Our National Night Out

nno-masthead-logoYesterday was my first ever National Night Out Block Party.  The intersections were blocked off, and the neighbors had set up a couple of grills in the middle of the streets.  Kids were running around, and adults were milling with drinks in hand.  It turned out that we were the newbies among mostly long-time residents of our block, and we felt quite welcomed.  Here were the highlights for me:

  • I may have convinced a woman who lives across the street from me to give bus commuting a try.  Hey, if I can commute from Minneapolis to Burnsville on a bus, then anyone can, right?
  • When a neighbor expressed interest in putting a Little Free Library in front of her house, I enthusiastically agreed to help keep it stocked if she does it.  You all know that I will make good on that promise.  :)
  • I discovered another Unitarian-Universalist family on my block.  We chatted about our kids’ RE classes and about the why we chose UU.  Great to have that connection.

National Night Out started in 1984 as a crime prevention program aimed at creating the community camaraderie needed to enhance safety  for everyone.  One night isn’t going to solve all crime issues, but it certainly represents a beginning.  I was very happy to finally be able to be a part of that in our new home.

Want to keep the sense of community going?  Here are some links:

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Looking closely in my neighborhood

I feel like I spend a lot of  energy advocating for Uptown.  That probably sounds strange to people who know Minneapolis.  Uptown is a vibrant neighborhood, full of shops and restaurants. Most people probably think “night life” or “hipster” when they hear Uptown, and they wonder why I’m talking about it on a blog that is mostly about family life.

What I tell people is this: Look more closely.  You might be surprised at what you see.  My Uptown is for families.  It is for hidden treasures.  It is for statements.

Three free ballons

These sweets are all over the neighborhood if you look.

Truth.

You can find more photos from in and around Minneapolis on my photoblog.

What do you see in your community that other people miss?  What makes your neighborhood or city a good fit for you?

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.

Halloween Beyond Candy

Costumed kids dancing at Calhoun Square HallowEve

I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween, and I fully admit it: I didn’t get it.  Why would you take your kids out after dark to strangers’ homes to get candy?  I could not fathom why people would do this.  I guess it was something I had to experience to appreciate because I definitely get it now.  I enthusiastically wrapped up in a blanket to sit outside my apartment building with a giant bowl of candy yesterday evening to watch my neighborhood come alive.

It isn’t about candy or costumes.  It’s about community.  A Canadian mom offers 7 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Trick or Treat in Your Neighborhood.  For one:

“For parents of young children walking around the neighbourhood with their little trick-or-treaters, it’s a chance to meet other parents doing the same thing. It’s another chance to talk to your neighbours, share a laugh and help to turn a bunch of people who live in the same geographic location into a community.”

This year, we did it all.  We went to a library Halloween program, the local mall-o-treating event (pictured above), and up and down our block with the neighborhood kids.   I’m already excited to do it again next year.

 

Where have we been?

“You know where you’re going if you know where you come from.”

Michele Norris was talking about her book, The Grace of Silence, with Kerri Miller on MPR with the words above.  She spoke of how her parents, who were among the first African-American families in their South Minneapolis neighborhood in the 1940’s, passed on their hopes and dreams to their children instead of their angst.  This sounds lovely, but it also meant that there was much that didn’t get discussed in Norris’ family.  Her memoir, which I have yet to read, explores the un-talked-about aspects of her family, the way race has played a role in her family’s story, and the way the way we talk about race is changing.  I am excited to read the book, and I hope to join in the conversation around the book that is going on as part of the One Minneapolis One Read program.

I wrote some time ago about how we can use books like Let’s Talk About Race to open a discussion about diversity with kids, and this photograph of a display at a Hennepin County Library Branch shows that there are many books that bring alive African-American history for kids, including Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson.

You might also use All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino or Grandpa Green by Lane Smith to share family history stories, and don’t forget to share your own mini-autobiography on the Hennepin County Library’s web site.  Your life in 50 characters or less.

