A Harry Potter Birthday Party

This afternoon was Jack’s long awaited Harry Potter themed birthday party.

I’m not sure who was waiting longer, me or him.

After some of his more esoteric requests (what can you do with a Mater themed party?), I was very excited to find he chose such a rich theme.

We transformed our house into Hogwarts, starting with the entrance…DSC_1050

Jack’s Aunt Joy sent him a Harry Potter vest, wand, cape and quittich goggles which he donned for the party.DSC_0009

Even Bubbie, who is visiting for Jack’s birthday, dressed for the occasion.DSC_0010

When the kids first walked in, we presented them with a scavenger hunt.DSC_0002

I just want to point out how giddy it made me to make the pencil cup. It’s comprised of every single pencil Jack received at Halloween or Valentine’s Day. I was so happy to finally find a use for them that I was chuckling to myself at 11:30 last night when I carefully sharpened every last one.

Here are a few of the clues on the scavenger hunt…

The kids had to find Harry Potter's room at Privet Drive.

Harry Potter’s room at Privet Drive.

Guess the contents of Dobby's sock and identify different jellybean flavors.

Guess the contents of Dobby’s sock and identify different jellybean flavors.

Find the password.

Find the password.

Afterwards the scavenger hunt, we hired The Great Scott to perform a magic show.DSC_0025

He did a great job. I already knew he would because he performs at our block party. But I was touched when he was super sweet to Ben. We all know Ben has some issues. At the show he was unable to sit and watch without being disruptive. So he got pulled out. He was very upset about it. Later, after the show, Scott asked if Ben could come back so he could do a trick just for him. He had no idea that Ben had issues and could have just treated him like a bratty kid, instead he made an extra effort to make him feel special.

While the kids were downstairs, we adults were free to chat upstairs. DSC_0037

It also gave us some time to set up the dinner spread. We made sure to include Jack’s favorite, Sushi (Owl Eyes), fruit wands and lots of Hagrid’s Stoat Sandwiches – turkey, pastrami, caprese, and egg.DSC_0036

The kids took about 5 minutes to eat, then another five minutes to tear through the house like a tornado.



The picture above is an impromptu pillow and stuffed animal fight. Some of the other parents were alarmed by it and at one point one dad yelled, “There is candy downstairs!” just to get everyone to stop it.

Little did he know that there was, in fact, real candy downstairs. That Adam had set up the goody bags. We put up posters of different shops on Diagon Alley for the kids to fill their gift bags with.


Gringotts gave out chocolate gold coins, Honeydukes had Bertie Bott’s every flavor jellybean, Ollivanders – magic wands and Flourish and Blotts had Harry Potter coloring books.

Then, with their bags in hand, we started bashing away at the pinata.DSC_0069

The thing finally fell and the kids descended on it like a pack of rats in the alley. It was nuts.

Adam’s always takes on the task of organizing the cakes for the birthday parties, which is how we ended up with this…DSC_0083

Yes, it’s all edible. Except for the conical towers. Actually the brown bits of the conical towers. The green tops are ice cream cones.


Happy birthday Jack! It was a very enchanted (ceiling) night…DSC_0015

Pin It

Developmental Diagnostic Results

Friday Adam and I got the results for the tests we had done for Ben at the Erikson Institute.

I did not go in with high hopes. I figured either way it was bad news. If he had serious problems, that would suck. And if he didn’t have serious problems and was just being uncooperative that would suck too.

He tested normally and sometimes above average for most of the categories, but he did have some problems in the areas of processing speed, multisensory processing, emotional and social responses. He had a bigger issue with behavioral outcomes of sensory processing.

He was diagnosed as “Sensory Seeking.”

In layman’s terms, he’s smart enough for his age, but the way he processes things on a sensory level is disorganized.

He seeks more intense sensation than the average kid. Instead of a hug in the morning, a wrestle would be preferable. He needs to experience the world through touch, or by sticking it in his mouth. We complained that he couldn’t follow the instructions like the other kids in soccer class so we had to pull him out. That instead of kicking the ball he would just lay on the ground in the middle of the court, the therapist said that a sensory seeking kid might do that because laying on the astroturf felt good. Not because they are being openly defiant.

