Ashley Okland Star Playground – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ashley Okland Star Playground

5300 Indianola Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa

April 21, 2015

The Ashley Okland Star Playground is a park on the southeast side of Des Moines with equipment for all children. including those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Ashley Okland was a realtor that also did volunteer work with Variety before she was murdered in 2011. The park was created in her honor for the children she enjoyed working with and it is a park to be proud of. Goldy and I took four boys on this sunny but windy day and got four stellar reviews.

The playground is large and spread out with different and interesting equipment. It has a clean, rubberized surface, which I appreciate on muddy days like today. The kids can play with little concern of getting dirty. (You know this is not normally a concern of mine, but we have plans tonight!) There are also wide open grassy spaces and a lot of trees for us to check out another day. There is plenty of parking close to the playground and a bathroom up the hill. The women’s restroom smelled recently cleaned and looked tidy. This is a vast improvement over most area parks. There were even real toilets! I might be a little too excited about that, but have you ever tried to get a newly potty trained child to hover over an open hole? It’s frightening for everyone involved. There were two stalls but no changing station. (That’s what blankets on the grass are for, right?) If you want snacks or water bottles be sure to bring them with you. I packed a lunch and we stopped at a convenience store on the way. It’s not too far off of E. 14th, so there are plenty of places to stop, but I realize not everyone has a handy helper to wait in the car.

Here are some photos of Sharkboy, Little S and their play school friends enjoying Ashley Okland Star Playground. There is a lot more to see!

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We had a great time and I hope you do, too.


Sharkboy’s Potty Training Chronicles – I Drooled

Just a quick update.

Sharkboy: *frantic* Mama, I drooled. I drooled. I drooled. I drooled.

(This is the new thing repetition until I come up with the appropriate response. I have never heard him say drool before and I rarely say it, myself.)

Me: You drooled?

Sharkboy: I drooled.

Me: Are your teeth bothering you?

Sharkboy: No? I drooled?

Me: Like, out of your mouth?

Sharkboy: No.

(long pause)

Sharkboy: Out of my penis. On the floor. I drooled. Come see.

He walked over to a tiny spot on the floor and pointed. Sure enough.

Me: Did you pee?

Sharkboy: Yes. I peed. From my penis. On the floor.

You can’t laugh at kids when they are upset. Especially while potty training. So, I put a positive spin on it. He had been running around in his underwear playing and started to pee. But he realized he was peeing and stopped. He finished on the potty and got a sticker.

Sharkboy’s Potty Training Chronicles – Part 2 – Who Has A What

Today Sharkboy followed me to the bathroom so he could potty, too. We go this way a lot. I have to pee so he joins me and I nearly pee my pants while helping him get his down.

We have had a lot of talks about who is a girl and who is a boy because he had trouble with pronouns. Goldy is a she, Daddy is a he, etc.  We have never discussed the difference in our anatomy, though. It’s just never come up. Until today.

Me: Are you going to pee? You’ve been sitting there awhile.

Sharkboy: Yes. It’s in my peepee.

Me: You feel the urine in your penis? (I don’t care what he calls it but I like to use the correct terms sometimes so he knows what they are.)

SB: Yesss. There is pee in my peepee. Is there pee in your peepee?

Me: No, I’m done, see, I’m wiping.

SB: You don’t have any pee in your penis?

Me: I don’t have a penis.

His face went through a series of expressions from skepticism to confusion to concern in a matter of a few seconds. Meanwhile, I am pulling up my pants before he decides to check and washing my hands.

SB: Where is your penis?

Me: Girls don’t have penises. We have…

SB: Peepees?

Me: We have vaginas? Not really though. I mean we do, but we don’t pee with our vaginas. We have vulvas, I guess.

This is my best friend H-Bomb’s fault. I raised two perfectly healthy, self aware daughters using the term vagina to describe female genitals for potty training but all it took was one harmless, honest question to throw me off. She texted one night to ask me the correct term and I wasn’t quite sure. Obviously.

SB: Where is your penis.

Me: I don’t have a penis. I have a vulva.

SB: Noooo! Silly goose!

Me: No really. Boys have a penis and girls have a… I guess it’s a vulva. Or a vagina. It’s complicated.

