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.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

DMPL's Harry Potter World Extravaganza!

For Christmas, Andrew gave Oliver a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I have to admit that I never could get into the books, but I think the movies and characters are kind of cute. Andrew's a big fan, though, and now Oliver is, too!

So, when I saw that the Des Moines Public Library was hosting a Harry Potter World Extravaganza, I knew we had to go! I sent Andrew the library announcement:

Attention Muggles! Celebrate the opening of the exhibit, "Harry Potter's World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine," at the library! Families can make wands, learn about owls and snakes from the Blank Park Zoo, learn about science and medicine from the Drake Chemistry Club and Drake University’s medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, participate in a scavenger hunt and more!

Andrew responded, "Uh, I am not a muggle, thanks." Thankfully, he's a trooper and came anyway.

The first thing we did after picking up Oliver's scavenger hunt checklist was meet some of the animals from the Blank Park Zoo. We saw an owl and a tarantula, and Jo was brave enough to touch a snake! The kids painted their new wands, and I, apparently, was holding them upside-down. I guess I'm the muggle in the family.

The kids enjoyed the Harry Potter photo booth:

The played an anatomy game using the skeleton of a cat with Drake pre-med students. Joanna correctly located the cat's skull, and Oliver correctly located the cat's spine! Then they played pin the scar on Harry Potter (Oliver rocked that game).

Oliver played the trivia game. He let them know that he's read the first book so far, and they asked him who was the villain in that book. Oliver said Voldemort and got a bookmark! Then we wandered over to a meeting room where Drake chemistry students did a few demonstrations, including burning fire in different colors.

The kids then ate cookies, and they each got a glass of "butterbeer" that they refused to try. We had a great time at the free event! And Oliver made sure to turn in his scavenger hunt sheet for a chance to win an illustrated copy of Harry Potter!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Kids Meet Curious George at the Des Moines Public Library

The library regularly has characters come visit for meet & greets with kids, like Clifford the Big, Red Dog. Today, they had the opportunity for kids to meet Curious George. Our kids were stoked. They went all out and drew pictures for Curious George (Jo later lost one of her drawings and refused to leave for the library without it).

I'd hurt my foot and couldn't go, but Andrew took the kids and said the kids were shy but thrilled! Oliver brought his well-loved monkey to show Curious George :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Minecraft Creepers & Minion Pudding for Valentine's Day (or "Friendship" Day)

Somehow, we're more than halfway through the school year. Oliver celebrated his 100th day at school last week, and now we're planning for Valentine's Day parties at school today & tomorrow.

Last year, I got to craft the valentines I liked best since the kids had no opinion on the matter (remember these?). This year, Oliver asked for Minecraft valentines. That sounds like a simple request, but, alas, stores don't seem to sell them. I appreciate a challenge, so I took to Pinterest to find an idea. This is what we came up with:

Andrew found some Creeper images online and adapted them so they could be printed and folded over a fun-sized Kit-Kat bar.

These are the tags I made (with a little help from Andrew). They aren't the greatest, but I don't pretend to be an expert at photoshop:

Then it was time for Jo's valentines. She loves Minions, and I'd seen some creative Minion ideas on Pinterest that involved making minions out of pudding cups. They looked cool, but I'm pretty busy these days and was spending enough time making those Minecraft valentines.

So, I decided just to get some simple store-bought valentines. Jo loves so many different cartoons and candies that it would be easy. Right? Seriously, that's easier said than done. The small grocery store by my house doesn't even sell children's valentines. I planned a trip to the bigger grocery store, but whatever they had was mostly gone when I finally got there last night (That's what I get for waiting until the last minute). I was looking for anything Jo would love: Frozen, Minions, Doc McStuffins, Peppa Pig, even Peg+Cat. Nope. The only things they had left were superheroes and My Little Pony.

What happened next is either serendipitous or just a flat-out lie for dramatic effect. I then stumbled into a sign from the mighty Valentine's Day gods (Cupid, I guess?). A big Price Chopper display of pudding snack packs: 99 cents for a 4-pack. So, I bought the stupid pudding to make minions. 

Now, my husband and I don't fight. We just don't. But after juggling the kids and going to ballet, finding time for school work, and prepping for the "Friendship Day" craft that I'd signed up to host at Jo's preschool, I now needed to run out to the craft store to buy supplies to make minions. Let's just say I was a little testy, and my children are going to grow up with issues related to Valentine's Day. But I got to Michael's, and I bought a package of googly eyes, a 70 cent sheet of silver paper, and some thin black tape to make some minions. (If you're reading this to actually do this craft yourself, make sure you also have a hot glue gun!)

I found something round in my house to trace 12 silver circles (one for each pudding) and cut those out. 

I stuck a piece of black tape around each, and then I hot-glued a googly eye onto a silver circle and glued that to the black band. Note that I accidentally bought glitter tape, and these minions are actually shedding glitter all over the table. I imagine they probably shed into the pudding as well, making these some sort of bio-hazard, I'm sure.

But they're cute, right? Maybe that was worth all the driving around. I kind of thought so. Andrew and I hugged and made-up, and I swore I'd buy store-bought valentines next year.

Then, this morning, I got to Jo's party. I swear to you, there was a table display of pudding robots set up by a parent of one of the students.

I called my husband and told him that these robots put my minions to shame. They have juice box bodies, lollipop arms, pudding heads, two googly eyes, and chocolate shoes & hair.

Bonus photo of Jo wearing the necklace she'd made at her friendship party. At least that went over well!

One kid gave the other kids a tub of Play-Doh. That was Jo's favorite (better than the Minion pudding, for sure). She made a robot out of it because the robot Valentine made such an impression on her.

Happy Friendship Day!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Swan Soirée

The Trumpeter Swan Society hosted a "swan soirée" at Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines today.  They promised hands-on activities, crafts, hot dogs, and presentations from the county. It sounded promising, so we had to go check it out!

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the woods are. We've been in Des Moines for almost two years now, and I never knew there was such a great state park this close to us. I made a mental note to check it out for camping later this year. Here's a link to more information on the park and campground.

When we arrived at the lodge, the parking lot was full. We continued on and found a spot in a tiny lot about a block down. We happened to park next to a man who was taking a trumpeter swan out of a crate. We got to meet and pet the swan! Notice its black beak.

We hiked the short distance to the lodge, which looked modern from the exterior. I was surprised (pleasantly so) on how "natural" and rustic it really was. There was an outdoor shelter attached with a fire burning in the outdoor fireplace (free firewood). Considering we were having an unseasonably warm day, about 50 degrees, it felt good to stand out there by the fire. Inside was packed! There were a few families there with kids, and the rest of the audience was older. We migrated to the craft table, where the kids got to create their own swans out of pipe cleaners, pine cones, and feathers.


I got to hear a little of the presentation on the trumpeter swans. The director of the Trumpeter Swan Society explained how our grandparents and great-grandparents never got to see a trumpeter swan because they were so close to extinction. 

In the United States, there were fewer than 70 left earlier in the 20th century. Thanks to an Alaskan population of trumpeter swans, there has been a huge effort to re-introduce the animals to more of their native habitat. Iowa is currently the only state that has had trumpeter swan sightings in all parts of the state. Here's a map from Wikipedia that shows their current range: 
After the kids finished their craft, we decided to take them outside to eat their hot dogs. I didn't expect them to sit through the presentations very well. They enjoyed the fire and the food, and then we hiked over to the nearby playground. My friend just so happened to be at the event, too, so we got to hang out while the kids ran around and played in the good weather.

The day's events didn't end there. A bald eagle flew overhead! Sorry for being a poor photographer, but I was actually so quick with my camera! This isn't the first time I got to see one in the area. When Jo and I were driving through Raccoon River Park one day, we saw bald eagles soaring over the water there.

In just a couple weeks, Des Moines Parks & Rec will be hosting "Bald Eagle Day." Attendees will have a chance to view bald eagles, and there will be activities for kids there as well. As long as the weather isn't bitterly cold, we plan on checking that event out, too. The details for that can be found on their Facebook event page here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pictures with Santa - 2015

I took the kids to the mall in their pajamas to get their picture with Santa! Oliver just hopped on up there and made himself comfortable. Jo was a little ticked when I told her she'd sit on Santa's lap for a picture. It seems she gets a little less upset with each passing year, though. 




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gingerbread House Decorating at DMPL

We love the library! It's such a great place to find fun and free events for the family. We pre-registered for a free gingerbread decorating event at the Franklin Avenue library! They had pre-assembled little gingerbread houses made from graham crackers, and each family got frosting and candy to decorate their homes. The kids had a great time, and I didn't even have to make a big mess at home! Easy-peasy. Thanks, DMPL!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Halloween on the Hill"

Here in Des Moines, trick-or-treating is done the day before Halloween on Beggar's Night. Kids go around, tell jokes, and get candy on the 30th! When we moved here last year, we did Beggar's Night and then looked for something to do on Halloween night. We read about a free event in Sherman Hill called "Halloween on the Hill."

Sherman Hill is the oldest neighborhood in Des Moines. People who live in the neighborhood opt to decorate their houses for this event, and some really go all out! There are also people dressed up as monsters who wander the streets.

You start out near Smokey Row at 19th & Crocker/Cottage Grove. They collect canned goods out front of the "Kathedral," or the international church, and, in exchange, they give drivers and walkers a map that marks the decorated houses, the monsters, and the Thriller dance that takes place every 15 minutes.

Here are the kids looking out at the "cemetery" where the zombies do the Thriller dance:

I took a video of some of it, but it's pretty dark. They did an amazing job, though! Oliver started dancing along as he watched.


We had a great time! We saw Frankenstein and his monster again this year. Last year, we got out of the car and got "scared" by Frankenstein. This year, we drove by slowly in the car with the windows rolled down, and he reached in at Oliver. It was so much fun! He was just a little scared, but later he said it was the best part. He's already making plans for his own Frankenstein costume to wear next year.

Here are a few other photos of the decorated houses:

We really love this event. I love that the neighbors put it on themselves and that it's free for us to enjoy. I think we'll be going for many years to come!