Given the recent gambling rage at our house, it seemed fitting that the Hanukah Bears started off their first night of mischief with a gambling themed scene.
The Bears were dressed in gambling themed onesies, with help from Jack the day before.
The four shirts said, “I’ve seen my hand, You should quit”, “World’s Okayiest Player”, “I Bought This Shirt With Your Money”, and “I Don’t Gamble, I Invest in the Outcome of the Game.”
I was able to find lots of cool chocolate coins at World Market.
That night, after Adam got home from a work dinner, we lit the candles and opened presents.
Afterwards, we got straight down to gambling away the chocolate coins stolen from the bear’s gambling scene with some rounds of the dreidel game.
The next morning, the kids woke up to more Bear mischief….
Later, after school and after the twins soccer practice, we went for a family dinner to celebrate my birthday at our traditional family birthday dinner restaurant.
We also ate my birthday cake tonight, a Chocolate Ganache cake. I used my new plates that my sister got me for my birthday. I didn’t realize I needed them but have used them every single day since they arrived.
We also opened more presents and spent some time enjoying them.
The next morning, the Bears were at it again, taking metals and bibs from our recent Turkey Trot run.
My 51st Birthday landed on a school day, which I found a favorable outcome. During school hours are the only time I can get some guilt free down time for myself. I had a leisure day planned, a long run, reflexology, a hot shower and a good chunk of time to read the novel I’m totally into this week, “I Have Some Questions For You” by Rebecca Makkai.
We started the day waking early to go get the Calisoff birthday tradition breakfast that everyone on their birthday gets – donuts and egg sandwiches from Dunkin’ Donuts.
I was spoiled by many gifts this birthday: money, massages, expensive chocolates, Lululemon gift cards, kitchen supplies, a blanket and gloves from Adam, my father and my sister as well as a check from my mother-in-law.
After we got rid of all the kids, I was daydreaming about all my free time while on the way to drop Adam at work that morning. Then, the phone rang. It was the car repair shop letting us know the car is ready. Being frugal, I insisted on driving up and getting the car that day. But in our haste we forgot that the second key to the car was at our house. We didn’t realize it. until we drove an hour away to the suburb that our car was in. So up and back to the suburbs twice was how I spend most of my free morning.
When I got back I realized I had to finish preparing the Hanukah bears before I took any time to for myself.
Jack has early dismissal on Wednesdays so he came home while I was fussing over the bears and very sweetly helped me dress the bears for their scene in the morning.
Jack struggled mightily stuffing the bears into onesies and when he finally wrangled them in, the onesies was backward and he had to start again. I told him he would make a terrible father and he jokingly started punching the bears in response.
When we finally got the bears ready I had less than an hour before the twins after school pickup. I could have read then, but I decided I would go support the high school soccer booster club that I’m volunteering for. They were having a team building event for the girls teams. I’m glad I went because it gave me a better sense of the girls side of the program, which I was never privy to before I volunteered.
After that it was time to pick up the twins. It was surprisingly warm for this time of year so they stayed and played for a bit in the playground.
When we got home I had just enough time to make dinner for the kids and change for my date night with Adam. I booked a new Indian Michelin Starred restaurant called Indienne. It was gorgeous food but very fancy and I suspect Adam dutifully suffered without complaint through the entire dinner, good husband that he is.
When we got home, we found the kids all in the basement fighting with each other. I pulled the twins into my room. Aaron was complaining bitterly about how he just wanted to play in the basement but everyone was in his way. I explained to him that the basement belongs to everyone, it’s a common space and we all have to learn how to share. Later I realized that all the kids felt the same way, that they wanted to use the space and felt entitled to it, and the other kids were encroaching. Everyone was operating from their own point of view and no one was thinking about the other persons point of view. Perhaps instead of gratitude training in the house we should be doing empathy training?
Once that settled the kids got in line to get homework help from me. The kids needed me to help them regardless of the date. I am fully aware that the secret to happiness is not the pursuit of hedonistic activities, but feeling a sense of purpose in life. However, getting the reminder of my purpose as a mother on my birthday kind of sucked.
Finally it was time for bed and I asked Adam as a final birthday request that we go to sleep early, to skip watching a show together as we sometimes do before bed. I needed to get up early to stage the bears.
