Age Differences

This summer I’m noticing just how hard it is to find something to do that suits all four of the kids ages.

A lot of the smaller parks that are perfect for watching the twins are boring for Jack.

And things that would be great for Jack like pump it up, bowling, or movies are too old for the twins.

I’m worried by next year there will be nothing they can all do together.

Today it was a bit rainy out so I took them to Explore and Much More. It says ages 0-8 on the website, but I don’t think Jack would enjoy this place in a years time. At 6, I feel we are already pushing it. Luckily today they all had fun. Well, Ben had a few moments of unhappiness, sharing is a tough lesson for him to learn at this age.

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The last photo they were actually all sitting in the same place AT THE SAME TIME. This never happens. Whenever I take 4 kids out of the house, I always assume I will not have a second to myself.

“Bathroom Break” was the first thing that came to mind. Better do it while I can!

Afterwards we went to Lulu Belle’s for lunch. Mom treated us to a nice lunch. Chicago Mom tip: if you are planning to come here, kids eat free on Tuesdays.

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Punishment Vs Reward

This past weekend, after taking the kids to Santa’s Village and hearing their disappointment that they didn’t get a toy from the gift shop, and watching Ben throw a hissy fit in the library because there were ‘not enough superhero books’, we realized something.

Our kids are spoiled.

It’s something I’ve been fed up with for a while. Increasingly I’ve found them to be ungrateful and entitled. As much fun as it is to spoil your kids, it sucks when you see that spoiling them makes them bratty.

So, I flipped everything in this house on it’s head.

Instead of punishing them by taking away books, desserts, or other treats, I told them they had to wake up each day and earn everything.

I quickly made a list of things that they needed to accomplish each day, getting dressed WITHOUT a fight, no touching, no teasing, helping with the babies, cleaning up toys. I also left some blank spaces for random acts of goodness.

We implemented it yesterday. Both boys were better behaved than they had been in a long time.

And they were so pleased with their checks. They wanted to look at them all day and asked how they could get more. As I’m blogging this, Ben does not have enough checks for an ice cream and the beach (something that Ben and Jack would assume is a god given right before today) so I told him to clean up the toy cars. He sat down to do it right away.

Hmm, I think I’m onto something…

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Santa’s Village, Again

The kids enjoyed Santa’s Village so much that they begged Adam to take me back. It was very sweet that they wanted to share this experience with me. I was touched.

We left the twins in Mom’s hands and headed out to East Dundee.

I’m glad I got to see this place first hand. Adam said it was A LOT easier with two parents. Some of the rides that Ben was too scared to go on, Adam could still take Jack on…

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And Adam, seasoned Santa’s Village veteran that he is, volunteered ME for other rides that Ben was too scared to go on…

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I thought I was going to hurl after this ride. Why were these so much fun as a kid?

Then we visited the old favorites…

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We also packed a lunch. Another tip from Adam. Everything in this place is fried and/or heavily processed.

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Tuna, Strawberries and Cheese was healthy enough that we didn’t feel guilty for this treat later…

Funnel Cake and Superman Ice Cream

Funnel Cake and Superman Ice Cream

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China Town

Today mom wanted to treat us to lunch. What better place to take your family, whose lineage gets less Chinese each generation, than China town?

DSC_0841We headed out early and hit Ping Tom Memorial Park. We were the only people there. It’s actually a really nice park. I’m always blown away how many great parks and green spaces are practically empty in this city.

DSC_0851We got a tip from some people in the park on a new Dim Sum place and decided to try a new adventure.

Cai Restaurant

Cai Restaurant

Jack at 6 Chai Sui Bao (BBQ Pork Bun), Ben ate an entire plate of Spring Rolls and 2 more Chai Sui Bao. The twins gobbled up everything in front of them, including one of my favorites, Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Pork Dumpling with soup inside).

After the meal mom and I had a miscommunication and we separated. I looked around and she was gone from the restaurant. I wandered around for a while with the four kids in a state of panic. No, she doe not have a cell phone. I know you all were thinking, why didn’t you just call her? I finally found her outside of the restaurant, thank god!

On the way home, as we drove through this city of 3 million people, we happen to drive right by Adam. It was a coincidence so remote it had Mom and I in a fit of giggles.

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Zumba

Did you ever have a secret that you were embarrassed about? One you knew people would judge you for if they knew about it?

For a while I had a secret addiction to country music.

I’m from the south, but not the ‘deep’ south, which starts around the middle of Florida and travels upwards until it butts up against a bunch of yankees. Down below the middle of Florida, a bunch of snowbirds, a mix of spanish speakers from different countries, nearby island cultures, and more reside together. I remember listening to a lot of main stream stuff, top billboard music, clubbing and dancy stuff.

But somehow, later in life, I got addicted to country. I’m over it now, but I never really told anyone because it just didn’t fit into any group I identified with. And really in life we all just want to fit in, right?

Recently I’ve moved onto another addiction I’m embarrassed to admit.

