Clark Street Spooktacular & More

Street Performer

Street Performer

Halloween is officially here people! And we are taking full advantage.

This year we decided to check out trick or treating on Clark Street. Most of the neighborhoods in Chicago have trick or treating the weekend before Halloween.

Compared to our local weekend trick or treating, I’ve got to give this event top ratings. There are places to trick or treat from Armitage to Diversey, a much larger area then our neighborhood. Also, they have street performers everywhere and bouncy houses all round. We didn’t get to the costume contest or see the live entertainment but even without it the kids had a blast!

Ben ended up eating so much candy that we had to remind him of the time he went apple picking and ate so many apples he threw up. I think candy must agree more with him because he managed to keep it and his dinner down just fine.

Twins first trick or treat.

Twins first trick or treat.

Jack as Spiderman and Ben as The Hulk/Ironman.

Jack as Spiderman and Ben as The Hulk/Ironman.

We ran into lots of friends, here are the Lafayettes...

We ran into lots of friends, here are the Lafayettes…

And this is just the start of our Halloween week!

We also did the trick or treating on Armitage this weekend. More candy. And seeing more friends.


Jack is Spiderman again, Ben picks Wolverine this time.

The Stones

The Stones

Next week we have a halloween party at the club, and Jack’s school halloween parade and party to look forward to.

And let’s not forget, the big event. Halloween!

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Pulling Ben Out of School, Again

His first day of school. Who knew it would end up like this that day?

His first day of school. Who knew it would end up like this that day?

As unfathomable as that title is, it’s true. Ben has managed to get pushed out of another pre-school.

It happened in a very similar way as it did last year, with the teachers daily complaints about his behavior, and many parent teacher meetings.

It took me longer to recognized the signs, since 2 out of 3 of his teachers last year were the same ones who used to greet me every day after school with another funny Benism.

This year, they couldn’t find the humor.

It started with me receiving the same survey I was given at his last pre-school. It was not my first time to the rodeo, so I knew what it meant. This time I wasn’t going to make the mistake of signing any piece of paper that might get my kid a record that was going to follow him for the next 16 years.

Luckily I was much more familiar with these teachers. I was able to ask, point blank, where were they were going with this and could we cut to the chase?

It was suggested we get a behavioral therapist. I called one right away. We would pay for it, but we did not want these observations on his record. We were worried he would be pigeon holed if he got a bad report. However, after hearing his first observation, I kind of think we should add it now.

On Monday she observed. On Wednesday we heard back. It was surprising after hearing so many complaints about Ben for so long that the therapist did not point the finger at Ben, but in fact pointed it the other way completely.

It made me realize that when a small child misbehaves, it is our job as adults to figure out the best way to get through to him. Ben does not respond to normal cues and commands. It is our job to change, not his. If we change the way we relate to him, we have a better chance of getting him to understand and therefore behave.

Later, when I told his teacher we were leaving, she explained to me that she purposely was less attentive to Ben then usual during the observation so the therapist we hired would be able to see his behavior problems a bit more clearly. I’m not sure if that made it better or worse. A lot of the comments from the therapist hinted that being more attentive would have helped. But if Ben still doesn’t conform even when the teachers are more attentive, then I’m not sure what the solution is.

I still believe Ben’s teachers are very good, but I just don’t think they have the understanding or skills to deal with him. And he can be a handful. He definitely is more work than any of my other children. But he is also the one with the funniest sense of humor, and the biggest joie de vivre.

So this morning I found myself standing before this woman that I had trusted with one or another of my kids for over 3 years now. Having to pull the plug like this felt like I was going through a divorce. We were both crying.

My little snuggler.

My little snuggler.

After realizing the adults were to blame, I wondered how much of it is my fault? I’m the kind of mother who, when I see Ben has gnawed the straws off all his water bottles, instead of scolding him I buy camelbak water bottles, which where made to be bitten. Last night when he was crying because Jack got out of the tub first and he didn’t want to be the last one out, instead of yanking him out or yelling, I rolled my pants up, then stood in the tub and let him get out first so he wasn’t the last one. Then we had a giggle about it. Almost everything we do at home has a choice. Bath now or in five minutes? This top or the other one?

