Happy Birthday Spring Break!

Adam’s sister and husband made quite a hoopla about our visit to LA.

For the past two days they rented a bouncy house, water slide and snow cone maker.

It was barely warm enough for the slide both days but that did not stop any of the kids from endless variations of sliding…

Roman and Sky

Roman and Sky

Ben! The look on his face each time was priceless.

Ben! The look on his face each time was priceless.

Sometimes even the adults joined in...

Sometimes even the adults joined in…

Joy!

Joy!

Sometimes everyone slid together.

Sometimes everyone slid together.

Sam and Sky didn't even need the fancy slide, a tub of water to splash in was fun enough.

Sam and Sky didn’t even need the fancy slide, a tub of water to splash in was fun enough.

By the second day the twins were brave enough to go it alone.

By the second day the twins were brave enough to go it alone.

Sky looked at this picture and said she looked like she was walking on the moon.

Sky looked at this picture and said she looked like she was walking on the moon.

Sam and his snow cone.

Sam and his snow cone.

Aaron couldn't believe his luck. Hs favorite thing to eat is ice and here was FLAVORED ICE?!

Aaron couldn’t believe his luck. Hs favorite thing to eat is ice and here was FLAVORED ICE?!

image

As Sky put it, it was like a 2 day birthday party. Happy Birthday Spring Break!image

Pin It

Passover

It’s a little out of order, but the night before our Disneyland visit we celebrated Passover dinner at Joy’s. It was too late that evening to post about it, but it was a special evening that I wanted to capture in this living diary of public domain that I keep.

This was the first year we didn’t celebrate in it Chicago. Traditionally it was Bubbie’s holiday, but now she lives in Arizona.

There was something strangely comforting about eating Bill’s famous brisket alongside Bubbie’s homemade matzoh ball soup on this day special reserved for families whose ancestors were liberated from Egyptian slavery.

image

Bubbie’s Seder Plate

Adam reading the Haggadah

Adam reading the Haggadah

I don’t think Roman liked the lengthy reading! And yes, we dressed our non twins like twins and our actual twins like non twins that night.

bubbie plays a memory game with Roman and Jack. She lost to both of them.

bubbie plays a memory game with Roman and Jack. She lost to both of them.

Sky was super sweet with the twins.

Sky was super sweet with the twins.

It was the first night the cousins got to see each other in a long time and everyone was very excited which was so nice to see. I love that Adam and Joy’s kids are similar enough in age to all hang together.

Chag Sameach!

Pin It

Finally Aaron is First!

After almost two years of Sam beating Aaron to all of the ‘first’ moments in life (first to walk, first to talk, first to… yada yada yada), Aaron finally was the first to the show today.

While Sam was swallowing water and begging to be held, Aaron was quietly but confidently treading water with his new water wings.

image

Congrats Aaron! Today you completely out shined not just Sam but ALL your brothers.

Pin It

Disneyland

Today we attempted what some parents would consider the impossible. We did Disney. Four kids, three of them pre-school age, to a super crowded, hot place and asked them to wait in long lines. All day long.

At least we had some help…image

We actually had enough adults that we were almost not outnumbered for once.

And when I say we did Disney, we DID Disney. We arrived shortly after the gates opened and stayed for over 12 hours.

Since our last trip to Disney a short 16 months ago, the agenda has totally changed. Jack has finally reached an age where the kiddie rides bore him. He was ready to ride all the scariest roller coasters they had. Luckily he had his cousins there to ride with him.

Since Ben’s diagnoses for a sensory processing disorder, we have learned that things like roller coasters, which he suffers a lot of anxiety about, are actually good for him. If your balance is all messed up, exercising it is key. Last time we avoided it because we didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. So he rode Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain with us while Bubbie and Grandpa Bill napped the twins in the stroller.

By far the favorite ride was Autopia. Jack hit it four times!image

If this blog has taught you anything about me, it’s that I’m obsessed with food. Disney does everything amazing, it almost always exceeds my expectations, except when it comes to food.

