Ben’s last day of school was July 27th. As soon as he was free, we packed up and headed down to North Carolina to visit my sister.
For the trip we managed to find a fantastic Airbnb not far from my sisters house with really great amenities.
Grandpa arrived a few days before us and got some quality time with my sister and her family before we came along and hogged him for ourselves.
We did may fun activities that week.
As much fun as the kids had doing all the different activities, my favorite part of the trip was the time spent visiting with my sister, father and many others who took time out of their busy schedules to spend time with us.
The only person I missed seeing was my good friend from college, Jennie. She lives close to my sister’s house but had been in close contact with someone with Covid and I didn’t want to risk seeing her while my 81 year old father was staying with us.
It was a wonderful trip, made better by the fact that my father travelled with us back to Chicago and I get the pleasure of his company for another week.
Ben had a week and a half off between regular school and summer school. It happened while the other three kids were in school, so we were free to putz around doing things Ben enjoys most.
And what does Ben enjoy most? Art and food.
In regards to art, we tried to approach it at all angles. We checked out the Art Institute one day, which currently has an amazing exhibition of Cezanne. We also did the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Finally, we did a Street Art Tour.
Ben was really jazzed after spending time at the Art Institute. From Cezanne, he observed how much layering goes into painting a really good piece. He also noticed how Monet painted the light in a painting, so even if you couldn’t see the sun, you knew where it was positioned in the sky based on the paint strokes and color. Seeing Van Gogh’s self portrait, Ben had an aha moment. We talked about how miserable Van Gogh looked in the painting. As soon as Ben got home, he wanted to try to paint emotion.
Besides seeing art, Ben spend many hours creating art.
Most days food followed art, maybe a new lunch place or an old favorite, maybe a special treat for the day.
Ben also played soccerfest this past weekend. His team won one game and lost one game, and he had the full fan base there to see it all.
I hope he had an enjoyable break. Because he has so few days off of school, I try extra hard to make every day count.
Tomorrow he starts summer session. Also tomorrow, my other three kids start their summer break.
The twins and Ben participated in soccerfest this weekend. Teams play multiple games with different teams. The games are only 30 minutes long. In the twin’s league, after three games the top teams play each other for medals.
We have been to this weekend many times before. This is Adam’s 4th year of coaching (twice for the twins and twice for Jack). For Jack’s teams, they finished 1st and 3rd. The first year Adam coached the twins, the season ended early due to Covid. Which means this is their first soccerfest.
Before we got the information on soccerfest, the twins received an invitation for a good friend’s birthday party. We assumed they would choose soccerfest. After all, their father is the coach and they constitute 1/5th of the team. Soon the RSVPs started coming in and it turns out all the other kids in the class chose the party over soccerfest.
After school one day I mentioned how many of the other kids chose the party over soccerfest. Aaron immediately piped in, mentioning how you can’t let you team down and we must do soccerfest. Sam was silent. So I asked him, “Sam, if you had a choice would you choose to go to the party?”
Sam replied, “Yeah, kind of.”
I asked him if he wanted me to talk to Adam about it. He said no. So, of course, I talked to Adam about it.
I wasn’t sure how Adam would handle it, and I didn’t give him any advice. I just told him that whatever he decided, it would be the right choice.
Left unspoken was the fact that the two games Sam missed the team was scored on 6 times, more than the entire season combined. We needed Sam on defense.
Adam seemed disappointed but said he would talk to Sam. That evening, when he brought it up, Sam told him stoically, “I would prefer to go to the party but I will go to soccerfest, I can’t let me team down.”
I’m not sure I would have had the maturity or self control that Sam has at this age, but I was so proud of him at this moment.
We promised to do something special with the birthday boy to make up for the missed party.
Our first game was quite a slug, but the twin’s team pulled off a 4-2 win, giving them 6 (out of a possible 7) points for the first game.
The second game was a shut out, the twin’s team won 3-0, giving them 7 points.
