Back to (Home) School

Hello Friends,

I hope this post finds you doing well: safe, healthy, and coping with the social distancing measures. We are home still, and healthy and safe too. We are (still) all in this together.

Last week we returned to at-home classwork. The girls’ school schedule worked around Easter, so their 10 day Spring Break was in April. It was a nice break from home-schooling, and we learned a few lessons for our return.

Many of you are also dealing with home-schooling right now, so I won’t dig too deep. Sweetie had a fun volcano project last week for her STEM class, and I thought I would share some of the highlights.

Everything started with a salt dough volcano. As you see, Sweetie was good about sharing the project with her sister. Once the volcano dried, it was time for paint.

I had to laugh at this stage. I set each girl up with four colors of paint. As you can see, everything melded into “grey”, and that is not so bad (we’re big fans here at our house). The project culminated in the eruption-good times!

This was project was a fun part of our week. I was talking with Momstar on Friday (her son killed it on this project, btw), and we realized neither one of us had done a volcano project in Elementary School. The girls enjoyed the different stages of the project, and they loved eruption day. I was glad they got into the project, and worked well together. It was great to have them interacting but not competing, and complaining was minimal. Best part for me, very low screen-time!

Clearly, I’m not sharing anything profound today…and I’m fine with that. I wanted to share this project as an example of a little thing that brought smiles to our in-household. I hope you and your family are finding smiles, big or small, during this wierd time. Honestly, smiles are hard to find on some of these days, but they’re around. So behave and be safe, friends. We’re here, and we’re glad you are too.

Well, Hello.

After three two weeks in our house, I have many things on my mind. This post has been written, edited, and re-written many times during the last 21 days. The news and the information keep changing and the cycle just keeps speeding up. But I feel like I have been away too long, and have waited too long to write. I made some decisions last weekend, and so…

Hello Friends,

Let me start by telling you that we, Wife, the girls and I, are all safe and healthy here on the detour. We hope you and yours are too. Like many of you in Chicagoland, we are sheltering in place. More of you are staying home each day. For us, this means the girls are home-schooling, and Wife is working from home. Also, like many of you, our daily rhythm is completely different than it was three weeks ago. But I’m not going to harp on those changes, nor am I going to share my opinions about the current situation or offer any kind of advice.

This begs the question, “Then why write? What’s your point?” First, I miss writing. I know my post schedule is erratic, but creating and editing posts is cathartic for me. Second, I miss all of you. From coffee with other parents to online comments, my social network is currently limited. I would like to move that from “limited” to “changed”, and I have to post to accomplish that. Third, I don’t want anyone out there to think they are alone in this. I may not be a high-volume influencer, but I can still connect with you all as a show of solidarity. So what are we doing?

The girls are home-schooling, and have been working on school work since March 16th. Our Principal is a lifetime Chicagoland resident. She worked with the Archdiocese of Chicago to prepare for e-learning in case of snow closures. For St. Viator Elementary School, e-learning was part of the conversation since August. Since March, the teachers have been working hard to implement and improve this set-up. And so we’re staying busy each day.

Kids don’t live on scoolwork, though, so we are finding other activities. Given my spring planting plans, this revolves around yardwork-yay!

No worries, I don’t work them too hard. We have plenty of time for walks around the block, chalk drawings, and appreciating the signs of Spring.

There is plenty if indoor stuff too, but the pics are not nearly as pretty. Lego, family dinners, family movies, family games, and impromtu concerts all find their way into our days. In short, we’re trying everything and anything here, friends.

Hopefully, I can at the writing. I am laughing at myself for trying to quickly sum up 21 days of sheltering-in-place. Honestly, the computer is tied up all day and I am usually gassed at night. But again, we’re trying what we can.

So now I have to stray from my plan. Look, I know I said I wouldn’t give advice, but things keep escalating so quickly. Stay safe, friends. If you are able, please stay home. I foolishly thought everyone got that message two weeks ago, but no. And be aware of others. Nobody needs ten Costco packs of toilet paper, but we all need some.

