Monday, June 19, 2017

Family Vacations, Road Trips & the Best Summer Ever??

“I’m tired. Let’s go back to the hotel.”

“I’m thirsty. Can’t we have something to drink?”

“My feet hurt. Let’s find a place to sit down.”

We were experiencing what many view as the ultimate vacation, but everyone was miserable. How could we be in the midst of one of America’s most frequented family vacation spots and have everyone so unhappy? Had other families had dismal Disney World experiences, or were we the only ones?

The subject of family vacations stirs up mixed emotions in people. It is one thing to look forward to time away from work and routine responsibilities. It is quite another to negotiate and tolerate the tension that constant togetherness often inspires. Given the energy expenditure involved, as well as the financial commitment required, some might even wonder whether vacations are worth the effort. What makes a vacation worthwhile, anyway? Consider the following factors.

Perhaps the first thing to remember is that all family vacations do not require hours together in an automobile. Some of the best “vacations” may occur in the backyard or close to home. They allow uninterrupted family time apart from regular routine. When children are young, these briefer, less-expensive outings often provide the most enjoyable memories.

One family made a habit of taking picnic lunches to the park in a neighboring community. Their preschool children enjoyed the novelty of eating outdoors, as well as the adventure of using unfamiliar playground equipment. The parents enjoyed a relaxed meal without worries about spilled milk and food on the floor.

As children grow, and finances allow, longer vacations may be possible and more enjoyable. These need to be planned carefully and take into account the energy levels and interests of the whole family. Whatever you decide to do, remember that stress-relief is important for both children and parents. Consider the following guidelines when planning enjoyable time together with people you love, including children:

   -- Remind yourself and your child to slow down
·         -- Plan “media free times” to play games, read and talk with each other.
·         -- Create “quiet times” for yourself and other family members.
·         -- Plan some activities that involve the whole family and focus on process, not goals.

Some of my favorite memories involve lying on my back, looking up at the stars and talking to my brother and sister. It didn’t cost anything, but the memories are priceless. Make sure you create some time for these kind of experiences to occur, as well, for your children and yourself.

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two, grandmother of eight, and a licensed clinical psychologist at Lutheran Family & Children Services. She can be reached for comment at

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Best Summer Memories Ever -- Springfield Dad, Kevin Weaver

Ah, summertime. It means so many things to so many people. To kids, it is that golden window of opportunity for freedom in an otherwise long year of pencils, books, and teachers’ dirty looks. But, to parents? It can be a mixed bag.

So much of our parental view of summer ties directly to our memories of those of our own childhoods. The summers of my Michigan boyhood harken back to a slower time, one in which I stayed with my maternal grandparents on their dairy farm, helping with the milking and as I aged, joining the hay harvest crew. We worked hard, but not without rewards. There were long swims in the pond at day’s end, followed by talking to my grandfather by the moonlight on his huge (or what at the time seemed to be huge) front porch. At some point in the summer, my family would load up the old motorhome and make the 18-hour drive to my other grandparents’ retirement village in Florida. For our moderate to good behavior while in a community with not much for kids to do, my siblings and I were always rewarded towards the end of the trip with a day at Walt Disney World. While I spent more time in a RV with a screaming, little sister and an annoying little brother -- not to mention playing shuffleboard with senior citizens -- then I did at the Magic Kingdom, the good memories always won out.

Fast-forward from my childhood summers to those of my own boys during their growing up years, and a lot had changed. Or so it seemed. They didn’t grow up on or near farms, and most often we lived in or near major cities, such as Seattle or Portland. Their summer jobs ranged from shining shoes at a tux shop to mowing lawns. “Rewards” seemed to be pricier and more difficult to plan for, as there was no way they could even ride their bikes to a public pool, like their mom did when she was a kid. Add to these things the fact that sports, music, club and church activities not only didn’t shut down for a couple of months each year, but in fact just expanded, and the idea of a “slow” summer was out the window. Oh, and did I mention the weird phenomenon of parent-shaming that has cropped up since the “Go ahead, kids, and roam the neighborhood all day” non-judgmental parenting times of my 1960s and 1970s upbringing? When did summer get so hard?

