Not-So-Simple Machines

Hello Friends,

the Second Grade projects keep getting more and more interesting. My biggest challenge is finding the balance between motivating Sweetie to complete these projects, and doing them for her. (There’s that “b” word again.) Sweetie’s teacher has assigned book reports for the past few months, and overall, Sweetie does the work at her level. I try to guide her writing so she doesn’t sound like a complete knucklehead, and of course, I proof read it. Wife also steps up to review the work and help with the projects. Again, Sweetie does fine on these, but I think part of her motivation is that she wants to please us and her teacher. Having that understanding when we help her with these reports makes it easier to step back and let her do the work. The situation gets harder when the work is cool and she is motivated by the project itself.

Sweetie recently brought home a “Simple Machines” project as an extension of their classroom work. As she informed Wife and I, simple machines help move a load using less force, and include things like wedges, inclined planes, wheels and axles, screws, levers, and pulleys. According to her assignment sheet, she was to build a simple machine, and explain its function. Students could build additional machines if they wanted. My attention piqued when she reached the section that detailed the materials one could use and read an example made from Lego bricks. Wham – Dad hooked.

We happen to have a Lego inclined plane and platform in our “Family Collection” (I’m looking on BrickLink to identify the set they came from). Clearly, those two pieces don’t make an interesting project.

But what can go on an inclined plane, either up or down? Yep, a cart – that’s with wheels and axles.

Next came the Technic organizer with its fun variety of parts the girls don’t yet appreciate. And…pulley.

This process continued until Sweetie had built a cart (wheel and axle at each corner), an inclined plane, a pulley, and a lever.

We set about assembling all of these components into one cohesive project:

Next came the testing! No doubt Sweetie’s favorite part was saying, “Test number …,” then setting this whole thing in motion. Once we dialed it in, you would pull the lever and send the stack of bricks off of the platform. This load would pull the yarn over the pulley, pulling the cart up the inclined plane to the base of the tower. This machine moves and lifts the load on the cart.

Sweetie was into this project from the start. She enjoys building stuff like Lego sets and robot kits, so she was immediately aligned with the work. After reading that she could use Lego for this school work she was all in. I tried to keep her involved at each step, but I had to catch myself (more than once) and be sure she was making the connections and building this “not-so-simple” simple machine. I ended up laughing at myself more than once, reminding myself that Second Grade was long ago, and that I wasn’t earning a gold star here.

This project went well, both for Sweetie and the class as a whole. Clearly, it’s a popular one. Her classmates brought in projects at all levels and had a chance to demonstrate them to the class. Judging by the video Sweetie’s teacher took, this was also very popular.

As for me, I’ll keep working on my involvement with the girls’ schoolwork. Again, there’s a balance to strike here. I don’t actually feel like I’m re-living Elementary School, but I do feel like Wife and I are laying the foundation for the girls’ future study habits. I’m sure there is some good info out there for me to read about this, let me just finish this book report about Amelia Earhart first…

100 Days-Take 2

Hello Friends,

This post is ultimately about Cricket’s recent “Hundred Days of School” project, but it’s gonna take a minute to get there.

We just celebrated the 100th day of school, with both girls taking on projects. As I was watching Cricket’s come together, I thought back to Sweetie’s project from her Kindergarten year. Then, when I didn’t post a picture on the exact day, I realized I had fallen into the “second child” cliche.

I’m not sure how it is in your family, but we constantly struggle to give the girls equal treatment. Sweetie is older but quieter, so she can drift to the background easily. Cricket is second but gregarious and grabs your attention. But a look at their photo albums shows the extent of this problem. Sweetie’s starts in the hospital and is consistent up to her third birthday, some pages bursting from the stack of un-sorted photos. It’s a veritable Encyclopedia Brittanica of the start of her life. Cricket, on the other hand – cliff notes. No, really. Many pages with no photos or any information recorded, even though she’s been around for over five years.

And that’s how it goes with the second kid, right? Parents have less energy in general, the developmental milestones are expected and no longer unique, and you don’t cling to every little thing that happens, you don’t hang on every behavior and correct it to an expectation. Huh, reading that makes it sound bad, like I’m an awful Dad. But I know I’m not alone here, folks.

So here’s my attempt to bring balance to our house. Celebrate! Behold Cricket’s 100th Day Project:

Just a panda strollin in the foothills

Mommy helped bring this image together, but Cricket did the painting and placing. That includes counting and hand-painting all 100 of those noodle-bamboo shoots. And the “100” cloud? All her.

