Friday, May 26, 2017

First Day vs. Last Day (of School)

On the First Day of School the kids are wearing their brand-new, never-before-been-worn, bright and colorful school clothes.

On the Last Day of School they look like they are auditioning for the cast of Newsies, wearing dirty, grungy clothes with holes in the knees, and pants three inches too short.

On the First Day of School the kids take lunches that are carefully packed with specially prepared and selected items from each of the food groups, with fruits, vegetables, grains all neatly packaged in a colorful new lunch container.

On the Last Day of School they are lucky to get the crumbly remains from the bottom of a bag of goldfish crackers.

On the First Day of School all the kids get their hair styled by their Mom (or their aunt, the professional hair stylist) so they look perfect.

On the Last Day of School the kids may or may not comb their own hair. (Or worse yet, their Dad does it.)

On the First Day of School the kids get to the bus stop at least ten minutes early, because you want to make sure they are on time for the bus.

On the Last Day of School the kids don't leave the house until they see the bus pulling around the corner.

"The bus is here. Maybe you should think about getting ready."

On the First Day of School there are 64 brand new crayons in that 64-count box of crayons.

On the Last Day of School there are 64 pieces of crayon in that 64-count box of crayons, including 31 whole crayons (seven of which, for some reason, are "burnt sienna,") and 33 partial crayons that are in halves, thirds, fourths, and even eighths (four of which are also "burnt sienna.")

On the First Day of School the kids take their brand new lunchbox in their brand new backpack.

On the Last Day of School they are on their third lunchbox and second backpack because the original ones have been lost and/or stolen and/or broken.

On the First Day of School the kids pose for photographs which their proud parents post on Facebook with captions like, "Little Jimmy's first day of kindergarten!" or "I can't believe Jenny is starting 5th grade!"

On the Last Day of School absolutely no one wants photographic evidence of what your kids look like (except for maybe the campus police.)

On the First Day of School everyone is excited (and exhausted) because they've been waiting for months for this day to arrive.

On the Last Day of School everyone is excited (and exhausted) because they've been waiting for months for this day to arrive.

On the First Day of School parents cry (because they are going to miss their kids so much!)

On the Last Day of School parents cry (because their kids are going to be home all summer long!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Keep Your Pink Eye to Yourself

I want my daughter to be selfish.

Usually we want our children to be giving and share with others. Not today. My nine year-old girl has pink eye. (It was a gift from one of her classmates at school.) And so we've spent the last several days trying to make my daughter as selfish as we possibly can, because this is one thing we really don't want her to share with her siblings.

If you've ever had pink eye, or been around someone who has, you know that it's not much fun. (Pink eye is also known as conjunctivitis by people who feel the need to use big words to describe everything.) The whites of your eyes turn very pink (or even red) and stuff oozes out of your eyes.

One of the worst things about pink eye is that it is very contagious. This means a lot of hand washing, a lot of towel washing, and a lot of yelling, "Don't-touch-that-thing-that-one-of-the-other-kids-might-touch-because-we-really-really-really-don't-want-any-of-the-other-kids-to-get-this!"

I didn't realize how many things in the house a nine year-old girl feels the need to touch until we were trying to get her to not touch anything. Doorknobs; handrails; toilet handles; faucets; baby toys. Yes, baby toys. It is confounding just how often a nine year-old girl feels the need to touch baby toys! If she comes close to any baby toy, she will touch it. And if she isn't anywhere near a baby toy, she will feel compelled to go out of her way to get to the baby toy so she can touch it, conjunctivitis-izing everything!

She's not doing it on purpose; it's just her natural way of walking through life, touching everything as she goes.

After a couple of days of training (which mostly consisted of yelling at her) she's gotten to where she doesn't touch quite so many things.

But then, she figured how to use it to her advantage. She started treating us like her servants. She'd say things like, "Daddy, could you get me a glass of milk? I'd get it myself, but I really shouldn't be touching the fridge or the milk carton." Or, "Could you make me some toast? I don't want to touch the bread or the toaster. Oh, and could you put butter and cinnamon sugar on it for me?" Or, "Be a dear and go fetch my shoes for me."

I reached the tipping point when I asked her to do her chores and she said, "But Dad, I can't touch the broom because I don't want the next person to use it to get pink eye from me."

I replied, "Don't worry, I'll make sure that no one else will have to touch the broom, because you'll be doing all the sweeping! Get to work, Cinderella."

