Double Dating our Way to Lifelong Friendships

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Double Dating our Way to Lifelong Friendships | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Seattle, New York City, Chicago and even our own Minneapolis are a few of the places my husband and I have stayed for a few days with other couples over the years. We have spent weekends with close friends at cabins and vacation homes. Sometimes a boutique hotel. These couples are the kinds of friends we hope we grow old with and – if we’re really honest –  we hope some of our kids marry theirs. We have a shared history that shows up in random moments, reminding us of an adventure we have had together and erupting in laughter over the memories. And it all started with double dates. 

How are parents of small children able to pull that off? Weekends away… without kids? Full nights of sleep? Meals that are still hot when you eat them? What are they… magicians? Or wealthy?

Not at all. We simply have learned how important and rewarding it is to prioritize time together as a couple with other couples. Marriage experts always say that married couples should keep dating each other, and we agree. Intentional time together is so important, especially after having kids. Whether it is the traditional dinner-and-a-movie date or something as simple as a walk together, it is vital to find ways to reconnect with each other. However, we have found so many benefits to double dating and yet there aren’t many people talking about that. 

Double dates have brought back something important for our marriage. There is a side of us that can get lost in the daily doldrums of life: the fun side. When all we see of each other is the beginning and end of a work day, the parenting, the taking-out-the-trash and other adulting things, we can forget what we were like when we first fell in love. Like most couples, there was an element of fun that included other people at the beginning of our love story. Whether it was a group of friends going to a concert, out to eat, or just hanging out, there is a part of him and a part of me in those settings that played into the inevitable falling in love. When we go out on a double date with friends, I’m reminded of that attractive smile he has and of his compassion for others as he listens to their stories. I remember why I so admire the way he handles conversation and can so seamlessly get to the heart of people, making them feel heard and known. 

By ourselves, we can tend to be more reserved and quiet, even boring sometimes. We talk a lot about anything and everything, but when the words run out or when we are too tired, there is a good chance we might spend the evening watching movie trailers and in the end realize that it’s too late and we would rather go to sleep. And that’s fine. We are comfortable with who we are, even in the boring times. But I can see where we could easily just stay in those ruts until we grow old together. Quite frankly, we both want more to our relationship than that. When we are with another couple or a group of good friends, there is a livelier social side of us that comes out and it forces us out of our usual routines. It adds a richness to our experiences together, which in turn, fuels up our relationship. 

Shared experiences tend to do that. They add layers of complexity and depth. We all know hard things do that. When we walk through a difficult time with someone else, that shared experience adds depth. But the same is true for positive experiences. Difficult experiences are hardly something you choose, but positive experiences are mostly always a choice. Both create memories that tie people together. Like that time we almost froze, sitting on the slopes of the Gorge Amphitheatre surrounded by crazies, while waiting for our friend’s favorite band to play. Or that time we walked the equivalent distance of a marathon through the streets of New York. And that night after a concert downtown Minneapolis, when they wouldn’t let us into a bar because our friends had a baby in the Ergo. Come on, we just wanted some fries! Those are just a few of the memories we now share with friends which have knit us together in a deeper, and definitely more fun way.

We all know that “mawwiage is what bwings us togetha today” but life has a way to pull us in different directions. Kids, of course, rightfully demand a lot of our attention and resources. Then there are jobs, commitments, house projects and other relationships. Spending time together can quickly become something we’re too tired to accomplish or simply don’t have time left for. In fact, we can easily get to the point where we each have our own circles of friends and even our social life becomes yet another thing pulling us apart. Double dates give us both the opportunity to make friends together and actually, the combination of four people’s personalities can lend a much more well-rounded relational component to our collective friendship than we might not have achieved with just the wives or the husbands alone. 

We have made some of our best friends by double dating, but it hasn’t always been easy. It is necessary to remember that we live in a highly transient culture. Most of us don’t live in the same neighborhood we grew up in, or in my case not even the same country! As we move through the different stages of life from singleness to marriage, we can find ourselves in the throes of raising kids feeling quite lonely. I am convinced this can be one of the hardest seasons to make friends in. Sure, we have camaraderie in the fact that as parents, we are all sleep deprived and coffee addicted. But getting into the deeper conversations of who we are beyond the surface takes a while and is extremely difficult when you’re also trying to parent on the side. By double dating with other couples, my husband and I have been able to enjoy focused conversations and our friendships have developed faster than they would have through family get togethers alone. Besides, there is something to be said for finding friends with similar parenting habits–it helps make play dates much more cohesive and pleasant. 

Double dates and weekends away have become something my husband and I intentionally schedule and budget for. We know that an evening of uninterrupted adult conversation and great food helps us come back to our kids refreshed. And a weekend away always helps renew our perspectives on the goals and values we have for ourselves and for our family. We are a team and we operate so much better when we take the time to nourish our souls, our marriage, our friendships, and our appetites! 

So what is your dream weekend getaway? And when are you going to finally try that new restaurant in town you’ve been talking about? Make plans and bring some friends along!

Be The Light, Not The Darkness

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Be The Light, Not The Darkness | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Dear Mamas,

For the past 9 years I have had the privilege of being apart of a moms group; specifically, MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers). I had no idea what I was signing up for so long ago. Life was busy with two kids: a two year old and a newborn with health issues. For the first 5 months of our son’s life we were constantly at the doctor’s office and specialty clinics on and off.

Our son was born with a condition called Tethered Cord Syndrome. Something we had never heard about. So many questions and scary thoughts plagued my mind all the time. Why did this happen? What did I do wrong? What will happen to our boy? When your mind and body are so completely exhausted from the newborn stage, let alone the newborn stage with health issues, it’s just hard to think straight.

My mother-in-law saw my struggles and immediately knew I needed some sort of support and outlet. Being a seasoned mother herself, she recognized my need for other moms. One day, she recommended a MOPS group meeting at the church I was attending at the time. (I think she figured the convenience factor would play heavily into my decision to give it a try…) At the time, I didn’t know what the group was or what they did or if it would be a fit for me. To be honest, I didn’t even look up what it was ahead of time. I was desperate for some friends that were in the thick of parenting just like me.

After registering over the summer, I patiently waited for September to arrive when the group reconvened. Suddenly, it was finally the day! I remember I got up extra early so I could get myself and the kids ready to go on time. I way over-packed the diaper bag and got those little ones buckled up in the car. We made our way to this so called MOPS group hoping to find community.

On the way there, I called my mom. I was having second thoughts about it. In fact, I was actually afraid… I mean, what was I doing?! I didn’t know a single soul. But I remember my mom so kindly said, ” Janna you are going to be just fine, people always love you and your smile.” I thanked her for the pep talk, and pulled into the parking lot. I sat for a moment, to take a deep breath.

