Thursday, April 25, 2013

Smiling Is My Favorite

A wise man once said, "I just like smiling. Smiling is my favorite!"

(That wise man's name? Buddy the Elf.)

I like smiling, too. People who have met me might not think so. When left to itself, the default setting on my face would best be described as "grumpy" or "annoyed." (Or possibly "constipated.") It is certainly not "smiling" or "happy."

My default face was so bad that when I was in college I'd be walking around campus and people walking past would say, "Hey, smile! Life isn't that bad," and "Dude, cheer up," and "Don't do it. A vague liberal arts degree is not the way to go if you want to get a job after college!" (I should have listened to all three of those people.)

But, now that I've lived a bit and actually have some legitimate reasons to be happy, I'm hoping my face isn't as dour as often. There are times when I actually catch myself smiling for seemingly no reason.

There might not seem to be a reason for my smiling, but usually there is. There are certain people, places, things and/or memories that will bring a smile to my face.

I've been smiling a lot this past week, because I've been thinking about my Aunt Franny. She died a week ago, and while I've had to deal with the sorrow and grief of her passing, those feelings have been overpowered by the happy memories of the crazy things she used to do and say, and all the fun times I had with her. (Memories like the time after her heart attack when the big, burly male nurse came out of her hospital room with an astounded look on his face and said, "Dang! That little old lady really knows her rock and roll!") Thinking of Franny makes me smile. (For more on Franny, see last week's column: "My Franny Franny Froo Froo")

I have some friends from college that I am starting to lose touch with. I used to see them and do stuff with them three or four times a year. But, life is starting to get in the way. Busy schedules, growing kids, and several hours of distance are keeping us apart. I think it's been a couple of years since I've seen them. But, every once in a while I'll get an odd post card from some strange place. And I'll smile.

Whenever they go on a trip somewhere, they send us a post card. (And they go on a lot of trips, often to unexpected places.) (I mean, how often do you get a post card from Arkansas?) (Really. What kind of people vacation in Arkansas?)

We try to reciprocate by sending them post cards whenever we go anywhere, too. (Although we never go anywhere as exotic as Arkansas.) When I get those post cards, it's like all the time and distance is gone, and the friendship we have is as strong as it ever was. And I smile every time I see one of those crazy post cards.

There is a guy I occasionally see at work who makes me smile every time I see him. I see him very sporadically. He is a truck driver who brings trailers into my truck yard from time to time. I might see him two or three times in one day, then I might not see him again for seven or eight months. Why do I smile every time I see him? Because he looks just like John Denver! He has the little round rim glasses and the Dorothy Hamill page-boy haircut, just like John Denver. (Note: I did not know that haircut was called a page-boy until I did a little research. File it under: One More Thing I Learned From the Internets.)

(The Wife suggested that it might be a good idea to explain to my younger readers who exactly John Denver was. He was a country/pop singer/songwriter who came to fame in the 1970s. His hits included "Country Roads (Take Me Home)," "Sunshine On My Shoulder," and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." He also had a little bit of an acting career, appearing in a few movies and guest starring on a few television programs.)

John Denver. (Yes, in the 1970s this look was acceptable.)

But, John Denver Guy doesn't just look the look. He also walks the walk and talks the talk. I saw him from a distance last week, and instead of the usual quick, macho, finger-thumb-pointy-gun wave, or the  head-bob-of-acknowledgement that most truck drivers give to each other, he flashed me the "peace" sign! And, although I don't often talk to him, on the few occasions that I have he has actually used the phrases "far out," and "right on." (I have yet to get a "groovy" from him, but I'm still holding out hope.)

(Those of you who are my long-time readers, (all seven of you,) might remember that I wrote about John Denver Guy once before. See: "Sharp Dressed Man" ) Every time I see him I smile. (And sing "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" for the rest of the day.)

