An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Journal of an Average Adolescent April 30, 2016

Filed under: The Unknown — edamomie @ 11:58 am
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U: The Unknown

Although each teenagers’ journey through adolescence differs widely, one thing is for sure: finding your place in this world…. well, it’s challenging. Just ask Greg Heffley, a teen comic icon brought to life in the Children’s Theatre Company production of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: it sucks.


Step + Repeat; Eye Roll

I lost count on eye-rolling reactions to sharp and subtle jabs, mean-spirited exclusions, brutal popularity rankings and labels that even the audience wanted to assign to each character. It brought me right back to my middle school days in a heartbeat. It was a tough playground. Scenes and the story surrounding the “cheese touch” were dramatically executed and harkened back to game playing as a passive aggressive way to show your true feelings toward someone.

Greg stumbled around in his exploration, dealing with seemingly insurmountable issues like a doting mom, an sports-aspirational dad, a little brother who embarrassingly called him Bubby, a terrorizing older sibling, Rodrick, and a swooning friend, Rowley, who Greg vastly under-appreciated in true teen style. The audience cringed and commiserated along with Greg every step of the way as his miserable little existence played out.

Yet, it was so sweet. Sitting on either side of me, taking in the show, were my kids. Calvin, my 10 year-old, who I could nearly slip right into Greg’s shoes in a few years and Ava, my 12 year-old, who could witness her current 7th grade situation and the realness of it.

We all loved the performance, but for different reasons. I appreciated that Greg possessed the innocence of his age as well as the fluid emotions and struggle to not only do the right thing, but define it for himself through a series of hard-knocks. Ava connected with trying not to subscribe to mainstream beliefs, but finding that values and judgements are next to impossible to escape in middle school life and its close quarters (which begs the question, should we be teaching more empathy in our schools?). Calvin, owner of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, thought it was sheer comedic fun.


Stack of Wimpy Books

Sharing our reviews over a slice of pizza after the performance, we talked about the experience of the story from book to movie (see our 2011 review of Rodrick Rules) to musical. We unanimously agreed that the ever-changing set design, comedic craftiness — the backdrop a sheet of loose-leaf paper, the furniture, doors and props white with black piping and Greg and Rowley’s comedy strip creation process on paper played out onto a screen — were spot on. The exact comic strip, right down to the first one that echoes Greg’s onstage commentary about his mom buying the shamefully labeled “Diary,” when it really was just a journal, felt very true to the written series.

Highlights of storylines and performances included Rodrick’s masterfully delivered death threats, Rowley’s crush on teenage music icon, Joshie, the highly coveted “Mom Bucks” (monopoly money) and the reputation-ruining “Cheese Touch.” The characters creatively jumped off the Wimpy kid pages in posture, Greg with a hollowed out slouch stature and Rodrick with all of the slanky starkness of a teen in a darkened state.

The concept of Diary of a Wimpy Kid seems to hold the message that adolescence and all its challenges are normal — there are no exceptions nor can one get around it. You just have to go through it. So embrace it and pencil in a date to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Musical now through June 12. Your tweens and teens might roll their eyes, but this is one moment where you just say trust me. Well done, CTC and congratulations on 50 years!




Paws for Celebration: Six Months of Puppyhood December 2, 2015

Filed under: The Unknown — edamomie @ 6:37 am
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Puppycone of Misery

We recently celebrated our puppy’s six month birthday. There was cake (fit only for human consumption), beef and cheddar homemade gourmet dog biscuits by the Brown-eyed Baker in the shape of a bone (fit for both human and puppy consumption), an extra long walk and treats from Bone Adventure.


Copper, our beloved medium goldendoodle with an Instagram account, now nearly five times his bring-home puppy weight of 7 lbs; knew something was up on November 20, his half-birthday. He was so insatiable and would hear of no rest, even past 10:30p.m. We attributed some of this spunkiness to his neutering a mere 10-days earlier and the removal of the puppycone. Saying goodbye the the cone gave him a new-found freedom (since removal, he has thoroughly inspected it, swatted it and nearly tore it apart, signifying his dominance over it).


It might seem silly to celebrate a dog’s half-birthday, but his presence in our lives has held a lot of meaning. Having never had a dog before, the decision to get one was not taken lightly (see 2.5 years of research in The Perils of Puppy Pursuit). For our family of four, with varying levels of interest from main caregiver/walker (me), to nuturer (my 12 year-old daughter, Ava) to hyped-up player (my 10 year-old son, Calvin) to my nonchalant husband whose attention ebbs and flows, consistency in training has been a challenge.


Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry

Here’s the Six-Month Overview:

Months 1-2

In the beginning he peed a lot. And just wherever. I was happy we did not just recently do our flooring. We will be doing that next. It needs to go. It was a good two months before we could stop walking on eggshells for fear of a mess when he disappeared into the next room. Soon, we understood the random-pattern floor-sniffing, much like a crazed ant, as a key indicator to get him to the dog run stet.


At the onset, I was summoned at least once nightly by barking to release him from his kennel and take him out. Thank God it was summer. I honestly don’t know if he’d be with us if he required winter training. It was insane how quickly I jumped back into the newborn mom routine and sleep deprivation. That lasted a good month (or bad month, as the case may be).




I recall many a happy dance when he did sleep through the night. Even then it was only until 6:00a.m. For weeks we were in great stride with early morning walks. Sometimes I tried to go back to sleep 6:30-8:00, but could never seem to get quality sleep.


We started dognapping often as the breeder (Goldendoodle Acres) reported the goldendoodles need for up to 16 hours of sleep a day as a puppy. Most days a dognap could work, but catch me after the shrill ring of the doorbells mid-nap (a trained Copper-induced cue that he needs go out), and you would find a not-so-happy dog-owner.


Month 3:

A crazy thing happened at the end of June, just as we were thinking about prepping our small city lot for puppy. Our neighbors on both sides installed fences. In addition, we had our own chainlink fence on the street-facing side. It was a design nightmare of sorts and I spent months contemplating options to enclose the fourth side of our yard that faced the alley. It was clear that escorting him around to the side of our house to the 18 x 7′ enclosed dog pen 10X daily was not a sustainable effort.

Fenced In! ...Finally

Fenced In! …Finally


Finally, in October, I reached out to our neighbor’s fence company and found a contractor for the small fencing project. He was awesome. He completed the fence (6″ planks with 2″ gaps to allow some site lines) to complement our neighbor’s fence.


Because we completed the cedar fencing so late in the year, I had to give the wood just enough time to dry out, but not wait too long before temps dipped below 40 or for precipitation set in to stain the fence. Luckily, we had one of the nicest Minnesota fall seasons on record! Our neighbor’s shared the cedar stain brand/color they used and I was off to the races. It took me four hours of really intense work to complete the staining.


Months 4-5:

Official Dog Tag

Official Dog Tag

Now Copper runs free the yard, with just a quick open of the back door to let him out and a high-pitched treat call to bring him scrambling in. Liberating. It changed our lives just when patience was at an all time high (hauling a 22 lb dog to the dog run equals no fun).


Things were going smoothly until one day we called and he didn’t come. We heard meek squeaks coming from underneath our wrap-around deck. My dad had just completed some fancy lattice work surrounding it, leaving no space too large for little Copper.


How could this be? He was stuck under the deck. It became apparent that he’d been working on his project for weeks, clearing dirt in a non-visible area under one set of steps, much like Tim Robbins work in the Shawshank Redemption.


I lured him out to his neck with a treat, then grabbed his collar. Had he not had his walking harness on, which was completely necessary to grab, I might have had to dismantle the step to remove him. Jeez, Copper! Calvin said, shaking his head. When will this dog ever learn?


Present day:

Cal and Copper Cuddling

Cal and Copper Cuddling

Well, he’s learning. We’re all learning. One thing at a time. From late August – Sept puppy obedience classes at the Canine Coach to our recent investment in a bark collar (six month minimum age required), training a dog takes diligence, consistency and patience. The collar was immediately effective, making all the difference between a bark-through Thanksgiving dinner at my parents to a bark-free Thanksgiving meal at my house two days later.


Next up? Winter-weather exercise. We headed to the Minnehaha Dog Park last Sunday. No way would we let him off-leash there… we’re working up to it though. Just keeping him from destroying the backseat of the car after that visit and bathing him was hilarious challenge enough.


Through it all, I continue to remind everyone that all we need is just a little patience.


— Happy six month, Copper! We love your unconditional love and sweet little licks all over our faces. — love, the fam


The Perils of Puppy Pursuit August 1, 2015

U: The Unknown  I was puppy-obsessed. The more the universe told me I had no business owning a dog, the more I pursued it. Two and a half years ago when my then 9 year-old daughter, Ava, started on her individual quest for a dog, I would hear nothing of it. Sure, I humored her by participating in dog quizzes nightly at dinner for stretches that lasted two weeks at a time. After a few of these, the pattern of irreconcilable dog differences began to emerge.

