Monday, February 6, 2017

Let Your Light Shine


If I even say that phrase I start singing the hymn that we sang every week at Mass while attending my beautiful grade school.

The homily this last Sunday was on exactly this-letting our light shine, the talents and gifts that we ALL have, each one of us, to make the world a better place. I love that our priest mentioned "in the home" also.  I've heard some stay-at-home moms mention to me over the years that they have been questioned about letting their gifts and talents and education "go to waste" caring for their children.  I think there is NO better place to channel those gifts and talents, and that education! There is NO place that those gifts and talents and education will make more of an impact for eternity than in the home!  "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"-it's absolutely true.  I've known doctors, lawyers, MBA's, very skilled women, make the choice to stay at home and shine their "light" upon their families full-time, while the needs of their children are so great.  That light is a gift!  The days our children our home are so short, such a small percentage of our lives.

Our priest also mentioned that it is a responsibility to not squander this God-given gift.  The purpose is to share.  It is false humility to think that we don't have anything special to offer our families.  I often think of a mom who once said to me, after she asked me what I "do"-"I could never stay at home, I don't know how you do it."  I always wish I would have engaged her further in that statement-it makes me sad to think of what sort of warped view she had of what it "takes" to be a mom. I know every and all sort of stay-at-home moms, there is no "right" sort of personality type, no "right" sort of skills needed.  There is also no training-the first day of the job is when that baby arrives in our arms. We go from there and learn hands-on. It's a journey-a journey that takes decades.  I can only think someone must have told her, in some way, shape, or form, that she wasn't "good enough" for this job-as if she had to be some Barney (does anyone even remember Barney?) type of character every day, know what she was doing right off the bat, and be totally happy and satisfied-never get impatient, or unsettled, or stressed and if she does, well she's not cut out for it and her children are better off with hired help every day as her fill-in.  That train of thought leaves no room for the journey-no room for personal growth.

When I look back on twenty-two years of parenting, I can't imagine any other work teaching me as many skills as I have learned (and I'm still learning). I can't imagine any other work that has pushed me physically or emotionally into tremendous growth, any work forcing me to learn new things, things I couldn't have imagined being part of the job description, than that of stay-at-home mother.  It has stretched me in ways I could never have fathomed as a new scared-to-death, twenty-four year old mother.  I think we should be encouraging mothers to be home with their children-that they are enough for their babies, THEY are what their babies need more than any one else-they are more than enough, no one is worthy of taking their place, they are the ONLY one who can be mother! They are worth that tiny blink of an eye of time that it takes to raise a baby up, and no other job will reward them more than letting their light shine through their daily motherly presence.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Janey

Some things I have to remember about this precious girl at age four-

I am always writing funny things she says down.  I want to remember them forever.  Jeff took her to Five Guys one day for lunch and when we drove past weeks later I couldn't understand what she was saying-she said, "I love that place, that's where I want to go!"  She kept saying, "Everything Guy!"  I finally understood what she was talking about. She calls Hobby Lobby "hobby wobby". She has the cutest little voice ever. I know I will watch videos when she is older and cry at the sound of her little baby voice.

Her two favorites foods are french fries and ketchup.  A close second potato chips and dip.  So healthy!  She also loves granola with strawberries in it, thank the Lord, and will eat most everything.

She is starting to get feistier with her brothers.  "Don't touch my stuff Patrick!" that sort of thing. But the minute Patrick leaves to go to school she says she misses him.  She misses Abbey terribly.

She will play with her kitchen and her babies all day long. She is a pack rat. I call it the natural "gatherer" in girls that make these little ones pack all sorts of things in every bag they can find.  She once walked down with a backpack on front and one in the back, carrying two purses stuffed full of things.

She has the ability to go from crying to laughing in seconds.  Which is why we can recognize easily the "faker" in her.  The boys can make her crack up in the middle of sobbing.  It's the cutest thing.

She is and always has been my buddy. She goes with my everywhere and is always so good.  But she is very shy and won't say hi to anyone, or answer their questions. I am sure she will outgrow this with a little prodding.

Her favorite movies are Sound of Music, any Curious George shows, and Mary Poppins.

Her favorite thing to do ever is to play with our neighbor who is six years older than her. She talks about Mary Carol every day and her whole face lights up when she hears a knock on the door.

She is so flexible but how can one not be if they are #6? And I guess we do have long slow days together so there is that consistency but weekend games, or mom and dad having to go to a meeting, or geez, the older kids coming and going, I always wonder what might go through her head with all the activity around here. My mom told me once though that I was her "constant"-it is true I guess, I am almost always here, and we are together a ton. (Not that she doesn't love her daddy, she sure does.)

