Friday, December 30, 2016

Bob Saget Didn't Die In 2016 (Yet)

2016 is almost over, and for some people that's a good thing.

People are calling 2016 the worst year ever. That's mostly for two reasons: 1) the presidential election; and B) the high number of celebrity deaths. The election was a long and arduous event, and I'm so tired of it that I don't want to talk about it again for several years.

But, I will address the celebrity deaths. Did you know that, even with the large number of celebrities who passed away in 2016, there were even more celebrities who didn't die in 2016? It's true! For every Carrie Fisher there was a Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. For every George Michael there was a Phil Collins and Sting. For every Gene Wilder there was an Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase.

More celebrities didn't die than did!

The other day my daughter came up to me and asked, "Did Ricky Gervais die?" I thought it an odd question. (I should point out that the only thing my daughter has seen with Ricky Gervais in it is a skit from Sesame Street which features Mr. Gervais singing a "celebrity lullaby" for Elmo about the letter "n.") I answered, "No," then queried, "why do you ask?" She said, "Because I heard someone say that all of the celebrities are dying."

No, not all the celebrities have died. Maybe we should celebrate all of the celebrities who didn't die in 2016!

Bob Saget didn't die in 2016. Neither did John Stamos, Dave Coulier, or either of the Olsen twins. Yes, we lost Abe Vigoda and Ron Glass from the cast of Barney Miller, but all six of the stars of Friends are still with us! Let's celebrate the life of David Schwimmer while we can!

Some say that Season 3 of Full House is the greatest season of television ever!
Sure, The Brady Bunch's Florence Henderson and Everyone Loves Raymond's Doris Roberts left us, but Home Improvement's Patricia Richardson and The Cosby Show's Phylicia Rashad are still here.

Richard Marx, Kenny Loggins, and Pat Benatar are alive and well. Let's not wait for them to die; let's enjoy their music now!

Yes, Fidel Castro is dead, but Jimmy Carter is still alive! Let's cherish him down to his very last peanut!

So yes, instead of concentrating on the celebrities who have passed away in 2016, let's treasure the ones who are still alive.

*Note: There are still two days left in 2016. If any of these celebrities happen to die before 2017, I'm sorry, but it's really not my fault.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I Don't Like Soup (Unless I Do)

I'm a farm boy from Idaho. I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. (Especially if those potatoes are in french fry or hash brown form.) When I think of dinner, I'm thinking of a good, hearty meal that I can stick a fork in or cut with a knife. When I sit down to eat, I want something substantial, something that says, "Now that was a meal!"

I don't like soup.

You can't eat soup with a fork. You can't pick it up with your bare hands. You can't cut it with a knife. What can you do with soup? You can sip it. You can stir it. You can slosh it. If you're not careful, you can spill it.

Soup isn't a meal, it's what you get before a meal instead of salad. (Salad isn't a meal, either. Don't get me started on salad!)

Do you know what they serve with soup? Crackers. Do you know why they serve crackers with soup? To make it more substantial. Do you understand that? In order to give soup some substance and make it more of a meal, they serve crackers with it! Has anyone ever said, "This steak is nice and all, but you know what would make it better? Add some crackers!" Of course not!

When I was growing up, the only time I ever enjoyed soup was when I had a cold and Mom made me some chicken noodle soup. Yes, that's right, the only time I liked soup was when I was sick.

Soup was something that came in a can. And, in order to properly prepare it you would have to pour the soup out of the can, then add a whole other can-full of water to it! It was already mostly water, but then you would add twice as much water to it! Yum, nothing sounds as satisfying as warmed-up water!

Soup = Warm water with a hint of flavoring.

There were a few exceptions, like my sister-in-law's homemade chicken noodle soup, with its big chunks of chicken, and the zupa toscana at Olive Garden, which features nice bits of sausage. (Sausage is like the back-up quarterback of bacon.) But generally, I didn't like soup.

And then, I got married. And my wife started making me soup, and slowly but surely my anti-soup stance has started to soften. Sometimes she would disguise the soup and confuse me by calling it a "chili" or a "chowder." (I'm easily confused.)

Over the course of the years, she's gotten to me with her taco soup (which is meaty, like a chili); her ham and potato chowder (with so many chunks of wonderful ham) (ham is the very skilled third-string quarterback to bacon and sausage); and even her simple cheese and broccoli soup (which doesn't even have meat in it, but is still excellent!) They are all delicious, and I enjoy eating them. But, whenever she says, "We're having soup," part of my brain still thinks back to the days of emptying out a can of glop and then adding another can of water.

