Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of the Year Wrap-up: 2016 Edition

I blink and the year is over.  Most days are a blur of activity.  I love how much we get to do and experience; it's a great life and I feel blessed at how much we have. I'm not referring to material stuff, but to the family that has been created through birth, marriage, and friendship.  We are very rich in love, support, and strength.  "All you need is love AND a dog."  :)

I truly believe we make the most of our days and our time together.  It's fun to experience life through our kids' eyes.  This was more evident than ever when we went to Massachusetts in July.  I am still smiling at the memories of our trip and quite proud of how everyone in Team Toppall had an open mind and was willing to try some pretty wonderful activities for the first time.

Travel this year:

March: Ocean City, MD for 3 days (the kids & me with friends).
May: England and Portugal for 10 days*
June:  Orlando for a long weekend (Robyn & Ian)
June: Kids with Jeff's parents for 3 days
July:  Massachusetts extravaganza for 10 days
July:  Kids in Orlando for 16 days, I was there for 6 of them.
August:  Ocean City, NJ for a week at the beach
August:  Samantha at sleepaway camp in Palmer, MA for 12 nights
October: Gatlinburg, TN 5 days
November:  Girls weekend in Berkeley Springs, WVA*
December:  Orlando for 1 week (the kids & me)

*Represents trips taken solo

Can I just say "WOW!" ?   This was the year we finally made expanding our family with a 4-legged member into a reality.  Yay!   Three months ago we welcomed Lucy, a 2 year old lab mix, into our lives.  I am not sure who rescued who.  She is amazing and sweet and so lovable.  All she wants to do is cuddle and curl up next to you.  We are so fortunate to have found her.  Lucy brightens our day!  I still look at her from time and time and can't believe she is ours.  One of my favorite things to do is take Lucy with me in the car.  I spend so much time going back and forth taking the kids to their activities; its nice to have the company.
Ian has impressed me big-time this year.   He started taking drama through a local organization.  It takes up a huge amount of his free time on the weekends (9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturdays) and he doesn't mind in the least.  He enjoys it; really, really enjoys it.  It's so cool to see Ian get excited over something.  This Fall they did a production of "Singing in the Rain, Jr." and he had a blast.    Ian also got into running and ran his first 5k (3.1 miles).  He wants to continue with track in the Spring too.  I am so happy we finally stopped talking about tackle football.

Samantha started a new activity to do each week and now takes horse back riding lessons.  It is a great outlet for her and one she is truly enjoying.  I love seeing the self-confidence she has being on top of these horses.  And Sam also started running in the Fall, complete with a 5k race.  Wowee!  Another winner for her and one she wants to continue in the Spring.

I feel we've made headway with Sam and her getting ready for school in the mornings.  Each year, we make progress.  Not huge leaps and bounds, but baby steps.   Through recent psychological testing with her therapist, we've learned a lot about how Sam's mind works.  It's been like a light has turned on and we've been able to amend how we do some stuff.  We are setting ourselves and Sam up for success.  The next step is to go to Sam's school and have her teacher implement some adjustments.   School is going exceedingly well for Sam right now, but we fear that in the next few years it will become a struggle to stay focused.

I made the impossible happen by taking the trip to England and Portugal with my friends in May.  I still can't believe I pulled that off.  The time away was magical and I seriously didn't stop laughing for 10 days straight.  Being with your best girlfriends and getting to escape the day-to-day routine, traveling to far away lands, is something I feel that should be required at least once (if not a few times) in your life.  I still pinch myself that I experienced this.

My weight is ALWAYS going to be a struggle.  I've come to terms with this.  I do the best I can do and not beat myself up over a bad day, or two, or three.  I've done great consistently working out and feel good.  It's what I eat that needs to always be monitored.  It's too easy to fall into bad habits and it becomes a downward slippery slope very easily.

I've been trying to find a better balance and volunteer more.  I'm now part of a Jewish group called "Mitzvah Mavens".  I am enjoying this very much and the work we are doing is bringing the community together, while doing good.  It feels very fulfilling to be a part of this group. 

Jeff is still very much enjoying his job.  It's a great company to work for.  That's all I can say about that. :) 

This was the year we survived a child of ours having their first broken bone.  Samantha had a hairline fracture in her elbow.  It happened at school (during recess) while I was away in England, Jeff handled it brilliantly and Sam with her arm cast was seen as a bit of a novelty in her class.  She loved getting everyone to sign it.    This year we also survived Jeff having the flu.  Both equally impressive.

