Friday, January 27, 2012

The Best Parking Spot at the Mall

Sometimes you wonder if it wouldn't be easier to just stay home.

Last weekend we decided to take the kids to the movie. Now, taking a one year old and a three year old to the movies is no knee-jerk, spur of the moment decision. A lot of planning goes into successfully pulling it off. First, the movie has to be appropriate for the kids. This in itself eliminates more than 95% of all movies. (And the other 5% have their moments. Last spring we took the kids to see the Easter Bunny movie "Hop." Roni spent the next two months talking about pooping "jella beans" like the rabbit in the movie.)

Along with being appropriate, it has to be a movie that we think will actually hold the attention of the kids (and hopefully the adults) for two hours.

Of course, the diaper bag must be packed. This includes changes of clothes in case of possible accidents or poop-throughs. Also, snacks, because food can be a great distractor for fidgety fingers.

Another big help: inviting other adults. With Grammy and PopPop along, the adult to kid ratio was pushed to a more manageable 4 to 2.

The movie we chose to see was the re-release of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Of course, the reason for the re-release was the movie has been re-tooled to be shown in 3D. Some people were excited to see a talking candlestick in 3D (the flames come right at you!). We were not those people. We purposely sought out one of the few non-3D showings. Why? Because we are cheap. (3D movies cost more.) And, we couldn't picture Roni and Buzz keeping the glasses on for the whole show.

So, we packed up all our things (and the kids, too) and headed off to see the movie at the Provo Towne Centre. I still think it is preposterous and pretentious that the Provo mall calls itself the "Towne Centre." First of all, there is no "e" at the end of the word "town." (Unless you are a student of the Dan Quayle School of Spelling.) And, they spelled "Centre" wrong, too. (I'm surprised they haven't added a superfluous "e" to the end of "Provo.") I usually mockingly pronounce it as the "Provo Town-ee Cen-tray."

It was a stormy day, and the prospect of rushing the kids into the building in the rain was not enticing. Most of the mall parking is open air, but there is a small section of three or four rows of covered parking directly below the theater. (Or is that "theatre?") (Pronounced "thee-uh-tray.") So, I decided to take a chance getting a spot in the covered parking.

It was then that the sun shone (shined?) on us. (Figuratively, not literally.) As we approached, a car was backing out of THE BEST PARKING SPOT AT THE MALL! We didn't even have to wait at all. They backed out, pulled away, and we pulled right in. It was as if the heavens parted, a beam of sunshine shone (shined?) down on the parking spot, and a choir of angels sang, "Right there!"

It was right next to two empty parking spots reserved for the Police. (Side note: Do Sting, Andy Summers, or Stewart Copeland ever park in the Police parking spots? And if so, would they have any legal argument if they were ticketed?) As I pulled into it, I double and triple checked to make sure it was a legal parking spot. Not only was it legal, it was THE BEST PARKING SPOT AT THE MALL!

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. We unloaded and went to the movie. Everyone enjoyed it. Roni was mesmerized. (I often tell Roni she is just like Belle: she's beautiful, she's smart, she likes books, and people think her dad is crazy.) Meanwhile, Buzz was entertained by the movie, the snacks, Grammy, PopPop, and the window at the back of the theater where the projector is. There were no accidents, poop-throughs, tears, or inappropriate noise. The movie was a success.

And then we went to leave. As we walked toward our van, a car entered the covered parking area. Seeing us (and our parking spot) they stopped in their tracks and put their blinker on. They wanted our parking spot. (Did I mention it was THE BEST PARKING SPOT AT THE MALL?)

Mind you, we hadn't even gotten to our van yet. I had opened the side doors with the remote. And the car waited with its blinker on. The kids were still saying their goodbyes to Grammy and PopPop, who were heading to their car three or four rows over. And the car waited with its blinker on. We loaded the diaper bag into the van. And the car waited with its blinker on. We started to get the kids into the van. And the car waited with its blinker on. On her way to her car seat in the back, Roni took the opportunity to swing between the two middle seats. And the car waited with its blinker on. We then attempted to secure two kids into their car seats. (The Wife compares this process to "wrangling a rabid dog into an apple crate.") (And that's on an easy day.) And the car waited with its blinker on. While one of us was attempting to secure the kids into their seats, the other was trying to find flung sippy cups and get some snacks ready for the kids. And the car waited with its blinker on. Then, the wife and I, exhausted from the kiddie wrangling, flopped ourselves into our own seats and put our seat belts on. And the car waited with its blinker on. (But, hey, at least they knew how to use their blinkers!)

The waiting car was blocking the entire entrance to the covered parking area, so if anyone else had tried to enter while they were waiting, they would have been unable to do so. (I should mention that yes, there were other parking spots available that would easily be classified as VERY GOOD PARKING SPOTS AT THE MALL. But, they weren't the BEST one.)

