Apple Picking

Sunday we headed out to Wisconsin for some apple picking.

We go to the same place every year, and lately the same people have been joining us each year too. Camerons, Weinrebs, and this year Franciscos all came to join the fun. We were very sad that one of the regulars, the Pasquiers, could not be there, as they are in Ethiopia right now.

Every one seemed to enjoy it, though I think Jack was the only one old enough to actually pick the apples.

Ben mostly just ate them. He ate so many, in fact, that he got apple belly. He threw up that evening after dinner.image

Sam carried the apples around, throwing them like balls. He he managed to even hit someone in the thigh with an apple. It wasn’t even anyone from our party.image

Aaron mostly stumbled around, running as close to the street as he could, tripping over apples. Sometimes he sat in the orchard and stuck his fingers in rotten ones. Sometimes he just dragged apple picking bags around.image

After grabbing lots of Jonathan and McIntosh apples, we headed over to the barn next door. Harvest Time Orchards has a Donut Shop, Cider Barn, and Brat Shop too. There is also a really nice spot for kids to play.


Sand Filled Tires

You’d be surprised how exciting a bunch of hay bales can be to us city kids.

imageIt was a gorgeous day, and after stuffing our faces with naughty processed food and deep fried donuts, we took the annual picture.


Not my best work, but it will have to do. Maybe next year the twins will co-operate better.

Now, it’s time to start making good use of these apples…

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First Blackhawks Game

Last night I attended my first Blackhawks game. It’s amazing how long I’ve lived here and how many things I still have yet to experience.

We were invited by our friends the Smiths. So lovely to have such a nice evening planned for you! I really appreciate them getting Adam and I out (even if we paid for it the next day at the apple orchard – but that blog is for tomorrow)

We started the evening at Carmichaels Steakhouse.

imageDid you know they have a shuttle that takes you to the stadium?

imageAnd did you know that the Blackhawks actually play at the United Center? The same place that the Chicago Bulls play basketball?

Apparently under the basketball floor is an ice hockey ring!

Within the first three minutes of the game, a fight broke out. Two hockey players were duking it out (do people still say that?) while two referees stood by, very close by in fact, watching. I was in such shock I didn’t even snap a picture. It went against everything we teach our young boys about sportmenship. But apparently it’s just part of the game. I was the only one yelling, “Oh My God.” Over and over again.

imageWhen Mark bought the tickets, he received this free signed hockey stick. Pretty cool, eh? Autographs were given out randomly and when it was Mark’s turn in line he got Niklas Hjalmarsson. I have no idea if that’s good or bad, but I figure a signed Hockey stick is pretty cool no matter how you look at it.

imageI had a blast. It’s a whole subculture in that stadium. People deck out in their blackhawks gear and bring their whole family. And they drink. Or maybe it was just us drinking? All I know is that if I didn’t have that many drinks, I certainly wouldn’t have thought it was a good idea to crash someone’s 50th birthday party that we didn’t know at all. It was a great idea at the time, though.

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Michelle turns 40

This weekend started with a bang for my friend Michelle’s 40th birthday surprise party.

After school was out, I loaded the kids in the car for what turned out to be a two hour journey to her house in the suburbs. Highland Park is only 30 miles away, but don’t get me started.

Her husband Rick lured her into the back lawn under the pretense of showing her the new fire pit he built. We were suppose to be all waiting there, unfortunately we missed the surprise by a few minutes. We did manage to get there in time to see her standing outside, a bit dazed and confused by it all.


The Calisoff kids were in hog heaven in the basement. Michelle and Rick have three boys of their own and most of them are older than our kids. There are a ton of great toys that hardly get played with anymore. Jack and Ben could hoard whatever they wanted and no one even noticed.

What to the older boys do if they don’t play with toys, you ask? They play with electronics. Lots and lots of electronics. I had no idea. Parents of older kids told me that kids graduate to electronics once they get past toys but I always envisioned it being very anti-social. It is in no way anti-social. Dylan, Michelle and Rick’s oldest, managed to stand between his two friends playing XBOX 360 and chat to them while holding a handheld device and playing a football game all at the same time. On the couch there were for or five other kids, all with electronics out, playing and chatting.

God I’m old. Is this what it’s like to grow up nowadays? I mean, we had some electronics, don’t get me wrong. We had Pong that played on an old black and white TV screen. And my father built a computer from a kit and Lara used to play Zork. But nothing in color. Nothing with pictures! Nothing with game controllers! This is a whole ‘nother world!

And to add insult to injury, we are here celebrating my friend’s 40th.

And I’m older than her.

I asked Michelle when I first arrived if she was having a midlife crisis turning 40. Like, were we going to see her show up with a tattoo or fake boobs soon? She said she wasn’t feeling it at all, but I think it was starting to hit her by the time the cake came out…

Michelle got all choked up when we sang the birthday song to her.