She wanted a tiny dog that looked good on her arm in the latest designer handbag. I wanted a medium-sized square in stature dog who was an avid-runner and a non-squirrel chaser. We also had to consider allergies. My son has mild allergies to dogs, which greatly narrowed our options. And the conversation, which I managed to stop for three months (and delay with other obsessions like pierced ears and a room redo) before it gained any momentum again in the spring of 2013.

Pitbull Mix  - Animal Humane Society

Pitbull Mix – Animal Humane Society


I’ll give Ava points for persistence. I thought the interest would pass. Around this time, our neighbors left on a week vacation and entrusted us with the care of their well-trained lab, Riley. Riley was incredibly easy and chill. By the end of the week, Ava was tired and unsure. I, on the other-hand, was surprisingly sold. I could envision me as the main caretaker of said dog with no expectations of the kids and their role.

This vision of me at the helm was critical according to other cautionary parents. Our long reviewal process and conversations with dog owners pushed this idea to the forefront as the key in dog-ownership. If we were to get a dog, I would assume responsibility and guilt-free joint ownership for the other three members of our family.

Once on board with this, we visited animal humane societies (notably in Golden Valley in April of 2013: see my related post: The Dogs Are Barking). Having never owned a dog myself (my husband had two over the course of his childhood), this visit was rather intimidating. What breed, or more specifically, what individual dog would be most suited to our family?

Corgi Bonding at Mpls Kennel Show

Corgi Bonding at Mpls Kennel Show


We continued the quizzes and my daughter logged long hours looking online and tagging her favorite pups. We took a break over the summer. She started up again in the fall of 2013. We hit up the annual Minneapolis Kennel Club All Breed Show and Obedience Trial in November 2013. This began, for Ava, a love of the Corgi and all its variations. We recommitted to ramping up the dog search again in the spring of 2014. The discussion remained dormant over the holidays.

During the spring of 2014, we landed on the basenji as an agreeable breed for Ava and me. We visited a basenji breeder in WI and met Harry late May of 2014. We liked Harry a lot. We made a date for the breeder to drop him off at our home for a weekend-long stay. A few days prior to the scheduled visit, the breeder cancelled on us citing the reason as becoming too attached to Harry and wanting to keep him for her own. Was this a taste of what to beware of when working with breeders?

Yes. While breeders are certainly avid dog-lovers, they do not necessarily pride themselves on their professionalism or customer service (of course, there are exceptions! I am just basing this on our experience with about 10 different breeders interactions). I was ready to take a summer break in our search. We did that and then some. Talks resumed in March of 2015.

We reflected on the path to-date and recognized the basenji, as a sight, not scent-hound, was prone to venturing off and never finding their way back to home base. So for this search go-around, we focused on low-bark invoking, highly trainable, hypo-allergenic breeds. I did more online searches and long email conversation strings. After an interview for an article I was writing for MN Parent and a simultaneous conversation with a dog-owner friend, both landed on the goldendoodle, I took it as a sign.

Basenji Bonding at Breeder

Basenji Bonding at Breeder


We had our breed. I did one last month-long push to reach out to breeders of goldendoodles in the Midwest. I even submitted a deposit to a breeder in Hutchinson, but had no returned email response until two weeks later, at which time we had already committed to the breeder we ultimately selected in Neenah, WI. We also talked with a breeder in Mankato and made arrangements to meet them. We were on their waiting list and had plans to visit over Memorial Day weekend, but received no confirmation. Weeks later, we received an email that pups were available. We had already moved on.

I committed to one last evening of research and inquires on Thursday, May 28. The following Sunday, I received a call from the breeder, Janece. Someone with the first pick of the liter ready July 8, had to back out of their commitment. I immediately sent in our deposit to GoldenDoodle Acres, our breeder of choice, on June 3rd on a wing and a prayer. It worked out. The universe wants us to have a dog. We have accepted the challenge.


Rules of the Roundabout September 10, 2013

U: The Unknown

Two-lane Roundabout Traffic Signage

Two-lane Roundabout Traffic Signage

I knew one of the two roundabout scenarios would happen sooner or later: My car would be sideswiped or I would get pulled over by a police officer for not following roundabout rules.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the roundabout — when everyone plays by the rules. My first roundabout driving experience I recall was in London, 11 years ago. Prior to that I had ridden via bus/taxi around my fair share in Europe in college – either I was oblivious to any issues or there were none — after all they’re everywhere and familiar to drivers. Why no one warned us Americans not to rent a car to drive from the heart of London out into greater England, I’ll never know. With five lanes and seven potential exits per roundabout, it was every husband and wife’s nightmare. He as the driver on the right side of the car (which felt very wrong), and me as the map-reader in a pre-GPS world, was a true test of our relationship.


