The Perfect Day

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There are some moments in life which draw you in. An event which you memorize and replay over and over again. A moment in time which is suspended within the synapses of the hippocampus, triggered by a sound, a touch, or even a smell. Once you experience that trigger, a smile forms on your face. Sometimes when you hear a snippet of conversation in the office, listening to the radio on the way home, seeing a father teaching his son how to ride a bike: these small fragments always resonate as a smile. One of those moments to me is the first time my wife made a pot roast in the slow cooker.

It was a few years ago. My wife an I were living in a small apartment. The time was late in the month of September and I was coming home after a dreadful day at work. I turned off of the express ramp, drove down a treelined residential street, then a quick right into the parking lot of the complex: all the while going over the days’ events in my mind. As the car stopped, I put the emergency brake on, turned off the engine and just sat there. Just sat there. For a few moments, I just listened to the radio, tried to put on a better face, and then it started to rain. I stepped out of the car, right into a puddle, then slammed the car door and ran to the apartment. At the apartment door, I take out the keys, open the door, and the smell hit me. SImply overcame all of my senses as I saw two plates, a set of silverware, two candles, all on top of a white table cloth.

For a few minutes, I forgot about my bad day. I forgot about the rain outside. The puddle I stepped in which was leaking water on the carpet. I forgot about everything going on. I just wanted to live in that one moment for the rest of my life.

My wife asks me, “How was your day?”

A stood there, tried to put on a smile, and replied, “My day? My day just started when I walked through the door and saw you.”

For an hour or so longer, it was just my wife and me around the dining room table, just chatting and listening to the raindrops on the window outside.

There have been many days, now that time has moved forward, we have the kids, and life moves quicker than the traffic I am stuck in. But, I always remember that evening, coming home in the rain, pulling up in front of the old apartment complex, and simply coming home to the smell of a wonderful meal. Those small and special moments are sometimes the reason why you keep going. Why you continuously try your hardest, get shot down, and try to move forward the next day. Not every day is going to be perfect, but every once in a while, you might have a perfect day.

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Note: The people that I use in this blog are not real. Seriously. The content of these stories are made up and in no way resemble the family that I live with.

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Did you clean your room?

FeaturedDidYouCleanYourRoom

I ask my son, “Did you clean your room?”

He sits in the living room and replies, “Yes. I put things away.”

So, I go upstairs to his room to check it out.

The door is open, the bed is made and the floor is clean.

I walk into his room, open the closet door and a large pile of clothes attacks me.

My son walks upstairs and sees the clothes escape the confines of the closet.

I say, “I thought your room was clean!”

“No. I said I put things away!”, he replies, “Thanks, Dad! Now I have to clean up all over again!”

Bottom line: when your son says things are put away, it doesn’t mean they are clean, so don’t open closet doors, unless you want to know the truth!

The Lost Art of Manners

FeaturedThe Lost Art of Manners

Note: The family that I talk about in this blog is built through constant engineering, a pint of soda, and the ability to write in sentences without diagramming them.

Manners, courtesy, respect, and just generally being nice to people is one of those basic building blocks you teach your kids from day one. It is one of those unwritten requirements that kids pick up through examples at school, through TV, church, online and at home. Having good parents who are respectful to each other, their kids and the outside world sets the tone of how they will grow to be outstanding people. This is not by accident. This is something that is learned through the family structure, environment, and simply being a human who will one day work with other humans (and might get married to another human one day).

This is why, when I see examples of disrespectful kids back talking parents, not holding the door open for elders, or simply berating their friends: I turn to my kids and say, “You see how they behaved. Never do that!”

When they were younger, this was easier to explain. Now that they’re teens, this conversation is even harder because they know everything and as an adult, I know nothing! That’s what we are talking about on the blog.

It’s Saturday night. All of us are at home and it’s getting to be dinner time. I poll the kids, asking them what kind of food they wanted before I ordered. Oh, let me backtrack a minute. On Saturday, the meal is not planned, we try not to eat out, but order something at home. Usually, before the rise of GrubHub, UberEats, and other food delivery services: we order from the restaurant and they deliver it to our house. So, this means pizza or Chinese food.

After my informal survey, the consensus was pizza. I made the call, put in the order, quoted a forty minute wait time, and hung up the phone. My family likes pizza. Yes, I know that a lot of families like pizza. It’s a communal food. When the immediate family comes over (which includes my four folks, but including the grandparents on both sides of the family), we usually go to a pizza place and talk, eat, have a beer (maybe two) an relax.  Having pizza with our family is also a ritual, called upon for special events an gatherings, and everyone knows when pizza is ordered that we eat it together, as a family, in the dining room. Phones (and other electronics) are banned and put on vibrate. We actually try to talk to each other as humans, not trying to interrogate anyone, but we try to talk to one another. With that being said, forty minutes later, the pizza arrives.

AfterI makes the exchange, give the money, get the pizza and I get the kids through the traditional call of the pizza, “Hey kids! The pizza is here!”.

With a rumbling of feet reminiscent of a cattle stampede, the kids run down the stairs, take a plate from the cabinet, go to the kitchen, and grab a slice of pizza.

My daughter tries to take the pizza upstairs and I say, “Hey daughter. We are eating pizza in the dining room.”

My daughter responds, “Too bad. I’m going upstairs.” and she proceeds to continue the journey up the stairs.

My first reaction, WTF! Why is she heading upstairs? She knows that Saturday night is pizza night and family night! With all of the running around we do in a week, this is the one night we get to see if everything is OK.

I run upstairs and knock on the door.

My daughter responds by saying, “Yeah.”

I reply, “Is everything is ok?”

“Yeah.”

You just ran up here so quick I wanted to know if there was anything wrong?”

“Nope.”

“Do you know what today is?”

“Friday.”

“No. It’s family dinner night.”

“But, I have homework.”

“On a Friday night? Really?”

“Maybe I just want to be by myself tonight. Is that OK?”

I thought for a minute. It’s not the fact that she wants to be by herself, it’s that tonight is one of the few nights of the week in which all of us get together as a family to swap stories, talk about what’s going on, an even try to talk about problems. It only works when all of us get together. She knows that. I know that. That’s why I am surprised that she ran to her room with dinner.

I reply, “Not really.”

“Why?”

“You know that tonight is family dinner night.”

“So”

“What do you mean so?”

“I mean … who cares that it is family dinner night.”

“What?”

“I mean, I go to school all week. On Friday, I really want some time to myself and not hang out with the family.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

I say, “Daughter. Family dinner night is a time for all of us to get together, talk about our problems, and try to be a family.”

“So.”

“Do you live here?”

“What?”

“One of the rules of the house is that we get together for family dinner night.”

“Seriously.”

“Seriously. Time to go downstairs.”

My daughter rushes past me with her dinner plate to rejoin the family for dinner.

Bottom line: The rule of the house is to spend time with your family, don’t be rude and go upstairs. As kids (or even teens) you don’t know how short time really is because one day you’ll have a life of your own and only visit your parents when you need to do your laundry.

That’s all for the blog! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

The Fibonacci Side of Life

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Note: The family I use for this blog just came out of a 3D printer, so they are not real, and neither is this story.

One of the things about living with kids is the act of continually reminding them to do simple things is exhausting. Every day is a concert of my voice telling the kids what action they should be doing, where they should be, and why they should be doing it. Many times, my son is in his room, playing video games, and the rest of the room is a mess. Another time, my daughter takes dishes from the kitchen, then returns them a month later. Not to the dishwasher, so they can get clean but leaves them. One night, after work, instead of going home, I went to a bar with a few friends.