I try really hard to not go back and think about "the last time I'll have an infant or baby or 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 year old in the house".  It's too hard too live that way. It's like the "live every day like your last" quote-I always think  "if I did that everyone in my house wouldn't be clothed, educated and we would all be starving".  I do and always will miss my baby days. I will always wish I would have babies forever, honestly, but I guess I'd have to admit that I also don't picture me aging at the same time as having babies forever, so there you go.  I have pictures up of the three oldest ones when they were all at home together playing-I try not to idealize those days but they were so different than now and there was something so special about them-not that I knew that then, I didn't so much.  Motherhood is such a journey-the things I worried about when the oldest were young, or the things I hear younger mothers stressing about today-most of them aren't worth the space in our brains.

I was thinking about what advice I'd give to my own children when they become parents and wives/husbands.  I should start writing down little snippets.  There is so much margin in how you raise kids, but there is sometimes not too. Sometimes there is just "this is right" and "this is wrong."  I think when kids start to grow up too, you see that some super super good parents, have adult children that make decision that crush them or maybe even just merely disappoint.  And children from parents who were downright neglectful or irresponsible in their parenting, sometimes have a child or children escape from that and become stellar adults and parents themselves.  There is no ONE thing that has to happen to "make our kids turn out" ok.  If it was that easy.  It's so much care, and concern and prayers and love and attention and sacrifice.  And with all that, life happens and there are things that affect these children, individual circumstances, tragedies, hardships, just LIFE that affect them also-good and bad.

I know that I also, looking back, would tell myself first to stop worrying so much about this or that. Just love them, and be with them, and thoroughly enjoy them. But I can see myself in 15 years, telling myself the same thing about the teen/young adult years too-asking myself why I worried so much, and why I just didn't put those worries aside and not let those worries invade the joy of raising the kids.  I can make the excuse (and it's a valid one) of how hard this culture is for parents today, but there is good to be found everywhere too.

A friend and I were talking about this the other day.  I was listing out loud to her some thoughts in my head about "what I wanted" for my children.  If I'm honest with myself, it was what would make ME feel like I did what I set out to do with all the hard work I have done. Any by the time I got to number ten I was laughing at myself.  We were both cracking up.  Because honestly, it's ok to have high expectations, but as my friend put it best is "what you want is heaven". Heaven, where everything is just smooth and perfect, and there is no struggle, no heartbreak, no hard lessons full of learning opportunities, and nothing to ever worry the parents or nothing to ever break my heart to see my child, no matter how old, walk through.  No weight on my shoulders, no pride lost, no humble learning experiences for me, no late night begging prayers of "please God".  Just happy happy kids and gloriously awesome grandkids with no struggles of their own? Ridiculous. That's not life!  That's heaven!  And as wonderful as heaven sounds, I would choose to be here and struggle through it all, to celebrate the joys of the journey and find grace when the journey gets more difficult.  Even looking back as a parent for 22 years, which is not that long, the "tough" parts-watching a child struggle with school work or with fear, helping a teen with heart break, or dealing with disappointment over a mistake they've made and pushing through that correction with them, seeing them grow-those days are looked on as just as precious as the "easy" days too.  What a gift to witness-those times have forced my growth as much as theirs, if not more so.

Sorry for the ramble, this was supposed to be a post about things I don't want to forget about Janey.

Happy Groundhog Day!  I'll take the sunshine, shadow or not.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Notes From A Homily That I Loved

I went to Mass today at 7:30 a.m. because Andrew had to serve. (I am usually an early riser but heck that was really difficult today.:)  And then I came home and said, "I am going back with everyone else at 10:30, because I want to hear that again."  (I so wish my two oldest were here, because I want them to hear this message, so applicable to their generation. Instead they will have to listen to me retell it.)  

I told the priest after Mass that if I had a checklist of things I have been really really struggling with, that I wanted to find peace with but could not just settle myself (things I could not, no matter how much searching, find peace with and found myself sort of dark this week about, and I'm not just referencing politics)-well,  I had just checked them all off after his homily in terms of having found the answers.  Don't you just love when that happens?  I honestly had a talk with Jeff about some of this at dinner last night, and then to wake up and hear this refreshing beautiful message felt like a miracle, really.

Here are my notes (these are just notes, as I remember them, these are NOT the words right out of his mouth, he was much more eloquent and thorough, I am typing this up in a very busy house so excuse any typos etc, but I just have to get this down for myself.)