Today we're faced with memories of our own childhoods, overloaded schedules, high and often unrealistic expectations. My wife and I didn’t have the fortitude to deal with it all, so we made some decisions regarding summer, pretty early on in the parenting game. First, while we accepted the fact that our kids were growing up in a different day and age – some better things, some worse – we drew some lines in our figurative beach vacation sand. If one of our boys was good enough for the NBA, he would get there without non-stop summer basketball. If one of our boys was good enough for a career in music, he would get there without a month of band camp. Each boy could choose one week of some kind of camp, and as they grew older, were able to go on missions’ trips. Baseball was played, but traveling teams got squashed after one, grueling summer of dragging brothers all over the place to get sunburned while little brother collected dirt and grass stains on his white uniform. As they hit late junior high/early high school, they got jobs. It wasn’t anything like out of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” but the jobs rather gave them a chance to fine-tune their work ethics and earn their own money. The former gave them a sense of pride, while the latter gave them an opportunity to learn to value and manage properly.

And finally, as often as we could save to make happen, we made the trek to Disney World (or Land, if closer.) Oh, I promise you that more time was spent with brothers fighting while waiting in line than actually on the ride, yet the boys now somehow only remember the good.

Maybe, just maybe, my childhood summers and theirs weren’t so different after all.

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Springfield Cards Baseball, Rain & the Best Summer Ever -- Dr. Jennifer Baker

My dad was fond of saying, "Into every life a little rain must fall." Of course, we wish that rain had not fallen last Thursday evening right before the baseball game was supposed to begin.

Even so, we know dads and kids have lots of "stories to tell" about getting wet, loads of people, huddling under the sheltered areas, and hoping the rain would stop. You meet some of the most interesting folks at times like these.

Regardless of the rain and whether or not dads and kids decided to stay for a late game,they still enjoyed the t-shirts, food vouchers and baseball caps. We know some of them even received bobble heads. Good for you.

The Good Dads office is taking a little break from activity for a few weeks, but will soon be  on planning more fun activities for dads and kids in late summer and fall. The podcasts and weekly e-newsletter will continue, so keep listening and reading to learn about what's new and what's next.

Thanks again to all the dads and kids who joined us for Good Dads @ the Springfield Cardinals. And a special thanks to Rick's Automotive who helped make it all possible.

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the founder and director of Good Dads. She can be reached for question or comment at

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Best Summer Ever -- by Springfield Dad-in-Training, Jeff Sippy

It was the best summer ever. 

My father worked for the Boeing company.  It was hard, thankless work, but it paid okay and had pretty good vacation time.   

My Dad was a Good Dad.  Out of all the cool things Dad ever did was the annual summer one-on-one outing with each one of my brothers and sister and me.  Once a summer, Dad would take a different one of us on a one-on-one outing--just him and one of us.  When my Dad first started doing this with my older sister and older brother I could only think, “Next time will be my turn!” 

Dad left it up to us to decide what we wanted to do.  We could go hiking in the mountains, or go to the ocean, or trout fishing at one of the many rivers or lakes in Washington State.  

When I was about 10-years-old my turn in the rotation came up.  I chose to go  charter fishing for salmon at lwaco, WA, near the mouth of the Columbia, River.  Dad and I loaded up the 1967 GMC pickup truck and drove the three hours or so, made dinner on the Coleman stove, and went to bed early in the back of the truck. 

I didn’t sleep at all.  Dad had said we would be getting up at 4:00 a.m. to have breakfast and to get to the charter boat on time.  I laid there all night listening to my Dad snoring.  I was so excited--and afraid we might miss the alarm.  The night seemed to last forever.  When the alarm went off Dad asked if I was ready to get up, I blurted out, I “I was ready the minute we went to bed!”

I can’t remember how many fish we caught or if we caught any at all.  What I remember were those 24 hours alone with my Dad.  It was the best summer ever.    

I stole this page from my Dad’s “Good Dads Training Manual.”  Once a summer I take a different one of my boys one-on-one in one direction or another. It is getting harder to do as they get older; but we still try to do it.  My boys and I have been to hockey camp and camping, fishing on the Niangua, and sailing at night.  It doesn’t matter where we go so long as we go together. 

Here is my Don Sippy Good Dads Challenge to each of you:  Spend some time one-on-one with your boy or girl this summer.  Give them a 200 hundred mile radius and a dozen different things to choose from--from hiking, to camping, to fishing, to floating, to going to the zoo or museum, or some other cool thing they would like to do. 

One-on-one with Dad.  It will be the best summer ever.  

Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mom & Dad Working Together as Guardians and Gatekeepers

My wife and I have many things in common.  We were both school administrators. We were both teachers. She finished her PhD recently and if everything goes according to plan I will finish my PhD in the next 18 months.  We have almost identical formal training in child development and we are both pretty laid back when it comes to our parenting.  All that being said, if you ask either of us if we parent like the other we would both say we are very, very different.  That is a good thing.  A little story to illustrate my point.

