Last night of Hanukkah

Well, turns out those bears had an agenda after all.

dsc_0654All of their hints for warmer weather were realized today when we revealed to the kids that we were taking them to Florida for a few days.

Bears bearing airline tickets to Florida for the boys.

Bears bearing airline tickets to Florida for the boys.

“Wait, but are we still getting a Hanukkah present tonight?” asked Ben, unsure of whether or not he was getting a good deal.

“If I miss school, does it mean I have to make up the work?” asked Jack.

Wow, contain your enthusiasm people!

At least Aaron came through for us, he jumped up and down with joy, excited that we were going to see his grandparents and stay in a hotel.

Otherwise we continued the sleep over party today.

Last night Ben complained about all his girl friend’s hair in his face in bed and this morning she complained that he snored. Ha!

This afternoon we went to the park. We had to get the Gator out. Again. dsc_0659

Maybe we should have gifted it to them in the summer?

And we had to check out the new Jeni’s Ice Cream & Waffles that opened down the block.dsc_0686

And we had to share a bubble bath with our friends.dsc_0690

And now we can kiss Hanukkah goodbye for another year. It’s on to the next thing.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

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7th Night of Hanukkah

Tonight was a big night for the boys.

Not because they got big gifts, in fact, we just doled out some Slinkys and Cube Bots to everyone.

It was because tonight everyone was waiting for Ben’s playdate to come by to celebrate Hanukkah with us.

We delayed all the Latkes and Brisket until tonight.

But first we started the morning with the bears…dsc_0607

They are still desperately trying to get to warmer weather.dsc_0609

Do you think they will eventually succeed?

Then we headed out to the Museum of Science and Industry for our morning excursion.dsc_0622 dsc_0626 dsc_0628 dsc_0635

In the afternoon, our friends arrived and we lit the Hanukkah candles. We also feasted on brisket, roast veggies, matzoh ball soup and latkes.dsc_0640

We opened presents and we played the dreidel game.dsc_0641

And we even made Hanukkah cookies and decorated them.dsc_0644

Finally as the evening was drawing to a close, we decided on a last minute sleep over. Ben’s first!dsc_0653

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5th and 6th Night of Hanukkah 2016

I think the bears are starting to get a bit antsy in the cold weather.

For the past 2 days they have been hoping for fun and sun.

The morning of the 5th night of Hanukkah, the boys found their bears still asleep in their bed.dsc_0580

They were dreaming somewhere warm and sunny. Collectively they were dreaming of hanging out at the pool.dsc_0581

That evening the boys got to open more presents.dsc_0585

Sam got another Lego JR set that he asked for. Ben got 3 small sets of Lego superheros.dsc_0590

Jack got 3 sets of Lego Nexo Knights that he also picked out for himself.dsc_0586

Aaron, who isn’t into Legos like the rest of them, got a domino run.dsc_0598

Then it was back to bed and up again for another day.

The bears continued to long for warmth and sun…dsc_0596 dsc_0594


This afternoon I let the sitter experience the full power of the Gator (the twins took her to the park, she watched in awe are Sam drove perfectly and safely the entire way) while Adam and I took the older two kids to see Rogue One in 3D.

Then tonight the boys got even more presents (I’m starting to freak out about where we are going to house them all!)dsc_0602

This time Hanukkah cards with money from Bubbie and these adorable puppets with gift cards for the Gap from Aunt Aloha and Uncle Ronnie.dsc_0603

Two more nights, are you ready? I’m not….

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4th Night of Hanukkah 2016


This morning the Hanukkah Bears found themselves surrounded by the house dinosaurs.

Today Adam was at work and I was here by myself with the four kids.

We actually stayed in and played with each other in true winter fashion. When it’s so cold out, you can relieve yourself of the guilt of not getting the kids out for some fresh air.