Walking up to the door, I was greeted by two amazing women. The smiles on their faces felt welcoming, and like a breath of fresh air. They directed me inside and told me where to go. I dropped off my little ones in childcare, hesitating a moment before another staff member reassured me they would be just fine and to go enjoy some time to myself. Those words were like gold at that moment. I walked back towards the room for the moms and discovered it was thoughtfully and beautifully decorated… just for us. There was food and coffee, and suddenly my heart began to sing. I found my assigned table and sat down. Everyone was so friendly and kind. I remember loving every minute of it.

By taking a scary leap and putting myself out there, I suddenly had other moms to talk with about all the good moments, and the bad. Women who checked in on our family and truly carried for all of us. That community of mothers became my saving grace.

To this day I still attend MOPS. In fact, I eventually transitioned into a leadership position. It has carried me through motherhood. I allowed myself to say “yes” to something that was out of my comfort zone. In return, I gained so much – all because I took that step into the unknown. It delivered all it promised to do. It gave me a community, support, laughter and a place to be me.

Nine years ago, I was an overwhelmed and lonely mom, struggling to fully step into my new role of motherhood. Thankfully, I was able to reach out and find a community of women who came alongside me through the many emotions and struggles and obstacles of life over the years. I am forever thankful for these experiences, and humbled by all the love and support I’ve been offered.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize we as women and mothers are amazing! The words we speak into each other are so sacred and precious. So, with this in mind, be the light for others, not the darkness. See the woman next to you as a friend, and invite her into your circle. Include the ones you don’t know on a walk or to play with your kids. You never know what may come out of it. Because we all need community, we sometimes just don’t know the first step to take in order to get it.

“You Must Go On Adventures To Find Out Where You Truly Belong.”
-Sue Fitzmaurice

Peace and Love,

Mama Janna

Twin Cities Berry Picking Guide

Berry Picking Guide | Twin Cities Mom Collective

We know this summer will look different for us and for our families. We are thrilled that many berry farms in Minnesota remain open, giving your family a way to enjoy a fun day out together while supporting these farmers. Here are several great u-pick berry patches you can visit!

Berry Hill Farm | Strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb during the summer season. Tentative schedule for strawberries is from approximately middle of June to the beginning of July. Raspberries are typically in season from early July to the middle of July. Rhubarb is ready to be picked around mid-May, but we will also pick through the strawberry season. These dates are approximate, follow them on Facebook for updates!

6510 185th Ave NW, Anoka, MN 55303

Pine Tree Orchard | In the pick your own fields, we provide you with a complimentary picking container, give you a wagon ride to the field, and make the experience educational by showing you the proper way to pick strawberries. We can accommodate all levels of pickers and you are free to pick as many or as few strawberries as you like. We are closed until Mid June for Strawberry Season.  Please check back after June 15 for a strawberry update.

450 Apple Orchard Rd White Bear Lake, MN 55110

Pleasant Valley Orchard | We’ve started planning for the 2020 Pick-Your-Own Strawberry strawberry season. Working with industry experts, the Department of Agriculture, we want to assure you we’re working on a plan for the public to safely engage and enjoy fresh Minnesota grown strawberries. The season may look different than the past, but we appreciate your patience and support as we strive to serve you.

17325 Pleasant Valley Road, Shafer, MN 55074

Blueberry Fields of Stillwater | Pick your own organic blueberries, in a family friendly, beautiful setting! Usually opens in July. Check website or phone line before driving to the farm!

9450 Mendel Rd N, Stillwater, MN

Sam Kedem Nursery | Pick Your Own (PYO) berries will start in early June (Strawberries, Juneberries); asparagus & rhubarb will be ready in mid-May, perhaps sooner. Please check our web from time to time or email.

12414 191st Street East, Hastings, MN 55033 

Little Hill Berry Farm | We offer certified organic, pick your own blueberries. Pre-picked blueberries are also available for pickup at our farm. Blueberry season typically runs from July to early-August.

4339 320th St. W., Northfield, MN 55057

Lorences Berry Farm | Strawberries coming mid-June and raspberries coming late July. Cash or check only.

28556 Foliage Ave, Northfield, MN 55057

Knapton’s | The farm will reopen approximately June 20, 2020, depending on spring weather, with raspberries and cherries for pick your own along with early ripening produce. A larger selection of fruits and vegetables ripen as the season progresses.

5695 Hwy 55, Rockford, MN 55373

The Strawberry Basket | Estimated to open around Father’s Day for strawberry picking. Cash or check only. Visit the website for the latest updates!

12591 Aetna Ave N.E., Monticello, MN  55362

On Eating Less Meat

As moms, we understand the importance of self-care, and we are here to help busy moms like you find time to prioritize your wellness. Our hope is that you feel encouraged and equipped to value and prioritize nutrition, self-care, fitness and a healthy body image through these personal stories from real moms in our Health & Fitness Series.

On Eating Less Meat | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Over the past few years, my family has transitioned to eating less meat. For various reasons: we know a diet filled with plants offers many health benefits compared to one that is heavy in (especially processed) meat. We know animals are often abused in a broken and unrelenting food system. We know animal farming and production, particularly of beef, is a big contributor to climate change. And as far as environmental impact goes, eating less meat is one of the easier ways to make a change as an individual.

This isn’t about going vegan or eating vegetarian. At least not for me. I have friends who fall into both of those categories and I applaud them. For me personally, the thought of never eating carnitas tacos or a bowl of slow-cooked beef bourguignon ever again sounds devastating. I think about this as making intentional choices on when and where I’m cooking and consuming meat. 

As a part of our health and wellness series, I thought I’d write up what this looks like for me. Please know: I am no expert. I’m just a concerned mom/woman/citizen/consumer doing what she can for herself and her household. I’ve included some resources at the bottom of this post to people who know far more than I do. You’ll also find links to a few of my favorite meatless recipes.

Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan.

I’ve always been a die-hard meal planner. Admittedly, as I write this in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a bit trickier right now. Too often I’ve gone to the store lately, list in hand, only to find bare shelves. However, getting a meal plan down is the first step for me to get food on the table each week. Meal planning helps me create a grocery list which helps me avoid unnecessary purchases at the store and also helps my sanity. (The more I can eliminate the “I don’t know what to make for dinner and it’s 5:00!” drama, the better.)

I meal plan one week at a time. It helps me create a snapshot for the week. As far as our meat consumption is concerned, I try to have 2-4 meatless meals a week. These often look like pastas, soups, or bean-based dishes. I try to have no more than one meal each week with red meat. (We typically eat beef 2-3 times a month.) The rest of our meals usually have pork or chicken.

Think of meat as a side.

When we do eat meat, I rarely make the meat-starch-vegetable combo so many of us grew up seeing, either in our own homes or on TV. More often it’s in a curry, a soup, a pasta, or even using meat for its flavor more than anything else (hello, bacon).

It helps to remember that a single serving of meat is 3 ounces, which is about the size of your palm. Depending on their age, it’s even less for kids. If we’re really eating a single serving of meat, something else has to take its place. It could be the rice in a rice bowl, a side salad, or extra veggies in place of meat.

Use less than a recipe calls for.

