Covid Activities

I spent some time scrolling through previous summer blogs recently. I was amazed just how much we crammed into each day.

Covid has changed all that. No more beaches. No more water parks. No more playdates.

We have gone insular. The activities have gotten smaller.

Most days Adam and I try to get the kids out for some fresh air, sunshine, and activity, but it’s nothing like the adventures we used to have.

Most days it’s just a walk.

Palmisano (Henry) Park
Palmisano (Henry) Park
Swallow Cliff Woods steps
Swallow Cliff Woods
Walking around near Montrose Beach.
Walking around near Montrose Beach.
Montrose Bird Harbor
Northwestern University
Peninsula near Northwestern University
Painted rocks near Northwestern University

Sometimes we go biking.

MacArthur Forest Preserve. Old School loop.
Gravel is tough to ride on. Ben got six staples in his knee that evening.
After a hot day bike riding, we enjoy some Dairy Queen.
Biking By Lane Tech.
Biking the lake front.
Followed by more Dairy Queen!

And when all else fails, I try to channel my inner Jane Fonda and get the boys to workout at home.

Deck workout.

In a lot of ways, I appreciate this new way of being. It’s exhausting to try to top every summer with the next best summer ever. To scour the landscape for new and exciting things to do now that we have grown a year older, are taller, and can do more.

The kids are finally free to be bored. ‘Let your children be bored’ is one of the many pieces of advice I often see floating around the internet by various experts with regards to your children, isn’t it? Up to this point I’ve ignored it.

Although being bored resulted in too much screen time (‘limit screen time’ is another one of those pieces of advice floating around the internet by various experts that I have also ignored), it has also created a lot of creativity and interaction between the kids.

Jack and the twins did this to my hoodie footie.
The hoodie footie has gotten a lot of use this summer…
Pool noodle fight.
Sam’s army men make a comeback.
Sam and Jack hanging out.

Sam does the most with all this free time in the house, leading the charge in costumes and role play games, or just creating on his own. But even Ben, who complains of boredom the most, has started to draw again.

Petoskey Stones from our trip have been moved off the dining room table to make way for Ben’s drawings.
Ben also planted a garden this summer.

School starts soon, with three of the kids remote learning. It will mean less time for boredom for the kids, and less time for me to putz around and finish chores at my leisure.

In preparation for the remote learning, the kids are doing a typing course. The twins are memorizing their times tables as well. When I get their schedules, I will try to plan for some social distancing lessons they can do, like tennis or golf, to keep them active.

But for now, I’m planning on enjoying these last few weeks by cramming in as many books as I can read and binge watching as many shows as I can.

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Weekend in Petoskey

For Ben’s birthday, Adam drove the entire family up to Petoskey to hunt for Petoskey Stones.

This was the only area we missed on our RV trip last summer, so we made sure to check out all the sites still on our list of things to see.

On the drive up, we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Of course, the minute the kids saw it, they started running up at full speed.

There are gorgeous panoramic views that no camera can do justice.

What goes up, must come down. And with our kids, it must also be at full speed.

Afterwards, we made our way to Traverse City for dinner at Harrington’s by the Bay. This dinner fulfilled another one of Ben’s obsessions, trying new types of fish. Ben tried Bang Bang Shrimp and Beer Battered Perch.

Long waits at all the good restaurants this time of year, even with Coronavirus.

The next day, we went to Petoskey State Park. This was one of two good places to look for Petoskey stones, according to a few blogs on the internet.

The waves were massive, which is fun for playing in the surf, but makes it difficult to snorkel for stones. Though they tried…

There were lots of people on the beach and we saw a few of them scouring the shoreline with spray bottles of water, looking for Petoskey stones. Ben and Adam started looking right away, but without immediate success, Ben gave up.

The expectation he had in his head didn’t match the reality.

Since Chicago Beaches are closed now, a beach day was a special treat, and the other kids enjoyed it immensely.

Digging a huge hole.
Aaron loves to be buried in the sand.

Finally, after much searching from Adam and a little searching from me, we started finding some Petoskey stones.

Ben got a little less morose, and started looking again.

Later we left the beach and headed for Kilwin’s for ice cream and fudge.

That evening, after a full day in the sun and water, we gave the kids some down time. We ordered a pizza in the hotel.

These three eat an entire large pizza on their own!
At Kilwin’s, Adam orders 10 pounds of fudge!

We had heard there was another beach worth checking out for Petoskey stones, so after dinner and lots of fudge for dessert, we went to check it out.

