Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend Update

Dear Weather: Get with the program! Tomorrow will be the first of May, and I'd like to be done for a few months with my feet feeling like icicles. Thank you.

Last Friday afternoon, I volunteered as a "book club" leader in the kindergarten class. That involves reading a storybook to a small group (thankfully, my small group was less rambunctious this time than previously; and this includes my kid) and then doing some activities based on the book. We read Dear Bear, about a little girl who is scared of the bear living in the closet under the stairs. Our activities included making bear puppets with paper lunch sacks, cutting and assembling (with glue sticks) sandwiches from coloring pages, and then having a brief tea party with a toy tea set and some pretend tea.

The weekend was cool and rainy. We spent time indoors, watching the Chimpanzee movie at our local movie theater and visiting the play area at the mall. Sunday was a special celebration of music at church, with musical participation from all the choirs -- from the littlest ones, including the three- to five-year-olds choir that Nora sings with -- on up to the adult choir, as well as the bell choir. (There were also some people sitting in the choir loft with trumpets, but they never appeared to play them. I haven't figured that out.) The music was wonderful and joyful, as befitting the Easter season, with the little kids giving a very enthusiastic singing of "We Are the Church" (which I also frequently hear practiced at home).

After church and dinner on Sunday, we headed over to St. Paul for the Minnesota Horse Expo. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until I had time to flip through the program on our way home that Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, had been there. (Our family owns the movie Secretariat and has seen it many, many times --- particularly the smallest, most horse-obsessed member of our family.) We did, however, see and pet lots and lots of horses, and Nora took one of the free pony rides. She informed us that Chester was a nice pony. She was also impressed with the horses that had won prizes -- and the pony with the pink nail polish on her hooves. And we watched for a while as some members of a group that does gymnastics while standing on a horse's back demonstrated some of their techniques and talked about their training.

We also finished up reading The Unicorn Princess (Fetlocks Hall) by Babette Cole, a chapter book that was one of our library finds a couple of weeks ago. I don't think we knew what we were getting into: it's the first in a series that's essentially Harry Potter with unicorns instead of wizards. Between the British-isms, the horse terminology, and the words the author made up, I don't think either of us knew what was going on half the time. I console myself with the thought that it's increasing her vocabulary.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Spring Doings

So, if I update once a week, can I call it weekly updates? I don't think so, since I'm still catching up on my remembrances of more than a week ago.

Lately, in our household: we learned a bit about how to use the library catalog to find books. This came at the request to "use the computer to find books about unicorns." We did a subject search, wrote down the title, author and shelving locations, and searched for and found the four titles deemed acceptable. (Our library system evidently has 76 children's books under the subject of "unicorn," but the catalog displays cover images, and some with jousting knights in stormy backgrounds were deemed "too scary.") So far, we've made our way through a Candy Fairies book, A  Valentine's Surprise by Helen Perelman.

After that library outing, we then attended our city's parks and recreation department's Animal Open House. The resident reptiles (turtles, lizards, etc.) of the Outdoor Center were on display, and additional animals were brought in for the day: a chicken, a couple of miniature horses, a raccoon (used in a demonstration by the city naturalist), a chinchilla. There was a display of pelts for the kids to feel and guess what they had come from, and a "quiz" game for prizes of a bottle of water or a box of Cracker Jacks. (I do think they could have geared the questions up a little bit from the toddler/preschool level for some of the kids. One of the queries was: "What color is a bluebird?") Nora also got her burning question of the day answered by the city naturalist: "Does anything hunt owls?" (Answer: "Other owls.")

It was kind of an animal-themed week, as it also included a kindergarten field trip to a nature center, and a special guest star at the Girl Scouts meeting: one of the other girls' family dog, who was there for a discussion about "how to take care of dogs and other animals." And we followed up the following weekend with a trip to the Minnesota Zoo to see the annual Animal Babies exhibit: bunnies, chicks, calves, piglets and excitedly hopping goat kids at the farm, a baby monkey clinging to its mother's tummy.

I spent part of a weekend this month volunteering at a fancy gala, too: I got to get dressed up and go to the ball -- to work the carnival games and sell the fundraising beads. :) The money from the event goes to support a variety of local charitable endeavors.

Nora and I made a pecan pie with the leftover pie crust from our Easter lemon meringue version and some pecans picked up on sale after Christmas. (I figured we should probably eat the pecans before they went bad. And we haven't attempted homemade piecrust yet.) I also baked some banana muffins for breakfasts this weekend with some bananas from the freezer. I've been in a bit of a menu planning rut lately, and I've kind of lost track of my freezer inventory, but I do need to see what other produce is in there that we should be eating down before the next season.

