Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Farm boy vs. Cowboy

City folk can't tell the difference between a farm boy and a cowboy. To them, they're the same: just hicks from the sticks. But, anyone who has ever worked on a farm or ridden in a rodeo knows that there are some fundamental differences.

(Before I get started, let me point out that all of these differences apply to farm girls and cowgirls as well.) (Because girls are just like boys. Except different.)

A cowboy must wear cowboy boots. This is not optional. A farm boy can wear cowboy boots, but he doesn't have to do so. He might also wear work boots or even tennis shoes, so long as the shoes are able to handle some dirt/mud/cow manure.

A cowboy must wear a cowboy hat. If he is cowboying at all, a cowboy hat is required. (He doesn't have to wear it if he is inside, but he can if'n he feels like it.) A farm boy can wear a cowboy hat, or any other kind of hat he wants. The most common hat is a trucker's hat/baseball cap, although some old-timey farm boys have been known to sport a straw hat. (I even knew one who wore a metal hardhat!)

Farmer. (Note the tractor and the hat.)
A cowboy must have a horse. If someone acts like a cowboy but does not have a horse (or access to one) they are not a real cowboy. They're just playing dress-up. A farm boy, however, can get along just fine without a horse, but usually needs a tractor with some horsepower.

Cowboy. (Note the horse and the hat.)
A cowboy does not need cows! That's right, even though "cow" is right there in the word "cowboy," cowboys often don't have cows, and if they do they are mostly for roping purposes. If there are a lot of cows (or cattle) around, chances are much higher that they are being tended by a farm boy than a cowboy.

In fact, though it's not necessary for a farm boy to have animals, they most likely do, ranging from cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and maybe even an alpaca. The only animal a cowboy needs is a horse and something to rope.

A cowboy is likely to be a participant in a rodeo. A farm boy is most likely to be a member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and have animals entered in the county fair.

A cowboy doesn't have much need for a tractor. A farm boy might spend more time in his tractor than in his car or pickup truck.

A cowboy is slightly more likely to listen to country western music than a farm boy, but neither is obligated to do so. (And no one can be called a cowboy or a farm boy just because they listen to country music.)

Having said all of this, it is possible to have overlap. A cowboy can also be a farm boy, and a farm boy can be a cowboy. Or, people can be a little of both. But most line up on one side or the other.

A cowboy works with ropes and lassos. A farm boy deals with crops and food.

I guess the biggest difference is that these days being a cowboy is mostly just a hobby, but being a farm boy is a job; a way of life that helps feed the world.

There's nothing wrong with being a cowboy, but I'm glad that I grew up as a farm boy.

*Pictures are from the website Pixabay. I don't personally know this farmer or cowboy, but they do remind me of people I have known.

Friday, February 24, 2017

8 Times You Can't Say "No" To Your Kids

As parents, we spend an awful lot of our time saying "no" to our kids.

"Can I have candy for breakfast?" "No."
"Can I get my nose pierced?" "No."
"Can I have a pony?" "No."
"Can I drive the Ferrari to school?" "No."
"Can I have $200?" "No."
"Can I give my brother a haircut?" "No."
"Can I put baby in a corner?" "No." (Nobody puts baby in a corner.)

You get the idea. Sometimes we get so conditioned to telling our kids "no" that we find ourselves shocked when they actually ask us something that we can say "yes" to. It doesn't happen often, but there are occasionally times when it's hard to say "no" to your kids.

Here are a few of those times:

1. "Can I have some more broccoli?" Sometimes it's hard to get the kids to eat their vegetables.They'd rather eat candy or chicken nuggets or cookies or fries or macaroni and cheese or candy or more candy. So, when they ask if they can have more of a vegetable, it's almost impossible to say "no." In fact, our girls love broccoli so much that we've actually said things like, "No more broccoli until you finish your chicken nuggets." But whenever we say something like that, it just feels wrong. More veggies? Sure!

2. "Can you read me a book?" We want smart kids. We want to instill in them a love of reading at a young age. So, when they ask if you can read them a book, it's hard to say "no." Even if you've read that very book to them 14 times in a row! Getting the little ones to love books is a good thing. (Of course, we might have done this too well. We have an eight year-old who has to be reminded to put the books down and interact with the real world occasionally.)

You can never get them started too early on reading books!

3. "Can I have a bath?" If you have a child who volunteers to get and/or stay clean, by all means encourage that behavior!

