Archive for the 'Laugh' Category

It’s Time for a Holiday Fish Tale

A great thing about holiday travel is you get to see your loved ones in their elements. For instance, your brother-in-law fishing in his bass boat on a dammed up portion of the Tennessee River.

“That’s why you never give up!!!” my brother-in-law exclaimed at one point during our excursion.

His motivating statement was not referring to a big catch, however. He and his fishing buddy, Dan, had just freed his stuck lure.

The process had taken about ten minutes and included the use of a “plug knocker,” a weighted tool designed to retrieve lines trapped underwater.

“Plug knocker” wasn’t the only vernacular I learned on Lake Chickamauga (‘mauga for insiders). There was also “Alabama Rig,” a massive, multi-hook lure my brother-in-law used. It resembled a small chandelier.

You could probably create something similar by placing a decent-sized magnet into a kitchen junk drawer.

The rig dangled and shined and spun as it hung on the line. In the water, it definitely looked like a small school of fish.

Alabama Rigs are for experienced anglers. As a novice, I used a spinner reel with something called a rattletrap.

“It took my kids a whole year to learn how to cast the Alabama Rig,” my brother-in-law said.

He takes my niece and nephew fishing frequently. Planning is part of his routine.

During our pre-dawn drive to Chattanooga, TN, I was in the back seat trying to catch some zzz’s. My brother-in-law and Dan strategized up front.

“Let’s start at Turkey Foot and catch three or four to get our confidence up,” he told Dan. He was completely serious.

I have historically considered fishing a game of chance. There are fish in a body of water like there are aces in a deck of cards. You drop your line, and, depending on your luck, you may be a winner.

My sister married into a family where such thinking is illogical at best and sacrilege at worst. To them, fishing involves as much skill as any other sport. It also carries the same hope of glory.

“On any given cast, you could catch the state record,” my brother-in-law informed me with the straightest of faces. “That’s why we come here.”

His nod to fishing immortality came midway through our nine uninterrupted hours on the water.

As with any sport, competition is part of the equation. Stealing a fisherman’s favorite spot on the lake is like sitting in Grandma’s pew at church.

“That guy is going straight for the bar!” my brother-in-law yelled to Dan who was closest to the throttle. “Go! Cut him off!”

Judging by the intensity of the moment, you would think Lake Chickamauga was only a few acres across. It is actually fifty-seven square miles. It was created decades ago by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Intensity is how we caught eighteen largemouth bass on a cold and rainy day in late December. My rattletrap accounted for only one of them.

We threw all eighteen back. For serious fishermen, it’s not always about the destination. It’s often about the journey.

Besides, we didn’t actually need the fish as proof of our success. Who wouldn’t take a fisherman’s word for it?

 

Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. Read more at http://www.kwt.info.

 

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Things Kids Can’t Do

Kids – at least my kids – just can’t seem to do certain things.

They can’t turn off a flashlight before setting it down. They can’t put their shoes in the same place twice. And they can’t forget even the slightest promise I make.

“But you said!” they remind me.

This time of year, I’m reminded of another thing kids can’t do: they can’t not believe.

Since the world is bigger than they, kids assume there’s a world beyond them. Hence, the magic of Christmas.

A few years ago, we introduced our gang to The Elf on the Shelf. It was actually the Spanish version, Una Tradición Navideña. Bed, Bath & Beyond was out of the English version. The language barrier wasn’t a problem. The kids got the point.

For those farther behind than I, “The Elf on the Shelf” is a book that came out in 2005. It comes with an accompanying elf doll. Once you read the book, the elf appears in a different corner of the house each day to help Santa keep an eye on things.

Technically-speaking, the elf flies to the North Pole each night and returns to a different place in the house the following morning. It’s fun to explore the house looking for where it landed.

Our elf is a female named Valeria. She has shown up in glass cabinets, on ledges, in stockings and on Christmas tree branches. Once, she appeared on a ceiling fan blade that got accidentally turned on.

We carefully wrapped the fallen elf in a towel and repositioned her in a stable place at a lower elevation.

You’re not supposed to touch Valeria. If you do, The Elf on the Shelf web site gives recommendations to help your elf get its magic back: write an apology, sprinkle cinnamon or sing a carol with your family.

The web site also explains what might have happened if your elf returns from its overnight trip to the North Pole and lands in the same place it landed the day before:

  1. It’s the elf’s favorite spot.
  2. The spot has a great view.
  3. The elf is preparing for a really special surprise the next day.
  4. The elf ate too many cookies at the North Pole and was too tired to move.
  5. The elf did move – work on your observation skills!

The web site makes no mention of a correlation to a parent’s exhaustion level.

