Grandpa Devensky Visits

Grandpa Devensky came up to help us this week.IMG_9473He arrived in time to join us for Ben’s last day of summer session, where they host an annual picnic.

This year, instead of being wrapped as a mummy, Grandpa took the honor.IMG_3549 (1)He also helped me take Ben and his friend to see the troll exhibit at the Morton Arboretum. Ben spent a lot of time separated from the other kids so it was super helpful to have another adult around.IMG_9499One night was had a delightful visit with Adam’s cousin, Brett, and his wife, their kids, plus one roommate and girlfriend.

DSC_0548Adam also scored tickets to a cubs game while Grandpa was here and they went with the older boys.

IMG_9537Over the weekend it was super hot and we cooled off at the water park. The kids were daredevils, the twins tried the diving board and big boy slide for the first time.

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Adam, my other daredevil kid...

Adam, my other daredevil kid…

Ben spent many times experimenting on the fastest way to go down the fast slide. He decided crossing your arms like this was optimal…DSC_0591

I liked how Jack took some time to hang poolside with Grandpa.

DSC_0585We had a trip to Chinatown for DimSum.

IMG_9550And Grandpa helped me bring all these kids to Maggie Daley and Millenium Park for a day.

IMG_3755In the morning, the older boys played tag while the younger ones enjoyed the park.

IMG_3736 DSC_0611Afterwards, we joined together for a picnic lunch.

DSC_0624Then we headed to the fountains to splash around.

DSC_0635We had a lot of fun activities, but as Grandpa always says, the best parts are not the planned activities. They are the down times, when you are just hanging around. When you have time to connect freely, unforced.IMG_9477 IMG_9495 IMG_9541 IMG_9543 IMG_9546Grandpa is great at that.

I was so incredibly grateful for his visit. Without his help, I couldn’t plan any of these fun activities for the kids! Thanks Grandpa for making the kids summer fun! (And for doing the laundry and dishes, and fixing the license plates on our car, and taking out the garbage, and putting the kids to bed at night!!!)

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Winter Park Again

We had so much fun last year that the girls booked another reunion this year!

I was filled with the usual trepidation that I get when leaving the kids. I know how hard it is to watch the four of them by myself and hate asking Adam to do it for FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT all while balancing a job as well.

But Adam, perfect husband that his is, said, “You should do it!”

So I did.

There was a lot of hiking…

Broome Hut Hike

Broome Hut Hike

Red Rock Hike

Red Rock Hike

Carbon 38 copies

Carbon 38 copies

Drinking and Eating…

IldeWild

IldeWild

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

And Shopping…

Kate becomes a twin, again!

Kate becomes a twin, again!

Gina also gave us an awesome hula hoop class. IMG_9438And even awesomer hula hoop demonstration!IMG_9442But the best part of the trip was the stuff you can’t capture on film. The impromptu laughs, the closeness and camaraderie you can only feel with people you’ve had a long shared history with.

While I was enjoying adult time with my friends, my husband was playing super Dad.

He had an all boys weekend.

He taught them to play poker.

Ready for poker.

Ready for poker.

Played lots of soccer.IMG_0571 IMG_0512

They golfed…IMG_0477And had a silly string fight!Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 8.57.16 AMHe also spent many hours playing the games they like to play…

Adam buys Aaron new markers to appease his drawing habit.

Adam buys Aaron new markers to appease his drawing habit.

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And took them to a birthday party in the burbs…IMG_0559

Ben's Butt

Ben’s Butt

Boys weekend also means no cooking…

Portillos

Portillos

Chilpolte

Chilpolte

Dee's Chinese

Dee’s Chinese

Pop Tarts for Breakfast

Pop Tarts for Breakfast

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen

Italian Ice at Annette's

Italian Ice at Annette’s

I’m not sure they were happy to see me back!

Thank you to Adam for giving me this great weekend, and thank you my girlfriends for organizing!

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Becca Visits

This week I told the twins that my friend from Kindergarten was visiting Chicago with her family.

For the twins, who have just finished Kindergarten, this seemed like no big deal. But for me, who finished Kindergarten THIRTY NINE YEARS AGO, this is quite a big deal.

I’m humbled and incredibly thankful that I’ve been able to maintain so many friendships over the years from so many different time periods in my life.