I don’t think our system at home of independent play, lots of choices, and out of the box nurturing is helping all these teachers we are sending him to. We either need a very nurturing, high energy pre-school or we need to stop trying to push him into something he’s not ready or capable of conforming to.

For a while we were asking his teachers if he was good or bad that day and punishing or rewarding him accordingly. They were mostly all bad days, with a few good in between.

How can you stay angry at a face like this?

How can you stay angry at a face like this?

About a month ago on the playground after school I hugged him on the playground. I told him I loved him. He asked, “Do you only love me when I’m good?”

I wanted to cry. “No Ben, I love you unconditionally. I love you when you are good or bad.”

I stopped asking if he was good or bad. He was starting to believe he was a bad person. That can become a self fulfilling prophesy.

So we have officially pulled him out of school. It wasn’t a fit this year, for either side. For a while I thought we would have the therapist work with the school but it seems silly for us to pay all this money to educate an entire group of teachers who may or may not even catch on or be willing to change.

We will research new schools. Or maybe just some ad hoc classes. We will most likely continue to work with the therapist. But I told Adam already unless we find something brilliant that he absolutely loves, I’m happy to just wait until kindergarden. Hopefully he will have matured enough by then to tolerate it.

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Fresh Picks (Oct 16)


This week we received a box of all local vegetables – Beauty Heart Radish, Butternut Squash, Beets, a Red & Green Pepper, Romaine Lettuce, Red Potatoes and Carrots.

Immediately I put the beets in the oven to roast while I was making chicken pot pie for dinner. I ended up eating them cold one lunch, drizzled with balsamic and honey.

I used some of the carrots, the red and green pepper, as well as the beauty heart radish in the pot pie. I was very excited when I sliced open the radish. The inside looked like a watermelon!


All the veggies actually went together nicely, which makes me think pot pie is another way I can empty my crisper if I need too…


The rest of the carrots and the potatoes were put into a minestrone soup that has fed me for days. And for one night, my entire family as well.

Pumpkin was diced up and roasted in simply olive oil, salt and pepper. I ate it, as well as the twins.

Finally, the romaine got used for salad.

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Vegas Baby, Vegas

I really can’t say much about the weekend. Not because it wasn’t awesome, because it was. I laughed so much that I think my face hurt by the end of the weekend from being frozen in that position for so long.

I can’t say much because, well, I now fully understand the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

But here are a few pictures of us all gussied up…

This group has been officially coined "The final 14"

This group has been officially coined “The final 14”

Jessica suggested we do the photo we always do when the 6 of us get together, the pyramid.

Jessica suggested we do the photo we always do when the 6 of us get together, the pyramid.

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Unlucky Joy

What are the odd that a couple in their 40s would have two wedding events for two of their friends on the same weekend?

imageAdam and I only have two single friends left and unfortunately one is getting married in Oklahoma today and the other is having a bachelorette party in Vegas.

Adam and I both shortened our trips and tried to overlap as little as possible, which means we will both be doing a bit of single parenting. Anjelica will do the rest.

imageThis morning I played super mom. I took all for boys to Starbucks on my own. I got a lot of looks. Not all good.

I took them out to the park for a run around in case Anjelica couldn’t later.

Then I went to Costco to print pictures for Ben’s homework.

I finished up all the homework, did the laundry, and tended to Aaron’s finger, which got caught in a hinge.

My was it only 10:30?

Ben's homework

Ben’s homework

I got lunch on the table next and drove jack to soccer. His friend would drive him home. It was time for me to leave for the airport.

For some reason, I was paralyzed. I was almost in tears leaving everyone. I stood next to another soccer mom until she said, “Just pull the cord. Get out of here.”

In the car over I felt light. I hadn’t realized the responsibility of motherhood weighed so heavily on me. I also felt queasy. After spending so many years catering to everyone else I wasn’t sure how to act on my own anymore.

I certainly noticed things had changed since I was a world traveller. The guy in front of me at security had two laptops. The guy behind me had 2 smartphones. I had two pieces of dried up rice crispy treats stuck in my collar.

