Trip to Columbus, OH

A few weeks ago Adam informed me he had a meeting in Columbus OH in mid April. After checking the calendar, I realized it was the same time as Jack’s spring break.

I’ve never been to Columbus and it seemed like a perfect time to check it out.

So we packed the kids in the car, let Ben take a few days off school, and drove the 6 hour drive to Ohio. We packed many new videos for the trip. Schoolhouse Rock was one of the favorites.DSC_0452 DSC_0457 DSC_0458

(Picnic pit stop at Fort Harrison State Park outside of Indianapolis on our way to Columbus.)

While Adam spent the first few days working, the kids and I spent time exploring the local surroundings. I couldn’t go anywhere big on my own, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of fun to be had.

We got in two sessions at the hotel pool, one with and one without Adam.DSC_0486

We have been giving Aaron and Sam swimming lessons and while Adam was with us, they showed off their swimming prowess by taking their Puddle Jumpers off and managing not to drown.DSC_0487

We also checked out the local park, Goodale ParkDSC_0461

Unfortunately the playground was under construction.

DSC_0463 DSC_0467But after the boys shook off their city skins, the ones where everything is planned for them, they started to enjoy the other parts of the park.DSC_0470

Like the lake.DSC_0471

Looking at the fish.DSC_0472

And finding sticks.DSC_0473

And discovering pinecones in different stages of life. DSC_0478

And generally enjoying large, open green spaces with room to horse around.

After Adam’s work was finished, we were able to enjoy some of the bigger sites. First we checked out the Columbus Zoo.DSC_0507

It was a very big zoo. The parking lot was so big they had a tram service to the entrance.

The amount of animals they stocked was quite impressive. The kids really like the reptiles and aquarium. DSC_0513 DSC_0522

So did everyone else.DSC_0540

It was so crowded that the phrase, “It’s a Zoo” was quiet appropriate.DSC_0527

They also really liked all the kid play spaces.DSC_0526

And the Dippin’ Dots!DSC_0542

The next day we checked out the Center of Science and Industry, or COSI.DSC_0550

I loved, loved LOVED this museum.

Everything was so hands on and kid friendly. DSC_0551

They had loads of science volunteers with pop up stands around the museum. DSC_0555

We saw a movie in their Giant Screen movie theater, the kind shaped like a huge dome.DSC_0558

We also checked out the outdoor park.
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DSC_0574 DSC_0575 DSC_0578And their temporary Mindbender Mansion exhibit, filled with mazes and puzzles.DSC_0600 DSC_0602

They had this huge play space for the twins. They were having so much fun that Aaron said I ‘ruined his life’ when it was time to go.DSC_0561 DSC_0563

They pretended they were bandits stealing food and hiding here…DSC_0559

We also checked out the Scioto Mile, a large outdoor space in the city center.DSC_0608 DSC_0610 DSC_0613 DSC_0618

Sometimes we just hung out in the hotel and had down time. IMG_6256 DSC_0483

We also sampled many of the cities delicious eats.

At North Market for pretzels and dip.DSC_0481

And Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Columbus OH is the birthplace of this ice cream genius.DSC_0493

We ate at many chain restaurants that don’t exist in Chicago.DSC_0489

Like Gordon Biersch.DSC_0492

And Buca di Beppo.IMG_6270

The restaurant was so full of tchotchkes that we spent most of our time playing I-Spy.

Finally, we got to see some of Adam’s long time friends who live in Columbus for a dinner at El Arepazo. IMG_6273

We let Jack take the picture…IMG_6274

He might need a bit more practice.

Finally we headed back home.IMG_6276 IMG_6278

(Picnic stop at Eagle Creek Park.)

Aaron spent most of the vacation confusing our trip to Columbus with our trip to Florida. On the first day he asked when Grandpa was coming to visit us at the hotel. A day later he asked where the pizza float that we used on our trip to Florida was. Finally he asked which day were were going to the beach.

When we got home, we talked about our favorite things at dinner that night. Most of the kids agreed on COSI but Aaron loved most that Grandpa was coming to visit him soon.

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Ben’s Spring Break

Ben celebrated his spring break on this cold, rainy week in Chicago.