It was not the birthday I planned in my head in the weeks and days leading up to this day. However, in the end it felt better to go to sleep knowing I got everything done that I needed to instead of trying to carve out free time where there isn’t any. Confucious said, “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” I’d rather bend to the storm than break trying to stand my ground.
Stay tuned for the Hanukah Bear show! Coming soon….
Three of our four kids had the entire week of Thanksgiving off this year.
Before this long holiday, they were bemoaning the amount of work they had to do and how tedious going to school every day was, how they NEVER HAD ANY FREE TIME. With talk like this I was anticipating their joy at sleeping late, spending many hours lounging on the couch with electronics, and enjoying each other’s company.
By Sunday night, before their week off even began, some kids were complaining about being bored. Others were picking on their siblings until fights erupted. They were already bored and sick of each other and the entire week off loomed before us, dark and foreboding.
In bed that night Adam lamented what we have done wrong as parents. How did we manage to raise such spoiled, ungrateful kids?
Ungrateful kids! Hmph, I told Adam, we should make the crabby ones keep a gratitude journal. If they don’t do it, they go straight to therapy!
After a good nights sleep I woke up realizing I was operating from my own crabby place the night before. The restful morning made me realized forcing gratitude as a punishment was not a great parenting strategy. I also realized the irony of the situation. We were given this extra time off to celebrate our thanks. Instead of a punishment, why couldn’t we sell gratitude to our kids as something we are doing in keeping with the holiday spirit?
That morning I went out and bought 6 journals. Everyone was going to give gratitude, three times a day, during the entire holiday! I labelled each journal with each family member’s name and did my best sales job, selling gratitude to all of us thanksgiving observers.
We were driving to the orthodontist when I told the twins about it, I said they could say something small, something funny, something big, whatever they wanted.
Sam for example was enjoying the New York style bagels we had gone out to get that morning from our favorite bagel place. Earlier he had told me how much he loved warm, fresh bagels with cold cream cheese in the morning. Sam, I said, you have already fulfilled your first gratitude without even trying.
Aaron immediately pushed Sam and said, jokingly, he was grateful for fighting with Sam.
The gratitude journal put everything in a new light. Later that day when Aaron asked if he could buy some Roblux (game money in the gaming platform Roblox) and I said yes. Instead of asking him to thank me and getting a begrudging thanks in return, I said, wow I’m making this gratitude journal so easy for you. He laughed and said, right?!
When Ben came home from school I told him about it. He had a good day at school and was excited to write down the many reasons why. Ben also helped me get my pizza roller out because my hands were too floury. After he got it for me, instead of thanks I told him I was grateful for him. He had a giggle about that.
Jack took the journals and relabeled them all so everyone was confused. Then to make matters crazier he copied what Aaron was grateful for that day. I wasn’t sure my sales job did the trick on him. Still the others in the house dutifully filled out their journals. Some took it quite seriously. Adam woke up each morning and wrote his down before his day even began!
Meanwhile I took the extra days off to get all the things done we NEVER HAD ANY FREE TIME to do (see first paragraph). Orthodontist appointments, dentist cleanings, ACT prep classes and driving lessons peppered each day.
On Thanksgiving morning we ran the Turkey Trot.
That afternoon, while the rest of the family moaned about cramps, rested with electronics or football, and/or fell asleep all over the couches and rooms of the house, I cooked a feast.
Afterwards, we broke out the gratitude journals and shared them.
I’m not sure if the journals kept the kids from fighting or complaining, or if all the fun we had over the holiday made them less whiny, but it was a fun activity for all. I liked getting an insight into what everyone else in the house appreciated.
Sam, who is always so clever that sometimes his thoughts are too high level for me to understand, wrote one day, “Mom did not buy brownies.” Sounds ungrateful, right? But actually, it was grateful. About a week ago we pulled out a cookie cookbook that Japo (Hakka Chinese word for Grandma) bought Ben for his 10th birthday. Sam carefully went through and selected his top three recipes and we spent the next week cooking them together. One of his picks was the Mississippi Mud Brownie.
Jack was grateful for watching his buddies plow each other over and fall all over the place when they went to the Maggie Daley Ice Skating Rink earlier this week. I was equally grateful that day for Jack spending time with friends. Since we practically live in a frat house, Jack doesn’t feel the need to connect with his friends as much as I did when I was that age, so it’s always nice when I see him spend time with his peers.