It was a diagnosis that did not take me by surprise. It was first introduced to me by my friend Jennie, who is an occupational therapist in Asheville. After hearing all the stories she told me to do my research on it, and coincidentally suggested I go to the kid’s occupational therapist that ended up testing Ben a few weeks ago.

If you have been reading my blog, you might remember we had a behavioral therapist observe him in October. Her first thought, even before meeting him was that he was sensory sensitive.

The therapist at the Erikson Institute told us he’s nowhere near the worst case she’s seen, but that sensory seeking kids often have co-occuring ADHD. That scared me. Then she said the best thing Benjamin has going for him is great emotional support that he has from his parents. That scared me more.

In the end it was suggested Occupational Therapy and Child Parent Psychotherapy.

Occupational therapy works on his motor skills. They might put him in a swing and push him or throw a blanket over him and wrestle with him. Somehow these activities are suppose to help regulate his system. I’m interested to see how and if it really works.

Child Parent Psychotherapy involves playing with your child while a therapist is there. It helps him learn how to deal with his anxieties and emotions, how to learn words and actions that will hopefully help him to begin to live a more normal childhood.

We plan on doing both types of therapy.

Our ultimate goal is to get him ready for school in September. He’s smart enough to start school, but we don’t want him to be labelled as a bad kid, or uncooperative because he reacts to things differently and doesn’t have the words or skills to help himself.

Pin It

Happy 7th Birthday Jack!

Jack turns seven today.

Although he is seven, he surprises me with the range of ages he actually is. That in one moment he can be very mature, the only one who can talk Ben down when he’s upset and then a few moments later he can ask for a Thomas the Train toy for his birthday.

This year he started to become quite a good soccer player. He was always naturally athletic, but these days he’s scoring goals every class and doing naturally what little boy athletes do afterwards, bragging innocently then shoving his stinky shin guard in my face and telling me to smell it.

This year he started to read too. Not just identify a few words, but he can actually read a few simple books.

He has become a much better student, too. His competitive nature keeps him striving all the time. But this year he seems to have found his rhythm. Sometimes I find him explaining to me how his homework should be done!

He also conquered a lot of fears. This year we noticed how much he finds the most daring, stomach wrenching ride or slide fun instead of scary.

Although he enjoys his computer and iPad games, he still hasn’t reach the stage where he is a video game junkie. He can spend a surprising amount of time building lego vehicles. And any random day he could decide to come home and put on his ultimate spiderman costume just to walk around the house. The time I love best is when he plays with his younger siblings. Making up races in the house or just starting a random dance party by playing “Dynamite” or “Gangham Style” through my iPhone or iPad. I think Adam’s favorite time is their nightly reading of the Harry Potter books.

I would describe his clothing style as rapper with a higher waist – track pants and long or short sleeve tops.

His request for dinner and dessert tonight was pizza, sushi and raspberry cheesecake. He is the very product of Chicago, Judaism and Asia.


Pin It

Kingsbury Street Cafe

Kingsbury Street Cafe has been on my list of restaurants to try for some time now.

Unfortunately because they only open at 9am on weekends, we have not been able to go. By 9am some of us have been up for about 4 hours and are starving.

In a stroke of good luck, Aaron had a huge lay in until 8:30 in the morning on Sunday and we quickly zipped over to Kingsbury for their opening hour.

I was very excited. My friend Tami was touting its praises. When it had an excellent Check Please review I was chomping at the bit to try it!

It is a family run business. The mother worked at Wilton for years and the daughter was the chef at Oprah’s studios.

Let me preface this blog post with the fact that Kingsbury cafe is very kid friendly. They have plenty of high chairs and a kid menu.

And there were many kids there. Mostly people with one child. One small, almost unnoticeable child in a large, loud room.

We are not that family. And I’ve noticed there is a direct, inverse correlation between how hard it is to get a reservation at a restaurant and how much the other diners appreciate sitting next to a cackle of kids.

Here is our table at the end of the meal. Notice the woman at the table next to us, who spent most of her time with her head in her hands, just like in the picture, shaking her head and muttering obscenities at our table.


