Last Week of Summer Vacation

This last week of summer vacation had me scrambling to cross off all the things on my summer to-do list for the kids.

I spent every day letting a different kid invite a play date over.

Then we would plan something fun to do when they got here.

Like the Altitude Trampoline Park on a rainy Monday.DSC_0886 DSC_0898 DSC_0907 DSC_0922Or finding sea glass and playing at the beach on a beautiful Tuesday.IMG_1098 IMG_1110Wednesday we managed to stay away from electronics for a few hours with soccer at the park and a few rounds of hide and seek chase.IMG_1121Thursday we put our new biking skills to work by biking to Navy Pier with another friend. IMG_1146We were planning on Navy Pier activities, but there were too many Pokemon to catch.IMG_1153We still managed some treats, though. IMG_1163I’m really looking forward to getting back to ‘me time’ (AKA going to the store alone, jogging without paying a sitter, and not hearing my name called every 3 seconds) while the kids are in school next week, but I’ll miss my role as social director as well.

And I’ll miss my father! Without him here tending to the other kids, none of this would have been possible.

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Block Party 2019

Another year, another block party.DSC_0816As usual, Susie did a fantastic job of organizing!

There was a big change this year, though. I noticed that the kids did not participate as enthusiastically as before. It’s not that they didn’t enjoy it, it’s just that they are getting noticeably older.

The party started for us when we brought out our Giant Jenga and game of bags to share.DSC_0797While the party was setting up, we played with them a bit. We also enjoyed the street blockade, using the opportunity to bike in a car free environment. DSC_0795Not too old for cotton candy!DSC_0800 DSC_0818But old enough to enjoy the lobster tail and crab legs that Summer House was serving up.DSC_0798 IMG_1070 (1)Young enough so the cookies Summer House handed out were bigger than our heads.DSC_0845Some of the kids were not too old to enjoy the bouncy house. DSC_0823But they all skipped the magician, the face painting, and the crafts table this year.

My father was here this year helping out and he didn’t think he was too old to try hula hooping. DSC_0850

Actually, he might have been doing a Frankenstein impersonation?

Grandpa’s youthful spirit is one of the reasons all the kids loved spending time with him. DSC_0851But no matter what age the kids are, Grandpa meets them at their level. DSC_0831We all came together to enjoy the ice cream truck. Do you ever get to old for ice cream?DSC_0852 DSC_0855They were also old enough to stay up late and wait for the glow in the dark toys. DSC_0867And young enough to enjoy them.DSC_0873The block party also signifies the end of summer. Which, like the block party duality, filled me with both excitement and dread.

I’ll miss the warm weather and lack of schedule but I’m also looking forward to some time to myself during the day.

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Petal Heads

One of my summer goals was to teach my last three kids to ride a bike.

Actually, this was one of my summer goals last summer. After many agonizing days of running behind each kid, stooped over, while the other kids took breaks, I achieved nothing.

I tried again this year with the same results. My back was killing me and we were no closer to our goal.

Then, at a birthday party for one of the twin’s friends, a parent told me about Petal Heads.

It’s a week long, three hour-a-day class right with many locations across America and Canada.

I signed the twins up a week before we went on our big RV trip, hoping they would learn to ride in time to rent bikes at Mackinac Island. IMG_0768 IMG_0771Within a week, they were both riding without training wheels! And my back didn’t hurt at all!

Biking the Lakefront while Jack was is in Golf class.

Biking the Lakefront while Jack was is in Golf class.

Ben was in school while the twins were at bike camp, so unfortunately he didn’t learn in time to bike Mackinac Island.IMG_0897

Ben rode tandem in Mackinac Island.

Ben rode tandem in Mackinac Island.

But having the twins learn before him was extremely motivating for Ben. The week we returned from our trip, Ben was enrolled for a week of Petal Heads.

At the end of every week of camp they have a bike parade.

I missed the twins parade because I was on a girls weekend with Lara. But at Ben’s parade, I noticed only one kid was still in training wheels.

Ben at the bike parade.

Ben at the bike parade.

I can’t say enough about this camp! I love how quickly the kids learned and how good my back felt while someone else did the work!

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Adam’s 50th Vacation

Adam decided for his 50th birthday present he wanted to take the kids to Mackinac Island. Since we all know that Adam is larger than life, this quickly turned into a week long drive around Lake Michigan visiting everything along the way.

He started researching hotels. We are hotel point junkies. We have hotel credit cards, rack up points, and get free stays for vacations. Unfortunately most of the northern areas surrounding Lake Michigan don’t have chain hotels. Later, when we finally traveled through the Upper Peninsula, I realized why. It is so sparsely populated, the tourist attractions are so far apart, and the season is so short that most major hotel chains would probably not make enough money to build and maintain a property here.

That’s when we decided to rent an RV. Remember when I mentioned that Adam is larger than life? So you can guess the kind of RV he decided to rent, right?DSC_0666I took a picture of it next to other cars so you could see the boat we were driving. The advertisement online said it ‘sleeps 8 comfortably’.IMG_0865 DSC_0523The kids really enjoyed having a bit more space. There was definitely less fighting. And Sam, who gets carsick, seemed fine in the RV. I loved that we didn’t have to stop a million times to go to the bathroom.

Our first stay was in Door County at Peninsula State Park. There were all kinds of cool things to do in this park that we didn’t have time for, like outdoor plays, a nature center, golf and biking trails.

We did enjoy the morning on Nicolet Beach.DSC_0544

While all the other kids on this beach played exactly as you’d expect, our kids morphed every normal game into something else. DSC_0566

A normal game of catch became a game where you had to throw the ball through someone else’s legs and hit another kids butt.DSC_0576 DSC_0595A normal sand castle turned into a huge wet sand fight.

Adam usually starts the trip slowly untangling himself from work, which means the first few days he is still working.DSC_0539He didn’t get to enjoy the beach at all.

In the afternoon, we hiked Tramper’s Trail to the Lighthouse.DSC_0610 DSC_0612

Every night we roasted s’mores and played bags. Aaron learned how to build the campfire and became the official fire builder every night.

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The next morning we woke up and had breakfast at the famous Swedish restaurant in Sister Bay, Al Johnson’s.DSC_0619 DSC_0626Yes. Those are goats on their roof.

We all ordered the Swedish Pancakes! (I had to throw my vegan tendencies to the side to sample the Swedish Meatballs.)

Jack, would you like some pancake with your whipped cream?

Jack, would you like some pancake with your whipped cream?

After that, it was time to head to our next campground, but not before a stop by Hiawatha National Forest to see the Big Spring, AKA Kitchitikipi.DSC_0636They take you over the spring in a open bottom boat so you can view all the fish and bubbling springs.

Then, onto the next campsite, Tahquamenon Falls.

The first day Adam booked a kayak tour of Pictured Rocks. He booked with a company called Pictured Rocks Kayaking. It was the only tour that shuttles you by boat to all the good stuff so you don’t have to spend hours kayaking yourself there.DSC_0652

These two have become inseparable. I love watching their friendship grow.

These two have become inseparable. I love watching their friendship grow.

That said, it was still a 2 hour kayak tour. Our kids did an amazing job paddling, especially Jack who had to steer as well!DSC_0660We passed a lot of unusual sights like strange rock formations and rocks that look painted by dripping mineral deposits. We also visited caves and saw cliff divers. I was too scared I would lose my camera so I’ll leave this part of the trip to your imagination, or your google searches…

On the way back to the campsite, we did a quick stop at Grand Marais off of Lake Superior. We were hoping to see sand dunes, but instead we ended up collecting rocks. Adam let each kid pick three, and all the kids gave their picks to Aaron, who loves collecting these things much more than the rest of them.

Aaron decides on the best rocks to keep.

Aaron decides on the best rocks to keep.

The next day, we did a four mile hike from the Lower Tahquamenon Falls to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls.

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

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At one point it got so buggy the kids put on the face nets we brought just for this occasion. DSC_0690When we got to the Upper Falls,  I looked over at Adam and realized we were wearing the same shirt. Wearing the same shirt coupled with all the kids we had made me feel like we were part of some Christian family reunion. The kids kept calling us tour guides.

Upper Falls. Tahquamenon Falls is the second largest waterfall in the United States.

Upper Falls. Tahquamenon Falls is the second largest waterfall in the United States.

It took 2 hours to complete and the kids were absolutely exhausted by it.DSC_0696But lunch at the Brewery and Pub at the Upper Falls helped rejuvenate them.DSC_0697We sampled the Upper Peninsula traditional fair, pasties. They are kind of like a calzone with meat, potatoes and vegetables baked inside, served with gravy. IMG_0883I threw my vegan tendencies out the window again, this time to sample the local Whitefish, along with the Peach Wheat Beer.IMG_0882Then Adam treated them to a trip to the Gift shop. For my treat from the gift shop, I bought Fairy Dust packages that you can throw on fire to make it turn different colors.DSC_0704We took Jordan’s Shuttle back to the Lower Falls. The kids were grateful not to walk another four hours with the bugs!DSC_0528 Again, there were s’more s’mores and rounds of bags.