Speaking of songs, there are a lot of songs that put a smile on my face. I smile whenever I hear any song by the Electric Light Orchestra on the radio. I smile when I hear almost any Billy Joel song. (The lone exception being the chopped-up, hacked-up, edited-for-time version of "Piano Man." Because it's not really "Piano Man" without Navy Davy or Paul the Real Estate Novelist.) I also smile every single time I hear Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." (And I dare say anyone else who hears that song smiles, too, except for the little old lady who got mutilated late last night, and Jim, who may or may not have had his lungs ripped out.)

I smile every time I think of bacon. And triple cheeseburgers. I also smile when I think of triple bacon cheeseburgers. And triple cheeseburgers with bacon. (Yes, there is a difference.)

I smile whenever I get an e-mail from one of my best friends, giving me a report of his latest dream. I dare say there are not many people who have dreams about doing home repairs on Al Gore's house. (And fewer still who would admit to it.)

I smile whenever I think of my childhood in Arimo, with my Mom and Dad and Sister and Brother. And my friends and grandparents. That tiny little town was a fun place. And the more time that passes since I lived there, the better the town becomes in my memory.

Of course, my biggest reasons for smiling now are The Wife and The Kids.

Roni makes me smile with the funny and incredible things she comes up with. Like the Gobstopper story. A few weeks ago I was working at the computer and there was a box of Gobstoppers candy at the desk. Roni asked if she could have some. I said no. A few minutes later she came back with the Gobstopper story. She said, "Daddy, there are a couple of Gobs in my stomach. They are fighting with each other." (She then pointed to her belly, where the "Gobs" were fighting.) "I need them to stop. Can I have a Gobstopper?" How could I refuse that? She got her Gobstoppers, and I got a good story I can tell on her for the rest of her life. And, I got a smile.

Buzz makes me smile, too. He makes me smile when he requests "Robot Parade" for his night-time music for the seventeenth night in a row. He makes me smile when we play "Sad Day, Happy Day," and he loves it so much that he says "sad day" with the correct, pouty voice, but can't help but have a great big smile on his face while doing so. And he makes me smile when he says, "Go Vikings!"

And then there is The Wife. She has made all of these smiles possible. And her smile makes me smile. It's especially great when I know that something I did in some small way helped bring that smile to her face. (And no matter what, I'll always remember the glowing smile she was wielding when I first saw her on our wedding day. Best smile ever!)

So, my default setting may be "grumpy face," but I think it's getting better. Give me a few more years and it might actually change to "smiley face."  (Because smiling is my favorite.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Franny Franny Froo Froo

Today's column is going to be a bit different. Today, my Aunt Franny passed away. I want to jot down a few thoughts to remember her.

Frances Mills was my mother's big sister. She was also my mother's little sister. My mom stands at only 5'2" tall. (That's pretty short.) However, she towered over her older sister. Aunt Franny stood at only 4'10" or so. She was a tiny, tiny woman. But, she had a big, big influence on anyone who ever met her.

Franny, with my Roni

Franny had a way of lighting up a room with her smile and her attitude. Love radiated from her and touched everyone she met. It's pretty simple: if you ever met Franny, you fell in love with her. She had that kind of personality.

Franny was a little ol' southern gal. When she talked to you, she would be more likely to call you "Sugar" than your own name. She was the only person in the world who still called me "Joey." Except I wasn't just "Joey" to her. She would always refer to me possessively as "my Joey." And while I don't think I'd let anyone else call me "Joey," I was more than happy to be Franny's "Joey." In response, I called her my "Franny Franny Froo Froo." It didn't really mean anything, it was just a silly thing to call her, and she seemed to like it. So, it stuck.

Franny was a tough little bird. She made it through a lot of hard times in her younger years. And, in her older years, she fought off a whole lot of health problems. It was almost 15 years ago that we thought we had lost her. She was visiting my brother and I in Utah (Franny lived in Richmond, Virginia) when she had a heart attack. She was in the hospital for quite a while, and had two open heart surgeries. It was during the first surgery that we thought we had lost her. Franny's heart was so small that the doctors had a hard time finding a replacement valve small enough to fit her. It was the irony of ironies that the woman with the biggest heart I know would almost die because her heart was too small.

