An Open Letter To Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

pscheerI swore to myself I would not be manipulated by you. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m loyal. A man committed to regular Cheerios. Sure, sometimes I try apple cinnamon and honey nut, but I always come back to my steady. My plain pulverized oats.

I rolled my cart past you, but the next week I saw you again and gazed at your burnt orange box. On your cover, the miniature pumpkin and bundled cinnamon sticks, artfully arranged next to a wooden spoon, caused my hands to tingle. I resisted but knew it was only a matter of time. I would give myself to your seasonal spices.

At home, I stalked you on-line. I read your reviews. I studied your ingredients: 6 parts ground cinnamon, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part ginger, 1/2 part allspice, and 1/2 part ground cloves.

For a few days, I forgot about you until I returned to the store. In a moment of weakness, on a sleep deprived day with my toddler son in the cart, I drifted towards your end cap. I stared at your wall of burnt orange. I noticed your sale price and, finally, I grabbed you off the shelf and held you eye-level. I flipped you to your backside and found more cinnamon sticks and pumpkins. I could no longer resist you. I gave in to my desires.

At home, I hid you in the pantry between the Go Lean Crunch and Raisin Bran because I felt guilt. The moment I treasured most with you was during my son’s naptime when I poured a bowl of you and watched you turn my milk a shade of brown. Your pumpkin puree overwhelmed my taste buds. And left me with a belly full of regret. I knew I had betrayed my plain Cheerios.

At dinner, I told my wife what I had done. I asked her to keep an open mind. I told her I was experimenting. She shook her head and silently judged me. I felt like a seasonal sucker and owned by you and fallen to an onslaught of fall marketing madness. I told myself I would not taste you again.

So, I threw you in the trash because the emotional toll became too much. But a few hours later, after my wife went to bed, I retrieved you. I did this because things are so exciting when you are around. Yet, I know I can’t keep doing this. I feel torn. It’s too much. You have to go.



Calling All Parents: 5 Reasons You Need To Go To The Pump and Dump

pumpdYou know the feeling. The numbness in your brain, the hollow look in your eyes, and the uncertainty about when you last showered. It’s the feeling you get when you reach your parenting limits. When you are done.

If you are on the verge of a childcare meltdown, I’ve got a solution for you that involves laughter and a night spent with people who get your pain. You need The Pump and Dump. It’s a raw and honest show about parenting that will make you laugh so hard you’ll snort. This stay-at-home dad experienced the show last time it visited Nashville and cracked-up until his side hurt. (I wrote about it on Scary Mommy.)

So, if laughter and time away from your kids are not of interest to you, that is fine. But for the other 99.9% of parents, I suggest you purchase a ticket to The Pump and Dump. Here are five reasons (and five clips) to persuade you.

5. “Everybody needs a little me time for themselves.” Yep, you deserve a break. I’m talking about dropping your parenting duties and getting outside the four walls of your home. Let’s be honest. If you don’t get away from little people, you are gonna lose it. I think this clip will speak to your need to escape.

4. You need to laugh at your craziness. Parenting makes all of us a little bit nuts. It’s natural. When you are put in charge of a small human being it is easy to lose perspective. This song is about the bond (sometimes a bit crazy) that we form with our kids.

3. You need time with people who get the mind numbing work of parenting. Changing diapers. Filling bottles. Cleaning up playroom disasters. And, don’t forget, there is always that one thing you hate doing. The thing that kills your soul. Here is a clip about the pain of tedious parenting responsibilities.

2. You need to poke fun at your spouse. Are you not tired of their crap? If my wife emails me another parenting article about toddler discipline, I’m gonna lose my mind. Besides, it’s healthy to vent. The Pump and Dump takes a few jabs at dads, which I’m cool with because we can take it. To be fair, we really do need to quit acting like a baby wrap makes us a novelty. Although, I like the attention. I’m not gonna lie.

1. YOU need a little bit of affirmation. Seriously, parenting is hard work. It’s time to recognize the fact you are doin’ just fine. You are an awesome parent. Check out this song. It will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Just do it.

The Pump and Dump will be in Nashville this week (October 19th and 20th) and other cities across the country in the following weeks. If you need a laugh and a night away from the kids, ORDER TICKETS here. Don’t worry. The show lasts an hour and a half so you can be in bed by ten. See you there!


How To Pick The Perfect Pumpkin

pumppatch2Step One

Spend your week arguing with your spouse whether or not it is too soon to purchase a pumpkin.

Step Two

Research the internet for an “authentic pumpkin farm” outside the city limits. Do not drive to the nearest grocery store and purchase an affordable pumpkin.

Step Three

On a Saturday morning, attempt to wrestle shoes, socks, and pants on a toddler who insists remaining naked.

Step Four

Travel twelve miles (twenty-five minutes) to a pumpkin farm and miss your turn on a rural road. Argue with spouse over directions, while denying your inadequate navigational skills.

Step Five

Arrive at the pumpkin farm. Drive through a bumpy field and climb a steep hill to park your vehicle. Take a deep breath. Walk towards pumpkins. You will smell deep fried Oreos at the concession stand. Pretend you have the willpower to ignore them.

Step Six

Do not buy a pumpkin yet. You do not want to haul it around the farm. Instead, purchase tickets to stand in line with your toddler so you can ride a train of carts pulled by a riding lawnmower. Just do it. It’s what people do at pumpkin farms.

Step Seven

After the ride, when your spouse goes to the restroom, purchase a deep fried Oreo. This is what you drove for. You deserve it.

Step Eight

Do not laugh at grown men wearing t-shirts displaying Friday the 13th hockey masks. Be sensitive. This might be the only joy in their life.

Step Nine

Remember, do not buy a pumpkin yet. Instead, pet the filthy farm animals and feed them with pellets from the quarter machines. Just do it. This is what people do at pumpkin farms.

Step Ten

Take a picture in front of an arranged autumn background–hay bales, corn husks, and scarecrows. Ask a complete stranger to use your smartphone to take a family picture. Pick the most incompetent looking person who will need extensive directions and delay the picture, while your toddler runs away. Make sure you look miserable in the photograph.

Step Eleven

Purchase a pumpkin. Find a nice, round member of the squash family, preferably, one with a firm surface and consistent coloring. But don’t be picky and, definitely, do not forget to buy a goose-necked gourd. You need one with the s-shaped necks. Go ahead and empty all the cash from your wallet with a few pastel pumpkins too. Throw in a corn stalk and a hay bale for good measure.

Step Twelve

Climb steep hill. Load pumpkins in the back of your vehicle. Ignore screaming toddler who did not get a piece of your deep fried Oreo. Drive home for twenty-five minutes (twelve miles) and pass the grocery store selling perfectly good pumpkins at 50% off.

READ MORE:  Loving Your Spouse When They Get On Your Last Nerve

Loving Your Spouse When They Get On Your Last Nerve

circa 2007
circa 2007

I married my cousin this past weekend. Wait. I need to rephrase that. I officiated at my cousin’s wedding. I performed a simple service in a little brown church on a beautiful mountaintop. No joke. That was the real setting. I married my cousin and his fiancee, both in their late twenties, still full of youth. It gave me a chance to reflect on marriage and commitment and why any of us dare enter it.

Marriage is one long experiment in learning to love another person. It’s hard. You have to learn to love the quirks and idiosyncrasies and even the things that get on your last damn nerve. After all, these too are part of what make a relationship rich and meaningful. You gotta learn to love your partner for who they are and as a whole person. A wise friend once told me, “You know you have found love when you are not sure if you want to hug the person or put them in a headlock.”

On days when I am wallowing in my own self-doubt, I know my insecurity is annoying. My wife probably wants to slap me across the head and tell me to grow up. She has heard enough of my sad song and has every right to tell me to take it elsewhere. I’ve dumped it on her enough. But she does a remarkable thing. She hears me out. She helps me return to reality. She believes in me. She helps me believe in myself. And before I know it I am back in a sane place. She knows how to love me when I feel like my anxious head might spin off. Of course, even my patient wife has moments when she loses her cool. The other day, she lunged at me with my toddler’s plastic hedge trimmers. A fire burned in her eyes.

Loving your spouse gets more complicated when you have children. And the potential to get on each other’s last nerve increases two-fold. There is the loss of time, energy given to kids and taken away from your relationship. Communication suffers. This is natural but figuring out how to pay attention to one another is difficult. At the end of the day when you actually have a chance to talk and snuggle you are so worn out from work and changing diapers and bedtime battles that you want to switch into zombie mode and just stare at the television or scroll through your newsfeed. Often, my wife and I agree to lie in silence on the couch or pass out on the floor. A bit of physical affection goes a long way and helps overcome the things we’ve done to step on each other’s toes.

Married with kids is a stage that reveals further that love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling but action. Love occurs through specific behaviors like patience, kindness, and forgiveness. Action, not mere words. Love is not an idea that can sit nicely packaged on the shelf. It needs to be unwrapped and practiced on a daily basis. This is the difficult part. One day you will succeed in loving your partner, the next you will fail, and some days you succeed and fail on the same day. But every day you wake up and try to love them again. And again.

The more you love, the stronger your marriage will grow. Marriage is a commitment you will spend the rest of your life fulfilling. It is one long experiment in learning to love another person.

So, below is the mantra I wrote for my cousin. I wrote it for myself as much as I did for them.

When you are frustrated, choose to show patience.

When you are hurt, choose to offer forgiveness.

When you are certain you are right, choose to see things from the other person’s perspective.

When you have every right to punish the other person, choose to show grace.

When your spouse is upset and wounded, choose gentleness.

When it would be easier to stay quiet and harbor resentment, choose to communicate.

And when you have grown tired and weary and feel like you are at the end of your rope, choose to love.