Friday, April 29, 2011

Summer Plans

Confession: I hate talking with other parents about what my kids are going to be doing this summer.

Everyone has their kids signed up for several activities each day: baseball, swimming, day camp, sailing, soccer, theater, etc. ("Everyone" of course is an exaggeration, but I'm using it anyway).

My kids aren't signed up for anything. Except for a 2-night camp for my oldest. Part of it is most of that stuff costs a lot of money. And with it costing over $50 to fill up our car right now (and I know we're on the cheaper end of a full tank) I don't want to do a lot of driving.

Part of it is that the city doesn't offer all the programs that the suburbs do. At least I haven't seen as many.

So, we'll probably get the family pass to our local pool with the waterslides (at least if it is as good a deal as it was last year). We'll do a lot of biking (at least I'm hoping to get my oldest geared up for some fun trips). We'll hit the lakes and the wading pools. We'll go to the nature center and other parks. We'll visit some museums and the zoos with the free passes from the library (and I think the library has some programs while I'm mentioning them). We'll do a lot of picnicking. And of course, the garden will need to be weeded and tended. And maybe a few overnight campouts here and there.

And maybe we'll find something to sign the boys up for. Maybe. If it doesn't cost too much and is something of interest and near by. And if not, we'll find plenty to do. And if we don't, that's not such a bad thing either.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

32+ Square Feet of Soil

The beginning of this week started very nice, so we took some advantage of it (and the pending rain) and did a little work in the garden. We got the spaces roped off (square-foot method) and put in a few of the seeds of hardier plants that can handle some cooler weather. The boys thankfully are interested in getting involved (hopefully that will remain the case when its time to weed). And I'm excited to show them the joy of seeing life develop as well as the joys of gardening (including eating tasty, healthy produce). Plus, a little work ethic development is good. We'll keep you posted as things start growing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Death of a Hammock

Confession: I'm frustrated right now. I just set up a "new" hammock (new to us) this afternoon. As soon as the neighbor boys came over after school it was broken. Thirteen of the ropes at least. It was a free hammock from another stay-at-home dad. But I hadn't really gotten to use it yet. And I'm mainly frustrated because I had asked my son and the other two boys not to play on it--that it was just for laying on--because I noticed a couple ropes were broken after they started playing on it.

The hammock may be fixable...or at the very least I'll see if I can find one off of craigslist. I'm mainly frustrated because I want our house to be a place where the kids can play. But I want to know they'll listen and respect things. And I'm slightly frustrated that I didn't even get an "I'm sorry" from anyone (my son did say sorry a bit later).

But that all goes with the territory. You often end up parenting other kids, too (it's that "it takes a village" thing). And you hope that some day your influence and witness pays off.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Field Trip

During this last week I was asked to chaperon Anders' school field trip. It was to the Audubon Center of the North Woods, the authorizing organization for Brightwater Montessori as a charter school. It was an overnight trip with two days of classes there. Another father and I were in a "cabin" (lodge room) with four kids (supposed to be six, but two didn't show).

The kids (everyone in grades 1-4 went) were divided into four groups. Each group had two classes a day. Our group had Birds and Banding first. We saw the center's birds they had (most were injured birds that had no chance of returning to the wild that they were given to take care of and nurse back to health): an eagle, hawk, kestrel, some owls, a crow and a raven. The students
learned a bit about birds and were shown how the center bands birds and tracks them (they had caught a couple purple finches and a junco in their nets).

The next class was Rocks, Dirt & Worms. They got to look inside
some rocks, learned about soil and dirt and got to dig for worms in the woods (worms are an invasive species, not native to Minnesota) which were put in the compost piles.

That night everyone (including the other school that was there) had a session on Raptors--getting a chance to see an owl and a
hawk up close. After a campfire, the kids were in bed--and thankfully, our cabin fell asleep fairly quickly.

The next day our classes were Wolves of the North Woods. In addition to learning about gray wolves, the students learned about telemetry and tracking. Our group was split in half. One group was given a transmitter and hid in the wolves, while the other group tracked us with the receiver.

Our last class was called Ojibwe Walk. After learning a bit about the Ojibwe tribe, we hiked through the woods while the students were given some trees to identify. Our leader talked about how the tribe would have used the trees in various ways.

While it was a quite different experience for me (I used to be a program director
at a Bible camp), it was a lot of fun--great to get out in the woods and fun to see Anders with his friends and classmates.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Nils won't let us kiss him good-night right now. Only God is allowed to kiss him currently. And according to Nils, He has a few times.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Our land trust that leases our land to us took us roller skating today. Our boys hadn't been before (other than using the strap-on ones in the garage).

Confession: I was a bit nervous about taking them by myself (my wife had to work). New things to learn don't always go well--especially if they involve falling down. Anders is still riding his bike with training wheels because he's fighting working towards taking them off. And right off the bat, as we were putting on our skates, Anders didn't want to do it anymore because the skates were too tight around his feet (they were the right size, but he wanted more space to move his feet around within the skates).

Surprisingly, Anders was the one who took off. I did a few laps holding on to each of their hands. But Anders starting going by himself. He believes he counted 17 laps around the rink before we left. Nils wasn't as fond of it (though a few hours after we'd left and were home, he wanted to go back and skate some more). And I got a good workout from holding Nils up and keeping him from falling.

Lesson: Its important to keep trying new activities. And keep trying. And keep trying. Anders got a good confidence boost from today. He's up to working on his bike more to get the training wheels off. And Nils is confident enough that it didn't matter to him if he wasn't able to skate well yet. He knows it'll come someday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

We received free tickets to a Twins game today. It was our first professional sporting event in the Twin Cities. We even took Anders out of school to do it, which we wouldn't usually do, but it was a rare opportunity for us.

I admit that I seldom watch sporting events. They take too much time, and I don't like all the money that goes into them. But I also feel bad that my boys don't know much about sports (they do soccer and know of sports, but don't know that much). So it was a good opportunity to teach them a little. And they had some fun (thought between innings 4 and 8 Anders did a lot of drawing). Anders had even made some banners to bring with (he's been studying flags in school) and they put on their rally hats. The Twins lost, but it was still a good outing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lego Kidsfest

One of the perks of writing a not getting paid, but every once in a great while you may get to review something. My boys and I have been asked to run some plugs for the upcoming Lego Kidsfest, including reviewing it after attending the first evening. My kids are huge Lego-fanatics and are very excited about checking out the event. Here's the press release for more details:


LEGO Systems, Inc., makers of the world’s leading construction toys and LIFE Marketing & Events today announced that LEGO KidsFest, an educational, hands-on, family expo, will stop at the Minneapolis Convention Center May 20 – 22, 2011. Five Minneapolis sessions are available, with tickets now on sale at

LEGO KidsFest brings all of the creative hands-on, minds-on fun of LEGO building and experiences together in one activity- and entertainment-packed family event for children of all ages and builders of all skills and interests. Among the many LEGO attractions, families will find:

  • LEGO Model Gallery: 40 life-sized models made entirely from LEGO bricks
  • LEGO Master Builders: building tips, tricks and live demonstrations from the crew who get paid to play
  • Creation Nation: build your own creation to add to a custom map of the U.S.
  • Mystery Mural: build a piece of a giant mural to help reveal the image
  • Race Ramp: build your own custom car, then race it down the ramp against friends and family
  • LEGO Games Arena: roll the dice to play LEGO board games
  • Construction Zone: creative free build, play and display area
  • LEGO DUPLO® Jams: toddlers explore building and imagination while rocking out to fun playroom tunes
  • And much more, covering 175,000 square feet of space

“Any family who likes to be inspired, get hands-on and have fun together won’t want to miss LEGO KidsFest,” said Vince Rubino, LEGO events manager. “We’re bringing so many activities for Minneapolis-area families to test and showcase their creativity and building skills in what is sure to be a family event to remember.”

Based on sell-out attendance in previous markets, advance ticket purchase is strongly encouraged. LEGO KidsFest tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for children and can be purchased online at

The LEGO KidsFest 2011 tour stops also include Pittsburgh (June 17-19),Cleveland (November 4-6) and Hartford (December 2-4).

For detailed information, including opportunities for local businesses and organizations to get involved, visit

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting Some Dirt Under Our Fingernails

Right after we moved into our new house last summer I put up a 4x4 frame for a garden (thanks to my wonderful wife who stumbled across a good deal on some cedar 4x4s. We stumbled across another good deal on cedar and yesterday the boys and I built another raised bed. I've been trying to utilize the square-foot method of gardening (here's the wikipedia article--do a search and you can find more in-depth articles) . It's very sensible and easy for the boys to take some ownership with. Plus, weeding is easy and no chemicals are needed.

So the boys helped build it, and they helped get the ground ready (we're using the lasagna gardening method to get started). I've like to start my plants from seeds generally. That's the fun part for me--being a part of the whole growth process. I'll even save seeds from my plants for the next year. So a few seeds are getting started inside (tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower). The boys planted some flower seeds in the planter boxes the made at Home Depot last weekend. Other seeds will get planted once the ground his warm enough (and I've got some dirt in the second frame). We're skipping corn this year since we learned that it's hopeless to fight the rodents in our yard. But we'll have some carrots, lettuce, peas, beans, kale, okra, eggplant, squash, radishes, turnips, and hopefully parsnips and rutabagas. And in a few months, we'll have some good fresh veggies to eat.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Biking - Alone and with Family

I got in a good bike ride this morning. My wife didn't have to work, so I took some time to be kid-free. Which was much needed (thank you, Honey). It went with the flat route through Victory Memorial over to North Mississippi, hoping that the lack of hills would allow my out-of-shape body to travel a little further (I did fine until the last leg coming home).

It was a beautiful spring day. We've been blessed this week. The boys and I had stopped at the nature center at North Mississippi Regional park last weekend. Birds were out, bugs were out, plants were starting to push their way up out of the ground. Spring is here.

My bike ride back there today was mainly for the exercise and the time out. But I also wanted to check out the island just north of the Camden Bridge where all the great blue herons build their nests. It was amazing to watch. I actually didn't even know herons nested in communities like that until we saw a tree full of them when we lived in British Columbia.

After Anders got out of school we loaded up the bikes and drove up there (it's over five miles one way and I knew the biking from the parking lot I planned on going to was going to be plenty--the boys are still on training wheels after all). So we drove up, biked a little ways over to the river. Some of the path was under water (so we rode a little through the Mississippi!), but we got to a nice spot where we could view the birds well.
The pictures are from my phone, so they're not the best. But you can see the nests (if not the birds) in the tops of the tree. We met some friends at the playground afterward and enjoyed time outside.

Ah, Spring. Your presence is welcome.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hammering Along

Yesterday I had to run to a few stores to pick up some items. The first stop was Home Depot. I wasn't thinking that it was the first Saturday of the month, so the store had a special kids' project going on. We had never made it to one before. They had a little planter box for the kids to make. It was just a pre-packaged deal, but it involved gluing and hammering.

We hadn't done a project together before that involved hammering nails. I was quite impressed with their skills. We only had one bent nail out of the day. I started doing Nils' nails for him, but after the first two I let him go at it and he did great. And, with a Home Depot apron (which Nils proceeded to wear to the next couple stops) along with the planter, they really had a good time.