January 27, 2011

Rules for Speakers

Like the "Rules for Writers", but for speakers, which most of us are. Re-posted here so you can learn to talk good, courtesy of the good folks at www.whatyououghttoknow.com.

The video really says it all, so you may be relieved to know that I have nothing witty to add to it. Enjoy.

January 21, 2011

Rules for Writers

If you enjoy writing, you'll enjoy these. If you don't enjoy writing, it may be because you're not very good at it, so keep reading anyway - you may pick up a hint or trick that will improve your grasp of the written English language.

By the way, if you are offended by that last remark because it applies to you, you may, as always, feel free to file a complaint by commenting below or by clicking the Complaint Department box on the Used Diaper Salesman home page. We at The Used Diaper Salesman take your overly-sensitive feelings seriously and guarantee that all complaints will be ignored within 7 to 10 business days. Thank you for your patronage.

Now on with the show.

  1. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with. That is something up with which you should not put. Unless your name is Yoda, in which case we will not argue with you about syntax because you have a light saber.
  2. Verbs must agrees with their subjects.
  3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
  4. Avoid cliches like the plague. They're old hat.
  5. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  6. Also, always avoid annoyingly abundant alliteration.
  7. Be more or less specific.
  8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
  9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive extra redundancies.
  10. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
  11. No sentence fragments.
  12. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
  13. Don't use no double negatives.
  14. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  17. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
  18. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
  19. Kill all exclamation points!!!
  20. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  21. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
  22. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit when its not needed.
  23. One should NEVER generalize.
  24. Your responsible for using the correct tense and word form in you're work.
  25. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
  26. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  27. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  28. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  29. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  30. Always checj for spellng errors beforee submiting your work.
There you have it. I don't know about you, but I learned a few things today. The cool thing about writing, however, is that you can reserve the right to cheerfully break any of these rules any time it serves your purpose. If you haven't noticed already, I do so on a pretty regular basis.

I'm no great writer, nor am I an officer on the grammar police force, so please don't take this as a lecture; I'm just here to have some fun. Further, you may not care about writing in the first place or may have been offended by the first paragraph above, in which case you probably stopped reading at that point and won't know that I called you a Sucka-Poopy right here at the end of this post. But if you've stuck with me to the end, I hope this has helped those of you who are grammatically challenged. You know who you are.

Thank's for you're time.

January 20, 2011

Jesus Loves Me...Even When I Beat Up My Little Brother

In her follow-up to the classic "That's My Grinch" video, here's Ellie's rendition of "Jesus Loves Me". You may have already seen this on Facebook or YouTube, but I thought it should make an appearance here as well. My favorite part is her little laugh at the end; you can tell she knows how funny she is.

In other news, Ellie has gotten into the habit of beating up her little brother just recently. Poor Riley; he always has big drooly smiles for his sister and this is what he gets in return. And she's sneaky about it. It's quite amusing to walk into the living room to see what Riley is crying about only to see him with a toy spoon halfway up his nose and a fair-sized goose egg rising on his forehead. By the time I get there, Ellie's usually halfway across the room innocently reading Hop on Pop and trying to hide the baseball bat behind her back.

I think she'd make a great mob assassin; she looks so innocent, always has an alibi, and can always come up with a creative tale for what happened, usually starring Cruella de Vil as the villain. She'll have to work on disposing of her weapon, however; hiding it behind her back probably won't do the trick. I wonder what her mob name would be. Blondie McBat? Little Ellie the Spoon? Not too scary, huh? Well, whatever she calls herself, you can be sure ten-month-old little boys everywhere are watching their backs.

I'm fairly sure the cause of this fun new trend has to do with the fact that Ellie has another brother, this one a whole lot bigger (imagine Andre the Giant picking on you and you'll get the picture), who has made it a point to make her life a little more difficult, so she has decided to exercise her position as the bigger kid and share the love with Riley. And she had better get her shots in now. If his big brother's size is any indication, Riley won't be a tiny little guy for very long.

So despite her protests, when we find a spoon up a baby nose, we have her apologize and give Riley one of these:

To which he replies:

Sigh. I sense a budding sibling rivalry.

January 14, 2011

Raising a New Generation of Flashers

I give you three little fish doing their best Alfalfa impressions. Please note Riley's strategically placed bath toy.

Why do most of us stop taking baths as adults? Seriously. I mean, look at how much fun they're having. I suppose most of us are just too busy or short on time in the morning to take a soak. A lot of guys would gruffly say that baths are for women, but I disagree, and so does my brother-in-law. I hear he takes bubble baths. (You're welcome, buddy.)

I would gladly trade a hot shower for a hot bath any day, and not just because a bath is more relaxing. I prefer baths mainly due to the fact that it's hard to float your fleet of battleships and frigates in the shower. Not that I get to take many baths, because at six feet, four inches tall, the average-sized bathtub puts my knees somewhere in the general vicinity of my earlobes, so I guess I'll wait for the day I have enough room to install a big whirlpool job that'll accommodate my knees, earlobes, and all my aircraft carriers. Brady's aircraft carriers, that is. I don't have toy ships; I'm a little old for that.

My kids, as you can see, love bath time, which we call "tubby time" at our house. Most nights around bedtime, Ellie asks, "My take a tubby now?". The answer is yes about half the time; we do tubby time about three times a week, since it would be a three-ring, three-kid circus if we tried to do it nightly. Besides, Ellie does her best to drink as much bath water as she can, so we have to try to minimize her intake. Same for Riley, who will suck the water out of any washcloth he can get his chubby little fingers on. Brady is a professional splasher, and he's tutoring Ellie in his art, so they routinely deliver precision tidal waves at each other and me, which results in a very wet daddy and an even wetter floor. No way we could do this every night; I don't think my sopping floor boards could take it.

But the real fun starts after they're done with their baths. I don't know exactly when it started, but when Brady was little, he would run away naked after being dried off, and after a while I'd exclaim, "Hey, where is Captain Nudie-Pants?" He thought that was a gas. Then it evolved into a tradition in which Brady, and later Ellie, would have me wrap them loosely in their towels so that they could run to wherever Mommy happened to be, throw off their towels and proclaim, "I'm Captain Nudie-Pants!" It really never gets old. If you ask them, wanton nudity is highly underrated.

So I'm raising a new generation of flashers. What of it? If the wider world at the time Brady goes to college is the same as when I was in school, I'm sure antics like these will be widely accepted. My freshman year, some of the guys decided to make a Slip-n-Slide out of our linoleum-floored dorm hallway with dish soap and buckets of water and slid the length of the hallway naked. The other guys, that is; I would never participate in such nonsense. But I'll have a talk with Ellie before she heads off to school. Sorry ladies, it's just not the same for you as far as your dear old dads are concerned. Further, I think I'll have her tell the boys that her dad works for the CIA, owns a small arsenal of lethal weapons, and could pay them a midnight visit any time he should so choose. A dad's gotta watch out for his baby girl. Not that I'll be in any way overprotective.

But all in all, I want them to maintain their sense of freedom. I love how uninhibited kids are regardless of what they're doing. They have no prejudices, no self-consciousness yet; those are learned as they get older. So I've made it a lifetime goal to help them see through society's prejudices of what is and isn't attractive or acceptable, to teach them to see truth. I've got to start right now, which is why I encourage them to flash their mother every chance they get. They're going to learn important street smarts by experience, of course, but I don't think anyone else out there has the right to tell them whether or not they're cool or wearing the right clothes. Their worth is unquestioned and unconditional, and I want them to see that through my eyes, through the eyes of God. Free of expectations, they'll be free to be who they are.

Short of starting a Nudie-Pants colony, that is.

January 3, 2011

The Girl With The Dora Tattoo

It's said by parents all the time: "Little Billy is going through a 'phase.'", or "I hope this 'phase' doesn't last long for Janie." Kids go through many phases as they grow up, but never more frequently than when they're little. These periods can be cute, or more commonly, it sometimes seems, maddening. You think you have them figured out and then one day...POOF; everything you thought you knew goes up in smoke, and you're back to the drawing board. And every child is different, so a solution that worked well for one could be useless for another. There's simply no rhyme or reason to it.

Kids are also incredibly sensitive to their environment and external stimuli; you can forecast the weather or tell the current stage of the moon by their moods and behavior. If you said to a parent, "Oh my, she's such a cute little barometer!", you wouldn't be wrong, although you might get a funny look. You also wouldn't be wrong to comment on someone's adorable little werewolf, but I don't recommend it, true though it may be. That one elicits a slightly stronger reaction.

Incidentally, "phase" is also the term used to describe what werewolves are said to experience during a full moon. It's no wonder that it's the term of choice for what kids go through during developmental leaps and changes in the weather. An apt description, but at least kids don't spontaneously sprout lots of body hair and try to tear you to pieces. Most of the time. Except that one time with Brady, but that's a story for another time. Let's just say the police now know our address...

But the truth is that it's really not their fault. Poor little guys. I mean, how would you feel if you were trying to push teeth through your gums while learning to not wet your pants and discovering the great truths of the universe, such as the fact that if one sits on one's little brother's head, there are dire consequences? That's a lot to process all at once, and on top of it all, they don't know the words to express themselves. If it were you, you might feel a bit like a werewolf, or a Grinch, for that matter. But I think we've discovered the secret to making it easier on them and us, and it's this: you've got to learn to speak their language. No, I don't mean deciphering  their evolving speech, I mean discovering what motivates them, and it can be summed up in one word.


We've developed a system that makes the Chicago politics scene look tame and mundane by comparison. The name of the game is to discover what they really want and make it attainable by exhibiting the desired behavior. We award stickers on a little motivational chart for each kid, and when they fill the chart, they get a special treat. We award M&Ms for successful trips to the potty. We take on each phase with a reward that fits the situation.

But perhaps the ultimate reward for good behavior at our house is the little handful of sheets of temporary tattoos we keep tucked in the kitchen document caddy. They'll do almost anything for the privilege of adorning their arms or the backs of their pudgy little hands with the image of Tinkerbell or Spider-Man in action, and who can blame them? Those things are just cool, and they'll show them off to anyone who'll listen. Now if Ellie shows up one day with a tattoo of a winking little Dora the Explorer peeking above her diaper on her lower back, we might have a whole new set of problems to deal with, but for now, we're getting the desired effect.

Despite the rigamarole we go through to get there, it's worth the effort, because what we're after is not to just change their behavior, it's to start new habits that change their attitudes. A new attitude toward a situation can set them up for success down the road, and since the things they learn now will create the basis for lifelong habits, we want those attitudes to be the right ones.

And if Dora can help us say "We did it!", then I'm on board.