Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Good Granddads and Grandmas -- Springfield Father & Grandfather -- Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley

I didn’t know my grandfathers, but I certainly knew my grandmothers.

I grew up being close to them, not always geographically but always emotionally and relationally.

Today, many decades after their deaths, I still remember them vividly, mostly because of their cooking. 

When I was a university student, I used to eat lunch occasionally with my Grandmother Chumbley—“Grams,” as I called her.

I’d often go by her house between my classes. We’d sit in her tiny kitchen, eat ham sandwiches on Roman Meal Bread and sip sugary iced tea. I’d tell her about what I was learning. I’d listen to her stories of growing up on a farm in Tennessee. And at the end of the meal, I’d dig into her lemon meringue pie, my favorite dessert. It was a taste of heaven, as was her company. She’d let me eat as much of the pie as I wanted, even the whole thing. 

I looked forward to lunches with Grams. She loved me, as did my Grandmother Bodner, who also made delicious food, including homemade cabbage biscuits and noodles. Her Germanic background was most visible, or edible, in the kitchen and at the dinner table. At supper, she often enjoyed a small glass of beer, a taste I never acquired. (There are limits to grandparental influence.)  And she told stories of trudging through the Great Depression and the 1937 Flood, which devastated parts of my hometown of Louisville, Ky.

My grandmothers made a deep, enduring impression on me. I am who I am in part because of them.

And now I am a grandfather. 

My granddaughters, June and Christa, are growing up with my wife Penny and me as a big part of their lives, and we’re aware that we’re shaping them—their personalities, their values, their lives.

In some way, we’ll live on in them after these earthly bodies of ours are dust, just as Grandmothers Chumbley and Bodner live on in me and just as my grandfathers live on in me through the stories I heard about them from my grandmothers, my parents and my aunts and uncles. 

What might June and Christa remember about me in 20 or 30 years?

First, what they won’t remember is Poppy, their name for me, an Episcopal priest and rector, praying prayers of thanksgiving at their births as I held them or of me baptizing them as infants. 

What they might remember, instead, is that Christmas dinner when I discovered a wriggling green worm in the broccoli, dangled it above my open mouth and then, after a few seconds of suspense, dropped it in, just for the pure silliness of the act.  I remember: “Poppy!” they yelled in unison.

I hope they remember our doing Taekwondo together on Saturdays; our games of tag in the park on Sunday afternoons; doing homework at the kitchen table; playing Chinese checkers; reading stories before naps and at bedtime; vacation visits to our Kentucky family; Grammy’s and my sitting in the audience at their school band and choir performances.

They’ll remember, I pray: singing in our church’s junior choir, with me, “Father Poppy,” as they sometimes call me, looking on and listening to their young voices raised in the praise of God;  helping me at the altar and sometimes, long after the church had emptied of worshipers, standing there and saying (or sometimes singing) the Communion prayers from memory, just as I had said them earlier from the altar book.

As God is molding us humans more fully into his image and likeness, so Father Poppy and Grammy, an extension of God’s hands, are molding June and Christa into the image and likeness of God. With God’s help, we’re forming our girls for an earthly life of happiness, meaning and purpose and preparing them for heaven, where one day we shall be together again. Eternally.

And what fun we shall have. With or without wriggling green worms.

The Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley is Rector of Christ Episcopal Church. You can write him at ken@christepiscopalchurch.com. Read him at www. onepriestsblog.blogspot.com

Monday, October 30, 2017

Dispatcher Dads

When you talk to Dennis Davis about safety and over-the-road trucks, you may not think about the fact that he is also a dad to a 22-year-old step-daughter and a 6-year-old son. As a husband and father, Dennis cares a great deal about Prime drivers, their safety, the well-being of their families and anyone sharing the road with a long-haul trucker. “We want to help our drivers be the safest they can be,” he says. “It’s important for them and their families, as well as for the company.”

Dennis functioned in the role of dispatcher at Prime for a number of years before he assumed his current role as “Safety Supervisor.” In that role he spoke every day with Prime drivers who are also dads. He understands the challenges they face in wanting to provide a good living for their families at a job that requires them to be gone from home much of the time. “Safety and service are our priorities—bottom line. We want drivers to take time off. It’s necessary.”

Dennis is very proud of his own family, especially his son, Dennis James Davis III, or “DJ,” as Dennis and his wife, Carrie, call him. “He’s smarter than me,” claims Dennis. “I have to grow up with him.”

