The Relief Team Arrives

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This morning my father and aunt arrived for a weekend full of kiddy torture.

Jack was so excited he asked if he could stay home from school. (The answer was no, in case you were wondering.)

Which was fine because Jack managed to tire Grandpa out within an hour of them meeting up.

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Here they are playing tag. Can you believe my father had a hip replacement in September last year?

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I wasted absolutely no time getting a mani/pedi AND going on an evening run with my husband.

Why can’t we live closer?!

Grandpa helping Jack with his homework while Aaron tries to steal his glasses.

Grandpa helping Jack with his homework while Aaron tries to steal his glasses.

After the run we heard those glasses are now broken. The first of undoubtedly many causalities this coming weekend.

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5th Annual Easter Egg Hunt

We got back to Chicago just in time to enjoy the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

It was a gorgeous day for a picnic and egg hunt. Last year we were in snowsuits, this year short sleeve tops. You never know what you are going to get weather wise in Chicago.

I was giddy to see all my friends again. Even though I often go a week or more without seeing them, I felt like kissing them all today because after our weeklong California vacation, it felt like I hadn’t spent time with them in a million years.

Everyone brought their own picnic and we shared all the toys. Here are a few things that kept the kids busy…

Bubbles

Bubbles

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Kites

Sack Races

Sack Races

Chalk

Chalk

Bean Bag Toss

Bean Bag Toss

Stomp Rocket

Stomp Rocket

There were two different playgrounds to choose from.

Two different playgrounds to choose from.

The older boys preferred running, tree climbing, and wrestling games. No need for a playground or toys at this age!

The older boys preferred running, tree climbing, and wrestling games. No need for a playground or toys at this age!

After all this fun it was time for more fun… Easter Egg hunting!

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Last year Ben insisted on eating every egg on the spot, which drastically reduced his overall haul. This year Adam talked to him at length about grabbing all you can then opening them later. It kind worked.

Jack filled his entire bucket! Then nicely shared some with the twins.

Jack filled his entire bucket! Then nicely shared some with the twins.

The twins first

The twins first egg hunt.

This year was the first year the twins were old enough to egg hunt. After I took this picture I grabbed one of them and ran to the eggs while Adam grabbed the other one.

Our friend Laurie (in the white) said it reminded her of the Hong Kong nannies. When she lived there, she noticed they were so competitive that they would grab the kids and run with them instead of letting them race themselves! Well, Laurie, if I don’t help the twins there will be no kid to steal candy from! Ben and Jack are too old!

The happy hunters and their haul.

The happy hunters and their haul.

Afterwards we all pig out on candy. Some of us ate lunch too...

Afterwards we all pig out on candy. Some of us ate lunch too…

It was another successful Easter and I want to thank everyone for making the effort this year with eggs, candy, toys and lunch. Can’t wait to do it again next year!

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More LA Moments

Besides all the other great things we did in LA, there were a lot of other great moments worth mentioning.

Like the afternoon the cousins came over and we went swimming at the hotel pool. afterwards we ate lunch poolside, a treat so luxurious and vacationy it reminded me of my days in Hong Kong.image

Or all the great food. Authentic Mexican, an insane buffet breakfast that we pigged out at every morning, yummy Korean food that Joy and Sean treated us to, afternoons full of frozen yogurt and so much more…

Can you get bad Mexican food in LA? All the kids (and parents too) loved this meal.

Can you get bad Mexican food in LA? All the kids (and parents too) loved this meal.

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I definitely grew another stomach this week.

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Joy and Sean treat us to this Korean Feast!

We got more family photos in one week than we get in one year on this trip…image

We saw lots and lots of parks. Roxbury, Homby Park, La Brea Tar Pits…

Roxbury was excellent for all our kids. It was easy to see them at all times too.

Roxbury was excellent for all our kids. It was easy to see them at all times too.

Homby was a bit of a nightmare. close to the street with lots of open exits and swing that were poorly placed.

