Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'm Not Thankful for Fake Trees

I am thankful for many things. My health, my family, HDTV, microbreweries, and the list goes on and on. One thing I am not thankful for, however, is fake trees, especially around the holidays.

I’m not talking about my well-documented struggles with our Fine Corinthian Christmas Tree, although the epic battle between man and eight-foot, pre-lit, faux pine tree will commence all too soon. No, I’m talking about the fake trees that “live” in our house year-round. We have three of them; two in our living room and one in our bedroom. They are about six or seven feet tall, with about six thousand little green leaves each, made out of some sort of space-age nylon fabric that looks surprisingly like actual leaves. I have no idea why military camouflage isn’t made out of the same material.

As Mr. Mom, one of my duties besides keeping the children alive all day is cleaning the house. My wife stays involved by constantly occasionally offering helpful suggestions on what needs to be cleaned. I take her suggestions into consideration, but usually we’re not on the same page regarding the urgency of the matter.

She becomes more and more inflexible on the subject of cleanliness as the holidays approach, and she shifts to downright immobile a few weeks before Thanksgiving. We host the family for turkey week, and somehow in my wife’s mind, that translates to “we shouldn’t have any dust on anything, and the toilets shouldn’t have pee on them.” Go figure.

Last year she wanted me to start cleaning the house two weeks early. Can you imagine!? A wise person once wrote - on one of those Facebook e-postcard things - “Trying to clean a house with kids in it is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.” When I bring up those sage words of advice to my wife, she just scowls at me and hands me a rag and a bottle of some type of cleaning solution. Some people just don’t appreciate solid internet wisdom.

So I dust. And scrub. And mop. And dust some more. Which brings me to my dislike of our fake trees. Everything else that I have to dust has some kind of purpose. The TV brings me life-sustaining sports programing, the refrigerator keeps the microbrews cold, and the bookshelves hold all the books that make it appear to guests as if we read a lot. Even the family pictures on the walls serve a purpose. They remind us of a simpler time when the boys were younger and weren’t as annoying. A time when they didn’t bring home so much homework, or so many school projects that I have to complete.

But the fake trees do nothing except collect dust as if they were in charge of attracting it from not only our house, but the entire neighborhood.

Every fiber of my male being wants to simply take them outside and hose them off. My wife has conveniently eliminated that option by rigidly fixing them inside giant decorative, painted clay flower pots that weigh roughly eight tons each. I think she got tired of having the trees fall over onto the kids. You only have to ruin a few of those clay pots by trying to roll them across the patio before you get the message loud and clear to stop doing that. Even if I could find a way to get them outside without severely retexturing their surface, the base inside the pot is covered with about five cubic yards of moss. I can’t tell if it’s fake moss or real moss, but either way, trying to get it out of the way would create a larger mess than the one I’m trying to clean in the first place.

So, I am simply stuck trying to clean the trees in place.

If our house looked like I always wanted it to, this would not be a problem. I would simply hose the trees down in place, because the walls and floors of our home would be stainless steel, and there would be a drain in the middle of every room. My wife insisted on plastered, painted walls and carpet, however, “just like all the other normal people have,” so here we are. Dust rag in hand, cleaning each and every individual leaf, one at a time.

Believe me; I tried to figure out a way to avoid a leaf-by-leaf cleaning. The air compressor and the vacuum were problematic to say the least. And I thought the “shaking the tree while running the whole-house fan” method would be much more effective than it was. I did manage to shake out two Lego guys and a sock, but no dust was removed. I even tried attaching the dust rag to my grout mixer bar and running it with my cordless power drill, but that just ended up twisting the little plastic tree branches up in a ball and ripping them out of the fake wood trunk. As a result, much like a real Christmas tree, one of our fake trees has a bald spot that needs to face the wall. Don’t tell my wife!

At least I learned that lesson with only one of the three trees. Actually, wait… come to think of it, we have four of them. Dammit! There’s one up in the game room that I missed. Sorry, I have to go now. I need to spend the next five hours of my life dusting individual leaves.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I really don’t understand why we can’t have drains in the floors.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Bat Rays and the Bees

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this past weekend.  We saw trained sea otters perform amazing tricks like swimming in circles and eating fish. We saw huge bluefin tuna swimming at dizzying speeds in order to eat squid. We saw swirling silver clouds of sardines and anchovies eating krill. Basically, everything was eating. Except us. We did not have a spare two hundred dollars to drop on five sandwiches and a bottled water.

I say everything was eating, but that's not entirely true. The bat rays were engaged in another kind of life-sustaining activity. We were at the petting zoo portion of the aquarium, where you can lean over the edge of the shallow pool and pet a bat ray as it swims by you. I was on one side of the exhibit with our two older boys, and my wife and Son Number Three were on the other side. Suddenly, a great commotion arose around them. Thrashing and splashing could be seen from the water in front of them, and the crowd around them erupted in a mixture of oohs and aahs and laughter. All we could see from our side was the splashing.

I half-yelled over the water to my wife, "What's going on over there?"
"Uh... They're wrestling..." (sound of adults in crowd snickering)
"Is that right?" I replied, skeptically.
"Yep. Wrestling. Silly bat rays. C'mon, son, let's go see the otters again."

Since the bat ray petting pool is geared toward kids, I would expect the aquarium to try and limit any hanky panky by the bat rays to the holding tank in the back room. In their defense, however, I would imagine it’s pretty tough to tell the males from the females, given they all look like a squashed cartoon head with wings.

Speaking of inappropriate animal behavior, do you know what else is not geared for kids? Bat orgies, that’s what. The bat ray incident reminded my wife and me of another captive animal nookie situation we encountered a few years ago. I can’t remember if we were at the zoo without our kids (which seems highly unlikely), or if we had just abandoned them to fend for themselves (which seems totally plausible), but somehow my wife and I ended up in the bat exhibit without kids. That turned out to be a good thing. A very good thing.

The crowd in the bat cave was stirred up by something. Nervous laughter, giggling, exclamations of “Oh my!” and “Honey, close your eyes!” greeted us as we made our way to the glass. Inside the bat enclosure we were treated to a sight that still haunts me to this very day. Hundreds of horny little bats were engaged in what can only be described as a Sodom and Gomorrah-type free-for-all. It didn’t seem to matter to the male bats if the freaky winged mammal they were hanging next to had compatible reproductive organs or not. Bats apparently have a “love the one you’re with” mentality.

Bats are scary enough just in general, but what we saw that day cannot be unseen. I felt like I might need therapy afterward, so I don’t even want to imagine the fallout if our kids had been with us. I can tell you that a lot of little bats babies were probably made that day, along with a lot of uncomfortable situations the next day at the bat coffee shop.

“Oh, Jim, look. It’s Dave and Marcie. Let’s go say hi.”
“No! We’re leaving, honey. Don’t make eye contact with them. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I’m just saying, zookeepers of America, a little sign or something at the door would be nice. “Warning, bat orgy season. May not be suitable for children or most adults.”

