Jack’s Bar Mitzvah

By the way, I put up the photos of Jack’s Bar Mitzvah.

I wanted to write a flowering blog post about what an amazing son I have and how the party went off without a hitch, but by the time I got the photos, everyone was completely overwhelmed with Coronavirus.

I reserve the right to come back at some point and write about it, but in the mean time, hope you enjoy seeing the photos…

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Two More Weeks of ‘Shelter at Home’

It has been another two weeks of the “Shelter at Home” ordinance with no end in sight.

In the past two weeks, we were informed that schools will not reopen for the rest of the year.

We were also informed that the state of Illinois will continue to “Shelter at Home” for the entire month of May.

As time goes on and we settle into this long lock down, I can’t help but reflect.

Is it because we have more time to sit around and think about our lives?

Or is it because life as we know it has been ripped out from under us and we are all at home picking up the pieces? Perhaps we find they no longer fit as well as they could or should.

Lately I’ve been noticing how happy I am for what I don’t have.

I don’t have a dog I have to stress walk every day, dodging fellow dog walkers in a game of chicken.

I don’t have a cleaner I have to pay then do the work myself, or worry I’m starving someone by not paying them during this time.

I don’t have to wake up in a panic every single school morning, feeling that I’m already behind and won’t be able to get everything done that I need to. Now Adam and I can lay in bed and snuggle, chatting leisurely and only getting out of bed when one of the kids starts complaining that they are hungry. (I think this is my favorite part of this quarantine.)

I don’t have any sort of beauty ritual. No dying, plucking, waxing, or painting that some expert needs to do to me on a normal basis.

I don’t even have a haircut that needs cutting that often. I’m lucky if I go every six months. So happy I never got those bangs I was thinking about!

Now, the boys (and man) in the house are a different story. This week Adam and Ben reached their comfort limit, their hair was just too long. So, in addition to my new ‘Shelter at Home’ job of full time teacher, I became a hairdresser too.

Adam was so annoyed by his Ronald McDonald bushy sides that he was walking around with a cap on most days. Finally, he let me try to cut it. We figured if I did as bad of a job as I did the last two times he let me cut it, he would just shave it off.

Adam Before
Adam After. Not bad, eh?

After Ben saw Adam’s hair, he let me have a go at his…

Ben Before & After

Ben’s is a bit patchy in the back but, hey, he can’t see it. I figure it will grow out before anyone notices.

I actually thought it would much worse. We couldn’t find the clipper guards in the house, so I did this with just a pair of kitchen scissors and a comb!

I’ve also been trying to cook new things. And bake. I went to the supermarket three different times and each time could not find flour so the next time I went to Costco I broke down and bought a 25 pound bag of it.

Adam found these huge empty popcorn bins to store the flour in.

You think I’m crazy but a short two weeks later I’m almost done with one of the bins.

“Almost No Kneed Bread” from America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated. So good I had to make another one the next day.
Deep Dish Pizza
Cinnamon Buns
Fluffy Dinner Rolls (with Greek Chicken, Greens Beans in Gremolata Sauce, and Minestrone Soup.)
Every time I go to the store, Ben wants to try something new. This is Blackened Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa, Wild Rice and a side salad.
Loaded Nachos. Not new, just a family favorite.
Teriyaki Salmon, Rice Pilaf, and Sauteed Spinach.

Another highlights of the past two weeks was a basement Easter Egg hunt.

The twins got a 10 second head start.
Checking out the spoils. Look at all of Aaron’s golden eggs!

The remote learning has started to settle into a routine. We’ve fallen into a staggered schedule, which gives me less time but makes me more available for all of my needy kids. (Except Sam. He can work independently.)

When we can, we try to get the kids out for some exercise and fresh air. At first they were too scared to go anywhere but the deck.

A game of musical chairs gone wrong.

Eventually we got them out for a walk, with masks.

When they saw all the people out and about without masks, we were able to go further. Today we found a patch of grass where we could kick the soccer ball around and throw the football.

Next weekend is the twins birthday. They will not get their annual Dunkin Donut breakfast, or dinner out at the restaurant of their choice. They will not give out little gifts to their classmates. They will not get a birthday party either. Instead I must find a way to make this birthday special for them without throwing a bunch of money at it. It is one of the things I have been reflecting on these days. Can a birthday be special for the kids without all the bells and whistles? And how did we get to a place where it may not be in the first place?

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Another two Weeks of “Shelter at Home”

How is everyone settling into quarantine?

For Chicago, it has been 5 weeks.

It feels like the 5th month that I gave birth to any of my kids.The excitement of the new situation has died down, the casseroles and sympathy have stopped rolling in, but you are still just as, if not more, exhausted as before. And now being alone in your new reality is really starting to set in.

