Friday, June 30, 2017

Splish, Splash!

[WARNING: Here comes an old man rant!]

These kids today are so spoiled. Back when I was a kid if it was a hot, sunny day, do you know what we could do? Sweat. We could sweat. Maybe we could find some shade under a tree so we could sweat a little less. Or, if we were really lucky we might talk Mom into letting us drag a hose out onto the lawn, attach a sprinkler, and run through it.

Do kids today have to beg for a hose and a sprinkler? No, that's way too boring. They can just go to a splash pad! What's a splash pad, you ask? (If you're asking that, you're really old, have no kids or grandkids, and really need to get out more.) A splash pad is a park that contains any combination of several fountains, streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, showers, and sprinklers for kids to run through on hot, sunny days.

Splishing! Splashing!

The splash pads they have for kids today are amazing, and they're getting more intricate with each passing day. It used to be a splash pad was just a few fountains spewing water up into the air, but now they're even more elaborate with things like a "lazy river," where you don't even have to walk, you just sit and float through all the splashing. Or there are pirate ship themed splash pads, or submarines, or giant slip-and-slide roller coasters. It's getting to the point that if someone discovered the lost city of Atlantis, most people would just think it was a super-fancy new splash pad.

Sometimes it's as if the water has a mind of its own.

These days there's a splash pad in almost every town. (Even Chubbuck!) All you have to do is show up to a park with a splash pad and unleash your kids on it. Of course, they'll be fighting over the splash area with hundreds of other kids. And you'll need to be sure you packed some towels, and some sunscreen, and some water bottles for hydration because you can't actually drink any of the splash pad water because it gets recycled several times a day and the water you want to drink is probably the exact same water you saw that one kid try to use as a bidet an hour earlier, so drinking it wouldn't be in your best interest.

DON'T drink the water!

So, yes, splash pads can be fun, but no, you shouldn't drink the water.

Back when I was a kid, we had no qualms about unhooking the sprinkler and drinking straight from the hose. Sometimes we'd even put our mouth right on the actual end of the hose. Usually the water would be a little warm, but we didn't mind because it was water. And none of us died from it. (That I know of.)

And when we were done drinking from the hose and running through the sprinkler, we'd go find the shade from a big tree and sweat a little more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Not My Circus, Not My Clowns

When you have four kids, sometimes it seems that life is one big circus.

And then we took our family to an actual circus, and I've got to admit: there are some similarities. At times we have a house full of clowns, acrobats, jugglers, daredevils, and contortionists, and occasionally we even have animals who poop where and when they shouldn't.

The kids have been asking questions lately about circuses, so when The Wife saw that a circus was coming to town, she thought it would be fun to take the kids to see it. They were surprised and excited.

When we arrived, it looked like there were a lot of fun things for the kids to do. There was a bouncy house, a bouncy slide, camel rides, pony rides, face painting, and elephant rides. Unfortunately, every one of those things cost an additional $6 per event, per child, except for the elephant rides, which were $18 per child per ride.

Lots of fun things to do...but nobody is doing them because everyone was low on cash.
Maybe it's just because people in Utah are cheapskates frugal, but I didn't see anybody paying extra for any of the activities until they brought out the elephant. The elephant was a big enough attraction (literally and figuratively) to pry open a few wallets.

It's no coincidence the elephants are near the ATM machine.
So, they would cram four or five kids on top of the elephant, at $18 each, for a ride that lasted about one minute. To quote my mother-in-law, "The elephant makes more in an hour that teachers make in a week!" (Yes, my mother-in-law is a school teacher.)

But, it wasn't just the extra attractions that were expensive. The food and beverage was, too. The couple in front of us bought two sno-cone drinks that came in a fancy light-up-bottomed cup. The drinks were $12 each! Yikes!

With as valuable as those drinks are, this guy should probably have his own security detail.
Needless to say, there weren't very long lines at the concession stands.

Not a creature was stirring....
As we waited, I was beginning to wonder if my son's favorite part of his first trip to the circus would be playing with the seat in front of him.

It folds! It flaps! It doesn't cost extra!
But then the actual performance started, and I soon forgot all about my pre-show grumpiness.

I wonder how many of these performers actually ran away to join the circus?
There were acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, stunt drivers, camels, elephants, and clowns. My kids especially liked the clowns.

You can't have clowns without a clown car!
The performers were all very talented. And while there was nothing that I would call a "death-defying" stunt, there were several "pain-defying" stunts, such as when the motorcycle flung the acrobat through the high hoop.

You will believe a man can fly! (Until he hits the net.)
The big draw, of course, was the elephants. And they didn't disappoint. They were well-trained, even if they weren't potty trained. (Yes, one lucky circus employee gets to hold a bucket to the elephant's butt when the elephants starts pooping.)

I decided to go with a photo of the elephants performing, not pooping.
All in all, it was a pretty fun experience. Now my kids can say they've been to the circus, and so can I! (Despite my advancing age, it was my first time at the circus.)

I had such a good time, but now it's back to my regular scheduled life with the four kids, which is my circus, and they are my clowns.

*I would like to thank my mother-in-law for several of these photos.

Friday, June 23, 2017

7 People You Don't Want to be Behind at the Drive-Thru

The fast food drive-thru is a wonderful thing. It is a quick and convenient way to get a good, healthy meal. (Okay, so maybe "healthy" isn't the right word there. Let's go with "edible" instead.)

Unfortunately, sometimes other people also want to use the drive-thru, and these people make the experience a little less quick and convenient. Here are seven people you don't want to get behind at the drive-thru:

1. The Undecided Orderer--These people can't decide what they want. They might consult with everybody in their car. They might take ten minutes to look over the menu. They might ask the drive-thru person for recommendations. They will annoy you.

2. The Line Crowder--When there are two drive-thru lanes, some people have a hard time figuring when to merge. They will try to fit their car into the smallest of openings to get ahead of you if they can.

3. The Not Pull Forwarder--You are pulled up as far as you can, but still two feet away from being able to place your order, even though the car in front of you has a twelve foot cushion in front of him. Just pull a little bit forward, dude!

There's always that one guy....

4. The Surprised Payer--These people get to the first window and seem surprised when someone asks for money. (Apparently they thought the food they just ordered was going to be free.) They have to dig for their wallet or purse and fumble around for their cash or credit card.

5. The Exact Changer--These people have some of their money ready when they get to the window, but not all of it. When they hear the total they feel the need to get the exact change, so they will dig through their coins to find the perfect combination of pennies, nickels, and dimes to finish the transaction.

6. The Re-Orderer--These people get to the window and decide what they ordered wasn't enough. They need more. ("Wait! I forgot to order fries!") And so they order more, making you and everyone else in line wait that much longer.

7. The Order Checker--I can understand checking your bag to make sure you got all your food. (We've all driven away with missing burgers, fries, or nuggets.) But, be quick about it. There is no need to count every pickle before pulling away from the window.

If we all try hard, we can avoid being one of these seven people and enjoy quick, convenient, healthy---um, edible food!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Finding a Go-To-Sleep Show

The Wife and I have developed the habit of going to sleep with the television on. We do this for three reasons:

1. It acts as a nightlight so I can see when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
2. It drowns out the screaming of the kids in the other room.
And 3. Sometimes we just like to watch a show together.

For these things, it works pretty well. However, there is one main difficulty in watching as you go to bed. You have to find a show interesting enough that you want to watch it, yet boring enough that you can fall asleep while it's on.

Actually, this isn't much of a problem for The Wife. She can fall asleep to almost any show. The exception is sporting events. No matter how low I turn the volume, she complains that the commentators are yelling at her and not saying anything useful. (She has a point.) This is too bad, because baseball, soccer, and especially golf are all things I can somewhat enjoy and easily fall asleep to.

While she says no to sports, I protest against the "real life" shows she likes, such as Sister Wives, Little People In a World of Tall People, and That One Family with the 23 Kids. I can't stand those kind of shows.

This leaves us mostly with scripted shows to choose from. Over the years we've tried a few, with varying degrees of success. We prefer to find shows that have ended their run, so we don't feel obligated to continue to follow a show once we've gotten caught up on it. The biggest problem is that I get sucked into the story and end up watching two, three, or four episodes before finally falling asleep.

Remember when there were just three channels to choose from?

We've tried some shows that one of us liked better than the other. My wife watched Party of Five, but it was too soap opera-ish for me. (Private Practice was even worse, but I somehow got sucked into it anyway. I've never seen a show where every single main character has slept with so many of the other main characters.)

Meanwhile, I tried to watch The Incredible Hulk, but The Wife would occasionally be bothered by either the many explosions or the bad 1970's clothing worn by the actors. I also watched all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but I could tell she wasn't very interested so I tried to watch it mostly after she was already asleep.

We have found a few shows we both liked. We enjoyed Veronica Mars, Smallville, Life, and Numb3rs. Lois and Clark was one of our first go-to shows, mostly because one of us thought Dean Cain was very attractive, and the other of us felt the same about Teri Hatcher.

Recently we've both enjoyed Leverage (my choice) and Drop Dead Diva (her choice), two silly shows in which the good guys usually save the day.

There haven't been many sitcoms on our watchlist, because a one hour show is generally more conducive to falling asleep. But, I've been surprised by how good of a go-to-sleep show the sitcom Reba is: amusing enough to watch, yet formulaic enough to send you off to slumberland.

Of course, no show will be the perfect sleep show for everyone. Some might like to go to bed watching The Walking Dead, while others would rather go for Full House. People are different, and each person will prefer different things. But, at least we have choices. Back when I was a kid the only thing you could watch at two in the morning was static.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Parenting 101


It's when the baby sleeps for more continuous hours between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM than he did at any point between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM.

It's when your oldest child gets upset at you for falling asleep while she's talking to you about picking out a hat for Dr. Seuss days, then trying to explain to her that you fell asleep not because her story was boring, but because the baby waking up seven times during the night made it so you got less than three hours of sleep the night before.

It's knowing where a binky is at all times.

It's when you ask yourself the question, "How much poop is too much poop in the bathtub?" (The answer, of course, is "any.") (But that doesn't mean you won't be tempted to just finish bathing the baby before draining all the water and cleaning out the tub.)

It's when you try to do your two year-old's hair, but she insists on having a comb and doing it herself, so you have to comb her hair while she is combing her hair, which means re-combing parts that she has already combed, and re-re-combing spots that you have already combed but she has uncombed.

It's when you don't notice the syrup stain from breakfast on your son's face until after he has returned from a full day at school.

It's when you're wearing your favorite shirt and look down and realize that some substance that oozed from your child has created a large, very noticeable stain that you may or may not be able to get out.

It's when you've spent weeks picking out and coordinating outfits for a family picture, and just as you are getting everyone posed you notice that the baby has pooped through the diaper.

Oops! We might have to change those clothes.

It's when you're at a national fast food chain and need to change a baby's diaper, but there isn't a diaper changing table in either restroom, so you end up changing the diaper on the seat of the booth you're eating at.

It's when, after the one minute walk to your car from the booth at the national fast food restaurant where you just changed your baby's diaper, you discover that your baby has pooped again and you have to change her on the driver's seat.

It's when you listen to the same two songs practiced on the piano approximately 1,397 times, then get dressed up to hear them one more time at a piano recital.

It's when you're having an awkward conversation through a bathroom stall at a crowded public restroom, trying to encourage your four year-old to finish on the toilet and not forget any of the steps he learned while potty training.

It's parenting. It's worth it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Unwritten Rules of Eating at McDonald's

Sometimes the call of the Golden Arches is too strong to ignore. We've all fallen for it, whether it be because we're desperately hungry, don't have enough money to go anywhere else, longing for the comfortable familiarity of that boot-shaped McNugget, it's the only place open at 2:00 AM, or we foolishly told the kids we'd go wherever they chose.

McDonald's is ubiquitous. McDonald's is inevitable. McDonald's is inescapable. You will eat at McDonald's again.

And the next time you do go there, it's best to keep in mind the Unwritten Rules of Eating at McDonald's:

*If you check your bag at the drive-thru, it will always be correct, although you'll annoy the car behind you; if you don't check your bag before pulling away, something will be wrong or missing. (At the very least they'll have forgotten to give you napkins.)

*Don't fall for the Happy Meal trap. Just buy the kids stuff off of the dollar menu, because it's not worth the extra two dollars you'll pay for a Happy Meal just to get some 12 cent toy you'll end up stepping on and throwing away in four days anyway.

Not only are you paying extra for the Happy Meal toy, you're also paying extra for the box. (Creepy!)

*If you have a chicken (or fish) sandwich and a hamburger, always eat the chicken (or fish) sandwich first, because a cold hamburger tastes better than a cold chicken (or fish) sandwich.

*If you are in a big hurry, do not order the Filet O Fish.

*If you order your drink with no ice, but it comes with ice anyway, just deal with it. (If you send it back and ask them to fix it, the chance of someone spitting in your drink more than doubles.)

*The "bonus" fries at the bottom of your drive-thru bag are always the best ones.

Don't get too friendly with the clown. (I don't trust him.)
*Always grab more napkins than you think you'll need, because you will need more than you think.

*Don't bother with whatever limited-edition "gourmet" burger they're pushing. If you wanted something "gourmet," you certainly wouldn't be at McDonald's in the first place.

*Do you know why there's a warning saying that the apple pie filling is hot? Because it's hot, you moron! It's hotter than the molten lava of an erupting volcano!

*Whatever you do, do NOT take a bite of that McRib!!!

Thanks for the warning!

*Don't go up into the PlayPlace to retrieve your child. You do not want to be the adult who gets stuck up in the PlayPlace. Besides, they will come down on their own.... Eventually.... If you wait long enough.... Just be patient....Any time now.... Don't make me come up there and get you!!!

Friday, June 9, 2017

I Am NOT Mr. Mom!

First things first: I am not Mr. Mom. I'm a stay-at-home dad. (Yes, there is a difference.)

Having said that, if anyone calls me "Mr. Mom," I'm not going to get all upset or offended by it. (One of the biggest problems in the world today is that people get offended too easily, and if that statement offends you, I don't really care.) While I'm not very fond of the term "Mr. Mom," I can certainly understand why people use it. Heck, I've used it myself. It's a quick, two-word shorthand for my current employment situation.

I mean, which would you say, "I'm a Mr. Mom," or, "I quit my truck driving job to be a writer, and since my wife is a full-time school teacher I end up doing a lot of the day-to-day household chores like the dishes, the laundry, and tending, bathing, and feeding the babies?" Depending on who I'm talking to, it's so much quicker and easier to just say, "I'm a Mr. Mom," so that's what I do, even though I don't like it.

I have a spatula (and I'm not afraid to use it!)

Why don't I like the term "Mr. Mom?" There are certain sexist connotations to it. For one thing, it assumes the many things involved in raising children are all women's work. You know, stuff only a "Mom" does. And then when you put the "Mr." in front of the Mom, it implies that, since this is a guy doing all of this women's work, it's not going to be done as well. And yes, my wife is much better at "Momming" than I am, but that's okay because I'm not the Mom, I'm the Dad. (A Dad who happens to stay at home.)

We don't call a woman who works full-time to support the family a "Mrs. Dad," do we? So why should we use "Mr. Mom" for a stay-at-home dad?

I'll be honest, when I first became a stay-at-home dad, I had no idea how much work it would involve or how much time it would take. I thought I'd be able to spend most of my 9:00-to-5:00 time writing, with an occasional diaper change and/or bottle feeding sprinkled in throughout the day. I was wrong. (Oh, so wrong!) Watching two babies under three years old is something that demands my constant attention. And if I am able to grab a free moment when the babies are eating/napping/playing with toys by themselves, I'm more likely to collapse from exhaustion than actually write.

Sometimes the kids even "help" me write!

But, it's not always just poopy diapers and runny noses (even though it may seem that way at times.) Being a stay-at-home dad means I'm also there for the smiles and the giggles. I'm there to sing songs and dance. I'm there to help them learn their colors, and their letters, and how to count. (Which is why, for several weeks, my daughter thought the color green was called "Hulk-smash.") Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun.

I'm not sure how much longer I can afford to be a stay-at-home dad. Finances may dictate that I go back into the work force fairly soon. But if that happens, I'll do so with a new respect for all the work that goes into taking care of small children. And I'll always appreciate my time as Mr. Mom. (Even though I'm not Mr. Mom.)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"I'm Bored"

"I'm bored."

School's out and summer is here, so you know what that means: the kids are going to say, "I'm bored." Any good parent will have an answer ready for that statement. And, even a mediocre parent like me has a few ideas of what to say. Here are a few of them:

"I'm bored." "Well, I guess we'll have to find some work for you to do."

"I'm bored." "Have you finished your chores?"

"I'm bored." "Why don't you go read a book?"

"I'm bored." "Why don't you go write a book?"

"I'm bored." "Maybe you could count how many tiles there are on the kitchen floor."

"I'm bored." "Yay! Nap time! I love nap time!"

"I'm bored." "Okay. Perhaps now would be a good time to learn how to operate the lawn mower."

"I'm bored." "Have you tried twiddling your thumbs?"

"I'm bored." "Don't you have toys to play with? I know your mother and I have spent a lot of money over the years on toys. I guess they weren't very good toys. Maybe we should gather all of your toys up and give them away?"

"I'm bored." "Go stare into an electronical device. It seems to appease everyone else."

"I'm bored." "Well, apparently we need to find you more chores."

"I'm bored." "Do you have an imagination? Use it."

"I'm bored." "Hi, Bored, I'm Dad." (Honestly, if you give them this answer every time they say "I'm bored," they will eventually stop saying it.) (I guess kids just don't appreciate a good dad joke.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

7 Ways "Dinner for Two" is Different than "Dinner with the Kids"

My wife and I went out to dinner the other night. Just the two of us. With no kids. (It was very strange.)

It didn't take long to see that going out to dinner as two adults is much, much different than going out to dinner as two adults with four kids. Here are some of those differences:

1. Get seated quicker--We entered the restaurant in the middle of prime dinner time. Usually when asked, "How many in your party?" we'll say we need a table for six (or something similar.) Often we'll be with my wife's sister and her family, so we have to ask for a table for ten. My mother-in-law and father-in-law frequently join us, too, making us request a table for 12. And then, if my wife's other sister is also there, it becomes a table for 17. (Not many restaurants have a table for 17.)

When we tell them how many of us there are, they almost always say, "It'll be a 40 minute wait." Sometimes the wait is longer, but it's hardly ever shorter.

We're so used to having to wait to be seated that as we approached the hostess, my wife asked, "How long of a wait is it for a table for two?" The hostess quickly replied, "We can seat you right now." We were flabbergasted and stunned. No waiting! You've got to be kidding me!!!

A man, a woman, and a waiter. (That is all.)

2. No high chairs--When we sat down we didn't have to worry about where to put the high chair(s). We didn't have to track down where they were and wonder if someone from the restaurant would get them for us or if we had to get them ourselves. We didn't have to check to see if the buckles worked, or if we needed to wipe them down.

3. No crayons at the table--We didn't have to look at a kid menu to figure out if they call them chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, chicken fingers, or chicken chunkaroos. We didn't have to decide whether or not to let our kid beat us at tic-tac-toe. And we didn't have to take an extra 45 seconds to find that one hard-to-find word that is in the word search puzzle backwards diagonally.

4. No potty breaks--We didn't have to worry about having to leave the table in order to take a kid to the restroom. There was no concern as to if the bathroom had a diaper changing table or not.

5. We could eat whatever we wanted--We didn't have to worry about the kid with the nut allergy. We didn't have to worry about sharing any of our dessert.

6. No guilt about the mess--We didn't feel the need to leave a bigger tip because we felt guilty for all of the stuff on the floor beneath the high chair.

7. Adult conversation--There was absolutely no talk of diapers, Pokemon, boogers, or Moana.

Yes, we had a wonderful dinner, just the two of us! But, next time we'll probably bring the kids with us (because sometimes I just feel the need to draw on the menu with a crayon.)