Thursday, November 26, 2015

How To Cook a Turkey (by The Girl)

Thanksgiving dinner can get pretty complicated. Do you get a little overwhelmed trying to cook a turkey? Well, my seven year-old daughter is here to help.

As an assignment for her second-grade class, The Girl wrote a story titled: How to Cook a Turkey. I'll share her story with you now (complete with The Girl's second-grade spelling and punctuation.) I hope it helps make your Thanksgiving more enjoyable!

The Girl is the author and the artist!

How to Cook a Turkey:

"First you get a thanksgiving recipie book and look for the recipie of a juicy turkey. Next, get a list and write that you need to go shopping for a good turkey, carrots, stuffing, potatos, spices, and 7 kinds of ice cream that you choose. 

Than put the good turkey in A big roasting pan and set it for 7 degrees. 

After that put the spices on the good turkey and the rest of the food except for the ice cream and serve it for thanksgiving dinner.

Finally, you get the yummy food on a plate and save the delicious ice cream for last.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING and I really mean it!"

Monday, November 23, 2015

The 5 Best and Worst Things About Thanksgiving

It will be Thanksgiving again before you know it. There are a lot of wonderful things about Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad things about Thanksgiving, too. Here’s five of the worst, then five of the best:

Worst #5: Shopping—It used to be that Black Friday started at six in the morning. Then it started at four. Then it started at midnight. Now, some greedy retailers are starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving afternoon! Enough!!!

Worst #4: Detroit Lions—Why do we get stuck watching Detroit every Thanksgiving? Having to watch the Lions is like someone saying, “You can have a piece of fruit, (Yay!) but it has to be a prune.” (Boo!)

Worst #3: That One Relative—We all have “that one relative.” He/she is the one who makes Thanksgiving (and all family gatherings) a little more stressful than they need to be.

Worst #2: Cooking—The bad thing about the good food on Thanksgiving is that it takes a long time to cook it all. Sometimes it takes days of preparation for a meal that lasts less than an hour.

Worst #1: Dishes—When the meal is over, someone has to do all those dishes. That someone will likely be you.

All the fixins! (Or at least most of them.)

Best #5: Naptime—After the meal is over, find yourself a cozy spot. There’s nothing quite like a turkey-induced nap!

Best #4: Football—Between the NFL and college, there’s always a game on. (And if you nap through the Detroit game, that’s okay because so do the Lions.)

Best #3: Family and Friends—It’s always great to spend the day with the people you care about the most. (You might even get to see your favorite cousin!)

Best #2: Food—So much good food! There’s turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, rolls, pies and so much more! It’s a wonderful feast, and it all tastes great!

Best #1: Pies!—Yes, I know I included pies under the “food” category, but I figure they’re so good they deserve a category of their own. Pumpkin, apple, peach, cherry, pecan, chocolate, banana cream, or whatever it be, it be delicious! This guy likes to try some pie!!!

There is never too much pie!

 I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!!! In the spirit of the holiday, be sure to be thankful and appreciative of all the good things in your life! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Fiction: Parent/Teacher Conflagration

"Well, thank you very much," Jimmy's mom said to Mr. Eller as they both got up out of their chairs.

"The pleasure's all mine," said Mr. Eller as they engaged in a solid hand shake. "Jimmy is a very good student. I wish I had more like him." Jimmy's mom smiled as she turned away, looking for the next teacher on her list, Mrs. Krause, the Spanish teacher.

Mr. Eller relaxed for a moment and took a swig from his water bottle. He looked at his watch. An hour and thirteen minutes into parent/teacher conference and so far it had been a very pleasant evening. Sometimes it went that way. Sometimes it didn't. Tonight, it wouldn't.

The woman walked up to Mr. Eller's table and stood with her arms folded and a scowl on her face.  She looked at the sign on the gym wall behind him. It read, "Mr. Eller: History." He watched her read the sign, then look at him, then look back at the sign, then look back at him. "Are you Mr. Eller, the history teacher?" she asked gruffly.

"That's what they tell me," he said.

"My son is in your class, and he says you are mean, and a jerk, and out to get him," the woman said. Her  arms were no longer folded. Instead, she had an accusatory finger pointing in the direction of Mr. Eller.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Mr. Eller replied. "I may be mean sometimes, but I really try hard to not be a jerk, nor do I try to be 'out to get' anyone. May I ask who your son is?" Mr. Eller had a pretty good idea who her son was, but there were two or three other possibilities in his mind.

