Ben’s End of the Year Picnic

Today was Ben’s end of the long (11 month) school year.

As usual, his school celebrates with a fun afternoon picnic and party.IMG_7450 IMG_7444

The party took place on their playground.IMG_7467

In addition to the climbing and toys, they hired a group to play games.IMG_7442

This is one where they have to transfer water from a full tub to an empty one with a sponge. IMG_7457 IMG_7455

And the kids favorite, turning mommy into a mummy!IMG_7477

This year Ben and Aaron got in on the action. Can you spot Ben in the picture above?IMG_7473

The kids also loved the pizza, unlimited lemonade and brownies!

It was a really fun afternoon.

I am so grateful that Ben has a school like this, one that accepts him completely, understands his struggles, and tries their best to accommodate them.

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Winter Park

The six-way email girls strike again!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of keeping these 5 beautiful women company in Winter Park, CO.DSC_0766

Holly recently bought a second home there and it was a perfect excuse to meet up again.

Last time we met up was in Estes Park 2 years ago. Here we are white water river rafting…ws pm (99)

But we have been meeting up for years!

Here we are in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico in 2001…IMG_7433

Winter Park is a gem of a place. From Holly’s apartment we could walk anywhere in town.

Many days we hiked. (Some of the other girls biked, or shopped.)

Broome Hut

Broome Hut

Lost somewhere close to the Leland Trail

Lost somewhere close to the Leland Trail

We checked out the local art festival.IMG_7367

Tried the Alpine Slide.IMG_7325

Rented a pontoon.

First time driving a boat. Made it through this bridge!

First time driving a boat. Made it through this bridge!


Soaked in hot tubs.IMG_7342

And Sulfur Hot Springs.IMG_7424

And ate.

The Dump

The Dump

And ate.



And ate.



It seemed like it didn’t matter what we did, it was always filled with laughter and fun.

Even if we just hung out at the apartment.

Impromptu Dance Party breaks out in the apartment.

Impromptu Dance Party breaks out in the apartment.

We marveled at how rare it is to have close friends that have managed to stick together since middle school.

And thanked our lucky stars to be a part of something so special.IMG_7293

I am also lucky to have such a supportive husband! While I was away, he kept the boys busy.

One night he invited his buddy Jamie over for Portillos. IMG_7344

And this happened afterwards…IMG_7343

He got them out for ice cream one night.IMG_7391

He taught them a tidily wink game.IMG_7390

And took them to the toy store.

Another night he took them to a playground in the suburbs then over to his buddy Rick’s, who is also sans wife right now.

Jack is a natural!

Jack is a natural!

My sitter also worked longer hours to make this happen. While I was gone she got the kids out too!

At the fire station with Camila

At the fire station with Camila

I’m happy to be back, but am very much looking forward to my next meeting with these wonderful woman again, hopefully very soon. Until next time!

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Aaron’s Milestone & Cummings Park

Even though it’s the middle of the summer and there is this thing called global warming, today’s high was only 72°. Too cold for any water activities!

So, we packed everyone up and headed to the Zoo.


Black Bear

We stopped at the Pritzker Family section first to show Adam the new, natural playground they put up there.



Then we headed into the climbing structure. Normally Aaron is too scared to climb it. Most of the time he will take his shoes off, climb one or two rungs then freak out and come back.

Today he turned to me and said, “I think I can climb it today.”

Then, without any hesitation (but with a very supportive older brother) Aaron climbed through to the highest levels SEVEN times.DSC_0680IMG_7250

Later that night, during dinner, we asked him how he conquered his fear. He replied, “I’m 5 now. So I can climb it”. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll tell him when he is 6 he can get tagged in a game without crying.

We didn’t spend much time there because soon it was lunch. We took our picnic out in front of the zoo, by the huge garden maintained by the Lincoln Park ConservatoryDSC_0682

And there, within view, was the newly redone Cummings PlaygroundDSC_0703

DSC_0692 DSC_0699 DSC_0706 DSC_0708 DSC_0714 IMG_7253 IMG_7258Another great new space for the kids. I love how some of the new structures in the renovated parks with are good for older kids as well. They help to keep Jack more interested in these outings for longer.

But Jack has such a good attitude about these things, he always finds a way to fit in. We spent a lot of time giving the kids “challenges” to complete and when they were too easy for Jack, he started to give them out himself…

Jack challenges the others to go down the slide head first!

Jack challenges the others to go down the slide head first!

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Ben’s 8th Birthday

This year Ben’s birthday was the same day as his party.

We started the morning with a treat of egg sandwiches and donuts. IMG_7087

Then Jack gave Ben his present. This is a card with butt jokes in it. Yep, butt jokes never get old around here. IMG_7084

In the morning we threw him a carnival themed party.

There were eight different games you could play to win tickets. IMG_7076 IMG_7075 IMG_7073 IMG_7079

And three levels of ticket items you could swap for the tickets you won.IMG_7080

IMG_7081We hired 3 teenagers to help run the games. (Jack’s buddy’s older sister and friends.)IMG_7103

Sam got a whopping 250 tickets. He even studied the teenagers methods in detail, figured out which was most generous. He also calculated which games he could get the most tickets.IMG_7094

As for food, Friday we waited in this huge line for the popcorn Ben wanted for his party.IMG_7067

The popcorn was part of the carnival themed food. We ate hot dogs for lunch, had huge tubs of Garrett’s popcorn, and bags of cotton candy.