We started Sunday morning with the most points for any team in the league, with 13 points. Only one other team had managed to amass as many points as we had.
But we were slotted to play the team we lost to last weekend. And it was also the other team with 13 points.
We also only had 7 of our 10 players, so no one could get hurt or not show up or we’d be short.
It was a really intense game, but in the end we tied 1-1.
Which means we were both still in first place. So guess who we played in the playoff? The SAME TEAM AGAIN!
While we were waiting around for the final game, I was chatting to the organizers in the main tent. I learned that, unlike previous soccerfests, they were only handing out medals for the first place winner. (When Jack played, first through fourth got medals.) I brought this information back to Coach Adam, which he quickly used as motivation for the final game.
Before the game Adam told them it was the last game of the season so to leave it all out there on the field. And to have fun!
In the end we scored once, the other team nil.
It was an amazing season, we were very lucky to have such a great team of players, not only good players but good boys. Oh, and the head coach was kind of hot.
As many South Floridians (and almost no Chicagoans) know, we are in mango season. As a South Floridian, during this time of year you have spent months watching little green orbs sprout from trees all over yards in South Florida. If you are lucky enough to own one, every few days you go outside and see how much they have grown and discuss when the optimal time to pick the first one would be. Pretty soon they are dropping quicker than you can eat them. You start to refrigerate them to make them last longer. You give a precious few to your friends. At some point you realize you are eating the last one, they are gone again for another year.
Before we had our own mango tree, mango season was a nerve wracking month for me. My mother would drive me by trees she had seen in the neighborhood that had ripe mangos. She would stop the car and ask me to get out and pick some mangos while she stayed in the car, motor running, ready for a quick get away.
Often we got away with it, or maybe chased away by the home owner after an embarrassing interchange. I remember one night I climbed into a tree that my mother had staked out and the owner came out to shoo my mother away. She drove off, leaving me unseen in the tree. When she thought the coast was clear, mom returned for me. I was still frozen in the tree but quickly jumped down and hopped in the car. We had quite a giggle in the car ride home that night!
Finally my mother planted her own mango tree to replace the lychee tree that hadn’t fruited for some years. This mango tree was not just any mango tree. She planted a special variety known to Jamaicans as the Bombay Mango. I used to enjoy this variety on my trips to Jamaica with my mother. The Bombay Mango is stringless. It is so smooth that you cut it across the middle and twist it open, then use a spoon to scoop up the sticky, sweet filling like custard. On my trips to Jamaica I would eat so many that I didn’t have room for any other food, except maybe some ackee and saltfish. And patties and coco bread. And rice and peas with jerk chicken and plantains. Okay, I admit it, I was an absolute pig in Jamaica!
But nothing was exciting as the mangoes. I would scoop out the insides, then suck the seed dry, not caring about the sticky juice dripping down my arms. When Mom finally decided to grow these delicate sweets in our own back yard, mango season went from nerve wracking to delectable.
After my mother died, I was cleaning out some of her drawers and I found a list of names and with numbers next to it. The title was, “2019, Mangoes”. The first date was May 27th. My mother died April 21st. At the time all the kids were remote learning due to the pandemic so we were able to stay in Florida until we felt we had done enough with her estate to leave. Adam and I were planning on leaving mid May, but after seeing the list I wanted to stay to pick some mangoes before we drove back.
Perhaps I was channelling my inner mischievous Winnie (my mother’s name), but I shameless told Adam, “I really think it would help my grieving process to stay and pick the mangoes.”
He graciously rearranged everything so we could return in the beginning of June.
That year we brought home two large boxes of mangoes. When they ripened I opened them up and ate them all. Perhaps we picked them too early, but by the time they ripened they didn’t have the super sweetness they usually have when my mother brings them up to me. Or perhaps it was grief making them lose their vibrant flavor.