I guess you could say I don't like the idea of soup, but when it comes down to the actual substance of the soup my wife makes, I like it a lot.

Even if I can't eat it with my bare hands.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Rating the Christmas Traditions

There are a lot of different Christmas traditions out there. Everyone has their favorites. But, some of them make absolutely no sense. Today, I'm going to go through some common Christmas traditions (and some that aren't so common) and rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being lame and 10 being awesome.

Let's get started!

Leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus--It really all depends on what kind of cookies they are, doesn't it? Store bought: 6 out of 10. Sugar cookies: 7 out of 10. Homemade chocolate chip cookies (with walnuts): 8 out of 10. Homemade chocolate chip cookies (without walnuts): 10 out of 10.

Mmmm...cookies! (Too bad they aren't chocolate chip.)

Going to a movie at the theater on Christmas Day--Again, it would really depend on which movie, but aside from that I'm of the mind that this would be a better activity for early afternoon on Christmas Eve, or one of the days after Christmas. Christmas Day itself should be for the kids to break their new toys, not to see the latest Star Wars side-quel. 4 out of 10.

Having a big turkey (or ham) dinner--Is a big dinner really necessary? You just had a big meal a month ago at Thanksgiving. Plus, you've already spent most of the morning nibbling on the candy from your stocking. There's really no need for the big production of a huge meal on Christmas. 3 out of 10.

Leaving hay on the roof for the reindeer to eat--When my brother had young kids, he started this tradition with his family. The first year or two the kids thought it was pretty fun, but by the third and fourth time he did it, the novelty had worn off and all it became was a dangerous endeavor to see if my brother would fall off of the roof and crack his head open. 2 out of 10.

Birthday cake for Jesus--My oldest daughter was just over a year and a half old when she first started to understand much about Christmas. When we explained to her that the whole holiday was a celebration for the birth day of baby Jesus, she asked if we were going to have "birssday cake." How could we say no to that? So, every year we celebrate the birthday of Jesus with a delicious chocolate cake! 10 out of 10.

Mmmm...cake!!! (Do you sense a trend? I like me some dessert!)
Singing Christmas carols--When I was a kid and the family would meet at Grandma's house, before we could open any presents we would gather around the piano and sing "Silent Night" as a family. Under the right circumstances, this could be great, but let's just say that no one will ever mistake us for the Osmonds. 6 out of 10.

Getting pajamas on Christmas Eve--We've been doing this in my family for years. Everyone gets a pair of pajamas before going to bed on Christmas Eve, so that when they wake up in the morning they will be wearing nice, new pajamas in all of the pictures that will be taken. Parents love this, but kids are mostly indifferent. For kids: 5 out of 10. For adults: 7 out of 10.

Wassailing--Sometimes, people will say that they went "wassailing" at Christmastime. Apparently, "wassail" is supposed to be some kind of drink. I don't think it actually exists. I have never seen nor tasted "wassail." If someone tells me that they enjoy "wassail" or have been "wassailing," I don't believe them. I think it's all a fib, just like when people say they see something in those "magic eye" posters. So many lies! 0 out of 10.

Reading the Christmas story from the Bible--This may not be the most exciting part of the holiday, but it is one of the most important parts. There is a reason they say "Jesus is the reason for the season." 10 out of 10.

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Dollar Tree Christmas

At Christmastime, sometimes it's easy for the children to get caught up in a case of the "I wants."

"I want....I want....I want....I want...." Sometimes we even encourage the kids by asking them what they want. Repeatedly. And that's a point. But, do we ever ask our kids what they want to give for Christmas?

We have a tradition in our family (started by The Wife, because she's, you know, awesome!) where every year we take the kids to the Dollar Tree store so they can pick out gifts for all of their family and friends, without getting a thing for themselves. They make a list of all the people they want to give gifts to, and we put each name on a post-it note. Then, the kids go through the store and pick out a gift for every person on their list, attach the corresponding post-it note to it, and we purchase them. Later, the kids wrap all of the presents.

(For those of you who might not know, Dollar Tree is a store where every item in the entire store costs exactly one dollar.) (Well, one dollar plus tax, because The Man has to get his share.)

Dollar Tree: For those times when Walmart is just a little too classy!
We, as parents, love this tradition, and so do the kids. It's fun to watch their minds go to work on picking out presents for their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Is there a reason Grammy is getting a wash cloth with a picture of The Hulk on it? Why do they think Uncle Jasper needs a glittery bubble wand? What, exactly, is Aunt Sherry going to do with a large foam cowboy hat? Only the kids know for sure.

