wait until it was time to go in.  The kids are all high energy and were climbing and jumping from bench to bench.  Susanne and I were concerned the kids weren't showing proper respect and we repeatedly cautioned the kids to be mindful of anyone who could be here grieving.

The security guard decided to come over and give us a hand in handling these kids.  He started lecturing they needed to be calm and respectful of where we were.  In the middle of his speech Sam goes right up to him and says, "I never liked him anyway" and pointed to her brother.  Oh my!  Then Ainsley jumps in and says, "I never liked him either" and pointed to her brother.  It was too funny.

I am sure the security guard wasn't expecting this turn of events and immediately changed the direction of his speech. He told the girls that it wasn't nice to say this; these are their siblings and they should love each other. 

These pictures were taken at the 9/11 Memorial.  I have to say the memorial and museum are beautiful.  They've done an amazing job and it is an emotional walk through the building reliving the events of that tragic day.

Sam is in a mood!

As the security guard is lecturing our kids on how they should behave.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The bus story.

In my earlier post I wrote about "A lovely way to start the day" and mentioned how the same city bus driver waves to my friend and I each morning as we do our walk at 5:30am.  Sometimes I am quite far around the curve from when he gets to the spot we usually see him and he still honks his horn to let me know he is driving by. 

Last Friday morning, my friend and I were crossing over Burke Centre Parkway (a good mile from where we usually see the bus) and on the street corner/intersection was the driver standing there not too far from his parked bus.  It must've been a few minutes before his route was starting.  He approached my friend and me as we were crossing the street.

Bus Driver (we find out his name is Anthony): Ladies, I want to come over and introduce myself.  I'm driver who honks and waves at you each morning while you are walking.

Us:  Hi!!!!

Anthony:  I wanted to let you know today is my last day. They've given us new routes and this is the last time I will be doing this one.

Us:  Oh, we will miss you.  We always love knowing if something were to happen to us on our walks, the bus will stop and help us.  You've been so friendly waving to us each morning.

Anthony:   I also wanted to tell you that you are both famous back at the West Ox Road terminal.  I was on vacation 2 weeks ago and a few other drivers took over my route.  When I got back to work, they all wanted to know who the pretty ladies were that were waving to them each morning.  And they wanted to know what I was up to getting them to wave like that. 

Us (we didn't even know that the regular guy wasn't driving):  Oh my gosh!  That is too funny!   You make our day honking and waving to us each morning.  Thank you for letting us know this is your last day.

Anthony:  I will see you in a few minutes...

And we ended our conversation with hug. 

How hilarious is this!?!?!  I've already heard from my friend that she has met the new bus driver while I was in NYC.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Laundry no-no

See this product called " Tide Boost"?  Let me tell you what it is is not laundry detergent.  No siree bob, it is not meant to wash your clothes.  How do I know this?  Because it took my mom coming for a visit and while she was here, she went to do a load of towels and wondered where my laundry detergent was.   When I showed her what I've been using (for the last 55 or so loads of wash), she said this isn't detergent.

Um, what?!?!?!!?  You mom was right!  This isn't laundry detergent.  OMG!  What a fool I've been.  All this stuff does is help release stains and aid your regular laundry detergent.

Thank G-d my mom came when she did.  I had almost finished this container of 62 pods and probably would've grabbed another the next time I was at the store.

I just want to go back and rewash all our clothing.  Good thing we caught this before we got into the really hot, sticky days of Summer.  Boy, do I feel like a fool.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Now there's only one of everything.

So quickly I felt like the worst mother ever...when I found out that Ian was seeing double and had been for years.  

I noticed Ian's left eye would drift to the outer part of his eye.  It was very subtle, but I was still noticing it; mostly when we I'd be sitting across the table from him at dinner each night.  I mentioned it to the pediatrician when we went for Ian's annual physical.  It was recommended to get him to the ophthalmologist as soon as possible.   Ian has been diagnosed with Intermittent Exotropia.  The eye doctor asked him if he sees double.  Ian said "yes".  OMG!  I had no that Ian was seeing double.  I feel horrible for not having known this.  Apparently Ian has had this problem for years, but always thought it was normal to see double.  WHAT?!?!?!   Ian's left eye has been doing a good job covering up the exotropia, but as his vision is getting worse, the eye can no longer compensate.  Therefore, as he gets tired and towards the end of the day, the eye will drift from time to time.  The eye dr explained this condition is fairly common and he sees it all the time.

