Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Fourth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

I really don’t mean to keep taking up so much of your time writing you these letters, since I know you are very busy this time of year taking and printing all those pictures no one ordered. But, since you took the time to once again capture the essence of what my three boys look like on a day when we weren’t planning to have them photographed, I thought I would give you my thoughts on this year’s “spring pictures.”

Fall pictures are a head shot, which is helpful, since at no time is it possible to keep an entire boy clean. While it would be a lot easier if the photos were of the middle of their back – the spot that tends to stay the cleanest on a young boy – I understand the importance of taking a picture of the actual face. We do what we can do, and hope for the best.

With the spring pictures, on the other hand, you went with the full-body sitting position shot. That is problematic. Now again, I don’t mean to keep harping on this point, but you took pictures of my boys even though I didn’t order any, and then you spent your time and money printing them out on photo paper and plastic trinkets, and then spent even more of your time and money delivering them to me. Since you did that, I’d like to take some of my time and some more of yours highlighting why it is really silly for you to do that.

Let’s get back to the full-body sitting position shot. I assume you have your copies of the pictures in front of you. If you will notice, all three of my boys are wearing T-shirts and soccer shorts. I think that should have been your first clue that we really meant to not order pictures. Actually, your first clue should have been that none of my kids were holding an order form, but I think I’ve beaten that one to death. Nevertheless, their casual outfits definitely should have been the clue to not go for the full-body shot.

Also, as I highlighted in my last letter, the art project chalk and glue incident that I was responsible for in Son Number Two’s class prior to pictures that day was very evident on Number Two’s shirt. And arms. And hair. And face. I think that probably should have been another obvious clue to narrow the picture area down as small as possible. Maybe an artsy shot of just his forehead and eyes?

Again, very sorry about all the chalk and glue on all those kids. That was just bad timing.

Besides my multi-colored third-grader, let’s talk about the other two for a minute. I think I told you last year in my first letter that we let our children dress themselves on normal days. If I didn’t mention that, I think it’s fairly obvious based on these pictures. Did your photographer really look at Son Number Three’s outfit and think to him or herself, “Yes. This child’s parents definitely dressed him for picture day.”?

Grab one of those highly-useful plastic rulers you printed out for me that starts at 3/8” and goes to 5-5/8” and check out that awesome picture on the front. That smiling young lad is wearing a T-shirt featuring a bear in full road leathers and gloves, riding a green motorcycle in front of a U.S. flag shaped like an outline of the United States. Where the hell did we even get that shirt?

Now, I realize that in some parts of the country that would be considered “picture day attire,” but this is not Arkansas.

The stylish red-on-maroon outfit anchored by the grass-stained Adidas sweatshirt on Son Number One also makes quite a statement. The statement is, “My parents don’t need or want you to take my picture today, and they certainly don’t need you to then print and send them the pictures they didn’t want in the first place. And by the way, what the hell is going on with the plastic rulers? What am I supposed to be measuring with this? If I bother to get out a ruler, it’s almost certainly because I want to know how long something is, which this ruler will not help with in the slightest.”

Who knew an outfit could say so much? But there it is.

I see you’re going a new route with the backgrounds this year. Last year the big special effect was a shimmering frosty edge to the pictures, but this year you went all green screen on us. I see my three boys have been magically transported to four different wonderlands in this unsolicited picture extravaganza you sent me; Pleasant grassy meadow, nice old barn, peaceful riverbank, and mysterious wooded trail.

The only problem I can see with this new approach is that in each scene they are perched on the same fake plastic rock that in all honestly, looks like a giant cow pie. As you can see, since it wasn’t picture day for our family, despite the fact that it was picture day for you, they wore shorts. (As also stated above in possible large clues that you didn’t need to take their pictures at all, let alone send them to me.) Anyhow, the jaunty cow pie pose really shows off their knees and shins, effectively cataloging about sixty-four separate bruises and scrapes between the three of them, in various stages of freshness and healing.

Not awesome.

The thing that really gets me about these spring pictures you sent me for no reason is the smiles. I mentioned our sons’ Forced Smile Disorders in previous letters. I think it’s funny, but it has plagued my wife for years. We have needed retakes for every fall school picture since the very first one, yet somehow, during this unsolicited spring picture session, you managed to get two of our three boys to smile naturally. How is that possible? Maybe they thought it was funny that you told them to sit on a giant turd? Who knows?

(By the way, I don’t blame you for Son Number One’s smile. It has become clear to us that nothing can be done about it. He has looked like a severely constipated serial killer in every posed picture ever taken of him. Don’t beat yourselves up.)

That’s about it for my thoughts on this year’s fantastic picture packets that I will neither be purchasing nor returning. I do have one new suggestion for you that should cut down on your overall budget, if that is something you’d be interested in:

Maybe instead of spending all this manpower on unwanted pictures in the spring, you could just take a few extra seconds in the fall to try and get a natural smile out of the boys. Maybe tell them a joke about giant turds. They think those are hilarious.

Just a suggestion.

Again, very sorry about the whole chalk and glue incident,

All my best,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Have Plunger, Will Educate

There are a lot of things they don’t tell you before you have kids of your own. That’s because “they” are your parents and they want to become grandparents, and they know that won’t happen if they tell you everything.

Last year at almost this exact date I wrote about one of my sons (who shall remain nameless in this, to keep his future dating prospects alive) and his questionable toilet-using skills. At the time last year I was concerned about our water bill, because I sat on the couch one night and counted his flushes. I intervened after flush number twenty-six (I am not making that up) and questioned him on why he felt the need simultaneously deplete my wallet of money while depleting the state of California of one of its most precious and currently scarce resources; my TV time. No… water.

His answer was that he was trying not to clog the toilet by going with the wipe/flush/wipe/flush/wipe/flush technique. My next question was the very obvious, “You mean to tell me you have wiped your butt twenty-six times?”

Forget the water bill; my toilet paper bill just eclipsed the mortgage. It was then that I told him we would obviously need to go over wiping techniques, but we’d take care of that in the morning.

Apparently I forgot to follow up on that whole toilet paper usage/wiping technique conversation, because it’s a year later and I’ve been getting a lot of, “Dad, the toilet’s clogged again,” this past month. It’s been happening so much I thought about starting to keep my plunger in a holster on my hip, but that would be gross. And it would make it harder to get in and out of the car.

