November 17, 2014

Fitbits, Crackhead Boxers, and Being Sedentary

I'm pretty sure that smile is mocking me.

I haven’t considered myself an active human being for a very long time. I know I was a pretty hyper kid, for the most part. Sitting still was one of my greatest challenges when I wasn’t in a classroom setting. (There is a time and place for that sort of thing you know!) My mom always knew that a true punishment for me was to force me to stay somewhere and be still. Since I have my own kids now, I am not sure who truly suffered more when I was forced to stay on a certain piece of furniture or in my room for any length of time. I know for a fact I gave her plenty of hell as she made good on her threats. I also know how exhausting that can be as I am now raising a smaller, maybe even more persistent, version of myself. Reading wasn’t difficult for me, but I never read for pleasure because that required a good amount of sitting still. Although I was terrible at that particular skill as a child, I am excellent at it now.
Seriously. I can, like, out-sit the best of them! Part of me is excited for my next illness or surgical procedure because of all the sitting and lying down that is a part of the recovery process. I had a colonoscopy a few years ago and gained a whole new appreciation for the outpatient procedure. The staff usually works 8-5 and they get regular breaks and lunches. They are usually in good moods and not stressed out about being on their feet for the past 12 hours and never getting the chance to either feed or relieve themselves. They are more open to making small talk and bringing you those blankets from the magical warming oven. That thing is a gift from heaven and we should all take a moment to thank the person who came up with that idea. If you happen to wonder what to get me for Christmas, a magical box that makes things warm so that I can wrap those things around me is pretty high up on my list right about now.
I guess it’s good to know that I still have the same attention span as I did in my youth….I just got away from my point of this post!
What I am trying to do is share with the world that I recently got a Fitbit to track my everyday activity. (Why do we now feel so compelled to share this crap with the world? I can probably count on one hand the number of people who might remotely give a damn about this. But share, I must!) I just got the basic model called a Zip so I could clip it to any part of my person and get on with my life. (A rubber bracelet would have annoyed me to no end!) I saw this purchase as a way to track the number of steps I take in a day and give myself small, manageable goals to increase them. Basically, I need to trick myself to make any significant changes in my life.
I’ve been told I’m stubborn, but you’ll never get me to believe that.
They say the average person should take 10,000 steps a day, which ends up being about 5 miles. I feel like I am a pretty busy person, and I’m sure that I still am. However, a lot of the things that keep me busy are things that don’t end up forcing me to move much. (Have you seen that video of the sloth trying to cross the street? I think I’m a lot more like him than I am most of you!)
Apparently, the number of steps I take on average each day places me in the dead center of what most people consider to be ‘sedentary.’
Yes, I’m very proud!
I was certain I moved more than your average pregnant woman on bed rest, but I guess I don’t. I’m pretty sure that whoever can see the data on my Fitbit probably assumes I am part of a royal family who gets carried around on piles of velvet pillows while shirtless bohunks feed me grapes and fan me with palm leaves and…where was I going with this again? I suddenly have a new appreciation for my metabolism and I am not quite sure why I don’t weigh so much that they have to remove one of the walls of my home to get me out of it. As ‘busy’ as I am, it’s clear that not much actual movement is required to fold laundry or cook dinner or wash dishes. Yeah, pretty much most of the things I do in a day involved standing in the same place. There are always those moms who use their kids’ soccer practice as an opportunity to take a brisk walk with a couple of friends. In case you haven’t picked up on it by now; I am not one of those moms! I don’t like walking with other people because my legs don’t listen very well and it takes concentration to not trip over my own feet and keep up with the pace that the other person clearly prefers. I hate to feel like I am slowing someone down. I don’t like to walk alone because….well, because I DON’T LIKE TO WALK. I cannot stress that enough.
I love that I can see firsthand where I need to improve myself. I don’t love that I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with that information. Now that I know how little I actually move, I am way more curious about how many steps other people take in a day. David is a UPS driver. He is moving ALL DAY LONG. How many steps does a typical UPS driver take in a day? I can assume it’s a lot, but I really want to know how many. I am tempted to clip my new toy onto my youngest daughter. The kid seriously never stops moving, with the exception of when she is in class at school. It’s scary how much that one is like her mother. How many steps would the Fitbit count during a cartwheel? She does those things all freaking day. What would happen if I were to clip the Fitbit to the collar of one of my boxers? (Not just any of them, but the youngest one that we affectionately call ‘The Crackhead.’) How many steps does it take to get into a playful scuffle with the other dogs or to chase the dot of a laser pointer? How many steps does it take to walk in enough circles to decide on the perfect place to take a crap? No WONDER my dogs are in such good shape!
I’m pretty sure that whoever could see the data collected on my Fitbit would then think I was a crackhead. Who goes from being sedentary to numbers that are off the charts? And where does one get the pills required to make that happen?
For today, I am hoping to achieve the number of steps that would put me about halfway between what would be considered ‘sedentary’ and the ideal 10,000. I need to embrace my newfound love for yoga pants and athletic shoes and use them for more than just sitting at the table and drinking coffee. Am I the only person in the world who didn’t know how awesome yoga pants are? It’s clear that I should come out from under my rock more often and take a look around.
The world still has a few things to teach me, I guess.

