Grandpa Goes

It was with a heavy heart that I said good-bye to my father this afternoon.

Grandpa Arrives!

Grandpa Arrives!

I know I’m not the only one in the house that felt it either.

They all gravitate to him.

They all gravitate to him.

He cleaned dishes, washed and folded clothes, cleaned the house, and spent many hours babysitting the kids for me. He put our families needs in front of his own every single moment of the day.

Jack won't hold my hand anymore!

Jack won’t even hold my hand anymore!

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He connected with each kid at their own level, creating a special relationship with each one of them.IMG_7722

Jack almost didn’t leave for his playdate this morning for fear of missing every last moment of time with Grandpa.DSC_0224

Chess with Ben

Chess with Ben

Ben bought that chessboard with his birthday money specifically for Grandpa’s visit.

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Playing dinosaurs with Sam

Playing dinosaurs with Sam

Aaron took to him the most, following him around like his little minion.DSC_0231 IMG_7749 IMG_7744 DSC_0330 DSC_0202Each night Grandpa told his ‘bloody finger’ stories to the kids. Stories that he made up in his head. I have no idea how he came up with so many different plots! Often I would hear fits of laughter coming from the bedroom at night.

I’m sure I’m forgetting the hundred other ways he helped, like patiently helping Jack with his homework. Or talking to Ben for hours gently, sneakily so Ben wouldn’t be offended, about ways to improve his behavior. (He even based a few ‘bloody finger’ stories on it!)

Such a great, great person. We will miss him dearly.

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Funtopia

We spent yesterday afternoon in The Glen Town Center, an enclave for pleasure seekers in Glenview.

I’ve been wanting to check out the new climbing zone, Funtopia, for a while now.

But first, we met up with Bubbie and Bill for lunch at the Yard House.

The kids menu kept the kids pretty busy. The adults too. Bubbie and Sam got a few games of ‘tic-tac-toe’ in, while Grandpa Devensky played against Ben in the ‘make a square’ game.DSC_0285

Then the Calisoff train was off to Funtopia!DSC_0286

There are a bunch of different sections to explore but for today, we just did the ‘fun walls’ section.

Jack and Ben took to it right away.DSC_0288 DSC_0317

DSC_0310At first the twins were a bit nervous with the harness. But eventually they warmed up. DSC_0309

DSC_0296There were some really great moments.

Like watching Aaron play with Grandpa.DSC_0348

Or when Ben couldn’t complete one of the harder courses and Jack went back to help him.Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 9.45.39 AM

One time Ben was cut in line and when I told the boy Ben was next, Ben said, “It’s okay, his time is almost up, he can go before me.”DSC_0340

We paid for a 2 hour session, which was $22 per kid, just enough time for Jack to complete every thing in the area. You can book for less time and less money, though. There are 1 hour and 1.5 hour sessions as well.

I highly recommend booking in advance!

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Grandparents Galore

Our lucky kids are getting showered with Grandparent love right now.

Last night, Bubbie and Grandpa Bill joined with my father for an enjoyable evening at our house. For once the adults outnumbered the kids!

And today, we met up again, this time at the extended stay hotel that Bubbie and Bill are staying in.DSC_0164 (1)

It was a great place to host the kids. The minute we arrived the kids got so excited that they jumped into the pool before they could hear what the plan was!DSC_0106 DSC_0134 (1) DSC_0139 (1)

Then, Bubbie brought her dog Zoe out for the kids to play with. Besides Ben, they are all a bit spooked by pets. I was glad for the opportunity to expose them – slowly the kids are getting more comfortable around dogs. DSC_0152 (1) DSC_0154 (1)

Afterwards, a failed attempt at kite flying.DSC_0168 (1)

Which turned into a playground visit.DSC_0173 (1) DSC_0179 (1) DSC_0181 (1) IMG_7722 (1)

Finally, Bubbie and Bill treated us to dinner at Max and Benny’s, Northshore’s best deli.IMG_7725 IMG_7726

The kids ate so much that they didn’t even bother with dessert. That never happens when I feed them…

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Maryknoll Park

Today was Ben’s turn for a playdate.

This time we headed out to the suburbs to pick up his BFF, then continued on to a playground in Glen Ellyn, Maryknoll.

It was one of the many great parks we have seen when we hit the suburbs. It had two playgrounds, a zip line, a splash pad, clean bathrooms, a clubhouse that sold food and ice cream, mini golf, frisbee golf, shuffleboard, and plenty of green open spaces left for where ever your imagination might take you.

All the kids were the right age for all of it!

Climbing…

Here they picked up a game of tag with some of the other kids.

Here they picked up a game of tag with some of the other kids.

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Zip lining…DSC_0040 DSC_0032 DSC_0041 DSC_0029

Splashing in the water…DSC_0052 DSC_0051 DSC_0056 DSC_0067

Even Grandpa gives the splash pad a whirl!

Even Grandpa gives the splash pad a whirl!

