Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Younger Brother FC

Sacramento was all abuzz last week with the home opener of the inaugural season of the Sacramento Republic FC! Can you believe it? I know, right? Me neither. What the hell is the Sacramento Republic FC?

All the Facebook reports were that everyone was very excited, but no one was getting into any greater detail than “Republic FC, very excited!” I was starting to think it was a band or a concert of some kind until I Googled it and found out that FC stands for Football Club. I was mildly interested until I realized they meant Futbol. Soccer.

Professional soccer? Here in Sacramento? Why?

I have never been able to get excited about a sport played on 2000 acres of grass where the players run back and forth for an hour and a half, nothing happens, everyone starts faking injuries toward the end to run out the clock, the ref puts a random amount of time back on the clock after the final whistle - based solely on his interpretation of how well the players faked their injuries - and when that time runs out, the game ends in a tie.

Sorry. Not awesome.

Apparently, not everyone in this fair city shares my utter distain for soccer, as they had quite the turnout to the stadium on the first night. Is it called a stadium? I never know with soccer. I know that they like to call the Central Park-size expanse of grass that makes up a soccer field a “pitch,” but I don’t know why that is, either. Anyway, the place where they play was very crowded, and they sold out of Sacramento Republic FC scarves. Dammit!

After some further investigation, I found out that the Republic is part of the USL Pro league. I have to assume that USL stands for Unsatisfying Stalemate Letdown, or Uninjured Spaniards Limping, or something like that, but we will probably never know. The USL Pro league is one step below the MLS, which I found out stands for Major League Soccer! If you thought the MLS was just the Realtors’ version of Google, you were wrong! It’s also soccer! Or is it football? Or futbol? Why didn’t they go with MLF? Tough to say.

Anyway, our very own Republic FC happens to be affiliated with not one, but two MLS squads: The Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes, two other teams I have never heard of. 

Of the fourteen unknown teams battling in the USL Pro league, I’m proud to announce that the Republic is currently ranked third, with a record of 2-2-1. (That would be wins-loses-ties, in case, like me, you had no idea why we needed a third number until you remembered we were talking about soccer, where games regularly end in a tie. The only other American game that results in as many ties is Monopoly, and that’s only because no one ever wants to actually finish.) Anyway, we are absolutely trouncing the Pittsburg Riverhounds and the Richmond Kickers. Wow, great job on the club names, fellas! The Kickers. How many beers in were you guys when you came up with that gem?

I was also surprised to find out that our FC’s motto is “Indomitable City, Indomitable Club.” I was surprised mostly because I didn’t know what “indomitable” meant. Must be a soccer word, like “pitch” or “corner kick” or “hooligan.”

After looking it up in my dictionary, I found it to mean “unable to be subdued or overcome, as courage.” I would assume they meant it in the “courage” sense, since the USL Pro standings show the Republic FC has been domitabled twice already, and tie-domitabled once. It was also not lost on me that I found the word “indomitable” flanked in my dictionary between “Indo-European” and “Indonesia.” Perhaps they were searching the Merriam-Webster for a better place to have an FC, and came across a fun motto instead.

As ambivalent about the Republic as I am, I’m willing to give them some expert advice. If you gentlemen want to put some more ink in the win column, you need to take a lesson from Son Number Three’s soccer team.

During the very first practice of the season last year, we noticed something unusual happening with his six-and-under squad. It was the first time that this particular group of boys had ever played together, and we were afraid they were going to kill each other. They were not fighting or angry in any way, they were just all aggressive. And I mean AGGRESSIVE. Every time the coaches did a drill where the players needed to run to the ball and try to win it, we thought someone was going to die. Every single kid on the team went after the ball with their head down, charging like a bull. There was no fear and no timidness to be found out on the pitch that day, my friend.

As a baseball coach (a game that rarely results in an unsatisfying tie), I had never seen a regular-season team without at least one wallflower. Watching these kids throw themselves at each other reminded me of something, but I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it. Then it finally dawned on me; this looks like my house when the boys have been in a room together for more than two minutes. These kids are crazy. We knew about half the families on the team already, prior to the season starting, and I asked around to the parents I was just meeting to see if my hunch was correct. It was…

Of the twelve kids on the squad, eleven of them had older brothers. Most were the youngest in the family, and amazingly, there was not one sister to be found. The twelfth was an only child, but he had been blessed with the same genes as the rest of the group, and his main playmate was a boy three years older than him.