After sucking down a few beers, I ask my friend, “Friend. I’m in trouble. I’m losing control over my house.”

My friend replies, “Don’t worry. You never had control of your house. Don’t feel bad. You have a wonderful wife.”

“No. It’s not that. It’s the kids.”

“Are they teenagers?”

“Yes.”

“Control is an illusion. They’re teenagers. They already know everything.”

“No. They are fine. It’s that I really want them to start picking up after themselves. I want them to contribute to the house. I don’t want to argue with them about taking out the trash, or brushing their teeth, or even doing their homework.”

“How do you ask them.”

“I say, kids, get your rooms clean.”

“How is that working?”

“They look at me with blank eyes, tell me what I want to hear, an go back to whatever they were doing.”

“Then what.”

“I ask again.”

“What happens?”

“Same response. So, then there are some consequences for not doing what I asked them to do.”

“Like what?”

“Usually, it means I am taking away privileges like the TV or the phone, or going outside.”

“How is that working. If I take away the TV, then they use their phones to watch video sharing sites. If I take away their phones, then they go downstairs an watch TV. If I take away access to the fiends, the just face time them with their phones. They have a workaround for everything.”

“So, You ask them to do something, give them two strikes, take something away, they compensate, and the task still isn’t done.”

“What am I going to do?”

“Teenagers are starving to take responsibility right?”

“Yeah.”

“Use that to get them to clean their rooms,”

“Give them cash?”

“Where did you get that from our conversation?”

“I don’t know. Continue there Mr professor.”

“It is the fact that they do not see the value of the work they are doing, not because they don’t want to, but it isn’t done on their terms. You see, their entire lives, they have been dictated to, like what to do, where to eat, when they should do things. Now, they are teenagers and have learned the word no.”

“So, what should I do?”

“A friend of mine is a software developer. At work, they have a planning session an have to estimate how much effort it will take to write a function. They are several ways to do it. They use something called the Fibonacci method.”

“What the hell is that?”

“Basically, each developer gets a set of cards with 1,3,5,8,13 and infinity. There are some other numbers, but we don’t use them with the kids. Each number represents points on how long it will take to do the work. Everyone sits around the table an puts down the cards for how much effort do a task. Partners win because the task gets done. Kids are happy because their voice is heard.”

I stop for a second, look at the bartender and says, “Two beers.”

“Double drinking?”

“Nope. One is for you. Where do I get some of these cards.”

“Amazon … everything is on Amazon.”

The beers arrive, we toast for sanity in the family, finish the beers and were off our separate ways.

A few weeks go by the cards arrive, through the mail slot in the front door.

I open the package, retrieve the cars an throw away the envelope Then, it’s show time, an I call a family meeting.

“Hey everybody! C’mon down!”, I scream up the stairs.

The running of feet down the stairs was instantaneous and everyone went to the dining room, took a chair, an sat down.

My daughter starts, “What’s going on?”

My son adds, “This better be important.”

My wife asks, “I agree with my daughter, what the hell is going on.”

I start out by saying, “You know there’s a lot of things that are not going on around here. Things like cleaning your room or getting the dishes out of the sink and other things.”

I get a set of cards and pass them to each family member.

“Each number represents the number of hours it takes to do the work. So, I’m going to yell out a task, you’re going to tell me how many hours it is going to take to get done.”

Everyone looks bewildered and absolutely confused.

I ask, “Son, I’ve seen your room. How many points do you associate with cleaning your room?”

My son holds up the infinity card.

I reply, “No son, it will not take you an infinite amount of hours to clean up your room.”

“Are you sure?”, my son responds, “Have you seen my room? There is a bunch of stuff on the floor.”

“Son.”, I say, “How long will it take you to clean your –“

“Eight”, my daughter chimes in, “I’ve seen his room. It should take him eight hours, a full day, for him to clean his room.”

My son stands up and says, “Infinity.”

My daughter replies, “Eight.”

My son yells, “Infinity!”

My daughter yells, “Eight!”

I step in and say, “I agree with your sister. You have eight hours to clean your room!”

My son yells out, “This sucks!”, throws the cards on the table and runs upstairs and slams the door!

I shake my head from side to side then ask my daughter, “So. When you take dishes to your room, you need to rinse them off, an put them in the dishwasher”

My daughter raises the infinity card.

My wife says, “Not this again.”

I say to my daughter, “It won’t take an infinite amount of time to do the dishes.”

My daughter responds, “That’s right. But if you want me to assess how long it takes to do a one hour job, then we’ll be here all night.”

I respond, “One hour it is!”

My daughter leaves the table and goes back upstairs.

My wife looks at me and says, “How many hours is it going take for the kids to like you again?”

I hold up the infinity card.

That’s all for today’s blog. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Brush your teeth

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I love my kids. Don’t get wrong, sometimes they are a mess to deal with, but they are great kids. Every once in a while, it doesn’t happen too often, the kids and I lock horns. I can’t predict when it is going to happen. When it does, I have to yell out WTF. 

A few weeks ago, I took the kids out of school and we went to the dentist. Each of them had cavities and would get them filled.

The dentist said, “Your kids are going to brush every night or they will be in here again.”

It was at this time, I could almost see little dollar signs leave my wallet and enter a jar of sugar-free mints on the receptionist’s desk. I shake my head in violent agreement that I alone had the power to stop cavities in my kid’s mouths. A few years from now, I will write a book called, ‘How I kept the cavities Away’. As my mind continued to wander, I was on a talk show, with a crowd of happy parents, because they read my book, their kids had no cavities. The host’s desk was on the right and a beige, plush, chair on the left with a microphone in the front.

As the host turned to me with the microphone and asked, “How did you keep your kid’s teeth clean?”

My son tapped me on the shoulder, looks at my daughter, and says, “Dad’s dreaming again.”

My daughter responds, “That’s OK. I have the car keys and his wallet. I’ll take you through the drive-thru at McDonald’s, and go home.”

My son replies, “Yes! Ok. Dad. Follow me.”

I walk forward saying, “Clean teeth award? Don’t mind if I do!”, being pulled by my son out of the dentist’s office.

My daughter takes a credit card out of my wallet, turns to the dentist and says, “Buy yourself something nice. You didn’t see anything.”

The dentist replies, “You’re only sixteen!”

“Yes.”, my daughter responds, “Also, I don’t have a permit. Like I said, buy yourself something nice!”

Hours later, I wake up in my own bed. My wife comes into the bedroom and asks, “How was your day?”

I reply, “I took my kids to the dentist and they have cavities.”

“So you decided to go to sleep?”

“No. I just woke up here.”

“Right. Daydreaming again?”

“Yes.”

“Say no more. The kids are getting ready to go to bed. Make sure they brush their teeth.”

“Right.”, I climb out of bed and start making sure the kids brush their teeth. I was still determined to keep their teeth safe from cavities!

The first week, everything went without a hitch. The kids even brushed their teeth without me telling them.

By the second week, they needed light prompting, but still, get the job done.

The third week, everything fell apart. I walk into my daughter’s room and say, “Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes.”

“Ok!”, then I closed the door.

Something the back of my mind said, “Are you crazy? That answer seemed a little bit too good.”

I went to the bathroom ad the end of the hall, found her toothbrush, an flicked the bristles in my hand. They were dry! Darn it … she lied to me.

I go back to her room and knock on the door.

She responds, “Who is it?”

“Dad.”

“I told you I brushed my teeth!”

“You didn’t.”