I was even more grateful that Jack did his first highway driving and parallel parking with a professional driver instead of scaring the bejesus out of me this week.
Ben was most grateful for his Turkey Trot metal. In fact, after the run all the kids were so jazzed by the experience that I immediately signed us all up for the Shamrock Shuffle in March.
Aaron made jokes the entire time we shared our journals but I peeked in his and the one that surprised me most was, “I feel much better after throwing up twice today.” I liked how he could find the silver lining in such a terrible experience. I also was grateful that day for Aaron managing to throw up entirely in the toilet instead of on the floor, at least for the first upchuck.
Adam’s thanks were mostly about his appreciation for his family and being able to spend time with them.❤️
Adam spent most evenings teaching the boys this week gambling, but in typical Adam fashion, there was also a learning opportunity here. He drilled into them how statistically it was a losing game, and proved it each night. They especially learned how stupid it was to play blackjack. Having said all that, I think Aaron and Ben are addicted anyway.
We rounded out the weekend with a trip to the movie theater to see The Marvels. Again I was grateful that all the boys wanted to go see women superheros kicking butt. We have come a long way since I was a kid as far as women role models.
I hope everyone reading this had their own grateful Thanksgiving! If not, may I suggest a gratitude journal?
Soccer Season for all school teams is finally over this month and we are enjoying a small break before life gets hectic again.
All three of the soccer playing boys received awards this year. And all three boys were presented with them by their own father and coach.
For this award, Adam let the crowd know that even though he is not the head coach for Jack’s team and therefore didn’t choose the award, he highly agrees with who the head coached picked.
Jack’s team ended the season with an 8-4-1 season. Although they didn’t make it to the playoffs, they still had a great year. Jack grew into the position of Center Defensive Midfielder every single game. It was really fun to watch his progress.
Along with the incredible goalies and group of defensive players that we had on this team, Sam’s play in Center Defense made it so only 6 goals got in during the regular season.
Aaron scored a total of 8 goals for the team this year. He has really turned a corner and become a great contributor to the team.
The twins team finished the season undefeated and headed to the playoffs in the 1st seed position. They were upset by the 4th team, losing 0-1 in the playoffs. Still it was an incredible season for them, and we couldn’t be more proud.
Are you wondering what is on Aaron’s forehead? Someone had a label maker at the party and went around labelling everyone…
The label maker also labeled Adam….
Best Coach Ever? I couldn’t agree more!
I’d say that it’s for soccer until next fall but I will not. I have started volunteering for the high school soccer booster program, running their website and sending their emails. The girls season is starting to ramp up so I’m still knee high in soccer stuff. Adam will probably do some coaching for the girls high school season in the spring. And in a few weeks, travel soccer starts for three of the four boys.
Two weeks ago the school sent out an email asking for last minute volunteers for the twins overnight trip to Camp Taft.
The twins were sold this trip as a chance to get away from their parents for a few days.
So they were very disappointed to hear that I volunteered at the last minute.
My email back to the school said, “If you can’t find anyone else…”
I figured there was little chance of getting a level 1 volunteer at the last minute. I worried if they don’t have enough chaperone’s maybe the whole trip will be cancelled?
That logic held up and the twins were no longer upset when I ended up crashing their parentless weekend.
Personally I was ecstatic. Three days of no cooking, cleaning or driving people to and from places? I’m in!
Of course, once I was booked, many more things populated the schedule. More on that later.
For now, I was assigned to Sam’s group and had the pleasure of watching him enjoy this wonderful experience that the school organized.
Sweet Sam and his buddy for the entire trip finished the orienteering course first then went back to help all the other kids in the group finish the course.
Every meal they assigned a hopper who arrived early and set the table, ran and got the food for the group meal, and cleaned up afterwards.
This trip they had an app that everyone could dump photos into for all the parents at home to see so I was able to spy on Aaron a bit in his group.
Many times the groups were all together….
On the final day they dumped the kids in a wooded area and had them play the game “Predator vs Prey”.
While the boys slept downstairs, I slept upstairs in one of the girls rooms. As I’ve always wanted a girl, I was giddy with happiness by the experience. I got to braid hair, learn new dance moves, and ease drop on all the girly gossip that boys never do.
They were still a chaperone short and as a result, Sam and his room had no adult in it. However, another male chaperone reported back to me that when they checked on Sam’s room to tell them it was lights out, the lights were already out and the kids all in bed!
