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!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Revised schedule and Ice cream!

I love a good tradition.  And this is a GREAT one!  Every year on the first day of school, after dinner, we go for ice cream or frozen yogurt.  It makes going back to school just a little (or a lot!) bit sweeter!

This year found us at Sweet Frog.  Yum!

I jumped the gun too soon on posting our Fall schedule.  It has gotten a bit crazier, but I am so excited about the activities the kids are doing this year.

Our REVISED Fall schedule:

Kids are in school:  Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm.

Monday:   Biweekly Sam will be meeting with her therapist at 4:00pm.  Got to get her out of school 30 minutes early to make this appt.  Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday: Sam is doing "Girls Run for Fun", a school sponsored running group from 4:00pm to 5:00pm.  Both kids in religious school from 4:45pm to 6:30pm.  Yes, there is a bit of an overlap here, but because of all the Jewish holidays in the month of October and therefore, no religious school meeting, the kids will only be late to religious school 2 Tuesdays during the whole running program.  Yay!

Wednesday:  Ian doing Cross Country from 6:00pm to 7:15pm

Thursday:  From 8:00am to 9:00am Sam has her "Girls Run for Fun" before school starts.

Friday:  Free!

Saturday: Ian in a drama program from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Sam horseback riding at 2:00pm.

Sunday:  Ian doing Cross Country from 8:00am to 9:15am.  Both kids religious school from 9:00am to 12:00pm.  Yes, I realize there is a bit of an overlap.  :)

Bring it on!  We're ready to go, go, go! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Back to school!

So I am a little freaked out right now.  The kids have returned to school as of yesterday and Ian is in the 6th grade!  OMG!!!  When did that happen?   How is it possible that I am the mom to a 6th grader?

Seriously, I've kept 2 kids alive now (and hopefully thriving) for over 11 years.  It's crazy to think that Ian is in his last year of elementary school.  I am getting choked up just thinking about this being his final year at Fairview.  His elementary school is like a second home to him.  There are so many funny, crazy, angst-ridden memories of Ian from kindergarten all the way up to this year.

And Samantha is going into 3rd grade!   Yowzer!  The saying, "The days are long, but the years are fast." could not be truer.

Without further ado, here is our Fall schedule:

Kids are in school:  Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm.
Monday:   Free!
Tuesday: Both kids in religious school from 4:45pm to 6:30pm
Wednesday:  Ian doing Cross Country from 6:00pm to 7:15pm
Thursday:  Free!
Friday:  Free!
Saturday: Ian in a drama program from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Sam horseback riding at 2:00pm.
Sunday:  Ian doing Cross Country from 8:00am to 9:15am.  Both kids religious school from 9:00am to 12:00pm.  Yes, I realize there is a bit of an overlap.  :)

I am also hoping Sam will let me sign her up for "Girls on the run", a before school program offered at her school.  This is the first year she is eligible and I think she would do really well in it. 

Not too bad considering what other families I know plan for their kids.  Let the craziness of school, homework and activities begin!

First day of 3rd grade!

First day of 6th grade!

After I've said good-bye at the door to the school, I give it a few minutes and then sneak in to the school for one last 'at your desk photo'.   Ha!  I love doing this.  The kids of course, know to expect me.  :)
That's Sam's teacher in the photo with her. 

Best quote ever from Sam when I went to collect the kids from school after their first day:  "I think I'm going to like 3rd grade!"   Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!   It's going to be a GREAT year!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Another summer in the books

We are in the home stretch saying goodbye to summer.  During their time off from school, the kids didn't read any books, log in to the school sponsored math website Dreambox, nor did they practice any Hebrew.  And I'm ok with that!  Because they work hard the 180 days they are in school, the kids deserve a break.  And more importantly learning can happen in other ways.  Ian and Sam know about the Freedom Trail in Boston firsthand.  They walked it; ALL OF IT!, with stops along the way to learn about the important events that happened.  They know what the town of Plymouth looks like; where the Pilgrims came in the 1600s.  They got a first hand look at the Mayflower II ship. We even threw in a few museums & plantations for good measure -- National Baseball Hall of Fame, Berkshire Museum, Plymouth Grist Mill, Plymouth Plantation and the Norman Rockwell Museum.  They experienced whitewater rafting, a ropes course, and zip lining for the first time!  Sam even went on her first horseback ride.  Many incredible moments that can't be taught in a classroom or reading a book.

