Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Traveling with Kids -- Herb Cody, Nixa Father of Three

Photo by Jayme McColgan -- Upsplash

Back in 2012, my wife and I made the decision to take our three children, then 9, 8 and 1, to Disney World in Orlando FL. What a fun vacation and lots of memories for the kids, we thought. We stayed for a week, and got some time at the Ocean, took in a Rays baseball game, got on a pirate ship and did several other fun things besides Disney. 

Seven years later, I decided to ask the kids what they loved most about that trip. I knew our youngest would have no memory, which he did not. I asked my son Alex, “what was your favorite memory from our trip to Disney World?” His response, “which one?” I explained that there was only one. He then said he didn’t remember any of it, but loved the water park at Six Flags—St Louis.

I asked my daughter who was 9 at the time, now almost 16, the same question. She also said she could not remember the trip. So I spent over $5k so we could spend a week in hellish heat and humidity, when I could have just taken them to Six Flags or Silver Dollar City.

Over the years we have taken several weekend road trips to the lake, Branson, St. Louis or KC. For whatever reason, my oldest son gets car sick more times than not. The first few times, we dealt with unexpected and sudden projectile vomiting in the back seat. Since then, we made sure we were fully prepared. 

Last December, we took a week-long trip to Las Vegas. I knew the Christmas lights would be something to see, and there were lots of fun things for the kids to do. Now that the children were 7, 13 and 15, it made the trip a whole lot less stressful and more enjoyable. The only real issue was what to eat. My youngest is very picky, and doesn’t like change. While we tried a few different establishments, I always ended up having to find him some McDonald’s or a Subway. Buffets are always the best option, because each of them can always find something they like, or at least get full trying everything they don’t like. 
I would have to say that “vacationing” with multiple children under the age of 10, is not a vacation at all. If I had to do it over again, I’d keep the trips local and within a few hours driving distance, until at least two of them were over 10 years of age. 

Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver  of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at herbie05@yahoo.com
You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Are We Fooling Ourselves? -- Dr. Jennifer Baker

Photo from NeONBRAND--Upsplash

She didn’t exactly whack the back of my head when she lifted the lid on the overhead compartment in the plane, but she did hit it.

“Watch your head,” she said matter-of-factly, after she hit me.

Since I was removing my jacket from the overhead compartment on my side of the aisle at the time, I hadn’t expected to be hit.

“I didn’t know I needed to watch,” I said.

“These things are so poorly design” she responded, and then gathered her belonging and hurried out of the aircraft.

Everyone on the plane seemed a bit tired of sitting knee-to-knee on a small regional jet, but I was a bit taken aback by her response to banging my head. Her behavior made me think of a book I finished recently, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson assert how little we know about how we are experienced by others and how difficult it is for us to learn.

For instance, I doubt that the woman in the plane would want to be perceived as rude or ill-mannered. My guess is that in her hurry to get off the plane she raised the compartment lid too quickly and unintentionally hit me in the process. Given her response, it’s likely she was embarrassed.

She might have apologized or inquired about my well-being, but that would have been an admission, of sorts, of her part in the head hitting. Instead, she issued a belated warning to me and then commented on the design flaw of the airplane. While I was a bit surprised, Tavris and Aronson suggest this tendency is very common and not all that surprising. If we dislike certain kinds of behavior and then find ourselves engaging in those same actions, we have to find a way to excuse what we’ve done. In social psychology circles, this is known as self-justification or the self-serving bias.

Photo by Ino Carolina -- Upsplash

When someone engages in self-justification, it can sound as if they’re lying, but there is a difference. Tavris and Aronson (2007) suggest that self-justification is “more powerful and more dangerous” because “it allows people to convince themselves that what they did was the best thing they could have done” (p.4) at the time. I wonder how many acts we see described in the nightly news would fall into the category of self-justification.

Tavris and Aronson describe cognitive dissonance as the “engine that drives self-justification” (p. 13). Cognitive dissonance occurs when we have two thoughts or perspectives that are psychologically inconsistent (e.g., “Punctuality is important;” and “I’m late again.”) When this happens, it is so uncomfortable we often seek to rationalize our behavior.

Instead of: “I’m sorry I was late. I should have left earlier,” we say, “That traffic was terrible. They really need to do something about the streets.

