Business Trip with Adam

Last week my father and aunt came to town to watch the kids so I could tag along with Adam on his business trip.

He had two stops, one in LA and one in Boulder.

In LA we also managed to see his sister and niece. I’m still kicking myself that we didn’t get a photo together.

It was a quick one night’s stay then we were off to Boulder for a few more nights.

After Adam finished all his meetings, he cleared his desk for Friday so we could have one day to go snowboarding and skiing together.

“Wait, are you a really good skier?” I asked.

I was having trouble processing the fact that we had just passed our 12 year anniversary but still had never skied or snowboarded together.

“I’m okay, not great.” Adam replied. Then, thinking out loud, “Maybe I’ll try snowboarding?”

You see, I only every learned to snowboard. It was one very painful week in Whistler that left me with knee bruises so big I could not bend them by the end of the week.

In the end Adam decided he didn’t want to slow me down, so he got skis.

Still I was worried. It had been almost 20 years since Whistler. The night before we had dinner in Denver with a mish mosh of friends, Adam’s friend Brian and wife Virginia as well as with my friend Holly and her hubby Jose.IMG_E0072 IMG_E0073

“Ah, it’s just like riding a bike.” Holly reassured me.

The next morning we donned our newly acquired winter hats from Adam’s friend Andy’s company.IMG_0075Then we were off to the nearest mountain, Eldora.

IMG_0081Adam took this picture then showed it to me later that day. “See, you can barely see the ski lift that you just fell off of from this angle.”

Sadly, I have no idea which lift ride this is because I fell off the lift every single time I rode it. I would fall then drop to my knees and crawl to the patch just outside of the way, dragging my snowboard, pigeon-toed on my left foot.

The first run of the day took me almost an hour to do. Holly lied. I could NOT remember for the life of me how to snowboard. I fell down every single turn.

Adam would tell me which way to go and I would just go whichever way the snowboard decided. If it was the same place Adam was pointing to, it was mere coincidence.

I had bought a new face mask at the bottom of the mountain that I was so happy with it on the ski lift, protecting me from the 30 mile an hour winds. But now, on the way down, it became a device for torture. I was sweating so badly from exursion, the cap kept all the warmth in. I could feel the sweat pooling and sticking to the hair matted between my neck and face mask.

On the second run of the day, I finally remembered that, when you are right (normal) or left (goofy) on a snowboard, it means that foot is actually BEHIND. That foot is steering, not in front. I switched my position. This time I was only falling half the time. Usually on the turn from back to front.

Meanwhile Adam is skiing backwards, with one hand on his phone, filming me.

I can’t believe how much he underestimated himself and I over estimated myself.

We managed a few more runs then I asked if we could quit and just go home and take a nap. Adam agreed.

Now I’m scared to ride my bike.

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Jack’s 11th Birthday

Jack officially turned 11 yesterday.

We gave him the option to pick where he wanted to go out to eat. Usually the kids ask for Rainforest Cafe. But we also suggested the Safehouse, in continuing with the Spy Theme, or his favorite food – sushi.DSC_0508Our little creature of habit decided to keep the Rainforest Cafe tradition going for another year.

It wasn’t totally without change. When he sat down to read the kids menu he noticed that it no longer applied to him. That menu was for kids 10 and under.

So he asked for the adult menu. It was full of very adult type menu items which looked icky so we came up with a compromise. He would order off the kids menu but ask for an adult size portion. Growing up, but with baby steps.

DSC_0511Ben insisted we get blind bags from all the kids for Jack for his birthday.

DSC_0514We kept electronic free by playing a game where the person behind you pretends to be your our hands.

DSC_0521Happy Birthday, Jack!

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Jack’s 11th Spy Birthday Party

As Jack gets older, the types of parties the kids have start to change. They no longer feel the need to invite EVERY SINGLE kid to the party. By 11, you know your friends and who you want to hang out with.

This year I asked Jack if he’d like to do a smaller party with just his good buddies. Perhaps something longer, a bigger treat but for less people.

I suggested we take his buddies to his favorite water park for the weekend. The hotel room fits 4, so he could invite 3 other kids.

To my surprise, the response to this amazing suggestion was a shrug.

Jack isn’t much of a complainer so if he doesn’t like something, trying to figure out what is wrong is like trying to solve a 1000 piece puzzle. It takes days to sort it out and sometimes it’s just too complicated and time consuming to sift through.

