Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Friday #7

Drizzly day. Lunch with Papa at India House and laying in supplies for the coming airplane adventure. Zizzing through a snoozy afternoon. Brothers playing on a bed. Easy lazy summer.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Friday #6

I have to admit that there are some places that the kids love that I could take or leave. Today we went to Chutes & Ladders playground, which is part of the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington. It is essentially a great big habitrail for kids that they run, climb, and slide through like a bunch of screaming little hamsters. I understand why they love it and appreciate the ability for them to get out and move their bodies. Some things you just do for the people you love and it helps to remember that with young kids a little bit of time spent doing something fun goes a long way. The sun was hot and Charlie was apprehensive about the water sprayers so about an hour and a half was good enough for us.

The thing I do like about this area of the metro is the park itself, which includes a swimming lake, some marsh area and a good walking and biking trail through prairie reserve. For most of the drive you are definitely in the city with all its incumbent traffic and concrete and then all of a sudden you turn off the highway and you are in nature. The Twin Cities have many areas like this where there is clear space reserved for a natural landscape within the urban area. It's one of my favorite things about the place I live because I have a hard time deciding whether I love the city or the country more. I feel as if I can easily have the best of both worlds.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Big Water

When I wake early feeling anxious on days when my life feels a bit beyond my capacity to manage, I think of this place on the edge of the big water and the big sky. The rocks are warm from the sun and the water is cold because it is too big for the weather to change too much. Gulls fly and freighters and sea kayaks glide past. I focus my mind on the smooth stones both gray and brown, shiny and dark when wet and pale and chalky when dry. There is nothing I know that is more peaceful than those stones.

This trip, I will remember:

  • Charlie being scared by some large waves and talking about it over and over. ("I got scared by the waves!)
  • Ellis and Charlie filling buckets with rocks and dumping them from high perches to make avalanches.
  • Nate teaching Ellis to skim stones on the lake.
  • Leaning back onto a large stone like a sun-warmed easy chair and staring out into the blue.
  • Charlie saying "Bye big water!" when we had to go.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Friday #5

Today was the final day of Ellis's summer camp at Leonardo's Basement in Minneapolis. It was the perfect camp for my little mad scientist, full of imagining and creating things with random stuff like Lego's, boxes, wood, and random household detritus. It was the perfect mix of art, science and technology.
Meanwhile, Charlie and I did a lot of driving around the city on various errands. The music for our ride was a fabulous new mix CD that I received in the mail from my friend, Val. We played a game of "I See," which is, I suppose, like "I Spy," but it's not about solving a riddle rather it's about being in the moment. The game was started by Charlie who shouts out from the back seat, "I see..." when he sees something interesting. Here are some of the things both Charlie and I saw:
  • Many multi-colored Head Start school buses
  • Dogs
  • The Mississippi-Sippi Ribber
  • Clouds
  • A man cleaning the sidewalk with a very loud pressurized hose that scared Charlie and that he talked about for the whole ride home from my office.
  • Rough Blazing Star in bloom all over the medians (there are people who can live happily in cities that don't have prairie flowers all over their public spaces, but I am not one of them)
  • Our neighbor Miranda with her class from Laura Jeffrey Academy who are spending this week biking around the city seeing what they can find and learn about the place we live (I can't tell you how excited I was when she told me about this project)
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Wonderful Things from a Low-Key Weekend Around the House

  1. Charlie's joy playing in the wading pool wearing his "babing suit," making rain with the hose and filling buckets, watering cans and other beach toys with water.
  2. Brown-eyed Susans and day lilies and the ongoing luxury of lots and lots of flowers in the yard.
  3. The cardinal perched on the spigot when I went to turn on the hose.
  4. Getting back into the routine of my workouts and that burst of energy they bring.
  5. Naps.
  6. Planning for our Alaska vacation. Slowly putting together activity kits for the plane ride: Mad Libs, card games like Old Maid and Crazy Eights, math dice, mini doodle pro, etc.
  7. Working on an arrangement of "You Never Give Me Your Money" for piano and clarinet.
  8. Rediscovering John Coltrane.
  9. Pulling out "new" toys for Charlie from Ellis's closet.
  10. Reading (and finishing) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Friday #4

Sometimes the desire for adventure gets trumped by the desire for relaxation. After last weekend's road trip followed by a full work week, I decided to push the usual summer Friday activities into Saturday or even Sunday this week. Ellis is at his dad's family cabin and I'm enjoying one of my quiet mellow days off with just Charlie. We are experiencing the deliciousness of having no agenda.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


For the past few months, we have been undertaking a family project as a quest to ensure that Josh's ability to play music isn't lost in the burdens of keeping the family running. You could call in Project Partridge or the Von Trapp Experiment or something clever like that, but the main premise is to bring musical instruments into our house and set about playing them together as a family as well as on our own. The hope was that music in large quantities can be a part of Josh's life without him having to carve out large swathes of time away from the family to do it. Meanwhile, the rest of us get to play music, which adds to all our lives.

The experiment has met with mixed results with the children. The youngest ones are sometimes interested, but a little unfocused. Nate had a brief moment of playing with us, but has shrunk back, as teenagers do, to solitary drumming because he didn't like our choice of music much. Mostly, Josh and I play together now, after the children have gone to bed over a glass of wine. We have dabbled in various combinations of piano, guitar, vibraphone, harmonica and voice in variations of Pachelbel's Canon in D and "You are My Sunshine" and lately some of Josh's originals. For me, this has been another grand experiment in "doing it anyway." While my husband is a natural musician of prodigious talent, I love music, but have always had a tremendous inferiority complex about it. My skills, in my estimation, have never sufficiently matched the passionate feelings I have.

So now there is the clarinet. I played clarinet from fourth grade through sixth grade. A few years ago, while visiting my parents, I decided to take my instrument home with me. It was in tough shape. As part of our recent music initiative, the good people of Cadenza Music repaired it for us. I love having it back - it's beautiful black body and shiny keys, the ritual of greasing the cork and the woody taste of wetting the reed. But most of all the clarinet is the perfect symbol of how I feel about playing music.

I couldn't wait until fourth grade when I could join band and learn an instrument. There were two main girl instruments - flutes and clarinets. Like Betty and Veronica, there were flute girls and there were clarinet girls. Flute girls were ultra-feminine, light and airy, and nice - the girl next door that would make a great wife. Clarinet girls were dark and bookish and sharp and edgy. My sister played flute. I would play clarinet. Despite my initial excitement, band wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. The music was horribly boring. Because my mother wouldn't let me participate in the summer band program, I was relegated to third chair - the most boring simple part of boring simple music. Without success, there was nothing to hold me to it, so I quit and focused on choir, where I did well. Later, I quit choir, too, for lack of positive reinforcement at home. As an adult, I picked up singing again, eventually, but the damage was done. Music felt like it was full of rules that I didn't get because I missed critical years where "everyone else" learned these things. In my mind, I am always third chair.

So now I struggle against those feelings. Each time I play an instrument or sing, I hear a voice in my head the whole time telling me I'm not very good. I'm hoping that if I play long enough that the music will drown out that silly voice and I won't care. The truth is that not doing things that I love is much more painful than struggling with my inferiority complex.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Leap Forward

We were gone for a weekend and came back to amazing changes in the garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini are producing their first little green fruits. Thank you rain, thank you heat, thank you height of summer. I had hoped to eat tomatoes before we head to Alaska in early August and it looks like I will get my wish. There are few things as gratifying as growing your own food, and I take special pride in the tomato plants that I started from seed indoors at the beginning of April and that are huge and covered in flowers and green fruit now. It worked! Oh plants, you are amazing!
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Friday #3

We're getting ready for a holiday weekend trip to Chicago. I'm so grateful to have the van for these long family car trips. It's like a living room on wheels full of movies, snacks, games, music and comfy seats. We're looking forward to a weekend of family, fireworks, fun in the pool, food, and a happy fourth of July. See you after our adventure!
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