Japo Arrives

Did I mention that Japo arrived? It’s been almost a week since she’s been here and I’m not looking forward to her leaving next week.

She and the kids are growing into each other. Stuff that Jack did that she found annoying years ago is endearing with the younger kids. And this time around, all the kids are clambering for her attention.

It’s a mixed bag, though. Sam wants her so much that after a particularly stinky poo he insisted Japo wipe him, not me. Well, okay then, Sam!

Japo helps Aaron catch a butterfly

Japo helps Aaron catch a butterfly

Ben insists on showing Japo everything in the Botanical Garden train exhibit.

Ben insists on showing Japo everything in the Botanical Garden train exhibit.

Sam cuddles up to Japo at the bakery

Sam cuddles up to Japo at the bakery.

Haven’t touched the laundry or wiped down anything in the kitchen since she’s been here, either.

We are so lucky to have such wonderful support! If only she lived closer!!!

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Jack’s 1st Week of Summer

Jack’s first week of summer started and we are off to a roaring start.

Every day has been jam packed, rain or shine.

There were two different play dates, one at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

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And one at the beach.

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There was an afternoon at Oz Park followed by dessert at Dairy Queen.

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Jack has more patience than anyone I know for the Sam’s tantrums. The level of crying has reached unbearable proportions and Jack is the only one who isn’t pulling his hair out over it. He will try over and over again to help him no matter how long or ridiculous his request are.

Sam requested a soccer class “like Jack” so we signed the twins up for little kickers. Jack helped me tremendously with the twins first organized class.

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Sam, as usual, cried and refused to participate the entire time, but Jack never gave up on him.

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Jack also started a weekly swim class to learn his strokes.

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One afternoon Adam treated him to lunch, like he did for Ben’s week off. Jack chose the rainforest cafe and enjoyed it with his usual boyish enthusiasm.IMG_3497

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Adam’s Birthday and Father’s Day

Happy 46th Birthday & Father’s Day Adam! This weekend was all about you!

Well, sort of.

Adam’s first request for his birthday was to get one-on-one time with each of the kids. Which really makes me look bad because my requests for days celebrating me are much more self centered. In fact, all his requests this weekend were pretty simple and/or altruistic.

DSC_0345He went around to every child in the house and asked them what they wanted to do with their time with Papa.

Jack wanted to jog. Adam and I are both runners and Jack seems to have the natural stride needed for the sport. So they ran around our neighborhood for about 30 minutes one afternoon.

Sam wanted to… Sam wanted to… Sam wanted a lot, but he couldn’t stop crying long enough to get it. He’s going through a phase, well I hope it’s a phase, where he cries a lot. Like 80% of the day. It’s really very tiresome.

Ben wanted to go to the candy store. For Adam’s gift I got him a gift card to the place below. He and Ben brought back candy for the whole family.

IMG_3484And Aaron wanted to play games. They played a morphed hide and seek. Every time Aaron hid he was sure to yell to Adam his location.

DSC_0347He also requested more baseball caps. I bought four of them and let the kids pick which ones they wanted to give to him.

DSC_0343Bubbie sent some from her retirement community along with a great golf shirt that was made out of wicking material.

He also wanted Portillo’s hot dogs for lunch. 

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Sam insisted Ben feed him.

And for his birthday afternoon/evening he let the kids pick where to go to dinner, they chose sushi.

He's 25% Chinese but uses chopsticks like a native.

He’s 25% Chinese but uses chopsticks with 100% accuracy.

He also requested seeing the new movie about emotions, Inside Out, will all the kids. He figured it would be particularly useful for Ben’s special needs. My father got him a gift card to the cinema so he could take us all for this one.

Stadium Seating theaters are awesome!

Stadium Seating theaters are awesome!

And finally, an afternoon at the Hidden Creek Aquatic ParkIMG_9918_2

Other gifts included a gift card from my sister for Nordstrom’s to help fit him into his newly shrunk body. In the past month he’s lost over 15 pounds.