Magnus Beach was covered in stones. Sam wasn’t interested in looking, instead he smashed rocks.

Magnus Beach was magical.

The woman in the picture above saw Ben looking for stones and brought him all the bags she had collected to give to him. She was staying in the RV park nearby. Apparently her husband kept asking her why she was collecting them since they weren’t going to bring them all home.

She explained that because the water was so choppy lately, many new stones had washed up on shore. We found a bunch more on our own as well.

As we were collecting stones, another group came over and asked if we wanted the last piece of birthday cake leftover from their celebration.

Finally I realized Aaron was upset that he wasn’t finding any stones of his own, and the nice lady gave all hers to Ben. But she came through again! She led us to another RV and there was a woman giving away more Petoskey stones! Hers were painted and unpainted.

Aaron finally gets his own Petoskey stones.

Afterwards we strolled through downtown Petoskey, Adam offering to buy us souvenirs.

The next day we headed back home, stopping in South Haven for a very loud (there was a live band) lunch at Captain Lou’s.

Finally, we went blueberry picking at DeGrandchamp Farms.

In our usual grand style, we left with 12 pounds of blueberries.

I also left with this….

Our haul from the trip. Now it’s time to start polishing them…
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Ben’s 11th Birthday

For almost a year now, Ben has been obsessed with fossils.

His birthday this year celebration started with a trip to Dave’s Rock Shop.

Museum at Dave’s Rock Shop

Sam and Aaron joined him and picked out a few fossils of their own.

He also received some reference books from his parents, which so far have proven to be a weak adversary to the internet.

Ben was visited by a large number of staff members from his school. They came bearing cookies and cards.

Seven members of the school staff come and visit Ben for his birthday.

I was incredibly humbled by this effort. Everyone in this blurred out picture is still working a full time job at the school, as they have summer session right now. One of the people here was on his day off and still came to visit Ben!

Later, Ben requested take out from Shine Restaurant. He has also been into trying new types of seafood, so we let him pick from the different Nigiri options.

What Ben’s face looks like when he puts too much wasabi on his nigiri.

Ben also requested a celebration cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.

The brothers are ready to sing to the cake
Layers of Vanilla Cake, Cheesecake, Strawberry, Chocolate and Vanilla Mousse with Cream Cheese Frosting.

But that’s not all!

Adam has been making an extra special effort to embrace Ben’s fossil and rock obsession. Last year he made the long trip to Mazon Creek to fossil hunt with Ben. And for his birthday this year, he took the entire family to Upper Michigan for a weekend of Petoskey stone hunting.

I’ll have that blog ready tomorrow….

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Father’s Day 2020

Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

Today was a beautiful day, and Adam took full advantage of it.

He woke up and went for a run.

After breakfast, he opened his present, a large acrylic print.

I used pictures from Jack’s Bar Mitzvah for this photo montage.

Then I ducked out for a bit to zoom with my own father for father’s day.

When I came back, Adam took Jack out for a run.

Then we had lunch.

Afterwards, Adam took Ben out for a run. (Do you see where this is all going, besides in a big circle for Adam?)

Next, Aaron had a turn playing soccer outside with Adam. Last but not least, Sam did a walk with Adam.

Aaron and Adam on their way to play soccer in the park.

In the evening, Adam had a well deserved burger, his dinner of choice for today.

For dessert, we ate desserts that Adam’s friend, who owns Dessert Box, delivered to him for his birthday yesterday.

Sampler Plate

By the end of the day, Adam finally took a well deserved rest.

Here is his phone’s step counter for the day….

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Adams 51st Birthday

Another birthday under Coronavirus!

I wonder how many of our family members will celebrate this way? Will we still be like this when my birthday rolls around in December? Only time will tell.

Adam didn’t seem bothered by the lack of things to do. In fact, since he is an over planner, having nothing to do and nowhere to go made it so he wasn’t too busy for once.

He was able to go out for a morning run, followed by a walk with Ben.

For his father’s day present, he asked that each kid spend time with him. Then he asked that each kid say how they wanted to spend time with him. There were requests for walks, reading and of course, video gaming.

Doctored up card from my father.

In the morning he opened up many cards and presents from family members.

Also this year he received phone call from many friends, many more than usual. He is not on social media so the fact that they remember is even more touching.

We got him Airpods. He is constantly telling clients to hold on a second, he just has to unravel or find his earphones. These go on much easier and they have a way to find them when they are lost.

Apple Airpods come with free engraving.

Also, we got him a pair of the new Allbirds Tree Runners. (I’m in love with the brand, well made but also woke.)

Adam requested pizza for dinner which we made from scratch.

For dessert, home made chocolate eclairs.

🎵 Happy Birthday to Adam. 🎵

Stay tuned for the second of Adam’s days this weekend – Father’s Day.

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Sam and Aaron’s 8th Birthday

Sam and Aaron’s birthday arrived in the middle of our ‘Shelter at Home’ ordinance.

We did the best we could, considering all our normal birthday rituals were not possible at this time.

We had some successes and some failures.

I started the day with the alarm ringing at an ungodly hour so I could start making doughnuts that I normally buy at a store.

“Time to Make the Doughnuts.”

They were a huge success, like a fluffy funnel cake. They made the usual store bought ones seem stale by comparison. It doesn’t mean when things go back to normal I’m still going to wake up at the crack of dawn again just to make these, though.

The night before, Adam and I had set up a sparkling entrance and a balloon drop.

I was awake and in the kitchen when they woke up, making those darn doughnuts. I could hear them whispering (so they wouldn’t wake up their brothers) excitedly about the new sparkling entrance. For the millionth time, I thought how lucky they were to be twins, to have a good friend to share these special moments with.

After breakfast they opened a card from Bubbie & Bill, also a card from Cheryl, Allen & Jessica Kaplan.

When everyone else woke up, we let them pull down the balloon drop.

When the balloons dropped, we revealed that we had hidden presents inside some of the balloons.

Sam used a “flying jump and land on top of the balloon” method to pop them open.
Aaron, on the other hand, went and got scissors.

They found cash inside a bunch of different balloons. They gathered it together and split it evenly between the two of them.

I tried to dole out the surprises during the day. After watching a Harry Potter movie, they asked for their next surprise. While they were watching the movie, Jack and I took some old yarn that I used to make Hanukkah Bear costumes out of (Fable’s Fortnite Hair) and created a spy themed treasure hunt.

We strung the string through Jack and the twin’s bedroom. They had to crouch and duck like spies avoiding lasers, following their own string color until they found the prize.

Jack hid their presents, Lego building sets, in their school back packs. He figured they would NEVER think to look there. He was right.

Jack helps Sam build a LEGO plane.
Adam helps Aaron build a LEGO car.

A few hours later they asked for another surprise. This time they each had to solve a home made puzzle to find it. Then, they had to put their puzzles together to get the clue.

I used leftover blank puzzles from Jack’s 11th birthday party.

I cut out foot prints and spray painted them with chalk spray. They followed the trail of footprints. It led them from the front door, around the side of the house, and up to the back deck…

On the deck they found a “Connect 4 Shots” game. It’s basically connect four but you throw the balls instead of just placing them in a slot. They enjoyed the hunt, but they weren’t that into the game.

After another break, they asked for another surprise. This time I had them fill out a cipher to find a clue that would lead them to their next present.

Aaron got a Rock Garden from Smithsonian. Sam got the game, “You got Crabs”, which we will play later in the week. Yes, he is in the background pretending to be a crab.

In the evening, Aaron requested tacos for dinner.

Sam helped me make the batter for home made tortillas. Which didn’t work out. I couldn’t get them thin enough or pull them off the tortilla press in one piece. Luckily I had some store bought ones.

The twins also wanted chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for dessert.

After cake, we showed them a video of all the people who wished them a happy birthday. Many of their friends from school sent video clips. Also their family members made an incredible effort. They really like the video clip Aunt Lara and Uncle Brent sent with their drone.

Reaction to Grandpa Devensky’s video clip.

My final surprise was a taco piƱata for them to bust up.

Besides a few cooking failures and some bad choices for gifts for Sam (he is very difficult to buy for), I’d chalk this up as a birthday success. Judging from the comments from the twins and Ben, I think they would say so too.

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Jack’s Bar Mitzvah

By the way, I put up the photos of Jack’s Bar Mitzvah.

I wanted to write a flowering blog post about what an amazing son I have and how the party went off without a hitch, but by the time I got the photos, everyone was completely overwhelmed with Coronavirus.

I reserve the right to come back at some point and write about it, but in the mean time, hope you enjoy seeing the photos…

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Two More Weeks of ‘Shelter at Home’

It has been another two weeks of the “Shelter at Home” ordinance with no end in sight.

In the past two weeks, we were informed that schools will not reopen for the rest of the year.

We were also informed that the state of Illinois will continue to “Shelter at Home” for the entire month of May.