We had inadvertently created a team of younger brothers. They had been fighting for scraps their whole lives. They feared nothing. We had a perfect storm of five-year-olds on our hands. Left to themselves, it would have been Lord of the Flies, but with some excellent soccer coaching, they were turned into a truly indomitable force. Twelve hard charging, fearless, sister-less, head down, slightly crazy kids, unleashed upon the unsuspecting Rocklin Soccer League.

The first-borns and sister-havers of the league never knew what hit them. We found ourselves apologizing to the other parents after most games.

“Sorry about all that. They’re all younger brothers. Nothing we could do about it.”

So there it is, Sacramento Republic FC. Time will tell if Sacramento really is a soccer city, but if you find yourselves needing to kick it up a notch in the aggressive department, or you just get tired of having so many soul-crushing ties, you might want to think about recruiting players based on family demographics.

Younger brothers from all-boy families aren’t afraid of anything. They don’t like to tie and they REFUSE to be domitated.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Home Health Exam

As I told you back in March, I have a Google Alert on the phrase “Tree of Death” in an effort to keep tabs on my book. This has inadvertently kept me up to date on all the horrifying news from around the globe of the interesting and bizarre way people die at the hands (limbs?) of trees on a daily basis. Since we own six full-size trees, I decided to update our life insurance, for obvious possible tree-related reasons.

One of the fun parts about buying life insurance, besides the phone interview, is the home health exam. A highlight of this exam is when you get to bring an open-top container of your own urine to your dining room table for someone to scrutinize. We’ll get back to that.

My wife and I had our home medical examinations scheduled for 8:00 A.M. on a Saturday. The nurse showed up conveniently at 7:30 A.M.

She may have been early because I’m guessing breakfast at the nursing home is around 5:00 A.M. or so. I’m not saying she works at the nursing home, I’m guessing she lives there. Now, I don’t want to insult Edna, the travelling R.N., by calling her old, but let’s just say when she used to work at the hospital in her younger days, it very well could have been the first hospital.

The directives for the home health exam were no food or drink except water twelve hours before the exam, and be prepared to give a blood and urine sample. The blood is no problem, since I always carry it with me, but trying to “be ready to pee” is a different thing. I had to pee at 7:00 A.M., but decided to hold it, just in case. I was actually relieved that she was a half-hour early.

Trying to be a gentleman, I let my wife go first. Actually, she just told me she was going first because she really needed to pee. I am not a gentleman; I was just too stupid to argue. That was a mistake. I realized, as I hopped around in the other room, that I was well past the point of no return regarding urination. I should have gone at seven o’clock. I could have drank enough water to be ready again by the time it was my turn. Now Edna was already here. If I peed now, there was no way I could re-fill the tank in time. Not with just water. Beer, maybe, but not water. Dammit!

When it was finally my turn, I danced into the dining room and sat down with Edna. She had a certain order that she needed to fill out the parchment forms with her inkwell and her feather quill, so I was forced to try and sit still while her arthritic hands worked their magic. Fortunately, urine was third on the to-do list and not all the way at the bottom near John Hancock’s signature.

I am 6’-1” tall, and have been that tall ever since I stopped growing taller. Edna, on the other hand, has no doubt been shrinking over the years. I would put her at about 5’ even. After she wrote down all my pertinent information in calligraphy, (two score and one years aged), she tried to measure my height by reaching up to put a ruler on my head and measuring up to the ruler with a small, flimsy metal tape measure.

“I have you at six-foot-five.”
“Hmm. Sounds a bit high. I’m usually six-one.”
“OK, we’ll go with that. I don’t like to get up on chairs anymore.”
“I understand.”

This got me thinking two things. The first was, “Holy cow, I have to pee.” The second was, “What would the life insurance implications be if Edna had written down 6’-5”?”

What if they did an autopsy on me when I died and found out I was a full four inches shorter than shown on the policy? He lied about his height! Probably to get his height-to-weight ratio more in line with our actuarial tables. This tub of lard was probably fishing for a lower rate! Fraud!!! Sorry lady, payment denied!

Finally, after Edna had used her abacus to convert feet and inches into cubits and scrawled her findings on the parchment, it was time to pee. Yes!

This is where things started to go wrong for me. I blame some of my poor judgment on my urgent need to urinate, but mostly on Edna’s incredibly poor instructions. Still, truth be told, I should have figured it out.

She handed me two small stoppered glass vials, about the size of my pinky finger, and a little open-top plastic cup, roughly 1/4-cup in size (or, in deference to Edna’s more familiar measurement systems, about 0.0002 hogshead, or 0.001 firkins).

