A True-Life Trunk-or-Treat

The other day I was at the local Wawa (love saying that word—wawa—like kissing smooth silk, but also sounds like a baby came up with the name) getting me some of that sweet, free pressurized air for the minivan tires. But as I was hunched over, filling the passenger-rear tire, I spied with my little eye, out of the corner of my eye a person stealthily moving towards me.

We are all susceptible to making quick judgments, and I must confess that my thoughts quickly jumped to one of a couple of scenarios. Either this guy was (1) going to ask for money, (2) going to try and shank me, or most likely (3) going to try and cut in line so that he too could taste the succulent nectar of free compressed air out of a rubber hose in the middle of a parking lot. I could never have imagined what was actually about to happen…

As I turned to see the approaching stalker, I almost immediately realized that my preconceived notions were probably for naught. The kind-looking gentleman who walked towards me was an older man who spoke with a thick accent from somewhere in the Middle East. Without any proper introductions or much ado, the elderly man spoke to me with generosity and conviction, “Hello, would you like some bread?”

“Bread?” I thought. Did I just hear correctly? Did he just ask me if I wanted some bread? Is that like some new convalescent street lingo for the new synthetic drug hitting the assisted living streets? Elders these days, ya know?

I was unsure of how to answer him, but answered, “Umm, I’m okay, thanks.”

But he insisted, “I have lots of bread. Would you like some free bread? You come and see. You can have some bread as long as you need it and will use it.”

I kept thinking, “Man, I just want to get my free air fix and get out of here; not stand around in a parking lot in the Florida heat and discuss the finer details of starch and carbohydrates with a stranger.” I asked, “What bread? Where is it?”

“Oh, I have all kinds of bread. And donuts too! You like donuts? I have them here in my trunk. I am trying to give out this bread to people.”

Bread and donuts in the trunk. None of this sounds weird or sketchy at all. I figured, maybe if I just accept his offer for this mysterious bread I can get out of here. So, I replied, “Okay. Sure, thank you. I’ll take a look.”

I walked over with the gent to the back of his car, and when he opened up the trunk I had to do a double-take because I was so confused and surprised by what I saw. I know he told me he had bread in his trunk, but I mean, this guy had BREAD in his trunk. Like overflowing. Bread and pastries and, yes, donuts. Just so much gluten. It was like a movie where some gangsters open up a trunk and it’s full of money or drugs or a body. Except it was fluffy baked dough and smelled delicious. Very surreal experience. I was slightly afraid to ask but couldn’t help myself. “Oh wow, that’s a lot of bread. Umm… where did this all come from?”

“Oh, it’s from the bakery down the street. You know the bakery there around the corner. I’m retired now, and so I volunteer at a bunch of places. I volunteer at the bakery sometimes. They had too much bread, and they asked me if I could take it and give it away to people, so I came here.”

Now things were beginning to make sense. Naturally, a Wawa gas station parking lot is the most obvious choice for handing out free baked goods that are on the precipice of expiration.

I gratefully accepted his offer, and I selected a loaf of artisan bread. Then he picked up a box of donuts and also handed those to me, asking me if I wanted anything else. I explained that this was more than enough and thanked him profusely.

Only at a Wawa. Making dreams come true.

The moral of the story: It is the small, random acts of kindness from strangers that makes the world a better place, as well as a New Year’s keto diet resolution ruined.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to explain this story to my wife and convince her that I’m not going to poison our family with bread laced with unknown substances…

When Your “Favorite” Food Is Not What You Expected

Please enjoy this recent conversation between my wife and brother-in-law:

“Did Ella make lasagna at some point?”

“Yes. Andrew too.”

“Ok, well Gracie heard about this [lasagna luau party] or remembered it or something and she has been talking about wanting lasagna [literally every day for a week] because [she says] it’s her ‘favorite food’ and she ‘loves it,’ so we finally went to a restaurant where she could have some and she was so excited, and I was like [because we were thoroughly baffled by the whole scenario], ‘Gracie, do you know what lasagna is?” And she was like, “No, what is it?” And we put it [the lasagna] on her plate, and we’re like “Here’s your lasagna,” and she’s like “Where is it?” And I point to it, and she’s very confused [and disgusted] and says, “I don’t like it.”

Another perfect mealtime.

Just Another Day at Work

One day, for my job, I had to make this unique delivery. Don’t ask me what I do for a living; that’s confidential. I certainly don’t make any money rambling on the Internet.

Anyways, I had to deliver a package to a unit on the second floor of an old, decrepit townhouse complex. The building was wood panel construction with peeling paint and one entire side sloping down into the earth. The porch had broken boards, probably from where a trap door was installed. It was the kind of place where you might get a splinter in your eye just from looking at it. If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume this place was abandoned and condemned. The front door swung open and shut on broken hinges. As you stepped inside, the only light visible came from a single, dangling, flickering bulb at the top of a stairwell and a skylight hole in the ceiling from a busted roof.

Worst of all, this dark, dilapidated den of a building reeked and smelled like COVID. I’m not sure if COVID has a smell. But I’m pretty sure this was it. I’m also pretty sure that the landlord would make more money by using the property as a haunted house attraction rather than as an apartment building. I was ready and expecting at any moment for a rabid, feral squirrel to jump out of the wall and stab me with an acorn shiv.

So, did I ascend those rickety, precarious steps to the top floor? Yes. Did I knock on the rotted door and successfully leave the package for what every mysterious phantasm lived there? Yes. Did I immediately run for my life afterwards? Yes.

Now, you might accuse me of exaggerating, telling a big fish tale, or spinning yarn, and I would say, that’s totally possible, but this is the way I remember it in my nightmares. Besides, I prefer the term embellishment like I’m putting ornaments on a Christmas tree or garnishing my plate of nuggets with aromatic parsley or adorning a scarecrow with a J Crew knitted scarf.

Now why do I share this story with you? What life lesson or morale of humanity am I trying to get across? I don’t know. Bye.

A Modern Day Nativity

As we approach the twelfth and final day of Christmas, I would like to share a fond life anecdote of when our gregarious little girl was just one-and-a-half-years-old. She had been learning all about the Nativity story, and she was absolutely captivated by the many motely characters. She wanted to know all about Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the wise guys, the animals (especially the donkey), the star, and of course baby Jesus.

It was around the holiday season, and the little lassie and I were doing some grocery shopping. She wasn’t quite potty trained, and she needed a change, so we went to the family restroom. As she lay on the diaper changing station (you know, one of those folding, wall-mounted types) she noticed the diagram instructions for how to use the station properly and safely for changing a child (e.g., never leave unattended, no drinking while operating, don’t leave a mess, blah, blah). She observed that there was a picture of a mommy holding her child and then laying the child down on the changing shelf.

She knew exactly what this story book was about and squealed with delight, “It’s Mary and baby Jesus!” Of course, it also begged the question, as confusion began to fill her eyes. “But, where’s Joseph?” I believe I must have said something along the lines of, “Oh, he must be working right now. Those cabinets don’t build themselves you know. Plus, mommies are usually better with swaddled cloths, mangers, and dirty diapers” (I’m not sexist, just lazy). She seemed to suspiciously accept that as a reasonable answer.

More recently, two years since the famous “Walk-Thru Baby-Changing Nativity Station,” our totally beyond toddling girl is still awestruck by the story of the birth of Jesus. The other day, she put on these dress-up wings and was pretending to be an angel flying around all over the house. She gracefully floated on over to my wife and exclaimed, “You will have a baby!” Naturally, my wife bowed and could only reply, “I will do as the LORD has commanded.”

A Cozy Coupe Collision

#safetyfirst

Our son was in a car accident recently. Don’t worry, he’s gonna be okay.

He just started driving one of those Little Tikes Cozy Coupes because… I guess every kid starts off with one of those for some reason. Well, anyways, I guess he had downed a little one too many juice boxes because he fell asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, with this season’s model, the company had just installed new Paw Patrol air bags.

