Tag Archive | Family

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.

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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! 🙂