Your Phone is Killing Your Family

I recently wrote about parenting with grace. I made it pretty clear that is not my area of expertise, and because of that it was a very hard subject to cover. Today’s topic stands on my toes just as hard. But the thing is, I can often go back and read my own blogs and learn from them as though some one else wrote them. I’m hoping that is the case again today.

We live in a time where technology surrounds us. In a time when we have the capacity to be the most connected generation ever, we are instead the most disconnected.

We all know it to be true. We have all sat in a restaurant, looking at our phone, then looked up and thought “look at all these people, staring at phones instead of talking.” We have all answered a call, or opened a text or app when we should have been focusing on something else (human, or otherwise.) Many of us have engaged in some type of battle of words on social media, that has stolen a few minutes of our day. Most of us are guilty of checking our phones while driving; despite the risks. And so, we are less connected to the PEOPLE around us, than any other generation before.

Your phone is killing your family. My phone is killing my family. Our phones are killing our families. Fast.

Let’s think of all the wonders a smart phone can bring to our finger tips. We can, obviously, call family or friends. We can text others. We can post pictures or funny things that have happened to a plethora of social media sites. We can buy or sell things via Facebook, Craigslist, Ebay, and any number of other sites. We can design our home interior, or find recipes and craft projects on Pintrest. But what do we do? We put off calls. We text to whine or brag, rather than converse. We gripe and argue. And we stare at useless content and waste our time.

Meanwhile our families suffer.

I think all of us are guilty of looking at our phones when we should be engaged in something else. When we stare at our phones (for any reason — Facebook, or reading the Bible — ANY reason) and only look up at our children to fuss or yell because they are loud, messy, breaking things…whatever. All we communicate is “you are distracting me from my phone.” Ouch…. “you, small, mold-able, learning, growing child — are distracting me from my phone.”

When we go out to eat, or even sit at the table at home scrolling through Pintrest, we aren’t focused. We are off in our own worlds. We are saying “sorry, family. You bore me.” Yikes… “Family, you have nothing to offer me right now. What is happening here and now is not important to me. I really don’t care.”

When our phones are in the bedroom (raise your hand if the charger is on the night stand…*hand up*) we devalue our marriage. We try to talk, and hear a ding. Even if we don’t pick it, we stop talking for a split second. We heard a ding so, however briefly, we consider responding. Oh my… “We are married. And that’s great, but our time isn’t as valuable as what exciting thing might have happened on my phone.”

This list could go on. But I think we are getting the point. In a world full of connections we have lost the art of connecting. I don’t know the stats. Maybe no one has done a study on it, anyway. But I would guess intimacy levels (true intimacy — not just sex) are lower in this day and time than any before. We have the ability to communicate so easily, and yet, even the words we say are muffled by, either our own distraction, or the distraction of those we speak to.

As soon as I stand up from the computer (and right after I change a diaper) I plan to go find a new home for my phone charger. I’ve worked for a long time to not take my phone to the table for family meals, but today I won’t take it while the kids eat their little lunches before nap. I could easily put my phone away and talk to my husband in the car (whoa! Crazy speak!!)

How will you address this for your family? What changes will you make?

Because we can’t keep killing our families with our phones. We cannot be that generation. We must make changes.

The Bag

Parent’s Magazine was kind enough to send me an email today, reminding me to pack my hospital bag. First of all, whaaat? No. That makes things seem really close. I know I only have 6 weeks until the due date, but a bag? No. No, no, no. It can’t be that close, already?!

Truth be told, before Gracie I was reading all kinds of things about what to pack and how to make a birth plan (ha! what a joke. Plan: have a baby.) I wondered if we should take a yoga ball. What about books? Food? I don’t know; I thought of some crazy things. But this time is a whole new story. Now that I’ve been there, done that, my packing is really simple…. Actually, I went with simple the first time too, because that’s just what I do.