Homby was a bit of a nightmare. close to the street with lots of open exits and swings that were poorly placed.

La Brea Tar Pits were better for our older kids.

La Brea Tar Pits were better for our older kids.

For some reason our move from one hotel room to another struck me as funny…image

I got some great photos of my nephew’s baseball game. Unfortunately they are in the camera I left in our hotel room this morning. As you can tell from the blog, I LOVE MY CAMERA. So it was pretty upsetting to leave it behind accidentally. But not as upsetting as leaving my backpack with wallet in it behind on the limo ride home from the airport.

But let’s not dwell on the problems, because there is nothing more I can do to fix them right now anyway. Everyone just cross your fingers for me that it all works out in the end.

Let’s go back to talking about our trip. That is a much more pleasant place to dwell!

We saw some things that only happen in LA, like randomly walking past George Kotsiopoulos filming at The Grove. It’s always unnerving to see people you watch on TV standing in front of you in real life.

Or the night Adam had a work dinner and walked out to see a black SUV turned over and on fire on the street. They were filming something. Because that’s what happens in LA!

Or even seeing the news LA style, where everything is reported from a helicopter.

It was good to get away, I think the boys really learned a lot and grew on this trip. But great to come home to the comforts of my own home and schedule too.

Good-bye LA! Until next time…

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Happy Birthday Spring Break!

Adam’s sister and husband made quite a hoopla about our visit to LA.

For the past two days they rented a bouncy house, water slide and snow cone maker.

It was barely warm enough for the slide both days but that did not stop any of the kids from endless variations of sliding…

Roman and Sky

Roman and Sky

Ben! The look on his face each time was priceless.

Ben! The look on his face each time was priceless.

Sometimes even the adults joined in...

Sometimes even the adults joined in…

Joy!

Joy!

Sometimes everyone slid together.

Sometimes everyone slid together.

Sam and Sky didn't even need the fancy slide, a tub of water to splash in was fun enough.

Sam and Sky didn’t even need the fancy slide, a tub of water to splash in was fun enough.

By the second day the twins were brave enough to go it alone.

By the second day the twins were brave enough to go it alone.

Sky looked at this picture and said she looked like she was walking on the moon.

Sky looked at this picture and said she looked like she was walking on the moon.

Sam and his snow cone.

Sam and his snow cone.

Aaron couldn't believe his luck. Hs favorite thing to eat is ice and here was FLAVORED ICE?!

Aaron couldn’t believe his luck. Hs favorite thing to eat is ice and here was FLAVORED ICE?!

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As Sky put it, it was like a 2 day birthday party. Happy Birthday Spring Break!image

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Passover

It’s a little out of order, but the night before our Disneyland visit we celebrated Passover dinner at Joy’s. It was too late that evening to post about it, but it was a special evening that I wanted to capture in this living diary of public domain that I keep.

This was the first year we didn’t celebrate in it Chicago. Traditionally it was Bubbie’s holiday, but now she lives in Arizona.

There was something strangely comforting about eating Bill’s famous brisket alongside Bubbie’s homemade matzoh ball soup on this day special reserved for families whose ancestors were liberated from Egyptian slavery.

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Bubbie’s Seder Plate

Adam reading the Haggadah

Adam reading the Haggadah

I don’t think Roman liked the lengthy reading! And yes, we dressed our non twins like twins and our actual twins like non twins that night.

bubbie plays a memory game with Roman and Jack. She lost to both of them.

bubbie plays a memory game with Roman and Jack. She lost to both of them.

Sky was super sweet with the twins.

Sky was super sweet with the twins.

It was the first night the cousins got to see each other in a long time and everyone was very excited which was so nice to see. I love that Adam and Joy’s kids are similar enough in age to all hang together.

Chag Sameach!

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Finally Aaron is First!

After almost two years of Sam beating Aaron to all of the ‘first’ moments in life (first to walk, first to talk, first to… yada yada yada), Aaron finally was the first to the show today.

