Long Grove Apple Festival

Today our friends Morgan and Jamie (mostly Morgan – okay, it was just Morgan) arranged for us to meet up, along with the Harradines, at the Long Grove Apple Fest.

At first glance I was worried that there would be nothing for the kids to do but eat, eat, and eat. Which takes them about 5 minutes. I was also worried about a long drive in the car with the twins. Anything that long would have been cause for wailing when the twins were Jack’s age.

So we packed up, Calisoff style. Double stroller, wagon, cooler full of drinks, snacks, formula, blankets, jackets, change of clothes for four kids, soccer ball, camera, diapers, DVDs for the ride.

By 9am we were on our way. As usual the twins surprised me with their easy going natures. They both slept peacefully in the car ride there and very considerately woke as we were parking the car.

The ride was also surprisingly short. Less than 45 minutes! No one had time to pee in their pants or even finish their Thomas the Train movie.

Adam and I both carried a baby. Adam also dragged two more kids in the wagon.

It’s true, the festival was filled with food. We partook in large amounts. We personally sampled apple cider donuts, potato pancakes, kebabs, corn dogs, corn on the cob, and a rib sandwich. Adam took the boys to the candy store. Twice.

They beg and plead to go on, then look so stoic when they ride!

But there was a lot of other fun things for kids to do too. They had a kiddie section with carousel, bouncy house, inflatable slide, and train. They also had live music in two different places. Ben spent a lot of time dancing. Jack, Dylan and Ethan found a patch of grass and kicked the soccer ball around. Us adults had plenty of time to sit and chat. Morgan, Jamie, Michelle and Rick all took turns helping us with the kids. It would have been impossible to visit a festival like this enjoyably without their help. Plus it was fun to visit with them!

In fact, we never made it to the back half of the festival. I heard there were art tents set up and kids face painting. I guess we’ll have to go back again next year. Morgan informed us that there is a strawberry festival and a chocolate festival too. CHOCOLATE! I’m in.

Family Photo

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As far as getting our children to behave better at school, we are trying every kind of discipline we can.

From taking toys or blankets away for bad behavior to flat out bribery.

At first I felt uncomfortable when Adam introduced bribery. He told Jack if he got a good report from the teacher for 3 days in a row he could have the expensive dinosaur toy he’s been eyeing at Target.

Jack had a good day, then a bad day, then three good days in a row. Adam went out the next day and got him the toy. That evening while I was snuggled in the crook of Adam’s arm before bed, he told me that Jack asked for another toy. Adam, once again told him if he has 5 days in a row of good reports from his teacher he could have it.

“Wait, so you bribed him again? Are you going to keep doing that?” I asked. Isn’t bribery bad? Like illegal bad? I was starting to feel uncomfortable.

“Yes. I am. But the amount of days is going to get longer and the toys are going to get cheaper. I figure for $150 we can break him.” Adam replied.

I thought about this a while. I realized that I did the same thing on a smaller scale. Like giving Ben candy for going in the potty. It was a short time. In fact I think I ate more peanut M&Ms than he did. Pretty soon he was potty trained and went to the bathroom to do his business as a habit. He stopped asking for candy and I stopped giving it to him. Maybe Jack would just get used to behaving well too?

I also thought of all the things I did that weren’t working. Time outs, screaming, taking things away. All negative reinforcement. Bribery, on the other hand, could be construed as positive reinforcement, couldn’t it? I know Adam was happy to stand at the toy store and tell Jack how proud he was of him that he was buying him this toy for his good behavior. Sure was a lot less stressful and much more peaceful than the other stuff.

In the end I saw the wisdom in it. At the very least, I saw a strategy that was working. So this morning before school Ben asked if he could have an Ironman to match his Hulk toy.

“Well Ben, if you get a good report from your teachers for 3 days in a row….”

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I can’t tell you how often I feel overwhelmed since we’ve had four kids. How often I’m doing two or three things at once and it’s still not enough. Just this morning I was preparing the snack for Ben’s class (I’m snack mom this week) with a baby strapped to me in a carrier while trying to gulp down bites of breakfast at the same time. I was running late and the added time pressure did not help my attitude towards motherhood one bit.

Today I walked by an acquaintance, Leah, on my way to school. We stopped to chat. I always liked her, in fact I often admired her. I marveled how she never seemed to raise her voice, or seem stressed out when every thing around her was out of control. She would just repeat sweetly, calmly until it was done, “JD, put your shoes back on please”.

Secretly I wondered what she was on and if I should try to get some from my doctor as well.

She passed by me this morning while I was unloading the kids from the car. She had a baby in a bjorn, a kid in a stroller and two more kids holding nicely onto either side of the stroller. I was putting the twins into their own stroller and getting Ben out of the car to bring him to the same school as well.

We stopped to chat. I asked her how she was enjoying having her older two kids in school. She said it was kind of boring during the day. I couldn’t believe it! I was so enjoying the boring, peaceful mornings. Down to two kids was so nice. So much easier.

Seriously what is this woman on?!

“Did she get any calls from school about her kids behaving badly?” I asked.

“No.” She replied.

Damn, I guess it’s just me then.

