Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Parental Guidance Suggested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where we suck at parenting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, I blame Hollywood.

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

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


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Second Noel

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

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

We don’t really know the words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little recap of our crazy first year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The 2014 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

You’ve been thinking it for weeks now. Maybe even more than a month. That nagging thought in the back of your head. That sticky note on your refrigerator… No. Not the one that says, “Buy more gin and olives.” The other one. “Write the Christmas letter.”

Well, I have bad news for you. It’s too late. You’re out of time. You’ll never get it written and delivered before Christmas now. You could hang your head in despair and blame yourself for being a shiftless, lazy, procrastinating loser who can’t even make a martini, or you can pour yourself a stiff whiskey egg nog and raise a glass to Christmas miracles.

Once again, I’ve got you covered. I have created another handy do-it-yourself template to help you whip out your 2014 Christmas letter in no time flat. As with previous years’ templates, just fill in your last name(s) in the blank and circle the appropriate choices, and you're in business. Christmas miracles really do happen!

Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from the _________________ house. We’ve had quite a year around here!

Dad had a banner year with his (fundraising/complaining) at the (Shriners/Sizzler). He has a real love for (children’s charities/all-you-can-eat menus), and his (enthusiasm/frustration) really shines through when the (annual pledge drive /salad bar) runs (in the spring/out of baby corn). He loves (networking with/bitching to) the managers at all the local businesses. He has really been (thriving/annoying) since his retirement.

Mom couldn’t be more (involved/out of touch) with (her church/reality) if she tried. She spends countless hours on the (phone/couch), making sure that the (elderly/reality shows) do not go (unloved/unwatched). She makes personal visits to the (old folk’s home/Old Grand-Dad) in the (city/cupboard) every (week/hour), and always comes back to the (house/couch) a lot happier. We remain in awe of her (faith/flatulence) and the (smiles/smells) she brings to any room.

Sister and her (new husband/loser boyfriend) had some (good/bad) news this year with his (promotion/incarceration). We (secretly/openly) have our fingers crossed that this means they will (start a family/break up) soon, but for now they are just adjusting to the new schedule of (his commute/conjugal visits). We are (happy for/disappointed in) them, and always (thrilled/amazed) to see how happy she is with their (new marriage/bad decisions).

Brother has been on fire this year (at work/twice). He continues to (beat his numbers/cook meth) and is poised to win the (salesman/idiot) of the year award (at his company/if that existed). He has a natural talent for (sales/stupidity), and combined with his (high drive/low IQ), he has been really making (rain/poor decisions) in the (advertising/lifestyle) department. We only wish he would put some of his efforts into finding a (nice girl/fireproof suit), so he isn’t constantly at the (office/ER). He’s (content/too stupid to breathe), however, so we don’t (hassle/waste our time with) him too much. (J,L)

As for me, I’m just about (the same/as fed up) as last year. Things couldn’t be going (better/worse). Our family is (thriving/falling apart) and we’re (excited/apprehensive) about the coming year. We travelled (down south/to the clinic) a few times this year because of (varsity track/urinary tracts).  The boys started out relatively (slow/healthy), but then their (season/pee) turned (around/green) after some (extensive/questionable) (training/eating) after school. Their (coach/doctor) couldn’t be more (pleased/clueless) about their (progress/diagnosis). Things here at the house are getting (festive/tense) as we gear up for the annual winter (holiday celebrations/rat infestation).

Well, that’s about all the news we (wanted/care) to share with you. We hope this letter finds you (well/wherever the hell you are) this holiday season. We are planning some (travel/new business opportunities) for the upcoming year, and we hope to (see/invest with) as many of you as possible. We’ll be in touch. Until then…

Merry Christmas!

You’re welcome! Now just sign, copy and send. You’re all set.

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, December 10, 2014

Auditory Torture

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about torture. I, of course, mean the actual news, and not what the Kardashians are up to. That type of “news” is torture of another kind.

What is and isn’t actual torture has been discussed laboriously on the political round table talk shows. Experts, pundits, and news talking heads have beaten this subject to death - or at least into submission. They all seem to fail to see the irony; listening to them talk about torture that much is actually torture. It can almost make you care what the Kardashians might be up to.

The media seems very concerned about the physical side of “enhanced interrogations.” Perhaps someone was made to stand and stay awake for a really long time. Maybe someone didn’t get too much to eat. Someone was naked in front of other people? It all sounds a lot like college to me, but what do I know? No one has invited me to sit down at the round table and discuss any of this yet, but if they do, I will tell them everything they want to know about torture and national security.

I have very real, very recent first-hand experience with torture. Not physical torture, mind you, although I am over forty, so activities like going up stairs and getting out of bed are getting mighty close to feeling like “enhanced techniques.” No, I have experience with mental torture – specifically, auditory torture.

I have been to hundreds of classrooms to read my books, but yesterday I did my first all-school author assembly in the multi-purpose room. I have not spent any significant amount of time in a multi-purpose room since I graduated from the sixth grade, but yesterday I found myself needing to hang around inside one for about an hour or so before I started the assembly.

I didn’t last long.

The kids were all in class, so my time in the multi-purpose room started out with peace and quiet, but eventually shuffling of feet and voices could be heard behind a closed curtain up on the stage. Then, all of a sudden, the formerly tranquil cafeteria/basketball court was filled with the sounds of wounded and dying animals. Zebras brayed and seals barked. Hyenas huffed and cackled. Tiny elephants gave their last, dying, gurgling trumpet.

Or was that an actual trumpet? Oh my Lord, it was! It’s band practice!

The unseen, murderous musicians warmed up behind the big curtain for what seemed like five hours, but my watch, my cell phone, and the wall clock all conspired to lie and tell me it only lasted two minutes. Then I heard a teacher’s voice.

