On kindness

I read two essays this week on kindness, and they both spoke to me.

be-kind-justina-blakeneyimage source

“KINDNESS IS LIKE HOLDING an ice cube in your hands. It stings, but then the cold dissolves; what at first you could barely hold becomes something you cannot let go. My father’s request for a quiet ambulance came from a man so familiar with kindness that the sting was completely gone: the ice was no longer cold, but one with the flesh.” – Your Kindness Is Good for You by Casey N. Cep

The other story, which I can’t find online, was in Real Simple magazine (I think), an essay by (I think?) the Chicago-based author Elizabeth Berg. Berg wrote about how she regretted not give money to a man who boarded a train, asking for help to pay for hospital bills for his son. The man asked his son, who he pushed in a stroller, to show those on the train his scar. When nobody opened their wallets, told his son quietly to thank them anyway. It was a story about not being stingy with kindness — to people like that man and son who might desperately need it, or to people whose plight isn’t so plainly on display.

Basically, it comes down to this: Take every opportunity to be kind. It’s good for everyone, even you.

Only semi-related: If you’re around this weekend and you want to hang out with me EARLY Sunday, you should volunteer for the YNPN shift at the Drake Relays Road Race. We’re giving one of our volunteers $500 to donate to the charity of her/his choice! Details: http://eepurl.com/SUbaT

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Filed under Life lessons

Sweet little giveaway

To all my friends with a sweet tooth: RUN*, don’t walk to the nearest Barnes & Noble, grocery store or Lowes and snag a copy of the Cuisine At Home “Cookies, Brownies & Bars” Summer 2014 special issue.


*It will be on stands through late July, but you’re going to want to run in order to burn some calories before you get your buttery hands on this bad boy.

Joe brought home a few samples from test batches for me to try and I have three words for you: Puppy chow bars. Yes! These are a thing. A sweet, sweet thing.

Puppy chow was a staple treat for my high school cross country team. Our friend Carly’s mom made it for almost every meet and we’d be covered in powdered sugar after our races. It may have been 20% of the reason I ran at all.


I’m giving away a copy of this issue to a reader who leaves her (or his) favorite dessert in the comments. You can just tell me what the dessert is, or get a bonus entry if you share or link to the recipe. Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, April 14. I’ll pick someone at random.

Like all Cuisine magazines, there are no ads, just awesome recipes, instructions and photos. (Joe’s job is to art direct photo shoots and design the layout.) His favorite thing in the book were the carrot cake blondies. They also have Thin Mint & Samoa (aka Carmel Delight) hacks as well as some classics and some super interesting ideas like cheddar caramel popcorn bars.



Filed under Cooking

I’m a scaredy cat

I’m a pretty big scaredy cat when it comes to creepy, haunted things. (Or, let’s be honest, certain films for children. It took me until I was 28 to get through E.T. without hiding under the covers.) A few years ago after watching Amityville Horror (the newer version that features lots of Ryan Reynolds being sexy) with friends, I made Joe come outside and walk me from our car to the apartment, 10 yards away. I blame it on my overactive imagination.

So I probably shouldn’t have gotten hooked on True Detective, the HBO show everyone’s been raving about. It centers around some occult murders, which felt just real enough to completely terrify me. We’d finish an episode before bed and I’d be checking behind my back whenever I’d take Wilbur out on his nighttime walk.

I mentioned this to my cousin, who is also a fan of the show, and he said the trick is to have a “palate cleanser” show or piece of entertainment to put a buffer between the scary thing and sleep. My palate cleanser has been a fun book Andrea loaned me: Where’d You Go, Bernadette.


It has been on my list for ages, and is a quick, funny read. The title character is a (fictional) cult figure in architecture and her husband is a genius at Microsoft who has the fourth most watched TED talk. Lots of the humor pokes fun at the nerdy stuff I geek out about, so I’ve really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a beach read, it’s in paperback!