She was not the only one. As we were getting up to leave I noticed another woman at a table with what looked like her son or daughter and partner, turning around again and again and staring, disgusted, then saying loud enough for even me to hear, “What a mess!”

I was upset, but Adam just laughed said to just ignore them and who cares what they think.

Secretly I wished them 12 sloppy screaming grandkids. Or that their precious dog had a bad case of diarrhea in front of a house while the owner was watching.

But if I think about it honestly, anyone who would let our kids, whose noise levels and mess were completely contained to our table, ruin an amazing dining experience has already suffered their own self made punishment.

And the food was amazing.


Here is the Chia Seed pudding that I ate a ton of before I took a picture. It was soooo good. I was so excited to eat here I actually ordered TWO breakfasts. This was my first. The second was fried eggs on top of quinoa, mushrooms and spinach with whole wheat toast.

Ben discovered bacon. He was hooked. Oh Ben, it’s the start of a torrid love affair that will torture you for a lifetime.


When you first walk in they have a gorgeous array of cookies, cupcakes and muffins. The boys were treated to the enormous raspberry topped ones in the background for dessert that evening.


If we ever sleep in again that late, I’m heading back. Everything was absolutely delicious!


Pin It

Fresh Picks (Feb 12)

This week we received Gold Potatoes, Broccoli, Yellow Onions, Carrots, Artichokes, Red Boston Lettuce, Spinach and Garlic.


I’ve been on a Pioneer Woman woman kick lately.

When I first started watching her show, I was slightly disgusted at all the cheese, butter, cream and sugar she used. Normally I cringe when adding any of those ingredients in my food.

But lately I’ve been seeing some research that is opening my eyes. My friend Jennie recently sent me an article Whole Milk vs Skim Milk essentially saying that higher fat products lead to lower weight.

Also it seems there is a growing trend saying that good old fashion butter is actually less processed and therefore much better for you than things like canola oil. Wellness Mama lays it all out for you here.

Even the formally cholesterol feared egg is coming back in vogue.

I’m still desperately searching for the article that says a high refined sugar diet is the true answer to all life’s problems.

Making Duchess Potatoes

Making Duchess Potatoes

Anyway, with my new mindset, I felt free to use two of the of the Pioneer Woman’s recipes in this week’s delivery.

The carrots and onion were used in her Homemade Chicken and Noodles. The turmeric really made it pop. All the kids liked it, and as an added bonus Sam and Aaron enjoyed throwing it all over the dining room once they were full.  Nothing like finding bits of carrot, celery, chicken and noodles everywhere. Your fireplace, your walls, your hair.

On valentines day I used up the artichokes, garlic, boston red lettuce, and potatoes.

DSC_0997I served Tyler Florence’s Steamed Whole Artichokes, used the potatoes in the Pioneer Woman’s Duchess Potatoes and a completely bastardized a version of Ina Garten’s Cape Cod Salad for the boston red lettuce.

Broccoli was steamed and served next to Cook’s Ilustrated’s Grown Up Grilled Cheese and a simple tomato soup.

Finally I stuck the spinach in my new Vitamix blender to make green smoothies. I’ve been debating whether or not to spend the money on one for 6 months now. Finally our old blender broke and I bit the bullet. I’m so glad I did! It’s amazing. The motor runs 4 times as fast as a regular blender so it really whips everything up smoothly. I heard you can even make soup in it!

Pin It

Happy Valentines Day 2014!

Hope you are all enjoyed your Valentine’s day!

Personally I feel it’s a completely fake holiday made up by brilliant Hallmark marketing executives.

But I still buy the cards. So I guess the campaign worked.

And I still make the effort. But mostly because I’m raising 4 boys.

Even if I’m not fussed about a made up holiday, unfortunately the chances of all four of my boys marrying someone who also doesn’t get fussed about this kind of stuff isn’t likely.

Basically, Valentine’s day is a huge opportunity for failure for them. So I’d better make some effort, in the hopes that one day making an effort on Valentine’s day will come naturally to them.

I also had Adam buy me a Valentine’s gift, a reflexology treatment. But I’m only letting myself get treated like a queen for the boys sake. No, really! Okay, sort of. Alright, you got me, I’m shamelessly exploiting this holiday!

