Monday, July 29, 2013

Pro Gluten

I am pro gluten. I just wanted to come out and set the record straight once and for all. I am not ashamed of my love for gluten, although, I must be honest, I don’t really know what it tastes like, or even what it is. Even though I don’t know what gluten is, I know for a fact that I love it. When I was a kid (actually, up until about two years ago) no one had even heard of gluten. That means everything that I ate was probably chock-full of gluten, and I loved everything I ate. Also, I think gluten may come from wheat, and I am definitely pro wheat, since wheat is a very important ingredient in beer. There is probably tons of gluten in beer, so gluten is obviously delicious!

There has been a lot of conflicting “data” over the years on what we should and should not eat. Take eggs for example. (I almost wrote eggs-ample, but I didn’t know if you would find it as humorous as I do. Probably not. Anyway…) Eggs have been alternately bad and good for us at least twenty times over my lifetime. Since I love eggs, I always bet on the come line and kept eating them, hoping they would end up being good for me. We are currently in an “eggs are good for you” cycle, so I’m feeling pretty good about my decision. In fact, I think eggs are now being listed as “superfoods” that you should eat every day.

“Superfood” is a new term, like gluten, designed, I guess, to really hammer home the idea that you are eating all the wrong things. It seems like there is a new superfood or a new thing you should never eat again coming out about once a week now.

Carbohydrates, which I think is another word for gluten, used to be an integral part of the food pyramid that they showed me in grade school. The pyramid has now been replaced by a pie chart, and carbs may or may not be good for you. They were bad for a while, but I think they are moderately back in favor, as long as your pie chart remains gluten-free. I’ll bet gluten-free pie sucks.

Fats are a mystery as well. Trans fats, which are unsaturated fats, are bad. However, saturated fats are even worse. But somehow, omega-3 fish oil fats are the messiah of proper nutrition. If omega-3 is a fat, it has to be either saturated or unsaturated, since those seem to be the two choices, so how can it be good? And how does omega-3, which apparently does everything from curing arthritis to making you smarter, affect my bad LDL cholesterol and my good HDL cholesterol? And if cholesterol in any form is bad in food, how do I have “good” cholesterol in my body. I’m made up of food!

I’m not sure where bacon fat fits in there, but since I am now supposed to be eating eggs every day, I must conclude that bacon fat is super-healthy, since it is impossible to eat eggs without bacon.

Speaking of breakfast, I also want to come out as being pro lactose. Lactose is another one of those things that no one had ever heard of until it was about to kill us all, and again, I don’t really have any idea what it is, but I know it’s found in dairy products, which are delicious. I know I am pro lactose, because I am also pro fresh milk, which makes me anti homogenization. I had milk fresh out of the cow once and it was the best thing I’ve ever tasted, besides beer. (We were having dinner at a friend’s family dairy farm, and he got the milk out of the giant stainless steel holding tank. We did not drink it directly from the cow. That would be weird.)

Breakfast is now supposed to include dark berries and Greek yogurt. I originally thought Greek yogurt was just regular yogurt that couldn’t pay its bills, but it turns out it’s really just yogurt that has been strained three times instead of two. That extra straining apparently really ramps up the probiotics, which are the very best thing you can put in your body. That confuses me, since antibiotics cure diseases, so they must be great for you. How can probiotics and antibiotics both be good for you?

The dark berries provide you with antioxidants, which are also the very best thing you can put in your body, besides probiotics and omega-3 fat. Antioxidants eliminate free radicals, which are obviously bad, even though being free and being radical are widely regarded as good qualities.

Today’s smart breakfast is a healthy balance of the following: Whole-grain bran, acai berries, blueberries, sardines, kale, walnuts, pomegranate juice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentils, kefir, Greek yogurt, steel-cut oatmeal, and stone ground whole wheat bread. And, obviously, bacon and eggs. That should take care of de-oxidizing any free radical biotics (pro or anti), and minimize the LDL levels in your non-lactose, de-gluten-ized fiber, both soluble and dietary.

Simple enough, although I do see one problem that is certainly looming in our future. Since gluten comes from wheat, and chickens eat a lot of wheat, our precious superfood eggs may not be entirely gluten-free. Just like the pregnant mother is not supposed to smoke or drink, the chicken surely must be passing some amount of gluten to the egg.

Our chickens may be free-range, but until they are fed a gluten-free diet, eggs may need to get back on the “bad for you” list for a while.

I guess we can all just substitute a few more slices of bacon to make up the difference.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mr. Mom

We dads have a different way of doing things. I know this because my kids tell me, “That’s not how mommy does it,” about ten times a day now.

The boys will go back to school at the end of August, which is rapidly approaching. At that point, my wife will begin a new teaching job, and I will be in charge of our sons during the day. With my new role as Mr. Mom looming so closely around the corner, I am attempting to learn the ropes while my predecessor is still available for consultations.

For instance, I have always made pancakes on the weekends, but I have never been in charge of regular healthy weekday breakfasts. (My pancakes are cooked in a sea of butter and involve chocolate chips, whipped cream, and about a gallon of syrup. They are basically little artery-hardening diabetes cakes on a plate. But they’re yummy.)

During the weekdays, their mother who can multi-task, takes breakfast orders from them like a short-order cook. I am a man without the multi-tasking chromosome, so I got into trouble right away when asked to make oatmeal and eggs at the same time. I got the microwave oatmeal recipe from my wife, which could not have been easier. One cup of oats, one cup of milk, one minute in the microwave. Too easy.

“This oatmeal is too runny, dad. This isn’t how mom does it.”
“How could it possibly be different? I could not have messed that up.”
“Mommy uses our plastic bowls. That’s different.”
(I used a ceramic bowl. That probably did make a big difference. I don’t think the plastic bowl sucks up as much of the heat, leaving more heat to cook the oatmeal, making it less runny.)
“Plus, mom lets me put in as much brown sugar as I want.”
“Nice try, punk.”

“My eggs are too runny, and his eggs are too hard. How come you didn’t do it like mom does?”
“I was busy dealing with runny oatmeal. Shut up and eat your eggs.”
“Also, mommy lets us have chocolate milk with whipped cream on the top.”
“Yeah, right. Just eat your imperfect eggs and drink your boring white milk.”

After their very unsatisfying breakfast, I said, “Go get dressed.”
“But there are no clothes out. Mommy puts our clothes out for us.”’
“That’s because mommy knows what shirts and shorts fit you, and where they are kept. I have no idea. You guys know which clothes are yours, and you’re old enough to dress yourselves, so get to it.”

I figured my wife was just coddling them too much by setting out their clothes for them, but I decided that might not be entirely true when I saw what Son Number Two ended up wearing. He had picked out a neon green shirt and paired it with orange shorts and white socks pulled up to his knees with sandals. He looked like a cross between Mr. Furley and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

I guess I’ll finally have to learn her closet and drawer system.

Even when I tried to do something as simple as cutting their hair, there was trouble. Cutting our kids’ hair should be foolproof. We go for low to no maintenance when it comes to hair, so my wife uses a number one guard on the clippers and buzz cuts them like shearing a sheep. Somehow, however, I don’t even do that like mommy does.
“This is taking forever. Mommy does it faster. Owwwww! Your way hurts more than mommy’s way.”
“How could I possibly be doing this differently!?!”

So, yesterday when we went to the water park, I may have been a little tired of hearing about “how mommy does it,” because when they started to complain about my sunscreen application methods, I said, “Zip it!”

I thought I was doing a great job with the sunscreen. I even remembered to reapply on all three of them at lunchtime, without being reminded. This morning when they woke up, however, their faces told a different story. Apparently I don’t do it like mommy does, and I really should, since I neglected to get any sunscreen directly under their eyes. All three of them woke up with dark red sunburned semi-circles under their eyes. They looked like they had joined Fight Club in the middle of the night.


