Snow Day!

Ah blog, how I’ve been neglecting you lately.

It’s not because I have nothing going on. It’s the opposite. I have too much going on!

I didn’t want to bore you with the week I spent de-cluttering the house. Okay, I would have bored you, but I was so focused on it I forgot to document it. If you want a taste, I got rid of two whole cabinets of electronics that were left here from the last people who lived her. TEN YEARS ago. By the time I finally got around to getting rid of them, I was furiously ripping cords from the back of them. Why did I wait 10 years to get these two cabinets back? We have been paying for them for TEN years!

I also spent about 20 hours working on Jack’s birthday party this month. That blog is coming soon. We just have to have the party first!

And I’m taking a writing class. My second one since the kids went back to school. I’m hoping to start some new and interesting work right here on this very blog! But I’m not quite ready yet. Stay tuned for it.

Today I had planned to work on a bunch of the above projects but Chicago had other plans for me. A snow day for the kids! Jack was super excited until we explained to him that, instead of going to school today in the bad weather he would have to make up this day at the end of the school year when the weather is actually nice.

Still, the boys enjoyed the copious amounts of snow just outside our door today.

There was so much Sam was yelling, “I’m stuck in quick sand!”

DSC_0297And then they took turns burying each other.DSC_0308 DSC_0311 DSC_0317I think they thought they were still on the beaches of Florida!

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Florida Trip

We managed to escape the cold Chicago winter for a week over the kids winter break. Sort of.

This time our trip to Florida had unusually cold temperatures.

At least the cold was bearable. Unlike Chicago, we could still be outside during the day. It just wasn’t warm enough for endless days of beach visits and pool swims.

So what else is there to do in Florida beside get your bathing suit on? Stay tuned, dear readers…

Our first day we visited Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton.DSC_0001 DSC_0005 DSC_0008 DSC_0009

The last time we visited this park was closed for renovations. We were planning on running around for about an hour but the boys were enjoying the relative warmth so much we ended up staying here almost 3 hours.

Afterwards we enjoyed the $1 carousel rides. Aaron asked to go again and when he got his gold token to ride he said he wasn’t riding, he’d rather save his shiny coin. Adam very nicely let him ride and keep his coin.DSC_0033 DSC_0034 DSC_0035

We also got to see both grandparent’s right away. First, Japo’s house were she had yummy Publix sandwiches waiting for us.DSC_0041

They were all fascinated by her huge collection of coins from her extensive travels.DSC_0045

Aaron’s favorite part, however, was discovering the ‘butt picture’ in Japo’s study. DSC_0047

Afterwards we spent time at Grandpa Devensky’s.

He took us on a tour of the complex searching for iguanas. I didn’t realize the iguana population has exploded in Florida and because they don’t have any natural predators they are becoming a real problem. In his complex alone we saw four of them!

Aaron almost stepped on this before Jack pointed it out!

Aaron almost stepped on this before Jack pointed it out!

The next morning we visited the Everglades Holiday Park. Ben requested this visit that we see Alligators. And Sharks. We tried our best to accommodate him.DSC_0071 DSC_0075 DSC_0081

We bundled up in our winter jackets for the airboat ride. We had 2 alligator spotting and one iguana spotting.DSC_0090 DSC_0094 DSC_0098

The ticket also included an alligator show. We didn’t realize it at the time but the show was run by Gator Boy’s own Paul Bedard. Apparently he used to have an insane alligator rescue show on Animal Planet.DSC_0104

We also got some good Dim Sum in while we were still in Fort Lauderdale at the Gold Marquess.DSC_0107

We were lucky to be able to join Grandpa Devensky’s weekly family dinners with his wife Susan’s family. DSC_0111

Auntie Doris was there too. DSC_0108

One thing about having four kids is that you can never give them as much attention as they want or need. So many people around giving the kids so much attention was worth all the hassle of traveling to get there.

Susan draws for Aaron while her daughter, Tammy entertains him.

Susan draws for Aaron while her daughter, Tammy entertains him.

Other things fun things we did included mini golf.DSC_0127

Sam even managed a hole in one!

We took the older boys to see the latest Star Wars movie while the twins got time with Grandpa.DSC_0114

Both Adam and I have fond memories of visiting Lion Country Safari as kids. So it was really cool to be able to take them back to have the same experience we did. DSC_0150

We saw so many animals up close!DSC_0153

This Ostrich was particularly aggressive, tapping on our window with his beak.DSC_0158

One night we went with Japo to Chipotle. Japo brought me a magazine she found at the supermarket because it had an article about Hong Kong. But I never got a change to read the article because the kids took over the magazine and wouldn’t give me a turn.

