Tuesday, March 20, 2018

4 Ways Kids React to the Vacuum

I vacuum at least twice a year, whether I need to or not. So, you might say that I'm an experienced vacuumer. (Spellcheck doesn't think "vacuumer" is a word. Spellcheck is wrong.)

I also am the father of four kids, so I know everything there is to know about kids. (Except for a few things here and there.) And, based on my expertise with children and my experience as a vacuumer, I can definitely tell you about:

The 4 Different Ways Kids React to Vacuuming!

1. The Runaway Runawayer
Some kids, as soon as you fire up the vacuum, leave the room immediately. They run away. They hide. They may even leave the house. They want to be as far away from that vacuum as they possibly can. It might be because they hate the noise. It might be because they are afraid of getting sucked up into the vacuum. Or, it might be because they don't want you to ask them to do the vacuuming. Whatever the reason, as soon as the vacuum is turned on, they are gone. (This category often also applies to cats. You want to see how fast your cat can run? Turn on the vacuum.)

2. The Feet-Holder-Upper
These kids will pretend they don't care either way if you are vacuuming or not--until you get that vacuum within their personal comfort zone. That's when they raise their feet up in the air. They usually try to look nonchalant about doing this, but it's hard to look nonchalant with your feet unnaturally hanging three feet in the air. ("Feet in the air, feet in the air! Looking like a fool with your feet in the air.")

Why do these kids put their feet in the air? Maybe they're afraid you will suck them into the vacuum. Maybe they think they're being helpful by getting their feet out of your way. Maybe they're doing some weird leg-lifting exercise. Whatever the reason, always be sure to take a little longer vacuuming under their raised feet, just to see how long they can hold them up. They'll thank you later. (Probably not.)

"Here, let me help you with that!"

3. The Unwanted Helper
Some kids will see you vacuuming and think, "Hey, that looks like fun! I want to do that." These kids will want to "help" you by taking over the vacuuming for you. This sounds like a good thing, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want their kids to do all of the vacuuming for them? Well, the problem is that this category is usually reserved for kids who are too young to actually be an effective vacuumer. These are toddlers whose "help" is actually a huge hinderance. Because they are grabbing at the vacuum and trying to push it, a ten-minute job turns into a twenty-minute job.

You might think, "Hey, if I let them help me now and train them in how to vacuum, they'll soon be able to do all the vacuuming themselves, leaving me more time to sip exotic drinks with umbrellas in them." That's a nice thought, but the problem with it is that by the time the child is actually old enough to properly work the vacuum, they'll no longer show any interest whatsoever in helping with this particular chore. No, they'll only "help" you when their "help" is of no help at all.

I dare you to vacuum me up!

4. The Moving Obstructionist
These kids are dangerous. They see a vacuum as an opportunity to play a game of chicken. Instead of running away from the vacuum, they run toward it. Their attitude is, "I dare you to vacuum me up with that vacuum!"

I thought I had seen it all with my first three kids. They each moved through the first three categories at various times. But, my fourth child is fearless. He sees the vacuum as an opportunity to play a game of "Get In the Way of the Vacuum." He's not afraid of the vacuum. He doesn't want to help. He's just there to get in the way and make the task more difficult for me. When he's in the room I end up using fakes, jukes, end-arounds, reverses, and any other misdirection I can think of to vacuum around him.

He makes it quite a challenge. I can't vacuum when he's napping, because the noise will wake him up.   The only real solution I can think of is just not vacuuming until he goes off to kindergarten. (I don't really need to vacuum in the next three years, do I?)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Do Leprechauns Exist?

Are leprechauns real?

I used to think they weren't. But now I'm not so sure.

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter (then seven years old) and my wife got into a heated debate about the authenticity of leprechauns, and The Girl made some pretty good points.

