My Adventures at Starbucks

I need to be grounded from Starbucks.

For the last decade and a half I’ve only ordered frappuccinos, which are basically just really fancy milkshakes. Be it summer or winter, I’d get a frappuccino because I really really hate hot beverages.

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A couple of weeks ago Starbucks ran this deal where if you buy one macchiato, you get a second one free. (If you don’t know, macchiatos are those fancy iced-coffee drinks that look like someone went way overboard with the cream.

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I always thought they looked kind of good. But when I learned that that’s not cream at the bottom, but VANILLA, I told Sarabeth we HAVE to try them!

We bought one and got one for free, and now, a couple of weeks later, I’ve had about 9 of them. I’m friggin’ addicted to this crap now, even at $5 a pop! And now Sarabeth feels like she can go to Starbucks with me because suddenly I’m a grown-up drinking grown-up drinks instead of milkshake-wannabe’s. Except that when I order my macchiato I ask them to “double the vanilla,” because there’s no such thing as enough vanilla.

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Well, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve ticked off quite a few Starbucks employees. (Be warned: after my confession you’re going to see me as a total jackass, but promise me you won’t say you wouldn’t do the same thing if you were cursed with my ineptitude for remembering key details.)

You see, when I was hooked of frappuccinos, I only had to decide on a flavor. Like, double-chocolate chip (which drove Sarabeth nuts because I chewed each individual chocolate chip with my front teeth like a crazed chipmunk), vanilla (cream-based, of course), mocha (which is basically a coffee-flavored milkshake), or any flavor of the season.

But with macchiatos I have to choose a flavor, remember to ask for extra vanilla, AND choose hot or cold, and apparently the default is hot. There’s no such thing as a hot frappuccino, otherwise it would just be a …ccino, and that just sounds racist for some reason.

Almost every time I’ve ordered a macchiato I’ve forgotten to ask for an ICED macciato. When they hand me the hot beverage with the cardboard coaster snug up around it, I know they see the look in my eyes and they’re already taking it back before I say, “I’m sorry, I meant to ask for an ICED macciato.”

They’re forced to fake a smile and say, “Certainly,” because those awesome Starbucks employees are trained that customers should always get what they want even if they’re complete jackasses like me. And then I sit in the car awkwardly while the line of cars grows behind me and I pretend to be texting someone on my phone even though under my breath I’m cursing myself for being such a jackass.

Why not just take the hot macchiato? Well, that would be like eating cow turd when you really wanted chocolate syrup. Big difference.

So my immediate life goal is to always remember to ask for ICED macchiatos so I don’t continue being that guy I never want to come across. That, or I should just start ordering macciatos with no coffee. Because let’s face it, vanilla is good cold or hot.

We’ve Adopted James!

Last week we officially became the proud parents of our foster son James (it’s his middle name). We’ve had him in our home for two years. In those two years the courts stalled and paperwork was filled out and lost (by the state, not by us), and James was assigned more social workers than we could count. I think it reached close to eight or nine.

It’s been a wild two years.

My favorite part of our entire adoption day was when the judge asked Sarabeth and me if we understood fully that in the eyes of the state, the country, and everyone else in the world, James is considered fully and entirely our son just as though he had been born to us.

I love that.

But unfortunately we live in a society that, generally speaking, frowns upon adoption. Sure, for many people it sounds lovely and poetic, but if legs are given to the idea, then people freak out for varying reasons:

“He’s going to wonder who his parents are.”

“She’s going to be a trouble-maker.”

And my favorite one to hate: “He’s not the same skin color.”

For being a country that prides itself on being the melting pot of the world, we sure are averse to interracial marriage, breeding, and adoption. But that’s a topic for another time. (Let me just say that racism would be long dead if we weren’t so preoccupied with  keeping black black and white white. Just saying.)

But even though people applaud adoption on the outside, there is a ton of animosity stirring even within the best-intentioned people. There are those that claim adoption can be harmful for children because they’ll grow up with more questions than answers.