Recipes often call for more meat than we need, especially when you factor in that 3-ounce serving size! Particularly in recipes like soups, pastas, stir-fries, etc., I use less without sacrificing meat entirely. Most pasta recipes call for a pound of sausage or chicken: I usually use half a pound (and freeze the other half for later use). If I’m making fajitas I amp up the amount of peppers and onions and use less chicken. (And don’t forget the guac!)

Cook one cut of meat and use it all week.

Some weeks I buy a single piece of meat, such as a pork shoulder or beef roast, and use it all week for different recipes. For example: shredded pork can be made one night and used in pulled pork sandwiches the first night, tacos the next, soup the third, etc.

We’re also a house that utilizes leftover. Leftovers = lunch in our house! My husband always works from home and I’m home most days. When I worked in an office I brought my own lunch every day. Honestly if for some reason we don’t have leftovers, I’m at a loss for what to do!

Buy organic and/or local when you can.

When we do consume meat, I try to buy organic and/or local. I like to grab meat from the farmer’s market in the summertime and otherwise look for organic meat in the store. When you’re eating less meat, it can be easier to put your dollars toward meat that is better for you, for the environment, and for the animals themselves.

This is a bit of a lifestyle change. Like all changes, it takes time. I’ve been slowly moving to a more meatless diet for a few years now. I think small steps are the best place to start. Begin by replacing one meal a week with something meatless or replacing a beef-based meal with a different animal protein. 

As promised, here are some resources:

“The Meat-Lover’s Guide to Eating Less Meat” The New York Times
Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered” The New York Times
“How to eat less meat without driving yourself nuts” MarketWatch
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (Really all of his books are fantastic!)
“Steak” Ugly Delicious season 2 episode 3

And some of my favorite meatless (or almost!) recipes:

Creamy Braised White Beans (Super easy and delicious on some bread slathered with garlic butter!)
Black Bean Quesadillas (Don’t forget the chips and guac!)
Oven Risotto with Garlic Roasted Mushrooms and Arugula (Feels like a restaurant meal.)
Red Lentil Soup with Lemon (My kids will even eat this as long as there is bread for dipping!)
Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash (Omit the pancetta or sub with a couple of pieces of bacon and top with a fried egg.)

The Boogeymonster is Afraid of Boogers

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The Boogeymonster is Afraid of Boogers | Twin Cities Mom Collective

One thing I could always count on as a kid was knowing that when I had a bad dream, I would yell “Moooooooooom!” and she’d be there for me. Every. Single. Time. Her presence calmed me. I don’t recall anything she said to me, but just knowing I wasn’t alone was enough for me to relax and eventually fall back asleep.

As a parent myself now, I’ve done my best to give my kids that same kind of care when they have bad dreams. When they call me, I go in and give a hug and tuck them back into bed. However, I’m finding that doesn’t always work to calm them! Sometimes it seems they need more than that – something else to snap them out of their dream and help them understand that it was not reality.

One night in particular, reason and logic were not working for my daughter, and I decided to practice the “Alternate Ending” technique. It was as if my English major background grabbed the wheel and told my parenting self, “Move over darlin’, I got this.”

In my daughter’s dream, there was a bad guy with a gun. I asked her if she wanted to do something silly with me, and we proceeded to brainstorm other things that the gun could shoot out. Bananas? Oh man, monkeys would LOVE that! What if it shot out chewed bubble gum, then the guy would get stuck to the floor! What if it shot out money and you had a bag and you could catch it all and be rich!

It didn’t take long and we were in a fit of giggles together, imagining everything this once-scary gun could shoot out. I left her with the encouragement to think of other silly things it might shoot out and tell me all about it at breakfast the next morning.

Another night one of my kids had a bad dream about a scary monster. I let them in on a super-top-secret piece of information about that monster…it was afraid of…BOOGERS! (Bathroom humor is always a win.) It was a lot of fun to imagine ourselves picking our noses and flinging it at the monster, him cowering each time we started to reach for our noses.

I think when we give our kids the chance to change the ending, their bad dreams lose power over them. Our children become the ones in control, and they get to say how it all ends. That’s empowering!

Humor also helps too – because when we’re laughing it’s hard to feel afraid, and when we’re laughing TOGETHER, we’re making memories.

The next time you get called out of bed in the middle of the night, see what silliness ensues when you give your kids the Alternate Ending.

Blessedly Boring

Blessedly Boring | Twin Cities Mom Collective

“What did you do this weekend?” It was a simple question from my co-worker, but it left me internally scrambling to think of something, anything noteworthy to share. Our weekend activities of grocery shopping, cleaning and playing around the house didn’t make the best fodder for Monday morning conversation. By my standards, it was a good weekend, but I wished its highlights were more thrilling than my daughter taking a luxuriously long nap.

Let’s be honest, sometimes motherhood can leave life feeling a bit…boring (even before the idea of quarantine!). I love being a mom, but often the key to my survival is routine. As a result, the days can feel vaguely similar as I wash the same dishes, give my kids the same reminders, put away the same toys, fold the same clothes. The repetition breeds monotony. But yet somehow the days whiz by in a blur of work commitments, mini kid crises and an ever growing to do list. My days and weeks are full, yet the details are ordinary.

On these ho hum days of motherhood, envy can rear its ugly head. Others’ stories of late night outings, weeknight adventures and family getaways can make me long for the days when life was more exciting. And yet excitement is not always something to be desired.

I vividly remember a time when I longed for boring, uneventful days. It was a period when the stressors of life seemed to descend all at once. My husband and I both faced work challenges, the kids were struggling at daycare and sickness became the family’s constant companion. I remember waking every day feeling exhausted and yearning for the ordinary.

Every mom has endured a period like this, and every mom understands the indescribable weariness of these days. During these times of stress, it’s the ordinary that stabilizes us. The mundane offers comfort in the familiar and reminds us that the whirlwind of life will eventually settle.

While the exciting moments make our Instagram and Facebook feeds, the joys of parenthood are often found in the ordinary moments. It’s the little, boring details that we hold closest to our hearts – the early morning cuddles, the playtime silliness, the bedtime rituals. To others, these details may seem trivial, but to us they are everything because they capture the essence of why we love our kids so dang much.

I’m learning to embrace the mundane of the everyday. One day when I look back on this season of motherhood, I have a feeling that these boring days will feel very significant. The subtle details and low-key moments of today are not to be rushed through or thrown to the side in search of the next big milestone. Rather, this chapter of my motherhood story is meant to be cherished. And so, I’m happy to embrace a life that is blessedly boring.

A New Independence as a Stay at Home Mom

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A New Independence as a Stay at Home Mom | Twin Cities Mom Collective

The first year as a stay at home mom was the hardest year of my life. And I’ve had some tough years. The most important and helpless person to come into my life relied on me for what felt like pretty much everything. Once Dad came home in the evening, that still didn’t stop. He could take over diapers and playing, but breastfeeding and “just wanting Mom,” not so much. Whoever wasn’t on baby duty had to be taking care of the rest, which meant I was constantly relying on him and him on me. An abrupt change from two independent adults just sharing their lives together.

