Friday, September 21, 2018

Another One Rides the Bus

We're lucky. The bus stop is directly across the street from our house.

Partly because of this fact, our kids have never been late for the bus. (Yet.) I can look out the window and see when the other kids are lining up at the bus stop and know that it's time to get my kids out the door.

The bus stops here!

It's fun to watch all of the kids from the neighborhood gathered together and playing as they wait for the bus. They'll chase each other and play catch and stomp all over my neighbor's lawn.

When I was a kid I had to walk all the way across town to get to the bus stop. Of course, Arimo was such a small town that "all the way across town" was basically about four or five blocks.

Every morning I would start out for my long trek to the bus stop. On the way I'd have to walk past the house with the mean dog. It was usually on a leash, but not always. It was a big relief when I saw that Blue wasn't roaming free. (Yes, I knew the dog's name. In Arimo you knew the name of every person, all of the dogs, most of the horses, some of the cats, and even a few of the cows.)

Once I made it past Blue it was free and clear to the bus stop. A lot happened at that bus stop. There were games of tag and hide and go seek. Every once in a while we would even get in a game of red rover. There were snowball fights. And, quite often, there were real fights. The real fights were usually about what place in the line you were to get on the bus.

Looking back, I don't know why it was always such a big deal. There was always plenty of room on the bus, and you never had to sit with someone you didn't want to sit with. As adults we get all concerned with taxes and mortgages and politics, but as kids there was nothing more important than what order you were in when you got on the bus.

The earlier you got on the bus, the better the chances were that you could sit where you wanted. The cool kids sat at the back of the bus. The not-quite-as-cool kids sat at the front of the bus. And all of the rest of us sat in the middle.

I look out across the street these days and it doesn't look like what order they get on the bus is quite as big of a deal to the kids today as it was back then. Oh, they'll run to get to the bus stop first, and they'll put their backpacks in their place at the line so they can go off and play, but I have yet to see any fistfights or pushing and shoving when it comes time to actually get on the bus.

So yes, I'm glad the bus stop is right across the street. And I'm glad all of the kids at the bus stop seem to get along with each other. I'm glad my kids have made friends with their bus stop mates. But mostly I'm glad that I don't have to take the kids to school myself. I prefer being in my pajamas at 8:30 in the morning.

Edited from a post originally published on 10/13/2015.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Climb Every* Mountain! (*not every mountain; just one)

Oxford Peak stands like a beacon on the south end of Marsh Valley, Idaho. As I grew up in the small town of Arimo, Oxford always stood there, looking down on me. And I would think, "Someday, I'd like to climb that mountain." But I never did.

Oxford Peak!
If you drive south of Pocatello on Interstate 15, you'll see Oxford Peak. The southbound freeway seems to be heading straight for it--the mountain at the south end of the valley that kind of looks like a volcano.

No, it's not a volcano.

My desire to climb to the top of Oxford Peak increased with each passing year. Unfortunately, my physical ability to actually climb the mountain peaked long before I attempted to reach the peak of the mountain. Before I knew it, I was over 50 years old, and the chances I had of reaching the summit of Oxford were quickly diminishing.

The view of Oxford from the high school football field.
(Reminding me that I'm not as young as I once was.)

But then I became friends on Facebook with a guy I kinda knew in high school. He was a couple of years younger than me, and I knew who he was, but I wasn't sure if I had ever actually spoken a word to him. For our purposes here, we'll call him "Andy." (Because that's what his name is.) Over a period of several years, we became better and better friends over Facebook. He mentioned from time to time that he had been to the summit of Oxford on his 40th birthday, and he would like to climb it again. I responded that I had always wanted to climb every that mountain, and he said something along the lines of, "we'll have to do that together someday."

For most people,"We'll have to do that someday," is a polite way of saying, "That would be nice to do, but it's probably never going to happen." Luckily for me, Andy is not most people. He set a date for the climb, and sent out an open invitation to everyone in the local Facebook page, too.

As the day for the hike approached, I thought I had gotten myself ready by taking a few hikes on the mountain behind my house. What I didn't realize was that a little two-hour hike didn't even begin to prepare me for what was to come. (Looking back, being at least 40 pounds overweight wasn't optimal. Perhaps it would have been easier to make the hike if I weren't carrying Ben & Jerry along with me.)

As we started the hike, Andy and I worked together, as we were going at about the same pace. His wife and some of her friends got out ahead of us. Occasionally we would see them off in the distance on the trail ahead of us. One of those friends was a 73 year-old man, which made Andy and I feel bad for feeling bad about our advancing ages. (We were each more than 20 years younger than this guy zooming up the trail ahead of us!)

Beautiful fall foliage! (But no sign of anyone if front of us on the trail.)

The hike up the mountain took longer than I thought it would. We started at the Cherry Creek campground, then slowly gained elevation until we got to a plateau which was followed by some rolling hills until we started up the final ascent. Andy had a playlist of Billy Joel music that we listened to as we climbed and talked. (An appreciation for Billy Joel music was one of the things that Andy and I built our Facebook friendship on.) One song in particular seemed especially appropriate. As we got closer and closer to the summit, it was encouraging to hear Billy sing, "My other world is just a half a mile away."

At this point, that peak looked way more than "half a mile away."
(Despite being a New York Yankees fan, Andy is a pretty good guy.)

Unfortunately, the ascent took longer than the playlist Andy had made for it, and the music changed from Billy Joel to some random older songs. I say "unfortunately" because one of the songs that came on at a particularly steep portion of the hike was "American Pie" by Don McLean. Normally I think this is a great song, but as I was struggling up the mountain I didn't really need to hear the line, "bad news on the doorstep; I couldn't take one more step." Worse yet was the repeated lyrical refrain singing, "This'll be the day that I die. This'll be the day that I die."

Almost there! (But still so far to go.)

We hiked for several hours, but had yet to reach the summit. And then we came to a place where the trail got steeper, and it went up an incline of loose gravel that was almost impossible for two aging, slightly overweight guys to scale. I was beginning to think that instead of saying I had reached the summit of Oxford Peak, that I was just going to be able to say I had gotten quite far up on the mountain. But, we got some encouraging words from the younger (and one older) folk who had reached the top ahead of us, and we backtracked a little bit until we found a small trail that took a bit of a friendlier path to the saddle of the mountain. Once we found this trail, we knew we were going to make it.

And we did!

On top of the world!!!

We made it to the top of Oxford Peak! It took us over five hours to get there, but we did get there! There's nothing quite like the feeling of reaching the summit of a mountain. Even though it was a bit hazy, the view was still incredible. From Oxford's apex you can look down on Marsh Valley to the north, Cache Valley to the east, and parts of the Malad Valley to the west.

At the summit was a flagpole with an old, tattered American flag. Also, there was a little lock box which contained some notebooks which were signed by people who had been there previously. It was an honor and a privilege to put my name in that book. (And, to be honest, a bit of a relief after so many hours of climbing.

On top of Oxford Peak, with Marsh Valley in the distance behind me!

