Bar Mitzvah in Boulder

Last weekend Adam and I spent a glorious weekend away, thanks to an invite from Adam’s high school friend, Andy.

His eldest son was becoming a Bar Mitzvah. In Boulder, CO.

For the second time this year, I leaned on my family to help us out with the kids. This time, my father and aunt came to the rescue.

Sam and Aaron snuggle up to Auntie Doris.

Sam and Aaron snuggle up to Auntie Doris.

Dad can entertain the kids with anything!

Dad can entertain the kids with anything!

Learning to cut with scissors while we are away.

Learning to cut with scissors while we are away.

IMG_2223

 

Grandpa puts up with all kinds of abuse while we are away.

And while Auntie Doris and Grandpa were busy entertaining the kids, wiping butts, breaking up fights, driving to kids activities, foraging for food and doing loads and loads of laundry, we were doing this…

Saturday afternoon hike with Holly (my high school friend and college roommate) and her husband Jose.

Saturday afternoon hike at the Flatirons with Holly (my high school friend and college roommate) and her husband Jose.

Bar Mitzvah celebration with Adam's high school buddies Andy, Jamie and Brian.

Bar Mitzvah celebration with Adam’s high school buddies Andy, Jamie and Brian.

We are so old it we can't even get it together for the first shot!

We are so old it we can’t even get it together for the first shot!

The day after the Bar Mitzvah Adam and I went to brunch at Andy’s house, then did a 3 hour hike, then drove to town for lunch, then went back to the hotel to change, had afternoon drinks and apps at a nearby restaurant, then went to see a long movie. We got home exhausted. It was 9pm. We couldn’t believe how much fun you could fit into a day when you didn’t have to cater to your kids needs!

Hiking Mount Sanitas

Hiking Mount Sanitas

Among Andy’s many accomplishments that I saw this weekend (plastic surgeon, devoted father and husband, fluent Hebrew reader), he also treated us to a gift bag of locally made products, including his own product, Good Day Chocolate. They are sold in Whole Foods or online, and they are super yummy and truly have the effect they advertise on the front.

IMG_3936

Pin It

Mother’s Day 2016

This will be my last year as a mother of kids in their single digits. By next year Jack will be 10. Every year he gets older. It makes me wonder when the Mother’s Day activities will change.

This year, I started the morning with cards and well wishes from the kids and Adam. The kids bought me some reflexology treatments and Adam got me a gift card to my favorite clothing shop – BCBG.DSC_0364

Then he went out and got lox and bagels for the family.

tapperAfterwards Jack and I headed over to the Temple for Hebrew School. Yes, I also go to Hebrew School. Going each week is such a treat it’s like having a mom treat every week. We sit around having adult conversation and contemplate the meaning of Torah translations. Having an intellectual pursuit is like itching an ancient scratch I forgot I had. The only part of my brain I exercise as a mom is the part whatever nervous waitresses who are constantly in the weeds use. I wake up every morning in a panic about how far behind I am then frantically try to do a million mindless tasks that all had to be done yesterday all while being interrupted by four kids with more urgent needs that need to be address instantly. I’m Tapper right before all the beer bottles start falling off the tables and the angry customers storm him.

I got a quick run in after my class and before I had to pick Jack up. That was a nice treat too.

Adam watched the other kids during all that and when I got back we switched. He went out for a run.  (He has started training for the Marathon again.)

I got the bubble blower out and all the kids went crazy. I love that Jack still finds it just as fun as the twins do. DSC_0377

Later I took the older boys to the park while Adam stayed back with Ben. Unfortunately it was too hard to him to join us. But it was a glorious afternoon for the other kids and I so enjoyed watching them make up their own silly games and frolic together in the budding weather.

Oz Park Selfie

Oz Park Selfie

Adam managed to convince Ben to meet us later for dinner. Food is a much more powerful motivator for Ben then playing in the park!

