47th Birthday

This weekend I celebrated my 47th birthday. Yes, it was a weekend long celebration. An amazing celebration. Full of amazing!

It started Friday morning. We had our usual donuts and egg sandwiches from Dunkin Donuts.

Then I opened presents. I got this Instant Pot from my sister, which amazingly has SEVEN different functions. It amazes me that one thing can be a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker and warmer!

That’s as amazing as someone who can be an all in one cook, chauffeur, maid, tutor, playmate, family therapist and babysitter.

I’m JOKING! The weekend is over, so technically I shouldn’t be sitting here on a Monday morning, still celebrating me. Did you see what I just did? I just rolled this weekend celebration of me into next week. Does that mean I can eat some more birthday cake now?

Okay back to opening presents. Besides the Instant Pot, I also got lots of cards with money. The kids managed to find yet another new card that joked about farts and poop. I’m also amazed at how many variations of fart and poop birthday cards are out there.

Once we shuttled all the kids and the hubby to school and work, Mom and I went and got massages from my favorite reflexology place, Fit Foot.

Then, I wanted to take Mom to see my friend Tami’s new restaurant location. She has opened another Goddess and the Baker (https://www.goddessandthebaker.com/) in River North.

When I got there, Tami was there. She bought my mother and me lunch AND gave us a rainbow cake to bring home! The level of generosity was, well it was amazing.

That night we ate out again, this time at Shine. (https://www.shinerestaurant.com/home.htm). More birthday celebration! Amazing!

Then, back home to make some wishes and eat some cake.

The Famous Goddess and The Baker Rainbow Cake

The next night, we had a sitter. Adam and I went to a holiday party with the most amazing, diverse group of people. We also had our own amazing date night afterwards.

Sunday, I got another birthday treat. Adam very generously bought us all tickets see the Blue Man group.

What did the kids think about the show? It was amazing.

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Thanksgiving 2019

This year we skipped our annual trip to the water park.

Instead, we spent the morning delivering Thanksgiving meals to families in need.

We also walked Willie, our neighbor’s dog, three times today – Ben in the morning, Aaron midday, and Sam in the evening. The kids are earning money this vacation dog walking.

In the afternoon, we stuffed envelopes. Tomorrow we will send out Jack’s Bar Mitzvah invites.

And in the evening, we had Thanksgiving dinner.

It was a very low key kind of day. Many times I thought about the things I had to do but then I realized everything was closed, so it would have to wait.

Adam has been working crazy hours recently, many mornings I wake up to hear him skirting out of the bed at 3 or 4 in the morning. Having a full day off was like a week’s vacation for him.

I was grateful for things big and small. I was very grateful for some pressure free time for all of us. Grateful to be together spending the day with each other. I was also grateful I found the match for my favorite glove, the cashmere lined leather gloves my sister got me for my birthday one year. Grateful to see how serious and committed all of the kids were for their new job, dog walking.

Also, I thought you might enjoy seeing Sam and Aaron’s take on “How to Cook a Turkey”, which was sent home from school yesterday.

He put fruit on the side. I try to put a fruit or veggie on the side of every meal. I also liked the challah bread while you wait for the turkey. Nice touch when you are waiting a whole 59 minutes for your turkey to cook.
Can’t wait to try Aaron’s chocolate filled turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my loyal readers! Hope you had a very grateful day.

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The Army Men

Sam has shown renewed interest in his collection of army men.

In fact, during the strike the kids were so tired of their electronics they actually started to play together again.

Sam and Aaron set up this army fort together.

It was beautiful to see.

They spent days building different forts and having play fights.

And, while all this was going on, one of Sam’s tooth fell out.

As you may remember from previous posts, the tooth fairy always leaves a scavenger hunt that leads to the tooth fairy money.

And she likes to theme these scavenger hunts according to things the kids are interested in at the time.

Like army men.

Fort in my closet
For in the bathtub
Fort under the tool bench.

It was absolutely adorable to watch him find all the different scenes that the tooth fairy set up for each clue.

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Halloween 2019

This year it snowed all day on the day of Halloween.

We were home for the teacher’s strike watching the weather. For once in their lives the kids were hoping for less snow, not more.

Usually I let the kids have their friends over to trick of trick with and this year was no exception.

I was surprised how many parents asked if we were still trick or treating, due to the weather. To that I answered, “Trick or treat of die!”

Adam bundled all the kids up in their long underwear, poor Sam was wearing four layers, if you include the costume.

