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June 2017


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13 REASONS WHY: One mom’s take Page 18

Rainy day fun for kids Page 40

Easy berry jam Page 28



Yes, you can! Page 36 Jack, 4 Shoreview




See more of Minnesota Get training in outdoorsy activities — as a family — and work on your summer bucket list while you're at it!



Splashing in puddles is only the beginning of the fun you can have on rainy (and muddy) summer days with kids.

Coaching soccer and baseball — with one kid in each sport in a single season — brought steep challenges and rich rewards for this St. Paul mama.

Beyond rainboots

ON RACKS NOW! Our newly updated, annual Family Directory is out now and filled with tons of fun destinations for kids. Find it at Minnesota Parent rack sites while supplies last.


June 2017 •

Confessions of a soccer mom




Tough mudder

13 Reasons Why

The end of acne?

I let my son dig a BIG hole in the backyard and that's a good thing!

This Netflix series has me rethinking the challenges our teens face in high school today.

Could over-the-counter adapalene cure pesky teenage breakouts?


Survival guide


Birdtown charm Find cool restaurants and shops — including Minnesota Makers — in downtown Robbinsdale. 12 BABY ON BOARD


Impulse buys

Read one local mom's top tips for parenting a special needs child.

That awesome deal you just got online might not be that much of a steal after all.


Before the birth

So long, folks

Nana calls the hospital to get an update on her daughter's labor.

Our baby columnist is swapping spots with our toddler writer!


Marriage wows


Back to babies Our toddler expert is going retro and taking over the baby column. 16 SCHOOL DAYS

Free-play days! Unorganized, bored time is just what our kids need this summer. And these tips can help you find it.

Look at these adorable littles — all dressed up for weddings.


So berry easy

No, really: This freezer jam recipe is fun, kid friendly and doesn't require canning.

& About 44 Out Calendar

About our cover kid Name: Jack

Age: 4

City: Shoreview

Parents: Carissa and Chris Carroll

Siblings: Luke, 6, and Taylor, 2

Personality: Friendly, joyful and determined Favorite toys: Cars and trucks Favorite book: Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey by Andrew Sherburne Favorite activities: Attending sporting events, going to the park, listening to music and dancing Favorite foods: Pizza, pasta and fruit bars Photos by Vick Photography / Want to see your kid on the cover? Find out how at


June 2017 •


PUBLISHER Janis Hall SALES MANAGER AND CO-PUBLISHER Terry Gahan EDITOR Sarah Jackson 612-436-4385 • CONTRIBUTORS Eric Braun, Jamie Crowson, Megan Devine Rachel Guyah, Shannon Keough Dr. Sheilagh Mcguiness, Emma Nadler Amanda Williams, Jen Wittes Jennifer Wizbowski CREATIVE DIRECTOR Sarah Karnas SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Valerie Moe GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Dani Cunningham Kaitlin Ungs CLIENT SERVICES Delaney Patterson 612-436-5070 • CIRCULATION Marlo Johnson 612-436-4388 • ADVERTISING 612-436-4360 • 50,000 copies of Minnesota Parent are printed monthly, available at news stands statewide. Get Minnesota Parent mailed to your home for just $12 a year. Call 612-825-9205 for more information.

Minnesota Parent (ISSN 0740 3437) is published monthly by Minnesota Premier Publications. POSTMASTER send address changes to: MINNESOTA PARENT, 1115 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403. Minnesota Parent is copyright 2017 by Minnesota Premier Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Address all material to address above.

Mind over mud G

etting kids to play outside should be easy. But sometimes — in this age of nature-deficit disorder/screen-time and a strictly enforced culture of helicopter parenting — it seems like it’s never been more difficult. However, I’m here to tell you: Our kids really, really want it — water, dirt, air and mud, lots of mud — yes, even the seemingly sterilized indoor children (yeah, even the ones who love My Singing Monsters and King of Thieves). I have proof: I have a mud pit in my backyard (pictured below). It all began in March when my 9-year-old son started poking at the squishy ground with help from a 10-year-old neighbor friend, using, of course, my sharpest, most grown-up tools. I was delighted they were so engaged (and occupied in the outdoors) until I noticed they seemed to be destroying little bits of lawn all over the yard. I told them they should at least let the non-weedy parts of the grass live. Why not choose a more out-of-sight, overgrown spot to dig? And so they dedicated themselves to digging a giant pit in a far-off corner of the yard. Three days later, they were still at it. During every free moment they had, they were out there, digging and dragging more tools into the mix, reportedly creating some kind of imaginary refuge from zombies (their favorite enemies). Within a week, they had created a hole nearly 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep — their very own mud world. When the 80-degree days came two months later, they made a bucket of muddy water and began shooting it all over the yard. Why? “Zombie repellent!” (Regular water can’t do that, only mud water.) With all this in mind, imagine my delight and affirmation when I edited a story for this month’s magazine — our annual Outdoors Issue — about the joys of getting kids to play in the rain and mud. (International Mud Day is June 29, in case you didn’t know.) Mud curious? I say give in and go for it. Your kids will love it. And you’ll learn to deal with the mess, even if you’re type A, like me. Honestly, I don’t know what will come of our mega hole in the backyard: A sandbox? A new spot for an apple tree? A perpetual mud pit? I’m not worrying much about it right now. I may even add a mud kitchen. Sarah Jackson, Editor


June 2017 •

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Soups you can sip! With summer arriving — and a different kind of “busy” coming our way — we know we’re going to need convenience foods (that are also swimsuit-body-friendly). But that doesn’t have to mean scavenging half-eaten granola bars and the kids’ leftover Goldfish crackers. Thanks to a local stay-at-home mama, there’s another option — organic, glutenfree, vegan, sippable jars of soup. Yep, Spoon Optional soups can be sipped right out of the jar chilled or heated (in a

Nancy Fink’s soups are made fresh weekly in a commercial kitchen in St. Louis Park.

different container), if that’s your jam. Billed as “a garden in a jar,” each colorful, refrigerated concoction looks like freshly pureed summer. What’s the most popular? “Without question, it’s our Super Greens,” said Spoon Optional founder, Nancy Fink, a Minnetonka mother of three. “All our soups

Greens, which tasted more like a treat than

Beet, Apple & Celery; Gazpacho; Carrot

veggies in a jar.

Ginger Turmeric; Corn & Yellow Pepper;

One of our testers fell in love with the

Pumpkin Spice; and Gingered Yam & Butternut Squash.

start with a homemade vegetable stock and

roasted tomato basil soup (a fall option): “It was

this one is made with kale, broccoli, spinach,

absolutely delicious. I poured the soup into a

green chard, parsley and has a little cayenne

glass bowl and microwaved for three minutes,

commercial kitchen in St Louis Park and can

for a kick at the end. I love to drink it warm in

took my first spoon sip and was transported to

be found for $9.99 (16 ounces) at the Wedge

the morning — the cayenne gives a nice

a rustic homestead kitchen where Ma and Pa

Community Co-op, the Linden Hills Co-Op,

metabolism boost — or cold right out of the

sit you down and feed you ingredients from

all three Lakewinds Food Co-Op locations

jar. It’s all the leafy greens you’d want to eat

the land. I tasted the health of it.”

and at the Uptown, Grand Avenue and

in your day, but don’t have the time to shop for or cook yourself.” We loved the sweetness of the Super


June 2017 •

Soups are made fresh weekly in a

Other flavor options — available

Woodbury Kowalski’s locations (with even

depending on the season — include

more distribution expected this summer).

Minted Spring Pea, Leek & Garlic; Golden

Learn more at

Birdtown boutique Robbinsdale really is the new, hot place to be. It’s where you can find two of the Twin Cities’ trendiest restaurants — Pig Ate My Pizza and Travail Kitchen & Amusements (not to mention Victory 44, just a stone’s throw to the east in North Minneapolis). In the heart of Birdtown — on a single two-block stretch — you’ll find the aforementioned restaurants plus cool shops, old and new, including one of the newest breweries in town (Wicked Wort, offering a killer patio); an awesome old-school butcher, Hackenmueller Meats (get the ribeye and the old fashioned hot dogs); and, of course, a Woulett bakery (oh, the princess torte!), among many other boutiques. Newest among them all, however, is the charming Minnesota Makers shop, which moved from its original location Minneapolis in September — and just celebrated its two-year anniversary. It’s filled with affordable Minnesota-made stuff, including adorable baby gear. We can’t get over the stuffed animals (above), teething necklaces and crayon rollers, too! It’s owned and operated by the husbandwife team of Christa and Jay Kalk, the latter of whom — it must be noted — plays the Man in Black for Church of Cash, a Johnny Cash tribute band that tours internationally. Christa, meanwhile, is a mama and communications professor at MCTC in Minneapolis. Together the Kalks, who make their own Minnesota-shape agate pendant necklaces, have curated quite a collection of exclusively MN goods. And they’re now offering crafting classes to the public, too. Learn more at

Bye-bye, Baby on Board O

K, first things first: This is my last ever Baby on Board column! How bittersweet it is to leave behind the world of tiny little babies and all those milestones: The first smile! The first night of uninterrupted sleep! The first time you change a diaper right there in Row 22, Seat C, because the flight attendant won’t let you into the bathroom! On a recent Friday afternoon, I was hanging out with Jen Wittes, Minnesota Parent’s Toddler Time columnist extraordinaire. “I totally don’t ‘get’ babies at all,” I confessed. “Who do I think I am, writing the baby column for Minnesota Parent?” So Jen and I talked about the possibility of swapping columns for a month: I’d write about toddlers, because I’m living the toddler life right now, and Jen would write about babies, because she knows a lot about them, thanks in part to her experience as a postpartum doula. We debated whether Sarah (Jackson, our editor) would think this — or even a permanent column swap — was a “cool” idea or just crazy. Luckily for us, Sarah said she actually liked the idea!