Adam finally cornered him on the way to school one morning and found the true source of his discontent. He said, “I don’t want to exclude anyone.”

It was so sweet, I melted right there and then. Whatever he asked for next he could have had.

He asked to invite his entire class to his house for a Spy Themed party.

The next day, I was a flurry of google searches, pinterest boards and online shopping at Amazon and Oriental Trading.

It was quite possibly the most labor intensive party I ever threw for Jack. But it was so much fun I didn’t mind a minute of it. Basically, I created an 11 year old escape room.

The kids entered the party and were immediately asked what the password was. I stole this concept from the Safehouse Restaurant. Since there wasn’t an actual password, they were given tasks to prove they were spy worthy.

These two guests had to recite a tongue twister and pretend their pants were on fire.

These two guests had to recite a tongue twister and pretend their pants were on fire.

I had a bunch of different tasks. Some kids were asked to prove they were masters of disguise, to pick a task from a bucket – they became ballerinas, frogs and old ladies. Some had to pretend their pants were on fire and one girl pretended she could not stop dancing even though she wanted to.

It came in handy when the next crew had to pretend they were a spy rock band and she started dancing and yelled, “I can’t stop dancing!”

Other kids were given pool noodles and battled me.

I even had a set of kids showing their dexterity by hopping on one foot while clapping, ending an a 70s style disco move.

Finally it was time to start the mission.

To receive their mission, the kids had to pass a laser field.

Jack's siblings went first to show the other kids how to avoid the lasers.

Jack’s siblings went first to show the other kids how to avoid the lasers.

The mission envelope had the mission inside, “Find the Alien”. It also had the first clue, a trivia question about their school.

DSC_0497Once they answered all the questions correctly, they used the numbers in the lines above to get to the next clue, “Golden Eggs.”DSC_0434

The golden eggs all had messages in them, either they had the message, “try again” or they showed a picture of a blue lock with a door. Kids had to figure out where the lock was, then how to open it.DSC_0425 (1)

The lock showed 4 spaces, each with a sour patch kid in it in a different color. Then below, a bunch more sour patch kids. The amount of sour patch kids equaled the number to unlock the door. Inside the door there was a decoder ring. Which led them to the next clue.DSC_0432

Decode the clue, which said, “Jack’s bookshelf”.DSC_0395

Jack’s bookshelf looked like this. When you pulled a clue out, it read:

So far your spy skills are tried and true.
How much more of this will we have to do?
This is a very good question
Perhaps I can offer a suggestion.
It’s back to the kitchen for you,
The Polybius Grid is your next clue.

DSC_0437The Polybuis Clue decoded said, “Thomas the Trains”.DSC_0392

These were racked downstairs.DSC_0393

When you turned them over you either got “try again” or a picture of a fingerprint. The kids had to find fingerprints somewhere…

DSC_0421The fingerprints decoded said, “Popsicle sticks”.DSC_0428

The Popsicle challenge unscrambled looked like this.DSC_0430

The four fruits were scattered in picture frames throughout the house with numbers on them.

DSC_0389The numbers gave you the code to the lock box.DSC_0422

Once you found them you could open the box to find this…DSC_0498

I bought plain jigsaw puzzles from Oriental Trading and wrote on them in different color permanent ink. The puzzle said..

Take one black piece of paper from the pocket of the lock box. Decode.

DSC_0499 I loved this clue. The box was black and the clue was black so it was hidden in plain sight. Right under the jigsaw puzzle.

DSC_0387The Spy Lab was a re-purposed box that you may remember from Hannukah.

DSC_0388I added a black light inside and used black light ink to paint Morse Code on the side.

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DSC_0460While this half of Jack’s team were busy decoding, the other half were outside of the lab, guarding their partners. (They used these very serious looking blow up swords.)

When the kids decoded the black light clue, it said, “pop bombs”.

DSC_0391When they went to pop the bombs (which were actually black balloons), they either got the message, “try again” or “wooden box”.DSC_0427

The wooden box was really hard to open. So I gave them 3 clues. to help figure it out.

DSC_0500Inside the box it said, “Check under the stairs”.

DSC_0502Under the stairs there is a little door and inside, another clue.

