FFS, People! Teach Kids to Share!

**This post has a lot of swearing in it. You have been warned.**

sadI was preparing an entirely different blog post with significantly less swearing, but that one will need to wait. All this week, I’ve been seeing the same ridiculous “article” being shared all over Facebook and lauded as good and true and the way we should be raising our kids. It’s this one, in which the author (Very Bloggy Beth, henceforth referred to as VBB) argues that we should not teach our kids to share because by doing so, we are enforcing the idea that  our children are “entitled” to anything they want and that they can “step all over people to get what they want.” I have read this “article” several times over, trying to glean even a semblance of common sense or veracity from it, and all I’ve gotten for my trouble was an eye sprain from rolling them so hard at the overly-entitled bullshit attitude presented. I’ve also gotten a severe case of the sadz from both the “article” and the egotistical congratulatory attitude of, “Yeah! No one should have to share!” that I’ve been seeing all over FB this week. Thus, even though I can’t believe I have to say this, I will say it: “For Fuck Sake, People! Teach Kids to Share!”

 

Share, Goddammit!

Share, Goddammit!

Before I go further, I will say that I do agree with the first scenario VBB presents. That child brought a toy from home to the playground and should not have been made to share it if he didn’t want to. Personally, I wouldn’t have allowed my kids to bring something into a public place where there are other children if they weren’t willing to share it, but that’s me. So whatever. As for the rest of the asshattery presented, OMFG. There is no way in hell I would have allowed my child to monopolize a communal toy other children were waiting to use, and I sure as shit would not have sat on the sidelines if my kid was unwilling to share. That bullshit doesn’t fly here. I usually never judge other parents, but I am going to judge the shit out of that. Way to teach your kid that no one matters but them! Excellent job, VBB, you’re parent of the year! *said Juliane sarcastically* I’m curious to know how VBB would have felt if the situation was reversed? Would she have been just hunky-dory, A-OKAY! with another child denying her special snowflake the opportunity to ride on that toy for an entire 90 minutes? That might as well be a year in a toddler’s mind. And if there really was another “almost identical” toy nearby, why couldn’t HER child have used that one instead? Or why couldn’t the two kids have taken turns on the identical items, trading off after every few minutes? To me, that whole situation smacks of pure selfishness and plain lazy-ass “parenting.”

VBB defends her fucked up view of life by giving the example that “you wouldn’t cut in line at the grocery store just because you don’t feel like waiting,” and that is true. But, as a woman in my parenting group pointed out, you also wouldn’t stay at the front of the check-out line all day and say, “Screw all these people behind me!” Instead, you’d do your thing and then you’d move on, and then the next person would take their turn. Hey, wait! That’s sounds an awful lot like…*gasp* SHARING! I sure hope VBB isn’t encouraging her most special child to wait in lines! <<eye roll>> <<holy shit, my left eyeball just rolled away!!>> <<Fuck! Hold on.>> <<Okay, eyeball reinserted.>> VBB also states that by not teaching sharing, our kids learn how to cope with disappointment. While I agree that children do need to learn how to deal with disappointment since life is full of it, that doesn’t give our own kids the right to purposefully CAUSE frustration and hurt feelings in others by acting like self-centered fuckwads. Nor should we, as parents, condone that type of behavior by our silence from the sidelines. That is NOT okay. As for VBB’s bullshit examples of sharing cell phones and sunglasses, those are personal property, not public equipment and thus are not applicable. And, anyway, who hasn’t loaned their cellphone to someone needing to make a quick call? Is that just me? Well, I guess it’s because *MY* mom taught me how to share and take turns.

sharing5

“Would you like some of this crap?” “Why, yes! Thank you, I would like some of that crap!”

Look, I get it. Parenting is hard. It’s so much easier to just let the kids do what they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want. And it’s certainly easier to sit your ass on the sidelines than to get in there and explain life to your kid or to be the one implementing a disappointment. But, when we don’t teach and enforce common courtesy towards others, THAT is when we are doing our kids a great disservice. Sharing itself is what teaches kids that we aren’t entitled to whatever we want for as long as we want it. Sharing also teaches kids the art of negotiation, empathy for others, and patience. It will also teach your special little snowflake how to deal with the disappointment of not getting exactly what you want exactly when you want it. Sharing is mostly a lesson for the person doing the sharing, not for the person on the receiving end of the sharing. Knowing how to share and take turns is an important life skill and kids are not born with it. The fact of the matter is that kids are born as selfish assholes. It’s really their defining characteristic. That means that it is doubly important that we grown-ups teach children how to be functional in society. To that end, how about we not teach kids that it’s okay to hoard something that’s for the entire group? How about we NOT teach little Jonnie and little Janie that they are the center of the universe and that the rest of us mere mortals just have to wait? How about instead, we DO teach our kids the joy and sense of fulfillment that can come from allowing someone else to go ahead of you in line, to take a turn with a coveted item, and to just be kind to others because that’s what people should do?

