Last Day of Summer Session

Ben has been having a big week, the day after he lost his first tooth he celebrated the last day of his summer session at his new school.

As with everything they do, his new school celebrated this occasion with incredible thoughtfulness.

Windy City Fieldhouse was there to help organize lots of fun games for the kids.

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IMG_0648They also had a great lunch spread and very timely handed out the calenders for next year.

It was nice to talk to some of the other parents. When we first started this this process with Ben, we felt very alone. I found meeting other parents and listening to their stories quite cathartic.

And now Ben, welcome to summer!

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First Tooth Lost

Finally Ben lost his first tooth! It was a full 2 years after Jack but considering how weird he can get about these things, it was probably a good thing. By the time he lost a tooth, most of the kids in his class were already familiar and comfortable with it.IMG_0581

Since we don’t have Santa Claus in our house, the tooth fairy is the first time mystical creatures visit our house in the middle of the night. Ben asked a lot of questions about where she lived and was adamant that he was going to stay awake all night to see her.

How do you think he faired?

This morning he woke up and instead of a tooth in an envelope, there was an easter egg with a picture in it. Amazing that the tooth fairy knew about his obsession with egg hunts, isn’t it?

Each egg had an egg with a picture in it, the picture was a clue to where the next egg was. DSC_0492

The hunt ended in the tent, which had a basket full of eggs with dollar bills and a few pieces of candy thrown in. DSC_0490

Ben and Jack solved the clues together.

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I think he liked it. How can I tell? Ben has been pulling at the tooth next to the one that fell out all day today.

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Goudy Square Playlot

I try to get the kids out every day to do something. When you are wandering around the city as much as we are, often you find yourselves back in the same spots over and over. Luckily there is no shortage of choice in Chicago.

Last week we had to take the car for an oil change. The shop was located in the Near North Community and even though it borders on our own neighborhood, it was far enough away so we were out of our comfort zone.

We need not be concerned, as there are amazing parks all throughout the city. We took the opportunity to check out Goudy Square PlaylotIMG_0401

In 2014 they revamped the entire place. It’s super cute and distinct.

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There were two different play areas, the one above for older kids (though any size kid can explore). I liked how they finally figured out that kids find any way to climb the play structures and just put up little rock climbing rocks around the entire thing.

There were lots of little things tucked away underneath and around the sides as well…

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They also had another section for younger kids but Jack thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

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There are two swing sets, each equipped with these safety chairs that I’ve never seen anywhere else…

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On the wall of the park, huge chalkboards…

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But as any mom knows, chalk anywhere inside a playground is completely acceptable. There were no tables for our picnic but these wide, low walls made for a great substitution. Even if they were filled with chalk drawings…IMG_0398

Other things I liked about the park were the single entrance and tall gates all around.

Also, they kept the really old trees around the perimeter. Good for stick finding and for my newly potty trained twins to pee on! No bathrooms, which is normal for most city parks.

No water, no sand, so a great fall or spring sort of park!

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Six Way Reunion, Estes Park

This week Adam gave me the most incredible gift a father can give to a stay at home mom, the gift of vacation.

Tuesday my mother left and Wednesday I was on a plane to Denver to meet up with the six way email girls. We are an unlikely group of girls who have known each other at least 28 years, some of us have been friends for closer to 30 years. We all went to high school together and managed to maintain a tight knit group to this day. Some of us remember the good times starting in middle school. Some of us lived together in college. We have many different hats – a doctor, a healer, a cantor, a make-up artist, an engineer, a cartographer, a stay at home mom. Most of us are mothers on top of our career choices as well. Over the years we have lived in many different places, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Alaska, Utah, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Georgia. We like different forms of entertainment, different kinds of exercise, and have very different beliefs.

Yet despite all of that, or maybe because of it, we can call a reunion after many years and drop in like no time has passed. It is unusual after over 25 years to say you have at least one good friend left from your high school days, much less SIX good ones. But the bond is strong. None of us have missed any of the others weddings, nor have any of us missed a reunion called for our group. Without one of us there, it just wouldn’t be the same.

This reunion was in Estes Park, CO. After seeing this beautiful mountain town, Jessica remarked, “How do people who live in Colorado ever leave?”

