Tuesday, April 30, 2019

7 Rules You Didn't Know You Needed

My wife recently posted the following on Facebook: "I seriously underestimated the number of times I'd start a sentence with 'Don't lick...' as a Mom." It's funny because it's true! (It's also sad because it's true.)

It got me thinking about the rules we have for our kids, and how so many of those rules are for things a non-parent would never think anyone would need rules for. Here are a few examples:

1. Don't lick your plate. We have one son in particular who frequently licks his plate. It's great that he really likes the food he's served, but we need to break him of the plate-licking habit before he starts dating.

2. Don't drink the tub water. Have you ever tasted tub water? I don't know why anyone would like to drink it, and yet they do.

3. Don't play cars on the piano. In fairness, the spots between the keys do sort of resemble parking spots.

Sing us a song, you're the Hot Wheels Man...

4. Don't brush the bathroom doorknob with your toothbrush. Especially if there is toothpaste on your toothbrush!

5. Macaroni and cheese is not a finger food. Neither is applesauce.

6. Don't lock me out of my phone. Without kids, I wouldn't even know I could get locked out of my own phone.

7. Don't lick the cat. It doesn't seem fair that the cat can lick the kid, but the kid can't lick the cat. Hey, I don't make the rules, I just--wait, I do make the rules! Don't lick the cat! That's disgusting!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Mr. Remoto, and Mr. Remoto, Jr.

My son wants to hold the remote. And use it.

He always has. Before he could walk or even crawl he would fling himself in the direction of the remote. He'd roll, he'd reach, he'd grab blankets and pull himself toward the remote. He wanted that remote in his hands.

The new King of the Remote!
He still does. He seeks out the remote. If he's being quiet, it's probably because he's snuck off to the other room, found the remote, and is watching his favorite shows. (He's our youngest, but he works the remote better than any of his older siblings.) We have to hide the remote from him. (In fact, we've hidden one remote so well that none of us no where it is!)

It's genetic. He gets his need for the remote from his father.

Since we've been married, my wife has called me a number of things; some good, some bad. (Mostly good.) Among the names she's had for me is "Mr. Remoto." I believe she thinks of it as an insult, but I consider it a compliment.

I like to hold the remote. I like the feel of it in my hand. I like the power it gives me. Plus, when I'm not holding the remote, I know where it goes. There is a place for the remote, and when it is not being used, the remote should be in that place so that when someone wants to use the remote they will not have to search for it. These are simple rules of the remote, but the wife and kids don't always adhere to these rules. They will often just drop the remote the last place they had it instead of putting it where it is supposed to go. This is one more reason why I like to control the remote.

Another reason is volume. As I get older (I'm not forty-ten anymore) I find that I need to have the volume up just a little bit louder than the younger people who live in the house. (Often I have to have it louder because of the younger people who live in the house!)

I think my fondness for remotes might stem from my youth. We didn't have a remote controlled television in our house. If we wanted to change the channel, someone would have to get up out of their chair and walk all the way across the room to the television and turn a dial on the front of the console. (Yes, I said "console." It's a word, look it up.) Would my Dad get out of his chair to change the channel? No. Would my Mom? No. Would my older sister, or older brother? Not if I was there. As the youngest in the family, I became a living, breathing Human Remote. I would be the one to get up, walk across the room, and crank that knob.

A picture of me in my early days as the Living Remote.
Yes, I became Mr. Remoto the moment I was old enough to walk across the room and strong enough to turn that dial! And now, my son wants to follow in my footsteps. But, he'll have to wait; I'm not ready to put that remote down quite yet.

Edited from a post originally published on 4/4/2017.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

8 Question Quiz for Parents

Here is your quiz. Use only a #2 pencil. Please fill in the circle completely, with no stray marks. You may begin now.