Look, I know people are going to raise their children in the manner they see fit and that, ultimately, this post only serves to vent my own feelings and make me feel a bit better about this shitty world. Some people are going to teach their kids the atrocious manners espoused by VBB. It makes me sad for your kids if you decide that MEMEMEMEMEMEMEME! attitude is right for your family. I can only hope you are in the extreme minority and that majority of us (I know I am) are still teaching our kids to share and to take turns. I suppose that only time will tell, but it seems to me that any delightfully self-centered egomaniacs will eventually be put in their place by their peers. I mean, think about when you were a kid…did you want to play with someone who didn’t know how to share and take turns? Did you want to play with someone who hogged all the good toys? I’m guessing not. To be clear, I’m not advocating that kids must share everything all the time, but I am saying that we DO need to teach our kids that we should share and we should teach them how to share. For example, in VBB’s second scenario, she could have said, “Hey, why don’t you, sweet fruit of my own loins, ride that toy for 5 minutes and your new friend can ride this on this one for 5 minutes, and then we could switch?” (OMG…compromise! negotiation! *clutches pearls* sharing!) Contrary to what VBB seems to think, those are skills most of us adults use daily. Guess what? We started practicing those skills at a young age on the playground. So, FFS, People! Teach Kids to Share!

sharing1

All’s Fair in Friends and Brothers

I have two handsome, highly energetic, and vivacious sons. Now ages 6 and 4 years old, M and R (respectively) have been inseparable ever since R made his appearance in February 2010. Born to the same gender and only 20 months apart, they have created a kind of built-in peer and friend environment within our home. It’s a boy-universe of trains, trucks, cars, and airplanes ruled by complex procedures, routines, and play that M and R both shift and navigate. A universe inhabited by them and them alone. Until recently.

Brudders.

Brudders.

Of my two sons, M is a bit more like me-a touch socially awkward and not exactly sure how to make new friends. He’s a witty and charming, but content to play by himself or with R most of the time. R takes after my husband socially; he’s the life of the party and seems to innately know how to connect with new people. These differences were never more evident to me than this past Saturday when we attended a birthday party for one of R’s best friends. It was the standard kid party fare-outdoor play, presents, piñata, cake. It was a great time; however, it was the first time M has seen his brother run around, play, and behave like a 4-year-old boy with other 4-year-old boys. While at the party, I could tell that M was discomfited with the situation. He repeatedly tried to enjoin R in familiar “at home play,” and although R did not ignore him, he was clearly more interested in running with his buddies and engaging in their familiar customs of pre-school chase and play. M did his best to insert himself into their routines, but it was to no avail. At the end of the party, as we said our good-byes and thank yous, M was clearly jealous as R hugged his buddy with reckless abandon and clear affection. It wasn’t until the day after the birthday party that M could hold back his upset no longer, confessing amid tears after a minor brotherly scuff-up that he thought R was “not my best friend anymore” and asking “why didn’t R play with me? I’m his friend!” I had no real answer for him.

*pause for a Mommy Sob*

I assured M that he and R would always be brothers and no friend could change that. I tried to tell him that R was just excited to see his school friends and that brotherly friendship is different from school friendship, but it was unfamiliar ground for me. My own sibling and I are, and always have been, estranged. My brother and I have too many years between us to have been close growing up, and after we both reached adulthood, there were just too many differences, too many real fights, and too much in the past to bridge our gap. Thus, I really don’t know much about how siblings should play. Or how they should bond. Or how a sibling relationship evolves as the siblings grow up and branch off to their own friends, their own interests, and their own lives. Are you supposed to grow apart? It doesn’t seem that way from what I observe of my IRL and FB friends and their siblings. But what do I know about this?

I spent most of Sunday thinking about the bond between M and R and wondering if this was the beginning of the next stage inaland hug their relationship: Brothers Who Have Separate Friends. How would I help them navigate this? It has always been my most sincere hope that my children remain close for their whole lives, but I can only encourage that, not control it. I was at a loss. As Sunday rolled into Monday, we went shopping for some home improvement items, one being a pull cord extension chain so the kids can turn their overhead lights on and off without affecting the ceiling fans. Apparently, such an item is only available in 1 foot or 12 foot lengths, which is so helpful (not). I purchased the 12-foot length and figured I would have extra if I needed it. After installing the required lengths in each room, there was about 6 feet of cord left. I set it on the dresser in M’s room, and went off to put away the sharp tools. When I returned to retrieve the cord, I stood in M’s doorway and watched he and R each wrap one end of the cord around their wrists until they were connected, wrist-to-wrist–a visible representation of their invisible bond. “This way we’ll always be friends!” R exclaimed, pointing at the chain. “And we’ll be brothers, too!” said M.

