Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pulling Teeth

My 7-year-old son’s teeth were loose. All he cared about was the money he’d get when the teeth came out.

“Money isn’t everything,” my wife and I told the kid. I felt his teeth -- they weren’t coming out any time soon. Thank God! The Tooth Fairy couldn’t afford a dollar, let alone two. The winged tooth-snatcher was off the hook for at least two months.

Three months later, our son’s teeth were ready to come out. Three months was more than enough time for the Tooth Fairy to round up some dough.

“What the heck is the Fairy gonna do?” I asked my wife after feeling my son’s looser than loose teeth.

“How should I know? With all the furlough days she’s getting this year, there’s no extra money, not even two bucks.”

“Mommy, Daddy,” our kid said. No way he overheard our conversation. “If the Tooth Fairy can’t afford to give me money for my teeth, can you give me money?”

My wife and I looked at each other. There was only one answer we could give the kid.

“Don’t you worry, you’ll get a dollar a tooth just like every other kid in the world.”

Our kid leaped for joy, ran to the bathroom and started yanking on his teeth.

“Slow down there, Indie 500,” I said, chasing him to the sink. “You don’t wanna damage your gums by—”

The kid had already pulled out a tooth.

“But it doesn’t hurt,” he said.

“But you could ruin your gums forev—”

There went the second tooth.

“That was easy,” the kid said. “Look, Mommy,” he yelled, running out into the living room with blood pouring from his mouth like a vampire who just preyed upon some helpless victim.

“Mrraaaahhhh!” my wife yelled when she saw the blood. She didn’t mind that it went all over the carpet like I was yelling about. She almost made it to the ER with the kid.

“I’m fine, Mommy,” our boy said. “I just pulled out my two front teeth.”

Meanwhile, I had the Resolve and a carpet brush trying to get the blood out of our white carpet. “Look what you did,” I said. “This’ll never come out.”

“Carpet isn’t everything,” our son said.

“No, but money is,” I replied. “And we can’t afford new carpet right now.”

That night our boy called various family members, including Grandpa and Grandma in Northern California, to tell them about his two front teeth.

“Oh boy,” Grandpa said over the phone. “Did you know the Tooth Fairy is giving out twenty-dollar bills and video games this year? She might even give you that baseball glove you really want.” Grandpa made sure our boy told us how gracious the Tooth Fairy was going to be that night, all the while laughing at what he thought was a “funny joke.”

“Ha ha,” I told Grandpa when I got on the phone. “So we’ll be expecting the Tooth Fairy from Sacramento tonight?”

“Oh no,” he said. “That Tooth Fairy passed the torch many years ago.”

Our son put his teeth in an envelope and shoved it under his pillow before saying good night.

“Can you believe the Tooth Fairy is giving away all that stuff this year?” our boy said as my wife and I tucked him in. “I hope she gives me a twenty-dollar bill. That’d be the best.” He was so excited.

My wife and I said good night to our boy, then trudged into our room to call it a night as well, unsure of what the Tooth Fairy would give our son for his two front teeth.

“It is what it is,” I said to my wife.

“But he wants that twenty bucks so bad.”

“Money isn’t everything,” I said.

“It certainly feels like it these days.”

The next morning, my wife and I heard our son moving. He was awake. We heard him go under his pillow and rip open the envelope he’d put his teeth in the night before. We waited to hear the disappointment.

There was no response that we could make out. We remained in bed and listened for clues. We heard him moving around the room: rustling paper, scissors at work, tape being pulled from his Scotch tape dispenser on his desk.

Then we heard tapping on our door, which was only slightly ajar.

“Mommy, Daddy,” his little voice crept in. He slipped into the room with his hands behind his back. He came to our bed and handed us a folded-up, taped-up piece of paper. My wife and I sat up, opened the paper. Inside it read, “I love you Mommy and Daddy. This is for all that you do for me.” Taped below his writing were the two dollars he’d received from the Tooth Fairy.

My wife and I smiled ear to ear. Our son gave us a smile of his own, a big hole in the front where teeth used to be.

-May 2011

Nothing for Mom

A few days before Mother’s Day last year, my mom called and told me not to get her anything. She said she didn’t need anything, that she wanted my sister, my brother and me to save our money.

How could I not get my mom something for Mother’s Day?

“You don’t have to get me something to show your appreciation,” my mom told me. “You prove your appreciation every day.”

How kind of her.

