Monday, December 17, 2012


Like everyone, I was horrified when I learned about Friday's school shooting in Newtown, CT. I couldn't believe it - and I still kind of can't. It's just too horrifying.

For better or for worse, I was at a CLE on Friday afternoon. It was one of the Hennepin County Bar Association's Law and Literature series - really excellent CLEs, by the way. We were discussing Pearl S. Buck's story John John Chinaman, which tells the story of John Lim, the son of Chinese immigrants living in a small midwestern town immediately prior to WWII. John lives with his pregnant wife, a recent immigrant from China, and his father. His conflicts are much what you might expect - he was born in the U.S. and is American, but isn't accepted as a "real American" by the town. He was teased as a boy, and continues to be teased and looked down on as an adult. His father worries about him, and he worries about his unborn child.

In the story, the mayor of the town is a WWI veteran who lived through some real horrors fighting in France. When he gets word of a draft, he is appalled by the thought that the young men of his town may have to live through something similar to what he had to endure.

I won't give away anything else in case anyone wants to read the story (because I don't know how to do hidden text in blogger). It's a great short story; if anyone wants to read it, let me know. I can email you the pdf we got for the CLE.

Anyway, so the CLE was for "elimination of bias" credits, so those are the issues we discussed - what John, his wife, and his father faced in their town, not being accepted as "real Americans," and to what degree those biases are still present today. But the theme that really hit home for me was how everyone was struggling to keep their loved ones safe. John's father tries to protect John; John tries to protect his wife and unborn child; the mayor tries to protect the young men in his town. But despite these efforts, John and his wife were teased and harassed, and young men were sent off to war. Ultimately, there's very little we can do, to keep our loved ones safe.

On Friday afternoon... this was not a great theme for me. I kept starting to cry, and having to leave the room, then pulling myself together to go back in for another round. So glad I only needed one hour's worth of credit - I left at the mid-afternoon break.

So anyway. After all that, I felt like we needed something fun and a little indulgent, with no TVs around, so we went to the Global Market. Apparently we weren't the only ones with that thought, because the Family Friday was super crowded.

Maisie gets ALL the beverages

Cream cheese wontons from Pham's Deli

Mushroom pizza from Jakeeno's... yum!

We ate wontons and pizza, and danced to the wonderful Roe Family Singers. It was a good way to end an awful day.

We haven't told the girls about the shooting, by the way. We don't watch the news with them in the room, and I didn't want to bring it up. I don't think Maisie needs to know yet. I know, though, that she may hear about it from other kids. So this morning I told her that if she hears someone talking about something they saw on the news, and has questions or wants to talk about it, to come to me or Aaron and we'll talk about it with her. I'm interested to hear how other people are handling this with their kids, though - let me know your thoughts.

Monday, December 10, 2012

We have snow!!

SNOW!!! After last winter where we had very little snow, we finally got a serious snowfall yesterday!

It started late on Saturday night. So by the time we got up on Sunday morning, we had serious snow on the ground! The girls wanted to go outside to play immediately. So we dug out their snowpants and headed outside. They sledded a little bit on the hill in our backyard, and then built a little snowman together... it was about 30 degrees so the weather was perfect for a snowman! 

working together

Tiny, adorable snowman
The snow continued throughout the day... I shoveled once in the morning and Aaron shoveled again in the afternoon, but we need to do it again.

Not our tree,  I just thought it was pretty.

Unfortunately, last night (while it was still snowing) Aaron & I realized that we were out of coffee (and a couple of other things)! We didn't want to take the car out - none of the streets had been plowed yet - so we all bundled up, put the girls in the sled, and walked to Walgreen's. It's only about five blocks, so it's normally an easy walk there. But last night it was a different story! It was getting darker and colder, and we had to trudge through a foot of snow... some people had shoveled, but not everyone. Pulling the girls on the sled was a lot of work for me and Aaron! But we made it there and back, and the girls thought it was a great adventure. And then this morning, there was coffee. So it all worked out in the end. :)

Silly Ella playing in the snow in the dark

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Picture dump

Some November pictures that haven't made it into their own post...

Opening birthday presents at Grandma Jo's house, with help from Dieter cousins

Cake pops at Jasper's birthday party (so fun!)

A kitty headband she made at the MIA on Target family day

Riding a camel at the Science Museum

Ella wonders why Maisie is making such a silly face
 Pouty duckface at Jakeeno's

first Girl Scouts troop meeting

first banana split, post-Children's Theater at the Bad Waitress. Ella ended up wearing a lot of it.

yee haw!
 mechanical horse at The Egg & I

crafty painting time

Friday, November 23, 2012


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We had a lovely day with a traditional dinner over at Grandma Liisa's house. The girls especially had a great time - they played and played and played.

This post is about what we did earlier in the day, though!

A few years back, I was trying to tell Maisie about Thanksgiving and the idea of thankfulness. Turns out it's kind of abstract, and was a little difficult for her to grasp. So I stole an idea from some friends - to make the idea of 'thankfulness' more tangible for her, we'd do something to demonstrate it. We made cookies for the firefighters at the station nearest our house!

