Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Purpose

When Ben and I moved back here 5 years ago, it certainly wasn't for the weather. I admit, I was in a foul mood about this weekend's blizzard, and having school canceled on Monday certainly didn't help. Last week, I heard someone on the radio say, "We live here on purpose. Just remember that." And that made me think it would do me some good to think about all of the reasons why we moved back here and why we plan to stay. That, along with they memory of the epic kids versus adults snowball fight that took place on Monday, is sure to help my mood.

  • Our neighborhood: friendly people, great parks, and the ability to walk to locally-owned restaurants, even in a blizzard.
  • Clare's school. A free, public Montessori school is a wonderful thing.
  • Christopher's preschool. We will miss this sweet school next year.
  • Living close to many family and friends, both old and new. (We do miss living near my parents. And I will probably wish forever, in vain, that my brother and his family will move here.)
  • Proximity to many beautiful state parks. Being within an easy drive to Minnesota's gorgeous north shore and the BWCA is not a small thing for our camping-loving family.
  • The Como Zoo, the Children's Museum, the Big Zoo, the Science Museum, the History Center, the Aquarium.
  • ECFE. Did you know Minnesota is the only state with this program? It has been a huge help for me, and I have made many friends in the neighborhood through my classes. And the kids love it.
  • So many delicious places to eat, if only I had unlimited funds and unlimited babysitters.
  • The Palace Theater and First Ave. And the Turf Club and even Xcel.
  • The Twins, the Saints, not the Vikings.
  • MIA and the Walker.
  • Hockey games at the U and the Minnesota United. (This one is for Ben.)
  • Surly, Lake Monster, Bauhaus, Indeed, Urban Growler,  Rails and Ales FTW.
  • Bike trails. The River Road. Minnehaha Falls and Wabun Picnic Area practically in our backyard.
  • The State Fair.
  • A plethora of options for summer camps and classes for the kids. We're already so busy this summer!
  • Many job opportunities for Ben and me.
  • Free ice skating at Groveland. Free sledding all over the place. Broomball. (Also for Ben.)
  • Coffee shops aplenty, including a local bean roaster and a coffee shop with an entire play area for the kids.
  • Coffee shops seem like a lame one to end on, but I can't think of anything else right now. What am I missing, Twin Cities friends??
There. I feel better. But spring, you are welcome any time. (Summer, don't get any ideas. We need at least a week of spring first, okay?)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Four and a half

He refuses to sit with the moose, so here he is on Easter morning.

I'm a few days behind with this, but here we are. Christopher is 4 and a half!

Despite being no longer remotely a baby, Christopher still has the most kissable cheeks in the world. And he still lets me kiss him, so I'll take it as long as I can. He likes to snuggle, and most mornings I wake up to find him laying in bed beside me. I could do without the night time visits, but it really bothers Ben more than me, and there is something sweet about finding him there in the morning.

He is becoming more articulate and interested in words. He can spell some short words, and recognizes his name. He still says pee-pano (piano), pizz-ya and ta-gar (guitar).

Christopher loves preschool. He is learning a lot, and comes home with interesting facts for us about a variety of topics. His favorite subjects have been outer space and dinosaurs. We had a conference with his teachers a few weeks ago, and they said he is doing well. He understands the school routine and participates. They said he is more interested in talking to the teacher than any other kids, though. Apparently he'll be inventing some game, and kids will go to play with him, but he can take it or leave it if he has company. I'm glad he is so independent, and I'm sure he'll be more interested in friends as he gets older. (And he does play well with his sister and dotes on his baby cousin Otto. He and Josie love to fight and antagonize each other, but they sometimes play nicely, too.)

We found out that he was accepted at Clare's school for pre-K next year. He'll go five mornings a week, and take the bus with his big sister. He has been enjoying watching her get on the bus for three years, so I think he'll be pretty thrilled when he gets to ride it himself. And it will buy me an extra 45 minutes every day, so yay for that.

