Unexpected shortfall in U.S. cheese sauce reserves triggers chaos in pasta futures market

Last Friday, my wife had a date with a younger man. She took our six-year-old to a Mother-Son event at school.

With Mommy and Big Brother gone, Buster, New Baby, and I were left to our own boys’ night out. Incidentally, New Baby turned 1, so we should probably invent a new nickname.

I gave Buster the choice between his three favorite foods (i.e. things he will eat) for dinner: pizza, chicken strips, or mac & cheese. After a half hour distracted by LEGOs, he chose mac & cheese.

Normally, I would grab the elbows and the block of Velveeta and get to work, but since Big Brother was getting his night out, I decided we would go to Panera for dinner.

The anti-Panera

Not all fancy-pants like Panera, but the kids like it, especially when I sprinkle in some actual cheese.

We’d already discovered we cannot afford to feed the entire family at Panera. The misleading appearance of the go-up-to-the-counter-and-get-your-food-yourself façade of affordability crumbled during our first visit.

But we would only be getting a kid’s mac & cheese and a little something for me to share with New Baby. This was our chance to enjoy Panera on the cheap.

I got a half Panini and a half mac & cheese to go with Buster’s kids’ mac & cheese. We opted for water from the fountain. This was gonna be awesome; we were gonna do Panera on McDonald’s funds.

Can you hear the buzzer? That loud, long one that sounds like WROOOONG!

Two little bowls of macaroni and half a flat sandwich: $15.23.

As we went to get our water, Buster said, “I no want water. I want juice.”

“They don’t have juice here,” I lied. None that your kind can afford, I thought.

Even the water at Panera must be made from gold. They allow you a dental rinse cup. That’s fine for the kids, but since I’d be filling up on water tonight, I’d like a bigger cup.

You know how some restaurants make up for higher prices with large portions?  You know, a kid’s plate of chicken fingers an adult couldn’t finish? Panera has never heard of those places.

Buster’s and my dishes were the same size. They each contained about as much macaroni as he can hold in one of his three-year-old hands.  My $4.79 half Panini came out 21 cents short of a dollar per bite.

mining for pasta

Panera employees digging out precious nuggets of macaroni.

New Baby ate most of my macaroni and some of my sandwich. He was still hungry. I asked Buster, the skinny kid who never finishes his dinner, if his brother could have some of his. “No!” he replied, protecting his rare and precious noodles with his arms.


He sighed. “One.” Raising his index finger, he stressed, “One macaroni.”

After that, I resorted to scraping up the remaining cheese sauce from my bowl for New Baby.  That sauce was probably worth upwards of $3 on the open market and I felt fiscally irresponsible for overlooking it before.

There's cheese in them thar hills

Little-known fact: When cheese sauce is first pumped out of the ground, it has a dark color. It only acquires its lighter hue during the dangerous and expensive refining process.

Buster’s kids’ “meal” came with a little tube of yogurt. I’ve never seen him attack a side item with such greed. He twisted that tube into a knot eking out every last bit of sustenance.

We cleaned our plates as if our food were made of silk and pearls, which are probably less expensive per ounce. Then I did the wholesome, fatherly thing: I took them to get filled up on ice cream.




Exposed: the toddler battle plan

From the moment a child can stand on his own two feet, he begins reaching his little hands upward. This is the instinctive, human thing to do. In his simple way, the child is measuring.

He is measuring whether he can reach high enough to rip out his father’s heart.

He is not tall or wily enough to accomplish this goal in one stroke, so he satisfies himself with whittling down Daddy’s spirit by breaking all of his material possessions.

I have two categories of material possession that each of my boys has spent his late infancy and early toddlerhood trying to destroy.

The lesser of these is my CD collection. I spent decades carefully amassing this collection. They are all on my iPod now, but a CD is more concrete than a digital download and old people need to touch things to know they are real. A bookcase of my favorites still sits in the living room, near the seldom-used stereo.

It’s been the favorite hobby of every boy, at a certain age, to pull down the CDs, trod on the cases, and redistribute the inside media. My once pristine collection is a shambles. God help me if I want to play one of them ever again.

picking some music

“What’s this one? Days of Future Passed. That’s a classic.”


“Better throw it on the ‘Classics to be Smashed’ pile.”

Why don’t I stop being stupid and just move them?

The only other place I have for them is that “storage” part of the basement where obsolete items live with the spiders until everyone agrees they should be thrown away. For God’s sake, they are not an old vacuum!

Also, it has become a battle of wills. These children need to learn they cannot defeat me by attacking my cherished belongings. Nothing is sacred in this war.

Besides, history predicts that the last of them will outgrow this habit in a few months and I can reorganize the remaining rubble once and for all. Time is on my side, you little freaks!