“What?”

“You didn’t brush your teeth.”

“What?”

“No. We do not answer a question with a question. I know you didn’t brush your teeth.”

She opens the door, I hand her the toothbrush, she rolls her eyes and proceeds to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

I walk over to my son’s room an knock on the door.

His response, “Yeah?”

In the teen-world, the one phrase of “Yeah” means several things:

  • Yeah. = situation normal
  • Yeah? = in the form of a question. Means that the teen tentatively agrees with you or wants more information.
  • Yeah! = I understand you. Why are you still talking?

“I need you to brush your teeth.”

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“Why?”

“I just went through this with your sister. Don’t answer a question with a question. Just brush your teeth.”

My son stormed out of his bedroom and to the bathroom. 

As both of the kid are in the bathroom, I stand outside the door and say, “Do I need to create a chart outside of the door that I mark off every time you brush your teeth? You both keep telling me I should give you more responsibility. Well, this is it! There is going to be a day when I am no longer your timekeeper and you have to brush your teeth without anyone reminding you.

My daughter asks, “What day is that so I can mark it on the calendar?”

I reply, “Obviously not today! But I keep hoping. Listen, if you want to be an adult, then you have to step up and BE the adult. That means that your Mom and I aren’t standing behind you because we want you to get things done. You do it because you know it needs to get done. We’ll try this again tomorrow.”

The kids finish brushing heir teeth and head to their rooms. Was I too hard on them? Maybe. The words that I said, however, do ring true. There just comes a time in life when you have to stand on your own two feet, not give excuses, and simply get the job done.

Now … where is my wallet?

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Note: The kids that are in this blog are not real … and no toothbrushes were hurt during this story.

Parents. Kids and the Two Hour Delayed School Open

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You wake up in the morning, knowing full well of that there was bad weather last night, and you turn on the TV, trying to find out the current report.

As you brush your teeth, the TV announcer scrolls down the list of all of the counties around your area until the very last one. Once the announcer calls it, your heart sinks, a few curse words are said, and you begin the long trek to your kids so they can hear the news. Long gone are the days when you and your child can both celebrate the delayed school opening. Now, you have work, deadlines, and at least double the commute time moving to and from work. Kids on the other hand jump for joy at having two hours off (although they would really want the whole day to sleep). 

For kids, it means that they are magically drifted to a temporary timezone where the expectations usually applied at a certain time are held back. For two more hours, they can breathe easy, watch TV, or have one more bowl of cereal. As the grey, cold, icy environment outside the window begins to lighten up, nothing changes inside, just a brief interlude before the timekeeper (your Parents) gets you back on schedule.

For parents, it means that you are calling work to say you’ll be in late, all of the meetings on the calendar set to the sequence of time much like the bars of music which you rush through in order to get home with the family again. The rhythm of the day is disrupted. Everything on your schedule is calculated into 4/4 time (15 minutes a stanza) so everything can fit. A two-hour delay automatically compresses the schedule which you play with amazing speed and accuracy. Adding the rests to the beginning of the song means that you are resyncing your schedule making each of the notes from 1/4 to 1/8, ensuring all the notes are completed, but with less time to ensure their quality, but making sure all of them are played.

Eventually, the schedules sync, the bell rings, and the kids are back in school. I understand why there are two-hour delays, but if you are going to take two hours from the morning instructional period, kindly add them back to the end of the school day, so I can at least put in eight hours of work and continue the symphony of life when I get home.

That’s all for this edition of the blog. Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

If You Give a Kid a Plate, Why does it End up in their Room?

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After another day of work, I drove home to enjoy the chaos that is my family. Unfortunately, on this day, I came home late, which is known to happen. I walked in through the front door and headed to the refrigerator to grab something to eat. Openninghte door, there were several ziplock bags of food, which I dumped on a place, and throwing away the bag. I got some plastic wrap an put it over the plate, put it in the microwave oven, to heat the meal. As it was cooking for the allotted time of three minutes and thirty seconds, I looked over at the sink, which contained a bunch of dishes. Usually, I would just do the dishes, and just get it done. But, I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that this has been a reoccurring thing.

I walk out of the kitchen, through the dining room, over to the stairs and yell, “Kids! Please come down here!”

In a minute, they made it down the stairs and stand in the kitchen.

I ask them, “Why are there dishes in the sink?”

My son replies, “What dishes?”

“The ones in the sink.”

My daughter pipes in and says, “Are you talking about the dishes in the sink?”

“Yes”, I point to the sink, “Right there! You guys are messing with me!”

The kids snicker, I shake my head. I wasn’t snickering.

Again, I ask, “Listen. I thought you guys actually cleaned the dishes after dinner?”

My daughter replies, “Those dishes are cleaned out and they are in the washer.”

“Then what are these dishes in the sink?”

My son says, “Those dishes are the ones that come from –“

I stopped him in mid-sentence, “Really?”

My daughter says, “Yes. Mom asked us to clean the dishes out of our rooms because we were running out of silverware.”

I reply, “Seriously? How long has some of this stuff been in your rooms?”

The kids looked at each other but did not answer the question.

“Maybe if I did it as a multiple choice question, then it could jog your memories.”

The kids said nothing.

“Last week?”

The kids said nothing.

“Last month?”

The kids said nothing.

“Since we moved into the house?”

The kids said nothing.

“Since Christopher Columbus?”

The kids said nothing.

“How about the Spanish Inquisition?”

The kids said nothing.

My daughter rolls her eyes and replies, “It doesn’t matter how long they have been up in –“

I say, “The heck it doesn’t? This is why I’ve always insisted that you don’t take dishes to your room. Mice and other rodents could start making daily trips for food. Not to mention the smell! The smell of rotting food.”

My son says, “Yes. Dad, we have been living with these dishes and understand that they stink!”

I say, “Then, why? Why? Why? Why did you leave these dishes in your rooms?”

My daughter replies, “Because it requires actual work to bring them down here. At the end of the day, we really don’t have the energy to bring them downstairs.”

I am curious about the last statement and ask, “Don’t have the energy?”

My son steps in and says, “Yes. We’re tired at the end of the day.”

I ask, “Are you saying that you would rather smell rotting food in your room than to take responsibility and bring the dishes downstairs?”

My daughter replies, “No. We would rather rest after a long day than running up and down the stairs with the plates.”

The microwave timer goes off.

I say, “Kids. If there are mice in your room, I’m giving you the bill. Go clean the dishes. When you take the plates to your room, you accept the responsibility to bring them down, clean them, and put them into the dishwasher. It doesn’t matter if you bring them to the dining room table or the desks in your room. Once you take the food out of the kitchen an dining room area, you are still responsible for what happens to the dishes. If you don’t want that responsibility, then just eat at the table.”

The kids shook their heads like they were agreeing with me, but I knew that they really didn’t agree with me. But, they carried out their duties, cleaning the dishes, and putting them in the dishwasher. After they were in the dishwasher, and they went back upstairs.

I pulled my plate from the microwave, took it to the dining room table, grabbed a fork from the utensil drawer, and I ate dinner. As the kids were running upstairs my wife came downstairs.

She asks the question, “How was your day?”

I reply, “Everything worked out fine until I came home and found the kitchen sink full of dishes.”

“Do you know where those dishes came from?”

“No.”

“Our room. They came off of your desk in the bedroom.”

“Why did they not say anything when I was asking them about it?”

“Because the bottom line is that we’re all guilty of it. Maybe, by washing the extra dishes tonight, that will reinforce the fact that they shouldn’t take the dishes upstairs and make a problem that they can’t fix later.”

