Valentine’s Day 2021

Like most holidays during this pandemic, Valentine’s Day was a muted version of what it once was.

We started the morning with special waffles and heart shaped strawberries.

My favorite part of the day was opening my many cards from all my kids. (I’m pretty sure the oldest one was strong armed under duress to make one for me.)

But during the day, it was just another day full of putzing around the house. Besides copious amounts of time spent on electronics, some of the kids spent their time carving soap and having bubble baths.

Oh, and Aaron made his life plan…

In the evening, we tried to order king crab from three different places, but we struck out on all of them. I’m sure this is due to the ever changing uncertainty restaurants are facing at this time. So we ate at home, and promised ourselves we would wait for another time to have a crab feast. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to be more patient and flexible.

And creative! Aaron finds his disco ball and we end the evening dancing to “Saturday Night Fever.”

Pin It

Trip to Florida

Because of the surge in covid-19, a few weeks before Thanksgiving Ben’s school sent us a message. “Out of an abundance of caution”, they were pausing all in person learning until January 11th. Around the same time Adam’s office asked that people only come if it was essential.

“We might as well rent a house in Florida for a month.” I said to Adam. There was no reason any of us had to be in a city that was completely shuttered and was too cold to go outdoors.

I thought perhaps with his mountain of work, it would be to hard for Adam to spend the time traveling. It’s a solid two days drive down. Surprisingly he agreed.

Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising. Before Covid, we were planning on flying to Florida around this time and taking the kids to Disney plus adding on either a stop in Marco Island, to show them where we got married, or a stop in Boca Raton where my parents live. We figured we wouldn’t have time to do all three stops.

So, two weeks before we were set to leave, we frantically searched for a house rental with a solid month available.

We found a perfect place equidistant from my mother and father’s place in Deerfield Beach. It was walking distance to the beach. And it had a heated pool! However, it was only available for three weeks.

We decided we would add a few nights in Marco Island, but skip Disney because it seemed just too reckless and unsafe.

Twin masks

We arrived to find my parents stocking the house with requested extra portable tables for remote learning and treats.

Homemade rugalug from Grandpa and homemade Italian Christmas cookies from Japo.

The kids wasted no time changing into swim clothes and taking full advantage of the heated pool. Many days the kids had ‘recess’ in the pool.

We spent the next two weeks remote learning during the day, but making plenty of time for fun things every afternoon and weekend.

We spent time in Grandpa’s pool too. Japo’s neighbor let us borrow their huge float which the males in the house blew up and promptly tried push each other off of.

One weekend we took them to Ski Rixen at Quiet Waters Park. They have a special time in the mornings when they slow the cable down and allow kids 7 and up (as opposed to 12 and up normally) to learn to ski, wakeboard, or kneeboard.

Ben surprises us by making a full loop.

During this time, they have a golf cart that picks up the fallen riders and brings them back to the starting point.

Sam keeps trying until he makes a full loop.
Jack manages to loop the track three times.

We spent many hours on beaches, both in Deerfield Beach and in Marco Island.

What goes out…
…must come back.
Looking for shells at Tigertail Beach in Marco Island.
Shelling on one of the 10,000 islands on Marco Island with our friends the Piercys.

We also spent a lot of time on boats.

On cousin Jackie’s pontoon boat in Fort Lauderdale.
Snorkeling boat trip in Key Largo.
Shelling tour in Marco Island.

We also celebrated Hanukkah during our time in Deerfield Beach. I didn’t do a great job with the Hanukkah bears, but they did manage to make a few appearances.

The Hanukkah bears stole the kids electronics.
The Hanukkah bears went snorkeling.
The Hanukkah bears stole Sam’s microscope (a Hanukkah present from Grandpa)
The Hanukkah bears went biking.
The Hanukkah bears built a pillow fort.
They even made an appearance at ‘school’.

The kids saw lots of amazing things that we never see here….

Iguanas in our backyard.
Dolphins surfing our boat wake in Marco Island.
Cape Romano. Marco Island.

We had so many wonderful adventures, but the very best part of the trip was all the time spent with friends and family. Because of the weather, we were able to have many different socially distant meet ups.

Delicious dinner at Etaru in Hallandale with Adam’s cousin Jackie and her husband, Mark.
Celebrating my birthday with this beloved group of friends, a friendship that has lasted over 30 years so far.
Meeting up with my Chicago friend at the Ocean Reef Club in Kay Largo.
Lovely boat tour with the Piercy’s in Marco Island.
Japo takes the twins on a tour of her house.
Grandpa take Jack and Adam on a bike ride.

Oh, and after we drove 17 hours into Florida, I pointed out that we had just passed Disney World. It was a shame not to go when we were passing RIGHT BY IT and considering how hard it was to get here from Chicago.

I suggested that we add a few more days to the trip and stop by Disney on our way home.

Are you surprised that Adam agreed?

Turns out Disney was only booking the park at 1/3 capacity. They did a lot of work to make it covid safe, with clearly marked lines to stand 6 feet apart while queuing. Spacing for dining and not being able to enter any food places until you placed a mobile order. They were strict on masking and frankly it felt a lot safer than what I saw when I briefly stopped at gas stations across America.

The happiest place on Earth.
Animal Kingdom.
Hollywood Studios.
Make your own Droid at Hollywood Studios.
The kids all leave with a Groku souvenir.

It was truly a magical vacation, ironically one we could not have had without this pandemic.

We are back in freezing Chicago and I’m missing Florida already.

Pin It

Halloween 2020

After much thought, Adam and I decided not to take the kids trick or treating this year. We just couldn’t think of a way to do it that would adhere to the CDC guidelines.

Three days ago, Governor Pritzker announced that all indoor dining and bars will be shut down. A curfew is in effect. Our hospitals are almost at capacity.

Now is not the time for risk.

Although the kids will not trick or treat, they still had the option to get a new Halloween costume. Only Aaron took us up on the offer.

When his costume arrived he wore it for two days straight, even to bed.

This year Aaron is a “Gold Ninja Avenger”.

He even wore it to school. In addition he’s been dressing up Teddy in costumes to sit with him at school for the week. Maybe I helped. By helped I mean Jack and I would dress Teddy up every night so in the morning Aaron would be surprised.

Darth Teddy

We decided to do an Easter Egg hunt with candy to replace Trick or Treating this year.

In the morning, I did a social distancing walk with my friend Hedy.

While I was away, I left the box of Easter Eggs and the bags of candy for the kids to stuff with Adam.

Hedy and I walked for about an hour, then before going home, we went to Walgreens to pick up a poster to put on the door. I wanted to let people know we will not have candy this year. It’s bad enough my kids are missing out, I don’t want the bell to ring all night, constantly reminding me how many others are missing out as well. Last year I gave away 7 bags of Costco size bags of candy. That’s a lot of missing out.

While we were in Walgreens, I looked up and spotted Adam, Ben and Sam coming down the escalator!

Apparently after they stuffed the Easter Eggs, there was still a lot of candy so they decided to go to Walgreens to find more. Because, you know, stocking Easter Eggs in October is a thing, right?

Now, I spent $100 on Halloween candy and you just heard that we didn’t have enough eggs to fit it all, didn’t you? So I think it’s safe to say we have enough candy.

So what do you think they got at Walgreens?

Adam, Ben and Sam go to Walgreens on Halloween to find Easter Eggs and leave with Christmas candy!

They got MORE CANDY!!! Not just any candy. Christmas candy. On Halloween. While looking for Easter Eggs.

When I got home I noticed the leftover candy was scattered everywhere. Apparently they had a candy fight with it. And I also discovered under the mounds of candy a bunch of unstuffed eggs, close to 30 of them.

Seriously people. I was only gone an hour.

When I got back Aaron and I made a sign and hung it outside. Sadly we noticed that, unlike last year when it snowed, this year it was perfect trick or treating weather.

For a dinner treat we ordered deep dish pizza. Nothing like a huge gut bomb like deep dish before stuffing yourself with Halloween (or Christmas) candy.

Finally, the Easter Egg Halloween Candy hunt….

For the first time, we did the hunt upstairs. Which made for a lot of new and interesting hiding places.

Also, as a bonus, the kids gravitated to different rooms which kept them from fighting over eggs.

We ended the night with a walk around the neighborhood. We spent some time checking out the Halloween decorations.

But more importantly, Adam wanted to see the moon tonight. It was a rare blue moon. He read the last time this happened was over 70 years ago.

He explained to the kids that blue moon are so rare, that they have an expression for it,

You might say something like, “Pandemics like this are so rare, they happen once in a blue moon.”

Pin It

Covid Activities

I spent some time scrolling through previous summer blogs recently. I was amazed just how much we crammed into each day.