Ian and Sam got a chance to be kids.  They had a wonderful summer full of weeks that offered a chance to spend quality time with family (Gramps Camp with Jeff's parents, Orlando with my family, OCNJ with their cousins), plus many other incredible landscapes.  I loved these amazing 10 weeks we were able to offer the kids.

Here is my list of highlights from Summer 2016:

*This will be known as the Summer of Broadway.  Ian and I became OBSESSED with the soundtrack to "Hamilton" and listened to it non-stop in all of our many road trips and hours spent in the car.  Once Jeff and Sam got tired of listening (hard to believe it happened, but it did), we moved to all the other favorite Broadway musicals:  Kinky Boots, Rent, Annie, Chicago, A Chorus Line, Fiddler on the Roof,  If/Then, Les Miserables, and Beautiful.  Ian and Sam are very well versed in my favorite musical genre.  Many, many miles sailed by as the kids and I belted out showtunes. 

*This will also be known as the Summer of baseball.  Between a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame (a dream of Jeff's since Ian was born), their first game at Fenway Park, and a big outing to see the Washington Nationals play (in 107 degree heat!) with a few of Ian's buddies for his birthday, plus a few minor league games (Pittsfield Minors in MA, Potomac Nationals in VA), it was a lot of baseball!  Ian ended up with quite a few baseball themed t-shirts and wears one pretty much each day from his travels.

*Sam's first time at sleepaway camp.  OMG!  My girl did it!  12 days at Camp Ramah in Palmer, MA.  I am still in awe that this was her idea to go.  She had a wonderful time and wants to go back next year.  I am so completely impressed with her independence and very proud of her.  Sam truly flourished at camp.

*How outdoorsy our family became during our 10 day trip to Boston, Plymouth, and Berkshires in Massachusetts.  I had high hopes that my family would keep an open mind and try all the different things we had planned (and paid for in advance!).  Jeff, Ian, and Sam rose to the occasion and exceeded my expectations.  It was truly phenomenal all that we were able to do without anyone melting down.   Goooo Team Toppall!  Note to self:  No need to ever sign Jeff up for zip lining again.

*Getting to see Barbra Streisand in concert with my mom.  This will truly be a highlight of my entire life.  I can't quite put into words what being able to do this with my mom meant to me, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a true bucket list item.  My mom has done so much for me and my sister all our lives, and this was such a small thing I could do to give a little back to her.  There was no one else I wanted to see Babs with. It's because of my mom I can appreciate the amazing performer she is.  Being treated like VIPs (parking, executive suite seats, dinner beforehand) was the icing on the cake and certainly didn't hurt.  I love that my mom and I got to do this together.  My mom reworked her August to be in town and available to go; I believe she agrees, it was more than worth it.

*It took 11 years in the making, but I've finally got to the point where I don't need to be in arm's length of either kid when we go to the pool.  I can stay out of the water (if I want) and fully socialize with the other moms.  Both kids are good enough swimmers and its the best feeling not having to be freaked out the entire time they are in the pool, hoping they are ok.  All those years of swim lessons paid off. 

Sam at camp.  I love this photo, simply for the look of pure joy on her face.

Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston

Whitewater rafting!

Ian surfing in OCNJ.

So there you have it.  Summer 2016...Fun? Check mark symbol  Adventure? Check mark symbol  Trying new things? Check mark symbol  Living life to the fullest?  Check mark symbol   All that and more!