SB: Where is your penis?

Me: I don’t have a penis, I’m a girl. You have a penis. Daddy has a penis. Brudder has a penis. You are all boys. (It was at this point I realized that even though he joins us in the bathroom sometimes he has never seen the difference between boys and girls. A penis is slightly more obvious than… whatever girls have. He used to watch me change his brother’s diaper but he has never really seen a naked girl. I mean, he’s two.)

SB: Brudder is a boy. He has a penis.

Me: Yes!

SB: You have a complicate.

Me: I have a what?

SB: You don’t have a volvo, you have a complicate.

And that, Naptime friends, is how Sharkboy discovered the real difference between boys and girls at the young age of two. Boys have a penis and girls are complicated.

Click here for Part One

The Toilet Learning Chronicals – Part One

Shortly after he turned 2 we bought my oldest son, Sharkboy, a potty chair and a seat for the big toilet. I know a lot of parents rush into the toilet learning process excited and eager to get started and tell everyone how amazing their kid is but I wanted to kind of wade in, like you would into a too cold pool and then maybe go back up and hang out on the beach for awhile, apply more sunscreen… pardon me, I’m daydreaming about summer a lot lately.

I sat him on the potty for a few minutes a few times a day. I don’t remember how long it took before he finally peed, but we did all the things I had done for his older sisters. We called Daddy at work and took a picture (of him on the potty, not his creation) and made a big production about how amazing he is. Apparantly he thought that was all there was to it, we had accomplished the big goal and now he didn’t have to sit there. Ever again. I have read 84,000 articles about not pushing your child to potty train so I used that as an excuse to quit for awhile. I didn’t sit him on the potty again until he asked and then he didn’t want to get up. It took about 15 minutes and a lot of “tuck your penis back in” but he did pee and in an unprecedented move on my part I offered a “potty treat” as a reward.

If you came here for potty training advice then you are probably realizing about now that you need to head back to Google and try again. I have no idea what I’m doing. Yes, I taught preschool, but only to older kids that were already (supposedly) trained. I have two teenage daughters, but honestly, they didn’t need trained. My oldest asked to sit on the “toyt” when she was 13 months old and she peed on it, too. I didn’t bother putting her in underwear until she was 2 and she almost never had an accident. It was almost as easy with her sister. I bought her cute panties and said, “don’t get these wet.”

(If you’re still here and you still want advice I will tell you this: Change your child often. Let them get used to being dry and liking the way a clean bottom feels.  That’s it. Four kids and a childcare career and my advice boils down to common sense.)

But I digress, we’re talking about Sharkboy and his obsession with chocolate. Potty treats made sitting on the potty a worthwhile adventure and when he discovered he could pretend his penis was a firehose we were in business. He now pees on the potty frequently throughout the day even though we ran out of potty treats months ago. He tells me he has to pee and then does so almost immediately. He can usually hold it for a minute or two if he has to wait. These seem like positive steps towards diaper freedom. We’ve had a few setbacks, like the time he pulled down his own pants and got started without me without mentioning his diaper was poopy or the day he dumped his pee on the floor instead of in the toilet… twice, but ya know, everything washes.

The thing is, the kid doesn’t want to wear underwear. We have underwear with diggers on it (his favorite), Finn McMissile, Yo Gabba Gabba, everything he loves, but he wants his diapers. In his defense, some of his diapers are pretty awesome. We use cloth so he has diapers with fire trucks and construction vehicles and even the plain ones are blue and green. This might be why I’m not in a hurry. It’s not costing me any extra money. The diapers are already paid for and I still have to do the baby’s diaper laundry so it’s not extra work, either.

I’m also not rushing because once he is in underwear full time we have a new obstacle when we go outside. Outside time is extremely important to me with 5 kids here. It is also complicated. I have two non-walking infants, two toddlers and a 4 year old. Just getting out the door is an excersize in creativity and safety procedures.  The four year old, Monster Princess (MP, lovingly named by her own mother, I’m not being mean) can hold it longer than a newly toilet learned two year old. Once Sharkboy is in underwear I will live in fear of the potty request. There is no quick way to transport 5 kids into the house so one can pee.