Michelle got all choked up when we sang the birthday song to her.


Afterwards, Adam covered, chased, and blocked the kids in the basement so I could have a few seconds to chat to Michelle. Mostly I used it to stuff my face, but I did manage to stop for a second to get this photo…


Am I going through menopause of something? Because I didn’t feel cold but in the picture I seem majorly underdressed.

Anyway, that’s not why I added this photo!

I added it because I realized out of all the people there besides one, these two ladies and their families were the only people I knew at the party. It made me realize Michelle and I have come a long way. How much her life has changed since I’ve met her. I’m pleased that, even though she moved to the suburbs and we both have very busy, very different lives, when it’s important, we still make time for each other.

Happy Birthday Michelle! Or as your French teacher mind would say, Joyeux Anniversaire!

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Fresh Picks (Sept 18)


This week corn, radishes, green beans, green cabbage, turnips, cilantro and mixed salad greens.

The green beans and corn were steamed right away and used for side dishes for dinner that very evening.

I also picked cucumbers and the radishes. The next night I added them to the mixed greens with some shredded carrots and sesame seeds for an Asian inspired salad.


Turnips would used in a Chorba soup. I didn’t add any meat, which I think was a mistake. Otherwise it turned out good.

Cilantro was used on night in a pico de gallo for a quesadilla topping. I finished the leftovers with blue chips.

Finally, I added the green cabbage to a Colcannon recipe, using turkey bacon instead of ham…


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More New Words for Sam

Sam’s vocabulary has started to expand. Alarmingly, this next three words made me pause and think perhaps my parenting skills could use some improvement.

1. “Geee DOOOWWWW”. Sam loves this word. He picked it up because every time he climbs up onto the high chairs then onto the high kitchen island, I yell emphatically, “Get DOWN!” Sometimes he’ll start saying it, then laugh and run over to the island and climb up on it. Then continue to yell it while he’s up there. So I think he probably thinks I am saying, “Time to climb on the ISLAND!”

2. “Noo”. Yes, after “shoes” and “get DOWN!”, his third word is “No”. He says it with a long “O” sound so it comes out more like “New” than “No”. He says it while shaking his head back and forth. I think he actually knows what that means, because he will stop doing what he is doing (sometimes) when I say it. He may even answer me with a “Noo” if he doesn’t like something.

3. “Ba”. That’s code for “Ball”. He says it every time he picks on up and throws it. I’d like to take credit for it, I remember my friend Michelle’s nanny, Flo, would sit there and repeat “Ball, Ball, Ball” while playing with the ball over and over again. But I think I said it once or twice and he got it, smart little bugger.

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Midnight Circus in the Park


Another year, another trip to see Midnight Circus In the Park.

This year I took the older boys while Adam stayed home with the twins. At 16 months, it would have been impossible to keep them sitting all that time. It was a struggle for Ben and he’s a lot older!


For the most part they sat fascinated. I caught Jack laughing at appropriate times, which I took as a sign that this is a perfect thing to do for his age group.

And intermission gave them a chance to practice their favorite activity that boys do when they are all together. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it is probably the male equivalent of girls hugging each other and holding hands. It involves a lot of shoving, pushing and laughing.


They have these circus performances all over Chicago in different playgrounds in the city. If you have kids, I highly suggest you bring them for a unique city experience.


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First Week No Help

One of the many things I worried about when Anjelica left was whether or not the kids would suffer because I could not handle doing as much without her. Turns out that not having Anjelica has made me realize the opposite. I can do most things with four kids that I did with just two.

It hasn’t changed my routine. But now the twins join me all afternoon. I tell them it’s time to pick up Jack and Ben and they go running to the door, walking themselves to the car. It is a lot more work, but it’s so nice not to leave them crying at the door as I left every afternoon. That was always such a painful part of the day for me.

When my older kids get out of school, I pick Ben up, then Jack. A lot of afternoons we play at Jack’s school. I’m pleased that I can still do this every afternoon. It’s different, no more sitting down with the other moms and chatting. But it’s doable.

Surprisingly, a lot of other parents, sitters, and kids want to help with the twins. Human nature must be that people want to hug and protect little ones, because I know a lot of these kids are not being taught this at home.

Just this week alone I caught these pictures, and there were many more that helped as well…


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Cooking for 6

Anjelica’s recent departure is having much more of an impact on me than I expected.

I knew it would be more work in the afternoons, but I didn’t realize my entire daily schedule would change.

I used to cook dinner in the afternoon. Right before we ate it. Anjelica would take the twins on a walk or out of the house and the older boys would do homework, play, or mess with electronics. Now that time is too hectic.

