Toddler wish list

I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a toddler. Emmett’s at this magical age where I’m pretty sure he’ll love the boxes and wrapping paper just as much as anything that comes in them.


Our holiday letter-writing tradition brings me such simple joy, and I want to try to keep the season sane as our family grows. We have adopted the four-present precedent some families set so I don’t go crazy getting Emmett All. The. Things.


  • Joe found a Strider bike on Craigslist and now that Emmett is finally walking, I’m imagining there will be some indoor shenanigans with it before the spring thaw.
  • Poor kid still gets his lunch packed in my old breastmilk coolers, so when I saw this Skip Hop cutie on clearance at Target I knew he’d love having a zoo lunchbox like his cool older cousins.
  • I have a soft spot for a boy in Sambas. My dad, brother and Joe all default to this classic shoe, and it will be special for Emmett to follow in their footsteps, especially since Emmett will never meet his papa.
  • Oliver Jeffers books are so sweet, and I’ve had my eye on This Moose Belongs to Me since before Emmett was born.

We’ll probably also do a few little stocking-sized trucks (the kid is obsessed) and get some special Christmas jammies to wear on the Boone Scenic Railroad Santa Express (which I hope isn’t sold out yet!)

Pretty unrelated, but did you all see the Pretzel Parker House Rolls recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other day? All I want for Christmas are those.

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Music for a woodland clearing

My chic friend Julia hosted our last book club on the totally hygge* landing of her gorgeous A-frame home, complete with a wood stove. While we were sipping spiked ciders, all of the ladies commented on what a great mellow mix she had going on in the background.

Oh, that’s “Music for a Woodland Clearing,” she said, and then told us about Songza, a streaming service that helps you pick a playlist based on your mood/time of day/activity. I’m hooked.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 7.01.47 PM


If you can’t read that small print, the other similar playlists include A Stiff Drink in a Dim Place, Sadcore Hibernation, etc. There are happy ones, too, obviously. “You Betta Work: ’90s Runway.” Fun.

*I just learned this terrific Danish word that expresses a kind of coziness that’s hard to fully capture in English.

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Gratitude list – Fall ’14

Sometimes a girl has to to catch her breath and send a great big ‘thank you’ to the Universe.


Homemade Halloween costumes (Emmett’s mouse was my mother’s handiwork!) and events like Night Eyes and Scare Us Hill for kids.


Picking beautifully green backyard broccoli for dinner.

Oak trees out my office window, and coming to a job that challenges me in all the best ways.

Snuggles from someone in super small Star Wars jammies.

Productive board meetings that involve Big Tomato Pizza and a bright future for YNPN DSM.

Apple cider and pulling out the sweater weather wardrobe.

A new season of Homeland and kick-back time to watch it with Joe.

Breaking in new running tights with my pup at my heels. (Or, really, with us both stopping by a tree to catch our breath every two blocks.)

Reading while baking. (Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl is our latest book club pick.)


The way a carved pumpkin glows.

The bill for Emmett’s (third!) ER visit being not quite as awful as I’d hoped. Febrile seizure in the middle of the night. Apparently not a big deal, but terrifying.

A husband who speaks the love language of changing my oil and detailing my car instead of buying me flowers.

Getting to do Google hangouts with my grandpa.

All the Costco goat cheese.

My phone never really being lost/stolen and really just being on top of my car (parked!) or under the seat.

It’s the little things, people. 

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Year over year

October 23, 2014

10724182_802709706460187_1488208128_nOctober 25, 2013 autumn-rainbow


My dog, my boy and a leaf-crunching walk. Sixteen months in is my favorite point yet. This apple-munching toddler. He knows the names of so many things, is always climbing, gaining independence and strength. Ideas all his own. And jokes! He’s started feeding his toys, making little sucking and squeaking noises and running his little car along the edge of everything. Vrrroooom! Off we go. Time flashing by, yellow confetti ahead and behind. Thank you, October.  

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Here’s to the goers

A few weeks ago, I was drinking a tallboy on the rooftop deck of the Des Moines Social Club, in the sunshine, with friends. I was dressed smart (Joe Crimmings was shooting free headshots for us!) and feeling pretty damn great because tallboy+friends+sunshine in a city I love is hard to beat.

It was a YNPN Des Moines event, and that evening I spent a few minutes talking with a writer from the National Journal (who is a pretty recent Drake grad) for what turned into this article: Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible – Move to Des Moines.


