Friday, June 22, 2018

Surprise: It's Bedtime!

Every night the kids go to bed. Every. Single. Night.

And yet, almost every night it seems to come as a surprise. "What??? Bed time??? You've got to be kidding me, right? Are you trying to tell me you actually expect me to go to bed? This is unheard of! I won't stand for this!"

Bed time for the kids at our house is 8:00 PM. The two older kids know this. If you were to ask them, "When is your bed time?" they would easily and quickly answer, "Eight o'clock." And yet, when bed times rolls around it is met with shock, surprise, and disdain, as if it were the Spanish Inquisition. (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

The first step in going to bed for the kids is putting on their pajamas. Once they get over the initial shock of bedtime, it's not much of a fight to get them to put on pajamas. (Why no fight? My theory is that everyone likes to put on comfy clothes, and what's more comfy than pajamas?)

Everything else, though, is back to being an utter shock and surprise.

Me: "Did you brush your teeth?"
Them: "What??? Brush my teeth? What are you talking about? I've never heard of this 'brush your teeth' that you speak of."
Me: "Every night. Every single night I tell you to brush your teeth. It really shouldn't be a surprise."
Them: "Well, okay, I'll brush my teeth. But it's really not fair when you give these last minute orders like this."

And then, after playing the surprise card, they dig in with the delay tactics:

"Wait. Can I have a drink?" 
"But, I have to go potty first." 
"Not yet. I have to find my stuffed bear." 
"Seriously. I really have to go to the bathroom."
"Can I read in bed for a while?"
"I have to go to the bathroom." (Me: "Didn't you just go?") "Yes, but I have to go, again!"

 They'll try just about anything to prolong the non-bed part of the evening just a little bit longer, up to and including going to the bathroom four times between 7:50 PM and 8:20 PM.

You might as well be sending them to jail.

But, eventually they do go to bed.

Of course "going to bed" does not necessarily mean the same thing as "going to sleep." But, that's okay. Usually the jabbering between the two after they've been sent to bed is of a happy, playful nature. And I don't mind that at all, as long as they stay in bed!

Finally, the chattering stops and they actually drop off to sleep. And the world rejoices.

And then, morning comes. And it starts all over again. "What??? Morning??? You've got to be kidding me, right? Are you trying to tell me you expect me to get out of bed? This is unheard of! I won't stand for this!"

Edited from a post originally published on 6/17/2016.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kids Say Things (I Have No Answer)

When you're a parent, there are times when your kids say things that just make you shake your head. Things such as:

1. "Mermaids don't fart." My oldest daughter said this, very matter-of-factly, to her brother. She seemed very sure of herself. I'm not sure how or why she thinks she knows this, but in her mind it is an absolute certainty.

They may not fart, but man, oh, man can they burp!

2. "If I were to play for the Dallas Cowboys, would you still cheer for me?" My son asked me this once. It's a tough call, pitting my love for my son up against my hatred for the self-proclaimed "America's Team." The answer is that yes, obviously, of course, I would cheer for my son. I love him and I would want him to do well. (But I might not cheer for his team to win.)

3. "Daddy, I kissed my potty!" I'm not going to further incriminate my children by telling you which one of them said this. But, I will tell you that I had a very serious talk with this child about why we never, never, never, never, never, never, never, ever kiss the potty.

4. "There's so many poops I can't count them all!" Ah, this one made me proud. The child who said this had a) recently been potty trained, and B) was just learning how to count. So, this was a well-intentioned effort on both of those fronts. (Yes, we had a talk about why there is rarely a need to count how many poops are in the potty at any given time.)

5. "Do you have hair in your nose to cover up your boogers?" My three year-old daughter asked me this just the other day. I'm hoping it's because she has a fascination and curiosity with how the human body operates, and that this inquisitiveness will drive her to a career as a doctor. I'm not hoping that it's just because she has a fascination with boogers.

6. "If this were a Canadian restaurant, what would it look like?" I honestly had no idea how to answer this one. (Maybe the bacon would be a little more round?)

Friday, June 15, 2018

When Is Father's Day?

Every June we celebrate Father's Day, often with cards, gifts, or treats. (Hint: Donuts! Dad's really like donuts!)

But, the truth is any father worth his weight in salt (whatever that means) knows that the third Sunday in June isn't any more important than any other day. That's because every single day is worthy of celebrating when you're a dad. Every day is Father's Day.

Father's Day is that first day in the hospital, when the nurse wraps up your newborn baby and asks, "Do you want to hold the baby?" And you don't want to hold her, because she's so tiny and you're afraid you might drop her or hold her the wrong way. But you hold her anyway, because you're a dad now and you're going to have to be the strong one and learn to do things that might scare you.

Father's Day is getting down on your hands and knees at the side of the bathtub and scrubbing all of the chocolate off of your son's face, including the spot behind his right ear and that smudge in his hair. And you marvel at how one chocolate chip cookie with only three chocolate chips in it could create such a mess.

Father's Day is changing a dirty diaper through your daughter's tears and screams, and then holding her up in front of the mirror while doing the Daddy-Daughter Diaper Dance until she stops crying and starts to laugh.

Father's Day is when she looks at you with the same awe and wonder that you have when you look at her.

Father's Day is never getting to go to the theater to see the movies that you want to see, but instead sitting through every children's movie Hollywood releases. All the good ones, and all the many, many bad ones. (Thank heavens for Pixar!)

Father's Day is being the one your kids run to when they see a scary spider. And, even though spiders still freak you out, you act all tough and take care of that spider.

Father's Day is figuring out the one thing that will make each child stop crying and start smiling. It's different for each kid, and it might not work every time, but if you can turn tears to giggles at least two out of three times, it's worth it.

Father's Day is shutting off the Billy Joel you were listening to so the kids can hear the Frozen soundtrack for the 1,219th time. (Sometimes you have to know when to let it go.)

Father's Day is realizing all your one year-old daughter really wants is for you to stop looking at your stupid smart phone for a minute and get down on the floor to play trains with her.

Father's Day is every day.

This post first appeared in the June 2016 edition of the ServeDaily newspaper, and on this blog on 6/14/2016.  Go here for more of my columns from ServeDaily.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Let's Keep the F-word Out of AF


Is it just me, or do a lot of those things seem to be missing from society these days? Check out the comment section of any news article or social media post and you're likely to find people being mean, nasty, and just generally uncouth. And foul-mouthed. Lots and lots of foul-mouthedness.

Look around and the f-word is everywhere. (Unless you've been living in a convent, you know that the f-word is a four-letter word that starts with "f" and ends with "k.") (And it's not "fork.") Now, I'm not (completely) naive. I know that the f-word has been around for a long time, even way back when I was a kid. But, back then it was usually only heard in locker rooms, high school hallways, blue-collar workplaces, and R-rated movies. It was hardly ever seen in print.