Superman shops at Dollar Tree.
Prior to this year, The Wife and I would divide up, each taking one of the two oldest kids with us to pick out their gifts. We would let them pick whatever they wanted, only occasionally steering them in a different direction. (Such as, "Instead of getting PopPop something from the toy aisle, maybe we could get him something from the tool aisle?") This year, though, we let Thing 1 and Thing 2 each take a cart by themselves, while The Wife and I helped Thing 3 pick out her gifts for the first time. Some of the choices were even more baffling than usual. Thing 2 picked out a can of green beans as his gift for his six month-old baby brother. When we asked him why, he said, "Because he likes food." ( beans!)

I bet you wish you were getting a can of green beans for Christmas!
It really has been a fun tradition every year. The kids have a blast, and they actually get to spend some time thinking about what other people might want for Christmas.

And even though the gifts are sometimes rather odd, they often make perfect sense. ("Why did you get Uncle John a cake pan for Christmas?" "Because Uncle John likes cake." Hard to argue with that kind of logic.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Fountain of Youth Is All-You-Can-Eat!

I found the fountain of youth!!! (Sort of.)

Age advances on all of us. We can't help it. It's like the song* says, "You're older than you've ever been. And now, you're even older." (*"Older" by They Might Be Giants) No matter how hard we fight it, we're all going to get older.

But, there are ways we can make it seem like we aren't getting old. We can eat healthy and exercise. We can act immature. (I'm good at that one.) We can use the hip, cool slang words that today's youth are using, like "bae," "woke," or "jiggy." Or, we can do what I did yesterday: go to the all-you-can-eat buffet in the middle of the day. (It was like stepping into the fountain of youth!)

My two year-old had a doctor's appointment yesterday, so I had to take my babies into the city. After seeing the doctor (everything's fine!) we met up with my father-in-law (PopPop) for lunch. I wanted to go somewhere where I could get fruit and vegetables for my little girl, so I chose Chuck-A-Rama, the all-you-can-eat buffet.

As soon as we walked in the door I was transformed. I was no longer a middle-aged man with graying hair. No, I instantly became a young whippersnapper! Instead of being one of the oldest people in the room, like I am at basketball or at school and church activities with the kids, I was suddenly one of the youngest. At least three-quarters of the people in that restaurant were older than me. I felt inexplicably young and spry! (I haven't felt spry in ages.)

PopPop could see it, too. He's young enough that he also felt the "fountain of youth" effects of being around all those people older than him. But he's also old enough that he knew if we really wanted to see the old people, we should come back at 4:00 PM, because that's when they open up the meat-carving station and switch from lunch to dinner.

Another thing that made me feel young: dessert buffet! There's nothing quite like the youthful indulgence of having as many dessert as you want! (Until, of course, it all hits you about an hour later and you are unable to move.)

So many desserts!!! (You can't have just one!)
I was so young at the Chuck-A-Rama that I wasn't once accused of being the grandpa, not the dad, of my two babies. That was a nice change of pace.

So, if you ever start feeling like you're getting old, just head over to the all-you-can-eat buffet for an early dinner around four o'clock. You'll feel like a kid again! (And did I mention they have lots of desserts?)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An Ode to Egg Nog

There are two kinds of people: those who love eggnog, and those who are wrong.

What exactly is eggnog, anyway? Is it milk? Is it eggs? Is it a milkshake? Is it dessert? Is it a drink? Is it a way of life? I really don't know, and I really don't care. What I do know is that eggnog is delicious. That's all I really need to know.

There are some people who don't like eggnog. I don't know what is wrong with these people. Are they missing a small part of their soul? The part of the soul that recognizes deliciousness? These people seem normal, but they aren't. They're walking around with the inability to acknowledge what tastes good. Let's hope it's just a blind spot for eggnog. Let's hope it's not all inclusive. Let's hope they can still enjoy bacon.

Some people say they don't like eggnog because of the film it leaves on everything. It's true; eggnog leaves a residue in its wake. If you drink a glass full of eggnog, after you finish the inside wall of the glass will still be coated with a small layer of eggnog.

I'm perfectly fine with nog lining my stomach like it does this glass.
This grosses out some people. Not me. I like to think that when I drink eggnog, it coats the entire lining of my stomach with a protective lining of deliciousness, making everything around it happier and better.

I come by my love of eggnog even though I don't drink alcohol. For some people, eggnog is just a vehicle for delivering rum. And I can understand that. (I like the smell of rum. If I did drink alcohol I'm pretty sure I'd prefer rum to beer. Having grown up on a wheat farm, the smell of beer reminds me of rotted, mice-infested wheat.) But, I clearly think that the eggnog can stand on its own merit, without any alcoholic enhancements.

