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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Spring Break 2019

A few months ago Adam asked me to pick a place to take the kids for spring break this year. His only specification was a drive that was less than five hours away.

So, I dutifully got on Google maps and looked around. Every city I saw was one we had already visited. Many had one or two unique places that were great to see, but none of them rivaled Chicago in terms of epicurean and cultural pursuits.

So, I panned out. And out again. What other city, within driving distance, can compete with Chicago?

Then I saw it: Washington D.C.

It is a city steeped in history. It is a city every American should see at least once in their life time. It is a city twelve hours away from us.

Adam came home that evening and saw it on the computer and said to me, “Great idea.”

Because the drive was so long, we did it in two days.

The first night we stopped in Pittsburgh. DSC_0972I was absolutely charmed by this city. So were the kids.DSC_0987

Heinz Field in the background.

Heinz Field in the background.

We walked around downtown, running around Point State Park.

We crossed the bridge and ate a delicious dinner at Burgatory, located between Heinz Field and PNC Park.

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We also started the first of a week of free hotel breakfasts. The kids will tell you, I’m a sucker for free breakfast.IMG_0207

Adam is pretending his hands are Aaron's!

Adam is pretending his hands are Aaron’s!

We arrived in D.C. and walked to the White House and beyond. The kids immediately started playing tag in the first spot of green grass we encountered.DSC_1030

DSC_1036See all the “kids” playing tag?!  We spent a lot of time walking (and running!) the National Mall.

Adam wrote to Dick Durbin, our Senator, and scored a tour of Congress.DSC_1069 DSC_1081 DSC_1083

Roof of the Rotunda

Roof of the Rotunda

We were shown the Rotunda, where heads of state are laid for viewing, and where they hold the luncheon after presidents are sworn in. We passed Nancy Pelosi’s office. I love how any citizen can have the opportunity to do this. Being in the same room where such historically significant events take place gave me goose bumps.

I’m not sure how much the kids enjoyed or even understood of it. I was pleased that Jack knew almost all the answers to activity booklet they passed out. Who helped the Lewis and Clark expedition? Jack yelled out, “Sacagawea!” (I think he actually said, “that Saka something person”, but still!)

Tuesday Adam went to the office so I took the boys to the park for some soccer.DSC_1111 DSC_1097Then, there was more running and walking the National mall.DSC_0005 DSC_1056We went to Georgetown to check it out.DSC_0011

Watching the rowers on the Potomac.

Watching the rowers on the Potomac.

We ate dinner at Filomena’s. Delicious Italian fare in a basement with the craziest Easter decorations I’d ever seen. (Aaron kept asking if we could buy the 45 pound chocolate Easter egg they had for sale.)

Wednesday we were treated to a VIP tour from a friend of mine who works at the Department of the Interior.

We had a Park Ranger drive us right up to all the monuments and talked to us about each one.

With our tour guide, Carlos, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

With our tour guide, Carlos, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

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We learned a lot of stuff we would have missed without a tour guide. At the Korean War Memorial, he explained that each of the 19 soldiers represented different branches of the military. Carlos showed us how the soldiers are reflected in the wall. What is 19 plus 19? It’s 38, representing the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. DSC_0027Carlos also spent a lot of time asking the kids questions, which kept them engaged and feeling important. Here he is explaining the radio statue at the Roosevelt Memorial, which represents Roosevelt’s famous Fireside Chats.DSC_0047Aaron on Roosevelt’s dog, Fala.DSC_0051There are four rooms in Roosevelt’s memorial, one for each term of his presidency. This one was during World War II, signified by the broken rocks with the words “I hate war” on them.DSC_0050

Martin Luther King’s unfinished legs represent that he died before his work was done. DSC_0061My favorite quote of many at the Martin Luther King Memorial…DSC_0063We all agreed this tour was the highlight of the trip!

Thursday morning we went to see the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. It was spring break for everyone in the area and it was super crowded! Look at the line behind us!DSC_0064But it was still pretty amazing to see.DSC_0071 DSC_0077In the afternoon we took a tour of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. DSC_0088

Jack is worth 2 inches more than me!DSC_0081It was pretty cool to see them print money, and to walk by stacks and stacks of $6.4 million dollars ready to be shipped out.

Sunny day treat!

Sunny day treat!

Afterwards Adam let them all pick out a souvenir and they all picked monuments. Jack had them arrange the statues as if they were placed on a map.DSC_0091Aaron is really attached to his Lincoln, he kept it close the rest of the vacation.DSC_0094On the way home we stopped in Akron Ohio and finally enjoyed the hotel pool.IMG_0246

It was a much more difficult trip then heading to a beach, but now that it’s all over, I’m glad we exposed the kids to some history and culture.