The other day when I was responding to a clog the situation became a little clearer. There, floating in the bowl, was what can only be described as a giant toilet paper ball. My bathroom-challenged son has apparently been taking a tremendous amount of paper off the roll for each wipe, and rolling it up in a tight sphere the size of a regulation baseball, much like you would do if you were wrapping twine into a ball, only presumably a lot more comfortable to wipe your butt with.

I worked my plunger magic and then went to talk with him.

“Dude, you’ve got to stop making balls out of the toilet paper by wrapping it around itself a hundred times. That’s what’s clogging the toilet. Just take a little off the roll and wad it up.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean what do I mean?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Just wad it up. It makes the same shape, but uses a lot less paper.”
“I’ve always wrapped it. Mommy told me to wrap it all the way around my hand, but I don’t get that, either. That’s just weird.”
“You’re right, that is weird. Don’t do that. Just wad it up instead.”
“I don’t get it.”
(sigh) “OK, I’ll show you next time.”
“Next time you poop?”
“No. Next time you poop. I’m not the one clogging up the toilet.”

It never occurred to me to have any formal toilet paper training sessions. I was just assuming they were paying attention when we were wiping their butts for them at the start of potty training. I mean, come on, it’s right there in the name, kid. Potty training. Pay attention.

Maybe we should have the whole family attend the new training session. That way mommy can be there to explain this wrap it around your hand thing. That seems problematic at best.

Proper butt wiping technique seminars and differing viewpoint discussion panels - this is the kind of thing “they” don’t tell you before you have kids. In retrospect, it was wise of the grandparents to omit the “crying baby throwing up on you at two in the morning” thing, and the “non-crying seven-year-old throwing up on you at two in the afternoon” thing. We may never have had kids. But I wish they would have mentioned this. I could have saved thousands of dollars on water and toilet paper.

I wonder what else they left out?

Excuse me; I have to go call my mom.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Third Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

I wrote you two previous letters back in March of last year, and I’m not totally sure if your corporate office got them or not. The gist of both letters was this:

You guys show up at my sons’ elementary school in September every year to take school pictures, which is great. Thanks for doing that. Then, for some reason, you also show up again in February, which, if my calendar is correct, is only five months later. I never order any of the “spring pictures,” but for reasons known only to your marketing department, you guys take pictures of my kids anyway.

Then, apparently to really sweeten the deal for me, the guy who didn’t want spring pictures at all, you print those unwanted pictures out on everything from regular picture paper to laminated plastic keychain fobs and send them to me. Between my three boys, they bring home thirty-five pounds of unwanted photos and photo-emblazoned useless plastic trinkets in March, showing them in T-shirts and uncombed hair.

The reason for the letters was not necessarily to question your strange business model of sending folks stuff they didn’t ask for. It was to explain to you why I wouldn’t be sending the photos back. Short answer: If I want to keep them, I’ll gladly pay you for them. If I don’t want them, I’ll get rid of them myself. I trust myself to do it correctly more than I trust you (no offense intended), and I won’t waste the school’s time recollecting them for you. I have a perfectly good shredder here at home.

So that was the main focus of the first two letters, but like I said, I never heard back from anyone at headquarters. I did receive a rather emotional email from one of your photographers in some other state, explaining to me all the good reasons why you send me pictures I don’t order and why I am legally required to send them back if I don’t want them.

I was kind enough to take some time out of my day to respond to her and explain exactly what “legally required” actually means and why, as such, I was not required - legally or otherwise - to spend half a second of my time returning something I didn’t order in the first place.

Since I am a really nice guy, I also didn’t forward her ridiculous email on to you. She took it upon herself to speak on behalf of your company when she obviously had neither the authority nor the actual ability to do so, but I didn’t want her to lose her job just because she was a little na├»ve. She was obviously passionate about her work, and we need more of that these days, not less.

Anyhow, I didn’t really need a response from you, but I did want to write to you again today just to give you a heads-up and to apologize.

I sort of accidentally sabotaged this year’s spring pictures yesterday. Just for Son Number Two’s class, mind you, and not the whole school, so there is that, but the bottom line is you’re going to get a lot more retake requests this year.


I want you to know that I harbor no ill-feelings toward your company. While I am truly baffled by the amount of money you choose to spend trying to get me to buy pictures of my children with mustard stains on their shirts, it is your money. This is America. You can blow your money however you want. I like freedom, so I’m cool with that. My thwarting of picture day was purely unintentional, I assure you.

If I may explain… I serve as the art docent for Son Number Two’s third grade class. Once a month I go to their class and pretend that I know something about art. (Me posing as an authority on art is hilarious, believe me, but I have managed to fool the children. I prefer to think of it as “necessary staged confidence” instead of “lying and ad-libbing.”)

Anyway, back in September I scheduled out the entire year’s art lessons with Son Number Two’s teacher, so March 17th had been on the calendar for months. Unfortunately for you and any of the parents who actually planned on buying spring pictures this year, it also happened to be picture day.

I, of course, was not aware it was picture day. I mean, I got your flyer back in January, but I never bothered to add the date to our calendar, because I believe one picture of my children’s painful forced smiles is enough for a school year.

Well, the scheduling conflict wouldn’t have been so bad, except this art lesson happened to be with chalk pastels. In case you are not familiar with the use of chalk pastels on construction paper, it involves a lot of hand-rubbing to mix the color palette to achieve rich, vibrant, lifelike tones. (Sounds like I know what I’m talking about, right?)

So basically, I took a classroom full of kids - one of whom actually stayed in at recess earlier that day so her dress wouldn’t get dirty – and gave them each their own tray of what is basically high-quality playground chalk. Then I told them to draw a horse and a full background, filling the 9x12 page with rich, vibrant, lifelike hand-rubbed tones.

This all happened before they got called to go get their pictures taken.

I’m not going to lie to you. It wasn’t pretty. Every kid ended up with chalk on them. There was chalk in their hair, chalk on their faces, chalk on and in their ears. One kid even ended up with green chalk all over his neck. I’m not sure if he was rubbing his own neck or if one of his classmates was trying to choke him, but there it was.

And their clothes… Apparently kids rub their hands on their clothes quite a bit. I thought that was only at meal time, but I guess not.

Now, all the chalk might not have been so bad, except the second part of the lesson involved Elmer’s glue.

