School Pictures ’17/18

Yesterday at the Kindergarten line up, one of the Kindergarten mom’s asked if we were retaking our school pictures this year.

“Mine were awful, so of course not!” I answered.

She looked at me like I was crazy. She was definitely doing a retake for her one and only kid.

Maybe it’s because I photograph the kids so much, this one picture doesn’t mean as much to me.  Or maybe I am hoping that my kids will have great senses of humor in the future. In which case, keeping a bad photo is funnier than a good one.

Not all of them turned out as bad as I’d hoped. You be the judge…

Jack looks like he is practicing for his mug shot.school photo jack 17:18

Ben’s was definitely the best.school photo ben 17:18

Sam, what deep thoughts are going on behind those brooding eyes?school photo - sam 17:18

Aaron or Alfred E. Newman?school photo aaron 17:18

(He is even missing a tooth under there)

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Thanksgiving Lessons

Recently an article by USA Today popped up on my phone. It was titled, “A Foolish Take: Here’s how much debt the average U.S. household owes“.

Basically it attributed more debt with the cost of living rising, household income not rising as much, and medical expenses as well as food and housing costs rising even more.

With disturbing trends like this I worry for the future of my kids. I’m well aware that, unless things change drastically in this country, the chance of them living the American Dream may soon share the odds of winning the lottery.

In fact, The Guardian wrote about it in their article, “Is the American Dream really Dead?“, “While 90% of the children born in 1940 ended up in higher ranks of the income distribution than their parents, only 40% of those born in 1980 have done so.”

The article goes onto explain that, “Individuals who were optimistic about their futures tended to have better health and employment outcomes.”

Well now. That is something I can work with.

I may not be able to change the bigger picture for my kids, the outside forces that are greater than ourselves, but I can try to change the smaller one. The little images and thoughts that come into their minds at times I’m not privy to. The one that says – it’s too hard, I give up, I’m not good enough.

How does one work to change the inner picture? By changing the inner perception.

Every night at dinner we have a conversation about what we are most grateful for. Then I don’t care what they say, as long as it’s not negative. Many nights the younger ones can only look at their plate and pick their favorite food on it to be grateful for. It’s okay. It’s a start.

Last year we started a ‘good deeds’ board. A magnetic board stuck to the wall with little blank squares of paper. Anytime I caught the boys doing something nice or thoughtful I would write it down on a blank square and hang it on the board for all to see.

I know what you are thinking after reading this. That nice for you, but who has time for that?

I don’t! Every day I feel overtired, overworked, underappreciated. Most days when we are all together as a family at home, we parents are too busy with emails, laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, changing light bulbs, or online shopping to notice the kids. Their noisy chatter stays in the background like an annoying fly that flew into the house and periodically buzzes around your head, interrupting your thoughts and actions just when you are getting somewhere good.

Only when someone starts crying or yelling are we yanked into action.

But by being caught up in the mundane upkeep of everyday life, we lose sight of the most important job of parenting. Setting your kids up for future success.

Now, I know there are many things that can help kids with future success. Studying hard, having a robust social life, having outside interests like sports or music. But more important than all of those things, I see future success as gratitude.

Only by looking around and seeing that you are enough, that you have enough, will you truly every find success in life.When you get a D, will you think it’s too hard and give up? Will you blame the teacher? Or will you look at that grade with gratitude, a wake up call that your study methods suck and need revamping?

Only with gratitude will you not feel shamed by the facebook barrage of other people’s fancy summer vacations when you can’t afford your own. It’s human nature to covet other people’s things. It takes practice to recognize that basic human emotion, then turn it around. Too look around at your own life and see what you have instead of what you don’t. To see your glass half full, not half empty. It’s a problem as old as the bible, yet most of us still haven’t figured it how to combat it yet.

In my husbands line of work he often meets people who earn well over 7 figures and still sit around complaining that they don’t make enough. I believe them. I also know that they will never make enough. Because money isn’t the freedom they are searching for, money is what’s limiting them. Only by giving up the thought that you need more, that having more means being more, can you be free. Gratitude is freedom.

Am I having any success with my endeavors?

Perhaps I’ll never truly know.

