Thursday, August 29, 2013

School days

It's back to school time!

Maisie started school on Monday: first grade! She was really excited to be heading back. As you can see from some of these first day waiting-for-the-bus pictures, she was feeling happy and silly.

There are several of her friends from Kindergarten in her class, including her best friend Ophelia. Because her school is a Montessori, they're in a mixed-age classroom - instead of just first grade, it's "E1" with first, second, and third graders all together. This is great - it means that she and Ophelia will be together for the foreseeable future.

Another reason I really like the Montessori model of mixed-grade classes is that it's easier for all the children to work at their respective levels. For instance, Maisie's math skills are at first grade level, but she's reading at a second- or third-grade level. So the mixed class makes it easier for the teacher to get her appropriate reading material.

Ella has also started school!

Her first day of High 5, Minneapolis' public pre-k, was Wednesday. She was so excited!

She was a little nervous too, but fortunately one of our neighbor kids is going to Kindergarten at the same school, and rides the bus. So right away, Ella had a bus buddy.

Her first day report was kind of scattered. She talked about going out to play on the playground, and that they had to be quiet like little bunnies in the hallway. Also, she got to wear a nametag. And, that's apparently it!

When Ella got home, Aaron said that she had really pink cheeks. We figured the bus must've been really hot. Turns out, it was probably actually her school... the school district has closed the non-air conditioned schools Thursday and Friday of this week, and Ella's school was on the list. So her first week has turned out to be a really short one. Maisie's school does have A/C, though, so she doesn't get the extra days off that Ella does.

I'll be glad once we get past Labor Day and back into our regular school-year schedule. The transition is difficult - getting Maisie used to getting up so early is not easy. Much like her daddy, she likes to stay up late! So mornings have been a challenge this week both for her and for me. But it'll work itself out and we'll find a comfortable rhythm again.

I'm sure we'll get there by the time May rolls around. :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

State Fair 2013

This is going to be a very picture-heavy post... it's a recap of our visits to the State Fair!

Yes, I said visits! On Friday, Aaron went off to visit Chris and Kim in Portland for the weekend. He had an early flight, but the girls are early risers anyway, so it was no big deal for us to see him to the train on time. Once we were there, the girls said, "STATE FAIR!!!!" So off we went! And before long, Gramma Liisa joined us there.

We did some of our usual things that we love to do at the fair. We rode the carousel - one of the girls' favorite rides.
I think it won't be long before they're too old for the carousel at the Fair, and it'll make me a little sad. It's been one of their favorites year after year.

We saw the animals. Ella called these "ghost sheep."
We also visited the Miracle of Birth center, the cows, and the bunnies. We saw a sheep being sheared - neither the girls nor the sheep particularly liked that. They did like the calf, the ducklings, and the piglets at the Miracle of Birth center - they got to pet the one day-old piglet, which was adorable.

And we ate ice cream, because it was a toasty hot day!
We also had cheese curds, roasted corn, skin-on fries, cotton candy, and Spring Grove soda. Yum!!

Then on Saturday, we were back - this time with Laura and Dylan!!
We really were this excited about it!

There were multiple trips down the giant slide -
It's difficult to get a good picture of someone coming down the slide, so this'll have to do! Laura rode with Ella, and Maisie and Dylan rode together. The giant slide is SO fun. It says it's the best ride at the fair, and I'd have to agree.

After that, we went to the bird show. Ella got kind of antsy, though. So while Laura, Dylan, and Maisie watched the raptors, Ella and I took a little walk over to the poultry barns. She loved the chickens and spotted a lot of eggs in their little pens.

She was kind of grossed out by the turkeys' big wattles, though.
Seriously. Do wild turkeys have these? This must be something that people have bred for, right? I can't imagine this working very well in the wild.

We also saw this puffed-up guy in the breeding pen with two... hens? I don't know what a female turkey's called.
But he was clearly showing off. It was the turkey equivalent of Hey pretty laydeeez!! 

