The Best Mother's Day Ever

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The comments that came flowing in after the original Mother's Day gift idea post were so good that a follow-up post is definitely in order. Once again, major props to the NMH readers and thank you for your insights. I am pretty sure that loyal readers of this blog rank as the third most intelligent web community on the planet, falling just behind MENSA members and subscribers to Rush Limbaugh's 24/7 online service. Based upon the feedback from most of the women, it sounds like the ideal Mother's Day would include the following three key aspects:

1) A spa treatment
2) Getting as far away from the kids as possible without raising the suspicions of Child Protective Services
3) The house gets cleaned by somebody other than mom

So, guys, there we have it. The game plan sounds simple enough. This Mother's Day just get your wife a gift certificate to a spa, take the kids for the day, and clean the house or do some fixer-upper project while she is gone. (For the best of both worlds, you can make your kids clean the house and count it as their present to mom. While they are dusting the baseboards you can "supervise" the project while watching the NBA Playoffs, playing Madden or Guitar Hero, or taking a nap.) Ladies, how does this sound?

Purchasing the spa treatment in advance will also relieve the last-minute gift buying stress that so many of us feel. Guys, raise your hand if you have ever had to hustle to the closest 24-hour grocery store at 11:38 p.m. the evening before Mother's Day to buy the nicest $25-or-less gift that is still available. The other stress the late-Saturday-night purchase brings is the "I've got to buy this before midnight or else I'm technically breaking the Sabbath" feeling that I get. Am I alone on this? Or do others of you rush through the self-checkout late on Saturday nights to avoid a Sunday purchase from showing up on your Visa statement?

Okay, now that the ideal Mother's Day gift has been identified, there are a few comments from the original post that have sparked some ideas:

Homer Simpson vs. Jim Halpert:

In an old Simpson's episode, Homer buys Marge a birthday present consisting of a bowling ball with "Homer" engraved on it. Marge is not a bowler, but fortunately Homer, "knows somebody who will use the bowling ball if Marge doesn't want it." Angie (fillet knife) and Sandy (football helmet), sounds like you can sympathize. But, hey, it could have always been worse. Just ask melissa (a rock) and amanda (got the shaft one year).

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Homer is Jim Halpert from NBC's The Office. Jim is the only TV character who makes me occasionally feel bad about myself for not being more romantic, spontaneous, or caring with the NMW. He is so thoughtful toward Pam, but it is a real-life sort of thoughtfulness that almost any man could duplicate if we really tried. I mean, just read this excerpt detailing what he bought Pam for Christmas:

"So this year, for the first time ever, I got Pam in Secret Santa, and I got here this: a teapot, which I know she really wants so she can bring tea to her desk, but I’m also going to stuff it with some inside jokes… like… this is my high school yearbook photo. She saw it at the party, and it really makes her laugh. Not sure why. Um… what else… ooh, this is a hot sauce packet. She put this on a hot dog a couple years ago because she thought it was ketchup, and, uh, it was really funny so I kept the other two."

Every guy could probably pull something like this off every once in a while, but it takes a lot of though and effort. (It also doesn't hurt to have an entire writing staff carefully scripting every word, gesture, and goofy shrug of the shoulders). Bracken96 commented that he carries a 3x5 card around to jot down gift ideas that his wife casually mentions when they are out and about. I actually do the same in my Blackberry under a section called, "Gift Ideas". (Andrea - no peeking!). It sounds like Heather O., Ang, lindsey, nat, and a few others of you are married to the Jim-types (or at least they pulled it off once). On behalf of the rest of the Normal Mormon Husbands, please tell your husbands to knock it off and stop making the rest of us look bad.

The Apu Syndrome:
On the Fourth of July Homer goes to the Quick-E-Mart and Apu sells him some fireworks. During the transaction, Apu tells Homer, "Celebrate the independence of your country by blowing up a small piece of it!" The contradiction has always made me chuckle, I mean, shouldn't we go out and show some pride in the USA by cleaning it and taking care of it on it's birthday? Naw, we'd rather launch bottle rockets and accidentally burn down thousands of acres of forest when a faulty Black Cat product malfunctions.

Just as we tend to "celebrate" America by lighting it on fire and blowing it up, it appears from the comments that most women want to "celebrate" Mother's Day by COMPLETELY IGNORING THEIR MOTHERLY DUTIES WHILE PRETENDING THAT THEIR CHILDREN DO NOT EXIST. (I put that in all caps just to show that I picked up on the fact that almost every other comment said something to the effect of, "..just get me away from the kids...", or, "...get me away from the house...", or something similar.) Ladies, we get it. You want a break. After all that you do the other 364 days of the year, most of us can understand why.

(The irony of tying this to Apu is that he and his wife had octuplets after some zany hilarity surrounding their fertilization medication. If you think you need a break with your two kids, try being Apu and Manjula.)

Chief Wiggum Firing His Police-Issued Six Shooter:
1) Megan and Amanda - Your lucky husbands have the easiest job in the world right now. You just listed six presents that you want! Man, talk about an easy gig.

2) Bioman75 - Lakers jersey is an awesome idea. The NMW actually wore her Lakers shirt yesterday after we swept the Nuggets. On a side note - I won an authentic Laker's jersey for finishing in the top-25 of 500,000+ contestants playing Sporting News fantasy NBA. It was such a major accomplishment that it is now the first bullet-point on my resume. I selected a Kobe #8 jersey, loved it for several years, and then ended up selling it for $75 on eBay after the rape trial blew up. Shortly thereafter he changed his number to 24 and I made out like a bandit.

3) The Wiz - Can I please have your husband's email address? I am going to recommend to him that he get you a very practical Mother's Day gift that you might really need right now. It's called Prozac. You seemed a little down, or angry, in your comments. That's not like you at all. Are you okay? (I'll stop right there. This could easily turn into an online episode of Dr. Phil. Assuming, of course, that I'm willing to shave my head, grow a 'stache, gain 140 pounds, and hack off 86 IQ points.)

4) Earl - Knock it off! Seriously, dude. Come on! A baby grand? A ring with all of the kids' birthstones? You're making the rest of us look bad. What's next? A surprise trip to Italy?

5) Ang - Are you telling me that I have to get Andrea an extra present on May 27th when she's due to have baby #3? That would make it four gifts in four weeks (5/11 Mother's Day, 5/27 Giving Birth Day, 6/4 Her Birthday, and 6/14 Anniversary). Both natalie and amanda said that a baby is the best gift that a husband can give. Sweet! Sounds like I've got that gift covered already. And to top it all off, the insurance is paying for it. Yippee!

6) Sorry, the sixth bullet got jammed in the chamber. Remember, this is Chief Wiggum's pistol. Instead of a sixth bullet, Ralphie put a gummy bear in the chamber. Mmmm....explosive gummy bears.....