Instead of: “I over-reacted. I’m sorry I got so angry,” we say, “If you had just explained what you wanted with more detail, I would have been fine.”
Mistakes Were Made caused me to think about a lot of things. I wondered how often I really worked to understand a perspective other than my own. I pondered how others might experience what I see as my own perfectly logical behavior. I considered a very human tendency to give myself a pass on less than favorable behavior, while nailing the same flaw in others. It’s not comfortable thinking, but if I want to avoid the justification of foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts, I probably need to do more of it.

Mistakenly yours, more often than I would like to admit,

Jennifer L. Baker

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Gorgeous Significance of Lime Day -- Dan Holohan, Father of Four

Some years ago, back when my joints didn’t crack when I dragged myself off the couch, I was father to four little girls. The last two are twins and there’s just a bit more than three years separating all of them.

Each night, after supper, and after their baths, I’d lay on the rug in the living room and they’d jump all over me. I’d roll this way and that and growl like a bear and they’d laugh until they couldn’t catch their breath. They smelled of baby shampoo and talcum power.

Later, I’d sit on the couch and the four of them would sit on my lap. I’d smell their clean hair and read to them from Danny and the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal, both by Syd Hoff, and perhaps the best books ever written for little kids. I’d change the stories a bit each night and they’d shout to correct me, “No, no, no! That’s not the way it goes.” And I’d tell them that those are the words in the book and that I wasn’t changing a thing, and in this way, the four of them wanted to learn how to read. To keep me honest.

I traveled to New York for the manufacturer’s rep in those days and when I came home late and they wondered what happened I would ask them if they hadn’t seen it on the news. “What Daddy?”

“You know that big tennis stadium that we pass in Brooklyn when we drive sometimes? The one that glows like a big balloon because they puff it up with air?” They nodded. “Well, there’s a plumbing supply house right next door to that place, and today one of the men drove his forklift into the big balloon. It was an accident, of course, but the balloon took off into the air and flew all over the sky. It landed across the highway and that’s why the traffic was backed up. And That’s why I’m late.”
“were the people still inside the balloon, Daddy?”

“Yes, and they were all wearing white shorts.”

They looked at me and at each other, and one would say, “That’s not true!” and I would look hurt. Another would ask, “Is it true?”

“Of course it is. Don’t you watch the news on the TV?” And in this way they became interested in current events. Can’t be too careful with those big tennis balloons.

They grew and they all went to school together and I would drive them there whenever I could. One day in early spring I had them look at the buds on the trees as we drove and I told them that it’s important for them to pay close attention to those buds because Lime Day was coming. I just cast it back there into the minivan and waited for one of them to bite.

“What’s Lime Day, Daddy?”

“What’s Lime Day? Are you serious?”

They looked at each other, each not wanting to be the only one not knowing, and once they agreed that it was safe to continue, one said, “We don’t know what that is?”
So I laughed and explained to them that Lime Day is a National holiday. It comes around once a year on the day when all the buds on all the trees are that absolutely perfect shade of lime. “It helps if it’s misting a bit on that day because a bit of mist makes lime even prettier.”

Photo by Madison Nickels

“What day is Lime Day, Daddy?”

“That’s the best part,” I explained. “Every kid gets to call Lime Day. You have to watch the trees very carefully, and you have to decide for yourself that it would be impossible for the leaves to be any more limey than they are right now. Then you call it and that’s it. Lime Day. The next day, the leaves are just boring green and they’ll stay that way all summer long.”

“But what if you call Lime Day and the next day is limier?”

“Well, then your sister wins and that makes you a loser,” I explained.

They looked at each other and said, “There’s no such day.”

“Of course there is,” I said, and as spring crept closer and closer to us that year, I convinced them that Lime Day was as real as the Fourth of July.

Now here comes the best part: As the weeks went by, they each went to their classes and told the other kids about Lime Day. The other kids told my kids that they were full of crap, of course, but in their hearts, those other kids wanted there to be such a day because it’s just the best thing going, so they went home and asked their parents. The kids explained Lime Day and the magnificent parents all lied right along with me. Wouldn’t you?

Photo by Jan's Archive

They came to see the beauty of nature in the paved-over, suburban world of Long Island and they carried it with them. In all the many years that have gone by since then, each of my daughters call in Lime Day each spring, no matter where she is in the world. I live for those calls.

