MOWING IS COOL
recently over lunch, a friend of
mine commented on how his 18 year
old, college bound son hasn't been
around the house long enough to mow
the grass the past 2 years, not
since he became popular with the
girls and took up playing the bass
guitar. That got me thinking about
my own son and his lawn mowing
all that long ago, my son would
follow alongside me as I mowed the
lawn, pushing his Fisher-Price
Bubble mower, his Mowie,
mowing the grass down there in his
3 foot tall world. We both dreamed
of the day when he would finally
be old enough to take over the
congruity of desire. Child wanting
to perform work. Parent dreading
doing same piece of work. Sweet
perfection! If he could only just
grow up already, I'd be ready and
willing to teach him all I know
about the fine art of lawn mowing.
well, well. He's nearly 11 now and
hasn't lost a bit of his desire to
mow. He's fascinated by loud,
roaring dangerous machines. He
loves the concept of the sharp
metal blade furiously spinning
around beneath the mower, much
like an airplane propeller. He
wishes we owned a tank or a
Hum-Vee, because they're cool!.
He's also informed me that he's
ready to help with my
one day I taught him the
fundamentals of the Sears
Craftsman, self-propelled, 22
inch, rear-bagging mower and set
him loose in the front yard.
to my pleasant surprise and
relief, he actually loved mowing.
He can't get enough of it. After
one and a half hours of mowing, he
actually cried when I informed him
that he couldn't go across the
street and mow the lawns of the
neighbors, since he didn't have
their permission and they weren't
home! Two days later he was
pestering me to mow again. Ahhh!
Life is Good!
see, I come from a family of
apartment house dwellers who'd
never touched a lawn mower in
their lives. (The maintenance men
from the housing company performed
all the lawn care). So to me,
mowing is nothing but a form of
exercise required to maintain the
grass at a reasonable height in
order to keep the neighbors from
siccing the town police on me for
violating the grass height
get a kick out of surreptitiously
standing in the doorway, watching
my son operate the mower.
Sometimes he pretends that he's
giving the lawn a haircut. Other
times the mower is a space
mower lines chiseled into
the lawn are not always perfectly
straight. Our lawn doesn't
resemble the Yankee Stadium
outfield. But since my son doesn't
mind returning to a missed or
imperfect section to improve it,
he definitely gets an A
week was a memorable mow. As 60's
classic rock blared within the
house from my daughter's boombox
radio, I watched Alex pass back
and along the side of the house,
alternately passing in and out of
my sight of vision. He was quite a
sight, wearing a tank top, a black
beret, and a set of dark Blues
Brothers style shades. Even though
he couldn't hear the radio, he
seemed to be mowing and moving in
sync to the music, as if it was
his personal soundtrack. One pass,
he suddenly dropped down to his
knees for no special reason and
happily waddle-walked in
time to the music behind the
self-propelled mower. I've rarely
seen him happier or more
self-fulfilled than when he's
mowing, performing some real adult
as dusk approached and the mower
was put away until next time, I
sent him into the back yard to use
the garden hose to wash out the
grass bag. He was gone for quite
sometime. I quietly walked around
the side of the house and heard
him spraying water against the
fence. I turned the corner to see
Alex, his back to me, standing in
the twilight, aiming the hose
against the 6 foot tall wooden
fence. A steady stream of water
played out against the fence,
moving in lockstep with his hand
motions upon the nozzle. The
shadow of the water stream and his
own shadow, made tall by the
setting sun, reflected back from
the fence. He and his shadow
fought a Luke Skywalker-Darth
Vader Light Saber dual to the
death. With each stroke and
counter stroke of the hose against
the fence, the stream of water
left its trail. The shadow image
matched each parry. Fantastic
light sabre sound effects filed
the backyard from my son's lips.
Luke and Darth fought valiantly to
the water was off. The grass bag
was carried to the front of the
house to dry. I couldn't help
rubbing my son's head and saying,
in my best James Earl Jones voice,
Do you Know Who I am? I am your
the Force be With You, my son!
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KIDS SAVE THE
Linkletter (am I dating myself?)
once said, kids say the darndest
things. Well, I would like to
expand on that by adding and
they save the darndest things too!
recently took a long, hard look at
all the stuff my 10-year-old son,
Alex, has in his room. Where many
of the items came from, and why he
keeps them is beyond me. Here is
just a very small sampling of some
of the hundreds of things I found.
begin with his collections. He has
a rock collection, a baseball card
collection, a Star Wars toy
collection, a pencil collection,
and a who-knows-what-else
collection. But the collection,
which amazed me the most, was his
dirty socks and underwear
don't know how long it has been in
his room (and I am afraid to ask),
but I found Lifesaver candy
wrapper in his room with one linty
Lifesaver candy left in it. Is he
saving it for an emergency sugar
fix? And I wonder about the piece
of partially eaten chocolate candy
that seems to be left over from
Halloween? But from what year!
would think we don't have any
trashcans in the house! I ask you,
why would he save an empty box of
Smith Brothers cough drops?
there is the Hawaiian Lei. Where
did it come from? He has never
been to Hawaii. I am not even sure
if he knows where Hawaii is on a
map! Why does he have it? I am
afraid to ask.
what about his US Navy Dog Tags
from the Battleship Massachusetts?
Is my 10-year-old leading a secret
life which I know nothing about?
can understand his having a yellow
yo-yo; a metal toy plane; a
Hershey's Chocolate Company piggy
bank; and the seashell from the
beach. But why the rings?
all types of rings. He has a
yin/yang ring; a peace symbol
ring; and a bat ring just to name
a few. But the boy doesn't wear
rings! Never has, and probably
could go on and on...the multitude
of caps he never wears; the dusty
container of pogs; the Queens
College pennant; the rubber
snakes; the old zoo pamphlet; the
2 flashlights without batteries;
the assorted magazines...
dread to think what I will find in
his room when he is a teenager.
kids save the darndest things!
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imagine a world where children
actually change rolls of toilet
paper? How about a planet where
children save the last couple of
chocolate chip cookies for mom and
dad! Ah, to dream...
mom, is it OK for me to eat the
rest of the lima beans?
dad, remember how you were going
bald on the top of your head? I've
just noticed that you have an
incredibly thick growth of hair
coming in. Boy, I hope I can look
as young and handsome as you when
I'm your age!
mom, I've had the remote control
for the last hour. That's
certainly long enough. Now it's
your turn to select the programs
we're going to watch.
the shirt I put on this afternoon
is still clean. I'm going to wear
it again tomorrow. That way, you
won't have so much laundry to do.
dad - we've arranged simultaneous
sleep-overs at our friends' houses
because we can tell that you need
some quiet time alone.
my goal is to live long enough to
see my daughter paint each of her
fingernails the same color and for
my son to have a complete,
rational thought. Until then I
because Alex has been such a
wonderful brother and is such a
great humanitarian, I've nominated
him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
mom - I've reconsidered my plan to
become a US Navy fighter pilot and
instead have discovered an
incredible desire to become an
thanks dad, we don't want to go
into the toy store. We have more
than enough toys at home. We'd
prefer you save your money for our
I think it's way cool how you play
your guitar and harmonica and sing
those old Bob Dylan tunes!
I've decided not to spend the
night over at Zachary's house. I
don't feel that his parents
provide enough adult supervision.
Did you know that they actually
let him watch South Park?
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say, Eating is one of life's
greatest pleasures. Oh, yeah?
Well, exactly who are these people?
Whoever they are, they've obviously
never eaten out with my
I utter these words to my family,
Hey guys, we're going out to
dinner tonight. Where do you
want to eat? My mood begins
to alter at near-light
younger child, Amanda will cry out
with glee, McDonald's, as
visions of Happy Meal Toys and
french fries twirl before her
eyes. And my older child, Alex
will break away from Nintendo just
long enough to call out the name
of the all-you-can-eat buffet
images of mashed potatoes,
macaroni & cheese, and
soft-serve ice cream are
immediately replaced in his
consciousness by Super
course, without a doubt, my wife
Aggie will say, I don't care
where we go...as long as it's
not to McDonald's or the buffet
me, I'd be more than happy to
huddle in front of the NFL game on
TV and suck down two peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches. But out to
dinner we will go!
my wife and I decide we'll go to
the local diner. Amanda sulks, But
they don't have Happy Meals
there. And Alex whines,
They don't have pizza!
drive to the diner I wish I didn't
invite everyone to eat out. From
the back seat I hear the ominous
chant, The diner stinks! The
diner stinks! The diner
what seems like the longest drive
in history we reach the
Alex has spotted the video game
sitting in the alcove just off the
lobby. Cool...look dad! Can I
play? Can I borrow 50 cents?
I'll only play one game. I'll
pay you back when we get home..
that one game leads to two. Which
leads to three. I say with a fair,
but firm tone, No, we're here
on, please let me play.
Alex. We're going to sit down at
the table together, as a family.
not fair! You're the meanest
parents in the whole world!
table is ready. Amanda says, I
want to sit next to Daddy. Alex
answers, No you're not! You
sat next to him last time. I'm
sitting next to him! Amanda
sticks out her tongue and says, No
you're not. You sat next to him
butter and jelly sandwiches in
front of the tube seem better and
better! I decide not to sit next
to either child. I sit with Aggie.