All in all, I think this project went well. It served as a good reminder to me to celebrate the girls’ accomplishments, however small, as equally (and specifically) as we can. Cricket engaged the project, which was very cool to watch. And, we made the trip to school without the project getting ruined. Now if only she had allowed the teacher to keep it to display with the rest of the class…

So remember, friends, second children need love too. And for those of you with more than two kids, you have my respect. Given that my hairline is receding and graying from two, I don’t think I could handle another! We’ll see you out there, friends!

Keep ‘Em Cool

Hello Friends,

Camps are a big part of our summer days, but because of Cricket’s age, they are not all of our days. I am still on the detour, just a bit less than before. I fill this “down time” with projects, laundry (always), vehicle maintenance, grocery shopping, and cooking-you know, “home-making”. I recently did some home maintenance, specifically air conditioning maintenance, that struck me and I thought I would share.

The brief back story is that in June a heating and air conditioning technician gave our a/c condenser a once over. He actually passed his hand over the top once to feel the air and laid his hand once on the ductwork to see if it was cold (full disclosure-that’s all I was paying him for). He did peek between the louvers of the unit and suggest I hose it down. When I tried, I couldn’t really get the spray at the correct angle, so I removed the cover and found this:

Yikes, right?!? This unit was installed when Sweetie was born and I never had it seviced. Ugh. So with just hose pressure, no fancy pressure washing or compressed air, we started.

This ill-ness washed away easily enough, so I did the three sides that face the yard. Within 15 minutes all was washed and the panels reinstalled.

In the moment, I felt dumb that I never washed our unit. The takeaway is that, even after ten years of homeownership, I have more to learn. I don’t know for sure that this helps our unit, but I think it has to. And I will check our electric bill to see if there’s a difference. So take my oversight and ignorance and make it your benefit. We’ve had some heat here in Chicago, and the end of the summer is when it can get hot, humid and ugly. Having clean fins on the a/c compressor should help the unit breathe easy, which in turn should help it keep the house cool without undue stress.

Been awhile since you’ve serviced your a/c? Again, learn from my mistake and hose that unit off-gotta keep those kiddos cool in the heat!

Highlighting Community Glue Workshop

Hello Friends,

I know you return to this site to enjoy my well-executed prose, but it is nice to feature a piece by friends of the detour and highlight their journey. Today’s post is about one such article by Carla Bruni from Community Glue Workshop. Carla is a long-time friend (we’re talking like, Junior High), friend of the family (in all stages of its growth), friend of the detour (since it’s inception), author of websites like ToolMade.org and The Green Preservationist, historical preservation maven, old-barn aficionado, maker, artist, writer and overall good human being. Whew! At about the time Sweetie joined our family, Carla and her creative collaborator, Allie Brisbin, started Community Glue Workshop with the focus of repairing household items, not replacing them. Think back to when ownership of some thing, like a clothes washer, included diagnosing and repairing it, not just throwing it away and ordering a new one. That is part of their mindset, with a heaping dose of cooperative community learning mixed in. Wife brought home the latest issue of StreetWise on Friday and showed me Carla’s article. It was a great chance to re-connect with her and get the word out about this movement/philosophy/committed group of handy folks. Here’s the link to Carla’s post on the Community Glue Workshop blog site:

https://communityglueworkshop.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/were-featured-in-streetwise/

Over the ten years of our home ownership, we have undertaken a variety of projects from DIY remodelling to our professional second floor addition. While we have tried to incorporate reusing, re-purposing and repairing, Carla lives this stuff in both her professional and private life. More importantly, she shares the idea and supports like-minded people. She makes the repair ideal accessible. I am super proud of my longtime friend  and this philosophy she and Ally are promoting. Besides that, I enjoy reading the content she posts. Check out the sites listed above and connect with this movement, especially if you have something sitting around that house that needs a little repair. Of course, throw them some online support with likes, comments, following/subscribing, etc..

Repair movements are growing and people are changing their relationships with their “stuff” – we have to. It is because of actions by people like Carla and Ally, and groups like Community Glue Workshop, that I feel confident my girls won’t inherit a world that is completely ruined, but maybe just needs a little repair.

Time for the House

Hello Friends,

This is the last update on our yard work. After the playhouse goes in, my focus shifts to yard maintenence. Rest assured, there won’t be any posts about edging and mowing. Although maybe I will do a “carbon-neutral” post in the future to highlight human powered lawncare. Anyway, playhouse.

