des moines

The A-word by jen geigley

Yesterday, our son Bowie was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder/ASD. And today nothing is different, yet it sort of feels like everything has changed. It's just a word. The A-word. And it might be a tough word to say at first but I think we are just about to break through some doors, help Bowie in brand new ways and discover more about him. We are excited about the future. He's a fantastically cool, intelligent, fascinating boy and I am oh-so-proud to be his mom.

It's a tiny bit ironic that April is National Autism Awareness Month, because our family is feeling very aware. And that is what is pushing me to write this blog post. I'm an autism mom – technically only since yesterday – but really I've been one all along. And while my viewpoint on this might be super fresh, this is the story of the beginning of our journey. We don't feel the need to hide the results of Bowie's evaluation yesterday. We think it's better to share. It's not a scary thing, or a sad thing – it's our everyday. It's so many people's 'normal.' And we are ready to do more for him and learn more about him. Like our amazing doctor said yesterday "Autism is just a word, just a diagnosis but it doesn't change who Bowie is. He's a great kid ... he has a great name."

First off, I have to tell you that Bowie is my heart. If you know us or have seen us in person, you already know that he and I are stuck together with super glue. Pretty much all of the time. He is extremely cute and funny and sweeter than sugar. He spontaneously showers me with hugs. He will hold my face in his hands and smoosh his cheek into my face. He is very smart, caring and has memorization skills that will blow your (average) mind. He used to be very quiet but now has started chatting much more and honestly, he is a delight to be around. I love listening to what he has to say. And he has a lot to say.

Bowie was also a delightful, perfect little baby. He loved to be snuggled and was affectionate. He smiled and laughed. Did he look directly at us ... in the eyeballs? Not always. I remember him staring at the windows in our bedroom when he was nursing or when I'd rock him to sleep and I used to think he could see ghosts. I wasn't sure he could hear me sometimes. We sought out help for Bowie early on because he had a significant speech delay as a toddler. We weren't super worried though. He was doing well in so many other areas that it wasn't a huge concern at first. But by age two, he still hadn't said typical first words like 'mama' or 'dada' ... and I wasn't sure he ever would. Our pediatrician set up in-home speech therapy visits. And that really helped. He went from using baby sign language to developing a slowly growing vocabulary. Our sweet therapist was like a friend to me and at one point, I did muster up the courage ask her if she thought Bowie might have autism. She didn't really say yes or no, and maybe she couldn't. But she opened my eyes to things that we needed to see. Like Bowie's reclusiveness, which we thought was independence.

Once Bowie learned to say a few words, he was fantastic at being social and loved to say 'hi' and 'bye' to people. He would make eye contact ... for a brief second. He was very coordinated. But he flapped his hands. He loved to be held. But he spun in circles. He could sing the alphabet and count to 20. But he couldn't always hear us call his name. It was all very confusing even though I analyzed everything on a daily basis. A lot of the things he did or struggles he had looked like they could be caused by something else. And a lot of his strengths threw us off. Maybe spinning in circles and constantly jumping off the furniture was just him being a boy. Maybe his older sister talked a lot so he stayed quiet. Maybe he had speech apraxia. Maybe he had a cognitive delay that would work itself out by kindergarten. Maybe he was just super independent. Even some of our favorite therapists and our beloved pediatrician were uncertain. Maybe I was crazy for thinking it could be autism ... but I couldn't shake that feeling in my heart and in my head that it might be. All the pieces add up and make so much sense now in hindsight. Of course they do. But we didn't know. And that's okay.

And so we waited a bit. And things became more apparent during his first year of preschool. His wonderful teachers brought out the best in him and he's really done well in the classroom. We set up his IEP. We had conferences. We met with his amazing team of therapists and teachers at school. A whole team of professionals who are committed to our family and truly care about my child. And I could eventually see that they were kindly, softly, carefully nudging us toward getting an evaluation and a diagnosis.

