Friday, November 17, 2017

Television Is NOT My Babysitter (Usually)

No, I'm not using the television as a babysitter! I would never do that. I'm far too responsible as a parent to just turn on the television, plop the kids down in front of it, and ignore them for several hours. That's not me. I'm better than that.

Now, I might sit them down in front of the television if they ask for it politely. I always try to reward politeness, so if they say "please" and "thank you," it can't hurt to give them what they want, can it?

And maybe I'll turn on the television if the kids are climbing all over me but I have something that I really need to get done. Distracting them for a few minutes while I get some vital chore done is worth it, right?

If they're screaming and fighting with each other, letting them watch a show isn't such a bad idea, is it? It's certainly better then letting them hit each other and get in toy tug-of-wars because they don't want to share. Television brings unity and happiness.

Television: It's a wonderful tool!

Besides, television is educational! It's not like I'm letting them watch nasty things Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or CNN. On those rare occasions I flip on the television, I only allow them to watch wholesome, educational programming, like Reading Rainbow or Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood or WordWorld. They learn things when watching these shows, so it's a good thing when I let them watch all day long, isn't it?

So, no, I don't use the television as a babysitter. Instead, I use it as an educational tool to help teach my kids unity and manners, and I do so for hours and hours and hours at a time! What could be wrong with that?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Who Eats Gas Station Hot Dogs?

Every time you go inside at the gas station you see them. They are rotating in their display case. They've been cooked (probably), or at the very least warmed. They are waiting to be sold and eaten. They are the gas station hot dogs.

Who eats these things?

There they are, ready for you (or anyone else) (or everyone else) to grab!
They're slimy. They're greasy. And, worst of all (or is that wurst of all?) they're out there in the open where anyone can touch them! Have you taken a good look at the customers inside a convenience store? Are these the type of people you want having free and open access to touch your food before you eat it?

Now, having said that, I don't really think these openly displayed hot dogs get touched very often. I have never caught anyone touching a gas station hot dog that they weren't purchasing. But, the fact that they're out there in the open where anyone could touch them is enough to keep me away. 

I don't think I've ever even seen anyone buy one of these gas station hot dogs. They must sell them to someone, or they wouldn't have them in every gas station. Maybe people only buy them when they are the only customer in the store, too ashamed to let someone else see their purchase.

And while I won't eat a gas station hot dog, I might eat a gas station burrito. The tortilla around the meat might make enough difference, depending on how hungry I am. And I definitely would be willing to eat a gas station sandwich that is wrapped. As long as that wrapping keeps the unwashed masses from touching my food, I'm just fine.

No problem!
But, I'm not going to be having any of that jerky-in-a-jar by the cash register. If the jerky isn't individually wrapped, I'm not eating it!

Interestingly enough, while I won't even consider eating a gas station hot dog, I eat gas station donuts all the time! The donuts are behind a little see-through plastic door. Someone could touch all of the donuts just as easily as they could all of the hot dogs. And yet, I grab my tiny piece of wax paper, wrap it around the donut (or apple fritter) of my choice, and have exactly zero qualms about eating it. Why the difference? Am I putting that much faith in the use of the donut wax paper? Is it the fact that the donut isn't as slimy as the hot dog? I'm just not sure.

No, there won't be any gas station hot dogs for me! I'll get all my food through the fast-food window, where I know the food preparation conditions are pristine and all of the workers wash their hands at least twice a day, whether they need to or not!

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Perfect Walmart?

I have a secret that I'm going to confess to you. It's a bit shameful and embarrassing. It's not something I'm proud of. I don't really understand why I do it. But here it is:

Sometimes I'll escape the world by going to Walmart.

I know what you're thinking: Walmart? Really? Let me answer that first by saying that there are (at least) four Walmarts between where I live and the nearest Target, which is a half-hour away. The one hour round-trip drive to Target can't compete with the ten minute round-trip to Walmart. (And for those who think I should be more manly, Cabela's is an hour and a half round-trip.)

But still, Walmart, you ask? Walmart is a place you go on purpose? To get away from it all? Yes. Yes, it is.

The place to go to get away from it all?

Let me explain, if I can. I'm a stay-at-home Dad. (Not a Mr. Mom!) I have four kids, including two children under the age of three that require near-constant attention. If I can get thirty minutes to myself by going to Walmart because we're out of dishwasher soap, then by heck I'm going to take advantage of that!

[Before you feel too sorry for me, I should point out that my wife works full-time as a junior high math teacher. She deals with hundreds of kids a day, then comes home to our four kids and me. I hope she finds an occasional escape at school, because she doesn't get nearly as many "girl's nights out" as she deserves! (Not even to Walmart.)]

So, what do I do on my Walmart getaways? First of all, I have to get the thing (or things) I went there for. Walmart has just about everything, so anything can be used as an excuse to go. The other day we needed some light bulbs, so I used that as the reason for my Walmart trip. Once I had the bulbs, I was free to hit some of my regular spots. I'll stop at the DVD section and look at television show seasons that I might be interested in, but probably can't afford and wouldn't have the time to watch anyway. I'll browse down the book aisle and see if I can figure out how many new books James Patterson has written and released since the last time I was at Walmart. (Usually at least three.) I'll glance down the toy section to see if there's anything there my kids might like, and smile when I see toys they already have and think of how much fun they've had with them. I'll look at the egg nog (if it's the right season) and probably determine that it's just too expensive. And I'll get some bananas. We always need bananas (because the ones we had either have been eaten or gone bad.)

20 checkout lanes! (At least two of which are open.)

You never know what might happen at Walmart. You might see a neighbor or an old friend and get a chance to visit. You might see one of those "people of Walmart" and get a good laugh. You might be one of those "people of Walmart." (The other day the song "Fox On the Run" by Sweet started playing over the intercom, and before I knew it my head was bobbing up and down and I was loudly singing, "I--I--I--don't wanna know your name," as I pushed my cart through the store. Hopefully I'm not going viral somewhere as "Singing Walmart Guy.")

And, hey, you obviously don't need to get dressed up to go to Walmart.

Now, I know that Walmart isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of getting away from it all. Normally you might think of the mountains. Or the beach. Or the spa. Or the lake. Or the cabin. But, next time you need a getaway, maybe you should think of Walmart. It's close. It's convenient. It really is a great value. (And, they have bananas. You always need bananas.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sleep: The Final Frontier

Sleep: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Parenthood. Its five year -- ten year --twenty year --lifelong mission: to explore the inside of your eyelids, to seek out sleep wherever you can find it, to boldly snore where no one has snored before!

[Wait. Did you say lifelong mission? Really? Lifelong? Shouldn't it be just "five-year?" By the time your kids are five years old they should be sleeping through the night, so the parents should be able to sleep just fine, right? Are you trying to tell me that your children can effect your ability to sleep for the rest of your entire life?!? That's something they certainly did not put in the brochures! I didn't know I was signing up for that!]

Sleep is something we definitely take for granted as single people. Before you become a parent, your thoughts on sleep are basically, "Sleep? Yeah, I'll catch some of that whenever. It's no big deal. There'll always be time for sleep later." Hah! If only you knew! When you are a parent, that far-flung future known as "later" doesn't actually exist, and it probably never will.