The weather this month has been alternating between lovely spring, and rainy. There has been some park time, but probably not enough. I did finally find a dry (enough) day to mow the lawn and trim the edges. I chopped off a bunch of dandelions in doing so, making the yard noticeably less yellow, but two full bouquets had already been displayed in a green vase indoors. I'm enjoying watching the birds this spring, too. I've seen wild turkeys wandering about on my drive to work, a ring-necked pheasant running across the street in front of my car in our suburb, robins hunting in our yard, chickadees perching in our trees, and a pair of purple finches sitting on our deck with nesting material in their mouths. And, upon our return from church choir last week, we helped the next door neighbor uproot some of the dozens of maple seedlings that had self-sown in her yard (with a brief discussion of how we'd end up living in a forest if we let them grow, and a suggestion from the five-year-old that we could turn our house into a maple syrup factory).

I'm attempting to enjoy spring as it's here (I did finally finish reading North with the Spring by Edwin Way Teale; for some reason, it took quite a while), but summer approacheth -- at least, in terms of planning kid activities. I need to get on that.

Dance class had costume/photo day this week (so they make sure all the kids are looking right for recitals), and they handed out the class schedule for next year already. I asked Nora if she was taking dance next year, and her reaction, in a tone of voice that assumed this was sooooo obvious, was "Yeah! Every year!" I guess there's an interest. (Which I knew: she frequently tries to teach me dance steps, and her dance teacher's evaluation sheet for her, with recommendations for next year's classes, said she's a natural dancer -- and "full of energy.")

And, oh yes, I also meant to write down: inspired by the litter we've seen blowing into yards in the April winds, Nora's current plans for her grownup years include being "a paleontologist, what digs up dinosaur bones, a mom, and someone who cleans up all the litter in the world."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April - Easter (Was) In It

Somehow, I need to find time to blog. The longer I go without doing so, the harder it is -- the harder it gets to think, even.

So, April. The cruelest month? Perhaps. After early warm spells, we had to dig out our winter coats again yesterday. At least we didn't have tornadoes -- just a hailstorm early in Holy Week. (The guy who is supposed to be checking the roof for damage has so far managed to miss two appointments. Frustrating.) We need rain, and have been getting some -- but this also means that the grass has been too wet to mow when I have time to do so. Pretty soon, it's going to be too long in spots for our reel mower to handle, and I'll have to call in the yard-obsessed (soooo not us) retired neighbor and suffer through his ill-concealed disdain for our natural approach. (A different neighbor refused the five-year-old's proferred bouquet of a fistful of dandelions the other day. I can't imagine why....)

I started out in productive mode this month (helped by the spring break trip of DH and daughter to visit his old college friends, so that I actually had time in the house By. Myself. for a couple of days) -- but I have since fizzled. The "scary room," however, is no longer scary, and is actually clean (for the first time in, yes, years, because it had been so messy it had been impossible to clean in there). It's neat, too: a section of project A that needs to be done, Project B that needs to be done, etc. and so forth. Not that they're getting done.

Fun stuff: Easter was a beautiful day, and Nora's choir sang nicely as church began, standing in front of all the lilies on the altar. She had a new dress -- pale blue with different colors of flowers on it, including purple, which matched a little purple shrug sweater from The Children's Place. My mom made the dress -- and matching ones both for her 18-inch doll and her favorite stuffed sheep. (The doll has since been spotted wearing her Easter dress along with a jaunty riding hat.) My only new "clothes" this year was a purse, but I wore the skirt my mom made me last year.

Our Easter menu entailed: Resurrection rolls (crescent rolls, rolled up like shrouds around marshmallows that have been dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon-sugar -- symbolizing the oils and spices that the women in the Bible wanted to apply to Jesus's body; the marshmallows melt when the rolls are baked, so the "tomb" is empty); ham done in the crockpot with pineapple and pineapple juice, mustard and brown sugar; asparagus (DH's favorite); a green salad with some of last year's strawberries from the freezer; Rice Krispie treat nests (we formed them up the sides of our muffin tins and then made indentations in the middle), filled with egg-shaped M&Ms; hard-boiled eggs; and lemon meringue pie. Breakfast -- for us and for contribution to the church's Easter breakfast (I made two) was rhubarb coffee cake, with some of last year's rhubarb from the freezer.

We did an egg hunt and Easter story at a local church the day before (outdoors, and it rained just beforehand, so all of the eggs -- and kids -- were pretty wet, but it was fun), and Nora received an Easter basket (which, conveniently, has now morphed into something that looks *exactly* like those dollar store wastebaskets and is now serving her in her room. We spent some time blowing and chasing bubbles from the bubble wand outside. (She also received several books, including One Lost Sheep, a retelling of the parable but that may be a little too young for her, as well as some "I Can Read" type titles; elastic ponytail holders and headbands; a Barbie sticker book; paint -- to replenish the dwindled supply --  and fingerpaint, and fingerpaint paper. Plus some candy.)