This blog was used with permission from a larger post by Dan Holohan, at Heatinghelp.com. To read the post in its entirety, please go to https://heatinghelp.com/blog/sully/

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Surviving and Thriving When Kids Are Driving -- Kevin Weaver, Springfield Father of Three

On the highway of life, there are so many wonderful adventures with our kids. That is, on the metaphorical highway of life. On the literal highway, especially when our kids start sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle we all are riding in—well, let’s just say the word “adventure” takes on a whole new meaning.

It’s rare to meet a child who isn’t eager to start driving. In addition to the excitement of becoming a driver—being the one in sole control of a three-thousand-pound automobile—our young often dream of soon having their very own car, truck, or even motorcycle. While it’s something we adults uneventfully, almost robotically do on a daily basis, it is not something in which we tend to be ready to watch our offspring participate, especially the first time around.

I imagine there are countless articles on how to keep calm while teaching your kid to drive. Of course, there are driver’s education courses and schools, but the real practice seems to come at the expense of the parental finances. There also can be quite a cost in the gray hair department!

One of our sons learned to drive in Seattle and took a class at an overpriced driving school. The middle boy took a class at a moderately priced driving school in a mid-sized city on the opposite coast from where his older brother earned his license. The youngest took an old-fashioned, public school-sponsored, coach-taught, free-to-the-parent summer offering in a rural Kansas community. Regardless where they cut their driving chops, my wife and I were unequivocally the practice driving guinea pigs. We learned right along with them, maybe not the same concepts, but we learned.
Unfortunately, the celebration at the DMV upon passing that final test was only the beginning: we had a new driver in the family, but we didn’t necessarily have a new car for the new driver to drive. Check that. We absolutely didn’t have a new, or an old car, for the new driver to drive.

What do parents do with this dilemma? Of course, it will vary from family to family, not only due to financial situations, but also to family beliefs and priorities. My wife and I decided that if we were having the boys help with family driving duties, such as dropping a sibling at a sports’ practice, or running to the store for milk, we provided the vehicle. Beyond that, if the child was keeping up at school, with chores, and certainly with wise choices, he could occasionally borrow one of our vehicles for something he wanted to do. Said vehicle would have to be returned on time, clean, and filled with fuel. If that didn’t suffice, the child was free to work to earn money to purchase, provide gas, maintenance, tags, taxes, and insurance for his own.
As with anything in the world of parenting, judgment from others abounds. We had friends who thought we were winning at the parenting game and others who thought we were harsh taskmasters. In the end, now that all boys are grown with families of their own, I thankfully can say they consistently thank us for allowing them to discover the pride of hard work, responsibility, and ownership from a young age. They also feel it made for true “adulting.”  This is especially so now they are becoming parents themselves, a transition not seemingly as difficult as many of their peers claim to experience.

Again, every family is different. Every family has varying circumstances. Every family has to find its own rhythm. In your search for the right familial beat, don’t rule out the opportunities to empower your children in discovering how good it can feel to not only be a responsible driver, but to simply be . . . responsible.

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Danger and Driving Lessons: Dad or Driving School??? -- Nixa Father of Three, Herb Cody

Last July, my oldest child, my daughter, turned 15. She was so excited to take the driver's permit test. There was a part of me that hoped she would fail over and over, so that I would not have to get in the passenger seat with her. Unfortunately, she passed, and I had to overcome my fear of riding shotgun with my kiddo. 

It had only been eleven years since I survived a near fatal car accident in which I was the front seat passenger. The driver veered off the shoulder, over-corrected, and sent us into barrel roll at 60 MPH. Since that day, I prefer to be in the driver’s seat. I break out into cold sweats while sitting in the passenger seat and prefer to avoid it, if at all possible. 

Before our first attempt at allowing her behind the wheel, I tried to feed her as much info as possible prior to her even turning the key. I told myself I would treat the situation as if I were face to face with a coyote. I would not show fear! Hopefully this would keep my daughter relaxed and keep me alive. 

With all the information I had given her, I did not realize just how little she knew. I mean she did pass tests in order to get a permit. I pulled the vehicle to the side of the road in a neighborhood with little to no traffic. I told her to slowly turn left onto the street. There was a mailbox about 30 yards in front of us For some reason, she thought turning the steering wheel right would turn the vehicle left . . . and, in that moment, had I been face to face with a coyote, I would have died! We managed to avoid the mailbox and get the car on the street, but this would turn out to be the scariest two minute ride back to our home.

