Sticks and Stones

The other night I was reminded of the glaring differences between our family and families not affected by trauma.

il_570xN.667498156_pr2b

You can buy this adorable print here.

There are many things “regular” (what is regular anymore anyway?) folks joke about and/or just throw out in conversation that no one thinks twice about. Unless you are my family. Maybe I am hypersensitive to certain topics. Maybe I can overreact. But this is where we are for now.

Take the game of cops and robbers. The old-school game of pretend where the “good” kids-the cops protect citizens from the “bad” kids-the robbers. Now imagine it on steroids. Where gang members are involved, along with the robbers. Your kids found chains somewhere and have their sibling’s hands bound in those said chains. No more cops and robbers. Then we have hide and seek. Again a simple innocent child’s game. When things look a bit suspicious you start checking things out and see signs that are more fitting for a horror story than a child’s game posted all over your yard. No more hide and seek. Lots of teaching going on here. You get pulled over for going a bit too fast and the child with you has a look of complete fear on his face. The police officer has to calm your child and let him know he is not taking you to jail. Simply, Mom was driving a bit too fast. Raise kids whose birth parents were in and out of jail so many times that it’s just a way of life. Going to jail is such a huge topic of discussion to our younger kids. It’s like it’s no big deal. You get caught, go to jail and get out. No biggie. Let’s rethink this okay?

Joking about race…really SO many of us do it. Let’s be honest. Yet, when one of your children is drawn to parts of their culture that aren’t the greatest, one tries to steer that child down a safer road. Not everything about each of our cultures needs to be embraced.

Make a joking comment to two of my kids about food and eating and they simply cannot brush it off and enjoy a laugh with you. Going without food and eating rotten food for so long make certain things much less funny. Comedians-need not apply.

Now I am not one of those people who is offended by every little thing everyone says or does but when you have a child with special needs certain words become hurtful. When your child is a different race than you, you become more aware of your own probable racism and of those around you. When your child has been through certain types of trauma and you are living out the effects of that you become more protective of what your child hears and sees.

For the most part, when those around us are made aware that certain words or topics affect us and our children differently they are more than willing to change and are apologetic about it. For that, I am grateful and have been fortunate. Sometimes it just takes a few moments to explain why those things are not appropriate to help someone see things differently and make our world better. Sticks and stones do break bones, but contrary to the old child’s saying, words do hurt, sometimes pretty bad.

Advertisements

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.

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.

IMG_0497

Chalk drawing.

IMG_2623

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.