Sam was Zalgo (an internet meme), Ben’s costume was from the Predator Movie, and Aaron was Harry Potter.
Jack, on the left, reused his Star Wars costume from last year. Luckily it was too big last year. This year it just fit!

We still managed to get a ton of candy. Probably more than we would have if the crowds were out in full force. And worse than that, because of the smaller crowds, we had a ton of leftover candy that I ate for days. Well, I guess by now I’d have to say I ate the leftover candy for weeks. Okay, fine, I’m still eating it. I’m terrible! And a total hypocrite. While the kids are only allowed to eat a certain amount every day, I’m shoving it into my mouth all time of the day. Sometimes when all the kids are out of the room I’ll sneak more, like a relapsed smoker whose loved ones don’t know yet. It’s bad, people.

For the kids, full size candy bars, the measure of success for Halloween, hovered around 15 bars for each kid.

By now, they are totally over their still over flowing bags of candy and have gone back to the regular desserts. Which means I’m sneaking into their bags now, since all the good candy is gone and all that is left in our leftover candy bowl is lots of starburst and sour patch kids.

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CPS Strike

Why haven’t I been blogging, you ask?

Well, it’s complicated. It involves over a month of either sick kids or the Chicago Public School Strike, which lasted 11 days.

Even after the strike, the kids had another three days off the following week.

Aaron told me the other day that he has missed so much school, he will probably have to repeat the second grade!

So what did we do while the strike was on?

We had playdates. Lots of playdates with other kids.

And we also played with each other.

There was a lot of dress up play.

Watch out Bunny, the Grim Reaper is coming for you.
Going postal on each other.

Or going for Pokemon Go walks together.

They even helped with the shopping.

Costco

We finished the homework packet that was given out in preparation for the strike.

And moved our science fair project along.

We also visited a pumpkin patch.

And took advantage of free Museum days.

First at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Building a catapult. Must have gotten the idea from the science fair project above…

Then at the Field Museum.

It was nice to be with the kids, but exhausting too. Normally by November I feel like I’m all caught up from ignoring everything I am suppose to do over the summer, but this year, I’m still feeling behind.

As of today, I have two weeks to pack in all the stuff I should have been doing all last month, then it’s time for Thanksgiving break…

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Last Week of Summer Vacation

This last week of summer vacation had me scrambling to cross off all the things on my summer to-do list for the kids.

I spent every day letting a different kid invite a play date over.

Then we would plan something fun to do when they got here.

Like the Altitude Trampoline Park on a rainy Monday.DSC_0886 DSC_0898 DSC_0907 DSC_0922Or finding sea glass and playing at the beach on a beautiful Tuesday.IMG_1098 IMG_1110Wednesday we managed to stay away from electronics for a few hours with soccer at the park and a few rounds of hide and seek chase.IMG_1121Thursday we put our new biking skills to work by biking to Navy Pier with another friend. IMG_1146We were planning on Navy Pier activities, but there were too many Pokemon to catch.IMG_1153We still managed some treats, though. IMG_1163I’m really looking forward to getting back to ‘me time’ (AKA going to the store alone, jogging without paying a sitter, and not hearing my name called every 3 seconds) while the kids are in school next week, but I’ll miss my role as social director as well.

And I’ll miss my father! Without him here tending to the other kids, none of this would have been possible.Pin It

Block Party 2019

Another year, another block party.DSC_0816As usual, Susie did a fantastic job of organizing!

There was a big change this year, though. I noticed that the kids did not participate as enthusiastically as before. It’s not that they didn’t enjoy it, it’s just that they are getting noticeably older.

The party started for us when we brought out our Giant Jenga and game of bags to share.DSC_0797While the party was setting up, we played with them a bit. We also enjoyed the street blockade, using the opportunity to bike in a car free environment. DSC_0795Not too old for cotton candy!DSC_0800 DSC_0818But old enough to enjoy the lobster tail and crab legs that Summer House was serving up.DSC_0798 IMG_1070 (1)Young enough so the cookies Summer House handed out were bigger than our heads.DSC_0845Some of the kids were not too old to enjoy the bouncy house. DSC_0823But they all skipped the magician, the face painting, and the crafts table this year.

My father was here this year helping out and he didn’t think he was too old to try hula hooping. DSC_0850

Actually, he might have been doing a Frankenstein impersonation?

Grandpa’s youthful spirit is one of the reasons all the kids loved spending time with him. DSC_0851But no matter what age the kids are, Grandpa meets them at their level. DSC_0831We all came together to enjoy the ice cream truck. Do you ever get to old for ice cream?DSC_0852 DSC_0855They were also old enough to stay up late and wait for the glow in the dark toys. DSC_0867And young enough to enjoy them.DSC_0873The block party also signifies the end of summer. Which, like the block party duality, filled me with both excitement and dread.

