Des Moines’ wilder (G-rated) side

We’re into a pretty set routine with the little dude, but have managed to take advantage of summer sun (and missed a few naps) to take some kid-friendly mini adventures lately. Here are a few ideas for enjoying fresh air with a little family:

Splashing at Des Moines’ West Coast, AKA Raccoon River Beach. Go! 

IMG_20140708_192810My niece turned four last week, and we had a picnic dinner and played in the water at Raccoon River beach and adjacent splash pad. There’s a great playground in the park, too. Anyone else feel slightly rebellious putting your suit and going to the beach on a school work night?

Paddle boating on Gray’s Lake. Go! 

We were going to meet friends to go bowling, but then it was gorgeous, so I convinced everyone to attempt paddle boating with toddlers in our laps. Ha.

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Our kid-free friends played it safe and opted for the canoe. Emily and I totally sang a favorite girl scout camp song in their honor.

Adventure Days at Blank Park Zoo. Go! 

Joe and some guys had a softball game planned, so Emmett and I met up with a few friends at the zoo. The new African exhibit is pretty cool.

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It was my first time taking E (my college friends gifted us a membership for his first birthday!) and Saturday also happened to be “Adventure Days,” so there was live music and a few more activities. I fell in love with the baby camel and want to go back for a date night at Zoo Brew soon.

 Jester Park Bison Watching, Natural Playscape and Trail Ride. Go! 

Joe gifted me a sweet little trail ride for Mother’s Day and since he had plans to golf up there this weekend, Emmett and I met him after his round. The lakeside trail was washed out, but it was still nice to be out in the woods, smelling the trees and the horses.

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We swung through Jester Park to check out the bison viewing area, which is adjacent to the “Natural Playscape” geared toward young kids. There’s a big sand area, and water feature and some other simple activities. The bison didn’t get too close, but it definitely felt like a break from the city!

 

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Freedom Weekend

There I stood, sandwiched between the U.S. Capitol building, the Washington Monument and a mall full of marching bands and red-white-and-blue floats. Free to wear a skirt and ride a bike and Instagram about it. America.

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We spent Independence Day weekend in D.C. and the Virginia wine country, thanks to a wedding invitation and my mom’s willingness to watch Emmett while we flew out for the fun, which also coincided with our fourth anniversary.

Highlights of the #freedomweekend: 

Hitting up the happy hour at District of Pi, the D.C. outpost for a favorite St. Louis deep dish spot, with my brother and his girlfriend.

Hotel sheets and a full night sleep.

Meeting up with some favorite college friends and having an awesome Pimm’s cocktail and hearty breakfast at Founding Farmers together.

Deciding on a whim to hop onto the Capital Bikeshare cruisers and cycling down Constitution Avenue when it was closed to traffic for the parade. The street was lined with people waving flags, and of course I waved back at the kids.

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We swung through the parade staging area, so I felt like we got to see the parade without waiting in the sun. I get all teary-eyed hearing patriotic songs and this was a pretty nice consolation for missing out on the Yankee Doodle Pops concert back home. (Did you guys go?)

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Geeking out at the Newseum. Can’t beat celebrating the First Amendment on Independence Day, right? So many of the exhibits offered reminders of how wonderful – and hard won – all of our freedoms truly are.

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The hotel pool at the Holiday Inn Express with the best view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Watching my beautiful friend Mara marry her best friend. Mara has impeccable taste, and the wedding at Early Mountain Vineyards was gorgeous, thoughtful, delicious and fun! 20140705_195351Dancing the night away with my high school crew. They own the dance floor.

10368316_10102113350770140_313293401580712690_oAnd just spending some quality time with Joe. Cheers to 4+40 more years!

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Filed under BS outside the Midwest, Travel

Generations of Strength

A few weeks ago, I was invited to share my thoughts on womanhood for a video promoting “Generations of Strength,” an event that Sonia Ashe and a group connected to the Young Women’s Resource Center are putting together as part of the Juice Charity Challenge.

The mission of YWRC is close to my heart, so I was excited to help. (The organization supports, educates and advocates for young women ages 10-21. YWRC hosts small groups and individual support focused on self-esteem, healthy relationships and reproductive health.) Plus, I met Sonia through YNPN Des Moines and am pumped to have her leadership in the Des Moines nonprofit community.

The first video session we recorded was accidentally erased, so I got to record again, this time at the YWRC headquarters, paired with an awesome young lady. It was so much fun to hear her speak with confidence. Although I’m twice her age, we had a great conversation. It kind of cuts off in the video, but I was talking about how this was my biggest lesson as a 28-year-old woman:

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I’m not at all involved in planning this event, but plan to attend and would love to hang out with you there!

Generations of Strength 

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24

Where: Thoreau Center, at 35th and Kingman Blvd.

Details and RSVP here.

Generations of Strength will bring local women and community leaders of all ages to discuss the challenges women have faced over the past century, share knowledge, and identify opportunities to better support each other as a community!

This reception-style event will encourage open conversation over snacks and drinks, with live music and optional activities. We will also welcome speakers from each generation to share their perspective and offer advice, and raise funds to sponsor 50 teen girls to attend a six-week Problem Solving course with the Young Women’s Resource Center.