Together, we gaze upon the not so
angelic faces of both of our li'l
look over the 18 page menu Alex
exclaims, There's nothing to
do you mean?, says my wife.
They have plenty of things you
don't have pizza! Alex
snarls. And the service is too
slow...it takes forever to get
your food! And it's freezing in
here!, says Alex as he pulls
the oversized hood of his
sweatshirt over his head, covering
his face down to his chin.
the children agree on
pancake/scrambled eggs platters.
And as the waitress takes our
order, it occurs to me that I have
no idea what I want to eat. After
a moment of speed reading I order
a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich! I resolve not to eat out
again with the family until the
children are in High School,
time dinner arrives everyone is
settled in. Miraculously, the
children began to behave
wonderfully. Tales from school are
told. Upcoming sports and scout
events are discussed. Knock-knock
jokes are exchanged. We laugh
together as a family. Perhaps I am
mistaken. Perhaps we will eat out
dinner I pay the cashier. The kids
use the little teaspoon in the
dish next to the cash register to
pour some fruit-filled
after-dinner mints into their
hands. And of course, more mints
fall onto the floor than into
their hands. And as soon as we get
in the car, the kids decide (of
course), that they don't like the
mints and want to spit them out.
We provide some napkins from the
home, Alex softly says, "Uh,
Dad. I'm sorry I acted like a
baby at the diner. I love you.
love you, too, I say.
I love you, Alex says.
love you, Alex, Aggie
I love you, Alex says.
love you, Alex, Amanda
and fuzzy feelings fill the car.
It's like The Waltons. Eating out
with the family passes into
history. We arrive home. It's
shower time, I say. I
don't want to shower, says
Alex. I want to take a bath...
guess we'll continue this tale
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WACKY FOOD COMBOS
glorious food. It's what keeps us
alive. We crave it and we love it.
But we eat too much of it, so then
we diet. Yes, it's a vicious cycle
we all share!
for today, let's look at the
harmless, fun side to nutrition.
I'm not talking about your toddler
spilling Spaghetti-Os on the
floor; smearing chocolate cake all
over his face and hair; or
applying peanut butter to the
cat's ears. No, I'm talking about
the fun, crazy combinations of
foods we eat. Foods, which alone
might be perfectly viable, but
when eaten together, makes
everyone around you go "O, YUCK!".
parent you have seen your children
eat interesting assortments of
consumables, without batting an
eye, counting a calorie, or
feeling any shame or guilt. For
instance, my daughter Amanda
washes down cheese pizza and salad
loaded with Thousand Island
dressing with a warm mug of hot
chocolate topped with a mound of
whipped cream. And my son Alex
enjoys a stack of pancakes
smothered in maple syrup along
with a mess of french fries full
of ketchup, accompanied by a
delicious glass of apple juice!
Not exactly my first choice for
must come clean and admit, there
are few things in life I find more
enjoyable than a cold bottle of
beer with a box of chocolate chip
cookies. I'm sure you'll all agree
with me on that one!
I don't hold the same warm and
fuzzy feelings for pizza dipped in
soy sauce. And to tell you the
truth, neither does Alex. Not
after giving it a try it last
house there's no condiment quite
as flexible as Bar-B-Q Sauce. It's
not just for steaks and chicken
anymore. To my kids, it's
delicious with french fries,
carrots, string beans, macaroni
& cheese, and of course, their
children eat the darndest things.
I know of a child who never eats a
morning bowl of cereal with milk.
Instead, she pours orange juice on
her breakfast cereal! "O, YUCK!"
But it's not only children that
make me say "O, YUCK!"
wacky brother-in-law likes to
spread a mess of artery-clogging
butter on a slice of white bread,
load it up with squares of milk
chocolate, and shove the bread and
all into his mouth! (To me, this
sounds frighteningly close to
something Elvis might have done in
his latter years hanging around
the Graceland kitchen).
like I said, he's wacky! He also
likes to dip his potato chips in
mustard. What's next, pretzel rods
dipped in ketchup, Cheese Doodles
sprinkled with balsamic vinegar,
and Doritos topped with Russian
him a double "O YUCK!"
back on Earth...my beloved
mother-in-law's favorite sandwich
consists of cold baked beans on
white bread. That's the truth! I
couldn't make a thing like that
up! And my son's favorite sandwich
is mayonnaise on white bread. No
meat, no lettuce, no tomato, no
cheese, no baked beans. Just mayo
on white bread. (The apple doesn't
fall far from the tree, I guess).
important of all, though, whatever
you do, remember to never, ever,
drink shots of 151-Proof Rum
chased with full glasses of
Maneshewitz Heavy Malaga Grape
Wine, followed by a six-pack of
outside in the noon sun...on a
hot, hazy, humid June day...while
basketball...and downing mass
quantities of pickles, hot dogs,
salsa, birthday cake, and Kentucky
think you can top my experience or
have a food tale or anecdote you'd
like to share with the worldwide
"Parent Talk" readership, please
drop me a short note.
hear the absolute wierdest
combination of foods and/or drinks
you've ever seen anyone consume.
