Tuesday, March 20, 2018

4 Ways Kids React to the Vacuum

I vacuum at least twice a year, whether I need to or not. So, you might say that I'm an experienced vacuumer. (Spellcheck doesn't think "vacuumer" is a word. Spellcheck is wrong.)

I also am the father of four kids, so I know everything there is to know about kids. (Except for a few things here and there.) And, based on my expertise with children and my experience as a vacuumer, I can definitely tell you about:

The 4 Different Ways Kids React to Vacuuming!

1. The Runaway Runawayer
Some kids, as soon as you fire up the vacuum, leave the room immediately. They run away. They hide. They may even leave the house. They want to be as far away from that vacuum as they possibly can. It might be because they hate the noise. It might be because they are afraid of getting sucked up into the vacuum. Or, it might be because they don't want you to ask them to do the vacuuming. Whatever the reason, as soon as the vacuum is turned on, they are gone. (This category often also applies to cats. You want to see how fast your cat can run? Turn on the vacuum.)

2. The Feet-Holder-Upper
These kids will pretend they don't care either way if you are vacuuming or not--until you get that vacuum within their personal comfort zone. That's when they raise their feet up in the air. They usually try to look nonchalant about doing this, but it's hard to look nonchalant with your feet unnaturally hanging three feet in the air. ("Feet in the air, feet in the air! Looking like a fool with your feet in the air.")

Why do these kids put their feet in the air? Maybe they're afraid you will suck them into the vacuum. Maybe they think they're being helpful by getting their feet out of your way. Maybe they're doing some weird leg-lifting exercise. Whatever the reason, always be sure to take a little longer vacuuming under their raised feet, just to see how long they can hold them up. They'll thank you later. (Probably not.)

"Here, let me help you with that!"

3. The Unwanted Helper
Some kids will see you vacuuming and think, "Hey, that looks like fun! I want to do that." These kids will want to "help" you by taking over the vacuuming for you. This sounds like a good thing, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want their kids to do all of the vacuuming for them? Well, the problem is that this category is usually reserved for kids who are too young to actually be an effective vacuumer. These are toddlers whose "help" is actually a huge hinderance. Because they are grabbing at the vacuum and trying to push it, a ten-minute job turns into a twenty-minute job.

You might think, "Hey, if I let them help me now and train them in how to vacuum, they'll soon be able to do all the vacuuming themselves, leaving me more time to sip exotic drinks with umbrellas in them." That's a nice thought, but the problem with it is that by the time the child is actually old enough to properly work the vacuum, they'll no longer show any interest whatsoever in helping with this particular chore. No, they'll only "help" you when their "help" is of no help at all.

I dare you to vacuum me up!

4. The Moving Obstructionist
These kids are dangerous. They see a vacuum as an opportunity to play a game of chicken. Instead of running away from the vacuum, they run toward it. Their attitude is, "I dare you to vacuum me up with that vacuum!"

I thought I had seen it all with my first three kids. They each moved through the first three categories at various times. But, my fourth child is fearless. He sees the vacuum as an opportunity to play a game of "Get In the Way of the Vacuum." He's not afraid of the vacuum. He doesn't want to help. He's just there to get in the way and make the task more difficult for me. When he's in the room I end up using fakes, jukes, end-arounds, reverses, and any other misdirection I can think of to vacuum around him.

He makes it quite a challenge. I can't vacuum when he's napping, because the noise will wake him up.   The only real solution I can think of is just not vacuuming until he goes off to kindergarten. (I don't really need to vacuum in the next three years, do I?)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Do Leprechauns Exist?

Are leprechauns real?

I used to think they weren't. But now I'm not so sure.

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter (then seven years old) and my wife got into a heated debate about the authenticity of leprechauns, and The Girl made some pretty good points.

It started with The Girl talking about making a leprechaun trap so she could catch a leprechaun. The conversation then went something like this:

The Wife: "You know leprechauns don't really exist, right?"
The Girl: "No, they do exist. They're real. I know it."
The Wife: "What makes you think leprechauns are real?"
The Girl: "Well, we had a leprechaun come last year and mess up our classroom." [Note: She's talking about her first grade classroom.]
The Wife: "Okay, but...."
The Girl: "And in preschool Shaun-Shaun the Leprechaun came and we tried to catch him."
The Wife: "Did you ever see these leprechauns?"
The Girl: "No."
The Wife: "Because they aren't real."
The Girl: "No, they're just super fast and sneaky."
The Wife: "You didn't see them because they don't exist."
The Girl: "They do exist. They just don't like to be seen. They hide really good."
The Wife: "They're make believe, like fairies and goblins and dragons. They are imaginary characters."
The Girl: "I think they're real."
The Wife: "They aren't."
The Girl: "Maybe they'll exist in the future."
The Wife: "No, they won't."
The Girl: "They might."
The Wife: "No, they won't ever exist."
The Girl: "Well, the United States didn't always exist, and now it does. So maybe if leprechauns don't exist now, they will sometime. In the future."

The Wife laughed at that. She had no choice. She was not prepared to get into an argument with a seven year-old about the existence of leprechauns, let alone a philosophical debate about what may or may not exist in some far-flung future.

A leprechaun! (Not an actual photo.)
(Not because they don't exist, but because they're super fast and sneaky and it's hard to get a picture of one.)

So, do leprechauns exist? I don't think so. Will they exist at some point in the future? I doubt it. But, they might. (So, just in case, I'm going to keep all of my gold hidden.)

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Edited from a post originally published on 3/15/16.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Daylight Savings: The Monday Hangover

Nobody likes Daylight Savings. (Well, there is that one guy. But he's kind of weird.)

There are a lot of feasible reasons why people don't like Daylight Savings, from the fact that it makes no sense, to the confusion over which clocks you have to reset and which ones reset on their own. But, the biggest gripe most of us have is the fact that we lose an hour of sleep. You feel it when you wake up at what would have been 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, but because of Daylight Savings it is somehow legally 9:00 AM instead.

Big deal, right? It's only Sunday morning, so it doesn't really matter. The biggest consequence is that you might end up late for church. If you're like me and have four kids, this really makes no difference because you're always late for church anyway.

No, where the hammer of Daylight Savings hits is on Monday morning. The Monday after Daylight Savings in the spring is easily one of the worst days of the year. The entire national workforce is either late for work, grumpy, or both.

My wife teaches school. Her alarm goes off at 5:30 AM. On the Monday after Daylight Savings, that is the equivalent of 4:30 AM pre-Daylight Savings time. That is too darn early for words! Would you want to be a student and go to class and face a teacher who was woken up against her will at 4:30 in the morning? Of course not!

Even worse, though, is being a teacher, going to school, and facing a classroom full of students who were rousted from bed an hour earlier than normal! No fun for anyone.

It says "5:31," but what it really means is "4:31."

