Page 1

December 2017

the issue

Analiese, 4, Farmington


Holiday tipping SOLVED! PAGE 22

One mom’s escape to Africa PAGE 36



VOLUME 32 /// ISSUE 12

30 | Traveling with tots Here’s what you need to know before taking on air travel with infants and toddlers in tow.

16 | Toddler-friendly vacations These local getaways are worth the drive.


December 2017 •

36 | Destination: Africa! I left my family (and job) for two weeks. Why? I had a mountain to climb.




Travel (away from the kids) can help sustain you.

Step one for parents: Get your own snowpants.

These stories show kids how to care and show empathy.




Enter to win an amazing trip to Lutsen Mountains.

Seeing my kids grow up makes me wonder what’s to come.

Make these small-batch treats with the kids!




It’s one of the first decisions you must make as a parent.

How much — or what — should you give to say thanks?

Yes, we do. We’ve got spirit how ’bout you?



Where to go with littles? Check out these local destinations.

Results don’t always yield clear answers for families.

What a trip

Ski for free

Where to birth?

4 cool trips

Win at winter

Inspiring kindness

A new role

Coconut dreams

Holiday tipping

We’ve got spirit!

Genetic testing

& About 44 Out CA L E N DAR

About our cover kid Name: Analiese

Age: 4

City: Farmington

Parents: Angela and John Zbaracki

Sibling: Evi, 1

Personality: Inquisitive, energetic, determined, joyful, independent, social and very loving! Favorite toys: Dolls, Magna-Tiles, Doc McStuffins doctor kit and LEGOs Favorite book: Silly Wonderful You Favorite foods: Spaghetti, strawberries and tomatoes Photos by Tracy Walsh / Want to see your kid on the cover? Find out how at


December 2017 •

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11/21/17 3:01 PM • December 2017



PUBLISHER Janis Hall SALES MANAGER AND CO-PUBLISHER Terry Gahan EDITOR Sarah Jackson 612-436-4385 • CONTRIBUTORS Megan Devine, Dr. Madeleine Gagnon, Rachel Guyah, Jennifer Hyvonen, Shannon Keough, Pam Molnar, Kaitlin Ungs, Tracy Walsh, Jen Wittes, Jennifer Wizbowski CREATIVE DIRECTOR Valerie Moe GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Dani Cunningham Kaitlin Ungs DESIGN INTERN Victoria Hein 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.


December 2017 •

What a trip! B

efore I became a parent, one of my biggest pet peeves was babies wailing endlessly on airplanes. Why are you flying with infants, people? Flying is for grownups: sophisticated, vacationing folks who don’t want to be ear-ravaged in enclosed spaces. Babies don’t even have to PAY to be on planes because they don’t need seats. Why should they wreck it for everyone? Parents should have to pay extra for boarding with babies, right? Worse were the toddlers who kicked your seat the entire flight. Why can’t you control your children? This is what I thought. Well. Photo by Tracy Walsh / Then I found myself with a little traveler of my own, didn’t I? Suddenly it was my kid who was colicky on the aircraft. It was me who feared the stink-eyes of passengers all around me as our little shrieker went to town with his lungs — and then dropped a deuce in Row 38 just before takeoff. During our son’s infant years, we brought ear plugs for our fellow passengers. When he was a toddler, he of course kicked at the tray table in front of us for the better part of every flight. It was all just payback — parenting karma — a lesson in NOT judging others. Ever. Least of all, parents. It was also a crash course in traveling with kids: It’s not easy; and it’s better to be prepared than caught off guard. In this month’s Travel Issue — coming to you, dear readers, for the first time in December — we’ve got you covered with our story about air travel with tots. You’ll find some smart advice and, I hope, motivation to plan ahead and utilize the growing resources available to traveling families, including those at Terminals 1 and 2 at our own MSP. Speaking of air travel, I hope you’ll also read Jennifer Hyvonen’s very personal essay about deciding to go to Africa with friends — not family. When Jennifer pitched a story to me about the legitimate benefits of solo travel, I was intrigued. I was struck by her thought process, her budget constraints and her conflicted feelings in her parenting journey as well as her life journey. Among parents, the pressure to never, ever stop momming/dadding is high. And yet, what many of us really need to be the best we can be in the early years of parenting is time away. If you see your mom/dad friends on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat, bragging about their girls/guys weekends away (or kid-free adventure trips), I don’t think you should be jealous. I think you should take one of your own.

Sarah Jackson, Editor

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Minnesota Parent is giving away a FREE Winter Family Fun vacation at Lutsen Mountains (valued at more than $500)! This prize package includes two nights lodging, lift tickets and ski rentals for a family of four, all coinciding with the Family Fun Nights at the Summit Chalet, featuring magic shows,

To enter to win, send a photo of your

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March 29–31.


December 2017 •

Learn more at

Skiing for all If you have a child with physical and/or cognitive disabilities, that doesn’t mean he or she can’t enjoy skiing or snowboarding this winter. Thanks to a partnership between Padraig’s Place, an Apple Valley-based nonprofit, and Buck Hill Ski and Snowboard School in Burnsville, kids and adults of all abilities can experience winter fun in a safe, family-friendly atmosphere. Special sessions cater to each participant’s needs and include three lessons of skiing or snowboarding, including equipment rental, instruction and snacks for a flat-rate cost of $150. Though the Monday and Saturday sessions are already full for this season, there are still openings for Wednesdaymorning sessions, including Jan. 10, 17 and 24 (Session 1) and Feb. 7, 14, 21 (Session 2). Private lessons for other time slots can be booked through Buck Hill. Private lessons start at $75 an hour, and include necessary equipment and instructors from Padraig’s Place. Buck Hill spokeswoman Dee Oujiri said volunteers are needed for helping with lessons offered in partnership with Padraig’s Place. “We would love to expand our offerings and take more kids, but we would need more volunteers,” she said. “All we ask is that they know how to ski and they love helping others. We will teach them everything else. The kids fill your heart and make you smile.” Learn more at and

Jen Wittes


Oh, the Places You Could Birth! O

ne of the first big decisions you must make as a parent is where to birth. Which hospital, if a hospital is your choice. Maybe you’d like to have a homebirth … but how does that work exactly? How much does it cost? The so-called middle of the road option is a birth center, but is it really that much different than a hospital or — beyond the perfect, creamy Pottery Barn décor — a homebirth? As a postpartum doula, I’ve heard many different birth stories, ranging from orgasmic to traumatic. I’ve worked with homebirth mamas, birth-center mamas and many hospital mamas. The “big truths” I’ve learned about choosing where to birth: ••Birth is a big deal for everyone, no matter where you land. ••Every birth is different. ••It can really matter where you birth. ••It can matter very little where you birth. ••One way or another, the baby comes out.

Of course, there are pros and cons to each birth setting. As someone who has personally had one hospital birth and one homebirth, I have not only professional, but also experiential insight. Both my births were great. I chose a homebirth for my second child not because I hated my hospital birth, but because I wanted to try something different. From my personal experiences, the input I’ve received from the families I worked with and the wisdom of other birth professionals, I can offer a few major pros and cons about each birth setting. (Note: Birth doulas can be another part of the process, but we’ll address that another time.)


December 2017 •

Hospital PROS: ••Every imaginable medical intervention is readily available. ••Help for Mom and Baby around the clock, after the birth. ••Grace period before being sent off alone with — eek! — a newborn.

CONS: ••Occasionally, unnecessary interventions are pushed. ••Uncomfortable environment (hospital bed, cramped room, uncomfortable sleep setting for spouse). ••Interruptions (and sometimes conflicting opinions from different hospital staffers) while Mom and Baby are trying to rest and recover.

