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.

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

A Lesson in Grocery Shopping

Let me start this post by saying that my husband is a wonderful man. I love him with all my heart. We’ve been married 18 years, as of next month, he’s a good husband, father and provider. But a housewife, he is not.

When he changed jobs last year  our monthly income went down quite a bit, as did the way we get paid: I get paid bi-monthly on the same dates, and he gets paid every two weeks, regardless of the date. Which makes it hard to figure out a budget since every month is different.

Yesterday, we sat down, and really worked on a manageable budget plan (thank you Dave Ramsey). It’s tight, but do-able.

One of the things included in the budget is, of course, food and grocery shopping, which has always been my department, except that he is forced to go to the grocery store with me, since I don’t drive. But he’s never really been part of the planning process for weekly meals, other than to eat the meals. I’ve always been the one to figure out how to stretch one meal into the next using leftovers, and things like that. But after doing our budget, his eyes are opened to our food budget.

There’s nothing worse than making my weekly meal plan only to find out the grocery store doesn’t have the particular cut of meat that I planned on using for several meals. That’s when I have to do some quick planning in my head, on the spot, to come up with a different idea, and still stay in budget. That happened today. They didn’t have the cheap cut of beef that I was going to use to make chicken fried steak, much to my husband’s disappointment. But they did have some bottom round cuts that I could tenderize the heck out of, but I didn’t want to spend the money. I wanted a cheaper option. Remember…trying to stay on budget.

He suggested a parmesan pasta (from DamnDelicious.net) that I make which is very easy, only he wanted to add sausage or peppers to the recipe. Mind you, sausage doesn’t agree with my daughter or me, and he is the only one who likes peppers, of any color. So, the “additions” would strictly be for him, and I wouldn’t be able to use the sausage for any other meal. I mentioned that by the time we bought the noodles, the peppers and the sausage, we may as well buy the steak. He didn’t believe me, so I challenged him.

The steak, was on sale for $5.94 (I told you, it was a cheap cut). The pasta: $0.79, the peppers (any color) were $1.79 each, the sausage (and here’s what pushed him over cost) was $4.99, and that was the cheapest one he could find. He doesn’t like the uncooked, sausage in a tube…he wanted premium kielbasa or something similar to that, bringing his “Noodles Parmesan” total to $7.57!

Now, my husband and I can be a bit competitive at times, in the nicest of ways, and I can tell you it felt great to win! For once, I got to explain what is going on inside my head while I’m shopping for food. Sometimes it’s not as simple as following a list, and throwing things into a cart. In fact, it’s NEVER as simple as that. And any corporate mogul would be lucky to have a SAHM who can think on her feet as part of their team.

By the way, we STILL got out of the grocery store $22.00 UNDER budget, thank you very much. AND we get to enjoy steak, baked potato and green beans for dinner tonight. Just don’t tell my daughter about the green beans…she hates them. You can’t please everyone, right?

Who Knew I Was A Cool Parent?

Most of the time, I feel like a dinosaur.

I still own a flip phone (my friend tells me I should donate it to the Smithsonian), I prefer talking rather than texting, I don’t drive a car (they won’t let epileptics have a license – with good reason), I’m always at least one season behind in styles and technology.

I even parent in an old-fashioned style: my kids don’t have cell phones (ages 11 & 15 – though the 15 yr old will probably get one this year), they don’t have ipads, or the latest in fashions either.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we live in a relatively wealthy area, but we aren’t wealthy. My husband and I joke all the time that we’re bring the property values down. My kids probably won’t go to Ivy League schools, like many of their classmates, unless they get a full ride scholarship. They don’t get to join every club and every sport around…it just isn’t affordable. And I’ve always felt a little guilty about that…not enough to keep me awake at night, but enough for it to bother me.

I am not the definition of a “cool mom.”

So, when my daughter had a friend spend the night this weekend, she “allowed” me to hang out with them. Actually, I told her that she could have a friend over, but that I wasn’t going to go hide in the bedroom, and be pushed out of the living room, so that she and her friend could take over the TV and the living room.

It was one of the few chances I got to talk to her and her friend. Since I don’t drive, I miss out on eaves-dropping on their conversations while running them from place to place. As we sat on the couch, channel surfing, I tried not to insert myself into their conversation, unless I was invited. I even waited until the next day for my daughter to explain some of the slang they were using, including one term that in my generation (GenX) meant something completely different than it does now.

My daughter has told her father and I that she tells her friends that her parents are “cool.” Truthfully, I thought she was just giving us lip-service for the next time she screws up. But even her friend mentioned that she heard we were “cool.” (Unless her friend is in on the scheme – but I’m choosing to believe that’s not the case).

Apparently, my husband and I have decent taste in music, and that scores big points. And I guess it helps that my husband is a gamer, and the two of them can talk for hours about RPGs and stuff like that. I have always been a little jealous of that.