When she was still alive, every year she would schedule her visits to coincide with the ripening mangoes. When she arrived, we would unpack an entire suitcase of them and start squeezing for ripeness. Then my mother would watch as I sliced the first mango of the year around the middle, twisted it open and scooped out my first taste. She would watch with her eyes wide, a playful smile on her lips, enjoying every moment of my mmming and slurping, the pleasure of watching me eat it was as strong for her as the pleasure I had eating it.
So this year, when mango season came around again I wondered how it would go.
My father offered to help pick them and send them to us. I text some of my mother’s friends who were on the “2019, Mangoes” list. They met one Saturday morning, and I received text all the way around saying how much they liked each other.
Last year my father continued to ship mangoes to me, but many ended up burst and ruined in transit.
This was frustrating for my father but like the good engineer he is, he dutifully noted the problems with the shipments and adjusted. I’m happy to say that this year, with new packing techniques, almost all the mangoes arrived intact.
I’m also pleased to report that the mangoes this year taste as sweet and ripe as I remember them when my mother used to bring them up herself.
By the time the third box came, I felt I had enough to share with others, namely my two Bombay mango lovers, Sam and Ben. This time I am the wide eyed one with a playful smile, watching Ben and Sam mmm and slurp. Mom would be proud.
My double delivery turned double digits. Say that 10 times fast. As dizzying as it is to say it is as dizzying as it is to feel. Time has flown.
I got back from my relaxing weekend away with my husband (thank you Grandpa and Aunt Lara for watching the kids!) Sunday night. During our weekend away, we marveled at how easy it was to go places and do things. There is always some two top tucked away at any restaurant, the same restaurant that only has a few large tables to fit our normal number of six, and those table always seem to have a long wait. It was so easy getting up and out the door, it took about two seconds, since we were only responsible for ourselves and not checking to see if everyone was properly dressed for the weather, didn’t have food on their face, or having to pack a bag full of water bottles and wipes. I felt like I was just living my own life, instead of worrying from one meal to the next about every argument, every cut or scrape, or who needs to eat before they have a meltdown. Did everyone remember to plug in their iPads before we left?
When I picked up the twins after school on Monday, Aaron threw up all over the playground. Then he threw up again in his bed after he went to sleep that night. Jack rang us from his bathroom floor around 5am Tuesday morning to let us know he was puking and could we change his sheets as well?
So started the morning of the twin’s 10th birthday. Adam and my restful weekend was gone, now we were back to 5 hours of sleep and 6 loads of laundry.
We still went to get birthday breakfast donuts for anyone who could stomach them.
While Ben and Sam went to school, Aaron and Jack sat home all day watching movies and spitting in buckets, trying to keep down gatorade and crackers.
By the afternoon Aaron was recovering nicely and managed to keep a donut down.
We cancelled the dinner plans and I made filet mignon at home for anyone who could eat it.
The twins opened their presents from us and had cake, sans candles, since the last thing we needed in this house was more barf.
Saturday everyone was recovered in time for the twin’s birthday party, which we held at Whirlyball. It was a laser tag party.
After an hour of laser tag, the kids had an hour of pizza, sundaes, cupcakes and games. They also discovered the goodie bags which had plane flyers.
Because the twins kind of missed their special day, we continued to celebrate all week.
We went to a birthday brunch, one of Aaron’s requests was for breakfast for lunch.
And we went out for dinner to makeup for the cancelled dinner on their actual birthday. This time it was breakfast for dinner! We went to MingHin which served DimSum all day.
Happy Birthday Sam and Aaron! Having you guys in my life for the past 10 years has brought me so much happiness. I could go on and on about their smarts, athleticism, and wit, but I think my favorite thing about having them is that they are good friends with each other. I realize just how rare it is to say that about twins, and I thank my lucky stars every day for it.
Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I was greeted with cards and gifts from my family members.
Adam explained to me how difficult it was to buy gifts for me and I told him if he wanted it to be easier, he shouldn’t be so generous when it came to my spending. It was a very happy moment. Not being able to find a good gift for me means I’m very well provided for and have everything I need. And not having to worry about money is part of my happiness as a mother.