But, Franny was a tough little bird, and it was going to take more than two open heart surgeries to keep her down! She came out of the surgeries and eventually got out of the hospital. She spent the next month or so living at my brother's house recuperating until she was strong enough to fly back to Virginia. I was put in charge of making sure she took her doctor-recommended daily walk. She chided me for being a slave-driver, but we enjoyed our walks, talking and smiling as we went.

My brother John and I, making a Franny sammich.

Once she flew back to Virginia, we figured we'd never see her again. But we did. Several times. Nothing could keep Franny down. She would often spend her summers with her sisters, my Mom and my Mom's twin sister Evelyn, in Washington state, then drive or fly down to Utah for a visit.

It was during some of these visits to Utah that we began to see the influence Franny had on everyone around her. Back in Virginia, Franny spent a lot of time entertaining the Mormon missionaries. As a former Mormon missionary myself, I know that it's wonderful to have someone who will take you into their home and actually be nice to you. Especially as a scared 19 to 21 year old kid thousands of miles away from home.

Franny loved to be around "her missionaries," and the love she exuded out to them was reciprocated. On one of her visits to my brother's house in the Salt Lake City area, she got in contact with one of "her missionaries" who had finished his mission and was back home in Utah. They decided to get together. And then, more missionaries found out Franny was in town. And then, more missionaries. Soon, my brother and his wife were hosting more than a couple dozen of Franny's former missionaries. They would bring their wives (or husbands) and kids from all over Utah to get a chance to visit with their "Grandma Mills." (They all called her "Grandma Mills." I thought it would be funnier if they called her "Granny Franny." You know, because it rhymes and everything. As usual, no one paid attention to me.)

These impromptu missionary reunions with Franny didn't happen just that one time, either. There were several years that Franny would visit at my brother's house, and "her missionaries" would come to visit her.

It just goes to show the influence of Franny's love and her good heart. I saw the influence she had on the people she knew in Utah, the missionaries she met in Virginia, and the people she touched during her stays in Washington with my Mom.  Everyone who knew her loved her.

And, she was fun to tease. My brother and I learned that there was a song about worms that would make Franny squirm. So, of course, we would sing it for her. She also got the heebie jeebies whenever she would see any stuffed animal that looked even remotely like a mouse. She enjoyed our good-natured ribbing. (And gave it back to us whenever the opportunity presented itself.)

Franny, on the floor with Baby Roni

At one point, for reasons I don't remember, I latched onto the phrase "It don't make me no never mind," as a corny, silly way of saying "It doesn't matter to me." I tried to get Franny to say it, but for some reason she just couldn't get it right. Instead of "It don't make me no never mind," she would end up saying, "It don't make no matter to me," or "It don't make no mind to me," or "It don't ever make no matter," or some other permutation. I used to tease her about this every time I saw her for two or three years. And she could never get it right.

And then, on her next visit, she walked up to me, with a beaming smile on her face, and said, "It don't make me no never mind!" She was so proud she got it right! And then, every time she saw me after that, she would smugly tell me "It don't make me no never mind." She was so darn cute.

I can't imagine the loss that Franny's three boys, her two surviving sisters, and her brother feel with her passing. But, I do know that they, and everyone else Franny met, received enough love from her to last two, three, four, or more lifetimes. When you were with her, she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to her. And, amazingly, she had enough love in her that you could actually believe she loved every person she met that much. She was amazing.

She literally was the most lovable person I have ever met. I'll miss my Franny Franny Froo Froo.

Franny with Baby Buzz

Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Boldly Go (Where Few Men Have Gone Before)

It seemed simple enough: a nice afternoon of dinner and shopping with The Wife and kids. Little did I know I'd end up in total darkness in a large, dank, filthy, locked room.

