Six Flags Great America

After realizing that it was probably Jack’s last visit to Santa’s Village, Adam decided to up the ante and bring the older boys to Six Flags Great America.

My mom is still in town so we left the twins with her for the day. Adam, the older boys, and I headed up to Gurnee in time for the opening of the park.

We weren’t even sure it would work. It was the last day left of summer break that we were free and able to go, but the weather channel was predicting an 80% chance of rain.

Adam finally figured out that for an extra $40 dollars, instead of buying day passes and parking we could get a season pass, so the prospect of showing up and getting rained on didn’t seem so discouraging.

Still, we packed our rain gear and, at the last minute, threw in some sunscreen just in case.

Turns out bad reporting from the weather channel was a boon for us. Not only did the weather forecast scare away the crowds, but the rain gear came in quite handy on all those water rides. The water rides were the only things that soaked us today! Otherwise it was sunny and 78°.

Drenched after the Logger's Run ride.

Drenched after the Logger’s Run ride.

Jack was a complete daredevil, riding the scariest roller coasters without a hint of fear. Unfortunately Ben was the opposite. He spent a lot of time on the sidelines, his fear paralyzing him. Sometimes we would cajole, beg and plead him into a line, only to have to walk right through to the exit.

Adam and Jack on Spacely's Sprocket Rockets.

Adam and Jack on Spacely’s Sprocket Rockets.

It was very sad to watch. Adam spent a lot of time trying to convince him to do more. When it was my turn I took more of a laid back approach, not pushing him to do anything he found scary (which was everything, even the carousel was a source on anxiety.)

There were only a few times when sitting out worked, like with this ride, where you can soak the riders from the path…IMG_7504Can you see Adam and Jack on the boat?

At some point during the day Adam asked Ben if he was having a good time and he said yes. I was glad to hear it, but heartbroken at the same time. One day perhaps just sitting around spectating won’t make him happy anymore. And then what? Will he then conquer his fears? Or be depressed by his limitations?

Still, even without the rides Adam made sure he did other things he enjoyed. He seemed to show some interest in the characters, perhaps because they were so furry, who could help themselves from wanted to touch them?

IMG_7472And he was pretty happy to fill his own bag of candy at the end of the night…

Drenched after the Logger's Run ride.

I think the biggest lesson I took away from today’s adventure is that we have to accept Ben for who he is, not who we want him to be. Maybe someday he’ll like amusement parks. But maybe not. We just have to keep searching to find the things that make him light up with joy, not fear. It may not be the thing most boys his age like. He beats to a different drum. And that’s okay.

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A Mitzvah

My friend Carrie, another Mom from Jack’s (and now Ben’s!) school, sent out information for donating lunches on her facebook page. She is a teacher in a school with over 50% lower income children. She has an acute awareness of how necessary free school lunches are for the kids. And how over the summer, kids without free school lunches suffer.

This summer I also had an acute awareness of my own. And it was that my kids have NO IDEA how good they have it.

Naturally, I saw a match here.

So this morning Jack, Ben, Sam and Aaron helped me pack up 12 healthy bag lunches and we delivered them to St Luke’s Lutheran Church.DSC_0439

Ben never made it into the church. He refused to get in the car, then refused to get out of the car, then refused to wear his shoe, then, then, well you get the point. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder just how the hell kindergarten will work out for him.

I’m not sure what effect it had on the rest of them. I actually think you have to do these things over and over again for them to get any traction.

Still, after this experience I’m even more determined than ever to teach our kids a sense of benevolence and compassion.

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Mom’s Birthday Dinner

We celebrated Mom’s birthday dinner a little early this year at the restaurant of her choice, Lao Sze Chuan. I guess the lychee doesn’t fall far from the tree because when I first moved here I asked Adam to take me to this same restaurant for my birthday!

Sze Chuan is one of my favorite cuisines and I’d all but forgotten about this little gem of a restaurant.DSC_0432

We ordered all my favorite dishes as well! Yu Shang Qi Zi (Fragrant Fish Eggplant), Ma Pa To Fu (Spicy Tofu), Black Bean Clams and a Tea Smoked Duck.DSC_0428

It was soooo good. And soooo spicy. We were ALL snotting in our napkins within 10 minutes. If you can handle it, you should definitely check it out!

