Tag Archives: family

Midwest family adventure: Columbia, MO

A few weeks ago I had this daydream: A fall weekend in Columbia, MO – the crunchy college town that still possesses a piece of my heart.


image via painted post

We’d load up the bikes and hit the trail right away to do the 30-mile round trip to the blufftop winery overlooking the Missouri River. Then we’d get up the next morning and explore the Mizzou campus before heading to the Roots N Blues N BBQ music festival. Then we’d drive another two hours to meet one of my very best friend’s babies and hang until dinner time. Back in DSM late Sunday night. Crazy? Maybe. I started to think of it as a kind of parenting triathlon – a test of endurance.

Thankfully, the forecast for the weekend was gorgeous. But as anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with a toddler knows, their emotions are harder to predict than the weather in the Midwest. One minute, E can be happily flipping through a book and then you offer him a banana and the kid flips out.

Ultimately, the weekend turned out to be a lot of fun (despite a few scattered meltdowns), and I’m glad we pushed ourselves to make a little mini adventure happen. Here’s how it went down.


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Filed under music, Travel

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.


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? 


My earlier posts on motherhood are here.


Filed under At home, Baby, Life lessons

Grandpa’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I celebrated a bit early because Emmett and I were lucky enough to go to Chicago this past week and revel in our Irish heritage. It was great to spend time at home and with my grandpa, who is recovering from pneumonia. Luckily, he was well enough to bake his famous Irish Soda Bread with me and ham it up for the camera.


He starred in our second cooking video as a duo, walking me (and Emmett) through his Irish Soda Bread recipe. Making the video together is a memory (and taste) I’ll treasure forever. 

I’m so excited to share the recipe – which is written in my grandpa’s handwriting and was part of a book my family put together for me for my wedding.


Soda Bread 1

Soda Bread 2

We had the fam over to my mom’s for corned beef and cabbage (which I cooked using this recipe), lots of dessert and all-you-can-eat soda bread (of course). I got to meet my cousin’s new baby, Caitlin, and my childhood friend’s new baby, Hazel, too! The tiny babies made Emmett seem like a giganotosaurus. I can’t believe his 9-month checkup is tomorrow.


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Filed under Cooking

I feel you, Thoreau

This Thoreau quote seems perfect for this week. I’m cleaning off my memory card and came across images from Labor Day weekend at the farm.


Here’s to remembering…


P.S. My post from last year on ways to warm up in Des Moines is getting quite a few clicks these days.

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Filed under I love Des Moines

Honey lovers

I finally finished a wedding gift I dreamed up for my cousin Kelley and her husband Paul — almost six months after they tied the knot. You have a year to give a gift, right? Also, the ferns in her hair and the pearl-studded pins? So incredibly gorgeous.


Theirs was the amazing Hood River wedding (read about our adventures that week here) and I knew I wanted to create something special for them. Kelley and Paul raise honeybees and love the outdoors, so I decided to make them a quilted table runner meant to look like their initials carved in a birch tree, with some honeycomb-style hexagons pieced and quilted on top.


With a newborn, I haven’t had a ton of hands-free time. Joe gave me the girl-you’re-crazy look when I started this, but I was possessed by the idea.  I’m so happy it turned out like I envisioned!


I freehanded most of it, but for the letters inside I printed a font I liked and copied it onto the fabric with disappearing ink that I stitched over. I also traced a heart design and then stitched over that. 


The hexagons were all cut after being traced from a quilting template. Sewing hexagons together is kind of tricky!


My heart is full of joy for this dynamic duo!


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Filed under Getting crafty, Travel

Sixteen pounds of pumpkin

Saturday was the perfect fall day in Iowa, my mom and aunt were in town and Emmett was back to giving smiles, kicking with gusto and insisting we hold him in a standing position (his current favorite activity). All signs pointed to a pumpkin patch outing.


I’d heard good things about Howell’s, and so we headed that way. Let’s just say I really wanted to be about 6 years old again. There was so much for kids to do, but pretty much all you can do with a four month old is dress him up like a pumpkin. Which we did. Oh, did we.

CuteQuote copy

We stayed long enough to pose for some photos, pet a goat, have Emmett stand on a pony, shoot a corn cannon, introduce my fam to the concept of walking tacos and purchase a pumpkin. But boy, I can’t wait to make this a family tradition.








Filed under I love Des Moines, Iowa adventures

Baby, you’re a firework

I hope everyone had a long and relaxing Independence Day weekend! Ours started Wednesday with Emmett’s first concert: The Yankee Doodle Pops on the Capitol lawn.


We met up with friends at Ephemera beforehand and had champagne and angel food cake before squeezing our quilts into a little patch of grass just in time to hear the symphony strike up. This is one of my absolute favorite free events in Des Moines (consider making a donation to the symphony if it’s one of yours!) and was a great way to celebrate three years of marriage.


Thankfully, Emmett slept through most of the concert in his Ergobaby and Joe’s arms and calmly took a bottle as the cannons boomed. (Evening tends to be a fussy time at home.) I teared up at the patriotic music, and was excited that the legendary Simon Estes made an appearance. I feel like hearing him is one of the things every Des Moinesian must do to be an official resident.

Downtown was PACKED with an Iowa Cubs game and Nitefall on the River happening concurrently, and I’m going to admit to being a little bit delighted by the gridlock traffic after the concert. It’s like we’re a grown up city that stays up late! It’s the only time I’ve experienced real traffic in Des Moines. It’s still more fun to ride bikes down, though. Can’t wait to do that next year.

Then we headed to the Chicago suburbs to introduce the babe to my family and friends back home. I sat in the back with Emmett during part of the car trip in case he needed a bottle while we were on the road, but most of the time he was content to snooze, so we definitely lucked out. The weekend was filled with special moments like this one:


I’ve been so excited to introduce my grandpa to his first great-grandchild. My heart was bursting to see them meet. My friends stopped by, too:

1040296_10101370821624500_103014010_oWe also visited the farm where we had our wedding reception to re-create a photo three years later and stock up at the market.

July 2010


July 2013


DSC_0302Emmett was less willing to mug for the cameras than sleep in the car, but we picked up some brats and honey butter from the farmer’s market.


Cabbage (but really broccoli) patch kid. Joe made this Fine Cooking Roasted Potato Salad with Shaved Fennel and Salsa Verde for a cookout at my mom’s. It’s an awesome summer recipe! Highly recommend.


Filed under Baby, I love Des Moines

Packing up the pineapple

It’s baby shower weekend! I got a great deal on Southwest, so I’m taking off a couple of days early to spend time with my grandpa and the rest of the fam and my friends in Chicago. I haven’t seen my mom since Christmas! I’m cutting a different figure these days.


I was a big anti-shower brat when it came to my wedding (my family threw me a little “drizzle” instead of a shower – how sweet amd funny is that?). My mom and godmothers have been goofy excited about the baby shower and have been planning for months. It’s all a surprise to me, but apparently the theme is not “baby manatees wearing glasses and reading books,” as I suggested. I’m sure it will be lovely nonetheless.


A few links while I’m gone:

Have you watched this Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign? Made me tear up a bit.

I went to the Des Moines Public Library’s AVID talk with Wild author Cheryl Strayed last night (packed house!). Here’s the rest of the 2013 AVID lineup, if you’re interested.

Speaking of nonfiction/memoir writing, a good friend from college is moving to Iowa City from D.C. because her husband got into the Writer’s Workshop! I’m so excited. It’s my dream to do one of these Iowa Summer Writing Fest workshops next summer, and she’ll be just the buddy to go with.

Lately, I cannot get enough of strawberries. I ate a bowl of Special K Red Berries at 11 p.m. the other night and bought two cartons and some angel food cake with the intention of making this.

The new room overlooks our back yard, which has me inspired to start sprouting some seeds. I won The Beautiful Edible Garden from Amy’s blog the other week, and I’m hoping this is the year my thumb turns green.

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Filed under Baby

Breakfast of champions?

I convinced Joe to make pancakes for Friday night dinner (which we smothered with Nutella and a banana), so it didn’t seem that wrong to have a hot dog for breakfast at the Iowa Cubs open house this morning.


Free hot dog, pop and chips in the Cub Club and you got to see the locker rooms (group shower!) and walk around the field. We met up with Ellen and Andy and the nieces and Caroline was pretty much in heaven. She took off around the warning track.


The franchise is going to have to re-think Cubbie Bear as a mascot, or hire Caroline as their Poster Child.


Polka dot leggings are the new baseball pants.


Oh! And Joe shaved his beard, per our standing marital agreement that he grows it from his b-day until Opening Day. Otherwise, I miss his face.


Bring it on, summer.


If you’ve never been to breakfast at the Cub Club, that’s a fun little weekday date you can take, overlooking the field. It’s pretty cheap, too. Otherwise, we finally tried Mullets for brunch a few weeks ago, and that’s greasyspoon-tastic.

Oh! And if you think baseball without brewskis is like a beach without sand, think about getting an Iowa Cubs Mug Club membership. It went up to $40 this year, but it’s still a decent deal:

  • 5 tickets good for any 2013 Iowa Cubs home game
  • First beer FREE every Thursday home game in 2013
  • 2013 logo mug (will fit in stadium cup holders)
  • Discounted refills at all 2013 Iowa Cubs home games

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Filed under Des Moines Dates, I love Des Moines

Room to remember


This baby is due on June 4, exactly nine years and 364 days after my father died. I remember the bright sunshine of that afternoon, and feeling helpless as I watched his life slip away on the driveway, under the bay of windows that looked out of my childhood room. It’s strange to teeter on the verge of parenthood now and the things that remind me of him.

I don’t think of my dad – Papa –  when I stand among pine trees on a hike, and the wind tickles the needles. I don’t see him in a Bluebird perched on a fence, and I don’t often visit the grave site where he is buried. Instead, it’s in things like spotting an Eames lounge like the one I used to get in trouble for twirling on as a kid. It’s in imagining his appreciation for the Saarinen-designed dorms at Drake, or wondering if he was on the S.O.M. team that designed Cap Square.

Kneeling to cover a corner of the new nursery in a coat of paint, a wave of missing him came over me like I haven’t felt for a long time. I took in the light bouncing off the primed white walls and imagined my dad in the space, assessing and appreciating as an architect would. I could practically hear him telling me to keep the walls white in the same modern aesthetic that never really worked in our house when I was growing up. (We were more handprint smudges and clutter and dust than a page from DWELL. I’m the same, still.)

In my early teens, I rebelled against the white walls in my room. I picked out a can of Martha Stewart Batter Bowl Green and my dad taught me how to roll it on by making V-shapes instead of going straight up and down. This weekend, I let the tears fall as I retraced that motion with a shade of green on the walls of the nursery.

I realized that, in a strange way, building this room has helped me to feel like my papa is a part of his grandchild’s life, even though they’ll never meet. I could almost imagine him alongside Joe and his dad, working on the electrical, or there with another paint roller, helping even though he disagreed with the shade. (The heather gray hall walls, I know he’d like.) My dad and I refinished a dresser together once, and Joe uses it in our room. I think I’ll have to play Warren Zevon’s album “The Wind” when I paint over the baby’s this weekend. I wonder what will remind my baby of me when I’m gone.

Warren Zevon: Keep Me in your Heart

Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile


Filed under At home, Baby, Life lessons