St. Viator Elementary School Open House

The Cricket is two-and-a-half years old, so we are making enrollment plans for next fall. This process was new to me when we enrolled Sweetie, but now it is familiar. Wife and I were not interested in our local public school nor the lottery system, and we were looking for the intangible benefits of a Catholic School education like citizenship, stewardship and an active (even if questioning) faith. We have been pleased with Sweetie’s development over the past year and a half, and enjoy growing our place within the St. Viator community. If this sounds like a good fit to you, please check out the St. Viator Elementary School Open House this upcoming weekend. The school will be open for tours, with faculty, staff, and current parents available to answer questions about classes (PreK-3 through Eighth Grade), campus, and community.


Brush ’em If You Got ’em: Sprout Pediatric Dentistry

This is not a paid endorsement of the girls’ dentist, I just wanted to share our positive experience. It is not easy to find good healthcare/dental care providers, but we have. So here’s one for the Toolbox.

We first met Dr. Johnny Kuttab, D.D.S., “Dr. Johnny”, two years ago when Sweetie’s Pediatrician told us it was time for her to see a dentist. Wife found him through a Google search, and that initial appointment was in his first office at BrightSmiles Pediatric Dentistry. We were immediately sold on his bedside manner and approach to pediatric dentistry. Now he has opened a new office on the north side of Chicago called Sprout Pediatric Dentistry.

Dr. Johnny

Let’s start with the office itself. Located at 6036 N. Northwest Highway, they are easy to reach from the expressway or the side streets. This location is technically farther from our house, but the surrounding area is less dense and much easier for us to reach. The space is pleasant and calming for children and their parents. It is fresh and clean, painted in soft neutral colors throughout.

Waiting area

Waiting area







So calming



The exam area uses an open plan, with seats for three children. There are couches set behind the dental chairs so parents can stay close, but out of the way. Each station has it own television so the kids can watch a movie during their exam. If your kids are like my girls, they will be too busy watching to worry. And Dr. Johnny explained that’s the point. An older school of thought kept kids more attentive to the visit, but that also brought anxiety (anyone relate to that?). The environment is designed so kids are relaxed and have an easy experience. All the staff are warm and welcoming, from the front desk to the oral hygienists. Jeanette kept Cricket calm and Lupe was great with Sweetie.

Hello cartoons

Hello cartoons

Speaking of Dr. Johnny, let’s talk credentials (before I weigh in). He is a board certified pediatric dentist, as are the two other dentists at the practice. He completed his pediatric training through the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and remains active there, teaching pediatric dental residents. His focus in the clinic is behavior management so his demeanor is calm and professional while still connecting with the children. He is a proponent of preventative care practices. That description is kind of dry, but it is meant to be factual and unbiased. Now let’s dish.


From the first visit I found Dr. Johnny to be engaging and pleasant without being chatty. He makes it a point to speak directly to the girls, and always takes time after the visit to explain his findings to Wife and I.He has never made us feel rushed. Dr Johnny has been a dentist for about 9 years, 7 of those as a pediatric dentist. So he is young, and the new office reflects the young, fresh energy he brings to his practice. Dr. Johnny does not do unnecessary services. At her first visit Sweetie presented with healthy teeth and gums (thankfully Cricket is following the same pattern) so Dr. Johnny told us he did not feel a need to take X-Rays. He told us he would take them if we wished, if we were concerned about anything, but he did not have cause for concern. She just took her first set in December, at four years old, without a problem. So no unnecessary radiating of children here.  Another nice thing is that when he talks prevention he frames it in real life. Example: He was speaking to us about how fruit snacks are bad for kids’ teeth, but admitted that all kids eat them. So he encouraged moderation and care, acknowledging that abstinence is a tall order for the little ones. Dr. Johnny’s extensive training is much of what makes him a good dentist, but I think that his most important attribute is that he is a father. He knows what it is like to navigate life, and oral hygiene, with a pre-schooler. For me that is a big plus.

I guess I should say something less than glowing about Sprout Pediatric Dentistry and Dr. Johnny to balance this review, but there’s not much to complain about. Early on they didn’t have a changing table in the bathroom, but they were apologetic and accommodating and allowed us to use a leather couch in a back office. They have since set up a great station though, an actual changing table with supplies. So that’s handled. I have had some challenges with parking, even though they are in a strip mall. But the street parking (which is free) is just steps from the front door, so no big gripe there either. Well, I guess this post will just weigh in favor of Dr. Johnny.

Maybe it’s time for your two-year-old to see a dentist. Or maybe you are not happy with the care you receive from your current dentist. Learn more about Sprout Pediatric Dentistry on their website and decide if they are the practice for you.They serve the city and suburbs, the hours are listed on their page. I would say, “we’ll see you there,” but we don’t go back for another six months!


Celebrating 108 Years at Crosby’s Kitchen

Before I write on, let me explain that this post is purposely devoid of political opinions and commentary. I am still processing the election results, “getting my head right” as we used to say in the body shop. I don’t want to be one more voice on the internet ranting, so I will compose myself and compose my post for later this week. In the meantime, some pics of the Cricket…

Due to a busy end of the week and weekend, I didn’t get a chance to share Thursday’s lunch. The Cricket and I were out running errands after swim class and found ourselves travelling along Clark Street on Chicago’s northside. Of course, this is the same Clark Street that runs next to Wrigley Field, and we ran into all kinds of fans as we searched for lunch. We took Southport where it split off of Clark and settled on Crosby’s Kitchen at the corner of Southport and Cornelia.


Crosby’s Kitchen came up in my Google search for kid-friendly restaurants in Lakeview, a happening part of town. They serve American Fare in a comfortable environment. Once I read the menu I realized they were known for their rotisserie chicken. Oh, this was a big hint too:

Mmm, chicken

Mmm, chicken

The kid’s menu is just smaller portions of their adult fare, so the kiddos can get some of the delicious chicken as well. Cricket opted for the grilled cheese and I also shared bites of my chicken dip sandwich. Think french dip, but with a hunk of chicken. The Cricket loved the two types of cheese on her sandwich, and the toasted bread was soft. The french bread for my sandwich was also nice and soft, with just enough crunch in the crust. The chicken was moist and flavorful, so I almost didn’t use the au jus on the side. Overall, it was a good spot to find(and they’re not even paying me to say that!).

Usually I don’t like televisions around when I eat because I become a TV zombie. Given that it was the day after the Cubs won the World Series, it was nice to have some screens on over the bar. The server brought over some crayons for Cricket first thing, so she had something to do. She and I were able to enjoy our lunch surrounded by adults with and without children, so I did not feel like we were ruining anyone’s lunch at any time. And we left with full, happy bellies. So I’ll throw this place in the “toolbox”, cause we’ll visit here again. I know some of you out there can compose poems about restaurants and food, but I can’t. I will say that I did leave humming Finger Lickin’ Good by the Beastie Boys. You can check out Crosby’s Kitchen at 3455 N Southport here in Chicago.


“You clean my butt please, Papi”

These days it is not surprising to hear this around our house. And it is said, not asked (hence no question mark). It emanates from the bathroom, echoing out of the open door in our sweet, two-and-a-half year old’s voice. Ahhh, the beauty of toilet training.

Sweetie has been diaper free since the 4th of July. We hit a point around mid-November where she stopped having “accidents”, pretty surprising given the excitement of the holidays. With the onset of the new year she was holding her pee through the night, not needing to use the bathroom until she woke up at her normal time. And last month Wife and I started waking up to find that Sweetie had taken herself to the bathroom while we slept.

I would love to say Wife and I could take all of the credit for Sweetie’s potty training. I mean, we did put in the time and the work. But we also had a little help, some guidance from a book called oh crap. potty training by Jamie Glowacki. Glowacki is a long-time social worker and a mother who has spent a lot of time de-mystifying potty training. She wrote and continues to refine a straightforward guide to getting your child out of diapers.


Wife and I found many little bits of wisdom in oh crap. Glowacki breaks down the training process into easy to understand ideas that are also easy to implement. She writes in a familiar manner so the information is accessible, no where does she use a patronizing tone. And that’s refreshing since so many people weigh in on childcare and sometimes they can get downright militant.

I don’t want to put Glowacki on a pedestal nor claim that her book is the only viable resource for parents looking for potty training advice. So here are a couple of downsides. First, Glowacki shares a bunch of anecdotes. While this is nice for connecting with her, it really bulks up the book. So Wife read through and edited it down to an outline. Second, she does not commit to a time frame for your potty training adventure. At first she recommends committing a weekend. Then she suggests cancelling social activities for a week. That is amended by talking about 7-10 days of preliminary work. On so on. As I mentioned, we started July 4th, 2014, and I claim January 4th as our “results” date. Six months. Done (sort of). Honestly, I am learning that you can not put a concrete time frame on potty training, so I get it. Plus, I am not trying to sell books and keep readers from being disappointed. The point is that while oh crap has a couple of imperfections, we found it to be a useful resource and a beneficial tool.

If you are approaching the potty training stage check out oh crap. potty training (buy your copy here). Wade through the stories and put together a plan for liberating your little one from diapers. This book left Wife and I feeling all “we got this” as opposed to “what is this?”. Yeah, potty training has been work and it has required a time investment. But with kids, what isn’t? Good luck, we know you can do it too.


Nana’s Zucchini Bars

Overall, Sweetie is a good eater. We struggle with food sometimes, but its more toddler power struggle than food aversion. We told her when she was born that Wife and I like good food and we like to eat. So if she was going to make it in our household, she too would have to eat well. Again, for the most part she does eat well.

I am always looking for ideas for meals, though. We have our go-to foods and it is just too easy to eat the same thing over and over. I think continuing to add to the variety helps keep Sweetie engaged with meals and away from boredom. Breakfast has been the most challenging meal for me to diversify. While Sweetie will kill a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, I just don’t feel right giving that to her seven days a week. So here is a recipe that we have seen some success serving to Sweetie.

The back story here is that my maternal grandmother, “Nana”, was the epitome of hospitality. Most grandmas are good at feeding their family but Nana took the blue ribbon. From sandwiches to baked goods to hot meals, you always ate well with her. Part of her legacy when she passed was her book of recipes. Sister Scales-of-Justice gave Wife a copy of the book for Christmas a couple of years back, so our household tries the recipes out every so often. I recently came across this one for Zucchini Bars and tested it on the family. The first time that I served the bars Sweetie ate them, but did not love them. I tweaked the recipe a bit and Sweetie ate one and a half bars in a sitting. I thought that was enough food interest to share. Given the ingredients, it was a surprise that Sweetie liked these bars at all(Okay, one time we had to give her some ketchup too).

Zucchini Bars – Ingredients

  • 3 cups zucchini thinly sliced. (3 medium-sized should do fine. I like to peel it and drop it into the food processor.)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper (optional)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic chopped fine (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (and/or ½ teaspoon seasoned salt)
  • ½ teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 cup Bisquick mix (totally cheater, but yummy!)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 eggs slightly beaten
  • 3 Breakfast sausage patties browned and cut up (Not in the original, my addition)

Set oven to 350°. If using breakfast sausage patties, brown them in a pan. When done, set patties on a paper towel and plate to cool. Mix Bisquick, oil and eggs well. Cut up sausage patties and add those to the bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Spread in greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (until lightly browned).

Like I said earlier, I tweaked this recipe for better results – please feel free to do the same. Try bacon, or turkey sausage. Don’t like zucchini? Wife and I are already talking about a broccoli and bacon version. The recipe is on the savory side and I think any changes that stay in that realm will be tasty. Another change that I made was with my pan. I did not use a 9 x 13 (sorry Nana) but instead used a brownie pan from Pampered Chef. That way we ended up with 12 bars already formed and ready to eat.

So fancy!

So fancy!

So try out Nana’s Zucchini Bars and let me know what you think in the comments section. I am currently looking for the recipe to make “Bisquick” so we can remove the prepackaged mix. Other than that, I think this is a fairly healthy recipe (I am not a nutritionist, but I am a biased grandson!). Also, please let me know if you have any breakfast food that your little one (specifically toddler) really digs on. As I mentioned, I am always looking for new good stuff to feed Sweetie. Enjoy!


Now that's pretty

Now that’s eatin’

More on cloth diapering

A while back I tried to write a post that de-mystified cloth diapering. Some readers, like Sister Scales-of-Justice (formerly known as Sister Older-Older) let me know that my explanation was a bit long (albeit thorough) and still left one feeling a bit confused. Fast forward to “now” where Wife and I are right back in newborn mode expecting Baby Garbanzo’s arrival. There is a bunch of cloth diaper cleaning and sorting going on in our house. To add to that, Brother Long-Arm-of-the-Law and his wife are expecting their first child in October. And they have committed to cloth diapering their imminent son. The following is an e-mail that we sent them detailing the products we used with Sweetie and will use with Garbanzo. I think the information is easier to digest and we included links!

“Online is probably the best for buying your supplies. The store that we attended a free cloth diaper class and purchased our first set of supplies was Cutie Poops and Bottoms ( near Orland Square Mall. This store also offers “Diaper Trials” were you can try before you buy.

Cloth Diapers: Ultimately, we found that OsoCosy unbleached, Indian pre-folds (, used with a snappi ( were the simplest and most effective diapers. Depending on how often you want to do laundry, for a newborn, we would recommend 36 pre-folds (infant size) if you want to do laundry every other day, or 24 if you want to do laundry every day. Pre-folds come in a packet of 12.

Covers: Blueberry and GroVia proved to be our favorite brands of covers. They are well designed and stand up to wear and tear. We prefer the snaps closures over the Velcro because the Velcro dies over time. Look for the double gusset at the leg opening – this detail helps keep the poop and pee in.

We would recommend only a couple newborn size covers; they grow out of this size fairly quickly. Most of our covers are “one size” – you just use the snaps that size the diaper as needed.

Diaper Liners: we never bought the disposable diaper liners; we bought a packet of washable fleece liners but only used them a few times. If poop is a concern, we don’t think a liner is going to prevent much soiling, but the disposable liners may make it easier to dump the poop in the toilet*. Just remember: there is a chance the liner will stay clean, but the diaper will get loaded. There is also a chance the liner will get loaded and buried so you will have to add excavation to clean-up. Good segue into a diaper sprayer.

Diaper Sprayer: There are a variety of styles. ( This handy guy is the hose we have attached to the side of our toilet. It connects to your existing plumbing. This guy will wash your poop and pee into the toilet so you don’t have to try to wipe it off the diaper. But you may want to keep your hand soap stocked up because life happens, especially in the toilet area. These days the sprayer has also proved handy for rinsing out Sweetie’s potty bowl.

Cloth Diaper Soap: We tried 3 different brands of cloth diaper “safe” soaps. EcoSprout worked fine but we used another brand (Funk Rock) to help with ammonia build-up (EcoSprout was started by a work-at-home Dad in Naperville). Funk Rock has a variety of lines based on your water type, much the same result as EcoSprout where we also used their ammonia-busting soap. We are currently using Charlie’s soap with good results, no extra ammonia busting and clean diapers. Downside to this brand is some babies get red bums (but not our “hard-ass”!).

Dryer Balls: will cut down on drying time (still expect two drying cycles); we use the wool kind but we’re sure that the plastic ones would work just as well.

Diaper Pail – Learn from our mistake, do not try to use a garbage can, not even a fancy one! Airflow in the diaper pail is a must to prevent ammonia build up. This brand has a “teddy bear cage” that holds a wonderful charcoal filter and a spot for deodorizing discs…well worth it. We recommend at least two diaper pail bags.

Cloth Wipes: Thirsties Fab Wipes are our favorite. They are super soft on one side and poop grabby on the other side (do the initial poop wipes with toilet paper). In the beginning we wet the wipe with warm water and used some EcoSprout Bottom Spray. Eventually we found that just using warm water was enough.

Wet Bags: We recommend at least three.

Cloth Diaper Safe Butt Balm: CJ’s BUTTer is our favorite. We recently discovered a variety of scents that are fun without being heavy on the perfumes. EcoSprout has a product too that worked okay, but we were sold on all of the natural goodness in the BUTTer.

Pocket, All-in-Ones and hybrids: meh. We found one (1) Velcro-closure, one-size, pocket-style diaper was useful for pediatrician visits. If you don’t want to buy separate inserts just use a pre-fold in the pocket. Doc liked the ease of Velcro; we liked keeping Sweetie in cloth for visits. Otherwise these were too much for our use, again a pre-fold and a cover does the job well.”

This is from our cloth diapering experience so far. I know the interwebs has all sorts of additional information and opinions out there and that can often complicate the cloth diapering option. Hopefully this simplifies things and helps you get started. From there, I say do what works for you and feels the best while giving you the best results. Cloth diapering is just another option with its own things to get used to, so don’t over think it. Good luck.

* A random tangent here, and my favorite overlooked diaper factoid. Many disposable diaper users ask how we deal with poop. We put it in the toilet, where poop goes, (not the garbage can). All of the folks using disposable diapers for “easy poop clean up” need to read the packaging, specifically where it states to remove poop from a diaper prior to disposing.

A happy butt makes for a happy baby

Two-part post here folks, and no pictures of Sweetie to be had. So sorry about that, but I felt like I haven’t spoken about the tools in the D-3 toolbox for a while. Just want to let you all know about a great product that we use, and where to get some.

So we all have to deal with diapers and that means dealing with butts. Sometimes that means a chapped heiny or possibly even some angry cheeks (hopefully nothing too extreme though!). We have tried a couple of different butt balms with Sweetie with mixed results. There are limitations since many products are not compatible with cloth diapers. We started with a particular balm and it was okay. For the most part, Sweetie’s butt was fine. It wasn’t impressive, it just was. One day when we were shopping we overheard a store employee gushing about this particular product. Besides being some magical balm that would keep any rear end safe and supple, it was also cloth diaper friendly. So we decide to try out CJ’s BUTTer. We’ve been with it for a year now and think it’s great.


Tub and travel tube

CJ’s is made from all natural stuff. Shea butter and stuff like that. We’ve been so happy with it that I read the label once and didn’t double-check the ingredients.We started using it around the 8 month mark and it remains our go-to butt balm. Sweetie’s butt is happy, so she is too. By “happy” I mean clean, free of irritation and healthy. Now nothing is perfect, and we have dealt with a red bum a couple of times. But red like chapped lips, not red like angry-bumpy-scary (internet pics of diaper rash are scary!).

Ironically, just as I was ready to push the “Publish” button, Momma Z handed me a travel tube of CJ’s BUTTer. Turns out they tried CJ’s with Linda and did not have a good result. Momma Z did tell me that Linda wears disposable diapers, and she did have a rash when they test drove the balm. Who knows why it wasn’t great for them? Just remember that nothing is perfect – if you try CJ’s and it doesn’t work well for your little one’s bum, then STOP. Don’t use it just cause the Flagman on the D-3 website said it’s magic.

So where do you get CJ’s BUTTer? Well, of course there is the interweb, where you can find anything you need. We support a locally owned and operated store called BellyBum Boutique. The owner of the store is a mother of three children, all with special needs. So she started a store that covered all of the interests in her life; cloth diapers, nursing, early childhood health, special educational needs. Check out their website for more details. The store is close to our music class, so it is easy to stop in to pick up supplies. Besides CJ’s, we also pick up diaper covers, soap and the occasional specialty item, like a bulldozer fork.



So if you are near the Lincoln Square neighborhood, stop in the BellyBum Boutique to check it out. Get you some CJ’s BUTTer while you are there and make your little one’s butt a happy one. Enjoy!