It started with The Girl talking about making a leprechaun trap so she could catch a leprechaun. The conversation then went something like this:

The Wife: "You know leprechauns don't really exist, right?"
The Girl: "No, they do exist. They're real. I know it."
The Wife: "What makes you think leprechauns are real?"
The Girl: "Well, we had a leprechaun come last year and mess up our classroom." [Note: She's talking about her first grade classroom.]
The Wife: "Okay, but...."
The Girl: "And in preschool Shaun-Shaun the Leprechaun came and we tried to catch him."
The Wife: "Did you ever see these leprechauns?"
The Girl: "No."
The Wife: "Because they aren't real."
The Girl: "No, they're just super fast and sneaky."
The Wife: "You didn't see them because they don't exist."
The Girl: "They do exist. They just don't like to be seen. They hide really good."
The Wife: "They're make believe, like fairies and goblins and dragons. They are imaginary characters."
The Girl: "I think they're real."
The Wife: "They aren't."
The Girl: "Maybe they'll exist in the future."
The Wife: "No, they won't."
The Girl: "They might."
The Wife: "No, they won't ever exist."
The Girl: "Well, the United States didn't always exist, and now it does. So maybe if leprechauns don't exist now, they will sometime. In the future."

The Wife laughed at that. She had no choice. She was not prepared to get into an argument with a seven year-old about the existence of leprechauns, let alone a philosophical debate about what may or may not exist in some far-flung future.

A leprechaun! (Not an actual photo.)
(Not because they don't exist, but because they're super fast and sneaky and it's hard to get a picture of one.)

So, do leprechauns exist? I don't think so. Will they exist at some point in the future? I doubt it. But, they might. (So, just in case, I'm going to keep all of my gold hidden.)

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Edited from a post originally published on 3/15/16.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Daylight Savings: The Monday Hangover

Nobody likes Daylight Savings. (Well, there is that one guy. But he's kind of weird.)

There are a lot of feasible reasons why people don't like Daylight Savings, from the fact that it makes no sense, to the confusion over which clocks you have to reset and which ones reset on their own. But, the biggest gripe most of us have is the fact that we lose an hour of sleep. You feel it when you wake up at what would have been 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, but because of Daylight Savings it is somehow legally 9:00 AM instead.

Big deal, right? It's only Sunday morning, so it doesn't really matter. The biggest consequence is that you might end up late for church. If you're like me and have four kids, this really makes no difference because you're always late for church anyway.

No, where the hammer of Daylight Savings hits is on Monday morning. The Monday after Daylight Savings in the spring is easily one of the worst days of the year. The entire national workforce is either late for work, grumpy, or both.

My wife teaches school. Her alarm goes off at 5:30 AM. On the Monday after Daylight Savings, that is the equivalent of 4:30 AM pre-Daylight Savings time. That is too darn early for words! Would you want to be a student and go to class and face a teacher who was woken up against her will at 4:30 in the morning? Of course not!

Even worse, though, is being a teacher, going to school, and facing a classroom full of students who were rousted from bed an hour earlier than normal! No fun for anyone.

It says "5:31," but what it really means is "4:31."

My two elementary school-aged kids usually get up at 6:45 AM. On the Monday after Daylight Savings, that's a 5:45 AM equivalency. They did not want to wake up. There was extra jostling, singing, and rousting involved in waking them up than would normally occur. And then, after dragging for the first half hour of being awake, they switched over to that over-tired hyperactive state where they were figuratively bouncing off of the walls. (Occasionally literally, too.)

The one benefit I had to look forward to was that my two preschool-aged children would sleep in later. While they would usually wake up at 8:30 AM, that would translate to 9:30 AM post-Daylight Savings. An hour extra without kids in the morning to get things done! Hooray! Except, that's not how it worked out. If you have toddlers you should know to expect the unexpected. So, instead of waking up an hour later, they ended up waking an hour earlier in "real" time, which is the same as two hours earlier in pre-Daylight Savings time. (They woke up at 7:30, which would have been 6:30 a couple of days earlier.) There is no winning with preschool-aged kids, unless you bribe them with candy or Elmo.