"My son is Akron. He is in your third period US History class. Do you even know who he is?"

Just as Mr. Eller had suspected: Akron. Upon closer examination, he had seen that scowl before. Apparently, scowls can be hereditary. "Yes, I'm quite familiar with Akron," Mr. Eller replied. "He can be a really good student when he tries." ("It's just that I've never seen him actually try," thought Mr. Eller.)

"He's not getting a passing grade in your class. Why is that?" asked Akron's mom.

"Well," Mr. Eller said, "He's a good kid (outright lie!) but he needs to work a little harder (vast understatement!) and sometimes he can be a bit of a distraction to the other students (vast understatement!)."

"How can he get his grade up? He wants to go to an Ivy League school someday, and he can't have an F in 8th grade US History!"

(Ivy League? The only ivy this kid might have a chance to get into is poison ivy!) "Well, the grade is based 20% on assignments, 20% on tests, 20% on his report paper, and, because of a district mandate, 40% on attendance. Unfortunately, Akron needs work in all of those areas."

"Akron is very smart and a very good student. I demand to know why you have it out for him!" Akron's mom's face was getting redder by the minute.

Mr. Eller tried to remain calm. "As I said, 40% of his grade is attendance, but he has already missed 14 days. That's a lot of days. And he still hasn't made up for the assignments he missed on those days."

"We needed to see my sister in Spokane," Akron's mom said. "He learned a lot on his trip to Spokane. It's a very historical city, you know. He probably learned more about US history there than he would of in your class!"

(Spokane? Yes, Spokane is surely one of the most important cities in all of American history!) "He said something about going to Disneyland," Mr. Eller replied.

"Yes, we went to Disneyland, too. You can't tell me your little history class is more important than Disneyland! He learned a lot about history at Disneyland!"

(Yes, I'm sure he learned that Johnny Depp was a pirate, Sheriff Woody saved the old west, and it really is a small world, after all!) "I'm sorry, but attendance is actually important. His grade reflects that."

"And what about his paper?" she asked. "How could you give him an F on his paper? He worked so hard on that!"

"Well," Mr. Eller said, "he copied his paper directly from Wikipedia."

"Oh really? How do you know that? Do you have Wikipedia memorized or something?" Akron's mom was flaring her nostrils.

"No," Mr. Eller replied. "But I know it was from Wikipedia because it had said 'Wikipedia' up on the corner of the page. He printed it out directly from the Wikipedia page."

"What, and you won't accept that? I'm sure he's not the only kid who got his stuff off of Wikipedia."

"No, but he was the only one who handed in a page printed directly from Wikipedia. The other kids at least copied and pasted or paraphrased it."

Akron's mom was getting more and more flustered. "What about his test scores? He's been doing good on his test scores, hasn't he?"

"Actually, no," said Mr. Eller. "I recall one answer in particular where he marked that Donald Trump was the president of the United States during the Civil War. To the best of my knowledge, Donald Trump has never been the president of the United States, nor was he alive at the time of the Civil War."

"You just have it out for Akron!" she shouted. "He says you won't even let him use his cell phone in class!"

"I'm sorry, but cell phones are not allowed during tests," Mr. Eller said. "District policy says we can no longer confiscate cell phones, but they must be put away during test times or they can look up answers on the internet."

"What's wrong with that?" Akron's mom asked. "You just want them to fail, don't you?"

"No, I don't want them to fail," Mr. Eller replied. "I want them to learn."

"Well you're not going to get away with failing my Akron! I know the principal, and I'm going to have a nice chat with him!"

"What a coincidence, I know the principal, too," Mr. Eller replied. He had tried to keep his snarkiness under control, but it was starting to leak out. "Enjoy your chat with him."

As Akron's mom stormed out of the gym the eyes of several other parents followed her. Mr. Eller leaned back in his chair, took another swig from his water bottle, and thought of a topic for the next assigned paper for his class: Spokane and its importance in the Civil War.


Now choose a title that best fits this story. Fill in the circle completely, or your answer will be marked incorrect.

O A. My Son Can Do No Wrong.
O B. You Want My Son To Fail, Don't You?
O C. Johnny Depp and the Other Important Pirates of History
O D. Parent/Teacher Conflagration
O E. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Two Turkeys of Thanksgiving

Every year at Thanksgiving we get a turkey. And we love it. It's great alongside the stuffing. It's wonderful covered in gravy. It's fantastic in combination with some cranberry sauce. It might even be best of all as leftovers on a roll as a mini-sandwich. We love turkey on Thanksgiving!


