Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Day After Christmas (a Poem)

Christmas is over! Long live Christmas!

'Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
All the garbage was strewn on the floor and the couch;

The stockings, once hung by the chimney with care,
Were down on the ground, contents flung everywhere.

The children were still nestled snug in their beds,
Asleep, with their favorite new toy by their heads;

And Momma and I, still in need of a nap,
Were staring at wrappings no longer a-wrap.

Looking over the living room, so full of clutter,
That I thought it was hopeless and started to mutter;

There was paper, and boxes, packing peanuts, and more,
There were those stupid twisty ties-- all over the floor.

Then, all of the sudden, I moved like the Flash,
And gathered up garbage to throw in the trash;

The Wife and I picked up and swept with the broom,
And worked 'til we'd cleaned up most all of the room.

When what to my wondering ear did appear,
But the sound of the garbage truck rumbling near;

With a little old driver, all bearded and thick,
That he looked, for a moment, like a grungy St. Nick.

I gathered my bags and I ran to the street,
For I knew that the garbage truck I had to beat;

'Else I'd live in a house full of garbage all week,
And if it sat around that long, no doubt it would reek.

I stuffed bags in my dumpster, one, two, three, and four,
And when I thought it was full, I stuffed in several more!

I filled it so full I could not close the top,
It was bursting with garbage; it was ready to pop.

Then the truck it approached, and it was sort of smelly,
It picked up my trash and dumped it into its belly.

And dropping my empty bin back to the ground,
The truck pulled away with a loud revving sound.

And the driver yelled out as he left in a streak,
"Merry Christmas to all! I'll be back here next week."

Edited from a post originally published on 12.26/2017.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Let's Rate the Christmas Traditions!

There are a lot of different Christmas traditions out there. Everyone has their favorites. But, some of them make absolutely no sense. Today, I'm going to go through some common Christmas traditions (and some that aren't so common) and rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being lame and 10 being awesome.

Let's get started!

Leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus--It really all depends on what kind of cookies they are, doesn't it? Store bought: 6 out of 10. Sugar cookies: 8 out of 10. Homemade chocolate chip cookies (with walnuts): 6 out of 10. Homemade chocolate chip cookies (without walnuts): 10 out of 10.

Mmmm...cookies! (Too bad they aren't chocolate chip.)

Going to a movie at the theater on Christmas Day--Again, it would really depend on which movie, but aside from that I'm of the mind that this would be a better activity for early afternoon on Christmas Eve, or one of the days after Christmas. Christmas Day itself should be for the kids to break their new toys, not to see the latest Star Wars side-quel. 4 out of 10.

Having a big turkey (or ham) dinner--Is a big dinner really necessary? You just had a big meal a month ago at Thanksgiving. Plus, you've already spent most of the morning nibbling on the candy from your stocking. There's really no need for the big production of a huge meal on Christmas. 3 out of 10.

Leaving hay on the roof for the reindeer to eat--When my brother had young kids, he started this tradition with his family. The first year or two the kids thought it was pretty fun, but by the third and fourth time he did it, the novelty had worn off and all it became was a dangerous endeavor to see if my brother would fall off of the roof and crack his head open. 2 out of 10.

Birthday cake for Jesus--My oldest daughter was just over a year and a half old when she first started to understand much about Christmas. When we explained to her that the whole holiday was a celebration for the birth day of baby Jesus, she asked if we were going to have "birssday cake." How could we say no to that? So, every year we celebrate the birthday of Jesus with a delicious chocolate cake! 10 out of 10.

Mmmm...cake!!! (Do you sense a trend? I like me some dessert!)
Singing Christmas carols--When I was a kid the whole family would meet at Grandma's house, but before we could open any presents we had to all gather around the piano and sing "Silent Night." Under the right circumstances, this could be great, but let's just say that no one will ever mistake us for the Osmonds. 6 out of 10.

Getting pajamas on Christmas Eve--We've been doing this in my family for years. Everyone gets a pair of pajamas before going to bed on Christmas Eve, so that when they wake up in the morning they will be wearing nice, new pajamas in all of the pictures that will be taken. Parents love this, but kids are mostly indifferent. For kids: 5 out of 10. For adults: 7 out of 10.

Wassailing--Sometimes, people will say that they went "wassailing" at Christmastime. Apparently, "wassail" is supposed to be some kind of drink. I don't think it actually exists. I have never seen nor tasted "wassail." If someone tells me that they enjoy "wassail" or have been "wassailing," I don't believe them. I think it's all a fib, just like when people say they see something in those "magic eye" posters. So many lies! 0 out of 10.

Reading the Christmas story from the Bible--This may not be the most exciting part of the holiday, but it is one of the most important parts. There is a reason they say "Jesus is the reason for the season." 10 out of 10.

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Edited from a post originally published on 12/23/2016.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The 12 (good) Days of Christmas

Is it really the most wonderful time of the year? Of course it is!

Oh sure, there are some things about the holiday season that can be really annoying, (see: The 12 (bad) Days of Christmas) but for the most part, Christmas time is joyous. Here are a few reasons why:

12. Receiving gifts-- I know, I know, we're not supposed to dwell on getting things. That's not what the season is about, and we're bad people if all we care about is getting presents on Christmas. Still, it's a fun feeling to start unwrapping a present, not knowing what it is, but knowing that someone cared enough to get you something.

11. Giving gifts-- While we're on the subject of Christmas presents, there's nothing quite like the feeling of giving something to someone else and seeing the happiness that it brings them. (Even if it's just a gift card.) (Some people really like gift cards.)

10. Bells-- For most of the year, bells are loud and annoying; they're used for things like letting us know when we are tardy. But during the Christmas season, they're jingly and happy, and bring joy to the world.

9. Christmas carols-- (Speaking of "Joy to the World!") Sure, we each have some Christmas songs that annoy us (talking about you, "Santa Baby") but we also each have songs that we love to hear and sing. Who doesn't love a good "Hallelujah" every once in a while?

8. Treats-- Whether it's cookies, or fudge, or divinity, or candy canes, or chocolates, or maybe even fruitcake, there's some kind of treat for everyone to enjoy. (Okay, probably not fruitcake.)

7. People are nicer-- Have you noticed that people are nicer during the Christmas season? Maybe they're more likely to give up a chair for someone, or hold a door open. Maybe they're doing it because they are genuinely nice, or maybe they just don't want to get on the naughty list--either way, it's a good thing.

6. Christmas lights-- As long as I don't have to climb up on the roof, I love Christmas lights! It's great to see the neighborhood lit up with beautiful colors and creative decorations. (Especially if they aren't blinking through the bedroom window.)