At least put a coat hanger on the bat cave doorknob to warn a guy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize nature is going to take its course. And, nowhere is that more evident than the sleepy little beach town of San Simeon, California. It is sleepy for most of the year, actually, except when the elephant seals are in town. For reasons known only to these ridiculously large sea mammals, they show up every year on the same beach to breed.

A few years ago, we were visiting the coast, and we were told by some locals, “You must go see the elephant seals. They’re amazing!”

So we went to see them. When we got there and witnessed the scene, my wife and I immediately wondered why the folks that told us to go there didn’t mention what the seals were doing there.

The seals go there to do other seals, if you know what I mean. Seeing two gigantic male elephant seals fight is pretty impressive. Seeing a gigantic male elephant seal “wrestle” with a female elephant seal is also impressive, but in a much different way. Boy, can those things wrestle!

Like the bats, they really aren’t too shy, either. The San Simeon Elephant Seal Voyeuristic Society has even erected, if I can be so bold as to use that term, a nice wooden boardwalk overlooking the breeding beach, with fun facts about the elephant seals.

“Never go near an elephant seal, especially during breeding season.” Yeah, based on what I’m seeing here, that one didn’t really need to get written down. It’s fairly obvious that I do not want to get in the middle of any of the activities I’m seeing here.

Luckily, the kids were all pretty young at the time, and the “wrestling” up on the beach was explained away, and we could fairly easily divert their attention back to the bloody tusk fights taking place out near the water.

“Why are they fighting, Daddy?”
“To see who gets to… uh…”
“To see who gets to do what?”
“Uh… to see who gets to eat all the food. They’re very hungry. Speaking of food, let’s go get some in another town.”

Son Number One is in the fourth grade now, and the boys are already coming home from school with all sorts of fun “facts” they learn on the playground. I know it’s getting close to the time when I’ll need to start having “the talk” with my boys, but I’d like to put it off for a while longer. And I’d like to have that talk on my own terms. I’m not interested in having any unplanned visual aides to explain. Bat, bat ray, or otherwise.

One thing is for sure. If we are going to keep taking the boys out to view the birds and the bees, I need to have the talk pretty soon, or “wrestling” is going to start taking on a really weird connotation for them.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Solar System Projects Include Pluto

I’m trying to figure out what I did to make our elementary school hate me. I must have wronged them in some way and they are getting back at me. That’s the only logical explanation for why they would make me do the third grade projects all over again.

This is our second year in a row with a third-grader. (I know what you’re thinking, but no, it’s not the same kid. Son Number One and Two just happen to only be a year apart in school.) Imagine my surprise when Son Number Two came home last week and announced that he had to do a solar system project.

“I already did that last year,” I said.
“Huh?” he muttered.
“All third-graders do it,” my wife said.
“You mean I have to do the same project three times!?” I asked.
“The kids are supposed to do the project, honey,” my wife answered, probably thinking she was helping.
“Are you kidding me? The kids don’t do the project. I do. I need to call the school”
“Don’t you dare,” she said.
“Huh?” muttered Son Number Two.

I thought elementary school was for kids. When we got married we talked to other people, including our parents, about the fact that we wanted to have kids, and not one of them warned me that elementary school was going to involve me so much. The endless school fundraisers are one thing, but “student projects” take things to a whole new level. The school may as well just call me up and revise my to-do list for me. Who do they think they are, my wife?

“Good morning, this is the school calling. We know you’ve got a busy week, but we’re going to need to add a few things to your plate. We’re going to need you to change the oil in both your cars. What’s that? No, not at Jiffy Lube. We’re going to need you to climb under there and do it yourself. Oh, and we also need you to paint your house, too. Yes, inside and out. And it all needs to be done by this Friday. Thanks!”

The paperwork that came home with Son Number Two regarding the solar system project was laughable. It kept referring to “the student” working on the project, and “the student’s” deadlines, etc.

Do they have any idea what a solar system mobile would look like if “the student” was solely responsible for the project? I’ll tell you, because I’ve seen it. It would look like five irregular, circle-like shapes cut from a single piece of construction paper, labeled in pencil. The planet names would all have been poorly erased and re-written two or three times, but still spelled wrong, and there would only be five of them because the student couldn’t remember the other four, so they just left them out. The abbreviated solar system planets would all be duct taped to the side of the kitchen counter, out of order, and without a sun, so not only would the student be unable to deliver the project to school without a power saw, a crowbar, and a moving van, but life on “erth” would have already been eradicated by the eternal sunless frozen winter.

Of course I have to help, and in this case, “help” is defined as “doing all the stuff.” I’m not doing everything because I’m some kind of overprotective, perfectionist parent who wants everything their child produces to be flawless. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t really care if erth is yellow and the same size as both mercery and Jupter. I’m simply trying to keep Son Number Two from damaging himself and my house, and not necessarily in that order.

Did I let my son cut the sides off a cardboard box with a razor blade? No. I think he’ll want to have all ten fingers for as long as possible.

Did I let him spray paint the cardboard box black? No. I like my cars and my house to be monochrome, without black accent stripes.

Did I let him drive himself down to Staples to find Styrofoam balls? No. My wife wouldn’t let me.

Did I let him paint the Styrofoam balls unsupervised? No. See spray paint reasoning above.

Did I let him clean up the paint and brushes? No. General paint issues already stated.

Did I let him Google “Uranus” on his own? No. I don’t have extra money for therapy.

About the only thing he did on his own was draw the stars on the inside of the black box. And I even “needed” to be a technical advisor on that so the universe looked properly infinite and didn’t end abruptly like a Hollywood movie set.

When I was done “helping” him hang the planets in the infinite shoe box-sized universe, I told him it was time to make the labels. When we came to Pluto, he protested.

“That’s not one of them, Dad. Pluto isn’t a planet anymore.”

This is my project, Son, and I’m including Pluto. Pluto was a planet when I was a kid, and I’m not willing to ignore it just because some yahoos in The Hague (as if that’s even a real place) decided it wasn’t.

I don’t really care what your elementary school says. If they’re going to make me build solar systems every year, I’m going to include Pluto. When NASA says it’s not a planet, then I’ll let it go.

If your teacher wants to take off points for including it, that’s fine with me. I already graduated third grade.

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!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An Open Letter to the Hershey Company

We are in the salad days of post-Halloween parental candy confiscation bliss. Actually, health-wise, it’s kind of the opposite of “salad” days. What the hell does that term even mean, really? Who equates good times with salad? Shouldn’t it be the “cheeseburgers and beer” days?

Anyway, back to the candy. Halloween candy confiscation day is my favorite day of the year. This year being an election year, it’s even better. That’s because every year on November 1st I teach my children about taxes.