We are healthy, we are here. We are walking around the neighborhood, stretching and exercising in the house; we are supporting our local restaurants with one night of takeout; we are cleaning out our pantry and cooking creative snacks and meals; we are distancing; we are getting on each other’s nerves; we are bringing it in and hugging it out; we are digging in the dirt and listening to the birds; we are celebrating the spring flowers. These are the answers for us, and I hope you are finding some answers for you and yours. I have no idea what I might offer any of you who are in need, but please reach out if you are in a bad way. Big thanks to teachers, school administrators, first responders, doctors, nurses and medical staff, grocery store workers and everyone who is working to be part of the collective solution. Behave, be safe, friends. We won’t see you out there, not right now. But we’re here and we’re glad you are too.

Sometimes You Have to Wear the Samoa

Hello Friends,

We are in the thick of Girl Scout Cookie Sales over here. In-person sales are complete, but internet sales are still going strong. The thing that has the most impact on our calendar right now is the cookie booths

Undoubtedly you’ve been approached by Girl Scouts outside of your local grocery store. Here in Illinois, where recent laws have re-adjusted recreational activities, the more enterprising troops have partnered with cannabis dispensaries for their booths (our contacts are working this angle as we speak). This story comes to us from Wife’s point of view, as collected at their recent experience with Sweetie’s Brownie Troop outside of a local Dunkin’ Donuts.

The model is easy: a Brownie Scout’s parents sign her up to work a 1-hour shift; scout and parent (usually Mom) work the shift; cookie sales are split between the scouts that worked the shift. Troops are free to add whatever market differentiation they feel will increase their sales. In our troop’s case, they employ a cookie outfit, specifically, a Samoa.

Genius, right – who doesn’t love a Samoa? (Not that too many people say “no” to a sweet child selling deliciousness in a box, but still) Well, the outfit and selling situation made Sweetie upset. She didn’t want to wear the cookie outfit, she didn’t want to stand outside, and she didn’t want to make sales to strangers. If the girls were alone, this would be understandable, but they were all accompanied by an adult, usually their own mother. Thankfully, in true Brownie Scout tradition, this turned into a teachable moment for Sweetie and all the girls on that shift.

The Moms on this shift were no joke, with various attorneys, realtors and other entrepreneurial women in attendance. And they were all Moms (of course). Genuine role model squad here. The ladies let those scouts know that reaching your goal includes working the sale, running your hustle, and giving a little to get a lot. In kind, encouraging, and honest terms, they let the girls know that the world is not a kind place where merit badges just fall in your lap; you have to work for it. And sometimes reaching your goal means leaving your comfort zone. The title for the post comes from one of those realtor Moms who told the girls, “Sometimes you have to wear the Samoa.”

such a happy samoa!

Granted, I heard this story from Wife, so I’m passing on a second hand experience. But as an at-home parent, I get it. Sometimes it takes some compromise to get along. Over the past seven years, there have been a bunch of times where I thought to myself, “now how did I get into this?” One of the first things that comes to mind is swim lessons with me (in a swimsuit-ugh) and the girls, in turn, and a bunch of other parents splashing around and singing silly songs (but no one making eye contact). Oh yeah, I guess there’s that whole “career on hold” thing to remember too. Regardless, a little compromise for the benefit of knowing how my girls started their lives. The lesson clearly applies to professional life, too. So many times we are asked to complete “additional duties as needed”, and when we know the goal, we complete those duties.

Now clearly, I am not advising that a parent, at-home or otherwise, go against their values. The Moms weren’t telling the girls that either. As parents we have to be flexible, though, stay loose. Kids are fickle little humans, and strict adherence to rigid anything is not good for the household. Alright, now I’m thinking about Bruce Lee and moving like water.

Well, I hope all is going well for you in your corner of the world. For the record, Sweetie’s participation in the cookie booth earned her enough extra sales to level up to the next prizes. Woo-hoo! If for some reason you haven’t bought any Girl Scout Cookies, feel free to drop me a line at: DadsDiaperDetour@gmail.com – we’ll get ya’ connected. We’ll see you out there!

