A geek, a laptop, and some spare time.

Posts tagged ‘Food’

Grandparent’s Day

Our lunch. No color correction applied. Those tots really are orange.

Our lunch. No color correction applied. Those tots are orange.

Angie and I took the day off yesterday and headed to our oldest grandson’s school for their annual “Grandparent’s Day” celebration. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Grandparent’s Day is a special time when student’s grandparents are invited into the school to spend time with the kids, eat lunch, and then divest themselves of their life savings at the Scholastic Book Fair, which by happy, pre-planned coincidence, just happens to always take place on the same day.

If you never had this event at your school, or if your therapy sessions have been so successful that you’ve completely blotted out your own childhood, then please allow me to set the scene. Elementary schools are like regular schools, except someone didn’t read the label and put a dry-clean only building in the dryer. So everything is shrunk and inexplicably yellow in color. There are lots of cheerful posters up preaching various gospels of thought about problem solving and rules. Everybody and everything is clearly labelled. The children are led in group recitations of homework, or things written on the board. And once a day, for no clear reason, everyone goes outside and runs around screaming at the top of their lungs while the teachers blow whistles and point a lot.

If you’re looking for the shorthand version of all that, then just picture a cult populated by miniature sociopaths. Congratulations, you’re home.

Angie and I managed to show up to this year’s shindig five minutes late. (Somebody replaced the downtown section of I-75 with a parking lot and forgot to tell us.) Because of our tardy arrival, there was no one posted to point us in the direction of our grandson Dalton’s classroom. Instead, Angie dove into the office while I stood alone in a hallway full of children trying my damnedest to not look like someone their parent’s warned them about.

Once Angie returned with a room number, we dashed directly down the wrong hall, where we were able to confirm that the hallway signage was correct, and the room was in fact not there. Having reassured ourselves of that, we spotted a teacher and asked for directions to the room we were looking for. That conversation went something like this:

Angie: “Could you please tell us where room 106 is? We’re running a bit late.”

Teacher: “Room 106? That’s Mrs. Pond’s classroom!”

Angie: “Yes, that’s right. We’re looking for our grandson’s class. His teacher is Mrs. Pond.”

Teacher: “She’s in room 106.”

Angie: “Right… 106?”

Teacher: “Right.”

Jaime (whispering): “Lord, whatever I’ve done to deserve this, I’m so very sorry.”

Several minutes later, having forded several streams and lost young Sally to Dysentery¹,  we arrived at Dalton’s classroom. It was everything I like to see in a modern classroom. Colorful, well-lit, lots of technology available, and not a student in site. While that pleased me to no end, Angie insisted that the entire experience would be infinitely better if we were actually in the same room as Dalton. So we headed out into the wilds again.

By this time, Angie was more than a bit concerned that Dalton would be in full-on panic mode that we hadn’t come. Visions of tears, broken dreams, and college rejection letters tumbled through her head. And that’s why, when we finally stumbled across Dalton already eating lunch in the cafeteria, his greeting to us was so much more meaningful: “Oh, hi.”

Having located young Dalton, we were immediately descended upon by his teacher, the one and only Mrs. Pond. She introduced herself, praised Dalton, and then did us a solid by assisting us with cutting in the lunch line. The photo above is my tray from said line. I received that Technicolor wonder of modern chemistry for the low, low price of $3.50.

After some solid research time, and conferring with several universities, I was able to confirm with Dalton that the Tater Tots were in fact supposed to be orange. It seems they are Sweet Potato-Tots. Based on taste alone, I would have ventured a guess closer to something in the wood paste family. Having gamely tried all the foods present, I pressed Dalton for details on whether they were being punished for something. He assured me that this was not punishment, but something he called “lunch.” I remain skeptical.

The Book Fair, a.k.a. The Grandparent Trap

The Book Fair, a.k.a. The Grandparent Trap

Following lunch, Dalton led us over to the book fair. The Scholastic Book Fair hasn’t changed much from when I was a kid. Rolling metal carts full of the literary equivalent of those sugar-packed kids breakfast cereals. Lots of speciality erasures and bookmarks with corny catch phrases. A variety of novelty pointers that will have a half-life of 5 minutes or less once they hit a classroom. Prices that would make an upscale jewelry house blush.

In an Internet age, where instant comparison shopping is the norm, the Scholastic Book Fair lives in some kind of time bubble that makes them immune from the Amazon.com’s of the world. After all, you can’t very well look at your grandkid in front of all the other kids and tell him he can’t get something there. Grandparent peer pressure, what a concept.