This past week three of the kids had Spring Break. It was helpful, as the one kid who didn’t was my special needs kid. Being able to devote all my time to finishing his work is a full time job and I was glad this week to be able to cover it. One day we started at 10am and by 8:30pm we still had one more thing to do!

Most days can feel like Groundhog day in the house. Which makes every little event that happens a big deal, a marker to show that time is indeed moving on.

One night we got a delivery from our friend who owns Geja’s, a fondue restaurant. He treated us to salads, cheese and chocolate fondue.

The kids were super excited for the special treat and, as a bonus, we got more kids hooked on eating salad!

I’ve also been trying to cook new things. Every time I go to the store I try to find something new or different, mostly for Ben who loves trying new things.

We celebrated Passover last week. I couldn’t find a Shankbone so skipped the Seder plate. Also, no brisket or turkey breast so we ended up with Flank Steak with a gremolata sauce. And we bought the last box of Matzoh, which happened to be everything flavor and gluten free. But hey, like the Jews in Ancient Egypt, we had to be flexible with our food.

I’ve tried a few other new things too. Chinese lettuce cups….

English meat pies….

Swordfish with carrots and chimichurri…

We’ve tried our best to keep the kids off screens and interacting with us. Adam has been good about getting them to read to him most days.

One day it was nice out so we set up the bags and giant jenga.

Some of the kids did an impromptu work out.

In fact, daily workouts have been a big thing for the three younger kids…

One cold day I managed to get the kids out for a walk with the promise of hot chocolate afterwards. They are scared to be outside so mostly we stay indoors.

Sometimes we do workout videos.

Sometimes the kids workout on their own.

We’ve done more puzzles.

Lots more puzzles.

Or board games.

And really just coming up with any old game that keeps them busy and engaged.

I read today that New York is keeping their kids out of school for the rest of the year so I’m bracing myself for that inevitability as well.

Hope everyone reading is staying safe, is healthy and keeping their sanity in check. Look forward to seeing you – face to face – on the other side.

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Shelter at Home

Although it’s only been two weeks since the “Shelter at Home” order has put in place, in many ways it seems like we’ve been at it for much, much longer.

While looking at my photos for this blog, I scrolled up until I reached some pictures that were taken pre-coronavirus. There the twins were, wrestling with their friends on the school lawn. I scrolled through picture after picture of us eating out. Or the kids rolling around in the foam pits at the trampoline park.

Everything that looked normal a few weeks ago now fills me with the anxiety of someone with severe OCD. Those foam pits are a cesspool for germs! Those twins wrestling on the lawn with their friends are going to get everyone sick! Look how close the waiter is standing to our table. Definitely less than six feet!

And it’s not just the germ phobia, when your entire world grinds to a stop, you start to rethink everything in your life.

Like, why did I think I was so clever to follow a JIT (just in time) management strategy to my grocery shopping? Before Covid-19, I prided myself on keeping low inventory and visiting the grocery store every two days. I reasoned this kept our costs down. But what about the cost of my time? I could have saved three extra hours a week with bigger, more thoughtful shopping trips. Nowadays I try to make it five or six days. Sometimes it means that the family is eating two or three different meals on a single evening, but surprisingly it does not equal more waste.

My dinner helpers.

There are some perks to being stuck at home. I am surprisingly happy to be able to wear the same pajamas for days, only to shower and change them for new pajamas. And I don’t miss all the school drop off and pick ups, as well as shuffling the kids around in the car to after school activities.

I even don’t mind taking over the position of full time teacher. No, I don’t want to do it for the next 10 years of my life, but it is kind of nice to see what the kids are up to and to have some technology free time with them. These school sessions help me learn more about their strengths and weaknesses as well as give us some time to bond.

My home school set up. Aaron on Rosetta Stone for Mandarin class while Ben and Sam work on paperwork.
Jack’s classes are done through google classroom. It’s amazing how easy it was to switch to online learning.

In fact, the isolation period has actually made me more social, not less. I spend much more times with my kids and husband, but I also spend more time with my friends. Everyone is reaching out from across the globe to check in with each other, to marvel at these dystopian times, to trade stories and tips with each other. My high school girlfriends and I have signed onto a new app called, “Houseparty”. Many nights I meet up with them for a glass of wine and a good chat.

Truth be told, the only thing I miss since we got quarantined is hunger. Lack of exercise and unlimited access to a fully stocked fridge are a dangerous combination.

Still I realize how lucky we are. How my husband still has a job, and unlike some of our restaurant and retail friends, our lives have not been jolted to a stop with no clear view of the future. And that so far, we are healthy, not just free of Covid-19, but also not in the high risk age group and without any secondary medical conditions.

