Podcasts

Seems like whoever I run into nowadays is very curious about my newly acquired free time.

During the day I now have 6 hours free, five days a week to do what I want.

In the past two weeks, most days have fallen into a pattern.

After the crazy morning rush, I come home, drink a coffee and read some of my New Yorker Magazine. It was one of the things I had to give up when we had kids. There simply was no time to read for pleasure. Right before school started, I happily renewed my subscription.

Then, I’m off for a run. Last year my friend Jennie sent me my first podcast. It was a life changing listen. Not only because it altered my eating habits but also it opened my eyes to the wide world of podcasts.

Jennie is a friend of mine from my college days. She is a mother of two, an occupational therapist, grows her own organic veggies, and is in the processing of publishing her first book. She has become my guru on all of these things. She is always on the lookout for ways to help Ben with his sensory processing disorder.

When she heard this podcast on the Rich Roll Show, interviewing Rhonda Patrick, LONGEVITY, EPIGENETICS, MICROBIOME HEALTH & THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EATING FOR LONG-TERM WELLNESS VERSUS PERFORMANCE, she thought of me. You can read all about Rhonda Patrick on her website, Found My Fitness.

I think I’ve sent this podcast to about 12 people. It’s really worth a listen.

Then, once I figured out how podcasting worked, I started listening to them every time I ran. So far, these are my top 5 podcasts:

  1. Radiolab. They describe themselves as, “A show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”
  2. This American Life. On their ‘about us’ page they seem to have trouble deciding what they are about. But it’s interesting and entertaining journalism, which is proven by the fact that they are the most popular podcast in the country.
  3. Serial. An American Life spin off, there are two seasons of Serial. This first one, on Adnan Syed, a man accused of murder, goes through the evidence to see if he is innocent or guilty. The second is about Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held captive by the Taliban for 5 years.
  4. S-Town. A spin off of Serial about the life of John B. McLemore.
  5. Rough Translation. It’s about how the issues we talk about in America are talked about abroad.

After this, I shower up, and head out for a nice lunch. I’m trying to eat my way across the globe, without leaving the city of Chicago. Don’t worry, that blog is coming soon.

Finally I have an hour or two which I have so far spent mostly running errands, at the grocery store, the hair salon, at the kids school volunteering.

My house is still a mess, but every time I open a cabinet and everything falls out on top of me I take a deep breath and remind myself I can do it when winter comes. As Adam says, “What’s the rush? You have 10 years to organize this stuff.”

It may take me that long.

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First Day of School

Last Tuesday, half of the lives of the people in this house changed forever.

The twins started kindergarten.DSC_0793

My mother could barely contain her excitement! She restrained herself from calling me to find out how it went.

A day later, I finally called and told her.

Sam was so nervous that he woke up at 2am the night before and never went back to bed.

Aaron slept well, woke early and had his clothes, shoes and backpack on my 7am and was asking when we were leaving. (School doesn’t start until 9!)

Afterschool I asked Camila to pick them up. I did tell Sam and Aaron about it but it was a lot of new experiences so maybe they didn’t hear me.

At 4pm I got facetimed by Camila. When I answered, Sam was crying hysterically. He said the teacher told him I was going to pick him up and he was not leaving until I came and got him!

Finally she coaxed him into the stroller and I met him at home.

Sam couldn’t remember anything that happened that day. He also left his lunchbox at school.

Aaron, on the other hand, told me everything he learned. Don’t open the kindergarten door for any reason, even if someone knocks. If you have to go potty durning story time, they will not rewind the story. He even managed to get a free school lunch!

The next morning I spoke to Sam’s classroom aide who said he was wandering around like a zombie on the first day, eyes half closed but refusing to sleep.

The twins are in separate classes and so far it seems their schedule does not have any overlap. This is a language school and they have started a nine year study towards fluency in Mandarin.

The twins finally starting school also means a big change for me. After 10 years of not having any time by myself unless I paid for it or begged it from my husband, I get 6 glorious hours to myself every day, 5 days a week, for 10 months a year.

That morning I got emails and text from many well wishers on my new found freedom.

What will I do with all this free time? Stay tuned loyal readers, stay tuned….

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Field Museum

This week many of the city’s museums are free for Chicago Public Schools.

Normally with Ben I avoid situations like this, as they sound overcrowded and therefore stressful for him.

But Ben is back in school so I tried it out with the three other kids.

I picked the Field Museum because chances of me buying a membership is pretty slim. DSC_0724

The day I picked was all a free day to all Chicago residents.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t overcrowded. I makes me think I should check out more museum free days in Chicago!

