Supermarket Evolution

As the sole food shopper for 6 people, I am obsessed with supermarkets. I visit one 3 or 4 times a week. The average supermarket stocks around 40,000 items but I for some reason I still need to visit 3 or 4 different supermarkets to get just what I want.

One store only has the greek yogurt I like, another one stocks the cereal the kids like, and a third the tea that Adam likes. And don’t even get me started on Trader Joe’s.

Still I have to say I’m really enjoying the new trend I see evolving in the supermarket industry.

Last week at Costco I was handed this flyer on my way out…

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Seeing this flyer made me squeal internally with glee.

After my sister gave me The China Study, I started to get quite obsessed with the food we eat. Next I moved onto The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was a real eye opener.

After reading these two books I was scared to go back to the supermarket. I switched to Whole Foods for a while exclusively. It was safe there. Safe, but expensive.

In their mission statement they explain, “Among other criteria, we draw a line when it comes to hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners.”

I would not have to look at the back of every label and cross reference my iPhone every time I put something in my cart.

But things are changing. I am more aware of what is okay and what is not, and increasingly so is the general public.

And supermarkets have noticed. Costco isn’t the only one. Aldi is changing too. Once known for it’s competitive prices, they are overhauling themselves to be the picture of health and organics. Other supermarkets have started “natural and organic” sections.

Trader Joes also does not allow artificial flavors, preservatives, dyes, MSG, GMOs, or trans-fats.

Besides the change to current supermarkets we are also seeing an influx of Whole Foods Supermarket look alikes: Fresh ThymePlum MarketMrs. Green’s to name a few.

You can even get your fresh, organic, local produce delivered if you want nowadays! I used Irv and Shelley’s for a while and was very happy with them.

And though I am happy for all the new competition in the marketplace, I can’t help wonder, how Whole Foods compete with all this new competition?

Will they become the next Gorbachev? Did their cutting edge concept revolutionize the way we think so much that they have created their own competition? Or will they continue to find the next food trend, continue to be a food industry leader?

I hope so. I’d hate to see the very company that helped change us all for the better be hurt by their own impact.

But even if it lessens their market footprint, the end result will be good for all of us.

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10 Year Anniversary

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Marco Island, Florida 10 years ago with 200 of our closets friends and family.

Adam and I celebrated out 10 year anniversary last night.

I always knew we’d make it to 10 years. But I had no idea the journey would look like this!

Yes, there were a lot of surprises over the years, changing jobs, changing houses, changing rooms within houses, and the biggest surprise of having 4 boys, all of them only 5 years apart in age.

Even our date nights have changed. Ten years ago we might have booked a fancy dinner to mark the occasion, perhaps one of those chi-chi molecular gastronomy places. Maybe we’d try one of the supper clubs so exclusive you need tickets months in advance. Or even pick one of the growing michelin star restaurants sprouting up in Chicago.

Instead our 10 year anniversary date night started at the gym. In an effort to get back the bodies we had in the picture above, our new routine is to workout first then, eat something later.

Ten years and 4 kids wreaks havoc on a person’s body.

We chose RPM Steak for dinner. It’s one of the restaurants started by Bill and Giuliana Rancid in partnership with the younger generation of Melmans (of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group).

We even used a gift card that I instructed my mother to get us for a Christmas present for dinner. Because we are old and married like that. Thanks Mom!

Cheers to 10 years!

Cheers to 10 years!

As we sat in our booth overlooking the hip scene at this River North hot spot, I noticed the young girls in their low cut dresses and high heeled boots.

“Ten years ago I was one of those girls.” I thought to myself.

Last night I was wearing flat boots, a comfy sweater and pants. No cleavage, no shape wear. I didn’t even bother to blow dry my hair after the gym.

I realized how much 10 years changes a person.

And, as hard as it is to let go of being the eye candy in the room, getting older with a kind, thoughtful, charming husband is so much better.

The restaurant had some throw backs to old school steakhouses, stuff that those cleavage, high heeled girls have only seen in movies. Adam and I remember them fondly as kids. We ordered Adam’s father’s favorite dessert and enjoyed it unabashed.

Baked Alaska for dessert. Because we are old and married like that.