But how kind would I be if I didn’t get my own mother something for Mother’s Day? I told my wife about my mom’s ridiculous request.

“You have to get her something,” my wife said. “You don’t want her to be sad, not on Mother’s Day.”

“But I can’t get her something,” I responded. “I don’t want her to be mad, not on Mother’s Day.”

I did the logical thing -- I flipped a coin. Heads -- I’d send a gift. Tails -- I wouldn’t send a gift. Tails it was. I sent a gift anyway.

When my sister called to stress the importance of not buying Mom something, it was too late. My order had been shipped.

“She’s gonna freak,” my sister told me. “You have to cancel the order.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll call the company right now.”

Instead I talked to other family members about what I’d done.

“I bought my mom this for Mother’s Day,” I said, showing a picture of the gift. Everyone loved it and said my mom would love it, too.

“But my mom told me not to buy her anything this year,” I continued.

“You bought her something anyway,” a relative told me. “That’s awful, Michael.”

I tried to cancel the order. The lady on the phone was one of the most helpful customer service individuals I ever dealt with.

There was nothing this individual could do -- typical customer service.

My brother called, asked if I was sending Mom a gift, said he wasn’t. I told him I wasn’t either. My sister called to see if I cancelled my order. I said I cancelled it. My mom called to make sure I didn’t buy her a gift. I said, “Of course I didn’t, I wouldn’t go against your wishes, not on Mother’s Day.”

I was doomed.

Then I found the solution to my problem. I’d just say I knew someone at this store who owed me a favor who got me the gift and the shipping for free.

My sister thought it was a good save.

“But,” I said to her, “will you feel bad that I got Mom something and you didn’t?”

My sister assured me that she wouldn’t feel bad. That was a load off my mind.

“But Mom will feel bad that you’re the only one of her kids to get her a gift,” she said. “You know Mom, she’ll feel bad for those of us who didn’t get her something.”

I told my sister I’d fix the problem. I’d drive from Southern California to Northern California, where my mom lives, and grab the package off her doorstep before she got home on Saturday.

And that’s what I did. Five hours later, when I got to my mom’s house, I thought about how ridiculous this all was -- my mom didn’t want us kids to spend money, but here I spent gas money on a 10-hour round trip to pick up a gift I paid for and couldn’t return. As I walked up the driveway, I considered leaving the gift, turning around and going home. Better yet, I’d surprise my mom with the gift and a visit.

At the door, I saw my gift. And I saw two others -- one from my brother and one from my sister. Those rascals.

My mom loved all the presents, couldn’t stop talking about how appreciated she felt. She was not mad at all. She was happy. I’d go as far as to say that last Mother’s Day was one of my mom’s best. We kids did the right thing.

My mom just called. She told me not to get her anything for Mother’s Day this year, that she doesn’t need anything. She wants us kids to save our money.

And so, to the Internet stores I go.

-May 2011

Easter Bunny Hunters

My 7-year-old son loves nature. He found a piece of hardened cement and asked me to look at his “shiny new rock.”

“This must be sedimentary rock,” I said, playing along.

“No,” the boy said, strapping on his junior scientist goggles. “It’s igneous.” He studied the cement more closely. “Daddy, do you think I’m a scientist because of how I discover enchanting stuff in nature?”

“Sure,” I said. Hey, if a piece of cement makes my son that happy, I have to go along.

Now the kid wants to discover everything in nature -- weeds, bugs, different shades of dirt. His latest challenge is to catch the Easter Bunny for scientific examination.

“Daddy,” he said, “did you ever catch the Easter Bunny when you were a scientist my age?”

“Sure,” I said, still going along.

“Don’t you think he’s out all week hiding eggs and don’t you think we can catch him?”

“Sure,” I said. Hey, if catching the Easter Bunny makes my son- Wait! What was I saying? Catch the Easter Bunny?

“Actually, son,” I backtracked, “the Easter Bunny can’t be caught. He’ll just disappear.”

“Disappear?” he exclaimed.

Then came my big mistake: “My brother and I caught him in a box and we saw him disappear.”

“You saw him disappear?” he said.

And so began our scientific adventure. We took out the leprechaun trap we used on St. Patrick’s Day (that’s another story) and painted over the green with pastel colors for Easter.

“Should we set the box up hot-dog style or apartment style?” my son asked. Evidently hot-dog style is the box laid out horizontally and apartment style is the box standing up vertically. We set it up apartment style near some bushes in the front yard. My son added a finishing touch -- along the side he wrote: The Bunny Catcher 101526.