Meanwhile, back at home, Jack had a bunch of last minute games. One of which Adam coached. Adam has been helping out with the team all year and this was his big moment so I was really sad to miss it. Later I found out that they won the game 9-0. Also that because it was their last game of the season, the boys made sure all the seniors and boys not returning scored a goal.
It was an eventful couple of days for all of the Calisoffs!
My father and sister came up last week to visit us for what I hope will become an annual tradition.
My father turned 82 while he was here. It was so nice to be able to celebrate with him this year!
They say age is just a number and my father has definitely proved the adage true. He is in better shape both mentally and physically than some people I know who are our age. While he was here he helped fix a broken door, two towel racks, did all the dishes and laundry and also helped babysit the kids to Adam and I could go out. He also worked with Jack helping with Algebra II and Physics. He went to Ben’s art class and met his tutor. And he spent hours and hours watching (and talking about!) soccer.
We were so sad to see them both go. I hate that they live so far away! Until next time (which I hope will be soon…)
Last week the Calisoffs travelled to Irvine California for the AYSO National Games. Sam, Aaron and Jack were all competing with an amalgamated team that tried out from all of AYSO in Chicago.
AYSO hosts the national games every two years and until now it was not on our radar.
Before we left we had heard that Jack’s coach successfully won for with a girls team two years ago. And Jack’s team had a bunch of players from different high schools, all which you must try out for a spot. In other words, they were seasoned soccer players.
The twins team also had a bunch of players from high level soccer teams with a lot of technical skill.
So we came in with high hopes.
They did a lot of clever things, like having opening ceremonies in the LA Galaxy Stadium. The players marched out and were featured on a Jumbotron as they entered. There were so many teams! It took hours for them to all march out! Mostly from California, but also from Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and more.
On the second day, they attended a soccer fest where all the teams were mixed up so they end up playing with players from every team. I thought this was a good idea, a way to keep it friendly.
After soccerfest, the real games began…
The temperature was in the 90s most days, and between the three kids we had 3 or 4 games a day. Adam and my step count was well over 10,000 a day, but I’m sure the players step count was much higher than that! We came home every night sun burnt and salt crusted from dried sweat.
How did we do? Not well. It was actually quite a beat down. By the end of it I really didn’t want to go to the last day of games, since we knew based on the previous days standings that we were set to lose all of them. Again.
Jack’s team ended with 1 win, 1 tie and 4 loses.
The twins team ended with 1 win, 1 tie, and 5 loses.
We underestimated how good the other teams would be. And we didn’t spend enough time practicing together as a team before leaving Chicago.
The game that the twins won was a bright spot for Aaron though, who scored a hat trick (three goals in one game).
The beat down was made less horrible by all the social events the Chicago group planned.
We were also lucky to see Adam’s family twice while we were in Southern California.
After the tournament ended I was sure the kids would all say this was an experience they never want to repeat again. As hard as it was to watch all my kids lose over and over again, it must have been even harder to actually be the person on the team losing over and over again, right?
To my surprise, Jack talked about the tournament in terms of how the team would do in two years, the next time they host the national games. He spoke about it as if he was already signed up again in his mind. The twins had a very healthy attitude about it as well, they considered it a good learning experience and said if things were organized a bit differently, they would consider going again.
Fourteen was a big year for Ben. After 9 years in a single school, he has moved onto high school. His new school, just like his old one, runs 11 months a year, which means Ben has already started and is in the awkward process of adjusting to a new environment.
Despite these major changes, we still kept the birthday rituals the same.
We got the same birthday donuts, the same birthday sushi dinner at the same restaurant, and at the end of the night we sung to the birthday cake.
In between all that eating, he had an art lesson and Adam took him to get a new iPad.
Shortly after his birthday, we got a sitter for the other kids and took him to the Mayo Clinic for some testing. Thankfully everything we were worried about was negative. Without the worry and getting his parents full attention all the time, the trip ended up like an extended birthday for him.
In between doctors appointments we did walks and had treats.
One day we drove over to the Mall of America so Ben could spend some of his birthday money on Legos and Crayola markers. We got to play extreme mini golf. We also got to see the new Misson Impossible Movie. I highly suggest it. In fact, we are binge watching the previous Misson Impossible Movies with the twins now in the hopes that they can see the new one on the big screen before the theaters stop viewing it.
