First World Problems and That New Math

As homeschoolers, my wife and I have heard a lot about new ways of teaching math compared to the ways we were taught oh so many years ago. Reading over some examples induce rages in me to rival that of Bob Parr in The Incredibles 2 – at least what I’ve seen in the trailer as trailers comprise ninety-nine percent of my movie-going experience these days. But perhaps the following examples can be solved with this new math.

As I may have mentioned I currently work as a bakery manager for a small-to-mid-sized retailer. One of my last orders in June was for 108 cases of product. Upon examining the ordering program on our company intranet, I saw that in addition to my 108 cases I’d also be receiving 67 cases of distribution product. When the shipping manifest came with the deliver I saw that 10 cases were cut due to being out of stock at our warehouse. Of course that left me with…197 cases? Hmmm, must be that new math. Although not really a numbers problem, the lack of proper communication from the corporate office to the field, like in Bob Parr’s mind, just doesn’t add up.

Here’s another one that didn’t add up. The Sunday after the above delivery found me washing dishes after the family went to bed. This is a ritual of mine as washing the dishes has a strange calming effect on this horrible sleeper. Whatever helps, right? But the night in question was perplexing and perhaps contributed to that night’s lack of sleep. You see, I am married and have five children. New math, old math, either way that means there are seven of us living in the house right now. Even though a family of seven generates a fair amount of dishes to cleanse, that night I washed twenty, count ’em, TWENTY cups! Okay, two were removed from the fridge – one an old cup with lemonade gone a little sour and the other one of my 14-year-old’s smoothies which turned into a penicillin cultivation project – but that still leaves eighteen. Once again, something just doesn’t add up.

I was fully prepared to write that last week, but then our central air conditioning unit broke. As we were in the middle of a nasty heat wave and the wife is pregnant, we spent two nights in a hotel for some comfort. Yes, there are far worse fates than losing one’s air conditioning; it’s really a first world problem considering what others in harsher climates and poorer countries must deal with. So my writing was delayed.

But it was also added to. You see, most hotels have televisions, something which we don’t at our house. And Independence Day is also the day of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which was televised on ESPN2. My 14-year-old got to watch the tape-delayed presentation of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut earning his eleventh Mustard Belt by breaking his previous world record en route to consuming 74 hot dogs (and buns)! Think about that for a second, this is really a first world event. A man eats 74 hot dogs (and buns) in ten minutes in front of a crowd of 40,000 people which is later watched by who knows how many on national television. Meanwhile there is destitution and starvation in many parts of the world and hunger and starvation just down the street in any metro of this country. Hey, congrats to Joey and all the other competitors (yes, there are all sorts of “competitive eating” events) but once again, something just doesn’t add up.

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Kneed in the Groin

Fortunately this title can be misleading, even though as a father of many children such painful experiences have occurred. Instead this is a short, silly story of something that happened tonight after my wife went to bed. Although my two oldest daughters are, unfortunately, developing a similar sense of humor has their Dad I still prefer to share “Dad jokes” whenever the two younger daughters are nearby so as not to corrupt their innocence. So, I shared a favorite…

“How many knees does a person have?”

“Two,” my teenagers answered while the littler ones were preoccupied with a video.

“Well, there’s the left knee, the right knee and the hiney!”

After a brief giggle/groan hybrid the fourteen-year-old chimed in, “Some people have a weenie!”

Very good, grasshopper, I have taught you well.

Begging For Forgiveness

My brothers and I were rarely on the same page when it came to which sports franchises to root for. Growing up in the shadow of Philadelphia we were all pretty much Phillies fans, but not necessarily avid ones. When it came to the NFL my oldest was an Eagles fan and brother number two was a Cowboys fan. I was neither, although Buddy Ryan’s Eagles teams were exciting to watch. (Heck, some of the best defenses in league history and an offensive game plan of snapping the ball to Randall Cunningham and seeing what he does with it was pretty cool.) I was a Sixers fan but I don’t recall my brothers showing much enthusiasm for the NBA. As for hockey, c’mon this is America – who cares!

