Were We just tougher back then?

All across Michigan, schools have been canceled due to the extreme snow and cold. This means that Facebook will light up with us older, tougher folks complaining about school never having been canceled for snow and cold when we were younger. I might have joined in on the chorus, but truth be told, I’m jealous.

When I was younger, school was never canceled because of extreme snow and cold. If it had been, I might still have my best friend, Jimmy.

Jimmy and I would walk together to the bus stop, which was eight and a half miles away. Neither of us had coats, so we would steal newspapers from driveways and paper boxes along our trek to stuff in our clothing to act as insulation. On the worst of the cold mornings, we would light our newspaper coats on fire for extra warmth . . . it’s just what you did back then to survive.

On one particular minus-forty-two degree day, Jimmy and I were making our way through the chin deep snow towards our bus stop. We had already successfully warded off an attack from one of the roving packs of rabid neighborhood dogs, and escaped the gang of kidnappers who would prey on children walking to the bus stop. . . . so it had actually started out a good morning. Making the morning even better, we had just found the last roadkill carcass needed to strap to our bare feet to act as snowshoes. After fashioning our carcass snowshoes, Jimmy and I continued on our way.

A mile later, we in the middle of our third frozen-river crossing required to make it to the bus stop, when suddenly, the ice began to crack, and Jimmy fell through. He flailed wildly, trying to keep his head above the frigid water, but despite his efforts, he was beginning to go under.

Using a technique that I had learned earlier that year from a bus stop safety film, I fashioned a rope out of thread pulled from my burlap underwear, and was able to pull Jimmy from the icy river waters. He crawled to the shore, thanking me repeatedly for saving him, but deep inside, I knew it would probably have been more humane to simply let him drown.

Even if he did survive, I could tell from the pale blueness of his fingers that he would no longer be able to use them to complete the eleven hours of homework that was assigned to us every night, let alone, be able to hunt the possum, needed during our walk to the bus stop, for food to keep himself alive. I kept these thoughts to myself.

It was still another mile to the bus stop, so I knew I had to keep Jimmy moving. I switched out his wet insulation newspapers with some of the dry ones from my shirt and covered his head with a hat I made from some of the corn husks that my mom had sewn together to make the pants I was wearing.

I did my best to prod and encourage Jimmy’s shivering body to keep walking. I gave him bits of carcass jerky that I had ripped from my roadkill boots, but he was fading fast.

When we were a few hundred yards from the bus stop, Jimmy finally collapsed from exhaustion and hypothermia. I tried to get him back on his feet, but to no avail. I could see the headlights of the bus in the distance. There was no way I could get Jimmy there in time.

“I’ll never forget you, Jimmy!” I said tearfully, as I quickly covered him with the remainder of my newspaper insulation and lit it on fire to keep him warm in his final hours.

“Please don’t leave me,” he pleaded. But I knew that if I missed the bus, it would be Jimmy who would succumb to the kinder fate by freezing to death.

I kissed him on the head, and skin tore my lips having frozen to his icy hair . . .  and then I ran the rest of the way to the bus. As I sat down in my seat and looked back down the road through the window, I could see a truck stopping near Jimmy’s collapsed body. I knew I would never see him again.

Back in those days, there were greedy opportunists who would drive the roads on such dangerously cold mornings looking for the bodies of kids who had frozen to death along the bus routes. They would load up the victims and sell them to dog food manufacturers to be ground into dog food.

For thirty-five years now, I have sadly thought about Jimmy every time I fill a dog dish with food. So complain about school being canceled due to cold? Not I. I thank the Lord that my kids will never have to live the rest of their lives with the image of poor frozen Jimmy being loaded into a dog food truck.

 

Free for Imperfect Parents and Spouses.

Attention all imperfect parents and spouses! Don’t miss your chance to download my just-short-of-world-famous Ebook for FREE! Single Family Asylum is now free to download on several platforms below. Unfortunately, Amazon will not allow me to offer it for free, so you can get the book nearly anywhere except from Amazon. Amazon sucks.