So much time together has made them creative. They colored blank puzzles and gave them to each other to solve.
We have done LOTS of puzzles this week.
And LOTS more electronics.

Wishing everyone who reads this hope and health in these uncertain times. And look forward to seeing you IN PERSON someday soon….

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Salads, Salads, Salads

After an annual visit to Adam’s doctor, healthy eating and weight loss were on the agenda this month.

In response, I upped my normal sandwich and soup lunches that I pack for him and started making elaborate salads.

Asian Salad:. Sliced Almonds, Chicken, Napa Cabbage, Carrots, Red Pepper, Edamame, Mint and Thai Basil. Dressing: Soy sauce, Rice Vinegar, Olive Oil.
Chopped Salad: Chicken, Tomato, Hard Boiled Egg, Cucumber, Bacon Bits, Shredded Cheddar, Romaine. Dressing: Dijon Mustard, Champagne Vinegar, Olive Oil.
Salad Nicoise: Tuna, Hard Boiled Egg, Blanched Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Yukon Gold Potato, Red Leaf Salad Mix. Dressing: Dijon Mustard, Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil.
Chicken, Shredded Cheddar, Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, Cilantro, Red Onion. Dressing: Lime, White Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chili Powder. Top with crushed tortillas.
Winter Squash Salad. Roasted Butternut Squash, Honeycrisp Apple, Shredded Carrot, Dried Cherries, Walnuts, Shaved Parmesan. Dressing: Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil.

Amazing, right? Well, maybe.

This morning Adam asked for a sandwich.

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Last Four Days of Hanukkah 2019

On the fourth day of Hanukkah, Sam also told me that the Hanukkah bears have been forgetting to include their big friend. So, on the fifth night, he joined the bear’s book fort.

On the sixth night, the bears got naughty with shaving cream.

And on the seventh night, the bears showed up in our underwear.

The eighth and final night, the bears they got the ball pit out.

The ball pit grabbed a lot of attention from the kids!

The entire time, my father was here, giving our kids much needed attention.

We managed to get out a bit with the kids too. One night, we went to see the Illumination lights at the Morton Arboretum.

Afterwards, we ate dinner at Maggiano’s. An impromptu game of telephone had us giggling and laughing the entire time.

We also managed to get out a bit without the kids, thanks to my father.

We got to see my friend Jessica who lives in Florida but was visiting her husband’s family in the suburbs.

And we had another date night, this time to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Art Institute followed by a fabulous dinner at Trattoria 10.

It was really nice this year to have every day of Hanukkah off of school. The boys are getting along much better these day, they are all getting older and can play things together. The dreidel game no longer ends in tears. For days, they have been obsessed with a four person Xbox game called, “Gang Beast.” I’m not sure how you win, but it sure gets a lot of giggling and screaming.

It was really nice having my father here. Managing the house with the kids in it all the time was so much easier with him around. He was so helpful, not just giving the kids tons of attention, and babysitting so Adam and I could go out, and cleaning things, but he fixed a bunch of things around the house for us – Jack’s desk drawer, a leaky sink, and a closet door. Everyone was so sad to say goodbye to him today.

Hope everyone reading this is enjoying their holiday as well!

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First Four Days of Hanukkah

Hanukkah started badly. I woke up after an epic night out for Adam’s friend’s 50th birthday and Sam said, “The Hanukkah Bears forgot to show up.”

Naughty Saturday Night Out.

I felt terrible. So, when we went out for Dim Sum that morning, I quickly staged them.

Grandpa is in town this week helping out.

The boys found them when we got back.

Pretending the floor is lava is a favorite game of our kids.

We celebrated the first night of Hanukkah and played the first of many Dreidel games.

That night I almost forgot again! But Jack reminded my by asking me what I had planned. Yes, he is so old he is in cahoots with me now.

The morning after I set up the Bear vs. Army men scene, I woke up to the sound of crashing. Someone had knocked down one of the forts when they were looking at it. Then, I heard Sam’s little voice, “The Hanukkah Bears won!”.

My Dad has been an incredible help while he has been here. Having an extra adult around has given the kids a much richer vacation. They get so much more attention!

He brought up my old science fair project to show the kids.

Grandpa is teaching Sam chess.

And he can stay with some kids while I take others out, like this Pokeman walk.

Occasionally, I was able to get all the kids out for some fresh air and sunshine.

Playing 500.

Grandpa is always around helping when needed. Here he is helping Aaron crack his Geode, a present for Hanukkah.

After another night of Hanukkah, opening wonderful gifts and playing more Dreidel games, I set up the bears again.

This time, I set up a scene from the Blue Man Group, a show we saw for my birthday. For dessert that night, the kids got to try their first Twinkie. (And hopefully their last?)