Tonight we all sat around eating a very special Valentine’s dinner. It was so special we didn’t even watch a show on the iPad while eating.

Steak, sausage, duchess potatoes, steamed artichoke and a salad. The salad was based on what I had in the pantry and fridge but ended up really good – green apple, dried cranberries, pecans, goats cheese, boston red lettuce, yellow pepper, cucumber, shallots all in a vinaigrette made with apple cider, dijon mustard, a dash of maple syrup, a dash of OJ and olive oil. DSC_0992

Afterwards, any old dessert wouldn’t do. We had … drum roll please… chocolate fondue!DSC_0998

I’d say the dessert was a big hit…


And if that wasn’t enough, Adam opened up his briefcase and pulled out a rainbow of girl scout cookie boxes. Uhm, definitely off the diet tonight! But again, only for the boys sake, I swear!

Happy Valentines Day!

Pin It

Kid City

On my quest to check out new pay-to-play spaces, I met my friend Lindsay at Kid City this morning.

After texting back and forth with possible options for 2 moms to take 6 kids (soon to be seven, Lindsay is very pregnant) and actually have a chance at some conversation, we settled here.

I was very pleased with the results.

Do you want to see it? Because the website doesn’t really do it justice.


This is the picture I took from the back of the main room. You can see the pet corner, all the cars lined up, the slide and the little house which contains a mini kitchen. Behind the little house is a tiny tot area.


There is Lindsay with her twins in the tot corner. Lots of little toys to manipulate!

The main area also has a little space to the side for drawing and puzzle solving…


They also have a grocery store room with half walls on two sides…


A dress up, doll house room…


A kids theatre which apparently causes lots of friction between moms if it is running and their kids are watching instead of playing…


And a parents lounge! I used it for a few time outs. For the kids, not myself.


The back side of this lounge is set up with a large buffet table for kid parties.

And the kitchen…DSC_0982

You can bring your own food but they provide plates and utensils. The kitchen has a fridge and microwave you can use and they even have fresh brewed coffee and tea for the moms. They also have a few snacks for sale just in case.

It’s a big space, so you can’t see all your kids at all times but you can pretty much cover everyone without feeling stressed out.

And there is lots of free street parking.

Jack was a bit old for it, and unlike Kid’s Island, there was no one there to entertain him. But these sorts of spaces are really geared to anyone who is under school age so I was just pleased he put up with it for the sake of the other kids.

Pin It

Monster Truck Rally 2014

grave diggerThe Monster Jam always arrives in Chicago around Jack’s birthday and as a result, every year Adam takes Jack and a few of his friends to see it.

This year Adam upped the fun and added pit passes.

You can go ahead of time and see all the cars up close. They are taped off, but you can sit on the motorcycles that perform before the monster trucks.

After the boys checked out all the different monster trucks, Adam plowed them with all kinds of concession fun. Hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones. But not just any snow cones, snow cones in take home scary monster mugs. IMG_1944IMG_1961

The twins are too young to join. This means so far I’ve been spared breathing in toxic fumes in an enclosed space while getting my eardrums blasted by the engine noises. But I know it’s coming…

Pin It

Reading Beads

Jack’s first grade teacher has a wonderful competition going in class.

For every 100 minutes you read, whether it’s the child reading or the adult reading while the child listens, you get a bead.

Every Friday we hand in our minutes and the results are announced to their peers.

Last time Jack won the competition, this time around he is in second place. Today he brought home his beads…

DSC_0933There are 70 beads. Adam spends hours every week reading Jack the Harry Potter books or other books from the library. Sometimes Jack reads a few to Adam.

I know we hand the sheet with our minutes on it in every week but seeing all those hours of time spend in this new context made me teary. All that work my husband puts in to help our most competitive son get ahead of his rivals. It was making me all soft. Until Sam saw the beads.

“I WAN IT” Sam screamed his three favorite words.

No way was I letting Sam break this precious necklace. To lose just one bead would be 100 minutes lost!

I said, “No Sam. This is Jack’s. He worked very hard on it.”

Sam screamed back, “I WAN HARD ON.”

