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.

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…

Ettabetta Boop

Hello Friends,

We’re going to keep on with this theme of equal daughter representation. Cricket’s class just held their Superkids Dress-Up Day. Funny thing, she chose Ettabetta, just like Sweetie did two years ago.

The circumstances around this dress-up day are funny, because the detour showed up in the Google search results for “Superkids Ettabetta”. For some sites this is an everyday occurrence; for me, it was a reason to do the happy dance. I learned about the search results from two different Kindergarten Moms, whose daughters also dressed up as Ettabetta (she’s pretty popular). They came across Sweetie’s pictures in their search results, then followed the link to the blog. It was great talking with them about D³, as only a few parents at school know about the blog (self-promotion is not one of my strengths).

You all can check out Sweetie’s picture from her Kindergarten year, and of course, here’s the Cricket:

Feel free to form an opinion about “who wore it better”, just be sure to keep it to yourself! As for me, I’ll never tell. Really, though, Cricket is enjoying the Superkids program just as much as Sweetie did, and she is now reading nightly. I know I mentioned in my last post that the milestones are less exciting with the second child, but this reading stuff is still so cool.

So that’s the start of our week, friends. No puns this time around, but I do hope all is going well for you and yours. We’ll see you out there!

100 Days-Take 2

Hello Friends,

This post is ultimately about Cricket’s recent “Hundred Days of School” project, but it’s gonna take a minute to get there.

We just celebrated the 100th day of school, with both girls taking on projects. As I was watching Cricket’s come together, I thought back to Sweetie’s project from her Kindergarten year. Then, when I didn’t post a picture on the exact day, I realized I had fallen into the “second child” cliche.

I’m not sure how it is in your family, but we constantly struggle to give the girls equal treatment. Sweetie is older but quieter, so she can drift to the background easily. Cricket is second but gregarious and grabs your attention. But a look at their photo albums shows the extent of this problem. Sweetie’s starts in the hospital and is consistent up to her third birthday, some pages bursting from the stack of un-sorted photos. It’s a veritable Encyclopedia Brittanica of the start of her life. Cricket, on the other hand – cliff notes. No, really. Many pages with no photos or any information recorded, even though she’s been around for over five years.

And that’s how it goes with the second kid, right? Parents have less energy in general, the developmental milestones are expected and no longer unique, and you don’t cling to every little thing that happens, you don’t hang on every behavior and correct it to an expectation. Huh, reading that makes it sound bad, like I’m an awful Dad. But I know I’m not alone here, folks.

So here’s my attempt to bring balance to our house. Celebrate! Behold Cricket’s 100th Day Project:

Just a panda strollin in the foothills

Mommy helped bring this image together, but Cricket did the painting and placing. That includes counting and hand-painting all 100 of those noodle-bamboo shoots. And the “100” cloud? All her.

All in all, I think this project went well. It served as a good reminder to me to celebrate the girls’ accomplishments, however small, as equally (and specifically) as we can. Cricket engaged the project, which was very cool to watch. And, we made the trip to school without the project getting ruined. Now if only she had allowed the teacher to keep it to display with the rest of the class…

So remember, friends, second children need love too. And for those of you with more than two kids, you have my respect. Given that my hairline is receding and graying from two, I don’t think I could handle another! We’ll see you out there, friends!

Thanksgiving Break (So Far…)

Hello Friends,

I don’t usually apologize for my absences, but I feel I gotta this time. I am sorry for not writing in a long while, I have been busy helping to organize the 2019 Winterfest celebration at the girls’ school. We have mentioned it in previous years, but I am in it this year. Scheduled for Friday, December 6th, through Sunday, December 8th, 2019, you can check out the flier for the details here:

2019 Winterfest Official Flyer

I feel like this is another example of the closed economy of our (my) energy. But I can’t delve into it right now. I just finished a round of emails, and there is a bunch of stuff to organize and create leading into next week. Instead, I will leave you with a bunch of photos of the girls and I playing around in Millennium Park. With a full week off for Thanksgiving Break we had to throw in some adventures.

And yes, that’s gelato on a November day (they ate their lunches well!). 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.

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.

My First Field Trip

Hello Friends,

The girls have taken field trips for a few years now. Obviously, there are school trips, like two or three each year. Last summer, Sweetie took field trips through her summer camp as well. Me, on the other hand, I’ve been avoiding them like the flu. But, not anymore!

These are all pictures taken while I chaperoned Cricket’s trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo with the two PreK-4 classes. An afternoon at LPZ is an easy sell for me. And the timing worked out, with no second child in tow, no half day pick up, and work that I could delay.

I was definitely nervous, at first, worrying that it would be me alone with half of Cricket’s class. I was envisioning parading around the zoo, chasing stragglers from one exhibit to the next. It wasn’t all that different from what I expected, except my group was five children (yes, Cricket was one of them), and I was joined by another Mom and a nanny (with a student’s younger sibling in tow). A third Mom even joined us during lunch. So we had/made a village.

Overall, the kids were great. Sure, they are four and five years old, but they were fine. The day was perfect, with the right balance of warmth, sun, cloud cover, and breeze. The bus ride? Well, definitely brought back elementary school memories. Taking all that into account, I guess I could help with another trip next year.

I don’t know about your kids’schools, but St. Viator has all sorts of ways for parents to get involved. The general feedback that I have heard (mainly from teacher Moms) is that field trips are one of the most important and helpful ways for parents to participate in school events. Personally, I liked seeing the kids enjoy the zoo and the animals. It’s no coincidence that all these pictures show the kids at the enclosure glass ir wall. They were so into the animals. And watching their antics was icing on the cake.

We are winding down the school year. For yhe most part, the girls are all smiles. I hope your end-of-year adventures are good as well.

Crazy Hair Day

Hello Friends,

In my last post I told you all about the Fun Run at the school (St. Viator Elementary). That us weeks past, but the girls continue to reap the benefits of their findraising efforts.

This is “crazy hair and socks day” for Sweetie’s class. The students were allowed to style their hair however they wanted, or wear a hat, and wear wild socks.

Some of the do’s included hair dye, others with silly ponytails, and many with lots of product. Sweetie opted for a jellyfish parked on her head. No, that’s not a spider, nor an octopus (silly you).

All credit to Wife for having the patience to do the braids, then creating this critter. Sweetie was very proud to walk in with her “crazy” hair. And the socks were a bonus. The kids enjoyed this fun day, even though they didn’t get anything. The fun factor raised their spirits in the classroom, so I hope this little story raises yours.

Well, I hope your week is starting off well. We’ll see you out there!