Category Archives: TV

Banana Splits: The New Health Food

“Mom,” my six year old son said to me, “I think there should be rules against showing some kind of stuff on television.  Those shows you were watching, they should not be allowed to have that on television, don’t you think?”

And I had to think back.  What was I watching? Prison Break?  Nope, we don’t have HBO.  The Sopranos?  Nope, again, no HBO and besides, I think that’s over and done with.  Plus, this kid watches Star Wars, full of explosions and chases and The Force that kills.  But then I remember.  I was watching episode after episode of a show about an obesity treatment center in New York. Brookhaven something or other.  It was New Year’s Day and I turned on the TV as I stepped onto the treadmill.  I was curious as to why an obesity treatment center would let its patients have access to phones and the front door so they could call and order a large pizza with extra toppings, or Kung Pao Chicken with a side of pupu platter.  Some of the patients have lived at this place for 2 years, even 4, without losing any weight at all.  It wasn’t hard to see why, given the contraband food that was coming in and being consumed in the dark of night, but it was hard to fathom that the insurance companies paying for the treatment hadn’t questioned the fact that 800 pound Mary was still weighing in at 800 pounds after 3 years of “treatment”.

So I left the television on and watched with a sick fascination as I ran on the treadmill and I didn’t think much of it when my son wandered downstairs and sat quietly on the sofa.  I guess at some point I noticed that he was staring, somewhat transfixed at the television, at the 700 pound man with the elephantitis of his leg, but then again, so was I.  In hindsight, I should have turned the TV off.

It’s a new year, and people are making resolutions to lose weight and get in shape, and although this show didn’t offer the same kind of motivation as say, the season finale of The Biggest Loser, where you think if they can do it I can too, it had I thought, some motivational aspect to it.  The negative reinforcement that makes you run just a little bit faster or a little bit farther as you think to yourself “No way would I let myself get like that.  Certainly I’d give up the chocolate ice cream the moment I realized that I wasn’t able to squeeze through my front door anymore…”

After the treatment center show ended came episodes of Big Medicine, where they showed patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery and full body lifts to remove excess skin that remained after such profound weight loss.  And still I watched, hoping to use the negative reinforcement as motivation to keep me on the treadmill for just another mile, or maybe even two.

Later that evening I tucked my son in bed and left his room.  I had only taken about three steps beyond his bedroom door when he called me back, “Mommy,” he cried, “I need you.”  So I turned back, opened his door.  “What is it sweetheart?  What do you need?”

“I’m worried,” he cried, as tears started to roll down his face. “I am afraid I am going to be like those people when I grow up.”

“What people, sweetheart? Who are you talking about?”

“Those people on TV, the ones with the tumors…” he sniffed.

And again I had to think back, those people on TV with the tumors?  Then it hit me, the obesity clinic show…  The man with elephantitis, the woman with the lipomas… 

“Oh sweetheart!” I said.  “Come here,” I said, and hugged him.  “You won’t grow up to be like that I promise.” 

“I won’t? How do you know?” he cried, his face now wet from a river of tears.

“Because,” I said, “Those people, they just didn’t take very good care of themselves, they didn’t eat enough healthy food or get enough exercise.  And some of it’s genetics…”

“What’s genetics?” he asked.

“Genetics… genetics are like a secret code that comes from your parents to make you who you are.  I have brown eyes and you have brown eyes and daddy had brown eyes,” I explained, “that’s genetics.”  “And besides,” I went on, “Daddy and I aren’t like those people on TV, are we?” 

“No,” he admitted.

“So” I said, “It’s not in your genetics to be like that.  And even if it was I wouldn’t let you get like that.  I would not let you eat too much junk food. I would make you eat healthy food.  You play outside, you ride your bike, you get lots of exercise.  And you eat carrots and other healthy food…  Plus, you know what?  With your food allergies you can’t eat a lot of junk food anyway.  You can’t get a cheeseburger and french fries from McDonalds or Burger King.  We cook mostly healthy food at home,” I said.  “And besides,” I went on, desperate to convince him, “Some of those people probably eat bowls of potato chips for breakfast, and you don’t do that, you eat cereal.”

“Yeah,” he said, starting to brighten a little, “and cereal is healthy, right?”

It took about 30 minutes to convince him that he would be okay, that he wouldn’t end up like the people on television, so obese that they were confined to a hospital bed and unable to walk more than a few short steps, so obese that they suffered a host of related conditions such as cellulitis and elephantitis and seven pound tumors composed of fat and growing off the side of their thighs.  I felt sad for these patients.  I was curious about the ones who wanted help yet cheated on their diets nightly by ordering pizzas and breadsticks to eat as a snack after the evening meal had already been served.  I was bothered that the patients could remain at the clinic for years without making any progress, away from their families who missed their presence at home.  I was irritated that the show didn’t have follow-ups or success stories to share, no “It’s been 2 years since Mary left the clinic and she’s maintained her 500 pound weight loss despite all odds…”  But mostly, I was saddened that the show had frightened my child to the point that it took 30 minutes to dry his tears and calm his fears. 