Filed under Books

Grateful in April

March was good to me, and so far April hasn’t disappointed. Here’s a bit of what’s made me happy this past month:

Family recipes passed down in person. Grandpa, Emmett and I made a video of his Irish Soda Bread recipe for St. Patrick’s Day and then last weekend my brother, Bruce and sister, Donna, drove up from Oklahoma for a visit. We made tamales from my dad’s dad’s recipe – a first for me. It was a labor of love, for sure! Bruce is my half-brother and we didn’t grow up together, so it was a rare treat to spend some extended time together.



I want to do a tamale tutorial, but it’s a long, detailed process. I’ll at least show you how to make the cute, sweet dessert tamales, which don’t involve quite as much prep.

A job with room to grow. I feel like the right position came along for me at the right time. Community Relations is a department of one, housed under the marketing & communications umbrella, which feels like the best of both worlds. I get to be part of a fun team and learn from an experienced boss, but there’s room to really help shape things. I have an “intrapreneurial” spirit, and love being part of something bigger. There seems to be a lot of pride among the faculty and staff at DMU. Plus, I got free tickets to an Iowa Cubs game as an employee perk, and my office is right next to a “walkstation,” which is a computer workstation attached to a treadmill. No excuses not to get healthy and fit.

Joe getting Fridays off. Joe and I swapped work schedules with my new job, and it was so awesome to come home to three smiling faces at the end of the week. I had to stop the car and snap this photo:


Signs of spring. We were super overwhelmed in new baby land this fall and neglected all yard work, which actually made getting out the rake today fun. I got to uncover some green shoots and work up a sweat in the sunshine.

Double date bike rides. Last Sunday afternoon we braved the wind with our friends and had a family outing on the trails out for lunch at Buzzard Billy’s, which has huge curved booths and is pretty kid-friendly during the afternoon. We biked 17 miles! Joe was the one towing Emmett, but I definitely felt it for a few days afterward. Soon it will be waterpark weather and we’ll take the trail up to Ankeny!

Downtime. I’m trying not to over-schedule myself and take advantage of nights home with nothing to do to catch up on Girls and work on a sewing project.

Surprises in the mail. There’s nothing better than receiving an unexpected package from a friend. I’ve been trying to send a few, too.

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Filed under At home, What I'm into

Our weird parenting trick

We decided not to find out whether we were having a boy or girl, but it didn’t matter. Either way, Joe was sure our baby would grow up to be a baseball fan. That’s how something that started as a goofy pregnancy habit turned into an accidental parenting trick.


We’d read that at around the five month mark of pregnancy, babies can start to hear sounds from outside the womb. And I remember my friend Amy, who had a baby a year or so before Emmett, posted about how her daughter seemed to favor songs that Amy had played a lot during her pregnancy.

So each night and on random road trips, Joe and I would sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to my belly.


Now, whenever Emmett gets upset, one of us starts in singing it to him and — almost like magic, it seems to calm him down.


No promises that this will be the magic soothing method for all babies (especially not Sox or Cardinals fans), but it’s worth a try. Happy opening day!

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30 before 30: Hoop there it is

Number 13 on my “30 before 30″ list is: Learn how to get a hula hoop twirling from my arm to my waist. Weird and random, I know, but I have a girl crush on all of the hippie chicks who show off their hypnotic moves at music festivals. I am pretty decent at the ultra basic schoolyard hooping (I can walk and hoop at the same time!) but lack coordination/flexibility, so that’s where my skills end.

When I saw a “Foundations of Hooping” class for beginners on the Des Moines Social Club calendar, I knew I had to check it out. It was just $5, an hour an a half on a Saturday and I didn’t even have to bring my own hula hoop! Plus I was excited to finally get inside the DSMC, which will have its grand opening May 10.


The instructor, Leah, was laid back and funny and started us out doing some stretches and “isolations” with the hoop. I think we had about eight women total in the class, including two girls who were out on a run and peeked in and then decided to join the class on a whim.


Everyone started out with the ability to twirl a hoop around her waist and arm, and a few got a little more advanced than that, but I didn’t feel like a total dweeb. Although I do tend to wig out when I’m in any group class with a bunch of mirrors because I get super distracted and feel like I’m a step behind everyone else. I just closed my eyes sometimes to get into my own rhythm.


