Addicted

As you more than likely know, we brought home a sibling group of four in the beginning of 2015. We went from a household of three to a household of seven overnight. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. But one of the first things we noticed was our son’s addiction to video games. He (Chief) was a month shy of 11 when we got him.

Now when we were told about the kids from CYFD, one of the things we were told was that he had been diagnosed with a learning disorder and he liked to play video games. “Okay, no problem,” we thought. However, the extent of it was not told to us. For the sake of this post, I am going to focus on the video game addiction and how it intertwined deep into his brain and personality. Socially he was awkward and behind. He was and still is a quiet kid. But when he did anything, draw, play it all centered around video games. He only drew video game related characters and scenes. He pretended (more like thought) he was in a video game. Seriously, it was strange and at times scary. We’ve all heard the stories of foster kids killing their foster parents. Well, those fears weren’t too far from home or our mids. To engage him in normal conversation was very hard. He hadn’t had much practice at it.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity we didn’t pull the plug on the video games right away, even though it was obvious that not only our second oldest son had a problem, but so did the other two. Our youngest soon got too used to watching videos, albeit educational. We did go through the gaming devices that they came with and got rid of the questionable games, apps, etc. We started to limit the screen time as well.

We also noticed that when the kids would get off of their devices or stop watching anything they really struggled transitioning back into reality. They would remain in a fog state for some time. The longer the screen time, the longer the fog time. It changed their attitudes and behaviors, never for the better. Today, they are very rarely on the computer for anything, unless at school. Video games are a thing of the past. Movies are only occasionally on the agenda. T.V., well, we don’t have one and don’t watch it online either.

Chief had the hardest time with the restrictions. Honestly, gaming was all he knew. No matter where they lived growing up, how little money they had he was never without an XBox or gaming device. In foster care he was able to stay up very late playing video games, watching inappropriate things without any supervision. It was a means of escape for him. He hated when we’d limit screen time or actually take away his devices as a consequence. He had withdrawals. But it was okay.  Not easy, but okay. We knew it was for his best interest.

Like I said we didn’t go cold turkey with him or the other kids, and at first, we watched way more movies than we ever did with our oldest two. Seriously, the movies started out as a way for all of us to be able to sit in the same room without chaos. But today after a long and hard, but definitely not the hardest battle, he has changed SO much. His sketch pads are filling with everyday items, happier storylines, and he’s even made up his own characters. His imagination has soared. When he plays he plays how a “normal” kids should play. I can’t remember when we have seen him act out video games. He reads. He creates. Best of all he engages. You should see his smile. Chief has really matured and grown into a funny, sincere young man. He knows he was addicted. He still wants to play from time to time but even though he hasn’t said it I believe that he is grateful we took the stance we did and took away screens of all sorts. (You can read a bit about our stance on screen time here)

A side note on learning disabilities and screen time. They do not and should not go hand in hand. It only hinders brain development and growth. What kids with LDs need are hands-on experiences, outdoor fun, books, engagement from adults, real life. They need to be challenged to learn, not pacified. They need to see what they are capable of in the real world, not some fantasy digital world. Though he still has his academic struggles, he has made great gains. He is learning to use his brain in ways he never has. He has even stated that his brain would hurt in the early days with us.

I also want to state that Chief was not the only person in our house addicted to electronics. His was just the worst. Yet God used it to reflect and show us our own shortcomings and pitfalls where electronics were concerned. Isn’t it funny how God does that? Sometimes our children are the perfect mirror.

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Media Fast

Our pastor recently challenged our church to a two-week media fast. He had been preaching on the dangers of media and video addiction. Until we got our younger kids we lived pretty old school, no TV, rarely a movie, very limited time on the computer for our kids and for us. Other than the occasional show on the internet and watching the Red Sox via MLB.TV our screen time was limited. I plan to write a future post about our families reality with video game and technology addiction. For now, I want to focus on the media fast results.

Our pastor introduced us to the Glow Kids book. Let me tell you it is a MUST read, kids or no kids. I simply cannot recommend it enough. We have been reading it as a family with the older kids and individually as well. It will open your eyes in more than one way.IMG_2654

So, the results of those two weeks without media. Well, for the kids there wasn’t much of a negative change. (Again more on this in a future post.)

But here are some of the things we did instead of watching, playing, and/or listening.

 

IMG_2612After dinner wiffle ball.

IMG_2616Sorting through LEGOs from eldest son’s work. This was seriously relaxing and addictive.

