What I’m into

We have zilch on the agenda for Memorial Day weekend, which is quite amazing, because we definitely need a long weekend to recover from all of the fun we’ve been having before graduation party and family reunion weekends have us traveling again.

Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Family date night to Pedal Art at the DMSC. Joe scored tickets to the early evening poster show preview party, so we were able to attend the bike month event as a family and snag a great print before the crowds arrived. It’s so rare that the timing for those events works out for us, so I was in heaven with my 20 oz. chai latte pregnant lady splurge.

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Yummy Toddler Food. My friend Amy (who is admittedly somewhat neurotic about making sure her kiddo gets wholesome food) started Yummy Toddler Food and although many of the meals don’t quite work with Emmett’s allergies, the variety of recipes is great inspiration! Follow Amy on Instagram, too.

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Did you know you could DIY fruit snacks with a healthy supplement boost? (I also love her list of mealtime gear, which is would make practical baby shower/toddler birthday gifts. Emmett loves meal prep.)

Brunch in CB. We finally went to Dixie Quicks in downtown Council Bluffs when we were in the Omaha area for a wedding last weekend and it was a delightful and delicious spot right downtown. Any place that has gourmet chilaquiles and gives toddlers dinosaur figurines to play with is great, but this also has a little attached art gallery. If you find yourself in the area, check it out!

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Image source + more pics 

A fantastic bedside book. I finished “All the Light We Cannot See,” our next book club choice, ahead of schedule because I hated to put it down! The prose was lyrical, the chapters short but the novel thick, and it was set in WWII France, so pretty much my ideal combo. Definitely recommend.

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A mid-week visit from a long-lost friend. Alex, my freshman year college roommate, lives in Wyoming and Alaska and the last chance I got to see her was in the Dominican Republic at a wedding in 2012! It was so special to share Des Moines with her, especially a bike ride around Cumming Tap, a visit to the Jasper Winery Concert Series, and an afternoon outing to the Des Moines Art Center restaurant (nom!!!) for girl talk and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present exhibition. It’s amazing! Go!

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Visitors are encouraged to walk through this piece and ring the bells and shells. It’s a dream. Also, there is a giant woven vagina. So.

We also visited Beaverdale Books and Backcountry Outfitters, where I bought what look like ballerina sandals for an 80-year old, but feel like the ultimate footwear for a lady who is going to be pregnant through the heat of summer. (Apparently they are “yoga lifestyle” shoes, but let’s be real – they are going to be utilized while eating fried things on a stick at the State Fair, walking the dog and at work.)

Off to soak up more long weekend. Code for: Take more naps!

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Filed under Iowa adventures, Cooking, I love Des Moines, Books, movies/art, What I'm into

Big brother, little…

Let’s just go ahead and put 2015 down as the fastest year in human history, OK?

Somehow, I am halfway to being the mother of two. Emmett spent the first night in a toddler bed last night*. Two of our three summer weddings have already happened. I turn 30 in three weeks. The peonies are blooming! Slow your roll, 2015. Geeze.

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And by “slept in his toddler bed,” I mean we found him like this in the morning. 

Did I mention that I’m somehow halfway through this pregnancy? (Although, let’s be real, I fully anticipate going to 42 or even 43 weeks.) I am definitely rounding out quite a bit, and all I want to eat is bagels and cream cheese. Healthy options, of course. And I’ve  already had one big cry about the polar ice caps melting, one of the many pretty-much-out-of-my-control terrors that grips me when it comes to bringing children into this big, imperfect world.

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image via Stately Type

We decided to find out the sex of Baby #2 this time around for a number of reasons. Some practical (I’m looking at you, multiple Space Bags full of baby boy clothes), and some more personal.

I had this cinematic vision of someone yelling “It’s a boy!” when Emmett was born. But instead of a calm, natural birth, it was a pretty traumatic ordeal and in the chaos it was more like “Let’s get this baby to the NICU!” The first few weeks postpartum were also pretty emotional and trying for me. I feel like if I know a little bit more about the person I was growing, I might bond more quickly and strongly from the get-go. (Fingers crossed no NICU, too.)

I think love for our children is like the birth of a solar system, with this ever-expanding infinity of emanating outward.

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I know a lot more now, which is to say that I know that I basically know nothing and that each baby/child/person is completely different and designed to keep parents on their toes.

Either way, I’m excited to know we’re having a baby girl in October. I’m going to have to play Sarah Kay on repeat for the next five or so months.

If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s going to call me “Point B,” because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.” – Sarah Kay 

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NPR in everyday life

Iowa Public Radio is the first preset in my car (don’t worry, I’m a sustaining member!) and so shows like All Things Considered and segments like StoryCorps are part of my everyday life.

I went a step further this week: In pursuit of headway on my 30 before 30 list (less than a month to go! totally not going to cross off the majority!), I convinced my dear friend Arin to stay up late after our kiddos had gone to bed and bake a multi-layer cake. I’m not a confident baker, but I do love All Cakes Considered, by NPR producer Melissa Gray. We set out to make Aunt Di’s Bittersweet Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake.