I’m still out there struggling to figure out how to be a better parent. Most days I’m disappointed by my performance and wish I had the energy to do more, to be more.

Yesterday I received a video in the mail from Parenting Perspectives. It’s something my friend Lottie has been pushing me to do for a while. I also heard good things about it from another friend, Jenny. The video arrived in the mail yesterday and I bargained with Adam to get him to watch it. He agreed to sit through it if I agreed to sit through the Avengers movie with him.

My father, as kindly as one can suggest something like this, sent me an article today on spoiled children. Maybe this is the reason I find our kids so hard to handle?

Or perhaps I’m over thinking it all. Maybe I just need Leah’s perspective. That having the children around is a constant joy. That their messes, fighting and tantrums are not completely exasperating. Maybe Leah should write her own parenting books for us to read. She could title it: “How to have Four Kids and Keep your Sanity and Serenity.”

Now if you all will excuse me, I need to sign off so I can go pick Ben up from school. Apparently he was throwing things, bit his teacher again and is in the principal’s office.

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Biting and other Bad Behaviors

They Look like Angels, Act like Devils

I was almost too embarrassed to write this blog, but after speaking to my neighbor Sara, who has three boys of her own, I realized I was not alone.

I’m not sure how many people get calls from their kid’s teachers, but both my kids poor behavior is drawing enough attention that I’ve already been called aside or called at home FOUR times, two times for each kid.

I knew Jack’s first day of school would be hard for his new teacher when he woke up early after a bad night of sleep. He already wasn’t listening well before school and I knew it would only go downhill from there. After school that day I asked the teacher how he did. She very diplomatically said, “It’s a hard transition. I normally wait two weeks to see how everyone settles in before talking to the parents.”

So really bad, but she’s holding her tongue for two weeks. But she couldn’t wait that long. Before the two weeks were over she was talking to me about Jack’s unwillingness to move from activity to activity. His contempt for authority. How he bucks against it even if it’s something he wants to do, just to be difficult.

Adam was quick to take up the problem. With a persistence rivaled only by Jack’s own he talked to him over and over again about behaving better. That and a well placed bribe did the trick. For the past three days he’s gotten the thumbs up from his teacher.

What do these two have in store for me?

Pick up today made me very happy, until I got a call from the councilor at Ben’s school. She wanted me to come in and talk to a team of people about an incident that happened today. Ben was playing outside the playground area and, when asked to come back, he refused, flopped on the ground and then bit his teacher on the leg.

The day before the teacher had asked me how to get him to stop flopping. I had no ideas, he does it to me all the time and I can’t stop it at all. I normally yell and scream then finally just chuck him over my shoulder.

So, this evening Adam started on Ben.

I felt bad that Adam had to deal with this right when he got home. Like his job isn’t stressful enough! I wish I had his energy and resolve to see these problems through. I wish I could figure out how to stamp out these problems without having to lean on him. But I feel very lucky to have such an involved, caring partner in all this. Someone to be strong so I can be weak.

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The Slurping Turtle

I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that Adam and I were keeping up less with the new hot and trendy restaurants, but nothing put that fact in a more glaring light than the email I received from my friend Tami suggesting a list of places we should meet them at for dinner last night.

Of the list of 9 places, I had been to two, recognized two, and was completely unaware of the rest of them!

How fun was it to peruse all the different websites to see the menus!

In the end I couldn’t resist the menu at The Slurping Turtle. I love Asian food. And this menu had a great mix of it.

In Asia, restaurants are set up a bit differently. If you want sushi, you go to a sushi place. If you want ramen noodles, you go to a noodle shop. In Chicago, and perhaps America in general, they often combine all these concepts in one place. Sometimes in America they combine entire countries. I still have a hard time seeing Japanese and Chinese food together on a menu.

The Slurping Turtle stuck to Japan. But it was a combined sushi restaurant, noodle shop and yakitori grill. There was a lot of small plates so we got to try a lot of different things. Including an unusual sparkling sake. There wasn’t anything we tried that I didn’t love, but I would give a special nod to the Tartare of Hamachi in Taro Root Taco, the Pork Belly Snack (sort of a reconstructed Cha Siu Bao or Sweet BBQ Pork filled Bun), the Slurping Noodle (the broth was incredible, the noodles cooked just right), and the Caramel Soy Macaroon (I was expecting the Jewish ones, but found out later from Tami that they were the French ones. A small, meringue like cake).

The Slurping Noodle

Another trend in dining out that makes me feel old is the growing rate of shared tables. This restaurant had one long shared table in the middle, booths on the side and individual tables on the second floor. I was worried when they led us to the shared table. Would my one night out this month be ruined by some idiot trying to spew his political views next to me? Luckily after we were led to the shared table we were moved over to the booth instead. Perhaps we looked as old as I felt.

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I thought we were having a good night last night, but I guess not.

As usual, Sam was crying at 2:30am for his first feed. Adam and I were asleep by 10pm, and since Anjelica had both the twins down before 7pm I didn’t consider this a bad night.

Shortly after, or maybe because Sam’s cry is so harrowing, Aaron was up. I dumped Sam back in the crib by 3am and switched to Aaron.