Zumba.

It’s an odd concept, but also a brilliant one for someone just like me – an ex cheerleader who likes to dance, but can’t stay up late enough to go clubbing anymore. It’s like learning a latin dance routine every week. The best part is that is no need to practice or remember it for next week. And it’s probably burning a ton of calories. I’m dripping with sweat by the end of it.

Of course, those mirrors that they have in work out studios they do not have on dance floors. They make me very aware, for the first time in my life, that I really can’t dance. That in fact, I’m making an absolute ASS of myself IN PUBLIC. But I just can’t stop. I’m addicted.

Luckily I don’t know any of these people. But even if I did, these people are also here making complete fools of themselves so it doesn’t matter.

Even more fortunate is my vicinity. If I was still in South Florida, I’d be the awkward white girl in the class of natural movers and shakers. But we live in the midwest. No one here can dance either. When I glance around the room I’m comforted in the fact that only a few of the other people actually know what they are doing.

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Mom Arrives

Mom arrived this afternoon.

I leaned on Anjelica for one more full day, and once again she complied. I am the luckiest mom alive. She is so incredibly helpful. I left her with a messy house and when I walked Mom in this afternoon it was all clean.

Part of the reason I wanted Anjelica so early was so I could take another class at Sweet Mandy Bs. This time they were making Volcano cakes. And this time Jack joined us.

DSC_0801The cake didn’t explode, but I think it will make your gut explode later. It was a triple layer cake, stuck together with icing, then covered in chocolate icing, then topped with orange, red, and green icing, and red jelly. Then we iced dinosaur cookies, dipped them in sprinkles and added them to the cake too. I think if you go to Sweet Mandy B’s and order a cake this size and 2 cookies it would cost more than the fee for the class. Amazing.

After a trip to MacDonalds (Damn MacDonalds for giving our Despicable Me 2 minions. We have to keep going to get them all!), we headed over to the airport to get Japo.

She got a good haul from her mango tree this year. The twins found them right away.

DSC_0803These are no ordinary mangos. They are Bombay Mangos. They taste like mango custard. They don’t have strings in them. I am getting hungry just thinking about them, even though I just stuffed my face with volcano cake.

Here is the pickings she brought up…

DSC_0804My kitchen smells like heaven. Like a fragrant tropical honey.

The boys were all very excited to see her. And she was even more excited to see them. They all wasted no time reconnecting.

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And Adam and I also wasted no time using the free babysitting to reconnect as well…

At J Parker, Roof top Bar

At J Parker, Roof top Bar

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The Past Two Weeks

Every night over the past two weeks I’ve thought about blogging about my day. Seems like each day held enough activity for it to be interesting, but since every day was the same, it made it hard for anything in particular to stand out.

In general, heres what’s been going on.

For the past two weeks Jack has had soccer camp from 9-12 at UIC Soccer Camp.

I think he really enjoyed it. He’s one of those kids who will not tell you a single thing about his day. I’m not sure if he doesn’t remember it or if it’s some innate guy thing to just experience it, don’t over analyze, and move on.

I knew soccer camp was a real guys thing when I dropped him off on the first day. His coach, Alex, found him playing with his soccer ball. Instead of introducing himself he stole the ball and started juggling. Jack face lit up. The entire time another boy was following Alex around, complaining that his shin guards hurt. Alex completely ignored him. I liked this guy’s style.

Ben didn't want to separate from Jack for soccer camp.

Ben didn’t want to separate from Jack for soccer camp.

He signed up with his buddy from school, Timmy. We did an exchange where Timmy’s parent’s drove Jack to camp and I picked the boys up. Timmy stayed with us until his mom got off work. I had a built in play date for Jack every day! It was awesome.

Water Squirters featured heavily these past two weeks. (On our back porch)

Water Squirters featured heavily these past two weeks. (On our back porch)

On the days she could, Anjelica came early so I could pick the boys up from soccer camp with Ben. Then we’d go to lunch, hit a park or hang out on the back deck sometimes with another set of boys that Jack, Ben and Timmy went to school with, Kaden and Chase.

In the Sandbox.

In the Sandbox.

Other friends joined us too, like the Camerons and the Weinrebs.

Other friends joined us too, like the Camerons and the Weinrebs.

Anjelica was so flexible with her time, thank goodness. She ended up working full time for the past 2 weeks. I didn’t make it easy for her either. After tiring the older boys out all afternoon, some days I would leave her with all four kids and go exercise. She was surprisingly unflustered by it.

All the other boys play games together with the water squirters, Ben prefers to water the flowers. (Weisman Park)

All the other boys play games together with the water squirters, Ben prefers to water the flowers. (Weisman Park)

On Monday my mom comes to help for the next two weeks. I’m really looking forward to having her here. Extra help! 24 hours a day! I can’t wait!

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Green City Market BBQ

Last night I was invited to attend the Green City Market BBQ with my friend Hedy.