“101526?” I asked curiously.

“I saw it on a TV at Walmart,” he said.

“You remembered the item number for a TV at Walmart?”

“Yeah, in case I ever needed a long number for one of my inventions.”

Next, my son and I hid behind a tree and watched the Bunny Catcher 101526 for activity.

“Daddy,” my son said, “I’m starting to feel like there’s no Easter Bunny. We’ve been here all this time and where is he?”

We’d only been waiting five minutes.

We went inside the house for an Oreo cookie break. My son was defeated.

“Erik at school said the Easter Bunny isn’t real.”

“Who’s Erik?” I asked.

“Remember, he’s the one who got his finger smashed in the door when I was in kindergarten?”

“Well there’s your answer right there,” I said. “Anyone who’d stick his finger into a closing door obviously doesn’t know much.”

“Yeah, well maybe he knows about the Easter Bunny.”

It was time to tell my son the truth.

“Okay,” I began. “My brother and I never caught the Easter Bunny, and we never saw him disappear.”

I continued, “The truth is, he can’t be caught or seen, just like the leprechaun can’t be caught or seen. But you and I put that gold in the leprechaun trap and when we flipped it over, the gold was gone. Just like on Easter our eggs will be hiding. That’s all the proof we need to know leprecauns and the Easter Bunny are real.”

My son’s smile returned. Then he said, “You know, Daddy, Easter isn’t just about the Bunny and eggs. It’s about Jesus rising out of the ground on Easter Sunday. His resurrection each year is our hope for an eternal life in God’s presence.”

“Eternal life in God’s presence?” I asked.

“I saw it on a card at Walmart,” he said. “Cookie break’s over, Daddy.” Then the kid strapped on his junior scientist goggles and grabbed a shovel. Now he wants to discover Christ rising out of the ground in our backyard on Easter Sunday.

-April 2011

The Earth Shakes, the Seas Rise

My 7-year-old son has been in lots of trouble lately. Discipline doesn’t help.

I dropped a 30-pound box of garage junk from a high shelf into my eyeball. There’s a big red blotch on my eye that feels like a sharp wooden splinter.

Oh, and a close relative just got cancer. It’s Stage 3.

To make matters worse, I injured my back and I can barely stand. The pain medication has made me extremely anxious, hyper and insensitive.

So someone tried to “cheer me up” with, “Stop whining, it could be worse.”

The aftereffects of my pain medication kicked in and I said insensitively, “Oh, so because it’s not worse, because my family isn’t living on the street, because we still have our limbs, I can’t get upset?”

No response.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse than they were, they got worse.

“Mike,” my wife called from the other side of the house. “Can you do me a favor?”

I thought about my answer long and hard. Half a second later, I said, “No, I can’t.”

Some people say that if two individuals stare into each other’s eyes for eight seconds or more without moving, they’re going to either kiss or kill one another. My wife and I didn’t kiss. After our 8-second stare, she threw down the gauntlet, challenging me to prove that I care about her needs and not just my own. Of course, this dilemma was bound to come up. I’d done something long ago to cause it. At the altar, I said, “I do.”

“I care about your needs,” I said in my defense. “I just have nothing else to give right now. This medicine is making me nuts and I’m wiped out and I’m drained.”

Clearly I was dramatic, too.

I retreated from what was slowly becoming a death match. My son tried to help.

“Daddy, maybe you should just take a cool bath and cool off.”

When I told my son that wouldn’t work, he asked if he could take a bath. He likes to take long baths because his skin shrivels up. He says the wrinkles make him look older, and he wants to look older. I told him that “older” isn’t better. “Older” means more problems.

“Trust me,” I said. “Stay young. Take a short bath.”

My wife walked by and didn’t say a word -- the silent treatment. She called her parents and learned they both had the flu. She asked if they needed her help. Evidently they didn’t because my wife kept insisting that they did.

When she got off the phone, she asked if I was going to say sorry. Typical guy, I said, “Sorry for what?”

She didn’t say a word. She got back on the phone, this time with her sister, and she learned her sister was helping their parents with shopping and cooking while they were sick. My wife started crying.

“Why do you get to help and I don’t?” she asked her sister.

When that phone call ended, I went to my wife and said I was sorry for what I’d done. I asked if she was okay. Things were bad for my wife, too. I didn’t have to make matters worse.