MiniVan Full O Kids

MiniVan Full O Kids

When the first roundabout popped up in 2008 at Portland and 66th in Richfield, MN, just south of our home, I was wary. European drivers so skillfully maneuvered these, but in Minnesota? I anticipated a lot of accidents and a learning curve. A quick read of this Star Tribune article from 2011 notes 29,000 vehicles pass through it daily and between Jan-Aug 2011, there were nine accidents in the roundabout. The officer who pulled me over for a roundabout violation would only say, “I’d much rather respond to fender benders and these type of accidents than head-on collisions.”


“I would prefer to keep my family and my car intact,” I reasoned with officer Zuarez*, hoping he could see my point. The kids were taking in the conversation from the backseat. When we were pulled over, I explained to them that I was not going to get into my roundabout issues with the officer. That did not pan out. I let the officer know how ironic it was that he witnessed my illegal lane change from the internal lane to the external lane. Ninety-nine percent of the time I enter on the external lane, cross my fingers and exit from the external lane no issues. In this particular 1% incident, I entered on the internal lane, checked my blind spot, signaled and moved to the external lane before continuing onto 66th. Wrong move.


My Incorrect Roundabout Lane Change

My Incorrect Roundabout Lane Change

“What if everyone did what you did?” said the officer. “I was merely defensive driving,” I pleaded, gesturing wildly to show where I would potentially be hit if I was on the internal lane trying to exit the roundabout. No sale. He was not budging. “Follow the signs, use both lanes and yield to both lanes – that’s your best bet,” he advised. Well that’s reassuring! I thought.


I tried once more to get him to pay some valid attention to my reenactment of a potential sideswipe. I’m seriously laughing at this point. I think he smiled briefly at my attempt. Anyway, he let me off without a ticket.


Potential Roundabout Sideswipe

Potential Roundabout Sideswipe

The kids and I went merrily on our way. Calvin, my 8-year-old, noted that I did not handle that how I said I would. Ava, my 10-year-old just rolled her eyes.


Calvin wanted a diagram. What in heaven’s name was Mom trying to explain to the officer? I got out the paper, ruler and some round objects to create my crude diagram of the intersection. Then I remembered seeing these four tiny cars each about the size of a fingernail somewhere in the house – – perfect reuse. So we went through the scenarios – my lane change and accident potential. Calvin fully validated that my maneuver was warranted.


What’s your roundabout experience? Good, bad or indifferent?



Mother’s Day Mayhem May 18, 2013

Filed under: Eats,The Unknown — edamomie @ 9:23 am
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U: The Unknown (Mothers Day Outcome) and E: Eats (Strawberry Cupcakes)

Last Sunday marked my ninth Mother’s Day. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it does not mean Day Off. Not that I don’t appreciate the Hallmark and florist-supported day, it’s just that expectations must be realistic. Unless you are at a remote getaway vacation slash spa trip with your girlfriends, you are probably going to have to do some of your normal tasks and chores. And children, despite their best angelic efforts, will slip back into their needy behaviors at times during your day. Here’s a recap of year nine.


Strawberry Cupcake Love

Strawberry Cupcake Love

Mother’s Day Eve Prep Work:

I’ve heard that some moms are pampered over the full weekend. Guessing that is not the norm. I work pretty diligently on Saturday – laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc – to make sure Sunday starts off on the highest note possible. This year I did four loads of laundry, shopped with my daughter, Ava, to pick up dessert recipe ingredients and made my fave spinach quiche ahead of time on Saturday = clean kitchen Sunday and an easy brunch.

Mother’s Day Morn

Did not sleep well the night prior – – up watching a romantic comedy til 1:00a.m. A few emotions and allergy triggers later, I awoke feeling low-energy and puffy. I hollered downstairs in usual form to my weekend morning tv-obsessed kids, “Church this morning! Come up in 10! I mean it!” Ava, my nine year-old, oft the most challenging to drag away, bounded upstairs and hopped into the shower. No sign of my seven year-old, Calvin. When he did surface, the little negotiator launched into the boringness of church and how he’d get much more out of religion if we could just stay home and read the bible for an hour. Just Ava and I went to mass.