After the kayaking and hiking, it was time to move to our next campsite at Burt Lake, Michigan.

Adam picked this because of it’s proximity to Mackinac Island, the catalyst for this entire trip.

We started the visit on the island at the Hotel Iroquois for a resort style lunch.IMG_0893

Aaron said it was the best frozen lemonade he ever had!

Aaron said it was the best frozen lemonade he ever had!

After a walk down Main Street, we rented bikes. The twins just completed a week at PetalHeads, where they learned to bike without training wheels. They biked for two hours and completed the loop around the entire island, an eight mile bike ride.IMG_0916

Pit stop looking for rocks.

Pit stop looking for rocks. The Mackinac Bridge in the background.

And of course no trip to Mackinac would be complete without fudge!DSC_0716Ferry back on Shepler’s Ferry Service.IMG_0944That night we enjoyed our last s’mores and game of bags.

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Fairy Dust

Fairy Dust

The next day we returned the RV and stayed at a hotel.

DSC_0731DSC_0733The kids were so incredibly happy with the lack of bugs, lack of dirt, good wifi, soft beds and extra space that they didn’t leave the room once! (Adam too!)

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Ben’s 10th birthday

Ben achieved double digits yesterday.

As usual, we had a multi-day celebration.

Sunday we went out to buy what he requested for his birthday, a huge art portfolio book to house his growing number of drawings.

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Next we spent the afternoon cooking his pick for birthday dessert, Whoopie Pie. He picked it from another birthday present he got from Japo.

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That evening, we fulfilled another request, he wanted to try the shaved ice place we walked by on Father’s Day.

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For his actual birthday, we had our usual sugar rush of donuts and egg sandwiches.DSC_0367Ben had school during the day, but after school three of his visiting Grandparents were here to help him celebrate at the restaurant of his choice, Shine.DSC_0405Afterwards, he brought everyone back to the house for Whoopie Pie and some leftover cake that his school bought him.DSC_0408And we still haven’t had the actually birthday party yet! Which we have scheduled for this weekend but we aren’t sure if we’ll need to postpone. Ben broke his arm last week and we need doctor clearance before he can participate in his soccer themed party.

Happy Birthday Ben!

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Ben’s Week Off

This past week I’ve been spending a lot of time with Ben. While his brothers are all still in school, he had one glorious week off before his summer session begins.

It was probably for the best, as we could really tailor the time Ben had off to suit his needs.

In his pursuit of all things culinary, he wanted to try a few new foods.

We visited Antique Taco to sample the fish taco, a cod tempura with spicy tartar. We also sampled the pork carnitas and steak taco!IMG_0407We also took him to Greek Town, the Greek Islands, to try taramasalata, fried cheese, grilled octopus, gyros and baklava.IMG_0426 IMG_0423

We had many play dates.

One day, he played soccer with a buddy by the Lakefront, then came back to the house for a nerf gun battle.IMG_0399

Another day, we met a friend at the Lincoln Park Zoo.IMG_0418

Soccer was also involved that day.IMG_0415

We played at Maggie Daley with another friend.

IMG_0458 IMG_0454That day I even managed to take Ben to a new burger place, The Shake Shack, which both kids loved. A play date and new food together! IMG_0455Ben went back to school Wednesday for summer session. He moved up a classroom and when he came home from school that day, I was happy to hear him say summer session is fun! There a a few new kids who love what he does – soccer and drawing. And a few old faces from classes past that he was happy to see again.

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Adam’s 50th birthday

Yesterday my husband turned 50. Now that’s a weird sentence to type. Probably, it’s even weirder to say out loud. Especially when you are the person who is actually turning 50.

However, I don’t think Adam felt funny about it at all. At least, he seemed to take the milestone year in surprising stride.

Even all my teasing didn’t rouse him.

The morning before his birthday, Sam pushed Aaron off our bed. Aaron said, “You threw my back out!”

I cracked up laughing and turned to Adam, “That’s what you get for having old parents.”

Adam threw his back out last month. And everyone in our house learned what that phrase meant.

He didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

We started with our usual celebration donuts and egg sandwiches. Adam opened up all the birthday cards that had been trickling in all week. Many had gift cards to his favorite places – Nordstroms and Fleet Feet. He also got a huge stack of gifts from me.IMG_0468Mostly I bought him much needed clothes and shoes.