But last week – this little nugget. Jack had a writing essay, with the impending Thanksgiving holidays he was asked to write what he was most grateful for. In the past his Thanksgiving essays included toys, vacations and favorite food treats. This year? Food, clothing, a good school, a house over his head and parents who can afford vacations.

Perhaps we can all take the beautiful lesson Thanksgiving offers us, the lesson of gratitude, and use it all year long. Seems silly to only think about it once a year, doesn’t it?

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Quick Wong Trip

This weekend we had a very quick, one night visit with the Wongs.

As many of you know, Andrew is our matchmaker. Adam and I met at his wedding in Jamaica, summer of 2003.DSC_0645He brought his two boys in town and the testosterone levels grew exponentially.

We beat the house up for a bit in the morning.DSC_0628Then we headed over to the Museum of Science and Industry to see what damage we could do there.DSC_0639 DSC_0646 DSC_0647 DSC_0648

Using the catapult Jack built.

Using the catapult Jack built.

Jack "handcuffs" Sam.

Jack “handcuffs” Sam.

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They spelled out "Sam is a..." Then added a lego pumpkin to the end of the sentence.

They spelled out “Sam is a…” Then added a lego pumpkin to the end of the sentence.

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Ben spells out his name “BEn” on the creation he called, “Ben City”.

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It was a lot of fun for all.

I hate how so many of our friends live so far away.

But I soooo appreciate the ones who make an effort to stay close.

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Last Tooth

It was with a heavy heart last night that I organized Jack’s last tooth fairy hunt.

I tried to make it extra hard, simply putting words on each clue like, “Bed”. He had to run around to every bed until he found the right one.DSC_0621Still it was pretty easy for him.DSC_0623Most days I find having four kids completely overwhelming and unmanageable but at times like this I’m happy we have so many more kids losing so many more teeth.

By the time it’s all done I’ll be so sick of these hunts that, instead of a a heavy heart I’ll be high fiving my husband. It’s a much better way to exit, a happier way to have closure.

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Halloween 2017

Halloween this year was quite a complicated event. With so many kids activities in the mix, I spent most of the day running around frantically.

First the push to get them all off to school, which I barely do on time every morning. Now add the costuming and special give aways for Halloween and it’s almost impossible.

But we managed it.

Everyone got to school on time. And we stayed to watch the twin’s Halloween parade. DSC_0560 DSC_0565

Which meant we had to miss Jack’s Halloween parade. But I didn’t suffer much guilt. This year I’m one of Jack’s room’s mom and that afternoon we organized the pizza and afternoon activity at his school.

We collaborated with his teacher and decided to do an escape room style game. The Teachers Pay Teachers website had a great “Crack the Code – Escape from Zombies” one. Version 2

Then that afternoon we had some of Jack’s friend’s come by for Trick or Treating.DSC_0595

(The twins were wearing different costumes in the evening because the school doesn’t allow masks.)DSC_0600 DSC_0604

Since the twins started trick or treating, we stopped hosting a Halloween party. I can’t be at home hosting and be out with Adam walking the four kids around.

But we still let Jack pick some friends to trick or treat with him.

Aaron take on Harley Quinn!

Aaron take on Harley Quinn!

This year the older boys had a competition to see who could get the most full size candy bars that evening. I’m not sure who won, but I think it’s clear they were all winners!DSC_0607

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Early Trick or Treating

Sunday we celebrated Halloween a little early. DSC_0544

Our neighborhood stores host kids for trick or treating the weekend before the actual event.DSC_0547

It’s nice to have an extra trick or treating session!

Jack complained tirelessly about his costume and I wondered sadly if this was the last year he would participate.

As you can see, Aaron wanted Ben’s costume this year and we obliged. Ben even encouraged it!

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Trip to Milwaukee

On a tip from the twin’s Chinese teacher, we decided to head up to Milwaukee to see the China Lights.

Apparently so did everyone else. We didn’t buy tickets ahead of time, since there was no discount to do so. There was also a chance of rain.

But when we arrived it was a great night. Perfect temperature with no chance of rain. We checked into the hotel and I pulled up the website for directions.

On the front page they explained that because so many ticket holders had not used their passes yet, they suspended ticket sales until Monday!