Then I kicked Adam out of the bed so he could get to the gym. he felt weird about going on Mother’s Day but guess what – on Mother’s Day you have to do what I want! Having him stay healthy and fit is part of my happiness as a mother. It would totally suck if I had to take care of him as well.
After the gym we took the family out for brunch. It was the brunch Aaron asked for as part of his birthday wishes. He wanted to eat breakfast for lunch. Fulfilling all your kids birthday wishes is part of my happiness as a mother.
In the afternoon we took in a 3D movie – Marvel’s latest, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Jack and Ben have been talking about it obsessively and Jack especially wanted to see it before everyone at his school spoiled it for him by talking about it before he saw it himself. Making sure your kids aren’t upset by spoilers is part of my happiness as a mother.
That evening we spent quite a bit of time doing homework. Almost all the kids had assignments they needed help with, which Adam and I were happy to help. Watching the kids do well in school is part of my happiness as a mother.
This morning after we dropped all the kids off at school and I dropped my husband off at work. The house was finally quiet. During these quiet hours, the real Mother’s Day pampering will start. Having this down time just for me is part of my happiness as a mother.
This year we flew back to Florida for Spring Break.
If someone asked me where the ideal location for a second home would be, I’m not sure I would reply 1,300+ miles away, but since my sister and I have inherited this place, I’ve grown to crave my visits here.
This time we started the trip with two extra boys. Jack had his two friends join us for the first half of the trip.
Some people think this would make the trip harder, but it actually makes it a lot easier. No matter what the activity, there was always someone who was game to join.
We spent a ton of time at a new park down the street that opened recently.
They have tennis courts, basketball courts, pickleball and volleyball.
We also swam in many pools…
Another day, Adam took the older boys to play golf.
Sometimes we just went out on the street in front of the house, something we could never do in the city. We would play basketball with one of the many neighbor’s nets set up on the street. We also flew kites, got our plane flyers caught on other peoples roofs and palm trees, and had ‘gun’ plane duels.
With all this activity, we deserved a few nice meals and treats.
We spent a lot of time with Grandpa. I’m not sure who enjoys Grandpa’s company more, the kids or me. Some days he came over and spent time with us, sometimes he babysat so Adam and I could act like adults. He also joined us for Passover.
I was also lucky to see many of my childhood friends this week, some who I’ve kept in touch with and some who I reunited with this trip.
After Jack’s buddies left, we ran around doing all the stuff we loved to do when we visit Florida.
In addition to all the treats we had on our own, we were also spoiled by people bringing treats over all week. My Aunt Doris brought over a huge apple pie, my next door neighbors wife (who used to own a bakery) gave us cookies and pound cake, and my father’s wife spoiled us with burger bombs and seder cookies.
It was such a sunny, social, and athletic vacation that coming back to overcast, snowy Chicago was a real shock to the system. I’m missing Florida already.
When we arrived for the kid’s Spring Break in Florida, Adam asked me if I was going to visit my mother’s grave. I normally do this every time I visit. I suggested Sunday, since there was less chance Adam’s work would get in the way and he could watch the kids. Adam suggested Tuesday.
“Why Tuesday?” I asked.
He replied, “Because Tuesday is the anniversary of your mother’s passing.”
How does he remember this stuff? After the initial shock, I felt incredibly lucky that the one week my children had off school and we decided to go to Florida was the same week of my mother’s passing.
When I was growing up, my mother often took me to her mother’s gravesite to visit. We would check the flowers then stand and speak to her silently for a few minutes. Because of this ritual, I understand this is how my mother would want to be remembered.
It’s hard to believe a year has passed already.
My mother’s passing was the first time anyone close to me left this world. It was my first encounter with intense grief.
