Des Moines Dates: Noce Night

Joe and I found ourselves with three hours of kid-free, Saturday prime date-night time this weekend and I wanted to invest it somewhere a baby and toddler would not be welcome. I’ve been dying to check out Noce, the new jazz club on Walnut Street since I wrote about it for DSM Magazine; this was the perfect red lipstick, polka dot dress occasion.

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Well, almost. We turned into pumpkins/had to pick up our kids at 9 p.m. so missed the second half of Amber Duimstra’s set. Sad trombone. Duimstra was funny and warm and her local talent filled the room with friends – some of whom happened to also be friends of mine. Because, Des Moines.

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I loved sitting with Joe, sipping a French 75 in such a lovely venue. I’m not a huge follower of jazz (can I admit here that I only knew “Killing Me Softly” as a Fugees song?) but the set included a great mix of standards and some new-to-me songs, like “Dat Dere,” which appropriately enough is about raising an inquisitive toddler.

If you want to try out Noce, Tuesday evenings from 7-10 p.m. features live jazz with no cover charge. Become a fan on Facebook to stay up on show announcements: nocedsm

Parent PSA: Emmett’s preschool Grace on Cottage Grove is doing a “Parent’s Night Out” series that’s open to kids potty trained and older. It’s $5 hr (3-hr. min.) from 6-10 p.m. with movies, crafts and activities. The next one is Saturday, Oct. 15. Emmett enjoyed himself while we enjoyed Noce! It’s open to kids who don’t go to Grace, so let me know if you want the details.

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What I’m into: The ‘I’ve Given Up’ edition

All in the same week, I bought a pair of Crocs and joined Weight Watchers. Then cried about it. The Crocs are the ballet flat kind and I intend to only wear them to walk the dog and garden, but still. I decided as I purchased them (so practical!) that I could probably never be cool again. Not that I was ever actually cool, but I had an illusion of at least being “with it.”

The Weight Watchers thing I’d been toying with for awhile, but it felt like a last resort. Portion control is not my strength and this “baby weight” which is really bagel weight isn’t melting off, especially since I’ve stopped nursing. I know the equation is to eat less/make better choices and move more, but I think my competitive spirit means I need some number goals. Also, I need to not have immobilizing full body poison ivy like I did for a few weeks last month. I will say that I was hangry the entire first week and was so good about “points” and then GAINED three pounds, which was totally insulting because I went to a wedding and held my friends’ bridesmaid bouquets so I wouldn’t eat all of the cheese…

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Anyhow, I’m doing the online version and now I have an app on my phone that scans barcodes on my snack choices and a fitbit coming in the mail, so we’ll see if I can get myself in gear.

We also have a van now, which might be the mom trifecta, except that the van is Joe’s primary vehicle. I’m not going to lie – it was kind of awesome for our drive down to Oklahoma City last weekend. We had enough room to bring Wilbur and stayed in a cute airbnb and got to check out the brewery my brother is building. Check out Twisted Spike if you’re in OKC later this fall, or after!

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Emmett and Eileen got to operate a forklift, and we got to hang with family we rarely see.

In less-lame things I’m into, I finally read “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi (it’s essentially a death memoir) and it was lovely. I’m drawn to books about medical professionals these days, working at a med school and all, and I always appreciate a book that makes me think and cry. I also just started ‘A Manual For Cleaning Women,’ a collection of short stories by Lydia Davis. It reminds me of Flannery O’Conner.

Eileen’s first birthday is in one month (what?!) and I’ve been looking for some manatee accessories for her, which obviously devolves into looking for manatee accessories for me. A few friends shared a post about these amazing shoes.

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Wish listed. And totally cooler than crocs, right?! Never mind.

 

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5 DSM events I’m working on

My dear, neglected blog! Summer has been a whirlwind and it looks like we’re plowing right into fall, so I wanted to check in and share some upcoming events that I’ve been a part of before they pass me by.

All of these events are super different and some I’ve been involved with through my Community Relations position at DMU and others are more extracurricular. Across the board, I’ve met some fun, dedicated people collaborating to make Des Moines an incredible place.

