Category Archives: Family Fun

Playroom refresh + indoor toddler fun

We used some of our time off over the holidays to tackle our extra bedroom and convert it into a brighter space that works better for living with two kids in a 1.5-story, nearly 100-year-old home.

I didn’t think to snap “before” photos, so use your imagination. The guest room was formerly painted a dark indigo with a queen bed, chair and cedar chest taking up the majority of the space, and a Blues Brothers poster on the wall from Joe’s bachelor days. Here it is now:

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The art on the west wall is a piece by Joe’s Uncle Mike LaVelle that we received as a wedding gift. It gives me a happy, peaceful feeling and Eileen loves staring at it.

To turn the space into a playroom/guestroom, we painted the walls Prairie Sky by Behr and swapped out the queen for an IKEA Hemnes daybed that expands into a king for when we have company, and conveniently hides a traffic-jam full of plastic vehicles as well as bedding.

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(We donated our queen to the USCRI refugee resettlement program. Learn more about that here.) Joe updated the ceiling fan with more contemporary glass sconces and a coat of white spray paint. We added toy storage on either side of the bed, and brought in the easel and little desk and chair.

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On the east wall, we hung the chicken wire bulletin board Joe made for me awhile back. I think it’s perfect for tacking up birth announcements and kid art. And on the north wall, we hung the embroidered alphabet blanket my Aunt Mary Lee made for Eileen. Her stitching is so impressive!

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I unearthed and hung curtains I sewed for our upstairs that we had swapped out awhile ago, and the (slightly uneven thanks to an unfortunate trip in the dryer) sheers were already in the room. Now we’re just missing a rug and some throw pillows, which I’ll probably D.I.Y. later, maybe once I get my hands on some Roam collection fabric.

We’re definitely loving the extra room to snuggle and play.

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Speaking of, I’ve included a few of our favorite indoor activities lately after the jump…

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Filed under At home, Family Fun, House projects

Mini Adventure: Union Pacific Museum

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It’s not often we play tourist in our own hometowns, but after the New Year holiday we were able to squeeze in a trip to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs with Joe’s parents. I highly recommend visiting the museum if you’re in the CB area or headed to Omaha. (It’s open Thursday-Saturday.)

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The UPRR Museum gives a lovely Carnegie Library new life, and the exhibits are a terrific blend of interesting artifacts, beautiful graphics and dioramas and engaging, hands-on components. Plus, it’s free!

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Did you know the US. time zones were created to accommodate cross-country train travel/schedules?

There’s plenty for the adults to read, and for toddlers to explore. You can learn about the creation of the transcontinental railroad, its place in American history, the role of passenger rail, how trains work and more.

{And if you’re looking for a good local restaurant nearby, Dixie Quicks in downtown CB has a solid brunch.}

We did quite a bit of travel for the holidays — two trips to Chicagoland for Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas, overnight at Christmas in Algona, Iowa and then New Year’s weekend in Council Bluffs with Joe’s parents. Considering we have a toddler and 10-week old, it was a bit of a frenzy (more than 1,500 miles!) and we’re ending it all with nasty colds/ flu.

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Filed under Family Fun, Iowa adventures

DSM kids yoga

Apparently, we have a mini yogi in the house. I’ll attend and enjoy the occasional yoga class, but I don’t “practice” at home, or really model stretching these days. Just the stretch pants. So I’m surprised to recognize Emmett at 2-years old has a genuine interest in — and is pretty good at — yoga.

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His first exposure was at the end of August, when we attended the annual Community! Youth Concepts “Chalk Flood” event. They had kid-friendly instruction as part of the activities, and Emmett jumped right in. He was keen on the adorable instructor, and took to posing with the small group.

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We’ve done exercises a few times at home since, but the other day I brought home “My Daddy is a Pretzel” from the library and the book, which features a story and pose how-to illustrations, was a hit.

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Then before bed, we streamed a Cosmic Kids Yoga video and stretched along. The videos are kind of kooky, but I like how they incorporate imagination play and storytelling into the exercises.

As I’m looking to postpartum exercise and special ways to give Emmett attention after caring for his little sister all day, I could see us developing a little winter routine together.

Maybe we’d even venture to a special mother-son date at a local studio. The Family Tree offers a “Fun on the Run” parent/child yoga class (toddlers up to 3 yrs.) and Power Life Yoga has kids classes at the West Glen location. (I wish there was a weekend version downtown of Mommy & Me!) Do you know of any other yoga resources in the metro? My SIL just recommended Kids Mini Pretzels at the Valley Community Center, too.

UPDATE: Just saw the Des Moines Social Club is hosting a toddler and elementary yoga class this weekend!

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Filed under Baby, Family Fun

Family fun for $1.50

The early morning storm that whipped through central Iowa rained out our plan to head down to Indianola and watch the balloon launch for the third year running, but a few hours later it was shaping up to be a beautiful morning and we were eager to get outside.

Ashby Park in Beaverdale is our go-to splash pad spot, but friends in our babysitting co-op have been recommending McHenry Park (1012 Oak Park Ave. in north-central Des Moines, near Highland Park*), and today felt like a good morning to scope it out.

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McHenry Park is easy to get to from the downtown trail system (we drove this time) and features several shelters shaded by old Oak trees with views of both the 801 building, river and prairie flowers.

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The splash park is great fun for little kids, and an awesome alternative to putting the sprinkler out in your front yard.

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A big frog, gigantic turtle and fake old tree are the splash area’s main features. Just touch the sensor on the green pole to get them started and fountains all around burst to life.

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Emmett ran squealing around, and I liked that there’s less of a need for parents to be in a swimsuit to participate. I got my feet wet perched on the tortoise shell.

wpid-20150725_105310.jpgThe water runs into a natural drainage area that was closed off for our visit, but it looks like it’s a kind of faux creek-walking experience when accessible.

The park has standard equipment, but the thing that sets it apart is a nature-inspired play area that looks more like a beaver’s Adventureland.

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Huge hollowed trees, stumps and a faux rock formation are perfect for bigger kids to pretend they’re wildlife.

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After we dried off, we headed to Union Park for a few spins around the Heritage Carousel. Union Park also has a splash pool, if you aren’t water-ed out. It’s home to a huge rocket slide, too, and Birdland Park just down the hill (2100 Saylor Rd.) features Ding Darling shelter and a playground more appropriate for tots.)

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Today was apparently National Carousel Day (who knew?!). Emmett got three rides for $1.50, and the day proved to be a cheap, toddler-friendly blast.

Heads-up: The Heritage Carousel is hosting Clowns at the Carousel next Sunday, Aug. 2 2015 from 4-7 p.m. It looks like they’re still seeking volunteers, too.

*Bring a few more dollars in cash and you should definitely stop by the Highland Bakery for doughnuts. They’re open until Noon on Saturdays, but closed Sunday/Monday.

Do you have any favorite parks in central Iowa? I wrote a story once for The Register about a couple of families who set a goal to visit 100 Parks in one summer, which seems like a great boredom-buster.

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Filed under Family Fun, I love Des Moines