We're not out of the woods yet, but so far she has managed to be selfish enough not to share her pink eye with any of her siblings. I just hope that when this is all over we'll be able to unselfish-ize her again.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Solving the Trade Deficit with China (One Pair of Sunglasses at a Time)

If you're one of my regular readers (and if you aren't, you should be!) you know that this is generally not the place to go for an in-depth analysis of the global economy. If you want a detailed examination of the United States of America's trade deficit with China, I would say you should look somewhere else.


That's right, today we are going to talk about our country's trade deficit with Republic of China. I know, I know, that's a pretty strange topic coming from a guy who usually writes about poo(h), farts, and questionable seafood. But, here we are.

It started when Thing 2 (my seven year-old son) was given a pair of sunglasses in his Easter basket by his mother the Easter Bunny. They were red, white, and blue with a design that looks about as similar to the American flag as is possible for a pair of sunglasses.

Being a patriotic, red-blooded, American boy, he loved the sunglasses and wore them everywhere he went for the next couple of days. He and the glasses were inseparable. And then, one day, he noticed some writing on one of the legs of the glasses. It said, "Made In China."

"That's weird," he said. "Why would someone in China make a pair of glasses with the American flag on it?" I could tell it was something that bothered him.

My son asked, "How do the Chinese even know what the American flag looks like?"

A couple of days later when his Grammy was over for a visit, he asked, totally out of the blue, "What does the flag of China look like?" Grammy pulled up an image of the flag for him on the internet. He looked at it intently.

Then he asked, "What do the stars stand for?" This got Grammy and I both looking at our smart phones to find the answer. (The large star stands for the Communist Party, while the four smaller stars symbolize the four social classes: the working class, the peasantry, the urban petite bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie.) (At least, that's what Wikipedia says, so it's probably right.)

We gave him a slightly simplified answer (because ain't no one wants to try to spell or explain the "bourgeoisie!") and he seemed to accept it. Then Grammy asked him, "Why are you so interested in the Chinese flag?"

"Well," he said, "when I'm bigger I want to make a pair of sunglasses here in America that has the Chinese flag on it so I can send it to the people in China, just like they made some sunglasses with the American flag on it and sent it here."

And there you have it! The simple solution for solving America's trade deficit with China. All we have to do is for every America-based trinket or knick-knack that comes to us from China, we need to make a Chinese version here in the United States and send it back to China.

And that's it: the Chinese trade deficit solved by my seven year-old son! (Next week we're going to put him to work on bringing long-lasting peace to the Middle East.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Made Chuck Norris Chuckle

Chuck Norris loves babies!

Sure, most people say they love babies, but Chuck Norris actually does something about it. Chuck Norris is an American hero!

It was a normal day. I was at home with my two youngest kids, Thing 3, the two and a half year-old girl, and Thing 4, the eleven month-old boy. (Thing 1 and Thing 2 were in school.) I was trying to figure out a way to entertain the kids without resorting to songs from Moana or Frozen when I got a text from my brother alerting me to the fact that Chuck Norris would soon be making an appearance in the town where I live.

My first reaction, as it often is, was to question my brother's sanity. Why would Chuck Norris be coming to small town Utah? But, my brother insisted he had seen this announced on the semi-reputable website for one of the local television news stations. I checked it myself and, yes, Chuck Norris was scheduled to appear at a convenience store/gas station less than a mile from my house in about an hour! (He was coming to promote his new line of bottled water, CForce.) And so I did what any responsible parent would do: I loaded up my kids for an opportunity to stand in line in the hot sun so they could have a ten second meeting with some guy they had never heard of!

When I showed this picture to my 2 year-old daughter she got excited and said, "It's HulkSmash! It's HulkSmash wearing pajamas!" So, apparently, when the Hulk wears pajamas, he looks like Chuck Norris!

As I approached the gas station, cars were lining up and parking along the side of the road. I got my kids out of the mini-van and plopped Thing 4 in the stroller so I could roll him the rest of the way to the convenience store. Because of all the Chuck-related traffic, I was holding Thing 3 in one arm and trying to push the stroller with the other. That's when my neighbor and his wife (and their young son) came along and helped me out. (Shout out to Aaron and Leah!) The neighbor pushed the stroller for me as we made the longer-than-it-seemed walk to the end of the line to see Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris waits for no one, but everyone waits for Chuck Norris.
Chuck was meeting people in a tent in the front of the store, and the line to see him came out along the side of the building, out to the edge of the parking lot, around the end of a dead end road, and down along the side street toward the traffic light. It was a pretty long line. I had been in line with my kids and my neighbors for about twenty minutes when a bigwig from the convenience store (I recognized him from their commercials) came out to the line and announced, "Chuck would like anyone who has babies in a stroller to move right up to the front of the line. He doesn't want the babies to get dehydrated out here in the sun." Yes, Chuck Norris loves babies!