I thought about waiting in our parking spot until they gave up and moved on, but then another player entered the field. It was Grammy and PopPop in their vehicle. While we were wrangling our rabid dogs into their apple crates, Grammy and PopPop had managed to walk all the way to their car, loaded into it, and were trying to leave. We found out later that as they tried to back out, they were forced to go the direction they weren't planning on going because another car was waiting for THEIR parking spot, too.

So, they pulled around to our exit of the covered parking, except they couldn't leave because Waity McWaiterson was blocking the entrance/exit. Finally, I backed out of THE BEST PARKING SPOT AT THE MALL, (which wasn't quite feeling like the best parking spot anymore.) McWaiterson had left just enough room for me to back out in front of them. I wished that Grammy would have taken that opportunity to zoom into my vacated spot (she could have, because I had McWaiterson blocked), but Grammy a) didn't need the spot, and 2) is a very nice person, so instead she got over as far as she could so that I could drive past her, Waity McWaiterson could zoom into our parking spot, and the exit would be unblocked.

Looking back, I guess it was worth it to pack up the kids and get out of the house. We all enjoyed the movie. And, from now on every time I drive past THE BEST PARKING SPOT AT THE MALL, I can proudly say that I parked there once. Disney is going to re-release "Finding Nemo" in 3D later this year. Maybe we can find a nice 2D showing of it, and do this all over again. Hopefully I can find a good parking spot. (If not, maybe I'll just wait for it to open up.)

Now, please choose the best title for this story. Use only a Number 2 pencil, and fill in the circle completely or the computer may not recognize your answer:

O A. Waity McWaiterson Waits Away
O B. Rabid Dogs and Apple Crates
O C. The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 2
O D. Mesmerized at the Movies
O E. The Beste Parkinge Spotte at the Towne Centre

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dirty Jokes and Lemonade

"I told you dirty jokes until you smiled."

That's a quote from a song. Billy Joel's "You May Be Right," to be precise. A line from a song about telling dirty jokes is relatively harmless, but it led to one of the funniest instances of impromptu censorship I have ever seen.

(Just to be clear, I'm NOT going to tell you dirty jokes. Mostly because I don't know any.) (Well, there is this one: A pig fell in the mud.) (Some would argue that's not even a joke. I would argue that the fact it's NOT a joke is what makes it funny.) (I would probably lose that argument.)

My story of censorship happened at a Youth Conference dance. For Mormons, a youth conference is a two or three day gathering of all the 12 to 18 year-olds from a region for the purpose of spiritual and social enrichment. For this particular Youth Conference we were cloistered (if I may use the word "cloistered") (which I just did) for a couple of days on the campus of Utah State University. (It was an adventure in the "big city" for us small town kids.)

The main activity for one of the evenings was a dance. For Mormons, a youth dance is a delicate teeter-totter, balancing between getting boys and girls to actually interact with each other on one side, and not having them interact TOO much on the other side. (No slow-dance bear-hugs allowed.)

At this particular dance, the music was provided by a live band. Looking back, they were probably just a bunch of scared college kids with dreams of being rock stars. At the time, I thought they were a pretty good band. (What did I know? I struggled to play "Notre Dame Victory March" on my trombone, so anyone who could play guitar and sing at the same time had my admiration.) I was watching them as they played one of my favorite songs at the time, "You May Be Right." (Was I dancing? Are you kidding? I was only 14 years old. I wouldn't be ready for meaningful contact with girls for another 25 years!)

They were doing a pretty good job with the song. The next line was, "Remember how I found you there, alone in your electric chair. I told you dirty jokes until you smiled." As the lead singer approached these lyrics, I could see the wheels in his mind turning. It was one of those moments when time seems to slow down and you can tell exactly what a person is thinking: "This is a Mormon Youth Conference dance. I shouldn't be singing about telling dirty jokes. I've got to think of something to change it to."

Unfortunately for our well-intentioned lead singer, the line he was trying to avoid was coming at him at a speed faster than he could think of an alternative. He ended up singing, "I told you dirty...stories 'til you smiled." The pause between the words "dirty" and "stories" was barely noticeable. I noticed it, and so did a couple of my friends, but most of the crowd remained oblivious. (They were probably too busy having actual social interaction with members of the opposite sex.)

In the hopes of making the lyrics less salacious, the singer changed "dirty jokes" into "dirty stories." It was an epic fail. (And we would have called it just that if the term "epic fail" had been in use back then. Instead, we just called it "funny.") (That's how we rolled back in the day.)

The NEXT time they played the song, the singer was better prepared. (Yes, this band was SO good that they had to repeat songs in order to fill the allotted time for the dance.) The second time, with confidence, he sang, "Remember how I found you there, alone in your electric chair. I gave you lemonade until you smiled." He was quite proud of himself, and he certainly succeeded in making the lyrics more innocuous, even if it was rather silly.

