School Break

Last week the kids had two days off of school, the famous MEA weekend in Minnesota, where public schools ostensibly give teachers two days off to attend an educational conference.

But basically this is a Mini Spring Break in the Fall, and many families take copious advantage of this to escape town for a long weekend.

Per my usual state, I didn’t prepare well in advance and for Day 1 of break, both MGM and Trixie found themselves back at school for an all-day Kids’ Club session.

Miraculously, I’d had foresight back in the summer to take off work for Day 2 of the break, so we had a whole day to spend together. It was a perfect fall day – warm and sunny – and we decided to do something fall-y, which was to go to a corn maze.

Everyone else in the Metro Area had the same idea. This place was a zoo, figuratively and literally since there was a petting zoo area. 

After paying for entrance fees, face painting, some strange food for the animals at the petting zoo, overpriced drinks and for camel (!) rides, I was suddenly $100 poorer for the effort.

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But the kids had a blast, especially in an area that was like a ball or sand pit, except completely filled with corn.

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On the con side, I’ve been digging corn kernels out of the washing machine for a week.

The weekend held one more perfect day and this time, I decided we were going to get some culture. Off the the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden!

If you’ve ever seen pictures of Minneapolis, there’s a fair chance you’ve seen the most iconic work in the garden, Spoonbridge and Cherry.

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The kids appreciated the art about as much as I predicted, which was approximately a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10.

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This “snowman” sculpture was a hit with the late afternoon sun providing a perfect angle for the shadows:

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The giant blue chicken also did not disappoint:

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In the end we spent about an hour and a half enjoying the sculptures and running up and down the hill behind the Walker Art Center (them, not me).

Perfect way to cap off fall break!

Clue 2017

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Trixie recently discovered the classic boardgame Clue.

You know, the murder mystery game where Colonel Mustard did it with the knife in the Conservatory.

We uprooted my family’s 1970s version (complete with wooden game pieces and at least three characters who appear to be smoking) at my mom’s lake house a few weekends ago, and she quickly became enamored.

So much so that she made her own version:

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There were a few liberties taken with the rooms:

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And the characters:

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Besides Mr. Col. Musterd (sic), there was also Mrs. Musterd, Mr. Salad, Mr. Elevator, and Mrs. Peacock. Of course that temptress Miss Scarlet was also represented.

Some of the weapons were redundant, considering “gun” and “revolver” both made the cut:

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We had a lot of fun playing a few rounds of this version, but in the end we decided to splurge and buy our own 2017 model for the low price of $9 at Target.

Now we can ask Whodunnit every night!

 

Summer Camp

Last week, Spouse and I took a leap of faith and sent Trixie off to camp.

For three weeks, one of which is spent doing a canoe trip that involves setting up tents, portaging and crossing the U.S. border into Canada.

She’s eight years old.

One more thing about that canoe trip: the guides purposefully steer the girls into headwinds and cheer when it rains under the premise that adversity builds character.

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I already love this camp.

“This American Life” recently replayed a 1998 episode (it’s held up remarkably well) entitled “Notes on Camp,”which explains the rituals, memories and strong emotions of kids who’ve grown up attending the same camp every summer. I highly recommend a listen; it would make almost anyone yearn for a type of childhood that most of us don’t get to experience.

The thing I love most about Trixie’s camp is that it’s an all female environment, from the campers to the counselors to the cooks to the camp director. The emphasis is on building strength, confidence and character, something I am 100% behind and I think is best accomplished in this exact setting.

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Trixie is already strong and confident, but the world can be tough on girls and even the strongest wings will have to fly through some storms.

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My friend M’s daughter is also attending this session. This is her second year at camp (she’s older than Trixie) and M. described last year’s experience as transformative for her daughter. I am hoping for the same.

My biggest wish: Trixie attends every summer and ultimately builds memories, friendships and qualities that last a lifetime.

I have so many dreams and hopes for This Girl.

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Fatherless Father’s Day

I avoided social media yesterday.

This wasn’t a planned weekend technology detox – I am not that noble – rather, it was an act of self defense.