DSC_0503Framed pictures of Jack with empty lines underneath. When you found the framed pictures of Jack around the house they had letters on them. The letters spelled, “Ask a sibling”.

DSC_0450Jack’s siblings were all wearing these stickers.

DSC_0501Inside their pockets were mazes with letters in them.

The correct path spelled out, “Check the Laundry Room.”

Inside the laundry room…

DSC_0397After the mission the kids wrecked the house, drank all the sugary drinks and ate through the entire snack bin while simultaneously playing a weird boys vs girls territory game.

DSC_0471Pizza arrived shortly afterwards.

DSC_0472Then we sang to Jack’s cake.DSC_0486 Adam tried his best to keep the cake small this year. But there is still half the cake in our fridge. (Too bad none of it is the yummy chocolate bomb on top.)DSC_0492When all the kids left, Jack examined his new spoils. Lots of gifts cards that he can use to buy more stuff that I’ll have to find a place for in the stuffed house!

DSC_0496He managed to put together a lego set and play a couple of games on his new Foosball set before bed.

DSC_0494Also, we set the party up again so Jack’s siblings could do the mission themselves.

I had a ton of help. After I created this mission, I had Adam go through it one night when the kids were in bed to make comments and improvements. Then, the night before the party I asked my father and aunt to do it again to see if there were any more snags. DSC_0465 DSC_0447Once the three adults understood the mission they were stationed in different areas to help the kids along.

DSC_0458Even Aaron helped re-rack the trains.

I could not have done this party without them. My Dad and Aunt were in town at my request. I took full advantage. In addition to all the help they gave for the party, the week before I left them with the kids and tagged along on Adam’s business trip. But that blog will have to come later. As always, the kids come first!

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Snow Day!

Ah blog, how I’ve been neglecting you lately.

It’s not because I have nothing going on. It’s the opposite. I have too much going on!

I didn’t want to bore you with the week I spent de-cluttering the house. Okay, I would have bored you, but I was so focused on it I forgot to document it. If you want a taste, I got rid of two whole cabinets of electronics that were left here from the last people who lived her. TEN YEARS ago. By the time I finally got around to getting rid of them, I was furiously ripping cords from the back of them. Why did I wait 10 years to get these two cabinets back? We have been paying for them for TEN years!

I also spent about 20 hours working on Jack’s birthday party this month. That blog is coming soon. We just have to have the party first!

And I’m taking a writing class. My second one since the kids went back to school. I’m hoping to start some new and interesting work right here on this very blog! But I’m not quite ready yet. Stay tuned for it.

Today I had planned to work on a bunch of the above projects but Chicago had other plans for me. A snow day for the kids! Jack was super excited until we explained to him that, instead of going to school today in the bad weather he would have to make up this day at the end of the school year when the weather is actually nice.

Still, the boys enjoyed the copious amounts of snow just outside our door today.

There was so much Sam was yelling, “I’m stuck in quick sand!”

DSC_0297And then they took turns burying each other.DSC_0308 DSC_0311 DSC_0317I think they thought they were still on the beaches of Florida!

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Florida Trip

We managed to escape the cold Chicago winter for a week over the kids winter break. Sort of.

This time our trip to Florida had unusually cold temperatures.

At least the cold was bearable. Unlike Chicago, we could still be outside during the day. It just wasn’t warm enough for endless days of beach visits and pool swims.

So what else is there to do in Florida beside get your bathing suit on? Stay tuned, dear readers…

Our first day we visited Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton.DSC_0001 DSC_0005 DSC_0008 DSC_0009

The last time we visited this park was closed for renovations. We were planning on running around for about an hour but the boys were enjoying the relative warmth so much we ended up staying here almost 3 hours.

Afterwards we enjoyed the $1 carousel rides. Aaron asked to go again and when he got his gold token to ride he said he wasn’t riding, he’d rather save his shiny coin. Adam very nicely let him ride and keep his coin.DSC_0033 DSC_0034 DSC_0035

We also got to see both grandparent’s right away. First, Japo’s house were she had yummy Publix sandwiches waiting for us.DSC_0041

They were all fascinated by her huge collection of coins from her extensive travels.DSC_0045

Aaron’s favorite part, however, was discovering the ‘butt picture’ in Japo’s study. DSC_0047

Afterwards we spent time at Grandpa Devensky’s.