But now, it's hard to avoid. It's difficult to read anything online without the f-word popping up several times. People pepper their regular conversations with it. It's popping up with more and more frequency in online columns and news articles. A few years ago there was even a best-selling "children's" book with the title Go the F*** to Sleep

The acronym "wtf" (short for "what the f***") has become so common that most of us don't even think anymore about the f-word being in it. 

And that brings me to the new acronym that is taking the world by storm: AF. "AF" stands for "as f***," and when added to the end of a word or sentence it means "very much so," or "to the extreme," or maybe even "as all get-out." So, if something were to be designated as "boring AF," that would mean it is very, very boring.

Very, very Main.
Having spent most of my life in eastern Idaho or northern Utah, the initials "AF" have always meant something different to me. In Idaho, "AF" stands for "American Falls," which is a small town located about 20 miles west of Pocatello. And in Utah, "AF" is American Fork, a growing burg about 30 miles  south of Salt Lake City. So, to me and most of the people I know, "AF" is just shorthand for one of these two towns.

Not so for the general public, though. The other day I saw a car with a bumper sticker that said, "Potential AF." What the heck does that even mean? "Potential as f***?" What kind of potential is that? Maybe you'd have even more potential if you cleaned up that potty mouth of yours!

(This is where I admit that I'm an old fuddy-duddy. How much of a fuddy-duddy? So much so that I regularly use the term "fuddy-duddy.")

AF, Utah!
"AF" is becoming so prevalent that I've actually seen it used recently in headlines of semi-reputable websites! Really? Have we become so tactless as a society that we're putting the f-word in headlines? (This would never have happened if print media were still alive!)

So, what are we to do? Here's a thought: let's show a little restraint. Let's not fling the f-word around like a monkey at the zoo flinging it's own poo. Using the f-word all the time is a sure sign of laziness. We can be more creative than that. We can be as creative as all get-out! (It's the decent, tactful thing to do.)

Friday, June 8, 2018

George Is a Little TOO Curious

Everyone loves Curious George, right? What's not to love? He's a cute little monkey who just innocently happens to fall into mischief because of his natural monkey curiosity!

I used to love Curious George when I was a kid. His misadventures were always fun. Plus, the Man With the Yellow Hat was quite the fashion icon. What kid didn't think it would be cool to dress as a tall walking banana? (Heck, I'd be happy to find myself a nice yellow suit today, but I don't think The Wife would approve.)

How could you not like a cute monkey and a guy in a yellow hat? (And shirt.) (And tie.)

I used to think Curious George was the best!

But then, I had kids.

As a parent, I look at Curious George in a completely different way. The first time I read my kids a Curious George story, I could tell they were enjoying it. Everyone loves that funny little monkey. But, I turned each page with growing trepidation.

Why? Well, pretty much every Curious George story follows the same format:
     1. The Man With the Yellow Hat tells Curious George not to do something.
     2. Curious George does it anyway.
     3. Trouble ensues.
     D. It all works out in the end.
     5. George and the Man With the Yellow Hat have a good laugh.

Is this really the kind of lesson we want to be teaching our kids? "It's okay if you disobey me because no matter what happens it will all work out in the end and we'll have a good laugh about it."

Luckily for Curious George, the mischief he makes is mostly mild: He makes paper boats out of the newspapers he's supposed to be delivering; he trespasses; he gets a puzzle piece stuck in his throat; he lets an ostrich eat a bugle; and so on. I mean, really, who hasn't done most of that stuff? (If I had a dime for every time I've let an ostrich eat a bugle....)

What I'm waiting for are the stories with more serious consequences that can't just be laughed off at the end. The Man With the Yellow Hat tells George not to play in the street and he gets hit by a bus. Or, the Man With the Yellow Hat tells George not to touch the stove and he ends up frying his hand on the burner. Or the Man With the Yellow Hat tells George not to play with guns and he ends up shooting someone in the face.

In real life, our actions have actual consequences. It doesn't matter how cute of a monkey you are, there are some things you just can't laugh away.

So, I may be a mean dad, but I try to steer my kids away from Curious George. I don't really like the lessons he teaches. That said, I'd much rather deal with Curious George than this guy:

The Cat In the Hat: serious troublemaker!

I love Dr. Seuss books. I really do. He tells some great stories, teaches some great lessons, and has some great characters. That said, I cannot stand the Cat In the Hat.

In the book, you've got a mother who leaves her two young children home alone with their only supervision coming from a semi-intelligent talking fish. They, of course, open the door to the first creature to appear, a furry beast wearing nothing but a large striped hat and a bow tie. This beast then proceeds to boss the kids around and wreak total havoc upon the house.

This guy makes Curious George seem well-mannered and well-behaved. Where Curious George is just mischievous, the Cat In the Hat is downright malicious. 

And yet, Curious George and the Cat In the Hat are both widely heralded children's characters, with seemingly unlimited books, television shows, and movies with big-name stars like Will Ferrell and Mike Meyers to showcase their misbehavedness.

People love Curious George and the Cat In the Hat. I don't get it. To me, they're just a couple of troublemakers. Kids find enough trouble on their own--they don't need any help! So, thanks anyway, George. I guess I'm not that curious anymore.

Edited from a post originally published on 6/16/2015.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

You Know You're Old...

You know you're old when  you go to write a check and when you get to the year you instinctively start it with "19--."

You know you're old when you still actually write checks.

Tonight we're going to party (and write checks) like it's 1999!!!

You know you're old if you remember wondering who shot J.R.

You know you're old if you remember when sales tax was three cents for every dollar.

You know you're old when you hear the word "thong" and the first thing you think of is footwear.

You know you're old if you still call an RV a "Winnebago."

You know you're old when it's 2018 and one of your career goals is to become a newspaper columnist.

You know you're old when more than one of the correspondents on 60 Minutes are younger than you.

You know you're old if you still watch 60 Minutes.

You know you're old if you've looked at a phone book at any point in the last five years.

You know you're old when you complain about these kids today and their music.

You know you're old when you consider the band Nirvana to be "new" music.

You know you're old when you still hold out hope that "reality television" is a fad that will soon go away.

You know you're old if you've ever sent away film from your camera and waited for the printed pictures to come to you in the mail.

You know you're old if you remember when stamps had a price on them other than "Forever."

You know you're old when you still call the sports stadium by its original name, not whatever they're wanting you to call it now. (As an example, in Salt Lake City it's the Delta Center, not the Vivint Smart Home Arena. And in Pocatello, Idaho it's the Mini-Dome, not Holt Arena.)

You know you're old when you remember when televisions had "knobs."

You know you're old start a sentence but can't remember how you were going to finish it.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Passing a Kidney Stone Is NOT the Same As Giving Birth

As a man, there is no way I'll ever understand what it's like to be pregnant and give birth to a baby. There's no comparison that makes any sense. Some people have said that passing a kidney stone is about the same as giving birth to a child. I don't believe that. It's not even close.

The Wife has given birth to four wonderful, beautiful children. Over the years, I have passed enough kidney stones to make my own little gravel pit. Believe me, the children are much more attractive than the stones. Difficult, too.