When we got to the summit, we found the other members of our hiking party, plus a few other people who (wisely) went up part of the trail on four-wheelers. Unfortunately, by the time Andy and I made it to the top, most everyone else had been there for so long that they were ready to head back down.

And that's when it sunk in to me: we had to walk all the way back down the way we came. While I do okay going up the mountain for an old, overweight guy, I do not at all like going down the mountain. I'm generally a klutzy guy, so I'm always afraid of losing my footing and falling as I'm trying to descend. As a result, while others tend to go much faster downhill, it takes me just about as long to go down the trail as it does to go up it.

On the way up, Andy and I went at about the same pace, but on the way down he kept having to wait for me. When we got about halfway down, we were back in the rolling hills section of the trail. This meant going down steep hills, which I take very slowly, followed by some steep little climbs, which I no longer had the energy for. I was no longer walking; I was trudging.

Just then, I was rescued. A couple of the people who had been at the summit were driving by us on their four-wheelers. I put on my most desperate, tired face and practically begged them for a ride. Even though they had no room on their vehicle, they took mercy, scrunched together, and let me ride with them for about half a mile until they got to a point where the trails diverged. (They dropped me there because they were going a different way.) As I rode with them, I found out that the driver graduated high school the same year that I was born! Yes, here I was feeling sorry for myself for how old I was, and this guy who was 18 years older than me had easily made it to the summit!

Eventually, Andy and I finally made it back to the trailhead. I had never been so happy to see a mini-van!

In about ten hours of hiking we had made it up to the top of the mountain, then back down again. Along the way I learned a few lessons. I learned that it can take a long time to climb a tall mountain. I learned that the more you weigh, the more weight you have to carry with you up the trail. I learned that "American Pie" is not a good hiking song. I learned that it is faster to travel by four-wheeler than by trudging. And, I learned that there are things you could never do on your own that you can accomplish with the help of a friend.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Apparently, You Are a Parent!

It's apparent you're a parent when you attempt to put your work gloves on and find a fruit snack in one of the fingers.

It's apparent you're a parent when you need a band-aid and are forced to choose between "Strawberry Shortcake" or "The Muppets."

It's apparent you're a parent when you have half a dozen used Kleenex in your pocket, and you, personally, haven't used any of them.

It's apparent you're a parent when you start speaking in rhymes because you've been reading Dr. Seuss all day.

It's apparent you're a parent when you can name every character on Super Why (Super Why, Wonder Red, Princess Pea, and Alpha Pig) but cannot name one member of the President's Cabinet.

It's apparent you're a parent if you've even heard of the show Super Why.

It's apparent you're a parent when your chicken nuggets are shaped like dinosaurs.

It's apparent you're a parent when you know which McDonald's have PlayPlaces and which ones don't, and you plan your meals accordingly.

It's apparent you're a parent when you go out to eat at one of your favorite places and, along with your food, you get a cup full of tokens.

It's apparent you're a parent when you are a heterosexual man and you take a large green bag with ducks on it (filled with baby wipes and diapers) with you wherever you go.

It's apparent you're a parent when you know where every children's museum is within the tri-state area.

It's apparent you're a parent if you notice whether or not the public restroom has a diaper changing station or not. (And you're a little indignant if it doesn't.)

It's apparent you're a parent if you see kids behaving badly and mutter to yourself, "Well, at least that's not my kid. (This time.)"

It's apparent you're a parent if, when fueling up the car, you make faces through the windows in hopes of getting a smile or two in return. (And it makes forking out $50 for a tank of gas seem almost worth it.)

It's apparent you're a parent if you know what time the school bus comes every morning, not because your kids are old enough to get on it, but because seeing the bus pull up across the street is one of the highlights of their day.

It's apparent you're a parent when you no longer get to sit next to your wife at church. Instead you're each on one end of the row, hoping to contain the kids in between you.

It's apparent you're a parent when you wish, for more than one reason, that Barbie would wear clothes that weren't so tight fitting. 1) So you can change Barbie's clothes without it seeming like you are trying to peel a grape. And, b) so your daughter doesn't think she should wear clothes that tight.

It's apparent you're a parent when the lock on the bathroom door is the most used, trusted, and important lock in the entire house.

It's apparent you're a parent when you've finally found an audience that will laugh every time you try to use a banana as a phone.

It's apparent you're a parent when there's a smile on your face whenever you think about them.

Edited from a post originally published on 1/31/2013.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remembering September 11, 2001

On September 10, 2001, they went about their lives like any other day. Maybe they turned on the television and watched The Weakest Link, or stayed up late catching the Denver Broncos beat the New York Giants 31-20 on Monday Night Football.

Maybe they got all of the laundry folded and put away. Maybe they didn't. Maybe they thought, "The laundry will still be here tomorrow."

Maybe they kissed their kids goodnight. Maybe they finally got around to making that call to see how their Mom was doing--the call they'd been meaning to make for the last couple of weeks.

Maybe if they knew what was going to happen the next day, they would do everything different. Maybe they wouldn't change a thing.

Many of the people who died on September 11, 2001 did so simply because of the circumstances of the day. They went to work, or got on an airplane as if it was just another ordinary day. It wasn't.

But, many of the people who died on September 11, 2001 did so of their own free will. They didn't choose to die, and they didn't want to die, but they were willing to risk their lives in order to help others. They put their own lives on the line so that they could save the lives of others. (For some, it's what they do every day.)

I can't imagine the courage it would take to run into those burning buildings.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from that horrible day in 2001:
     *Make the most of every moment, because you never know what day will be your last.
     *Be grateful for the courage and bravery of those who willingly face possible danger every day in order to serve and protect their communities and nation.
     *Remember the unity we felt as a nation after those disastrous events. For a brief moment, political affiliation meant nothing; we were the United States of America.

It was a terrible day. Let us not forget what happened. Let us not forget those who lost their lives. And let us always remember to work together as communities and nations, so that the sacrifices they made be not in vain.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Kids Love the Box of Misfit Toys!

Everyone knows that an empty box is the favorite toy for kids to play with. (I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere recently.) But did you know what their next favorite toy is? Any toy that you have just thrown away, or are about to give away to charity.

Adults and kids look at toys differently. An adult will look at a toy and think, "They haven't played with that in forever. I think it's time to send it along to Deseret Industries." (Or Salvation Army. Or Goodwill. Or whatever the local charity is in your area that accepts used donated toys.)

Meanwhile, a kid will look at that same toy and think, "Wow! I haven't played with that toy in forever! I think I'll make it my new favorite toy and play with it non-stop for the next week or two!"

What is especially helpful to the children is when you pile a bunch of these seldom-used toys together in a box. You might as well paint a huge arrow on the wall pointing to the box with the message: THE BEST TOYS! Because they will really want to play with those toys.

And, it doesn't matter if the toy is broken. A broken toy in the charity pile is much more enticing than a non-broken toy in the regular toy box. Besides, sometimes a toy is more fun when it is broken than when it is not.

Broken arm Iron Man? Best toy ever!!!

Santa from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had it all wrong. Instead of exiling all of the undesirables to the Island of Misfit Toys, he could have just put them in a box labelled "Going to charity" and the toys would have found good homes with plenty of children willing to play with them. (But then, the Santa from Rudolph isn't exactly the brightest or nicest guy around. In fact, he's a bit of a jerk.)

Sometimes I wonder why we even bother to buy new toys for the kids. But, I guess if we never bought toys we wouldn't have any toys to put in the charity box. And if there were no toys in the charity box, what would the kids have to play with?

(Oh, I guess they could always just play with the empty box.)

Edited from a post originally published on 9/20.2016.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Who Pooped In the Nursery?

"Which one of you is poopy?" It was a simple question, but even as I asked it I knew it wouldn't be answered.

I spent two hours on Sunday in the church's nursery, helping to tend 14 children between the ages of 1½ and 3½. It was a holiday weekend, and the regular nursery leaders were all gone, so when I went to drop off my youngest boy, there was no adult supervision in the room. I couldn't just leave my boy there in that situation, so I stayed to help. So did three other parents. (It's always great when people step up to help.)

We weren't too far into the first hour when one of the other dads who was helping said, "Phew, somebody pooped." Well, this happens all of the time. The solution is usually simple: take the smelly kid out and track down a parent to change their diaper. (My boy likes to save up his poops for nursery time so that the nursery leaders have to track me down frequently.) There's only one problem with that approach--first you have to identify which child has pooped.

Stink, stank, stunk!

14 kids is a lot of kids. The four adults in the room began sniffing randomly. "I think it's coming from that side of the room." "No, I think it's over there." "It's probably one of these boys." We couldn't come to a consensus on who had pooped. I asked the kids. I didn't really expect an answer. Most of these kids aren't potty trained, so they might not even know if they've pooped or if they haven't. (Some of them don't even know their name yet!)

I checked my boy in the usual way, pulling his pants out and looking down into his diaper. It wasn't him. (For once.) The other parents checked their own kids, too. But, we all felt a little uncomfortable checking kids that weren't our own. It doesn't feel quite right grabbing someone else's child and looking down their pants for poop. So, we kept sniffing, trying to narrow down the culprit, but to no avail.

After a while, the Primary President (the church leader over the nursery and all of the little kids) came in to check on how things were going. We drafted her into our sniffing hunt patrol, but she couldn't pinpoint the stink, either. It was like we were playing a game of "Where's Waldo?" but with our noses instead of our eyes.

We thought we had it narrowed down to one of three boys on a couple of different occasions, but we were wrong. Eventually, one of the adults caught an extra strong whiff and determined that it must be coming from one of the two girls in the corner. Sure enough, when one of them stood we could not only smell the poop, but it was also visually apparent. We had been so quick to blame one of the boys that we kept overlooking the girls. (I thought girls always smelled like lilacs and daffodils!)

It took us almost an hour and a half to track down the poop. That was far too long. (I never was very good at "Where's Waldo?" anyway.)

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Pinto Station Wagon Adventure

The Ford Pinto is widely regarded as one of the worst cars ever made. According to Wikipedia (which is correct more than 64.8% of the time) the Pinto made the list of "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time," and "The Ugliest Cars of the Past 50 Years." Not a lot of love there.

The Pinto had a reputation for exploding if it got in a rear end collision. That's not a feature most people want in an automobile.

And, just in case the regular Pinto wasn't ugly enough, Ford decided to make a station wagon version of the Pinto. (For those of you too young to remember what a station wagon looks like, it's like if you crossed an SUV with a 1982 Toyota Corolla, except uglier.)

For some unknown reason, my grandparents bought a Ford Pinto station wagon. (Did Grandpa buy it on a dare? Did he win it at a poker game? Was his bank giving them away as a prize for opening a new savings account? I really don't know.)

What I do know is that, after owning it for a short time, Grandpa decided he didn't want to own it anymore. Unfortunately, my Mom decided that she did want to own it. I'm not sure if Grandpa sold the car to Mom or if he just gave it to her. Either way, we were getting a Pinto station wagon! (I was very enthusiastic in my indifference.)

There was one big problem with this proposed change in Pinto station wagon ownership: Grandpa lived in Virginia, and we lived in Idaho. So, Grandpa came out to Idaho for a visit in his van. (He could have saved a lot of hassle if he had brought the Pinto with him when he came. But, he had no desire to drive that car across the country.)

When his visit was over, Grandpa loaded up our family and took us back to Virginia with him in his van. (It was a nice 1970's van, with a bed, shag carpet, and a rockin' 8-track stereo!) We spent some time vacationing in Virginia. But, when the vacation was over, we would have to drive back across America to Idaho in the Pinto station wagon.

There were five of us that needed to make the trip back to Idaho: me, my Mom, my brother John, my sister Lynette, and a high school friend of my sister who, for some unfathomable reason, made the trip with us.

The Pinto station wagon had four seats. Let's do the math here. That's five people and four seats. Something's got to give. That would be me. As the youngest of the five of us, it was left to me to ride in the very back of the station wagon. (I wasn't the shortest of the five of us. That would have been my Mom. But, since she was the adult and I was 12 years old, she thought she was more qualified to drive than I was.)

Here's a picture of my family from around the time of this trip.
From left: Dad, John, Lynette, me, and Mom.
(My Dad didn't go with us; he stayed to work on the farm.)
I was surprised I couldn't find any pictures from our vacation to Virginia.
I was not surprised I couldn't find any pictures of the Pinto station wagon. (No one liked that car.)

Just to be clear, when I say "the very back of the station wagon," I don't mean the back seat. I mean the section between the back seat and the hatchback door.

Now, before you go thinking about how much room there was in the back of a station wagon, let me remind you that the Pinto was considered a compact car, and the Pinto station wagon was much more compact than most station wagons. (In this case, "compact" is another word for "small.") The "very back" section that I was relegated to was wider than it was deep. That is to say there was more room from the driver side to the passenger side than there was from back seat to back door.

Obviously, there were no seat belts in the back of the Pinto station wagon. Back in 1978 the laws and attitudes toward seat belt use weren't as strict as they are today. (No one was calling child services for an unbuckled 12 year-old back then.)

I had two ways to get into the back of the Pinto station wagon. Usually I would get in the car and climb over the back seat in order to wedge myself into my riding spot. But, sometimes someone would open the back hatch so I could climb in that way.

To get out of the car I had to wait. I either had to wait for someone to open the back hatch to let me out, or I had to wait for my sister and her friend to get out of the back seat so I could climb over it to escape. It was a bit claustrophobic.

My Mom was in the driver seat, my sister and her friend were in the back seats, and my brother was in the front passenger seat. He sat there as the navigator, which is a good thing because if he hadn't been there my Mom may have driven us to Nova Scotia in her attempt to get us to Idaho. (At one point she actually got Indianapolis and Cheyenne mixed up.) He needed to be there.

At one point, though, my brother John took pity on me and offered to take a turn in the back of the Pinto station wagon. It only lasted for a couple of hours. John was 16 years old and much taller than me. It was very difficult for him to fold himself into that small space at the back of the car. So, he spent the rest of the trip up front and I spent the rest of the trip in the back. (Near the end of the trip John fell asleep and Mom used that opportunity to get turned around and drive back toward Virginia for an hour. He really was needed in the front.)

It was a long drive, well over 2,000 miles. I squished myself in the back of that Pinto station wagon over and over and over again. I wasn't back there by myself, either. Most of the luggage was on the luggage rack on top of the car, but some of it was in the back with me. It was a long, strange trip.

For some reason, I haven't seen a Pinto station wagon on the road for a long, long time.

Eventually we made it to Idaho, and I was able to forever escape from the back of the Pinto station wagon. I'm not sure what, if anything, Mom paid for that stupid car, but it wasn't worth it. We had it for a couple of years until one day the engine burst into flames while my brother was driving it.

It was a fitting end for one of "The 50 Worst, Ugliest Cars Ever Made."

Edited from a post originally published on 8/28/2015.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

In Defense of Hawaiian Pizza

Pizza is delicious! It's one thing almost everyone can agree on. It's the do-it-all meal featuring bread, sauce, cheese, meat (usually), veggies (sometimes), and even fruit (occasionally.)

Yes, I said "fruit." You see, there is a wide variety of foodstuffs that you put on top of a pizza, and most of those things are accepted by everyone. Oh, you may not like a particular topping, but you generally recognize that someone else might like that topping, and you're fine if they have that topping on their pizza. (Even anchovies.) And that's the way it should be. But, some people draw the line at pineapple. They'll say that if there is pineapple on it, it can't be called a pizza.

People feel very strongly about this issue. The president of Iceland stated that he wished he could make putting pineapple on pizza against the law. (Like a true politician, he later clarified that he's glad he doesn't have the power to tell people what to put on their pizzas. He then made a recommendation for seafood toppings, further eroding any authority he might have on the subject.) Meanwhile, a friend of mine who thinks he's an authority on the subject because he has an Italian last name once wrote, "If it has pineapple on it, IT ISN'T PIZZA!!!!!!" That's some serious ALL CAPS, plus six exclamation points, if anyone is counting. (And apparently, I am.)

That's a GOOD LOOKING PIZZA!!!!!!! (With seven exclamation points, if anyone is counting.)

I'm not sure why these people have decided that pineapple is the one topping that they must make a stand against. Are they afraid of pineapple? Is it too delicious? Were they emotionally scarred by that Tiki episode of The Brady Bunch? Do they think pineapple will be a gateway fruit, paving the way for bananas or mangoes?
Everyone has toppings they don't like. Personally, I can't stand green peppers; I think they are insidious and disgusting, and their smell and taste overpower any other pizza ingredient they are paired with. And yet, I'm perfectly fine if someone wants to put green peppers on their pizza, as long as they keep them off of my pizza. I'm not going to declare, "if it has green peppers, IT ISN'T PIZZA," because I'm willing to allow others the freedom to choose their own pizza toppings. (This is, after all, 'Merica!)

Meat! Cheese! Veggies! And, yes, fruit!
There's such a great variety of toppings that can be put on a pizza, it's a shame to limit them. Just a few years ago, I had never heard of BBQ/chicken/pineapple pizza, or pizza with chicken, spinach, and alfredo sauce. And yet now, I would be quite happy eating either of those pizzas alongside my pepperoni and/or sausage.

So, I will have pineapple on my pizza, whether you like it or not. And I will call it a pizza, whether you agree or not. And my suggestion to you would be to get your own pizza, and put whatever you want on it. And enjoy that pizza, because pizza is delicious!

(Having said all that: anchovies? Really?)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Keeping Kids Contained at Church

When The Wife and I first got married, I really liked going to church with her.

We would sit close to each other. We were shappy. ("Shappy" is a combination of the words "happy" and "sappy.") Usually we would be holding hands, or one of us would have an arm around the other. Sometimes one of us would use a finger to "write" a message on the other one's back, and the person being written upon would guess what the writer had written. Usually it would be something shappy like "I love you," or "You are so wonderful."

It was so nice sitting next to The Wife at church. She would even gently nudge me if I started to fall asleep, and if that's not true love, I don't know what is. (Or maybe she just didn't want to be embarrassed by my loud snoring.)

Those were happy, wonderful days. But, over time, things have changed.

We now have four children; we never sit together at church anymore. I sit at one end of the pew, and The Wife sits at the other end, with the kids in between us. We do this for containment reasons. With an adult on each end, we can (hopefully) contain the children in the middle.

Of course, that's assuming we actually get to church on time in order to get a pew to sit in. Quite often we are late getting to church, and end up sitting in the folding chairs in the overflow area. Why are we late for church? Well, each additional child brings his or her own supply of reasons to be late, from, "Mom, can you help me do my hair?" to "Wait, the baby just pooped through his diaper, down his pants leg, and into his socks."

When we get there, we set up our containment walls, me on the one end and The Wife on the other. Of course, just because there is a wall, it doesn't mean it can't be breached. Our youngest (a two year-old boy) regularly escapes over, under, and around our walls. And, he is at an age where reasoning doesn't work, and threats hold no sway. (Reasoning and threats are two of the "go to" tricks for most parents, but they are generally ineffective on young toddlers.)

So, we often resort to another tried and tested parental method: bribery. I used to look down with condescending disdain at those parents who brought treats to church for their kids. Couldn't they just teach their children to behave without resorting to plying them Cheerios and fruit snacks? Well, no more. Now I am that Cheerio plyer.

Some bribery snacks, featuring: Cheerios, Goldfish, Life cereal, and a Frozen graham snack. (Because it's never too soon to get your kids indoctrinated into the Cult of Elsa and Anna.)

When he gets past my personal containment wall (usually by going under the bench in front of us), I am left with two choices: A) waving snacks in attempt to bribe him back to me; or 2) getting up out of my chair and physically retrieving him. Because objects at rest tend to stay at rest, getting up out of my chair is not the preferred option. So, snack bribery it is. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. (Sometimes we just let him roam. He usually comes back.)

There is a light at the end of the containment wall tunnel. My two oldest children can usually often occasionally behave in such a way that they don't need constant adult supervision. I can see a time in the not-so-distant future when The Wife and I might actually be able to sit next to each other at church again!

And when we do, I'll put my arm around her, and with my finger I'll write a secret message on her back. It will be, "Did you bring any snacks?"

Edited from a post originally published on 6/28/2016.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

10 Best Ways to Annoy People

I know, I know: we're supposed to be nice to people. It's something I've been taught my whole life, and it's something I'm trying to teach my children.

But, there are times when you really want to not be nice. You want to annoy someone. Maybe someone has rubbed you the wrong way (metaphorically speaking) and you want to get back at them. Maybe they've done something to offend you. Maybe you just feel like annoying someone.

Well, here are 10 tried and true ways that you can annoy people. Go ahead, take your best shot!

1. Scrape you fingernails on a chalkboard.

Some people are flinching just at the sight of this picture.
2. Take more than 20 items into the express lane checkout.

Some people apparently don't know how to count to 20.
3. Drive slowly in the passing lane.

It's called the passing lane. You should only be there if you are passing somebody.
4. Eat a KitKat bar the wrong way.

Gimme a break!
5. Clip your toenails at the dinner table.

Yes, I staged this photograph myself. No, I am not proud of that fact.
6. Pay at the drive-thru entirely with pennies.

Be warned: if you do this you might get some extra spit in your food and/or drink.
7. Don't wash your hands when leaving a public restroom.

To be extra annoying, offer to shake hands with others as you leave the restroom.
8. Pick your nose.

Just don't. (It won't make you happy.)
9. If you do pick your nose, eat what you picked.

(I don't have a photo for this one, and I was not going to stage one myself, either.)

And there you have it! Ten great ways to annoy people. Have fun and annoy away!

Friday, August 17, 2018

I Have a Crack Problem

I have a problem with crack.

And once you have a problem with crack, you will always have a problem with crack. It won't go away. It's just a matter of how well you can cover it up.

Some people have no idea they have a crack problem. They go through the course of their life as if nothing is wrong. But, if you truly have a crack problem, that's all anyone else will see. They won't see you as a person, they'll just see you for the crack. So, one of the first steps in successfully dealing with a crack problem is admitting that you have a crack problem.

know I have a crack problem. My wife has been great in helping me with my crack problem. She has stood by me, not been judgemental, and offered to help in any way she can. And, she has come up with the best solution I have yet found for dealing with my crack problem: Really long shirts.

(I am, of course, talking about my butt crack problem.)

Yes, I did an image search for "plumber's crack." (No, I wouldn't recommend it.)

I've always thought of myself as a normal-ish looking guy. As I've said before, if you took 50 guys at random, I would not be one of the ten handsomest, nor would I be one of the ten ugliest. I would be one of the 30 guys covering the middle ground. I'm a fairly big guy, standing at 6' 2" and (currently) over 250 pounds. Those numbers would be pretty good for an NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, my belly fat-to-muscle ratio numbers would not be anywhere near good enough for the NFL. (Besides, as someone once said, "you gotta be fast to play linebacker.")

I never thought of myself as having an unusually long torso. But then, I met my wife. Even though I'm a full four inches taller than her, our legs are about the same length. This is great for driving, because we never have to adjust the seat in the car. (I used to smash my knees regularly back in high school when I got behind the wheel after my Mom had been driving.) (My mom is 5' 2", although some of those poofy 1970's hairdos could bump her up to as much as 5' 7".)

At first I thought that my wife and I having legs the same length was because she had unusually long legs. But then I thought it might be my unusually long torso. (It's probably a little of both.)

It took me a while to admit that I had a crack problem. Sure, I would feel that occasional breeze hit me between the bottom of my shirt and the top of my pants when I would bend over or sit down, but everyone gets that sometimes, right? I would think that my shirt wasn't reaching my pants in the back because of my oversized gut in the front. Maybe it was because my pants weren't tall enough. (The Wife actually thinks this is part of the problem. She thinks I wear my pants too low. It's a fair criticism, but I really doubt she would like it if I went full Urkel on her.) (No one wants to hear, as my aunt once said to my grandpa, "Hey, are those pants a little tight on your armpits?")

So, before I fully came to terms with my crack problem, The Wife was trying to fix it. She started buying me longer shirts. My regular shirt size is "extra-large." (XL) You would think if they made a shirt that was "extra" larger than regular large, that some of that "extra-ness" might go to the length of the shirt. No. All of that "extra-ness" is used to get around the belly and the chest. Adding another "X" (as in XXL, XXXL) only adds to the width of the shirt, not the length. (This makes no sense at all to me!)

The Wife was able to find a shirt size called "XLT," which stands for "extra large tall." These shirts were a godsend. I started wearing them and suddenly I wasn't noticing that butt-crack breeze as much. I could sit in a vinyl chair without having to peel my lower back off of it like a piece of fruit leather. It didn't take long for me to notice the difference between the "XLT" shirts and the "XL" shirts, and start seeking out the "XLTs." I think that is when I finally started to come to terms with my crack problem.

Unfortunately, the "XLTs" are pretty hard to find. Most stores don't offer them. The Wife usually has to scour the interwebs. And even then, not all "XLT" shirts are created equal. Some "XLTs" still aren't long enough, especially after a few washings. And some of the "XLTs" are actually a little too long, seeming more like a tunic or a muumuu than a shirt.

There are a lot of people who could benefit from "XLT" shirts. (As a former truck driver, believe me when I say that there are a lot of people who could benefit.)(And not just the ones who wear the shirts.) I'm surprised an enterprising "XLT" shirt manufacturer doesn't set up shop at a plumber's convention. "XLT" shirts could also find huge sales if marketed as "tramp stamp" covers, especially as the bodies of those women who fell for the "tramp stamp" fad begin to age and sag. (Sorry for that image.)

So, yes, I have a crack problem. I know it, and I'm working on correcting it. It's going to be a lifelong problem. I'm going to have to be diligent about it for as long as I live. Because no one wants to see my butt crack. Not even (maybe even especially) my wife.

Edited from a post originally published on 12.13.2012.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Texting and Driving Is Stoopid!

Some people are stoopid*. And dangerous. Stoopidly dangerous!

Don't text and drive! Especially if you have a flip-phone.
(Photo courtesy of the website Pixabay.)
(I did not take a picture of the woman who was texting while driving, because I was actually paying attention to the road.)

Yesterday I was driving with my family. We went on a little weekend getaway and were on our way back home. It was a long drive, and we all just wanted to get home safely. Since we had all six of us in the van, I was driving in the carpool lane.

There are two solid lines that separate the carpool lane from the rest of the flow of traffic. Posted frequently along the freeway are signs that say, "Do Not Cross Double White Lines." There are not signs that say "Do Not Straddle Double White Lines," because that really should go without saying, shouldn't it? There are also no signs saying, "Do Not Weave In and Out of Double White Lines" for the same reason. And yet....

We were almost home when we came upon a black Volkswagen Passat that was straddling the double white lines. Then the car would ease back into the lane where it was supposed to be traveling. And then it would veer back over one of the double white lines. Then both white lines. Then back into its lane.

We followed this vehicle for a few miles, then I decided I wanted to get around it and get some distance between it and my vehicle, before it wandered into me. I waited until one of the moments when it was actually in its proper lane, then attempted to pass it. Of course it immediately drifted back over one of the double white lines, and was almost at the second white line when I honked my horn to let the stoopid driver know I was there. The Passat swerved back into its own lane again, and I was able to get around it.

As we passed the Passat, my wife took a look at the driver. (I would have looked, too, but I've found that while I'm driving it's usually better if I pay more attention to the road than to what the idiot who almost crashed into me looks like.) According to my wife, the driver of the Passat had her cell phone in her hand and, even though I had just honked at her to get her out of my lane, was paying as much attention to her phone as she was to the road.

Passat: Without the p, second a, and the t, all you're left with is an....

I sped up to put a little distance between me and the Asshat Passat for safety purposes. Over the next several miles, I occasionally glanced at the Passat in the rear view mirror. Yes, sure enough, she continued to weave out of her lane and straddle the double white lines several more times. Eventually she drifted over a couple of lanes in the other direction and exited the freeway. I was glad to see her go.

It all seems kind of humorous now: the driver of the Passat was an idiot, and I got all angry and wrote a story about it. But, it wouldn't have been so funny if that irresponsible jerk had actually hit another vehicle because she was more focused on texting than she was on driving!

So, don't be stoopid! Put the damn phone away and drive!

(*Yes, I realize I've been spelling "stoopid" incorrectly. I'm not that stewpid!)

Friday, August 10, 2018

7 Hacks for a Better Life

I remember when hacks were bad. Now they're all the rage.

The word "hack" has a lot of definitions, and most of them aren't very favorable. It could be a foul in basketball. ("He hacked the shooter across the arms, forcing the ref to call a two-shot foul.") It could be a writer or artist who does inferior work with the sole intent of getting paid. ("He was a hack whose best work was a poor imitation of Stephen King.) It could be something you do to a slab of meat. ("She grabbed the cleaver and took a hack at the steak.")

But lately, hacks have been getting a better reputation. Now a hack can be a shortcut; a better, quicker way of doing something productive. Life-hacks, especially, are very popular today. Life-hacks are ways to make life in general easier, more convenient, and better.

And really, I wouldn't be much of a hack writer if I didn't take a hack at writing up some life-hacks to ease your burdens and make your life more plush. So, here are my 7 Life-Hacks to Help You Be Happy!

1. Be nice to people who are nice to you.
It sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? If people are nice to you, you should be nice back to them. A long time ago a great* man once said, "It's nice to be nice to the nice." It's wonderful advice by which we should all live.

(*Okay, so this is a quote from Frank Burns, a character on the television show M*A*S*H. And no, Frank Burns wasn't a great man, but he was a great television character.)

2. Be nice to people who are mean to you.
One day, when my oldest girl and my oldest boy weren't getting along very well, I lectured them and used the "It's nice to be nice to the nice" quote. A few minutes later The Girl turned to me and said, "Dad, you know what? It's mean to be mean to the mean." I laughed, and because I laughed she plugged a few more words into the formula. Such as, "It's silly to be silly to the silly," "It's wrong to be wrong to the wrong," and "It's stupid to be stupid to the stupid."

I learned a few things from this, including that The Girl is smart and silly. But, it was the first thing she said, "It's mean to be mean to the mean," that really got me thinking. It doesn't do any good to be mean to people who are mean to you; if anything this will just keep the cycle of meanness chugging along until somebody gets hurt. But, if you change things up and be nice to the people who are mean to you, they might actually stop being mean.

3. Wear clean underwear.
Mom used to always say, "Wear clean underwear. What if you were to get in an accident?" I never really understood this because 1) if you get in an accident, you might end up dirtying your underwear anyway; and B) I'm sure the doctors and nurses have more important things to do than check out the cleanliness level of your boxer shorts.

That being said, "wear clean underwear" is still good advice. You will feel better with clean underwear next to your skin. And, you'll be less likely to be stinky.

4. Don't grow a mustache and a mullet.
And if you do, don't take a photo of it. And if you did take a photo of it, don't post it on the internets. (The internets are forever.)

Should you take advice from this man?
(It's okay, I don't have the mustache anymore.)

5. Stay calm when driving.
There are a lot of idiots our on the roads. A lot of idiots. But, if we spend all of our time getting mad at the idiot drivers, we'll be angry drivers ourselves. And angry drivers are usually idiots, too.

I don't think anyone has ever flipped somebody off and then had that person track them down and say, "Thank you so much for showing me your middle finger! It helped me realize the mistakes I had been making while driving, and as a result I am a much better driver and a much better person!"

6. Don't watch reality television.
We can use our time in many different ways. We can work. We can play. We can read. We can help others. We can enjoy hobbies. We can better ourselves. Or, we can watch reality television.

Has anyone ever stepped away from the television after spending a few hours keeping up with the Kardashians and thought, "I'm a better person now than I was when I started watching this show?" I ask this because I don't know. I've never actually kept up with any Kardashians. (I usually keep away from the Kardashians.)

Now, I will say that I do differentiate between "reality" shows and "talent" shows. I think "talent" shows (like The Voice, and America's Got Talent) are acceptable to watch, because sometimes it's enjoyable and uplifting to see people display their actual talents. What I'm saying to avoid are the "reality" shows featuring untalented people blab on about themselves, like the Kardashians and the Real Housewives of Some City You Don't Care About. (By the way, those are not real housewives.)

7. Spend time with your family and friends.
Think back to the best memories you have. Your friends are there with you, aren't they? Or your family. Or both. The best, most fun, and most wonderful times of our lives are spent with the people we care about.

You'll never remember that night you stayed up until two in the morning watching Shootfighter II starring Billy Zabka. Unless you watched it with some of your friends and you spent the whole time laughing and having fun with it.

Family and friends can turn good times into great times. I could have fun at Disneyland by myself, but the lasting memories I have are of the sheer joy on my daughter's face as she met her first princess and the sense of awe on my son's face as he looked down from the top of the ferris wheel.

It's always better to share than be selfish.

So, there you have it! Go ahead and take a hack at trying my life-hacks. I think you'll find that they'll help you be happier. (Especially that one about the mullet. You do not want to be that guy!)

Edited from a post originally published on 10/20/2015.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Perfect Family?

We have a perfect family. We have four cute kids. They are very well-behaved. They get good grades on their report cards. They are quiet and polite in church. They are always smiling and happy. They get along with others. They get along with each other. They do what they're told and say "please" and "thank you" at the appropriate times. People we hardly know tell us all the time how great our kids are. We have a perfect family.

We do NOT have a perfect family. We have four kids. They are loud and unruly. They forget to do their homework. When they actually do their homework, they forget to turn it in. Their hair often looks like a bird has made a nest on the top of their heads. They occasionally leave strange puddles on the carpet floor. They scream because there is not enough milk in their cereal. They scream because there is too much milk in their cereal. They pick at each other. They pick on each other. They pick their noses. (And sometimes they eat what they have picked!) They are ungrateful and entitled. We do NOT have a perfect family.

There is no such thing as a perfect family. But, everything I said in that first paragraph is true. Our kids can be good and fantastic and wonderful. And, everything I said in that second paragraph is also true. Our kids can be terrible and horrible and annoying. That's what it's like trying to raise a family in real life.

We may not have a perfect family, but we do have perfect moments.

Sometimes, they actually get along with each other!

There are moments when the kids share with each other without being told to do so. There are moments when they do their chores without being asked. There are moments when they are playing together and they are all getting along and laughing. There are moments when they are polite and grateful. There are moments when they eat all of their vegetables. There are moments when they tell you that they love you, and you can tell they really mean it.

Those are the moments that make up for having to endure all of the fighting, the screaming, the whining, the pouting, the attitude, and the occasional strange puddles.

There's no such thing as a perfect family, but there are some perfect moments. And those moments make it all worthwhile. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Back to School Shopping? Already???

Summer! Summer is great! Everyone loves summer!

Summer is the best time of the year to do so many fun things. Things like: Hiking! Camping! Parades! Fireworks! Family reunions! Swimming! Going to the beach! Running through the sprinklers! Picnics! Eating popsicles! Back to school shopping! (Wait…what?)

Back to school shopping? Seriously? We’re barely into August. There’s a lot of summer left. We can’t be thinking of “back to school” stuff yet. School doesn’t start until…wait, what’s that? You say school starts on August 21st? Oh my, that’s just a couple of weeks away! Dang, I guess I do have to start getting ready.

Nobody likes “back to school” shopping in August. Well, almost nobody. My wife is a school teacher, and she actually likes to go “back to school” shopping IN JULY!!! You see, she loves school supplies, so she gets excited to go to the stores in early July because, she says, “as soon as they take down the stuff for the 4th of July, they put out the school supplies!”

The Wife is addicted to school supplies. (Hey, at least it's cheaper and healthier than cocaine!)

She loves the pencils and pens and notebooks and staplers and glue and erasers and binders and folders and all of that stuff. She’ll fill her shopping cart full of things “for my students,” not admitting that most of what she is buying is for herself.

Of course, there is more to “back to school” shopping than just school supplies. Kids need new clothes for school, too. Because, apparently, if a kid shows up during the first week of school wearing clothes that they wore at any time during the previous school year, they might get sent back a grade.

Yes, I understand that the beginning of the school year is a good time to get the kids new clothes because they often outgrow the clothes they wore the year before. That’s why I advocate buying kid clothes that are two or three sizes too big so they can last for two or three years. It’s a great idea! As an adult, I’ve been wearing some of the same shirts for twenty years, and no one has made fun of me because of it! (At least, not that I know of.) Look at Charlie Brown. He's been wearing the same oversized shirt for decades and no one ever teases him or calls him names. (Well, except for "Blockhead," but I think that's more due to the size of his head than his choice in big, baggy, zig-zaggy shirts.)

So, The Wife loves the school supplies and the shopping for kid clothes. She even really likes teaching. But, she’s still torn when it comes to “back to school,” because she wishes it didn’t have to mean the end of the fun of the parades, picnics, fireworks, and the beach.

Edited from an article originally published in the August 2015 edition of the ServeDaily newspaper. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

We Saw the Wienermobile!

Would you drive 15 miles out of your way to see a vehicle shaped like a hot dog? No? What if you had four kids between the ages of two and ten? Would that change your answer? Of course it would!

I'm not really sure how we knew the Wienermobile would be in town. Someone said something on Facebook or something. (Social media is fantastic when you're looking for important information like the location of the Wienermobile! It's also good for random cat videos.)

I wonder if the Batmobile says "Batmobile" on the front bumper?

When we found out the Wienermobile was coming, we asked the kids, "Do you want to see a vehicle shaped like a hot dog?" They answered, "Why is there a vehicle shaped like a hot dog?" It was a good question, and I had no answer for it. I'm a busy guy, and I don't have time for thoughtful, intelligent questions from my children, so I just asked, "Do you want to go see the hot dog car or not?" Of course they did, even if they didn't understand why.

The Wienermobile!
(I blurred out the random family in front of the Wienermobile to protect the innocent.)

When we arrived at the Wienermobile, we were surprised that there wasn't a line. Didn't everyone from miles around want to come see a vehicle shaped like a hot dog? What was wrong with these people? Oh well, it's their loss. 

As we approached the Wienermobile, we were greeted by the Wienermobile handlers. (The Wienermobilers?) They handed the kids some stickers and little hot dog shaped whistles, and they gave my wife some coupons for hot dogs. (They didn't give me anything. Apparently the Wienermobilers don't think Dads like stickers or coupons.) (They couldn't be more wrong!)

Taking a picture with the Wienermobile is nice, but I would have liked the chance to take it for a spin!

We then posed in front of the Wienermobile and took some pictures. And the more I looked at the Wienermobile, the more I wondered. Is it a car or a truck? Maybe it's an SUV? A station wagon? I'm not really sure how to classify it other than to say it is a vehicle that looks like a hot dog.

And just in case the Wienermobilers weren't sure they were driving a vehicle shaped like a hot dog, they made sure to put a giant hot dog on the dash of the vehicle.

"Are you sure we're driving the Wienermobile?" "Yes, because there is a big wiener on the dash." "Also, the vehicle is shaped like a giant wiener."
And, for added emphasis, the lady Wienermobiler (Wienermobiless?) was wearing socks that had images of hot dogs on them:

"Hey Brenda, make sure you wear your wiener socks today, okay?"
All in all, it was a fun little adventure. The kids got to see a large vehicle shaped like a wiener. We got coupons for discounted hot dogs. And, after we got home, I was able to steal one of these cool stickers from the kids!

"I seen it!"
It was great, but now it's left me wanting to see more vehicles shaped like food. The Broccolimobile? The Oreomobile? The Cabbagemobile? (Question: Would the Pizzamobile be shaped like a slice or round like the entire pizza?)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dealing with the Crap of Being an Adult

Sometimes it stinks to be the adult.

As kids, we always thought adults had it easy, didn't we? They could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. They could eat what they wanted, stay up late if they wanted, and had a seemingly unlimited amount of money.

Yup, there would be no crap to deal with when we became adults!

Reality, of course, is a bit different, especially if you have kids. True, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want--as long as it's in our home after the kids are asleep and it's not so loud that it might wake them up. I can eat what I want--as long as the kids don't see, because then they'll want some, too. I can stay up late if I want--but only if I actually can stay up late, because as soon as I get the kids to bed I'm so exhausted I need to collapse. And I do have an unlimited amount of money--as long as I don't exceed the credit limit.

Compared to being a kid, being an adult is powerful. But, it's like that line from the Spider-Man comics, with great power comes great responsibility. Every once in a while that responsibility will slap you right in the face.

I'm reminded of one day when we went as a family to do some grocery shopping. We like to go shopping all together as a family because: A) the kids are too young to leave home by themselves; and 2) I'm always hopeful that I can find some new bacon-flavored food product to sneak into the cart.

On this day we pulled up to the giant warehouse store (for the sake of anonymity I'll call it "CostLo,") and The Wife and the two oldest kids got out of the mini-van while I got The Baby out of her car seat.

Immediately I could tell there was a problem. Not so much a problem as it was a stench. I told The Wife that The Baby was poopy. Being the responsible adult that I am, I figured I had better change her diaper, so I sent The Wife and the other two kids into the store. This was mostly because: 1) I was already holding The Baby, and when it comes to who changes the diaper, possession is nine-tenths of the law; and B) The Wife could do the shopping without me much better than I could do it without her. (Although that might mean we'd be going without bacon-flavored cinnamon rolls.)

Unfortunately, as soon as The Wife and kids were out of view, I discovered that this was more than just a stench; it was a poop-through! The diaper didn't do it's job in damming up the doo-doo.
Diapers, you had one job!
It's moments like this when that "responsibility" crap really slaps you in the face. Because as much as I'd like to ignore all that poop and wish that it would go away, I have to be the responsible one who actually takes care of it.

So, I got out the diaper-changing mat and placed it on the driver's seat of the van. I then put The Baby down on it. The most difficult part of dealing with a poop-through is getting The Baby's clothes off without spreading the poop. I attempted to do this, and thought I had done a good job. I got The Baby's clothes off!

Unfortunately, that's when I noticed there was some poop on her knee. And some poop on her ankle. And some poop on her shoulder. And I was no longer poop-free, either. You've all heard the term "green thumb." Well, while that would be an accurate description of my thumb at that moment, it would not have anything to do with my ability to grow and care for plants.

There was poop on the diaper-changing mat. There was poop on the driver's seat of the mini-van. And, of course, there was poop all over The Baby. While I would have liked to just scream and run away, I got out the wipes and started wiping. I wiped and wiped and wiped. And then I wiped some more. Eventually, the only poop I could find was on the diaper and pile of wipes on the floor beneath the steering wheel.

We've learned to prepare for the poop-throughs (as much as one can), so we always have a change of clothes in the diaper bag. I put a clean diaper on The Baby and got the new clothes on her. I then wadded up the old diaper and pile of wipes as best I could, using a few new wipes around the outside of the wad in the hopes of preventing accidental poop spreadage.

As I carried The Baby and the diaper wad toward the store, the looks I received were about equally split between, "Oh, look how cute that baby is!" and "Oh my gosh, is that a giant wad of poop in his hand?" I dropped the diaper wad in the garbage outside of the store and entered.

Now all I had to do was find The Wife and the other a store roughly the size of Saskatchewan. Of course, with today's modern technology the simple solution would be to pick up the cell phone and call her to find her location. Except, for some reason, cell signals can't seem to penetrate the giant metal shell of the "CostLo" store.

So, I embark on a grid by grid search of the store while carrying The Baby, which is about the same as carrying a large sack of potatoes, if that sack of potatoes had arms and continually attempted and occasionally succeeded in getting fingerprints all over your glasses. At this point the store was more like "LostCo" than "CostLo."

Finally, I was able to find The Wife and kids near the fresh fruit section toward the back of the store, and I dumped my sack of potatoes with arms into the shopping cart. No sooner had I done so than I was greeted by The Boy with, "Dad! I've got to go potty!"

I looked at The Wife and she gave me the head-nod which was co-parent language for, "No, he's not faking, he really does need to go." I immediately grab The Boy's hand and start hiking to the bathroom, which is at the front of the store, somewhere on the north end of Saskatchewan.

On the way there, The Boy tells me several times, "I've got to go potty," just in case I had forgotten where we were heading. (I hadn't.) We then had to shimmy our way behind someone who was checking out, because the only way to the restrooms was through the checkout lanes.

Finally, after our long and arduous hike we turned the corner to the restroom...only to find the doorway blocked by the janitor's cart, with a sign on it reading, "Restroom closed for cleaning. Please use the Family Restroom."

This is Utah. I'm sure Family Restrooms exist, in theory. But, in my actual experience whenever I find one I am only ever greeted by a locked door.

Surprisingly, the door to the Family Restroom opened before The Boy peed his pants, and he took care of his business. That meant we had to try to find The Wife again in the vast vastness of the "LostCo." By the time we did finally rendezvous, she had finished the shopping. (No bacon-flavored maple syrup for me this week.)

When I was a kid I liked to go shopping sometimes. I'd think things like, "If I were an adult, I'd buy that, and that, and that!"

I had no idea that when I actually became an adult I'd have to deal with so much crap.

Edited from a post originally published on 8/14/2015.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Public Restroom Etiquette

If you're like me, when you think of etiquette, you probably think of fancy dinners and knowing how and when to use your salad fork instead of your regular fork. Or knowing when to hold a door open for someone else. Or knowing that you should not talk loudly on your phone while in the audience at the third grade choir concert.

Etiquette is "the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group." (I got that definition from (Citing sources for quotes is showing proper etiquette.) Or, to put it another way, etiquette is simply knowing what to do in a social setting in order to not be rude to those around you. (I made that definition up myself, so it might not be completely accurate. If you have a problem with that, well then excuuuuuuuuuuse me!)

But, one thing you probably don't think of when I say the word etiquette is a public restroom. "Etiquette" and "public restroom" don't really seem to go together, but I'm here to tell you that they should, because nowhere is etiquette more needed than in a public restroom!

The rules are very simple. I shouldn't have to actually list them. And yet, every time I go into a public restroom at least one of these basic rules has been violated. Come on, people, this is not that difficult! Here are some rules:

1. Flush the toilet--This is about as simple as it gets: If you put something in the toilet, then you should flush the toilet! I don't want to see your poop. I don't want to see your pee. I don't want to see your used toilet paper. Flush the toilet!!! (I realize that some people would like to make an argument about water conservation and how not flushing every time is better for the environment. That's wonderful. These people can hold off on flushing their own personal toilets just once a week if they'd like, but if they're using a public toilet they need to flush every dang time!)

2. Make sure your flush actually worked--When you finish your business in the toilet, you usually will have an inkling whether or not what you left inside the bowl will go down with one flush, or if it's at risk of needing multiple flushes. If you think it might take more than one flush, it is your responsibility to make sure it gets that second flush. You can't just flush once and walk away. It's your duty to attend to your doody. (Because no one else wants to see it.)

3. Do not put paper towels in the toilets--Do you know the difference between a paper towel and toilet paper? Of course you do! And so, you should also know that paper towels do not go in the toilet, they go in the garbage. This isn't rocket science, people!

4. Don't put anything in the urinal (except urine)--Men, they call it a urinal because it is there for your urine. It is not an ashtray or a garbage can. Here is a partial, non-comprehensive list of things that should not be put into a urinal: paper towels, gum, gum wrappers, soda cans, toilet paper, coins, chewing tobacco, ashes, cigarettes, cigarette butts, or butts of any kind.

5. When possible, give people their personal space--If there are multiple urinals or toilet stalls and someone is already occupying one of them, if possible, don't use the urinal or stall right next to them, give them some space. For most people, going to the bathroom is an activity they prefer to do in privacy. No one wants an audience. Of course, this is dependent on the number of stalls and urinals, and the number of people wanting to use them. (I hear this is never a problem in the women's restroom, because they always have several extra stalls--way more stalls than women wanting to us them.)

Good luck finding a restroom this clean!
6. Don't talk--No one should go into a public restroom with the intent of meeting new people or making new friends. The bathroom is not a place for chit chat. Unless you're warning me that the stall I'm about to go into is out of toilet paper, just keep your darn mouth shut, okay?

7. Keep your phone in your pocket--Don't talk on your phone. We don't want to hear your conversation. (And the person on the other end of your phone probably doesn't want to know you're in the bathroom when you're talking to them, either.) Also, since all phones come with camera technology, it's best just to keep them put away--you wouldn't like it if someone was walking around the restroom with a camera in their hands, would you?

When it comes right down to it, this is the kind of etiquette we should all really be paying attention to, isn't it? (Because I really don't care whether or not you're using your salad fork properly.)