Again, back to the rubbing of the face and clothes and hair… any chalk that may have been able to be washed off was eventually just glued in place.

Have you ever seen pictures of people after one of those color run events, where you show up in white clothes and run a 5K while people throw colored chalk dust at you?

It was a lot like that… only worse… you know… because of the glue.

So, yeah… sorry about that.

On the bright side, the horse pictures turned out great. Maybe the parents will just send those to the grandparents instead of the Lifetouch school portraits this spring.

Again, very sorry.



Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Hospital Agreement

I drove a good friend of mine to the hospital yesterday for a minor medical procedure that required me to hang around and drive him home. (For those of you under thirty, "minor medical procedures" for us over-forty crowd can be anything from a hernia to a heart bypass.) I will spare you the details, but my friend was having a procedure that involves sticking scopes and tools up an opening that is normally devoted to one-way operations. You don't want to know any more, and neither do I.

When we arrived, the admittance nurse had him sign a Hospital Conditions of Admission form, and then she very thoughtfully told him to give me his wallet. I guess we know who’s buying me lunch! After he had been whisked through the big swinging double doors, I sat down and assessed my cash situation in his wallet. Not bad. Then I actually read the form he had just signed.

1. Consent to Medical Care
The undersigned hereby consents to the procedures that may be performed during this hospitalization, including emergency services, which may include but are not limited to laboratory procedures, X-ray examinations, nursing care, medical or surgical treatment or procedures, anesthesia, or other hospital services rendered under the general and special instructions of my physicians.

This first one seems a little silly. We wouldn’t have driven here if he didn’t consent to medical care. And I would hope that the procedures performed here today include medical and nursing care. This is a hospital, after all. We didn't come here to get the oil changed in his car. (At least, not literally.) I think for his sake he is really hoping today's procedures involve the anesthesia you mentioned, also.

2. Educational Consent
The hospital is an educational facility participating in the training of physicians, medical students, student nurses, and other health care personnel, and they may participate in the patient's care to the extent deemed appropriate by the Medical Staff or hospital personnel.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! I understand that people need to learn their jobs, but why does this say "Medical Staff" and "hospital personnel," and not "doctors." If Skippy the freshman med student is going to be operating any tools near or in me, it damn-well better have been a doctor that OK'd it, and not just "hospital personnel." It’s not OK for Janet in human resources to send Skippy down the hall to the O.R. to practice whatever he wants.

3. Personal Valuables
It is understood and agreed that the hospital maintains a fireproof safe for the safekeeping of money and valuables, and the hospital staff shall not be liable for the loss or damage to any money, jewelry, glasses, dentures, documents, furs, or other articles of unusual value and small size unless placed in the safe.

So unless I put my dentures and fur coats in the safe, you guys are just washing your hands of the whole thing, huh? And I'm not sure I fully understand your lawyerish here with "other articles of unusual value and small size..." So if I have something that is crazy-expensive and really big, like my life-size cashmere inflatable elephant, or something small that is expensive but of standard price, such as a diamond-encrusted Rolex with Brazilian platypus-leather band that I bought at market value, you're saying you ARE liable for that?

4. Discharge Agreement
Hospital Discharge Hour is 11 A.M. In order to permit the hospital to properly prepare the bed and room for another patient, the undersigned agrees that the patient will vacate the room by the Discharge Hour.

Did your lawyer used to work for Marriott or Hilton? I didn't realize hospitals had check-out times. I always assumed they just told you to leave whenever you were better. What if 11 A.M. rolls around and he’s not out of the O.R. yet? What if they don’t finish until 2 P.M.? Can we get an extended checkout, or will he be charged for another night’s stay? What about the complimentary continental breakfast? More importantly, is there a minibar?

5. Consent to Photos
I consent to the taking of photographs, videotapes, digital or other images of my medical or surgical condition or treatment, and the use of images, for purposes of my diagnosis or treatment or for the hospital's operations, including peer review and education or training programs.

Yeah, right... "peer review." Don't you mean, “the surgeon's Instagram account?” And you can't fool me with "education and training." Let's call it what it really is: The surgery blooper reel at the hospital Christmas party. All I can say is, I'd better not see anything end up on the hospital's Facebook page.

6. Consent to Telehealth
I consent to the use of telehealth for the delivery of health care services. Telehealth includes telemedicine, and involves the use of audio, video, or other electronic communications to interact with you, consult with health care providers, and/or review your medical information for the purposes of diagnosis, therapy, follow-up, and/or education.

Was this written in 1952? Are you planning on interfacing with me via telex or possibly that new-fangled invention, the fax machine? Will you send my diagnosis and/or therapy over the telegraph wires? Should I head down to the Western Union office when I'm discharged and await your electrical correspondence? I'm thinking here in 2015 we can probably update number six to read: “We will email you.”

I stopped reading after that, because my brain was starting to ache. Items seven through ten could have included a release to sell his vital organs on the black market, or an agreement to be liable for the surgeon's ex-wife's Visa bill. I just didn't care anymore.

There are probably a number of good reasons why signing that document might not be advisable, but his biggest mistake of the day, by far, was handing me his wallet. That steak and lobster combo I had for lunch was phenomenal. I hope they gave him enough anesthesia for me to drop him off at home before he thinks to check his wallet.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The DMV Again

Cascading tidal waves of dread washed over me, growing more powerful with each mile as I hurtled toward my doom… OK, that’s a bit much, but still… I was not looking forward to my destination. I was going to the DMV.

Like any American with a pulse and an IQ above room temperature, I avoid the DMV like the plague. Literally, I think if there is another outbreak of the plague, it will start at the DMV. Have you seen some of the people in line? Seriously.

But, alas, I had to take care of something that could not be handled through the mail. The last time I was forced by bureaucracy and bad luck to go to the DMV, I made an appointment. Appointments are really the way to go. Last time, I was in and out of the building in eleven minutes, and luckily, plague-free.

This time I could not make an appointment. This time I just needed to go and get it over with if it took all day. This time I would have to sit in the plague section and wait with the masses. This time was going to suck. I just knew it.