There was a phrase I had heard them say when one of us would mention testing ... 'It wouldn't be a waste of time...'. And after I had heard three different teachers/therapists say that phrase, I finally understood. They were telling us to go. So we decided to get the ball rolling. We, like so many other families were referred by our pediatrician to a local child development center at our local children's hospital. And we were put on a very long waiting list for an autism evaluation last November. And had our appointment yesterday, April 4. And let me tell you, the waiting is the hardest part. It sucked. But it gave us a chance to accept the possibility of having a child with autism. It gave me time to get ready for it. To read about it. But no matter how prepared you think you are, the A-word can hit you like a ton of bricks.

But it can also open doors. We are embracing it. And now we can see (and feel) how fantastic it can be. I felt a literal wave of relief come over me yesterday after we left the doctor's office. I took a deep breath – inhaled, exhaled. And then took Bowie out for ice cream. Now that we have a diagnosis, we are eligible for the additional speech therapy that Bowie needs most. There are so many resources available and we are lucky to live in a city where we can access them easily. We have an outstanding doctor who will help us along the way. We have a plan now. We have answers to the questions we've had in our heads all of this time. We are excited and optimistic about Bowie's future. We have so much hope. He's healthy. He's okay. We're okay. We woke up this morning, the kids ate breakfast, and I took them to school. Just like always. Every little thing is gonna be alright.

knitXmidwest 2014 by jen geigley

Ah! I'm so sad that our wonderful weekend of knitting is over! Last weekend was the second annual knitXmidwest knitting and crochet retreat, held right here in Des Moines. I co-hosted alongside these wonderful ladies, Jessica and Erica of Hill Vintage & Knits. Here are some of my favorite photos from the weekend, taken by our talented pal Bethany Kohoutek.




It was so much fun, you guys. If you couldn't make it this year, definitely plan for it next November because this is truly a weekend you can't miss. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to knit and crochet with us! See you again next year. xo.

Wool and the Gang Workshop by jen geigley

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of hosting a Wool and the Gang Knitting Workshop right here in Des Moines. It was so much fun to hang out with friends who love knitting as much as I do. Here are a bunch of my favorite pics from our crafty afternoon.

Our headquarters was this amazing window-filled room at the Des Moines Social Club.

I threw together some fun snacks, neon yellow decorations and a playlist filled with music I had painstakingly picked out just for the occasion.

The workshop started off with a little talk/presentation. Because WATG is a pretty interesting company. And then we started the making.

Our project du jour was the Sansa Choker and Khaleesi Bracelet using WATG's Jersey Be Good yarn.

It was pretty fantastic. These gorgeous ladies are my gang. A huge thank you to everyone who came and made the afternoon extra rad. You girls are the very best. xo.

WATG Workshop! by jen geigley

Hey, knitting friends ... I'm hosting a WOOL AND THE GANG WORKSHOP! 

Right here in Des Moines.

Sunday, September 7 from 1-3 PM

Des Moines Social Club
900 Mulberry Street
Des Moines, IA 50309

We’re bringing the party to Des Moines, sisters. Come and hang out at the Des Moines Social Club and knit with the gang. Beginners and experienced knitters welcome! Ticket price includes Wool and the Gang Jersey Be Good yarn, 12 MM Rosewood knitting needles, pattern and clasps + tuition!

You will choose a Sansa + Khaleesi Choker and Bracelet Kit containing one or two cones of Jersey Be Good in your choice of colors at a discounted price. Plus, get 10% off all Wool and the Gang orders placed at the Workshop (not valid on sale items) - AND free shipping! Definitely take advantage of the free shipping – WATG only ships from the UK (which makes shipping charges $15 and up to the US) so this is a great way to save.


$40 for a one color Sansa + Khaleesi choker and bracelet kit (Regular Price $48.74 + shipping)

$50 for a two color Sansa + Khaleesi choker and bracelet kit (regular price $63.74 + shipping)


knitXmidwest! by jen geigley

We've been talking and planning for months, and our big weekend finally came! I spent Saturday and Sunday co-hosting Des Moines' own knitting retreat, knitXmidwest with my fantastic friends Erica and Jessica of Hill Vintage & Knits. It was crazy fun and for our first time putting together a knitting retreat, I think everything went pretty great. (Let me tell you all about it.)