Now that we are back home, the kids have forgotten all the fighting, sore muscles from long walks, the school like tour lectures, and that one scary moment in the restaurant where Adam had to give Aaron the Heimlich maneuver, and have all agreed it was a great trip!

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Jack’s 12th Birthday

Jack celebrated his 12th birthday party at FlightClub, a social darts venue that opened recently downtown.DSC_0937They have a computer connected to the dart board so the dart board can be used to play games like shoots and ladders. Up to 12 people can play together in these little booths called “oches” (pronounced like hockey without an ‘h’).DSC_0946 DSC_0941Once you are 12 years old, you can play with the steel tip darts they provide, so we left the our younger kids with a sitter that day.DSC_0944They had pizza, sliders, veggie trays but you can order from the menu whatever you like. Servers came by unlimited refills of their own personal drink orders, just like a full service bar. There was even a coat check.DSC_0947They also had dart birthday cakes so we didn’t even have to spend two full days ordering and picking up a cake from the suburbs.

It was possibly the easiest party I’d every organized.

Afterwards, we came back and Jack opened up lots of gift cards for his new iPhone (his birthday present from us), Xbox gifts cards (perfect as Season 8 of Fortnite is right around the corner), and more gift cards to place like Amazon or Target (which he pooled to get a drone).

Then, on Jack’s actual birthday, we had the traditional donuts for breakfast, he brought in a popsicle treat for lunch, and dinner at his choice, Shine Restaurant.IMG_0046Afterwards, he opened presents from his brothers, we sang Happy Birthday to him, and shared his favorite cake – a Key Lime Pie from Mandy Bs.IMG_0049This was a big year for Jack. He outgrew me. I am now the third tallest in the house. He can help me with the kids sometimes, or if he wants, I can let him stay at home by himself while I run a quick errand. And, he continues to be super cool. He’s got such an amazing outlook on life. He is even keel, generous, and thoughtful with a great sense of humor. Adam and I as so proud to see the man he is becoming.

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Bubbie’s 80th Birthday

My crazy month of travel continues!

The pilot lets Sam sit in the cockpit

The pilot lets Sam sit in the cockpit

Last week we took the boys to Arizona to visit Bubbie and Grandpa Bill.

We had a very special event to attend – Bubbie’s 80th birthday party.

All of Bubbie’s biological children and grandchildren booked a week long celebration just outside of Tuscon, AZ, where Bubbie and Grandpa Bill retired.

Bubbie surrounded by all her offspring.

Bubbie surrounded by all her offspring. (And their spouses)

We promised the kids warm weather and pool swims, but when we arrived, it was colder than Chicago so we had snowball fights instead!DSC_0495Bubbie and Grandpa Bill hosted us for many dinners at their house.

Shabbat Dinner

Shabbat Dinner

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DSC_0504 DSC_0500We spent many hours hanging out in the house enjoying each other’s company, or outside telling stories by the fire.DSC_0682 DSC_0678

One day, we mini-golfed and laser tagged.DSC_0463 DSC_0476

We also did some great hiking. One day we hiked behind the Ritz Carlton, where Adam’s sister and her family stayed.DSC_0565 IMG_1030

Another day we hiked Catalina State Park.

Finding rattlesnake holes?

Finding rattlesnake holes?

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At this park we were able to bring Bubbie’s dog, Zoe. The kids loved taking turns walking her.DSC_0731

In fact, they loved interacting with her any chance they could get.DSC_0686 DSC_0662

DSC_0489Bubbie also treated us to many activities. One day we visited Old Tuscon, a Wild West attraction.

My Niece and Nephew

My Niece and Nephew

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So nice to see the siblings together!

So nice to see the siblings laughing and joking together!

Bubbie also treated us to a Stagecoach ride.DSC_0540 IMG_1012

When the blacksmith heard it was her birthday, he gave her this horseshoe heart.DSC_0551Since the kids have never seen any Wild West movies, I think most of the tour was lost on them but there were some live action stunt shows and an insane haunted mine that they enjoyed.

Actually I think their favorite activity was running up and down the street chasing each other!DSC_0552Bubbie also treated us to a horseback ride at Tuscon Mountain Stables.DSC_0650 DSC_0654

The scenery was stunning and luckily it had warmed up enough to enjoy the outdoors.