The kids really enjoyed seeing Sue, though I hear she will soon be replaced by Titanosaur, a $16.5 million dollar gift from Ken Griffin, Illinois richest man.DSC_0725

First we walked the “Evolving Planet” exhibit. The kids loved all the fossils, and this time they didn’t run through it like they normally do. They actually stopped and hopefully learned a few things. DSC_0733 DSC_0734

This exhibit starts in time, 3.5 billion years ago and leads us to the present. It has some amazing fossils.

Sitting on a dinosaur bone!

Sitting on a dinosaur bone!

I was quite alarmed to walk through and see at that 6 mass extinctions have already occurred on earth. Makes me wonder when the next apocalypse will be!

They also wanted to check out the Ancient Egyptian exhibit, to which I thank the creators of Scooby Doo for. After watching “Where is my Mummy” a thousand times, they were ripe with curiousity.DSC_0741

We also spent time in the Regenstein Halls of the Pacific.

Look and Find exhibit

Look and Find exhibit

As well as the Crown Family Play Lab.

Playing with in the Pueblo Home.

Playing with in the Pueblo Home.

Discovering specimens

Discovering specimens

Excavating bones

Excavating bones

Hanging out in a Dinosaur nest.

Hanging out in a Dinosaur nest.

The music room.

The music room.

The music room.

The music room.

The kids were exhausted after just 3 hours, so we stopped for a pretzel in the lawn outside.

The Willis Tower (formerly Sears) in the background.

The Willis Tower (formerly Sears) in the background.

It was a wonderful day out. How lucky are we to have this right in our backyard?

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Cupcake Class

One Ben’s last day of summer, we signed up for a cupcake decorating class at Sweet Mandy B’s.

"Walking" to the cupcake place

“Walking” to the cupcake place

This class was animal themed.

I think some of them are eating more frosting then they are decorating with...

I think some of them are eating more frosting then they are decorating with…

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With our sitter Cami there to help, we managed to decorate 4 different kinds of animals – Lion, Monkey, Panda and Elephant.DSC_0714

And the results…

Jack, Ben, Sam then Aaron's

Jack, Ben, Sam then Aaron’s

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It was a super cute afternoon activity, perfect for this rainy afternoon.

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Mom and Lara Visit

For the past few years Lara and Mom have been coming to Chicago to help out at the end of August.

It is rapidly becoming one of my favorite times of year.

In 3 days I get 3 very different, but all equally important connections satisfied in my life.

First Mom and Lara send me off with my husband for a good night’s sleep at a hotel.

Adam used out Hilton points for a fantastic stay at the Waldorf Astoria.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

We rested, relaxed, and reconnected. We also managed to run on the lake both days.

First run to Buckingham Fountain.

First run to Buckingham Fountain.

Second Run, Adam gets new shoes and suddenly gets faster.

Second Run, Adam gets new shoes and suddenly gets faster.

In the evening, we walked down to the newly renovated riverwalk. We stopped for drinks at Bridge House Tavern and a Cheese and Charcuterie board that was so big we had to cancel our dinner reservations after eating it.

Bridge House's Cheese and Charcuterie Board

Bridge House’s Cheese and Charcuterie Board

It was really nice to catch a glimpse of the city without the kids for once.

We saw a massive group of bikers pass by our hotel balcony Friday night, throngs of people out on Michigan Avenue, the Riverwalk, and in River North (where we stopped for a late night doughnut from Firecakes.)

Second, I got to see both of my families bond with each other, forming their own special relationships.

Dim Sum at Ming Hin

Dim Sum at Ming Hin

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

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IMG_0662Lara spent hours playing with the kids. DSC_0604 DSC_0694 IMG_7818 IMG_7871 IMG_7863 IMG_7841

She also fixed drawers and sewed old sheets. IMG_7872

Mom kept me out of the laundry room the entire time she was here.

Third I got to spend special time with just Mom and Lara. While Adam watched the kids we went for a reflexology massage at fit foot. IMG_7873

Then headed to Chinatown (yes, twice in one visit! Hey, we are Chinese! What do you expect?) and ate at Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings. IMG_7877

At the end of the evening, a very exotic, half Philippine, half French waiter prepared our check from a hand held computer at our table.

When it was prepared he handed it to Mom. Lara and I screamed and grabbed the check. We were celebrating Mom’s birthday and she was not going to pay!

The waiter looked shocked and said, “She was touching my leg.”

Lara and I looked at him and both said, deadpan, “That had nothing to do with the check.”

The poor waiter was bright red!

We headed over to Legend Tasty House afterwards so they could try the thai rolled ice cream.IMG_7884

This morning I dropped them at the ‘L’. It was very sad, and once again, for the millionth time, I wished my family lived closer.

