If you've been following along on our blog and social media pages, you may recall that last week was my 34th birthday. It's a day that has brought up mixed emotions for me ever since my Grandma Ada (Oma) left the earth in 2019. As I mark another trip around the sun, I do so without the person who still means so much to my family. Over the first three decades of my life, Oma gave the best hugs and birthday wishes -- often singing Happy Birthday on the phone or leaving a message if I was busy celebrating. Her love wasn't reserved just for special occasions. She saved every card, every handwritten note, every drawing, every newspaper clipping my name appeared in (and once I became a journalist that piled up), and every memory. She listened with her whole heart. She made me feel special. I miss her dearly, and I so wish she and my daughter could've met. Though, in a way I think they did. You'll have to ask me about my dream sometime. If everyone has someone this loving and supportive in their life, I'm convinced the world would be a better place.
Artwork that adorns our fireplace and dining room, the sunniest spot in our home. From left: drawings made by our nieces, a framed hummingbird painting by Brooklyn, WI watercolor artist Steve Wagner that I had gifted my grandma, and my favorite photo of Oma that I took at her house where we often saw cardinals and hummingbirds.
So, when the opportunity presented itself to set up the Playful Acorns pop-up play space for the first time inside a local eatery on the same day as my birthday (and when my daughter would be in daycare anyway), I figured it would help me stay busy and distracted from thinking about Oma. What I didn't realize is that every piece of that beautiful, sunny morning would remind me of her. The murals that included a cardinal (her favorite bird) and a hummingbird (my favorite bird); the smell of coffee down the hall and plentiful ice cream and candy; and most of all, the smiles and sounds of kids playing and adults talking.
The murals inside and outside our first pop-up play cafe location are a sweet addition.
Oma's house was our family's gathering place, where we talked, played simple games like Yahtzee and catch with the blue ball, enjoyed yummy food, and met before walking down to the park and playground. Everyone was welcome there, especially during nearby festivals, fireworks, and parades when her backyard turned into a parking lot and her driveway into an extension of the party. And while I can't perfectly recreate that atmosphere, it's my hope that these play cafes evoke a similar feeling: a welcoming space where you can relax and connect while your kids play.
I loved seeing kids playing together and their caregivers connecting over a cup of coffee at the first trial run of the Playful Acorns pop-up play cafe.
As much as I would love to roll out every offering all at once, I'm being intentional about who Playful Acorns chooses to partner with and where our pop-up play spaces and other programs are located. I want you to feel at home and have easy access to exploring the outdoors. That's why I'm so proud to announce our first collaboration with Crossroads Coffeehouse and The Creekside Scoop in Cross Plains!
If you've never been to these businesses before, they are both owned by an amazing human being (and mother) Katy Ripp and co-located in the same building at 2020 Main St, Cross Plains. When I started sharing my idea for a pop-up play cafe with my close friends, including my doula Denise Booth, business mentor Jamie Gale, and friend Katie Hensel, they all encouraged me to connect with Katy, and I'm so glad I did! Now I've also gotten to know Katy, Abby, and several other people who work at the coffee and ice cream shops a bit more, and everyone has been delightful. When you walk in, I hope you'll say hello! I'm so grateful that our paths have crossed.
I loved reading about the background of Crossroads, as well as the inspiration for Creekside, and I think you might, too! Crossroads just completed a beautiful expansion project, and their grand reopening is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Friday, September 15th. You can enjoy live music by Sam Lyons, sponsored by Lakeridge Bank, paninis and soup, beer, wine, coffee, cocktails & mocktails, and ice cream next door at The Creekside Scoop.
The main entrance to the building is accessible with a ramp. Plus, enjoy a patio and partially fenced yard out back.
Katy is graciously offering Playful Acorns the use of The Creekside Scoop on Monday mornings (and potentially afternoons if there's interest) when it's closed to the public. Check out the schedule and registering options! When you stop in, you'll be able to grab your coffee or other drinks and food at Crossroads Coffeehouse and then walk down the hall to enjoy them at The Creekside Scoop while the younger kids (approximately ages 0-2) check out the enclosed play space and older kids (ages 2-5 years old) enjoy putting together puzzles, coloring, magic painting, and playing games on the tables adjacent to the play space. If needed, across the hall you'll find a bubbler to refill water bottles and a diaper changing table in the restroom. And when everyone needs to get more wiggles out it's easy to head outside to the partially fenced yard and patio (called Esser Square), or take a walk to nearby parks, trails, playgrounds, and the local library. We'll have some printed maps and ideas for outdoor exploration. You could easily spend your whole morning exploring Cross Plains, and maybe even time a nap on the car ride home.
The Black Earth Creek runs through H.M. Zander Community Nature Park and along the Ice Age Trail just across the parking lot. Kids will love playing at the expansive playground at Glacial Valley Park just minutes away at 2119 Hillebrand Dr, Cross Plains. There's more to explore and read at Rosemary Garfoot Public Library, located at 2107 Julius St, Cross Plains next to a park.
After everyone departed the pop-up play space and I had a chance to decompress in my car and pump milk for Z, my eyes were leaky, too. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for the start to my day. My cup was filled. It was the best gift to be able to share my birthday with others and witness the joy they were experiencing. After picking up Z from daycare, we enjoyed playing together at our neighborhood park.
My copilot for the day while Z was at daycare was Sawyer the (Squishmallow) Squirrel. After packing up, we enjoyed listening to the new CD by The Okee Dokee Brothers, who we saw live at the Majestic the previous day for my early birthday celebration. Even though Z's birthday isn't for a few months, she certainly has been enjoying testing all of these acorn-themed games, puzzles, and stuffed animals generously gifted to us by cousin Mandi before they hit the play space. Thank you also to dear friends Julie and Cindy for the outdoor picnic blanket and baby play mat!
I'm always hesitant to make thank people by name in case I inadvertently leave someone out, and especially knowing that the list will continue to grow. I want to send a special thanks to my friends and family for their incredible support. This venture wouldn't be happening without all of you reading this, either! Thank you so much for helping to make my dream of connecting more kids and caregivers a reality!
It's my hope that these play cafes evoke a similar feeling: a welcoming space where you can relax and connect while your kids play.