There were so many life switches I was unprepared for that chipped away at my sense of independence. Every time I had to shower or use the bathroom meant arranging time or at least running it by the two other people in my home. Figuring out how much I could do around the house versus how much I wanted to do or how much my husband could or should do was confusing and painful to determine. I went from working in a busy office with coworkers and patients to talk to and new technologies to learn and spending evenings with friends, to conversing (in more than babble) with one person in the evening about the baby almost exclusively. When I ate, when I slept, where I went and for how long, all of those things were now not just up to me.

Independent Woman in the Making

As someone who has always been fiercely self-sufficient, I was almost out of body when I found myself hearing my therapist list different ways I could gain a sense of independence. We’d been meeting for about a year, so I could tell she was treading lightly when she spoke. Knowing it would probably rock me a little. How could this be? Everything I’d ever done was supposed to make me more independent, more sovereign over my life. At that point I should’ve be at the peak of the independence mountain, but it was like at some point I closed my eyes and upon opening them again I found myself in a strange looking valley. One where everything I had done to gain independence had made me feel only dependent and depended on.

I’ve always been called mature and independent for my age. I got a job a month before my 15th birthday. A car at 16. Moved out at 18. At 19 I backpacked around Europe for a few weeks, mostly alone. At 23 I moved two states away where I knew exactly two people (and their baby), but I had two jobs upon arrival. I lived alone with my cat until I made more friends into roommates the next year. At 25 my boyfriend and I got a place together, the first time I had ever shared a home with someone I was in a relationship with. It wasn’t that I hadn’t had serious relationships, I just valued that part of my independence. I still only looked at 2-bedrooms just in case I needed a personal space.

After 5 years, things with that boyfriend looked like things with that husband and we wanted to add to our family. We both agreed that if we were going to have kids we wanted one of us to be home with them full time.

I had a successful career in the optical field and had worked my way up to managing a fantastic practice in lively downtown. The hours were long and late, though, and I was generally pretty drained from giving it my all. My husband’s job in the tech industry, on the other hand, was flexible, had more room to grow, and frankly brought in more income without depleting all of his energy.

I also had a lot of outside work interests that included gardening, cooking, hosting dinners and guests, and doing all of the car and home repairs I could manage despite being renters. When I didn’t have the time or energy after long work hours to change the brakes on my car myself for the first time, I knew I wanted to move from being Office Manager to Home Manager.

We slowly worked my hours down until we were living off one income as we waited three years to become pregnant. My last day of work was a week before my due date. “You’ll be back!”… “Maybe when the kid(s) are in school.”… and “Of course I’ll be back!” were said a lot. But I knew deep down I had no intention of returning to work in the foreseeable future. Working full-time from the time I was a teenager had made me independent, but now leaving that I thought was the key to true independence.

Hello, Baby! Goodbye, Independence?

All of these decisions. All of this hard work to make myself independent of needing my family back in Missouri, a second income, childcare, and even a second vehicle had actually led me to feeling the furthest thing from independence.

I thought independence was answering to no one and taking care of yourself. Now here I am answering to someone very small but very demanding 24/7 and having to send calendar invites to my partner anytime I want more than 30 minutes to take care of my basic needs, let alone a basic want. Having one vehicle (another conscious decision) meant that if we wanted to schedule baby yoga, swim lessons, or go to story time across town it had to be on my husband’s work from home days. It felt like my independence, as far as leaving the house anywhere more than a few blocks away, was limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays before and after naps times.

And I intentionally created this situation? It’s not that I was wrong about those things making someone independent, but I’m finding that if I stick to the definition I’m missing the bigger picture that I never would have seen without becoming a stay at home mom.

That independent woman my single mother raised and I ran with didn’t disappear because her family made the calculated decision to live off of her husband’s income rather than her own. And no switches were flipped because she became a mother. I made the choice to entwine my life with my family’s. I’m still the only one actually responsible for my own well being and happiness and I’m still rocking it. Honestly, I’m probably better now at taking care of myself more than I ever have been BECAUSE it’s a lot harder.

To make it to a yoga class with a friend I can’t just decide at the last minute, throw in some contacts, and hop on my bike. Now, I first work to find a time that works for my husband, myself, and my regular yoga partner. Months prior I worked with our one income to create a budget that allows for a few drop in classes a month. Earlier in the week I make sure the meal plan includes something easy and account for it when I give my husband the weekly shopping list. That evening I make sure anything my daughter needs from me she gets before I go and despite what some may assume, her strong attachment to me actually means she’s fantastic when I leave her. Sure that could look like “I can’t just do what I want,” but I can, it’s just more work. Something I’ve been great at for a long time and can tap into those skills I’ve been honing since I was a kid.

New Ways of Defining and Finding Independence

Looking around, I can actually see lots of ways that I’m more independent now than ever. Sure, I felt pretty independent on those long bike rides in my twenties when no one knew where I was and I had no agenda for getting home except to get enough sleep before work the next day. But, I definitely felt way more powerful after installing a child seat to my winter bike and getting my sixteen month old to wear a helmet, then physically getting us to the library four miles away with a park stop on the way.

A New Independence as a Stay at Home Mom | Twin Cities Mom Collective

[First bike ride success!]

I used to navigate the downtown bus system like it was an old friend. Missing bus after bus from miscalculating how long it takes to get a baby out of the door alone when you have to carry everything you both need, while trying not to get there too early because it’s either ten below or she’s feeling particularly independent herself and doesn’t want to be constrained to a carrier or stroller for more than ten minutes, made me feel like I would never feel independent without a second vehicle. Over time though, I got better at those calculations, the baby got more familiar with the process, and we’ve successfully bused to friends’ houses, kid friendly cafes, and sometimes just to some place I want to go.

After my daughter’s first birthday I started my own blog and volunteered to write for Twin Cities Mom Collective. Yes, I have to schedule time to write or squeeze it in during naps, but it’s something I do just for myself and besides a few deadlines, is completely on my terms. Chores and projects tend to benefit the whole family which is great, but doing something just for me and maybe my readers is really therapeutic.

Finding Ways to “Take off” for a Bit

I’m cooking dinner and realize we’re out of garlic. I could make do or send my husband, but it’s a perfect way to get a break and take way too long picking out a drink or snack from the cooler while I’m out. If my daughter falls asleep as we’re rushing to make it home by nap time, I take the opportunity to slow down. There’s no point in rushing now, so I either hop off the bus at the next coffee shop or hit a drive thru and get myself a treat I won’t have to share. They’re small, but concentrated moments of independence.

I say yes to almost anything I get invited to that is extended to just me. My daughter loves getting to splash her dad from the bath for 45 minutes anyway, so I might as well go see an old movie at a vintage theater nearby. Or take a stroll around the lake with a friend and let it be a leftovers or snacky dinner night.