Perhaps you've watched your kids
eat something really bizarre,
without the slightest bit of
however, it was YOU, the intrepid
reader, an adult and parent who
should know better, who consumed
the wild food and/or beverage mix.
me a line and try to make me go
feedback to email@example.com
ACHY BREAKY LEG
family misfortune can result in
feelings of sadness and regret, but
surprisingly, can also yield some
fine day I took my son Alex ice
skating at the Albany indoor rink.
I intended it to be a "Sunday Fun
Day", an opportunity for father
and son to bond. Instead, it
became A Day Which Will Live
In Infamy (in our family
paid our money and put on our
rented skates. For the first hour,
a fun time was had by all. We
skated round and round the rink
like little Gretzkies,
occasionally pretending to shoot
an invisible hockey puck at
imaginary goal cages.
the Zamboni break, Alex played a
spaceship shoot'em up video game
in the lobby. Once the rink
re-opened, we quickly joined the
crowd on the ice.
short while into the second
skating period, Alex suddenly fell
down hard, slipping while rounding
the turn at full speed. He slid
across the ice, directly into the
boards. His right leg smashed
straight into the wooden wall.
on the ice crying while I did my
best to comfort him. Eventually, I
helped him to get up and we
hobbled over to the nearby bench
area used for hockey games. He was
still crying and he told me his
ankle hurt and was probable
broken. I of course, told him, Stop
your whining and act like a man.
It's not broken. You've fallen
down like that plenty of times
and have always been OK. Just
snap out of it already.
time passed, and the tears
continued to flow (and as the
other parents skated by giving me
dirty looks like maybe I was a
relative of Joseph Mengele) it
slowly dawned on me that the big
baby might not be faking it.
(No, I thought. He just
couldn't have broken anything.
Or, could he have?)
carried him off the ice, returned
the rental skates, ice-packed his
ankle, and took him home. I
figured he only had a bad sprain.
home, my wife Aggie greeted me
with a dirty look and exclaimed, What
did you do to him?
looked at his ankle area and said,
It looks like it's just
right, I thought. Mothers
a short while at home, though, we
decided to take Alex down to the
emergency room, strictly as a
precaution. The ER nurse, a Kathy
Bates look-alike, took the vital
information and advised us that it
looked to her like only a sprained
I thought. She's gotta be
right. She's a Health Care
Doctor came in to examine Alex and
said, This doesn't look too
bad. I believe it's just
sprained, but we'll take an
X-Ray, just to be careful.
Sounds pretty encouraging!
the Doctor returned and advised
Alex that he had a compression
fracture of both the tibia and the
fibula, well, I was just
face dropped and turned pale.
Tears welled up in his eyes. He
put his hands over his face and he
started to shake. The Doctor tried
to soothe him by mentioning that
his leg would only have to be in a
cast for 8 weeks. But for Alex, 8
weeks is an eternity. The nurse,
though, more helpfully told Alex
that he'd be the coolest kid in
his class and everyone would want
to sign his cast.
just felt guilty! Guilty for not
somehow preventing the accident
and guilty for not believing Alex
when he said his foot hurt and he
couldn't stand or skate on it.
let's cut ahead in time to April.
Finally, the big day was here.
YES, it was time for the trip to
the Doctor's Office to remove the
cast from Ol' Peg-Leg. As
we entered the Cast Room and Alex
eyeballed the electric saw laying
on the counter, he said to the
nurse, You know, I think it
would be better if you left my
cast on for a few more weeks.