Still I tried my best to make each day fun and special for him.

Some of the activities included swimming (while the twins had a lesson).IMG_6161

A trip to the Morton Arboretum to look for trolls. DSC_0279 DSC_0285

While we were there we picnicked, enjoyed the playgrounds,DSC_0295 DSC_0282

the maze, DSC_0300

and this really big hill…DSC_0306

Ben also had TWO playdates with his buddy from school. First we hung out here for the day and went to pump it up in the afternoon.IMG_6127

Then, another day, we went to the Children’s Museum together. It was Ben’s first look at the new, “Once Upon a Castle” room. DSC_0314

I really liked how all the boys just grab swords and form a motley crew. Something about the room really promotes group play.DSC_0321

We also went upstairs where Ben had a pick up game of chess. It was a proud moment for me to watch him find a friend to play with then find the grace to lose to him.

In the past anything could have happened. Ben refusing to play by the rules. Ben refusing to lose. Ben breaking down in a fit of rage and frustration.
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Finally I took him horseback riding. It’s something he loves to do and now that he is 7 he can actually hit the trails.IMG_6165

Afterwards they gave us a tour of the barn and Ben boldly petted and fed the animals.IMG_6180

There were also other treats. Like going out to dinner, donuts for breakfast, or spending an evening eating ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shop.IMG_6100

Overall I’d say we had a successful, fun filled week for him.

Now I get less than a week’s rest before it’s time to pull off the same performance for Jack!

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Sledding Day

Mother Nature decided to wait until a week before spring before dumping all this beautiful snow on us.

The kids couldn’t have been more excited!

We haven’t had a good snow day all winter!

We quickly finished our homework and as soon as Adam got home from work, we headed out to the nearby sledding hill.

Just walking over to the hill is fun for all!

Just walking over to the hill is fun for all!

Holding hands when crossing the street.

Holding hands when crossing the street.

The kids managed to do every configuration of sledding you can think of with the various sleds we brought.DSC_0243 DSC_0268 DSC_0275

I loved to watch them roll around with reckless abandon, without any worry where the snow might touch them.DSC_0262 DSC_0245

It was such a wonderful childhood moment to watch. Pure joy. And one I never experienced as a kid growing up in Florida.

Afterwards we had hot chocolate, ordered a pizza, went to bed late and slept well.

More snow fell today….

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Zoo Visit

Last week Jack had a paper for school where he had to argue whether there should be zoos or not. DSC_0219

Interestingly, he argued against zoos, siting some animals as dangerous predators, taking animals away from their families and housing them in the wrong climate.

I asked him why he argued against zoos, since we go and visit our local one quite often and he said it was easier to argue against, that there were more arguments against than for.

I love his practical nature!

Which means he wasn’t bothered to walk to the zoo with us this weekend.

I must admit, personally it makes me feel squeamish sometimes to eyeball a bunch of caged animals for fun.

Still, even after all the arguments against, there are still plenty for.

Like the fact that our kids get such great exposure to many different real live species.

Regenstein African Journey

Regenstein African Journey

Regenstein African Journey

Regenstein African Journey

Quite often it starts a talking point and a learning opportunity. Like whether polar bears and the black bear are the same thing.

New Polar Bear Exhibit

New Polar Bear Exhibit

Pritzker Family Zoo

Pritzker Family Zoo Black Bear

Otters at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Otters at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Pritzker Family Zoo

Pritzker Family Zoo

Pritzker Family Zoo

Pritzker Family Zoo

And our zoo provides all these interesting sights for free!

I also liked that we skipped snacks and had a ridiculously  early dinner at Eleven City Diner, where you can order breakfast ALL DAY long.DSC_0220

(It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.)

Early dinner means we have the run of the place and our wiggly kids don’t annoy other customers!DSC_0225

Afterwards we visited their candy counter for dessert. Loved all the old school treats!DSC_0226

It was a really nice day out, we have been so lucky to have another mild winter that makes it possible to wander around outside and it not be numbingly painful.

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Jack turns 10

Jack’s birthday celebration continued for the next few days after his birthday.