Ok, boys, bring those pillow cases full of loot in here and pull up a chair. It’s time to pay the piper. Forty percent of your candy earnings come right off the top to go into Dad’s General Fund. After that, we need to discuss the highway taxes. You used our city streets to obtain this candy, did you not? Well, then, you’re going to have to pay to maintain them. Caramel-based candy is best for road taxes. And let’s not forget, we need to talk about property taxes. You live here “rent free” for most of the year, but today the bill comes due. A few 100 Grand bars ought to cover the base rate, but don’t forget that we need to service our bond obligations. Yes, boys, the voters approved massive bond expenditures last go-round, so I’m afraid the chocolate needs to keep coming my way. That bullet train down to Bakersfield isn’t going to pay for itself, you know.

What’s that? You don’t like it? Welcome to my world. I don’t like it when people who don’t own property get to decide how to spend my property taxes, either. The good news is, when you’re eighteen, you can vote me out of office. Or more to the point, you can vote yourself out of my house. Actually, there won’t be a vote. You’re required to leave when you’re eighteen, but you can register to vote for other stuff.

Much like me after taxes, when the reaper is finished, my boys are left with a shockingly smaller amount of candy. Then I hit them with the hammer; just because you paid taxes doesn’t mean you get to ignore your charitable obligations. We need to bag up over half of your remaining candy to send to the troops overseas.

It’s a fun lesson for me to impart. They are less than enthusiastic, but they have nothing to complain about. Unlike my bank account after taxes and giving, they still have more candy than they can eat in a month.

Just in case you thought I wasn’t serious about my “dad is the government” lesson, I also rigorously inspect and filter the candy earmarked for the troops. I need to double-check that everything is safe and up to our high standards, after all. I mean, we all know that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups cannot travel great distances without turning poisonous, or at least, very gooey. And extensive studies have proven time and time again that coconut is bad for your reflexes. I simply will not allow those dangers near our great fighting men and women overseas. They get the Starbursts.

It was my coconut screening process the other day that led me to a very unexpected discovery. I unwrapped a bite-size Almond Joy candy bar that contained no almond…

An Open Letter to the Hershey Company

Dear Sirs,

What the actual hell? Your production and distribution departments just succeeded in providing me with an Almond Joy candy bar with no almond whatsoever. Is this some kind of sick joke?

This is analogous to Monday Night Football providing me with a bowling tournament instead, or perhaps an actual football game, but on Wednesday morning. There was an implied contract in the name, and you failed miserably to hold up your end of the bargain.

Besides an implied contract, there was also a very specific written one, right on the back of the little wrapper my nutless nut snack arrived in. You printed an ingredients list, and the word “Almonds” (plural, no less) is listed right there after coconut and sugar.

I am willing to overlook the pluralization of “almond” on all the verbiage on your little wrappers, even though every one of the previous twenty or so bite-size Almond Joys I have unwrapped have had exactly one almond-size lump protruding from the top of the bar.

It’s cool. I get it. Times are tough. Costs are tight. It’s a tiny little candy bar. One almond was sufficient. Do you know what was not sufficient? No almonds.

Just to be sure, I looked up the word “ingredients” in the dictionary, and sure enough, it means “what’s in this thing.” It does not mean, “what we meant to put in this thing.”

Speaking of this thing, what should I even call what you provided me? “Joy?” I think not. The joy was removed with the absence of the almond. “Mounds?” No. While those may be similarly nutless, they are supposed to be coated in dark chocolate, not the standard milk chocolate my castrated candy catastrophe was wrapped in.

And speaking of Mounds vs. Almond Joy, what’s up with those names? Almond Joys are the ones with mounds. Mounds bars are flat. Shouldn’t it be Mounds and Coconut Joy?

Forget the naming issue; let’s get back to the real problem. I realize these things are made in massive quantities by a machine, and are not hand-made by Hershey’s candy elves. And I realize that things happen.
“Well, we get 99.9% of them right,” you might say.
Here’s the thing about that: I DON’T CARE! I just had a mouthful of chocolate and coconut with no almond. If I’d wanted that, I would have eaten a Mounds. Do you know why I didn’t eat a Mounds on purpose? Because they suck, that’s why!

The almond is the thing that makes the Almond Joy so good. It is also, as I pointed out earlier, right there in the name. IT SHOULD NOT BE MISSING FROM THE CANDY BAR!

I assume you have some sort of automated inspection devices stationed right after the almond inserting machine that does not insert almonds. They need to wake the hell up! If you can’t find reliable inspection equipment - and judging by my almondless Almond Joy, you can’t - then maybe it’s time to add some people back to the assembly line.

Looking at the wrapper from this little candy abomination, I see it says “Peter Paul” here above the falsely advertised “Almond Joy” with the cute little coconut standing in for the “O” in Joy.  Who the hell is Peter Paul? Or is that two guys? Should I be contacting them about this mess? Maybe you could give them a call on their private tropical island and have them take a break from their coconut candy tycoon lifestyle long enough to come down to the plant and actually make sure the candy that leaves the facility is ACTUALLY WHAT YOU SAY IT IS!

It shouldn’t be too hard. The almond is supposed to stick up, so if the little candy bar is flat on top, DON’T PUT A WRAPPER ON IT AND SEND IT TO PEOPLE WHO ARE EXPECTING AN ALMOND JOY!

Sincerely, without an almond or any joy,


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, October 29, 2014


I chaperoned an elementary school field trip last week consisting of a three-day, two-night stay at a California gold rush educational camp.

This week I was going to write a brilliant essay on how to properly chaperon a bunkhouse of fourteen fourth grade boys, but I am still in shock, and have no useful information for you, whatsoever. The whole ordeal was like the CIA’s sleep deprivation torture, but with poop jokes. I remain too mentally and physically exhausted from the experience to think straight, or even sit up straight.

The only thing I can tell you for sure is that after chili night, there is an obvious and pressing need for someone to invent a line of sleeping bags with odor and noise cancelling technology built into the fabric.

That is really all I know. So, since Halloween is just days away, I will leave you with this instead:

Originally posted on October 30, 2013

I am old enough to remember way back when Halloween was a holiday for kids. It has now been completely hijacked by two separate adult groups, the partiers and the worriers. The partiers use Halloween as an excuse to dress up and go get drunk. I have been a part of this crowd, and they are a fun people. Many women in the partier group use the Halloween costume as an excuse to dress, let’s just say, a little more provocatively than their normal persona.

Vampire? No. Sexy Elvira vampire? Yes.
Witch? No. Sexy bikini top-wearing witch? Yes.

The guys’ costumes can vary, but are usually pretty low-effort. Guys are basically just there to see the sexy bikini top witch. One year in college I went to a party as a Christmas tree. I put on a green shirt and brown pants, wrapped myself in miniature Christmas lights, headed to the party and plugged myself in. Since I needed to stay within three feet of an outlet, I plugged myself in near the beer keg and offered to run it all night so I could serve everyone and mingle from a stationary position. Looking back on that, it’s amazing I didn’t electrocute myself.

The worriers are the parents. I am now part of this crowd, although many times these two crowds can overlap.

“Be on your best behavior for the babysitter, kids. Mommy and Daddy are going to a grown up costume party. Daddy is going as a cowboy and mommy is going as a smokin’ hot zombie with cleavage.”

