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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Getting Real – what real friendship is about

There we were, 12 women, sitting on the patio of a neighborhood coffee shop on a balmy summer evening as the sun set behind us. We saw each other nearly every weekend at church. We passed in the hallway, and waved or nodded “hello” as we dropped our kids off at Sunday school and then headed back to the sanctuary for service.

But as we sat on that patio and discussed our study, we began to realize that we were virtual strangers.

We shared the same beliefs, and were friendly enough to carry on small talk about school being over, and swim team starting up, but we never really got into the nitty-gritty of life. We never got messy, or shared the dirt of our lives. We kept that to ourselves, to guard like some dirty secret.

We never really got “real” with one another.

That’s what it’s like for so many women in this technological age. We communicate quickly, usually through a text, and in abbreviations. But we never really hold each other up and bear with one another under the weight of life.

How many times have you answered “Fine” when someone asked how things were going, when you wanted to scream the truth…that you really needed a friend and wanted to just sit and talk about life for a while?

But we say we’re busy…but are we really?

We can’t afford to be that busy. We can’t afford to be autonomous islands who can do ten things at once and still have dinner on the table at 6:00pm and the kids in bed by 9:00pm. And who really reaches that goal anyways?

If we would just be “real” with one another we’d know that there are no Jones’ to keep up with…they don’t exist. The Jones’ are a myth, an anomaly, that we created just to keep us feeling like we’ll never measure up.

So, there we were…12 women, sitting on the porch on a balmy summer eve, learning something about each other. But more importantly, learning something about ourselves. We aren’t so different from one another. I fail just like you do. I will never get the kids to bed by 9:00pm, and dinner might be on the table by 6:00pm, but you can bet it will be take-out picked up on the way home from soccer practice.

Therein lies the beauty of being a woman: we are flawed for a reason. We are flawed so that we can be empathetic and supportive to one another. We’re flawed so that we can hold each other up when life seems too big to stand alone. We weren’t meant to go it alone.

We were made flawed so that we can be “real,” not some fictional character that we can never reach.

Right there on that patio, we decided to be “real” from then on. We decided not to hide behind smiles, or schedules, or texts. We decided to be accountable to one another. To say how we really felt, even if it wasn’t fine. To ask for help if we needed it, and not be ashamed. And to laugh…I mean one of those laughs that starts at your toes and makes your eyes tear and your head hurt where you can’t catch your breath.

Because being “real” is so much better than pretending. Being “real” is the best part of having female friends.

What do you need to do to be “real” with your friends?

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.

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.

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?

I Don’t Feed My Kids…according to my Mom

Mothers and daughters disagree…A LOT.

And it doesn’t stop when we/they get older.

My mother thinks I don’t feed my kids enough, and she’s mentioned it numerous times. When I mention what we’re having for dinner in casual conversation, there’s usually a pause. I know she thinks I’m “not feeding her grandchildren.”

Okay. My kids are 11 and 15. They eat when they’re hungry, and they don’t spend the day snacking because they’re at school. I also make they’re lunches, so I know what they’re eating (unless they are throwing everything away).

Now, I’m not one of those mothers that send my kids to school with a Bento box, no offense to the “Bento Box Mom,” I just don’t have those skills or that kind of motivation. We’re a sandwich, chips or crackers, fruit, and juice or water sort of family. It works for us. They’ve never asked for more, but they are certainly welcome to it if they want it.

I assume that if they were starving, they would ask for more food, or help themselves. I mean, as I said, they’re 11 and 15, they are perfectly capable of figuring out if they want more food.

We eat dinner together as a family most every night. They eat the same portions as my husband and I do, albeit the 11-year-old still takes a little encouragement to finish the parmesan chicken that he hates. (Who doesn’t like parmesan chicken…it’s basically a giant chicken nugget!)

Now in her defense, my mom lives with someone who requires meat and bread with every meal…I mean EVERY meal. He will go to the store before a meal specifically to get bread if he’s out. And he has to have meat…no pasta, no quinoa, no vegetarian, only meat. So, I can see where she might be a little “judgy” about what we eat.

Over the years, in an attempt to save money and stretch the budget, we don’t always have meat at every meal. But that’s perfectly healthy. I know lots of families, like us, who have “Meatless Tuesday” or “Vegetarian Wednesday” or “Spaghetti Friday” to save money as well as simplify their lives.

She’s also from an older generation where food equaled love. How much you fed your family was equivalent to your love for your family. And though that’s still true in some cultures, it’s gotten to be sort of old-fashioned.

So, I think my mom and I will have to just agree to disagree when it comes to food.

What about you? I can’t be the only one who disagrees with their mom.