Duped By Punctuation

Megan and I have a few go-to, default restaurants whenever stumped by that bad penny of a question “What’s For Dinner?” One of these is the Old Spaghetti Factory, which has been around for fifty years—almost long enough for an “e” at the end of old (but still a ways off from changing the “the” to “ye.”)

It’s family-friendly, affordable, and serves ice cream. Everybody wins.

Last night was one of those nights. For starters, our two year-old has gone nuclear, aka is climbing out of the crib at night. Throw in soccer practice at four (for the seven year-old) and a music orientation at six-thirty (for the four year-old) and boom, we’re joining all the retired couples for a nice Italian meal at five-fifteen.

That’s when it happened. I got duped by punctuation.

“I thought you were going to get the lasagna,” my wife said later that night, as I curled up into the fetal position and prepared for another night of moonlight toddler strolls.

“It wasn’t just that the Chicken Penne with Pesto was listed as new,” I said. “Or NEW. All cap’s wouldn’t have done it. Or even NEW. Bold wouldn’t have put me over the top either. It was NEW!

It helps to hear it. So dear reader (and all you confused plumbers that keep clicking on my site and sometimes stick around and read), try saying each one, either out loud or in your head. New. NEW. NEW. NEW!

Do you hear it? That extra tinge of enthusiasm/excitement for a new menu item at a restaurant you frequent on a regular basis. It’s hard to resist.

“The thing is,” I explained to Megan, removing my thumb from my mouth. “I don’t think the Chicken Pesto Penne is all that new. In fact, I think I got it last time. I just can’t remember how it was presented on the menu.”

“You should’ve got the lasagna,” she said.

And I would’ve, too. If it wasn’t for that damn exclamation point.

The Dreaded Nap

My four soon-to-be five-year old is in that awkward phase where she doesn’t usually nap but sometimes, every once in a while, collapses into a heap of blankets on the floor.

When this happens, she is out, like really out, from around three or four o’clock until right around after dinner. Then she will wake up grouchy, be drowsy and cranky for another forty to fifty minutes, and then— get this— expect food and water.

The result of all this is that she will be wide awake, fresh as a spring morning in a place with a waterfall that gushes freshness, well past bedtime. I’m taking like after nine o’clock. Wide. Awake.

At this point, any parent in this situation, concerned for their child’s well-being, must make a choice.

Option 1: Put them to bed anyway so they get used to being bored in life.

Option 2: Take advantage of the other children being asleep for valuable one-on-one time (not recommended).

Option 3: Just watch Netflix like always and let the situation work itself out.

Recently I found myself in this parenting conundrum and chose Option 2. (Making decisions has never really been a strong point for me.) After some graham crackers and coloring (a lot of coloring, but that’s another post) I noticed my four-soon-to-be five-year old stretch her mouth in what might have been a yawn.

So we went up and laid in mommy’s bed, a special treat, and gazed up at the moon. And the following conversation took place.

“Daddy, has anyone ever been to the moon?”

“Yes, in fact, fifty years ago people went to the moon.”

“How did they get there?”

“Well, people worked very hard for a long time. They studied a lot of science and space and became what’s called an astronaut.”


“Yes. Asterknots. And other people studied a lot of science and math and became engineers. These engineers built rocket ships for the asterknots to travel in.”

She snuggled into my shoulder and we stared up at the moon. This is one of those moments, I thought. Those moments I will cherish forever.

“And did some people study really hard to become mermaids?”

And we’re back.

“Yes, some people studied hard to become mermaids. Aren’t you getting sleepy?”

So in conclusion, when your child is in that awkward phase where they don’t nap but sometimes really need one, just shove a screen in their face and give them sugar so that you don’t miss out on valuable “Me time” at the end of a day.

You’re welcome.