Just as I was feeling the anxiety, I received a text from Holly. She was booking me spa treatments. Everything was going to be great. I can’t wait to see this group of girlfriends that have been in my heart for over 20 years.

I packed my nice camera, but who knows if I’ll get any photos for my readers. After all you know what they say about what happens in Vegas…

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The Routine

Now that Angelica has been gone about a month, we’ve finally worked out a routine that works well for all of us. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it.

The twins wake up between 4:30 and 5am. This is probably the part I’m most unhappy with. Sam has an internal clock that wakes him up before the sun, taking poor Aaron with him. Whoever said twins don’t wake each other up never lived in my house.

The older boys wake up between 6 and 6:30am. But sometimes one or both of them wander into our bathroom in the middle of the night to go potty.

As soon as I hear the thumping of their feet down the hallway, I go into overdrive. Six breakfasts and two lunches need fixing in the next hour. Adam and I also have the kitchen clean up, dressing four boys, packing up everything for school. Adam has to dress and shower and get to a place where he doesn’t look like he lives in this craziness, dodging sticky hands, random bits of dirt, throw up and poop until he get to work. I just need to look somewhat presentable. Any thing clean paired with a good solid work out bra will do.

If I have time after I’m dressed I try to take out the trash and start the laundry. Then we all rush out the door in a bumble. Even the twins have learned to walk themselves out to the car, shimmy down the back stairwell on their bellies.

Our mini van turns into the magic school bus as we trek to Ben’s then Jack’s school for morning drop offs. Finally Adam drives me to the gym were I get my one hour of complete freedom. The twins go in the day care and I work out.

I find working out actually give me more energy all day. And having some time first thing in the morning just for me makes me feel human.

After the gym if the twins don’t fall asleep in the car there may be time for an errand. This past week I hit Dominicks, Whole Foods, Container Store, and Costco. Sometimes we just come home and the twins shuffle about, picking up objects around the house and messing with them.

The twins eat all the food I buy at the supermarket before I even pay for it.

The twins eat all the food I buy at the supermarket before I even pay for it.

Then it’s lunch, then nap time. The twins normally sleep 1 and 1/2 hours. During this time I prep dinner and do stuff I need to do but never have time. Last week besides dinner prep I reorganized the older boys closets, Adam and I’s closet, filed, registered Ben for the Magnet application for kindergarden, and cleaned out a kitchen cabinet.

I’m pleased to announce that in Adam’s side of the closet I found the glasses case he lost. (He has been using mine in it’s absence!) I also found the second glasses case he bought to replace the first glasses case he lost.

After the twins wake up I let them putz around some more or play and cuddle with them then we go pick up the older boys.

I try to organize a playdate or two if I can muster the energy. Last week Ben had Ivan over one day, then Jack had Timmy over another day. We also met my friend Pam in a park yet another day. Otherwise we normally end up at Jack’s school, on his playground until about 4pm. This week it has been too cold. Although this is the part of the day I have to be the most vigiliant, it’s also the best part of the day. The part where school is out, all the boys get to socialize and enjoy the sunshine, and play.

Play date and dinner with Timmy. Yes, I let them watch the iPad at dinner.

Play date and dinner with Timmy. Yes, I let them watch the iPad at dinner.

Last week, when it was still warm out, I saw Aaron join a bunch of girls throwing leaves in the air and giggling. And Sam join a father and son who were kicking the soccer ball back and forth. They totally welcomed him, were so sweet about giving him the ball. I watched the joy on Ben’s face at seeing Jack every day. And Jack paling around with his school buddies, laughing about things I’m too old to understand.

At Jack's school playground.

At Jack’s school playground.

Ben decides to smooch his snack of gummies all over instead of eating them.

Ben decides to smooch his snack of gummies all over instead of eating them.

After that, we pack up and head home. Jack gets his homework out, I unpack all the back packs, look through the paperwork, clean the lunch boxes, and start dinner.

They are more moments to play for all the kids, then it’s dinner, dessert and bath.

Twins first, then the older boys.

Twins first, then the older boys.

