The Ninja Turtle Pinball Machine: Impulse Buying Infographic

Even though Christmas shopping for my son was pretty much complete a couple of months ago, he recently became fascinated by the concept of owning a pinball machine.

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In fact, it was the only thing he asked Santa for at Bass Pro Shop.

So in an order to help Santa out, I checked out Target. I’d already found a cheap, tiny made-in-China type of thing at a party store earlier that day; the kind you’d find in the bottom of a box of Rice Krispies.

But it was at Target that I found the perfect pinball machine for him:

A Ninja Turtles pinball machine, on sale for about $22 (from $25); which is more money than my wife and I agreed to spend to help Santa out on this.

My wife and I are strict Dave Ramsey followers. Therefore, every dollar is specifically accounted for. But in addition to our shared income budget, she and I also each have an annual stipend consisting of birthday and Christmas money from family to last us all year.

I texted my wife: “I am tempted just to spend my own money to buy this for him!”

It was the perfect opportunity for an impulse buy. He would be so happy and so surprised on Christmas morning to unwrap that!

But I thought about the gifts we had already bought him, and considered the other mysterious gifts he’ll get from others, and decided against buying the pinball machine.

If he really is disappointed with the “cereal prize pinball machine” he’s getting, he can spend his own money on the Ninja Turtle one at Target; though he probably won’t. He’ll probably spend it on Legos instead.

So I did it: I resisted the urge to make an impulse purchase. I’m almost surprised at myself.

I will close with an infographic that explains the psychology behind an impulse buy:

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dad from day one: Honestly, Baby Jack Could Be Born Any Day Now

Thirty-seven weeks.

In a matter of days (most likely no more than 20), dad from day one will no longer be a blog about pregnancy from a dad’s perspective; instead of pregnancy, it will be about a real life baby.  Like the way that the first season of Saved by the Bell was really called Good Morning, Miss Bliss and took place in Indiana, then by the next season Miss Bliss was gone and Zack, Screech, Lisa, and Mr. Belding magically reappeared in California, yet it was still basically the same TV show, only better and livelier.

My work place had a "masculine baby shower" for me, meaning there were no games- just food and a bucket full of gifts.

What this means is that this post of dad from day one could be the last one before “Baby Jack is Born!” is published.  Or, I could easily post two more new ones before he’s born.  No way of knowing.  It’s like waiting for the clown to jump out of the jack-in-the-box while turning the crank.  Any day now, our Jack may pop out of the box!  (Unavoidable metaphor.)

Pork-free soup is hard to find in the South; at least in my office.

His due date is November 11th, on my dad’s birthday, but my wife and I are both convinced that Baby Jack will be born on the 5th.  We met on October 5, 2006.  Our first date was on February 5, 2007.  We got married on July 5, 2008.  And November 5, 2010 will be Week 39, close enough to Week 40- it’s very possible.  Though I love to joke that he will be born on Halloween and he’ll be our Jack-O-Lantern.

Last night we finished our last Lamaze class.  Last weekend we packed the car seat.  This weekend we will make a trip to Target to pick up supplies (snacks) for the hospital stay and finish packing for D-Day.  It’s like preparing for the ultimate first day of school.  But instead of meeting my new teacher, I’m meeting my new baby.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:



Pick up a copy of the November 2010 issue of American Baby magazine...

...and on page 13 you just might see some familiar faces.

This being the first time my writings have been featured in a national magazine, I have to compare the experience of seeing the copy for the first time to that great scene in That Thing You Do where The Wonders all hear their song being played on the radio for the first time.  I will never forget; during my lunch break I rode my mountain bike to an appropriately named maternity and baby clothing store in Franklin, TN called Pickles and Ice  Cream.

The issue had just arrived in the store.  The two girls behind the counter watched me anxiously and purposely turning the pages until I found page 13, both knowing something was up.  And though I was still wearing my bike helmet, they realized that the squinty-eyed Italian-looking guy wearing a Tom & Jerry t-shirt in the magazine must be me.

dad from day one: Where the Wild Things are Tame

Twenty-four weeks.

As my wife and I have begun registering at Babies “R” Us and Target, a major theme I couldn’t help but notice, particular to boys’ clothing, is the fact that wild, vicious animals are strangely friendly and helpful.  Smiling crocodiles.  Laughing gorillas.  Silly snakes.  Chipper tigers.