The year ahead in 2017:  

In 2017, One of the events I am most excited for is our trip to NYC at the end of June. I somehow worked a miracle and got us 4 tickets to see "Hamilton".  And we are planning to get tickets to "Kinky Boots" when they go on sale too.  Both soundtracks the kids can sing in their sleep.  Getting to see two shows on Broadway is a huge treat and I know these memories will last a lifetime with the kids. 

Jeff has the opportunity to take a very cool trip this year and visit Joseph (Dawn's husband) in England.  The two of them will travel to France and be in Normandy for the D-Day anniversary. How great is that?  Jeff never does anything for just himself, so I am very happy for him that he will do this trip.  I think it will be a fabulous adventure.

Get this, both kids are registered for sleepway camp for 4 weeks this summer. I am still in awe that Ian wants to go back.  Sam loved her 12 nights there in 2016 and couldn't wait for us to register her again.  We are still working out the financial part of it (OMG!!  It's ridiculously expensive!), but I am hopeful we can make it work.  I need to be SUPER hopeful because Jeff has different feelings on if we can swing it.   I do believe the kids doing sleepaway camp is a great for their growth and development. 

We still haven't done the recessed lighting in the house.  I will hope again that maybe in 2017 we can get it done.  Although, if we are trying to figure out how to pay for the kid's camp, I don't see the recessed lighting be a top priority.   Who knows?   We got a dog this year, so stranger things have occurred.

My personal resolution is going to have more patience.  I am not sure why but I am getting more frustrated when people don't move as fast as I do or want them too.  I need to remind myself it's not the end of the world if it takes a few more minutes to check out, move up in the gas line, or a million other things that has me waiting behind excruciatingly slow people.  I think I just need to take a deep breath and chill.

Another resolution is to weigh the same or less than I do right now.  If I can maintain this weight (or even keep losing) a year from now, I will be very happy I didn't slide backwards and kept the progress moving in the right direction.

My New Year's Wish:

If you are reading this, I wish for us to have more time to reflect, time to enjoy the quiet and time to relax in 2017.  I hope that we can be able to slow down the clock and enjoy our days.  And oh yeah, let's be kind to one another.   Love you!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The day Samantha met Santa

While we were in Orlando, mom and Jim took us to their favorite orange groove stand.  OMG!  These oranges are something else!!  So yummy!  This orange grove stand has an amazing business with not just produce, but a variety of other items too (special wines, honey, gift sets, etc).  In addition, there is a big farm where you can walk among chickens, roosters, cows, and pigs.  What a cool place to visit.

On the day we arrived there was a special VIP.  Santa Claus!  He was employed by the orange groove stand to greet the kids and do his Santa thing.  We just happened to arrive when there was no one around Santa.  Samantha made a beeline for him and started up a conversation:

Sam:  Are you a real Santa?

Santa:  I could be.

Sam:  If you are real, what are your reindeer's names?

Santa:  Blitzen, Rudolph, etc,...until he names them all.

Sam:  Where do you live?

Santa:  The North Pole

Sam:  Where is Mrs. Claus?

Santa:  Back at home getting the elves ready for Christmas

Sam: Is your beard real?

Santa: Try pulling on it.

Sam does.  It's a real beard!

This interrogation went on for 20 minutes!  Sam did not stop firing questions at Santa to see if he was real or not.  It was hilarious!  After she was convinced that this was the real deal, she sat on his lap and Santa asked his magical question:

Santa:  What would you like for Christmas?

Sam:  Not sure how to answer this one, Sam looked at me.  I told Santa we actually don't celebrate Christmas; we are Jewish and therefore, celebrate Hanukkah. 

Santa:  Great!  What would you like for Hanukkah?

We had the best conversation with Santa.  Turns out he is a super nice guy and has a dream to work for Macy's in NYC.  He wants to be the Santa in the parade and at the store.  He has four children, a new granddaughter and we learned all about them.  I think we must've chatted with this Santa for about an hour before a child approached him and wanted a turn.  

What a fun, spontaneous visit to the orange grove stand.  It was awesome!  And I love how social Sam became striking up a conversation with Santa Claus.  While she believes the Santa she met at the orange grove stand is real, she is still skeptical the Santa's at every mall she sees them in isn't.  :)

Sam thinking hard questions to ask Santa to see if he is real or not.