Well, that may be true, but I wasn’t adopted and I still have questions about my past, but I don’t let it rule my life. We all have questions about our upbringing and our lives. Questions are just a part of life. As parents we’ll teach our kids to ask questions about themselves and the world, but we’ll also encourage them not to be driven by them.

To people who say that foster kids are trouble makers, I’m sorry but you need to jump off a cliff or chew on some dynamite sticks. We’ve all known terrible trouble-makers in our lives, and chances are, they weren’t adopted or in foster care. Some people are just wired that way, or they weren’t raised strict enough. But our two kids (from the foster care system) are the best behaved kids you’ll ever meet.

And of course they can be trouble-makers! They’re kids! As parents, we choose what they can and cannot get away with. My rule as a parent is simple: Do anything you want; just don’t hurt anyone else. My only exception to that is I won’t let them touch the stove.

Even governments and world leaders are against adoption. Just look at Russia closing the doors. China’s requirements are pretty hefty. The individual American states themselves jump through every imaginable hoop to reunify children with their parents before allowing a good family to adopt them, even (or I should say especially) when that puts the child at great danger to his/her life.

But this is supposed to be a happy post. In the darkness, light prevails every now and then. The state of Kentucky allowed my wife and me to become the official parents of James. I don’t call that good because we got what we wanted. I call that good because this little boy was given a home where he will be loved and cared for forever, no matter what. And even better, he’s not in the hands of an alcoholic, or a drug user, and he won’t be abused or neglected, and Sarabeth and I will move any mountain we can to make sure they are provided with every opportunity possible for them to be anything they want to be, whether that’s a trash picker, an opera singer, or a CEO.

Welcome home, buddy. Our home isn’t perfect, but you’ll always belong and we’ll keep you as safe as possible.

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The Oscars Formula Cracked!

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Want good odds on winning your Oscar bets next year and going forward? Then read on:

Every year it’s the same thing. I tell my wife, “Hey, the Oscars are on.”

“Want to watch?”

“Sure.”

“What time does it start?” she asks.

“Seven.”

I have to pull up the channel guide online to find what channel ABC is on.

At 7:07 I say, “Damn. It doesn’t actually start at 7. They’re showing off their ugly dresses for the next hour.”

So for the next 90 minutes we point and laugh at everyone who looks like they’re dress up to be in Suzanne Collins’ fictitious Capitol.

If we make it through the opening number (Chris Rock sucked, Kimmel was okay; please bring back Billy or Neil!) I then end up just following the show on Twitter and Facebook seeing what everyone else says about it. (If you want to follow a hilarious and agreeable commentator, check out @JonAcuff.)

Then I look through all the past winners and losers. And last night I came to a rather mathematical solution on how the Oscars work. Granted, it’s not foolproof, but I think it’s just enough to help us all predict the winners from here on out.

Fact: No super hero movie is ever to be nominated for Best Picture. And I think most people agree that this unspoken rule cheated The Dark Knight out of a possible win.

Secondly, no matter what other category the films nominated for Best Picture are, there is a hierarchy that can almost always guarantee a correct prediction.

If a war movie is nominated, it can most assuredly take the Oscar home over its contenders. Unless any of its competitors is a movie about the arts or deals with racism. (In 2008 The Hurt Locker won because its competitors did not deal with racism or was not about the arts.)

So: If a war movie is pitted against a movie about art, the art movie will win. If an art movie is pitted against a film about racism, the racism movie will win. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you:

89th: Hacksaw Ridge < La La Land < Moonlight

88th: Bridge of Spies < Spotlight (there were no movies nominated about race this year)

87th: American Sniper < Birdman (again, no movies nominated about race)

86th: 12 Years a Slave (There were no films about art or war nominated this year)

Now this theory is not at all airtight. Argo won over Lincoln and Django Unchained, and the year before that The Artist beat The Help (which also beat War Horse), so there are exceptions. Or it could be argued that this is a relatively new pattern the Academy is setting, though no one can forget (or forgive) Shakespeare in Love robbing Saving Private Ryan in 1998 (again: war > art).

