Saturday, May 21, 2016

Ashley Okland Star Playground

Today, we went to check out a new park on Des Moines' east side: Ashley Okland Star Playground. It's an all-inclusive park that's designed to be accessible. I noticed there's not a drop off to enter the playground area, and there's a ramp to get up on the equipment. There were some swings designed with a harness as well. My favorite feature was the shade on the play structure. It allowed for the kids to play a long time without getting too hot.

The park seemed fun for everyone, and it was busy this morning! Our kids spent a full hour running on equipment, climbing, and testing out the teeter-totter. There were a lot of parents on the equipment! It's possible there were kids there who needed the extra assistance. I noticed that almost every child had a parent by their side, helping them climb and go down the slide. One parent was going over ABCs with her child. So, it felt a little different to not have all the kids running around together, exploring and making friends, but it was still a fun playground.

There were two other issues I found with the park. The first is that the bathrooms were closed "until further notice" due to repeat vandalism. Second, the cars on one side of the parking lot park against a forested area. There was a lot of poison ivy growing right in front of where those cars were parked. So, keep an eye on your kids as they get in and out of the cars!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Urbandale Parks Challenge: Coronado Park

We went to our sixth park in the Urbandale Parks challenge (26 more to go!). Coronado Park is in an open area surrounded by homes. It was quiet when we arrived with no other kids, but Oliver and Jo still had a lot of fun. They enjoyed playing pirates in the big ship. 

There wasn't a lot of actual equipment to play on, as the playground itself isn't very big. The pirate ship made up for it though, and the kids played happily for quite a while!

I'm always disappointed when there's not much shade, so the kids had a better time than I did. With all the sun, we were bothered by a few wasps (no stings, thankfully!). After about 20 minutes, I herded the kids back to the car. I could see spending more time at this park on a cloudy day. There's a pavilion near the playground that would work well for a picnic lunch.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Urbandale Parks Challenge: Murphy Park

For our fifth park in the Urbandale Parks Challenge, we set out for Murphy Park. It was a little tricky to find it. To get there, just take Urbandale Avenue to 67th Street. Head north on 67th, and the street ends at the park.

Oliver's favorite thing at the park was the digger. There was also some basic playground equipment with a couple of slides, but I didn't get a picture unfortunately. There was also a type of teeter-totter, but it was designed so that it didn't really go up and down. It just bounced slightly. We thought the park was OK--nothing spectacular. There weren't any other kids there, and so Oliver & Jo got bored rather quickly. After about 15 minutes, we headed back home. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Urbandale Parks Challenge: Walnut Creek Regional Park

The drive to Walnut Creek Regional Park took a lot longer than I expected! It's way out west, but it was worth the drive. The park currently isn't listed on Google Maps, but I just tried to add it so hopefully it will be available soon. To get there, we took I-35 north to the Douglas exit, and then we drove west for probably about 4 miles. We turned right onto 155th, and the winding street changed names a few times before ending right at the playground.

The kids thought the over-sized chairs were pretty much the coolest thing. One helpful kid gave Jo a boost to get into the purple chair. Update: I learned from some other moms in Des Moines that these over-sized chairs move to various Urbandale parks! You can track where the chairs are on the Urbandale Adirondack Chairs Facebook page.

The playground was bustling with kids! There was one kid riding his "crazy car" in the basketball court, and a group of bigger kids were running around playing tag. The trail was a little busy with people going for a stroll, and a couple other parents were there with little kids. I like it when the playground is a little busy!

If you look in the background of the chair picture, you might notice something bright green in the distance. We decided to go check it out. It was a climbing structure! It's meant for bigger kids; Jo couldn't get past the first step, which was probably a good thing!

We've now made it to 4 parks in the Urbandale Park Challenge. 28 more to go!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Parks Challenge: Walker-Johnston Park

For our third park in the Urbandale Parks Challenge, we went back to Walker-Johnston Park. I love this park! There's something to do for kids of all ages. Even the skateboard park was filled with teenagers practicing tricks and having fun. I think it's great when big kids can stay busy and challenge themselves in public parks.

On our drive over, the kids let us know that they were hungry. From the sound of it, they might have been close to starvation. Thankfully, there's a McDonald's on the way to the park. We picked up a couple Happy Meals and had a little picnic.

Supposedly, there's an area of the park filled with play houses for little kids to explore. I still haven't found it. Our kids were happy to explore the slides, which range from very small to tall & steep.

Oliver decided he'd tackle the giant metal slide. Before now, he'd always been too afraid. Almost all the kids use their shoes to slow themselves down and not go too fast, but a few of the bigger kids shot down the slide like a cannon! They were all having so much fun. I really was thrilled to see the kids have a good time and face their fears on the big slide. One kid kept approaching the slide as if he'd go down on his belly, head and arms first like Superman. Then he'd think better of it and go down on his bottom.

Walking by the skateboard park:

Here's video of the big slide:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Passport to Your National Parks

I really wanted to get this post up in time for National Parks Week (April 16-24, 2016), but that just didn't happen for me. Summer vacation is just around the corner. I'm wrapping up final projects and starting to daydream about upcoming trips we've planned.

We're going to hit up a number of national parks this summer, and my in-laws were kind enough to send us a National Parks Pass! National Park Passes run $80 and are good for a year. They can be a great deal for people traveling to national parks and federal lands, but do your research first! Some national parks are free already, and others have low cost entry. However, there are other parks like Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park which cost a $25 entry fee. Before you buy, check out prices and possibly look into other discounted passes. Senior citizens get discount passes, and families with 4th graders can apply to get a free pass!

We also picked up passports to the national parks. It's currently $9.95 to get a national parks passport, and it's $14.95 to get a national parks passport with a kids' passport companion. I'm a total dork, and I envision my kids keeping their parks passports to keep track of all the great parks and federal areas they see throughout their lives. My husband teased me a bit about that, so he didn't get his own $10 passport and is stuck sharing with me. I laid down the law!

This year's cover is a special edition because they're celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The passport to the national parks divides the country into different regions: North Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, National Capital, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Western, and Pacific Northwest. Every year, they release a set of stamps that highlights one park or historic site in each region, which you can order online or purchase from a visitor's center.

You'll also see an area for "official cancellations" in each region. Visitors can get a cancellation stamp in their national parks passport at hundreds of different national parks and historic sites. Click here to find a list, by state, of all the places you can visit to get a cancellation stamp:

The kids' companion book is a lot of fun, but it involves writing tasks and is best for school-aged children. There is a field journal section. Also, there is a section for kids to fill out a list of the mammals they see, the birds they see, and the plants & trees they see. There's also room for kids to create their own categories and lists. Finally, kids can keep track of the Junior Ranger programs they complete.

Enjoy some family and nature time this summer! I hope I helped inspire someone to check out a local or not-so-local national park or recreational area!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day 2016

Happy May Day!

This is our second year making and delivering baskets of popcorn & candy to the neighbors.

Two years ago, I accidentally "caught" a neighbor delivering May baskets, and that was the first time I'd ever heard of this tradition. I decided to take the kids out to deliver baskets last year. They had a blast! 

Then Friday, Oliver came home from school talking about May Day and told me we needed to get started making baskets. We stapled paper into the shape of a cone and added a handle. This morning, we filled them with popcorn, M&Ms, and butterscotch candies. Then I coached the kids on how to properly doorbell ditch the neighbors. 

We delivered twelve baskets and got caught twice! Both times, Oliver was mad at me for not hiding like he'd instructed ;-) 

Happy May Day!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Second Park - Trolley Park (2 Down; 30 to Go!)

Today was a busy day for us. Oliver had his first pee-wee game of the season, and Andrew got the lawn mower blades sharpened & oil changed. I puttered around with a little bit of gardening and homework, and then decided to take Jo for a drive to return library books and check out another park for our parks challenge. We selected a quiet park called Trolley Park that is small and easy to miss. I parked at Ye Olde Guitar Shoppe, which is next to Trolley Park, and then we went and explored.

It didn't immediately occur to me that I was looking at a sculpture of a trolley! I noticed the sculpture people and checked a couple of the articles on display. I looked to see if there was anything there for kids to climb on (there wasn't). After snapping a few pictures for the challenge, I told Jo we ought to head back. We started wandering back over to the car when I noticed the pavers were laid to look like train tracks. I had a "duh" moment and looked back at the sculpture. It was very clearly a trolley!

This park wasn't that great of a destination for kids to play. It's not very big and is next to a road. I'm still glad we stopped by to check it out. It's worth seeing, even if it's not a destination for play. It could be a unique backdrop for pictures, though!

Friday, April 15, 2016

First Park - Brookview (1 Down, 31 to Go!)

We're participating in Urbandale's 32 Parks in 90 Days challenge! Today was the first day of the challenge, and so I took the kids to Brookview Park after Oliver got home from school. It was a little hard to find. We found a path that ran from the sidewalk next to a house on 65th Street, and the path led to the park. The kids were really excited to see the castle feature on the playground!

The park isn't shaded at all, and so the kids complained about feeling hot. I told them to run around and play! But, honestly, I couldn't imagine going here in the heat of the summer.

There's the trail from the park. It splits and leads to a few different parks in Urbandale. Almost every park in the Des Moines area is connected by a trail system!

As part of the challenge, we're supposed to take our picture by the park sign. Unfortunately, we couldn't find one, so I took a picture of the park map with the kids playing in the background. Close enough! One park down, 31 to go!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Park Challenge: Visit 32 Parks in 90 Days!

Urbandale, a town just northwest of Des Moines, is challenging you to visit 32 parks in 90 days! To participate, you need to download their parks passport (details below) and take a picture of yourself or group in front of each park sign. Post and tag Urbandale Parks & Rec in each photo! There are specific guidelines for each social media type they accept (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) on their contest page. Everyone who completes the challenge wins a prize!

From their Facebook page:

Did you know that there are 48 public parks in Urbandale? Now that winter is over, it’s time to get outside and explore what Urbandale’s parks have to offer! Can you visit 32 Parks in 90 Days? We think you can! 

Complete your “Urbandale Parks Tour” and visit as many Urbandale Parks as possible. Stamp our Tour Passport by taking a photo at each park you visit. Those visiting the 32 Urbandale parks with playgrounds and completing their Tour Passport will receive prizes! Tour Passport can be downloaded here:

Contest Dates:
April 15 through July 15, 2016.


A Parks and Recreation Water Bottle & T-Shirt (for each person visiting at minimum 32 parks and submitting their Tour Passport photos.)

For more details on how to participate and download their parks passport (for official entry), visit the Urbandale Parks & Rec Facebook events page.