Following a Yellow Brick Road

Hello Friends,

This is another family adventure from our weekend. With such a beautiful late summer day on Saturday, we had to get out. Wife Googled parks in the city and found “Oz Park ” in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Who knew?

The main draw was statues of the main Oz characters. Obviuosly, here the girls are sitting on Dorothy’s pedestal. Arranged around two sides of the park, these statues help set a playful tone.

Nick Chopper, a.k.a the Tin Woodman guards the northeast entrance of the park.

Just inside that entrance stands the scarecrow. He is near the “quiet area”, his gentle nature an appropriate reflection of this calm patch. Filled with flowers and decorative plants, it stands apart from the playground and greenspace of the park.

The Cowardly Lion stands at the southeast corner of the park. He has the bonus of being app-enabled and can call you and talk with you. More importantly, he defends the pickle ball court. And yes, the people who play there too.

The playground at Oz Park is amazing. Shade is abundant and kids climb all over multiple ornate wooden structures. There’s tennis courts, pickleball courts, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, open space, the playground- really something for everyone.

We broke for lunch and headed down the street to Chicago Halal. Not much more than counter tops, this place has some kind of magic to their food prep. The gyro meat was cut small and had a delicious searing on the edges.

The girls ate well on their cheeseburgers too. So overall, our family dug Chicago Halal. I know that’s a weak review, but maybe some of you foodies out there can drop them a visit and do a proper one.

So here’s a weird thing about the afternoon: the lack bathrooms. Despite the beauty and playground amenities, Oz Park does not have any bathroom facilities. Chicago Halal also lacks bathrooms facilities. We tried to pitstop at a Starbucks near the park, but no, no toilet. What?!? Bit of a downer on a our day, but we salvaged it. You know who had a bathroom? Same people who have old-school soft serve. Oh yeah, Dairy Queen.

If you haven’t been to Oz Park yet, just follow Webster east, about to Halsted. Visit with the friends from L. Frank Baum’s Oz series, or maybe get in on some wooden paddle and wiffle ball action. Lincoln Park holds plenty of restaurants, both new and fresh as well as tried and true. So food is easy to find around Oz Park. Just be sure you plan your adventure ahead, so you don’t make your own yellow brick road.

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Merry (belated) Christmas-Day 12!

Hello Friends,

So, challenge failed? I mean, technically I didn’t post all the way through day 12. And then I took days off, right at prime posting time. Regardless of how late we are, we here at the D3 family wish you a Merry Christmas-for the whole season! We spent the Christmas days visiting with family, spanning from the Northwest suburbs to the far South suburbs. We clocked time with both Wife’s side of the family and mine. We managed to be at home for Santa to visit Christmas morning though!

We have spent the days since recovering from all the holiday fun, and taking care of a few things. A trip to our favorite pediatric dentist, Dr. Johnny, provided some motivation to sit down and write. I also have to tell all you Chicago folks about a children’s shoe store where we shopped. So no shortage of material as we wind down 2017, yet still that lack of time to get to it all!

First Ever D³ Giveaway! (or “WinterFest pitch, take 2”)

Hello Friends,

Influencers, bloggers and vloggers give stuff away all the time through their sites and I have decided to give it a try. The first ever D³ Giveaway will be connected with the St. Viator WinterFest to try to boost attendance to both the Dad’s Diaper Detour website and the school’s festival. The event organizers and school staff are working hard to make it a fun, successful weekend, so I thought I would put forth this effort. Here’s the deal:

Tomorrow night, from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00P.M., I will be working at the outdoor hot chocolate tent at WinterFest. If you come up to the tent and say that you want the “Dad’s Diaper Detour Deal” then you will get a…(wait for it) free cup of hot chocolate! Amazing, right?!? Okay, it’s no iPhone, but hey, what could be better than enjoying a great cup of hot cocoa while strolling around a winter festival, complete with a skating rink, caroling, and market? Keep in mind that this is an exclusive deal. Although WinterFest runs Friday through Sunday, I will only be at the hot cocoa tent tomorrow night. Here’s the flier again in case you  missed the last post.

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So maybe we’ll meet tomorrow night. Wife and the girls will be around too – it is a family affair. But again, please don’t ask anyone else for free hot chocolate at any other time during the weekend. People will think you’re weird (the event is a fundraiser) and my whole publicity stunt will be junked.

But seriously, it would be great to see you all there. Remember, the cocoa is on me. Marshmallows, anyone?

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!

Staying Engaged

A while back a longtime friend was telling me about his work-life balance. He explained how he appreciated coming home to his children, entering his home genuinely engaged and mindful of their shared time. He was thinking out loud that his appreciation of family time would be different if he was a stay-at-home Dad, if he was around his kids all day long. Well that got me thinking on my experience.

