Funny Twist

Hello Friends,

Every so often some life happens to us, seemingly as a response to one of my posts. Today was one such instant. Cricket picked out her clothes today and I had to laugh…mainly at myself. For it was just yesterday that I typed, “we just don’t have that much team gear”.

To be clear, today Cricket is at “Dad Camp”, and the theme of the day is “errands”. It just goes to show me a couple things. Mainly, 1.) My daughters will continue to surprise me, and that may even be in complete contradiction to something I say/write/do; and 2.) Who knows what clothes lurk in the closets of small children?

So, clearly nothing profound today, friends. This just made me smile after yesterday’s post. Today in Chicago it’s high 70’s and sunny, perfect for those aforementioned errands. I hope your day is just as beautiful.

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Theme Days

Hello Friends,

One of my favorite parts of summer camp was the theme days. The girls are steadily warming up to these intentional dress-up days as well.

Earlier in the summer it was crazy hat day for the “play camp”, and crazy hair day for the “day camp”.

You know we are always up for wild hair, or interesting headwear, so these were easy sells. The sports days are a bit harder, cause we just don’t have a lot of team gear. Not even t-shirts! Today’s theme for the play camp was a particular household favorite:

Yup, Star Wars day! Cricket was going to end up as either Leia or Rey, as we haven’t made a Rose outfit yet. Today’s hot and humid forecast didn’t go well with the collar-to-ankle polyester robe, so Jakku scavenger it was!

Even though she is the second child, and has watched me style Sweetie’s hair like this, the Cricket coached me through this entire ‘do. That’s how badly she wanted to nail this theme. You might be wondering, “What, no staff, no lightsaber?” Uh, no, not for Cricket (yet). It would be rogue Jedi justice all over the household galaxy.

The park district is great about their theme days. They change it up and keep it fun. I like that the girls participate in the group activity, and enjoy watching them get into it. And it’s pretty great seeing the $6.00 clearance Halloween costume get used for the third (or maybe fourth) time.

I’m guessing your Monday didn’t have a theme, but I do hope it was good overall. Keep in mind the simple joy that kids get out of a theme day-it could save a rainy afternoon! We’ll see you out there, friends!

Garden Update

Hello Friends,

Well, summer goes and the garden grows. Here’s where we’re at this week:

The wildflowers are thriving in the Fairy Garden, and look like they’ll bloom this week. We’ve been watching butterflies, moths, and bees flying among the cucumbers, but hopefully that pollinator garden will bring even more.

The tomatoes are coming in well. We chose Roma tomatoes, and these are just about to size. A little vine ripening and we should be set!

The jalepenos are longer than my middle finger, so we’ll have to start watching those. They should also be ready for picking soon!

The girls have been helpful with the watering, especially during last week’s hot spell. Weeding falls on Wife and I, and we’re keeping up reasonably well. I know we have passed the halfway point of our summer break-from here, I feel like the vegetables will ripen quickly. We’ll keep you updated on the progress, hopefully with some zucchini to share! Inch by inch, row by row, right? I hope your gardens and summer are going well, we’ll see you out there, friends!

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!

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.