Saturday, September 26, 2015

Getting all Jetsons

Since my car does not require the key fob to open the car doors or an actual key to start the ignition, I've decided to change the way we enter our house. I've got the keys buried at the bottom of my purse and I'd just rather leave them there.

I took the plunge and upgraded our front door to an electronic lock. We now use a 4 digit combination to open the door.  I LOVE IT!!  It is truly fabulous and has saved me on many occasions when having to look for my keys.

Jeff wasn't a big fan of the idea and probably still isn't.  He didn't understand how difficult it was for me to find my keys each time I needed to get in the house.  Besides getting frustrated over this, I was tried of dragging my keys with me every time I walked somewhere.  I've been doing a lot of walking lately...walking to meet my friend in the morning at 5:30am, walking to go to my boot camp workout, walking to take the kids to school in the morning and walking again in the afternoon to get them home from school, and of course, my favorite walk...walking to Cafe Rio to pick up lunch. 

Now, I've got it made!  I don't have to take any keys with me and they can stay buried at the bottom of my "Mary Poppins" bag.   I come and go easily and take only my cell phone with me.

The electronic lock can handle up to 19 individual codes.  They can be changed and deleted without any difficulty. The kids love using it and I love knowing they won't ever be locked out because they don't have a key on them.

There was a version of the lock I was considering that gives you text messages when the door opens and can also allow you to open the door remotely from your smartphone.  I almost got this one, but it would've started us down the path of converting our house to a "smart house" and I am not convinced this is necessary for us yet.  Maybe in 5 years it will be useful, but by then the technology could be very different.  Surprisingly to Jeff, I held off and kept the model I bought to something that was reasonable.

The lock arrived in 2 days (Go Amazon Prime!) and I had the whole thing installed before Jeff got home from work.  I had a feeling he wouldn't be supportive and therefore, not much of a help.  It was a great feeling to know that I could do it all on my own.  Yay!  Jeff only asked that I gave him the code so he could get into his own house.

Channeling my inner-Jane Jetson is pretty fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

School News

This just in...

Ian has decided to switch from the string instrument he played last year (the violin) to playing a band instrument this year (the saxophone).  I can't wait to see him play.  He is going to look adorable practicing.  I absolutely LOVE that Fairfax County Public Schools offers instruction on playing musical instruments.  Jeff and I are not musically inclined (that's a bit of an understatement!) and it would not have come across our radar for the kids to take music lessons.  Ian has a wonderful opportunity to give it a try and see if he likes it.  Oh what fun!

Vice President
Ian decided to run for Vice President of the student council this school year.  He came home so excited and worked all night on his speech.  He had to go up against the other kids in his class who also wanted to run for Vice President.  And then the winner from that vote would go up against the kids from the other 5th grade classes for the ultimate win to be VP.  Unfortunately Ian didn't win the class vote.  I was heartbroken for him, but so proud of him to go for it and give it all he got.  He really tried his best.

Ian's speech (He wrote this entirely on his own!):

I've been at Fairview since kindergarten.  It is a great school and I have been eager to run for a position as soon as possible. I'm a great leader and very responsible.  I will also always stand up for the little guy if you know what I mean.  Now here are a few ideas to make Fairview better.  First, there should be a first aid kit on the blacktop so if kids get hurt they don't have to go to the nurse's office and miss the rest of their recess.  Second, I will put a box outside the cafeteria for students to make suggestions about how to make school better.  I will check the box every Friday.  Assemblies should be interactive, engaging to make them more interesting and fun.  It would be an honor to represent you and be your voice.  And remember, forget the rest and vote the best!  Your vote's worth it!

Ian's Teacher
I got the chance to meet Ian's 5th grade teacher at back-to-school night.  She gave a presentation on her style of teaching, her feelings about homework and what to expect out of this school year.  WOW!  The only thing I can say is that I wish I could quit being an adult and go back to 5th grade to have her as a teacher.  Ian is in for one fantastic year.  As much as a last year was a disaster for Ian, this year will be phenomenal for him.  I feel like if you put in a computer the environment/classroom Ian will excel in, his teacher is what would come out.  She is a dream come true. I can't wait to see Ian soar.  I am sure his enthusiasm for school will be back at an all-time high in no time.

Uh-oh, the bus
One afternoon during the first week of school,  I walked to school to get the kids and only Ian came out.  We waited about 15 minutes and couldn't locate Sam.  The staff member who is in charge of this exit from the school called to the office on his walkie-talkie to see if they'd seen Samantha.  He was informed she went on the bus.  WHAT????   We don't have a bus assigned to us.  We live too close to the school and are considered "walkers".  Uh-oh!   Once I found out which bus she went on, I called my friend Kelly and told her to be on the lookout for Sam as she was headed that way.  Ian and I got to Kelly's house about 2 minutes after the bus dropped her off with Kelly's girls.  Sam saw me and burst into tears.  She knew something wasn't right and was worried I'd be upset with her.  My poor girl.

It turned out there was a BIG misunderstanding and multiple points throughout this situation went askew.  There are many checkpoints (the last one being the bus driver stopping an unknown rider getting on board and asking for a bus pass) that weren't followed.  The story has a happy ending; we found Sam pretty quickly and she was safe.  But it made for one exciting afternoon!

Ian's new head coach
Ian's flag football team has a new head coach.  I'm sure you've all met him....his name is Jeff Toppall.  Jeff volunteered to be the assistant coach, but somewhere along the way, he was instantly promoted to head coach.  Oh my!  I think we are all nervous (including Jeff) about him being head coach, but he has risen to the occasion and is going to do great!   Flag Football starts this Saturday.  Yay!!

We are only 3 weeks into the school and it's already proven to never be a dull moment. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Girls with their dolls - Take 5

The American Girl Store and its bistro seems to be popping up everywhere.  They even opened a location in Orlando this past year.  It's pretty neat how they seem to be taking over and giving girls a special experience.

 Each year my friends and I, along with our daughters go to the Tyson's location for a back to school tradition.  We've now celebrated 5 years in a row, taking along our favorite American Girl dolls with us.  We always have such a good time and enjoy celebrating the kids are back in school.  As long as American Girl Store is open in our area, I see us still celebrating each September, long after our girls are no longer into their dolls.
Our fun and festive group.

Sam and Caroline in matching outfits.

Sam took this picture of Caroline at the table.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Being a tourist.

 Jeff is on a roll and continues to plan an outside-the-house-activity each month for the family to do.  Several months ago he requested tickets to take a tour of the Capitol.  Our date to go was on Saturday, September 12th.  It was a rainy day, but we had a delightful time.  I felt proud we were taking advantage of what this beautiful city, which is practically in our backyard, has to offer.  Unfortunately, the Capitol is under construction and the scaffolding on the outside continues in the inside too.  But this just means we will have to go back in another year when the construction is completed. 

I'm pretty sure I've never done the tour of the Capitol before.  We had this tour guide who thought she was funnier than she actually was.  Her jokes were pretty corny, but she certainly knew her stuff!  She was able to point out the statues from every state the people in our group was from and give background info on all of them.  

Lots and lots of scaffolding.

The statue from North Dakota (for Rita)

The statue from Florida!

Three cheers for Jeff for coming up with an idea, that involved something we all enjoyed.  Plus it was educational.  A win-win in my book. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ian's new look

Ian was thrilled to hear the braces would be able to come off at the beginning of the school year.  True to our orthodontist's promise, Ian got his braces off on Friday, September 11th.  He now has to wear a retainer (It's clear!  You can't even tell he has it on) full-time, but he is thrilled to now run his tongue over his teeth and find they are smooth, smooth, smooth.  

The plan is for Ian to wear the retainer for several months and then when all his adult teeth are in, we will start round 2 with the braces.  

This is what Ian's teeth looked like the day he got them on:

December 8, 2014:  Before and After:

September 11, 2015:  Before and After:

Got to love an orthodontist who gives out a big bag of candy when you get the braces off.
The appointment wasn't even over yet and Ian was already munching away on the rice krispies treat!

5th grade is off to a fantastic start!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hot cakes

Ian has a new skill in the kitchen.  He can now make pancakes.  From start to finish, Ian can do the whole thing himself.  And he does so regularly.  Ian will make approx. 15 pancakes at a time, eat a short stack and then freeze the rest to eat later in the week.

The first morning he made the pancakes, he was so excited and proud of himself. Ian said, "I wish Dad was here to see this."  He called Jeff to give him a play-by-play over the phone -- of course, after he had eaten a few first.  

Checking to make sure the other side is fully cooked.   

At one point, I saw Ian was only making one pancake at a time.  I asked him why he stopped filling the griddle with many pancakes to cook at once.  Ian said, "I was having a tough time keeping up with them all."   Seriously, how cute is he!?!?!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

And they're back...back to school that is.

First day of 5th grade for Ian and first day of 2nd grade for Samantha.  I have such wonderfully high expectations for a SPECTACULAR year!! 

Sam's class looped this year; meaning she has the same teacher and kids in her class as last year.  This is a good thing....a very good thing.  Sam loves her teacher and her teacher loves her.  And Sam has adjusted to the kids who are in her class.  There are 2 or 3 girls she is friendly with and will acknowledge their presence outside of school.  That is about the best we can wish for.  Given that there will be no adjustment period to a new teacher or different kids, Sam is off and running!  She is willingly going to school.  Yay!

Meanwhile, Ian had a disappointing experience last year and really didn't care for either his homeroom or math teacher.  It was hard listening to him at dinner tell us how miserable he was each day.  Steps were taken to try to help Ian, but at the end of the day, we just needed the school year to end.  I met with the principal to make sure this coming year would be better for Ian.  The kid used to love school and it was hard seeing that feeling diminish because of the teacher.  

This year is such a different story!  I am thrilled that Ian got assigned this particular teacher (Mrs. S.) this year.  It is going to be a perfect fit and just what Ian needs.  Furthermore, this teacher will be doing math too for Ian's level.  From what I've observed, she has a great way with the kids and understands their vast amounts of energy.  She doesn't expect them to stay seated, keeps the students moving and is very engaging.  On the afternoon of day 2, the teacher called to let me know Ian was doing well and how much she has enjoyed his sense of humor.   I haven't gotten a call like this since Kindergarten.  :) 

I always follow the kids into their classroom and take a picture.  Both kids hate that I do this.  I will never stop doing it!
Getting a hug from the teacher on the way in to her class.

With school starting, our schedule is back in full swing.  When you throw in my 3 part-time jobs I do during the school day, this makes for a lot of running from point A to point B to point C to point D. 

Each weekday at 5:30am, I am either meeting my friend Tami for a 4 mile walk or going to a boot camp class from 5:30am to 6:30am 3 times a week.  I am determined to be a healthier me this year!  It makes for a full day, but "me time" needs to happen when the majority of the family is still sleeping. 

School is from 9:10am to 4:00pm. 

Monday:  ----
Tuesday:  religious school for both kids (4:40pm to 6:30pm)
Wednesday:  therapy for Sam at 5:00pm
Thursday:  gymnastics for Sam at 5:00pm
Friday:  ---
Saturday:  flag football (practice and game) for Ian
Sunday:  religious school for both kids (9:00am to 12:00pm)

We continued with our back-to-school tradition and went for ice cream after dinner on the first day of school.  It sort of makes going back to school a little sweeter when you know you get ice cream at the end of the day.  Sort of. 

Three cheers for a GREAT year!!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

11 years ago today...something fantastic happened.

This is my most favorite picture taken of Jeff and me this past year.  It was right before we went on the zip lining canopy tour during our weekend away this summer.   We didn't know what to expect; would it be scary?  Exciting?  A huge adrenaline rush?  Would we regret signing up?  Would we instantly love it and want to go again?

So many of these emotions are similar to marriage.  Jeff and I had never been married before.  We may have had ideas on what marriage was like, but until you are in it yourself, you could never really know. 

Today marks 11 years being married to Jeff.  I am continually in awe that, just like the zip lining, I took a leap off the platform and have loved every bit of it.  The best part, in my opinion?  Being part of a team.  Having someone by your side to experience all the good and bad days with you. I can't imagine having anyone else go through this crazy ride with me. 

Jeff jokes that we have nothing in common (other than sea salted caramel flavoring).  We don't like the same kind of books, we don't like the same kind of movies or television shows.  And I'm not into sports like he is.  He doesn't care for the beach and I love it.  Really, it's quite humorous how much our tastes are very different.   However, I would say that these opposites work in our favor.  We have fun together trying new things and exploring new places.  We have each other's backs.  We want the best for each other. 

The best is when Jeff says I drive him crazy and he loves me.  Therefore, I can only equate the following to be true....Jeff loves it when I drive him crazy.  See how good we are for one another?

Happy anniversary to a guy who makes me laugh every day.  I love how he makes me want to be the best wife/mother/friend I can be.  11 years today!  I love you so much!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ah, the start of a new school there any better time for wanting to get organized, instill new practices that are healthier, get into a good routine, and make a fresh start?  Other than New Year's day, I don't think so.  It's like getting a blank slate and resolving to do things better, make it easier/smarter/more efficient. 