The magazine was Maxim’s, a girly magazine. Ben said it was the most interesting magazine he had ever read! Once again, Japo delivered ‘butt pictures’!IMG_8471

We did manage to swim one day in the pool. It was too cold by my standards, luckily Adam braved the water for me.DSC_0120

I could only manage the hot tub.DSC_0125

We also tried to have a beach day on our last day, the warmest day that we visited. When we arrived at the beach there were 15 mile an hour winds and the red AND the purple flag were up at the lifeguard stand. Red is for rough water with riptides, purple was for dangerous marine life. DSC_0185

It was too rough to swim but I thought it would be okay to dip our feet in. After a few minutes, a Portuguese Man of War washed up on the shore! DSC_0206

We checked out the pier, looking for those sharks Ben wanted.DSC_0191

Sadly, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t see any.

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Ben hoping to see a Shark through a hole in the pier.

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Snow!

Last night Adam and I were straining our brains trying to figure out a place to take the boys that wasn’t too expensive for us, or too crowded for Ben. A place warm enough to be comfortable, yet enough space for the boys to work off all their excess energy.

We considered, without enthusiasm, bowling. We considered ice skating but couldn’t figure out any way that the two of us could help three, maybe four people stay upright at the same time.

So you can imagine our delight when we woke up to a street full of snow!

Enough snow means playing outdoors, maybe even sledding. A perfect activity to get the boys moving, that isn’t too expensive, or crowded.

So, after a very stressful suit up job – four snow pants or bibs tucked into heavy socks tucked into snow boots, four sets of gloves on with jacket sleeves tucked inside then fastened as tight as possible – we were off.DSC_0964

We managed all kinds of different combinations of sledding partners.DSC_0968 DSC_0984 DSC_1016

We even tried all four on one sled.DSC_1003

And failed.DSC_1007

Afterwards, the boys worked with Papa to earn their hot chocolate reward. DSC_1023

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7th and 8th nights of Hanukkah

For the 7th night of Hanukkah the bears became ninjas. I took some of Jack’s old pants that had holes in the knees and made these masks. DSC_0939

I was worried that the Ninjas might frighten Ben but he loved them. IMG_8408

The next morning they claimed which one they liked best, then made up names for them. Aaron’s was the Master of Stickiness, Sam’s the Master of Disgustingness, Ben’s the Master of Air, and Jack’s the Master of Fighting.

That night both Jack and Aaron picked board games.

Jack’s “King of Tokyo” game was a big hit. All the boys played it.DSC_0947

They also joined in when Aaron broke out his “Blockus” game.IMG_8414

Finally, on the last night of Hanukkah the Bears showed up on the couch. They were sitting in front of our new TV. Our upstairs neighbors were getting rid of a TV and we happily took it off our hands. Our current TV is so old it doesn’t even have an HDMI connection.DSC_0957

The bear’s set up was a nod to their last night’s Hanukkah gift, a new Xbox console.

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5th and 6th Nights of Hanukkah

We’ve made it through another 2 nights on Hanukkah. DSC_0931

They landed on the weekend which was really nice. We could open toys early and have plenty of time during the day to enjoy them.

It was nice to see them all off their iPads for such long periods of time.

Jack spent hours building two lego sets he got. He proved himself a master builder. When a piece was missing, he went to his lego bin and found a substitution with ease. DSC_0936

All the kids spent time mixing the many Imaginex toys we have acquired over the years with the new plethora of recently additions.

Being off their iPads paved the way for other activities too. The younger 3 rediscovered their activity books and spent lots of time coloring, connecting dots, finding words and more.

In fact, Sam and Aaron have had an explosion of interest in writing since Kindergarten started.

Activity books.

Activity books.

The twins rediscovered the chalk board in their room.

The twins rediscovered the chalk board in their room.

Aaron loves to color, Sam prefers the puzzles.

Aaron loves to color, Sam prefers the puzzles.

Oh yeah, and here is what Jack did with the boxes we had leftover from all the gifts.

Aaron is a box troll.

Aaron is a box troll.

We got to play the Dreidel game and eat our winnings.DSC_0938

And finally, the Hanukkah Bears showed up religiously.

5th day of Hanukkah. Bear bring donuts for breakfast.

5th day of Hanukkah. Bear bring donuts for breakfast.

The boys got to pick one letter to eat and they conspired to pick letters so that "PP anukkah" was left. They thought it was hilarious.