Christopher is quite a comedian, both intentionally and unintentionally. We were having Easter dinner, and Christopher was dressed as Batman, as one does. He announced to us, "I am going to save the world when I am done here." This got a big laugh, of course, so he tried a second joke which involved poop. That got a scolding. He is still trying to figure out what will land and what won't.

He enjoys performing. The other night he said to me, "We are going to put on our super hero costumes and then we will dance." He told Ben he is going to be a stage singer when he grows up, but he will still live here. Ben: "If you are going to be a professional singer, that's probably true."

Some of Christopher's current favorites: "Here We Are" by Oliver Jeffers, Richard Scarry's "Best Word Book Ever", Rescue Bots, superheros (especially Batman), pizzya, all fruit, ta-sert (dessert), the sharks at the Aquarium, the Children's Museum (especially the big slide and the lasers), dancing and singing with his guitar, bouncy houses, balls and trucks and dinosaurs, Jupiter, the "Science is Real" album by They Might Be Giants, playing Super Mario Bros, his blankie (which is not so slowly disappearing), watching golf with his Baba, all four of his grandparents in general, his cousins, and of course, his best friend and sister Clare.

Some dislikes: Scary movies or scary parts in TV shows (he covers his ears and runs around the house). And I actually can't think of anything else. He's a pretty easy going kid.

And now, my interview with Christopher, in two parts. I am trying to do this every year. It might be hard to understand, but I find it entertaining. (And you will notice that he is really into potty talk, much to my annoyance.)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bits and Pieces: March

Okay, I have to say it. It snowed. Again. On March 31. I know this happens, a lot, in March. But every year I hate it.

Anyway, moving on. We had Clare's conference last week. She is doing really well. She is working above grade level in every subject, but reading is by far her best subject. My problem now is finding books that she enjoys and are challenging for her, but that are about appropriate subjects. She is currently reading the second Harry Potter, but I might make her stop with that one. She is also still really enjoying school, which is the most important thing.

I chaperoned a field trip to the History Center last week, and I have to say, I have a renewed appreciation for all the teachers do. It was stressful! But it was fun to see Clare's classmates in action, especially her best friends Natalie, Rainie and Colin. I hear so much about them.

Ben has been gone for quite a few Saturdays this month, which is always hard for me. I know he should be able to have activities outside of work, but I am with the kids all day every day, and look forward to getting a break on weekends. It has just made the month feel long.

That being said, I did escape for one weekend for my girls' weekend. I shouldn't complain about Ben being gone, I guess, since he never complains about me going away on these weekends. We rented a cabin near Luck, Wisconsin. It was a beautiful place on a lake. We shopped and had dinner at a traditional Wisconsin supper club (brandy old-fashioneds ftw)! It was a really nice break and I love getting to spend time with the four amazing women who were on the trip.

Ben and I went to see They Might Be Giants at First Avenue this month. Despite growing up in Minneapolis, Ben had never been to a show at First Ave!  I know, it seems impossible. The show was really fun. I bought the tickets for Ben for Christmas, so I am glad he had a good time.

My mom was here this past week, which was nice. She helped watch Christopher so I could do a few things during the week. I also went to my first PTO meeting, and I am going to start getting more involved with that next year.

And now it is Spring Break. We are spending Easter here. My friend Heather is hosting her annual brunch, and we are hosting Ben's parents and aunt and uncle for dinner. Then the kids and I are headed to my parents' house for the week. We are going to visit my 90-year-old Grandma, and I am so excited to see her!

Happy Easter!

The Aquarium on one of Clare's many days off this month.


One-on-one dinner with Clare.

Christopher with his bud, cousin Otto.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Oscars: 2018

It's that time of year again! I saw almost all of the nominees for Best Picture. Even with the Oscars airing later thanks to the Olympics, I still missed two. I guess I was too busy watching the Olympics to get to the theater. Sorry, Call me by Your Name and Darkest Hour.

In addition to the Best Picture nominees, I saw I, Tonya. Allison Janney was brilliant. I really liked it, and it fit in well with all of my Olympics watching.

I have to saw, this collection of nominees were not my favorite. I much preferred last year's movies. Anyway, here are my mini reviews.

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The more I thought about this one after seeing it, the less I liked it. The acting was excellent, and probably worthy of the Oscars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are likely to win. However, the story itself was disappointing on many levels. I don't want to spoil it, but I'll just say that redemption via a letter from beyond the grave does not work for me.

6. Phantom Thread: Daniel Day-Lewis is always good, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at fashion in the 1940s. But then this movie takes a very bizarre turn that I am not sure I liked. Actually, I am sure. I didn't like it.

5. Dunkirk: This one was interesting. It's not your standard war movie. There is very little dialogue - the movie lets the action tell the story. As with most war movies, it is violent and hard to watch at times. It was an interesting way to tell a story, though.

4.  Shape of Water: This one managed to be completely unique and totally cliche at the same time. Basically, it's a love story between a woman and a giant man fish. If that doesn't sound interesting to you, I wouldn't bother with this one. (Also, there is some gruesome violence.)

3. Get Out: So good. So freaky. So happy this was nominated for Best Picture.

2. The Post: I really liked this one. I wish it was getting more awards love, because I thought it was really well done. It takes place in the 1970s, but is absolutely a commentary on Trump. As a former newspaper reporter, I always enjoy journalism movies. And you can't go wrong with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in your cast. People in the theater were actually cheering during this movie.

1. Lady Bird: This was beautifully shot, directed and acted. I was worried that it would hit too close to my future home as a story about a mother and her teenage daughter, but it really didn't. After this movie my friends and I noted that we are now old enough that we were sympathizing with the mother rather than the teenager. This was the first one I saw, and it ended up being my favorite.

Should Win: Lady Bird
Will Win: Shape of Water*

*This is the least confident I have ever been in my pick. We'll see if I can win the Oscar contest for the third year in a row!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bits and Pieces: February

Why is it that the shortest month of the year always feels like the longest? I've been struggling this month - anxiety rearing its ugly head again. I am just so ready for winter to be over. It doesn't help that a stomach through is making its way through each of us. I am still hoping to avoid it, knock on all the wood, fingers crossed, etc.

Clare and Christopher have been making the most of winter, though. Ben took them sledding last weekend, and they loved it. They were out there for hours. I am glad Ben enjoys doing these things with them, so I don't have to. I did take Clare ice skating on Sunday, though, and it did feel good to get some fresh air. Maybe I need to try harder to enjoy winter activities.

Ben and I joke that Clare is going to be a lawyer when she grows up, because she insists on arguing, debating, or negotiating with us at all times. (A trait she likely inherited from either her grandfather, an actual lawyer, or her Aunt Katie, noted pusher of buttons. When she was a kid. Not so much now.) Clare is good at it, too. She will quickly find flaws in any argument, or throw words back in your face that show that you did in fact not give her the punishment you thought you did. It would be annoying if I wasn't so impressed with her skillz.

Clare has become interested in cooking this month. She checked a cookbook out from the library and has been busy in the kitchen making meringues and a strawberry yogurt concoction. I am hoping this new hobby will help curb her picky eating. We shall see. School is still going well. She is very attached to her best friends Rainie and Natalie. She is doing mostly second grade work, which is once again a great benefit to being in a mixed age classroom. She is reading at a much higher level than that.  She enjoys reading about 5 books at once, something I can never do. She is currently reading the second Harry Potter, "Charlotte's Web", an American Girl mystery, and a book about the main female characters in Star Wars. At school, she is working her way through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I have never read those, but she likes them.