Baked Alaska for dessert. Because we are old and married like that.

 

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The Big Move Reveal

So besides my closet we are changing up just about every bedroom in this house.

After many run ins, we realized it was time for Jack and Ben to get divorced.

It’s time for Jack to have a bit more space and privacy. I think Ben will like it better too, once he adjusts. Plus Adam made a huge effort to make his room really cool.

It was a catalyst for a month long reorganization bonanza.

And in the end it made us realize just how bad we had let things get. We keep saying we don’t have enough space but the truth is we have plenty of unused space! We just never clean, pair down and reorganize. For years Adam would ask me for nail clippers and I could never find any. After this clean up we 12 pairs.

Adam and I moved to the basement spare bedroom. Jack took over our bedroom. Ben moved into the twins room. And the twins moved into Jack and Ben’s old room.

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After emptying our closet, we filled it with Jack stuff.

Our closet was crammed with so much crap, half the clothes and shoes I hadn’t worn in years, all shoved together in a messy ball on shelves. Great tops lost for years behind these wads of clothes all because I never bothered to spend the time thinning and merchandising it.

Jack, by contrast, could barely fill a quarter of the closet.

It was a lesson in the joy of simplicity. How wonderful to have so much space to see and find your clothes easily! Jack saw it differently. He looked the new closet and suggested we buy him some new clothes. Ha!

We bought him a new desk so he could start doing his homework in his room. It’s almost impossible most evenings to help both the older boys with their homework, cook dinner and tend to the twins all at the same time.

A quiet place to work will be a godsend. The homework is getting harder and requires more concentration. He really needs this.

Jack's Bedroom Before

Jack’s Bedroom Before (Our old room)

Jack's Bedroom After

Jack’s Bedroom After

Jack's Bedroom Before

Jack’s Bedroom Before

Jack's Bedroom After

Jack’s Bedroom After

The desk comes with remote and led lights that light up different colors and flash.

Next Ben took over the twins room.

Ben's Room Before

Ben’s Room Before

Ben's Room After

Ben’s Room After

Ben got a loft bed with desk underneath. He also got the same led remote controlled lights. We also used the castle tent that was wasting away in a closet for an enclosed sitting area. Inside is a big bean bag.

We put the cribs by the alley since it’s really hard to donate them. I put an ad on Craigslist with their location and pictures. They were gone in a few hours.

The other side of Ben’s room has a bookshelf and shelves for toys.

Ben's Closet Before

Ben’s Closet Before

Ben's Closet After

Ben’s Closet After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally the twins moved over to Jack and Ben’s room. It has all the same furniture but is much bigger than their old room. Instead of cribs they will have full beds to sleep in.

Twins New Room

Twins New Room

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Our New Bedroom

Adam and I made up our room just like our room upstairs, surprisingly the space is bigger, and quieter. And as a bonus, this morning Jack and Ben woke up and hung out together in Jack’s room instead of waking us up!

And the metamorphosis continues, this week we tackle the books. Six boxes of adult books are waiting for pick up by Pilsen Community Books. Now it’s time to tackle the kids books. All extra books will be donated to Jack’s public school.

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New Closet

We are changing things up in the house, moving around to keep up with the kids changing needs. Tomorrow I’ll post pictures of the full move, but for today I just want to talk about my closet. Surprisingly it was much more than just sorting, it was a visceral experience that made me really think about where I am in life and the kind of person I want to be.

In order to move around and make more room for the kids, Adam and I are moving to the basement spare bedroom.

It’s perfect except for it’s small closet. I suggested we put up a few racks into the old storage unit but as usual Adam had a bigger, better plan.

During construction

During construction

I wish I would have taken more pictures, because the storage unit started out packed to the gills with stuff. Adam spent two solid weeks cleaning it. Donating old things that have been collecting dust for years and throwing out/shredding years of old paperwork we didn’t need. I think he found stuff old bills from 1985 in there!

The shear mass of junk was astounding.

And it didn’t end there. After the closet was finished, I culled through 10 years of stuff before switching my closets.