I guess it’s nice to be “cool” in your kids’ eyes. I mean, we all say it doesn’t matter, and we’re the parent and not their friend. But I think it does matter to us that they like us. Hopefully, they’ll like us enough to come to us with the hard questions, and the hard problems of life.

Who knows how much longer I’ll be “cool.” I’d better enjoy it while I can.

Mom goes to her first Comic Convention

I live in a house full of nerds. Subjects like comic books, video gaming, anime, CosPlay, D&D, and RPG are part of the norm…for them, but not for me.

I love my nerds and all the “nerdiness” that surrounds them And I stay just on the outskirts of Nerd-dom looking in. They don’t leave me out, at least not on purpose, I’ve just never found that stuff interesting. It’s not “my thing.”

But we had a local, small venue ‘Con (Comic book convention), so I agreed to go. I had a pretty good idea what was involved, but I wanted my kids to see that I was interested in something they love…or at least participate in it. If nothing else, it meant we’d get out of the house and spend some family time together, without them groaning about it.

My daughter dressed up as Trafalgar Law from One Piece and her little brother went as Law’s sidekick, Tony Chopper.

The Con was fun entertaining. I was most impressed with the artists who had booths and were selling their prints. I can appreciate their talent. I want to give a shout out to Sam Ellis – designer and illustrator for Adventure Time, Archer and Catbug to name a few. My son is a fan of Catbug, but Sam didn’t have any Catbug prints with him to buy. So, Mr. Ellis drew a quick doodle of Catbug and signed it for my son. An original! How awesome is that for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old boy!

It was fun for the kids (and me) to get to talk to illustrators and writers of some their favorite comics, up close and personal.

And then there were the costumes. Fortunately, I had my husband with me to tell me who a lot of the costumes were, since I’m not versed in the Comic world. Again, a lot of talent, which I can appreciate, being a bit of a seamstress myself. And the creativity. Not just in the actual creation of the costumes, but in the hybrid costumes as well: Steampunk Mario & Luigi, a Victorian version of the Tardis from Dr. Who, to name a few. Their vision was fascinating.

Though my teenage daughter found it overall boring and too small (she’s been to much larger Cons), it was the perfect “Starter-Con” for me and my son.

Will I go back next year? That’s debatable. It may be sort of a one and done thing for me. But the rest of my brood will, no doubt, get dressed up and go again next year. My daughter has already started planning her costume for next time.

But at least I got to spend some much-needed time with the family. And the kids hung out with us, so long as we followed along behind. I can’t ask for more than that.

Am I Doing Enough for My Kids?

Every so often, I get this panicked feeling that I’m not doing enough for my kids to help them succeed. #raisingteens

We’ve never been an “over-achieving” family. I’ve written about raising average kids before and how I am perfectly fine with that. I don’t need them to be doctors or lawyers, or physicists or to run their own technology empire. If they do, that’s fabulous, but if they don’t, then I’m good with that too. I want them to be happy in whatever career they choose. And I want them to choose something that allows them to pay their own bills, and maybe provides them a house with an extra room for me and my husband in our golden years (A girl can dream can’t she?).

But I’m talking about MY responsibility to THEIR future.

I have a 15-year-old. And suddenly, I feel like time is running out to teach her everything I need to teach her before she takes on the world on her own, or at least partially on her own (I don’t plan on kicking her out the front door the day after high school graduation).

While a lot of our youth seem to be floundering, with their noses stuck in their computer screens or smartphones, I worry that we haven’t done enough to inspire them to want better for their lives. But I don’t want to push or nag either, because I’ve seen the results of that scenario too.

But there are things looming in the not so distant future: SATs, driver’s license, job, college applications, scholarships to find. My rational mind tells me that this isn’t going to come all at once, and that there will be waves of responsibility and opportunity that come her way, and we’ll deal with it when we get there. But what if I fail at the parenting part and miss those deadlines. Then what?! The consequences for missed opportunities are much greater at this age than they were at age 10.

To look back now, potty training was a breeze compared to the weight I feel at the moment. By the way, my condolences to anyone going through potty training – it was, until now, the one part of the whole “parenting thing” where I felt completely unprepared. There was no manual, and if there was, I swear my kids didn’t read it! LOL

When I approach my teen, I’m met with eye rolls, and push back, and a lot of silence. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe this too, shall pass. But I need to find the teen manual and find it quick. We all read “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” before our kids were born. Is there a “What to Expect when You’re Expecting a Teen?” Because I’d really like to have it on hand for reference right about now.

So, to my fellow parents of teens, am I alone in this? Will this, like potty training, happen when they are ready? Or should I rip the training pants off now, and spend the next few months cleaning up the puddles?