Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Perfect Wedding Gift

Ahhhh, spring is upon us! And with it comes the sweet smelling fragrance of newly budding flowers, the sounds of children playing and birds merrily singing, and of course wedding bells.Yes, wedding bells.

Spring, if you didn’t already know, is the most popular season for weddings, followed closely by fall. Nothing could be more fitting than to celebrate the union of two people who are transitioning from single life to married life during these transitional seasons.

With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of, as I am sure you are all aware, wedding announcements in the mail. With each announcement comes the pressure of gift shopping for the couple to be. Some couples’ announcements, those who we hardly know (don’t you love getting those?), can be easily tossed in the nearest garbage can, knowing that we can always say we never got the invitation. However, trashing the announcements of our closer family and friends is not so easily done and we therefore find ourselves trapped into buying a gift to help the merry couple on their way.

I personally have never been a fan of wedding gifts. It’s not the giving of the gift that has ever bothered me, for I believe true happiness comes from giving (which I’m sure my wife will attest to you that I do on a continual daily basis with my love, time, and devotion to her…but that is a topic for another day). No, it is not the giving of gifts that is so bothersome to me but the finding of gifts that is so troubling.

I agonize over it because I want my gift to mean something. I want the couple to know I care. I would like for them, years from now, to remember the gift my wife and I got them for their wedding, and with any luck, tear up a little over the memory. I want it to be the kind of gift where years from now their children call us Uncle and Aunt, even though we aren’t even related.

Such a gift needs to be something big. Something grand. Something out of the ordinary. Something if I dare say…extraordinary! Crystal ware which is used once a year spends the rest of the time collecting dust in the cupboard, and toaster ovens that break after a year just won’t work. They’ve been done. And unless I’m able to find a crystal toaster oven as a gift, I need to find something much more unique. Something that makes people scream, “Wow!” Something…practical! Like a year’s supply of ground beef.

I’m not talking the cheap kind, either. I’m talking 100% Black Angus extra lean ground beef. The healthy choice of course. Or, if you run in vegetarian circles, ground tofu would make a fantastic alternative. Something that will tell the happy couple, “I really care.” When it comes right down to it, who wouldn’t want a year’s supply of ground beef as a gift? It’s what’s in.

I can only imagine the look on the faces of these people after they’ve opened such an extraordinary gift. It would be priceless. They would, I’m sure, feel overwhelmed with emotion knowing that as they begin their wonderful new journey as husband and wife, with all the worries that are inevitably attached to this new and uncertain life, at least stocking up on ground beef won’t be one of them. That burden will have been lifted, almost as if by magic, from their shoulders thanks to my most wonderful and well thought out gift.

In fact the only real problem I see with such a gift would be how to wrap it. It would definitely be something I’d have to keep in the freezer right up until I hopped in the car to leave for the reception.

But if you’re not too keen on the ground beef idea, I’ve got some other ideas as well. Why not give the couple a year’s supply of toilet paper? Go over the top and buy them Charmin Ultra Soft 2-ply. Expensive? Yes. But worth it? Absolutely. Nothing could show the couple you care more than providing them the softest, most bum friendly, double quilted toilet paper available. Everyone needs toilet paper…such a gift would clearly not be wasted.

You could even be funny by wrapping a single roll, and then after they opened it you could explain that the rest of the supply is still loaded up in the bed of your truck. You could even offer to transport it to their new love nest for them. Other gift-givers would definitely be jealous of such a gift, knowing all they brought was a crystal candy dish or a stinking toaster oven.

If a year’s supply of toilet paper seems too personal for the weddings of people you barely know, you might try giving them a year’s supply of paper towels. Same idea, but a little less personal. Might I suggest Bounty Ultra Strong, ultra absorbent paper towels. They are, after all, the quicker picker-uppers. And if you feel so inclined, spice it up a little by throwing in a few of those lovely print varieties. A slightly more expensive move, but the dividends from such action would far outweigh the extra cost.