And just in case your still razzle dazzle baffled:

Our son loves to ride around in this toy car, and he prefers to travel with some other toy or random object. He would let you push him around indefinitely so much so that the other day he literally fell asleep with his head on a toy bouncy ball while being scooted around. We only wish he would fall asleep this easily whenever we wanted him to.

Remember: buckle up kids. It saves lives.

The Stickers Strike Back

Not long ago, I talked some smack about stickers. They have struck back with a vengeance. Let me explain.

My wife got caught up in this chainmail, pass-it-forward, multi-level marketing, pyramid scheme—involving stickers. It’s like one of those weird infinite, sourdough friendship bread things that everyone thinks sounds like a fun and dandy idea—“Oh, what a lovely new hobby to take up!”—but then quickly turns into deep regret and overwhelming dread—“Oh, what have I done‽ Please, make it stop!”

For the record, I had nothing to do with it.

Anyways, to make a short story shorter, we ended up with way too many sleeves of stickers and now our entire house is made of stickers. I mean, I believe the very structural integrity and load bearing weight of our home is now mostly stickers: plain ones, colorful ones, glittery ones, three-dimensional ones, fuzzy ones, animals, cosmos, magic, princess, emoji, and plant-based stickers, probably CBD. Because stickers are like potato chips. You can’t just eat one. And our three-year daughter cannot just peel off one sticker, or even one sleeve for that matter. She’s gotta tear through every sticker like they’re winning lotto tickets.

I have found stickers in places…

Places you cannot imagine. Places where stickers ought not to be.

There are stickers on chairs and doorhandles; on the floor and ceiling (not sure how they got up there); on the fridge and toilets and sinks; on mommy’s purse and throughout the car; in my pockets and on her baby brother’s face.

But it goes far beyond that. I keep putting on clean clothes from the dryer to then find stickers within them. The other day, in particular, was an especially tangible occasion. I had gotten home from work and was taking a shower (yes, I do that from time to time). As I was lathering and cleansing, lo and behold, what did I find? But a sticker where the sun don’t shine. Ironically, the sticker was of a bright, smiling sun. Initially, my discovery was alarming—I thought, “Do I have the plague or is that a tick on my derrière? Oh no, it’s just another sticker…” The jolly, yellow star gleamed up at me with a mischievous grin, as if to say, “Thanks buddy for the wash and spa treatment!”

I shall spare you some of the finer details. Suffice it to say, 2020 will go down in our home as the year of two pandemics: Covid-19 and The Great Icky-Sticky-Fluenza.

Who’s on First for Toddlers

The following is based on a truish conversation and ongoing inside joke that I have with our 3-year-old daughter:

“Hey, Gracie girl, what’s under there?”

“Under where?”

“Under there?”

“Under wheerree?

“Under theerree.”

“Under there or under here? Under where?”

“Right there. Under there.”

“Oh… underwear!”

“Over there, under there.”

“Underwear is under there.”

“Wait, under where is there? Where is where? Here? Is where here or there?”

“No, here is underwear. Under there.”

“Under where?”

“Under there!”

“Under where?”

“Underwear!”

“Under where, under there! Ohhh… I see. Underwear is over there, under there.”

“What did you say?”

“I don’t know…”

The moral of the story: there are no monsters under your bed, just certain timeless mysteries about when hidden, delicate garments were last laundered.

A Spoonful of Ginger Helps the Medicine Taste Even Worse

Step right up! Guess what’s in the jar, and win a prize!

My mother recently visited and was finally able to meet her grandson. It was a very special and loving time. But I know that none of you are really interested in all that mushy stuff. In regard to my dear old mum, what everyone is really always wondering is: what crazy thing did she stow away in her luggage this time

More chestnuts? More rocks with included botanical garden? A pumpkin for the fall? Small, endangered animals? What‽

Well, this most recent visit did not disappoint and included the pleasant surprise of a somewhat large, plastic grocery bag, doubled, and filled with some kind of liquid ginger root soup concoction… Yes, you read that right. A bag of liquefied ginger potion, the purpose for which witchery I can only have night terrors about.