I guess when you have a captive audience it doesn’t matter. And the truth is that the kid food is great for the kids. When you are a kid, what more do you need besides pizza, burgers, soda, ice cream and CANDY!?

image

So much for the food dye ban!

I also felt guilty that we promised the kids fireworks and we left before but in the end it all worked out. It took so long to leave that we were able to see it fear free, with a thousand car alarms going off (did you know fireworks did that to car alarms?), in the comfort of our own car.image

Pin It

California Here We Come

Today we left thawing Chicago for sunny California.

Traveling with four kids has been something I’ve been nervous about since our last (and first) attempt at traveling with four kids.

After a tense moment at the security line when the twins were about 6 months old, Ben was 3 and Jack was 5 I put us on a travel ban until further notice.

I won’t bore you with the details but it ended with Adam getting felt up by a stranger, me with a twin in each arm and Ben getting naked all at the same time.

Okay, the stranger was the TSA guy, but with both our our hands tied, no one could stop Ben from decided at that moment that clothing was optional.

But this trip was an opportunity that was too good to miss for thrifty Nikki.

Adam has wanted to visit his sister for years but these baby making years have kept us grounded.

This week is Jack’s spring break. Also Adam has a conference in LA, where his sister lives. Her kids also have spring break. Adam’s company can help cover some expenses and with the twins turning 2 next month we still have a small opportunity to travel without paying for 6 tickets.

So, here we are! On our way to LA.

We packed so light we surprised ourselves. Of course, tonight before blogging realized I forgot the twins jammies. Who knows what else!

One thing I’ll say about traveling with Adam is that, even with 4 small children in tow, he still does it in style.

Here is our ride to the airport…image

Our kids have taken more limos in their lifetime than I had by age 30!

The plane ride went surprisingly well. The older boys can be distracted by movies, snacks, and busy books. We had to jump through a lot more hoops for the twins but let me pass on one tip my friend Margie gave me – stickers. Lots of stickers.

We had another snafu at the car rental which was eventually resolved. Then at the hotel we were told our rooms would not be adjoining.

A vacation where I sleep in a separate room than my husband? No thanks.

At one point the desk clerk told me that whoever booked our reservation did not book them adjoining. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Are you calling my mother a liar?”

My mother is my travel agent people. And I KNOW she got us adjoining rooms.

But in the end I couldn’t complain when they sorted us out with adjoining room for every night but tonight. And for tonight they did us one better… Here are some pictures of our digs tonight…

image

imageimageimageimageAfter checking in, we headed to the mall for a quick bite at the food court. Seeing a California style food court made me remember why I love traveling so much. It’s so fun to be somewhere new and exciting! Even the food court was different! Of the 12 stalls, 6 were Asian. Now that is my kind of food court!

Bubbie and Grandpa Bill arrived in time to join us for dinner.image

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for bedtime were I sipped on my bottle of California Pinot in my hotel robe, watched Adam read to the older boys, and let myself feel very, very lucky in life.image

Pin It

Traveling Husbands

I’m not sure how SAHMs with husbands who travel do it.

Which is weird because most people look at me with my 4 kids and wonder how I do it.

And even though Adam works long hours, he is very helpful when he is here, which is at some point every day. Even just taking the last 30 minutes of childcare away from me at the end of the day is a huge relief.

You’d think after doing it for 14 or 15 hours, what’s another 30 minutes? But feeling like you are not shouldering all the childcare yourself is very comforting.

Today I actually had a traveling husband. And it wasn’t even during the week, when you have a schedule that keeps you moving along. It was on a Sunday.

The morning started kind of rough, the twins found a box of jellybeans (yes, my house is so disorganized that random boxes of jellybeans can be found in odd places). It was one of the Bertie Bott’s Jellybean hand outs from Jack’s party. It has every flavor, including things like dirt and boogers. Those ended up regurgitated, leaving a rainbow of stains on my basement rug.

IMG_5838Then one of my potty trained kids pooped in his pants. Then the other one peed on the top of the toilet seat instead in the bowl.

It was 10am.

But luckily the day got better from there and I even managed to make it out of the house and to the park.