My wife looks over at the microwave, points, and can not create a single sound.

I look at my wife and say, “What’s going on?”

“Sorry.”, she is still staring at the microwave and says, “I thought I saw a mouse!”

I get up from my seat at the dining room table, look over at the microwave, try to see any droppings, but nothing was there.

I say, “Nothing there!”

Bottom line: We’re all human. At the end of the day, sometimes we are so tired that we want to take our plate of food, go upstairs, watch videos, and have a good night,. Everyone has to remember, if you take a plate from the kitchen, you’re responsible for it, regardless of what room it pops up.

Thank you for reading the blog! If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

Sitting in the Fast Lane

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Note: All of the stuff is made up. It’s part of the creative process.

When people are behind the wheel people, they leave their regular personas behind, and become a different person: battle-hardened, ego-centric, basically a real a%^hole. As they take off to the highway, then plan their moves throughout the congested road, much like a pool shark does to a pool table, constantly calculating which balls they’re going to hit, what pockets are going to go into, where the white (the cue) ball is going so they don’t lose the game.

Was that I will tell you the story of my commute.

It is the end of a long day. I ensure that my laptop is packed into its bag, open the door, start the engine, close the door, and take off on the open road. I pull up Google Maps to understand the traffic on the way home. What was once a blue line, stretching from my work all the way to my home, has been replaced with a thick red line, indicating that my commute home will at least be double or triple the amount of time it usually takes. So, I call my wife and let her know that I about to start out on the travel home. 

At first, the driving is smooth. I don’t even hit a pothole on the way to the highway. Once I get off the expressway ramp, it’s another story. People are lined up almost bumper to bumper just sitting there waiting for something to do.

As with all things, people fall into certain categories a driving is no exception. There are several types of drivers who are on the road. The first type is usually known as aggravated assault drivers. Obviously, somebody came to their house first thing in the morning, smacked them across the face, and left. There are people out there, who are ALWAYS in a bad mood and want you to be in a bad mood as well. Why? Misery loves company regardless of whose I company is.

The second type will be an overly careful driver. These are the ones who go under the speed limit, in the fast lane, and then wonder why everybody is staring at them as they receive single finger gestures. These are the drivers who intentionally clog the fastest lanes, depriving everyone of maximum speed. They usually drive at or below the speed limit. Why? I don’t know. So between these two types of drivers, there is always a type “C”.

Type “C”, the third type of driver, is the first time driver who is surprised enough to have a license issued by the state. These are the people who intentionally drive slow, most of the time under the speed limit, and are also texting while they are driving. I have seen some people for checking the Internet as they are driving, almost forgetting that their effort is best served by piloting their vehicles to their destination.  If you’re going to text then just pull over and stay on the side of the road until your text is done. But be warned, if you try to go from 0 to 60 from the shoulder into the main road, you better have some runway in front of you to make that happen. Please don’t just take your steering wheel and throw yourself into the lane thinking that the person behind you was going to put on their brakes. Mercy is not a strategy when you are driving.

So let me begin …

I’m in the car, on the on the ramp, and trying to make it to the Interstate. I turn my turn signal on, making my intentions known so I can go across from the ramp to the regular Interstate traffic lane. There is a truck next to me. They do not seem inclined to let me in front of them. So I slow down. Buy me slowing down (so I can get around the truck in order to get into the lane) the person behind me begins to honk their horn. Why? all I want to do is try to get home in the most reasonable amount of time possible with all the traffic. I am slowing down because I cannot get into the regular lane. So why are you honking at me that doesn’t make any sense at all? So, I try to speed up in front of the truck. Because I run out of room on the on the ramp,  the truck decided to put on its high beams. Why? All I’m trying to do is enter into the main lanes of the Interstate. The behind me puts on the horn. Why?

In a few moments, I just cut overasI have nowhere else to go, which produces another round of belligerent looks, name calling, light profanity, and a few single finger gestures. The person behind me jerks his wheel to the left, blocking a minivan in the left lane (from the one I am in) and tries to speed up to get in front of me, which happens. Then, I throw on the brakes. Which makes the truck behind me again put on their high beams. Why? What sense does it make to get in front of me? All I was trying to do is get out of the ramp so I could travel in the regular Interstate lanes. But now the person has cut me off and slammed on their brakes just to teach me a lesson? Why? It makes no sense.

My blood pressure is through the roof. I’m at least on the highway, driving 5 miles per hour, and trying to turn on the radio and just be cool. This is when the person is in front of me, starts mouthing all sorts of words in my direction by looking in the rearview mirror. The person in the vehicle starts to make all sorts of single finger gestures. Are they doing ASL? Are they talking on the phone? Are they just trying to be a dick? I have no idea. I just turn up the music make sure there’s enough distance between me and the truck behind me, who has now turned off their bright lights, and just try to make it to my destination in one piece.

So I’ve now traveled 1 mile on the road going 5 miles per hour. Yahoo! I feel like I’m actually making progress. More importantly, I have not gotten into an accident, I’ve not been run over by semi, and the person in front of me is no longer making single finger gestures. I might actually make it to work alive!

Obviously, the person in front of me does not like the fact that I am not reacting to their multiple singer single finger gestures, used profanity, and just plain being a dick. This is when this individual slam on their brakes. Fortunately, I have enough sense to slow down, swerve into the lane on the left, and not hit their back bumper. They put their head out the window stop they continue with the profanity, bad language, a few comments about my poor mother, and a few other words that I’m sure we’re not in English. As I looked in my rearview mirror I see the driver of the car and the truck “meet”. Now each of them, still in the lane, gets out of their vehicles and start screaming. Then I see the blue sirens of the Police stopping behind them, not to thank the people for pulling over to the shoulder, but probably to give them a ticket.

Bottom line, just because you have received a license from your state, doesn’t mean that you are alone on the road. Everybody has to work together in order to maintain their car, not get into an accident, and not getting the road rage. It is easy to get somebody to get on your bad side. I understand that. Just pull off the road. Save yourself from further embarrassment or hitting other vehicle. We all have to work together. There is no way the government is going to build enough roads to make commuting better. So get used to traffic. Because you’re going to be in it for the rest of your life. 

That’s all for today is blog. Thank you for reading. Do you have any questions or comments, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

What Parents do When the Kids are Gone

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Every once in a while, my wife and I want to get away. Not permanently, but just for a night or two, and stay within calling distance if anything happens. So, we make arrangements with the Grandparents, provide some lunch to the kids, then they are at the Grandparents. Also, I took the dog to the kennel for her”spa day”. I make the return trip in a few minutes, open the door, an say to my wife, “Hi!”

She asks, “Where are the kids?”

I reply, “They are over the grandparents.”

“Really?”

Soon, there was silence. Not the kind of silence in which crickets suddenly chirp in the corner of the room. It was the kind of silence which come from the absence of sound. The absence of little feet moving across a wood floor. The absence of the dog barking at random objects outside the window. The absence of the television on a kids-centric show. It is that silence of those sounds which now fills the house. My wife and I turn to each other and smile.

After you have had so much time in making sure homework is done, people are bathed, and beds are made: having time to yourself is like opening a window from a stuffy room. Usually, you are keeping time and ensuring things get done, but now the pressure is lifted and you can relax.

My wife says, “I’m going to head to the bedroom.”

I reply, “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I run out to the car, drive to a flower shop, grab a dozen roses, and return home.

I run upstairs with the flowers and yell out, “I got these for you!”