September 4, 2014

Pick a Team, People!



Girls collage

So many parents have their children in sports or other extra curricular activities outside of school.  There seem to be so many options when it comes to learning about the value of hard work, practice, exercise, winning and losing with grace, and being a part of a team.  Those are all very important things that our kids can learn through all of these games and events.  Between soccer, baseball, softball, football, cheerleading, 4-H, Destination Imagination, school plays….let’s just say we have a lot of opportunities for our children to learn these basic life skills.  As parents, we seem to be overrun with options when it comes to extra curricular activities for our smaller humans.  We have so many options that we tend to bite off more than our children should have to chew.


Right now, I have a soccer player, a cheerleader, and a cheer coach.  (I can barely count the cheer coach as my responsibility because she is 18, in college, and gets herself where she needs to go.  However, she’s still MINE.)  We have practice four days a week for those two different teams.  Games are on Saturday, but the soccer schedule won’t be made until after the seeding tournament, which is…oh crap, I think that’s coming up soon! I’d better check on that, huh?  Those games can be anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours away from our house.    I know that Saturdays are going to be crazy and David and I might have to divide and conquer to get both younger girls to their respective games when they need to be.  Sometimes, one of my girls may have to catch a ride with one of their friends’ parents to get to their game.  They are learning to understand that we will make every effort to be at their games,  but we make no promises.  There are very few good excuses for us to miss their games, as the kids are our priority right now.  I usually stay and watch most of the practices too.  It’s a good chance for me to see how they are interacting with their teammates and coaches and to actually see their progress as it happens.  (Okay, so it’s a good chance for me to read as well.  I can multitask!)


Enter:  More options.


There is a play coming up.  My girls would love to be in it, but rehearsals would overlap with their current practice schedules.  This is the part where I feel like we start sort of failing our kids.  If I allowed them to audition for the play and they made it, they would be forced to choose who they are going to let down on a regular basis.  Will we let the soccer team down in favor of play practice?  Will we miss half of play practice in order to make it to soccer practice on time?  What if there is a soccer game on the actual day of the play?  We would be forced to make a choice and would be disappointing someone no matter which choice we made.  And somehow, parents are making that seem like it’s okay.  It’s okay to let the team down and not show up for soccer because we want to do this other thing this weekend.  After all, team loyalty and commitment aren’t really all that important, right? 


So, so wrong.


In addition to the play, the girls have also expressed an interest in taking piano lessons and gymnastics.  I know these kids are young.  I know they have so many possibilities ahead of them that we can’t help but sign them up for as many activities and experiences as possible.  I also know that the world wouldn’t end if 11YO didn’t show up for a soccer game or 8YO missed a football game.  But the lessons they really need to learn from these activities aren’t just about getting better control over a soccer ball or learning how to kick higher.  When you sign your child up for a team or activity, they are making a commitment to their team to always show up and do their best.  (Within reason, of course.  Illness and one-time family commitments are pretty much the only things that should take priority over that promise they made to their team.)  Whether our kids ended up enjoying their team sports or not, they have to finish out the season.  They made a commitment and it should be honored.  Even if they get injured and cannot participate, they should be at those games cheering on their teammates.  That also helps reinforce the feeling that they are an important part of that team.  Kids need to feel important to people besides their family members and that doesn’t usually happen when they are allowed to half-participate in a dozen different things. 


On top of practice schedules and games, kids also need to squeeze in homework, time with friends, and time to just be kids without anyplace to go or anything that has to be done.  Basically, they need time to be bored.  They need time to be kicked outside to wander around the yard or ride  bikes.  They need the chance to build a blanket fort in the living room or to work on crafts or put a puzzle together.  Some of my favorite days are the ones where nothing is planned.  (Those are, truthfully, my most favorite days EVER!)  They don’t usually start out very fun, though.  My kids usually approach me and point out that we NEVER do anything fun and all of their friends have way more exciting lives than they do.  Why can’t we DO something fun?  Why can’t we GO somewhere?  Those days start out with lots of complaints from the peanut gallery, but usually end with a board game that has been hiding in a closet or an adventure in the yard where they pretend they are running a restaurant or trying to survive in the wilderness.  I don’t initiate those things.  I simply ignore their whining and they eventually end up doing things that kids are supposed to be doing and having way more fun than they expected to have.  Like it or not, they are going to have to live with themselves for the rest of their lives.  They need to know what to do with themselves when there is nothing to do.  That’s when they truly start to figure out who they are as people. 


No, my kids won’t be auditioning for the upcoming play.  8YO won’t be playing Fall Ball, even though she loves softball, because the practice schedules are likely to either overlap with cheer practice or fill up the rest of our week with obligations.  It would probably either burn her out, cause her grades to suffer, or make her feel like giving less effort because she will be spreading herself so thin.  She is eight years old.  The skills she would learn in a second sport or activity at this time in her life aren’t as important as the lesson she is learning about prioritizing and following through on her commitments.  In the spring, she plans to play softball again.  If she changes her mind before signups and wants to do something else, then she won’t be playing softball.  I allow my kids to choose their activities, but it’s up to David and me to make sure they learn how to follow through.  According to my kids, I am the mean mom that won’t let them do more than one extra curricular activity at a time. 


I can live with that.