The DMV office opens at 8:00 A.M., but the school won’t let me drop the kids off any earlier than 7:30. Something about not having anyone ready to supervise them, blah, blah. At 7:30:01 I sped past all the idling cars to the front of the drop-off line, shoved the boys out of the car, threw their backpacks out the passenger window onto the pavement, and squealed out of the parking lot. I could see one of the teachers on parking lot drop-off duty in my rearview mirror, running after my car with her hands in the air shouting something. Probably, “Good luck at the DMV!” or something like that. A few of the parents parked in the drop-off lane gave me the good luck thumbs-up. At least, I think they were thumbs…

Who cares, I’m late.

With a string of broken and fractured traffic laws behind me, I wheeled into the DMV parking lot at 7:55 A.M. There were already twenty-two people standing in a line that stretched from the door all the way across the lot. Just for a split second I contemplated stepping on the gas and removing the back half of the line, but decided against it. I just parked instead.

The first guy in line up by the glass doors has a sleeping bag. He's a pro. Or homeless and just needs to use the restroom. Maybe there’s only twenty-one people in front of me?

I reluctantly take my place in line as plague victim number twenty-three.
More people arrive every minute.
The guy two people behind me is very chatty. It’s almost as if he doesn’t mind being here. He is obviously deranged.
In very un-DMV fashion, the doors open promptly at 8:00 A.M.
The line surges forward three feet.
We wait.
Chatty guy is a personal trainer. He’s excited about fitness and all things fitness-related. If that’s the case, why would he come to ground zero for the plague?
I am finally at the glass doors.
I make it to the front desk at 8:10 A.M. and get my number.
I am number B012.
Twelve. OK, twelve is not bad.
I sit down in the least plague-looking seat I can find.
Personal trainer guy is questioning people on what gym they go to. He is looking for new clients. Does he not know this is the DMV? Look around, dude. Most of these folks look like they can’t even spell gym. Or Jim. Or DMV. I don’t think “get a personal trainer” is high on their to-do list.
They are now serving G002.
I am B012. What does that mean?
I am momentarily distracted from my number confusion by the signs attached to the counter. All of them are missing letters. One says, “Please ot leai children unattended.” There is also “lease do e c ildren on counter,” and “as do o hld e ate d.”
That last one looks more like an eye chart now than a sign.
They are now serving B006 at Window 11. OK, I think that's good, we’re in the B numbers again. Although I don't really know how many people are between B006 and B012 with this system.
Personal trainer guy has found someone who has an actual gym membership.
We are now on B008. Excellent.
I need to use the restroom. Not excellent. I am scared to leave the lobby and miss my turn. I am also scared of the bathroom at the DMV, or Plague Central, as it’s probably known. I will hold it.
They just called another G number. What does that mean?
Personal trainer guy is explaining to gym membership guy that he doesn’t have any actual clients yet, but he does train his little brother. Hmm… I worked out with a family member once, too, but I never called myself a personal trainer.
They just called A001. What does that mean!? We went from G’s to A’s? I’m a B. How many people are in front of me? Are there people who were left over from yesterday that slept here in the chairs? That guy over there looks like he might have.
B009. OK, good. I think.
Family fitness guy is still working the room. He’s just begging for the plague. He still doesn’t have any clients besides his brother.
B010. OK, we’re staying in the B’s. This is good.
I really need to pee.
B011. Sweet, I’m next.
G008. Dammit!
Someone behind me just coughed. Plague alert! I’m moving.
A004. How in the hell does this number system wor…
That’s me!
Reporting to Window 7!
Here’s my forms. Here’s my check. Everything is in order. Boom! Three minutes at Window 7 and I’m outta here!

A mere twenty-eight minutes after the doors had opened, I walked out of the DMV plague-free (to the best of my knowledge), and with a solid lead on a new personal trainer with a very positive outlook on life.

Maybe the DMV isn’t so bad these days?

Well… let’s not get carried away.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The internet is a wonderful invention. I’m not sure how three hundred million people all watched the same cat video within a day of each other before the internet was invented, but thank God we can do that today. Seriously, today. There’s another one. Why are you reading this? Wait… just kidding. Come back.

While watching hilarious lip-synced parody music videos, sharing cell phone videos of people dumping ice water on their heads, and posting pictures of your lunch are all very important, the single greatest use of the internet is obviously the ability to track your UPS package’s every single movement across the country.

It all starts with that glorious email from Amazon. “Your package has shipped!”

Sweet Lord in Heaven, thank you. That was an excruciating seventy-five minutes of waiting since I hit the “Place Your Order” button.

Sign in.
Go to “My Orders.”
Sign in again. Why? Oh, well, whatever.
There it is; there’s the beautiful picture of my merchandise. Look at it. I can’t wait to have it in my hands! And there’s the best button in the whole world; right there next to it in all its glorious yellow awesomeness: “Track Package”

I wonder how many miles it has traveled already? Oh, boy! *Click*

January 19, 2015, 7:42 am - A shipment label has been created. Tracking information will be available when the package arrives at the carrier facility.

I thought you said it shipped? You just sent me an email. It’s still sitting on your desk, isn’t it? Ship it already!!

January 19, 2015, 1:32 pm - Package has left seller facility and is in transit to carrier.

What the hell were you people doing for the last six hours? 

January 19, 2015, 1:23 pm, Chester, VA, US - Package received by carrier

Now we’re talking. You guys are finally using time travel. The trip from the seller’s facility to the carrier took negative nine seconds! Wait a second… If you guys have time travel, why can’t I just have my stuff three days ago? And when will this technology be available to the general public?
(note to self – see if Amazon sells time machines yet. Also, rent Hot Tub Time Machine again)

January 19, 2015, 1:30 pm, Chester, VA, US - Package has left the carrier facility

OK, a seven-minute turnaround is pretty good. Waaaay better than that six hours last time. But, again with the time travel question…

January 20, 2015, 12:49 pm, Louisville, KY, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

An entire day to get from Virginia to Kentucky? I just looked at a map, fellas. They touch. Did the driver have to push the truck the whole way? And what do you mean “a carrier facility?” Shouldn’t that be “the carrier facility?” Did he just push the truck into the first place he found in Louisville? Do they know where my stuff is supposed to go?

January 20, 2015, 3:31 pm, Louisville, KY, US - Package has left the carrier facility

Now it’s “the carrier facility” again. I guess he got it to the right one. Seriously, though, three hours to unload a truck that a guy could push? Seems a little weak. Is it on another broken truck? Train? Plane? Give me more information, dammit. Kentucky is a long way from California! (Come to think of it, I think both states are very happy about that.)