Soon after this first attempt at driving, she tore her ACL and meniscus while playing basketball, and I fell and broke my leg shortly after. We both had surgery and our driving days were on hold. Having youth on her side, she healed up much quicker than I. By the end of August, she was begging to drive again. 

I was slowly getting around with a walker and wheelchair. After having been bed ridden for 6 weeks, I guess I was feeling the need for some danger and excitement in my life. I agreed to go for a ride with her around the neighborhood. I loaded myself into the death seat, and sat my walker as far away from the vehicle as my arms could reach. My wheelchair was also sitting about 5 feet away. I told her to slowly back out of the driveway and go. Apparently, what she heard, was "Turn the wheel hard left and gun it." 

“Boom, crack, crunch”, those were the sounds I heard as she hit my wheelchair, and ran over my walker! 

“Dad! Why did you put that stuff so close to the car?” She asked. I explained, if it were a parked car sitting next to us, she would have just side swiped it. 

I hesitantly proceeded with the ride along. We slowly crept up a large hill, which was just fine with me. As we reached a plateau, there was an upcoming curve and we began to pick up speed. 

I said, “You are gonna need to slow down. Slow down please. Tap the brakes. HIT THE BRAKE!!!”

I closed my eyes and began to pray, as we sped through this sharp corner. “You are making me nervous Dad”, she said, with a hint of displeasure in voice. 

“You are gonna give me a heart attack, and a nervous breakdown!" I fearfully explained. 

We managed to make it back to the driveway where I could now assess the damage to my chair and walker. The walker was bent and unusable. I immediately made a call to Mercy Driving School and signed her up for driving lessons. 

She has had three
 lessons and driven a few more times with me riding along. She has made a lot of improvement, and is now only a couple of months from turning 16. I am still scared to death that she will soon be allowed to drive the streets on her own. Once she is off and driving, my 14-year-old son will turn 15, six months later. Yikes! 

Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver  of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at herbie05@yahoo.com

You can check out Herb's own blog at,

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Take Heart Dads--A Humorous Look at How the Mother is Always Wrong -- by Dr. Jennifer Baker

Upsplash Photo by Siniz Kim

Several years ago our son, who was then focusing on communication and the arts in his undergraduate degree, arrived home during a break from instruction and remarked, "You should have made me continue piano lessons." Apparently it was my fault he was not able to play with the skill of a virtuoso, or at least well enough to entertain his friends or accompany others with their vocal renditions.

I recalled those five, long, brutal years when I faithfully drove him to piano lessons early weekday mornings before school and then encouraged -- okay, some may say forced -- him to practice every afternoon or evening. It wasn't pleasant. He learned to play the piano, but we had a definite battle of the wills going on a significant amount of the time. Finally, when he reached high school and took up the trumpet as a band member, I allowed him to stop. He seemed relieved and I enjoyed a respite from a daily battles of the wills -- at least in my memory -- so it seemed very curious to me that I should be blamed four or five years later for allowing him to stop.

Upsplash photo by Zakaria Zayane

A similar thing also occurred from time to time with our daughter -- though she started much younger. For instance, on a road trip when she was about nine- or ten-years-old we stopped to get gas and visit the "necessary room."

I asked, "Do you need to use the restroom?"

"No," she insisted. "I do not."

"Are you sure?" I persisted.

She continued to insist she was fine, so back on the road we went. Thirty minutes later she suddenly exclaimed, "I've got to go. When can we stop?"

"I thought you said you didn't have to go," I argued.

"You should have made me go," she declared. And apparently, that was that.

Once again, apparently, it was my fault. My children were masters at assigning blame to their mother. Even when their father stepped out of line, at least from their perspective, it all came back to me.

"Don't look at me," I'd exclaim in the face of disappointing-dad-behavior. "This is all your father's doing."

"You should have made him do it," they'd retort.

"Really," I thought. "Do I control the universe? In what stratosphere is it possible for me to control my Main Man?" I just couldn't understand how I always ended up to be the one at fault . . . until recently.

Not long ago my Main Man (aka the father of our children) suggested I read the book Mistakes Were Made, (but Not by Me). I'll have to admit that the book is uncomfortably insightful at times about the lengths to which we will go to justify our own misbehavior. Apparently it's not so much a case of lying, in the sense that we don't actually set out to deceive. It's more that we can't live with the thought of ourselves as the kind of person who might do some of the things we do or fail to do.