Dennis admits that being with his son is especially important to him because he grew up without a dad. Because both he and his wife enjoy sports, Dennis spends a lot of time in athletic activities with DJ. Even though he and Carrie both love basketball, they’ve tried to keep an open mind to other options. So far they’ve tried basketball and soccer, with Dennis coaching the latter even though he says he knows very little about the game. “We’re also trying some individual sports, like golf,” he said, since he and Carrie discovered DJ is not that excited about team activities.

“The most important thing,” notes Dennis, “is giving him the opportunity to try lots of things without the pressure to succeed at something he doesn’t like.”
In terms of helping drivers stay in touch with their kids, Dennis observed, “It’s easier now than it once was with FaceTime and Skype, but it can still be hard to miss the daily moments at home. It’s important that drivers have time to take a break to be with their families.” He said he was glad Prime’s policies were more flexible in the summer, allowing older children to spend more time with their dad, riding in the cab with him over the road.

Chris Martin laughingly refers to himself as “Business Partner, Travel Agent and Financial Agent” in his role as “Fleet Manager” for 130 Prime drivers. He believes his identity as father of 8-year-old Ben and 1-year-old Max influence his interactions with his drivers, especially in understanding their need to make a living and get home to see their families.
“I want to make sure my drivers know I manage them as a dad, as someone who is also concerned about a family.”

Chris and his wife, Amber, are especially pleased with the child care available on site at Prime. Their son, Ben, benefited from this arrangement for several years before he began school. Now Max enjoys going to work with Chris and interacting with him occasionally during the day. When asked if he sees his son during the day, Chris remarked, “Sometimes, if you hear about something bad happening in the world or you’re having a tough day, it’s nice to just be able to go down to the day care, check on him, hold him for a bit, and return to work.”  There’s no doubt this dad loves his kids.

When it comes to parenting, Chris says he focuses on learning and understanding what his kids are “in to,” especially Ben. “I’m interested in what he likes, which includes sports. We’re trying baseball right now, but he also likes video games.”

“What’s it like to be the parent of two boys,” we wondered.

Given the age gap of 6 ½ years between the boys, Chris reported little competition or conflict between the boys. Even so, he said, both he and Amber tried to spend individual time with each of the boys.

Being a dad can be demanding, especially with children of different ages, needs and interests. Interacting with 130 drivers a week also has its challenges. We suspect the aptitude and ability to do well at one role, is also helpful in the other.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Responsibility with Social Media -- Springfield Dad, Josh Wanner

Quiz time!

What happened on these dates in history?
                March 22, 2002
                August 1, 2003
                February 4, 2004
                March 21, 2006
                October, 2010

If you said, “The starting dates of Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram”, you are either really tech savvy or the COOLEST DAD on Earth!

Every year new and upcoming companies try to start the “Next Great Thing” of social media.  In addition, every time I turn around a new app or gizmo will keep me “Connected” with the world around me.  All you have to do is start an account!  How many accounts do you have?  How many do your kids have?

As a technology director for a church and school, I have seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of social media.  However, I believe it has a place in our society if used properly.  It can be informative, educational, and even fun.  So why does it sometimes get a bad reputation?  Because nobody taught us!

Let’s look at it a different way. 
How do we know that playing with knives could be dangerous?  Because we have seen what can happen when someone is careless with a knife.  Because we understand the dangers.  Because we have learned from others.  EXACTLY!  We LEARNED from others; we were taught how to handle and use a knife properly.  Moreover, if you are one who does not use a knife, then you choose to keep yourself away from potential harm.

When it comes to social media, we ALL are the teenagers.  Our maturity and experience is only, at the most, 15 years old.  We, ourselves, have not had a lot of time to learn from other’s experiences, to receive wisdom and knowledge from previous generations.
So how do we help our kids navigate the challenges of social media?

The education of “How to Use” social media is ongoing.  We should be aware and proactive when it comes to helping our kids.  Following are three items I like to share and discuss with my daughters and my students. 

“1.   If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” 
WOW, I heard that a few times growing up!   I like to ask my students, “Would you say that in front of your mother, or even your grandmother?”

Why do people think it is okay to write vulgar or mean things, but they would not say out loud in public?
22.   Talk the talk . . . Walk the walk
Do what you say and mean what you say.  Unfortunately, there are some on social media who are (for lack of better words) two-faced, talk out of both sides of their mouth, passive aggressive.  Be the good example for your kids!