He was blessed to have the day before his birthday off for President’s day. That coupled with unseasonably warm weather meant a play date with some of his school friends (also mom friend’s of mine).DSC_0135 DSC_0151

Look who else showed up cruisin' at the park!

Look who else showed up cruisin’ at the park!

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Later we took the family to the Lego Batman movie as another birthday treat.

Then today, on his actual birthday, he was treated to an entire cheesecake from his tutor!

That evening, he picked Rainforest Cafe for his birthday dinner.DSC_0166

Aaron was obsessed with the big alligator.DSC_0168

The brother’s personally picked and gave him his presents at dinner. Ben picked a Lego Star Wars set which, master builder that he is, completed at the table at dinner. Aaron picked a mystery game which Adam played with him after dinner and Sam picked a variety of candies he knew he liked. DSC_0171 DSC_0172

For dessert we got the lava cake and shared it with all the kids. There was still some leftover after everyone was full!DSC_0176 DSC_0180

Much as each year is a reminder of how fast these years are slipping by, it’s so nice to see how Jack has progressed into a thoughtful, helpful big brother, a loyal and fun loving friend, a master lego builder, a minecraft master, a soccer star and more.

Happy Birthday my big little guy. We love you very much!

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Jack’s 10th Birthday Party

Hard to believe we will soon cross the threshold into double digits but yet here we are…

Jack celebrated his 10th birthday today.

This year he wanted a ‘mystery’ theme. He was thinking along the lines of a Scooby Doo themed party.

Well, don’t make it too easy for me Jack!

Still, we did our best to pull it off.

First with Scooby themed snacks and a Jelly Bean guessing game.DSC_0074 DSC_0075

While The Mystery Shop set up their show, the kids busied themselves by beating each other up with pool noodles. DSC_0076

As you can see many of the kids were in short sleeves. It is an unusually warm day today, in the 70s. The news reported that weather this warm in February has only happened 4 times since 1871.

It was good luck for us, since every time we have this many kids over, they open all the doors to the house and run up and down the back stairwell, basically exposing the outside world to our heating for the length of the party. This year we didn’t even have the heat on!

Then it was time for the show. The kids did mad libs type exercises, a choose your path type story, and some riddles.DSC_0090 DSC_0112 DSC_0088

By the time the show was over, the pizza had arrived. DSC_0115

We gave the kids enough time to get up to more mischief. And they did. At one point a bathroom sink was left on and overflowed. Then later one of the kids got locked in a closet (he was totally cool about it though!). I think I walked by a game where one kid laid on the floor, got covered in couch pillows then the other kids laid on top of that. I didn’t ask any questions….IMG_6044

Next it was cake time!DSC_0116

Adam did his usual grandiose cake from Deerfield Bakery. Yes, that house is edible.DSC_0123

Finally it was time to say goodbye. Before each guest left, we handed out invisible ink books instead of the usual goodie bag.DSC_0132

Now, time for presents…DSC_0127

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Once Upon a Castle

I got an email from the Chicago Children’s Museum that their new “Once Upon a Castle” exhibit just opened.

At first I thought, do my rambunctious boys want to play in a girlie castle? Maybe we’ll skip it. But Jack had a day off school and we were looking for some indoor entertainment so we ended up heading over this morning anyway.

I’m so glad I did.

It is NOT just for girls!

There are two massive structures to climb and play in. DSC_1060 (1)

There is dress up, but not just princess dresses, but king’s hats, swords, shields, fake horses, jester collars, and more!DSC_0004

There was gold to gather and copper goblins to drink from or pretend to steal.

hoarding gold

hoarding gold

There was also a lot of sword fighting, I loved how interactive it was! We played with many of the kids in the room.DSC_0008

And when that was done, we checked out the rest of the museum.

Building.DSC_0015 DSC_0014

Fishing.DSC_0019

Climbing.DSC_0020 DSC_0023

And so much more…DSC_1058

When it was all done, we checked out the many new food establishments in the area. Sam wanted a PB&J and refused everything else. Luckily newly opened Goddess and Baker provided!

We also sampled a few favorites, like Garrett’s popcorn and even tried a new treat from Xurro (Churros).

