The Childhood Experience

Then…and now…

The picture above was normal for my childhood. We rode in the back of pickups without a care in the world. Even when inside a vehicle seatbelts were optional and that is if they weren’t stuffed down to an unreachable spot in the crease. Becoming a parent you look back on things like this and find yourself in a conundrum of sorts. Most of us will admit we had a great childhood. Most of us will continue on and say this generation needs to learn responsibility and be tough like us. If only they grew up when we did, they would understand what they lack and how much more we did.

Agree with me so far? Then I turn my thoughts to what exactly could or should we be doing differently? Do we let them roam neighborhoods and wooded areas all day long without making contact, showing up when”the street lights come on”? Umm, don’t think so. Do we say forget the seatbelt today, lets just hope for the best? Do we drop them off at the mall, arcade, bowling alley with a quarter telling them to call when they want to come home? Age pending, probably not. We even had some of the craziest songs, prayers, and stories that as I revisit them would more than make me think, I probably should not share this with my kids.

Remember this one?:

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

If I should DIE before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take

I prayed this a million times thinking nothing of it. Then when I started saying it with my kids at night I suddenly realized how morbid and strange it was. That might spur a few posts of its own so I will save other examples for later. Here are my questions for you. How do we solve the problem? How do we give them our childhood with all the great benefits of a less sheltered upbringing without giving into a very stupid idea that never should have been the case for us? How do we toughen up a generation that doesn’t have the hard knocks we did? Ultimately…where is the balance and is there even one to be obtained?

I leave you with this hesitantly because it convicts me as much as it does you. Can we really complain about the generation that WE are raising? If so, what would you or should you change?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.


How it should be…

…what informs us to think that way?

I give my wife a hard time because she has OCD. But the picture above probably irritates every viewer at least a little bit. One can clearly observe one pencil not neatly organized with the other supplies and want to fix it. I think this is a small example of a larger phenomenon that mostly causes problems for the atheist worldview.

I have never met anyone that says our world is ideal. That it could not improve. We all have an idea of what “ought” to be and maybe even sometimes get frustrated about why its not. But have you ever questioned why we are wired like that? If we are part of a godless random creation where dog eat dog, the strongest survive as the narrative suggests then I actually think this existence is pretty ideal compared to what level of chaos could be. There is no room for “ought” in that worldview that holds any water because it goes completely against the storyline.

This is not an argument for Christianity. But it is a challenge to non-believers to think about. You are hardwired to know deep down that this is not Utopia, things could and should be better. Your worldview has no explanation as to why yet theists and especially Christians have an explanation. We are part of a fallen creation that will one day be restored. Our internal operating system that God created instinctively understands this is not ideal and the tension that creates in the human experience is palpable.

What do you think and why? If you are an atheist I would be especially interested in how you explain man’s natural desire to fix things to how they ought to be and what informs us as to why anything should be different?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Tight-rolled Jeans

A style I thought would never go away.

This picture sums up my childhood and a bit beyond. Most boys had a skateboard although we could pull off little more than an ollie (AKA: posers). We had the spiked up hair, lots of denim, Converse high-tops, and that extra special touch, tight-rolled jeans. I swore to my parents that I would NEVER stop rolling mine. The ONLY thing worse than unrolled jeans were BELL-BOTTOMS! I realize I was just a kid with very minimal big picture perspective but I really thought that was a permanent fixture in the lives of anyone with any kind of decent fashion sense.

Now as I look back at photos like this I have to say I am glad we moved on. I would still love to dress like that just to troll my kids and get a good laugh though. Another trend I adopted in college was frosted tips and earrings. In fact, when my wife Rachael met me, I was still sporting that look thinking much like I did with the jeans that it was a permanent look for me. I still remember the day my wife gently put her hand on my back and said, “Maybe we’ve outgrown the earrings a bit?” Ouch! Message received. Too old or maybe not cool enough to pull it off anymore, I relented and retired the hoops.

What fads and trends did you think would last forever? What did you think would never change or vow to never stop doing?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Kisses or No?

I come from a kissing family. Is that weird?

Give Grandma a kiss!