Aside from that, if you took all of the kidney stones that I've passed (and there are quite a few of them) and added them together into one giant stone, it still wouldn't be anywhere near as big as even one of the babies.

Also, I've never walked around with kidney stone pain for nine months before passing one. It's not the same.

So, the next time you hear someone say that passing a kidney stone is the same as giving birth, tell them they have no idea what they are talking about. (I was going to say to slap them upside the head, but decided that I shouldn't be promoting violence.)

Why do I bring this subject up, you ask? Because I just got stoned. Again.

My latest kidney stone! (The one on the left.) Not very big, but also not very fun.

Earlier this week I woke up at two-something in the morning thinking that my back hurt. It only took a minute or so for me to realize, "Hey, that's no ordinary back pain, that's kidney stone back pain!" I was not happy.

Of course, the first time I had a kidney stone, I had no idea there was a difference between regular back pain and kidney stone back pain. I was single and living in an apartment by myself. I came home from work one Friday afternoon, and my back was hurting. I didn't think too much of it, and went to bed. I didn't sleep very well.

I got up on Saturday and my back was still hurting. I took a soak in a hot bath. That helped, for a while. Then, the back pain came back, so I took a second soak in the tub. That helped, but not as much. As the day went on, I ended up taking four or five baths, each one bringing a little less relief from the pain.

I tried to go to sleep that night, but couldn't. I wandered down to the 24 hour grocery store and bought some Doan's Back Pain pills. Why Doan's? I remembered as a kid seeing their ads, which featured a man with his hands on his back, in obvious pain, as flames shot out of the spot on his back that was hurting. I thought, "Hey, that's just how I feel!" Unfortunately, the pills didn't help, they just made me feel a camaraderie with the guy on the pill box.

I woke up (from not sleeping) on Sunday morning and I was even more miserable than the day before. I didn't know what to do. Finally, I decided that I needed help, so I called The Saint. (The Saint is what I will be calling my sister-in-law. Why "The Saint?" Because not only was she there to help me when I needed it, she was also saintly enough to actually marry my crazy brother.)

The problem was, by the time I decided to call The Saint, she and my brother were already at church for the day. To this day I'm not sure how I had the mental acuity to do it, but I ended up calling the church building they were at and asking whoever it was that answered the phone if they could find my sister-in-law. Amazingly, this worked and soon I was talking with The Saint.

I told her my symptoms and she immediately said, "Sounds like kidney stones to me." She left the church post-haste and drove across the valley to take care of me.

There is no truth to the rumor that kidney beans are made of kidney stones. (As far as I know.)

And that's not the only time The Saint came to my rescue. A few years later I had a particularly bad day at work: my truck broke down and I had kidney stone pain. The Saint saved me that day, too. (My boss wasn't very happy that I left my truck in the parking lot where it broke down, but by the time I took some of the pain pills The Saint brought me, I was in no condition to drive.)

This time, I was lucky. I felt the kidney stone back pain, but I was able to go back to sleep. And then I woke up, went to the bathroom, and out came the kidney stone! All together, this kidney stone managed to give me about ten total minutes of mild discomfort. Compare that to even the easiest nine month pregnancy and delivery, and you see there's still no comparison.

So, please don't think it's even close to the same thing. It's not. (Unless you've passed a seven pound, two ounce kidney stone. Then we can talk.)

Edited and updated from a post originally published on 5/29/2015. (That first photograph is current, though, from a kidney stone passed on 5/29/2018.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tales from a Pep Band Walk-On

My two oldest children have a piano recital this week. They've been taking piano lessons for two or three years now, and while neither of them is ready to go on tour with Billy Joel just yet, I can actually recognize most of the songs they are trying to play. (They're getting better with each lesson and practice.)

I never took piano lessons, and I wish now that I had. My older sister and brother both took piano lessons, but when it came my turn my parents either lacked the money or the interest in signing me up. (It might have been due to Third Child Indifference Syndrome.) Back then it didn't bother me at all. If you had given me the choice between practicing piano or watching reruns of Star Trek, Spock and Chekov would have won every time.

I've occasionally wondered if the chance to take piano lessons would have impacted my life. Maybe I missed my destiny as a piano-playing singer-songwriter. (If you've ever sat near me at church during the hymns, you can probably testify that I should avoid anything that involves singing.)

But, while I never got the chance to learn the piano, I did get an opportunity to flex my musical talents in fifth grade. That's the year students at our school were allowed to sign up for band.

Before you can join the band, though, you have to decide which instrument you are going to play. This is a pretty big decision for a fifth grader, because unless you are some kind of prodigy, you're going to be stuck with whatever instrument you choose for the rest of your life. This was the 1970s, so immediately any woodwind instruments were out. (Woodwinds were for girls, and heaven help anyone bold enough to cross gender stereotypes back then!) So, that left me to decide between brass or percussion. A couple of my friends picked the trumpet, and a couple chose the trombone, so I decided to follow my friends to the brass section. (One friend chose trumpet but was informed by the band teacher he had to switch to trombone because "your lips are too big.") (Apparently our band instructor was unfamiliar with the work of Louis Armstrong.)

It's all in the slide!
I chose the trombone mostly for two reasons. 1) I thought the trombone's slide looked cool, and wondered if I might be able to use it as a weapon. (It was like a light-saber that played music!) And, probably more influentially, B) my Dad had an old trombone I could use. Musical instruments are not cheap, so the fact we had access to a dusty old trombone that had been sitting in a storage shed since the 1950s clinched the choice for me.

I made it through 5th grade band just fine, learning how to play "When the Saints Go Marching In" as well (almost) as the next guy. But, for 6th grade we got a new band teacher, and it didn't take long for me to realize I didn't like him much. Why? Mostly because he was a trombone player, and he expected his trombone students to: A) practice their trombone at home, and 2) get most of the notes correct when playing a song. Looking back, these don't seem like outlandish demands, but to this particular 6th grader, they were a bit too much. (Have you ever tried to practice a trombone at home by yourself? I'm asking, because it's something I never did.)

So, I ended up dropping out of band in 6th grade. My musical dreams came to an end...or did they?

Most of my friends stayed in band, which was fine until it started to become a problem in high school. The problem? When I'd go to the football and basketball games and want to hang out with my friends, I couldn't because they were in Pep Band and I was not. This predicament reached its breaking point during my sophomore year when all of my friends spent several days on a Band Tour trip while I was stuck back at the school going to my regular classes. They came back with tales of all the fun they had, and I felt I was really missing out.

So, I came up with a harebrained scheme: I would re-join band, despite being almost five complete years behind everyone else. Luckily for me, the high school band teacher was very understanding, and I was back in band again, a junior in high school with the skill of a 5th grader.

Yes, I can still get into my old Pep Band shirt!
(No, I can't BREATHE while I'm wearing the shirt. Or play the trombone.)