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Block Party 2017

We celebrated out 2017 Block Party yesterday with my sister and mother who are in town visiting.DSC_0587

The block party followed the same format it does every year. The older kids are starting to remember the sequence and anticipate with joy.

First the bouncy houses are inflated. Two of them, one for older kids and one for younger kids.DSC_0556 DSC_0561

Next the cotton candy comes out.DSC_0575

DSC_0568While this is going on, the other food is getting set up. Summer Houses Santa Monica and the Oyster Bar had stalls this year.

Summer House had a huge taco bar spread, during the day. Later they brought out pizzas. Still later, cookies larger than your head.DSC_0582 DSC_0686

Oyster Bar fed us fantastic lobster rolls, fried chicken and more!DSC_0599

Our neighbors volunteered to cook up hot dogs and hamburgers on grills people had rolled out on the street. Behind them tubs of non alcoholic drinks for adults and kids.

The kegs were tapped right next to the band. Along with an assortment of other alcoholic drinks.DSC_0620

Our neighbor Jane’s ‘decorate a birdhouse or box’ table was out again this year for the kids.DSC_0581

A firetruck came to visit the kids.IMG_2791 IMG_2795

Walgreens volunteered their time to paint kids faces. DSC_0614 DSC_0618

Soon the magician arrived. DSC_0638

Ben volunteered and got picked.DSC_0627

Sam the ice cream man showed up with the ice cream truck. The ice creams are free, also part of the block party’s budget.DSC_0677

Finally it got dark and the glow stuff was opened. DSC_0700 DSC_0703 DSC_0706

Great party! Thanks to the organizers and volunteers who make it all happen!DSC_0601

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Great America

At the beginning of the summer, my friend Nicole (also Jack’s buddy’s mother) suggested the boys get season passes for Six Flags Great America.

She had seen a special online, for the price of one day entry you could get a pass for the season.

And so, just like that, Jack graduated up to the next level of fun. Great America is a playground for older kids!DSC_0467

This week they had a buddy pass. Bring a friend for free with your season pass. Jack invited another friend and I invited Ben. Camila watched the twins for the day until Adam got off work and relieved her.DSC_0535

I was a bit worried about Ben. Last time he refused to do any of the rides, even the simplest ones designed for kids even younger than he was.

This time, I got the older boys to accompany him on the ‘Little Dipper’ ride. It is approved for kids height 36″ of taller. (The twins can ride it.)

The Little Dipper

The Little Dipper

Ben tried it, which I praised him for greatly. Sadly he came off the ride saying he never wants to do a roller coaster again.

Jack hits the Whirligig while his friends brave the Batman ride.

Jack hits the Whirligig while his friends brave the Batman ride.

Now I was worried Ben’s day would be ruined when he figured out he couldn’t do any of the roller coasters that the older boys enjoyed, yet he was too big for the kiddie rides. Luckily one of Jack’s friends brought money for everyone to win prizes with.

It was the kind of thing I would never offer to my own kids, but it saved the day.

They played a few games and when Ben’s money was almost out, he let Jack have his last turn with the claw game. You know the one where you try to pick up prizes by moving a big claw around to the right spot and pressing a button to pick up?DSC_0500

Jack picked up this mini-ironman for him in one turn. Ben was ecstatic! (Jack won this pokeman toy for himself).

These toys saved the day later. When the older boys did the big roller coasters, Ben busied himself with make believe games.DSC_0536

He also enjoyed a few other rides with the older boys, like the ‘4D Justice League: Battle for Metropolis’. It had screens that full of stuff to shoot at, and with the 3D glasses it was so realistic he was screaming a bit. I put my arm around him and told him it was okay, I would keep him safe. But that didn’t help, apparently I’m no match for a bunch of super villians!

Next I told him to look away from the screen to see it wasn’t real. After he looked to the side and saw the end of the screen he was able to relax and enjoy it.

Funnel Cake, my weakness...

Funnel Cake, my weakness…

And the Buccaneer Battle! Fun for all! The people sitting the boat can also be shot by cannons on land, and the boat people can shoot the land people. It’s a very clever set up.

DSC_0507DSC_0514At first I was upset they were in different boats.

But then this happened…

Turning around and realizing they are about to face off.

Turning around and realizing they are about to face off.

They got to battle each other!

Why do boys play like this?

Why do boys play like this?

Ben also sat in Jack’s car for bumper cars.DSC_0531The boys spent most of their time in a three way triangle. They would all ram each other, then try to get out of it only to find themselves in the same position minutes later.