“Fill these two vials, and fill this cup up just past the little temperature gauge on the side. Don’t fill it up too much or it will spill. Be careful with the vials, because they fill up fast.”

Now, looking back on the situation with non-yellow-eyed clarity, what she should have said was, “Pee into this plastic cup, and fill it up all the way. Then, when you are finished emptying the contents of your bladder, and have the luxury of using both of your hands again, use this handy little pour spout here on the side to fill the two glass vials, and just make sure not to pour out the rest until I have read the temperature gauge on the side of the cup here.”

Those instructions would have been a whole lot better. As it was, I grabbed the three containers, ran for the bathroom, and followed her instructed order of events.

Filling the first vial took about a half a second… Now what? I can’t put the stopper in this thing one-handed, and I can’t set it down without the stopper in it… Must think fast…

Now, I won’t go into all the details of what happened in that bathroom, but suffice it to say, I managed to fill all three containers, and let’s just leave it at that.

It was only when I was walking back into the dining room that I noticed the cup had a little pour spout.

“What was that, dear?”
“Nothing. Never mind. Here’s my urine. Please don’t set it on the table.”

Edna read the temperature and handed the cup back to me. “You can throw this away now.”

After we had both washed our hands (again) she took my blood, surprisingly with a needle and not leeches, and then we were done. She packed up her bag and pulled out her iPhone to check the time.

“Oh, good. I’ll be early to my next appointment. I have a full day, but hopefully I can make it back to Shady Acres for the late dinner serving at three o’clock.”
“Good luck with that, Edna. I’ll be here cleaning the bathroom.”
“What was that, dear?”
“Never mind.”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mail Order Bride Lie Detector

Hello,i am just surfing around Facebook when i came across your profile and i just thought i would stop by and say hi cos i was really intrigued by your picture,i must admit that your profile picture is good enough, well i would love to know more about you, my name is Kate to start with, love to hear from you soon.

Well, Kate, I really appreciate your interest in me, especially the no-holds-barred flattery of my profile picture being “good enough,” but I’m afraid you have some competition. You are not my only Facebook stalker, you know. Blessing is also very interested in me, and she can draw hearts and magic fairy dust with her keyboard.

Hi, I am Blessing, please how are you! hope you are fine and in perfect condition of health. I went through your profile and i read it and took interest in it, please if you don't mind i will like you to write me on this ID (blessingmarta @ y a h o because I am not often here on face book, send me email, in my email address or you send me your email here, so that i will use it to sand you mail and tell you more about my self OK thanks and GOD bless,
Lots of love!
Together for ever...
 `·.¸(¨`·.·´ ¨) Thanks
(¨`·.·´¨)¸.·´ &
¸ • ´ ¸. • * ´ ¨) Miss Blessing.
(¸.•´ (¸.

As you can see, Kate, Miss Blessing even gave me her email address, and she wants me to sand her mail on her ID. That is quite an offer. She seems a little more serious than you, and she is also concerned about my health, whereas you seem to only be interested in my adequate looks. Plus, the hearts and fairy dust are very compelling.

Here’s the problem, though, ladies. I assume if I made contact with either of you, I would find out that you are from some poverty-stricken dictatorship somewhere, but you are a really loving person, and as an added bonus, you are also a smokin’ hot babe, who just wants a chance to live a fun life in America. You’ll probably eventually get around to asking me to fund your trip here to the land of milk and honey, in exchange for being my wife, or at least, my hot foreign girlfriend. That’s great and all, but it makes me wonder just how serious you are about me.

If you had spent any amount of time perusing my Facebook profile, you would have no doubt seen all the pictures of my wife. Now, I understand that a hot, fun-loving girl like yourself can’t always concern herself with “the other woman,” especially since you are obviously head-over-heels for my incredibly average handsomeness. It’s the other thing I’m worried about. If you saw the pictures of my wife, then you obviously saw the pictures of my three boys as well.

Just based on logic and what I know about biology, I have to assume that there are boys in whatever country you are from. So there’s the problem.

You ladies either sent this letter to every guy on Facebook without actually looking at our profiles, or you did look at my profile, and you have no intention of actually leaving your country of origin to be my hot foreign girlfriend and/or wife.

I know this, because there is no way on earth that any woman would consciously want to live with three boys. Especially three boys ages nine, eight, and six. They are loud, obnoxious, smelly, rude, loud, dirty, annoying, loud, interrupting, loud, clumsy, loud little tornados of refrigerator-emptying noise. And did I mention they were loud? The only reason we keep them inside the house is because we are legally obligated to do so.