My two elementary school-aged kids usually get up at 6:45 AM. On the Monday after Daylight Savings, that's a 5:45 AM equivalency. They did not want to wake up. There was extra jostling, singing, and rousting involved in waking them up than would normally occur. And then, after dragging for the first half hour of being awake, they switched over to that over-tired hyperactive state where they were figuratively bouncing off of the walls. (Occasionally literally, too.)

The one benefit I had to look forward to was that my two preschool-aged children would sleep in later. While they would usually wake up at 8:30 AM, that would translate to 9:30 AM post-Daylight Savings. An hour extra without kids in the morning to get things done! Hooray! Except, that's not how it worked out. If you have toddlers you should know to expect the unexpected. So, instead of waking up an hour later, they ended up waking an hour earlier in "real" time, which is the same as two hours earlier in pre-Daylight Savings time. (They woke up at 7:30, which would have been 6:30 a couple of days earlier.) There is no winning with preschool-aged kids, unless you bribe them with candy or Elmo.

Is there a solution to this problem? We could make the Monday after Daylight Savings a national holiday, or we could mandate that no one be forced to go to work until noon on that day. Or, and here's a novel thought, we could just do away with Daylight Savings time altogether. (Wouldn't that be nice!)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Night: Party or Sleep?

It's Friday night! It's 8:30 PM and the weekend is here! What are you going to do to celebrate? Go out for a late dinner? Dessert? Perhaps you'd like to go dancing? Maybe catch that movie you've been wanting to see? Hang out with friends? Party?

There are a lot of good options for how to get your weekend started on a Friday night. But you're not going to be doing any of them, are you?

No, it's 8:30 on a Friday night. That means you'll be going straight to bed.

Why? Are you some sort of loser? Are you a senior citizen? Why in the world would you be going to bed at 8:30 on a Friday night?

That's easy: You are a parent.

The thinking is pretty simple: "The kids are asleep? Well, I better go to bed and get some sleep, too. While I can."

Who needs sleep? (Me.)
Gone are the nights of late night partying and going out with friends. The energy that used to be used for such activities was already sucked away earlier in the day by picking up things off the floor, even though you've just vacuumed, so that The Baby won't put them into her mouth. And making sure you get The Boy a blue cup at lunch because the milk won't taste nearly as good if it is in a yellow cup. And arguing with The Girl about the veracity of leprechauns.

Seriously, unless you are a parent you just don't understand how draining it can be to try to keep The Baby out of the cat food. (Over and over again.) Or how much it takes out of you to listen to The Boy yell into the megaphone he got for his birthday. ("Thanks" for that, Auntie S!) Or trying to explain to The Girl why she can't wear her Elsa slippers to school because they are slippers, not shoes.

You used to do things. You used to have fun. You used to have a life. And now, you go to bed at 8:30 on a Friday night. It's really pretty pathetic. When the phone rings at 8:45 PM you angrily yell, "Who in the heck is calling this late?"

The whole situation would be very, very sad if it weren't so worth it. It's worth it when The Baby smiles because she has figured out all of the hand motions for the "Itsy-Bitsy Spider." It's worth it when The Boy gets excited because he just sounded out the word "Tyrannosaurus" all by himself. It's worth it when The Girl jumps around the room in giddy anticipation because you told her that Grammy is on her way for a visit.

Yes, every once in a while you might look back fondly to the time when you actually used to do things on a Friday night. But, you wouldn't change it for the world. The kids may sap all of your energy and leave you a sleepy, boring husk of the person you used to be, but it's all worth it. The kids are worth it all.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to bed.

Edited from a post originally published on 4/15/16.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sometimes You Have to Choose Your Battles

When you have children, there are times you have to decide which battles are worth fighting.

A while back, my three year-old daughter (we'll call her "Thing 3") wanted macaroni and cheese for breakfast. (With toast.) I considered this for a moment, then decided, "Sure, why not?" If it was something she would actually eat--which she did--it was not worth fighting her about it.

Yesterday, Thing 3 wanted an English muffin for breakfast. I made the decision that she didn't need an English muffin. And that's when the battle lines were drawn. She started screaming. (Yes, literally screaming.) But, since I had told her "no," I had to stand my ground. If I were to give in because she started to scream, then I would be opening the door to more and more screaming. Hey, if it works, she's going to keep doing it, right? She kept up the screaming for a full 30 minutes. Oh, there were some skirmishes in that time: I talked to her, reasoned with her, argued with her, yelled at her, and put her in time out, but the screaming continued. Eventually, though, she gave in. No English muffin. She went on with her breakfast, and we had a (moderately) pleasant day.

But, believe me, if I had known how long she was going to scream, I would have given her the darn English muffin at the start!

Was it worth the fight?

In war movies they're always saying things like, "we've got to take that hill," or "we've got to keep that hill." One of the toughest things about being a parent is knowing which of those "hills" are worth fighting for.

I quickly assessed the "macaroni and cheese for breakfast hill" and deemed it unworthy of a fight. (So, she eats mac for breakfast? Hey, at least she's eating something.) Had I known the casualties I would incur (my sanity, my eardrums), I wouldn't have fought on "English muffin hill." But, because I started the fight, I had to hold my ground or risk losing other battles which are more important.

You see, some hills must be fought for every single time! The "wiping your bum after going potty hill" is something you must go to battle for every time. That hill is worth it. As my kids get older and approach their teenage years, more battles are looming that must be waged: the "drinking hill," the "smoking hill," the "drug hill," the "sex hill," and the "no texting while driving hill" are just some of the hills that must be fought for.

Thinking of some of those upcoming battles makes things like the "wear clothes that match hill" and the "do your hair before you go out hill" seem pretty trivial. I think it makes a difference if your kids can see that the things you are fighting for are for their benefit in the long term. It will certainly help make the battles easier if they understand that you're battling for them instead of just against them.

But, the battles will always rage--there are battle lines being drawn all the time. It's up to us as parents to choose which battles are worth fighting. (And sometimes that might mean macaroni and cheese for breakfast.)

Friday, March 2, 2018

If I Can't Eat It, Don't Put It On My Plate!

I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to food: If you don't want me to eat it, don't put it on my plate!

I've lived most of my life in Idaho or Utah, neither of which is known as a hotbed for seafood. So, I haven't had lobster or crab very often. But, the few times I have tried them, I've been perplexed by what comes out on my plate.

First, I tried crab legs. I really enjoyed the taste…of what I was supposed to eat. I just wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to eat and what I was not supposed to eat. There was a lot of cracking and scraping and scooping and breaking going on. Just give me the part that is edible! I don't think that's asking for too much!

And then, when we summered at The Cape, I had some lobster. (When I say "we summered at The Cape," what I actually mean is we spent four days on vacation at Cape Cod. "Summered at The Cape" sounds more hoity-toity, and I'm all for taking any opportunity I can to make myself seem hoity and/or toity.)