Is there a solution to this problem? We could make the Monday after Daylight Savings a national holiday, or we could mandate that no one be forced to go to work until noon on that day. Or, and here's a novel thought, we could just do away with Daylight Savings time altogether. (Wouldn't that be nice!)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Night: Party or Sleep?

It's Friday night! It's 8:30 PM and the weekend is here! What are you going to do to celebrate? Go out for a late dinner? Dessert? Perhaps you'd like to go dancing? Maybe catch that movie you've been wanting to see? Hang out with friends? Party?

There are a lot of good options for how to get your weekend started on a Friday night. But you're not going to be doing any of them, are you?

No, it's 8:30 on a Friday night. That means you'll be going straight to bed.

Why? Are you some sort of loser? Are you a senior citizen? Why in the world would you be going to bed at 8:30 on a Friday night?

That's easy: You are a parent.

The thinking is pretty simple: "The kids are asleep? Well, I better go to bed and get some sleep, too. While I can."

Who needs sleep? (Me.)
Gone are the nights of late night partying and going out with friends. The energy that used to be used for such activities was already sucked away earlier in the day by picking up things off the floor, even though you've just vacuumed, so that The Baby won't put them into her mouth. And making sure you get The Boy a blue cup at lunch because the milk won't taste nearly as good if it is in a yellow cup. And arguing with The Girl about the veracity of leprechauns.

Seriously, unless you are a parent you just don't understand how draining it can be to try to keep The Baby out of the cat food. (Over and over again.) Or how much it takes out of you to listen to The Boy yell into the megaphone he got for his birthday. ("Thanks" for that, Auntie S!) Or trying to explain to The Girl why she can't wear her Elsa slippers to school because they are slippers, not shoes.

You used to do things. You used to have fun. You used to have a life. And now, you go to bed at 8:30 on a Friday night. It's really pretty pathetic. When the phone rings at 8:45 PM you angrily yell, "Who in the heck is calling this late?"

The whole situation would be very, very sad if it weren't so worth it. It's worth it when The Baby smiles because she has figured out all of the hand motions for the "Itsy-Bitsy Spider." It's worth it when The Boy gets excited because he just sounded out the word "Tyrannosaurus" all by himself. It's worth it when The Girl jumps around the room in giddy anticipation because you told her that Grammy is on her way for a visit.

Yes, every once in a while you might look back fondly to the time when you actually used to do things on a Friday night. But, you wouldn't change it for the world. The kids may sap all of your energy and leave you a sleepy, boring husk of the person you used to be, but it's all worth it. The kids are worth it all.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to bed.

Edited from a post originally published on 4/15/16.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sometimes You Have to Choose Your Battles

When you have children, there are times you have to decide which battles are worth fighting.

A while back, my three year-old daughter (we'll call her "Thing 3") wanted macaroni and cheese for breakfast. (With toast.) I considered this for a moment, then decided, "Sure, why not?" If it was something she would actually eat--which she did--it was not worth fighting her about it.

Yesterday, Thing 3 wanted an English muffin for breakfast. I made the decision that she didn't need an English muffin. And that's when the battle lines were drawn. She started screaming. (Yes, literally screaming.) But, since I had told her "no," I had to stand my ground. If I were to give in because she started to scream, then I would be opening the door to more and more screaming. Hey, if it works, she's going to keep doing it, right? She kept up the screaming for a full 30 minutes. Oh, there were some skirmishes in that time: I talked to her, reasoned with her, argued with her, yelled at her, and put her in time out, but the screaming continued. Eventually, though, she gave in. No English muffin. She went on with her breakfast, and we had a (moderately) pleasant day.

But, believe me, if I had known how long she was going to scream, I would have given her the darn English muffin at the start!

Was it worth the fight?