January 20, 2015, 10:04 pm, Mather, CA, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

Mather is an airport. OK, that means you had it on a plane. That would have been good information at 3:31 pm. I’m just sayin’. Wait a second. The time change is in our favor coming west. Why did it take nine and a half hours to fly from Kentucky to California? Was he in a WWII biplane? Did he go east and fly over Europe? It’s 10:30 pm now. Why hasn’t my package left Mather yet?

January 20, 2015, 11:28 pm, Mather, CA, US - Package has left the carrier facility

That must have been some line to taxi to the gate. Or did he have to get out and push the biplane?

January 21, 2015, 12:58 am, West Sacramento, CA, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

OK, now seriously. An hour and a half? Mather and West Sacramento are like three miles apart. Did he walk the package over? Besides being inefficient, at that time of night, in that neighborhood, that is not smart. And again with “a carrier facility?” I guess if I was walking around down there at one in the morning with a bunch of packages, I would probably duck into the first place I found, too.

January 21, 2015, 2:17 am, West Sacramento, CA, US - Package has left the carrier facility

Why are you guys even up at this hour? And more importantly, why doesn’t this say “Out for Delivery?” You’re taking it to another “facility,” aren’t you? C’mon, I’m awake, too. Just drive it over here.

January 21, 2015, 4:54 am, Rocklin, CA, US - Package arrived at a carrier facility

All right, fine. I’m in Rocklin, so I guess bringing it to “a facility” in Rocklin makes sense. I’m ready for it any time… Hello?... Hello?...

January 21, 2015, 8:21 am, Rocklin, CA, US - Out for delivery

Seriously? You’ve had it for over three hours now. You guys have just been sitting there staring at it, haven’t you? Fine, whatever. Just get it here please.

January 21, 2015, 3:34 pm, Rocklin, CA, US - Delivered

Seven hours to drive three miles!? That took almost as much time as it did for the guy to fly the biplane from Kentucky to California. It’s about damn time, is all I can tell you. I really needed this new lint roller!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Unorganized Sports

It’s that time of year again; my favorite time of year when I get to pretend to be a baseball coach. I am still waiting for the day when my boys’ league will finally realize that I have no idea what I’m doing, but for the time being I have slipped through the cracks again. I was even given a management position for Son Number Three’s team. Maybe they figured if I was busy managing, my coaches would do most of the work with the kids and I would be less apt to screw up their chances at a future in the majors. Who knows?

Who cares, I love coaching baseball. Maybe it’s because baseball is an organized sport. I have a very logical, organized brain, so baseball appeals to me. I love organization. My wife refuses to believe that, based on how I keep my desk, my files, my office, my workbench, my clothes, and just the house in general, but it’s true. She just can’t seem to grasp the subtleties of the system. Just because that three-day-old peanut butter and jelly sandwich is still on the kitchen counter does not mean that I don’t have its existence and location very neatly cataloged in my brain.

My love of organization is probably also the reason why soccer is so annoying to me. At the elementary school level, soccer is a chaotic mess. With baseball, each player has a spot they are supposed to be. In youth soccer, that rule doesn’t even seem to apply to the goalie.

My distain for soccer has been well-documented in the annals of this column, but I am amazed to report that I have recently been exposed to a “sport” that is even more unorganized than soccer. That would be parkour.

In case you are unfamiliar with parkour (pronounced “this is stupid”), it was invented by a French guy with no friends. He could not find anyone to play soccer with, so he decided to run through the neighborhood park and jump over things. He became so great at it that he gave it a nonsensical name, and now people in America are actually offering to teach your children how to jump over things for $180 per month.

My wife won a one-month free trial for Son Number Two at our local parkour shed. “Parkour complex” or “parkour arena” would probably be what the owners would like me to call it, but that is not accurate. They are basically running their parkour business in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse.

Not one to waste a free trial, my wife signed Son Number Two up for four days a week after school. I protested that we don’t even practice actual sports that much, but she kept saying, “It’s only for a month.”

The first time we set foot in the parkour palace of disappointment, my first thought was, “It’s only going to be for one minute, not one month.” The whole place looked like an advertisement for tetanus shots.

Apparently, the “sports equipment” used for parkour consists of boxes and walls and ramps made out of plywood, with metal pipes sticking out of various places. We watched as a group of parkour-ers monkey-ran past us on all fours. The floor was dirty. The employees were dirty. The parkour-ites were dirty. Everything was dirty.

Now, I don’t mean dirty like, “I was just out playing baseball or soccer and now I’m all dirty.” I mean, “I shower on a semi-monthly basis” dirty.

Across the way there were some parkour-enese moms who were obviously lifetime members at the parkour shack. Many of them had dreadlocks. They all had dirty, androgynous children with long, shaggy hair, running wild, doing parkour-ish movements.

I debated just leaving, but I knew I would be sleeping on the couch if Son Number Two turned on me and reported to his mother that we just left and got ice cream instead. So we stayed. I checked him in and told him not to touch anything. Off he went with his grimy “coach,” and off I went to find a spot to sit. The parkour hut offered a multitude of different comfortable spectator seating options, all of which were dirty. I’m a guy, so it’s pretty rare for me to look at a piece of furniture and have reservations about sitting on it, but the couches offered to me looked like something a homeless person who sleeps in a cardboard box might take a pass on.

Five minutes into the lesson, I realized that parkour instruction is basically cat burglar school. Run up a wall. Dive through a window. Swing on this pipe. Jump from this ledge to that ledge. They were basically teaching my kid how to be a second-story man. The running and jumping over things part seems to be the getaway maneuvers.

As soon as I realized that, I immediately asked myself, “If all these grimy instructors are so good at climbing up the side of buildings, why is this place such a dump? They could be running a pretty successful burglary syndicate and rolling in the dough. Slackers.”

Ten minutes into the lesson I realized that being a parkour coach does not require having an actual plan for the half-hour lesson. Basically you stand there and watch kids climb on stuff. Slackers is right!

Up until this point I had thought that soccer was the most annoying sport I would ever be involved in, but now, here was parkour; a bright new shining beacon of suck. Seeing this new level of lame, while standing next to the dirtiest couch in America trying not to get lice, led me to contemplate some sports comparisons.

