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.

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.**

FUN Writing Exercise

I want to be a writer, pen my own book/s one day. Yet I don’t have much time to sit down and actually take classes and/or practice. This blog is truly my biggest outlet for my writing practice. But every now and then I steal away a corner of time to hone my craft just a bit more.

Writing Challenges podcasts afford me a (free) class that is ready and available when I am. Earlier this week I was able to sit down and give it a go. This is my second such writing challenge from this podcast. This one proved to be rather fun and invigorating. Here’s how it went.

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Imagine if you will the instructions are spoken in an older British male voice. Here’s your assignment:

*Pick a book of your self, poetry or fiction.

*Close your eyes, open the book and point your finger somewhere on the page.

*Take that word, the three words after and the three words before it.

*Write that phrase down.

*Now you have 5 minutes to write. Don’t think (which is harder than you’d think), try to write as fast as you can. You are not producing a work of art.

This was one of the most fun writing exercises I have done. What I wrote completely ended up different than what I started off with. So I am going to put myself out there, be vulnerable before you, my readers.

My word was OBJECT. The phrase: “…down, examined the object and slipped it…” Here it is, as is, no corrections made or revisions done.

Down, examined it and slipped it back into his pocket and walked away. Away from the dark, away from the mess. Away from the noise that seemed to grip him and not let him go. He walked out into the sunlight. Out into the fresh air. He felt alive. He felt free. With a sense of purpose, a newfound freedom, he looked at the forest before him and he just walked. He walked until he couldn’t walk anymore. Then he sat down and took a deep breath. The years had been hard on him. His hair was no longer deep rich brown. It has started to turn gray. His eyes were no longer sharp and bright. And his heart once broken actually felt like it was coming back to life. He took another deep long breath. He filled his lungs with the dewy freshness of the earth. It had just rained the previous night. He felt the moisture of the ground with his fingertips. Some clinging to… (5 minutes is up)

British instructor resumes his instructions; “After 5 minutes you should have covered quite a lot of pages.” Well, not this mama writer. I didn’t cover much ground at all. No worries though. “Now read what you have written, but read it forwards then read through it word for word backward.” No here’s where I had a harder time, “Underline one phrase that strikes you as possessing any one of the following qualities: it has energy, it surprises you, it has never been written before in your language. The phrase must make a kind of sense. It must possess it’s own inner sense, at the very least. That is it must not be completely opaque in meaning. It might be a whole sentence or at the end of a sentence and the beginning of the next.” I had a hard time finding that sentence or phrase. I need it to finish the assignment. As I need to write either a short story or poem in which it occurs without seeming out of place.

So, can you help me and tell me what sentence or phrase fits the bill? Thanks so much. And thank you for letting me put myself out here all of the time without judging me.

Why I Won’t Homeschool

I get asked every school year by at least two people if I am going to homeschool. I have an 8th, 6th, 3rd graders and a kindergartner. I have two adult children, one who is in college. My answer is always no.

See, I have home schooled. For six straight years and a short stint last year. I have homeschooled full-time and part time three of our six children. I don’t see homeschooling in my future. Just to be clear though, I am NOT against homeschooling at all. I know it is a great and wonderful experience and there are SO many reasons to homeschool.

But here’s my reasons for not:

*I know my limitations, academically, emotionally, mentally, and time wise.

**While I did well in school myself, that was ages ago and many of the things life have filed those academic resources and pushed them far into the recesses of my brain. My ability to figure out language, math, and the like are not as good as they used to be. If my child cannot figure certain things out on their own or we can’t find the help we need (our resources are limited here) then it just won’t get taught leading to educational gaps. While I am sure they learn things they wouldn’t have in public school, having that on my conscience is not good.

**Emotionally and mentally, homeschooling is super fun and rewarding. You really grow closer to your kids and get to experience some things you may not otherwise experience. There’s also that sense of gratification and success when your child finally grabs a hold of a concept they struggled with and you see the lights come on. However, I remember the days when my brain was fried and all of the other things I needed to get done became such a drag for me. I know we all have those days, but there really has to be a balance.

**Time. Can we just stop right there? It really takes a chunk of time out of your day/life to homeschool and to do it right. That amount of time is not a luxury for us at this point in our lives.

Part of me wants to homeschool again…very rarely but I still have that small spark in there that gets excited when seeing curriculum or the shelves of school supplies. My oldest two and I had a wonderful time homeschooling. We have a lot of happy memories. I can point to certain times that our lives were really enriched by the whole experience. But here’s the catch, besides all that I said above, with our older two we had a strong foundation in our relationship from their birth. Not so with our younger four. When I homeschooled one of our sons part-time, I saw that this foundation that we are slowly building upon and forming, weaken under the role of teacher and student that caused me to close my homeschool doors. My intentions were good. I wanted to help our son grow academically and give him that one-on-one attention he needed. In the end our relationship and continuing to grow it came first.