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11th Anniversary

Adam and I celebrated 11 years of marriage yesterday.

ELEVEN years.

How did that happen so fast?

Must have been the four kids that helped accelerate it. As a wise woman once told me, when you have kids, “the days are long but the years are short.”

Four kids makes each day seem the length of two but you can fall asleep on the couch for a second and another year passes.

Our double number celebration was also celebrated twice.

First we scored tickets to Hamilton. Despite the fact that I went online to order them the minute the ticket sales opened, I still was only able to purchase them 4 days away from my day of choice. I was lucky for even that. As I was waiting for Ticketmaster to tell me, over and over again that my choice was sold out, I was able to check on Stubhub and see they were already reselling at 4x the price.

IMG_5978So, this past Wednesday, we went to see what could have possibly won 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical of the year.

On a tip from the head of Adam’s department we downloaded the music beforehand. It was a tip worth sharing, as I think I got double the enjoyment by hearing a few times first.

I would have to say it was the most amazing musical I’d seen since Phantom of the Opera, which also swept the Tony’s in 1988.

I’d also like to note that I played it for Jack one day after school and when the song, “My Shot” came on he said, “I know this song. They did it during the winter show at our school.” Now that is a very fine, “Fine Arts” school that he attends!

Then, on our actual anniversary, we headed over to Wicker Park to check out Pub Royale.IMG_5989

It was named in the “5 Best Bars of 2016” by Bon Appetit. I also saw it on Check Please, with all participates regarding their experience with glowing reviews.

Lamb Dumplings

Lamb Dumplings

It served Anglo-Indian fare. So basically really good beer with Indian food in a pub atmosphere. Just the fact that I could get great Indian food AND great drinks in one place filled me with heart-palpitating excitement.

The food was excellent, so was the beverage selection. I also appreciated how they managed to capture a very specific vibe. Servers with copious amounts of facial hair, donning ski caps along side warm, dark, pub-like decor with odd accents like motorcycles and peacocks as well as ‘all gender’ bathrooms made for a very Generation Z experience.

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Chinese New Year 2017

This year we were lucky to have guests to share our Chinese New Year dinner with, a couple that we have been trying to see for over a year now – the Bransfields.

We have four kids. So do they. It makes finding a date without conflict or sick kids a logistical nightmare. DSC_1026

We got in a few New Year’s crafts, but mostly the kids oscillated between electronics and running up and down the stairs chasing each other and beating each other with pool noodles. DSC_1021 (1)DSC_1027

We adults oscillated between drinking wine and breaking up fights. Of our 8 kids, 7 are boys. Need I say more?

Because we have four kids each, I realized they would NOT be offended at all if I ordered most of the dinner in.

But I still wanted something special, so we got something from Stephanie Izard’s new restaurant, Duck Duck Goat. I was kind of shocked they delivered!

We tried a few things from their favorites menu, all which were delicious. I also supplemented with some pot stickers and home made sushi. Most of the kids managed to eat some kind of dinner, though I’m not sure how nutritionally sound it was.

But all of them managed dessert! The Bransfield’s brought a lovely key lime pie and cookies from Sweet Mandy Bs and we also brought out the Chinese new year themed desserts…

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The Hong Bao, or traditional red envelope, that you give out this time of year had an untraditional surprise for the kids in them. Instead of real money, Chinese chocolate coins!DSC_1022 (1)DSC_1033

Photo Bombed!

Photo Bombed!

We had this beautiful moment of calm while we enjoyed all these wonderful treats followed by absolute mayhem from the sugar high it caused.

Battle of adult against kids.

Battle of adult against kids.

This year of the Rooster is suppose to bring resolve, so if you were postponing any projects, now is the time to get them done.

Gong Hei Fat Choy! Xin Nian Quai Le! May the year of the Rooster bring you much diligence and achievement!

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Visiting Florida

We used to do it annually, until we had four kids and traveling to Florida to see my parents became too costly and too difficult.

In fact, it has been 4 years since we last visited my home town.

