Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It is that time of year again, when we sit down and reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives. Every year I count my wife and kids at the top of the list, but this year I am re-thinking that. My wife is still at the top of the list, no doubt, but the kids? Being home full-time with our three boys has caused me to examine my feelings toward them. I have been directly in charge of their care and feeding for a while now, and for the most part, they seem to do three main things:

1) Rather ungratefully wolf down food that I prepare for them
2) Make one seemingly never-ending mess with that food, and their shoes, toys, and clothes
3) Argue with each other and with me

Hmm… Am I really thankful for that? Truth be told, if they were someone else’s kids, I would have already handed each one of them a twenty dollar bill, shown them the front door, and wished them the best of luck. Since that is probably breaking some sort of law or statute when they are your own kids, I have kept them around. Plus, my wife would notice if any of them were missing, and she’d be mad.

What am I really thankful for with regard to my boys? I am thankful that our elementary school hasn’t kicked any of them out yet. I love our elementary school for that fact. I volunteer there one day a week, and I have the teachers and staff fooled into thinking I do it because I am just a nice guy, but I’m really there to keep my ear to the ground and make sure that I can head off any potential disciplinary problems before they get out of hand. They think my boys are nice kids, but I’ve seen them at home. I know better. I know that if any one of my boys ever got kicked out and I had to spend all day with them, seven days a week, I would not make it. Or they wouldn’t. So, I trade one day a week to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Since Son Number Three is the biggest wildcard, behaviorally speaking, I spend the most time volunteering in his kindergarten class. The other day his teacher asked me to help five of the kids make their “apple turkeys.” The rest of the class had made them the day before, so I had already seen Son Number Three’s. It was really cool. They had taken a plain old apple, and turned it into a big tom turkey using toothpicks and candy. The neck was made from two mini marshmallows with a full-size marshmallow as the head. He had raisin eyes, a gumdrop mouth, and a red Swedish fish for a wattle. (You may now Google either or both of those things if you don’t know what they are). His tail feathers were made from five toothpicks with three different colored gumdrops on each one. The only anatomically incorrect aspect was the three toothpicks necessary for support legs, instead of just two.

His teacher handed me the small plastic tubs with all the candy and toothpicks, gave me five plain apples and the example finished product, and said, “Good luck.” (She may have also laughed maniacally under her breath, or I may have just imagined that.)

About three minutes into the project, I realized something about myself. I am not mentally or emotionally cut out for managing one five-year-old with a Thanksgiving food craft/project, let alone a group of them.

I had a broad spectrum of interest levels, crafting skills, and outright hunger in my little group of angels. One little girl took immediate initiative with the toothpick tub, turning her apple into a pincushion. Another little girl was sitting with her hands in her lap, unwilling to do anything on her own, and constantly saying, “I need help. I need help.” Over and over and over. And over. Another girl was determined to make her turkey upside down, and one of the two boys was just sitting at the table, alternately stuffing gumdrops and mini marshmallows into his mouth. He probably ate at least four turkeys’ worth.

Nothing was going right, and it wasn’t going right in five places at once. All the turkeys’ tripod legs broke immediately. None of the full-size marshmallow heads would stay on. The wattles were falling off. None of the raisin eyes looked right. Most of the turkeys looked cross-eyed, and one looked drunk. None of the mouths were right. A whole gumdrop was too big for the mouth, and the example had a quarter of a gumdrop, but no indication of how the gumdrop was quartered. It turns out you can’t pull a gumdrop apart with your fingers and have any pieces remain recognizable enough to be an apple turkey’s mouth. It also turns out that it is possible to cut gumdrops with kindergarten scissors, but I doubt you can use the scissors for anything else productive afterward. Even with scissor-cut gumdrops, the turkeys all looked like they had collagen-injected lips, and turkeys aren’t even supposed to have lips, let alone, luscious ones.