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Chalk drawing.

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IMG_2611Just beginning outside. Can’t beat this sky.

IMG_2638Photobombing the tree climbers.

IMG_2639Trust falling from the tree.

We baked cookies. Hung out as a family. Played LOTS of board games. Had friends and family over. Went hiking. Just did more stuff together.

Did we get bored, of course? But boredom can lead to great imagination. Did the kids cheat on the fast? No, they are freed from those addictions. Me? Yes, I checked Instagram here and there. I checked the Red Sox scores. My blog posts were prewritten so all I had to do was push publish. BUT, I wasn’t chained to my phone. Even though I did start cutting back before the fast, I know I could SO easily go back to listening to podcasts, checking this and checking that all of the time. So, for me, I need to keep my phone off of my person and in an out of the way place. I have enjoyed the quiet, though too much quiet made me uneasy. I have enjoyed not being as distracted. I have enjoyed a clearer mind. For Hubby, it was a positive experience as well.

If I could encourage you at all to do a media fast yourself and as a family. It will be WELL worth it. Look around you when you are out. How many kids have devices keeping them entertained? How many people are walking around looking down at their phones? How many people have earbuds in, intentionally disengaging from society? How many times do you look at your phone, computer for non-essential things? How many times do you use the electronic babysitter? You may be surprised at what you see and observe. Also, read the Glow Kids book. I am seriously thinking of buying a bunch and handing them to our kids’ school principals, teachers, to family members, etc. It is just that good, that important, and that convicting.

IMG_2641Saw this shirt while thrifting. Thought it was so fitting during our media fast. If you do this fast, I’d LOVE to hear how it went for you and your family.

Spice Organization

IMG_2445We have a lot of spices, perhaps more than the average household. With three adults who cook, two of whom LOVE spicy, flavorful food they quickly add up. They also get out of order very easily. (If you know me I thrive on order. Being able to just blindly reach into the cabinet and pull out the spice I need is peace to my mind and soul.) So I put on some podcasts and went to work.

IMG_2446I bought a pair of those 3-tier spice racks. My plans were canceled when the racks didn’t work. They actually took up too much space.

IMG_2444Organizing is not always mess-free.

IMG_2447Done. Now the top two shelves are not full. I just have everything pulled to the front for easy access. I did this about a month ago and so far it looks like this. SOOO nice! I tried to group them together on the bottom shelf, baking spices, herbs, hotter ones (chili powder, etc.), rubs and so on.

When Your Kids Don’t Like Church

For me, God comes first. When I start my day, I start it right off in prayer and Bible reading. The choices and decisions I make I really try to base them off of the Word of God. The way I dress, the words I speak, the friends I keep, the things that I allow into my life are filtered through what God would think. Now I am far from a saint by any means, but I try to live a life worthy of the forgiveness given to me by my savior. This post is written in the mindset that you as a parent feel the same. If you have problems with your church, the church in general, and/or your own commitment to the house of God then there is another post, not yet written at least by me, for that.

This includes my church life. If the doors of our church are open for service I am there. There are very few things that keep me from church. Hebrews 10:25 admonishes us “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NKJV) To take me to every service (and we have A LOT) is one thing. That is the easy part. To take your kids is another. For the most part, our oldest two came along without much complaint. Honestly, that is all they know. We have been taking them since their births. Sometimes, however, they just played the part of a church kid and other times they rebelled and fought us.

We made them go. We made them sit quiet and still in service when there was no children’s church. While our kids were “drug” to church they knew that God came first. Sports, special school events, birthday parties, and the like took a back seat. We also explained to them why Mom and Dad went to church, why we raise our hands in worship, why we pray, etc. Both are now adults and are living for God. They have a relationship with God that stands even without Mom and Dad pushing them.

Our younger kids had no real knowledge of God other than the very basic of basics which most Americans know. I have to tell you when we brought them home it was a REAL struggle to even get to church. A bigger struggle to get them to sit through a service. The youngest in nursery at the time, the oldest seriously would sit next to me and repeat over and over in my ear, yet loud enough for those around us to hear, “When is it over?”, “I hate this.”, etc., all in one of those deep whiney type voices. This went on for weeks…felt like months. The other two were pretty much the same as the oldest. One so wiggly it was such a distraction. If one still had his way he’d turn and stare at anyone and everyone the entire time.