Instead, video games, TV, pulling puzzles and other toys from the shelves, exploring some of our new toys (I reconfigured the marble run and played countless games of Trouble!), and of course, wrestling transpired. Always wrestling.dsc_0559 dsc_0565

The kids only changed out of their jammies in time to bath and put on new ones.

Adam came home around dinner time and lit the candles, the older kids are starting to mumble through the blessing on the candles quite confidently by now.dsc_0572

And then it was present time again.

This time Jack got a glow in the dark capture the flag game. Can’t wait to set that up with his buddies!dsc_0576

Sam and Aaron got duplo Lego sets.dsc_0579

And Ben, on a tip from his teacher, got another board game, Zingo Sight Words.dsc_0578

Until tomorrow, dear readers, when we do it all again!!!

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3rd night of Hanukkah 2016

The fun continues at the Calisoff household!

Last night the bears used up one of the presents from last night, the card holder.dsc_0495

The kids found them in the morning. Ben quickly claimed that the bear with all ‘wild’ cards must be his!dsc_0496

Then we made the ice cream from another one of yesterday’s gift’s, the Cuisinart Ice Cream maker. We used Ben’s pick first – cookies and cream.dsc_0497 dsc_0499

We did it while eating leftover pineapple custard buns from yesterday as well.

Wow, yesterday really set us up with lots of stuff to do and eat!

Then because it was nice out, we went out again.

This time to the Chicago Botanical Gardens to see the last day of the Wonderland Express.dsc_0530

The exhibit is wonderful. The trick is trying to get the kids to take enough time to see all the handcrafted details.  The buildings that set the backdrop for the trains are all “constructed of natural materials: gourds, pine cones, bark, acorns, pods, seeds, grains, grasses, and other creatively-used bits of nature”. Most Chicago landmarks are represented.dsc_0539

We also walked around the garden to get some sun into our Vitamin D deprived bodies.dsc_0509

Zen Garden. Maybe it will rub off on the kids...

Zen Garden. Maybe it will rub off on the kids…


Pretty soon it was evening again, which means, time to open more Hanukkah presents!

Singing the blessing for the candles signifies presents are coming soon!

Singing the blessing for the candles signifies presents are coming soon!

Jack got more legos that he picked out for himself, an Antman set. Ben got the game Trouble, which he loves to play at school and we love that all the parts are inside the board and can’t get lost. Sam got another lego set to add to his growing collection of Lego Junior Superheros. And Aaron got more Hape pieces for a marble run. Something he can do with his marbles instead of just moving them from place to place and putting them in his mouth!dsc_0548 dsc_0551 dsc_0552

Finally our sitter watched the kids so we could have dinner my dear friend from high school, Jessica, who was visiting from Florida.

Another late night, and it’s time for me to sign off and set up another scene for the bears.

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2nd Night of Hanukkah 2016

The second day of Hanukkah landed on Christmas day this year, and this morning those cheeky bears gave a nod to that other holiday.dsc_0454

They were sitting on the gift my sister’s family got our kids this year.dsc_0459

A Cuisinart ice cream maker with special toppings!img_5704

After that excitement, we headed off to do what Jews do best on Christmas, eat Chinese food.img_5690

Dim Sum!

We followed it up with our usual stop by St Anna’s bakery in Chinatown for pineapple custard buns. (And a bubble tea for me!)img_5701

After, a quick stop home to complete some homework and mess around with our new legos. Then it was back out again with the Gator, this time to a different park.dsc_0481

This Gator has been getting us out no matter what the weather every day! I noticed we were the only ones who thought it was appropriate to be in the park today…dsc_0477

Tonight we had the candle lighting and opened a few more small toys for the kids to play with, flashlights, lego calenders and a card holder for our increased interest in card games, namely UNO.


Mesmerized by the candles.

Mesmerized by the candles.

And now, my dear readers, I must sign off. Time to set up the Hanukkah Bears for day three…

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First Night of Hanukkah 2016

This year Hanukkah actually falls around the same time as Christmas.

For once the kids have time off to enjoy the presents they receive each night.