No matter the peculiarity of Valeria’s movements, or lack thereof, my kids are still convinced of her magical powers. I can’t make them not believe any more than a grungy mall Santa can make them not believe.

This phrase captures a child’s resilience to doubt, “All things are possible for him who believes.”

In hearing the Christmas story again this year, I was struck by another angle of the impossible made possible.

There were actually two miraculous births: Jesus, born to a virgin, and John, born to a barren woman.

Whether we’re before our prime and scared, or past our prime and sad, the message is the same: God is in the impossible. Believe!

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Read his other Christmas columns at www.kevinwt.com/christmas.

Kids saying (and doing) the darndest things

It’s time for a semi-annual submission of funny things the kids have said and done. This edition goes back a ways as I’ve mined old journals and notes for “never before seen” footage.

For example, the time we couldn’t locate a three-year-old son after church only to find him – with a big smile on his face – urinating like a cherub in a flowerbed.

We needed frequent opportunities to teach this youngster bathroom etiquette. For a time he was using toilet paper without tearing it off. A single flush would carry half a roll down with it.

I suspect it was this son who suctioned a plunger on the hood of my car before work one day.

A family friend once caught him eating his “nasal produce,” for lack of a better term.

“Does that taste good?” the friend asked him.

“Best food on earth,” the little guy replied. He’ll likely need to watch his sodium intake later in life.

He once offered the following nutritional philosophy: “Healthy foods make your muscles strong. Sweet foods make your muscles big.”

His older brother as a five-year-old told me in no uncertain terms, “Dad, I need to watch Toy Story 2.”

“Do you NEED to watch Toy Story 2 or do you WANT to?” I asked in a leading question that I hoped would inspire mature perspective.

“I need to,” he answered, matter of factly.

Nice try, Dad.

When our oldest son was three, the original Toy Story was his favorite movie. One time his grandparents couldn’t find their copy of the movie while babysitting him. Instead they popped in the wedding video of their oldest daughter, my young wife.

“There’s my mommy and my daddy!” our son exclaimed. “Am I going to be baby Jesus?!?”

Raised in the most recent hey-day of Texas Longhorns football, the sport became a big deal to our oldest sons.

As a four-year-old, our second son followed NFL teams as best he could. In his vernacular, the Green Bay Packers were the “Graham Crackers.” New York Giants quarterback “Eli Mayonnaise” was his favorite player.

His big brother would sometimes make him cry on the front yard field. On one such occasion, I heard the following plea from the six-year-old as the four-year-old entered the house crying.

“I’ll make you a deal!” he yelled. “You can have the ball back on the one yard line, but it’s fourth down.”

After receiving no response, the older brother gritted his teeth.

“Come on! It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about having fun.”

Oh, is that so, Mr. Firstborn?

When Mr. Firstborn was 3, our preacher walked through the auditorium asking kids for their favorite Bible story. Our son raised his hand.

“The football player,” he announced. I hope he was thinking about Goliath.

Other facts have gotten crossed. Our three-year-old daughter once invited me into a game of “I Spy.”

“I spy something blue,” she said.

“The sky?” I asked.

“No,” she replied.

Her five-year-old brother had overheard and chimed in: “The tree?”

“Yes!” she announced.

When she was five, she was attempting to improve both her spelling and her handwriting.

“Dad?” she asked. “How do you spell ‘opportunity’ in cursive?”

Here’s to the joy of youth where not even the blue sky’s a limit!

 

Write to Kevin Thompson at kevin@kwt.info

A Family Motto for the New Year

The little people can be so absent-minded. In a house full of them, I am constantly amazed at how constantly things shift. It’s as if objects have legs, and wheels, and wings, and propellers. I thought it would get better with age. So far, it hasn’t.
Kids are like tornadoes. They pick up random objects, spin around a bunch of times, and spit out what they sucked up wherever they happen to touch down.
I once found a half eaten granola bar in my car’s glove box. Preservatives aren’t all bad, by the way.
“Everything has a place,” I explain to eyes that look straight through me to the next spot their owner can put something down that doesn’t belong. As soon as a child’s mind moves on to its next thought, his hand muscles atrophy and release whatever was in their grasp.
I used to say, “Wash your hands.” Now I’m forced to include, “and put the hand towel back on the rack when you’re done!” Otherwise it ends up on the floor, or in the bathtub, or tied around the cat’s neck.
So I’ve established a new household motto for the New Year. With respects to the state parks department, here it is: “Leave no trace.”
It took a while to explain to the kids how our new motto can co-exist with an old one, “Make your mark.” I’m hopeful their critical thinking skills will hold both in appropriate tension.
So far, the new motto has worked one time:
A child entered the powder room, closed the door, did his business and then exited.
The paternal park ranger then entered the powder room. He found the soap dispenser upright on the sink top, not hanging from a curtain rod.
He found all toilet paper enrolled on the spool, not spread in seventeen separate sheets across the floor. He found the hand towel hanging on a hook, not submerged in six inches of bubbles within the wash basin.
Save the odor, the child had left no trace. I was ecstatic. I just knew the maternal calls for housekeeping help would soon dissipate into the air like a fresh squeeze of Febreze!
Like a good state park police fine for littering, I know there needs to be some teeth in the new domestic policy.
Unfortunately, executing consequences has long been my parenting downfall. I would deduct from their allowances if I gave them out with any regularity. I would make them miss the big game if I didn’t want to watch it myself.
If I had gotten an allowance for every chore chart I’ve made in the last thirteen years, I could get maid service for the next thirteen.
Years ago, I downloaded a smartphone app called ChoreMonster. It keeps emailing me that my kids are behind on their chores.
Oh! Is that what this mess means? I had no idea!
Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Why we love Chik-fil-A