In war movies they're always saying things like, "we've got to take that hill," or "we've got to keep that hill." One of the toughest things about being a parent is knowing which of those "hills" are worth fighting for.

I quickly assessed the "macaroni and cheese for breakfast hill" and deemed it unworthy of a fight. (So, she eats mac for breakfast? Hey, at least she's eating something.) Had I known the casualties I would incur (my sanity, my eardrums), I wouldn't have fought on "English muffin hill." But, because I started the fight, I had to hold my ground or risk losing other battles which are more important.

You see, some hills must be fought for every single time! The "wiping your bum after going potty hill" is something you must go to battle for every time. That hill is worth it. As my kids get older and approach their teenage years, more battles are looming that must be waged: the "drinking hill," the "smoking hill," the "drug hill," the "sex hill," and the "no texting while driving hill" are just some of the hills that must be fought for.

Thinking of some of those upcoming battles makes things like the "wear clothes that match hill" and the "do your hair before you go out hill" seem pretty trivial. I think it makes a difference if your kids can see that the things you are fighting for are for their benefit in the long term. It will certainly help make the battles easier if they understand that you're battling for them instead of just against them.

But, the battles will always rage--there are battle lines being drawn all the time. It's up to us as parents to choose which battles are worth fighting. (And sometimes that might mean macaroni and cheese for breakfast.)

Friday, March 2, 2018

If I Can't Eat It, Don't Put It On My Plate!

I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to food: If you don't want me to eat it, don't put it on my plate!

I've lived most of my life in Idaho or Utah, neither of which is known as a hotbed for seafood. So, I haven't had lobster or crab very often. But, the few times I have tried them, I've been perplexed by what comes out on my plate.

First, I tried crab legs. I really enjoyed the taste…of what I was supposed to eat. I just wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to eat and what I was not supposed to eat. There was a lot of cracking and scraping and scooping and breaking going on. Just give me the part that is edible! I don't think that's asking for too much!

And then, when we summered at The Cape, I had some lobster. (When I say "we summered at The Cape," what I actually mean is we spent four days on vacation at Cape Cod. "Summered at The Cape" sounds more hoity-toity, and I'm all for taking any opportunity I can to make myself seem hoity and/or toity.)

They brought out the lobster and all I could see was shell and claws and a face! (The only foods that should have a face are a gingerbread man and a chocolate chip pancake.)

Face it: eating a lobster can get messy.

I was given special tools to use to open up my lobster. A hammer, a chisel, pliers, wire cutters, a saw, and something that resembled a nutcracker. When I'm eating, the only tools I should need are a fork, spoon and knife. They're called utensils! If I wanted to play with a tool box I would have become a mechanic!

I eventually cracked and chiseled and pried some meat out of my lobster shell, and it was very tasty. But I could have done without the whole shell-cracking song and dance. 

Looking back, it probably started with the fish.

When I was growing up, my grandparents had a pond with fish in it on their farm. We called it "The Fish Pond." (We were pretty clever back then.) Grandpa stocked The Fish Pond with lots of large trout. We didn't go fishing very often, usually only when cousins would come from out of town to visit.

My cousin Jim (lost in the shadows), me, my sister Lynette, my brother John, and my Uncle Harvey. It's hard to see, but in front of my brother and sister is a line with at least a half dozen large trout on it.

You would think that having access to The Fish Pond would make it so I liked to go fishing and eat fish. The exact opposite was true. It turned me off from fishing in the "wild" because I was used to catching a large trout with every two or three casts into the water. (The success rate of fishing in the real world is not nearly so high.) And, it turned me away from wanting to eat fish. First of all, we had to gut our own fish, which was not a particularly pleasant experience. And then when the fish were cooked, there were the bones. Lots and lots of bones.

Whenever I would try to eat the fish, some concerned adult would emphasize, "Don't eat the bones! You might choke on them!" Sounds simple enough, but for a young kid it is sometimes hard to differentiate the fish from all those small bones. Every bite was fraught with fear that I would eat a bone. I did not want to choke. I did not want to die. I did not like to eat fish. 

