Kindergarden Friends

It’s not often that you have a friend that follows the trajectory of your life. Even more rare is keeping in touch with that person for almost 40 years!

Becca and I met in Kindergarten. We have a long, long history. We kept up with playdates in our younger years. Recently we had a good laugh about some of the games we played together as kids. We had a favorite named ‘Dead’. One of us would play dead and the other one would have get them to the other side of the house by any means necessary. Then we switched. It’s the kind of game this generation, with their iPads, computers, and highly scheduled lifestyles would never do!

Even though we were in different middle schools, we did community cheerleading together. 10400251_44845726747_9424_n

We went to high school together, cheered together and hung out together after school and on weekends.

Jamaica Dress up day

Jamaica Dress up day

graduationThen, we went to separate colleges, had separate, wild times – her in Colorado and I was in Hong Kong. Oddly we both worked in food and wine.

When she and I both came back to our roots – her in North Carolina with her family and I in America, she settled about a 3 hour drive from my sister. After I gave birth to Jack, I went to visit.

Again our lives collided. We ended up pregnant at the same time, three times! Her three kids are the same age as my four.

This weekend she was up in Chicago tagging along on her husband’s work trip.

It was a great match. Weirdly her husband is into a lot of the same stuff as mine. We had dinner one night together and we all had so much talk about we were fighting for the floor. I love when that happens. Too much to talk about! Too little time!IMG_7058

We also were able to sneak a quick tour of Chicago in together. IMG_7063

(She had to duck down to fit into the photo with me. So you can imagine who always won at the ‘dead’ game when we were little…)

Knowing someone for this long and still feeling like you are on the exact same page extremely rare. I truly cherish this girl.

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Hawaii 5-0

Last year we got an invitation we could not refuse.

My dear friend Greg (who I know from my days in Hong Kong) was turning 50. We were all invited to Hawaii for his birthday, cleverly dubbed his “Hawaii 5-0”.

Not only was this a collection of friends from my days overseas, but it also included Adam’s good friend and college roommate, Andrew. Adam and I met at his wedding in Jamaica.

We spent the first day of our arrival hanging out with them at the beach and pool.DSC_0333

And getting Hawaiian shaved ice.DSC_0360

The shebang kicked off with a Welcome Drinks and Dinner at the Beach House at the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

Greg and Margie, our gracious hosts.

Greg and Margie, our gracious hosts.

The spread was so amazing that I basically just ate a plate of expensive meats!

Aaron was fascinated by the full pig.

Aaron was fascinated by the full pig.

There were more people at this event than Greg and Margie’s wedding!

Afterwards, the oldest spawn of the next generation, Isabelle, organized games for all the kids to play. DSC_0383 DSC_0381

Sam missed it. (The schedule was pretty busy, we didn’t want to miss anything. So,kids were falling asleep all over the place.)IMG_6951

That night we were given these very useful tote bags filled with Maui chips, water bottles and the all important schedule! We used them every day while we were in Hawaii.IMG_6955

The next day the schedule had a meet up at Waimanalo Beach. DSC_0389

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The rest of the group is smartly sitting in the shade behind Andrew and the kids!

There were huge waves. Luckily we brought boogie boards. And puddle jumpers for the twins! Jack really took to boogie boarding.DSC_0435

Ben preferred to free style it….

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Then, after a catered lunch of traditional Hawaii foods, we headed over to the next beach, Kailua. Waves were less rowdy. It was another picturesque spot to play.DSC_0487 DSC_0499

Friday Greg and Margie charted the Makani catamaran. DSC_0503

Greg and Margie with their kids.

Greg and Margie with their kids.

IMG_7044IMG_7008They took us snorkeling at Turtle Canyon. Ben had been looking forward to snorkeling for weeks, since Adam got them new panoramic snorkels.

But the sea was too rough and Ben freaked out. Luckily our sweet friend Tiffany stayed on the boat with him, feeding the fish Maui chips. DSC_0531

The twins didn’t last long either but Jack did great!DSC_0546

The boat was followed by lunch at Nico’s.

More kids sleeping in random places!

More kids sleeping in random places!

That evening we took in the fireworks display at our hotel, the Grand WaikikianIMG_7023

We also sampled the local ice cream at Lappert’s.IMG_7027

Even though we had been on holiday for nearly a week, sadly Friday was the first day Adam didn’t have to work part of the day. He had been waking up super early to work so he could help take the kids out during the day. On this day, his first chance of free time, he very kindly gave me some free time to get a pedicure and to meet my good friend Tom, who had just arrived from Tokyo, for a drink.