I have to say, it was quite an emotional rollercoaster to clean out my closet. Keepsake clothes and jewelry that ex-boyfriends gave me were confidently donated. When I put my closet together 10 years ago, I still clung to their memories. They still felt so much a part of me. Now those times in my life seem like a distance speck in the horizon. And I can leave them there confidently, happy to let them fade without any physical reminders.

I also found a bunch of old clothes from my days in Asia. Suits I worked in, and great pants I used to party in.

It was pure elation.

Followed immediately by pure depression.

I couldn’t fit almost anything over my hips, spread from childbirth.  But if anything made it past there, my jiggly belly, pock-marked with stretch marks was to big to fasten around.

I decided to throw them out on the spot, along with my version of what Adam calls his “Brazilian Jeans”. He has a pair of jeans he wore before he met me that he bought in Brazil. Anytime he would do a major race or have the flu he’d try them on. I have a similar pair from Shanghai. I threw them out. No use clinging to the body I had 15 years ago. I didn’t want those pants staring at me every time I opened my beautiful new closet, reminding my of how my body has changed irrevocably. I only wanted clothes in there that made me happy and feel beautiful.

Later I found out when Adam was switching his closet he also threw out his Brazilian Jeans. Guess we are both tumbling down the same path together.

More culling and donating.

More culling and donating.

We decided to use Elfa shelving from the Container Store. I figure if this closet ever becomes a storage unit again, we can change it easily with their flexible layout.

I’m really enjoying seeing everything displayed in a roomy environment. I have so much space I have an entire spare drawer I don’t know what to do with!

This picture doesn’t include all the closet, I’m still missing my dress rack which didn’t fit into the picture. I love how it’s a straight shot, no chance of clothes getting stuck in an awkward corner for the next ten years!

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Stay tuned for the big move tomorrow!!!

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My Mom was Flocked

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For all of my mother’s friend’s who read my blog as well as my high school buddies, my mom was flocked this week.

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The second sign says “Project Life” from Boca High.

Apparently someone comes by and asks her who she would like to flock next.

If you could pick anyone, who would you pick to flock???

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Swedish American Museum

One of the many perks of living in a big city is the sheer diversity of it.

So many nooks and crannies to explore!

Yesterday we checked out the Swedish American Museum.

They have a children’s area on the third floor that was a perfect way to entertain the kids on a freezing winter afternoon.

Rowing to America? Or just picking your nose...

Rowing to America? Or just picking your nose…

Planting the garden

Planting the garden. Jack sowed Ben.

Milking the cows

Milking the cows.

Ivar Pearson's house (decorated Swedish American Educator).

Ivar Pearson’s house (decorated Swedish American Educator).

Swedish houses back in the day

Swedish houses back in the day.

Did you know Buzz Aldren was Swedish American?

Did you know Buzz Aldren was Swedish American?

It was cute and different, and we learned a few things as well!

The suggested donation price for a family is $10 and the children’s floor is open from 1-4pm most days.

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Pre-schooling

I can actually see how people with lots of kids come to the conclusion to homeschool.

Not that I would do it, because I think there is so much more to learn socially and emotionally in a regular school setting.

But it has occurred to me on during our many days of quarantine over this cold winter that I’m kind of starting to resemble a pre-school at home.

Now that I’ve reorganized my house a bit, it seems like there are natural centers.

Lego center for fine and gross motor skills as well as executive function.

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Education through technology. They are creating with Minecraft.IMG_2483

Storytime.IMG_0128

Sam learning the alphabet while Aaron practices matching shapes.

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Fine Motor skills and creativity with Playdoh. Ben has made Darth Vader, complete with red light saber.DSC_0308

Responsibility and organization. Learning to keep a clean house is an invaluable skill!DSC_0303 DSC_0298 DSC_0206

Multi sensory experiences.IMG_0097

Other centers that get set up as the kids need. Usually as a distraction from fighting or boredom.DSC_0301 DSC_0204 DSC_0203

Last week the twins didn’t leave the house all week! They didn’t seem to mind, there is more than enough stuff to keep them busy.

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Last Day of Winter Break

While it was tempting to stay at home and sort through the 14 boxes of junk that Adam recently found while cleaning out our storage unit, we decided the best thing to do today was give the kids one last fun adventure before they started school tomorrow.