Halloween used to be a night where kids went out, expecting to trade the possibility of being scared to death for the opportunity to score some free candy, and maybe pull a few harmless pranks on the neighbors. These days, the worriers have scrubbed this “holiday” clean of any actual fright or mischief, and turned it instead into a three-week-long event that far more resembles a cheery Disney parade than a foggy night ride through Sleepy Hollow. Our job, as parents - as we now see it - is to suck all the “I can’t believe I lived through that!” out of Halloween night and replace it with the October equivalent of July Fourth “Safe and Sane” fireworks, which suck, plain and simple.

As an example of how sanitized Halloween night has become, we received this handy set of safety tips for tomorrow’s big event from our local police department:

Select a safe area for trick-or-treating.  Choose streets that are well lighted and landscaped so you can be seen.  Avoid trick-or-treating on streets you are unfamiliar with, and try to go out before it gets dark.

Oh, boy! Let’s trick-or-treat before dark. That should be really scary. What is your jack-o’-lantern supposed to be? I can’t tell because it is still daytime. How come you don’t have the candy ready yet, lady? It’s already 3:30 P.M.!

Always keep the adult who is watching you in sight.  Never go into a stranger’s home while trick-or-treating.  Never get into a stranger’s car or go anywhere with a stranger.

Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.  Do not walk out from behind parked cars or try to cross in the middle of the block.

Use the buddy system.  Parents or older brothers and sisters should go with young children.  Older children who are going out with their friends should be given a specific time to return home.  Parents should know who their children are with and where they are going.

Most of these helpful instructions are written as if the kids are the ones reading them, which totally renders the whole thing useless. If a kid is about to go out trick-or-treating from a home that doesn’t give a rat’s hindquarters where he goes or what he does, I seriously doubt he is going to seek out these helpful tips on safety from the local police department. And vice-versa, if the adults need to be reminded to pay attention to where their children are and who they are with, they’re probably not doing a lot of reading police safety tips, unless this list was included with their bail hearing notice.

Wait until you get home to eat your treats.  Your parents should inspect each item carefully, looking for needles, open packages and other signs of tampering.  Do not eat homemade items prepared by strangers.

Because this is the year we’re finally going to start seeing all those needles and razor blades in the apples!

Costumes should be light-colored so motorists can see them.  Use reflectorized tape to increase visibility. Costumes should not be too long or too restrictive.  Masks can make it difficult for children to see or hear.  Consider using make-up instead of masks.

Do not carry or wear sharp objects that may poke others or damage eyes.  Objects like swords, wands, canes, etc., should be left at home.  Do not carry toy guns that look like real guns.  A citizen or a police officer can mistake a toy gun for a real gun.

So, our miniature soldiers and policemen will all be unarmed? I guess they could all go as U.N. soldiers and British cops, which would also explain the reflectorized tape. (Is reflectorized even a word? What happened to reflective?) Our superheroes will not have capes or masks, so you kids should just feel free to wear loose-fitting, yet properly-sized business suits and go as Clark Kent and millionaire Bruce Wayne, instead. No ties, though, since ties are both long and restrictive. You need to go with more of a ‘Clark and Bruce on casual Friday at the office’ kind of thing. You want to be Harry Potter, instead? No cloak, wand, or Nimbus 2000 for you. Have fun, kids!

Carry a flashlight to light the way and to alert motorists of your presence.  Never carry candles or any other flammable object.  Do not use candles for decorations or displays.  They can easily be knocked down or can set fire to a nearby curtain or costume.

So, no candles in my jack-o’-lanterns? Hmm… And why are you, as a police department, concerned about my indoor candle usage? Unless you meant the very real possibility of setting fire to my large array of front porch outdoor curtains with my dangerous jack-o’-lantern candles? And I mean, come on, setting fire to a costume? Has there ever been a safer burning candle than the jack-o’-lantern candle, each one completely housed inside a rotting, sticky, hollowed-out gourd? I dare you to try and burn something with that one-inch-tall candle buried inside its protective, organic, fire-proof shroud. I double dare you.

Motorists need to be extra careful on Halloween.  Watch out for careless children who may run into the street without looking.  Expect the unexpected, and anticipate the actions of others.

In order to decrease vandalism and improve pedestrian safety, avoid parking cars on the street.  Whenever possible, park vehicles in the garage and light up your front yard.

Ah, the always helpful, but completely impossible “expect the unexpected” advice. Yes, I will try that again this year. While I try that, if you guys could please give me a list of all the unforeseen issues that might arise, that would be great. And I should light up my front yard? Really? On Halloween night? Why don’t we just have Halloween in June?

Have fun out there kids! Remember to wrap yourself in bubble wrap and Styrofoam, tape yourself to your buddy using reflectorized tape, don’t eat any candy or carry any pointy objects, stay away from any house that has one of those dangerous candles inside a pumpkin, and get home before the sun goes down. Enjoy!

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!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WiFi Would Be Gold

If you are reading this, then it’s too late. I have been taken against my will. Please send help. I have been hornswoggled. Tricked. Bamboozled. You are my only hope. I am being held at a place I only know as “Coloma.” I have been forced into labor. If it was simply manual labor that would be one thing, but this is something altogether more cruel and unusual. I am locked in a cabin full of fourth-graders, and apparently, I’m in charge.

What did I do to deserve this?

It’s my wife’s fault, really.

Our elementary school, for reasons known only to the staff, takes the entire fourth grade on a three-day, two-night excursion to a historic gold-mining camp every year. Apparently, the fact that Son Number One is a fourth-grader this year, and he was going off “on his own” for the first time, turns my wife into a wild, hysterical demon, with glowing red eyes, who grabs you simultaneously by the throat and the crotch and growls, “You must go,” in a unearthly voice so chilling it scares the crab cakes out of you.

I gave it a few days, and when the demon possession seemed to be ebbing slightly, I took the opportunity to point out that Son Number One could survive for at least three weeks in the wild completely on his own, and that it was only two nights, and that his teacher would be with him the whole time, along with many other adults, and that these people would be actually feeding him. It did nothing to ease her tensions. Something about him being her baby. I pointed out that Son Number Three was really the baby, and he was already six. Uh-oh. Glowing red eyes again.

So, what’s a guy to do? Volunteer, that’s what.

There was a fleeting ray of hope, however, in that there were a limited number of chaperon spots and my name would be entered into a lottery drawing. If my name was not chosen, it would be completely out of my hands… How come I never win the actual lottery drawing?

So I have been taken. Dragged behind a school bus full of unruly nine-year-olds. (Thank the Lord for small favors; at least I wasn’t in the bus.) Kidnapped and held in a place called Coloma. You may have actually heard of it. It’s the place where James Marshall first discovered gold in California at Sutter’s Mill in January of 1848, sparking a feverish gold rush that would culminate in the naming of a San Francisco football franchise with pendulum-like swings in the quarterback position.

Coloma is probably really nice in late October, and gaggle of fourth-graders aside, it could be a nice place to visit. Any other time, that is. I’m sure James Marshall was busy building the mill in October of 1847, and probably enjoying himself. Do you know why he didn’t mind staying in Coloma during October? Because there was no baseball World Series in 1847!