Gospel Reading: Matthew   5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, 
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  
He began to teach them, saying: 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are they who mourn, 
for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, 
for they will inherit the land. 
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
for they will be satisfied. 
     Blessed are the merciful, 
          for they will be shown mercy. 
     Blessed are the clean of heart, 
          for they will see God. 
     Blessed are the peacemakers, 
          for they will be called children of God. 
     Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of 
               righteousness, 
          for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
     Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you 
          and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. 
     Rejoice and be glad, 
          for your reward will be great in heaven.”


Waiting for things to get easier-We all have a tendency to think in the future things will get easier. (I relate this so much to motherhood!)  He said in the parish they can say...
After this Advent things will slow down
After Lent…
Then after Easter, it will get easier.
After the school year ends, and summer begins things will ease up.
And then after summer we can get back to a routine.

He related this to the same way he felt about the election.
Waiting for the election to be over and then everything will die down and we won’t have to be so invested and things will be "back to normal".…Waiting for the inauguration, everything will settle down... 
And then something else comes into play. 

We are always waiting for things to get easier.  Always yearning for the easy way out, to be satisfied. 
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
          for they will be satisfied. 

Hunger and thirst are uncomfortable feelings, and we will be satisfied in HEAVEN, not here on earth.

righteous. 1 : acting in accord with divine or moral law
   
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, 
          for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN-they are promised the kingdom of heaven, for the sake of acting in accord with moral law.  
It is NOT an easy place-the place we are called to be as Christians. 

A mock Golden Book that he saw on the internet with a picture of Hitler and the caption:
Everyone I Don't Like Is Hitler-A Child's Guide To Online Political Discussion.

We praise right to life issues, for protecting the most vulnerable and innocent among us, and that is good and righteous.  It is not that easy though. 

There is no political party for Christians. We are supposed to be in the party of Christ, to look for Him and strive to be like Him.  We are called to be compassionate to refugees, to those left behind, to immigrants etc.  We are to stand up and speak up. We must praise the righteous acts and we decry (with love and compassion), the unrighteous acts.  We must live and speak the message of Christ, but not without understanding and compassion, whether in our own families or on social media (he mentioned Facebook.) Just because we disagree with someone does not make them Hitler, and just because we agree with someone, does not make them Jesus himself.


Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. 
Rejoice and be glad, 
for your reward will be great in heaven.


This will happen to you as a Christian-even when you approach with compassionate love. It happened in Christ's time too.  You will have half the population hating you for the way you stand up for the unborn, and then when you say, BUT when you say all people must be treated with compassion and mercy no matter what the circumstances or race, or religion, you will have the other half hating you.  As Christians we have no easy simple “box” to be in and that is uncomfortable.  We are CALLED to that discomfort, to speak up and not be afraid, and not be swayed by popularity-the discomfort won't ever go away, we can't just keep waiting for it to go away and get easier, if we are living the message.   

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Must-Read


I found this old book while looking up some Depression era books on Amazon. I ordered if from the library after reading a few reviews, even though it looked quite old and out of date.

I LOVE this book. I am ordering a copy of my own. I am sending one to my parents.

It is chock full of wisdom and common sense, things I sometimes feel haven't seen the light of day now.  (Funny though, this book was published in the 1950's, and he writes about how then, wisdom and common sense seem long gone, compared to when he was being raised.) 

A little background-Sam Levenson grew up in a cramped NY tenement, a poor boy, the youngest of ten (two boys died very young so he grew up with seven siblings).  He spent many years teaching, and became a radio show personality. He has a great wit about him, and a wonderful way of mixing that wit with profound truths, and tales from his childhood.

I couldn't help but thinking, "This is the BEST parenting book I've ever read" throughout the whole book.  And it is NOT a parenting book at all, but it should be today.  It is that full of wisdom.  It should be number one on the best seller list, and forget all the rest of the advice.

"I was a most fortunate child. Ours was a home rich enough in family harmony and love to immunize eight kids against the potentially toxic effects of the environment beyond our door. Since the social scientists do not, as far as I know, have a clinical name for the fortunate possessors of this kind of emotional security, I might suggest they label them "the privileged poor". Poverty never succeeded in degrading our family. We were independently poor." 

(I listened to this late one night after I finished reading the book-it is a little background about him.)

Here are my favorite quotes (it is difficult to pick my favorites, I'd be writing all day if I didn't-this book is so worth reading all the way through.)

"Our parents set the moral tone of the family. Each of us was responsible not only to himself but to his brother, and all were responsible to our parents, who were prepared to answer to the world for all of us."

"Honor brought to parents by their children was the acceppted standard for measuring success.  It also became the incentive for us.  Our personal success was to a great extent predicated up on the happiness we could bring to our parents.  It would not be long before this idea would completely reverse. TO make our children happy was to become the 'summum bonum' of family life."

"They (his immigrant parents) defined freedom as the opportunity to change the circumstances of your life through your own effort, to force the hand of history rather than to remain forever enslaved by it."