Besides my mental back-and-forth about whether or not I could sneak out of the classroom mid-project and just go home, the other thought that kept running through my mind was, “I’m shortchanging these five kids.”

The turkeys looked nothing like the example. They looked nothing like the one my son brought home the day before. His looked like a cool tom turkey made from an apple and some assorted candy. The five I had just helped create looked like the result of a bomb going off near a wooden crate of apples inside a candy factory.

The kids didn’t know any better. They thought they were great. But I knew. I knew their parents would have to smile and say, “That’s really great, sweetie,” all the while thinking, what the hell is this thing supposed to be?

That was my fault. I took what was a fun holiday moment for my son and me the day before, and turned it into a “just another weird art project from school” moment for five families. I wanted to send each kid home with a note apologizing to the parents, and a picture of the example. “This is what your kid’s apple turkey would have looked like if a professional had been helping them. I am not a qualified kindergarten teacher. I am only a dad, and I am sorry for my deficiencies with regard to fruit and candy art.”

I obviously joke about it, but truth be told, I am very thankful for my boys, although, usually when they are sleeping. This year I am also very thankful for teachers. Kindergarten teachers, especially. I am thankful that I am not one, and I am incredibly thankful that there are folks out there crazy enough to want the job! You’re the best!

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Does the Fox Say

“Bite me, Ylvis.” That’s what the dad says. I have no idea what the fox says, but I can assure you it is not, ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding, or wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow, or even hatee-hatee-hatee-ho, or any of the other frustratingly catchy ditties you came up with.

If you don’t have any idea what I am talking about, I envy you more than you will ever know. I long for that time of innocence. A simpler time, a few weeks ago, before some Norwegian idiots asked, “What does the fox say?”

If you have not seen this viral YouTube video yet, or more to the point, if you have not heard the song yet, do not even think about going to look for it. I will attempt to describe for you the indescribable. Please do not get curious and think you can handle it on your own, recklessly Googling “What.”

Yes, that is correct, these two pickled fish-loving yahoos that go by the name Ylvis have gone so viral that all you have to type in the Google search bar is “what,” and the first auto-fill suggestion is “what does the fox say,” with the next option being, “what is twerking.” There has never been more clear statistical evidence that we are doomed than Google auto-fill.

This music video is the most ridiculous thing you will ever see, and that includes every Richard Simmons workout video and every Paris Hilton/Kim Kardashian interview ever filmed. The good news (for Ylvis, at least) is they were not attempting to make a serious song and music video. They are a Norwegian comedy duo -- either brothers, or a gay couple, since they have matching last names -- and this video was just another one of their parody/gag songs.

The song is basically one man’s deep inner thoughts about the fact that he doesn’t know what sound a fox makes, and that concerns him, due to his deep, abiding love of foxes. The video starts out at a cocktail party where all the guests are sipping champagne and wearing animal costumes. We find out that the mouse goes squeak, the elephant goes toot, the fish goes blub, the duck goes quack (pronounced in Norway English as “kwok”), and the seal, arguably, goes ow, ow, ow. But, what does the fox say?

We then cut to the forest at night, where an old man sits in a rocking chair under a lamp, reading a book to his grandson, surrounded by what appears to be the entire wait staff from the local Olive Garden, wearing fox ears and whisker makeup, dancing in front of a laser show. The comedy super-power duo of Ylvis dance in their full-body fox outfits, theorizing what annoyingly catchy phrases a fox might sing.

And because that wasn’t awesome enough, the song switches to more of a love ballad in the middle, as the two full-size fox-men rise into the air to hover over the all-you-can-eat breadstick and salad dance troupe, and croon their undying love for the fox, singing “you’re my guardian angel.”

It’s really special.

Normally with this kind of thing, the world would just simply ignore it. The problem is, this idiotic song is really, really catchy, and that seems to be why every kid in America is currently singing it, including my three boys. And why it is stuck in my head.

I hate you, Ylvis.

This could have and should have been stopped. What do we even have the NSA and the CIA for, anyway? Can you guys over there please get off our cell phones for a minute and pay attention to the incoming threats from other nations? I realize you might be concentrating on the sand countries, threat-wise, but I really think you are dropping the ball when it comes to Scandinavia. In addition to this current fox jingle breach, back in the mid-seventies, you failed to prevent the spread of ABBA into this country, and nearly 30 years later, that lack of action resulted in my wife tricking me into seeing Momma Mia! live on stage. I am still not happy about that.

And don’t think you guys from YouTube are blameless here. This ridiculous video has over 234 million hits at the time of this writing. Do you have any idea how many parents are being affected by this epidemic? Probably no less than 468 million to date. You have the power to stop that! Just shut it down.

“But the hit count says that this is what you want to see,” you YouTube executives might say.

“No!” says us. We do not want any more of this infernal Nordic nonsense. This video is like a car accident. When we drive by, we have to look, but we would have preferred to not have the accident happen in the first place. You guys over at YouTube can clear up the accident right now, but you won’t do it. Delete this damn thing! What are you worried about?

Freedom of speech? They’re from Norway! Our Constitution doesn’t even apply to us anymore. Why would it apply to them?

Censorship laws? You’re YouTube! You’re owned by Google. You have more money that the rest of the world put together. If they sue you, just buy Norway and tell them to go hike a fjord.

But you won’t do that, will you, YouTube? It’s all about the hit count with you, isn’t it? No regard for the wellbeing of our nation’s youth, or the sanity of their parents. Oh, well. I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from a website founded on Janet Jackson’s nipple.

Hey, Ylvis. I have a deal for you. All 468 million of us parents will each send you a dollar if you never make another song. I’m not sure what that translates to in Norway-bucks, but it should make for a nice retirement.

What do you say?

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, November 13, 2013


I don’t like mosquitoes, and I don’t know anyone who does. If I make it to heaven, the first question I’m going to ask is, “Why mosquitoes? Why!?!”

As much as I do not understand their incredibly annoying existence here on earth, I must at least smile at God’s sense of humor about them. He gave the world mosquitoes, which as near as I can tell, serve no good purpose, and then to combat them, He gave us bats.

Rabies-infested flying rodents are the fix for the annoying biting insects. That’s a good one. Maybe, like Richard Simmons workout videos, the mosquito-bat relationship is meant to be a tiny glimpse into what hell is like, in order to make us straighten up and fly right.

I say I don’t like mosquitoes, but that is not entirely accurate. I hate them. That is more accurate. My strong feelings for them no doubt stem from their collective love of me. I am a mosquito magnet. If you are curious how many mosquitoes are in your backyard, just invite me over. I will stand still and you can count them all.

This time of year is when I really ratchet up my hate for mosquitoes to more of a loathing. That’s because I am a duck hunter, and ducks live in the same places as 90% of the world’s mosquitoes. My friend and duck hunting partner, Heath, does not get bitten by mosquitoes. This causes me to hate him a little this time of year, too. I have tried to figure out what I am doing wrong or what he is doing right, but as near as I can tell it comes down to body chemistry. There are two main differences that I can see between us. Heath is always about ten degrees hotter that everyone else, and he only pees once or twice a day. I am a normal temperature, and I pee about every fifteen minutes. That turned out to be the problem a few years ago. (The peeing, not the temperature.)

It was opening day in October, and we were tramping out through the marsh lands in our camouflage duck hunting overall waders. It was a particularly bad year for mosquitoes, and they were so thick that even Heath had sprayed himself head-to-toe with Off. I had so much mosquito repellant on my body, I was shiny. There were so many mosquitoes that if we tried to talk to each other we would get a mouthful. Have you ever had a mouthful of mosquitoes? I don’t recommend it.

