Sunday, April 29, 2018

Take A Good Look At Your Bad Habits BEFORE You Become A Parent

I've got plenty of bad habits. Loads of them. They come back at you full force when you're a parent too.

An expert smart ass who doesn't know when to stop? Who just keeps pushing and pushing pushing? Yep, got one of those.
A drama queen? Yep, one of those too.
A storyteller? Check to that too.

But then there's the bad habits that go beyond personality traits. When I was younger I loved gum. I chewed gum all of the time. The same piece of gum over multiple days. I stuck it anywhere I could, but my #1 place was the top of my entertainment shelves in my bedroom. My parents HATED it. They would constantly tell me to stop, but I never did. 

Years later when they offered my old bedroom furniture to me, the top shelves was filled with gum remnants. No matter how much they or I scrubbed it, the bits of gum residue would not come off. Gross. I'm almost gagging recounting it.

So, naturally, I have a gum saver. On bowls, plates, walls. It drives me CRAZY! I can't tell you how many pieces have been forgotten on plates and gotten stuck in our sink. 

I have a feeling I should have totally expected this. 

Bottom line: before you have kids, think good and hard about those little bad habits you had (or have) because your kids could have them too.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

102 Outdoor Activities To Do In Central Iowa This Summer

Iowa comes alive during the summer months. County fairs, outdoor concerts, hiking, water activities, festivals, fun patios, yearly events, and so, so much more! Most of our favorite things to do in Iowa are right here in Central Iowa, however, it's pretty easy to get around and there's a lot of really fun things to do within a two hour driving distance from Des Moines. 

Here's 102 outdoor activities to do in, near, and around Central Iowa this summer:

1.) Jasper Winery Summer Concert Series (May 10 - August 2; 2400 George Flagg Pkwy, Des Moines). It's family friendly with fun music every Thursday throughout the summer.

2.) Valle Drive-In (4074 Hwy F48, Newton). Go the old fashioned route to see a movie. Grab blankets (and bug spray!), snacks, and your car to watch a movie this summer.

3.) Snookies Malt Shop (1810 Beaver Ave, Des Moines). Don't miss this Beaverdale classic this! Our personal favorite is to go after an afternoon at Ashworth Swimming Pool.

4.) Adventureland (3200 Adventureland Dr, Altoona). This family owned amusement park can provide a weekend of sure to be wonderful memories for all ages.

5.) Adventure Bay (inside Adventureland). We love this water park! There's so much to do that we often spend full days in the water and enjoying Dole Pineapple Whip. If you don't purchase season passes, go for a two day pass to the parks so you can spend one day on the rides and another riding the waves in the wave pool. Adventureland Inn has great rooms and a trolley to take you to and from the park.

6.) Take a hike at Brown's Woods (260 Brown's Woods Dr, West Des Moines). Great trails that are never crowded make for great exploring! 

7.) Lake Aquabi State Park (16510 118th Ave, Indianola). There's so much to do in this park! Camping, great hiking trails, a beach with boat rentals of all kinds, fishing. We've spent full days hiking different trails followed by a cool off at the beach.

8.) Pella Square (720 Franklin St, Pella). It never fails that our May's our so busy that we never make it to Tulip Time Festival. We've opted to go a few weeks later each year, so we can still take in the beauty of the tulips, grab delicious Dutch letters and raspberry bread from our favorite bakery, and walk around the little shops. 

9.) Valley View Aquatics Sunday night swim (255 S 81st St, West Des Moines). What better way to end your weekend than at a pool that has a few water slides?? It's busy, but never overly crowded.

10.) Downtown Farmers' Market (Historic Court District, Des Moines). Des Moines has one of the top farmers' markets in the country and has so much to offer. In addition to your fresh fruits, veggies, and meats, find food vendors (the pupusas are my ultimate), locally made clothing, soaps and scrubs, home goods, and flowers. Shop while you listen to a variety of music on every street corner.

11.) Valley Junction Farmers' Market and Music In The Junction (Historic Valley Junction 5th Street, West Des Moines). With smaller crowds than the Downtown Farmers' Market, but bringing just as much fun is the Thursday night farmers market on 5th Street. There's not as many vendors as downtown, but still a great variety, plus there's bands that play in the evening.

12.) Archery Field & Sports (3726 E 56th St, Altoona). Featuring an indoor and outdoor range, along with accommodations for all ability levels, our kids have a blast here. We even purchased beginner bow and arrows (and a target bag) from them the first time we were there so the kids could practice in the backyard. While we're not hunters at all, we all have a blast going. All of the instructors are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful with the kids. Read about our first visit here.