What makes me sad, though, is that eggnog is not available all year. It starts to appear in the stores around Halloween time, but disappears shortly after New Year's Day. I don't understand this. The fabulousness that is eggnog should be enjoyed year-round! Wouldn't President's Day be better with eggnog? Easter eggs are quite popular; why not nog up some of those eggs? What could be better than 4th of July fireworks and eggnog?

If Donald Trump really wants to "Make America Great Again," he could start by making eggnog available all year long!

Making America great carton at a time!

So, let's all give the nod to eggnog!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Guessing the Christmas Gifts

Years ago, I was at my sister's house celebrating Christmas. We began exchanging gifts, and she had her three year-old son bring a present to where I was sitting. As he handed me a large, square box wrapped in Christmas paper, he said, "Here's your present. It's a basketball." And, of course, that's what it was.

Why do we wrap Christmas presents? We wrap them so the person receiving the gift doesn't know what it is. There's that element of surprise when someone opens a gift, not knowing what it might contain. A wrapped Christmas present is the great unknown.

Some people see this unknown as a challenge. They feel they must know what each present is before they unwrap them. They'll study the wrapped present. Feel it. Shake it. Squeeze it. Maybe even sniff it. To these people, no Christmas present is a successful Christmas present unless they know what it is before they unwrap it.

My brother-in-law was one of those people. He had an uncanny knack for announcing what each gift he received was before he opened it. He would hold the wrapped gift up to his face, as if mentally connecting to it, then say exactly what the present was before opening it. It used to drive my sister crazy. She began wrapping the presents in elaborate and creative ways in an attempt to confound him, but he would still usually announce the gift correctly before opening it. We never knew exactly how he was doing it. Was he carefully unwrapping and re-wrapping the presents? Was he doing detective work by checking out credit card statements and looking at receipts? However he did it, he was good. (And my sister enjoyed playing the game with him.)

Not everyone likes to play that game, though. For me, Christmas is stressful enough without having to figure out how to hide presents, or wrap them creatively, or try to keep secrets from my wife. Once, early in my marriage, I made the mistake of telling my wife what a present was before I unwrapped it. We were rearranging the gifts under the tree and I picked up a present wrapped for me and said, "Oh, here's a pair of jeans for me." I wasn't really trying to guess what it was, I just picked it up and it was obvious, so I said it out loud.

Nice jeans!
After that, my wife and I came to an agreement. Neither of us would try to guess what we got each other. It's like we tell our kids, we "get what we get and we don't throw a fit." For us, it makes for a more pleasant Christmas morning if we are surprised here and there, and it makes the preparation for Christmas easier, too. If I really wanted to know what my wife got me, I could just look through at her Amazon account, or look through some of the boxes in our hiding area. (We both hide gifts in the same place. We just leave them in boxes and trust each other not to look.)

It helps, too, that sometimes I'm not very bright. One year my wife got me the DVDs for the first nine seasons of the show Smallville. She wrapped each season separately, sometimes in different shaped boxes. And I was so dense that, even though I had already unwrapped Seasons 1-3 and Seasons 5-9, I was still surprised when I unwrapped Season 4. (My brother-in-law would not only have known he was getting all nine seasons, he would have correctly predicted which season was in which box.)

So, this Christmas I'm not worrying at all about figuring out what gifts I'm getting. I'll get what I get. And I'm also not worrying about trying to hide what I get for my wife from her. What I am worried about is trying to figure out what to get her. That's stressful enough.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

11 Signs You Shop Too Much On Amazon Prime

Living in a small town can be difficult at times. But, one of the things that makes it easier these days is the convenience of Amazon Prime deliveries right to your front door. Now, instead of traipsing to the mall every time you need something, you can just make a few clicks on your computer and have anything you want delivered to your home for free* within two days! (*"Free" as long as you pay the yearly membership fee. Maybe "free-ish" would be more accurate?)

Yes, Amazon Prime is a good thing. But, can you have too much of a good thing? Here are a few signs that you might shop a little more often than you should on Amazon Prime:

1. You are on a first name basis with the UPS driver.--"Steve is running a little late today. I hope he's not having problems with his gout again."

So many boxes!!!

2. When you order something not from Amazon you get very angry if your order takes more than two days.--"What do they mean by 'allow four to six weeks for delivery?' Don't they know it's not 1978 anymore?"

