Chicago Air and Water Show

After our return from quiet Michigan towns, we wasted no time becoming Chicagoans again.

Sunday we found a field by the lake that wasn’t crowded at all and watched the Chicago Air and Water Show.

My Dad was still in town and it seemed like the perfect thing to bring an aviation wizard to.DSC_0419

DSC_0414Between the buzzing sights from the air, there was plenty of down time to play and picnic.

As usual, Grandpa Devensky spent the entire time making our kids laugh and feel special.DSC_0378 DSC_0388 DSC_0392 DSC_0405 DSC_0421

As usual, if there are sticks involved, Aaron is happy. DSC_0424

As usual, Chicago had another brilliant show.DSC_0426

Dad left the next day.

As usual, he will be sorely missed.

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Beach Trip to Michigan

A couple of days before we left for Michigan, this Onion article popped up on my facebook feed, “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity to Ocean“.

Underneath was another article with yes or no questions to answer, letting you know if you are going on a trip or a vacation. Was there a laundry or kitchen were you were staying? That’s a trip, not a vacation.

I ticked most of the boxes and I think it really helped me realize that I was planning this beach house rental for the kids, and if I had any other expectation, I should swallow them before the trip so I didn’t ruin it for everyone.

This attitude went a long way towards making it a true vacation for them.

On Adam’s insistence, we chose a place right on the beach.

Evening Constitution

Evening Constitution

We were located conveniently between South Haven and Saugatuck, but for the first couple of days we didn’t bother taking the kids to either one, because there was a great beach a few steps from us.

On the first night we arrived, we took the kids to the beach around sunset to let them see it. They were so excited about the huge waves that they ran into the water fully dressed.DSC_0184IMG_1181

Our local beach was small but we practically had the place to ourselves so it was plenty big enough for us!IMG_1213

There were tons of rocks and sticks so the boys barely touched our plastic, store bought toys. DSC_0298

And there was also a creek that ran into the lake great for mucking around in.DSC_0208

The last two days of holiday the kids feet were pretty cut up from wearing their water shoes all the time, even in the water (our local beach was filled with rocks in the water too.) We decided to check out the other two beaches in the towns close to us.

First Oval Beach in Saugatuck.

Oval Beach

Oval Beach

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Going to the beach every day is exhausting

Then South Beach in South Haven.IMG_1417 DSC_0366 DSC_0348 IMG_1448

And there were other activities too.

One day we picked blueberries at Earl’s Blueberry Farm.IMG_1279

Another day we hiked Mount BaldheadIMG_1242

The kids liked running down the sandy dunes on the other side of these steps so much we decided to check out the Saugatuck Dunes State Park the next day.DSC_0289

It was very buggy and full of daddy long legs which freaked the kids out. Also it wasn’t well marked and we ended up going in a big circle. Kids were freaked out and crying. It felt like we were stuck in the Blair Witch Project. It rained on us and after over an hour of walking around, we never made it to the other side of the dunes to see the beach, instead we ate our picnic in the car ride home!

We also went to Saugatuck to visit the Teeny Tiny Toy Store, and eat at the Saugatuck Brewing Company. That night Aaron spilled a beer on my one side and Sam threw up on the other side. But hey, on the bright side, I didn’t have to cook!DSC_0262

We also ate ice cream at the local store, Kilwins.IMG_1465

We also spent a lot of time around the house, hanging out as a family. With so few toys, I loved how creative the kids got with the stuff I actually brought. Like these Pop Toobs. IMG_4874 IMG_4930IMG_1205

Hours of entertainment.

And roasting s’mores right in the front yard!DSC_0318

Even though I still assumed many of the household duties, having my father there was a godsend.

When Adam worked I still had another adult around. And not just any adult, one who spent lots of time entertaining all the kids.IMG_4852 DSC_0252 DSC_0237

He also took on laundry, kitchen clean up, and sweeping duties.

And he helped Jack with his summer homework packet most days.

Adam and I went out most nights, leaving my father with the sleeping kids. Many of the night we went to Mejier for groceries, but a few nights we were free to walk around the sleepy beach towns and eat more Kilwins ice cream.

South Haven Pier

South Haven Pier

Less toys, less scheduled events, and more free time left me more time to slow down. To be with the kids. To enjoy the sunset every night off our balcony. To sit and read a few pages in my book.

The kids came back from the trip very happy and so did I.

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Arboretum Renewal

We recently renewed our membership to the Morton Arboretum.

For the summer months, it has definitely been worth it. Especially since Jack is starting to get to the age where a city playground isn’t stimulating enough for him.

