Archive | April 2014

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.

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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.

 

Facebook Free Fridays

facebook-addiction-7I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook (FB). The website occupies a larger space in my life than I really want, but somehow, I can find it in me to quit. How else will I instantly keep up with my all friends and family simultaneously—who’s getting married, who’s having babies, who’s graduating or achieving some other life milestone? Where else will I get to see vacation photos, baby/kid photos, everyday snapshots, and the like? FB also helps me know what going on with all my favorite restaurants, companies, and amusements for the kids (hey, there’s a show at the Science Center this weekend. Does the zoo have anything? Oh, a new movie is coming out? Do they have a FB with the trailer? Let’s watch it and see if the kids are interested in going). FB tells me all the latest news headlines, both serious and humorous. I use FB to watch for items I need on various local swap sites (as well as sell some of my own no longer wanted pieces). It’s also the place where I co-admin two great groups of science minded parents from all corners of the globe, none of whom I would have ever met without FB. And frankly, I love all those parts of FB. I love seeing everyone’s daily news and pictures and videos. I love attending virtual FB parties and being able to support people.  I love sharing my own news and pictures of my mostly lovely children. But I also hate FB. I hate how much time it takes to keep up with everything. Especially when my FB newsfeed doesn’t show me what I want to see (thanks, crappy FB algorithm) and I have to go looking for it. And all that time on FB is time I have my face in a screen and not in front of my family. It’s time I’m not doing something remotely productive. It’s papers and tests ungraded and my dining room table untidied. It’s the yard unraked and the dinner unmade. So, as much as I love it, FB is a time suck, and that’s why I’ve decided it has to go. For one day a week-Friday.

Last Friday was my first Facebook Free Friday. I was determined not to log in from my computer or check FB from my phone for the entire day. Not logging in from my laptop was easy enough, but multiple times throughout the morning, I found myself reaching for my phone with the intention of checking FB. It was a compulsion…what am I missing? Did so-and-so have her baby? What about that other mother-to-be that I know? Or the other one? Are there any interesting articles that I’m missing? What’s trending? Is everyone in my groups behaving themselves? These thoughts ran through my head all morning. But as the day wore on, not only was I more productive (in fact, I wrote last week’s blog post on Friday, cleaned out my closets, and caught up on grading), but I found that I also craved looking at FB less and less. By 4pm, I was no longer reaching for my phone to check FB. I spent the evening watching Iowa State give away a basketball game and interacting with my kids. Then I went to bed–without checking into FB “one last time” and then getting sucked in for 2 hours. It was nice.

Although it was lovely to spend time free from Facebook, the day did not break me of my FB habit. As soon as I got SNN2724A1-532_1460433aup on Saturday morning, I checked FB from my phone, but when I was done reading updates and checking in on my groups (which really only took about 10-15 minutes), I was able to put down my phone and move on with my day. In odd moments on Saturday and Sunday, I still checked FB. Monday; however, found me without interest in “checking in,” and as the week wore on, I found myself less drawn to FB, the web, and technology in general. For whatever reason, it just didn’t hold the appeal it did previously. This past week, I didn’t pull out my phone during those odd moments where I had nothing else to do…like in the doctor’s waiting room, or while I was supervising my children play outside, or during the time where I wait for the clock to reach the hour where I can start class, or a hundred other times I might have normally reached for technology to entertain me. I found myself present during those little moments in life where there isn’t really anything going on but just being a human among other human beings. It’s nice to remember how to just be.

Knowing how tFacebook_like_thumbo just be and be happy is a powerful skill as is the ability to entertain yourself without a flashing screen in your face every second of every day. This is not to say that I think we should give up FB permanently. I have nothing against social networking sites or technology in general or the manner in which we use these tools. I don’t pine for the days where information was scarce, we couldn’t immediately connect with people both near and far from us, or where I could only shop my local retailers and had to be satisfied with their hours and their current inventory. FB is lovely and I will continue to utilize all the features of it that I love. Just not on Fridays. Fridays are Facebook Free.