Grief is a funny thing. It’s a word that lets everyone know that something bad has happened to you, but does not describe in any way how that bad thing has effected you. Kind of like cancer. Cancer is always a bad thing, but you don’t know if you’ll emerge from it wounded yet triumphant or devastated completely.
In the past year I’ll spent a lot of time observing or thinking back to people I know who have been through grief. I marveled at my stoic friend and father, who had the emotional strength to stand up and speak at his son’s funeral. Twice I’ve seen my girlfriend’s husbands completely break down upon the death of a parent, leading to divorce shortly after. More times than I can count I’ve heard stories of people living with regret that the relationship they had with a relative was not resolved to their satisfaction before they passed. Some are able to make peace with it eventually. Others are bewildered at the dichotomy of missing someone so much that made their lives so difficult.
A lot of people start thinking of their own mortality as a result. My sister and I were talking on the anniversary or our mother’s death and she quoted James 4:14 to me, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”
Which I took to mean that our time on earth is but a blip, a glorious but short gift. How should we spend that time?
None of these situations describes the grief I’m experiencing for my mother. Most days when something good, bad or ugly happens to me one of my first thoughts is, I should call Mom and tell her about this. But then I remember with a jolt that I can’t do that anymore. Or maybe I remember that I can’t call her first and then think, Mom would have loved to have heard about this.
Winnie was the kind of Mom that wanted to hear every little thing about our lives and relished in all the details. If Adam took me to a fancy dinner she would want to know exactly what we ate and what I wore. If one of the kids accomplished anything she would want every detail of how it occurred and what the kids reactions were to the accomplishment. I knew she would be especially happy if our family were traveling anywhere. Every single day would be dissected and Mom would give her worldly travel advice about the best way to go about having an amazing trip.
When Mom was alive, all those wonderful moments of life that she took so much pleasure in hearing about were amplified by her approval. After she passed, those moments turned bittersweet.
Coming to Florida has many perks, but one of the reasons I love being there is that I get to be in my childhood home. It’s the closest I can get to her presence. Every bit of her house is a reminder of her interests, her quirky tastes, and the memories we spent a lifetime building together.
The Jewish people call the anniversary of a loved ones death Yahrzeit. In memory of a loved one, you normally light a candle or lamp to remember them by. We didn’t light any candles, but it felt right that we kept the lights burning bright in her house on the anniversary of her passing.
Because of my age, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are becoming the new celebration du jour. So many of my friend’s children are becoming adults in the eyes of the Jewish religion these days!
When my very good friend Jessica (some of you may remember her as the officiant of my wedding and my mother’s funeral) sent out invites to her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in Telluride, Colorado, we immediately said yes.
I’ve had ‘learn to ski’ on my bucket list of parenting must dos for a long time now and the kids are at a perfect age for it.
The first day of skiing we enrolled the twins in ski school.
Ben had a half day private lesson with Malin.
Jack, who already had a lesson when he went to Boulder (ironically for another Bat Mitzvah) went off and skied with Adam.
Everyone had an amazing day and when we went to pick up the twins, the instructor asked if we’d like to hire him for the next day. We said yes!
The next day, day two of skiing, Instructor Sam spent much of the morning with Ben, which Ben found exhausting.
After that session, Instructor Sam suggested we try to get another lesson for Ben with the Adaptive Sports program, which caters to people with physical and mental disabilities.
In the afternoon, Instructor Sam took the twins, Jack and Adam up the mountain. Ben and I stayed behind to rest, try to arrange an Adaptive lesson for him, and drink Starbucks while people watching. It’s crazy what people wear skiing! We saw a yellow Telytubby, a cow, a pineapple and an unidentified blue animal.
That afternoon when we joined back up, I learned the twins were barreling down blue runs, skiing backwards and going off course, through the trees. It was their second day skiing! Instructor Sam proved to be a fun instructor and tour guide of the mountain.
The third day was the Bat Mitzvah. We attended a beautiful ceremony which included three generation of women. Both Jessica and her mother are Cantors so it was filled with divine, harmonious singing.
