My Summer Wonders

We ushered in our summer with a busy weekend that was full of sun.  After several days (weeks?) of rain, it was much needed sunshine–at least, it was much needed by me.

IMG_2009IMG_2012 IMG_2014We celebrated the solstice on Friday evening at our Unitarian-Univeralist church, caught a puppet show on Saturday morning at the library (highly recommend catching one of the many performances of Molly and the Magic Boot this summer; my daughter is still singing the “hootenanny” song–though perhaps that’s not a selling point. . .), and joined ten thousand other music fans for Rock the Garden on Saturday night.

While Matt and Kim stole the show for me (even though I was not previously familiar with them), Best Coast deserves a mention for singing “Why would you live anywhere else?”  Of course, they were referencing California, but on the first day of a Minnesota summer, there is no better place to be.  Why would you live anywhere else right now?

Our summer has just begun, of course.  In the weeks to come we will be camping, swimming, grilling, and more.  What will your summer bring?

If you need some inspiration, try a picture book: Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka is a good place to start. It celebrates summer with simplicity and ice pops.  What more could you want?

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Perhaps at the end of the summer we will be able to make our own book of wonders.

Waiting for Spring

redhatLast weekend there was a collective sense of glee in the Twin Cities as we got our first taste of nice weather after months of seemingly endless winter.  We were all mischievous little bears borrowing hats with a shout, metaphorically speaking.  Of course, I always think life is like a picture book, and in this case, it’s like Red Hat by Lita Judge, in which there are no words–only sounds–to tell the story of some animals having a lot of fun at the end of winter.

We were right there with them.  No hat stealing that I saw, but the sounds of spring were in the air.  The park near our building was packed with families playing, grilling, smiling.  It felt like we lived at the park all weekend, and it was glorious.

This week has been decidedly less glorious outside, and the general glee has dulled as we debate whether we need winter boots and coats now or if spring jackets will do.  As we faced a snowy forecast on Wednesday, I tried to avoid complaining, but even my bright-side nature can only go so far against snow in May.

In the end, the snow missed us to dump record-breaking amounts to the south and east of here.  I stuck with my sneakers and spring jacket with only a slight sense of regret as I waited for my bus at 7 a.m. with a sharp wind chilling the air.  A winter coat might have been a warmer choice this morning, but I very happy to be leaving my boots in the closet.  Not exactly a “Roweeeee!” kind of happy, but I’ll take what I can get.

We just need a little more patience, and the cold, rainy, brown will turn to green, wonderful spring.  Actually that reminds me of another picture book:  And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano.  It’s a quieter book than Red Hat.  It’s more about the waiting, but the spring, when it finally arrives, is no less wonderful.

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Discovering Maud Hart Lovelace

I never read Maud Hart Lovelace’s books as a kid, but I couldn’t not read them with my daughter.  After all, Maud lived in our neighborhood.  Before it was Mueller Park, it was where Maud lived with her husband.

We’ve passed by the rock with its plaque many times as a reluctant-to-leave-the-park last stop, and since Betsy and Tacy are four-years-old at the beginning of the first book, it seemed appropriate to introduce my daughter to Minnesota of the past with Betsy-Tacy.

I’m excited for Ladybug to meet the heroines of my youth–Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, and Ramona Quimby.  But I’m happy that we are meeting Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy together.

   

What childhood heroes are you excited to revisit as an adult (with kids or just for fun)? 

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It’s Minnesota Museums Month!

I didn’t realize how few local museums I’d been to until I read that there are over 600 museums in Minnesota.  More fun facts about museums are on the MN Museums Month web site, but I thought I’d highlight a few of the museums that have been on this blog over the past two years.

Reading to Peter Rabbit in Storyland

 

 What are your favorite museums (local or otherwise)?

Monday Morning Music with North Shore Sessions

This video of Holly Newsom of Zoo Animal (who I have mentioned on this blog before) singing on skates was going around my social media, and I had to share it too.  It is lovely.

I was curious about the video, so I looked into North Shore Sessions.  Turns out, it is a group of people from Duluth who have been producing videos since 2010 “featuring local and regional artists performing in unexpected locations — barns, shopping centers, train cars, railroad tunnels, former orphanages, and eventually the moon.”  They have some of my favorite local musicians in their archives.  Check out Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles in an attic or Cloud Cult in a foyer.

Connect with North Shore Sessions on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

My Minnesota

Last spring my husband wrote about sharing an aspect of his childhood with our daughter when Porky’s closed. This past weekend, it was my turn to revisit my childhood with my family in tow as we followed the roads north for hunting season.

I am not a hunter.  I’ve never shot a gun or even went out to the deer stand to keep someone company.  For me, hunting season memories are about time off school, playing outside (wearing blaze orange) until it got too cold, then coming inside to warm up with hot chocolate and movies.  Of course, I was just a kid.  My family moved away from Minnesota when I was still young, and hunting season stopped having much meaning to me beyond the age of eight or nine.  I hadn’t even been back to my home town in northern Minnesota since I was a young teenager despite having moved back to the state almost eight years ago.

My Minnesota has shifted from childhood memories of the rural north to my everyday world of city buses, apartment buildings, and lots of people.  My Minnesota hums with excitement.  It is busy and active–full of life, people, and heart.  There are so many reasons to love my Minnesota.

As we drove north, it was hard not to look back anxiously.  It felt like we were leaving everything behind.  We passed through towns that seemed to be made up of one or two businesses and maybe twice as many houses.  My dad’s long dirt driveway twisted and turned through the trees before it opened up to the house.  As we sat around the kitchen table of my childhood home, my grandma commented at was a great location we had: “You can’t even see the road from here! Or the neighbors!”  I had noted this as well–not quite as positively.

