Category Archives: Parenting

You think this is fun?

If my kids were writing this blog, it would probably go something like this:

Dad is so nuts.  Every Saturday, I’m talking about every one, he’s all like “we’ve got to get up
at the butt crack of dawn and go do something.  It’s like he’s got this crazy lens for looking at “fun” and it’s all about hunting and fishing and Bass Pro shops and taking boat rides.  He’s out of his mind.

Yeah.  I mean, he’s always pointing things out to us, like the whistle that a wood duck makes, or how to tell when a snook strikes, that distinct “pop” sound . . .

How to tell which way a gobbler is going, and whether he’s already on hens.  The right time to take the ducks as they’re dropping into the decoys.  How to set the decoys out so that the ducks will want to land inside them, not outside.  How to let a shrimp drift just right, so it doesn’t appear to be hooked at all, but still be able to detect the bite . . .

I’m saying, he’s so bananas that he holds classes on the boat to teach us how to tie a knot, or bait a hook, or how to get more distance out of a cast.  I mean, who does that?

What high school freshman girl needs to know the difference between a full choke and improved cylinder?  What 8 year old boy needs to be able to identify every shark indigenous to Florida?

He’s even gotten us hooked on bird dogs!  Do you know how awful a wet Brittany Spaniel smells?  Like soured fertilizer baked on oysters . . . but my room doesn’t feel the same without that faint odor . . .

His latest thing is the smell of rubber boots – like some tire factory has captured their essence into a perfume . . . we get to the snipe field and he’s like “smell that – the dew? And the grass? The dogs and those boots?  Doesn’t it smell magical?”

He thinks this is fun?!?!?!?

We’re seriously thinking about having him committed . . . we just can’t find the time to do it . . . maybe after turkey season . . . no, then it’s tarpon time . . . then redfish . . . then dove . . . then ducks . . . deer . . . small game . . . oh well, maybe it is kinda fun . . .

At least, I hope that’s what they’re thinking . . .


38 lessons for 38 years . . .

38 Things I’ve learned as I passed 38 late last year:

  1. Never make the first or third out at third base.
  2. Girls LOVE getting flowers.  No matter what they say.  “Don’t waste money on flowers” is the “do I look fat in this” of gifts . . .
  3. Dogs are important.  Pet them.  Spend time with them.  Their only true fault is they don’t live very long.
  4. No matter if it’s week 42, and she’s wearing an “it’s a girl” t-shirt, and an OB is following her around, do not, under any circumstances, ask if she’s pregnant . . .
  5. Make time to write.  Or run.  Or read.  Or whatever makes you tick.
  6. Sometime, within the next 18 years, your kids won’t be here every day.  So turn the TV off and spend time with them.  Read to them.  Build a fort or bake a cake or ride a bike.
  7. Intentionally add value to people.  Every day.  Got that from John Maxwell.  Should tattoo it to my forearm.
  8. Choose trust over suspicion.  It’ll get everyone further.
  9. Try to watch as many sunsets or sunrises as you can.
  10. Be nice.  It’s honestly easier.  Ask people, as often as you can, “Can I do anything for you?” . . . mean it . . .
  11. The person on the other end of the line is someone’s husband/mother/daughter/brother.  They got up this morning, just like you did.  It’s not their fault that Dell outsourced support to India.  Yelling at them won’t make Dell rethink it.  It won’t make you feel better.
  12. Listen to “All I Want for Christmas” in July.  Or September.  Bonus points if you crank it up with the kids and belt it at the top of your lungs.  Double bonus points if you roll the windows down and belt it out as your middle-schooler walks into the school.
  13. When you roll your eyes, and you’re on the phone, people can hear it in your voice.
  14. Catching the fish again is better than eating the fish.
  15. Never tap a white tiger on the nose with a microphone.
  16. Clarification on number 11.  It may actually feel better while you’re doing it, but you won’t after you hang up.
  17. Remember who you are.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  18. “the Art of Possibility” is one of the best books of all time.  Pick it up again from time to time.
  19. ALWAYS thank veteran’s for their service.  And hold the door open for the person behind you.
  20. Don’t shoot the ducks after they’ve landed.  It’s not sporting.
  21. They will remember that you made time for them, took them hunting, took them fishing, rode bikes; the time you were PRESENT.  Yeah, that’s kinda the same as number 6, but it bears repeating, don’t you think?
  22. Take care of your back
  23. If you feel it in your gut, you should probably follow that feeling.
  24. Red Sox, Ohio St. and Gator fans are the WORST.  Try to avoid mixing with these fanbases, and, under all circumstances, don’t date them . . . .
  25. Dressing nice and dressing inexpensively are not mutually exclusive.
  26. The Cubs don’t win in the end.  Ever.
  27. Close doesn’t count.  Wait – that’s not entirely true – sometimes close does count.
  28. Black and white is a hard way to live; gray is way easier
  29. Do NOT judge others.  You cannot possibly know all of the factors surrounding their situation.
  30. At 30, your body stops being resilient to cheeseburgers for breakfast.
  31. It’s impossible to listen to the opening of “Sweet Home Alabama” and not feel happy or sing along with the chorus.
  32. Kiss your wife. Every.  Day.  It’s easy, and fun.  Make it required.
  33. Snook always bite better on an outgoing tide.
  34. Make time for grandparents.  They can be gone very quickly . . .
  35. Don’t be resistant to change.  Change is your opportunity to change, too
  36. Spend money on good shoes and a good coat
  37. Watch “White Christmas” with your family at least once a year.
  38. Say “I love you” – but think about the fact that you mean it, don’t just tag it onto the end of phone calls and visits.

