Friday, June 14, 2019

McDonald's: The Unwritten Rules

Sometimes the call of the Golden Arches is too strong to ignore. We've all fallen for it, whether it be because we're desperately hungry, don't have enough money to go anywhere else, longing for the comfortable familiarity of that boot-shaped McNugget, it's the only place open at 2:00 AM, or we foolishly told the kids they could choose where we eat.

McDonald's is ubiquitous. McDonald's is inevitable. McDonald's is inescapable. You will eat at McDonald's again.

Don't get too friendly with the clown. (I don't trust him.)

And the next time you do go there, it's best to keep in mind the Unwritten Rules of Eating at McDonald's:

*If you check your bag at the drive-thru, it will always be correct, although you'll annoy the car behind you; if you don't check your bag before pulling away, something will be wrong or missing. (At the very least they'll have forgotten to give you napkins.)

*Don't fall for the Happy Meal trap. Just buy the kids stuff off of the dollar menu, because it's not worth the extra two dollars you'll pay for a Happy Meal just to get some cheap-o toy you'll end up stepping on and throwing away in two days.

Not only are you paying extra for the Happy Meal toy, you're also paying extra for the box. (Creepy!)

*If you have a chicken (or fish) sandwich and a hamburger, always eat the chicken (or fish) sandwich first, because a cold hamburger tastes better than a cold chicken (or fish) sandwich.

*If you are in a big hurry, do not order the Filet O Fish.

*If you order your drink with no ice, but it comes with ice anyway, just deal with it. (If you send it back and ask them to fix it, the chance of someone spitting in your drink more than doubles.)

*The "bonus" fries at the bottom of your drive-thru bag are always the best ones.

*Always grab more napkins than you think you'll need, because you will need more than you think.

*Don't bother with whatever limited-edition "gourmet" burger they're pushing. If you wanted something "gourmet," you certainly wouldn't be at McDonald's in the first place.

*Do you know why there's a warning saying that the apple pie filling is hot? Because it's hot, you moron! It's hotter than the molten lava of an erupting volcano!

*Whatever you do, do NOT take a bite of that McRib!!!

Thanks for the warning!

*Don't go up into the PlayPlace to retrieve your child. You do not want to be the adult who gets stuck up in the PlayPlace. Besides, they will come down on their own.... Eventually.... If you wait long enough.... Just be patient....Any time now.... Don't make me come up there and get you!!!

Edited from a post originally published on 6/13/2017.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

On the Phone with a Parent

Have you ever tried to talk on the phone with a parent of young children? Good luck with that. Oh, you could have a perfectly nice conversation with them. Or, they might suddenly yell at one of their children in the middle of an otherwise normal sentence. Think of it as "parental tourette's."

It might go a little something like this:

BRENDA: "Hi, Joanie! How are you doing?"

JOANIE: "Great! It's so good to hear from you. How are things with you and Eddie?"

BRENDA: "We're doing fine. It's funny, we were talking about you just the other--Jimmy!!! Get off of the piano!!!--day."

JOANIE: "Oh really? Why was that?"

BRENDA: "Well, we were thinking about--I said get off of the piano!!! We don't climb on top of the piano!!!--going to the lake, and we were talking about that time we went with--Get that out of your mouth!!! Jenny, is that food? No, it's not! What do we put in our mouth? Only food! That's not food! Get it out of your mouth!!!--that time we went to the lake with you and Scott. That was a great time, wasn't it?"

JOANIE: "Yes, it was. Wow, how many years ago was that?"

BRENDA: "I think it was four or--Don't feed your banana to the cat!!! Cats don't eat bananas! No!!!--five years ago. I think I might have been pregnant with--Don't eat that!!! Once it's been in the cat's mouth, you can't put it in your mouth!!!--I think I was pregnant with Jimmy."

JOANIE: "Yes, that sounds right."

Getting an earful.
BRENDA: "Anyway, Eddie and I were wondering if you guys--Jimmy!!! She had that first!!! Give it back to her! She had it first!!!--wanted to go to the lake with us in a couple of weeks?"

JOANIE: "Hey, that sounds like fun. We haven't been to the--"

BRENDA: "I told you to give it to her!!! Jimmy!!! Now!!!"

JOANIE: "--lake since that time with you guys. We should do that. When are you planning on going?"

BRENDA: "We were thinking about heading out next Friday, then staying over--Don't put the pencil in your yogurt!!!--night and coming home sometime Sat--Take the pencil out of the yogurt!!! No, you can't eat that yogurt now!--Saturday evening. We were thinking of staying at that same cabin. What do you think?"

JOANIE: "That could be fun. I'll talk to--"

BRENDA: "Because you can't stir the yogurt with a pencil!!! That's why we have spoons!!!"

JOANIE: "--I'll talk to Scott and see what--"

BRENDA: "Because there's lead in the pencil!!! Lead isn't good for you!!! You can't eat yogurt with lead in it!!!"

JOANIE: "--he thinks."

BRENDA: "Okay. Let me know when you--Don't lick the pencil!!!--decide and we'll book the cabin."

JOANIE: "Umm, are you bringing the kids?"

BRENDA: "Because we don't lick pencils!!!--Of course we will. They'll love it at--Because I said so!!! And because a pencil is not food!!!--the lake. Jimmy loves to swim."

JOANIE: "Umm, I think I just remembered--"

BRENDA: "Do you want to go to time-out!?!"

JOANIE: "--that we have something to do that day. Maybe some other time."

BRENDA: "That's too bad. It'd be great to get together with you guys and do something."

JOANIE: "Yes, some other time. Well, I've got to--"

BRENDA: "Don't even THINK about giving that pencil to the cat!!!"

JOANIE: "--go now. I'll talk to you later."

BRENDA: "Okay. It's been great talking to you. Good--Jimmy!!! Don't fart on your sister!!!--bye."

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Answer to "I'm Bored"

"I'm bored."

School's out and summer is here, so you know what that means: the kids are going to say, "I'm bored." Every good parent will have an answer ready for that statement. And, even mediocre parents like me have a few ideas of what to say. Here are some you could try:

"I'm bored." "Well, I guess we'll have to find some work for you to do."

"I'm bored." "Have you finished your chores?"

"I'm bored." "Why don't you go read a book?"

"I'm bored." "Why don't you go write a book?"

"I'm bored." "Maybe you could count how many tiles there are on the kitchen floor."

"I'm bored." "Yay! Nap time! I love nap time!"

"I'm bored." "Okay. Perhaps now would be a good time to learn how to operate the lawn mower."

"I'm bored." "Have you tried twiddling your thumbs?"

"I'm bored." "Don't you have toys to play with? I know your mother and I have spent a lot of money over the years on toys. I guess they weren't very good toys. Maybe we should gather all of your toys up and give them away?"

"I'm bored." "Go stare into an electronical device. It seems to appease everyone else."

"I'm bored." "Well, apparently we need to find you more chores."

"I'm bored." "Do you have an imagination? Use it."

"I'm bored." "Hi, Bored, I'm Dad." (Honestly, if you give them this answer every time they say "I'm bored," they will eventually stop saying it.) (I guess kids just don't appreciate a good dad joke.)

Edited from a post originally published on 6/6/2017.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

9 Kids You Meet At the Playground

Summer is here! (Not officially until June 21st, but come on, it's after Memorial Day, so can't we all agree that it's summer?) That means it's time to take the kids to the park. And that means you're going to run into those kids on the playground. Which kids? These kids:

1. The Kid Who Goes Up the Slide the Wrong Way. This kid insists on climbing up the slide while other kids are trying to slide down it. (And he gets annoyed at the kids who are using the slide in the correct manor.)

2. The Kid Who Stands At the Top of the Slide, But Won't Go Down. This kid quickly climbs to the top of the slide, but when he gets there he is suddenly too afraid to go down the slide. Or maybe he just likes the view from the top of the slide. Either way, the line of kids forming behind him is getting a little restless.

3. The Kid Who Throws Wood Chips Everywhere. Instead of having dirt or gravel on the ground, many playgrounds now have wood chips covering the entire area. And some kids just can't resist the wood chips. They'll pile them on the slide. They'll put them on the swings. They'll throw them at other kids. They'll attempt to eat them. Hooray for wood chips!

4. The Kid Who Won't Get Off the Slide. This kid will go down the slide...but won't get off of the slide. They'll sit at the bottom slide, as if they own it, until the next kid (or two or three) come down the slide and slam into them.
Maybe someone else wants to come down that slide?

5. The Kid Who Wanders In Front of the Swings as Someone Else Is Swinging. This kid is totally oblivious to his surroundings, and walks in front of (or behind) the swings when someone is swinging in them. This kid is always shocked and surprised when the physical laws of nature (and a kid in a swing) come crashing into them, knocking them to the ground.

6. The Kid Who Won't Let Any Other Kids Play. This kid will monopolize a certain part of the playground, and not let anyone else play. They might stay on a swing for several hours, even though other kids express interest in having a turn on the swing. They might control the teeter-totter for large swaths of the day. They might chase everyone else away from the rock wall so they can have it to themselves. They are not good at sharing.

Rocking the rock wall!

7. The Kid Who Crowds In Front of Other Kids. Is there a line for the slide? No matter--this kid will just shove his way to the front. He's more important than everyone else, and he is not going to wait.

8. The Kid Who Cries. This kid might be afraid of the swing. He might think the slide is too tall or too fast. He might not like it when another kid touches him. He might have seen a bug. He might have pooped in his pants. Or maybe he's crying because that's just what he does.

9. The Kid Who Won't Stop Talking. This kid will tell you anything and everything about themselves, their siblings, their parents, their pets, their teachers, and their philosophies of life, love, and politics--whether you want to hear them or not. (Usually not.) They think everyone at the playground wants to hear it all, and they just. won't. stop. talking.

Bonus #10. The Adult Who Thinks He's Still a Kid. It's great that you're still young at heart, but just because you can fit down the slide doesn't mean you should be sliding. Also, that swing wasn't designed for a 280 pound adult!

Friday, May 31, 2019

"Dinner for Two" vs. "Dinner with Kids"

My wife and I went out to dinner the other night. Just the two of us. With no kids. (It was very strange.)

It didn't take long to see that going out to dinner as two adults is much, much different than going out to dinner as two adults with four kids. Here are some of those differences:

1. Get seated quicker--We entered the restaurant in the middle of prime dinner time. Usually when asked, "How many in your party?" we'll say we need a table for six (or something similar.) Often we'll be with my wife's sister and her family, so we have to ask for a table for ten. My mother-in-law and father-in-law frequently join us, too, making us request a table for 12. And then, if my wife's other sister is also there, it becomes a table for 17. (Not many restaurants have a table for 17.)

When we tell them how many of us there are, they almost always say, "It'll be a 40 minute wait." Sometimes the wait is longer, but it's hardly ever shorter.

We're so used to having to wait to be seated that as we approached the hostess, my wife asked, "How long of a wait is it for a table for two?" The hostess quickly replied, "We can seat you right now." We were flabbergasted and stunned. No waiting! You've got to be kidding me!!!

A man, a woman, and a waiter. (That is all.)

2. No high chairs--When we sat down we didn't have to worry about where to put the high chair(s). We didn't have to track down where they were and wonder if someone from the restaurant would get them for us. We didn't have to check to see if the buckles worked, or if we needed to wipe them down.

3. No crayons at the table--We didn't have to look at a kid menu to figure out if they call them chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, chicken fingers, or chicken chunkaroos. We didn't have to decide whether or not to let our kid beat us at tic-tac-toe. And we didn't have to take an extra 45 seconds to find that one hard-to-find word that they hide in the word search puzzle diagonally backwards.

4. No potty breaks--We didn't have to worry about leaving the table in order to take a kid to the restroom. We didn't care (as much) if the bathroom had a diaper changing table or not.

5. We could eat whatever we wanted--We didn't have to worry about the kid with the nut allergy. We didn't have to worry about sharing any of our dessert.

6. No guilt about the mess--We didn't feel the need to leave a bigger tip because we felt guilty for all of the stuff on the floor beneath the high chair.

7. Adult conversation--There was absolutely no talk of diapers, Pokemon, boogers, or Moana.

Yes, we had a wonderful dinner, just the two of us! But, next time we'll probably bring the kids with us (because sometimes I just feel the need to draw on the menu with a crayon.)

Edited from a post originally published on 6/2/2017.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

7 Ways Preschool Graduation Is Better than High School Graduation

If you've ever been to a high school graduation, you know it can be a long, tedious, and boring production. That's why I prefer going to preschool graduations. Here are some of the ways a preschool graduation is better than a high school graduation:

1. Fewer than 50 graduates. It's great that your kid is graduating, but other than maybe a couple of their friends, you don't care one tiny little bit about any of the other graduates. The fewer the graduates, the less time you have to worry about not caring!

Only two rows of chairs!
2. No speech is more than two minutes long. A typical high school graduation involves several people giving speeches, including at least one long-winded blowhard from the School Board who thinks everyone came there to hear them blab on for twenty minutes. At a preschool graduation most of the "speeches" are limited to nursery rhymes.

3. No valedictorian. In high school, there is a big competition to see who will be named valedictorian, and one lucky set of parents can celebrate their child's achievement. At the preschool graduation every single set of parents (and grandparents) can believe that their child is the smartest kid in the room.

4. Parking is not a problem. The fewer kids involved means fewer cars needing parking spaces to attend the graduation. Fewer cars means better traffic flow.

5. No worries about pre- and post-graduation partying. At a high school graduation, you might worry about your graduate or one of your graduate's friends partying too hard, getting drunk, and doing something they might regret. At a preschool graduation you might worry about your preschooler spilling punch on their gown.

6. The whole thing takes less than an hour. By the time you get through all of the speeches, musical numbers, and handing out of diplomas, a high school graduation can last longer than an intercontinental flight next to a screaming baby. Preschool graduations are much shorter.