Afterwards Lara and Mom had a big fight about the bill which ended in Lara grabbing Mom’s credit card away from the giggling waitress and telling them it was her birthday and pushing her own card on them. That waitress said in a very thick accent, “So sorry.” Then grinned wide at Mom and said, “Happy Birthday!”

Later they dimmed the entire restaurant to bring us this typical Asian dessert with a candle in it…DSC_0429

They sang in English and Chinese then Mom pushed her luck by asking one of the waitresses how old she thought Mom was. The woman said without blinking, “Eighty.”

Mom is seventy-six. But at least she still has a good sense of humor about these things.

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Block Party 2014

It’s hard to believe it’s time again for our annual block party. But right after our relaxing staycation we came back to a huge party right on our front stoop. Actually it almost didn’t happen. It poured buckets and the kids spent many hours standing in the front windows hoping it would clear up.

And finally, slowly it did.

The kids wasted no time running outside and enjoying the set up.

And with my two experienced helpers, Adam and I were not a screaming, yelling mess trying to keep all of our kids within eye sight.DSC_0364

This year we had two new participants. Summer House Santa Monica and Walgreens.

Walgreens isn’t even open on our street yet but they provided a pharmacist, watermelon and a face painting booth.


Summer House made a huge, huge amazing effort with a make your own taco bar, blueberry vodka, and chip and salsa station. But it didn’t end there. They passed out pizzas liberally from their sister restaurant Stella Barra. Afterwards they came back with giant chocolate chip cookies. Then later, rice krispy treats. They were amazingly generous and I will definitely work a lot harder to patronize them as a result. DSC_0320

Block party staples were there in full force as well.

The Great Scott passed out tons of twisted balloons. As with Jack’s 7th Birthday Party, when he was so sweet with Ben, he patiently made about eight sword balloons for Ben when he squeezed his until they popped over and over again.DSC_0361

The swords were a big hit with everyone.DSC_0301

Except for Adam maybe.DSC_0307

Vinci brought delicious short ribs, potatoes and vegetables.DSC_0323

There were four kegs along with wine and other fun drinks like Sofia Coppola’s Blanc de Blanc sparkling wines.


And the hot dog, brat and burger station…DSC_0329

There was cotton candy. SOOOOO much cotton candy. I think Ben went back for 4ths. Jack had at least 3rds.DSC_0327

Emma Jane’s craft corner…


The band…

DSC_0346The ice cream truck, generously donated by The Cavanagh Law Group


Neena’s company A and N Mortgage donated these really cool glow sticks that changed colors when you pressed the buttons…DSC_0389

Yeah, that is the Hulk and Lightning McQueen. At some point the kids ran out of the house with costumes on. All the kids.DSC_0376

It was another great year. Susie Linker, you did it AGAIN!


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The day after Mom and Lara arrived Adam and I had our first staycation ever.

We used hotel points to check into the Drake Hotel.IMG_7391

Not a bad view from our hotel room, eh?

From our hotel it was a few seconds to the running path. We used it twice. Last night we had loads of free time to wander the magnificent mile. We also went for drinks. And dinner. And we still have time for lots of sleeping. Normally to have a night out with a sitter means you get no sleep and pay for it the next day. For once I actually got 8 FULL hours of sleep. And no one woke me up in the middle of the night to go potty.

Us Having Fun in front of Buckingham Fountain.

Us Having Fun in front of Buckingham Fountain.

Lara and Sam Having Fun?

Lara and Sam Having Fun?

While we had drinks at the Ritz Carlton’s new roof deck bar and dinner at Spiaggia, meanwhile Lara text us that they had “decontaminated the kids and had no major catastrophies except Sam urinating in a bath jet and Ben peeing on her shoes.”

Ritz Carlton

Ritz Carlton

Dessert Sampler at Spiaggia.

Dessert Sampler at Spiaggia.

I felt awful leaving Lara and Mom to do all the dirty work. But when I came home it sounded like that had a good time. And turned into the old married couple that Adam and I had become. When one kid got to be too much for one person, they traded.

I asked one of the two of them to sleep in our bed in case the older kids woke up and got scared that no one was there. Mom and Lara fought over who would have to do it. Mom didn’t want to because she was scared that bed might get her pregnant.

Mom and Lara on an adventure the next morning.

Mom and Lara on an adventure the next morning.

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Lara and Mom Arrive

Lara and Mom arrived Thursday afternoon to help out with the kids.

The twins followed Mom around like lemmings while Ben refused to let anyone help him with anything unless their name was ‘Aunt Lara’. Jack took the opportunity to enjoy the iPad undisturbed for hours.

It was amazing what a few extra people who actually want to spend time with the kids does to elevate the mood in the house.

At Frank N Dawgs

At Frank N Dawgs

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Fresh Pick (Aug 13)


This week carrots, eggplant, corn, romaine, kale, spinach , cucumber, zucchini, frying peppers.

The first thing I did was boil up those two pieces of corn. Aaron will eat them all himself if we let him so they did not go to waste.

Saturday night we had the Harradines over for dinner.

The romaine went into a chopped salad for dinner. So did the cucumber.DSC_0202

The kale was sauteed into Ellie Krieger’s quesadilla’s. Then more of it was put, along with the spinach, in smoothies. Best way to hide greens in your kids meals! (Husband too!)DSC_0205

The zucchini, peppers, and eggplant all went into a Tunisian Style Grilled Vegetable dish. It was a lot of work, but it was tasty. I think I could find a quicker way to make grilled veggies yummy, in fact I like them with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper best!


Finally the carrots. Braised with celery and served as a side dish. ‘Til next time people!

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Santa’s Village Azoosment Park

This morning Adam asked if I wanted to take the boys out to see Thomas the Train in Union, IL or go back to Santa’s Village in Dundee, IL.

Both destinations are over an hour away.

Both places are crowded.

Both seemed like a lot of work and effort, but the little voice inside my head reminded me that one of the things I’ve wanted to do was give the boys a really fun summer. And both these places would be a day that the kids would remember for a long time.

In the end we chose Santa’s Village. Mostly because by the time we organized ourselves we saw that there were no more tickets to ride Thomas online. And going all the way out there to find out you can’t ride Thomas when you see all the other kids doing it is probably a memory NOT worth making.

Santa’s Village is a curious place. I mean, who comes up with a concept that is basically an amusement park for kiddies mixed with some animals and calls it Santa’s Village? Perhaps you need a childlike mind. A mind that doesn’t completely connect so neatly, like children’s minds often do, to understand and build a place like this. I mean if I were to name it I’d probably go with just the “Azoosment Park” part. Or “Wild Animals, Wild Rides.” Or “Get Dizzy, Eat Sugar, Fried Stuff and White Carbs”.  Anyway, there we were with a hundred or so other families in the middle of summer at a place called Santa’s Village.


It was the twins first time and they definitely enjoyed lots of the rides. Some they were too small for, but most of them were okay.


Some of them Jack was too big for, but this year he didn’t seem to mind. When they were on this ride Adam turned to me and said sadly, “This might be the last year we take Jack to this.”

So sad when you realize a part of your kids childhood will soon be gone. I like it better when they outgrow stuff and you only notice it in hindsight. Like you wake up one day and realize you haven’t sat on your lap for months now. Hindsight makes it less painful somehow.DSC_0230

As usual Adam amped everything up to make sure this was absolutely a very, very special day. Going to an amusement? azoosment? park wasn’t enough. There was ice cream too. I managed to talk him out of the candy.DSC_0233

And afterwards, something we never did as kids, shopping in the gift shop…DSC_0252

My favorite pick was Aaron’s pink frog. He’s sleeping with it as I type this.

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Making Memories

Do you ever see one of those saying on facebook, or pinterest? Perhaps it’s a pillow that someone spent hours knitting by hand? Or a few words with a famous person’s name at the bottom? A catchy phrase that makes you laugh or think about your life? You stop and breath it in for a moment. It’s a good saying. Maybe you should hang it up and start to live by it as well. But you know yourself better than that. And even if you could pick a catch phrase that defines you in 5 words or less, you are way too flaky to. How can you pick a line that describes you so permanently? Permanently enough to hang on your wall. Permanent enough to make a hole in your wall! I can’t commit to that. I can’t even commit to a permanent hole in my wall, much less the saying that goes with it. Thank goodness for command strips or my walls would be bare. I often admire people with tattoos for that very reason. They committed to something FOREVER.

I’m definitely not one of those people with a phrase. Not one of those people with a proverb or saying to live by.