On his mother's quest to teach him the importance of cleanliness and her ability to doctor them herself:
"Mama practiced medicine without a license but not without a philosophy. The preservation of life was a religious commandment based up on the doctrine of the sanctity of the human body as the dwelling place of the spirit. If the body housed the spirit, that house (the the apartment we lived in) had to be kept in decent repair or the spirit might become ill."

On the father as the leader of the household and someone to be honored and revered:
"Friday night's dinner was a testimonial banquet to Papa. For that hour, at least, he was no longer the oppressed victim of the sweatshops, the harassed, frightened and unsuccessful breadwinner, but the master to whom all heads bowed and upon whom all honor was bestowed. He was our father, our teacher, our wise man, our elder statement, our tribal leader."

The neighborhood of like-minded families with the same values:
"The woman minded everything and anything, without charge "Please mind my fish, my soup, my husband, my purse.": For me there was an emotional affinity between being minded and being loved. While I did not like to be watched, I felt that I was being protected one hundred times over by one hundred watchful mothers." 

Parent leadership:
"Although there were eight of us children, we were out numbered by two parents. Ours was a decidedly parent-centered home. Since respect for age was a cornerstone of our tradition, it followed that Mama and Papa had a right to lead, and we the right to be led by them. We had very few other rights. We had lots of wrongs which were going to be corrected by any methods our parents saw fit. The last thought that would have entered my parents' minds was to ask their children what was good or bad for the children. We were not their contemporaries, not their equals, and they were not concerned without ideas on how to raise a family. "When I need your opinion I'll give it to you."

"One thing was sure. In our home we knew the House Rules.  They were:
1. Respect was to be shown all elders.
2. There was not such things as petty crime. Little offenses can lead to big ones Practice makes perfect.
3. The management reserved the right to screen your friends.
4. When the sun set you came home.
5.  You had to earn good marks in school or money, or both. Loafing was out and unearned money was suspect.
6. You could be a hero in your own home. Try it. (Papa was, Mama was, and so was any one who brought honor to the family.)"

As a middle-class parent reflecting on his childhood and the changes he saw in the culture:
 (Remember this was published in 1949!)

"There are about four hundred books on child care published each year. Unfortunately the latest book very often contradicts the next to the latest by the same author who is in the interim has also read a book. The bewildered mother loses faith in her maternal instincts. She becomes "out-directed." The fear of doctrinal error paralyzes her. She has gone from economic insecurity in her mother's home to emotional insecurity in her own. "Am I adequate?" "Am I giving too much, expecting too much, to little?" Am I mothering or smothering, overprotecting or underprotecting, over-concerned or under concerned, obsessive, repressive?" The natural joy of caring her babies is destroyed by the dread of making the wrong decision.  Love must be sterilized and defined before it can be used."

"Many young mothers, driven by fear of not doing enough for their children, are imposing upon them the kind of frenetic care that converts the home into a hospital and childhood into a critical condition."

On the quest to give children the material goods we didn't have, or to abide by expert philosophy:
"One of the side effects of "Operation More" is often "Separation More".

On quality and quantity time:
"I was raised in an atmosphere of unscheduled love. Like punishment, it appeared wherever and whenever the situation called for it-during, between, after, or before. It was woven into the favorite of our daily life. It was never announced; it was felt. It was certainly not the amount of time our fathers spent with us that made us feel loved. Most of them worked so hard and long we did not get to see very much of them. We regarded their hard work in the sweatshops, however as ample proof of their devotion." 

"Now we are the era of love by appointment."

On too much:
"The fear of "depriving" our children has produced the most "gifted" generation of children in our history.  We shower them with gifts to prove our love, with the inevitable results that the gift to love has degenerated into the love of gifts."

"Are we giving things because we are reluctant to give time, or self, or heart? Are we offering presents in place of presence?"

"The more toys he has the less he plays. He spends more time choosing than playing. He is suffering from the boredom of opulence. For the mother this abundance ultimately creates a housing problem."

"We wondered, along with many other middle-class parents, whether we were doing the right thing in removing tall the discomforts we had experienced, whether making it unnecessary for the middle-class child to walk, wait, worry, work, perspire, or cry was good for him.

A disadvantage may turn out to have been an advantage, a denial an incentive, a deprivation an inspiration. Running interference for the child so that he will never get hurt may main him for life. Unearned satisfaction of one's needs may leave a young person with a feeling of great emptiness. Discontenment is a springboard for achievement."