I hope so, boys. I hope so.

Number Sense

I have a terrible affliction!

I have a terrible affliction!

When my son started kindergarten last July, I put off telling his teachers my occupation. First, I didn’t want them thinking I was judging their every teaching decision, and second, I didn’t want them labeling M. You see, I have this thing. This terrible, terrible affliction and I didn’t want my child caught up in the vortex. In spite of my best efforts at hiding my occupation, though, word got around. M’s teachers found out, and my efforts to protect M were all for naught. The words I’d been dreading were uttered at his fall parent-teacher conference and again at the spring conference: “He’s above grade level in math. But, of course, you already knew that. You’re good at math!”

 

Yep. I’m good at math. It’s a terrible thing to be an American who is good at math. People assume so fuck this shitmuch about you, but the worst thing is that people assume you were born naturally good at math and that you didn’t have to work for your knowledge. That you didn’t spend hours and hours and hours trying to understand Calculus III or Abstract Algebra. That differentiation and integration came to you naturally. Geometry? No problem! I sprouted from the Geome-tree!  *sigh* And people also assume that because you’re good at math, your children will also be good at it.  *double sigh* I’m also good at reading and writing. Does that mean M doesn’t need to practice those skills? That he popped out of my womb reading War and Peace and soon after wrote a book report on the tome? *sigh and eye roll*

 

Georg Cantor 1845-1918

Georg Cantor
1845-1918

Certainly, just as some people have a natural inclination for drawing or for writing, there are those among us who DO trend more naturally toward mathematics. As far as math being passed down genetically, though, no known mathematical masterminds had children who also carried on their same love of mathematics (at least, none that I can find). For example, Carl Friedrich Gauss, sometimes considered the Prince of Mathematicians, had two sons and a daughter, none of whom ended up being mathematicians. Georg Cantor, who put forth the modern theory of infinite sets, had six children, but again, none of them took up the mathematical mantle. Other more famous mathematicians, such as Newton and Liebnitz, had no known children. Science has also shown that your genetic make-up has little to do with your mathematical abilities, and that any natural abilities you might possess must be enhanced by hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude. That might why those elements were included in the standards for mathematical practice in the Common Core. But, I digress.

 

The real problem, though, with people generally assuming that math genius-ness is passed to you from your parents is that those same people assume that no amount of hard work will propel them to understanding mathematical concepts. They put off the hard work of learning true mathematics and blame failures on a lack of inherent ability. Which is a crock of bullshit. The truth is that we all have an inherent number sense, or an idea of the quantity of people, animals, and stuff around us. We’re born with it. Having good number sense was essential for our distant ancestors, early man, who needed to use that number sense to determine if s/he was outnumbered in a situation and to answer the question, “Do I fight or do I fly?” Those with better number sense chose wisely and lived to pass on their genes. Although most of the people I know don’t have to number sensebattle wildlife for their food on a daily basis, you use that same number sense that helped our antecedents every day. You use it when you estimate how many cars are ahead of you in the line for the traffic light or to choose which check-out lane is shortest at the grocery store. You use it to estimate how many kids are at the park, how many boxes of cereal are left on a shelf, and whether or not you need to buy more goldfish crackers or if what left at the bottom of the box will last the week. And it’s that same number sense that allows your kids to accurately protest when you accidentally pour out too many Cheetos for kid #1, but not the same number for kid #2. That number sense is what we math teachers try to mold into mathematical prowess later on in life. It’s that number sense that this math-lovin’ momma is trying to capitalize on every day with my own kids. Frankly, THAT is why M is good at math…it really has nothing to do with my own abilities.