Perhaps it’s time you heard from a new voice — someone who took to the baby stage with ease, someone who’s worked as a postpartum doula. 12

June 2017 •

↑↑Shannon Keough didn’t especially enjoy the baby stage of parenting.

That means, next month, I’ll take over the serious business of writing about toddlers and Jen will be here in baby land, bringing her extensive knowledge with her.

Unnatural everything Now that I’m “leaving,” it’s probably time for a confession: The baby stage didn’t come naturally to me. For one thing, I couldn’t get childbirth right (a C-sectioned breech baby, followed by a majorly traumatic vacuum-extracted VBAC). I failed at my holy duty of exclusive breastfeeding (and even got shamed for it from a reader when I wrote about my struggles here). I spiraled into postpartum depression. I failed to “build a village.” Just look through my archived columns for a laundry list of my shortcomings.

Another perspective Of course, I’m being somewhat facetious. I’m actually grateful for these struggles (most of the time) because I think they’ve knocked some sense into me. The bar has seriously been lowered when it comes to parenting one-upmanship. I can’t compete and so I don’t. It’s liberating!

↑↑But she's finding her kids’ toddlerhood to be delightfully hilarious and absurd.

But I worry my perspective might be a bit of a bummer to other — perhaps more well-adjusted — new parents. “You tell it like it is!” said one of my friends who generously reads my column. Yes, I did strive for honesty in what I wrote here. For example, I wrote about feeling invisible after becoming a mother, and was surprised to hear from lots of other women who felt the same sense of loneliness and loss of self. But is this the kind of stuff a vulnerable new mother really needs to hear? Sometimes I’m not so sure. (In other words, I’m sorry if I’ve traumatized you!) Perhaps it’s time you heard from a new voice — someone who took to the baby stage with ease, someone who’s worked as a postpartum doula. (I’m talking about Jen Wittes, if that’s not obvious.)


Mod play gym

Sick of garish baby toys? This cute little wooden archway — made of 100 percent birch and available in a variety of styles and finishes — is pretty enough to leave out all day long. It adjusts to two different heights and is finished with non-toxic stains. During Minnesota Parent's annual toy test, babies were drawn to the organic-cotton, wool-stuffed toys as well as the intricately carved, keepsake-worthy wooden teethers, made of Indian hardwood and finished with vegetable seed wax. $135 •

Vertical Endeavors MNP 0617 S3.indd 1

5/17/17 1:12 PM

Disorder is fun! Right now, it also makes sense for me to write about toddlers because I have them under my roof right this very minute. Yep, I’m living the toddler dream as we speak. Do I understand them? Of course not! (Does anyone?) All I know is that the levels of absurdity in our house have skyrocketed. A day doesn’t go by without at least one child scream-crying over something — say, when my husband walks upstairs to get the sunblock, and they didn’t get to "see it" (his exit and re-entry). Huh? Toddlers are perplexing, and I love it. Come join me next month as I start to explore their weird little worlds. Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to skeough@ • June 2017


So long, Toddler Time I

t started with an innocent Freaky Friday daydream, parenting-columnist style. “Your kids are toddlers now. You should do a guest spot at Toddler Time,” I said to Shannon Keough, Minnesota Parent’s Baby on Board columnist. “And you know babies!” she countered. “Maybe we could trade places for a round?” Well, one thing led to another, and Shannon and I decided to ask our editor if we could make the switch — not once, but permanently. And she said yes! And so this is my very last Toddler Time column. I’ve often called the toddler years MY hardest years of parenting. Unlike the baby years and the schoolaged years, the 2s and 3s and 4s didn’t come naturally to me. This left me roughly three years full of topics to dwell on with you, Toddler Parent, currently in the trenches. This also allowed for some backtrack healing, too: OK, maybe I wasn’t as clueless as I thought I was at the time. Maybe the toddler years were OK after all. Maybe I did the best I could.

Your words And, through it all, I’ve read your letters! You, who continued breastfeeding


↑ Jen Wittes is saying goodbye to Toddler Time and moving on to bellies, birth and babies.

because I wrote about the benefits (and challenges) of toddler breastfeeding. I cherish you! You who shared a little bit of your private lives with me when I explored the art of having foreplay, sex and subsequent cleanup in the span of a 21-minute episode of Wonder Pets. Together, we laughed. And got the job done, damn it. I’m so grateful for the preschool teachers and pediatricians — and Moms

Chalkboard app

You don’t need hand-lettering skills or even a chalkboard to create your own printable, shareable, digital chalkboard posters and prints. You just need Snapsprout, a free iPhone app designed for parents, complete with templates that celebrate everything from birth to those first days of school. free •


June 2017 •

and Dads — who shared information and inspiration; for the times you all patiently let me digress — throwing in references to Girls and Scandal, and getting slightly off topic momentarily to discuss mommy stereotypes and the importance of Dad’s Night Out. I’m so thankful for all of this and my brilliant editor, Sarah Jackson: She makes me look good. She nominates Toddler Time for awards. And — together — we WIN!

Go forth and prosper Onward, Toddler Parent, and the just-beyond Toddler Parents who have taken my words, I hope, with a healthy grain of salt. May you handle the potty-training mishap at the fancy Edina Art Fair — It’s the brown kind, Mommy! — better than I did. May you finally figure out what the heck actually goes down at a Montessori school. May you successfully petition to get Dora’s vocal chords snipped. May you chase a million more bubbles and give in to the first puppy. May you brave Chuck E. Cheese’s (again) and fill piñatas with Smarties and Tootsie Rolls and so much love. May you blissfully watch them as they sleep — and eat 500 extra calories per day while finishing up half-eaten slices of pizza, peanut butter sandwich crusts and piles of stale Goldfish. May you lie about the dead goldfish. May you teach and snuggle and read and dance in the rain. May you remember your toddlers’ voices. What they were for Halloween. The way they perfectly mis-say the words spaghetti, true and Voldemort.

Poser Design MNP 0317 H6.indd 1

2/13/17 10:36 AM

Welcome, Shannon As always, I cheer you on. I know you’re doing an awesome job, even while freaking out and shrieking and figuring out where to toss poop-bomb undies in the midst of a crowd, in Edina, on an otherwise glorious summer day. With that, I leave you in the very capable hands of my friend, Shannon. She’s coming in hot (next month) with a new title and a new take on the years between 1, 2, 3 and 4. Enjoy!

Stages Theatre MNP 0617 H4.indd 1

year! New this de

5/11/17 6:45 PM

Fun for the Whole Family!

Silo Sli

Maze • Mini Golf • Giant Slide Life-Size Birdhouse • Corn Pit Animal Petting Farm • Pony Rides Bounce Barn • Wagon Rides Playground • Picnic Area Fish and Duck Pond

Jen Wittes is a freelance writer and mother of two who lives in St. Paul. Learn more about her work at Send questions or comments to

Open Memorial Day to Labor Day Mon–Sat 10am–6pm • Sun 12–6pm Weekends in September & October

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5/18/17 10:34 AM • June 2017


Let them play! S

oon the school year will be ending, and we’ll be enjoying the warmer weather and the longer days that accompany the approach of the summer solstice. It’s the ideal time to start spending more time outdoors — and to let our children capitalize on their core strength as kids: Playing! I’m a firm believer that all children need to experience a balanced approach to play. Organized activities, such as sports and camps, can provide wonderful opportunities for kids to develop a wide range of physical, emotional and interpersonal skills. But sometimes in our modern culture, organized and structured activities can fill too much of our children’s free time. This shift from spring to summer is a perfect time to be reflective — and make sure our children have frequent opportunities to experience unscheduled, self-directed, screen-free play. When children are constantly entertained — or all their activities are structured — they can lose chances to develop critical skills. An article in The Atlantic — Why Free Play is the Best Summer School — sums it up: “Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills and shore up their physical health.” The same article highlighted a study by University of Colorado psychologists that illustrated the value of free play, including how it can contribute to the


June 2017 •

development of children’s executive functioning — a broad term that covers self-regulation, task initiation, organization, long-term planning and the ability to switch between activities, all critical skills for life and learning.