So, here is how I pack a hospital bag. Are you ready? This is complicated stuff. Imagine you are a 5 year old boy and Grandpa has just walked in the house and said “hey, go pack a bag and I’ll take you camping. Hurry!” What is going in the bag? Some clothes (I recommend you make yours match better than the 5 year old boy, but whatever.) A tooth brush because mom just yelled to stick it in there. And a flash light.

Yep, that’s really how simple this can be. Except, skip the flashlight. Hospitals have too many lights anyway. The point is, you really don’t need much that isn’t provided for you. In fact, many hospitals publish a list of things they recommend you bring, and it isn’t a very long list.

Seriously, though, this is how I will pack:

  • ¬†Clothes for me and hubby. Our hospital is an hour and a half away. And since that is true for many people who deliver there, they have a wonderful set up for dad to stay with mom as long as she is there. I take some comfy PJ pants and t-shirts to wear after delivery. And some real clothes to come home in, because I’m not being wheeled out to my car in pajamas. Not happening.
  • Light snacks for hubby. Mommy gets to do all the work, but heaven forbid she eat anything but ice chips and popsicles. Dad, on the other hand, will want some food. And since neither of us will want him gone very long, it’s best to have a few things in the bag. With Gracie, Brandon didn’t eat a thing. I even packed him a quick supper because he had already worked a 10 hour day by the time my water broke at 4pm. He never touched it. But he did have some crackers and all waiting for Skeet.
  • Something to do. This may be used, and it may not. I took Uno to play with Gracie. I think we played for 10 minutes. We’d been up since like 5:30am, got to the hospital about 6pm, checked in by 7…no baby until 4am. We were too tired to play cards. With Skeet, I didn’t take anything to do. But a day time baby is a whole different thing. I was induced at 7:15am……… all stinking day we did nothing but wait for a baby who didn’t come until after 7 pm. Boooring!
  • Other than that, you need cell chargers, camera and batteries (yea, mine died with Skeet), tooth brush and tooth paste, make-up, if you care.

That’s it. Really. Unless, your husband just likes to pretend he is a pack mule and wants to tote 5 bags, a yoga ball, a boppy pillow, and a tray of bakery cookies… Pack light. If you go into labor at home, you’ll be virtually useless for hauling all that crud into the hospital, anyway. And even if you do carry it in, there is no bell boy to carry it all back out.

Parenting with Grace

I’m going to start by saying parenting with grace is something I desire to do, not something I am already good at. This is something the Lord has been working on in me for the full 3.5+ years I have been a parent. And I’m still not very good at it, nor do I anticipate perfecting the art in just the few years I have as a mother with children living under my roof. I do not claim to be good at this concept but the Lord has been telling me to try to write about it, so here it goes.

I desire to parent with grace. I really want to be patient, long suffering, and understanding of where my children are coming from in regards to age and their own understanding of the world. And I want to extend forgiveness. But that is not my nature. No, my nature is to do what I just did — go into a room with 2 kids who are playing instead of sleeping. Fuss at the 3 year old for loosing something, give her a cheap substitute and leave.

I often find myself fussing at the kids (3.5 and 1.5 years). I say things like “if you had just obeyed we wouldn’t be dealing with XYZ, would we? You need to follow my instructions” or “because I said so.” Then I hear this voice saying “mm-hmm, seems like I’ve been saying that for a while, too. Just obey, and things will be easier. You don’t have to understand.” I find myself just wanting to hush that voice. “nobody asked You. You don’t understand, this is the third time today we have dealt with this. Why don’t You tell THEM that?!” All such hate filled thoughts. Then I hear that voice say “but I forgive you of much bigger things than a lost paci, or a spilled drink. All I ask is that you go and forgive others too.”