Sitting on Santa's lap after Sam's interrogation is over.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Monticello for the win!

What a gorgeous Fall day!
During Thanksgiving weekend, we had a fantastic outing!  We got a group together and spent the day in Monticello where Thomas Jefferson lived.  It was a 2 hour drive to Charlottesville.  With the way Waze brought us, we got very familiar with lots of back roads, but no traffic!

In total, we had 6 adults and 8 kids (ages 8 to 12 years old).   Our families have been close friends for the last 9 years; our kids have grown up together and have much in common.  All of us are obsessed with the music from "Hamilton".   Getting to see Thomas Jefferson's house and put into context what life was like back in the day of our Founding Fathers was a history lesson these kids were eager to learn.  There is nothing like bringing to life the songs we sing 'non-stop'.  :)

We got a tour guide named Carrie who was perfect for our group.   She was amazing in relating to our kids and didn't mind in the least, the endless amount of questions thrown her way.  I am not sure who was more excited, Carrie or our kids when it became apparent that our kids knew something about Thomas Jefferson's history because of "Hamilton" and paying attention at school.  At one point we were in one of Jefferson's rooms where he entertained guests and there were portraits up on the walls.  Carrie pointed to one painting and said, "Who's America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman?"  All the kids screamed excitedly in unison, "Lafayette!!!"   It was pretty funny and brought smiles all around our group, even those who were in our tour but not part of the 3 families.  There was another moment when she mentioned something in conversation about the use of guns and ships.  Our kids picked up on the reference and the next thing you know, all the kids, including Carrie were singing the song "Guns and Ships" from the Hamilton soundtrack.   

When the tour was over, a couple who had no kids came over to me and said, "Thank you being a part of our day.  Your kids made it so much fun for us. It was neat to see how into the tour they were."   Wow!  I, of course, replied thanks, but had to tell them we usually get the stink eye when the all the kids are together.  It was nice to actually hear a compliment.  

The kids were perfectly behaved and hung on every word Carrie had to say.  It was a great day spent and an educational one at that too!

Love this group of kids. A lot of energy and enthusiasm when these kiddos get together.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Back in TV land

We did it!  My Toppall team and I went approximately 3 weeks without our big downstairs television.  This is the main TV we all use.  We were successful in waiting for Thanksgiving sales and got an awesome television from the Big Screen Store.  We didn't go super huge either.  Our original set was 42 inches and the new one we bought was 49 inches.  It's a 4k curved Samsung.  I am still not used to the picture.  It just seems too vibrant.  I guess that's a good problem to have.

The technology has come so far in the last 12 years.  I know it didn't make sense to get a new television before the one we had broke, but it is certainly nice to have all the new features and better picture quality.  It's funny to compare the price from what we paid 12 years.  The new television we bought was a 1/3 of the price of what we paid in 2005. And it's a bit bigger too.  Additionally, we have all the smart features, including voice activation.  Jeff is even able to connect bluetooth wireless headphones to the tv for when he is on the treadmill.   Yippee!!

Love!  That's our fake brick on the lower right hand corner of the tv hiding the cables.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Oh, how far we've come!

I remember a time when I'd take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese and would look at the moms who sat at a nearby table and have a leisurely conversation while their kids played.  This was not me.  This was never me.   There is no way my kids didn't need me to help them at Chuck E. Cheese.  Hanging out at the table and telling them to go play on their own wouldn't have gotten very far.

On the busiest shopping day of the year (Black Friday!), I took 5 kids to Dave & Busters, located at the Springfield Mall and discovered what this feels like.  Yes, I did.  Only I didn't have another mom to chat with, I was on my own.  I brought my kindle in the hopes that I could be at a table nearby while the kids played, and to my delight, my dream came true.  Wow!  What an amazing feeling it was.

The best part about Dave & Buster's on Black Friday?  It was empty!  I was shocked how few people were inside.  We got a table for lunch instantly, ordered our food, and I told the kids to go play 3 games and come back to the table to see if the food had arrived. The food got delivered about 30 seconds before they got back.  Perfect timing!  After eating lunch, I stayed at the table to pay the bill and the kids continued playing.  They'd come back every 4 games or so to let me know they were ok.  We were at Dave & Buster's for close to 3 hours!  I asked the waitress if she needed the table back.  She said "Look around, we are empty.  Take your time and enjoy."  It was nirvana!  I couldn't believe how awesome this playdate turned out for all of us!

