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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.

Even More Recent Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Yo, come at me bro…

What’s the deal with pickles?

Is there a kid who doesn’t love pickles? Seriously, why do kids like pickles so much? It would seem that the flavor would be too weird or intense, but no, given the opportunity they’ll devour an entire jar of fermented cucumbers. Is it because of all the pickles that women crave during pregnancy like some pre-birth, umbilical nourishment nostalgia? I don’t quite understand it, but at least it can make me feel better as a parent that I totally feed my children plenty of healthy “vegetables.”

How does the food even get there?

As I’ve mentioned before, my son has a natural talent and penchant for eating. He would score top marks on any appetizer aptitude test. And boy, can he shovel some macaroni like it’s going out of style; like he’s buying up subprime mortgages pre-2008; or like he’s collecting beanie babies and Pokémon cards before the nineties bubble popped. And yet, for as much food that he stuffs down his gullet, just as much ends up everywhere else. On the floor, walls, and ceiling. How does it even get up there? It’s behind his ears, up his nose, in his belly button, and down his pants. Cleaning up after mealtime, every time, feels like being held for detention to clean up the cafeteria after being unjustly blamed for starting that food fight—again.

Why do babies sleep with their butts up in the sky?

How is that even comfortable? Babies sleep like they are subconsciously practicing some ancient, Egyptian cat-yoga. Their derrieres in the air like some radio tower sending signals of flatulent grievances, or a lighthouse guiding salted, sea-weary sailors, or a flag, a proud, high-flying flag of glory to which we honor with an anthem of many fine, French horns. Can you imagine if adults still slept that way?

Why do kids ask for food they’re not going to eat?

I know it, they know it, we all know they’re not going to eat it. So why did I make another sandwich when I knew they weren’t going to eat it? Okay, so this one isn’t really a complaint or even a legitimate question. I know why. It’s so that I can have a reasonable excuse to eat a PB&J sandwich with a stringy cheese stick and a juice box.

Because this is the true secret to thriving in parenting: I always buy the 6-piece chicken nugget kids’ meal even when I know they won’t eat them all, so that I can have the leftovers.

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.

Continued Recent Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

You, sir, disgust me.

On practically a daily basis, I consciously take some time out of each day to connect with my wife by annoying her with my odd observations, random rants, mad monologues, and superfluous soliloquies.

For instance…

Our newly graduated one-year-old has recently mastered walking. By “mastered,” I mean like Jackie Chan kung-fu drunken boxing mastered kind of way. Sure, he’s more mobile than ever, but he’s also more dangerous than ever—a danger to himself and others, a menace to society. They require a license to drive on the roads. They should probably consider requiring a license to walk around. He’s like a waddling knee-capping ready to happen.

You know what else is a menace to society? Glitter.

I know I’ve complained ad nauseum about glitter before. But still. What demented, sadistic nihilist came up with this stuff? I take back every negative comment I’ve ever laid against stickers; just save me from glitter. Who can count them? For as the number of the stars of heaven and as the sand of the earth, so is the number of eye-irritating glitter specks in my house. If I’m cremated when I die, then the flames will probably sparkle from all the glitter I’ve inhaled and ingested over the years.

And one more thing…

Rubber duckies. I love the idea of rubber ducks. In theory, they work out great. You know what else sounds great in theory? Communism. In practice, both are dirty and fail miserably. But instead of the Red Scare and the threat of nuclear Armageddon, it is the Squeaky Scare and the threat of black moldageddon. All of those rubber bath toys get so disgusting even after one use. How hard is it to manufacture something that doesn’t grow the death plague inside of it and of which your children desperately want to gnaw on and suckle?

We’ve tried everything. Plugging the air hole, cutting out the bases, vinegar, blow torch, etc. All practices in futility; vanities of vanities. The only good rubber duckie is a dead rubber duckie. Sorry Ernie, but your friend makes bath time so much fun only as long as you have a hazmat suit and are fond of playing with weaponizable biological waste byproducts. It’s like some foreign intelligence agency’s (I won’t speculate as to which one) subversive scheme to undermine our citizen’s faith in bath time. Forget Covid conspiracies. This is the REAL plot to destroy America. Operation Duckie Dookie Drop.

Fair warning: if you ever got the bright idea of breaking into our home, prepare to be assaulted by an intoxicated baby, glitter bombs, and moldy rubber bath trinkets.

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.

10 Games to Play During Quarantine

If the shoe fits…

Note: Although these games are geared towards children, with a bit of imagination, they can be played by the most immature of adults.

As a family, we learned a tremendous amount during the quarantine. We learned things like how many different games you can play with Alexa (even she gets cabin fever), how precious a single square of toilet paper can be (count your blessings, count them one by one), and how viruses can only really spread in small businesses but you’re okay in giant, multi-billion dollar department stores. But to pass the time, we also came up with some of our own games. So, here’s a list of 10 games (minus a few because I was going to do a list of 10 to make a nice, even list, but then I started making the list and I was like, 10 is way too many things to think about!) to preoccupy your family in the case of any future lock downs.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoe! – One day, my three-year-old came up to me and said, “Let’s play a game!” She held out one little palm and put her other fist on top saying, “Rock, paper, scissors, shoe! Umm… Daddy, how to make the shoe?” Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock, and shoe beats… cockroach?