Saturday we decided we wanted the kids to get a more gentle snorkeling experience before we left Hawaii, so we skipped the group activities on the North Shore (cliff diving probably was too old for our kids anyway) and instead visited Hanauma Bay.DSC_0566

Adam was so burnt by now that we actually had to buy him a rash guard so we could keep playing in the sun every day!

Amazing snorkeling! Adam says he remembers coming here as a kid and he could see even more – octopus, sting rays – but it’s still a great spot. Hang out anywhere long enough and you’ll see plenty! DSC_0571

We took turns snorkeling with one kid while the other parent waited with the other three.DSC_0613

Then we had a picnic with a bunch of mongoose. Ben was even able to pet one!

Then, more snorkeling.DSC_0592

That evening we treated the boys to Benihana’s. We were joined by Uncle Andrew and his family.IMG_7035

They loved the show, even if Ben fell asleep for the actual dinner.IMG_7040

The final day Jack and I had a surf lesson in the morning. jacksurfs1

He was a natural! Popped up the on the second try!jacksurfs3

I had enough wipe outs that people were commenting to me how it must be my first time!wipeout mom surfs

That afternoon was a brunch at the Halekulani Hotel, also hosted by Greg and Margie. It was another massive spread of delicious food, set in a picturesque terrace. I think we stayed almost 4 hours.

That's Tom photo bombing in the background!

That’s Tom photo bombing in the background!

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I was sad to the point of tears upon leaving. Was so nice to see the old gang, we all picked up like no time had passed. But there were so many wonderful people to see and so little time after watching the kids, I felt like I wasn’t able to have more deep, meaningful connections with any of them.

Greg, Tom, Randall, and Karen.

Greg, Tom, Randall, and Karen and me.

Chantal and I

Chantal and I.

I guess we’ll have to plan another reunion. Who is 50 next?!!!

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Los Angeles

Last week, on our way to Hawaii, we stopped in Los Angeles for three days to visit the cousins.DSC_0066

One of the nicest things about seeing the cousins on the Calisoff side is that they are similar in age.

The first night we arrived they had a spread ready for us for dinner.DSC_0068

After the kids ate, Joy made cupcakes and we celebrated Adam and Ben’s birthdays.DSC_0080

Then the kids played. I never realized how great having an outdoor space for kids to play creatively is until that evening.

Both of our Los Angeles cousins were great hosts, chasing the twins around and letting us use all their toys.

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Ben fell in love with Sadie, their dog. DSC_0075DSC_0102

The next day we woke up and hiked Runyon Canyon Park. We were on a mission to see the Hollywood sign.DSC_0130 DSC_0116

And we did!DSC_0132

After that hot excursion, we took a break at the pool. We booked an AirBNB that had a pool and jacuzzi like a hotel. We used it every day.DSC_0163

Some of the cousins joined us.DSC_0152

The next day we hit Griffith Park. Joy knew of a delightful walk there called FernDell. DSC_0199

It was mostly shaded and had lots of great things to look at, like crayfish and frogs.DSC_0216 DSC_0228

At the end of the walk was a playground perfect for tag…DSC_0235

…a rock gully to run through…DSC_0239

…and a yummy little restaurant called ‘Trails’. DSC_0246

Everyone else thought so too!

The next evening we headed to my favorite restaurants from my days in Asia, Ding Tai Fong. My friend Tom first took me to the one in Taipei.DSC_0175 Their Xiao Long Bao is the best I’ve ever tasted, though this visit I think I only got 2!IMG_6829

Jack ate about 15, Aaron ate 6!

Right down the street, the other cousin was in a baseball tournament. DSC_0179

We stopped by but unfortunately missed the game. We didn’t miss out on playing in the nearby park, though.DSC_0187

We also took one of the suggestions from our cousins for an ice cream place, Salt and Straw. IMG_6836

It was another popular LA destination! Luckily we beat the crowd. Or maybe we created it?IMG_6839

The last day we visited the La Brea Tar Pits.

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It was a truly fascinating and unique experience.DSC_0286 DSC_0291

They have discovered tons of dinosaurs bones here. Wooly Mammoths, sloths, Dire Wolves and more! In fact they are still excavating! In the museum they show how they painstakingly separate and clean each specimen.IMG_6847

Outside they show tar pits that are being dug up now.IMG_6849 (1)

After the tar pits we headed back to the cousins for more backyard fun and food.IMG_6852 IMG_6859 IMG_6872 IMG_6883

We were very sad to leave, and even sadder that we live so far apart. Until next time, cousins!IMG_1359

Next stop, Hawaii…

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Jack’s Summer Starts

We wasted no time getting Jack’s summer underway.

The day after school ended we packed the car with a picnic, picked up a few extra kids, and headed out to the Morton Arboretum.

