Archive for Field Trips and Outings

Beautiful Fall Day

I would use the term, “Indian Summer,” but not knowing the origin of the word and being to lazy to Wikipedia it, I am assuming it is something no longer appropriate for use. It was October, it was eighty degrees. It was lovely, and I engineered some forced family fun at the playground, bribing the husband with the promise of General Tao’s tofu and a West Wing DVD afterward. Here are the exploits:

The park we were at. Amazing, isn't it?

It is taking every bit of restraint Rex-Goliath has to not play with those toys, which were not ours

Rex-Goliath learns to do the zip-line thingy

Daddy gives a demonstration

Mama and Baby Bee

Fun on the swings

Rex-Goliath on an adventure

Totally superfluous picture, but it turned out so good! Hey everybody, look at my cute kid!

Can we have Chinese food yet?

–Mrs. Wonderful


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The Wonderful Minnesota Get-Together

Okay. So I am a little behind in chronicling the adventures of Team Wonderful. We’ve been a little busy. School is going well for all, and I even have an interview at the U of M College of Pharmacy on Friday. And two midterms this week. So in honor of procrastination (on studying, onpurchasing a handbag that matches my new suit, on hot gluing Try-Its on Chloë’s Brownie uniform), I bring you a trip back in time. Back when things were sticky, sweaty, mosquito-ridden, and green. And we meandered about in a Summit EPA-fog and ate the World’s Best French Fries, falafel-on-a-stick, and deep-fried veggies. We went to the art building, mostly to make the children suffer. We skipped the animal barns, because, duh, we’re vegan. And animals are not ours to use for entertainment. Other people in fanny packs and t-shirts with redneck sayings emblazoned across the back are, however, and that was glorious. We bought Chloë a bird whistle. And the baby got all political on us. We exited before the meltdowns began, and probably spent less than $80. It was a good day.

Although it proclaims to be mighty, we did not actually venture out of the kiddie midway.

The Safari Train seemed like an obvious first choice. Only because of the monkey, though.

Despite his intial excitement, the Safari Train was more terrifying than thrillifying for Rex-Goliath

I was really hoping that those animals did something. I was sorely disappointed.

Dan's attempt to thrillify Rex-Goliath

Apparently the carnie (I mean, ride guy? entertainment engineer?) has to put tape over this image (and others) in certain states. But we're not that progressive in the great old carve-a-lady's-head-in-butter state.

Fun Slide is the best name they could come up with.

I would totally let this dude on without a ticket.

Dan and Chloë catch some thrills in a dragon.

The kids on the whale-rider ride.

The topless, bubble-blowing mermaid on the whale-rider ride.

This man's sole purpose in life is to make the lives of parents difficult.

Obviously, the baby will be voting DFL this November. Fun fact: we learned of his forthcoming existence on the day Obama was elected.

Mmmmmmm. French Fries.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Rex-Goliath, Meet Thomas

We all know by now that Rex-Goliath is a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine. Since his birthday celebration was a little lean, we decided that one of his presents would be tickets to A Day Out with Thomas. The gist of this activity is that you cough up twenty bucks a person to ride in some dilapidated passenger coaches pulled by a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine and participate in some “fun” activities. We decided not to forewarn Rex-Goliath of the occasion due to the risk of being asked when we were going to see Thomas for six months prior to the date. We figured we would get a huge shock-and-awe moment from him when he happened upon Thomas at the actual event, and it would be cute and everyone would be happy.

Once again, my parenting strategy failed me. We did happen upon Thomas, gleaming in the sunlight. “Rex-Goliath, who is that?” we inquired. He looked at us like we were idiots. “Thomas,” he replied, as is he saw a life-sized Thomas every day. This is how our kids are, though. Completely nonchalant at the event, but will talk about it daily until the next completely-totally-awesome-cool thing happens. Rex-Goliath probably would have enjoyed the whole shindig a lot more if Chloë had been present. He is still a little wary of things, and having a buddy might have made the experience much better for him. Xavier just isn’t quite a big enough partner in crime yet.