Covid has changed all that. No more beaches. No more water parks. No more playdates.

We have gone insular. The activities have gotten smaller.

Most days Adam and I try to get the kids out for some fresh air, sunshine, and activity, but it’s nothing like the adventures we used to have.

Most days it’s just a walk.

Palmisano (Henry) Park
Palmisano (Henry) Park
Swallow Cliff Woods steps
Swallow Cliff Woods
Walking around near Montrose Beach.
Walking around near Montrose Beach.
Montrose Bird Harbor
Northwestern University
Peninsula near Northwestern University
Painted rocks near Northwestern University

Sometimes we go biking.

MacArthur Forest Preserve. Old School loop.
Gravel is tough to ride on. Ben got six staples in his knee that evening.
After a hot day bike riding, we enjoy some Dairy Queen.
Biking By Lane Tech.
Biking the lake front.
Followed by more Dairy Queen!

And when all else fails, I try to channel my inner Jane Fonda and get the boys to workout at home.

Deck workout.

In a lot of ways, I appreciate this new way of being. It’s exhausting to try to top every summer with the next best summer ever. To scour the landscape for new and exciting things to do now that we have grown a year older, are taller, and can do more.

The kids are finally free to be bored. ‘Let your children be bored’ is one of the many pieces of advice I often see floating around the internet by various experts with regards to your children, isn’t it? Up to this point I’ve ignored it.

Although being bored resulted in too much screen time (‘limit screen time’ is another one of those pieces of advice floating around the internet by various experts that I have also ignored), it has also created a lot of creativity and interaction between the kids.

Jack and the twins did this to my hoodie footie.
The hoodie footie has gotten a lot of use this summer…
Pool noodle fight.
Sam’s army men make a comeback.
Sam and Jack hanging out.

Sam does the most with all this free time in the house, leading the charge in costumes and role play games, or just creating on his own. But even Ben, who complains of boredom the most, has started to draw again.

Petoskey Stones from our trip have been moved off the dining room table to make way for Ben’s drawings.
Ben also planted a garden this summer.

School starts soon, with three of the kids remote learning. It will mean less time for boredom for the kids, and less time for me to putz around and finish chores at my leisure.

In preparation for the remote learning, the kids are doing a typing course. The twins are memorizing their times tables as well. When I get their schedules, I will try to plan for some social distancing lessons they can do, like tennis or golf, to keep them active.

But for now, I’m planning on enjoying these last few weeks by cramming in as many books as I can read and binge watching as many shows as I can.

Pin It

Weekend in Petoskey

For Ben’s birthday, Adam drove the entire family up to Petoskey to hunt for Petoskey Stones.

This was the only area we missed on our RV trip last summer, so we made sure to check out all the sites still on our list of things to see.

On the drive up, we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Of course, the minute the kids saw it, they started running up at full speed.

There are gorgeous panoramic views that no camera can do justice.

What goes up, must come down. And with our kids, it must also be at full speed.

Afterwards, we made our way to Traverse City for dinner at Harrington’s by the Bay. This dinner fulfilled another one of Ben’s obsessions, trying new types of fish. Ben tried Bang Bang Shrimp and Beer Battered Perch.

Long waits at all the good restaurants this time of year, even with Coronavirus.

The next day, we went to Petoskey State Park. This was one of two good places to look for Petoskey stones, according to a few blogs on the internet.

The waves were massive, which is fun for playing in the surf, but makes it difficult to snorkel for stones. Though they tried…

There were lots of people on the beach and we saw a few of them scouring the shoreline with spray bottles of water, looking for Petoskey stones. Ben and Adam started looking right away, but without immediate success, Ben gave up.

The expectation he had in his head didn’t match the reality.

Since Chicago Beaches are closed now, a beach day was a special treat, and the other kids enjoyed it immensely.

Digging a huge hole.
Aaron loves to be buried in the sand.

Finally, after much searching from Adam and a little searching from me, we started finding some Petoskey stones.

Ben got a little less morose, and started looking again.

Later we left the beach and headed for Kilwin’s for ice cream and fudge.

That evening, after a full day in the sun and water, we gave the kids some down time. We ordered a pizza in the hotel.

These three eat an entire large pizza on their own!
At Kilwin’s, Adam orders 10 pounds of fudge!

We had heard there was another beach worth checking out for Petoskey stones, so after dinner and lots of fudge for dessert, we went to check it out.