And the 3 extra kids I had with me?  They are besties with my 2 kids and get along fabulously.  It was my pleasure to take 3 extra kids and let my friend stay home and paint her bathroom. Win-win!

Friday, December 2, 2016

On your mark, get set, go!

I am ridiculously proud of Ian and Samantha.  Yes, I am their mom and should be proud.  I get that.  But I am very proud of them for a specific reason too.  Ian and Samantha wanted to participate in their school's running program.  Ian did "Boys on the trail" and Sam did "Girls run for fun".   Both programs met at school 2x during the week and got them ready to run a 5k (3.1 miles).  Additionally, Ian also did another running program through a local sports organization in our county and was in training in both programs for most of the same weeks. Yowzer!

The big ending to the season was a 5k around our local high school and surrounding neighborhood.  Let me tell you, it is not a flat course. Rolling hills define this 5k, it's a toughie.  Ian and Sam did it!  It was a cold, blustery morning, but they layered up and ran like the wind.  Go Ian!  Go Sam!

Ian and Sam have requested to keep going and register in March for the Spring running program. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In a nutshell.

What does it mean to be a mother?  I can tell you in one quick story!  It's a classic example of what it means to put someone ahead of you.  Even if that person is not grateful and doesn't appreciate what your doing for them. But you love them so much, so unconditionally, and even though they don't take your words of wisdom, you still want what's best for them.  Yes siree, that's it!

One very chilly morning recently the kids and I were putting on our coats for the walk to school. 

I said to Sam, "It might be a good idea to put on gloves.  It's very cold out."

Sam: "No, I don't want to.  My hands are fine.  I can put my hands in my pockets."

Me: "Ok, it's up to you.  But I'm telling you, its very cold out. You can always just put a pair of gloves in your pockets in case you want them later."

Sam: "No!"

As we make our way to the school, Sam takes a look at the gloves on my hands and asks to try them on.  Sure, you can try them on.  Um, hello!  I knew her hands would be cold! 

Next thing you know, Sam is now wearing my gloves and has no plans to give them back.  Of course I am going to let Sam take my gloves.  I mean, how could I wear them and know that her hands were cold??

My big mistake was not bringing a back-up pair FOR ME! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Halloween; happy and heartening

Gosh, let's just go for a full 30 days later on this blog being written, shall we?  I've become so much more relaxed about writing.  It's crazy.  To be honest, I am not sure I am liking this newfound quality all that much.   Each day I say I will get to it.  And another day goes by and another and another.  So this is what procrastination feels like, huh?

So much to say about Halloween and the different layers that factored into our evening.  It was a spontaneous mix of events that made the holiday complete for me.  It actually unfolded into a really exceptional evening.

This year despite me asking the kids (multiple times!) do you want go to the party store and get new costumes, they both said they'd be happy in their costumes they wore last year.  And oh yeah, these are the same costumes they wore the year before that.  These costumes were purchased on October 31, 2014, just moments before it got dark and trick or treating began.  They were bought from the CVS across the street and their Halloween merchandise was already marked down by 50%.  Score!  Talk about getting your money's worth.

Up until 2014, the kids for some reason weren't big on getting dressed up and going trick or treating.  Not sure why because Halloween is one of my most favorite holidays.  Hello! Going door to door and being given candy?  How much fun is that!?!?   For some unknown reason it all changed when the kids told me they wanted to go trick or treating about an hour before the sun set and we scrambled to get them costumes.  CVS to the rescue!

Ha!  You can see in the picture how short the sleeves are on the kids!
The day before, Sam got an invitation from a fellow classmate to join her in going around the neighborhood.  Given Sam's history with social anxiety and making friends, it was so awesome to hear that one of her friends wanted to go trick or treating with her.  I love this.

Ian and I crashed their group of girls and we had a great time!  The amount of candy the kids collected was insane! 

When we got home, our neighbor had her fire pit going and invited us to come hang out.  She made spiked and non-spiked hot chocolate.  It was a beautiful evening.  I wished it could've lasted for hours.

Bedtimes didn't matter on October 31st of this year.  :)   

Both costumes have since been thrown away.  Halloween costumes, especially the kind found at CVS, don't really have a long shelf life.  Wearing them for 3 years in a row is extending its lifespan by about 2 years.   I look forward to seeing what next year brings.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

It's all about the Apple Cinnamon Bread!