7. Everyone gets cookies! At a preschool graduation, everyone (including the graduates, the parents, the grandparents, and the siblings) gets a cookie! (Maybe even more than one!) There are no treats handed out at high school graduation.

So, if you've got a kid getting ready to graduate high school, you might consider holding them back and re-entering them in preschool. The graduation ceremony is so much better!

Friday, May 24, 2019

I'm Nerdier Than My Wife

I'm a nerd.

I've known I've been a nerd for a long, long time. Oh, sure, there was that time in sixth grade when I thought I might win the "best dressed" award because I had a Star Wars shirt for every day of the week. I didn't know then. (I didn't win, either.)

I think it was in junior high when I realized I was a nerd. And I was ashamed of it. That's when I quit collecting comic books (the first time.) I was afraid that one of the "cool" kids might see me sifting through the comic book racks at the drug stores and grocery stores of Pocatello, and think that I was some kind of loser. (At the time, I thought comic books were perceived to be for littler kids, not "hip" and "with-it" junior high schoolers.)

I started back in to collecting comic books when I was a junior or senior in high school. By then I knew I was a nerd, and so did pretty much everyone else.

So, twenty-something years later when I started dating the woman who would become The Wife, I was unquestionably, no doubt about it, abso-freaking-tively a nerd. And I was fine with that.

The Wife fancied herself a nerd, too. And so, we had to ask the question: Which one of us was the bigger nerd?

She had some pretty good credentials. For one thing, she had her ham radio license. (Pretty nerdy!) To be fair, it wasn't something she had sought out. Getting her ham radio license was something that was strongly encouraged by her dad. (He has definite nerdish tendencies.) (Sorry, PopPop, but it's true.) But, even though it wasn't her idea, a ham radio license is still a ham radio license.

The Wife's other best nerd qualification is that she is a junior high school math teacher. That is very nerdish! In fact, since we've been married there have been a few times when I have caught her doing math that was not for one of the classes she is teaching or for one of the classes she is taking.

Soak that in for a second. In other words: Sometimes she does math just for the fun of it!!! (Nerd alert!!!)

She makes a strong case. But, it flounders when compared to mine.

My basic nerd credentials can be pointed out in three easy ways:

1: I wear a calculator watch!

My "nerd watch" will even do tricks. Turn it upside down and it says "hellooo!"
Many, many years ago, my sister got me a Casio calculator watch for my birthday or Christmas (I forget which.) I'm guessing this is because she loves me, and she thinks I'm a nerd. (Look at it. This is definitely something you would only give to someone you thought of as a nerd.)

I immediately liked it. It has time, calculator, alarm, and stop-watch functions! I liked it so much that when it came time to get a new watch (because the watchband broke; the watches themselves are nearly indestructible), I bought another one just like it. And, I've been doing so for the past 20 years! (Every time I have to get a new watch I'm a little surprised to find they still make the exact same model. I'm glad they do. I'd be lost without it.)

2: I have a large comic book collection. Several thousand comic books.
Captain America enjoying the view in the comic book closet.

Oh, don't worry, it's not a particularly valuable comic book collection. That's because they aren't in pristine condition. You see, I would actually read the comic books when I bought them! I didn't just bag them and board them and keep them hermetically sealed (on Funk and Wagnall's porch) so they would stay in mint (or near mint) condition. (Oops.)

C: I've been to more than one Star Trek convention. 

You can go to one Star Trek convention and say you are just going to make fun of the nerds, but if you go to more than one, you are not fooling anyone: you are a nerd.

When I was living in Idaho, my friends and I drove down to Salt Lake City to see George "Oh my!" Takei (Mr. Sulu) at a Star Trek convention. We had a good time, but I figured that it would be a "once," and that I was done with Star Trek conventions.

But then, a few years later, it was announced that William Shatner was coming to Pocatello, Idaho! If William Shatner comes to Pocatello, you have to go see him, don't you? (At least, that's what I thought. Most other people disagreed, because there weren't many people there to see The Shat. It was not a well attended Star Trek convention. On the plus side, I can say I saw William Shatner at his only ever appearance in Pocatello, 'cause I'm sure he ain't ever going back.)

That pushed me up to two Star Trek conventions, and sealed my nerd qualifications.

So, despite her best efforts, The Wife couldn't come close to stacking up against my nerd credentials. (And that's without even bringing out my trump card: I was a 40 year-old virgin.)

Of course, these days being a nerd isn't such a bad thing. It's different now for nerds. Nerds are accepted and even celebrated. Nerds are everywhere! I'm a nerd. My wife is a nerd. Our kids are nerds. And it doesn't really matter who's nerdier. (Although I'm still not so sure about doing math just for the fun of it. Seems a little nerdy to me.)

Edited from a post originally published on 9/6/2013.