Reducing Computer Time…Again

We’re conducting an experiment in our house…we’re reducing the kids’ computer time significantly.

Over the summer, things got out of hand. I was working a part time job from my home, and the kids had to be quiet for about 6 hours a day, 3 days a week. Add to that weekends, and having a mom that can’t drive (so can’t run them all over town), and we had a summer in front of the screen. Keep in mind my kids are 11 and 15. It’s harder to keep that age away from the technology. It’s their life! Especially for one of the kids…the teenager.

Then came the start of school, and their “screen time schedule” got uprooted. What?! Go to school for 7 hours a day or more?! That’s insane! What are the schools thinking demanding that of my poor kids! (Please note my sarcasm).

So, after first quarter grades came out…the hammer came down!

I should add that, though not catastrophic, the grades just weren’t up to the standards we require.

It seemed as if there was very little homework, or that it had “magically” gotten done in class at school. Yeah, well…my parents never believed that and neither do I.

The new rules are that no one goes on the computer, except for school-related homework or projects, until after dinner. Which, depending on the evening schedule, doesn’t leave a lot of time.

It’s only been a week, but already I see improvement. Kids aren’t exhibiting as much stress, they aren’t rushing through homework to get to their computer time, and they are all around nicer to be around. They even TALK TO ME now.

We are also re-instituting “family game night.”

I can tell you that this initially did NOT go over well with them. There was a lot of groaning and eye-rolling (again, mostly from the older one). But then I explained that I didn’t want the only time I talked to them to be “do your homework,” “come eat dinner,” “go take a shower,” and “get up for school!”

They, of course, disagreed that this was occurring, until I pointed out that by the time I get home from work, they have already done their homework (so they said), and had already gotten on the computer. Then I made dinner, they stopped the computer long enough to eat together (all of 20 minutes, if I was lucky), then go take showers and go back to the computer, then off to bed! No words! No talking! If I didn’t get them to talk between bites of food at the dinner table, we just didn’t talk!

As I’m writing this, it occurs to me how much judgment I am probably incurring from many parents reading this. I get it. But we all mess up. We all get lazy sometimes. And after working a full day (which I haven’t done for 15 years) I’ll admit it…I was tired! I almost welcomed the quiet. But it wasn’t good for any of us.

So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll write a follow-up post to this in a few months. Hopefully, we won’t have gotten lost and fallen back into our old pattern. Hopefully, the semester grades will be stunning! Hopefully, we’ll even enjoy talking to each other.

What’s your rule for computer/technology use during the school year? Are you able to stay consistent?

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The Free Ride is Over

 

A few weeks ago, before I went back to work full time, evenings at my house looked something like this:

  1. 4:00-5:00 – Help kids with homework until it was time to start dinner
  2. 5:30-6:00 – start dinner
  3. 6:30 – Dinner was on the table, just as my husband walked in the door
  4. 6:40 – Everyone was done with dinner, except me, because I don’t eat like a pig
  5. 6:45 – Kids and husband would put their dishes on the sink, then go to the electronic device of their choosing: son – computer, daughter – kindle, husband – computer.
  6. 6:50 – I would finish my dinner alone, because it took me a while to make the darn thing, I may as well savor it
  7. 6:52 – wash dishes by hand (I hate the dishwasher…it’s too noisy and takes too long)
  8. 7:00 – remind son for the second time he needs to get in the shower
  9. 7:25 – sit down to do some writing, usually on my current manuscript
  10. 7:35 – remind my son FIRMLY for the THIRD to get in the shower
  11. 8:00 – write some more or watch TV.

You get the idea. I didn’t require much from others because I was home and had all day to take care of things. I’m one of those “I can get it done faster, I’ll just do it myself” Moms.

Well, things have changed since I started working again, and I didn’t realize how much I’d been taken for granted or how much I had failed at teaching my family to do things for themselves…and others!

