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


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…


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…


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…


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

Cannon Ball!!!


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.


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.


Olive Garden kids menu stickers.

Olive Garden kids menu stickers.



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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Capture the Flag

I think the normal thing to do after an exhausting 8 night of Hanukkah is to rest easy for a few days, right?

But not us. We are the Calisoffs.

Instead of a quiet day playing collectively with our 32+ new toys, we decided to invite 5 of Jack’s buddies over to play his new Capture the Flag game.

It’s a glow in the dark game, so you play at night.

We started the game three against three.

Here is the very enthusiastic green team.dsc_0693

And the less enthusiastic blue team.dsc_0696

I quickly learned why green was so much more enthusiastic than blue when Jack captured the first three flags in like 10 minutes.

So we had to switch up the groups again and again until they were evenly matched.

Then Adam jumped in and we added another kid.dsc_0718

He was quickly put in jail.dsc_0713

Jail, a good place to rest.

Jail, a good place to rest.

While this is all happening, we also had this circus clown car driving in the periphery.dsc_0717

Finally we headed back home for pizza.dsc_0731

And dessert.dsc_0733

I thought after 2 hours of running the boys would be tired but no, they weren’t even close.

They spent the next two hours playing tag with a ballon and pool noodles up and down our two floors, using the back stairwell as a second set of stairs. With the extra stairs you could never quite tell who was up and who was down.dsc_0738

dsc_0742Maybe after all this running Adam and I will finally have a night where one of the four kids (mostly Ben) doesn’t come and wake us up in the middle of the night!

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Last night of Hanukkah

Well, turns out those bears had an agenda after all.

dsc_0654All of their hints for warmer weather were realized today when we revealed to the kids that we were taking them to Florida for a few days.

Bears bearing airline tickets to Florida for the boys.

Bears bearing airline tickets to Florida for the boys.

“Wait, but are we still getting a Hanukkah present tonight?” asked Ben, unsure of whether or not he was getting a good deal.

“If I miss school, does it mean I have to make up the work?” asked Jack.

Wow, contain your enthusiasm people!

At least Aaron came through for us, he jumped up and down with joy, excited that we were going to see his grandparents and stay in a hotel.

Otherwise we continued the sleep over party today.

Last night Ben complained about all his girl friend’s hair in his face in bed and this morning she complained that he snored. Ha!

This afternoon we went to the park. We had to get the Gator out. Again. dsc_0659

Maybe we should have gifted it to them in the summer?

And we had to check out the new Jeni’s Ice Cream & Waffles that opened down the block.dsc_0686

And we had to share a bubble bath with our friends.dsc_0690

And now we can kiss Hanukkah goodbye for another year. It’s on to the next thing.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

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7th Night of Hanukkah

Tonight was a big night for the boys.

Not because they got big gifts, in fact, we just doled out some Slinkys and Cube Bots to everyone.

It was because tonight everyone was waiting for Ben’s playdate to come by to celebrate Hanukkah with us.

We delayed all the Latkes and Brisket until tonight.

But first we started the morning with the bears…dsc_0607

They are still desperately trying to get to warmer weather.dsc_0609

Do you think they will eventually succeed?

Then we headed out to the Museum of Science and Industry for our morning excursion.dsc_0622 dsc_0626 dsc_0628 dsc_0635

In the afternoon, our friends arrived and we lit the Hanukkah candles. We also feasted on brisket, roast veggies, matzoh ball soup and latkes.dsc_0640

We opened presents and we played the dreidel game.dsc_0641

And we even made Hanukkah cookies and decorated them.dsc_0644

Finally as the evening was drawing to a close, we decided on a last minute sleep over. Ben’s first!dsc_0653

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5th and 6th Night of Hanukkah 2016

I think the bears are starting to get a bit antsy in the cold weather.

For the past 2 days they have been hoping for fun and sun.

The morning of the 5th night of Hanukkah, the boys found their bears still asleep in their bed.dsc_0580

They were dreaming somewhere warm and sunny. Collectively they were dreaming of hanging out at the pool.dsc_0581

That evening the boys got to open more presents.dsc_0585

Sam got another Lego JR set that he asked for. Ben got 3 small sets of Lego superheros.dsc_0590

Jack got 3 sets of Lego Nexo Knights that he also picked out for himself.dsc_0586

Aaron, who isn’t into Legos like the rest of them, got a domino run.dsc_0598

Then it was back to bed and up again for another day.

The bears continued to long for warmth and sun…dsc_0596 dsc_0594


This afternoon I let the sitter experience the full power of the Gator (the twins took her to the park, she watched in awe are Sam drove perfectly and safely the entire way) while Adam and I took the older two kids to see Rogue One in 3D.

Then tonight the boys got even more presents (I’m starting to freak out about where we are going to house them all!)dsc_0602

This time Hanukkah cards with money from Bubbie and these adorable puppets with gift cards for the Gap from Aunt Aloha and Uncle Ronnie.dsc_0603

Two more nights, are you ready? I’m not….

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4th Night of Hanukkah 2016


This morning the Hanukkah Bears found themselves surrounded by the house dinosaurs.

Today Adam was at work and I was here by myself with the four kids.

We actually stayed in and played with each other in true winter fashion. When it’s so cold out, you can relieve yourself of the guilt of not getting the kids out for some fresh air.

Instead, video games, TV, pulling puzzles and other toys from the shelves, exploring some of our new toys (I reconfigured the marble run and played countless games of Trouble!), and of course, wrestling transpired. Always wrestling.dsc_0559 dsc_0565

The kids only changed out of their jammies in time to bath and put on new ones.

Adam came home around dinner time and lit the candles, the older kids are starting to mumble through the blessing on the candles quite confidently by now.dsc_0572

And then it was present time again.

This time Jack got a glow in the dark capture the flag game. Can’t wait to set that up with his buddies!dsc_0576

Sam and Aaron got duplo Lego sets.dsc_0579

And Ben, on a tip from his teacher, got another board game, Zingo Sight Words.dsc_0578

Until tomorrow, dear readers, when we do it all again!!!

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