A Worried Sister: A Kordatzky ER Adventure
Fix-It Clinics – An Ecological Family Fun Idea
Matisse – A Family Study Guide

A Worried Sister: A Kordatzky ER Adventure

She had been complaining off and on for months of pain in her leg.  We thought it was growing pains.  She’s tall, she’s eight, and she would complain in the evenings, nights, and morning. Looking back now, of course it makes perfect sense, but at that point, we had no idea.  And we were scared.  A swollen knee for no apparent reason makes no sense.  My neighbor’s sixteen year old daughter came over to get her little sister, and I made her look at Kyla’s knee just to get a second opinion.  I didn’t care whose opinion it was.  I just needed someone to say, “Yeah, you should get that looked at.” This was the start of our ER Adventure. Read More

Fix-It Clinics – An Ecological Family Fun Idea

By now everyone has heard of Fix-It Clinics. It is a great idea. Take something broken and learn how to fix it. Or, at least, know you tried before tossing it. It’s perfect for kids, too. Kid’s love to explore and take things apart and see how they work. You might as well make that tendency useful.

What to Bring to Fix-It Clinics

You need to be able to carry anything you bring to a Fix-It Clinic – Sorry no appliances or cars. Bring your own tools if you have them so you can learn on your own equipment, but the experts will have tools on hand, also. The following is a non-exhaustive list of things that Ramsey County suggests bringing in instead of tossing:

Fix-It Clinics

  • Antique radio.
  • Blender.
  • Camping lantern.
  • Clothing and other soft goods to mend or alter.
  • Dremel tool.
  • DVD player.
  • Electric hot water kettle.
  • Fan.
  • Flashlight.
  • Hair dryer.
  • Lamp.
  • Paper shredder.
  • Remote control.
  • Sewing machine.
  • Steam mop.
  • Stereo.
  • Telephone headset.
  • Toaster oven.
  • Toaster.
  • Toys.

What Happens if You Can’t Fix the Item?

Not everything will be repairable. Know that you are responsible for disposing of any items that can’t be fixed – of course you were responsible for that before you tried. Sometimes you find really cool things inside non-repairable items. We once took apart an old television. It was amazing how many toys we made out of the parts, plus I got a mirror out of the deal. Another bonus — I find that its easier to dispose of something once its taken apart.

Some Good Insider Advice for Attending

In 2014, I had a chance to chat on Facebook with Nancy Lo, the coordinator of the Hennepin Fix-It Clinic program and she let me in on a little secret:  Don’t get to the Fix-It Clinic’s early.  Sleep in, eat breakfast, go grocery shopping. Show up to the Fix-It Clinic about midway through its drop in hours. The second half is much less crowded than the first. If you show up at the midway point, you’ll still have time to work with an expert, but you won’t have to wait in line as long.

Also, in case you were worried, I also have it on Ms. Lo’s authority that these events are family friendly and kids are encouraged to attend!

Where to Find Fix-It Clinics

Five counties in the Twin Cities Metro currently offer Fix-It Clinics at rotating sites. These are:

While we try to keep up with these dates on our calendar, we recommend signing up for email updates with your home county.

Beyond Fix-It Clinics

Love getting busy with these practical building skills with your kids? We also recommend Home Depot Kids Workshops to build things together. Tech Take Apart Days at The Works presents kids with the chance to take things apart to see how they work; and Leonardo’s Basement has all sorts of fun, creative building classes and camps. 

Matisse – A Family Study Guide

This article was originally written when the Minneapolis Institute of Arts hosted a travelling Matisse exhibit. While that exhibit is gone, you can still use much of the study portion of this article at any time. The MIA has several Matisse pieces in its permanent collection, so while the exhibit is gone, you can still end your study with a museum visit.


My eldest daughter is one of those naturally grownup kids.  When she was an only child, we could dress her up and take her anywhere  — even as a baby and toddler. You can imagine our surprise when Thing 2 and Thing 3 came along and we found out it had nothing to do with our superb parenting skills.

Even though Thing 1 has always been our little lady, I learned from a disastrous visit to prep her for things that require more concentration than is reasonable for her age.  Because we had regularly visited the Walker with Arty Pants throughout her toddlerhood, I mistakenly thought I could take her to the Vatican Exhibit at the History Museum. It did not go well. The exhibit was dark, we had stood in line a long time watching other kids play in the fun exhibits, and she had no idea what we were looking at.  (Really, I had no idea either).  We kind of ruined the visit for my sister — who didn’t bring a toddler.  After that, we started prepping for grown up things.  This has worked very well both for her and her much wilder younger brothers. We used to do a lot more with the library, but that takes a couple weeks pre-planning, so my suggestions below are for more instant results.

When we go, I will go with an exit plan and prep, prep, prep.

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