I figure I won’t ever get pulled on stage at a Flaming Lips show, but I might be able to get good enough to impress people at a random backyard barbecue. Party tricks! Hooping was actually a pretty great core workout. I broke a sweat and was already sore later in the evening. It was also one of the most fun exercises I’ve done in a long time. A good mix of being goofy and trying new things, concentrating on my body and trying to just relax.

I’m not sure hooping is going to be my hidden talent (ha), but I think that with a little more practice I can totally achieve my goal. It sounds like there’s a pretty active little hooping community in Des Moines (the DMSC also hosts an intermediate/advanced class) if you want to work up to something. My little gif is not at all a representation of how cool hooping can be, so check out some of the videos on hooping.org to see some all-star moves.

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Filed under I love Des Moines, Iowa adventures, What I'm into

9 months: Our baby essentials

Yesterday I blogged about my mindset as a mother, nine months in, so today I thought I’d share some of the stuff that we’re finding really helpful/like a lot at this stage. It’s easy to find lists of what to register for for newborns, but we’ve definitely entered a new phase.


OXO Sprout high chair, $249 
We scored this for 40% off, thanks to Joe’s professional discount, and it’s definitely one of my favorite splurges. Our floor plan is very open and the thought of looking at/maneuvering around a gigantic plastic high chair for years was depressing. I love that the legs are wooden but the seat, tray and cushion are easily wipe-able. It’s modern and it can be adjusted to grow with the child. Someone, please find me a set of adult dining room chairs just like this!

IKEA MULA block set, $7.99
A friend gifted these to us and they are Emmett’s favorite, in addition to his Sassy lookbook. He’s obsessed with pulling on strings (like my hoodie strings and zipper pulls) and he loves to pull the cart closer to him and inspect the blocks. I’m not going to lie, though. His favorite toy is the plastic bag of wipes, my glasses and things he can wave around in his hand. We’re big on waving right now.


ScratchMeNot mittens, $24.95
These things are the reason I haven’t gone insane and Emmett doesn’t look like he’s been mauled by a rabid raccoon. Totally amazing for families struggling to manage eczema. He learned how to pull the socks off his hands a few months ago, and a couple we know told us these little shrugs are worth the investment. You can flip the cuffs so the kiddo’s hands are free, or fold them down into silk-covered mittens, which are a lot softer on his face than cotton socks. We have three pairs and he wears them constantly.

Hannah Anderson Night Night sleeper, $34

It pains me to pay more than $3 for an article of clothing that Emmett could grow out of in the blink of an eye. (I’m not that cheap, but the kid is in the 93rd percentile for height and already rocking 18 month duds. Plus, garage sales FTW.) We got one of these organic cotton zippered sleepers as a gift and I asked my mom to get another one when they went on sale. Stripes + zippers are my melting point when it comes to baby gear. Whoever invented snap pajamas was a sadist.


Diano Radian carseat, $270ish
Emmett is super tall, so outgrew his Chicco Keyfit carseat in a hurry. We asked for this for Christmas and got one then and another more basic Diano later, because we alternate dropping E off and picking him up. The big boy carseat expense was a punch to the wallet, for sure. We went with the Diano because we heard they’re a good option for tall kids.


Munchkin rubber ducky bath, $11.79
I’m weird and didn’t want to buy a baby bathtub because they’re big and clunky and you don’t use them very long. We started out bathing Emmett in the sink, then I would get in with him in the big bath. But because of his eczema, we have to give him a bath every other night and so I caved. I saw Cara had this bath for her daughter, and love that it’s inflatable/portable, but mostly I like that it’s shaped like a giant rubber ducky, OK? Emmett started trying to drink the bath water this week. What a weirdo.

A few other things: Emmett loves to feed himself, so we don’t do much pureed baby food unless we’re out of sweet potato, broccoli, peas, pears, cantaloupe, etc. We like the Plum Organics stuff, and often rely on their puffs as a distraction to get E to stop scratching. We’re still using the Bum Genius diapers at home and I’ve been really happy with them, although we did switch to Pampers Overnights because we’re not hardcore. An exersaucer is also a great thing, especially if you can get a good one secondhand.


Filed under At home, Baby