Get ready for the best bike ride ever! . . . Um, is anybody getting ready?

The last day of August, one week before Labor Day officially shuts down summer, what better time to go for your first family bike ride of the year?

Bike riding is a fun way to enjoy family time together while getting valuable exercise. There’s hardly a happier, healthier activity for a family than riding bikes, so naturally we ignored the bikes collecting rust in the garage through the meat of summer. Happy and healthy sounds like a great combination for tomorrow, when we might have more time.

Tomorrow came on August 31. The more enterprising parent had disentangled the bikes from the garage before I got home from work. A few minutes for me to change clothes, then all we had to do was jump on and go.

If not for the tire issue.

No problem. I’ll just plug the $15 Target clearance air compressor into the car and we’ll inflate those tires in a snap.

There’s no snap, or any other noise. The air compressor’s dead. Fortunately, I have a newer, better, cheaper, $10 Target clearance compressor in the house. This one blows up half a tire before it follows its colleague to air compressor Valhalla.

On to the manual pump, purchased in the ‘90s, when both it and I were much less worn out. It’s good exercise though, pumping up four tires with a leaky pump. It’s a healthy sweat.

Ready at last. Where’s the trailer for the little boys?

Ah. Folded up in the basement. But it’s easy to set up, once you get it lugged up the stairs.

Oh good. Two more flat tires. Sorry, pump. I know you’re too old for this.

Okay, got the tires inflated and the hitch hooked up to my bike. Let’s go.

Where are the boys?

Playing down the street.

Big Man needs a new diaper. Buster should go potty.

Buster doesn’t want to go potty. He needs a drink. Every boy needs a drink. And maybe a snack.

That was refreshing. Let’s go.

Buster still doesn’t want to go potty. Let’s have debate with him about it.

Buster sits on the pot for some time. He says he pottied, but nobody heard any tinkling. It’s getting late; he must be trusted. Let’s go.

Get your helmet, Big Brother. Where is it? How should I know?

Helmet found. Little boys inserted into trailer and buttoned up. Let’s go.

Yes, Mommy, you’re right. You probably should change your flip-flops for some sort of real shoe. No, I don’t know which ones would be best.

Found your biking shoes? Great. I had to take Big Man out the trailer. He got tired of waiting and started to cry. I’ll put him back in now. No, he’ll be fine once we start moving. Let’s go.

Wait. I should probably lock up the house. Better safe than sorry. Be right back.

Okay, house is locked. Everybody’s on wheels; let’s go.

Who says he needs to go potty?

I think we did pretty good. After all, we were able to put it off until August 31.

sleepy bikers

Well, at least nobody missed their bed times because they were out too late biking.

Daddy’s alternate ending to “Love You Forever”

There is a downside to child-friendly eateries. When children realize an establishment caters to their desires, they tend to relax from their best eating-out behavior and view it as a playground with chicken fingers.

We have one or two restaurants where our kids need help remembering they are there to eat, not run an obstacle course. With the younger boys, I have more patience, but I had to explain to the older boy exactly what payback he was setting himself up for.

I told him that in a few years (perhaps as many as 10), it will become his duty to come fortnightly to the nursing home and pick me up. He will spend every other Friday night taking me out for casual dining, in a restaurant very similar to the one in which he is currently taking liberties.

I'll be waiting

Six o’clock sharp, every other Friday. I’ll be waiting for him in my overcoat, and whatever other clothes I’ve remembered to wear. (Image: Josh Vichon/US Farm Security Administration)

I will behave and make it seem like a pleasant visit with his old dad, until halfway through dinner, at which point I will have one of my spells and begin throwing chicken with ranch dressing and the ice cream flavor of the day onto every window my eroded flinging skills can reach.

Everybody in the restaurant will stare at us. They will conclude that I am in no condition to control myself and wonder why any responsible adult or teenaged boy (as the case may be) would bring me where I would so predictably disrupt the dinner-time peace of many innocent bystanders.

The manager will come to our table with a wad of napkins and assorted damp rags and nod meaningfully at the soiled windows. My son will begin to clean the windows, only realizing he has mis-prioritized his tasks when I hit him in the back of the head with a hunk of chicken he assumes is intended for the window. He will backtrack and clear my area of weaponizable foodstuffs before returning to the secondary task of cleaning the mess.

As he begins to make progress, I will have an “accident” (wink) in my adult diaper, causing many complaints, and leading the manager to ask him to take me out, regardless of his progress on the windows.

Yeah, you're probably not gonna want to hold me on your lap after dinner.

Yeah, you’re probably not gonna want to hold me on your lap after dinner.

It will be a relief to get me away from there, except that, despite my mental feebleness, I’m still spry, racing among the tables, taunting him with my nimble kicks.

He and three employees corner me. As he escorts me to the car, I wail in piercing tones that I haven’t had my ice cream.

He’s humiliated. I ask how many days until our next outing.

I am not sure this prophesy has any lasting effect upon him, but while he’s shaking his head in horror and thinking up excuses for missing our inaugural Friday appointment, he’s not playing tag with his brothers.