Speaking of first aid, the other day Son Number Three got a splinter in his thumb from our gigantic redwood play structure. I took the reins on the splinter removal, which is traditionally mommy’s territory, and dug it out for him with a sewing needle. (He had to show me where the sewing needles were.) He was wailing and crying, and after it was out (I did a great job by the way, just like mommy does it), he said, “This is one of my worst days ever.”

“Dude, this is a splinter. You broke your femur in half on that play structure.”
“I know, that’s why I said it was one of my worst days. This is like my fourth worst day ever.”

At five years old, I think at least three of his four worst days ever involve the play structure in some form or another, and I remember thinking I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes an interest in playing with matches pretty soon and “accidentally” burns that thing to the ground.

Well, we are visiting my wife’s family this week, and her grandpa smokes a pipe. Yesterday, Number Three showed great interest in how his Bic lighter worked. Now, his great grandpa is 95 years old, so back in his day, every five-year-old probably had a gun, a knife, and a pack of matches as standard issue, so he was happy to show the young lad how to operate the lighter, and Number Three was listening very intently.

Sunburns and hopelessly uncoordinated outfits are one thing, but if that play structure “accidentally” burns down on my watch, I don’t think she’s going to forgive me.

I’d better go through his luggage when we leave and make sure he’s not trying to bring a lighter home.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Technical Difficulties

I am finally figuring out what it takes to be a full-time writer and author, and it is causing some technical difficulties here at Just a Smidge. For starters, in order to write full-time, by definition you have to quit your day job. I took care of that on Monday. That, however, leads to other issues.

The main goal behind quitting your job is to access more free time, but the drawback is a distinct lack of money. With a substantial, or in this case, total lack of income, you naturally start looking for ways to cut expenses. Since electricity and hot water cost a lot of money, those are easy places to start. Those turn out to be a catch-22, though, because when you turn off the air conditioner to save on the electric bill, you sweat more. You would naturally take a shower to combat that problem, but since you are trying to save money on hot water as well, that’s not an option. I tried to take a cold shower, but it made me jump so much when I stepped in that I slipped and fell backwards into the bathroom, cracking my head on the sink. That led to some expensive medical bills, so the whole shower thing really turned out to be a net loser. No more showering, I guess.

Since I always used to shave in the shower, I am now forced to grow a beard. I am also thinking of taking up smoking in an attempt to mask my growing body odor problem caused by the lack of showering. This would explain the look of the standard male professional writer. Bearded men smoking pipes and wearing tweed jackets. At this point I can only assume that the tweed jacket is meant to cover up the pit stains caused by the lack of A/C. Tweed probably also holds the odor-masking pipe smoke smell better than other fabrics would. I need to go find a good tweed jacket at a thrift store.

On top of all those other issues, my computer died on me on Sunday night, and needed to go to the Geeks at Best Buy. They told me it needed a new falange valve installed on the McGruder pump. At least that’s what I think they said. So, I am typing on an old spare computer, on an unfamiliar, outdated version of Microsoft Word. It’s really disconcerting. The menu items are in the wrong place and the text seems smaller. I can’t live like this. I wish that valve would hurry here from Malaysia.

My computer dying the day before I was quitting my job to become a professional writer and author was a little disconcerting. What was God trying to tell me? That I shouldn’t go for it, or that I should, but I should only write with paper and pencil? Neither of those two possibilities seemed logical, so I chose to not see it as a sign, but simply an inconvenient coincidence.

Also, when I had a day job, I used to write this column really early in the morning, before the sun came up, or really late at night, after the sun went down. I am now writing smack in the middle of the day, which is odd for me. I was always at work during the day, so I have no idea if I’m funny during the daylight hours or not. I guess that remains to be seen. The upside is, I am saving a little more on electricity since I no longer need the light on in my office. Bonus!

