Monday, March 31, 2014

The kids water their garden

We're officially homeowners again! We closed on our house on Friday, and we quickly jumped into projects. Andrew's working on railings for the basement stairs, and I'm working on digging out a patio to extend the old one and planting a garden. So far, we planted a couple of early spring crops: snap peas and lettuce! I think the kids are very happy with all of the space in the house and yard, especially after our extended stay at the hotel.

Here are the munchkins watering the garden and climbing over the soon-to-be patio:


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jordan Creek Mall Play Area

My sister met us at the play area at Jordan Creek Mall last week. The play area is on the lower level, just outside of Scheel's, and it was jumping! There were probably two dozen kids running around this popular play place.

They had a great time playing, so I went back with Andrew last weekend. It was about as busy, but there was more of a mix of big kids there. Although the cut-off says 42", there were many school-aged kids running and jumping around. Our kids still had fun, but they were knocked down a lot.

There were lots of creatures and critters to climb on. Our kids like the elephant the best.

There's also a train to climb on and slide down, as well as a few bigger slides in the center.

Here's Oliver, climbing on and through the log!

Here's Jo on and in the boat!

I love how much fun the kids have here, but I think the play area at the Valley West Mall might be a little less chaotic. Plus, we've never seen the one at Valley West get overrun with older kids.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

South Karen Acres Park

It was another perfect almost-spring day on Friday. Temperatures reached 60, and there was a nice breeze. It's perfect park weather, so the kids and I set out to play at yet another local park! I looked for parks nearby on Google Maps and found one called South Karen Acres Park. It's just a little southeast of Walker-Johnston Park, where we'd played the day before.

This park is in the middle of a residential area, but it has some wide spaces for kids to run and play. There was also a little kid-sized basketball hoop, and there was a (currently empty) wading pool for the summer.

The playground was small, but the kids loved it. That is, they loved it until Oliver spotted...

...the ride-on, sand-digging crane!

That was when he went crazy for the park! We used to play with those all the time when we were kids, but I think they mostly disappeared when sand parks were replaced with wood chips and gravel. Oliver took to the crane immediately and dug and dug and dug.

Here's a video of him working so hard:

Jo just loves to be outside and play. She has no fear on the play equipment and was content to just keep climbing & sliding.

I had to keep telling her that this climbing wall was for going down and not up. She seriously kept trying to go off the edge there.


Digging in the sand:

There was also one of those merry-go-rounds that they used to have at parks when we were kids!

And, again, we spotted a trail running through the park. A few cyclists went by as we played. I checked the map. Apparently, this trail does a big U and can take you back to Walker-Johnston Park, where we played yesterday. About halfway along that trail is a main trail that you can follow south all the way into Des Moines and the parks there.

Photos of the kids playing with some trees and planting magic beans for a beanstalk:
I'm really looking forward to seeing these parks and trails when everything is green. Just a few more weeks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Walker/Johnston Park in Urbandale: The Park of Slides

It was another beautiful almost-spring day, so the kids and I went on a mission to try to find a park. I spotted Walker-Johnston Park on a map, but I couldn't find the playground on Google Earth. It must be brand new because it's there now! Parts of it were still under construction (but it was safe to play). The playground is next to the skate park.

Never in my life have I been to a park with so many slides! If you count the double slides as 2, there are seventeen slides at this playground! One is the steepest slide I've ever seen. Joanna had no fear and attempted to go down most of the slides. The tube ones were her favorite, even though she shot down so fast that she'd spin around and come out the bottom facing backwards!

Oliver, my ever-cautious child, was not interested in trying out the steepest or fastest slides. At first, he would only go on the smallest slides. Before we left, he worked his way up to some of the "medium slides."

Now here's the cool part about this park. It's not open yet, but there are two super-long slides that go from the playground down to the swing set. So, kids literally slide down the hill to swing :)

We walked down to the swing set. Oliver really dug the tire swing.

We went for a stroll across the bridge by the playground, which goes over North Walnut Creek. On the other side is a soccer field, which the kiddos enjoyed running across. Back the other way are baseball fields and tennis courts.

There were picnic tables under some trees, which would be a nice place to sit down in the summer.

By the bridge, we also spotted this trail, pictured below. Apparently, there's a way you can take it to another trail and follow it all the way south until it merges with the Bill Riley Trail, which we saw earlier this week from Greenwood/Ashworth Park. It's all connected. Pretty neat! According to Google Maps, it would take about 30 minutes to cycle from this park to Water Works Park and another 15 minutes to get to Gray's Lake.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A winter dinner at the Des Moines Botanical Garden with the Greater Des Moines Partnership

When Andrew was first interviewing for jobs in Des Moines, I sent my information to a group called the Greater Des Moines Partnership for a relocation packet. They sent me information on hundreds of miles of bike trails in central Iowa as well as things to do and places to eat in the city. I even got information on housing and apartments. 

Shortly before our move, I received an email about a free dinner they were hosting for people new to Des Moines at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. We signed up and went after Andrew got off of work on Wednesday. The group was mostly young, single professionals, but there were a couple of other families there as well. I'm guessing they served dinner from their new restaurant, but they didn't say. Andrew enjoyed the flavorful cheeses, Jo gobbled down the fresh fruit, Oliver loved the bread sticks, and I filled up on surprisingly good pizza & black olives. We socialized a bit and met some people. I connected with a mom who hosts her own blog called Two Kids and a Coupon with things to do and ways to save. I'm excited to check it out! 

Here was the set up for dinner:

We also enjoyed walking through the greenhouse at the gardens, where the dinner was held.

Oliver took this picture of Joanna:

Here's the family!

Crayons for the kids. Very thoughtful.

The botanical gardens wasn't huge, but, of course, it's winter time. The gardens limited pretty much to the greenhouse. In one of the booklets I received on things to do in Des Moines, it said the gardens is undergoing an outdoor expansion this year. I look forward to checking it out when the weather's warm! A woman who worked at the gardens also said they're doing a seed planting next week for kids. I can't find any specifics online, but they have a spring break activity for families marked for Thursday the 20th and Friday the 21st from 10am to 3pm. Adults are $5, kids are $4, and little ones 3 and under are free.


On the drive back, we drove along the river, and I spotted this Chinese pagoda. I did a quick search online and read that it's part of the Chinese Cultural Center's Asian Gardens. I bet it'll also be a beautiful place to walk through in just a couple months.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Greenwood & Ashworth Park

Monday, I took the kiddos to Greenwood & Ashworth Parks off of 45th & Grand. There are forests of oak trees and supposedly even rose gardens in there somewhere in the summer.

There's a playground near Bergman Academy that we attempted to play at. I missed the turn first and ended up at Ashworth Swimming Pool. I'll have to remember that discovery in the summer! There was a trail head near the pool for the Bill Riley Trail, which I guess winds down through Water Works Park, across the Raccoon River, and into Gray's Lake. The part I saw was paved, which made me think of bike riding. It's under two miles from one point to the other, so it might be really fun to do with the kids sometime soon! Soon being when they are riding bikes, I guess...

We only attempted to play at the park because it was soaked through from melting snow! It was the first warm day in a while. It was probably in the high-50s when we arrived and was mid-60s when we left. We played there for about 20 minutes and left soaked & muddy. Oliver wasn't very happy about all the water.

The kids cheered up when we left the playground equipment. They scavenged for acorns, and Oliver buried them to grow trees.

Jo liked the large oak leaves.

I love trees, especially oaks. I think I was the happiest of the three.

From there, we parked near the pond and hiked around there a bit.

Muddy face!

Oliver wanted me to help him get up on a small tree. I helped Jo, too, but she wasn't too sure about hanging out on a limb!

By the time we left, our feet and ankles were soaked. The kids had muddy knees, and Jo had a muddy butt. Oliver's face was dirty, too, and our hands were filthy. We definitely had a good time! We warmed up with a Starbucks afterwards, and I bet the baristas were wondering if we ever bathe.