I think/write/talk a lot about how it was important for me, in choosing Des Moines, to try to create experiences. To be among the people working to make things happen. I thought that was how to grow as a leader. And it is, but it’s not the only way.

I’m inspired by amazing peers planning and executing events for the Des Moines Art Center and AIGA Iowa and DMMC and  YPC and Market Day and so on, because there is so. much. going. on. here. It’s incredible. A crazy amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into any and all of these groups and activities.

Every single thing I’m involved in planning, from a smallish meeting to helping with big events like TEDxDesMoines or activities with YNPN Des Moines or for my job, is preceded with a pit in my stomach. Event planning is not something that comes naturally to me. Not as naturally as writing, at least. Let’s just say I’m not a spreadsheet-y person. It’s like stage fright meets addiction. When the event is happening/over, I get an adrenaline rush and it’s a relief and I accidentally start planning the next thing*. These opportunities are how I meet and work with different people and get a tiny taste of entrepreneurship. But it’s not the only way to engage.

I also want us to recognize the goers. Maybe you’re not quoted or profiled or on the board of anything, but you show up. There are people in our community who are amazing at attending and attending and attending. (I see you on Instagram at 15 evens in the time it takes me to cook dinner and get in my sweatpants and I bow to your endurance.) Those people build up our community as much or more than those of us who work in our niches.

I am not a great goer. Especially not since becoming a parent. All the sudden, I get it. How challenging it can be to support all of these worthwhile, interesting events in the mix of work and family and chores and going for a run so I can wear things other than sweatpants.

So I just want to say thanks to anyone and everyone who has ever come to anything I’ve put on. Here’s to all of the goers.

Save the date: Jan. 8, 2015 YNPN Des Moines will host our first Non-Conference at the Des Moines Social Club. It will explore topics in nonprofit management through the lens of art. So excited! 

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Low-key weekends

I had a lot going on during the week last week, so it felt great to enjoy a lazy weekend. We splashed around in some dried corn with the kids in our babysitting co-op and went for a family walk in the woods, but that’s about it. Today was a yoga pants and a second pot of coffee kind of a Sunday, indeed.


Here’s some lazy girl homebody entertainment: Saturday night, Joe watched football on mute while I folded clothes and we listened to “Serial,” the new podcast by some of the producers of  “This American Life.”

Serial is a podcast that unfolds one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season. The first season follows a did-he-really-do-it story of a teenage murder in Baltimore in 1999. It’a pretty compelling.  Check it out.

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Reading Room: The Blue Jay’s Dance

I started the book yesterday, parked in the grocery store lot, waiting for Emmett to wake from his nap. I read it last night and then in stolen moments this morning, finished at lunchtime, wiped the tears from my face and immediately hopped on my bike, pedaling to go press it into the hands of my dear friend who is expecting her second baby in late December.


Cara sent me The Blue Jay’s Dance months ago as part of a care package from California. The cover is a lot bit 1992, and it didn’t scream READ ME, NOW — so it sat on a side table until what was apparently just the right time.

This was a gorgeous, richly worded essay for me to appreciate at a moment my baby is growing into a toddler, when I can see that birth year from a close distance. Louise Erdrich is my mother’s age, but with this book she is my sister. She and I share “mother-writers,” a heritage of the Brontes and Virginia Woolf and Joan Dideon, the same primal need for long, rambling walks in the woods and to feel deeply, inviting in a profound sadness and longing alongside the joy.

(For those of you who share my canon, The Blue Jay’s Dance felt like Great with Child, that fantastic book of letters to a young mother that my friends all passed around when we were pregnant, mixed with the natural/spiritual existentialism of Annie Dillard, mixed with the frankness and humor of Anne Lamott.)

Erdrich lives the writing life, introspective, and reflects herself back so honestly to us that I see myself in her words. The book is divided into seasons, and within each season snippets of life on the acreage, with her family, the flowers, pets and wildlife, and alone with her thoughts, and even a few recipes — meals that punctuated that birth year for her. Erdrich’s lyrical prose:

“I see myself frozen in a clutch of mothers, a flock, a panic of mothers…In talking to other women over the years, I begin to absorb them somehow, as if we’re all preamble…Mothering is a subtle art whose rhythm we collect and learn, as much from one another as from instinct. Women without children are also the best of mothers, often, with the patience, the interest, and saving grace that the constant relationship with children cannot always sustain. A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents, by another adult.”

I urge other expectant and new moms to fill their shelves not just with baby and toddler-rearing instructional manuals but with works like these to nurture the soul.


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