1. If you yell the words, "Stop yelling!" at your children in order to get them to stop yelling, that is an example of:
O A. irony
O B. hypocrisy
O C. stupidity
O D. necessity

2. When was the moment you realized you were the adult who needed to take care of things?
O A. At the courthouse, signing your marriage certificate.
O B. When the nurse first handed you your newborn baby.
O C. The seventh poopy diaper.
O D. That time, at 2:35 AM, when you walked into the room to find your child and the child's bed covered in vomit and no one else was there to clean it up.

3. How much time typically passes between the moment you tell your children to go to bed and when they are actually in bed and stay there?
O A. 2 minutes.
O B. 5 minutes.
O C. 37 minutes.
O D. Eternity.

Everyone loves a good quiz!

4. What is the first thing you think when you realize you haven't heard anything from your child for 30 consecutive minutes?
O A. Oh good, he must have put himself down for a nap!
O B. What has he gotten into?
O C. I don't care what he's doing, I'm going to enjoy the quiet time.
O D. Where are my car keys?

5. What is your child most likely to remember?
O A. To turn in her homework.
O B. That time you took her to the zoo.
O C. To brush her teeth without being asked.
O D. That one time when you swore at another driver.

6. If your child finds your phone, what is he most likely to do?
O A. Leave it alone.
O B. Bring it to you.
O C. Use it to play video games until you take it back.
O D. Lock you out of it so you can't use it for at least two hours.

7. How many times in a row can your child watch the same episode of Doc McStuffins before she gets tired of it?
O A. 3
O B. 7
O C. 14
O D. ∞ (infinity)

8. Which of the following statements about your children is true?
O A. They drive me crazy.
O B. They make me question my sanity.
O C. They make me smile.
O D. I love them very much.
O E. All of the above.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Where's the 5-Day Forecast?

I'm thinking about going on a picnic this weekend. What do I want to see? The five-day forecast.

I need to put some weed-n-seed down on the lawn, but I need to know if it's going to rain in the next few days. What do I want to see? The five-day forecast.

I've got that coupon for a free car wash. Should I use it today, or wait until the weather is better? The five-day forecast would be helpful.

Camping? Five-day forecast. Boating? Five-day forecast. Golfing? Five-day forecast. Barbecue? Propane. (And the five-day forecast.) Planting a garden? Five-day forecast. Burying some bodies at a remote location? Five-day forecast.

Basically, any time I see the weather-person on the television, there's only one thing I want to see: the five-day forecast!

That's a nice five-day forecast!
But, they never go right to the five-day forecast, do they? They'll talk about yesterday's weather. (Nobody cares about yesterday's weather.) Maybe they'll talk about an interesting storm developing in Des Moines. (Nobody cares about the weather in Des Moines.)

Sometimes they'll even get up there, talk about a few things, point at a few other things, not give the five-day forecast, then have the gall to say something like, "I'll be back in a few minutes with the five-day forecast." 

The weather-person should never appear on the screen without giving the five-day forecast! They should start with the five-day forecast, finish with the five-day forecast, and do the five-day forecast in the middle! All we really want is the five-day forecast! If only there was some way we could make them go straight to the five-day forecast! 

Wait. What's that? You say there's an app on my phone? You say I can just click on an icon and get the five-day forecast any time I want it? I can even look up the five-day forecast for Des Moines if I want? Wow!

Guess what weather-person? You've just become obsolete.

Now if we could just get an accurate five-day forecast!

Edited from a post originally published on 4/18/2017.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The People You Meet In Line at Disneyland

If you go to Disneyland (or any other amusement park) you're going to spend a lot of time waiting in line. It might be a ten minute line, it might be a 45 minute line, or it might be a two hour line. As you wait, you'll come across all kinds of people with all kinds of ways to wait in line. Here are just a few of them:

The Face Fowarder--These people pay a great deal of attention to the line and how it is moving. They are always facing forward, and always ready to move when the people in front of them do.

The Herder--This is the one person from a group that feels the need to constantly get everyone else's attention and shoo them along if the line is moving. They frequently say things like, "Go! Go! The line is moving!"