When Becca wrote a few weeks ago confirming she and her kids would tag along on her husband’s work trip, I pulled a Julie McCoy and sent an itinerary of stuff for us to do every single day of her trip that her husband was working. Then, realizing this might seem overbearing, I said she could pick and choose what she liked. She picked them all!

So, Monday we went out to the Morton Arboretum to play in the Children’s Garden and hunt for Trolls.DSC_0464 DSC_0465 DSC_0485

Tuesday we had them over for dinner. I loved how each one of them found a partner to hang out with. (Including the adults!)IMG_9339 IMG_9341 IMG_9342Wednesday we hit the Lincoln Park Zoo.IMG_9350 IMG_9353 IMG_9360

And Thursday we did the beach.DSC_0513 DSC_0534 DSC_0526

It was so nice to see that even though almost 40 years has passed, Becca and I can still fall into such an easy friendship. We giggled like a bunch of school kids all week.IMG_9368

With any luck, her husband will keep getting sent up here, and we can keep get more of these visits!

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Summer Fun

The past few weeks I’ve been debating in my head whether or not I made the right decision not to sign the kids up for summer camps this year.

It’s a lot of work being your own camp director! But at the same time, I realize I will not get the chance to make the plans for the day and force the kids to come with me forever. Luckily, Jack and the twins are very easy going and, for the most part, go along with the plans without question.

We did sign Jack up for 1 week of soccer camp. That was last week. I had the twins to myself and I used the time to visit all the old haunts that were my favorites when Jack was this age. We hit Adam’s park, Oz park, Mary Bartelme park, and Montgomery Ward Park.

Mary Bartelme Park

Mary Bartelme Park

Mary Bartelme Park

Mary Bartelme Park

I love Mary Bartelme’s unusual climbing structures and one of a kind mist sprayer.

Montgomery Ward Park

Montgomery Ward Park

Montgomery Ward Park

Montgomery Ward Park

We also fed the ducks at Montgomery Ward and had a picnic.

We also had a wonderful visit from our matchmaker, Andrew. He was in town with his sister, Chantal, (who connected me with many people in Hong Kong who are still my good friends today) and nephew visiting colleges. DSC_0315This week I’ve been trying to find activites that both 11 year olds AND 6 year olds will enjoy.

One day we did mini-golf.

DSC_0396Another day we took the boat to Chinatown for Dim Sum and Thai rolled ice cream.

Chicago Water Taxi

Chicago Water Taxi

Tasty Legend Thai Rolled Ice Cream

Tasty Legend Thai Rolled Ice Cream

We hit the beach too.

DSC_0434Jack and I did a long bike ride on the lake front while the sitter took the twins to a park.

We got back minutes before the storm clouds dumped out onto Chicago.

We got back minutes before the storm clouds dumped out onto Chicago.

But even with all this planning, there is still a lot of down time to do what you want.

Jack has discovered the Xbox and spends many hours with his headset on, playing games with friends.

Sometimes he let’s Sam join. (Sam didn’t bother to get dressed for this photo. That’s what summer is all about!)

IMG_9271And Aaron has been busy creating more art galleries. Here are a few from his Star Wars collection.

DSC_0451Can’t wait to see what next week brings…

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Ben’s 9th Birthday

Ben’s birthday and birthday party were celebrated on the same day this year.

He requested a Star Wars themed birthday party. Which I did my best to accommodate.

Before the guests arrived, I had a ‘Make Your Own Droid’ station set up for them. DSC_0260I also set up a Star Wars Cookie decorating station.DSC_0263DSC_0306Soon after guests arrived, the pizzas were delivered.

After lunch, we started the games. I organized only non-competitive games that the kids could easily win with.

First we did a glow-in-the-dark death star pass. The kids stood in a circle and threw the ball around. If they could catch it 10 times consecutively, they got a ticket. DSC_0270Next they played a star wars variation on ‘Red Light, Green Light’. Instead of yelling, “Red” I yelled something red, namely Darth Vader’s light saber. Yellow was C3PO. Green was Yoda.

DSC_0271DSC_0282Every time they passed me they got a ticket.DSC_0284Next we played sharks and minnows. If the kids got the balloons off of the adults, the entire team got a ticket each. It happened so quick I didn’t get a photo.