Here it is, pixel-by-pixel:

Rex-Goliath rides the mini-train they had to appease the youngins while waiting for their turn on Thomas.

Rex-Goliath, looking both suspicious of the whole event and a little lonely

The ubiquitous train tables

Sir Topham Hatt strikes a pose

More train toys

Sand toys. They also had kiddie pools full of soap and bubbles... thank God the kids didn't see those.

Hands-down the best part of the day. I don't know what tropical lounge singers have to do with trains, but this guy was the designated entertainment. And he got the joke.

All aboard!

I appreciate that they decorated the train in a festive manner, but it looks a little like they let Rex-Goliath do it.

Smile! You're getting on the train and I need this for the blog!

Daddy, Rex-Goliath, and Xavier

Mama and the boys

And that does it. Really, the best thing that came of A Day Out with Thomas is the catalog I picked up in the giftshop in lieu of buying the kid a $20 four in train with a face. It is already tattered, and every night, he shows me his plans for every birthday and Christmas gift until he is twenty-three. Next time, he tells me, he wants to ride on Percy. I haven’t broken it to him yet that Percy doesn’t come life-sized.

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Family Fun ‘n’ Run

I had two goals this summer: take the PCAT and run a 5K. I signed up for the Torchlight 5K this spring to force myself back into running. I knew that I wouldn’t want to waste the $23 entrance fee, so I was going to run that sucker come hell or high water.

Once the PCAT was done, I had a month to get myself able to run three miles. I ran a little pre-PCAT, but come June, I felt the need to really focus on the exam. To get started, I used some podcasts based on the Couch-to-5K program, a regimen designed to take you from watching Law & Order with Fritos stuck to your bum to an elite runner. Or at least someone able to hack and stumble their way through 3.2 miles. The program is nine weeks. I wound up using the early weeks of podcasts, but once the race loomed closer, I switched to just running as much as I could, which was not as often as I should. If one were to have the full nine weeks, the program is pretty sweet. The music is electronic-y and changes tempo to tell you when to walk and when to run, taking willpower out of the equation. This is helpful for me, because my idea of a good interval involves forty-five seconds of running, followed by ten minutes of walking. DJ Steveboy (no, I don’t know if that is the name on his drivers’ license) keeps me honest.

I tend to only enjoy running only in perfect conditions: minimal sun, cool, no humidity, light to no wind, flat land or downhill the entire way. Running in South Saint Paul during July offers none of this. The whole run is torture and I want to die. Although I came close, I did not actually run a full 5K prior to the race. So I was a little nervous.

The Torchlight 5K takes place in downtown Minneapolis as part of the Aquatennial celebration. The Torchlight Parade follows the run. The atmosphere is festive, and there is a large crowd (mostly people staking their claim on prime parade-watching territory with those no-sew fringed polar fleece blankets that are ubiquitous over the holidays in the midwest – people were camping out hours before the parade with pizza and board games). Family Fun Night (read: glorified school carnival) was occurring in Loring Park, so we decided to bring the boys for a little pre-race “fun.”

Rex-Goliath, suspicious of the concept of Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, not even really in the mood for Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, participating in Family Fun despite serious reservations as Daddy bought $10 in tickets and we were going to have at least $4 worth of fun, dammit

Xavier is down with Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, not so sure that fishing for ducks so sad that they are laying sideways in the pool is going to be good Family Fun. Carnie Dude in the background is not exactly enthusiastically promoting his booth.

Rex-Goliath was most impressed by the one attraction not requiring tickets.

Cute baby with a cute butterfly on his shoulder.

Ah, finally a bit of Family Fun.

Some of the runners take these races seriously. These are the weirdos running around before the race to warm up while I am wiping noses at Family Fun. Then there are people like me – I try to limit my walking prior to the race. Overexerting myself might bring my time up from the Granny category to the Invalid category. The race ends with drinking in the park, and I am pretty sure that some of my race cohorts had already partaken in a few beverages. There were girls in tutus and argyle kneesocks. There were the dudes in super-short jorts and trucker hats, one of whom had speakers duct taped to his shorts playing such hits as “Vogue” and “Dancing Queen.”