While feeding him I heard Jack wake and go into our bedroom. “Oh well, I thought, I guess I’m on the couch for the rest of the night.” 

I put Aaron back in the crib and curled up on the couch. Before I drifted into a heavy sleep, I heard Ben crying. Then I heard the pitter patter of running feet down the hall. I intercepted him and brought him back to his room. Lucky me, his bed is much more comfortable than the couch!

Sam was up again at 4:30 for another feed. I fed him, put him back in the crib and went back to Ben’s bed.

I was up by 6:15 with Sam for the morning.

I found out from Adam later that Jack had once again peed his bed in the night and come into our bedroom. Adam woke later to a warm sensation on his back, Jack had peed all over him in his sleep, shogun style, around 5am. Apparently he was snoring the whole time. Not only did he insult Adam with such an audacious act, but he then woke up shortly afterwards and refused to go back to bed.

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Fresh Picks (Aug 29 & Sept 12)

Once again I’ve blogged so much that I missed a Fresh Picks delivery. So, I’ve combined them in this blog.

August 29th we received True Lemon Cucumbers, Baby Bok Choi, a Red Pepper, Chard, Plum Tomatoes, Fennel and Sage.

Both the Lemon Cucumber, Red Pepper and the Plum Tomatoes made it into various salads. The Lemon Cucumber had a tough outer shell so after the first use I peeled it before eating.

Sage was warmed with salted butter and tossed with store bought tortellini and steamed carrots. It was delicious. I served it with a spinach and strawberry salad tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Yum.

The Chard was sautéed with olive oil and garlic and served as a side dish one night with Grilled Chicken and Rice.

Bok Choy was also prepared similarly to the Chard, this time is accompanied Grilled, Asian Marinated Portobello Mushrooms, Teryaki Salmon and Brown Rice.

Finally the Fennel. I had big plans for it, sliced and topped with parmesan and baked. But by the time I got to it, it had wilted. Maybe next time…

For September 12th, I received yellow cherry tomatoes, Chinese Eggplant, Kale, Romaine, Red Frying Peppers, Edamame and Sweet Potatoes.

Romaine and Tomatoes were lost in salads various salads (See my A Week of Salads and Another Week of Salads posts.)

The sweet potatoes were whizzed into baby food. Yes, we are almost at that stage.

The Edamame was nuked with some water and sprinkled with kosher salt for a side dish one night. That night we also had stir fry Chinese Eggplant and Red Frying Peppers, Garlicky stir fry Kale, Miso Cod and Brown Rice for dinner.

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Ben’s First Day of Pre-School

Yes, that’s right! The strike is over!

I was very happy to hear it. I think I’m at my limit of juggling four kids, even though I have a very good helper and very supportive husband. It’s just a lot of work any way you look at it.

I was also very sad to hear it. Much as they drive me crazy with their wrestling, punching, dumping entire drawers of toys in 2 minutes and refusing to clean them up, and more, I am worried that I’ll miss the times I get to interact with them. It happens a lot more when we are together all day.

Yesterday Jack and I raced cars, well, he raced both our cars and hit mine off the road and declared himself the winner every time but it was still fun for me to see his little mind working so creatively. He loves to win and can be very competitive.

Ben and I got a few wrestling sessions in. He loves to jump on my back, stick his crotch in my face, kick me while I’m trying to feed the babies and hug my neck until I can’t breath. Not having to strong arm Ben off me during his morning’s feeds made them so easy they were almost boring.

I managed to keep a happy face when I sent Ben off to school. He was pretty excited about it. After I left, I kept myself together enough so that I wasn’t bawling on the street, like another mother I saw. In fact, seeing her looking like a hot mess made me keep a stiff upper lip. But I did shed a few tears in the car. The twins were sleeping and the silence was deafening.

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Another Week of Salads

Did anyone like reading about my last salad post? If so, here’s more.

Chopped Salad

 Romaine, Cherry Tomatoes, Red Pepper, Chick Peas, Feta, Red Onion, Mint, Parsley, Chives, and Basil. Dijon Mustard, Red Vinegar and Olive Oil for dressing. Adam likes sliced Salami on top. You could also chop up some left over Chicken to put in.

Asian Cole Slaw

Cabbage, Shredded Pickled Carrot, Ribboned Cucumber, Mint, Mung Bean, Spring Onion, Celery, Soy sauce, Lemon juice.

 Sushi Salad 

(From my Appetite for Reduction book)

Romaine, Cucumber, Shredded Carrots, Brown Rice, Edamame, Sesame Seeds, Chiffonade Nori, tossed with a Miso dressing.

Grilled Peach and Spinach Salad

Spinach Leaves, Crumbled Goat’s Cheese, Candied Pecans, Grilled Peaches. Balsamic and Olive Oil. I’m going to miss this salad now that Peach season is ending.

Avocado and Mango Salad

(My mother mailed me these avocados from neighbor’s tree in Florida. She calls them Hass, but I think they might be Yamagata because they are so big.) Avocado, Mango, dressing of lime, balsamic, olive oil. Salt and Pepper.

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