Baseball in practiced and played in the bright sunshine on a green field.
Soccer is practiced and played in the bright sunshine on a green field that really should just be made into a baseball diamond.
Parkour is practiced in a dim, grimy warehouse with a questionable lease status, and played in YouTube videos of people hurting themselves.

Baseball requires special shoes called cleats.
Soccer requires special shoes that resemble baseball cleats, except they cost twice as much because they are neon and have the laces on the side where they shouldn’t be.
Parkour actually has special shoes only because people who do parkour really want to believe that it requires special shoes.

Baseball has uniforms that are spiffy.
Soccer has uniforms that double as advertisements for airlines and stereos.
Parkour has cat hair-covered sweatpants and stained V-neck T-Shirts.

Baseball teaches you patience, concentration, teamwork, and how to be a part of something larger than yourself.
Soccer teaches you how to run in a clump.
Parkour teaches you how to run from the police.

The half-hour B&E lesson mercifully ended before I could come up with any more comparisons, and I whisked Son Number Two out of the building and checked him for fleas.

When I asked him how it was, he reported that it was the most fun ever.

Hmm… I guess kids don’t really appreciate organization as much as adults do.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Inconclusive Introductions

The most uncomfortable five minutes of my life? That’s easy. That time I put my pants on backward, you might ask? Not even close...

At an unspecified time in the past, I was at a function that had an icebreaker component. The deal was you were to find someone you didn’t know and chat with them for five minutes. After that time you were in charge of introducing them to the group. Due to my position in the room, my choice of fellow attendees to interview was made for me, and I ended up with a puzzle.

Normally it would not be too difficult a task to chat with someone for a while and then introduce them to a group. It becomes very difficult all of a sudden, however, if you cannot figure out whether you are talking to a man or a woman.

I am 6’-1” tall, with a beer belly and male-pattern baldness, so I assume my counterpart had me pegged as male right away. Plus, my name is Marc. I, on the other hand, was talking with Pat. Or Chris. Or Jamie. Certainly not Jennifer or Chuck.

Everything was inconclusive. Nothing was definite.
Voice was right in the middle octaves and easily attributed to either sex. A little deep for a woman. A little effeminate for a man. Too close to call.
Clothes were loose-fitting and androgynous.
Jewelry was minimal. Subdued for a woman, far too much for a man (in my opinion), but not out of the question these days.
Tall for a woman, but not too tall. Average height for a man.
Firm hand shake. That tells me nothing.
Large hands and feet for a woman, but again, not crazy.
Slim build. No specifically-identifying bulges in any of the hemispheres.
No facial hair. Close shave or actually no facial hair? Can’t tell.
Mannerisms? Womannerisms? I can’t tell.
Eighties hair, like a cross between Bruce Jenner and Cagney and Lacey, parted in the middle, feathered and inconclusive. (Either way, man or woman, not a good look in the hair department.)
No stories using the phrases “my husband,” or “my wife,” or “I am a man,” which would have been very helpful.

It is hard for me to fully describe my extreme discomfort at this point. I am having an internal conniption fit while trying to remain calm and friendly and amicable on the outside. I am trying to carry on a normal, polite conversation, all the while searching for another metric I can observe that will answer the big question, and desperately struggling to come up with a conversation-appropriate question that could land me an answer.

“Have you ever given birth?” or “Have you had your prostate checked recently?” just wouldn’t fit comfortably into the conversation. There was no time to invite them to visit the restrooms with me, and frankly, that’s awkward either way.

I thought very seriously about pulling a Crocodile Dundee and just checking, but I didn’t really want to be removed from the event in handcuffs.

Now, in most any other situation, you really wouldn’t need to know for sure if someone was male or female, but keep in mind, I needed to introduce this person to the crowd. Pronouns had suddenly become the biggest problem in my life.

“This is Pat. They are excited to be here” just doesn’t work well.

“This is Pat. Pat loves Chinese food. Pat’s favorite Chinese place is only two blocks from Pat’s house. Pat’s hometown is Kansas City, where Pat lives with Pat’s family.”

You see my problem.

Oh, holy crap, the event host just called time and asked us to wrap up our conversations. I have gone completely brain-dead. Panic has taken over. I am sweating from the top of my head.

“Who would like to start?”

Not me, I can tell you that!

A few people volunteer. I envy each and every one of them for their easily-identifiable partner. My unclassified counterpart forces the issue and volunteers us next. We stand up and he or she introduces me to the crowd, with the luxury of confidently using “he” in the long and eloquent sentences.

It is down to the wire. My turn. The bottoms of my feet are sweating. I can’t hear anything, because my blood has become very loud for some reason in my ears, which are also sweating.

I still have absolutely no idea. I can’t just guess.

I make a last-second decision to go with a verbal bullet point format.

“This is Pat.
Hometown: Kansas City.
Favorite food: Chinese.
Favorite sports team: Royals.
Dislikes: Wind and rain.”

I fell back into my chair. Pat sat back down, looking at me with an expression that suggested he or she thought I might have shortchanged their introduction. I didn’t care. Wave after wave of pure unadulterated relief washed over me. I had made it through the last five minutes of my life and lived to tell the tale.

Sure, I sounded like a category-five tool, but at least I avoided being “the guy who thought that nice lady was a dude.”

A word to the wise – If you ever end up at a function that has an introduction icebreaker activity… just leave.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

About the Author, 2015

Here at Just a Smidge, we continue to gain new readership each year. This last year alone we have documented as many as two new readers. So, for both of you just joining us, welcome! We like to start each New Year here with a little meet and greet.

I am the 42-year-old husband of one and father of three, living in the beautiful, albeit extremely parched, northern California hamlet of Rocklin. If you have any water, please send it to us. Seriously. Anyway, I am the lone staff writer here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with hobby.

My amazing, wonderful, loving, caring, trustworthy, adorable, extremely intelligent, smokin’ hot wife teaches school all day so that I can stay home and take naps and type. Speaking of that, I should really learn to type. My beautiful, fantastic, perfect-in-every-way wife and I have been blessed with three boys. They have in turn blessed us with a marked lack of sleep and an ever-dwindling amount of patience. They are known around here as Sons Number One, Two, and Three, and we’ve been calling them that for so long now we don’t actually remember their real names. I don’t consider that to be a huge problem, however, since we know what they look like.

