Of stinkbugs and men

I have three rough and tumble boys. They play sports; they wrestle each other; they leap off furniture; they catch toads; they do stunts on their bikes. They are little men’s men, daredevils spurred on to great feats of bravado by unpredictable rushes of testosterone.

They are rugged, undaunted envelope pushers, at all times and in all situations, provided none of those situations involves insects in the house.

A moth in the house sends them scrambling like they’ve heard air raid sirens. A spider elicits high-pitched wails, like they’ve become air raid sirens.

They run to Daddy, known for his skill as insect trapper and disposer. He produces his most reliable tool: toilet paper. With a little wad of paper, he catches the bug and flushes it, because, as every schoolboy knows, insect Heaven lies beneath the swirling waters of the potty.

Insects are pulling out all the stops when it comes to sneaking into our house.

If Daddy is not home, they make the best of the situation by running to Mommy. Mommy takes a more distant view of insect disposal. Mommy sprays bugs, notwithstanding the fact there is rarely bug spray in the house. Mommy will spray whatever bottle is closest at hand on a bug: Windex, antiperspirant, Pledge, poster adhesive. If she can’t kill them, she’ll certainly make them spotless, confident, lemon fresh, and sticky.

I’m no great fan of insects, but I have learned to take a measured approach to finding one near me. Mommy has been known to challenge Usain Bolt’s 100 meter time when confronted with a bee. Of course, that was before she had children to protect. Now, she throws the troops to the ground and covers them with her body as if shielding them from exploding shrapnel. It’s all very heroic.

I’ll let you decide where the boys inherited their reaction to insects.

This year, our plague is stinkbugs. Five years ago, I’d never heard of stinkbugs. Now, they are everywhere. Despite their name and ubiquitous nature, I’ve never smelled a stink bug. They only stink when you squash them. This should serve you right if you are the type to shoot bug guts all over your walls and countertops. Even odorless bug guts make for poor décor, and squashing them deprives them of their basic right to ride the maelstrom down the pipes to Valhalla.

You stink, and your mama dresses you funny.

Stink bugs are relatively harmless (unless you are fruit), but that still doesn’t mean I want them in my house.  The boys don’t want to imagine big, ugly beetles crawling on them at night. Unfortunately, a stink bug’s second favorite activity, after mowing fruit trees, is to come into our home in autumn, and the boys’ window AC unit is the easiest place for them to do it.

This leads to cries for rescue. Daddy charges in, armed with his lethal toilet paper, and whisks the offender off to the Great Swirling Reward. The unwanted stink bug is gone, the area is secure, and my own three cherished little stink bugs can go to sleep.

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Literally cooking on air, in the figurative sense

I dislike this frying pan.

It’s probably no worse than any of the Teflon pans we have in our kitchen. I hate it because it’s supposed to make Teflon seem like cookware from the Stone Age and it doesn’t. You may have seen it advertised on TV. It’s shilled by a guy with the most delightful British accent. The apex of his pitch is, “It’s lit’rally like cooking on air!”

People misusing the word literally, or even lit’rally, is a pet peeve of mine. Most often, people using the word literally at all is a pet peeve of mine. Yet I was so enticed by the idea of cooking my eggs on air, I let this one slide. Let that be a lesson to me.

I’ll tell you what this frying pan is lit’rally like, if you can forgive me for putting the disqualifying word like after the oft-abused literally.

It’s lit’rally like cooking with any other pan in your cupboard, except the instructions say not to use cooking spray, which makes it lit’rally like having your eggs stick to the bottom. This makes it lit’rally like cooking scrambled eggs instead of the omelet you intended.

It lit’rally makes you shout out words you’ve always been good about not saying in front of the children. (This is the only accurate use of the word lit’rally I’ve written today.)

We did not buy this from the TV commercial. We’ve never bought anything that way. These things end up in the “As Seen on TV” sections of stores, and then they go on sale, and even though nothing else “As Seen on TV” has ever worked like it did when seen on TV you think somehow this one might be the one that does. Because figuratively like cooking on air is, technologically speaking, the closest thing to literally cooking on air, right?

“And I’ve lost the receipt!”

I’m going to be honest and admit this is not the first time I’ve been made a sucker by a product As Seen on TV. There is a NuWave oven that’s been sitting in our closet for the better part of a decade, since the time it taught us to appreciate our regular old oven.

Sometimes infomercial products intrigue me. Air fryers are the latest device I wish I could believe. They are supposed to use hot air to cook chicken wings, onion rings, French fries, and all the other things God made it smelly and inconvenient to deep fry at home so humans might live past middle age. A crispy chicken wing cooked without oil would be the dawn of a new era of hope and joy for me. But I will not be bamboozled by my lofty dreams again. I believe it is Newton’s Fifth Law of Physics that states a warm breeze will never make chicken crispy.

No, I’ve finally learned my lesson. No air fryer for me, because that would be literally like getting ripped off for a hundred bucks, which is lit’rally like £78.

 

Once we master wheels we can move on to laces

My wife says there are three childhood milestones parents would pay somebody else to teach their kids: potty training, riding a bike, and tying shoes. There may be others, but these three are a good intro to the world of parental frustration. Multiplied by three kids, we tallied nine hurdles of child rearing.

Six are behind us.

3 children potty trained

2 children riding two-wheeled bikes

1 seasoned veteran of shoe tying

Our most recent cleared hurdle was Buster learning to ride a bike. For a while we thought we might get a two-fer on the bike riding. Alas, despite Big Man’s attempts to catch up to Buster, his parents weren’t equal to the challenge of teaching him to ride.

When Buster was learning, it was difficult to get him to pedal continuously. He was tempted to put his feet down and keep himself from falling, the natural result of sitting on a dubious contraption with a propensity to tip over. He went too slowly and had trouble finding his equilibrium. He also kept looking backward to make sure the Parent on Duty hadn’t let go. He wasn’t fully vested in the idea that riding a tipsy two-wheeler would be worth the effort.

One day, a switch flipped in Buster’s little noggin. He decided he was going to ride his bike, and he wasn’t going to need any help doing it. He practiced on his own, refusing to let anyone hold him up. At the end the day, he could ride a bike.

It got much easier when he stopped looking over his shoulder.

Seeing this, Big Man demanded to have his training wheels removed. Being an obedient father, I complied.

Recalling how Buster’s skinny legs rarely peddled faster than I could walk, I didn’t bother to change out of my plastic sandals as I prepared to walk alongside our newest learner. This was the undoing of the whole endeavor.

Big Man has strong, pudgy legs. When they meet a pair of peddles they create a dynamo unlikely to be matched by middle-aged feet in plastic slip-ons. Also, his bike is low to the ground while my spine is old and composed of dried up chicken bones. It was an uncomfortable race to the end of the block for me.

By the time Stooped-Over Daddy became Stooped-Over Daddy Sucking Air, we’d determined that Big Man was an expert peddler. Balancing was a skill of secondary importance to him. Mommy came to relieve Daddy, but was quickly left just as ragged and dirty.

Even Buster stepped in to take a turn as spotter for his wobbly little brother, but he went heavy on expert advice from his deep well of experience and light on willingness to have his thicker brother fall over on him.

“Let me give you a few tips before I let go.”

It was a good workout for the whole family, but in the end Big Man had to go back to his training wheels until his worn-out family can recruit their strength.

Maybe we’ll work on tying shoes while we catch our breath.

 

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.