City Bike Trails

Now that the chilly, gray winter is over, our family FINALLY! got out to ride our bikes on the south side trails in Cedar Rapids.  This day was extra special because all four of our kids were able to join us!  You see, our oldest boy turns 21 in a few weeks and will be moving on in the world.

Local Pour

Our first stop of the day was at the new restaurant at 302 3rd Ave SW called Local Pour Street Food. The poutine here is delicious! The corn dogs are literally a foot long, the gyros are fantastic, and everything is exactly what you would expect to find from a food truck. Ask them about their secret menu….

Next we rode over to Czech Village and caught the trail over to the Cedar River.

ConstructionConstruction is in progress to expand the Cedar Lake area.

Bridge

We were excited to see signs posted announcing a new pedestrian bridge that will be built in the near future to allow access across the river.  Check out Project Connect CR here to learn more about the “Sleeping Giant” that will be a magnificent addition to the riverfront.

Mt Trashmore

Mt. Trashmore rises in the distance…..

Critter

Critters on the trail going out to Tait Cummins Sports Complex.

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Photo Credit:  JR Lauritsen

All this riding made us thirsty.  Gotta stop at Kickstand for a Smith and Forge Cider at 203 14th Ave SE for the adults.  (Water and pop for the kiddos!)

After a quick stop at Quentin’s Bar and Grill at 450 1st St SW for some of the best wings in town, we ended our day at Blue 42 (629 Ellis Blvd NW) for burgers and pizza.  Seven hours later, we arrived home.  Tired, sore, and already planning our next outing.  Where should we go next?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Spring Reads 2018

The Living Clearly Method by Hilaria Baldwin

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  Hilaria tackles tough issues of active moms:  there just is not enough time in the day to do what we need to do!  Squeeze in some mini-yoga workouts when you can (she even does them while walking her kids…..with the stroller for balance!), make subtle changes to your diet, and make time for your family (she is married to super-busy actor Alec Baldwin, so their schedule is constantly changing).  Hilaria has great food tips in her book.  While she is vegan, and we are Paleo, I found I could easily adapt many of her recipes for our needs.  I have also noticed that since I started to pull out my yoga mat at home for a few stretches, or to listen to a few minutes of guided meditation, my kids are doing the same.  They pull out my yoga mat, and they listen to the apps on my phone, especially when they think I am not watching!

Little House Living:  The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life by Merissa Alink

I first picked up this book because Merissa had some allergy-friendly recipes that we could use in our house.  I was pleasantly surprised to find some great recipes to make our own body butter and body scrubs, avoiding some of the harsh ingredients in commercial brands that irritate our skin.  While we won’t be as frugal and self-sufficient as Merissa, we will definitely use several of her suggestions in our own home.

Camino Island by John Grisham

A great beachy read as you get ready for summer!  A group of thieves pull off one of the greatest heists in history as they steal priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University.  A former college professor turned author is presented with an opportunity to infiltrate a curious local bookstore scene on Camino Island in Florida, where her grandmother once lived.  Her adventures take us into an underground world of book trading, and smuggling of the manuscripts into Europe.  My favorite scene was the unveiling of how the manuscript got smuggled out of the country.  This is a suspenseful book, taking many twists and turns you don’t see coming.

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Elementary Students Send Veterans on Honor Flight

The compassionate students at Madison Elementary School carried out an amazing feat last week….raising money for our Veterans!  It all began with an idea inspired by one of the 5th grade teachers’ father.  She talked with her students, and a plan began to take shape.  They were going to donate money to send Veterans on the Honor Flight!

Veterans from several wars visited the school and shared their stories.  Alan Stekl, President of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, spoke to them about what the Honor Flight was, and where the recipients visit when they arrive in Washington, D.C.  The students brought in all their spare change to school for several weeks and placed it in a big bowl.

The students brought in pictures and stories of the Veterans in their families to build a Hall Of Fame.  They also created 200 cards for Mail Call, which Veterans will read on their way home from their visit to Washington, D.C.

Mail Call
Mail Call!
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Presenting mail to the Honor Flight Committee.

The 5th graders applied for a grant and won $250 to provide groceries and toiletries to homeless Veterans.  They secured some matching funds for the Honor Flight from MH Equipment and the Madison PTA.  When all was said and done, they had raised over $2000 to send 4 Veterans on the next Honor Flight!

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Providing the funds to the Honor Flight Committee and the Veterans in attendance.

These students have a big heart, and we are so proud they used their time and resources to say, “Thank you, Veterans, for your service”!

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

SaPaDaPaSo Sign

The SaPaDaPaSo Parade is an annual event by the Cedar Rapids Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Society.  Each year, the downtown streets are a sea filled with green, no matter the weather.

Skater Wearing Kilt
An Irish Skater in his flashy green kilt

The Irish Colleen is selected each year from a local girl of Irish descent.  This year’s Colleen is Jayden Faille.

Colleen

Some of our favorite parade entries:

Green Car
A classic green car.  “Old Guys Gone Wild” won 2nd Place for best vehicle entry.
Bar Camper
A bar on wheels…….
Hawkeye Tailgate
Hawkeye Tailgating with an Irish twist
Fire Truck
We love our firemen!  Thank you for your service!

Our absolute favorite entry, which won an honorable mention for the best Walking Entry, was “The Irish Strike Back”.

May The Irish Force Be With You
“May the Irish Force Be With You”

Irish Star Wars

The Irish Strike Back Gang

A Very Cherry Holiday and Old World Market

Cherry Building

The Cherry Building is a hidden gem in our community.  It is right next to the New Bo Market, yet so many people overlook it.  The building was built in the early 1900’s as a dairy equipment manufacturing plant.  Today it is home to many small businesses, art studios, and retail shops.  The first weekend in December is known as “A Very Cherry Holiday”, when the building is buzzing with fun, food, music, and laughter.