13.) Ashby Wading Pool (Ashby Park 3200 38th St, Des Moines). This seems to be among the most popular wading pools in Des Moines. Great location, fun playground equipment, and a fun wading pool that even my ten year old still loves it. Evenings during the week seem to be the least busiest times to go.

14.) Playscape at Jester Park (11407 Jester Park Drive, Granger). Fun hiking trails, campground, cabins, equestrian center, golfing, bison, and a fun playscape all within an easy drive of Des Moines. Great for a day trip in nature or a weekend full of outdoor activities with the family. Fox Run and Hickory Ridge Trails are our favorite to hike in the park.

15.) Gray's Lake in the evening (2101 Fleur Dr, Des Moines). There's no doubt about it, Gray's Lake offers great outdoor activities right here in the city: swimming, playground, bike trail, boat rentals, concessions, etc. However, nothing beats walking the two mile loop around the lake after dark with it all lit up. We've ended many family fun nights and date nights walking that trail and it's never any less cool than it was the first time we saw it.

16.) 80/35 (Western Gateway Park, Des Moines). Last year was my first time going to this popular music festival and I was shocked to see so many kids in the crowd. The organizers do a great job of making this a family friendly music festival, just don't forget the noise cancelling hearing protectors (such as these).

17.) Iowa State Fair (Iowa State Fairgrounds E 30th St & E University Ave, Des Moines). Find fried everything-on-a-stick and celebrate Iowa agriculture, ride the big slide, take in a Grandstand show (or one of the many concerts on one of the many free stages), see a buttered cow, and more. Don't miss one of the best state fairs' in the country every August.

18.) Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (8700 NE 126th Ave, Maxwell). Unlike most hiking trails in Iowa, this one involves wetlands, prairie grass, and provides a great spot for bird watchers.

19.) Take a night hike (check the Iowa DNR's site for a list of guided hikes in Central Iowa's parks). Unless you are familiar with trails and local wildlife, I recommend doing one of the Iowa DNR's night hikes. Typically family friendly hikes that look for wildlife on safe paths while you carry a flashlight. Don't forget to wear bug spray!

20.) Tour the bridges of Madison County (Winterset, visit the official site here to plan your route). We did a covered bridge tour with the kids a few years ago in one day and it remains one of our best Iowa adventures. Go on a cool breezy day, ride the open highways with the windows down, and get a feel for country living.

21.) Pammel State Park (1818 Pammel Park Rd, Winterset). We fell in love with this park when our friend's wedding was held there. Not only does it provide gorgeous scenery, but fun hiking trails as well. We included this on stop on our Bridges tour, but we've also packed a picnic and made a day of playing at the Park.

22.) High Trestle Trail Bridge (runs across the Des Moines River Valley). Find parking in Madrid and walk the trail for a few miles or bike. Whether you go during the day or at night when the bridge is lit, it's impressive as one of the longest trail bridges in the world!

23.) Iowa Arboretum (1875 Peach Ave, Madrid). Whether you walk through the grounds and gardens or the kiddos join in the Nature Explorers program, there's a lot of fun to be had here and plenty to explore.

24.) Music In The Park (Colby Park 6900 School Street, Windsor Heights). Wine and beer for sale or BYOB, food trucks, and a playground to keep the kids occupied.

25.) Beaverdale Farmers Market (4100 Urbandale Ave, Des Moines). This is a true community farmers market where you go to see long time friends and neighbors. Smaller than both the Downtown and Valley Junction Farmers Market, Beaverdale Farmers Market still boasts great local vendors and fun every Tuesday during the summer. 

26.) Dogpatch Urban Gardens (5085 Meredith Dr, Des Moines). Visit the farmstand for local produced and locally sourced goods. 

27.) Pappajohn Sculpture Park (1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines). Grab coffee from nearby Starbucks (downtown), play in the water runnel in Western Gateway Park, and walk around the Sculpture Park. Let the kids run up and down the hill (or rolling, as mine like to do) and take in the best view of all: the Des Moines skyline.

28.) Clive Festival (Clive Aquatic Center). Food, vendors, inflatables, bands and a giant slip n' slide have been the hits in the past.

29.) I Cubs game (Principal Park 1 Line Dr, Des Moines). Take in a good ole fashioned baseball game throughout the summer. Fireworks follow the games on Friday nights.

30.) Mini golf (we loved A.H. Blank Golf Course last summer). Des Moines is lucky enough to have several fun courses for all ages.

31.) Blank Park Zoo (7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines). Of course you're going to go see the lions, tigers, giraffes, and rhinos, but there's also the train ride, carousel, and a fun playground. Make a day of it and enjoy lunch at the Safari Grille or Macaw Cafe or pack your own and eat lunch in the picnic area outside the zoo while watching the Bactrian Camels.

32.) Drinks at the Republic On Grand (401 E Grand Ave, Des Moines). This is a fantastic date night spot in the East Village with an open air patio on the sixth floor of the AC Hotel and great views of the city. Wear the kids out with a day at the zoo and get a babysitter for nighttime.

33.) Free fishing weekend (first weekend in June; check Iowa DNR's website for further info). The only weekend of the year that you can fish without a fishing license. Grab your dusty poles, bait, and head to any pond, lake, or river in Iowa. Fishing spots fill up quick, so go early and keep reminding your children that they'll scare the fish away if they're too loud (and then repeat that last one a dozen times).

34.) National Balloon Classic (Balloon Field 15335 Jewel St, Indianola). If you've ever looked towards the sky in Des Moines the last few days in July and the first few days in August, you've likely spotted a hot air balloon overhead as they have their competition flights. Go early (I mean early, before 5 a.m.) to see the balloons take off for their flight competitions and/or go for Glow Nights. Check out their site here for a schedule.

35.) Living History Farms (11121 Hickman Rd, Urbandale). Go back in time and see interpreters, demonstrations, and activities. Bring some change for General Store goodies-the lemon drops are my favorite.

36.) Union Park Heritage Carousel (1801 Pennsylvania Ave, Des Moines). There's enough to do at this park you can easily spend a full day here. At only .50 cents for kids and $1 for adults, ride the Carousel numerous times, wear a swimming suit and play in the wading pool, and go down the Des Moines famous rocket slide.

37.) Field of Dreams (28995 Lansing Rd, Dyersville). While not in Central Iowa, this is an easy drive from Des Moines and an iconic Iowa Road Trip must! There's hotels or bed and breakfasts nearby the Field or make it a day trip.

38.) Honey Creek Resort (12633 Resort Dr, Moravia). Also not technically in Central Iowa, the resort is an easy, short drive from Des Moines that offers plenty of outdoor summer fun! Sitting on Rathbun Lake, there's the usual boating, fishing, jet skiing, and kayaking. There's cabins to stay in or the hotel, a restaurant on site, hiking, DNR hosted programs, and an indoor water park to enjoy.

39.) Berry picking (several options near Des Moines: Berry Patch Farm, Nevada; Iowa Orchard, Grimes; Edge of the Woods Raspberry Farm, Indianola). Start checking Facebook pages and websites for updates on berry picking, as picking times can change quickly. Strawberry picking is usually best in beginning of June, but it greatly depends on the weather we had during the spring. 

40.) Saylorville Reservoir (North edge of Des Moines, South part of Saylorville Lake). Head to the spillway after a heavy rainfall and watch the water crash. There's also camping, fishing, and nearby hiking. Go after dark and look at the stars away from the city lights.

41.) McHenry Park Spraygrounds (1012 Oak Park Ave, Des Moines). One of my favorite spraygrounds in the city keeps the kids busy and cool on hot summer days.

42.) Greenwood/Ashworth Park and Splashgrounds (4500 Grand Ave, Des Moines). Walk around the pond, play on the equipment, and/or run around the splashgrounds. Everything in this park is newly installed (as of last summer) or upgraded. Great, central spot to meet friends for a playdate during the summer.

43.) Art Center Rose Garden (4700 Grand Ave, Des Moines). The Art Center is gorgeous and amazing and perfect for a cold, chilly day. But we're talking summer here, so instead of spending your time indoors, take a walk through the outdoor garden. See the beautiful roses and other plants and flowers and see the sculptures in the garden.

44.) Star parties (check the calendar to see if the meet up is at Ewing Park or SCI). The Science Center brings the telescope, you bring yourself and look at the stars and planets.

45.) Have a backyard bbq/cook out with friends (where you live or a park). Rent a shelter at a local park and cook out while the kids play or host friends. Play backyard games (bags is a favorite here), set up a slip n slide, and have a good time with friends and neighbors. Get some ideas for BBQ invites here.

46.) Urbandale 4th of July Carnival (Lions Park Prairie Ave, Urbandale). Rides, street dances, races, a parade the morning of the 4th, bands, and ending with fireworks. Very fun community event. Find parking along the side streets in the neighborhoods nearby.

47.) Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge (9981 Pacific St, Prairie City). Learn about the wildlife found in Iowa, the importance of the prairie, and bison. Drive directly through the bison and elk enclosure (but it's large, so a sighting can be tough). The two mile loop trail that starts and ends at the learning center takes you right up against the bison enclosure, where we have had an up close view of them every hike.

