Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cute Kid Quotes from a Four-Year-Old

(Because today is the last day I get to use the "four-year-old" tag; she turns 5 tomorrow. Sniff. My baby is growing up.)

1) Upon my telling her at a restaurant to "stop acting like a spoiled brat":

"I am not a wild rat!"

(There are times that's debatable...)

2) In another animal-themed comment, after I mentioned I had seen some sort of animal, too large to be a cat and too small to be a deer, crossing the road in a semi-wooded area of our town on my way home from a late-night meeting:

"Maybe it was a walrus!"

I know they're not indigenous to Minnesota. If they've been introduced, I can only imagine the havoc.

3) Not exactly a quote, but we went to the open house for our new summer childcare program the other day. It's being run out of one of the elementary schools, and has one of those big-basined handwashing sinks you may remember from your own childhood.

N thought it was a bathtub.

4) When holding my hand, walking across the parking lot to the grocery store, said with a tone of marveling surprise:

"Your skin is blond just like mine!"

5) After hanging from the rings at a park:

<i>accompanied by flexing her biceps, and strutting around the playground</i> "Look at my muscles! Muscleman! Muscleman!"

She has also, of late, informed me that she's a "tree expert." Which I guess is more humble than her previous assertion that she's an "everything expert."

In some ways, she's growing up too quickly. Which is why I want to hang on to these cute quotes, and her eating her "yo-grit" and turning her clothes inside out before they go in the wash to "pre-tect" the designs, as long as possible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Books of 2011: 21-25

21. Outcasts United by Warren St. John
(church book group selection)

While the first part of this book seemed like it was going to be dry and difficult to get into, it turned into an interesting narrative of the soccer team formed in a traditional Southern town from the children of refugee immigrants. Since the refugees came from all different countries, and the coach was an immigrant herself, from an Arabic speaking country, it was interesting to read about how the soccer team helped people find a place of belonging. There was also some insight into the cultural changes of the town -- I liked the story of the grocer who saved his fading independent business from the chains' competition by listening to an employee from one of the refugee groups who helped him start stocking some of the specialized foods people were having to go out of their way to buy. Also, quite a bit of discussion about how the refugees did not share a monolithic experience; in fact, some of them may have been resettled in an area with refugees from an ethnic or other group who were their enemies and/or persecutors in their homeland.

22. Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: Followers of Jesus in History and Legend by Bart D. Ehrman  
(from 2008 book list; read during Lent)

You have to love the concept for the title. And, while the author does bring in the folk group in his introductory and concluding remarks, the focus of the book is on the New Testament Biblical people of the names Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene. He shares what is actually known about these people through historical, archeological, etc. research into their times and their documents, as well as the legends that accrued about them in later years and their influence. I find this fascinating stuff -- even though, every time I read a book like this, I have to once again force my brain around understanding the concept of what gnosticism is (I don't seem to be able to retain it between readings).

23. Chasing Spring by Bruce Stutz
(from 2008 book list)

The author takes a cross-country road trip to various areas, from the desert to the Pacific Northwest, in search of natural signs of spring during the months of March through June. He is a naturalist, and it's interesting to hear his takes on various placess, plants and more -- although I don't think the book ever quite reached the level of appeal of Edwin Way Teale's writing for me. (So far, I've only read EWT's Wandering Through Winter, but I do want to read his approaches to the rest of the seasons.) He picks mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest (a section that reminded me of David Guterson's follow-up to Snow Falling On Cedars, Our Lady of the Forest), hikes with a friend in the desert, goes to rural Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana, and flies into the Arctic with bush pilots. A lot of his discussions about climate change and its impact are depressing, but overall, I felt it was a good read.

