To the parents of Darby S.

Dear parents of Darby S.,

Greetings. My name is Mr. Asthenosphere and I am your daughter’s science teacher. She comes to my class once a week for hands-on science lessons. It is my great honor and privilege to play a role in developing Darby’s scientific mind!

I am contacting you regarding my concerns for her progress in my class. It started week one, when she first asked to go to the bathroom and didn’t return for twenty minutes. I let it go, but she repeated this act the next two weeks so I asked her to please use the restroom during snack time, which is right before her science class.

The following week she forgot her water bottle in P.E. And the next week. She was very upset as— in addition to her dire thirst— apparently this water bottle from Mammoth Ski Resort has deep sentimental value for her. Despite having a water fountain in my classroom sink, and the probability that Mr. Hurdle, her P.E. teacher, would most certainly hold onto it for her, she insisted and I relented.

The next week, week six, she complained of a stomach ache. The week after that, her ankle hurt. She was quite adamant regarding the throbbing, which I guess is ironic because I had a throbbing headache at the time. In week eight, her ear was bleeding, the small pierced hole in her lobe smeared with red (though later I found a ketchup packet under Darby’s seat).

I have asked Darby if she doesn’t like science or has a problem regarding the class or me, but she says “everything is cool.” I am concerned because she has missed the entire unit entitled “Energy In Ecosystems.”

Last week, we began “The Physical and Chemical Changes In Matter.” And, unfortunately Darby missed the entire introduction searching for her sweatshirt from Vail Ski Resort.

So I thought I would contact you because of this tremendous scientific learning opportunity for Darby. Since we are learning that matter cannot be created nor destroyed, it hit me that, if you were to drop off Darby’s sweatshirt on Thursday mornings, I could hide it in the school and thus begin to play a role in developing her scientific understanding. In fact, if there are other sweatshirts from pricey vacation destinations at home, please bring them by the science lab. While Darby is aimlessly wandering the halls until lunch, I could use these overpriced materials for various demonstrations (like melting points and the pH of hydrochloric acid). In this way, when Darby accidentally stumbles upon her burned or melted sweatshirts, she will realize this important scientific concept that will further her development as a young scientist.


Mr. Lithosphere

Me So Snarky

Recently I attended a two-day education conference. It wasn’t very good. The less I say about it the better. As the caffeine wore off on hour three of day two, squirming in an uncomfortable chair, I was feeling, well, downright snarktastic.

The woman sitting across from me, the same woman I sat across from for all eight hours of day one, was once again wearing two name tags. Catherine. Outdoor Outreach. And…Catherine. Outdoor Outreach. She had the laminated, clip-on one that they passed out at check-in, the one we all wore on our collars or shirt-pockets or blazers or wherever we could find to clip it. But then she had another one, hand-carved, wood, varnished, probably something like cherry or walnut or maple, but possibly something exotic like bamboo.

So there we were. Day two, hour three of a not-so-good education conference. Catherine was telling me about the history of floods in California. Then she segued, somehow, I wasn’t really paying attention, to how comets first brought water to Earth. Instead of listening to her transition, if there was one, I was thinking of snarky things to say about her two name tags. Things like:

I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?

While I am fascinated by the origins of water on Earth, I’m perhaps equally intrigued by someone wearing two name tags at an education conference.

Excuse me. I hate to be the one to point this out. But your collar is obscuring the end of one of your name tags, so that it reads “Cath”. And your sweater is covering the front half of your other name tag so it only shows “ine.” Could you help me out here? I’m thinking Catherine, but you just never know. It could be Cathline. Or maybe there are more letters in the middle? Names and spellings are so crazy these days, don’t you agree… Cathzine?

What is that, mahogany?

(After making a second name tag for myself with a half sheet of paper and a paperclip.) Can you believe these people? I mean can you believe them. I’m astonished. The nerve. It’s like they just don’t give a fuck. Only wearing one name tag. I normally wear three but my nice one is being cleaned.

Catherine. It’s Catherine, right? I wasn’t sure. Have you ever thought of doing Indoor Outreach? Like kids that don’t spend enough time indoors watching screens. Or even Outdoor Inreach? What would that even look like? Or what about Indoor Inreach? Yeah, I know. I get a little carried away sometimes. Like sometimes I go to education conferences and bring my own name tag. What was your name again? I’m sorry. I’m just not good with names.

But the snark didn’t stop there. Oh, no. A question distracted Catherine and her discourse on early water. She turned, her head nearly tripling in size, to answer the following question, “Excuse me, was that name tag made by a 3-D printer?”

At which point, I turned and introduced myself to Heather, an education coordinator for an organic farm. I asked her if she coordinates field trips and learned that “field trip” is something of a taboo phrase, even an insult. With my mind on full snark, I imagined a couple of men in suits wearing sunglasses and white gloves, bringing in a soap box and mid-conversation lifting her up, chair and all, and setting her down on the soap box. I adjusted my gaze to her new, imagined height as she described the “field work” she does with students, and how it’s MUCH different than just a one day, quick and cheap and dirty field trip.

And I wanted to ask her, so badly, I practically had to bite my tongue to keep from asking it, as the imaginary men with suits came back and lifted her off her soap box…So, how would I go about setting up a field trip?

It was that kind of conference.

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.