I was treated to dinner at our favorite Chinese/Sushi/Thai place. I still can’t get used to the fact that they combine all the Asian countries together as one in Chicago. That would be like going out to a Spanish/French/Italian Restaurant in China! Still it didn’t stop me from enjoying my Shanghainese dumplings alongside a plate of Sashimi and Lycheetini.IMG_3823 (1)

It was another successful Mother’s Day. As much as these kids can drive me nuts at times, I was very grateful to be spending the day with them.

Pin It

Happy 4th Birthday Twins!

Ah the mistakes I made the first two times I became a mom. The effort I put together for the older boys for their birthday, none of it that they remember. If I could write a letter to my younger mom self it would be this: kids don’t have any long term memory before the age of five. So if you can do the very basic necessities of keeping them safe, fed, and loved with ample sleep and somewhat clean you’ve done enough.

Why kill yourself and set future unrealistic expectations when you don’t have to? My god the hoopla we made for Jack’s 4th birthday! Build slowly. And with the twins, that is what we are doing.

Reminding them often that it’s their birthday at this age is enough for them to feel special. In fact, I think they feel special without any reminding. I think this because Sam woke up and put his costume king crown and and told us he was the king. I mean, what is more special than that?

Still, we did our best to make it special at every moment of the day…

We started with breakfast pancakes. Last time I made a carb/sugar bomb pancake breakfast the kids all said they hated it so I didn’t do that again. This time, multigrain pancakes with mini chocolate chips, topped with whipped cream, melted nutella, more mini chocolate chips and sprinkles.

DSC_0297

Sam, AKA the king, blew the candles out right away. Aaron huffed and puffed until finally I had to ‘help him’. But everyone loved the pancakes, Jack had 2 helpings.

Every hour I was sure to do something new, even if it was just blowing up $4 huge balloons with rubber bands that bounce on their hands. They were so happy with such simple entertainment. I loved them so much for that.

Adam had a meeting in the suburbs so we packed up and headed out with him. He dropped us at the Morton Arboretum and we hung out while he worked.

We were so lucky to have the warmest, sunniest day of the week for the twins birthday.

DSC_0322 DSC_0309 DSC_0313 (1)

We also found all the frogs in their new Ribbit! The Exhibit.

DSC_0334

Next we headed to the bakery to buy birthday cupcakes for dessert.DSC_0348

And since we were there, we got them an afternoon treat as well.DSC_0349

When we got home our lovely sitter, Camila, knocked on the door bearing presents that only someone who knows the twins like the back of her hand could chose for them.

DSC_0354

Soon after the older boys came home from school and after a good play with their new toys, we headed out to a special dinner for the twins at the Burger Bar. They ordered huge milkshakes that they barely touched and the server brought a special bowl of ice cream with 2 candles for them.

IMG_3751

By the time we got home we were exhausted and over sugared. I asked the twins and they agreed to save the cupcakes for another night. And since Camila came by, we didn’t bother to open their presents that their family members got them. I guess we’ll just have to celebrate again tomorrow…

Pin It

Spring has Sprung

When I lived in Florida, I never understood the word seasons. In Florida there are only two seasons, hot and hotter. Every day is green, everyday the sun warms your skin like a kiss from above. Every day is a uniform of flip flops and bare arms.

Growing up I wondered why they used pumpkins to decorate during Halloween. I had never seen a pumpkin patch until I moved to the midwest. Maybe they had them in Florida somewhere, but I’m sure if they did, they are on a completely different time schedule. The only orange fruit I ever saw growing with any regularity were orange trees. Rows and rows of them wafting their strong, sweet scent through the air conditioning vents of our car as it sped by on the highway.

I was sure the snow I saw on the “Frosty the Snowman” special that aired every December was a consistency similar to cotton candy. I was sorely disappointed when, at the age of 12, I saw snow for the first time. I flopped myself down and immediately put some in my mouth. I was shocked and disgusted by it’s cold, bland taste.