I looked at my neighbors, who had helped me out so much, and who were there with a young son who just as easily could have been in a stroller, too. Was I somehow more worthy to jump in the line than them just because I had a stroller? I felt bad...but I ditched them in a heartbeat. (Sorry about that, Aaron and Leah!)

I strolled up to the front of the line and there he was in the tent: the one and only Chuck Norris!!!

As I started to undo the straps to get Thing 4 out of the stroller, a small joke formulated in my mind. I walked toward Walker, Texas Ranger, carrying my baby boy. When I got close enough that I was sure Chuck Norris could hear me, I reached up to take the binky (pacifier) out of my boy's mouth and said, "You can't meet Chuck Norris with a binky in your mouth!"

And Chuck Norris chuckled. Yes, I made* Chuck Norris chuckle! (*NOTE: That's not true. No one makes Chuck Norris do anything. It would be more accurate to say that I said something that Chuck Norris decided to acknowledge with a chuckle.)

Chuck chuckled, and then quickly said, "No, no, that's okay." Because Chuck Norris loves babies, and he wants them to be happy, even if it means that baby is sucking on a wimpy binky. But, I defied Chuck Norris and took the binky out anyway, because I knew my son was tough enough he wouldn't cry in the presence of Chuck Norris. (He didn't.)

The next ten seconds are pretty much a blur. Thing 3 hid behind me because she was apparently afraid of this bearded stranger and foolishly thought I could protect her from Chuck Norris. So, I had to herd her around to the front of me, but she still was a little leery of him. I held Thing 4 up between Chuck and I. And, worst of all, I forgot to suck in my considerable gut. It's not a very good picture.

As my wife said, "Why look at the camera when you can look at Chuck Norris?"
A few things about the picture: 1) My daughter wanted nothing to do with Chuck Norris. 2) I think my son's forehead might be touching Chuck's cheek, and the boy is staring intently at Chuck's beard. 3) Chuck Norris is not a very large man. And D) I held onto my baby because I figured Chuck Norris wouldn't want to hold other people's babies. I was wrong. It turns out he posed holding a lot of babies. Of course he did, because Chuck Norris loves babies! (If I had known this, I certainly would have had him hold one, or maybe both of my babies. Oh well.)

After the picture was taken, I headed into the store, because if Chuck Norris is there to sell CForce Bottled Water, then by golly I'm going to buy me some CForce Bottled Water! I didn't do this just because I wanted the water. I did this because they were handing out "free" swag to people who purchased Chuck's water. (I'm always a sucker for buying stuff I didn't really want in order to get some free stuff that I also didn't really want.) 

So, I bought four bottles of CForce water and took two of them to my neighbors who were still in line. (Still feeling bad about ditching you, Aaron and Leah!) I then went to the "free stuff" line and got myself a t-shirt and a pair of fake wood sunglasses! 

I look much tougher and skinnier in a Chuck Norris t-shirt! (And when I suck in my gut.)
(I should mention that appearing with Chuck Norris was Truck Norris. Unfortunately, Truck Norris is not some muscle-man cousin of Chuck's, but a large, tricked-out truck.)

(Also, while standing in line the guy in front of me was whining because they only had shirts in sizes L and XL. The person handing out the shirts rightly called him out, saying, "Dude, it's free stuff. Stop complaining.") 

I then took my water bottles, t-shirt, sunglasses, and babies, and went home. I had a really good time. It's not every day you get to meet Chuck Norris and turn him into Chuckle Norris!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pooh In the Potty

I'm not a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I've always thought he was a whiny character with an annoying voice and an irrational fixation on pots full of honey. (Hey, honey is perfectly fine, but it's not really worth obsessing over. If it was bacon, maybe I'd understand, but not honey.) While I'm okay with a couple of his friends (Tigger and Eeyore, in particular) I just don't have much use for Pooh.

And then, of course, there is the name. Who in their right mind names a character in a children's book after excrement? It just doesn't make any sense.

I've written before about how I have an uncontrollable need to make poo jokes any time I'm around Winnie. (See: Pooh Happens.) But, something happened the other night that is compelling me to bring the subject up again.

I'm not sure where they came from, but my two year-old daughter has a couple of stuffed Winnie the Poohs among the herd of stuffed animals she insists on sleeping with in her bed every night. The two Poohs are different sizes, so to tell them apart she calls the smaller one "Baby Pooh" and the larger one "Daddy Pooh." (Even my wife can't help but make jokes about "Daddy Pooh." It's just too easy. And funny.)

So much Pooh!!!
(But, hey, would it be too much to ask the bear to wear some pants?)