And here was his father’s day gift from all of us…

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Potty Training, Again

This week I decided it was time to potty train. As with all my other kids, the decision to potty train is a simple equation using age and one other limiting factor.

With Jack and Ben it was age and the fact that they were starting pre-school soon.

For the twins, it was the last possible second I could do it before summer hit and I had 3 or more kids with me. Jack’s last day of school is Friday and I don’t want him sitting around for a week of his precious days off while we run to the bathroom all day long.

Now that we’ve had so many kids, I often think it’s funny how many books are out there about stuff like potty training. I can not believe I PAID MONEY for a book teaching me how to potty train the first time, then actually tried to follow it.

There really is only one rule to potty training – stop putting your kids in diapers.

Everything else you decide is optional.

You can let them run naked or put them in underwear. I personally I prefer naked, it’s easier access, let time consuming, less laundry.

You can use little potties or stools and inserts on your big potty. I have both, the twins seemed to prefer the big potty better.

You can reward, punish or do neither. I use the method my friend Michelle taught me, bribery. One peanut M&M for a pee and three for a poop.

It’s takes about three days of pain to get results. Don’t give up, don’t second guess yourself, just push forward.

An upside down book is the least of the problems with this picture.

An upside down book is the least of the problems with this picture.

You know how I always say Sam gets everything first? First to walk, first to talk, more articulate, more athletic, yada yada.

Well, the thing with Sam is that he’s also more particular. More particular means that you already see things a certain way in your mind and when they aren’t the way you envisioned, they are wrong. As advanced and smart as Sam is, he isn’t very adaptable at times.

Aaron, on the other hand, is very easy going. He never fought me when I asked him to get on the toilet every 20 minutes and actually tried earnestly to potty. It took Aaron 2 days to get it. Without prompting he ran out of the bathroom on the second day yelling with glee, “I pooed on the potty!!!”

By the third day his diaper was dry in the morning.

Sam asked for a diaper and self constipated for about 4 days before finally going in the pot, and while he was doing it he kept asking when potty training was over so he could have a diaper to poop. Could he finish his poop in his diaper? He was surprisingly slow at learning this new skill. The stubbornness, however, was no surprise at all.

Now it’s Friday afternoon and I’m pleased to say – Jack is out for the summer, the twins are potty trained and we are ready to start the summer!

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Ben’s Week Off

Ben had one glorious week off before his summer session starts. His new school runs 11 months a year.

Before it started I pulled Jack aside and told him Ben was going to have a fun week but try not to get too upset because you will eventually have time off when Ben is in school.

Then I went to Ben and got a list of requests for his week off.

One included going to the butterfly exhibit at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

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We also took in the train exhibit there, which reopened in May.

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Ben was determined to check every number off the map for this place and after this visit he was able to.

Adam came home early from work one day to take us for ice cream…

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One morning we went to see Jack’s Walk-a-thon at school.IMG_9713 - Version 2

Ben was happy to see all the teachers and staff. They welcomed him with opened arms, IMG_9743asked him to do laps with them and treated him to popsicles (one of the perks of doing the walk.)

We checked out the splash pad at Margaret Donahue Park. It was a hot day and even though it was crowded the kids jumped right in.

One afternoon Adam took him to do something special, just the two of them.

I dropped him off around lunch time and he got to pick what he wanted to eat for lunch and where he wanted to eat it (Portillo’s, Adam’s office).

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We also went to see Mr. Singer at the Lincoln Park Zoo.IMG_9755

Ben asked for him for his next birthday party, the same singer he had for his 3rd birthday. And afterwards we explored the barn a bit…

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Happy week off Ben, I hope you enjoyed it!

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Fresh Picks (Jun 3, 2015)

DSC_0270I’ve been bad about recording my Fresh Picks lately. But it’s been kinda boring.

Does anyone want to know I roasted, boiled or grilled everything I got one week? Snore.

But this week I was actually really proud of my creativity. Do you want to see what I did with this?

To the left, Pea Vine, Baby White Turnips, Rhubarb, Hon Tsai Tai, Asparagus, and Cilantro.