In real life, there’s no way I would let Jack near any of those animals unless it’s at the zoo. (Nor would I want anywhere near those animals unless I was at the zoo). Crocodiles, gorillas, snakes, and tigers all represent wild and dangerous elements of life.  But to a baby boy, these creatures resemble how he himself is adventurous and “in to everything”.  Of course, in a world where the baby boy is loved by all and has no concept of enemies, these dangerous beings become neutered, tamed, and enchanted to the point that they all want to be his friend.

The irony- as his parents, my wife and I will be Jack’s supreme protectors and guardians.  We will become the smiling crocodiles, the laughing gorillas, the silly snakes, and the chipper tigers: the paradoxical mix of strength and safety with love and happiness.  Even more ironic- Baby Jack won’t understand all this stuff about friendly yet wild animals and how his parents represent them to him.  All these “cute outfits” are for the adults to enjoy.  But we like to pretend Jack is aware of the fact that his shirt has a picture of a goofy blue beast on it with the caption reading “Mommy’s Little Monster”.  My, what imaginations we adults have!

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:



The Truth and Irony about Solving a Rubik’s Cube

Somebody’s gotta be able to do it.  So I took it upon myself to become that person.

Last night at 11:15 PM, I solved my first Rubik’s Cube.  Then again, and again, again.  It all started on February 23rd when I was trying to think of a clever title for a post that I was working on about the true danger of dying of boredom and inactivity, which ended up with me questioning the small possibility that I could have a mild case of Aspergers (I’m pretty sure I don’t, though…).  I ended up naming the writing “Rubik’s Cube Syndrome”.

A few days later, on February 27th, I decided to take the concept literally: I went to Target and paid $9 for a Rubik’s Cube.  Because I realized I didn’t know anyone in my life that knew how to solve it, nor did I know anyone who knew anyone who knew how to solve it.  So I knew that meant that I would have to become that person.  I would have to become “that guy”.

For the next 11 days (which ended last night), I took “The Cube” with me everywhere.  The token running joke I kept hearing as I was learning to solve it was, “I can solve that thing for you, just let me take off the stickers…”

Everyday during my lunch break I walked over to Borders and used their free wi-fi to watch YouTube videos on how to solve it.  And, it worked.

The truth about solving a Rubik’s Cube is this:  Basically, trusting your own puzzle-solving abilities, you can not solve a Rubik’s cube.  It’s impossible.

The Cube is solved through completing a series of 7 layers, starting from the bottom up (like levels of an old school Nintendo game like Donkey Kong) and each one has a corresponding algorithm which is a set series of turns and twists (like the Konami code on Contra to get 30 extra lives or the combination of buttons pressed in order to pull of a “special move” on Streetfighter II).  But one wrong move, and you end up having to go back a few layers and start over.

The biggest hint that The Cube itself provides is that the middle squares of each side are the only ones locked into place, and each corner is predetermined.  For example, the green side will never share corners with the blue sides, because they’re on opposite sides from each other.

Interestingly, in theory, no matter what the positions are, it should never take more than 20 twists in order to return The Rubik’s cube to its original state.

The Rubix Cube has been frustrated millions of people since its commercial release 30 years ago in 1980.  Understandably.  Without memorizing the algorithms, it virtually is impossible.

So my advice is this.  Unless you’re willing to spend 11 days to memorize the exact formula, don’t waste your time.  It will be nothing but frustrating.  The Cube is either the most frustrating puzzle in the world or the most rewarding and therapeutic.  But if you don’t follow the formula step by step, you will not succeed.

The irony of being able to solve a Rubik’s cube is this: While you will most definitely be able to impress your friends when they watch you do it in front of them in just a matter of a few minutes, it takes memorizing algorithms to do it.  You must become a little bit dorky in order to become cool.

And I’m okay with that.  Because for a lifetime I have memorized the formula.  So for a lifetime, I will keep my mind active.  I called my Rubik’s Cube my “Alzheimer’s Prevention Device”.

healthnutshell: “Gotta” Vs. “Get To”

I’m learning what it means to “observe the Sabbath.”

