Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday Fiction: The Rise of Sleighrider

"It's less than a week before Christmas!" Santa exclaimed. "This is the busy time. We have last minute preparations. We don't have time for this!"

"I'm sorry, Santa," said Blinky the Elf. "I know the timing is not good. But it needs to be today. The elves won't wait."

"I just don't understand it," said Santa. "I treat the elves wonderfully. They get great benefits. Plenty of vacation time. All I ask is that during the busy season I get their best work. And the elves usually love their work!"

"It's true, Santa," Blinky replied. "It's just that this time there are extenuating circumstances."

"More important than their work?" Santa asked.

"Yes," said Blinky. "As much as the elves love their work, they hate spoilers even more."

"It's just one week," Santa begged. "Can't they wait until the 26th? My golly, I'd even let them watch it on the 25th, once I get back with the sleigh!"

"Sorry, Santa. It's Keebler. Even as we speak the entire company has shut down and they are having a private screening. Those cookie-baking cretins would love nothing more than to send spoilers our way!" Blinky had a rare look of disgust on his face.

"Keebler!" exclaimed Santa, angrily. "You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy! That Ernie Keebler has just earned his way onto the naughty list! But wait--how did Keebler manage to get a private showing?"

Blinky blinked, then stated, "Simple bribery. Let's just say that J.J. Abrams won't be running out of E.L. Fudge anytime soon."

Santa looked defeated. "Is there no way to get around this?"

"No, Santa," said Blinky. "They all want to see the movie, and they all want to see it now." Blinky thought for a second. "Well, 90% of them, anyway. There are some who say they'd rather watch old Star Trek reruns, and a few weird ones who prefer Doctor Who. And there's also a small percentage who brag about the fact that they haven't seen any of the Star Wars movies like it's some kind of badge of honor. But there's not enough of them to make it worth keeping the production floor open."

"Fine, then," Santa said. "I'm not a monster. I'll let them watch the movie. But, as soon as it's over, they'll go right back to work, right?"

"Yes, Santa! Oh, yes!" Blinky was jubilant.

"Go set things up," Santa told Blinky, who ran off hurriedly.

Mrs. Claus, who had been listening the entire time, hugged her husband. "It's a good thing you are doing today. The elves will be happy," she said.

"They will," Santa replied. "I just hope, for their sake, my sake, and the sake of J.J. Abrams, that this movie is better than The Phantom Menace. The last thing I want is a bunch of angry elves."


Now choose a title that best fits the story.

O A. Santa vs. Star Wars
O B. J.J. vs. E.L.
O C. The Spoils of Keebler
O D. Star Wars: The Rise of the Sleighrider
O E. Harry Potter and the Phantom Menace
O F. The Angry Elves

Edited from a post originally published on 12/18/2015. (The day Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened in theaters.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

When Your Kid Needs That ONE THING for Christmas

Every year the news will run a story about that ONE THING that every kid is clamoring for; the ONE THING all the kids just must have; the ONE THING the stores are sold out of and that you can't find anywhere.

I've always laughed at those stories. I've scoffed at the idiotic parents driving all over town to try to find that ONE THING. I hadn't really worried about it, because it wasn't going to happen to me. Why? Because I'm not a very trendy person, and neither are my kids. And even if my kids did say they wanted that ONE THING, we often don't have enough money for it. I had never experienced the hunt for the ONE THING.

Until this year.

A few weeks ago I was walking through Walmart with my three year-old boy. He likes dinosaurs, and he loves monster trucks. (Sometimes he'll call them "monstrucks!") On the toy aisle we walked past some little monster trucks that were shaped like dinosaurs. I know--dinosaur monster trucks make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Dinosaurs were extinct before the cavemen invented the wheel (or so they'd like us to believe), and definitely long before the redneck invented the monster truck. But, toys don't really have to make sense to a kid. I made the mistake of pointing them out to the boy. He, of course, was pretty excited. "Dinosaur monster trucks!" he exclaimed.

Dinosaur Monster Truck!!!
I didn't think much  of it at the time, but as the days and weeks passed, whenever anyone would ask him what he wanted for Christmas he would say, rather emphatically, "Dinosaur monster trucks!"

It soon became apparent that, for my three year-old, this had become his ONE THING. (I have no idea what the real ONE THING is this year for most of America. I'm too backwoods to know.) So, I returned to the Walmart to get the boy some dinosaur monster trucks. Of course, they weren't there anymore. The problem is, when I first saw them, they weren't in the main toy section--they were in the seasonal toy aisle. The products in the seasonal toy aisle get swapped out frequently. To make matters worse, the dinosaur monster trucks were not a name brand product, they were the generic Walmart brand, so that made it difficult to look them up online.

I searched the store. No dinosaur monster trucks. My wife scoured the interwebs. She couldn't find them on her mothership, Amazon. She eventually tracked them down on, but they were not something that could be ordered, and it said that none of the nearby stores had them in stock.

The hunt continued. My wife and her mother searched an out of town Walmart. No dinosaur monster trucks. Then, after getting the kids to bed, I went for a late Saturday night hunt. I tried a Walmart about 20 miles away. They had some monster trucks that were bigger, and looked a little like dragons, but they were not the ONE THING. (I bought them anyway, to have as Plan B.)

There was only one more nearby Walmart I hadn't yet searched. It was my last chance. I was desperate. I went up and down the toy aisles and found some monster trucks that looked like sharks. So close! But not the dinosaur monster trucks I was looking for. It was approaching midnight, and I was about to give up, when a kind, courteous Walmart employee sauntered into the area. She had a shopping cart full of items that she was restocking to the shelves. I grabbed the shark monster trucks and asked her--no, begged and pleaded with her--if there was any chance they had some monster trucks similar to the shark ones, but shaped like dinosaurs instead.

She looked at me and didn't say anything. She held up her finger, motioning me to wait, and walked to her shopping cart full of go-backs. She reached in and pulled out a package of dinosaur monster trucks and--with a look of uncertainty on her face--handed them to me. "Yes!!!" I shouted. I didn't hug her, although I did think about it. Instead, I just said "Thank you!" to her about 17 times.

The hunt was over! After spending many, many hours searching through four different Walmart stores, plus the time my wife spent digging through the internet, we finally had our son's ONE THING! I was so relieved.

Four days later I was back in the neighborhood Walmart where I had first seen the dinosaur monster trucks. (I needed some Pepto-Bismal, possibly because of the stress from the search.) For no other reason than out of sheer habit, I walked past the seasonal toy aisle. There, on the shelf, were a dozen more packages of dinosaur monster trucks. The ONE THING was now overstocked.

The ONE THING, many times over.

Because, of course.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Quick and Easy Family Christmas Letter

Does anyone ever look forward to writing the family Christmas letter? It's one of those things that starts nagging at the back of your mind as Thanksgiving approaches, and stays there until either you get it written or it's New Year's Eve and you can free your mind by declaring "not this year, but maybe next year." (Then the whole cycle starts over again next Thanksgiving.)

It shouldn't be that hard to write a family Christmas letter, should it? It's not like it's ever original. You could say the exact same thing every year, with the exception of the kids' ages, and no one would ever notice. (Except maybe for Aunt Beverly. She's a stickler.)

So, to fix this problem, I have created the easy solution: a form letter you can use every year! All you have to do is fill in the names, ages, and a few other simple details. It's simple and effective!

The family Christmas letter doesn't have to be difficult. (Or any good.)

To use my Family Christmas Form Letter, all you have to do is put your personal information in the blanks between the brackets (these things: [    ].) That's it!

So, without any further ado, here is the SlowJoe40 Family Christmas Form Letter:

Dear [friend, family member, casual acquaintance, random person],

Merry Christmas! [Happy Holidays/Happy Hanukkah/Festive Festivus, or other salutation] I hope all is going well for you and your [family/significant other/cats/imaginary friends]. We are doing [great/fantastic/better than you].

We had a wonderful year! We did [Exciting Thing #1]! We also did [Exciting Thing #2]. And, we also did [Optional Exciting Thing #3]. It sure kept us busy this year!

[Child #1] is [ ? ] years old now. Time sure does fly! [He/she] [is in ? grade/will start school soon/just got married/just got engaged/had another baby]! [He/she] really is becoming a mature young [man/woman].

[Child #2] is [ ? ] years old now. [He/she] is doing great [at school in ? grade/at work/with his/her wife/husband]. [He/she] really enjoys it. [He/she] likes to [favorite activity] and [other favorite activity].

[Optional: Child #3 through Child #?? (Just make sure you don't forget any.)]

[Wife/Mother] had another big year, taking care of all [specific number of] children, and working on [job/hobby/community service/church calling], and [job/hobby/community service/church calling], and [job/hobby/community service/church calling] [Note: Must have at least three items listed in order to be doing an acceptable job as Wife/Mother.] It sure keeps her busy, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

[Husband/Father] keeps busy with [job]. He also spends time doing [hobby/household project/church calling]. [Note: A second hobby/household project/church calling is optional, but not necessary.]

We send you our warmest greetings and best wishes this holiday season. May you have a [Merry/Happy specific holiday] and a Happy New Year!

[With Love/Sincerely/Seasons Greetings],

The [    ???    ] Family

(Wasn't that easy? You're welcome!)

Edited from a post originally published on 12.19.2017.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Time Out

Why is my five year-old daughter in time out?

Time out!

She was sniffling, so I told her to go get a tissue to blow her nose. Her three year-old brother, attempting to be helpful, pulled a tissue from the box and tried to hand it to her. She wanted nothing to do with it. She insisted that she get her own tissue from the box. He stood between her and the tissue box, still trying to give her the tissue he had pulled from the box, but purposely blocking her from getting a different one herself. She yelled. She screamed. She stomped her foot. I told her to just take the tissue from him. I told her he had been trying to be nice. She yelled. She screamed. She stomped her foot. Because she was now crying, more snot oozed from her nose. She really needed a tissue now, but she would rather have a face full of snot than accept a tissue given to her by her little brother.

I sent her to time out. She stood in the corner. She yelled. She screamed. she stomped her foot. She still did not have a tissue.

If you ever come to my house and notice snot stains on the wall, this would be an explanation.

[Please note that I said "an" explanation, not "the" explanation. I make this distinction because I cannot guarantee this story is the only reason there might be snot on the walls of my house. I have four kids.]

Friday, December 6, 2019

"So, What Do You Want for Christmas?"

"What do you want for Christmas this year?"

That's the big question, isn't it? We'll get asked that question many times over the course of December, and we'll probably ask it ourselves to several people. It can be a tough question, or it can be an easy question. Some people know exactly how to answer it. "I want an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!" And some people have no idea whatsoever what they want. In her letter to Santa (as dictated to my wife) my youngest daughter once said, "Please bring me a present, not a froggy. I want a froggy and a toy dinosaur and a toy lion in the present." (She got a froggy. She liked it.)

Merry Christmas to all!!!

So, what do I want for Christmas this year? Not much. Just a few things like:

*I would like an end to partisan bickering, so that members of both parties could spend more time working to continue to make this nation a wonderful place to live instead of calling each other names and worrying about getting re-elected.

*I would like the Minnesota Vikings to win the Super Bowl this year. (Just one championship. That's all I'm asking for! C'mon, if Tampa Bay can have a championship why can't the Vikings?)

*I would like automatic computer updates that update at convenient times for me, and don't mess up my computer.

*I would like all television commercials to be rated "G." I shouldn't have to have the "birds and the bees" talk with my kids because of an advertisement during a timeout in the basketball game.

*I would like some egg nog.

*I would like good health for me and my family. And my friends. And other people, too.

*I would like world peace.

*I would like lettuce to taste like bacon.

*I would like to be able to tell my children something once, and have them hear me and do the thing I wanted them to do after only telling them one time.

*I would like happiness for me and my family. And my friends. And other people, too.

(I don't want to be too greedy. I'll settle for any one of these things.)

Edited from a post originally published on 12/12/2017.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

No Turkey on Thanksgiving?

My wife's family is weird.

(They'd have to be--they accepted me into their ranks.)

Did you know that there is no law that says you have to have turkey on Thanksgiving? It's true! If you wanted to, it would be perfectly legal to have Cap'n Crunch for your Thanksgiving Day feast. Sure, you might be pegged as being odd, but it's not a requirement to have the traditional Thanksgiving foods.

Our family usually gets together with my wife's parents and her two sisters for Sunday dinner two or three times a month. When we do get together, there's always an abundance of food. Every two or three months or so, we'll even have a big turkey dinner on a random Sunday. So, when they were contemplating what to do for Thanksgiving, my wife, her sisters, and her Mom decided that we didn't really need to do the big production of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, they decided to make soup. Their thinking was, "Why do we spend so much time making a big deal out of the meal while the men sit around and watch football all day." And so, soup it was.

Soup for Thanksgiving? Sounds good to me!

Yes, we had soup for Thanksgiving dinner--and I was perfectly happy with that. Everyone made a soup and brought it for the Thanksgiving get-together. There was some butternut squash soup, some chili, and some corn chowder. My wife made some Zupa Toscana, the sausage/potato/kale soup like they make at Olive Garden. They were all really good soups, or so I assume. (I filled myself on my wife's soup, because I knew it was fantastic!)

I enjoyed the soup, and I was perfectly satisfied with it as my Thanksgiving meal. Fortunately, my wife's family also enjoys desserts, so while there was no Thanksgiving turkey, there still was an abundance of pies. Five different kinds of pie, plus a pumpkin-chocolate chip cake, to be precise. All delicious! (Yes, while I didn't try the different soups, I felt it was my obligation to try at least one piece of every pie.) (Someone had to do it.)

There's always room for pie!
So, while our Thanksgiving didn't include the typical turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, we still had pie, and we still enjoyed watching the Dallas Cowboys lose. (Some Thanksgiving traditions are always enjoyable!)