Mother’s Day Late Morn

Home from church and the quiche is due out in five. At the table, everyone acknowledged the day and post-brunch I opened a framed photo of the family at my brother’s wedding, a red satin lipstick case and a babushka doll tea-strainer. Great. Thanks all. Now I can make my loose-leaf tea. And since we’re in the kitchen loading up the dishwater with brunch dishes, let’s just roll right into cupcake-making.
Ava loves strawberries and after a Saturday online recipe search for Strawberry Cupcakes and shopping for ingredients, she’s ready to dive in. There is a mixer, strawberry gelatin, strawberry jam and food coloring involved – what messy, colorful fun! Witness the strawberry cream cheese frosting dying process here:


This was a fairly time-consuming recipe to make and instead of the 12 cupcakes it said it would yield, we ended up with 26 cupcakes on our hands. The frosting also made way too much in my opinion, but then again, we just spread it on conservatively because we don’t have a fancy swirl-twister frosting-tipped dispenser or whatever its called.
Come to find out, the drive to make cupcakes came from her American Girl magazine, which cleverly showed the best way to eat a cupcake – – cut it horizontally across its mid-section and place the bottom portion on top of the frosting so essentially you have a frosting filled cupcake. Had I known this, we might have split the cupcakes first, then frosted their middles so the ends wouldn’t be as crumbly. Next time!

Mother’s Day Aft

The kids went outside to play, my husband ran some errands, and I fell blissfully asleep on the sofa in the sunshine, listening to the kids’ laughter from their outdoor escapades. For this, I was thankful.

Mother’s Day Eve

Calvin and I planted four plants I picked up from our school’s plant sale the day prior (one of which passed already on Tuesday in the 97 degree heat). I made a kid-friendly dinner (= microwave laziness!) around 5:30, then headed out at 7:30 to meet a co-worker, who’s also a mom, at a coffee shop. We agreed that it was a fairly good day and that getting a jumpstart on work for the week would allow us to sleep better that night.
I came home by 10:30, did the usual straightening and kitchen tidy-up, kissed the sleeping children on their cheeks, checked my inbox, unplugged and rolled into bed. A stellar day. One to be very thankful for.

— Happy Belated Mother’s Day! (delayed post due to normal duties post-Sunday May 12).


The Dogs are Barking April 22, 2013

I: Independence (or lack of…) and U: The Unknown

Dreaming of Dogs: All About Brand Loyalty

Dreaming of Dogs: All About Brand Loyalty

My nine year-old daughter, Ava, has  been dreaming about dogs for a good year now. Off and on. From Yorkies to Pomeranians. Dinner-time quizzes and questionnaires, weekend bursts of chore-activity to show stellar responsibility and more.


After a recent trip to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, she is slowly swaying me toward strongly considering getting a dog. Her interest level is so keen right at this moment. Her younger brother, seven year-old Calvin, is not quite as keen. He’s a bit lukewarm, in fact. Ideally, he’d have the same level of interest as her. Or I would, for that matter.


Pitbull Mix

Pitbull Mix

My husband grew up with dogs. I did not. I am definitely a tougher sell.  I think I’m being hit up now because the family thinks the sleepless nights of the toddler years are long forgotten. I’ve had a good solid four years of predictable nightly sleep patterns. Am I ready to be sleepless again?  …maybe let’s forgo puppy stage and get a fully grown dog then? It’s an option, but not one that Ava is too excited about.


Pleeeeease take me home!

Pleeeeease take me home!

For the sake of pursuing this dog-scenario, let’s say we all agree to get a puppy. How to find the right one for our family is the question. The humane society doled out sheets of info in helpful categories based on dog traits and characteristics: Toys, Spaniels, Retrievers, Property Guards, Pointers*, Sled Dogs, Herding Dogs, Scent Hounds, and Sight Hounds.


Then we hit up the library straight after our visit to check out “Everything Dogs,” “Dogs for Dummies, and my personal fave, “Weimaraners*.” Ava is also able to reference recently library books from school: “Yorkshire Terriers Are the Best!” (mid-March) and “Pomeranians Are the Best!” (mid-April) and multiple online sources.


I would say we’re an active family. Active in two senses: 1. we’re on the go (weekends at the grandparents; sports/eve activities, etc) 2. we’re physically active (running, biking, etc). So we need a dog that is fine being on their own for long stretches of time, but when we’re around, they’re eager to be very active and run fast! Leaning toward Pointer here with top as Weimaraner. But would our city lot allow for enough fenced-in outdoor space (which is a requirement for this breed)?


Just try and say no to me!

Just try and say no to me!

We do not need barking. This would rule out Ava’s front-runners in the Toy category including her beloved Yorkie. What about allergies? In this case, Labradoodles are the preferred choice for low-dander coats. However, they fall in the Retriever category which warns “Don’t expect unsupervised freedom in the house until after two years of age.” I’m beginning to believe it’s like finding a mate  — you definitely have your must-haves and the rest of the stuff, you need to overlook!


