Theme Days

Hello Friends,

One of my favorite parts of summer camp was the theme days. The girls are steadily warming up to these intentional dress-up days as well.

Earlier in the summer it was crazy hat day for the “play camp”, and crazy hair day for the “day camp”.

You know we are always up for wild hair, or interesting headwear, so these were easy sells. The sports days are a bit harder, cause we just don’t have a lot of team gear. Not even t-shirts! Today’s theme for the play camp was a particular household favorite:

Yup, Star Wars day! Cricket was going to end up as either Leia or Rey, as we haven’t made a Rose outfit yet. Today’s hot and humid forecast didn’t go well with the collar-to-ankle polyester robe, so Jakku scavenger it was!

Even though she is the second child, and has watched me style Sweetie’s hair like this, the Cricket coached me through this entire ‘do. That’s how badly she wanted to nail this theme. You might be wondering, “What, no staff, no lightsaber?” Uh, no, not for Cricket (yet). It would be rogue Jedi justice all over the household galaxy.

The park district is great about their theme days. They change it up and keep it fun. I like that the girls participate in the group activity, and enjoy watching them get into it. And it’s pretty great seeing the $6.00 clearance Halloween costume get used for the third (or maybe fourth) time.

I’m guessing your Monday didn’t have a theme, but I do hope it was good overall. Keep in mind the simple joy that kids get out of a theme day-it could save a rainy afternoon! We’ll see you out there, friends!

Garden Update

Hello Friends,

Well, summer goes and the garden grows. Here’s where we’re at this week:

The wildflowers are thriving in the Fairy Garden, and look like they’ll bloom this week. We’ve been watching butterflies, moths, and bees flying among the cucumbers, but hopefully that pollinator garden will bring even more.

The tomatoes are coming in well. We chose Roma tomatoes, and these are just about to size. A little vine ripening and we should be set!

The jalepenos are longer than my middle finger, so we’ll have to start watching those. They should also be ready for picking soon!

The girls have been helpful with the watering, especially during last week’s hot spell. Weeding falls on Wife and I, and we’re keeping up reasonably well. I know we have passed the halfway point of our summer break-from here, I feel like the vegetables will ripen quickly. We’ll keep you updated on the progress, hopefully with some zucchini to share! Inch by inch, row by row, right? I hope your gardens and summer are going well, we’ll see you out there, friends!

Another Way to Beat the Heat

Hello Friends,

Well, summer heat has arrived in Chicago. If the weather prediction is right, we’re in for more this week. With temps hitting the nineties on Friday and Saturday, we decided to cash-in a gift and hit the theater.

Oops, to clarify, we went to the Marriot Theatre, not a movie theater. Grandma and Grandpa gifted the girls tickets for Christmas and we found Junie B. Jones, the Musical, for them to check out.

Sweetie read a bunch of the June B. Jones books during the First Grade, and really enjoyed them. The writing is age-appropriate and accessible. I think Sweetie liked that there is some mis-adventures, mischief, and some of the behaviors are a bit controversial (again, within the age parameters). Cricket knows of Junie B. through her sister-if Sweetie dug it, it must be awesome.

The theatre was only about forty percent filled, and wife spoke with a lovely woman at the ticket counter, so first row, center, for us. Since we were on the same level as the stage, the girls could see all the actors and actresses up close. They loved the layout (theatre in the square?) that allowed them to see all the action. The girls were rockin’ out to the songs and crackin’ up with the show.

The Marriot Theatre is in Lincolnshire, just North of the city. They hold all types of theatre performances, and the ground-level, square stage with 360° seating is pretty cool. Their air conditioning works well and the seats are comfortable. (If I could’ve taken photos during the performance you would see the grandfather who slept comfortably the entire show-HERE). They are easy enough to find online, so check ’em out.

So I offer you, friends, this other way to beat the heat. Another special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for this “experience” gift, which was a wonderful way to spend the day. I hope you all are staying comfortable in the summer heat, and finding all sorts of adventures. We’ll see you out there!

Garden Fun

Hello Friends,

Our summer is off and running, with all sorts of adventures and activities. I’ll fill you in on the camp fun and vacationing (local plans for us) and all that, but today I want to tell you about our garden.

We started our bed prep back in April. After the initial weeding, the girls used fairy house to create a fairy village, then planted wildflower seeds to make a pollinator “forest” to surround that village. The cool weather gave way to wet weather, but we were able to get plants in the ground by the end of May.