They brought out the lobster and all I could see was shell and claws and a face! (The only foods that should have a face are a gingerbread man and a chocolate chip pancake.)

Face it: eating a lobster can get messy.

I was given special tools to use to open up my lobster. A hammer, a chisel, pliers, wire cutters, a saw, and something that resembled a nutcracker. When I'm eating, the only tools I should need are a fork, spoon and knife. They're called utensils! If I wanted to play with a tool box I would have become a mechanic!

I eventually cracked and chiseled and pried some meat out of my lobster shell, and it was very tasty. But I could have done without the whole shell-cracking song and dance. 

Looking back, it probably started with the fish.

When I was growing up, my grandparents had a pond with fish in it on their farm. We called it "The Fish Pond." (We were pretty clever back then.) Grandpa stocked The Fish Pond with lots of large trout. We didn't go fishing very often, usually only when cousins would come from out of town to visit.

My cousin Jim (lost in the shadows), me, my sister Lynette, my brother John, and my Uncle Harvey. It's hard to see, but in front of my brother and sister is a line with at least a half dozen large trout on it.

You would think that having access to The Fish Pond would make it so I liked to go fishing and eat fish. The exact opposite was true. It turned me off from fishing in the "wild" because I was used to catching a large trout with every two or three casts into the water. (The success rate of fishing in the real world is not nearly so high.) And, it turned me away from wanting to eat fish. First of all, we had to gut our own fish, which was not a particularly pleasant experience. And then when the fish were cooked, there were the bones. Lots and lots of bones.

Whenever I would try to eat the fish, some concerned adult would emphasize, "Don't eat the bones! You might choke on them!" Sounds simple enough, but for a young kid it is sometimes hard to differentiate the fish from all those small bones. Every bite was fraught with fear that I would eat a bone. I did not want to choke. I did not want to die. I did not like to eat fish. 

And then I discovered the Filet 'O Fish at McDonald's! Fish with NO BONES!!! I could eat it without fear of death! Plus, it came with a slice of cheese, a bun, tartar sauce, and a deep-fried skin coating! Perfection! Why in the world would I ever eat fish with bones in them ever again?

Filet 'O Fish: Tasty without even a hint of death.

Up until that point, the drumstick had always been my favorite piece of chicken. This was because: A) It came with an easy to hold handle; and 2) That's the only piece we were given, because Mom and Dad kept the good pieces (you know, the ones with meat on them) for themselves.

Then I learned that they made boneless chicken, too, in nugget and/or filet form! Why in the world would I want chicken with bones in it on my plate when I could have chicken with NO BONES?

Sometimes they would even try to get me to eat a wing. Wings!  Really? Wings? Needless to say, I am not a big fan of the ratio of meat to bone on a chicken wing. And yet, wings are a very popular American food item. I don't understand. I just don't get it. At least two national restaurant chains, "Buffalo Wild Wings" and "Winger's," have named themselves after these bony little pieces of gristle. 

Recently, I went to the drive-thru at Little Caesar's and saw this:
Now serving 8 tasty varieties of flavored chicken bones!

Why? Does anyone know anybody who has ever gotten chicken wings from Little Caesar's? And if so (which I doubt) has anyone in the world tried all eight flavors? I just don't get it.

Sometimes, I even have a beef with beef! Lots of people like a big t-bone in their steak. Not me.
Rib meat, of course, would be better without the actual rib. (I guess that would just make it "meat.") (I'm okay with that.)

Pork chops? More pork, less chop.

Yes, if I need to I can work my way around these non-edible things that are served with my food. But that's not how I prefer it. If I can't eat it, I don't want it on my plate!

(The only bones I want to see are Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy and Temperance "Bones" Brennan.)

Edited from a post originally published on 6/15/2014.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Every Other Driver Is an Idiot!

Have you ever noticed that every other driver is an idiot?

There are a lot of drivers out there on our roads, but none of them are as good of a driver as I am. You would think there would be someone out there who can drive as good as I can, but I sure don't run into them very often. (Figuratively speaking.) (Literally, too.)

Anyone who drives slower than me is a dundering moron. What are they even doing on the road? If you can't keep up with freeway speeds, get out of the way and let those of us who know how to drive use the road! Do you know where the gas pedal is? Do you know how to use it? Are you actually driving that car, or is it being pushed along by the wind? Move it or lose it, buddy!

Anyone who drives faster than me is a crazed maniac. This is a freeway, not a racetrack! Slow down, you're going to cause an accident! They have speed limits for a reason, you know. Unless you're rushing a pregnant woman to the hospital, you really need to ease up. Slow down, you lunatic! You're going to get someone killed!

Anyone who drives the same speed as me is an annoying jerk. Oh, so you're going to just ride there in my blind spot for ten straight miles? Do you really think that's a good idea? Either pass me or don't, you dolt!

The worst are the ones who fluctuate their speeds. They pass you, then you pass them, then they pass you again, then you pass them again. It's like some kind of bizarre country line dance done at 75 miles per hour!

Pick a lane and stay in it, jerk!
Of course, all of these problems multiply exponentially when there is snow and ice on the road:
*Yes, I realize the roads are snow-packed, but that doesn't mean you have to go 20 mph, you slowpoke!
*You crazy idiot, why in the world would go so fast on these icy roads? You're going to kill yourself or someone else!
*Back off and give me some room, doofus!

So, what's the solution? I don't know that there is one. About the best thing I can come up with is to ask you all to stay off the roads when I'm driving. It's in everybody's best interest. Because no one wants to be on the road with a raving idiot.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Men's Room at The Fabric Store

The Fabric Store is a paradise for a man's man like me! They don't just have fabric. They have fabric and crafts! And it's not just fabric and crafts. It's fabric and crafts and knick-knacky stuff!!! It's every man's dream store!

[The preceding paragraph was brought to you by sarcasm.]

We were on a family shopping excursion, and we made a stop at The Fabric Store. (Not its real name. I don't need any lawsuits.) Unfortunately, earlier in the day we had eaten at a restaurant that serves all-you-can-eat breadsticks, and I suddenly realized I was going to have to spend some time in one of the loneliest places in the known world: The Men's Room at The Fabric Store!

I wondered, for a brief moment, if they even had a men's room at The Fabric Store. Well, of course they do. But, does anyone ever go in there? As I approached, I imagined a pristine, sparkly-clean, never-been-used place.

I was wrong.

I opened the door to find a large, filthy, stinky room. I was surprised how big it was. It easily had room for two or three stalls and another three or four urinals. But instead, there was just a toilet and a sink in the corner, and a lot of open space. Since there was only one toilet inside, I was forced to lock the door behind me. (Don't want anyone walking in on me while I'm seated. It would be even more awkward than usual with all that extra space in the room.)

