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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Grandpa Arrives!

Grandpa arrived last night and the kids wasted no time climbing all over him like ants on honey.

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He was their chief, the head honcho, the master.

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Or maybe he was the lackey, the minion, the follower? Within a few hours they had buried him alive under this pile of stuff. Can you find him?

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Perhaps it’s a bit of both. He is a friend, a cohort, a comrade.

I’ll take it anyway it comes. Thanks to him, the kids are having the time of their lives!

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Lunchbox Doldrums

About this time of year I get very bored of the lunch box contents. If I have to make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I’m going to scream!

Plus surely the kids must be dying of boredom when the open up the same lunch again, week after week?

Last weekend one of my many requests for Mother’s Day was to have a sandwich tasting.

Tuna Square, Banana and Peanut Butter roll ups, BLT, and Italian Subs.

Tuna Square, Banana and Peanut Butter roll ups, BLT, and Italian Subs.

I don’t want to send them with anything new lest they starve instead of try it. Which they have been known to do at dinner. But it’s different in the privacy of your own home, isn’t it?

So, a weeks worth of new ideas, want to see them? Maybe try them out on your own kids? Or just make them for yourself!

Tuna Squares, Yogurt Drink, Fig Newtons, Cheese and Crackers for all. Blueberries for Ben and Cantaloupe for Jack.

Tuna Squares, Yogurt Drink, Fig Newtons, Cheese and Crackers for all. Blueberries for Ben and Cantaloupe for Jack.

Olives and Clementines. On French Bread - Salami and Cheese for Ben, Salami, Turkey and Cheese for Jack.

Olives and Clementines. On French Bread (Can you tell it’s home made? Came out kinda lumpy) – Salami and Cheese for Ben, Salami, Turkey and Cheese for Jack.

Peanut Butter and Banana roll ups, yogurt drink, carrots and ranch dip, kiwi.

Peanut Butter and Banana roll ups, yogurt drink, carrots and ranch dip, kiwi.

Celebrating differences today! Ben - Hummus and Pretzels for dipping, salad, hard boiled egg, avocado. Jack - yogurt parfait, edamame, fruit bar, pretzels.

Celebrating differences today! Ben – Hummus and Pretzels for dipping, salad, hard boiled egg, avocado and apple squeezy. Jack – yogurt parfait, edamame, fruit bar, pretzels.

Leftover pizza roll ups, watermelon and for Ben turkey jerky and pistachios, Jack prefers sunflower seeds.

Leftover pizza roll ups, watermelon and for Ben turkey jerky and pistachios, Jack prefers sunflower seeds.

What’s in your lunchbox? I’d love more ideas!

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Boats at the Children’s Museum

One of the greatest things about having a museum membership is the fact that you can go visit and just spend time in one room without feeling pressure to explore the entire museum.

And so this morning, that is what we did.

The Chicago Children’s Museum just opened a new exhibit called Boat’s: Captain Your Own Adventure.IMG_9360

We took the “captain our own adventure” to it’s fullest potential. It took us almost 2 hours to explore this little room, with all it’s treasures.

By the way, do you recognize the twins after we cut their hair short for summer?

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We fished.IMG_9389

We swabbed the deck.

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We sold bait.

IMG_9397And when we were tired, we napped in the hull of the ship.

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8th Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone reading this who is a mother! I hope you had a wonderful day.

Ours was jammed packed, as usual. We started the morning with presents for me…

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Here were all the gifts. I loved them all! Chocolate, money, gift cards and especially the stuff the school had the older kids do for me…

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Jack made a figure in my likeness and added a poem to it. Can you tell it’s me? The poem read:

Lover of Jack, Sam, Satam (think he meant Adam), Aaron and Ben.

Who wonders if I had a good day at school. (I ask him this every day, much to his annoyance.)

Who knows a lot about math, cooking and reading.

Who fears a lion, a shark, and a cobra.

Who is able to read lots book, take good pictures and cook for us.

Who dreams of going somewhere nice.

Who is the groutest Mom on the planet.

Ben’s page had a handprint made into a flower and another page with a heart full of different colored fingerprints. The words underneath read:

Mom, you always clean the fingerprints I leave upon the wall. I seem to make a mess of things because I am so small. The years will pass so quickly I’ll soon be grown like you and all my little fingerprints will surely fade from view. So here’s a special fingerprint a memory that is true. So you’ll recall the very day I made it just for you!

So sweet! What a great way to wake up!

Next I made everyone pile into the car and check out our friend Tami’s new place, The Goddess and the Baker. The kids loved the egg sandwiches, chocolate croissants and blueberry muffins. Adam and I thoroughly enjoyed the steel cut oats.DSC_0105

Next we ran back to the car. I know I’ve said it before but it’s non stop running or wrestling with this family. All day. Every day.

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Run, run, run!