As time goes on and we settle into this long lock down, I can’t help but reflect.

Is it because we have more time to sit around and think about our lives?

Or is it because life as we know it has been ripped out from under us and we are all at home picking up the pieces? Perhaps we find they no longer fit as well as they could or should.

Lately I’ve been noticing how happy I am for what I don’t have.

I don’t have a dog I have to stress walk every day, dodging fellow dog walkers in a game of chicken.

I don’t have a cleaner I have to pay then do the work myself, or worry I’m starving someone by not paying them during this time.

I don’t have to wake up in a panic every single school morning, feeling that I’m already behind and won’t be able to get everything done that I need to. Now Adam and I can lay in bed and snuggle, chatting leisurely and only getting out of bed when one of the kids starts complaining that they are hungry. (I think this is my favorite part of this quarantine.)

I don’t have any sort of beauty ritual. No dying, plucking, waxing, or painting that some expert needs to do to me on a normal basis.

I don’t even have a haircut that needs cutting that often. I’m lucky if I go every six months. So happy I never got those bangs I was thinking about!

Now, the boys (and man) in the house are a different story. This week Adam and Ben reached their comfort limit, their hair was just too long. So, in addition to my new ‘Shelter at Home’ job of full time teacher, I became a hairdresser too.

Adam was so annoyed by his Ronald McDonald bushy sides that he was walking around with a cap on most days. Finally, he let me try to cut it. We figured if I did as bad of a job as I did the last two times he let me cut it, he would just shave it off.

Adam Before
Adam After. Not bad, eh?

After Ben saw Adam’s hair, he let me have a go at his…

Ben Before & After

Ben’s is a bit patchy in the back but, hey, he can’t see it. I figure it will grow out before anyone notices.

I actually thought it would much worse. We couldn’t find the clipper guards in the house, so I did this with just a pair of kitchen scissors and a comb!

I’ve also been trying to cook new things. And bake. I went to the supermarket three different times and each time could not find flour so the next time I went to Costco I broke down and bought a 25 pound bag of it.

Adam found these huge empty popcorn bins to store the flour in.

You think I’m crazy but a short two weeks later I’m almost done with one of the bins.

“Almost No Kneed Bread” from America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated. So good I had to make another one the next day.
Deep Dish Pizza
Cinnamon Buns
Fluffy Dinner Rolls (with Greek Chicken, Greens Beans in Gremolata Sauce, and Minestrone Soup.)
Every time I go to the store, Ben wants to try something new. This is Blackened Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa, Wild Rice and a side salad.
Loaded Nachos. Not new, just a family favorite.
Teriyaki Salmon, Rice Pilaf, and Sauteed Spinach.

Another highlights of the past two weeks was a basement Easter Egg hunt.

The twins got a 10 second head start.
Checking out the spoils. Look at all of Aaron’s golden eggs!

The remote learning has started to settle into a routine. We’ve fallen into a staggered schedule, which gives me less time but makes me more available for all of my needy kids. (Except Sam. He can work independently.)

When we can, we try to get the kids out for some exercise and fresh air. At first they were too scared to go anywhere but the deck.

A game of musical chairs gone wrong.

Eventually we got them out for a walk, with masks.

When they saw all the people out and about without masks, we were able to go further. Today we found a patch of grass where we could kick the soccer ball around and throw the football.

Next weekend is the twins birthday. They will not get their annual Dunkin Donut breakfast, or dinner out at the restaurant of their choice. They will not give out little gifts to their classmates. They will not get a birthday party either. Instead I must find a way to make this birthday special for them without throwing a bunch of money at it. It is one of the things I have been reflecting on these days. Can a birthday be special for the kids without all the bells and whistles? And how did we get to a place where it may not be in the first place?

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Another two Weeks of “Shelter at Home”

How is everyone settling into quarantine?

For Chicago, it has been 5 weeks.

It feels like the 5th month that I gave birth to any of my kids.The excitement of the new situation has died down, the casseroles and sympathy have stopped rolling in, but you are still just as, if not more, exhausted as before. And now being alone in your new reality is really starting to set in.

This past week three of the kids had Spring Break. It was helpful, as the one kid who didn’t was my special needs kid. Being able to devote all my time to finishing his work is a full time job and I was glad this week to be able to cover it. One day we started at 10am and by 8:30pm we still had one more thing to do!

Most days can feel like Groundhog day in the house. Which makes every little event that happens a big deal, a marker to show that time is indeed moving on.

One night we got a delivery from our friend who owns Geja’s, a fondue restaurant. He treated us to salads, cheese and chocolate fondue.

The kids were super excited for the special treat and, as a bonus, we got more kids hooked on eating salad!

I’ve also been trying to cook new things. Every time I go to the store I try to find something new or different, mostly for Ben who loves trying new things.

We celebrated Passover last week. I couldn’t find a Shankbone so skipped the Seder plate. Also, no brisket or turkey breast so we ended up with Flank Steak with a gremolata sauce. And we bought the last box of Matzoh, which happened to be everything flavor and gluten free. But hey, like the Jews in Ancient Egypt, we had to be flexible with our food.

I’ve tried a few other new things too. Chinese lettuce cups….

English meat pies….

Swordfish with carrots and chimichurri…

We’ve tried our best to keep the kids off screens and interacting with us. Adam has been good about getting them to read to him most days.

One day it was nice out so we set up the bags and giant jenga.

Some of the kids did an impromptu work out.

In fact, daily workouts have been a big thing for the three younger kids…

One cold day I managed to get the kids out for a walk with the promise of hot chocolate afterwards. They are scared to be outside so mostly we stay indoors.

Sometimes we do workout videos.

Sometimes the kids workout on their own.

We’ve done more puzzles.

Lots more puzzles.

Or board games.

And really just coming up with any old game that keeps them busy and engaged.

I read today that New York is keeping their kids out of school for the rest of the year so I’m bracing myself for that inevitability as well.

Hope everyone reading is staying safe, is healthy and keeping their sanity in check. Look forward to seeing you – face to face – on the other side.

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Shelter at Home

Although it’s only been two weeks since the “Shelter at Home” order has put in place, in many ways it seems like we’ve been at it for much, much longer.

While looking at my photos for this blog, I scrolled up until I reached some pictures that were taken pre-coronavirus. There the twins were, wrestling with their friends on the school lawn. I scrolled through picture after picture of us eating out. Or the kids rolling around in the foam pits at the trampoline park.

Everything that looked normal a few weeks ago now fills me with the anxiety of someone with severe OCD. Those foam pits are a cesspool for germs! Those twins wrestling on the lawn with their friends are going to get everyone sick! Look how close the waiter is standing to our table. Definitely less than six feet!

And it’s not just the germ phobia, when your entire world grinds to a stop, you start to rethink everything in your life.

Like, why did I think I was so clever to follow a JIT (just in time) management strategy to my grocery shopping? Before Covid-19, I prided myself on keeping low inventory and visiting the grocery store every two days. I reasoned this kept our costs down. But what about the cost of my time? I could have saved three extra hours a week with bigger, more thoughtful shopping trips. Nowadays I try to make it five or six days. Sometimes it means that the family is eating two or three different meals on a single evening, but surprisingly it does not equal more waste.

My dinner helpers.

There are some perks to being stuck at home. I am surprisingly happy to be able to wear the same pajamas for days, only to shower and change them for new pajamas. And I don’t miss all the school drop off and pick ups, as well as shuffling the kids around in the car to after school activities.

I even don’t mind taking over the position of full time teacher. No, I don’t want to do it for the next 10 years of my life, but it is kind of nice to see what the kids are up to and to have some technology free time with them. These school sessions help me learn more about their strengths and weaknesses as well as give us some time to bond.

My home school set up. Aaron on Rosetta Stone for Mandarin class while Ben and Sam work on paperwork.
Jack’s classes are done through google classroom. It’s amazing how easy it was to switch to online learning.

In fact, the isolation period has actually made me more social, not less. I spend much more times with my kids and husband, but I also spend more time with my friends. Everyone is reaching out from across the globe to check in with each other, to marvel at these dystopian times, to trade stories and tips with each other. My high school girlfriends and I have signed onto a new app called, “Houseparty”. Many nights I meet up with them for a glass of wine and a good chat.

Truth be told, the only thing I miss since we got quarantined is hunger. Lack of exercise and unlimited access to a fully stocked fridge are a dangerous combination.

Still I realize how lucky we are. How my husband still has a job, and unlike some of our restaurant and retail friends, our lives have not been jolted to a stop with no clear view of the future. And that so far, we are healthy, not just free of Covid-19, but also not in the high risk age group and without any secondary medical conditions.

So much time together has made them creative. They colored blank puzzles and gave them to each other to solve.
We have done LOTS of puzzles this week.
And LOTS more electronics.

Wishing everyone who reads this hope and health in these uncertain times. And look forward to seeing you IN PERSON someday soon….

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