Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Are You Sure That's a Good Idea?

We all make choices every day. Some of those choices aren't the best.

*Getting sushi at a gas station.

*Letting you children cut each other's hair.

*Going shopping at Costco in a little two-seat convertible.

Where will they put the three-gallon jar of mayonnaise?

*Buying a house on a busy five-lane highway.

*Eating a McRib.

*Playing baseball in the church parking lot.

Oops!

*Reposting some horrible meme about someone you disagree with politically without first checking to see if it is actually true. (For example, Bernie Sanders did NOT say, "Any NBA player who scores more than 30 points should be forced to share those points with someone who has not scored that many points, regardless of which team he plays for,"--even though it appears on the internet, seems legitimate, and comes from a reliable-looking source like "americannewstruths.com.")

*Sour Patch Kids cereal.

It's as delicious as it looks!
*Shopping around for the least expensive vasectomy.

*Electing the same people to Congress again and again, then expecting them to change things for the better.

*Electing a reality-television show host as President of the United States and expecting him to change things for the better.

*Giving your Social Security Number to someone over the phone because you got an official-sounding message saying it had been suspended for, and I quote, "some reason."

*Eating out at Taco Bell on the first date.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sleep? Good Luck with That

Sleep: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Parenthood. Its five year -- ten year --twenty year --lifelong mission: to explore the inside of your eyelids, to seek out sleep wherever you can find it, to boldly snore where no one has snored before!

[Wait. Did you say lifelong mission? Really? Lifelong? Shouldn't it be just "five-year?" By the time your kids are five years old they should be sleeping through the night, so the parents should be able to sleep just fine, right? Are you trying to tell me that your children can effect your ability to sleep for the rest of your entire life?!? That's something they certainly did not put in the brochures! I didn't know I was signing up for that!]

Sleep is something we definitely take for granted as single people. Before you become a parent, your thoughts on sleep are basically, "Sleep? Yeah, I'll catch some of that whenever. It's no big deal. There'll always be time for sleep later." Ha! If only you knew! When you are a parent, that far-flung future known as "later" doesn't actually exist, and it probably never will.

Sleep? Why would I sleep when I could be climbing on the couch and knocking the mirror off of the wall?

The ways in which a child can keep a parent from getting that much-needed sleep are numerous:
Crying.
Screaming.
Talking to their stuffed animals.
Arguing with their stuffed animals.
Peeing the bed.
Pooping the bed.
Barfing the bed.
Coughing.
Jumping on the bed.
Clicking the light switch on and off in rapid succession.
Pounding on the door.
Pounding on the wall.
Climbing up the wall.
Waking up their sibling.
Climbing on the furniture.
Knocking over the furniture.
Singing.
Sneezing.
Wheezing.
Making too much noise.
And, oddly enough, being too quiet.

And when the kids wake us up, we'll do just about anything to get them back to sleep. The other night The Wife and I piled sleepless kids in our bed with us and watched an episode of Reading Rainbow about comedy. (Because when it comes to making people laugh, the first person I think of is LeVar Burton.) Later, I sat in the living room at 3:30 AM feeding pop tarts to my youngest as he forced me to play with a fidget spinner. (And if I wasn't playing with it the way he wanted me to, he most certainly would let me know.)

Of course, once kids become teenagers we don't need to worry about them anymore, and we can count on a peaceful sleep every night. (I don't know this for a fact, but it's got to be true, right?)

There's a lot of talk about the zombie apocalypse. I don't think it will happen, but if it does, it won't consist of the undead, it will be a zombie apocalypse featuring sleepless parents slowly going through their daily motions without any visible sign of higher brain functions.

Kids daydream about all kinds of fantastical, wonderful things. Parents daydream about sleep. It truly is the final frontier.


Edited from a post originally published on 11.7.2017.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Bad Math of College Football

Colleges are supposed to teach our kids to be smarter, not make them more stupider. (Or is that more stupid?)

My nine year-old son is getting excited about possible going to his first college football game this week, so he's been asking me a lot of college football questions. He's been quizzing me about which conferences different college football teams play in. It came up that the University of Utah used to play in the Mountain West Conference, but moved a few years ago into the PAC-12 Conference. I told him that the conference was formerly known as the PAC-10 before the University of Utah and the University of Colorado agreed to join it in 2010.

He found this interesting, and we started talking about other college football conferences. That's when we stumbled across the mathematical incongruities of these major institutions of "higher" learning.

Do you know how many teams the Big 12 Conference has in it? You would think the answer would be 12, wouldn't you? You would be wrong. The Big 12 Conference consists of ten football teams. Does this make sense? No. No, it does not. But, it gets more confusing, because the Big 12 Conference is not the worst offender, thanks to the existence of the Big Ten Conference.

