Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Siblings CAN Get Along!!!

Did you know that siblings can be nice to each other? It's true! And when it happens, it's a wonderful thing.

Too often (far, far, far too often) when brother and sister are in the same room we hear things like, "I was playing with that!" Or, "He won't stop looking at me!" Or, "I had that first!" Or, "I got that for my birthday, so you can't play with it!" Or, "He's still looking at me!" Or, "She's ignoring me!" Or, "You can't have any of that!" Or, "He's not saying anything, he's just staring at me!" Or, "She's standing on my foot!" It seems like it's a never-ending parade of misbehavior and tattling.

But sometimes, every once in a while, they'll actually do something helpful and/or kind. It can be hard to notice, because they don't yell or scream while they're doing it, and it's easy to miss things they aren't yelling and screaming about. So, when those moments do happen, it makes them more memorable.

Can't we all just get along? (Sometimes, yes!)

I witnessed a good moment the other day. Our four year-old daughter (Thing 3) was having breakfast, while her two year-old brother (Thing 4) was still in bed asleep. 

When we feed the children (which, it turns out, happens several times a day) we use plastic plates we purchased at IKEA. We do this mostly because the plates are cheap and unbreakable, but the kids like them because of their bright colors. We started with three plates of each color, but through a variety of reasons we are down to just one pink plate and two blue plates, while we still have three of the other, less vital colors. My daughter (Thing 3) prefers the pink plate, but if it's not available, she wants a blue plate. My youngest son (Thing 4) always wants a blue plate. (The yellow, orange, and purple plates are usually seen as some form of punishment, which will incite screaming and/or tantrums.)

On this particular morning, the pink plate was in the dishwasher, along with one of the blue plates. I was getting breakfast for Thing 3, and since Thing 4 was still asleep, I decided I'd get her the remaining blue plate. That's when I got my surprise. As I put the blue plate on the counter for Thing 3's toast, she said, "Yay! Blue plate!" But then she looked up at the stack of plates remaining in the cupboard. There was no other blue plate, just yucky yellow, orange, and purple. And that's when she shocked me by saying, "Wait, Daddy. Give me a yellow plate so brother can have the blue one."

Blue plate special.

What?!?!?!?!? This was unheard of! He hadn't asked for the blue plate. He wasn't even in the room. And yet she knew he would want the blue plate, so she unselfishly offered to take a yucky yellow plate just so her brother could have his favorite. She did something nice for her brother, with absolutely no expectation of anything in return!

Does that mean we've turned a corner? Does it mean she will always be nice to him and never be mean from here on out? Of course not! I'm sure she'll yank a toy out of his hands at some point today, or she'll yell at him for looking at her wrong. 

But, that's okay. I've seen that she can be nice, and that gives me hope for the future. A future where they can look at each other without yelling.

Friday, March 22, 2019

March Madness Through the Eyes of a Minion

Edited from a post originally published on 3/17/2017.

In the past, I've mentioned how my two year-old seems to be speaking her very own language. (See: "Learning to Speak Minion.") And, I've discussed how my family likes to fill out brackets and pick the winners for March Madness. (See: "My Wife Is In the 100th Percentile" and "Helping My Kids Pick a Billion-Dollar Bracket.")

Well, those two things (my daughter speaking Minion, and March Madness) came together this week when it was time for my toddler to fill out her bracket. As usual, we let the kids pick and fill out their own brackets. (This year Thing 1, our eight year-old girl, picked a finals matchup of Notre Dame over Minnesota, because she likes the movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame and because my favorite football team is the Minnesota Vikings.) (I tried to explain to her that these were the Golden Gophers, not the Vikings, but I think that made her like them even more.) (Go Gophers!!!)

For the picks of Thing 3, our toddler, my wife would read off the two teams playing and Thing 3 would repeat back the name of who she thought would win; except she would repeat the name of the team back to us in her Minion language. For example, my wife would say, "Mount St. Mary's or Villanova?" and Thing 3 would answer with, "Nova." This might help us understand the Minion language. Maybe linguists can study my daughter's language and give us some insight on the inner workings of the toddler mind. Or maybe not.