Well, Sisters, Happy Mother's Day! While the gifts may be better some years than in others, just remember how grateful we are for what you do in our homes and in our lives. The Lord knew what he was doing when he put men and women together. You help us to refine the patient, compassionate, thoughtful sides of our manly nature. There is nothing more important in the world than a mother who loves, teaches, and nurtures her children. The world is a much better place because of each of you.

If I scrapbooked that into a nice layout and put velum on top of it, maybe it could make a good present this year...

Husbands Unite: Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Saturday, April 26, 2008

If Andrea and I ever became famous (or infamous) to the point that a column full of Jeopardy questions was dedicated to us on the popular quiz show, the following exchange would probably take place:

Contestant #1: "I'll take 'The Normal Mormon Couple' for $100, Alex."
Alex: "The answer is: A mechanical key chain featuring a mother pig nursing her baby piglets."
Contestant #3: "What is the first gift Andrew ever gave to Andrea?"
Alex: "Correct! Your turn to select."
Contestant #3: "I will stay with 'NMC' for $200, please."
Alex: "The answer - $3.89."
Contestant #2: "What is Andrew's hourly rate while working on-campus at BYU?"
Alex: "Ohh, sorry. That's incorrect. Andrew only made $2.95/hr. in that job."
Contestant #1:"What is the amount of money that Andrew spent on the first gift he bought for Andrea."
Alex: "That's correct! What a cheapskate. You're turn to choose."
Contestant #1:"Normal Mormon Couple for $500, Alex."
Alex: "The answer - Incredible."
Contestant #2: "What are Andrew's abs?"
Alex: "Sorry, but way wrong. Any other answers?"
Contestant #3: "What is the fact that Andrea didn't dump Andrew after his first gift to her was a mechanical mother pig key chain that he bought for less than five bucks from a 7-11?"
Alex: "Correct! Andrea should have ran while she had the chance!"

Yes, you read that correctly. The first gift I ever bought Andrea was a key chain featuring a mechanical mother pig that fed it's piglets when the case was opened up. Now, there was an inside joke associated with the gift, but still, what a lame first gift-giving effort! I have improved very little over the past ten years and always have a hard time finding good presents for the NMW that both delight and surprise her.

Not only is it hard for me to find good gifts for Andrea, but all of our major gift-giving holidays and anniversaries happen to converge over a short period of time. In a few weeks I will enter the hardest part of the year for me. I will soon be weathering the perfect storm of important husband-type gift-giving dates that begins with Mother's Day (May 11th this year) and ends approximately four weeks later on June 14th. During this short period of time Andrea commemorate four important dates:

1) Mother's Day
2) Andrea's birthday
3) Anniversary of my release from Utah State Prison at Point of the Mountain
4) Our wedding anniversary

Okay, I made number three up, but the others are legit. While Mother's Day, our anniversary and the NMW's birthday are three of the most enjoyable dates on the calendar, it is draining from a gift-giving standpoint. Within the span of about four weeks, I have to come up with the three most important presents of the year. It's like having a ward member speak in Sacrament meeting, substitute in Gospel Doctrine, and give the Elder's Quorum lesson on the same Sunday. It is just too much to pull off back-to-back-to-back. It is great to have those opportunities, but they are best when spread out evenly throughout the year. Well, I don't have that luxury when it comes to showering Andrea with her annual gifts.

The purpose of this post is to help all of the Normal Mormon Husbands out there provide a nice gift to their wives this year. May 11th will be here before we know it. Before asking each of you (females included) to share good gift ideas, I have a few unique, thoughtful possibilities that are definitely worth sharing.

-Jewelry: Instead of going to ZCMI and getting knock-off sterling silver jewelry at 50% off, take a look at The NMW has ordered a few necklaces and bracelets from this site and they look great. The person who designs the pieces also gives them funky, fresh names like, "Cowgirl Rockstar", "Spring Fiesta", and "Penguin Parade". It is a great alternative to the bland, traditional jewelry that gets purchased for Mother's Day.

-Scrapbooking: BYU scientists have overwhelmingly concluded that scrapbooking is hard-coded into every LDS mothers genetic makeup. A good site for pre-made scrapbook pages, "Day You Were Born/Married" keepsake pages, wedding invitations, etc. is I ordered a "Day You Were Married" keepsake page for Andrea and we got a few good chuckles reading about the cost of living ($1.19 for a gallon of gas), sports (Bulls beat Jazz in NBA Finals as every Jazz fan yells, "MJ shoved Russell!" Let it go, guys, let it go), and music of 1997 (Mmm..Bop and the Spice Girls topped the charts). I also got "Name Meaning Gifts" for the kids. Whitney's was on a Disney Princess background and was eerily accurate when it said, "The number Four is closely associated with nature, so it is important for you to spend a lot of time outdoors." We were planning an outdoor party for Whitney's fourth birthday when we got it.

-Swoozie's: A lot of LDS women window shop at Swoozie's, but rarely spend money there. They have great products, but are a bit on the pricey side for most young families with four kids. Letting your wife spoil herself a little bit with a Swoozie's gift card can go a long way.

Hopefully these Mother's Day gift ideas help, but please feel free to post every other good gift you have every given (guys) or received (ladies) to make this Mother's Day a good one. When it's all said and done, I hope to avoid ever hearing the following on Jeopardy:

Contestant #2: "Alex, let's stay with The Normal Mormon Couple for $300."
Alex: "The answer - Cash."
Contestant #1:" What is Andrea's annual Mother's Day gift?"
Alex: "That's right...Andrew, you should be ashamed of yourself."

1 Boy + 16 Girls x Estrogen = Awkward

Monday, April 21, 2008

Most of you probably know that the Normal Mormon Wife and I are excitedly expecting our third child at the end of May. LDS fathers tend to be on the supportive, involved, helpful side of the parenting continuum (guys, raise your hand if you read What to Expect When You're Expecting along with your wife during your first pregnancy), which provides us with some unique experiences as we assist our wives through the belly-swelling ordeal. One of the ways in which we show our support is by accompanying our wives to the regularly-scheduled prenatal checkup visits at the OBGYN, which I'm pretty sure is an acronym for the hospital's policy of "Over Billing Girls Yearning for Nurses". This is especially true when you enter the tail end of the pregnancy. I would not be surprised during the last two weeks of the pregnancy to have an appointment end at 10:00 a.m. and hear the nurse then say, "Okay, we'll see you at your next visit, which is today at 2:30."

I had the privilege last week of going to an OBGYN visit with the NMW and I such a surreal experience that it deserved a running diary:

8:30 a.m. - Enter the lobby and quickly realize that I am the only male in the room. Between the office staff and mothers in the lobby, I am outnumbered 16 to 1. So this is what it feels like to be a female going to BYU Idaho. Creepy.

(On a side note: I felt like all of the women were judging me as to why I was with my wife at the appointment. It seemed as though they were mentally placing me into one of the following categories:

-Loving husband showing support for his wife.
-Slacker husband who is only at the appointment to get out of work for an hour.
-Fearful husband who was told the day the test came back positive, "You did this to me and I will hurt you if you don't pull your weight until this baby comes."
-Trapped husband who is married to a high-maintenance wife who would think he doesn't love her if he did not show up for every single appointment.
-Disoriented male who took a wrong turn in the office complex and instead of finding the vending machine, he found 16 judgmental pregnant women and their support staff.

