Monthly Archives: May 2012

Montessori & Mimi: A Love Story

Lots of folks ask us why my hubby and I send Mimi to the Baan Dek Montessori. We can make the answer really complicated with a host of reasons (see below for links to past blogs I’ve written for the school – loads of motivations listed there), but it’s actually pretty simple:

Mimi loves it. She just loves it.

Baan Dek follows the same academic calendar (for now) of the Sioux Falls School District, so Mimi is technically on summer break. While the school offers a summer program, these couple of months allow our family to save a bit of money and commute time by enrolling Mimi at the YWCA downtown near where both Dalton and I work. She’s in a neat preschool program; it’s funny because while she turns 4 in August, Mimi is so advanced (thanks Baan Dek!) that daycare moved her up to the preschool level. She likes the teacher, and while she can’t tell me the names yet of the kids she plays with, I know Mimi is having a good time.

Still, it’s been a battle getting her going in the morning. She wants to sleep in, she refuses breakfast, she begs not to go to school, she just wants to stay home with Claire-bear (the beagle) — all really rare for her (but great practice for those pesky teen years that’ll be here in a flash). During the Montessori year, she jumps out of bed, chomps on apples or oranges or bagels for breakfast, dresses herself, and prepares for school like it’s the best place to be in the world.

And for Mimi – and her parents – it is. I can’t explain how great it feels dropping her off at Baan Dek, jogging to keep apace with her eagerness as she bolts through the front door and into the greeting area to show Mrs. Maltai her ‘show and tell’ for the day (usually a random toy or object, like shoelaces, rocks, or the old sticker she found on her car seat that morning – Mrs. Maltai is always so generous with her reaction of amazement at the oddball collections). Mimi heads into the classroom like she owns the place, and it’s so fun to hear her classmates and Mrs. Picton-Coates sing out her name like the best welcome home party ever. Sometimes she remembers to say goodbye to me 🙂

Last night before bed, I came in to Mimi’s room and found her building with blocks. She said, “I made my Montessori classroom.” Sure enough, she used her red and blue blocks to build a miniature testament to the school she misses so much. It fell down, and I asked her if I could take pictures of her building a new one, so we could send it to her teachers. She was more than willing to oblige. I made this video using the Splice app for iPhone for her teachers, whom she misses dearly.

Key dialogue

  • What Mimi built: “It’s my Montessori classroom.”
  • Why she built it: “Because my Montessori teachers will like it.”
  • The message: “Hi! I miss you Mrs. Maltai, I miss you Mrs. Picton-Coates.”

This is what her school actually looks like (notice the reds and blues that Mimi pulled into her block classroom). Take a drive for yourself; it’s located on the northeast corner of 85th Street & Western Avenue.

If you’re interested or have questions regarding Montessori education, or want more information about Baan Dek, their web site is a tome of excellent resources. June and Bobby George, the founders and owners of BDM, have wonderful imaginations and are constantly expanding the scope and reach of their school. Check ‘em out.

Some past blogs for Montessori:

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Horsin’ Around

“Vacationing in North Dakota is super-awesome!” — No one. Ever.

I graduated from Bismarck (ND) High School in 2001. School itself was fine – I rock academia in all its forms – but those three years were some of the worst in my life (cue violins – yeah yeah). So it’s not without some trepidation that I travel back once or twice per year to visit family; I really (really) don’t like Bismarck. Total prejudice, I know. Sue me.

ANYWAY. We had occasion to visit for my baby bro’s high school graduation this past weekend. I call him “baby” because the fondest memories I have of him were when he was a little tyke. Not because he’s not cool now (I have no idea, really), but at 10 years older than he is, I left the roost while he was still a hatchling. He’s 6-foot-huge and thin as a reed. He also barely talks to me; I only just plugged in his phone number over the weekend, if that gives you a glimpse into our family dynamics. But I support the heck outta him (congrats, bro!) and my younger sister, who will graduate from college next year. So I go to their shindigs and smile and nod and then I leave *shrugs*

Now that I have a family of my own to drag with me, things are a little more interesting. I can look smug as I lean on my sarcastic cane and croak, “I used to mow all this, and feed the animals, and do all manner of chores,” as I sweep my hand to showcase the gazillion acres of land my dad and step-mom own southeast of Bismarck. Little whippersnappers these days have no idea what “chores” mean. Humph.

ANYWAY. So my 3-year-old Mimi loves visiting the acreage for its abundance of flowers and animals. She’s got a big heart for furry creatures, especially horses. And unicorns, but we’re still working on finding one of those for her to ride. So when her Auntie Sheena saddled the family’s black beauty, Velvet, up for a walk, Mimi was stoked. She’s ridden those little ponies at Country Apple Orchard in the fall. You know, the kind hitched up to the circular twirl for $20 a turn. Velvet, then, was like the Big Kid version for Mimi (and free!), and it was so great to see her shine with happiness.

I took some simple shots of her riding the big fella, and using the Splice app on my iPhone, I created this short video of Mimi’s first legit horsey ride. Auntie Sheena is a daredevil – always has been (I say this with tender love and gritted teeth). I slowmo-ed the end there where Mimi almost falls off after Sheena decides some next-level galloping is in order. I am proud to say my little butterfly clung for dear life as she slid sideways in the saddle and miraculously didn’t fall (we’re talking a 5-foot drop minimum).

Adventure! Excitement! It’s all here! Bismarck – thanks for the memories.

Jeff Barth for Congress

If you’re going to run (walk) for Congress, you might as well have a little fun along the way.