"Minding one's own business has become a virtue. If you see a kid behaving like a hoodlum you say to yourself, "It's not my kid, so it's not my problme." Personally, I'm for snitching. Delinquency is OUR problem. When it is for the common good snitching is good. My mother was a snitcher, as were all the other mothers in our neighborhood. If I ever did anything wrong, by the time I got home my mother knew it via the maternal grapevine." 

"Snitching should be reinstated as a form of collective discipline. We might also revive Mama's type of Mother's Club, who platform was :Parents of America, unite. Join, the UPA-Unafraid Parents of America."

"My parents weren't always right, but they were clear. They figured that if they didn't teach us someone else would. In a moment of choice between right and wrong, I could hear the echoes of their oft-repeated admonitions in my inner ear-nagging is what they would call it today."

These are only little tidbits throughout the book!!! It is an absolute gem.



Monday, January 23, 2017

Quiet Days

Quiet January days-I love them but want winter to hurry through nevertheless.  The warm weekend was a little tease. My niece walked out of her house and said, "That was fast! Summer is here!" If only, if only.
We've had a run through with the colds going around, Patrick was out last week and it was so so nice to have him home. I miss that kid when he's at school all day, and so does Janey.

We have been doing some much needed winter clean-outs (just finished the pantry today, with Janey's help) , some good "house love" on these warm and cozy days, and I caught up on all my scrapbooks. Boy do I procrastinate every step of that, and it never takes as long as I think it will, and I'm always happy when I look at how neat all the books are.  My Dad built me a nice shelf for them above a built-in in the basement, so that motivated me further.

It's pretty incredible to me the amount of core strength teenage boys have. Someone was gifted with a super cool balance board for Christmas and this is the roller part of it. Matt can balance on it forever. If I even look at the balance board I envision myself with a broken hip. Which means this house would go to hell in a hand basket and I would sit and watch from the sofa.  That deters me from any balance board attempts.

I took a lovely walk one really really early morning to the river.  It's amazing how 20 minutes by myself outside in nature can change my entire day every single time for the better.  What gets me up on cold dark mornings is knowing that my day will be great if I just do it.

Jeff and Janey made this lump look like me, with my boots sticking out.

The cutest photo I found from about 10 years ago-so happy and agreeable EVERY DAY and so loving and so talkative and so grateful at this age...it seems like ages and ages and ages ago.
Makes my heart hurt for the mothers of these boys, one of which is me.  Sometimes it seems like they disappear for awhile, and we moms are left to wonder where our little guys went. But they come back, at least my experience tells me so, but when you are in the thick of teenager raising sometimes it's hard to remember. 

Sigh.
That is the 'mom of teenager sigh', and if you have some, I know that you know it well. It can feel lonely and sad at times, can't it?  But remember that EVERY mom of teenagers is doing that same sigh, whether they tell you or not.  
Three things:
-This too shall pass.-
-Love is the answer.-

And also could I add? A little of:
Terms of endearment:
(Sorry, I just couldn't stop laughing at this.)

This is Janey's "help mom with cleaning outfit".  I think when I was cleaning I whipped off my sweater because  I was hot as Hades and she did the same and there you go-tank and leggings=cleaning outfit,forever. (NOT, for me, an 'answer the door outfit', I assure you.)

New matching boots (accidentally matching, but both came on same day and what do you know?)

Cousins, so cute.

At a MI basketball game.

In heaven.  He watches The Journey and has seen this workout room enough to know it by heart.  He also met all his favorite players and it was a day he will remember forever...

...Abbey took this pic, I love it. 
Dreams.

Grandma with grand kids on her birthday.  A few college/high school kids missing, but they all adore her. 

Matt playing CYO basketball. Fun to watch at this age, because they are truly having so much fun with friends. The games can get wild (I've seen a few broken bones over the years) but lots of good healthy competition.

That's a baby in there. :) 
Every where we go we watch for babies. Church especially and then we oooh and aaah over them.  Because babies should be ooohed and aaahed over, always. They are perfect gifts straight from heaven.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hunker Down Days

Today I woke up with plans to clean the entire house top to bottom-a winter-post-Christmas clean, because it needs it, and I need to feel that 'house-is-clean' clearing of mind.

I made it about 2/3rds through before I ran out of time, even though I worked non-stop (I did stop about 10 minutes to wolf down 2 bananas and an entire bag of sweet potato chips and to fix Janey some food).

