Jack’s Star War’s Party

This year Jack’s birthday landed on his actual birthday. He thought it was great, I wonder how many years it will take him to realize that actually sucks. You get treated special on your birthday anyway, might as well reserve a party to celebrate yourself for another time and extend the amount of time people celebrate your awesomeness!

This year Jack requested a Star Wars party. I was very excited to hear it. There is no shortage of things to do at a star wars party. In fact, I had to pare down to keep myself from going crazy.

We decided to send the kids on a Jedi Training Course.

I had it all planned out, and it was very organized. When they entered, much like Jack’s Harry Potter Party last year, they would have set activities to complete.IMG_2996

I made butter cookies from star wars cut outs.

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Then set them up next too home made royal icing and lots of sprinkle choices.

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Here is my ‘trash compactor’ with lego sets hidden inside:

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And my Jedi Training Course:

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We set up a bubble machine above this sign and put pool noodle light sabers next to it:

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Last year they followed the activities in order and with zeal. This year they all walked in and ran loose. My many nights spend creating a theme and activities were thrown aside.

Still it wasn’t a total waste, they did do each activity eventually, just not in the orderly fashion I planned.

First they all ran downstairs and attacked the bubble machine like a bunch of ravers in a club.

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Eventually they either settled into lego building or cookie making.

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And everyone ate dinner, I think. This year the amount of people who chose to drop off increased dramatically so I hope I fed them all!

Pigs in a Blanket, Mac and Cheese, Taco Bar, Fruit and Veggies

Pigs in a Blanket, Mac and Cheese, Taco Bar, Fruit and Veggies

And everyone sang to Jack for his birthday. Adam was in charge of the cake again…

DSC_0741Afterwards we defeated the Death Star Pinyata.

DSC_0746I think this is the last year for pinyatas. Each year more and more kids cry over it and the truth is none of us need MORE sugar in our lives anyway.

Last year it was Jack crying because he got pushed out of the way before he got any candy. He remembered it this year and mentioned that he hoped he would get some candy this year, he was still hurt about it a year later.

I told him I wanted him to have lots of fun at his party, but I also wanted him to be a good host.

So this year when the candy grab was over, one of his friends was crying after the pinyata frenzy, Jack gave him his candy. It made me very proud.

Other random events I liked was when our friend Mark battled practically the entire group of kids single handedly.

DSC_0752 Aaron was crying when he left, he was having so much fun playing with him.

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It was a great party and when it was all over, Jack still had presents and a sleep over to look forward to.

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Happy Birthday Jack! Hope it was a great day.

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Ice Miller

Remember when I told you there was a bunch of unbloggable stuff going on right now?

Well I’m pleased to be able to announce at least one thing today…

Adam started a new job Monday.

Yep. Fourteen years at the last place.That sort of longevity is not an easy thing to break from. Especially if you are someone like Adam who is very cautious in his decision making.

This past year has been a crazy roller coaster, exploring and deciding on all the different options, including the possibility of staying where he was, which was a changing roller coaster of it’s own. Last month his business card was for Edwards Wildman, and this month it was for Lock Lord Edwards. Two years ago it said Wildman Harrold.

In the end, after weighing all the options, he couldn’t resist the lure of Ice Miller.

It is a midwest firm with the head office in Indianapolis. He will be working out of the Chicago office, about a block from his old job.

He can still practice the same stuff he has been doing, but his rate structure is better for his clients, he has less conflicts, and better support.

I’ve only met a few of the guys who work there but the ones I have met have completely disproven Forbes Top 10 Jobs that Attract Psychopaths article. They seem like a group of well rounded, logical, helpful and educated individuals.

Although he’s a bit nervous about proving himself, I am ecstatic at the fact that he is going out on his own. Anyone with this much charisma, common sense and top level lawyering skills will be an asset to any customer. Snatch him up fast people, before he gets all booked up…

Adam Calisoff, Ice Miller

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Legoland

The last few years we started a tradition of taking Jack and a few buddies of his to the Monster Jam for one of his birthday presents.

This year we totally forgot to get the tickets in time. A lot going on around here lately.

So to make up for it, we took Jack and his buddies to Legoland.

Before I give you an overview of the day, let me give you a few tips if you want to go.

Buy your tickets online first. Not to save money, because it saves you less than $1 a ticket if you go at any reasonable time, but because if you don’t you will stand in two lines. One to buy the ticket then another to get the time slot you bought for. And the online booking service is super slow. Leave like 30 minutes to do it. And sometimes when you show up and buy a ticket, the next entry time is not immediate, and you have to stand around and wait for that too.

Also, you can’t bring your own food. But they have a very limited selection. When we showed up at 12:15 for lunch they had small white bread sandwiches of ham or cheese and some salads. We had to wait for the turkey to come out. Later we saw more adult sandwiches for sale but it was still a very limited selection. I don’t know why they don’t sell pizza as I saw it in the party rooms.