We debated on which museum to visit before finally settling on something less educational, more contained. Something a bit more interactive for the kids. Something that would be fun for all.

This afternoon we went to Waveland Bowl for Cosmic Bowling.

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When we got there there was a twenty minute wait for our lane. We used the time to get ourselves a treat at the restaurant.DSC_0265

Aaron was extremely happy with his gigantic drumstick. At home he can only have a mini one of these for dessert.

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Sam missed the entire snack. He fell asleep in the car and I had to carry him in.

Shortly after taking this photo he peed all over me.

The worst thing about that fact is that he wasn’t the only person who got peed on today. This morning Ben decided it was a good idea to pee all over Aaron, Shogun style.

We all got over it eventually, as we do with so many of the strange and incredulous things we witness having four boys.

And so we were onto bowling…

DSC_0288The twins used the push and roll style while Ben did a group throw with Adam and Jack got up and barreled it down the lane with a powerful side throw.

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Adam patiently helped all the younger kids with each of thier turns while I was on bathroom and ‘nag them to stay behind the line’ duty.

Near the end Aaron fell into the same fate Sam had earlier and missed his last few turns.

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At least he didn’t pee on me…

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Crêpe Party Annuelle

Today we celebrated the new year with our dear friends at the annual crepe party.

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As the years go by and the kids get older I find these meetings less and less frequent. Different schools, activities and friends get in the way. But when we are together I’m reminded that we don’t do it enough anymore.

Crepe Master Olivier was working hard in the kitchen this year, the boys (and girl) seem to want more and more crepes every year.

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I saw so many great moments this year, older kids means less parallel play and more interaction.

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Also it didn’t go unnoticed how host Doug was with our kids, making time for each and every one of them.

DSC_0233He even taught Aaron how to play games with all those marbles he loves so much. Now he can use them in other ways besides stuffing them in my shoes and other odd places around the house.

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Timber Ridge, Again.

Remember when I told you how difficult it was to take four boys to the waterpark over Thanksgiving? Well, where I see I problem, Adam sees a challenge.

A month later we found ourselves back at the waterpark, ready to try it again.

Was it any easier? Actually, it was.

We learned a few things from the last time and did them better.

We repeated a few mistakes as well.

Last month I would watch three kids in the kiddie area while Adam took the fourth one where they wanted to go. They spent a lot of time waiting to do what they wanted. And when one had to go potty I would spend a nerve racking few minutes running to the restroom hoping the other ones would stay put, not drown and not get into a fight.

This time we realized that Jack could take a twin almost anywhere without much supervision, freeing us up to spend more time with the other kids.

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Jack took Sam down the green slide and around the lazy river all morning one day.

Which left Aaron and Ben more freedom for other things…

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I bought Aaron some goggles. Last time he refused to go back to the waterpark because his eyes hurt to much. The goggles did the trick. He was still the first one to leave every day but he lasted much longer.

We still managed to do a few things as a group too…

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This trip we were lucky enough to get cookie, milk and story time not once…

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Which meant two different Bruce the Moose sightings afterwards!

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One thing we did wrong both visits was decide, at the last minute, to go eat at the other hotel, the Grand Geneva.

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We took the trolley over and once again there was no room for us at any of the restaurants for the next three hours. At least we got to see the holiday lights on the way.

We got a chance to do some fun activities in the activity center, like cookie decorating (and eating!) and bingo.

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And we hit the arcade. This time the twins did not nap so they joined us in earnest.

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Aaron stuck to his favorite game, Harpoon Lagoon.

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Sam liked trying all the different games they had. Punching ducks, stomping spiders, coin pushes, fruit ninja…

They got lots of great prizes for all their efforts in the arcade. My sister gave them a bunch of money to spend there for their Hanukkah presents.

Aaron and Sam got matching blow up dolphins.

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They used them instantly to pummel each other until someone was crying.

Aaron also got a spiderman rocket football. Sam got a LED light up bubble blower. DSC_0182

Jack got so many points he was able to get a fire truck remote control car. And Ben got 2 minion stuffed animals.

I got a laugh out of breakfast one morning. Check out the four boy’s orders below.

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I turned to Adam and said, “You realize you’ve just spend $20 on Fruit Loops?”

He was a good sport about it.

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