The large number of racers definitely helped my performance because the pack was huge, slow-moving, and took a good mile to thin out even a bit. We ran down Hennepin, around the Mill City Museum, and over the Stone Arch Bridge. I was able to run the entire way , which was my goal. I passed the finish line triumphantly, with plenty of people behind me. All week I had been having visions of being dead last, the float carrying Miss Aquatennial about to run me over, clowns pointing and laughing. 5K run? Check.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Equal to 20,000 Words

Let’s be honest: Just like Playboy, people really only read blogs for the pictures. So we bring you the pictures of the first 1/3 of summer, uninterrupted by useless prose.

Bath time on the balcony = fun time for babies

Rex-Goliath, giving that lazy bum Frog a ride

Dan teaching Chloë to ride a bike

Xavier, stylin' and profilin'

Rex-Goliath with Leah and Frog

Rex-Goliath will turn anything into a train. Notice how all of the other kids are doing all of the work, though.

Daddy and Xavier on a trip to Grandpa Steve's

J and Bill, in coordinating outfits as usual. Note: on his lower half, J is sporting cargo shorts, black Pumas, and knee-high white socks. If this were a dressy occasion, he might wear a paisley button down in lieu of the tank top.

Only Grandpa Steve takes out the trash with a cigar and a glass of red wine.

Rex-Goliath, cashed out on Grandpa Steve's floor after a hard day of tractors and trains

Dan defiling Grandpa Steve's grill with seitan ribs

Xavier, shortly after taking his first steps. Princess Pug, dejected upon realizing that she is now the sole family members on all fours. Also, confused as to how he did it. She might ask him for some tips when he learns to talk.

This walking thing can tire a baby right quick

Rex-Goliath and Willy play in the sand bottom pool at Willy's house

Xavier watching Rex-Goliath and Willy

Rex-Goliath at the pool

Xavier participating in his own impromptu Pride Celebration

Rex-Goliath's new bed - a half-height bunk bed with room for trains below and a train tunnel on top

The tunnel

Chloë plays in the little house we created behind her lofted bed, much to Dan's chagrin

And that should cover June.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Rex-Goliath’s First Baseball Game! But Enough About That, Let’s Talk Trains.

It as a sunny, beautiful June day in good old St. Paul, big time Minneapolis. I spent my morning hustling with Uncle Dave hearing about the latest communist plot being perpetrated by the black man in the White House, all while sweating into some salsa. I cut out early, because this particular day was a big day. Today I would be bringing Rex-Goliath to his First Baseball Game. Significantly – his First Baseball Game at Target Field. But, even more significantly, we would be taking the light rail commuter train to the game. Wait, I should, in an appropriate Victorian Style, capitalize an essential word; let me try that last sentence again.

But, even more significantly, we would be taking the light rail commuter Train to the game.

Train. This is a big deal.

Rex-Goliath dying, going to heaven.

Yes, Rex-Goliath was intrigued by the baseball game proposition. It held his interest, but his interest was in a vague thing – baseball is on T.V., and is allegedly a thing that Daddy had been involved in before, but a baseball game isn’t a rock-fucking-solid Important Thing like trains. A boy can wrap his imagination wholly around riding on a train as a whole body experience. Trains after all, are very useful, and communicate real ideas, and have faces, and literally actually talk.

Daddy is cheeky and is a troublesome engine, courtesy of Sean Olene.

The ball game was a 12:15 start, which was just about the time we left the house for the Fort Snelling light rail station. By the time we drove, parked, walked and began our wait at the train station, a couple of innings had passed. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing, and we were all by ourselves at the station, as if the entire train was coming, specially, just for the good little mister and his old man.

A few minutes passed, and lo and behold , a train arrived. Now, the idea of a train and the reality of a train do not necessarily share the same shape, and I could tell from Rex-Goliath that the meeting of these two versions might be a bit at odds. The train was a little too large, a bit too fast, way too loud, and Rex-Goliath was a smidge intimidated. We boarded (although nobody said “All aboard!” as one might expect.) and had to quickly find a seat, because the driver certainly wasn’t waiting for us to sit down to start chug-chug-chugging along the track. Rex-Goliath and I took a seat at the front of the train, and soaked it all in.

