Good-bye Construction Fence

Hello Friends,

In life, and in parenting in particular, we witness daily the changes around us. We live with nuanced changes in our growing children, plans shifting minute-to-minute, and the miriad of changes we ourselves embody. 

That is a roundabout way to say that I had a different post slated for today. My afternoon took a turn for the better so I am writing about something different. Here’s my inspiration:

You may be thinking, ” Oh wow, pictures of your house on an overcast day. Inspirational.” But can you see what’s different? No construction fence! I know, the title totally gave it away.

Obviously, I have skipped way ahead since my last construction update – couldn’t help myself. You may also be wondering, “Uh, where’s the addition?” If you look over the left side of the roof you can just see it peeking out.

Now there’s a better shot so you get the idea how the addition is set back and subtle, not looming and awkward. So progress continues at the house, with this week looking to be busy. Seeing the yard again is both liberating and a bit scary. So that was my excitement for the day – I’ll be sure to show you some more later. Here’s the alley view as a parting shot.

Don’t Call it a Comeback…

Hello Friends,

Yeah, I’ve been away for a bit. And while I have a variety of reasons that I feel justify the silence, they end up as excuses. I mean, I’m going to try to write about all this stuff anyway.

So the quick recap: we have not yet moved back into the house (it’s still under construction); Sweetie celebrated another birthday; Sweetie just wrapped up PreK-4; summer break started this week; there are product reviews to share; there are recipes to share; there is a new category to share; there is a vlog ( as a blog supplement) in the works. Whew!

So why not a comeback? ‘Cause this doesn’t really count as a post. And one post doesn’t warrant some sort of pat on the back. This is a smoke signal to let you all know we’re still here on the detour. And to share this random video of the Cricket jumping rope as only an almost 3 year old can:

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=hgdYHYqoK2Y

Thanks for sticking with us – we’ll see you again soon!

Back to Our Park

The Cricket and I were in our neighborhood today and had some time to burn before our bi-weekly construction meeting. April is month ten of our nine-month renovation. So we are not yet in our home – our time in the neighborhood was merely a visit. But what better place to visit on a beautiful Chicago day than the park!

Our home park is Kilbourn Park (for you locals or vistors). And while it is not as big as McKinley Park, the area where we are currently staying, it is ours. Cricket is getting more familiar with the playground and should be able to enjoy playing there this summer.

And again, while it may not be the biggest park, it has the important stuff. Slides, which I like, and swings, which the girls love. Kilbourn Park also has baseball diamonds, soccer cage, basketball courts, tennis courts, a fieldhouse – the works. One of the coolest features is the greenhouse and community garden. I think it might be the only park in the city with a greenhouse.

Just one more thing to miss about home. Especially on a sunny, mid-seventies Chicago Spring day like today. And the construction meeting? It went well. We’re behind but there’s progress. So we visit for now and look forward to being home soon. 

You’re Only 40 Once

I celebrated another friend’s 40th Birthday this weekend. Besides that most of the group was ready for bed by 11:00, it was a great time and a chance for me to reconnect with many friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. Thanks again Nelly – Happy Birthday buddy!

My 40th was back in December and I have been meaning to write about it since then. The first reason for the delay is a pitfall that I have fallen into many times since starting this blog: I wanted to write the perfect post about turning 40. Yeah, that post eluded me because of the second reason for delay: I was not inspired by this milestone.

It’s a weird situation and one that I’ve been chomping on for the past three months. The “thing” has nothing to do with our celebration. We actually had two celebrations, with both sides of our families, and both around meals (food being one of my favorite things). And it’s not so much about getting older. I mean, I’m not happy with all the changes I’m experiencing with my body, but we all get older so that’s just life. I thought it might have to do with my current position in life. Granted, I have friends who are making six-figure salaries, others who have tripled the bottom line of their family business, but they don’t all have kids. And you can’t really compare to children – I mean, c’mon, priceless. So it wasn’t any one of those things, but at times my lack of enthusiasm was caused by a bit of all of those things.

