Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Grandchildren Are the Best (Or So I've Been Told)

The other day my three year-old son and I were checking out at the Walmart. The cashier smiled at my boy, who is very cute, and said to me, "Aren't grandchildren the best?"

I nodded my head and replied, "I'm sure they are." I decided to leave it at that--agreeing with her point without acknowledging she had misjudged my relationship to the child who was with me. Sure, I could have said, "I wouldn't know because this is my son," or "I look forward to finding out in ten or fifteen years," or "Please stop talking and just give me my receipt," but I decided there was no need to make her feel bad about making a perfectly reasonable assumption.

I should be offended, shouldn't I? It should really bother me that someone thinks I'm so old that this three year-old must be my grandkid, because he couldn't possibly be my son. But, I don't mind. I understand. When most people my age are hanging out with a three year-old, that three year-old is usually a grandchild.

Kid or grandkid?

My doctor wasn't sure. Last week I had to go in to take care of yet another of those maladies that occurs with advancing age. I took my youngest son with me. Armed with the information on my chart, the doctor asked, "Is this your son or your grandson? Because based on your age it could be either one."

It's true. I'm old enough that if I hadn't been so socially awkward in my teens--and twenties--and thirties--I could have been a grandpa by now. But, I'm not. My kids are 11, 9, 4, and 3. They're great! I'm still in "enjoy them while you can" mode with them. It'll be several years before I get any grandchildren that I can enjoy. I'm looking forward to it. I've been told they're the best.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Halloween Candy Keeps Getting Smaller

Are they making the Halloween candy smaller every year? It sure seems so.

To be fair, I do have very large hands.

 It used to be (a long, long time ago) that no one ever gave any thought to what size a candy bar was. Candy bars came in whatever size they came in. Some were bigger than others. The Three Musketeers bar was bigger than an Almond Joy, but that was okay. They were all "full-sized" or candy bar sized. Size didn't really matter.

But then someone decided that smaller candy bars might work better for times like Halloween. They started off calling these shrunken candy bars "Snack Size." It made it sound as if a full size candy bar was some kind of large meal no one could ever finish in one attempt, so instead they were offering smaller bars that people could eat as a "Snack." And, it worked. People loved the "Snack Size" candy bars, which were usually one-half to one-third the size of a regular candy bar. They were a great size to give away for Halloween, and you could eat two or three of them without feeling too guilty about it.

Full-Size, Fun-Size, and Mini-Size. (Eat them all and you'll need to Exer-Cise.)

Of course, over the years, full-sized candy bars have gotten smaller and smaller. And the same thing has happened to "Snack Size." In fact, most companies have changed the name of these smaller bars from "Snack Size" to "Fun Size." Apparently, they aren't big enough to be considered a snack anymore, but they are still fun! The "Fun Size" bars are now only about one-fourth the size of a full-sized bar. But, people still love them. "Fun Size" is fun!

Three "Fun-Size" bars atop a full-sized one.

Unfortunately, someone decided if shrinking bars down to "Fun Size" was a good idea, how about making them even smaller? So now they are offering "Mini-Size" candy bars. The "Mini-Size" candies are less than half as big as the "Fun Size." They're about the size of a fingertip!

Two "Mini-Size" candies on top of a "Fun-Size."

In fact, the "Mini-Size" are so small that I don't think they should be called candy bars--they're too small to be considered a bar! You can call them candies if you want--they're about the same size as a Hershey's Kiss. No one calls a Hershey's Kiss a candy bar.

And, like a Hershey's Kiss, the "Mini-Size" candies are hardly worth the effort to unwrap. If you are larger than a standard elf, your hands will be so much larger than the "Mini" that it will be difficult to grasp the wrapper to unwrap the treat. The candy is so small that I wouldn't be surprised if the wrapper weighs more than the actual candy!

Sometimes I'm tempted to not even bother unwrapping these little things.
This needs to stop now! If left unchecked, the candy companies might keep making their candies smaller and smaller, until they are the size of Pop Rocks. (And I don't mean a package of Pop Rocks, I mean as small as each individual rock that pops.) How long until they start individually wrapping each Smartie?

We need to say no to the "Mini-Size" candies. Don't buy them. Don't give them out as Halloween treats. "Fun Size" are acceptable; full size is preferable. Sometimes size does matter!

Edited from a post originally published on 10/31/2017.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

10 Things You Find In Every Doctor's Office

I recently had to go to the doctor's office. While there, I realized that almost every doctor's office looks the same. It's like they all have a subscription to Doctor's Office Decor magazine. Here are just a few of the things you'll find in every doctor's office:

The Waiting Room:

*A coffee table full of magazines--These are mostly magazines you would never have in your home, like Diabetic Living, Parents Today, Highlights, and, of course, Doctor's Office Decor. Oh sure, there will occasionally be something almost useful, like Sports Illustrated or Time, but mostly it's Eating Well, or AARP: The Magazine.

All the magazines you would never read--unless you are bored out of your mind.

*A corner designated for kid toys--And when I say "kid toys," I mostly mean those bead mazes that features colorful beads on curvy, bright colored wires--the kind of toy that kids will play with for two minutes before getting bored.

*A television showing a kids' movie--Gotta keep those kids quiet and entertained.

*A screen (television or computer) showing some kind of health infotainment--This will show about ten or fifteen minutes of "how to stay healthy" information on a loop. Most people will pay attention to it for about 45 seconds.

It's the kid corner, complete with bead mazes and a Pixar movie.
(Back when I was a kid, all we had was a darn Highlights magazine.)
*Large, soothing framed pictures on the wall--Whether they are photographs or paintings, these pictures are usually either nature scenes or abstract art. (Because pictures of sick people probably wouldn't be the best idea.)

The Examination Room:

*Little glass jars full of tongue depressors and cotton balls--Someone, somewhere, thinks that there are a nearly unlimited amount of tongues that need to be depressed. (But why glass jars? Does a doctor need to be able to see the tongue depressors to know that they are there?)

"If only I could find those tongue depressors," said no doctor ever.

*A small desk with a computer and a short little chair/stool on wheels--Apparently, it's important for the health care professionals to be able to roll to any spot in the examination room. Also, would it kill them to have some internet access on those computers? It might help keep the patients from losing their patience as they wait for the doctor.

*The medical waste disposal box for old syringes--If you touch this, you will die!

*Rubber glove dispenser--Strangely enough, the rubber gloves just stay in the box they came in, unlike the tongue depressors.

Rubber gloves on the wall. (In three convenient sizes.)

*The three-and-a-half foot long examination "bed"--This is the centerpiece of every examination room. And don't worry, it's got an extension that can be pulled out to make the "bed" four-and-a-half feet, so you can get really comfortable. It's so comfortable, in fact, that I'm thinking about getting some wax paper to cover my bed at home. (It would save a lot of time and effort in washing the sheets.)

So high off the ground that if you sit, your feet dangle.
So short that if you lay down, your feet dangle.
(Apparently, they really want your feet to dangle.)

[NOTE: Earlier, you probably thought I made up some magazine titles like, Eating Well, and AARP: The Magazine. I assure you, I did not. Here's proof:

I'll let you think what you will of Doctor's Office Decor.]

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Return of the McRib

You never know when horror will strike.

Recently I was minding my own business, driving down the road. I was having a pretty good day, and life was treating me well. But then, I saw it. My mood immediately changed. A sick feeling hit me in the pit of my stomach. I started to sweat, and my skin went clammy. I thought about stopping to catch my breath, but decided it would be better to just press forward and get as far away from it as I could.

I looked again to make sure I had seen what I thought I had. It was true. The sign had nothing on it but the three words sure to strike terror in the hearts of all people with good taste:

"McRib Is Back."

Thanks for the warning!

There are a lot of things in this world that I don't understand, and the existence of the McRib is one of them. What exactly is a McRib? Back in 2015 I turned to the McDonald's website on the interwebs to find out. At the top of the McRib page it said:

What's in your McRib patty?

Then, it answered it's own question with this:

Pork! Our McRib patty starts with ground pork from the pork shoulder.

The first thing that stands out to me here is that they say "Pork!" like we'll actually be surprised that it contains meat. It's as if they're saying, "Ha! You probably didn't think there was real meat in this thing, did you? Well, there is! It's pork!!!"

Then there's the second, and probably more important thing that stands out about their statement: "ground pork from the pork shoulder." Now, I'll admit that I may not be as familiar with pig anatomy as maybe I could be, but I'm thinking that the pork shoulder is not actually located in the rib. I know enough about human anatomy to know that my rib and my shoulder are not exactly the same thing. They're not even particularly close. So, I suspect that the same is true for the pig.

The next, obvious, point is: If it's made from the shoulder, not the rib, shouldn't it be called the "McShoulder?" I think "McRib" seems a bit deceptive, doesn't it? It's not made from the rib! (Maybe they should just call it "McPork." Or, maybe not.)

I'm not sure how they can call it "McRib" if it's not actually made from the rib. It's like how they can call their chicken sandwich a "McChicken," because it is made from chicken parts, but they can't call it a "McBreast" if it's not made out of chicken breast. (Of course, there are probably other reasons why they shouldn't use the name "McBreast," but I won't go into that here.)

Unfortunately, there's still one more thing that stands out from the McDonald's statement. They say, "Our McRib starts with ground pork…." Starts? So, apparently there is more to the McRib than just ground pork from the pork shoulder. Yes, there is. McDonald's continues:

A little salt, water and dextrose (a type of sugar made from corn), are added to help the patty maintain its McRib shape and preserve its flavor. Finally, we add a small amount of preservatives — BHA, Propyl Gallate and Citric Acid, which help maintain taste.

The scary things about this statement are how it throws around words like "flavor" and "taste" as if they apply to the McRib. Having personally "tasted" the "flavor" of the McRib, I'm not sure that these concepts actually exist. 

The important thing that these added ingredients really do is "help the patty maintain its McRib shape." Because isn't the fact that it's shaped like a rib the most important thing about a McRib? Without its "McRib shape" it's just another slab of pork shoulder and preservatives warmed up and slapped on a bun.

The McRib sounds like it should be good. Ribs, slathered in tasty barbecue sauce and made into a sandwich? It sounds great! Unfortunately, they are not ribs, and the barbecue sauce is not tasty. I'm not even sure it qualifies as food. I don't understand why, after trying it once, anyone would ever attempt to eat another McRib.

Maybe we just need to get the word out: It's not really a McRib, it's a McShoulder. Because I don't think we'd ever see a McDonald's sign loudly proclaiming: "McShoulder Is Back!"

Edited from a post originally published on 9/22/2015.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Santa Claus Pooped In Our Yard (And Other Truths I've Learned from My Kids)

The other day I walked outside with my three year-old son. He stepped onto the grass, turned to me, and said, "Santa Claus pooped in the yard." I laughed at the image of a jolly man in a red felt suit stopping to drop some personal fertilizer on our lawn, but I knew immediately what my son was trying to say. There are deer who occasionally wander through our yard (they really like the peach tree), and they sometimes leave little piles of poop pellets. My son saw the deer poop and attributed it to Santa.

I didn't feel the need to correct him, but apparently his older brother and/or sister must have, because later in the evening the three year-old reported to my wife that, "Santa's unicorns pooped in our yard."

When in doubt, blame Santa.

Kids know things. And, sometimes kids think they know things. They will hold as facts things that they have been told, things they think they have been told, things they hear, things they sort of half hear, things one of their older siblings may or may not have said, and/or things they make up on their own, but decide should be true. (After all, what's really the difference between a unicorn and a reindeer, anyway?)

Here are a few of the "facts" I've learned from my kids:

*English muffins should really be called "French Toast Bagels."

*"Mermaids don't fart." My older daughter stated this one day, very matter-of-factly. We weren't talking about mermaids. We weren't talking about farts. Why she believes this and/or why she brought it up, I may never know.

*My younger daughter has declared that beef is, "dead cow chicken."

*A better name for ketchup is "tomato mustard."

We'll need to pick up some Tomato Mustard the next time we go to the store.

*My younger daughter once told me, "When you have bad breath, you talk louder." I'm not sure if she meant me, specifically, or everyone in general. Either way, I probably shouldn't yell so much.

*When a toilet in a public restroom flushes automatically because of a motion sensor, she says it has an, "audio flusher." (In her defense, they are rather loud.)

*My older son thinks that the big "G" in the middle of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin stands for "Geico."

*And, according to my younger daughter, we celebrate Easter because, "Jesus didn't want to become a ghost."

Kids know a lot of things. Maybe I should pay attention.

Friday, October 11, 2019

I'm Mr. Important

Let me just state the obvious right here at the start: I'm more important than you. I really shouldn't have to say it. I mean, I'm me and you're you; of course I'm more important.

We have rules for a reason, and that reason is to keep people like you in check. The rules apply to everyone except me, because I'm too important to follow the rules.

Don't scratch my mini-van!
I'm going to park wherever I want. Those yellow lines painted on the ground don't mean anything to me. (Well, except for when I park on top of those lines and take up two spots to make sure no one scratches or dings my car.) Handicapped parking? There's never enough really handicapped people to fill all those spots, so I might as well use them. Fire zone? When's the last time you saw a fire at a store? Of course I can park there.

As far as I know those yellow lines were painted there as someone's abstract art project.
The carpool lane is for vehicles with two or more people in them. Or for me. (Because I'm more important than you.) Don't cross the double white lines? Good advice...unless it's convenient for me. Speed limits mean nothing to me. Are two lanes merging into one? Well, obviously I should be allowed to keep going forward until the last possible moment before I merge, crowding ahead of all you idiots who got over when the sign told you to.

I don't wait in lines. Ever. I'm far too important for that!

I'm glad you people shut off your phones before the start of the movie. But, I'm not going to shut mine off. How will I know when I get a call if I turn my phone off? Besides, I might want to check the scores or play a game if the movie gets boring. Can't do that with my phone off!

20 items or less? Who's got time to count? If it's the shortest line, that's where I'm going.

No, I'm not going to clear my tray and throw away my garbage at the fast food restaurant, I'll just leave it sitting on the table. And no, I'm not going to push my shopping cart to the return area, I'll just leave it by where I parked. They have people they pay to do those kind of things. Why should I bother to do it?
Oh, paid servant! Come fetch my cart for me!

Yes, I'm more important than you. I'm not sure how I can put it in a way that will make sense to you. Maybe if you pretended every day was your birthday you might understand. But probably not, because I'm way more important than your birthday.

Edited from a post originally published on 10/13/2017.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

How To Get All the Laundry Done (In Less Than a Week!)

As it stands right now, I am a stay at home dad. I have a wife, who is a junior high math teacher, and four children. Including me, that's a total of six people. (I was able to do that math all on my own, without the help of my wife.) While I'm staying at home, I do the laundry. I wash all the clothes for all six members of our household.

I do the laundry once a week, and sometimes I'm actually done with the laundry before I have to start on the laundry again. Some of you might find that statement a bit confusing, but if you've ever done the laundry for an entire family, you know exactly what I mean.

Recently, I decided to keep track of one week's cycle of laundry to see how exactly it went. Here is that laundry log:

Wednesday, DAY 1:
11:11 AM--Start gathering the dirty laundry to sort it into loads. (Whites, darks, brights, delicates, etc.)
11:14 AM--Actually begin sorting laundry.
11:23 AM--Put first load (LOAD 1) into washing machine. (HINT: If you put the first load in while you still have sorting to do, you'll get a headstart on getting all the loads through the washer and dryer.)
11:29 AM--While gathering dirty clothes hampers from around the house, pick up clothes strewn about the floor of the girls' room.
11:32 AM--While sorting clothes, continually have to separate underwear from the pants that they were worn with. (Surprisingly, this again is more of a problem with the girls than it is with the boys.)
11:37 AM--Finish the sorting of the dirty laundry. Counting the load that's already in the washer, there are a total of 7 loads of laundry.
11:39 AM--Take all of the separated baskets of dirty laundry downstairs to the laundry room.

Some of the laundry.
12:56 PM--Take LOAD 1 out of the washer and move some of it to the dryer. Put LOAD 2, which is the load of delicates, into the washer.
12:57 PM--Take my wife's shirts, which were part of LOAD 1, and hang them on the in-house drying rack.
2:20 PM--Take LOAD 2, full of delicates, out of the washer. Put LOAD 3 into the washer. (LOAD 1 is still drying.)
2:21 PM--Hang the delicates from LOAD 2 on the in-house drying rack.
5:17 PM--Remove LOAD 1 from the dryer. Move LOAD 3 from the washer to the dryer. Put LOAD 4 into the washer.
9:43 PM--Remove LOAD 3 from the dryer. Move LOAD 4 from the washer to the dryer. Put LOAD 5 in the washer. [NOTE: The large interval of time between putting LOAD 3 into the dryer and removing LOAD 3 from the dryer is due to a variety of factors, including a) length of time for dryer to get a load dry, and B) being distracted by kids and life in general.]

Thursday, DAY 2:
6:24 AM--Remove LOAD 4 from the dryer. Move LOAD 5 from the washer to the dryer.
6:53 AM--After showering, put LOAD 6 in the washer. (Didn't want the washer running while I showered.)
8:40 AM--Check dryer. Clothes not yet dry. Set it for another hour.
9:54 AM--Remove LOAD 5 from the dryer. Move LOAD 6 from the washer to the dryer. Put LOAD 7 in the washer.
12:50 PM--Remove LOAD 6 from the dryer. Move LOAD 7 from the washer to the dryer.
1:01 PM--Put surprise LOAD 8 (towels) in the washer.
2:52 PM--Check dryer. Clothes not yet dry. Set it for another thirty minutes.
3:24 PM--Remove LOAD 7 from dryer. Move LOAD 8 from washer to dryer.
5:25 PM--Check dryer. Towels not yet dry. (Towels are never dry.) Set it for another hour.
7:05 PM--Check dryer. Towels are dry!!! Remove LOAD 8 from dryer. The laundry is DONE!!! (But no, it's not actually done.)

Friday, DAY 3:
6:41 AM--Go downstairs. Dig through baskets of clean laundry for clean underwear and socks to wear for the day.
6:42 AM--8:54 PM--Busy day with kids, school, and life in general. Totally forget about clean laundry waiting in baskets downstairs.
8:55 PM--Start separating clean laundry into seven baskets, one for each member of the household, plus one for towels and etc.
10:12 PM--Finish separating. Start sorting (pants, shirts, pajamas, etc.) and folding clothes in each persons' basket.
10:57 PM--Finish sorting all of the laundry to the point that it is ready to be put away. The laundry is DONE!!! (But no, it's not actually done.)

Saturday, DAY 4:
7:42 AM--Bring wife's clothes (including shirts from the in-house drying rack) upstairs for her to put away.
7:44 AM--Bring my own clothes upstairs. Put away the clothes in the closet and the dresser.
8:01 AM--Bring clothes for Thing 1 (oldest daughter) and Thing 2 (oldest son) upstairs. Tell them to put away their own darn clothes.
9:04 AM--Bring clothes for Thing 4 (youngest son) upstairs and put them away myself.
9:16 AM--It's Saturday. We've got a busy day and things to do. Don't think about laundry.

Sunday, DAY 5:
7:29 AM--Thing 4 has peed through his diaper, all over his pajamas, sheets, blanket, and pillow case. Throw emergency LOAD 9 into the washer.
12:11 PM--Move LOAD 9 from the washer to the dryer.
2:50 PM--Remove LOAD 9 from the dryer.
8:13 PM--Put away LOAD 9, making Thing 4's bed so he can sleep with his favorite blanket.

Monday, DAY 6:
9:08 AM--Realize that clean clothes for Thing 3 (youngest daughter) are still downstairs and need to be put away.
9:10 AM--Put away clothes for Thing 3.
The laundry is DONE!!!
(But no, it'll start back up again in a couple of days. The laundry is NEVER done.)

Friday, October 4, 2019

Cold Cereal Killers

If you could have anything you wanted for breakfast, what would it be?

French toast! Bacon! Sausage! A ham and cheese omelet! Waffles! Hash browns! Crepes! Cinnamon rolls! Fried eggs! Scrambled eggs! Pancakes! Smoothies! Leftover cold pizza! Cinnamon toast! Toast and jam! Yogurt! Donuts! Bagels! Oatmeal?

There are so many great and delicious options for breakfast. (I'm getting hungry just thinking about them!) But, if you were to ask my children what they would want, they would say "none of the above."

My kids would choose cold cereal. Seriously. Cold cereal every single time. And I'm not even talking about the sugary "candy" cereals, like Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs. I'm talking about cereals like Raisin Bran and Special K! Given the choice between french toast and Cheerios, my kids would choose those little donut-shaped pieces of cardboard.

Mmmm...she just can't keep her hands out of that excellent source of fiber!

I don't understand it. It makes no sense to me. I'm sure part of it is that we don't let them have cereal very often--usually just once or twice a week. But that doesn't really explain it, because we're lucky if we have bacon once a month, but the kids would still choose cereal over it.

And cereal isn't the only bad choice they'd make. They would choose a piece of candy over a piece of pie or cake. That's insane! They'd rather have a Tootsie Roll than some apple pie!

Why is this? Is there something wrong with their brains? Is it because their brains are still underdeveloped? Is it somehow related to why they like Pokemon?

I wish I knew. But, I don't have any answers, I just have questions. And right now my question is: do we have any bacon in the freezer? (Mmm...bacon!)

Edited from a post originally published on 9/1/2017.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Parenting On a Need-to-Know Basis

They say that knowledge is power. Is it a bad thing when, as a parent, I use that knowledge to my own benefit?

Recently, my daughter's best friend was having a birthday. My wife and the mother of my girl's BFF exchanged a few texts and it was arranged that there would be a small birthday celebration, and that my daughter was invited. This was information that my daughter would find extremely exciting.

We didn't tell her. (At least, not immediately.) Why? Because if we had told her about the birthday party, she would have spent all of the days and hours leading up to the party thinking of nothing else. She would have bounced around the house doing a mental, and very vocal, countdown of the time until the party. She would have talked about it non-stop. She would have driven us crazy.

And so, as parents, we wielded the power of that knowledge to our own advantage. We didn't tell her--until we did.

With just hours to go before the party, I was at home with my two oldest children. (My wife had taken the two younger ones to go grocery shopping.) It was Saturday, and we had asked the older kids to do a chore outside of their regularly scheduled ones. But, they were moving quite slowly. A task that should have taken them 45 minutes was turning into an all-day event.

That's when I decided to use my knowledge to my benefit. I told my daughter about her friend's birthday party, and warned her that she wouldn't be able to go unless she finished the task at hand. The results were amazing! She got more done in the next ten minutes than she had in the previous hour and a half.

And it was all because I leveraged the information at my disposal for my benefit. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe. But, it definitely makes me a parent. Parents use the power of their knowledge to their advantage all the time. Don't believe me? Just think about how we use Santa Claus. "You better be good, or Santa won't bring you any presents." Or, "If you keep behaving like that, I'll tell Santa he doesn't need to stop at our house this year."

In the end, did I feel guilty for using the knowledge at my disposal for my own benefit? No. My daughter was able to finish her chore, AND she went to her friend's birthday party and had a great time. For me, that was a win-win situation.

Their youthful energy and boundless enthusiasm gives kids an edge over adults. We need to be able to use one of the few advantages we have: knowledge. Because knowledge is power.

Photo courtesy of the website Pixabay.