So, with the entire reason for our visit now not possible, we decided to see what else Milwaukee had to offer us.DSC_0474

Our first stop was dinner at SafeHouse. I don’t want to give to much away, but it was a really fun experience. Very kid friendly, filled with missions and quirky adventures. I’m excited to take the kids to the one in Chicago now!DSC_0476 DSC_0477

After dinner we took a stroll down the River Walk.DSC_0478

Less than a mile away we stopped at a well reviewed yelp ice cream shop called Purple Door Ice Cream.DSC_0483 DSC_0486

We got home late and, as is our custom no matter what time we go to sleep, everyone was up before 6am. By the time breakfast started at 7:30, we were all starving.

Afterwards we planned to take advantage of the hotel pool and jacuzzi, but when we checked on it, it was closed due to an ‘accident’.

So we pushed on, this time to Discovery World. With our Museum of Science and Industry membership, entry was free.DSC_0488 DSC_0492 DSC_0495 DSC_0499 DSC_0507 DSC_0511 DSC_0515 DSC_0516 DSC_0518

DSC_0521 DSC_0523 DSC_0530We spent about 4 hours and managed to cover the entire place.

Finally, after a quick lunch at the Cafe, we went to Screecher’s Brewery for the tour and tasting.DSC_0533 DSC_0539

The tour price was $5 per kid, and afterwards they got unlimited sample of soda. The adult tour price was $8 and you also got 4, 7oz samples included. Also they let you take home the glasses you tasted with.

It was a short trip, but I feel like we got to see quite a bit. But as is our custom no matter where we vacation, we were already talking about what we would see the next time we came to visit.

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All About Me

The twins had another rite of passage this week.

The “All About Me” poster that I’ve done for every kindergarten class, was due this week.

Being twins, their posters were set up similarly.

But as you can see, they are still very different…DSC_0405 DSC_0404

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Museum of Science and Industry Renewal

After two days of non-stop rain we were getting cabin fever.

There was lots of board games.DSC_0400

And coloring. And iPad usage. The twins opened up lots and lots of cabinets and pulled out toy after toy after toy.

It seemed like the right time to renew our Museum of Science and Industry membership.

I was a bit worried about how Ben would react to the crowds but we decided to take a leap of faith and go for it.

Surprisingly, the museum was unusually empty.

It was awesome!

First we spent time in the Ideas Factory.

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Jack creating waves.

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Jack trying to find a rainbow while Ben lines up lasers.

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

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Magnetic Maze.

See all the educational learning we are doing?

See all the educational learning we are doing?

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Ben’s creation.

DSC_0375Then we headed over to the Lego Exhibit. DSC_0379

Aaron surprised up by getting on stage!

Aaron surprised up by getting on stage!

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Building cars to race.

We collaborated with this monstrosity.

We collaborated with this monstrosity. See the Parthenon?

We also checked out the coal mine, something we haven’t done for a long time. DSC_0390

We talked to Ben for a long time about how safe it was. We were trying to shield him from future upset.

But he did fine. I think it helped that besides a family of 3, we were the only ones in the exhibit.DSC_0392

I know the kids enjoyed be able to answer all the question that the tour guide asked.

I was particularly impressed when she said, “There are three states of matter: liquid, solid and what else?”

Jack answered with confidence, “Gas”.

Jolly Ball

Jolly Ball

More 'educational' learning

More ‘educational’ learning

We left after a few hours with a long list of ideas about what to do the next time we go. The museum is so big we barely covered any of it!

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Apples Aplenty!

We’ve had a couple of weeks of creative apple cooking here.

Here are a few things I’ve been stuffing, mixing, sautéing and baking my apples into…

Apple Tatin

Apple Tatin

Apple Tarts. I made 8 but by the time I got around to taking a picture there were only 2 left!

Apple Tarts. I made 8 but by the time I got around to taking a picture there were only 2 left!

Slow cooker apple sauce and apple muffins

Slow cooker apple sauce and apple muffins

I also sliced them and put them into the lunch boxes quite a few days.

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I experimented with cheese and apple pairing.

Apple and Cheddar Bread with Minestrone Soup

Apple and Cheddar Bread with Minestrone Soup

Apple slices with Cheddar and Turkey rolled in Crescent rolls.

Apple slices with Cheddar and Turkey rolled in Crescent rolls.

And finally, getting rid of a grand total of EIGHT apples…DSC_0354

Now I’m down to about 10 less than crisp apples in the bin.

How bout them apples?

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