It’s just stunning. We did many outdoor things like hiking…

Hiking Gem Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Hiking Gem Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

ATV renting. We even have a licensed ATV driver among us, Heather. I made sure I went with her…

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We had a crazy, adrenaline packed afternoon white water river rafting. We signed up for a trip that had a few class 4 rapids. That coupled with the only instructor whose boat tipped that morning made for a harrowing ride. We got stuck on a few rocks and at one point Holly fell out of the boat and we had to do our own rescue. I ended up pulling her back into the boat by her life vest straps.

We all kept our feet tucked very tightly under the boat after that!

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We also got a chance to roam around town and visit the famous Stanley HotelStephen King was inspired by this hotel to write The Shining. I thought it was a great coincidence, as I just finished King’s book about the writing craft, On Writing. Here are Gina and I posing as the twins from the movie…

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We also spent time at the rental cabin hanging out. Gina cooked us a great dinner one night, another we played a raunchy game of Cards Against Humanity. Often times in the evenings we had our substitute men with us. Here is Heather’s “hanging Chad”…

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We also had impromptu dance parties. Lots of those, actually. Kate taught us all how to Twerk. May we never get to old to break out in random dance parties whenever we feel like it.IMG_0285

One morning Gina organized a bar fitness class, she had a workout playlist and even had a suitcase full of bands for us!

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The entire time we laughed and laughed and laughed.

It was an incredible time, and I am so thankful Adam was willing to watch the kids for me so I could do it.

Of course, it was Adam giving me the time off and he always manages to exceed expectations. He booked all the arrangements for me and a few nights before the trip he showed me that my flight out was first class.

And he didn’t just get by while I was away either. He was super Dad! He cooked or spoiled the boys with their favorite meals and doled them out artfully and playfully.

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My smores consist of 1/4th of a Hershey’s candy bar and one roasted marshmallow. His have half a candy bar and three marshmallows!

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He took the twins to the park and the museum on the mornings Jack had soccer and Ben was at school. In the afternoons while the sitter was here he took Jack miniature golfing and one afternoon he brought both Jack and Ben to the pool. One morning he managed a trip with all the boys to a restaurant for breakfast, the toy store and a playground in the burbs.IMG_3816

He also did a run to the store, got new toothbrushes for the twins, and attended a birthday party for Jack’s buddy. He never complained when I rang. He actually sounded like he was enjoying it!

I’m back home and it’s time to get back to daily life, but I’m going to try to keep this zen feeling I brought back with me up as long as I can.

Grateful to go away, grateful to be home. Thanks Holly for organizing it, and thanks Adam for making it all possible.

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Ben’s 6th Birthday Party

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Can you tell what’s Ben’s theme was this year? Plants vs Zombies!

I’m sure if you have kids around Ben’s age they are all addicted to it, along with Minecraft. If you don’t, it’s the Pong of the 70s, the Pac-Man of the 80s, Super Mario… you see where I’m going with this?

DSC_0433 It’s a game where plants battle zombies. Sometimes you are the plant, sometimes you are the zombie. It’s so simple, yet so addictive.

I got a lot of stuff off Etsy for this party. The invites above. And this tape to the left that welcomed our guests as they entered the house.

Also these candy wrappers that went into the goody bag. And the labels for the bags…

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Ben had two requests for the party, Mr. Singer and another egg hunt.

Mr. Singer was at Ben’s 2nd Birthday, so it was interesting that he wanted him back at age 6. I wondered if the kids were getting too old for that sort of thing, but Mr. Singer proved me wrong. All the kids got right into it. Music is great for any age, and Mr. Singer can easily tailor the show for the audience.DSC_0457

It was awesome. Everyone was up and dancing around, both young and old.

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We watched the weather every day. Up until yesterday they were forecasting over 50% chance of rain, but when the morning came, the weather co-operated and there was nothing but sunshine and warmth for the water element of the party…

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They are all trying to spray our plants vs zombies interactive board.

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I sprayed that bad boy with Rustoleum Never Wet and the water just beaded right off everything, even the paper!

Pinwheels and bells are for aiming at, and later I added some mylar helium balloons to the top…

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We got enough balloons to hand them out as party favors later.

We managed to get enough easter eggs in the middle of July so that no kid was left crying for the ‘seed’ (AKA easter egg) hunt.

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Because I didn’t know many of the parents (there were a lot of kids from Ben’s therapy sessions and his new school), I didn’t do the normal intensive, laborious feast. I wanted to be free to mingle.DSC_0461

Instead, fruit, veggies, pizza and sandwiches from Amatos Pizza made my life so much easier. I was able to actually shower before the party. Normally I’m stuck stinky, holding my armpits down the entire time with fear someone will smell me.