Now, like all other working parents, I have a much smaller window to get things done. And I REFUSE to do it alone!

So tonight, after everyone got up from the table, and I had finished my dinner (which did NOT make it to the table by 6:30), and was left alone with the mountain of dishes, it was already 7:30! Everyone had disappeared to their electronic devices (or should I say VICES), and I still needed to wash my hair and maybe throw in a load of laundry, if I could muster the energy.

They got a wake-up call!

I called everyone back to the kitchen to clear their dishes, and the rest of the table, and gave each one a specific job.

They don’t seem to realize that from here on out, things are going to be different. EVERYONE must participate. The Mom that used to take care of EVERYTHING, because she had the time to do so, is gone.

I’ve been cheating them out of the joys of responsibility for far too long. But no more. That stops now. And I say this with as much love as I can…I am going to LOVE them into responsibility. They have it in them, I know they do. Maybe it’s time I put my foot down.

And maybe it’s time to start using the dishwasher after all.

But the laundry can wait until tomorrow…I need to go wash my hair.

The Foster Parents…a short story

Kevin and I hated having to give up Elijah. He was our third foster child, and we wished he would be our last. But we knew it was temporary when our caseworker contacted us to tell us that Elijah’s mother wanted him back. I know we should consider it a blessing when a mother cleans up her act and regains custody of her own child. But it felt as if we were losing our own flesh and blood. We never expected her to complete the program, but somehow, she’d managed, and Elijah went back home to his birth mother. We prayed she would stay clean.

When the agency called us in the middle of the night with an emergency situation, we were reluctant to take the plunge yet again. But a baby needed us, so we acted on it.

The tiny baby was wrapped in a pink blanket when I took her into my arms. Her big black eyes seemed to stare right through me. She was beautiful, with a full head of black hair at three months old, and rosy cheeks. Kevin filled out the paperwork as I nuzzled her close. All we were told was that she was dropped off in haste by her mother who seemed desperate. The woman had left the baby on the doorstep of the agency and knocked loudly on the door. She’d run off before anyone could talk to her. The baby was accompanied by a paper sack with the name “Alicia” written on it, and filled with clothes, nice clothes, that I would never have the money to buy. But no story to accompany her. She needed some place to go while the authorities tried to find her parents.

I slept on the floor next to the crib the first night we had Alicia so she wouldn’t feel alone. We called her Alicia since that was the name on the paper sack. She slept most of the way through the night, and woke around 4:30am hungry. I picked her up and she nuzzled into my shoulder. She took to the bottle just fine, so it was possible she wasn’t nursed.

In the morning, Kevin opened the front door to leave for work and on our front porch was a paper sack with “Alicia” written on it, just like the one that came with her.

Kevin picked it up and looked around the neighborhood for a sign of how it got there. Mrs. Shafer was just coming out to get the morning paper.

“Morning, Kevin,” she said and nodded his way.

“Morning. Did you happen to see anyone at our front door this morning?” he asked her.

“No. Why?”

“No reason,” he said. “I thought I heard a knock, that’s all.” No sense bringing her into his business.

He carefully opened the bag, assuming there’d be more clothes, but he jumped when he saw what was inside. He quickly brought the bag in to the kitchen where I was feeding Alicia.

Without a word, he held up a wad of cash in his hand.

“Where did THAT come from?!” I asked.

He set the bag on the table.

“It was on the front porch. In here,” he said, baffled.

“How did it get there?”

“I don’t know. Should we call the agency?” he asked.

The thought suddenly occurred to me that Alicia’s mother must know where we lived. A chill went through me.

“Yes. I think we should call them right now!” I told him.

“You don’t think that the mother…” Kevin said, catching up to my fear.

“That’s exactly what I think!”

“But how?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders, feeling a little violated.

“Did she follow us?” he asked.

“Oh, God! I hope not! That’s so creepy! How much is in there?”

He dumped it out on the table and counted it.

“There’s got to be over $5000.00 in here!” he said.

“Call the agency! Right now!” I said.

He called and talked to the receptionist, but our case worker wasn’t in the office yet. He left a message for her to call us back as soon as possible.

I went to the front window and peeked through the still-closed curtains. I looked up and down the street and saw no one.

Alicia began to cry and I took her into the nursery to change her diaper.

“Where did you come from, little one?” I asked her as she gurgled and smiled.

Kevin came into the room behind me.

“Look, I need to get to work. Can you handle this?” he asked.

I was still a little unsettled, but I lied and told him that we’d be fine. He kissed me on the cheek and I listened as he locked the front door behind him.

“We’ll be just fine, won’t we,” I said to Alicia and she smiled at me again.

I watched the news while I waited for our case worker to call me back. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I was hoping I’d see some clue on the news about where this baby had come from. Of course, there was nothing. I wanted to call my best friend, Shana, but I was a little worried about getting anyone else involved. I wasn’t sure what we were dealing with, and I couldn’t risk it. What if this was some gangster’s baby, or a criminal’s child who was on the run?

The phone rang and I jumped.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Anna?”

It was our caseworker, Jennifer.

“Yes, it is.”

“Hi, it’s Jennifer. My assistant said your husband called. Is everything okay with the baby?” she asked.

“Yes, yes…the baby’s fine,” I said, stalling.

“Oh, good. I thought something was wrong. Is she eating and sleeping okay?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Then what can I help you with?”

“Well…did you find out anything about the mother yet?” I asked.

“No, but you’ll be the first to know. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I think she might know where we live,” I said. That same chill ran through me as I said it.

“What?! That’s impossible! Why do you think that?”

“Well, Kevin found a bag on the porch this morning with Alicia’s name on it.”

“That’s odd. Maybe it was from one of your friends as a welcome present,” she said.

“I don’t think so. We haven’t told anyone yet. And it was full of money…lots of it.”

“Money? What do you mean, money? How much?” she asked.

“Kevin counted about $5000.00.”

I heard her gasp on the other end of the line.

“That’s crazy! Are you sure it’s real?” she asked.

“I’m pretty sure. But besides the money, we’re very concerned that the mother knows where we live. What if she’s dangerous?”

There was a long pause. I knew that Jennifer was grasping the possibilities too.

“Well, we don’t know if it is in fact from the mother. And she probably isn’t dangerous since she left the money anonymously. But this is definitely a new one. Let me talk to my colleagues and see what they suggest. Is Kevin home today?” she asked.

“No, he had to work.”

“Do you feel comfortable being at home? I mean, I’m sure everything will be fine,” she tried to assure me.

“What should I do with the money?” I asked.

“Just hold onto it for now, okay? Don’t go on any shopping sprees,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

“I won’t,” I said. I didn’t appreciate the levity.

“I’ll call you back as soon as I can, okay?” she said.

“Thanks. I’d appreciate it.”

I had hoped that talking to her would make me feel better, but it didn’t. She clearly had not dealt with a situation like this before, and I doubted that any of her colleagues had either.

After I put Alicia down for a nap, I turned the TV back on. I flipped around the talk shows, and the news shows, still hoping to find some clue as to who Alicia belonged to.

It was several hours before Jennifer called back, and I picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Hello?”

“Hi Anna.”

“What did you find out?” I realized I probably sounded more concerned than the last time we talked.

“Well, not much. It seems that we’ve never had a situation like this. Especially where the money is concerned,” she said.

“The money is the least of my worries. Do we know if she’s dangerous?” I asked.

“No, we don’t know anything about her still. But as I said before, I think we would have known by now if she was dangerous, especially since it appears that she knows where you live.”

Her words still didn’t assure me.

“If you’d like, we can place Alicia with someone else,” she suggested.

“I’ve already thought about that, and I don’t want to do that. It isn’t her fault. If anything, it’s your fault…the agency’s fault.”

There was silence on the other end. Jennifer knew I was right.

“Look, that’s all I can offer you right now. I wish we could do more, but I just…uh…” she stammered.

“I know, I know. Kevin should be getting home any minute. Let me talk to him and I’ll get back to you tomorrow,” I said.

“Okay. Don’t hesitate to call the police if anything seems out of the ordinary,” she said.

“Thanks. I’ll do that,” I said, disgusted.

Kevin was a late. I was feeding Alicia her evening bottle when he came home.

“Is that you?” I called from the kitchen.

“Yes!” He called back.

He came into the kitchen and had in his hand another paper bag just like the last one. He set it on the table.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I said.

He opened it up and spread the money on the table. Another $5000.00.

“Maybe we should call the police,” I suggested.

“Why? She hasn’t done anything wrong. What can they do?” he said.

“Maybe they can fingerprint the money or something?” I offered.

“Oh, I think they’d just laugh at us. No crime has been committed.”

“But what if it’s stolen? They could at least figure that out,” I said.

He thought for a moment.

“Maybe you’re right. Okay, I’ll call, just to be sure.”

When the police arrived, we explained the situation and handed over the bags of money. They assured us that this didn’t seem like a person that was unhinged, but rather someone that had their child’s best interest at heart. I wished I could believe them.

That night, as I lay on the floor in Alicia’s room, I heard every creak and moan in the house. I looked out the window several times hoping that Alicia’s mother, or whoever it was, would make another appearance. I wasn’t sure what I would do if I saw her, but I just wanted to see who it was.

I barely slept more than an hour that night. Kevin let me sleep in and checked on us in the morning before he left for work. Alicia had slept clear until 7am.

“Will you be okay?” he whispered.

I nodded.

“Call me if you hear anything,” he said.

“Do you think there’s another bag on the porch?” I asked.

“Maybe.”

I listened as he opened the front door, then he came back in with another bag. He smiled.

“Leave it on the kitchen table. I’ll deal with it later,” I said, exhausted from this strange situation.

Jennifer called later to check in with me and I explained that we gave the money to the police. She thought that was probably a good idea. I also told her there was another bag that morning.

The phone rang around 10:15am. It was my friend, Shana.

“Oh, my Gosh! Did you see the news?” she said, sounding like a gossipy teenager.

“Not yet. Why?”

“You know that teen actress, Clara Barton? The one that’s been missing for like almost a year?”

“I guess,” I didn’t recognize the name right away. “Why?”

“You know the one. She’s the daughter of Mimi Sheldon and Harry Barton…the actors. My gosh, it’s like you live under a rock!”

“Very funny. What about her?” I asked.

“She’s being accused of leaving her baby on her friend’s porch! She just abandoned it! Gave birth and walked away! What kind of a dirt bag does that?! I mean she probably has servants and everything? Why would she abandon a baby?! It has to be drugs!”

“You don’t know that,” I tried to defend the poor girl.

“What else could it be? Said she named the baby and everything and then just bailed!”

My head started to spin. “What did she name it?”

“What?! I don’t know. Something like Felicia or something like that.”

“Alicia?” I asked, slowly.

“Maybe. Wait…hold on…they’re talking about it on TMZ…Yeah…they said Alicia. How did you know?”

I was feeling nauseas. “I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later,” I said and quickly hung up before even saying goodbye.

I called Kevin and then called Jennifer at the agency. She said she’d check into it, but that it sounded like a long shot to her. I picked up Alicia and looked in her eyes. Something inside me told me this was that young actress’ child. I had to get Alicia back to her mother. She deserved a second chance at motherhood. She was just a scared and mixed up kid. Maybe with the right support, she could give Alicia a good life. Still, she did abandon her. It was entirely up to the agency what would happen.