Fortunately, my friends in the trombone section knew what they were doing, and they were able to cover for my deficiencies with the horn. And so, I was able to hang out with my friends in the Pep Band, and I even occasionally hit some of the right notes at the right times! I was able to go on two Band Tour trips with my friends, creating memories that would last a lifetime! (Like when one of my friends did a striptease in front of a full high school auditorium.)

Did re-joining the band help me realize all of my musical dreams? No, but I did have a lot of fun. And really, that's all I hope for my kids and their piano adventures: I hope they enjoy it. And who knows, if one of them wants to take up the trombone, I know where their Grandpa's old instrument is, and maybe it can still hit a correct note or two.

Friday, May 25, 2018

11 (Mostly) Lame Excuses for Not Returning Your Shopping Cart

It's happened to all of us. You go to the store to do some shopping. It's often a struggle to find a good parking spot, but today you actually see one. You start to pull into the spot....only to find you can't park there because some lazy doofus has left his shopping cart right in the middle of your parking spot!

It really isn't that difficult to return the cart to the cart return, is it? I don't think it has ever taken me more than one minute to take my cart, find a cart return, and put my cart there. It's not rocket science. Or brain surgery. Or rocket surgery.

You're doing it wrong!

And yet, if you drive into the parking lot of any major store, you're likely to find a wide array of shopping carts scattered hither and yon. What's especially annoying is to see how many of the random carts are within twenty feet of a cart return.

Looks like we're going for a cart in every parking spot!

The justifications and excuses for not returning the carts are numerous. Here are a few of them:

1. The I'm Too Important--These folks are too important to be bothered with putting their shopping cart away. That's something for lesser people to do. (These are the same arrogant jerks who park in the fire lane at the front of the store because, well, they're that much more important than everyone else.)

2. The I've Got the Wheels Up On the Curb--These people care, at least a little bit, about where they leave their shopping cart. They don't want it to just be rolling around loose, so they put the front wheels up on a curb so that the cart won't wander.

At least it's not rolling anywhere, right?

3. The Drop It Like It's Hot/I Ain't Got Time For This--These people just leave the cart in the exact spot where they unloaded it. They can't be bothered to move it an inch.

This is where I unloaded it. This is where it's staying.

4. The I'll Move It Between the Parking Spots--These people will move the cart up near the front of the parking spot, possibly even between two rows of parking spots, in an attempt to get it most of the way out of the way. (Note: "most of the way" is never fully out of the way. I think we've all had the experience of pulling into a parking spot where the cart was almost out of the way, so we inch forward trying to get as close to the cart as we can without hitting it. And then, of course, we bump into the cart and it rolls away in surprising and dangerous directions.)

5. The I'm Just Doing What They Were Doing--These people will see one cart that's not where it's supposed to be, then think that it'll be okay if they put their cart next to it. The idea being, "he did it first, so it's okay if I put mine next to his."

Everyone else is putting them along here. Why can't I?

6. The Lazy--These people just can't muster the effort to push the cart ten feet to a cart return.

7. The Jerk--This guy is trying to be a jerk on purpose, so he parks his shopping cart in such a way that it obstructs as many parking spots as possible.

Hey look, it's a Four Corners cart! One wheel each in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico!

8. The They Pay People To Do This--These people (usually "I'm Too Important") will justify leaving their cart willy-nilly because "they do, after all, pay people to come out here and gather the carts."

9. The Where the Heck Is the Nearest Cart Return?--Sometimes, parking lots are designed by idiots. Occasionally you'll get your cart unloaded, look around, and not see a spot to return your cart within 100 yards. I'll admit, this has happened to me a few times, and it's about the only time I haven't taken my cart to a proper cart return. (In those instances I have, once or twice, settled for an "I'm Just Doing What They Were Doing" situation and put my cart near a bunch of other carts.)

Where exactly is the cart return?

10. The I'm Just Going to Shove My Cart In the Direction of the Store--There's no cart return nearby? Well, I'll just shove my cart in the direction of the store. It's not my worry anymore!

The loneliest shopping cart in the world.
These are just a few of the reasons/excuses people have for not properly returning their carts. About the only justifiable excuse I can think of is:

11. The I've Got Small Children and I Don't See a Cart Return Nearby and I'm Not Leaving My Kids Just So I Can Track Down a Place to Return My Shopping Cart--That's one excuse I'll accept.

Of course, just because I almost always return my shopping cart to the proper place, it doesn't mean I'm perfect. Usually I'll line my cart up with the cart return, then shove it as hard as possible from as far away as I can just to hear/see it smash into the other carts that are already there. (I've got to be a rebel somehow!)

Edited from a post originally published on 6/23/15.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Donald Trump or Donald Duck

I was having a hard time figuring what to write about, so I asked my three year-old girl and my two year-old boy, "What should I write about today?"

Excitedly, the Girl said, "Donald! Write about Donald!"

"Oh," I replied. "You want me to write about Donald Duck?"

"No," the Girl answered. "Not Donald Duck. Donald."

The Boy interjected with, "Foofy! Foofy!" (That's how he pronounces "Goofy.")

I was a bit confused by what the Girl wanted. "Not Donald Duck? Which Donald should I write about, then? Donald Trump?"

"Yes!" the Girl shouted. "Donald Trump! Donald Trump!"

This image is available on t-shirts or other products at: this site.

So, I've been instructed by my children to write about Donald Trump. And then, the more I thought about it, it dawned on me that Donald Trump and Donald Duck have some things in common. Here are a few of those similarities:

*Donald Duck is a bird who speaks. Donald Trump is a man who tweets.

*Donald Duck gets frustrated quite easily, and often says things like, "Aw, phooey!" Donald Trump often gets frustrated with people, and ends his tweets by saying, "Sad."

*Donald Duck had a rich relative, Uncle Scrooge McDuck. Donald Trump had a rich relative, his father Fred Trump.

*Donald Duck and Donald Trump both are fond of wearing a particular hat.

*Donald Duck and Donald Trump both have homes in Florida.

*Some people have a hard time understanding Donald Duck when he speaks. Some people have a hard time understanding Donald Trump, too.

Of course, Donald Duck and Donald Trump are different, too:

*Donald Duck doesn't wear pants. Donald Trump does wear pants. (Thankfully!)

*Donald Duck hangs out with Mickey Mouse and Daisy Duck. Donald Trump hangs out with Mike Pence and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

*Donald Duck is not the President of the United States of America. Donald Trump is.

So there you have it. I hope the Girl is happy. (Next time maybe I'll write about Foofy.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

No Tomatoes, Please

I don't like tomatoes. Never have, never will.

So, when I go to a burger joint and say, "No tomatoes, please," what I mean is that I don't want tomatoes on my hamburger cheeseburger. If I wanted tomato on my cheeseburger, I would not have said, "No tomatoes, please." It seems pretty simple.

And yet, there have been many times when I have been served my cheeseburger and I look under the hood and find those horrible, terrible, pink-ish, red-ish circles of disgust!