Nurturing play How can we encourage playful, openended experiences for our children? • Avoid over-scheduling: Seek balance with structured activities and/or organized sports with free time for open-ended play. Provide long, interrupted periods of time for your child (45 to 60 minutes is ideal) for spontaneous free play. You may even need to schedule this into the complex rhythms of your busy days. • Feed your child’s creativity: Provide simple, open-ended art supplies and materials as well as toys that encourage imaginative or free play. We have an art table set up in our home where our children have constant access to art materials (crayons, markers, paper, tape, glue); and our children gravitate

toward that area for creative projects. Favorite indoor toys in our household include our collections of Playmobil figures and LEGOs. If you have a large variety of toys, consider doing a toy rotation to keep your play spaces simple, inviting and manageable. • Send them outdoors: Our children spend hours outdoors building forts and making playthings out of sticks, rocks and found objects. They ride their bikes and play active games like tag and hide and seek, which is good for their well-being and physical development. • Limit screen time: If your children have unlimited access to TV, computers, video games and other screens, they’ll inevitably get sucked in. Set limits. • Be a role model: When my children come to me with nothing to do, I remind them that boredom is a choice. My husband and I model this philosophy regularly. When we aren’t busy with our grown-up responsibilities, we stay active with enrichment activities (hobbies, exercise, reading, getting outdoors). A good reminder (inspired by my friend


Butterfly garden

Grow your own butterflies with this delightful kit by Insect Lore, which includes a reusable, 11.5-inch-tall, pop-up-mesh habitat, plus a feeding pipette and care instructions. We tried it — and the kids LOVED it! Live caterpillars ship separately. To get the best deal, order a kit and the caterpillars at the same time online, versus kits that include vouchers for ordering caterpillars, which can lead to additional shipping and handling charges. $24.99–$29.99 •

Annie) to both children and adults is this: Although it can be a little uncomfortable sometimes, feeling bored can be beneficial, especially when we’re all rather used to being overscheduled.

Lessons of childhood Our children deserve rich, pleasurable, enjoyable and abundant opportunities for play. When children play, they try new things, solve problems, invent, create, test ideas and explore, developing a broader range of skills and understandings. Help them be true to their nature as children this summer and encourage the art and practice of play! Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at • June 2017


13 Reasons Why I

n the age of social media, the surge of a good story can circulate around the world and back — and leave you spinning. I’m a 40-something Gen Xer, the parent of two teens. I do my best to keep up, but I’m aware there are things trending all over the Internet that aren’t the soccer pictures of my fellow moms’ kids. Netflix’s 13-episode series — 13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 young-adult novel by Jay Asher — is essentially a series-long suicide note, left (in the form of cassette tapes) by a hurting teenage girl, detailing the 13 reasons/relationships that contributed to why she felt life wasn’t worth living anymore. I’d seen buzz about the series on my Facebook groups. And my kids’ school district sent a letter (among others in Minnesota and nationwide), cautioning against the mature content and the potential for the glamorization of suicide.

↑↑Photos courtesy of Netflix / 13 Reasons Why


June 2017 •

Looking at reality The topic of suicide, to any parent of teens, is horrific. We’re already stressed by all of the big subjects out there, and now we have to face this one, too? But, the thing is, we do. We just do. In 13 Reasons Why, you’re immersed in the world of high school — and the verbiage and communication is all teen. In fact, the entire show is built around the communication styles and perspectives of teens. And the parents and teachers in the show come in and out of scenes like interruptions. Watching the series helped me see how I, as a parent, have likely changed in the eyes of my children — now that they’ve reached adolescence. During early childhood, our kids chat with us and we laugh with them. Then things inevitably change during

I asked them both: Is this your reality? Is this how high school feels? Why don’t the kids feel they can be honest with the adults around them? their transitional years: They don’t talk to us like they used to and they don’t seem to hear us either.

Looking at my teens I’ve had many conversations with both my reluctant 14-year-old daughter and more open 16-year-old son about this series, billed as an “uncensored” and “authentic” look at modern teen life, complete with obscene cyberbullying, brutal rape scenes, heavy use of the F word and a suicide scene some have called gratuitous. The rating is MA — mature audiences — for ages 17 and older. I’m not sure how you feel about that as parent. You’ll have to decide for yourselves. My husband and I, as big Game of Thrones fans, watch the hit show (which also carries an MA rating) with remote in hand. And we’re ready for a quick draw of the pause button if we hear the kids coming down the hall. So I felt I needed to view 13 Reasons Why — recently renewed for a second season — without my kids at my side. After watching it in its entirety, I know I wouldn’t want my middle-school daughter to have to carry the images of the long, graphic rape scenes in her head.

And I really wouldn’t want my 16-yearold watching them either. But I know he could handle it, if he did. In my humble opinion, some of the visuals aren’t appropriate for middle schoolers. But the subject matter — that’s different. I talked to both of my kids about it, many times. God, I was affected by it. I asked them both: Is this your reality? Is this how high school feels? Why don’t the kids feel they can be honest with the adults around them? My son said high school is different now than when we were teens. He says there is so much pressure with social media. Adults can’t understand what it’s like, because we didn’t live with it. Who can argue with that? We didn’t have anything like social media. But it hurts to feel like he thinks they have to be the ones to take it on, all on their own.

Looking at myself After watching fictional teens deal with very adult issues in very teenage ways in 13 Reasons Why, I was struck with my responsibility as a parent. As I mentioned earlier, the entry and exit of the parents in the kids’ lives in the series is tough to watch. Almost 100 percent of the time when

asked, the teens say they’re OK. They shoo off the parents’ requests for meals together, their check-ins, their requests for open doors. I can see my teens. They come in and grab food and go up their rooms, perched like birds in treehouses — all alone with their iPads working, chatting and living their lives. It’s not that they don’t want to trust us anymore. It’s that the teenage mind can become a complex web of managing pressures, responsibilities and relationships. I think teens are afraid we’ll freak out if we really see they no longer have their innocence. They want to please us, to make us proud. But all of their inner dialogues leave them trying to work it out on their own — and make it look perfect for us. I need to be consistent in my verbiage. I need to get past the point where I see only the exterior of what my kids produce and notice the interior of how hard they’re trying. And the questions — I’ll keep asking them. I’ll interrupt that social-media universe they’re a part of and say: Are you OK? Do you need anything from me? I won’t stop telling them I love the grown-up version of them, just as much as the children they were. And I’ll hug them, tightly, until they give in and hug me back and know: I mean it. Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband and two teenagers. Send comments, questions and story ideas to

TALKING TO TEENS The Bloomington-based suicideprevention organization known as SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) has created talking points for parents who want to discuss 13 Reasons Why with their kids. See • June 2017


The pitfalls of online pricing I

was feeling a little guilty this week. While on Amazon the other day, several albums popped up as “recommended for you,” based on my previous browsing. I wasn’t really looking to buy, but many of the titles I wanted were available for same-day delivery. What a world we live in! I ordered a couple records, and that evening I was cranking Metallica on vinyl. I felt like I got good deals on the records; and the nearly instant delivery was super-cool. It also wasn’t very smart shopping, which explains my guilt. In my three years writing the Grows on Trees column, I’ve written several times about being a smart consumer, which includes resisting impulse buys. Just being aware of the temptation has helped me get better about this for the most part.


June 2017 •

But, it turns out, same-day delivery was too much for me to resist.

Manipulated by pricing I also noticed something about those albums: They’d all vacillated in price during the previous few weeks. What’s up? According to an article in The Atlantic — How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All by Jerry Useem — online prices can shift minute to minute. You’ve probably noticed that. Companies have so much data at their disposal — culled from our many hours (and years) spent online — that they’ve figured out how to extract the highest possible prices for products we're willing to pay. There’s really no such thing as a “list price” or standard price anymore for anything. For instance, prices tend to be higher during the business day, when lots of people are shopping online at work. They

drop in the evenings. And sites like Amazon don’t just manage the prices of items. They manage our perception of the prices of items. So that feeling I had of getting a good deal on those records — that was by design.