There are many simple activities you can work into your everyday routine to help your kids build their number sense. Doing these activities not only helps your own and your child’s number sense, it also helps your children see mathematics in a more positive light and it inherently tells them that math is important to you. Both of which have been shown to help children do better with math in school. Here are some every day math activities for the preschool/early elementary set that any parent or caregiver can do:

  1. Estimate & then Count Stuff! Guess how many crackers on a plate and then count them to see how close you are. Do the same thing with the number of steps from one point to another. Count how many minutes it takes to do something. Count how many signs you see while driving to school. Count money and count change. For older kids, count by twos, by threes, by fives, by tens. Count, count, count!
  2. Sort Stuff! Sort by shape, by color, by size. Then count how many of each. One of my favorite things to do is to give my m and mkids a fun-size bag of Skittles or M&M’s and have them sort by color. Then, we stack the candies by color to make a bar graph on the table.
  3. Name Shapes: There are so many shapes in the world. Start by pointing out common shapes like circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles. Once your child has mastered those, move on to more complicated shapes like trapezoids, rhombuses, and other polygons. Then start asking them to tell you the name of the shape you point out. “What shape is that?” and “How do you know?”
  4. Compare Stuff!: Which item is bigger? Which item is smaller? Which item is the biggest? Which item is lightest/heaviest? Who took more steps—you or me? How many more/less? Which number is bigger – 4 or 9? How do you know?
  5. Ask Math Facts: For my kindergartner, I randomly ask questions like, “If I had 7 trains and then two more came into the yard, how many trains would there be?” Or, “If you had 6 angry birds and your brother stole two of them, how many would you have left?”
  6. Introduce Fractions: Cut a sandwich in half (or have your child split an item). Show them that two halves make a single whole by putting the halves together like a puzzle. Or split a small bag of pretzels three ways. State that adding together all the thirds make a whole bag. And so on.
  7. Measure Stuff!: You don’t need a ruler, but that can help. Use a crayon, a pencil, your foot, a hand, etc., and start measuring the world around you.
  8. Read Maps: The next time you’re at the mall, or an amusement park, or anyplace that offers a map of the grounds, homer simpsonread it with your child. Point out (on the map) where you are and where you need to be. Estimate how far away you are from your destination. Which path should you take? Point out the symbols and the legend. Help your child decipher the code.
  9. Do Puzzles: Puzzles promote logical thinking, extrapolation from the whole, are a form of map reading and color sorting, and are just plain fun!
  10. Read Books about Math: There are many kids’ storybooks about math. My personal favorite is relatively new: 1 + 1 = 5? But, I also like: G is for Google, How Much is a Million?, Whole-y Cow: Fractions are Fun!, Bedtime Math, Mice Mischief, and How Many? How Much?

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter if your child answers your questions correctly or if you don’t know how to respond to some of the unique answers your child will inevitably give you. What matters is that you are practicing math with your child and you are giving them a glimpse into the everyday mathematical world of an adult. Just as you read stories to your kids and that helps with their early literacy skills, these activities will help with your child’s mathematical literacy. Then you, too, can be told that your child’s mathematical prowess stems from your own abilities. :)

So, the next time you catch yourself blaming a lack of mathematical ability on your genes (or thinking that someone’s math abilities came to them naturally), stop right there. Not only are you wrong, but you’re also setting a bad example for your kids and others around you. I can’t tell you the number of times students have stated that their problems in math are okay because, “…my mom/dad isn’t good at math either.” As if genes had anything to do with it. You ARE good at math. You were born good at it. We all need to start acting like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Living: An Ongoing Journey

1997? The delights of the 19 year old metabolism!

1997. The delights of the 19 year old metabolism!

It seems that I have always had a complicated relationship with my weight and my body in general. I was a bit of a pudgy child who turned into an overweight teenager. After I graduated high school, I did drop about 50 pounds over a 6 month period (oh, the delights of a 19 year old metabolism!), and I managed to keep it off for a while. But then, well, life interfered–I started a new relationship, I moved, I got engaged, I moved again, I got married, I moved again, I traveled, I moved again, and then I moved again, I traveled some more, I graduated college, I had two kids, I got a new (real) job, I started grad school, I got an assistantship, I quit grad school, and then I got back with my old (real) job. Yeah, that pretty much covers it. During all that time, I was always either starting a diet, on a diet, or coming off a diet, yo-yoing back and forth between 140 pounds and 170+ pounds.  I also alternately hated and did not hate my body. When I was close to the magical 140-pound number, my body was spectacular and wonderful. I looked younger. I fit into more trendy clothing. I received more attention and life was just generally easier when thin. But, the further north my weight climbed from 140, the more my body was the enemy; something to be battled and triumphed over. During those times, my body was nothing more than a shell that needed to be beaten into an acceptable shape by any means necessary–because doesn’t society determines a woman’s worth by how skinny/pretty she is?

It was so freaking hot that day!

July 2013. It was so freaking hot that day!

Regardless of the larger societal issues with which I am still struggling, that brief history brings us up to July 2013, when my family and I took a mini-vacation to Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun. At that time, I was in my “off diet” phase of life. Honestly, I’d been “off diet” since prior to the birth of my youngest son in 2010. The trip itself was great; the kids met Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, they rode new rides, played at the waterpark, and most important to this blog post, we took lots of photos and videos. When we got back, I was sorting through the digital files and deciding what to share. Up until this point, I had become a master at hiding my “off diet” body in still photos by strategically placing my youngest in front of me, or in my lap, and then peeking out from behind him. But, there was one waterpark video where I didn’t know my husband was filming. I was coming down a kiddie waterslide behind my son and in the video I was having fun, but

April 2013. You totally can't see how huge I am. Hooray children!

April 2013. You totally can’t see how huge I am. Hooray children!

watching the video, I just horrified at the state of my body. I was not only fat, but also just clearly flabby and unhealthy-looking. I looked old. And fat. I could not deny it—I was a fat mom. At this point, I am sorry to say that I deleted the video just as fast as I could, but I do still have this gem, which gives you an idea of my body state 10-ish months ago. Watching that video was a real wake-up call. I didn’t want to be a fat mom…a mom who had clearly let herself get so very unhealthy after having kids. After all, my “baby” was 3.5 years old at the time, sleeping through the night, potty trained, and just about to go off to preschool; thus, I really didn’t have any excuse not to be taking better care of myself.  I didn’t feel fat or old inside, but if I’m truthful with myself, I DID feel unhealthy. I wanted to feel healthy. I decided to take control and go “on diet.” Again. For what felt like the 100th time.

food

Yummy new foods!

Of course, deciding to take control and become healthier is always the easy part. Actually taking control, getting healthy and staying that way, well, that’s the not easy part. Unlike times in the past when I have been “on diet” and lost weight, this time felt different. I felt different. I wanted this go-round on the diet wheel to be more than a diet; I wanted a permanent lifestyle change. I wanted to feel better and not just look better. I really didn’t want to be on some fad diet or magic bullshit Dr. Oz weight loss quacky-mcquack-quack pill. I knew there was no way I was going paleo (yeah, let’s eat like people did when they died at the ripe old age of 20! sounds great!), or giving up refined sugar and carbs (I’ll cut a bitch who tries to take away all my sugar), or going on a gluten-free diet (mmmmm….cardboard!), or slathering everything in some kind of disgusting powder (have you seen this shit? WTF is it?). I wanted to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. ALL food. I wanted to stop the on-and-off-again diet cycle. I wanted to learn how to be a healthy mom who eats well and exercises regularly to show the kiddos how to live a healthy lifestyle. There’s really only one way to do that–I started eating better. More veggies. More fruit. Less chocolate. More lean proteins. Fewer crackers. I began drinking more water; a friend recommended drinking half of my body weight in ounces of water. That meant drinking 90 ounces of water every single day. It is difficult, but it’s doable. I also downloaded the Loseit app, a calorie-counter that automatically calculates your needed intake based on your gender, age, and current weight, and I began tracking what I ate. Slowly, very, very slowly, my body began to change from unhealthy and icky to healthy.

run crop

It’s always so fucking hot during August in Iowa.

After about a month of Loseit and drinking more water in a day than I ever thought possible, I was down almost 10 pounds. I was thinking about the food I was eating and how eating that food made me feel, both physically and emotionally. It was interesting. I am definitely an emotional eater-when things get rough, I eat. But, eating when you’re upset doesn’t soothe the pain away. Emotional eating just makes you feel guilty for impulsively eating crap food you know you shouldn’t eat. So, instead of eating away pain, I decided to take up exercise. I don’t live too far from one of our city’s biking/running paths, so I took up running. It sucked. I have seasonal allergies and I hate the heat and humidity of an Iowa August. In fact, to be honest, I hate running.  I only kind-of-sort-of like the idea of getting ready to go for a run and most definitely like being  done with a run. But the run itself? Nope– that’s fucking torture. Regardless, running was/is a relatively cheap exercise that I could do almost every day. To keep my motivation, I signed up for a 5K and printed out a free training plan.  It wasn’t terrible. In fact, I did have some fun both

October 5, 2013. First 5k...Color Me Rad.

October 5, 2013. First 5k…Color Me Rad.

training for and running in the 5K. After that, I trained for a 10K, which I finished in March 2014. I have plans for running two 5Ks later this month and another in July. I think I might like to try a half marathon sometime next year, but my knees have been rather tender lately, so I’ve been taking it easy. At this point, 10-ish months into my life overhaul, I’ve lost almost 28 pounds and I’ve run close to 400 miles. My single mile time has decreased from over 18 minutes for a mile to 10:20 per mile, and I can maintain that new pace for almost 6 miles. I have about 10 more pounds to go to make it to my healthy weight, and I’d like to run another 400 miles, as well as drop my single mile time below 10 minutes per mile, before the end of this calendar year.