Yesterday my sitter and I played elves, wrapping all the gifts for the kids. Logistically, four kids getting eight presents each is quite a puzzle.dsc_0350

In the end we labeled all the wrapped presents, then Adam and I laid them out in a grid, switching them around if they seemed uneven.

This being the first night, we decided to go big.

The twins got the most amazing present. One that I would NEVER buy them. But Adam won it at the Illinois Manufacturing Association Luncheon.

Here is Adam’s colleague, Mark, standing next to it after the lunch. Mark is 6 ft 4 inches. He very kindly waited until I showed up in our big minivan to help load it in, because it weights well over 100 pounds.img_1749

We stayed up late assembling this bad boy last night, then wrapping it so the twins wouldn’t see it.dsc_0360


But there was no way we could ask them to wait all day to open it! Usually Hanukkah presents are doled out after we light the candles.

(Welcome back, Hanukkah Bears.)dsc_0368

Which meant the older boys got their presents early too.dsc_0386

I’m glad we opened the toys early, though. Normally in this kind of weather the only thing to do is hunker down and settle in. But we couldn’t just sit in our new Gator in our basement, could we?

So we went out. Sam proved to be an excellent driver.dsc_0414

As did Jack.dsc_0405

Aaron seemed happier as a passenger. (Here they are playing a game where they try to run away from Jack while he tries to get in the car. Every time he gets close they push him out and giggle hysterically. For his part, Jack pretended they actually could overpower him.)dsc_0421

Ben drove like Rain Man. We quickly moved him out before he crashed it.dsc_0410

It was also an opportunity to ride bikes.

To play tag.dsc_0428

To have races.dsc_0420

And to eat snow. Dirty snow.dsc_0401

Afterwards, we came back for hot chocolate and lunch.

The older boys built their lego toys.

Now that I’ve had some experience with how painful it can be to lose pieces, I had them line up their packets and only open them one at a time, carefully putting the pieces into a tray and building from it.dsc_0388 dsc_0393

Finally, after dinner we lit the hanukah candles and played the dreidel game.dsc_0434 dsc_0441

Another successful Hanukkah day. What will tomorrow bring?!!!

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Scooby Dooby Demystify

Saturday night we went out to one of the annual holiday parties we attend this time of year.

Heading out to the Weil's holiday party.

Heading out to the Weil’s holiday party.

This meant a late and somewhat fuzzy evening.

Dessert Table at the holiday party.

Dessert Table at the holiday party.

The wife used to own a bakery and goes ALL OUT with desserts every year.

When we returned, we still had to set up a tooth fairy hunt for Ben.

As usual, we tried to pick something that he cherished. We have been watching a lot of Scooby Doo lately, so that became the theme.

On the back of each card there was a picture showing where the next clue was.img_5671

When you got to the next clue, the front had a picture of Scooby Doo and the back had different picture of the next clue.dsc_0319-1

Perhaps in our haze we were a bit too obvious, or perhaps it’s because of Ben’s increasingly suspicious nature. This time, as he was finding the clues, he turned to Adam and said, “I think Mom is the tooth fairy. How else would she know what I like?”

I’m not sure how most parents deal with kids debunking childhood mythical figures. As Jews, we don’t have to grapple many. Our religioun relieves us of the Easter Bunny or Santa.

In our world, the Tooth Fairy is the only mythical figure stealing into our house in the middle of the night. A thought so scary that the first time Jack heard it, he refused to put his tooth under his pillow.

I remember my sister telling me when her children finally realized there may not be a Santa. When they confronted her, she looked them straight in the eye and said, “If you don’t believe, he stops coming.”

They never asked again.

Not sure if Ben would catch the subtlety of that statement.

Luckily our host from the holiday party that night generously gave out goodie boxes for us to fill and bring home.


Instead of explain, we copped out and used distraction…


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First Snow!

After a two year drought, we finally got a decent amount of snow today.

We could have sat in our house, sipping hot cocoa in our jammies and slippers, watching the flakes fall silently outside our window.

But we didn’t.

Because we are Calisoff’s.

Our Motto is, “Go hard then go home. Then go hard again, home again, hard again, home again. Again! Again! Again!”

We went out not once, not twice, but three times to cavort in the snow.

First we checked out the balcony while Jack was at Hebrew school.dsc_0186

Sam feeds our more sensory kids snow.

Sam feeds our more sensory kids snow.

Then, back in for a hot lunch, tumble dry all the clothes, and back out to the sledding hill.dsc_0224 dsc_0228

Which quickly turned into a snowball fight.dsc_0258

Then we made snowmen!

Rolling Huge Snowballs

Rolling Huge Snowballs


Ben's Snowman

Ben’s Snowman


Then home for hot chocolate, tumble dry the wet clothes, and back out again for Zoo Lights.dsc_0292

Yes, we walked down with our Bob strollers AKA all terrain vehicles.dsc_0296

There is a great spot on the lawn with a light show, the lights dance in tune to the music.

Light show.

Light show.

The snow kept everyone away so it was super easy to watch the kids. And as an added bonus, they had tons of snow to play with at every turn!dsc_0308

We even got to see the new Polar Bear Enclosure. It’s really great!

After today it turns super cold so I’m really glad we braved the snow to see the lights last night.

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44th Birthday

My forty fourth birthday arrived without much fanfare.

In fact, unlike the kids birthdays which are an extravaganza that lasts for days and days, the kids were surprised when I told them the day before my birthday that we would have a sitter that night.

“Wait, it’s your birthday?” Jack asked in surprise.

Yes, Jack, when you get older birthday’s lose some of their excitement. In fact, sometimes you down right dread them!

When I woke up in the morning, Adam had cards signed from himself and the kids filled with all kinds of gifts cards for pedicures and massages and just straight up cash waiting for me when I woke up.dsc_0163

Then I made a quick trip to dunkin donuts for a cook free morning!dsc_0158

Kids were happy about that!

I spent the rest of the day doing pretty much the same thing I do every day, pack lunches, push kids out of various doors to school, laundry, dishes, cleaning, prepping meals, and spending quality time with the twins at home.

The only difference was that every few seconds, someone from my past life wished me well through facebook. It was a steady stream of 107 people from across the globe all taking a few seconds out of their day to collectively make me feel special all day long. Social media is an amazing invention.

Then Adam saved me from my Groundhog Day at dinner time. He walked in bearing a beautiful triple layer chocolate on chocolate Sweet Mandy B’s cake which we cut open BEFORE dinner and ate with relish.


Celebrating 34, again!

Next Adam whisked me off for a shopping trip to some of my favorite stores. I ended up getting lots of new clothes and sexy winter boots from Saks Off Fifth.

Finally we had dinner at the newly opened Willow Room.img_5631

I also got gift from my other family members for cash, foot massages, gift cards to the store I love (Marine Layer, the softest clothes you’ve ever worn!), and my sister gave me her own Oprah version of  her favorite things: onion dicer, Chinese cookbook, scarf and gift card to a book store (books are a love that both of us have shared our whole lives).dsc_0184

Our babysitter brought me this the perfect gift from Benefit. Twelve days of samples to try, all stored in a singing book that the kids played with for hours afterwards! I had to go on youtube to figure out how to use all the stuff!dsc_0175dsc_0183

Then, since in our house, once is never enough, Adam took me out AGAIN for a another dinner, this time to Geja’s, a romantic fondue restaurant that has managed to weather Chicago’s vast, fickle epicurean market for over 50 years.img_5641

It was one of the first restaurants he ever took me to in Chicago, and since then Adam has helped the manager buy the restaurant. As a result we have become friends. When was the last time you did fondue? It was such a cozy, intimate experience. An old school experience that I had forgotten about. Perfect for a winter date!

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