She told us that it was this homemade healthy ginger tea and that it both prevents and cures the coronavirus. So, of course, she made us all drink it; me, my wife, my sister, even my in-laws. (Don’t worry, I did not allow her to give it to our children.)

What did it taste like? Hmm… let me try… how can you explain something that tastes like equal parts moonshine, herbal tea, hot burning coals, iceberg lettuce, and dirt with grass roots still attached? This stuff simultaneously clears out all your sinuses with the force of a fire hydrant, starts a bubbling party in your gut causing a chain-chemical reaction that makes you believe you can breathe fire, and feels like it is cremating your brain cells to the point that you start hallucinating pink, flying unicorns in tutus sliding down a rainbow of licorice. I mean come on, usually the unicorns are not wearing ballet clothes. That’s just ridiculous.

“But wait!” I hear you asking, “How did your mom get through security at the airport carrying a gallon of what looks like corrosive bomb-making material in her extra-large carry-on purse when you’re only allowed containers of around 3 ounces?” Well, my friend, you don’t know my mom. And neither do I apparently, because if I could answer that question, I would probably be a millionaire and one step closer to uncovering all the mysteries of the universe.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against ginger. I just hate the way it tastes. Oh, also I despise its texture and overall appearance—that ugly root rope thing—and everything else about it. But that’s all; it’s nothing personal really, and it’s not like I have anything against those who like ginger either. It’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to like whatever disgusting thing they want to. Savages.

Also, if you’re surprised by the ginger tea-n-tea my mom was packing then here’s a short list of the other essential items she brought along: dried anchovies, octopus jerky, pickled cabbage, hot chili paste, approximately 50 garbage bags, a half dozen cooking aprons, two dozen old-man plastic clip-on phone cases, multiple packages of Baby Shark face masks, an unnatural and confusing quantity of socks, wallets, and hair bows, what will now forever be known as “the infamous magical paper towel” (an item which defies the laws of physics that I persistently attempted to throw away in the garbage but my mom swore that it was reusable and ergo the soggy napkin continuously reemerged like a phoenix from the ashes or perhaps better compared to one of those movie monsters like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees that just won’t stay dead because there needs to be a hundred sequels), and also other assorted unknown herbs and spices (I’m pretty sure my mom stole Mary Poppin’s magical black hole hand-bag that can fit an infinite number of items).

Anyways, my mother drank this stuff every night like it was a religious matcha ceremony. She would say, “It’s good. It makes me healthy. Makes me strong.”

And I’m thinking, “Well yeah, of course, duh. You’d have to be superhumanly strong to consume and endure that stuff every day!” You see, my mom is actually She-Hulk. Soon to be available for streaming on Disney+. Subscribe today with this imaginary link and save nothing on your first purchase.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Now, where did I leave that mother of mine…

There are some mysteries of the cosmos too great to be understood by mere mortal minds. From the deep fathoms of infinite knowledge there exists an immeasurable chasm between the gray matter of our awareness and the dark void of the beyond.

For our newborn, that mystery of all mysteries lies within the realm of one of the oldest, most cherished past times of humanity: peek-a-boo.

Yes, peek-a-boo, I see you! Where’s baby? There he is! Peek-a-boo! Philosophers have engaged in this very discourse of reality and existence for millennia. What is real? What does it mean to be alive and to exist? Questions that haunt our temporal beings. And then at the moment of bleakest thoughts, a bright light shines forth to illuminate our hearts and cast away the cobwebs of the corners of our minds. Peek-a-boo! Oh, there you are Mommy! Where’d you go? You sneaky, sneaky mommy. What is this dark magic? I know where you are; you can’t hide forever… gotcha, peek-a-boo!

What once was lost, now is found. And there are few things that can make our baby boy more giddy than by slyly covering our faces and then popping out like a jack-in-the-box. Like a fox in socks jumping out of a box, or so said Mr. Knox.