I was nervous the next evening at dinner.  Would my son refuse to eat?  Would a plate of food remind him of that television show?  But everything was fine.  He announced that we should have a rule to eat healthy foods and then he cleaned his plate and asked for a banana split for dessert.  “Bananas,” he told me, “are a healthy food! So we can eat banana splits!  But you know what, Mom?” he continued, “Do you know why I don’t like salad?  Because it doesn’t have any taste.  Or it has taste but it also doesn’t have taste?  So not having any taste gives it an X. And the taste it does have gets an X.  So that’s a double X.  And a double X is bad.  But actually… well, I just hate salad.  And I still think we need some rules about what shows we can watch on TV in this house.  That show you were watching, that shouldn’t be allowed to be watched anymore, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed.  “I’m sorry that show scared you.  We won’t watch that anymore,” I said, as I turned to prepare his “healthy” banana split, complete with half a banana, a spoonful of soy ice cream, colorful sprinkles, and a sour cherry ball on top.  Health food, indeed.



Filed under food, health food, life, TV

Strange Day at the Bowling Alley

Are you looking to have a crashin’ good time? Well then, join me the next time my son, Snags, is invited to a birthday party at our local bowling alley.  Seriously, join me.  I could have used the company and witnesses last weekend when, for those of you keeping track, we had ANOTHER birthday party, the 3rd in as many weeks, to attend. As you can see, this kid’s social schedule is rockin’!

The party invitation was basic, simple black text printed on a sheet of computer paper, “…come to Jason’s Birthday party at the bowling alley on Sunday at 1:30 pm…”  The invitation was placed in my son’s preschool cubby on Thursday afternoon, just 3 days before the party.  Not much time to shop for a present I thought.  Also, since it was so close to the party date, I considered if we’d been on the “B list” of invitees.  As if to confirm this, when I called on Friday to RSVP and say that yes, Snags would be able to attend, the person on the other end of the phone said in her most bored teenager voice, “Oh. Okay…. Then she audibly sighed before she went on to explain, “But the thing is? You have to be at the bowling alley by 1:15 because they open the lanes at 1:30.”  She sounded a little hopeful then, like maybe I’d say, “Oh, 1:15, that’s not going to work after all.”  Instead I replied brightly, “Okay! We’ll be there!  “Oh, okay then. Bye,” she replied, not sounding enthused AT ALL.

I wondered again, as I hung up the phone, if perhaps Snags had been invited to this party by mistake.  Maybe the invitation ended up in the wrong cubby? After all, we don’t really know Jason; I think he’s pretty new to my son’s class. Nevertheless, Snags was eager to attend. He even knew, when we asked, what Jason was interested in: “Power Rangers!” he declared.  And that’s the kind of insider information that a 5 year old only knows when he’s been playing with another kid for a while.  Clearly he’d been hanging out with Jason at school.

Sunday rolled around and Snags and I arrived at the bowling alley.  At 1:30. Not 1:15 like we’d been advised. Yes, I know. My bad; get over it.  When we went inside, the place was nearly empty, and I struggled to find a group that looked large enough to be a party.  Thankfully, I heard someone calling my name. “Hi, Belle!” It was Lena, the mother of Derek, another child at the party.  She stood at a lane in front of me and pointed across the room, “The party’s over there,” she informed us.  “But I’m bowling over here until they are finished.”  She had her older child with her and I guess they decided to bowl a few games themselves while Derek was celebrating across the alley.

I thanked her and we traded in Snags’ SuperBall sneakers which he thinks make him jump really high (I don’t have the heart to tell him they don’t) for a pair of funky smelling multi-colored bowling shoes, size 12.  Only Snags complained they were too small; he couldn’t “wiggle his toes”.  So we took them back to get the next size up.  “He says these are too small,” I shrugged in explanation, as I plopped the shoes on the counter.  “You need a size 13 then?” the shoe control lady asked me. “Uh, yeah, I guess.  Is that the next size up?”  Size 13 IS the next size up from a size 12, in case you didn’t know.  I didn’t.  I did know that at some point the shoe sizes change from double digits back to 1 and you have to start over.  It’s a confounding system if there ever was one. I mean, just imagine if women’s clothing did that…  Wouldn’t it be something if our clothes only went up to a size 10 say, and then they started over?  So if you wore a 10, but gained enough weight to need a 12, (and who hasn’t done that before?) then you’d find you’re back to a size zero, just not THAT zero.  And by the way, if you are waving your hand in a “Me! Me! I haven’t gained weight” kind of way, then you’re not my friend. Okay, I’m joking.  You can be my friend, but you can’t borrow my clothes because they’ll be too big for you.  Seriously though, if women’s clothing sizes did this, wouldn’t that be cool?

Anyway, back to the size 13 bowling shoes…  “These feel GREAT!”  Snags roared once he’d put them on.  “I can wiggle ALL my toes in them.”

We walked in the direction that Derek’s mom had pointed, and a bored looking teenager I assumed was a bowling alley employee took the gift from Snags’ hand, set it atop a small pile, and asked me “What’s his name?” with a nod in Snags’ direction.  “Snags” I replied. And she turned and typed it into the bowling alley computer without saying another word.