The balloons were also thrown randomly around the house for kids to find their own uses for.DSC_0267After the games we did a Star Wars Pod hunt. It was actually an Easter egg hunt but we stuck Star Wars stickers on the eggs for effect. I forgot to take pictures.

I also had a charades game planned that I completely forgot about!

But they had plenty of tickets to shop at the prize table.DSC_0264And when each kid left, Adam let them loot it for free again.

Next we got out the cake!DSC_0297DSC_0304There were a few really nice moments, like when Ben’s friend wanted to set up an Imaginex battle for him for his birthday because he knew who much he loved that.

I liked watching the impromptu soccer game unfold as well.DSC_0305Finally, Ben opened all his presents and Adam spent many hours putting them together with him.DSC_0307

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Budding Artist

If your lucky, summer for children can be a time where you have the freedom to explore your hobbies. Sometimes all that uninterrupted free time, time enough to be bored, is actually a good thing. Through that boredom, creativity can eventually flourish.

Aaron has used the time this past week to create his own art gallery.

He gets onto kids youtube, presses the microphone and says, “how to draw ….”

Here is his gallery of Clash of Clan Characters.DSC_0039And his gallery of sharks.DSC_0040For someone who can get so easily frustrated, it’s beautiful to see him following the instructions intently, patiently. To work long and hard at a huge project and see the delight on his face when it all comes together.

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Father’s Day 2018

Adam celebrated Father’s day last weekend. Sorry, I’m a little behind on the blogs!

This year I trolled pinterest until I found these chalk drawing that I thought looked cool. DSC_0375 DSC_0390 DSC_0383 DSC_0382I framed them and captioned them like this…DSC_0394

Afterwards, we headed to the beach.

We did our usual shell and rock collecting, sand and ball playing, picnic and ice cream eating, and lots of racing.DSC_0399 DSC_0408 DSC_0403 DSC_0420 (1) DSC_0425Happy father’s day, Adam!

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Ben’s Week Off

Ben’s school runs 11 months a year, but there is a week off between the regular session and summer sessions. It did not coincide with the other kids summer holiday, but they will all have the month of August off together. Which I plan to break my camera with so many fun and exciting pictures of summer enjoyment! I’ll try to just give you the best bits, though…

It was a lot nice to have the kids holidays separate, especially since Ben’s friend group has expanded. He had three play dates with three different kids during his week off.

One day we headed to the to the Museum of Science and Industry. We checked out the new Pixar exhibit. We also took in some free standing exhibits. Ben’s buddy is so bright it was a pleasure taking him to this place of learning. When one of the women at a free standing exhibit lit something on fire with butane, he said, “Is that on the periodic table?”IMG_9016

Another day we picked up a different buddy and headed out to the Morton Arboretum to go Troll hunting, another new exhibit that opened June 22.DSC_0286

We also spent a day with a third buddy at Maggie Daley Park playing in the playground, mini-golfing, and splashing in the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park.DSC_0328

They both won a free round of golf!

They both won a free round of golf!

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One day Adam moved some work around and took Ben to the Shedd Aquarium. He loves sharks.

Ben is pretending the shark is eating his arm.

Ben is pretending the shark is eating his arm.

IMG_0436It was a great week off for him. He really enjoyed it but I noticed there is no time for him to reflect on that now, as he is busy thinking about his upcoming 9th birthday…

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Quantity not Quality

Around the end of last year, I forced Adam to sit down and watch “Forks Over Knives” with me. It’s a documentary based on the book, “The China Study”. I think how it happened was that he asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said, “For you to watch this movie.”

My sister sent me the book many years ago. Actually she sent it to Adam in response to hearing about his high cholesterol. But he never touched it so I picked it up and read it cover to cover.

It examines the link between animal products and cancer, cholesterol, and heart disease. It conclusions eating a 95% plant based diet is the healthiest diet for humans.

Adam has always had borderline high cholesterol, something he claims is hereditary. Still he was tired of every single doctor’s visit ending with a warning to lower his cholesterol levels or he would have to go on statins. After watching the movie he thought maybe he would give it a try.

So, for the next six months I prepared him three vegan meals a day. He very carefully kept under the 5% limit, only eating meat or dairy when social or work situations made it awkward not to.

Then, last week he had the test.