They are currently in fourth, third, and first grade respectively, and if they do not attend school respectively, they will be consigned to the doghouse. We don’t actually have a dog, so if they ever get out of line I usually just put them in the dryer until my wife gets home. Just kidding. Sorta.

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me:

1) I am in amazing shape for 42 years old, and actually left my job as a male supermodel to do this writing thing.

2) My grandpa killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most important thing anyone in my family has done. We are high achievers.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I inherited this trait from my grandmother. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club.

4) I am related to a U.S. president, but I forget which one. I think it's either Grover Cleveland or Woodrow Wilson. I don't care. I would only be excited if it was Teddy Roosevelt, and it isn't.

5) My favorite movie is a three-way tie between Romancing the Stone, Fletch, and Caddyshack. This should tell you a lot about me.

6) Until I was in my teens, I thought that coffee really would stunt your growth, and that drinking alcohol made your beard grow faster, because in the movies, when guys woke up with a hangover, they always had a five o’clock shadow. I wasn’t too bright as a kid.

7) Now that I have kids, I cry at “proud parent” moments in movies. I think this is because based on my children’s behavioral history, I may never have any of my own.

8) I am slightly over six feet tall, I weigh “just over” 200 pounds, and I have the bladder capacity of a four-year-old.

9) My two favorite flavors are slightly burnt pepperoni and toasted sesame seeds.

10) I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. I could not swim more than 100 yards today without needing a floatation device and a defibrillator.

11) I love bacon. See number 10.

12) I quit my day job in 2013 to become a professional writer. So far, I have only managed to become an amateur homemaker, but I hope to get this column syndicated, so if you know somebody, please introduce us. Bacon is expensive.

13) I constantly get my left and right mixed up. This makes driving directions with my wife fun.

14) My favorite joke of all time is:
A guy walks into the psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but underwear made out of Saran wrap. The psychiatrist looks at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts." This should also tell you a lot about me.

15) I like writing dialogue.
“You do?” they asked in unison.
“Yes. I do,” he said solemnly.

16) I love most foods (see number 10), but I have a deep, abiding hatred for cantaloupe. If bacon is a 10, cantaloupe is a negative 3000.

17) I love to travel and I love to stay home. But I don’t want an RV. Go figure.

18) My absolute favorite thing that has ever happened on this earth – and I am including my marriage and the birth of my children – was when the Oregon State Highway Division tried to disintegrate a dead whale with a half-ton of dynamite in 1970. (Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.”)

19) My favorite thing ever said on television – and I am including anything ever uttered on The Newlywed Game – came from KATU Channel 2 newsman Paul Linnman in 1970 after the whale dynamite was detonated. When large chunks of whale rained down on people and cars over a quarter-mile away, Paul noted, completely deadpan, “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”

20) My wife is still laughing right now about number 1.

So there you have it, folks. You now know everything you need to know about me. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Parental Guidance Suggested

My wife and I are experiencing some parenting challenges lately. Not the standard kind of challenges involving the kids being unruly, but the really annoying kind where we are finding out we just suck at parenting. We try to be good parents, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Our recent problems have all involved movies and their ratings, however, so I think Hollywood might really be to blame.

It started a few months ago when we had a family movie night, and my wife found a copy of Gremlins buried deep in the stack of movies we had forgotten we owned. The case said it was rated PG, and it had been a really long time since either of us had seen it. Our recollections of the plot were the same; the gremlins are cute until you get them wet or feed them after midnight, then they multiply and/or turn naughty and cause harmless mischief.

I guess my wife and I had both blocked out the traumatic experiences of our youth when our parents accidentally let us watch Gremlins, too. We had forgotten that the “naughty” gremlins were a little more than naughty. They actually killed people. We had also forgotten that the mom killed four of them using a fireplace, a knife, a microwave, and a juicer.

We shut it off right after the juicer, but the damage was done. Two of the boys hid all their stuffed animals in the garage and had bad dreams for a week, and the third one spent that week begging us to let him watch the rest of the movie. One of our boys is a little off.
Fast forward a few months, and it appears we have not totally learned our lesson. I just finished reading The Hobbit to the boys, and Son Number Two just finished reading the first book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Cool, we thought. We can get them The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies for Christmas. That was the extent of the planning. Three minutes later they were on order with Amazon Prime. They arrived two days later and were promptly hidden away until it was time to wrap them.

“Time to wrap these movies. Were these going to be from us or from Santa?”
“Let’s make them from Santa, since we need more stuff from him.”

This is where we suck at parenting.

Did we read the box where it said PG-13?
Are any of our boys thirteen?
No. One of them isn’t even half of thirteen yet.

They tore the movies open on Christmas day and were thrilled by Santa’s generosity and gift-giving skills.

“Can we watch them tonight?”
Hmm, we thought, finally reading the posted ratings on the movie cases and reliving the Gremlins catastrophe one more time in our heads.
“Mommy and Daddy will watch them first to make sure they’re OK.”

We started with the first Hobbit movie. Uh, this movie has orcs. There were no orcs in the book. Not only were there no orcs in the book, but there was certainly no giant white orc with a steel hook for a hand. Gollum was creepy enough on his own without adding scary-ass hobbit-eating creatures that weren’t even in the original story. The kids won’t sleep for a month if they see this.

We tried the first LOTR movie next. More orcs, more Gollum. Forget it.

“Well, boys, we watched the movies and they are a little too scary for you right now. We’ll have to wait a little while to watch them.”

Then the question we were dreading:
“Why would Santa bring us movies that you won’t let us watch?”

What I said:
“Well, I’m not quite sure, Son. I guess he just forgot to check with us.”

What I meant:
Well, Son, sometimes Santa is drunk with Amazon Prime free two-day shipping power and just isn’t thinking straight. Sometimes, after reading a book, Santa foolishly assumes that Hollywood will stick to the actual story instead of adding a bunch of stuff to make it much, much scarier. The bottom line is that sometimes Santa just doesn’t do his homework. I blame Mrs. Claus.

In a classic case of too little, too late, a few days after Christmas I stumbled on an internet article titled “PG Movies that Probably Shouldn’t be PG.” The list included classics like Jaws, Poltergeist, and Indiana Jones, and topping the list was Gremlins.

Well that’s just great. Where were you guys a few months ago?

Like I said, I blame Hollywood.