Chances are if you saw me during the week of October 17th, I gave you a loaf of Apple Cinnamon Bread.  We had lots of apples and I was eager to use them.  Ian and Sam always want me to make something yummy when we get home from strawberry picking, apple picking, any kind of fruit picking. 

I made an apple cinnamon bread and the family devoured it.  The loaf didn't last more than that first day.  The kids really wanted me to make another loaf so I did.  And then I made another, and another, another, and another and another.  11 loaves in total!  I made all 11 in 48 hours.  I was a baking machine!  I made a loaf for the preschool staff I work with, I made a loaf for my in-laws, a loaf for each of the 4 friends I went out to dinner with that week, a loaf for an upcoming girl's weekend, a loaf for each of two neighbors, and another two loaves for the family to eat.  I started to going to sleep at night thinking about baking and who else could I make a loaf for.  It was crazy and totally demonstrated how easily I can become obsessed with something and let it get out of control.  

What's left of the last loaf that I was able to take a picture of.

It feels good to be able to do something like this for the people I love.  I felt a little like Oprah when she was giving away the cars;  'You get a cinnamon apple bread, and you get a cinnamon apple bread and you get a....'  Stick a fork in me, I am done making Apple Cinnamon Bread for a while.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Apple Picking!

Marker-Miller Orchard in Winchester found us on a recent Sunday doing one of my most favorite Fall activities - Apple Picking!  

By the time we were able to coordinate schedules, planning this outing with one of our dearest family friends happened later in the season than we wanted.  But we managed to find an orchard that still had apples to pick and a date to go.  Bonus that it was on a Sunday and the dads could join us too.  Not only the dads, but Lucy came!  Yay for Lucy being welcomed at this Orchard.  It was very dog friendly and there were dogs everywhere!  Lucy was a rockstar and it makes me want to take her everywhere.  

I've been to quite a few orchards in the greater-DC area over the years and this had to be the biggest one yet.  There were 10 different apple varieties we could pick. It was huge! And even though we arrived at the tail end of apple picking season we still came home with 3 good size bags of apples.   What a great way to spend a few hours.  

Next year our plan is to go much earlier and during the week when the orchard isn't as crowded as it is during the weekend.   Apple picking is such a good old fashioned activity that gets us outdoors, breathing fresh air and doing something good for us.  This is one activity you can't outgrow.  Apple picking for the win!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fun with the family

The night before we were leaving Gatlinburg, Ian broke down and started crying.  He didn't want to leave Tennessee or the family.  He kept telling me that "it just felt right" being there.  He tried hard to convince his father and me to let him stay an extra day or two and fly back by himself later.  Dad and Rita had extended their time away and there was actually a bed and grandparents who would be sticking around if Ian was granted a chance to do what he wanted.  Given that just a day later Ian was missing school anyway for the Yom Kippur holiday it was very tempting.  But, we came as a family of 4 and we were leaving as a family of 4.  

Family is important to Ian and he couldn't get enough of being around all the relatives.  It was Ian's suggestion that we do one of those "Old Time" photos.  For anyone who hasn't been to Gatlinburg, the downtown area is filled with dozens of Old Time photo places.  There has got to be at least 20 of these type of places within a 6 block radius.  It's quite crazy, but I guess there is a high enough demand to warrant that many which can stay profitable.

After dinner one evening we decided to do the photo and the 11 of us walked in to a nearby shop.  I can't remember the last time I laughed this hard or this long.  It's definitely been way too long; I know that.  I hope I can paint a picture of what was happening, do it justice and give you a giggle or two.

The gentleman running the shop had the women follow him to the far wall of his store.  He took the men to another area nearby.  He was about to dress us and needed to hand the women in our group our dresses.  He is handing them out very, two, three, we are all holding dresses to put on.  We look at what we've been given and we are all shocked at how ugly these dresses are.  We ask the guy (pretty much all at the same time), "Can we please have a different dress?"  He responds instantly, "No, don't worry about these dresses.  You won't see the colors in the photo.  It's all black and white.  Just put them on."  So we put them on.  We are not happy.  These dresses are UGLY!  Rita's looked like she was wearing a red Victorian dress with tacky gold trim/tinsel and black lace all over it.  She looked like a walking Christmas tree.  Meanwhile, I refuse to keep going with the dress I was given and start flipping through the other dresses on the rack.  I find a dress I can live with and put it on.  Rita, Lori, Meghan and Samantha all follow-suit.  There are dresses everywhere!  We weren't stopping until we were happy with our selection.  Even Sam went through 3 dresses before finding one she liked.  The only one who was happy with their original dress was my niece Rachel who is almost 3 years old.  She couldn't believe "how pretty I look!".   