And of course, ice cream!DSC_0087

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Maggie Daley/Millennium Park

People often say that things get easier when the kids get older. Each summer is a chance to reflect on this, to look back and see how things have changed since last summer.

Yesterday Jack had two of his buddies over for a playdate. We headed over to Maggie Daley & Millennium Park for the day. Six kids, Two adults in a huge, open area park with lots of places to lose kids. It was a task that would have been too daunting a year ago.DSC_1017

IMG_2855This year was different. This year, Maggie Daley seemed like just about the only park in Chicago big enough for a bunch of 10 year olds to play at without getting bored. Or without getting dirty looks from parents of younger kids.

Jack and his buddies along with Ben played an epic game of tag. I barely got any pictures of them because I would just catch glimpse of them running.DSC_1008 DSC_1009

Or hiding. DSC_1060

Sometimes they would just pop up over ridges out of nowhere.DSC_1000

Yet they somehow managed to find each other because every time I asked, someone else was ‘it’.

Luckily the twins still needed my company all the time. And I was able to snap away at them enjoying all the park has to offer.DSC_1005 DSC_1010 DSC_1013 DSC_1023 DSC_1029 DSC_1032DSC_1021

My Dad is here helping out so even if the twins split up we still had complete coverage.DSC_1043

We stopped for an ice cream break after 3 hours of non stop running.DSC_1070 DSC_1069

Then across the Serpentine Bridge to Millennium Park to play in the Crown fountain.IMG_2876 DSC_1088 DSC_1074 DSC_0021 DSC_0004 DSC_0007

After hours of hot sweaty play, it was a welcome change.

When we got back to the house, I expected the boys to zone out on electronics, but instead they played another tag game for hours in the house. The amount of energy exerted was incredible. If only I could bottle it and sell it, I’d be worth millions!

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First Week With All Four

This week was the first week I had all four kids with me all day long in full blown summer mode.

What did we do?

Well, what DIDN’T we do might be a better question…

Tuesday was a hot and sunny day, perfect for the Hidden Creek Aqua Park in Highland Park.

Ben shared so nicely with these kids.

Ben shared so nicely with these kids.

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Lounge Chair Picnic

Lounge Chair Picnic

Wednesday Jack was on a playdate at Sky High so we checked out the new Budlong Chicken Restaurant down the street, the treasures at a garden nearby, and challenged ourselves at Privet Park.IMG_7545 IMG_7549

Thursday the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, and Cummings Park.DSC_0914 DSC_0916 DSC_0932

Finding Dinosaurs

Finding Dinosaurs at the Lincoln Park Conservatory

Picnic at the Lincoln Park Conservatory garden.

Picnic at the Lincoln Park Conservatory garden.

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Summer isn't summer without the ice cream man!

Summer isn’t summer without the ice cream man!

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Friday, while Jack’s buddy took him to Great America, we had a cool evening at Oz park.IMG_7560 IMG_7565 IMG_7576

Saturday a romp at Newberry followed by dinner and dessert in Chinatown. I wanted to check out Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings and the new Tasty Legend Thai Rolled Ice Cream (so did everyone else, the line was 4 rows deep).

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Clown Car

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And Sunday? Pizza baking, ice cream making and Cosmic Bowling at Waveland Bowl!IMG_7640

Jack's choice - lemon/lime sorbet.

Jack’s choice – lemon/lime sorbet.

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Surprised to see Vonda at the bowling alley!

Surprised to see Vonda at the bowling alley!

What will next week bring?!!!

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Ben’s End of the Year Picnic

Today was Ben’s end of the long (11 month) school year.

As usual, his school celebrates with a fun afternoon picnic and party.IMG_7450 IMG_7444

The party took place on their playground.IMG_7467

In addition to the climbing and toys, they hired a group to play games.IMG_7442

This is one where they have to transfer water from a full tub to an empty one with a sponge. IMG_7457 IMG_7455

And the kids favorite, turning mommy into a mummy!IMG_7477

This year Ben and Aaron got in on the action. Can you spot Ben in the picture above?IMG_7473

The kids also loved the pizza, unlimited lemonade and brownies!

It was a really fun afternoon.

I am so grateful that Ben has a school like this, one that accepts him completely, understands his struggles, and tries their best to accommodate them.

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Winter Park

The six-way email girls strike again!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of keeping these 5 beautiful women company in Winter Park, CO.DSC_0766

Holly recently bought a second home there and it was a perfect excuse to meet up again.

Last time we met up was in Estes Park 2 years ago. Here we are white water river rafting…ws pm (99)

But we have been meeting up for years!

Here we are in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico in 2001…IMG_7433

Winter Park is a gem of a place. From Holly’s apartment we could walk anywhere in town.

Many days we hiked. (Some of the other girls biked, or shopped.)

Broome Hut

Broome Hut

Lost somewhere close to the Leland Trail

Lost somewhere close to the Leland Trail

We checked out the local art festival.IMG_7367

Tried the Alpine Slide.IMG_7325

Rented a pontoon.