Summer is such a great time for fruits and vegetables! Instead of more root veggies we get this! Asparagus! And Rhubarb! And some strange thing called Hon Tsai Tai!

First thing I tackled was the Hon Tsai Tai. It’s an Asian vegetable (if that wasn’t obvious by the name). I read online it’s similar to mustard green or broccoli rabe, neither veggie that I use much. So I decided to roast it up with the turnips and some mushrooms I had in the fridge.DSC_0272

Served it next to some risotto and baked salmon. The Hon Tsai Tai cooked up similar to kale chips. It was a great meal, even if Adam and I were the only ones eating the veggies!

The next night I used up all the cilantro. I made a Cilantro Pesto, added it to some ground grass fed beef and shaped them into meatballs. Then I simmered them in marinara until they were cooked. They didn’t hold up as well as I would have liked but they still tasted yummy. I paired it with the asparagus for dinner the next night.DSC_0278

I cooked the rhubarb into a compote with strawberries. I used it all week long. First I added some of the blended compote into a bundt cake for breakfast.

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Gone in two days, one afternoon of snacking and one morning breakfast.

I also used it over ice cream for dessert.

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And I mixed the compote into high protein yogurt and froze them into popsicles.

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One morning we ate the compote over yogurt for breakfast too.

Finally I used up the pea vine in a salad. I actually used the leftover cilantro pesto meatball sauce in this homemade pizza and served it with the pea vine salad…

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The pizza came out delicious, but the pea vines made me feel a bit like a grazing cow. Maybe you are suppose to take the leaves of the stems? I think next time I won’t make them into a salad, but chinese stir fry them instead.

Here is a picture of pizza night. It is an example of how old expressions can take on new meaning once you have kids. Here is a father of four “double fisted”…

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Will I Remember It All?

Will I remember it all?
The good times that fall?
When we buried ourselves in leaves
That fell from the shivering trees
Before Ben grew so tall,
Before Ben grew a sensory wall.

His hands flapping when excited,
No matter what he could not be blighted,
His esoteric questions about this trinity:
Life and death, the universe, and infinity,
So upset when he felt slighted,
So happy when he was delighted.

What about Aaron’s little smile?
That makes all tantrums worthwhile.
“I’m hungry” was his favorite phrase.
He would watch nothing else but Blaze.
Sticking his tongue out all the while
And brandish sticks mile after mile.

“Retirement Fund” was Sam’s nickname,
His every cylinder firing as bright as a flame.
For a month he decided he was the Hulk.
Call him anything else and would he sulk.
The big words he could proclaim!
Surely he will one day herald great acclaim.

Will I remember Jack’s keen eyes?
That he was always one of the guys?
How he nurtured each and every sibling,
How he could keep us all from quibbling,
Good at every sport he tries,
Changing our lives more than he can realize.

Forty fingers, forty toes,
The closets fill with little clothes,
Toy, books, and food fill every corner of the house,
I barely have time to talk to the spouse,
Emotions magnify, both highs and lows,
All while everything grows and grows.

Will I remember it all?
The midnight waking crying call?
The worry, the hurt, the fear,
The times we laughed until we shed a tear?
The wresting, the cuddles, the nighttime stall,
It’s all such a blur how will I recall?

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Update on Ben’s New School

I’ve been getting a lot of questions asking how Ben is doing at his new school.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer that.

For the first two weeks, there was almost complete silence from the new school. It was an odd sensation to not get weekly or sometimes daily calls from school, a lot of them asking me to come pick him up. To not be confronted with a litany of complaints about his behavior at drop off and pick up.

At night I would grill him as unobtrusively as possible.

“Did you have a good day at school today, love?” I’d ask, trying to keep my voice from sounding to high, too anxious, too filled with emotion.

Each day he would come home and tell me he mostly did, then he would clearly explain any incidents that might have occurred. This was different from the other schools in the past. Before this school, Ben would come home and sometimes not even realized something bad had happened, or could not grasp why he was getting in trouble.

He seems happier, and calmer. But this is not to say we have stopped having good and bad days. He is still argumentative, stubborn and find transitions extremely upsetting.