However, when the USFL came into being we were all in agreement – the Philadelphia Stars were the bomb! Here we found agreement and excitement about the same team once and for all. And those were good days; the Stars were the class of the league, appearing in all three championship games and winning two in the USFL’s short, three-season life. It was disappointing to see them move to Baltimore for that last season.

My oldest brother and his Philadelphia Stars cap were inseparable from the moment he placed it on his head until he graduated high school…probably even after that. He even wore that cap during curtain calls of the plays he performed in as a senior. I’m convinced he tried to get the director to add it to his character’s wardrobe. One cannot fail to notice that it was a prized possession of his.

Once, while on a family vacation through Tennessee and Kentucky, he had a moment of panic. We were driving along when he urgently asked, “Where’s my Stars cap? Where’s my Stars cap?” Upon turning around brother number two responded, “It’s on your head!” Needless to say, we’ve given him guff about this for over thirty years, even if only by sharing this story with others lately.

However, I must beg my brother’s forgiveness; for I, too, had a bone-headed moment with a prized possession.

We went for a walk yesterday morning before I had to go into work. As is her custom, my four-year-old asked me to carry her, but at forty-three years of age my arms can’t hold her for what I knew would be a long walk, so I let her climb on my back figuring this would help get my blood flowing. Mommy and the eight-year-old were pushing the boy in his stroller, and the two teenagers were taking the lead initially.

After heading down the hill we turned left. About a quarter mile (or a little more) down the road we made another left and began to ascend one of the many hills in our neighborhood. (Heck, one of the many hills in our city – there’s nary a flat yard to be found.) Shortly after making the turn, I began to look ahead at my family. There’s mommy and the eight-year-old pushing the boy in his stroller, there are the teenagers probably talking about boys…where’s the four-year-old. “Where is she? Where is she?”

“She’s on your back, Dad!” said the surprised eighteen-year-old before bursting into laughter, shortly followed by the fourteen-year-old and eight-year-old. Needless to say, giving her a piggy-back ride may have gotten my blood flowing, just apparently not to my brain. I have to give my brother credit; forgetting you’re wearing a cap which weighs only a few ounces is much less embarrassing than forgetting a forty-plus pound kid hanging on your back, especially when  BOTH of your arms are holding her up and you’re contorting your body trying to locate said forty-plus pound kid!

Actually, come to think of it, it’s even more embarrassing than that. Perhaps it wasn’t our other brother who noticed the Stars cap on his head, he may have just said, “Oh, I’m wearing it.” Yup, much more alert than I.

Well, at least the boy will not remember this little incident. And, in all likelihood, neither will the four-year-old who was the star of the whole show. Perhaps even the eight-year-old will forget. But, rest assured, my teenagers will NEVER let me forget this one.

Epitome of Random – vol. 22

  • My son likes to swing around a little toy hammer every now and then. Either that, or a spoon. So he admires Thor and the Tick. Hmmm, not sure how to take that.
  • My son took his socks off and slipped his arm out of his shirt during dinner. If he plans on being a Chippendale he better hope for Thor’s physique.
  • I saw a bumper sticker that read HATE FREE ZONE. What kind of commie would hate free zones?
  • At my last physical I was seen by a Dr. Thor. I refused to let him test my reflexes for fear of shattering my patella!
  • The boy had picked up a card of some kind near the bathroom. Mommy told him, “Give it to Daddy.” He then proceeded to walk to the toilet and drop it in. Not entirely sure how to take that.

Sister Act 2 – Minus the Whoopi

I find the similarities between my four daughters fascinating. A recent trip really showcased such similarities between the odd daughters and the even daughters (by birth order, that is…because all four are odd in their own, little way). But first, some history.

A long time ago, back when we only had two kids, our eldest was enrolled in school (this before the adventure of homeschooling). Her class held a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Mom, daughter number two and I followed along thinking it would be a great trip for all of us. We all had a good time until the end. You see, at the time the Philly zoo had a small petting zoo attached, which we went in. Here’s where a very big difference between the girls manifested itself with reckless abandon.

