Wednesday, May 17, 2017

History Lesson

A letter to Son Number Three’s Third Grade Teacher:

Dear Mrs. You-Must-Have-a-Metric-Ton-of-Patience-to-Put-Up-with-My-Child,

I wanted to send a quick note to explain Son Number Three’s lunch today. Of course, based on how we dressed our son today – in his flannel shirt, blue jeans with the rope belt, and straw hat - we are aware that it is the official third grade Rocklin History Week, and we’re celebrating everything 1800s.

We are super excited to be celebrating our third Rocklin History Week here at the elementary school, what with Sons One and Two already having participated when they were third-graders. Good times. We are not burnt out on this at all.

As you know, Son Number Three was required to dress all old-timey today and bring his authentic 1800s lunch to school in a bandana tied to a stick, instead of in his usual 2000s insulated lunch cozy.

I can assure you that in years' past, with Sons One and Two, their freshly-killed meat was haphazardly slapped between two slices of homemade hand-ground wheat bread, and those condiment-less sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper inside that dangling bandana, along with a Mason jar of creek water.

That’s just how we roll on Rocklin History Week. We’re all about authenticity.

So, I feel like I need to explain Son Number Three’s lunch today.

As you may know, he recently got a very non-1800s jaw-widening dental appliance installed in his mouth that is roughly the size of a minivan. As a result, eating standard foods has become difficult for him. He even has to cut his pizza up into little bites, which is obviously very un-American, and causing some family tension. It’s rough here.

So sandwiches – especially meat-filled sandwiches – are a thing of the past for him. Ever since the space shuttle Orthodonture docked in his mouth, he’s pretty much been eating pasta and apple sauce. As you can imagine, those are kinda hard to wrap in wax paper.

Fortunately, I was able to find an authentic 1800s solution.

Utilizing something called the World Wide Web, I did some research and uncovered the amazing and mysterious historical tale of Phineas Wooster. Based on what we know, and the substantial amount of information we don’t know, it is my estimation that Phineas may have been a time traveler.

Obviously, we’ll never know, but this little-known Rocklin-ite seems to have surfaced very suddenly in the mid to late 1800s right here in our hometown. Almost nothing is known of him, other than his strange propensity for stealing kerosene and whale oil from his unsuspecting neighbors, and his malodorous smelting operation.

(Side note: “Kerosene Thief” and “The Malodorous Smelters” would be good names for rock bands.)

What we do know is that he seemed to have an ahead-of-his-time knowledge of petroleum products and high tech manufacturing. Specifically regarding high-temperature plastics.

It seems crazy that this man isn’t a well-known Rocklin historical figure, but the internet doesn’t lie. He was a plastics innovator, almost one hundred years before plastics really made it on the scene. He made major strides in the areas of food preservation and storage here in Rocklin, and then he vanished as quickly as he arrived. He was rumored to have moved the entire operation to Ohio in the early 1900s, but that can’t be confirmed.

I have no idea why his line of amazing 1800s storage containers took so long to catch on after Mr. Wooster obviously pioneered the light weight, see-through storage container and rubber air-tight sealing lid right here in our proud little town, so many years ago.

But, again, the internet doesn’t lie. That totally happened.

So, anyhow, that’s why my son’s incredibly authentic 1800s Kraft Mac & Cheese and his true-to-the-time-period Treetop Apple Sauce were both in plastic Rubbermaid containers today. Just wanted you to know.

Oh, yeah. Phineas Wooster also invented Nikes and Spiderman socks. Crazy, right?

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You Said a Mouthful

Son Number Three just got initiated into the world of orthodontics in a big way. It was sort of like getting initiated into a college fraternity, minus the alcohol. There was still a lot of throwing up slurred speech.

His older brothers were already members of the Brotherhood of Rubberband And ChromE Smiles, or BRACES, for short. Son Number One has the full meal deal (literally - he can store a full meal in his top and bottom braces). Number Two has the training wheels version with just a retaining wire mounted to his back molars, keeping a rogue tooth in place until it’s time for the full steel grill. Let’s just say both of them are severely dental floss-impaired. Watching them try to thread floss through their braces is like watching a senile ninety-year-old woman still trying to do cross stitch.

So, I thought I was a veteran at the orthodontist’s office when we took Son Number Three in for his annual visit. Then they informed us he would need an expander.

A what now?

Apparently his upper jaw is too narrow to fit all his adult teeth that are on the way down, so they need to widen it. In order to widen a jaw, they install a device into the roof of the mouth that steadily pushes the teeth apart, and the body will magically grow more jaw bone.

I immediately envisioned him looking like a small blonde version of Jay Leno, but when I voiced my concerns they assured me he would remain looking like himself.

OK, I guess.

Oh, and also, he’s pushing his front teeth outward with his tongue every time he swallows. We’ll fix that by putting a fence on the expander.

Whatever you say.

His next appointment was set to get an impression of his teeth. I had seen this procedure done on Son Number Two. They fill a tray with purple goop and you bite down on it and hold it in your mouth for a while and when they remove it, somehow the purple goop has turned white and is now a perfect impression of your teeth. Witchcraft!

No problem, I figured, as they put Number Three in the chair. This was easy last time. Then they strapped the standard dental drool apron around his neck with an added twist – a plastic bag attached to the clips also, so it looked like he had a clear plastic feed bag.

I wonder what that bag is for, I thought. It’s probably just a handy little trash bag for all their swabs and cotton spacers and whatnot.