Every year at Thanksgiving we get a turkey. And we hate it. It's the same thing every year. You'll think maybe this year will be different, but no, this turkey is still terrible. It doesn't matter how you dress it up or what you put around it, this turkey is just lousy.

This second turkey: the Detroit Lions.

We look forward to watching football every Thanksgiving. And yet when we attempt to watch the football, we end up with the Detroit Lions.

The Detroit Lions are the turkeys of the NFL, and by that I don't mean they are a delicious bird. lists the fourth definition of the word turkey as, "a person or thing of little appeal; dud; loser." That certainly describes the Detroit Lions.

Before somehow winning the past two years, the Detroit Lions had lost 11 out of 12 Thanksgiving Day games, including nine straight. And most of those games weren't even close, with the Lions losing by scores like 41-9, 27-7, 47-10, 34-12, and 45-24. In fact, of those nine straight losses, only one game had a final margin of less than 11 points!

I'm sure when they named the team the Detroit Lions, they were thinking of a fierce jungle animal, like this:
Actual lion
But in reality they play more like this:
You know, it's kind of unfair for me to compare the Detroit Lions with cartoon lions.
(I hope the cartoon lions accept my apology.)

I find it kind of amazing that every year thousand of people in Detroit spend their Thanksgiving going to the stadium to watch the Lions lose. What a horrible way to spend your holiday.

Over the past twenty years, there are only two things I remember from Detroit's Thanksgiving games, and both of them involve ineptitude.

One was from the 2012 game, when the Lion's head coach, Jim Schwartz, didn't know how or when to properly challenge a referee's call and cost his team a touchdown in a game they ended up losing in overtime. Typical Detroit Lion incompetence.

The other memorable "play" happened in 1998 during the coin toss in overtime when Steelers running back Jerome Bettis called "tails," but the referee thought he called "heads," awarding the ball to the Lions and enabling them a rare Thanksgiving win. This one wasn't Lion incompetence, but it was incompetence nonetheless.

Happily, though, the Detroit Lions aren't the only turkey we get on Thanksgiving. A well-cooked, juicy turkey will help make the day a good one. And if we eat enough of it, it just might help us in getting a nap so we can sleep through the other Thanksgiving turkey: the Detroit Lions football game.

Friday, November 13, 2015

14 Things You Can Do Instead of Staring At Your Phone

Everywhere you go anymore, you'll find people staring down at their rectangles. They'll be Facebooking or Pinteresting or Twittering or ESPNing or Skyping or Angry Birding or Candy Crushing or somethinging.

[I'm officially old now. Why? Because I'm about to use the old man's phrase. What is the old man's phrase, you ask? "Back in my day."]

Back in my day, we didn't have all-knowing, all-powerful telephones small enough that we could carry them around with us wherever we went. Our phones were mounted to the wall, and you could only take them as far away from the wall as that pig-tailed cord would let you. (Sometimes as far as fifteen feet!)

Yes, times have changed. It's a much different world than it used to be. Here's a list of just some of the things people used to do more of back in the day before the smart phones took over:

1. Look people in the eye. People actually exist in the real world, not just as profile pictures on Facebook.

2. Talk to people. Sometimes if you talk to people, they will talk back. Occasionally, an interesting conversation will actually take place.

3. Play board games. We used to gather around the table and play board games as a family. It was fun, and we learned a lot about each other, like which cousin was super-competitive and which uncle was a sore loser.

Playing Clue with the family at Grandma's house back in the day.
(I'm the cute kid in the middle about to drop a "Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Revolver" on everybody.)

Back in the day, if you wanted to play a game by yourself you had the choice of solitaire or...solitaire. (And even then you would very likely have someone looking over your shoulder "helping" you.)

"Red 8 on the black 9." "Oh. Thanks."

4. Spell out words. Or, as the kids today would say, "spll wrds." I have an aunt who thinks that because using "u" and "ur" in place of "you" and "your" is acceptable in texts and on Twitter, that it is acceptable everywhere. She doesn't realize it's rather jarring to see "text language" in the middle of real sentences. (It'd be like someone throwing in a couple of German words in the middle of an English sentence.)

5. Watch shows on actual televisions. Yes, it's great that we can take our shows with us wherever we go, but there's something kind of nice about watching a show on a screen bigger than 5 inches.

