Archive for the 'Family' Category



Kids say the darndest things in 2014

A great joy of fatherhood is hearing firsthand how little people process the world. As we close out the year, here are the funniest, cleverest, most innocent and telling things my kids have said in 2014.

We have five children but only one daughter. She’s four. Tucking her in one night, I asked what she was going to dream about: “Maybe just you.” I kissed her goodnight and immediately pre-ordered a 2026 BMW convertible.

Once, when she was anxious to leave for a party, she bargained, “If you get dressed fast, I’ll give you some gum and a new phone.” She already knows technology unlocks my heart.

Her twin brother could pick out the phone. Though only four, he is the technologist among us. One day he rounded the corner with my smartphone and announced in a sassy tone: “I know your password. You better change it.”

While I was waiting for a fax, my kids became fully native to the digital landscape. To them, analog is analogous to Stone Age.

When my six year old came to my office one morning, he asked if he could call his mom. “Yes,” I said, “but you’ll need to dial nine first.” He stared at me blankly. After repeating myself three times, he finally asked, “You mean ‘push’ it?”

On spring break, we took the family to a camp in the woods. As we settled into our cabin, my eight year old tried unsuccessfully to check sports scores on my phone. He asked, “Why don’t they have Internet? I mean, they have lights.”

On a hike that week, one of the four year olds asked, “Can butterflies kill us? What about ladybugs?”

In a houseful of mostly boys, sports are a hot topic. I asked the eight year old why you get two points for a basketball shot: “Because the ball goes through the rim and the net.”

While waiting for me to throw him a pop fly, the six year old declared, “Here comes the last out of the World Serious.” Another day he handed me three tennis balls. “Will you jiggle these?”

Vocabulary is a crap shoot. In the summer we try not to forget our sunscream. Sometimes we watch movies on Nexflips. If you want to know the price of something at the store, just scan the zebra name tag.

The little girl loves music. She often asks her twin brother, “How ‘bout you dance and I sing?” Lyrics aren’t yet her forte. “How much is that doggie in the rainbow?” “From the mountains to the cherries, to the oceans white with foam…”

We try to teach them what really matters. It doesn’t always click. The six year old’s translation of Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean back on your own understanding.”

Before dinner one night, I asked for someone to complete this sentence: “The family that prays together….” Expecting “stays together,” all I got was “eats together.” Heathens.

After I told the little girl we always need to be ready for Jesus’ return, she asked, “Will he want to see our rooms?”

Shortly after Halloween she asked me, “What do you want to be for Thanksgiving?”

A pilgrim, dear. A pilgrim, wandering through the wild wilderness called parenthood.

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

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This is Boerne…you never know

A sad but undeterred mother stood on the driveway of her adult daughter’s burned down home. As she picked up some pieces and contemplated the road ahead, she surmised, “This is Boerne. You never know what might happen.”

She wasn’t talking about the tragedy that happened last week at 123 Becker Street on the north end of town. She was talking about the recovery.

By the time I showed up with shovel and wheelbarrow to help with the clean up, Boerne ISD bond contractor Bartlett-Cocke already volunteered to demolish and haul off the totaled structure. An architect donated his services to draw new plans. Several homebuilders expressed a desire to help.

The displaced family of six relocated temporarily to one of the last available 3-bedroom apartments in Boerne. The fire department donated a couple of beds. A thrift store donated a sofa. A random stranger gave a check for $500. A neighbor brought over a dozen eggs. All in less than a week. Yes, this is Boerne.

It is a unique sensation to live in a place so generous. Some people are generous because they can be. Others are generous because they choose to be. Either way, Boerne has a heritage of generosity.

I once heard a civic leader count more than fifty active non-profit capital campaigns in Kendall County. That’s not normal. That’s Boerne.

The persevering mother is confident in her daughter’s ability to fight back.

“We’ll be okay. We come from a very tough family. My mother lived to be 95 years old and only needed one medication.”

Judging by the matriarch’s perspective, I suspect the family will fight back.

“We’re really just thankful everyone made it out alive. The fire department expected casualties when they arrived. They did a very good job. The fire didn’t touch the houses on either side.”

A correlation exists among gratefulness and toughness and longevity.

A correlation also exists between generosity and desirability. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have come in droves in part because of the generosity within our DNA.

The same could be said about Boerne. People want to move here in part because our citizens are willing to give their time and wealth to make this a great place to live.

One truth about life is that the tables are always turning. Prosperity one day can turn – on a dime – into disaster the next. You never know when it will be your turn to need. That’s as good a reason as any to give.