After a trip through the poultry barn, what's better than a turkey sandwich? (Does anyone else think it's a little weird that the Giant Turkey Sandwich stand is right by the poultry barn?)
Dylan was like, "this could be an ad for the fair!" Which, I must say I agree. Cute, happy kid with a turkey sandwich and an Icee, outside the DNR building, wearing a John Deere visor? Love it!

We relaxed in the shade and enjoyed our turkey sandwiches (me, Laura, Dylan, Maisie) and corn dogs (Ella).

After lunch, it was getting HOT! So it was off to the river raft ride.
I rode with the kids while Laura held our bags. There was a long line... but it was worth it. We all got SOAKED. So fun!

After the river ride, Dylan wanted to check out the lumberjack show. So Laura took him and Maisie, while Ella and I went to the Butterfly House (which Maisie Did. Not. Want. to visit.)

The butterfly house is always great for pictures. Can you tell how hot it was? No breeze and lots of people made for a sweaty butterfly experience.

Sweaty but very fun.

The butterfly house was followed by rides at the Kidway, and then the parade and a snack of bomb pops.

Then it was off to the Agriculture/Horticulture building. It sounds kind of hokey, but I really like this building. There's big veggies, crop art, Christmas trees, bees and honey... it's all pretty interesting, really.

Biggest sugar beet: 15.5 pounds!
The average beet is 3-4 lbs., so this one really was a monster.

Corn, for Grandma Jo:

The crop art tends to have a liberal/progressive bent, for some reason. Last year there were a ton of "Vote No" pro-same-sex marriage art pieces; this scarecrow fits right in.

She is scary, wouldn't you agree? ;)

We also checked out the bees and honey, and some really cool Dr. Seuss-themed flower arrangements. But as lovely and interesting as the Ag/Horticulture exhibits are, the building was roasty toasty. So after that, we went out to the Produce Exchange stand for peaches and a little sit-down in the shade.

We also got cream cheese wontons and egg rolls - it was getting later in the day, and we'd been doing almost nothing but walking, so we were ready for some more real food!

There were some intense negotiations over the division of wontons and rolls, as you can see.

The day was getting along, it was hot, and there were people as far as the eye could see. So we decided that we were just about done. We made our way back through the crowds, following Laura and Dylan.

After a quick tour through the grandstand and a stop for Sweet Martha's, we headed for home. When we got home we were tired and dirty, and I was a little sunburned. (ouch!) But it was a wonderful day. We'd had so much fun with Auntie Laura and Dylan, and with Gramma Liisa the day before. (And that long cool shower felt so nice after I put the girls to bed!)

We love the State Fair!!

Monday, August 12, 2013


A few random thoughts for a Monday morning...

It's the middle of August and already you can tell that summer's coming to an end. Nights are getting cooler (yay!), it gets dark a little sooner, and morning comes a little later every day. At the same time, it's definitely still summer - days are warm and sunny, perfect for bike rides and playing outside. It's kind of a sweet spot in the year. We went to the farmer's market on Saturday and bought sweet corn, which I was surprised to see already. It was wonderful; the girls ate it all and we had to go back on Sunday for more so that Aaron and I could have some too. The vendor remembered us and said "I'll be back at Midtown from 3-7 on Tuesday if you need more!" I laughed, but yeah... of the six ears we bought yesterday, there's only one left. So we might need more tomorrow.

We're two weeks away from Maisie's first day of first grade. She's SO excited to head back to school and see her friends... we've only had a few play dates and birthday parties over the summer, so she really misses her buddies. I got her and Ella's school supplies bought this weekend - thanks to Amazon Prime, I was able to do it in my jammies on Sunday morning, drinking coffee. So much easier than running from store to store trying to find the right brand of watercolors.

