Another Way to Beat the Heat

Hello Friends,

Well, summer heat has arrived in Chicago. If the weather prediction is right, we’re in for more this week. With temps hitting the nineties on Friday and Saturday, we decided to cash-in a gift and hit the theater.

Oops, to clarify, we went to the Marriot Theatre, not a movie theater. Grandma and Grandpa gifted the girls tickets for Christmas and we found Junie B. Jones, the Musical, for them to check out.

Sweetie read a bunch of the June B. Jones books during the First Grade, and really enjoyed them. The writing is age-appropriate and accessible. I think Sweetie liked that there is some mis-adventures, mischief, and some of the behaviors are a bit controversial (again, within the age parameters). Cricket knows of Junie B. through her sister-if Sweetie dug it, it must be awesome.

The theatre was only about forty percent filled, and wife spoke with a lovely woman at the ticket counter, so first row, center, for us. Since we were on the same level as the stage, the girls could see all the actors and actresses up close. They loved the layout (theatre in the square?) that allowed them to see all the action. The girls were rockin’ out to the songs and crackin’ up with the show.

The Marriot Theatre is in Lincolnshire, just North of the city. They hold all types of theatre performances, and the ground-level, square stage with 360° seating is pretty cool. Their air conditioning works well and the seats are comfortable. (If I could’ve taken photos during the performance you would see the grandfather who slept comfortably the entire show-HERE). They are easy enough to find online, so check ’em out.

So I offer you, friends, this other way to beat the heat. Another special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for this “experience” gift, which was a wonderful way to spend the day. I hope you all are staying comfortable in the summer heat, and finding all sorts of adventures. We’ll see you out there!

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Garden Fun

Hello Friends,

Our summer is off and running, with all sorts of adventures and activities. I’ll fill you in on the camp fun and vacationing (local plans for us) and all that, but today I want to tell you about our garden.

We started our bed prep back in April. After the initial weeding, the girls used fairy house to create a fairy village, then planted wildflower seeds to make a pollinator “forest” to surround that village. The cool weather gave way to wet weather, but we were able to get plants in the ground by the end of May.

We kept it fairly simple with a jalepeno plant, two roma tomatoes, one squash, two rows of scallions, and two rows of carrots. Oddly enough, the two apple trees espaliered against the garage didn’t bloom this year. But the garden is planted!

This is a big deal for me because this is the first garden we have planted in three years! We left our house for renovation in 2016 and returned in late summer 2017 to award-winning weeds. Seriously, some were about six feet tall. Last summer we weeded, cleared, and cleaned, but never planted. Prior to the construction, we always planted a garden. And each year we changed, rearranged, landscaped, and continued to dial-in our yard space.

The other reason this is cool to me is that the girls are showing an interest. Whenever we went outside they gravitated to the garden bed and the dirt, so this year we are channeling that energy. The fairy houses are gifts from a couple of past birthdays; the girls moved them outside and crated the village. As far as gardening skills and foot-awareness, they are still stomping on plants, but took great care building their fairy village. Whenever we walk that way, they check on the houses and the developing pollinator meadow (fairy scale meadow, of course). We’re leveraging the lessons of the fairy village to teach the gurls about growing vegetables. You know, making sure they don’t think tomatoes grow in the bins at Jewel. I love that they are getting their hands dirty and playing with worms, it’s much more refreshing than screen time. Their next lesson is how to clean the dirt from under their nails!

Well, we’re off to more activities. I hope your summer is starting off well. I haven’t picked songs in while, but this would be a great place to cue up Sherm the Worm by Peter Himmelman (we discovered the song on the Best of the Land of Nod aldum). If you have a garden space, be it a plot or even just a bucket, I wish you a bumper crop. Oh, and for sure I’ll update the progress. That’s all for now friends, we’ll see you out there!

Kindergarten, Here She Comes!

Hello Friends,

Like so many of you out there, we are wrapping up our school year. For Cricket, that means she is done with pre-school, and on her way to kindergarten. Yep, she’s got her certificate and everything.

Logistically, this makes the Cricket an actual student. We now qualify for multi-student discount and financial aid and all sorts of other fun school stuff. And of course, she now gets to wear a uniform-no more “choice A or choice B” in the mornings!

Cricket got to sing a couple of songs, and she and her classmates performed an alphabet poem about their year. Their celebration ceremony was informal, but nice. And no worries about Sweetie. She is off to the Second Grade, right next door to her current classroom. She got sent along with a jovial pat on the shoulder.

We hope you all have a good wrap to your school year, and may your summer start well. We’ll see you out there!

Dad Jokes Abound

Hello Friends,

It seemed like everyone was getting in the Dad jokes this year. I starting hearing them last week, bandied about on radio programs, used in email contests, and, of course, enjoyed between Fathers in preparation for the big day. The Cricket latched on to a particularly “good” one, so here goes:

“What do you call a bear with no teeth?”