The other thing they have all yearned to destroy are my glasses. Unlike the CDs, I use my glasses. I’ve had the same pair for 10 years. This is a testament to the strength of my will, and the fact that I don’t have vision coverage.

As we watch TV, like the peaceful family I always intended us to be, a little hand will flash before my eyes and snatch my glasses. If snatching glasses were a recognized superpower, our house would be the Hall of Justice. Thank goodness for flexible frames.

I don’t know why they want me to have poor vision, unless it is to make it easier to convince me when it’s time to go off by myself and die, leaving the pride in the charge of younger males.

I’ve gotten pretty good a seeing the world through finger prints, which is good because there’s really no other way for me to see it.

I still have two who do this, though the older one makes a show of cleaning the lenses for me. This is not kindness; it is cunning. But I see right through him like three layers of thumb prints.

Meanwhile, I await the teen years, for the heart-tearing-out to begin in earnest.

Who invited Batman?

For his birthday, Buster wanted a Batman-themed party. The great thing about three-year-olds’ parties is you don’t have to rent out a hall to satisfy them. As long as you have cupcakes, pizza, and few of his closest friends, you can spend two hours in your own living room, hosting the best party he’s ever had.

The great thing about three-year-olds is that their closest friends are whichever few kids they happen to be playing with. There’s no need to look up his old army buddies.

Batman cupcakes and a few Batman party favors meant this party was about 10% of the cost of the party he’ll require in three years. With some of the windfall savings, my wife picked up an adult Batman costume, because what little kid wouldn’t love a surprise visit from a masked man?

I am Batman cupcakes

I would have preferred chocolate cupcakes with whipped frosting, but after my wife pointed out that they weren’t for me, I gave her a classic Batman “whatever” shrug.

She wanted someone none of the children would recognize to wear the costume. It’s not as easy as you might think to get an affirmative reply to, “Hey, how would you like to show up to a children’s party in a Batman outfit this Saturday?”

As Saturday neared, she got more desperate. I think she was hoping the UPS guy would deliver something so she could sound him out about whether he liked playing make-believe. But since we didn’t have any mail order scotch in transit, the UPS guy didn’t show. I convinced her I should be Batman. Yes, I’d be recognized, but the boys would always remember the time Daddy played Batman for them.

I don’t know much about Batman, outside of the Adam West TV show. I can’t imagine how he changed into costume sliding down the pole to the Bat Cave because I had trouble getting into costume sitting on my bed. Batman’s outfit doubles as an evening gown, I discovered as I texted my wife to come zip me up.

The suit was designed for a pectorally endowed man. “You have concave nipples,” my wife informed me as I turned my rubber chest to her. A plump pillow fixed that.

I snuck out and rang the doorbell. My wife herded the children to the door and had Buster open it. I crossed the threshold; he hid behind his big brother. I knelt down to talk to him; he fled to the back room and closed the door.

And we were worried that I would just be Daddy in a cape.

Why can't you give Batman a chance?

Fear turns to contempt as Batman resorts to pleading.

I took some pictures with, and punches from, the other children, but Buster would not enter the same frame with me. I cut my losses and made my exit, reappearing as just Daddy.

They had cupcakes and Buster opened presents. That creepy Batman faded in memory.

After the party, I had some errands. “Okay, I’m leaving,” I announced, as a man does when he’s about to leave his wife alone with three sugar-laced children.

Buster looked up from his new toys. “Don’t go to Batman, Daddy,” he pleaded. “I don’t like it.”

Sometimes Daddy’s best as boring, safe, reliable Daddy.

April Chat with a Dad: Scott of Snoozing on the Sofa

snoozing on the sofa:

I’m home with a sick kid today, so no new post from me. If you find yourself disappointed by this for some strange reason, head on over to Little Steps, where Dean has posted a Q&A with yours truly about my highly successful fathering habits. I suspect she may have done this as an April fools joke on her readers, because what better prank could you imagine? She certainly bagged a big April Fool in her April Chat with Dad feature.

Originally posted on Little Steps:

It may be April Fool’s today, but there’s definitely nothing foolish about self-published author, Scott Nagele and Dad behind the blog  Snoozing on the Sofa.  If you haven’t discovered his blog yet, this is a good introduction, think of it as snippets, the kind of writing to expect and if you’re one of his many followers, you might just get to know him a little bit more though this month’s Chat with a Dad.

Tell us something about yourself and your little ones.

I got into this baby-making biz late. I was over 40 when my first son was born. Now, I have three sons, and I’m still over 40, only slightly more so. If you want to start a family at such an advanced age, you should find a mate half your age. Just kidding, my wife is not half my age (anymore).


My boys are six, almost three…

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