If we do not agree with our child’s teacher, school, coach, or a parent of a friend, we should not spout their praises in public, then turn to social media to air our grievances.   Teach and SHOW your kids how responsible adults should act.

33.     Keep it positive!
Our world is full of sad, discouraging, and negative news.  Help your kids see the brighter side of life.  Be the standout who spreads a little joy and happiness.

Giving your kids a guide for social media will spread a little joy and happiness.  It just might make this world a little better for you, me, and the many generations to follow.  

Josh Wanner is the father of three girls.  He and His wife, Kari, live in Springfield, MO where he works as the Technology Director for Redeemer Lutheran Church and Springfield Lutheran School.  He can be reached for question or comment at jwanner@rlcmail.org 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Handling Homework Hassles -- Kevin Weaver, Springfield Father of Three,

Oh, the joys of sitting around the table with your children, as they independently complete their homework assignments!

I hope you hear the sarcasm of that statement.

Having raised three, very different learners, the idea of homework has represented many, entirely different things in our house. And most of those things, not so good. Even with the loving, ever-helpful presence of my school-teacher wife, evenings spent around the old, oak table, often resembled something Stephen King should have been writing about.
Our eldest was a classic firstborn. He could full-on read at four, missed his first spelling word in third grade, skipped 5th grade altogether, and rarely said a thing about homework. He just did it. Somehow, somewhere, we guess. His grades typically reflected that fact, as they were typically good, without too much help or meddling from his parents.

Then, along came the second child. Our second child turned out to be an almost obnoxiously over-achieving adult, one with little patience for others who are not equally committed to always doing and bringing their best to life. But, in third grade? He didn’t even remotely resemble the ridiculously self-starting, self-disciplined person he is today. As a matter a fact, my wife received a call from his teacher one day, and our child was missing 34 math assignments. 34. After school that very day, my wife and I visited our child and his teacher in the third grade classroom. My wife asked permission to dump our son’s desk on the floor, and the teacher graciously obliged. A Mount Saint Helen’s lava-like flow of paper, eraser pieces, and broken pencils poured forth. Found in that pile were almost 30 math assignments not only started, but many actually completed. Rumpled, but completed.

The teacher told our humiliated, wide-eyed son that he could have a week to get all caught up. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Wow. You guys and that teacher . . . and your kid . . . you’re all losers. How on earth do you let a kid get 34 math assignments behind?” I understand your bewilderment, but there truly was a crazy story behind it, one involving a teacher change late in the year. Make that two. So, it had been a weird year for our little guy, and everyone else involved. It happens. Life happens.

But, no matter. We had work to do. For the next week, every night, at that big, old, oak table, our son tearfully cranked out the math. He whined. He stomped. He threw his head back in despair. One night, he resorted to wailing like a paid mourner at a funeral in some Dickensian-type novel.  It was ugly. And exhausting. No matter how many parenting books we had read, no matter how intentional we had been with our parenting, I’m pretty sure we resorted to, “We already went to third grade, Mister! This is your rodeo! Get to it!” Not our proudest parenting moments.

And yet…the math was completed. And . . . our kid felt a since of accomplishment and pride we hadn’t seen in him before.

His third, 3rd grade teacher of the year, was a strong, multi-talented, semi-retired man, and had been pretty stern at the turned-over desk meeting. But, when our son appeared with all of his completed work, he was met with praise that annihilated any painful memory of the dumped desk day. As the year passed, we still had a few rough nights around the old, oak table. But the perseverance fostered around that table, fueled by a tough, but tender teacher, helped build character in the man we are so proud to call our Army Ranger Officer son, today.

Do I have amazing tips? Well, being organized, staying on top of things at school – especially with the apps and technology offered by so many schools, now – all help. But, maybe this blog today is not so much about tips regarding homework. Honestly, most of us know we need to be organized and on top of things, in addition to nurturing patience and perseverance. Maybe this blog merely serves as an encouragement from an older, battle-tested dad, with three, grown, non-bitter, productive members of society, to let you know that you’re not alone. Hang in there, fight the good fight, love them and lead them. You’ll all get there.

I hope you are encouraged. If not, there’s always our third kid I could tell you about. The one who nightly informed us that he didn’t need to learn to read or do homework. He was going to play baseball and fish for the rest of his life . . . 