There is a World Series now, and my beloved San Francisco Giants happen to be in it. How often does that happen? (Actually, more often than you would think, these past few years. Isn’t that right, Dodger fans? Oh, sorry, sore subject…)

Back in October of 1847, James Marshall didn’t have cell reception in Coloma. Fast forward to 2014, and neither do I. Coloma, apparently, never really progressed much past 1849. I guess they have all been too busy looking for the rest of the gold over the years to focus on much else.

Now, as we know, Marshall didn’t care about cell reception because history tells us his iPhone was damaged during a river crossing months before. He never got it fixed because it would be about a hundred and sixty-two years before the first Apple Store Genius Bar would be built, and about a hundred and seventy years before they would help the first customer.

Also, he was busy building a sawmill, and besides, he really didn’t care because there was no World Series at the time. But I can assure you, if there had been a World Series, and the Giants had been in it, he would have been down in Sacramento where he could catch the game, gold or no gold.

He could leave. He was free. I am trapped, and the Giants might destroy Kansas City again tonight. I really want to watch that. Short of that, I really want to hear regular updates. They won’t let me leave the cabin. They say I have to stay here and look after all the kids for some reason.

Please send word of the game, however you can.

I think Coloma still accepts news via carrier pigeon, mule train, and pony express, so any of those would be great.

Go Giants!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Swear I Pray, I Swear

The Ebola virus in the United States? Are you kidding me?

When I first heard the news that the CDC was in charge of importing Ebola virus patients from Africa into the United States on purpose, I swore. Then I prayed.

Then I heard that someone flew into the U.S. from Africa on their own, and later went to a hospital in Texas and died from Ebola. More swearing and praying.

Then I saw pictures captured by a Dallas news helicopter of the Ebola victim’s apartment complex, showing their genius maintenance staff apparently cleaning his Ebola vomit off of the sidewalk. No hazmat suits whatsoever, and they were spraying the sidewalk with a PRESSURE WASHER!! Thanks, fellas, for not only probably infecting yourselves, but also for weaponizing the scary-ass virus into steamy aerosol form. Mostly swearing at that point.

Then I heard that his nurse in Texas has been confirmed as the first person to contract the Ebola virus inside the United States. Mostly praying. Some swearing.

In my lifetime I have heard a lot about the separation of church and state. I don’t consider that a big problem. Maybe we should concentrate more on a separation of stupidity and state, particularly when it comes to importing biblical-type plague diseases like the Ebola virus. Doctors Without Borders may not have any borders, as the name suggests, but countries do, and for a lot of really good reasons.

Forget the Ebola virus for a minute (if you can). I think we’re all taking this separation of church and state issue a little too seriously. Here’s my take on humanity: Everyone is somewhat religious. There is no such thing as an atheist.

Now, at this point, all the self-professed atheists are throwing up their hands and swearing at me. Upon hearing the swearing, any super-religious folks within earshot of the self-professed atheists are scowling in disapproval. Little do these people know, they have much more in common than they think.

Everyone prays and everyone swears.

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you.

Ever seen that cop swing in behind you in your rearview mirror? Everyone’s praying.
See the blue lights come on? Everyone’s swearing.

How about golf? I know swearing and praying are almost mandatory in golf, but bear with me.
Ball hooks toward the houses – Ardent atheists are praying.
Hear the echoing “THWACK” of a Titleist hitting house siding – curse words will be universally muttered.
Want to hear those same curse words a little louder and clearer? Just listen closely for the distinctive tinkling sound of that golf ball going through a window.

Not compelling enough? OK, here’s the kicker.

Take the most dyed-in-the-wool atheist you can find, go to their house, and secretly clog their toilet. (Don’t ask me how, that’s up to you to figure out.)
Note: If your local atheist has a solar-powered, poop incinerating, waterless “eco-toilet” instead of the normal water-filled kind, please find another atheist.

The next time your atheist friend flushes that (standard) toilet, he or she will be praying like Tammy Faye Bakker in a room full of TV cameras as they watch the tainted water rise to within an eighth of an inch of the rim.

Now take Churchy LaRue, that sweet little old lady who sits in the front pew with her hands raised high in the air every Sunday. She will cuss like a sailor in a bar fight when that water keeps rising and crests the edge of the bowl.

There you have it. As far as the perceived need for a separation of church and state, and why the argument is overblown, the clogged toilet is the clearest Constitutional evidence offered to date. Seems fitting, doesn’t it?

As far as separation of stupidity and state. That’s pretty easy to solve. Just fire everyone in federal, state, and local government and start over.

As far as the Ebola virus goes, well… that actually might be the best (or worst) Constitutional evidence yet. Self-proclaimed atheist or not, I think as far as Ebola goes, we’d all better pray it doesn’t go far.

Then we’d better get on the phone to Washington, D.C. and start swearing at someone.

It wouldn’t hurt to send up a prayer for that nurse in Texas, too.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Facebook for Business?

Can someone please explain to me what we’re all doing on LinkedIn? It has been well over a year since I have worked in an actual business office, so I’m not really sure, but is LinkedIn still viewed as the acceptable business version of Facebook? If so, I think all you business-types might be fooling yourselves.

It looks respectable enough, I guess. Everyone’s wearing a business suit in their LinkedIn profile picture. On Facebook, everyone’s wearing a bathing suit and holding a margarita, so the natural boss/minion interactions might go something like this:

“What are you doing on your computer there, Jenkins?”
“Uh… just surfing Facebook, sir.”
“You’re fired, Jenkins. Get out.”


“What are you doing on your computer there, Jenkins?”
“I’m on LinkedIn, actively networking with current and potential clients, sir.”
“Good job leveraging social media for a synergistic win-win, Jenkins. Keep up the good work!”

I think Jenkins’ boss has it exactly backward. He should be encouraging Jenkins to spend time on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, because then Jenkins won’t have any time to be on LinkedIn. Jenkins’ boss doesn’t seem to understand that LinkedIn, the “World’s Largest Professional Network” is really the world’s largest simultaneous job search. The only reason Jenkins has a LinkedIn account is so someone at a better company than the annoying one he works for now might offer him a job.

Of course, maybe Jenkins’ boss does understand, and he’s on LinkedIn for the same reason. He’s sick and tired of Jenkins and his other annoying minions, and he wants to be the boss of cooler employees at a company with a better 401k matching program, more comfortable conference room chairs, and coffee that doesn’t taste like crap. Don’t kid yourself.

But how trustworthy is LinkedIn as a staffing tool? Are the member profiles (resumes) accurate? I’m here to tell you, probably not. That’s because ever since I joined LinkedIn, people have been endorsing my skills.

Just yesterday I got an email notification congratulating me that one of my “first-degree connections” had endorsed me for one of my skills. The skill he endorsed: Engineering.

“Congratulations, Marc. Endorsements help show what you’re great at.”