Y’all that voice…that nagging conscience of the Spirit can be such a frustration. I want to yell. I want to throw my own fit. And I often do. I’ve been back in that room with those 2 non-sleeping kids three more times now. I still haven’t found the lost paci. I’m still fussing. And, yes, I have made it clear that if she had slept instead of playing, the paci wouldn’t have been lost in the first place. That’s how I handle these situations. The problem is learning to handle them with grace. Learning to go back and not yell. To calmly remind her that a screaming fit isn’t helping, and that this time she does have to take the consequences for her actions and that means she doesn’t get back the thing that she lost on her own.

You see that’s the hang up. I can not raise children to release to the world as adults, if I have let them grow up without the consequences of their actions. I have to discipline. I have to tell them things are their fault and that obeying me and dad will mean fewer consequences. Just like it is true that the more I obey my Father the fewer messes I will find myself in. So, what is the balance? When do I extend grace and say, “you know what, you goofed. Big time. Let’s fix it, together.” And when do I say “no. This is on you. You chose to do your own thing, figure this out.”

My kids are small. Many of their peers don’t even have any chores yet, and here I am trying to figure out when to let them suffer from their own actions, and when not to. I don’t know. I don’t know now; but if I do know if I don’t start trying to figure it out now I will be in a lot more trouble, when they are older and the things they do wrong are much bigger deals than spilling milk.

I’m not saying my kids (or yours) should be given a free ride. All I’m saying is my Father has forgiven me of much bigger offenses than the things I get so upset about. My children can’t learn to accept God’s forgiveness if I never teach them how to accept my own. They can’t learn to forgive if I don’t model that behavior. I have to show them these things, because just like it isn’t my nature to forgive and peacefully handle upsets with grace; it isn’t in their nature either.

Lord, teach me to parent with grace. Your grace; because I have none on my own.

 

The Experienced Mom’s Registry

Baby number 3 is just weeks away! Yikes, where have 7.5 months gone?! It dawned me the other day I should probably do a few things to be ready for our new addition.See, that’s the difference between the first child and the third. By this time with Gracie the nursery had been set up for a few weeks. I was about to have a baby shower. All the tiny clothes were washed and put away. I even had a diaper bag packed for the hospital. This time… “hmm, 33 weeks. That means I just have 7 weeks to go. Maybe I should get ready? Maybe?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a few things up until now. I did get out the baby girl things we had saved. I did determine we could not fit a third seat in our car, so we got to go car shopping (yay…blech!) I just don’t feel any rush this time. And to be honest, I’ve learned a few things since Gracie was born; and a few more since Skeet.

One thing I’ve learned is that you really don’t need that much stuff. I am a sucker for cute clothes so I’ve purchased some new things for Laney. And I did redecorate the nursery this time, since this is the first child I got to paint the room and all of those fun things. But really, I don’t need much.

So, here is my very short list of things I still need before baby comes:

  • Diapers. I plan to cloth diaper. I’ve done it before and it isn’t that bad at all, to me. But those first weeks are enough transition on their own, so disposables it is. Pampers Swaddlers are the best for new borns. After a few months I’m just fine with walmart brand, but I don’t cheap out with brand new tiny-hinies.
  • Nursing pads. Yea, if you plan to nurse, buy these dudes ahead of time. Gracie came a couple weeks early and I didn’t have any on hand…not my finest hour. Find a brand you like and stick to it, they aren’t all created equal.
  • Sleep. It’s about to be hard to come by, so I’m doing my best to “stock up” on sleep now.

That’s it. I mean, you need a few more things for a first child, but I’ve already written about that before. By the second and third, there just isn’t that much you HAVE to have.

Besides sleep. Sleep is very important for baby number 3.

Grow Your Own Food

It’s been a long, rough day. A smart person would go to bed, but I don’t fall into that category.

It’s January, and this past weekend felt like it. This coming weekend is supposed to be just as bad. But yesterday was gorgeous, and so was today. These warm winter days always make me think ahead to spring, and then to planting our summer garden. I’ve wanted to write this for a while, and this warm spell seems like the perfect timing.

