Local boy avoids 257 bone fractures in one day

My wife has discovered local swap meet web sites. This can be useful, like when she scored us a free elliptical machine, or not as useful: “Do you need 160 square feet of patio pavers? It’s only 50 bucks for the whole pile.” I admit, that would be a good deal if we had a patio, or even a potential patio area, but as it stands, we’re holding out for further price reductions.

On the useful side, we bought a bunk bed frame for the kids. When we went to look at it, the nice lady selling it gave Big Brother a pair of roller blades her children had outgrown.  Recalling the length of time, and the voluminous gnashing of teeth, it took for this kid to learn to ride a bike, I was unsure of the usefulness of the roller blades. And how much would these free blades cost us in pad purchases?

Chalk up another useful application of the Internet. Within two days, my wife had located a complete, never-been-used set of pads for $10. The only piece left to be put into place was the boy’s willingness to fall repeatedly in order to learn a skill requiring real effort.

The first time he put the roller blades on his feet, he practically had to be carried out to the driveway. Up and down the sidewalk, he rolled a little, clung to me a lot, and fell down most of all. The clinging wasn’t helping him master his balance, so I cast him off. He started making two or three strides in between falls.

Stride goeth before a fall.

His mother, proud of the bargain she’d found on the pads, and wanting to instill in him the necessity of wearing them, but mostly proud of the bargain, commented after each fall. “If not for those pads, your elbow would be completely shattered right now.”

I thought these comments might intimidate him, but he seemed to like thinking of his joints as shatterproof. It encouraged him to try again. He put together a few more strides, then tumbled.

“Your knee would be in shreds right now, except for those pads.”

The indestructible boy grinned and climbed to his feet. He took four strides before the next fall.

“Your wrist would be toast right now. Completely mangled. Thank goodness for those awesome pads, right?” He was wearing his old bike helmet, so she didn’t bother to crack his skull.

He went at it until dark. The next day he made it to the end of the block on one tumble. It’s been nothing like the slow agony learning to ride a bike was.

It just goes to show that kids can surprise you with their drive to accomplish difficult things. It also shows how Dad can always learn from Mom. I clearly didn’t talk enough about broken bones during bicycle training. Maybe if I encase him in bubble wrap and throw books at him it will make him a more avid reader.

Skate away. That’s all.

Cue the vultures

My birthday is in August – the far end of August. Notwithstanding the entire month in between, the automated corporate birthday emails arrive on August 1st. Most of them are from restaurants wanting to remind me how well they treat me: “Present this birthday coupon for a free thimble cupcake with your next meal!”

It’s nice of the various corporate entities to think of me within a month of my birthday. It makes me feel loved, in a cozy, direct marketing kind of way.

This August 1st, I was reminded that this birthday – the one coming several weeks from now – is a big one. It’s the one where I get to forget about all the worldly troubles plaguing young people and start to enjoy life. At least that’s the understanding I have from this piece of mail that landed at my house on August 1st.

What a thoughtful birthday card.

This is not the first time I have been recruited by AARP. They’ve been after me for decades as a random fish who might get caught up in the big nets they cast blindly. This time it’s different. This hook was chosen especially for me.

In the past, the recruitment materials had an anonymous vibe to them: “Hey, Dude. Are you old by any chance? If so, come hang out with us. We’re the cool old people.”

This new mailing feels like a spotlight in my face: “Scott. Yes you, Scott. We know when your birthday is (more or less) and we know how old you are. Don’t fight it. Give in. Become one of us. There’s no escape. We already made up a card with your name on it. It’s only temporary, so be sure to mail us $16 by 9/11/17.”

“We’ve been watching and we know all about you.”

You must agree there is a hint of totalitarian voice in the command to enjoy my birthday. Maybe I haven’t sorted out my emotions regarding this milestone yet. And it is a little presumptuous to assume I want a membership kit. On the other hand, the free tote does look nice; I could use it when I hike off with the other novice seniors to the indoctrination camp. I’ll just pack a few necessities. I wouldn’t want an overweight bag to make me fall and break my hip before I’ve been given all the tips and tools to help me begin enjoying life.

“Free tote. You can carry all your medications. You know you want it. Yes, you do.”

Maybe I’ll carry the temporary card around with me for a while, just in case the secret handshake doesn’t buy me into the bingo game. I’ll carry it for a month. By then, maybe they’ll be concerned about the September crop of fresh old people and forget about me. I’ll lay low and let the card quietly expire.