Sleep? Why would I sleep when I could be climbing on the couch and knocking the mirror off of the wall?

The ways in which a child can keep a parent from getting that much-needed sleep are numerous:
Talking to their stuffed animals.
Peeing the bed.
Pooping the bed.
Barfing the bed.
Jumping on the bed.
Clicking the light switch on and off in rapid succession.
Pounding on the door.
Pounding on the wall.
Climbing up the wall.
Waking up their sibling.
Climbing on the furniture.
Knocking over the furniture.
Making too much noise.
And, oddly enough, being too quiet.

And when the kids wake us up, we'll do just about anything to get them back to sleep. The other night The Wife and I piled sleepless kids in our bed with us and watched an episode of Reading Rainbow about comedy. (Because when it comes to making people laugh, the first person I think of is LeVar Burton!) Later, I sat in the living room at 3:30 AM feeding my baby pop tarts as he forced me to play with a fidget spinner. (And if I wasn't playing with it the way he wanted me to, he most certainly would let me know.)

Of course, once kids become teenagers we don't need to worry about them anymore, and we can count on a peaceful sleep every night. (At least that's what I really hope will happen, even though reports I've gotten from people who have been through it seem to disagree.)

There's a lot of talk about the zombie apocalypse. I don't think it will happen, but if it does, it won't consist of the undead, it will be a zombie apocalypse featuring sleepless parents slowly going through their daily motions without any visible sign of higher brain functions.

Kids daydream about all kinds of fantastical, wonderful things. Parents daydream about sleep. It truly is the final frontier.

Friday, November 3, 2017

How NOT to Eat a KitKat Bar

I'm not saying there's a right way to eat a KitKat bar. I'm not saying there's a wrong way to eat a KitKat bar.

But, yes, there is a wrong way to eat a KitKat bar, and this is it:

The KitKat bar pictured above has four separate wafer bars. Those wafer bars are supposed to be broken apart from the others, with each wafer bar eaten one at a time. You don't believe me? Look at the picture on the package. It shows one wafer bar, not four! Because you are supposed to eat the KitKat bar one bar at a time.

Still don't believe me? Think of the jingle. It goes, "Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that KitKat bar." Did you catch that? It clearly says, "break me off a piece," not "take a bite or two." A KitKat bar is supposed to be broken off into individual wafer bars and eaten that way. 

Anyone who could eat a KitKat bar like this shouldn't be trusted. They should be shunned, avoided, and possibly reported to the authorities. Who knows what they might be capable of doing? For heavens sake, these people might even attempt something so fiendish as taking a bite of the Left Twix and Right Twix at the same time! We're talking total disregard for the laws of nature! Could they even go so far as to take the two cups from a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and eat them simultaneously? Blasphemy!

What kind of monster could do such a horrible thing?
I apologize if you find these images troubling, but the only way to stop this kind of behavior is to address it head on. We, as concerned citizens, must do all we can to make sure all Americans eat their candy the correct way from this moment forward!

Gimme a break, indeed!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fun Size vs. Mini Size

Are they making the Halloween candy smaller every year? It sure seems so.

To be fair, I do have large hands.

 It used to be (a long, long time ago) that no one ever gave any thought to what size a candy bar was. Candy bars came in whatever size they came in. Some were bigger than others. The Three Musketeers bar was bigger than an Almond Joy, but that was okay. They were all "full-sized" or candy bar sized. Size didn't really matter.

But then someone decided that smaller candy bars might work better for times like Halloween. They started off calling these shrunken candy bars "Snack Size." It made it sound as if a full size candy bar was some kind of large meal no one could ever finish in one attempt, so instead they were offering smaller bars that people could eat as a "Snack." And, it worked. People loved the "Snack Size" candy bars, which were usually one-half to one-third the size of a regular candy bar. They were a great size to give away for Halloween, and you could eat two or three of them without feeling too guilty about it.

Full-Size, Fun-Size, and Mini-Size. (Eat them all and you'll need to Exer-Cise.)

Of course, over the years, full-sized candy bars have gotten smaller and smaller. And the same thing has happened to "Snack Size." In fact, most companies have changed the name of these smaller bars from "Snack Size" to "Fun Size." Apparently, they aren't big enough to be considered a snack anymore, but they are still fun! The "Fun Size" bars are now only about one-fourth the size of a full-sized bar. But, people still love them. "Fun Size" is fun!

Three "Fun-Size" bars atop a full-sized one.

Unfortunately, someone decided if shrinking bars down to "Fun Size" was a good idea, how about making them even smaller? So now they are offering "Mini-Size" candy bars. The "Mini-Size" candies are less than half as big as the "Fun Size." They're about the size of a fingertip!

Two "Mini-Size" candies on top of a "Fun-Size."

In fact, the "Mini-Size" are so small that I don't think they should be called candy bars--they're too small to be considered a bar! You can call them candies if you want, but they aren't worthy of being called candy bars. These things are about the same size as a Hershey's Kiss. No one calls a Hershey's Kiss a candy bar.

And, like a Hershey's Kiss, the "Mini-Size" candies are hardly worth the effort to unwrap. If you are larger than a standard elf, your hands will be so much larger than the "Mini" that it will be difficult to grasp the wrapper to unwrap the treat. The candy is so small that I wouldn't be surprised if the wrapper weighs more than the actual candy!

Sometimes I'm tempted to not even bother unwrapping these little things.
This needs to stop now! If left unchecked, the candy companies might keep making their candies smaller and smaller, until they are the size of Pop Rocks. (And I don't mean a package of Pop Rocks, I mean as small as each individual rock that pops.) How long until they start individually wrapping each Smartie?

We need to say no to the "Mini-Size" candies. Don't buy them. Don't give them out as Halloween treats. "Fun Size" are acceptable; full size is preferable. Sometimes size does matter!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Yes, Kids Live Here

If you ever come to visit me in my home, one thing will become evident very quickly: Yes, kids live here.

It's pretty obvious as soon as you enter my house. In fact, you might not be able to get the door open because of all the toys in the way.
None of these are my toys. They all belong to the kids.
In fact, when you come into my house, you just might ask yourself, "Just how many kids does he have? Two? Four? 93?"

We really do have a lot of toys in our living room. Why so many? Well, kids play with toys, and when they are playing with toys they are less likely to be getting into trouble or hitting me in the crotch. (I don't like getting hit in the crotch.)

With some people, you walk into their house and wonder if anyone even lives there. Has anyone ever walked on that carpet? Has anyone ever sat in those chairs? Is this a museum or a house? Meanwhile, when you walk into our house it literally looks as if the alphabet has vomited all over the inside of our front door.

Perhaps it was a dictionary explosion.
The living room isn't the only place where it is evident we have kids. If you manage to get past the toys and make to the bathroom, you might see something like this:

It's either the toilet paper roll or a mummy from an episode of Scooby-Doo.
To be honest, that picture isn't from my house, it's from the home of my wife's parents. They don't have any kids at home, but an occasional visit from the grandkids leaves results like this.

I'm sure there are ways to have kids living in a house without it being apparent that kids live there. I've seen some people who do it. I have no idea how they do it, though. Do they follow kids around with a vacuum all day? Do they hire a professional maid service? Is it cleaned by a singing Disney princess and her troupe of woodland creatures? 

