Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Holy Moly! Ian's 11!

Ian has shown an unbelievable talent for writing this year.  He has taken his free time and used it to write short stories, not for any assignment at school, but for his own pleasure.  These stories are amazing.  It's very exciting to see talent emerge.   Funny enough, when I spoke with his teacher about his writing and enrolling him in a creative writing class, his teacher recommended a drama class as well.  Apparently, Ian is quite a 'ham' in class and would do well in acting.

Ian had a phenomenal year at school, largely due to his teacher.  It's amazing the influence (good or bad) the teacher can have.  We are so grateful that his teacher this year brought back Ian's love for learning.  

Flag football is his sport of choice, but Ian has been campaigning hard to let him play tackle football next year.  It's a tough line between letting him make his own informed decision and saying "Absolutely no!  I will not let other players run into you on purpose and hurt you."   We've had many discussions about this, and Ian understands why we aren't letting him play tackle, but its still hard to say no to our son.  Ian has now expressed interest in trying Track.  Seeing how fast Ian can run, I think this might be a good fit. 

One of the coolest things that really took off this past year was going to the movies.  Ian enjoys being my date for all those PG and PG-13 movies I love to see (think:  My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Joy) and Jeff takes Ian to all the Superhero/Marvel/Avenger movies.  It's the perfect fit and we are nicely building Ian's interest in pop culture.

Xbox playing and reading is still top of Ian's list on how to spend his free time. His interest in books has now leaned towards topics of time traveling and science fiction.

I can honestly call my son a 'foodie'.  He loves to try new dishes and has become a very adventurous eater.  It's fun to listen to his thought process when he looks at a restaurant menu for the first time and hear all the different things he is interested in.  He is done with the kids menu for good!

Ian transitioned from playing the violin last year to the saxophone this year.  Upon those first few months, Ian playing the saxophone sounded really, really bad.  It was hard to hear him try to hit those notes.  But with a few months of practice (and he makes sure to practice all the time!), he sounds lovely.  Really, truly great.  We love listening to Ian play (including his sister sometimes).  Ian has expressed interest in continuing with the saxophone next year.

Ian is very funny and sometimes we look at each other and just roll our eyes on something that is going down inside our house.  His quick comeback lines and witty observations keeps me laughing.

I love how Ian looks out for his little sister and tries his best to minimize her meltdowns.  He is going to make a great husband one day.  :)

1st day of 5th grade!

Braces came and went during this year.

Happy 11th birthday to my brilliant, funny, energetic, creative son.  We love you so much and wish you a year filled with awesome adventures, amazing moments of wonder, and lots of reasons to giggle.

Friday, May 27, 2016


I can tell you exactly the moment Ian became hipper than me.  It was at 4:35pm on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. 

We were chatting about school and I asked him a question.  Ian used "IDK" as a reply. 

Yep, there ya go.  The scales for "hipness" just tipped in Ian's favor. 

Fortunately I recovered quickly and kept the conversation moving along.  All the while I'm thinking, dear G-d, I was able to navigate this without looking foolish questioning what it meant, but what will happen the next time?????

**For those who are wondering what 'IDK' stands for, it is I don't know.   Now, I'm not saying I don't know what it stands for, I am saying that it is "I don't know."   :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A tale of two casts

Thursday, 8:45pm at a restaurant in Portugal, my cell phone rings:

Me:  Hello?

Jeff (3:45pm, Burke, Va):  We're at urgent care.  Sam fell.  Off the monkey bars.  She hurt her elbow.

Me, thinking to myself, couldn't you have led with "Sam's ok, but hurt her elbow falling off the monkey bars." ?   Seriously, in the 2 second pause between each sentence, I envisioned the worse and already had myself on a plane flying back to be by her side.  Once I was able to breathe again;  

Me:  Is it broken?

Jeff:  No, I don't think so.  I got a call to get her early from school and get an xray.  We're waiting now at urgent care for the xray.

Me:  Ok, call me when you find out anything.

And with that, Sam ended up in a sling with her arm wrapped until we could get her into a specialist.  Jeff made the appointment for that coming Monday and took her to see an orthopedist.   The doctor wanted a different view of her elbow than what urgent care x-rayed and redid the pictures.  It was a very minor break (contusion) and a cast was recommended to protect her elbow from any additional damage while it was healing.  Sam picked the color purple for her cast.  She was all smiles during the visit.

We set a record for this orthopedic office in needing a new cast.  Within 24 hours we were back and asking for the purple one to be removed and a new one put on.  And it wasn't because Sam wanted to match her outfit that day.  (Although, I could totally see this happening).  It was because I messed up!  I thought we had a good system for helping Sam bathe and keeping her cast dry, but it was a disaster.  Sam was miserable with the inside of her cast being wet.   This time Sam went with the color pink.