When I said "no tomatoes" what I meant was "NO TOMATOES!!!"

As a kid my Mom would always say, "You like ketchup, don't you?"

"Yes, Mom."

"And you like tomato sauce on pizza and spaghetti, don't you?"

"Yes, Mom."

Yes, but it's not the same thing! There is a big difference between the taste and texture of a tomato and the taste and texture of pizza sauce. (Or spaghetti sauce. Or ketchup.) (Or catsup, for that matter.) It's like saying you like peanut butter, but you don't like peanuts. That's okay. They are two different foods with two different tastes and two different textures. It's okay to like one but not the other.

But, it's more than just tomatoes. (If it stopped at tomatoes, The Wife would be very, very happy!)

Actually, when I order a cheeseburger I'll say, "No tomatoes or onions, please." I don't want onions on my cheeseburger.

"But you like onion rings, don't you?" Oh, just stop it! Yes, I like onion rings. And I like grilled onions on my patty melt. You see, I like cooked onions. In fact, I love cooked onions! But, I can't stand raw onions on my cheeseburger. Raw onions taste different. A raw onion can overpower everything around it, including the cheeseburger I'm trying to enjoy. (There is a reason raw onions make people cry!)

Of course, you can't talk about food that overpowers all the flavors around it without bringing up my arch-enemy: the green pepper! This is where The Wife and I have the most difference of opinion. She loves green peppers. Me? I loathe, hate and despise green peppers! With a passion!

For years I've had people who like green peppers on pizza tell me, "If you don't like them, just pick them off." That's nice, in theory. However, in practice, if you pick a green pepper off of the pizza, do you know what you have? You've got a pizza that still tastes like green pepper! It's impossible to "pick the green pepper off" because they are so horrible and insidious that they leave their smell and taste wherever they have been. (In that regard, they're like certain stinky truck drivers that I used to have to work with.)(Believe me, sometimes the smell never comes out of a chair.)

I don't like them, but at least they are better than their stinky green cousins.

But wait, there's more.

I don't like ice in my drink. There are many reasons for this, the main ones being:

1) I'm a guzzler, not a sipper.
2) Because I'm a guzzler, I don't need ice to keep the drink cold. (It'll be gone in just a few seconds.)
C) The added ice waters down my drink. (I ordered a root beer, not a root beer and water.)
D) I don't want ice slamming down into my face when I try to get the last of my drink.

The Wife can put some ice in a cup, put some drink in it, and sip on it for a day and a half. Not me. If I'm going to have a drink I want to have that drink. I'm going to drink that drink. If I don't have that drink dranked dranken droke drank drunk finished within five minutes, I must not have been very thirsty.

Putting ice in my drink means that I have to drink it with a straw (it's hard to guzzle with a straw) and/or I'm going to be straining the ice with my teeth, and I'll be left with a bunch of ice at the bottom of the cup when I'm finishing up. (Besides, all those plastic straws are bad for the environment.)

Hey, there's still some root beer hiding down there in that ice!

do not want that big bunch of ice, whether it be cubed, crushed or in some other weird form, to come shooting down the cup into my face when I tip the cup up to get the last of my drink! (And, dagnabbit, I am going to drink the last of my drink!) There's nothing quite like that wall of ice slamming into your nose while you try to get that last drop of beverage.

Here come the avalanche of ice to smash into my nose! (And yes, there's still root beer hiding in that ice!)

I'm sure everyone has some foods they want left off of their order. If you've got any that I didn't cover, I'd like to hear about them. (Unless it's bacon. I don't want to hear about anyone leaving bacon off of anything on purpose.)

So, hold the green peppers, please! (And if you are holding the green peppers, you'll want to wash your hands really good, because that smell with stay with you.)

Edited from a post originally published on 6/5/2015.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May School Daze

It's May! Everyone loves May, right? It's spring time! The weather is getting better, the flowers are in bloom, the grass is turning green, and the world is full of new life and new excitement!

But, for school teachers May isn't fresh, new, and full of life. For school teachers May is like those last three or four miles of a marathon. They're tired, they're struggling, and they're just hoping they can make it to the finish line.

For most teachers, the month of May starts with standardized testing. All teachers love standardized tests. (That's sarcasm, y'all.) Teachers spend hours, days, weeks, and sometimes even months getting their students ready for standardized tests. (I haven't taken a standardized test for a while. Are they still multiple guess, separate answer sheet, fill the circle in completely with no stray marks type of tests? I hope they've gotten better, but I'm not holding my breath.)

It's those "all of the above" or "none of the above" questions that I really don't like!

Once the standardized tests are finished, both students and teachers know that the school year is, for all intents and purposes, over. (Or is that "for all intensive porpoises?") It's hard for the students to have any motivation to do any more school work, and most teachers find it difficult to keep students engaged when those students lack motivation.

That's why May is jam-packed with keep-the-kids-busy activities. There are class parties. There are class field trips. There are school assemblies. There are school concerts. There are school plays. There are school jaunts to the amusement park. There are in-class movies. (I would venture to bet that school classes see more movies in May than in all the other months of the year combined.)

Do I blame the teachers? Heck no! I'm just a parent, and I'm worn out and ready for the school year to be over. I can't imagine what it must be like for the people who have to wrangle hundreds of stir crazy students with spring fever.

So, just like with runners at the end of a marathon, if you see a teacher in May, give them some encouragement. Cheer them on. Buy them a soda. (Preferably one with caffeine.) Thank them. Tell them they're doing great. Do everything you can to help them get across that finish line. Because they need all the help they can get.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mom Speaks!

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I think we've finally had some success with my Mom. (Yes, in this analogy, I am equating the "old dog" with my Mom.) (No, I don't think she'll like that.)

For years, whenever Mom would talk about Walmart she would add an unnecessary "s" at the end of "Walmart." She would say things like, "I'm going to the Walmarts to get some tube socks." Or, "I found the cutest outfit at the Walmarts." Or, "Did you hear about the shooting over at the Walmarts?"

My brother and I, in our endless need to tease and torment my Mom, would then say, "Oh, really? You're going to more than one Walmart?" We've been hounding her constantly about this for years. Then, suddenly, a while back she started saying it correctly. She would say things like, "I'm going to go get some barbecue sauce at the WalmarT." (She would emphasize the "t" to make sure we knew she was saying it right.)

We were amazed. Even at her advanced age (39-ish), she was able to learn something new! And so, with that, she never said anything ever again that we were able to tease her about.


My brother and I tormenting my Mom, as usual. (She's the short one in the middle.)

Once when she was visiting we went to Wendy's for lunch. I asked her what she wanted. She said, "McNuggets." I pointed out to her that, since we were at Wendy's, I didn't think she would be able to get "McNuggets." It took a while for it to dawn on her why she couldn't get "McNuggets" at Wendy's. But, that didn't stop her from referring to her chicken nuggets as "McNuggets" three more times during the course of our lunch.