It's SOOOOOO easy!

It’s SOOOOOO easy!

Of course, the description above makes getting healthy and losing weight sound simple. I ate better! I tracked what I ate! I ruminated about food! I drank lots of water! I exercised! BING BANG BOOM—HEALTH & WEIGHT LOSS, BABY! It’s so easy…why doesn’t everyone do it? HA! HAHAHAHA! I think we all know and understand that being healthy and losing weight isn’t that simple. It’s not as straightforward as my previous paragraphs make it sound. Weight loss itself is a numbers game (creating a 3,500 calorie deficit will create a 1 pound weight loss), but it’s so much more than that, too. It’s willpower and sweat and frustration. It’s plateaus and triumphs. It’s eating carrots when what you really want is Cheetos. It’s being gentle with yourself when you eat the Cheetos instead of the carrots. It’s allowing yourself to eat the Cheetos without guilt because you have XXXX number of calories you can spend any way you want to every day (I really love Cheetos). It’s going to the gym instead of laying on the couch and watching another Futurama rerun. Once you get off the couch and into the gym, it’s running another quarter-mile at 6.2 mph on the treadmill instead of cranking it down to 3.0 mph or quitting. It’s all these things and more. It’s hard.  It’s so so so so very hard. But it’s worth it.

Compulsory comparison collage.

Compulsory comparison collage.

Ultimately, weight lost and health gained is a difficult journey and it never really ends. I think that for long-term health and maintaining any weight loss, you have to look at your novel eating and exercising habits as the new normal in your life rather than something you’re doing on a temporary basis to achieve an end goal. Personally, I’m approaching my desired weight, but I don’t plan on doing anything differently once I finally get there. And when I do arrive at the magical 145 pounds, I’ll still need to continue eating healthy and exercising. After all, it’s not like we arrive at our goal weight and then stay there if we revert back to the lifestyle that made us unhealthy in the first place. Plus, I’m still an emotional eater and I probably always will be. Over the past 10-ish months, I’ve learned a lot about healthy eating, exercise, and my food relationships. I’ve also learned to appreciate and accept myself and my body.  I no longer see my body as something that I have to beat into submission by any means possible, but rather a vessel that will change as I age. And the health of my body is what matters; no matter the number on the scale.

This doesn't matter.

This doesn’t matter.

Long Live

DesMoinesSkyline2

Downtown Des Moines, Iowa

I live in Iowa…flyover country to most people, but I love it. I love to see the change of seasons (although, after this last winter, I am none too anxious to see that particular season come around again). I live in the capital city, which means that we have access to both our traditional agricultural roots and city living benefits including Broadway shows, outdoor summer concerts, theater, art festivals, kids fest, and the like. We have a children’s zoo, a science center, a spectacular art museum, and a sculpture park. The people who live here are generally friendly, real estate is affordable, and pre-K through grade 16 education is important. More specifically than my general love of my state, I love the geographical location of my house within the state. I am 20 minutes away from three major shopping centers, 2 blocks from a grocery store, less than 2 miles from a SuperTarget, 3 blocks from the elementary school my children attend, and less than 1 block away from the entrance to a major city bike path/jogging trail.  Best of all, it is 20 minute drive from our front door to the front gate of this. Adventureland – a relatively small family-owned theme park plopped down in the middle of Altoona, Iowa. This is the subject of today’s post. This piece of magnificence opens for the 2014 season today (in fact, I’m probably there right now as you read this-thanks WordPress post scheduler!). Adventureland’s opening heralds the true beginning of spring and the slow crescendo to the hot, humid Iowa summer.

A view from the bottom of the ferris wheel.

A view from the bottom of the ferris wheel.

Although Adventureland Park was well established as one of the summer activities by the time I was old enough to enjoy it, I can’t remember one occasion of actually being in this park until I was a teenager. When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I used to see commercials for Adventureland on TV and I wanted to go. Of course I did…who wouldn’t? Many of my friends were able to go at least once during each summer season, but not me. Although, this is before they put in the best part of their resort – the waterpark – so I guess it’s okay. Plus, it’s water (park) under the (train) bridge now. Due to the distinct lack of Adventureland in my childhood, when my own kidlets got to an age where I thought they might enjoy a trip there, I talked my husband into season passes (seriously, you can buy season passes to the place for $100 per person. For the entire season. That price includes both the rides and the waterpark and free parking). Our first summer of Adventureland was in 2012. On that first visit to the park, my then 3-year-old somehow thought the most visible ride as you walk up to the park gate, a huge and scary ferris wheel, was the only ride in the park. Between the time we got out of the car and made it up to the entrance, he convinced himself that I was going to make him ride said ferris wheel, and well, he threw up in the grass. It was not an auspicious start, but I can’t blame him. Hell, if someone tried to make me ride that fucking ferris wheel, I’d throw up in the grass, too! I don’t like ferris wheels.