The only other thing that can calm and soothe the fears and frustrations of my son is a nice shiny, sharp object. He loves them. Interior fire sprinklers, hanging light fixtures, and freshly polished cutlery. All his favorites and perfectly, suitable educational toys for a baby. My parents gave me my first hatchet when I learned to walk. I was so proud when our newborn held his first Cutco knife.

But his absolute favorite is this little eye-and-hook latch that we use for our sliding barn door. Whenever he gets upset, I just walk him over to that little piece of pointy, protruding metal, and he immediately starts to grin with devious delight. At first, he simply stares and glances, not wanting to be too forward. Then as he warms up, he just barely reaches out towards the lock, careful not to touch yet; only to flirt and tease. He’ll play hard to get and shyly look away with a blush. Finally, after the courtship, the moment of waiting comes to fullness as he starts—not to caress tenderly—but to slap like a whack-a-mole hyped up on pixie dust the dangling lock with squeals of laughter and raptures of pure ecstasy.

Don’t even get me started on ceiling fans. Every baby loves them. I assume, it is because ceiling fans seem to have an awfully close resemblance to the Bible’s depictions of angels. So, babies must be remembering the beautiful sight of singing angels that they knew before knowing while their souls were formed and knitted by the Great Artist outside of time and space. Or something like that. What do I know?

Our daughter says that Pikachu’s last name is Peekaboo. What a missed opportunity to have named our child…

Newton’s Three Laws of Bouncing Bundles of Babies

or The Opposite and Equal Reaction of Everything Hitting the Earth

Bring on the memes…

Our 8-month-old is an adorable rascal and a vandal. Gets it from his mother’s side—obviously. Or maybe he’s just destined to be a ball player because he throws. Everything.

When you hand something to him, he only does one of two things: tries to eat it or throws it on the ground. Usually, it’s both. He will try to eat it (doesn’t matter what “it” is), throw it on the ground, and then stare at its new spatial context with whimsical curiosity and meditative inquisitiveness. You could say, he has a “flooral” fixation.

Sometimes he really gets in the zone. He can throw items quicker than you can hand them to him. Then he will sit in introspective reflection, gazing at the graveyard of plastic and polyester before him, and ponder over the laws of gravity. He’s clearly a prodigy of Newtonian physics. Probably mentally measuring the forces of gravity, drag, buoyancy, and the Magnus effect on the flight and motion of each object as it falls and bounces; the motion of each projectile which typically constitutes a characterization of the coefficient of restitution and ergo can be affected by the nature of the item and the impacted surface along with density, velocity, rotation, temperature, and pressure; of which the aerodynamic properties and physical behaviors of the matter in motion before, during, and after collision with the mass of another body serve as the mechanics of near-parabolic patterns that are engineered; all of this which encompasses what is scientifically known as: “bounciness.” At least, that’s what I assume he’s thinking (I may have used Wikipedia).

Sometimes, we try to tether things in a way that he cannot throw them away. He doesn’t like that. Hand him a toy car. Throws it on the ground. Hand him a cup. Throws it on the ground. Hand him a baby. Throws it on the ground. Hand him an electric waffle maker. Throws it on the ground. Oh wait, are you not supposed to give babies electronics?

If you’re holding him, he tries really hard to rip your ears and eyelids off—clearly so that he can throw them on the ground. He’s got quite the arm. I’m so proud.

Plus, now that he’s crawling all over the place, each day appears to be an adventure as he is on a constant quest to find new artifacts to chew on and throw. He is like Indiana Jones except instead of searching for treasures for a museum he is searching for treasures to smash. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Noah’s Ark wooden animal play set because our son has strewn them all about the house. Indiana Jones the Temple of Doomed toys that have all died the death of a thousand falls. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to find and throw everything in the house. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom the Crystal… never give a crystal to a throwing-obsessed baby unless you want crystal shrapnel in your shins and shards all over the floor. And also, with a diaper instead of a fedora.

The moral of the story: don’t be a litter bug because it’s not cute unless you’re a chubby, chunky baby.