I am not sure if its a Southern thing but it could be. In my family we greeted one another with a kiss and hug. When we said goodbye, another kiss and hug. Being a very affectionate person I was never bothered by it really. As a boy, I put a stop to giving dad a kiss around 5th grade and just offered a hug. Same went for uncles or any other male relative. But aunts, mom, and grandmothers still get a kiss upon greeting and upon saying goodbye.

I first became aware that this practice could be odd to others when meeting and marrying into my wife’s family. This is not something they like to do. Maybe a few kisses for the grandkids when they were small but mostly a warm hello or a side hug. The interesting thing about combining families with different expressions of affection like this is watching the end results of who prefers what. For instance, my eldest son would think a kiss is worse than death. But my daughter and youngest son would gladly cover your cheeks with them if they knew it would brighten your day. My in-laws and specifically my father-in-law who is a self professed Vulcan has been more affectionate and gentle with his grandkids than my wife could have ever imagined given her upbringing.

I won’t say one way is right or the other. If I had been raised in a non-kissing home that would have been normal for me and probably what I preferred. I just find it interesting how the two types of families exist and in some cases coexist rendering a variety of results. Did the kissy types convert the non-kissers or did the non-kissers convert the kissy types to slow their role? Enquiring minds want to know. Leave a comment about your experience.

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

My Parenting Style

For better or worse…an introspective look at my fatherly traits.

Parenting has its universal elements. Taking care of your offspring is the simplest way to describe it. But just like our personalities, the style in which you provide that care can vary by very large degrees. Below is a list divided in two. The first is a look at some of my faults, potential challenges, and surprising traits that I have but didn’t think I would have growing up. The second half will be some of my more redeeming qualities, hopefully.

Faults, Challenges, Surprises

    Disciplinarian – This is not a role I thought I would take on when I was a child. I think most of us grow up thinking we will not be as tough on our children and we are going to be much more relaxed than our parents generation. That may have some truth to it but ask my kids who doles out the most rules and consequences in our family and all fingers will point to me. Rachael partners with me of course but I am quite a bit less flexible than her. While I think it is good to have discipline and really bad when there is zero, my challenge is to find balance and just chill now and then.
    Helicopter Dad – We alway hear about Mama Bear or the Helicopter Mom but that role belongs on my side of the fence and pairs well with disciplinarian. The idea behind both is ultimately to protect your little ones. Protecting them is a good thing but my fault in this area is delineating precisely where the line of too sheltering is vs. reasonably sheltering. You have to let your kids experience life, failure, hurts, pains, and grow to be functioning adults who have some experience under their belts. Thankfully my wife helps me see quite often where the line of reason stands. This will likely be a lifelong struggle.
    Embarrassing – I think this is actually a good dad trait and I fully embrace doing it to them on purpose or by accident. Its only on this part of the list because I am surprised that I took this role and enjoy it so much. In some ways it goes hand-in-hand with one of the traits on the positive list (Fun-loving) but not always. Embarrassing a child is fun for me but usually not so fun for them. Whether its a corny dad-joke, doing Fortnite dances in public, or yelling I LOVE YOU as loud as I can when dropping them off, I am just giddy with excitement when I hear them exclaim,”DAD, stop!”

Redeeming Qualities

  • Snuggler – I am very affectionate. I kiss skinned knees, I have an unlimited supply of hugs, and I am the Mayor of a place called Snuggletown. Snuggletown is my bed after Mom has jumped out of it and the kids run in and pile on top of me. We have the Snuggletown windmill but Mom calls it a “fan”. The primary rule in Snuggletown is that we have to be calm, stay warm, and get real cozy. Mom sometimes turns into the Snuggletown monster and turns off the windmill, demanding that we all vacate the city limits so she can “make the bed”. SMH
  • Fun-loving – It’s probably strange to have a parent that is the disciplinarian while simultaneously playing the role of fun goofball but here I am in all of my ironic glory. We joke that my wife has 4 kids instead of 3 since I tend to have more behavior in common with a middle schooler than with most adults. Any chance to get goofy and I usually take it. Any chance to have fun and I usually take it. Any chance to become a bit childlike and well, I take it. When its not meant to embarrass them, my kids seem to enjoy this side of my parenting qualities.
  • Transparent – Prim and proper was how I was raised. It wasn’t a bad deal and I really didn’t know any other way. Until, I took the parenting steering wheel and decided to do things a little bit different. We burp, fart, laugh hysterically, and truly talk about everything. There is nothing taboo, nothing that we are unwilling to address or cause the kids to feel uncomfortable about. Like anything, one can probably be TOO transparent and that could land me on the other side of this list. But I would rather err on the side of my kids being able to see behind the curtain than them keeping secrets, afraid to come to us.