24. The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
(women's group book group selection)

This book is getting attention in the Minneapolis area because it's by a local author, a young woman who emigrated to the Twin Cities as a young child to become part of the large Hmong community in the area. The book tells the story of her family pre-immigrantion, while living in and being hunted in Laos (the Hmong, who fought for the U.S. during the Vietnam War, have no actual home "land" of their own and were forced into hiding after the war), their escape across the river into Thailand, their time in a refugee camp there and her grandmother's making a living for the extended family through sales of traditional plants, their trip across the ocean, and the years of settling in and making adjustments in Minnesota. It's a valuable glimpse into the Hmong people's experience and culture, especially for those of us living in areas with sizable Hmong populations.

25. Do-Over by Robin Hemley

It's probably supposed to spark some more introspection - what in your life woud you do over? what continues to haunt you? what can you do about it? questions like that -- but I mainly thought this was a fun read. The author is a forty-something-year-old man living in Iowa City who "does over" things that he feels went wrong the first time he experienced them: things like kindergarten, being in a school play, his prom, etc. Part of the fun for me came from having lived in Iowa City and still having family there, so that I recognized some references to places and such in the book -- his "repeat" kindergarten experience takes place in the school my mom attended -- but, overall, it's a fun memoir type book.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spring Vacation: It Was a Zoo (Or Two)

Our vacation this spring was a family "zoo tour."Since we are lucky enough that my mother gets us memberships to the Minnesota Zoo for birthday presents, we also have the advantage of getting discount tickets to other zoos -- such as Kansas City and Omaha. And, since DH's work schedule gets crazy busy in the summer, and N starts kindergarten in the fall, if we were going to fulfill this family zoo tour dream of his, this spring it was. We drove from the Minneapolis area to Omaha the first day, filling time in the car with a few extras for this extra-long car trip like audiobooks of Olivia and Arthur stories from the library, some laminated letter tracing pages from the preschool packs at Homeschool Creations, and mazes, dot to dots and a U.S. map from the  Travel Activities in a Binder eBook download that was available in April to subscribers to the Molly Green newsletter at (I had extra car time fun stuff stashed "up my sleeve," as it were, but didn't end up using it, as she did so well without it. I'm saving it for another long car ride later in the summer.)

I had had a heck of a time finding an open hotel room to reserve in Omaha; it turned out that weekend was the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' conference, which might help to explain that. We ended up staying at the Hampton, which was a bit more upscale than I had originally planned, but was a very nice hotel and hotel experience (some gift money covered the hotels). Luckily, it was next door to a Target, too, since DH and N had neglected to pack her pajamas. She was due for some new summer ones anyway, and the Target gift card in my purse from a previous deal came in handy for the pink nightgown emblazoned with a rainbow unicorn on the front.

The Hampton did have an indoor pool (my hotel requirements had been that they serve breakfast -- to save money and time - and that they have an indoor pool, since we would be taking a four-year-old on long car trips in the Midwest in early spring), but it was quite cool, and the water in the shallow end came to maybe an inch below the four-year-old's mouth. We went in there for a while, but I pretty much had to hang onto her the whole time. The breakfast was great, though. At one point, we got into the elevator along with a group of Japanese businessmen, who N at first thought were the president. (I guess there are a lot of Japanese people in Hawaii...) One of them spontaneously gave her a mini kewpie doll thing on a business card that said -- something-- in Japanese. It's attached to a string, so N told me she wants to hang it on our Christmas tree. I put it with the ornaments when we got home.

I was very impressed with the Omaha Zoo. They have a year-round butterfly exhibit, a huge indoor jungle exhibit with meandering rivers with hippos and such in them, and animal statues and fountains scattered throughout the zoo. There's a bridge with fish food machines where kids can throw food to very fat koi fish and some swans, and a farm petting zoo area with goats and such, right behind a very nice merry-go-round. We watched an otter try to get herself into one of the otter home holes and had a zookeeper tell us she was a bit confused, because she'd just been moved out of that hole and into the other one the day before. They also had a desert exhibit, and a huge nocturnal animals exhibit that was both cool and creepy, as you walked along very, very dimly lit bridges and occasionally saw an alligator, or a muskrat, or a beaver, in the waters below (if you had a flashlight or other source of light; that part wasn't very well thought-out). We saw a swan building a nest along a stream bank, and some storks nesting on the roof of a building in the enclosed aviary. It *was* a bit disconcerting that there was a small leak in the polar bear's exhibit out of which water was coming, but overall, the Omaha zoo was very cool.

