Nights 1 & 2 – Hanukkah 2018

Hanukkah arrived early this year. Well, it was early depending on who you asked. Ben had been waiting impatiently since before Halloween.

The first night was a Sunday, so the Hanukkah bears had an activity waiting for the kids when they woke up that morning.DSC_0240The kids decorated gingerbread houses after a morning feast of Dim Sum.DSC_0245DSC_0250DSC_0254 DSC_0256 DSC_0260Jack and Adam were flying back from Colorado that morning so we made sure to save some candy for Jack.DSC_0265We also broke out the driedel game.DSC_0269While we slept that night, the Hanukkah bears had a huge silly string fight. The boys woke up to this…DSC_0271It was a school day today but as soon as we arrived home it was dark so we lit the candles and opened more presents.IMG_0080The Star Wars force in strong with us.

Stay tuned for more bears soon…

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Great Wolf Lodge

This year for Thanksgiving, with no family in the area, we decided to try out the new Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee. Last year they took over the old Key Lime Cove and completed a $65 million dollar renovation.

Ben and I had been to the old Key Lime Cove and although some of the things were the same, like the basketball pool, there were some new and exciting things to explore.

Like the wave pool…DSC_1063 DSC_0019 DSC_0012 DSC_0023The kids enjoyed playing in this big open space even when the waves weren’t churning…DSC_1059 DSC_1053 DSC_1052The ‘toilet bowl’ slide was also a new addition…DSC_0078 DSC_0073 DSC_0065

Also the family raft, where almost all of our family could go together (max 5 people)…DSC_0026 DSC_0031I’m pretty sure this fort is the same as before…DSC_0138

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Sam lets a little kid blast him. The little kid thought it was hilarious!

Sam lets a little kid blast him. The little kid thought it was hilarious!

And these slides might have been here but last time I went with Ben we was too scared to try them? This time we took turns racing to see each other.DSC_0048 DSC_0043We also spent time outside of the water park. Adam splurged on arcade cards.DSC_1010Jack won a golden ticket, and along with all the other Willy Wonka tickets he got, he got a whopping 2000 tickets. It was so many that he shared 500 each with each sibling.DSC_1014

Walking back to the room with all the prizes they won.

Walking back to the room with all the prizes they won.

Adam also bought Sam and Aaron some stuff from the Magic Quest shop. Aaron got a magic wand that lights stuff up all over the hotel. And Sam got a shield and sword set.DSC_1043

DSC_1038Some of the kids tried the Adventure Ropes course. I was super proud of them all for attempting it, especially the twins! It looked scary. Afterwards, Sam and Jack went AGAIN!DSC_0168 DSC_0177 DSC_0170Thanksgiving night we booked dinner at the special Thanksgiving buffet. The kids were super silly at dinner, except for Jack who was exhausted! DSC_1019 DSC_1036 DSC_1034 DSC_1032 DSC_1030 DSC_1024It was really nice to drop the electronics for a few days and connect as a family. I loved watching them all interact in different ways, forming their own special bonds. I was so happy that Ben had a good visit, this time around he was brave enough to try all the slides, something he could never do in the past. And I was so pleased that Adam could finally take a few days off work, he hasn’t had a day off in over a month (including weekends!).

I let them eat naughty cereal on vacation. Aaron collected all this Lucky Charm Leprechaun hats.

I let them eat naughty cereal on vacation. Aaron collected all his Lucky Charm Leprechaun hats.

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Lazy River

Lazy River

 

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Halloween 2018

I know my oldest in only 11, but Halloween is teetering on it’s last legs already.

When we ordered his kid’s sized Large costume this year, it came up to his shins. We had to reorder an adult Small, which of course he was drowning in and I had to velcro, fabric tape and safety pin considerably.

Still I was pleased all of his friends (most of whom are now taller than me) were still game for it.DSC_1002 (1)We started on the busiest street in our neighborhood. They block off the street and there are many houses giving out full sized candy bars. Once we got there, the older kids dispersed. They were in a competition to see who got the most full sized candy bars and they all had their own strategies, including multiple costumes.DSC_1006Then, we headed back to the house for mummy dogs and chili. The parents socialized very civilly with adult drinks and conversation. The kids socialized by hyping themselves up on candy and sugary drinks and running through the house like made playing some sort of chase/tag game.

Aaron and Sam also were kind enough to take turns giving out candy to other fellow trick-or-treaters.

DSC_1007All the kids went to bed late, dirty, and crashing from sugar. I’d say it was another successful Halloween.

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Mom and Lara’s Annual Visit

Last week we had a visit from Japo and Aunt Lara for what is becoming a beautiful tradition.

We packed in all kinds of fun, most of which benefited me the most!

First, Japo very kindly watched Ben ALL day so Adam and I could take the other kids and friends to Great America.DSC_0678 DSC_0672Then, a few days later Aunt Lara showed up.

We immediately headed to Chinatown for Dim Sum!DSC_0711 DSC_0713

As soon as Lara arrived, she joined my mother in helping around the house. While Japo tirelessly folded laundry, Aunt Lara refinished our table!

Before

Before

After

After

The next night, Adam and I checked into a hotel sans kids and enjoyed some time together.

London House

London House

I got to go eat at all my favorite places.

Slurping Turtle

Slurping Turtle

Goddess and the Baker

Goddess and the Baker

We went running TOGETHER, instead of tag teaming our runs to take turns babysitting.

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

And we got a chance to explore the city without distraction. The walks we do with the kids feels more like herding cats then exploring.

CANstruction exhibit

CANstruction exhibit

Canstruction exhibit

CANstruction exhibit

While we were away Aunt Lara and Japo watched our rambunctious herd. IMG_9686 IMG_9737We got home just in time for the block party (see previous blog post).

The next day Adam watched the kids for the day while us ladies spent the day celebrating Japo’s 80th birthday.

We got reflexology at our favorite spot, Fit Foot.

Then we went to see “Crazy Rich Asians”.

Not so crazy, or rich, but somewhat Asian.

Not so crazy, or rich, but somewhat Asian.

Finally we had dinner at Girl & the Goat.IMG_9729

I was very sad to see them go this morning, and wished again for the millionth time that we all lived closer.

 

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Block Party 2018

Yesterday we happily participated in the annual block party.

There was so much fun to be had!

We ran from one delight to another…

Cotton candy…DSC_0721 DSC_0730Bouncy houses…DSC_0740 DSC_0747 DSC_0788Craft table….DSC_0726Hula Hooping with the Band…DSC_0716 IMG_9717Magician Show…

DSC_0785Ice Cream Truck…DSC_0792Face Painting…

Aaron's fan club

Aaron’s fan club

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Corn Hole…DSC_0754 DSC_0799And for the adults, we enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, catering from Oyster Bah and Summer House Santa Monica. Five kegs and many more adult beverages were scattered along the block as well.

But best of all, we got to celebrate with Aunt Lara and Japo…DSC_0780

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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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