Two days after Maisie's first day, Ella will start High 5, which is Minneapolis' public Pre-K for kids who will enter Kindergarten the following year. Priority is kids who get free or reduced-price lunch or receive special ed. services, so we had to cross our fingers for a spot. Luckily, Ella got one! It's half days, five days a week, which should be perfect. We wanted to find a program to help her get used to being in a classroom environment before she starts Kindergarten. We felt that it'd be a really hard transition for her to go from just being at home with Aaron, to being one of 30 kids in a classroom, for a seven hour day! Unfortunately it's not at Maisie's school - her school doesn't have a High 5 class - but they'll be back together the following year when Ella's in Kindergarten.

So, two more weeks of summer. The girls are heading up north with Gramma Liisa & Dylan later this week, and we've got our State Fair trip planned. Aside from that, it'll probably just be trying to pack in bike rides and Dairy Queen runs and other lazy summer activities while we can. Fall will be here soon enough, and winter close behind.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Powderhorn Park Art Fair

There was a lot going on this weekend - opening of the Fringe festival, a birthday party for Maisie, and three separate art fairs! We chose to go to art fair at Powderhorn Park, which is 1) not half as crowded as the ones in Loring Park and Uptown, and 2) an easy six-block walk or bike ride from our house.

The girls and I went on Saturday morning and met up with friends - Beatrix, with her parents Bethany and Patrick, and Rebecca. It was a lovely morning.

Beatrix is exactly in between Maisie & Ella in age, so the three of them can play together really well. She also has curly blond hair and big blue eyes. At one point one of the vendors clearly thought they were all sisters, and asked me "Are they all just a year apart??" Bethany joked that I should've answered "Yeah, turns out that breastfeeding is not reliable birth control."

Our little group walked around the lake, checking out the vendors and taking turns keeping an eye on the kids. The girls took full advantage of the fair food offerings, and ate ice cream, popcorn, chocolate mini donuts, corn on the cob, and corn dogs. (I had a gyro, yum yum yum!)

We caught a performance from Open Eye Figure Theater...

before we headed to our respective homes for naps.

On Sunday morning, Aaron took Maisie to a birthday party at the Como Pool, which left Ella and me to our own devices. I nixed her first activity suggestion ("Go to the Mall of the 'Merica and ride on rides!!!"), so we jointly decided to head back to the art fair.

The first thing she wanted to do was to get some corn on the cob, and who am I to argue with that?

While she ate, we sat by the lake and watched the wildlife. We saw a turtle poke its nose out of the lake, snails bobbing around, a few flashes of fish (it's stocked with crappies, sunnies, and catfish), and of course plenty of birds. In addition to the usual ducks (mallards and cormorants) that live there, there was a pretty big group of Canada geese (maybe 12?) that hadn't been there on Saturday. So we watched the geese and the ducks. We saw a group of 2 female ducks that had three ducklings - we'd seen them on Saturday too, and joked that these lesbian ducks had chosen a very friendly park in which to raise their children. :) Sunday morning was quieter, so Ella and I could hear the ducklings' little peeps as they called to their moms.

At one point the geese started getting REALLY interested in Ella's corn...

They sidled up a lot closer to us than we were expecting. It was a little nerve-wracking, to be honest - I think of those geese as kind of nasty, and they were pretty big birds! I was happy when they finally decided to go for a swim and leave us alone.

Ella and I walked around a bit and took our time exploring the booths. When we made it back to the south side of the park, we saw that Open Eye was getting set up for another performance! Yay!

So we found a place to sit and wait for the show to start. We passed the time by eating ice cream (Ella) and potato salad (me), and playing with a new doll I'd bought her from one of the vendors. Oh, and taking selfies, of course.

After the puppet show, I wanted to walk around a bit more, but Ella was ready to head home, so home we went. Maisie and Aaron still weren't back from the birthday party, so Ella asked me to put on a show for her. She said she wanted to skip her nap, and just rest on the couch a little bit. Then this happened...

The art fair was very fun. It made for a great summer weekend!