Happy 3rd Birthday, Twins!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Next we planned a morning out at Chicago Botanical Gardens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mazel Tov Robert and thanks for the treats!

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6th Annual Easter Egg Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorting the Spoils.

Sorting the Spoils.

Another successful year! Thanks for organizing Pam!

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The Hulk and Lightning McQueen

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

On Random City Streets.

On Random City Streets.

Showing off their balancing abilities.

Showing off their balancing abilities.

At Supera Park.

At Supera Park.

Waving to tourists boats on the Chicago River.

Waving to tourists boats on the Chicago River.

At School Pick Up.

At School Pick Up.

At Montgomery Ward Park

At Montgomery Ward Park

At their Father's New Office.

At their Father’s New Office.

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

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Maggie Daley Park

This morning we decided to brave the crowds and check out the new Maggie Daley Park.

DSC_0007It’s amazing, people. So unusual!

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Yes, you saw that right. Lightning McQueen, the famous race car driver and The Hulk came with us.

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We got here just in time to try these swings without a wait. Thirty minutes later there was a line 10 people long to try them.

DSC_0005Some of the slides were a bit too big and fast for the little ones, Aaron ended up bumping his head on this one but it was perfect for Jack and Ben. Sam was too scared to give it a go.

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More appropriate slides for the twins.

We only saw the playground, but there is so much more to this place!

The rock climbing wall was not open yet.

The rock climbing wall was not open yet.

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Even though it was a really cool new place, the kids actually spent the most time we were there foraging for rocks and sticks. And wrestling, no matter where we go they are either running full blast or on the ground wrestling each other.

We also got a glimpse at the Skating Ribbon, instead of a normal rink there is a ribbon that you can skate around the park.

I’ve heard they are also planning a restaurant, The Green at Grant Park.

There were lots of picnic benches and places to sit. I’ve also read that “there will also be an “Enchanted Forest” with a mirrored maze and kaleidoscope, a harbor-like play apparatus for toddlers, and a bevy of slides including spiral, wide and rail. Event spaces will open up, too.”

I can’t wait for summer, it’s one of those parks that I can take ALL my kids to and they will enjoy it.

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Spring Break

How is everyone’s Spring Break going?

I keep seeing all these photos from sunny destinations, cruises, beaches on facebook. And I must say, in hindsight, that was a smart decision. Traveling to different cities every night and checking into different hotels, lugging bags up and down, packing and repacking is tough with 4 small kids.

Optimistic at the start of the drive.

Optimistic at the start of the drive.

Adam, trying to appeal to my hunger for spending time with my friends and family, offered to drive us down to North Carolina for the week to see my sister and friend Jennie. It also had the added bonus of satisfying Adam’s wish to road trip with his family.

Now that I have kids, I practice a little mediation before every holiday. I mentally prepare myself by saying – Vacation is not about you anymore. Your vacation time happens at nap time. Vacation is not about you anymore.

But even as I said this I was very excited to see Lara and Jennie! And Adam was excited to see his buddy in Kentucky.

How did it go, you ask? Let’s put it this way, on the first day I lost my sunglasses and I spent many hours, many, many hours on the trip wishing I had them only to find them when we got back to Chicago and unpacked everything. The whole trip I was missing them terribly and because I didn’t have them everything seemed a bit off. Which was kind of how I felt the entire trip.

One of our tactics was to stop each day that we were on the road at a park to let the boys out to release pent up energy. But surprisingly the boys didn’t mind sitting in the car for long hours eating snacks and watching new movies. In fact, getting them into the parks was sometimes a struggle!

Outside of Indianapolis.

Outside of Indianapolis.

In Lexington.

In Lexington.

And there were many other stops as well. Our first night we stopped in Louisville, Kentucky. Adam’s buddy from high school, Dave Greenlee, lives there.IMG_8935

They were very hospitable and they seemed so happy to see our brood of offspring. There were in a completely different place, kids in college and nearing the end of high school. They were already on a new venture – moving to the bahamas to build a house. That kind of freedom seems unfathomable right now, but it is only 15 years away if you compare our youngest kid to theirs.

We wanted to take advantage of the hotel pool in Kentucky but we ran out of time after breakfast so the next day we packed up and headed to Lara’s.IMG_8948

It was so nice to see her! The kids loved all the extra attention too.

They hated all the bugs and lack of internet connection in the country, though. We are raising a serious bunch of city kids! Jack almost refused to feed the donkey he was so scared. But he overcame it in the end, which pleased me greatly.