Share your story with the community, and share it with your children.  This is how we determine where we are going to go from here.  The stories of our parents and grandparents may not be easy to talk or write about, but one of my favorite writers, Jonathan Safran foer, who took on a fictionalized version of his family history in his book Everything is Illuminated, offered this advice:

“I was always writing from a position of loving my family so I knew I couldn’t betray them. The worst that could happen was that the execution of my writing wouldn’t be as good as my intentions. So if you have good intentions — to be forthright and honest — you can’t really fail.”

 

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with MPR, Hennepin County Library, or One Minneapolis One Read. I have not (yet) read Michele Norris’ book. Amazon links are affiliate links. I may earn a percentage of purchases made through those links.

Art, music, and community at LynLake

We had a blast at the LynLake Street Fest this year!  Here are a few cool things we found:

  • Koo Koo Kanga Roo was awesome.  We’d never seen them perform before because, quite frankly, I tend to steer clear of “kid’s music.”  It’s usually way too annoying for me to tolerate for long.  It’s selfish, I know.  Koo Koo Kanga Roo, however, is not annoying.  They are fun.  If you like Yo Gabba Gabba, chances are you will like Koo Koo Kanga Roo.  We are fans of both.
  • I’d been by Intermedia Arts many, many times, but I hadn’t been inside until this weekend.  The current exhibit, The Art of Tibetan Survival, celebrates peace and imagination.  Ladybug got to add her vision of peace to a Tibetan prayer flag project.  I asked her what peace looked like, and she decided to draw a boat and a book.    :)
  • My kiddo is too young for the summer mural art classes from Aldrich Arts, but she enjoyed the all ages activity they had at the festival.  She planted a flower in a paper cup she decorated.  Seeds courtesy of Mother Earth Gardens.  We may have to pay a visit to Mother Earth Gardens to buy some more seeds since Ladybug’s flower cup didn’t make it home intact. :(

More perspectives on the festival:

Happy Spring!

“Is it still spring?” Ladybug asked as we bundled up in sweatshirts yeaterday. I tried to explain that spring is an in-between season that is sometimes warm and sometimes cold, but I’m not sure she believed me. Nonetheless, we have spent the past week or so celebrating spring in as many ways as we could find. It has been a long and snowy winter in Minnesota, and I am ready to celebrate that we are so much closer to the Minnesota summers I love so much.

As usual, we began our family celebration in books. Ladybug liked Mouse’s First Spring by Lauren Thompson. We have read several Mouse books now, and she likes the familiar character. The books are simple and colorful–perfect for preschoolers. I liked Mama, Is It Summer Yet by Nikki McClure for the unique illustrations. I also appreciated the long list of activities in It’s Spring by Linda Glaser. We’ve used these books to watch for signs of spring as we walk around our neighborhoods. It’s great to see Ladybug get excited about flowers blooming or at the sight of a robin.

We also joined in a family Easter Egg hunt with Ladybug’s cousins searching for colored eggs (some plastic with candy inside, some hard-boiled, decorated), which was fun. The kids got to gorge on candy, and the adults got to enjoy one another’s company. Just as we didn’t do Santa (See this post for more about that), we aren’t doing the Easter Bunny either. I explained to Ladybug that everyone was going to pretend that the Easter Bunny hid the eggs, and it would be fun to pretend. I’ve said before, we love pretending with her, but I’m not willing to pretend to her.  We focus our sense of wonder for Easter on nature.  The “magic” there isn’t going to go away.

We also attempted to color eggs for the first time. It was kind of a bust. They all look pink, but they were supposed to pink, purple, yellow, and blue. We’ll try again next year. Sorry, kid. Your mom’s a noob.

My favorite way to celebrate spring, though, is at the May Day Festival in Powderhorn Park. I just discovered this long-running festival last year, and I fell in love. It’s a celebration of art and peace in addition to the stories that have symbolized spring for so many years. The parade is a theatrical performance more than just a parade. We saw beauty and hope amidst pointed statements about our world all in the context of reflection as we move ahead. Yes, it was cold this year. But it was worth it to be one of so many coming together to celebrate so much.

Happy spring everyone!  Let’s make the most of it.