I could go on with other gift ideas but think I’ll stop, just in case you have a wedding in the near future…I’d like to surprise you. But just remember, when it comes to weddings, I think it’s time for us to ‘think outside the box’ and embrace ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ I can’t wait for those announcements to start rolling in.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Primary Colors

So today my two year old child and I were pointing to different objects and saying the color. She has been doing well with colors for some time now but still loves to rattle off the colors of things whenever she gets the chance. After about ten minutes of playing we decided (by we I meant me) we’d had enough and so decided to watch a little Dora the Explorer.

We were lying on the couch together watching Dora and Boots as they attempted to take a fallen star back to its home, which by the way was a very powerful and emotional episode (I felt compelled to reach out with Dora and Boot's encouragement in order to help carry the fallen star home). As she and I were watching, I felt a finger out of nowhere being shoved into my mouth, and heard her very clearly and distinctively say, "yellow." She was obviously pointing to my teeth.

Well, what can I say, I guess the kid knows her colors. Not that I have the whitest teeth by any means but I never would have called them yellow. More of an off white, but yellow? Come on. Needless to say that pretty much ruined the rest of my star catching adventure with Boots and Dora, for the rest of the afternoon was spent trying to dig out my old Crest White Strips. Now if only I could remember where we packed them.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Kid Friendly

One of the best things about being a kid was that everyone was your friend. Gender, race, and background didn’t matter – if you were even close to the same age, you were friends. As kids we were so trusting, so innocent, and we saw the world through uncalloused eyes. We didn’t judge people the same way we do now, and brash judgments weren’t allowed to get in the way of seeing each person for what they really were – just as innocent and loving as us.

These friendships started in the easiest ways; sharing a toy, playing on the monkey bars together, or sitting next to one another on the school bus. You may have only met the person once and then never saw them again, but that didn’t change the fact that you were friends.

In fact, at that age you had so many friends it was hard to keep track of them all. The hardest part of life was trying to whittle your birthday party invite list down to twelve people or less. You couldn’t even remember the names of some of your friends because you had so many (which ended up helping in the whittling process). Names were minor details in the overall scheme of things because true friends didn’t need to know each others’ names. You didn’t have to know a person’s name to have fun. Being friends was enough.

And if you and one of your friends ever happened to have a similar interest, then you moved up to the next level and were Best Friends.
“Wow, I love the Power Rangers too, we’ll be best friends!”
“Yeah, best friends!”

If only we made friends as adults as easily as we did as kids. I imagine the world would be a whole lot better place.

The Evolution of Recipes

On the rare occasion my wife finds me in the kitchen preparing a meal, she often laughs at the fact that I don’t always follow the recipe exactly the way it is laid out. I like to deviate a bit by adding and subtracting ingredients in order to add my own flair to the meal. This ambition has occasionally lead to an eventful and tasty meal, but more often than not, has made the meal completely unappetizing and thoroughly disgusting. These experiments in particular have caused me to wonder just exactly how people ever came up with recipes in the first place. Exactly how did recipes evolve into what they are now? Has anybody ever studied the evolution of recipes?

I mean did Betty Crocker and Sara Lee get together and just start adding and subtracting different ingredients until they came up with the perfect recipe for chocolate chip cookies? I can only imagine how long it must have taken and how frustrating it must have been.

Betty Crocker “Maybe we better cut the chili powder out completely…it’s overpowering the rest of the cookie…and let’s cut the salt in half as well. I think it’s still a bit too strong.”
Sara Lee “I agree. What about the chocolate chips? Should we add more or do you think there was enough?
Betty Crocker “Some more wouldn’t hurt. Let’s move it up to 2 cups of chocolate chips – and I just had an idea – let’s try chopped walnuts this time instead of diced carrots. I still like the idea of diced carrots but think we should add them to our vegetable soup recipe instead.”
Sara Lee “Fair enough, but I also might want to try some carrots in a new cake recipe I’m trying out. If it works I think I’ll call it carrot cake.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Serious Question

If a nuclear bomb were about to go off and you and your loved ones were being evacuated to an underground safe area, where you would spend the next 6 months of your life, and they would only allow you to bring one item besides the clothes on your back – it could be anything at all but just one – what would you bring?

I’ve thought long and hard about this and decided I would defiantly want to bring a pair of clean underwear. You can never underestimate the power of clean underwear. I mean who doesn’t want a change of clean underwear. I’m sure everyone would after a few days of living underground together.

Yea, I’m almost certain that my one item would be a nice change of underwear – nothing to fancy – just clean and comfy, and maybe that glow in the dark just in case it is dark where we’re at.

Wait a minute though. Maybe, instead of underwear, I should take my woobie (my blanket that I’ve had since I was three). I wouldn’t want to leave it behind. Tough call, but definitely between clean underwear and my woobie. Sheesh! I really hope I don’t ever have to make such a decision. Maybe I could convince them – and by them I mean the powers that be – to let me bring two items.

Then again, probably not, because then everyone would want to. I know one thing for sure, if I chose to bring clean underwear, there'ss no way in you know what, that I'd convince Emily (my wife) to bring my woobie for me. So that’s not even an option.

Maybe I could simply turn my woobie into a pair of underwear. Then that way I could have the best of both worlds and still only be bringing one item. A change of underwear and my woobie all in one. Wow, that’s really not a half bad idea. Now the only question is whether or not I’d have enough time to make my woobie underwear before the bomb went off? It’s a chance I’m willing to take. I mean if I couldn’t have both a change of underwear and my woobie, I’d just as soon let the bomb take me.

So what would you guys bring with you?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I’m sure if I were to say the phrase, “lift-and-sniff,” many of you who are reading this would know what I’m talking about. Especially those of you unlucky enough to call yourselves parents. For those of you lucky ones who have no idea what I’m talking about – and if you don’t, please count your blessings that you never truly will – I’ll try to explain with a brief description.

Lift-and-sniff- The act of lifting or cradling a baby or toddler upwards in such a way that exposes the rear end of that child towards one’s face while inhaling, and by doing so allows the lifter to sense any formidable odor that might indicate that a deed (also known as a doogie) has indeed been done.

Is this tried and tested method nasty? Yes. Embarrassing? Absolutely. But is it effective? Quite.

As parents, we have long ago given up any true sense of the meaning of embarrassing. Things such as being spit up on, being pooped on, dealing with tantrums in the middle of public places, or saying something embarrassing about a person only to have your child repeat it in front of that very person hours later, are but a few of the many daily occurrences we deal with as parents. We really have no opportunity to stop and think about how embarrassing the situations are, for if we had time to actually stop and think, we would probably be asleep long before the thought in our brain could even fire from one neuron to the other, getting lost somewhere in the synapse between.

Why am I even talking about all of this, you might be wondering? Because this evening while getting my two beautiful girls ready for bed, I caught myself in one of these embarrassing events – the lift-and-sniff to be exact. I was in the bathroom helping them brush their teeth when I smelled an odd, distinct odor emanating from my youngest child. Without thinking, (mainly due to the fact that if I hesitated she may have known what I was about to do and ran for it) I swooped her up, making sure to plant her bum good and square up against my nose while breathing in deeply. At that exact moment I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and witnessed firsthand how funny I actually looked while doing it.

But I don’t think ‘funny’ even begins to describe it. Hilarious would be much closer, thrown in with a touch of humiliating, and maybe a pinch of defeated. Yeah, that about sums up how I felt. Me, Jared Palenske, who had such high hopes and dreams of being rich and famous…now reduced to the level of performing the lift-and-sniff.

The funny thing is that I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know that may seem odd, but it’s absolutely true. Embarrassing or not I love my 3 girls (I include my wife as one of my girls) and am thrilled that I even get the opportunity to carry out such a feat (not on my wife of course, she’s on her own with that). And to think there are actually some poor souls out there who have never had the opportunity to perform the lift-and-sniff. I can hardly remember back to such a day.

Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously