Sunday, February 01, 2015

Moving to a new electronic home...

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Just Humor Me, which started back in February of 2005.  I'm as surprised as you that this blog has been around for ten years, because, if you recall, the Internet wasn't even invented until 2006. 

Recently, I've let the template of this blog get a little crusty and out-of-date.  The header images reference shows that were canceled five years ago.  My profile picture over there -> features at least 45% more hair than I have now, which is why it is still my profile picture.  The whole thing just smells of the internet circa 2008, and a ten-year blogiversary seems like a good occasion for a little freshening up.

I learned of the wonders of Wordpress when creating, my other hobby.  Everything over on Wordpress is just effortless.  So while I appreciate the ten years of free blog hosting that Google has bestowed upon me, it's time to close up shop here and move over to Wordpress.

The new home of Just Humor Me is here:

Everything here has been ported over there (with the exception of the star ratings that inexplicably disappeared off this blog a while back), including all previous posts, comments, and pictures.  I'll be tweaking the design over there as we go, too - hope you dig my first crack at it.

Also, a special thanks to the guy who claimed back in 2009, created a default first post, then abandoned it.  Really, guy.  Thanks for that. 

I hate updating bookmarks as much as the next person, but if you can hang with this one jump, I'll do my best to stay put for another decade.

Thank you for all your support over the years!  Hope to see you over at the new place.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Room at the mop

My son, Zack, backed away in fear.  He’d never seen anything like it before.

“What’s that?” he asked, peering around the couch, staring wide-eyed at the strange device I’d just unearthed from the deepest bowels of our home. 

“This, my son,” I told him, wielding the staff like a middle-aged mutant ninja turtle, “is a mop.”

Silence.  I could just as well have told him that it was a banjo.  “What’s that?” he asked again.

“You clean floors with it.  Well, not YOU, but me.  Actually, someday you.  But we can build up to that.  For now, just concentrate on not wiping your nose on our couch pillows,” I said.  

He sized me up for a moment, saw that the mop had no electrical cord that might indicate the imminence of scary noises, and went back to ignoring me, in favor of Captain Hook.  Netflix only has two seasons of “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” available to stream, but Zack has watched them enough times that, even though he was only partway through season two, he was really on season sixty-four.

“Blasted barnacles!” Captain Hook yelled, again.  Zack crawled back to his spot on the couch, wiping his nose on the pillow as he went.

“Avast, ye swabs!” I replied, squeezing the warm water into the bucket and taking a first swipe at the floor, enjoying the fresh scent of a pine forest cloaked in a morning fog, a fog made of chemicals that didn’t quite smell like a pine forest.   

Would I have done this for free?  No way.  Mopping isn’t something I usually get too jazzed about, but last weekend, I was getting paid good money to mop my own floors.

How did I land such a sweet gig?  It started several years ago, when our friends had an engagement party at their house.

“Place looks great!” we said.

“We had a cleaning lady come help.  Her name’s Carmen.  You should call her sometime,” they replied.

And thus began our complicated relationship with Carmen.  She’s been over a few times over the years, usually before a get-together at our house.  She charges reasonably and does a great job, but I can’t shake the mental image of a vacuum cleaner reaching into our bank account and applying powerful sucking action every time she visits.

I can stomach having some help before an event at which we are likely to be judged by our ability to not have dog fur on our kitchen counters, but my wife Kara wants more.  She’d like Carmen to come over every two weeks, while I’d like to have her visit our house with the same frequency as Santa.
“The house is a mess.  I’m going to call Carmen,” Kara will say, periodically, the implication being that if I want to continue living in squalor (which I do), it’s going to cost us.

Having someone clean up after you sounds awesome, in theory, like you can treat your house the same way Axl Rose treated hotel rooms in the 80s.  But you have to clean up before they come over anyway, which defeats the whole purpose.  Not very rock n’ roll at all.

So I fend off Carmen the best way I know how, and my weapon of choice is a mop.  I’d hate mopping if I had to do it for free, but since I’m getting paid by not having to pay someone else, the sheen across the floor takes on the aroma of fake pine chemicals and dollar bills.

For other husbands in a similar situation, I hope this has been an inspirational tale.  With just a little hard work, you too can train your wife to let you mop the floor.        

You can trash a hotel room with Mike Todd at

Monday, January 19, 2015

No day for a snow day

“The phone’s going to ring any minute, and then our lives will be over,” I said, pulling the covers over my head and bracing for the worst.

“It’s really not that big of a deal.  It’ll be fine either way,” my wife Kara replied.  As soon as those words left her mouth, the phone rang, and our lives would never be the same, at least not until early that evening. 

“Your school district is super-wimpy and we don’t feel like teaching your kids today, so even though there’s barely enough snow to cover the grass, we’re cancelling school.  To those parents who have really important meetings today, you will not be in attendance, at least not in person, and if you’re able to call in, everyone on the conference line will hear ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirates’ playing in the background.  Good luck!  If you will excuse us now, we have a long day of not teaching your children to attend to, and this margarita machine is not going to pour ice into itself.”

That’s pretty much what the automated message said, though I might be paraphrasing somewhat.

“Yay!  No school today!” our sons yelled, hugging and running around in circles.  I wished I could share their enthusiasm, but an important part of getting older is learning to detest things that bring joy to children. 

When I was a kid, a snow day was a pure, unadulterated, wonderful thing.  Though I never really thought about it at the time, I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad felt that way, too.  But back then it was different, because parents were just parents, not actual humans with needs and wants of their own. 

“Okay, let’s compare calendars and see how we’re going to get through this,” Kara said, and we started figuring out how we would both get as much work done as possible while still, ideally, keeping the children alive. 

“Pirates!” Zack, our two-year-old, yelled, reminding us that we already had a babysitter in the house, her name was Netflix, and she only charges nine bucks a month. 

“That’s an excellent idea, matey,” I said, picking up several remote controls in the correct sequence to begin what would become a marathon session of “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.”  Both kids sat, transfixed, kind of like the guy from Clockwork Orange, except without the eye clips. 

We’ve reached the magical moment in parenting when, after many years of chasing the kids around the house, we can finally outsource our parenting responsibilities to various electronic devices.  Between Netflix and the iPad, Kara and I are basically extraneous, except as providers of chicken nuggets. 

“We always used to say how easy it would be when the kids were old enough to watch TV and entertain themselves even for a little while.  But now we’re finally here, and I feel guilty.  I know today’s an exception, but we should be paying more attention to them,” Kara said.  At least that’s what she told me later that she said.  I was staring at my laptop, so I wasn’t paying attention. 

“The show stopped!” a child screamed.  If you let Netflix play for too long, a prompt pops up to make sure you haven’t done anything unthinkable, like going outside to get some fresh air.

“Are you still watching?” Netflix asked, and perhaps I was being too sensitive, but it felt a little judgmental. Netflix doesn’t come right out and say it, but you can almost see the “, or do your parents care about you” implied right before that question mark.

“Yes,” I clicked with the remote.  Of course we care.  But sometimes, to survive a snow day, you need a little help from a trusted babysitter.

You can walk the plank with Mike Todd at

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sometimes I like to scare strangers

“Sometimes I like to curl up in a ball,” I told the librarian, and she smiled faintly, nodding as she looked back down at the pile of books between us.

I waited for a moment, then realized that she was avoiding meeting my eyes, in the same way I might respond to a stranger on the sidewalk who asked, “Can I ask you a question?”

The correct response to that question/paradox is to pretend that the person who just said it is not a human, but an inanimate object meant to be ignored by passersby, like a fire hydrant, a mailbox, or the tip cup at Starbucks. 

The librarian seemed to be offering me the same regard she might have given to a street lamp.  After a few more beats, she glanced up and quietly asked, “Do you remember the name of the book?”

“Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball,” I repeated.

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball

It’s the story of a wombat with complicated emotions, designed to teach small children that it’s okay to have lots of different feelings, as long as you’re a wombat.  If you’re a little boy, your dad will teach you how to bottle up your emotions so that they destroy you from the inside, but don’t embarrass you in public.

Actually, I’ve heard that small boys are taught not to express their emotions, but if our household is any indication, society can scratch that problem off the list.  Our two boys, ages 5 and 2, are roiling fireballs of constantly expressed emotions.  Sometimes, their skin melts off and all that is left in the place where a child used to be is a fiery, gaseous cloud of pure emotion, like a picture from the Hubble telescope, swirling and astonishing to behold, except in space there is no sound, and in our house, the emotion clouds emit deafening sounds that go something like this: “ZACK KICKED ME IN MY EYEBALL!  I’M MAD AT YOU, YOU LITTLE STINKYPANTS!”

Someday, our kids will be able to think of worse things to call a person than a little stinkypants.  We’ll enjoy our lives in the meantime.

Back out the checkout desk, the librarian looked relieved.  “Oh, oh, oh.  Of course, one moment,” she said.  I realized then that she’d thought I had been using for her a little impromptu therapy session.

“Oh, you thought I was telling you that I like to curl up in a ball?  Sorry for the confusion.  No, I don’t make a habit of that,” I lied.  If you have young kids and you don’t occasionally need to curl up in a ball, you must have a really good nanny.

“No, no, I should have known.  And yes, that book is due back today,” she said.

“I’ll keep hunting for it, then.  Hope it turns up soon,” I replied.  The boys liked the wombat book so much, they wandered off with it to flip through on their own, which means there’s not a single location in the house that can be ruled out.  That book could well be in the vegetable crisper.

Just then, Zack and Evan finally caught up with two more books to check out. 

“Two more?  Look at this pile of books.  How many are we bringing home today?” I asked.

Zack, the two-year-old, held out a finger and counted.  “One, two, five, two, five,” he said, nodding definitively.  It’s the answer he gives every time he counts.

“You got it, my man,” I said.  We’ll let his future math teachers sort it out.

Then Evan and Zack both bolted for the exit door just as she scanned the last book, so I grabbed the pile and whisper-yelled at them to wait for me.  Sometimes, I like to curl up in a ball.  After I catch them, so they can’t get away.

You can pretend you didn’t hear Mike Todd at

Monday, January 05, 2015

The barely departed

When we’re not departing on a multi-day outing, our family, for the most part, does not resemble a prison riot.  No scores are being settled, nobody’s trying to shiv anybody.  When we are, though, you might want to keep a sharpened toothbrush in your pocket, just in case.    

“Slow down!  You’re not wearing shoes!” my wife Kara yelled as she dumped another armload onto the staging area at the top of steps.  Our sons skated past the pile, sliding across the hardwood floor in their socks, taking full advantage of their preoccupied guards.

“Zack’s hittin’ me!” Evan yelled, sliding to a stop.

“No, I didden!” Zack protested, as he continued hitting Evan. 

The dog, sensing that some perspective needed to be brought to the proceedings, climbed halfway up the stairs, and barfed.

“Thank you for your attention.  As you can see, I have been cleaning up after the deer in the yard,” she said, without words.

“I could just get in the car and drive away.  By myself.  Right now.  Just put some Tom Petty on the stereo, turn off the cell phone, and drive,” I thought, looking to see if I could get to the door before Kara could stop me.  As I looked from the door to her face, though, I realized that she was already looking at the door with the same thought, and she had a few steps on me.

We’re normally a perfectly functional family, but something happens when we’re getting ready to go somewhere.  When you’re travelling to visit family or go on a vacation, you are ostensibly removing stress from your life and going on an enjoyable trip.  But stress cannot simply be deleted.  It must go somewhere.  And that somewhere is the final hour before your departure, during which time you will act like a lunatic.  I call it Dysfunctional Family Departure Syndrome, and, in my experience, it’s the only way to insanely prepare to travel. 

After cleaning the stairs, I took a final load down to the car as multiple children slid past the doorway above me.  The dog clung to my ankle like a remora on a shark, sensing that a long trip was about to happen.

“Don’t ditch me.  Don’t ditch me.  Don’t ditch me,” she exuded.  To a dog, getting ditched is even worse than having to vomit on hardwood when fresh carpet is nearby.

I crammed the last of our belongings into the back of the car and patted the blanket that lined the floor of the small, square canyon therein, surrounded on all sides by cliffs of luggage, electronics and toys piled precariously to the ceiling. 

The dog hesitated, looking up at me as if to say, “Dude, the indignity.”

“Don’t even talk to me about indignity after what you just made me clean up.  Come on, hop up,” I said.

Memphis hates getting ditched, but her enthusiasm for car trips has decreased in direct proportion to the number of children we’ve added to the family.  She used to have the entire backseat to herself.  Then half of the backseat.  After the second car seat/throne got installed, Memphis was demoted to the cargo area.  In many ways, she’s like an airline passenger.  She used to get hot meals served to her, a choice of chicken or fish.  Now she’s lucky to get a packet of pretzels, she just paid $30 to check a bag and she’s crammed into an area that is barely large enough to hold a kindergartner’s backpack.  But she’ll still travel with us, because what choice does she have?

In any event, we eventually wrangled all of the inmates into the car without inadvertently teaching them too many new words.  As we rolled out of the driveway, the Dysfunctional Family Departure Syndrome was cured, and the relief was palpable, until the dog started heaving.

You can leave without Mike Todd at