Since there are obviously boys where you live, I have to assume you have been in contact with at least one of them. That experience would have obviously been more than enough to make you never want to have one of your own. Now you expect me to believe from your fraudulent message that you are very much looking forward to having three of your own? Nonsense.

Nice try, ladies. You won’t be getting any money for “travel expenses” out of me any time soon. Maybe some lonely guy out there will fall for your trickery, but not this father of three boys.

I will still be contacting you both, however. My wife and I talked it over, and we want to come live with you. We don’t care what kind of war-torn hell-hole you come from. Even if bombs are dropping all around you constantly, it still has to be quieter than our house.

By the way, do you think you could help out with our travel expenses?

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, April 9, 2014

Head Lice Nit Wit

Son Number One came home from third grade yesterday with the school district’s boilerplate Head Lice Notification in his backpack. Normally, we just scoff at the head lice notices and throw them away. We have never worried about lice because our kids don’t have enough hair to support them. We shear our children like sheep. Their hair is usually never longer than an eighth of an inch. As far as lice are concerned, our kids have the human head equivalent of the Sahara desert.

We have become lazy, however, and have not cut the boys’ hair in quite some time. Their hair is well over three eighths of an inch long at this point. Not exactly 80’s rock band length, but certainly enough coverage to support a louse. So this time, I actually read the letter. The first few sentences were entertaining.

There has been a case of head lice in your child’s class recently. Don’t panic! Head lice are common among school children and are a common source of frustration and DO NOT reflect health or house cleaning habits.   

Hmm… In this participant trophy society of ours, a notice about a parasitic infestation starts with, “Head lice aren’t a gross parasite that come from filth. They are just an everyday nuisance that come from nice clean homes like yours.”

Yeah, I don’t think so. While I will grant you that a kid from the cleanest home in the world can come home from school with head lice, I would challenge the idea that ground zero for a particular festival of lice was anything less than squalor. There’s a reason that de-lousing is one of the first things they do to the new inmates at the prison.

Reading on, I discovered that louse eggs are called “nits.” Is this where the term “nitwit” came from? No telling. (If only there were some sort of internet-based search site that could be used to research that question. Alas, no such luck.) Nits, the handy notice tells us, are not at all like dandruff.

Unlike dandruff, the nits or eggs will not easily flake off hair…

That’s a good point. Another important distinction between dandruff and nits that I can think of off the top of my head (get it?) is that the nits are BLOOD-SUCKING PARASITE EGGS!

The notice then goes on to give us tips on what to do if lice/nits are found.

Step number one: Clean everything. Hmm... After applying the special lice shampoo that probably smells like a mix of gasoline and Wild Turkey, and carefully removing the nits with the special metal comb, you are instructed to:
Wash clothes
Wash bedding
Vacuum carpet, furniture, and car seats

Wait a second... You started this friendly notification letter by telling me there is no connection between lice and home/personal cleanliness, and now you’re telling me to clean everything? We may not be controlling our parasite infestations very well, but at least we all have high self-esteem. Here’s your trophy for showing up to the game, kid.

Then the notice stopped being subtly humorous and just came right out with the laughs.

If you find lice or nits please notify everyone who your child has been in contact with.

Hmm… Everyone? Luckily, we are lice-free, but had I actually found any, that notification process would have been a little tricky. Just in the last week we’ve been to the school, the store, the ball fields, the church, the park, the other store, the restaurant, the gas station, the other restaurant, the other store, and the city-wide fun run. If you were at one of those places then you were in contact with Son Number Three, the kindergartner, at some point. He’s like the Tasmanian Devil, whirling from place to place in a shouting cloud of dust. Consider yourselves notified, North America.

After reading the helpful notice, along with having higher self-esteem, I also experienced a renewed sense of work ethic. While I am sure that laziness is not a common trait among lice-breeding households, and therefore I DO NOT need to feel guilty in any way, I have decided to get off my duff and cut the boys’ hair anyway.

Luckily we don’t have any lice to deal with, but I liked it better when I didn’t even have to read the notices.

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, April 2, 2014

The Tornado Watch

The date was March 26th, 2014, a day that will live in infamy. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the senseless destruction of lawn furniture. Well, OK, destruction is a bit much. Senseless slight relocation is more like it.

It started like any other spring day in the greater Sacramento region. Then the weather moved in. Thunder clouds, lightning, actual heavy rain. Wow, this is exciting, we thought.