I walked over to the toilet and was pleased (there's that sarcasm again!) to see the toilet seat covered with another man's urine. (I've said before that I thought "Another Man's Urine" would make a really good name for a really bad rock band. Either that or the title for the next novella by Stephen King.) So, before I could sit down to do my business I had to clean off the seat.

Having cleaned the seat to the best of my ability, I sat to take care of the things I went into that room to take care of. All was fine until two minutes later when the room went completely dark. Motion lights!

There are times and places where motion lights can and should be utilized. Up until my experiences of that day, I would have thought the men's room at The Fabric Store would have been a perfectly acceptable place for motion lights. I would have been wrong. There are no windows in the men's room at The Fabric Store. It gets very dark, very quickly. And, no amount of waving my hands while sitting on the toilet would persuade the motion lights to light back on. I was in the dark.

And that, of course, is when I found that the men's room at The Fabric Store is not the loneliest place in the world. Because that is when someone came to the door and wiggled the handle, trying to get in. I wondered if they could see from the crack at the bottom of the door that it was dark inside. What kind of weirdo would lock himself into the men's room at The Fabric Store in complete darkness? I worried that they might try to go find a manager to open this locked, "empty," men's restroom.

Finally, after finishing up on the toilet and doing a few jumping jacks in the vast expanse of the room, I was able to convince the motion lights that yes, indeed, the room was occupied and that the lights should be on. I was positive that my experience in the men's room at The Fabric Store couldn't get any worse. And then it did.

I turned on the sink, rinsed my hands, and reached for the soap dispenser. There was no soap in the soap dispenser. I pushed and pushed and pushed, but no soap would come out. Okay, I could deal with that. I rinsed and soaked my hands in the hot water. (Hey, at least the water did get hot. And it wasn't a motion sensor sink.)

I then turned off the water and reached for a paper towel. Yes, you guessed it, no paper towels! Not even an ineffective hand dryer blower. Just an empty paper towel dispenser. So, I was forced to do the hand hokey pokey (you put your right hand in and you shake it all about) with both of my hands to shake as much of the water off as I could. Then I used my pants legs as towel stand-ins. (I was grateful that I wasn't wearing shorts.)

As I finally escaped the men's room at The Fabric Store, I wondered what the women's room was like. Surely they took better care of it than they did the men's room, right? Did they, like me, think that no one would ever use the men's room at The Fabric Store? Is that why it was in such a state of disrepair? I'm just not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that never again will I go to The Fabric Store after having all-you-can-eat breadsticks.

Edited from a post originally published on 4/11/13.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

My Son, the Songwriter (Age 7)

We've been listening to a lot of music lately. My two oldest kids got music cds for Christmas, and they want to play them all the time. (Yes, I am old and got my kids music cds. But that's only because cassettes and 8-tracks weren't available.)

My kids like all kinds of music. They like Justin Timberlake. They like all Disney soundtracks. They like music from kid movies, like Trolls and Sing. They like music from my era, from artists such as Queen, ELO, and Billy Joel. They'll listen to just about anything.

So, when my seven year-old son announced he was going to write a song, I didn't think too much of it. I figured it would be a nice, fun, happy song, because that's mostly the kind of music we listen to, and he's usually a nice, fun, happy boy.

I wasn't ready for the dark turn he was about to take.

He wrote the song on some index cards. He handed them to me and said, "Here, Dad. This is the song that I wrote." It took me a minute to decipher his writing, but once I did, I managed to get that the name of the song is, "Is This the End?"

"Is This the End"
It was when I turned to the next card that I got a bit of a shock. Apparently, my sweet little boy was writing a downer of a song about the end of the world. Was my happy kid suddenly turning goth?

The lyrics were:

This can be the end of the world
Is this the end, end, end?

Wow, such a downer!
This is not the kind of song I was expecting my son to write. And then, it gets even bleaker:

Is this the end of,
The end of the world?
Is this the end of this world?

It's like he was channeling Marilyn Manson or something. When did my innocent little son become so jaded?

But then, in the last line, a little bit of optimism returns:

I hope it is not.

I feel fine.
Here's the song in its entirety:

Is This the End by Buzz 

This can be the end of the world.
Is this the end, end, end?
Is this the end of,
The end of the world?
Is this the end of this world?
I hope it is not.

He tried to sing it to me. The music had a Milli Vanilli meets Motley Crue kind of feel to it. (It needs a little work.)

It's amazing the different ways your kids can surprise you. My boy has a lot of big ambitions for his life. He's always talking about the things he's going to do when he grows up. If he does even a small fraction of what he dreams about, he'll be an incredible success in life. 

But, for all I know, this might be the only song he ever writes.

I hope it is not.

Friday, February 16, 2018

One Instruction Manual For Them All

A while back we started getting puddles under our dishwasher. As far as dishwasher functions go, puddle-creating is not very high on the desirable list. I would have tried to fix it, but I'm not exactly Joe Fix-It.

So, we got ourselves a new dishwasher. It's got some nice features, including, hopefully, a doesn't-leave-puddles-on-the-kitchen-floor feature.

The Wife and I have an unwritten arrangement: she does most of the cooking, and I do most of the dishwashing. Does this make me the greatest husband ever? No. But, it certainly helps keep me off the "worst husband ever" list. (And helps make up for all those times I fart in bed.)

So, since I would be using it a lot, when we got the dishwasher installed I grabbed the instruction manual in order to learn how to properly use it.

The instruction manual for our new dishwasher.
(But wait, why is there a picture of three dishwashers on the cover of my dishwasher manual?)
Unfortunately, when I opened up the manual for our new dishwasher, I found that it was not the manual for just our dishwasher, it was the manual for four different dishwashers (even though only three are pictured on the front cover.)

So, for the instructions to have any meaning for me, I needed to know which of the four models I had. For help with that, there was a handy picture showing the control panel of each model, with each model's number:
Well, that certainly clarifies things!
Well, that doesn't help. For one thing, the model number doesn't appear on the front of the actual dishwasher anywhere, so it's basically gibberish to me. So, I'm left with trying to match what the front of my actual dishwasher looks like with one of the four pictures. It's like something you'd find in a Highlights kid magazine at a dentist's office in 1978! ("One of these things is not like the other!")

For added fun, the model numbers are:
  * "x" can be any number

Wait a second. "X" can be any number? So, basically they've just added algebra to my little problem. Hey, I just want to figure out which dishwasher is mine, I don't want to relive my freshman year college algebra class!

Eventually, I'm able to figure out that the bottom picture is the same as the dishwasher I actually purchased. Hooray for me.

That leads to a little chart telling me which features each of the four dishwasher models actually has.
So many features! So many models! So much confusion!
Each dishwasher model has a little "x" by each dishwasher feature that it offers. And then it again says, "'x' can be any number." Does that mean my dishwasher can have 7 half loads, or 9 child locks? My brain hurts.