Being back “home” meant old family pictures and convincing my kiddo that the little babies in the pictures were me or her uncle.  It meant watching out the window as my dad and my little one played outside (wearing blaze orange), and it meant curling up in front of a nature documentary with my honey after dinner.  It was just what I remembered.

It may be a bit quieter up there than I’m used to these days, but it’s no less full.  There’s always something to be done (even if it’s just remembering where you come from).  You can’t see your neighbors from your window, but they are sure to stop by.

I guess my Minnesota can stretch from here to there after all.

HandmadeMN Market: Some highlights

Ladybug and I stopped in at the HandmadeMN Market this past Saturday, and we found so many lovely things.  Here is a shot of what we bought:

The hair clip for Ladybug is from Tauna Lane Design.  If you like cute & girly for kids, this is the shop for you.  In addition to the hair clips, she also has Lollidoll cake toppers and frilly aprons that little girls will love.  At the market, she had vintage children’s books re-bound into blank books.  I think they would make great journals for kids.

The brooch in the photo above came from KellyBot.  Her shop contains all sorts of cool creations from vintage buttons.  We also bought a bar of handmade soap from Bath n Beads, etc.

I love upcycled crafts.  These altered wall plates from Unique Art Pendants are very cool.  The shop also has art prints made from vintage dictionary pages, which I love.  While you’re checking out her shop, don’t miss the jewelry.  I love the cuff bracelets.

The photo pieces from Allison Marie Designs remind me of picture books like Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet.  She will personalize the pieces with a child’s name too, which would be a great gift along with the book.

Speaking of kid stuff, Ladybug loved the crayons from Earth Grown Crayons.  Not to mention, it was nice to have a kid-friendly place where she could try  something out.

The Farmers Market Crayon Box Set would make a great gift with To Market, to Market by Nikki McClure or Rah, Rah Radishes by April Pulley Sayre.

These tiny prints of local icons are from Red Shoes 26 Design.   I’m a sucker for all things local, so these are perfect for me.  I also love this typewriter card: You’re my type.

These are just a few of my favorites.  See more local artisans from the market here.

Last Chance for the Alphabet Forest (until next year)

Today is Last Chance Day at the Minnesota State Fair.  It’s your last chance to eat state fair food on a stick, to ride the rides on the Mighty Midway, or wander through the giant sea of fair-goers until next year.  Perhaps most importantly for families with young children, it’s the last day to win a blue ribbon by collecting fair words a la The Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier.

Ms. Frasier started the Alphabet Forest at the 2010 fair as a way to highlight literacy at the fair.  She writes on her web site,

“I write and illustrate books for children but my real work is to spread the joys of literacy everywhere I go. Developing innovative ways to strengthen vocabulary acquisition for young people is at the heart of my mission. “

I was privileged to work in the Alphabet Forest this past Friday afternoon & evening.  I watched families make banners with fair letters, color alphabet ferris wheels, and get their photos taken in the alphabet photo booth.  It was awesome.  The best part, though, was getting a chance to talk about books to parents and teachers who came to the Forest with their kids.  We paged through the picture books excitedly talking about how they could be used in a classroom and the amazing group of local children’s book authors we have right here in Minnesota, including the featured author of the day Catherine Thimmesh, whose book Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships is very adorable.  Today’s author is Catherine Urdahl.  Her book, Polka Dot Fixes Kindergarten, is a great choice for new kindy kids.

 

My little one enjoyed the activities:

 

She also enjoyed “helping” me sell the books:

All in all, it was a great day at the fair.  :)

See more about the Alphabet Forest in this video or read about my adventures at last year’s state fair.

Behind the scenes of Atheist Talk

A few months ago, a friend asked me for book recommendations for her son.  She was looking for a way to explain various religions to her young son from a secular perspective.  I have to admit, I love helping people find the right books, but I was less than enthusiastic about her request.  Books about religion for kids that aren’t religious?  I wasn’t expecting much.  I did a search and sent a list of books, each one with a caveat.  Most books that touch on religions have mixed reviews from professional audiences and let’s not even get into the customer reviews on Amazon and other booksellers’ sites.  It’s hard to sort the good from the bad, and I was wondering if there even were any good to choose.  But even after I sent the list, I kept up my search.  There had to be something out there, right?

I’m glad I kept searching because it came in handy when I was invited to discuss books for secular families on Atheist Talk, a public access television program produced by Minnesota Atheists.  We discussed books about religion and books about science that would have particular appeal to families raising children without religion.  It was a bit last minute, so I wasn’t able to share everything I wanted to share because I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the book that quickly.  But I’m happy with the discussion.  Here is a shot of me with my friend James Zimmerman, who invited me on the show:


I’d never been on TV before, and I must say that I was really nervous. It didn’t help that the crew informed me that there was no editing.  Any mistake I made, big or small, would be included in the final version of the show.  James was a great host, though.  He kept the conversation rolling with questions about the books and stories of his own family’s reading.  We got great feedback from the crew after we finished taping.  My family cheered me on from the control room.  My three year old actually managed to stay and watch for the whole taping, which was two thirty minute episodes.

I’ll post the link to the video when it’s available online.  Those in the Twin Cities area can watch for me on their public access stations.  Information about channels and showtimes is available here.  Stay tuned here, though, because I’ll be blogging about the books we talked about on the show and the ones we didn’t have time to include.

I also feel compelled to mention that the television program and the organization behind it are not about denigrating religion.  The Minnesota Atheists as an organization are committed to positive atheism:

“Minnesota Atheists is Minnesota’s oldest and largest atheist organization. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization that seeks to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church.”

The atheist community in Minnesota is a diverse group of secular individuals and families.  I’m happy that I was able to work with them, and I hope that they enjoy the books!