“Only the country of Canada & Blackhawks fans truly celebrate hockey.” He’s right: You haven’t been to a hockey game until you’ve cheered on the Blackhawks at United Center. We went to our 2nd game last week.
A bit of background: We are a hockey family. Matt plays. Greg plays. All of us appreciate the game. My favorite sound in the universe is hockey — skates and sticks, goal horns and cursing at refs. We raised our kids with arena night (normal families have movie night, I’ve heard) in the glorious Ralph Engelstad Arena and now many other rinks (and several ice-cold barn dumps) around the upper Midwest.
Highlights of this Blackhawks experience:
This city loves hockey. We walked a bit, stopped by the Blackhawks store on Michigan Ave, stopped for a quick bite to eat, then took a cab to the arena. Everywhere, we heard, “Go Hawks” and “Have fun” from others. Cool.
Soaking it all in
There’s a certain aura about hallowed ground such as United Center. I did grow up a basketball fanatic, and my #2 sports experience of all time was seeing Michael Jordan play from court side seats. He was superhuman. He did fly. Soared over any defender with amazing grace. And his home court commemorates him with a beautiful statue to welcome even hockey fans…
This, from a few seasons ago, makes me smile. I know Mr Jordan loved it, too:
Inside, the banners (which I couldn’t even fit in one camera shot) tell the tale of Champions.
If you haven’t figured it out by the time the National Anthem begins, you’ll realize within two notes that you are in a very special place. Fans are at high volume the ENTIRE Anthem (respectfully but with enthusiasm), and on their feet much of the game. We’ve now had seats on the 300 level and the 100 level. No matter where you are in the arena, your fellow fans know hockey. They know the players, their lines, challenges (Hossa was just back from an injury and got a standing O every time he stepped onto the ice), rules and other nuances of this amazing game. It’s fun to listen to the analysis and rants and cheers and jeers from educated fans!
Did I mention there’s a vodka bar there?
We got lucky. Our game went to a 6-shooter shootout. Our guy Jonathan Toews got his!
Sadly, the Blackhawks lost, but it was a great game.
Just a few days later, we caught a ‘Hawks game on TV. We all stopped, and reminisced about waiting outside door 3 1/2, playing a penny game, the homeless (?) guy who hailed us a cab afterwards, the “joyful” people who came and sat by us later in the game, the goalie’s shootout stance and many other memories of our night at the Madhouse on Madison. And that is part of why I so adore sports. Our family will forever remember this incredible time together.
Minneapolis-St Paul was just ranked as a must-visit spot by Lonely Planet, endorsed for our lakes, outdoor activities, nightlife and historical venues. So on a snowy Sunday in December, our family covered quintessentially Minnesota action!
As someone in the article notes, Minnesotans love to play outside, cheer on their sports teams, support the arts and history, are skeptical of mass transit, a bit reserved and zealous with travel.
I couldn’t agree more!
Minnesotans love to play outside
My #1 favorite thing about my native and now home again state. I started the day with a lovely walk in the woods nearby, just blanketed in gorgeous snow (my #1A favorite thing about MN). It was so silent–except for our pet dogs, racing around with pure unbridled joy.
Minnesotans love to travel
Our Julia was doing just that, enjoying a week in Florida with a friend and her great family. We get photos like this texted to us:
Minnesotans are skeptical of mass transit
Yep. We had tickets to the Vikings – Chi Bears game, but Matt also had a hockey game (because “all Minnesotans all play hockey” of course), so Caroline and I took the light rail downtown and Greg gave us a ride back to our vehicle after the game. See? We just went one way on the train.
It was lovely, including these views, surrounded by Bears fan on a super crowded train.
Minnesotans are reserved
As the train approached our stop, da Bears fans regaled us with “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” The Vikes fans didn’t break into “Skol Vikings.” But this was before the game. Which my beloved Vikes won. Betcha my purple neighbors sang on the way home!
Minnesotans cheer on their teams
Oh yes, we do. In all the agony that entails. Caroline and I schlepped our way into the Dome, ready for GAME DAY!
We also enjoyed our VIP Field Passes, seeing the players, coaches, game day staff members, equipment and warmups up close.
Minnesotans love hockey
Well, when your lakes are frozen much of the year, you make the most of it! Matt and Greg missed this on-field experience because Matty’s team was playing for some hardware in a hockey tournament. (Thankfully, they have been on the field before.) The boys won their game! The trophy is a White Bear, which amused us all when they arrived in our seats just after kick-off.
We got home (slowly with the lousy weather) in time to clear the driveway and play in the snow.
While their teachers met downtown St. Paul for Education MN, our kids and their cousins spent the day across the street at the Science Museum of Minnesota, learning about tornadoes, deer vertebrae, wind speeds, how to create a mummy–and topped it off at the newly remodeled Cosetta’s!
The Science Museum is a great place to bring a group of kids of various ages–and with different interests. Everyone get a bit of what they’re craving, such as:
Throughout the exhibits, it was obvious the kids were using things they’ve learned elsewhere (absolute location, air density, light speed, waves frequencies). Made me secretly smile to see them having so much fun (and learning, but don’t tip ’em off).
Scientists get hungry
We made the short walk to Cosetta’s to see their newly renovated space and check out the results of their imported-from-Italy pastry maker. One word: Mmmmmmm.
Sweetly decadent way to wrap up a sweet day full of fun (and learning).
That’s from the American Academy of Pediatrics (!). So I guess the Kind family is normal after all. Dictatorship, socialist, a few moments of outright oppression: We had a wonderful family reunion in Hayward.