I’m a fixer, by nature. I see, hear, or read of a problem and I want to fix it. Obviously, I can’t fix the world. No one can. But I always want to. That tendency is what inspired this blog several months ago (I did mention I have wanted to write this for a while.) I was reading through comments on a grocery gift card give away on Facebook when the idea hit me. Of course, there were the ones who just had soooooo much wrong in their life and this gift card (a few hundred dollars, I think) was just what they needed to survive. **There is some a lot of sarcasm in that last sentence. I actually hate when people tell “woe is me” stories on stuff like that. It’s not like it increases your odds of winning or anything, but I digress.**

Anyway, I was reading comments about how expensive produce is and how it can be really hard to afford fresh things. I can agree with that! We eat quite a bit of canned fruit; frozen is a good option too, for both fruit and veggies. But fresh produce really can be expensive. Many of the people making those comments were pointing out that they were young, single, or on low incomes. Been there, done that. Young = busy. And to buy produce and not use it before it goes bad is really frustrating. Single = not eating that much. Again, frustrating to throw out mushy fruit or vegetables. Low income = can not waste money. If there is a chance it won’t get eaten before it goes bad, best to use the money on something else.

So, I was thinking how to fix this problem, because I’m a fixer and all. And I realized my family has already addressed the issue for ourselves, and we work to make it better for others close to home as well. For the past 5 years, my husband and I have had a garden. We grow our own veggies in the summer. And for the past 3 years we have also sold at local farmers markets. That’s when I realized how much can be grown in even very little space.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, even onions, carrots, potatoes and lettuce can all be grown in pots. Granted, squash is going to grow out of the pot every which way, but the roots will do just fine in a pot. Young, single, low income people living in an apartment can grow some of their own food! And if they have a house with even a small back yard they can grow even more!

It is January though, so no rush to start planting. But it is time to plan — especially for low income families. By setting aside just $5-$15 a pay check for the next few weeks you can be ready to grow your own food and save $$$ at the grocery store, all summer, and into the fall in warmer areas. Tomato and pepper plants can all be purchased, relatively cheaply from home stores, or even Walmart. They can be grown in a medium to large pot, or just a 5 gallon bucket (a few dollars at the hardware store.) Squash grows well from seeds, and can again, be grown in a large pot. But squash will grow out (way out) over the edge of the pot so plan for that when planning space. A big deep tub or trash can will grow potatoes. A more shallow tub will grow lettuce, and carrots from seeds. Or a small tub will grow onions from “sets” available at home stores or Walmart. So, you can see, on a relatively small budget you can grow some food for yourself. And you only need 1 or 2 plants for more tomatoes, peppers, and squash than a family can eat!

The satisfaction of picking food off a plant and taking it inside to cook is really awesome too. Knowing that for a little money on pots, plants, and soil, you grew food for your own table is really pretty cool. Now, obviously you will want more variety in your diet than lettuce and peppers, but these are pretty easy plants to start with, and they free up some grocery money for other things.

Now if only, I could get all this information back to the people who were trying to win that grocery gift card…

You Don’t Have a Point

I’ve been involved in a rather silly Facebook “debate” this evening. I enjoy a good battle of words and since this woman didn’t have enough since to keep her misguided opinion to herself rather than try to defame a perfect stranger, I went to bat. The guy was a total stranger to me too, and the debate about how his dogs were kept really has no bearing whatsoever on this blog.

No. Actually, she had really weak arguments to begin with, and I, along with many others, had many strong arguments for the way the original poster was keeping his dogs. But none of the debate is at all relevant here. The only reason the debate brings me to the computer to type this is her language.

According to Oxforddictionaries.com there are 171,476 words in the English language.* And yet, with all those words to choose from to make a point stronger, this lady (I use the term loosely) continued to express herself with curse words. Now, don’t take me wrong. My language is not perfect. I do not make a habit of swearing, but, sadly, the tongue is a beast that is difficult to tame and I have been known to let a swear word slip. I do, however, try to be very careful not to do this. And I most certainly do not use vulgarity as a way to strengthen my arguments — especially in a written debate, where time can be taken to think of more appropriate words.