The Prodder--This is the person who continually taps the people in front of them to remind them that the line is moving. Very similar to "The Herder," except he prods total strangers, not just people from his own group.

The Phonies--These are the people who are always on their phones and never notice when the line is moving. They are the ones who "The Prodder" and "The Herder" prod and herd.

Lining up like cattle.

The Conversationalist--This is the person who talks to those near them in line. By the time you reach the front of the line, you will know where "The Conversationalist" is from, how many children and/or siblings they have, their birthday, their favorite color, and the reasoning behind at least one of their tattoos.

The Personal Space Invader--This person will be close enough to you that the distance between you can more properly be measured in millimeters than in centimeters. (If there is any distance between you.)

The Hat In the Back--This is a specific kind of "Personal Space Invader" whose hat brim is constantly touching you.

The Phone In the Back--This is a specific kind of "Personal Space Invader" whose cell phone is constantly digging into your back.

The Gameplayers--These are the people who pass the time in the line by playing games with each other, like "Rock, Paper, Scissors," "20 Questions," or "Backgammon."

Rock, paper, scissors, wait.

The Let's Do Luncher--These people will use the line as an opportunity to have a snack. It might be as little as a bag of chips, or it might be a full three-course meal.

The Chain Swinger/The Fence Sitter--These people will sit on whatever it is that is dividing the line, whether it be a chain or a fence.

The Stop-the-World-I'm-Taking-a-Picturer--There is absolutely nothing more important than the photograph that is being taken of these two people in line with a "May Cause Motion Sickness or Dizziness" warning sign directly behind them. (They'll cherish that picture forever!)

The Informant--This person will tell everyone who wants to know (and many who don't) everything about the ride they are waiting in line to go on.

The In-the Mapper--This person will use their time in line to look at their map of the amusement park so they can plan out where they will be going next.

So, I'm in my map....
The Squatter--This person will plop down on the ground--sitting, squatting, or lying down--in an effort to get comfortable.

The Wait...Wait...Wait...Now Go-er--If the line moves in front of them, this person will hold their ground and wait...until they deem the distance long enough to be worth the effort to walk.

The Hold My Spotter--This person will ask you to hold their place in line while they leave to go to the bathroom/do some shopping/rob a bank. They fully expect to have the same spot in line when they get back.

Hey, did I just find Waldo?
The Line Crowder--This person will just blatantly crowd into the line. They might pretend to know the people in front of them, or the people behind them, but they don't.

The Line Nazi--This person will take it upon himself to supervise and police the entire line, making sure no one crowds, everyone behaves, and the line moves along in an orderly fashion. They act like they are an employee of the amusement park, but they are not. (No one likes "The Line Nazi.")

Friday, April 12, 2019

Eating Out with Kids: It's an Adventure!

It's always an adventure when you take four kids out to eat at a restaurant.

As we entered, the host asked us, "How many?" It's a simple question. Unfortunately, the answer isn't quite as easy. I'm never sure which one of these to go with:

1. "There are six of us."--this answer is simple and true, but it lacks the basic information that a large percentage of those six might end up flinging food across the room.

2. "There are two adults and four kids."--now we are forcing the host to do math. Also, this answer doesn't take into account the wide-ranging age difference between the kids and how that will effect the dining experience for all involved. And there's the question of how many kid menus will be needed.
Kid menus: Fewer pages; more crayons.
3. "There are four of us, plus two kids."--this makes the two younger children seem less important than the two older ones. It also makes the two older children seem like adults. (They are not.) (Despite what they might think.)

4. "There are two adults, two big kids, and two little kids."--and a partridge in a pear tree.

5. "There are two adults, a nine year-old, a six year-old, a two year-old, and an eleven-month old."--this is a good way to totally confuse the host. But, this is how we introduce the family at the movie theater or anywhere else that charges kids differently based on age.

6. "There are six of us, but two will be in high chairs."--this is the one we went with this time. It was only partially confusing.