Creative mowing

I suppose a blog is nothing, if not a place to share stories.  I like that idea.

This post should be subtitled “The time my mom should have beat me but didn’t but still almost killed me because of what I did to our yard”

September 28th, 1991.  I was 3 months shy of my 15th birthday.

How can I be sure that was the day?  Oh.  I’m sure.  See, Florida State was playing Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Amp Lee was the FSU running back, and he was silky smooth all day long.  State won, by like 20 points.  It was an epic moment for my football youth fandom.

Some of the details of the day are a bit foggy, but some I remember like it was yesterday.  Because, the day wasn’t really about FSU/Michigan so much as it was about Night of Joy.

Night of Joy.  If you were a teenager in the Central Florida area, this was one of the greatest nights of your life.  For those of you outside the Central Florida region, NoJ is a Christian music festival held at Disney World.  The park would stay open until midnight or 1 am.  Kids that had never been to church in their life would suddenly appear at youth group the week before, and then be on the van for the ride over.  As a hormone filled 14 year old (almost 15) boy, this event was met with wonder at the fact that the hot cheerleader who never seemed to notice you at school was now sitting behind you on the church bus.

I just want to also take a moment and interject here that, in full disclosure, as a devout Southern Baptist raised teenager, I knew that sex and kissing would both send me to hell.  But I also knew that I could be forgiven for my sins, and that honestly, how could I help it if she came onto me during the Haunted Mansion ride, and I could just re-pray the sinner’s prayer come Sunday morning and we’d be all good.  Needless to say, I had it all figured out.

3:23 – our youth pastor always always ALWAYS picked odd times like that for us to leave.  I don’t remember for sure that it was 3:23.  I am certain that it was an odd time, like 3:23, or 4:17.  He felt like we would remember those times better.  I believed him.

Anyway – I’m rambling.  The story goes something like this:

I had won a free ticket to NoJ through some kind of game at youth group.  FSU/Michigan was, to my recollection, a noon kickoff, which meant it’d be over by 3:15 or so, 10 minutes to the church, 45 minutes to Disney, and 30 minutes later I’d be in 7 minutes in heaven with Miss Junior Cheerleader.

And, as I remember it, my dad waltzed in around 11 (again, these times are from memory, so they may be off by a minute or two), and announced that, unless the yard was mowed, I was not going to Night of Joy.

Yeah right.  There’s no way Steve and Joy (as my parents are called by people who aren’t their offspring) are going to keep me from going.  I’d won a free ticket.

So I settled in and watched FSU/Michigan.  It was a turf game, wherein Bobby Bowden would claim that the Noles would go in, beat an opponent on their field, and bring back a block of the turf to some sort of cemetery for sod in Tallahassee.  I remember learning about turf games on ESPN right before kickoff.