The day started pleasantly. The Wife was home from work for Spring Break (she teaches school), so we attempted to take the opportunity to actually sleep in. And, amazingly enough, the kids let us! We didn't get out of bed until after 9:00 AM, and I can't over-emphasize how unusual that is compared to our norm. I'm pretty sure Roni was up and awake before then, but in another stunning turn of events, she didn't follow standard operating procedure and whine at us or whack at us until we were awake.

We lazed about the house for the rest of the morning, doing a whole lot of not much. While off for her break, The Wife likes to make us nice breakfasts. The kids, being the contrarians that they are, prefer cold cereal. (Really? Rice Krispies over french toast? More proof that they have a lot to learn.)

Eventually we got showered, dressed, and ready for the world. It was the one day of her break that The Wife and I both had off work, so we decided to make the most of it. Spring Break, for most people, means a trip to the beach or someplace warm, with lots of fun and parties. Us? No. For us, Spring Break meant splurging on a late lunch at Olive Garden (we had a gift card), followed by an afternoon of shopping. (Yup, we are living on the edge!)

Because of the slow rollout of our morning, we didn't get to the Olive Garden until after 2:30 PM. I thought that at that time of day the restaurant would be pretty empty, but, although we were seated immediately, most of the other tables were full. (It just goes to show that breadsticks will have their sway, no matter the time of day.)

Roni likes the Olive Garden, but she didn't always. A year or so ago she was very excited one night to hear that we were going out to eat. She then became very disappointed that we weren't going to McDonald's or Wendy's. She was only appeased when we got to the Olive Garden and she saw their sign, which features grapes. "Oh, grapes!" she said, excitedly. "I like grapes!" She became a fan of Olive Garden that night. So much so that on this day as we passed one of her favorites she said, "Oooo, McDonald's! (slight pause) But I'd rather go to Olive Garden!"

Why grapes? Why not olives?

When we got there, Buzz was very enthused to see and tell us about the "purple grapes" on the Olive Garden sign. Roni wondered why the sign featured grapes instead of olives. (Which seemed like a legitimate question to me.) Both kids were ecstatic when they got purple grapes as their "side" with their meals. I got a calzone, which was delicious, although not as good (or as big) as the homemade ones The Wife makes.

Our whole dining experience was excellent, except for when the waitress cleared Roni's plate (while Roni and The Wife were on a bathroom break) even though there was still food on it. (I turned my head for a brief second and the plate was gone.) (I had been eyeing the one piece of pizza Roni had yet to take a bite out of.) (Part of my Daddy duty is to finish food that the kids can't.) (I relish this duty.) (Mmmm.....relish.)

We then started Phase 2 of our Spring Break Extravaganza: shopping!

The Wife wanted to go to The Fabric Store. I did not. But, I did want to go to the sporting goods store two doors down from The Fabric Store, so I was fine with this destination. (I needed to get myself some new socks.) (That's right, who needs Spring Break in Cancun when you could have Olive Garden and new socks?)

This was only the second time in my life that I had ever set foot in The Fabric Store. (Not its real name.) (The name has been changed to protect...well, me, I guess, in case I say something too derogatory about the store.)

The Fabric Store is a paradise for a man's man like me! They don't just have fabric. They have fabric and crafts! And it's not just fabric and crafts. It's fabric and crafts and knick-knacky stuff!!! It's every man's dream store!
[The preceding paragraph has been brought to you by sarcasm.]

I thought I would be taking one of the kids with me to the sporting goods store (you know, divide and conquer), but it turned out The Wife was going to meet her mother at The Fabric Store. And, as much as my kids love me (and they do), they'll cast me aside like three-week old newspaper if it means a chance to see Grammy. Grammy trumps all, even Daddy, or Super Why, or Word Girl.

So, I was about to make my escape from The Fabric Store when several of the Olive Garden breadsticks I had eaten sent me a very clear message. (I told you those breadsticks will have their sway.) I asked The Wife for directions, she pointed to the front corner of the store, and I was off to one of the most lonely places in the whole world: The Men's Room at The Fabric Store!