Just for fun - take the poll on the right hand side as to why you (guys) or your husband (ladies) goes on the OBGYN visits. I think I'm a cross between "loving husband" and "slacker husband" because I secretly enjoy escaping the office for these visits.)

8:32 a.m. - I can literally smell estrogen in the air right now. If you have never experienced the aroma, it is a blend of the following fragrances - Bath & Body Works, Tide, oregano, velum, maternal instinct, and a large Arby's melt.

8:34 a.m. - A television is playing and a very happy-looking young woman on an infomercial tells me that by taking the Seasonique pill, "You can only have four periods a year!" Feeling. Really. Out. Of. Place. Right. Now.

8:35 a.m. - Since the television has betrayed me, I begin rifling through the magazines. Lets see. Cookie? Nope. Pregnancy & Newborn? Pass. Conceive Magazine? Ewww! Country Home? Bohhh-riiing. Golf Magazine? Sweet!

8:36 a.m. - Rats! It's Golf Magazine for Women. The nurse just called our name, preventing me from reading enthralling articles about how to control your 90-yard drive and how to talk loudly with your girlfriends while the foursome ahead of you is trying to putt.

8:42 a.m. - We have a really friendly, funny ultrasound tech named Tammy. She and Andrea have been chatting non-stop for the last five minutes as if they were best friends since high school. Neither of them has taken a breath since the conversation began. I am sitting on the stool in the corner smiling and politely nodding my head at the appropriate times, but am not contributing to the conversation at all. I sort of feel like Alan Colmes when Hannity gets rolling, although unlike Colmes, I am both sane and rational. After engaging in a forty-thousand word conversation with Andrea over the span of a few short minutes, Tammy, who is obviously very articulate, makes eye contact with me and says, "...close...that..." and motions toward the door. What just happened? Does Tammy so rarely interact with human males in this female sanctuary that she has forgotten how to speak with us, or do I just look like a dumb, ape-like organism? Obeying her request, I close the door and then proceed to drum on my chest and hoot like a silver back male gorilla.

8:46 a.m. - Tammy just squirted Andrea's belly with an ample amount of the goopy, clear gel needed for the ultrasound. The gel came out of a large squeeze bottle that closely resembles the mayonnaises bottle used by my local Subway sandwich artist. The NMW suddenly looks like a 5'9" Cold Cut Combo as she lays on the table. Mmmm...Wife-a-licious.

8:49 a.m. - Just caught a great glimpse of Caroline on the ultrasound monitor. I can't wait to meet this little girl!

9:02 a.m. - We have finished with the ultrasound and are now sitting in another waiting room for our time with the midwife. While waiting, Andrea tells me about the book club book she is reading called, Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers, and the disturbing questions it has given her about organ donation. We are both organ donors. I am even willing to let somebody else implant the Unicorn Hair that grows out of the middle of my forehead. The NMW asks me, "So if I die, can they just carve me up and take all of my dermis? How could I have an open casket with no skin?" This is the first time in my life that I have had to reassure another person that their dermis will not be stolen from them when they die. A really odd moment.

9:09 a.m. - We are now sitting inside our consultation room and a nice nurse named Glenda enters the room. She immediately apologizes to us for not having her name tag and photo ID clipped to her scrubs because she left them at home this morning. Hey, wait a second! I just saw a Dateline segment with Stone Phillips about people who pose as nurses to snatch children from the hospital. With catlike reflexes, I grab Glenda, wrestle her to the floor, and deftly incapacitate her. I call Security to tell them I have heroically apprehended the perp who is responsible for all of the unsolved baby snatchings in Guilford County.

9:10 a.m. - Whoops. Security confirms for me that Glenda, did, in fact, leave her ID at home this morning. My bad.

9:17 a.m. - The midwife is reviewing the ultrasound results in more depth with us and assures us that, "Andrea's fluids are looking good." Whew! That's good news. I just had her fluids changed four months ago, so she should be set for at least another two months or two thousand miles.

9:28 a.m. - With the appointment complete, we head out through the same lobby where I began my journey 58 minutes ago surrounded by 16 women. There is another man in the lobby at this point. He has the "what have I gotten myself into" look on his face and I can detect a trace of panic in his eyes. I look at him and silently thump my heart with my fist and mouth the phrase, "Be strong, brotha", to him. As strangers in this strange female land, we need all of the support we can get.

I wonder if my next visit to the OBGYN will be as eventful. Fortunately, I won't have to wait long to find out. It's scheduled five hours from now.

(On occasion a comment gets posted that deserves to be highlighted or instigates a response from me. In order to help these side conversations not get buried in the usual comments section, I'm going to post about them here.)

-Bracken96 - You asked, "I wonder if your title is more correct for married men?" You have a very good point. The formula "1 Boy + 16 Girls x Estrogen = Awkward" only holds true for the following situations. 1) The "boy" is married. 2) He is single and pushing thirty while all of the ladies are single and in their early twenties, but they think he is "too old" to flirt with. 3) They are at a party, he is the only guy to show up, and the 16 girls talk about the Twilight books all night. I think a better formula for a single guy and 16 single young ladies his age would be, "1 Boy + 16 Girls x Estrogen = Duuuuuuuude!"

-Anonymous & Lindsey - You both raise a good point - sometimes the husband is the MVP of the OBGYN visit by staying home with the kids instead of actually accompanying his wife to the appointment. It sounds like a fair share of women may prefer to go alone to the non-milestone visits (heartbeat, 20-week, etc.) so that they can actually get some privacy and not worry about the kids for an hour. In retrospect, this makes a lot of sense since most SAHM's have a hard time doing basic life necessities, like taking a shower or browsing Craig's List, without being constantly bombarded by the demands of little children.

-Mama Cow - Which Chilean mission did your brother serve in? I was in Antofagasta from 1994-1996. If your brother served in one of the three Santiago missions, I don't want to hear about it. You see, there were seven missions in Chile at the time and the three Santiago missions were each baptizing over 1,000 converts every month. Antofagasta? We were lucky to have 250 in a good month. If the Chilean missions were a family with seven children, six of them would have turned out to be highly successful professionals with picture-perfect families. We were the seventh child who is 26, still living in the basement, bouncing from dead-end job to dead-end job, dating shallow women, and rarely shaving. Your brother may be the reason I suffered from an inferiority complex for two years.

-Natalie - I'm so intrigued about your comments that you and David have very different opinions as to what should be done with your bodies when you pass away. You mentioned something about fertilizing a tree? Are you serious? What other free-spirited alternatives to a normal burial are you contemplating? I've never considered anything other than a traditional burial, so I'm curious to hear what you have thought about. Please elaborate.