One week later, at 7:50am on Tuesday morning, the cast came off and a new set of x-rays were done.  Sam's elbow had healed and she was good to go.  She was even given the green light to return to gymnastics that evening.  And Sam made it to school on time!  Wow.  How fortunate this whole ordeal lasted less than 2 weeks.  We now have Sam's cast a souvenir. 

Sam was a big hit in her class.  Being the first kid in her class to have a cast on, everyone wanted to sign it and ask her what it was like to wear one. 

Look, no more cast!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Eight is great! That's Samantha!

Sam started something new this year.  She writes song lyrics.  She has different melodies she will put with it, but the wording is brilliant.  Pure poetry.  It's a great outlet for her to express herself.  A few years ago, I had major concerns that Sam couldn't rhyme.  I'd say, give me a rhyme for the word "dog" and she'd say, "cat".  Yes, it was that bad.  Most of her lyrics have these amazing rhymes.  It is truly magical to see how far she has come.  One of my most favorite lines she has written is: "If I'm not a star, your blind."  Wow!  I am guessing self-esteem is not an issue for her.

Socially speaking Sam has come so far and I believe she is where she should be developmentally.  I could not be more pleased with her progress this past year.  In fact, one thing that has completely surprised us is her desire to want to do 12 nights at sleepaway camp this August.  Part of me thinks this is part of her ploy to be done with us as parents.  I think she loves the idea of being on her own and this is the first step in making that dream a reality.

Sam has continued with gymnastics throughout this year and recently made it to a new level.  I am so proud of her determination.  It was an exciting moment when she gave me the paper saying she had moved up.   Samantha recently also started taking an art class for drawing and watercolor painting.  I'm happy to report that in both situations, she is ok not knowing anyone in the class when I signed her up.  That's how far Sam's come in being comfortable around kids her age she doesn't know.

Every day after school this year when we didn't have to rush off to the next activity, Sam ran to the playground to play.  This is a HUGE step from last year when she didn't want to be seen at all outside of school.  She'll now say hi to her fellow classmates and interact.  

I sometimes forget how young Sam is.  She is quick to question something when she thinks it is not fair, she is quick to help out in cleaning the house, and she is quick to put Ian in his place if he does something she didn't like.  Samantha's personality is still feisty and spirited with a side of demanding.  The temper tantrums have lessened this year, but they are very much still there. Quite evident when it comes to Sam getting dressed in the morning.  Oy!  I fear for the teen years.

First day of 2nd grade!

Samantha loves to listen to music (Radio Disney on Sirius XM is her thing) and sing along. However, she is the only one allowed to sing. Heaven forbid Ian starts to sing too. 

I look at Sam from time to time and am blown away by how beautiful she is.  Maybe I am biased?  I don't know.  Sam definitely marches to the beat of her own drum.  You can tell she has all these ideas and is just getting ready to take over.  We have these days where she is amazing and caring and so completely wonderful.  She'll be helpful and want to hug/cuddle and be around us.  Then there are days where she is perfectly content spending time in her room alone for hours on end.  This past year, I've come to accept her need for downtime. 

Happy birthday to my spunky, spirited, sweet Samantha.  We wish for you a very happy birthday and a magical 8th year filled with exciting days, inspiring thoughts and many reasons to smile.   May all your wishes come true without driving your mom and dad too crazy.  We love you so much!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Two more stamps in the passport

I feel like among my many accomplishments in life (being Bat-Mitzvahed, graduating college, getting and staying married, having two children, running a marathon), taking this recent trip to England and Portugal with my girlfriends ranks right up there.  Even though I had a countdown app from 150 days out, planned every little detail in advance and spent 10 fantastic days on the trip, I am still in awe that this event even occurred.   I believe I outdid even myself in taking a vision and making it a reality.

It was a magical 10 days spent with friends, exploring new countries, and having wonderful adventures.  We must've laughed non-stop for 10 days. I truly believe laughter is chicken soup for the soul and does wonders for your mental being.

I could not have asked for better traveling companions.  I met these women when our sons started preschool 8 years ago.  We bonded and stayed close over the years despite everyone going to different elementary schools.  Our boys are good friends and the girls born a few years later inherited instant best friends.  There is a saying in Judiasm, "Beshet", meaning it was meant to be. That's the kind of friends these women and their husbands and kids are.