“A gummy bear!”

Even better than the joke itself is Cricket’s delivery. She doesn’t always wait for the “What?” after the opening question, and rapid fires the punchline at you. Of course, she’s cracking up regardless of your response.

I hope that the weekend, especially yesterday, was excellent, and that this week is starting off well too. Stay away from those real “groaner” jokes, but stay open to the funny ones!

Happy Father’s Day!

Hello Friends,

And a special hello to all my Father’s out there! Wife, the girls, and I all hope you are having a great day, surrounded by family and doing those things that bring you joy.

My day started with cards and gifts from my girls, followed by breakfast in bed. We scheduled everything for later in the morning, so it was a nice and easy start.

We took my Father, “Grandpa”, out for some brunch. Despite the crowd, we had a slow visit and enjoyed some good food.

Cards went out to all the Dads in our lives, many well-wishes went out via text as well. And now here is our blog wish to all you Dads out there, but especially the stay-at-home Dads out there. This one’s for you, men-Happy Father’s Day!

Lego Table-a DIY Project

Hello Friends,

Our lives have been full of school activities, what with the end of the year and all. I feel like a little break though. A while back I mentioned that I wanted to share more of our project life, so here goes…and the fact that it is a Lego-centric post is gravy on the potatoes.

Projects were a part of our lives well before the girls arrived. I am still a DIY kind of guy, but my projects have shifted. As life would have it, they have gone from “my projects” (1955 Buick), to “our” projects (1920 Bungalow), to “their” projects. This last category hosts a long, ever-growing list of things that need building, modifying, or repair. Recently, we customized a table to create a Lego building/play space.

I mentioned this table in my Lego History post, but the backstory is that we bought it from the liquidation sale when they closed the Sears down the street. Formerly for product display, the table is an all-steel frame with pressed-wood inserts. It was a little beaten up, but a sanding and a fresh coat of paint cleaned it right up.

Wife and I then set about the baseplate layout. She had picked up the green plates at Target for the girls’ free play. The road plates are from my Lego building days in the eighties (big thanks to the Q nephews and nieces for taking care of them!). As I mentioned in the history post, we wanted some type of layout, without sacrificing free play space. So far, the table is a combination of sets from buildings mixed with the girls’ creations. Free building and set following in one!

You can see that the height works perfectly for these chairs we found at Costco. There is also the lower shelf for storage (you can just see our storage bricks). And the girls love it. I don’t think a day goes by where they aren’t building and playing at the table. And many days, I have to kick them off so we can make it to school.

In total, this project cost under $75. The table itself was $23, a weird price because of the liquidation sale. The green plates are $7.99 off the shelf at Target. The paint is a $15 quart of Rustoleum (plus a handful of cheap brushes). Granted, we had the road plates, and the Costco chairs, so there was a re-assignment of existing resources. If I had painted in the warmer weather, I could’ve saved time and money with spray cans. But again, the girls are at the table daily, and their friends gravitate right to it when they come over to play. I think this project has already paid for itself.

So there’s our Lego table project. I will continue to share more of my projects, so you’ll be seeing them. I just caught wind of an IKEA/Lego collboration, so there may be a better, official option soon. Anyway, let me know what you think, or share your Lego play space.

We’ll see you out there!

My First Field Trip

Hello Friends,

The girls have taken field trips for a few years now. Obviously, there are school trips, like two or three each year. Last summer, Sweetie took field trips through her summer camp as well. Me, on the other hand, I’ve been avoiding them like the flu. But, not anymore!

These are all pictures taken while I chaperoned Cricket’s trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo with the two PreK-4 classes. An afternoon at LPZ is an easy sell for me. And the timing worked out, with no second child in tow, no half day pick up, and work that I could delay.

I was definitely nervous, at first, worrying that it would be me alone with half of Cricket’s class. I was envisioning parading around the zoo, chasing stragglers from one exhibit to the next. It wasn’t all that different from what I expected, except my group was five children (yes, Cricket was one of them), and I was joined by another Mom and a nanny (with a student’s younger sibling in tow). A third Mom even joined us during lunch. So we had/made a village.

Overall, the kids were great. Sure, they are four and five years old, but they were fine. The day was perfect, with the right balance of warmth, sun, cloud cover, and breeze. The bus ride? Well, definitely brought back elementary school memories. Taking all that into account, I guess I could help with another trip next year.

I don’t know about your kids’schools, but St. Viator has all sorts of ways for parents to get involved. The general feedback that I have heard (mainly from teacher Moms) is that field trips are one of the most important and helpful ways for parents to participate in school events. Personally, I liked seeing the kids enjoy the zoo and the animals. It’s no coincidence that all these pictures show the kids at the enclosure glass ir wall. They were so into the animals. And watching their antics was icing on the cake.

We are winding down the school year. For yhe most part, the girls are all smiles. I hope your end-of-year adventures are good as well.