The Twins Turn 10

My double delivery turned double digits. Say that 10 times fast. As dizzying as it is to say it is as dizzying as it is to feel. Time has flown.

I got back from my relaxing weekend away with my husband (thank you Grandpa and Aunt Lara for watching the kids!) Sunday night. During our weekend away, we marveled at how easy it was to go places and do things. There is always some two top tucked away at any restaurant, the same restaurant that only has a few large tables to fit our normal number of six, and those table always seem to have a long wait. It was so easy getting up and out the door, it took about two seconds, since we were only responsible for ourselves and not checking to see if everyone was properly dressed for the weather, didn’t have food on their face, or having to pack a bag full of water bottles and wipes. I felt like I was just living my own life, instead of worrying from one meal to the next about every argument, every cut or scrape, or who needs to eat before they have a meltdown. Did everyone remember to plug in their iPads before we left?

When I picked up the twins after school on Monday, Aaron threw up all over the playground. Then he threw up again in his bed after he went to sleep that night. Jack rang us from his bathroom floor around 5am Tuesday morning to let us know he was puking and could we change his sheets as well?

So started the morning of the twin’s 10th birthday. Adam and my restful weekend was gone, now we were back to 5 hours of sleep and 6 loads of laundry.

We still went to get birthday breakfast donuts for anyone who could stomach them.

While Ben and Sam went to school, Aaron and Jack sat home all day watching movies and spitting in buckets, trying to keep down gatorade and crackers.

By the afternoon Aaron was recovering nicely and managed to keep a donut down.

We cancelled the dinner plans and I made filet mignon at home for anyone who could eat it.

Dinner in Bed for your birthday, whether you are sick or not!

The twins opened their presents from us and had cake, sans candles, since the last thing we needed in this house was more barf.

Saturday everyone was recovered in time for the twin’s birthday party, which we held at Whirlyball. It was a laser tag party.

Green Team
Red Team
Green and Red Team ready to go!
Pizza and Sliders – the traditional birthday party fare.
Sundae Bar.

After an hour of laser tag, the kids had an hour of pizza, sundaes, cupcakes and games. They also discovered the goodie bags which had plane flyers.

Giant Jenga
Corn Hole
Connect Four
Slingshot Airplanes
Later that night, opening the presents from the party.

Because the twins kind of missed their special day, we continued to celebrate all week.

We went to a birthday brunch, one of Aaron’s requests was for breakfast for lunch.

The Original Pancake House

And we went out for dinner to makeup for the cancelled dinner on their actual birthday. This time it was breakfast for dinner! We went to MingHin which served DimSum all day.

Jack said we should get a Lazy Susan for our own house. Not just for dinner, but for board games as well.
Bubble Tea for Dessert

Happy Birthday Sam and Aaron! Having you guys in my life for the past 10 years has brought me so much happiness. I could go on and on about their smarts, athleticism, and wit, but I think my favorite thing about having them is that they are good friends with each other. I realize just how rare it is to say that about twins, and I thank my lucky stars every day for it.

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Mother’s Day 2022

Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I was greeted with cards and gifts from my family members.

Adam explained to me how difficult it was to buy gifts for me and I told him if he wanted it to be easier, he shouldn’t be so generous when it came to my spending. It was a very happy moment. Not being able to find a good gift for me means I’m very well provided for and have everything I need. And not having to worry about money is part of my happiness as a mother.

Then I kicked Adam out of the bed so he could get to the gym. he felt weird about going on Mother’s Day but guess what – on Mother’s Day you have to do what I want! Having him stay healthy and fit is part of my happiness as a mother. It would totally suck if I had to take care of him as well.

After the gym we took the family out for brunch. It was the brunch Aaron asked for as part of his birthday wishes. He wanted to eat breakfast for lunch. Fulfilling all your kids birthday wishes is part of my happiness as a mother.

In the afternoon we took in a 3D movie – Marvel’s latest, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Jack and Ben have been talking about it obsessively and Jack especially wanted to see it before everyone at his school spoiled it for him by talking about it before he saw it himself. Making sure your kids aren’t upset by spoilers is part of my happiness as a mother.