He took us on a tour of the complex searching for iguanas. I didn’t realize the iguana population has exploded in Florida and because they don’t have any natural predators they are becoming a real problem. In his complex alone we saw four of them!

Aaron almost stepped on this before Jack pointed it out!

Aaron almost stepped on this before Jack pointed it out!

The next morning we visited the Everglades Holiday Park. Ben requested this visit that we see Alligators. And Sharks. We tried our best to accommodate him.DSC_0071 DSC_0075 DSC_0081

We bundled up in our winter jackets for the airboat ride. We had 2 alligator spotting and one iguana spotting.DSC_0090 DSC_0094 DSC_0098

The ticket also included an alligator show. We didn’t realize it at the time but the show was run by Gator Boy’s own Paul Bedard. Apparently he used to have an insane alligator rescue show on Animal Planet.DSC_0104

We also got some good Dim Sum in while we were still in Fort Lauderdale at the Gold Marquess.DSC_0107

We were lucky to be able to join Grandpa Devensky’s weekly family dinners with his wife Susan’s family. DSC_0111

Auntie Doris was there too. DSC_0108

One thing about having four kids is that you can never give them as much attention as they want or need. So many people around giving the kids so much attention was worth all the hassle of traveling to get there.

Susan draws for Aaron while her daughter, Tammy entertains him.

Susan draws for Aaron while her daughter, Tammy entertains him.

Other things fun things we did included mini golf.DSC_0127

Sam even managed a hole in one!

We took the older boys to see the latest Star Wars movie while the twins got time with Grandpa.DSC_0114

Both Adam and I have fond memories of visiting Lion Country Safari as kids. So it was really cool to be able to take them back to have the same experience we did. DSC_0150

We saw so many animals up close!DSC_0153

This Ostrich was particularly aggressive, tapping on our window with his beak.DSC_0158

One night we went with Japo to Chipotle. Japo brought me a magazine she found at the supermarket because it had an article about Hong Kong. But I never got a change to read the article because the kids took over the magazine and wouldn’t give me a turn.

The magazine was Maxim’s, a girly magazine. Ben said it was the most interesting magazine he had ever read! Once again, Japo delivered ‘butt pictures’!IMG_8471

We did manage to swim one day in the pool. It was too cold by my standards, luckily Adam braved the water for me.DSC_0120

I could only manage the hot tub.DSC_0125

We also tried to have a beach day on our last day, the warmest day that we visited. When we arrived at the beach there were 15 mile an hour winds and the red AND the purple flag were up at the lifeguard stand. Red is for rough water with riptides, purple was for dangerous marine life. DSC_0185

It was too rough to swim but I thought it would be okay to dip our feet in. After a few minutes, a Portuguese Man of War washed up on the shore! DSC_0206

We checked out the pier, looking for those sharks Ben wanted.DSC_0191

Sadly, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t see any.

DSC_0217

Ben hoping to see a Shark through a hole in the pier.

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Snow!

Last night Adam and I were straining our brains trying to figure out a place to take the boys that wasn’t too expensive for us, or too crowded for Ben. A place warm enough to be comfortable, yet enough space for the boys to work off all their excess energy.

We considered, without enthusiasm, bowling. We considered ice skating but couldn’t figure out any way that the two of us could help three, maybe four people stay upright at the same time.

So you can imagine our delight when we woke up to a street full of snow!

Enough snow means playing outdoors, maybe even sledding. A perfect activity to get the boys moving, that isn’t too expensive, or crowded.

So, after a very stressful suit up job – four snow pants or bibs tucked into heavy socks tucked into snow boots, four sets of gloves on with jacket sleeves tucked inside then fastened as tight as possible – we were off.DSC_0964

We managed all kinds of different combinations of sledding partners.DSC_0968 DSC_0984 DSC_1016

We even tried all four on one sled.DSC_1003

And failed.DSC_1007

Afterwards, the boys worked with Papa to earn their hot chocolate reward. DSC_1023

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7th and 8th nights of Hanukkah

For the 7th night of Hanukkah the bears became ninjas. I took some of Jack’s old pants that had holes in the knees and made these masks. DSC_0939

I was worried that the Ninjas might frighten Ben but he loved them. IMG_8408

The next morning they claimed which one they liked best, then made up names for them. Aaron’s was the Master of Stickiness, Sam’s the Master of Disgustingness, Ben’s the Master of Air, and Jack’s the Master of Fighting.