I just don’t live consistently enough. I don’t have that kind of focus. I pursue the path of least resistance some weeks. I pursue making your children independent other weeks. Some weeks I pursue diverse eating. Last week I got on a kick that they are spoiled rotten and signed up to donate lunches that I plan on making them pack and deliver with me. Some weeks I freak out and put away all the electronics for fear they are going to have no executive function and the wi-fi is going to burn a hole in their brains. The next week I give them free reign because, well because I just got a really cool new book for my book club that I want to read right now.

Sometimes I feel like there is nothing consistent in our house at all. As soon as you get four kids summer clothes folded up neatly and ready for the new season, the weather turns, someone has a growth spurt, or one of the twins decides to take all that hard work and pull it all out and throw it around the room while you turned your back for a second.

As soon as you get into a schedule with soccer, baseball, therapy, mommy and me classes, the gym, school, and after school, as soon as you book your sitter to cover the stuff you can not, get the school supplies sorted, the sports stuff organized, the semester changes and you have to start all over again with new after school days, new sports, new mommy and me class times, new therapy sessions.

One of the few things that is doesn’t seem to be changing in our house is the growing deterioration. The more kids that pile up in here, the more it’s in shambles. I’m not talking about the toys. Everyone with kids knows the toy mess is inevitable and lives with it. The painful moment you step on those tiny legos. Or stubbing your toes on a tricycle while trying to tip toe in the dark past the babies room. Or coming downstairs at the end of the day and having not an iota of energy left to pick up all the plastic, furry, wooden things that cover your basement floor so thickly that all you can do is drag your feet in a ‘wax on, wax off’ effort, making a small path to the couch so you can sit down and watch some mindless TV.

The deterioration I’m talking about is the bigger stuff. The fraying couch. The stained and no longer fluffy duvet. The dents, scrapes and marks on the walls.

Adam often asks me to replace them. My answer is always the same, “Absolutely NOT.”

Then I calmly explain that I yell at the kids enough. Too much, really. Please, please do not give me something else to yell at them about. When they spill their sticky sodas on the couch I show them how to clean it (if I’m in the pursuit of independence mode, that is.). When they throw toys down the stairs, for the hundredth time even though I’ve asked them not to do it at least a thousand times, the new dent is hardly noticeable next to the old ones. And I didn’t even bother to magic erase the last pen scribble that one of those denying, lying rascals did in the back room.

Hey, what can I say? Not much except…

Please Excuse the Mess, We are Busy Making Memories.

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Da Bears

Last week my friend Hedy texted me asking if I wanted to go to the Bears game with Jack. She bought four tickets and was planning on attending with her daughter who is Jack’s age.

You may remember Hedy as the friend who invited me to my First Blackhawk Game. Now she was once again opening my eyes to the world of Chicago sports by inviting me to see inside Soldier Field for the first time ever. Jack too.

Not what I expected from this eight year friendship that started in pregnancy yoga.

I jumped at the chance. So did Jack, following me around the house shaking his head yes wildly as I worked out the logistics.

Are these good seats or what?

Are these good seats or what?

I remembered Adam’s trick for sporting events, keep the kids happy with lots of concession stand treats and you might even get to watch the game.

I didn’t see that much of it and I must admit following a game on TV is much easier when the camera tells you where the ball is at all the time.

Jack's cotton candy tie.

Jack’s cotton candy tie.

But even as the cameras make it easier to follow the game, they give you the stats and lots more information, there is something that TV can’t replicate.

It’s the feeling you get when you these sorts of things. The enclosed hallways that open, suddenly, almost shockingly, to a grand, lush field. The excitement you feel when you go to a large event. An event so large that you start off as one person in a big city and slowly, as you get closer, you become part of something bigger than yourself. A sea of matching clothes. You can feel the camaraderie. The smell of sports. Or maybe it’s just you getting a whiff of hot dogs and beer. The testosterone. So much testosterone! There are probably 20 guys to 1 girl but there is still a line a mile long out the woman’s restroom and no line for all those men. Seriously, why is that? The noise, the vendors up and down the stairs, all of you packed together like sardines. All of you, all 60,000 of you, facing the same field hoping these 11 men can outplay those other 11 men.

It was awesome. And I could tell Jack was very happy to be there. I couldn’t stop smiling at him, happy that we were sharing this special moment together. Thank you so much Hedy for making it all possible!

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