June 1st marked the 15th anniversary of my own father’s death, and while I am not the type to dwell on this fact often, on Father’s Day it’s really unavoidable.

In the decade and a half since my dad died from cancer, I’ve had friends whose fathers have also died.

This led me to think: what is the age where it is generally/socially assumed that one’s parent(s) is/are no longer alive?

Certainly it is not 29, which is the age I was when this happened to me. (My mom is still alive and kicking in great health, thankfully).

In the most conservative estimate, I’d wager 65 years is a safe bet. And if you’re 65 or older and you have living parent(s), wow! Celebrate your luck and fine genetics.

Dialing it back: 60 seems safe. Ditto 55. 50? Sure.

When I get to 45 and then 40 years, I’m not so certain.

The math isn’t easy. Average life expectancy in the US is about 79 years, and the average age of a first birth for an American woman is now 26. This obviously doesn’t account for being the sixth child in a family and thus having older parents or being the offspring of teenagers.

If the statistics can be used at all, it would suggest that most modern adults are roughly 79 – 26 = 53 years old when a parent is lost.

Once again, 29 seems to unfairly be on the wrong side of that equation.

So I stayed away from social media posts yesterday and felt grateful to be in the presence of another great dad, my Ever Patient Spouse.

 

 

Mother’s Day Recap

I’ll cut to the chase: the end of Mother’s Day found me in my too familiar spot, alone in a hotel room, preparing for a painfully early (6:15 AM) meeting that is a must attend situation.

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I knew I had to go, but I procrastinated as much as possible to spend more time at home before packing up and hitting the road about 5 PM. An 11 mile stretch of road construction also padded my drive by an extra thirty minutes, which soured the experience even more.

The day leading up to that moment wasn’t too bad, though, despite MGM (9) waking me up at 5:45 AM to try and find a lost iPad.

With the crisis averted, I was able to successfully doze until about 8 AM.

Spouse made breakfast tacos while Trixie (8) and I read outside, coffee in hand (me).

Unfortunately, I tweaked a muscle in my left leg on Friday at Orangetheory Fitness, and running – normally a thing I love to do on Mother’s Day (see below) – was out of the question. After breakfast, the whole family went for a walk.

It was a beautiful day but both kids vociferously complained about being outside. The dog quit after about 10 minutes and had to be carried most of the way home. 

For the past three years, I’ve spent Mother’s Day running my favorite race, the RunDisney Tinkerbell Half Marathon, which is held in and around Disneyland. I’ve typically gone out to California on a Thursday, checked into my hotel and gone to the race expo, then spent Friday by myself at Disneyland, completing a 10K race Saturday and the half on Sunday, then flying home – renewed and refreshed, plus with new bling – Sunday evening.

With all of the changes this year, being gone even more from the family seemed rude, and frankly, I couldn’t justify the expense of a solo trip to Cali when we are sitting with an unsold house (nearly 50 days on the market and no bites, huge sigh), moving expenses, etc.

Back at the Ranch: Trixie and I read outside some more, I took a nap on the sofa (!!!), we went for another walk, made gluten free chocolate chip cookies, and then I really had to go.

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The kids made crafts at school for me, but Spouse also gifted me with this mantra band:

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Nevertheless, she persisted.

While an obvious nod to current-ish events and Elizabeth Warren, I think this is also appropriate given everything we’ve got going on in our lives right now.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to those who mother – in the broad verb sense of the word – in every possible way.

 

 

Our Home Chef Experience

As I’ve mentioned many times, I hate all domestic chores. 

Especially cooking.

When Spouse and I were first married nearly 19 (!) years ago, I frequently made ambitious but only semi-successful dinners, often inviting friends over to eat un-tested recipes cooked in the 1950s kitchen of our 600 square foot apartment.

The most famous fail was when I made salmon for friends and the directions said to wash fish, so I did.

With Dawn detergent.

The dish bubbled in the oven.

My subsequent strategy for dinner parties became this: get guests intoxicated enough to mostly ignore (and forgive) any missteps with the food.

When kids came along, we didn’t make a lot of effort to step up our game. Shame on us.