Home PROS: ••More medical interventions than you’d think are available, but are used only in an emergency, plus some cool holistic tricks of midwifery.

••Empowering ownership and control of one’s birth, possible because of the confidence built while working closely with the midwife during gestation. Midwifery = ultra-personalized, comprehensive care. ••Comfort of own home and no travel. Your midwife comes to you! This allows the partner, siblings, other family members and caregivers to come and go easily and as needed.

CONS: ••Many insurance companies will cover homebirth and midwifery costs, but only after a claim is filed — so parents typically have to pay upfront. Home birth can be cheaper than the out-ofpocket costs of a hospital birth, but not always, depending on your insurance coverage and the cost of your midwife. Some midwifery packages can cost up to $5,000. Check out some hospital-versushome cost comparisons at birth-costs. ••You might not care — but what will the neighbors think or say? The in-laws?

Going against the grain can be hard!

rationalize the transport to the birth site.

• Strong temptation to do too much after birth, since you’re in your own environment — grab your own cereal, tend to other kids, take the stairs to hang out in the family room.

Birth center PROS: • When adjacent to a hospital, birth centers can provide a synergy of natural, midwife-led birth with a safety net of ER/ OR care. • Birth rooms in birth centers are usually lovely and often have a birth tub. • Someone else takes care of materials and cleanup.

CONS: • Mom and Baby aren’t allowed to stay very long in most cases! Often the discharge is 4 to 8 hours after birth, for insurance purposes. This is an awkward time to travel home, when it’s ideal to stay put for another 20 hours. • Not much is offered that’s different than a homebirth, so it may be hard to

• Birth centers often have other events going on — such as prenatal education and yoga classes. So, you might be birthing in close proximity to excited expectant parents.

If there were ever a “trust your gut” moment, this is it. Deep inside, you know where you want to be — and that feeling can change, even as late as the third trimester! Listen to that little voice, and birth where you feel happy and safe. For some, that’s going to be absolutely and firmly attached to an epidural drip, with a dozen nurses, an ICU and an OR nearby. For others, it’s somewhere home-like, if not home itself. You do you. The baby comes out, one way or another. Jen Wittes is a certified postpartum doula and writer who now works in marketing and communications. She lives in St. Paul with her two kids, two cats and husband. Send questions or comments to jwittes@


Lovely lovies

How huggable are these soft, sweet plushies?! Finn and Emma’s insanely cute 15-inch Big Buddy creatues feature long, floppy limbs and squishy, snuggly bodies. Choose from a variety of animals or check out the Minnesota-friendly Gunnar the Viking character, complete with a big beard, a soft sword and a helmet with horns. These handmade (handwashable) creations aren’t cheap, but you can feel good knowing you’re supporting an artisanal women’s collaborative in Peru, which hand-knits each one with organic cotton yarn. Mini matching rattles and stroller toys are available as well.

$54 •

EXERCISE PREGNANCY STUDY We Specialize in Them Classes for Couples & Parents Miscarriage Support Group Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Labor & Delivery Anxiety & Difficult Birth Recovery New Roles / New Identities, Creating Balance

The University of Minnesota is seeking women who are currently less than 20 weeks pregnant to participate in a research study examining the effect of exercise and wellness on mood following childbirth. DETAILS: • Program delivered to you via the mail and phone

• Program can be delivered in English or Spanish

• Must be 18 years of age or older

• Must be considered low-income, defined as:

• Must not currently exercise regularly

-Enrollment in any government assisted program (e.g., WIC, SNAP) AND/OR

• Must not take antidepressants Couples Counseling & Parenting Issues Infertility / Perinatal Loss / Adoption

• You will receive $100 & a FitBit for your time (you will be allowed to keep the FitBit after the study is over)

-Annual income that is considered low (less than $45,510 for a family of four, less than $30,044 for a family of two, and less than $22,311 if single).

To see if you qualify for this research study: English Speaking: Call or TEXT to 612-345-0325 or Spanish Speaking: Call or TEXT to 612-237-1004 or U of M - Kinesiology Dept MNP 1217 S3.indd 1 Postpartum Counseling Center MNP 1217 V6.indd 1

11/9/17 11:24 AM

10/30/17 4:35 PM • December 2017


Shannon Keough


Road trip! S

ince becoming a parent, I’ve learned some hard truths about traveling with children. For example, air travel is brutal. It’s bad enough if you’re traveling alone or with a friend or partner — the absurdity of wedging 3-ounce bottles of conditioner into a small plastic bag, the indignity of being ordered to remove one’s shoes in the security line, the humiliation of having some TSA agent rifle through your underwear in view of all and sundry. Now take the hellscape that is modern air travel and add some irritable, sleepdeprived toddlers to the mix. You can probably imagine some likely outcomes: Yes, your toddler will abandon his place in the long security line to sprint towards the closest escalator. He will remark that the TSA agent pawing through your bag is ugly. And he will most definitely let loose with some ear-splitting howls the moment you get to your seats on the plane, keeping it up all the way though takeoff. Despite the downsides, my husband and I continue to fly with our kids. I think it’s good for them to get used to the rituals of travel starting at a young age; and indeed, they’re becoming better travelers with every flight. But do I look forward to the airport slog? Not exactly. Road trips, on the other hand, can be a more forgiving way to get out of town. They tend to be cheaper, for one thing. If your kids start freaking out in the backseat, there’s only you to annoy — not a plane full of seething, glaring strangers. And you can go somewhere new without needing to cross time zones (the fastest track to sleep destruction, as many already know). I’ve chosen a small selection of road-trip destinations for your consideration.


December 2017 •

Winter: Grand View Lodge, Nisswa, Minn. Got friends with kids? With plenty of group-friendly accommodations, Grandview Lodge (2.5 hours from the Twin Cities) is a great place to go with them. The biggest selling point for our tots was definitely the pool and waterslide. There’s also a Family Fun Center with a bouncy house and video game consoles. If you want to get out at night sans children, check in with the front desk. They should have a list of local babysitters. There’s also an on-site spa for all your midwinter massage and pedicure needs. Spring: Madison, Wis. Book a room at the Park Hotel on Madison’s Capitol Square (a 4-hour drive from the Twin Cities). This will put you right where the action is: You’ll be close to plenty of good restaurants, the Madison Children’s Museum (pictured above) and State Street, to name a few. Plan to visit

the free-admission Henry Vilas Zoo, similar to our Como Zoo, only better. Tack on a side trip to the National Mustard Museum in nearby Middleton and you’ll walk away with a lifetime of memories from one quick weekend getaway. Summer: Kinnickinnic State Park, River Falls, Wis. Located where the St. Croix and Kinnickinnic rivers meet (45 minutes southwest of the Twin Cities), this picturesque state park features lovely river views, good hiking opportunities, a great-for-theMidwest beach and a sandy delta populated by locals drinking beer and blasting Steve Miller Band tunes. Fun for the whole family! Fall: Willow River State Park, Hudson, Wis. Introduce your children to the joys of camping — just 45 minutes east of the Twin Cities!



In a world of too much screen time, these delightfully tactile art activities — My First Colorforms: Miss Weather Dress Up Set for littles and the original classic set for big kids — are a most welcome treat. We tried these for our annual toy test and found the smooth, stretchy plastic pieces surprisingly soothing.

ATTENTION WOMEN 21-33: Would You Consider Being an Egg Donor?

$9.99–$39.99 • ABC & Toy Zone, Chanhassen and Rochester

Featuring good hiking trails and the impressive Willow Falls, Willow River State Park is a popular camping site. Looking for a piece of the action, we headed over there one Saturday afternoon. Arriving just as the sun was going down, my husband and I rushed to set up the tents. As we prepared to sit down to eat our lukewarm Smashburger takeout order, my daughter tripped over a log and gashed her shin. Pro tip: Always find the location of the nearest emergency room and/or urgent care facility before hitting the road. Shannon Keough lives in St. Paul with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to

The Center for Reproductive Medicine is seeking women between 21 and 33 years of age to donate eggs for couples who cannot otherwise achieve pregnancy. You will be compensated for your time and dedication.