Throughout the rest of the instruction manual, it explains how each of these features work, but as it does it keeps repeating the phrase "model dependent," meaning "this is how this feature works if you are lucky enough to have one of the models that has this feature."

This eventually led to several cases of feature-envy when I read about a great dishwasher feature, only to realize that my model doesn't have it. ("What? My model doesn't have the robot arm that loads the dishwasher for you? Dang, I wish I had bought the STARK3AR7xUC* model!")

So, as I read about each feature, I would have to look back to the chart to see if it was a feature my dishwasher actually features. It's very confusing, but it doesn't have to be.

Really, it's pretty simple: I want an instruction manual for only the model that I purchased. I don't want an instruction manual for a bunch of models that I didn't buy!

This shouldn't be that difficult. Just make an individual instruction manual for each separate model. Done. That's all I'm asking for.

That way I can easily figure out which features the dishwasher I bought actually features. (I really hope my dishwasher has the doesn't-leave-puddles-on-the-kitchen-floor feature!)

Edited from a post originally published on 2/26/2016.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Juice Box Hero

Kids love juice boxes. Of course they do! It's a box full of beverage! They're the perfect size for kids. They're squishy. There is a straw they can play with. (Sometimes it's even a bendy straw!) And, of course, it tastes good. (Mmmm...sugar!)

Parents don't like juice boxes. Sometimes it's hard to get the straw out of the straw wrapper. Sometimes it's difficult to get the straw to puncture the little hole it's supposed to go through. And always, always juice will squirt out of the straw onto your fingers, or your shirt, or your pants, or someplace you don't want it to go.

You WILL get juiced!
The problem is in the squishiness of the box. If the box wasn't squishy, kids wouldn't be able to get all of the juice out. But, because the box is squishy, it's virtually impossible to put the straw into the box without squishing some of the juice out of the straw.

Did you notice I said, "virtually?" That's because there is a way to hold the juice box, put the straw in, and not get juice all over yourself and your surrounding area. It's a trick that my wife taught me. (She's so much smarter than me. Really.) What is this trick? I'm glad you asked. Near the top of the juice box are a couple of folded down flaps. If you unfold those flaps, so that they stick out straight from the top of the box, you can use the flaps as a handle for holding the box. If you hold the box by these flaps, juice won't come squishing out of the straw! (Or, at least not as much juice.)

If you aren't squishing the box, you won't be squishing out juice!

Once my wife taught me the "hold it by the flap" trick, juice boxes became much less of a hazard for me. Oh, I still spill juice on myself when handling them, but not in the same volumes that I used to do.

Of course, there's more containers used for dispensing juice than just boxes. Juice pouches are also very popular.

Just like a juice box, but less boxier.
Juice pouches don't have a handy little flap you can pull out in order to hold the container without squishing it. The best you can do with a juice pouch is try to hold it by the upper corners, up where there is less juice.

The worst thing about juice pouches is trying to get the stabby end of the straw through the appropriate straw hole without also stabbing it all the way out the other side.

Be careful with the stabby end of the straw. You could poke your eye out. (Or, more likely, punch an extra, unwanted hole into the juice pouch.)

When all is said and done, it doesn't really matter. Whether you choose a juice box, a juice pouch, a juice bottle, or simply a cup full of juice, if you give your kid some juice, you had better be prepared to clean up some juice. 

The kids won't care about the spills; they just want the juice. And if you give them the juice, you can be their Juice Box Hero!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Love Stinks: A Story of Junior High "Love"

This may come as a surprise to you, but I was not cool in junior high. I was shy, quiet, and not very athletic. I was about as far away from cool as you could get.

One of my best friends in junior high, however, was cool. (Or, at least he thought he was. And that's half the battle.) At the time, the television show Happy Days was popular. My friend thought of himself as Fonzie. There were some similarities. Even though we were only in the seventh grade, my friend had his own motorcycle, and had been riding motorcycles for several years. He was good looking, confident, and liked to go steady with girls. In his mind, he was Fonzie.

I, on the other hand, had no delusions of Fonzie-ness. I didn't ride a motorcycle. I wasn't confident. I was too scared to talk to girls, let alone go steady with one. I was more than happy to play the role of Richie Cunningham to his Fonzie.

This is me in junior high. (Definitely not Fonzie.)

One of "Fonzie's" few weaknesses was that he struggled with his classwork. I, on the other hand, did good in school. (Or should that be "did well in school?" It's been so long ago that I don't know for sure.)

Anyway, as we entered junior high, Fonzie talked me into taking every class with him, one of the reasons being that he would have me there to help him with his school work. It was a good arrangement: I helped him with his homework, and he let me hang out with him.

Fonzie liked the girls. He usually went for girls a year or two older than us. (Why? Well, ninth grade girls were more likely to be developed in the chestral region than girls our age, so they were more likely to catch his eye.) Despite being a lowly seventh grader, he had a fair amount of success with the older girls. But, just because he wasn't looking at the girls our age didn't mean the girls our age weren't looking at him.

There was one girl in particular who took an interest in Fonzie. For the purposes of this story, and to continue the 70s television show theme, I'll call her "Sabrina." (Sabrina was the "smart" one on Charlie's Angels.) "Sabrina" was in a lot of the same classes as us, and it was obvious, even to someone as inept at reading social cues as I was, that she liked Fonzie.

Fonzie knew this, too, and he used it to his advantage. He would often "let" Sabrina help him with his homework. At first I liked this, because it meant less homework for me. But, after a while, it started to bother me. Fonzie had no interest in Sabrina other than as help for his homework. He was just using her.

You can probably guess what happened. Before long, I developed a crush on Sabrina. And it wasn't a little crush. It was a big, think-about-her-and-my-stomach-twirls-to-the-point-that-I-can't-eat type of crush. It was a see-her-and-parts-of-my-body-get-all-tingly type of crush. I had liked girls before her, but nothing to this level.

So, what did I do about it? Nothing, of course. (There are reasons I became a 40 year old virgin.) I didn't do anything because I knew she liked Fonzie. Even though I knew Fonzie had no interest in her. Oh, I would see her frequently, because we would both be hanging around with Fonzie. We would occasionally talk, but I never let her know my feelings for her.

This went on for most of seventh and eighth grades. While I was in eighth grade, the J. Geils Band released a song called "Love Stinks." It begins with the lyrics: "You love her. But she loves him. And he loves somebody else. You just can't win." At the time I thought J. Geils had a direct insight into my soul. (The song peaked at #38 on the charts in April of 1980, although I find it very hard to believe there were 37 songs that week that were better.)

When ninth grade came around I didn't see Sabrina much, because I didn't have any classes with her. Eventually, I started to get over her. (Even though, to paraphrase a line from the show Friends, I was never under her.) I hardly saw her at all during high school. After a while, I moved on to unrequited crushes on other girls. (I wouldn't find out there was any other kind of love besides 'unrequited' for another 25 years.)