I was able to take all the kids today with the help of my father, who is retired (and made the mistake of telling me about it). DSC_0135

I leaned on him to help me for 2 or the 4 weeks Ben is out of school.

Just one of the kids.

Just one of the kids.

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Tadpole Pond

What I love best about this place is that it works for all ages. DSC_0137 DSC_0144 DSC_0146 DSC_0152

Getting lost in the Maze

Getting lost in the Maze

Ribbit Exhibit

Ribbit Exhibit

Right now we spend all our time time the Children’s Garden, but as they get older, I want to do some biking and hiking. It’s so big, I’ve only seen probably 1/10th of the place!

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Dumb it Down

My new motto for the kids this year has been, “Dumb it Down.”

Maybe it’s not the most flattering expression, but when I say it, Adam knows exactly what I mean.

Adam and I are both overachievers when it comes to making plans. We don’t just want to have fun, we want to pack as much fun as possible into every day as we can.

But this philosophy doesn’t leave time for the most important part of the equation for fun – down time.

So for the past two days, we dumbed our play down.

We spent an entire Saturday afternoon goofing around at one little park near our house.

It was the first time this summer we did it, and we noticed lots of changes from all of the kids.

Like the fact that a playground alone is no longer fun enough for Jack. But if you add a few balls to the equation and some open space, he is happy for hours.IMG_4769

Or that Ben can finally pedal a bike without having to get a starter push each time he stops.IMG_4748

And amazingly, if you show Sam how to do the monkey bars just one time, he can repeat it perfectly for you. IMG_4761

I thought we’d only be there an hour but we ended up playing for over three hours!

The next day, we scrapped our extensive plan to drive to the suburbs to our favorite breakfast spot, then spend the day at the Botanical gardens for a short walk to the Farm at the Zoo.

Feeding the cows

Feeding the cows

petting the goats

petting the goats

the kids put on the play for us.

the kids put on the play for us.

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petting a bunny

petting a bunny

In the afternoon we found a large grassy area just outside of the farm which was perfect for picnicking, playing ball, finding sticks and just enjoying the perfect weather.

picnic

picnic

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if there are sticks, Aaron is happy.

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Afterwards we stopped by Dairy Queen for an afternoon treat and Adam turned to me and said, “I feel like our weekend was so wholesome.” 

Maybe that’s what I should start saying instead. Keep it simple, keep it about connecting with the kids. Keep it wholesome.DSC_0049

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Zoom Room

This week I renewed my membership at the Chicago Children’s Museum.

I couldn’t resist after I heard they had a new Zoom Room.

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It was a really cool room. We got there right when it opened to the members only and stayed until it got too crowded for Ben.

In fact the entire museum, as well as all of Navy Pier, was pretty crowded. I was worried how Ben would handle this, along with the fact that some of the room are too young for some of my kids and too old for others.

But it worked out with the help of our sitter, Camila. IMG_4700

We also did a lot of things that were guaranteed not to over crowd, like the “Petite Chef” room where they teach you to cook and let you eat the food afterwards.IMG_4715

We made hummus boats and everyone traded what they didn’t like with the other kids for a healthy morning snack.IMG_4720

We also got tickets to the Art Studio, where we created our own stuffed animals. IMG_4742 IMG_4747

Besides limited seating events, we kept to the less crowded areas, like the main floor upstairs. IMG_4728

Or the Skyline exhibit.IMG_4725

And spent a surprisingly long amount of time in the toy store!IMG_4735

Afterwards I asked the front desk if they always booked this many groups (there were 5 today) and she said they could add me to an email that lists how many groups would be there each day so I could plan accordingly. Thought I’d share that tip in case any of you readers have the same concerns as me…

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Last Day of School for Ben

Yesterday we celebrated the end of Ben’s long (11 month!) school year with the staff and other families at Ben’s school.

As usual, Ben’s school put on an amazing party. There was pizza, brownies, and lemonade. (I think Ben had 10 cups!)

Also they hired a crew to help facilitate games for the kids.Version 2 Version 2

The kids remembered wrapping me as a mummy last year, and this year they were happy to see the tradition continue.IMG_1100

Afterwards, ‘mummy’ chased them around.IMG_4650

Welcome to summer, Ben!

One month with 4 kids is filling me with excitement and fear all at the same time…

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Ben’s 7th Birthday Party

Today we celebrated Ben’s 7th birthday with a movie themed party.

At first we were planning a Star Wars theme, including showing the first movie of the series but when Ben heard the twins would not be able to view it, he very sweetly switched to the Minions movie. But he still wanted the Star Wars cake.DSC_0841

We held the party at Facets.

