Roof Top

Wrigley_Field_and_Wrigley_RooftopsLast night we were invited to a Spring Launch Party for one of the roof top venues in Wrigleyville. For those of you not from Chicago, or from Chicago but not that versed in the world of Cubs Baseball, the roof top venues in Chicago are a unique experience.

Owners of houses with views into Wrigley Stadium eventually realized that they could use their rooftops to make money. An unusual business venture was born. Soon all the houses surrounding Wrigley had their rooftops kitted with bleacher seats and lower levels with bars and food service below. It was an fun, different way to book parties.

I’m embarrassed to admit that after over 10 years of living here, I’ve never visited a single roof top. Adam has been to every single one. I was amazed to see just how incredible the views were. Not just of the baseball field, but of the city as well.

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I’m also embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what was going on with the roof tops right now. Having four kids does not help keep me up to date on local news.

I’m not sure if you can see in the picture above, but Wrigley is building some large billboards that will block some of the rooftop view completely. I spent a lot of time asking people at the launch party about it, and at some point I realized I was completely sticking my foot in my mouth.

That this has been a struggle that has been going on for some time between the rooftop owners and Wrigley. There were squabbles over whether or not roof tops should pay royalties to Wrigley. Some say Wrigley is ruining a landmark, others argue the renovations will improve revenue and therefore the team. It’s a big mess, and I can see pros and cons for both sides.

Which is what made last night so awkward. It was like meeting a B rated actor for the first time and slowly, through conversation, realizing they are in a the midst of a painful divorce.

After all that foot in the mouth, I still wasn’t sure who was right or wrong, and probably much like a divorce, both parties are right. And wrong.

Either way, losing the one of a kind experience that roof tops provide will be a real shame.

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Winter Thaw

In one week we went from piles of snow higher than our heads to short sleeve shirts.

It was a dramatic change and it effected us all dramatically, in our own ways.

Every morning the twins and I walked the neighborhood enjoying the changes.IMG_8790

Monday we were so happy to be outside and in the sunshine that we never even made it to a park to play. Leftover snow on the sidewalk was fun enough for the morning.

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By Wednesday all that leftover snow had melted into huge puddles everywhere, making for another kind of exciting adventure. A very wet and muddy one!

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By Friday I had gotten smarter. We visited Montgomery Ward Park, a park with soft surface, no sand, and built high on a hillside – all leftover snow would have melted away and run off. Also by Friday we were out jacket free.

DSC_0822Saturday we dusted off and pumped the bikes up.

The new weather invigorated me as a mom. I have definitely been suffering the winter doldrums, cabin fever, the winter blues, inertia, call it what you will. I was suffering from ALL of it.

It made me excited to get up and go again. And it renewed my interest in the kids.

Recently I have felt like all I do is run from one emergency to the next, before one emergency is fixed another one is screaming in my ear. As I’m wiping a poopy butt, someone is falling down the stairs. As I’m pulling one kid off another one, two others are fighting over a toy. I’m cooking three different things in the kitchen while walking back and forth over a toddler having a tantrum. Burn the eggs or pick the kid up? But wait, I haven’t started packing the lunches yet! Over and over and over again, all day long.

After a winter’s lockdown, I realized just how long it had been since I looked at the kids. I mean really looked at them. Just like the weather, all of a sudden, they were new to me.

Ben, who refused to ride his new bike last year because it wasn’t EXACTLY the same model as Jack’s not only got on the bike but actually had the gross motor skills to petal it himself. His sensory processing disorder seriously effected his ability before and I was so proud to see him overcome it.

He also has started a budding friendship with Sam. Instead of just following his older brother around, he has been able to build another, new friendship on his own. Today at the Chicago Botanical Gardens Sam insisted on holding Ben’s hand most of the walk.

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Watching them all together, how they all interacted differently, had their own friendships and yet they were all so close melted my winter heart.

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I hope they will always be this close.

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That they will always enjoy each other company, and look out for each other.

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You never know what life will bring you, but in the end, family is everything. And today, I feel very blessed for not only the family I came from, but the one Adam and I have created.

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Me and My Guys

Jack and Ben’s school does so many wonderful things to make life extraordinary for them.

Tonight I attended the “Me and My Guy” dance with Jack and Ben.

After spiffing ourselves up a bit and after Adam and Jack had a secret talk, we headed over to school.

At first Jack was very sullen to see he was the first of his friends to arrive. As a result he was very straight faced for our first few attempts at pictures.

IMG_8707He perked up instantly once his buddies started arriving and pretty soon instead of hanging out with mom he was racing around the room with his cronies, running and giggling. IMG_8717

As soon as those two arrived I hardly saw Jack. But he did make a few appearances, bearing water bottles or brownies for me.