As the dad of three boys, I have cleaned every bodily fluid they possess off their clothing at one point or another, many times in a gas station sink on a road trip. But it had obviously been a while, because it wasn’t until Number Three gagged on the first tray of purple goop that I realized what the bag was really for.

They were expecting him to throw up. Which he did. A lot.  

He handled it like a trooper, and the good news? When you throw up at our orthodontist’s office you get a free T-shirt and a Capri Sun!

Back in the chair a few weeks later and it was time to install the device. Hmm… You’re really going to fit all that stuff into his mouth? OK…

Ten minutes later and they were all done. He opened his mouth for me to see and it looked like he had two beer pop tabs stuck to the back of his front teeth.

Yes, that’s the fence to keep his tongue from pushing on those teeth.

Back behind that, attached to his upper teeth in four places, he had what looked like a silver Matchbox Car-sized Transformer robot at the roof of his mouth, doing the ninja hands-and-feet-pressing-against-the-walls-hiding-on-the-ceiling thing.

That’s the expander.

Um, how is he supposed to eat with all this stuff in his mouth? Or swallow? Or breathe?

Yes, some food will get suck up under there from time to time. It’s best to dislodge it using water.

I’m not sure we can fit any water into his mouth right now… OK, buddy. You ready to go?

“I canff geeff ma frommen.”

Yeah, he’s going to be a little lisp-y for a while. The more talking and reading out loud he does, the better it will get.

A little lisp-y? That sounded like he was speaking Spanish with a whole potato in his mouff. I’m not even sure where he’s keeping his tongue. There’s no room for it anymore.

See you in a month.

Can’t wait. OK, buddy, let’s roll. You hungry?

“Freff a butter splimm.”

You bet. Let’s go get you a piece of paper and a pencil.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 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, May 3, 2017

A Clean Sleep

I have discovered the key to great parenting. Sleep!

I don’t mean sleep for you, the parent. Don’t be silly. You won’t get another good night’s sleep until you’re dead. Sorry, but it’s true. First you have the kid(s). Getting any sleep with an infant in the house is simply not possible. In the roughly five years that we had little crying diaper fillers in the house, my wife and I slept a combined total of twenty-seven hours.

Next, they grow up a little and start coming into your room to wake you up in the middle of the night about crazy dreams, bodily functions, or late night sibling injustices. Once they get to high school you’ll lose sleep over where they are and what kind of trouble they’re getting into.

Send them off to college and now you have to get up early and work late to pay for it all. Think you’ll finally get some sleep when you retire? Nope. Sure, the house is quiet, but you have to get up three times in the middle of the night to pee.

Now you’re really wishing you slept more in your twenties, huh? I hear you.

No, I’m talking about getting the kids enough sleep. We have an early bedtime for our three boys, and up until this morning, I hadn’t realized one of them might not be getting enough sleep.

It all started when I realized his mattress was sub-par, at best. You see, they are all in the same room, and Son Number Two has the top spot in a bunk bed. Since I am afraid I’ll destroy the entire structure and crush his little brother underneath if I get up on it, I have never actually been on his bed.

So, a few weeks ago, he mentioned something about his mattress being slightly uncomfortable, and I climbed up the ladder to inspect it. I’m not even sure where or when we got his mattress, but after feeling it, it appeared to be about three hundred years past its prime. I’m not shocked very easily, and I have very few, if any, feelings of sympathy for my children. But something akin to guilt and shame washed over me, momentarily anyway, when I felt his mattress.

It felt like someone had placed a thin sheet over the top of a pile of rebar. It was awful. You could easily make out the shape and diameter of every spring. It was borderline child abuse. I have no idea how he ever slept on it at all. So, as a loving and caring father, I looked him in the eye and said, “Looks like you need a new mattress. Well, goodnight.”

Then I wrote it on my to-do list under fifty-seven other things and forgot about it for two weeks. Like I said, little to no sympathy. He should just be happy there’s a roof over the top of his crappy mattress, dammit.

We finally made it over to the bargain cave in the back of RC Willey yesterday, and picked him up a brand-new discount budget mattress. I splurged and spent the extra twenty-five dollars on the “European top” model, since the lower-priced version reminded me a lot of his current torture device disguising itself as a bed.

I managed to haul the new mattress upstairs by myself, and swapped them out. The trip downstairs with the old one was easier. I just folded it in half a few times and carried it downstairs one-handed. Bedtime had him remarking how nice and comfy his new bed was.

For me, last night anyway, the new mattress was just a check mark on a to-do list. Another chore taken care of. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized how much more it really was to our family.

Son Number Two slept all the way until the alarm - something he rarely did in the past.

He didn’t start a fight with either of his brothers – something he always did in the past.

He joked with me instead of complaining to me – very rare indeed.

He swept the floor – unheard of.

He swept the floor. (I just wanted to say it again, because it was so amazing.)

He actually got out the broom and swept the kitchen floor because it was messy. Unprompted. All on his own. He did something to help without being asked. My well-rested son cleaned something!

We have a five-bedroom house. I need an office, and we want to have a guest room, so that leaves two other rooms for three boys. This is why they’re all in the same room. We don’t want to play favorites or have some kind of complicated biannual room swap to deal with.

I’m only dealing with one night’s worth of data, here, but if this type of behavior keeps up from Son Number Two and I can attribute it to better sleep, I’m going to start playing favorites in a big way.

If I can get him to keep cleaning the rest of the five-bedroom house, I’ll give him his own room with blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and a five thousand dollar Tempur-Pedic mattress.

Totally worth it.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 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!