Ready with Popcorn, Soda and Candy in Recliner Seats and 3D Glasses.

That evening we spent quite a bit of time doing homework. Almost all the kids had assignments they needed help with, which Adam and I were happy to help. Watching the kids do well in school is part of my happiness as a mother.

This morning after we dropped all the kids off at school and I dropped my husband off at work. The house was finally quiet. During these quiet hours, the real Mother’s Day pampering will start. Having this down time just for me is part of my happiness as a mother.

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Spring Break 2022

This year we flew back to Florida for Spring Break.

If someone asked me where the ideal location for a second home would be, I’m not sure I would reply 1,300+ miles away, but since my sister and I have inherited this place, I’ve grown to crave my visits here.

This time we started the trip with two extra boys. Jack had his two friends join us for the first half of the trip.

Some people think this would make the trip harder, but it actually makes it a lot easier. No matter what the activity, there was always someone who was game to join.

We spent a ton of time at a new park down the street that opened recently.

They have tennis courts, basketball courts, pickleball and volleyball.

What is tennis with three people to a side? Not singles, not doubles, must be triples?
Volleyball lesson

We also swam in many pools…

Grandpa’s Pool
Japo’s Pool

Another day, Adam took the older boys to play golf.

Sometimes we just went out on the street in front of the house, something we could never do in the city. We would play basketball with one of the many neighbor’s nets set up on the street. We also flew kites, got our plane flyers caught on other peoples roofs and palm trees, and had ‘gun’ plane duels.

Number one!
The challenge, demand satisfaction
If they apologize, no need for further action
Number nine!
Look him in the eye, aim no higher
Summon all the courage you require
Then count
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Number – Ten paces! – Fire!
Many games of Catan this week

With all this activity, we deserved a few nice meals and treats.

Waiting for our 8 top at Max’s Grille
Cherry Smash

We spent a lot of time with Grandpa. I’m not sure who enjoys Grandpa’s company more, the kids or me. Some days he came over and spent time with us, sometimes he babysat so Adam and I could act like adults. He also joined us for Passover.

Drawing with Grandpa
Jack wanted to show Grandpa, an aerospace engineer, his flyer.
As required by the youngest child on Passover, Aaron recited the four questions perfectly in Hebrew and English.

I was also lucky to see many of my childhood friends this week, some who I’ve kept in touch with and some who I reunited with this trip.

Mini Boca High reunion
I attended school with Tony from 4th grade until 12th grade.
We roped Cousin Jackie into the fun this week – with Kate and Jess.

After Jack’s buddies left, we ran around doing all the stuff we loved to do when we visit Florida.

Heading to our favorite snorkel spot, Blue Heron Bridge.
Lunch at Luff’s

In addition to all the treats we had on our own, we were also spoiled by people bringing treats over all week. My Aunt Doris brought over a huge apple pie, my next door neighbors wife (who used to own a bakery) gave us cookies and pound cake, and my father’s wife spoiled us with burger bombs and seder cookies.

It was such a sunny, social, and athletic vacation that coming back to overcast, snowy Chicago was a real shock to the system. I’m missing Florida already.

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Winnie’s Yahrzeit

When we arrived for the kid’s Spring Break in Florida, Adam asked me if I was going to visit my mother’s grave. I normally do this every time I visit. I suggested Sunday, since there was less chance Adam’s work would get in the way and he could watch the kids. Adam suggested Tuesday.

“Why Tuesday?” I asked.

He replied, “Because Tuesday is the anniversary of your mother’s passing.”

How does he remember this stuff? After the initial shock, I felt incredibly lucky that the one week my children had off school and we decided to go to Florida was the same week of my mother’s passing.

When I was growing up, my mother often took me to her mother’s gravesite to visit. We would check the flowers then stand and speak to her silently for a few minutes. Because of this ritual, I understand this is how my mother would want to be remembered.

Matching Flowers for Winnie and her Mother Alice

It’s hard to believe a year has passed already.

My mother’s passing was the first time anyone close to me left this world. It was my first encounter with intense grief.