That’s my list, what about you? What are your challenges? What traits surprised you? What are your redeeming qualities?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Being Kind…

Why is it so hard!?

A couple weeks ago my church pastor taught us about kindness and our responsibility to be kind. Not just randomly when someone buys you a coffee in the drive through at Starbucks by keeping the chain going and paying for the next person in line but with real intention. All of the time. It makes sense. Christians should act Christlike, right? I have this issue tackled in some arenas. Like the picture above I would certainly help someone with their groceries or be that steady arm for someone to balance on. I am even pretty good at discussing emotionally charged topics without disrespecting those with other views. I am simply amazed when I see Liberals vs. Conservatives on the internet at large but even on Facebook with their own friends list.

People that once accepted your invitation to connect are now flaming one another in the comment section because one voted for Hilary and the other Trump. Agreeing to disagree is a thing but I am starting to think the vast majority are not capable of it anymore. There are no discussions just demonstrations. There is no debate, there is yelling, and mob tactics to keep ideas and free speech at bay. It’s more about who can scream the loudest and play the victim better. But I digress.

Where I find it hard for me personally is when my sense of justice is inflamed. You cut me off in traffic? Kindness does not flow from me. You neglect your children or spouse for self serving interests? Kindness does not flow from me. You keep me from eating when Daddy hungry. Kindness ain’t flowing. So I have real work to do if I am to be kind in an intentional or continuous fashion. I think it starts with how we judge others. The more harshly we judge the more likely you’re stifling kindness. If we only gave it to those that deserved it, we wouldn’t give it at all, would we? Part of what makes kindness beautiful is when the recipient didn’t ask for it and didn’t necessarily deserve it.

What makes being kind hard for you? On a kindness scale from 1 – 10 with 10 being the best rating, where do you fall?

That’s my to cents…keep the change.

The Shopping Trap

Is your wife affected (infected)?

It wasn’t always like this. I cannot decide if it was because she wasn’t infected with the bug yet or because early on we could not afford much more than the essentials of life. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Back when we got married though, shopping required leaving the house giving me at least some clue what was happening. NOW…when she is on any device, be it a cell phone, laptop, or tablet I immediately get suspicious. Rachael is only on those things for one of three reasons.

1. She is texting

2. She is keeping up with you on Facebook or…

3. She is SHOPPING!!!

It would be one thing if the average purchase was truly necessary and added an incredible amount of value to our already blessed lives. Sometimes that does happen. But more often than not, its just something we could have lived without and in some cases leaving me scratching my head wanting my money back. A visit to Hobby Lobby this week resulted in the products you see below.

Random nicknacks and a portal?

I present you with $50 worth of stuff. On the left we have a metal tray of some kind holding a towel that will never dry off anything be it a counter or some wet hands, a decorative cookie jar (that’s code for “never to hold a single cookie ever”), a fake plant, and a lantern that you could put a candle in but we probably won’t. On the right…I…I don’t know what that is. My first guess was a portal. Maybe that is the sci-fi part of my brain trying to figure it out. I joked with my wife that if she passes through the portal she might immediately teleport back to Hobby Lobby. She didn’t appreciate this so I tried to recover by suggesting maybe it was a sculpture of two wedding rings bonding together as one. I think that worked but its still most likely a portal.

I guess these purchases fall under the “decorations” umbrella of use. But (a) we don’t need more decorations and (b) why waste the money on things that literally have no use other than to just sit there and take up space? If the cookie jar even sometimes had a batch of fresh cookies in it, I would understand and support its purchase. If you are like me, you see these things, you see the total at the end of the receipt and you ask, “Why!?” Why use $50 in this way when I can think of a dozen other ways to use fifty dollars up to and including NOT spending it at all.