We’d sit in the back as to try to be a distraction to as few fellow church members as possible. We came service after service knowing that we wouldn’t hear much if any of the sermons due to the kids’ distractive and disruptive behaviors. Talking before or after service with our friends were out of the question as keeping the kids wrangled up and from running out the door took up all of our time. Even a year after getting the kids I remember when one of my closest friends sat down in the seat in front of me to chat, one of the kids deliberately stood in between her and me. This happened more than you’d think.

We still dragged them to church. Made them wear church-appropriate attire. (Still a struggle sometimes.) We pushed it through. The first time I tried to bring the kids into the prayer room so I could pray before service, none of them were having it. Our youngest literally threw such a fit I had to leave the room within a couple of minutes. I kept pushing through.

Church, God was what these kids needed most. I had to push it through. Today, 2 1/2 years down the road all can sit in the prayer room with few problems. Our daughter has recently taken to reading her Bible during prayer time. (This is HUGE!) The younger two still have trouble sitting still through the service. We divide and conquer. One wiggly child sits on one side of mom and the other wiggly child on the other. Much of this past year the youngest has spent more time on my lap than in his chair. When Dad comes we sit in between the wigglers. We continue to push it through. They will come around to sitting quietly through service. The oldest of the four looks like he doesn’t want to be there yet he takes it all in. He has such a strong moral compass. He is also getting close to surrendering his life to Jesus!!

When your kids don’t want to go to church, push it through. Keep going to the church you know God planted you. Keep dragging them to each service. Don’t compromise. The world is full of compromisers and our kids need to see Jesus is worth sacrificing for. They need to know why you go to church, why you believe what you believe. Don’t let them dictate where or when you go to church. Let God come first. He will get ahold of your kid’s heart and spirits.

Books, Books, ​and More Books

I LOVE to read. I wasn’t always a reader. Growing up I felt accomplished if I read a teen magazine. However, when a night owl marries an early bird, the night owl has to do something to keep her mind occupied in those lonely night hours. I was the night owl married to a very early riser.  With no one to talk to, no internet back then, and a mind that needed to stay busy books became one of my best friends. I can’t remember what book I first read. I do know that I started out very slow and really had no idea where to start. Non-fiction began to fill in that gap and fill me with the love of reading.

IMG_2582(I picked these up at a thrift store for no more than 60 cents each. Most were 50 cents. At that rate, if a book doesn’t suit my fancy it’s no great loss. Three of these I have already started and won’t finish.)

I have ventured out from a non-fiction only diet. Juvenile fiction, historical fiction, a very occasional thriller/mystery are mixed in now. I don’t read romance, books with sexual content, if it has too much foul language I usually stop reading. I think military books are my only exception to that rule. No horror or fantasy books. Very rarely a Sci-Fi crosses my reading path. I really try to filter what I read and live out the Bible verse: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…” Psalms 101:3. My favorite subjects to read are still history and biographies/memoirs.

IMG_2546I have a basket of already read books to give and to keep. I usually give them away rather quick. For me, this is a big pile.

IMG_2545(Please excuse the dust. It is a constant chore to keep it off furniture here.) 

When our local bookstore closed I stocked up, well over $300 worth of books for a fraction of the price. I bought many children’s books as well. These are just my books. We have a whole other growing bookshelf for our children’s books. And two bookshelves in the living room that house Hubby’s books, encyclopedias, reference books, and old-school photo albums.

The books you see here are only the front row. The back of my nightstand is fuller than the front. The three books on the top-left are what I am currently reading. Yes, sometimes I read more than one book at a time. That big old book helping to elevate my lamp is a vintage dictionary. The seven books piled in the center I just picked up at our used bookstore. I had to stop looking before I spent all of my money on books!! I have actually just started volunteering at this used bookstore. Don’t know if that’s a good thing for my budget, especially when it’s my day to sort!! (Sorting, such a relaxing job.) I have set a goal of reading at least half of my current books before I buy I bunch more. The only exception is if I come across a REALLY good find or a REALLY good deal. (Not really a firm limit, but it will have to do.) **I have found six books while sorting worth buying since I originally wrote this post!**  

 

That’s IT!?!

Okay, soapbox warning here.