I wondered, for a brief moment, if they even had a men's room at The Fabric Store. But, of course, they do. (For the same reason they have a women's restroom at the Star Trek convention. I think they are legally obligated.)

As I approached the men's room at The Fabric Store, I imagined a pristine, clean, never-been-used place. I was wrong. I opened the door to find a large, filthy, stinky room.

I was surprised by how big the room was. It easily could have housed two toilet stalls and three or four urinals. And yet, all that was there was a toilet in the far corner and a sink. The room was at least three times bigger than the trucker's cave at work. (For more about the disgusting bathroom at my work, the trucker's cave, see The Quest For the Ring or The Room Without a View.) But, since there was only one toilet inside, I was forced to lock the door behind me. (Don't want anyone walking in on me while I'm seated. It would be even more awkward than usual with all that extra space in the room.)

I walked over to the toilet and was pleased (there's that sarcasm again!) to see the toilet seat covered with another man's urine. (I've said before that I thought "Another Man's Urine" would make a really good name for a really bad rock band. Given more consideration, I've decided that it also would make a really good title for the next novella by Stephen King.) So, before I could sit down to do my business I had to clean off the seat.

Having cleaned the seat to the best of my ability, I sat to take care of the things I went into that room to take care of. All was fine until two minutes later when the room went completely dark. Motion lights!

There are times and places where motion lights can and should be utilized. Up until my experiences of that day, I would have thought the men's room at The Fabric Store would have been a perfectly acceptable place for motion lights. I would have been wrong. There are no windows in the men's room at The Fabric Store. It gets very dark, very quickly. And, no amount of waving my hands while sitting on the toilet would persuade the motion lights to light back on. I was in the dark.

And that, of course, is when I found that the men's room at The Fabric Store is not the loneliest place in the world. Because that is when someone came to the door and wiggled the handle, trying to get in. I wondered if they could see from the crack at the bottom of the door that it was dark inside and wondered what kind of weirdo would lock himself into the men's room at The Fabric Store in complete darkness. I worried that they might try to go find a manager to open this locked, "empty," men's restroom.

Finally, after leaving the toilet and doing a few jumping jacks in the vast expanse of the room, I was able to convince the motion lights that yes, indeed, there was someone in the room and that the lights should be on. I was positive that my experience in the men's room at The Fabric Store couldn't get any worse. And then it did.

I turned on the sink, rinsed my hands, and reached for the soap dispenser. There was no soap in the soap dispenser. I pushed and pushed and pushed, but no soap would come out. Okay, I could deal with that. I rinsed and soaked my hands in the hot water. (Hey, at least the water did get hot. And it wasn't a motion sensor sink.)

After soaking and scrubbing my hands as best I could without soap, I turned off the water and reached for a paper towel. Yes, you guessed it, no paper towels! Not even an ineffective hand dryer blower. Just an empty paper towel dispenser. So, I was forced to do the hand hokey pokey (you put your right hand in and you shake it all about) with both of my hands to shake as much of the water off as I could. Then I used my pants legs as towel stand-ins. (Being very grateful that I didn't wear shorts that day.)

As I made my escape from the men's room at The Fabric Store, I wondered what the women's room was like. Surely they took better care of it than they did the men's room, right? Did they, like me, think that no one would ever use the men's room at The Fabric Store? Is that why it was in such a state of disrepair? I'm just not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that the next time I go to the Olive Garden, maybe I won't eat quite so many breadsticks.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sleeping With the Television On

I was raised on television. Well, not actually on the television. Not literally. That would be pretty difficult. (Although some of those old consoles were pretty big.)(And sturdy.)