Pin It

Self Improvement

I’m not sure why this always happens, but do you ever find yourself vowing to do better, to be better – only to be tested that very next day?

Perhaps it is the universe’s way of testing your resolve. Or maybe it’s your own premonitions that something will happen soon that will require extra strength.

Either way, it makes me slightly nervous when I make new promises to better myself.

Last night while laying in bed I was kicking myself once again (as I do periodically) for too much yelling, for knowing that my triggers are and not changing anything about them, letting the same situations play out and end poorly again and again. I was also silently berating myself for not doing more in the house, for collapsing on the couch at 8pm every night instead of spending one more hour cleaning or organizing some of the things I’ve let go too long.

Today started out pretty normal. Not that any day is normal, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

After lunch I was sorting through Jack and Ben’s sock bins, finding ones in the wrong place, rejoining them together and throwing out anything with holes (I lead such an exciting life, I know), I came out into the kitchen and smelled poop. I was surprised since both Aaron and Sam had already laid one on us this morning. But it wasn’t one of the twins.

There was Ben, both hands covered completely in brown, sitting at the kitchen counter playing on my iPad.

I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t made my new resolutions last night I would be screaming my head off, especially when I walked to the other side of the counter and saw it smeared all over the chairs and on the kitchen counter. But if that didn’t set me off, him violently shaking his hands and letting it fly everywhere certainly would have.

But not today. Today I was armed with new resolve.

Today I was not functioning “at my limit”.

Today I marched him into the bathroom calmly, stripped him down and put him in a hot shower. I told him it was okay, it was an accident.

While he was in there I wiped the counters, chairs and floor with lysol wipes before the twins got to it.

Then I went back and gave him a thorough wipe down. It was everywhere. Even inside each of his 10 fingertips.

While I was running around tending to Ben, the twins took the opportunity to grab the chalk and write all over the house, then make a mess in Jack and Ben’s room…

This huge mess took about 5 minutes to create.

This huge mess took about 5 minutes to create.

After the shower I got Ben out and let him know that we would sadly have to throw his really cool superhero underwear out. That it was covered in poop and could not be salvaged. He was more upset by this than any amount of screaming. He kept trying to come up with solutions to clean it. To this I complimented him on his problem solving skills then, giving him my saddest face, told him that any underwear he pooped in would be thrown out and if he ran out of supercool undies we would buy boring white ones, not the expensive superhero kind.

Later during the twins nap I noticed that Ben was on the bed pulling on the covers I normally fold the clothes on. On another day, I would have dumped the clothes there anyway then gotten into an argument over him accidentally kicking or messing up the folded clothes. Today I moved the laundry to the dresser, where there would be no chance of a confrontation. Laundry done. No yelling.

After school is always a screaming match to have Jack finish his homework. Sometimes it take over an hour for something he can do in a few minutes if he would just sit down and concentrate. Today I switched things up, no down time before homework or homework might run into dinner time. I sat him down right after school and because I didn’t feel pressed for time, I didn’t rush him.

Here’s how it went..

We started at 3:50

We started at 3:50

Well, at least he's still working.

Well, at least he’s still working.

This doesn't look good. We are only 2/3 done at this point and almost an hour in.

This doesn’t look good. We are only 2/3 done at this point and almost an hour in.



At this point it’s 1 hour and 30 minutes into me asking him and gently reminding him that he will have no dinner, dessert or books until it’s done…

Now sulking under the table while everyone eats.

Now sulking under the table while everyone eats.




It took him just as long if not longer to get the homework done but the difference was I nagged A LOT less, didn’t yell and he got a lot more taken away instead. In the end he lost his iPad privileges for the evening. It was just as annoying for me and probably more annoying for him since he had to watch everyone eat dinner before he finally sat down and did it but I’m just going to keep it up for a good 2 weeks and hope to see that less yelling and screaming and more definitive rewards and punishments works. No wonder they say the first kid always gets screwed up! He’s a walking experiment on child rearing!

Overall it was a good day, and I was pleased that I tried some self improvement, even if it seems this is like this sort of exercise in bettering yourself is like cleaning your junk drawer. No matter how many times you clean it out, a few months later it is full of crap again.

Pin It