The boys spent many hours running around full speed. First at the natural playground playing tag, then running the loop around the rope bridge and back over and over and over again.IMG_6770

They also ran around for a while inside the maze. Getting lost and playing some game where you have to find each other.IMG_6739

And running to see the Origami exhibit. IMG_6799

There was other random boys play. Stuff that, growing up in an all girls family, is completely foreign to me…IMG_6808

It was a super fun day and I thought when I brought them back to my house for a hour they would quietly trade pokeman cards but Ben arrived home from school and got them into a game of ‘Monster’ and they were up and running again for another hour.

The vision I had of what it would be like to be a mom is quite different from the reality I live today. But seeing the absolute joy on their faces when you take them somewhere that they can run, play, and laugh is one of those times where fantasy meets reality.

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Adam’s 48th Birthday

After such an eventful Father’s Day, Adam’s birthday came a short two days later.

Unlike father’s day, which landed on a Sunday, this birthday was Tuesday. There was work and school, so unfortunately for Adam there was less time to celebrate.

We started the morning better than father’s day. Adam actually got to sleep in.

Then we opened presents and cards.DSC_0058

Here they are laughing about the card they gave him. It had a joke about butts, which still seems to be the joke of choice around here. Every day. All. Day. Long.

Adam got new clothes from us. He is the kind of person that would spend money on everyone in the family but himself, so he is easy to shop for.

Both my and his family showered him with more gift cards and money.

Later that evening our lovely sitter came by and Adam and I went out for a drink, some food and a movie – Wonder Woman. (You see, in typical form, we went to see the movie I wanted to see on his birthday!!!)

Happy 48th Adam! May all your birthday wishes come true!

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Father’s Day 2017

I wish I could report on a delightful day filled with fun and loving acts from our kids to their father, but instead dear readers, I’m going to report the truth. No ‘fake booking’ today.

Adam planned a super day, mostly centered around what would make the kids most happy.

First Adam woke up to Ben screaming at the top of his lungs at 5:58 in the morning on the stairwell.

So much for Adam’s Father’s Day lay in. Or anyone else in the houses for that matter.

So, we opened presents instead.DSC_0995

The boys made/bought cards and we framed these three photos in one frame for him.DSC_0906 DSC_0869 DSC_0857

Yes, it’s that embarrassing 70s photo. The one where your mom makes you all wear the same shirt and take pictures. I figure they can have a laugh together over this photo montage when I’m long gone.

Next we headed out to the suburbs for breakfast at Walker Brother’s Pancake House.

Jack sweetly lets Sam win tic-tac-toe

Jack sweetly lets Sam win tic-tac-toe

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The kids fought most of breakfast. Ben complained Aaron was kicking him. At one point Ben was under the table, extremely upset that he didn’t get a red crayon. Then he was upset he didn’t get to order the adult size pancakes.

Next we headed over to Deerfield’s Bakery so Ben could pick out his cake for his birthday.

Topper for Ben's cake

Topper for Ben’s cake

Adam very nicely treated them to a box of butter cookies. In return, the kids were so unruly, running around the bakery – in stark contrast from every other kid in the place. We got so many dirty looks we finally made them wait in the car while Adam finished the order.

Then we headed to the Chicago Botanical Gardens so our rambunctious boys could burn some of their apparent pent up energy.DSC_0007

We decided we would ask them to take a ‘smallest to tallest’ picture. It is Adam’s hope to do this every time one of the kids grow bigger than me until I’m the last one in the line up. The first one was a failed attempt with Sam fighting Aaron for position and Ben on the floor crying.

Here is how the second attempt went…DSC_0002

Adam bought them tickets to see the model trains. It was Aaron’s pick (Adam let them all pick a place to visit in the gardens). Aaron cried and whined when it wasn’t open yet and he didn’t get to go first.

DSC_0054I wanted them all to see the Hollywood sign because this summer we are planning a visit to LA to see the cousins.DSC_0055

Only three out of four. Ben was on the other side of the pond having a breakdown. Adam was holding him tight while he wailed, kicked and screamed. More parents gawked and we got more dirty looks.

Then over to the maze. It was Jack’s pick. Adam had them run laps. He requested they do it together and not compete. For once just do something as a group! Don’t compete and make each other cry all the time!

Jack isn’t running because he couldn’t stop from running ahead and making the others cry, so he was told to sit out.DSC_0029

Good day so far, eh?

Next Adam took the boys to see Cars 3. It was a super cute movie with great life lessons that went over all the kids heads. I know this because we asked them about it later.IMG_6696

Aaron cried through most of the previews, unable to wait patiently for the movie to start. Then when the projection stopped unexpectedly Ben almost had a fit on the floor.

Finally we went home. Aaron continued to misbehave and at one point he said he wanted new parents. Ouch.