Of course at-home parents have a different appreciation for the time with their kids. On one hand you get to see more of the subtle changes in your children; you witness more of the small things that make the big differences. And on the other hand, you have to fill eight to eleven hours with activities for people who have an attention span of twenty seconds. This usually means repetition, like re-reading the same stories, playing the same games. And this can get tough as you fight with boredom and try not to disconnect. In the work world this is referred to as “burnout”. Sometimes it can be remedied with a change in work duties, sometimes with a well-deserved vacation. Sometimes, though, it is the sign that it is time for a change. Well these solutions don’t fit so well for the parent/family dynamic though. Even if your spouse takes the kids on an afternoon adventure, it’s not the same thing cause there’s probably laundry to do, somewhere, and toys lying around, everywhere.

Dad gets bored with bathtime

Dad gets bored with bath time

So what to do? I admit that I like routine, but you have to change it up. Sometimes this means breaking routine, going out and doing something at a time of day when you would normally be at home. Sometimes this means imposing your will on your children. For example, I can listen to the Trolls movie soundtrack twice in one day. Any more and I get irritable. So despite protests and tears and gnashing of teeth, it gets shut off. I learned this the hard way when Sweetie fixated on the same four songs off of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Four of fourteen. So impose away, that’s parenting – hey, I didn’t get to play my music in the car until junior high.

Another great thing to tap into is your creativity (okay, this option is a bit more feel-good too). I like creative activities. When the girls don’t want to play on their own while I change bed sheets, we build a big fort for them. When coloring gets boring we decorate cards for friends and family. It’s essentially the same activity, but the different medium makes it new and fresh. Because here’s the kicker; kids disconnect too. And nothing is more dangerous than a bored child.

Oh yeah, that's B

Oh yeah, that’s butt paste

I have found that if I don’t give the girls something to do, they will find something to do. This usually involves non-toys around the house that I don’t want them to play with (see above). Note to would-be parents: kids are active and require stimulation. Their little hands and brains need to “be doing” constantly. If your kids are like mine, then boredom is the cause for most problems. Again, there a way to prevent things from getting stale and stay engaged. Our experience is activity: we have enrolled the girls in a variety of activities to keep them active and to keep our shared experience fresh. From music-play classes to art at the park district, zoo camps to piano lessons, we have sought out a bunch of activities outside the house.

In reality, boredom is part of everyone’s lives. It happens. I don’t have a D3 guide to staying engaged while at-home with your children all the time. In fact, if any of you have suggestions for activities, please share in the comments section. The best way that I have found for staying engaged is to stay active with varied, creative activities, inside and outside the house. And while it wears me out, it is the most fun way to roll this at-home adventure.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all out there! Snow shoveling, winter break, tree decorating, gift buying and wrapping; it’s all been leading up to today.

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Our family has much to be grateful for this season; good health, financial stability, employment, family, and yes, you, our readership. I was just telling Brother Mechanic that it is good to be a member of our family right now. So we send out well-wishes to you and yours for a safe and happy holiday, whatever holiday you celebrate. We hope you enjoy the loving support of family and the warm embrace of time spent together. Merry Christmas.

First Day of Winter Break!

Today was of first official day of Winter Break 2016! At 30º and sunny it was a great day in Chicago. After sleeping in a bit, some breakfast and some cartoons, it was time to venture out.

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The girls and I started out with a “quick” trip to Jewel (named such for how much we were purchasing, NOT how long the walk took). After stretching the walk from five minutes to fifteen we headed back to the apartment for some snow fun.

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Besides being a warm, clean, safe and affordable place to stay during our remodeling project, our temporary-home two-flat sits on a deeper lot than we have at home. This gives the girls a larger backyard to run around in – great for days like today when they need to air out a bit. And the yard is surrounded by a locked fence, so no worries about the girls getting into the alley or the street.

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Between older cousins and older siblings, both girls have gear for the snow. And we are not afraid to spend on warm clothes, so the boots and mittens are overkill (REI, Sorel, North Face, Columbia, etc). Besides being safe from the cold, it is more fun playing in the snow when you’re warm.

img_1873The weather forecast calls for more snow over the Christmas weekend, and frankly, we are okay with that. We laid the foundation for a snow fort, and the girls are all about “helping” with the shoveling (anyone who has tried to shovel with a child understands).

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After an hour in the snow it was time to head inside to eat and nap. The girls played well together, which is always a relief. Yesterday was an early dismissal from school, which meant a long afternoon. It was not a good preview of two weeks spent together. But today’s master plan worked, and two worn out girls with full tummies laid down for long winters’ naps, allowing me to knock out some insulating projects and some laundry. BTW, can you dig the “chalet” look of the kitchen? Yeah, remodeling that is on the post-move-out-to-do list.

For some of you winter break started today. Others, like CPS, will wrap tomorrow. Regardless of your holiday schedule, I hope you have plans both grand and small and you can enjoy your time together. Our winter break adventures are just starting!