Christopher has been learning about outer space at preschool. I have never seen him so excited about a topic, or so excited to go to school. Every day we play aliens after school. He is named Rock Man, and I am the Queen. (Of what, I have not a clue.) Rock Man lives on Jupiter, Christopher's favorite planet. He also likes to tell me about gravity and how it works. I have been digging out all of our books on space, and will need to find more at the library.

Ben gave me a game emulator for Christmas, so we have a lot of the old-school Nintendo games. Clare and Christopher love it. Christopher is actually pretty good. He quite enjoys playing the games during his allotted screen time.

He is doing better at skating - there are no more tears and he actually puts forth a bit of effort. I can tell he is also ready for winter to be over, though. He keeps asking to go camping.

This month we went to the Winter Carnival, and also checked out Rock the Cradle at MIA. The Winter Carnival always seems like a good idea, and then is always kind of boring. This year there were lots of out of towners there since it was Super Bowl weekend. Rock the Cradle was fun, but Christopher was a bit cranky. (It turns out he was sick.) I was proud of him though, because at one point we got separated and he took the initiative to ask a staff person to help him find his mom. (We were in the same room, we just lost track of each other for a minute.)

Ben and I took advantage of the Y's Parent's Night Out program this month and had a date night. It was nice, although I was unimpressed with the restaurant we went to. I am going to try to plan a date night every month this year.

This coming weekend is quite busy, and then next weekend I am going on a much-needed weekend getaway with my friends. I can't wait!

The only celebrities we saw Super Bowl weekend.

Ice palace at the Winter Carnival.

Rocking out at Rock the Cradle.

Riding a horse at a preschool field trip to Choo Choo Bob's.

Ice skating at Groveland.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bits and Pieces: January

Christopher: "Why do people who don't know you like you?"
Me: "I don't think people who don't know you like you or dislike you."
Christopher: "Well, people I don't know smile at me all the time." (Said while batting his eyelashes.)

Yes, they do, Christopher. Because you are an adorable little boy. Don't let it go to your head.

Another recent funny Christopher-ism:

Me, in the car: "Why isn't this stupid driver going. God!"

Clare: "You said a bad word. You're not supposed to say that!"

Christopher: "It's okay to say it if there is someone in your way."

And further proof that I need to watch my mouth around my children:

Clare: "Decorating gingerbread houses makes you say bad words. You said 'dumb' and 'shit'."

Anyway, moving on. January is always a strange month. At the beginning, I am relieved that the holidays are over and we have a fresh start. We always do a lot of planning for the rest of the year, and planning is one of my favorite hobbies. As we get further along in the month, though, it starts to drag and seems to go on forever.

Speaking of plans, we are going to be doing a few house projects this year, including a new backsplash for the kitchen and new siding. That is, we will do these projects if I can ever decide on a color for either. It is a big commitment!

The kids started skating lessons this month. Clare is doing well. She enjoys the lessons and has started skating backwards and doing some simple turns. Christopher, though. Christopher is not into it. He cries before every lesson and then only half-heartedly participates. I am not going to let him quit, but I wish we could find something he likes. He also did this when we had him in gymnastics and swimming. I asked him what he wanted to play, and he said football. And I said no. Actually, I don't know if there are any football programs for kids his age, but I am very reluctant to let him to play.

We took the kids to a Gopher women's hockey game this month. They enjoyed it. Clare liked watching the game, while Christopher was more interested in chasing Goldy around the stands and eating many concessions. Goldy snuck up behind him at one point and put his hands over Christopher's eyes. When Christopher realized who it was, he shrieked with absolute joy. (Clare is still scared of Goldy.)

Clare has had a few days off school this month. We spent one of the days at my friend Kerry's house, and the kids all had fun running around. I enjoyed drinking coffee and talking to my friends. It is so nice that the kids are old enough now that I don't have to watch them constantly. This past Friday, we went to the Children's Museum. It was insane there, but the kids enjoyed it, especially the slide. I sat and drank coffee and watched them come flying down. (Apparently all of my nice mornings involve drinking coffee.)