New Sweater. It was so cold this summer solstice that Adam wore it around today.

New Sweater. It was so cold this summer solstice that Adam wore it around today.

He never spends money on himself. But with the gift cards and a rare day off sans kids, that afternoon we were able to go and find many things he needed.

Yesterday was also the last day of school for the twins and Jack. Both schools had field day celebrations which we visited.Version 2 Version 2 Then we stopped by RJ Grunts for a quick lunch. We even split a naughty shake. Yes, naughty at 50 is having a shake for lunch.IMG_0523

At lunch he reflected about how much he had to be grateful for. Great kids, a fulfilling career, and his wonderful wife made him feel like a very lucky 50 year old.

We went through the afternoon school pick up and bus deliveries, followed by the afternoon rush of settling back home.

Ben and I cooked up one of his favorite dinners, Thai Basil Chicken. I added a special Beef Red Curry too.IMG_0524We sung him happy birthday and shared his favorite dessert, Key Lime Pie.DSC_0310 (1)And for once, Adam had some down time to just hang out. Not much by anyone’s standards, but for Adam, sitting on the couch for 30 minutes is a pretty big deal.DSC_0311 (1)

When I was younger, 50 sounded really old. But now that we are all rounding the corner of this big number, I also feel very grateful for the way things have turned out. When I look around I see many of our contemporaries flaming out either of their own doing or through no control of their own. I also realize how truly blessed we are to have our health and our happiness. To have our kids who are healthy and mostly happy. And to have most of our parents still around, also healthy and happy.

And I feel very, very, very lucky to be married to such a modest, patient, hard working, kind, witty husband. Happy Birthday, Adam!

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Father’s Day 2019

After checking the weather forecast, we had to forgo our normal Father’s Day beach outing ritual this year. The high was 56° with scattered rain throughout the day.

So poor Adam had to go through the same thought process I had to do last month for mother’s day – finding an activity suitable for all the kids that would not result in push back and tantrums. I was sad that our family, well one member in particular, makes planning celebrations so fraught with anxiety. I was also secretly pleased that it wasn’t all just in my head, Adam struggles as much as I do.

That is not to say the day wasn’t busy. I mean, it is ADAM we are talking about. His trick of having a normal day is to under plan by his standards. So he ‘under planned’ to play monopoly, take an afternoon stroll, get lunch out, get afternoon treats at a donut shop, fly the drone with Jack, read with Aaron and plant a bamboo plant with Ben.

We started with presents and cards.IMG_0429For his father’s day present, I got Adam a set of four artisan mugs off of Etsy. It was as close as I could find to his favorite mug, of which we only have one. If it’s in the wash and he has to use another mug, the tea somehow never tastes as good.

Then it was onto Monopoly. They barely let him finish his breakfast before they were begging to fulfill this request.IMG_0431We took a stroll over to Soupbox for lunch. IMG_0438They have Cheerwine at Soupbox! I had to get one to remind me of all those summers I spend at overnight camp in North Carolina.IMG_0439On the way home, we stopped by Stan’s Donuts for an afternoon treat.IMG_0440In the afternoon, Adam spent time with each kid, playing video games, planting plants, flying drones, and reading.

He also requested we take the picture where we all stand in line according to height. This was the first time Jack surpassed me.DSC_0305To our shock, the timer takes three photos at a time, so we were a little surprised and unprepared for the next shot….DSC_0306We had dinner at home, followed by a ‘make your own ice cream sundae’ dessert.IMG_0443

Happy Father’s day Adam!

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Mother’s Day 2019

The lead up to this mother’s day filled me with incredible dread.

For someone who has a tendency to turn memories into something rosier, wittier, funnier, and brighter than their original, I was surprised how exacting my memory was of last year’s Mother’s Day. Trying to force your kids to appreciate you at the prescribed time and place is a losing proposition. I felt I had all to clearly learned that lesson last year and didn’t need a repeat reminder.

The entire week before Adam asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day. I kept telling him I would think about it.

I searched my brain to find something all the kids could participate in without meltdowns or bad attitudes. Sadly I couldn’t think of a single activity that would guarantee that.

I felt stuck. If I didn’t plan anything, I would be upset we didn’t celebrate. If I did plan something, there was a big chance it would make the day worse.

My normally decisive brain was paralyzed.

I couldn’t even decide what to eat for breakfast. When I asked Jack if we should do our usual donut and egg sandwich celebration breakfast, he answered. “It sounds good but it’s up to you. It’s your day.”