 

When Truett Cathy opened his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia, in 1946, he and his brother rotated 12-hour shifts at the always open grill. Twenty-four hour diners were multiplying after World War II, and the brothers saw theirs as a way out of poverty.

The exhausting strings of twelve-hour days committed Cathy to a pillar of his future success: Closed Sundays. He needed the break.

The Sabbath-based principle hasn’t stopped Chik-fil-A from ascending to the largest grossing fast food chain in America. In fact, it has arguably helped propel it to top. The company now has about 2,000 stores in 46 states.

My family used to go to church near a Chik-fil-A. The fact that we couldn’t have it after Sunday services made us want it all the more, sort of the way not being able to enter your bank on Sunday makes you love your bank all the more. Sort of.

Scarcity only scratches the surface of why we love Chik-fil-A. There are many other reasons:

  1. Polynesian Sauce – I try not to think about the four ten-foot sugar canes that go into each serving of the glaze-like condiment. I focus instead on my expanding worldview and my affinity for intercultural accessories.
  1. Cows – Since first appearing on a Texas billboard in 1995, the restaurant’s official spokes-mammals have been encouraging us to EAT MOR CHIKIN. A creation of the Dallas advertising firm The Richards Group, the world’s most famous bovines warned of the dangers of red meat way before WHO did.
  1. Service – How can this person be this excited to ring up my order? Probably because she just snuck a waffle fry. It was probably dipped in Polynesian Sauce. Chik-fil-A’s minimally tattooed, maximally spirited staff sets a standard of friendly service rivaled only by the People People at Southwest Airlines.
  1. Innovation – The originator of the breaded chicken sandwich, Chik-fil-A keeps finding things that work. They have great lemonade. They have great soft serve vanilla ice “dream” cones. Why not put them together for a Frosted Lemonade? They did. And why not put two guys with iPads on the curb to take orders and payments faster. Last time I went, they did.
  1. Playground Purell – Ever attuned to the concerns of soccer moms, Chik-fil-A provides sanitary wipes and antiseptic lotions next to their indoor play areas. They also provide self-adhesive plastic mats to cover the tables in front of “pinchers.” Little things, big difference.
  1. Food – It’s delicious. It’s not un-nutritious. It may be deep-fried, but it’s also been immersed in instrumental worship music, the kind that fades into the Chariots of Fire theme song if you listen long enough. Plus, pickles are cucumbers and cucumbers are vegetables. Green vegetables.
  1. Spirit – Maybe they’re just located where you do your Christmas shopping, but there’s something transcendent about Chik-fil-A. Can I get an amen?

Chik-fil-A drive-thrus are always full, usually of chunky SUVs. Its dining rooms are always full, usually of chunky two-year-olds. Orders are accurate, unlike the time at another restaurant chain when I ordered the kids’ burgers “ketchup only.”

Let’s just say it brought new meaning to the phrase, “Where’s the beef?”

Eat mor chikin.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 

Wounded Warrior Saves a Game

The last time the three of us went ninety miles per hour en route to a hospital, his mom was the one in pain. This time, our ten-year-old son was in pain.

Fifteen minutes prior, his tackle football team, the Warriors, faced its fifth loss in six games. That is, until this now-wounded Warrior spun down an end zone-bound opponent at the one yard line. In the process, our son landed awkwardly on his left forearm.

“Dr. Stahl, we need you!” came the call from the field. I was sitting next to Dr. Stahl in the stands, discussing football injury statistics, I’m sure.

The seriousness of a sports injury is inversely related to the amount of time before medical personnel is called. In this case, an assistant coach made the diagnosis within seconds of the fall. “We’ve got a broken arm here!”

That’s when I quit walking toward the field and began sprinting toward the parking lot, keys in hand.