After the run back to the car we hung out at the house. What did we do? We wrestled.

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And wrestled more. I’m under there somewhere…

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Later the twins napped, the older boys watched a movie with Adam. I went for a foot massage and some shopping therapy. It was a very nice two hours that I never would have taken for myself on a normal Sunday while some or any of the kids were awake.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough spoiling, Adam took us out to the Burger Bar for dinner.DSC_0125

I don’t know why I love this place. I don’t really even like meat. I always get the veggie burger! But it somehow suits our family. It’s loud and the food is quick, but not so quick that I don’t have time to finish a glass of pinot noir. Or two glasses, if the kids behave or I’m particularly stressed from all the wrestling and running. They have a great selection of milk shakes (the kids got the malted milkball shake tonight) and yummy sweet potato tots for a change. And we can walk there.

And no one looks at us funny when we start wrestling on the floor of the restaurant, again.

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And when it was all over we ran, not walked, home. Of course.

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Even though I felt bad saddling Adam with most of the kid responsibility today (I know from experience it’s almost physically impossible to do it by yourself for any period of time), after today I felt like – may this crazy paced, unconventional life never end. It may be out of control, full of crying, fighting, wrestling and running but at least it’s never boring.

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Therapeutic School

So the other thing I couldn’t blog about that has been occupying a lot of time lately is Ben’s problems at school.

It’s been a long year of back and forth with the school – discussions, early picks ups, suspensions, and meetings.

Adam asked me not to blog about it until it was settled, and I’m glad he did because along the way there was a lot on anger, frustration and confusion.

But now that we’ve found a resolution, I will sum it up for you.

Ben’s school was given the impossible task of telling us our son didn’t fit in.

And we were given the impossible task of receiving that information.

It’s been 3 years of schooling for Ben and none of it has gone well for him. So far we haven’t found a single place where people understand his needs and can accommodate them.

It’s a very confusing time for us as parents. Because I feel like whatever it is that makes Ben a nonconformist is something that wasn’t always there. The signs didn’t surface until he was about 3 years old.

Normal birth, no excessive ear infections or other sicknesses, no allergies, no head trauma. There was no indication earlier in his life that we would one day be here.

And when that happens, it’s really hard to believe.

At first you deny. You try to make him fit. You beg, you plead, you reason, you reward, you punish. But nothing works.

Next come the doctors. So many doctors! Psychologist, pediatrician, neurologist, allergist. And therapists! Behavioral therapists, occupational therapist, psychotherapists.

When we got the diagnosis of Sensory Processing, it was a relief.

Finally we have identified the problem, now we can find the cure!

But not every problem can be fixed overnight, and some, sadly, never get fixed.

I’ve googled the crap out of this disorder and I’ve read that 90-95% of kids either learn to deal with it or it disappears, I’ve read other articles saying it’s not real, and other stories of people eliminating food and eradicating it. I’ve also read even more articles saying kids don’t outgrow it but can learn to cope with proper therapy. Other articles say they may not learn to cope even with therapy.

Around December of this year the Office of Diverse Learners met with us at school and suggested alternative placement for Ben.

No matter how softly someone breaks that sort of news to you, it still hurts. Hits you like a fist in the stomach.

Even when you can see something is clearly not working, you still don’t want to admit it or take the leap out of the mainstream. Alternative schooling in some ways feels like you are giving up on your kids.

But still we took the suggestions, we kept our options open. We called schools, we got babysitters for the twins and went on tours. And we saw how different kids in alternative placement, or therapeutic day schools, really are.

Some schools cater to autistic kids, some for trauma, some for behavior disorders. One school we visited told us they have celebrations for successful potty training. That school’s youngest grade was kindergarden. Another school showed us Ben’s would be classroom and there was a kid grunting non-stop in the back of the room.

We noted that Ben didn’t look like most of them, and didn’t act like most of them, and we wondered once again how we had gotten here.

In some ways I felt like I was going through the process of grief and all it’s stages. There is a lot of denial, anger, and tears. Perhaps I was grieving something … I was grieving the death of the vision I had of having a conventional child.

After the initial shock of it all, we finally found a therapeutic school that seemed to fit the criteria we had in our minds for Ben.  It uses the same books as his current school, has a good focus on academic achievement, the right kinds of therapy, the kids seemed very similar to Ben and most importantly, they have a high rate of rehabilitation.

We sent in the paperwork and luckily, they accepted us. In fact they actively made room for Ben, moving kids around in order to let him start as quickly as possible.

This past week has been an emotional one. Even though it didn’t work out at his current school, he still has made a lot of friendships there, especially with the staff. It will be difficult for him to leave them. I was sad all week as I watched him and his three brothers playing in the playground after school together. All that family togetherness after school, the giddiness the twins feel finally seeing their brothers again, the glee they have running to the school playground together, will mostly end when he goes somewhere else. And the comfort he feels knowing Jack is in the same school with him, looking out for him and protecting him.