2828 Chicago Ave #400 Minneapolis

NEoW nline

easy cation li app


For more information: 612-863-5390 or fill out an application online Accredited by: Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies, American College of OB/GYNs and American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

Center for Reproductive Medicine MNP 0514 S3.indd 1

4/14/14 12:50 PM • December 2017


How to thrive this winter D

uring the coldest winter months in Minnesota, it can be tempting — and maybe just a little bit easier — to spend the free time of our days hunkered down in front of some kind of screen. Indeed, I value the time spent with my kids on a family movie night and with my husband each week watching the new episode of This Is Us. We all need a break sometimes. But we don’t need to hibernate indoors to survive winter. In fact, getting outside each day can truly help us thrive! Increased darkness and painfully low temperatures make it more challenging. However, studies show that spending time outdoors each day can help both children and adults boost creativity — and focus — while improving mood and self-esteem. Seasonal mood shifts aren’t uncommon in our geographical region and some of us, myself included, can experience the “winter blues” or, in more intense cases, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Symptoms include, but are not limited to, moodiness, fatigue, weight gain and depression that tend to appear during late fall or early winter (and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer). When children (and adults) get outside in the winter and are exposed to natural light, it can help us all get a dose of vitamin D, which helps to regulate our mood by increasing serotonin levels in our brains. Outdoor play helps kids exercise, which contributes to emotional well-being and offers a multitude of other health benefits. Here are some tips to help you get your family comfortably outside this winter:


December 2017 •

Discover your thing Find winter sports and activities that your family can enjoy together. During winter, our family participates in activities with the Minnesota Youth Ski League, a volunteer organization with chapters throughout the state, offering children age 4 to 15 the opportunity to learn crosscountry skiing. Thanks to this program — which emphasizes skiing for fun and fitness as a lifelong activity — we’ve made it a habit to get outdoors together as a family in a structured way. We’ve also used the skills our kids have learned in the program on other winter adventures, including downhill skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing.

Invest in gear When kids and adults are warm, everyone can feel comfortable and stay outside longer. High-quality gear will stay drier and last longer, often through multiple seasons/

years, which is a plus if you have other children to hand down to, or if you plan to sell (or purchase) items second hand.

Dress in layers A good quality base layer (socks and long underwear) made of wool, wool blends or microfleece will help keep you and your kids warm and dry. Avoid cotton as a base layer if at all possible, because when cotton gets wet from sweat or melting snow, it stays wet and gets cold. Fleece is an easy to find and reasonably priced mid-layer. Depending on the weather, your outer layer could be a down coat. You may also need a waterproof, windproof shell layer. Many companies that cater to outdoor families — including REI, Columbia, Lands End and LL Bean — sell combination jackets with zip-out/zip-off middle and outer layers. Don’t forget snowpants for grown-ups, too! I recommend investing in Lands End


I Got This!

This game rocks. You get four blue ping pong balls, four plastic green buttons, a 10-foot measuring tape, a rubber ring and a cool-looking die. Players bet how many points they’ll win if they can complete various challenges, such as tossing a ping pong ball and catching it in the box, balancing a button one’s head or guestimate one’s “wing span.” An entire round consists of nine challenges, followed by final scoring, so it moves fast. See ya, Monopoly. $24.95 • ABC & Toy Zone, Chanhassen and Rochester

Squall Snow bibs for school-age kids. They’re waterproof and windproof, have reinforced knees as well as “Grow-a-long” legs, which are extendable up to 2 inches.

Accessorize Keep everyone’s faces, heads, hands and feet warm, too! Make sure everyone has a warm hat, a neck gaiter or scarf as well as mittens (warmer than gloves), and be ready with warm boots (our family favorites are Bogs). On your outings, you may want to go the extra mile and bring along a supply of hand and feet warmer packets — and a tub of Dermatone sunscreen to protect exposed skin. Sunglasses are important in the wintertime as well. Gear up and get your family outdoors. It’s good for you! Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at • December 2017


The changing role of Mom I

have two teens at home, at the bookends of high school. My senior is making strategic decisions about his plans after high school, while my freshman daughter is becoming a young woman who’s focused on her sudden, active social life — and her outfits. Their growing older makes me cognizant of what’s to come in my parenting journey. I can’t help but question, am I ready for this change?

Looking within Parenthood often holds us hostage to the stage our kids are in at each precise moment. We feel beholden to give all of our energy, and our time, to it. The entwining of our kids’ activities and social connections creates a web that sucks up our attention. We can forget to look around and take in where we are as adults on our journey. I may be alone in the fact that I take lots of inventory. I like to contemplate and gauge the deeper part of where my teens are at in the midst of the scrappy art of day-to-day living. I suppose it’s my way of checking in on them, on me, and hoping I’m doing this parenting gig some sort of justice. With two teenagers both in high school, I no longer just have one toe in the pool checking the temperature. When they were


toddlers, they were sitting in the shallows, splashing, and I was there with them. As they’ve grown, they crave not only the excitement of deeper and deeper waters, but they’re also swimming by themselves. And they don’t necessarily want me in the water with them.

Looking back Some of my recent introspection has been tied to the newness of the home we moved into a couple months ago. I’ve done the moving thing a few times now — between different states and within them. It helps tidy oneself up, of course, because it’s impossible not to think about the belongings, treasures and keepsakes we stockpile.

Psychology for parents

We look back on the story of our lives when we remember items of sentimentality as we pack and unpack boxes. One such box is a collection of my daughters’ baby and toddler clothes. I’ve saved the special ones that remind me of those days of holding and chasing. Holding these items causes me to pause to remember just how precious and innocent and pure she was in my arms. Her tiny, cotton outfits, with buttons and snaps, also remind me I’m no longer in the cyclone of constantly making and doing. I’ve moved from getting the kids ready, to reminding them to get ready, to watching them ready themselves.

Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story. So says the famed teen expert/author/ speaker Josh Shipp, aka The Teen Whisperer and the author of The Teen’s Guide to World Domination. And now it’s your turn, parents, thanks to Shipp’s renowned new book, full of practical advice: The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans: How to Decode Their Behavior, Develop Unshakable Trust, and Raise a Respectable Adult. $26.99 •


December 2017 •

Looking forward At 14, my daughter comes down the stairs in a T-shirt and torn jeans. She’s grown into a young woman now. Her demeanor can carry the lightness of youth and the heaviness of new social pressures — ­ all in one go. I want to be the person in her life that she knows sees her with the same preciousness and purity of earlier days. That she can be authentically her, and that — as life brings on more difficulties and challenges, which is part of growing up — I love and believe in her. My senior boy has also provided some moments of pause. It’s funny: I can see the energetic toddler like he’s right next to me, just as closely as I can see his handsome grown-up smile in his recent senior picture gallery. He doesn’t need me in the minute-tominute way he did as a young child. He makes his cup of coffee and a fresh breakfast sandwich for himself every morning, and struts out the door without me telling him when. I think as parents we could get overwhelmed with not knowing where we fit once our kids are grown. We can get saddened by how our child’s need for us changes. But really has it? I may not be dressing them. I may not make all their meals anymore. But we gave those earlier daily provisions as a foundation for — and message of — love. And now, though they do much for themselves on their own, I can just tell them I love them. Tell them I believe in them. Tell them they’re precious. Be here to listen. Doing has transitioned to being there for them. I think, perhaps this is the gift of parenthood hugging back. Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband, and daughter and son, ages 14 and 17. Send comments, questions and story ideas to Stages Theatre MNP 1217 S3.indd 1