I’ve been trying to fit in a lot of prep work in the mornings. I’ve also been trying to find ways to cook less and get more out of it, without losing variety.

This morning I made a simple tomato soup that I will use twice, once with grilled cheese and the next night with alphabet shaped pasta. It’s so easy, want the recipe?

First I chopped up an onion, red pepper, and three cloves of garlic…

imageSauté in olive oil for about 10 minutes to soften, then add a box of chopped tomatoes….

imageKeep it on the stove in a low boil for another ten minutes then add a tablespoon of  sugar, salt, pepper. Add three cups of chicken broth. I use “Better than Boullion” because I live in a city and space is tight. you can store a whole lot of chicken broth if you don’t need to find space for the liquid part!image

Mix it in, then turn off the fire. Add dried basil. About a tablespoon.image

Let it cool. We’ll blend it later.

Did I mention I baked some premixed cookies for dessert while I was doing this? I never cook one thing at a time when I can cook two. Or three.image

They were ready to come out of the oven now.

It’s easier to cook with just the twins are around, but not by much.

Here they are throwing my keys in the garbage.image

Later while I was waiting for the soup to cool, I decided to whip up some oatmeal for breakfast for the week. I chopped up two cups of dried apples, one cup of dates and added a whole cinnamon stick to the slow cooker. It’s another recipe from “Forks Over Knives.”image

The twins pushed the dining room table chair over and figured out they could do this…image

And this…image

I still managed to great the oatmeal going. Another great meal that will last me for breakfast all week. The chopped up fruit and cinnamon stick went in…image

Then a cup of steel cut oats…

imageThen four cups of water…image

Slow cook on low for three hours.

When its done it looks like this…image

I put it in the fridge and nuke individual servings all week.

Now it’s time to change two stinky diapers. And change Sam’s entire outfit, since he just grabbed a glass of water and dumped it all over himself, the counter, and chair.

Back to the soup. Time to whizz it in batches in a blender. image

I put it in the fridge until supper time. Next on the agenda, time to feed the twins lunch and put them down for a nap. I have exciting plans for nap time. I’m going to do laundry and clean up the 30 or so books they pulled off my bookshelf while I was putting away the groceries.

Here is dinner tonight. The soup served with grilled cheese on whole wheat bread…image

So simple, but so delicious!

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Twins 15 month check up

imageLast week we had the twins 15 month check up.

It made me realize I that a lot has changed in three months!

They love cleaning!

They love cleaning!

We have managed to drop all the bottles but the morning one. And the twins have recently started eating at the same time as the older boys. They mostly eat the same food. Sam prefers fruit and yogurt while Aaron likes the carbs. Aaron is a great eater, always shoves whatever you put in front of him in his mouth. With Sam it’s a crap shoot. Sometimes he eats, other times he cries or starts a food fight with Aaron.

Sam continues to be an early riser. I have moved the bedtime up to 6:30 from 7 which has made Aaron an even easier going, happy baby (although Aaron is always mellow about sleep. Anytime you put him down he will fall asleep without crying and wakes up and chats to himself until you come get him.) Sam wakes, stands at the front of his crib, and screams at the top of his lungs until you get him. Sometimes I can get him to go back to sleep on my chest, sometimes he just kicks and chats in my ear until I finally give up and turn the light on.

Sam loves pens, we caught him scribbling in the basement with one recently.

Sam loves pens, we caught him scribbling in the basement with one recently.

As for their stats, Aaron is taller yet Sam weighs more…

Sam is 31 and 1/2 inches tall, in the 50%. He weighs 24 pounds 2 ounces, in the 50% – 75% and his head circumference is 46.8 cm, in the 50%.

Aaron is 32 and 1/2 inches tall, in the 75%. He weighs 23 pounds and 8 ounces, in the 50% and his head circumference is 47.8 cm, in the 75%.

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Anjelica’s Last Day

In the lead up to Anjelica’s last day, my first instinct was to leave the kids as much as possible and enjoy my last morsels of freedom.

Unfortunately my broken toe kept me from doing all the things I love – foot massage, pedicures, and running.

I guess it will make the transition easier if I don’t have to miss those things AND Anjelica at the same time.

imageStill it didn’t keep me from completely enjoying my last day with a helper. I had another appointment to check on my toe. Still broken, but getting better. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the waiting room with my Starbucks, reading magazines. The calmness of the waiting room was something everyone took for granted but me.

After the appointment I returned home for the dinner, bath, homework, bedtime rush.

When I was all over Anjelica and I realized we hadn’t taken a picture with her and all the kids. So we tried to get one for the records. In hindsight perhaps we should have taken one before everyone was so tired. But I think this picture is pretty fitting. Anjelica, lest you start your new job and start remembering us through rose colored glasses, here is the picture to help you remember how it actually was…


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