 

Six months later, Kevin and I watched Clara Barton on the morning talk show. We listened as Clara talked about her upcoming movie and confirmed her engagement to a famous baseball player. The host joked about the rumors of Clara having a child. Clara laughed and posed majestically, “Does this body look like I’ve had a child? Please!” She laughed wildly with the host.

I looked at Kevin and sighed. “That’s pathetic.”

Kevin agreed and picked Alicia up as she toddled over to the couch where we were sitting.

“That mean old actress doesn’t deserve you anyways,” Kevin said to Alicia, and nuzzled her as she giggled.

 

The End

Too Tired

I just started a new job. For the first time in 15 years (since I had kids), I’m re-joining the full-time-employed.

It’s only been a week since I started. I’m not digging ditches, or building buildings, and I’m not a machinist or even an iron worker. All of which I have mad respect for. Heck, I’m not even waiting tables (also, mad respect).

But MAN, AM I POOPED!

Crazy, right?

Apparently, years of working a part time desk job out of my home, and being a SAHM has taken a toll on my stamina. That, and well…I’m 15 years older than the last time I worked full time.

But I love it! I’ve missed the independence and sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

It’s a huge adjustment for the whole family…especially for my kids. And my husband too, but he’s a big boy, he can handle it.

My kids are suddenly going to have to take more responsibility, and it’s about time. So far, they’ve responded well. They’ve done their dishes, and done their homework without me (as much as they could), but it’s only been a week.

I wrote a post some time ago about trying to teach my kids basic life skills. I must admit, I didn’t do as well with following through as I wanted to. But maybe that’s about to change.

My husband could de-bone a chicken and have dinner in the oven before his parents got home from work by the time he was 11 years old, so they should be able to do it too, right? Hey, a girl can dream.

I think I’ve sold my kids short by not giving them opportunities to prove to themselves that they can do things on their own. I know they can do it, now THEY need to know they can do it.

I know once I get a rhythm going, I’ll feel much better, and have more energy (at least I hope I will), but for now…I’m tired.

It feels great to feel like I’m part of something again. Please understand, I’m not criticizing SAHMs at all. Everyone needs to choose what’s right for them. As I said, I stayed home for 15 years to be with my kids, and I don’t regret a moment of it.

It’s just time for a new Chapter.

It’s now 8:15pm…is it too early to go to bed? LOL

Make home improvements OR remain happily married?

 

Years ago, I worked at a carpet store, where I constantly heard stories, nightmares really, of how miserable it was to go through a home improvement. Couples couldn’t agree on carpet color or texture, and deciding between hardwood floors or laminate proved equally objectionable.

My husband and I have never gone through anything as extensive as a remodel, and I dread the day that we do. I think moving might be a better choice than coming to verbal blows over tile or hardwood.

It’s that time of year for us when the H.O.A. (Home Owner’s Association) makes its annual assessment of our properties. HOA’s are great for keeping property values up, I suppose, but their “improvements” never seem to improve my checkbook or my marriage, and this year is no exception.

This year, it’s our deck. Though it can hardly be called a “deck,” rather more like a balcony. It’s on the second level and measures all of 6’x8’. We never even use it because it faces our neighbor’s living room, and unless we suddenly develop an interest in peering in on our neighbor’s lives, we will continue to not use it.

Now my husband and I complement each other, in that his strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa. It’s how we work. But when it comes to working together on a home improvement, we’ve learned that it’s best if we stay out of each other’s way.

I’m usually the DIY person around the house, so I was really surprised when he said that he wanted US to do part of the improvement. What?! Is he crazy?! We can’t do that! We’ll kill each other! Not to mention that we don’t have the proper tools, or expertise to do said improvement.

We compromised: we hired a handyman to do the actual repairs, but my husband insisted that we could do the painting. I was skeptical to say the least. That meant renting a ladder (we don’t own an extension ladder) and one of us would have to go up that ladder and do the painting, and it wasn’t going to be me…not this time. But he assured me that we could get it done.