3. When you know the different sizes of Amazon boxes by their number.--"I'm surprised they were able to fit this order in a P5. I thought for sure they were going to need a Q2."

It's funny, because last time they used a P1 and a 2BA.

4. You get more package tracking updates than you do texts or e-mails from family and friends.--"Hurray! The package is out for delivery! Oh, and I got an e-mail from Aunt Pearl, too."

5. One of your favorite games is playing "What's in this box?" (And you are right over 80% of the time.)--"I think the dishwasher soap and the diapers are in this box, and the shampoo and the gift for Aunt Myrtle are in that box."

6. You are on a first name basis with the folks at the cardboard recycling center.--"Hi, Gladys! I love the new nose ring!"

7. When you order from anywhere but Amazon, you get very angry if they expect you to pay for shipping.--"Shipping and handling? Why should I have to pay for someone to 'handle' my package? What if I don't want my package handled?"

8. You know where each Amazon warehouse is and how long it takes a shipment from each of them to arrive at your house.--"Oh, good, this package is shipping out of Louisville. They always do a better job of packing than the Denver warehouse."

9. All of your Christmas presents are wrapped in Amazon boxes. (Because you have a box the size of every possible gift you need to wrap.)--"I don't know why anyone would ever buy a gift box. I've got plenty of boxes right here."

10. When a Two-Day Shipping item takes more than two days to arrive, you check the package tracking at least twice an hour.--"It says it's still in Salt Lake City, but it said it was in Salt Lake City four hours ago! It shouldn't take four hours to get out of Salt Lake City!"

11. The mattress in your guest room consists of leftover packaging pillows.--"Timmy! Please stop popping the guest mattress!"

Rest in comfort---thanks to Amazon!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Old Dad Syndrome

As I walked past the mirror this morning, something caught my eye. It was me. But it didn't look quite like me. It looked like an older version of me. And then I realized, I am an older version of me!

Actually, the person I saw in the mirror reminded me a bit of my Dad. And then I did a little math in my head (always a dangerous thing.) When my Dad was the age that I am now (forty-ten), I had just returned home from two years as a Mormon missionary. I was 21 years old.

So, just to clarify this comparison, when my Dad was fifty forty-ten, his youngest child (me) was 21 years old and had been out of the house for the better part of three years. Meanwhile, as I am currently fifty forty-ten, I have a six month-old baby boy and a girl who turns two years old this week. And that's not even mentioning the six year-old boy or the eight year-old girl who, believe me, are often worth mentioning, too.

When I looked in the mirror I saw an old man, but that's probably because I haven't been getting much sleep lately. Last night I literally got about one hour of sleep. It started with me being so tired that I couldn't get to sleep until after midnight, despite the fact that I went to bed around nine o'clock. Then, the baby woke up screaming for some reason around one o'clock in the morning. The Wife cuddled him back to sleep, then I put him back in his bed. No sooner had I gotten him in bed than the two year-old decided to start crying. I changed her diaper, brought her in bed with us for a few minutes to calm her down, then put her back in her bed. She was calm for two minutes, then started screaming. I let her scream, hoping she would go back to sleep. The Wife had heard enough screaming and got up with her, only to find that she had pooped out of her diaper. (I had just changed her fifteen minutes earlier!) We brought her back to our bed and cuddled her some more. I put her back in her own bed. She screamed again, for several minutes. This time, though, she did finally go to sleep on her own. Within a minute of her quieting down, the baby started fussing again. He had wiggled his way out of his blanket and was cold. I snuggled him back in his blanket and held him in bed with me. Then The Wife's alarm went off. As I was ready to put the baby back in his bed, the girl started crying yet again.

I'm getting too old for this stuff!

It was a long night. (And that's not even taking into consideration the evening before going to bed, when I changed the sheets on the eight year-old's bed because she barfed in it, even though I was holding a garbage can right next to her to catch the barf. She, instead, barfed in the opposite direction of the garbage can. Because, why not?)

Most guys my age aren't dealing with screaming babies or barfed-in beds. They're just getting up three times in the night to go to the bathroom. (Don't worry, I was doing that in between all the baby screaming, too.)

Sometimes I wonder if this Old Dad Syndrome is worth it. But then the baby gives me a big smile and sticks his tongue out at me while he farts. Or the girl smiles and giggles as we sing "Popcorn Popping On the Apricot Tree" together. Or the six year-old tells me his latest plan to be a construction worker/dentist/school teacher. Or the eight year-old tells me the latest adventures of her and her friends in Pretend World.

They each make me smile in their own way. And that's something I'll never be too old for!