To dog-lovers out there: What’s your advice on breed, appropriate age for kids to have a dog, puppy vs dog, over-thinking, costs, training, etc? Need to be enlightened so we don’t end up barking up the wrong tree.


— all photos via Instagram and Instapics at instagram.com/jengilhoi


Xmas HoaX : Elf on the Shelf December 26, 2012

Filed under: The Unknown — edamomie @ 11:24 pm
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U: The Unknown

“Christmas gift parent advisory: do not buy the Elf on the Shelf. It is advertised to change places in your house while you are sleeping but it doesn’t. We returned our first box and haven’t had any better luck with the second. So far the elf has just been sitting in the box. The kids have been so disappointed. Just giving everyone a heads up on this.” – -Facebook post by my husband, December 24.


Elf on Wilde Roast's Shelf

Elf on Wilde Roast’s Shelf

Okay, so we know that as parents we actually have to move the elf ourselves. Most chimed in with comments on his Facebook page that conveyed that they (wink, wink : )) understood that we knew what our role was. However, we did have one person suggest that I call her because “…my brother and wife have had one for a few years and what they do is hilarious I plan to get one on sale for next year. It’s not what the elf does – it’s what you do with the elf.” Now that response, Michelle, is hilarious.

The Elf is mainstream holiday culture. We got ours last year. In a culture where easy and consistent access to technology is available to our kids, the Elf for parents represents a third-party way to impose a looming threat over their Christmas gifts. Gifts that by the way, are totally technology related. We put restrictions on technology and tv time. We said that if they limited their screen time the Elf would give Santa the green light to deliver presents on their wish list, which included a Wii.


Box-Resistant Elf

Box-Resistant Elf

Parents are willing to pay $29.95 for this small Elf in a big box with a story. At least I feel better when I look at the mother/daughter team that chose to capitalize on this tradition. We take him out the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) and he works for a month. That’s about a dollar a day. Worth it, I’d say.

Our Elf is pretty boring. Others, as witnessed by Facebook posts and photos, have elves that are much more mischievous. Some fly paper airplanes, some get entangled in toilet paper, others make a mess in the kitchen or slide down the banister (see Pinterest for ideas).

I’m making a promise to get more mischievous next year – that is, if my future 8 and 10-year-old will even pay attention. I, in intro-Elf mode, have to say the guilt of forgetting to move him nightly mirrored the times when I’ve forgotten to leave money from the Tooth Fairy. I have made up a ton of excuses as to why the Elf might have chosen not to move from his post from the previous day. That was as creative as it got. Next year, I’ll be armed with new ideas! Any Elf on the Shelf stories to share? Michelle?


Raising a Red Flag October 14, 2012

U: The Unknown

To Flag or Tackle?

To Flag or Tackle?

Are you ready for some football? Yes…. and no. My 7-year-old is ready to play – mentally and physically – but is he safe? I think not. He’s playing flag football through the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation program where the only piece of protective gear for his program level is a mouth guard.


If the program were about the fundamentals, drills and strategy, I’d be less concerned. However, this group of first graders is playing football for the first time in an organized program (unless they have played through a private league), and it’s mostly about contact in a game. They spend 30 minutes on drills during their Wednesday night sessions and the remaining 30 minutes on Wednesdays plus another hour on Saturday mornings playing ball.


I have been challenging my husband for years on signing up our son, Calvin, for football. He’s an advocate, I’m into other options. The writing has been on the wall – he would play somehow, someway. We’ve signed up for some football alternatives – namely soccer. When Calvin was five, he and his sister two years older, kicked it on the soccer field. And after a freezing cold fall season when asked what they liked best about the game, the unanimously agreed that it would have to be the sideline. A tad bit infuriating to hear.


7 Pound Weights for Sideline Downtime

7 Pound Weights for Sideline Downtime

One night this season, my son complained of an injury and lobbied not to go to Wednesday night football. I sensed the injury was a ploy so insisted that we go to support the team and listen in on the coaching strategies. After all, my husband is the head coach (he signed up as assistant and was immediately promoted to head, as does oft happen in these programs) and since he was out of town, I was in charge of getting Calvin to the game. He stood on the sideline before sneaking away to the nearby park to hop on the swings with his sister. I reigned him in. Then he couldn’t resist the urge to kick around the soccer ball with a 4-year-old on the sideline who was there because his older brother was on the team.  I let him kick it out. Clearly, there  was no injury. Twenty-five minutes into practice, I pulled Calvin aside and noted that he looked ready to play. Finally he agreed to get in the game.