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I’m part of a group working to spread the word about The Avenues of Ingersoll & Grand rebranding. Inspired by this series and the murals in DSM, we’re putting up some temporary murals along Ingersoll Avenue next week to help celebrate the launch & generate some social media buzz for the district. The Ingersoll Wall Crawl is Monday evening, Aug. 22 from 5-7 p.m. It’s free/open house style, but maps are available at Moberg Gallery (where we’ll also have some drinks!) and we’ll be giving away swag for people who tag @theavenuesdsm in photos from the night.

American Heart Screening

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The Refugee Health Alliance is hosting a free screening & panel discussion with the filmmaker of “American Heart,” an award-winning documentary that takes viewers on an intimate journey into the lives of three refugees who are patients at a remarkable health clinic tucked away in St. Paul, Minnesota, which serves as a crossroads for these embattled refugees and their devoted doctors. I previewed this movie with our group and was moved to tears. I’m especially excited for our DMU students to see it, but it’s open to the public and refreshments will be served. Monday, Aug. 29 at the DMU Student Education Center Auditorium. Film starts at 5:15 p.m. (I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to offer social work CEUs for this, if that’s something you’re interested in.)

DMU Clinic Climb 

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Are you a young professional looking to take control of your health and wellness, but not sure where to start?  Join Des Moines University Thursday, September 15 for an evening of networking and learn about DMU services and academic programs while on a progressive dinner touring our multispecialty clinic. You’ll meet health professionals, learn about choosing a primary care provider, see our running & cycling clinic, and more. Register here and use the code “YPHEALTH” to attend for free!

Women Rolling Collectively: Ride with Her

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According to the League of American Bicyclists, women riders only make up 24 percent of bike trips nationally. If you’d like to change that statistic, this October 1 ride is for you! Funds raised will support female-focused programming at the Des Moines Bicycle Collective.

Riders will have the option of a 15-mile (one-way) or-30-mile (round-trip) route that will travel from downtown’s Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge to the Ankeny Market & Pavilion. Multiple stops along the route will feature opportunities to learn basic bicycle maintenance, practice bicycle safety and gain confidence to ride central Iowa’s streets and trails. Riders of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are welcome. I got a ticket for me and for my mom who is going to come into town for the ride! Registration is just $25 

Best Buddies Iowa Chef Challenge

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Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

This event is October 13, which is Eileen’s first birthday! I plan to spend the day with her and then head to this evening event at Embassy Suites. I’ll share more details when they become available, but I’ve learned so much about how this well-run nonprofit fundraiser works. Local restaurants and chefs work with Buddy Pairs to create  signature small plate dishes, and there’s a live and silent auction. They’re adding a Moscow Mule bar at this year’s event, too! Seeking auction items is outside my comfort zone, but if you have something you would like to contribute, let me know! I’ve been so grateful to some generous friends who’ve already agreed to help.

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Just get on the bike

The night before I was about to make good on my pledge to do a day of RAGBRAI, I was a ball of nerves. I love to ride my bike around town but in all honesty, I’m not a super confident cyclist. I still have a lot (everything!) to learn about how my bike works, and I get nervous taking my hands off the handlebars to signal. I wear gym shoes instead of clip-ins. The extent of my “training” this summer has been a few rides from our neighborhood through downtown, commuting  a mile (uphill both ways) to work, and one women’s cycling night with the Collective last week to get a porkchop and beer.  But damnit, I wanted to go a little bit more than I was scared to go.

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This winter when we learned Leon, Iowa would be a RAGBRAI overnight town, I vowed this would be my year to finally cross a day of riding off my bucket list.

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RAGBRAI week is endless logistics for our family, because for the past few years Joe’s been working and riding different portions. It can get to be a headache, but Joe would be able to drop me off in Creston early in the morning and then pick me up in Leon pretty easily. The Cash farm where Joe’s family holds its reunions is just a few miles down gravel roads from there, and it would be an easy spot to camp and for Joe to hang with the kids while I was on my ride. Plus, after a long day pedaling country highways, this is the kind of sunset you dream about:
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For me, a RAGBRAI day was a symbolic finish line in being the mom of a tiny baby. Eileen turns one in October, but I decided that I’d like to be done nursing  by late July. The ride was going to be a chance to challenge myself and celebrate the strength of my body. (Despite not training, the fact that I’d experienced unmedicated childbirth just nine months before makes any endurance activity seem possible.) My body still felt foreign to me after my second child and I know that setting goals and logging miles is a way for me to get comfortable in my own skin again. And, sweetly, the kiddos made a literal finish line at the farm entrance.