As soon as we entered the gate we came upon some chickens. At this time my oldest decided to climb up my back like a contestant from the old American Gladiators show competing at the wall. At first thought I assumed my child was a physics genius and was merely conducting a scientific experiment on the moment capacity of daddy’s spine, which I’m happy to report was greater than her weight at the time. I quickly came to the realization that this was not the case when she reached the top of my head and tried to continue to climb…surely a first-grade physics prodigy would understand that there was no way to overcome gravity and extend her climb beyond the highest point of contact. Her ascent was simply motivated by fear of being in the pen with live animals…the shrieking of “CHICKENS! CHICKENS! CHICKENS!” should have alerted me to the fact immediately, but as I was carrying her little sister in my arms at the time and didn’t want to drop her my focus was elsewhere. Although her older sister was chicken of the chickens, kid number two was enthralled and eager to play with them and the goats. Instead of shrieking like her sister, she simply proclaimed calmly, “I want to take that chicken home.” It was so cute at the time, but later when she began talking about being a chef perhaps it was a more utilitarian desire to save the money we had been spending on Banquet dinners.

That event stayed with me for quite some time, as almost being paralyzed by your child will do. Over a year later I went to visit my friend Brandon in prison. When you visit someone in jail you will be searched for drugs in one form or another. Years prior the guards used a modified vacuum cleaner with a filter to detect the presence of drugs, but on this visit they had switched to drug-sniffing dogs. In this case a black lab. While I sat and the guard had the dog sniff I couldn’t help but grin thinking of my girls and what their reactions would have been had they come along. My eldest would once again try to send me to a chiropractor while the younger would ask the guards if she could take the dog home.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my wife and I took the family (with four daughters and one son) to a nearby community park at the lake. The park has a beach area and roped off swimming area in the lake. It is a beautiful area surrounded by trees. Let’s see, a wooded area and a lake make a great habitat for ducks. Sure enough two mallards, one male one female, swam in the lake with the people, including my wife, son and three younger daughters (the eldest and I just sat on the beach area, not being swim fans). The roped off area of the lake and the sand of the beach area form a football shaped area roughly the size of a football field. My wife pointed out the ducks to the kids. It came as no surprise that daughter number two tried swimming up to the ducks, closely followed by daughter number four (the two even kids). Daughter number three, much like number one in the petting zoo, was much more apprehensive, keeping all swimming sisters, her mother and baby brother between herself and them ferocious water fowl! Hmmm…I don’t remember her ever listening to Emilio Estevez’s warning about ducks.

However, I was further reminded of the similarities between the odd-birth-order and even-birth-order daughters when the ducks came to the beach to complete the land portion of their lap around the park. Daughters two and four came out of the water and followed the ducks for a closer look. Daughter number three stayed in the water, still keeping mommy and baby brother between herself and the ducks. Funniest of all was hearing my eldest mutter, “uh-oh,” as the ducks started getting closer to our seating area. Not only that, but she got out of her chair and walked to the water line to increase her distance from the ducks.

Yup, two pairs of sisters, odd-numbered and even-numbered, acting in a similar way. Like I said, it’s a sister act, part two, minus the Whoopi. The whoopie was behind the scenes…that’s why we have five kids.

A Slice of America

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opening just down the street from my house. The shopping center prior was completely run down: a shuttered pharmacy here, a closed laundromat there, more empty buildings than I care to remember and the “corporate headquarters” of a company whose potential business partners probably walked away if they judged by the outward appearance of the place. The whole area was unattractive and pretty much unproductive. It needed a makeover, and the presence of the market had the potential to provide the boost.

If you’re unfamiliar with a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, it’s just the juggernaut’s version of a supermarket. It’s been convenient to have one so close, walking distance in fact. And a friend and I have been curious to see what else opens at the center. Even as the supermarket was being build we’d check the site plans and debate over what businesses the other proposed buildings would house. Well, there are more plots available, but two other new businesses have opened thus far…

A three-story storage unit and a car wash.

Yup, exciting – a little slice of America in our own back yard.

America’s love affair with the automobile has been long known. Ours is a car-centered culture. The citizens of the good old USA use their four-wheel friends for more out-of-house trips than any other industrialized nation; over eighty percent if memory serves from my readings. (I think powerhouse Germany ranked second with just at sixty.) Some European countries actually utilize the car less than other forms of transportation – I think the Dutch go by bike more than car, once again if memory serves. So, a car wash may not be such a big shocker.