But, whenever I think of my first real crush, I remember Sabrina. And, whenever I hear "Love Stinks" I remember her, too. But luckily, even though it was later in life than most, I found out that the J. Geils Band isn't right about everything. Love doesn't really stink. (It just did in junior high.)

Edited from a post originally published on 4/29/2012.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Pretend Heroes vs. Real Heroes

When I was a kid, I really liked comic books. I still remember the first three comics I bought, which started a collection that would eventually number in the several thousands. Marvel Double-Feature #11 featured a reprint story of Iron Man battling the Titanium Man. In Fantastic Four #162 the team joined up with counterparts from an alternate earth to battle the warlord Arkon and his lackey, a cosmic hockey goalie named Gaard. (Yes, I said, "cosmic hockey goalie.") And in Iron Man #77 the Golden Avenger takes on a bevy of villains, including Yellow Claw, Mad Thinker, Firebrand, and the Black Lama.

These stories really resonated with this nine year-old boy. The heroes of these comic books became my personal heroes. Iron Man was my favorite because he was just a normal human with no super powers, but he had created this suit of armor that made him incredibly powerful and able to help save mankind. I also liked the Thing from the Fantastic Four because he was funny and able to clobber his way through all of life's problems.

Over the years I collected the comic books that featured the stories of these heroes. I had dolls action figures of them that I played with all the time. And then, as an adult, I watched in wonder as these heroes of mine appeared on movie screens in well-crafted, amazing motion pictures! (Well, Iron Man. I'm still waiting for a really good Fantastic Four movie.)

I wouldn't say I worshipped these heroes, but I certainly held them in high regard. There's just one problem: they aren't real. They are fictional characters, created from the minds of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then refined by other writers and artists over the years. Despite all the times they saved their fictional universe, these characters are simply pretend heroes.

There are pretend heroes, then there are real heroes. (Iron Man and the Thing are pretend.)

Sometimes there are real heroes living amongst us, and we aren't even aware of them.

Recently, my neighbor passed away. I didn't know him very well. I met him only a few times, although I saw him often. He would frequently stand on his front porch, shirtless, smoking a cigarette. Occasionally we would wave at each other. The times I did talk to him I found him to be quiet and reserved, although he and his wife were always very kind and generous to my kids, and were very enthusiastic when we would knock on their door at Halloween.

I didn't really know much about him, other than that he smoked on his front porch and was a good neighbor.

After he passed away, I went to his memorial. It was there that I found out that he had served in Vietnam and was awarded two Purple Heart Awards and the Bronze Star, among other commendations. I had had no idea.

My neighbor was a true hero. He risked his life for his country on several occasions.

It's easy to see the stories of the pretend heroes. They are plastered all over the comic books and the movie screens. We don't hear the stories of the true heroes. They usually don't like to talk about them. They don't like to brag; they'll say they were just doing their jobs.

So yes, I still enjoy my pretend heroes. Their stories are fun little fantasies. But, I have a real respect for the true heroes: those who put their lives on the lines in our military, and first responders in the police, fire fighters, and paramedics. By being willing to be there on the front lines of life's most troubling moments, these are the people who are truly heroic.

To them, it's not just pretend.

To them, I say thank you.

Friday, February 2, 2018

8 Things NOT to Give Your Sweetheart on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming up in just a few days. It's a very important day for anyone who is in a relationship. If you botch Valentine's Day for your sweetheart, the month of February, which is already cold and miserable, will become even more cold and miserable.

People ask me all the time, "What should I get my wife and/or girlfriend for Valentine's Day?" First of all, when I say "people ask me all the time," I'm lying. No one has ever asked me that. Secondly, if you have a "wife and/or girlfriend," you're going to be in a bit of trouble. There can't be an "and/or," just an "or." Either you have a wife or you have a girlfriend. You can't have more than one. Unless you're that guy from Sister Wives. (I have no clue how he handles Valentine's Day. It's got to be pretty complicated.)

Actually, I don't really know what you should get your wife or girlfriend for Valentine's Day, because I don't know your wife or your girlfriend. But, I do know some things you shouldn't get her for Valentine's Day. Here are eight things on the "Don't get" list, and what it says about your relationship if you do:

*An iron--"I love you and I want you to iron my clothes." Or, "I love you, but your clothes are too wrinkly."

*An ironing board--See above.

Unless she specifically asks for an iron, please do not be Iron Man!

*A set of mixing bowls--"I love you and I want you to make food for me." Or, "I love you, but I don't think you make me cake often enough."

*Gift cards to McDonald's--"I love you and I'd like to go to McDonald's with you." Or, "I love you, but your cooking is so bad that I'd rather eat at McDonald's."

*Gift cards to Taco Bell--"I love you and I'd like to go to Taco Bell with you." Or, "I love you, and I want you to fart more often."

*Gym membership--"I love you, but I want you to lose weight." Or, "I love you and I want you to have awkward social interactions with sweaty strangers who are wearing stretchy pants."

*Laundry detergent--"I love you and I want you to do all of my laundry." Or, "I love you and I am the worst gift-giver ever."

*Anchorman 2 on DVD and/or Blue Ray--"I love you and I've never seen this movie but I liked the first one so I kind of want to see this one even though I heard it wasn't very good." Or, "I love you and I want you to be mad at me."

If you are thinking about getting your sweetheart any of these things: Don't! Just don't do it. If you can't think of anything more original, you can always go with flowers or chocolates. They may not be the most creative of gifts, but at least they say, "I love you, and I remembered that it is Valentine's Day." Or, "I love you and I hope you don't mind if I eat more than half of your chocolates."

Edited from a post originally published on 2/5/16.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Evolution of Kid's Waiting Rooms

Kids today don't know how good they have it.

Since I was a kid (which, admittedly, was a long, long time ago) there have been a lot of advancements to make life easier for kids. One of those advancements is the creation of kid waiting rooms.

When I was a kid, if your parents went to get the car fixed there was nothing to entertain the kids. There were four uncomfortable chairs and possibly some magazines, but they were all Better Homes & Gardens, or Good Housekeeping, or Popular Mechanics. If you were really lucky, there might be a Reader's Digest.

Dentist offices and doctor offices were better, but not by much. How much better were they? They were exactly one old Highlights magazine better. (Can you find the tea kettle hidden in the picture?) (Because I never could.)

Amazingly, they still make Highlights magazine and books!  You can get them  at Amazon.

Every dentist and doctor office had a Highlights magazine. Some of them even had two or three. And each one of them was entertaining---for about five minutes. And then it was back to Good Housekeeping. Or whining: "Mom, how much longer? We've been here forever!"

Kids today have it so much better. My kids want to go with me to get the oil changed in the mini-van.  Why? Because there's a waiting room especially for kids! It's got a big screen television on the wall showing one of their favorite movies. (Because, apparently, Frozen is just as good the 823rd time as it was the first time.)