And then, of course, we had the snow day. I felt very lucky that Clare made it home safely and on time that Monday. I feel for those poor kids (and their parents) who were stuck on buses or at school for hours. I did stupidly try to take Clare to her piano lesson. I got stuck in the alley, and then stuck on Fairview Avenue before finally making it around the block to park in front of the house. My children learned a few new profanities that day as well. Later, Ben and my neighbor had to push the car down the street and up the alley. The neighbors all really banded together to help people who were stuck. And my neighbor also used his snowblower so we had a lot less shoveling to do.

The snow day itself was fun. The kids were so excited to play outside. I believe they won't see many more of these huge snowfalls in their lifetime, so I am glad they got to experience it.

My mom was here for a few days, and my sister and I took her out for her birthday. (Our usual: martinis at Moscow on the Hill followed by burgers at Red Cow.) My dad joined her here for the weekend. We always have a nice visit.

Christopher has been struggling with goodbyes at school. He sobs when I leave. I hate leaving him like that, but as soon as I leave he stops. The school has an Instagram account, so I can check it and see his smiling face. I know it just an act for me, but it still breaks my heart.

I am starting my new childcare schedule this Thursday. (I will be watching Josie and Otto four days a month.) Wish me luck! It has been a long time since I've taken care of a baby. Luckily, Otto is one of the cutest babies in the world, says his biased aunt. I just hope he'll take a bottle.

Starting the New Year with cousins is an excellent way to start the year.

Showcasing their different personalities.

Goldy excitement.


Taken moments before her boots got stuck in the snow and she came in barefoot and crying. (We went back out later.)

Flying out of the slide at the Children's Museum.

She loves painting her face.

Found on my phone.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year in Review: 2017

I don't even know what to say for an introduction, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

Visited Wine Country. Served as a delegate at the DFL City Convention. Participated in a worldwide protest.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I accomplished eight of my 40 x 40 goals. (Saw a local performance of the Nutcracker, did a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium, read East of Eden, started a college savings account for Christopher and added to Clare's, volunteered at Clare's school, baked an apple pie using my grandmother's recipe, took both kids to a movie at a movie theater, and went on our yearly friends camping trip.)

I didn't make any other resolutions, but this year I have two.

~Find a regular volunteer opportunity to do with Christopher.
~Talk about our budget on weekly basis with Ben.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thank God.

4. Did anyone close to you have a child?

Yes! My sister had my new nephew Otto in November. Katie had Eero in January.

5. Where did you travel?

Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Northfield (Girls' Weekend), Whitewater State Park (Friends' Camping), Lake Itasca State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Sonoma, Lake Vermillion, Cascade River State Park (Friends' Camping), La Crosse (Girls' Weekend), and several trips to Evansville.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Oh let's see, maybe a world that doesn't feel like it's falling down around me? I don't see that happening, though.

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory?

January 21 - the day of the Woman's March. My nephew's birthday in November.

And I think, in general, I will remember all of 2017 as just being terrible.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Hmmmmm. Let's stick with something really, really small. I finished a knitting project. (A cowl for Clare.) And I read more than 50 books.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes. I had a procedure done and ended up with a tear in my esophagus. It sucked. (I am okay now.)

10. What was the best thing you bought?

I mostly buy stuff for the kids. Also: a plane ticket to Sonoma.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My friend Heather, who is now the President of ERA Minnesota, among her many other volunteer duties. She has started doing all of this since the election. I really admire her.

Also, as every year, Ben is really my rock. I couldn't ask for a better partner, even if we annoy each other sometimes. And I can say that because I know he won't read this.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Congressional Republicans; Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and all of the other abusers of women; and of course He Who Shall Not Be Named.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Same as last year: Things for House and Children.

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My new nephew. My trip to Sonoma with my college friends.

15. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Anything on the They Might Be Giants "Science is Real" album.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

I hate to say it, but sadder and fatter. About the same financially.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Exercised and washed my face. Had date nights with Ben. Every year I say this, and every year I mean to prioritize it. Spoiler alert: I don't.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Yelled at my kids.

And, because I think I need to repeat this every year, what I wrote last year and the year before and the year before that:

Worried about things that are out of my control. I think I'll wish that every year. Also: obsessed about things that have already happened. (And are therefore out of my control.)

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We hosted my parents and my sister and her family at our house in Christmas Day. We spent Christmas Eve at my sister's house. It was our usual fun: church and then lots of taco dip and wine. The kids were thrilled with their haul, including the American Girl Diner for Clare (which I found on deep discount on Cyber Monday) and a bunch of transformers for Christopher. Ben gave me an emulator to play all of the old school Nintendo games, and the promise of a weekend to myself at home.

We had a lot of festive fun this month, including Ben's family party complete with swimming at the hotel pool, a hot drinks party at my friend Sarah's, Cindi's annual Christmas party, and my office party with my friends. (Day drinking for the win!) We are spending New Year's Eve in Evansville, with VIP visitors. (My brother, sister-in-law and nephew, who flew in from London for a short visit.)

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place, Brooklyn 99, Master of None, and Star Trek: Discovery. (I am not ashamed to admit it.) I have also been rewatching Friends again, which is a nice distraction.

22. What was the best book you read?

My top five:

1. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte
2. "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
3. "Commonwealth" by Ann Patchett
4. "Lilac Girls" by Martha Hall Kelly
5. "This is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The Palace Theatre in St. Paul. (Can a place count as a musical discovery?) I saw Belle and Sebastian, The Pixies and Wilco. All great shows, and all over by 11 p.m. This is my kind of place.

24. What did you want and get?

Clare's amazing teacher. I requested him and he has more than lived up to my expectations. I am so happy that she gets to have him as her teacher for 3 years.

25. What did you want and not get?

I mean, obviously there are a million things that I wanted to go differently this year for this country and this world. However, on a purely selfish and materialistic level I'll say a new phone.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

"Lion", "Moana" and "Lady Bird".

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Ben worked late on my actual birthday, and I spent a few days sulking about the lack of celebration. Then my friends kidnapped me two days later and took me out for a surprise dinner and drinks and showered me with some lovely presents, including a beautiful bag that my friend Sarah made herself. She could seriously sell these bags. This made up for any other birthday woes. I also went out to dinner with my sister, which is always nice. I turned 38.

28. What one [or three] thing[s] would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I say this all the time, but I would love some more time to myself. Now that Christopher is in school three days a week I have a few hours on those days. However, I am really trying to make exercise a priority so that pretty much eats up all that time.

29. What kept you sane?

Wine. Joking, sort of.

My lovely friends Kerry, Sarah, Heather and Peggy. I honestly don't know what I would do without them.

30. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Honestly, no one. I am sick of celebrities.

31. What political issue stirred you the most?

This isn't a political issue, but I want to fit this in somewhere. I was a delegate for the wonderful Melvin Carter, and HE WON the election in St. Paul. I am so excited and proud that he is going to be our next mayor.

I am also really mad at the Democrats right now, because I don't believe they handled the Al Franken situation correctly.

32. Who did you miss?

Same as last year: Christina. My grandpa. Robby and Andri.

33. Who was the best new person you met?

Christopher's preschool teachers, Sara and Machael. They are lovely. And, of course, Otto!

34. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

I finally got it through my head that when I exercise regularly I feel so much better. This seems like something I should have figured out before I turned 38. Now, to make myself do it, especially since I've gained quite a bit of weight eating my feelings over the past year. I joined the Y, and I must make this a priority.

And now 2018. Brace yourselves.

Making Christmas cookies.

At the Nutcracker at St. Kate's.

His new blanket from Meema Mary Theresa.

Snow on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve night.

Ready for fun on Christmas morning.