So this year, our New Year’s resolution is to not suck so much in the parental guidance department. We don’t expect any help from Hollywood, so we’re on our own. As with all of our previous resolutions, however, we’re not going to put any measurability into it, so we expect great success.

Happy New Year, everybody. See you at the movies.


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Second Noel

My son was playing The First Noel last night on the piano. As we sat around drinking eggnog by the yule log, we did what we always do at Christmastime when our children play carols: We begged him to slow down, because my boys play everything two or three times faster than they should, like monkeys on crack.

When we finally got him to slow down to a bearable speed, we sang along.
The first Noel, the angels did something, then something and something and something else.

We don’t really know the words.

As I sat there by the warm glow of the fire, wishing we knew more of the words, I got to thinking about the one line we did know: The First Noel. And I thought, you know, we hear a lot about the first Noel, since it’s the story of Christmas. But what about the second Noel? What was Jesus like in his first year?

I didn’t have to ponder this too long, because as luck would have it, when I flipped on the TV late last night there was a breaking news story about a huge archaeological find. Biblical historians had been brought in to authenticate a small booklet, and it was just confirmed last night to be Mary’s diary from the early years. They were a little embarrassed, because it had actually been found with the Dead Sea Scrolls way back in the 1950s, but the team of (male) archaeologists thought it was a user’s manual for the scrolls, so no one bothered to read it.

Entry #1
New diary – Old one lost on road trip somewhere in the last sandstorm.
I’m nine months pregnant and wouldn’t you know it, we have to go on an umpteen million mile donkey ride to go sign our names in some city I’ve never even been to. This government is getting out of hand.

Entry #2
Oh, boy. Here we go. We’re in some little truck stop of a town called Bethlehem and my water just broke. Just what I always wanted; to have my baby at a hotel!

Entry #3
Just great. No room at the hotel. Looks like I’m going to have my baby in a barn. I am surrounded by cattle and sheep. Not optimum would be an understatement. This can't be the best place for this.

Entry #4
OK. That went well. Baby is here, and he’s awesome. I don’t just mean regular awesome, I mean the actual definition of awesome. He’s glowing. My baby rocks! We’re naming him Jesus.

Entry #5
We are still in the barn. This just can’t be the best place for a newborn. I’ve got him wrapped up in some swaddling clothes, and he’s sleeping in the manger on the cleanest hay I could find, which isn’t saying too much. He seems to like it, though, so I guess it’s cool. Strange night. We have a crazy-bright star right above the barn. It’s like a spotlight.

Entry #6
Some shepherds just stopped by. They looked a little freaked out. They wanted to meet the baby and kept saying they “heard about him from an angel.” I’m not sure what’s in the water around here, but those guys were a little off.

Entry #7
WHOA! Holy cow! And I mean Holy Cow. Seriously, I think the cows in here might be Holy now. THE ANGEL JUST SHOWED UP! No wonder those shepherd guys looked freaked. WOW. He was seriously bright. I had to ask him to tone the light down a little because I was afraid baby Jesus was going to get a sunburn. Totally crazy deal – Jesus and the angel looked at each other like they already knew each other. Freaky! I think we have a special boy on our hands here.

Entry #8
The angel left a while ago and apparently the shepherd guys did a pretty good job of getting the word out, because there’s a decent crowd outside the barn. Lots of people bringing gifts. This is pretty crazy.

Entry #9
Some little kid with a drum just showed up. Normally, I’d be like, “Uh, hey kid, if you wake up my new baby with that drum I’m going to make you eat those sticks,” but baby Jesus was loving him. He rocked a pretty good Par Rum Pa Pum Pum. I think he’s got a career in music ahead of him.

Entry #10
OK, the angel was awesome, and the drummer boy was cool, but now some kings have showed up. Kings! Three of them. I guess they came from a long way away, just to meet Jesus. This kid is famous already. I wonder if we need an agent? Anyway, the kings brought camels. Camels! What's up with that? If one of those camels spits on my kid, it's on. I don’t care if they’re kings or not. Who brings a camel to visit a newborn?

Entry #11
OK, the kings brought gifts. They were very nice men, and the camels behaved themselves. It was nice of them to bring gifts, but can I just say something? One of them brought gold. Always a great gift! But the other two brought frankincense and myrrh. Are you guys serious? Mmm, thanks for the fragrant tree resin, fellas. Do I look like I have the time to be boiling down tree sap to make my own perfume? I have a newborn in a barn here. I appreciate the thought, I really do, but some people just don’t know how to give gifts. How about a 52-count box of Huggies and some formula? Would it have killed you to drive the camels past a Target on your way in? Can’t really clean his little butt up with Myrrh now, can I fellas?

Entry #12
OK, I just re-read entry #11. I haven’t had much sleep in the last week. I think I’m getting a little cranky.

Entry #13
OK, I’m looking back over my diary here, and it looks like it has been an entire year since I wrote anything. Wow, that was a crazy week in the barn! I guess I have been a little too busy raising this boy to write anything. Sure, we now know he’s the Son of God, and that is truly awesome, but be that as it may, he is not without his challenges.

A little recap of our crazy first year:

People have seriously been visiting every day for the entire year. We had to build a turnstile and hire a security guy.

Our formula budget has been through the roof. He keeps turning his formula into wine, so we keep having to take it away from him. On the upside, we have a lot of really good quality wine!

Don’t even get me started on bath time. This is the dirtiest kid in the whole village. Have you ever tried to get the Son of God underwater if he doesn’t want to be? Let me just tell you… not easy!

Our playdates are cool, though. Anytime one of the other kids gets a bonk or an owie. Boom. Healed. We have regular playdates with a big group of boys. There are twelve of them!

Here’s the craziest thing – his poop does not stink. Seriously, never. When the other moms think I’m bragging, I make them smell it. It smells like frankincense and myrrh. Crazy!

Anyway, we just got finished up with his first birthday party. We tried to do the smash cake thing where you give them their own personal cake to eat with their hands. Instead of smashing his face into it like all the other neighborhood kids did on their first birthdays, he turned it into three thousand little individual cakes for all the people that just randomly showed up. What’s the point of sending out invitations with this kid? He certainly draws a crowd. You should see the pile of gifts!

I’ll try to write a little more regularly this year, but no guarantees. This kid is keeping us on our toes!

Merry Christmas!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!