And to add insult to injury, Dalton’s parents have taught him to be a thoughtful, caring child. That tactical blunder meant that I had to buy books for his brother and sister as well, so that they wouldn’t feel left out. I swear, where do parents come up with these crazy ideas?

In the end, we were at Dalton’s school for about an hour. We got lost twice, ate something that may or may not have been food, and bought $15 worth of books for about $50. But we showed up, and at no point did we forget which kid was ours, or what his name was. If that’s not a grandparenting win, I just don’t know what is.

¹ – An Oregon Trail joke. Either you get it, or you don’t.

 

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Downsizing the Geek

Geek vs Scale

Geek vs Scale

I’m a big geek, both figuratively and literally. As of last month, I tipped the scales at hefty 372 lbs. Hefty, chunky, rotund…  pick your wince-worthy adjective for fat, and it fits the bill. I’m a big boy, and I have been for almost all of my life.

Being overweight sucks, and I don’t have a convenient excuse. I can’t claim that I’m big-boned. (I’ve seen too many of my own x-rays.) To the best of my knowledge I don’t have a thyroid issue. At no time in my working memory have I been held at gunpoint and forced to over eat. Alas, I have only myself to blame.

Being addicted to food is a real bitch, and I’ll tell you why. If you are an alcoholic, quitting the booze is possible. Ditto if you’re a smoker. You can, at any time, choose to throw Joe Camel aside and carry on sans nicotine. But eating isn’t optional. Not eating is, as the medical professionals would say, a condition that is not compatible with life.

So I don’t have the option to quit. Instead, I have to learn to moderate. To make better nutritional choices. Can you imagine asking the same of an alcoholic?

“Bob, you can only drink three beers a day, and try to make them light, OK?”

I’m guessing the success rate on that would be lower than ideal.

If going cold turkey (excuse the pun) on eating is out, what’s left? You’ve got your quack remedies. To me, these are absurd on their face. As I often tell my wife, if it worked, they wouldn’t have to buy late night infomercial time to sell it. People would be storming their offices to buy it.

On the slightly less shady side of the street, you have a variety of over the counter diet drugs. They supposedly suppress the appetite while giving the dieter plenty of energy. I’ve tried them. I’m not a big pill guy, and I’m even less of one when I can discern no difference in my appetite with or without the pills. And while I can’t speak for any energy gain, they did give me a noticeable caffeine headache.

At the top of the respectable pharmaceutical food chain are the prescription drugs. They come with fancy names, lots of peer-reviewed studies, and the nasty habit of causing various fatal side effects. I sometimes wonder if ambulance chasing attorneys pay to bring these drugs to market just so they have something to sue over.

That leaves us with the classics: Diet and exercise. Allow me to start with the latter. Did you know that a pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories? And using a little of that College Algebra I so despised, I am able to calculate that in order to lose a pound, you need to burn about 3,500 calories.

Another fun fact: Did you know that a runner that weighs 200 lbs will burn about 3,480 calories running a full length marathon? That means that if that person wanted to lose 5 pounds, they’d have to run 5 marathons!

Friends, allow me to assure you, I am not in marathon shape. And given my need to lose about 185 lbs, just finding that many marathons to run in would prove problematic.

So, that brings us all the way back to where we started. Food. Diet. Damn…

I’ve tried doing diets on my own with little success. I do well at first, and then I get to looking at all the wonderful food choices I’m abstaining from, and I give up. Or worse, I stick to it, but the scale refuses to move downwards.

But life is short, and my weight is making it shorter all the time. So this time I’m doubling down on a diet. First, my wife is doing this with me, step by step. I will sacrifice many a snack or treat not to let her down. Second, I’m doing a sound, medically reviewed and recommended diet. That way I have someone to sue later. (Kidding!)

That’s right, friends and neighbors, Angie and I are on Weight Watchers.

We both signed up for the Weight Watchers Online program. No meetings, and cool apps for the iPhone that make sticking with it dead simple. And unlike any diet I’ve ever been on, it has a clear and defined plan for teaching you what and how to eat long-term. It is quite interesting, and I plan on writing more about it in the future, if only so I have someplace to grumble.

We’ve been on it for a little over a month, and thus far, it’s been very good. I’m down 11 pounds, which is nothing to sneeze at. I’ll keep you updated. And with any luck, there will be a little less geek around here. I promise, that would be a good thing.

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