Cotton Candy Mouth

Cotton Candy Mouth

Then, Adam did that thing he does with the cake, where he buys a huge extravagant, oversized cake that I’m forced to eat for weeks afterwards.IMG_7114 IMG_7116

This one was triple layer, filled with banana cream and raspberry. The picture above does not show the enormity of it. Here are the leftovers, next to my morning cup of coffee so you can see just how much cake I’ll be eating this week.IMG_7186

The party didn’t end, either. That night, Ben had a sleepover with his BFF from school.IMG_7134

The next day, we had a playdate at the Morton Arboretum. She hadn’t been yet and we really wanted to take her there to see it.

Origami craft.

Origami craft.



Natural Playground.

Natural Playground.

Happy 8th birthday Ben! Wishing you a great year.

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Kindergarden Friends

It’s not often that you have a friend that follows the trajectory of your life. Even more rare is keeping in touch with that person for almost 40 years!

Becca and I met in Kindergarten. We have a long, long history. We kept up with playdates in our younger years. Recently we had a good laugh about some of the games we played together as kids. We had a favorite named ‘Dead’. One of us would play dead and the other one would have get them to the other side of the house by any means necessary. Then we switched. It’s the kind of game this generation, with their iPads, computers, and highly scheduled lifestyles would never do!

Even though we were in different middle schools, we did community cheerleading together. 10400251_44845726747_9424_n

We went to high school together, cheered together and hung out together after school and on weekends.

Jamaica Dress up day

Jamaica Dress up day

graduationThen, we went to separate colleges, had separate, wild times – her in Colorado and I was in Hong Kong. Oddly we both worked in food and wine.

When she and I both came back to our roots – her in North Carolina with her family and I in America, she settled about a 3 hour drive from my sister. After I gave birth to Jack, I went to visit.

Again our lives collided. We ended up pregnant at the same time, three times! Her three kids are the same age as my four.

This weekend she was up in Chicago tagging along on her husband’s work trip.

It was a great match. Weirdly her husband is into a lot of the same stuff as mine. We had dinner one night together and we all had so much talk about we were fighting for the floor. I love when that happens. Too much to talk about! Too little time!IMG_7058

We also were able to sneak a quick tour of Chicago in together. IMG_7063

(She had to duck down to fit into the photo with me. So you can imagine who always won at the ‘dead’ game when we were little…)

Knowing someone for this long and still feeling like you are on the exact same page extremely rare. I truly cherish this girl.

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Hawaii 5-0

Last year we got an invitation we could not refuse.

My dear friend Greg (who I know from my days in Hong Kong) was turning 50. We were all invited to Hawaii for his birthday, cleverly dubbed his “Hawaii 5-0”.

Not only was this a collection of friends from my days overseas, but it also included Adam’s good friend and college roommate, Andrew. Adam and I met at his wedding in Jamaica.

We spent the first day of our arrival hanging out with them at the beach and pool.DSC_0333

And getting Hawaiian shaved ice.DSC_0360

The shebang kicked off with a Welcome Drinks and Dinner at the Beach House at the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

Greg and Margie, our gracious hosts.

Greg and Margie, our gracious hosts.

The spread was so amazing that I basically just ate a plate of expensive meats!

Aaron was fascinated by the full pig.

Aaron was fascinated by the full pig.

There were more people at this event than Greg and Margie’s wedding!

Afterwards, the oldest spawn of the next generation, Isabelle, organized games for all the kids to play. DSC_0383 DSC_0381

Sam missed it. (The schedule was pretty busy, we didn’t want to miss anything. So,kids were falling asleep all over the place.)IMG_6951

That night we were given these very useful tote bags filled with Maui chips, water bottles and the all important schedule! We used them every day while we were in Hawaii.IMG_6955

The next day the schedule had a meet up at Waimanalo Beach. DSC_0389


The rest of the group is smartly sitting in the shade behind Andrew and the kids!

There were huge waves. Luckily we brought boogie boards. And puddle jumpers for the twins! Jack really took to boogie boarding.DSC_0435

Ben preferred to free style it….

DSC_0453 IMG_6959

Then, after a catered lunch of traditional Hawaii foods, we headed over to the next beach, Kailua. Waves were less rowdy. It was another picturesque spot to play.DSC_0487 DSC_0499

Friday Greg and Margie charted the Makani catamaran. DSC_0503

Greg and Margie with their kids.

Greg and Margie with their kids.

IMG_7044IMG_7008They took us snorkeling at Turtle Canyon. Ben had been looking forward to snorkeling for weeks, since Adam got them new panoramic snorkels.

But the sea was too rough and Ben freaked out. Luckily our sweet friend Tiffany stayed on the boat with him, feeding the fish Maui chips. DSC_0531

The twins didn’t last long either but Jack did great!DSC_0546

The boat was followed by lunch at Nico’s.

More kids sleeping in random places!