Regardless of my dislike of ferris wheels and big M throwing up at the idea of riding one on that first visit in 2012, once we

Skee-ball time! It's still just $0.25 per game...can you believe it?

Skee-ball time! It’s still just $0.25 per game…can you believe it?

got inside the gates the kids were ecstatic. Moreover, they were totally hooked on the place. Adventureland boasts a multitude of rides for the preschool/kindergarten crowd…a carousel, a tiny Ladybugs roller coaster, a kid-sized ferris wheel (I won’t ride that one, either), kiddie kars, a frog hopper, a semi-truck convoy ride, and airplanes that “fly” in a circle just to name a few. There are also big rides for the grownups, shopping, bingo, 2 halls of arcade games, more traditional fair-type games (skee-ball!), a circus, a variety of magic shows that run 4 or 5 times each day, and, of course, the waterpark (which opens on Memorial Day weekend!!!). The great part of having season passes is that we don’t feel obligated to do ALL the things every time we go. Our proximity to the park and the freedom of time we have in the summer means that we can pop over for an hour or two in the evening or on a random weekday morning. During that time, we enjoy a ride or two, a nice summer stroll, a couple of rounds of $0.25 skeeball or Whack-a-Mole, a box of popcorn, which is a must for our youngest, and then we head home. Not everyone has this luxury. We are grateful that we do.

More than what the park has to offer as far as rides, games, popcorn, and other things to do on a warm and lazy summer day; however, Adventureland represents family bonding time. Right now, our boys are 4 and (almost) 6 years old. They enjoy doing stuff with Mom and Dad…soon to be known as boring parental units. Right now, they like to have us ride on the carousel horse beside theirs. They like us to snuggle them in the seat on the crazy spinning Lady Luck and they like to cuddle with one of us while the sky chairs move us from one side of the park to the other. The boys scream in mock terror when we suggest that they join one of us on a big ride for which we know they aren’t ready. They still accept our advice on the proper way to hold/throw a skeeball, and both of them insist I squeeze onto the train bench with them instead of sitting with their dad in the seat behind. This will not always be the case. Soon enough, my Adventureland summers will involve dropping off a gang of my boys and their rowdy friends with money in their pockets and an appointed meeting time. The adults and the teenagers will go their separate ways. My husband I will probably count it as lucky if we happen to cross paths with them while they go one in one direction and we go another in the park, and when we meet at the appointed time, the kids will regale us with the story of their afternoon exploits. I will be sad that they didn’t deem us cool enough to tag along with them. That day is coming; I can feel it. But not this year. This year, today, the 2014 Adventureland Park season begins. The slow build to summer starts today….Long live the sun baking the blacktop in front of the Galleon. Long live the smell of the popcorn and the funnel cakes. Long live the carousel music jingling sweetly along the main street. Long live the roar of the thrill rides and the screams of the passengers. Long live the delighted giggles of little ones on the Ladybugs roller coaster for the first time. Long live the shout of joy when my kid wins one of the fair games. Long live the cool splash of the waterpark at the fever pitch of July. Long live sunscreen and sore muscles. Long live two little brothers excitedly laughing and dancing down the cracked walkway in front of the Balloon Chase ride. Long live childhood. Long live summer.

Happy Easter!

Hello All…I took the week off to prepare for and celebrate Easter, but I’ll be back next week with a regular post. In the meantime, enjoy some of my Easter photos and this cool 3 minute video from The History Channel on the origins of the holiday. Have a great day! :)

 

Gwynnie Bee & Self-Image

**This is a self-reflective piece about body-image, juxtaposing models of average-ish weight against the wafer-thin models we normally see. Both types of models are lovely and needed. This is an exploration of my own thoughts on the issue.**