If you would like to contribute to the family of 123 Becker, go to http://www.gofundme.com/h8qls4. So far, 83 people have given a total of $10,525. The donation site has been shared 277 times on social media. This is Boerne.

Disasters often strike at the worst possible times, such as two weeks before Thanksgiving. But bad timing can bring people together in good ways. What better time to express gratitude for the gifts we’ve received than to pay them forward to those who need?

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info. Email him at kevin@kwt.info.

Summer memories last a lifetime

Blessing to educators, bane to stay-at-home moms, summer is in full swing. With its long days and warm weather, summer arguably makes more memories than all the other seasons combined. Here are some of mine.

***

Nothing spells summer like VBS (Vacation Bible School). Before the days of VBS-in-a-box complete with soundtracks and t-shirts, a plump preacher conducted “sword drills” in a stuffy auditorium. John 7:37? I got it! “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” Yes!

Drink we did on those humid middle Tennessee mornings: McDonald’s orange drink by the yellow cooler full.

VBS is where I first learned the meaning of JOY (Jesus – Others – You), an acronym only recently challenged by the Christian Web site: I Am Second.org.

Our kids will attend three VBSes this summer. My kindergartener wants to add a fourth: “VBS-ta Texas.” He really wants to learn that God stays with us through the ups and downs of life.

***

We weren’t members, but someone invited us to a private pool tucked in the trees of a manicured south Nashville neighborhood.

Mom’s car must have been in the shop, because we took Dad’s extra work truck, a 1976 Ford. No AC, no power steering, no power brakes, no fun. The flatbed had wooden sides that barricaded the indiscriminately dumped trash Dad cleared from behind shopping centers.

Swimming must have been a non-negotiable on the day Mom agreed to wrestle the beast to the water source. I’m sure our arrival caused the cosmopolitans to rethink their commitment to diversity. I didn’t notice. I simply swam up a huge appetite.

At the poolside snack bar, I learned that nothing satisfies post-swimming hunger like a sandwich, an ice cream sandwich.

My kids will learn some things at the pool this summer. Someone will teach my pre-schooler that the game is Marco Polo, not Marco “Pillow.” It’s not going to be me.

***

For several summers, Mom borrowed an Apple II computer from the school where she taught. Our family rarely adventured beyond a Motel 6, so Oregon Trail became my gateway to the frontier.

An educational computer game, Oregon Trail taught children the realities of 19th century pioneer life. It mainly taught me worst-case scenarios:

1. A wheel could come off your wagon. 2. Your kids could starve because you can’t hunt worth a darn. 3. Your wife may drown while fording a river. 4. You could die of dysentery. Crap.

***

Oregon Trail prepared me for our church camp located in the shadow of the tallest waterfall south of Niagara, Fall Creek Falls in east Tennessee. The falls were fatal to go over but a rush to swim under.

The waterfall wasn’t the only water that washed over me at that camp. At age eleven, I was baptized into Christ after a campfire devotional on the last night of camp. A great cloud of witnesses consisting of seventy-five campers and thirty staff members surrounded the swimming hole.

Thirty minutes later I was filling water balloons in preparation for a midnight raid of a rival cabin. Salvation is instant. Sanctification takes time.

In retrospect, it was a night for obeying Jesus, including Matthew 18:3 – “Unless you change and become like little children, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Parents make the difference

Have you ever wondered why Father’s Day is six weeks after Mother’s Day? It took that long for a bunch of dudes to go, “Hey! Wait a minute!”

Welcome to the parent-honoring season. With 31 years of parenting experience, I must be qualified to advise parents. (Okay, I’m really not that old or that qualified; my kids’ ages just total 31.)

No topic generates more longing for a silver bullet than the topic of parenting. Unfortunately, no bullet exists. No particular act or activity will set a child on a trajectory toward prosperity, tranquility and harmony. Still, we think:

“If I can just get my kid into the right (fill in the blank), everything will work out.” (school, church group, sports team, after-school activity, friend group, relationship, hobby, college)

“If I can just get her before the right youth minister, coach, headmaster or tutor…”

“If I can just orchestrate the right tapestry of influences, experiences and knowledge…”

To quote a certain boy band of the 1960s, wouldn’t it be nice.

I once worked for a Dallas real estate executive who bumped into Beach Boys front-man Brian Wilson at a Grammys after party in 2001.

My gregarious boss quizzed Wilson on his very interesting life. My boss was not ready for Wilson’s reply: “I really just wish I had spent more time with my kids.”

For all the tutoring programs, radio ads promising behavior modification by Friday and enrichment opportunities that keep moms and dads and kids on the move, I am convinced only of this:

The parents make the difference.

I know both bratty kids and respectful kids that attend expensive private schools. I also know both lost kids and engaging kids at free public schools.

I know a successful business leader who proficiently uses financial leverage in his company. He has no clue how to use leverage in parenting.

I know a restaurant caterer who refuses to cater to the demands of his sixteen-year-old. The customer is not always right; neither is the child. Both can be illogical.

Poor parenting often comes from parents’ unwillingness to accept the consequences of a child’s poor choices. They don’t want to miss the party themselves.

It is also rooted in the fear that discipline will alienate a child. The opposite is actually true: Appropriate discipline makes a child feel loved.

Relating well, striking the right balance between full throttle and full coast, expecting excellence while giving acceptance – these are the touchstones of good parenting.

Chauffeuring sounds a lot easier.

A friend’s corporate employer once challenged him to encapsulate his life mission into 6 words or less. He took that challenge and formulated this one:

“World’s best dad and getting better”

This simple line promises presence and connection, not more running around town.

Modern life brings many enemies of healthy parenting: divorce, absenteeism, schedule strain, the temptation to shirk duties because one is providing financially for the family.

We feeble humans can only do so much. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” Lombardi once said. Let us give our first fruits to the kids we were given. No one else can make the difference.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

Onto the Field of Dreams

This week, spring brings the opening of youth baseball and softball season. Hundreds of little leagues will give thousands of kids the chance to hit, run and score.

I’m coaching again, and, accordingly, some youngsters will be suffering again. I’m the perfect combination of intensity and cluelessness. The heart of a champion and the skill of a benchwarmer.

When my middle school baseball coach told me I’d never get to play but that I could still be on the team, I accepted his offer.

“Playing is over-rated,” I likely reasoned at the time. “Practice is where character is born.”

Today, I tell my players and their parents that I “draft for character.” Truth is, I’m not sure we would look much different if I drafted for skill.

Baseball talent is about as easy to evaluate as figure skating. You know if they fall down. Beyond that, it takes a Scott or Josh Hamilton to tell a difference.

Which makes the youth baseball tryout and draft process all the more comical. Twenty-five grown men spending four hours studying how well nine-year-olds field ground balls.

Then, two nights later, gathering in an obscure motel conference room to make their selections. Spreadsheets and algorithms humming in the background.

The intensity is completely justified, I might add. Two months’ worth of self-esteem is riding on these draft picks.

Online fantasy baseball limits ridicule to a small circle of friends. Youth coaching puts one’s knowledge and skills on display for an entire community to see – or at least a batch of local grandparents.

Speaking of grandparents, I am beginning to understand why they love these games so much. There is something mesmerizing, even intoxicating, about watching one’s offspring execute a force out. Oh, the joy of producing the Chosen One who stopped the evil base runner from advancing.

My father loves to tell the story of the time he instructed a player to take “right field.”

“Coach?” the kid queried. “Is that your right or my right?”

My favorite story is the time I told a player to get the catcher gear on. Five minutes later, I found him fully armored but standing next to me near the dugout. All the other players had taken the field.

Through his mask he asked, “Where do you want me, Coach?”

“Catcher, son. Catcher.”

I like a man who makes no assumptions.

The assumption-free atmosphere is what makes youth sports so enjoyable. It’s why the Little League World Series makes such good TV. No contracts, no endorsements, no pouting prima donnas.

Sure, the entitlement mentality creeps in from time to time. But for the most part, it’s just innocent kids trying to find their way home, energetic children trying to get the bad guys out.

It’s still the age where the game ball is more memorable than the final score. The concession stand candy lineup matters more than its batting counterpart. I’ll try to remember this when we finish with 7 wins, 7 losses and 5th place in the tournament.

I would like to win a championship one day. That trophy would look nice in my office. But it would not outshine the faces of dozens of kids who allowed me the thrill of leading them onto the field of dreams.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Adventures of a family dog

The local headline read, “City tightens leash on unrestrained dogs.”

My conscience prodded: “They are basically at your door. Turn yourself in. Take a plea bargain. Let someone help you. You can’t take care of him on your own.”

A year and a half before, the family system panted for a pet and I gave in. A trip to the county animal shelter yielded a yellow lab mix, “Hank”.

He was a puppy then. I knew he wouldn’t stay that way forever. I didn’t know he would one day gnaw on every earthly possession I own.

Now, nearly two years later, I’m stuck. Despite my rosy depictions of what his life would be like with a family on five acres, the kids won’t let go of him. And he won’t let go of our stuff.

He has just one rule when it comes to chewing: Only chew things of value.