-Mike H. - I clicked on your hyperlinked name, and you are an honest-to-goodness professional writer for the Albany Democrat-Herald. Given your background, I really appreciated your compliment. On occasion the gals from the Mormon Mommy Wars post comments on my blog, which is a huge deal to me since they are among the rock stars of the LDS blogosphere. Now all I need is a comment from Eric D. Snider, Brandon Mull (my mission buddy turned popular author), and Orson Scott Card (my favorite author and just happens to live in my Stake) and I can retire a happy blogger.

-Sandy - Just to clarify, I do not attend every single OBGYN appointment. My apologies if I left that impression. I normally go to the first couple to hear the heart beat and make sure everything is okay. The 20-week visit is a must, but after that visit I rarely attend. If there is something that worries us, like the baby measuring small or some other physical concern, then I definitely go.

This Is What It Sounds Like, When Men Cry

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Last night was the season finale for NBC's The Biggest Loser and it made me think of a conversation I recently had with my sister Angie about the show. Most of our discussion was about how much man-crying has taken place among the male contestants this year. Hence the purpose of this post – when is it appropriate for men to cry? How long can a man cry before crossing that fine line between “in touch with his feelings” and “now you’re making everybody in the room feel awkward?” Are there unwritten rules about a good man-cry that I need to know about?

For those of you who have not been watching The Biggest Loser this season, the contestant were teamed as couples, including a mother-son team, former college football teammates, two brothers, and one contestant and his best friend – a double order of Tony Roma’s barbecued ribs. (Unfortunately, he was kicked off the show after eating his delicious teammate on day two. All of the remaining men on the show cried. Not because they were sad to see him get booted from The Ranch, but because he didn’t share any of the ribs.) When contestants were voted off this season, the remaining teammate generally wept as if their loved one had been sentenced to a slow, painful death at the hands of Prince Humperdink inside his tree-concealed torture chamber.

In fact, one of the contestants, Mark, cried at least fourteen times in every episode. He lost it when he talked about his teammate/brother, Jay. Mark sobbed his way through every elimination ceremony. I am pretty sure that Mark would even cry if Hitler were brought back to life and he had to vote him off. He got teary-eyed when he thought about his wife and family. He wept upon finding out that they were out of SPAM in the house and that Extra sugar-free gum only has five calories. Mark has lost about 120 pounds this season, 87 of which ran down his face in the form of tears. America was not alone in witnessing Mark's displays of emotion. Apparently Mark’s wife has seen him turn on the water works a few times, as witnessed by the following phone conversation from one of the last shows of the season:

Mark: “Honey?”
Wife: “Mark!”
Mark: “….(sniffle)…(sob)…(whimper)...
Wife: “Mark, are you crying again?”
Mark: “…(snort)…(chortle)…(sigh)…
Wife: “Mark, get a hold of yourself!”

Andrea and I ROTFLOL (now that I know what that means, I think) when instead of consoling her emotional husband, Mark’s wife sounded annoyed when she said, “Are you crying AGAIN?” Her tone underscored the point – there are definitely unwritten guidelines surrounding how often a man should cry. Right? I mean, if a man cannot cry after being away from home for four months and losing more weight than a missionary with a Filipino tapeworm, then when can a male shed a tear? What are the man-cry rules?

This is an important topic to me because I cry fairly often, I guess, for a man. Mark’s wife has me feeling insecure about my public displays of emotion. Do I cry too much? Here are the recent times that I have broken down. Is this out of line?

I got slightly choked up twice during General Conference. Once while considering the tremendous influence for the good or bad that my example will have on my children. The other time was during Elder Ballard’s talk about young mothers and I realized (again) how awesome the Normal Mormon Wife is.

-Hearing “O Divine Redeemer” sung at a funeral for a very special member of our ward. (As if the funeral was not touching enough, the ward member who sang the song is a close friend and has the most powerful, moving voice I have ever heard in person. She even nudged out my memorable night listening to Fred Schneider of the B-52's at the Marriott Center, which was the first concert I ever attended. Ah, memories. Rock Lobster!)

-After three straight months of constant, intense back pain and wondering if I would ever get better. (After all, it’s hard to play Guitar Hero and Madden ’08 for extended periods of time with lower back pain.)

-Bearing my testimony to the Young Women during concluding remarks of New Beginnings. I always cry when bearing my testimony to the youth. It's just a given.

-Upon learning that we were expecting our third child, which we were hoping for.

-After realizing that by having a third child, Andrea and I will be outnumbered 3-2 by the kids. During basketball practice we always ran a drill called “3 on 2, 2 on 1”. You always lose when you are the “2” defenders against the “3” offensive players. I hope it is not the same with parenting.

Are these justified reasons for a man-cry? Some other random times that I find myself choking up:

-During the Olympics after watching a touching athlete profile and learning that he is dedicating his performance to his brother who lost his life in some heroic way, and then overcomes all odds to win the gold.

-Sympathy tears when I see a loved one crying.

-Watching the episode on Survivor when the contestants get “surprise” visits from their loved ones. Always a tear jerker.

-Getting pepper sprayed by riot police after inciting frequent bowling alley brawls, though I am building up some resistance now. (Okay, I made that one up after struggling for a few minutes to find a fourth bullet point. Maybe I don’t cry as much as I thought.)

It is definitely acceptable for men to cry on occasion, especially when the Spirit gets involved. But there is an unwritten line between being a distant, emotionally-detached male who never shows emotion and the annoying, quivering heap of tears known as Mark. Where is that line?

I am appreciative that my sister Angie prompted this topic because there is a lot that we as men will learn from each other’s comments. In fact, I look up to my sister a great deal and cherish my conversations with her. We live on opposite sides of the country and do not get to see each other very often. When I think of my sister...(sniff)…I start to miss…(tears welling)…her so much…(sobbing)…

Does anybody have a tissue?

(On occasion a comment gets posted that deserves to be highlighted or instigates a response from me. In order to help these side conversations not get buried in the usual comments section, I'm going to post about them here.)

-bioman75 - Great to hear that there is another Lakers fan tuning into the blog. I saw the Lakers-Nuggets game on tape and am also giddy about Kobe & Co. Pau Gasol was a man among boys, Odom is always in the right place at the right time. Vujacic consistently nails momentum-changing three pointers. Can you imagine if they had a healthy Andrew Bynum right now? I am tempering my expectations a little for the following reason - when the Lakers play Phoenix or San Antonio, Gasol will not have the open looks he had in Game 1. Kobe may have a hard time penetrating (due to Bowen or Raja Bell) and could easily go 7-23 in a few games. It is going to be tough for anybody to get out of the West. I just pray it is not San Antionio. Check that. Whaaa-n Antonio. I saw more crying in SA-PHX Game 1 by Duncan, Ginobili, Popovich, and Parker than when the Primary runs out of bubbles and Goldfish. Anybody but Whaaa-n Antonio.