While I would assemble things for dinner (a salad, frozen veggies, maybe a sandwich), to say that I cooked often would be a stretch.

The creepy pizza delivery guy also became a little too familiar with our regular Friday night order.

With our pending move and the many changes coming with it (especially the fact that I am gone 3-4 nights per week), we decided that family dinners were more important than ever.

Enter Home Chef.

Spouse did the research on many of the home delivery dinner services available (so many!), and we selected Home Chef based on the fact that they can deliver to our town and have gluten free offerings (mandatory for Trixie – 8 – who has severe celiac disease).

Currently, we get two meals per week. Spouse usually ends up cooking one while I am gone and usually we make one as a family on the weekend.

Pros:

  • These meals are definitely better than what we would make on our own. Some I would describe as restaurant quality, like Cajun shrimp and cheesy grits.
  • Speaking of grits: this is something I never would have made on my own. Never. Having grown up in Wisconsin, grits were NOT a staple in our house. While I’ve had them a few times as an adult – both sweet and savory – they aren’t something I particularly like or crave. But with Home Chef, I found out they were pretty easy to make and grits with cheese and butter, oh my. Yum.
  • My kids have been introduced to new flavors. Last weekend we made a Korean inspired meal with pork and an absolutely delicious cabbage slaw. I don’t eat pork, but I went nuts on that slaw. So good.
  • Portions are large. We order meals to feed four people, but even when we eat a lot (see above re: going nuts on the slaw), there are leftovers.

Cons:

  • It takes us absolutely forever to make a meal. When we have plenty of time, like a leisurely Saturday night, this isn’t a big deal, but weeknights are a stretch to get dinner on the table before the kids’ (theoretical) bedtime.
  • It’s a lot more work than we are used to doing. There’s always so much chopping.
  • The kitchen is invariably a huge mess by the time we’re done.
  • The packaging seems extremely wasteful, especially the cold packs and lining materials in the boxes.
  • It’s not cheap. So far we’ve made every meal we’ve received, but there will be a time that we don’t get to one and have to toss the ingredients, and I will be angry at throwing away money when this day comes.
  • I can’t eat a lot of it. I eat seafood but not beef, chicken or pork. The rest of my family does. We did not sign up for vegetarian options, but we could have. Given the gluten restriction and our kids’ tastes (which tend to run meat-y), we opted to keep meat in the mix and nix the gluten rather than go vegetarian. I still like the sides that come with the meals, though, and I usually make something extra for myself (salad) and fill up on the sides.
  • While well-packaged, some of the meat has leaked. It did not seem spoiled, but it’s unappetizing and potentially unsafe to say the least.

Overall, Home Chef has been a good experiment for us. We’ve been using the service for about 3 months, and it’s still novel. There may come a time when it isn’t, but for now we’ll stick with it.

Final comment: while opinions in our family have generally been positive about the food, Spouse did find this note written by Trixie earlier this week:

 

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored in any way by Home Chef. We use them and I thought I’d share the experience, good and bad.

P.P.S. This blog does not, in fact, have any sponsors, although I would welcome an opportunity to shamelessly plug brands I love, like Louis Vuitton. So, Vuitton, if you are reading this, I would be happy to review your spring 2017 collection.

Trixie’s 8th Birthday

Trixie turned eight on Sunday.

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She was sooooo excited to open her presents that she woke me up at 6 A.M. to get the party started.

After being told that 6 A.M. was far too early to wake everyone up on a Sunday, she came back to check at 6:30 and 7:00.

At 7:01, I relented, got out of bed and fired up the coffee.

Through my friend M., we were able to secure a Hatchimal as a gift.

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Unfortunately, Trixie’s Hatchimal did not hatch, which appears to be a common problem.

We were able to open the shell ourselves, which prompted her to declare that her Hatchimal – “Pinky” – was born via cesarean section.

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After a birthday party with friends at a local bowling alley, the four of us headed home for her dinner of choice: sushi, followed by a (gluten-free) red velvet cake and ice cream, a round of a new game (Disney’s “Beat the Parents”) and a showing of “Garfield, a Tail of Two Kitties.” 

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She declared it the best birthday ever. Heart full.

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