Adam got his haircut, then took Jack to the park to throw the ball around.

I felt pretty bad for Adam that the kids were so poorly behaved. Even sadder that it was kind of like a normal day and perhaps we, as parents, were stupid for mistakenly hoping that things could be different for even one day.

Perhaps next year Adam will just take the time for himself like I’ve learn to do! Or maybe this documentation will make next year’s father’s day better by comparison.

Happy? Father’s Day, Adam.

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The Rest of Ben’s Week Off

We finished off Ben’s week off with some activity every day.

I’m not sure if it’s the time outside, exhausting him every day, or some other of the myriad of things we are trying on him right now, like a medical grade probiotic and a daily dose of broccoli sprouts (based on the article my sister sent me), but for the first time about 6 months, Ben has slept through the night without waking us up for 4 days in a row. Let’s pray it continues.

As for the tiring activities, we did many things, most requested by Ben.

Like feeding the ducks.IMG_6645

Later that day we went to the waterpark nearby.IMG_6659

Or crashing Jack’s field trip to the zoo.DSC_0971

DSC_0964We also checked out the new Pritzker natural playground at the zoo.DSC_0961 DSC_0959 DSC_0968

And treated ourselves to cotton candy!DSC_0973

Thursday Ben went to lunch at Adam’s office. Later we checked out Adam’s park, the waterpark was finally open for the summer.

Chasing our sitter, Camila, around the park.

Chasing our sitter, Camila, around the park.

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Friday we didn’t have the car so we walked all the way to Jack’s school.

In fact, most days Ben picked Jack up after school and sometimes we played for a bit in the playground after afterschool.IMG_6681

I think he had a good week. Each day we settled into each other more and each day it gelled a bit better.

Ben is back to school on Monday. Jack’s last day of school is Tuesday…

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First Beach Day 2017

Yesterday was a sunny 91° in Chicago and so we did the only thing we could do on a day like that – head to the beach! DSC_0914

Ben invited a few of his school buddies and we made a day of it. It was hot, but the water was a chilly 64°. Anytime we felt overheated we easily dipped in to the water and regulated ourselves.DSC_0932 DSC_0943

Sam 'cooling down' this nice woman...

Sam ‘cooling down’ this nice woman…

It was an odd experience to be burning up on the top half of your body and have your toes cramping from cold all at the same time!

Ice Cream!

Ice Cream!

Can’t wait until Jack gets out of school to do the same with him.

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Soccer Fest 2017

After last year’s soccer fest, where Coach Adam and Jack’s team fought their way from the bottom of the line up to the unlikely 3rd place winners – in an overtime sudden death shoot out no less, I didn’t think anything could ever top it.

Well, never say never.

This year Jack’s team won the max points they could on the first day – 14 points for winning both games and having both of them be shut outs (the other team did not score).

This seeded them in medal position no matter they did the next day.

As it turns out, the second and third place teams played each other for their third game, knocking one of the two top teams out before the final. Jack’s team ended up with a forfeit for their third game as the other team didn’t have enough players, which gave them another 5 points.

Which meant Jack’s team ended up in the final as one of the top two teams. It was first or second place!

And how did it end? Well, they tied 1-1 and ended up in ANOTHER sudden death overtime. The first 5 players shot and it was STILL tied!

Jack’s team won on the 6th kick.IMG_2371 IMG_2375

FIRST PLACE!!!

I couldn’t possibly eat my words if I say again this year that nothing can beat this year’s excitement, right?

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Merrimac Park

Ben is off from school right now. He goes to school 11 months a year so when he has time off, we try very hard to ensure his time away from school is everything he wants it to be.

His first request was to check out a new park. Luckily, with Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago Plays! initiative, there are boatloads of new playgrounds to choose from.DSC_0797

I stumbled upon this gem in one of my many google searches and Friday morning we packed up and headed out to see it.

Merrimac Park was redone 2 years ago but it’s so far away from us it was completely off my radar.

This park has a field house with bathrooms. Clean bathrooms! It made the visit so much more civilized!DSC_0819

They had interesting climbing structures that I’ve never seen before.DSC_0801DSC_0795 DSC_0792

And a water feature. DSC_0816

Two tables for eating or snacking. DSC_0821Or, if you prefer, lots of green open space to picnic, play ball or just run free in. The open space included 2 baseball diamonds and a track that looped the whole thing – perfect for safe biking. DSC_0818

The best part of the park for me was the diversity of the people. I heard Serbian, Spanish, and Arabic. An African American father was biking the path with his son. And everyone was so incredibly nice to each other. After traveling and living abroad, I so appreciate how unique America is. It truly is the great melting pot.

The field house is open 9am-9pm Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm Saturday and closed on Sunday.

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