Friday Finds: Good books, free family fun, and great local music

Book Finds:

Family Finds:
Music Find:
  • Don’t miss the last block party of the year this weekend at Nick & Eddie.  The 274 Music Fest has a great lineup including Me & My Arrow, Gospel Gossip, and more.  Here’s a video of Gospel Gossip on the Current’s Local Show just to get you excited:

Stories come alive at the MN Children’s Museum

When we walked into the Storyland exhibit at the MN Children’s Museum last Friday evening, my kiddo’s eyes went wide with delight.  The room–which, in all honesty, was smaller than I was expecting–was full of familiar scenes from the pages of children’s books, several of which we have read over and over again.  There, though, it was real.  And it was big.

The first scene to catch her attention was from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  Not only is this one of our favorite books to read at home, but also, the huge letters and giant coconut tree are probably the most eye-catching part of the room.

That wasn’t the favorite, though.  She spent the most time in Peter Rabbit’s burrow, which surprised me since I don’t think she has read the story.  Ladybug could have spent the entire time just in that one place.

I can’t imagine she was thinking about sound awareness as she played with letters or about narrative as she put Peter Rabbit to sleep in his bed or made him a tasty pretend dinner.    To her, it was play.  To me, it was early literacy in action.

I am currently reading Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky.  One of those skills is communicating, which includes a lot of information about early literacy, but what has really interested me as I read the book (and I am only about half-way through) is how often storytelling and pretend play have come up as suggestions for cultivating other valuable skills.

The pretend play that Ladybug did in the Peter Rabbit part of the exhibit, for example, is a way to promote cognitive flexibility.  She had her thing going on as she pretended to be Peter’s mom, but other kids and parents were also at the exhibit.  They interrupted her narrative or changed it, and it was up to her to deal with these changes.  This skill isn’t necessarily one we think about often as we watch our kids play together, but when our children are adults a high level of cognitive flexibility will help them to adapt to change and understand other people’s perspectives.

Storyland is a great opportunity for both parents and children to see how books are more than just words on paper and literacy is more than just knowing how to read.  It is an opportunity for what Mind in the Making calls “extended discourse,” or taking the conversation beyond the obvious to ask questions about stories or connect stories to our own experiences.

We will definitely be going back to Storyland, since we are members of the MN Children’s Museum, and I think that reading the featured books that we hadn’t yet read will enhance the exhibit even more.

Disclosure: I was not in any way compensated for this post. We received a family membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum as a gift from my mom.  Books referenced in this post are either personal or library copies.  Amazon links are affiliate links, which means I earn a percentage of any purchases made from the links.

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.

Twin Cities Weekend (August 12-14)

As usual, there is a lot going on this weekend.  Here are my picks:

Don’t forget to visit a farmers market this weekend for Farmers Market Week.  Have fun, everyone!

What’s going on this weekend, Twin Cities?

Lots of family fun this weekend:
Less Kid-Friendly Fun:

Family Friendly Venues for Live Music, or What I did this weekend

The fall I was pregnant was the fall of shows.  We bought tickets for every touring band we cared to see that came through Minneapolis that fall, and we tried to hit up as many local bands as we could.  We were pretty certain that having a baby would tie us down to the point that we would never get to a concert ever again.  Well, maybe not “ever again” but certainly we thought that was the last time it would be simple to go to a concert.

It’s true, I guess, that it isn’t simple anymore.  Either Chad and I have to take turns going out or get a babysitter, and that can be kind of a hassle.  We have, however, found ourselves taking advantage of a wide range of kid-friendly venues for music–and I’m not talking about kid’s music.

You can take your kids to see music in various parks in Minneapolis all summer long thanks to Music and Movies in the Park.  The Uptown Apple Store regularly has live music, including local acts like Hot Ashes and Fake Places last year and touring bands like David Bazan (we were there).  It seems like every weekend in Minneapolis there is some festival or block party with live music–many of which are totally kid-friendly.  I posted about the Lyn-Lake Fest mentioning Koo Koo Kanga Roo, but I neglected to mention that several of my local favorites also played including Haley Bonar and Phantom Tails.

This is what I found myself thinking about as Ladybug and I sat in Painter Park in Minneapolis this past Saturday watching one of my favorite bands play to a crowd of families and others.  It happened to be the Senate District 60 DFL Picnic.  I’m not a card-carrying Democrat, but I am in line with them on several issues, so we decided to join them for politics and music on a Saturday afternoon.   The highlight of the picnic, for me, was Low.  I’ve been a Low fan for years, and I’ve seen them probably a dozen times, including at First Avenue.  But nothing beats seeing them free at a park supporting a cause they believe in.   Where else can “some guy” interrupt and talk about politics and other issues without people getting upset?  If some guy is Al Franken, Low will wait patiently and applaud with the rest of us as he talks about getting out the vote.   I appreciated some of the things he had to say, especially about the Marriage Amendment (I’m too lazy to find a link that isn’t partisan), and the importance of getting outside of this district in our efforts to get out the vote.  He encouraged Uptowners to leave their “hipster” in Minneapolis and volunteer to knock on doors in the suburbs to speak respectfully to people about the human rights issue at

stake in the upcoming election in Minnesota.