Not to brag, but…

This past weekend I was responsible for my three daughters for the span of roughly four hours. During that time they:

  1. ate a nutritious meal
  2. watched zero minutes of screen time
  3. only ingested one substance that required a call to Poison Control (a hefty dollop of froofy sun screen by Delaney, age 2)

So yeah…got this whole parenting thing pretty much under control.


My Fart Darling

There is an expression in writing, “You have to kill your darlings.” This means when you revise your work, kill everything you love before sending it out to agents.

So it follows that I had to cut the following darling from my novel. May you live on, my little fart darling, in my faucet humor blog that plumbers keep opening by accident.

My Fart Darling

Brian woofed down another spoonful. “Uncle John farts a lot,” he said, chewing. He inhaled quickly, lifted his leg and with vibrating lips motored off a long fart that resembled a well-tuned lawnmower. Barbara leaned away. Like a singer he sucked in more air and squeezed one side of his mouth, the motor humming an octave higher. Then he twisted his mouth, abruptly slowing the humming engine sound and giving it a juicy quality. He pulled air up his nostrils and released it in a halting sputter, ending with one final gust that died a slow, rattling death. On its deathbed, with the whole family aghast, Brian pushed one last poooooooffff through his wired teeth.

“Really Brian, was that really necessary?” his mother said.


No room for cream— the admiration is enough

If you— and by you, I’m referring to the confused plumber in Alaska that reads this blog— are wondering why I don’t post more, it’s because I’m currently revising a novel. Truth is, I haven’t really told many people that I’ve written a novel and get sort of embarrassed when people that know I’m writing ask, “How’s the book going?”

I won’t go into it. Rather, I would like to share how I’ve changed my tune and now tell every single person I meet that I’ve written a novel. I’ve noticed that Starbucks baristas are particularly impressed.
Here is a conversation from this morning:
Barista: What can I get for you?
Me: Well, since I am a novelist, I guess I’ll have an iced coffee.
Barista: Okay…. Any room for cream or sweetener?
Me: If I was a short story writer, I might, but I’m a novelist.
Barista: Your name?
Me: My real name or my pen name?
So yeah. Pretty impressed.

Naptime Witness

Look, I understand you have your mission, your higher-calling or whatever. I get that. Maybe that higher-power sent you here to my doorstep at 1:24 in the afternoon for some greater purpose. I can respect what your doing with the piece of paper you handed me about the convention.

(And yes, I’m sorry I wasn’t more polite. I am a Christian and it wasn’t very, um, Christian of me to be short with you.)

But the thing is, my daughter just fell asleep. It took over an hour to get her down. And she really needs a nap. Grump-city if you know what I mean. So maybe you could carry out this higher-calling higher-power mission a little more quietly at nap time? You know, like just slip the flyer under the door? (It might be more pleasant for you too, rather than the awkward glares you get from parents of sleeping toddlers.)

Thanks so much. God Bless. Or Jehovah. Or maybe let Jehovah witness God blessing you? I’m sorry. I gotta come clean here. I just don’t know much about your religion. I’m normally a lot nicer, it’s just when you ring the doorbell during nap time it’s like the fires of hell rage within me. Oh shit. Do you believe in hell? I’m not aware of your position on that issue, either.

All I can say is that I’m sure Jehovah witnessed something pretty important. And it’s important to you that I know about this conference to know more about what Jehovah witnessed. But you know what else is important? Naps. For toddlers. There’s five of them on this street. Is anyone or anything witnessing you waking them all up with your doorbell ringing and your flyer that you could just slide under the door?

Sorry. I got carried away again. Regardless of the whole spiritual soul God Jehovah heaven hell witness eternity thing, can we just agree not to ring doorbells between, say 1 and 3? Thanks so much. Peace be with you. Is that OK to say?


Millennials, Take My Interjection And We’ll Make It I Swear

I’m not going to. Obviously. But if I did, this is what I would say to the two millennials sitting next to me, very close in proximity, at Starbucks.