Oh my God, there is an adult stuck back there with them!? She’s so close to the noise! She will obviously die soon.

She mentioned something about Jingle Bells, and then the awful sounds began again. At times, it almost sounded like the students were all trying to play the same song, but no CSI team of forensic scientists in the world would have been able to piece together Jingle Bells out of the musical wreckage that ensued. It sounded as if someone had lined up a whole truckload of tubas, clarinets, trombones, and trumpets and then ran them all over with the truck.

I could not hear myself think. I could not feel myself breathe. I did not want to live any longer in that room. I blacked out momentarily and when I came to I was outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Apparently my brain’s fight-or-flight response had kicked in and my legs had carried my unconscious body to safety. I stayed away until it was almost time to start the assembly, and when I went back in, the killing of music had ceased, but I could still hear the same teacher talking to the students. Holy cow, she has been up there, stuck behind the curtain, enduring this for almost an hour! She must be bulletproof.

That thought reminded me of another time in my life when I was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. I was walking in the park one day last summer, and the ice cream truck was paralleling me on the neighborhood streets near the greenbelt. I was mercilessly pelted with The Entertainer for a solid ten minutes. I was off in the weeds looking for two sharp sticks that I could jam into my ears when, thankfully, he moved on and the horrendous noise pecking at my brain finally stopped. How the man who drives that infernal music box on wheels can function well enough to even fit the key into the ignition is beyond my comprehension.

Now, if you want information from someone, I guess you can make them stand for a long time, or make them skip some meals, or strip them naked and attempt to humiliate them. It might work, and it will definitely get you on the news. But if you really want good intel – I mean if you want them to beg to hand over every last scrap of useful information they have – there is only one way to go. Just sit them down in a nice comfortable room and pipe in elementary school band practice or the ice cream man’s tinny music box version of The Entertainer on infinite loop.

For fast, effective results, that kind of auditory torture can’t be beat. On the flip side, we should immediately entrust all of our nation’s top secrets to the elementary school band teacher and the ice cream man. They will never crack.

Until then, I guess we’ll have to flip the channel over to the Kardashians or continue to endure the irony of the media beating torture to death. No matter what, we need to avoid the multi-purpose room during band practice.

You know, come to think of it, the real irony here is that “Auditory Torture” would be a good name for a rock band.

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, December 3, 2014

Ten Birthdays

Son Number One turned ten years old last week. Ten! Now, many of you with older or grownup kids are probably saying, “Been there,” and many of you without any kids are saying, “So what?”

I can assure you, when you have children, and the oldest one turns ten, the first thought through your head is, “Holy crap, I’m old!” Then the second thought is, “Holy crap, he can’t actually be ten. He was just five a few minutes ago, and now he’s in double digits?”

Then you do the math again, and then the thought hits you that if he has really been around the house for ten years already, then it’s only eight more years until you have to pay for college. Which, apparently, in parent years is only like six and a half minutes.

Then you faint.

Then your wife revives you by kicking you in the ribs and saying, “Get up, old man.”

You start to come to, muttering, “need… more… money.”

You wife responds, “Tell me about it!”

You get the feeling she didn’t know you were referring to your son.

She has known he was turning ten for a while. That’s because she is a woman and doesn’t forget things like the birthdays of her children. You, on the other hand, being a man, were reminded of his birthday the same way you have always been; by your dentist’s office. They send a nice Happy Birthday email every year.

I actually had quite a few clues leading up to the date, because my wife had already thrown him ten separate birthday parties. Not parties with cakes and hats and noise makers, mind you, but little events labeled as “doing this for his birthday.”

His birthday falls on the Thanksgiving break every year, so every year my wife uses his birthday as an excuse to do things.  We went to the movies “for his birthday.” Before that we had gone to pizza “for his birthday.” And mini golf. And ice cream. And dinner out.

Oh, and Monterey. That’s a whole separate town. It’s a three-hour drive from here. We were going there anyway for a family baby shower, but my wife mysteriously used his birthday as an excuse to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium the next day. I don’t know why we needed an excuse, but there we were, looking at hammerhead sharks and watching bat rays mate “for his birthday.”

And that was all before Thanksgiving. Then the family arrived for Turkey Day, and the aunts and uncles and grandparents spoiled him all over again. I’m pretty sure he thought the actual Thanksgiving dinner was “for his birthday.”

I have mentioned to my wife on a number of occasions that I think we might be spoiling him a little. She sees no issue. I have even brought up the possibility that the other two boys might eventually notice, and possibly resent, the disparity between their birthday celebration and those of Son Number One.

Yes, I said “celebration.” Singular. Son Number Two and Three are two years apart, but they were both born in April, and their birthdays are four days apart. They get a single party between the two of them, with some leftover Easter candy and maybe a cupcake if they’re lucky.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. It’s not that my wife is playing favorites; it’s just that she is sensitive to a certain specific birthday problem; namely, sharing your birthday with a major holiday. She had a rough childhood, birthday-wise. She was born on Christmas Eve.

Sharing your birthday celebration with The Big Guy can’t be easy for a kid in the first place (and I love her parents dearly, and not to throw them under the bus publicly), but one year when the family was having house guests for Christmas, they forgot her birthday completely.

I guess their dentist’s office didn’t have a reliable email service back then.

So, you can see where she could be a little worried about her son “sharing” his birthday with a big holiday. So I cut her some slack when she overcompensates a little with the whole “doing this for his birthday” thing.

I just pity his future wife. He might throw a fit if she doesn’t cook him a turkey with stuffing on his birthday and take him to the aquarium. I’ll give her my in-laws’ phone number. I blame them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shop for a small combination birthday/Christmas gift for my wife. She loves those.

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 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

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 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

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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

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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

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 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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