May the 4th Fun

Hello Friends,

Yes, I know we are already days past, but May the 4th be with you! We had such a fun, full weekend that I couldn’t get this out to you all on Saturday. Our May 4th plans weren’t extensive, but they were fun, so I thought I’d share.Our main Star Wars celebration was heading to the local Barnes & Nobles for a May 4th Star Wars Lego build event. Bins of various pieces greeted the children, who had free reign to build.There was product on display, of course, as if the kids needed motivation to join the fun. They also had an activity booklet for the kids to color and complete. Sweetie and I ventured in while Cricket napped in the car.So here’s Sweetie’s finished escape pod. All MOCs were turned in to the staff for photographing and posting on their Instagram feed. It was kind of a bummer that the kids couldn’t keep their builds, but a giant poster of Star Wars alphabet helped ease that pain.The girls are Star Wars fans and Lego fans. They are not quiet to the convention/public cosplay level just yet, so the Barnes & Nobles event was just right. It was great to be out and about, and attending the event helped “launch” an adventurous afternoon.I hope you guys had a good weekend, and today started your week off well. We’ll see you out there!

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The Spring Break We Were Looking For?

Hello Friends,

Yep, that’s where I’ve been for the past two weeks: spring break. For some families, this meant a trip to the warmer parts of the U.S.. For others, an overdue trip to international beaches. And for us?

Local. Definitely local. And any of you watching the news over the past two weeks (or living here) knows we started this Chicago spring break with a snow storm and just about ended with one too! That was followed by some fevers, coughs, and rain. All challenging, but definitely not the end of our story.

We had to get healthy and get creative. So our adventures included a trip to the Atheneum Theater to see the Emerald City Theater’s performance of Corduroy;

lunch and an afternoon spent at Lincoln Park Zoo;

an egg hunt and activities at the Kilbourn Park Community Garden;

Our own Easter celebration, full of eggs, family and food;

and, thankfully, some time spent in the yard.

The sun came out later in our break than we anticipated. The warmth, even later yet. Again, those of you living here with us know how weirdly Chicago Spring can act.

Sweetie headed back to school last week for Thursday and Friday. Two days, end of the week, with an assembly…yeah, they didn’t really count. Cricket went to work with Wife on Thursday, then used Friday and Saturday to work on getting healthy…again. So today, when the bell rang at 7:50 AM, into the school they went! 40°, rain, and all!

Did you all have a goood spring break? Is yours still pending, even later than ours? I hope you have a chance to relax, recharge, clean out, really, do whatever you need to on your break. Did we have the spring break we were looking for? Eh, not too sure about that. Thankfully, I was too busy enjoying the spring break we got to worry about it!

We’ll see you out there, friends!

The Balance Unicorn

Hello Friends,

Allow me to share a glimpse into our morning routine. This is another event where I resort to a fixed schedule in order to get something done. Specifically, get the girls to brush their teeth to finish getting ready for school and get out the door on time. They get a turn brushing, then comes mine:

“Open your mouth”-brush inside. (spit)

“Close your teeth”-brush outside. (spit)

“Stick out your tongue”-brush tongue. (spit)

Rinse.

Dr. Johnny told us to brush for two minutes, twice a day. So, repeat this each morning after breakfast and each evening before bed. That’s fourteen times a week, for the past three years, and always with the same script.

Why then am I writing about the brushing of teeth like it’s some monumental accomplishment? This is an exercise that should be easy for us, take us four to five minutes, twice a day. Most times, though, it is a much longer ordeal. The girls will often fall off script, Cricket in particular. With her it feels like every other day I remind her of the brushing order. So I got to thinking, “Why is that?” I mean, all the books say that kids need routine, that they respond well to routine, they like routine. And the only answer I can come up with is, “Sometimes, particularly with children, that’s just how it goes.”

And there it is; that’s why I’m writing about our tooth brushing routine. Because it is my routine, not the girls’, so sometimes they don’t follow it (nor seem compelled to). Regardless of how long we have practiced these steps, we stray from the plan. Or rather, they stray. And sometimes that’s just how it goes.

Some days it is the tooth brushing routine; sometimes it is when we leave for school; other days it is the classroom routine at school; still others it is with toilet use. They aren’t acting on a choice, exercising their agency, pushing back, acting out or anything like that. They’re just doing, and it happens to be in a different direction than I’m doing. So lately I’ve been quietly reminding myself that sometimes, that’s just how it goes.

Admittedly, sometimes I tell that voice (still quietly) to go to hell. Those are the days when patience is not high on my list. Days when we’ve squandered our morning and have to sprint out the door, or when I think a four-year-old should use the toilet every time. These are days when my expectations might exceed our reality.

This brings up more questions, namely, “Where are you going with this, man?” And that answer is “balance.” I think the key here is to find a balance with your little ones. As much as I would love to control every move, every minute, that’s not a reality. But I also think it is unrealistic to resign yourself to chaos and let your kids follow every whim. So, balance. You know, like Mary Poppins making a game out of cleaning up the nursery. Yeah, balance. Man, this feels like I’m sitting back in Parenting 101.

I know this post wanders around a bit, friends, so thanks for sticking through to the end. I was recently reminded that children need room to be children, or else they seek out another outlet. I guess that means sometimes wiggling at the dinner table, making a mess of a room, being loud in general, etc.. Clearly, I’m still chomping on that comment, but wandering around this post has helped me to process.