In the middle of the big dress shake-up, I realize the guys must be up to something because the shop owner who was helping the women had long given up on us and moved on.  I look over and see the guys getting dressed.   Actually, they are just standing there and having layers upon layers of clothing given to them to wear.  Not one of them is complaining or questioning what they are given.  No one is  speaking of any displeasure over what his clothing looks like.  They are the anti-women.  This is when I start laughing and can't stop.  Ben has a cowboy hat on and has started walking with a swagger.  Ian is putting on a holster.  Jeff is being given a vest and a scarf.  There is not one word coming from any of these guys.  

I only wish I had video to record the situation.  It was a true social commentary on how women and men are very, very different.  And it was hilarious!

Here's how the photo turned out:

Doing this photo made Ian very, very happy.  He loved getting to dress up and play the part.  A great time was had by all.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

10 years later

Gosh this blog is a bit overdue.  I've been meaning to write and have lots to say, but life is getting in the way.   And I am ok with that.  I've come far in the sense that I don't feel this enormous self-imposed pressure to stay up late and write.   By the time the end of the day comes, I am exhausted and falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  I've also become a bit obsessed lately making Apple Cinnamon Bread from the apples we picked at the orchard last week.  More on that later...but let's just say 11 loaves of bread don't cook themselves.  :)

About 2 weeks ago, we took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN for 5 days.  Jeff, the kids and I met up with Dad, Rita, Lori, Ben, Rachel, Meghan and Meghan's boyfriend Bradley.  The 11 of us coming together is pretty spectacular.  We don't do fancy, but boy do we have fun!    

We used to go to Gatlinburg each October.  Somehow through the years, the destination started changing and we've done cruises, Myrtle Beach, Cocoa Beach, and other locations instead.  In fact, we had a hard time remembering the last time we did Gatlinburg as a family.  Dad and Rita still go each year, but having us all be together is a different story.  It turns out Samantha wasn't even born yet.  Lori wasn't married yet; she just met Ben 2 months prior!  And Meghan was way too young to have a live-in boyfriend.  It was 10 years ago that Jeff, Ian and I last touched Tennessee soil.  And seeing as Ian was just a little over a year old, I am not sure how much his feet actually touched the ground.

October 2006

October 2016
Ten years later, our group has expanded and the laughter has gotten louder.  We are a crazy bunch, but ones who love each other deeply, with of course a little (or a lot?) of teasing thrown in too.  There is no one else I'd want to call 'family'.  XOXO!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Life with Lucy

Could we love Lucy anymore than we already do?  I am not sure!  She is fabulous.  And so wonderful to be around. 

I am so curious as to her background and called the SPCA in VA where she was before coming to the shelter we discovered her at.  All they could tell me was that she was a stray, picked up by a family and brought to them.  She was at the SPCA for 3 months and no one came looking for her.  It was there they spayed her, gave her all her shots and got her ready for the transfer to FOHA (Friends of Homeless Animals).  They took a guess at how old she is and thinks 2 years of age is as accurate as they are going to get.

Based on her lack of training (no idea how to walk on a leash, doesn't know any commands), I wonder if she was on her own for a long time.  And she has a cut on her ear that has since long healed, but it looks like she got into some kind of fight.  Poor thing.

I feel so good about our journey to rescue.  We saved her life.  And in turn, she is saving ours.  I love seeing the kids interact with Lucy.  They've been desperately wanting a dog (so have I!) and Lucy's presence has been almost magical.

Lucy sleeping with Ian.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Flu Shot Extravaganza 2016

This year's flu shot extravaganza had a twist and not a fun one!  It was advised the flu mist was ineffective this year and the actual needle with the vaccine was the only way to go.

There is not enough dessert in the world to make this ok with Samantha. It wasn't pretty and I wasn't sure that Andrea (the nurse practitioner) was going to keep attempting to stick Sam, but somehow she got the job done.  Sam is now vaccinated against the flu.  As Sam was screaming, she yelled, "I could scream louder."   Ha!  Gee, its so nice she showed some restraint.  Sam is 8 years old!  There is no screaming's over before you know it. 