More fun than Better Homes & Gardens!
But it's not just the television. There are fancy floor-mat villages and toys of every kind. The waiting room is much more fun than home could ever be! Given the choice between playing with all the new toys we got them for Christmas, or going to the car dealership's kid waiting room and playing with the beat-up toys that have been slobbered on by forty or fifty different kids each day, they would choose the waiting room toys every single time.

Well, except for that one toy:

Every waiting room has one!
There is a wire and bead toy in every modern waiting room. And it never gets played with for more than two minutes by any kid. It's today's version of the Highlights magazine.

But even if, by some chance, your kids aren't distracted enough by the television or the toys, there's always entertainment to be had from smart phones, iPads, tablets, and other electronic devices.

Kids today have so many choices of things to watch or do while waiting that there's no need for them to ever say, "I'm bored" again. (But they still will. Because some things will never change.)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Donuts and Ice Cream for Breakfast!!!

Apparently, they have finally just given up.

Not so long ago there was a lot of hand-wringing about the excess amount of sugar in children's sugary cereal. Cereals began touting how they had "high fiber," "whole grains," and "no fat." Cereals wanted people to think they were good for you. They wanted you to think of cereal as a healthy choice for breakfast.

It was a nice effort, and it may even have worked on occasion. But now the cereal companies have given up. They just don't care what you think about their cereals anymore.

Why do I say this? Well, the other day I was walking down the cereal aisle at the store and I saw this:

Sprinkled Donut Crunch!!! Part of this healthy (???) breakfast!
Yes, that's right, it's Cap'n Crunch's Sprinkled Donut Crunch! And, for clarification, it's not just any old Donut Crunch, it's Sprinkled Donut Crunch! (Check out the Cap'n gleefully flinging the sprinkles!)

So, to heck with even attempting to appear nutritious. The fine folks at Quaker are taking aim directly at our children with a three-pronged attack: 1) kids love donuts; 2) kids love sprinkles; and C) kids love cartoon characters. (Although personally I've always been a little leery of Cap'n Crunch. His eyeballs and eyebrows are on the outside of his hat! Also, if he was a real Captain I don't think they'd always be so careful to always spell his name "Cap'n.")
His eyebrows appear to float above his head. They actually cast a shadow on his hat!
When I saw the Sprinkled Donut Crunch I immediately thought of an old Saturday Night Live skit from the late 1970s in which John Belushi trains for the decathlon by eating "Little Chocolate Donuts." (Check out the link.) (They're the "Donuts of Champions!") Only this time it's not a skit. It's real life. Kids all over the country will be "training" by eating little Sprinkled Donuts!

I might give them the benefit of the doubt, but the Sprinkled Donut Crunch was located on the shelf right next to the boxes of Oops! All Berries, which sounds like it might be healthy until you look at the sugar content and realize that real berries don't look like technicolor rabbit droppings.

Oops! All Berries! (No actual berries were harmed in the making of this cereal.)
As I walked down the cereal aisle, I saw a few signs that not everyone had succumbed to the Sprinkled Donut craze. There was some Special K, some Cracklin' Oat Bran, and some Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

But, just as I was starting to have some hope for the future of humanity, I came across this:
Ice Cream Pebbles! (Because nothing goes together quite like breakfast and ice cream!)
Yes, that's right, Ice Cream Pebbles! Unfortunately, Ice Cream Pebbles aren't made with actual ice cream, they are only ice cream flavored. (A close examination of the box finds the word "Flavored" in tiny print at the end of the big words "Ice Cream.")

Should I be upset that there isn't any actual ice cream in Ice Cream Pebbles?

The Ice Cream Pebbles are even more outlandish than the Sprinkled Donut Crunch, because at least some people actually eat donuts for breakfast. No one eats ice cream for breakfast. (Well, no one with any self-respect.) 

The Ice Cream Pebbles is a new flavor because, apparently, the Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles weren't quite enough like dessert, despite the fact that the Cocoa Pebbles box claims that "It's Like An XTREME Milkshake!" (The Cocoa Pebbles box also says, "Turns Milk XTREMELY Chocolatey!" and "Extreme CHOCOLATEY Blast!") (Make no mistake, these Cocoa Pebbles are "XTREME!")

So extreme that they make you forget how to spell extreme.

I'm really worried about the youth of today. They'll spend their early years eating donuts and ice cream for breakfast! What kind of life is that?

Actually, I'm not sure what I'm complaining about. I like donuts! I like ice cream! If only they made a cereal out of cookies.
All the healthy goodness of cookies now available in your cereal bowl!

Oh. I forgot about those. Hmm...I wonder if anyone makes a cheesecake cereal?

Edited from a post originally published on 1/22/2016.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

They BLEEPED Up Star Trek! (Literally)

And now they've f-ed up Star Trek. Literally.

I've been a fan of Star Trek my whole life. From Spock and Bones, to Data and Troi, to Bashir and Dax (Jadzia, of course!), to Seven and Chakotay, and even Trip and Phlox. So, I was pretty excited when I heard that a new show, Star Trek: Discovery, was coming to CBS All Access.

May the force be with you, Voldemort.
And then, I wasn't.

Why did I get a little less excited? Because I found out they were cable-izing Star Trek. You see, my wife and I signed up for CBS All Access mostly because of the promise of Star Trek: Discovery, and The Good Fight, a sequel to the show The Good Wife. The Good Wife was widely regarded as one of the best shows on network television, and we enjoyed watching it. Unfortunately, it didn't take long to see that they f'ed up the show with the sequel The Good Fight. You see, because they were now on a subscribe channel instead of over-the-air, the creators of the lawyer show decided they needed to lace the dialogue with the "F" word. 

Since they had the "freedom" of no longer being a broadcast show, they chose to use more coarse language, because, you know, there aren't enough other "quality" shows on HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, AMC, FX, and so forth that use profanities! (Dagnabbit!!!) (If they truly wanted their show to stand out in today's television environment, they should try keeping it clean.) And so the creators of Star Trek: Discovery wanted to use that "freedom," too. 

Because of this eagerness to include more profanity, violence, and sex, I was a bit trepidatious. It didn't take long to see I was right to be concerned. The show is dark and "gritty." (I hate gritty.) They did use the "F" word, although with much less frequency than I feared. There are other problems with the show, as well. It is supposedly set ten years before Kirk and Spock, yet they have technology far more advanced than anything from The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. The captain of the ship is a warmongering, rule-breaking jerk. (Kirk or Picard would outsmart this cretin in a flash, then have him brought up for a court martial.)

It's as if in their attempt to emulate other "prestige" shows, the creators of Star Trek: Discovery have totally missed what makes the Star Trek universe so special: the hopefulness, optimism, and joy of discovery.