And then I discovered the Filet 'O Fish at McDonald's! Fish with NO BONES!!! I could eat it without fear of death! Plus, it came with a slice of cheese, a bun, tartar sauce, and a deep-fried skin coating! Perfection! Why in the world would I ever eat fish with bones in them ever again?

Filet 'O Fish: Tasty without even a hint of death.

Up until that point, the drumstick had always been my favorite piece of chicken. This was because: A) It came with an easy to hold handle; and 2) That's the only piece we were given, because Mom and Dad kept the good pieces (you know, the ones with meat on them) for themselves.

Then I learned that they made boneless chicken, too, in nugget and/or filet form! Why in the world would I want chicken with bones in it on my plate when I could have chicken with NO BONES?

Sometimes they would even try to get me to eat a wing. Wings!  Really? Wings? Needless to say, I am not a big fan of the ratio of meat to bone on a chicken wing. And yet, wings are a very popular American food item. I don't understand. I just don't get it. At least two national restaurant chains, "Buffalo Wild Wings" and "Winger's," have named themselves after these bony little pieces of gristle. 

Recently, I went to the drive-thru at Little Caesar's and saw this:
Now serving 8 tasty varieties of flavored chicken bones!

Why? Does anyone know anybody who has ever gotten chicken wings from Little Caesar's? And if so (which I doubt) has anyone in the world tried all eight flavors? I just don't get it.

Sometimes, I even have a beef with beef! Lots of people like a big t-bone in their steak. Not me.
Rib meat, of course, would be better without the actual rib. (I guess that would just make it "meat.") (I'm okay with that.)

Pork chops? More pork, less chop.

Yes, if I need to I can work my way around these non-edible things that are served with my food. But that's not how I prefer it. If I can't eat it, I don't want it on my plate!

(The only bones I want to see are Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy and Temperance "Bones" Brennan.)

Edited from a post originally published on 6/15/2014.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Every Other Driver Is an Idiot!

Have you ever noticed that every other driver is an idiot?

There are a lot of drivers out there on our roads, but none of them are as good of a driver as I am. You would think there would be someone out there who can drive as good as I can, but I sure don't run into them very often. (Figuratively speaking.) (Literally, too.)

Anyone who drives slower than me is a dundering moron. What are they even doing on the road? If you can't keep up with freeway speeds, get out of the way and let those of us who know how to drive use the road! Do you know where the gas pedal is? Do you know how to use it? Are you actually driving that car, or is it being pushed along by the wind? Move it or lose it, buddy!

Anyone who drives faster than me is a crazed maniac. This is a freeway, not a racetrack! Slow down, you're going to cause an accident! They have speed limits for a reason, you know. Unless you're rushing a pregnant woman to the hospital, you really need to ease up. Slow down, you lunatic! You're going to get someone killed!

Anyone who drives the same speed as me is an annoying jerk. Oh, so you're going to just ride there in my blind spot for ten straight miles? Do you really think that's a good idea? Either pass me or don't, you dolt!

The worst are the ones who fluctuate their speeds. They pass you, then you pass them, then they pass you again, then you pass them again. It's like some kind of bizarre country line dance done at 75 miles per hour!

Pick a lane and stay in it, jerk!
Of course, all of these problems multiply exponentially when there is snow and ice on the road:
*Yes, I realize the roads are snow-packed, but that doesn't mean you have to go 20 mph, you slowpoke!
*You crazy idiot, why in the world would go so fast on these icy roads? You're going to kill yourself or someone else!
*Back off and give me some room, doofus!

So, what's the solution? I don't know that there is one. About the best thing I can come up with is to ask you all to stay off the roads when I'm driving. It's in everybody's best interest. Because no one wants to be on the road with a raving idiot.