Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend roundup

No story to today's post; sorry about that. Just some cute pics of what we did this weekend. What can I say? It's Monday and I haven't quite had enough coffee yet to build a cohesive narrative structure.

Ella and I played Candy Land at the Chatterbox on Saturday, while Maisie played Mario Brothers.
Then the girls drew pictures. Maisie is always drawing and writing these days; we go through little pads of paper faster than you could believe. Here's Maisie's picture of two cows, a mama and a baby.
Ella's taken up drawing too, like Maisie. Unfortunately I have no idea what her picture is... she told me but I can't remember.
On Sunday the "girl team" (me and the girls) went to the zoo. Here's a penguin fight!
The girls posed for a picture on the tortoise statue, at the top of the Tropics Trail.
We also went through the Minnesota Trail, part of which goes outside and past a bird feeder. There was a huge wild turkey hanging out there, eating bird seed off the ground. Maisie was suitably impressed by it.

When we returned from the zoo, Ella took a nap and Maisie and I went to Target. Check out her addition to our shopping list...
That's WILD TRCEE (wild turkey). She thought it was hilarious!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Crafty project

Last week I picked up a cute little sundress for Maisie - pale pink with a twirly skirt. She liked it, but thought it was kind of plain. Yesterday, during Ella's nap, we decorated it with freezer paper stencils!

Freezer paper stencilry is a really easy and fun project, I think. The paper is waxed on one side. You use an Exacto to cut out your stencil, and then iron it on to your fabric, wax-side down. The wax adheres and keeps the paint from bleeding over the edges of your stencil. Wait for it to dry and then voila! Stencilry complete. Maisie wanted a butterfly and a flower on her dress, so here's the pattern I used.
While I cut out the stencils, she chose the colors: blue for the flower, with gold sparkles, and green stem/leaves. We did the flower first, on the skirt.
Maisie did a great job painting; she was really careful with it, making sure that the green and the blue didn't overlap.
Once the flower was painted, we waited for it to dry so we could take the paper off and place the stencil for the butterfly.
It didn't take too long to dry, and we were ready to go again! For the butterfly, Maisie chose to paint it monarch-style: black body, orange wings with black stripes, and iridescent sparkles.
Finished product! Close up of the flower:
The butterfly:
And the whole thing:
I left for work before Maisie got up this morning, so I don't have a picture of her wearing the dress. But I'm sure it'll be cute as can be. And even more importantly, Maisie was so proud of her creation! I'm glad that she enjoys crafty projects as much as I do. It can be so rewarding to do it yourself!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big changes!

Yesterday we got the news we've been waiting for - Maisie's kindergarten assignment!

By way of background, Aaron and I both grew up in smaller towns, where there just wasn't that much school choice. So when we started investigating Minneapolis Public Schools, we were kind of overwhelmed by the number of options we had. There's a "neighborhood school" that is assigned by where you live, and to which your kid is guaranteed admission. Then there are various magnets and charter schools in your bus zone, choices like an International Baccalaureate or Montessori or French immersion or environmental science magnet. Then there are all the magnets and charter schools outside your bus zone, which your kid could attend but you need to arrange transportation. There were 16 K-5 or K-8 schools in our bus zone!

We put a lot of work in, narrowing down our choices and comparing schools and asking questions and finally making school visits, to get our choices down to two (which is all that you're allowed to list on your card). And wonder of wonders, we found out yesterday that Maisie got sorted into our first choice! (I really do envision the process happening with a Sorting Hat, like in Harry Potter. Where the school district puts the card into the hat, which shoots it out, yelling "Folwell Performing Arts!" or "Hmong International!!")

So, yay for first choices! It's a K-8 school, which is great, because we won't have to go through this again until high school! And because there's sibling preference, we won't have to worry about where Ella will go either. Yay all around! This does, of course, mean that Maisie will be leaving her beloved preschool that she's been at for three years. We're all a little sad about that, but as someone once said, the only constant in life is change. She's had a wonderful time there and learned so much, but I know that she'll have a great experience at her new school too.

With that out of the way, I decided, the heck with waiting until the weekend. Let's get Maisie's hair cut now! So we did!

In process:
Almost done!
Final product - front view:
And back view:
Maisie is super happy, and just loves her new haircut. I like it, even though it makes her look SO grownup! But it'll be easier to keep tangle-free, especially now that she's going swimming once or twice a week and the chlorine is wreaking havoc on her hair. So that's our big day yesterday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Out for a walk on a sunny spring morning.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Maisie insists she wants short (chin-length) hair and bangs. She really likes ponytails and braids, though. So we compromised: we cut off two inches, to bring it up to her shoulders, and said that if she still wants it shorter next weekend, we'll go back.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Public Art

A little more than 5 months ago, I started a new job. I'm now working in downtown Minneapolis. I was pretty excited about working downtown for a lot of reasons. But one thing that's making me happy on a daily basis came as kind of a surprise: there's art everywhere!

I think I was kind of aware of this already, to some degree. There are lots of beautiful fountains and things all around. But I guess I'd forgotten just how easy it is to find. For instance, here's a drinking fountain and a tree planter that are right next to the stop where I get off the bus in the morning.
Aren't they pretty? And really, for no good reason other than to be themselves. I love them.