Sometimes, everyone else just has to deal. I’m generally the sole putter-to-bed-parent, which is very controlling of my schedule. Occasionally I have something I need or want to do badly enough that I make Dad and Daughter figure it out without me. Maybe that means he gets her to take a nap by taking a carrier walk around the neighborhood. Maybe she just stays up an hour late one night out of a hundred. I’m letting myself take advantage of flexible mornings instead of feeling guilty for the rare occasion our routine is disrupted. The two of them throw me enough curve balls, I can throw them a gentle one here or there too, and everyone is more than fine.

A New Independence as a Stay at Home Mom | Twin Cities Mom Collective

[No car? Rain? Late bus? Can’t stop these independent women from their coffee shop playdate.]

A Season for Everything

When I don’t find a solution to the feelings of constraint or being not totally in control, I try to remember that things are very temporary and to stay present. Someday I’ll be able to climb a hill on my bike without an extra thirty pounds on the back, but I’ll simultaneously miss that child bike seat and hearing “Whee!” as we start the descent. Going to a yoga class will be a lot easier in just a few years, but I won’t come home to someone running as fast as they can down the hallway with a huge smile and hug for me. Getting dinner on the table and dishes done in the same night won’t require huge amounts of coordination by two busy adults and a cooperative toddler, but then it won’t feel like such a win either.

A New Independence as a Stay at Home Mom | Twin Cities Mom Collective

I agree with what some of my working mom friends say, that I am a better mom because of my choice. The independence I used to know will return, but I’m guessing it won’t feel the same. Later, when I think about the times that made me the strong, independent woman I am I don’t think I’ll look back to those solo weeks in Europe or when I signed my first car loan after a promotion. I’ll remember when I was a stay at home mom sometimes making independence more challenging because it was what was best for me and my family, and finding out what I’m really made of.

Preparing for My Home Birth

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Preparing for My Home Birth | Twin Cities Mom Collective

When I imagined having a second baby one day, I definitely thought we might go the home birth route, but could have never predicted that a global pandemic would push home birth into the public eye more and further normalize out of hospital options for moms to be. I can’t speak to a hospital experience because our first baby, Priscilla, was born at a birth center in North Minneapolis called Roots. We had such a fantastic experience, I assumed I would go back. In between my last pregnancy and this one, we’ve moved away from the city and are loving our new life in quaint Stillwater. However, because of the distance to Roots we’ve chosen to instead pursue a home birth.

I am lucky to have the same team of midwives taking care of us this pregnancy. Even with the added precautions and worries due to Covid-19, I have felt safe visiting Roots for routine prenatal appointments. Until recently, my preparations felt almost identical to my first birth. Once a month, and now every two weeks, I visit Roots for an hour-long appointment where my vitals are taken, my midwives measure and listen to baby, and we catch up about my pregnancy and general health.

I’m a huge proponent for the midwifery model of care because I find it so personalized as well as focused on the entire body. Instead of just a number being recorded for my weight, I’ve kept a food journal for a week and had my diet discussed. This time, instead of going to Roots to take my Gestational Diabetes Test, I monitored my own blood sugar at home for two weeks using a glucometer.

Preparing for My Home Birth | Twin Cities Mom Collective

At my second to last appointment my amazing midwife Rebecca sent me home with a few assignments. First off, I needed to purchase what is called a “home birth kit.” While the midwives attending my home birth will bring the birthing tub and all medical supplies, we are responsible for providing additional items that normally a hospital would provide. Our kit was under $100 and included items like pads, a hose (to connect from our sink to fill the birth tub), birth tub liner, cord band, peri bottles, and a foot printer. The website I purchased my kit from is called Precious Arrows which I think is hysterical. In addition to our kit we also needed to provide an extra set of seats, mattress pad cover, shower curtain (to protect our floor under the birth tub), towels, and flannel receiving blankets. Presently, at thirty-four weeks, I’ve got everything we need set aside in a laundry basket in the corner of our bedroom. If I can muster up the energy, I’ll make my bed with a clean set of sheets, waterproof cover, then an inexpensive set of sheets on top. This way, after baby is born any dirty linens can be stripped off quickly, and we can easily settle into a clean bed, our bed.

Preparing for My Home Birth | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Our plan is to birth in our bedroom. I’ll have our birth tub set up at the foot of our bed. I spent most of my first labor in our bedroom, just walking between our bed and bathroom. It feels so good to imagine giving birth in a space that I am comfortable in. As I’ve been preparing for my birth, I’ve followed along with the home study of the same birth course I took with Cilla. We are doing Hypnobabies which involves reading and listening to tracks each day. I’ve been trying to be more diligent about listening and practicing my hypnosis. It was so helpful during my labor with Cilla. I am curious to see how it will aid me during a home birth.

In the corner of our closet I’ve taken an IKEA cart and filled it with postpartum essentials. I did this last time and it was a great tool to have. I’m really hoping to not get out of bed much, which is something I was able to do with Cilla for her first few weeks. I found that lying in and laying low for those early days was hugely instrumental in my healing and getting us off to a good foot with nursing. Like last time, I am having my placenta encapsulated. Somehow, I ended up very crunchy, which still surprises me some days. I feel so grateful to have a husband who is supportive and encouraging when it comes to how I want to birth.

My next visit will actually be a home visit. My midwives will come over, drop off all the needed equipment for the home birth, and do a regular visit with us to mark 36 weeks. We’ll walk through how the process will hopefully go, and the procedures for when to call and what will happen in the event of a hospital transfer. While most transfers to hospitals are non-emergent it does feel good to be prepared. Last week I packed a hospital bag just for me, I included some clothing, pajamas, my toiletry bag, and a few outfits for baby. I still need to pack an overnight back for Priscilla just in case, too, so she could be with a family member. While I hope I won’t need to transfer, I like the feeling of being prepared.

In the meantime, we’re just hanging tight. I’m hoping to put my feet up a bit more, these last few days have felt exhausting and I’m worried this little boy will come on the early side. It feels good to know that we are as prepared as we can be, and that we have an excellent team taking care of us. While home birth isn’t for everyone, I am excited and hopeful for the opportunity.

New Growth

New Growth | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Springtime has always been my mother’s favorite season. I never quite understood this as it was my least favorite season. It was “mud-season” and merely a necessary transition. It meant the fun, sledding and fireside days of winter were over, and there were too many days before the sun-drenched days of summer. It’s the time of year when the weather is so unpredictable, I have both my sandals and boots at the front door. So to say, I never had an affinity for Spring. That was until this Spring when the stay home order forced everything and everyone to slow down.

With each daybreak, I am serenaded by both familiar and new songs of birds returning to their summer homes happily searching for the perfect meal, mate and materials to feather their nests. We have watched neighborhood critters come out of hibernation to run amuck in our yard, zigzagging across our recently quieted street and skedaddling up and down the elm trees that line it. We’ve even befriended a squirrel, Rascal, who visits our porch for a daily helping of shelled peanuts.