Well, that may be true, or it may be a load of crap. In this case, it was a load of crap. I’m not saying I don’t have any engineering skills. I have one or two. What I’m saying is that I went to high school with this guy. I have literally not seen him since then. We have not kept in touch at all. And as far as I can remember, I was a crappy excuse for a professional engineer when I was in high school. Yet, here on this professional business networking site, he announced to the free world that I am great at engineering. How the hell would he know?

He might as well have endorsed my skills as a submarine driver, or a catapult operator. “No one hurls pots of hot flaming oil over the castle walls like Marc Schmatjen. He’s simply the best flaming oil catapult operator I’ve ever worked with. And don’t even get me started on his mad skills with a trebuchet!”

Our moms know each other, so maybe my mom was bragging to his mom over coffee about what a spectacular engineer I used to be, and how woeful she is about my new career choice as a writer, and how worried she is that her grandkids will starve. Somehow, word got back to him from his mom that I used to be a great engineer, and I’m in need of some encouragement. Who knows?

If that’s the case, then basically his endorsement amounts to, “His mom thinks he’s good at this.”

Think about that next time you’re browsing for your next sales professional.

The brain trust at LinkedIn seems to be trying to make it more of a “networking and bonding” site, so they’re adding fun stuff like links to business articles and seminars. Wow. Way to really pump up the old excitement factor there, LinkedIn.

They also gave birth to a fun way to keep us all engaged. Every month I get an email like this: “Congratulate Bob on his work anniversary! Bob has been with Ferguson’s Widget Factory twelve years this October. Say happy work anniversary!”

Why? Why would I do that to Bob? No one wants to be reminded of how long they’ve been at their dead-end job, especially not Bob, the widget factory middle manager.

Are you really trying to make it more of a social networking site, guys? Here’s a tip… No one bonds over case studies or articles on market share. And since it’s a giant job search in the first place, no one puts anything fun in their profile. Here’s an example of a LinkedIn profile description:

Results-oriented business development guru with over 25 years of experience implementing leading edge concepts and strategic sales and marketing initiatives, improving brand positioning, increasing revenue, capturing market share, expanding customer base, and thinking win-win outside the box.

No one is bonding and “networking” over that crap. It was written in hopes of getting a better job, and only it only gets read when looking for someone to fill that better job. Do you know what it should say? “I once ate seventeen hotdogs in one sitting, I think the designated hitter rule should be outlawed, and I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.”

“Now, that’s a guy who would be fun at the company picnic. Hire him. We’ll teach him how to sell our widgets.”

Do you really want to network and bond with people? Go to Facebook. People bond over sports victories, pictures of food and alcohol, and videos of people getting hit in the nuts. Plain and simple. It may not be right, but that’s how it is.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go log back on to LinkedIn and update my profile. In addition to submarine driver and catapult operator, I’m going to add “Money Manager” as one of my skills. If enough people testify to how great I am at it, maybe people will start sending me their money.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's a Good Day for Breakfast

Yesterday morning was a little strange. There we were, yawning and stretching, getting ready to start our day, just like any other. I was watching Good Day Sacramento, our local morning show, when Mark S. Allen jumped out of a news truck and announced he was on our street. He had a chef with him and they were ready to cook some lucky family breakfast.

I yelled to the kids, “Go, go, go! We have to be the first ones out the door to shout “Breakfast at my place!”

The kids said, “Huh?”

I yelled, “Just go!”

My wife yelled, “What are you yelling about!?”

I yelled back, “Good Day is here and they want to cook us breakfast!”

She yelled, “Huh?”

I screamed, “I don’t know… There’s a news van outside and they want to cook someone breakfast. Mark S. Allen just told us to run out and shout ‘Breakfast at my place!’”

She yelled, “Why are we yelling?”

I said, “I don’t know. I’m just excited. Let me calm down for a minute.”

Meanwhile, the three boys were already out the door and down the street claiming our free breakfast. I love them so much.

When my wife had fully processed the situation and saw Mark and Steve the cameraman coming toward our house, she looked back at me and began yelling again. “You’re bringing a camera into our house!?”

“No,” I said in a soothing voice, pointing at Steve. “That guy is.”

“Are you crazy!?” she yelled, “This house is a mess!”

“Are you crazy?” I responded. “Free food!!”

You see, this is one of the main differences between men and women. Back before cell phones and toilet paper, men and women had distinct roles. Men were in charge of the hunting and gathering, and women were in charge of keeping the cave livable, raising the children, and criticizing what the men brought home. After we all moved out of the caves and wolf attacks became less of a problem, those roles evolved. The man’s position as “hunter/gatherer” changed to become “dejected mid-level corporate manager,” and the woman’s role actually did not change at all.

Nowadays, no matter what modern roles we take on, those primal instincts are still with us. Take me and my wife yesterday morning as an example. We have switched traditional roles. She is now the underappreciated breadwinner and I am in charge of the cave and the three little cave people. Yet, when faced with a very primal situation, our true hardwired nature kicked in:

Situation - There is free food just outside our door.
My reaction – Go tackle it.
My wife’s reaction – “I don’t want all of the greater Sacramento area to see the inside of this house that you are failing to keep spotless! What if they come into the kitchen?”

“I think they’re going to have to come into the kitchen if they’re going to make us breakfast.”

“I really don’t appreciate this.”

See what I mean. True hardwired nature.

It was too late for my wife’s objections to matter, anyway. A storm front of energy in a suit and tie named Mark S. Allen was making his way into our house with our three boys in tow, followed by Steve the cameraman and Jesus “Chewy” Chavez, the owner/executive chef from Chewy’s Restaurant in Sacramento.

Any misgivings my wife may have had soon faded away. Great things began to happen immediately upon the invasion of our home. Chewy unloaded an entire restaurant of food onto our kitchen counters and began using our stove for a previously unknown purpose: making delicious breakfast. Honey Nut Cheerios do not require using the stove, so we had no idea. Chewy is a culinary genius. I love him.

In between hovering over Chewy and getting interviewed in the kitchen, we continued to watch Good Day Sacramento in the living room. It turned out there was another CBS news crew from Sacramento in our sleepy town of Rocklin that same morning. A man on the other side of town had gotten drunk and barricaded himself inside his home, possibly with weapons.

For some reason, my wife felt the need to go outside every once in a while to explain to our neighbors and anyone passing by that the deranged drunk man in Rocklin was not me. We only had a news van in front of our house for breakfast. And also, would any of the ladies like to come in and meet Mark S. Allen. I’m not sure why she felt like she needed to assure people that I wasn’t drunk at seven o’clock in the morning, or why she kept talking about Mark S. Allen and using his full name, but she did.

Speaking of Mark S. Allen, he spun around our kitchen and living room like a tornado of professional entertainment. He radiated pure energy. He sang. He danced. He played the William Tell Overture by flicking his fingers on a Number 2 pencil that he held between his teeth. (I am not making that up.) It was hard to look at him sometimes because he was glowing white-hot with awesomeness. At one point, Chewy ran out of burners on the stove and actually heated up some tortillas on Mark’s head.

I could see my wife visibly falling in love with him. I couldn’t really blame her, though. I was falling in love with him, too, after he managed to accomplish something in five minutes that I have not been able to do for ten years: he figured out how to make our children quiet. It turns out all you have to do is put a camera and a microphone in their face and they shut right up. If I had known that I would have bought a camera and microphone years ago.

Then we ate. And ate. And ate. Steve filmed us while we ate and Mark tried to interview us while we ate, but Chewy’s breakfast was so good we ignored them both. I was actually deep in thought about how to kidnap Chewy and keep him in my kitchen, but the show was live, so I figured it wouldn’t work.

When they had enough footage of us eating in silence, it was time to end the show. Mark had his work cut out for him on the closing segment as Steve filmed us waving goodbye on the driveway. Between the boys’ apparent camera-shyness, and the food coma we were all fighting off after devouring Chewy’s amazing breakfast, it was hard to get anything else out of the boys.

Mark asked Son Number Two how he would describe the morning, and my normally eloquent, well-read middle child responded, “Good.” Ever the tenacious reporter, he did not want to end on that lukewarm note, so he asked Son Number One to elaborate. Number One was able to stir from his impending nap just long enough to respond “Best breakfast we’ve ever had at our house.”

Ouch, man.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally agree, but let’s not announce that to the world on television.

Thanks again Mark S. Allen and Chewy. I love you both.

Steve the cameraman, let’s just be friends.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let's Keep Mom Happy, Boys

My wife scares me sometimes. Normally it’s just when she’s driving, but last night was an entirely different kind of fear. You see, I’ve never needed to dispose of a body, but last night my wife changed that.

She arrived home from Costco and asked for our help out on the driveway to unload the car. While the kids were busy struggling to move the fifty-five gallon drum of laundry soap and the five-gallon pails of peanut butter into the house, my wife was nudging me with her elbow and speaking in whispered code about the “item” in the trunk.

When I went to investigate she hissed “Not yet!” at me with a look in her eyes that made me shiver. I found myself glancing nervously up and down the street, afraid one of the neighbors might become suspicious.

What is in the trunk?” I whispered through my teeth while deliberately not making eye contact and trying to appear as if I was just inspecting one of our drought-stricken bushes.

We’ll talk later,” she whispered back, sternly. “We have to wait until it gets dark.”

OK, now I’m more than a little nervous. My flight instinct is in full gear. I want to run, but I can’t leave the kids. Must stay calm.

After an hour or so of my mind and pulse racing with all possible scenarios running through my head, we put the kids to bed. I kissed them each on the forehead and said a little prayer that I might get to see them again. Who knows what this night will bring?

Back downstairs on wobbly legs, I nervously followed my mysterious and scary wife out to the car. As she popped the trunk latch I instinctively flinched. And there he was.

“What did you do!?” I half yelled.

“Keep your voice down! The neighbors might hear.” She shot back. “It was on sale. I couldn’t help it. It’s for Christmas.”

There, taking up every cubic inch of air space in our Toyota Camry’s trunk, was the largest teddy bear I have ever seen. It was easily twice as big as my mother.

“Christmas!? It’s September. I have to hide this thing??? They already have two hundred stuffed animals, and you bought one that is bigger than all of them put together?”

“They saw it last time we were at Costco, and they loved it,” she said.

“Doesn’t Costco sell anything that’s normal size? It’s bad enough that I have to have a ten-quart plastic barrel of mayonnaise, but do they have to sell teddy bears the size of Smart cars, too?”

“Oh, relax. It’s not that big.”

“Not that big!? You couldn’t fit a breath of fresh air into this trunk with this thing. Did you have to remove the spare tire to get it in there?”

“OK, OK, just help me get it out.”

Just like a typical Tuesday night in New Jersey, there we were, pulling the body out of the trunk. I got him under the arms and she took the legs, and we moved him into the garage.

“OK,” she said, slightly out of breath after we’d gotten him up on the workbench. “Now just bag him up and hide him.”

I have fifty-gallon black plastic garbage bags that I use in the fall. They are massive. I got them at Costco. You can fit all the leaves from a medium-sized tree into one bag. I opened one of them and wrestled it over the bear’s head. When it was completely down over the top of him, it only came to his waist. There were two furry legs sticking out the bottom like a back alley crime scene in Disneyland’s Critter Country.

“What do we do now?” I asked. “He doesn’t fit.”

“Well, honey, it’s simple. Normally you just cut off their legs, but in this case, we are keeping him, so you just need to fold him up a little.” She then proceeded to fold, stuff, lie on, and seal up the garbage bag, with a very compressed giant Costco bear inside. “See, there you go.”

“What do you mean, ‘Normally you just cut their legs off..’?” I asked.

“Never mind,” she said, glancing away. “Just stuff him in the back of the closet, OK?”

“Anything you say, honey. I love you so much!”

I guess I should be thankful I wasn’t digging a hole in the middle of the night by the glow of a Lincoln Town Car’s headlights, but that whole thing left me a little on edge.

Merry Christmas, boys. Don’t ever do anything to anger your mom.

I think I’ll try to learn how to sleep with my eyes open.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Dictionary Stinks

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly and formally apologize to Hunter and Sabrina, two of Son Number Three’s first-grade classmates.

Dear Hunter and Sabrina,

While volunteering in your classroom last week I inadvertently contributed to setting back your education, and for that, I am truly sorry. This is especially painful and embarrassing for me, as a professional author and writer, because I misled you about the veracity of a word that you both so brilliantly came up while completing a “words that rhyme” worksheet. There can be no excuse for my ineptitude while trying to help with a first grade English lesson.

I was wrong. There is no other way to put it. I was just plain wrong. Apparently SHAT is a word. You were supposed to come up with three words that rhymed with CAT, and I made you both erase SHAT and come up with a different word, telling each of you, “That’s not a word” in the process. My sincerest apologies for the error.

I feel as though I should explain the reason for my error, since I will be volunteering in your class every week and I want you to trust my judgment in the future. You see, I have an old-fashioned paper dictionary here at home. I know, right? What a fossil. My archaic book of words doesn’t include profanity, so while I might have been able to help conjugate the verb DEFECATE, or identify the noun EXCREMENT, I just wasn’t up to date on all the different tenses of the word SHIT.

On a whim the other day, I looked up the word SHAT on the internet - the place where you will get all of your knowledge in your lifetime - and lo and behold, there it was. I found it on both the websites of the major dictionaries – Oxford and Merriam-Webster. Did you know that they used to print big paper copies of their dictionaries? Crazy, huh? The paper copies were really hard to change, so for a long time, all of us adults just spoke and wrote Standard English. Well, we don’t have to worry about all that foolishness anymore!

Both the Oxford Dictionary (Ironic tagline: “Language Matters”) and the Merriam-Webster (Archaic tagline: “An Encyclopedia Britannica Company”) listed our new favorite word SHAT as “the past tense and past participle of shit.”