So what do you think of my theory? Have there been other patterns in the past? Perhaps each decade or generation follows a list of new rules? Are all best picture winners just based off of the social temperature of the time? Do movies that really deserve best picture wins get overlooked every year? What constitutes a movie being worthy of the honor? And why can’t they bring back Billy Crystal or Neil Patrick Harris to host the awards indefinitely?

Share your thoughts below!

Happy Birthday, Kat!

My favorite little girl on the planet turns three today.

She can drive me up a wall at times, and I’ve had my share of losing my cool, but she knows that she’s daddy’s most prized possession.

We drove two hours north to IKEA yesterday to pick up a kitchen set for her birthday. (In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting on the living room couch, listening to her and her brother waking up in their room. In just a couple of moments, she’s going to totter out here and stumbled upon the kitchen set I have set up for her by our living room windows.)

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She has no idea what’s in the big box I purchased for her, because at IKEA, you never know what you’re really getting.

We’ll be having donuts for breakfast from our favorite bakery down the street. It’s going to be  good morning. But really, it’s been a good three years. A lot of bad things happened last year, and the waters have been rough for quite a while, but my daughter has always been a constant. It’s guaranteed that she’ll laugh if I tickle her in just the right spot, and that she’ll always want me to kiss her goodnight even if we’ve had a bad day.

She loves the things I obsess over (chips and salsa, ice cream, Toy Story), and her dancing always makes me laugh, even if life seems too much at times.

I never really knew what it was like to be proud until we brought her home from the hospital, and now I get to experience that feeling every day as I watch her grow, learn, speak, and sing, and discover who she is a little more each day.

I can hear her brother trying to coax her out of their room. I better get the light on…

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Why We Don’t Tell Our Kids They Can be Anything They Want

It’s preached everywhere: “Believe, and it will happen.”

“Trust and you will find.”

“Try and you will succeed.”

“You can be anything you want to be and more.”

Once you get to a certain age you realize that’s all crap. Because, you know, when I was little, I believed I’d be an astronaut and go to the moon (there have only been twelve manned moon landings since 1969). I also wanted to be a cartoonist for a newspaper strip, but that was before I learned that Jim Davis already had the market cornered in that department.

The problem with me, then? Well, I believe there were two issues.

  1. My expectations were unrealistic. I hate science and always have, so any chance of me becoming an astronaut were doomed to begin with. And, even after some art classes, my cartoons were mediocre at best.
  2. I wasn’t consistent. I bounced around from one cool potential career to the next, whichever sounded most appealing at the time. Usually I was inspired by pop culture, and never really tapped into what I – little Andy – really wanted to do with my life.

Now that I’m a dad, I’m careful not to tell my kids they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, because let’s be honest: My daughter is too tall to be an Olympic gymnast. My son is too sensitive to be a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, and so far his hand-eye coordination is as great as his dad’s – never mind hitting the broadside of a barn, we’re lucky just to make the ball past the fence.

I love the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph didn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, and no matter 982468_032how many medals he won or good deeds he performed, he was always going to be a bad guy. But he learned to make peace with it.

An even better one is the bold Monsters University, where young Mike wants to be a scarer, but he really just sucks at it. He’s small, puny, and pretty funny looking.

No, as much as I would like to change things, our kids cannot be anything they want to be. It’s just not realistic, and beyond that, it’s a lie.

That’s not to say that if they worked and studied hard enough that they can’t become doctors and lawyers, business owners and CEO’s, or any other profession that requires a large degree of panache and brains. And as their parents, we’ll support them in every way.