No dirty jokes. No dirty stories. Just some good, wholesome lemonade!

I could empathize with the singer, because I, too, had sometimes used impromptu censorship to change song lyrics that I thought might be inappropriate. As you know, Mormons don't drink beer. In one of my favorite songs, Billy Joel's "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," he sings: "Cold beer, hot lights, my sweet romantic teenage nights." Thinking it wrong to sing about beer, I used to change the words to: "Root beer, bright lights, my sweet romantic teenage nights." (For some reason I didn't feel the need to change the lyrics to reflect the fact I never actually had any "sweet romantic teenage nights.")

In another Billy Joel song, "Big Shot," he sings, "Go on and cry in your coffee but don't come bitchin' to me." I altered this to be: "Go on and cry in your coffee but don't come fishing with me." (Mormons don't drink coffee, either, but for some reason I didn't find the coffee as "offensive" as the beer from the other song.)

Billy Joel wasn't the only artist who had his lyrics changed. In Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" he sings: "What does it matter to you? When you've got a job to do you've got to do it well. You've got to give the other fella hell." I always changed that last line to: "You've got to make the other fella smell."

And, in "Life In the Fast Lane" by the Eagles, I changed a certain line to say, "We've been up and down this highway, haven't seen a goll-durned thing."

On "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins, I used to change the words without even knowing I was changing them. In the song, Phil repeats the phrase "Oh Lord" at least 22 times. (Yes, I counted. And that's as many as I got before the stupid DJ cut off the end of the song.) (Stupid DJs.) I used to sing "Hold on" instead. But, I wasn't doing it on purpose. For several years I actually thought the lyrics were "Hold on." (And to be honest, I liked the song a lot better when I thought Phil was singing "Hold on.")

Maybe I shouldn't be changing the lyrics to songs to serve my own purposes. Maybe doing so damages the artistic integrity of the song writer. Maybe I should be concerned. Maybe I should stop doing it.

In the meantime, maybe I should tell you dirty jokes. Or maybe I should tell you dirty stories. Or maybe I should just give you lemonade until you smile.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Five Year Smile

On this day five years ago, I got married. So did my wife. (It's funny how it works that way.) It was one of the five happiest days of my life. Also on that list: the day my girl was born; the day my boy was born; the day the Vikings won the Super Bowl; and that one day in elementary school when they served tapioca pudding AND pizza for lunch on the SAME DAY!

(Okay, so the school lunch thing was a joke, and the Vikings winning the Super Bowl was a delusion. However, the wedding, and the two babies ACTUALLY DID HAPPEN!!! I know this because every morning when I wake up, I pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.) (I have a lot of welts.)

There are a lot of things I remember about that day. It was cold. (I mean, really, what kind of idiots get married in the middle of January on one of the coldest days of the year?) (Answer: two idiots who were so much in love that they didn't want to wait until spring.)

The wedding itself was a quiet little ceremony at the Mount Timpanogas LDS Temple. As is my penchant, I got to the temple more than a half an hour early. As is her wont, Amber was about a half an hour late. I'm glad she was. At the time, I wasn't. As I watched wedding guests arrive early, including an aunt who is notoriously late for everything, and my bride still had not arrived, I started to get a little upset with her for being late.

And then, I saw her. Any anger I had immediately evaporated. She was so beautiful. The smile on her face was beyond radiant, beyond any way for me to describe. I've never seen the look of perfect happiness on anyone's face the way it was on Amber's face at that moment.

I know that "people" say it's bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony. Well, those "people" couldn't be more wrong. To this day, if I'm down or in need of a smile, I just think back to Amber's face at that moment. Her smile and happiness are always with me.

The ceremony itself went off without a hitch, except for my brother (four years older than me) being mistaken for my father, and my mother being mistaken for my grandma. Afterwards we went outside to get some pictures taken in front of the temple. They turned out okay, but it's really hard to smile when your face is frozen. (Did I mention it was cold?)

We had a couple of hours to kill between when we left the temple and when we had to be at the reception. What did we do with that time? No, not what you think. We took my car through the car wash. (Because of the snow and cold, my car was filthy, and I worried that if either of us brushed up against it we would get Amber's dress or my tux all dirty.)

We then realized we were hungry. We brainstormed for a minute, then went through the drive-thru at Wendy's and got some chicken nuggets. We decided on chicken nuggets as the food we were least likely to spill on ourselves. (I ate my nuggets without sauce. If not, I WOULD have had honey mustard on my tuxedo, and nobody wants that.) (Except, maybe, for the people at the dry cleaners.)