4. "Can I please have ____(fill in the blank)___?" When your child is first learning how to talk, and they ask for something saying "please" (or "pwease"), how can you say "no?" You can't.

5. "Can you kiss it better?" Your child is in pain. They have an owie, but just one kiss from you can take away all their pain and make them feel better. Go ahead and pucker up!

6. "I need to go potty!" Every parent has had to clean up a child who has pee-peed or poo-pooed their pants. No parent ever wants to have to do that again. A child who says "I need to go potty" has an enormous amount of power.

7. "I need a hug." Hugs. Cuddles. Nuggles. These are all good things that should not be denied.

8. "Talk on the phone?" This one can go both ways. If you are on the phone with your parents and your child wants to talk to Grammy or PopPop, you let them. Also, if a child has a toy phone and wants you to talk on it, you will do so.

Because there are times when you just can't say "no" to your kids.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Little-Known Made-Up Facts (President's Day Edition)

In honor of President's Day, which we just celebrated, here are a few little-known made-up facts about some Presidents of the United States.

Little-known made-up fact: One of the best things about little-known made-up facts is that you can just make them up as you go. (Kind of like Fake News, only fakier.)

Little-known made-up fact: George Washington decided against a third term as president because he was tired of the paparazzi.

Little-known made-up fact: One of Ronald Reagan's first acting jobs was as a flying monkey in The Wizard of Oz.

Little-known made-up fact: When he was a boy, Abraham Lincoln would usually choose to play with Tinker Toys instead of Lincoln Logs.

Lincoln didn't grow a mustache because he thought it might distract from his mole.
Little-known made-up fact: Lyndon B. Johnson once appeared on an episode of Star Trek as a Klingon crewman.

Little-known made-up fact: Among the many reasons Bill Clinton was disappointed his wife, Hillary, didn't win the election is that Bill wanted to return to the White House to see if he could find the stash of KitKat bars he left hidden in the Lincoln bedroom back in 1999.

Little-known made-up fact: Female admirers of John Quincy Adams (of which there were many) were known as the "Q-tees."

Little-known made-up fact: From 1912 until 1932 the little-known Alliterative Alliance of America held a powerful sway over voters, being a key power player in the elections of Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.

Little-known made-up fact: John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe would secretly meet up once a week in order to watch Gunsmoke. (They took turns dressing up as Miss Kitty.)

Little-known made-up fact: Accordion sales skyrocketed in 1844 when the election of James K. Polk ushered in a popular wave of polka music in America.

Little-known made-up fact: When he was seven years old, Donald Trump's parents threw him a birthday party. It was the most well-attended birthday party ever!

Trump's birthday party. (It was yuge!)

Little-known made-up fact:When Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, he thought he was pardoning the Thanksgiving Day turkey.

Little-known made-up fact: Rutherford B. Hayes was such a horrible president that since he left office not one child in America has been named "Rutherford."

Little-known made-up fact: As a hobby, Theodore Roosevelt liked to design women's sleepwear.

Little-known made-up fact: Now that he is no longer in office, Barack Obama has volunteered to appear on Saturday Night Live as one of the members of Donald Trump's cabinet. (He has not yet gotten a call.)

Little-known made-up fact: William Henry Harrison was known to close friends as "Billy Hank."

Little-known made-up fact: Jimmy Carter was once attacked while in a boat by a large, mean, crazed swamp rabbit. (Wait. Maybe I didn't make this one up.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Dreaded Door Knob Technology

The other day the North Koreans had another successful missile test. This, of course, worries the rest of the world. There are some technologies that certain people just should not have.

I feel the same way about my two year-old daughter and door knobs.

Wait: In this analogy am I comparing my lovely, wonderful two year-old daughter with the dangerous regime currently in power in North Korea? Yes. (While my daughter has a much better human rights record, North Korea has never dropped a book on my foot because I refused to read it despite being asked to do so 37 times in a two-minute span.)

And am I comparing the possibility of nuclear missiles with the ability to operate a door knob? Yes. Sometimes I just want ten seconds of privacy. 

Does this make me a bad father? Yes. But I still don't want her to learn how to open a door.

I know that eventually she will learn how to operate them, but for now I think it is best to keep my daughter's hands off of the door knob technology. Literally. There are two main reasons for this:

1. Door knobs help keep her out. As long as she doesn't know how to use a door knob, I can keep her out of places simply by shutting a door. I can keep her out of the closet, so she doesn't rummage through everything. I can keep her out of her brother and sister's room, so she doesn't steal/misplace/mangle/destroy their things. (And so when their things do get stolen/misplaced/mangled/destroyed, they can't blame their little sister.) And, most importantly, I can keep her out of the bathroom so I can actually have five minutes of peace to go poop! (And by "five minutes of peace" I mean five minutes of her pounding on the door while yelling "Daddy!")