I don't know how they do it. But I do know one thing: if you come to my house, you'll know that kids live here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We're Stuck With Stickers

Kids love stickers. I don't know why, but they do.

Parents, on the other hand, are not nearly as fond of stickers. This time, I do know why. Stickers stick to things. They stick to things they shouldn't stick to. They'll unstick from things they should be stuck to. And then they'll restick to yet more things they shouldn't be stuck to. If you have kids, there is a good chance that at least once a week you will have a sticker stuck to the bottom of either your shoe or your foot, depending on if your around-the-house preference is barefoot or shod.

If a kid sticks a sticker to your kitchen table, it will remain stuck to your table henceforth and forever, unless you sand it off or scrape it off with a screwdriver. Either way, it's going to leave a mark.

But if a sticker is supposed to stick forever on a piece of paper or toy, it will peel off by itself in a matter of minutes. Somehow the stickers know.

And why is it that I have to put the stickers on new toys? Shouldn't they come with the stickers already attached? A while back one of our kids got a Happy Meal toy, and the instructions looked like this:

No Happy Meal toy should have 16(!) assembly steps!
Yes, there were 16(!) tiny stickers that they wanted me to peel off and place on the little toy truck. And I couldn't just put them anywhere; they had to be placed in very specific spots on the truck. Nevermind that me and my big sausage* fingers have a difficult enough time just getting the stickers off of the paper, let alone getting them placed squarely in the tiny spots they are intended for. [*That's link, not patty. (For the most part.)]

Luckily for my kids my wife was there, and she was able to get all 16 stickers in their proper places. (Her fingers are not nearly as sausagy as mine.) But still, couldn't they have just had the toy come with the stickers pre-stuck?

Stickers stuck.
A few years ago we got a toddler bed. (It was for one of our toddlers.) According to the pictures on the box, the plastic headboard of the bed had a big picture of Elmo on it. In actuality, this was not the case. Upon opening the box and going through the parts of the bed that needed to be assembled, we found a large sticker of Elmo that we were supposed to affix to the headboard. Okay, fine, no big deal, right? We placed the Elmo sticker in the proper place on the headboard.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for our toddler to discover the fun of peeling stickers off of things. Before long he had ripped Elmo's eye down to his nose. We tried to reaffix Elmo, but he was never quite the same again.

Elmo needs some cosmetic surgery.
Maybe I'm crazy, but I have to think if Elmo had been pre-affixed at the factory, my toddler wouldn't have been able to give him a (literal) face lift.

Of course, most stickers we deal with aren't the size of a headboard. Most stickers are tiny, and come at us 20, or 50, or 100 per page at a time. They'll stick to your clothes. They'll stick to your floor. They'll stick to the wall. They'll even stick to your face. (Let's just hope you notice it before you go in for that big job interview.)


And if you don't, let's hope your interviewer has a soft spot for rainbows, or hippos, or hippos under rainbows. If not, you might find yourself in a sticky situation.

Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm More Important Than Anyone Else

Let me just state the obvious right here at the start: I'm more important than you! I really shouldn't have to say it. I mean, I'm me and you're you; of course I'm more important!

We have rules for a reason, and that reason is to keep people like you in check. The rules apply to everyone except me, because I'm too important to follow the rules.

Don't scratch my mini-van!
I'm going to park wherever I want. Those yellow lines painted on the ground don't mean anything to me. (Well, except for when I park on top of those lines and take up two spots to make sure no one scratches or dings my car!) Handicapped parking? There's never enough really handicapped people to fill all those spots, so I might as well use them. Fire zone? When's the last time you saw a fire at a store? Of course I can park there!

As far as I know those yellow lines were painted there as someone's abstract art project.
The carpool lane is for vehicles with two or more people in them. Or for me. (Because I'm more important than you.) Don't cross the double white lines? Good advice...unless it's convenient for me. Speed limits mean nothing to me. Are two lanes merging into one? Well, obviously I should be allowed to keep going forward until the last possible moment before I merge, crowding ahead of all you idiots who got over when the sign told you to.

I don't wait in lines. Ever. I'm far too important for that!

I'm glad you people shut off your phones before the start of the movie. But, I'm not going to shut mine off. How will I know when I get a call if I turn my phone off? Besides, I might want to check the scores or play a game if the movie gets boring. Can't do that with my phone off!

20 items or less? Who's got time to count? If it's the shortest line, that's where I'm going.

No, I'm not going to clear my tray and throw away my garbage at the fast food restaurant, I'll just leave it sitting on the table. And no, I'm not going to push my shopping cart to the return area, I'll just leave it by where I parked. They have people they pay to do those kind of things! Why should I bother to do it?
Oh, paid servant! Come fetch my cart for me!

Yes, I'm more important than you. I'm not sure how I can put it in a way that will make sense to you. Maybe if you pretended every day was your birthday you might understand. But probably not, because I'm way more important than your birthday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Day My English Professor Changed My Life

I wasn't expecting her to read my story to the whole class.

It was just another paper for my freshman English class. I didn't think too much about it, other than to make sure it was long enough to meet the requirements of the assignment. I finished the paper, turned it in, and that was that. I hoped it was good enough to get an "A," or at least a "B," but otherwise wasn't too concerned about it.

But, the next time the class convened the professor started the session by discussing the previous assignment, telling us what we had done right and what we had done wrong. She then stated that she was going to read one of the better examples in order to show us what she had expected from us on the assignment.

When I realized that she was reading aloud the words I had written, I was both ecstatic and mortified. I was ecstatic because, out of all the people in the class, she had chosen my paper! She thought it was well-written and funny! She thought it was good. I was mortified because my paper detailed a very personal story about the embarrassing events of a date I went on in high school. As my English professor read my story to the class my face turned several shades of red as I vacillated between pride in my writing and horror that details of my social ineptitude were being given to the entire class, including that really cute girl who sat in front of me.

In the end, the happiness and pride I had in having the professor read my paper in class far outweighed any negativity I might have feared because of it. (Let's be honest: there was no way I would have had the guts to ask that girl out anyway.)

That English professor's name was Elouise Bell. She passed away last week, and as I read a tribute to her, I thought about how my life was changed by that one time she read my paper in class. I'd like to say that from that moment on I worked closely with Elouise, honed my writing skills, and became a world-famous writer. No, that's not how things turned out. Unfortunately, after that one class I never saw Elouise Bell again, and I've wandered through life spending most of my time working as a truck driver.

My freshman English professor, Elouise Bell. (She laughed at me once.)

But, that one semester with Elouise Bell did help instill in me a love of writing, and I've carried that with me for all these years. Whenever anyone asks what my hobbies are, or what I enjoy doing with my free time, writing is near the top of the list.

I wish I still had that story from my freshman English class. I'd like to read it again, to see if I can still see in it what Elouise Bell saw in it that day. (The paper was about my semi-disastrous date to the Homecoming dance my senior year in high school. I wrote about it again a few years ago, if you care to take a look.)

I only took one class from her, more than thirty years ago. And yet, when I heard of her passing I couldn't help but think of how an encouraging word or two helped shape my life. There's a lot of negativity in the world today. Too much negativity. Maybe we should try a different approach. Maybe we could try to encourage each other. You never know how much influence for good you might have on someone's life.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Parents Don't Get Sick Days

Parents aren't allowed to have sick days.