Four days before the wedding we found out the reception hall we had rented had double booked. They were very good to fix their problem, and they arranged for us to have our reception at the old county courthouse. It turned out to be a wonderful and beautiful place to have a wedding reception. The tile floor was very slick, and I think it helped my dancing that evening because it made my feet move in ways that they otherwise couldn't, wouldn't or shouldn't. (Yes, I was a dancing machine!)

When it came time to cut the wedding cake (an amazing three-tier cheesecake made by my niece), I broke the knife off in the cake. (Sometimes having the strength of ten men has its disadvantages.) (Yes, I DO have the strength of ten men. Ten very weak and feeble men, but ten men nonetheless.)

It was a wonderful and amazing day! A lot of things have happened in the five years since we got married. Two new little people have entered my life, and they've taught me to smile in ways I never knew I could. (Of course, they've also enabled me to change more poopy diapers than I ever thought possible.) (Seriously, that's a lot of poop.)

I never imagined I could be this happy. (Ouch. I just pinched myself again.)

Yes, on this day five years ago I got married. So did my wife. And I've still got the smile on my face to prove it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolution Revolution

It's a brand new year. It's time to look at things with fresh, new eyes. Unless those eyes are still bleary from staying up too late partying on New Year's Eve. Of course, if you are the parent of young'uns like we are, your New Year's Eve "partying" involved letting the kids stay up late (past 10:00 PM), then struggling to keep yourselves awake until midnight. (The Wife didn't make it. She fell about ten minutes short of the New Year.)

The new year is a time when a lot of people get introspective and try to figure out ways to make themselves and their lives better. Each New Year's Day an average of 42.7 million* resolutions get made. And of those 42.7 million, about 36.9 million* of those resolutions are broken before February 1st. (*As always, at least 85.2% of statistics found on this blog are completely made up.)

So, here are some of the resolutions I have made. Maybe you can make some use of them yourself:

--20 pounds. I'm not sure if I should try to lose 20 pounds or gain 20 pounds. Either way, I'm going to be 20 pounds different on next New Year's Day.

--Be a better husband. "Uh-on't know," is NOT a preferred answer to questions like "What do you want to do?" and "What do you want for dinner?" In fact, I should probably eliminate "Uh-on't know" from my vocabulary completely. Will I be able to do this? Uh-on't know.

--Be a better father. It's always good to pay attention to your kids. Even if it means less time on and more time putting dresses on dolls. (Much more difficult than it sounds. Cinderella's dresses are way too tight.)

--Write more. I like my job. (It pays better than staying at home doing nothing.) That said, I don't love my job, and I don't want to be doing it ten years from now. Ten years from now I'd like to be sitting at a desk somewhere, writing about farts. Or monkeys. Or farting monkeys. So, that means I have to write more than one little blog article a month.

--Make better use of my time. Whatever it is I am doing, there is a good chance there is something better that I could be doing. So, any time I am reading something or watching something and I hear or see the word "Kardashian," I will immediately stop what I am doing and do something more useful.

--Stop swearing. I do a pretty good job of not swearing around other people. But, when I am at work by myself, I have a tendency to spew profanity. I need to stop. Especially because there are so many alternative words that I could use, such as: frick, flip, shoot, poop, butt, bum, shiznit, or hot buttered toast. In fact, if said with the right inflection, pretty much anything can sound enough like a profanity that it can take the place of one. As an example, I have recently caught myself muttering, "What in the flying fairy school!" In this case, "flying fairy school" easily substitutes for another, naughtier "f" word. (Also, it shows that I have been watching WAY too much "Sesame Street.")

--Act happier. I have a good life, and I am generally pretty happy. I have a beautiful, wonderful Wife. I have two awesome, amazing kids. And yet, most people I meet probably think I am grumpy, because that's the default look on my face. I need to smile more. Maybe people could see the happiness in my heart if I tried skipping instead of walking? (On second thought, no. There is a fine line between looking happy and looking insane. Plus, if I were to skip instead of walk I would undoubtedly trip, fall, and hurt myself.)

--Make MORE resolutions as the year goes on. Why do we only make resolutions at New Year's Day? Why do we work at exercising and dieting in January, but by March we're stopping at Krispy Kreme to get a dozen every day, eating cake frosting out of the container with a spoon, and trying to figure out ways to work Twinkies into recipes? I'm going to try to use every holiday as an excuse to look how to better myself. Maybe on Martin Luther King Day I'll resolve to stop slouching. On Valentine's Day I'll resolve to stop picking my nose. (It WOULD make the day a bit more romantic.) On President's Day I'll resolve to wear clean socks every day. And so on.

This can be our "resolution revolution!" If we keep making resolutions throughout the year, by the time next New Year's rolls around, we'll be much better people. Unless, of course, we forget about it all by March and we're sitting around eating our dinner of Twinkie ravioli. (With Ding Dong sauce.)