Scraping the Slush – A Special Tribute on Father’s Day

 

Hi, sweet readers!  I have been absent from the blogging world for far too long.  And for my first post back, I didn’t even do a majority of the writing—my husband did!  I’m SO lame!  In all seriousness though, I asked my husband to write something special for Father’s Day.

Here’s a little background first:

So, I have the most amazing father-in-law, Roger Bond, who I’ve actually known since I was born.  Our families were great friends and attended church together.  Sadly, I never knew him as my father-in-law though because he passed away three years before Randy and I dated and married.  He was diagnosed with liver cancer in December of 2000 and died in March of 2001.  I was in college at the time and remember the phone call from my mom telling me that Roger had passed.  I sat in my dorm room and just sobbed at my desk.  I now often think about how unfair it is that he never got to know me as his daughter-in-law.  My children never got to meet him.  And we have to do this whole family thing without him.  His legacy certainly lives on though.  My husband was raised right by him, and we try to raise our kids how Roger would.

So for this Father’s Day, I wanted to honor my late father-in-law, Roger Bond.  I asked my husband to write about him for me.  I wish he could share with you all about him, but you’d be reading for days.  To keep it brief, he chose to share about the day his dad died, and a heartwarming childhood memory from him.  It’s one of unconditional love that we can all learn from.  Enjoy {but also grab a tissue}.

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By Randy: 

My dad died in March of 2001, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had started my first teaching job as a vocal music teacher just a few months before my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. We were in the middle of rehearsals for the musical South Pacific when I got a call from my mom saying, “If you want to say goodbye, you’d better come see your father tonight.

It’s weird because I actually had some hesitation and a mental “discussion” with myself.

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My father-in-law Roger (left) and husband Randy (right) at his college graduation party.

I knew if I went to see him, he would scold me for missing my rehearsal and my responsibilities with my high school students.

But of course I went.

I left my students with the accompanist to rehearse with her and headed to my parents’ house.

I remember seeing him there on the hospital bed they moved into the living room (he was no longer able to climb the stairs to get to his room on the second floor).  I thought, “This isn’t the man I grew up with.” He was pale, frail, and yellow from the liver cancer that had overtaken him.

He was resting, but mom told me to wake him as he’d be disappointed if he found out I’d visited and hadn’t talked to him. I touched his shoulder and got my face close to his and said, “Dad, it’s Randy, I’m here.”

He roused, grunted a little bit, then his eyes caught mine. He smiled and said, “Hi, Sonny.” (his frequent term of endearment for me).

I smiled back and touched his forehead … then his smile went away, and he said, “Shouldn’t you be at rehearsal with your students?” I smiled again and told him that I would go up to rehearsal after our visit.

At this point in his brief battle, he barely had the strength to keep his eyes open, but we shared a short conversation, I kissed him on the forehead, and he told me, “Go back to your kids and your rehearsal. They need you more than I do.”

I left and returned to the high school, which was about an hour drive from his house. One of my students, Chris, was waiting for a ride as I pulled in to the parking lot.

“Rehearsal over already?” I asked.

He made a witty comment about how the accompanist wasn’t a drill sergeant like me.  At this point, a police officer pulled into the parking lot, drove up to us and asked if I was “Randall Bond.”  My student and I both looked at each other—knowing what this must mean. Chris gave me a hug and said, “I’m sorry Mr. Bond” and walked to his mother’s car.

The officer informed me that my mom had been trying to call the high school and finally decided to call the police to try and get a hold of me (I did not have a cell phone at the time—ridiculous to think now, huh?).  I went into the school and called my mom, and she told me that Dad had passed shortly after I had left.

I don’t remember crying as I drove back to my mom’s house. All my siblings were there.  We weren’t allowed into the living room as they removed his body, so we were all stationed in the kitchen, which in my mind made sense as that was really the “hub” of our house growing up anyway.

Hundreds showed up for his funeral and viewing—many of whom I had never seen in my life. People from work, his many missions trips, friends, and distant family members. A similar message was uttered over and over and over, “Your dad was such a good man.” “You’re dad always talked about you and your family.” “Your dad was such a godly man, who always talked about his faith.” And on it went. I remember thinking, “I will never be the man my dad was.”