As you can tell, I’m dealing with a lot of issues during the first phase of this transition, so I hope you will bear with me until I get all the kinks worked out. And at least in the near future, if you see me on the street wearing a tweed jacket and smoking a pipe, I would steer clear if I were you. I’m getting pretty ripe.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Preschool Report Card

When Son Number Three “graduated” from preschool this year, we received a report card. I was not expecting a report card, but apparently they take preschool pretty seriously these days. My wife told me that our other two boys got report cards just like this one from this same preschool, but I don’t believe her. Anyway, it’s July and I just got around to actually reading it. It was a hoot!

First, a little background: Son Number Three is the one that broke his femur at three years old and was in a full-body Spica cast for 44 days. My wife and I are convinced that he went just a little bit crazy when he was cooped up in his personal fiberglass prison for so long. He also had his adenoids removed earlier this year. I’m not sure what adenoids are, but I do know they make you snore, so we were all happy to see them go. Between the leg and the adenoids, however, he has been under heavy sedation twice, and we’re pretty sure that has added a little to his mental instability. Basically, he’s a wild little nutball.

Inside the preschool report card packet we received a nicely (carefully) worded cover letter from his teacher (keeper), Lauren.

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Schmatjen,
Your son is such a pleasure to have in class. He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our class and is always eager to participate in classroom activities. He has a great sense of humor and easily brings a smile to everyone’s face.

Translation from his father, who knows him all too well:
To the parents of insane asylum inmate # 25,
Your son is in my class, and since you are paying for him to be here, we felt compelled to say something nice. He has far too much energy, and a wild, unrestrained look in his eyes that I guess could be called eagerness to participate, but will probably one day be called psychosis. He laughs constantly, and at inappropriate times, which we will call a sense of humor, and we simply have to smile and laugh with him, otherwise we would cry.

Some of his favorite activities are outdoor play, building in the block area, and working at the writing center. He really enjoys spending his time building and creating and role playing with friends. He is always excited about learning new things.

We put him outside as much as possible for obvious reasons. He spends a lot of his indoor time building towers out of blocks so he will have something to tackle and knock down, because we don’t let him tackle the other inmates. He also enjoys scribbling wildly on paper and the desks and the chairs. When he is not knocking down his own blocks, he enjoys knocking down other kids’ blocks, pretending he is the wrecking ball and they are the unfortunate building owners whose structures have been condemned. He is always far too excited.

He is caring, bright, and charismatic and is truly a joy to be around. I look forward to watching his continued growth throughout the rest of the year.

We saw him hug a teddy bear once, instead of punching it, so we’ll throw in “caring” as a description of your child. He is smart in that scary way that evil scientists are smart, and “charismatic” is the nicest possible term we can use to describe the wild, manic look in his eyes. He is fun to be around for the first two to three minutes of my incredibly long and underpaid day, and I am really looking forward to this school year being over.

Along with this obviously tuition-influenced cover letter full of niceties was his report card. Their grading system is a little different than what I am used to. I am a fan of the A-F grading system. It makes sense to me.

A – Right where you should be, kid.
B – OK, but we need to focus a little bit more.
C – I know they say this is average, but we’re not shooting for average, kid. Step it up.
D – Are you kidding? Did you even go to class? Are you on drugs? Pee in this cup.
F – Better learn a trade skill, kid. You’re going to need it.

The preschool’s grading system was a three letter scale, and they were deemed “skill levels,” not grades. M is for mastering (the highest skill level), D is for developing, and B is for beginning.

Again, presumably since we are paying them and they want our continued business, they gave him mostly M’s. Laughably, they gave him no B’s, but there were faint glimmers of truth in the few D’s that were spread around the report card:

Skill: Engages in cooperative play
Rating: D
Teacher’s note: Encouraging to participate in group activities
Translation: By “encouraging,” I mean we have to yell “Stop that!” a lot. When it comes to play of any kind, he does not have a cooperative bone in his body. He is aggressive, grabby, and loud. This is presumably due to his congenital big brother disorder. (The other teachers around here remember them very well.)

Skill: Recognizes emotions in others
Rating: M
Teacher’s note: He is very caring/comforting with friends
Translation: We do not want the school to get a reputation of producing sociopaths, so we put this on all the report cards for plausible deniability. Your son is obviously a whackadoo.