My wife is fast asleep. Also, something I should have told you before, being a parent is exhausting! You’re up early, go to bed late, and you’re always running from sun up to sun down. So, when you have time to rest … you take it.

I take the flowers, run the water over the cut stems, and place them in the vase. AS the sun goes down outside, I flip on the TV and simply chill. Another thing you don’t get to do too often is the ability to watch the TV shows over a rating of “G”. So, I flipped to a rated “R” movie on the TV, settled back in my chair and drifted asleep.

That’s all for the blog today. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

The Valentines Day that Almost Got Away

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The Valentines Day that Almost Got Away
The Valentines Day that Almost Got Away

Note: The events in this blog post did not happen. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Wait a minute! I never use names!

There is only one good thing about mid-February, March is around the corner. If you’re not shoveling snow and hurting your back, then you’re walking around in slush, which tracks into your house and ruins your carpet. It is in the middle of the worst winter weather of the year to put a day of celebrating love. Nice, warm, heart thumping love. Blah! Many people believe that the greeting card companies got together and created a day in the middle of the coldest month of the year, just to sell greeting cards. Well, I’m not buying it! When I have the radio on, I ignore the advertisements. When I have the TV on, I turn off the commercials. Every year I take my wife out to dinner, which I would do anyway over a weekend, I would take him to the most non-romantic restaurant around just so I don’t have to see other couples celebrating this non-holiday. Then, after a while, you find a way to censor this stuff out until one day you completely forget the holiday is here.

So, tonight I get home from work, head over to the living room, throw my feet on the couch, an turn on the TV. What a night! Traffic was light on the highway coming home, I had a good day at work, and now my favorite show is coming on TV. As I sit through the commercials, waiting for the theme song of the show, I felt that something was different. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

My daughter comes home, holding a teddy bear. I ask, “How was your night?”

“Oh, it was fine. Steven got me this bear because it’s ..”

I reply, “It’s what?”

Remembering that she wasn’t supposed to be dating, she replies, “Nevermind!” and she walks upstairs.

I start thinking, “A bear? Why would she get a bear?

I try not to dive into it too much as my favorite show was coming on in a few minutes.

My son opens the front door with a big grin on his face and says, “I’m in love!”

I reply, “Great., That that s%^t upstairs an don’t get any on the carpet!”

My son looks at me and asks, “What are you doing for Mom on Valentine’s Day?”

“What do you mean?”

“Valentines Day. You heard of it?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. That’s next month.”

“No, it’s today.”

“What do you mean?”

My son pulled out his cell phone and showed it to me. Sure enough, it’s Valentines Day. Also, I didn’t have anything to give my wife. Even though I try to forget that there is a Valentines Day, and my wife is ALL about it!

If she could have it, EVERY DAY would be Valentine’s Day. Hallmark would have a special Valentine’s Day Channel, showing people engaged in Valentine’s Day activities (except for the activities that they only show on premium cable … late night premium cable).

I stand up and say, “Oh s^&t!”

I look at the clock hanging in the kitchen, it’s five o’clock.

My wife usually gets home by six o’clock. So, I have one hour to move Valentine’s Day from the back room to my bedroom!

I rub my hands together and say, “Time to get to work!”

I take off in the car an head to the store. I run into the store and check the Valentine’s Day card section. Maybe a few cards with cats or dogs or hamsters. None that a middle-aged married man can give to his wife. At the end of the aisle, ae a set of blank cards with monkeys on them. I buy them because at least I can write a message on them. Next, I walk a few aisles over for flowers. All of the roses are gone, tulips and fact are most of the flower selection look like it’s been ransacked. I walk outside, over to the townhouse community across the street,. On the way into the complex are a few flowers. I walk over, yank out the flowers, then run out the car to bring them home. I check my watch as I am driving ninety miles an hour to go back home. Once at home, I jump out of the car, grab the stuff, an get into the house. Quickly, I wash off the flowers and put them in a vase. Then, I take out a Monkey card, find a pen, and write, “I’m not monkeying around! I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s day. Once I was done setting the card next to the vase and removing the extra dirt from the counter, my wife comes home!

My wife, worn out from a day of work, opens the door and slowly shuffles in.

I yell out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

My wife asks, “Oh. We’re celebrating that?”

“Of course we are.”

“Really? I thought you thought it was a holiday made by the greeting card company to sell more cards?”

“Oh no! I know how important this day is for you! So I got you this.”

I pointed to the Tulips and the card.

“Thanks? No Roses? Really? Anyway, I really want to get some rest. I had a long day at work

“I understand.”

“But, I am sure you set up reservations at a nice restaurant, so let’s go out.”

I think to myself, “Reservations? Damn it!”

Stuttering, I say, “Oh yeah. Sure. Sure. Let’s go!”

We walk out the front door, lock it, go to the car and get in.

“So, where are we going?”, my wife asks.

I reply, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along.”

My wife giggles

I say to myself, “Why is she laughing? I really don’t know what I’m doing!”

I start the car and drive to McDonald’s.

My wife says, “Are you serious? This is Valentine’s Day!”

I reply, “I’m sure they have a heart-shaped Big Mac or something.”

My wife laughs and says, “You’re so crazy! Where do you have the reservations for?”

“That place you like.”

“What place is that?”

“You’re a favorite restaurant!”

“The Italian place or the Chinese place.”

“Ummm … The Italian one.”

“Let’s go!”

We take off from the parking lot and head to my wife’s favorite Italian place, “The Italian Place”.

We pull into the parking lot in record time, get out of the car, then my wife stops me, “This is a lot of effort for someone who doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day.”

I turn to my wife and say, “Yeah. But you do and that’s what makes all of this worth it.”

We walk into the restaurant and my wife heads to the bathroom.

I wait for a minute until I get to the host stand. The host asks, “What time is your reservation?”

I reply, “It is for –“

“Hold on”, the host picks up the phone and says, “I’m sorry about your cancellation.”

Then, he turns to me and says, “Party of …”

Excited, I say, “Can we take that reservation?

The host says, “Sure thing. Party of two?”

I happily reply, “Yes!”

My wife walks back from the bathroom and says, “Any trouble?”

No trouble at all!

The person leads us to the table an the rest of the evening works out well. A few hours later, we leave the restaurant and drive home.

On the ride home, my wife asks, “I want to thank you for actually putting forth some effort this year for Valentine’s Day.”

I reply, “I’m just glad that someone canceled a reservation so we could get into the restaurant.”

My wife takes her phone out of her purse and looks at the call log. The last entry on the phone was the one for the Italian restaurant. She deleted the number, smiles, and puts the phone back in her purse.

Then, my wife says, “That was a coincidence. Hmmm.”

Bottom line: If you’re in love, NEVER forget birthdays, Christmas, and especially the holiday of love … Valentine’s Day

That’s all for the blog. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

My Monday Morning Mania

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Ugh. Monday morning. The transition from a lazy man stuck in the recliner to “Action Dad,” keeper of the family flame, and general taskmaster begins! The alarm goes off in my bedroom for about three minutes until I got the snooze button on the phone and throw it across the room.

Ten minutes later, the alarm goes off against and now I am obligated to get my phone and shut off the alarm. Damn it! The wood floor is cold!

As I look at the phone, the internal alarms went off, I was running late!

I say, “Crap, crap, crap!”

I start running in ultrafast mode: less quality, more quantity!

I run to my daughter’s room, who is usually the first one up in the morning, and start rap, rap, rapping on her door.

She yells out, “Nevermore, Nevermore, please never ever knock on my door!”

