Sunday, August 31, 2008

The House in the Night

While in Minnesota, we visited Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, an independent bookshop with a wonderful selection of picture books, young adult fiction and Native American literature (with a fabulous kids lofted play area). I picked up a book of poems by the owner, Louise Erdrich, called "Original Fire" and a lovely children's book by a Minnesotan author Susan Marie Swanson called "The House in the Night." It is beautifully illustrated by Beth Krommes of New Hampshire and was inspired by classic nursery rhymes with cumulative patterns. The book pulls you in with a golden key, which opens the door to a house. In the house there is a light, a bed and a book. We enter the book on a birds' song and view the "starry dark." As we begin to circle back to the key and the house and the bed, Swanson writes:
"Sun in the moon,
moon in the dark,
dark in the song,
song in the bird,
bird in the book..."

A truly, lovely bedtime story with magical illustrations.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Just a little bit longer...

Back from vacation and wishing school wasn't just around the next corner with it's 8am studios, daily cold lunches for three, fall sports practices, cooler evenings and earlier sunsets. But who am I to question our swiftly tilting planet? The one that reveals an orange moon rising in a star speckled black night, or a clear view of the milky way on a warm night when one can jump off a pier, after sweating in a wood fire sauna, and stare back at Jupiter. The one that smells of pine and dirt, produces delectable tomatoes and spicy peppers. The one that brings constant change, reminding me again and again to adjust and adapt, but also to enjoy and savor.

more pictures of our trip to Minnesota here

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Night Deer

My sis is showing her paintings and quilts this weekend and I will share my favorite, Night Deer. The rest you have to go see for yourself at a little grocery store in NE Portland. If that is impossible, like it is most unfortunately for me, check out her etsy shop Foxes Wedding for some beautiful quilts handmade from vintage and reclaimed materials. Congrats Steph!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Things to do in Wisconsin with Kids

Having grown up in Wisconsin and eventually settling here as an adult, I have had lots of opportunities to explore the outdoors. As a child, we searched for concretions on the shores of Lake Superior, collected purple quartz from abandoned quarries, climbed deep into caverns looking for cave drawings and arrowheads, hiked through bogs, sand dunes, pine forests and open fields (weather we liked it or not!). Now with a family of my own, I have revisited old favorites and explored new territory like the LaPoint Museum on Madeline Island, Fish Days in Port Washington (World’s Largest Fish Fry), the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc a multitude of drives through the farmland and the national forests to little towns like Sheboygan, Cedarburg, Egg Harbor, Bayfield, Lake Geneva, Ashland, Jefferson and many more. Here are some of our favorites!

Apostle Islands: Tour the Apostle Islands near Bayfield, Ferry to Madeline Island, have a drink at Tom's burned down Cafe
Baraboo: take a swim in Devil's lake , camp, rock climb
Blue Mounds Mine, Dig and explore Cave of the Mounds
Copper Falls State Park : (Near Mellon) Watch the bad river fall
Door County: Take the Washington Island Ferry, visit Port des Mort (Deaths Door)
Eagle: Visit recreated late 19th century farmsteads at Old World Wisconsin
East Troy: Ride on Wisconsin's last original electric railroad line at the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum
Horicon: Look for loons, herons, and migrant flocks of geese at the wetlands in Horicon Marsh
Jefferson: Watch a movie under the stars at the Highway 18 drive in theater
Lake Geneva: Spend a day at the beach, tour the lake by boat
Madison: Swim at Spaight beach on Lake Monona, play at nearby Orton park, visit the Capital building, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, and the Dane County Farmers’ Market
North Freedom: Ride a restored steel coach at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum
Oshkosh: See the EAA AirVenture and pick up some overalls B'gosh!
Sheboygan: Visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Blue Harbor Resort and water park, and the sand dunes at Kohler Andre State Park.
Spring Green Tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin East and the strange and unusual House on the Rock
West Bend: Make a visitation to the effigies at Lizard Mound State Park
Wisconsin Dells: Ride a Duck, conquer Mt. Olympus

Bonus Oddities
Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, Mt.Horeb
Sputnikfest Landing site of debris from Russian Sputnik 4, Manitowoc
Replica of Aldo Leopold Shack, Shack Near Portage
Bristol Renaissance Faire
Warrens Cranberry Festival
(Although not in Wisconsin) Devils Kettle Falls in Grand Marais, Minnesota - Truly a sight to behold - The rushing Brule River splits around a mass of volcanic rock, half of which plunges 50 feet into a pool, while the rest disappears into an underground river thought to empty into Lake Superior. "They have thrown dyes and logs and other things into the pothole, but apparently nothing ever comes out." Freakish!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

25 things to do in Milwaukee with kids

AlphaMom is highlighting major cities in a series called Hotspots - 50 things to do with your kids before they grow up. The list of cities keeps growing, and so far guest bloggers have created lists for Portland (Maine), Boston, San Francisco, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, New York, Chi Town and the Twin Cities (of which I found helpful in planning our upcoming trip to Minneapolis next week). There are undoubtedly ample activities to do with your kids in the Metro Milwaukee area and this post only scratches the surface. Next post will explore the must sees and dos in the whole of Dairyland. Feel free to add your favorites!