Anyway, probably best to show up right after lunch and eat somewhere yummy as it only takes a few hours to visit the entire place. You can cover it between 3 to 4 hours.

Also, no coat rack or lockers anywhere in sight. So if you want to wear a heavy coat, better bring a backpack or something you can stuff it in.

On the way over I told Jack they had 2 rides.

He was like, only TWO?!

I kept saying, hey it’s not Disney. And that is my final tip. Don’t expect Disney.

After we adjusted our expectations we actually had a really fun day.

DSC_0603Miniland Chicago was the first stop. The boys were so excited we had to remind them to stop and have a proper look. Pretty soon they was gleefully finding all sorts of wonders, like Superman on a building or Yoda on the street.

DSC_0614Here is the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride. When you shoot they tally your total on a screen in your seat.

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Here is the 4D Cinema. they had lots of interactive tricks, for example when it rained in the movie, water misted you.

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Master Builder Academy. The boys built rocket ships from kits.

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Merlin’s Apprentice Ride. As you pedal you go higher. Ben ‘defeated’ both the rides without much fuss. It was great day for him!

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Lego Racers Build and Test. You build cars, then test them…

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We probably spent the most time here. The boys really liked it.

There were even more things to do but I think that sums up the day. The boys had a blast and so did I.

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Valentine’s Day 2015

Another year, and another Valentine’s Day.

After seeing the effort Jack and Ben’s school put out, I realized I could not compete. But I still tried to keep some Valentine’s love showing up from time to time.

Heart Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Chocolate Covered Strawberries.

Heart Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Chocolate Covered Strawberries for Breakfast.

Adam asked me if he could buy me chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I have a real weakness for chocolate and when it’s in the house, well, I eat it. Not just that, but I become obsessed with it. I will leave it in hard to reach places to keep myself from eating too much. I will think about it constantly and then finally eat it, then curse myself later. When it runs out I’m like a strung out junkie rifling the cabinets, eating what’s left of the baking chocolate. Then at the store I break down and buy more all while vowing to swear it off forever.

Chocolate in the 2000s is what cigarettes were for me in the 90s.

So with great trepidation I nodded slightly when he asked if he could buy me some this year. I think my logic was something like, “I guess it’s okay? At least he’ll buy me the good stuff”.

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That there is THREE pounds of high quality truffles. Still not sure what that means? Let me show you…

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I put a matchbox car in there for perspective. There is going to be a lot of cursing going on in my head the next month!

Kind of put my mini meatloaf with ketchup hearts to shame, eh?

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The kids still thought it was super cool. After a special cheesecake dessert they commented that Valentine’s Day is the second best day of the year! (Second to Halloween.)

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Valentine’s Celebration

Today I had the pleasure of volunteering at Jack and Ben’s school for their valentine’s celebration.

Both boys woke up earlier than usual, excited for once to get to school.

This year I’m room mom for Jack class. It’s something I was very nervous about since it seems like one of those jobs that is open to interpretation and therefore quite easy to screw up. Luckily I was roped in by one of the best room moms the school has to offer and I’ve been riding her competent coat tails all year.

She organized great activities for Jack’s class, including a Valentine’s box decorating contest, heart decoupage, and turning a toilet paper roll into a butterfly.

IMG_8517Jack’s box came from a kit which was kind of the easy way out, even though he seemed pleased with it. Some of the other kids were really creative with their boxes and I’m going to have to up my game if we do this again!

IMG_8510 IMG_8511The “For The Love of the Game” one was Jack’s buddy’s. It actually lights up when it’s turned on. One of the parameters of the contest was to have 3 hearts on the box. Jack’s other buddy put pictures of 3 real hearts, winning him the ‘most scary’ award.

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Decoupage Hearts

After spending the morning with Jack’s class, I joined both Jack and Ben for the Valentine’s school dance. It was really funny to watch them all wander around a relatively small space losing each other every few minutes. Jack was such a sweet older brother, making sure to keep Ben close the entire time.

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Jack held Ben’s hand even when he was using his other hand and rest of his body to wrestle with his buddies.

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In the afternoon I watched videos with Ben’s class and helped him stuff valentine’s bags for his classmates.IMG_8526

It was really quite a sweet day and as guilty as I felt leaving the twins, it was so nice to spend time with the older boys in their school environment.

After today I don’t think I can top the festivities tomorrow – the real Valentine’s Day.

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Fresh Picks (Jan 28)

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This week carrots, celery, leeks, romaine lettuce, parsley, onions, mushrooms, kale, and potatoes.

DSC_0543I made a few different smoothies with the kale. Usually I start with a green like kale or spinach, add a banana, chia seeds, some yogurt and frozen fruit. I like to switch the fruit around. Sometimes it’s strawberry and peaches. Sometimes it’s an acai packet with mango. Mixed berries is also a staple. Add some OJ and blend.

Kids love smoothies and it’s a great, healthy way to hide veggies!

