Archive for the 'Humor' 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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Herdmans, herdsmen and me

“What do you want for Christmas, Dad?” my six-year-old asked. “Maybe some floss?”

“Some what?!?” I replied, hoping I had misheard him. Surely he thinks I have more compelling Christmas wishes than dental floss! Full disclosure: As a 15-year-old I did request a file cabinet from jolly old and organized Saint Nicholas.

To my chagrin, I had heard my son right. (At least my hearing’s not going!) He actually asked me if I wanted floss for Christmas. Woe is me. My offspring thinks I’m mind-numbingly boring or that I have really bad teeth. Or worse, both.

Later that day, our family attended a heartwarming holiday classic in the league of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A story of hygiene-free rugrats who commandeer an annual Christmas tradition: the church Christmas pageant.

Barbara Robinson’s comedy The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been a favorite of mine since I saw it performed in a community playhouse in the mid-1980s. It probably sparked my love of redemption stories.

By way of review if you haven’t read or seen it in a while, the Herdman kids are a ragtag, uncouth, welfare-dependent bunch of bullies. Their parents are nowhere to be found. A social worker attempts to bring order to their chaos.

When the oldest, Leroy Herdman, is tipped off that Twinkies are served at the local Sunday School, the scraggly siblings suddenly find their religion. In Sunday School they hear about auditions for the church Christmas pageant.

“That sounds interesting,” they think.

After intimidating the buttoned-up church kids into relinquishing their starring roles, the Herdmans secure lead parts. Ralph is Joseph. Imogene plays Mary. Gladys gets her wings.

Church members are appalled:

“How could such riffraff be let into God’s house to perform God’s sacred nativity?”

“Mary and Joseph will look like poor travellers looking for a place to stay!” (Heaven forbid.)

“No one will come to the pageant!”

In fact, everyone came to the pageant – to see what the Herdmans would do.

The play unfolds as a story of redemption within a story of redemption. The Herdmans get swept up into the remote possibility that an all-powerful God just might care about them.

“Magi” Leroy Herdman offers a canned ham to the newborn king out of the family’s welfare box. Angel Gladys Herdman announces Christ’s arrival with “Hey! Unto you a child is born!” The story even broke through the hardened Imogene Herdman.

After the play and the crowd disperses, Imogene returns to the stage alone to take in the events that just occurred, to treasure them up in her heart, if you will. In tears, she clings to the swaddled savior of the world.

Imogene was as unlikely a carrier of the baby Jesus as the mother of Jesus herself. And therein lies the glory of the story of stories: God, acting in the lives of ordinary people – people who get dental floss and file cabinets for Christmas.

Just like the Herdmans on stage, the story of Christmas is equally unpredictable. From virgin birth to shepherds witnessing history to a daring midnight escape…nothing is as you or I would have drawn it up.

And how relieving is that? If a saving, gracing Creator can break through to the Herdmans and the herdsmen, just maybe he can break through to me.

Merry Christmas, 2014.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

A Holy House of Horrors

For good or bad, Halloween strikes at children’s imaginations (and taste buds) like no other holiday can. Think about it: You get to dress up like something you’ve always wanted to be, run around the neighborhood after dark with your friends and eat as much candy as you want.

Not even Santa can match those specs.

Halloween wasn’t perfect. There were inefficiencies, such as the houses that gave out raisins or pennies or pencils. Sometimes Mom insisted on driving along the street as we went door to door. But for the most part it was – and is – a kid’s dream.

My earliest Halloween memories occurred at church youth group parties. As a grade schooler, I blindly stuck my hand through holes labeled “Eyeballs” and “Brains.” Wet grapes and cooked pasta noodles never tasted the same.

Plenty of innocuous fun filled those parties: bobbing for apples, scarecrow dressing, pin the tail on the skeleton. But there was a next level that I couldn’t wait to experience.

A visionary youth minister (with perhaps a few skeletons in his closet) dreamed up the attraction. High schoolers would concoct and conduct a haunted house for the middle schoolers. Except for the fellowship hall where the G-rated party was held, the high school students had free reign on the entire church building.

Now when I say church building, please don’t picture a 10,000 square foot metal building with a few offices attached.

Picture a 3-story, red-bricked, multi-columned, fully-steepled, 60,000 square foot urban fortress on a 2-acre spread. Built in the Sunday School heydays of the 1950s, it was an imposing monstrosity and an ideal place for monsters.

The building had plenty of spookiness without the high schoolers’ help, especially since declining attendance left many sections minimally utilized.

For instance, the “Room in the Inn” homeless ministry took over the west wing of the 3rd floor once a week. Sleeping cots filled the rooms. An eery plastic molded shower was installed in the hallway.

Legend had it that a man simply known as “George” lived in the building for months, maybe years, without ever being caught. How else could the empty cans of beanie weenies in the church’s commercial kitchen be explained?

All this provided more than a fair share of fodder to freak out ‘tweenagers and early teenagers. The 20-minute tour of terror wound its way from the fellowship hall, through the industrial boiler room in the basement and past the baptistry, dyed red for the occasion.

Limp bodies hung from chandeliers. Masked monsters filled Sunday School rooms otherwise home to flannel board Bible characters. The haunted house was as good as any commercial attraction I ever saw.

Before I got to do my share of scaring, a more mature church leader nixed the annual Halloween party and haunted house tradition. Better to leave seldom-used adult education classrooms boringly neutral than to formally commit them to the dark side, I suppose.