While Sam was swallowing water and begging to be held, Aaron was quietly but confidently treading water with his new water wings.

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Congrats Aaron! Today you completely out shined not just Sam but ALL your brothers.

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Disneyland

Today we attempted what some parents would consider the impossible. We did Disney. Four kids, three of them pre-school age, to a super crowded, hot place and asked them to wait in long lines. All day long.

At least we had some help…image

We actually had enough adults that we were almost not outnumbered for once.

And when I say we did Disney, we DID Disney. We arrived shortly after the gates opened and stayed for over 12 hours.

Since our last trip to Disney a short 16 months ago, the agenda has totally changed. Jack has finally reached an age where the kiddie rides bore him. He was ready to ride all the scariest roller coasters they had. Luckily he had his cousins there to ride with him.

Since Ben’s diagnoses for a sensory processing disorder, we have learned that things like roller coasters, which he suffers a lot of anxiety about, are actually good for him. If your balance is all messed up, exercising it is key. Last time we avoided it because we didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. So he rode Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain with us while Bubbie and Grandpa Bill napped the twins in the stroller.

By far the favorite ride was Autopia. Jack hit it four times!image

If this blog has taught you anything about me, it’s that I’m obsessed with food. Disney does everything amazing, it almost always exceeds my expectations, except when it comes to food.

I guess when you have a captive audience it doesn’t matter. And the truth is that the kid food is great for the kids. When you are a kid, what more do you need besides pizza, burgers, soda, ice cream and CANDY!?

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So much for the food dye ban!

I also felt guilty that we promised the kids fireworks and we left before but in the end it all worked out. It took so long to leave that we were able to see it fear free, with a thousand car alarms going off (did you know fireworks did that to car alarms?), in the comfort of our own car.image

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California Here We Come

Today we left thawing Chicago for sunny California.

Traveling with four kids has been something I’ve been nervous about since our last (and first) attempt at traveling with four kids.

After a tense moment at the security line when the twins were about 6 months old, Ben was 3 and Jack was 5 I put us on a travel ban until further notice.

I won’t bore you with the details but it ended with Adam getting felt up by a stranger, me with a twin in each arm and Ben getting naked all at the same time.

Okay, the stranger was the TSA guy, but with both our our hands tied, no one could stop Ben from decided at that moment that clothing was optional.

But this trip was an opportunity that was too good to miss for thrifty Nikki.

Adam has wanted to visit his sister for years but these baby making years have kept us grounded.

This week is Jack’s spring break. Also Adam has a conference in LA, where his sister lives. Her kids also have spring break. Adam’s company can help cover some expenses and with the twins turning 2 next month we still have a small opportunity to travel without paying for 6 tickets.

So, here we are! On our way to LA.

We packed so light we surprised ourselves. Of course, tonight before blogging realized I forgot the twins jammies. Who knows what else!

One thing I’ll say about traveling with Adam is that, even with 4 small children in tow, he still does it in style.

Here is our ride to the airport…image

Our kids have taken more limos in their lifetime than I had by age 30!

The plane ride went surprisingly well. The older boys can be distracted by movies, snacks, and busy books. We had to jump through a lot more hoops for the twins but let me pass on one tip my friend Margie gave me – stickers. Lots of stickers.

We had another snafu at the car rental which was eventually resolved. Then at the hotel we were told our rooms would not be adjoining.

A vacation where I sleep in a separate room than my husband? No thanks.

At one point the desk clerk told me that whoever booked our reservation did not book them adjoining. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Are you calling my mother a liar?”

My mother is my travel agent people. And I KNOW she got us adjoining rooms.

But in the end I couldn’t complain when they sorted us out with adjoining room for every night but tonight. And for tonight they did us one better… Here are some pictures of our digs tonight…

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imageimageimageimageAfter checking in, we headed to the mall for a quick bite at the food court. Seeing a California style food court made me remember why I love traveling so much. It’s so fun to be somewhere new and exciting! Even the food court was different! Of the 12 stalls, 6 were Asian. Now that is my kind of food court!