‘Logger’s Run’ was so much fun it was worth two visits…DSC_0487 Some roller coasters were too scary for Jack to try also. His two buddies went on the X-Flight. They ran right into the line. Jack hesitated, then started walking after them, then stopped and came out.

I told him he didn’t have to do it but if he wanted to I’m sure his buddies would go again. When they returned, Jack walked into the line and they cheered and laughed and ran after him. Shortly after the gate closed on the ride, they got the last ride of the day.DSC_0547

Can you spot them? They are in the top row, Jack is the inside seat, three rows in.

Afterwards I asked Jack if it was as horrible as he thought it was going to be. He said, “Worse.”

I asked him if he would do it again. He said, “Yes.”

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Sky High

Ben enjoyed one last play date with his BFF before school starts for him next week.

The forecast was for rain so we booked Sky High Trampoline Park. DSC_0432

When the day finally arrived, it was sunny and beautiful out, but it was probably for the best because the place was not over crowded.

Dodgeball Arena

Dodgeball Arena

DSC_0445I wrongly envisioned a relaxing sit on one of the couches with Ben’s BFF’s mom.

Turns out, under 6 and over 6 are in two different areas so I spent most of my time running from one place to the next.DSC_0369 DSC_0415

Still, it was really cool to see the kids all jumping with youthful delight. Trampolines are often used in therapy for kids on the spectrum so this was perfect for Ben.

The twins were surprisingly physical with each other. I spent a huge amount of time telling them to keep their hands to themselves. Chasing, then tackling – this seems to be an innate, testosterone type activity.

I also diverted them to the foam pits.DSC_0404 DSC_0405 DSC_0451 DSC_0459 DSC_0462

I got a groupon for this activity. With the groupon, 2 hours of jump time was $14 instead of $22.

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Grandpa Goes

It was with a heavy heart that I said good-bye to my father this afternoon.

Grandpa Arrives!

Grandpa Arrives!

I know I’m not the only one in the house that felt it either.

They all gravitate to him.

They all gravitate to him.

He cleaned dishes, washed and folded clothes, cleaned the house, and spent many hours babysitting the kids for me. He put our families needs in front of his own every single moment of the day.

Jack won't hold my hand anymore!

Jack won’t even hold my hand anymore!

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He connected with each kid at their own level, creating a special relationship with each one of them.IMG_7722

Jack almost didn’t leave for his playdate this morning for fear of missing every last moment of time with Grandpa.DSC_0224

Chess with Ben

Chess with Ben

Ben bought that chessboard with his birthday money specifically for Grandpa’s visit.

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Playing dinosaurs with Sam

Playing dinosaurs with Sam

Aaron took to him the most, following him around like his little minion.DSC_0231 IMG_7749 IMG_7744 DSC_0330 DSC_0202Each night Grandpa told his ‘bloody finger’ stories to the kids. Stories that he made up in his head. I have no idea how he came up with so many different plots! Often I would hear fits of laughter coming from the bedroom at night.

I’m sure I’m forgetting the hundred other ways he helped, like patiently helping Jack with his homework. Or talking to Ben for hours gently, sneakily so Ben wouldn’t be offended, about ways to improve his behavior. (He even based a few ‘bloody finger’ stories on it!)

Such a great, great person. We will miss him dearly.

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Funtopia

We spent yesterday afternoon in The Glen Town Center, an enclave for pleasure seekers in Glenview.

I’ve been wanting to check out the new climbing zone, Funtopia, for a while now.

But first, we met up with Bubbie and Bill for lunch at the Yard House.

The kids menu kept the kids pretty busy. The adults too. Bubbie and Sam got a few games of ‘tic-tac-toe’ in, while Grandpa Devensky played against Ben in the ‘make a square’ game.DSC_0285

Then the Calisoff train was off to Funtopia!DSC_0286

There are a bunch of different sections to explore but for today, we just did the ‘fun walls’ section.

Jack and Ben took to it right away.DSC_0288 DSC_0317

DSC_0310At first the twins were a bit nervous with the harness. But eventually they warmed up. DSC_0309

DSC_0296There were some really great moments.

Like watching Aaron play with Grandpa.DSC_0348

Or when Ben couldn’t complete one of the harder courses and Jack went back to help him.Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 9.45.39 AM

One time Ben was cut in line and when I told the boy Ben was next, Ben said, “It’s okay, his time is almost up, he can go before me.”DSC_0340

We paid for a 2 hour session, which was $22 per kid, just enough time for Jack to complete every thing in the area. You can book for less time and less money, though. There are 1 hour and 1.5 hour sessions as well.

I highly recommend booking in advance!

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