And so I’ve passed the last three months doing a lot of thinking. Reminiscing on “old times” and remembering all of the life that got me to this point. And thinking about the future, like what will I do when both girls are in school? After the past two friends’ birthdays I decided it was time to put thinking aside for a night and do some writing, so here it is. I don’t know if it is the perfect post about turning 40, but I put this out there for any of you getting ready for this birthday (I celebrated with many of you on Saturday!) and for those of you who have also recently passed this milestone. It may take a minute, but I hope you find a happy acceptance of this new decade.

While we were celebrating on Saturday many of us were joking that “40 is the new 30”. Looking at a picture of me taken ten years ago, at a 30th Birthday Party, I recognize that there is very little about me that is new. But it is a nice thought. I know that I am older now than at the start of the detour (deep, I know). And I do think I am more wise, but only because I pay attention. I am thankful for all I have to show for my time so far, and honestly, I think I am settling in with this 40 thing. As Sister Scales-of-Justice shared with me, “Celebrating turning 40 definitely beats the alternative”.

Enjoying a Long Weekend

What better way to prepare for a fresh weekend than to share our adventures from last week’s 4-day weekend! Thanks to the end of the trimester and staff retreat, we had four days to adventure last weekend. (Obviously, this week has been busy as we try to get back on track and get our inner clocks re-aligned.) So what is the best thing to do when faced with a long weekend and two children under 5? Get busy!

And it begins!

Wife was busy on Friday, so the girls and I headed to Lincoln Park to check out the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Wife and I had attended a fundraising event here many years ago so it was great to get back over for some exploring. And as you can tell by the bundled children, it was a perfect day for indoor adventures!

The girls were off and running as soon as we got inside, so we had to find something cool to check out quick. They loved the interactive exhibits, the first being an exhibit all about water management explaining the different structures for moving and utilizing water. I think the girls understood it as, “Water! And boats! Fish too!” Needless to say, they weren’t really into the history-oriented exhibits.

Is it lunch time yet?

Without a doubt, the girls’ favorite spot was the play area in the basement. It is set up as a marshy environment, complete with a tree-like play fort, a cave and a beaver lodge.

Beaver? Cat? Go with what you know.

And did I mention the costume/serape things they had for the kids? One in frog design and the other in a beaver design, these were great for being dragged around the room, sat upon for faster sliding and general sharing of all germs that kids can carry. The girls loved ’em.

Beaver? Ewok? Eh, cute either way.

I liked this area for two main reasons. 1.) It has a fence and therefore keeps the children contained, and 2.) It has its own private bathroom. Which we all put to good use. So the adventures stretched from the morning to the early afternoon and the girls were plenty worn out afterwards. Another major attraction at the museum is the butterfly pavilion, but I was so busy keeping the girls calm that I didn’t try to snap any photos. Who knew butterflies were creepy?!?

Wife was free on Saturday, so we headed to Old Town to visit the Chicago History Museum. Wife couldn’t believe it was my first visit. There she is with Sweetie in the bottom right corner of the photo. Again, too cold to play outside.

So the girls’ interest was the same as at the nature museum: if it was interactive, it was awesome. And while neither one of them would be a hot dog, the condiments got plenty of love.

And the trains. They loved checking out the trains. There is an early locomotive as well as an early passenger train (precursor to our beloved CTA trains). The girls visited these a few times. Places to go, ya’ see.

All aboard!

We hit an educational movie and tried to read some of the information in the exhibits, but the girls kept moving. Sweetie picked up a couple of tidbits about the Great Chicago Fire, but I think it was an attempt to understand an event so big. One last perk about the history museum, it has the North & Clark Cafe’ attached to the south end. So lunch without leaving the warmth was a great way to end our visit.

The remainder of our weekend was spent on everyday stuff; cleaning, straightening up, visiting family, checking on the house, and even watching a Redbox movie, just Wife and I. We were all a bit worn out after our back-to-back adventures, but it was so worth it. Chicago is full of museums and other great treasures for entertaining/educating your little ones, yet one more reason to love our city. Here’s to this weekend’s adventures!