We kept it fairly simple with a jalepeno plant, two roma tomatoes, one squash, two rows of scallions, and two rows of carrots. Oddly enough, the two apple trees espaliered against the garage didn’t bloom this year. But the garden is planted!

This is a big deal for me because this is the first garden we have planted in three years! We left our house for renovation in 2016 and returned in late summer 2017 to award-winning weeds. Seriously, some were about six feet tall. Last summer we weeded, cleared, and cleaned, but never planted. Prior to the construction, we always planted a garden. And each year we changed, rearranged, landscaped, and continued to dial-in our yard space.

The other reason this is cool to me is that the girls are showing an interest. Whenever we went outside they gravitated to the garden bed and the dirt, so this year we are channeling that energy. The fairy houses are gifts from a couple of past birthdays; the girls moved them outside and crated the village. As far as gardening skills and foot-awareness, they are still stomping on plants, but took great care building their fairy village. Whenever we walk that way, they check on the houses and the developing pollinator meadow (fairy scale meadow, of course). We’re leveraging the lessons of the fairy village to teach the gurls about growing vegetables. You know, making sure they don’t think tomatoes grow in the bins at Jewel. I love that they are getting their hands dirty and playing with worms, it’s much more refreshing than screen time. Their next lesson is how to clean the dirt from under their nails!

Well, we’re off to more activities. I hope your summer is starting off well. I haven’t picked songs in while, but this would be a great place to cue up Sherm the Worm by Peter Himmelman (we discovered the song on the Best of the Land of Nod aldum). If you have a garden space, be it a plot or even just a bucket, I wish you a bumper crop. Oh, and for sure I’ll update the progress. That’s all for now friends, we’ll see you out there!

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.

Zoo Camp

Hello Friends,

Man, how the summer has flown! I hope you can forgive my absence. We have been both travelling and entertaining family here at home. The girls have enjoyed all kinds of summer adventures so far. They’ve travelled, had beach visits, sampled children’s museums and my favorite, attended camps!

We are wrapping up our summer at the Lincoln Park Zoo Conservation Camp. I wrote last summer about Sweetie’s adventures at LPZ Camp, and now Cricket is old enough too.

Gettin’ comfortable with the group

The girls enjoy the crafts and games, and especially love the daily trips into the zoo to check out the animals and their behaviors.

Very comfortable!

The zoo and camp are located in the very accessible Lincoln park neighborhood, so kids come from all over the city. We randomly reconnected with some friends from swim lessons. One of those wonderful coincidences where both the older and younger siblings are the same age. Good times!

I hope your summer is wrapping up well. Travels? Camps? Whatever your adventures are I hope your kids are loving it. Next week…school!

Summer Camp Fun

Hello Friends,

I hope you are enjoying your summer adventures. Some of my best summertime memories are from summer camp days. Whole days spent running around, playing games like kickball and capture the flag, art and crafting, and swimming. There were the years when Sister-Younger-Older was a camp counselor, a very cool “in” for my young, four-eyed chubby self. There were my early teen years as a “junior” counselor, keeping the younger campers organized. Our summer camp was a bike ride away from home. No overnight camp for me, but still good memories.

We first signed Sweetie up for camp sessions at Lincoln Park Zoo two summers ago. While that was fun, it was only half days because of her age. Last year we added on two weeks of St. Viator camp. The Cricket was too young last year so she was in D³ Day Camp all day, every day. But this summer everyone is old enough for some sort of camp!

Sweetie gets a full summer; two weeks at St. Viator camp, five weeks at Kilbourn Park camp (through the Chicago Park District). and three weeks at Lincoln Park Zoo! The Cricket is in a “play” camp three half-days a week for six weeks and two weeks at LPZ camp (that birthday cut-off almost got us again!).

Right now they are both fully into their Chicago Park District camps. We heard good things about the Kilbourn Park camp, and that was cool because it’s our go-to park. Cricket does claim that she doesn’t want to go pretty much every day, but it seems like every junior counselor knows her name. Given all the hugs that she gives and gets, something good is going on. They dig all the theme days and love the field trips.

Is camp part of your summer adventures? Day camp or overnight? Whichever, I hope you and your kids are making great memories this summer. Remember the sunblock and water bottles, maybe some bug spray too. We’ll see you out there.