I've been thinking (now you know you are in trouble if you live in this house!) about what I'd like to change with the coming year.  I've come up with a short, but powerful list.  I presented it to the family and so far, everyone is on board.  If even 1/2 of these brilliant ideas of mine continue through the first month, I will be a happy camper....a very happy camper.

1. I am no longer making dinner on Saturday nights.  For over 10 years now, I've planned dinners for every night of the week.  95% of the time, the dinners go as planned.  Every now and then, we will have a spontaneous night out or bring food in, but for the most part, it's all me putting dinner on the table each night.  I'm not complaining, but I am tired and burned out.  So from this point forward, I am no longer worrying about feeding my family dinner on Saturdays. I think I will enjoy the other 6 nights of cooking a lot more if I know I have a break one night a week.    When I told this Jeff and the kids, instantly Jeff and Ian said they wanted to take on Saturday nights.  I happily said, "go for it."   Whether they cook, bring in take-out, or plan for us to go out to eat, I don't care.  It will be so nice that there is one day every week that I don't worry about what we will be eating.

2. Sam gets dressed on her own.  Completely on her own.  She is 7 years old.  It is beyond time that she picks out what she wants to wear without a huge battle from me.  No more whining "I have nothing to weeeeeeaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr" or screaming "I DON'T WANT TO WEAR THAT!"  or "I DON'T KNOW WHAT MATCHES" allowed anymore.  No more begging me to put 4 different outfits on her bed to choose from, only to whine she doesn't want to wear any of them.  When the mood strikes her, Sam has shown she can get dressed on her own.  She has a great sense of style and knows exactly what goes with what.  She manages to get dressed all on her own on the weekends.  But for some reason, she enjoys pushing my buttons and putting a big wrench in our mornings before school throwing a fit.  I am done with this nonsense.  Sam has more clothes than the whole rest of the family put together.  I recently went through her closet (with her!) and pulled out everything that might be questionable on what fits and organized her closet by skirts, dresses, sweaters, long sleeve tops, and short sleeve tops.  We went through her drawers and organized them by capri leggings, full-length leggings, shorts, biker shorts, pants, and jeans.  There are easily 30 different outfits she could wear for any season/type of weather.  As of my writing this blog, she is in agreement with everything in her wardrobe.  It's all been picked out by her personally in the stores and given the green light that she will wear it at some point.  Although historically this doesn't matter if she will actually wear it, but it's a start.  I told her I would help if she needed it with a zipper, button, whatever, but I will not help with picking out an outfit.*

*For those who think we should pick the outfit out the night before; we've done that many, many, times.  However, she will still wake up in the morning and change her mind and throw a fit.  Ugh.

3. Sam makes her own lunches for school.  Again, I think the more I tell Sam has to do for herself, the more control she will feel like she has.  Sam likes to be in control.  I told her I will help her with cutting, cooking, etc, but she has to take the initiative on getting her lunch made and assembled.  Ian has been making his own lunches for 2 years now and it is a pleasure in the morning to know he is responsible and making healthy choices on his own.  And if she drops the ball on this (because she is spending too much time figuring out what to wear :), then she will have to buy her lunch from the school cafeteria. 

4. Help with cleaning the house.  We will see how this goes, but here's the idea:  I came up with a list of 28 different tasks to do around the house.  Everything from clean a bathroom, vacuum the bedrooms, clean the glass door, unload the dishwasher, clean the inside of the microwave to fold a load of laundry and put away, etc.  It's broken down into manageable chunks with no chore being that time consuming or too big to do.  I created an excel sheet with 4 columns next to it.  Each column belongs to one of us; Jeff, Robyn, Ian and Samantha.  Every week one of us has to pick an item and do it.   When you've done it, you put the date next to the item, under your name.  Once all the items have been done, I will provide a new excel chart to begin these tasks again.  In less than a month's time, all the chores should be completed and the house will be clean.  The best part is, the kids are learning some very important life skills.  They get a say in what they want to do in terms of helping (it can change each week/month for them too), and I get some much needed assistance with the upkeep of the house.

Yep, this is what I sprung on the family.  No one had a bad word to say and agreed to give it a go.  I have high expectations that all 4 things listed above will go splendidly.  How awesome would this be if it does?