Donut and Muffin Factory

Unless you know where to look, you’d never notice the Donut and Muffin Factory tucked between the Godfathers Pizza and Little Caesars. The first two years we lived in Auburn, I drove past this red bricked hole-in-the-wall on my way to the train station. In truth, to call it a hole-in-the-wall is being kind because it looks like a run-down laundry mat in a seedy section of town.

Even pulling into their parking lot requires insider knowledge. “Is this where I turn?” I ask Kim not wanting to overshoot the lot. Two one-way streets make it difficult to get turned back around. It’s as if the donuts are so special, the owners don’t want anyone just passing by to enjoy them.

I maneuvered my way into the parking lot.

“Is it even open?” I ask Kim.

“Well, I stopped by before noon a while back and they’d run out of donuts”

How does a donut shop run out of donuts?

The place didn’t look open. No neon “OPEN” sign hanging from the window. No cars parked out front. I couldn’t tell if any lights were on, so I told Kim to stay in the van while I checked it out.

I walked to the entrance and peered through the windows. We’re in luck. A woman behind the counter motions me to come inside. I returned to the van to retrieve Kim and the kids. A bell jingles as we open the door. The kids immediately run towards the counter and begin pointing at any donut with sprinkles.

This isn’t Krispy Kreme. It’s not even Winchell’s. You won’t find a fancy menu, $4 coffee, or a cooler full of healthy salads. In fact, you won’t find many donuts behind the display case because the owner will have most of them on a tray next to her while she hand frosts each one.

The last time I stopped by she was mixing up a batch of frosting. When I asked what flavor she was making she replied, “Strawberry or vanilla. You pick.”

But what the place lacks in amenities, it makes up for in personality and authenticity. When you walk through the door you’re greeted by a copy machine. 15 cents a copy. It must be 20 years old. Above the copier is a local business bulletin board. Today’s featured business  is “Busy Beaver Movers”. Only a couple coverless fluorescent lights flicker overhead.

While Kim and I choose flavors, the owner grabs two handfuls of glazed donut holes for the kids. That was almost enough to keep Kai’s tongue off the display case. Almost.

And good luck making sense of the menu. Most donuts are 65 cents. A few “fancy” ones are 75 cents. It’s not clear which are fancy. Bulk discounts kick in with half and full dozen orders. But it doesn’t matter much because the owner seems to ring up maybe half your order. Feels like I asked for about $20 worth. “That’ll be twelve fifty”, she says.

Kim was excited because three cruellers were there for the taking. She let me have the strawberry on my birthday. The kids devoured a few of their own before we took a dozen home with us. 

So if you’re in Auburn and looking for a Starbucks-type experience, the Donuts and Muffin factory near the train station is not your best bet. But if you’re after a great tasting donut with absolutely no fanfare, you’re in luck.

Just get there early before they run out.

The Inflatable Mattress

The plan is hatched on a night the kids don’t have school the next day. Luca is the ringleader. She calls a huddle in the living room, and I know something is going down when I hear the whispers turn to giggles and finally someone says, “Anna, go ask dad!”

Within a few seconds, Anna is gently tapping my shoulder while I sit at my computer. Of course, I don’t show any signs that I know she’s coming to ask me a favor.

“Dad, if I ask you a question, will you PROMISE to say ‘yes’?”

Depends what it is. What if you ask to drive the car to Chuck E Cheese?”

She laughs. I love Anna’s laugh.

annaglasses

Anna knows exactly how to wrap me around her finger. She’ll stand behind me for a short time before moving towards me so I can see her face. She wants me to see her incredibly sad face. But I have to look quickly because Anna can’t keep a sad face for more than a few milliseconds. Eventually, her smile turns to giggles, and finally I learn what her siblings sent her to ask me.

“Will you blow up the mattress?”

Our kids love the inflatable mattress because they can move it around the room to get the best view of Scooby Doo or the Smurfs. When it’s time for bed, each of them pillows off their 1/3rd of the mattress. No trespassing allowed.

Before I went to bed last night I checked on them. All but one blanket was on the floor. They had moved towards the center of the mattress and were sharing a blanket. Arms were wrapped around each other and feet were strewn across legs. But they were sound asleep now and had gone to bed without any tears, wet willies or wedgies.

It’s scenes like this which help me realize how much they love each other. It’s not always apparent when they argue over Nintendo or who has the most chocolate milk. It’s not enough to have a handful of Wheat Thins if your little brother received one more than you did.

As I took down the mattress tonight, Anna asked if she could help. After I opened the valve, I began folding the mattress into fourths to press out as much air as I could with my chest until I hit the floor. I told Anna she could stand on the mattress to flatten it out.

But Anna had other plans.

“Just put me on your shoulders and I’ll help you”

This time her older brother and sister were nowhere to be found.