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, October 11, 2017

You Can Be a Good Dad and Drive a Truck

“You can be a truck driver. You can be a dad. You can be a good dad! Don’t let people discourage you because they think you can’t”

That’s the advice Thomas Miller gives to the new drivers he trains.
Thomas should know. He started driving a truck three months after his oldest daughter’s birth. That was 25 years ago. He’s been driving for Prime Inc. the last 18 years.

“I have a couple of well-rounded kids,” he says with pride. “The oldest attended college on an academic scholarship. The second is still in high school. They’re both good kids.”

Two Essential Ingredients
Thomas credits much of his success as an over-the-road dad to two things: his wife and his fleet manager.

“It takes an incredibly strong woman to raise two kids, essentially alone,” he remarked about his wife, Misty. At the same time, Thomas says he believes the secret to their strong relationship lies with “constant communication.” Calling, texting, emailing and using FaceTime are all part of their routine.

“The number one thing is that Misty keeps me informed. Sometimes she burns up the phone with FaceTime. Being apart can be tough on a marriage. It takes a lot of teamwork.”

Second to his wife, Thomas credits his partnership with his fleet manager, who he claims is like “a second spouse.” He believes this partnership is vital to him being able to stay in touch with his family and get home when needed.

In describing Steven Wray, his Prime fleet manager, he says, “He understands the importance of being there for your kids. I’ve never been home even a minute late since I’ve worked with him. It’s a true partnership. He’s my lifeline back to Springfield. He’s got kids about the same age as mine and we’re great friends.”

Thomas’s strong relationship with his wife and daughters was put to the test when he was named “America’s Road Team Captain” for 2013-2014. He wondered if he should accept the honor because it would mean additional travel and speaking beyond his normal driving, so he asked his family what they thought knowing they would be sacrificing time with him.

Daughters Kylie and Mackenzie researched the opportunity and told him he needed to go for it even though it meant he would be away more often. They were proud of his achievements and wanted him to have the opportunity.

Words of Advice to New Over-the-Road Dads
“Be there . . . never let your job be more important than your kids.”

When Thomas goes home about once a month, he spends as much time as possible with his wife and daughters. They enjoy riding motorcycles and love going for a ride together whenever possible.

Thomas also stresses the importance of giving his girls “unfettered access,” i.e., they had call him any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He agrees that truck driving dads do have the advantage of considerable time to talk—more so than many dads who sleep at home every night. This is a great way to stay in touch with their kids.

When we signed off with Thomas, he was unloading Kraft macaroni and cheese at a Costco warehouse in Los Angeles. It’s not always easy to be so far from home and away from family, but Thomas has found a way to be successful as a driver, a husband and a father even when he’s on the road.

Sticking with Homework Hassles -- Nixa Dad Herb Cody

About ten years ago, I was a single, 31-year-old bachelor. I had never been married or had kids of my own. A new show came out that year, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, called, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" At the time, I thought it was the most ridiculous idea for a show ever! I mean, come on, of course adults are smarter than the average grade school child . . . right? Then I watched an episode, and soon realized, a lot of the stuff I learned in school, had been lost over the course of 15 to 20 years. All of the information these 5th graders were learning was fresh on their minds. In some capacity, these children were smarter than me.

Fast forward, ten years later, and here I am with two junior high age kids, whom I adopted when I got married. We soon added my biological son, who is now in first grade. It's sad to say, but I have no clue how to help my teenagers with their math homework. I think it was about 4th or 5th grade, when the math I knew, completely changed. I remember trying to help my then 8-year-old with some division problems. I wrote it all out on paper, and he looked at me like I was doing trigonometry. He said, "Dad, this isn't how we do it at all." He then showed me some of his work, to which I'm pretty sure it looked to him as if I were trying to read abstract algebra. That was my first experience with common core math. Pretty much everything I was taught in school, was now different. It's not like I was a math genius in the first place. I was average to slightly above average back in the day. 

My daughter, now in 8th grade, struggled her first semester of 7th grade in a few classes. I tried to help where I could. I quickly realized, the best thing to do was communicate with her teachers and set up extra time where she could get one-on-one sessions with them. Her grades eventually went up. My oldest son, now in 7th grade, is struggling mightily in math, science and social studies. Again, I've tried to help where I can, including the use of Google and YouTube, but it doesn't seem to be enough. My son also has ADHD, so I've had to adjust his medication, because he has not been focused enough to get his work turned in on time. I've been in contact with his teachers to let them know my plan, and for them to try to monitor his behavior and to keep me posted if things don't seem to turn around. As a parent, you have to know your children, you have to know their strengths and weaknesses, along with your own. It's also good to know what motivates them and what doesn't. Sometimes incentives can help your child try just a little harder. 