The solution?  For Ian to get glasses.  By his eye not having to strain, it will help with the drifting and get things straightened out.  Plus, it will help get his vision back to 20/20.

That evening after dinner, we went as a family and helped Ian pick out glasses.  It was actually a pretty smooth experience from start to finish.  Ian looks adorable in his glasses. 

We did a side-by-side comparison of the other pair we really liked.

The sweetest thing ever was watching Ian put his glasses on for the first time after they had been made specifically for his prescription. A smile came across his face and he said, "Everything is less blurry.  I can't believe how everything is less blurry."   It was quite endearing and I felt like Jeff and I just handed him the world. 

Huge smiles putting on the pair with the prescription in them.

It has taken very little time to get used to seeing Ian wearing glasses.  He looks so darn cute.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A lovely way to start the day.

Every weekday morning (except for when it's raining), my friend Tami and I meet at 5:30am for an hour walk.  We have the same route we cover every time our feet hit the pavement.  It's like the movie "Groundhog Day" as the sun is rising above us.  There is the same lady walking her dog by the same set of houses, there is the same man waiting for the bus to take him to the Pentagon, and there is the bus driver who always honks his horn and waves at us as he passes by.   You can set your watch by each of these things occurring.  Tami and I have been walking pretty steadily now for 2 years.  We've never run out of things to talk about!

At exactly 6:25am each morning, I pass by this one home and see the woman of the house standing in on her driveway wearing her pajamas, while her husband is backing out from their garage onto the street.  As the man is doing this maneuver, the woman is waving good-bye to her husband.  She continues waving (and not a small waving motion either!) until the car is no longer in sight.  It is a long time too of her standing there waving.  It is the sweetest thing ever.   The other day I said to the woman as she was busy waving and I was walking by, "Seeing this puts a smile on my face.  Can I ask how many years you've been married?"   The woman answered with "30".   30 years!!!   I love this!

It never gets old for me seeing her send her husband off to work with a wave and a smile.  And as the husband is driving away, his arm is out the window waving back.  What a lovely way for my day to start seeing this beautiful gesture of love.

On a related side note:  The other day I attempted to do this to Jeff as he left for work. I followed him outside and waited for him to get in his car.  I started waving.  I kept waving and waving (just like the lady in the above reference does) as Jeff pulled his car out of the driveway and got it in the right direction to go up our pipestem.   My first observation is this:  Boy, did my arm get tired from all that waving.  And my second observation?   Jeff thought I was a nut and couldn't back-up fast enough to get away from me.  :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer lovin'

School is out this Friday.  Could we be any more excited that the school year is finally over?  I honestly don't know who in our family is happiest that our Summer officially begins this Friday at 1:45pm.

We have some AWESOME summer plans.  It's actually like a pinch yourself (is this really happening?) moment on what we've got going on.

We are kicking off our Summer with a bang!  On Sunday, my friend Susanne and I are taking the 5 kids (my 2, her 3) and hitting The Big Apple.   NYC for 4 days, 3 nights.  "Go big or go home" is my motto for this trip.  This will be our kids first time in the city and we have a fabulous itinerary; if I do say so myself.  :)   My hope is they fall in love with New York City as much as I do. 

The following week we are headed on a week long cruise out of Baltimore.  My in-laws are graciously treating us to this trip and joining us for the fun too!   The last time Ian was on a cruise, he was just 3 years old and doesn't remember any of it. I am looking forward to the Toppall duo getting to experience this for the first time too.   We make 3 stops; Port Canaveral (Orlando), Nassau (Bahamas) and Freeport (Bahamas). 

In early July, we have tickets to see Idina Menzel in concert in Baltimore.  I got all freaky and did our best to get the best seats as soon as tickets went on sale.  I can't wait to see her perform.