Now, my dad was not perfect. I know, sometimes, we tend to really put people on a pedestal after they have passed, but my dad had many flaws. He did, however, do one thing exceptionally well, and that was to show love, compassion, and mercy. I didn’t often see the last two in my younger years … but if you knew me then, you’d know how crazy I drove my Dad (and teachers . . . and pastors . . . and family members . . .), so I’m not so sure it was fully deserved.

I was talking to a friend on the phone a few years after my dad passed, and she asked a unique question, “Have you ever experienced unconditional love?”

This memory of my dad is what popped into my head to share with her:

I remember one winter when my dad took my two younger brothers and me ice skating. We hiked to a small pond above our house with skates tied together and slung over our shoulders. When we made it to the pond, we boys wanted to run right out on the ice, but Dad stopped us, pulled out a hatchet, and began chopping through the frozen surface.

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My father-in-law, Roger, carrying my husband, Randy, and his little brother, Bob, up the stairs.

He explained that he wouldn’t let us skate unless it was at least six inches thick.  He cut a small hole and measured.  I have no idea how thick it was, only that he said we could go.

Dad was actually quite a good skater. Us boys? Not so much. In fact, I can confidently say, we were horrible. Things weren’t made easier by the fact that the sun was out—warming up the ice so there was a layer of slush on top of that pond.

Over the next four hours my dad took the runner sled we brought with us, turned it sideways, and scraped the slush off the top of that pond for us so we could skate a little better. Four hours he did not skate or do anything but watch us . . . and scrape off that slush.

It was such an odd thing to remember. At the time I really didn’t think much of it at all (what young boy would, really?). But now, as an adult with children of my own, I realized what a great lesson in love that was.

I often remember that story.  It’s typically when I’m teaching, or frustrated with someone, or dealing with my own children. Because, sometimes, if you want the best for someone, you have scrape off a little “slush.”  Maybe it’s showing love. Maybe it’s being quiet and listening. Maybe it’s providing discipline.  That day, it was literally scraping off the slush from a small pond so his boys can enjoy a few hours of skating.

I miss my dad; it’s amplified on Father’s Day. Selfishly I wish he was here to see what I’m doing with my life and so I could brag about my five children to him.

I still wonder if I’ll ever be the man my dad was … in the mean time, I’ll just keep pushing slush.

Love you, Dad.

Randy

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Happy Father’s Day, readers.

Love,

Courtney.

 

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7 Everythings I Learned from My Mom

For this “7 Everythings I’ve Learned” post, I wanted to honor my momma for Mother’s Day and share what she has taught me through the years.   Everyone says that their mom is the best.  Well, that is not even a thing—there are no perfect mothers.  There are, however, some dang good ones, and I will argue that mine is one of them.

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With my mother and my daughter.

I’ve been in public education for the past 12 years, and I’ve witnessed some down-right crappy parenting.  Every year I am more and more appreciative of how my mom raised me.  A decade ago, I became a mother myself and realized how challenging this thing called mothering actually is; that has deepened my appreciation for my mom.  As a parent, I have consciously attempted to mirror the positive experiences and lessons I had with my mother with my own children.  

When thinking of what all she has taught me, it was extremely difficult to narrow this down to only seven areas, but I guess that leaves me with more material for the future {wink}.  Here are the 7 everythings I’ve learned from my momma and what I strive teach my own kids.

  1. Talk Openly with Your Kids
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Circa 1989.

My mom talked to me about all the tough topics: sex, drugs, rock + roll . . . {okay, not so much the latter}.  Studies show that children whose parents talk to them regularly about these uncomfortable topics are more likely to make better decisions in life.  My 13-year-old-self may have rather had math homework every night for the rest of my life instead of enduring these awkward conversations, but seeing that I was mildly rebellious in both high school and even college . . . it must have paid off.

She also didn’t just tell me not to engage in certain activities; she explained WHY I shouldn’t.

There’s a huge difference.

In addition to discussing these topics.  My mom simply talked to me.

A lot.

There are still times I call her up and we have a two-hour conversation.  I know she is a safe person to vent to, to gain advice from, and to bounce ideas off of.  That has been invaluable to me.