I can’t help feeling like I am searching for a unicorn, though. I mean, there are entire sections of the bookstore dedicated to finding balance in your life. And then add your kids’ lives? Whew! Anyway, thanks again for reading my ramblings, I wish you all the best in finding your own balance.

I hope you are having a great day, we’ll see you out there!

History of Lego in Our Life

Hello Friends,

We all have our favorite toys from childhood, and mine are those colorful interlocking blocks – Lego (or more affectionately, “Legos”). They stuck around the longest for me, well after He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers & Go-Bots and M.U.S.C.L.E. fell off my radar. Man, the 80’s toy game was strong! But I digress…Lego. Yes, I was a big fan as a child and have rekindled my love for these blocks through my girls. Am I pushing their interest in them? Just a bit.

Taking us back to the early 80’s, my first “set” was Lego number 722, a general building set comprised of a box of bricks and an instructional manual with five different builds. In case you’re wondering how I can be so specific with this history, I still have the book:

This was my main interest until the Fourth Grade, when Cap’n Jack showed me the joy of constructing Lego spaceships. Always more of a free builder than I was (and a better free builder at that), Cap’n Jack stoked my Lego interest from an ember to a full on “Lego Maniac” Bonfire. In the mid-80’s “Zack” was a “Lego Maniac” (it was a commercial)- the kid my ten-year-old-self wanted to be, with the Lego collection I wanted to own.

But enough about me, the girls’ introduction to Lego starts with Duplo and, once again, Cap’n Jack. He gifted Sweetie her first Duplo set for her First Birthday. Want to guess what his son will be getting for his First Birthday? Needless to say, it took her a while to realize the blocks were not food, but fun. And things grew from there.

The Cricket wanted to play with whatever cool toy Sweetie was playing with. While she inherited the Duplo blocks, whose numbers had grown significantly, she would look to her sister and the smaller bricks.

Sweetie moved back and forth between, but her transition was sealed on her Fifth Birthday, when Moana’s Canoe arrived.

The girls’ collection really started growing after that birthday, with Lego sets becoming a go-to gift for many occasions. We also started adding the “Family Collection” to our house. That was five moving boxes and three copy-paper boxes full of built sets, bricks, plates, mini-figures (of course), and a plastic three-drawer organizer for the build manuals.

The Family Collection started when i was in Junior High and packed up my Lego city. My nephews and nieces took the collection from there and added the sets they collected over the past fifteen years. The girls have seen the Family Collection, but only get access to a bit at a time.

Thankfully, they are content with the bricks they have on hand.

Our latest addition, a dedicated table, adds some accessible play-ability as well as some organization to our Lego play (I’ll share some pics of that project later). Wife and I kept the layout simple to encourage free building, but there is a lower shelf to encourage Lego brick storage. As much as my heart loves these plastic blocks, the bottoms of my feet do not!

Did you grow up playing with Lego bricks (again, “playing Legos”)? Have you passed this interest on to your child(ren)? Or, like me, gently forced it upon them through continued encouragement? It’s great to see the following Lego has, and to see the community that enjoys these toys. I know they’ll be in our lives for many years to come, and we’ll be sure to share that with you.

Be safe, friends, we’ll see you out there.

Shoes for the Small Ones

Hello Friends,

Everyone lives with a bit of brand loyalty. Whether it is the make of car your whole family drives, the streaming service you favor, or the grocery store that always has what you’re looking for, we all have our “go-to’s”. I want to share one of ours.

Wife found Carrara Children’s Shoes, Ltd. after we learned that Stride Rite was closing the few stores they had near us. We needed selection, quality, and support over fashion. After spending some time on the interwebs, she found Carrara’s. Located on Clybourn Avenue, they are just a 20 minute car ride from the house.

Carrara Children’s Shoes is located in the back of a strip mall, sort of tucked away (we now think of it as a hidden treasure). The store front is unassuming, but as you enter you notice the 4′ x 8′ train layout at just the right height for the little ones to view. There are also play tables and toys around for keeping the kiddos entertained. The other three walls of the store are all shoes.

Ronado, or “Ron”, is the knowledgeable, attentive, owner-operator of Carrara’s Children’s Shoes. He is well-versed on the details of the shoes he sells, and is quick to share recommendations based on your input and interest. The big draw for us was their stock of leather shoes. We needed school shoes, we wanted quality, Ron delivered. And has continued to deliver the past three times we have visited.

Ron has an employee at the store, Jennifer, who he has trained to be equally attentive and helpful. She is lovely with our girls, easily gets them measured, and keeps the process moving. Between the two of them, we have never waited more than a couple of minutes for service.

Here’s a little bonus. Besides selling children’s shoes, Ron also designs adult shoes in collaboration with an Italian shoe company. His appreciation for quality materials shows in his well-made, all-leather, mildly funky foot wear. Wife picked up multiple pairs of shoes on super-clearance, priced to move based on their small size, not some defect. Maybe there is a great find hiding there for some of you.

Many clothing items fall under the “you get what you pay for” rule. Shoes from Carrara Children’s Shoes are no exception. I feel that all kid’s shoes are overpriced, so I have never been shocked by the prices at Carrara’s. The value comes from the quality of the shoes they stock and the pleasant attentiveness of the owner and employee. While they carry an excellent selection of leather dress-type shoes, they also have athletic shoes from Saucony, Plae, and Stride Rite, among others. If you need a good children’s shoe store here in Chicago, check out Carrara Children’s Shoes 2121 N Clybourn Avenue. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you this is not a sponsored review – we are just that pleased with their service and product and I wanted to share.

We’ll see you out there, friends!

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.