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “fashions” being foisted upon the unsuspecting public. Although I did not address the issue in the last week’s blog post, I have continued my quest to find something cute, wearable, and reasonably priced in my new sizes. After being so thoroughly disappointed in every store in my city, I began searching the internet for a viable clothing alternative. I came across Gwynnie Bee, which is apparently the Netflix of clothing. Like Netflix, at Gwynnie Bee you pay a monthly fee, create a list of desired items, and, based on the plan you chose, the company sends you a certain number of clothing items at a time. You wear them and when you decide you’re done with the items, you send them back in a pre-paid envelope, and then the company sends you the next items on your list. The website even has the measurement charts for all the manufacturers they carry, thus minimizing the vanity sizing issues. So, to recap…clothing delivered to your door for a monthly fee and you can send back and get new items an unlimited number of times each month. Sounds great! How much? And what do they have? I went to the Gwynnie Bee website, clicked on the “Fresh Looks” menu tab, and started perusing the clothing items (which were no uglier and sometimes less ugly than what’s in stores now), but I couldn’t help but notice something…the models on that website are…FAT. Fat by typical modeling industry standards, anyway. Why are there fat models on a clothing site? I investigated more closely and saw that Gwynnie Bee caters to women’s clothing sizes from 10-32. Well, okay, so the company offers fashions to women who are usually ignored by clothing brands. But why are there fat models who are showing off the clothing? Don’t wafer-thin models schlep all the clothing sizes? And, wait, are the models on this site really fat or do they simply depict a more realistic picture of an average woman? These models are curvy and pretty, wearing nice clothes, and they all have hair and skin that I’m extremely jealous of. Why am I so distracted by their body types?

I first visited Gwynnie Bee’s website about 2 weeks ago. Since then I’ve been popping over to the site daily and I’ve random modelbeen thinking a lot about why I’m bothered by larger models showing how clothing made for larger women will fit said larger women. I don’t quite understand why my brain is stuck on this. Is it simply because I’m so used to seeing the standard, highly-photoshopped, blend-into-the-background young, pretty, skinny, perfectly toned model that when I’m confronted with a more middle-of-the-road body type I can’t deal? Has my brain been so warped by the photographic imagery of women (and men, too) that we see in the media every day? A few weeks ago, I would have said no, but clearly, my questioning of the models on the Gwynnie Bee website show that I’ve been deeply affected by how the media depicts women and what body characteristics give a woman “beauty.” Are the women modeling for Gwynnie Bee not beautiful (of course they are)? I wear usually wear a size 10 or a size 12 depending on the clothing manufacturer…sizes offered by Gwynnie Bee. Am I not beautiful (of course I am)? Am I more beautiful now than I was when I was 25 pounds heavier?

 

In which photo am I most beautiful? That depends on whose standards you use.

In which photo am I most beautiful? That depends on whose standards you use.

While I’ve never really consciously thought about the social norms of body types, I’ve struggled with my both my self-image and weight my entire life. When I was a young woman in my 20’s, I never really thought of myself as beautiful—I was overweight, freckled, occasionally pimply, and had/have stretch marks and cellulite marring my body. Now, as I approach middle age, I’m more confident about myself (still freckled, still occasionally pimply, still with stretch marks and cellulite) in general, but I still fret about stupid body image issues. Even with my weight loss, I am constantly wondering if the clothing I wear is acceptable for someone my size and age. I worry about the bumps and bulges that occur in more fitted items and although I’ve been eyeing 2 lovely swimsuits on the Victoria’s Secret website, I hesitate to buy either because I don’t know if I can “pull it off.” Why do I care? I like the swimsuits, I think I would look good in either of them, I have a rewards card that needs used soon, and so I should buy one, but I don’t. If I do buy one and I look nice in it, does that validate my weight loss? I like the borrowing terms and clothes offered by Gwynnie Bee, but I don’t sign up. If I use Gwynnie Bee’s services, and the clothes fit and look nice, does that make me average/fat? And why am I letting someone else’s idea of beauty and worth cloud my own thoughts?

I can’t help but wonder if, as a rather reflective 36-year-old woman, my brain is so addled by the typical images shown by the media on a daily basis, how will my sons end up defining beauty? Will they think that all women are Coca-Cola-Clothing-Spring-Summer-2011.12-MaleModelSceneNet-02supposed to be magazine perfect with smooth skin and no bumps or imperfections? That all men should aspire to six-pack abs and chiseled arms? If they were to look at a website that shows perfectly lovely women modeling nice clothing, would they, too, be thrown for an existential loop? How do we solve this? Is the solution as simple as ensuring that all body types are equally represented in media or does this problem call for a more drastic solution? I don’t know, but I do know that visiting the Gwynnie Bee website multiple times over the last two weeks is helping my brain normalize body types that differ from the typical modeling industry standards. I may or may not order that swimsuit from VS. I may or may not sign up for Gwynnie Bee’s clothing service. In the end, it matters not. The only things that really matter are:

(1) Being newly aware of prejudices I didn’t know my mind held

(2) Working to change my those perspectives

(3) Helping my sons realize that people come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful.