Archive for the 'Laugh' Category

Online grocery shopping leads to faux pas

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We Americans live in an ever-advancing convenience culture, but grocery shopping has remained relegated, for the most part, to the aisles of antiquity.

We roam through paths of produce and staples much like market-going Egyptians or Greeks did in the third century before Christ.

Someday, stores will resemble giant vending machines with conveyor belts and robotics that assemble and spit out orders like a Snickers from a snack machine.

Today, however, grocery shopping is still incredibly inefficient, and then they go and put the milk in the back! But not before burying the bread in the middle!

I know, it’s a ploy to get me to fall for that inflatable slip ‘n slide.

Like you, I have been hungry for a way to make getting groceries – and ibuprofen – less painful.

So, when our friendly local grocer introduced online ordering combined with curbside pickup, I logged on to what I thought was the correct, red-colored web site. I proceeded to order $112 of groceries for curbside pickup…IN WAXAHACHIE!

Waxahachie is just south of Dallas. I live hours away near San Antonio.

I wrongly assumed I could easily switch my store preference to my hometown.

Instead, I had to visit a completely different web site and re-select all $112 worth of groceries – which somehow now cost me $118.

At the end of the process, the web site asked “Substitutions OK?” That’s code for “We’ll charge you no matter what’s in stock and throw something in your basket. You won’t remember what you ordered anyway, so don’t worry about it.”

I clicked OK.

When the appointed hour came, I pulled up curbside a little early. I needed to go inside the store “old school” and get some things I forgot to order online.

In the deli line, I noticed a red-shirted personal shopper taking a long look at me. I knew what he was thinking: “That’s the guy who’s getting cinnamon raisin bagels because we’re out of plain. Oh yea, he’ll eat anything.”

Back at the curb, so many cars were in line that it made picking up one’s groceries nearly as time consuming as shopping for one’s groceries in the store.

I’m pleased to report that I have since found a solution for the pickup delay. I now schedule pickups for 8:00 p.m. or later.

I know I sound sophisticated, but don’t take me for an expert. I’ve committed plenty of mistakes.

Two weeks ago, I accidentally ordered so many bags of grapes that I got a cease and desist letter from Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Then, last week more bunches of bananas showed up than we have monkeys – and we have a lot of monkeys. My kitchen felt like Costa Rica.

In a pistachio shell, online ordering is worth the five dollars they charge to send a personal shopper around the store on my behalf. He’s the expert anyway. And he knows exactly the substitutions I like.

A writer discovers a treasure trove

Nearly everywhere I go, I carry a pen and a notebook – or at least a note card. You never know when an epiphany might hit, or a quotable quote might come, or a repeatable joke might fly.

It’s simply hard to remember memorable lines – no matter how hard we try – if we don’t write them down.

I once referred to a notebook as my grown-up security blanket. Without it, I feel in danger of missing a moment.

At this point, I have journals and notebooks and note cards scattered all over the place. I recently found one stuck in the side pocket of an old briefcase I hadn’t used in years.

It felt like I had happened upon a Dead Sea scroll. Why, yes, I do consider my kids’ one-liners holy.

The unearthed notebook’s first entry was a collection of comments from a Christmas morning several years ago.

After all the presents were opened, our oldest son, eleven at the time, said, “Wait. Is that it?”

Our second son offered a similar line of questioning, “Did I get anything else?”

Our fourth son, age four, evidently hadn’t reached the age of jade: “I hope there are presents under the tree tomorrow.”

“There won’t be,” our third son replied.

“Disappointment is how you know you’re alive,” a friend told me recently.

This was confirmed by another friend who told me his Valentine’s plans for the rodeo and a concert had shrunk to “a romantic evening of laundry and frozen pizza.” Kids will do that to you.

Back at Christmas, our daughter was more interested in Santa’s operations:

“Does Santa have any friends?”

“Did you keep any of his texts?”

She’s not always so innocent.

I once asked her, “Is that your second cupcake?”

“No, it’s my first,” she replied.

“Then how did icing get all over your face?” I inquired.

She thought for a minute and said, “My brother threw a cupcake at me.”

Along with finger-pointing, questions flow freely in a houseful of kids.

-“Do doctors get sick?”

-“Was there ice cream when you were a kid? Were there shakes?”

-“How long is fifteen minutes?

-“How big is a Berenstain bear?”

-“When we die, do we turn into a dog or a cat?”

I have tried to make clear that God sent Jesus that we might live with him forever.

“MIGHT live?” a perceptive son replied.

My recovered journal reads on with more kid questions like, “Dad, why do you take a bath everyday?”

“Because dads sweat more than kids,” I answered.

“Do dads sweat more than grandpas?” a son wondered.

I’ll let him know in a few years.

Around a campfire eating s’mores one night, one son made up a joke, “What did the kid say after he ate s’mores? I want s’more!”

Around the dinner table, we often play “high-low” where you give your day’s best and worst.

Our most succinct son once summarized his day this way, “My good news is I have no bad news. My bad news is I have no good news.”

He seems to grasp Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes 7:18, “A wise man avoids all extremes.”

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.

 

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.

 


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