2. Do Something Nice for Yourself

Being a mom is exhausting and requires copious amounts of sacrifices.  I am incredibly frugal, so it is difficult for me to splurge or to pay for something I can do myself. Sometimes, you just need to take a break and pamper yourself before you go stark raving mad.  So, every once in awhile, hire a cleaning lady, have pizza delivered, or get a massage.

Oh, and for heaven’s sake, never highlight your hair with a store-bought kit.  Pay good money to go to a professional at a salon.  {I may, or may not, have been traumatized by such an attempt when in the 8th grade . . . }.

3. Go Above and Beyond for Your Kids

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With my mom after I graduated with my master’s degree.

First, let me be clear that I think it’s important for moms to have their own life and identity other than just “mom.”  With that said, for the first 18 years of your child’s life, a large part of your life should be focused to them.  Each child should have at least one person in their life who is dedicated to their well being, who loves them something fierce, and who constantly makes them feel important.  If you have a child, that person should be YOU.  If it’s not, they will most likely seek love and attention from the wrong people and places.

My mom never missed a sporting event or a parent-teacher conference.  She was always a working mom so that my parents could afford to send me to college.  She helped me study and sought out resources when I struggled as a student.  She made a point to know my friends and my friends’ parents so she knew who was involved in my life.  

Having a parent who went above and beyond gave me a deep sense of self-worth, and it greatly enriched my upbringing.

4. Choose Your Friends Wisely

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and if there is one piece of advice that I continually remember my mom giving me, it was that I needed to choose my friends wisely.

Are your friends kind?  Are they bullies?  Do they have strong morals?  Are they loyal?  Are they going to peer-pressure you?  Can they keep a secret?  Are they going to challenge you to be a better person?  Are they catty?  

These questions were always on my mind.  When I was in high school, some of my friends started making not-so-awesome choices.  Because she had instilled this advice in me, I knew I needed to start distancing myself—and I did.  My life was better because of it.  As an adult, the above questions became second nature as I started meeting new people from college and work.  I can say that I for sure have some life-long friends who have been wisely chosen.

Oh, and one of the most important questions to ask when choosing a friend: Are they fun?

My mom has the greatest friends {one of whom has become my mother-in-law}. She and her girlfriends from high school still keep in touch almost 45 years later.  She also still has slumber parties and most of her friends are in their 60s or 70s.  

Now, that’s fun.

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My mom {front, center} with her friends in high school. Circa 1971.

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My mom with her high school friends over 40 years later.

5. Live the Example

“Do as I say, not as I do” is one of the worst parental philosophies.  

Ever.  

Rachel Cruz coined the phrase that more is caught than taught.  My mom raised me to have strong morals and to live a Christian lifestyle.  She also lived it out herself.  Many-a-mornings I have walked in on her while she was praying or doing devotions.  She has been faithfully married for over 40  years.  She has helped those in need.  I’ve never witnessed her cheat, steal, or lie.  I’ve never seen her drunk.  I’ve never heard her tell someone off. In fact, I’ve never even heard her cuss.  

Well, maybe I did hear her once.

Okay.  Twice.  

She is by no means perfect, but she knew the kind of character she wanted me to have, which was set pretty high.  She lived the life herself by example and taught me through my observations.

6. Let Your Kids Spread Their Wings

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Momma and me.

I am my mother’s only child, so she was always overly protective of me; however, she never held me back from being my own person or crippled my ambitions.  I ended up going to a college that was two hours away.  That may not seem very far, but I know it was difficult on her.  She never asked me to change my mind and attend a closer university for her sake; she let me go.  

When I turned 20, I had one of those “Oh-My-Goodness-I-Don’t-Even-Know-Who-I-Am-I-Need-to-Find-Myself” moments.  I decided to live in Texas with a friend for the entire summer of 2002 to get away from everything.  I drove the whole 15 hours by myself from Ohio to the Longhorn State for the three-month adventure. The next year my mom encouraged me to pursue student teaching assignments on a Navajo Reservation in Chinle, AZ and later an inner-city school in Charleston, SC. Then I was gone for good when I married and moved 700 miles away from home.