The other night was bath night for the kids. As I got our oldest daughter set up in the tub, her two year-old sister stayed around to watch. I know, I know: bathing should not be a spectator sport. But, at that moment it just wasn't worth the fight to try to get the two year-old out of there. I left the two of them in the bathroom and went to check on the baby.

When I got back to the bathroom, I couldn't believe what I saw: Baby Pooh was in the potty!

There is Pooh in the potty!!!
A few weeks ago, during Spring Break, we made an attempt to potty-train the two year-old. It was a very unsuccessful attempt, but we still had the "toddler potty" on the floor of the bathroom just in case the two year-old miraculously decided she would rather poop in the potty than in her diaper. Instead, she did this. She had heard the term "poop in the potty" enough times that she knew where her Pooh should go.

When I texted this picture to some friends and family, my mother-in-law, knowing my juvenile sense of humor, assumed that I had staged the photo myself. Nope. It was all the two year-old's idea.

Apparently no one in my family is capable of avoiding the potty humor of Pooh jokes.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I Have a Beef with Our Public Education System

What is wrong with our education system? I'm not sure, but I do know this: we are not doing right by the most gifted cattle in the world.

Have you seen the Chick-Fil-A billboards? These cows exhibit intelligence far beyond that of normal cattle, and yet they are absolutely horrible at spelling. Just take a look at this billboard I passed the other day:
Sorry, cows, but I have never dreamed of chicken for breakfast.
"Chikin 4 brekfast UR dreems kome troo." Seven words, and not a single one is spelled correctly! These are obviously intelligent cattle. They are skilled enough that somehow, even without opposable thumbs, they can climb up  a billboard, work as a team, and paint a message that thousands of passing motorists are able to read. And yet every word is spelled wrong.

Do I blame the cows for this? No, it's not their fault. I have a beef with our public education system! There are so many things wrong that I don't know where to start.

Is it overcrowded classrooms? We herd our students into the classrooms and try to corral them 35 to a room. 20 is plenty; with fewer students the teachers can get them individual attention to steer them in the right direction.

Is it teachers who don't care? While there are some teachers who are just grazing through their jobs and should be put out to pasture, the vast majority of educators are trying as hard as they can to rustle their students into being successful in the rodeo of life.

Is it too much emphasis on testing? We all want Grade A students, but wrangling them to fill in circles on a multiple choice test is not the best way to take stock in what they really know.

Is it a failure of school administrators? Sometimes superintendents and school board members try to lasso up a good education without ever visiting the farm and seeing the manure the teachers have to muck through on a daily basis.

Is it our expectations? Sometimes we brand cattle as being worth nothing more than fodder for the feedlot, but if we expect more from them maybe they'll show us what they're truly capable of accomplishing.

Maybe someday they'll even learn how to spell.

Friday, May 5, 2017

If I Could Throw Tantrums At My Kids

My two year-old has taken to throwing tantrums. If she asks for the pink plate, but you give her the purple plate, she will scream. If she asks for the green plate and you give her the green plate, she will scream, because she has changed her mind and now wants the pink plate. If she has the pink plate and you try to give her a cup and/or a bowl that is not pink, she will scream. (Maybe life would be easier if we hadn't gotten those multi-colored packs of dishes from IKEA.)

I had no idea how many tantrums these dishes would cause.

But it's not just the dishes. The other day my wife made some delicious crepes for breakfast, but my daughter thought she said grapes, so she threw a tantrum. When I told her she couldn't wear her "pen-gun" (penguin) pajamas because they were in the wash, she threw a fit.

You get the idea.

While we work on getting her to stop throwing these tantrums, I've wondered what the kids would think if I threw a tantrum every time they did something that bothered me? Maybe I should start stomping my feet, flailing my arms, and screaming until I cry?

This is what my two year-old looks like when throwing tantrums, but with more tears and snot.

Maybe I should throw a tantrum:
*Every time I have to change my shirt because I got some of their barf/snot/drool/pee/poop on it.
*Every time I have to change their diaper less than five minutes after just having changed their diaper.
*Every time they demand a certain kind of food, only to not eat a single bite of that food when I get it on their plate.
*Every time they ask the same question over and over and over and over and over again.
*Every time they ask my wife the exact same question that they've been asking me.
*Every time they wake up early on a day we can all actually sleep it.
*Every time they sleep in on a day that we need to get up early.
*Every time they change their clothes five times a day for no particular reason.
*Every time they go more than three days in a row without changing their underwear.
*Every time they miss the school bus.
*Every time they don't do their chores.
*Every time they demand something without asking "please" or "thank you."
*Every time they scrounge some who-knows-what-that-is thing out of the carpet and try to eat it.
*Every time they throw a tantrum at me.