-T-Boar - T is my little brother, but we are only separated by 14 months. While he learned a tremendous amount of patience, compassion and brotherly kindness on his mission, he used to freak me out when he got upset as a kid. If I set him off somehow, he would come after me with anything he could get his hands on. On one occasion he chased me around the house swinging a large, heavy, solid brass duck, hence the reference in his comment. If he would have connected with one of the swings, my life would have ended on the spot. I could just see the CSI: Utah scene playing out right now.

Eric Delco: "Horacio, we found this body of a nerdly-looking Mormon young man with a massive head wound. Appears to be blunt force trauma. We located this brass duck covered with blood in the bushes outside of the house and think it could be the murder weapon."
Horacio Cane: "Sounds like somebody was in a really 'fowl' mood."
Eric Delco: "Yeah, H, this kid got messed up pretty bad."
Horacio Cane: "You could say this kid was not"...dramatic pause, removes shades, "a lucky ducky."
Eric Delco: "That's it. I quit. I hate you."

-Andrea - How dare you tell the world how emotional I get when I lose to you at Scrabble! I demand satisfaction! I challenge you to a Sunday night Scrabble showdown after we get the kiddos to bed. Winner takes all. No holds barred. I'll have a box of Kleenex at the ready since I have a feeling you will need it after I bust the word "quizzed"on your head (the second "z" being a blank, of course, since there is only one "z" tile.)

-Mark - Your direct quote was, "Godwin's Law! Godwin's Law! I saw it first! :-)". I have to admit my ignorance in that I had no idea about what Godwin's Law meant until you left your comment. I did some research on on the subject and learned the following, "Developed in January of 2008 by noted author Sir Stanley Q. Godwin, Godwin's Law states that the Normal Mormon Husband blog is unequivocally the funniest blog in the history of the internet. Any person who claims otherwise is a Hitler-loving Nazi-boy."

Behind Every Good Church Baller, There's A Good...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

On March 20th I wrote a post about church basketball and mentioned the fact that most men have a playing style that falls into one of eight categories (Uncle Rico, Oliver Granger, Break Glass In Case of Emergency, etc.) I remarked in passing that not only can the men be categorized, but so can the women who come to watch their husbands/boyfriends embarrass themselves on the hardwood. A few of you have commented that you would like to see the women’s categories, so I’ve come up with a few of them that I have seen over the years.

Please feel free to post comments as to which category your wife falls into (guys) or the one that best describes you (ladies). Please also feel free to comment with other categories that I may have missed. I have a feeling that the ladies will have some good insights since they see and hear all of the behind-the-scenes wife/girlfriend stuff that takes place during the game. We men are too focused on how bad the officiating is or sulking over the fact that our jumper isn't falling tonight.

-The Ankle Bracelet: When a convict is sentenced to home confinement or given some other sort of geographic restriction, many of them are forced to wear an ankle bracelet monitor that alerts their probation officer when they cross the restricted boundary. As discussed in my “Hoops Heaven” post, there are some men who on occasion lose their temper when playing church basketball. The Ankle Bracelet only comes to the games to watch her husband like a hawk in order to prevent him from throwing a punch and sullying the family’s good name. At the first sign of her husband expressing his frustration, the Ankle Bracelet makes eye contact with him and sends a perfectly clear non-verbal message to settle down or face the consequences.

-The View: This wife attends the game not to watch any of the action, but to huddle with five of her Relief Society confidants to talk, laugh, cry, give/receive advice, and schedule dates for swapping baby sitting. The group of women resemble the cast of The View more than a row of sports spectators (with the exception that the LDS mom cast is normally made up of more of the Elizabeth Hasselbeck types than Joy Behar). In fact, these women see very little of the game, if any at all. After the final buzzer their husbands will come back and excitedly inquire, “Did you see my reverse layup in the third quarter?” or, “Can you believe I hit five straight free throws to ice the game in the last two minutes?” The responses usually sound something like this, “Oh, I think I missed that, but did you know that Jessica and Max are expecting TWINS?! I am so excited for them! They have been waiting so long for this. She hasn’t even told her parents yet because she’s going to totally surprise them by…” Meanwhile, the husband is listening with one ear, nodding and saying, “uh-huh” and “really?” at the appropriate times, all while mentally re-living the sweet reverse layup.

-The Analyst: Is normally the daughter of a basketball coach, she played in high school, and knows the game well. She does not get distracted by The View, her unruly kids, or her Young Women’s lesson that she still hasn’t prepared. The Analyst is the wife who occasionally yells helpful tips like, “Fight over the pick!”, “Swing the ball”, and “Who’s on number 21? Man up! Man up!” She has been known to track down her husband at the drinking fountain at halftime and remind him to stop rushing his shot or that he could get a couple of cheap layups by cutting back door. (Side note: Why is it that church water fountains normally do one of two things - 1) Launch a huge arc of water that clears the back edge of the fountain and soaks the carpet, or, 2) Produce a tiny trickle of water that requires us to put our lips directly on the metal and suck the water out? Am I alone on this, or does this happen at other meeting houses? And do not get me started on how soaked you get when you are drinking from the huge arc of water when a Primary child suddenly starts drinking from the adjoining kid-sized fountain. The adult stream of water is reduced to a trickle, so you bend over and start drinking, only to have the Primary child stop drinking at the same moment. The result? Your tiny trickle of water resorts back to the huge arc of water that soaks your face and shirt. Has this ever happened to anybody else?)

-The Little Bo Peep: Bless her heart, she comes to every game with all five kids in tow. She does her best to watch her husband make a few buckets while holding the infant, keeping the toddler from running on the court, and resolving fights and distributing snacks between the other kids. You can tell who the husband of Bo Beep is because when he goes to shoot a free throw, he hears a chorus of “Let's go, daddy!” coming from the uncomfortable metal folding chairs on the sideline. (If he listens real close he can also hear, “Nu-uh! That’s my coloring book! Moooooom!”, “Mom, I don’t want a granola bar. I wanted Goldfish!”, and other priceless gems that Little Bo Peep gets subjected to for an hour while showing her support for her man.

-The Chameleon: Chameleon lizards have the ability to use their eyes completely independent of each other and rotate them 360 degrees. They can look to the right with one while simultaneously looking behind themselves with the other eye. Chameleon wives can keep one eye on the game and another eye on the kids while participating in The View conversation. At the end of the game she is happy that she got the kids out of the house, saw two of the four plays her husband told her about, and heard about Jessica and Max’s twins.

-The Wanderer: Comes to the game but has ulterior motives for doing so. She may watch the first two minutes of the game but then suddenly disappears from the cultural hall to do something calling-related, like decorating her Primary room, counting the number of table cloths missing from the Relief Society closet, or practicing the organ. After about forty five minutes of doing what she needed to get done, she heads to the parking lot and drives home thinking to herself, “Am I forgetting something? Nope, my purse is right here.” Unfortunately, the game is still in third quarter and she and her husband drove to the church in the same car.