With Anna on my shoulders, I took my time. Air hissed from the mattress with each fold. Anna messed up my hair, grabbed my ears and covered my eyes. She’s a bundle of joy with a wonderful personality. I’m slowly getting to know her as well as Luca and Lincoln, and I cherish my time with her.

“Dad, why are you going so slow?”

One day she’ll understand.

My Younger Brother

I’ve been thinking about my brother, Brandon, since I came across this post from Ben Talbert.

I don’t know when he began beating me at sports, but it couldn’t have been long after I returned from Germany at age 21. Although I am seven year his senior, he was now taller and more muscular than I was.

He was also a much better athlete. Tossing the football came easy to him. His arm had a natural motion while I couldn’t toss a spiral if my life depended on it. I enjoyed attending his games, especially his junior year when he was the starting quarterback.

brothers

When the football season ended and fall turned to winter we headed up Little Cottonwood canyon to spend the day skiing at Alta. As great as the skiing was (and Utah snow amazing), what I enjoyed most was the ride up the lift together. It was a chance to talk about sports, girls, school or whatever without any distractions. Sometimes we’d sit in silence taking in the scenery.

It wasn’t long before he became a better skier. Whatever the sport, it came easy to him. And not just sports. But school, and friendships and life. Maybe that’s just my perception. It’s possible he was working like mad behind the scenes and what I was able to see appeared to come easy. I’ve always been a little envious of him in this regard.

Eventually, I got married, finished college and moved to Seattle. The distance has affected our friendship more than others. I see my parents more regularly because they are able to travel to Seattle more often while Brandon and Jenn are busy raising a young family with four children. He’s busy and I’m busy. Everyone is busy. Lame excuse.

Tonight I sat on the couch watching a baseball games I could not care less about. I wonder what Brandon is doing? Seven thirty in Seattle means eight thirty in Utah. He’s probably putting his kids in bed. Maybe he’s in bed and a call would disturb him. Or worse and wake his kids.

A dozen excuses flashed through my mind.

But I grabbed the phone and dialed his number. He answered and we talked for nearly an hour. Just like weekends he stayed at my tiny apartment in North Salt Lake. Or like the times rode the chair lift together. Or laughed over a pizza at The Pie.

We are different in many ways. He’s calm, collected and avoids confrontation. I’m opinionated and moody at times. Brandon will ease up on his first serve if he’s ripping me to shreds in a game of tennis because he doesn’t want to embarrass his older brother. I’m hyper-competitive and can’t allow him beat me at a game of basketball even if that means I have bump, hack and hard foul my way to victory.

Yet we have a lot in common. We both speak German, love cars and goofy comedy like The Onion

I wouldn’t change anything about my only brother. I just wish he lived a little closer.

Something Only I Get To Do

I don’t know what it is about the third child, but she often gets overlooked. Maybe it’s her age or the fact she has an older brother and sister. Whatever the reason, Anna is often left alone while her older siblings are off celebrating birthday parties or playing with friends. 

lucabeach

When I arrived home from work today, Anna was upset. She’d been told that Lincoln and Luca were playing with Luca’s best friend who invited them over to her home. Anna moped around the basement getting more upset each time we tried to comfort her. There’s always a next time. But to a five-year old, “next time” sounds like an eternity.

It wasn’t long before she was in tears. I’d had enough of her complaining and sent her upstairs to cry by herself before sitting at my computer.

I normally tune out this time of day. Monday’s are filled with mindless tasks like signing expense reports and combing over time sheets. I don’t mind the work, but I’m glad it only needs my attention once a week. By the time I get home, I’m tired and my mind needs a few minutes to decompress. Coming home to a crying child isn’t what I’m looking for, yet that’s what I got today.

I could still hear Anna crying upstairs. I considered sending her to her room where she wouldn’t be heard. I started up the stairs rehearsing what I’d say.

But what came out wasn’t what I had planned.

Anna was curled up on the couch, knees pulled up tight against her chest. Her bloodshot eyes were as red as her dress. When she saw me, she glanced downward.

“Do you want to come with me on an errand?”

*silence*

“You’ll need to put shoes on if you’d like to come along.”

She rolled off the couch and headed towards her closet.

I strapped her into the car and pulled out of the driveway. As we headed towards the gas station, I watched Anna in my rearview mirror. Her eyes were still red and she was sniffling. She looked straight ahead.

She watched me pump gas without saying much. I replaced the nozzle and asked her to help me turn the gas cap till it clicked tight.

“Do you want to go inside with me and choose a treat?”

Finally, a hint of a smile.

On the way home, I watched my daughter look out the window as we passed children playing at the park. Older kids were playing tennis while other shot baskets. Chocolate from her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup began to cover her cheeks.

A couple of blocks from our home she said, “Dad?”

“What?”

“Was this something only I get to do?”