Our crew of die-hard knitters took over this lovely lodge in Walnut Woods, just outside of Des Moines. The trees were gorgeous, the weather was fantastic and it proved to be the perfect place to cozy up with friends for two days of knitting.

Knitting friends traveled from Denver, Chicago, Omaha and surrounding Iowa cities to hang out with us. We had a wonderful group of fun people and it was pretty incredible.

 We covered the tables with vintage tablecloths, spray painted pumpkin gourds and ceramic cats.

We met new friends and hung out with old friends.

 We had show and tell.

And ate delicious food catered by Tacopocalypse

My sweet friend Robyn from She Makes Hats talked with us about her goal to knit and give away 10,000 hats in her lifetime. And I'm pretty sure everyone fell in love with her.

I made cupcakes that looked like balls of yarn with golf tee 'knitting needles' sticking out of them.

We did 'knitting' yoga to stretch out our backs, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.

Maggie Howe from Girl With a Sword talked to us about handspun yarn and fiber creations.

And our friend Diane Muse brought tons of fantastic yarn and craft-related designs that had been screenprinted on kitchen towels, t-shirts, aprons and tote bags.

But mostly, we did what knitters/crocheters do best. We hung out and made things. We admired projects that others were working on. We laughed. We thoroughly enjoyed the girl time.

And we had a photo booth.

 It was so much fun that we think we'll do it again. Hope to see you next year!

knitXmidwest! by jen geigley

Hey hey! I'm teaming up with my girls at Hill Vintage & Knits to host our first annual knitting retreat right here in Des Moines, knitXmidwest! And it's only two weeks away. So if you want to be there, you should sign up now. So I know how many cupcakes we'll need.

But really! There are a zillion reasons why you won't want to miss this.  For $25/day, you will enjoy:
  • Devastatingly good lunch catered by Tacopocalypse.
  • Lots of uninterrupted time to knit + crochet, perfect for finishing up that big project you've been wanting to work on.
  • Relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. Wear your hand-knits and your sweatpants. We don't care.
  • We'll be knitting and crocheting in the beautiful Walnut Woods Lodge. Have you seen the leaves changing colors this week? It's gonna be gorgeous out there.
  • T-shirts!
  • Photobooth. There will be a photobooth, people! (Or ...  Jess and I with cameras and a backdrop, but same difference.)
  • Fun times with friends.
  • Knitting and crochet show and tell. Show off the coolest things you've ever made! Bring your stuff. We want to see it.
  • Knit + crochet doctor. In case you need help with something.
  • Meet our speaker (and my friend) Robyn from SheMakesHats. She's writing a book about her mission to knit and give away 10,000 hats to 10,000 people in her lifetime.
  • Stashbust. Calling all hoarders: bring yarn that you want to trade/get ride of. Anything left over will be donated!
  • Yoga. Which will be easy (and optional.)
  • Mimosas! And cupcakes.
  • After-hours shopping and wine + dessert at Hill Vintage & Knits in the East Village.
  • Fantastically cool door prizes. 

You seriously won't want to miss this. Sign up here, right now. You can register for one day or the whole weekend. It's up to you.

I really hope to see you there!

summer art camp by jen geigley

We made a list of fun things to do on summer break, but now that school is almost here I feel like we're kind of running low on new ideas. So one hot and sunny morning this week, I packed Lo's backpack with pencils a blank sketchbook and didn't tell her where we were going. We drove to the sculpture park downtown in our beautiful city and drew pictures. Still life.

We talked a little bit about shape, texture, depth and perspective. (See my kid sitting under that tree?) ;)

 I wanted it to be fun so I just set her loose and let her pick what she wanted to draw.

 While Bowie and I strolled up and down the sidewalk.

She looked at this Keith Haring for a long time.

 And then decided to draw buildings.

And after she was done, it was really starting to get hot so we stopped for refreshments. It was a surprisingly fun day that I'll remember for a long time, and it didn't cost us a penny. (Well, except for the Starbucks.) I think we will do this again soon.