Recently I read an article that gave the top ten reasons why certain people live to be over 100 years old. Unsurprisingly, “a less stressful lifestyle” and “a more active lifestyle” were both on that list. At first glance, it seems those two traits would clash. But after stumbling upon some information on the lifestyles of Seventh Day Adventists, I realize they live out a great model of being active and yet less stressed. And reports show they live longer, healthier lives than the rest of us.

They take seriously one of the Ten Commandments that we tend to ignore: They keep the Sabbath holy. For Seventh Day Adventists and Jews, it’s Saturday. For the rest of us, it’s Sunday. I agree with them that that Saturday is actually the Sabbath, but I don’t care, I just go along with the crowd and pretend that it’s Sunday with the Protestants.

The day of the week isn’t important to me. The model of resting on the 7th day is. God worked 6 days to create the world then rested on the 7th.

What God didn’t do was this: Work 5 days, take off the 6th, then on the 7th stay really busy all day with church events. To me, that’s the Christian American model that is mainstream, and it doesn’t work. Because we’re not resting on Sunday, we’re busy with “Christian stuff”. That’s missing the whole point. And for many, it’s causing burn-out.

Something different about the church I attend in Nashville is this: They only have a Sunday morning service. (Not even a Wednesday night meeting.) The pastor wants his congregation to spend more time with their families, not working on church activities or having to go home after lunch, only to get out again for another church service and/or training class. Our pastor stresses the importance of meeting with a “small group” during the week at someone’s house. That takes the place of the church fellowship and Bible study that occurs at many churches on Sunday night.

The idea is this: Instead of being constantly busy all week long with life’s events, randomly getting lucky enough to find pockets of free time to relax, I have begun to set aside Sunday as the day of relaxation, as directed in the Ten Commandments.

My struggle at first with this was, “What is work?” I knew I didn’t want to be like the Pharisees of Jesus’s time who were so anal that they thought walking more than a certain distance or even feeding livestock was a sin. They got all judgmental over the issue.

The difference with my approach is this: I don’t care what other people do on Sunday. The observance of the Sabbath is for my own good. God intended me to be busy for 6 days straight, then relax on the 7th. My bodily was physically, spiritually, and emotionally designed that way.

As I have began truly observing the Sabbath for the first time in my life, what I have learned so far is that I am even busier now from Monday to Saturday. It means the grocery shopping, household chores, and random errands that my wife and I usually did on Sunday now have to been done on Saturday afternoon. It means not sleeping in on Saturday as long. It means those tedious tasks that got pushed off until Sunday afternoon are now completed after the Biggest Loser goes off on Tuesday night.

But then Sunday is free. We go to church on Sunday morning. Then the rest of the day is wide open. For long naps. To go out for a nice meal if we want to. To watch movies. To go for a drive. To visit with friends. To do nothing. Just to relax, whatever that entails.

I had the wrong idea for all these years, thinking that a day of rest meant “a day of boredom”. Or a day of sleep. Or a day of sitting in a quiet room meditating about things that made me feel “Christian”. But to better understand the concept, I’ve replaced the word “rest” with “relaxation”. Sometimes resting means sleeping, but it also means enjoying the day by just vegging out. Doing whatever I want to do.

The best way I have found to realize what I will or will not to on Sunday is the “gotta or get to” method:

I “gotta” go to Target to exchange that air filter. I gotta clean out the closet. These things I gotta do or, have to do, are the annoying things I consider work. Things that keep me from relaxing. Therefore if there’s anything I gotta do, I will not do it on a Sunday.

But there are also things I “get to” do. I get to finish building that Corn Hole set with my friend Josh. I get to go for a nice three mile run. I get to put together that photo album I haven’t had time for. These are all physical activities, yet I get to do them. In other words, I want to do them. I get enjoyment from doing them. They are relaxing.

Is the activity something I have to do or I want to do? Regardless of the amount of physical activity it takes. Resting is more than refraining from work. So much of what we’ve been missing by not truly observing the Sabbath is the mental and physical rest we deeply need. This day of rest is a way God allows us to have sanity through all our inevitable busyness.

So how is it possible to be both more active and less stressed out? Follow the 4th Commandment and see what happens. It works for the Seventh Day Adventists. And me.