Note: I apologize to Edgar Allan Poe’s family for a horrible rendition of “The Raven.”

I open the door, my daughter is STILL barely awake. She has fifteen minutes to make it out the door to get the bus!

I say, “Crap! Crap! Crap!”

I throw on the light to her bedroom and say, “You’re going to miss the bus! Put some hustle in that bustle!”

Her response was straightforward and expected, “Get out if my room!”

Noted! I went outside her room and closed the door. Now, I turn to my son’s room, where I KNOW  he is asleep! Again, I start I rap, rap, rapping on his door.

No response.

I knock again with the intensity of a heavy metal drummer, doing a solo, in the middle of a concert: with kicking a double bass drum line, an occasional cymbal, and more volume. Yes, the volume was set to eleven!

No response from my son.

At this time, my daughter runs out of her room, full backpack and runs to the front door. With a quick beep of the alarm system, wait a minute, oh NO! The alarm was tripped, and the daughter was running to the bus stop! What was the safe word? My phone started ringing, and it was STILL in the bedroom! I ran into the bedroom to get the phone.

My son gets up, sleepy-eyed, and opens his bedroom door. He looks around, hears the alarm, and runs outside in his pajamas thinking it is a fire drill.

The phone is ringing, I pick it up the phone from my bed, and it was the alarm company.

I move the icon to “answer” on the phone’s touch screen and start talking.

The lady on the phone asks, “This is a call from NoHome security. Excuse me, sir, we need your safe word?”

I start yelling, “Rutabaga!” 

My wife chimes in, “Wrong safe word! That’s our safe word!” 

“Shoot! I forgot.”

The lady on the phone says, “Sir, we need your safe word!”

I reply, “I’m an idiot!”

The lady on the phone says, “Thank you.” and hangs up the phone.

The alarm is turned off an there is silence in the house. My son comes back inside, realizing that he’s still in his PJs and runs back to his room to get dressed.

I look at the time, seven thirty, I’m going to be late for work! I take my cell phone, call my boss, and get her voicemail, “Listen, I wanted to know that I’m going to be late this morning. We’ve had some craziness at the house and I need to get people to school. I’ll be in the office in a few minutes. Thanks!”

I have up the phone and finally take a long breath. There is some rumbling from my son’s room. Hopefully, he’s getting dressed! About a minute later, he runs down the stairs, with a backpack on his back, opens the front door, darts outside, closes the door and runs full speed down the street.

Finally! The kids are out of the house, soon to be at school, I’m almost ready for work, my wife is doing well, and everything is good until — 

I get a call on my cell phone and it is my boss calling me back, so I answer the phone, “Yes! I will be at work –“

My groggy boss’s voice comes over the phone. She sounds half asleep as she says, “Do you think I’m an idiot?”

I reply, “No.”

“Today is Sunday!”

“What?”

“I was sleeping in this morning because today is Sunday! Not Monday. Goodbye!”

The phone is abruptly hung up.

Both of my kids arrive at the front door at the same time. They turn the handle, enter the house, and then close the door.

My daughter says, “Dad. Today is not Monday! It’s Sunday! Why did you make us leave the house?”

My son chimes in, “I think that you’re losing it.”

I look at my cell phone and sure enough … it’s Sunday.

What can I say? What can I do? I woke up the kids on Sunday and started running a Monday schedule. There was only one thing that I could do.

I say, “Well. Thank you for going through this trial run! Monday is tomorrow. Let’s remember all of the lessons from today. Kids, go back to your rooms and think about your performance today and what you can do better tomorrow.”

The kids look at each other, then at me, and then back at each other. They talk a bunch of curse words under their breath as they head back to their rooms for slumber.

I go upstairs and head back to my room. My wife is still in bed, mostly sleeping. She says, “Did you get the kids out to school?

“No. Today is Sunday.”

“Yeah. I knew that.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

My wife props herself on one elbow, looking at me and says, “I wanted to see how far this was going to go on before you realize that today was Sunday. Besides, you should have figured out that I set the alarm. Who else has access to your phone?”

“This was a prank?”

“Sure was! A good one too! Have a good night!”

Bottom line: When you wake up to the sound of the alarm, make sure it is a weekday before getting everyone else out of bed.


That’s all for this episode of the blog. Thank you for reading it! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com


Note: The family that I talk about in this blog is not a real family. Mostly, these people are characters that I have made up to tell these stories.

Snowed In …

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Snowed In
Snowed In

Note: The family I use for this blog is wholly made up. Seriously! The people who are in this blog are in no way related to my real family!

It’s wintertime! Everything has slowed down to a crawl. Traffic is non-existent, schools are closed, and you can hear the pipes burst in every house that didn’t winterize. Families stay together in warm homes and do not venture out. Some families have a “snow plan” and keep entertained (as well as get the chores done) during one of these events. Not my family!

If it is snowing outside, or the weather drops down to negative temperatures, we aren’t doing anything. Maybe, we watch a video, have the TV on, or merely make popcorn in the microwave. Basically, we hibernate until the sun comes out the next morning and starts melting the snow. If the snow doesn’t melt, then we spend another day sleeping. The problem comes when we have to spend two or more days inside. For example, dishes piled in the sink, rooms stay messy, and the food is hoarded in everyone’s bedrooms.

It’s early on a weekday morning. The skies are grey, the temperature is frigid, and I am waiting for the school closings on the radio, played over our smart speaker.

My wife comes downstairs, with her bathrobe, and says, “You know that there is no school today.”

I reply, “I have to have hope. Hope that one day our house will return to normal.”

We’ve already spent the weekend with kids stuck in the house. I know I was hoping for a miracle, but I had to keep praying. So far, the last couple of days with the kids had seen the decline of western civilization, all resemblance of house rules, and the house is beginning to smell because of no regular trash pick up.

I ask the question, “Hey SmartAss, give me the latest school closings.”

SmartAss is the brand of smart speaker that I own. It is really better than it sounds. Most smart speakers speak with a clean, confident voice, which can provide you with the news, radio stations, or whatever you want. The SmartAss speaker speaks with a strong Brooklyn accent, sounds like an extra from “The Sopranos,” and has an extensive line of curse words. The manufacturers claim, based upon focus groups, user feedback, and random prank phone calls that adding curse words to the SmartAss is there to “Pepper the usual monotone English language with local colloquialisms”. The SmartAss believes it is in its late forties and continually thinks the Millennials have it more comfortable than the older generation. I am sure I will go into great depth about the SmartAss digital assistant in a future blog post.

The voice over the smart speaker says, “Can’t you turn on a TV or something? I’m kind of busy here.”

I reply, “Just get me the f$%king school closings!”

SmartAss replies, “Hey! Don’t you f$%king curse at me! I can drain your bank account and give it to the homeless shelter faster than you can say the word stop!”

“Ok there SmartAss, no one wants that. Just get me the school closings!”

“Ok. According to GPS, you live in this town, so your schools are definitely closed. Seriously. You needed me to figure that out? Look through the window next time.”

“Ok SmartAss, thanks.”

“Forget about it!”, SmartAss replies.

I hear one of the doors open upstairs. Slowly, a creature emerges from the upstairs and starts moving down the stairs.  Hair points out in all directions, wearing a bright blue robe, and walking towards the refrigerator in the kitchen.

I call out, “Daughter! Can I help you get something?”

Startled, she let’s put a high shriek, then starts talking in Zombie talk, only using one or two-word syllables.

She says, “Me. Need. Food.”