Grief is a funny thing. It’s a word that lets everyone know that something bad has happened to you, but does not describe in any way how that bad thing has effected you. Kind of like cancer. Cancer is always a bad thing, but you don’t know if you’ll emerge from it wounded yet triumphant or devastated completely.

In the past year I’ll spent a lot of time observing or thinking back to people I know who have been through grief. I marveled at my stoic friend and father, who had the emotional strength to stand up and speak at his son’s funeral. Twice I’ve seen my girlfriend’s husbands completely break down upon the death of a parent, leading to divorce shortly after. More times than I can count I’ve heard stories of people living with regret that the relationship they had with a relative was not resolved to their satisfaction before they passed. Some are able to make peace with it eventually. Others are bewildered at the dichotomy of missing someone so much that made their lives so difficult.

A lot of people start thinking of their own mortality as a result. My sister and I were talking on the anniversary or our mother’s death and she quoted James 4:14 to me, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”

Which I took to mean that our time on earth is but a blip, a glorious but short gift. How should we spend that time?

None of these situations describes the grief I’m experiencing for my mother. Most days when something good, bad or ugly happens to me one of my first thoughts is, I should call Mom and tell her about this. But then I remember with a jolt that I can’t do that anymore. Or maybe I remember that I can’t call her first and then think, Mom would have loved to have heard about this.

Winnie was the kind of Mom that wanted to hear every little thing about our lives and relished in all the details. If Adam took me to a fancy dinner she would want to know exactly what we ate and what I wore. If one of the kids accomplished anything she would want every detail of how it occurred and what the kids reactions were to the accomplishment. I knew she would be especially happy if our family were traveling anywhere. Every single day would be dissected and Mom would give her worldly travel advice about the best way to go about having an amazing trip.

When Mom was alive, all those wonderful moments of life that she took so much pleasure in hearing about were amplified by her approval. After she passed, those moments turned bittersweet.

Coming to Florida has many perks, but one of the reasons I love being there is that I get to be in my childhood home. It’s the closest I can get to her presence. Every bit of her house is a reminder of her interests, her quirky tastes, and the memories we spent a lifetime building together.

The Jewish people call the anniversary of a loved ones death Yahrzeit. In memory of a loved one, you normally light a candle or lamp to remember them by. We didn’t light any candles, but it felt right that we kept the lights burning bright in her house on the anniversary of her passing.

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Because of my age, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are becoming the new celebration du jour. So many of my friend’s children are becoming adults in the eyes of the Jewish religion these days!

When my very good friend Jessica (some of you may remember her as the officiant of my wedding and my mother’s funeral) sent out invites to her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in Telluride, Colorado, we immediately said yes.

I’ve had ‘learn to ski’ on my bucket list of parenting must dos for a long time now and the kids are at a perfect age for it.

The first day of skiing we enrolled the twins in ski school.

Aaron with Instructor Sam
Sam with Instructor Sam

Ben had a half day private lesson with Malin.

Ben with Instructor Malin

Jack, who already had a lesson when he went to Boulder (ironically for another Bat Mitzvah) went off and skied with Adam.

Jack on the trails with Adam

Everyone had an amazing day and when we went to pick up the twins, the instructor asked if we’d like to hire him for the next day. We said yes!

The next day, day two of skiing, Instructor Sam spent much of the morning with Ben, which Ben found exhausting.

Waiting for lunch…

After that session, Instructor Sam suggested we try to get another lesson for Ben with the Adaptive Sports program, which caters to people with physical and mental disabilities.

In the afternoon, Instructor Sam took the twins, Jack and Adam up the mountain. Ben and I stayed behind to rest, try to arrange an Adaptive lesson for him, and drink Starbucks while people watching. It’s crazy what people wear skiing! We saw a yellow Telytubby, a cow, a pineapple and an unidentified blue animal.

Hanging out at Mountain Village

That afternoon when we joined back up, I learned the twins were barreling down blue runs, skiing backwards and going off course, through the trees. It was their second day skiing! Instructor Sam proved to be a fun instructor and tour guide of the mountain.

The third day was the Bat Mitzvah. We attended a beautiful ceremony which included three generation of women. Both Jessica and her mother are Cantors so it was filled with divine, harmonious singing.