I just ran into a former co-worker. I re-entered the workforce for a short time a few years ago before exiting to adopt. This co-worker and I worked together for an even shorter amount of time. That being said, I ran into her while at two of our kids’ parent-teacher conference. She quickly asked what I was “up to these days.” I replied, “Being a mom.” (She knew we were going to adopt, knew we got matched, she knew were took on FOUR kids ALL.AT.ONE.TIME, etc., etc.) To which she replied, rather condescendingly, “That’s it!?!” (In front of my kids mind you.) “She didn’t just say that” ran through my head faster than Flash himself. I wanted to scream and laugh at her, to stand and defend my stance as a mom. But I knew my efforts would fall on deaf ears. “That’s it?” I simply questioned. There was a third lady in the room and she sort of came to my defense. A very short discussion between the two women, more like throwing opinions out, took place. One of which I was having none of. Again, those deaf ears.

Yet, as three of our six kids and I were leaving, I felt the need to defend my choice to stay-at-home to my kids, especially my daughter.

So, to all of you blessed SAHMs, to all of the girls and boys who are blessed to have a SAHM, and to all of the naysayers this is for you:

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Dear Fellow Stay-at-Home Mamas,

First, I commend all that you do to be home with your babies no matter how old they are. There is no higher calling than to be a wife and a mom. Today I took one for the team. “That’s it!?!” should not be the response we get for making the choice to be the one to raise our kiddos (and sometimes someone else’s kids). It should not be the response we get for running our kids all over the place, to sports, doctors, school, extracurricular activities, clothes shopping, doctors, dentists, shoe shopping, did I mention the doctors (if you have any child with any extra needs you know I could’ve added doctors in a few more times), and or any other place they need to be at any given time. Being the one who comforts our babies, soothes their little hearts, rocks them to sleep at nap time, introduces them to the wonder of books, changes almost all of the diapers, wakes with them in the middle of the night, teaches them the importance of sharing, of getting along should not be diminished by anyone. All of the times you sat in IEP meetings, attending award ceremonies, helped out in their classes, sold fundraiser goodies door-to-door, made sure their clothes and uniforms were clean and ready should make you stand tall. When you were there for their first steps, their first words, their first smile, their first fall, their first heartbreak, their first straight A, or F report card is irreplaceable. Being able to create a safe, unstressed, stable, loving atmosphere for your husband and kids on a daily basis reaps the reward that will only be seen far down the road. Providing structure, creativity, calmness, responsibility serves such a greater picture than ourselves.

When you are standing in old shoes, in a mom bun, looking at yet another load of soiled laundry, wiping another nose and or bum, when you are cleaning up spills off a freshly washed floor, feeling like your days are filled with useless, mundane tasks that no one sees or even cares about take heart. Know it does matter. When you are lonely and in desperate need of adult conversation. Know you matter. When you are fighting that kid for the hundredth time today, know that no one can replace you. While standing over that hot stove making your family a homemade meal, know you and your family are blessed. When the sacrifices you make start to wear you down, know that no one can care for your child the way you can. Even though they often don’t show it your kids need and crave what you provide. Your husband, your marriage needs what you do, who you are. Even on our worst days, our children would rather be with us than a stranger at daycare.

The outside may see us as lazy, as underachievers, sitting on our bums all day eating bonbons. We may have no certificate to hang on our walls, no capital letters behind our names, no paycheck to cash and spend. They may see us and what we do and think and sometimes say, “That’s it!?!” But my dear mama, God is watching. God sees all that you do and give your babies no matter how old. He sees all of the things to lay down so you can give your kids and your husband the best of you. I believe that God has a special place in His heart for mamas. Dear mama, trust and know that you are held in His hands.

Nevermind the naysayers. Nevermind those that belittle what you do. You aren’t doing it for them anyway. Your babies are watching and learning. They will know you cared and know they are important. Your marriage will be stronger and your husband will be blessed.

So look yourself in the mirror, adjust your mom bun and go hug those children of yours. Go enjoy that cookie you made with your toddler. And make sure your kids know how happy it makes you to be their mom. That you don’t need others or an outside job to make you content. And let your husband know how grateful you are for his hard work so you can stay home.

**I realize this is one sided. I know that there are mamas out there who want more than anything to be a SAHM. Rest assured this was not aimed at you.**

Fair and Rodeo

IMG_2451Every year we try to make it to our local fair and rodeo. We don’t really ride the rides or eat too much fair food. Besides being too much money, sometimes meeting Smokey the Bear is just way cooler!IMG_2452

IMG_2454So is winning prizes from the free games.

IMG_2461Of course our favorite cowgirl and her hubby joined us.

I was also able to catch up to an former coworker, which was very nice.