Friday, April 27, 2018

Warning: Immature Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Family Movie Night: At the Theater vs. At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Joe Time" Is Gone

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Son Calls Me "Mom"

My son calls me "Mom." This upsets me, but I'm not sure if it should.

My wife and I have four children. Each child, of course, is different, bringing their own idiosyncrasies and special challenges.

Our first three children had no problem differentiating between "Ma-ma" and "Da-da." Those were some of the first words each of them learned, and they never erred in assigning the correct title to the applicable person.

Not so with our fourth child. He is a tall, handsome boy who seems pretty intelligent---most of the time. He'll turn two years old next month. He already can throw a ball, jump, and knows many of the letters of the alphabet. But, he frequently calls me "Mom."

"Dad knows a lot. Mom knows everything." (It's true.)

The first thing we thought when he started doing this was wonder if he was just getting the words mixed up. But no, he never calls my wife "Dad;" he always calls her "Mom." Meanwhile, he occasionally gets it right and calls me "Dad," but more often ends up calling me "Mom."

As a stay-at-home dad (See: I Am NOT Mr. Mom) I'm already a little self-conscious about traditional gender roles. Not being the "provider" or "breadwinner" leaves me feeling inadequate at times. And it's even harder to be a macho tough-guy when your son is calling you "Mom."

We're not sure why he calls me "Mom." One theory is that he does it because he knows I don't like it. He just does it because he sees my negative reaction and thinks it's funny. He likes to push my buttons and watch me freak out when he calls me "Mom."

But, should it really bother me? Over the years I've been called things a lot worse than "Mom." Should I be insulted? Moms are pretty darn awesome! Moms are caring and competent. Moms know how to get things done!

He's brilliant!

Maybe, instead of trying to annoy me by calling me "Mom," what he's really trying to do is compliment me. Maybe what he's really trying to say when he calls me "Mom" is, "Dad, you're doing such a good job at parenting that you could easily be confused for being a Mom." Maybe, instead of being upset or insulted when he calls me "Mom," I should be saying, "Damn right! I'm Dadding you up so good that you might as well go ahead and call me Mom!"

There are only two problems with this idea. 1) No matter how good I am at "Dadding," I'll never be as good at "Momming" as his Mom. And B) Even if he were calling me "Mom" for a good reason, there's just something extra special about it when my little guy calls me "Dad."

Friday, April 13, 2018

The 12 Most Unavoidable Children Songs

When you become a parent, you open up your mind to an unforeseen invasion of children's songs. These are not songs you seek out. You don't listen to them on purpose. You don't buy these songs. You never pull them up on your phone. You don't hear them on the radio.

But, they're there. They're everywhere. They emanate from children's toys and children's television programs. (Seriously, go and try to find a children's toy that doesn't play one of these songs!) These songs are insidious mind worms that invade your skull, dig in, and set up permanent residence.

There is no escape!

12. Five Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed--This is a cheerful little ditty about five monkeys who like jumping on a bed until, one by one, they fall off and crack their heads open. I think by the third time the doctor gets called he should probably be calling the department of social services and demanding an investigation.

Head injuries are hilarious! (Or are they?)

11. Rock-a-bye Baby--Let me get this straight--the cradle is in the top of the tree, and if there's any little breeze it will come crashing down to the ground with a baby in it? Between this and those bed-jumping monkeys, there's an awful lot of head injuries in these children's songs.

10. Row, Row, Row Your Boat--Row that boat gently. Row that boat merrily. And remember, life is but a dream. (Hey, at least no one cracked their head open!)

9. Frere Jacques--I don't know French, so I tried to look up this song by googling "Frair-uh-zhock-uh." Seven of the first ten links it pulled up had to do with the University of Houston. (How sad is it that the University of Houston is known as "uh?") The English translation is something about some bells, and a sleepy Brother John, but for all I know in French it could be about stinky socks and/or Hostess Twinkies.

8. B-I-N-G-O--Some farmer had a dog named Bingo, and apparently it's very important to the farmer that everyone should know how to spell his dog's name. Seriously, by the fourth time it's spelled out I think everyone gets it.

7. Old McDonald Had a Farm--Of course, it's possible that the farmer kept spelling out his dog's name (B-I-N-G-O) because his friend McDonald kept trying to spell it "E-I-E-I-O." My favorite verse of this song is the one about the cow, which could also pertain to the choice of clothing  at the nursing home: "With a muumuu here and a muumuu there."

Moo! Moo! or Muumuu?
6. The Farmer In the Dell--Hmm...that's three songs in a row about farmers. You don't hear a lot of songs about farmers on the Top 40 these days, do you? I have no idea what "Hi-ho, the derry-oh" means, but I have to like any song that ends with a verse stating, "The cheese stands alone."

5. The Wheels On the Bus--The wheels on the bus go round and round. So true. I once took a bus for several hundred miles on a vacation. And while it's true that the people on the bus might go, "Bumpity-bump," it's also true that most of them are also thinking, "I wish I could have afforded plane tickets."

4. The Itsy-Bitsy Spider--Those dad-gummed spiders sure are tenacious, aren't they? It's true, and it doesn't matter if they are itsy-bitsy, eensy-weensy, teensy-weensy, incy-wincy, or hairy-scary.