The answer I get is mind numbingly frustrating and ties back to the title of this post, namely the “trap”. Her answer is “It was ON SALE.” Put anything on sale in any store and there is a female that will buy it. She might even admit there was no used for it the day before but today its a dollar less…what a bargain! I have tried, to no avail to explain that “not buying something” is actually cheaper than getting anything on sale for any amount but she just stares at me blankly. I fear I lost this battle years ago. The scary thing is this was a half off sale. So this would have been $100!! I need to buy stock in Hobby Lobby.

Who is the shopper in your family? Do they fall for the trap?

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Growing out of Gaming…

…for Gen X and younger is a fairytale! Much to my wife’s dismay.

At what age will my husband stop gaming?

My wife has been pondering the answer to the caption above for 19 years. We dated for 2 and have been married for 17. Early on, she probably accepted it moreso than now. I was early to mid 20’s and most guys engaged in some level of video games. Little did I know she had an expectation that over time I might lose interest and no such thing has occurred. For those of you ladies reading, maybe a support group can be formed because my bet is your husband is no exception. BUT, as all things allow…compromise can be found. I will share the balance I try to keep as well as a couple reason’s why generation X is still gaming.

When will these guys grow up?

The problem is that’s a bad question. It implies that a certain level of maturity is missing in those that enjoy games yet there are all kinds of other types of games (board games, card games) we played as kids that plenty of adults still engage in. Plus there is a maturity rating on video games and many are specifically made for an adult crowd based on content. Game makers realized they had the first generation (80’s kids) that grew up gaming. That they had to mature with their audience while continuing to appeal to the younger generations as well. I certainly do not advocate for any man to shirk his other responsibilities in life with a hyper focus on becoming a video game pro, sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, leaving everything else up to his spouse and family. But if this is an interest, a hobby, or just a way to enjoy yourself for a little while letting the stress of work melt away, then I am all for it. To me its no different than other relaxing activities like reading a book.

Family fun

I would still play even if I did not have kids. We have a Wii and a PlayStation console. I enjoy games on both platforms from the most basic Mario adventure to the more complicated Overwatch mayhem. But if you have kids, they likely enjoy video games and who better to teach them and even team up with them than dear old dad. Fact is my oldest son still cannot beat me on several games although he can tear me a new one on Fortnite. I get back at him by doing Fortnite dances in front of his friends. Even his twin sister enjoys playing Minecraft with me and my 8 year old son joins in on the fun with other games like Rocket League. Many an hour of belly laughing fun and bonding has occurred with me and my three over some good game-time.


Any topic of interest whether it’s camping, cycling, crafting, boating, cooking, or underwater basket weaving can become too highly prioritized. That, I believe, is what may cause strife with any husband and wife duo over the topic of gaming. If its too high on your priority list, then you have crossed the line and need to come up with balance. Your wife should not feel like games are more important than her. She should not worry about the amount of time you dedicate to it and whether or not you are going to perform your part in the family unit. Simply put, be a man…not a man-child. These are the general guidelines I set for myself:

1. I typically only play when my wife is completely and utterly otherwise occupied. Out running errands, out shopping, unavailable for me to hang out with or help in some way.

2. If she is home, again only when she is occupied and will not mind or on the weekend when kids can certainly be involved.

3. Whether gaming with children or on my own, I try to limit my total time to less than one hour.

4. Allow for your wife to have indulgences that you don’t find particularly awesome…like shopping at Target! Or more recently for my wife, Hobby Lobby (post soon to come on that trip).

Let me know in the comments what your gaming horizon looks like in your home and how you feel about it.

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

The Goldbergs

One of the best shows on TV…

“Before class begins, does anyone need to make?”

Did you spend any part of your life living through the 80’s? If so you will appreciate this show on a much deeper level than those who did not. Did you spend your childhood in the 80’s? Then this show will impact you the most. BUT I can endorse this amazing depiction of one of the best decades in human history for anyone at any age. My very own kids enjoy episodes, laughing right along with us. Perhaps part of their joy is seeing how mom and dad looked, acted, and sometimes endured the various phases, fashions, pop-culture, and history making events that are so well captured by creator and main character in the sitcom, Adam F. Goldberg.