For added fun, while her Momma was writing down the picks, Thing 3 decided to "help" by scribbling all over her bracket.

Here are some of the teams, in Thing 3's Minion language:

Consins--Like "cousins" with an "n." This is Wisconsin.
Jinna--My wife would try to write down the team's name phonetically as Thing 3 would say it. With this one, my wife initially wrote "Gina," but after further discussion we decided "Jinna" was a better phonetic representation. This is Virginia.
Bayo--This is Baylor. (Or the actor who played Chachi.)
O-yina--This is how she said South Carolina.
Gook--This is not a good word. And this is how my toddler said Duke.
Doot--This also is not a good word. And it also means Duke. (As she advanced Duke further into the tournament, she changed from calling them "Gook" to calling them "Doot.")
Ozaga, Gonzada, and Gonzanna--Like most people, she couldn't pick out a pronunciation of Gonzaga that she liked.
Wesson--No, not a brand of cooking oil. This is Northwestern.
Onjinny--This is the Mountaineers of West Virginia. In the next round they became Oh-jinna.
Saint Minnie's Mouse--This is one of my favorites. I'm not exactly sure how St. Mary's became St. Minnie's Mouse, but I'm glad they did.
Ana Zona--I think I used to date a girl named Ana Zona. (Okay, probably not.) This is Arizona.
Kansins--This is Kansas, and in her language it became a mix between Kansas and raisins. (She must really like Kansas raisins, because she picked them to win the entire tournament.)
A Doo--This is Perdue.
Pah Doo--This is something her Dad does in the potty. It is also another alternate pronunciation for Perdue.
Oh Jin--This is Oregon.
Youville--Youville is not far from Whoville, but it is populated by Yous instead of Whos. (Also, it is Louisville.)
No Oyina--This is North Carolina.
Middasoda--A delicious, bubbly drink, and/or the University of Minnesota.
Butter--Mmmm...butter! This is Butler. (Thing 2, my six year-old boy, would laugh whenever we said Butler. I'm guessing because of the "but" part.)
Sins-oh-daddy--Luckily, this is referring to Cincinnati, because I really don't need my two year-old pointing out all of my sins.
Silly--Silly is a word the describes this entire exercise. It is also how Thing 3 says UCLA.

UPDATE (2019): I wrote this two years ago. My daughter is now four years old, and she speaks much more clearly--most of the time. She still has a little minion in her, however, when picking teams to win in her bracket. Some this year's picks included:
Bell-knot--Belmont
Seal-a-cuse--Syracuse
Old Mess--Ole Miss
Mishinin or Mish-in-ing--Michigan
Sin Sin Addie--Cincinnati
Nofe Carolina--North Carolina
Wack Cousin--Wisconsin
Poo Doo--Perdue (Those last four are repeats from two years ago, but slightly altered.)

And finally, this year's pick to win it all: Vinginya (Virginia.)


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I Can't Complain (But Sometimes I Still Do)

I think I'm complaining too much.

If you look for things to grumble about, you can usually find something. Oh, the laundry is never done. Or the dishes are never done. Or I have to go out and shovel snow again. There's always something to complain about, if that's what you want to do.

But, when I step back and look at the big picture, life is pretty darn good! I've got a beautiful wife who loves me. She's my best friend and my co-conspirator. She makes me smile in ways that I never would have thought possible before I met her.

I have four healthy, fun, wonderful kids. They continually amaze and amuse me. As they grow and learn, I grow and learn right alongside them. (And by "growing" I mean I'm becoming a better person, not a bigger person--although there is some of that due to all of the candies and desserts that kids ask for that I occasionally "help" them eat.) My kids aren't perfect, but, by gosh, my life is so much better because they are in it.

Life's been good to me! (So far.)

I have a nice house to live in, reliable vehicles to drive, and plenty of food to eat. Not only do I have fresh, clean water at my fingertips inside my home any time I want it, but I can have that water at any temperature I'd like! (As long as I'm willing to wait 45 seconds for the hot water heater to do its job.)

We have access to practically every bit of information imaginable, right in the palm of our hand, from "who was the 11th President of the United States of America?" (James K. Polk.) to "how do I cook chicken for dinner?" (Put it in the crockpot with some barbecue sauce for four hours.)

So, the next time you want to gripe because that one guy is driving too slow in the fast lane, or you're upset because there's still a cold spot in those leftovers you warmed up in the microwave, try to remember just how good things really are.

And if you catch me complaining too much, feel free to whack my upside the head and tell me, "Hey, Joe, life is good!"

Friday, March 15, 2019

They've Got My Number

I have a name, but no one seems to care.

When I go to do taxes, they want my Social Security number.
When I get called in to do a random drug test, they want my driver's license number.
When I go to purchase something online, they want my credit card number.
When they ask for my credit card number, they also want that super-secret three-digit security code number that's on the back of my credit card.
When I try to pay for fuel with my credit card, they want my zip code.
When I try to get a prescription, they want my date of birth.
When I try to refill a prescription, they want my prescription number.
When I try to get a subscription, they want my address.
When I try to fill out my address, they want my apartment number.
When I try to buy something at some stores, they want my phone number.
When I try to buy anything they need to scan the bar code number.

Be sure not to confuse the Item Number with the Bar Code Number, because while they are similar, they are not quite the same. (And it does make a difference.)
When I place my order for a burger at Carl's Jr., they want me to take a number, place it on my table, and they will bring my order out to me. (Then they will take my number and give it to somebody else.)
When I try to get money from the bank, they want my PIN number.
When I try to put money into the bank, they want my account number.
When I try to register my car, they want the VIN number.
When I buy a new appliance they want me to register it by sending them the serial number.
When I go to look at the instruction manual for my new appliance, I need to know the model number. (Because one instruction manual will cover several different model numbers.)
When I want to win the lottery they ask for my lucky numbers. (But my lucky numbers aren't actually lucky unless they happen to be the same as their lucky numbers.)
When I want to change the channel on the television, I enter the channel number.
When I want to watch something different, the "Shows You Might Like" section usually recommends the show NUMB3RS.

I guess you could say that the way numbers impact us is innumerable.


Edited from a post originally published on 3/24/2017.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Spatula vs. Spatula

I want a spatula!

If I sent you to go bring me a spatula, would you A) bring me a tool I could use to flip a pancake; B) bring me a tool I could use to scrape a bowl; or 3) tell me, "Go get your own spatula, you lazy lump of lard!"

Spatula and Spatula
One word--spatula--describes two very distinct tools. There are the rubber-ended spatulas, which are used in mixing things and scraping bowls:

Spatulas!
And, there are the flat-ended spatulas, which are used to slide under cooking food in order to flip the food over:

More spatulas! (Except different.)
My question is: Why do these two totally different tools go by the same name? They are different things; they should have different names! It's not like we have to conserve words. The English language has a lot of words, and we make up new ones all the time---words like rando, hangry, mocktail, and photobomb. Can't we come up with a new name for one of these kinds of spatulas?

If we're going to change the name of a spatula, it's got to be the scraping kind, doesn't it? Unless you're a real mixing bowl enthusiast, when you think of a spatula, you're thinking about the flipping kind, right? Pancakes, eggs, grilled cheese, french toast, bacon--these are all things you use a spatula to flip. And while "flipper," could be used as an alternate word for this kind of spatula, it's also the name of a famous dolphin, and we really don't need to be bringing water mammals into this discussion.

Flipper. (Not a spatula.)
So, if we're going to change the name of the rubber-ended, bowl-scraping spatulas, what should we change it to? Scraper? That could work, but it might get confused with the tool you use to scrape ice off of your windshield.

Scraper. (Not a spatula.)
We could call it a "rubber scraper," but we probably want to avoid any name involving the word "rubber," or we'll have to deal with teenage boys who giggle at anything that might be even remotely related to a condom.

(Sorry, I'm not going to post a picture of a condom.)(A condom is not a spatula.)
Since they're used for the scraping of bowls, we could call it a "bowler." But no, that's already been taken, either by a kind of hat, or by someone who bowls.