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Once upon a time, in the beginning of my Des Moines life, Arin and Karen (co-owner of the stationery store Ephemera) were the cake queens. They used to bake a weekly cake from scratch and a big group of us used to come over to eat it. Those are some of my favorite memories.

So Monday night, I poured some fake, pregnant lady wine and unpacked armloads of supplies in Arin’s kitchen.  Her children slept through the sounds of our giggling and the amazing aroma. It was lovely. The cake, well, let’s just say it wasn’t going to win any beauty contests. (We frosted it while it was still hot.) But with two cups of freshly whipped cream (a delightful chore on a mint KitchenAid Mixer) in the batter and the frosting calling for enough confectioner’s sugar to swim in, it tasted delish. My coworkers graciously overlooked its ugliness and helped devour it at our Tuesday staff meeting.

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Nailed it. Maybe I should set my sights on the Iowa State Fair ugliest cake contest. I really can’t take myself too seriously.

And over the weekend, when I was home for a wedding, I downloaded the StoryCorps app to my phone.

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I love doing videos and interviews with my grandpa (he just turned 93 last week!) and this is a really great format. We talked about his mom, or at least tried to, in honor of Mother’s Day. The app gives you question prompts and it’s easy to upload the finished interview. Plus, any reason to get these two hangout time:

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We have a family reunion in June and I hope to record a longer StoryCorps about his experience in the Navy during WWII. It takes him a bit to get warmed up, but once he gets going, the stories start to flow. I think it would be fun for us to interview aunts and uncles, too! We don’t get together as much as I would like.

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Mini cycle-venture

Sometime in the frozen depth of winter, Joe and I agreed to report and write a story together where we’d spend a day cycling one of Iowa’s trails. Sounds like fun!

Then the reality of my burgeoning belly and the tiny window of time between the thaw and the article being due set in and we scrambled to find a semi-decent weekend to explore the Wabash Trace. (Emmett hung out with his grandparents in Council Bluffs while we biked, which was a total bonus!)

We made it last weekend — about 35 miles of the 63 mile trail –which isn’t exactly a day of RAGBRAI (per my 30 before 30 goal list), but was as substantial a ride I’ll likely get for the next year or so!

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I’ll link to the article when it’s finished, but I’m having trouble even putting a word on the page after reading the beauty that is Tim Paluch’s  essay/story on fatherhood for dsm. Another tear-jerker.

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Reading lately

I’m finally, FINALLY starting to feel less like a zombie and staying up later, so I’ve been getting more reading done.

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Our latest book club selection, The Paying Guests was a pretty steamy read, set in 1922 London, and rather suspenseful. I stayed up until MIDNIGHT (on a Saturday night in my pajamas) to finish it.

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I just read probably the best answer ever to the age old “Should I Have a Baby or Establish My Career First?” dilemma. Way to go Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly columnist for The Cut.

Choice quotes:

Because having it all, by its very nature, implies that you have a lot more than you can handle. Who can handle “it all,” anyway? “ALL” IS A WHOLE FUCKING HELL OF A LOT.

Choose both. Choose the career AND choose the baby. Don’t put off one for the other. Choose both now and later and accept that you’ll be juggling for years no matter what you do. Even if you never have a career, you’re going to feel like you’re juggling. Parents juggle. Why not juggle things you love? Sure, you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Accept it and move forward.

One other thing: Being pregnant makes you irritable and ambitious at the same time. Use that energy to fuel your new business. Once you stop feeling hung-over around the clock, you’re going to want to conquer new terrain and strangle anyone who tells you to “relax” with your bare hands.

That last part, so true. I’m finally coming out of hibernation mode and I’ve put my Let’s Get Shit Done maternity pants on. Bring it.

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Oh, and the book that kept me up and turning pages last night (in a totally different way than The Paying Guests), a geek-out over “Diving Deep in Community Engagement: A Model for Professional Development,” edited by the fierce ladies Mandi McReynolds and Emily Shields, two women who I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know over the past few years.

When I interviewed for my job in Community Relations at DMU, I know I wanted to move my career in this direction, and opening the book was like lighting a torch inside of a cave. I’m just wrapping up my first year in this position and opening Diving Deep was like seeing the way forward illuminated. It feels wonderful to have such intelligent, supportive professionals down the street (and in my Facebook friend feed so I can send them fangirl messages late into the evening, of course) as I move into year two.

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Meeting the manatees

I have a long list of “I’ve always wanted to…”

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And with that marvelous milestone of 3-0 looming, I did what lots of let’s-do-this-oriented bloggy ladies do and came up with some fun activities that I hoped to satisfyingly cross off on my way to the big birthday. Of course, it included one of my longest held dreams: Seeing manatees in the wild.

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My manatee obsession spans 20+ years; it’s become a part of my identity and one of the random facts most people who know me even a little bit will remember. Hence, I’m tagged weekly with articles about the beloved creatures and have been gifted three of these.

So this winter, or as some like to call it – Manatee Season – I was determined to finally make it happen. I booked our family a direct flight between Des Moines and St. Petersburg for a long weekend manatee-centric getaway.We stayed in Crystal River, which is a couple hours north of St. Pete. (Zip up the toll road and do not mistakenly think Hwy 19 will be a “scenic route.” It was a stop-and-go, strip-mall-infested nightmare.)