DSC_1009Adam arrives anywhere from the this time until 9pm at night. He tries very hard to get home in time to read to the older boys and put them to bed.

We have about an hour to ourselves and the whole day starts again.

Lately Adam and I have been filling that hour with “House of Cards.” But sometimes it’s just chatting on the couch, or making plans, or watching other things on TV. This is the part I’m happiest with, unfortunately its always too short and happens to proceed the part I’m least happy about, the 4:30am wake up screams screams from the twins.

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Girls Night is Dangerous

Last time I made the commitment to stay up late for girls night out I ended up with a broken toe.

A group of us have a monthly girls night, and I miss quite a few. It’s a big commitment for me. It’s saying I know I will give up precious sleep with no chance of recovery, and probably have a hang over to boot.

My girls are the kind that don’t just do dinner. There is a before dinner drink, and normally after dinner drinks as well.

I usually miss before dinner, as I’m still in the bedtime crunch.

Last time I did the after dinner drinks.

This time I missed before dinner and opted out of after dinner drinks.

But I still managed to open a door on my face today.

Temple Shiner

Temple Shiner

Who knew hanging out with friends could be so detrimental to my health?

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Okay, I may have missed the ball on Aaron talking.

Aaron at the pumpkin patch yesterday.

Aaron at the pumpkin patch yesterday.

In fact, I think he’s been talking for weeks, but poor 4th child doesn’t get the focus and doting he deserves. Poor sweet Aaron, with his mischievous smile and clumsy limbs.

But yesterday, he made it quite clear he was talking when he came over, handed me a round object, and said “BA”.

He definitely identified that object correctly.

Then I realized he’d been saying other things too, like “DIS” (meaning ‘this’) and pointing at whatever it was he fancied at the moment.

Last night, with my newly attuned ears, I heard him say, “OUT” when he was done eating and wanted out of his high chair.

He’s talking, and I have no idea what his first word was. Sorry little guy.

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Sonny Acres

We had a gorgeous three day weekend.

We took full advantage of it by heading out to Sonny Acres.DSC_1006

We found out about this place when Jack’s pre-school took a field trip there. It’s still my favorite pumpkin patch. Quaint with a country feel, not as overcrowded as some of the other pumpkin farms in the area, and also less than an hour away.

You can rent these for $1.

You can rent these for $1.

There are kiddie rides, a hay ride, pumpkins, and the kind of food for sale that screams countryside in Illinois (corn, brats, and the like).DSC_0966

Hay ride full of halloween delights.

Hay ride full of halloween delights.

Our city boys checking out the tractor.

Our city boys checking out the tractor.

We packed a picnic lunch and avoided almost all the fried, processed stuff, but I couldn’t resist the funnel cakes for myself. They are my weakness.

Sam only likes to eat with a fork these days, even when it's a sandwich.

Sam only likes to eat with a fork these days, even when it’s a sandwich. 

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Fresh Picks (Oct 2)


Yellow Onions, Sweet Dumpling Squash, Kale, Romaine, Spinach, Broccoli Raab, Daikon Radishes, and Corno de Torno Peppers.

First thing I did was make Kale Chips. I had something else in mind, like a soup, but it was warm out and I was missing a veggie for that evenings dinner so I whipped them up at nap time.DSC_0867_2

Next I hacked away at the Squash, getting the hard shell off with my Chinese chopper knife. It was paired with some of the sliced onions. I sauteed them together in a bit of butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper, put the lid on and let them cook on a low temperature for about 20 minutes. It was so good I didn’t even share.


I had to use the last onion in zucchini cakes. I had apple sauce from apple picking that needed a partner!

The radish was added to a pot roast. Carrots, celery, and potatoes all went with it to make this one pot meal.DSC_0903

Romaine was tossed in a salad. Everything I could find in the crisper with some mustard vinaigrette.

Spinach was wilted with some left over chicken, mushroom and onion. I used this as a filling with cheese in crepes for dinner one night.

Broccoli Raab unfortunately was wasted, wilted before I had a chance to figure out what to do with it. Same with the red peppers. I’m going to have to be quicker next time!

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