Skill: Identifies and discriminates time relationships: day/night, today/tomorrow, before/after
Rating: D
Teacher’s note: Blank
Translation: I left this blank because I just didn’t know what to say. He has never gotten this right, ever. He has absolutely no concept of time and space. It’s to the point when we hear him say, “today,” we don’t even try to correct him anymore. We just figure out if he really meant yesterday, tomorrow, last week, or next week, and just go with it.

Skill: Attends and participates in circle time without disrupting other children
Rating: D
Teacher’s note: Blank
Translation: I left this blank because I don’t like to lie on paper. If there was a rating lower than a B on this scale, we should have given it to him. He has never been within 30 feet of another child without disrupting them in some way or another.

Skill: Sustained attention span for a wide variety of activities
Rating: D
Teacher’s note: Blank
Translation: I was simply laughing too hard to write anything legibly.

Besides the coercive, fraud-laced report card, the folder also contained five or six sheets of paper that Son Number Three had filled out over the course of the school year. There were some letter and number writing and identification sheets that caused us to really question if Kindergarten is in the cards for this kid, and some fantastic examples of cutting shapes out with scissors, and scribbling on those cutouts. We still can’t believe they were brave and/or foolish enough to ever give him scissors.

The last page in the folder was a crayon drawing entitled “Self Portrait.” It was a green stick figure with a giant head, and his right stick-arm was stuck straight out to his side. Hovering over the arm was a smaller green stick figure. The teacher had written underneath the drawing, “Me and my daddy. He’s holding me.”

I take it all back. You’re the best kid in the whole world.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 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, July 3, 2013

Freedom from Hashtags

I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t #understand #Twitter.

I understand Facebook. It makes sense to me. See what your friends are up to by reading their posts and looking at their pictures. Visit links to videos or articles that they recommend.

Here’s a typical Facebook post:
Text reading “Today at the beach,” under which are pictures of their day at the beach. Simple.

What #doesntmakesense to me is #Twitter. #Whatisup with the #weirdlooking #URL links? I am #afraidtoclick on anything that looks like “de/6ghrt.fde.” How am I supposed to #knowwherethatgoes?

Here’s an actual #Twitter #tweet that showed up for me:
#airing Peter Gabriel - Big Time (via @brystelmy)

Huh? I think someone likes a #song, or is playing a #song right now. I think. Maybe.

And #whatisup with the #hashtags? I understand that they were originally meant to mark a word for searching, and they are still used for that. If I search for a specific term, any tweet with that term hashtaged will show up in my search. So you are hashtagging things to get other people to find your tweets. What I don’t understand is why you are hoping that a complete stranger will read that you loved the #waffles you just ate, and that they were #soyummy. Are you secretly hoping that all the people on Twitter who like #waffles will get together and form a #welovewafflesgroup?

The whole thing seems completely random to me. For instance, Twitter just suggested that I check out #biosnackysprouts. I don’t know what that means, and I am ultimately sure that I never expressed any interest in it, whatever it may be.

It wouldn't be so bad if people were just hashtagging single terms as a search tool like it was intended, but now they are inserting the punch line to their witty posts in a hashtagged, no-space word string, so I have to try and figure out what #idontlikespiders or #ilovesundayfunday means.

To make matters worse, I’m now seeing hashtags on Instagram photos. I’m not even 100% sure what Instagram is, but I do know it didn’t need hashtags. To make matters even worse, people are also starting to put them in their Facebook posts. Facebook has jumped on the hashtag search capability bandwagon, which I do not approve of one bit.

Hashtag if you must, but I still maintain that you just end up looking like a really bad speller.

So, #tomorrow on the #fourthofjuly #julyfourth #4th #4thofjuly #independenceday, when you #celebrate #celebratefreedom #celebrateyourfreedom, please take a moment to consider freeing yourself from hashtags.

It would really go a long way to making the world a better place.

Now, go #kissasoldier!

#Thanks! #Happyindependencedayeverybody!



Copyright © 2013 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!