Late July finds me and the kids in Orlando.  I will be down there for 5 days and then leave the kids with my family for 2 weeks.  Mom and Jim will drive the kids back up to NoVa.  A few days later we hit the beach for a week in Ocean City, NJ.  We have the house right next door to my cousins' family -- just like last year!  We had such an amazing week and I can't wait for our kids to spend time together again.  This year, Lori, Ben and Rachel are joining us too.  It's a win-win-win!! Yay!   The only downside is, we increased the number of bodies in the beach house, but did not increase the number of bedrooms.   We will be thisclose for the week.  Jeff has already claimed sleeping on the porch.  He might be on to something with his plan.

I know Summer will be flying by super fast. I hope it doesn't move too quickly. I need lots and lots of time to decompress from homework and hearing about teachers who spend too much of their day yelling at the students. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Music to my ears

Ian picked the violin to play as his string instrument in 4th grade.  He had never played an instrument before or was able to read music.  He took his opportunity to learn very seriously and practiced all hours of the day.  At school, Ian's instruction happened once a week and somewhere between October and May (with lots of snow days in the Winter), Ian became a musician.

This past Thursday, we got to see Ian in action.  85 4th graders, many of whom were playing an instrument for the first time ever, came together and put on a concert.  It was awesome.  They sounded amazing!

Not sure why the focus goes blury  again and again, but you can hear the sound without a problem.

Ian had a front row center seat!

Ian's special guests who came to watch.

I loved watching Ian play.  My mom came in town for this concert and we got to see it twice -- once during the school day and again in the evening.  My in-laws came from Baltimore for the evening performance, plus my mom, Jeff and Sam.  I am pretty sure we presented a bigger cheerleading section than other families.  Love it!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Plumbing woes

We recently had an eye-opening experience with a company we thought we could trust.  We had a maintenance contract for plumbing (it has now been cancelled!) and found out the hard way, that the plumber sent to do a routine maintenance check was a sheister!  In every sense of the word, he was a crook and took advantage of us.

In a bit of good news, we had a policy with Dominion Power to cover the replacement of a hot water heater and also included coverage of the main water valve.  Kudos to me for signing us up for this a few years ago.  Both insurance policies are getting used and our plumbing/water issues are not costing us anything to fix besides a few phone calls (and hours spent) with the company we thought we could trust to get our hefty deposit refunded.  Fortunately my efforts were successful in getting the refund.

We put the claim in late on a Friday night with Dominion Power.  One of the companies Dominion Power works with who handles their service calls promptly TEXTED me on Friday night and asked how bad our problem was -- did we currently have water?  Did we have a leak?  Could I text him a picture?  Oh my gosh!  How great is this guy?  I replied back, yes, we have water, no we don't have a leak.  Please, please, please take care of those who don't have water first. 

I then get a follow-up text on Saturday asking if we will be there on Sunday (Yes!!  Sunday!!!) morning.  The guy arrived between 9:00am to 10:00am.  After the visit, he texted me again what our coverage exactly included. And texted me yet again to let me know when he'd back.  All of our communication has been by text on my cell phone.  How awesome is that???

The other day I got a text message letting me know it was time to make my next dental appointment.  They've done away with the post card and moved to texting for reminders.

I love that texting has now moved beyond my friends and includes service professionals.  It is fabulous!!  And its even better when the person you are texting with responds back instantly. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sam's most awesome prank

Sam did something that had us all laughing.  It was simply awesome of her to think of this, execute flawlessly!, sit back and watch the results.  Pure brilliance!

Each year, the night before the kids' birthdays, I wait for them to fall asleep and go across the street to Safeway.  I buy the biggest balloon I can find.  I'm talking like the balloons that cost $16 each.  I take it home, sneak it in to their room (while they are sleeping), so when they wake up in the morning (on their birthday), the first thing they see is this crazy-big balloon wishing them a happy birthday.  I've done this every year for each of the kids, since they were born.  Just something to make their day a bit more special. 

The balloons last for a good month after their birthdays.  So it is floating around the house, and can be found in various rooms depending on what the kids do with it.  A few days after Sam's birthday, Ian is downstairs playing on the Xbox and Jeff & I are sitting in the living room chatting on the couch.  Sam comes running up to us, with her hand on her mouth trying to keep the laughter from erupting out of her body.

Sam (whispering to me):  You are not going to believe what I just did...giggle, giggle.

Me:  What did you do?

Sam:  I clipped the balloon to the back of Ian's shirt. And then I ran away.  He doesn't know....giggle, giggle.

Me:  Oh, that's awesome Sam.... giggle, giggle.

Jeff (realizing something is going on):  What did you do Sam?

Sam (whispering to Jeff):  I clipped the balloon to the back of Ian's shirt...giggle...giggle.

Jeff:  Hehehehehehe.

Ian:  (FINALLY figuring out something is going on):  What happened to my shirt?

Ian is now running up the stairs towards us, while the balloon (this really, really, really big balloon) is trailing him.   Jeff, Sam and I bust out laughing.  Ian is completely clueless.

Gosh I love this girl and that she thought this up all on her own.  So incredibly hilarious!

This is a picture of the balloon that Sam attached to the back of Ian's shirt.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sam's idea for a Father's Day Present

A couple of weeks ago, Sam and I are in the car by ourselves.

Sam:  I have an idea for a Father's day present for daddy.

Me:  Oh, what is it?

Sam:  Let's get dad a dog!  We will surprise him with it.

Me:  Sam, I love where you are going with this, but remember, we won't be around on Father's day.  We are leaving early in the morning to go to NYC.  And Daddy will be home without us.

Sam: Yes, that is why its perfect.  We give daddy the dog and then we leave.

At this point, I think Sam wants a dog more than I do.  As far as plans go, Sam's is pretty well thought out.  We all know Jeff does not want a dog.  With Sam's plan, we don't have to hear him yell about it.  By the time we get back into town, the little guy will have already grown on him.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

My crazy shoe story

In my blog titled "Magical, part 2" I spoke of a crazy shoe story.  Here it is:

When I took Sam to Kohl's to get a pair of sneakers, we ran into Heather and her entire family (including her mom and stepfather!).  They were clothes shopping for her family as Mike's father had just passed away and the kids needed some appropriate clothing for the wake and funeral.  Gosh, I love Heather. She is truly an amazing person.  Not sure how she does it with 4 kids and multiple part-time jobs, but she makes it look easy and is always ready to lend a helping hand to a friend or her children's schools. She's one of those people that manages to fit 28 hours in a 24 hour day without breaking a sweat and always with a smile on her face.  She could give a master class in organization and multi-tasking.   Ok, enough about Heather...let's get on with the story.

Sam and I make our way to the shoe area.  She finds an awesome pair of skechers sneakers and is thrilled with the cushioned sole.  As we are leaving the shoe department to go check out, I run into Heather again and see her trying on these super-cute shoes.  I instantly fall in-like with them.  I personally don't need another pair of shoes, but I can't resist trying them on.  Yes, they are comfortable, look good and very reasonably priced.  I will take them!

 We are leaving to meet Jeff's family for dinner in about an hour.  I had a different outfit in mind, but decide to switch things up to wear my new pair of shoes.  When Sam and I walk in the house, Jeff sees the two boxes of shoes and questions the purchase.  "Sam got 2 pairs?"  (He would NEVER have a problem with this if I said yes.  If Sam needs 2 pairs, get Sam 2 pairs).  However, the extra pair of shoes was for me.

Me: No, I found a pair of shoes too!

Jeff:  I didn't know you needed new shoes.

Me:  I don't.  But that's why I am never in a panic over shoes.  I am always one-step ahead of being barefoot.  :)

Anyway, we get to Cafe Deluxe for dinner in Bethesda and in the middle of the meal, Sam has to go to the bathroom.  I go with her and while waiting for her to come out of the stall, a woman next to hers comes out and says to me the following:

Lady in the bathroom:  Oh, I thought it was my daughter that walked in.  She has the same pair of shoes as you!  In fact, I have them too and my daughter-in-law too!  We all have them.  We love those shoes.  We get them each year, in different colors.  They are sooo comfortable!

Me:  I know!  I just got these 2 hours ago.  I'm excited about them too!

Lady in the bathroom:  You are not going to believe this.  My daughter paid $200 for her pair!  I got mine for $79 at Macy's.  How much did you pay for yours?

