Always play safe in Thunderdome

The boys’ uncle sent them a trampoline for Christmas. Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to build outdoor toys. The weather is finally warm enough to play outside; enough months have passed since Christmas to make it seem like a brand new gift; and parents have an extra day to recover from the trauma of assembly.

This trifecta of perfect timing was marred only by my being sick. I had just your garden variety virus, but my throbbing head and weak limbs did not feel like trampoline-building.

This did not stop my wife for a moment. If I couldn’t do it, she would. I begged her to hold off, but she was a woman with a plan, and that plan involved happily bouncing children. All I had to do was bring up the box from the basement.

Rather than stand in the way of a mother’s goals, I did as asked. Then, I entertained Big Man in the sun room as Mommy and the older boys exited to the back yard.

She did a good job building, but a trampoline, with all its required tautness, presents a struggle for any individual builder. By the time two female neighbors had come to check on her, I realized I had to abandon this being sick business.

I’m sure the neighbors saw me moping around in the back room. I’m also sure my wife explained my infirm state to them. But I’ve read enough mommy blogs to know that when a wife tells her friends her husband is sick, she rolls her eyes. I also know the friends take any husband’s illness as code for, “He’s faking so he doesn’t have do any man work.”

I took Big Man out to help Mommy. With two adults working, we finished the job without much trouble. The worst part was keeping track of the two pages of instructions among the 20 pages of safety guidelines. On the plus side, that was 20 pages of booklet we could ignore.

Don't do this at home

If this picture were in the instruction booklet, it would have a giant, red X over it.

I did notice one headline in the safety area. It was accompanied by picture of two stick figures bumping heads, complete with pain lines radiating from the skulls. It was a funny picture, accompanied by a ridiculous admonition: “Only one person should be on the trampoline.” The entire family had a good laugh over this one. Why didn’t they just tell us to take it apart and put it back in the basement? One person at a time? How could that be fun?

Yes, they were likely to bump heads, and yes, that might hurt for a minute, but hadn’t I just risen from my deathbed to make this fun possible?

They went two and three at a time. They crashed into each other in all kinds of hilarious ways, and they all got over it. Because it was fun. Because sometimes fun comes with bumps and bruises. Because we’re not the kind to make trampoline memories; we make Thunderdome memories.

I got next

The next challenger is ready. Just imagine how awesome it will be once we get the chain saws and pikes hung from the sides.

Let’s just move to Alaska so we don’t have to go to bed at all

It’s hard not to want to welcome the arrival of spring. This is especially true since my winters hold a lot less skiing than they used to and a lot more shoveling. Now that winter is more about searching for lost mittens than a quiet trail through a beautiful woods, there’s not much left to recommend it.

If there is one thing that has begun to lean in winter’s favor, it is winter’s lack of Daylight Savings Time.

DST used to be a good thing. It used to let carefree, childless me play outside after work. It used to lend itself to pleasant evenings in open-air seating with friends, food, and spirits.

Now, all DST does is convince children it can’t possibly be time to go to bed. We spent all their lives training them to sleep at night, and now demand they go to bed in the middle of the afternoon.

Lets screw parents everywhere!

Can you believe people actually wrote to Congress asking them to prevent me from having a quiet moment to myself at night?

This time of year is enough trouble without DST, but why settle for a little trouble when we can have a lot?

Nobody told the sun school is still in session. He stays up late, mocking children who have to go to bed before him.

Big Brother understands DST and the growing days of spring, but it still makes him angry. It’s darker when we wake him up than when he goes to bed. That must be why he prefers morning sleep.

A few short months ago, Buster and Big Man (formerly New Baby) were checked out by 8. Now, 10 o’clock is a good night. They can’t tell time, but they know when they can still see the colors of things outside. Day means play.

Congress must be eager to add more playtime to their days after work, the way they’ve kept spreading DST out over the calendar, but don’t those guys pretty much come and go as they please anyway?

They say it helps farmers, which is something I might buy if there were more than three family farms left. Aren’t all the farms owned by G.E. or some similar giant corporation? Can’t they just manufacture bigger light bulbs to use in the corn field factory?


. . . because you won’t have a minute alone with your wife until November. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Of all parental responsibilities, putting kids to bed is one of my top 1,000 least favorite. You know what, kids? I have work in the morning, which means I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour, which means every second you resist sleep is a second taken from the only precious little chunk of down time I’m getting today. So don’t look at the sun, or any of the natural time cues you recognize; look at the clock, that man-made fabrication dictating our lives and begging, nay commanding, you to go to sleep so I can have a quiet cup of tea, or during these rough nights of Daylight Savings Time, scotch.

On the other hand, I don’t relish the idea of them getting up at 4:30 a.m., so can I get three cheers for that wonderful sunrise delayer known as Daylight Savings Time?

What Mommy does

Big Man (formerly New Baby) – Age 1

Big Man

Big Man’s Tunnel of Love.

Mommy feeds me and keeps me clean, but those aren’t the most important things she does. Hell, even Daddy can do that, although clean becomes a relative term when he’s in charge. Mommy is a part of me like no one else in the world is a part of me. Mommy makes everything better just by coming near. She makes me feel safe and comfortable.  She’s warmer than anybody else. Her heart beats the perfect time and her skin smells like love.

When Mommy picks me up, clouds part and the sun shines from her eyes. In her glow, I am never alone. Even when I walk around a corner and can’t see her, she can see me. She sees me with her heart and she will come in an instant if her heart tells her I need her. Mommy knows my worries and my fears. Whatever the trouble, Mommy makes it right.

Buster – Age 3


Buster’s crown of patience.

Mommy listens to me. I have trouble saying some sounds, so big people can’t always understand my words. Sometimes Mommy can’t understand everything I say, but she always listens. And she always responds. She knows I have the words, but my tongue can’t always say them. She doesn’t always figure out my words, but she knows what I mean. She knows because she’s Mommy.

She understands my words perfectly when I tell her, “I love you, Mommy.” Those words are easy.

Mommy’s patient. She’s teaching me how to use the potty. Daddy would let me wear diapers until I could read an instructional manual on potty training. Mommy makes me feel proud to use the potty, even though I’m still a little shy about it. She doesn’t give up because I had an accident. She brings me dry underwear, and then everything’s okay again. Mommy makes it right.

Big Brother – Age 6

Big Brother

Big Brother’s appliance of helpful goodness.

Mommy makes me do things I don’t feel like doing. She makes me do my homework before play. She makes me practice math and spelling. She makes me take baths and clean up my messes. She makes me write thank-you notes and letters to apologize to my teacher when I’ve misbehaved in school. Daddy makes me do difficult things too, but he forgets about my homework sometimes and I don’t think he knows what a thank-you note is.

I sometimes get upset about all the things Mommy makes me do, but it doesn’t last long. Deep down, I know why she makes me do them, and I’m glad I have somebody like that. She makes me do these things because she cares. She wants me to be good. I want to be good too, but sometimes it’s hard and I need help.

Daddy says he wants me to be a good man one day. I’m not really sure how to do that. Mommy wants me to be a good boy, right now. That, I understand. Even though I sometimes stray from being a good boy, I know there’s always somebody to help me get back on track, because Mommy makes it right.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! We love you so much! Thanks for always making it right.

Three boys at play vs. a natural disaster: who can tell the difference?

Back when I was a fresh college graduate, and lived in that special, naïve bubble that only fresh college graduates inhabit, I took my shiny Telecommunications – Emphasis in Video Production degree to Los Angeles. I had done well in school, so I would certainly be directing The Tonight Show within the blink of an eye.

I learned a lot in L.A. I saw things that were an eyeful, and then some, for a callow country boy. But the most important thing I learned was that I was unemployable there in my chosen field. Somebody with the authority to say so was kind of enough to tell me that straight out.

Consequently, I began my post-collegiate career making minimum wage in the mall. A few months later, I landed an office temp job. After the mall, it felt like I had made it to the Big Time.

Lost cause

The plastic furniture of our dinner table. Many a forlorn resume was spawned at this table.

One day, when I still worked at the mall, I pulled my little car into the bank drive-through, no doubt to withdraw my last $10 so I could buy my next supply of peanut butter and bread. My car began throbbing and shaking. Having no money for repairs, I was relieved when it recovered itself. It seemed okay on the way home, allowing me to hope its mysterious ailment could be managed on the cheap.

At home, I turned on the TV and sat on the stack of foam egg crates my roommate and I used as a couch. There was a Special Report on TV about the earthquake the city had just experienced. As I watched footage of smashed pasta sauce jars in a local grocery, I realized what I felt at the bank was an earthquake. I was ecstatic. It wasn’t anything serious, like car trouble; it was only an earthquake.

It was a mild quake by California standards. The “World Series” quake in San Francisco a few weeks later proved that. I felt only minor rumbles during the year it took me to decide to tuck my tail and make the long road trip home.

Now I live where quakes are rare. My Telecommunications – Emphasis in Video Production degree is as useful now as it was then. I’ll never direct The Tonight Show, but that’s okay; I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’ve got three awesome boys, and I get to spend lots of time with them because I’m not cooped up to all hours in production meetings.

And when we have that rare tremor, like we had last Saturday, do I worry about my car? Not at all. After the house thumped and the walls rattled for all of three seconds, I marched into the room where the boys were playing and yelled at them to leave whatever piece of the house they were destroying alone.

Trouble brewing

Most of our earthquakes begin with a little harmless wrestling.

We don’t have earthquakes here. Why wouldn’t I yell at them?

P.S. Sorry I blamed you for the earthquake, boys.