After Calie Herbst had her first son, she found herself scrambling to plan out a summer of fun activities in the Milwaukee area.
“It was taking forever to go around to all of the local websites and figure out what organization was offering what, when,” Herbst recalled. “I wanted us to have a fun summer, and I wasn’t finding anything.”
Not long after, Herbst, a 31-year-old Milwaukee native, made a decision to launch a local parenting blog in April of 2013. The blog, MiltownMoms.com, focuses specifically on keeping parents updated regarding family-friendly fun in the area and has since led to Herbst’s latest book project, “A Mom’s Guide to Milwaukee,” which has been self-published in 2015 and 2016 editions.
The book is an easy-to-use guide for those on the search for family focused events, trips and tours. Inside, Herbst covers a range of activities, from beaches to museums, cooking classes to story times, and includes exclusive local coupons to Palermo’s Pizza, the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center and First Stage Children’s Theater. Additionally, she added checklists where families can tick off the places that they’ve visited.
While the purpose of the book and her site are similar, Herbst’s goal with “A Mom’s Guide to Milwaukee” was to create another version of her website that would be useful to other families.
“It is just really rewarding to be able to help local moms and families to find fun things to do in the area, things that are already available for them,” Herbst said. “They don’t need to create anything new on their own, or be some amazing Pinterest-worthy mom. They can just use things that already are going on to entertain their families.”
Herbst is always searching for ways to keep her own family entertained, with the synagogue being one place that they can enjoy together. “I’ve been a member at Congregation Shalom since I was born,” said the Glendale resident. “Now that we’re raising a family in Milwaukee, we love that it has so many activities for the kids.”
Herbst acknowledged that compiling materials for both the site and the book has not been an easy task, yet she balances this work with her career as a Spanish teacher for the Milwaukee Public School system, along with her own family life.
“It was a lot of work, especially in the beginning, collecting and gathering all of the resources and information for moms,” Herbst said. “Now it’s something I can do to unwind when the kids are napping or going to bed.”
Pointing to the “Day Trips” chapter as one of her favorites, Herbst spoke about Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan, a free garden based entirely on children’s literature, as one possible destination for families venturing out in warm weather. The Mitchell Gallery of Flight, located in Mitchell International Airport, was also another favorite of Herbst’s. Both places are not as well-known as other locations, according to Herbst, but are within an hour’s drive or less of the city.
Reception for “A Mom’s Guide to Milwaukee” has been positive but also constructive. In the upcoming 2017 edition, Herbst has changed the book’s title to “Milwaukee with Kids” to widen her audience and bring dads, stepparents, grandparents and nannies into the fold of family fun.
“I think that having the title ‘Milwaukee with Kids’ is just much more inclusive to who the book is catering to,” Herbst said, adding, “I think that’s great that I got that feedback and I want to listen to it.”
Whether it’s her blog or upcoming editions of her book, Herbst emphasized that her goal is to help those caring for children have fun and keep busy. “This is really something where I’m doing it as much for other moms as I am for myself.”
Those wishing to purchase a copy of Herbst’s book can visit her site, MiltownMoms.com, or Amazon.com.
New parents who join the Shalom Baby program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation are eligible for a free copy of “A Mom’s Guide to Milwaukee.” The program is a chance for parents with a recent birth or adoption to attend monthly meet-up groups. For more information, contact Rabbi Hannah Greenstein, VP outreach, Israel and overseas, at 414-390-5764 or HannahG@MilwaukeeJewish.org.