Last night was Christmas Eve, we celebrated it with Matzoh Ball soup and Latkes.

Ben helped make the Latkes.

He was very happy with the way they came out.

We opened more presents! Aaron got this time a 3D printing pen from Aunt Lara and her family.

Jack and Sam split a Nintendo and every night they have been opening new games.

This morning, the kids found the Bears by the fireplace.

The Bears stole Santa’s sack of goodies.

When they opened Santa’s bag, they found lots of Christmas candy.

Today we are continuing the Jewish tradition of movies and Chinese food on Christmas day. Again, thanks to my father, we were able to take the older boys to see the new Star Wars movie while he watched the twins.

Stay tuned for another four days….

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47th Birthday

This weekend I celebrated my 47th birthday. Yes, it was a weekend long celebration. An amazing celebration. Full of amazing!

It started Friday morning. We had our usual donuts and egg sandwiches from Dunkin Donuts.

Then I opened presents. I got this Instant Pot from my sister, which amazingly has SEVEN different functions. It amazes me that one thing can be a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker and warmer!

That’s as amazing as someone who can be an all in one cook, chauffeur, maid, tutor, playmate, family therapist and babysitter.

I’m JOKING! The weekend is over, so technically I shouldn’t be sitting here on a Monday morning, still celebrating me. Did you see what I just did? I just rolled this weekend celebration of me into next week. Does that mean I can eat some more birthday cake now?

Okay back to opening presents. Besides the Instant Pot, I also got lots of cards with money. The kids managed to find yet another new card that joked about farts and poop. I’m also amazed at how many variations of fart and poop birthday cards are out there.

Once we shuttled all the kids and the hubby to school and work, Mom and I went and got massages from my favorite reflexology place, Fit Foot.

Then, I wanted to take Mom to see my friend Tami’s new restaurant location. She has opened another Goddess and the Baker (https://www.goddessandthebaker.com/) in River North.

When I got there, Tami was there. She bought my mother and me lunch AND gave us a rainbow cake to bring home! The level of generosity was, well it was amazing.

That night we ate out again, this time at Shine. (https://www.shinerestaurant.com/home.htm). More birthday celebration! Amazing!

Then, back home to make some wishes and eat some cake.

The Famous Goddess and The Baker Rainbow Cake

The next night, we had a sitter. Adam and I went to a holiday party with the most amazing, diverse group of people. We also had our own amazing date night afterwards.

Sunday, I got another birthday treat. Adam very generously bought us all tickets see the Blue Man group.

What did the kids think about the show? It was amazing.

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Thanksgiving 2019

This year we skipped our annual trip to the water park.

Instead, we spent the morning delivering Thanksgiving meals to families in need.

We also walked Willie, our neighbor’s dog, three times today – Ben in the morning, Aaron midday, and Sam in the evening. The kids are earning money this vacation dog walking.

In the afternoon, we stuffed envelopes. Tomorrow we will send out Jack’s Bar Mitzvah invites.

And in the evening, we had Thanksgiving dinner.

It was a very low key kind of day. Many times I thought about the things I had to do but then I realized everything was closed, so it would have to wait.

Adam has been working crazy hours recently, many mornings I wake up to hear him skirting out of the bed at 3 or 4 in the morning. Having a full day off was like a week’s vacation for him.

I was grateful for things big and small. I was very grateful for some pressure free time for all of us. Grateful to be together spending the day with each other. I was also grateful I found the match for my favorite glove, the cashmere lined leather gloves my sister got me for my birthday one year. Grateful to see how serious and committed all of the kids were for their new job, dog walking.

Also, I thought you might enjoy seeing Sam and Aaron’s take on “How to Cook a Turkey”, which was sent home from school yesterday.

He put fruit on the side. I try to put a fruit or veggie on the side of every meal. I also liked the challah bread while you wait for the turkey. Nice touch when you are waiting a whole 59 minutes for your turkey to cook.
Can’t wait to try Aaron’s chocolate filled turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my loyal readers! Hope you had a very grateful day.

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The Army Men

Sam has shown renewed interest in his collection of army men.

In fact, during the strike the kids were so tired of their electronics they actually started to play together again.

Sam and Aaron set up this army fort together.

It was beautiful to see.

They spent days building different forts and having play fights.

And, while all this was going on, one of Sam’s tooth fell out.

As you may remember from previous posts, the tooth fairy always leaves a scavenger hunt that leads to the tooth fairy money.

And she likes to theme these scavenger hunts according to things the kids are interested in at the time.

Like army men.

Fort in my closet
For in the bathtub
Fort under the tool bench.

It was absolutely adorable to watch him find all the different scenes that the tooth fairy set up for each clue.

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