Aaron has been displaying alarmingly similar traits to Ben at every stage, including his proclivity to eat sand. Not just one bite, but to get in there and just eat and eat and eat.

I just hope these similarities don’t turn into another kid with sensory issues.

Jack is developing well, though. Look how nicely he is starting to write…IMG_5832

Besides suffering from a mild nag in the back of my mind that hoped nothing went terribly wrong while Adam was away that would end me up in the emergency room with four boys by myself, it actually was a good day with the boys.

And as an added bonus, Adam showed up right before lights out and I even got those last 30 minutes to myself. Ah, relief.

Pin It

Even More Homemade Goodies

Are you wondering what was on the menu for dye free food week 2?

For breakfast this week we had a simple Banana Muffins that turned out great. I replaced the all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry and whole spelt flours.

Also Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes (just Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain pancake mix with canned pumpkin and chocolate chips added)….

DSC_0313

I whipped up another batch of Ina Garten’s Granola Bars with different add ins, this time only fruit and I actually think I need to go back to the peanut butter and chocolate chip one after this.

I revisited the Pioneer Woman‘s My Mom’s Muffins. I use her mom’s mix of spelt, whole wheat and almond flour instead of the recipe listed. All the kids love them. So does the hubby.DSC_0384

I also broke down and bought some store bought cereal, at Jack’s request. After all this fancy cooking, turns out he missed having just a bowl of cereal and cold milk. After eyeing my friend Becca’s blog, I went ahead and got Cascadian Farm’s Cinnamon Crunch. No dyes, whole wheat and a ton of sugar. Well, we can’t be perfect every day, can we?

For dessert I tried the Black Bean Popsicles, which I personally gave a miss, so did Jack. But Ben, Sam and Aaron all ate theirs with relish.DSC_0380

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe I morphed from Dr. Oz. I added an egg, and I baked them. They were okay, but not as crispy as I would have liked. But once again the kids all seemed to love them. I think I’ll try quinoa cookies again, but look online for a better recipe. Or maybe not, since this article on how Western’s love of Quinoa is killing Bolivians has been making the rounds on my facebook page.

DSC_0379

From Sally’s Baking Addiction, I tried Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Those were so good. FIVE star rating in my book, and sooooo simple. Only 5 ingredients.DSC_0396

From Chocolate Covered Katie I baked up the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake. Again FIVE stars! Absolutely delicious! I used coconut oil in the crust. Seriously, there is NO cream cheese in this baby!DSC_0403

And now onto week 3…

Pin It

Fresh Picks (Mar 26)

DSC_0210

This week we received swiss chard, romaine lettuce, onions, blue potatoes, cucumber, scallion, carrots, and peppers.

That night I made Rachel Ray Tomato Basil and Cheese Baked Pasta. Only I substituted the basil for the swiss chard. I used one of the onions for this recipe as well. It was a decent recipe. The kids liked it but personally I didn’t taste any ‘wow’.

DSC_0212

Sometimes I feel like I’m a cafeteria lady, making all these meals assembly line style three times a day.

DSC_0249I pickled the carrots and cucumbers. After seeing yellow #6 on our bread and butter chips, I had to do something! We can’t live without pickles! Every single person in this family loves them!

I actually made up my own recipe, based on an amalgamation of a few different ones on the internet…

Pickles Cucumbers and Carrots
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • ½ tsp dill weed
  • ½ tsp celery salt
  • ½ tsp coriander seed
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 carrot sliced in rounds
  • ½ cucumber sliced in rounds
Instructions
  1. Combine and bring all the ingredients (except the carrots and cucumber) to a boil on the stove.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, put carrot and cucumber in a glass jar or any container that it will fit tightly in.
  4. Pour mixture from stove on top.
  5. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

I felt the cucumbers were okay, but the kids knew they were different. But the carrots were super yummy and I would definitely do this again with them.