I called my brother who happens to be a handyman in another state (he inherited my Dad’s skill), and I was feeling pretty confident. Maybe we could do this. Maybe if we pulled together, and had a plan, we could work together and paint the balcony, without ending up in divorce court.

That was two weeks ago.

Since then, we’ve argued about getting it done, having enough time to get it done, doing it right but quickly, getting it done in the timeframe the H.O.A. allotted.

Just to add more stress, my husband suddenly got really busy at work, I got a new job, and time was still ticking. Tensions were running high!

I started with a coat of primer on the deck today, and realized…we are in over our heads!

I put in a call to a handyman, and he’s coming tomorrow.

Now, maybe I reacted to soon. Maybe we could have done it ourselves. Maybe we could have done it without killing each other.

But it just seems like a couple hundred dollars for a handyman will be much less expensive than marriage counseling would have cost.

How about you? Have you and your significant other ever attempted a home improvement together?

Taking a Poll…

I’m taking an informal poll, based on something I heard.

 

Without going into details, I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of what my readers think:

What income bracket do you consider to be Middle Class?

 

Thanks for participating. Have a Happy Friday the 13th! 😊

Forever a Church “Visitor”

 

I’ve forgotten how to “do church.”

It wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do. On the contrary, I love church, I love fellowship, I love God and all He stands for. My family and I were part of a “church family” for 15 years. We stayed after on Sundays and helped clean up, we filled in where needed, we washed dishes at the annual church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner, we helped with the youth, we served time in the nursery (some of you will relate to my wording there), I sang in the choir, I sang on the worship team, I led a women’s Bible study, whatever we were asked…we did. Because that’s how a church body works.

And then we moved 2000 miles away from our church family, and had to start over. That was 5 years ago, and I still feel like a “visitor” in what we call our “home church.”

We have been to 5 churches, and it’s downright embarrassing when someone asks us “where we’re going to church now?” But we can’t find our “fit.”

I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not working on an emotional response. I’m not trying to replace my “first love” of our last church, because I know it had flaws too. But I’ve never before experienced a point where I just didn’t feel compelled to go to church. And my kids feel it too. Of course, they’re older now, being pre-teen and teen aged, and having to get up on the weekend and get ready for church doesn’t exactly elicit cheers from them. But it’s more than that.

There is no connection. No real, connection.

They don’t even know the names of most of the kids they go to Sunday school with, and they NEVER mention them…ever!

The churches where we live tend to be much bigger than we’re used to, bordering on mega-church status. And I have to admit that, though large churches have their advantages of a vast number of “activities,” I find that people get lost in all that “busyness.” It’s easy to fall through the cracks, even if you do try to get plugged in, it takes so much longer to make any real connections than in their smaller counterparts.

I’m really at a loss as to what to do. We can’t keep searching. My daughter caught me checking out a smaller church, closer to our home, and she flipped. Not because she has made so many good friends at our current church (she can’t even name one of them) and she would hate to leave them, but because she’s just tired of switching, as are my husband and me. It isn’t fair to them, or to us.

I’ll admit that the big churches are intimidating to me, and I’m a rather social person. But getting plugged in to the right connections seems nearly impossible.

I want to lean on one another, and experience each other’s lives. Not just the cleaned-up version that people present on Sunday, but the dirty version you are on Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week.

I can’t figure out if it’s a symptom of the area we live in, or if it’s a symptom of the age were living in.

We’ve prayed about this, believe me we have. And we’ve had no clear answers.

So, I wonder what church we will “visit” tomorrow? Should we go to our “usual church” and blend into the background, smile politely and shake hands, knowing that those relationships will probably never go any further than that? Or should we let the kids sleep in, and just my husband and I go to the “new” church up the street?

If anyone has any useful suggestions as to how they changed churches successfully, I’d love to hear them. Because I’d like to get rid of my “visitor” name tag one of these days.