“Pardon me, I don’t mean to interject, or be rude, or tell you how to live your life, or really do anything other than just plain help you, but I just couldn’t help overhearing (despite my headphones) about how your undergraduate classes are proceeding and thought maybe I could offer you some words of wisdom. Free of charge.

First, to take a look at some raw statistical data, the two of you have been sitting next to me for over two hours, 137 minutes, to be exact. If I had to ballpark it, let’s be on the safe side here, I’m going to go ahead and say that out of the 137 minutes, the amount of time that both of you spent actually STUDYING, learning, doing what I presume you set aside this time for, is roughly five minutes each. Let’s call it seven. To calculate this as a percentage (I’ve got this one since math makes you sooooooo sleepy), the actual amount of your study time that you spent, um, studying, is 0.051%.

So, not to belabor the point here, but I think that a brief search on effective study habits might help with that failing science class or the “annoying” professor that gave you a D on your last paper. You know the one whose feedback you spent approximately eleven minutes reading out loud and making snide comments like, “Passive voice, what does that even mean?” And, “The only paragraph I wrote that he actually liked is the one about America. So what does that tell you?”

I want to help you. The fact that both of you are not looking up your ex-boyfriends on the Internet tells me that you are good people that want to succeed. Also, that you each spent close to eight minutes (ballparking here) looking up Danielle’s ex-boyfriend on the Internet tells me that you are easily distracted. (Millennial A: He is hot! Millennial B: Yeah, a hot mess.)

This tendency to get distracted is all the more reason to look up effective study habits and perhaps find a quiet place, away from professional writers with professional blogs that professional plumbers click on often, to their confusion and dismay.

Look, this isn’t about grinding an axe or my own stress in revising work set to be published. Never mind the job interview I have to prepare for or the giant stress zit on my forehead. I’m simply offering advice as an elder. It’s not your fault. Many schools never teach how to study.

There are many small things that make a big difference. Turning off your phone I think actually qualifies as a big one. Location. Scheduling breaks for snacks and coffee. (Seriously, Google has over 154,000,000 results for “effective study habits. Just do a quick search since you haven’t put down your phones the entire time.) Also, I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but perhaps you two aren’t right for each other, Study Buddy wise. While it’s obviously clear that you are great friends with a lot to talk about, including potential boyfriends (the advice to “go home tonight, write about him in your journal, wake up, read it, and see if you feel the same way,” shows how much you care about each other and want nothing but good things like finishing college to happen); it might not be clear that academically speaking, you guys are oil and water.

To again return to some hard data, something that is often useful in making important decisions like where and how to study (even if your stats teacher is “clueless on how to actually teach”), I’m going to go ahead and ballpark estimate here, on the safe side, that each of you spoke roughly 5,000 words in the past two hours and now twenty-one minutes (roughly 35.46 words per minute, each). One thing I’ve found in earning both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree, is that it is difficult to study and talk at the same time.

Why not plan to meet up after studying? You’ll both feel much better about having been productive because you won’t have distracted each other (or those around you, like professional writers editing an essay for publication, an essay that has already been accepted, one where the writer has to concentrate, really scrutinize each word and sentence so as not to make a small error that could slip past the editor and this small error could hurt this hypothetical writer’s chances of really making it as a writer? Unlike a blog which allows writers, even professional writers, to write off the cuff and make all kinds of misakes.)

So now, as the students from the nearby middle school swarm in and eliminate the remote chance that the two of you will do anymore studying, let me end by closing my eyes, turning up my headphones to dangerous levels so as to drown out your incessant chattering, and pretend to be Jon Bon Jovi, wearing leather pants, grabbing my pen as a microphone and singing to you, while the middle school kids spontaneously join in as background singers and and flash dancers.

Wooooooaaa! Just going to Starbucks is only half way theeeerrrree! Woooaaa! Livin’ on a prayer (if you think this is studying)!  Take my polite suggestive interjection based on actual data constructively and we’ll make it to adulthood I sweeeaaarr!”