After a bunch of shopping and comparisons we went with the Greystone Cottage from Costco (it’s part of the Cedar Summit line by Kid Craft). We tried to balance look, playability, value, and price, and for us, this house won out.

What you’re seeing in these messy photos are the parts of the house laid out by number (all parts are numbered for easy building). This was one of the first steps in the manual, and was a helpful hint from the company. I tried to clear out half the garage for work space, but you can see how easily the parts filled up the space.

Tio Long-Arm-of-the-Law came by for the first night of building. His help made that night productive. The cottage uses a lot of screws to fasten the pieces. So while I was fastening a part, he was reading the next step, and bringing me the next parts and fasteners. If you buy this house I recommend getting a second person at least until the base is assembled and the roof is on.

And…POOF! Playhouse. I said this wasn’t going to be a tutorial, just some sharing. Photos after build night #1 would’ve been nice, but oh well. Anyway, fits nice, right?

So, let’s sum up this experience. The box is big enough and heavy enough to be a hassle, but not impossible to get home. One person can get it from the store, two is ideal. There are a lot of parts, but they are numbered. Organize the parts and the hardware (use a plastic Costco apple crate for hardware) to facilitate assembly. One person can handle most of the assembly, but a second person can dramatically improve productivity. And two sets of eyes is better than one , especially for the few steps that aren’t completely clear (and really, there are only a few). Build night #1 was 2 hours with two adults, build night #2 was 2 hours just me. So 6 total Dad hours. Once assembled the house can be moved by 3 adults easily, 2 with a bit of caution. The light weight of this house is deceptive though, as it is sturdy. The wood is lightweight, so charge the battery for the driver but use a light trigger. It is easy to bury the screws and split boards.

Overall, Wife and I are pleased with the Greystone Cottage. I did leave off a flag accessory which is just a big piece of plastic. The wood is treated, but we did spray it with a waterproof paint to be safe,and I tarp it if we’reexpecting storms. So far it is all fun at the cottage. The girls have no complaints, except when I call them for dinner!

That Yard Tho’…

Hello Friends,

This spring I shared the post-remodel state of our yard and the beginning of our next plans. The main focus is on a paver “pad” where we will put a playhouse for the girls.

The location is great, the size almost perfect (nothing some yard tools can’t adjust), so we’re off. My years in the bodyshop taught me that a good end result is all about the prep work. First step, excavate.

There’s the pad after excavation, first layer of weedcloth, and the initial “Paver Base 1” (all sand-like products are Sakrete brand). This was followed by more Base 1, levelling, tamping and then some “Paver Base 2”, also know as levelling sand. Then we were ready to start fitting pavers.

These nifty guys are an AZEK product that Wife found on Home Depot’s website. Made from recycled rubber, they give a little when you step on them. Hopefully it cushions the falls. Eight (8) bricks come on each base which makes alignment and gapping much easier.

The pad is boxed in by the sidewalk and the garage foundation, so we had to make some cuts. Both the bases and the bricks can be cut to size, you just need a coarse-tooth blade and some patience. When you cut rubber too fast it smokes, stinks, and burns! Nice and easy here, friends.

Edging! I almost forgot about the edging! This plastic paver edging by Edgepro was easy to work with. I used a heat gun to warm and bend the corners, and my nifty multi-tool for cutting. Hot plastic this time, so again, some patience.

After testing, edging, levelling, trimming, more levelling and installing, we got this:

Nice shadow, huh? I think you get the point, though. Wife liked the pattern I laid out. I liked that the pattern happened as I put the bricks in the bases. Seriously, I’m not even sure how to plan out this pattern. It was like a big Lego set in a way, except easier to find and fix mistakes. Next step, locking sand!

This stuff was a little funky to work with, but steady work with gentle water got it all done. Wife and the girls kept washing the bricks with water to insure the polymer did not leave a film on them. The continuous water, not aimed at the seams, helped the sand dry evenly and smoothly.

That gets us ready for the last part of this project: build the house!

To be clear, I’m just sharing our project with you all. This isn’t meant to be a tutorial on laying pavers. I collected most of the technical info for this project from the back of the product bags. The rest I found online. From there it was chipping away at each step until I got where the bag said I needed to be. All of the products for this pad were purchased through Home Depot, either online or in the store (I see you Addison and Kimball!). Home Depot did not, however, sponsor this post. But I have a long list of projects and there is plenty of opportunity! That’s a big hint, Home Depot contact me!

Alright, next update will cover the playhouse. Again, I’m not going for a tutorial, just show you our adventure.

We’ll see you out there!