If you're a parent and you're sick, you can't just call in and say, "Sorry, I'm not feeling well so I'm not going to be able to parent today." You can't say, "Sorry kids, but I'm taking the day off so you'll just have to take care of yourselves today." And you certainly can't say, "Change your own diapers, you lazy little punks!"

Kids don't wait for you to blow your nose.
As a parent, there are three minimum requirements that you must meet for your children:
1) You must make sure they have food.
2) You must make sure they are safe.
3) You must deal with their dirty diapers.

These three things have to be addressed, no matter how sick you might be. But the level at which you deal with these things can be dramatically different.

On a normal day, you try to make sure your kids sit at the table for three good meals, get plenty to drink, and have healthy snacks as needed. On a Parent Sick Day, it's all juice boxes and Goldfish crackers. They're eating in the kitchen, in the living room, in the bedroom, heck, they might even be eating in the bathroom for all you know. They're eating crackers, cookies, cold cereal right out of the box, and something they found on the floor. The key is that they are eating something, and that something started out as a food product, so it can't be too bad for them, right? We all knew people in college who ate nothing but junk, and they survived, so it won't hurt your kids too much, will it?

On a normal day, you make sure your kids have plenty of good, learning activities to do throughout the day. They read books, play with educational toys, and keep the television to a minimum. On a Parent Sick Day they watch television. They watch a lot of television. Did you think it impossible for someone to sit through eight straight hours of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood? Well, you were wrong! Moana on a loop for five consecutive showings? No problem! The key is that they are safe. If they are in a vegetative state watching television they won't be climbing to the top shelf of the pantry or falling down the stairs. They are mind-numbingly safe.

On a normal day, you make sure their diapers are changed frequently. You want to make sure everything is clean and fresh down there. On a Parent Sick Day you change their diapers whenever the smell gets overwhelming. If it is only pee in the diaper, it's not really a concern until the diaper gets so full and heavy that the child can no longer carry the weight of it.

So, while you can't take a sick day as a parent, you can turn down your parenting dial from your usual 10 or 9 down to a 4 or 5. As long as you survive the day, and your kids survive the day, that's all you can really ask for, isn't it? (You'll just have to find some way to get the theme from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood out of your head.) (Good luck with that.) ("It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood....")

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Your Kids Will Rat You Out

Here's a piece of advice no one should need to hear: Don't lie to your spouse!

That's pretty much common sense, isn't it? If you want to have a good relationship with your spouse, it would be best if you don't tell them lies.

And as bad as it would be to lie to your spouse, here's something that would be even worse: Don't ask your kids to lie to your spouse for you! There are several reasons why this is not a good idea:
1) You shouldn't lie to your spouse;
2) You shouldn't teach your kids to lie;
3) You don't want your kids to think that lying to one of their parents is a good idea;
D) You don't want to force your kids to have to choose between you and your spouse; and,
E) None of this really matters because those kids are going to rat you out, anyway.

Now, I don't actually know this from experience. I'm not stupid enough to have asked my kids to lie to my wife for me. But, I have seen other people try to do this. They'll say something like, "Don't tell Mom that I let you watch Deadpool. That'll be our little secret." Whenever I see someone do this, it makes me cringe.

Asking your kids to lie or keep a secret from one of their parents is a bad idea because, A) It's wrong; and B) They will tell on you. It might be on purpose, or it might be accidentally, but they will let it slip.

I don't ask the kids to keep secrets from my wife, but occasionally I'll do things that I might not necessarily want her to find out about. I won't ask them not to tell her, I'll just hope it doesn't come up. But it always does. They'll let her know when I stopped at the donut shop or if I got into the Halloween candy a little early. Sometimes they'll blatantly tell her in order to try to get me in trouble, and sometimes it'll just come up in conversation, but they always end up ratting me out.

So, I've found that the best thing to do is just to live your life in such a way that you don't ever do anything you wouldn't want your spouse to know. If you're always honest and open about everything, the kids will never have an opportunity to tattle on you. They can't rat you out if there's nothing to rat about.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Two Kids Under the Age of Three

My wife and I have two kids under the age of three years old. What were we thinking?

When you have two kids under three there is always a stain on your clothes. You might know where it came from; you might not. But, there will always be a stain. (At least one.) (The good news is that if you are responsible for the stain, you can blame it on your kids.)

When you have two kids under three you are obsessed with poop. Has he pooped yet? Did she poop too much? When was the last time she pooped? Do we need to change what she eats so she'll poop more often? Do we need to change what he eats so he he'll poop less often? Did the diaper contain the poop? I just washed my hands, so why do they still smell like poop? Can I just scoop the poop out of the tub and continue with the bath, or do I need to drain all of the water and start over again? (I'm going to stop with the poop questions here. Believe me, this doesn't even scratch the surface on the number of poop-related questions you'll ask if you have two kids under three!)

When you have two kids under three you never get a full night's sleep. Never. Even if they get a full night's sleep, you won't. You should, but you won't.

When you have two kids under three you will spend approximately 23% of your waking hours searching for missing toys. It might be the baby doll she must have before she'll go to bed. It might be that one toy phone that will appease him so he won't try to steal your phone for at least five minutes. It might be that one missing ring in the set of five stackable rings that all toddlers have. (There's always one missing! It's like when you try to name all seven of Snow White's dwarves: you can get them all but one.)

We are missing the One Ring. (Maybe Frodo took it?)

When you have two kids under three you somehow can both look forward to and dread potty training. You dread it because you know it's going to be hours and hours of hard work, with a lot of messes to clean up. But you look forward to it because once it's done you might actually be able to spend a little less time thinking about poop. Potty training is like a surgery you know you need. It'll make you feel better when it's over, but that doesn't mean it won't be painful while you're going through it. (And for those of you who say you potty trained your kid in just one day: Shut up and go away!)

When you have two kids under three you'll clap and cheer a lot. You'll clap and cheer when they first learn to roll over, when they first learn to crawl, when they first learn to use a spoon, when they first learn how to turn on the toy vacuum, and when they first learn to clap and cheer themselves.

In fact, when you have two kids under three you'll do a whole lot of smiling! (Except for when you are thinking about poop.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

10 Keys To Becoming a 40 Year-Old Virgin

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (and really, who hasn’t?) you may have noticed the title “40 Year Old Virgin, Father of Four.” And you may have thought, “Well, he’s talked about being a father, but what’s all this about the virgin thing?” Today's post is for you. (I covered this subject in a blog once before, but that was over six years ago, so I thought it was time for a refresher.)

You may be asking yourself, “How exactly does someone become a 40 year-old virgin?” Well, it’s pretty simple: don’t have sex until you are 40 years old.

For me, this was very easy to accomplish. When it comes to virginity, I was a natural. I was a virgin from a very young age. And, as I grew older, there were a number of factors that helped keep me a virgin. I call them my:

Ten Keys To Becoming a 40 Year-Old Virgin!

1) Be shy. If I’m in a large group of people, my preference would be to just blend in with the wall. My philosophy being if I don’t say anything in front of a bunch of people, then I won’t say anything stupid or embarrassing in front of a bunch of people. It’s hard to get noticed by women if you never do anything noticeable.

