Friday, July 31, 2009

Death of a Pet

Just over a couple of months ago, our boys were given a tiny painted turtle (at the time, they thought it was a mud turtle, so the boys named it Muddy) by a friend of ours. We had no intention of keeping it, really. We don't have room for a pet. But we quickly grew attached to it and Muddy became a fixture around our apartment.

This morning, I discovered Muddy wasn't moving in the water. He had been a bit lethargic lately, so we wondered if he was getting something. We had just discussed releasing him into a nearby lake so he could have the freedom he needs (but we weren't entirely ready to see him go). So it was a sad day. Our five-year old cried off and on through most of the morning.

We had a burial after lunch. I've never cried so much for a turtle--though it wasn't so much for the turtle as it was for my son. It was hard to see death through his eyes. There were some points of remembering my grandfather's and my father-in-law's funerals. So we talked a bit here and there about life & death and being sad and missing people.

And so we laid Muddy to rest. I dug a hole in the grass behind the apartment building. The boys picked some sticks to mark the grave. The boys said goodbye to Muddy (like they're going to see him again tomorrow--I don't think they grasp the finality of death--or maybe they just know there's more life to come). We said a prayer (the five-year old prayed that Muddy would get better). Then I covered up the hole, and we said good-bye one last time. Anders cried for a while more, but seems to have moved on--just as life goes on.

RIP Muddy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Concert & Picnic in the Park

The boys and I biked up to Golden Valley (it's nice that their main area for doing things in town is close to us) for a concert by The Flyers. The city had free popcorn and drink for the kids as well. The boys didn't know any of the songs, but they sat and enjoyed them, clapping when appropriate and joining in on choruses as they learned them. Plus, they were busy with their popcorn and the picnic I brought along. And there was plenty of playtime afterward on the playground. Thank you, Golden Valley, for another free outing for my kids.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Penny Carnival

The boys and I drove up to Golden Valley today for their penny carnival (we were going to bike, but the 5-year old was afraid it would rain more, so he insisted on taking the car). St. Louis Park has one in the summer as well. They're great fun for the kids--they get to learn about using money wisely and get small toys and candy at the same time. Every penny counts!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


My niece has started crawling recently. I'm still watching her 1-2 days a week (with potential for more coming). It changes things. We've baby-proofed before, of course, but we haven't done our apartment terribly well since we've been here. Our youngest was starting to be old enough to leave some things alone. We still have latches on most of the drawers, but we haven't been as careful about what we put on shelves and such. I found out she can unlatch the cover for the rolling file cabinet we have. I also have to make sure the boys put away their toys more often as they tend to play with things with smaller pieces now.
Since she's crawling, she doesn't lay down as well for naps, either. She tends to roll around and get up a bit. On at least three ocasions, she's fallen asleep like in the picture: hunched over her "Ellie" (stuffed elephant) while in a sitting position. It makes me laugh. Diaper changes are also interesting as she's constantly trying to roll over during them. Poopy diapers quickly become a nightmare if she's not restrained a bit. She's definitely keeping me on my toes!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


My oldest son just celebrated his 5th birthday. Last year we had just moved here, so he didn't know anyone, so we just had a family party. This year he got to have a friends party (one friend for each year in age is our rule of thumb right now). He chose an outer space theme.

I know some parents who spend hundreds of dollars on birthday parties. That's not in our budget. Or our ideology (though I can see how it could be nice to have someone else totally take care of the planning). We like to keep it simple, but fun.

The weather stayed nice, so we were outside for everything: first supper (pizza, carrots and fruit), then cake (my wife made a fabulous rocket cake--she'll admit that it's much more easy than it looks; simple decoration secrets make it), followed by games, playing on the slip-n-slide and presents. The games were all homemade. First we had alien bowling (cardboard aliens taped to juice bottles, bowled down by a playground ball). Next was Space Shuttle ring toss (card board rings and a blow up space shuttle from the $1 spot at Target--it had a large stabilizer fin to "ring"). Lastly was Feed-the-Alien. I had drawn an alien face on a cardboard box and cut some holes for the kids to throw bean bags through. We quickly moved on to water balloons, though, and the kids had a lot of fun with that. Honestly, though, we probably could have spent most of the game time just playing with squirt guns, water balloons and the slip-n-slide.

By the time the presents were open, the kids had a little time to change and then my son could hand his friends their take home favors (my wife had made some little "back-packs" with some astronomical fabric and put a few space themed toys from the $1 Spot at Target in them). In some ways, the hour and a half flew by pretty quickly. I get a bit nervous about entertaining the kids with games (even though I did that in my position as a camp program director for almost 5 years), but it doesn't take much for them to have a lot of fun. They get into simple, creative things.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free Outings

I love all the free things to do in the Twin Cities. Add in the free museum passes from the library and there are so many sights to see. Yesterday my wife's schedule worked out so that we could have the car for the day.

Our first stop was the Linden Hills neighborhood, which we hadn't explored before, but the local SAHD group had visited a bookstore there once, co I had been wanting to check it out. It was a great neighborhood with a lot of kid-friendly stores: Creative Kidstuff, Wonderment and Wild Rumpus. Wild Rumpus was our initial destination, but we checked out some of the other stores on the way. The boys don't usually get to go into too many toy stores. We weren't out to buy anything, and they can have fun just looking (maybe some day we'll have extra discretionary money for using beyond our needs, but at the same time, I want the boys to be able to have fun with what they have, not wanting more and more all the time). Wild Rumpus was a great store. They had live animals all over: chinchillas, ferrets, an iguana, a tarantula, birds of all sorts--even a roaming bantam rooster and cats. Plus, kids' books of all sorts.

From there we went down to Como Park for a picnic and time at the zoo. It's a lot smaller than the Minnesota Zoo, but it's free. And it's just enough to occupy the boys without wearing them out. We hadn't fought the summer crowds before to see the Sparky the Sea Lion Show and go through the butterfly tent. They were fun treats--especially the butterfly tent where they're flying all around you. The boys also enjoy the conservatory, just seeing all the plants and especially the koi in the garden ponds.

My wife was meeting up with a friend after work, so we had her drop us off at Lake Harriet so we could attend a concert. Most communities have concerts during the summer for at least one night a week. Lake Harriet has them every night of the week. We had already heard the Minneapolis Police Concert Band. This time it was a smaller band playing "hot swing with jazzy vocals." The boys can't sit through the whole concert, but the nice thing is they're not expected to--they can get up and dance around or roll down the grass "hills" surrounding the venue. Plus there's a playground right by the band shell as well as the lake for swimming or just playing in the sand.

What our your favorite free outings? Leave a comment.