I’ll miss the warm weather and lack of schedule but I’m also looking forward to some time to myself during the day.Pin It

Petal Heads

One of my summer goals was to teach my last three kids to ride a bike.

Actually, this was one of my summer goals last summer. After many agonizing days of running behind each kid, stooped over, while the other kids took breaks, I achieved nothing.

I tried again this year with the same results. My back was killing me and we were no closer to our goal.

Then, at a birthday party for one of the twin’s friends, a parent told me about Petal Heads.

It’s a week long, three hour-a-day class right with many locations across America and Canada.

I signed the twins up a week before we went on our big RV trip, hoping they would learn to ride in time to rent bikes at Mackinac Island. IMG_0768 IMG_0771Within a week, they were both riding without training wheels! And my back didn’t hurt at all!

Biking the Lakefront while Jack was is in Golf class.

Biking the Lakefront while Jack was is in Golf class.

Ben was in school while the twins were at bike camp, so unfortunately he didn’t learn in time to bike Mackinac Island.IMG_0897

Ben rode tandem in Mackinac Island.

Ben rode tandem in Mackinac Island.

But having the twins learn before him was extremely motivating for Ben. The week we returned from our trip, Ben was enrolled for a week of Petal Heads.

At the end of every week of camp they have a bike parade.

I missed the twins parade because I was on a girls weekend with Lara. But at Ben’s parade, I noticed only one kid was still in training wheels.

Ben at the bike parade.

Ben at the bike parade.

I can’t say enough about this camp! I love how quickly the kids learned and how good my back felt while someone else did the work!Pin It

Adam’s 50th Vacation

Adam decided for his 50th birthday present he wanted to take the kids to Mackinac Island. Since we all know that Adam is larger than life, this quickly turned into a week long drive around Lake Michigan visiting everything along the way.

He started researching hotels. We are hotel point junkies. We have hotel credit cards, rack up points, and get free stays for vacations. Unfortunately most of the northern areas surrounding Lake Michigan don’t have chain hotels. Later, when we finally traveled through the Upper Peninsula, I realized why. It is so sparsely populated, the tourist attractions are so far apart, and the season is so short that most major hotel chains would probably not make enough money to build and maintain a property here.

That’s when we decided to rent an RV. Remember when I mentioned that Adam is larger than life? So you can guess the kind of RV he decided to rent, right?DSC_0666I took a picture of it next to other cars so you could see the boat we were driving. The advertisement online said it ‘sleeps 8 comfortably’.IMG_0865 DSC_0523The kids really enjoyed having a bit more space. There was definitely less fighting. And Sam, who gets carsick, seemed fine in the RV. I loved that we didn’t have to stop a million times to go to the bathroom.

Our first stay was in Door County at Peninsula State Park. There were all kinds of cool things to do in this park that we didn’t have time for, like outdoor plays, a nature center, golf and biking trails.

We did enjoy the morning on Nicolet Beach.DSC_0544

While all the other kids on this beach played exactly as you’d expect, our kids morphed every normal game into something else. DSC_0566

A normal game of catch became a game where you had to throw the ball through someone else’s legs and hit another kids butt.DSC_0576 DSC_0595A normal sand castle turned into a huge wet sand fight.

Adam usually starts the trip slowly untangling himself from work, which means the first few days he is still working.DSC_0539He didn’t get to enjoy the beach at all.

In the afternoon, we hiked Tramper’s Trail to the Lighthouse.DSC_0610 DSC_0612

Every night we roasted s’mores and played bags. Aaron learned how to build the campfire and became the official fire builder every night.

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The next morning we woke up and had breakfast at the famous Swedish restaurant in Sister Bay, Al Johnson’s.DSC_0619 DSC_0626Yes. Those are goats on their roof.

We all ordered the Swedish Pancakes! (I had to throw my vegan tendencies to the side to sample the Swedish Meatballs.)

Jack, would you like some pancake with your whipped cream?

Jack, would you like some pancake with your whipped cream?

After that, it was time to head to our next campground, but not before a stop by Hiawatha National Forest to see the Big Spring, AKA Kitchitikipi.DSC_0636They take you over the spring in a open bottom boat so you can view all the fish and bubbling springs.

Then, onto the next campsite, Tahquamenon Falls.