At this point, if I ask you how many teams are in the Big Ten Conference, you know that the answer is not going to be ten, because why would it? The Big Ten Conference added an eleventh team (Penn State) in 1990, then they added a twelfth team (University of Nebraska) in 2011. That meant that for a while the Big 12 Conference had ten teams and the Big Ten Conference had twelve teams, which is idiotic, but somewhat easy to remember (if you tilt your head just right.) But, since then, the Big Ten Conference went and added two more teams to reach a total (for now) of 14 teams!

And I thought college algebra was difficult to understand.

These are institutions of higher learning! These are the places we send our children in order for them to get educated, and yet these universities seem to be unable to count to 14.

My nine year-old was confused and amused. He might never count things the same way again.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Who Touched My Gas Station Hot Dog?

Every time you go inside at the gas station you see them. They are rotating in their display case. They've been cooked (probably), or at the very least warmed. They are waiting to be sold and eaten. They are the gas station hot dogs.

Who eats these things?

There they are, ready for you (or anyone else) (or everyone else) to grab!
They're slimy. They're greasy. And, worst of all (or is that wurst of all?) they're out there in the open where anyone can touch them! Have you taken a good look at the customers inside a convenience store? Are these the type of people you want having free and open access to touch your food before you eat it?

Now, having said that, I don't really think these openly displayed hot dogs get touched very often. I've never seen anyone touching a gas station hot dog that they weren't purchasing. But, the fact that they're out there in the open where anyone could touch them is enough to keep me away. 

They must sell these hot dogs to someone, or they wouldn't have them in every gas station. Maybe people only buy them when there are no other customers in the store, too ashamed to let someone else see their purchase.

And while I won't eat a gas station hot dog, I might eat a gas station burrito. The tortilla around the meat might make enough difference, depending on how hungry I am. And I definitely would be willing to eat a gas station sandwich that is wrapped. As long as that wrapping keeps the unwashed masses from touching my food, I'm just fine.

Iffy.
No problem!
But, I'm not going to be having any of that jerky-in-a-jar by the cash register, unless they are individually wrapped. And those weird eggs floating in a jar--what the heck are those things? I am never going to find out!

Interestingly enough, while I won't even consider eating a gas station hot dog, I eat gas station donuts all the time. The donuts are behind a little see-through plastic door. Someone could touch all of the donuts just as easily as they could all of the hot dogs. And yet, I grab my tiny piece of wax paper, wrap it around the donut (or apple fritter) of my choice, and have exactly zero qualms about eating it. Why the difference? Am I putting that much faith in the use of the donut wax paper? Is it the fact that the donut isn't as slimy as the hot dog? Is it because I need the sugar fix? I'm just not sure.

No, there won't be any gas station hot dogs for me. I'll get all my food through the fast-food window, where I know the food preparation conditions are pristine and all of the workers wash their hands at least twice a day, whether they need to or not.


Edited from a post originally posted on 11/14/2017.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Nerds Are the Worst Halloween Candy

Halloween is over. (Thank goodness!) But, the Halloween candy is still around. Oh, the good stuff is already gone--the KitKat and Twix were devoured quickly--but there are still plenty of Smarties and Tootsie Rolls. Some Halloween candies will hang around for a while.

A recent survey said that candy corn is the worst Halloween candy. Candy corn is tri-colored sugar wax. It is not good. But, it's certainly not the worst Halloween candy. That spot belongs to Nerds.

If you don't know what Nerds are, consider yourself lucky. Nerds first appeared in 1983, making them a relative newcomer to the Halloween candy community. (Candy corn, by way of contrast, have been around since the invention of candles.)

As sands in the hourglass, so are the Nerds on the floor.

Why am I so down on Nerds? For one thing, they don't taste good. Nerds not only look like tiny little pebbles, they taste like tiny little pebbles. How many teeth have been broken by biting down on a Nerd? (I don't have an answer, but I'm sure Nerds have helped pay for many nice cars driven by many dentists.) And it's not just that Nerds are hard, they are also very small, so they get stuck in and around the teeth.

But, the biggest problem with Nerds is that they get everywhere. If you have kids, and those kids have Nerds, those kids will spill those Nerds. You can try to pick up all the Nerds that have spilled. You will not succeed. Even after you have picked up the spilled Nerds, there will still be spilled Nerds on the floor. They are the candy equivalent of sand from the beach. They are all-encompassing. They are everywhere. Once a package of Nerds has been opened in your house, there will always be Nerds in your house.

Also, each individual Nerd looks like a kidney stone. (Believe me, I know.)