To sum it all up. I loved much of homeschooling. I also love the fact that someone else can teach our kids. I love spending time with our kids. I also love the break. For us, homeschooling is not the best. As a mom, I have learned (okay, am still learning) to set many expectations, sometimes my heart, aside, and look reality in the eye and do what we can do. If you homeschool, good for you. If you private school, good for you. If you public school, good for you. You be the best mom you are able to be for your precious kids.

Vindication

Now that may sound like a strong word, but golly, it sure explains how I feel at the moment. (And a heads up, this is an honest post more about the harder side of adoption. So, if you prefer the always positive adoption blogs, then skip this post.)

Let me explain. I got a phone call from one of our children’s teachers. “While ____ is a really well behaved student…” She went onto use words like lying, sneaky, trust, etc. Now they may sound harsh and make my readers wonder why I am vindicated about them. You see, she sees part of what we deal with pretty much on a daily basis.

Most kids who live/have lived with trauma learn to lie, cheat, and manipulate to survive. They learn to be award winning actors to make people like them and again to survive. This is just how it is, not their fault. But bring that home, to a home that is really trying to make a difference, to a forever home. Let it continue year after year. Have people judge your parenting “style” and feeling sorry for the said child gets rough. It gets tiring. Makes one want to give up standing for certain things they believe in and to not keep doing what they are doing. Makes one start to question themselves.

As a mom, I want to believe the best about my kids, each of them. I want to see the best in them. Yet, I personally almost get to the point where I feel like maybe we aren’t seeing what others are seeing. “Am I missing something?” “Am I being too hard?” These thoughts can really wreck havoc on my mind, when I let them. Then I get a phone call like the one tonight (Friday night) and my mind and heart begin to clear.

What goes on behind closed doors, is, well, behind closed doors. Most parents are truly good people who love their kids, each of them. They are honestly doing their best. Take that to the next level with foster/adoptive kids and things aren’t always as they seem. I’ve had one child lie at school saying that I don’t feed him/her; can they please have food…” Thankfully the teacher knew me, doubted this statement, and called to clarify . (This is just one of the multiple lies that have been told, acts that have been played, etc. to get one’s way.) So, please don’t judge (unless it’s definite child abuse). Unless you know what those parents go through every day, week after week, month after month…until you know what the kid/s are putting the parents through…until you know just how lonely these parents can feel many times. Please support them and trust that what they are doing is right for the child, right for the family. Please abide by their wishes, even if they don’t seem to make sense. We don’t want to tell everyone all that is going on with our child/children.

Tonight I am adding Mrs. F to my grateful list.

Going Gray

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I am in my mid 40’s, have 6 kids and am going gray gracefully. Gracefully is a relative term. Somedays it does not feel graceful at all.

When the grays (my strands of wisdom, I lovingly call them) started showing up it was just a wild hair here and there, standing up making itself known, reminding me that one cannot stop the clock from ticking away. I then started to get low lights in my hair to mask some of the grays. I have never been into covering who I am growing into or pretending to be younger than I am. But I wasn’t ready for the grays. That was my happy compromise.

After awhile I stopped the low lights, just letting nature take its course. Then we brought our youngest kids home. Our youngest daughter was good at letting me know she had a real problem with some of the ways I looked, my graying hair being the biggest of them. Saying some pretty hurtful things along the way. While I know those words she aimed my way were coming from the hurt she carried inside, they still stung. I let her words get to me to the point that I started dyeing my hair. I did it twice to be exact. I really liked how it made me feel and look, but something just didn’t feel right about it all. It just didn’t match with who I am inside and who I want to portray to my kids.

Now I don’t look down on ladies who color their hair, to each her own. But for me I want my kids to see a mom who is comfortable with who she is no matter what age and how she looks. It’s the beauty on the inside that I would rather shine through than rich brown hair, etc. Today our daughter’s words are much kinder and accepting.

Today our daughter’s words are much kinder and accepting. And though I don’t fully like the amount of gray I see staring back at me in the mirror I too am learning to accept and see the beauty in the aging process. I mean, golly, I have earned every silvery strand. Funny that gray has been my favorite color for many years and yet it is hard to see it in my own hair.

Thankfully more ladies are joining the silver fox club and deciding to go gray gracefully. Just take a peek on Pinterest on the subject and see the beautiful ladies there. Inspiration at it’s best.