Home Renovation 3: New Sticks

One thing for sure about this home renovation project – it is completely messing with my sense of time. The past eight (8!) months have swept right by me. It doesn’t help that Chicago’s weather has been very kooky, with a long summer, mild fall, mild winter, and last week was more like May than February. So my inner clock is all messed up. But anyway, at the last update, yes, over four weeks ago, the first floor demolition was pretty well wrapped up. The project was on to the next stage: first floor interior framing.

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“Great Room” and view of foyer/front door (will be drywalled)

It was fun to walk around the house and see it start to take some shape. The Architect and the Contractor warned me that the space would still feel small and out of proportion at this stage. They said it wouldn’t seem right until the drywall set the arrangement. The space did feel confusing, but it did not feel small to me. Because the framing was all sticks (okay, technically 2 x 4’s), all doorways were optional. So I kept walking into rooms and closets through the walls. Again, the space was just a bit confusing.

Kitchen View 1

Kitchen View 1

Kitchen View 2

Kitchen View 2

It’s always good to stop by the house and see progress. This is nice and dramatic. So a couple of details from the photos; the green behind the framing is foam board. It is mounted to our brick walls on furring strips, setting up an air gap to allow the masonry to breath. Spray foam will eventually go over everything, insulating the first floor way more than the original plaster & lathe + air gap insulation. And yes, those sticks are turned on their faces to minimize the loss of space in the rooms.

Looking in from the back porch

Looking in from the back porch

Some notes on this window opening.This was once a window opening that was filled with plywood when we bought the house. It was in our old pantry, so when we remodeled our back porch I installed a homemade blackboard for the girls. You can see how the masons squared off the top of the opening, removing the arch. Then they doubled the width of the opening. An open cabinet will be installed on the stone sill for books or maybe a television. The kitchen sink will be on the other side of the opening with an unobstructed view of the porch and into the backyard. This opening, coupled with the removal of our old kitchen door, will incorporate the back porch into the house and bring lots of sunlight into the kitchen area.

Now the first floor is framed and the structural supports are installed in the basement. The house is now ready for the second floor work. That’s where we’ll pick up the project next time. And I’ll try to get that up in fewer than four weeks!

What is that? The ground floor bathroom re-imagined

What is that? The ground floor bathroom re-imagined.

Thank You Dead Presidents

So today was President’s Day, which of course means no school! How did you spend your day? Did you talk to your kids about our country’s Presidents? Did you discuss the current state of affairs in Washington? Did you discuss “civic duty” and the importance of voting? We neither!

The girls both woke up with smiles and lots of energy today. Blame it on some late nights over the weekend, or maybe the 60º+ temperature in Chicago right now. So civics lessons were not on the agenda, but going to the park was item number 2! (There where a couple of things around the apartment that HAD to happen first).

We're off!

We’re off!

I tried to get us out as quickly as possible. The girls were ransacking rooms while I did silly things like dishes and laundry. We were rollin’ by mid-morning, with the day steadily warming up. It was a bit bizarre to head to the playground; 1.) It’s February and most playgrounds and parks are usually buried in snow, 2.) The entire park smelled like wet dog poop, and 3.) There was garbage everywhere (clearly a busy weekend at the playground). We didn’t let any of these things hold us back though, and the girls loved running all over the playground. They had the run of the place right until we were ready to leave.

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Swings-always a favorite

We wrapped up playtime and enjoyed a much-needed snack. Then back to the apartment for a quick Paw Patrol episode (not a school day!) while I swapped car seats and laundry, then out again. We headed to the Buyos’ house for some lunch and a quick visit. The girls did well, until the lack of sleep turned them into drunken sailors whose ears stopped working. Time to leave.

When we got back to the apartment Wife was already home. This seemed like a bonus except that she was not feeling so well. That made for a quiet afternoon, yet still no napping. So after a solid dinner and bath both girls fell asleep without much drama. Overall, I fell way behind on my Monday routine when I usually put the apartment back together. But playing at the park, in February, was great (albeit spooky). And spending the days with my girls is always fun, even with a lack of sleep. I’ll add “making time for families to play together” to the list of great things that our past presidents accomplished. And Happy (early) Birthday President Washington.