We toured the shops in the building during the event, spending several hours enjoying our time and speaking with various artists and business owners.  Enjoy some of the highlights of our visit!

Pottery

The Ceramics Center and Glass Studio was open for demos and for children to play with the clay.  I knew we had a great ceramics center there—I had no idea the glass studio was there as well!

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The Five Seasons Jazz Trio entertained us with beautiful music as we meandered through the building.

Elevator

A surprise awaited us as we rode the freight elevator!

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The Trolley between New Bo and Czech Village.

The Czech and New Bo Districts provided a free trolley for transportation between the two areas.  We rode the trolley to the Czech Village for the Old World Market experience.  Hay rack rides were available outside the Czech and Slovak Museum.  Inside the museum, a vendor market featured lovely Czech handiwork, Christmas wreaths, chocolate truffles, beer tastings from the Lion Bridge, and so much more.  Face painting was available free of charge for children.  We were delighted to see children in traditional Czech clothing performing and dancing!  There are so many more treasures that await when you visit the museum and library inside (more to come in a later post!).

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Horse rides outside the National Czech and Slovak Museum.
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Traditional Czech costume and dancing.

The Cherry Building is located at 329 10th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids.  The National Czech and Slovak Museum is located at 1400 Inspiration Pl. SW.  Current admission prices (as of 2017) are $10 General Admission; $9 Seniors; $5 Active Military; $5 Students; $3 Youth Ages 6-13; Children 5 and Under are Free.

From Prison to Ph.D.

Sole Book

Imagine growing up on the streets of Chicago.  Your future seems bleak.  Kids in your class have parents that just disappear.  Your father is addicted to heroin and just can’t get things together.  People you know, kids you know, are dying on a regular basis.  Your mama works hard to hold her family together so you can at least have a stable home.  But the lure of money, drugs, and a fast life is too much to resist and you find yourself sucked in anyway….

That was the life of Jason Sole.  He recently came to Mount Mercy University to share his story with others.  The kids in his school grew up with trauma after trauma.  I think this is a key piece that Jason has identified as to why kids in poverty and violent situations just become numb to the world outside them. 

 As a teenager, Jason was a great basketball player.  He was playing with some of the best coming out of Chicago.  One day after he returned home from basketball camp, he returned home to a very disappointed mother—she had found the drugs and money he stashed away.  Jason was sent to Waterloo, Iowa to live with his aunt and finish high-school.  Life in Iowa was still rough for him.  His aunt battled mental health issues and he still encountered racism.  He did graduate high school without failing a single class and his team made it to the state tournament.  But all he could think about was how he left his team back home in Chicago and they lost the city championship because he wasn’t there to help them.

 The lure of gang life was too hard for Jason to resist.  After high school he returned to the life in both Chicago and Minnesota.  Multiple arrests followed, and once he was shot in the leg–almost losing his leg. 

 Jason soon figured out that education was the only way out of his current situation.  He earned Bachelor and Masters degrees in Criminal Justice.  He is finishing up his doctorate in Public Safety Leadership.  He is now training criminal justice students and law enforcement officers around the country about gangs and how to handle the delicate situation most of these kids come from. 

Jason’s current project is teach his criminal justice classes, and give his speeches, wearing a hoodie.  His thought process is that if we can “Humanize” the person behind the hoodie, we can break the stereotype that a young black man in a hoodie is up to no good.  In reality, he is a person just like all the rest of us. 

Jason has written a book about his experiences called From Prison to Ph.D.  It is a great story about giving people a second chance and what they can accomplish.

 

Sole Signature
The message Jason signed in his book for my son, JT.

 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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Ah, summertime. Hot dogs, ice cream, and baseball!  You can get all 3 at Perfect Game Field when you watch the Kernels play!  Cedar Rapids is lucky to have a Class A baseball team in town.  Going to games to see the Kernels play is always a fun time.  The staff is so nice.  Silly games and entertainment keep people engaged between innings.  Many of the weekend games have a fireworks display afterwards.

If you’re not into the traditional hot dog fare, other food choices are grilled burgers, brats, chicken, philly cheesesteaks, and salads.  There is even a Mexican food vendor!

We have been to the Kernels games many times.  We’ve sat just about everywhere.  The Mezzanine Level is great when you have a big party such as a corporate event.  The kids love to sit on the side lawn and run around (that’s right—expend all that energy kiddos!  You’ll sleep better when we get home!).  Recently, I was lucky enough to win suite tickets from my employer ( a sweet deal, no pun intended).  That was quite the experience!  We rode the elevator up to the suites, and ours was right behind home plate.  Great View.  Opposing team hit a grand slam right away and it got everyone quite excited.  When the heat was too much, we could go inside and watch the game from the stools by the window as the TV’s broadcast what was happening.  Only thing missing was the recliner…

The Kernels are affiliated with the Minnesota Twins.  Now, this is a bit tough for me because I am such a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.  However, I love to see the players hone their skills and we get so excited when they move up to the next level.  The players have always been friendly guys.  My kids have been able to go on the field with the players at the beginning of the game and participate in activities with them.  Every summer the Kernels sponsor a reading program and when you finish, you get to meet the players and get their autographs at a special recognition event.  What a positive experience!

 The Kernels play at the Veteran’s Memorial Stadium complex at 950 Rockford Rd SW in Cedar Rapids.