Adam, however, did his usual trick with the cake, ordering something that was incredibly intense and laborious for the good folks at Deerfield Bakery. As usual, they did not disappoint.

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DSC_0476Ben had a great party, I had nothing to worry about. He socialized with his buddies, danced to the music, scrambled for egg and when it was all over, he opened up all his great presents. Not one return in this lot!

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Happy Birthday, Ben. May your 6th year be a good one.

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Happy 6th Birthday Ben!

Ben turned six today! Happy Birthday Ben!

It’s been a big year for him. Kindergarden. Then kindergarden not working out. Lots of different therapists and therapies. Lots of different kids in different therapy play groups. Trying out (and scaring away) new sitters. Then another new school. The new school making for more changes in his therapy and scheduling.

The best thing that came out of all of those changes was Ben finally finding a school that suits his needs. He seems very happy there. He is more regulated. He is learning, not just academically but socially.

Most people and family members who see him say he seems better. I do see some improvements. Also some deterioration. Some days I wish I could just open up his brain and figure out where the wiring is shorted and fix it for him. But it doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.

Today was a good day. Ben seemed very happy, and as we’ve learned from many therapists, that is a good thing. Some kids can’t manage to be happy even when they are getting the royal treatment all day long.

Birthday Pancakes

Birthday Pancakes

Ben’s school runs all year so he had school today. I don’t think it was a bad thing. Because of school, he actually got TWO celebrations instead of just ONE.

When we picked him up, the teacher handed us half of a leftover cake that they ordered for him, that he picked out himself. Adam and Jack came with me to pick him up and when we saw him, we knew it was a fun day.

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After school Bubbie and Grandpa Bill came over and brought Ben to Target to pick out his birthday present. They also generously picked something out for Jack and the twins.

Then we all feasted on Ben’s chosen birthday meal – pepperoni pizza and hot dogs.

For his cake he picked two, cheesecake and ice cream cake. That’s the kind of person is. And Adam let him have both, because that is the kind of person Adam is.DSC_0403

When we got to the candles we realized we didn’t have the number 6, so we improvised.

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Finally Ben wanted a piñata, just for him and his brothers. I took him earlier in the week to pick one out and he chose this dragon…

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Jack is getting so big that he whacked it in half on the first round, but no one seemed upset they only got one turn after the candy started falling. And yes, the twins are not wearing pants. They are now potty trained but when they undress to go, they never put their clothes back on…

Hope you had a great day Ben, and we can’t wait to have a great birthday party for you this weekend!

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Japo Arrives

Did I mention that Japo arrived? It’s been almost a week since she’s been here and I’m not looking forward to her leaving next week.

She and the kids are growing into each other. Stuff that Jack did that she found annoying years ago is endearing with the younger kids. And this time around, all the kids are clambering for her attention.

It’s a mixed bag, though. Sam wants her so much that after a particularly stinky poo he insisted Japo wipe him, not me. Well, okay then, Sam!

Japo helps Aaron catch a butterfly

Japo helps Aaron catch a butterfly

Ben insists on showing Japo everything in the Botanical Garden train exhibit.

Ben insists on showing Japo everything in the Botanical Garden train exhibit.

Sam cuddles up to Japo at the bakery

Sam cuddles up to Japo at the bakery.

Haven’t touched the laundry or wiped down anything in the kitchen since she’s been here, either.

We are so lucky to have such wonderful support! If only she lived closer!!!

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Jack’s 1st Week of Summer

Jack’s first week of summer started and we are off to a roaring start.

Every day has been jam packed, rain or shine.

There were two different play dates, one at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

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And one at the beach.

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There was an afternoon at Oz Park followed by dessert at Dairy Queen.

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Jack has more patience than anyone I know for the Sam’s tantrums. The level of crying has reached unbearable proportions and Jack is the only one who isn’t pulling his hair out over it. He will try over and over again to help him no matter how long or ridiculous his request are.

Sam requested a soccer class “like Jack” so we signed the twins up for little kickers. Jack helped me tremendously with the twins first organized class.

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Sam, as usual, cried and refused to participate the entire time, but Jack never gave up on him.

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Jack also started a weekly swim class to learn his strokes.

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One afternoon Adam treated him to lunch, like he did for Ben’s week off. Jack chose the rainforest cafe and enjoyed it with his usual boyish enthusiasm.IMG_3497

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Adam’s Birthday and Father’s Day

Happy 46th Birthday & Father’s Day Adam! This weekend was all about you!