6. Write letters. Do you remember the thrill of getting an envelope in the mail with your name and address hand-written on it? Do you remember getting actual words and "conversations" sent to you from someone you knew and liked? If so, well, congratulations: you're old, too.

7. Play with toys. These days, if you take away their phones kids will likely say, "I'm bored." Back in the day, we played with toys. We had Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks and Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys and pop guns and Barbies and other dolls. (Or "action figures," if you were manly like me.)

8. Play outside. Back in the day, instead of staring at a tiny screen we would play tag or hide and seek or red rover or hopscotch or jump rope or Cowboys and Indians. (I didn't say that we were politically correct. Just that we used to go outside and do something.)

9. Read a book. Whole worlds were opened up to us by reading books. And, books were interactive: if you turned a page you would get a whole new slew of words to read!

10. Use our imaginations. Instead of staring blankly at a screen, we could be cowboys or astronauts or fire fighters or soldiers or super heroes or the King of Slubovia. (And believe me when I say not just anybody could be the King of Slubovia.)

11. Go to the park. Swings. Slides. Teeter-totters. Monkey bars. Forts. Fun of all kinds.

Hours (or at least minutes) of family fun.
12. Play sports. Did you know that people used to go outside and actually play baseball? I know, it sounds unbelievable, but it's true!

13. Discover nature. Hiking can be fun. So can climbing on rocks, or climbing mountains. Finding waterfalls can be fun. It's much easier to do these things if you are outside.

You can't do this if you are staring at your smart phone.
14. Talk on the phone. Do you remember when phones were actually used for talking to someone? Did you know your smart phones can be used to call and talk to another person and have instantaneous interaction? You don't even have to wait for them to type out the next words they want to say. It's true.

It's amazing what we can discover if we just put down our rectangles and look around a bit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Lesson I Learned from The View

Sometimes life's little lessons come at you unexpectedly.

When The Wife and I bought our house several years ago, one of the things we liked about it was the view. We're up on a bit of a hillside, and from our house we can look out over almost the entire valley, including many different mountains to the north, northeast, and northwest of us. (Our front window faces the north.)

Here's a nice sunset as seen from our house.

After we had been in the house for a year or two, it was announced that the Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) was going to be building a temple in a nearby town. When the site was chosen for the temple we were excited because we thought we might be able to see it from our house. Mormon temples are beautiful buildings. If we could see one from our house it would only enhance the already wonderful view from our front window.

As they built the temple, we were thrilled because, yes, we could see it from our front window! As they finished work on the temple it became clear that not only could we see the temple from our front window, we could also see it very clearly while sitting on our couch, which is located on the back wall of our living room. The view was gorgeous, and I was very proud of it.

A little too proud.

I began to look around our neighborhood and noticed that, while our house faces north, most of the other houses face either east or west. The people in those houses couldn't see the temple from their front windows, because their houses were turned the wrong way. There are a few houses above the hill from us that face south, so while they might see the temple from their back deck, they wouldn't be able to see it from their front window. There were only two or three other houses in the entire neighborhood that might be able to see the temple from their front window.

I started to crow a little, saying things like, "We're about the only house in this whole area that can see the temple from our front window." I enjoyed our view and I enjoyed the uniqueness of our view.

Of course, views can sometimes be blocked. I wasn't too concerned about this, though, because the chances of that happening to our view were slim to none. There was one little vacant lot down the hill from us where there was a slight chance if they built an oddly tall house or grew a tall tree in just the wrong place it might block our view. But the chances of that happening were negligible. The lot had been vacant for years, as were several other lots in our neighborhood.

I didn't think the lot would ever sell. When it did sell and someone began building a house on it, I still wasn't too concerned about losing our view. In fact, The Boy and I enjoyed watching from our window as the big digger came and dug the foundation of the house.

Why wasn't I worried? Because in order to block our view of the temple, the new house would have to be about twice as tall as the house next to it.

Here, construction on the house had started, but I still wasn't worried.  We could still see the temple quite well.
(The view of the temple was much better than it appears in this photo. This is just a blown-up corner of a camera-phone picture I took of the bus for a different story.)

You can probably guess what happened.

One day we came home and noticed they had added another level completely to the work they had already done on the house. Suddenly, it was about twice as tall as most of the houses in our neighborhood. Our view was blocked.

Okay, so we can still see the very top of the temple's steeple.
(And we can still see the mountains!)
Earlier, as I walked around bragging about our temple view, there was always something nagging at the back of my mind reminding me not to be bragging or boastful, because those things usually come back to bite you in the end. I didn't listen. So, instead, I had to learn my lesson.

