Category Archives: All About Boys

Mr. (Not) Right

Welcome to Team Henneke, where everybody not only wants to be right, but needs to be right.

No way will we give into the other person because that would be — wrong.

We have to be right about everything, it seems. Including the exact date when dad first reached puberty, the number of times he posts on Facebook each day, who did the last load of towels and the proper location for toothpaste on the bathroom counter. mr-right

At our house, folks exercise their right to be right in practically any instance. It could be during a blessing on the food, during a football game or in a room full of VIPs.

As for me, I can’t say here if I am right or not, because somebody might take issue with it. Because it’s my blog, just pretend that I speak the truth for the next 30 seconds.

It doesn’t matter to me as much if I win a debate. I don’t care to defend any allegations that somebody does more housework than me. Or that nobody believes me when I deny any responsibility for using the milk jug as a doorstop.

Actually, it’s quite entertaining to purposely mess with those who have to be right. It shakes them up, makes them question the very reason for their existence.

The key is to calmly state any of the retorts listed below and walk away.

1. The sun won’t come up tomorrow.

2. I don’t owe you any money. If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

3. Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m not at my best under general anesthesia.

4. I firmly believe Congress will do the right thing.

5. Nobody has shown any conclusive evidence that leaving mayo out for six hours can be harmful to you.

6. That Billy character on Family Circus should do stand-up. He’s that funny.

Now that I know my place, I don’t always need to have the last word. Unless you disagree with me, then I will have speak up.

Because, let’s be honest. It’s the right thing to do.

The choice between the two bags

I held two white crinkled grocery bags in front of me, and told him each bag held a treat.

The choice was his.

The pie bag or the empty bag?

One bag appeared empty, with what appeared to be an old receipt inside. He looked closely at the other bag where he could easily make out the familiar green package of a Hostess apple pie.

As I expected, Spencer quickly zeroed in on the apple pie. As he lifted his hand to point to Hostess bag, I held up my hand.

“Things aren’t always what they seem. Have faith in your dad and really consider picking the other bag.”

He looked at the both with a pained expression on his face for a few seconds.

Ultimately he pointed to the non-pie bag , which I handed to him to open. I watched as he opened it with a resigned look and pulled two small white pieces of paper. His eyes grew big when he realized what he was holding in his hands.

Two matinee tickets for “The Hunger Games” Friday afternoon, the movie he’s been pestering me to see for two months.

And what about the apple pie? Aw, I let him eat that as well.

Don’t tell mom


I wish my Swiffer mop looked this nice, but you get the idea.

Listen up, boys.

The following is Top Secret, Eyes Only, Guy Clearance. Under no circumstances is this to be divulged to mom or your pants will self-destruct during a school assembly. Not even Ethan Hunt will save you.

Don’t tell mom that I’ve vacuumed faithfully every Saturday since I’ve been here or it will blow her mind.

Don’t tell her that I’ve swept (and mopped) the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom floor on my hands and knees, kept the counters cleaned of any debris and the garbage emptied. Her head will explode.

If the police raided my apartment right now, the dishes would be done, all the lights would be off and there would be no naughty movies anywhere. Lab tests on the van would reveal no sign of Taco Bell crumbs. Or any food particles from my time here in Billings.

On second thought, let’s tell her a few things so it won’t mess her up too bad. Tell her that I probably should wipe out the fridge at some point. And I’m making liberal use of paper products to minimize the dirty dishes.

That’s all she knows. Don’t tell her that I washed and dried all my sheets and have only a tiny bit of laundry left to fold. I cook as well in places other than the microwave, say my prayers and get to bed long before the sun rises in the morning.

One more thing. Do tell her that I love her and miss her. That, I do want her to hear.

Read my about page to know we are operating two households for the next few months.

 

Chasing the perfect ending

I wanted my last Saturday as the Sunday editor for the Democrat-Herald to be picture perfect, something that would make filmmaker Ken Burns beg me to tell my story.

It certainly started out that way, before the night imploded. Two co-workers brought pie, I finished my final column for the Sunday paper and we got word of a great story involving a 60-year-old surfer dude saving the day near a Newport jetty.

Tracking him down for an interview usually takes an old priest and a young priest, a rabid guinea pig and 20 phone calls to friends on Facebook.

Not this time. He actually called me back in less than 10 minutes. It was so easy, Publisher Mike McInally advised me to embellish how I reached him. So as far as you know, I called in a favor to my soothsayer bookie in Tibet.

Not only did we land a very good story with a great photo by Jesse Skoubo, I would still had pie left to eat out of the carton after everybody else left for the night.

Maybe they would make a statue of me for the front of the paper. Future tours would include stops at Mike Henneke’s desk and bow down in reverence where they tiny toilet used to sit. This means I better make time for Matt Lauer.

What’s this? Have to remake a page before deadline because a story was three days old. There’s two more blunders in the Lifestyles section that needs to be fixed. And there’s a glaring error by me on the top of A1.

Suddenly my picturesque little woodland scenario has turned into the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.”

My Walt Disney ending turned into something like this.

What a way to go. Suddenly I can picture myself getting escorted from the building and the company tearing up my last paycheck.

Today I came home I came home to find my wife and youngest son reading my column at the kitchen table. I walked back into the bedroom, in preparation for my traditional Sunday nap.

Before I went to sleep, Spencer walked into the room, carrying the section with my column on the front. He had it folded over where I could see my picture on the front.

“Could I keep this?” he asked. “I want to show it to my teacher.”

I looked at him and smiled big. Maybe I found my perfect ending after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents on puppet strings

One day I woke up and the kids were in charge. It’s the weirdest thing. At one point, it was pretty obvious in America that the parents were the bosses, the grand kahunas, the big cheeses.

The kids were under our responsibility, obeyed our rules or faced consequences. There was no negotiating or collective bargaining with parents. We didn’t owe them any gifts, favors or inheritance.

Now kids run the place. We seek their permission, ask forgiveness for not writing the check fast enough. Let’s just hope we don’t have to speak to their lawyers.

We wonder if we were too hard on them, demanding that they do their homework on time. To make it up to them, we sign over our stocks with hopes that it will make them happy.

In the store tonight, my wife was standing next to a mother and her child sitting in a shopping cart. He was probably less than 5 years old.

The discussion continued to escalate until he uttered these words: “I’ll cry if you don’t give me what I want.”

Sometimes it happens when they get older. On a regular basis, I will ask my 17 year old to perform a household task.

“If I do “X”, can we go to the store?” he’ll ask.

No, I reply. You’ll do it because that’s part of your responsibilities as a member of this house.

And if you don’t like it, have your lawyer call me in the morning.

 

 

 

 

The reason why we take boys camping

Even at their best, boys can be at their worst. It’s not that they’re that bad. It’s just at times that they are prone to complain, whine, fight, belch, talk back, stink, bully, kick, rationalize and make you dizzy from the roller coaster that is puberty.

And that’s on a good day.

One day, somebody had an idea how to fix that. Let’s take them camping, they said. Let’s remove them from their Life of Sludge, take away their electronic devices, their Facebooks and umbilical cord to the refrigerator, and ship them into the wilderness with other Scouts.

At first they’re numb when they file into your vehicle in the middle of the night, clutching their sleeping bags and tear-stained pillows. They have no idea for sure. For all the boys know, it could be a field trip to the 7-Eleven.

Then after four hours of traveling, it hits them as they look out the window. Nothing but trees, dirt and rocks. Not an air conditioner or Burger King to be found.

It’s a pretty abrupt change for these young men with the initiative of butter, and it sends most into the different stages of grief.

After denial comes anger.

“You did this to me,” they’ll say.

“I’ll get you and your Scout motto, too,” they threaten.

But something interesting happens after the first 24 hours. Some people would call it a miracle. You see two friends barely tall enough to be in the Wizard of Oz pool their money for fishing gear to be used later. Others succeed in overcoming their biggest fears.

Connections are made and bonds are formed here, something that rarely happens during merit badge classes or flag ceremonies.  It’s usually during those unscripted moments, when you least expect it.

It’s still not easy at times, because these are boys. They are the bottom-dwellers that eat our food and complain about our satellite television package.

But for one week, in a place where clean showers are a sign of weakness, boys give you a chance to peek into the future. And for the most part, you like very much like what you see.