 After 10 days of being with each other 24/7, we were not tired of each other.  We meshed well when traveling and found humor in most everything.  From proving the rental car guy wrong in Portugal that yes, we can fit in the size of a Prius with all of our humongous suitcases, to walking around Covent Garden in circles looking for a place to do tea, to attempting to check into the wrong hotel at 11:30pm at the end of a very long day, there was nothing that could dampen our spirits and not have us treasure each moment of the journey.  Even getting my legs and feet covered in Stinging Nettle (crazy!!!) made me be in the moment and appreciate the opportunity I was taking a part in.

And we had adventures!  Many wonderful moments from speeding down the Thames river at 35 mph feeling like we might tip over, to seeing the play "Kinky Boots" and sticking around after the show to meet the cast.  Imagine our delight when all the performers turned out to be really nice and stayed to chat with us.  We held our breath while Susanne expertly navigated the windy, steep, crazy roads in Portugal.  We all tried something new by taking a big leap of faith at the Spa in Lisbon and immersing ourselves in the Float thingy capsule in complete darkness and silence.  We were in awe of the performers doing acrobatics right in front of our eyes while we ate dinner at Circus in London. We managed to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace just as it was beginning, standing in the exact place where all the action happens.  Serendipitously, we participated in a live radio show for a Portuguese Fado station and we crashed a cocktail party for an art gallery, complete with meeting the artist.  Cambridge, Cotswold, London (in England) and Lisbon, Sintra, Costa da Caparica (in Portugal) were among our destinations, absorbing the environment and taking it all in.  

Azenhas do Mar in Portugal

In Cambridge.  I absolutely love this photo.
We made the most of each day and would summarize the final minutes before sleep with "Our husbands and kids would've hated today."   It's true, this trip was not to please everyone, just us.  And boy, did we have amazing weather in England.  Everyone kept saying the warmth (high 70's and sunny!) was not typical for London.  It made the experience all the better.

We now have the travel bug big-time!  It was all we could do to not start planning our next adventure.  We hope to return to Europe in two years and take the boys to Spain and Greece.   And of course, if the boys get a trip, then the girls deserve one too a few years after that.  Oh what fun to think of the possibilities that lie ahead. 

None of this would've been possible without my husband.  If Jeff wasn't as great of a father or one of my biggest cheerleaders, I couldn't have gone and enjoyed myself as much as I did.  He not only held down the fort and kept things moving along smoothly, but he did it with gusto and his usual sense of humor. 

I'm sure these sheep are laughing at me as I am fully covered in Stinging Nettle taking this photo.

PLENTY of room in the rental car!  Ha!!  We refused to go back and tell the guy he was right.  :)

Palacia de Pena in Sintra

Time for tea!

Susanne and Robyn navigating the Underground from Notting Hill to Charing Cross -- victory!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pretty shade of green

For the 11 years we have lived at our house, our front lawn has been the bane of our existence.  Everything we've tried to do to get the lawn green and lush looking has been a disaster.  It just couldn't be done by us.  Until now! 

I can't stop looking at our lawn and smiling.  Seriously, this is the best it has ever looked under our care.  It helped that last year we had two trees taken down that was blocking all the sunlight.  Plus, I think Jeff has been following a website on what lawn care stuff he should be putting down during various times of the year.

Our neighbor across our pipestem saw me admiring the lawn the other day and said to me, "Jeff found his green thumb, huh?"  I replied back with, "Yes, both of them!  It took two green thumbs to make this much of a comeback."

The lawn still needs some work; there a few patches that still need to get filled in, and there are various shades of green in the different colors of grass.  For the most part, I am thrilled. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Have passport, will travel

So if you are reading this, then it means I successfully made it on my trip.  I AM IN ENGLAND!!!  Oh my gawd, I can't believe I even just typed that line.  I am currently taking "Girl's weekend" to new heights! 

For 10 days, my two girlfriends and I are crossing over the pond to visit our friend Dawn, whose family relocated to England for 3 years.  Dawn is the one I traveled to Israel with 2 years ago.  This trip has been in the works for so many months.  I never thought the day would finally come. 

We are spending 4 nights in London, 1 night with Dawn in her home (she lives about 45 minutes from London) and 4 nights in Portugal.  Why Portugal?  Because when you've traveled that far, we figured we should throw in another country to visit.  And none of us has been to Portugal before (including Dawn who is joining us for this part of the trip too).

We have some amazing plans and reservations booked. 

Highlights include:
-Tickets to see the Broadway show "Kinky Boots"
-Speed boat adventure sightseeing cruise (think 50 mph!) down the Thames.  They give you full rainwear and goggles to protect you from getting soaked.  
-High tea at Fortnum and Mason,
-Reservations to eat at this restaurant called "Circus" where they do acrobatic acts all around you from the ceiling.  Freaky, right? 