A wonderful panorama of surging people, cars, and buildings!

One nervous boy.

Rex-Goliath was in quiet shock and awe for the entire trip, and was admittedly a bit happy once we arrived at Target Field, i the heart of the fourth inning. Rex-Goliath’s reaction to the spectacle of the field was of mild acceptance – the entree of the ballgame was certainly dwarfed by the first course. He was a excited that they were playing baseball, but only when I pointed it out to him, at which point he promptly lost interest in the whole affair. We walked around a bit, pausing briefly to score a $85 beer, went up a couple flights of stairs to our seats, and settled in for the fifth inning. We had a frozen lemonade, a juice box, cotton candy, umm yum yum.

We saw a Justin Morneau blast to the plaza in right field, watched Johnny Damon complete botch a routine fly ball, cheered a bit, clapped a bit, and even heckled the umpire (from the third deck, I’m sure it stung) a bit. By the time Rex-Goliath was getting antsy (and began his incessant request to go back on the train), it was the bottom of the eighth inning and a perfect time to cut out.

Joe Mauer's statue and the boy whose statue will eventually supplant Joe Mauer's statue.

Rex-Goliath was more than ready for the train ride back, but neither of us was prepared for the severe clot of people on the train. Seriously – we could barely get on the damn thing.

Where do these people all come from? Oh yeah, Twin's game.

A tired boy, a busy train ride, a good day.

– Mr. Wonderful

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Raptors and Children and Parks Oh My

This past windy, windy May Day we spent a few hours at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve. The crew has been planning this little excursion for a bit, a month plus, which for our lil’ family is a fairly long-term goal.

You see, a fellow student in Leah’s Microbiology class (“Smart Girl”) mentioned something about a bird release that would be happening thanks to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. The gal wants to be a bird trainer, which I hadn’t really known was something you could be, but I don’t really think about birds, per se, especially not in any career sense. Apparently it is a tough nut to crack – the bird discipline field. Who knew? Well, who cares; moving on. Smart Girl told Leah about the bird release, and this seemed like a perfect trip for the family, especially because of this one.

None of us have much experience with releasing birds, and I was expecting driving up to the park, and asking around to find out where this little thing was going to occur. I was afraid it’d be in some obscure corner of the park, down a wood-chip trail, with a dozen or two folks gathered around some scruffy dude. Man was I wrong.

Raptor releases are a BFD. This is a full-scale event, with cordoned parking, attendants, tents, informational booths and people. Flocks of people.

And a host of birds, which shouldn’t be surprising, but I was basically picturing a scruffy dude getting out of a busted-up van with a couple of eagles under his arms, saying “Howdy”, chucking the eagles into the air and sparking a smoke. There were actually quite a few volunteers with a low scruff factor, and quite a few birdies on display, in addition to the birds that were specifically there to be set back into the world. This was a pretty big thrill.

Well, there were other sights to see, so we tootled around for a bit while we were waiting for the big release.

We eventually migrated to the staging area, and deliberated about where to perch while we waited for the main event. They had some of the area roped off, but it didn’t seem to signify much of anything as people were sitting everywhere. So, we walked around, lost Rexgoliath a couple of times, and eventually found a nice spot to sit. We settled, started in on our lunch, then promptly had to get up and move behind the roped off area. The birds needed some space to fly, I guess, and even though they have the entire sky the big shots are so important they need some terra firma available as well.

Finally the little presentation started, and there were four birds released in total. A couple of red-tailed hawks, and a couple of Cooper’s hawks. There was a modest amount of fanfare – some spiel about the Center and their work, a bit of introduction on each bird’s particular story of rehabilitation, honorary releasers (including our gal Betty McCollum!), and a countdown for each bird’s triumphant reëntry into the greater world.

A good time was had by all, and although the crew was starting to get a little owly by the time we were on our way out, the kids loved the whole thing up.

(Bonus game: Count the number of ornithological references I tried to drop throughout the post!)

– Wr. Monderful

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