We were driving in the car, his body, now two inches taller than my own, was slumped comfortably in the passenger seat. When did he grow up and get so mature?

Donuts and egg sandwiches denote celebration in our house, so I reasoned I should go ahead. Plus I forgot to get Aaron a glazed donut last week during his birthday. We are so busy trying the specialty flavors that poor Aaron has never tried the most popular kind of donut!DSC_0244

When I got back from the donut shop, a pile of cards and presents awaited me. Gift cards and reflexology and Godiva chocolate and money!

Adam had the kids all draw me pictures for mother’s day. It was really sweet. Ben colored a heart beautifully, with a shading technique on the edges. Jack drew a row of flowers. Aaron drew an “I love you” machine. And Sam did adorable little hearts and picture of himself? DSC_0249So far, so good.

In the morning I planned a play date for the twins. Each picked a kid to invite over. I tried desperately to get them to play tag and sardines. I won for about 30 minutes. The rest of the time the Xbox won. Still the play date took the pressure off me, weirdly sometimes more kids around is easier than less.

Finally when it seemed to be going well, I suggested we head over to the Burger Bar for dinner.IMG_1290

It was a rough start getting everyone out of the front door but luckily the meal and company was completely enjoyable. We played a silly game where the kids took turns choosing another mother and father. Adam and I were quickly married off to other relatives, friend’s parents, and Marvel Superheros.

In the end, it was an enjoyable mother’s day. Perhaps it helped that I lowered my expectations a bit? Or maybe the kids matured a bit more?

Whatever it was, I’ll take it. Happy Mother’s day to all the mother’s out there reading this! I hope your day didn’t suck. If nothing else, I hope it was better than last year.

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Twin’s Seventh Birthday

I asked the twins where they would like their seventh birthday party and they both yelled out, “Dave and Busters!”

Immediately I went into a state of panic. Dave and Buster’s, once referred to by a fellow parent as “Vegas for kids”, is an impossible venue to watch kids in. Two large rooms with lots of corners to get lost in coupled with questionable, alcohol laden patrons is not the first thought I have when I think kid friendly.

The few times we’ve gone, I’ve spent the entire time wandering between the rooms frantically counting the head of all my children. One, two, three, four. Good. One, two, three, four. Still good. One, two….

I was sure I could not host a party there and actual do a good job. It’s hard to converse with other adults while internally counting over and over again in my head.

But I didn’t say no. I said, let me take you to a new trampoline park that just opened and then you can decide.

Luckily, the twins were happy to host the party at the trampoline park. Also I bribed them. If they chose the trampoline park, I promised to take them to Dave and Busters the day after their birthday as part of the whole birthday package.

The day started with the traditional birthday donuts and egg sandwiches.DSC_0124Their birthday was on a Friday and we hosted the party that evening at Altitude Trampoline Park. DSC_0135 DSC_0129 DSC_0134 DSC_0140As part of Altitude’s birthday package, they cleared the dodge ball arena for a private game with just the birthday guests.DSC_0151Afterwards, we had pizza and sandwiches.DSC_0156As per tradition, Adam organized the cake. DSC_0162Which is how we ended up with this four layer fudge and vanilla cake monstrosity. The remains of which will be my breakfast for the next week. And possible lunch and dinner too. Definitely dessert.DSC_0165 IMG_4563Afterwards, even though it was super late, we let them stay up even later to open their birthday presents. DSC_0169Don’t they look thrilled?DSC_0172They got a ton of thoughtful and exciting gifts will keep them busy for a long, long time!

The next day was another celebration. We didn’t go to Dave and Buster’s because my friend Pam told me about a new place called For the Win, which was smaller and had the allure of different prizes. We checked that out instead.IMG_0291The kids won a ton of points. Or maybe Adam spent a ton of money?

Either way, they all walked away super happy. Aaron got a disco ball, Sam and Jack got matching laser tag sets, and Ben got a POP Star Wars character.

The best part of the afternoon was how much the kids helped each other. Jack kept giving away his points and in the end, he had way less than the other kids. Then Ben gave Jack half his points so he could afford what he wanted.

Then we walked over to MingHin for a Dim Sum dinner.IMG_0315 IMG_0303Aaron had another request for his birthday. At the late age of seven, he had never had an ice cream sundae. We remedied that at Margies Candies.IMG_0325 IMG_0329 IMG_0333 IMG_0328It was a really great two day celebration, made even more special by the fact that Grandpa Devensky was in town. DSC_0125

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