Library books, baseball gloves, ladies dress shoes. New toys, yard tools, antique furniture. All equally delicious.

A rubber tire scrap? Not interested.

His absolute favorite things to chew through? Leashes. They’re just so restricting of his gypsy free spirit.

The back third of our postage stamp lot is no match for his energy. He has dug up sprinkler heads and torn up rope swings. He’s nosed through the fence and worn a dirt path between the gates. New Year’s Eve put him over the top.

We had gone to a party and neglected to kennel Hank in the garage. The firecrackers lit a fire under him. When we got home, there was no sign of him or a breach in the fence. He had scaled it without a trace.

The next day, an animal-loving neighbor worked her network. By late afternoon, we learned that Hank had spent half the night at the corner store and half in the city pound’s outdoor holding pen. The freezing temperatures did not concern me. Hank’s heart is stronger than a FEMA generator.

During the 18 hours of separation, my heart grow fonder. I surrendered my desire to trade the lab dog for a lap dog. I resolved to solve his energy issues another way: Take him running.

Bundled up and with an extra strong leash, I took off down the sidewalk. Hank drug me on a 100 yard dash before coming to a jolting halt. I had not yelled, “Heel!” He simply saw a bridge.

He hates bridges and will wrestle out of a collar before crossing one. It’s as if his previous owner had trapped him underneath one and then threw in firecrackers.

Hank’s troll-phobia has seriously diminished my potential running routes. I’m currently in the market for two treadmills. Can dogs run in place?

Despite my efforts to dissipate Hank’s wiggles, we lost him again over the weekend. After leaving the kids with a sitter for the evening, my wife and I returned to search house and yard for him. No sign.

The next morning, the kids knew nothing and Hank had not returned. As I prepared to follow the rescue steps from a month before, our kindergartner went to retrieve his backpack from the car.

Moments later, he burst through the front door with a backpack, a canine and some news, “Hank was in the car!”

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

New furniture has international flair

My wife gave me my top priority. I had returned early from a family vacation to go back to work. My evening hours were free for honey-doozies.

“Just get the beds situated.”

With two toddlers’ graduating from cribs to twin beds, the task involved an acquisition: I needed to buy a bunk bed.

Unequivocally opposed to paying retail or sales tax, I scoured Craigslist, the modern classified ad sheet which looks like the world’s first Web site. I e-mailed my better half several options.

“Not interested.” “Not interested.” “Not interested.” Then, finally, “I like it.”

I moved on it, emailing Raj, the owner, for a few more pics. He gave me directions to his home near Sea World, the area where 9 out of 10 San Antonio Craigslist items seem to originate. We agreed to meet the following day.

As I strolled up the front walk, I noticed worn sandals on the porch and a pouch of spice over the door. A man came to the door. “Raj” was clearly not short for “Roger.”

I love people of Indian descent. My grad school class was full of them: Mahesh, Manish, Mohsin, Amit, Senthil. Their uplifting personalities aromated the atmosphere. They’d do anything for you, especially if it involved Microsoft Excel. Our modern progress is significantly attributable to bright minds like theirs.

Raj invited me in to see the bed. It had been reverse engineered and stacked against the wall with all hardware secured in a glass Complan jar (“complete planned food in a drink … with 23 vital nutrients”). According to the label, Heinz India Ltd. manufactures Complan in Mumbai. It’s their ketchup, I concluded.

Not until I had loaded the wooden frames into my SUV and began the drive home did I noticed a smell: curry. 

I had noticed a slight curry scent when I entered Raj’s home, but it was less strong than some Indian homes I’ve entered. I had examined every corner of the disassembled bed for structural and cosmetic deficiencies. I never thought to smell it.

By the time I got home, I knew something had to be done. Among Clorox bleach, Old English orange-scented polish, and something called Odo-Ban, you would think the stench would be cured. Not curry.

“The only way to get that out is to bake it at 350 degrees,” one smart Alec friend suggested. It was worth a try.

The headboards and footboards looked like solar panels across my front lawn for the next two days. I even went home over lunch to flip them. But if it helped the smell, I couldn’t tell. 

My family’s return was imminent. Those three-year-olds would need a place to sleep. I took the plunge and installed the curry-scented structure, planning my explanation: “The bed is made from a rare wood found only in the Far East.”

The kids loved their bed. My better half graciously joined in their excitement. When the joyful reunion died down, I felt the question coming from a woman with extraordinary olfactory senses.

“You bought this from an Indian family, didn’t you?”

Miraculously, the question never came; only a memory of a piece of wisdom posted in the kitchen of my youth:

“Worry is the advance price you pay for troubles that may never come.”

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.


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