And B. Door knobs help keep her in. Without mastery of the door knob technology, it's possible to keep her in a room simply by closing a door. And while shutting a child in a room or closet would not generally be considered "good" parenting, keeping them in the house is. I had some friends whose toddler conquered the door knob technology at a very young age, and in the middle of the night opened the door and ventured outside. The police found the child in the middle of the street. So, simply put, if she can't open the door she can't go wandering the streets at night.

One thing I could do is actively teach her to not use door knobs. I could say things like, "Don't touch that door knob, it's poisonous!" or "If you touch that door knob you'll have bad dreams!" Or I could rig it so she gets an electric shock every time she touches the door knob. Will I actually do any of those things? Probably not. (But that's not to say I'm not tempted.)

I think MC Hammer put it best when he said, "Don't touch that!"

Yes, I know that one day she will eventually figure out the door knob technology. But until she does, I certainly won't be encouraging it.

It's like they used to say on SportsCenter, "You can't stop her, you can only hope to contain her."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I Don't Need Valentine's Day

I don't need Valentine's Day to know that my wife loves me. She shows me every day.

She shows me when she smiles at me.
She shows me when she loves our children.
She shows me when she listens to all my stories.
She shows me when she lets me hold the remote.
She shows me when she makes us all waffles.
She shows me when she makes whipped cream for the waffles, because the kids love that.
She shows me when she shops on Amazon (because it's almost always something for the family.)
She shows me when she buys the kids swimming suits in February because they'll need them in July.
She shows me when she kisses me every morning before she leaves for work.
She shows me when she tells me to follow my dreams. (The good dreams, not the one where I go to school but forget to wear my pants.)
She shows me when she cooks things without green peppers, because she knows I don't like them.

She shows me when she puts up with my shenanigans.
She shows me when she plans our family vacation 10 months in advance.
She shows me when she cooks me bacon. (But not too often, because it's not very good for me.)
She shows me when she knows things about me that I didn't know she knew.
She shows me when she makes my baby giggle.
She shows me when she cuddles up to me when we're watching a show.
She shows me by just being herself.

I only hope that she knows how much I love her. And not just on Valentine's day, but every day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The 7 Best Super-Hero Names (According to My 2 Year-Old)

We're trying to teach my two year-old daughter her colors. The other day she had a green bib and I asked her, "What color is it?" Without any hesitation she got her voice as low and gravelly as she could and said, "Hulk!"

Yes, she's already a comic book nerd.

Getting some Hulk hugs.
My kids never really had a chance. From the moment I bought my first three comic books in the summer of 1975 (Marvel Double Feature #11; Iron Man #77; and Fantastic Four #162) I've been hooked. And, I've passed down that love of comic books to my children.

That two year-old daughter is just learning to speak. Because of my influence, she knows the names of many super heroes. But, like many children her age, she sometimes has trouble correctly pronouncing things. Here are my seven favorite super-hero mispronunciations by my daughter:

Honorable Mention: Hulk-Smash (Hulk)--She knows who the Hulk is, but every time she sees him she drops her voice as gruff as she can and says, "Hulk smash!" (Maybe she thinks Smash is his last name?)

Where does Bruce Banner shop? (Because I can't find purple pants in my size anywhere!)
7. Eye-Man (Iron Man)--Long before Robert Downey Jr. made him a household name, Iron Man has been my favorite super-hero. So, I'm always excited when she recognizes Iron Man and almost gets his name right. Unfortunately, sometimes she has a hard time telling the difference between Iron Man and...

6. Pie-Man (Spider-Man)--Yes, sometimes she gets Iron Man and Spider-Man confused. But that's okay, because when she does recognize the web-slinger and calls him "Pie-Man," I get to think, "Mmmm...pie!"

5. Sore (Thor)--When she says "Sore" instead of "Thor," I'm not sure if I should spell it "Sore" or "Soar." What I do know is that she definitely cannot pronounce the name of Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, because no one can correctly pronounce Mjolnir, except for maybe a half-dozen Norwegians.

4. Eye-Fish (Iron Fist)--I'm such a comic book fan that two different people got me the same Marvel Comics Trivia Box for Christmas. On the outside of the box is a picture of Iron Fist. Not only does my daughter call him "Eye-Fish," she also follows it up by puckering her lips together to make the "what does a fishy say" sound.

