Bike to School Day

Hello Friends,

Wanted to share a bit of today’s adventure with you all. Before I go on too long, let me say I hope your day is going well, and your adventures are constructive.

We live wonderfully close to St. Viator Elementary, the girls’ school. That makes days like today, “Bike to School Day”, especially fun. In the fall we were all about taking our wagon to school. This changes things up a bit.

As you may have noticed, Sweetie is still on training wheels. She just got the two-wheeler last year, so we are in the learning curve (for the record, I think her class is evenly split on training wheels). And Cricket, well, yes, she’s on a tricycle. We did practice this run before hand, but oh what fun!

Once we made it to school we joined the other kids for a two-block “loop” along the east side of the school (closed to traffic for pick-up of course). The girls made a lap around here and with the exception of a loosened pedal, they both did well. Going home in the afternoon was a different story and we made the last block and a half with me carrying the tricycle and pushing the bicycle. Yeah, good sleep after that…and for the girls too!

I hope your day was as beautiful as ours. I am thinking this marks our transition to cycle transportation – #summergoals! We’ll see you out there.

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Not Warm Yet

Hello Friends,

Here in Chicago we have reached that time of year where the sun is coming out more and the temperatures are rising during the day, but it is not warm yet. These bouncing temperatures mean children are over-dressed and under-dressed daily, so everyone gets sick. We are just coming off a 10 day course of antibiotics ourselves.

Despite the cold, the sun is causing some spring fever. The girls want to get out! Nothing like playing with pails and shovels in your scarf and mittens (Sweetie is fond of bundling up). Or a tricycle ride in mittens.

We are trying here, friends! We are on the mend, the temp is on the rise – you’ll be seein’ more from us. We hope you all are dealing with the spring well, maybe we’ll see you out there.

School Photos

Hello friends,

the past two years I have shared pictures of Sweetie on her school’s picture day. I thought that I would share a picture of the Cricket given that today was her first.

This picture is from late morning, after school. Big kudos to Ms. K for keeping the Cricket clean and her hair up (she is usually quick to pull out any bands or clips).

I would’ve gladly included pictures of Sweetie in her matching dress, but she changed as soon as we got home. I was distracted by Cricket playing in the yard and poof, out comes Sweetie in a different dress. That’s alright though, the Cricket needs to have a couple of posts to herself.

And our school year adventures continue…

Don’t Call it a Comeback…

Hello Friends,

Yeah, I’ve been away for a bit. And while I have a variety of reasons that I feel justify the silence, they end up as excuses. I mean, I’m going to try to write about all this stuff anyway.

So the quick recap: we have not yet moved back into the house (it’s still under construction); Sweetie celebrated another birthday; Sweetie just wrapped up PreK-4; summer break started this week; there are product reviews to share; there are recipes to share; there is a new category to share; there is a vlog ( as a blog supplement) in the works. Whew!

So why not a comeback? ‘Cause this doesn’t really count as a post. And one post doesn’t warrant some sort of pat on the back. This is a smoke signal to let you all know we’re still here on the detour. And to share this random video of the Cricket jumping rope as only an almost 3 year old can:

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=hgdYHYqoK2Y

Thanks for sticking with us – we’ll see you again soon!

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!

Thank You Dead Presidents

So today was President’s Day, which of course means no school! How did you spend your day? Did you talk to your kids about our country’s Presidents? Did you discuss the current state of affairs in Washington? Did you discuss “civic duty” and the importance of voting? We neither!

The girls both woke up with smiles and lots of energy today. Blame it on some late nights over the weekend, or maybe the 60º+ temperature in Chicago right now. So civics lessons were not on the agenda, but going to the park was item number 2! (There where a couple of things around the apartment that HAD to happen first).

We're off!

We’re off!

I tried to get us out as quickly as possible. The girls were ransacking rooms while I did silly things like dishes and laundry. We were rollin’ by mid-morning, with the day steadily warming up. It was a bit bizarre to head to the playground; 1.) It’s February and most playgrounds and parks are usually buried in snow, 2.) The entire park smelled like wet dog poop, and 3.) There was garbage everywhere (clearly a busy weekend at the playground). We didn’t let any of these things hold us back though, and the girls loved running all over the playground. They had the run of the place right until we were ready to leave.

20170220_095333

Swings-always a favorite

We wrapped up playtime and enjoyed a much-needed snack. Then back to the apartment for a quick Paw Patrol episode (not a school day!) while I swapped car seats and laundry, then out again. We headed to the Buyos’ house for some lunch and a quick visit. The girls did well, until the lack of sleep turned them into drunken sailors whose ears stopped working. Time to leave.

When we got back to the apartment Wife was already home. This seemed like a bonus except that she was not feeling so well. That made for a quiet afternoon, yet still no napping. So after a solid dinner and bath both girls fell asleep without much drama. Overall, I fell way behind on my Monday routine when I usually put the apartment back together. But playing at the park, in February, was great (albeit spooky). And spending the days with my girls is always fun, even with a lack of sleep. I’ll add “making time for families to play together” to the list of great things that our past presidents accomplished. And Happy (early) Birthday President Washington.

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.