All 14 of us joined the fun. Of course we have an elder statesman, chairwoman, hero, scapegoat, maverick and plenty of junior members. Somehow, we all filled various roles throughout the weekend.
See? Don’t we look normal?
A new member
Since last summer, we’ve added a new delegate. Little Howie delighted us all!
Various subgroups broke into various committees to work on different projects.
Diplomacy (and dictatorship) on the River
It’s become a tradition to spend some time on the nearby Namekagon River. Last year, we all tubed down. This year, sensing the lukewarm tone on that activity, Bro Dave leapt into action. “How about canoeing?” he said, plopping down a pile of brochures from his quick research. He got enough “yeah, sure”‘s to make the plan.
Hindsight is 20/20.
So, the outfitter told us two things:
1. We won’t let you go out after 3:00; even that can be pushing it on daylight.
2. The rafts are heavy to pull
We got on the river at 3:15. We had one map, 3 fishing poles, bait, coolers full of beverages and of course life jackets. And we had that #1 survival tool: PMA. (Positive Mental Attitude)
It was a GLORIOUS day on this treasure of a river.
A mild crisis
After about 3 hours, we hadn’t yet seen the landing where we were to exit. My arms were sore from paddling. We pulled over and I looked at our load: Cara had decided to ride on one of the rafts, tied to our canoe. That’s cool. But then I saw the raft was FULL OF WATER. It must’ve added 100 lbs! Good grief. One look at my brother’s face, and I knew he was nervous about making it in before nightfall, too. We’re 21 months apart. Heck, I’ve seen that “am I going to get home before <________>” many times, especially during our high school years. Truth be told, he had good reason to be nervous most of those times. So, while keeping panic at bay and glancing at the map:
We called John, the outfitter.
It was an indelible conversation:
Me: “Hey, so we’re at campsite #728. Are we close to the landing where you’re picking us up?”
John: laughing, “Hell, you’ve got about 6 hours left.” laughing
Me: “So are we close?”
John: laughing “Yeah, so I’ve already started drinking.” laughing “‘Guess I’m gonna have my wife pick you up.” laughing
John: “I told you not to leave so late. I told you those rafts would be heavy.” laughing “Yeah, so just call her when you get to that landing.” laughing
Dave the Dictator
Dave must’ve read my face (hey, I sometimes needed him to cover for me during our teenage years). He strided back to the river and assigned the strongest paddlers and made a few more edicts. No voting here.
We did make it to the landing and John’s wife was there. It was still a little light (!), and we all laughed about our adventures, fishing, paddling, heavy rafts and (yep, Allie) leeches.
Nothing a little campfire won’t cure!
Back at the campground…
Blue-ribbon partisan showing
Last year, our dogs came in 2nd in the Pet Show. The eldest child (that would be me) gets a little fired up at competition. So we came prepared this year. And planning does pay. Allie and Cara commandeered the dogs to a tie for 1st place! (Thanks heavens they tied or it would have been a year of bragging ’round the house…)
As we watched the kids sing Happy Birthday to each other: dirty, hungry, smelling of chlorine and mini golf greens and truck ride hay, my very wise brother said it best. I’ll never forget his face lit by campfire and birthday cake candles, his words glowing with pride and love, “THIS is why you do it.”
It’s the ultimate combination: kids think they’re having fun; parents know they’re learning. One of the best things about living near a vibrant city is the rich arts and culture. Minneapolis – St Paul has incredible museums I’m always happy to visit.
My mom and dad and I took 3 of their grandkids for a day at Mill City Museum, one of my favorite haunts. Niece Allison had been there for a field trip this spring and took us directly to the Flour Tower. Hi, Dad!
That’s an excellent place to start your visit to this museum. As your elevator moves you through 8 floors, you learn the story of the Washburn Mill. Nearly 100 years of flour power on the banks of the river in Minneapolis. The boom times, sad times, unsafe times, and boom (as in explosion) times.
Look where you land! The top of the Mill, overlooking beautiful Minneapolis. Hi, Mom!
Other highlights in the Museum:
Interactive, hands-on water area. Move the logs, feel the power of water, harness the river’s energy.
Fewer limits on schedules, timing, bedtimes…Perfect for a sleepover birthday bash! Caroline planned her 9th birthday celebration to include Build-A-Bear Workshop (except Jules, our family had never been there), Bear Olympics (it was during the 2012 Games) and of course the icing on the cake: a Sleepover. It was a great time!
Planning is everything
I’m a bit of a Nazi on planning: especially birthdays. So I planned our trek to the Mall of America (nearest Build-A-Bear Workshop to us) on a Saturday well in advance. Background: I detest MOA. Except for a few stores, which I can do in a targeted lap, I steer clear of this place at all costs. So why did Greg and I end up taking 10 kids there on the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Mall? All in the name of motherly birthday party love…
Build-A-Bear is an EXCELLENT party place. Our party lead was FABULOUS and had the girls laughing, singing, contributing–all while creating their bears and making Cara feel very special. I prefer home birthday parties, but this was the BEST outside party we’ve done. High marks!
Back at home…
The bears did a series of Olympic events. I was handing out medals so there are not many photos. This was really fun and the girls got into it more than I expected. Then it was time for cake, ice cream and gifts.
The girls got quite a bit of sleep and had a beary good time. (You can sleep when you’re dead is my motto. Now is the time for fun!)
We wrapped it all up with a Bear Breakfast!
Happy Birthday to a little lady we all love Beary Beary much. Happy Birthday, Sweet Caroline.