All of these experiences were vital in shaping my independence. While I’m sure many of these decisions of mine scared the crud out of her, she sat back as I spread my wings.  

And without my wings, I would have never been able to fly.

7) Grammar is Important

Since I can remember, my mom has corrected my grammar for fear that one day I would grow up to sound like an imbecile and shame the family.  All the nagging paid off since I now make a living off of having proper grammar {AKA – English teacher}.

 

Momma,

Thank you for your wisdom and love.  I owe so much of who I am to you, and I hope to raise my kids as well as you raised me.   Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

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My Best Tip for Traveling with Kids

Our 700 mile trip. Jackson isn't much for photos . . .

Our 700 mile trip.
Jackson isn’t much for photos . . .

“Are we there yet?”

“He hit me!”

“Mom, I’m so bored . . .”

Do you ever hear the utterance of these words whilst on long road trips?  Traveling with a child can be tough, but traveling with more than one child can be torture.  Worse yet is traveling with more than one child when you’re the only adult on the trip.  

That’s like inner-circle-of-hell bad.

My family travels.

A LOT.

We live in Kansas but make frequent trips to visit family in Ohio, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Colorado.  While the average driver puts 12,000 miles on their vehicle every year, we put an average of 22,000 miles on our trusty ol’ minivan yearly.

Driving is certainly much cheaper than flying—especially if you’re able to utilize fuel points—but it can ensure certain agony.  Even though I separate the kids . . . even though we play games . . . even though they watch movies . . . they find a way to drive me crazy and each other crazy.

Most of the time, my husband is with me on our road trips, so one of us can regulate the offspring while the other drives.  However, every once-in-a-while, I have to go solo as the parent.

A few years ago, I drove 700 miles to Ohio with my {then} five-year-old and seven-year-old by myself to surprise my mom for her 60th 39th birthday.

 I would have rather used a baby porcupine as a stress ball than do that again.

It’s a pure miracle we all made it back home alive.  Before our trip back, I thought there had to be a better way.  That’s when I had quite possibly the best idea of my life.

QUARTERS.

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Here’s What I Did:

I went to the bank and got a roll of quarters {equal to $10}. Each child received $5 worth of quarters in a labeled baggie at the beginning of the road trip.  Every time one my children:

  • asked, “Are we there yet?”
  • complained
  • didn’t pick up their trash
  • hit their sibling
  • yelled
  • didn’t share
  • or just plain disobeyed,

that child owed me a quarter.

Whatever money they had left over by the end of the trip was for them to keep and spend on whatever they wanted. Whatever they had to fork over to Mommy was Mommy’s to keep and spend on whatever Mommy wanted.  Each child had an opportunity to earn their quarters back.  If they were good for an hour straight after losing a quarter, I returned a quarter to them.

This summer I made that trip to Ohio again—by myself with my now seven-year-old and nine-year-old.  This time I gave each child $7.50.

The result?

Mommy only ended up with $0.75.

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Cherubims, I tell ya.  My children turned into sweet cherubims.  I was kind of looking forward to having enough quarters to buy myself a fancy venti frappuccino or something, but it looks like I’ll only be getting a small black coffee from a gas station. {Can you even get those that cheap these days???}  Seriously, though—I’d rather them act like cherubims for our 12-hour motor marathon than me collecting quarters while pulling my hair out.

For the critics of this tactic, I’m sure you’re wagging your finger at me and exclaiming, “But isn’t that just bribing your children?!”

Yes.

Yes, it is, and it is lovely.

Trust me, I have many discussions with my kids about the fact that good behavior is expected at all times.  This “bribe” is only for an isolated event—an event in which an exhausted mother needs to do something for her sanity.  Besides, isn’t the real world full of incentives?

Here’s the beauty of it:

  • it practices positive and negative reinforcements
  • it gives the kids a visual to see the consequences of their behavior
  • its consequences are immediate {and the end result is within hours}
  • kids realize they can control their behaviors
  • the effects are gradual—it’s not all or nothing
  • kids realize there is a second chance and can work to earn it back
  • kids can be proud of their good behavior and have fun with their earnings when they reach their destination

Do you have any suggestions for traveling with young children on long road trips?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Happy traveling!

Love,

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