So now, every year on Thanksgiving morning, that's what we do - make cookies and then bring them to the firefighters at the station house nearest us, to say "thank you for helping to keep us safe." We've had mixed results with this project. Sometimes Maisie will get shy, and doesn't want to talk to anyone; one year the firefighters were out on a call when we got there. But this year it was a home run.

When we showed up with the cookies (oatmeal-M&M, if you were wondering), the firefighters there (yay!), and Maisie and Ella were both in great moods. So when the firefighter who answered the door asked the girls if they wanted to see the trucks, they said YES!

And THEN! The doors to the two engines were open. And when the girls asked if they could go inside, she said yes!

yeah, that's a sword....
 They climbed in and out and all over, asking lots of great questions. What is this hose for? (sucking up exhaust when we turn the trucks on) What's in there? (our tools - we can cut someone out of anything with these) What do these switches do? (controls the pressure for the hose) The firefighter showing us around was incredibly patient and answered all of the girls' questions.

Listening to explanations of equipment

Looking at how they open the garage doors

The firefighters were super friendly. They really seemed to appreciate the cookies and were so gracious about showing the girls around. They even gave the girls fire safety coloring books when we were leaving! It was so cool. I thought it was neat, too, that the firefighter who answered the door and showed us around was a woman - often we see "firefighter" as synonymous with "fireman" and that isn't the case!

It was so fun that Maisie wants to make them cookies again on Valentine's Day. :)

And because it bears repeating... thank you, Minneapolis Fire Department and fire departments everywhere, for helping keep us safe!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First Dentist Visit

Ella had her first dentist appointment today. She did a great job! No complaints while the hygienist cleaned and flossed her teeth, and sat still for the x-rays.

No cavities or decay, and everything is coming in nicely... 20 teeth, all right where they're supposed to be.
She particularly enjoyed seeing x-rays ("they took pictures of my skeleton!!"). She also talked almost nonstop the entire time, and charmed the heck out of everyone she met there.

We love our dentist, Dr. Norrlander. She is super gentle and caring, and her staff really works to make sure that kids have a good experience so they don't develop anxiety around dentist visits. If anyone is looking for a dentist in downtown Minneapolis, we highly recommend Dr. Norrlander! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Minnesota weather

Saturday afternoon:
 Sunny and 70-some degrees. Note short sleeves.

Then, Monday morning at the bus stop:
Air temp of 19 degrees, with a wind chill of 9. Snow on the ground and hot chocolate in the travel mug. The forecast calls for a high temperature of 26.

Brrr! That was fast...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you lots of treats and no tricks!
With love from a monster-toothed panda and Spidergirl.

Monday, October 22, 2012


The past few weeks have been crazy. Nothing particular to speak of... just the regular day-in, day-out stuff that keeps everyone so busy. So when last week rolled around, I couldn't have been happier. You see, it was MEA week!

MEA is the teachers' union here in Minnesota. (Actually, they renamed themselves Education Minnesota a number of years ago, but everyone still calls it "MEA.") Every year in mid-October, Minnesota public schools close down for a few days. The first conferences are held, and then the teachers' union has its annual convention.

This year, I took those days off work, and made us a reservation at Edgewater, a hotel/waterpark in Duluth. (It's about a 2.5 hour drive from Minneapolis.) On Wednesday morning we met with Maisie's teacher, and then hit the road!

We got to Duluth around lunch time. We went to the Lake Avenue Restaurant, where Aaron & I had delicious whitefish and the girls split a pizza. (The first of many pizzas on this trip, as it turns out! The hotel rooms came with a 16" cheese pizza each night, so that's what we had, both days.) The cafe is located in this cute little mall. The girls and I walked around a bit while waiting for our food to arrive.

We found this cute carousel-looking horse and went for a ride.

After that, we went to the Great Lakes Aquarium, which I really enjoyed. The girls were less impressed.

This is what happens when I say "Say cheese!"

Navigating the locks and dams in the Great Lakes.
Finally, FINALLY! It was time to go swimming. The water park is not huge, but it was plenty of fun for all of us. There were slides big and small, a hot tub, activity pools, and a whirlpool that was Ella's favorite - she wore a life jacket and bobbed around like a little cork, swirling around and around.

The water park was open from 8:00 - noon, and then again from 4:00 - 9:00 on the days we were there. We'd get there early and play, and then had a nice break in the middle of the day. On Thursday during the break, we went back down to Canal Park to see the lift bridge go up and a big ship come in.

One-handed attempt at a family picture (with penguin)
After that, it was time to eat. Since we were right there, I took them to Grandma's.

Ella has monster teeth!

Maisie hard at work...

Ella can't find whole words yet in the word find, but she likes to find letters.

I was so happy to be inside! It was cold and rainy out there.
After lunch it was back to the hotel for more swimming. Then an early bedtime, followed by an early morning and even MORE SWIMMING. By the time we got home, Aaron & I were both totally waterlogged and didn't think we'd dry out for a week! The girls, on the other hand, want to go back there this weekend. Ha ha!