Plus, we are doing Cambridge, Cotsworld, and all the usual sights in London (Westminster Abbey, Changing of the Guard, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, etc).  

In Portugal, we are spending a day at the spa.  Dawn helped make our reservations.  It's going to be quite interesting to see what we end up with as there were some major communication issues.

Dawn: I see on your website that you have a package for two people.  Can we get a package for 4 people?
Lady at the spa:  Oh honey, if you want romance for 4, you need to take that to a hotel.  We only do romance package for 2 here.

hahahahaha!  Once Dawn stopped laughing, she explained that romance wasn't something we were looking for, but to book us for other things.  There has been talk that we are signed up for 4 handed massages.  Oh my!  I am little freaked out at the thought of having to relax while trying to keep track of so many hands touching me at the same time.  

I still can't believe I was able to make this trip happen.  And I am equally in shock that my fellow mommy friends, Susanne and Anna are coming too.  This trip is going to EPIC! I don't normally get to live such a glamorous life.  I already have a feeling it will be hard to go back to my normal routine once we return.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

General Admission

Just a random post on a pet peeve:

Are there two worst words in the English language than "General Admission"?  Other than "Your Fired", I can't think of any.

Every time I see written on a ticket, "General Admission", my anxiety skyrockets.  Why, oh why do they have to do this to me?   I am very happy to pay more money for a guaranteed seat than elbowing my way thru a crowd when everyone gets to go in at the same time when the doors open.  I actually get nauseous at the thought of attending an event where I don't have an assigned seat.  It's the worst!

There have been too many occasions in recent years where I've bought tickets to events and had to sweat it out, hoping we could get good seats that would allow the kids to see and enjoy the performance.  Or, when there is a school event and you have to go hours beforehand to get a good seat to see your child perform.  It's exhausting and frustrating.

One of the best things to come of movie theatres and their renovations to the reclining chairs is reserved seating.  In my opinion it is well worth the extra $1.50 a ticket service fee to get a seat days in advance and know you are taken care of.  Furthermore, you can go to dinner or lunch beforehand and get to your movie theatre seat just moments before it is scheduled to begin.   Yay for reserved seating!

It would be great to start a movement to ban anything that has general admission seating.  But I have a feeling that it doesn't bother anyone else like it does me.  Or, maybe it does bother all Type A people?   Hmmm, I will have to take a poll and find out.

Ok, rambling post is now officially over.  Back to your regularly scheduled day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Saying farewell

It's the end of an era.  Gymbo, Ian's lovey that he's had since he was 12 months old, has passed on to greener pastures.  There is just no coming back from the latest hole in his leg.

He was a good fellow and provided lots of comfort, security and love to Ian during the last decade.

Ian wasn't as sad as I thought he'd be.  I guess this is a sign he is growing up and ready to sleep without him.  We have back-up Gymbos ready to step in, but this was Ian's main pal.  If this one can't continue on, Ian doesn't want the others too either.

Gymbo has traveled with us all over.  We can forget to pack the toothbrush, we can forget to pack the underwear, but you forget Gymbo and you go back to get him.  That's how important he was to Ian, to us. Gymbo was family.  Knowing Ian had Gymbo at sleepaway camp 2 years ago made me happy.  He may not have known anyone, but he had Gymbo and I knew he would be ok.

RIP Gymbo.  We thank you for your years of service and doing the best job you could do being there for Ian each night.  We hope you know how much you were loved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Billy Goat Trail -

Here's a post that will shine a light on a side of Jeff very few knows exists...the outdoorsy side.  Really, I am not making this up. 

On Friday, April 22nd, the kids had the day off from school and I had off from my various part-time jobs.  Jeff took the day off from work so we could all spend it together.   We were brainstorming things to do and Jeff suggested we do the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls.  Here is a description of what the 7.8 mile long Billy Goat Trail is:  "The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most well known hikes in the Metro D.C. area, and for good reason. With nearly a mile of fun rock-hopping, and spectacular views of the Potomac River along the way, this circuit is loads of fun with plenty to see. We have the circuit rated as only a for difficulty, but be prepared to jump from rock to rock."  

Please understand Jeff has never done the Billy Goat Trail.  He barely does the milder trails of Great Falls.  And its always a struggle to get him to want to participate in those.  But I think over the years he's seen me regularly hike it and wants to know what all the fuss is about.  Plus, there was a time in the recent past when I had made plans to take the kids on my own, but we woke up and it was raining that day.  Yes, Jeff definitely wanted to see what I will inevitably subject the kids too.