2) Don't be particularly attractive. If you are good looking enough, women will be attracted to you no matter what you do or say. (Or even what you don't do or say.) I am not that good looking. (I’m not particularly ugly, either. My thought is that if you were to gather 50 men at random, I would not be one of the ten most attractive, nor would I be one of the ten least attractive. I would be one of those 30 non-descript guys in the middle.)

On my way to becoming a 40 year-old virgin!

C) Be a nerd. How much of a nerd? Well, I had several thousand comic books, and I’d been to more than one Star Trek convention. (This was back before Comic Con became a socially acceptable event.) Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t have sex until I was 40? (‘Nuff said.)

4) Be socially inept. Over the years there were times when, despite the overwhelming odds against it, women were actually attracted to me. Only I was too dense (stupid) to notice until days, months, or even years later. (Once, in high school, a girl I kinda liked actually asked me out. I couldn’t go with her because of a scheduling conflict with a family vacation. But, it wasn’t until years later that it dawned on me that she probably liked me, and the smart thing for me to do when I got back from the family trip would be to ask her out. I didn’t. Because I was an idiot.)

5) Be a Mormon. Mormons are taught, at a very young age, that having sexual relations outside of marriage is one of the absolute worst sins you can commit. Combine that with my social ineptitude, and I was figuratively scared to death of girls. (Not literally, or I would actually be dead.) It was pretty simple: get married or be a virgin.

6) Be from a small town. I’m from rural Southeast Idaho. (As opposed to urban Southeast Idaho.) The town I’m from, Arimo, has a population of about 300 people. There was literally one girl my age in the whole town. (Yes, literally.) They had to bus five towns together to get enough kids to make up a high school. At least 80% of the high school population was also Mormon, so all those girls were taught the same “pre-marital sex is sin” lessons that I was. Many of them were as afraid of me as I was of them.

7) Be a child of divorce. Here's a serious topic. After 26 years of marriage, my parents got divorced. I was 19 years old. The last few months before their divorce, as they yelled and argued with each other, were some of the worst times of my life.  I decided then and there that I would rather be single than ever have a relationship like that.

8) Be indecisive (Maybe.) Sometimes I'm indecisive. Sometimes I'm not. I thought about putting indecisiveness as one of my Ten Keys, but then I thought I shouldn't. But, eventually, I thought it was fairly important. What do you think?

9) Be overly cautious. I don’t like to get hurt. I don’t want to get hurt. So, I avoid situations where I might get hurt. Was I slower learning how to ride a bike than everyone else? Yes. Did I learn how to swim at an early age? I did not. Skydiving? Umm, no. So, where dating was concerned, I was so afraid of getting dumped by a girl that I never put myself in a position where I could get dumped.

10) Don't get out much. If you stay home all the time watching television or playing on the internet, it'll be very difficult to meet girls. If you don't get out, your only avenue for meeting women will be friends setting you up on blind dates, and we all know that those never turn out good, right? (Well, okay, there's a slight chance that you'll meet someone on a blind date that you'll actually like, and then the next thing you know it's ten years later and you've got four kids!) (But that's not very likely.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mixed Martial Toddler Artists

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.


I'm trying to put my shoes on, but because I can only put on one shoe at a time, when I grab the first shoe, the second shoe is vulnerable to attack. Almost without fail one of my toddlers (I have two children under the age of three) will grab the second shoe. They will either a) run off with the shoe and hide it, or B) in an effort to "help" me put my shoes on, they will drop it on my bare foot. You might think that a shoe dropping 16 inches onto your foot wouldn't hurt too much. You would be wrong.

If only that were the only time they beat me up. It isn't. My kids have become experts in the field of Mixed Martial Arts. They are Mixed Martial Toddler Artists. Within the last 24 hours I have been on the receiving end of:

*An elbow to the groin.
*A head-butt to my skull, just behind my ear. (It left me a little dizzy.)
*A head-butt to my groin. (She's just the right height that when she runs at me, that's where her head hits.)
*An elbow to the chest. (Elbows are pointy!)
*A knee to the groin. (Why does it always have to be the groin? Please, leave my groin alone!!!)

"Ouch," says my groin.

That last knee to the groin inflicted a pain that lasted for several hours. So much so that I actually considered putting an ice pack on my groin. (Instead, I just walked around with my hand covering my groin for most of the rest of the evening to shield off further hits.) (See: Shields Up!) Now that the pain has eased and I write this, I can see where it might sound a bit amusing. It was not amusing yesterday.

So, what can I do about it? Not much. Around the house I can keep a hand over my groin for protection, but I can't do that out in public. (No one wants to be known as "That Guy With His Hand On His Groin.")

About all I can do is try my best to avoid or deflect, then wait for them to outgrow the Mixed Martial Toddler Artist phase. Eventually their form of attack will change from the physical "frequently hitting you in the groin" to the verbal "asking you 429 questions in a matter of three minutes."

They're always on the attack.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Get Up and Get Out!!!

Sometimes that recliner is just a little too comfortable.

You know you should get up, get out, and do something, and you're sure that you will...but in a few minutes. Not right now. You're cozy in the chair. You've got your smart phone and you're cruising through a game of Candy Crush. You're mindlessly watching another episode of Family Feud. (Man, that Steve Harvey sure can make anything sound like a sexual innuendo.) Or, you're scrolling through the recipes, political diatribes, and mindless nostalgia that Facebook has become.

You'll get up and do a minute.

And while you're sitting there in the chair, what are the kids doing? Playing quietly? Reading? Moping? Fighting with each other? Getting into things they shouldn't? Continually interrupting you so you lose track of which Candy you are supposed to be Crushing?

Did you know that if you get up out of the chair and interact with your kids, that they are less likely to misbehave? (I have no scientific study to cite to back up that statement, but it sure seems like common sense to me.)

Let me ask you a question: What are your kids more likely to remember, yet another day of you sitting in the chair staring at a screen, or that time you took them to the children's museum?

Which do you think she'll remember more, this, or you sitting in your chair playing with your phone?
When your kids grow up and look back at their childhoods, they will definitely think of the times you played with them at the park, went hiking with them, played basketball with them, or did anything outside with them before they think of all the times they tried in vain to get your attention while you sat there like a big, giant lump.

And what about you? What will you remember? Will it be that list of "Ten Things the Producers of Mork and Mindy Didn't Want You To Know" on Facebook? (And the 24 times you had to click the "NEXT" button to get through it.) Or will you remember the look on your girl's face the first time she gets the courage to go down the BIG slide?

It's all up to you. Look, I know the chair is soft and cozy. But, when you look back on their life will you ever say, "Remember all the times I sat in that comfortable chair, doing nothing?" I don't think so. Laziness never was happiness.

Friday, September 15, 2017

All Generalizations Are Bad

Yes, I'm from Idaho. But, no, I'm not a potato farmer.

Did you know there a lot of people in Idaho (the vast majority, in fact) who don't grow potatoes for a living? It's true! There are school teachers, factory workers, nurses, truck drivers, hair stylists, college professors, politicians, garbage collectors, pawn shop owners, fry cooks, custodians, and nuclear scientists living in Idaho who have never pulled a potato out of the ground.