Jeff Barth, a Democratic challenger to She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Noemed, released one of the best low-budget autobiographical shorts I’ve ever seen.

Shot in West Wing-style backstepping, Barth’s epic 5-minute campaign video features tongue-in-cheek hillbilly fiddling, whimsical props, and a bowl full of jelly. You see Noem (or was that a mannequin?), a rubber chicken (hilar!), a big gun (that scares aforementioned chicken right outta the shrubbery), a horse’s ass (which don’t get nothin’ done in Washington), and a checkmate (the most threatening visual of them all).

Barth, a 60-year-old retiree and current Minnehaha County Commissioner, gives viewers a nice compilation of fun, useless facts of a life well lived. I mean, his kids even have straight teeth, for goodness’ sake. He assails D.C. politics with sound bite zingers – if you want backed-up facts, you gotta watch his other videos (the guy isn’t a-feared of the camera). He’s going for the gut, and he’s got gut to spare (though, not as much as this guy, ICYMI). Speaking as someone who also has tummy tubs to spare, I have to give it up to Barth for walking as long as he did, in what was probably our unseasonably warm South Dakota late-Spring, all while doing long-ass dialogue scenes (in the highest altitude possible offered East River). I’d be doubled-over every 30 seconds, AIM-style bandana catching the sweat off my brow, and sucking on my NPR water bottle.

I absolutely love the video. It’s got The Demographic (18-34 + cool old folks) written all over it. It also has Barth written all over it, too. He’s a fun guy. An honest guy. He’s someone you gotta be on your toes around, because he’ll throw weird pop-culture shit or some random-but-important fact at you when you least expect it. Back in my reporter days (2006-2008), I covered Minnehaha County for the Argus Leader. I got to know Barth as he was campaigning the first time around for his commission seat. He immediately distinguished himself as a politician ready to go on the line in the name of transparency for his constituents. He was willing to talk at any hour and would spend 30, sometimes 40 minutes on the phone with me just to discuss the one item on the commission agenda I didn’t understand. He’d often talk about chess (I played in middle/high school #nerdalert!). He’d talk about current news items and county items that would soon become news. He was fair-mined, well spoken, and super-competent.

Now he’s our state’s only Democratic primary candidate willing to embrace the LGBT community with open arms of support. Other distinguishing traits (apart from a fantastic sense of humor): He doesn’t have young kiddos at home to take care of, he isn’t seeking a college degree, he doesn’t have hair to style, and I’m willing to bet he has a stellar attendance record for all the non-profit boards, commission meetings, and chess clubs he’s committed to serving. His priorities are focused on South Dakotans and progressive politics. Period.

Was he the first South Dakota politician on YouTube, as he claimed during a live broadcast on SDPB? I dunno. He was featured on others’ channels during his 2006 county commission campaign, but in my brief Googling I couldn’t find any other Barth YouTube channels. Doesn’t phase me, though I’m not sure why he brought that up in the first place. But if Al Gore could create the Internet, then Barth can have a GD YouTube channel before anyone else. (Psst: He has a gun.)

Vote Jeff Barth in the June 5th Primary. You won’t be sorry.

UPDATE 5/28/12 – Here’s more info on how this campaign ad ‘hit the right stride.’ Also, looks like even though those YouTube vids from 2006 didn’t have Barth’s name on them, they appear to belong to him. LEGIT! #winning

Guest column

Little late in (re)posting this guest column I wrote for The Team Roe Times‘ latest issue (pub May 15, 2012). Read on. Then support a woman’s right to be and feel safe in her own skin, whether that’s making her own reproductive choices, or living without fear of domestic abuse/sexual violence. By this point, Noem and other House Republicans passed a weak ghost of the VAWA accepted in the Senate.

Representative Noem’s Latest Insult to Women    

When it comes to violence, Native American women are the most vulnerable group; nearly half of all Native women are subject to rape, physical vio- lence, or stalking by a domestic partner at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Add political assault to that list.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s recent comments regarding the Violence Against Women’s Act was like a verbal gut-punch to Native women in South Dakota and across the nation.

Here’s the background: In April, the U.S. Senate reauthorized an expanded version of VAWA, which included new language allowing tribes to prosecute non-Native attackers.

That’s a pretty big deal considering the U.S. Department of Justice estimates 70% of the perpetrators of violence against Native women are non-Native. As it is, tribal councils have no authority to prosecute non-Native individu- als on domestic assault charges, even if the perpetrators live on reservation land.

Coupled with the Senate bill’s other protections for LGBT and immigrant survivors of domestic abuse, Rep. Noem dismissed these important provisions as nothing more than a vote-fishing scheme by Democrats. “Unfortunately, in Congress there are some who’d like to make this a political play,” Noem said. “They’d like to make a cheap shot and try to politicize it in an election year.”

Noem’s statement – and the flaccid counter-bill House Republicans want to pass – will leave a lasting mark on Native women and families if left untended.

I am Mniconjou Lakota from Cheyenne River. I have seen first-hand how prevalent domestic violence and sexual assault are on reservations. I have worked with Native mothers who say they teach their daughters how not to be raped. Got that? The lesson isn’t finding someone who loves and respects you, but rather avoiding a drunken partner or dodging attacks.

It utterly flabbergasts me how an elected official like Noem can claim to represent Native women and families, yet turn her back on the remedy intended to heal one of Indian Country’s most troubling sores.

Tell Rep. Noem to end this harmful attack against Native women and other at-risk populations. Noem can be reached by calling (202) 225-2801.

– Taté Walker

Stop Violence against ALL women
h/t to “The Voice Box” blog, where I picked up the photo.