In addition to this super cool marquee, they also popped us popcorn for the movie, had an entire theater reserved just for our party, and let us use a private room upstairs after the movie.

We were able to bring anything we wanted to supplement the party and we used the opportunity to bring box movie candy and lots of drinks.DSC_0846 DSC_0849

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Another sign at the entrance of the theater.

Minions was a huge success, and having a private theater where the kids could talk without being shushed was key.DSC_0860

Afterwards we headed upstairs to the party room for lunch and cake.DSC_0864 DSC_0869 DSC_0873

They didn’t rush us out. Sometimes these parties are very tightly scheduled and I really appreciated their relaxed attitude. DSC_0875

Opening all his presents.DSC_0878

Facets also gave us free tickets to their film festival, which we added to these movie themed, popcorn goodie bags. (missing blow up punch balls)

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Ben Turns 7

We affectionately call Ben our unluckiest, lucky child and today, on his seventh birthday, he proved the title fit the boy.

We started the day letting him skip school and play hookie with the rest of his family.

Breakfast was a feast of artisanal donuts from Glazed and Infused.DSC_0663 DSC_0664

Next it was time to open the presents from his brothers. Puzzles and a 5 minute stories Star Wars storybook.

DSC_0667Afterwards, we packed up and headed over to the Hidden Creek Aqua Park for a day of fun in the sun. For the seventh year in a row, the date of Ben’s birth had perfect weather.

We spent many hours cavorting in the water.

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We were lucky to have so many grandparents with us to help celebrate!DSC_0726

We also spent an hour in between refueling.DSC_0732

When we got back in the pool, Ben got stung by a bee behind his neck.

But it was time to go anyway. We made it home in time to shower all the kids and herded them back into the car for another birthday treat of Ben’s choosing. He asked for “The sparkling dessert at Meli Cafe.”

In Ben’s speak, that is the Volcano dessert at Rainforest Cafe.

The kids checked out all the animals around the room. It was so nice to be in a restaurant that didn’t expect them to sit in their seats, restlessly waiting for their food. Plenty of moving animals to entertain them.DSC_0782

When Ben put on his special birthday hat he said, “I wish I could superglue this hat to my head!”DSC_0778

And moving animals were not the only thing. We were also visited by the balloon man who seemed to be able to make just about anything. Jack got a shark, Ben got a red bunny holding a balloon that said, “Happy Birthday” on it, Sam got a light saber and Aaron got a blue Alien with a shooter.DSC_0824

Rainforest Cafe’s red eyed tree frog, Cha-Cha also made sure Ben’s day was special.
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Finally we got Ben’s Volcano Cake, a treat big enough to feed all seven of us! Ben ate so much dinner and dessert he actually threw up afterwards.DSC_0804

When he recovered, he turned to Adam with his sunburned face and said with a smile, “This was the craziest birthday ever! I got stung by a bee AND I threw up!”

The most unlucky, lucky kid ever.

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Styx

Don’t ask why, but last night we found ourselves traveling across two state lines and one time zone to see the band Styx.

Before going to the show, my expectations of seeing an 70s/80s rock band were to sing a few songs from a long forgotten past. IMG_4350

But I didn’t realize how much those songs would evoke memories of that forgotten past. I happy held up my modern day lighter (iPhone flashlight) and swayed along with the crowd, remembering the good old days.

The days of no responsibility, or piling in cars and riding around town chasing the next party, blasting music on our car radios or from our home made mixed cassette tapes.

Music blaring out of our boom boxes while we sat baking in the summer sun.

Or the under 21 bar we used to frequent, “Weekends” where we could wander around in circles, stopping only to break out our running man or wave moves on the dance floor.

It was good old fashioned nostalgia, blaring boldly from a bright, colorful stage filled with very talented musicians.

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Tooth Fairy Fun

Last weekend Jack had his tooth extracted. His baby tooth was still firmly entrenched while the adult tooth brazenly grew over it.

It was super scary for him to go through. And it was even tougher for Adam to watch him go through it.

It was an event worthy of a great tooth fairy visit.

As soccer has been the theme of the month, the tooth fairy continued the tradition, with a soccer themed hunt.DSC_0581 DSC_0582

As the level of reading improves, the scavenger hunts get more and more wordy.DSC_0595

Jack was like the pied piper, picking up more kids with each clue.DSC_0596 DSC_0597

Finally Jack found the money. The tooth fairy tipped extra big for this difficult little tooth!

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