Amazingly enough, there are also farmers in Idaho who are not potato farmers! I know this for a fact, because I grew up on a farm in Idaho, but the only time I ever saw a potato was on my dinner plate. We grew wheat, barley, and alfalfa, and we raised cattle. But no potatoes.

People make assumptions and generalizations based on limited information quite frequently. They hear the word "Idaho," and the first thing that comes to mind is potatoes. So they immediately jump to the conclusion that if you are from Idaho, you must be a potato farmer.

It happens all the time. You live in Los Angeles? Oh, you must want to be an actor. You're a Mormon? So, how many wives do you have? She's so pretty, she must have been a cheerleader. (And she's probably not very smart.) Look how tall you are. You must have played college basketball.

Just because I like posing in front of over-sized potatoes doesn't mean I'm a male model.

Some of these generalizations are pretty harmless. But, sometimes they're not. You accepted welfare? Oh, you must be a lazy freeloader. You're a Republican? Oh, you must be a racist. You voted for Trump? Oh, you must be stupid. You voted for Hillary? Oh, you must hate America.

It can be very easy for these things to get out of hand.

So, we must come to this conclusion: All generalizations are bad!

(Do you see what I did there? I made a generalization that said that all generalizations are bad. But if all generalizations are bad, wouldn't that mean that my generalization that all generalizations are bad is also bad? It's all pretty confusing, isn't it?)

Not all of the assumptions we make by generalizing are bad. Not all of them are right. (Is it true that all Canadians are really nice? Probably not, but it's not such a bad generalization to characterize a people by.) Not all of them are wrong. (If you assume everyone you meet in Utah is a Mormon, you would be correct very, very often, but not all of the time.)

I guess what I'm saying is that we can't always assume our generalizations are true. We need to look at each person and each case individually. Sometimes people don't always fit into the neat little stereotypes that we think should define them.

Just because I'm extremely handsome, it doesn't mean that I'm not very smart. (And I guess if someone assumes I'm a potato farmer just because I'm from Idaho, that's not the worst thing in the world. I hear they're all really hard workers.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Worst Bucket List Ever

A while back my brother visited the town of Tooele, Utah for the first time, then he commented, "Now I can cross that off of my bucket list."

My immediate thought was, "If driving through Tooele is on your bucket list, that has to be one of the saddest bucket lists ever."And that got me thinking: what would the worst bucket list ever look like? I'm guessing it would look something like this:

*Own Season 7 of The Golden Girls on DVD.

*Eat every single item off of the McDonald's menu. (Not all at once, just eventually.)

*Spend a week in Ogden, Utah.

Ogden: More cash loan stores in former gas station buildings per capita than any other city in America! (Except Reno.)

*Drink some buttermilk.

*Shop at a Dillard's department store (and actually buy something.)

*Drive a Toyota Camry.

*Watch all of the Transformers movies in one day.

*Attend a Cleveland Browns game.

*Meet (and shake hands with) former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Walter Mondale.

*Learn all of the lyrics to "It's a Small World After All."

*Visit the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota. (Conveniently located between Minneapolis and Des Moines!)

*Climb the highest mountain in Nebraska.

*Get Pat Sajak's autograph.

*Visit the Kentucky State Capitol Building in Frankfort.

*Own Season 5 of T. J. Hooker on DVD.

If someone could check everything off of this bucket list, they would have lived a life just slightly fuller than the rest of us. (Sometimes you gotta dream big.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Song of Poop and Barf

A Song of Fire and Ice? Ha! What's so scary about that? Fire's not so bad; just pour some water on it. And ice? Well, I've seen Frozen enough times that the ice doesn't bother me anyway.

No, I have a song that is much more frightening. A song that would make George R. R. Martin run away and hide. I sing: A Song of Poop and Barf!

Recently, our Song of Poop and Barf began on a Monday morning around 7:30 AM. When I opened the door I was greeted by a wall of stench. Thing 3, our two-and-a-half year-old girl, was up and out of her bed, but I immediately noticed a large stain on her sheets. I knew what had to happen. (It's moments like this that separate the fathers from the babysitters.) I grabbed the girl and removed her clothes, taking care to minimize spreading the poop to uninfected areas. (Keeping the poop out of the hair being a top priority!) I gave her a preliminary wipe-down, then threw her in the bathtub. (The preliminary wipe-down is essential, because you never want any poop in the tub.) I stripped her bed of sheets, blankets, pillow-case, and mattress pad and shoved them all down the laundry chute. I removed the blanket from atop the changing table and put it down the chute as well. I bathed the girl, cleaned her up, dried her off, put her in a new diaper and clean clothes. And, as all this was going on I was barking orders to our two older children to help entertain/distract our youngest child (Thing 4, a one year-old boy,) and to get themselves ready to catch the school bus. I then went downstairs and put all the poop-infected clothing and bedding in the washing machine.

And with that, the battle was over---but the war was just beginning.

Did I take a training potty and attempt to transform it into the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones using diapers? Yes, yes I did. Is there something wrong with me? Yes, yes there is.

Over the course of the day there were a few more skirmishes. Thing 4 pooped and pooped and pooped some more. (He pooped at least six times over the course of the day. Fortunately, his diapers held containment.)

Early in the afternoon I was standing next to Thing 3, and she had a pained grimace on her face. Then suddenly, I heard it! It was a horrible noise. I can best describe it as the sound of exploding poop. (It sounded, literally, as if someone had dropped a cherry bomb down into the hole of an outhouse.) Thing 3 acted very surprised, then looked up at me and said, "I made a noise." (It was a grand understatement.) Why yes, yes she did! I was amazed (and very relieved) that none of the poop escaped her diaper. (Another win for Pampers!)

The next verse in the Song of Poop and Barf was sung shortly after midnight. There was crying coming from the other room, and it wasn't "restless sleep" crying, it was "something's wrong" crying. I opened the door and was greeted by a new and terrible smell: barf! I yelled for my wife. With both of us there, we could divide the tasks. I took the girl to the tub and The Wife took clothing/bedding/washing machine duty. I soon realized the problem was that the barf had gotten into her hair. You can't get barf out of hair using just a wet-wipe, so I had to use the shower nozzle, which was not a popular decision with Thing 3. All the screaming woke up Thing 4, so we ended up with both babies in bed with us for a while until they calmed back down. Thing 3 requested her favorite movie, Pocahontas. (I'm not sure why she's latched onto that movie, but it's good that she likes a wholesome Disney movie with a wonderful message: Disobey your father and run off with a strange man.) (Wait...what???)

Thing 3 slept in until almost noon and woke up famished. I knew she needed to replenish her fluids, but I foolishly gave her too much, too soon: another barf, another tub. Her song of barf continued at dinner that evening, although she appeared to have a bit more vim and vigor than earlier in the day.

The Song of Poop and Barf lived up to its name the next morning. At 4:55 AM the words, "I pooped," were broadcast into my ears through the baby monitor. I checked and yes, the poop had oozed out of her diaper. So, I repeated the process of two days earlier, which included changing all of her sheets and bathing her again. All clean and cozy, I was just setting her down on our bed to watch some more shows (Sesame Street this time; Cookie Monster never disobeys his father to run off with a strange man) when she started barfing! Back to the tub. It was a Daily Double, or a Double Feature, or a true Song of Poop and Barf! So, she got two wash-downs in the bathtub before 5:30 AM. (And I had to add the bathroom floor mats to the list of things cycling through our washing machine.)

How bad was it? There had been so much poop and barf in the house that everything smelled of it. And tasted of it. Does Yoplait sell a Vanilla & Poop flavored yogurt? I ask because that's what I was tasting, the Song was so prevalent in the air! I could no longer discern if Thing 4's diapers were dirty based on smell. And it got even worse when The Wife, exhausted from the skirmishes at home and her battles with teenagers at work (she teaches at the junior high), lost track of time and over-cooked some dinner on the stove top, adding burnt cabbage to the bouquet of fragrances wafting through the house.

I fed Thing 3 peaches and Gatorade. She promptly threw it up. And as I was cleaning it up I actually thought, "Hey, this barf is quite fruity and refreshing!" Yes, it got to that point.

The next morning the barf was so voluminous that it made me, veteran barf wrangler that I am, stop in my tracks like a deer in the headlights. Luckily, The Wife was there to take the lead in that battle. (I did jolt myself into action to help.)

And yes, we did take Thing 3 to the doctor, where they told us there was nothing they could do, and we just had to wait it out. (Or was that "wade it out?" The barf was getting deep.) She only barfed two more times after the doctor visit, although one of those was directly on my wife as she was holding her. And then, our song was sung.

So, I'd suggest to George R. R. Martin that he should just stick with his Song of Fire and Ice*. I don't think he could handle A Song of Poop and Barf. He'd definitely get something stuck in that beard of his. (And I am not going to give that man a bath!)

*I should admit that I haven't read any of the books or viewed any episodes of Game of Thrones. But I have lived through A Song of Poop and Barf, and just like George R.R. Martin's story, ours is not finished yet. He has two books left to write and publish, and we have two children left to potty train. The song is not yet finished.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer Is NOT Over Yet!

Did you know it's still summer after Labor Day? It's true! After Labor Day there are more than two and a half weeks of summer left before it officially becomes fall.

That doesn't seem right, does it? We're always being told that summer ends as soon as school starts up again in August. Or they say that the Labor Day weekend is the last hurrah of summer. But that's not the case! We can keep on summer hurrah-ing for most of the rest of September!

Check your calendar: this year the last day of summer (also known as the first day of fall) is September 22nd. Meanwhile, Labor Day falls on September 4th. Now, I'm no math wizard, but it looks to me like that means there are 18 days of summer between the two that we need to enjoy in the fullest.

So, what should we do to celebrate our newfound extended summer? How about grab your snorkel and go to the pool! There's no better summer activity than splashing around in the pool. What's that? You say the pool closes for the season on September 4th? That doesn't seem right. It's a city pool, and our tax dollars pay for it, so we should be able to enjoy it for ALL of summer, shouldn't we? (I think this calls for a sternly worded letter to the city council and mayor.)

Life's a beach!
Okay, so if we can't go to the pool, maybe we can go to the beach. Yes, I know there are no oceans in Utah, but there are plenty of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and they all have shore line. Some of them even have shore line with sand, or, at the very least, dirt and gravel that could be mistaken for sand if you squint at it just right. So, load up your cooler with your favorite cold beverage, grab your beach towel, put on your swimming suit and head to your favorite local beach! (Or beach-like shore line.) Chances are it will be less crowded than it was in July.

Let's go soak up some sun! It's still summer! The calendar says so. (And the calendar never lies!) And, if you happen to see some of the leaves changing colors on your way to the beach, just think of it as the trees putting on their own little summer fireworks show! (Because it is still summer!)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cereal Killers

If you could have anything you wanted for breakfast, what would it be?

French toast! Bacon! Sausage! A ham and cheese omelet! Waffles! Hash browns! Crepes! Cinnamon rolls! Fried eggs! Scrambled eggs! Pancakes! Smoothies! Leftover cold pizza! Cinnamon toast! Toast and jam! Yogurt! Donuts! Bagels! Oatmeal?

There are so many great and delicious options for breakfast. (I'm getting hungry just thinking about them!) But, if you were to ask my children what they would want, they would say "none of the above."

My kids would choose cold cereal. Seriously. Cold cereal every single time. And I'm not even talking about the sugary "candy" cereals, like Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs. I'm talking about cereals like Raisin Bran and Special K! Given the choice between french toast and Cheerios, my kids would choose those little donut-shaped pieces of cardboard.

Mmmm...she just can't keep her hands out of that excellent source of fiber!

I don't understand it. It makes no sense to me. I'm sure part of it is that we don't let them have cereal very often, usually just once or twice a week. But that doesn't really explain it, because we're lucky if we have bacon once a month, but the kids would still choose cereal over it.

And cereal isn't the only bad choice they'd make. They would choose a piece of candy over a piece of pie or cake. That's insane! They'd rather have a Tootsie Roll than some apple pie!

Why is this? Is there something wrong with their brains? Is it because their brains are still underdeveloped? Is it somehow related to why they like Pokemon?

I wish I knew. But, I don't have any answers, I just have questions. And right now my question is: do we have any bacon in the freezer? (Mmm...bacon!)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Everything That Is Wrong with Humanity Today"

Last night I learned that my wife represents "everything that is wrong with humanity today."

I had no idea! I know she isn't perfect. I'm aware she has a few flaws here and there. But, to find out she is everything that is wrong with humanity comes as a bit of a shock! There's a lot wrong with humanity; I'm just not sure how my wife is able to represent all of that.

But, I read it on the internet, so it has to be true, right?

Surprisingly, this was said about my wife, and not me, or Donald Trump, or Barack Obama, or Adam Sandler, or Taylor Swift, or that one guy from that annoying commercial that everyone hates.

There is a lot of good discourse and discussion on the internet. But, unfortunately, these discussions often go off the rails when someone disagrees or gets their feelings hurt, and it devolves into an exercise in name-calling and finger-pointing.

That's what happened last night. My wife presented a valid, well thought-out opinion on a subject. (I'll admit that I'm biased, and that I agree with her opinion.) However, a friend of a friend didn't agree. That's fine--differences in opinion happen all the time. But he almost immediately escalated it by calling her names ("stupid,") telling her to "F off," and then telling her, "You represent everything that is wrong with humanity today."

(Amazingly enough, the subject matter wasn't politics, which is what most of America finds so divisive today; it was about a health matter that concerns one of our children.)

I'd like to think this was an isolated incident, but I know it is not. In today's volatile political climate, this kind of name calling is becoming more and more prevalent. Look at the comments section of any politically-tinged story ( be it "real" or "fake" news) and you'll find it full of vitriol, intolerance, and hate.

The thing is, these people are emboldened by the anonymity of the internet. Since they can say it they do, because there are no immediate repercussions. People lose their sense of civility and common decency because they can hide behind a made-up name or a tiny profile picture. They think that because they'll probably never be in the same room with someone that they can say whatever they want with impunity. This man probably wouldn't have said those things about my wife if he had been standing in front of her in person. (And if he had, I probably would have punched him.)

I was grateful that several of my wife's friends defended her and called out the behavior of this bully, many of them doing so in a way that didn't deteriorate into name-calling. (Even though the guy was clearly behaving like a cotton-headed ninnymuggins.)