Beyond Amazon You can see this price game in the grocery store, too. Standard items like eggs and milk stay fairly steady because consumers tend to remember those prices and compare them store to store. But many other products can vary wildly in price, depending on the season, the location in the store, and what other stores are doing. What can we do about all this? In a way, the best advice is nothing new: Be diligent. Do your research. That’s always been a part of being a smart consumer. It’s important to be diligent about the smaller items, too.

The Useem article refers to a TV that Amazon slashed by $100 on black Friday last year — but also jacked up the prices on the HDMI cables needed to connect the TV (by about 60 percent). Companies know consumers watch the prices of large items very closely, but often will buy smaller things on impulse. Ah, those impulse buys. Funny thing — the same day I bought those records, I got a notice that my 13-year-old son had bought $20 worth of “gold” for a game on his phone. When I confronted him about this, he was nonplussed with my concern. He’d received a gift card, and he made his own impulse buy. It was his money, and that was how he chose to spend it.

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A treat now and then I’ve written 36 Grows on Trees columns, and I’ve coauthored a book for kids on money smarts. In both spaces, I've repeatedly discussed the value of being deliberate about purchases. Diligence alone can be a lot of work, of course, even without the added stress of thinking about how we’re constantly manipulated into spending more of our money. (Don’t get me started on the stress about all the data we’re giving up through our devices.) But there’s another thing I often write about: We all deserve a treat every now and then. Yes, save as much as you can. Yes, do your research before you buy. And yes, avoid impulse buys. But sometimes, I think it’s OK to buy something you really want, like a record or an in-app purchase — or to make a snap decision to get malts with your kids, even though you hadn’t planned to spend that money. If it truly is an every-once-in-a-while thing, we don’t have to feel guilty. Eric Braun is a Minneapolis dad of two boys and the co-author of The Survival Guide for Money Smarts: Earn, Save, Spend, Give for young readers. Send comments or questions to • June 2017


Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness

Fighting off acne! I

t’s the bane of every teen’s existence: Acne! Indeed, imperfect skin is an unfortunate reality for many kids during adolescence. And it comes right about the time teens care more about their appearance than ever. While the reasons for developing acne are complex, there are ways to help prevent and treat outbreaks when they occur. As with most skin conditions, acne is caused by many factors. Hormones, genetic predisposition, overactive sebaceous glands and bacteria can all play a role. People even wonder if specific foods cause acne. The truth is, we don’t actually have a scientifically proven answer to this question. But a healthy diet — low in processed sugars — is good for you, and early evidence shows that it’s probably helpful for reducing acne as well.

What is it? Acne is commonly divided into bumps (called comedones), such as whiteheads and blackheads, and inflammatory acne, like red pimples and pustules. It usually starts to appear around puberty, but sometimes kids start having acne as early as age 9 or 10. Acne typically starts with mild whiteheads and blackheads. Then it can turn into red and inflamed pimples and cysts, and even create pit-like scarring.

Cleanse, don’t pick A good skin-care routine always involves washing your face. It’s best to use gentle cleansers twice daily or after vigorous exercise. Avoid over-scrubbing or over-exfoliating. Because acne isn’t caused by dirt, you don’t need fancy soaps or scrubs to


June 2017 •

cleanse. In fact, over-cleansing can actually be harmful because it can dry out your skin, which makes many skin medications (if needed) less effective. Teens should never pick or pop pimples. This can lead to scarring, brown spots, pain and worse acne.

Over-the-counter options A good first step in treating acne breakouts is over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide. It comes in many different forms, including cleansers, gels, lotions and more. (Watch out, though, benzoyl peroxide can bleach towels and clothing!) Sometimes this treatment can dry or irritate teen skin, so using an oil-free moisturizer can be helpful. Look for labels that say non-acnegenic or non-comedogenic. One new, over-the-counter option is adapalene. Adapalene, also known as Differin

gel (0.1 percent), is a mild topical retinoid that can treat and prevent acne. It was previously available only by prescription. Adapalene is best applied nightly, using a pea-sized amount. This small dab of gel is enough to treat the entire face. Less is more. If dryness or irritation occur, your teen can take a few days off. For some kids, this product works best when applied every other day and paired with an oil-free moisturizer. Keep in mind: It usually takes about three months for these at-home approaches to produce results. Stick with it.

The stubborn stuff If gentle cleansing and over-the-counter options don’t clear things up, you might consider bringing your teenager to a

One new option, available over the counter for acne, is adapalene. It was previously available only by prescription.

dermatologist. Severe acne that’s painful, red or inflamed will often require stronger creams, oral antibiotics or hormonal therapies that can be prescribed only by a doctor. In rare cases, what looks like acne might actually be a sign of an underlying medical problem. If your child has persistent red bumps on his or her face without blackheads — or if he or she suffers from acne between 4 and 8 years old — see a specialist. It could be a sign that something else is wrong, and it’s best to address it as early as possible. By following these tips, your teen can hopefully treat — and prevent — acne outbreaks easily, and focus on the more fun parts of his or her teenage years. Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness is an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She sub-specializes in pediatric dermatology and is one of the only boardcertified pediatric dermatologists in the Twin Cities. Maguiness practices at the University of Minnesota Health Pediatric Dermatology Clinic at the Masonic Children’s Hospital.

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4/14/14 12:50 PM • June 2017


Emma Nadler

Surviving special needs L

et me start by being totally clear: I’m not pretending to have this all figured out. If I’m honest with you, there have been times when I’ve felt as if I was barely surviving. Certainly, I’ve cried more about my daughter’s lifethreatening medical condition than I’ve cried about anything else. She has a rare genetic difference that affects her eating — she does not eat (she lives off of a feeding tube), and throws up regularly, sometimes without being able to stop. I thought my life would be one way, with healthy children who needed me only for a while as they learned to do things (at the ages kids usually do things). But, it’s really not like that. So, yes, I struggle to reconcile my expectations of parenthood (trips to see the primates at Como Zoo or, say, the boredom of playing blocks in the basement) with what our life is actually like — rehabilitative therapies, intermittent hospitalizations and somehow, along the way, acquiring semilegit nursing skills. Based on my own experiences, here are my Top 5 tips for surviving the very particular type of stress that is parenting children with special needs:

↑↑Emma Nadler’s daughter, who receives food from a tube, shares a moment with her Dad.

feel scary and vulnerable and all of those things that, as humans, we sometimes try to avoid. Then do whatever you can to pay that love forward; it can sometimes quell the guilt around receiving help.

1. Build a support network

2. Take breaks

Find other people who have also been humbled in a very real way. Keep reaching out even when you can’t imagine why they would want to still be your friend (like when they bring you dinner for the fourth time at the hospital). If someone offers something, accept it. Even though, of course, receiving help can

My friend Jess has a code for this. She tells her spouse she “needs a bath” and then he takes over for a while. She’s a genius. I know there’s a lot of times when it isn’t possible to tag out. And that’s when I take a five-minute mini-vacation. It’s far from a real vacation, but it’s something.


June 2017 •

3. Use humor I’ve laughed more about vomit than I ever thought was possible. No matter what else is happening, even when we have to sit through hours at the ER, I always feel better after laughing. Sometimes when things are terrible and I don’t know what else to do, I try to make the nurses chuckle. Because nurses are the best, and then at least someone is having a good time.

4. Find your team If a doctor or specialist isn’t attentive, empathetic and helpful, we don’t visit

Make some Magic on the Mesabi Sometimes when things are terrible and I don’t know what else to do, I try to make the nurses chuckle. Because nurses are the best, and then at least someone is having a good time. them anymore. Ever. And then we find someone else who can give understanding and skilled care. Because of our daughter’s needs, we’ve met incredibly talented people. But we’ve had to make adjustments along the way to get that group in place. The reality is we’ve had to really work to find the ones who fit our family.

Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range offers family-friendly opportunities to experience the outdoors and learn about our state’s great history and geology. Find planning tools and information at

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5/23/17 2:32 PM

5. Identify an outlet For me, it’s writing. And sometimes taking walks in inclement weather. OK, and also book binging at the library — you know, when you check out so many books that your back hurts on the way out and/or a librarian refers to you as a “heavy user.” Everyone has their thing(s). The most important part is to just keep going with it. Don’t give it up, even though, yes, you’re exhausted and you can’t imagine how you can do it. Or anything. Just start, and then by the simple act of starting, you’ll be on your way. Emma Nadler lives in Minneapolis. She is the author of the Itty Bitty Yiddies blog ( in which she shares true stories about her family — two kids, two parents and too many medical appointments (and a whole lot of love). Niagara Cave MNP 0617 S3.indd 3

5/23/17 10:11 AM • June 2017


Mary and Laura


Birth-day expectations MAMA: After the excitement of the positive pregnancy test wore off a bit, my partner (Galen) and I began talking through what was ahead, including when and how we’d tell our friends and family about the pregnancy, which parenting classes we’d take and, of course, how we’d handle communication around the birth of our little one. Because my parents live 1,000 miles away (in Minnesota), their visit to us (in Colorado) wouldn’t be as easy as texting, “We’re ready for visitors now.” Our plan was simple: As soon as I was checked into the hospital and it was confirmed that I was really in labor, Galen would text both sets of grandparents-to-be and let them know. Starting at about 37 weeks, though, my mom started sending almost daily check-in texts. I’m no fool: I knew her “How’s your day?” was really “How’s your birth canal?” But we kept up the guise for a few weeks. By the time I hit 39 weeks, her general check ins became much more frequent and specific: “Anything happening? Any changes?” During one of our text exchanges, I finally assured my mom that if ANYTHING changed, I would let her know. Late one night, my water broke. As soon as I got off the phone with a nurse, who confirmed that I should get to the hospital as soon as I could, I texted my mom. “Water just broke. Headed to the hospital now.” Once we got to the hospital and got checked in, Galen sent another update to both sets of grandparents, letting them know we were settling in for the night and 26

June 2017 •

↑↑Mary Rose Remington and her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell, pose with Mitchell’s son, Kellan.

we’d keep them updated. In Galen’s mind, that meant “As soon as Baby is here, we’ll let you know.” Clearly, my mom wasn’t on the same page, because several hours later, as my contractions were beginning to pick up, our labor nurse came in to check on me. While she was in our room she received a page: “You have a call on line 2. It’s the mom of your patient in Room 408 (our room). She’s wanting an update on her daughter.” In the moment, I was equal parts mortified and impressed that my mom had figured out a way to get the update she needed. Looking back, I learned a lot. Here’s what I recommend for other parents/ grandparents-to-be: • Be honest about the type and frequency of communication both sides need. • Revisit these agreements frequently.

(Your needs might change!) • Don’t be afraid to reach out for what you need if you’re not getting it (like calling the hospital directly).

NANA: I was ecstatic to hear we’d soon become grandparents, and took great delight in the communications that followed — a picture from the first ultrasound (I bawled!), news of the sex (It’s a boy!), measurements (right on target). But the closer Laura got to her due date, the more I found myself hovering, despite the miles that separated us. I began sending check-in texts, and strove to limit myself to one a day: Sometimes I met my goal. Because I work at a hospital, I’m reminded every day of things that can go wrong medically — and the daily check-ins helped me keep my anxiety at bay.

My approach was to embrace statistics that favored a healthy, normal delivery for mom and baby, then hold that intention daily. My husband and I began discussing details regarding our visit and — due to the uncertainty inherent in birth dates — we decided to drive, not fly. My three goals for the trip were: • Meet, cuddle and start developing our relationship with our new grandson; • Provide help to the little family: Make meals, run errands, do laundry, whatever they needed; • Not overstay our welcome.


Saturday, June 17, 2017 10am–1pm Live music from The Teddy Bear Band & The Bazillions, kids’ yoga, crafts, facepainting & many other activities!

Finally, THE text came: Baby was coming! After I shared the exciting news with my husband — that Laura was in labor — he went to bed. I, meanwhile, started a nervous vigil on the couch, awaiting updates from Galen. Around 11 p.m., one came, stating that Laura was doing well. As I fell in and out of restless sleep, I checked my phone incessantly. Nothing. Around 5 a.m., I reached my limit and texted Galen. “Any updates?” After 15 minutes with no response, I called the hospital, explained who I was, and within minutes had received a brief synopsis of the birth progress from their nurse. She compassionately assured me mom and baby were progressing and doing well. I knew I’d crossed an invisible boundary when I made that call; and I understood there would be criticism and teasing to follow. But know this: Mama bear will always do whatever she needs to do to ensure her cubs are OK. Moral: Communicate with both mom and her partner before labor begins, and discuss frequency of birth updates that will work for all. Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer and new grandmother, lives Minneapolis. Her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell — a millennial first-time mom — lives in Denver. They’ll be documenting their generational differences with this occasional series in both Minnesota Parent and its sister publication, Minnesota Good Age.

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AT THE LAKE HARRIET BANDSHELL 5/23/17 4:49 PM • June 2017



Freezer jam is — hands down — the easiest and prettiest jam you can make. Traditionally canned jams involve first boiling the jam and the jam jars (in a water bath), effectively twicecooking the berries. Blasphemy!

With freezer jam, you can skip all that while also capturing the berries’ super-fruity, crazy-fresh flavors and bright, red color.


Yes, it’s a lot. But the high-sugar ratios in most jams allow the sugar to work as a powerful preservative (seriously) and it boosts jam firmness, too. As the pectin box directions say: “Do not reduce the sugar or use sugar substitutes as this will result in set failures.” The good news is this: Freezer jam is so amazingly fruity and sweet, you can use it in moderation and still enjoy tremendous flavor.


June 2017 •

Our pint-sized recipe testers, of course, loved doing the first step — smashing the berries. — Sarah Jackson


Check out some of the best U-pick berry farms in Minnesota at

BERRY FREEZER JAM INGREDIENTS 4 cups raspberries, blackberries or hulled strawberries 4 cups sugar ½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest 1 packet regular powdered fruit pectin (1¾ ounces) ¾ cup water Makes about 5 cups

DIRECTIONS Crush the berries with a potato masher in a medium-sized bowl until you have 2 cups. Mix berries, sugar and lemon peel. Let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine pectin and water in a small sauce pan. Bring to boiling over high heat and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add berry mixture. Stir for 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is no longer grainy. Ladle into half-pint freezer containers, leaving half an inch of headspace. Seal and label. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours or until set. Store for up to 3 weeks in the fridge or up to 1 year in the freezer. Source: Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book


June 2017 •

↑ Voyageurs National Park

Stay home this summer and discover all the amazing outdoor activities Minnesota has to offer, right in your own backyard. by AMANDA WILLIAMS

FFF • June 2017


IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE HAS THE TRAVEL BUG LATELY. Even parents — a more traditionally tied-down crowd — are doing round-the-world travel. And they’re even bringing their kids, if their many Facebook photos are to be believed. But — as exciting as Iceland sounds and as enticing as Jamaica may be — large-scale travel isn’t right for every family or for every budget. And, guess what? Minnesota offers a wonderland of outdoor adventures. This summer, instead of lusting after places around the globe, grab the old road map, unplug and challenge your family to pursue a new kind of Minnesota bucket list. Here are just a few ideas to get you inspired to explore.

FFF 32

June 2017 •

↑ The Minnesota State Parks and Trails I Can! programs are designed for families wanting to try new activities with expert guidance. Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Visit Minnesota State Parks Minnesota’s 67 state parks might not seem overly exciting at first glance. You may have already dipped your toes into the headwaters of the Mississippi and perhaps conquered the stairs at Gooseberry Falls. But have you ever really immersed your family in outdoor experiences such as camping, paddling, mountain biking, fishing or climbing? If you’ve always wanted to try one or all of the above — but felt limited by your own skills, gear or even the cost — then we recommend you check out the Minnesota State Parks and Trails’ I Can! programs, designed for families wanting to try all those activities (plus archery!) for the first time in some of Minnesota’s most beautiful places. Families pick one activity and then receive hands-on instruction from experienced, friendly guides. Gear is provided. Some programs are free and all are designed to be affordable for families. You’ll get to learn and grow — as a family — together in the outdoors. Registration is required.

RENT A CABIN … OR A TIPI! Not into sleeping on the ground while you’re learning a new skill in the wild? Check out the state park system’s cabin and yurt rentals for a cozier camping experience (for about $50 to $70 a night). Wall-tents and tipis are another option and cost even less, typically $30 to $35. Reserve as soon as possible, however: They go fast!

HIKE AND EXPLORE! Do you need a catalyst to help you make the extra effort in seeing ALL of the state parks in Minnesota? The Minnesota DNR’s Passport Club — built around a kit that costs $14.95 — might be just the thing. Kids get to collect a stamp for each park they visit. After acquiring 25 park stamps, they earn a free night of family camping and a commemorative pin. Kids who visit all 67 parks earn a personalized plaque and another free night of camping. The Minnesota DNR Hiking Club — yes, the one referenced on the blue signs you see on so many state trails — cost the same as the Passport Club and offers the same camping rewards, plus you can earn colorful patches for hiking 25, 50, 75, 100, 125 and 175 miles. The North Country Trail Association also awards patches to individuals who hike 100 or more miles in a single calendar year on the North Country National Scenic Trail. The 4,600-mile route runs through Minnesota and six other northern states.