We even managed to get some swimming in, both at our hotel and at the Ritz.DSC_0574 DSC_0578 DSC_0577 DSC_0576 DSC_0581 DSC_0587 DSC_0589

And last but not least, we celebrated Bubbie’s 80th birthday with many family members as well as the friends she has made at her retirement community.

All of the family members who flew and drove many hours to celebrate with Bubbie's 80th.

All of the family members who flew and drove many hours to celebrate Bubbie’s 80th.

Bubbie and Bill treated everyone to dinner. DSC_0596

Afterwards she hired a Karaoke DJ.DSC_0592

Before the party Adam and I bet how many people would actually get up and sing. I said 5 or less. Adam said at least 20.DSC_0610

Even Ben sings a song!

Even Ben sings a song!

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I’ve seen so many karaoke parties, thanks to my time in Asia. In my experience, most of them flop in Western environments. I’ve seen the party where the host makes people uncomfortable by pressuring people to sing. I’ve seen parties taken over by mike hogs. I’ve seen parties where the karaoke mikes stand awkwardly to the side, the elephant in the room. But at this party I saw something I’ve never seen before.

Not only were there a plethora of participates willing to get up and sing, but very quickly, everyone in the room was standing up singing. The entire room turned into a sing-a-long!DSC_0621

It was incredible! It was so joyous and uplifting!

And I enjoyed every last minute of it. So much so that Adam had to tell me we were leaving THREE times.

We got back late last night, due to a delayed flight. I’m happy to be home, but also sad that we are no longer in vacation mode. It was really nice to have Adam take a few days off from work and have time to connect as a family.

View from Bubbie & Bill's backyard.

View from Bubbie & Bill’s backyard.

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Nephew’s Graduation

I told you how amazing my husband was for letting me skip our date night last weekend  and leave him with the kids so I could see my friend Anna in Boston?

Well, HE LET ME DO IT AGAIN this weekend. I married a saint.

This weekend I was in North Carolina witnessing my nephew’s college graduation.DSC_0398He graduated with a Computer Science degree and (unlike me at that age) already has a full time job!DSC_0413

Clay's fan club

Clay’s fan club

After watching the ceremony, we had dinner in Asheville at Tulepo Honey. IMG_0145

I also had enough time to stop by my friend Jennie’s house another night, where her husband had a delicious dinner prepared for us. DSC_0357

My Dad was there too!DSC_0359And Lara gave me my birthday presents. IMG_4126

I got to choose from a variety of hats that she knitted herself and I got a signed copy of my friend Jennie’s book. Yep, not only is Jennie’s husband a great cook, but she’s a published author too! This book was so well received that she has already pre-sold her next book!

And if you didn’t think she was cool enough yet then wait, there is more. While I was at Lara’s she showed me the book she used to knit all the different hats and look who was the model for the hats…IMG_4131We also got to tour around the Lake on Lara’s new golf cart (which came with a house she bought in this amazing community.)DSC_0438It was such a nice weekend. I woke up each morning on my own, without the ‘help’ of a child. And we spent hours leisurely hanging out talking and laughing.

Seeing my nephew graduate, catching up with my good friend Jennie, and spending time with family – an omne trium perfectum.

I don’t think I even have words to express how appreciative I am for this charmed life I live.

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Trip to Boston

So the reason I missed the last two nights of Hanukkah was because a dear friend of mine, who I have not seen since our friend Mark’s wedding in London 9 years ago, was passing through the states. It’s a big deal since she lives over 8,000 miles away from me in South Africa.IMG_0123Adam graciously let me bow out of our date night and offered to watch the kids. I thanks my lucky stars every day that I married such a kind and thoughtful man.

Whenever I talk to my friends from my days of living in Hong Kong, we all describe it as ‘the bubble’. It was an incredibly special time in our lives, and now that we’ve all joined the real world we can look back with awe that we were once a part of it.

It was like college, where everyone lives far away from their parents and as a result forms very tight friendships. But with money. And set in an exotic location.

Anna showed up on my doorstep one day early into my time in Hong Kong, when she began dating my roommate, Rob. We struck up a quick friendship that has lasted the test of time.