5. Eggnog-- Everyone loves the thick deliciousness of eggnog! (Okay, not everyone loves eggnog, but those who don't are wrong.) (See: An Ode to Eggnog!) The only sad thing about eggnog is that it's only available during the holiday season.

4. Spending time with family-- It's great to get together with the family at Christmastime. Sure, there may be some members of the extended family that you'd rather avoid due to annoying political views and/or questionable hygiene habits, but there are also some fantastic cousins and cool uncles and aunts that you don't get to see very often.

3. Time off from work-- It is so nice to have a little time away from work to be with the family and celebrate Christmas! (Yes, I know there are some who still have to work on Christmas. Here's a shout out to the police/fire/hospital workers who need to always be at the ready to help, and all others who have to work on Christmas.) For most of us, though, it's a relief to leave the worries of work behind for a day (or more.)

2. Children's smiles-- There's nothing quite as wonderfully contagious as a smile on a child! Whether they're playing with a new toy, or happy to see Grammy and PopPop, the genuine joy of a child's smile is about as good as it gets. (I wish I still got excited enough about things that I'd jump up and down like a little kid.)

1. The birth of Jesus-- There is a reason we celebrate this season, and it's not because of reindeer or snowmen or Santa. We celebrate because a child was born; a child who would grow up to show and teach us how we should live, and who would be willing to give his own life so that we could live. That's a pretty good thing.

Friday, December 14, 2018

What's In That Present?

Years ago, I was at my sister's house celebrating Christmas. We began exchanging gifts, and she had her three year-old son bring a present to where I was sitting. As he handed me a large, square box wrapped in Christmas paper, he said, "Here's your present. It's a basketball." And, of course, that's what it was.

Why do we wrap Christmas presents? We wrap them so the person receiving the gift doesn't know what it is. There's that element of surprise when someone opens a gift, not knowing what it might contain. A wrapped Christmas present is the great unknown.

Some people see this unknown as a challenge. They feel they must know what each present is before they unwrap them. They'll study the wrapped present. Feel it. Shake it. Squeeze it. Yes, they'll even sniff it. To these people, no Christmas present is a successful Christmas present unless they know what it is before they unwrap it.

My brother-in-law is one of those people. He has an uncanny knack for announcing what each gift he received was before he opens it. He'll hold the wrapped gift up to his face, as if mentally connecting to it, then say exactly what the present is before opening it. It used to drive my sister crazy. She began wrapping the presents in elaborate and creative ways in an attempt to confound him, but he would still usually announce the gift correctly before opening it. We never knew exactly how he was doing it. Was he carefully unwrapping and re-wrapping the presents? Was he doing detective work by checking out credit card statements and looking at receipts? However he did it, he was good. (And my sister enjoyed playing the game with him.)

Nice jeans!
Not everyone likes to play that game, though. For me, Christmas is stressful enough without having to figure out how to hide presents, or wrap them creatively, or try to keep secrets from my wife. My wife and I have an agreement. Neither of us try to guess what we got each other. It's like we tell our kids, we "get what we get and we don't throw a fit." For us, it makes for a more pleasant Christmas morning if we are surprised here and there, and it makes the preparation for Christmas easier, too. If I really wanted to know what my wife got me, I could just look through at her Amazon account, or look through some of the boxes in our hiding area. (We both hide gifts in the same place. We just leave them in boxes and trust each other not to look.)

It helps, too, that sometimes I'm not very bright. One year my wife got me the DVDs for the first nine seasons of the show Smallville. She wrapped each season separately, sometimes in different shaped boxes. And I was so dense that, even though I had already unwrapped Seasons 1-3 and Seasons 5-9, I was still surprised when I unwrapped Season 4. (My brother-in-law would not only have known he was getting all nine seasons, he would have correctly predicted which season was in which box.)

So, this Christmas I'm not worrying at all about figuring out what gifts I'm getting. I'll get what I get. And I'm also not worrying about trying to hide what I get for my wife from her. What I am worried about is trying to figure out what to get her. That's stressful enough. (Maybe I'll get her a basketball.)

Edited from a post originally published on 12/9/2016.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The 12 (bad) Days of Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it?

The Christmas season can be exhausting. There are a wide range of things to worry about, stress over, and cause anxiety. The whole holiday season can be quite the hassle. We're supposed to be jolly, but sometimes it's pretty easy to get pushed to the edge.

Maybe I don't want to be jolly.

Here are just a few of the things that might set you off:

1. Finding a parking spot at the mall-- Did you think you'd make a quick run to the mall to get a few things? So did every other person in the tri-state area! In December, parking spots can be about as precious as frankincense or myrrh. (But not gold--gold is still better than parking spots.)

2. Decorating the house-- I think it's great when people decorate their houses with Christmas lights, and I'll even put up some lights at my own house--but not on the roof! Roofs are steep and angled; floors are level and flat. There is a reason we walk on floors but not on roofs. I don't care how pretty the Christmas lights might be--they aren't worth me falling off of the roof!

3. Writing the family Christmas letter-- There's only so many ways you can write "Still at the same job for the past 20 years," or "Still haven't written the next great American novel," or "We've managed to keep the kids out of jail for another year."

4. Figuring out gifts for everyone-- Face it, the older you get the more people you know; and the more people you know, the more people you're supposed to get gifts for. If you can come up with five genuinely good ideas for gifts each year, you are doing fantastic. The rest of the people on your list had better be okay with gift cards or fancy crackers and cheese.

5. Finding the decorations in the closet and/or attic-- It sure seems like the only time you go to the closet and/or attic is when you are getting out or putting away the Christmas decorations, and yet every time you go in there the decorations seem to be buried underneath or behind a bevy of other boxes. Where did all of this other junk come from? And where is that one box of ornaments?

6. Fruitcake-- Some well-intentioned person will try to feed you fruitcake. Don't do it! You might think maybe this is the fruitcake that actually tastes good. It isn't.

7. The mandatory office Christmas party-- I don't like half of these people when they are sober--why would you think I'd like them when they are drunk? And keep Roger away from the mistletoe, because that's a harassment suit waiting to happen.

8. That one song that you really hate-- We each have at least one Christmas song that we absolutely despise, and you can be sure it'll get played over and over and over again. (For me, it's "Santa Baby.") (And "Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart.") (And "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.")

9. Needles from the Christmas tree getting everywhere-- You might think that this won't be a problem if you get an artificial Christmas tree. You would be wrong.

10. Wrapping the gifts-- Wrapping paper, scissors, tape, ribbon--I didn't sign up for a craft project; I just want to cover the present I bought. You know that old saying, "If you want something done right you've got to do it yourself?" Well, that doesn't apply to me here.