“Yep, you were the only one who helped me put gas in the car”

I didn’t matter what we did. What mattered to Anna was that she got to do something with nobody else except me. Even if it was only a trip to the gas station with dad. I don’t believe I replaced the fun she could have had at the friend’s house. 

But I know it was something I’ll remember. Because in the past, I would have remained at my computer while my daughter sat alone in her room. 

I pulled up the driveway and into the garage before Anna jumped out of the car and said,  “I can’t wait to tell Luca and Lincoln what I got to do today”.

Moving Off Auto-Pilot

Have you felt like you’ve put your life on auto-pilot? That’s how I’ve felt lately. Not that my life doesn’t have its share of challenges, but things are stable at home and at work. It’s simple to wake up and go through my day without giving much thought to what I’ll do, whom I’ll help or what I’ll accomplish.

Have you jumped in bed and thought “What did I accomplish today?” and you couldn’t remember a single detail of your day?  

kaicurls

I encounter fewer challenges the further I get into my career. My first job out of college was difficult. I struggled to manage a group of 20 part-time employees and made many mistakes. But I was given a lot of freedom, and my decisions had an impact on the store. I learned something new every day.

I’ve had a number of jobs since then, and each has become progressively less challenging. There’s no way I could have survived on auto-pilot while treading water at my first job. But today, I’m a decent manager. I don’t struggle with every personnel decision and I’ve learned how to play the corporate game.

Sometimes fatherhood feels like that first job where I scrambled to keep the store from falling apart. Situations that stressed me out with our first child I barely notice with our fourth. Maybe I have a better understanding of what’s important or I’ve been worn down by the previous three.

Tonight I was jolted back into manual mode. 

I was relaxing on the bed when Kim removed Kai from the tub, wrapped him in a towel like a burrito and placed him next to me. He couldn’t move or roll away from me. For several minutes he reclined next to me. His long curly hair was still damp. He giggled and smiled. As he looked into my eyes I wondered what he was thinking. Does he realize I’m his dad?

He must know how much he’s loved.

I see a bit of Kim in him. His facial structure reminds me of my father. If I look closely, I catch a glimpse of myself in his mischievous personality and wide grin that gets him out of trouble.

Kai finally wiggled an arm loose. Before he giggled, he reached over and pinched my nose.

Auto-pilot: Off.

Time to Think

Years ago I came across an interview with Bill Gates. I don’t remember the details surrounding the interview but I recall Gates saying that it was his wish that every employee would spend 15 minutes a day staring at the wall.

But Gates wasn’t wishing for an army of daydreamers. No, what heimage wished for was for them to think about how they could be more efficient and assess where they could improve. 

I’ve thought about this from time to time. Experience has taught me that Gates is the exception. But I’ll save that for another post.

Because I’m more interested in how Gate’s wish works in the home.

How much thought do I put in to becoming a better father? Do I take a few minutes each day and stare at the wall thinking about how I can better raise my children?

Or do I just wing it?

It feels like I allow outside forces to dictate not only what our children do but when they do it. At what age should they learn to play an instrument or a sport? When should they be able to swim? Do kids really need two or three years of pre-school? Tell me again why they need to attend summer camps or take dance lessons. Do they need these activities to grow or because the other kids are doing them?

Everyone has an opinion. Maybe they have given it more thought than I have. There’s too much to keep track of. And how much say should my children have in the decision?

I hear parents tell me how they’ve planned out the next few years of their child’s life. They’ve scheduled exactly how much time will be spent on school activities, sports, scouts and church functions. When I hear this I wonder what the kids think. Is this a plan for the parents or for the kids?

Last night I had more than 15 minutes to think about each of the kids and what I can do to be a better father. While Kim is out of town, three boxes of tomatoes came in that needed to be canned. So, with the help of a kind neighbor, I spent the evening coring, Vita Mixing, and bottling just over two dozen quarts of tomato puree.

I had a lot of time to think as I waited for the bottles to cook for 40 minutes. The kitchen was warm from all the steam so I walked outside on the deck and looked down at the kids toys neatly organized against the house.

Our kids participate in a myriad of activities. Some are planned. Most we sign up for on a moments notice. Maybe we should plan out a year’s worth of activities, but we don’t. We give our children the lion’s share of input. We don’t shove anything down their throats.

And yet I wonder how they are faring. I ask myself if they are happy. Are they learning? Are they being challenged? Do they feel safe? Do they feel loved?

Tonight I sat at my computer instant messaging with Luca who is spending the last few days of her summer vacation with her grandparents on the beaches of the Washington/Oregon coast. She told me about how she flew kites and made a fort at the beach. She loves sleeping in a tent and playing “Pain” on grandpa’s Play Station. She was excited to sleep on the mattress with mom tonight.

But before she signed off, she said, “I’m glad we come home tomorrow because I miss you”.

And I thought that in spite of my many shortcomings, we’ll both be OK as long as we can still talk to each other.