About three weeks of attendance at his new school we were invited to meet the family councilor. I figured this was it, this was where we were finally going to get hit with the long list of complaints we were used to.

But when we met, we didn’t get any complaints. Instead it was like a meet and greet at a regular school, followed by offers and techniques to help us cope with Ben’s disorder.

Not long after that he was pulling his usual nighttime shenanigans, refusing to go to sleep. He voiced his frustrations with us then said, “I wish I was back at school.”

What? Said no kid, ever, I thought.

But still, it did make me realize that it really is going well for him at school. Hopeful that we finally found a fit for him.

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Grandpa Leaves

And before I knew it, it was over. Grandpa was gone. And everyone in the house was depressed by it.

With kids, every time a grandparent comes to visit, the visit is different from the last time they were here. I think it’s because the kids change so much, even in a short 6 month period. Everything is new. The kids are taller, their features morphed. They have outgrown old annoyances and grown new, irritating habits. They have matured in good ways too, more caring, more athletic, better readers, more self sufficient. Systems and schedules have changed as well.

Last time Grandpa was in town was October 2014. He noticed a real difference from that last visit. Before, no matter what he did it wasn’t enough. No matter how late you stayed up, you couldn’t keep up with the laundry, dishes, toy mess, overflowing closets, kids needs.

This time around there were pockets of time to sit down and catch your breath, the first whiff in many years of constant motion. This is not so say it’s not busy around here. We are still laundering, cleaning, cooking and meeting the emotional and physical needs of four demanding boys. But I will admit it’s getting less exhausting. Slightly.

One thing having more time to breath let me notice was how Grandpa’s energy effected the house.

In an age where electronics keep everyone in a state of distraction and disconnection, Grandpa gave our kids (and us) the incredible gift of human connection.

He was never too busy, distracted, or tired to give his full attention to the kids. There were no requests or games, no matter how illogical, that were too trivial for him or that he lost patience with.

DSC_0238One morning the twins buried him in their bedding, then laid on top of him and laughed and laughed. When he wanted to get up for coffee Sam told him NO! DON’T LEAVE! He sat back down until Sam was ready to release him.

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He walked 20 minutes as Jack’s ‘prisoner’ because Jack was enjoying the game so much. I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable to walk like that but he embraced it fully, making jokes and participating the whole way from the zoo home.

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How many guys in their 70s who fractured their pelvis and tote a fake hip would do something like this? I can barely sit in the see saw at my age without feeling like my thighs are going to burn through my pants. But look how Ben clings to Grandpa. Ben was so attached he asked to sleep with Grandpa every night.

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He made time for every kid, playing games that thrilled and delighted them.

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He distracted the kids from many tantrums and fights with his clever, entertaining tactics.

And sometimes he simply sat with them, enduring their cartoon marathons.DSC_0255

And that’s not all! He gave of himself freely to me as well.

During nap times I was able to jog and run errands. After the older kids went to school I left the twins with Grandpa most mornings and drove Adam to work. And Adam and I were able to go out a few times alone, even if it was something as simple as putting the kids to bed and running errands.

Did I mention he fixed our towel rod and a kitchen drawer too?

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We are all going to miss you terribly Grandpa!!!

I’m going to take your lead and wait as patiently as I can to hit you up for another visit.

Ah, who am I kidding! I guess the patience wasn’t inherited. Grandpa, there will be suggested dates for your next visit in your inbox by the time you get home.

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Margaret Donahue Park

After seeing a friend’s post on facebook (thank you Bornsteins!) we decided to check out the newly opened Margaret Donahue Park.

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Apparently everyone in Chicago with small kids had the same idea as us.

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Still it was worth the trip over to Lakeview to see something new and different.

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There were unusual, Chicago motifs throughout.

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This is the Cubs 100 year anniversary and the park is named after a woman who started as a secretary for the Cubs and ended up becoming President.

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And although the water wasn’t running, there looked like a pretty cool splash pad for the summer.

And swings, picnic benches and lots of astroturf to run around in.

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