Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Part of this "Healthy" Breakfast

Apparently, I need to grow up.

The Wife says it's time for me to give up my sugar-coated, candy-colored kiddie breakfast cereals. She's probably right. But that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.

The Girl, our two-and-a-half year-old, has reached the age where she can tell the difference between the sugar-free, cardboard-ish stuff we feed her (Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc.) and the good tasting stuff I like (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp). I'll pour her a bowl of her stuff, then pour me a bowl of mine, and she'll say, "I want some of that!" (Up until about a month ago when she started to get a handle on proper pronoun usage, if she wanted something she would ask you if you wanted it. As an example, if she wanted a chicken nugget, she would say, "Do you want a chicken nugget?" It was very cute. But now she's in full demand mode: "I want some of that!")

I don't blame her. Have you tried Cheerios lately? They are miniature donut-shaped pieces of cardboard, and they make your urine smell like....well, Cheerios. We started appeasing her by giving her Cheerios with a few Apple Jacks or Froot Loops on top. She likes that, and now asks for "Cheerios and Apple Jacks" by name. But, she likes my stuff even more.

The Wife doesn't want the kids constantly eating the sugar-coated stuff. I get that. But does that mean I have to give it up? Some of them I can understand:

--Lucky Charms: When I'm eating those marshmallows I can literally feel my teeth rotting away. (The same goes for Count Chocula and all the other marshmallow cereals.)
--Cookie Crisp: I can see where eating dessert for breakfast can set a bad precedent.
--Corn Pops and Honey Smacks: Since these used to be called "Sugar Pops" and "Sugar Smacks," they're still a little too blatantly sugary to trust.
--Froot Loops: So little to do with actual fruit that they had to spell it "Froot."
--Cap'n Crunch: This guy always creeped me out a bit, anyway. I mean, his eyebrows are on the OUTSIDE of his hat!!!
--Cinnamon Toast Crunch: Okay, this is where I draw the line!

What could be wrong with Cinnamon Toast Crunch? I mean, cinnamon is natural, right? To quote Webster* cinnamon is: "the aromatic inner bark of any of several lauraceous trees." [*I'm referring to Webster the dictionary guy, not Webster the little black kid adopted by white parents from the 80's television program.] Did you catch that? Cinnamon is tree bark! How can that be bad for you? And then there's the "toast" part. What could be heartier and healthier for you than toast?

Made with tree bark and "real toast!" What could be healthier?

I think the makers of Cinnamon Toast Crunch need to take a lesson from the marketing people behind pudding. There are actual advertisements that tell you a food is good for you because it is made with "real pudding." Really? As opposed to fake pudding? And since when is pudding good for you? It's not. Pudding is sugary goop. But, the "Pudding People" gave us Bill Cosby and his sweaters and cute little kids, and suddenly everyone is thinking that "real pudding" is healthy. If the "Cinnamon Toast People" started pushing that their product was made with "real toast," it might not be lumped together with all the other sugary cereals.

So, I'm having to say goodbye to many of the cereals that I love. Luckily for me, Frosted Mini-Wheats aren't on The Wife's hit list because, apparently, the "Wheats" part is enough to compensate for the "Frosted" part.

Also, I've taken to supplementing the dull taste of the healthy cereals by sprinkling them with a spoonful or two of chocolate Nesquik in order to turn the milk more chocolaty. And The Wife has no way of knowing I do this, because she is usually gone to work when I pour my cereal. (Wait..., she does read this blog, doesn't she? Curses!)

As I was writing this, The Wife came home from work after stopping at the grocery store on the way home. Guess what she bought for me? That's right, a couple of boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch!!! That means either that a) my wife loves me and wants me to be happy; or 2) she's trying to kill me and the means she has chosen is a slow, sugary death. Either way, I'm not going to complain. I'll just smile and enjoy my tree bark.

After all, it's made with "real toast."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Two-Step Never-Fail Weight Loss Program

Over 417 billion dollars* are spent annually in the United States on weight loss products and weight loss programs. (*On this blog, over 87.4% of all statistics are made-up numbers that I pulled out of my head.) That's a lot of money. It's being spent on Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and self-help books and abdom-i-crunchers.

People are fat and they want to lose weight. I know. I'm one of them. But, you don't have to spend all that money on those programs and books and such. I'm going to give you, right here for free on this blog, the "Slow Joe Two-Step Never-Fail Weight Loss Program." It's been working for me. I've lost over 30 pounds in a little over a year. And now you can have my secret of success free of charge!

Here is the Slow Joe Two-Step Never-Fail Weight Loss Program:

Step 1: Watch what you eat.

Step 2: Exercise.

You will see results! (Just not my results.)

There it is. It's simple and it's effective. And the thing is, we all know it's true. Deep down, we know that's all there is to it. We spend the money on the programs and the books and the products. We look at the Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley infomercial and think, "I can do that for 15 minutes a day, and then fold up the machine and slide it under the bed." (Note: those types of machines never get stored under the bed. Instead, they end up as basically an extension of your closet, a place to store clothes without the annoyance of having to use a hanger.) We're spending the money, but we don't really need to.

We know what we need to do, we just need the proper motivation to do it. My motivation for losing weight came last summer. We were on vacation at Bryce Canyon. We were having a good time, until I saw the picture. It was a picture of some guy holding my daughter. The guy looked a lot like me, except it appeared he had some kind of watermelon/basketball hybrid under his shirt. (It couldn't have been me in the picture, because there is no way I was ever that fat!)

Once you find your motivation, all you have to do is follow the two steps of my two-step program. Begrudgingly, I guess this is where all of the programs, books, and products can come into play. (Truth be told, a friend gave me a book which has helped me in getting a better handle on watching what I eat.) Early morning basketball has helped out with Step 2.

If the "Slow Joe Two-Step Never-Fail Weight Loss Program" isn't motivational enough, I've got another program you can try. It's the "Extreme Slow Joe Two-Step Never-Fail Weight Loss Program." It goes like this:

Step 1: Stop cramming so much junk in your pie hole!

Step 2: Get your lazy butt off of the couch and go do something!

Good luck!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Age Formula

Time flies. It seems like just yesterday that I was digging around in the back yard, trying to make roads in the dirt for my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. (Actually, it doesn't seem like yesterday, but it doesn't seem like it was forty years ago, either!)

I've got to face it: I'm getting old. (Getting? Gotten.) I'm trying to hang on to my youth as best as I can. I married a much younger woman, and now I have two young children. They make me feel like a young father every day. Unfortunately, they also wear me out and keep me up at night, making me feel like an old man.

In an effort to stay young, I could get me a sports car, except that: a) I can't afford it; and 2) getting a sports car is a bit too much of a cliche for a middle-aged man trying to look young.
Will I look younger because I drive the car from Magnum PI, or will I look older because I actually remember watching Magnum PI? (Actually, I should look younger here, because this picture was taken over 15 years ago.)

Instead, I have to try to look young by driving a mini-van. (The mini-van is huge. Why do they call it a mini-van when it is so big? The Wife says it's because it is smaller than a cargo van. Then two minutes later she is bragging that it can hold nine people, a double stroller, five large suitcases, and a picnic lunch large enough for the entire BYU football team.)

So, here I am, a 44 year old man clinging desperately to his early forties. Early forties? Isn't 44 clearly in the mid-forties? Yes and no. I've got a whole early-mid-late formula worked out. Here it is:

Early forties: The day you turn 40 up until the day before you turn 45.
Mid-forties: The day you turn 42 up until the day before you turn 49.
Late-forties: The day you turn 46 up until the day before you turn 50.

This formula works for any decade, not just the forties. Obviously, there are some overlap areas. The overlap areas are:

The day you turn 40 up until the day before you turn 42: early-forties only.
The day you turn 42 up until the day before you turn 45: either early-forties or mid-forties.
The day you turn 45 up until the day before you turn 46: mid-forties only.
The day you turn 46 up until the day before you turn 49: either mid-forties or late-forties.
The day you turn 49 up until the day before you turn 50: sorry, you are late-forties.

These overlap areas give you a little freedom to say what you would more like to be. If you are a 22 year old trying to appear more mature, you could say you are in your mid-twenties. Others, like my brother, for instance, can hang on to his mid-forties for another few months, up until the day before he turns 49 in April. I'm in a similar situation. I could say I'm early-forties or mid-forties for a few more months, but then it's goodbye forever to the early-forties.

In the end, though, what do these age labels really mean? Nothing. We're only as old as we feel we are, right? So, I've just got to work real hard at ignoring the aching bones and the sore muscles. Maybe I'll take The Boy out in the backyard with some Matchboxes and Hot Wheels. It's been a while since I've made a good road.

[NOTE: I originally posted this well over four years ago, in November of 2010. I am re-posting it now, just hours after the mid-forties have been lost to me forever, and the fifties are just right around the corner.] 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Quest for the Ring

Here's a little story about love, loss, and other smelly things.

Two weeks ago today, I went to play basketball in the morning at the church. (There's a group of us that play a couple of times a week at 5:45 AM.) I used to always wear my wedding ring when I played, up until the time a couple of months ago when it flew off of my finger while going for a loose ball. (I've lost a bit of weight, and the ring isn't fitting as snug as it used to.) So, I took my ring off, put it by my cell phone, then played some basketball. (How well did I play? Well, my nickname is "The Liability," and it's not because I work in insurance.) As we finished up, I grabbed my ring, keys, and cell phone and headed back home.

My One True Ring.

Thirteen hours later, I had just finished eating my lunch at work. I went back down to my truck and I saw that my wedding ring was not on my finger. I had not noticed or given one thought to my wedding ring from the time I left basketball until the time I discovered it was missing. So, basically, I could have lost it anytime between morning basketball and lunch at work. But, I figured it was more likely that I had lost it recently, because I probably would have noticed earlier had it not been there all day.

I immediately knew that the first place I needed to look was in the garbage of the trucker's cave at work. A word of explanation: I work at a large frozen foods manufacturing plant. I drive truck. My job is to put all of the trailers that need to be loaded or unloaded into the dock doors, then pull those trailers out when the workers are finished with them. There are a lot of trucks and truck drivers in the yard on any day, and much more than usual on this particular day. To get their paperwork, each driver has to go to the office. The office is on the second floor, up a long flight of 35 stairs. There is no elevator. Truck drivers are not known for their physical fitness, and sometimes it's comical to see the drivers huffing and puffing at the top of the stairs. Other times, it's not comical; one of these days an out of shape driver is going to actually have a heart attack.

Anyway, at the top of the stairs, along with the office, is the restroom. The trucker's cave. It is a small five-foot by five-foot room with cinder block walls. There is a toilet and a sink. There is no hot water. And there is NOT a fan! At the best of times, truck drivers are not known for their fragrant bouquet. The trucker's cave manages to collect and magnify all of your favorite truck driver smells, including, but not limited to, body odor, cigarette smoke, and, of course, poop.

A while back my wedding ring came off while I was drying my hands with paper towels at the end of a visit to the trucker's cave. So, when I lost my ring this time, the first place I thought to look was in the trucker's cave garbage can. It was pretty full, but it was mostly discarded paper towels. I love my wife, and I wanted my wedding ring, so I started digging. I pulled wads and wads of paper towels, at various levels of moistness, out of the garbage can. Occasionally, there would be a glop of tobacco spit or some other foreign substance. And then, I hit the mother lode. My ring? No, I would not be that lucky. What I found was a pair of underwear. And this underwear was full of POOP!!! (You gotta love truck drivers!) [Note: sarcasm is my friend.]

The sad thing is, this was not the first time I had found poopy underwear in the trucker's cave garbage. A year or so ago, I saw a truck driver walking to his truck with what I thought were some odd looking shorts. On closer examination, I could see that this driver was wearing a sweatshirt as pants, one leg through the head hole, and another leg through one of the sleeves. (The other sleeve hole was acting as some kind of vent system.) I didn't think too much of it until an hour or so later when I went upstairs and opened the door to the trucker's cave, only to be overwhelmed by the smell of the driver's underwear, pants, and poop. (Looking back, the sweatshirt-as-pants was actually pretty ingenious.)

So, when I was searching for my ring and instead found a truck driver's discarded dirty underwear, I was not exactly thrilled. I worked around the underwear as best as I could, but my quest was fruitless. I then looked every other place that I thought my ring might be. No luck. Futile. My ring is gone.

I was very disappointed, and I wondered what The Wife would say when I told her I had lost my ring. Luckily, The Wife does not get too hung up on "stuff" and "things." She was sad for me, but she wasn't upset. Oh, but she was very, very worried about all the ladies hitting on me because they now think I'm single because I'm not wearing a ring. (Especially if I'm walking around in my styling new sweatshirt pants.)

[UPDATE: I actually found the ring a month or two later. We were cleaning the living room and I moved the couch to vacuum under it. The ring was under the couch. I have no idea how it got there, but I'm glad I didn't have to dig through more truck driver poop to find it!]

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No Time for "Joe Time"

I was talking on the phone with my friend Sheldon the other day. Somewhere in our conversation the topic of free time came up, and I whined--- I mean, pointed out that now that I am the father of two, 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, with a grandbaby. Two of the kids are officially at home, and the other two are most often still at home. 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 (I threw that in so you didn't think I was a total slug), and any other time-wasting, non-important activity that I used to enjoy. (I'm beginning to think "sleep" 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." True, I was usually able to beat that feeling back and do what I wanted, which was always something other than studying, but the nagging feeling was still there.) 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?) and "Joe time" was negatively effected. (Or is it affected? Either way, there was a lot less of it.) When the baby came, "Joe time" took a serious hit. Without warning, "Joe time" almost completely disappeared, surfacing only in congruence with "baby nap time."
And then came the second baby. And there went "Joe time." (You can hope that Baby 1 nap time and Baby 2 nap time can occur at the same time, but you certainly can't depend on it.) Pure "Joe time" is gone. Instead of the "I should be studying" nagging from school, there is the "I should be watching the kids" nagging in the back of my head. Even as I am writing this, I'm ''watching" the kids. They are both playing contentedly (a rare occurrence), but I worry that at any moment he'll start screaming for no reason, as he is often wont to do, or that she will get into something she shouldn't, as she is often wont to do.

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!)