I still have nightmares about that last attempt, the moment in the airport when Adam was getting frisked by a stranger while I was holding two wiggling 8 months old, one in each arm, and Ben decided clothing was optional.

A lot can change in four years, right?

This year we realized that the older kid’s winter break was so long that they actually started to hit into the cheaper fares. After January 4th, prices go way down.

Two weeks ago we flew to the land of beaches and sun. The area where almost all of my support group lives within driving distance of each other.DSC_0748

IMG_1991 IMG_5888Instead of sitting indoors hiding from the cold, battling crowded museums, or visiting “pay to play” spaces, we enjoyed fun in the sun.

We spent a day at the beach. (So did everyone else.)DSC_0797

Burying ourselves was one of the activities. DSC_0856

See Ben in the background burying himself while the others bury each other? Results…

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Grandpa taught them all to body surf.DSC_0843 DSC_0841 DSC_0835

Many days were spent at the pools. Lots of pools. The heated hotel pool with it’s warm jacuzzi meant even when the temperature dropped we could still enjoy splashing about.

First night in, we hit the pool right away. Playing in the pool late at night reminded me fondly of my own childhood.DSC_0772 DSC_0777

Another day Adam went cycling with my father while I entertained the kids at the hotel pool.DSC_0879 DSC_0876

Ben showing off his floating skills…

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My father’s heated pool in his communities complex was another great option.DSC_0898

Cannon Ball!!!

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Here the older boys are trying, unsuccessfully to get Adam off the giant pizza float.

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Even the non heated pools at my father’s and mother’s house were fair game.DSC_0783 DSC_0791 DSC_0794

My childhood pool, weird to watch my own kids swim in it!DSC_0880

We also visited Gumbo Limbo, a nature center full of aquatic life. We watched them feeding the marine life. We saw the turtles they saved and were rehabbing.DSC_0985 DSC_0993 DSC_0986 DSC_0980

We took a walk at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands nature walk, full of birds and alligators. Yes, ALLIGATORS!

See the alligator on the island?

See the alligator on the island?

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And checked out Boca’s Science Explorium.DSC_0954 DSC_0955

And the carousel next door.

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Both my mother and father were there at our beck and call, doting on the children and lending a hand whenever they could.

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Seeing my kids spend time with them and get to know them, watching both parents play and laugh with them, filled my heart to the brim.

That would have been enough for me, but not my generous parents. We were treated to food everywhere.

The hotel had a full buffet free breakfast for us. Most of the kids took advantage of the variety by eating nothing but Fruit Loops everyday.IMG_5889

Lunch at mom’s house.DSC_0882

With Tony and Nenoy.

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Dinner Dad’s house.DSC_0931

Auntie Doris bought the boys gifts that night.

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My parents threw gifts cards for dinner at Adam and I while simultaneously offering free babysitting services.

Thanks to them and my Aunt Doris, Adam and I were able to work out, go running AND eat at both La Nouvelle Mason and Abe and Louie’s.

Besides all THAT food, we also enjoyed a Brazillian buffet that mom suggest, a trip to Olive Garden, and a picnic of my much missed publix deli sandwiches.

Mom see the kids for the first time at the Brazilian Buffet.

Mom see the kids for the first time at the Brazilian Buffet.

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Olive Garden kids menu stickers.

Olive Garden kids menu stickers.

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Beach picnic with Publix sandwiches

And room service, everyone’s favorite! DSC_1020

Rainbow out our window while we eat room service.

Rainbow out our window while we eat room service.

In fact, just being in a hotel room instead of our house was a great source of joy for all.DSC_0754 DSC_0755

We got a visit in with Uncle David too. He entertained them tirelessly and they left bearing all sorts of flea market finds from him. Jack described Uncle David’s house as one of the best parts of his trip.

David greets the boys as 'snake man'.

David greets the boys as ‘snake man’.

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The last night the older boys slept at my father’s house. In the morning we packed up the stuff and came up with an elaborate plan on how we would get the stuff in the car. Then we looked around and realized we only had two kids, and we didn’t need elaborate plans, two kids was completely stress free!

We came back relaxed and depressed about getting back to regular schedule. I’m missing Florida already!DSC_0999

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