This is what I did:

-Straightened up our master closet-didn't really need weeding out-and vacuumed well.
-Sorted through socks and underwear house-wide.  This means that every sock in my house right now has a pair and the ones that don't are goners.
-Washed all bedding in Janey's room and straightened books and toys. (The toy part was undone quickly.)
-Straightened up Janey's closet and labeled her 3 bags of hand-me-downs.
-Did the same (straightened, weeding out, vacuumed, dusted, wiped down) with the three other kid's rooms.  Only one needed blankets/sheets changed.
-Cleaned both upstairs bathrooms thoroughly.
-Washed (bleached) and dried all kid's room towels and threw in the kitchen towels too.
-Wiped down and vacuumed living room.
-Wiped down furniture and cleaned the wood floor and all woodwork up to the kitchen.
-Hung some framed prints in the den.

I can't believe how dusty my house was, and I will blame it on the constant furnace usage since it's been so cold here.

I have a couple bigger projects to do upstairs so I had a list to make of things for other days (sewing curtains, touching up paint, hanging a few pics, etc.)  It ends up being quite a long list that will take me through the winter I'm sure (if I stay organized and actually complete it!)

I plan to tackle the rest of the house as quickly as possible tomorrow morning and then start with my list.

In other news, January ordinary days:

Lunch at the ski slope with Dad. That food! That is called Dad food.

We did our resolutions. I had to take a pic of Andrew's because of #4.  He is trying to not to get annoyed so much but the open mouth chewing thing-he said, "Mom, no way I can't do it, it just makes me crazy, it will always bug me." 


Abbey at the ski slope.  All the kids went but Janey of course.  (We stayed home.) I laughed hearing about Isaac and Abbey trying to take pics of each other and how often they ran into each other doing so and got themselves into hysterics.  

One of my resolutions is to celebrate Catholic feast days/holy days. I had planned to make something fancier that I had found on a blog and didn't have the time/energy and just settled for apple pie.  You can laugh, everyone else did (including me.)  It's for Twelfth Night by the way.

A half-hearted attempt at celebrating or at least embracing winter. 
Janey loves it, that's enough for me.

I don't know how she talked me into it, but we made cut-out cookies again. This time stars for Epiphany. (But we made them on Friday and they were gone by Epiphany Sunday so they sort of lost their meaning.)

Basketball games galore-Andrew is #45-they lost this very close game, but he played hard.

 Abbey sadly went back to college and it was an emotional goodbye as she is STILL sick and we never made it to the third! drs. visit darnit.  It's not fun dropping a sick kid off at college, especially when she had a job interview that day and a full day of classes the next.  We stopped at Cheesecake Factory for lunch and of course I had to buy her a cheesecake to take to her dorm.
I took her shopping for a "professional outfit" before she left and we ended putting together an outfit including shoes for under $60.  Which was great because I know she is going to wear it all as seldom as possible the rest of college.
I am always on board for being the one who drops off/picks up college kids-the time in the car alone in priceless.  

These two before Patrick left for school-he'd rather stay home every day, and she would rather have him stay home and play with her.  I think they both might get their wish as a bunch of snow is predicted tonight.

P.S. I corrected about 10 typos two hours after I published this post and had the time to carefully reread it.  I know this is not unusual, but it still embarrasses me.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Really Long Post On Millennials/Social Media/Cell Phones


This is about 20 minutes long (watch the whole thing!), sent to me by my mother (an education consultant/teacher-trainer), sent to her by an administrator of a school, all who are very very thoughtful and concerned about child/adolescent tech usage.

It is thought-provoking. It made me feel very unsettled, angry, and sad, helpless, and I couldn't get it off my mind.  It led to some good discussions here, as I forced my older kids to watch it.  I sent it to friends I know would be interested and also have the same concerns and worries about this subject as I do.

Which is pretty much everyone I know.  Because tech has infiltrated our kid's world.  I see toddlers with Ipads and frankly I will tell you it turns my stomach and I am glad it does. To me that is indicative of the world I grew up in-the one that says that children learn by reading, by observing, by being outside, be being bored, by looking around them.  They don't need beeping lights.  They don't learn from stinkin' Dora The Explorer app in any way shape or form, but with their hands and active deep brain processing.  They'd learn more with mud and sticks and acorns and flour and water and leaves and a paper and pencil and a few books than the latest Ipad.  They'd do more for their brains and their psyches and their souls with that little list BY FAR than the latest gadget.

And then they go to school and I have been in enough school meetings, with administration and other parents to know that there are many who are concerned about tech.  And not keeping tech out of kids hands but bringing it to them more and more often-into classrooms everywhere and all the time, which also turns my stomach.  I think many administrators and teachers feel exactly like I do-but the competitive selling point of the school is what tech they supply, which means it all comes down to money, not is what is best for the kids.  Money over kid's brains.

The parents talk of tech like this is an utterly essential aspect of life that will determine the kids will succeed or fail. I have talked to enough teachers to know that there are very limited benefits of it.  Kids learning by interacting with others, by reading and listening and reciting and by the sight and sound and touch of pages turning.  No books in classrooms? That's awful and no one will ever convince me otherwise because it's just common sense, a rarity today when it comes to just above everything.