According to Tavris and Aronson, authors of Mistakes Were Made, "Parent blaming is a popular and convenient form of self-justification because it allows people to live less uncomfortably with their regrets and imperfections. Mistakes were made, by them. Never mind that I raised hell about those lessons or stubbornly refused to take advantage of them. Memory thus minimizes our own responsibility and exaggerates theirs" (p. 76).

Apparently, we have to be careful about how much stock we put in our memories because they can and do delude us. I can see this so very clearly as a therapist. When people tell me their stories, they are almost always skewed to a perspective that puts them in the very best light and others . . . well, let's just say it's much less attractive. I can see it in them. It is much harder to recognize in myself.

To be fair, there are some not-so-good and even bad parents, but the majority did the very best they could for us with the resources they had available at the time. Part of being a grown-up, I think, is letting our parents be people. We need to let them off the hook for what they didn't or couldn't provide for us. We need to recognize their imperfect love for us and take responsibility for our own contribution to our difficulties then and now. When we do that, I think it is a lot easier to love them even if they failed us in some important ways. It's also enables us to be more effective in solving our problems.

I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm working on it. It seems I may have a lot more uncomfortable things to learn about myself, but I'm sure I'll be a better person for it. I wonder if I should recommend Mistakes Were Made to my children. After all, with offspring of their own, they're certain to experience a little blaming themselves.

As for me, for the moment I remain,

Mistakenly yours.

Dr. Jennifer Baker

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Prime Drivers Heidi Kapinos and Anthony Eck: Team Work on the Road and at Home

Ask any Prime driver and he or she will tell you there are a number of ways to stay connect with family while gone from home. We’ve heard about Skype, Facetime, talking on the phone and special apps that make communication easier in remote locations. The important thing, they say, is to touch base on a regular basis.

Heide Kapinos knew she was signing up for a long-distance relationship complete with many forms of communication when she married her husband, Anthony. What she didn’t expect was to be sharing a cab with him as a long-haul driver herself. Although Anthony was positively encouraging about her ability to drive an 18-wheeler, Heidi resisted. However, Anthony was persistent and pointed out the many financial advantages of driving together, along with being able to avoid long separations. Eventually, she agreed to give it a try. She admits to some “tense moments” in training while she was learning to master many of the parking and backing maneuvers a driver must learn. Nonetheless, she made it happen and today spends nearly 24/7 together with Anthony in the truck.

Too Much Togetherness?
Heidi explains it is not like they’re together all the time. Although they occupy the same physical location, Heidi says their “together time” is really much less. “When I’m driving; he’s often sleeping and vice versa. Given this reality and the times we are loading or unloading, it really is much less.
Anthony and Heidi Eck have been together for four years. Together they have six children from their previous marriages. Anthony has three sons and one daughter; Heidi has one son, Hunter (20) and a daughter, Cheylee (18). Anthony’s oldest sons Tyler (22) and Colby 20) live with Heidi’s children in the same house. Anthony’s youngest children Savannah (11) and Carter (7) live with their mother.

Parenting from the Road
How do Heidi and Anthony make their over-the-road marriage and blended family parenting work?

It’s probably not surprising to learn that Heidi and Anthony use the typical technology (phones and web-based media) to stay in touch. It might be more surprising to learn they have cameras installed in their living room so they can observe what’s going on with young adult children. It’s their way to all be “together” even when they are geographically far apart.

The couple has high expectations for their four oldest children. “They pay rent to us if they’re not in school,” says Heidi. They are expected to have a job, pay their bills on time, including their cell phone bills.
The couple models good financial management themselves. They drive 6-8 weeks at a time before coming home for a week, and are open with their children about money-related matters. “We remind them about why we are gone. We are working toward goals from which they all will benefit.
With the “littles,” (what the couple affectionately calls Anthony’s younger two children, “constant communication” is key. Anthony calls every day before school and makes time for them a priority. Heidi says they often give gift cards to the “littles” for birthdays or special occasions. These are used when the younger two join their dad and Heidi on the truck for a few weeks in the summertime.

At home or over the road, Heidi says flexibility is key. When a driver comes home it can be both “difficult” and “lovely.”

“It’s wonderful to see them, but also difficult to have the routine disrupted,” she notes.

She encourages the at-home partner to remember the couple’s long-term goals and the importance of team effort. There’s little doubt that whether a couple is driving together or one partner is supporting the other from home, success is always a team effort.