I spent the entire evening like this….

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I danced with Ben in my arms until I was shaking, and then I danced some more. I guess Ben noticed there wasn’t a twin in that spot and decided to exploit the opportunity. It made me realize just how young he still is. He looks like a giant next to the twins, but he’s still my little baby boy. Also I noted in my head that Jack would never let me do this to him, so I’d better get all the cuddling in I can while he will still stomach it.

And even if I’m not cool enough to dance with, Jack later found Ben and gave him a few spins on the dance floor.

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He also asked if he could pose with Ben for the camera, sans Mom.IMG_8737

Later I found out that the talk Adam had with Jack was to let him know he was taking Mom out and he should take care of her, hold open the doors and make sure she’s well hydrated and fed. He was the perfect gentleman.

 

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Sky High

As the boys get older, the places you can take them to indoors to play changes.

This year two of Jack’s buddies had their birthday at Sky High.

At the same time, Jack has been bugging me to invite his two mischievous little buddies over for a sleep over. Which I’ve been avoiding. But when I saw this invite I thought to myself, this is the night. If this place doesn’t exhaust a bunch of rowdy 8 year old boys, nothing will. It was my best chance of having them over and not having them up all night too.DSC_0797

If you’ve never been to sky high, I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s awesome. It’s terrifying. It’s unique. It’s a perfect place to wear out your pent up little Chicagoans in the dead of winter. It’s a sweaty, gross sort of experience. Kids don’t notice that kind of stuff, but I made sure and buy the grip socks they offer instead of having them jump barefoot.

The kids jumped for almost two hours straight. They were red and sweaty and I have no idea how they kept going, and going, and going.

In addition to this open trampoline area which is for kids 7 and up, they also have another trampoline area for 6 and under. I understand it’s for safety but remember that tip when you want to take your family of different ages there by yourself!

The other areas they have are a trampoline that lands into a foam pit, and another trampoline area where you can play dodgeball, and one where you can play basketball. I didn’t get to see it all because I was too scared to leave the boys for an instant. There were a lot of accidents, people bumping into each other to kids falling and another person jumping on them. Luckily nothing happened to any of the kids I was watching!

DSC_0813They managed to scarf down a quick pizza and birthday cake before heading right back to the pit for as much jump time as possible.

When they got home Jack was so tired he fell asleep at 9:30 with the lights on, next to his friends who were systematically dumping every toy bin we have in the basement. If you’ve been to my house at all, you know that’s a painful statement.

I would have been angry except I can only blame myself for having so many toys and in truth I’ve been meaning to sort through them for a while and now I had a great reason to start the 6 hour project.DSC_0819

I asked Jack’s buddies to lay down for bed at 10:30 and they did without question and were silent from the moment their heads hit the pillow. It was almost too good to be true!

Ironically Ben, who was invited to the sleep over, ended up in our bed and at midnight Jack woke up disoriented and I brought him to his bed to sleep. So it was a “sleep”, but it didn’t last until the sleep was “over” for my two kids.

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Jack’s Star War’s Party

This year Jack’s birthday landed on his actual birthday. He thought it was great, I wonder how many years it will take him to realize that actually sucks. You get treated special on your birthday anyway, might as well reserve a party to celebrate yourself for another time and extend the amount of time people celebrate your awesomeness!

This year Jack requested a Star Wars party. I was very excited to hear it. There is no shortage of things to do at a star wars party. In fact, I had to pare down to keep myself from going crazy.

We decided to send the kids on a Jedi Training Course.

I had it all planned out, and it was very organized. When they entered, much like Jack’s Harry Potter Party last year, they would have set activities to complete.IMG_2996

I made butter cookies from star wars cut outs.

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Then set them up next too home made royal icing and lots of sprinkle choices.

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Here is my ‘trash compactor’ with lego sets hidden inside:

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And my Jedi Training Course:

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We set up a bubble machine above this sign and put pool noodle light sabers next to it:

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Last year they followed the activities in order and with zeal. This year they all walked in and ran loose. My many nights spend creating a theme and activities were thrown aside.

Still it wasn’t a total waste, they did do each activity eventually, just not in the orderly fashion I planned.

First they all ran downstairs and attacked the bubble machine like a bunch of ravers in a club.

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Eventually they either settled into lego building or cookie making.

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And everyone ate dinner, I think. This year the amount of people who chose to drop off increased dramatically so I hope I fed them all!

Pigs in a Blanket, Mac and Cheese, Taco Bar, Fruit and Veggies

Pigs in a Blanket, Mac and Cheese, Taco Bar, Fruit and Veggies

And everyone sang to Jack for his birthday. Adam was in charge of the cake again…

DSC_0741Afterwards we defeated the Death Star Pinyata.

DSC_0746I think this is the last year for pinyatas. Each year more and more kids cry over it and the truth is none of us need MORE sugar in our lives anyway.

Last year it was Jack crying because he got pushed out of the way before he got any candy. He remembered it this year and mentioned that he hoped he would get some candy this year, he was still hurt about it a year later.

I told him I wanted him to have lots of fun at his party, but I also wanted him to be a good host.

So this year when the candy grab was over, one of his friends was crying after the pinyata frenzy, Jack gave him his candy. It made me very proud.

Other random events I liked was when our friend Mark battled practically the entire group of kids single handedly.

DSC_0752 Aaron was crying when he left, he was having so much fun playing with him.

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It was a great party and when it was all over, Jack still had presents and a sleep over to look forward to.

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Happy Birthday Jack! Hope it was a great day.

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Ice Miller

Remember when I told you there was a bunch of unbloggable stuff going on right now?

Well I’m pleased to be able to announce at least one thing today…

Adam started a new job Monday.

Yep. Fourteen years at the last place.That sort of longevity is not an easy thing to break from. Especially if you are someone like Adam who is very cautious in his decision making.

This past year has been a crazy roller coaster, exploring and deciding on all the different options, including the possibility of staying where he was, which was a changing roller coaster of it’s own. Last month his business card was for Edwards Wildman, and this month it was for Lock Lord Edwards. Two years ago it said Wildman Harrold.

In the end, after weighing all the options, he couldn’t resist the lure of Ice Miller.

It is a midwest firm with the head office in Indianapolis. He will be working out of the Chicago office, about a block from his old job.

He can still practice the same stuff he has been doing, but his rate structure is better for his clients, he has less conflicts, and better support.

I’ve only met a few of the guys who work there but the ones I have met have completely disproven Forbes Top 10 Jobs that Attract Psychopaths article. They seem like a group of well rounded, logical, helpful and educated individuals.

Although he’s a bit nervous about proving himself, I am ecstatic at the fact that he is going out on his own. Anyone with this much charisma, common sense and top level lawyering skills will be an asset to any customer. Snatch him up fast people, before he gets all booked up…

Adam Calisoff, Ice Miller

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Legoland

The last few years we started a tradition of taking Jack and a few buddies of his to the Monster Jam for one of his birthday presents.

This year we totally forgot to get the tickets in time. A lot going on around here lately.

So to make up for it, we took Jack and his buddies to Legoland.

Before I give you an overview of the day, let me give you a few tips if you want to go.

Buy your tickets online first. Not to save money, because it saves you less than $1 a ticket if you go at any reasonable time, but because if you don’t you will stand in two lines. One to buy the ticket then another to get the time slot you bought for. And the online booking service is super slow. Leave like 30 minutes to do it. And sometimes when you show up and buy a ticket, the next entry time is not immediate, and you have to stand around and wait for that too.

Also, you can’t bring your own food. But they have a very limited selection. When we showed up at 12:15 for lunch they had small white bread sandwiches of ham or cheese and some salads. We had to wait for the turkey to come out. Later we saw more adult sandwiches for sale but it was still a very limited selection. I don’t know why they don’t sell pizza as I saw it in the party rooms.

Anyway, probably best to show up right after lunch and eat somewhere yummy as it only takes a few hours to visit the entire place. You can cover it between 3 to 4 hours.

Also, no coat rack or lockers anywhere in sight. So if you want to wear a heavy coat, better bring a backpack or something you can stuff it in.

On the way over I told Jack they had 2 rides.

He was like, only TWO?!

I kept saying, hey it’s not Disney. And that is my final tip. Don’t expect Disney.

After we adjusted our expectations we actually had a really fun day.

DSC_0603Miniland Chicago was the first stop. The boys were so excited we had to remind them to stop and have a proper look. Pretty soon they was gleefully finding all sorts of wonders, like Superman on a building or Yoda on the street.

DSC_0614Here is the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride. When you shoot they tally your total on a screen in your seat.

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Here is the 4D Cinema. they had lots of interactive tricks, for example when it rained in the movie, water misted you.

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Master Builder Academy. The boys built rocket ships from kits.

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Merlin’s Apprentice Ride. As you pedal you go higher. Ben ‘defeated’ both the rides without much fuss. It was great day for him!

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Lego Racers Build and Test. You build cars, then test them…

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We probably spent the most time here. The boys really liked it.

There were even more things to do but I think that sums up the day. The boys had a blast and so did I.

