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.

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!**  

 

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.

Power of a Game

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There is so much meaning behind this photo.

You may just see two people playing chess.

I see a father and son finding something that helps them bond.

I see a young man who has a diagnosed learning disability, who once was addicted to video games, who didn’t know how to function outside of video games almost beat his dad, who is very good at chess.

I see how our son, The Chief, being an example to his siblings and starting a wave of chess playing in our home.

I see a young man who has studied the game, went over plays in his head, practiced and even made his own chess sets.

I see the power of a game.

My Favorite-Food Hack

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I am starting a new “series” called My Favorite.

This series will be about anything and everything as long as it is my favorite.

One of my latest and favorite food prep hacks is for salad. I like to buy the container of four small heads of different lettuce. Or the bagged mix. I eat a lot of salad, but unfortunately, we can’t always eat them before they go bad. Such a waste of food and money.

So, here’s my trick. I cut the ends off each root base, wash and shake the excess water out. I then separate each leaf onto a paper towel sheet, cover with a dry sheet. Repeat. The water from the lettuce leaves dampens each sheet and keeps the lettuce moist but not too wet. I do the same with bagged leaves minus the cutting off of the ends. This trick makes the lettuce last much longer.

What’s your favorite food hack?