There is a  website that breaks down the trail and describes what to expect.
  • Mile 0.0 – From the parking area at Great Falls Park follow the path past the Great Falls Tavern and Visitors Center, cross over to the C&O Canal at Lock 19, then follow the C&O canal down to the entrance for the Billy Goat A Trail 50 yards before the covered Stop Gate.
  • Mile 0.9 - Turn right onto the Billy Goat A Trail where shortly it starts paralleling the Potomac River. The Potomac River is approximately 50ft below at this point. From here the trail becomes more of a rock-hop then arrives at Trail Marker 1.
  • Mile 1.4 - Trail Marker 1 is the point where the rock-hopping becomes more intense. There is a National Park sign warning hikers that 'Many hikers are injured every year on this section of the Billy Goat A Trail' so be prepared for a little more scrabbling. Between Markers 1 and 2 you also need to climb the 50ft traverse mentioned on the Trail Marker 1 sign. Although this might look slightly intimidating to some people, once on the traverse it's not that difficult.
  • Mile 1.9 - From Trail Marker 2 the scrambling diminishes, and the trail descends to the river bank where there is a nice beach area. DO NOT be tempted to wade into the water as the currents are deceptively strong, and you can be quickly washed down stream. Continue along the trail passing a wetland, small pond, then crossing a small log bridge. On the opposite side of the log bridge is Trail Marker 3.
  • Mile 2.2 - From Trail Marker 3 there is one more spectacular panorama of the Potomac River before the trail becomes more gentle passing by Sherwin Island and arriving back at the C&O Canal.
  • Mile 2.5 - Turn right on the C&O Canal following it for 0.6 miles to the entrance of the Billy Goat B Trail.
  • Mile 2.8 - Turn right on the Billy Boat B Trail. The trail is considerably more leisurely than the Billy Goat A Trail, with only a small section of rock-hopping where the trail passes Hermit Island. Where the Potomac River passes Hermit Island is a favorite spot for Paddle Boarders surfing the river wakes. Continue on the trail passing the Marsden Tract Campground, then arrive back at the C&O Canal.
  • Mile 4.4 - Now turn left on the C&O Canal heading back towards Great Falls. In 1.1 miles reach the Anglers Parking Area bridge over the C&O Canal.
  • Mile 5.5 - Cross the Anglers parking area bridge and ascend the wooden steps to the Berma Rd Trail. Turn left on the Berma Rd Trail for 1.4 miles to the intersection of the white blazed Overlook Spur Trail.
  • Mile 6.9 - Turn right uphill on the Overlook Spur Trail for 120 yards to the intersection of the yellow blazed Overlook Trail. Turn Left on the Overlook Trail. You will pass a unmarked side trail to an overlook of Great Falls, then continue to the main overlook at a switchback on the trail. Continue now downhill to the Lock 19 Trail intersection.
  • Mile 7.5 - Turn left at the Lock 19 Trail and follow it back down to the main Great Falls Park area. Continue past the Great Falls Tavern and Visitors Center back to the parking area.
  • Mile 7.8 - Arrive back at the parking area.
My friends and I always do the first half, going in one entrance and coming out the 2nd, further entrance to make our way back to the car.   It averages to be about 4 miles, plus a little more than a mile added on for the walk from the car and back.  It's an awesome hike with series of challenging climbs on the rocks.  Once you are done, there is nothing like that feeling that you've gotten a great workout and had fun too!

Jeff suggested we go to the 1.4 mile marker and then turn around before it gets too treacherous.  The part leading up to the 1.4 mile marker was awesome.  The kids were loving it.  Jeff was doing a good job hiding his I'm-way-outside-my-comfort-zone,-but-I'm-going-to-hang-in-there-for-the-wife-and-kids-look.  And I had a smile on my face as wide as a mile thrilled we were taking advantage of being outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise. 

Of course, we had on us snacks, drinks and a first aid kit should something happen.  We could get stranded on the Billy Goat Trail for a week and we'd have enough to survive.

We made it to the point where Jeff had determined in advance would be a good spot to turn around.   But we were doing great on time and the kids were having a blast.  So we decided to go bit further and see how "treacherous" it could get.  10 minutes later, Jeff was done with a capital "D".  We turned around and made our way back to the car.   The kids definitely want to come back and do the whole thing.  Jeff has said it will be without him. 

It was a great morning, followed by lunch at Panera Bread. One last hurrah before Passover began that evening. We ended up hiking for about 1.5 hours.  This went better than I could've expected.   Sam was shocked that Jeff was the one who suggested our activity.  And all Ian kept saying was "Thank you for taking us."