11. Crowds and lines-- Soooo many people want to celebrate the holidays the same way that you do, whether it's looking at the Christmas lights or trying to get your kids to see Santa. Unfortunately, when you're around that many people, you're bound to run in to some who are on the naughty list and think they are more important than you. ("Sorry, Samantha, but your kids have to wait in line just like the rest of us!")

12. Pretending to like the gifts-- How good are your acting skills? Because sometimes you'll unwrap a present and think, "What the heck?" But, you can't say, "What the heck?" because you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Meryl Streep's got nothing on all of the Academy Award worthy performances that take place on Christmas morning!

And there you have it! But, if you feel this post was a little too much of a downer, be sure to check in next week when I'll go over The 12 (good) Days of Christmas. It'll cheer you up and make you want to sing! (But not "Santa Baby," because I can't stand that song!)

Friday, December 7, 2018

You Better Not Pout (A Friday Fiction Christmas Story)

"Are you sure about this, Santa?" When Jangle asked the question, several of the other elves in the board room gently nodded their heads in agreement.

"Yes," answered Santa. "Yes, I'm very sure about this. It's time we put a stop to it, here and now." Many of the elves who nodded at the question were now shaking their heads ever so slightly. A few of the others nodded in the affirmative, including Cho-Cho, who pumped his fist and shouted, "Yes!"

"Are you aware of the ramifications of this decision, Santa?" Jangle asked.

"This is the Naughty or Nice board meeting, Jangle. Of course I'm aware of the ramifications," Santa answered, sternly.

"Are you? Are you positive you know all that this will effect?" Jangle continued to press Santa, to the point that many of the other elves in the room started to get a little uncomfortable. The Big Guy wasn't usually questioned on his choices.

"I think I do," said Santa, calmly. "But apparently you don't think so, Jangle. Why don't you tell me what it is that you think I don't know." A barely audible "Oooo" filled the room at Santa's stern reply.

Jangle cleared his throat, then took a sip from the mug of water in front of him. He cleared his throat again. "Well, Santa, if you hold firm to this decision, the naughty-to-nice percentages will be way out of whack. My elves are estimating it could be as much as a thirty-two percent swing toward the naughty side. That would put the overall totals well into the naughty camp."

"I'm aware of that," Santa said flatly.

"Do you know what that will do to production?" Jangle continued. "We'll have a surplus of goods. A big surplus of goods. We don't have the warehouse space to handle all that surplus."

"Then we might just have to cut back on production," Santa said. There was an audible gasp in the room.

"Does that mean you might lay off elves?" asked a suddenly very concerned Tooshi, sitting two seats down from Jangle.

"There will be no lay-offs," Santa said. "At worst some of the elves just might not have to work as hard, or they might get a bit more vacation time." Again there was a gasp.

"But the elves love to work!" Tooshi replied.

Santa looked Tooshi square in the eye. "When times are tough we don't all always get what we want." He turned back to Jangle. "Any other concerns?"

"Yes," Jangle answered. "It goes to intent. I don't think most of the people who are guilty of this are intending to be naughty."

"Then what do you think their intentions are, Jangle?" asked Santa.

"Oh," Jangle said, "I think they are just trying to be silly. Or funny. Or maybe even sexy."

"Maybe," replied Santa. "But I've got to draw a line somewhere, and I'm going to draw it here. It's right there in the song. All these people have heard it. 'You better not pout.' They know it, but they're flaunting it right in my face. They purposely pose for their selfies with a pouty face. I'm ending it now!"

"To be fair, Santa, most people call it 'duck lips,' not 'pouty face.'" Jangle could tell he was losing the argument.

"I don't care what they call it. I'm Santa, and I call it a pouty face. Therefore, everyone who has posed for a pouty face selfie this year is going on the naughty list." Santa spoke directly to Jangle. "Is that clear?"

"Yes, Santa," Jangle said as he lowered his head in defeat.

Santa turned to Cho-Cho. "Cho-Cho, you are in charge of this project. Make sure you check everyone's social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flckr, Tumblr, PhotoBob, and any other apps that might be out there." Cho-Cho nodded his head enthusiastically.

"And then," Santa added, "Check them twice."


Now choose a title that best fits this story.

O A. You Better Not Pout
O B. You Better Not Duck-Lip
O C. Naughty, Nice, And/Or Annoying
O D. Checking Them Twice
O E. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Edited from a post originally published on 12/4/2015.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hostage In My Own Home

They said they'd be here today. I put my life on hold, waiting for them to show up.

They never came.

It's happened to all of us, hasn't it? The cable guy is supposed to come hook up the cable. Or, the appliance repairman is going to come take a look at your fridge. Or, they're supposed to be delivering your new bed. Or, the exterminator is coming to take care of those wasps in the backyard.

Whatever the case, you're expecting someone to come--and then they just don't show up.
If I stare at my watch indignantly, will they get here sooner?

Often times they will give you a window of when to expect them: "We'll be there sometime in the morning," or "Expect us between 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM." Those expectancy windows are great, but they'd be even better if they actually showed up in the pre-arranged time range. Your anger, impatience, and frustration grow with every minute that passes before that window closes. If they said "morning," 11:59 AM is the official boiling point!

Sometimes they don't even give you a window. The other day I was having some people coming to do something in our yard, and I asked if they knew what time of day they would be there. The text I got back said, "I'm not sure what time they will be out today. They will, however, install it by the end of the day." Great! So I need to stay home all day long on the off chance they come by. (And no, they did not have it installed by the end of the day. They called at 3:30 PM to tell me they wouldn't make it, but they would be there by 9:30 AM the next day. They finally did show up on Day 2 at 1:15 PM.)

So, some of you are asking, "What's the big deal? You are at home, waiting for someone to arrive; you'd usually be there all day anyway. It's not like you had anything else to do." You're right, I'm often sitting around, not doing much--but in this situation I can't do anything else! It's amazing all the things that you'll want to do the moment you don't have the freedom to do them--make a quick run to the store; go drop something off at the post office; go grab a burger for lunch--you can't do any of these things because you're waiting for someone who may or may not show up.

If you're like me, you'll end up spending an inordinate amount of your day gazing out the window, staring at your watch, or impatiently stomping your foot.

The worst thing about this at-home hostage situation is what it does to your bathroom habits. You can't grab something to read and go sit on the porcelain convenience for fear that as soon as you get comfortable on the throne, that's the moment that the cable guy will come pounding on the door!

While I'm waiting, my anger and frustration will build up, and I'll tell myself I'm going to demand a rebate or a discount for having to wait so long. But, when they do finally show up and give me the bill, I'm so happy I'll say, "That's okay! No problem!" I'll be so relieved that the hostage situation is finally over, I'd agree to just about anything. Freedom is a wonderful thing! (At any price.)

Friday, November 30, 2018

11 Signs You Shop Too Much on Amazon

Living in a small town can be difficult at times. But, one of the things that makes it easier these days is the convenience of Amazon Prime deliveries right to your front door. Now, instead of traipsing to the mall every time you need something, you can just make a few clicks on your computer and have anything you want delivered to your home for free* within two days! (*"Free" as long as you pay the yearly membership fee. Maybe "free-ish" would be more accurate?)

Yes, Amazon Prime can be a good thing. But, can you have too much of a good thing? Here are a few signs that you might shop a little more often than you should on Amazon Prime:

1. You are on a first name basis with the UPS driver.--"Steve is running a little late today. I hope he's not having problems with his gout again."

So many boxes!!!

2. When you order something not from Amazon you get very angry if your order takes more than two days.--"What do they mean by 'allow four to six weeks for delivery?' Don't they know it's not 1978 anymore?"

3. When you know the different sizes of Amazon boxes by their number.--"I'm surprised they were able to fit this order in a P5. I thought for sure they were going to need a Q2."

It's funny, because last time they used a P1 and a 2BA.

4. You get more package tracking updates than you do texts or e-mails from family and friends.--"Hurray! The package is out for delivery! Oh, and I got an e-mail from Aunt Pearl, too."

5. One of your favorite games is playing "What's in this box?" (And you are right over 80% of the time.)--"I think the dishwasher soap and the diapers are in this box, and the shampoo and the gift for Aunt Myrtle are in that box."

6. You are on a first name basis with the folks at the cardboard recycling center.--"Hi, Gladys! I love the new nose ring!"

7. You get angry when anyone expects you to pay for shipping and handling.--"Shipping and handling? Why should I have to pay for someone to 'handle' my package? What if I don't want my package handled?"

8. You know where each Amazon warehouse is and how long it takes a shipment from each of them to arrive at your house.--"Oh, good, this package is shipping out of Louisville. They always do a better job of packing than the Denver warehouse."

9. All of your Christmas presents are wrapped in Amazon boxes. (Because you have a box the size of every possible gift you need to wrap.)--"I don't know why anyone would ever buy a gift box. I've got plenty of boxes right here."

10. When a Two-Day Shipping item takes more than two days to arrive, you check the package tracking at least twice an hour.--"It says it's still in Salt Lake City, but it said it was in Salt Lake City four hours ago! It shouldn't take four hours to get out of Salt Lake City!"

11. The mattress in your guest room consists of leftover packaging pillows.--"Timmy! Please stop popping the guest mattress!"

Rest in comfort---thanks to Amazon!

It almost makes all of the Amazon corporate shenanigans worth it. Almost.

Edited from a post originally published on 12/6/2016.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Wouldn't It Be Great...

My two year-old son just climbed into his bed, grabbed his blanket, and curled up for a nap. Let me say that again: He just put himself down for a nap!!!

This never happens. It's usually a big fight to get him to take a nap. I'll put him in bed and the two of us will race to the door of his bedroom, me hoping to shut him in, him hoping to escape into the outside-of-his-room world. Or, I'll try to grab him to put him in his bed and he'll dodge this way and that way, and when I finally do catch him he will literally be kicking and screaming as I put him in his bed. (And on those days when I don't feel like fighting him to take a nap, he'll fall asleep in his dinner, wake up an hour later, then stay up until midnight.)

He put himself down for a nap, and the world suddenly became an easier place to live. Wouldn't it be great if other difficult and troubling things just took care of themselves?

Wouldn't it be great if all politicians started telling the truth? If they could work together with members of the opposite party for actual compromise?

Wouldn't it be great if drivers stayed out of the left "passing" lane unless they were actually passing someone?

Wouldn't it be great if the kids started doing their chores without having to be reminded?

Wouldn't it be great if Walmart had more than two checkout lanes open?

Wouldn't it be great if that one co-worker who calls in "sick" every holiday would actually come in to work so that you could take the holiday off every once in a while?

Wouldn't it be great if every time you went to the doctor's office you got a clean bill of health?

That'd all be great, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, we live in the real world. In the real world my son started yelling for me ten minutes after he put himself down for a nap. He had pooped his pants, and I had to deal with it.

Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where people didn't poop their pants? (Especially the politicians!)

Friday, November 23, 2018

It's Leftover Day!!!

For some people, the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. It's all about shopping and getting the best deals of the year. It's about staying up way late or getting up extra early. It's about standing in long lines and fighting over the last big screen television.

It doesn't need to be that way.

Instead of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving should be known as Leftover Day.

We spend all week preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. There's lots of planning and lots of cooking. Then we spend maybe an hour actually eating the meal. It's fantastic! But when the feast is finished, what is left? The leftovers, that's what!

So many leftovers!!!
Rubbermaid, Tupperware, old whip cream containers, plates covered with tin foil: they all get stuffed with the remnants of all the best Thanksgiving meal foods. Unfortunately, too much of this great leftover food is wasted each year. The problem is, the longer the leftovers are left in the refrigerator, the more likely we'll forget what is in each container. And then, before you know it, you have a fridge full of mystery meals. And later still, we'll have containers full of fuzzy, furry former food.

That's why we need to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as Leftover Day. If we eat the leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, we'll be more likely to still remember which food is in which container, and we'll be less likely to waste all of this delicious food.

One of the good things about Leftover Day is that you eat the leftovers right out of the leftover containers. Or, at the very least, you eat the leftovers on paper plates with plastic utensils. One of the keys to Leftover Day is dirtying the fewest dishes as possible. There were enough dirty dishes on Thanksgiving, there's no need to add to it on Leftover Day.

The most common leftover, of course, is filling the leftover rolls with leftover turkey for a makeshift sammich, but Leftover Day can also be used to try new things and new combinations. Didn't have room for the sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving? You can have some on Leftover Day! Have you wondered what the green bean casserole would taste like covered in gravy? It's Leftover Day, give it a try!

And yes, there is still some pie! (But not for long.)

So, this year, take a break from the craziness of Black Friday shopping and just kick back and feed your face on Leftover Day! (And don't worry about the dishes. Mr. Hefty will take care of it.)

Edited from a post originally published on 11/25/2016.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cinnamon Or Garlic: Is There Really a Difference?

One ingredient can make a world of difference.

The other morning I got up early and thought I would be a good husband/father and make breakfast for everyone. My wife came across a recipe several years ago for something we call "oatmeal bake." It ends up as a dish of oatmeal in a cake-like form--thick, but not too sweet. We usually top it with banana or applesauce or maybe even chocolate chips. The kids really like it, it's reasonably healthy, and it's easy enough that I can make it. Usually.

It was early--between 5:30 and 6:00--so I turned on the light and gathered the ingredients. Everything gets mixed together in one large bowl before it gets put into the cake pan. My wife constantly tinkers with recipes, and discovered that the oatmeal bake was a little bit better with a dash of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon. I had every other ingredient already in the bowl when I reached for the cinnamon and generously sprinkled it over everything.

Except, it didn't look quite right. The cinnamon wasn't as dark as it usually is. That's when I discovered my mistake. Garlic is not cinnamon!

Which one is cinnamon and which one is garlic? (It's difficult to tell when you're still half asleep.)

This is the problem you get when you buy all of your seasonings at Costco.

By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late to do anything. I couldn't undo it. I couldn't gather all of the garlic up and put it back in the container. The garlic was there. I grabbed the cinnamon--making sure it was actually cinnamon--and sprinkled twice as much of it as I normally would, in the hopes that extra cinnamon would somehow overpower the taste of the garlic. I poured it into the cake pan and put it in the oven to bake.

This is what it's supposed to look like when it's finished.
(It really is very good. We have it three or four times a month.)

Have you ever had spaghetti-flavored oatmeal? Of course not! There is a reason bakeries don't offer Italian oatmeal cake. Cinnamon and garlic are not interchangeable, and no amount of cinnamon will completely hide the presence of garlic. I took a bite, and that was enough. I didn't serve any to the wife or the kids, sparing them from experiencing that particularly unpleasant combination of flavors. I served them toast and butter instead. (Regular butter, not garlic butter.)

Here's the recipe.
(I added a helpful little tip at the bottom.)

I learned a few things that morning. 1) Make sure you know your ingredients. 2) Make sure you use the correct ingredients. C) Not all powders are alike. D) Garlic is not a good breakfast garnish. And E) Never try to cook before 6:00 AM.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The 5 Worst (and Best) Things About Thanksgiving

It will be Thanksgiving again before you know it. There are a lot of wonderful things about Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad things about Thanksgiving, too. Here’s five of the worst, then five of the best:

Worst #5: Shopping—It used to be that Black Friday started at six in the morning. Then it started at four. Then it started at midnight. Now, some greedy retailers are starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving afternoon! Enough!!!

Worst #4: Detroit Lions—Why do we get stuck watching Detroit every Thanksgiving? Having to watch the Lions is like someone saying, “You can have a piece of fruit, (Yay!) but it has to be a prune.” (Boo!)

Worst #3: That One Relative—We all have “that one relative.” He/she is the one who makes Thanksgiving (and all family gatherings) a little more stressful than they need to be.

Worst #2: Cooking—The bad thing about the good food on Thanksgiving is that it takes a long time to cook it all. Sometimes it takes days of preparation for a meal that lasts less than an hour.

Worst #1: Dishes—When the meal is over, someone has to do all those dishes. That someone will likely be you.


Best #5: Naptime—After the meal is over, find yourself a cozy spot. There’s nothing quite like a turkey-induced nap!

Best #4: Football—Between the NFL and college, there’s always a game on. (And if you nap through the Detroit game, that’s okay because so do the Lions.)

Best #3: Family and Friends—It’s always great to spend the day with the people you care about the most. (You might even get to see your favorite cousin!)

Best #2: Food—So much good food! There’s turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, rolls, pies and so much more! It’s a wonderful feast, and it all tastes great!

Best #1: Pies!—Yes, I know I included pies under the “food” category, but I figure they’re so good they deserve a category of their own. Pumpkin, apple, peach, cherry, pecan, chocolate, banana cream, or whatever it be, it be delicious! This guy likes to try some pie!!!

There is never too much pie!

 I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!!! In the spirit of the holiday, be sure to be thankful and appreciative of all the good things in your life! 

Edited  from a post originally published  on 11/23/2015.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee: Charismatic Creator of Clobberin' Comics!!!

I created my own comic book character once. He was called: THE CLOBBERRER!!! His secret identity was Oscar Olson, and he was a middle linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. His super power was the ability to...umm...clobber things, a power he gained by eating a radioactive Big Mac.

Obviously, I'm no Stan Lee.

(I'm not even sure if it should be spelled "Clobberrer" or "Clobberer.")

Stan Lee passed away this week at the age of 95. He started writing for comic books in 1939. (1939!!! That's a long, long time ago!) Over the years he co-created many of the best known and most loved fictional characters to ever exist, including: Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Avengers, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, the X-Men, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Dr. Doom, Black Widow, and even Paste-Pot Pete. (Okay, so not all of his characters were big hits.)

(And yes, I know Stan Lee didn't create all of these characters, but his influence on them is certain.)
Of course, he didn't create these characters all by himself. He made them up alongside the artists who initially drew them, most notably Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Still, even with help, the sheer magnitude of Stan Lee's creations is astounding!

You might say that Stan Lee had it easy. He could just put "man" on the end of any word and create a new character: Spider-Man! Iron Man! Ant Man! Iceman! Giant Man! Or, he could rummage through the dictionary to come up with names for characters: Hulk! Abomination! Juggernaut! Beast! By the time I came up with the Clobberer, all the good names had already been taken, mostly by Stan Lee!

But then, if it was so easy, why didn't someone do it before Stan Lee did it? No, there was more to creating these characters than a catchy name. Stan imbued his characters with charisma and personality. They were more than just heroes, they were also people like us. We don't remember them just because they saved the world, we remember them because they made it through their everyday troubles, too. They joked and cried and kept on going, no matter the odds.

Anyone who has ever tried to write knows how hard it can be to create a memorable character. Stan Lee didn't just do that, he created an entire intricate, beloved, memorable universe! There aren't many writers who can even compare, with the possible exceptions of Tolkien or Rowling.

Stan Lee created a legacy that can't ever be stopped! (Not even by the Clobberrer!)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Baby #1 vs. Baby #4

We all start out wanting to be perfect parents. With our first baby we all try soooo hard to do everything the right way. But, by the time the fourth baby comes around, most of us realize there isn't always a "right" way to do any of it. (Or, we're just too tired to care.)

Here are some of the differences in parental strategies between Baby #1 and Baby #4. (Some of them are specific only to mothers.)

Baby #1: Printed professional announcements sent out to friends and family to announce the pregnancy.

Baby #4: Call and tell one or two people about the pregnancy, then let the word trickle out from there. (At seven months pregnant delight in the fact that some people still don't know if you are expecting or just gaining weight.)

Baby #1: No processed, store-bought baby food for your baby! We'll take squash, avocados, bananas, peaches, and other real foods, blend them up in a blender, freeze them in ice cube trays, and then, when the baby is ready to eat, we'll thaw the food cubes and lovingly feed her one spoonful at a time.

Baby #4: Do we have any Goldfish crackers? Throw some on the baby's tray.

Baby #1: Professionally taken infant portrait in an outfit bought specifically for the photo shoot. Professionally taken 3 month portrait in an outfit bought specifically for the photo shoot. Professionally taken 6 month portrait in an outfit bought specifically for the photo shoot. Professionally taken one year portrait in an outfit bought specifically for the photo shoot.
Professionally taken 18 month portrait in an outfit bought specifically for the photo shoot.
Professionally taken two year portrait in an outfit bought specifically for the photo shoot.

Baby #4: Occasional picture taken with a camera phone when she does something amusing.

Baby #1: Every significant moment of life painstakingly chronicled in journals and scrapbooks, including first smile, first bath, first word, first solid food, first tooth, first steps, first chicken McNugget, etc.

Baby #4: Occasional picture taken with a camera phone when she does something amusing.

Baby #1: Give regular baths with only the gentlest of soaps.
Baby #4: Make sure you get most of the big chunks of food off of the face and hair before going out in public.

Baby #1: Never placed directly on the carpet; a blanket is always put down first so the baby is on the blanket, not the carpet. Floor is vacuumed at least twice a day to make sure there is nothing that the baby will put in her mouth.

Baby #4: Baby placed directly on the carpet. Floor is vacuumed at least once a month, whether it needs it or not.

Baby #1: Top of stairs guarded more securely than Fort Knox.

Baby #4: Top of stairs guarded about as securely as a motel swimming pool. (No lifeguard on duty.) (Stairs? Eh, she'll probably be fine.)

Baby #1: If baby puts anything in her mouth besides her binky or the food on her tray, every effort will be made to retrieve that object before it can be swallowed, including prying your fingers into her mouth to try to dig the object out.

Baby #4: If baby puts anything in her mouth besides her binky or food, shrug shoulders and say, "It'll all come out in the poop."

Baby #1: People react with congratulatory gifts, cards, flowers, letters, texts, and possibly even telegrams.

Baby #4: People react with a snide, "How many is that? I'm starting to lose count."

Baby #1: Given a baby shower by family and friends. Given another baby shower by co-workers. Yet another baby shower by the ladies in the neighborhood.

Baby #4: Baby gets "showered" with whatever hand-me-downs got put in boxes in the storage area under the stairs.

Baby #1: When the baby is hungry, you try to secure a private room where you can breast-feed her. No matter what, you always use a baby cover when breast-feeding. No one will be able to see even one square inch of your breasts! (Not even the baby, because it's pretty dark under that breast-feeding cover.)

Baby #4: When the baby is hungry, you feed it, no matter where you are or who is around. If you don't want to see a breast, you'd best look the other way.

Baby #1: If baby drops her binky it must be sterilized and cleaned with hot, soapy water before given back to baby.

Baby #4: If baby drops her binky it goes right back in her mouth. (Those aren't germs, they're protein.)

Baby #1: Any possible babysitter is fully vetted with a complete criminal background check and at least four references. Also, a degree in child care or nutrition is a plus.

Baby #4: Over 10 years old? Never been convicted of a crime? You're hired!

Baby #1: Check reviews and buy only the safest, most educational toys.

Baby #4: Hey, here's a big box. Go play in that.

Baby #1: All baby clothes match and have a theme.

Baby #4: Do the clothes cover her bum and belly? Good enough.

Baby #1: All baby clothes washed separately on gentle cycle with special fragrance-free detergent.

Baby #4: Baby clothes washed with whatever load they fit with, usually with the towels.

Baby #1: Read and study every parenting book you can get your hands on. Join parenting focus groups online. Learn the pros and cons of every parenting technique.

Baby #4: Whatever.

(You may be wondering, "What about Baby #2 and Baby #3?" Well, Baby #2 and Baby #3 fall chronologically and philosophically between Baby #1 and Baby #4. These are the middle children. To be honest, they're pretty much just a blur.)

Edited from a post originally published on 5/10/2016.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Preschooler Or Politician?

It's Election Day! I'm a stay-at-home dad, and I've been keeping my eyes on the big midterm elections this year. Lots of excitement! Also, I've been keeping my eyes on my kids, especially the 2 year-old and the almost-four year-old that I spend all day with.

Sometimes, when I'm keeping my eyes on so many things, I find it hard to differentiate between the politicians and the preschoolers. They really do exhibit similar behaviors. Don't believe me? Well, here are a few examples:

*Quite likely to call someone they don't like a nasty name. (Like "butthead," or "horseface.")

*Makes promises they have no intention of keeping. (Like "I'll only use the crayon on paper," or "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep it.")

*Likes to kiss other people's babies.

*Constantly interrupts others and talks when they are talking.

*Likes to hear himself talk.

*Writes undecipherable, nonsensical gibberish. (Like "covfefe.")

*Likes to throw mud.

*Makes up the rules as they go.

*When caught doing something wrong, likes to blame others.

*Sometimes make fun of people who are different.

*Thinks life is a parade and everyone is waving at them.

*Likes to stick stickers everywhere. (Including bumpers.)

*Never cleans up their own messes.

*Likes to exaggerate using really big numbers.

*Frequently throws temper tantrums.

*Takes credit for things they didn't do, but never takes responsibility when things go wrong.

*Tells fibs.

*Thinks everyone is picking on them.

*Is not completely potty trained. (Okay, so that one is probably just for preschoolers.)

The good news is that after today we won't have to hear anything at all about politicians or elections for at least a couple of years! (Maybe.)

Note: I tried to keep this blog post as politically neutral as possible, using examples from both political parties. Unfortunately, I ended up leaning heavily on Donald Trump links, mostly because that's either what came to my mind or appeared first when I did an internet search. Is this because he acts more like a preschooler than other politicians, or should I blame the Fake News?

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday Fiction: Life, Death, and Inconvenience

This story is fictional, but it has some significant personal meaning to me and my family. It is not based upon an actual experience.

"Karl, is there anything else on the agenda before we turn over time to the general population?" The lines behind the microphones in each aisle were already about six or seven people deep.

"Yes, Ted, there is," Karl answered, looking down at his notes. "When people come to pick up their kids, they've been parking in the bus zone again. That one day last week Helen couldn't pull the bus in where she usually does because some car was in the way. And since the bus wasn't parked where it usually is, the Anderson kids missed it. So then Janie had to come all the way into town to pick up her kids, and she wasn't very happy about it." Janie Anderson had written a terse note about the incident, and everyone on the school board had seen it.

Ted nodded. "Okay, so this is a problem. What can we do about it?" Ted, Karl, and Pam all turned and looked at Bernie, because he was the one in charge of the buses.

"Well," Bernie said, "we'll have to re-paint the lines. And we'll have to make sure nobody parks in the red zone. And it'd probably be a good idea to have a teacher posted out there for the next couple of weeks to make sure everybody's complying. Is that good enough, Janie?" The members of the school board looked to where Janie Anderson was sitting on the third row. She grudgingly nodded her head.

"Okay," Ted said, "Was that the last of it?" Karl gave him the "thumb's up" sign. "Then," Ted continued, "I guess it's time to open things up for any concerns you all might have. Martha, it looks like you're up first."

"Thanks, Ted," said Martha, speaking into the mic a bit nervously. "Well, it's about my son, Clark. You know those green rocks that everyone has been finding lately?" Several people in the room nodded. "It seems that whenever he's in the same room with some of those rocks he gets really dizzy and weak and sick. So, I was wondering if we could make some rule to keep those green rocks out of his classroom."

"That sounds reasonable," Ted said from his spot behind the table at the front of the room. "We'll see if we can work something out."

"What?!" shouted Kaitlin from the audience. "No way! My son Bryan loves those green rocks! Why shouldn't he get to play with them just because they make one kid a little sick?"

"Well," Martha replied, "actually he gets more that just a little sick. We took Clark to see the doctor and he told us that not only does Clark get really sick if he's in the same room as the green rocks, but that if he touches them it might cause a reaction which could kill him. So we want to be very careful about those green rocks."

Kaitlin was standing now, and she had pushed in front of Hank to take control of the second microphone. "If? Might? Could? It sound to me like a lot of guess work. You don't even know for certain what would happen if your boy touches those green rocks, do you?"

Martha tried to calm herself so she didn't seem too angry when she answered. "No, I don't know for certain. But, if there's a significant chance these rocks could kill my son, I don't want them anywhere around him."

"But Bryan loves to play with those rocks," Kaitlin continued. "If Bryan can't play with his green rocks, it might make him sad and depressed. Why should the concerns about your son's health outweigh the concerns about my son's health?"

"Well," said Martha, "there's a big difference between your son maybe being a little sad and my son maybe dying. I'm not saying your son can't play with the rocks. He can play with them before and after school all he wants. I just don't want him bringing them into the classroom where they might kill my son!"

"I don't understand why I should be responsible for the well-being of your son," Kaitlin sneered. "It sounds to me like he needs to learn for himself to stay away from the green rocks. I don't know why my son has to suffer because your son has a problem."

"We are trying to teach Clark to stay away from the green rocks," Martha responded. "But, he's only in second grade. There's only so much he can control right now. That's why I'm asking for everyone to be reasonable and not send any of the green rocks to school."

"Reasonable?" Kaitlin was apoplectic. "Reasonable? What is my Bryan supposed to bring to class for his next Show and Tell? Rocks that don't have a green glow to them? Do you know how absurd that sounds?"

"There are lots of things your son can take for Show and Tell besides the green rocks," Martha sighed.

"Oh, and what if he brings something else and it makes some other kid sneeze?" Kaitlin asked. "Will we have to ban kids from bringing anything to class?"

"The only reason I'm asking for this is because it can make my Clark deathly ill. There's a big difference between someone sneezing and someone possibly dying."

Kaitlin snorted. "If you're so worried about this, why don't you just keep your boy home and home-school him?"

Martha's face turned red with anger as she replied. "I am not going to lock my son away in some fortress of solitude just because he is different! I don't think it's asking too much to have your son not play with the green rocks while he's at school. My son's life is at stake here. This shouldn't be so difficult."

"Fine!" Kaitlin said sarcastically. "We'll just kowtow to your son's every whim. He'll grow up with such a sense of entitlement because everyone has always had to bend their will for him. Is that what you want?"

"No, it's not. I wish my son wasn't different. I wish the green rocks didn't make him sick. But they do. He doesn't have any choice in the matter. I..."

Kaitlin interrupted. "What happens when he's an adult? There won't be any school board to go crying to. No one to bully other kids into not playing with the green rocks around your precious boy. Don't you want to teach him responsibility now?"

"It's not a matter of responsibility," Martha replied. "We can teach him to avoid the green rocks all day long, but there's no way for him to know if your kid has some in his pockets. It's not like he has x-ray vision." She turned to Ted and the rest of the school board at the front of the room. "Isn't there anything you can do to help protect my son?"

Ted took in a deep breath. "Martha, Kaitlin, you've both made some strong points. We'll have to take this under advisement as a board." Neither woman looked satisfied, but they both stepped away from their microphones and headed for their seats. "It looks like you're up next, Lisa," Ted said.

"I'm here to talk about homework," the woman said. "I send my daughter to school to do school work. Why do these teachers feel the need to send school work home with them? Can't they do it all there? Isn't that what school is for? They've got all day to do it!" About half of the people in attendance began to applaud. The other half rolled their eyes.


 Now choose a title that best fits this story.

O A. School Board Blues
O B. The Allegory of the Allergies
O C. The Fortress of Solitude
O D. The Green Glowing Rocks of Home
O E. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

[Author's Note: My ten year-old daughter has an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. The doctor told us that as little as one-eighth of a peanut could cause a reaction that could kill her. Thankfully, she can be in the same room as the nuts, she just can't touch or eat them. So, it's not necessary for her school to ban all nuts. My daughter sits at a separate table during lunch time, one that is designated as "nut free." The school administration, the students, and the parents of the students have all been very helpful and accommodating, and for that we are very grateful.]

Edited from a post originally published on 10/23/2015

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Painting Pumpkins After Dark

I didn't want to do it.

We had had a fairly busy Saturday, and I had just plopped myself down on the couch. I would have been fully content to stay there on the couch for the rest of the night. I had the remotes. I had my phone to stare at. I was on the couch and I didn't need (or want) to go anywhere else.

But, my wife had told the kids they could paint their pumpkins, and that's the kind of thing the kids don't forget.

So, there I was, as content on the couch as is possible for a potato, when the kids came to me and said, "Dad, Mom says we have to wash our pumpkins before we can paint them." They didn't directly ask me to do anything. They didn't directly tell me to do anything. And yet, I knew I needed to unpark myself off of the couch and go join the rest of the family in this activity, regardless of my current level of comfort and/or total lack of interest in the project.

It had been a long day, and it was already dark outside, so I turned on the porch light, grabbed some washcloths, and put some water in the mop bucket. I figured the two older kids could wash their own pumpkins, but the two little ones would need me to do it for them, so that's what we did.

It was time to get out the paints, and my wife wisely moved us from the porch to the sidewalk by the driveway, where future rains would make cleaning paint off the cement a bit easier.

And then, the painting began. Much like the cleaning, the two oldest pretty much painted their pumpkins on their own, while the two littles needed help. I didn't help them, my wife did. Instead, I sat there and took pictures. I listened to the giggles and watched the smiles. I sat and enjoyed the time together as a family.

Painting pumpkins after dark!

Our three year-old's favorite artist is Jackson Pollock.
Momma may have helped our youngest a little bit.

When we finished and went inside, I posted some of the pictures on Facebook. Lots of people looked at the pictures and hit the "Like" button or even the "Love" button. And that's when I realized what a doofus I was.

I would have been more than content to have spent the entire evening sitting on the couch, staring at my phone. Instead, I spent time with my family. I had fun with them. We created some memories. Some day my kids might look at those pictures fondly and say, "I remember doing that. That was a fun night!" My kids will never look back fondly and say, "I remember that one night Dad ignored us and stared at his phone."

Of course, none of it would have happened without my wife. She's the one who made sure we got pumpkins for the kids. She's the one who thought painting those pumpkins would be something the kids might enjoy. There wouldn't have been a fun evening of painting pumpkins after dark without her. She's a great mother, and I'm a better father because of her.

Spending time together as a family is a good thing. I'll have to remember that the next time I park myself on the couch.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Is That an Umpire or a Ninja?

I've watched a lot of baseball in my life, and not once had I ever thought about ninjas.

I was downstairs with the kids, watching the World Series. I've never really been much of a baseball fan, but I do enjoy the unpredictability of sports, so I'll often watch the playoffs or World Series.

My two oldest were watching a little bit with me, asking questions about the game. My son would ask, "Did they hit it?" when he heard the sound of the ball whacking into the catcher's mitt. He thought it sounded like a hit. I was trying to explain to them about three strikes and three outs and why they got more than three strikes if they hit foul balls, and some of the other oddities of baseball.

One of the things they weren't understanding very well was how it could be a strike if the batter didn't swing. To someone who has never watched baseball, the strike zone is kind of a hard thing to explain. (A lot of people who play the game don't understand it very well, either.)

After a while they had pretty much lost interest in the game, and were playing at other things. That's why I was more than a bit surprised when my oldest girl angrily yelled at the screen.

She yelled, in a scolding tone, "Ninja! You're not playing!"

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was saying and who she was saying it to. In the game, the situation was that there were two outs, and there were two strikes on the batter. The pitch went down the middle, but the batter didn't swing. The umpire called the pitch a strike, meaning both the player and his entire team were out for the inning.

When they call a third strike, umpires usually do so with an exaggerated motion, often punching the air with a clenched fist.

This action is what The Girl found so offensive. She saw a "ninja," a man dressed in all black and wearing a mask, inserting himself into the game and throwing punches in the air. "Ninja! You're not playing!" She wanted that ninja to sit down and leave those baseball players alone!

Ninja or Umpire?

Once I figured out what she was saying and why she was saying it, I busted out laughing. I had never before made the connection between baseball umpires and ninjas, but I could see why my daughter would make the mistake. They have a lot of similarities:

Baseball umpires wear all black. Ninjas wear all black. Baseball umpires wear masks. Ninjas often wear masks. Baseball umpires lurk around in the background, usually not wanting to be seen. Ninjas lurk around in the background, not wanting to be seen.

Of course, there are some differences:

Ninjas often carry weapons, like throwing stars or nunchucks. Baseball umpires don't usually wield throwing stars. (At least not that I know of.) Ninjas are usually athletic and quick. Baseball umpires are usually lumbering and often overweight.

Look very closely. Can you spot the ninja?

Still, the similarities are strong enough that I could see why The Girl thought that the umpire was a ninja.

It's probably a sad message on the state of baseball with today's youth that my daughter is much more familiar with ninjas than she is with baseball umpires.

It's also probably not good for ninjas that my daughter knows more about them than she does umpires. One of the trademarks of a ninja is supposed to be their stealth. And yet my daughter knows about as much about ninjas as she does about unicorns. (Ninjas could really use a PR firm that specializes in less publicity.)

So, the next time you see a baseball game, watch out for the ninjas. You never know when they might strike.

Edited from a post originally published on 11/3/2015.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ogden: The Orlando of Utah!

I've never been to Orlando. It sounds like a magical place with lots of great things to do. Disney World is there. So is the Universal Studios theme park. There's a Sea World in Orlando. And, they even have two Olive Gardens!

Yes, Orlando sounds like a great place. Maybe I'll get there someday.  I have, however, been to the next best thing: Ogden! (It's the Orlando of Utah!)

If you've ever been to Ogden, you probably think I'm joking...and I am--but not completely. Our family genuinely likes vacationing in Ogden! We like it so much we've actually vacationed there twice!!

Ogden: It's sooooo much fun!!!

Why do we like to vacation in Ogden? One word: museums! What Orlando is to theme parks, Ogden is to museums. In fact, I'd say there are more museums in Ogden than there are theme parks in Orlando! (Sadly, the same can't be said for Olive Gardens.) What kind of museums, you ask? Well, there's the Hill Aerospace Museum, the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, the Treehouse Children's Museum, and Union Station, which is the home of several more museums, including the Utah State Railroad Museum, the John M. Browning Firearms Museum, the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum, and the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. (That's a lot of museums!!!)

They even have post cards!

The kids really liked the museums at Union Station, especially the Railroad Museum. There were fun train displays, train crossing play areas, and old train cars they could climb around in. (PopPop was enthralled by the Firearms Museum. We could have left him wandering around there for several days. In fact, I think we might have. Has anyone seen PopPop?)

It's an old train station and it's home to several museums.

The Dinosaur Park was a thrill for the kids. They loved wandering through the dinosaur statues and the animatronic dinosaurs, too. And they played for quite some time in the playground and fossil-digging areas.


However, for our kids the favorite museum, by far, was the Treehouse Children's Museum. It is an amazing place! Each kid had several things that they enjoyed, from the train-track tables, to the fire truck, the diner, the parachutes, the bear cave, the Oval Office, the milking cow, the bucking broncos, the bull riding, the arts and crafts, and more! My ten year-old daughter even got to walk right into the lead role in a play! We spent over six hours at the Treehouse Museum, and none of our four kids ever got bored. (The only reason we left was because the adults were getting exhausted and hungry.)

Choo! Choo! Choo-rific!

In fact, there are so many museums that, despite taking two different vacations to Ogden, we haven't seen them all. (I've heard the Hill Aerospace Museum is fantastic, but we just haven't had time to get there yet. Maybe on our next vacation to Ogden.)

Just like Orlando! (But with more mountains and fewer swamps.)

So, when you think of trendy, fun vacation spots, Ogden, Utah might not be one of the first places to come to mind. But, if you've got kids, it should. (Heck, one day they might even start calling Orlando the Ogden of Florida!)

The preceding was not paid for by the Ogden Travel Council--but I'd be willing to accept some money from them if they'd like to send any my way!