But it was too late for me. Evil had already taken root. My best friend and I began building our own house of horrors in his attic each October. We eventually added a haunted woods.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached 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.

Suffering from password overload

The email read, “We’ve had a security breach. We need you to change your password immediately.”

The message looked and acted official. It was from a company email address. It appealed to my friend’s authority in his organization. It piqued his sense of responsibility. And it presented a contemporary corporate catch-22:

Click the link and risk being labeled by IT as prone to “phishing.” Don’t click the link and be labeled as unconcerned about data security.

After quickly weighing pros and cons, my buddy clicked the link.

“GOTCHA!” the technology department wrote back in more diplomatic language but with no less twisted pleasure. He had indeed fallen prey to a manufactured phishing attempt, the nerds alerted, and they had just the online training he needed.

Of course, the online training required a password – which he didn’t know!

Anyone else suffering from data security confusion? How ‘bout password overload? My password list no longer fits on the Post-It note stuck to my monitor!

While I should have known shopping at Target could one day empty my bank account, who knew fifteen years ago I would one day need a password for Domino’s?

Password complexity is part of the problem. Upper case, lower case. Letters, numbers, symbols. 8 characters, 16 characters, 246 characters.

Some passwords can’t include your name or initials. Others can’t include any word in the English language! Just when I was getting good with pass “phrases:”

OopsIdiditagain. Myfavoritecolorisgreen. Cloudywithachanceofrain.

To survive in this technology age, we basically need a graduate degree in cryptology.

“Do not eat convenience store sushi.” becomes “Dn3C$S.” This abbreviation is “strong”, unless a password requires a minimum of 10 characters.

And then, there’s the dreaded password change requirement. The nerds seem to be in a race to see who can require a shorter cycle. Beware; the following message is coming:

“Six minutes have passed since you last logged in. It is now time to change your password. Your new password cannot include any digit in your account number. It cannot include any character on the QWERTY keyboard. We will be sending you a special wingding keyboard with 176 characters and emoticons to choose from. Please allow 7-10 business days for delivery.”

So much for technology’s promise of increased efficiency.

And how about this conundrum?

You want to log in to your online account. You need your account number to do so. Your account number is listed on your statement. Since you signed up for e-statements, your statement is securely locked down inside the online account you cannot access.

But just think how many trees you saved! Go sit under one to defuse.

And, finally, the equally dreaded security questions:

My favorite teacher? My best childhood friend? My first pet? If only life were so clean-cut and I could remember if I capitalized their names.

Part of the problem is that since each nerd is consumed by his particular system, he thinks we are, too. He can’t fathom the possibility that anyone would forget a password or security question answer to his masterpiece.

That’s okay. This password / security question era will pass soon. Fingerprint readers, retina scanners, breathalyzers, blood samplers. Something will save us from the ever-growing list of passwords and their ever-changing requirements.

Until then, h@n9in+her3.

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column 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.

Why making change is hard

I started a Bible reading plan on New Year’s Day. I’m already three days behind.

Without airing too much dirty laundry, I also resolved to drawer my “worn, but clean” clothes rather than draping them over the bath tub wall. That lasted about a week. A draped pile has already begun to grow.

I can count on ten cracked knuckles the things I wanted to change in 2013 that I’m still doing today.

Why is change so difficult? Why are even the easy changes hard?

I ponder these questions every year about this time as sworn-off habits re-germinate. Willpower for amenities gets redirected to simply getting food on the table. Luxuries like a 45-minute morning workout give way to just getting to work fully dressed.

In a book called The Happiness Hypothesis, psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes the two players involved in human attempts for change.

The first player is our rational side, the side that determines you need to stop eating ice cream every night at 9:30. Haidt says this side is like an elephant rider: smart and forward-looking but hardly capable of controlling the beast beneath him if it wants something bad enough.

The second player is our emotional side, the side that needs a hit of nicotine to relax. This side is like the elephant: powerful but thinking more about his next bag of peanuts than health or retirement.

The logical rider can see past instant gratification to long-term benefits, but he can’t provide the energy to accomplish much meaningful work. The energy must come from the elephant of emotion (a.k.a. passion).

If the two players disagree, the rider can coerce the elephant with some yanks on the reins (i.e., willpower) but only for a while. It takes something more to keep him focused over the long haul.

The rider must recognize and admit there’s an issue. As British writer G.K. Chesterton said, “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”

The rider must train the elephant by controlling the stimuli presented to the animal. “Distract and coax the elephant without having to engage in a direct contest of wills,” Haidt writes.

He continues, “Once you understand the power of stimulus control, you can use it to your advantage by changing the stimuli in your environment and avoiding undesirable ones.”

In his book Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson offers this helpful formula for change: “Change of place plus change of pace equals change of perspective.”

What if I disrobed next to my chest of drawers rather than the bath tub? (Change of place)

Regarding change of pace, Haidt recognizes the role of fatigue in failures of self-control: “Like a tired muscle, [the rational rider] wears down and caves in, but [the emotional elephant] runs automatically, effortlessly, and endlessly.”

How could I change my place, pace and perspective on that bedtime bowl of ice cream? Perhaps by kicking back in my bedroom with a good novel and a tasty cup of decaf rather than poring over household bills on the kitchen table.

Of course, I could also remember that ice cream in the freezer is like a turtle on a fence post. It didn’t get there on its own.

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


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