Romaine Lettuce was used in a taco salad one night. I had some left over shredded taco chicken and repurposed it. Added some diced tomatoes, shredded mexican cheese,  store bought salsa, and topped with a dollop of sour cream. No dressing needed. DSC_0284

For the potatoes, peppers, and one leftover onion from this delivery, I diced them all up along with a leftover jalapeno I had and roast them at 425° with seasonings like salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, and olive oil and baked them until crispy. They were so tasty. None of the kids ate them, but I didn’t care, I put them next to my eggs in the morning, next to my leftover lamb chop from date night, and ate the rest as an afternoon snack! DSC_0310
Finally the scallions were used in a chinese stir fry one evening.
Pin It

Be a Mensch

Sunday afternoon Jack had accepted a birthday party invitation to a family friend’s party.

Unlike most of the parties he attends at this age, which are flanked with buddies from school, this one was a girls party.  At a tumbling gym.

It was also happened to be the same tumbling gym he tried a few classes at and it went terribly wrong. He never liked going and eventually we just pulled him out.

We explained the location to him, the fact that it was a drop off party, and that it was a girl party. He still said he wanted to go. So we accepted.

But the day of the party I could see trouble was already brewing. He mentioned a few times that he didn’t want to go. I explained that if you accept an invitation, even if you don’t feel like doing it, when it finally comes around, you still have to do it. You are nothing if you aren’t good to your word.

So we went, with Ben in tow. I figured I could slip off and do a grocery shop with Ben while Jack tumbled away.

But when we arrived, Jack didn’t want to join in. I coaxed Ben into staying in the hopes it would help Jack get into the party. In hindsight, I’m not sure if this was a good idea.

During the free play Ben wanted to go everywhere but the area sectioned off for him.

When it was time to sit and start a more organized group activity I braced myself. I know from experience that any time you put Ben in a group activity, it ends badly. Already there was a teacher in front of him trying to sit his floppy body on the balance beam where everyone else was sitting nicely. Everyone except Jack, who was sulking in a corner.

After many talks with Ben to get in line with the rest of the kids, I finally pulled him out kicking and screaming. Jack sat sullen in a corner, far from the rest of the party.

I distracted Ben with a small lego table and watched Jack. He never joined in, sat where he was suppose to but when it was his turn, refused to join.

After about an hour, I pulled the kids out of the party early. Every other kid was enjoying themselves. I felt like my two kids were either hogging the instructors by misbehaving or poisoning the atmosphere with their negativity.

I was surprisingly calm in the car on the way home, considering how angry I was at the party. I explained to Jack that going and sulking in a corner was no way to attend a party. That he embarrassed himself and he ruined our friend’s party with his negative attitude.

I didn’t reprimand Ben. I felt I already got my point across when I had to pull him out early and told him then that he could not participate because he could not follow instructions. And I’m not even sure if that is his strong will or part of his sensory disorder.

But Jack really bothered me. Was I raising a spoiled brat? I contemplated how I could fix this in the car and came up with two solutions. Either he was going to do some volunteer work to see just how lucky he was, or he was going to write an apology to his friend. Either way he needed to own up to his actions.

Adam thought the note was more appropriate and a better lesson.

Surprisingly, Jack was keen to do it. I think he wanted a chance to have a voice and explain what was wrong. And it was a lesson for me. That I needed to be a bit more understanding when my kids act funny. Could I have talked Jack into the party by asking more questions and being less authoritative?

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I put into my kids body. The fuel that helps them grow. But having them grow is so much more than just watering them and giving them good sunlight.

It’s also what you put in their minds. Being there at those important, difficult moments in life and showing them as gently and kindly as possible the right way. How to be a mensch in every situation.

I hope we did it right this time and if so this lesson sticks, and that Adam and I nudged him a little closer to the right side of adulthood.

Pin It

Finally, Spring!

Sunday afternoon was the first time in SIX LONG MONTHS that we were able to take the boys outside to play.

Without winter jackets, gloves and hats, that is.

This last winter, playfully coined “Chiberia”, was the third snowiest winter since they started recording that kind of stuff.

The kids were in heaven. Everyone was running around with a huge grin on their faces. Even Jack forgot that he found playgrounds too young for him…DSC_0330 DSC_0342 DSC_0374 DSC_0363 DSC_0361 DSC_0326 DSC_0356

Pin It