48.) Wooden playground at Big Creek (8550 NW 142nd Ave). Head to the Big Creek Beach in Polk City. Not only is there swimming, but an awesome wooden playground to run around.

49.) Cascade Falls Aquatic Center (2350 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy, Ankeny). This is more like a mini water park for aquatic center prices. There's a surf machine, kiddie slides, tube slides, a lazy river, and more. 

50.) Knoxville Raceway (1000 N Lincoln St, Knoxville). Take in a sprint car race and cheer on the drivers! We once took our children to a practice night (free, beginning of every April) and our daughter developed a love for car racing. It's a great way to spend a summer night.

51.) Ashley Okland Star Playground (1895 E McKinley Ave, Des Moines). Situated within Ewing Park, it is an adaptive playground with rubber footing. There's also nature trails nearby, a soap box derby track, and lilac garden.

52.) Rotary Riverwalk Park (821 River Dr, Des Moines). There's not much other than swings and great views of the city at this simple park,  however, it provides easy access to walk across the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge to see the dam, stroll through the Asian Gardens, and walk along the Des Moines River on the trail.

53.) Great Des Moines Botanical Garden (909 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines). This is an easy walk from the Rotary Riverwalk Park via the Riverwalk Trail. Take in the outdoor gardens and sculptures when the flowers are in bloom.

54.) Des Moines Arts Festival (Western Gateway Park). At the end of June every year, downtown becomes every art enthusiast dream. Paintings, sculptures, jewelry, food vendors, bands, and a children's area. This annual event has become internationally known and is always at the top of our summer to do list.

55.) Johnston Green Days (next to the Johnston Public Library). Celebrate the Johnston community with an annual parade, carnival, run, games, and more. 

56.) National Night Out (first Tuesday in August; check your local neighborhood association to see where the closest is to you). Taking place the first Tuesday of August every year, National Night Out promotes police and community partnerships and the importance of community for the safety of our neighborhoods. The kids (and adults too) get to climb inside police cars, aboard fire trucks, and meet their local officers. 

57.) Saylorville Butterfly Garden (near the visitor center at 8250 Horseshoe Rd, Polk City). Park at the visitors center and take a short walk on the bike trail. You'll soon come to a fun butterfly garden with short trails great for exploring bugs, bees, and butterflies.

58.) Zoo Brew (Blank Park Zoo 7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines). Get a sitter for the kids or grab some friends and head to the BPZ for an adult only night. Listen to a band play, enjoy beer and/or wine, and enjoy the zoo sans kids. 

59.) Cowles Commons (221 Walnut St, Des Moines). Once known as Nollen Plaza, the space is now used as an outdoor community event space. There's an outdoor piano to play, fountains to run through, and is in the center of the downtown happenings. 

60.) Raccoon River Park (2500 Grand Ave, West Des Moines). Between the 3 mile walking trail around the lake, playground, and beach, it's easy to spend a full day here. There's also a fishing dock (if you have a fishing permit, or it can be a fun place to go on free fishing weekend) a bit further down from the beach and playground.

61.) Loess Hills (western Iowa). Not in Central Iowa, but an easy drive hour and a half drive along I-80. Let me explain before you make the same mistake I did, the Loess Hills run from the western Missouri through Iowa. When I said I wanted to go to the Loess Hills, there's not just one spot, it's a land formation over a large area. A unique land formation consisting of a rare type of soil called loess (hence the name). That said, after quite a bit of exploring in the area thanks to multiple day trips, our favorite areas include Loess Hills State Park, Preparation Canyon, DeSoto Wildlife Refuge, and Hitchcock Nature Center.

62.) Henry Doorly Zoo (3701 S 10th St, Omaha). Again, another not in Central Iowa, but this zoo is phenomenal and such an easy drive from Des Moines (the zoo is right off of the interstate too). It's known as one of the world's best zoos (not kidding at all), plus if you have a Blank Park Zoo membership, you get in for half price. I promise you it's well worth the trip.

63.) Patio at Gilroy's (1238 8th St, West Des Moines). Gilroy's has my favorite patio in the Des Moines area, plus it's made even better with amazing moscow mules and a great menu. The patio is incredibly spacious and has small tables, large tables, and couches. We've met friends for dinner, brought the kids, and a few small board games for them to play, and have spent a few hours eating, drinking, and talking while the kids were more than happy. 

64.) Sargent Park (3530 E Douglas, Des Moines). This was Des Moines' first natural playscape. It's definitely a place for kiddos to get messy and explore safely. Wear swimming suits because the fountain is sure to attrach the kids, as will digging in the sand and dirt. A bike path runs along side of the park next to Four Mile Creek.

65.) Races at Prairie Meadows (1 Prairie Meadows Dr, Altoona). One Sunday in July features zebra, ostrich, and camel races. It's our favorite day to go, but it does get crowded.

66.) Picket Fence Creamery (14583 S Ave, Woodward). While their country store is open daily, Sample Sunday is a great introduction to the farm and their products. Happening the first Sunday of every month, there's a few vendors, calves to see and pet, and chat with the owners. Their ice cream is not to be missed!

67.) Iowa Farm Sanctuary (2485 Hwy 6 Trail, Marengo). Visit during open barn days and see the rescued farm animals and learn about their mission.

68.) Fort Des Moines Park (7200 SE 5th St, Des Moines). Portions of this park housed the Fort Des Moines Calvary Post,  then as the first Officers' Training Camp for black cadets and the U.S. Women's Auxiliary Army Corps during WW2. There are signs throughout the park and trails explaining the history of the park. Also, because it backs into the Blank Park Zoo, it's not out of the question to hear a lion roaring while you're there (and that may or may not convince your children there's a lion hiding in the trees).

69.) See the tanker trucks at Camp Dodge (NW Beaver Dr, Johnston). Following NW Beaver Drive up towards Saylorville, you've probably seen the tanks sitting there (in what looks like a parking lot area). Pull in, park, and climb up on the tanks. It's a quick simple thing that tickles kids of all ages. Nearby is the Iowa Gold Star Museum if you're looking for something more.

70.) Feed the ducks at Resthaven Cemetery (801 19th St, West Des Moines). The geese at Glendale Cemetery can be vicious, but the ducks at Resthaven are more peaceful and fun to watch.

71.) Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad (225 10th St, Boone). The reason I'm putting this in the summer category is because the train cars aren't heated or air conditioned. You'll want a nice, slightly breezy day for your train ride. A basic train ride is about 2 hours long and has a concession cart on the train (bring cash).

72.) Sunday Tunes at Summerset Winery (15101 Fairfax St, Indianola) This is a family event that also has delicious wine and beer available (for the adults). Pack your own picnic and listen to the music on Sunday's from 2 -5 p.m.

73.) Des Moines Menace Soccer Games (4440 Mills Civic Pkwy, West Des Moines). Cheer on the Menace during their games at Valley Stadium. Find their schedule on their website.

74.) Live Music at the Cidery in Winterset (1638 U.S. 169, Winterset). Definitely more of a date night or meet up with friends type of place. Super fun with locally made drinks.

75.) Outdoor pianos throughout the city (Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Valley Junction). Fun pianos around the city that you can play. Visit their website to get exact locations of the pianos.

76.) Ironwood Park (2222 3rd Ave SW, Altoona). It's shaped like a pirate ship. What more can you want?

77.) McCollum Waveland Tennis Complex (4806 Observatory Rd, Des Moines). You'll need your own racket and tennis balls, but these courts are well kept and great for practicing or introducing your kids (or yourself) to the game. Also travel a big down the road to see the Drake Municipal Observatory. While it's only open to the public during certain times in the fall and spring, it's still neat to see.

78.) Take a walk on the Capitol grounds (1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines). Walk around the Capitol grounds to see sculptures, statues, and the best views of downtown Des Moines looking west. When we did this, we got take out from Zombie Burger and ate at a picnic table on the grounds.

79.) Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden (1716 Locust St, Des Moines). Only open to the public from noon - 2 p.m. on Friday's, I'm told it's not to be missed. There's also a central garden that you can have lunch in.

80.) World Food Prize Hall of Laureates (100 Locust St, Des Moines). While the inside of the hall has amazing exhibits and is incredibly beautiful, the outside of the building sits on the Des Moines Riverwalk and great walking grounds. My kid's favorite is the map of the world in the concrete. They like to say "I pushed ____ all the way to Africa!"

81.) Grotto of Redemption (208 1st Ave NW, West Bend). Not in Des Moines at all, and involves a lot of small highways and turns to get there, we were in awe once we saw it. The Grotto kept us busy for a couple of hours, plus there's a playground nearby for the kids because we had to reward them for not picking off the rocks.

82.) Stream hiking at Ledges State Park (1515 P Ave, Madrid). Hiking at Ledges State Park is our favorite, stream hiking is unique and not as crowded as the regular trails. We started in the stream at the beginning of the park and walked until we came to the Des Moines River. We saw tadpoles, minnows, and snakes in the water. Water shoes are a must for this!

83.) Horseback riding at Jester Park (11171 NW 103rd Ct, Granger). Make a reservation for a guided trail rides through Jester Park. A 1 1/2 hour ride is beginner friendly and a great family activity. Plus the guides tell you about the park and horses.

84.) Live At The Creek (Jordan Creek Town Center). Sunday's from 5 - 8 p.m., sit around the amphitheater or one of the restaurant's patio around the pond and listen to bands play. The location gives plenty of room to move around for the kids and beer and wine for purchase for the adults.

85.) Terra Park (6300 Pioneer Pkwy, Johnston). Play on the newly redeveloped park and/or walk along the bike path that weaves through Johnston neighborhoods.

86.) Reiman Gardens (1407 University Blvd, Ames). There's so much great programming for kids and families during the summer months. There's summer camps, water days, story time, and the sculpture exhibit Winds, Waves, & Lights.

87.) Iowa Speedway (3333 Rusty Wallace Dr, Newton). Take in a Nascar race and let kids explore with the Crash Course. Kids get to experience the physics behind auto racing using STEM based activities. There's also numerous activities for kids to do on race day.

88.) Ashworth Swimming Pool (101 45th St, Des Moines). Not an aquatic center, but a real swimming pool with deep water and diving boards. There's also a separate toddler pool for the younger crowds.

89.) Water Works Park (2201 George Flagg Pkwy, Des Moines). Located near the Raccoon River, this park offers 1,500 acres to explore. There's biking and walking trails, picnic shelters, horse trails, and fishing.

90.) Biking the trails (Des Moines and surrounding areas). Central Iowa is lucky enough to have extensive bike trail. A favorite is biking on the Great Western Trail down to Cumming Tap.

91.) The Freedom Rock Tour (visit the website to see all locations). The original Freedom Rock is located in Greenfield and gets repainted every year as a thank you to veterans. 

92.) Movies in the park (check Des Moines Park and Rec site and/or the city of Windsor Heights). Parks throughout the metro have movies in the park all summer long. Bring a blanket, bug spray, and snacks and watch your favorite movies.

93.) Walker Johnson Park (9000 Douglas Ave, Urbandale). This park is huge and has a variety of play structures for kids! There's also a skate park and a pond to walk around. Be sure to find the wooden play structure tucked into the trees. There's fun spider nets to climb and wooden bridges to walk across.

94.) Ankeny Miracle Park (310 NW School St, Ankeny). A baseball themed park that is for kids of all abilities.

95.) Grounds For Celebration (Beaverdale). Grab a cinnamon roll and have a relaxing morning on the patio. Roomy enough for kids plus within walking distance to area parks (Ashby, Riley, and Witmer).

96.) Raccoon River Excursions (Dallas County Fair Campgrounds). Tubing down the Raccoon River is great for families with older children (the minimum age requirement is 14 years or older).

97.) Clive Food Truck Fridays (Campbell Park 12385 Woodlands Pkwy, Clive). Food, music, playgrounds, and concessions can make a perfect Friday night.

98.) Saylorville Yacht Club Wednesday races (Saylorville Lake). Each night of sailing is different as the wind changes. Pack a picnic, head to the lake, and spend a relaxing evening watching the sailing races.

99.) Voas Nature Area (19286 Lexington Rd, Minburn). Features include hiking, wildflowers, wildlife viewing/refuge, observation tower, hunting, and an intriguing youth only hunting area.

100.) Brenton Arboretum (25141 260th St, Dallas Center). Not only is there a natural play area and great hiking trails for kids of all ages, there's a fun leaf walk to do that helps you identify the trees and their leaves.

101.) Baratta's Tunes On The Terrace (State Historical Museum of Iowa 600 E Locust St, Des Moines; 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.). Enjoy lunch and music on the terrace every Friday. Walk around the East Village area afterwards or tour the Museum (free).

102.) Principal Charity Classic (Wakonda Club 3915 Fleur Dr, Des Moines). $20 gets you a one day ticket (good for any day), while kids under 15 get in free. Plenty of concessions available and for great causes!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Spring Cleaning

While we've only been in our house for (just over) a year, we desperately needed to do some spring cleaning! Iowa gave us yet another snowy weekend in spring and we used our (hopefully last) wintery weekend to do just that. I pulled out some of our lesser used toys to donate to a friend having an adoption garage sale, got our downstairs playroom severe weather ready so it's safe to head to the basement with the littles if severe weather strikes, cleared out the toy storage room so we can build a new storage system in the next few weeks, and overall got the basement ready for our next big home improvement project: an egress window in the basement. Our goal is to turn that into a fifth bedroom for our oldest in the future. Until then, we'll use that side of the basement as a game room for the bigs during daycare. The real highlight of our weekend was our Family Game Night the minis created for us while we worked in the basement.

I have to admit, I had sentimental moment as I put each of the toys into the garage sale pile (thank goodness I'm not the one actually selling them because I don't think I would actually go through with it if I were). I'm odd and remember where each of these toys came from and the story behind each toy. That little tea cart was pushed around for hours upon hours by kids for many years. I bought it at the height of my middle son's tea party obsession. It was a beloved daycare toy. It was also the push toy that forced me to create the rule "we don't run over our friends!"
The stroller was a gift from my mother-in-law to my daughter. It was her favorite toy for a long time. The little doll bed came with a doll set, but we have numerous sets of doll beds so one had to go. The Little People amusement park was the toughest of all. I spent one summer scouring garage sales for used LP items. Because of those early morning Saturday sale adventures we have sooooo many LP sets it's unreal. The amusement park playset was one of the lesser played with sets nowadays. But boy do I have some good stories about that summer we spent garage sale-ing!

Read about our epic Family Game Night here. I was incredibly impressed with our minis and their creativity!

We cleaned, we got rid of our never or hardly used items....which only meant we could order more stuff (wink wink). In all seriousness, I've been looking for a better way to do sensory bins and I found this table at IKEA. The bins are the perfect size plus it's a useful table when the sensory bins aren't in use! $50 well spent!

This was the first weekend in quite a while that I didn't leave the house at all or spent writing, researching, and planning. It was kinda nice to be busy in a different kind of way, although I'm sure I'll retract that statement once we get moving on digging the hole for the egress window. Our basement is finally clean, albeit crowded because one and a half of our spaces are cleared out at the moment, and organized! If that doesn't make for a successful weekend, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Weekend of Playing

This was one of our last weekends playing and lounging at home. This spring we plan on playing A LOT outside, on the go, and doing yard improvements. On this particular weekend, the adults (that would be Hubs and myself) got to play while the minis had a babysitter and that's about all we did. Sunday we lounged at home, took naps, watched a movie, and lounged some more. It was a cold, wintery type weekend that made the lounging even more welcomed.

We had a great night out! We saw the movie Blockers while enjoying beers and dinner at Flix Brewhouse, then we made our way to Plaza Pub. The last time I was there was 12 years ago on a bar crawl. It will probably be another 12 years before I go back. I also had jello shots for the first time in 10 years. It will probably be another 10 years before I have them again.

The minis had a slumber party in the living room. We woke up to quite the mess.

We had a quick brunch at Eggs and Jam before going back home (and back to bed). Everything was wonderful! The wait staff was knowledgeable and helpful, the menu had options for everyone, and the food was delicious. We'll definitely be going back for brunch again, but earlier in the morning so it's not so crowded.

It wouldn't be brunch without one meltdown over absolutely nothing.

It was at this moment I realized how badly I needed to do laundry. I couldn't find clean jeans to wear so I threw on capri pants. It was snowing and 30 degrees out.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

I'll Talk To You With My Pants Around My Ankles

I heard the door squeak open as I became aware I hadn't fully latched the bathroom door. In walked my two felines. Not the kids, but the felines. I forgot to feed them (again) and they came looking for the person who remembers to feed them. I had long since finished peeing, but I sat quietly checking emails with my pants down.

I heard small footsteps start down the hallway. I held my breath as the footsteps abruptly stopped in front of the bathroom door. The door flew open the rest of the way.

"Oh you're in here!" my daughter said. 
"Typically when the door is shut, that means not to come in," I said dryly.
"Doors are supposed to be opened if they're closed," my middle child added as he trotted by.
"Yeah and the cats already kinda opened the door," my daughter replied in agreement with her brother. Without missing anything, they were both in our tiny bathroom talking about some miniscule issue I can't even remember. 

My oldest joined us in the doorway. "That's not how it went Harrison!" he chimed into their conversation, thus starting an argument amongst the three of them. There I sat in the middle of it all, with my pants down and both cats at my feet meowing.

I had gone into the bathroom for just a moment to myself. I hadn't completed anything I had set out to complete that day and no one was making it easier for me to complete my tasks that evening either.

That's about the time my husband walked into the bathroom. Now all five family members and two felines were shoved into the smallest room of the house. A room that constantly smells like urine because, well, two boys (that's all I should need to say on the subject).

"Why is this even happening right now!!??! You're dad was literally sitting on the couch. You walked by him to get to me. Why couldn't you sit on the couches with him and comfortably tell your tales and argue? Why are we all in here?" I rationally spoke to my family.

"Yeah kids. Why are you in here? Get out!" said my husband, not budging from his spot. Clearly he missed something in my message.

"I just need to breathe for a moment," I exclaimed as I finally pulled up my pants with my audience watching. I honestly couldn't remember if I even wiped, but in that moment I didn't really care.

At this point, I have to think my family is just playing a joke on me. I mean who goes into a bathroom to carry on a conversation? Let's ignore the fact that I went into the bathroom to check emails in peace, but really, they have to know how ridiculous it is every time someone comes to find me for "help" while I have my pants around my ankles. 

Why is that every time my pants are around my ankles my family chooses THAT moment to start something? An important conversation? Mom should have her pants down for that. Starting a fight on the other side of the house? Mom should definitely have her pants down for that so she can for sure stumble out of the bathroom. An injury? Mom should have her pants around her ankles when that happens too.

Alone time is precious when you're a mom. You're rarely alone even with your own thoughts because thoughts of your kids come first (does ____ have their lunch ready for tomorrow? Are they okay? Do I need to adjust the temperature so they don't get cold?). I never had an issues peeing alone until I had kids. Sometimes I wonder why I bother shutting the door because it always winds up open anyway.

My motto: if it's not my husband, it's my kids. If it's not a kid, it's a cat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Easter Weekend

We lucked out and the minis had a three day Easter weekend thanks to a teacher's work day the Friday before Easter. They were able to partake in daycare's Easter festivities, which included cake, games, pizza, and watching The Prince of Egypt during nap time. As for the rest of the weekend, I took over programming at the Des Moines Children's Museum that Saturday, celebrated Easter with both sides of the family, and managed to have A LOT of fun with April Fools being on Easter!

Surprisingly, this was the first year ever I screwed up the bunny cake. Funny this is I was going to do a decorate your own cupcake station, but my three threw a fit: "mom! You ALWAYS do the bunny cake! You HAVE to do it!"

I scored a few cheap Easter games at the craft store the previous weekend. They kept the kids entertained.

Whip cream egg decorating at the Children's Museum. Daycare enjoyed it, so we took it to the Museum, where it was also enjoyed by two dozen other kids.

I got a brief rest in between running the egg show for kids and our first Easter celebration. The cat helped me rest too.

I did food prep late Saturday night (while Hubs worked on setting up April Fools jokes). I don't want to brag, but my homemade breakfast potatoes were amazing! I made them the night before and reheated for Sunday brunch.

While the potatoes cooked, the Easter Bunny worked her magic.

Read about our April Fools pranks and fun here. We've never really done April Fools jokes on each other, but we had fun with it this year!

Yes, the middle one is ON the table.

Brunch included coffee, mimosas, homemade pancakes, homemade biscuits and gravy (no sausage), homemade breakfast potatoes, and omelets. Sooo yummy! We only do brunches at home a few times of year and we brought it good this time.

Elizabeth happily wore her new spring clothes around the house, even though it was freezing cold outside.

Her outfit to go to dinner combined three holidays: Valentine's (the shirt), St. Patrick's Day (the socks), and Easter (the bunny ears).

The minis got us back good (also in our April Fools post).

New spring and summer toys have been ordered and delivered! The minis helped me set up this play garden for daycare.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A March Weekend

Yes, I fully realize it's April now, but this weekend happened back in March. The first weekend we were home from vacation actually. It was supposed to be a chill weekend, but of course, as soon as I plugged back into life after vacation, I lined up a string of projects. Luckily, I was able to do two things at the same time. I was able to check out Vegan Fest AND work the Des Moines Children's Museum booth at the same time. It wound up being a long day, but great networking all around (for both writing and the Museum).

The minis were around to "help" and play on and off throughout the day.

Some of my faves from Vegan Fest: acai bowl from Beef Cake Fuel (I also got a Hawaiian wrap later in the day that was amazing), sweets from Vegalicious, spring rolls, plantains, and coffee.  I have a good list of vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants in the area that are quickly becoming my go-to places thanks to Vegan Fest.

I love watching kids play!

I left one project, only to come home and work on more. Luckily this one involved me writing in my pajamas and margaritas in my coffee mug (I'm classy like that). Clearly my husband was supportive.

The next day we tried out brunch at Granite City for the first (yum! But Americana is still our ultimate brunch spot) and took the kids to see the Easter Bunny.

I had to run to the craft store. The minis played outside (on a rare gorgeous day this spring). This was what I saw in the backup camera. I wasn't amused, but Hubs was pretty proud of himself!

 I know there's probably not going to be many of these pictures left to take (or that they'll allow us to take).

 The minis helped me create an Easter sensory bin for daycare. I love it when they help me out with daycare planning.

I left my phone on the dining room table. This was what was left for me on my screen. I shouldn't be surprised.