(I should say here and now that I hold no ill feelings or ill will towards the family that is building the house. I've met them and they seem like very nice people, and I welcome them to our neighborhood. They found a lot they wanted, and they are building the house they want to build. I wish them well. I'm sure they didn't build their house there for the purpose of blocking my temple view.)

In the end, it's all okay. We can't see the temple from our front window anymore. But, from our front door we can see about half of the temple. If we walk out into our driveway we can see most of it, too. And, if we just walk down the hill a half a block, we have a lovely view of the temple.

I remember as a kid being forced to learn the song "It's a Grand Old Flag." I never liked that song. In it there is a line that boasts and brags about how America is a land "where there's never a boast or brag." Bragging and boasting about how you never boast or brag seems like a bad idea to me. 

And, as I recently learned, nothing good will come from boasting and bragging in general.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Fiction: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Owen stood at the head of the table. He did not look happy.

"Okay, people," he said. "You know why we're here. We need some fresh new ideas about cheap old crap! This movie studio needs a hit. You like your jobs? You like getting paid? Well, we need ideas. We gotta find something we can turn into a franchise. Something. Anything." The other people in the room fidgeted in their chairs.

Owen continued. "You see what they did with Legos? 400 million dollars is what they did with Legos! Transformers? Well over a billion, and they're still printing money with 'em! And the comic books! Don't get me started on how much money they're getting from the comic books! I mean, good hell, something called Ant-Man made over 100 million! Ant-Man!!!"

Owen had worked himself into a frenzy. He paused for a moment to collect himself. "There's a lot of crap out there that hasn't been used yet. A lot of ideas out there that aren't movies yet. Toys, TV shows, comic books. Something. Anything. We need ideas." He sat down. "We're going to go around the table. Now, this is just a crap-shooting, brain-storming session. There are no bad ideas here. We just need ideas." He turned to his left. "Jimmy, you start us off."

"Jughead," Jimmy said.

"Jughead?" Owen repeated.

"Yes, Jughead," Jimmy said. "People know who Jughead is. They like him. They think he's funny. Jughead."

"Not bad," Owen said. "Put somebody in a silly hat, get a script about him obsessing over hamburgers. It just might work. I'm thinking maybe a young Jeff Goldblum. Is there a young Jeff Goldblum out there yet?" he asked aloud to no one in particular. "Brenda, get that down. Find out who owns the rights to Archie Comics." Owen turned back to Jimmy. "Not bad, Jimmy. Who's next?"

Everyone looked to Linda, who was in the seat next to Jimmy. "I was thinking about toys that everyone had as a kid. How about those stackable donuts?"

"Stackable donuts?" Owen looked confused.

"You know," Linda said. "There's a big blue one on the bottom, and then a green one above it that's not quite as big, and then a yellow one above it that's not quite as big, and then…"

Coming soon to a theater near you!!!

"Oh, okay, I know what you're talking about," said Owen. "But, how do you get a movie out of that?"

"Oh, you know," Linda said, "just get some typewriter jockey to write it up. They're still cranking out Alvin and the Chipmunk movies, so someone ought to be able to slap something together about stackable donuts."

"Good point," Owen conceded. He turned to the next spot at the table. "Harold?"

"How about this?" Harold asked excitedly. "M*A*S*H: The Movie!"

"M*A*S*H already was a movie," Owen said.

"It was?" Harold asked.

"Yes," said Owen. "It started out as a movie, then they made it into a TV show."

"Actually, it started out as a book, then a movie, then the TV show," said Linda.

"A book, huh?" Jimmy said. "Maybe we could get movie ideas from books!"

"Books?" Owen said incredulously. "I'm not looking for boring ideas! I'm looking for exciting stuff that people actually like. Like toys, comic books or TV shows!" He turned back to Harold. "Do you have anything else?"

Harold looked frantic for a few moments, then blurted out, "How about this? Cheers: The Movie!"

"Hey now, that might actually work," said Owen. "Nice job, Harold." Harold sat back deep in his chair and let out a big sigh of relief. "Next," Owen said, moving on.

"There was this comic book I loved as a kid," Thompson said. "It had great action sequences and wonderful witty banter, exactly what people look for in a comic book movie. I think, with the right people in charge, it could be one of the biggest movies ever!"

Everyone was sitting on the edge of their seat. "Sounds good, Thompson," Owen said. "What's the name of this comic book?"

Thompson grinned and said, "It was called, The Fantastic Four!"