Three generations of women perform this Bat Mitzvah.
The Calisoff Family takes up a whole row.
My friend from high school and college roommate Holly and her husband Jose travelled from Denver to witness this special day.
My high school friend Heather (with husband Chris and daughter Malina) travelled from Salt Lake City to share in this coming-of-age moment. Heather also lived with Holly and I in college.

That afternoon we went back to our Airbnb and did make-up homework for hours.

In the evening, the Bat Mitzvah family hosted a dinner in the yurt at 221 South Oak.

The kids were super adventurous eaters. Aaron tried octopus and loved it. Ben tried Foie Gras and also loved it. We all shared meals and there wasn’t a single thing I tried that wasn’t perfectly cooked and delicious.

So happy to spend time with these girls, a friendship that is over 30 years strong.

The next day, our last day, it was time to hit the slopes again. Two days before, after Ben heard about the twins adventures with Instructor Sam he was pretty bummed at how quickly they were progressing compared to himself. It took a lot of convincing to get him to take the Adaptive lesson we managed to get for him.

While Ben was at his lesson, I went up the mountain to witness the twins progress for myself.

Getting ready to ski “Double Cabin”.

I watched them weave in and out of trees, take jumps, and speed down fearlessly while I pulled the widest turns I could, mostly with my feet in the pizza pie aka snowplow position.

We came back to find Ben exhilarated by the lesson. He was back into skiing and only wished we had more days to ski so he could have more Adaptive lessons.

In the afternoon, Adam, Jack and the twins split off from Ben and I so they could ski some more. Ben was exhausted and had enough for the day so we explored the town and went to the store to get a big snack ready for the skiers. I learned that after a long day of skiing the kids are starving when they get back.

Exploring Telluride

When the others got back I learned that had quite an afternoon! Aaron kept wanting to try harder and harder trails. Today, his third day, he was asking for double blues. Finally Adam acquiesced. They headed down the “Magnolia” run which was icy and full of moguls. Once they got to the bottom, the lift was closed and they had to find another way down the mountain which was rapidly closing. They ended up on the “See Forever” run which we were warned the day before by Marcus (Jessica’s husband) not to do! Both twins were pretty cranky by the end of it.

Top of Prospect Express, 11,815 feet.

Adam was good natured about it. As tired as he was himself, he could have easily been short with the kids. Instead he just told Aaron that when he is an adult, this will be a great story for him to tell. “Sam, remember the time Dad took us on those scary slopes in Telluride?”

What comes up, must go down….

When they got home Ben and I had ice cold Gatorade and snacks waiting for their exhausted, dehydrated bodies.

Prepared snack

After a rest I convinced a few of them to check out the hot tub at our Airbnb. We had been so zonked by the end of every day that we had not yet used it.

They thought it was hilarious to jump out, roll their bodies in the snow, then jump back in.

We flew back the next day and once again the kids spent hours making up the homework they missed.

It was a great vacation. I enjoyed so many things about it! Watching the kids learn and love the skill of skiing made me happy. Spending time with my good friends who live so far away made me happy. But I think the thing that made me most happy was having Adam there with us to enjoy the vacation. Sometimes we book these vacations and it ends up Adam has to work the entire time we are away. He works such long hours, I felt very happy he could get a few days off.

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Jack turns 15

How did this happen?

I’m still in shock when I see the tall, handsome, competent young man wandering through my kitchen in the morning (or afternoon!) after waking from a night’s sleep.

Lobby of MassVR. Previously this was the Saks Fifth Avenue store at Old Orchard.

Jack celebrated his birthday over the weekend with a few friends at MassVR. We tried their Hallow Realm game. We were broken into two teams and either played a Hunter or a Ghost.

Jack’s Friends vs everyone else.

Even I played! Not every well, but really, did anyone stand a chance against 5 teenage kids in a video game?

Afterwards we came back to the house and ate pizza and cake.

Yes. I made the cake. Do you think you can buy it that lopsided professionally?!!! I’ve been in a baking frenzy since we discovered the British Baking Show. But that’s for another blog…

It was a pretty low key birthday compared to all the ones he’s had in the past, but it felt just right. We can hardly invite the whole class now that he’s in a big high school!