Me:  $39 at Kohls, plus, I had Kohl's cash and a $10 off coupon. So they were practically free.

Lady in the bathroom:  What brand?  Is it Ralph Lauren?

 Me:  Yes (taking off the shoe to confirm), it's Chaps...that's Ralph Lauren's brand.

Lady in the bathroom:  Oh my G-d!!!!!  Where is there a Kohls???  Where is the nearest Kohl's???

Me:  I don't know, I come from the Fairfax area.

Lady in the bathroom leaves in shock.

I'm feeling pretty good about this shoe purchase.  What a great deal!

Yep, these are them.  :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cool new gadget alert.

 At the end of April, I made a very much needed trip to go home and spend a long weekend with my family.  By myself.  From Friday morning to Monday afternoon, I had a great time seeing everyone and spending a few days at the beach with my mom and Lori.  I loved my time and absolutely cherish whenever I get the opportunity to be around them.  My family are the best!  It's hard having the distance we have between us.  That's why its important to me that I go down at least once a year, on my own, and get some one-on-one quality time.

I stayed one night at my Dad and Rita's house.  Since I had been there last, Meghan got a new shower head in her bathroom.   It has to be the coolest thing I have seen in a long time.  The shower head has a display showing the temperature of the water.  And it is color coded based on how hot it gets.  So incredibly cool!  I believe it changes from purple to red when it hits 110 degrees. 

Just think how neat it would be to turn on the water and not ever have to worry you didn't get the water hot enough or it was too hot before you stepped in.  You can find your perfect temperature you like, get the water going and step in to a perfect shower time and time again.  How awesome would that be?

I have no idea if this shower head has been around for a long time (and maybe it has), but I am so happy to have discovered it.  Just when you think that something can't be improved any more than it is, this comes along.  :)

Display reads:  104 degrees.
Display reads:  110 degrees.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Time to Party, Part 2

Birthday palooza is now officially over!

Ian decided he wanted to do a birthday parrty at Climb Zone in Laurel, MD.  Due to the distance (about an hour each way), I couldn't expect his friend's parents to drive that for a birthday party. I told Ian he could pick his closest 5 friends and we would take everyone.  Three kids in Jeff's backseat, three kids in my backseat.  I was banking on the fact that one boy wouldn't be able to make it.

I love this place!  The cool thing is that it is indoors and offers a very non-traditional version of rock wall climbing.  Instead of the usual walls, you get to climb all sorts of various textures -- Lincoln Memorial, Eiffel Tower, Tetris, Soccer Field, Alice in Wonderland theme, Route 66, Bookcase, tires, ropes, Skateboard ramp, outside of a building, etc.  It is never ending all the various things you can climb.  It is a visual feast for the eyes!  Jeff even climbed too!  

It is well worth the drive and the staff is always so super nice.  You couldn't ask for a better experience.   We reserved one of their indoor tents, ordered food from 3 Brothers Pizza and had Jeff's parents join us.  In a extra nice touch, Susanne and her son Dagan joined us for pizza and cake.  Unfortunately Dagan had just had eye surgery and was under strick orders to not do physical activity.

Each year I tell the kids, "That's it, I'm done doing birthday parties.  You can each invite one friend and do some kind of experience with them (ie baseball game, go-karting, afternoon tea, spa, etc).  And each year, we end up doing a formal party.  This year, however, we did keep it on the small side and it turned out awesome.  Sam had 4 friends and Ian had 4 friends.  Both parties cost almost identical in price and both kids were thrilled with how awesome each party was.  Dare I say it?  This years' birthday parties were a blast for me too.  I really enjoyed how we celebrated.  I wouldn't even mind if we did this same thing again next year.  Sam loves the Climb Zone as much as Ian.  I could see myself suggesting a dual birthday party (we have yet to do that!) and renting a van for all the kids.  :)   No, that's crazy talk!  We are done having birthday parties.  Done.  Really.  I'm serious. Sort of.

How cool is this wall?????  That's Ian and his friend.

Sam on her way down.

Ian and his friend scaling the United States

Jeff and Sam scaling Tetris

Up close and personal to Tetris

Jeff scaling the fifty states.

It's Spidey Sam!

Grandma and Sam

Look at me!

All done.  :)