If Nerds tasted good, they might be worth it. We put up with the sand from the beach because the beach is a fun place to be. Nerds aren't worth it. I'd rather have a waxy candy corn any day of the week.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Escape to Walmart!

I have a secret that I'm going to confess to you. It's a bit shameful and embarrassing. It's not something I'm proud of. I don't really understand why I do it. But here it is:

Sometimes I'll escape the world by going to Walmart.

I know what you're thinking: Walmart? Really? I have my reasons. For one thing, there are (at least) four Walmarts between where I live and the nearest Target, which is a half-hour away. The one hour round-trip drive to Target can't compete with the ten minute round-trip to Walmart. (And for those who think I should be more manly, Cabela's is an hour and a half round-trip.)

But still, Walmart, you ask? Walmart is a place you go on purpose? To get away from it all? Yes. Yes, it is.

The place to go to get away from it all?

Let me explain, if I can. I'm a stay-at-home Dad. (Not a Mr. Mom!) I have four kids, including two that require near-constant attention. If I can get thirty minutes to myself by going to Walmart because we're out of dishwasher soap, then by heck I'm going to take advantage of that!

[Before you feel too sorry for me, I should point out that my wife works full-time as a junior high math teacher. She deals with hundreds of kids a day, then comes home to our four kids and me. I hope she finds an occasional escape at school, because she doesn't get nearly as many "girl's nights out" as she deserves! (Not even to Walmart.)]

So, what do I do on my Walmart getaways? First of all, I have to get the thing (or things) I went there for. Walmart has just about everything, so anything can be used as an excuse to go. The other day we needed some light bulbs, so I used that as the reason for my Walmart trip. Once I had the bulbs, I was free to hit some of my regular spots. I'll stop at the DVD section and look at television show seasons that I might be interested in, but probably can't afford and wouldn't have the time to watch anyway. I'll browse down the book aisle and see if I can figure out how many new books James Patterson has written and released since the last time I was at Walmart. (Usually at least three.) I'll glance down the toy section to see if there's anything there my kids might like, and smile when I see toys they already have and think of how much fun they've had with them. I'll look at the egg nog (if it's the right season) and probably determine that it's just too expensive. And I'll get some bananas. We always need bananas (because the ones we had either have been eaten or gone bad.)

20 checkout lanes! (At least two of which are open.)

You never know what might happen at Walmart. You might see a neighbor or an old friend and get a chance to visit. You might see one of those "people of Walmart" and get a good laugh. You might be one of those "people of Walmart." (The other day the song "Fox On the Run" by Sweet started playing over the intercom, and before I knew it my head was bobbing up and down and I was loudly singing, "I--I--I--don't wanna know your name," as I pushed my cart through the store. Hopefully I'm not going viral somewhere as "Singing Walmart Guy.")

And, hey, you obviously don't need to get dressed up to go to Walmart.

Now, I know that Walmart isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of getting away from it all. Normally you might think of the mountains. Or the beach. Or the spa. Or the lake. Or the cabin. But, next time you need a getaway, maybe you should think of Walmart. It's close. It's convenient. It really is a great value. (And, they have bananas. You always need bananas.)


Edited from a post originally published on 11/10/2017.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Grandchildren Are the Best (Or So I've Been Told)

The other day my three year-old son and I were checking out at the Walmart. The cashier smiled at my boy, who is very cute, and said to me, "Aren't grandchildren the best?"

I nodded my head and replied, "I'm sure they are." I decided to leave it at that--agreeing with her point without acknowledging she had misjudged my relationship to the child who was with me. Sure, I could have said, "I wouldn't know because this is my son," or "I look forward to finding out in ten or fifteen years," or "Please stop talking and just give me my receipt," but I decided there was no need to make her feel bad about making a perfectly reasonable assumption.

I should be offended, shouldn't I? It should really bother me that someone thinks I'm so old that this three year-old must be my grandkid, because he couldn't possibly be my son. But, I don't mind. I understand. When most people my age are hanging out with a three year-old, that three year-old is usually a grandchild.

Kid or grandkid?

My doctor wasn't sure. Last week I had to go in to take care of yet another of those maladies that occurs with advancing age. I took my youngest son with me. Armed with the information on my chart, the doctor asked, "Is this your son or your grandson? Because based on your age it could be either one."

It's true. I'm old enough that if I hadn't been so socially awkward in my teens--and twenties--and thirties--I could have been a grandpa by now. But, I'm not. My kids are 11, 9, 4, and 3. They're great! I'm still in "enjoy them while you can" mode with them. It'll be several years before I get any grandchildren that I can enjoy. I'm looking forward to it. I've been told they're the best.