(To be fair, it's not just tantrums all the time. As I was trying to finish writing this, my two babies climbed up on my lap and giggled for about twenty minutes. As long as I spend enough time reciprocating giggles instead of tantrums, I think I'll be okay.)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

8 Jobs Hollywood Hates

My wife is a junior high math teacher. I often feel bad for her, because when junior high math teachers appear on television shows or in the movies, they are usually portrayed in a negative light. More often than not they are mean, boring, unreasonable, and unlikable. And that's too bad, because she is none of those things. (Usually.)

But, as poorly as school teachers are often portrayed, it could be worse. Sometimes school teachers are actually shown in a positive way, doing whatever they can to help their students. However, there are some professions that have it worse than teachers because they are almost always portrayed in a bad light. Here are a few of those professions:

Plumber--Plumbers are usually seen as dirty, unkempt, loud men who charge way too much for their services. Oh, and yes, you can always see their butt crack.

Corporate Executive--These folk are portrayed as the greediest people on earth. They would do anything for a few dollars, even if it meant poisoning the town well and/or causing the death of several small children and/or cute bunnies. Nothing is more important than money.

Corporate Board Members--Board members are usually not quite as pure evil as the executives, but they are willing and eager to look the other way when a crime is committed if there is a benefit to the company's stock prices.

School Principal--While teachers are sometimes shown in a positive light, principals seldom are. Principals are there to harass, annoy, and carry out personal vendettas against the students, and also stand in the way of the few "good" teachers who are actually trying to help kids learn.

A principal is most happy when he gets to suspend someone.

Tax Collector--According to television and the movies, anyone who works for the IRS is either evil or soulless.

US Senator--As portrayed in popular media, no one is more susceptible to a bribe than a US Senator. Every important evil plot involves a US Senator on the take.

Armored Car Driver--While most of the others on this list are portrayed as evil, armored car drivers are simply just incompetent. If you see an armored car driver in a television show or movie, there is a 60% chance they will end up dead, and a 98% chance that their armored car will be robbed.

Dog Catcher--Has there ever been a dog catcher portrayed in a good light in a movie or television show? I don't think so. Dog catchers are purely evil people who delight in the deaths of cute, pure, innocent animals.

They make mean junior high math teachers look warm and fuzzy in comparison.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Month Full of Days

May is almost here and it's time to celebrate! Celebrate what, you ask? You probably thought May was just for Mother's Day, Memorial Day, and possibly the last day of school. Well, there are a lot of other "holidays" in May. Celebrate as many of them as you want! (And no, I did not make any of these up.)

May 3: National Two Different Colored Shoes Day. This is a day to recognize and celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of wearing two different colored shoes.

Nothing says "diversity" quite like two different colored shoes.

May 4: Star Wars Day. May the fourth be with you!

May 5: International Tuba Day. Haven't you always wanted to play the tuba? There's no better time to learn than International Tuba Day!

May 6: International No Diet Day. Eat whatever you want, because there's no counting calories on International No Diet Day.

May 8: No Socks Day. It's pretty simple: if you don't wear any socks you won't have stinky socks.

May 13: National Frog Jumping Day. Who needs the NBA playoffs when you can enjoy the competitive world of frog jumping?

May 15: National Chocolate Chip Day. Seriously, which would you rather have in your cookie, chocolate chips or raisins?

Mmmm...chocolate chips! (And not a raisin in sight.)

May 18: National No Dirty Dishes Day. Think of the millions of gallons of water saved if no one used their dishwashers for a day! (I believe this "holiday" is sponsored by the paper plate industry.)

May 21: National Waitstaff Day. Be sure to give a generous tip to your waiter or waitress. (Even if they forgot to refill your water.)

May 23: Turtle Day. Get out of your shell and enjoy all things turtly and tortoise-ish.

May 25: Geek Pride Day. Not to be confused with Greek Pride Day. (Although if you are Greek and a geek you could celebrate them both.)

May 26: Paper Airplane Day. Fold it and let it fly!

May 28: National Hamburger Day. My question: Is it okay to have a cheeseburger on National Hamburger Day?

May 31: National Speak In Complete Sentences Day. Sure. You bet. Can't wait.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

9 Things I Learned at the Happy Fun Time Place!

We recently had a birthday party for our seven year-old at the Happy Fun Time Place (not it's real name.) He chose the venue. (Personally I would have been fine with taking everyone to the library and having them sit quietly and read for a couple of hours, but nobody asked me.)