The boys have varying degrees of  skill sets, physical size, interest and understanding of the game. Practice and games can be quite chaotic. Just two grades up, on the field adjacent, third-graders practice in full gear. There might be more contact, but at least they have pads and helmets. I would vote to make it mandatory for first and second-graders too. It is challenging to pull an opponent’s flag off of them without getting caught up in the speed and momentum (It can be done – see the video below where Calvin goes in for a touchdown (green team, jersey #7) and his opponent swipes and holds high Calvin’s flag). It doesn’t happen as often in practice, but a few teams our own Green Lanterns have played this season have been very physical – tackling, not de-flagging as the rules of the game instruct.


I’m not trying to be extreme, rather, encourage that programs mandate protective gear. At least then I could be more relaxed on the sidelines. But not totally calm because I foresee the escalating contact and hits to come if he continues with football. Coincidentally, the other team’s quarterback goes down screaming on the last play of the game due to a twisted or broken ankle. Game over.


Don’t get me wrong, I enjoying watching my son play as much as the next mom, but in light of recent research about concussions and long-term effects of the game, you can bet I’ll keep pushing alternatives. Calvin says he’s ready to play soccer this spring and as much as I dislike the term, I could get used to being called a Soccer Mom.


Check out the video of Calvin’s touchdown: 


School Supplies: A Scavenger Hunt September 19, 2012

U: The Unknown

(Limited) Supply Aisle

(Limited) Supply Aisle

The premature start of school for my 7 and 9 year-olds jolted me out of a rather enjoyable summer daze. It was August 22. That night we diligently went to our school’s open house to meet their teachers. The weekend prior to the visit, I located my daughter Ava’s school supply sheet that was sent home with her at the end of third grade. They must have sent it home early because collecting all of the specific stuff on it can be a summer-long task. I couldn’t find my son, Calvin’s list.


The school asks that we drop off the supplies the Wednesday before school starts – at the open house. I argued my point, we don’t have Calvin’s list so it doesn’t make sense to shop in advance. They didn’t like going into their new classrooms empty-handed. Again I reasoned, maybe they don’t actually need all of the stuff on the list or they need different stuff. Plus, what were the four tennis balls on Ava’s list needed for? Later I would find out that they cut an incision in them and they cover the chair legs to cut back on all of the noise as kids fidget and slide around in their chairs.


Mix and Match: Too Much Time

Mix and Match: Too Much Time

We meet Calvin’s co-teachers first. The two teachers are on two days a week and rotate Fridays. That should keep them enthusiastic, fresh and ready for their 26 first-graders.  My daughter’s fourth grade teacher is on her own with, to my shock, 34 students. We confirm pick up and drop off schedules, carefully handwrite our emails about seven times and check out the class roster.


Armed with Calvin’s list now, we do not pass go and head immediately to Target. Having lists isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take most of the fun out of shopping for supplies. There are list sub-divisions: child’s own stuff, community stuff, nice to have stuff (needed throughout the year); brand name requests (no Rose Art, Triconderoga No. 2 pencils) and notebook specifics – 100 page, purple cover, 1 subject and wide-ruled. Some supplies overlap between lists. There is little room for individuality (save for the pencil box) and depending on when and where you shop, little chance you’ll find everything in one quick trip.


Yeah, We Need ONE Yellow One

Yeah, We Need ONE Yellow One

We didn’t go to our usual home-base Target and it threw me off a bit. I KNOW there is a  school supply section in the back of the store – it’s been there since June. My overly eager kids comb the supply aisles near the check out for quite some time until the lightbulb comes on. We head back to the designated area. It’s a bit picked over and we spend way too much time contemplating matching notebooks and folders and what stuff goes to which kid’s classroom.  To add to the challenge, the list items are not sequestered to the supply area. We actually find stuff in every area of the store from band aids to tennis balls. Ninety minutes and $90 later, we head home.


We don’t actually have everything yet. I’m ready to give it a rest. When my Mom arrives on Saturday I enlist her for moral support. This trip we are without Calvin and we vote to head to Office Max in uptown because of its close proximity to the day’s earlier outing. I don’t have the highest of hopes. I’m pleasantly surprised that they have the 3mm erasable ink pens in the specific brand required. My daughter tracks down a salesperson who helps us unload nearly an entire bin of notebooks to get to the last of 10 notebooks required – one with a yellow cover. I would call it a 45 minute, $60 trip.