And then matters got even worse. My wife reamed me for keeping our son in the bath too long -- he was all shriveled up. So, with my medicine making me more and more anxious and insensitive, I struck back at my wife, saying her parents didn’t want her help because her help always creates more work.


About an hour later, the house was quiet and still. My wife was in the bedroom avoiding me for what I’d said. I was in the living room avoiding responsibility for, coincidentally, what I’d said. Our son tried to help. He turned on the TV looking for something to cheer everyone up. He found news about the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan. We all came together to watch.

Yes, things could be a lot worse. My wife and I never killed each other. We never were going to kill each other. We apologized and made up -- like we usually do. Japan’s epic problems made our simple domestic issues look like grains of sand, nothing to complain about.

A few days later, I cut my head open at work. While the doctor punched staples into my skull, I smiled, ignoring the pain. “Things could be a lot worse,” I said calmly.

Who am I kidding? I was furious. “God,” I yelled. “It just keeps getting better and better.”

Maybe we never learn.

-March 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Under 'Covers' Job

I’m having one of those days. One more problem will put me over the edge. It’s so bad I’m just looking for a reason to explode.

My wife does it. She pulls the covers off me like she does every night.

Fact: Wives always steal the covers. Why do wives do that?

So I take the covers back. I really wanna yank the covers from my wife so hard that I fling her out of bed onto the floor. But she looks so sweet asleep, so peaceful.

I gently pull the covers back so as not to wake her.

She tugs the covers back to her side.

I won’t get mad. I slowly pull the covers back.

I still won’t get mad. I pull the covers back to my side again.

Okay, if she tugs them again-

One more time and then I’ll really explode.

Okay, this is the last time.

Now she has no more chances.

This is really her final-

I’m not fooling around here.

Try it again and see what happens.

Keep it up.

That’s it.


Idea: What if I make a covers holder? I’ll call it the Covers Holder. It’ll hold the covers on my side of the bed. Stupid, right? Not really, if you think about it. How much sleep is lost trying to regain the covers each night. Men all over the world would benefit from such a contraption to hold the covers on their side of the bed when their wives try to pull them to their side, and they’ll get the sleep they so desire and so deserve. Yup, beginning tonight, my wife will no longer get my covers.

I go to the garage. I’m stealthy (it’s 2 in the morning). I gather some hooks and hoops, ropes and rods, clamps and clasps, and a big screw, and I build a mock-up Covers Holder on my workbench.

Now I gotta move it inside. It’s an amazing piece of craftsmanship. It would make Sears proud to see how I used my tools tonight. It won’t fit through the door.

I take it apart and reassemble it in the bedroom without waking my wife.

It’s 4 a.m. I have the Covers Holder set. I get in bed and can’t sleep. I’m eager for my wife to give the covers a tug. My Covers Holder has got a tight grasp on the covers. The covers aren’t going anywhere.

It’s 5 a.m. I just fell asleep. She finally gives the covers a tug. The Covers Holder works great. It holds the covers no problem.

Problem: The covers are now strangling me. I can’t breathe. I feel my eyeballs bulging out of my head.

I yank the covers back to my side. My wife glides into the air. She lands on my stomach, knocks the wind out of me.

“Not now,” she says. “It’s too late.”

I can’t speak. I can’t breathe.

“What are you doing?” my wife asks as I gasp for air.

“I was trying (gasp) to (gasp) take the covers back (gasp) in the name of husbands (gasp) all over the world.”

“I don’t wanna talk right now,” she says.

“That’s because you have covers on your side of the bed,” I say in one breath, and then I suck in for the air I can’t seem to get.

“Oh my God, you’re still talking about the covers.” My wife is back to sleep as she finishes her sentence.

I try to fix my Covers Holder. I’m tightening the last screw. My wife yanks the covers to her side of the bed. My Covers Holder blows apart.


Before I can sling the pieces of my contraption through the window, I hear a sound. It’s almost like chanting. It is chanting. It’s men around the world rooting me on to stand strong, not to give up.

I don’t give up. I get up. I turn on the lights. I bang away at my Covers Holder. I ignore my wife when she tells me to shhhhh.

I finally get my Covers Holder together and it works. It’s awesome. And now that it’s a success, I speak to husbands of the world to unite. Let’s kick this covers insurgence into high gear right now.

Question: How many wives out there are really going to let us attach this monstrous apparatus to the bed and keep it there?

-March 2011