-JUST ADDED: The I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That): When the opportunity arises to refer to a Meat Loaf power ballad, you've got to seize the moment. This new category is credited to a comment from "Acte Gratuit" for a segment of women that I originally overlooked - those who refuse to go to the games in the first place. Acte Gratuit pointed out a few good reasons for skipping the games, which were: "1) It's past the boys bedtime, and 2) I like to think of the men in the ward as the polite gentlemen who say hi to me in the hall at church. Not raving lunatics who develop anger issues and Touretts every Tuesday night, and 3) If someone yelled at my husband I'd be forced to egg his house later." (I did pick up on the irony that men were accused of having anger issues while it was a comment by a female that made a direct reference to pre-meditated house-eggings. And we are the raving lunatics?)

Regardless of which category the female spectators of church basketball fall into, your presence alone makes a huge difference to us. Regardless of how old or out of shape I, and probably most guys get, we know when our wife/girlfriend is watching us. We want to impress you and look as studly as we can for you on the rare occasions that we have to sweat and crash into other men. When we make good plays, many of us sneak a peek to the sidelines to see if you were watching. When you do see us make a good play and give us a thumbs-up from the sideline, it makes us feel proud. So thank you for noticing my third quarter reverse layup, now you can feel free to keep talking about Jessica and Max's twins.


(On occasion a comment gets posted that deserves to be highlighted or instigates a response from me. In order to help these side conversations not get buried in the usual comments section, I'm going to post about them here. We'll see how it goes.)

-Wendi and Tom - You asked, "Do you mind if I post an excerpt from one of your posts on my blog? Would you feel I'm violating copyright? I'd reference the excerpt." After heated debate among the 12-person NMH corporate legal team, we have decided that you may, in fact, post excerpts from this blog on your blog. Thank you for asking permission in the first place. If you are LDS you would make a great Ward Music Director due to your sensitivity to avoiding copyright infringement. Our Stake President, who is a wonderful man, is an attorney and repeatedly reminds the Bishoprics to never, ever, ever, ever allow copies to be made of copyrighted music. When a Ward Music Leader is released he or she can write in his or her journal, "I magnified my calling by providing uplifting music while protecting the church from being sued on the basis of copyright infringement."

-On a Personal Note - Two of my long-lost friends, Rebekah and Candice, got back in touch with me through their comments to this post. I've been happy about this all week. I have lost touch with almost all of my high school friends, most of whom have remained in Utah, or at least out west, and I've spent the last five years in North Carolina (which might as well be Venus when it comes to friends just dropping by to see you.) Rebekah's family provided me with some of the best memories of my teen-age years by giving Rebekah and me their two tickets to the Jazz-Lakers game each year. I have always been a HUGE Lakers fan and watching Magic, Kareem, Cooper, Rambis, Byron Scott, A.C. Green, etc. in person is one of my all-time favorite sports moments. I do not think I have ever sufficiently thanked the Homers for their generosity, so THANKS GUYS! (Not to push my luck or anything, but if you happen to have any Charlotte Hornets vs. Lakers tickets next year, I know a guy in NC that wouldn't mind going to the game...)

-Shelley - You mentioned that you are an absentee wife right due in part to the fact that the loud buzzer freaks out your daughter. Not only are church buzzers loud enough to puncture an ear drum, but the volunteers who operate the clock rarely know how to shut it off the first time it goes off. It's not rare to have the first quarter horn sound for thirty seconds before the poor person running the clock figures out how to shut it off. In the process of finding the button to reset the horn, they normally manage to somehow erase the score, which results in a five minute delay to get the time and score back up. I've seen this happen a hundred times.

-Earl & Vicki - In the example you gave of the wife saying, "That's the last time HE plays church ball!!!" after her husband got a technical, the case could be made that the wife actually WANTED him to get the tech. If she would have been more Ankle Bracelet and less of The View that evening, she would have seen the warning signs of his imminent outburst and she could have intervened. All it would have taken is one frigid, intimidating look and he would have simmered down. I think she actually wanted him to get the technical so that she didn't have to go to anymore of his games.

-A Good Husband - I'm glad I salvaged you as a reader since you are one of the few males who actually posts comments. I am saddened, however, that you have not gotten much out of this blog since you subscribed two weeks ago. Because customer satisfaction is our priority at NHM, we will refund the cost of your subscription back to you. You should receive an envelope full of air within the next 6-8 business days.

Amen, Elder Ballard. Amen.

This post is going to be a little different than most of the trivial stuff I normally put on this blog. It will be short, simple, sincere, and completely devoid of references to He-Man characters and reality television.

Elder Ballard's General Conference talk geared toward young mothers really touched me. As a man who is married to a young mother, I want to thank Elder Ballard for his message. (I wanted to call myself a "young father", but I seem to age two years for every one of Andrea's. In twenty years we will be one of those couples where the wife looks like she is in her early forties but the husband looks like he's approaching seventy, even though they are the same age). Most young mothers probably felt loved knowing that an Apostle saw and appreciated the daily sacrifices, struggles, and the pressures of their lives. It made me personally grateful for having a wonderful, supportive, happy, fun, creative, spiritual, and optimistic wife who is raising our children so well. (And she's hot, too).

On occasion I visit the blogs of those of you who comment on my posts. Most of you are young moms with blogs largely focused on your children. How blessed those kids are to have you there to teach, lead, correct, and love them. We are lucky as Normal Mormon Husbands to have so many Normal Mormon Wives doing exactly what Elder Ballard suggested, or will begin doing what he taught a little more often.

Actually, there is nothing "normal" about what each of you do. You are amazing. Thank you!

Disney World Part II: Wal-Mart Bags Full of Memories

Saturday, April 05, 2008

If you have not yet read the Disney World Part I: CiCi's Revenge post, I would strongly encourage you to do so before reading Part II. Otherwise, you might end up as confused as I was as a BYU student who foolishly attempted to quickly read Dostoevky's The Brothers Karamazov by reading two chapters and then skimming the next two. This pattern was repeated until the book was finished. It took me nearly 400 pages before I realized that the characters Ivan, Vanya, and Vanechka were all the same person. The only part of The Brothers Karamazov that I have retained over the years is the Russian phrase, "Moio sudno na vozdušnoy poduške polno ugrey", which translates to, "My hover craft is full of eels" (Seriously, it does). Classical Russian literature is not be trifled with. Neither is the high-quality content on this blog.

Day Five: All Bags Will Be Searched
8:54 a.m. - As we get ready to depart for the Magic Kingdom, Brandon says his stomach hurts and that he is feeling a little bit sick. But the kid's a trooper and decides to "suck it up", "walk it off", "cowboy up", "man up", and "give 110%". His skin color is an odd mix of light green, grey, and the color of my yellow poncho. Let's see, the boys both ate pizza with meat on it (or a meat-like substance, anyway) at CiCi's while neither of the girls did.....not a good sign.
9:04 a.m. - While in the van heading to the Magic Kingdom, Andrea nervously hands Brandon a plastic Wal-Mart bag and teaches him how to use it in case he feels like he needs to throw up.
9:11 a.m. - We just passed CiCi's pizza en route to Disney as visions of vandalism danced through my head.
9:22 a.m. - Arrive at Disney and am bringing the van to a stop in the Pluto lot, row 26. Before I can take the key out of the ignition, Brandon snaps the Wal-Mart bag to his face and fills it with more stuff than a six-year-old's stomach should be able to hold. The kid has excellent aim, though. Not a drop in the van. B-Train shoots.....and he scores!
9:25 a.m. - I tied off the top of the now full Wal-Mart bag and am looking for the nearest trash can. We have to take a tram from the parking lot to get to the Magic Kingdom and there is a garbage can near the tram, so we head in that direction.
9:26 a.m. - Eeeeeewwwwww! The bag is leaking! On a positive note, if later in the day I forget where I parked the van, I can just follow the trail of throw-up back to Pluto 26. It's a little more gross than a trail of breadcrumbs, but just as effective.
9:27 a.m. - There are about a hundred people in the herd heading toward the tram, so I am trying my best to secretly conceal the disgusting payload that I am carrying. The best way to describe what I am feeling right now is the sensation you get when you try to sneak a 1-lb. bag of Sweedish Fish into a movie theater without getting busted by the ticket taker.
9:28 a.m. - As I near the tram, I hear the driver say over a loudspeaker, "You may take bags into the Magic Kingdom, though all bags will be searched before you enter the park." I chuckle out loud as I imagine the horrified look on the bag searcher's face if I were to hand him my Wal-Mart bag. I decide to give the Disney employees a break and discretely slip the boy's upchuck into the most unlucky garbage can at the happiest place on earth.
3:12 p.m. - Brandon and I share a ride and float through Pirates of the Caribbean. It is a little darker and tenser than I had thought it would be. The boy reaches over and grabs my hand as we go through a pitch black section of the ride. Suddenly, our boat rushes down a steep hill and creates a big splash at the bottom. Brandon's pants now feel wet. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that it's just water.
5:02 p.m. - Brandon and I go to the Indy Speedway where we drive a gas-powered race car that is forced to stay in a certain lane. We are told to keep at least 10-feet of separation between us and the car in front of us. Unfortunately, a girl who looks to be about 8 years old is "driving" the vehicle two cars in front of us. She must not be able to keep the pedal pushed in because she goes for six feet and then screeches to a halt. After sitting there for five seconds, she pushes ahead another six feet. My frustration is bubbling up since I just waited in line for an hour to do this ride and I can tell that Brandon's visions of whipping around the track are being shattered. After about two hundred feet I yell, "It's the pedal on the right!" I stop short of finishing the sentence with, "....Grandma!", which I probably would have done on a real freeway. Then the irony hits me. I'm sitting in a car, stuck in traffic just after 5:00 p.m. on a weekday, and yelling at the car in front of me. Why again did I pay $80 to enter the park? I could have experienced road rage for free! Fortunately a very helpful Disney employee jumped in the car and helped her out the rest of the way, allowing Brandon and me to push our vehicle to it's limits. I think the limit was 6 mph.
6:20 p.m. - We are watching the big-time performance outside of Cinderella's castle and Whitney is in a trance taking everything in. As a three-year-old girl, her life revolves around princesses. Snow White and Aurora are in the same scene and I think Whit's head is about to explode. But wait, here comes Cinderella too! The look on W's face is absolutely priceless right now. Moments like this make the car ride, cheap hotel, gas prices, road rage, and throw up absolutely worth it.
6:22 p.m. - You will never guess who just came on stage as one of the performers. Ladies and gentlemen, it's Barack Obama! Seriously, one of the male dancers could be Obama's body double if his campaign takes him somewhere dangerous, like Libya, Zimbabwe or Kearns, Utah. The only trouble is that it is as hard to get a good picture of this guy as it is to get the real Barack to give a straight answer to a simple foreign policy question. On a side note, if the whole politics thing does not work out for Obama, couldn't you see him as a Broadway star? With his looks, charisma, smile, and gift for dramatic, moving speeches, he could be the next...ummmm....(searching my brain for a famous stage actor)....well.......uuuhhhh...Nevermind. If McCain wins the 2008 election, do not be surprised if the 2011 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play goes to Barack Hussein Obama.
8:03 p.m. - My back is in a lot of pain, so I decide to head to the van while Andrea and the kids hit some final rides to finish the night. In order to get back to the parking lot, I have to first wait in a long line to take a ferry boat to the tram. Then I have to wait in line for the tram, which takes me back to Pluto 26. The whole process took 56 minutes. Ugh. I honestly think it is probably easier and less time consuming to sneak into the U.S. through the Mexican border than it is to go from Frontier Land to the parking lot. I would have paid a human smuggler $200 to get me to my Dodge Grand Caravan in 10 minutes instead of the headache I just went through.
10:05 p.m. - On our way back to the motel we realize that we are out of Wal-Mart bags in case Brandon gets sick again. He's been fine for the past 13 hours, so we do not worry much about it. Then, as if on cue, Brandon throws up all over himself, his booster seat, and the van. I feel so bad for the kid right now, but he does not complain once. He just asked for a water bottle and said he feels better now.
10:07 p.m. - Pull into a McDonald's parking lot to wipe down both Brandon and the van. His shorts took the brunt of the assault, so they have to come off. Yep, he's making the rest of the trip back to the motel in his underwear. Where do I register as a candidate for Father of the Year? I ask Andrea for some hand sanitizer, which she provides for me. I then jokingly ask for some leg sanitizer for the boy and Andrea jokingly answers with, "I don't think they've invented leg sanitizer yet." Brandon then chimes in with, "Don't worry, guys, I'm pretty sure they'll invent it at Tomorrow Land." I love this kid.
10:36 p.m. - Stop at Wal-Mart for some Febreeze, which is badly needed at this point. While waiting for Andrea, I see a mother leave through the automatic doors with two small children in her shopping cart. I indignantly think to myself, "What kind of a mother takes her kids to Wal-Mart at 10:30 on a school night?" Then I remember that I have both of my kids with me and one of them is in his underwear. I suddenly put down the rock that I am about to fling from my glass house.
11:17 p.m. - Since we have the Febreeze anyway, Andrea sprays down our motel room. Thank you,!

Day Six: "Dude!"
4:40 a.m. - Whitney has a nightmare and Andrea gracefully slips into bed with her to calm her down. I'm glad she beat me to the punch because I probably would have scared W to death if I tried to get over to her. My back is hurting so badly that I walk like Frankenstein, I'm two weeks beyond needing a haircut, and I have not shaved for three days. If Whit thought her nightmare was scary, what would she have thought if I rambled toward her in the pitch black in a creepy motel room?
8:38 a.m. - Brandon says he is too sick to go back to the Magic Kingdom. I volunteer to stay back in the motel with him while the girls head out for another day of fun.
12:30 p.m. - I checked out the book My Side of the Mountain a few weeks ago to read with Brandon. It was one of my favorite books as a kid, and Brandon has really liked reading it as well. We read a few chapters and bond a little bit. Kind of a touching father-son moment as I read him a story about how a young boy can survive in the wilderness should he ever run away from home. Not that I'm encouraging him to do that.......
3:53 p.m. - Brandon is feeling well enough to head back to the Magic Kingdom. We require him to keep a plastic Wal-Mart bag in his back pocket at all times.
4:22 p.m. - A parade of Disney characters just went down the street. Why is the star of ABC's Super Nanny show sitting on a float being followed by chimney sweeps singing about their chim-chimeny, chim-chimeny, chim-chim-charoo's? Maybe Super Nanny's ratings are down?
5:16 p.m. - A father carrying his infant daughter walks past me and I see his little girl kick off her left shoe. It falls to the ground without the dad realizing it, and he continues to walk away. I pick it up, track him down, and give him the nearly-lost shoe. He looks at me and just says, "Thanks, dude." As fathers, we have each other's backs when things like this happen. Since our wives do so much of the parenting while we work and play Madden on the PS2, we men cannot afford to slip up on the rare occasions that we have complete responsibility for the kids. There is nothing worse than coming home feeling proud of being a good dad, only to realize that you've lost the burp cloth, misplaced the binki, or brought your child home with one less shoe than she left with. For every nameless stranger that has helped me over the years when I have messed up, let me just express my thanks with a heartfelt, "Dude."
7:13 p.m. - On the Tom Sawyer paddle boat ride, Brandon and a boy about his age both lean over the side and spit in the water. They are now using their fingers as guns to shoot ducks. They didn't plan this to happen, it just spontaneously did. Behavior like this is just hard wired into a little boy's DNA.
7:58 p.m. - We are watching a show featuring a group of animatronic singing bears. A group of desperate-looking female bears take the stage and sing a song called, "All the guys that turn me on, turn me down." Kind of a mature subject for a family show. Could somebody please show these she-bears the CNN segment from a few days ago telling women to settle for ugly men? Nothing like lowering your standards to solve a problem.
9:15 p.m. - We and about 4.3 million other people line up for the electric light parade. I have to hold Whitney up so that she can see it. My back is absolutely killing me right now, but there is no other way for her to see. I keep wanting to tell her that I cannot hold her any longer, but ever time I hear her shout, "Look dad, it's Ariel!" or, "I think Jasmine just looked at me!", I manage to convince my back to hang in there for just another five minutes before exploding into a huge jumble of bone, ligament, muscle, and discs.

Day Seven: Limping to the Finish
10:16 a.m. - We arrive at Disney's Hollywood studios. I am consistently surprised at how many "mean" t-shirts people wear. A few notable examples from the last few days - "Yes, I'm ignoring you", "Do something with your life...and get me a beer", "Did you eat an extra bowl of stupid this morning?", "Shhhh....I'm hiding from the stupid people", "Your village called, their idiot is missing", and "Vote Hillary in '08".
12:30 p.m. - We lose track of which water bottle the kids were drinking and the one Andrea and I were drinking at lunch. I see Andrea hold one of the water bottles up to the light to give it the backwash test, a dead giveaway as to which bottle belongs to the kids. I think I see three in-tact goldfish and half a granola bar floating in the water bottle. Andrea gives this one to the kids.
1:33 p.m. - The actors in the High School Musical 2 performance are doing a portion of their act using sign language. Andrea and I both instinctively do the Napoleon Dynamite Happy Hands routine.
5:34 p.m. - While sitting in the amphitheater awaiting the Beauty and the Beast show, Brandon leans over and tells me he is going to throw up again. We grab the Wal-Mart bag out of his back pocket and hustle outside. He manages to hide behind a tree and fill another bag full of memories. The boy puts on his tough-guy face and matter-of-factly says, "Dad, it was pizza." Again, I tie the bag closed and head for the nearest garbage can. A man is walking toward me, glances at the bag, realizes what it contains and reflexively grunts something that sounds like, "Awwuugghhh!" He then looks disgustedly at me like I just told him I drowned a litter of cute baby kittens just for kicks or something. Hey, my son just threw up again. Cut me some slack!
6:22 p.m. - After seven long, fun, exhausting days, we are ready to call it quits. We are a site to behold on our way out of the park! Brandon looks like a ghost and is being wheeled out in a stroller. Andrea is seven months pregnant. Whitney cannot see out of her right eye because of a treatment she is undergoing and is constantly squinting. I am shuffling out out the park like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Day Eight: A Blessed Man
9:23 a.m. - Check out of the motel and begin the journey home.
9:45 a.m. - Andrea looks out the window and sees one of Whitney's pre-school classmates in the van next to us on the freeway who is also heading home from Disney. We honk and wave. The wife is driving while the husband is sitting in the back of their minivan with his legs extending all the way up to the front row. How did he scam that system? Props to him, however he pulled it off.
10:18 a.m. - Finally get out of Orlando after nearly an hour of sitting on a packed freeway. Not off to a good start.
10:22 a.m. - Brandon must not like the 65 mph speed, because the moment we finally start moving, he somehow manages to find more items in his stomach that need to come back up. Poor kid fills yet another Wal-Mart bag. This time the evidence is discarded in a Marriott dumpster. In his stubborn, tough style, Brandon takes a sip of water and declares, "I kind of like throwing up because I get all of my energy back after I do."
11:00 a.m. - We have gone approximately 55 miles in our first ninety minutes. At this rate we will reach North Carolina in about four and a half months.
12:12 p.m. - Andrea and I take turns going through the alphabet telling each other names of random people from our past whose names begin with the letter we are on. I am hoping to learn something incriminating that I can use to blackmail her into letting me sit in the back row and stretch out my legs while she drives. She does not take the bait. She's a sly one, that Andrea.
5:36 p.m. - There have been a few minutes of complete silence when Whitney out of the blue says, "Jack in my pre-school class makes the best duck sounds, like this, "Quack, quaaaack." It was a hilarious, completely random moment. Guess you had to have been there.
8:29 p.m. - After nearly 12 hours of driving, we once again pass Whitney's classmate on the freeway just outside of Charlotte. I thought they would have been home right now with all of the stops we had to make, which brings me to the following conclusion:

Whitney's classmate and her family also needed thirteen hours to make it back home. I had just assumed that they would sail straight home without any of the misadventures that have befallen us on this trip. But they didn't. If we would have stopped for dinner together, they most likely could have regaled us with their own list of trials they experienced in an effort to have some fun as a family. While our stops on the drive home were for throwing up and pregnancy-related bathroom breaks, their reasons for stopping were probably just as comical.

While I have pointed out most of the odd, random, frustrating, and hilarious moment of our adventure, the majority of the time was spent having unabashed fun with my family. These few days of excitement that we somehow pulled off despite all of the business trips, pre-natal visits, church callings, baseball games, and dance classes is what life is all about. We made some wonderful memories on this trip and it helped me to realize how blessed I am to have the family that I do. I love these guys.

Especially when the boy has a Wal-Mart bag in his back pocket.