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Filed under I love Des Moines

All my T-Rexes live in Texas

I spent a few days this past weekend in Dallas — or, more accurately, at a conference in a Wyndham off the highway outside of downtown Dallas. We did get a few hours our last evening, however, to explore a few pockets of the city. We first went to Dealey Plaza, which is the birthplace of Dallas and the where President Kennedy was assassinated.

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I thought the white structures surrounding the Plaza were maybe a memorial, but the concrete pergolas were WPA projects built decades prior to the president’s motorcade passing through.

After our history lesson, we joined the post-conference party at The Rustic, a slick restaurant/bar with a great backyard atmosphere (picnic tables, bags, a stage), homestyle Texas food and the most genius  it’s-92-degrees-at-7-p.m. cocktail invention ever: The Sangarita.

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Yes, that’s a big ole’ margarita with a sangria popsicle stuck into it. I got brain freeze about 13 seconds after this photo was taken. Note to self: Try some boozy popsicle recipes out sometime.

Free Range Concepts, the restaurant management firm behind The Rustic, had also just opened Mutts Cantina, a dog park/beer garden/restaurant that was totally waggin’ when we walked by. I love to see vibrant urban development ideas like these two spots when I travel.

We wanted to experience a little more of a Dallas neighborhood feel, so we ended up getting dinner at Gloria’s, a fantastic Salvadorian restaurant (which also has a great, dog-friendly patio)  in the Bishop Arts District. It’s a cute area with lots of independent restaurants and shops in a few blocks.

The best part of the trip though was learning, exploring and laughing with some cool new colleagues. I’m really glad I work with people who are as weird as I am.

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Motherhood: One year in

I celebrated my first anniversary as a mom last weekend, chasing my freshly minted 1-year-old boy. These days he is bursting with energy, curiosity, things to say. Pausing every now and again for a few cuddles before his next expedition.

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I think back to the days and nights of last June, when new motherhood was an overwhelming tidal wave of emotion and exhaustion. I remember what everyone told me: The days are long, but the years go by so fast. And it’s true. Here we are, heading into a second summer, older, and maybe a little wiser.

I’m by no means a perfect mother, but I am a happy one.

There isn’t much room for selfishness in motherhood. The million little chores and acts — the diaper changes, meal preparations, bathtime and bedtime routines, up rocking in the middle of the night — involve choices that put your child’s interests before your own. The weight of this responsibility is enormous and sometimes, if I’m honest, it can drag a mama down.

It’s in the midst of these days that we parents need to – proverbially – do what flight attendants direct in every safety spiel: Put your oxygen mask on first. You won’t be able to help the kid next to you if you can’t breathe.

Do all those little thankless tasks. And do something for yourself. Don’t feel guilty. Take a shortcut, if you can, call a sitter, lean on your spouse and give yourself permission to focus for a little bit on something just for you. The book club with your girlfriends. A long run. A pedicure. A getaway.

 I’ve learned that if I can’t recognize the person I want be when I look at the mirror (or, more often, my calendar) — how can I expect my child to see that in me? 

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My earlier posts on motherhood are here.

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Filed under At home, Baby, Life lessons

Super fancy summer drink

OK, totally not fancy at all, but a refreshing staple on muggy summer nights:

Ice in a glass + carlo_rossi_sangria_1
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You can try the ratio that works for you, but I typically do half-glass Sangria, 1/3 glass juice and spritz of Fresca. Super fancy cocktail hour.

Favorite spots in Des Moines for Sangria: Stam Ingersoll secret garden, El Patio, Dos Rios.

I haven’t been to Malo yet, but I’m sure it would be on the list.

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Filed under At home, Des Moines Dining

A Father’s Day story

Last year on Father’s Day, we brought Emmett home from the NICU after our first weekend entrenched in the harrowing experience of parenthood. Yesterday, we watched our freshly-minted 1-year-old boy squeal and repeatedly climb all over the playground, launching himself headfirst, upside down and backwards down the slide.

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Two emergency room visits, hundreds of restless nights and moments of delight and desperation later, we’re celebrating his first birthday with a little family party today.

Through it all, I’ve tried to keep perspective thinking of my friends Tim and Gretchen, who welcomed triplet girls just two weeks after Emmett was born. Every time I melted down, I thought of their challenge and — although it turns out I didn’t know the half of it — our struggle seemed to shrink.

I’ll never forget the morning Tim and I met up for tea, me bumping out at around 24 weeks and he told me about their incredible pregnancy, which Tim chronicled in his fantastic blog. I was over at the Paluchs a couple of weeks ago and Gretchen (whose boundless grace never ceases to amaze and inspire me) mentioned Tim, my former editor, was writing again. I think I literally hopped with joy to hear it.

Whether or not you’re a parent, a great Father’s Day read this weekend is Tim’s personal essay for Esquire on becoming a dad:  http://www.esquire.com/features/tim-paluch-hardest-decision?src=soc_fcbks

Tim gives voice beautifully to the fear and joy they felt. I’m so grateful to know these brave friends and to raise my kid alongside the Paluch 3-pack! 3pack

 

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