That night both Jack and Aaron picked board games.

Jack’s “King of Tokyo” game was a big hit. All the boys played it.DSC_0947

They also joined in when Aaron broke out his “Blockus” game.IMG_8414

Finally, on the last night of Hanukkah the Bears showed up on the couch. They were sitting in front of our new TV. Our upstairs neighbors were getting rid of a TV and we happily took it off our hands. Our current TV is so old it doesn’t even have an HDMI connection.DSC_0957

The bear’s set up was a nod to their last night’s Hanukkah gift, a new Xbox console.

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5th and 6th Nights of Hanukkah

We’ve made it through another 2 nights on Hanukkah. DSC_0931

They landed on the weekend which was really nice. We could open toys early and have plenty of time during the day to enjoy them.

It was nice to see them all off their iPads for such long periods of time.

Jack spent hours building two lego sets he got. He proved himself a master builder. When a piece was missing, he went to his lego bin and found a substitution with ease. DSC_0936

All the kids spent time mixing the many Imaginex toys we have acquired over the years with the new plethora of recently additions.

Being off their iPads paved the way for other activities too. The younger 3 rediscovered their activity books and spent lots of time coloring, connecting dots, finding words and more.

In fact, Sam and Aaron have had an explosion of interest in writing since Kindergarten started.

Activity books.

Activity books.

The twins rediscovered the chalk board in their room.

The twins rediscovered the chalk board in their room.

Aaron loves to color, Sam prefers the puzzles.

Aaron loves to color, Sam prefers the puzzles.

Oh yeah, and here is what Jack did with the boxes we had leftover from all the gifts.

Aaron is a box troll.

Aaron is a box troll.

We got to play the Dreidel game and eat our winnings.DSC_0938

And finally, the Hanukkah Bears showed up religiously.

5th day of Hanukkah. Bear bring donuts for breakfast.

5th day of Hanukkah. Bear bring donuts for breakfast.

The boys got to pick one letter to eat and they conspired to pick letters so that "PP anukkah" was left. They thought it was hilarious.

The boys got to pick one letter to eat and they conspired to pick letters so that “PP anukkah” was left. They thought it was hilarious.

Last night Adam and I booked a sitter and hit two holiday parties. Afterwards, as I was laying in bed almost asleep I realized the Hanukkah Bears were not staged. I got out of bed at midnight and did a quick scene.

6th Day of Hanukkah. Sack race.

6th Day of Hanukkah. Sack race.

Two more days. The kitchen floors are started to get so crowded with new toys I’m having to tip toe while cooking…

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3rd and 4th nights of Hanukkah

We have managed to get through another 2 days of Hanukkah!

With all the wrapping paper and new toy boxes I’ve been throwing out so much trash and recycle that it’s shameless. So much waste!

And don’t get me started on the new toy clutter. I’m trying to be patient, to wait and see how much we have after these new 32 present join our houseful of toys. In the end then it will be time for another mass toy reorganization. Ugh. Can’t wait.

In the meantime, want to see what the Hanukkah Bears have been up to the past two nights?

Game of Angry Bird.

Night 3. Game of Angry Bird.

The Joker running away with the Hanukkah Gelt and Batman, Hulk and Spiderman chasing him.

Night 4. The Joker runs away with the Hanukkah Gelt. Batman, Hulk and Spiderman chase him.

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First night of Hanukkah

Hanukkah started today! The kids are SO happy!

All the gifts lined up for each kid in order of days they will receive them.

All the gifts lined up for each kid in order of days they will receive them.

And I am SO tired from wrapping 32 gifts!

At our house, with Hanukkah comes the playful Hanukkah bears.  This year they kicked of the festivities by showing up in a repurposed box we got last Hanukkah.DSC_0888

Adam came home early so he could light the candles and help assemble the first night’s gifts.DSC_0892

This year Adam was in charge of buying gifts so he gave the boys their budget and let them pick what they wanted. DSC_0890

Sam picked gigantic gifts. I’m not sure where we are going to fit all the new toys.DSC_0894

After all the boys went to bed, the Hanukkah bears came out again for more mischief…DSC_0895

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