I must pause here, and explain the greater Sacramento area weather to all of you who are lucky enough to not be from the greater Sacramento area. We have the most boring weather on earth. And not in the good way, like in San Diego, where the residents “complain” about how the weather is boring because it’s always the same.

“OMG, 78 and sunny again today! It’s supposed to be winter! Sometimes I wish we had real weather! It’s so boring here. LOL”

Bite me, San Diego.

Sacramento weather is not always the same. We have noticeable seasonal weather changes.

We notice in the spring when it’s 29 degrees in the morning and 85 degrees by noon. Our kids go to school in snow suits and come home in shorts. We lose a lot of jackets.

We notice that it gets so hot in the summer that we can’t touch our steering wheels or the metal parts of the seat belt. Vinyl car seats? Good luck.

We notice when the fog gets so thick in the fall that we have to feel our way down the road. Watch out for that boat launch ramp!

And we notice when it rains all winter, but only snows once every ten years, and only for five minutes. Quick, kids, make a snowman… never mind.

You see, that’s the problem. We get weather, just not any of the exciting kind. It’s all the boring kind. I guess the incredibly thick fog isn’t exactly boring, but you get tired of accidentally driving into things after a while.

We’re in the flat part of California. In less than two hours we can drive to the place that has the most recorded snowfall in the United States (in California, believe it or not), but we don’t get any snow ourselves. The beach is far away. The forest is near, but we’re not in it. Because of the location, we don’t get any of the exciting natural disasters, either. No mudslides, no forest fires, no hurricanes, no blizzards, no ice storms, and no tornados. Until March 26th, that is.

We were just finishing dinner, gathered around the dining room table. (Actually, I need to be honest here, we don’t eat in the dining room, it just sounds better in the story.) So anyway, like I was saying, we were all spread out around the kitchen table/bar area/sink just finishing dinner, when my mobile phone buzzed furiously in the front pocket of my jeans. It didn’t feel like any normal text, and when I pulled the phone out to look, my heart dropped into my stomach. Or it may have been the burrito.

A red triangle with an exclamation point inside was flashing at me from the screen.

“Severe weather alert – Tornados in your area – Seek shelter immediately.”

Some unknown weather authority with access to my phone had just advised us to “Seek shelter immediately.” So what did we do? We went outside.

Tornados? Cool! We’re not going to miss this!

From under the edge of the patio cover in the backyard we looked up into the sky, and amid the thunder and lightning we saw a very large cloud, directly over our house, swirling lazily in a circle. No funnel, but the cloud was certainly spinning.


We went inside and turned on the news. The local meteorologist was almost wetting his pants on the air from all the excitement.

Finally people will take me seriously! There is actual news that I am in charge of. I’ll bet that anchor chick that makes three times more than me doesn’t even know how to spell funel cloud!

Funnels had been spotted. At least three of them. None of them had actually touched the ground, but that was beside the point. One of the newscasters was chasing the storm, taking incredibly bad video from the front seat of the vehicle, reporting breathlessly back to the meteorologist who was now in charge of the whole broadcast for the evening. Shut up, Nancy. This is my show, now. Weather channel, here I come!

As the winds in our backyard began to pick up we stood around and contemplated just where to go. We don’t have a basement. Being outside probably isn’t the best idea, but that swirling cloud above us hasn’t dropped a funnel out yet, so we’re probably still OK. How about a bathroom? Hmm… Lightning, metal pipes… I think I heard something once about that being bad... Or maybe it was good because you would be grounded… I can’t remember.

We settled on the downstairs hallway. We didn’t actually go there, but we did decide that was the best place.

As we continued STORM WATCH 2014 from the patio, one of our three-pound plastic Adirondack chairs was blown over and moved a full two feet. It almost put a dent in the lawn. The two swings on our play structure became hopelessly tangled for a minute, then untangled, but that minute was almost unbearable.

Then it was over.

When the fearless roving newsman made it to the highest point in town, the tornado had passed, but do you know what he found?

The rest of the town.

Everyone had jumped in their cars to do the same thing; follow that tornado! So many people ended up on the high overlook road that the reporter couldn’t even find a parking spot.

Other people may seek shelter in a tornado, but not us. We’re so starved for weather excitement, we follow it with our cell phone video cameras rolling.

People in Kansas might just call that a normal summer day, but for us, it was all we could talk about for the next week. Birdhouses had been knocked down. Fences had been blown to a precarious 30 degree angle. Tales of wanton lawn furniture relocation were plentiful.

Turns out, it is pretty exciting here. Take that, San Diego.

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!