Jack’s actual birthday fell on President’s Day, which means he had the day off.

Again he opted for a low key day. We tried a new donut place for breakfast, Do-Rite Donuts.

For dinner we had the usual sushi and Chinese food from Shine. Afterwards more cake! This time from Baker’s Square. A French Silk Pie and Jack’s favorite, Pumpkin Pie.

The big change this year is that Jack can now get a permit to drive a car. It’s wild to think he can operate a vehicle. What’s more odd is that it’s obvious he will be completely capable to do that. I’m pretty sure within a year he will be a better driver than me. And when that happens I will gladly hand over the keys. I love it when someone else is doing the driving.

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Florida for Winter Holiday 21/22

Once again we spent our winter holiday in Florida. This year we stayed in the house my sister and I recently inherited.

We had a very long, very rainy two day drive down, stopping in Atlanta overnight.

It was glorious to be in Florida again. My dry itchy skin instantly went away and the daily dose of sunshine gave everyone a much needed vitamin D boost.

Every day I would drive with the windows down and the sun roof open. The warmth of the sun on my skin, the humidity of the ocean air, the sounds from the same radio station I listened to in high school, and my cut off jean shorts made me feel young again. The trick was to avoid looking at the rear view mirror at your 49 year old yourself, driving a minivan, lest the illusion be broken.

We took full advantage of the weather with daily outdoor exercise.

Every day Ben and Aaron were out in front of this basketball net playing “pig”. Some days Sam and Jack would join as well.
We practiced volleyball with Aunt Lara (not pictured) when she was here, and other days when she was not.
A lot of tennis!
Red Reef
Football catch at Red Reef.

Most of the hot and sweaty exercises were followed by jumps in the pool. Not just ours but everyones!

Lounging in Japo’s pool.
Practicing our headstands in Japo’s pool.
On colder days, swimming in Grandpa’s heated pool was preferable.
Football jump and catch game in Grandpa’s pool.
Gina and Mike’s pool.

As always, my favorite part of the trip was spending time with family and friends.

Christmas Eve dinner with all the fixings.
Lunch with Dad, Auntie Doris, Aunt Maryvonne, Cousin Julian and his lovely girlfriend Alexandria.
Brunch with Aunt Lara, who graciously volunteered to watch the kids for a night so Adam and I could have a staycation at The Ray in Delray Beach. No idea what the kids are doing in the background?
Checking out Gina and Mike’s new house.
New Years Eve with Jessica.
Grandpa treats everyone to Coldstone for my birthday. Aaron’s favorite hand to hold is Grandpa’s.
Aaron’s favorite seat.
Sam’s favorite seat.
How many players for Connect Four?
Luff’s seafood restaurant. Grandpa babysat so Adam and I could eat here. It was so good we took the kids the next day!

After leaving South Florida, we took the kids to Universal Studios for two days.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Butter Beer.
Interactive Wands.
Ice Cream in Diagon Alley.

So much fun, I was so unhappy for it all to end. Adam closed 7 deals while we were in Florida, so most of the vacation he was stuck in the office missing it all. Which just makes me determined to go back soon…

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My 49th Birthday

Sunday night was the last night of Hanukkah. The next day, Monday December 6th, was my 49th birthday. I told the kids we were going from lighting 8 candles (9 if you count the Shamash candle) one night to lighting 49 candles the next night.

Adam very kindly only lit two candles, and the number he picked to light was an even bigger kindness.

Also on Sunday night Adam mentioned to me that next year I have a big birthday coming up and what did I want to do for it? I gave him a look and said, “I’m not even 49 yet and you are already planning my 50th?”

But secretly I was pleased by the question.

Many people think the big years in life are the years that end in a 0, for example, years you turn 40 or 50. Those years are the dangerous years because you look back at your life and wonder why you haven’t accomplished what you thought you should have by that age, or the realization that you have been stuck in a situation for a long time that doesn’t make you happy. Those years ending in a 0 are like an invisible force applied to the inertia you just realized you had.