But a three-story storage facility? Our countryside is littered with the darn things. Sure, the wife and I used one for a few months between living arrangements, but there are thousands of them out there. Why? Because another thing America is famous for is the accumulation of stuff! George Carlin had a great routine about that, saying a house is just a “big pile of stuff with a roof on top.”

That’s true, but why do we need extra space for our stuff? Depending on which sources you trust, the average house size has almost doubled over the past fifty years. You don’t have enough space for all your stuff in a house twice as big as your parents or grandparents? Not only that, but families are about twenty-five percent smaller so you should have even more room for stuff without kids.

It would make a lot more sense for the need to store more stuff if families were having more kids. After all, there’s more space in which to make kids in these bigger and bigger houses…not to mention the cars (come on, we all know what happens at make out point).

Of course, that’s probably what the car washes are for.

I’m hoping for a restaurant at my new shopping center, even if it’s just a simple fast-food joint. Maybe a bank, a gym, a mom and pop bookstore, or something other than just that little slice of America of a car wash, a storage place and the ever-present Wal-Mart name!

Overheard at Work

A few years back my employer held an all-hands meeting to discuss, …um, I can’t remember. Probably some corporate crud. One of the few things I remember from it was our store manager asking all employees to write down names of people who make work fun. I was one of three lucky winners. It felt pretty cool to be recognized by my peers, even if only for my overall goofiness. However, I’ve come to the realization that most people aren’t really entertained by me, but instead by listening to me talk on the phone to my family. I do this almost every day at work on my lunch break, and lately lots of co-workers have mentioned the enjoyment they get out of this. So, below is not exactly what people have heard any particular time at work, but I’d say a fair approximation of what it’s like to listen to me on the phone with the family.

(Eight-year-old answers phone)

“Hi, kiddo. How are you?”

“Awesome. Are you doing all of your schoolwork?”

“Well, make sure you get it all done. What else is going on today?”

“Sure, Red (imaginary friend) can come over to play.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Oh-No (imaginary husband) is in California, you must miss him.”

“Sure, Casper (imaginary friendly ghost) can sleep over. I love you.”

(Puts thirteen-year-old sister on phone)

“Hi, sweets. How’s it going?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon after unless I have to go shopping.”

“No, I’m not getting you a croissant today. How about we look up some croissant recipes, you’re a great cook.”

“I know you like the store-bought kind, but I can’t buy one every time. Maybe if you ate your vegetables I’d get them more often.”

“Yeah, I was a picky eater, too. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

(Hands phone off to seventeen-year-old sister)

“Hey, boo. How’s school?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon afterwards unless I go shopping.”

“I already have your tomato sauce in the cabinet.”

“We just made mac-n-cheese, I’ll get more cheddar next week.”

“No, I can’t bring Corey (Fogelmanis), he’s not here.”

“That meet-and-greet is six states away, but if he comes to town I’ll try to take you there.”

“No I can’t take off work and drive you there to see Corey. It costs money and you don’t have it.”

“Okay, I love you. Hold the phone up to your brother’s ear and let me say hi.”

(Holds phone up to seventeen-month-old)

“Hi, big boy. How are you? Daddy loves you. Can you say, ‘Daddy’?”

“No, not covfefe, Daddy!”

“I love you.”

(Big sister gets back on.)

“Okay, put the little girl on. I love you.”

(Four-year-old takes the phone.)

“Hi jewels, I love you.”

“You’re so sweet. Are you doing school?”

“Awesome. I’m very proud of you.”

“No, I’m not buying a cat.”

“Mommy’s allergic to cats.”

“You don’t want Mommy to sneeze, do you?”

“Well, I don’t want Mommy to sneeze!”

“Just play with your toy cats. Play with Marie and Scatts.”

“I love you, too, big girl.”

(Mommy takes the phone.)

“Hi, sweetie. How are you holding up?”

“I get off at (insert clock-out time here). I’ll call before I leave in case you need me to buy anything.”

“Hang in there, sweetie. I love you.”

There, that – in a nutshell – is what it’s like to listen in on one of my break time phone calls to the family. I hope I’ve offered you as much entertainment as my co-workers.