If you find the stories entertaining, leave a review on whichever site you downloaded it from! If you hated the book . . . . ummm . . . just forget you read it.

Stories from the book have been featured here on my blog, as well as on many other sites such as Mamalode, Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Sweatpants and Coffee, and Parent Co.

Get the book on your phone from either the iBook’s app for Apple, or from Google Play Books on Android by searching on the title. You can also download from these sites:

Nook/Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/single-family-asylum-jon-ziegler/1123454991?ean=2940155078418

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/764903

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/single-family-asylum

For those of you who enjoyed the book so intensely that you feel compelled to pay something for it, instead of paying me, make a donation to Compassionate Life Foundation!

My wife recently took over as Executive Director of The Compassionate Life Foundation. CLF is a small non-profit that provides funding for the El Shaddai Orphanage and CLF Student Center in Swaziland, Africa. The CLF Directors and board members are 100% volunteer, so no one here in the U.S. is getting any part of donations received. We do pay some Swazi employees at the Orphanage and the care center, but their monthly income is less than most fast food workers make in a week. If you are like me, you have always wondered how much of your donated money actually makes it to the people you are trying to help. I can tell you first hand that other than money spent on office supplies and what is spent on fundraisers, all CLF donations go towards food, tuition, uniforms, maintenance on the orphanage and paying Swazi staff.

Interested? Go here: https://james127.org/

That’s not Funny.

It seems to me, that when entering the world of having children, we are expected to leave our sense of humor by the door. Joking is permitted in nearly all aspects of our lives, with the exception of infants and children.

Shortly after the birth of my first daughter, Hannah, my mother-in-law arrived at our house and asked where the new baby was. I simply answered, “I put her in the dryer because she was making too much noise.”

She did not find it to be the least bit funny and in fact, you would have thought that I had just committed a murder right in front of her. I started to explain that I was just only joking, but then my razor sharp wit took over and I added, “The dryer only amplifies sound. If I was going to stick her in an appliance, it would have been the dish washer.”

This sent her into a rage, “YOU DON’T EVEN JOKE ABOUT SUCH THINGS!”

It would seem to me, that when it comes to joking about sticking infants into appliances, the general consensus is that if I joke about it, then I have to actually do it.

A few years later, I was left alone with my two daughters and four of their cousins while all the mothers went shopping. One young niece started singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round.”

Before long, all of the other kids had joined in, and after ten minutes of the same phrase being repeatedly sung by six loud children, my sanity began to wear thin. To make the concert more bearable, I decided to compose a second verse to the song, and have them perform it when the mothers arrived home from shopping.

The second verse went like this, “The cheeks on my butt make lots of sound, lots of sound.”

The six of them performing this new verse in front of their mothers, did not go over any better than the daughter in the dryer joke. You would have thought I had taught them all to swear like sailors. In fact, one of my sister-in-laws still won’t let me watch her children alone any more.

Perhaps my brand of humor is a bit much when talking about something as precious as our little children, but I think everybody could lighten up a little bit too . . . because if you don’t, I will come to your house, and glue your children’s feet to the ceiling and wrap them in Christmas tree lights . . .  That is a joke, I would never glue their feet to the ceiling because the blood rushing to their heads would make them pass out. I would only glue children’s feet to the floor.

 

If you enjoyed this story, there is a whole book full of them waiting for you at Amazon:

Single Family Asylum

Second Child Syndrome.

“Dad, how come there aren’t any pictures of me?” my younger daughter asked as she sat on the living room floor looking through the family pictures.

“Of course we have pictures of you,” I replied and grabbed a box of pictures to prove my point.

As I began flipping through the photos, I was alarmed to find that there really were no photos of Natalie. I mean we had the normal burst of photos taken within the month or two after she was born, and a few school pictures, but then the Natalie photos seemed to just taper off to nothing. Frantically I searched three more boxes, but all I came up with was one photo of her tonsils that we took to compare with a picture of normal tonsils in a medical book, and a shot of the back of her head taken when she had apparently wandered into a picture I was taking of my lawn mower.

As for our firstborn, Hannah, there were pictures of nearly every event in her early years. There were pictures of her birth, her first week, her first month, and all the months following. There were pictures of her first solid food, her first steps, her first bloody nose, Christmas programs, and playing in the snow, rain, and sun. There was even a picture of her first poop on the potty…and not just one of her on the potty…I’m talking about a picture of the actual poop.

Embarrassed and not knowing what else to tell Natalie, I simply said I was sure there must be a whole box full of her pictures that had been misplaced somewhere. And although it seemed to satisfy her for the moment, I still felt terrible at our failure to photo document our second child’s existence.

It bothered me so much that I even spent a few late-night hours attempting to cut out Natalie’s face from some of her duplicate school pictures, and gluing them onto some of the abundant photos of Hannah that filled the boxes. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the perspective between the cutouts of Natalie’s head and photo bodies of Hannah to match up quite right. The resulting pictures looked like mutant alien children with freakishly large or too-small heads, so I was forced to abandon my efforts.

My wife and I didn’t intentionally decide not to take pictures of our second child, nor do we love her any less than the first. I think that we are just more relaxed as parents, having survived our first one. Maybe a little too relaxed.

As I thought about it, I realized that it applied to more than just picture taking. One time, Hannah got some dog food out of the dog’s dish and ate it. My wife and I panicked. We rushed her to the emergency room, convinced she would succumb to dog germs at any second. But after a few eye rolls, the doctor on duty assured us that she would pull through, and indeed she did.

So having been through a few incidents like that with Hannah, we were a little less uptight when Natalie came along. So less uptight that when Hannah came in the front door and informed us that Natalie was picking dead bugs out of the car radiator and eating them, my wife’s only reaction was to tell Hannah to make sure that Natalie brushed her teeth when she was finished so that she wouldn’t have dead-bug breath.

Likewise with the pictures, after trying so hard not to miss photographing a single moment with Hannah, we realized that you just end up with mounds of pictures that make you wonder why you took so many of them. So we were not as camera crazy when Natalie came along.

We love both of our daughters very much, but I guess we went from fretting too much with the first one, to being a little too relaxed with the second. I think if we would have had a third child, we might have actually been able to get it right.

 

Who’s training Who?

When you have children, one of two things is always happening. Either you are training them on how to act like mature, responsible adults, or they are training you to act more and more like a child.

This revelation came to me just the other day when my two daughters and I had just finished watching the highly ridiculous cartoon that my youngest, Natalie, had chosen. Before that, we had watched an even more ridiculous children’s sitcom that my other daughter, Hannah, had picked.

I now figured that it was my turn to pick the show, but this was not agreeable to my darling children. An argument quickly broke out and soon escalated into violence. Fists were flying, teeth were gnashing and hair was being ripped from the roots.

After two minutes of this mayhem, I’d had it, so I announced in a loud voice of authority, “I’ve had it!”

And with that being said, I left to go tell mom . . . . . . I mean my wife, that they wouldn’t let me watch my show, and that Hannah had kicked me, and that if Natalie came and told that I had bit her on the arm, that she had pulled my hair first .

That’s when I realized, “Hey! I’m the adult here!”

So back to the living room I marched and said, “I am your father and you have to do what I say and I don’t need to go tell Mom . . . . I mean my wife . . . . I mean your mother!!!”

I then gave Natalie the most sincere, tongue-sticking-out “Nyaaahhh-Nyaaahhh” I could muster, stomped on Hannah’s foot, and sent them both to their rooms to think about resolving conflict in a responsible, adult-like manner.

I was then able to sit down and watch Bugs Bunny in peace, like a mature grown up.

How to Make a Dad Mad.

*Turn off the shower when you have finished, but don’t turn the knob with the arrow on it that switches the water from coming out of the shower head, to flowing out the spout. So when dad goes to turn on the water, (which requires that he bends over, placing his head directly in the crosshairs of the shower head) he is blasted full force in the face with freezing cold water for the ten seconds it takes to swear and find the knob with the arrow on it that switches the water from the shower to the spout.

*Repeatedly tell him how outdated his fashion choices are. Then, when he actually has heard it enough times to motivate him to buy some more current looking attire, tell him he looks like an old guy trying to look young.

*In the middle of a heated lecture on not taking care of your messes in the living room and kitchen, point out that his bowl that he used for his fruity pebbles is still sitting on the coffee table from that morning. . . . But be cautious . . . . He will turn red and sputter for a few seconds, after which, you should probably be out of arms reach.

*Let him discover that the source of a seemingly endless supply of fruit flies in the house, are coming from a bowl of some unidentifiable organic matter under your bed.

*Drag him around on a six hour shopping trip that covers thirteen different stores, and then a return visit to eight of them, in an attempt to find a pair of shoes like Emily has, only to return to the very first store we looked in and decide to purchase the very first pair of shoes you tried on. And then, for the bonus dose of fury, tell him the following day that you don’t like them and refuse to wear them.

*Don’t answer the phone when he calls and then tell him your ringer was off, even though he could see you through the glass doors of the school entrance when you pulled the phone out of your pocket and looked at it when it rang.

*In the middle of a heated argument about why your grades are so low, say something like, “maybe I’m just not the kind of person who gets good grades. Why can’t you just accept me for who I am?’’ Even though your teachers and placement tests indicate you are capable of performing at an above average level.

*Leave the screen door standing wide open while you talk to someone outside during the middle of mosquito season instead of talking through the screen provided.

*Tell everyone that you caught him tearing up at the end of Bambi the last time the both of you watched the DVD.

*Spend the change from buying a movie ticket with the fifty dollar bill he gave you because he didn’t actually say he wanted the change.

*Scream down the stairs that you are done cleaning your room. He will then come upstairs and inspect your work. When he tells you that your room is no where near clean, wait until he is back downstairs. Pick up one of the fifty items still on your bedroom floor and then scream down the stairs that you are done cleaning your room. He will then come upstairs and inspect your work. When he tells you that your room is no where near clean, wait until he is back downstairs. Pick up one of the forty-nine items still on your bedroom floor and then scream down the stairs that you are done cleaning your room. Repeat as necessary.

Our Family Justice System.

 

In our household, there exists a justice system that parallels the system here in the United States in some ways but also has many differences.

Our Family Justice System:

In our house you are not guaranteed a trial by a jury of your peers. In fact, any peers in the house will be instructed to go home before the trial begins.

There are two judges, a primary or day judge and a secondary or evening judge.

You may be held without bail until a judge and trial are made available. (“You can sit in your room until your father gets home.”)

You may be tried and convicted more than once for the same crime, especially if the primary judge has found you guilty and handed down a sentence but feels that you still do not seem repentant enough. She can then order a second trial when the evening judge gets home from work, after which, a second sentence may be added on to the first.

Or, if you are found not guilty by one of the judges, you still could be found guilty by the other judge based on new evidence, or simply due to the fact that the second judge had a bad day at work and wishes to take it out on the defendants.

You WILL testify against yourself when instructed to do so by one of the judges.

Sometimes being a witness (tattler) can get you into worse trouble than being the one who committed the crime.

Sometimes, the primary judge has had enough, which she will indicate by loudly stating, “I have had enough!” She may then postpone a trial until the secondary judge gets home from work, but when the secondary judge gets home from work and is met at the door by two sobbing defendants and a primary judge who has had enough, he isn’t sure what the primary judge is expecting of him, so he will then repeat in an authoritative voice, the words that the primary judge is silently mouthing from behind the two sobbing defendants.

And finally, your punishment WILL be cruel and unusual (a week without TV, iPad, etc.).