The stay home order has also encouraged us to get outside to save our sanity, even on the worst of weather days. By spending countless hours outdoors, this is the first time I watched, every day, as mother nature woke from her winter slumber. It’s as if I had my own personal time lapse view of the process. I saw the first indication of buds on the trees in my yard finally burst into leaves. I watched as flowers broke the soil, stretching upwards towards the heavens. Everything was growing more with each passing day, including my new found love for the season.

I can even appreciate the rain and splashing in puddles that accompanies it. The nostalgic smell of the damp concrete reminds me of my own childhood and now I am cultivating the same nostalgia in my own children. And as it turns out, mud-season and worms are a favorite pastime.

Since the stay home order, the passing of time in our house has slowed down. There have been days that felt like a week and weeks that felt like a month. As time moves slowly forward through Spring, each day the sun is setting later and the breeze rustling through the new leaves is warmer indicating summer is on the horizon. These long days are literally getting longer. As a kid, I recall summer days that seemed to last forever. Even with the stay home order expiring this week, the slowness of our life habits and social distancing will give us a seemingly endless summer to look forward to.

Out of this I have grown to appreciate Spring as the season of new growth. Will it ever take the place of Fall in my heart? Probably not, but I have realized that each of the seasons offers something to truly treasure. I feel lucky to live in Minnesota where the seasons are dramatic. I have always taken time to stop and smell the flowers, but this is the first time I have ever slowed down enough to watch them grow. I suppose this is just one more instance of my momma knowing best after all.

Get Your Swimsuit On!… Trends for 2020

Get Your Swimsuit On! (Trends for 2020) | Twin Cities Mom Collective

 

Currently, I’m watching giant snowflakes that resemble ash flow down from the sky. Hard to be in the mood, a bit, to write about the upcoming swimsuit season. But, alas, it’s that time of year here in MN, where we fluctuate from 70 degree days to a blizzard in a matter of hours. Before we know it, we’ll be laying out in our swimsuits and trying to find a place to swim in this new “normal” for the summer. We bought our house about five years ago and it came with a pool, which we use to the fullest! We recently opened it up for the season and the water is a balmy 58 degrees. The kids can’t wait to dive in! Meanwhile, I’ll be huddled on the chair in my sweatpants and sweatshirt dreaming of the day when I can join them in my swimming suit!

As a mama to four, with a pool, and spending half my time at the lakes up north, my suits range in coverage and style. To me, swimming suits are another way to express myself since they are what I wear the majority of the summer. I will often find some mismatched tops at Target on clearance and pair them with a crazy-style bottom.

My go-to spots for more affordable swimming suits are Target and American Eagle/Aerie. I’ve also heard good things about the Calia by Carrie Underwood brand sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods. However, I also have a few suits that I would consider a necessity. The kind that I know will stay on (and remain in great shape) through water skiing, going down slides at Valleyfair, and tubing with my kids. They have lasted me years and are well worth the price! Athleta and Albionfit are my favorites for more pricey, yet super durable and well-fitting suits.

Here’s some of the top trends this swim season:

  • Animal prints, tie-dye and neon colors (aka my childhood!) are all the rage this season – with snake-print being the hottest ticket item.
  • Cut-out one piece suits. If you’re not desiring to go full out on a bikini, a cut-out one-piece is a great option. It gives you some coverage while also playing with different curves and angles through the cut-outs.
  • High-waisted bikini bottoms are still a hot item. The “cheeky” fashion hit last summer (which was a spin-off of some 80s fashion with thong bikinis and high cut bottoms on one-pieces) and is here to stay – I can’t do cheeky but way to go mama if you rock it! I do love the high-waisted look. I have hips, so pairing my high-waisted bottoms with different style tops is one of my favorite looks. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns either – like these stripes with a floral top look!
  • Another big trend this year are twists, ties and ruffles! Pieces that function both as a swimsuit, and a top, are highly popular. Once you’re done swimming, dry off, throw on a pair of shorts and you’re all set!
  • To help guide the female body, wrap suits, color block pieces, and variety of stripes will be available in one-piece swim this season. Perfect for those days when you want to feel all tucked in and comfortable to move and play around with your kids without a care in the world!

The biggest piece of advice I have for this season…put that suit on and get in the water! Your kids don’t care how you look in it, or if you’re feeling okay & comfortable in it. They will remember that you held their hand while counting to three, jumping in, and that you came up laughing. They will remember you going down the waterslide with them when they were scared. Or you choosing to jump on the water trampoline with them, even if you pee a little bit while you do. Or standing in the cold water, holding their life jacket up, while you teach them to waterski for the first time. They will remember splashing you when you were on the floatie trying to get a tan. Or listening to you scream on the tube as the boat made a sharpe curve. You’re their mom. They just want YOU, in all your uncomfortableness and insecurity. Just rock it, mama, however it suits YOU!

Ectopic Pregnancy: What You Should Know

Our partners at The Urgency Room are here to share about ectopic pregnancy. They provide clarity on what signs and symptoms to be aware of in case you find yourself in this difficult position.

Ectopic Pregnancy: What You Should Know | Twin Cities Mom CollectiveWhen you’re hoping to add to your family, that little plus sign on the pregnancy test is a cause for celebration. However, sometimes an egg implants itself outside the uterus. When this happens, it’s considered a medical emergency. Here’s what you should know.

Signs and Symptoms

If you’ve been trying for another child and you start having abdominal or pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding or if you faint early in your pregnancy, it’s important that you are seen by a health care provider right away to determine whether you’ve got an ectopic pregnancy.

The reason this condition requires fast medical care is the ectopic pregnancy can seriously threaten the mother’s life. Sadly, this type of pregnancy is not viable because a fetus can’t grow outside the uterus. It must be handled as soon as possible because the risk of rupturing and causing severe bleeding inside the mother’s abdomen is high. When an ectopic pregnancy happens, it can result in the need for a blood transfusion, emergency surgery, or even death without medical intervention.

An obstetrician will need to determine if the mother can be treated with a medication or if surgery is necessary.

Risk Factors

Sometimes it’s hard to know if the symptoms you’re feeling are enough to send you to the doctor. If you suspect that you might have an ectopic pregnancy, there are some things that can increase your risk.

  • Prior pelvic infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease, chlamydia, or gonorrhea
  • Fertility treatments
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Conception after tubal ligation
  • Conception with an IUD in place

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms and there’s a chance you could be pregnant, visit The Urgency Room right away to be evaluated. Our board-certified emergency physicians and medical staff will check your pregnancy hormone levels and determine if you need a pelvic ultrasound, which can be performed onsite.


The Urgency Room (UR) is a state-of-the art medical facility specializing in the treatment of acute injuries and illnesses in adults, children, and infants. Staffed with board-certified emergency physicians, the UR is prepared to handle it all. If you need immediate medical attention and don’t need an ambulance, come to The Urgency Room.

The President of Breakfast

The President of Breakfast | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Breakfast used to be my husband’s domain. I don’t like getting up any earlier than I absolutely have to and he enjoys spending time in the morning with the kids, so we settled on this arrangement years ago. But then last fall the school year started and my twins went off to kindergarten, and everything fell apart.