But most of my midlife crises happened in the years ending in 9, not 0. When I was 29 years old I looked around and thought, I’m in a dead end job. I don’t want to marry the person I’m dating. I spent the next year figuring out how to fix my life and a month before I turned 30 I moved from Hong Kong to Shanghai, single, and started a new job.

This is why I was so secretly pleased by Adam’s question. I’m the kind of person who plans their midlife crises early. And he’s just as crazy as I am!

My big plan for my birthday THIS YEAR was to have no plan. Specifically to NOT do any errands, clean anything, or cook anything. Implementing this rule that was meant to give me a relaxing day. However, this soon backfired as my new rule of not doing any work butted heads with my other house rules, namely never walk from one floor of the house to another without bringing something up or down that is on the wrong level. Before I knew it, I was having another type of crisis, something like a midday crisis. At some point I found myself standing in the basement next to a pile of things that needed to go upstairs, paralyzed at my indecision as my two rules conflicted each other. After a few minutes of anxious indecision I started laughing to myself and my silly first world problems. In the end I scooped up that pile. It’s not like the pile won’t be there tomorrow, right?

Now that I’m 49 I’m pleased to say that I’m in the opposite frame of mind as my 29th birthday. Instead of looking around and realizing everything needs to be changed, I look around and hope everything stays exactly the same. Don’t change my stay-at-home mom job. Don’t change my husband. Don’t let the kids get older. And don’t let my hair go gray, my muscle weaken, or my skin sag and wrinkle!

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Last Two Nights of Hanukkah

For the seventh night of Hanukkah the Bears decided to hide.

The outfits the Bears are wearing are the clues to their hiding spots.

Tuxedo Bear stole the clothing from another teddy bear that belongs to the twins. He is hidden in their stuffed animal bin.
The Captain America shield gets a lot of play in our house, sometimes as a shield and sometimes as a frisbee. We keep it in the ball bin, so the next Bear is hidden in here.
The R2D2 Bear is a twist on the Mandalorian/Groku saga.
Hidden in the mailbox outside is postal worker Bear.

And finally, the eight night of Hanukkah…

The Hanukkah Bears are flying into 9 3/4 platform.
Team of Gryffindor Harry Potter Bears.

On this last night of Hanukkah, the theme of the scene for the bears actually has meaning to it. We are taking the boys to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.

Behind the curtain are four tickets, one for each kid.
Inside the envelope.

I filmed them opening the envelopes, hoping for a “We are going to Disney” moment, but I guess the tickets were too subtle because all I got were blank stares. They were Confondo, even after Adam and I spelled out exactly what it meant. No matter, I’m sure they will be excited once they get there!

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More Hanukkah Bears

On the third morning of Hanukkah the boys woke up to bears on swings, well most of them anyway….

🎶 One of these bears is doing their own thing🎶

Fourth morning of Hanukkah….

Darth Vader vs the Hanukkah Alliance

When Sam discovered the bears, he knew right away which side he was on.

Sam is pure “light side”.

Fifth morning of Hanukkah…

Kitkat Jenga and Skillet M&Ms.

The twins are still young enough to be excited to find the bears every morning. Which makes all this nutty creativity worth it!

Guess what’s for dessert tonight?

Sixth night of Hanukkah…

My rendition of the “Stack the States” game.

This was my interpretation of a game the boys have been obsessed with lately, called Stack the States. They also play Presidents vs Aliens from the same company. I love how educational it all is, so I shamelessly promote it any chance I get. Aaron knows the game so well that he told me I got the colors of the states all wrong!

Actual picture of the Stack the States game.

In between all the wacky morning Hanukkah Bear adventures, we have been celebrating Hanukkah by opening lots more of our Legos gifts.

The Hydra Stomper
Alligator or Crocodile? We are all in disagreement as to which one it is.
Harry Potter Chess Set

This was my favorite Lego purchase this year. The instant Ben finished it, everyone started playing chess together.

I also finally manage to get myself together enough for a Hanukkah dinner, which Ben helped me make.

Matzo Ball Soup, Challah, Potato Latkes, Broccoli and Baked Salmon with Tomatoes.

Stay tuned, two more nights of Hanukkah Bears to go….

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