11/9/17 3:06 PM • December 2017


Pam Molnar


Holiday tipping done right


ike you need another thing to do … but the holiday season is an appropriate, if not ideal, time to say thank you to all the people who have provided quality services to you and your family all year long. An envelope filled with cash is nice, but a gift that can be unwrapped is pretty sweet, too. Here are a few one-size-fits-all gift ideas to get you motivated during this incredibly busy time of year. Cash: This one is easy, but how much should you give? It’s customary for a holiday tip to be the cost of a regular service. For example, if your normal haircut is $40, then the holiday tip should be $40 on top of the regular service fee. For the occasional service, like a holiday cleaning service or vacation pet sitter, a small $10 to $15 tip is appreciated. Gifts for the building superintendent, your son’s coach or math tutor should be based


December 2017 •

on how much help they have provided — $25 to $50 is usually appropriate. Many companies put a limit on what employees can accept as gifts, so it’s best to check ahead of time. Workers with the U.S. Postal Service, for example, can’t accept gifts valued at more than $20 (and alcohol is prohibited). It’s a wrap: The coolest gift I received from a customer was a box of wrapping paper. It’s something we all need during the holiday season. This is an inexpensive gift if purchased at the end of the season or at the dollar store. Create a basket with matching paper or gift bags, tissue, tags, ribbons and bows. You can even throw in gift-wrap tape and scissors. Movies: If you don’t know which movie theater is closest to your giftee’s house, consider a Fandango gift card. Looking for something a little more budget friendly? Purchase a gift card online from Redbox

and wrap up it with a box of microwave popcorn and a box of M&Ms. Auto: So many people neglect their cars, especially in winter. Consider a gift card that can cover gas, car washes, oil changes and/or car detailing. Package it with an air freshener, an ice scraper and emergency road kit. Health: Winter is cold-and-flu season and we all want to do our best to avoid getting sick. Create a basket with hand sanitizer, tissue packs, lip balm, hand cream and cough drops. Throw in a Walgreens, CVS or Target gift card for good measure. Meals: Choosing a restaurant gift card for someone can be iffy. A gift card allows the recipient to purchase their own gift cards from local restaurants at a discounted rate. Or give the gift of delivery with a gift card to

Folks to tip Day care providers / nanny / au pair Babysitters Pet sitter / walker / doggie daycare / groomer Coaches Mail carrier


Newspaper carrier Garbage / recycling hauler

Sunday, Jan. 7 • 11:30 - 1:30pm Thursday, Jan. 11 • 6 - 7:30pm

Cleaners (if you’re so lucky) Landscapers Hair stylist Nail / beauty technician Personal trainer Door attendant / security / building superintendent.

Come and discover all that Holy Name of Jesus School has to offer. Our teachers and staff, from preschool through sixth grade, will show you our school and answer questions about our faith-based, academically-challenging programs. VISIT OUR SCHOOL THIS JANUARY! Please RSVP to Carla Durand at or at 763-473-3675

Magazines: Millennials are reportedly subscribing to magazines in record numbers (more than any other age group), so a year of a dreamy magazine could just the thing. Let the receiver choose from more than 3,000 titles at Or make sure they never miss an issue of Minnesota Parent: See Open ended: Sometimes the best gift is one you pick out yourself. Give the gift of an Amazon, eBay or credit-card gift card. Photography: Many local photographers offer mini photo sessions that include five or six digital images. These are perfect for headshots, senior pictures, an updated family picture or just the opportunity to be silly and captured on film — by a professional. Browse a sponsored list of photographers from Twin Cities Mom Blog at family-photogs or see Minnesota Parent’s studio photographer can be found at

Visit us at or check out our Facebook page @HNOJSchool Holy Name of Jesus School MNP 1217 S3.indd 1

11/21/17 9:30 AM

Pam Molnar is a freelance writer, the mother of two busy teens and an active tween. • December 2017


Dr. Madeleine Gagnon

What genetic testing can (and can’t) do A

s a pediatrician who treats children with medically complex conditions, I’m often asked questions about genetic testing. It’s only natural for parents of younger children to want to know more about a child’s possible developmental delays, or physical or cognitive differences. And sometimes genetic testing can offer that clarity. I tell parents, however, that realistic expectations are important. And I urge them to recognize what genetic testing can do for your child and your family — but also what it can’t. Indeed, part of my role as a complexcare pediatrician is helping families understand the advantages and limitations of genetic testing.

Finding the right specialist A trained medical professional, ideally a neurologist or geneticist, should order and interpret genetic test results. Results can be complex, and they’re often inconclusive. You need a highly proficient provider who can clearly interpret results that may involve a lot of gray area. I also encourage families to explore other valuable diagnostic tools, such as imaging tests and developmental screenings by trained pediatric specialists. A comprehensive evaluation is important because not every complex condition has an underlying genetic cause. Cerebral palsy, for example, is caused by damage to the brain before, during or shortly after birth, so it isn’t something a genetic test alone would pick up on.

Results aren’t always clear Genetic testing can be valuable in confirming a suspected diagnosis


December 2017 •

Even when test results give us a ‘why,’ it doesn’t mean we can change a condition’s course. — for instance, when a child has physical characteristics suggestive of a certain medical condition. Christy Lawler of Fargo, N.D., learned her infant son, Dalen, had achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, after a blood test. They had suspected the diagnosis because of his appearance, but knowing for certain gave Christy and Dalen’s doctors a clearer idea of the treatments he would need as he grew.

On the flip side, testing doesn’t always yield a clear answer. That’s because many chromosome deletions or duplications don’t have a formal name — more often than not, you can’t put the diagnosis into a bucket.

Opportunities and limitations We don’t always know how — or if — a diagnosis might change the course of a child’s life. And that uncertainty can be difficult for families. Difficult, too, is the fact that chromosome duplications or deletions can be discovered, but not necessarily repaired or “cured.” Even when test results give us a “why,” it doesn’t mean we can change a condi-

tion’s course. We can, however, start interventions — things like treatments and therapies — early, to keep a child as healthy as possible. Anna and Jared Bird of Cottage Grove, for example, began physical and speech therapy for their son, Elliot, who has a rare chromosomal abnormality, before he turned 2. He also underwent surgeries to correct his cleft lip and palate and tethered spinal cord. Today, Elliot is a happy 8-year-old who loves exploring the outdoors. He continues to receive occupational and speech therapy.

Knowledge is power Results of genetic testing can also shed light on things to watch for in the years ahead. If a certain syndrome or gene duplication is associated with a specific health issue, such as kidney problems or seizures, a child can be regularly assessed by a specialist in that area. That’s useful in terms of helping us better understand the child and make health decisions. Formal name or not, confirmation of a genetic abnormality can answer that elusive question of, “Why?” Knowledge is power, so the more you can know about your child, the better. I think parents also can benefit psychologically when there’s something concrete to explain a child’s situation. When a child’s syndrome or condition is confirmed, another big question often arises: What is the likelihood that future siblings will share the diagnosis? The answer isn’t necessarily black and white. Some conditions are carried in one or both partners’ genetic code, while others occur spontaneously. I advise families to seek out a genetic counselor, who can recommend the right tests and offer support.

Home impacts self-esteem, health and performance at school and work. Help Aeon provide home across the Twin Cities with your gift today.

Dr. Madeleine Gagnon is a complex-care pediatrician at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. Learn more at

Kaitlin Ungs


Loving kindness

How do you teach a child to be compassionate in a world of walls, bullying and blame? You live as an example, surround yourself with kind people and talk to your kid about feelings. Another way to weave kindness into everyday life is with books — fun stories with interesting characters, cute animals and relatable kids facing common struggles. These books offer all of the above!

The Rabbit Listened Minneapolis author Cori Doerrfeld’s beautiful story — about how to react when someone’s going through a difficult time — might be our favorite release of the year. (OK, it’s not out until February 2018, but still.) Taylor has lost something dear. Animals come along, one by one, and try to comfort the child with expressions of anger, avoidance, vengeance and even humor. But Taylor isn’t quite ready to process the loss. Then a rabbit appears and simply sits close by — until Taylor asks the rabbit to stay and listen to a story about loss, recovery and dreams that come after a difficult time. Ages 3–5 • $17.99

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles In this gorgeously illustrated watercolor picture book, a humble man lives alone on top of a hill near the sea. When bottles wash ashore, he brings them in and happily delivers them to their intended recipients. He sees the joy the notes bring to so many people, and he yearns for a message of his own. One day, when he finds a note without any name at all, he ends up finding new friends. Ages 4–8 • $17.99


December 2017 •

The Book of Mistakes Mistakes don’t need to be bad. In fact, mistakes in drawing (which can seem like such a perfectionist’s craft) are something to be explored and made into gorgeous surprises. When the author’s real-life drawing goes wrong, she adapts it and changes it until an entire whimsical world takes shape, making mistakes seem more like magic when considered with self-forgiveness and an open mind. Ages 4–8 • $18.99

Plenty of Love to Go Around Plum the dog is jealous of the neighbor’s new cat, Pinkie. Plum thinks there’s only room for one “Special One.” He even tries to lose Pinkie when the cat follows him to the dog park — even though Pinkie saves Plum from being locked in a shed. It’s not until Plum’s owner explains that there’s enough love for both of the animals, that the dog accepts the cat.

Poser Design MNP 1217 H6.indd 1

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Ages 3–5 • $17.99

Little Big Girl Matisse is a little girl in a big world. She uses her little hands to make big things, and when she’s tired, she takes a big nap. When she meets a new person who’s even littler than her, will she rise to the big occasion? Through gaining a little brother, Matisse — playfully illustrated with brush strokes by longtime Disney illustrator Claire Keane — discovers she’s even bigger than she thought. Ages 3–5 • $17.99

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10/11/17 3:28 PM • December 2017


t r e y a s t a s e


by Megan Devine Get your kids to help you with holiday baking with these crisp-on-theoutside and soft-on-the-inside coconut treats! We found the simple, small-batch recipe in Deanna Cook’s delightful new cookbook  Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake. Simply gorgeous, instructional and super fun for kids, Cook’s colorful spiral-bound guide includes punch-out gift tags, stickers and stencils, too. Written for ages 6 to 12, it’s packed with inspiration for all ages — and makes a great gift set when bundled with Cook’s 2015 hit, Cooking Class.


December 2017 •

INGREDIENTS ¼ cup flour 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut ⅔ cup sweetened condensed milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ cup chocolate chips (optional) Makes about 14

DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 325. Stir the flour and coconut together in a large mixing bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and mix well. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or grease it). Drop the dough by tablespoons onto the cookie sheet, making sure the cookies are at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the cookies immediately from the cookie sheet with a spatula. Place on a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes. Put chocolate chips in a bowl, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir the chips and continue microwaving in 10-second bursts until the chips are completely melted. (To give these a holiday twist, stir in a few drops of peppermint extract.) Drizzle chocolate over the cookies with a spoon. Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at

WIN THIS BOOK! Send a snapshot of your child baking to by Jan. 1 to be entered in this book giveaway. Include your child’s first name, age and city of residence. Use the subject line #bakingclass to make sure we find your entry. Images may be used in a future issue of Minnesota Parent. • December 2017



BY RACHEL GUYAH • December 2017


Flying with

Few things can cause more frustration and stress than flying with kids. The sheer logistics alone can drive any new parent batty. If you’re planning to travel this winter or spring, rejoice: Here are answers to the top questions surrounding air travel with babies and toddlers.

Do we need to buy my child a ticket? If your child is younger than 2: ••For domestic travel: Virtually all airlines allow you to hold your baby/toddler in your lap during the flight — no separate seat (or pricey plane ticket) needed. While the lap is often a no-brainer for sleepy infants, if you’ve been gifted with a squirmy, strong-willed, independent toddler, the cost of that extra plane ticket and seat may buy you some much-needed sanity. It’s your call. ••For international travel: Most airlines require you to purchase a separate ticket for your child, regardless of age and regardless of where the child sits — your lap or a separate seat. Yes, that means your 6-month-old will need her own $300 round-trip ticket for that spring trip to Mexico.

↑↑Therapy dogs often make visits to the MSP terminals to make passenger travel more enjoyable as part of a program sponsored by Airport Foundation MSP.

Does my child need to sit in a car seat on the plane? No. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends all children sit in a child safety restraint system (car seat) or harness, because the arms of a parent simply aren’t capable of holding a child securely (and protecting his or her head) during unexpected turbulence. But the decision is ultimately yours. If you do decide to use a car seat or harness, make sure it’s a “government-approved child safety restraint system,” defined by the FAA as: Option 1: Car seat If you have a newer car seat from one of the major brands (such as Britax, Graco, Chicco), then it’s most likely approved by the FAA for aircraft use. To avoid any potential hiccups or hard times given to you by flight attendants, however, it’s a good idea to check the seat for a sticker that says: “This Restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft.”

If your child is 2 years old (or older):

Option 2: Harness

You’re required to purchase a separate

If you don’t want to bring a car seat, but

ticket and seat on all air travel (domestic

you do want your kiddo to be safely

and international). Call ahead and ask

restrained — there’s one (and only one)

the airlines what their discount is for child

FAA-approved child safety device:

airfare, as many airlines offer reduced

CARES. The CARES child safety harness

rates for kids on international flights —

is designed for kids weighing 22 to

and sometimes on domestic flights, too.

44 pounds. For more information, visit

(Hey, doesn’t hurt to ask!)


December 2017 •

What about booster seats? The FAA prohibits their use during takeoff and landing, and some airlines have policies that prohibit them altogether. You’re probably better off packing/checking boosters. Check with each airline for specific policies. Most airlines have their own website section dedicated to traveling with children. If you can’t find it easily, search “traveling with children” within each site. A word on seat location: Since car seats are bulky, many airlines require you purchase a window seat for your child. Some airlines also prohibit car seats from being used for aisle seats, exit rows and/or the row directly behind and in front of the exit row. Sound confusing? It’s probably wise to call the airline to have them clarify their seat-location policy for car seats. Learn more about all of the above at

Can I bring breast milk on the plane? Good news: The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) states that breast milk, formula and juice can be taken through an airport’s security checkpoint “in reasonable quantities.” Yes, it’s vague, but at least it’s allowed. Note: These items don’t need to be placed in a quart-sized bag like other liquids. Speaking of good news, here are a few

other items allowed on the plane: ••Ice and gel packs (for keeping the liquids cool) ••Gel- or liquid-filled teethers ••Canned, jarred and processed baby food (including food pouches).

If you plan to pack any of these items, inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process if you’re carrying formula, breast milk and or other food items for your child in excess of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters). Remove these items from your bag, as they have to be screened separately (typically by X-ray). Learn more — from TSA authorities — at

Can I check my stroller at the gate? Thankfully, yes. Most airlines allow you to check one stroller and car seat per child (free of charge), and you can wait to check

them at the departure gate if you prefer. Typically, they’ll give you a ticket stub to turn in when you pick up your gear at your destination in the jet way. Since cargo can get jostled around quite a bit during the flight, some parents like to purchase a durable, zippered bag specifically designed for checking car seats and strollers. A garbage bag could also help, but it won’t protect the items against major bumps and bruises. If you opted for a more expensive car seat or stroller, you may want to consider investing in one of these bags, which often come with backpack straps or even wheels for easier carrying. If you don’t want to lug your kid’s car seat to your destination, many car rental companies (Hertz, Avis, Enterprise) have car seats available to rent. However, they do charge extra — and often by the day — so you may want to do some math and decide which option (bringing your own seat versus renting or even buying) makes

the most sense for your family. Also, seats aren’t usually new. They’re used, so know your comfort level before committing. Some taxi companies have cars equipped with car seats. Call ahead and ask if the company offers this service, and how to request a car seat when making a reservation.

Do airports have spaces for nursing? Of all the frustrating airport logistics for moms, finding a place to privately pump or breastfeed typically takes the cake. Until recently, moms had two options: Do it at the gate, sandwiched between weary strangers, or head to a bathroom stall (not exactly serene — or even sanitary). Thankfully, airports have been opening dedicated spaces for moms who pump or nurse. On our home turf, MSP Airport has two lactation centers at Terminal 1 (near Gates F2 and C13). These private, secure rooms • December 2017


Flying with

have electrical outlets, a deep sink for cleaning equipment, soft lighting and comfortable seating. Near Concourse E, there’s also a semi-private room with a changing table, sink, couch and rocking chair. If you’re flying out of Terminal 2, there’s also a nursing room between Gates H10 and H11. Good to know: Since these private spaces are secure, you will need to visit the information booth nearest the space to obtain access. Learn more about family services at MPS at As far as other airports, the availability (and quality) of these private spaces varies widely. Find a list of nursing rooms at

Do airports have play areas? If your little ones need to get the wiggles out before takeoff or while waiting at baggage claim (and any seasoned parent traveler will assure you: their cup of energy will runneth over), the MSP Airport boasts several play areas — free and open 24 hours a day. Terminal 1 has a play area near Gate C12, as well as one near baggage claim’s Door 6. Terminal 2 also has a play area across from Gate H6. Many other airports have play areas these days (hurrah!). Call ahead or search the airport’s website to find where they’re located. Specially trained volunteers and dogs make themselves available at petting stations — yet another reason to get to the airport early. See to search and filter dining/shopping options, including a delicious array of local establishments with new MSP locations: Salty Tart or Angel Food Bakery, anyone?

↑↑If you have ear protection for your kid, bring it on the plane to reduce noise from the aircraft’s engine or intercom as well as fellow passengers.

Rachel Guyah is a Bloomington-based writer and mother to an adorably dimpled, gaptoothed energizer bunny (cleverly disguised as a toddler). Follow her musings about motherhood at

Tips from the trenches


Here’s what local parents had to say about air traveling with tots!

If you have children with special needs, check out this program, a partnership between the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Fraser autism services and the Autism Society of Minnesota. Kids can take free, monthly practice runs at the airport to ease anxiety and build confidence. Children get to:

“Getting a backpack with a leash is nothing to be ashamed of — and should maybe even be encouraged. I ended up not needing one, but it was nice knowing that I had the option. You never know when a toddler is going to run!”

⊲⊲Experience TSA security

“If possible, pick flights during nap times, or tire them out beforehand with lots of activities so they rest on the plane.”

⊲⊲Explore the terminal

“Arrive early! There’s nothing worse than running through an airport dragging a toddler by the arm. Who cares if you have time to waste: Find a sit-down restaurant, take a walk to check out the planes or even create a scavenger hunt.”

⊲⊲Prepare for takeoff

“Snacks are essential to a successful flight with children — there is no such thing as too many snacks on a plane (seriously, no judging)! Snacks help keep them occupied and promote chewing during altitude changes.”


December 2017 •

⊲⊲Board a plane and meet a pilot ⊲⊲Gather helpful tips and resources ⊲⊲Register now at or contact Shelly Lopez at 612-726-5239 or

WHEN SCHOOL IS OUT THE Y IS IN! Full day programs during vacation break for kids in grades K-12. SCHOOL RELEASE DAYS Grades K – 6 Enjoy friends, fun & field trips


Grades K – 6 Get outside, into nature & explore • Six locations to choose from

OVERNIGHT & TEEN WILDERNESS CAMPS Engage in the ultimate winter camp experience. • Camp Menogyn – Ages 12-18 • Camp Warren – Ages 7-16 • Camp Widjiwagan – Ages 11-18


Parents Night Out is Saturday, December 9. Drop off kids ages 2 – 10 at the Y for a night of food, fun & games. Registration is required.


For more details go online to

or call 612-230-9622 Membership not required to enroll. • December 2017



AFRIC Mweka Mountain as seen from Barafu Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania


December 2017 •



What kind of mother leaves her family for two weeks to summit a 19,000-foot peak on the other side of the world? Me. BY JENNIFER HYVONEN

D E S T I N AT I O N :


here was no way that I could spend thousands of dollars entirely on myself, abandon my family and jet off to Africa to trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. Who does that? Me? Absolutely not. I mean, my husband, Kelly, and I work very hard and have some disposable cash, yes. But everything extra goes into two college savings accounts that we pretend will somehow prevent our sons from amassing unfathomable debt even before they have any bankable degrees in hand. Plus, I just started my own business. And, if we were going to free up that kind of time and money, shouldn’t we take a trip as a family? Those go mostly well, right? But “absolutely not” is more of a temporary state for me. As just about anybody — from teachers to co-workers can attest — the

question, “Why not?” has a much higher usage rate in my lexicon. I love calculated risks, and have always fought against knee-jerk, fear-based decisions. My philosophy is that even watching a bad movie allows for the good experience of finding joy in the absurdity. Except for Disney princess movies, which have absolutely no experiential value. Especially Frozen. But in general, I believe all experiences have worth, and if you work from good intentions and gather good people around you, life will work out in the end. Even that one time, when I intended to gracefully hop my bike over a small lip that led into a driveway. The problem was that I was also turning over wet pavement, traveling at 27 miles per hour on

My kids started calling me a funwrecker, and deep down, I knew I was driving my husband nuts. Stunning views of Tanzania and rugged terrain were part of Hyvonen’s long trek.

Normal air contains 20.9 percent oxygen; at 19,341 feet, extremely low air pressure cuts that down to 10 percent.

skinny tires. A gross miscalculation and assumption of risk. Online, Garmin had visually graphed exactly when I hit pavement with a dot, marking the intersection of when my speed dropped to zero and my heart rate jumped to 180. My husband’s soothing words were, “That’s the thing about biking — you learn quickly from your mistakes.”

But then life changed As I grew older and took on more responsibilities, life stopped being full of possibilities that felt worth calculated risks. I was devastated. I had no more time for fun: There was work to be done! Before I opened my eyes in the morning, a list of chores, emails, errands,

work (and workout) demands flooded my brain. I had color-coded checklists everywhere for everything — work, kids, groceries. Crossing things off had once been empowering, but now I was putting things I’d already done on the lists just to cross them off. Huh? The sheer number of daily decisions that had to be made was overwhelming, and I felt a door crack open — to fear. The need for more runs, ski days and bike rides grew. But their post-bliss, brain-quieting benefits began to dim and didn’t last as long. Yoga, with its demands of a singular presence, was unbearable. Another glass of wine sounded better. My kids started calling me a funwrecker, and deep down, • December 2017


D E S T I N AT I O N :

AFRICA! I knew I was driving my husband nuts as my confidence eroded. I’d make decisions and then undo them, sure I’d miscalculated. The family was on a non-stop roller coaster, and I had become demanding. Anger had been seeded. What on earth was wrong with me? Everyone else seems to find joy inside The Working Mommy Wife Life, right?