By the time Dr. Stahl splinted my son’s crooked arm, a stadium maintenance crewman unlocked two fieldside gates to let a grimacing free safety lumber through to my amateur ambulance, his mom by his side.

You know you have great friends when you can leave your three uninjured children in tears along a chain link fence while you leave with their injured brother. We knew they were in good hands.

Other good hands retrieved an insurance card and a change of clothes from our house. Still more good hands would bring a condolence tray of Chik-fil-A nuggets before day’s end.

Upon doctor’s orders, we bypassed the ER in Boerne and bolted straight for the operating rooms of Methodist Children’s Hospital. Every bump seemed to jolt the dislocated bones.

“When are we going to get there?” the ballplayer cried every few miles in between groans. “Is that it?” he asked as we passed by the The Center for Athletes located on Spurs Lane. One would think, especially one still in full pads.

Once stabilized at Children’s, other questions arose during the five hour wait for surgery. “Can I have a Krispy Kreme doughnut?” No, son, I’m sorry. “How about a sip of water?” No, I’m so sorry.

All common hydration knowledge goes out the window when an anesthesiologist is around.

The wait gave us plenty of time to be thankful. For as bad as this day was, it was our first ER visit in 43 childhood years of parenting, 37 of which were boy years.

The wait also gave us time to quiz the pediatric ER nurses. It turns out their slowest times are during Spurs and Cowboys games, while their busiest times are the two hours following Spurs and Cowboys games.

Evidently, a lot of parents put off their kids’ emergency medical treatment until after the big game. Maybe I should have stayed for the final minute of the Warriors’ game.

A goal line stand and a “pick six” interception runback gave the Warriors their second win of the season, and some redemption for their first casualty.

A day later, his teammates delivered a signed game ball along with cookies and a multi-tooled pocket knife from The Alamo gift shop. “Tough Guy” was engraved on the side.

It was clearly the thought that counted. Have you ever tried opening a pocket knife with one hand?

Boat Rides Headline Stay-cation

Stay-cation. I first heard the term during the summer of 2008 when gas prices went to four dollars a gallon and I had just bought a used Chevy Suburban, mpg: 14.

The term gained strength through the recession of 2008-2009. It was perhaps more utilized in San Antonio because of our nearby tourist attractions. A stay-cation in Shreveport is still probably known as a family budget cut.

Now that gas prices have ticked down and the stock market up, the term, if not the concept, has generally been shelved. It seemed like every other Texan I called in July answered in Colorado, Wyoming or Montana.

When the better half suggested I use a few vacation days before school starts, I resurrected the stay-cation idea and priced out the usual suspects.

For a family of seven, a day at Six Flags would cost $400; a day at Sea World, $500. And that’s just for parking, discounted admission and a bucket of fried food for lunch.

Throw in a few rigged games, some stuffed or lighted souvenirs and a $25 refillable drink, and a two-day escapade gets you well into the four-figures.

A dusk fireworks display at Six Flags, however, only costs the price of a family meal on Chuy’s patio across the interstate. I prefer “innovative” over “cheap,” please.

After thinking outside the tourism box, I called Crane’s Mill Marina on Canyon Lake. They offered a pretty new 8-seat ski boat with all the accessories for about half the cost of a day at Sea World.

With positive attitudes, fishing bait and half a shelf of consumer packaged goods, we embarked. None of the above lasted long.

The positive attitudes fell in with our twelve-year-old when he got thrown hard from the tube. This, after he asked to be thrown hard from the tube.

Then, a ten-year-old covertly tossed the bait overboard. His sensitive heart couldn’t stand to watch live minnows impaled by an eight-year-old with catfishing hooks.

All along, snacks settled into stomachs like Jonah in the whale, long before the required protein and fiber were consumed. What leverage does a parent have in the middle of a lake?

As time ran out, kids were still wanting tube rides. They still wanted to fish. And somehow they wanted yet another plastic-wrapped cupcake.

We left the marina with plans to return and with our eyes set on a second stay-cation boat ride: a dinner cruise on the Riverwalk downtown.

The better half explained to the tribe that some couples would be on date nights. I explained that “facilities” meant bathrooms and that there wouldn’t be any on the river taxi. No, going off the side wouldn’t be an option.

The kids minded their manners particularly well. They stayed in their seats. They tried what was on their plates. They survived without lemonade. They even listened to the tour guide talk about things older than their dad.

Evidently, someone is listening during those broken-record family dinners at home, the ones where it feels like we’re doing it all, again, for the very first time.

Or maybe they just believed me when I said the annual dredging of the Riverwalk turns up jewelry, cell phones, patio chairs and misbehaving children. How’s that for leverage?

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 


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