This kind of behavior has become a big problem. (You could even say it is "everything that is wrong with humanity today" if my wife hadn't already laid claim to that title.) But, it really should be pretty easy to stop. All we have to do is think before we write. Before you hit "enter," "return," or "send," think to yourself, "What would my Mom think if she saw what I have just written? What would my Dad think? What would sweet, lovable Aunt Franny think?"

And if that doesn't work you could try, "How would I react if someone said this to or about my child? Or my sister? Or my Grandma?"

It's okay to have differences of opinion. People can't even agree on something as simple as what is the best Pop-Tart flavor (even though, obviously, it's Frosted Strawberry.) But even though we don't see eye to eye, we can still be civil, can't we? If not, we're no better than the monkeys in the zoo flinging poop at each other.

Friday, August 25, 2017

First Day of School (A Running Diary)

The first day of school is one of the most anticipated and dreaded days of the year. As a father of four, I can tell you that I was very much looking forward to it this year, especially because of how horribly my kids were behaving on the last-day-of-no-school.

To commemorate the day, I decided to do a running diary of the first day of school. (The "running diary" is a format I've borrowed from former ESPN/Grantland/The Ringer writer Bill Simmons. I've used it a couple of times before.)

But first, the players:
     Thing 1:  9 year-old daughter (entering 4th grade)
     Thing 2:  7 year-old son (entering 2nd grade)
     Thing 3:  Two and a half year-old daughter
     Thing 4:  One year-old son
     The Wife:  Junior High math teacher crazy enough to marry me
     Me:  Stay-at-home dad and writer

Here we go:

5:30--The Wife's alarm goes off. She hits the snooze button. I think about getting up to exercise.
5:40--The Wife's alarm goes off again. She hits the snooze button again. I don't think about getting up to exercise.
5:50--The Wife's alarm goes off again. I actually get out of bed and go to the bathroom.
5:55--The Wife takes a shower.
6:00--I feel guilty for not exercising. Grab the laptop and attempt to write. (Surf Facebook instead.)
6:13--The Wife gets out of the shower. She sees me and says, "Oh, I thought you were exercising." I feel even more guilty.
6:15--I take a shower.
6:33--Attempt to write. (Stare off into space.)
6:45--Wake up Thing 1 and Thing 2. I have the following exchange with Thing 1:
     Thing 1: "I was having a hilarious dream, but I'm glad you woke me up!"
     Me: "A hilarious dream?"
     Thing 1: "The octopus was eating pizza! But I'm glad you woke me up because it's the first day of school!"
6:46--Thing 2 wakes up and has a bloody nose.
6:48--Thing 1 informs me that in her hilarious dream there was calamari on the pizza the octopus was eating.
6:50--Thing 1 and Thing 2 get dressed in their brand new* school clothes. [*NOTE: Last night The Wife picked out all of their clothes for the first week of school. Prior to that she made sure they had new clothes for school. Because she cares. (Had it been left to me they might have worn "gasp!" clothes from last year.)]
6:56--Thing 1 doesn't want breakfast if it might be messy.
7:01--Notice that Thing 2 has all brand new clothes except for ill-fitting socks he has worn for at least three years because he really wants to wear Captain America socks.
7:12--The bus arrives...for the high school and junior high kids. Thing 2 worries that he missed his bus. I explain to him that this was not his bus. (I'll have this same conversation with him 46 more times over the course of the school year.)
7:15--Auntie K arrives to do "First Day of School" hair. (She's slightly better at doing hair than Daddy.)
7:34--Hair is done.
7:35--Time for the "First Day of School" photo shoot.
7:39--Realize it is very difficult to get two children to pose together without one of them fake-smiling so hard that they look like a psycho.
7:46--Her work finished, Auntie K goes home. (She's incredible! She's like Mary Poppins without all the singing.) (Or the flying umbrella.)
7:48--Load their lunches* into their backpacks. [*NOTE: Last night The Wife packed their lunches. Because she is amazing.]
7:51--Thing 2 asks if he can go to the bus stop. (No. It's too early.)
8:00--I let them leave for the bus stop. (Even though it's still too early.)

And they're off!
8:03--They arrive at the bus stop, sit on the curb, and look bored.
8:11--The first next kid arrives at the bus stop.
8:19--The bus arrives!
8:20--The bus leaves.
8:21--With complete quiet and solitude, I attempt to write. (Actually open a file on the computer.)
8:23--I hear that Thing 4 is awake. As I go to get him, I really hope Thing 3 is still asleep.
8:24--She's not.
8:25--Change Thing 4's diaper.
8:26--Get Thing 4 a banana.
8:27--Change Thing 3's diaper.
8:28--Get Thing 3 a banana.
8:29--Make toast.
8:30--Get more banana for Thing 4.
8:35--Attempt to write. (Distracted by Facebook again.)
9:10--Smell something bad. Change Thing 4's poopy diaper.
9:12--Attempt to write. (Stare blankly into space.)
9:54--Smell something bad. (Again.) Change Thing 4's poopy diaper.
9:56--Attempt to write. (Go over old e-mails.)
10:34--Actually getting some writing done! The kids are playing quietly. All is well.
10:36--Thing 3 walks up to me, hits me in the leg, and repeatedly shouts, "I'm Velma! I'm Velma!" while holding an action figure of Daphne. She throws the Daphne action figure in anger. I stop writing to look for Velma action figure.
10:37--Find two Shaggy action figures, two Scooby-Doo action figures, and one Fred action figure. No Velma.
10:39--Find Velma! (And the world rejoices!) Sit down to write again.
10:40--Sniff. Sniff. Smell something bad. Change Thing 4's poopy diaper. (His third in an hour and a half.)
10:42--Put Thing 4 down for a nap. (All that pooping has got to make him tired, right?)
10:46--Attempt to write. (Review what I've already written.)
10:48--Thing 3 interrupts by asking me to read her a book.
11:01--Finish reading to Thing 3. (Amazingly, I was able to get away with reading the book only three straight times.)
11:02--Attempt to write. (Distracted by looking at "First Day of School" photo shoot.)
12:05--Post "First Day of School" pictures of Thing 1 and Thing 2 on Facebook.
12:40--Get Thing 4 up from his nap. Shockingly, no poop in his diaper.
12:43--Feed kids leftover spaghetti for lunch.
12:44--Realize I should not be feeding Thing 4 spaghetti on a day that isn't his normal bath day.
1:03--Use a washy-wash (washcloth) to clean spaghetti sauce out of Thing 4's face, ears, eyebrows, hair, nostrils, chin, in between his fingers, eyelashes, and anywhere else I can find it, knowing full well that despite my best efforts I won't get it all.
1:09--Attempt to write. (Doze off a little.)
3:13--Change Thing 4's diaper. There is no poop, but there are several spaghetti noodles. And some sauce.
3:37--The school bus arrives!
3:40--Thing 1 and Thing 2 arrive home from school.
3:41--Talking at the same time, Thing 1 and Thing 2 give a quick, incoherent report of everything that happened at school on the first day.
3:49--The Wife arrives home from school.
3:50--The exact same report is given of everything that happened at school on the first day. It is still incoherent.
3:51--The Wife, exhausted from a full day of work at school, collapses in her chair. We look at each other and realize we only have to do this 179 more times before school lets out next summer.