All politics aside, though, Low was excellent as usual, and my three year old was right there with me.  She entertained herself for the whole set, though she did ask a couple of times if that was going to be the last song.  It was a great opportunity to connect with the community and enjoy some local music–two of my favorite things.  :)

I’ll be posting about more family friendly music and local events throughout the summer, so check back often.  Or connect with me on Facebook for general updates about family life in the Twin Cities and more.

(Frugal) Family Fun in the Twin Cities

MarketingMama recently posted some great ideas for family outings on her blog.  As I read I realized something.  I never take Ladybug to anything you need to buy tickets for.  And I rarely shell out money for anything we do.  Perhaps you’re like me?  If so, here are some events you may want to know about:

These are just a few ideas for the next few weeks.  Let me know if you find something that should be on this list!  Thanks!

My Mother’s Day

May 9, 1914 Woodrow Wilson officially established Mother’s Day as an American holiday.  According to This Day in History from The History Channel, the idea for the holiday was from the desire to celebrate peace.  This article on the Life as a Human blog makes the connection between Mother’s Day and peace even stronger.  I must say, I am inspired.  Perhaps next year, I will organize some kind of volunteer experience related to peace for my family instead of the traditional brunch and flowers.  Or maybe in addition to.  I do love brunch and flowers. :)

This year, we kept things pretty simple.  I woke up to a lovely bouquet of flowers from the family.  We trekked over to St. Paul for my favorite brunch in the Twin Cities: Pizza Luce.  If you are listening Pizza Luce, bring the brunch to Minneapolis.  I enjoyed a free glass of wine with my Truly French Toast courtesy of Pizza Luce in honor of Mother’s Day.  Thank you!

Then we made our first use of the membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum that my mom purchased for us.  Thanks, Mom!  Ladybug quite enjoyed herself.  She especially liked the Our World exhibit where she got to pretend to be various community workers, drive a bus (riding the bus is hardly a novelty for us), and be in a music video.  I am a huge believer in the importance of pretend play, so  it was great to let Ladybug run free in a big world of possibilities.  (Scholastic offers a few reasons for the importance of pretend play.) I’m looking forward to exploring the museum many more times during the course of our membership.

My wish for Mother’s Day was to see my little one have fun, and I did.  Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Love our Libraries

“If democracy were a religion, libraries would be its churches.”  Will Weaver was the first of the contributing authors of Libraries of Minnesota to relate his library love.  He spoke of the way libraries fit into our history and culture while others spoke of family and stories.  Marsha Wilson Chall spoke of “library eyes and library ears.”  David LaRochelle remembered his childhood library’s Summer Reading Club with fondness.  Pete Hautman recalled that “librarians scared the bejesus out of me.”  But my favorite story was from John Coy.  He spoke of growing up in a library family.  They were such a library family that when he eventually published his first children’s book, his mother was so proud of him that she told everyone to get her son’s book from the library.

Libraries of MinnesotaPhotographer Doug Ohman, who has photographed several books for the Minnesota Byways series, said that he has the best job: “I get paid to drive around Minnesota taking pictures.”  He spoke a bit of the interesting stories he gleaned from the librarians and community members as he photographed the libraries.  The most interesting of which was from the cover of the book.  The mural on the outside of the library in Houston, Minnesota was sketched out by a local artist then colored in by the community paint-by-numbers style.  What a great way to create a feeling of local pride in the library!

I am obviously a library person.  I imagine everyone in the audience tonight had a library story.  Maybe we could trace our love of reading back to a library or our career choice.  Maybe it was our home away from home.  Libraries can be anything, really.  Here are a few of the comments that Hennepin County Library received during National Library Week.  Just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to library love in Minneapolis, I’m sure.

Let’s vote for kids

Kids FirstI vote for kids.  I’ve seen the bumper stickers.  I’ve even wanted to sport one (though I am car-free), but I’ve also wondered what exactly it meant.  Then an ARC of David L. Kirp’s Kids First came across my desk.  I could not resist reading it.  And, I must admit, I could not resist being caught up in its vision.  Here is the kids first agenda as laid out by Kirp (who, by the way, is a professor at UC Berkeley):

  • Give new parents strong support.
  • Provide high-quality early education.
  • Link schools and communities to improve what both offer children.
  • Provide mentors to youngsters who need a stable, caring adult in their lives.
  • Give kids a nest egg that helps pay for college or kick-start a career.

Kirp points out so many success stories from Head Start to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I’d like to point out a a success story here in the Twin Cities.  Bright Water Montessori School is the only nationally accredited preschool in North Minneapolis, and the first on the northside to recieve a 4-star rating from ParentAware.  Bright Water is committed to North Minneapolis–to promoting peace in the, often very unpeaceful, neighborhood.  My daughter attended Bright Water’s preschool program for a year, and we were thrilled with the education she received.  I was continually impressed with the passion and commitment from the staff and the other parents.  They are doing great things there, and I am pleased that my family was able to be part of it.

Learn more about this great school, and what it is doing for North Minneapolis, in this video:

“Excellent education doesn’t just happen in the suburbs or in South Minneapolis.  It can happen anywhere.” –Ann Luce