It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I realized the brilliance of summer vacation. Summer vacation in Florida is the worst time of year to be out and about. It didn’t stop us from slathering our bodies in baby oil and iodine and baking our bodies crisp in the unrelenting sun every single day of the summer, though. Back then SPF 8 was for sissies. We wore socks to keep our feet from burning on the scorching summer sand. We ducked in for some air-conditioning at the local surf shop when it got too hot. And we periodically dipped ourself in the warm, salty water to cool down.

But now that I live here, seasons make sense. Every year I marvel at how much change happens here. Leaves and flowers start growing out of the barrenness, everything thawing out and slowly turning vibrant colors, then days of endless sun, revealing your pasty white legs, burning your pasty white legs, tanning those legs again and finally getting a nice healthy color on them just in time to cover the tan you worked so hard for with pants to combat the cold. Leaves and flowers dying, cold seeping into every crevasse of your being, everything going white, including your legs. Then the long, harsh cold and dark of winter follow.

Finally the leaves start to grow again. The renewal is probably the most exciting part of the year. It feels like the moment the movie “The Wizard of Oz” changes from black and white to color. The anticipation of wonderful weather, of another fun filled, whimsical summer lays almost at your finger tips.

I felt this today for the first time when we visited the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

DSC_0183

Our recent observations from our St Louis trip made us realize that wide open spaces are the best places to take out kids. Lots of room to run without getting lost is our new number one factor in picking a destination these days.

DSC_0225

Even the big ‘kid’ in our family needs space to run around.

DSC_0232 DSC_0224DSC_0206

Also lots of things to do and see! It was also nice to slow down and notice nature around you.

Two male Mallards fighting over a female. Probably something our own boys will experience with each other one day...

Two male Mallards fighting over a female. Probably something our own boys will experience with each other one day…

Viewing the Japanese Gardens leads to talk about Bonsai Plants.

Viewing the Japanese Gardens leads to talk about Bonsai Plants.

Feeling and Smelling leaves and trees in the sensory garden.

Feeling and Smelling leaves and trees in the sensory garden.

It’s a great activity for kids of all ages, and something that many different age groups can enjoy together. Definitely a destination we will visit many more times in these increasingly warm coming months.

Pin It

Passover 2016

After our trip to St Louis, we came to the realization that less is more for our kids.

And we used that knowledge for Passover this year.

With no family in the area, we were free to decide whatever tradition we wanted for our young household.

We didn’t ask them to sit still, starving, while we read a lengthy prayer book.

We didn’t eat a drawn out, multiple course dinner.

Dieting sucks - not matzoh ball soup for me!

Dieting sucks – no matzoh ball soup for me!

I didn’t even set out a seder plate.

let-my-people-goInstead Adam read the boys a story from one of the books we got from the PJ Library, a program that sends free Jewish educational books to our home every month. (Thank you Jennifer for the tip!) The book was titled, “Let My People Go” and describes the 10 plagues in a much more kid friendly kind of way.

I made a delicious  Date and Apple Charoset (which I ended up smearing all over my turkey), matzoh ball soup, and roast veggies with turkey breast.

IMG_3675Then we let the kids eat as much matzoh as they wanted without telling them it would ruin their appetite. We finished almost the entire box, Aaron ate FOUR pieces. I’m pretty sure if you lined them up on top of each other they would be taller than him.

We also kept the tradition of hiding the Afikoman, which is basically hiding a piece of matzoh for the kids to find. Ben found it but Adam doled out money to all of them anyway.

The kids loved the meal.

After tonight I decided to change another family tradition. Matzoh isn’t just for passover anymore…

Pin It

St Louis

As a last minute decision, Adam decided to book a few nights stay in St Louis for Jack’s spring break.

It was last minute because Adam didn’t know if he would be too busy with work to go or not. But in the end he thought he could swing it.

Of course, once it was booked and the kids were told, he got busy, In fact, I’m pretty sure anytime Adam decides to book a trip, it gets busy. Hmm, I think I’m onto something here. Next time he is worried he’s not busy enough, I’m going to suggest he book a trip.

Still, it’s Adam, so he managed to juggle it all like the superman that he is.

The kids got to see Lincoln’s cabin on the way over to St. Louis.