I tend to overestimate what our children are capable of doing.  That is probably more wishful thinking than anything else, but I also tend only to consider the positive outcomes.  My motto is often, "What is the worst that could happen?" followed by the shrug emoji (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), while Sarah's motto is more often "What IS the worst thing that could happen" followed by the terrified emoji. 

A couple of years ago, when our twins were just learning to ride bikes, we went over to our local park to ride around on some trails.  At this park is a very large hill. I encouraged the boys to go ahead and ride down it, even though Sarah was not so sure they should because they were just getting comfortable on the bikes and could crash pretty hard.  Even though Sarah was apprehensive she didn't say anything. 

Long story short, both twins made it all the way down the hill without incident . . .THE FIRST TIME.  After getting comfortable, one of the twins, Jack, got a little less cautious and wiped out pretty hard.  Even though her natural instinct was to run over and help him up Sarah didn't. She looked to me to help him.  I ran over, helped him up, dusted him off, and put him back on the bike.  As anyone would be after a crash, he was tentative for the next couple of hours, but he was riding around.

Flash forward one week.  I come home late from class, and the boys were all super excited to tell me about the huge crash Jack had riding his bike earlier in the day.  As little (and big) boys often do, they had made a jump out of some lumber and were daring each other to go over it.  None of them were willing until Sarah came out and encouraged each of them to just go ahead and jump it.  Jack was the only one brave enough to do it and he crashed spectacularly. He was scrapped up and bloody, but after a few minutes he was totally consumed with telling the story of the crash, because it made him a hero in his brothers’ eyes.  He was so excited to tell me and show me his scrapped knees. 

Later that night, I asked Sarah what in the world she was thinking when she encouraged him to jump off a super sketchy ramp constructed by 6- and 8-year-old boys, and made up of loose lumber.  She admitted she thought it was a bad idea, but she said she knew I would say "What is the worst that could happen" (¯\_(ツ)_/¯)?”  I told her that since we didn't have to go to the hospital and we got a couple of good stories out of it, I guess it was the right call. Isn’t that what a “good dad” is supposed to say to a mother who recognizes the need for risk, even though her own tendency might be to protect her young? Personally, I’m glad there are two of us in this parenting arrangement. It’s helps to keep perspective for both of us and I’m sure our kids benefit.

A. Minor Baker is the father of four. He and his wife, Sarah, reside in Austin, TX where they do their best to keep up with the activities and antics of four children, 9 and under. He can be reached for question or comment at

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Caring for Mom: Guardian and Gatekeeper

It’s no startling revelation that moms and dads are different. And while we see non-stereotypical, emotional role-reversals from time to time, often times the mom ends up with a large slice of household and scheduling duties. This doesn’t necessarily mean she is the better parent, or that kids will have a greater affinity towards her, but it definitely can put her in the position of “guardian” or “gatekeeper” of the home. Now, before anyone gets bent out of shape on any attempt at defining roles, or thinks for even a second that I’m somehow indicating that one parent is or does more than the other, let me clarify. If children are growing up in a home with both a mom and dad living with them, there are going to be roles, and though different, both roles are of equal and utmost importance. But . . . they remain “different.”

By mere default, in the experience of many families – mine included – the dad is often more in and out of the house, while mom is relegated to family calendar keeper and taxi driver. It’s not that the father doesn’t do his share, or the mother doesn’t also have a career outside of the home, but moms tend to be the ones to take on the seemingly “extra” kid duties. As we celebrate moms this month, I keep coming back to two thoughts regarding motherhood:

1) Dads and children can (and should!) appreciate and celebrate all that moms do.
2) Moms can (and should!) help dads and kids connect in more meaningful ways.

Why is the latter on the mom? Well, because a guardian or a gatekeeper has a lot of power, and it’s important that power is used in positive ways for the entire family’s benefit.

To the first point, it is so easy to take moms for granted. And fellas, it doesn’t take much, or not doing much, to make a mom feel completely under-appreciated. Though my wife is highly a skilled, educated, and capable career woman, she will tell you that her favorite gigs are that of wife and mom. But, while she deeply loved spending time with our kids and running our home and all of our various activities with Swiss-like accuracy, it was easy for her to feel invisible. As she puts it, “At some point, you just start feeling like a diaper-changing, cup-filling, meal-fixing, owie-mending, laundry-washing, uncool mini-van driving machine. And, on top of that . . . every . . . day . . . is . . . the . . . same. It is the same, with so many mundane tasks vital to the family’s existence, that largely go unnoticed.”