Sharkboy turned 2 and a half on Saturday so I had every intention of him toilet learning today. He was going to wear underwear and I would set the timer and he was going to stay dry and… right after his first morning pee he declared, “I can’t want underwear today.” That was that. I put on the diaper and scrapped the timer idea. He still stayed dry right up until nap when we couldn’t get his diaper off in time and he peed and pooped in it and then proceeded to put it in the wet bag before I could rinse it and then sprayed me with the diaper sprayer while I tried to retrieve it without anything gross happening. Between that and changing 5 poopy diapers before nap today I am not only ready to quit potty training, I’m considering just walking out of the house and heading to the bar down the street. (Disclaimer for the parents of children in my care, I’M KIDDING. I swear.)

I feel like we have come too far not to go all the way now. So, what’s the deal? Why am I still hanging out in the shallow end? One of us needs to dive in soon. What would YOU do? Leave me a comment and stay tuned for the next adventure in Sharkboy’s Toilet Learning Chronicle.

Macaroni For Dinner

I always say I don’t like to cook but that’s a lie. I enjoy cooking and I absoluely love it when I create something that my kids like eating. It’s cooking dinner on time either before or after a 45 minute commute with two young children hanging on the baby gate sobbing for food and attention and two teenagers needing papers signed and tape for a project and permission to log on to Facebook that makes me want to order Dominos every single day. And night. And do they have breakfast pizza?

Worse than cooking in a house full of kids, though, is cleaning up the mess made from cooking. So many dishes. Pots and pans and spatulas and serving spoons and plates and seriously, can’t you just eat with your fingers? We’re out of forks. At the end of the day you could eat off of my floor, not because it’s so clean but because there is enough food down there to create a meal. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up… eventually.

So, it’s easier just to say I don’t like cooking. It’s even easier to heat up some chicken nuggets, steam a bag of broccoli and cut up a banana and call it done. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and less than 10 minutes to clean up if you don’t count banana goo removal from the baby’s hair.

I’m at peace with this. When The Barkeep is home he really does enjoy cooking and I’m here to entertain the kids and field any questions about where to find paper or watching Mighty Machines. They’re getting a variety of different foods and I always cover all the food groups. Sure, better meals are being served somewhere but next door to them a parent is serving McDonald’s. I don’t consider myself above the McDonald’s mom, though, she probably has immaculate floors.

Some time after dinner is served and the teenagers are forced to load the dishwasher and I find the broom, I like to get back online and search the internet for advice on potty training and smart mouth teenagers. The internet is full of amazing advice and information and useful tips. You could spend days reading about just one topic, like potty training or healthy meal ideas. I like to pin these things to Pinterest so the next time I come home tipsy and don’t feel like sleeping yet I have something to read. The internet is also full of other moms looking for information and tips. We sometimes like to gather in communities, like message boards or Facebook groups.

A weird thing happens when people gather online. If you put a mostly polite and sensible group of mothers together in a real life situation there will be mostly polite and sensible conversation. There may be some passive aggressive cattiness or raised eyebrows, but it generally stays civil. Put that same group of women on an internet message board and suddenly you have the world’s most renowned expert on potty training and breast feeding, her sister Dr. Google and their BFF Snarky McSnarkbritches. If you have kids over 6 months old and you’ve spent any time online you have met them, sometimes entire groups of them.

I’m sure by now they have told you you are poisoning your precious child with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. That’s why I’m here, to set the record straight. My parents occaisionally served me macaroni and cheese throughout my childhood and I am still here to tell you about it. It was delicious and I survived. I also drank kool-aid and ate potato chips and *gasp* hot dogs. There are worse things you can feed your kids. My baby eats carpet fuzz and he’s made it all the way to 10 months old.

I plan to blog about a lot of different stuff, not just parenting and kids, but I wanted to start with a theme that is on my mind a lot. Mom shaming? The Mommy Wars? Call it what you want, I call it a bunch of insecure women trying to make other women just as insecure in some pointless attempt to bolster their own self esteem. You know what actually bolsters your self esteem? Helping. Try it.

Nap is over. I’m going to give the kids a special treat. Cake! Not only cake, but yesterday it was a boob cake. Mmm boobies. And that is as close as I’m ever going to get to talking about the breastfeeding debate.