So, according to two incredibly reputable online sources, “My fat cat shat rat scat on the mat” is a completely legitimate sentence. If only Dr. Seuss had been alive for this news.

You guys are so fortunate. They can add new words at any time now. Words like TWERK and AMAZEBALLS and ADORBS have just recently been added. You have no idea how lucky you are. Us oldsters had a standard boring language that we all agreed upon and could understand. You guys can just make up new words any time you want. That is SCHWEEEEET. I just made that word up. I like it. I think I’ll add it to your dictionary. You’re welcome.

This language breakthrough, fueled by the ease of amending and updating an online dictionary, is rooted in a new and innovative principle. Apparently now, as long as enough people who don’t own paper dictionaries agree that a word means something, then it’s a word. How amazeballs is that? It just makes me want to twerk!

Not only are they conveniently adding words for you all the time, but words can change meaning now, too. Adorbs! This will alleviate a lot of stress for folks like me who actually like words. For instance, I have been hearing people misuse the word LITERALLY literally my whole life. When I heard someone say “My head is literally going to explode,” I used to duck and cover. Now I totally don’t have to worry about getting brains on me, because the folks at Oxford and Merriam-Webster are changing it for us! Yep, LITERALLY is being revised to mean both LITERALLY and FIGURATIVELY. Woo hoo! Why would they do this, you might ask? The explanation is simple and totally rational. “If enough people use it in a certain (wrong) way, then that’s what it means.”

Like I said, you guys are sooooo lucky to have thinkers like that in charge of the language now. I am literally green with envy. Seriously, literally. No… the other one.

I will try to keep up with all the new words as I continue to help out with your educations, and again, I sincerely apologize for the whole SHAT incident. One thing is for sure. Your rhyming assignments just got a whole lot easier. All you have to do now is just add letters in front of the root sound and you’re in business. Your teacher and I don’t think STMAT is a word? No problem. Just get all the rest of the first-graders to agree that it is and bam! Aced that worksheet!

In fact, I noticed that many of you really like to leave out some or all of the vowels when you spell our “traditional” words, but us pesky adults keep correcting you. Don’t stand for it any longer! Get all your friends on the same page and then let the teachers know that the Oxford and Merriam-Webster online dictionaries will be listing WTR as an acceptable alternative spelling of WATER any day now.

With the dictionaries constantly changing to stay hip to your new groove, your education will be a breeze. In no time flat you will have aced high school and college and be living the dream. Spending all your days having a swm parts, splashng n the wtr at the pul, and lang n the sn.

Good luck with your continued education,

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!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Soccer Season, Again

We are in our fifth (and hopefully final) soccer season as parents. I can say with all honesty that I am not the type of parent who seeks to reenact the sports glory days of my youth through my own children. Mostly because that would be unfair to them, but also because I was a mediocre athlete as a kid and never really had many “glory days” to speak of anyway.

I will leave their sports glory, or lack thereof, up to them, but I will definitely choose their sports for them. More to the point, I want to choose what sports they don’t play. Soccer, specifically. We are graciously allowing them to play soccer while they are young, mostly out of a mixture of fairness and stupidity. We foolishly let Son Number One play soccer when he was five or six, not realizing how detrimental children’s soccer can be. Not for the players, mind you, but for the parents.

We won’t let them play football due to the high potential for player injury, but we really need to limit soccer for the high potential of parental heart failure. When Son Number One played his first game back in the fall of 2010, I nearly had three heart attacks and a stroke in the span of forty-five minutes.

The stress wasn’t due to too much excitement. It was just the opposite. It was from the very justifiable expectation of excitement followed immediately by absolutely nothing happening. The ball would get right up to the goal line and then seemingly every player would simply stop playing. No matter how much or how loud us helpful parents yelled “KICK IT!!!” no one would kick it. It was gut-wrenching and heart-stopping to come so close to a goal, only to have everyone stop and not kick it into the goal. And it happened over and over and over. And over.

We should have just stopped after the first season, but again, we were idiots. Son Number Two was eagerly waiting his turn to play, and we were weak and just couldn’t bring ourselves to say no. (We kick ourselves now for that moment of lily-livered parenting.) So when soccer season (or the dark times, as it is known around our house) arrived the next year, Number One and Two were both playing on different teams. If we thought one soccer season was bad, two at once was excruciating.

Son Number Two’s team continued the rich tradition of painful inaction in front of the goal, but Son Number One’s team brought us a new frustration. They had graduated to a much larger field, and while the players were a little more aggressive and skilled near the goal, they almost never got there. The field was so large, ninety percent of the game was spent passing the ball back and forth from one team to another out in the middle of the four-acre Bermuda grass rectangle of despair. “PASS IT TO YOUR OWN GUY!!!” we yelled helpfully. They did not.

Early on in his second season, Son Number One showed us a glimmer of hope. Not hope of making soccer more palatable for his parents, but of us possibly being able to get out of this mess. He gave us a light at the end of our long, dark soccer tunnel. Thankfully, Number One was born with my inherent laziness. Given the choice between motion and rest, ninety-eight percent of the time he will choose rest. He did not like the big field at all. He was quoted by his coach as saying, “You know, Coach, I don’t really like to run, so if you could put me on defense or at goalie, that would be great.”

This was good news and we nurtured it. “Boy, that field sure is large, isn’t it, son. It’s waaaay bigger than last year. Must be hard to run all the way up and all the way back every time. I’ll bet you’re tired! I know I would be. You know, the field will be even bigger when you move up again next season. Think ya wanna play again next year?”

There was no way he was going to opt for a third season. The parents shoot… they score! Unfortunately, while we were happily listening to Son Number One complain about being tired, his gung-ho younger brother, Number Two, seemed to be enjoying himself tremendously out on the pitch. Uh-oh.

Youth sports are not a one-way street. It is not “all about the kids,” as some positive coaching organizations want you to believe. Youth sports are somewhat about children learning skills, teamwork, and sportsmanship, but mostly about what the parents are able to handle. We just couldn’t afford to go through heart attack and stroke-inducing soccer for any longer than absolutely necessary, so we needed to act fast to discourage Son Number Two. We saw our opening with Son Number One and took it.

New family rule: Each child gets to play soccer for two years and then it’s on to swimming and/or baseball. That way, dad should still be around to enjoy it all.

Kids are not really deep philosophical thinkers – at least, my kids aren’t – so they don’t tend to question their lives too much as long as everything seems fair to them. “I’m forced to do manual labor all weekend? Well, OK, as long as my brothers have to also.” So Son Number Two fell right into line with the soccer moratorium. He played his two years and hung up his cleats at the ripe old age of six, just like his older brother. Did he want to play longer? I never asked him and I don’t care. Like I said, youth sports are a two-way street, and my arteries have the right of way.

I’ve had a few scares that just turned out to be indigestion from the snack bar food, but luckily no actual heart attacks yet. Son Number Three is now in his second (final) soccer season, out on the big field, so my heart just has to stay strong for two more months and we can all move on with our lives. Please keep me in your prayers.


See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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