The boys got to pick one letter to eat and they conspired to pick letters so that “PP anukkah” was left. They thought it was hilarious.

Last night Adam and I booked a sitter and hit two holiday parties. Afterwards, as I was laying in bed almost asleep I realized the Hanukkah Bears were not staged. I got out of bed at midnight and did a quick scene.

6th Day of Hanukkah. Sack race.

6th Day of Hanukkah. Sack race.

Two more days. The kitchen floors are started to get so crowded with new toys I’m having to tip toe while cooking…

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3rd and 4th nights of Hanukkah

We have managed to get through another 2 days of Hanukkah!

With all the wrapping paper and new toy boxes I’ve been throwing out so much trash and recycle that it’s shameless. So much waste!

And don’t get me started on the new toy clutter. I’m trying to be patient, to wait and see how much we have after these new 32 present join our houseful of toys. In the end then it will be time for another mass toy reorganization. Ugh. Can’t wait.

In the meantime, want to see what the Hanukkah Bears have been up to the past two nights?

Game of Angry Bird.

Night 3. Game of Angry Bird.

The Joker running away with the Hanukkah Gelt and Batman, Hulk and Spiderman chasing him.

Night 4. The Joker runs away with the Hanukkah Gelt. Batman, Hulk and Spiderman chase him.

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First night of Hanukkah

Hanukkah started today! The kids are SO happy!

All the gifts lined up for each kid in order of days they will receive them.

All the gifts lined up for each kid in order of days they will receive them.

And I am SO tired from wrapping 32 gifts!

At our house, with Hanukkah comes the playful Hanukkah bears.  This year they kicked of the festivities by showing up in a repurposed box we got last Hanukkah.DSC_0888

Adam came home early so he could light the candles and help assemble the first night’s gifts.DSC_0892

This year Adam was in charge of buying gifts so he gave the boys their budget and let them pick what they wanted. DSC_0890

Sam picked gigantic gifts. I’m not sure where we are going to fit all the new toys.DSC_0894

After all the boys went to bed, the Hanukkah bears came out again for more mischief…DSC_0895

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My 45th Birthday

Happy birthday to me!

The kids were very happy to see the birthday breakfast this morning!

The kids were very happy to see the birthday breakfast this morning!

As the famous French writer, Victor Hugo, once wrote, “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.”

I’m still getting presents from my parents, but during the part of the day that the kids were home, life is centered completely on their needs.

All four kids signed their names themselves for the first time ever.

All four kids signed their names themselves for the first time ever.

For the part of the day that is kid free, I spent the time doing some of the things I love.

I tried a restaurant I’ve wanted to try for a long time, The Chicago Diner.

It’s a meat free restaurant. Yes, I’m back on the vegan kick again. I stupidly started listening to the Rich Roll podcast while out running. He is a recovering lawyer, super athlete and vegan advocate. Now that I’ve heard it, I can’t unhear it. I’m slowly trying to cut out meat, dairy and refined sugars. Right now, I’m about halfway there.

Vegan Reuben with Yucca Chips

Vegan Reuben with Yucca Chips

This afternoon I ran a quick errand at REI for some winter gloves for the kids. I made the mistake of trying on some sales items. Shopping after childbirth is a depressing event. I’ve come to the realization that they only make two kinds of clothing for women: Skinny Hussy or Rolly Polly. Once again, at 45, I’m slam bang in the middle of that. Tight clothes show my imperfect lumps and billowy clothes make me look heavier than I am.

After dinner, as we were cutting up the birthday cake and I was agonizing over breaking my sugar fast for this special event, Adam asked me if I was having a good birthday.DSC_0870

I looked around at my oldest son, halfway through his childhood years. I thought about how many new projects I was trying to start now that the kids were back in school. Halfway through reading 3 books and 2 New Yorker magazines, a dozen or more writing projects half finished, halfway through a long list of de-cluttering projects, halfway through fixing the shower faucet, halfway through my perpetual to-do list, halfway through the life of this messy, complicated nuclear family and with any luck, halfway through my existence here on earth.DSC_0876

I looked on the table, next to the slices of cake to see my children’s glasses of milk, all half full.

I turned and answered Adam with an enthusiastic,  “Yes!”

I wouldn’t trade the childbirth lumps, the never ending to-do slumps, or messy family bumps for anything. There are very few times in your life when you are lucky enough to have both older and younger generations, as well as around 100 or so of your closest Facebook friends thinking of you on your special day.