Even though it was a lot of fun, everyone was glad to get home on Friday.
Maisie was SO annoyed that Ella kept walking through her leaf piles!
It was a very fun vacation and one we'll definitely repeat.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pack a lunch!

For the past three years, we packed Maisie's lunch every school day. This year, with starting kindergarten at a public school, she has the option of hot lunch! So exciting! But she had hot lunch exactly once. And aside from that one day, it's been back to packing her lunch.

For some reason, this packing of lunch chore seems a lot more onerous than it did in years past. I'm not sure why - there's actually fewer restrictions on the food she can bring than before. (Her school is peanut-free, whereas last year they had to keep the classroom free of peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs.) Maybe it's because her school day starts so much earlier? (6:55 a.m. bus pickup, as opposed to Aaron driving her to school for an 8:45 start time.) Maybe she's gotten pickier? Maybe because I know I wouldn't have to do it if she'd just eat hot lunch?!? Whatever the reason, packing her lunch is not fun and exciting, and often led to me and/or Aaron staring at the fridge and cupboards, wondering what on earth we'd send in her lunch. We tried to get her to pack it, but that didn't work either - she'd choose grapes, applesauce, and crackers, and not have a balance. So in an effort to simplify things and pack lunches she'd actually eat, I came up with a chart.

ARGH! I just spent a bunch of time trying to figure out how to upload it here, and I can't. GRR! So I will tell you about it. It has six columns and four rows. The left-most column has the following pictures, all of which I found online by googling for free clip art of food.



Grains (that's pasta and cereal above the bread)

So in the evening, Maisie and I will pack her lunch together. She chooses one item from each category, and checks it off as it's completed. I like to think it's helping her learn about a balanced diet, which it may be. I know, though, it's made packing a lunch a LOT easier!

So, what does she eat? The most common lunch combination is grapes, sugar snap peas, cheese and turkey slices, and Ritz crackers. It's not the most exciting lunch in the world, but she likes it and eats everything. Single-category foods are easiest for her to choose: protein is often an egg, string cheese, or turkey slices. The vegetable is either snap peas or baby carrots. (Although she asked for tomato soup once!) Fruit is usually applesauce or grapes. Grain is usually Ritz crackers. Maisie and Ella are both absolutely NUTS about Ritz crackers! Goldfish are good, too, or a little container of cereal - strawberry Life is a favorite.

We do get some combos that allow her to check off more than one category: black bean quesadillas, cut into wedges (grain and protein); spaghetti with marinara (grain and veg); mac & cheese (protein, grain); chicken fried rice (grain and protein); sun butter and jam sandwiches (protein, fruit, grain); cheese pizza (protein, veg, grain); broccoli quiche (protein and veg). As you can probably tell, except for the quesadillas and sandwiches, these are usually leftovers of whatever was for dinner the night before. We will put the portion in her thermos at night, in the fridge, then heat it up in the morning so it's still warm at lunchtime. If we aren't sending something hot then the whole business gets packed the night before, so it's ready to grab & go in the morning.

Anyway, so there you go! It's no super genius idea that'll revolutionize packing a lunch, but it's how we do it. We definitely don't have the beautiful Bento lunch art, but who has time for that anyway? Not this family! So this is our method, and it's made the whole lunch business a lot easier for us. Hopefully others will find it useful too!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Midtown Global Market

Midtown Global Market is an amazing place. Built in an old Sears that stood abandoned for years and years, it has multiple restaurants and shops, all locally owned. It's really cool and one of our favorite places in Minneapolis.

Juusto - Finnish Cheese - at Cafe Finspang
We especially like going there on Fridays, when they have Family night. I meet Aaron & the girls there after work. We don't have to cook, the girls get to run around and dance - everybody enjoys it.

The girls like to get cream cheese wontons and chicken fried rice from Pham's, a Vietnamese deli. They also have excellent spring rolls, but Maisie and Ella are really cream cheese wonton lovers.

My favorite place to eat these days is the Left Handed Cook, which serves a sort of fusion of Asian food and comfort food. I really like their bop bowls, which are rice, greens, and meat served in a takeout container with a soft fried egg. SO GOOD.

 This picture is upside down for some reason! It looks like a cinnamon roll but was actually the Left Handed Cook's special on Friday, porchetta. It came with a fried green tomato, and a side of heirloom tomato-arugula salad. SO GOOD!! The girls also really like Left Handed Cook's edamame so I usually get them a side of edamame to share.

Cupcakes at Salty Tart

Aaron got his dinner from Andy's Garage, a 50's-style diner. He had a wild rice-turkey burger, awesome fries, and then a chocolate shake (which he split with the girls, naturally - even though they'd had cupcakes from Salty Tart!).

 After the girls eat, they dance and dance (which usually involves running in circles) to whatever band is playing that night. 

I think that the Global Market is a really special place. If you haven't been there, go! There's noplace like it in Minneapolis.

Yes, that says "local artisan prosciutto" and "local artisan pancetta" - from Grass Roots Gourmet