Well, sort of.

Adam’s first request for his birthday was to get one-on-one time with each of the kids. Which really makes me look bad because my requests for days celebrating me are much more self centered. In fact, all his requests this weekend were pretty simple and/or altruistic.

DSC_0345He went around to every child in the house and asked them what they wanted to do with their time with Papa.

Jack wanted to jog. Adam and I are both runners and Jack seems to have the natural stride needed for the sport. So they ran around our neighborhood for about 30 minutes one afternoon.

Sam wanted to… Sam wanted to… Sam wanted a lot, but he couldn’t stop crying long enough to get it. He’s going through a phase, well I hope it’s a phase, where he cries a lot. Like 80% of the day. It’s really very tiresome.

Ben wanted to go to the candy store. For Adam’s gift I got him a gift card to the place below. He and Ben brought back candy for the whole family.

IMG_3484And Aaron wanted to play games. They played a morphed hide and seek. Every time Aaron hid he was sure to yell to Adam his location.

DSC_0347He also requested more baseball caps. I bought four of them and let the kids pick which ones they wanted to give to him.

DSC_0343Bubbie sent some from her retirement community along with a great golf shirt that was made out of wicking material.

He also wanted Portillo’s hot dogs for lunch. 

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Sam insisted Ben feed him.

And for his birthday afternoon/evening he let the kids pick where to go to dinner, they chose sushi.

He's 25% Chinese but uses chopsticks like a native.

He’s 25% Chinese but uses chopsticks with 100% accuracy.

He also requested seeing the new movie about emotions, Inside Out, will all the kids. He figured it would be particularly useful for Ben’s special needs. My father got him a gift card to the cinema so he could take us all for this one.

Stadium Seating theaters are awesome!

Stadium Seating theaters are awesome!

And finally, an afternoon at the Hidden Creek Aquatic ParkIMG_9918_2

Other gifts included a gift card from my sister for Nordstrom’s to help fit him into his newly shrunk body. In the past month he’s lost over 15 pounds.

And here was his father’s day gift from all of us…

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Potty Training, Again

This week I decided it was time to potty train. As with all my other kids, the decision to potty train is a simple equation using age and one other limiting factor.

With Jack and Ben it was age and the fact that they were starting pre-school soon.

For the twins, it was the last possible second I could do it before summer hit and I had 3 or more kids with me. Jack’s last day of school is Friday and I don’t want him sitting around for a week of his precious days off while we run to the bathroom all day long.

Now that we’ve had so many kids, I often think it’s funny how many books are out there about stuff like potty training. I can not believe I PAID MONEY for a book teaching me how to potty train the first time, then actually tried to follow it.

There really is only one rule to potty training – stop putting your kids in diapers.

Everything else you decide is optional.

You can let them run naked or put them in underwear. I personally I prefer naked, it’s easier access, let time consuming, less laundry.

You can use little potties or stools and inserts on your big potty. I have both, the twins seemed to prefer the big potty better.

You can reward, punish or do neither. I use the method my friend Michelle taught me, bribery. One peanut M&M for a pee and three for a poop.

It’s takes about three days of pain to get results. Don’t give up, don’t second guess yourself, just push forward.

An upside down book is the least of the problems with this picture.

An upside down book is the least of the problems with this picture.

You know how I always say Sam gets everything first? First to walk, first to talk, more articulate, more athletic, yada yada.

Well, the thing with Sam is that he’s also more particular. More particular means that you already see things a certain way in your mind and when they aren’t the way you envisioned, they are wrong. As advanced and smart as Sam is, he isn’t very adaptable at times.

Aaron, on the other hand, is very easy going. He never fought me when I asked him to get on the toilet every 20 minutes and actually tried earnestly to potty. It took Aaron 2 days to get it. Without prompting he ran out of the bathroom on the second day yelling with glee, “I pooed on the potty!!!”

By the third day his diaper was dry in the morning.

Sam asked for a diaper and self constipated for about 4 days before finally going in the pot, and while he was doing it he kept asking when potty training was over so he could have a diaper to poop. Could he finish his poop in his diaper? He was surprisingly slow at learning this new skill. The stubbornness, however, was no surprise at all.

Now it’s Friday afternoon and I’m pleased to say – Jack is out for the summer, the twins are potty trained and we are ready to start the summer!

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