Well, that’s a bit melodramatic. Really what happened is that the school year started and my twins went off to kindergarten and everything fell apart… at 4:00 p.m. each day.

That’s when my twins step off the bus. My youngest wants to play with his siblings who’ve been gone all day. My daughter wants to find a friend to play with because her social bucket apparently needs to be filled, even though she’s just been at school for the past seven hours. Her twin brother needs to go sit in a room with some LEGOs by himself because he’s just been at school for the past seven hours. I want to go through backpacks full of lunch boxes and paperwork and “Mommy look at this!” – all while I also need to start thinking about dinner. Oh, and I am also simultaneously handling three kids clamoring for five different snacks at the same time.

It’s kind of the worst.

Within two weeks of the start of school, I asked my husband to re-arrange his work schedule.

“Is there any way you can start at 7 so you can end at 4?” I asked him one desperate evening. He works from home as a software developer; I knew it was in the realm of possibility. “I can’t be everything to everyone.”

He could. And he did.

But with him now starting at 7:00 a.m. – a full hour earlier – breakfast is now firmly in my domain. I started rising earlier to tackle this task. Instead of using that time to get ready for the day while my husband controls the breakfast chaos downstairs, I wake up earlier to throw myself together so I can take control of it all myself.

I grew up eating toast and cereal and Pop-Tarts and Eggos for breakfast. It was the 90s and this sufficed. Also, my mom isn’t a morning person. I think anything that took 3.42 seconds to unwrap and pop in the toaster was exactly in her weekday morning wheelhouse.

My kids wouldn’t know a Pop-Tart or an Eggo if one popped up in our toaster – those pantry staples from my youth haven’t made it to my own house. But Honey Nut Cheerios and Life cereal are on a regular rotation. Cooking is not my husband’s forte, so cereal became an easy go-to in the morning.

I followed suit after I became the President of Breakfast. Once upon a time, I thought I would be the kind of mom who flipped pancakes and sausages before school and make egg scrambles to fill their bellies with protein. I didn’t factor in the whole I’m-not-a-morning-person part.

It’s worth it, though, to have Tyson around in the evenings. His 4:00 p.m. end time has made all the difference in our days. And it’s become that much easier to get a healthy(ish) dinner on the table in the evening before activities or the general pre-bedtime commotion.

Caden likes to eat toast with only butter. Brooklyn often asks for granola with yogurt and strawberries and cinnamon. Nolan asks for an egg and toast with avocado (he’s my foodie). Sometimes, I honor his request and make toast and fry eggs – “with a yolk” Nolan likes to say, by which he means sunny-side-up – which is about as adventurous as I get in the morning. The rest of the time? It’s fruit and cereal (or toast or granola) for all. I can only do so much before 8 o’clock in the morning.

So in the morning, I pour bowls of cereal, slice strawberries, and peel bananas. I’m not much of a breakfast person myself. They eat while I sip coffee and pack lunches and try to adjust my eyes to the light. I’m only marginally more of a morning person than my own mother. I’ve realized now that I’ll never be much of a morning or a breakfast person. (At least not at breakfast time. I could write a whole separate essay on the glories of brunch.) Really though, it makes pancakes and French toast on the weekends all the more special.

I think there are plenty of us out there, those of us who just aren’t quite ready for it all (“all” being the children and the brightness and the getting ready and the noise – why are they so loud?) in the morning. I’ve seen my friend’s pantries with their own Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Krispies, seen the Eggo boxes and the Uncrustables in the freezer. Solidarity, my friend, I think in my head.

There are give-and-takes as a parent each and every day. Breakfast is one of mine. They could have egg scrambles if I just planned ahead a bit more – I see articles to this effect often. I’m sure they could, I answer in my head. I think there are a lot of us out there who make choices – some we didn’t think we’d make as parents – and then shrug and go on with our days because there are bigger battles to fight. Also, we’re tired. If Honey Nut Cheerios make our mornings run smoother and help me from going completely insane, well, then I’ll raise my coffee cup to that.

Keep Calm and Read On!

Since mid-March, nearly everyone’s life has been disrupted in one way or another by the impact of Covid-19 on our society. For parents of young children, these changes may mean keeping children home from their regular childcare and early education programs. If you are a parent concerned that your children may be missing the stimulation that they receive daily in their care centers, our friends at Bloom Early Learning & Child Care in Plymouth encourage you to keep calm and read on! Bloom, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is committed to providing outstanding early learning opportunities to all children with up to half of its enrollment receiving scholarship assistance.

Keep Calm and Read On | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Photo by: Leslie Kellum Photography

Wait, what? The changes brought on by Covid-19 have left many reeling, especially parents of young families who may now find themselves working full-time from home and simultaneously caring full-time for their infants, toddlers and preschoolers. If you are one of those individuals feeling squeezed and worrying that you might not be providing the stimulation your child receives at his/her care center, take heart: The single most important activity you can undertake with your child is reading. So keep calm and read on!

Not only does cuddling up with your child and reading a book offer the calming break so many need right now, it also helps lay the foundation for success in school and life. According the U.S. Department of Education, the importance of reading simply can’t be overstated; it is the key to lifelong learning.

To help you make the most of your reading time, the staff at Bloom Early Learning offers the following book suggestions – all of which are winners with the kids in their classrooms – and tips for maximizing the story time experience.

For Infants—

“First word” books with real pictures, song books and interactive books are favorites with Bloom infants and their teachers. Among the most loved titles are:

  • First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
  • Baby Faces – Scholastic Book Series
  • The Itsy-Bitsy School Bus by Jeffrey Burton
  • Peek-A-Who by Nina Laden
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle
  • Moo, Baa, LaLaLa (and other titles) by Sandra Boynton

At Bloom, infants love to sit in their teachers’ laps and look at and listen to books. As they grow, they also enjoy independently flipping through books and looking at pictures. When reading with your children:

  • Use “first word” books to help them connect words and objects. As children start to use more language to name objects themselves, praise them and encourage confidence in speaking and literacy.
  • Choose books with real life pictures, especially of other children, to help infants attach more abstract ideas like feelings to pictures and begin to understand them. This nurtures empathy.
  • Constantly change the tone and volume of your voice to bring children into the story. Doing so helps keep their attention and makes it fun.
  • Select books that can be sung or have rhyming patterns. Singing and being silly when sharing a story not only builds your relationship with your child, it also starts a child’s relationship with books as he/she begins to learn that words come from books.
  • Introduce interactive books, which allow children to appreciate the fun that comes from books.

For Toddlers—

Toddlers start to tackle more abstract ideas like feelings and begin to understand that books are filled with ideas that can be told to others. For these reasons, Bloom toddlers love books like Todd Parr’s The Feelings Book and the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney. Both allow teachers to identify feelings for the children and ask them questions such as, “Do you ever feel like this?” or “What do you do when you are…?” or “Let’s see what happens in our book when the characters feel like this.”