Make no mistake, we weren’t doing the nice, friendly, camping-trip application of the bug spray, where you put a little on your hand, and gently rub it onto your cheeks and forehead, being careful not to get any in your eyes. No, we were just closing our eyes and spraying the can directly at our faces from six inches away. I was actually hoping to get some up my nose, just so the mosquitoes wouldn’t try to go there, either. Ever had DEET on your chapped lips? I don’t recommend that either.

I began the morning with two full cans of Deep Woods Off, and by the time we had hiked and slogged out to our hunting spot I was already starting the second can. I’m not even really sure what DEET is, but if it’s flammable, I had enough of it on me that morning to power a large jet engine. Our faces and hands were the only exposed skin, but we were spraying the Off all over our hats and shirtsleeves just to be safe. It was actually doing a really good job of preventing them from biting, but there were so many of them they were still crawling all over us and swarming near our heads. At one point I had a cloud of mosquitoes in front of my face so thick I couldn’t see through them. Once, when there were no ducks in sight, I actually fired a shotgun blast into one of the mosquito clouds, just to kill a few of them with the hot gasses. It’s the small victories in life that make it worthwhile.

It was an uncomfortable situation, to say the least, but it was manageable… until I had to pee.

The way I saw it, I had three options, and holding it, unfortunately, was not one of them. The 32-ounce Coke I had at 3:00 A.M. was not going to wait, and we were literally miles from the nearest indoor plumbing.

Option Number One: Pee in waders.  
Considerations: Although camouflage duck hunting waders are made out of wetsuit material, peeing in your waders is decidedly NOT the same thing as peeing in your wetsuit. Peeing in your wetsuit makes you warm. Peeing in your waders just makes you wet and smelly and gross. (I am just making an educated guess here, since I have never been foolish enough to pee in my waders. I have peed in many a wetsuit, and that is delightful in the cold North Pacific Ocean.)
Decision: No.

Option Number Two: Pull waders down and pee, as if everything is normal.
Considerations: Seven billion hungry mosquitoes, combined with their natural affinity for me, combined with the fact that we’re talking about the absolute least desirable area on my body to have mosquito bites.
Decision: No.

So far, Options One and Two are tied for dead last, which brings us to…

Option Number Three: Stick can of Deep Woods Off down pants and prepare man parts for exposure to the horrendously mosquito-infested outdoors.
Considerations: Dammit!!!!!!!!!
Decision: This is my only option, so… dammit!!!!! Yes.

Ever had DEET on your you-know-what?

I don’t recommend it.

I hate mosquitoes.

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, November 6, 2013

Time for a Change - Repost

I understand time zones. Since the earth is round and rotates, they are necessary to make sure half the world doesn’t have to eat lunch in the middle of the night. What I don’t understand is Daylight Savings Time. I mean, I understand the concept of wanting it to stay lighter in the evenings, and I’m all for that. What I don’t get is why we swap back and forth. It presents all sorts of problems, and I am convinced that whoever came up with the brilliant plan to mess with the clocks twice a year never had kids.

We “fell back” this weekend, and when that happens, the news people always mention “the extra hour of sleep” we’re all supposed to get. Not at my house! On Sunday night the kids were literally falling asleep in their dinner. (And, yes, I am using literally correctly, there. We actually had to fish Son Number Three out of his macaroni and cheese for fear of him suffocating at the table.) And guess what happened on Monday morning? I can tell you what wasn’t happening. Sleep. Any mythical “extra” hour of sleep I received on Sunday was promptly nullified when I woke up at 5:00 A.M. to find Son Number One and Two fully dressed and sitting in front of the television, watching cartoons.

“What in the world do you two think you’re doing? It’s five o’clock in the morning!”
“But, Dad, we woke up at four o’clock and it was taking forever to get to six.”

Thanks a lot, Daylight Savings Time!