Unless the card gets me some good discounts by then. In that case, I’ll have to seriously reconsider parting with my $16, because if there’s one thing we senior citizens dearly love, it’s a good discount.

The best 10 years, so far

Ten years ago, this happened.

She was young and beautiful. She’s still young and beautiful. I’m still short on hair. I wouldn’t want to go changing on her.

She’s given birth to three boys since then, which makes her youth and beauty even more amazing. The boys alternate between aging me and making me feel young. Somehow she always manages to stay young.

Do we drive each other crazy sometimes? Yup, that’s part of being married. But after 10 years, we have a good understanding of why this happens. We have different perspectives on some things, and these perspectives are bound to clash sometimes. At the heart of it, we have similar core values, which keeps the clash of perspectives from getting out of hand.

Most importantly, we can be confident we are not being driven crazy out of malice. When you know there’s no malice involved, it’s much easier to move past any disagreement. She’s never made me angry enough to forget how much I love her. She’s never come close to that.

Mostly, we drive each other happy. I know that’s not a real saying, but I’m trying to keep up a consistent theme. It’s why I’m not coming home wearing a toupee out of the blue. I’m trying to be consistent. Plus, toupees are kind of creepy. I think I can speak for my wife when I say that’s a core value we agree upon.

Five years ago, I commemorated our anniversary with this post: Five Years of Trading Bacon. I probably said it better back then than I am now. After a while, it gets harder to find new words to express how you feel. Also, we don’t trade as much bacon anymore. Three hungry children don’t leave us much bacon for anything. I’m sure bacon is one of the boys’ shared core values.

So how do I find fresh words to express a love that’s been the bedrock of my life for this long? I guess it’s just a matter of bigger numbers and greater degrees.

Happy anniversary to the love of my life. After 10 years, I am more happily married and more in love with you than ever before.

How neglecting lawn maintenance killed the dinosaurs

I’ve figured out why the dinosaurs disappeared.

The answer lies where the lawn meets the sidewalk.

In a word: edging.

Long after the dinosaurs disappeared, I came along. Being a country kid, I didn’t know much about sidewalks and their struggles with the encroaching Earth. Hence, I believed the dinosaurs were probably killed by an asteroid or something ridiculous like that.

As a suburban adult, I’ve had my eyes opened about how rapidly a hungry lawn can overrun the sidewalk. The Earth is a devourer of all things immobile or complacent.

The dinosaurs grew complacent. This is why their bones are found deep below the Earth’s great lawn.

But why? What made the dinosaurs give up their vigor to the point of allowing the Earth to swallow them up?

Dinosaur children.

The Lesson of the Dinosaurs: become complacent and this world will devour you.

Evidence for my hypothesis:

Over Memorial Day weekend, my family embarked upon an edging project. Day one consisted of a little bit of edging and a great deal of children being in the way. By “being in the way” of course I mean “helping.”  They helped by demanding to be allowed to use tools they were not strong enough to lift; misplacing the tools they could carry; fighting each other for the right to misplace them; bringing their disputes to the edger-pushing parent every minute on the minute; tangling electrical cords; placing themselves exactly in the way of progress; and rendering similar forms of useful assistance.

On the second day, I got smart. I let the boys play video games. The big boys didn’t even notice me go outside. Only Big Man held his interest in helping. This left him no brothers to fight. The only one to argue with was me, and once I got it through his head that he wasn’t running the edger, the pace picked up considerably. We finished the job in no time, freeing the concrete from the amazing amount of sod that had overrun it in just a year or two.

Don’t think it could only happen to dinosaurs. Seen any saber tooths  lately?

It all makes sense:

The Earth will eat up anything that stands still long enough.

The beginning of the end for the dinosaurs came when they abandoned their edging and became complacent homeowners. The Earth covered over their sidewalks and then it overwhelmed the dinosaurs themselves as they waited for the children to grow up and move out so they could straighten up the place.

The dinosaurs gave up on their edging because they had too many dinosaur children helpers frustrating their efforts.

The dinosaur children were always underfoot because there was nothing consistently reliable to distract them from helping.

These facts lead us to:

The core causality of the Great Extinction:

Dinosaur culture crumbled for the lack of compelling video games. That long ago, they couldn’t have had anything more sophisticated than Atari.

Think about that next time you lament your child’s affinity for screens.

A group of non-extinct animals demonstrate the safety of a properly edged walk.