Books with few or no words, such as Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, also appeal to toddlers. They invite little readers to use the pictures to make up their own story of what they think could be happening. This keeps a book exciting to come back to and it also promotes creativity and critical thinking in young readers. Other toddler class favorite books include:

  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • Fire Truck by Ivan Ulz
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani
  • Flotsam by David Wiesner
  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  • Dr. Seuss board books (same story, but shorter and the perfect length for a toddler’s attention span)

When introducing a new book to your toddler, Bloom teachers suggest you take it slowly. Toddlers, they note, are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Typically, teachers will read a new story for five consecutive days at a regular time, such as before lunch or at group time. Other tips teachers offer for reading with your toddler include:

  • Look at the cover of the book. Read the title, identify the author and illustrator, and then flip through the book to see generally what the story will be about. Ask what your toddler thinks the story will be about, even if your child doesn’t have a large vocabulary yet.
  • Pause while reading to ask questions about the story and point out certain details, such as animals or facial expressions. For example, “Oh my, he looks sad. Why do you think he is sad? What can they do to feel better?” Always give your child a chance to answer, and then reply, “Oh, maybe, let’s find out.”
  • When you’ve finished reading the book, talk about how much you enjoyed the story and share your favorite part. Then ask, “What was your favorite part or picture?”
  • Many stories impart life lessons, such as sharing. Reinforce these lessons by asking your child to remember a time in a story with that theme when a character didn’t want to share. Turn to the picture that shows the character and point out the facial expressions or the conflict illustrated, and then ask questions. For example, “If someone takes your toy, what should you do?” and then, “What did the character do?”
  • Reflect back to the story during the day if your child is facing a similar conflict to reinforce the problem solving skill taught in the story. “Remember when the character didn’t want to share?” “How did he solve the problem?”

For Preschoolers—

Preschoolers love silly books and books that reassure them that it is ok to be themselves and to do what makes them happy. Such stories inspire confidence and promote self-esteem. Teachers also introduce stories that reinforce important character lessons, such as kindness, tolerance and cooperation. Some classroom favorites at Bloom Early Learning are:

  • Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon series by Mo Willems
  • The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak
  • Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky
  • Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat
  • The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane Derolf, Illustrated by Michael Letzig
  • The Three Little Superpigs by Claire Evans

Preschool teachers build on the techniques toddler teachers use to introduce books. Preschoolers are at an age when they are starting to understand that words give books meaning. When reading with your preschooler, take time to:

  • Look at the parts of the book. Identify the cover, title, author, illustrator and spine.
  • Talk about what you see on the cover and make predictions about what you think will happen inside. This starts to teach children to use context clues, especially if they cannot recognize a word.
  • Give your child the time as you are reading to notice or point out important things he/she sees.
  • Take time to talk about what happened in the story and if it matched predictions when you have finished reading. Encouraging recall promotes critical thinking and helps children move to classifying what happened in a book by beginning, middle and end to further their understanding of how stories work.
  • Repeat silly phrases from the story or recall lessons characters learned throughout the day to reinforce the theme and simply share the joy of reading together.

While Minnesota’s stay-at-home order is in place, local bookstores and some Hennepin and Ramsey County library branches are offering curbside pick-up. Parents might also connect with other families from their childcare programs to swap books. Many children’s titles are available through Amazon, too.

At Bloom Early Learning & Child Care, we want every child to love reading and strive to give them the best start to lifelong learning. Find out more by visiting www.bloomearlylearning.org. #WhyChooseBloom

The “New Normal” Makes Me Want to Cover My Eyes

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The “New Normal” Makes Me Want to Cover My Eyes | Twin Cities Mom Collective

I tend to prefer the view of my neighborhood these days. Walking block to block I notice the flowers blooming, the tree branches stretching to the heavens, the puffy white clouds against the clear blue sky. If I let my thoughts wander in the right direction, I can pretend that our world is not navigating its way through a pandemic.

It’s when I leave the neighborhood that there are more reminders – empty parking lots at malls and theaters, socially-distanced lines outside of grocery stores, fellow customers in face masks, few cars on the usually-busy highways. I lamented to a friend this week that I am so anxious for things to get back to “normal.” My friend said carefully, “I don’t think we’ll ever get back to ‘normal;’ there will be a ‘new normal.’”

This was not the first time I’ve heard this, and I have to tell you, it terrifies me every time. I LOVED the old normal! Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it was known and had so many things going for it. I can’t hear “new normal” without wishing it away immediately and longing to return to the previous season of life, before all this happened.

The other day I returned home after a relaxing evening stroll around the neighborhood. I lingered on the porch before going in and I heard something floating on the breeze – guitar music! It was faint, so I paused to listen and be certain. Sure enough, there it was; a neighbor was outdoors, playing guitar and singing along! I found every excuse to stay outside and listen longer. Never in my 12 years of living here have I heard a neighbor playing music outside. It was lovely.

As I processed this, I thought of all the beautiful things that have come because of this pandemic. We’ve learned what it means to support people in our neighborhoods and communities; we’ve become much more innovative, and we’ve learned to more deeply appreciate what we’ve had all along.

When I think about the ways I’ve seen others rally around their fellow community members, I think about the fire trucks and police cars I see driving through the neighborhood to celebrate kids’ birthdays. I think about the people reaching out to their neighbors to check on them and see if they have any needs. I think about all the households who have put up hearts, or bears, or flowers in their windows to bring smiles to those walking by. I think about all those who have donated money to provide for those who are in need right now.

When I think about how much more innovative we’ve become, I think about all the teachers who pulled together meaningful distance learning for their students with little notice. I think about all the places of worship who moved to online services and kids’ programming. I think about the non-profits who have provided resources for kids and adults alike to keep spreading their mission and serving the community. Some good examples are the Rum River Art Center who has been giving free online art classes, the MN Zoo who has been sharing informational animal videos and activities, and Stages Theater’s “Beyond the Stage” programming offering behind-the-scenes info, instruction, and entertainment, to name just a few! I also think about all the creative ways families and friends are staying connected with one another. We didn’t know what we could do until we had to. I am so impressed.

We’ve also learned to more deeply appreciate what we’ve had all along. I now value our food supply more than I ever had before. When my cupboards have food, I am grateful whereas before I just wondered where to stack things. My husband and I still have our jobs, and I recognize now what an immense gift that is. Before this, I took for granted the opportunities to shake hands and hug friends; now I dream about what that will be like again; how good it will feel to give a proper greeting rather than a shout out from a distance.

I’m so thankful for the things we’ve learned. Some lessons have been painful, but as I continue to learn in my life, hard things and good things tend to intermingle. I don’t want to forget these important lessons when this is all over.

Maybe that new knowledge is part of the new normal. Maybe we walk together into the future having learned these lessons together. The new normal has felt scary to me because I don’t know what it will be like. It feels like this vast unknown, and I am a person who struggles with change! But what if the new normal is actually…better?

What if in the new normal we cherish what we have more deeply? What if we keep innovating? What if we rally around each other and look out for one another more?

That’s a new normal I can get excited about! Let’s create that beautiful new normal together.

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