Bubbie and Grandpa Bill arrived in time to join us for dinner.image

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for bedtime were I sipped on my bottle of California Pinot in my hotel robe, watched Adam read to the older boys, and let myself feel very, very lucky in life.image

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Traveling Husbands

I’m not sure how SAHMs with husbands who travel do it.

Which is weird because most people look at me with my 4 kids and wonder how I do it.

And even though Adam works long hours, he is very helpful when he is here, which is at some point every day. Even just taking the last 30 minutes of childcare away from me at the end of the day is a huge relief.

You’d think after doing it for 14 or 15 hours, what’s another 30 minutes? But feeling like you are not shouldering all the childcare yourself is very comforting.

Today I actually had a traveling husband. And it wasn’t even during the week, when you have a schedule that keeps you moving along. It was on a Sunday.

The morning started kind of rough, the twins found a box of jellybeans (yes, my house is so disorganized that random boxes of jellybeans can be found in odd places). It was one of the Bertie Bott’s Jellybean hand outs from Jack’s party. It has every flavor, including things like dirt and boogers. Those ended up regurgitated, leaving a rainbow of stains on my basement rug.

IMG_5838Then one of my potty trained kids pooped in his pants. Then the other one peed on the top of the toilet seat instead in the bowl.

It was 10am.

But luckily the day got better from there and I even managed to make it out of the house and to the park.

Aaron has been displaying alarmingly similar traits to Ben at every stage, including his proclivity to eat sand. Not just one bite, but to get in there and just eat and eat and eat.

I just hope these similarities don’t turn into another kid with sensory issues.

Jack is developing well, though. Look how nicely he is starting to write…IMG_5832

Besides suffering from a mild nag in the back of my mind that hoped nothing went terribly wrong while Adam was away that would end me up in the emergency room with four boys by myself, it actually was a good day with the boys.

And as an added bonus, Adam showed up right before lights out and I even got those last 30 minutes to myself. Ah, relief.

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Even More Homemade Goodies

Are you wondering what was on the menu for dye free food week 2?

For breakfast this week we had a simple Banana Muffins that turned out great. I replaced the all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry and whole spelt flours.

Also Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes (just Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain pancake mix with canned pumpkin and chocolate chips added)….

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I whipped up another batch of Ina Garten’s Granola Bars with different add ins, this time only fruit and I actually think I need to go back to the peanut butter and chocolate chip one after this.

I revisited the Pioneer Woman‘s My Mom’s Muffins. I use her mom’s mix of spelt, whole wheat and almond flour instead of the recipe listed. All the kids love them. So does the hubby.DSC_0384

I also broke down and bought some store bought cereal, at Jack’s request. After all this fancy cooking, turns out he missed having just a bowl of cereal and cold milk. After eyeing my friend Becca’s blog, I went ahead and got Cascadian Farm’s Cinnamon Crunch. No dyes, whole wheat and a ton of sugar. Well, we can’t be perfect every day, can we?

For dessert I tried the Black Bean Popsicles, which I personally gave a miss, so did Jack. But Ben, Sam and Aaron all ate theirs with relish.DSC_0380

Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe I morphed from Dr. Oz. I added an egg, and I baked them. They were okay, but not as crispy as I would have liked. But once again the kids all seemed to love them. I think I’ll try quinoa cookies again, but look online for a better recipe. Or maybe not, since this article on how Western’s love of Quinoa is killing Bolivians has been making the rounds on my facebook page.

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From Sally’s Baking Addiction, I tried Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Those were so good. FIVE star rating in my book, and sooooo simple. Only 5 ingredients.DSC_0396

From Chocolate Covered Katie I baked up the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake. Again FIVE stars! Absolutely delicious! I used coconut oil in the crust. Seriously, there is NO cream cheese in this baby!DSC_0403

And now onto week 3…

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