Dads. Husbands. We must do better. Set the example well and the bar high for your kids. Thank your kids’ mom, right in front of them. Tell her how much you appreciate the little things, right along with the big things – not in a cheesy or grandiose way, but in a sincere, truly appreciative expression that makes your kids take notice and hopefully emulate. She’s partnering with you, not only caring for your most precious gifts, but in raising them to be kind, respectful, productive, contributing members of our society.

We don’t appreciate to be appreciated in return. That’s not true appreciation, and it is most certainly not true love. However, in living out our genuine gratitude for our partner, it may just help her help you connect better with your kids. You see, even though she may appear to be the kids’ “handler” or “assistant, “or “manager,” she is so much more to them. They may not always appreciate her, but they very often run to her, and run to her first. You and your wife have to find a way to communicate how to allow the children, especially as they grow, to have healthy and consistent relationships with the both of you.

My wife opted to run a side business from home for almost a decade of our boys’ childhoods. Consequently, though they loved me and were thrilled to see me when I made it home from work, she was their go-to for most of their life issues. However, she worked with me (and it wasn’t always easy) to encourage the boys to see me as an equal in the relationship department.

In the end, it turned out some pretty sweet young men with whom both my wife and I are very close. But, I will tell you, at times it was a little bittersweet for my wife. As our boys hit middle school, they would wait until I got home to “talk” about a problem. The first time our oldest expressed the desire to talk to me over my wife, she was a little hurt. Fortunately, a wise, older woman said to our boys’ mom, “Honey, don’t feel sorry for yourself. How blessed are your children to have a dad they want to go to. Not every child has that.”

As we celebrate moms, let’s also celebrate all of the great things we can accomplish with moms to see our kids be everything they were meant to be. And let’s be the dads with whom moms always feel confident in sharing the love. 

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Expressing Love by Remembering and Reflecting

The second Saturday in May they always appeared, side by side in the refrigerator, in perfect white boxes tied with gold cord. Sometimes they were roses, sometimes orchids. Always they were chosen to coordinate with dresses to be worn by my mother and grandmother the next day. They were one way my father annually honored both his wife and mother on Mother’s Day. The regularity of this simple gift spoke volumes to me, my brother, and my sister. It reminded us of the importance of not only loving our mother, and communicating that on a regular basis, but also setting aside time to honor her on special occasions. It emphasized to us the importance of remembering.

Two weeks after this event came Memorial Day, a time when we honor those who have gone before us and given their lives fighting for our country. Because of them we enjoy the freedoms we have today. Our farm family frequently spent the day making hay—it was that time of year in Missouri. But Mom always remembered to get out the flag and fly it from the front porch—no matter what we were doing. It made us reflect on where our freedom to make hay came from in the first place.

Hundreds of miles away, at the same time we were making hay, my husband’s family in Michigan was enjoying a slightly different observance of the day. His family typically made their semiannual trek to the cemetery on Memorial Day. Flowers were placed on graves or planted in urns as people walked among the grave markers and talked quietly of those who had died. It was a day for remembering.

Remembering, recalling, and respecting are vital to families. We need these times when we touch our roots, connect with our past, and recall the hard work, courage, and dedication of those who have gone before us. We need these intentional moments as inspiration for our future. According to Bill Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, “Only an Intentional Family has a fighting chance to maintain and increase its sense of connection, meaning, and community over the years” (p.8).

So how might you do this? Here are just a few ideas to consider trying this year with your children or grandchildren.

·       Attend a Memorial Day parade and talk about why we celebrate this holiday.

·       Fly a flag as a sign of respect for those who have died so that we might be free.

·       Place flowers on the grave of a loved one. Help children count the number of flags in the cemetery. Talk about why we honor those who have gone before us.

·       Dig out the photo albums and show children pictures of family members living and deceased. Talk about the stories of their lives—especially those who may have served in the armed services.

·      Remember a veteran. As a family, send a personal thank-you note to someone who has fought in a war or served in the military.

·      Send a care package or cheerful note to someone you know who is away from home serving in the armed forces.

·      Attend a Memorial Day celebration. Listen to or read a patriotic speech and talk about the meaning of loyalty and allegiance.

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two, grandmother of eight, and a licensed clinical psychologist at Lutheran Family & Children Services. She can be reached for comment at