And then there is the psychological aspect and no studies can prove to me what I know from talking face to face to other parents and being one myself, and teachers and those that help children-doctors and therapists.  Our children are changing and NOT in a good way.  In a terrible drastic scary way.  Addiction and I'm not just talking porn which deserves all the talk it is getting, but addiction like not being able to part with a phone, flipping out when they have to, endless hours and hours and hours on social media and texting and games and forums. Hours and hours, days and days.  I see parents frustrated but many in the end giving in and saying, "What can we do?"  But it doesn't change the fact that teens brains are hard-wired for addiction.  And tech can be addicting! We all know it can be and to deny otherwise is just that-denial.  We are handing it to our children at their brain's most vulnerable time of addiction (just like Mr. Sinek in the video alludes to) and are saying, "Have at it." And we are introducing these habits younger and younger.  And the incidence of depression and anxiety and suicide and struggle with addiction are rising.

And the excuses.  I've heard them all, some of them I've made myself.  And we all know they are ridiculous because we are HERE today and we made it without cell phones to call mom on when we get here or there, home or away.  We all figured out how to get from Point A to Point B and we can still do that, but I don't think the younger generation can because they haven't learned the skill.  I can tell you that I can argue against every excuse for tech under the sun that has ever been invented.  Because parents are great at justifying, but teens-they are even better. I've heard them all, bring them on.

I've also given in to them, and deeply regretted it.  I've learned many many more lessons than my children have when it comes to tech.  I've learned right along with them and that is a huge caveat of my generation (I am 47) who were literally thrown into the storm with no help, no advice, no guidance except from people trying to make a buck off of our children (the tech companies). That storm was changing it's course every day and we couldn't keep up.  I grew up thank the Lord without any of it, and I raised my first three children up to their teen years without any of it.  I remember writing letters and posting them, and film cameras, and learning how to send an email and be blissfully awesomely unaware of everything in this little black box of an internet.

I've had my own journey with tech-from realizing the pull of social media and hating where it took me and hitting the delete button and feeling a huge sense of relief from pressure and from getting my precious time back with not one regret of saying no to it all.  Time is what our kids need from us parents, and social media is the biggest time suck ever. I learned a lot from blogging-a time-suck again, choosing whether to participate in that time-suck, and then also comparisons and awareness of a deep desire to be real instead of falling into the trap of presentation and perfection which is so common on the internet but is also so untruthful-integrity and being aware of it. Being aware of the good/bad and what weighs more and how I can influence that weight tremendously.

It took years to work out the way I wanted to use the internet so that it could be something positive and healthy in my life and it takes self-awareness and honesty and thoughtfulness and self-discipline.  But it also took being aware of what I was missing post-internet and what I lost compared to pre-internet.  Our children will not be able to do that. You don't know what you've lost if you aren't even aware that something is missing.   That is what it comes down to.  What is missing?

-A clear head instead of one that is filled with too much information which is dangerous-dangerous in the way that we become immune to what is really important.

-A life lived with what is in front of you instead of what exists out there somewhere.  With WHO is in front of you, in that chair across from you, in that house you live in.  With the books on your bookshelf, the recipes in your cabinet, the fresh air outside your door, and the creativity you thought of in your own mind with the supplies you have in your own house.

-Presence, mindful and physical and emotional presence.

-Authenticity and integrity and empathy and humility: four huge important things that are missing from most everything on the social media.

I am waiting for the switch to flip.  To switch to parents knowing the dangers that are far and wide and all encompassing and realize that what will make their child happier, more creative, more intelligent, more empathetic, more healthy, more employable, better workers, have fuller, richer, healthier minds and bodies and souls is the LACK of tech in their lives.  The later they touch an Ipad, a computer, a phone, the BETTER off they will be.

Yes, I've heard the "tech isn't going away" reasoning and yes, it's true, but if that is used an excuse to just accept all the bad with the good, no thanks.  It CAN go away, and it must, in many situations.  We also have to do a better job in educating our children on the negatives.  And a phone contract is a good idea, but it must go further than that.  They need to know from the minute they start using it (and if they can't understand this they shouldn't be using it) the way their brains react chemically.  They need to know how gaming and social media companies purposely make every facet of their product addicting.  Purposely!