If I’m halfway there, I can only look back with an immense appreciation of a life lived to it’s fullest, and look forward in optimistic anticipation of what is to come. But mostly importantly, with great joy, I can savor today, enjoying all the love and accomplishments that have lead me to this very moment.

After all, as another famous author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

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Thanksgiving 2017

A visit to Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva has become one of our Thanksgiving traditions. DSC_0809

With no family in town, we are free of the usual holiday constraints of cooking, traveling long distances to visit with extended family and stuffing ourselves silly on thanksgiving turkey and trimmings. Instead we spend the time with our nuclear family swimming, playing at the arcade, doing kid friendly activities and yeah, well, we did stuff ourselves silly on thanksgiving turkey and trimmings too. I guess we had to drive a long distance to get there too so really we just skipped the cooking part!

Adam almost didn’t book the trip this year. Then one night he was talking to someone, I can’t remember who, whose oldest child is two years old than our oldest child. That oldest child was too cool to do anything with the family anymore. Adam ran home and booked the hotel rooms. How many more years will Jack find this trip fun? When will he think it’s not cool enough for him?

I hope not for many more years. This trip is just starting to get easier for us!

The first night we were there, Sam lost his first tooth. IMG_8292

Luckily the tooth fairy makes scavenger hunts at Timber Ridge as well!DSC_0681

For the first time, Ben worked up the courage to try the green slide. Last time we were here every kid, included the twins, did this slide. DSC_0701

Not only did Ben conquer it once, he managed to slide down it 100 times over the course of our entire visit! As Adam can attest to, there are SEVENTY ONE stairs to get to the starting point for the green slide. I think Adam walked these enough in the past four days to work off a pound of fat.

This year the twins got to visit the hot tub for the first time. It is for kids ages 6 and over, but we dutifully taught them to lie about their age before we entered the water park.DSC_0707

Last time we visited the twins couldn’t swim. It makes going to a water park where one parent has to cover at least 2 kids and sometimes 3 a nerve racking event. This year, although we never let them out of our sights, we no longer worried they were going to drown every single moment. We could step back a bit instead and enjoy seeing them splashing around.DSC_0795 DSC_0797

The other key to making our trip much easier was Jack took on the responsibility of 3rd adult while we were in the waterpark. I felt bad asking him to always take a partner with him, but he not only took the duty on without any hint of annoyance, he willing took whichever partner we threw his way. Not one of his many younger siblings was made to feel like they were second best. He was such a great babysitter that the boys all wanted a turn with him!

All the kids did the rope monkey bars, but the twins still needed help from us.DSC_0740

Ben only had one major meltdown during the whole trip. Timber Ridge has many kid friendly activities you can join for free, where they give out prizes. We signed up for a timed scavenger hunt which ended up in the arcade. There were many factors that could have brought on the meltdown, the very stimulating lights in the arcade, the sudden overcrowding, and the rush to change activities before he was ready. However, we suspect it was mostly the timed nature of the event, working under pressure is not something Ben can handle right now. Besides this one moment, it was one of the best trips he has had with us for a while.

Besides hitting the water park every day, we spent a lot of time in the arcade.DSC_0816

The boys won lots of tickets and traded them for more junk to fill our already over stuffed house with.DSC_0767 DSC_0772 DSC_0817

Putting on a rock show with Jack's winnings.

Putting on a rock show with Jack’s winnings.

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Ben brings his winnings to bed with him.

Ben brings his winnings to bed with him.

We also did lots of the family fun activities they had to offer.

We made sand art by filling these plastic butterflies with colored sand.DSC_0755 DSC_0757

We did 2 different scavenger hunts. We decorated cookies.DSC_0810

We played family bingo. I actually won this time!DSC_0778

We did cookies, milk and story time.DSC_0823

Aaron raised his hand and correctly answered the question (after Jack very nicely told him the answer!) and won a puppy. Afterwards we visited with Timber Ridge’s mascot, Bruce the Moose.DSC_0828

A lot of these activities had other prizes you could win like arcade game cards, pretzels with cheese or cookies. The boys won them all. They enjoyed many free pretzels and cookies!DSC_0780

We also did a trolley ride to see the holiday lights.

Waiting for the trolley.

Waiting for the trolley.

We left exhausted and satiated. By the time next year rolls around it will be just long enough for us to forget all the answers on the scavenger hunt, to forget the easiest way to get into the floating tubes for the green slide, and for all the toys we won at the arcade to be broken.

It will be time to go back again.

Until next year Timber Ridge!DSC_0750 DSC_0753

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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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