First time driving a boat. Made it through this bridge!

First time driving a boat. Made it through this bridge!

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Soaked in hot tubs.IMG_7342

And Sulfur Hot Springs.IMG_7424

And ate.

The Dump

The Dump

And ate.

Deno's

Deno’s

And ate.

Carvers

Carvers

It seemed like it didn’t matter what we did, it was always filled with laughter and fun.

Even if we just hung out at the apartment.

Impromptu Dance Party breaks out in the apartment.

Impromptu Dance Party breaks out in the apartment.

We marveled at how rare it is to have close friends that have managed to stick together since middle school.

And thanked our lucky stars to be a part of something so special.IMG_7293

I am also lucky to have such a supportive husband! While I was away, he kept the boys busy.

One night he invited his buddy Jamie over for Portillos. IMG_7344

And this happened afterwards…IMG_7343

He got them out for ice cream one night.IMG_7391

He taught them a tidily wink game.IMG_7390

And took them to the toy store.

Another night he took them to a playground in the suburbs then over to his buddy Rick’s, who is also sans wife right now.

Jack is a natural!

Jack is a natural!

My sitter also worked longer hours to make this happen. While I was gone she got the kids out too!

At the fire station with Camila

At the fire station with Camila

I’m happy to be back, but am very much looking forward to my next meeting with these wonderful woman again, hopefully very soon. Until next time!

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Aaron’s Milestone & Cummings Park

Even though it’s the middle of the summer and there is this thing called global warming, today’s high was only 72°. Too cold for any water activities!

So, we packed everyone up and headed to the Zoo.

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Black Bear

We stopped at the Pritzker Family section first to show Adam the new, natural playground they put up there.

Otter

Otter

Then we headed into the climbing structure. Normally Aaron is too scared to climb it. Most of the time he will take his shoes off, climb one or two rungs then freak out and come back.

Today he turned to me and said, “I think I can climb it today.”

Then, without any hesitation (but with a very supportive older brother) Aaron climbed through to the highest levels SEVEN times.DSC_0680IMG_7250

Later that night, during dinner, we asked him how he conquered his fear. He replied, “I’m 5 now. So I can climb it”. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll tell him when he is 6 he can get tagged in a game without crying.

We didn’t spend much time there because soon it was lunch. We took our picnic out in front of the zoo, by the huge garden maintained by the Lincoln Park ConservatoryDSC_0682

And there, within view, was the newly redone Cummings PlaygroundDSC_0703

DSC_0692 DSC_0699 DSC_0706 DSC_0708 DSC_0714 IMG_7253 IMG_7258Another great new space for the kids. I love how some of the new structures in the renovated parks with are good for older kids as well. They help to keep Jack more interested in these outings for longer.

But Jack has such a good attitude about these things, he always finds a way to fit in. We spent a lot of time giving the kids “challenges” to complete and when they were too easy for Jack, he started to give them out himself…

Jack challenges the others to go down the slide head first!

Jack challenges the others to go down the slide head first!

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Ben’s 8th Birthday

This year Ben’s birthday was the same day as his party.

We started the morning with a treat of egg sandwiches and donuts. IMG_7087

Then Jack gave Ben his present. This is a card with butt jokes in it. Yep, butt jokes never get old around here. IMG_7084

In the morning we threw him a carnival themed party.

There were eight different games you could play to win tickets. IMG_7076 IMG_7075 IMG_7073 IMG_7079

And three levels of ticket items you could swap for the tickets you won.IMG_7080

IMG_7081We hired 3 teenagers to help run the games. (Jack’s buddy’s older sister and friends.)IMG_7103

Sam got a whopping 250 tickets. He even studied the teenagers methods in detail, figured out which was most generous. He also calculated which games he could get the most tickets.IMG_7094

As for food, Friday we waited in this huge line for the popcorn Ben wanted for his party.IMG_7067

The popcorn was part of the carnival themed food. We ate hot dogs for lunch, had huge tubs of Garrett’s popcorn, and bags of cotton candy.

Cotton Candy Mouth

Cotton Candy Mouth

Then, Adam did that thing he does with the cake, where he buys a huge extravagant, oversized cake that I’m forced to eat for weeks afterwards.IMG_7114 IMG_7116

This one was triple layer, filled with banana cream and raspberry. The picture above does not show the enormity of it. Here are the leftovers, next to my morning cup of coffee so you can see just how much cake I’ll be eating this week.IMG_7186

The party didn’t end, either. That night, Ben had a sleepover with his BFF from school.IMG_7134

The next day, we had a playdate at the Morton Arboretum. She hadn’t been yet and we really wanted to take her there to see it.

Origami craft.

Origami craft.

Treehouse.

Treehouse.

Natural Playground.

Natural Playground.

Happy 8th birthday Ben! Wishing you a great year.

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