Magnus Beach was covered in stones. Sam wasn’t interested in looking, instead he smashed rocks.

Magnus Beach was magical.

The woman in the picture above saw Ben looking for stones and brought him all the bags she had collected to give to him. She was staying in the RV park nearby. Apparently her husband kept asking her why she was collecting them since they weren’t going to bring them all home.

She explained that because the water was so choppy lately, many new stones had washed up on shore. We found a bunch more on our own as well.

As we were collecting stones, another group came over and asked if we wanted the last piece of birthday cake leftover from their celebration.

Finally I realized Aaron was upset that he wasn’t finding any stones of his own, and the nice lady gave all hers to Ben. But she came through again! She led us to another RV and there was a woman giving away more Petoskey stones! Hers were painted and unpainted.

Aaron finally gets his own Petoskey stones.

Afterwards we strolled through downtown Petoskey, Adam offering to buy us souvenirs.

The next day we headed back home, stopping in South Haven for a very loud (there was a live band) lunch at Captain Lou’s.

Finally, we went blueberry picking at DeGrandchamp Farms.

In our usual grand style, we left with 12 pounds of blueberries.

I also left with this….

Our haul from the trip. Now it’s time to start polishing them…
Pin It

Ben’s 11th Birthday

For almost a year now, Ben has been obsessed with fossils.

His birthday this year celebration started with a trip to Dave’s Rock Shop.

Museum at Dave’s Rock Shop

Sam and Aaron joined him and picked out a few fossils of their own.

He also received some reference books from his parents, which so far have proven to be a weak adversary to the internet.

Ben was visited by a large number of staff members from his school. They came bearing cookies and cards.

Seven members of the school staff come and visit Ben for his birthday.

I was incredibly humbled by this effort. Everyone in this blurred out picture is still working a full time job at the school, as they have summer session right now. One of the people here was on his day off and still came to visit Ben!

Later, Ben requested take out from Shine Restaurant. He has also been into trying new types of seafood, so we let him pick from the different Nigiri options.

What Ben’s face looks like when he puts too much wasabi on his nigiri.

Ben also requested a celebration cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.

The brothers are ready to sing to the cake
Layers of Vanilla Cake, Cheesecake, Strawberry, Chocolate and Vanilla Mousse with Cream Cheese Frosting.

But that’s not all!

Adam has been making an extra special effort to embrace Ben’s fossil and rock obsession. Last year he made the long trip to Mazon Creek to fossil hunt with Ben. And for his birthday this year, he took the entire family to Upper Michigan for a weekend of Petoskey stone hunting.

I’ll have that blog ready tomorrow….

Pin It

Father’s Day 2020

Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

Today was a beautiful day, and Adam took full advantage of it.

He woke up and went for a run.

After breakfast, he opened his present, a large acrylic print.

I used pictures from Jack’s Bar Mitzvah for this photo montage.

Then I ducked out for a bit to zoom with my own father for father’s day.

When I came back, Adam took Jack out for a run.

Then we had lunch.

Afterwards, Adam took Ben out for a run. (Do you see where this is all going, besides in a big circle for Adam?)

Next, Aaron had a turn playing soccer outside with Adam. Last but not least, Sam did a walk with Adam.

Aaron and Adam on their way to play soccer in the park.

In the evening, Adam had a well deserved burger, his dinner of choice for today.

For dessert, we ate desserts that Adam’s friend, who owns Dessert Box, delivered to him for his birthday yesterday.

Sampler Plate

By the end of the day, Adam finally took a well deserved rest.

Here is his phone’s step counter for the day….

Pin It

Adams 51st Birthday

Another birthday under Coronavirus!

I wonder how many of our family members will celebrate this way? Will we still be like this when my birthday rolls around in December? Only time will tell.

Adam didn’t seem bothered by the lack of things to do. In fact, since he is an over planner, having nothing to do and nowhere to go made it so he wasn’t too busy for once.

He was able to go out for a morning run, followed by a walk with Ben.

For his father’s day present, he asked that each kid spend time with him. Then he asked that each kid say how they wanted to spend time with him. There were requests for walks, reading and of course, video gaming.

Doctored up card from my father.

In the morning he opened up many cards and presents from family members.

Also this year he received phone call from many friends, many more than usual. He is not on social media so the fact that they remember is even more touching.