Before the diet, his total cholesterol was 230. After the diet it dropped to 220, his LDL (the bad stuff) only dropped by 2, and his HDL (the good stuff) dropped by 8.

It was an absolute failure.

We were both shocked.

Afterwards, he said to me, “You know, the only time I was able to get my cholesterol way down was when I was super skinny.”

Instantly I was transported back to Hong Kong, lying on my living room couch with a searing headache and dry mouth, next to my roommate, Fionnuala.

I asked her why I felt so bad. She told me it was because we mixed alcohol the night before. That was should never mix beer with vodka.

So the next time we were out, we stuck to beer. No mixing! But the next day, we were back on the couch feeling awful. Maybe it was the beer that did it?

The next time we just stuck to vodka. No luck, another nasty morning after.

Tequila? Wine? We ran the full gamut. Finally, after our extremely thorough research we came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter what you drink, it’s how much you drink.

It’s quantity. Not quality.

And, seeing Adam’s results after drastically changing his diet, I was once again reminded of the lesson when it comes to food or alcohol intake. It’s quantity, not quality.

This week Adam happily slipped back into his carnivorous ways.

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Memorial Day Weekend 2018

Perhaps they should consider moving Mother’s Day to Memorial Day because this weekend, for the first time in a long time, we had an absolutely glorious time.

This weekend marks the turn over from six months of harsh, hobbit-like weather. I feel like, for the past half of a year we have holed up in our house, lips chapped dry from the forced heat, eyes the shape of squares from staring at electronic devices too long, skin pale from lack of sun, in a constant state of annoying each other. Outside of the house was a terrain so unwelcoming you need to suit up just to enter.

But not this weekend! This weekend it was lush and green. And the the sun warmed your skin like a hug from someone you missed deeply but had given up hope of ever seeing again. For once the cold basement was a welcomed addition to our house, not a place to avoid.

Saturday night Adam took Jack to a Cubs game. But not just any game, this one they let 9 lucky boys onto the field to stand in the position of one of the nine players. Jack was one of them.  IMG_0362

Ian Happ personally signed a baseball for him.

Then, the next day, we packed up toys, towels, a picnic lunch, the tent, chairs, the wagon, a portable table, slathered the kids in sunscreen and headed for the beach.

It was 90°F out, so hot that our feet burned when walking on the sand. The water, in contrast, was a chilly 58°F.

Ben and Aaron, my more sensory kids started the day running into the freezing water then laying on the sand like beached whales, warming themselves in the sun.DSC_0022Jack and Sam created together.DSC_0015And there was more! Water fights.DSC_0163They dug this huge hole and buried both twins in.DSC_0083 DSC_0085Then later they used the hole for some game where they poured water in then dug with all their might, laughing all the way.DSC_0151 DSC_0152They spent hours shell and rock collecting.DSC_0049 DSC_0055 DSC_0069

Ben and Adam found a special one for me.

Ben and Adam found a special one for me.

They also did ‘shark races’ from the water to the shore.DSC_0126

And threw the football around a bit… We had a picnic lunch.DSC_0073Then, ice cream!DSC_0137 DSC_0135

There was some other really great moments too. Like when Ben was lagging behind the group, Jack ran back, took the chair he was carrying from him, and walked next to him.

Finally we went home and cleaned up. Ben and Aaron’s hair took three washes to get all the sand out. But it was totally worth it. The next morning Ben asked if we could go to the beach again. When he asked he did so with a bright red, sunburned face.

So, instead we headed up to the Botanical gardens.DSC_0171

It was another scorcher of a day, but luckily there was a strong wind that changed the weather from soupy to delightful.

We spent hours walking the gardens.DSC_0175

We smelled and touched in the sensory garden.DSC_0181 DSC_0183

We played tag on the lawn.DSC_0191

We found a dead bird and a few dead fish. (And live ones too!)DSC_0192

We had races in the maze.DSC_0208

Sometimes we just sat and chatted. At one point Jack was giving out math quizzes to the younger siblings. They loved the challenge!

I think the best part of the weekend was that both days we brought the kids some where picturesque and kid friendly then let the day define itself. I loved seeing them out soaking up precious vitamin D. I loved watching them exercising their bodies. But mostly I loved watching us interact as a family, making jokes, interacting and bonding, holding hands, playing tag or running races.DSC_0211

 

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