I was raised by the television. Wait...that's not right, either. It makes it sound like it was the televison that raised me. What I mean is I was raised in the proximity of the television. Near it. Close to it. Too close to it. ("Don't sit so close to the television, it'll ruin your eyes!") (Ha! I guess I get the last laugh there. My eyes are just fine.) (Well, except that I do need to go in and get a new subscription prescription for my glasses. Maybe I'll save that "last laugh" for later.)

What I'm trying to say is I watched a lot of television as I was growing up. If I wasn't sleeping or working on the farm or hanging out with friends I was probably watching television. If I said I watched, on average, four hours of television a day, my guess is that would be a pretty low estimate.

We'd watch some news in the morning. Usually Good Morning America, featuring Joan Lunden, although occasionally the Today Show would be on. (I was always intrigued by movie critic Gene Shalit. Was he a man, a Muppet, or some kind of wacky werewolf?)

If it was summer and we happened to not be out farming in the fields, we would watch a two-hour block of soap operas. (One Life To Live and General Hospital.)(My brother used to call it "Venereal Hospital." He probably still does. He's special that way.) Dad wouldn't admit he liked the shows, but we would rarely go back out to work until the shows were over. And the thing is, it really didn't matter if we missed a couple of weeks, because the "plots" on the shows moved so slowly that we could always pick the storyline back up. (I wouldn't be surprised if I tuned in Venereal General Hospital today and they would still be running a love triangle plot involving Scorpio, Luke, and Holly that started in 1984.)

The best time for us kids to watch television, though, was after school. That's when they would air reruns of the shows from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shows like The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan's Heroes, and, of course Star Trek. We got to where we knew these shows backwards and forwards.

And then, in the evening, we would watch the network "prime time" shows. We mostly watched the cheesy action-detective shows of the day, like Simon & Simon, Magnum, P.I., Charlie's Angels, Matt Houston, Vega$, The A-Team, and, of course, The Dukes of Hazard. On Saturday nights we'd catch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. And, we would always tune in for special events like The Battle of the Network Stars. (I can't even imagine a show like that airing today. There is no way the PR agents of working actors would allow them to be humiliated in the 100 yard dash.) (That kind of embarrassment is left for the non-working actors and "celebrities" on the reality shows.) (Although I have to admit that it would be pretty entertaining to see David Boreanaz taking on Jim Parsons in the obstacle course.)

And then we'd watch the late local news, followed by Johnny Carson's monologue before trailing off to bed.

That's a lot of television.

Meanwhile, when The Wife was growing up, she watched only a fraction of the television I did. Wait, let me clarify that. Because 7/8 is a fraction. So is 13/6. So, let me say that she watched a small fraction of the television that I did. (I'm going to guess 1/7, even though I have no way of knowing this.) And, she grew up in a different era than I did. (There is a pretty big age difference between us.) When she was a kid she watched shows like Full House, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World.

So, we entered our marriage with vastly different television viewing experiences. And vastly different taste in television programs. The Wife likes to watch reality-ish shows like Jon and Kate Plus 8; That One Family With 23 Kids; Little People In a Tall People World; I Had No Idea I Was Pregnant; and Those Doctors Can't Figure Out What's Wrong With Me. (Some of those show titles might not be completely accurate, but they cover the gist of what the shows are about.) I'm not a big fan of any of these shows.

However, before I got married, I knew that there was a thing called the "Food Network," but I had never watched. The Wife got me started on it. And now, I watch it more than she does. I especially like the cooking competition show Chopped. There's just something very entertaining in seeing what kind of dessert someone will come up with when forced to use lamb's brain, arugula, cottage cheese, and cranberries.

Meanwhile, aside from my dalliance with the Food Network, I still prefer cheesy action-detective shows. The truly cheesy shows are harder to find these days, so I'm usually left settling for "procedural" dectective shows. (I can watch reruns of Law & Order until the cows come home.) (And it doesn't really matter where the cows have been.)