25 things to do in Milwaukee with kids
1) The train show at the Mitchell Park Domes
2) The baby orangutan at the Milwaukee County Zoo
3) Sail the Dennis Sullivan at Discovery World
4) Play mechanic, doctor, musician or engineer at the Betty Brinn Children's Museum
5) Ice skate at Red Arrow Park
6) Bike down to Music de Lago at Alterra on the Lake
7) See a First Stage Children's Theatre production
8) Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum (the Calatrava)
9) Be a Surpie: check out American Science and Surplus for art supplies, toys and the truly unexpected
10) Picnic and dance at the Global Union Concert in Humboldt Park
11) Spend a morning at the Milwaukee Public Museum Streets of Old Milwaukee
12) See a film at the Oriental Theater during the Milwaukee International Film Festival
13) Listen to story hour at the children's room in the downtown public library
14) Canoe the Milwaukee River; borrow one from the Urban Ecology Center
15) Eat custard and a grilled cheese at Kopps Frozen Custard
16) View the stars at the Manfred Olsen Planetarium University of Milwaukee Wisconsin
17) Eat a cream puff or two at the Wisconsin State Fair
18) Enjoy traditional family style fish fry at Lakefront Brewery
19) Visit Milwaukee's favorite independent bookseller, Schwartz Bookshops for story hour
20) Treat yourself to Italian cookies and fresh bread at Sciortino's Bakery on Brady Street
21) Check out the year-round Fondy Farmers’ Market
22) Walk, hike or bike the Oak Leaf Trail
23) See a Ko-Thi Dance Company production
24) Enjoy popcorn, (root) beer and a kids movie at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill
25) Visit America's Black Holocaust Museum

Monday, August 11, 2008

Birthday Weekend

So, after all, what do you do but celebrate a sweet boy and another healthy year. Happy 12th birthday Jujifruit, Jules, Juju, Mr. Juj. Yeah you, Juliano! The boys spent an afternoon at Discovery World, watched a feeding frenzy, toured the solar system and checked out the robotics and music exhibits. We ate cake, sent up balloons with a self addressed postcards, painted the driveway, ate and ate and opened presents (including a Venus Fly Trap!). I think Stelladog enjoyed the jumping fish party favors more than anyone!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More thoughts on becoming a parent

Here are some thoughts/edited journal entries about what came before mothering:

My son was born a week late, but early in our lives. I was morning the loss of my young brother, who took his life at age 19. I had left college during my final year, unable to focus on statistics and German language conjugations, wanting instead to go home, sleep in my old bed and write poetry in my journals. But a man, a man I knew as a boy, returned after two years in Africa, returned from teaching biology in the Peace Corps, returned with the dozens of love letters I sent. We were giddy in love, silly and smitten, maybe foolish, but what did it matter? We were married and soon became a mother and a father to a beautiful baby boy with a shock of black hair atop his tiny pink head. We were young, the first of our peers to have a child, unemployed and underemployed with no health insurance, no clue what parenting would be like. And we jumped in...

I remember and relive this each year around Juj's birthday. He was our first child, the one who taught us how to be parents, the one who witnessed the early stresses of our marriage, my struggles with a new identify, our evolution as a family and the entire 9 years of John's medical training. I found early parenting to be isolating and stressful, with a startling lack of support. We worked opposite shifts and felt the weight of the world, as if we were the first and only humans on earth to try to raise a child, pursue our career interests, develop our relationship and stay sane. Balance, solutions, support and knowledge all come from experience and we were sorely lacking in that twelve years ago.

Maybe all families go through a similar transformation, maybe that is what makes a marriage and family unique. Still, there are so many things I wish were different: a more child-centered society, careers that respect parenting and family life, affordable, quality childcare, more cohesive communities that nurture the mother in her new role, longer maternity leaves, workplace accommodation for breastfeeding and an end to the stigma for a mother who seeks help, wheather in the form of food, energy assistance or health care. And a little empathy in the grocery stores during toddler meltdowns, would help too!
What do you wish?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The first due date

When I hear the word "August," I think humidity; hot and sticky and sweltering. August 1st came around and indeed the weather fulfilled my expectations. August 1st, twelve years ago, was Juj's due date, and that day came and went with no signs of labor. I actually believed in a due date back then - a magical number - a promise. I waited and waited in the hot days of early august, and nothing. No contractions, no spotting, no effacement, no dilation. Seven days later and the same story. He's late, he's stubborn, he's a girl, people would say. Let's get this thing cracking my Dr. would say. Still, nothing, after a day and a night of induction. Ridiculous, I thought. What did I know? August 9th, 11:22 p.m., Julian emerged, blue and then crying. My boy, my dark haired beautiful boy who I will always protect, who will always make me wonder, "what do I know?" And then, life will happen, as it always does, regardless of the weather or the promises, despite the waiting or the wishing or the predictions.

This week I will watch him with wonder.