There are some Minnesota-themed manhole covers on the 1000 block of Nicollet mall.

There are also ones with pine cones, showy lady slippers (our state flower), a loon family, and a few others. I wonder how many people walk over them every day and never notice?

There's also murals everywhere. This one is tucked in an alley next to a bookstore:

And finally, this one is totally iconic. There used to be a Schmidt Music store in this building. It's gone now, but the music remains. I took this picture walking into work:
This mural has been around for decades. Here's a much older picture of it, with another Minneapolis icon:

Monday, April 09, 2012

Fossil hunters

Aaron and Maisie have been getting interested in geology lately. They pick up rocks when they're out on walks and try to identify them when they get home. I'm always happy to encourage an interest in science, so on Sunday morning I suggested a field trip to go hunt for fossils!

We went to a St. Paul city park on the Mississippi called Shadow Falls that's known as a good place in the cities to search for fossils. If you want to go, it's right at the western end of Summit Ave., by the WW1 monument. There's free off-street parking, yay!

Once you get down off the main monument area onto the trails, there's also some pretty spectacular geology! This is taken right below the monument's safety rail. You can see layers and layers of limestone:
Here's the reason for the safety rail:
I'm not sure how high up we were there at the top of the bluff, but it was pretty dang high.

At this point we hadn't gone far at all, but we had already found our first fossils!
This is a hunk of limestone with some fossils that are pretty typical of what you find in the area. They date from the Ordovician time, 505-438 million years ago, when the area that's now Minnesota was covered by a shallow inland sea and 10-40 degrees south of the equator. So you end up with a lot of fossils from small marine organisms. The round thing you see in the limestone is part of a stem from a crinoid, a family of sea lilies that are related to sea urchins and sea stars. There are other little fossils in there too but they're hard to see in the picture!

Aaron scouted out some trails to get down to the riverside, north of the falls. I don't have pictures from the hiking part because the trails were a little narrow and steep, so not exactly good picture-taking! But we all made it down to the river.
Yes, bunny ears. It was Easter after all!

From the riverside you could see the different rock layers that make up the area. There's the limestone on the top, followed by shale (which holds most of the fossils). The white on the bottom is a huge layer of sandstone - it's extremely soft, so the graffiti here is carved in instead of written on the rock.
At the riverside, we searched for fossils. Aaron was an AWESOME fossil hunter and made some excellent finds! Maisie took notes in her field journal, drawing pictures of animals we saw and the different shapes of shells we found.
She did a great job of documenting all our finds.

We also poked around a little bit up and down the shore, looking at the different rock formations. One area had these HUGE slabs that were clearly sliding down towards the river. They were really fun for the girls to climb up and around.

Eventually it was time to head back up. So up up up we went...
back up to the monument. We checked out our finds, had a snack, and compared field journal notes.

So here's a representative sample of what we found!
Going clockwise - the top rock is that big piece of limestone with embedded fossils. Next is a piece of shale that Maisie thought looked like a dinosaur tooth. Then another smaller piece of limestone with fossils, followed by a big piece of black something or other... very smooth and shiny! Then you can see some of the shells that we found.

We weren't able to identify everything, so that afternoon the girls and I took our finds to the science museum, to get some identification help.

At 9:00 in the picture is what we initially thought was a fossilized shell. If you look closely, it has lines on it that look like those on the kind of shell a scallop would have, if that makes sense - radiating out from a point. We took it to the science museum, though, and the scientist there identified it as actually a trace fossil! It's a piece of stone that used to be sand that had a shell on top of it. Cool, hey? Then there are the two little things that look almost like vertabrae. They are fossilized bryozoans - a colonial organism very similar to coral. If you looked closely you could see that they're covered in tiny pores, each of which was the home to one tiny animal.

At the end of the day Maisie said, "We learned so much today!!" Both girls really had a lot of fun. They loved hiking, seeing the animals, and talking about the rocks. Today my legs are sore, sore, sore. But it was a lot of fun and an experience we will definitely repeat.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Wish list

Last night Maisie announced she wanted to write a letter to the Easter bunny. I thought, why the heck not? We do letters to Santa, right? Makes about as much sense. Here's what she produced, all on her own:

Der Eastr
Can you
pease get
me toys
from Maisie

Not bad, eh? :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Spring break!

Maisie's home with Aaron and Ella this week, on spring break. I know he's got a bunch of fun plans for adventures with the girls for this week. It's almost like a practice run for the summer! Yesterday they sent me this picture...

so much silliness!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Farm babies!

This weekend the Minnesota Zoo opened its "family farm" for the season with the arrival of farm babies! It was supposed to be beautiful outside (weather prediction FAIL: they said it'd be 70 on Saturday; when we left the zoo at 11:00 it was only 45, and windy too!) so we were excited to go see the babies.

As expected, the farm babies were EXTREMELY cute.

The lambs and kids were probably my favorites. They were adorable! Most of them were super playful, jumping around through the straw on the floors and even on each other.

Even when they were snuggled up under a heat lamp to keep warm, they were so cute.

SNUGGLES! We also saw ten-day-old piglets, two-week-old calves, baby bunnies, and peepy little herds of ducklings and chicks (hiding inside, out of the cold).

Of course, our own kids are pretty cute too!