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…

2020 Launch

Hello Friends,

Yup, it took me until the first week of February to get the 2020 ‘detour going. Yikes.

Our updates are neither extensive nor exciting, but things are happening. The girls returned to school three weeks ago and are settling back into their schedules. Girls scouts is up and running, and more extracurricular stuff will start up soon. Somehow we dodged the illnesses that went around the school. A few sniffles, but thankfully no major illnesses. All in all, things are quiet and good.

If you follow us on Facebook, then you have seen these photos since I just spent some time updating profile pictures. I realize the girls change so fast, and historically, I need to post more pictures. Too late for a resolution?

These are from the end of 2019, November and December mainly. We’ll get some new ones in, but I wanted to give you all something with the girls in it. Speaking of Facebook, my personal page (started to deal with Winterfest logistics) has grown quickly. It is remarkable how fast you can connect with people when you can make “Friend Requests” (the detour FB page doesn’t allow that-weird). This is a good time to ask you all to “like” us on the different platforms, right now WordPress and Facebook. And I know there are a bunch of you that have already been here for a while – thank you for sticking around with us!

So we’re back, and we’re back at it. It looks like 2020 is going to bring about some changes for us. I am still in transition back to work, aiming for an August return. I am currently soliciting “help and advice” about that return, so if you got some, leave it in the comments! Wife is keeping her professional eyes and ears open, always willing to consider another work option. And what will this blog become when these changes shake out? Not sure, but I’ll let you know.

So that’s that – Happy New Year! I hope your January went well and the February forecast is promising. Anyone know what Phil saw? Anyway, we’ll see you out there, friends.

Random Two-fer

Hello Friends,

No deep thoughts today, just some feelings.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, no? This is so much better than an hour ago when they were shut-eyed and bushy-haired. Anyway, today the school is getting ready for the Boys Intramural Basketball Tournament (Friday evening and Saturday). Lucky us, “Spirit Day” coincided with gym day. Don’t they look spirited?!?

Random start to the day, but there you go. I hope your Friday is starting off well. We’ll see you out there, friends.

Didn’t Get the Memo

Hello Friends,

Clearly, our garden was not notified when Summer ended two weeks ago. We are still pulling tomatoes and zucchini from the vines.

Some of the tomatoes are getting ugly, but overall it’s a good looking yield. And obviously, we let this squash go too long. That was a problem this summer: we searched for zucchini and couldn’t find them, then we found them and they were way too big. I guess we’re out of practice.

Historically, we have kept the garden as a hobby. This year’s success made it exciting and fun again, and it makes it feel alright that we took a year off. Technically, I think the agricultural phrase is that we chose to let the garden go “fallow” a year.

It’s time to clear the bed and preare for the winter, so I’ll empty the compost bin and mix on the leaves as they fall. We already have a plan for next year, thanks to raised beds that Wife found. They have a compost area factored into their footprint, so, come Spring, we will be overhauling the space. Oh, and writing about it, of course!

I hope your garden is wrapping up well, and your late harvest is bountiful! Now starts your planning foor the Spring as well. And for those of you who don’t currently have a garden, you have something to consider during the winter months. We’ll see you out there!

Lice…Not Nice

Hello Friends,

Long weekend for us, last Friday being an Institute Day and all. Unfortunately, we spent the second half of the weekend dealing with head lice, everyone’s least favorite part of Elementary School.

I’ll give some quick background on our experience, then dispel some misconceptions. Last week ended with warm weather, so the girls were playing outside on Friday. Since it was a day off, we skipped bath time, too. When Sweetie was itching her head Friday night, we just thought she was grimy. When she was still itchy Saturday morning, wife busted out the nit comb. After a few dry passes, we thought, maybe, we found an egg, or maybe a couple of eggs (“nits”). We decided to call Hair Fairies, just to get the experienced inspection, and booked an afternoon spot for a treatment (if necessary).

Right off the bat, “Nick”, our Hair Fairy technician, started wetting Sweetie’s hair. He then used conditioner to section off her hair and glide the nit comb through it. And he immediately found adult lice (simply referred to as “bugs”). We had the time, so we committed to the treatment: two hours of combing, facilitated with essential oil conditioner. Nick combed until several passes came out clean, about a hour and a half total. He then blew Sweetie’s hair dry and did a dry inspection around her ears and any other areas the nit comb didn’t reach easily. Lastly, he put the Hair Fairy shampoo in Sweetie’s hair and put her hair in a bun.

Part of our visit was inspections for all. Nick found one bug on Cricket, but no nits or larvae. He declared her “one and done”. Nick inspected Wife and me as well, and we were also clear. Sweetie has a follow-up in four days, and apparently we (I) have some laundry to wash.

I definitely learned a lot during the visit. First, head lice are parasites, not predators. They need a hosts head to survive. We were concerned about bombing the entire house, but that is not necessary. They don’t move well on anything but hair, only lay their eggs on hair strands, and they die in two days. So head lice are not like fleas that jump around, or ticks lying in wait – head to head contact is really their gig. But again, pillow cases and sheets, things with direct head contact, all went in the washer on hot. Second, head lice is a part of Elementary School life. Nick congratulated us for making it through this rite of passage. He corrected my perception of a headlice infestation from unique and traumatic to common and treatable. So more like a common cold, also a part of school life.

Hair Fairies is not the only provider if lice removal and treatment, they’re just who we chose to visit. I kept tellng other parents that it felt more like a spa visit with all of the essential oils and the gentle lighting. I told Nick many times that he made the experience alright (ok, good) by correcting our ignorance and removing the drama from Sweetie’s infestation. We have since corrected our methods, and worked out the schedule for our inspections. Kudos to all of you facing had lice at home by yourselves, it worked best for us to seek a professional opinion.

Sweetie returned back to school with little fanfare. I want to give a big shout-out and thank you to our St. Viator Commnity. Parents expressed concern and support for Sweetie and us, and that was great. I was projecting a mild fear that we would be avoided, and I was mistaken. Sweetie’s experience has been more of a hassle than traumatic, and that’s great. Here’s a sketch from today showng her take on this whole deal:

So again, head lice are common and treatable, but infestations are also preventable. Inspect every 4 days, use the essential oil bug sprays, encourage your kids not to share head wear, and girls and long-haired boys should wear tight pony tails or buns.

All that being said, sheesh, who else is itchy?

The Apple Didn’t Fall Far…

Hello Friends,

Well the new school year brings all sorts of new adventures, eh? Our last four weeks have been interesting, yeah, interesting. But that’s another post. Instead I want to focus on Sweetie’s new look.

Second Grade is going well for her so far. She enjoys school, loves her teacher, and is happy being around her friends again. She started the school year with a new accessory, though, one that we have been expecting.

Wife and I both have prescriptions; mine stronger than hers. I too, got my first pair of glasses in the Second Grade. So, with Sweetie, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. That’s a good thing too, because without these new glasses, she couldn’t see it if it did.

In the Books

Hello Friends,

After a whirlwind two weeks, we can officially say our Summer 2019 is “in the books” (hence the post title). But I return to you as we celebrate our first day back to St. Viator Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year.

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You may be thinking, “Wait, is the Cricket in a uniform?” And the answer is yes, she is. She is starting Kindergarten and that means uniforms, no naps, and the beginning of her permanent record.

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She was very excited, even though today was just a one hour welcoming day. Tomorrow is her real first day, but she dressed up just the same (and we don’t really buy into the permanent record thing).

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Sweetie was excited too…no, really. She didn’t show it the entire morning, but she was glad to get back to her friends. If only I would stop making her pose with these signs all over the house, and stairs, and outside, and in the school yard. Well, that’s not going to happen.

And so, as I stated, our summer is in the books. But I invoke the spirit of Dad jokes to say that our girls are also in the books. Gosh, that was way more funny in my head. Anyway, we’re back at school now. Best to you and yours as they head back, here’s hoping it’s a smooth and positive end of your summer.