The Happy Fun Time Place has everything a seven year-old could want: a skating area, a track for riding scooters, bouncy houses, bouncy slides, bouncy obstacle courses, a jungle playground, rides, video games, arcade games, pizza, and (just in case the kids weren't hyper enough already) soda pop.
Slip-sliding away.

After spending a few hours at the Happy Fun Time Place, I learned a few things. Such as:

1. There are a lot of children in this world, and most of them will be at the Happy Fun Time Place on a Saturday afternoon. (Sooooo many kids!!!)

2. Other people's kids pay absolutely no attention to adults. Kids will walk into you, run into you, push you, step on your feet, crowd in front of you, and generally ignore you. Adults will not be an impediment to having a fun time at the Happy Fun Time Place!

3. Your own kids will pay no attention to you, either. (Unless they are out of tokens to play the arcade games.)

4. When you start you will think, "We have so many tokens, there is no way we will ever use them all." Forty-five minutes later you will think, "Is this the last token? I thought we had more tokens."

5. There will probably be one kid who will go to the top of a really tall slide, then get scared, freak out, and cause a big scene about not wanting to go down the really tall slide. After fifteen minutes of begging, bargaining, threats, and lots of tears, the kid will finally go down the slide...and then immediately climb back up to the top and go back down another seventeen times.

6. There will always be that one parent who thinks he is still a kid and will skate a little too hard, or bounce a little too bouncy, or be a little too competitive at the air hockey table. Someone will end up crying. (Either a kid when he hurts them, or him when he loses at air hockey.) (It'll be an angry cry. Watch out, he might throw something!)

7. At some point, the kids will become obsessed with getting as many tickets as possible so they can get prizes. (Some of the arcade games spit out tickets if you do particularly well at them.)

And you thought redemption was just a topic for Sunday School lessons.
8. No matter how many tickets the kids accumulate, they will be disappointed by the prizes available to them. (In fact, they'll probably be about ten tickets short of getting the toy that they really, really want.)

9. The ultimate goal of the day should be that when they leave, the kids have smiles on their faces; and that when you leave you still have at least a portion of your sanity. If you can meet these small goals, your time at the Happy Fun Time Place has been a success.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Shampoo, Soap, or Baby Food?

Have you ever been in the shower, smelled your shampoo, and thought, "This smells delicious! I wish they made food in this flavor." Or been washing your hands and thought, "If they made a beverage this flavor, I'd buy it and drink it."

If you walk down the shampoo or soap aisles of any store you'll be bombarded with all kinds of yummy-sounding "flavors" of products you can't eat or drink. It can be very confusing.

For today, I've devised a quiz, to see if you can determine, by the flavor, if a product is a shampoo, soap, or some kind of actual food. (For the sake of this quiz, I'm going to consider hair conditioner as shampoo, and body wash as soap.) Let's see how you do.

1. "Vanilla Creme"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Candy

Answer #1--B. Soap

2. "Coconut, Jojoba, and Macadamia Oils"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Suntan lotion
Answer #2--A. Shampoo
3. "Mango Splash"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Aftershave
Answer #3--B. Soap
4. "Apple Mango with Rice and Vanilla"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Candy
Answer #4--C. Baby food
5. "Mango and Citrus Essence"-- is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Toothpaste
Answer #5--A. Shampoo
6. "Orange, Mango, Peach"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Fruit, fruit, fruit
Answer #6--D. Beverage
7. "Warm Mango Sunset"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Song by Jimmy Buffet
Answer #7--B. Soap
8. "Zucchini, Banana, and Amaranth"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Scented candle
Answer #8--C. Baby food
9. "Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Candy
Answer #9--E. Candy
10. "Chocolate"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Yarn
Answer #10--E. Yarn
11. "Green Apple"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Fruit
Answer #11--A. Shampoo
12. "Juicy Green Apple"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Fruit
Answer #12--A. Shampoo
13. "Apple Extract with Ceramide"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Fruit (with Ceramide)
Answer #13--A. Shampoo
(Don't worry, I don't know what "Ceramide" is, either. I don't think anyone does.)
14. "Apple with Spinach"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Fruit and vegetable
Answer #14--C. Baby food
15. "Crisp Pear and Fuji Apple"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Fruit and fruit
Answer #15--B. Soap
16. "Champagne Mango and White Ginger"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Singing duo
Answer #16--B. Soap
17. "Coconut Water Vanilla Milk"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Song by Jimmy Buffet
Answer #17--A. Shampoo
18. "Fresh Melon Margarita"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Song by Jimmy Buffet
Answer #18--B. Soap
19. "Peppermint Meringue"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Pie
O F. Ice cream
Answer #19--B. Soap
20. "Sweet & Salty Caramel"--is it:
O A. Shampoo
O B. Soap
O C. Baby food
O D. Beverage
O E. Scented Candle
Answer #20--E. Scented candle
And there you have it.

So, the next time you find yourself in a lounge chair on a sunny beach, listening to Jimmy Buffet, holding a tall glass with an umbrella sticking out of it, ask yourself this question: Should I drink this, eat this, or wash my hair with this?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Five Day Forecast

I'm thinking about going on a picnic this weekend. What do I want to see? The five-day forecast.

I need to put some weed-n-seed down on the lawn, but I need to know if it's going to rain in the next few days. What do I want to see? The five-day forecast.

I've got that coupon for a free car wash. Should I use it today, or wait until the weather is better? The five-day forecast would be helpful.

Camping? Five-day forecast. Boating? Five-day forecast. Golfing? Five-day forecast. Barbecue? Propane. (And the five-day forecast.) Planting a garden? Five-day forecast. Burying some bodies at a remote location? Five-day forecast.

Basically, any time I see the weather-person on the television, there's only one thing I want to see: the five-day forecast!

That's a nice five-day forecast!
But, they never go right to the five-day forecast, do they? They'll talk about yesterday's weather. (Nobody cares about yesterday's weather.) Maybe they'll talk about an interesting storm developing in Des Moines. (Nobody cares about the weather in Des Moines.)

Sometimes they'll even get up there, talk about a few things, point at a few other things, not give the five-day forecast, then have the gall to say something like, "I'll be back in a few minutes with the five-day forecast." 

The weather-person should never appear on the screen without giving the five-day forecast! They should start with the five-day forecast, finish with the five-day forecast, and do the five-day forecast in the middle! All we really want is the five-day forecast! If only there was some way we could make them go straight to the five-day forecast! 

Wait. What's that? You say there's an app on my phone? You say I can just click on an icon on my phone and have the five-day forecast any time I want it? I can even look up the five-day forecast for Des Moines if I want? Wow!

Guess what weather-person? You've just become obsolete.

Now if I could just get an accurate five-day forecast.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Big Brother

My brother had a birthday this week. I'm so busy with my own family of four kids these days that I didn't get a chance to be with him on his birthday. Oh, I called and my family sang him a horribly off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday," but I wish I could do more to show him how much he's meant to me. Maybe this will be a start.

My brother showed me how to be a friend. Even though he was four years older than me, he let his annoying little brother follow him around. (It probably helped that we lived in a town so small that there weren't many kids his age for him to play with, but I really don't think that would have mattered much.)

Here the two of us are posing in front of a tree on Arbor Day. (I think.)
He taught me how to burp.

He helped instill in me a love for sports. We've watched, played, and talked about many a game over the years.

He taught me how to lose gracefully-ish. (Because it was very rare that I would ever beat him at anything.)

Wrestling with my brother. (I'm the one in a headlock.)
He taught me the joy of victory. (Because the one time I actually did beat him in one-on-one basketball still stands as one of the greatest athletic achievements of my life! We played a game to 60, and I got red-hot on a little running hook shot. It was the only shot I could consistently get off that he couldn't block. It was a glorious win!) (I don't think he let me beat him....)

He has always been a great example to me.

Didn't I just say he was a great example? So why isn't he wearing a life jacket?
He taught me that burps are funny.

He greatly influenced my taste in music when he purchased those 8-track tapes of the Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, and Styx. (Even though he now seems to prefer listening to country music. Country music? Really???)

He helped mold my sense of humor into the warped lunacy that it is today.
Here we are with my sister. She's pretty darn awesome, too!
(Gee, we sure took a lot of pictures on Arbor Day, didn't we?)
He was a rock and steadying force for me when my parents got divorced while I was away serving as a Mormon missionary.

He showed me how to be a good husband and a good father.

My brother on his wedding day. (And me auditioning for Napoleon Dynamite.)
While I drifted through life as an aimless single adult, he and his wonderful wife took me in (figuratively, and often literally) and gave me family I could love.

Since my Dad passed away shortly before I got married, he has filled the double role of being an uncle and a substitute grandpa to my kids. In fact, he showers my kids with so much love that they know him by two different names, Uncle John and Uncle Baby-Hog.

He's always there when I need him. (Even though I sometimes take him for granted.)

He taught me how to say the alphabet while I burp.

He was, is, and always will be a wonderful brother.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Out To Eat With the Kids

It's always an adventure when you take four kids out to eat at a restaurant.