But if my son dreams of making it on Juggling with the Stars in sixteen years but he can’t juggle any more than his daily chores, then I’m going to be flat-out honest with him and suggest that maybe he could coach someone to juggle or something.

But whatever they set their mind to, it is my hope that not only is it achievable within their skill set, but that they stick with it and don’t give up.

Let’s Resolve for a Better 2018 (Yes, 2018)

I think I know why New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

It’s because we expect change to be immediate.Like, we plan to lose thirty pounds next year. That’s great, but we’re just now coming out of a candy-crusted, cookie-frosted, eggnog-chugging month.

Guys. We can’t go from heavy creamed-based mashed potatoes to carrot juice and Power bars over night. Seriously.

And yet, year after year, we think it can be done.

Or what about people who are like, I’m going to make a million dollars next year! That’s fine and great, and I applaud your spirit, but you made that vow last year aaaaaaannnd… here you are sitting at your same computer reading this same blog about to make the same promise, which will eventually lead you to this exact same spot exactly one year from now.

But what if.

What if, instead of making our traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2017, we instead resolve to prepare for a better 2018?

Stay with me here.

I think about 3/4 of the world can agree that 2016 sucked, right? I mean, we lost a bunch of beloved celebrities, the elections were going to be bad either way, and it seems like everybody lost a loved one, and if they didn’t, it was just a really crappy year.

I want to label my toilet and every toilet at work “2016” and just crap in it all year long. Okay, that’s achievable:

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My first resolution is that, one year from now – nay, ten years from now – I look back and say that 2016 was easily the darkest and worst year of my life. (Unless of the course the zombie apocalypse happens first, then that might be considered the worst year ever. Maybe.)

And one step to ensure that happens is to make 2017 the year of…progress. As in, “We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress.” It’s the year to rebuild on the ruins of 2016.

We can’t fix everything over night. And the older I get, the more I realize that most things take more than a year to fix or build.

So let’s build toward an incredible 2018. Let’s get in the habit now of eating better, casual exercising, socializing more, spending less, writing more, whatever.

If your resolution is to stay married next year, focus more on how to stay married so that in 2018, you can resolve to improve your marriage even more and make it even a better year.

If you really want a new job, don’t just settle for the first dead-end job that offers you an out from your current situation. This is tough, but spend 2017 polishing up your resume, taking classes to improve yourself, sharpen your skills, so that in 2018, you can seriously be ready to apply for a newer, better job.

So, here’s to 2018. May 2017 be the ladder that leads to a greater year.

 

Who’s Your TV Daddy?

Alan Thicke’s passing leaves many of us reminiscing back to calmer, gentler evenings where the family gathered around the TV every night to watch the next installment of their favorite sitcom. And for many families that sitcom was Growing Pains. 

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I wasn’t as invested in the show as I was others, but I can still hear snapshots of Dr. Seaver yelling at his son for screwing up or trying to sooth over an argument with his wife. I remember I wanted his job because he never had to leave his house since his office was built in the guest room.

His passing got me thinking about other TV dads and how we all kind of have one or two that we believe act as our surrogates in some virtual way. For instance, Uncle Phil was definitely my surrogate uncle because I needed his discipline and loud yelling to get through to me and my stupid antics.

Tim Taylor from Home Improvement was definitely my TV dad. Probably because my own dad loves his tools and frames houses for a living. Unfortunately I identified with Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ dramatic arts-loving character, so I had a hard time identifying with my dad. It was just good to see it work in a TV world.

I think it’s kind of cool that we have these shows to look back on and adopt certain people as members of our virtual families. When Robin Williams died, I remember my best friend crying through a text message that he was the uncle he never had. We loved him, and yes we cried.

These actors leave an imprint on us. They’re magicians who breathe life into a character who otherwise would never have existed, and these characters live on well after the cameras shut off.

Who’s your TV dad? Danny Tanner? Mr. Cleaver? Homer?

Leave your answers below along with your favorite Growing Pains moment in honor of Mr. Thicke.