The homework I most look forward to, is when my daughter has to practice singing for her choir class. I could listen to her voice echo throughout the halls of our home for hours. With that harmonious delight, comes the exact opposite. If given the choice of listening to a feline in heat, claw at a chalkboard for an entire day, or my 7th grader practice the flute for 30 minutes . . . I'd choose Fluffy all day long! Obviously I'd never let him know how I feel, but I do try to schedule my showers, lawn mowing or other outdoor chores to align with his flute practice.

My six-year-old, who I thankfully can still help, has to be reminded each day that his work must be done before he can play on his iPod or play video games. He will normally do his work while I cook dinner. He is the type of kid who thinks everything looks better with stickers on it, including homework and books. I constantly have to remind him it's not appropriate on his schoolwork. 

Last week, while making dinner, I was trying to multitask and fold laundry as well. My youngest brings home index cards with sight words on them. He is supposed to write those words multiple times on each card. On this day, while I was in the laundry room, he decided to decorate his work with some stickers he found in a drawer. He was so proud of what he had done, that he brought them to me to show off. Unfortunately, the "stickers" he found, were actually a book of "Delicioso" Forever Stamps. We then spent the next 20 minutes trying to salvage $10 worth of "stickers". 

Homework can be stressful for both the student and the parent, but there are far more resources available today, than what we had 25 years ago. Don't be embarrassed if you don't know the answers. Most teachers are willing to spend extra time with your child, if you just communicate with them. Stay on top of their grades and make sure work is being completed. Keep an eye on their mood and behavior throughout the school year. Most importantly, keep the cool looking postal stamps, out of reach from young middle school children.

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, October 4, 2017

Homework Hassles -- Springfield Dad-in-Training Jeffrey Sippy

When you were a child doing your homework did you ever wonder, “When am I going to use this stuff again?”    

For instance, when was the last time you referenced the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945? 

The Japanese Surrender demonstrated the strength of the allied forces and effectively marked the end of WWII.  This will be on the test.    

Held in Tokyo Bay on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, representatives from Japan and the Allied Nations signed a formal document of surrender. Thousands of Allied planes flew overhead. 

Ready for the test?

True or False. Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945.
True or False. Japan’s surrender demonstrated the strength of the allies and the end of WWII?
True or False. Japan’s surrender took place on the deck of the USS Missouri. 
True or False. The point of this illustration is that Japan surrendered and you are not! 

Homework can be a hassle, but we are not surrendering.  We are Good Dads and we are in this together.    

Good Dads, I have good news for you.  I am a survivor.  My children are 26, 24, and 22.  My two oldest sons have graduated from college and my youngest son is well on his way.  It wasn’t always easy, but it should never be a fight.  I did my homework.  You can, too.        

My oldest son was 12 and he absolutely would not do his homework. He wouldn’t budge.  So I pulled out the artillery.  Like President Truman ordering the atomic strike on Hiroshima, my son was going to surrender or get blown off the map.  I got in his face.  I yelled.  I threatened.      

My middle son jumped between the two of us and yelled at me, “Will you shut up?!”

There was two of them and one of me.  I felt like General Lee facing the Union armies at Gettysburg. I fired back:  “Me?  He’s yelling, too!”  “Yeah!!”  My middle son exclaimed.  “But you are the Dad!!” 

Yes. I am the Dad.    

Here are three suggestions and one encouragement I learned in battle:    

·      Don’t insult or berate your children’s teachers or coaches under any circumstance.  You are only fueling your child’s notion that this is a waste of time.  Support and encourage your children’s teachers and coaches.
·      Don’t undermine or make fun of the homework assignment.  Make it into an adventure   to accomplish together

·     Don’t think of the end product as the end product.  You are not just doing history or   math.  You are spending time with your child and helping them towards their future.

Your assignment is to love and nurture and encourage your child.  The goal is not an “A” on the paper. The goal is assisting your child become the person he or she will one day be.   

True or False, Homework can be hassle but spending time with your children and helping them towards their future is worth it all.  

 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 jsippy@rlcmail.org