Ben's Last Day of School.

Ben’s Last Day of School.

His kindergarden teacher very kindly offered to celebrate Ben’s birthday early so his last day of school was a happy one, filled with cards from classmates, presents and birthday treats.

It was also a sad one, as he said good bye to so many people that became close with him over the year.

Hugging his one-on-one aide good bye.

Hugging his one-on-one aide good bye, she had tears in her eyes.

Another hug for the security guard.

Another hug for the security guard who has taken him under his wing.

And the very next day, today, he started at the new school. Let’s hope we’ve finally found the right fit.

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Twins!

Sam and Aaron turned three today. It’s been another big year, as all the toddler years are.

I’ve so enjoyed our mornings alone together. Not that there isn’t something special about having the whole family together, but just having the twins in the morning gives me some time to spend with them individuallyish.

Having twins is great because you never need to book playdates. They constantly have someone here ready to play. So most mornings we don’t plan at all. We just pack water and lunch, walk out the door and see where it leads us.

And because we don’t do many playdates, they mostly just play with their brothers. They don’t go to class or school so a party seemed unnecessary.

This year the twins started to be able to play with the older boys and each other in earnest. Lots of executive function. It’s adorable to see how each child has formed it’s own special and different relationship with each other.

Aaron continues to be the daredevil. He is also the most easy going – of all of the kids, not just the twins. This is not to say he never cries, but he handles disappointment and change with ease. Also, he’s very sweet. When Sam is crying for something, Aaron runs and fetches it. And he does it all while brandishing a stick (when outside) or a chopstick (inside).

Sam is more cautious, more demanding, more articulate. He is more social, often seeking Aaron out and also more open to the games the older boys suggest. He likes to have things a certain way and will blow a gasket if he doesn’t get his way, even if he forgot to tell you how he wanted it in the first place. But man, is he clever. He just gets it. He throws balls instinctively and picks up toys and plays with them just how the inventor intended. And for the past month he’s done it all in his “Hulk Smash” costume. And when you see him in it, please remember to call him Hulk Smash if you expect to get a response.

This morning we bought the doughnut that Aaron wanted last time we went to the doughnut store but I refused…

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Next we planned a morning out at Chicago Botanical Gardens.

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We wanted to check out a new section of the garden and on the way we found these huge piles of dirt. HUGE PILES OF DIRT! That’s just awesome. That’s more amazing than all the gorgeous flowers and landscaping! Hours of entertainment people. Hours.

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Next Adam took us all out for some lunch and then it was time for the twins to pick out their toys from the toy store.

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I’ve never seen this before but Geoffrey the Giraffe was there. These sort of live mascots or characters always freaked me out as a kid. I remember as a little girl running scared at Chuck y Cheese every time I went, but Ben loves them. We could barely tear the kids away. Hello! We are in a TOY STORE kids!

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When the manager found out it was the twins birthday they gave them crowns and balloons. It was a really cool thing to do.

Afterwards everyone was tired and so we let them eat dinner in front of the TV for a special treat.DSC_0067

I meant to make the twins a great train cake from a mold I borrowed from my friend Carrie, but last night Adam and I went to our friend’s son’s bar mitzvah and shamelessly took TWO take home boxes from the dessert buffet.

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Mazel Tov Robert and thanks for the treats!

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6th Annual Easter Egg Hunt

The tradition continues, even though it was two weeks late this year and we were down on numbers.IMG_9193

As we get along in the years seems like we are all busier and it’s harder to find a time we can all have free together. Even the husbands were down in number this year, most of them working and the one that did manage to show up did so, but was planning on going to work later that day.

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We still managed a pack of 13 kids. (Topper and Keller missing). Thirteen boys, actually. ALL BOYS!

And yes, Hulk and Lightning are still around. As Adam said, it’s going to have to get to 90° before they willingly drop those costumes.

Despite the prediction of 90% chance of rain, it was a gorgeous day for an egg hunt.

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And despite my nerves and losing a kid or two in this large park by myself, nothing bad happened and I’m happy to say they are all home safe with me now.

Sorting the Spoils.

Sorting the Spoils.

Another successful year! Thanks for organizing Pam!

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The Hulk and Lightning McQueen

The Hulk and Lightning McQueen sightings have continued throughout the city this week.

On Random City Streets.

On Random City Streets.

Showing off their balancing abilities.

Showing off their balancing abilities.

At Supera Park.

At Supera Park.

Waving to tourists boats on the Chicago River.

Waving to tourists boats on the Chicago River.

At School Pick Up.

At School Pick Up.

At Montgomery Ward Park

At Montgomery Ward Park

At their Father's New Office.

At their Father’s New Office.

I hope everyone feels safe, or if not, they know they have a fast get away car driver nearby…

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