We spent two full days there and everything was a bit off. The first day we walked Main St and took the boys to the candy store. It rained on us the whole time.

Mast General Store.

Mast General Store.

The next day we decided to go to the gym pool in Lara’s town, it has a zero depth entry and some fun stuff for the kids. After packing up all the swim clothes, floaties and toys we got there to find out it was closed until 1pm.

So we decided to hike. After all we were in North Carolina! Lara pointed us to the closest hike and we drove there. Our sunny day turned into fog and got colder and colder as we headed up the mountain. I didn’t bring jackets, thinking we were swimming. When we got to the hiking spot, the view looked like this…

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The picture in front was the only way we knew there was a great view there! Still we hiked it.IMG_8977

It tired the boys out considerably. On the ride to my friend Jennie’s house, the car was silent.

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Nothing like having your kids take a late nap right before dinner, right? That always ends well! In fact, Sam started a schedule of napping around 5pm then waking up and crying hysterically for hours. He did that for our dinner at Jennie’s house.

Lara, me and Jennie.

Lara, me and Jennie.

Jennie and her husband Nathan have a really cool yard and beautiful house that make for great entertaining.

Jack and Jennie's kids on the trampoline.

Jack and one of Jennie’s sons on the trampoline.

After spending some time with Lara and Jennie I actually felt quite depressed. I know in Chicago I hardly see anyone anymore, adult conversation is hard to come by and when it does I sit there out of practice and ideas. Besides kid conversations I don’t have much to say these days. I don’t have time to read interesting books, catch up with news, see local exhibits or movies, exercise, have hobbies or do anything people might talk about in normal adult conversation.

All my conversations with Jennie and Lara were interrupted. Questions I wanted to ask never were voiced. Sadly I had a better text conversation with Jennie the day after seeing her then I did at her house. All my friends and family with older kids say this time goes quickly so hopefully they will all be waiting for me at the end of this part of my life’s journey!

And still we soldiered on. We spent the next day in Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. Yes, Dollywood. Dolly Parton has her own theme park. Again we bit off more than we could chew. We had four kids with different ideas of what we should do and only two adults. Jack wanted the thrilling roller coasters, Ben was scared to ride anything, even stuff the twins wanted to do, and the twins didn’t understand the concept of waiting in line for your turn to ride.IMG_9009

Luckily Lara and Brandy showed up and took Jack on some of the roller coasters. I told them he has no fear and no height restrictions.

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They returned him 3 rides later because he wouldn’t do the more daring rides. He had ripped the roller coaster out of his map of the ride he did ride, it was too scary to enjoy even in hindsight.

In the meantime we took the other kids to a small playground in the park. We realized none of them cared at all about being in a theme park and we could have just found a beach or pool and just camped out there for a week.

That night we checked into the Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg. The boys got room service, one of their favorite traveling perks (mine too!) and were able to eat in front of the TV. A real treat! The next morning while Adam worked I took the boys up to the pool, finally.

Another great perk was that this trip I graduated to the mom who sat on the sidelines of the pool instead of going in. Having four boys means someone always has a friend to play with! It only took eight years…IMG_9020

That day we drove back to Indianapolis and stayed at the Downtown Indianapolis Hilton, two blocks from Adam’s office. The next morning we took full advantage of the pool again while he was working.

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A few weeks before we left we realized that Adam would have two deals in the pipeline over our road trip, and when we were traveling a third one came in. Adam every afternoon or morning missing out on the family time while he headed down the mountain to connect with the world, if were were in the car he would get us to dinner then hole up in the car and work, or even stop on roadsides to have calls.DSC_1022

We got back last night and had the first night of sleep in a week that didn’t include one or more kids waking us up. It was heavenly.

Next year I’m thinking a staycation might be in order…

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Numbers in Nature

Last weekend we went to check out the new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry - Numbers in Nature.

Watching four small boys in a crowded, 400,000 square foot building is a formidable feat alone, but add a mirror maze and watch as Adam and I have a heart attack thinking we are losing our kids at every turn!

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The kids had an absolute blast inside, except for Aaron who kept running into the walls. I understand it was completely confusing, I couldn’t tell who the real Jack plenty of times. Aaron buddy I get it, it’s hard to tell where the real path is. But what I don’t understand is why you didn’t try to avoid the life sized other Aaron walking right towards you?

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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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