Groans were heard around the room. "Not funny, Thompson," Owen chided. "Not funny at all."

"Actually," Thompson said, "my idea is a little more hippy, trippy, and dippy: Spirograph: The Movie!"

The room was silent for several seconds, then Owen said, "You know, with the right director, it could work. Brenda, look in to what company owns Spirograph." Brenda wrote something on her pad and nodded. "Okay, Kip, you're next."

"Barney, the purple dinosaur," Kip said calmly but confidently. Once again, groans were heard from around the room.

"Barney!" exclaimed Jimmy. "I hated Barney!"

"Exactly," Kip said, still calm and still confident. "Everyone has an opinion about Barney. Some people love Barney. Some people hate Barney. And some people love to hate Barney. The movie will have something for everyone."

"I love it!" Owen shouted. "That's the kind of thinking we need around here! Nice work, Kip!"

Two years later, Kip was standing next to Owen on the red carpet for the movie premiere. Behind them the movie poster had been blown up to 60 feet high. In big letters at the top it said, "Jack Black is: Barney the Dinosaur!!!" Then, below the picture of Jack as Barney was the tag line: "Hello again to all my friends!"

Owen turned to Kip and said, "Great idea, Kip. Great idea."

"I've got another one," Kip said. Owen looked at him with anticipation. "How about," Kip said, "Angelina Jolie is: Dora the Explorer!"

Dollar signs lit up in Owen's eyes.


Now please choose a title that best fits the story.

O A. Hollywood Has Officially Run Out of Ideas
O B. Those Donuts Will Be Blockbusters
O C. Jurassic Barney
O D. Coming Soon to a Theater Near You
O E. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ninjas at the World Series

I've watched a lot of baseball in my life, and not once had I ever thought about ninjas.

I had all three kids downstairs, and I was watching the World Series. I've never really been much of a baseball fan, but I do enjoy the unpredictability of sports, so I'll often watch the playoffs or World Series.

The Boy and The Girl were watching a little bit with me, asking questions about the game. The Boy would ask, "Did they hit it?" when he heard the sound of the ball whacking into the catcher's mitt. He thought it sounded like a hit. I was trying to explain to them about three strikes and three outs and why they got more than three strikes if they hit foul balls, and some of the other oddities of baseball.

One of the things they weren't understanding very well was how it could be a strike if the batter didn't swing. To someone who has never watched baseball, the strike zone is kind of a hard thing to explain.

After a while they had pretty much lost interest in the game, and were playing at other things. That's why I was more than a bit surprised when The Girl angrily yelled at the screen.

She yelled, in a scolding tone, "Ninja! You're not playing!"

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was saying and who she was saying it to. In the game, the situation was that there were two outs, and there were two strikes on the batter. The pitch went down the middle, but the batter didn't swing. The umpire called the pitch a strike, meaning both the player and his entire team were out for the inning.

When they call a third strike, umpires usually do so with an exaggerated motion, often punching the air with a clenched fist.

This action is what The Girl found so offensive. She saw a "ninja," a man dressed in all black and wearing a mask, inserting himself into the game and throwing punches in the air. "Ninja! You're not playing!" She wanted him to sit down and leave those baseball players alone.

Ninja or Umpire?

Once I figured out what she was saying and why she was saying it, I busted out laughing. I had never before made the connection between baseball umpires and ninjas, but I could see why The Girl would make the mistake. They have a lot of similarities:

Baseball umpires wear all black. Ninjas wear all black. Baseball umpires wear masks. Ninjas often wear masks. Baseball umpires lurk around in the background, usually not wanting to be seen. Ninjas lurk around in the background, not wanting to be seen.

Of course, there are some differences:

Ninjas often carry weapons, like throwing stars or nunchucks. Baseball umpires are rarely seen carrying weapons. (Maybe they're really stealthy?) Ninjas are usually athletic and quick. Baseball umpires are usually lumbering and often overweight.

Look very closely. Can you see the ninja?

Still, the similarities are strong enough that I could see why The Girl thought that the umpire was a ninja.

(It's probably a sad message on the state of baseball with the youth of today that my seven year-old daughter is much more familiar with ninjas than she is with baseball umpires.)

(It's also probably not good for ninjas that my daughter knows more about them than she does umpires. One of the trademarks of a ninja is stealth. Ninjas are supposed to be sneaky, not well-known to princess-loving second graders.)

So, the next time you watch a baseball game, keep an eye out for ninjas. You never know when they might strike.