One of the first shows The Wife and I were able to compromise and agree on was when we started watching the DVDs of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The Wife liked it because she thought Dean Cain was "super" cute; I liked Teri Hatcher. It was a show we could both enjoy. (At least until the plots got a bit too outlandish. A Lois clone that has to eat frogs to survive? Really???)

Still, that show set the stage for two of the shows that we watch together now: Bones and Castle. Both of these shows have an attractive leading man and leading lady, so that there can be enjoyment for both The Wife and myself. (And, I'm not too sad that both of these shows fall into my "cheesy action-detective show" wheelhouse.)

Still, I watch much less than I did when I was single. We don't have a television in the living room. (The Wife did that on purpose.) So, if we want to watch television we have to go downstairs to the family room, or to our bedroom. We don't watch much television downstairs unless the kids are in bed, because so much on television these days is not safe for children. Therefore, the majority of the television watching we do now is in bed.

This is another area where The Wife and I differ in our television viewing. She easily and often falls asleep while watching shows. I, on the other hand, have a hard time nodding off if I am interested in watching something. This is where the DVR has come in handy. If I'm in bed watching a show, but I need to rest, I am more likely to fall asleep if I record the show. Somehow, this eases my mind because I think that if I do happen to fall asleep, I can always go back later and watch the show. Usually I don't go back and watch, but knowing that I can helps me get some sleep.

One of the reasons I don't watch as much television anymore is because of the kids. I don't want them to watch as much television as I did. Especially because there is so much sex and violence on television these days. Because there wasn't any when I was a kid. (Or was there? Violence? Well, a lot of people got conked over the head with coconuts on Gilligan's Island. And there was that football to the nose on The Brady Bunch. Sex? What exactly did I think was going on between Captain Kirk and all those hot alien chicks in the tin-foil bikinis? And I don't think Miss Jane wanted Jethro for his brains. Maybe my shows weren't as wholesome as I thought.)

Still, I try to keep the kids on wholesome-ish shows, and on shows that don't show commercials. We usually stick to PBS or the Disney channel. Of course, commercials sometimes take different forms. Just because no advertisements air during Jake and the NeverLand Pirates doesn't mean we haven't been sold a thing or two by the show. (Just look at the toys on the top of Roni's birthday cake from last week's column to see what I mean.)

And I know that despite my best intentions I will not be able to control the viewing habits of my children for their whole lives (or even their whole childhood.)

In fact, no sooner had I typed the previous paragraph when The Wife called us to the dinner table. She made a tasty stir-fry lunch. Roni looked at it and exclaimed, "It's a family feast! Like it was made by Rachel Ray!"

Have I ever let Roni watch the Rachel Ray Show? No. Will I be able to keep her away from horrible, nasty shows like Rachel Ray for her entire life? Obviously, no. I'll just have to trust that she'll know what's right and what's wrong, and she'll choose to not conk anyone over the head with a coconut or ever wear a tin-foil bikini. (Especially in the proximity of Captain Kirk.)

[NOTE: You may (or may not have) noticed that for this entire column I frequently used the word "television," but never used its common two-letter abbreviation. That's because I'm not sure how best to put it in print. There are several different choices:

1. "TV" --This is probably the most common way to abbreviate television, but I don't particularly like it. Why should I capitalize "TV" when I don't capitalize television? It makes it seem more important than it should be. (Plus, this usage could be confused with the abbreviation for transvestite.)

2. "tv" --I probably prefer this usage, but it still doesn't look quite right in a sentence. ("I had the tv on, but the sound all the way down.") It seems like it's missing something.

3. "T.V." --This definitely doesn't look right. The abbreviation periods accentuate the over-importance of the capitalization.

4. "t.v." --This still doesn't look right. The periods behind the letters are especially awkward if you try to follow them with a comma. ("When we watch t.v., we usually watch sports.)

5. "TeeVee" --This looks way too cartoony.

6. "teevee" --No!

So, you can see why I write out the word "television." It just looks better than the abbreviated alternatives.

(Of course, I guess I could always refer to it as the "boob tube.")]