Iron Fish!
3. Sing (Thing)--Right now she replaces the "th" sound with an "s." I hope when she gets older she doesn't switch them in the other direction, because it would be quite awkward to change the words of "Sing, sing a song," to "Thing, thing a thong."

2. But-Man (Bat-Man)--Yes, I could add a letter and spell "But-Man" a slightly different way, but I don't want to.

1. Mare-cuh (Captain America)--No, my youngest daughter has no idea who the 43rd President of the United States was, but she pronounces "America" as if she were a doing a really bad impression of George W. Bush. And, she leaves off the "Captain" every time. (Apparently she doesn't have much use for military ranks.)

God Bless Mare-cuh!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Beach Party!

We're a week into February. Do you know what that means?

If you said, "It's time to get out the squirt guns and beach toys," you just might work for Walmart!

The temperature outside is currently 44 degrees. (That's on the Fahrenheit scale, because, you know, 'Merica!) And while 44 is much warmer than the 9 degrees we had a week or two ago, I'm still not thinking, "Hey, let's go to the beach!" Or, "I think we should have a water fight!" Or, "I wonder where I could purchase 37 different varieties of squirt guns?"

Weapons for a winter water war.
We're one week away from Valentine's Day, so obviously they should fill the store with squirt guns because what couple doesn't celebrate the most romantic day of the year with a big water fight?

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to having a big beach party to celebrate President's Day. (As long as they remember to plow the snow off of the beach parking lot.)

Retailers are so worried about staying ahead of their customers that sometimes they get a little too far ahead. Does anybody ever really think, "If the weather is better than normal, I might get to the beach on Memorial Day, so just to be safe I'll be sure to buy some beach toys the first week of February." 

The problem is, in order to make room for these far-flung future items, the stores clear the shelves of things you might actually want or need right now. Have you ever tried to buy a winter coat in the middle of winter? Good luck. If you need a coat in February, you better have a time machine that can take you back to October, because that's when they stopped selling winter coats. 

Gloves, mittens, scarves, snow shovels: all these things are extremely hard to find in a store in February. Why is that? Didn't they see that some rodent in Pennsylvania said we're going to have six more weeks of winter?

Oh well, there's not much I can do about it. I'd better just go ahead and get my summer supply of squirt guns and beach toys now, because before March rolls in they'll all be replaced with the "Back to School" supplies.

Friday, February 3, 2017

4 Things I Learned From My Kid's Sick Day

I got a call from school. The Boy said he was sick and wanted to come home from school. Here are a few things I learned from my son's Sick Day.

1. Every parent has their own mathematical formula to determine if their child is sick enough to come home from school.  (And it's different for each child.) For this child, the formula was:
a) how sick the child was before school (in this case, not at all)
b) the likelihood the child would try to fake being sick (not very)
c) how skilled the child would be at faking if they tried (not very)
d) trust in the teacher's ability to tell if child is faking (pretty high)
e) how sick the child actually sounds (fairly high)
f) how often the child has tried to come home from school sick (his first time)
g) is there something happening at school that they want to avoid (not that I was aware of.)

2. If a child tells you, "I have a cough," they will immediately follow that up by coughing. This cough will be pathetically fake. It doesn't matter if the child has an actual cough or not, that first "see, here's proof that I have a cough" cough will be fake. (In this case, once we got home it was obvious that The Boy had a real cough to go along with his fake one.)

3. How sick a kid actually is is directly proportional to how many "fun" things they want to do when they get home. The rule in our house is that if you come home sick from school, you don't get to watch television, play with friends, play with toys, or do anything considered "fun," with the possible exception of reading a book. You get to rest in bed and eat, and that's about it. (In this case, The Boy wanted to play a couple of times, but mostly stuck to his bed, even getting a bit of a nap.)

4. Unfortunately, once a kid comes home from school sick, he will be much more likely to want to do it again. Our oldest daughter absolutely loves school. She loves her friends, she loves her teacher, she loves reading, she loves her school work. And yet after her teacher sent her home sick one day a while back, she ended up missing several days in the next week. Part of it was because she was a little sick, but part of it was also because she liked the extra attention that came with being sent home sick.

It wasn't all bad this time, though. My two year-old was so thrilled to have her big brother home that she followed him and shadowed him the whole day, which meant she wasn't following and hounding me all day. (At least until he locked her out of his room.)