3. If You're Happy and You Know It--Clap your hands! Stomp your feet! Shout hooray! And if no one believes you even after doing all of those things, at least your face will surely show it.

2. Pop Goes the Weasel--If you were to ask most people who would win a fight between a monkey and a weasel, I think the vast majority would pick the monkey. The weasel is always getting underestimated, but just when you think you can count him out...Pop!!!

The monkey thinks it's all fun and games until the weasel pops him one right in the face!

1. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star/The Alphabet Song--Most people don't even realize that "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "The Alphabet Song" use the same tune. Each song on its own would be popular enough to make this list, but put the two together and they're unstoppable!

Seriously! Any time you go out at night those stars are going to twinkle, and someone's going to sing about them. And the alphabet? It's everywhere!!! Heck, I know adults who, to this day, if you asked them, "What's the letter before M?" they would sing the alphabet song in their mind so they could get the right answer!

Face it, just by reading this, at least some of these songs have become further embedded into your brain. There is no escape! Sometime, when you least expect it, that weasel will pop!

Edited from a post originally published on 5/27/16.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Throw Pillows: Is There Anything More Useless?

A screen door for a submarine.
Pet rocks.
A Halloween costume for the family cat.
That parsley sprig on your plate at the restaurant.
"Reality" television.

There are a lot of useless things in this world. Add throw pillows to that list.

We recently went on vacation, and when we got to where we were staying, this is what the bed looked like:

Yes, there is a bed somewhere under all of those useless pillows.
That's a lot of useless pillows! There are at least ten superfluous pillows on top of that bed, not counting the two pillows that might actually be used. Before you can sleep in the bed, you'll have to get rid of those pillows. How? Well, by throwing them, of course! (Hence the name, "throw pillows.")

And where do you throw them? Unless you happen to have a designated throw pillow box or hamper, those throw pillows are going to be thrown onto the floor. And when throw pillows are all over the floor, that means there is less floor space for walking or dancing. Seriously, the more throw pillows there are on the floor, the greater the chance of stepping on a throw pillow and twisting your ankle.

Why so many throw pillows? What are you supposed to do with them? Without a pillow case, you can't really sleep on them. If not for sleep, why are they there? To look pretty? I've got news for you: they aren't that pretty. They're just a big pile of fluffy uselessness!

Of course, throw pillows don't always come in huge herds of ten or more. Their most common occurrence is that of two throw pillows on a couch. This frequent manifestation looks something like this:

One couch, three cushions, two throw pillows.
This is a standard, three-cushion couch. It could comfortably seat three people--if the throw pillows weren't there. With the throw pillows taking up room on each end of the couch, only two people can sit on the couch, and even then they would most likely be sitting uncomfortably on the cracks between the cushions. The only way to adequately seat three people on this couch is if the two people sitting on the outer edges pick up and hold the throw pillows. (Or throw them out of the way.) So, not only are throw pillows useless, but they actually make the couch less functional!

Throw pillows are useless, annoying, and serve no actual purpose. They're just for show. They're as useful as calligraphy on a billboard. So, the next time you see a throw pillow, do what I do: throw it!

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Ten Year-Old Is NOT a Teenager!

Recently our oldest child turned ten years old. She was quite excited to be up in the double-digits, and tried to convince us that this meant she is now a teenager.

No!!! A 10 year-old is NOT a teenager! (And we made this fact abundantly clear to her.)

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the birth of our daughter.
(And celebrating the fact that she is not yet a teenager.)
Our ten year-old is our oldest, so The Wife and I have not yet dealt with a teenager of our own. But, my wife teaches at the junior high, so she knows a thing or two about how to handle teenagers. Plus, we were both teenagers once, too. (Although for me that was a long, long, long time ago.) What I'm trying to say is that, despite what my daughter might think, there are some significant differences between a ten year-old and a teenager. Here are just a few of them:

*The word "teen" does not appear anywhere in the labeling of someone as a ten year-old. (Or an eleven year-old.) (Or a twelve year-old.) Yes, "thirteen" will come soon enough, but in the meantime we've got three years in which our child is most definitely not a teenager.

*10 year-olds do not have any need for their own cell phones. This is an irrefutable fact, even though they might not agree.

*Facebook does not allow a 10 year-old to have an account. A person must be 13 years old before they can sign up for a Facebook account. The same is true for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Kik, and Snapchat. (I have no idea what half of those things are. I looked it up on Google, for which I am definitely old enough.)

*Liberal Hollywood even recognizes there is a difference between 10 year-olds and teenagers. The movie rating system is not PG-10, it is PG-13.

*Ten year-olds still play with little kid toys, and there's nothing wrong with that.

*A ten year-old might get from one place to another by means of skipping. (You don't see teenagers skipping anywhere very often.)

*In a ten year-old's imagination, anything is still possible. (Teenagers can become a little too grounded in reality.)

These three double-digit-but-not-yet-teenager years can be some of the best years of a child's life. They're old enough and smart enough to occasionally interact competently with adults, but they're still young enough to enjoy all the benefits of childhood.

There's no need to be in a rush about growing up.