This is incredibly nerdy, but I remember Terrell Buckley intercepted an Elvis Grbac pass and returned it for a touchdown.  I’m savant-like that way.  I also remember a trick play where Casey Weldon passed out to a backup quarterback named Charlie Ward, who passed it back to Weldon for a big gain.

The game was INTENSE.  Like.  If I hadn’t been home, I might have VCR’d it, ’cause it was huge.

So the game ends, and I go get dressed to hit up the church.  And my parents drop the hammer.

“You’re not going to Night of Joy until the yard is mowed”

Did anyone else’s mom have that tone, that “damn right I’m serious boy” tone?  This was that.  I knew that arguing was pointless.  I trudged outside and cranked the lawnmower.

Someone should remind me to do a post about lawnmower theatrics, because how I survived my teenage years with my lawnmower experiences is a definite thing.

My parents lived on an acre lot, about 2/3rds of which was mowable.  So I started plugging along.  With a push mower.

The days were getting shorter, and the sunlight was almost perfect.  I could see my jerk best friend Tony sidling up to blondie on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while I was toiling in the Florida heat, where a fall evening is still 82 degrees.

By the time I reached the field between our house and the neighbor’s, I had made up my mind – this was not fair!  I’d had to forgo my free (earned!) ticket!  Tony was getting the girl!  My parents were slave drivers!

And that’s when it hit me – what could I do to protest?  How could I show them that I would mow their stupid yard, but not without lodging a complaint.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy with a push mower.  I had to stop at the end of every row and raise and lower the wheels with precision.  It probably took me an extra hour.  But it was.  SO.  WORTH.  IT.

Because, while my friends were busy scoring at Night of Joy (in all honesty, no one ever scored at any youth event – we just all thought we would), I was having my Sistine Chapel moment.

There, on the gently sloping field between our house and the Swart’s, I had carved the perfect Disney Channel logo, complete with Mickey Mouse ears, alternating stripes, and the words “Mickey Mouse” above and below it.

To this day, I’m fairly certain the only reasons Steve and Joy didn’t kill me were: a) the yard was mowed, and b) they were laughing too hard . . .

Bedtime Stories

Every night, almost without fail, I pile into Will’s bed to read Harry Potter.

August 24th, 2012 is when we started.  Every night they are at my house, we read.

Some nights it’s a page.  Other nights it’s a chapter.  photo

Liv has crashed in for some of the highlights – the first page, the introduction of Delores Umbridge, Dumbledore’s death; but it’s usually Will and me.  Me and Will.

And I’ll read.  I’ve been know to read for over an hour.  He’ll raise his hand when he has a question – “what does condescending mean,” or “Who is Cattermole?”

When we’re done, without fail, he’ll ask “how many pages did we read?”

And I answer.  2.  12.  28.

So far, we’ve read about 3800 pages.  187 chapters.

Every time we finish a chapter, he studies the illustration on the next chapter . . . there are these little drawings above the chapter names . . . We spend a few minutes, every time, talking about that drawing, and what we think it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . .

The thing is, the end is in sight.  Harry and Hermione are in the tent.  We only have about 10 chapters left.

Will’s a different little guy.  When I was his age, I was all about baseball and kickball and football and hunting and fishing and being outside.  He isn’t.  I mean, he goes fishing with me, or hunting, but he’s way more into electronics and gadgets.  How things work and why.  So sometimes he comes to my world and sometimes I go to his.

I’ll fumble my way through a minecraft session, he’ll play with the fishfinder on the boat.

But, for that brief period every night, no matter how our days went, our world’s intersect . . . our interests blend . . . over magic and wizards and heroes and villains . . .

And, each night, at the very end, he’ll look at me, with those tired brown eyes – “Can I roll over on you daddy?”

I lie there on my back, and he crawls up on me, and nuzzles his head against my neck.

And we lay there, and listen to each other breath, and he giggles at my heartbeat.

“I love you daddy . . . you’re my best buddy.”