After seeing her this weekend, I looked back on some of our photo albums. Its true what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And I had so many pictures, hopefully these few can sum up just how special our time together was.Anna 2We spent a lot of time in bikinis. On junk (boat) trips sailing around Hong Kong or at the beach after a long walk through the New Territories. Or in many exotic locations. This picture was taken at our friend Ryan & Petra’s wedding in Phuket, Thailand, at the Banyon Tree Hotel.Anna 34We went everywhere. And most of the time I could only afford the flight so I had to sleep in Rob and Anna’s hotel room once we got there. We were actually called Rob’s ‘girls’! This is a picture of a weekend trip for my birthday. Anna, Rob and my then boyfriend Arsalan flew me by helicopter to Macau.Anna 3We did a lot of dress up. This shot is from a 70s themed party we used to attend. In between Anna and I is our friend Issy who now lives in New Zealand (also about 8,000 miles away from me, but in a different direction!)

Anna 1Did I mention how much dress up we did? Well, here is yet another one of many black tie events that we attended. Our friend Teena threw a lavish 40th birthday murder mystery party at the top of the China Club. Afterwards we dumped into Lan Kwai Fong and practiced our swing dancing in front of Al’s Diner. Yes, we all took group swing dancing lessons together. We were a very close group that did EVERYTHING together. Anna’s character was actually pregnant for this event and we had a blast watching her and our friend David, who was dressed as a priest, dance together.

Even though this photo is a bit blurry I love how it captures the moment. We had so many giggly moments like this!

It was really great to catch up with Anna and meet her kids, two of which I met about 10 years ago in New York and one that wasn’t born yet then. Hopefully it won’t be another 10 years before we see each other again!

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Nights 7 & 8 – Hanukkah 2018

We celebrated the last two nights of Hanukkah this weekend.

Well, mostly Adam celebrated. I was in Boston for the weekend, but I’ll save that story for another blog post.

Today I want to show you the last two night of Hanukkah Bears.

Night 7…DSC_0349and Night 8…DSC_0347As I mentioned before, I wasn’t here to set up the last night, but I had all the props ready so all Adam had to do was pull them out and set them up.

I was pleased to see how much the scene changed by the time I got home that night. The boys, especially Aaron, had a blast with it. In fact, they like it so much I’m not allowed to clean it up!DSC_0355The bears are now ‘dementors’ and have been imprisoned in the castle.

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Happy Birthukkah!

Today was my 46th birthday as well as the 5th day of Hanukkah. That makes today a very special day for everyone in the house (except for Adam).

Today is Birthukkah!!!!

This morning the Hanukkah bears brought birthday donuts and egg sandwiches from Dunkin’ Donuts. The kids and Adam gave me birthday cards with many gifts in them. Earlier this week my mother took me out for a special birthday lunch and I also received calls from all of my family members and gifts from them as well. And as if that wasn’t enough, I also received many birthday texts and happy birthday wishes on Facebook.DSC_0305The kids all had school today and while they were away, we got a visit from the Hawthorne twins.

My mother was laughing with shock when she changed a diaper today. She never thought she’d be doing that again! Still she took her babysitting duties very seriously…DSC_0316Afterwards I ran a few errands before picking up the kids. One errand was in Chinatown and I treated myself to a bubble tea from Joy Yee’s fancy drink menu.

This drink is bigger than my head!

This drink is bigger than my head!

Tonight Adam treated us all to dinner at Shine Restaurant. DSC_0327

Aaron's favorite part of the meal - the steamed rice.

Aaron’s favorite part of the meal – the steamed rice.

Then, it was back home to light candles all over the place. First on another birthday surprise, a beautiful cake from Sweet Mandy B’s. All chocolate. You can never have enough chocolate!DSC_0330We also lit Hanukkah candles and the boys opened more presents. DSC_0338Finally, after Adam put the kids to bed and all was quiet in the house, I set up the Hanukkah Bears for the 6th day of Hanukkah…

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I got a nice little video of the twins wrecking that scene!

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Nights 3 & 4 – Hanukkah 2018

On the third night of Hanukkah, I let the Fortnite craze sweep through to the Hanukkah bears.DSC_0287

We were joined by Fable, Tomato Head, Cuddle Bear Leader, and Raven.

They actually came in just like the game, dropping from the sky and landing on the map.DSC_0278 DSC_0280 DSC_0284

The kids loved this one. Aaron was obsessed with Raven, even Jack pointing out that I missed Raven’s feathers and had mistakenly put Ravage’s wings on him didn’t cull his devotion.

So, I couldn’t bear (pardon the pun) to take the Fortnite ‘skins’ off for night 4’s scene.DSC_0297 DSC_0296

I was trying to recreate the family slide at Great Wolf Lodge….DSC_0026

Both nights we had more presents, lots of Legos and Imaginex! And Gelt! DSC_0292

Stay tuned for tomorrow when we celebrate Birthukkah, the day were everyone in our family except Adam gets gifts!

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