Museum at Lincoln's Cabin in Lerna, IL

Museum at Lincoln’s Cabin in Lerna, IL

Walking the grounds at Lincoln's Cabin

Walking the grounds at Lincoln’s Cabin

The boys spent precious few minutes walking around the museum and log cabin, complaining about the bugs. We are definitely raising city kids. Half of them didn’t want to get out of the car for the picnic!

Finally we got them all out and they actually spent a lot of time throwing sticks into the lake (Aaron was in stick heaven) and blowing dandelions. We could have just stopped at the side of the road instead of driving the extra hour to Lincoln’s cabin! Still, it was cool to see them settle in and be boys. DSC_0033

To destroy the dandelions, throw things, get sweaty and play in the mud. The city is too restrictive for that kind of fun.

Next, on a tip from my friend Debbie, we headed to Laumeier Sculpture Park. Really cool sculptures that the kids were disappointed they couldn’t climb all over.IMG_0525DSC_0047

Instead they spent a huge part of the time throwing rocks at this tree. Aaron collected rocks instead. Raising boys is nothing like my childhood and a constant amazement to me. DSC_0068

The next day I took the boys swimming at the pool while Adam worked.DSC_0097

Waving to Adam while he works downstairs

Waving to Adam while he works downstairs

Then after the work calls were over, we took in the Gateway Arch.

DSC_0109

If you haven’t been, let me warn you – you get to the top by taking a very small, 5 seater tram. All the kids were completely freaked out by it. I thought we were going to be stuck up there but Adam managed to convince them to get back in the little tram to get down.

That afternoon we visited City Garden. This time we climbed the sculptures with abandonment. DSC_0129

The kids seemed to really enjoy this park. It was small but lately I’m realizing less is more with the kids. A small new park can make for much more fun than a busy museum.

But still we tried the busy museum anyway. We heard from many people not to miss City Museum.DSC_0139

People were right. This place was amazing. Unfortunately, we were short staffed by at least one adult. Ben needed Adam’s complete attention, which left me with the other three. Jack’s interests were vastly different from the twins and he is still to young to feel comfortable exploring alone.

No maps at this museum!

No maps at this museum!

Ball pit fun

Ball pit fun

Ben and Adam on the slide

Ben and Adam on one of the many slides

I think I’d like to come back to this museum when the kids are older and less scared heights and see through floors. And bugs. Besides we ran out of time before checking out Forest Park. Which means we were already talking about returning even as we were driving home…

Pin It

Report Card Pick Up Day

Jack had another day off school today, this time it was for report card pick ups.

It is still cold out but not so cold that we were stuck indoors. So we decided to head down to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lion exhibit

Lion exhibit

Regenstein African Journey

Regenstein African Journey

Black Bear at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Black Bear at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Otter at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Otter at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Now that the twins aren’t napping, we had the whole day to explore!

Climbing Structure at the Pritzker Family Zoo

Climbing Structure at the Pritzker Family Zoo

We even had time to stop by the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Jack likes to count the plastic dinosaurs hiding in the fern room.

Time to stop and smell the flowers.

Time to stop and smell the flowers.

Frame exhibit at the Conservatory

Frame exhibit at the Conservatory

But the fun didn’t end there! Still we had more time to picnic in the gardens in front of the zoo.

Why walk when you can run everywhere?

Why walk when you can run everywhere?

The flowers haven’t been planted for the year, and the fountain hasn’t been filled yet. It gave us an opportunity to play in the empty fountain. Did you know the mermen in the fountain were naked?!

Aaron inappropriately touching the statues and laughing hysterically.

Aaron inappropriately touching the statues and laughing hysterically.

And still there was MORE time. We went to the Cummings Playground, located right in front of the zoo, next.DSC_1041

By the end Jack was so tired he was leaning against the stroller from exhaustion. I think everyone will sleep well tonight, including me!

Pin It

Brick by Brick

We recently renewed our membership to the Museum of Science and Industry. I love this museum. It’s so large that you can go 20 times and have a different experience each time you enter.