For the record, my children don’t throw food at the windows. Also, dementia is a tragic and serious illness, and I will only fake it as a last resort if my children keep pushing me toward payback.

 

Meet the Spartans – or not

On Tuesday, my family picked me up after work on the way to Meet the Spartans. This is a public event for families to shake hands and get autographs from members of our pre-season Top Ten ranked football team.

Arriving at the stadium, we waited in line for some free football posters, full of plenty of white space for autographs.

There were other family-friendly activities at the event. These lines were shorter than the autograph lines, so we decided to knock them off first. The autograph lines would still be there afterwards.

We got our picture taken with the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl trophies from the last two years. Then we got some awesome pics of the boys in full gridiron regalia.

2030 Heisman

He looks the part, but judging by his failure to pick his way through holes in the crowd, he’s going to need a good blocker in front of him.

Posing for pictures makes football stars hungry. Since the concessions were being offered much cheaper than can be had at an actual football game, our next mission was to stand in line to get the kids pizza and fries. Watching the kids eat made the parents hungry. Another bout of standing in the food lines left everyone fortified and ready to go grab some autographs.

But first the boys had to visit the spirit tent and pick out some officially licensed merchandise to need desperately. It’s nice they have team spirit, but until they get jobs their foremost loyalty belongs to Team Family Finances.

One of the boys noticed people going down to the field. We couldn’t miss that opportunity, and worked our way through the crowd to a little, roped-off, paved strip, about five feet wide, behind the end zone. We milled about there, each boy tempting authority by letting the toe of his shoe creep over the pavement onto actual football field grass.

Introducing your 2033 Heisman Trophy winner.

Introducing your 2033 Heisman Trophy winner.

Having toe-kissed the grass, it was time to go snag some autographs. On the way, we learned that if we hurried, we could go upstairs and check out the coaches’ booth and the press box. We scurried for the elevator and went up eight floors to the press level. It was an amazing view, even from the window opposite the field; we could make out the dome of the State Capitol.

As we explored the press area, Mommy found a wireless phone charger. Being a tireless devotee of cellular communication, she had to figure out how it worked with her phone. I chased the kids around the press box for a while, returning to find her the unofficial demonstrator of the device to the curious and the low-batteried.

Coming downstairs, we found we’d cleverly outwaited the autograph lines. They were down to nothing, mostly because the players had gone. But we still had some nice posters. Nobody came out of there with posters fresher than ours.

How many autographs did we get?

Zip.

How many players did we even see?

Zero.

But we ate like superstars, we touched extra special grass, and we charged our phone like we owned the place.

It was a pretty special day for young hearts.

 

Is the sibling who was mean to you in this courtroom today?

One of the joys of parenting growing boys is watching them mature to into playing cooperatively together. Seeing them sit and help each other tear apart a LEGO set I spent hours helping them build, so they can mix the pieces irretrievably among the remains of other disassembled LEGO sets I invested hours in, is pure gold.

Seeing any two of them sit shoulder to shoulder in the chair, quietly intent upon the cartoon on TV is a gratifying experience. Even when Big Brother helps Buster through one of the difficult parts of a video game, though I’m kind of supposed to feel bad for letting them play so many video games, I get a feeling of pride for my boys’ desire to be friends with each other.

two mintes of peace

The boys are playing nicely together. Grab the camera!

Of course, nothing gold can stay.

The giggly roughhousing turns sour when somebody catches an elbow. There’s one, insignificant LEGO piece that every boy needs to have in his hand right now, though it’s only value to him is that his brother wants it. Big Brother helps Buster with his game to such lengths that his assistance has turned into a tug-o-war over the tablet.

Peace between young brothers is so gratifying because it is so fleeting.

tackle

It’s always fun until somebody loses a temper.

The two most common phrases in my house are currently, “I’m telling!” and “[Brother’s name] is mean!”

Even Big Man, who can’t pronounce any of the words, lets me know when one of his brothers is mean, and leaves no doubt about who is the culprit.

I most often overhear “I’m telling!” from the next room, but I have to look accusations of meanness right in the eye. It’s not always easy to do with a straight face.

It gets a little tiresome having to hear about mean people several times a day, every day. I’d like to hear about nice people every once in a while, but who notices, much less mentions, when his brother is nice?

Last time Buster came to me to file a meanness complaint against his big brother, I let out my exasperation with their perpetual denouncements. “I know, I know,” I told him. “Everybody’s mean.”

He shook his head. “Everybody not mean.” He held up a solitary finger. “Only one mean.”

“Who?” I asked.

He turned his little, bony finger across the room toward Big Brother. “That one,” he said in his best voice of condemnation. “That one mean.”

At least he didn’t call him stupid, that time. Three-year-olds love the word stupid. It’s their first insult, and insults and brothers go together like farts and giggles. Stupid is not a nice word, though, so we’re trying to get him to call his brother intellectually challenged instead. It will buy some time while he learns to pronounce it.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue acting like we’re listening to all the pleas and accusations that come running to us. In between, we’ll enjoy those fleeting flecks of gold that sparkle when brothers are best friends.