That afternoon we went back to our Airbnb and did make-up homework for hours.
In the evening, the Bat Mitzvah family hosted a dinner in the yurt at 221 South Oak.
The kids were super adventurous eaters. Aaron tried octopus and loved it. Ben tried Foie Gras and also loved it. We all shared meals and there wasn’t a single thing I tried that wasn’t perfectly cooked and delicious.
The next day, our last day, it was time to hit the slopes again. Two days before, after Ben heard about the twins adventures with Instructor Sam he was pretty bummed at how quickly they were progressing compared to himself. It took a lot of convincing to get him to take the Adaptive lesson we managed to get for him.
While Ben was at his lesson, I went up the mountain to witness the twins progress for myself.
I watched them weave in and out of trees, take jumps, and speed down fearlessly while I pulled the widest turns I could, mostly with my feet in the pizza pie aka snowplow position.
We came back to find Ben exhilarated by the lesson. He was back into skiing and only wished we had more days to ski so he could have more Adaptive lessons.
In the afternoon, Adam, Jack and the twins split off from Ben and I so they could ski some more. Ben was exhausted and had enough for the day so we explored the town and went to the store to get a big snack ready for the skiers. I learned that after a long day of skiing the kids are starving when they get back.
When the others got back I learned that had quite an afternoon! Aaron kept wanting to try harder and harder trails. Today, his third day, he was asking for double blues. Finally Adam acquiesced. They headed down the “Magnolia” run which was icy and full of moguls. Once they got to the bottom, the lift was closed and they had to find another way down the mountain which was rapidly closing. They ended up on the “See Forever” run which we were warned the day before by Marcus (Jessica’s husband) not to do! Both twins were pretty cranky by the end of it.
Adam was good natured about it. As tired as he was himself, he could have easily been short with the kids. Instead he just told Aaron that when he is an adult, this will be a great story for him to tell. “Sam, remember the time Dad took us on those scary slopes in Telluride?”
When they got home Ben and I had ice cold Gatorade and snacks waiting for their exhausted, dehydrated bodies.
After a rest I convinced a few of them to check out the hot tub at our Airbnb. We had been so zonked by the end of every day that we had not yet used it.
We flew back the next day and once again the kids spent hours making up the homework they missed.
It was a great vacation. I enjoyed so many things about it! Watching the kids learn and love the skill of skiing made me happy. Spending time with my good friends who live so far away made me happy. But I think the thing that made me most happy was having Adam there with us to enjoy the vacation. Sometimes we book these vacations and it ends up Adam has to work the entire time we are away. He works such long hours, I felt very happy he could get a few days off.
I’m still in shock when I see the tall, handsome, competent young man wandering through my kitchen in the morning (or afternoon!) after waking from a night’s sleep.
Jack celebrated his birthday over the weekend with a few friends at MassVR. We tried their Hallow Realm game. We were broken into two teams and either played a Hunter or a Ghost.
Even I played! Not every well, but really, did anyone stand a chance against 5 teenage kids in a video game?
Afterwards we came back to the house and ate pizza and cake.
It was a pretty low key birthday compared to all the ones he’s had in the past, but it felt just right. We can hardly invite the whole class now that he’s in a big high school!
Jack’s actual birthday fell on President’s Day, which means he had the day off.
Again he opted for a low key day. We tried a new donut place for breakfast, Do-Rite Donuts.
For dinner we had the usual sushi and Chinese food from Shine. Afterwards more cake! This time from Baker’s Square. A French Silk Pie and Jack’s favorite, Pumpkin Pie.
The big change this year is that Jack can now get a permit to drive a car. It’s wild to think he can operate a vehicle. What’s more odd is that it’s obvious he will be completely capable to do that. I’m pretty sure within a year he will be a better driver than me. And when that happens I will gladly hand over the keys. I love it when someone else is doing the driving.