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What surprised me the most was that once I got over the fact that I was setting out on the longest ride of my life, the SOCIAL aspect of RAGBRAI really freaked me out. I had originally thought my sister-in-law would ride with me, but that didn’t work out. I know a lot of people who would be riding, but the idea of being the 11th wheel or dragging down people who would be faster than me was mortifying. I’d much rather travel at my own pace and be in my own head than worry about small talk and someone else’s timetable. (Hardcore ENFP vibes. At least I know myself!) I actually kind of like the feeling of being alone in a big crowd, especially moving along toward the same goal. In ways, RAGBRAI kind of reminded me of walking the Camino through the tiny towns in northern Spain.

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Tuesday morning, we got up before dawn and loaded up my bike and drove to Creston. I lucked out with not-too-hot late July weather, no trouble with my bike or body and truly enjoyed the roller coaster hills and a little bit of solitude. A highlight was randomly meeting up with Kerri, one of Joe’s INHF co-workers, in Mt. Ayr and eating pie with her crew and listening to Damon Dotson under a tree in the town square.

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I averaged about 10 miles an hour, including stops, but waited until the end to crack open a beer, because as a solo newbie, that felt like the best approach for me.

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Kerri and I are working with a group on putting together an October women’s ride that benefiting the Des Moines Bicycle Collective women’s programs, so if anything that I just wrote resonated with you — I’d love for you to participate! It will be October 1 and go from Des Moines to Ankeny and back , with activities that empower female cyclists of all abilities. If you’re interested and scared because a) you don’t know a ton about bikes b) you don’t get in many miles or c) you can’t find a friend to ride with you, it boils down to this: Just get on the bike! You’ll be glad you did.

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What I’m into

Argh. This morning, with its thunderstorms and pancakes held so much promise for a chill, productive-but-lazy day. And by that I mean the kind of day when you get your house picked up while the kids nap and you hum a little to yourself in the process. Those are glorious. I wrote poems in my mind while I walked the dog, and watched a bit of CBS Sunday Morning and then geared myself up for all of the peaceful cleaning and then… no napping. Teething and whining and Joe and I taking turns dealing with that noise and loads – neigh, mountains – of laundry. Real life. I was a little bit frustrated that things didn’t stack up like I’d imagined, but our children seem to like to make us pay for the previous day’s fun. Yesterday morning was spend out at the Farmer’s Market and riding bikes.

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I really can’t complain. I did finally manage the excavation to reveal the carpet on my side of the bed, which was about three layers of clothes thick. My discarded garments become like sedimentary rock. I am one of those people who cannot hang something back up, or put it in a drawer or hamper. I pile. I pile on piles. Then, the dog makes a bed out of the piles and I realize: This is why I can’t have nice things.

The bright spot of the day was meeting up with some new neighbors and friends for gelato at Chocolaterie Stam because I won a “Gelato Rendezvous” party in a drawing and wanted to make good on the “We should hang out!” promise we made seven months ago when we met at the caucuses.

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It was a nice break and then Emmett signaled it was over by tripping and falling and bawling and then dropping an entire box of chocolates on the ground because, again, Real Life.

Speaking of, last weekend after our camping trip, we had about two hours to turn around and re-pack to go to a baby shower in Omaha. We hit out marks and got about 20 minutes out of town before the VW started issuing these scary beeps and warnings to STOP THE VEHICLE. So, we limped it back home, repacked into the Subaru and made it to Omaha in time. And now, we’re shopping for a van. Real. Life. We’ll be selling our VW, but I came to the horrible realization that it’s probably worth half of what the awesome electric assist Yuba we drooled over at the Farmer’s Market goes for. If you are in the market for a manual 2003 Passat wagon, holler at me.