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Manatees are at home in both fresh and salt water, but in the colder months they like to come inland and hang out in the warmer springs. Two best-known Florida manatee havens are Homosassa Springs/Crystal River and Blue Springs State Park/Orange City. I’ve mostly heard about these magical spots through my membership with the Save the Manatee Club. Even Emmett got to “adopt” a manatee for his first birthday. He and “Squeaky” were both born June 13!

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Our Crystal River manatee adventure included a kayak trip with Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Co, Inc., which is a sponsor of the Save the Manatee Club and takes one of the most eco-minded approaches in all manatee tourism. We got a sweet Save the Manatee treat bag, and a private family kayak tour in the chilly Florida morning.

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Our guide is a board member for the club and was extremely knowledgeable, sharing information about the preservation initiatives and conservation challenges of the area. I’ll admit that most people who asked about the trip assumed I was going to be swimming with the manatees and when I saw the sweet creatures gliding below the surface, it took every ounce of willpower not to just jump into the water. But when you see how disruptive the boats full of scuba divers and snorkelers are in the habitat — some don’t even use propeller guards! — it’s easier to hold back and let the manatees be.

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Emmett did, however, jump/fall face first into the bay in the .25 seconds we had our heads turned while taking a break on the beach. Toddler adventures!

We also made two different trips to Homosassa Springs, a wildlife park that is way bigger than I had ever envisioned. You can take a little ferry boat from the main parking lot out to the park, and hear about the trees and wildlife along the way. A beautiful boardwalk features a number of different manatee and fish observation points over the springs, and another “Wildlife Walk” loop takes you through a kind of wildlife rehabilitation zoo.  If I were to do it again, I would have kayaked in the afternoon and gone to Homosassa in the morning. The afternoon was crowded and the manatees had all swum out to deeper waters. We were the first people in the park the second day, and got the practically private manatees-as-far-as-I-can-see fix I was hoping for!

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We didn’t do as much dining out as we typically do on vacation — eating our way through a city. Considering Emmett’s allergies, we enjoyed a few picnics at the King’s Bay park, which the little boy loved, and had a nice dinner out at the Fat Cat Grill, which is fancier than it sounds, but also had high chairs. (Lamb chops, ftw!) Back in St. Pete on Sunday, we went to the Dali Museum and drove down for sunset at Clearwater Beach.

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It was crazy to think we were on our first full family vacation (one lap child, one in utero), and it’s a memory I’ll always cherish.

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February funk

I spent February in a funk — acting as my own trash-talking Kanye, sabotaging my self-confidence after the honor of being named the 2014 Amy Jennings YP Impact Award winner. IMG_20150204_202253 The week before the awards, I was excited about our family vacation to Florida, realizing a lifelong dream to see the manatees in their natural habitat. I had a hunch, and a few days before we took off confirmed that we would be bringing another teeny tiny family member along for the adventure.

I don’t know why (well, partly, hormones, I imagine), but winning that award sort of freaked me out. It felt really full circle: I moved to Des Moines in 2007 not knowing anyone, got to meet lots of people and learn the city through my job at Juice, quit to be more involved in community projects, and seven or so years later was recognized by my former employer for that community impact. There’s a sweetness to the cycle, but I also felt a strange sense of oh-shit-where-do-I-go-from-here, exacerbated by the knowledge that in about 9 months I’d be burrowing in with an infant, trying to figure out life with two kids.

I’m scared that I’ll get overwhelmed and ‘disappear’ from the doers club. I don’t like feeling wiped out and not leaving myself time to sew and read things and drink wine with friends. The first trimester is mostly about exhaustion and worry and extra bowls of cereal — at least for me.

I know that life has its seasons and that by choosing a family I will have to say ‘no’ to some things. (I kind of have this personal rule now that I try not to be gone more than two evenings a week and one big weekend chunk, out of fairness to Joe and a need for balance.) I know there are lots of amazing examples of people with kids who stay active. I read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and laughed and felt a little bit better, but also a lot bit in awe of her. 7 There’s a lot of talk about attracting talent to Des Moines and I think the same leaders who are interested in luring young people to the city need to consider what will keep them here. Retention is just as important: it would be a pity to see people who come here to kickstart their careers leave at that point when all we’ve invested in their development is paying off. And for those of us like me, who maybe five to seven years into our Iowa lives start families of adorable Iowa natives– our ability to be involved is only as strong as our support networks.

Although I have no intention of leaving, Joe and I don’t have any parents in the area (my mom lives in Chicago and his in Council Bluffs). It seems that many times once people have children, they move back to a hometown because having grandparents nearby helps with childcare. We get many ‘boomerang’ Iowans back this way, but could lose others.

I strongly believe the second half of the YP equation is encouraging employers to provide flex time, family leave and – ideally – access to affordable, quality childcare options. And for us young professionals to support each other and value the choices that each of us make in how to spend our time — out and about and at home. Because who among us really has it all figured out?

March forward!

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