Bowler. (Not a spatula.)
So, what does that leave us with? We might just have to create a totally new word. How about "sputula?" We change the word a little bit, just enough to distinguish it from the more commonly used kind of spatula.

Hey, I know it's kind of lame, but I'm running out of ideas. (I'm up for any suggestions, if you've got 'em.) All I know is that if someone says, "spatula," (or if I go to Spatula City) I'll be expecting to see something I can flip a pancake with!

The Perfect Spatula!

Friday, March 8, 2019

I'm Not Asleep! (I'm Thinking with My Eyes Closed)

"Oh, look, he's awake."

These are NOT words you want to hear when you open your eyes from a nap. Especially when you are home alone with four kids and you are supposed to be in charge.

Sometimes I fall asleep at inappropriate times. Here are just a few of those times:

*I fall asleep when I'm supposed to be watching the kids.
*I fall asleep in church meetings. (I know this doesn't sound too out of the ordinary, but not only do I fall asleep during church talks and Sunday School lessons, I also fall asleep in leadership meetings where I am one of only three people in the meeting.)
*I fall asleep when I am writing.
*I fall asleep when I am on the phone with telemarketers. (They don't seem to notice, because most of them are recordings.)
*I fall asleep when I am reading.
*I fall asleep when I sit down.
*I fall asleep when I'm trying to stay awake.

Of course, there are other times when I can't fall asleep. Such as:

*I can't fall asleep when I'm watching a movie. (I get sucked into the story, no matter how lame it might be.)
*I can't fall asleep when I'm trying to fall asleep.

Now, just for the record, there are times when people think I'm asleep, but I'm not actually asleep. Sometimes I'm just thinking with my eyes closed. Seriously. No, really. I'm not telling lies! Yes, it is possible to close your eyes and not be asleep! And no, if you talk to me and I don't answer, it is not proof that I am asleep. Sometimes I think with my eyes closed and don't answer people when they talk to me. (I'm a deep thinker.)

Be very quiet. Daddy is thinking really, really hard.


So, why do I take all of these unscheduled naps? Here are a few possible explanations:
*I stay up too late because I have a child who thinks she needs to scream at the top of her lungs before getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
*I have a toddler who thinks that 1:00 AM, 2:30 AM, and 3:17 AM are appropriate times to practice yelling, "Daddy!"
*I'm getting old, and old people take more naps.
*I'm not actually napping, I'm just thinking with my eyes closed.



Edited from a post originally published on 3/7/2017.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Futility: Shoveling Snow While It's Still Snowing

The other day I had to go outside to shovel the snow. Unfortunately, when I started to shovel, it was still snowing. By the time I finished getting all of the snow off of the driveway, the driveway was covered in snow again. So, I shoveled the driveway again. When I finished, it was covered with snow again. So, I shoveled the driveway again. When I finished, it was covered...you get the idea.

I shoveled ALL of the snow! (But then there was MORE snow.)

Is there anything as futile as shoveling snow while it's still snowing? Why yes, yes there is! Here are a few such things:

*Giving a toddler a bath, then feeding them spaghetti.

*Brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

*Doing the dishes while someone is cooking dinner.

*Setting the cruise control during rush hour traffic.

*Expecting your Mom to call you by the correct name, and not the name of one of your siblings.

*Trying to eat your own dessert--without sharing--when there is a toddler in the room.

*Electing an incumbent and expecting them to "clean things up" in Washington.

*Going through the car wash on a rainy day.

*Expecting the Minnesota Vikings to win the Super Bowl.

*Thinking this is going to be the one episode of House where they get the diagnosis right the very first time.

*Doing the laundry while still wearing clothing.

*Locking the car door when the windows are all down.

*Starting a diet the day before Thanksgiving.

Look, it may seem futile, but a lot of this stuff has to be done, one way or another. Shoveling snow now means less to shovel later. The car needs to be cleaned, whether it's raining or not. The dishes and laundry need to be done at some point, regardless of how much more of them continue to get dirty.

So, it's not all as futile as it seems. (Except that thing about the Vikings winning the Super Bowl. That's the definition of futility!)