Will It Hat? – Our one year old son, loves to put things on his Benjamin Button, bald head. Gotta cheese puff? Put it on your head. Will it hat? Gotta dead leaf? Put it on your head. Will it hat? Gotta shoe? A book? A cup full of water? An actual hat? Put ‘em on your head, and see: will it hat? The answer is always: most certainly, yes it will.

Dress Up – I used to think one shirt was enough for one day. But why only wear one outfit when you can change multiple times a day, and do loads of laundry everyday? Baby spit up, toddler nail polish, slime, boogers, the options and opportunities are endless to have a reason to change again. Or you could just not wear anything. It is quarantine after all.

No Mess Finger Paint – The game is that while you had a momentary lapse in sanity, you allowed your toddler to play with paint, and now, while she has fun painting, you spend the entire time just trying to clean and keep paint off of everything in the house.

Sharing is Caring – No matter how many toys you give to each child, even if they’re identical, they only want to play with what the other one has. I just keep telling myself that the screams and tears are watering the little seeds of maturity in their souls so they won’t covet their neighbor’s new deck and jacuzzi.

Sleep Over – The best part about a sleep over is getting to stay up late. Having young children is kinda like that except instead of staying up late to eat junk food or play video games, you stay up late to put one kid to bed just so you can then get the other back in bed who woke up because of a feral cat outside, so that you can then wake up early for the other one who seems to have no concept of a lazy weekend morning.

Hide the Biscuit – The biscuit can be anything. Cereal puffs, green beans, carrots, crackers, cheese, or even biscuits. Where do you hide them? Well, our son hides them in his chair, under his chair, in his pockets, in his diaper, in his armpit, on his head (refer back to Game #2), behind his ears, in his ears, up his nose, under his bum and around the corner, and within black hole-like interdimensional portals that confound the known laws of space and time in which you thought you found and cleaned up all those puffs just for them to reemerge later either fall from the ceiling, be stuck to an elbow, or be stepped on.

Hide ‘n’ Seek – No. Just no. Never play this.

Naturally Gifted

(Like Father, Like Son)

As an incredibly blessed parent, I try not to brag. I don’t want to be one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, attempting in vain to supplant past failures, and overly boasts of their accomplishments as if they were their own. (Did I use enough ambiguous antecedents in that last sentence? I’m sure you can figure out who the unclear pronouns refer to. I’m not going to spend time rewriting sentences for clarity when that’s not what this is about. Do you realize how much time I could waste just going on and on and on about every little word and sentence. I could take at least some 87 words talking about it. Look, I’m just not going to overthink these blog posts. Okay? Hmm, maybe I should…)

Anyways, as I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the grammar sheriff, as a proud father, I try not to brag. But my son, soon to be one, is gifted at eating. Quite remarkable acutally.

It’s like we didn’t even have to teach him. He just figured it all out with almost no direction. Finger foods? Check. Fruit pouches with little slurp spouts? Check. Sippy cups? Check. Beverages with straws—obviously the decomposable, plant-based, non-marine-life-harrasing kind? Check. He just gets it.

But of course, greatest strength, greatest weakness.

With his prodigious penchant for food consumption also comes a few unsavory habits (see what I did there? “unsavory”). We’re currently trying to wean our kiddo off these shady lifestyle choices:

Eating leftovers.

By leftovers, I mean the food that has fallen off the table and onto the floor. Some people have a dog. We have a baby. He’s like a weird, squishy little vacuum cleaner. One of his favorite after-dinner pastimes is to try and crawl under the table and sample the variety platter of crumbs and collateral. When eating in his highchair, he often eats one, and then throws one down on the floor. I believe this is all part of his master plan to have readily accessible, self-selected hors d’oeuvres for later.

Eating dirt.

It’s not that he necessarily “loves” the taste of dirt and sand, but they’re also not really good deterrents either. The other day when we went to the beach, he tried a generous handful of sand, and then made the face of confused trepidation that you would expect. So, he was good, he wasn’t going to just eat more sand for the kicks and giggles of it. But then it was also the day he first tried potato chips. I personally have a weakness for those crispy, golden, fried spuds of nirvana myself. Perhaps it’s genetic. Either way, if a chip were to fall in the sand, he would do a quick cost-risk-benefit analysis and then determine that the right course of action was to push through and munch on. The chip was totally worth a little garnishment of sand.

Eating garbage.

By garbage, I mean basically anything and everything he can get his grimy, little paws on. Paper of all assortments and colors. Sticks, mulch, and grass. Carpet fibers. His sister’s polyester princess dress frills. Seriously little dude, you gotta stop doing that. Sometimes, opening up his diaper is like unwrapping one of those dollar store mystery bags. We’re really trying to set realistic goals for our children. Keep it simple ya know: try to stop eating random trash. We’re totally setting them up for success!

Eating people.

There’s always that one kid at the preschool who’s a biter. Look, we’ve really made some progress here so don’t worry too, too much. I’m sure by the time our son is ready for school he’s not going to want to gnaw on your offspring. But just in case, I’d send your child with some extra snacks. Think the “Sandlot” movie when the kids need to try and bribe the guard dog with a tasty beef treat. Did something like that happen in that movie? I don’t know; sounds about right.

Scars are there to remind us of the love.