The party was a small affair (hence the reason I didn’t spot a party crowd when we arrived).  Of the preschool class, Jason, the birthday boy, had apparently invited just 2 friends:  Snags and another pal, Derek. And in some kind of creepy 5 year old telepathic exchange, Snags and Derek had both worn orange Power Ranger t-shirts, blue shorts, and white socks.  With the bowling shoes on their feet, one might have confused the boys for twins.  Except for the small fact of Derek’s athletic ability — he did a round-off back handspring on the bowling alley floor, from a standing position, after one particular good turn.  Also, Derek’s hair is a shade darker than Snags’.

Snags, however, might one day be really excellent at shot put, should he ever take up track and field; because, as it turns out, he bowls the same way he plays Skee Ball.  That is to say, he’s an over hand bowler!  And I’m willing to bet THAT is not something you see very often.  Or um, EVER.  He hoists the bowling ball OVER his head and thrusts it forward from there. A position that is, if you measured it, some 45 inches off the ground — nearly 4 feet high. Luckily, the ball has enough forward motion to miss his toes as it crashes to the floor (otherwise it would surely break them) and rolls down the alley lane. He puts some kind of spin on the ball too, because it weaves its way back and forth across the lane, ricocheting from bumper rail to bumper rail, like a drunk trying to walk the line at a roadside sobriety test.  And no matter how many times I offered Snags some of my helpful suggestions, like “Why don’t you trying bowling like a NORMAL PERSON?” he wasn’t going for it.  This worked for him and he was sticking with it!  Even when all the adults in the entire bowling alley ducked their heads and covered their ears against the deafening explosion of the ball’s attempt at forming a crater in the wooden floor, Snags was not changing his modus operandi.

In his first game Snags scored a 91, which isn’t so great, I suppose.  But, I think it might actually be a record for the overhand bowlers! Especially those in the 5 year old league. He even got a strike at one point to which he danced around then dropped to the floor and slithered around like a snake, all smiles.  I believe it was Snags’ equivalent of a touchdown dance.  Then moments later he landed a gutter ball to which someone turned to me and said, I’ve never seen anyone get a gutter ball with the rails up! “Well, until now” I thought, but didn’t say.  Instead, I nodded, proudly, knowingly.  Because hey, that’s something then, isn’t it?

Did I mention the party was small?  Three kids and a handful of adults, none of which seemed inclined to talk.  In fact, it was only near the end of the party that I discovered the very young woman I’d assumed was a teenager working at the bowling alley for the summer, was actually the birthday boy’s mother! Aside from asking me who Snags was, she didn’t say another word to me. Although to be honest, I didn’t exactly try to strike up a conversation with her either. She stood aside, mostly removed from the action.  She watched the overhand bowling, guarded the gifts, and sipped on a soda without saying much of anything to anybody.

Before we left it was time for Jason to open his presents.  He received two
Power Rangers toys; one from Derek and one from Snags. Snags, who had seen a transformer toy on TV that was a truck that turned into a gun, decided at the last second that we should have gotten that for Jason instead.  “Sorry kiddo,” I said.  “No time to go the toy store now.”

The other present that Jason received was his VERY. OWN. PERSONAL. TV.  OH. MY! If you had seen the look on Snags’ and Derek’s faces when the TV was unwrapped!  They turned to me with the biggest smiles ever, and a shine in their eyes that flashed “Holy Cow! DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? If Jason can have a TV for his 6th birthday, then we can too!”  I was just about to say something mean like, “Wow boys, neat huh?  Too bad for you; you two won’t be getting TVs until you’re teenagers!” But before I could finish the sentence in my mind, Derek shouted, loud enough for alien life forms on other planets to hear “I ALREADY HAVE MY OWN TV! IN MY ROOM!”  And then the look was only on Snags’ face.  Little darts were shooting from his eyes, each one wrapped with a tiny message, like you’d find in a fortune cookie, and directed at me.  Because now Snags was the only 5 (almost 6) year old in the entire bowling alley, and quite possibly, from the look on his face, the entire world, who didn’t have his own TV.  In his room.  Tiny violins started to float and play in the air all around Snags’ head.  Still, his smile barely dimmed.  He continued to search my face, hopeful, looking I imagine, for a
nod of agreement that yes, one day soon he too would get his very own TV.
But I held fast.  I pretended my face had been shot full of Botox and I couldn’t move a muscle.  Not a twitch, not a blink.  No nod of encouragement, and definitely, most definitely, no shake of the head indicating NO WAY! YOU MUST BE JOKING! SIX YEAR OLDS WILL NOT HAVE THEIR OWN TV IN MY HOUSE!  Because that would have provoked crying on the spot and proclamations of “You’re a mean mommy!”  and I didn’t want to leave the party on a sour note like that.  So we wished Jason a Happy Birthday, thanked his mom who wasn’t a bowling alley employee for inviting us to the party, and we went home.  I’m still not certain that party invitation was ever actually meant for us.


Filed under birthday, bowling, Power Rangers, transformers, TV