Unfortunately, this use of four letter words has become the norm in American language, both written and verbal. I see it all the time. People can be carrying on a perfectly calm, otherwise normal conversation, and yet they pepper in these words, seemingly in place of punctuation. In written form, particularly blogs, swear words seems to be the accepted method of making a point more valid. I have heard, and read, some people’s language and wondered if they would have 5 words to say in a row if they didn’t swear.

But the truth is, this method is so very flawed. In reality, if you have to swear to “make a point” then you don’t have a point to begin with. If you have to use curse words, and go on loud tirades, then all you are proving is that your grasp for the English language is, in fact, very limited. You may have wonderful, fact based points, aside from your language, but to use these words only detracts from your credibility. It doesn’t make your voice stronger. It makes it more immature and annoying. And while this is very true in spoken communication, it is even more true in written form. If you have 171,476 words to choose from, and time to pause and think, why would you opt to use the language of a 8th grade boy who thinks he is tough because he talks bad? This makes no sense. It’s a sad reflection of a culture that does not value education, or even the appearance of being educated. And it shows a great lack of self respect.

I realize we all slip on occasion and let a “dirty word” out; even if a dirty word for you is “drat.” We all do it. And we all seem to have more or less words that fall into the swear word category. Growing up gosh, crap, and butt were off limits in our house. As an adult, I use the word crap on occasion. This is just a tiny example of how “swearing” differs for people. But it is also common knowledge that some words are Swear words, and have no other place. To use f*** or f***ing as a type of bold print, if you will, in written, or verbal form, is unnecessary. There are so many other words to choose from — 171,475, to be exact. To use s*** or b**** as off hand comments is ridiculous. All this shows is that you do not have the capacity to come up with more appropriate wording.

So, while the lady I debated with tonight, had no leg to stand on in the first place, this entire blog was simply my attempt to bring a little civility back into day to day conversation. This woman would not have won me over with her points anyway, but she did herself no favors by cluttering the debate with cursing. Like I said before, if you have to cuss to prove your point, you don’t have a point to begin with.

 

*The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.

How to be Super-Mom

Here is it ladies, how to be Super-mom in just five easy steps. Are you ready?

  1. Keep play dough in the house for those really bad days when you all just need some stress relief. Break out the squishy stuff, and some cookie cutters; and just — chill. Listen to your kids as they describe what they are making. Mix a few colors. Roll a giant snake, or make a snowman. Breath. Be a kid for a few minutes.
  2. Read books. Lots of books. Preferably, read the books before trying to finish an article on your phone, that way you don’t have to hear “do I just need to figure out how to read it myself?” from your 3.5 year old.
  3. Make a mess. Have your kids help cook. (Deep breathing, required) Try to keep your instructions to a minimum — at least the ones that come out like “I SAID STOP TOUCHING! SERIOUSLY. JUST WAIT!!!” Smile. Let them help with dishes. And then show them how to dry the counter, and floor. Tell them thank you for helping you …and mean it.
  4. Teach your kids to work. Have them do chores. Make them responsible for a few things. “Oh you left the house with no cup? You should have grabbed that, huh?” Turn those babies into Handy-Helpers, and then into grown-ups.
  5. Stop trying to be Super-Mom. None of us have it all together. We all raise our voice and then need to apologize (don’t forget to set that example.) We all over schedule some days and end up tired and frustrated. We all get distracted. No mom is perfect. Seriously, your kid doesn’t need super-mom; they need their mom. They need you. They need you to focus on them some times. And sometimes, whether they like it or not, they need you to tell them “GO play. Alone.” They really do. And they will be better for it.

Hang in there, mommas. (Hang in there, self.)