As her son and official tormentor, I was obliged to point it out and mock her every time she said it. That's what a loving son does.

If there ever comes a time when she hasn't said anything mockable for a while (it's rare, but it does occasionally happen), we will ask her to say one of her old standbys. We will ask her what the largest city in Illinois is. (Her answer: "Chi-CARR-go.") Or what state Boston is in. (Her answer: "Mass-a-TOO-sets.") Or what is downstairs by the clothes dryer. (Her answer: "the war-shing machine.")

It's fun, it's easy, and if we didn't do it she'd wonder if we still loved her.

Unfortunately, from time to time, I've found myself on the wrong end of some mispronouncial mocking. Apparently, I have trouble with some words that begin with the letters "hu." In my voice, "humor" comes out as "yumor." "Huge" is "yuge." And the star of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Music and Lyrics is "You Grant."

Personally, I don't see much difference between a "human" and a "yuman," but The Wife most certainly does, and she delights in every opportunity she gets to mock me about it. I try to take it in stride. And then I try to find something that she says in an odd way so I can mock her back. But, the only thing I can find that she mispronounces is "sorry." It comes out as "soary," kind of like the way a Canadian would say it. (Hmm..., if I didn't know better, I might think she actually comes from Canada. Sure, she says she's from Utah, but that's just the sort of thing a shifty Canadian would say.)

Now that I think about it, maybe I'm being too hard on my Mom. Everyone makes mistakes, and maybe I shouldn't harp on hers so much. Maybe I should let her shop at however many Walmarts she wants. Maybe I'll let her get McNuggets at any restaurant she chooses, even ones in Chicarrgo or Massatoosets. Maybe I'll just say I'm soary and let her be. After all, she's only yuman.

Edited from a post originally published on 5/31/2012.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Diaper Change or Wrestling Match?

I've never really liked wrestling.

Back when I was in school, the thought of trying out for the wrestling team didn't even cross my mind. There were two main reasons for this: 1) I would see all the wrestlers walking around starving themselves, spitting constantly, and going to the bathroom frequently in order to get down to their wrestling weight. Me, I've always liked food and have never been very good at spitting, so the wrestling life wasn't tempting. And B) I was skinny, slow, and weak, a combination that would have seen me constantly pinned to the mat.

I didn't care for professional wrestling, either. I was able to discern at an early age that it was fake. (My "fake" radar wasn't always accurate, though. I thought Milli Vanilli were real.)

So, I made it through several decades of life without learning much about the ins and outs of wrestling. And then my fourth child came along. And suddenly I've found myself engaged in full-blown wrestling matches every time I go to change his diaper.

My son and I, wrestling during a diaper change. (I'm the one that's losing.)

I didn't have this problem with my first three children. Oh, there'd be an occasional wiggle to avoid the new diaper, but nothing like what I'm dealing with now. Thing 4 has a wide range of wrestling moves designed to keep me from easily changing his diaper.

He's got the "Knee Clench," which involves clenching his knees together so I can't get to the poop to wipe it off.

There's the "Leg Twist." When I'm holding him up by one leg in order to wipe the poop off, he'll twist his leg in an effort to get me to lose my grip on it so that his poop-covered bum will drop back down to the changing table, spreading the poop everywhere. (I'm not sure why he wants this to happen, but he definitely does.)

The "Leg Wrap" is a move where he wraps both of his legs around my arm and squeezes to immobilize it, much like what a python or an anaconda would do.

There's the "Disappearing Houdini." Just when I get the new diaper in position, he'll suddenly lurch in one direction or another in order to escape the incoming diaper. Sometimes he'll only reposition himself a couple of inches, but those inches can mean the difference between a diaper that covers his bum and a diaper-thong. (And there ain't no one that wants a diaper-thong!)

Those are just a few of the moves he has, and he keeps developing new ones. I look forward to when he's potty trained and I don't have to change his diaper anymore, but since he isn't even two years old yet, that's still just a faraway dream. In the meantime, I'll just have to work on a few takedowns of my own.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Seat Up vs. Seat Down: A Definitive Study of Toilet Seat Placement

It's happened to all of us.

You go to the bathroom to take care of some business, but when you get to the toilet you find that the seat is not in the position you wanted and/or expected it to be!

What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO???

Over the years a lot of male/female relationships have been torn asunder simply because of the placement of the toilet seat. It needn't be that way.

I thought it was time to do a definitive study of the situation, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each of the possible toilet seat positions to see if we can come to a consensus as to the absolute best placement of the toilet seat.

For the purposes of this study, I'm going to assume that men pee while standing, and that women pee while sitting. (Neither is always the case, but I'm going to play the percentages.) Also, when referring to the processes of going to the bathroom, I am going to use the words "pee" and "poop" instead of more technical terms, mostly because I think "pee" and "poop" are funny.

Position #1: Lid Up, Seat Up
POSITION #1: Lid Up, Seat Up:

Advantage for Men: Prime position for peeing in the potty.
Disadvantage for Men: Must lower the seat to poop.

Advantage for Women: Ummm…the joy of knowing they have left the toilet in the best possible position for their man. (Yes, I know that is quite a reach.)
Disadvantage for Women: Must lower the seat to pee and/or to poop. (We'll discuss this disadvantage in more detail later.)

General Advantages: It's a large water bowl for your dogs and/or cats! (Assuming that is something you might want.)
General Disadvantages: Dogs and cats can lick your toilet water. (Assuming this is something you might not want.) Flushes are noisier. Splatter from flushing might escape toilet onto surrounding surfaces and items. Things (combs, toothbrushes, deodorant, jewelry, etc.) might fall into toilet. Small and/or mischievous  children are more likely to play in the toilet water.

Position #2: Lid Up, Seat Down

POSITION #2: Lid Up, Seat Down:

Advantage for Men: Prime position for pooping. Makes their women happy.
Disadvantage for Men: Must raise seat to pee. (Of course, there are some men who view the seat down as an opportunity for target practice. They attempt to pee into the toilet without getting any on the seat. My advice to these men: DON'T! Numbers* show that 98.2% of all men who try to pee through the toilet seat end up getting some pee on it. So don't even try.) (*True, I just made up those numbers, but I'm 89.4% sure that they are fairly accurate.)

Advantage for Women: Prime position for pee and/or poop.
Disadvantage for Women: Worry that their man might pee on the seat.

General Advantages: Water bowl for larger dogs and cats with good balance. Good for a laugh if a cat with bad balance happens to fall in.
General Disadvantages: Pretty much the same as the General Disadvantages for Lid Up, Seat Up, except a little less. A little less noisier flush. A little less flush splatter. A little less likely to have things fall into the bowl. A little less likely kids play in the water. But all still possible.

Position #3: Lid Down, Seat Down

POSITION #3: Lid Down, Seat Down:

Advantage for Men: None.
Disadvantage for Men: Must raise lid to poop. Must raise lid and seat to pee.

Advantage for Women: None.
Disadvantage for Women: Must raise lid to pee and/or poop.

General Advantages: No animals drinking from toilet. No kids playing in toilet water. Quieter flush. No toilet flush splatter. Things won't fall into toilet. Toilet can be used as a chair, so you have a place to sit while you put on your shoes. Hides dirty toilet bowl from sight. Helps contain toilet bowl odors.

General Disadvantages: Must provide a separate water bowl for your dogs and/or cats. Slight chance there will be a surprise for you when you open the lid if the person before you didn't flush.

So there you have it, all of the advantages and disadvantages of the three possible toilet seat/lid configurations. 

And, after considering all of the data and weighing all of the options, I have reached a conclusion as to what the optimal position is for the toilet lid and seat! And, my conclusion is this:


It's really pretty simple, folks! If the toilet seat and lid aren't in the position you prefer, simply change it! It only takes two seconds to lower the seat or to raise the lid! This is not rocket science! All problems with toilet seat placement can be solved by following this simple piece of advice:


Of all the advantages and disadvantages listed above, the one that people are most vocal about and the one that causes the most problems is the disadvantage for women in Position #1: Lid Up, Seat Up. They complain that if they sit down without the seat up they end up sitting on the extremely cold porcelain edge of the toilet, and might actually fall down into the water. This would never be a problem if they would simply remember to LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAK!

I love my wife. There are many reasons why I love my wife. One of them is that we have never had an argument about the position of the toilet seat and/or lid. We are both intelligent enough to figure out that if the seat or lid are in a position we don't prefer, we can simply change it. My wife is wonderful!

That said, we have now generally gone to Position #3: Lid Down, Seat Down, as our usual configuration. We do this mostly because we want to avoid toilet flush splatter, and we would prefer our children and cat not play in the toilet water.

So, in conclusion, what is the best position for the toilet seat and/or lid? That's an individual choice. Each person needs to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each position and decide what is best for themselves. Just remember that in the long run IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER especially if you LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAK!!!

Edited from a post originally published on 7/21/14.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

My Daughter Thinks I'm an Idiot

Little children are supposed to think their parents know everything. Mom and Dad are smart! Mom and Dad are strong! Mom and Dad are capable of anything and know about everything! Mom and Dad are unfallible! (Or infallible. Whichever. It doesn't really matter because Mom and Dad are uncapable of making mistakes.)

At least that's how most little kids think.

My three year-old daughter, however, thinks I'm an idiot. How do I know this? Because my daughter thinks I have forgotten the recipe for cold cereal.

It's really pretty simple. At breakfast time I pour some cereal in a bowl for her. She then immediately starts shouting:
"Daddy, you have to put milk in it!"
"I need milk!"
"It needs milk in it!"
"Daddy, it needs milk, please!"

I think, maybe, that it needs some milk.


Perhaps you would like some milk with that?

Now, to be clear about this, I have never not given her milk with her cereal. There wasn't ever that one time when I forgot to get her milk for her cereal that she keeps flashing back to because it scarred her forever. She always gets milk with her cereal. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Even when she asks me to refill her bowl with a second helping of cereal and there's still some milk in there from the first helping---I always give her more milk, even if she doesn't need it.

And yet, she thinks I have somehow forgotten that when I pour her some cereal that I also need to get her some milk with it.

She really, really, really, really, really wants milk with her cereal.

(I hate to see what it's going to be like when she really, really, really, really wants her own cell phone in a few years.)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Warning: Immature Language

[Warning: This story contains mature language. Language so mature that it may cause junior high school boys to snicker uncontrollably.]

A while ago The Wife was making a new recipe that uses those Pillsbury-type rolls, you know, the ones that come in a cardboard can. (The "easy opening" cans that act like a demented, dough-filled jack-in-the-box when they finally.....POP open.) (Yes, I jump every time.) (And I say "Pillsbury-type" because we buy the store brand instead. They are cheaper, and I am nothing if not cheap.) The recipe involves flattening out the rolls, putting a couple of slices of pepperoni and some cheese in them, then rolling the dough back around the pepperoni to form a ball, so that you end up with a little roll stuffed with pizza.

The Wife started to call them "pizza balls," but then she stopped herself and said, "Oh, wait, I can't call them that." Why? Well, The Wife is a junior high math teacher, so she has a built-in instinct as to what she should not say because it will make junior high boys laugh inappropriately. Her instinct told her that "Pizza Balls" would fall into that category. So, she had to think of another name for them. I think she settled on either "Pizza Rounds" or "Pizza Rolls."

(Should I be offended that, since no junior high boys were around, I was the reason she felt she couldn't call them "Pizza Balls?" No. After all, I still laugh every time I hear the name "Winnie the Pooh." I'm not exactly the model of maturity.)

That got me thinking about what other simple words or phrases she has to avoid for fear of inapproriate giggling. So, I asked The Wife and her mother (The Mother-In-Law was a high school English teacher for many, many years) what other words they needed to be careful with. And then I gleaned some of my own memories as a snickering junior high boy, and I came up with this list of words and phrases that might make immature schoolboys laugh, chuckle, or guffaw for no apparent reason. (Of course, this list is far from comprehensive, because sometimes junior high boys can find innuendo in the most innocuous of words.) (Probably even the word "innocuous.")

* pee--Urine, like most bodily functions, is very humorous. And, if you say it twice in a row (pee-pee), even the junior high girls will think it is funny.

* P--The Wife says she can't even use the letter "P" as a variable in a math equation. (You know, stuff like: 4a + 3c = P) That's how funny pee (or P) (or pee-pee) is.

* thong--Back in my day (which admittedly was a long, long time ago in a land far, far away,) a thong was a kind of slip-on shoe, like a flip-flop or a sandal, which stayed on your foot  because of a little strap that came down between your big toe and the toe next to it. (The index toe?) The word "thong" used to be quite tame, butt but then a certain style of skimpy underwear and swimsuit became more and more popular. If you say the word "thong" today, junior high boys will immediately think of butt cheeks. And they will giggle.


* balls--I know I mentioned this earlier. I just thought I'd point out that "Pizza Balls" does sound like a nickname some unfortunate kid might get while in junior high.

* nuts--Very similar to the usage of "balls." (Although, now that I am writing this, I don't think I'll think of a squirrel "gathering his nuts" in quite the same way ever again.)

* #1 and/or #2--The numbers 1 or 2 by themselves will not bring about snickers. It's when you combine them with the actual word "number" that the laughter ensues. (As in "number one" or "number two.")(Yes, bodily functions are hilarious.)

* __?__--I was going to put a word here, but since I try to keep this a family-friendly humor column, it just didn't look right, even though it is a common word. The word has several meanings, including pulling the hammer back on a gun, raising an eyebrow or turning your head in a particular manner, or even a male bird of any kind, particularly a rooster. But, I would suggest you avoid using it around teenage boys. (And don't even think about saying something "warms the cockles of your heart.")

* pianist--It's probably better for everyone if you just say "piano player" instead.

* tool--Once, on an episode of Castle, the female police officer pulled her gun on a guy who was using a grinder to try to break through a safe. She told the guy, "take your hand off your tool." The male cops who were with her started to snicker. (So did I.) I then asked The Wife if her junior high boys would laugh at that, too. She said the 9th grade boys probably would, but most of the 7th grade boys wouldn't get it.

* wiener--If you say "wiener" instead of "hot dog" at this point in time, you're pretty much just asking for trouble. ("Beanie-weenies" are pretty dangerous, too.) (In more ways than one.) (Yes, that was a fart joke.)

So, there you have it. Like I said, this list is far from complete, because, in the right frame of mind, junior high boys can turn just about anything into some sort of innuendo. (Especially words like "innuendo.")

And now that I'm done writing this, I think I'll go make me some Pizza Balls! (Mmm.....Pizza Balls!)

Edited from a post originally published on10/23/2012.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Family Movie Night: At the Theater vs. At Home

You want to watch a movie together as a family? Sounds fun! Of course, first you have to find a movie that the whole family can agree on. This can be difficult when you have four kids.

The new Avengers movie? Too scary for the little ones.
The latest movie starring The Rock? A little too intense. 
The comedy from that one gal who has her own show on cable? Too crass.
Deadpool? Heck no!
That musical about the circus starring Wolverine? Sure, why not.

Now, I've got to admit, a movie where everyone sings about a circus wasn't really high on my must-see list, but I'd heard good things about it, including from some people who normally wouldn't like that kind of thing. Plus, a musical might be a good way to get a few different songs stuck in my head. (Currently stuck in my brain: all the songs from Coco.) (Plus all the songs from Moana.) (Plus, still, all the songs from Frozen.) (Because you cannot let go the songs from Frozen. Ever.)

So, we made the decision that we were going to see The Greatest Showman as a family. Hooray, we agreed on a movie! But, we still had a decision to make. Should we go see it at the theater, or should we wait until it came out on DVD or streaming, and watch it at home?

I've been told I look just like absolutely no one.
(You could be the first!)

It's a pretty tough call, especially with four kids, including two aged three or younger. There's a lot of great things about experiencing a movie at the theater. The screen is big. The sound is great. The seats are comfortable. It's how movies were meant to be seen!

But, there are drawbacks. If the kids are unruly, you have to worry about them ruining the movie experience for other theater-goers. If you need to change a diaper, you have to leave the theater to do it; you can't hit the pause button. 

Of course, the biggest deterrent from taking the family to the theater is the cost. At the new local theater, the cost is $6.75 for each child ages one through eleven. That's $27.00 just to get the four kids into the movie. Adult prices are $7.25 for matinees, or $9.25 for evening shows. So, for our family of six, that's either $41.50 for a matinee, or $45.50 for an evening showing! 

Do you know how many movies you could get at the RedBox for $45.50? (Yes, I'm old. I go to the RedBox. I'd still go to Blockbuster if they hadn't closed down.) Of course, with $45.50 you could also purchase a few DVDs or stream several movies.

And that's not even figuring in the cost of the the theater popcorn or snacks! (Unless you're one of those cheapskates who smuggle in their own snacks.) (Guilty!) [NOTE: Saying "Guilty" in parenthesis is not a legal admission of actual guilt. (At least that's what my lawyer says.)]

So, we decided to go with the option of buying the DVD and watching the movie on our own television. For the $14.96 DVD price we could have only gotten two people into the movie. 

There are, however, some negatives to watching the movie at home, too. For one thing, even though we have a fairly large television, that screen and sound system are not as good as the ones in the theater. Not even close.

Also, since you're at home, the little kids feel like they can just wander around the room willy-nilly. And they'll play with their toys. And if you know anything about children's toys, you know that they all play a song or make some kind of noise. So, while watching the movie I wasn't able to hear all the words, but I definitely got the gist of the show.

In the end, I guess it all comes down to which advantages and disadvantages you prioritize. The movie theater experience can be great. But, if you're like me and have several kids, it might be worth it to save a few dollars. (Those college funds don't grow on trees.)

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Joe Time" Is Gone

A while ago I was talking on the phone with my friend Sheldon. Somewhere in our conversation the topic of free time came up, and I whined--- I mean, pointed out that now that I am a father, I don't have much of it anymore. Sheldon laughed in my face. (Yes, it was over the phone, but I could tell he was laughing in my face.) And I don't blame him. I deserved it.
I didn't get married until I was 40. Back when I was single, I used to hang out a lot with Sheldon and his family. Often, when I went to go home, I would say I needed a little "Joe time." Unbeknownst to me, this would make Sheldon chuckle under his breath. (Sheldon is the father of four, and he now has several grandkids. Sheldon hasn't had any "Sheldon time" since 1988.)
What is "Joe time?" It's just like "Hammer time," but without the big baggy gold pants. (Sorry. Bad joke, but I had to go there.) (Word to your mother.) No, "Joe time" was the time I used to get to spend lounging in front of the television, doodling around on the internet, cultivating my large comic book and vinyl record collections, hiking (because every once in a while I did get off of the couch), and any other time-wasting, non-important activity that I used to enjoy. (I think "uninterrupted naps" falls into that last category.) 
I graduated college when I was 25 years old. That's when I was freed up to have all the "Joe time" I could handle. (While still in school there was always a nagging "I should be studying" feeling in the back of my head that could cut into pure "Joe time." Not that I did much studying; just that I always knew I should be studying.) So, for a full 15 years, from the time I was 25 until the time I was 40, I had a wealth of "Joe time," limited only by the 40 to 60 hours a week that I was working. That's a lot of "Joe time."

Graduating college with my parents by my side. The beginning of "Joe Time."

And then, I got married. Suddenly, there was a lot less "Joe time," but there was a good amount of "Joe and The Wife time," and that was generally more fun than simple "Joe time." Then, The Wife got pregnant. (Do they know what causes that?) When the baby came, "Joe time" dwindled significantly. Just like that "Joe time" was almost completely limited to "baby nap time."
And then came the second baby. And "Joe time" was gone. (You can hope that Baby 1 and Baby 2 nap at the same time, but you certainly can't depend on it.) Pure "Joe time" is no more. Instead of the "I should be studying" nagging from school, there is the "I should be watching the kids" in the back of my head. Even as I am writing this, I'm ''watching" the kids. They are playing contentedly (a rare occurrence), but I worry that at any moment she'll start screaming for no reason, as she is often wont to do, or he will get into something he shouldn't, because that's what he does.

So now, Sheldon can laugh at me. He knew this would happen. "Joe time" is gone. But, I love my wife and kids. How much? I love them so much that I'm willing to let "Joe time" go forever. Instead, I'll settle for the smiles and laughs and hugs and kisses. Yes, I think I'll settle for "Family time." (And I think I came out way on top in that trade off!)

Edited from a post originally published on 11/6/2010. (One of my very first blog posts!)