This week (and when I say week, I mean it) I took the twins on Thursday morning to see the new Brick by Brick Lego exhibit. Then, on Friday I returned with Jack and 3 of his buddies from school.

Thursday with the twins.

Thursday with the twins.

Friday with Jack and his friends.

Friday with Jack and his friends.

The twins spent about 40 minutes exploring exhibit but the older boys were dragged out after two hours of fun, only because their bladders demanded it.

There were many amazing creations by Master Architect Adam Reed Tucker. But the most time was spent in the hands-on exhibits.

The twins preferred to work in the duplo section of the exhibit.

Hope that nose picker isn't fondling my kid's legos later...

Hope that nose picker isn’t fondling my kid’s legos later…

The older boys took to the more traditional legos.IMG_3534

The older boys also spend a long time at the car building site.IMG_3558

Still there was overlap, exhibits that made sense for any age, like this one where you have 1 and 1/2 minutes to build a structure then see if it can withstand an earthquake.IMG_3458 IMG_3509

I’d have to say it is a great exhibit for any age and it’s definitely worth the drive down to Hyde Park to see. So worth it that Ben and Adam are going back tomorrow so Ben can see it too!

Pin It

7th Annual Easter Egg Hunt

As our schedules get busier and busier, it gets harder and harder to have large group gatherings. There were quite a few emails going around trying to find a time we would all be available. But in the end, I was pleased to see so many regular participants were able to attend the annual easter egg hunt.

Sadly we couldn’t get it perfect, so Kelly and her kids were dearly missed. Hopefully next year she won’t be bound by naps. Also Karen and her kids, who have recently moved to Spain were noticeably absent.

Even though the extra testosterone those moms throw off was missing, there was still more than enough to go around.

No one will mess with this gang in the playground.

No one will mess with this gang in the playground.

Wrestling for fun. I'll never understand boys.

Wrestling for fun. I’ll never understand boys.

Actually, there was a precise 20 minute time period where all the kids who could attend were present.

We quickly put the eggs out and lined them up.DSC_0899

And then they were off!

DSC_0900

Like most activities with kids (meals and laundry to name a few) we parents spend so much time preparing – buying eggs and candy, stuffing them, placing them out for the hunt and then the kids plow through it all in 10 minutes or less.

DSC_0913

Time to eat the spoils.

Time to eat the spoils.

It turned from a windy, wintery morning to a sunny, warm (for Chicago) afternoon and I was glad in the end to have made such an effort again. Nice for the kids to frolic in the fresh air and open spaces together.

Nice for the adults too.

DSC_0931

Pin It

Ben’s Spring Break

Ben’s Spring Break did not coincide with Jack’s this year. I think it was probably for the best, since our 4 kids need 2 adults to supervise, but any three is okay to handle alone.

We tried very hard to plan something fun for Ben each day of his spring break.

There were surprise sweet treats like unexpected donut stops, a visit to the new Nothing Bundt Cakes shop that just opened, and chocolate from Papa.

Special visit to Papa’s office

 

Surprise Donut Stop

Nothing Bundt Cake

Nothing Bundt Cake

Also other treats, like his favorite meals, Potbelly’s, Wendy’s, Shine, and McDonald’s.

Shine for Shirley Temple's and Pot Stickers.

Shine for Shirley Temple’s and Pot Stickers.

Potbelly's Pizza Sandwich and Milkshakes.

Potbelly’s Pizza Sandwich and Milkshakes.

 

And there were fun activities like a playdate with his classmate, visits to a few parks, a special visit with his father to the Art Institute, and a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Oz Park

Oz Park

Oz Park

Oz Park

Art Institute

Art Institute

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

Playdate at Jump Zone

Playdate at Jump Zone

After school at Jack's school.

After school at Jack’s school.

Montgomery Ward Park

Montgomery Ward Park

It was tougher than I remember to add an extra kid to the mix and for Ben, I’m not sure having a week off of his normal schedule was particularly relaxing for him. Still, we tried our best to make this a great week for him. I just hope he remembers it that way…

Pin It