They were having a DNA days special event the day we were there, so there were tables set up various places where the four-year-old got to do things like build a marshmallow and dry pasta critter sculpture using a roll of the dice to determine what features it would inherit from each parent, and to collect (well, I collected them for her) famous scientist trading cards.

After spending a day at the Omaha Zoo, we spent the next day driving to Kansas City, where our hotel was much less nice, the hotel was in a much less nice area of town, the indoor pool was in an enclosed building -- that you had to walk through the outside courtyard, in very cool weather, to get to -- and the check-in staff's computers kept breaking down.

Ironically, this place's pool -- despite the needing to go outside, in our bathing suits (and sweatshirts) in 60-degree weather to get there, turned out to be much more fun: the water was warmer, and the shallow end was actually shallow enough for young children. (Not unsupervised, of course.) N and I had some good play time there; she surprised me with how much of the skills drills (cleverly disguised as fun games) she remembered from last year's swimming lessons, as she told me what to do while she acted as the teacher.

Our day at the Kansas City Zoo was a cold one, despite being the first of May -- it sleeted on us briefly! but was still fun. You could tell it's an older zoo than Omaha, with several of the exhibits showing their age, but it's also quite spacious and in the middle of a park full of trees. That part impressed DH, and I would guess that, on a hot summer day, it would likely be nicely cool and shady.

One of the big draws for our family of the Kansas City Zoo was the African animals exhibit (for some reason, N is very interested in Africa and African animals). We saw the hippos, the lions and more. They also had elephants -- four or five of them, I was pleased to see, having recently read about how elephants get very lonely when there is just one of them. An unusual feature of the Kansas City Zoo was an Australia area where the kangaroos appeared to roam free on a veldt...or, in Kansas City, I would guess it might just be a field of grass...near a cafe where people could sit at outdoor tables and watch them. No fence, or at least none that was apparent. Also in the Australian area was a sheep farm exhibit, where shearing was taking place the day we were there. (Unfortunately, this did not appear to be an expert shearer; I happened to have just read a book partly about sheep farming, and there were way too many nicks on those newly naked sheep.)

There were some great climbing areas for kids at this zoo, including a rope net where you were supposed to pretend to be a spider monkey, and a huge baobab tree the kids could climb to the top of and peer out, with slides about halfway down it. We rode the zoo's train as a family; N rode on the carousel; and she fed the deer -- I've never been to a zoo with deer feeding before.

As her souvenirs from these zoos, N picked out a stuffed zebra in Omaha and a stuffed llama in Kansas City at the gift shops. Her favorite stuffed Sheep, who did of course accompany us on the trip, actually stayed behind in the hotel rather than riding in the car to the Kansas City Zoo -- but, as we walked out the gate toward our car after the day there, she called her Sheep on her pretend cell phone to say what was going on, "Oh, we went to the zoo..."

While we did not go to the Worlds of Fun amusement park, we did drive past it on on our way into and out of Kansas City, an it was quite visible from the freeway, particularly the large roller coaster. That prompted the comment from N, "Wow! Look at that! I would *pay* to go on that!" (I asked her how much she would pay. "One hundred ninety dollars," was the answer.)

Rather than driving all the way back from Kansas City to Minneapolis in one day, we stopped off at my parents' house in Iowa for a night. This also had the advantage of giving DH and I an opportunity to go out on our own for a belated anniversary dinner, whilst N stayed with Grandma and Grandpa. On our drive home, as were speculating whether she had convinced Grandma to go to the ice cream shop, we passed the two of them walking uptown headed toward exactly that destination.