Join the Junior Rangers

↑↑The Minnesota DNR’s Passport Club encourages kids to visit each state park to collect stamps and, eventually, earn a free night of camping and other prizes.

Want to travel 365 self-propelled miles this year? Sign up for this fun, grassroots challenge (for a $15 fee) to boost your family’s motivation. You’ll get a #365milechallenge vinyl sticker, admission into a private, supportive Facebook group for participants, exclusive discounts on gear and automatic entry into prize drawings. Get started soon: You have until New Year’s Eve to get your miles done.

↑↑The Minnesota DNR Hiking Club combines elements of an expedition, a classroom and a treasure hunt on trails around the state, including the Dakota Trail in Whitewater State Park.

Minnesota is home to six national parks, monuments and recreation areas, including Voyageurs National Park (all the way up at the state’s northern border); the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway; Grand Portage and Pipestone national monuments; and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which happens to have a visitors center in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. Such destinations — along with the rest of the country’s national parks — are extremely educational. But it’s not always easy for kids to listen to lectures and read informational signs and historical markers geared toward adults. Fortunately, many parks offer Junior Rangers programs to better engage the entire family with special kid-friendly attractions, such as activity booklets or worksheets, plus patches, badges and certificates children can earn during park visits. For a list of participating locations — and to learn more about free park admission nationwide for families with fourth-graders — see The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources explorer program is another way for kids to earn badges. And it’s geared toward three age groups — 3–5, 6–8 and 9 and older — with nine booklets to take kids from age 3 to 11. If your kid enjoys earning badges of any kind, you could even get him or her an adventure vest. Any safari vest will do; you don’t need to buy the national park gift shop version for $30. It could be the ultimate visual reminder of how many bucket-list items you’ve checked off your list as a family!

FFF • June 2017


Adventure junkies, rejoice! NEED AN ADRENALINE RUSH THIS SUMMER? Check out these adventures geared toward kids who like a little physical excitement mixed in with all that nature!

↑ Zip-line adventure destinations in Nisswa and Henderson are geared toward ages 10 and older. Photo courtesy of Zip Line Minnesota

Zip Lines The Brainerd Zip Line Tour in Nisswa near Gull Lake offers seven different zip lines, a 65-foot suspension bridge and more

for ages 10 and older, all just 2.5 hours north of Minneapolis. Kerfoot Canopy Tour is even closer (in Henderson, an hour southwest of Minneapolis) and offers more than a mile of zip lines

SUP! Stand up paddle boarding is the water sport that’s currently sweeping the country — and region, thanks to our fantastic expanse of lakes. And families are getting in on the action, too. Most outfitters and major destinations in Minnesota rent paddle boards (and sometimes offer lessons, too), including more than a dozen state parks that loan out paddle boards for $10 per hour (as well as kayaks and canoes). Minneapolis-based Paddle North — a local maker of beautiful, lightweight boards made of bamboo — offers reviews of some of the best SUP outings around the state (with details about water clarity and depth), including the Lake Calhoun, Lake Superior, Medicine Lake, the Mississippi River and others. (Food for thought: You can demo Paddle North boards for free on any lake in the Twin Cities before you buy one.)


June 2017 •

(14 in all), plus a 170-foot suspension bridge (also for ages 10 and older). In the metro area, Sand Creek Adventures in Jordan offers a high-ropes course and zip lines for ages 8 and older.

Stand-up paddle boarding, billed as a cross between surfing and canoeing, is one of the fastest growing water sports in Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Paddle North

ALPINE RIDES Got younger kids who need a thrill ride? The Timber Twister at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park in Duluth is open to ages 3 and older. Riders travel on a 3,200-foot, elevated track — alone or in pairs — and can control their speed, which tops out at 26 miles per hour. It’s a fantastic way to catch a breeze on a hot summer day (as well as some gorgeous views) and it’s something truly different. Ages 3 and older can also ride the Timber Flyer zip line — with bench-style seats secured with safety belts — suitable for singles or pairs with no terrifying platforms ↑↑Multiple local companies offer balloon rides in Minnesota, including Stillwater Balloons, which departs from the banks of the Saint Croix River, weather permitting. Photo courtesy of Stillwater Balloons

or stairs to conquer. Also on site you’ll find disc golf, mini golf and the classic chair lift ride — just like skiing, but sans snow.

Whitewater rafting

Soar in a hot air balloon You don’t have to travel to Albuquerque to fly high in a giant balloon. Right here in Minnesota, you can cruise around bluff country in style with Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides, which take off from Aamodt’s Apple Farm and Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater — or check out Stillwater Balloons, with rides departing from the banks of the Saint Croix River. Imagine soaring over Minnesota — and Wisconsin — in your own private basket! Yes, this is a major bucket list item. Tickets (known as certificates) can cost more than $250 per person, so you might want to save this for a special occasion (and maybe even opt to not bring the kids). We’re thinking anniversaries, family reunions or 40th birthdays. Keep in mind that balloon flights are totally at the mercy of the weather, so your trip may be postponed.

↑↑The Timber Twister at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park in Duluth is open to ages 3 and older. Photo courtesy of Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

↑↑Seeing the outdoors while on horseback can be a thrill — and even therapeutic — for kids. Photo courtesy of Bunker Park Stable

Horseback riding Let your school-age kid hit the dusty trail and grab the reigns! Horseback riding can be a thrill — and even therapeutic — for all ages. Not only do children get to learn a bit about horses and how they work, but they also get to see the outdoors from a new perspective on trail rides. Summer horse camps abound for youth, but you can also let your kids try weekly lessons. Windy Ridge Ranch of Woodbury offers lessons for ages 7 and up, while Bunker Park Stable of Andover caters to ages 8 and older. Both offer weeknight and Saturday sessions, ideal for households with two working parents.

While you might not know about Minnesota’s whitewater, it’s a bona fide thing — on the St. Louis River southwest of Duluth. Minnesota Whitewater Rafting, based in Scanlon, and Swiftwater Adventures, based in Esko, are two popular places that accommodate paddlers age 11 and older. No experience is necessary. Most trips cost about $50 per person and last for 2.5 hours.

↑↑River rafting on St. Louis River southwest of Duluth includes whitewater trips for ages 11 and older. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Whitewater Rafting

Amanda Williams lives in rural Minnesota with her two energetic sons and husband. • June 2017




h m c a o o m c Story and photos by JEN WITTES


June 2017 •





ome of us end up coaching youth sports because we have a passion for the sport of choice. Some of us think it sounds like a really cool way to

spend more time with our kid — or we get roped in by a fellow parent. And many us naively check the box that comes up during online registration that

says, “Feel free to contact me about volunteer opportunities.” Hear me now. That box isn’t a sign-up for granola bars and Gatorade. It’s a sign-yourname-in-blood pledge to be a coach — maybe even Head Coach. If you say: “I’d rather watch from the stands, but if you find yourself short — and need an extra coach — let me know,” is as good as, “I’m in!” They will always need you. Always.

Honestly, it’s a lot Every team is different. And every coach is different, too. I’d co-coached soccer for a season here and there when my kids were really little — once because I wanted to, and once because a friend wanted me to do it with her. It was pretty low-key and I had fun getting out there in the fresh air. Last summer, however, I — having expressed that precarious willingness to volunteer — found myself coaching both 10U baseball and girls 12U soccer simultaneously, while also walking that “blessed” — and also stressed — walk of a workfrom-home summer parent. It was GREAT exercise. It was fun and kept me fully engaged during my kids’ games. And it was A LOT.

F • June 2017


a coachmom



My little city car was always full of equipment. At night, after work and practice and summer folly, I often had emails from team parents to answer. If my kid skipped a game or practice for a birthday party or camp, I was still obligated to be there for the team. Still, it was a personal growth experience. I found I was an organizational coach (I was REALLY fond of my clipboard) as well as a nurturer: “Honey, I think you need an ice pack.” I learned how to not play favorites (even though my kids are naturally my favorites)


June 2017 •

and pushed myself to physically keep up with some seriously intense, tween-girl soccer players.

rest now and then and, of course, run booboo patrol when things got too rough on the field — an elbow to a nose, broken glasses, sprained fingers.

Double duty While I learned how I could best succeed as a coach, I also had to shift gears, day to day, from two very different teams — and dissimilar groups of kids. My baseball team was a little bit Bad News Bears — all boys except one brave girl — with developing skills sets, barely developing listening skills, a profound adoration of potty humor and a tendency to be hard on themselves. They were hilarious and entertaining and challenging and exhausting. My girls’ soccer team was well-behaved and focused, intensely physical and determined. My challenge with them was getting them to lighten up, accept a bit of

Walking the line Compared to other dynamics I’ve seen — and stories I’ve heard — my kids were pretty good about not exploiting my role as their coach. They didn’t scoff at my decisions often, seemed to appreciate my presence and didn’t expect special treatment. My daughter maybe distracted me a bit — hanging out by my side and chatting when she was on the sidelines — but we worked it out. Both kids tested my patience briefly with position requests off the field, at home, when I was already in the mom zone. My daughter didn’t want to take her turn as goalie.


Do’s & don’ts COACHES

“Nope, sorry,” I said. “Everyone has to.” My son once bossily interrogated me about why he didn’t get to play second base while I was trying to decompress with a bubble bath. “Would you waltz into one of the other coaches’ bathrooms while THEY were taking a bath?” I asked. The toughest part about the coach-mom dynamic was showing fairness. I had to tone down the “my kid rocks” celebration a few notches and show equal enthusiasm for every member of the team. And it wasn’t easy, I’ll admit, to not give in to what I knew they wanted. As parents, we want them to be happy and comfortable. As a coach, you must make sure everyone does their part and has a chance to enjoy the most highly coveted spots.

Do you need to be sporty? Not really. But it doesn’t hurt. When the kids are younger, coaching is more about herding, redirecting and driving home the idea that sports are fun. Now that my daughter’s in middle school, I’ve probably now phased myself out of coaching her soccer team. I could do it, but they’re better off with someone who’s better at soccer skills and strategy. I’ve kept up until now, but it was never my sport. Considering coaching hockey?

In Minnesota, that’s a beast of a different nature — and I salute you. More practices, more games, more equipment. You’ll be tying a lot of skates. You should probably know how to skate. (But, if you’re a hockey person, you probably know this.) All in all, just be yourself. Be exactly what you naturally bring to the table. Whether that be a clipboard, ice packs, the secret to the perfect curve ball or yoga moves for conditioning. Be confident as a coach and the kids will (mostly) follow. Don’t forget to be a good sport and have fun! Jen Wittes is a freelance writer and mother of two who lives in St. Paul. Send questions or comments to

⊲⊲ Do establish morale-boosting team rituals such as a chant, a cheer, MVP prizes, bubble gum or sunflower seeds. ⊲⊲ Do go for ice cream after games. ⊲⊲ Do have a team party. ⊲⊲ Do err on the side of caution when it comes to injuries. ⊲⊲ Do welcome third and fourth assistant coaches: More hands on deck means more flexibility, just in case you get tied up with work, travel or illness. ⊲⊲ Don’t put up with bad sportsmanship or bad attitudes.

PARENTS ⊲⊲ Don’t get involved in disputes with referees. ⊲⊲ Do back up the coach’s decisions in family discussions at home. ⊲⊲ Do speak up if a coach is truly not acting in the best interest of the team or if your child is being bullied on the field. ⊲⊲ Do find a special way to thank your child’s coaches and/or tell them they’re appreciated! ⊲⊲ Do show up to games and cheer on the team. ⊲⊲ Don’t make special requests about positioning. As long as your child is getting fair play time, let the dedicated individuals — in the 100 percent VOLUNTEER positions — do their job. • May 2017



, y d a Re , wet! t e s

June 2017 •


ways to play in the rain — and even mud — when showers threaten to dampen your day by RACHEL GUYAH


ften when we think of rainy days, we picture time spent indoors — reading, building pillow forts and watching movies — desperately concocting ways to ward off boredom and help our kids expel astronomical levels of energy (without entirely wearing us out). But why miss out on all that wet, muddy fun? Rainy days are ripe with opportunity for outdoor play. Kids are biologically programmed to explore and get messy. Oh, how they love mud! It’s like sand, on steroids. As much as we parents might cringe at the increased number baths, loads of laundry and muddy floors that mud can create, a connection to nature (and literal earth) is good for our kids’ development. And guess what else? You’ll be making memories, too. On a recent romp through the spongy, wet park in the rain, my son squealed as he splashed and said, “These are the best puddles EVER!” His big smile and pure bliss warmed my heart in a way no indoor activity could’ve done that day. By adopting a little “mind over mud” and basic planning, you can seize those showers and relish all the beautiful, messy adventures that await you in the muck.

Grab your umbrellas, boots and imaginations, and get out there! • June 2017


, Ready ! t e w , t se


Scribble with sticks

At its simplest, all you need is a swath of mud or wet sand — and a stick. Use the sticks to draw shapes, letters or scenes. Experiment with different-sized sticks. Your creations won’t last, but that’s part of the fun.


Draw with chalk

Sidewalk chalk takes on a whole new texture and look when wet. Indeed, water makes the colors extra vibrant! (And the chalk actually still works.)


Paint with markers

Before heading outside, have your kids color on some thick paper, using washable markers or watercolor crayons. Head outside with a plastic tray or cookie sheet and let the rain do its magic. Kids will have fun watching their images blur as the colors bleed together! Bring the drawings back inside to dry, and then use them to make homemade greeting cards or artwork displays.



Make a masterpiece

Grab some buckets — old yogurt tubs or ice cream pails will work — and paintbrushes. Scoop mud into the buckets. Have your kid use the brushes (or fingers) to paint the sidewalk or driveway. For lasting artwork, you can also use cardstock paper, poster board, paper plates or cardboard. If the weather’s warm enough, the kids can also dip their hands or feet in the mud to create stamped handprints and footprints.


June 2017 •

SET LIMITS: Soil, mud and puddles are natural, but they’re not sterile. Don’t let children ingest soil, mud or water. Avoid mud if children have open sores or cuts, and stay away from warm or stagnant water. CHECK YOUR WEATHER APP: Lightning can strike as far as 10 to 15 miles from the area where it’s raining. That’s about the distance from which you can hear thunder, according to the National Weather Service. If you can hear thunder, you’re within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately. Learn more at


Have a paper boat race Make origami paper boats to race in the puddles or street gutters. Thick cardstock works best. For extra fun, you can decorate each boat with a toothpick and mini flag in the center. See for inspiration.


Puddle jumping!

Few things in life are as simple (and satisfying) as splashing through some puddles — and the bigger, the better! Have a splashing contest, or listen to the sounds puddle jumping makes on different surfaces such as pavement, grass or bare ground.


Set up a mud kitchen

Using an old bench or scrap lumber, you can make your own mud kitchen in the backyard for your budding chef. Stock the kitchen with old pots, pans, measuring cups and utensils (or pick up some extras from the thrift store). Using mud, twigs, pine cones and other objects from nature, your kid will have a blast cooking in the rain. Mud pies, mud soup, mud muffins — yum!


Collect and measure

Gather containers of different sizes and shapes (such as mason jars, old flower vases or plastic storage containers). Bring them outside and have your child guess which container will fill up with water first. You can also make a homemade rain gauge by cutting off the top of a plastic bottle and marking various increments with a permanent black marker.


Make some noise

Gather a variety of pots, pans and muffin tins — metal (especially aluminum) sounds best. Bring them outside in the rain, arranging some right-side up and some upside down. Listen to the different sounds each one makes.


Create a sensory bin

Bring a plastic storage bin outside and fill it with a bunch of dirt and mud. Add toy tractors, construction vehicles and farm animals. Let the kids put their sand toys, dump trucks and diggers to work. And watch them squeal with joy as they get their little piggies and cows muddy.

INTERNATIONAL MUD DAY Created at the World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education, this day — Thursday, June 29 — celebrates humans’ connection to Mother Nature in its muddiest form. Learn more at connect. or InternationalMudDay.


Read in the rain

Grab some books, your big umbrellas and a tarp (or extra shower curtain) to sit on. Find a spot in your backyard to sit down and have story time. Reading takes on a magical feel when it takes place in the rain. If you want to go all out, you could set up the family camping tent in advance — with its rain fly and ground footprint — and really move in with sleeping bags, stuffies and pillows, too. Since it often seems to rain on real camping trips, this is good practice!



Bring out a variety of small objects of different densities (wine corks, ping-pong balls, cherry tomatoes and simple toys). Have your child guess which ones will sink or float. This experiment is a hands-on way to teach kids about density and how its affects an object’s ability to float.


Worm rescue mission

Earthworms breathe through their skin and breathe best when cool and damp. However, when it rains, the ground fills with water and they’re forced to the surface to prevent drowning. If they get stranded on the surface too long, they can die from dehydration. Invite your little ones to carry out Operation Earthworm by carefully moving worms on the sidewalk or road back to higher ground on grass or dirt.


Go on a nature walk

Grab your waterproof boots and rain jacket, and hit the trails. The smell of rain and soggy soil, the sound of droplets plop-plopplopping, the vibrant hues that emerge when nature gets wet — nature hikes become a sensory playground in the rain. If you drive to the trail, pack garbage bags, towels and dry clothes.


Host a mud party

If you know in advance that the weather is calling for rain, you can host a mud party or play date! Set up different stations outside for painting, cooking, excavating with construction toys and more. Rachel Guyah is a Bloomington-based writer and mother to an adorably dimpled, energizer bunny (cleverly disguised as a toddler). Follow her musings about motherhood at • June 2017


Out & About JUNE

⊲ Join Minnesota Parent for its fourth-annual summer kick-off event. Enjoy live music, kids’ art activities, face painting and more. Plus, we’ll be giving away our hot-off-the-press annual Family Directory — your go-to guide for local family-friendly events, destinations and activities throughout the Twin Cities. When: 10 a.m.–1 p.m. June 17 Cost: FREE

Where: Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis Info:


Music & Movies in the Parks ⊲ Both St. Paul and Minneapolis offer family-friendly outdoor summer concert and film series at local parks. When: Ongoing Where: Minneapolis and St. Paul Cost: FREE Info: and

JUNE 2–4

Edina Art Fair ⊲ More than 250 fine artists and crafters from around Minnesota, the U.S. and Canada will share and sell their work alongside local and regional musicians, fashion shows, cooking and lifestyle demonstrations, food, wine, beer and a kids-art zone, featuring bouncy houses, a community art


June 2017 •

project and youth artist booths. When: June 2–4. See the Teddy Bear Band at 10:15 a.m. June 2. Where: 50th & France neighborhood of Edina; a free shuttle will run from Southdale to the event. Cost: FREE Info:


WaterFest ⊲ Celebrate local lakes and outdoor fun with hands-on learning opportunities, including canoe rides, fishing lessons, swimming, a bouncy house, games, live animals, music, dance performances, food trucks and more. When: 11 a.m.–4 p.m. June 3 Where: Lake Phalen Pavilion, St. Paul Cost: FREE Info:

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Grand Reopening ⊲ Celebrate the grand reopening of this treasured, 10-acre green space — featuring more than a dozen new sculptures — with a daylong festival for all ages, including guided tours, live music, food trucks, DJs, activities for kids, free ice cream and giveaways. When: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. June 3. Attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon; catch Black Market Brass shows at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; and see dance performances in the gardens at 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Where: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis Cost: FREE. Can’t make the main event? Gallery admission will be free June 1 to 10 — and during a Walker Wide Open Party (geared toward grown-ups) from 6 to 10 p.m. June 8. Info:

and take tours at this farm, featuring hands-on programming by the Ramsey County Historical Society.


Grand Old Day ⊲ This annual 30-block party — one of the largest of its kind in the Midwest — features a parade, food vendors, live music at multiple festival gardens, a Minnesota-artists’ showcase, a wellness district and a family fun area, all in addition to the offerings of the 350 businesses that line Grand Avenue. When: June 4 Where: Grand Avenue, St. Paul Cost: FREE Info:

JUNE 4–AUG. 27

Gibbs Farm Ice Cream Sundays ⊲ Enjoy ice cream made the oldfashioned way, meet farm animals

When: 10 a.m.–4 p.m. June 4 and 18, July 2, 16 and 30 and Aug. 13 and 27 Where: Gibbs Farm, St. Paul Cost: Free ice cream is included with farm admission of $8 for adults, $7 for ages 62 and older and $5 ages 3–16. Info:

towers, a spiral slide and a netted catwalk); Sprouts (an area of discovery for babies and toddlers); and The Studio (where kids can tinker and create with real tools and authentic materials).


MCM Grand Opening ⊲ The Minnesota Children’s Museum’s St. Paul campus (temporarily closed since December) will celebrate its $30 million expansion and renovation, which added 35 percent more space for visitors. Among the 10 new exhibits, families will find The Scramble (a fourstory vertical adventure with climbing

When: Check out the grand opening celebration on June 7 (regular admission rates apply) and a free day with a block party on June 17 (advance tickets required for museum admittance). A Target Free 3rd Sunday on June 18 will conclude the opening celebrations (advanced tickets required). Where: Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul Cost: Regular museum admission will cost $12.95 (formerly $9.95) for ages 1 to 101. Info:


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Out & About JUNE 7–28

Groovin’ in the Garden ⊲⊲This Wednesday-night concert series lets grownups rock out with some of the Twin Cities’ best bands while the kids are entertained by a climbing wall, a bouncy house and lawn games, all outdoors, all free. When: 6–8 p.m. June 7, 14, 21 and 28 with more concerts to be announced for July and early August Where: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul Cost: FREE Info:


Eagan Market Fest ⊲⊲This award-winning farmers market event features 60-plus vendors, free art projects for kids, a Power of Produce kids’ club and concerts in the park (at the adjacent bandshell), plus theme nights (family night is June 21). When: 4–8 p.m. Wednesdays June 7– Aug. 30 and 3–7 p.m. on Wednesdays in September Where: Eagan Festival Grounds at Central Park, Eagan Cost: FREE Info:

JUNE 10–11

Chalkfest at Arbor Lakes

by professionals and amateurs from around the world. When: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. June 10–11 Where: Main Street, Maple Grove Cost: FREE Info:

Deutsche Tage ⊲⊲Celebrate German heritage and diversity through live music, folk dancing, crafts, games, a demonstration of Swiss Alpenhorn and authentic German food and beer. When: 11 a.m.–10 p.m. June 10 and 11 a.m.–5 p.m. June 11 Where: Germanic-American Institute, St. Paul Cost: FREE Info:

⊲⊲This free, two-day, street-art festival will feature entertainment, food and family fun alongside sidewalk chalk art

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June 2017 •

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JUNE 15–18

Parktacular ⊲ Kick off summer with live music, a parade, festival food, inflatable water slides and more. A special family day (Kidtacular on June 17), will feature pony rides, canoe/kayak rides, family fishing, strolling characters, St. Louis Park police and fire vehicles, spin art, face-painting, a balloon artist and more.   When: June 15–18 Where: Venues around St. Louis Park Cost: Most events are free. Water slide wristbands are $15. Info:

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JUNE 16–18

Stone Arch Bridge Festival ⊲ This popular Father’s Day weekend event features art and music from 250 artists on three performance stages, plus family art activities, a car show and a motorcycle and off-road vehicle gallery, all on the Mississippi riverfront.

Visit or call 612.721.2535 for more info.


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When: June 16–18, including a free concert from 7–10 p.m. at Water Power Park on June 17 Where: Northeast Minneapolis Cost: FREE Info:

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JUNE 18–SEPT. 17

Lutz Railroad Garden ⊲ Visit Conductor Bud and his charming railroad garden, offering open houses on the third Sunday of the month, June through September (weather permitting). When: 1–4 p.m. June 18, July 16, Aug. 20, and Sept. 17 Where: 2960 Egan Ave., Eagan Cost: FREE Info:

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Out & About


JUNE 22–24

Twin Cities Jazz Festival ⊲ One of the largest civic jazz festivals in the Midwest, this popular event draws top talent and brings out more than 30,000 people a year.


Shrek: The Musical

Red, White and Boom

⊲ This Tony Award-winning production — based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film — follows the adventures of a green ogre, a wise-cracking donkey, a feisty princess, a short-tempered villain, a cookie with an attitude and dozens of other fairy-tale misfits.

⊲ Celebrate Independence Day on the downtown Minneapolis riverfront with morning races, live music, food, family-friendly activities (jugglers, magicians, face painting, caricature artists and balloon artists) and a grand finale of fireworks.

When: June 23–July 30 Where: Stages Theatre Company, Hopkins Cost: $12–$16; lap passes are $5 for ages 3–4 and free for ages 2 and younger. Info:

When: June 22–24 Where: Venues are in St. Paul, including a main stage at Mears Park Cost: FREE Info:

When: July 4 with family activities from 6–10 p.m. and fireworks at 10 p.m. Where: Father Hennepin Bluff Park, Mill Ruins Park and Boom Island, Minneapolis Cost: FREE Info:

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Wedding bliss!

↑↑Emma, 4, of Eagan Photo by Bella Notte Photography

↑↑Parker, 8½, of Inver Grove Heights, with cousins, Lucy, 2½ and Marlo, 4½ Photo by Amber Kissner Photography

Suspenders, bowties and ball gowns, oh my! Just look at these little cuties, all dressed up for nuptial ceremonies. ↑↑Nathan, 9 months, of Inver Grove Heights

↑↑Liam, 1, of South St. Paul Photo by Heidi Torgerson Photography

↑↑Alexander, 5, of Red Wing

↑↑Jaslynn, 4, and Julian, 14 months, of Minneapolis

↑↑Ella, 4, of St. Paul

Want to see your kid on this page? Send photos with your child’s first name, age and city to


June 2017 •

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