Monday, December 15, 2014

Weight Training

When Ben joined the track team, I was super excited about how much he loves the sport and how little he minds practicing outside in all kinds of weather. But there was another perk that I hadn't anticipated: he comes home famished.

Some might say, "Um, he's a pre-teen boy. Aren't they hungry all the time?" But the answer in Ben's case is no. While he has an adventurous palate and a love of food, his appetite is not what I would call 'voracious'. In fact, I would hesitate to call it 'big'. On some days, even 'good' is a stretch.

This would not be too terrible if his metabolism wasn't off the charts. Really, it's ridiculous. If I could bottle that metabolism and sell it, my entire extended family would be financially set for the next three generations. So with that combination, and the fact that Ben has always been active, he's always been thin and it's never been a problem.

Until now.

For the last several months, his doctor has been telling him to eat more. Each visit, she says something about it.

"Are you eating dessert every night like I told you to?"

"Do you like cheeseburgers and milkshakes?"

"Let's see if we gained some weight this time around."

And my personal favorite, 

"Boy, would I love to put some meat on those bones." 

At the most recent visit, after plugging his stats into the computer and plotting it on a graph, the doctor showed us how the growth chart works. 

"The red line shows kids that are heavier than average. The blue line shows kids who are right where they should be for their height and age. And this green line is for kids who could stand to gain a few pounds. That's OK as long as you're gaining along with the line as it goes up. But see here, Ben? You're sort of laying down on the line. We just want to make sure you don't fall off."

I was happy to tell her that he had joined the track team and it had increased his appetite. But my excitement was quickly shot down. 

"Yes, but he's also burning more calories." 

Dang. "But won't he gain more because he's building muscle?" 

"Let's hope," she said.

Now whenever we visit the doctor, we top it off with a trip to Dunkin' Donuts. A couple of Boston cremes for the road, and Ben is grinning all the way home.

It's a bit of a silly problem to have, a kid that you have to push to gain weight, eat more, fill with calories. I'm thankful that he's healthy, hopeful that he'll still be tall enough to prevent him from having a complex, and building my own will power by avoiding the donuts that are slated (appropriately) for him. 

Now that we're running together on weekends, I have different hopes for each of us: that he will gain weight, and that I will slim down. And the holiday break coming up means we'll be running together every day for two weeks straight.  I admit to not having an ├╝ber grasp of weight and calories, carbs versus protein, and all that athletic jargon that explains how the whole weight thing works. Add to that my poor math skills, and I'm blissfully ignorant enough to think that we may both end up getting just what we need. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Running Commentary

My seventh grader has joined the track team. I've known since he was in utero that this kid was born to run, but it was only this year that he became eligible for modified sports. Ben loves to run and is great at long jumps and sprints, so I've been talking up the track team to him since last year. He's been excited since I mentioned it and his enthusiasm never waned, not even when I told him they'd be practicing outside two hours a day, five days a week. Not even when I told him track season is from December to February (he hates the cold as much as I do). And not even when it rained and snowed the first week of practice and he was exhausted from running one, two, three miles.

He still loves it.

What's better is that he is in a great mood every night when I pick him up from practice, no matter if he has homework or other chores to take care of after dinner. It's like this is the sport he was born for.

When the weekend comes, they can't just not run. Training requires commitment and stamina, so he has a practice schedule for either Saturday or Sunday. Stretching, core workout, warm-up and then 25-40 minutes of running. I knew I couldn't send him outside to do this alone, so the family agreed we'd ALL train with Ben on the weekends, and he'd be in charge--our coach, as it were. This weekend was our first outing.

You never fully appreciate how out of shape you are until you start exercising with someone who does it all the time. I knew when I got winded during the warm up that I might have a tough time. Fortunately, my husband and older son were with us. Stretching? No problem. Core workout? Not terrible. A slow run on level ground around our neighborhood? Manageable. As a team.

We all ran the first block together. When we got to the second block, Ben, his brother and my husband continued to run and I slowed to a fast walk to catch my breath and clear my throat. I caught up at the end of the block and ran back with them. On the next block, we all ran together. But when we turned around, Ben and I left my husband and older son in the dust. By the fourth block, it was still just me and Ben and, though I was cold, I kept going. That's when he told me he hadn't really wanted to run with his family but it turned out to be fun. You can't fault the kid for his honesty, but I really should press him to find out what was fun and why he didn't want to do it with us.

My husband and I let the brothers run the last block together and mused about how out of shape we were. But we also agreed that the camaraderie and group support of Ben was important, and it definitely helped to get him to do his weekend workout. We covered two miles and Ben was very proud. He's going to make a great runner. And if the rest of us don't keel over, maybe we'll get in better shape by default. It's certainly something to aim for. Here's hoping for a mild winter, at least on weekends.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Soothing the Savage Beast

I hate homework. I know I've mentioned this before, and some might think I should just shut up about it because I'm not the one that has to do the homework. But here's the thing: I could deal with doing it. What I can't deal with is the kid who has to do it and doesn't want to, and instead chooses to whine, complain, yell, gripe and kvetch about it. To me. While I'm trying to work. And then when I offer to help, he yells at me even more.

This happens a lot, and even more when it's the end of the marking period and every teacher is heaping on the assignments, projects, quizzes and tests the final week before grades are due. So what's a mother to do when the level of homework threatens her sanity and the potential health and safety of her children?

Blast some music.

Yes, it sounds simple. And listening to music is the oldest study aide in the history of schoolwork. Sure, the methods have changed from record players and AM/FM radios to cassettes, CDs, MP3 players and Internet radio. But it's not the method of delivery that matters. It's the music.

The old saying is often misquoted. In fact, the phrase was coined by William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, in 1697:

"Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak."

In my house though, anyone with ungodly amounts of homework automatically becomes a beast, so I stand by the title of this post. Yesterday, my younger beast was close to being locked out onto the porch for how difficult he was being about the amount of homework and studying he had to complete. It was that or beat my head against the wall until I hurt myself. Voices were being raised, ultimatums issued, and I saw the escalation potentially soaring. Then something occurred to me, and I stopped.

"Ben, what's that song you heard on the radio last night that you loved? Let It Burn?"

"Huh? Let It Go you mean?"

"No, it was Burn something." I Googled 'the Burn song' on YouTube. Boom, there it was. I hit play. Ben said, "Oh, YEAH! This one!" He watched the video the first time, then I hit play again and he sat down to start working. When the song ended, he got up and went to his room, but before I had a chance to call him, he returned with his portable Bluetooth speaker and his cell phone, complete with playlists. He hooked them up, put them on the table, hit 'Play' and went back to work.

And it worked. The music, that is. by the end of the night, Ben had completed six Social Studies worksheets and studied for his Spanish exam. Yes, I had to listen to Minecraft parody songs repeatedly until I thought I would have to leave the house myself, but it was better than shouting. And way more effective.

So when the homework load gets heavy in your house, I highly recommend popping the 'Frozen' CD (or whatever tunes of choice will make your student drop everything and start singing) into the player and letting it rip. If your kid is anything like mine, it will make the process far less painful. For everyone.