Unfortunately, the host heard that as "four people and two high chairs," so he directed us to a table with four chairs around it and room for only four people. Apparently he didn't think the kids in the two high chairs needed access to the table.

Eventually he found us a table for six, pulled a couple of chairs away, and tried to put the two high chairs next to each other, not realizing there must be an adult between the two high chairs at all times.

The table for six was the perfect size for us. Or at least it should have been. If we each had a sixth of the table we would have been fine. But, an eleven month-old baby has a tendency to grab anything he can reach, ranging from salsa, soda, salt shaker, straws, spoons, forks, and/or knives. So, in order to keep things out of his reach, the rest of us had to scrunch together, giving him almost half of the table to himself.
You would think he can't reach any of his brother's french fries. You would be wrong.
It's a little-known fact that babies can reach up to three times farther than their body length.

When they brought our food to us, the server warned our older children, "The plate is very hot!" Then he told the two year-old, "Your plate is not hot. You can touch it." This was true. However, the food on the plate was very hot, as she promptly discovered when she flung a steaming hot french fry into her mouth.

If it's such a hassle to take the kids out to eat, you may wonder: why even bother? That's easy. We have to wrangle the children at dinner whether we eat out or at home, but at the restaurant we don't have to cook and we don't have to do dishes. Sometimes it's just nice to let somebody else clean up the french fries off of the floor.

Edited from a post originally published on 4/11/2017.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Things We Do For Our Kids!

We say we'll do anything for our children. Is it true?

Well, because my kids asked me to, I strapped myself into a rocket that launched me into the darkness at hundreds of miles per hour, jostling me around for at least 20 minutes before I was finally able to escape. (Some of those figures might be slightly exaggerated.)

We recently went to Disneyland, and my oldest children are of the awkward age (11 and almost 9) where they want to do some of the more adventuresome rides, but they don't quite feel comfortable doing them without an adult present. Unfortunately, I am the adult in that equation.

They wanted to ride Space Mountain. I had been on Space Mountain years ago and felt absolutely no desire to go on it ever again. I don't understand the appeal of it. The ride shoots off with incredible velocity into pitch blackness so you are unable to see when the twists, turns, and drops are coming, as the centripetal and/or centrifugal forces turn your whole being into some form of pudding.

Nope, count me out.

But, the kids really wanted to do it, and they wouldn't do it without an adult. So, there I was strapping myself into the rocket. The ride was worse than I remembered it. Usually you would say it was a good thing if the ride lasted longer than the line you had to wait in to get to it; not so with Space Mountain. It seemed to last forever.

When it finally stopped, I staggered off of the ride. The kids loved it. (Of course they did, they don't know any better.) As you exit the ride you come across a set of four or five monitors. Apparently, at a particularly jarring part of the ride a picture is taken of the riders that can be purchased and kept as a souvenir of your survival of this death trap. There is usually a crowd around these monitors, as people try to find the photo of themselves. As we approached, the entire group of people were not seeking out their own pictures. Instead, they were looking at one particular monitor, pointing at it and laughing. They were laughing at this:

Is that a man or a giant, troubled beet?
No one likes to be the object of ridicule, but when I saw the picture, I had to laugh, too. I looked like a giant, red-faced buffoon about to crash head-on into an 18-wheeler, while surrounded by carefree children with smiles on their faces. I would say I hate this picture, but it honestly sums up exactly how I felt during this ride.

And it proves that I would do anything for my children, even if it makes me look like a huge, frightened radish, and set me up to be ridiculed by a group of total strangers.

[Later that day, in an effort to reclaim some of the "cool Dad" points that I lost with the Space Mountain picture, I took the kids on Splash Mountain. (I actually like Splash Mountain. I can see what is coming, and it doesn't rattle my brain quite so much.) I knew when the Splash Mountain photo would be taken, so I tried to look slightly less frightening for it.

Not quite as scary.
No, it didn't make up for the horror of the Space Mountain picture, but it let them know that their Dad was still willing to do anything for them, even if it meant walking around the rest of the day looking like someone with some serious bladder control issues.]

(This photo was taken after Splash Mountain, not after Space Mountain!)

Friday, April 5, 2019

I Have Thousands of Pictures On My Phone (Some Are Even Worth Keeping!)

These days everybody has a camera in their pocket. If you want to take a picture of something, you pull out your phone, take anywhere from one to forty-seven photos, then slide your phone back into your pocket. Next, you look at the pictures, decide which one or two you like the best, and delete all of the rest.

(Ha ha! Just kidding. You keep all of those pictures on your phone until the day you have a really important picture you want to take, but you can't take a picture because your phone memory is too full of all those pictures you never got around to deleting.)

Back in the day, we didn't take as many pictures. Why? Because we were limited by the number of photos available. Usually a roll of film or a disposable camera (remember them?) would hold 24 pictures. Because of the scarcity of available pictures, we were much more selective as to what we would take pictures of. (Not nearly so many selfies, or photos of food.)

Like vinyl records, only the really cool people still have disposable cameras.
That's not to say there weren't any bad pictures taken back then, just not so darn many of them! (And we didn't know they were bad until a week or two later.)

Today, we can take as many pictures as our phones will store. That's hundreds of pictures, or thousands of pictures, or maybe even hundreds of thousands of pictures. As a result, we are not very discerning about what we take pictures of. If it's a useless picture, we'll just ignore it. But we'll still carry it around on our phone for months, and we'll still download it onto our computers.

The other day I was at the grocery store and my wife wanted me to pick up some popcorn for her. (She's a school teacher and needed it for some class project.) She wasn't sure how many bags she wanted, because she didn't know how big the bags were. So, I took a picture of the popcorn, texted it to her, and asked her how many bags I should buy. (Two.)

That's Korn spelled with a "K" so you know it's gotta be good!
Now I have a picture of a bag of popcorn on my phone. And, that same picture has been downloaded to my computer. Why did I take this picture? Because I can take a pretty much unlimited amount of pictures. Why do I still have this picture? Because I'm too lazy and/or indifferent to delete it.

As a result, I've got a lot of pictures like this one taking up space on my phone and computer:
Aside from the blurriness, I also very much like the random socked feet on the left.
But, that picture is a piece of art compared to some of the others, like this one:
The Doorway to Your Soul.
Or this one:
'Ears to you!
The thing is, pictures like these will never be deleted. Oh, we'll say things like, "One of these days I'm going to go through all of my pictures and organize them," but it won't ever happen. These pictures will stand the test of time. And because we've got so much room on our phones, the blurry ears will forever be a monument to how terrible we are at photography.

Edited from a post originally published on 4/7/2017.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

You Won't Have Memories Unless You Do Something Memorable

I got on Facebook the other day, and one of those "Memories" popped up, showing something I had posted a few years ago. It was a really cute video of my daughter. My wife was holding up Skittles and asking her what color they were. When she got to the green Skittle, my daughter declared it was "Hulk Smash" color. It was very cute.

A few days earlier, another "Memory" popped up. This one was a picture of one of my daughters sitting on the floor of our pantry, eating from a large pile of Cheerios she created by dumping a full box on the ground. It also was very cute.

Whenever those memories pop up, they make me smile. It's fun to think back on happy times and fun things that we did in the past. But then I started thinking...have I done anything this week that I would want to remember years from now?

What have you done lately that you'll want to remember?

Remembering the past is all good and well, but we actually live in the present. I spend a lot of time sitting around staring at my phone. That's not something I'm going to want to remember in the future. We won't have any memories unless we do something memorable.

So, I've made up my mind to spend more time doing things that I'll actually want to remember. I'll play with the kids more. I'll go to the park with the kids. I'll play games with them. I'll go on dates with my wife. I'll do things instead of reading about what other people have done.

Memories are great, but they'll be even better if we're living right now in the present.