Six Bags of Supplies

Six Bags of Supplies

At home on Sunday, the supplies that took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to find and $150 to buy, are divided as needed and set in stacks by classroom. We are ready for the first day, Monday, August 27, in plenty of time. We arrive with all the stuff at 7:15a.m. Monday and I bid them good first day.


 Now I realize we haven’t done one bit of school clothes/shoes shopping yet. Intentional on my part – that’s in the budget for late September. Besides they wear shorts and flip flops August through mid-September anyway and there are better deals on clothing in retail stores. At least we can take some liberties with that and choose their new clothes just in time for September 17 school pictures. I tell myself I’m very savvy… but it’s probably just procrastination. Speaking of which, it’s time to call it a blog post – there’s homework to do.


It’s an Uphill Battle July 12, 2012

U: The Unknown

Biking Bridge Along Minnehaha Parkway

Biking Bridge Along Minnehaha Parkway

Exploring around Minneapolis has been an adventure. Recently my 9-year-old, Ava, and I set out on the newly paved Chicago Avenue that added designated bike lines last summer. We chose a Sunday morning 9:30a.m. time slot to begin the trek.


From our neighborhood, it was a 10 block commute in the Chicago Avenue lane to Minnehaha Parkway (around 51st Street in Minneapolis). Despite having a bike rack —  it is not the most hassle-free bike route option — I really prefer setting out from our house when possible. After losing the Saturday battle for a bike ride together, I took a rain check from Ava. Now she owed me a sunny disposition for our Sunday morning ride.


Smiles, sunscreen and moments later, we set out. It was a hot several-city block ride to the parkway with one moderately steep hill. There were a lot of whiny complaints, which I tuned out. Her main focus was the hills – – what a drag to have to endure the uphill battle.  But what about the downhill coast that most often followed closely after?, I asked. She glared. There’s a lesson here – No Pain, No Gain; Just Do It, etc. And believe me, I pulled out all the major athletic ad campaign slogans throughout the journey, hoping something would stick.


Historic Highs, but Uphappiness with Hills

Historic Highs, but Unhappiness with Hills

We reach the parkway and jump on, heading east towards the Mississippi River, which literally feels like you’re entering a stream of swimming fish or hopping on the light rail. We wind around and discover tons of tennis courts, parks and bridges on the path as well as very seasoned bike riders. I am a bit concerned for her safety on her new bike so we alternate: her first, me following, and vice versa. I like to be in front when we’re approaching a major intersection and in back when we’re coasting intersection-free.


We stop just north of Lake Nokomis on the pathway for a photo and a water break (along the parkway, there is no shortage of bridges to see, as seen in our photo).  We cross up the way from this bridge over the vehicle traffic in the pedestrian/bike cross walk. I witness a near accident between veteran bikers – one riding in the car lane and one crossing over in the ped/bike lane. Glances are exchanged. Ava and I are glad we played it safe and held back for that one.


We have an open, towering view of downtown over Lake Hiawatha before we cross a bridge and continue east. Curiosity pushes us further. We come to the light rail path along Hwy 55 (Hiawatha) and we turn right (south) and after a short while (.5 miles max), we arrive at the Historic Longfellow House and Gardens (photo opp here) where no biking is allowed. The various options along the bike path have us a little confused, but we cruise by the Princess Depot and head east to cross the River Road. We arrive at Minnehaha Falls, where we have driven to and hiked numerous times. Biking there is a new experience.


Pulling Over at Mile Six for a Water Break

Pulling Over at Mile Six for a Water Break

We pause for a moment on the bridge that overlooks Minnehaha Falls. We make note of the Dairy Queen for future trips, then turn and head back home. We have helmets, but not other official biking gear. I’m overly cautious – – it’s difficult with the winding trails to make sure Ava and I pass slower riders safely. Lot’s of “On your left“‘s are spoken.  We arrive home and I make a mention of our 5 mile exploration and begin to detail it out to my husband, “that’s more like 8 miles,” he says. Okay, I guess so – -“we” were having too much fun that I may not have calculated it correctly. It’s about 11:oo so we rode for 1.5 hours.  I consider the journey and agree with him.


I’m sure the paths will be more crowded later in the day with cyclists that plan full-day routes. Next time, after Freewheel Bike installs her carrier rack, we’ll pack a lunch for the midway point. Hopefully, there will be less complaints about the uphills, seeing how she screamed with delight on the long downhills. I can hardly resist dousing her spirit with a words of wisdom moment, “Life is an Uphill Battle,” but I leave it be.  She is already wondering about our next outing… and that’s a good thing.


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