More kids sleeping in random places!

That evening we took in the fireworks display at our hotel, the Grand WaikikianIMG_7023

We also sampled the local ice cream at Lappert’s.IMG_7027

Even though we had been on holiday for nearly a week, sadly Friday was the first day Adam didn’t have to work part of the day. He had been waking up super early to work so he could help take the kids out during the day. On this day, his first chance of free time, he very kindly gave me some free time to get a pedicure and to meet my good friend Tom, who had just arrived from Tokyo, for a drink.

Saturday we decided we wanted the kids to get a more gentle snorkeling experience before we left Hawaii, so we skipped the group activities on the North Shore (cliff diving probably was too old for our kids anyway) and instead visited Hanauma Bay.DSC_0566

Adam was so burnt by now that we actually had to buy him a rash guard so we could keep playing in the sun every day!

Amazing snorkeling! Adam says he remembers coming here as a kid and he could see even more – octopus, sting rays – but it’s still a great spot. Hang out anywhere long enough and you’ll see plenty! DSC_0571

We took turns snorkeling with one kid while the other parent waited with the other three.DSC_0613

Then we had a picnic with a bunch of mongoose. Ben was even able to pet one!

Then, more snorkeling.DSC_0592

That evening we treated the boys to Benihana’s. We were joined by Uncle Andrew and his family.IMG_7035

They loved the show, even if Ben fell asleep for the actual dinner.IMG_7040

The final day Jack and I had a surf lesson in the morning. jacksurfs1

He was a natural! Popped up the on the second try!jacksurfs3

I had enough wipe outs that people were commenting to me how it must be my first time!wipeout mom surfs

That afternoon was a brunch at the Halekulani Hotel, also hosted by Greg and Margie. It was another massive spread of delicious food, set in a picturesque terrace. I think we stayed almost 4 hours.

That's Tom photo bombing in the background!

That’s Tom photo bombing in the background!


I was sad to the point of tears upon leaving. Was so nice to see the old gang, we all picked up like no time had passed. But there were so many wonderful people to see and so little time after watching the kids, I felt like I wasn’t able to have more deep, meaningful connections with any of them.

Greg, Tom, Randall, and Karen.

Greg, Tom, Randall, and Karen and me.

Chantal and I

Chantal and I.

I guess we’ll have to plan another reunion. Who is 50 next?!!!

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Los Angeles

Last week, on our way to Hawaii, we stopped in Los Angeles for three days to visit the cousins.DSC_0066

One of the nicest things about seeing the cousins on the Calisoff side is that they are similar in age.

The first night we arrived they had a spread ready for us for dinner.DSC_0068

After the kids ate, Joy made cupcakes and we celebrated Adam and Ben’s birthdays.DSC_0080

Then the kids played. I never realized how great having an outdoor space for kids to play creatively is until that evening.

Both of our Los Angeles cousins were great hosts, chasing the twins around and letting us use all their toys.

DSC_0082 DSC_0084 DSC_0089 DSC_0099

Ben fell in love with Sadie, their dog. DSC_0075DSC_0102

The next day we woke up and hiked Runyon Canyon Park. We were on a mission to see the Hollywood sign.DSC_0130 DSC_0116

And we did!DSC_0132

After that hot excursion, we took a break at the pool. We booked an AirBNB that had a pool and jacuzzi like a hotel. We used it every day.DSC_0163

Some of the cousins joined us.DSC_0152

The next day we hit Griffith Park. Joy knew of a delightful walk there called FernDell. DSC_0199

It was mostly shaded and had lots of great things to look at, like crayfish and frogs.DSC_0216 DSC_0228

At the end of the walk was a playground perfect for tag…DSC_0235

…a rock gully to run through…DSC_0239

…and a yummy little restaurant called ‘Trails’. DSC_0246

Everyone else thought so too!

The next evening we headed to my favorite restaurants from my days in Asia, Ding Tai Fong. My friend Tom first took me to the one in Taipei.DSC_0175 Their Xiao Long Bao is the best I’ve ever tasted, though this visit I think I only got 2!IMG_6829

Jack ate about 15, Aaron ate 6!

Right down the street, the other cousin was in a baseball tournament. DSC_0179

We stopped by but unfortunately missed the game. We didn’t miss out on playing in the nearby park, though.DSC_0187

We also took one of the suggestions from our cousins for an ice cream place, Salt and Straw. IMG_6836

It was another popular LA destination! Luckily we beat the crowd. Or maybe we created it?IMG_6839

The last day we visited the La Brea Tar Pits.


It was a truly fascinating and unique experience.DSC_0286 DSC_0291

They have discovered tons of dinosaurs bones here. Wooly Mammoths, sloths, Dire Wolves and more! In fact they are still excavating! In the museum they show how they painstakingly separate and clean each specimen.IMG_6847

Outside they show tar pits that are being dug up now.IMG_6849 (1)

After the tar pits we headed back to the cousins for more backyard fun and food.IMG_6852 IMG_6859 IMG_6872 IMG_6883

We were very sad to leave, and even sadder that we live so far apart. Until next time, cousins!IMG_1359

Next stop, Hawaii…

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