Finally Ben asked if he could have a soccer lesson with his brothers.
Overall I would say it’s a successful birthday. It was also a year of incredible growth for Ben. Not just the transition from middle school to high school, but physically as well. While we were at the Mayo Clinic, they measured his height at 5 ft 7 in!
Our friends Greg and Margie bought a house in the Hamptons and graciously invited us to visit.
As usual, Adam and I took the opportunity of a road trip as a chance to squeeze every thing possible we could think of into it.
It started with squeezing Niagara Falls into our drive over.
Adam said the Canadian side was much more picturesque so we packed the passports and headed over the border.
Adam booked us in a hotel right in front of the falls, with fabulous views.
Also, this meant that we had a front row seat to the nightly fireworks. We were so high the fireworks were below us!
The next day we headed to the Hamptons. Greg and Margie’s place was amazing! At one point Aaron said, “I’m having so much fun, I haven’t touched my iPad once!”
This is because there was so much fun to be had!
Still, we did managed to get out and about for an afternoon, eating pizza in Sag Harbor and going for Ice Cream afterwards.
We were not the only ones staying at Greg and Margie’s. Also our friend Tom came over from Hong Kong.
Greg, Tom and I were like the Three Stooges in Hong Kong. There was a lot of hanging around together and giggling and laughing, perhaps not to the point of slapstick, but many fun filled times.
Although we have met many times across the globe since the gang broke up, the last time we were all together was in Hawaii for Greg’s 50th birthday, aptly named his “Hawaii 5-0“, six years ago.
Thanks in part to Tom, our gang has expanded. Tom introduced Greg to his friend Margie, who he went to high school with in Hawaii. Later, Tom and Margie cajoled me into talking to Adam at Andrew’s wedding in Jamaica. Tom deemed Adam suitable based on the fact that he had a “hot body”. Ah Tom, always looking out for me.
And still we expanded further….
After the Hamptons, we drove off to squeeze more fun in. We took the kids to New York, their first time (that they can remember) visiting the city.
There is so much to do in NYC, there is no way to cover it all no matter how long you stay, so the boys decided their top picks were the Statue of Liberty and Central Park.
We also spent a lot of time eating our way through the city. No trip to NYC would be complete for me without Ray’s Pizza and Katz Deli.
We also walked through many parts of NYC, Chinatown, Little Italy, Battery Park, Korea Town, Flatiron, Times Square, and more. At Margie’s suggestion, we stopped off at her favorite Boba Tea place. It was so good, Adam order another tea after he finished his first one!
After a day filled with over 30,000 steps, we drove on the next day to squeeze in more adventure.
First we visited my friend from high school, Scott Grimes, in his beautiful 17 acre farm in Pennsylvania. They hosted us for a yummy lunch and let the kids play in their pool and on their ATV machines.
After that we meandered through winding country roads in Amish country (with a pit stop for Sam to puke because of said winding roads) and squeezed another stop in, this time in Hershey, PA.
Finally we landed in Pittsburgh to stay the night before our final leg home. When we arrived, we realized we were there the same weekend as Anthrocon, a furry convention. People were all walking down the streets in full-on furry costumes. At one point, while leaving the hotel, Aaron was worried that people might mistake him for a furry because he was carrying the Hershey furry pillow he bought at the last stop.
The next day was another eight hour trek and we are finally home and reunited with Ben, who stayed back in Chicago to attend school. Such a whirlwind trip! I’m already missing all the friends we saw, wishing we had more time together!
This year, like every year, Adam asked each kid what they would like to do with him for Father’s Day. This year, like every year, ended up being a day chocked full of activities.
The new Spiderman movie, tennis, running, golf lessons, and kicking the soccer ball in the park filled the day. The day was such a whirlwind that I didn’t get around to taking any pictures!
I did buy a custom made picture for Adam’s Father’s Day present, though. I had the photo below framed for this year’s present.
As for taking pictures for Adam’s birthday, well we were just lucky to see him! He left the house before 7am for an all day negotiation. In his absence, we got the normal birthday morning treats, donuts! He never even saw them. They were all gone before he came home that night.
Luckily the negotiation didn’t last through dinner and he managed to make it home in time for dinner with the family.
For dessert, his favorite, key lime pie.
The years are going by so fast, that night in bed when he said the new number that is to define him for the next year, both of us could hardly believe it.