The romaine was used in a Caesar salad. I just use Paul Newman’s lite Caesar dressing, added some home made croutons, tomatoes, parmesan and topped with poached chicken.

The carrots and celery were used for dipping for our ‘superbowl party’ (this consisted of the six of us eating snacks for dinner in front of the TV. Also I chopped them up and put them into the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Noodle Soup, we added some of the parsley to that. She adds turmeric and it gives it such a great kick.

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Potatoes and Onions were made into home made samosas. Yes, I made home made samosas out of my China Study Cookbook.

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Finally the mushroom were sautéed in butter and oil with garlic, then deglazed with cooking sherry and sprinkled with more left over parsley.

DSC_0563I made leeks into leek and potato soup. So simple to do, saute leeks in butter, then add 3 or 4 cups of chicken broth, add peeled and chopped potatoes. Boil until tender then season and blend. I like to top with leftover bacon (if there is ever any leftover bacon in this house!) and shredded cheddar.

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SNOW!!!

This year I’m really enjoying the snow. For the past two years, when the twins were younger, the snow was just a nuisance. It just meant extra bundling, more driving and less strolling, and a sloppy mess on my floor daily.

But the twins have reached an age this year where snow is fascinating. It’s an age that shows no signs of slowing for our oldest at seven. It’s the kind of the thing ALL the boys can do together and get just as much enjoyment as the next kid.

So this afternoon, after school I bundled the twins up, gathered the sand/snow toys, and picked up Jack and Ben at school.

IMG_8404We were the only ones ready to play in the school playground. I couldn’t believe no one else wanted to enjoy all that snow!

IMG_8424Luckily we were able to recruit one of Jack’s buddies to join us.

IMG_8419 They all spent a lot of time chipping the ice off this fence. Which unfortunately landed on Sam’s head.

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Aaron mostly built a huge rock collection. Later I had to pick him up, kicking and screaming because he didn’t want to leave all his hard work.

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But other than those two crying fits, it was awesome. Great winter afternoon that made me feel blessed we live in this crazy weathered town.

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Blizzard of 2015

For my non Chicago friends, we got 19 inches of snow, the 5th largest blizzard in recorded history for Chicago, this past weekend.

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There was so much snow they cancelled school on Monday. This kids spent more time on our deck than they did the entire year.DSC_0552

Adam went out to shovel in the morning and returned 45 minutes later. He got side tracked pushing 3 cars that were stuck in the snow out. And, in the world of karma, that afternoon I missed Ben’s therapy because I got stuck myself. Luckily two very nice men who didn’t even know each other both stopped to help me.

There is snow everywhere right now. Packing parked cars into their spots, piled on garbage cans in alleys, shoveled in humungous piles in parking lots everywhere.

Two days later we are still slipping and sliding all over the place and praying each time we pull into our alley that our car will roll along all the way to the garage without getting stuck in the snow.

And this afternoon, as I was driving the older boys home from school the skies opened up and snow starting falling on us. Again.DSC_0558

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9 Year Anniversary

I’m sorry I’ve been so slack about blogging.

It’s not because there has been nothing to write about in our lives. In fact, it’s the opposite. As I lamented to my friend Kelly today – everything in my life right now is unbloggable. It’s very difficult for a blogger to have a bunch of unbloggable stuff going on in their lives. Like asking a yenta to keep a secret.

But rest assured everything will be revealed in time. Let’s just say for now, there will be big changes for our family in the ninth year we are together.

Which is amazing to think we can still have so many major changes. I mean, so much has changed already. Isn’t FOUR kids in FIVE years enough?!! How could we keep this sort of pace going?

Nine years ago it was Adam, me and 200 of our closest family and friends partying on a beach and now the celebration looks like this…IMG_2901

Dinner at Star of Siam, our go to Thai restaurant.

Even with all the dirty looks from the other diners watching our kids shouting and laying on the middle of the floor with their shoes off, sticky rice ground into their hair, it was still a happy family moment.

As I told Adam in his anniversary card – there is no one I’d rather be on this journey with. Bring on year nine baby, I’m ready for you!

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Fresh Picks (Jan 14)

I’ve skipped a few deliveries, mostly because blogging about more soup and roast veggies didn’t seem that exciting. I think last week I actually made my roast veggies into soup.IMG_8280

Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Spagetti Squash, Scallions, Turnips, Potatoes, Parsley.

This week I managed to get slightly more creative…

I combined cabbage, turnips, scallions, and potatoes and half the kale together for what could loosely be called Colcannon. I remembered eating it often at Irish pubs with my Irish roommate when I lived in Hong Kong. She craved it like an American craves cheeseburgers. Also in there, carrot, butter and milk.DSC_0494

The other half of the kale was used in a frittata for breakfast.DSC_0529

The spagetti squash was combined with the parsley in a recipe I found on food network: Spagetti Squash with Parsley and Pecan Pesto. Delicious.DSC_0489

I didn’t manage to use the lettuce in time…

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