DSC_0660Lucky for me her husband was out of town and she had already bought the tickets. So she very kindly offered me his spot.

DSC_0661There were a ton of different drinks and foods to sample. Top restaurants like GT Oyster, Girl and the Goat, the Ritz Carlton, and Wood pitched tents next to wineries from Mendocino and locally distilled Gin.

Hedy had been here last year and very wisely gave me a tip – don’t feel bad about throwing things out after you’ve had a taste. It was hard, since I hate wasting, but it was the right thing to do if you want to taste as much as possible! I still filled up before I could try it all.

DSC_0663People also showed up with their own trays to carry samples on. Another good idea, you could put all your little samples on the tray, sit down and try them all together.

Besides the great food and drink, Hedy provided me with interesting conversation all night long. I call her ‘the evolver’ because I think she is evolving at a faster rate than the average person. She definitely thinks about things more than the average person. It always makes for meaningful conversation every time we meet up.

It was a lovely evening, and I’m very thankful Hedy chose me as her date.

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Fresh Picks (July 3)

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We received escarole, napa cabbage, yukina savoy, lacinato kale, garlic scapes, cilantro and snap peas on July 3rd.

The Garlic scapes were grilled for my fourth of july mixed grill plate. The cilantro was also used that meal, mixed into brown rice with fresh lime juice. Everyone loved it, even Jack who doesn’t normally like green things in his food.

The Napa Cabbage was stir fried with some left over mushrooms by Nenoy. She very kindly took all my left over veggies and put them to good use.

Yukina savoy, unfortunately, never made it to my plate. Between all these fourth of July and Ben’s birthday celebrations I didn’t have time to fit them in. I found them wilting in my refrigerator drawer this morning and sadly threw them out.

The escarole was used in a salad. It has a bitter taste to it that Adam likes when he eats lettuce.

I went back to kale chips again for the kale. I’m not sure if lacinato kale is different from the curly stuff or if I just wasn’t vigilant enough, but they ended up a bit burnt. I still ate most of them, but I will remember to keep a better watch on them next time.

Finally snap peas were eaten raw. The outsides were a bit tough but I broke them open and ate the beans inside.

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Ben’s Superhero Beach Birthday Party

This year we decided to throw Ben’s birthday party on the beach. He wanted a super hero themed party and we did our best to theme it that way.

First Adam sat down with Ben and went through pictures of cakes on the internet. In typical style, Ben requested something completely outrageous. A cake with super heros, monkeys and beach scenes. And also in typical style, Adam was whole heartily on board. I guess the coconut doesn’t fall far from the palm tree.

DSC_0610Deerfields Bakery did this amazing job of complying. This  is a triple layer cake. Chocolate cake, then fudge icing, then yellow cake, then cherry filling, then chocolate again. They even made sure to add Ben’s favorite super hero, Wonder Woman. The other boys all requested either the Hulk, Ironman, or Captain America.

DSC_0538For the entertainment, we did a few different things.

Bubbie and Grandpa Bill, who were in town for Ben’s birthday, were in charge of the tattoo station. Superhero tattoos as well as princesses and transformers were available.

Next we created a treasure hunt. Adam and our friend Keyandez dug out a rectangle moat and then the kids help dump bags of dollar store trinkets in. Adam covered them all up with sand. We put out all the shovels and sifters we had and away the kids went. Anything the kids found they could put in their goodie bags and take home with them. The dollar store had loads of bags of plastic army men, plastic bugs, frogs, snakes, spiders, and we also threw in some cheap little cars. Okay, it wasn’t really superhero themed, but it was too good of an idea veto.

Key and Adam digging the perimeter.

Key and Adam digging the perimeter.

Digging for Treasure

Digging for Treasure

Finally we bought cans of silly string and repackaged them as Spider Man’s Super Spider Webs. All the kids were armed with them and ready to battle evil villains.

How did we get DSC_0530villains at the party? Well, late last night I searched the internet for an easy way to make a mask.

I found a site that showed me one from tin foil and tape.

You take 3 sheets of tin foil, shape them to your face, then cut it out like a mask.

Next I covered them in duct tape.

Finally I poked holes in the sides and tied some string on them.

Some of the father’s happily agreed to play the villains. In fact I wished I had more masks because I think some of the other fathers would have enjoyed it too.

Villains Joseph, Adam, Mike, Keyandez, and Doug.

Villains Joseph, Adam, Mike, Keyandez, and Doug.

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Don’t worry, we remembered to bring a rake to the beach so we could clean up all the mess we made afterwards.

After all the morning fun, it was time for some pizza and subs from Amatos Pizza. I added a watermelon that had been chilling in the cooler on the side.

DSC_0588Finally, the moment Ben had been waiting for – the cake!DSC_0617

We stuck around for a while afterwards. It was a beautiful day and the kids enjoyed the beach while I was able to soak up the sun afterwards and watch the sail boats drift by from the Race to Mackinac.

Happy birthday, Ben, my sweet little boy. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

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