And I lie there, my arms wrapped tight around my son, my boy, and I think about what it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . . and I reply “I love you too buddy . . . I love you too”



I thought, he walked, on the water

Leland Thompson was the truest Floridian you’ve ever met.

He was my first hero.  And he passed away on Sunday evening.

Uncle Leland was my grandfather’s brother.  He spoke with a rattle in his voice that belied his years of life; slow, deliberate speech, with a southern drawl and that gravel that told me maybe he’d smoked in his past.

He and Aunt Margaret lived on a farm in Dade City.  If you imagine a farmhouse from the 30’s, complete with wood paneling and hardwood floors, a gorgeous front porch – the exterior painted white.  No trim colors of any kind.  Just white.  Set by a pasture, next to the woods, under a hammock of the most stately oaks ever seen, just at the end of a dirt road near the river . . .

In his younger days, he was elected sheriff of Pasco County.  As an officer, he once apprehended a man after the man shot another officer while the three of them were in an elevator.  His farm had hundreds of cattle, and pigs and gardens and all the stuff farms should have.  He was a real life hero, as well as one in the imagination of a little boy.

When I was little, he’d always slip my mom a dollar for both me and my sister, right at the end of our visit.  He’d pretend we were in on it, and wink, and say “Now, Mrs. Joy, these young’uns need some ice cream – so here’s a little money for each of them.”

He would always make time to take us on rides on the Grey Gopher, his old army jeep.  Some of the most thrilling memories from my childhood were of my parents telling us we were going to Dade City on Saturday, and getting there, knowing we’d take the Gopher out for a ride.  We’d see deer and hogs and turkeys and alligators – some of my love of Florida was formed in those tattered vinyl seats.

There were summers when I’d spend whole weeks on that farm

His barns were filled with hay bales we could climb on, or a recent batch of kittens, or maybe some little fluffy chicks he’d give us to bring home, much to my mother’s chagrin.  There might be a horse in the stable, or a docile cow, or his tamed deer Buddy might show up in the pasture.  He once let me pet some buffalo that wandered in.  His front porch was a southern Sunday in the south with old folks in rockers and someone singing gospel and sweet tea and chicken and dumplings . . . in short, it was everything a country boy could want out of life, all in one place . . .

I’m rambling a little bit, but it’s hard to put into words . . . the last time I saw Uncle Leland was 2011 . . . we had brought him some furniture from my apartment.  Cancer and time had savaged my hero.  He met Will, and Olivia.  He teased her about how pretty she was, about boys and school, and he gave Will a watch.  We visited for a couple of hours.  He bragged about his grandkids and kids, and I knew, when I shook his hand and hugged him goodbye, that it was probably, you know, a real goodbye . . .

Each of my kids, in turn, gave him a hug, this man who was so large in my mind, a frail and genial old stranger to them.  In that moment, I flashed back to my childhood:

My grandfather, my Poppy, Uncle Leland’s brother, died when I was 12, and Em was 7.  It was sudden – I talked to him on Saturday, and Sunday he was gone.  Poppy was buried in Dade City, in the city cemetery there.  As was always the case, after the funeral, we all headed to Uncle Leland’s after the service.  All of my cousins and uncles and aunts were there, and it was a family reunion of sorts, somber at first, but warming as the day went on.

If Uncle Leland was my hero, Poppy was my buddy – we talked on the phone almost every day, about sports and fishing and who knows what else.  But like most 12 year olds, I didn’t fully grasp the situation.  I was sad, but I didn’t completely understand.

And, as we got ready to leave that June evening, in the late 80’s, I’ll never forget saying goodbye – he put his arm around me, and around my sister – he looked us in the eye, the only time I’ve ever seen him misty, just hours after burying his brother.  He always called my mom “Mrs. Joy,” and his raspy voice scraped the words one more time . . .

“Mrs. Joy – the young’uns are gonna need a grandfather now . . . here . . . Let me get ya’ll some ice cream money . . . ”

I’m out of town for work today, 2500 miles away, so I won’t be there this afternoon, after the funeral in Dade City, when all the Thompson’s will head down that dirt road out to the farmhouse near the river.  Bring a dish, comfort Aunt Margaret . . . it’ll start somber, but warm as the day goes on . . . there’ll be sweet tea and chicken and maybe a gospel song . . .

And I’d give all the ice cream money I’ve got, just to do it one more time, to sit there with him, in that little white house, under those stately oak trees, set by the pasture . . .

Happy Birthday, Gilly

In honor of your birthday, here’s a list of things I love about you:

  1. I love what a fantastic mom you are to my kids.  You truly show them unconditional love, and you make me a better dad.
  2. I love that you’re always willing to go on an adventure.  Alabama, Pennsylvania, build a tower, climb a mountain, or getting ice cream.
  3. I love the crazy way you dance, arms flailing all over the place.  It’s my favorite.
  4. I love how you are addicted to the DIY network.  Can’t stop, won’t stop.
  5. I love how you hate movies, but put up with my crazy shenanigans anyway.
  6. I love the way you make baked ziti.  I think about it at least three times a day.
  7. I love the way you snuggle with these crazy-nuts dogs I stuck you with.
  8. I love fishing with you.  First mate.
  9. I love when you get excited about a project.  Any project.
  10. I love the way you’ve made our house a home.
  11. I love the way your mind works
  12. I love when you go for a run or workout, and you come home and your hair is a mess, and you look so incredible to me.
  13. I love how sexy you are.  This could’ve been on here 30 times.
  14. I love that you do dates with Will.  He’ll remember those long after we’re gone.
  15. I love that you spend so much time with Liv – homework and girls days and coffee and haircuts  and running.
  16. I love the way you love my crazy family.  Bacon Sundays and birthdays and drop ins and vacations.
  17. I love that you read, that you continue to learn.
  18. I love, no matter how much I tease, how much you love John and Sherry.
  19. I love your style – sexy, professional, and appropriate for our teenaged daughter to emulate.  That’s not an easy balance to achieve.
  20. I love how excited you get over good food.
  21. I love even more how excited you get over your good friends and spending time with them.
  22. I love that you love to fish with me.
  23. I love that you encourage me.  No matter what.  I know you have my back.
  24. I love when you make that adorable face, the “Gilmer face” as the kids call it – it’s cute and fun loving and reassuring, as crazy as that sounds.
  25. I love when you act silly.
  26. I love when you kiss me
  27. I love when you hug me.  Every day when we get home.  That’s a big deal.
  28. I love that you always want to fix whatever you can for me – be it a job, or a truck, or a hurt . . .
  29. I love your skills with a sniper rifle and energy sword.
  30. I love being your husband.  You are my dream come true.

Happy Birthday, Babedro!

Advice and gentle rebuke. The first day of school.

I don’t want to forget some stuff about the last hours of Summer, 2014.

Liv is starting high school, and she’s getting a lot of advice. She is a heart-breakingly beautiful mix of staggering self confidence, and scared nearly to death. She is my best girlfriend I want to hang out with at a bar, and she is a little girl who wants me to paint her nails. She is getting a lot of advice, and blowing it off as teenagers do. But I told her yesterday, “Hey, you’ve never been you on the first day of high school before. So be nice to yourself.” And she got really still and looked at me and said, “Yeah,” like maybe I know something.

On the way to his first day of 3rd grade, Will is less than enthused. He requested several things:

1. That summer last for another year.
2. That I flip the school year so that school is the length of summer, and summer is the length of school.
3. That school be one day and summer be the rest of the days.
4. That I buy him a paper shredder for his homework.
5. That we pretend it’s the actual Shredder from TMNT.

I was trying to cheer him up on the too short drive to school.

Gilly: Hey Will, do you want me to walk you back to your classroom this morning?
Will (cautiously): No ma’am.
Gilly: Ok.

Gilly: Because I was really wanting to walk you back there and give you a really big hug and a smooch in front of alllll your friends.
Will (giggling): NO WAY.

Gilly: But..I had a song prepared and a DANCE and everything. This one– (I sing, loudly, impersonating his dad) I HAD A DREAM IN SIDE MY MIND, I HAD A DREAM THAT I WAS NAKED…
Will (quite seriously): GILLY. That song is not appropriate for school.

He has a future as a hall monitor, I just know it.