Adam, a self professed nerd who struggles with sports, being the youngest in the family dealing with two brutes of an older brother and sister, a fairly disconnected father figure who just wants to lounge around the house in his underwear, all pale in comparison to what he calls his S’Mother. Beverly Goldberg’s life is her kids and not in the healthiest of ways. She is smothering and crosses every line that most would not dare, so long as she believes its helpful to the greater good of her kids. It’s the kind of help none of the kids want or asked for but it makes for comedy gold and gains my loyal following.

While I did not have a Smother, older siblings, struggle with athletics, or a dad roaming the halls in his underwear…there is enough cross-over and shared 80’s experience to make you relate in a very real way. Whether its Hands Across America, an iconic old song, the portrayal of the school dance, first time love, learning how to drive, going to the mall, or girls spraying their bangs with Aquanet, there is a wealth of shared experience to cause audience members to connect on some level. And though things have changed drastically in so many ways, lots of social norms and phases of life like Middle and High School still carry very similar themes.

It’s The Wonder Years for Generation X. If you have not already tuned in, start binge watching now. Maybe you can get caught up before the next season starts.

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

Purchasing Kermit

That’s what we call our new Bullfrog Hot-tub…

We have wanted a “water-based” form of fun, entertainment, and relaxation for a long time. It was only after 17 years of marriage and a few decent bonuses that we got serious about it though. It’s hard not to want something like this in Texas but why a hot tub and not a pool or just a good ole soak in the sprinklers or trip down memory lane via the slip and slide? I will mostly contrast our decision vs. getting a pool since its probably obvious that I have no desire to rekindle my boyhood nor could I physically handle romping in the sprinklers or sliding down a wet piece of plastic in my 40’s. Both would likely have me pretty sore in the morning and neither would accomplish my first goal…to relax.

1. Relaxing – yes pools accomplish this. They cool us off in the hot sun. They allow you to float on a raft and get a little nap in. BUT and this is a big BUT…do they massage you with a variety of jets hitting all the right muscles from shoulder to buttocks? Unless the pool you purchase has a hot tub, the answer is no. Massage is therapeutic regardless of your age. It’s health benefits are so recognized that you can actually get a discount on the taxes you pay toward a hot tub purchase if a doctor deems that you would benefit physically from the water therapy.

2. Temperature Control – I can already hear some of you thinking, “Why would you sit in a hot tub during the summer?” Well its only hot if you set it to be hot. The max temp by law is 104 degrees and during the summer that is in fact scalding and uncomfortable. With a bit of experimenting we have found setting the unit to 90-95 gives us the perfect cooling affect without being too cold. Anything above that seems to cause sweating and summertime temps already accomplish that on their own. We also have an east facing patio where Kermit sits. By 2PM there is no direct sun and we never get in until its fully shaded. This combination of factors allow us to basically have a small pool that massages us. Let’s face it, I probably would not be swimming laps even if I had the chance in a larger body of water.

3. Cost – Bingo. This probably is the number one factor why Kermit is best for my family but it has a few layers to it besides just the variance in sticker price. You also have to weigh the long-term maintenance costs of taking care of 400 gallons vs. thousands of gallons. Chemicals, pool cleaning professionals, pump costs, electricity, repairs all add up and comparatively make the hot tub pale in comparison. The entry level price for a decent hot tub is $4K depending on the size you want and the features that are important to you. We went a few levels up from basic but definitely stayed below five figures, although there are plenty of options north of $10K as well. Last but certainly not least is re-sale value on your home. You cannot recoup the massive investment in most cases because you have a pool. You could probably ask for a little more than the competition down the street with similar square footage with no pool but not by $30 – $80K. And even if the same is true for a hot tub, we have two choices; leave it for the new owners and not be out too much on the investment OR take it with us.

4. Access to your pool – Though this may sound like I am pro-Kermit and anti-pool, nothing could be further from the truth. We love swimming pools, especially yours when we are invited over, which concludes my reason for landing on a hot tub purchase. I can still visit my in-laws, my friends with pools, the city pool, and even the neighborhood pool from our old neighborhood so long as we are guests of one of our previous neighbor friends…wink, wink. We get just the right dosage of cooling off in these other options that we do not feel any true loss with what we have.

Do you have a pool? A hot tub? Both? Wanting one or the other? Do you agree with my reasoning or do you have a different opinion? Leave some comments sharing your perspective.

That’s my two cents…keep the change.

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