That way, my bones can harden-up
the nurse insisted on cutting off
the cast, per Doctor's orders. And
Alex was very scared that she
might slip and accidentally cut
off his leg, in addition to the
the nurse positioned Alex on the
examining table and turned on the
mean-looking, loud, rotating saw
blade. Eerily, it closely
resembled torture devices seen in
many a Hollywood horror movie. She
told Alex to stick his fingers in
his ears (to lesson the noise or
to ensure his fingers wouldn't
accidentally be cut off?).
she quickly made two decisive cuts
in the cast. Each starting at the
knee and ending at the toes.
this was happening however, Alex's
face turned crimson and he started
howling like a madman. His screams
were so loud and urgent that, for
a brief moment at least, both
Aggie and I believed that the
nurse had cut too deeply into the
cast and was actually slicing
through his flesh!
finally, the cast was off.
last the time to rejoice was at
curiously, was the room filled
with laughter, mirth, and
high-fives all around?
the sounds of a heavenly choir
Hallelujah! permeate the
Alex took one quick look at his
dirty, hairy, thin leg, full of
pale pealing skin and fuzz balls,
and cried out, I can't look at
it! It doesn't look normal! It
doesn't look like my other leg!
it doesn't even look like a
human leg! He snarled.
then pleaded with them to put on a
new cast, so he wouldn't have to
look at his leg. The medical
staff, though, decided to decline
this request, and wished us all
the best, with a wink and a smile,
as we later walked out the door.
approached the car for the short
drive home, Alex, with an extreme
sense of urgency said, I have
to sit in the front seat of the
car! I can feel my heart beating
through my kneecap!
conclusion, after a few days, he
was up and hobbling around the
house. Eventually, Alex was back
in Physical Education class. Now,
he's completely healed and thinks
nothing of jumping down a full
flight of stairs or making an Evel
Knievel jump on his bicycle over a
ramp of wood and cinder blocks. He
says he's even ready to go ice
skating again some fine winter
the question is, am I
ready for it???
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CAMPING WITH THE
night, the 1st night of the Fall Cub
Scout Campout, we had an early
season Autumn snowstorm. We
had about 7 or 8 inches here.
But up in rural Saratoga County
where the Camp is, they had 16
the prudent thing. I waited until
Saturday morning, after the snow
had stopped and the roads had been
plowed, before I drove Alex and
another boy up north for our usual
cub scout camp-out extreme weather
took hikes thru deep, unexpected
snow halfway up to our knees.
we went snowtubing and sledding
we did dinner up at the main
cabin, followed by leather
we hiked thru the snow back to our
were we tired.
Out was at 10:45.
11:30, in the total darkness of
Camp Boyhaven, everyone was in an
extremely deep and well-deserved
sleep when suddenly, BOOM!!
pile of board games on a table in
the center of the room had
suddenly slipped off the table
onto the floor. Chaos and
rapidly beating hearts ruled the
day. However, after a little
conforting and TLC, the boys got
us adults calmed down and back to
12:15, in the total peace and
tranquility of the North county,
everyone was in extremely deep and
well-deserved REM sleep when
suddenly the cabin filled with the
sound of someone gagging and
making desparate sounds.
flashlight beam revealed the site
of Alex's friend and fellow scout
John in the top bunk across the
cabin puking into his sleeping and
bag and over the edge of the bed
onto his father Matt below!
make a long story short...after
assisting in the puke cleanup, I
climbed back into bed for some
badly needed and well-deserved
of the boys were sleeping at this
time. Lucky kids!
getting chilly in the cabin so I
asked Matt to throw another log or
two into the wood burning
stove. He unfortunately
threw in a log that was an inch or
two, too long for the stove. As
much as he tried for the next few
minutes, he could not close the
door of the woodstove.
the end of the log was burning
nicely inside the stove!
is happening, by the way, in a
cabin with no water, due an
earlier burst waterpipe.
since the stove's door was open,
the cabin started to rapidly fill
up with thick layers of
in the Night from Hell, the cabin
(and I think the entire Lower
Adirondacks) were filled with the
HONK, HONK, HONK, HONK, HONK of
the world's most powerful smoke
boys quickly got up, thinking it
settled them down, opened both
cabin doors for ventilation
(reducing the temperature greatly,
in the 15 degree air). After
jockeying the wood, I managed to
get the stovedoor shut and the
smoke alarm to stop honking.
it's 12:45, smokey and cold.
of us were starting to get perhaps
just a wee bit cranky.
1:15, miraculously, all was
were sleeping, except for
me. My bed had taken up a 33
degree slope to the right as I lay
in it! Bad springs or
something. But I did my
best. I was ready to drift
of to sleep.
happened...What occurred now?
...Why, it was...MORE PUKING, MORE
PUKING, MORE PUKING, MORE PUKING,
& MORE PUKING!
the next couple of hours there
were 5 more puking attacks by
John. Each separated by periods of
almost getting back to
awoke Sunday at 6:00 am with a
headache and upset stomach.
more tubing and sledding we got
home around 1 pm Sunday.
a long, long, long nap that
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