Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Luke James
I came across local dad, Luke James on Instagram. I was instantly drawn to all the topics he posted about parenting. On top of that, I enjoyed following along about his crazy life being in an entire home full of girls! Learn more about Luke James and how he is striving to break the ‘highlight reel’ trend and be real.
Give us a little background of your family and personal life! How many kids do you have? Have you lived in Des Moines all your life?
My wife, Jena, and I moved to the Des Moines area in 2007 right out of college and ready to change the world! Or just find a job. We got married in 2008 and welcomed our first daughter, Sawyer Rose, in 2011. We brought her home to our 900 square foot Beaverdale bungalow, and then surprise … 16 months later, after a dry wedding reception (what are the odds right?!? We may have done a little tailgating? ☺) we welcomed baby girl #2, Presley Nicole, into the world. Mix in an 80 lb lab and we were at max capacity in our first home.
Moving out of Beaverdale was hard. We loved our neighborhood but needed more space. In 2015, we moved to West Des Moines and in 2016 welcomed baby girl #3, Austen Leigh! Shortly before Austen came the vasectomy! ☺ That’s right three girls and out! I live in a madhouse with 4 girls and 2 neutered dogs, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! We are a super active family and love spending time together. We are all very close, but very different. Sawyer is the girly girl, Presley the tomboy and Austen….well she’s Austen! Jena is the rock and me…well, I guess I’m the man of the house…haha maybe in my mind!
What is your business, and what do you do?
Madhouse Parents started as a way for Jena and me to share our journey through life raising three young kids. We wanted to share our story and share how flawed we are yet determined to raise little leaders, in hopes of inspiring other young parents to persevere through the struggles.
Everyone sees the ‘highlight reel’ we all post and see on social media. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been at the mall, library, farmers market or any other public place and thought “Wow, are we the only parents that don’t have it all together?” Look at that mom with the perfectly well-behaved kid. She’s showered, has on real clothes, makeup AND her child is walking calming beside her. While mine just stole a dollar from the homeless man’s cup playing the guitar on the street corner, pushed her sister over and doesn’t have her shoes (or underwear) on!”
This past summer we started a podcast as an avenue to share our stories and what we’re doing to raise young leaders. Children capable of doing what’s right and being held accountable for their actions, all the essential life skills that will help our children stand out in society. We share the successes and challenges; like when Sawyer and Presley were in soccer camp this past spring. During one of the sessions, the coaches led a game of Simon Says. When Presley’s turn came up she said “Simon says everyone run to the goal and back, which was a good 100 yards away! When it was Sawyer’s turn she said: “Simon says all the boys take off your shirts!” The look on the coach’s face was priceless. “No, no, everyone keeps your shirts on!”
Oh boy! The challenges of raising such different kids! For paid work, I manage an awesome sales team that covers North America for an agriculture company based in Ames, Ag Leader Technology.
Where is your favorite place to take your children to play indoors?
Valley Community Center. Jena and I are fairly active inside our church, Valley Church, and have spent a good deal of time at the Valley Community Center during the winter and summer months.
The community center is a great place for any parent, no matter if you belong to the church or not, to bring their kids to burn energy and interact with other parents. Jena has made good friends with the mom’s she’s met there and the staff is great! We highly encourage you to check it out. They have an indoor play center, kids classes, a café, gym, an inclusive outdoor playground that is accommodating to all kids and more; http://www.valleycommunitycenterdm.com/
Where is your favorite place to take your children to play outdoors?
We live outdoors during the summer, spring, fall and anytime during the Winter when we can. Jena and the girls spend a ton of time at the local parks; Knolls, Walker Johnson, Fairmeadows, Kiwanis, American Legion, and Wild Rose to name a few. My personal favorite thing to do with the girls is to hit up the local hiking trails; Browns Woods and Greenwood (awesome mountain biking trails too!).
Parent’s day/night out. Describe your perfect parent only day/night out in Des Moines.
Jena and I love going out to eat when Grandparents can watch the girls. Our go-to spot used to be Café di Scala, but we haven’t been since it reopened as Aposto (it’s on the list though).
Our current go to is dinner at Centro, you have to try the fried brussels sprouts, grilled cheese, pizza, and cavatelli! Dinner is usually followed by an after-dinner drink at a local brewery or pub. Anytime we can spend some one-on-one time together and reconnect is awesome! When the Grandparents aren’t available we’ll order Cool Basil and do a date night at home after the girls are in bed. This time together is essential to keeping our marriage strong. Make time for this!
What are some tips on juggling parenthood, working, and personal life?
It’s difficult and we struggle with keeping a balance just like everyone else. I believe it’s unrealistic to establish the status quo “work/life” balance that many claims to be the ultimate goal. If we’re passionate about our career and passionate about our family they’re going to bleed together and that’s okay. The key to juggling everything successfully is knowing when to turn one off and when to turn it back on; when to give complete attention and when not to.
When I get home from work each night the phone goes in the drawer (or at least that’s the goal☺) and my attention is devoted to my kids. That doesn’t mean that once the girls are in bed I don’t look at it or answer an important call that may come through, but when my phone is in the drawer the kids get all my attention. The same is true when I’m working on an important project. My phone is muted, I stay off of social media and give my complete attention to the task at hand. It’s when we’re distracted and one foot in that juggling parenthood, work, and personal life becomes a struggle.
What is your number one parenting tip?
Keep it simple. Simply spend time with your kids. Anytime can be quality time. Our kids aren’t looking for the “best” experience ever, they just want our attention. We don’t have to take our kids to Disney World every year or come home with new toys every week to win our kids over. Just give them attention, complete, undivided, attention. It’s easy to get distracted with everything occurring in our lives and I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to pulling my phone out and checking work emails at 6 pm when I should be playing with the girls. Put the phone away and be a kid with your kids.
We love our evenings of wrestling, playing tag, dodgeball, monkey in middle… The greatest impact we can have on our kids is through spending time with them. When we put other things before our kids, like my phone at 6 pm, those things become more important (in our kid’s eyes) than them. I believe the easiest way to boost our kid’s confidence and have an impact is by spending time with them.
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