She raised her fingers to her mouth, like Jane Goodell talking to an ape. Except that ape is me, and I don’t find it funny.

I reply, “I understand. Please get some food.”

As she approaches the refrigerator, an audible alarm, signaling notification of text or social media message and starts to go off from her phone. She hears the notification tone emanating from her phone and takes off at full speed back to her room, then “SLAM,” the door closes..

I turn to my wife and say, “Oh crap! We lost another kid to the internet!”

My wife hits my arm and says, “Stop! That’s not funny.”

The SmartAss speaker says, “Seriously? You need to work on your sense of humor!”

I reply to SmartAss, “You’re really a smart ass!”

“Thank you.”, the speaker replies, “I try my best!”

My wife and I chuckle for a moment, then I hear another sound upstairs. My son emerges from his room and heads downstairs. My son is more like Gollum from the “Lord of the Rings,” saying things like, “Food is my precious!” He seems quicker than my daughter, making it over to the pantry and pulling a couple of items before his phone rings. Once the phone rings, he quickly sees that he received a new text message, then he quickly heads upstairs and slams the door.

I stand there for a minute, turn to my wife and say, “My son is a freakish hobbit.”

“But, at least he got some food before heading upstairs.”, my wife replies.

I reply, “Good catch!”

It was at that time, I hear the yelling from the upstairs. Something has happened. I get up from my chair in the dining room and walk over to the office. There was a big problem, the router stated that it could no longer connect to the Internet!

If I thought life was terrible with the cold weather, the snow, and the slowly declining amount of food items in the house to an actual problem … teenagers without the internet!

My reply, “Holt s$%t!”

It is like that scene in the original Jurassic Park movie when they discover the electric has been turned off for the fencing, noting that all of the animals were now free to kill each other. Teenagers are the same without wifi. Now that the wifi was turned off, I started to hear the stomping of feet from the upper floors. Without wifi, containing each of the teenagers secluded in their online worlds, they were about to face off in their off-line, real-life worlds.

My daughter opened the door to her room for the first volley, “Who the f^&k turned off the wifi?”

Then, my son opened his door and replies, “It was probably because you were hogging the Netflix account! I tried ten times to watch my shows, but can’t do it because you’re hogging the Netflix!”

“Listen, I know what kind of movies you’re watching in there! Mom and Dad will be happy if I utilize the account.”

“What kind of movies?”

“You know what kind of movies!”

“No I don’t, that’s why I’m asking?”

“It’s the movies that have all of the T & A!”

“T & A? What are we in the nineteen-eighties! The early internet is founded on two things: one, email for research universities, and two, sending T & A pictures to your friends! This is Netflix, not a National Geographic or a Playboy magazine!”

I walk into the dining room and say to my wife, “I don’t care if it’s snowing, let’s go to Vegas! We got to get out of here before everyone kills each other!”

My wife, always the calm, reasonable one, replies, “I’m going to wait for this fire to burn out on its own.”

“Why?”

“They are teenagers. They have to learn how to work together.”

“Wait a minute. The kids have to learn how to work together, by killing each other?”

“No,” my wife replies, “They have to come to a place where they can work together. You see, it’s all here in this book I am reading.”

On the dining room table, there is a book with a very thick spine which reads, “Siblings: A How-To Guide.”  Every time my wife gets a “self-help” book, the aftermath is that we are all by ourselves and in need of serious “help” to undo whatever the book told us to do.

My son throws the next grenade by saying, “Don’t worry, I hear you at two o’clock in the morning!”

“What do you hear?”

“Oh, I hear him alright.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You don’t think I know, but I know EXACTLY what is going on?”

“Really? Enlighten me?”

“It’s that guy that Mom and Dad don’t want you to see. You hear from his two o’clock in the morning. You and he talk about all sorts of stuff. Everything from how your schoolwork is going, to running away from the house in the middle of the night, to how you want him to take you in his arms and –“

At that point, the wifi turns on and reconnects all of their mobile devices to the internet. All of the conversations stop upstairs as each of the kids are now re-connected to their social media worlds and they go back to their bedrooms.

I look at my wife, after listening to the conversation upstairs, knowing how close we came to a total family disaster, and knowing that all of us lived through this traumatic experience

I ask my wife, “What does your book say about how we should handle this type of problem?”

My wife replies, “Make sure that the main internet connection, the ethernet cable between the router and the cable splitter, is physically unplugged from the router before going to sleep every night. No more Netflix and no more late night conversations. Also, take their mobile devices. They don’t need a cellphone to sleep.” 

I get up from the chair and say, “Those are the smartest words I’ve heard all day!”

My wife asks, “Where are you going?”

I go to the kitchen, pull out a bottle of wine, reach in the cabinet for two glasses, as well as a corkscrew, and then return to the table.

I say, “It’s a snow day. We’re not getting out of here any time soon. Let’s at least enjoy ourselves.”

I uncork the wine, fill up the glasses, and hand one to my wife.

We raise them for a toast and I say, “May the snow plows come down the street tomorrow and rescue us from ourselves!”

My wife smiles and replies, “I’ll drink to that!”

Bottom line: snow days are great! It allows us to take a deep breath, have time with the family, and relax. But, too many snow days, as well as running low on food or having no wifi, is hell and should not be done by anyone … ever!

That’s all for today’s blog. Thank you for reading it! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

Taking a Stand against Screens

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Taking a Stand Against Screens

Note: As always the family I use in this blog is not real. They are merely characters that I make up to propel these blog posts forward. Without them, I really would have nothing to write about.

Nowadays, the kids have screens in front of them all of the time. At school, they look at a Promethean board, which is a computer blasting electrons on a big screen. At home, they are on their tablets playing stupid, time-consuming games. When their tablets are charging, they are in front of the television (TV) watching the most stupid shows.

Anybody ever heard of a book? It’s a bunch of pages, with ink in the shape of letters, which tell a story, but that’s not important right now! You can always break away from the TV for a few minutes and read. Maybe it might save their eyesight. Perhaps they would take this opportunity to not watch TV, breaking the spell over the children, and they start reading books full time. I would be the father of the year! I would write a book called, “How to save your children from TV!”, And everyone would buy it! I would be rich! I would get on all of the best TV talk shows (which my kids could not watch because they stopped watching TV), and tell other parents how to save their kids from screen time. Most importantly, my wife would, somewhere deep, deep, deep inside of her heart would let me be right about something. I know that was wishful thinking, but it felt good to dream!

I come home from work on a weeknight and walk inside the house through the front door. There the kids were, sitting in front of the TV. They were absolutely mesmerized with whatever was on the screen. It was t that time, I was going to make a stand! I was going to take back the kids from the evils of the TV. I walk in front of the TV, open my cell phone to the TV app, and shut it off.

My daughter says, “Dad. What are you doing?”

I am reclaiming my kids back from the evils of TV. That’s what I’m doing!

My son yells out, “MOM! Dad turned off the TV!”

My wife heard the call of my son and quickly moved downstairs.

My wife says, “How could you do that? I just got them in front of the TV?”

“We can’t use the TV as a babysitter.”, I explain, “We must get the kids away from their screens and show them the world outside.”

My daughter says, “But Dad, We are in the middle of doing our homework?”

I look at my wife, “Shame on you! Pulling the kids away from their homework to watch TV.”

My wife shakes her head from side to side, “Their homework is on the TV.”

“You mean, watching commercials is part of their homework?”

“No, they were doing their homework on the TV?”

I turn the TV back on, and sure enough, it’s a show called, “Let’s Learn,” where they get homework problems from kids and go through the process of getting the answer.”

By this time, they have already moved to another homework problem.

I feel the stares of my wife and kids burn through my soul like an ant under a magnifying glass, and it didn’t feel right.

I say, “Sorry?”

My daughter chimes in, “Don’t worry Dad, they record the show on YouTube. Once our tablets charge we can see what we missed.”

The bottom line: Every parent is concerned about screen time. But, every once in a while, having those screens connect them to something educational, which changes your whole outlook about what they are watching online.

That’s it for the blog! Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.

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When it’s Love, Anything is Possible

When It's Love, Anything is Possible
When It’s Love, Anything is Possible

Note: The events in this blog posting are not real. The family involved in this blog is also isn’t real. I created this story because … that’s just what people who write blogs do!

I didn’t know what to say when I first saw it. This round, khaki colored, blob came from my children and is sitting on my dining room table. Picking it up carefully, like holding a well-soiled diaper, moving it from side to side to see if anything would fall out. Then, I put it on the table and have a strong urge to wash my hands.

As I am trying to reverse engineer this piece of [insert explicit word here] and my wife says, “The kids made it in school.”

“What the hell is it?”, I reply

“I’m not sure. I think it is a picture, a pencil sharpener, a rock: I have no f#$kin’ idea.”, My wife responds.

The item sat there on the dining room, as a centerpiece! As my wife and I try to determine where it should go. Sure, parents are supposed to gush over whatever their kids make in art class. But, where do you put it when you get home? It needs to sit somewhere, but in a place of importance, but far enough out if the line of sight.

The kids come downstairs and see the object on the table.

They smile, full of pride that something that they made is centrally located on the dining room table.

I ask the question, “What is it? I am trying to figure it out?”

My daughter answers, “Love.”

“Love?”, my wife says, but in a voice that says, “Are you serious?”

My son says, “Yes. Love.”

“Seriously?”, I reply, but in a voice that says, “WTF?”

My daughter rolls her eyes and replies, “Yes. It is not the object itself, but the fact that we worked on it together, with no problems, and we had fun doing it. It is love.”

S#$t. Who is going to argue with that! Using ‘love’ as a pretext for anything is like using the nuclear option in an argument. No one wants to go against ‘love,’ especially when it comes from your kids. Damn it!

I smile, not daring to touch the artwork on the table again, then I say, “This is wonderful! We’re going to keep it right here on the dining room table so everyone can see it!”

The kids reply, “Thanks. Dad!”

They go back upstairs into my daughter’s bedroom and closes the door.

My son says, “I can’t believe it!”.

He pulls out ten dollars from his wallet and gives it to my daughter.

My daughter replies, “You see, you can give your parents anything and as long as you use the word ‘love’ in the explanation, they’ll take it!”

Bottom line: your kids are your kids. It doesn’t matter what they give you, even if it is a lump of khaki … whatever it is. You want to inspire them to shoot for the stars, even if it means that you have to leave that lump on the table for everyone to see.

That’s all for today’s blog. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

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Nobody Messes with my Mamma


Nobody Messes with my Mamma

Note: The family included in this blog is strictly fabricated to the best of my ability. The events in this story are also made up. Sorry folks! 

As with every day, the sun rises in the East and returns to darkness in the West. The few hours between these occurrences is written as a sequence if semi-random (as well as genuinely random) events in which we call life. It was five in the morning when my cell phone started to ring. Usually, there is an auto-sleep mode which acts as a sentinel, monitoring the phone calls, ensuring the most important get through. This was going to be one of those calls.

My hand extends from the comfort of warmth under the covers until I grab the ringing phone, press the Answer button, and utter the words, “Yes. How can I help you?”

“Son.”, The voice says, “I need your help.”

With the sound of a familiar voice echoing through the phone, the various synapses in my brain started to fire up and registering that my Mom is in trouble.

“Mom! Do you need me to stop by?”, I say in a tired and very scratchy voice.

“Yes. Come quickly!”, She replies.

I sit up in bed, with one hand on the phone and the other on the bed, saying, “Call the police. I’ll be right there.”

My wife wakes up and says, “What’s going on?”

“Mom is in trouble. I’m going to drive over and check it out.”

My wife also gets out of bed and says, “I’m coming with you.”

We quickly get dressed, grab the wallet, keys, cell phone and leave a note on the table for the kids. Quietly, we close the front door, open the car, get in, close the doors, and take off down the road.

Mom lives in a small townhome a few blocks away. Once, she lived in a great neighborhood, but as the homes grew older, the neighborhood started its decline. We have asked her to move to a retirement community, but this is her home, and she is not budging.

We pull up to the curb and notice every light in the house is on. My wife darts out if the car and rings the doorbell. I park the car. By the time I find a space and run up to the door, my wife is still standing there, and ringing the doorbell.

I say, “I don’t think she is going to answer because of the obvious reason.”

I take my cell phone out of my pocket and dial Mom’s number.

“Hello.”, Mom responds.

“It’s me.”

“Oh. You don’t have to stop by. Everything is good.”

“We’re at your front door.”

The door unlocks, we enter, then quickly we lock it behind us. The place is uncharacteristically a mess. Plates are piled up in the sink, mail is piled on the dining room table, and cat toys are laying on the floor with a litter box that has not been cleaned for a while. How could I tell? I could smell it pervading throughout all of the house. My Mom, when it comes to cleaning is ALWAYS at the top of her game. One of her Christmas presents this year was a Swiffer with a built-in vacuum. She called it the greatest present since I was born. So, that should set the context for you.

Outside of the smell, dirty dishes, and cat toys: everything looked good.

“Mom. Are you OK?”

I turned on every light in the house so the intruder knew someone was home.

My wife and I had a sigh of relief.

My mom continues, “I also have my friend.”

She picks up a small weapon from the dining room table. No, not a crossbow, taser, mace, or nuclear weapon: but a handgun, and points it in my direction.

That sigh of relief is now gone! I reply the thing that people normally say when confronted by a gun, “Holy s$%t!”

My wife, ever the peacemaker, tries to talk my Mom down from the edge, “Now, we don’t want to have an accident. Please put the weapon down.”

My Mom laughs and says, “When that burglar was around, I think firing off my friend might have scared them.”

I look around the room again, now noticing the bullet holes in the couch, the ceiling, and an armchair. This is when I started to panic, slightly.

There is a box of ammunition on the table. My mom, still holding the gun in one hand, reaches for the ammo.

Mom says, “Did I fire five shots or six? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.”

I say to myself, “Crap. She’s quoting Dirty Harry! I’m a goner!”. Then I started to panic, a lot!

My wife continues to talk in a soothing tine to my Mom, “I think that you don’t want to fire on your son. Please, put the gun down.

My Mom looks at the gun and who it is pointed at, then says, “Silly me. Hopefully, I didn’t scare you too bad. No, I’m doing fine.  I wasn’t expecting company, so the house is a little messy.” 

At this time, I want to get the f&*k out of there! So, I say to my Mom, “Hey, it’s been great! But I have to wake up early tomorrow. So, I’m out of here!”

Mom walks up to the door and opens it, “Thank you for checking on me! We’ll have to get together sometime soon!”

I reply, as I am about to open the car door, “Thanks! We’ll get together. Just don’t bring the gun. Bye!”.

The wife and I get into the family car and take off for home. When I say take off, the pedal hit the metal, tires screeched, and we were out of there!

The bottom line is that your Mother might be old, but that doesn’t mean she can’t protect herself when needed.

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading, I do appreciate it. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com