Surprisingly, fans longing for those things aren't necessarily out of luck. Premiering around the same time as Star Trek: Discovery was another show about a starship: The Orville, created by and starring Seth MacFarlane. The trailer for The Orville made me laugh several times, but since MacFarlane is best known for the puerile animated show Family Guy, I had my reservations. 

Promoted as a comedy, The Orville doesn't go for the laughs as often as I expected. (Which is probably for the best, because about half the jokes work and the other half are seventh-grade level quips about male anatomy.) What I didn't expect was how earnest the space adventure storylines would be. There have been several interesting sci-fi/morality play plots that would feel right at home on Star Trek: The Next Generation or even the original Shatner/Nimoy series.

When it's all said and done, The Orville plays out like a companion series to The Next Generation, but with a slightly less competent and slightly more amusing crew. And for those of us who like the optimism and hope of Gene Roddenberry's universe, it's been a pretty wonderful discovery.

Friday, January 19, 2018

My Girl's Wardrobe Malfunction

My youngest girl had a wardrobe malfunction.

It wasn't her fault, of course. It was mine.

You see, she has pants, shorts, and skirts in her drawer. But that's not all; she also has skorts in her drawer. (A skort is a combination of a skirt and shorts.) To be honest, before I was a dad I had never heard of skorts. If you said the word "skort" I probably would have thought you were talking about one of those spoon/fork combos they have at KFC.

I have two girls, Thing 1 and Thing 3. (I also have two boys, Thing 2 and Thing 4, but they won't factor into our discussion today.) Thing 1 dresses herself. But I still pick out the clothes for Thing 3. One day, I put her in a skirt. She looked cute (as always), but something seemed a little off, and I couldn't quite figure what it was.

Later, as I was changing her diaper I pulled off her skirt and noticed a red indentation line on the skin of her upper thigh. It was then that I realized what I had done: it wasn't a skirt, it was a skort, and I had put both of her legs through one of the leg holes for the skort! Oops! (Luckily she only wore it like that for a short time before I noticed it at the diaper change. Thank goodness for frequent pooping!)

My excuse? I'm a guy. I really have no idea what I'm doing trying to dress a girl.

It's a nice excuse, but it doesn't really cut it. Maybe if Thing 3 was my first girl, but she's not. I've already been to this rodeo. She's my second girl. I really should have mastered the "dressing a girl" thing with the first one.

Unfortunately, the fact that I have two girls contributed to another wardrobe malfunction. The problem was I confused Thing 1's denim shorts with Thing 3's long pants. I put Thing 3 in Thing 1's shorts thinking they were her long pants. And the thing is, I didn't notice for several hours! Yes, the pant/shorts were quite big in the waste on Thing 3, but they only fell off of her a couple of times.

In my defense, can you guess which is the big-girl shorts and which is the little-girl pants?
It's not so easy, is it?
(The big girl shorts are on the right.)
There are inherent differences between boy clothes and girl clothes that I've learned over the years. (Usually I learned them by messing them up somehow.) For one thing, with guys there is no such thing as a "right sock" and a "left sock." Socks are socks. They are interchangeable. But, with girls, sometimes it does make a difference as to which foot the sock is on because they have some froofy flower thing or design that is supposed to be on the outside edge of the sock.

Another difference is that girls sometimes have big, outlandish pockets on the front of their pants. They look like back pockets, but they're actually front pockets. So, of course, I have had my daughter walking around with her pants on backwards many, many times.

Seriously, does that look like a front pocket or a back pocket?

I thought I was getting better. And then I stuffed both of my girl's legs into one leg-hole of her skort.

So, all I can do is keep trying to do my best. And don't worry, I'm sure my daughters will get their revenge when I'm old. I'll be the one at the rest home with his pants on backwards.

Edited from a post originally published on 5/13/2016.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sports: Why We Play and Why We Watch

I'm getting old. (Some would question the need for the word "getting" in the previous sentence.)

But, despite the fact that I'm getting old, I still like to get out and play some basketball. And I'll keep playing basketball until either a) my aging, creaky old body won't let me anymore, or B) the young guys I play ball with lock me out of the building or move the games to a different time and/or place and "forget" to tell me about it.

Ready for my 1950's yearbook photo.
(Yes, my shirt says "Dad" on it. Because I am.)

I play basketball twice a week at the church. I'm the oldest, slowest, and fattest of the regulars (and irregulars) who come to play. (I've got shirts older than some of the other guys.) I'm not strong enough to guard the big guys, and I'm not quick enough to guard the little guys. I'm not a very good shooter, and I frequently make bad passes. Day in and day out, I'm the worst player there.

So, why do I still play? Because some days I'm not the worst player there. Some days the shots actually go in. And some days, even if I am still the worst player there, I'll deflect a pass, or I'll get a good box-out and grab the rebound, or I'll make the perfect pass, or I might even block a shot. And that's enough to keep me coming.

There's something about the feeling when you make a good play, or you contribute to a team that is doing well. It's a feeling you can't really get any other way than playing sports. It's a physical, visceral feeling, and as long as I can, I'll keep trying to attain it. (Even though I'm old and slow.)


I have been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since the Richard Nixon administration. (That's a long, long time ago, if you care to look it up.) I've been with the Vikings through devastating Super Bowl losses, disastrous playoff losses, and disappointing regular season losses. Over all that time the Vikings have usually had a pretty good team that just happens to lose in the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion.

My wife wonders why I still watch and cheer for the Vikings. Every year they get my hopes up, then, just like when Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown, every time they end up letting me down.

Vikings on my desk and wall.
This past weekend it looked like it was going to happen again. The Vikings rushed out to a 17-0 lead over the New Orleans Saints, but then the Saints fought and clawed their way back into the game. When New Orleans kicked a field goal to take a 24-23 lead with less than half a minute left, I thought it was going to be another in a long line of heart-wrenching Vikings playoff losses.

With ten seconds left and no timeouts, the Vikings had one desperate hope. They needed to gain about twenty yards and get out of bounds to stop the clock just to get the chance to attempt a long field goal for the win. (And Vikings playoff history is littered with failed field goal attempts.)

And then, the unbelievable happened. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum lofted a ball toward the sideline, and receiver Stephon Diggs leaped in the air and caught it. But then, instead of getting out of bounds to set up the field goal, Diggs turned up the field and ran all the way untouched for the game-winning touchdown! It was one of the most remarkable plays ever! (It was the first time in the history of the NFL playoffs that a game ended in regulation with a touchdown as time expired.)

That play is the reason why I keep watching and cheering. Sometimes the miraculous can happen! And maybe it will even happen to my team. Every once in a while the team that has never won comes through and finally wins the championship. (Just ask fans of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.) Maybe that can happen with the Vikings.

The Vikings still have to win two more games in order to bring that first Super Bowl trophy home. Maybe they'll win it this year. Maybe they won't. Either way, I'll still be watching.