We need to stop (OK not stop but get real) about all this "stranger danger on Facebook" talk that seems to always be the one and only thing talked about when it comes to kids and tech and talk about the every day danger-not the one in a million danger.  The danger of the loss of concentration, the struggle with being "on" all the time, the images filling up our children's heads-the fake lies of perfection. We need to talk about sexting and porn yes, for sure, but we need to show them what it does to relationships-what is missing and the shallowness of it all.  I want an awesome group of speakers to come to every junior high to call out our administrators and us, the parents, and give us all a huge talking to-to empower us to say no as parents, and demand more and show us all the data and research that is only just being talked about now.  There are very very few experts that will do this I've found.  I've read enough "parenting" books that drop the ball majorly when it comes to really talking about what kids and parents are struggling with and will go out on a limb to say "these need to be your rules if you want to raise these children properly".

I say all this all out of frustration-and I'm frustrated by what I myself just did-I wrote about it and gave no real solutions and no answers.  This video is informative and eye-opening and needs to be heard.  But I wonder if this speaker even has kids and if he did what his rules would be knowing all that he just spoke about.  Realistically what would he do?  What if the schools he sent his children to handed them a laptop?  Or let his kids have their phones all day in school and use them in the classroom?  How would he teach balance with a kid who was always "doing his homework" when he had a big hunch that wasn't true?  Would he let his daughter have an Instagram account and when?  I have about 20 more questions I'd like answered with specifics. Because it's not ever as easy as it sounds-in the elementary years, yes, but in the teens years, not always.

I get angry because there is a lot of spouting off about our generation and our millennials (and trust me I get it!) but when it comes to tech please have at it. Experts, give me your rules and suggestions but ONLY if you've had direct success with them all in your home yourself and only if you define what "success" is.  I find our parent's generation doesn't really understand what we are up against and will not directly offer any advice.  I have had many grandparents complain to me by what they see (and I agree with them!) but in a way they are adding to the problem by not speaking up and wanting to keep the peace. Help us, support us, give us a little boost when we are fighting against the tide of the crazy "norm". (Thank you Mom!)

Do you know what else we need?  We need to be honest with ourselves and with each other.  We need to share our rules and empower each other.  I've had enough emails that have said to me, "I don't want to give in but my child is asking for the latest ____ but I don't really want him to have it.  He'll be the only kid on the block who doesn't."  I once wrote to a mom who I admire to ask her a question about how she handles the homework/tech thing and she told me her kids didn't have Ipods/Ipads/phones or their own laptop till college!!! College!!! (This was about a year ago not 10 :). She said, "We just said no and stuck to it and kept them busy with other things.  We have a family computer for school work."  That was so empowering to me at the time.  I know a few of my friends who have little ones and they have had little or no access to tech (as my kids have till high school) and will continue to say no for a long long time.  I think as this problem has crept down to newer parents, those who don't fully have their parenting confidence in place, it is more important than ever to hear from those who don't allow technology and think there kids are much better off for NOT having it. We've all seen this article before right? (Another similar one here.)

What would my "dream world" look like when it comes to all of this?

Very very limited tech usage (meaning almost none and in junior high used rarely in a classroom only) at home for kids from birth to junior high. They learn to read, and write and communicate and concentrate deeply.  Tech exposure is thought of as detriment instead of an advantage.

In high school we'd begin first with major education when it comes to brain reaction to technology and the awareness of being "sucked in"-"your brain on tech". A strong strong awareness of the "dark side" of the internet from dishonesty, misrepresentation, advertising, false information, the science behind addiction and how companies use that, etc.  How and why to make choices when it comes to participation in social media-etc.  An entire class on it all, with reminders and constant guidance and parents teaching first at home and setting rules in place.  Would this all make a difference?  I don't know-those hard-wired teen brains.  I've heard the "teach them balance" thing over and over again and I have yet to see ONE parent who feels they have been successful at this through the teen years when it comes to tech.  We have to ask ourselves why teens love tech so much?  Why are they so drawn to it during these years?  My answer? Because it's the "easy way out" almost always.  It requires less work, less thought, less growth emotionally and mentally and socially, less accountability, and more self-discipline.  (The video touches on this briefly and it's so true-these are emotionally hard years!)

An acceptance of rules for parents that become the norm, which can only be realized through information and studies and articles and then general acceptance. This is why we don't encourage our teens to smoke and drink and if parents we knew did, they'd be frowned upon by most as bad parents.  There needs to be a certain awareness and acceptance of what is good/bad for our kids first. (Smart phone in second grade?  Not good!) It is just beginning as I have read more and more studies/articles coming out against use of tech and younger children, in schools and with teens and as more mental health professionals are talking about what they are seeing.  Yes the tech companies will come out with their own studies but they have something to lose (akin to cigarette companies marketing to teens in days long gone).  Certain societal norms need to be accepted-manners!  We have manners because they were taught and modeled at home-they were in essence "rules" we followed.  We need to do the same-set the example.