Since our pediatrician's office did not have a flu clinic available during an evening we were available, my friend and I decided to take the kids to a Minute Clinic located inside a nearby Target.  We picked a location with a Red Robin just across the street and had a yummy dinner with lots of dessert ready to be ordered.  Because as we all know, a lot of chocolate, ice cream, milkshakes, and sugar help make the shot that much more manageable.

One sweet little bonus was the $5 target gift card each person who got the flu shot received.  Wow!  Who saw that coming?  Not only is insurance covering the cost of the flu shot, but we now have $15 (I got a flu shot too!) to spend at Target.  Woo-hoo!!

Ian just moments before getting called back for his shot.

It looks like we killed Sam!

And yet another twist to Flu Shot Extravaganza....we had a dinner guest crasher!  Jeff's office is 5 minutes away and he joined us at Red Robin for dinner.


I love how my friend and I have taken lemons and made lemonade in getting a flu shot. We've made it into an event and one we look forward to each Fall. 

Another Flu Shot Extravaganza is in the books! 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Introducing Lucy Toppall

I am delighted to announce we've added a new member to our family...Lucy.  Lucy is a very sweet  two year old Lab mix.  We brought her home last Friday from an animal rescue organization in Aldi, VA.  It feels like she has always been with us.  And after just 5 days, I can't imagine life without her.

Lucy is a rockstar. She is simply amazing.  I am not sure entirely sure what the past 2 years were like for Lucy as she has no training whatsoever.  She is terrible on the leash and doesn't even know what the word "sit" means.  It's truly sad that no one spent any time with her.  We are working to change all that.   Sometimes I see her give us a huge smile and I think she totally gets it that we were meant to be her family and she ours.   I really don't know who rescued who more. 

Sam thought she had taught Lucy how to play fetch, but upon closer inspection we discovered Lucy had Sam running after the ball each and every time.  Ha!  We then had to teach Lucy AND Sam what to do.  Lucy does a pretty good job now going after the ball and bringing it back. 

She loves to snuggle.  Which is a good thing, because we love to snuggle with her.  And she has the cutest little snore when she falls asleep.  The kids are loving it that she wants to sleep in their bed at night.  This is a brand new thing to fight over...who gets Lucy in their bed?  We've been alternating nights. 

I'd say Lucy has me wrapped around her finger pretty tightly.  I am so ridiculously in love with her.  So is Sam and Ian.  And between me and you, I do believe Lucy is growing on Jeff.  She is a pretty fantastic match for our family.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Electronics no-no

The family and I went to dinner one day last week at Jason's Deli.  We are big fans of this place -- good food, nice variety on the menu, free soft serve ice cream, and an awesome salad bar.  Jeff loves the restaurant because it doesn't require a tip.  I especially love the place because they even have gluten free bread for their sandwiches!  If pressed for an answer, this would be our family's most favorite casual fast food place to eat.

Sitting across from us was a dad, mom and three young kids.  I'd say the ages of the kids ranged from 4 or 5 years old, 3 years old and 18 mos to 2 years old.  I could be way off on the ages, but I know for sure there were 3 kids and they were all young.

While we were there, the ENTIRE time the dad at this table was on his cell phone.  He didn't put it down for even one minute.  He ate and surfed on his phone without stopping. Non-stop.  I had a clear view of what he was doing and all of it was stupid stuff like football scores, Facebook, news.  I'm just saying none of it was life and death type searches.

Before I continue on my soapbox about my feelings on this, I want to say the following:  I have absolutely no idea what this guy is going through.  For all I know, he was with his kids for the past 12 hours and gave them his undivided attention while his wife was out having fun.  For all I know, he had a seriously bad day and this was his only way to decompress.  Who knows why he was motivated to be on his phone the entire time they were eating dinner?

However, I can't help but take the situation at face value and judge based on appearances alone. Here's what I couldn't stop thinking about watching this family for over 40 minutes.

When did this kind of behavior become acceptable?  What is wrong with our society that you can be sitting at a table with other human beings and completely ignore them?   And the thing that really makes my blood boil -- what kind of message does this send to his kids?   Kids watch our every move and this is really the behavior you want them to emulate?  Really???   His wife and kids literally did not engage with him in conversation at all.  Ugh.

Jeff and I are far from perfect as parents, but there are a few things we try hard to do that makes us feel good about the job we are doing.  99.5% of the time we eat dinner as a family every night. And during that time we talk with each other.  We find out how our day was; the good, the bad, the ugly.  We chat about upcoming events and what will be happening the next day.  We have a family box of questions we use to get other kinds of conversations started.   It's our time to unplug from electronics and really communicate.  I should mention, this is the ONLY time we unplug from electronics in our day, so its a pretty big deal that we do not allow cell phones, iPads or even the tv on while we eat dinner.

I find it very sad when I see a parent completely ignore his family while having dinner.  I only hope he looks up from time and time to witness his kids growing up and gets a clue.

THIS is what I'm talking about!!  OMG!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When it's the most quiet

I came home one evening and Jeff had already put the kids down to bed.  In these instances, I always go to each of their rooms, quietly open the door and give them a kiss on their cheek goodnight.  There is something so peaceful and calming seeing your kids sleep.  Back when they were much younger, I would take pictures of them sleeping and freeze this moment in time.

On this particular evening I took notice at just how different the kids sleep at night.  It was quite amusing.

Samantha likes to be snuggled and surrounded by her stuffed animals.  Ian, from what it appears, does not like anything touching him, including his pajama shirt which I found on the floor next to his bed.

It's been awhile since I took a photo or two of them sleeping.....

Maybe this makes me a crazy person for taking photos of my kids when they are sleeping.  Then so be it.  Call me crazy.  It's just that the years go by so quickly and our days become a blur.  I love all the photos I take and enjoy looking back.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Duck Donuts Deliciousness

We have discovered Duck Donuts and all its deliciousness. Some people might even remark with "finally!" when you hear all the hoopla surrounding this place.   

What a deprived life my kids have been leading up until now.

It all started when Ian won a certificate for a free 1/2 dozen donuts at one of the Potomac Nationals games.  We looked up the closest Duck Donuts (only an 8 minute drive away!) and went on a recent Friday night after dinner.  We really had no idea what to expect when walking through the doors.  Wow!  It was like taking Dunkin Donuts to a whole new level!  You get to customize the donut to just your liking.  And get this, they make it hot and fresh while you wait.  Wowee!

Sam and Ian each designed 3 donuts.  You start with a coating, then a topping and can finish with a drizzle.  IF I didn't have celiac disease can could eat one of these, this is what my donut would look like:  peanut butter icing, topped with chocolate, and finished with a salted caramel drizzle.  Now, if I had the chance to get two, I'd also do a vanilla frosting topped with oreos and drizzled with hot fudge.  Ha!  Good thing I have this important decision figured out.

Sam's preferences all had to do with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. One of her donuts even had crushed oreos as a toppping.  Ian mixed it up a bit and did a cinnamon sugar coating with a lemon drizzle for one of his, and then did two variations of vanilla or chocolate frosting with different kinds of drizzles.

So we leave Duck Donuts and both kids are determined to not eat their donuts until the next morning.  We actually told the kids we'd stop at Cold Stone on the way home knowing they were saving their donuts for the next day.  However, we didn't make it in the car more than 30 seconds and Sam couldn't help herself.  To watch Sam eat her donut was an event.  The girl knows how to get the maximum enjoyment from every bite.

Meanwhile, I look over at Ian and he has decided to eat one of his donuts.  Only he is doing it very stealthy-like and we shouldn't know about it.  Maybe he thought when he got home he could officially eat another one if we didn't see him eat this one?  I don't know.  As much as I don't like math, seeing 3 donuts from his box go down to 1 is easy to figure out that he must've eaten 2.  :)

We never did make it to Cold Stone that evening.


I love this photo!   Jeff and Ian enjoying one of Sam's donuts she graciously let them have.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Girls with their dolls - Take 6

My friends and I have a plan!  We now know what we will do once our daughters have gotten older and no longer be available to go to the American Girl Store Restaurant for our annual back-to-school lunch.   We will go anyway!  We will take our daughter's dolls and show up at the restaurant ready to celebrate -- most likely it will be celebrating our friendship and not back-to-school, but it will occur at the American Girl Store nonetheless.  

We love this time of the going back to school, getting our routines in place, starting new activities, continuing some of our favorites and having a delicious, frilly, completely girly lunch at the American Girl Store.  We have a formula that works. This is our 6th year and we don't plan to stop.  It's simply awesome.  

It was getting pretty wild today at our table!  Even the dolls were drinking!

3 moms, 5 girls, 5 dolls = 1 fantastic group!

This picture of the girls looks like it should be in their catalog!