We got him Airpods. He is constantly telling clients to hold on a second, he just has to unravel or find his earphones. These go on much easier and they have a way to find them when they are lost.

Apple Airpods come with free engraving.

Also, we got him a pair of the new Allbirds Tree Runners. (I’m in love with the brand, well made but also woke.)

Adam requested pizza for dinner which we made from scratch.

For dessert, home made chocolate eclairs.

🎵 Happy Birthday to Adam. 🎵

Stay tuned for the second of Adam’s days this weekend – Father’s Day.

Pin It

Sam and Aaron’s 8th Birthday

Sam and Aaron’s birthday arrived in the middle of our ‘Shelter at Home’ ordinance.

We did the best we could, considering all our normal birthday rituals were not possible at this time.

We had some successes and some failures.

I started the day with the alarm ringing at an ungodly hour so I could start making doughnuts that I normally buy at a store.

“Time to Make the Doughnuts.”

They were a huge success, like a fluffy funnel cake. They made the usual store bought ones seem stale by comparison. It doesn’t mean when things go back to normal I’m still going to wake up at the crack of dawn again just to make these, though.

The night before, Adam and I had set up a sparkling entrance and a balloon drop.

I was awake and in the kitchen when they woke up, making those darn doughnuts. I could hear them whispering (so they wouldn’t wake up their brothers) excitedly about the new sparkling entrance. For the millionth time, I thought how lucky they were to be twins, to have a good friend to share these special moments with.

After breakfast they opened a card from Bubbie & Bill, also a card from Cheryl, Allen & Jessica Kaplan.

When everyone else woke up, we let them pull down the balloon drop.

When the balloons dropped, we revealed that we had hidden presents inside some of the balloons.

Sam used a “flying jump and land on top of the balloon” method to pop them open.
Aaron, on the other hand, went and got scissors.

They found cash inside a bunch of different balloons. They gathered it together and split it evenly between the two of them.

I tried to dole out the surprises during the day. After watching a Harry Potter movie, they asked for their next surprise. While they were watching the movie, Jack and I took some old yarn that I used to make Hanukkah Bear costumes out of (Fable’s Fortnite Hair) and created a spy themed treasure hunt.

We strung the string through Jack and the twin’s bedroom. They had to crouch and duck like spies avoiding lasers, following their own string color until they found the prize.

Jack hid their presents, Lego building sets, in their school back packs. He figured they would NEVER think to look there. He was right.

Jack helps Sam build a LEGO plane.
Adam helps Aaron build a LEGO car.

A few hours later they asked for another surprise. This time they each had to solve a home made puzzle to find it. Then, they had to put their puzzles together to get the clue.

I used leftover blank puzzles from Jack’s 11th birthday party.

I cut out foot prints and spray painted them with chalk spray. They followed the trail of footprints. It led them from the front door, around the side of the house, and up to the back deck…

On the deck they found a “Connect 4 Shots” game. It’s basically connect four but you throw the balls instead of just placing them in a slot. They enjoyed the hunt, but they weren’t that into the game.

After another break, they asked for another surprise. This time I had them fill out a cipher to find a clue that would lead them to their next present.

Aaron got a Rock Garden from Smithsonian. Sam got the game, “You got Crabs”, which we will play later in the week. Yes, he is in the background pretending to be a crab.

In the evening, Aaron requested tacos for dinner.

Sam helped me make the batter for home made tortillas. Which didn’t work out. I couldn’t get them thin enough or pull them off the tortilla press in one piece. Luckily I had some store bought ones.

The twins also wanted chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for dessert.

After cake, we showed them a video of all the people who wished them a happy birthday. Many of their friends from school sent video clips. Also their family members made an incredible effort. They really like the video clip Aunt Lara and Uncle Brent sent with their drone.

Reaction to Grandpa Devensky’s video clip.

My final surprise was a taco piƱata for them to bust up.

Besides a few cooking failures and some bad choices for gifts for Sam (he is very difficult to buy for), I’d chalk this up as a birthday success. Judging from the comments from the twins and Ben, I think they would say so too.

Pin It

Jack’s Bar Mitzvah

By the way, I put up the photos of Jack’s Bar Mitzvah.

I wanted to write a flowering blog post about what an amazing son I have and how the party went off without a hitch, but by the time I got the photos, everyone was completely overwhelmed with Coronavirus.

I reserve the right to come back at some point and write about it, but in the mean time, hope you enjoy seeing the photos…

Pin It