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Valentine’s Day 2015

Another year, and another Valentine’s Day.

After seeing the effort Jack and Ben’s school put out, I realized I could not compete. But I still tried to keep some Valentine’s love showing up from time to time.

Heart Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Chocolate Covered Strawberries.

Heart Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Chocolate Covered Strawberries for Breakfast.

Adam asked me if he could buy me chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I have a real weakness for chocolate and when it’s in the house, well, I eat it. Not just that, but I become obsessed with it. I will leave it in hard to reach places to keep myself from eating too much. I will think about it constantly and then finally eat it, then curse myself later. When it runs out I’m like a strung out junkie rifling the cabinets, eating what’s left of the baking chocolate. Then at the store I break down and buy more all while vowing to swear it off forever.

Chocolate in the 2000s is what cigarettes were for me in the 90s.

So with great trepidation I nodded slightly when he asked if he could buy me some this year. I think my logic was something like, “I guess it’s okay? At least he’ll buy me the good stuff”.

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That there is THREE pounds of high quality truffles. Still not sure what that means? Let me show you…

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I put a matchbox car in there for perspective. There is going to be a lot of cursing going on in my head the next month!

Kind of put my mini meatloaf with ketchup hearts to shame, eh?

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The kids still thought it was super cool. After a special cheesecake dessert they commented that Valentine’s Day is the second best day of the year! (Second to Halloween.)

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Valentine’s Celebration

Today I had the pleasure of volunteering at Jack and Ben’s school for their valentine’s celebration.

Both boys woke up earlier than usual, excited for once to get to school.

This year I’m room mom for Jack class. It’s something I was very nervous about since it seems like one of those jobs that is open to interpretation and therefore quite easy to screw up. Luckily I was roped in by one of the best room moms the school has to offer and I’ve been riding her competent coat tails all year.

She organized great activities for Jack’s class, including a Valentine’s box decorating contest, heart decoupage, and turning a toilet paper roll into a butterfly.

IMG_8517Jack’s box came from a kit which was kind of the easy way out, even though he seemed pleased with it. Some of the other kids were really creative with their boxes and I’m going to have to up my game if we do this again!

IMG_8510 IMG_8511The “For The Love of the Game” one was Jack’s buddy’s. It actually lights up when it’s turned on. One of the parameters of the contest was to have 3 hearts on the box. Jack’s other buddy put pictures of 3 real hearts, winning him the ‘most scary’ award.

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Decoupage Hearts

After spending the morning with Jack’s class, I joined both Jack and Ben for the Valentine’s school dance. It was really funny to watch them all wander around a relatively small space losing each other every few minutes. Jack was such a sweet older brother, making sure to keep Ben close the entire time.

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Jack held Ben’s hand even when he was using his other hand and rest of his body to wrestle with his buddies.

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In the afternoon I watched videos with Ben’s class and helped him stuff valentine’s bags for his classmates.IMG_8526

It was really quite a sweet day and as guilty as I felt leaving the twins, it was so nice to spend time with the older boys in their school environment.

After today I don’t think I can top the festivities tomorrow – the real Valentine’s Day.

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Fresh Picks (Jan 28)

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This week carrots, celery, leeks, romaine lettuce, parsley, onions, mushrooms, kale, and potatoes.

DSC_0543I made a few different smoothies with the kale. Usually I start with a green like kale or spinach, add a banana, chia seeds, some yogurt and frozen fruit. I like to switch the fruit around. Sometimes it’s strawberry and peaches. Sometimes it’s an acai packet with mango. Mixed berries is also a staple. Add some OJ and blend.

Kids love smoothies and it’s a great, healthy way to hide veggies!

The romaine was used in a Caesar salad. I just use Paul Newman’s lite Caesar dressing, added some home made croutons, tomatoes, parmesan and topped with poached chicken.

The carrots and celery were used for dipping for our ‘superbowl party’ (this consisted of the six of us eating snacks for dinner in front of the TV. Also I chopped them up and put them into the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Noodle Soup, we added some of the parsley to that. She adds turmeric and it gives it such a great kick.

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Potatoes and Onions were made into home made samosas. Yes, I made home made samosas out of my China Study Cookbook.

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Finally the mushroom were sautéed in butter and oil with garlic, then deglazed with cooking sherry and sprinkled with more left over parsley.

DSC_0563I made leeks into leek and potato soup. So simple to do, saute leeks in butter, then add 3 or 4 cups of chicken broth, add peeled and chopped potatoes. Boil until tender then season and blend. I like to top with leftover bacon (if there is ever any leftover bacon in this house!) and shredded cheddar.

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