I’m heading into a few stressful weeks of work events and feeling pretty anxious about it, so I downloaded “How to Be a Person in the World” after reading this interview  and just started it for a little “me time” to round out the weekend. It’s already putting me in the right mindset. Her advice is funny, and real and vulnerable.

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I need to read her essay about dirty laundry. (Not, like, embarrassing/horrible secrets, but the real deal.)

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Camping with a toddler and baby

We did an overnight camping trip with 10 kids under 4 and lived to blog about it.

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Really, there are no huge life-hacks to share except that if you like camping and you have a baby and a toddler, you can still go camping. It just might look a little bit different and be a little bit exhausting, but that’s life right now, so at least you’ll have s’mores.

Instead of loading up hiking backpacks and bringing our little orange Marmot tent, we crammed half of our house into the car (air mattress, check! little training potty, check! way too much stuff but not enough flashlights, check!) and headed the 45 minutes to Ledges State Park to pitch a ginormous forest dwelling (Coleman Evanston).

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One of the dads talked to the ranger and was able to get us the youth camp site. That way, we could pitch our tents in a big, grassy semi-circle and share a fire pit in a spot that was slightly removed. The nature activity was a creek walk and the kids had a ball splashing around together – especially where the creek flows over the road and they’d get soaked by passing cars.

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Eileen enjoyed herself, too, and I had to snap a backpack selfie, or twenty.

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We did super simple meat & potato “hobo dinners” (of which I’m pretty sure Emmett ate 3 bites) but one of the other families managed salmon foil packet dinners that looked pretty impressive.

Sleep in our house has been generally elusive, and although we set up the pack n’ play, Eileen and I just snuggled on the ground while somehow Emmett and Joe wound up sharing the air mattress. (I knew that’s how it would shake out!)

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One tip that applies for camping or any night activity with a bunch of kids running around: Keep track of them with glow-stick necklaces/bracelets.

Don’t feel like you’re ready for tent camping with tiny people? Pammel State Park in Madison County has two yurts! We talked about doing that and might in a future year. The only bummer is you can’t put up extra tents in the yurt area. Jester Park is also a good local option, and their Natural Playscape is a fun little activity.

 

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Tiny undies

It’s a battle of wills around our house lately, with one potty training kid who inherited his mom’s stubborn streak and another teether who lets you know with all her lung-power her desire to stay up late and chill like her dad. I’m whispering “this is a phase” to myself over and over and over and knowing that some day, I will sleep again and won’t be lugging a travel potty with me everywhere.

Some. Fine. Day.

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There is really no good time in our go-go-go schedule to start potty training, but after we went to our little triplet friends’ third birthday party and I noticed all three of them in undies, it was settled. The next day, we were ditching the diapers and rolling up the carpets. This was our third attempt, so I already had a jar of gummy worms, stickers for a chart and a bunch of tiny boy undies. This time, I had the will and there’s no looking back. We did a couple days of setting alarms and making him try every 10 minutes or so, and it gave us some momentum to commit.

Thankfully, our summer babysitter has potty trained before, and got into it, too. It’s definitely going to be a long, accident-prone road, but I’m trying not to make potty training turn us into total shut-ins and only resorting to pull-ups at night, for nap and during wedding receptions when I want to keep my sanity. Emmett may have further “christened” a Church floor in Indiana this weekend. This photo is after our rest stop pee-s negotiations on the way up. We both got what we wanted, eventually. The struggle, though. Our second week has been way harder because we’ve been out of a routine.

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Thankfully, Emmett did NOT pee at the Vaudeville Mews tonight, when I took him to see the ridiculous band Koo Koo Kanga Roo (mostly because my friend Danny’s band MAIDS was opening and I can really only go to his all-ages, 6:30 p.m. shows!) Emmett ran around in circles and ate ice out of a red solo cup and then barely fought bedtime, so I’d call it a win.

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Let’s hope that’s the first and last time I bring a potty seat to the Mews, although honestly those bathrooms are so scuzzy, I’d probably prefer the Baby Bjorn. Right?

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Also, completely unrelated but I started “The Girls” by Emma Cline on our car ride home from Indiana and it’s been a good, quick read so far. One of those summer books everyone’s packing for vacation.

 

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