And why do we always change the clocks on Saturday night? I think the theory is that if you take care of it in the middle of the weekend, the people who forget won’t be late for work. So, let me get this straight. They’re OK with me being late for church, but not for work? Something tells me God doesn’t see it that way, but that’s not even my main objection. If I’m going to have to go through this hassle, you should at least give me the opportunity to have a semi-legitimate excuse for being late for work twice a year. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’m already tired from my kids either waking up in the middle of the night in the fall, or having to drag them out of bed and give them CPR just to wake them up in the spring.

A Sunday night time change would be great. It would be called “time change Monday,” or “DST day,” and no one would expect you in the office before noon. It would end up being a holiday for the school kids, since, in my experience, school districts rarely miss an opportunity to take a day off.

And don’t even get me started on the actual clocks. My cell phone, my computer, and my Blu-ray player all automatically adjust themselves, and that’s fine. They are connected to the internet, so I trust that they’ll do it when they are supposed to, and even if they don’t, what do I care? I don’t use them to wake up on time for work. My alarm clock, on the other hand, has an optional setting for DST. This is possibly the worst “feature” on an alarm clock ever. I never know if the DST function is activated or not, and how the hell should my alarm clock even be able to know what day it is supposed to adjust the time, anyway? It’s not connected to the internet. I end up setting my clock ahead or back before I go to sleep, and then waking up three times in the middle of the night, comparing it to my wife’s clock to make sure it didn’t automatically change itself again at 2:00 A.M.

Then there are all the other clocks I have to deal with. At last count, that included the microwave, the stove, four bedside clocks, the house phone, two wristwatches, the VCR (yes, we still have one of those), two thermostats, the automatic sprinkler timer in the garage, a wall clock in my office, and two cars. Since the microwave and the stove clocks are right on top of each other, it takes me twice as long to set them, because I have to make sure they are exactly synchronized, or it will bug the bejeezus out of me when they say different times. One of our cars takes forever, too, because we have an aftermarket stereo in it, and we can never remember how to set it. My wife actually had to take it back to the electronics place where we bought the stereo once, just to get them to show her how to do it, because we gave up trying to figure it out.

And if the clocks themselves weren’t confusing enough, what about the states? Hawaii and Arizona do not use Daylight Savings Time, and half of Indiana doesn’t use it, while the other half does. What the hell is up with that? Trying to do the math on time zones is already enough of a headache, but when some states are allowed to further complicate the issue by going renegade on us, that is too much. I mean, come on, Indiana, half and half? Really?

I have first-hand experience in how confusing this can be. When I was in college in California, we went to Arizona for spring break. Arizona is on mountain time, so we knew we were in a different time zone, and needed to adjust the clocks ahead an hour, but someone knew that Arizona was either always on DST or never on it, but didn’t know which. Since we didn’t know whether they were permanently sprung forward, or permanently falled back, and no one was really even sure when we were supposed to change the clocks in California, we didn’t know if we should leave our watches alone, set them ahead an hour, or set them back two hours. Since this was before the internet and cell phones, the end result was a vacation where no one could agree on what time it was. Fortunately, the beer supplies held out, and no one really cared.

I personally think we should put all 50 states on permanent DST and be done with it. Sure, the winter mornings will be a little dark, but who cares? We’ll still have longer summers evening hours to play baseball, and no one will ever have to change the time on 17 clocks again, or deal with a seven-year-old who’s body doesn’t adjust, no matter what the clock says.

Like I said, the time zones are confusing enough. Let’s be done with unnecessary time changes and all the “spring forward, fall back” nonsense. Why overcomplicate things? As long as we’re on the subject, I also think it should be illegal for a state to have two different time zones. If you lived right on the line, how would you know when the store opened, or what time your favorite TV show comes on? How would you ever plan anything?
“Meet me at three o’clock.”
“Which three o’clock?”

 What if you lived in one time zone and worked in another?

That would be my idea of hell. I can’t even imagine what those poor folks in Indiana are going through right now.

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!