My mother

↑ Numerous guides and porters helped Hyvonen and her friends acclimatize

to the high altitude and carried supplies on Mount Kilimanjaro. After a friend’s urging, I agreed to drive 40 minutes across town to an East St. Paul suburban strip mall with a run-of-the-mill chain And just like that, my mind focused and cleared: I wasn’t massage day spa. I’d booked an hour and a half massage/energy broken, and Kevin is “A-mazing.” session using a $20 refer-a-friend coupon with — oh let’s just call him Kevin, “Who is A-mazing!” There she was again Why not? I wanted to let go, but was in no mood to talk it out Remember the bike crash? Well, my physician referred me to, let’s ad nauseam for six months with any kind of psychologist. call him Paul, a physical therapist/Reiki practitioner to recover from If Kevin could just unblock a chakra or two, maybe I’d make it a separated shoulder, a concussion and a little bit of PTSD. back home smiling while I finished off those work emails, cleaned “Would you like me to do some energy work on you?” Paul said. up the kitchen, paid a few bills and worked out before the kids got “Why not?” I said. home from school. Wouldn’t it be great if the dog had learned how After two minutes of hand hovering, Paul asked: “Who is to walk himself by the time I got back? LIE-zza?” Back in Aruba, one of the day spa’s 10 dimly lit massage rooms, “Liza?” I said. “Um, my mother. She died. Liza is short for Kevin and I introduced ourselves. Elizabeth.” He left. I undressed and slid under the top sheet of the “Yes,” he said. “I can see that her death is still hard for you.” warmed massage table, waiting to be amazed. After a polite, Whoa, I mean, I never think of my mother. OK, rarely do I think warning knock, Kevin entered the room snapping his fingers of her. And then, out of the only two times I’ve gone to any kind of around his head and breathing fiercely out of his mouth, “Just energy/Reiki person (with six years in between), my mother relax and notice what you feel. I’ll ask you about it later.” comes up? Kevin’s hands began to hover over my body. He touched my right She died, like, what — two decades of marriage, two kids, a leg, then the left. cross-country move, a master’s degree, five jobs and a dog ago? I feel you touching my legs, I thought. Kevin was not as polite as Paul who gently left me with his “Such darkness,” he said.  acknowledged sympathy. That’s probably because it’s dark in here. Kevin broke me open and released the full realization of my I still felt nothing, but was thinking of a falafel (the kind with mother’s absence and my compartmentalized grief. pickled beets), when I ran smack into my dead mother. A haze cleared, and I began to feel the void of every encouraging Kevin sat back and pulled his hands into his lap, “What word she never spoke, every slightly contradictory piece of happened to your mother?” wisdom she never said, and every memory of how she raised a “Um, she died,” I said. smart, mouthy daughter that was never passed down. “Yes. During your time of marriage and children, you lost your Life could be hard and unfair, and it was even harder without a female mentor, your connection, and you never replaced her. You mother to help guide the way. are lost, doubt yourself and have little female support. You think you can do this alone, but you cannot. So, you think life is unfair.” 


December 2017 •

↑↑It took Hyvonen and her comrades seven days to climb to the top of Kilimanjaro from the Machame Gate at 5,718 feet to its summit at 19,341 feet.

↑↑In January 2017, Jennifer Hyvonen of Minneapolis (far right) took 12 days off work and home life to travel to and climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, with a group of working Minnesota moms.

Women need women I drove home and cried for two days, speaking to no one as I bobbed in the lost sea of my mother, while my husband tried to hug me back to life. The knowledge that I was grieving, not broken, had cracked open the door once again. This time, fear slowly made an exit, taking frustration and anger along with it. I was 24 when my mother got sick. I had not yet taken full ownership of my adulthood. Liza was still considered young, and she was definitely loved. The “real” adults around me were in such a state of shock and outward suffering that I ran toward gratitude to save myself. I vowed to never taint her memory by suffering from her loss of life. Instead, I would honor her love by holding the precious gift that she was sacred in my heart. I would focus on what she was, not on what she wasn’t. I didn’t want to be sad when I thought of her, or even worse, for people to be sad when they thought of me. I was numb to her loss and the effect her absence played out in

my daily life as I matured into a woman who was trying to pave out a career, a marriage and raise two big-hearted, sensitive sons. “Women need women,” Kevin had said. “You can’t do this alone.”

And there it was! Wait a minute: Didn’t a savvy travel agent recently invite me on a women’s trek up to the top of Africa? She was putting this trip together because her mind was starting to spin from nurturing three businesses and a family. She, too, needed a break from the multitasking, and Africa was her quiet place. “At the core of Africa’s richness is a simplicity that strips your senses raw and forces your mind to quiet. I want to dig deep and challenge me for myself, up to the top of Kilimanjaro,” she had said. “That is why I’m putting this trip together for women. Do you want to come?” I had made the decision to trek up Kilimanjaro while I was still lying on Kevin’s table, but first I needed to check in with Kelly. • December 2017


Face painting, crafts, magic, pizza party, fireworks, live music Kitty & Jack 12/16 • Teddy Bear Band 1/20 • The Bazillions 2/3 • Koo Koo Kanga Roo 3/31

D E S T I N AT I O N :


↑ Climbers and guides slept in tents while trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro on the famously long and difficult Machame route.

I gave us a few days to regroup, and then in true Working Mom fashion, I offered up a matrix of financials, a list of pros and cons and a plan to pay the money back into savings. “What do you think?” I asked, wrapping up my presentation. “Should I go? Or am I crazy?” My husband looked at me and said, “Babe, this one is on you.” He listened and talked through the pluses and minuses with me. We prioritized the biggest risks and how to minimize them. We came up with a plan to save more for the kids’ colleges.

↑ Jennifer Hyvonen of Minneapolis (in white) took 12 days off work and home life to travel to and climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, with a group of working Minnesota moms.

But Kelly never said, “Yes, you should go,” or “Absolutely not, we can’t afford it.” Nor did he say, “Yes, you can go, but then I get to go heli-skiing with the guys next year.” Kelly’s a smart guy, and ultimately, he gave me what I needed most: A chance to own and execute a decision that I made for me. Jennifer Hyvonen is a Minneapolis-based creative writer, copywriter and communications/brand expert. Learn more about her trip to Africa — and read her Write On! blog — at • December 2017


Out & About DECEMBER

Great Wolf Lodge Opening ⊲ This family-friendly resort opens Dec. 12, after a nearly year-long $30 million renovation to the former Waterpark of America space in Bloomington. You must stay at the hotel to gain entrance to the 75,000-foot waterpark. But that’s not a bad thing, since you’ll need time to check out the hotel’s many other features, including eight dining venues, a kids’ spa and an adventure park with a ropes course, mini bowling, an arcade and a rock-climbing wall. Throughout the hotel, kids also can play MagiQuest, a live-action adventure game that uses interactive magic wands. When: Opens Dec. 12 Where: Bloomington Cost: Standard rates start at $199.99 per night and include two days of play. Info:


Snow White ⊲ In this all-ages adaptation of the classic story, a bunch of funny gentle Vikings (rather than elves) make their way in the snow-covered land of Norway. Jealousy and vanity are exposed, but friendship and love ensure that all will live happily ever after. When: Through Dec. 30 Where: Old Log Theatre, Excelsior Cost: $14–$16 Info:

DEC. 1–17


⊲ Based on C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, this production offers important lessons about facing evil


December 2017 •

with courage and strength. When: Dec. 1–17 Where: Youth Performance Company, Minneapolis Cost: $7–$15 Info:

DEC. 2

Monster Jam ⊲ Adrenaline-charged, high-flying, fourwheel excitement returns to the Twin Cities with a special Wonder Woman truck, making its Minneapolis debut with driver Linsey Read. When: Dec. 2 Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Cost: Tickets start at $15. Info:

DEC. 7–31


⊲ It’s a hard-knock life for Annie and the other orphans of Depression-era New York City, under the patronage of the wretched and scheming Miss Hannigan at the Hudson Street Orphanage. One day, Annie’s life is changed forever when Grace, the beautiful assistant of the enigmatic millionaire Oscar (Daddy) Warbucks comes to ask for an orphan to stay at his mansion for the Christmas holidays. When: Dec. 7–31 Where: Orpheum Theatre, St. Paul Cost: Tickets start at $47 (for partial view). For a 15 percent discount on any Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 7:30 p.m. shows, or Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m. shows, use the

discount GRP15OFF (courtesy of Info:

DEC. 12

Ballet Tuesdays ⊲ Take in a ballet performance on the second Tuesday of each month,* courtesy of Saint Paul Ballet students and company members, offering excerpts from productions such as The Nutcracker and the company’s diverse repertoire. Children are invited to wear their dance shoes and tutus and to practice techniques demonstrated by the dancers. Bring a lunch to eat during the show or stop by Anita’s Café at Landmark Center. When: Noon Dec. 12, Jan. 9, Feb. 13, March 13, April 10 and May 1 (*This is the first Tuesday of May.) Where: Landmark Center, St. Paul Cost: FREE Info: or

DEC. 21–23

Illumination ⊲ Light up the night at the darkest time of the year with a new winter tradition. Kids can explore things that glow, make light sabers, try light painting, mix up some glow-in-the-dark slime and more — all under dimmed lights throughout the museum. Flashlights will be provided. When: 5–9 p.m. Dec. 21–23 Where: Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul Cost: Included in regular museum admission of $18.95 for adults and $12.95 for ages 4–12 and 60 and older Info:


Ice Castles

⊲ Stillwater will once again host this manmade fortress of ice and snow, featuring frozen waterfalls, towering archways and tunnels, ice caves. When: Opening day is expected in late December. Where: Lowell Park, Stillwater Cost: Last year, online tickets were $9.95–$12.95 for ages 12 and older, $6.95–$8.95 for ages 4 to 11, and free for ages 3 and younger. Standby tickets at the door were $10–$18. Info: Sign up for updates at

New Year Camp ⊲ The Animal Humane Society is offering day camps for kids, including animal interactions, shelter tours, games, crafts, projects and more. When: Jan. 2. Camps run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Where: AHS locations in Golden Valley (grades 3–4, 5–6) and St. Paul (grades 3–4) Cost: $55 Info:

Woodbury Kids Expo ⊲ Discover local resources for families with more than 80 businesses, organizations and schools showcasing programs, products and services for ages newborn to 18. When: 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Jan. 6 Where: Lake Middle School, Woodbury Cost: FREE Info: • December 2017


Out & About

Photo by Kaitlin Randolph


How the Grinch Stole Christmas ⊲ Whoville is experiencing a seemingly unstoppable crime wave! Who will save Christmas? Find out the answer in this all-time audience favorite filled with songs, spirited storytelling and fanciful rhymes. When: Through Jan. 7 Where: Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis

DEC. 9–10

Cost: Tickets start at $15. Info:

NOV. 30–DEC. 5

Holiday Train

North Pole Express

⊲ See a Canadian Pacific train decorated for the holidays, making stops in two dozen Minnesota towns to raise money, donations and awareness for local food banks. Festivities, which last about 30 minutes, include a brief presentation from local food bank officials and a short concert, featuring performances by Terri Clark, Dallas Smith and Kelly Prescott.

⊲ Take a one-mile train ride, write letters to Santa and meet Santa at the North Pole, all while staying aboard the train, followed by more children’s activities back at the Union Depot. Afterward, meander through the free European Christmas Market (Dec. 1–3, 8–10).

When: Dec. 9 arrival times include 5:15 p.m. in Cottage Grove and 7:45 p.m. in Minneapolis. Dec. 10 arrival times are 3:35 p.m. in New Hope, 4:50 p.m. in Golden Valley and 6 p.m. in St. Louis Park. Where: See for the full schedule and exact locations. Cost: FREE; donations are encouraged. Info:


December 2017 •

When: Nov. 30–Dec. 5 Where: Union Depot, St. Paul Cost: $20–$40 Info: and

DEC. 2–DEC. 23

Holidays at ASI

⊲ Visit the historic Turnblad Mansion for holiday events, seasonal displays and children’s activities, including a free

holiday open house on Dec. 13 and two ongoing exhibits — Fest! Merry Mansion, featuring holiday-decorated rooms (through Jan. 7) and Skal! Scandinavian Spirits (through Jan. 8). When: Making Traditions (Dec. 2–3, 10, 17, 23), Julmarknad/Christmas Market (Dec. 2–3), Nordic Table/ Folklore (Dec. 5), Lucia’s Legend/ Kids in the Castle (Dec. 8), Tiny Tomtar & Extraordinary Elves/Kids in the Castle (Dec. 15–16), Julboard (Dec. 15–17), Lucia Celebration Concerts (Dec. 9), Neighborhood Open House (Dec. 13), Nordic Table/ Swedish Meatballs (Dec. 20) and Winter Solstice Celebration (Dec. 21) Where: American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis Cost: FREE on Dec. 13; costs vary for other events. Regular museum admission is $10 for adults, $7 for

ages 62 and older, $5 for ages 6–18 and free for ages 5 and younger. Info:

DEC. 8–10

A Minnesota Nutcracker ⊲⊲See the classic ballet with Minnesotacentric touches and backdrops. When: Dec. 8–10 Where: Ames Center, Burnsville Cost: $20–$38 Info:

DEC. 9

Star of Wonder ⊲⊲Clap, wiggle and sing along to your favorite carols at a 45-minute holiday concert. Pillows, baby bottles and teddy bears welcome. When: 9:30 and 11 a.m. Dec. 9 Where: Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis Cost: Free for ages 3 and younger, $8 for ages 4 to 17 and $12 for adults Info:

DEC. 15–17

The Nutcracker ⊲⊲Dancers with the Academy of Russian Ballet present an authentic classical version of the holiday fairytale at this annual performance. When: Dec. 15–17 Where: Eden Prairie High School Cost: $22–$32 Info: Find more local performances of The Nutcracker at

Qualified volunteers receive investigational study drug and any study-required testing at no cost and compensation for time and travel. This study will consist of up to 17 office visits over approximately 1 year. No insurance is required to participate in this study.

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Where: Bachman’s, Minneapolis Cost: FREE Info:


Santa and Albert ⊲ Celebrate the season with Santa and Albert with a new holiday play, Albert’s Super Power. Seating is first come, first serve. Guests are encouraged to participate in a sing-a-long of holiday carols at the end of the performance, which lasts about 20 minutes. Stay to take pictures with Santa and Albert. Bring your own camera.

Gingerbread Wonderland ⊲ See iconic Twin Cities buildings made of gingerbread, created by community members and professional bakers and judged by local food critics. When: Through Jan. 7 Where: Norway House, Minneapolis Cost: Free for ages 12 and younger, $5 for ages 13 and older Info:

When: Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 17. Saturday show times are 10 and 11:30 a.m., and 1 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday show times are 11:30 a.m. and 1 and 2:30 p.m.


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Go team! These local kids aren’t just cute, they’re masters at showing team spirit!

↑↑Henry, 18 months, of Lakeville

↑↑Alex 4½, Lucio, 15 months, and Caroline, 3, of Crystal

↑↑Clara, 10 months, of Coon Rapids

↑↑Calhoun, 2, and Olivia, 2 months, of Minneapolis

↑↑Colin, 8, Graeme, 5, and Sadbh, 2, of Osseo

↑↑Jack, 2, of Blaine

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December 2017