The first day Adam booked a kayak tour of Pictured Rocks. He booked with a company called Pictured Rocks Kayaking. It was the only tour that shuttles you by boat to all the good stuff so you don’t have to spend hours kayaking yourself there.DSC_0652

These two have become inseparable. I love watching their friendship grow.

These two have become inseparable. I love watching their friendship grow.

That said, it was still a 2 hour kayak tour. Our kids did an amazing job paddling, especially Jack who had to steer as well!DSC_0660We passed a lot of unusual sights like strange rock formations and rocks that look painted by dripping mineral deposits. We also visited caves and saw cliff divers. I was too scared I would lose my camera so I’ll leave this part of the trip to your imagination, or your google searches…

On the way back to the campsite, we did a quick stop at Grand Marais off of Lake Superior. We were hoping to see sand dunes, but instead we ended up collecting rocks. Adam let each kid pick three, and all the kids gave their picks to Aaron, who loves collecting these things much more than the rest of them.

Aaron decides on the best rocks to keep.

Aaron decides on the best rocks to keep.

The next day, we did a four mile hike from the Lower Tahquamenon Falls to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls.

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

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At one point it got so buggy the kids put on the face nets we brought just for this occasion. DSC_0690When we got to the Upper Falls,  I looked over at Adam and realized we were wearing the same shirt. Wearing the same shirt coupled with all the kids we had made me feel like we were part of some Christian family reunion. The kids kept calling us tour guides.

Upper Falls. Tahquamenon Falls is the second largest waterfall in the United States.

Upper Falls. Tahquamenon Falls is the second largest waterfall in the United States.

It took 2 hours to complete and the kids were absolutely exhausted by it.DSC_0696But lunch at the Brewery and Pub at the Upper Falls helped rejuvenate them.DSC_0697We sampled the Upper Peninsula traditional fair, pasties. They are kind of like a calzone with meat, potatoes and vegetables baked inside, served with gravy. IMG_0883I threw my vegan tendencies out the window again, this time to sample the local Whitefish, along with the Peach Wheat Beer.IMG_0882Then Adam treated them to a trip to the Gift shop. For my treat from the gift shop, I bought Fairy Dust packages that you can throw on fire to make it turn different colors.DSC_0704We took Jordan’s Shuttle back to the Lower Falls. The kids were grateful not to walk another four hours with the bugs!DSC_0528 Again, there were s’more s’mores and rounds of bags.

After the kayaking and hiking, it was time to move to our next campsite at Burt Lake, Michigan.

Adam picked this because of it’s proximity to Mackinac Island, the catalyst for this entire trip.

We started the visit on the island at the Hotel Iroquois for a resort style lunch.IMG_0893

Aaron said it was the best frozen lemonade he ever had!

Aaron said it was the best frozen lemonade he ever had!

After a walk down Main Street, we rented bikes. The twins just completed a week at PetalHeads, where they learned to bike without training wheels. They biked for two hours and completed the loop around the entire island, an eight mile bike ride.IMG_0916

Pit stop looking for rocks.

Pit stop looking for rocks. The Mackinac Bridge in the background.

And of course no trip to Mackinac would be complete without fudge!DSC_0716Ferry back on Shepler’s Ferry Service.IMG_0944That night we enjoyed our last s’mores and game of bags.

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Fairy Dust

Fairy Dust

The next day we returned the RV and stayed at a hotel.

DSC_0731DSC_0733The kids were so incredibly happy with the lack of bugs, lack of dirt, good wifi, soft beds and extra space that they didn’t leave the room once! (Adam too!)Pin It

Ben’s 10th birthday

Ben achieved double digits yesterday.

As usual, we had a multi-day celebration.

Sunday we went out to buy what he requested for his birthday, a huge art portfolio book to house his growing number of drawings.

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Next we spent the afternoon cooking his pick for birthday dessert, Whoopie Pie. He picked it from another birthday present he got from Japo.

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That evening, we fulfilled another request, he wanted to try the shaved ice place we walked by on Father’s Day.

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For his actual birthday, we had our usual sugar rush of donuts and egg sandwiches.DSC_0367Ben had school during the day, but after school three of his visiting Grandparents were here to help him celebrate at the restaurant of his choice, Shine.DSC_0405Afterwards, he brought everyone back to the house for Whoopie Pie and some leftover cake that his school bought him.DSC_0408And we still haven’t had the actually birthday party yet! Which we have scheduled for this weekend but we aren’t sure if we’ll need to postpone. Ben broke his arm last week and we need doctor clearance before he can participate in his soccer themed party.

Happy Birthday Ben!Pin It