As we entered, the host asked us, "How many?" It's a simple question. Unfortunately, the answer isn't quite as easy. I'm never sure which one of these to go with:

1. "There are six of us."--this answer is simple and true, but it lacks the basic information that a large percentage of those six might end up flinging food across the room.

2. "There are two adults and four kids."--now we are forcing the host to do math. Also, this answer doesn't take into account the wide-ranging age difference between the kids and how that will effect the dining experience for all involved. And there's the question of how many kid menus will be needed.
Kid menus: Fewer pages; more crayons.

3. "There are four of us, plus two kids."--this makes the two youngest children seem less important than the two older ones. It also makes the two older children seem like adults.

4. "There are two adults, two big kids, and two little kids."--and a partridge in a pear tree.

5. "There are two adults, a nine year-old, a six year-old, a two year-old, and an eleven-month old."--this is a good way to totally confuse the host. But, this is how we introduce the family at the movie theater or anywhere else that charges kids differently based on age.

6. "There are six of us, but two will be in high chairs."--this is the one we went with this time. It was only partially confusing.

Unfortunately, the host heard that as "four people and two high chairs," so he directed us to a table with four chairs around it and room for only four people. Apparently he didn't think the kids in the two high chairs needed access to the table.

Eventually he found us a table for six, pulled a couple of chairs away, and tried to put the two high chairs next to each other, not realizing there must be an adult between the two high chairs at all times.

The table for six was the perfect size for us. Or at least it should have been. If we each had a sixth of the table we would have been fine. But, an eleven month-old baby has a tendency to grab anything he can reach, ranging from salsa, soda, salt shaker, straws, spoons, forks, and/or knives. So, in order to keep things out of his reach, the rest of us had to scrunch together, giving him almost half of the table to himself.
You would think he can't reach any of his brother's french fries. You would be wrong.
It's a little-known fact that babies can reach up to three times farther than their body is long.

When they brought our food to us, the server warned our older children, "The plate is very hot!" Then he told the two year-old, "Your plate is not hot. You can touch it." This was true. However, the food on the plate was very hot, as she promptly discovered when she flung a steaming hot french fry into her mouth.

If it's such a hassle to take the kids out to eat, you may wonder why The Wife and I ever bother to do so. It's pretty simple: neither of us has to cook, and neither of us has to do dishes.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Unlimited Pictures (But Are They Any Good?)

These days everybody has a camera in their pocket. If you want to take a picture of something, you pull out your phone, and take anywhere from one to forty-seven photos, then slide your phone back into your pocket. You then look at the pictures, decide which one or two you like the best, and delete all of the rest.

(Ha ha! Just kidding. You keep all of those pictures on your phone until the day you have a really important picture you want to take, but you can't take a picture because your phone is full of all those pictures you never got around to deleting.)

Back in the day, we didn't take as many pictures. Why? Because we were limited by the number of photos available on a roll of film. Usually a roll of film or a disposable camera (remember them?) would hold 24 pictures. Because of the scarcity of available pictures, we were much more selective as to what we would take pictures of. (Not nearly so many selfies, or photos of food.)

The disposable camera has gone the way of the record album.
That's not to say there weren't any bad pictures taken back then, just not so darn many of them!

Today, we can take as many pictures as our phones will store. That's hundreds of pictures, or thousands of pictures, or maybe even hundreds of thousands of pictures. As a result, we are not very discerning about what we take pictures of. If it's a useless picture, we'll just ignore it. But we'll still carry it around on our phone for months, and we'll still download it onto our computers.

The other day I was at the grocery store and my wife wanted me to pick up some popcorn for her. (She's a school teacher and needed it for some lesson she was going to teach.) She wasn't sure how big the bags of popcorn were, so she wasn't sure how many she wanted. So, I took a picture of the popcorn, texted it to her, and asked her how many bags she wanted. (Two.)

That's Korn spelled with a "K" so you know it's gotta be good!
So, now I have a picture of a bag of popcorn on my phone. And, that same picture has been downloaded to my computer. Why did I take this picture? Because I can take a pretty much unlimited amount of pictures. Why do I still have this picture? Because I'm too lazy and/or indifferent to delete it.

As a result, I've got a lot of pictures like this one taking up space on my phone and computer:
Aside from the blurriness, I also very much like the random socked feet on the left.
But, that picture is a piece of art compared to some of the others, like this one:
The Doorway to Your Soul.
Or this one:
'Ears to you!
The thing is, pictures like these will never be deleted. Oh, we'll say things like, "One of these days I'm going to go through all of my pictures and organize them," but it won't ever happen. These pictures will stand the test of time. They'll forever be a monument to how terrible we are at photography and how wasteful we are with the storage space we have on our phones and computers.