Ephiphanies

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I never thought that deactivating my Facebook account would cause such a flood of epiphanies about who I am, and who I want to be-as a person, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. Man. Sometimes it really stinks to look in the mirror and see a reflection of someone that you really don’t like.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered in these two months:

  1. My family needs me more than I am needed here. In fact, I can go away from here and won’t be missed. These relationships can be fleeting (it’s not a bad or a good thing-it’s just the truth). The relationship with my husband and children will last forever. The necessity to make THOSE relationships better far outweighs the consequences of me not partaking in social media.
  2. Relationships with family members aren’t what they should be, but I’m working on it. Excessive use of social media has hindered my relationship with my entire family. As much as I hate writing that, it’s the truth. My kids will ask me to watch something with them now, and I’m constantly reminded by them to LOOK at what they’re asking me to watch. It’s annoying, but I’m sure it has been much more annoying to have a mother who didn’t look when they asked before because she was so busy wondering what cyberspace was up to. 
  3. I don’t need a platform or superficial props to know that I’m okay. This has been a big eye opener for me, and I think it’s something that needs to be said more often: we are not measured by likes, retweets, and +1s. If I were to base my existence on how many people followed me on Twitter, or how many “Like”s my witty commentary has, I’m pretty sure I would feel miserable all of the time (and in hindsight, I WAS miserable). I want my relationships to be about real connections. Having my kids hug me and tell me I’m great is enough. Having my husband laugh at my witty commentary while we’re sitting next to each other, holding hands, watching TV without being distracted by a phone or a laptop between us? That’s enough. The people who I will have relationships with forever- their opinions matter more than yours, and that’s how it should be
  4. Real relationships suffer when you’re giving your attention to thousands of strangers. I know I’ve already said this, but it’s something worth saying again, without mincing words. I speak from personal experience. My kids are 6 & 8 years old, and I’ve been a part of social media most, or all of their lives. Until recently, they didn’t know me without a device in my hand or on my lap. They’ve played second fiddle to what I thought was important. Although I can’t take these actions back, I can show them that I no longer want to live in a place where my value and theirs is decided by inconsequential things. I want them to be secure in the knowledge that if the internet went away tomorrow, that our lives would not change drastically (except that I couldn’t depend on Google Maps anymore-the horror!!). 
  5. Give your attention to real life. I think it’s easy for us to say, “I’m right here. I am physically present. When I am spoken to, I look up and engage (that engagement probably starts with a “What?”).” Face it. Really. YOU ARE NOT THERE. You are participating in an entirely different world while the real one sits in front of you, begging for your attention. Before Noel was born, I tried my hand at knitting. It was around 2005, and I had just started a blog, and loved reading different blogs, writing on mine, checking comments, writing comments, reading comments, getting riled up about comments, and on, and on, and on. Needless to say, I just couldn’t commit to knitting. It was too time-consuming. It didn’t go as fast as I’d like. I couldn’t see progress quickly. My list of excuses was a mile long, but it came down to this: I didn’t feel like I had time to knit. Fast forward to today. When I gave up Facebook, I wanted to have something to do with my hands that were formally in constant connection with my phone or laptop. I took up knitting again, a few weeks ago. I’m half-way through a scarf for one of my sons. It’s not too daunting anymore, because I was able to learn without distraction, and I have plenty of time to dedicate to it, without stopping to see what’s going on in cyberspace. Knitting has become somewhat symbolic to me. The longer the scarf gets, the more I see myself stepping further and further away from something that wasn’t fulfilling, and closer to a life that is fulfilling. 
  6. It’s okay to engage, but not at the cost of real relationships. Short temper, impatience, exasperation, and similar feelings ruled my life during this time. That’s years, people. Years of negativity with the only people in my life that really matter. Just typing this out makes me want to cry. But we’re moving forward. Since January 1st, I’ve seen a lot of changes in me and those around me. I feel less burdened by nonsense. My kids are visibly less stressed when they are around me. My husband and I are rediscovering the people that we met, 15 years ago, before distraction ruled my life. And honestly, I can say that we are much, much happier. I still text with friends, a bit, during the day. I still have friends that I chat with on the phone occasionally. There’s a big difference between “a bit”, or “occasionally”, and spending most of the day tethered to social media and internet connections. 

Some might think it’s drastic, and it may be, for someone with an internet business or a media image they are trying to build with these platforms. I understand that a complete break just can not be, for everyone. I realize that some need these connections for their livelihood. But I do ask that you take a hard look at how you spend your time during the day. Can you cut back from social media? Can you live without checking the phone while your kids are home, or while you’re having lunch or dinner as a family? Can you sit and watch an entire movie (or even a TV show) without checking on your personal or business Facebook account? Without tweeting about what you’re watching? Yes. Yes. Yes. You can. Take it from me, you can.

And you should.

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February 19, 2008 + 6

ImageHe rolled over within minutes of being born. He crawled and started talking at 4 months. He walked at 10 months and was sprinting shortly thereafter. Angels must surround him, as he has about 20 scars around his eyes, but has never managed to even scratch a cornea.

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 He’s silly and fun. He’s smart and sweet. He’ll share his candy with you. He’ll offer you a bite of whatever he’s eating, and will try just about any food. He’s a daredevil. He’s my sweet guy…and I’m so lucky to have already known him for six whole years.

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Ten Months In

We’ve been homeschooling now for 10 months. That’s not long, but it’s been long enough for us to see what works and what doesn’t (for now). As we move forward, things will continue to evolve and change, and we’re feeling more confident that we can roll with them.

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What I’ve Gleaned From Homeschooling So Far:

  • After we took our kids out of school, we had to do some deschooling. We spent the first couple of weeks letting them play, draw, do artwork, write – and we didn’t call any of it “school”. When a child really dislikes a place you send them day after day, there are some trust issues that also must be worked through, and these issues aren’t always easy to recognize. I still have to remind myself that my children’s feelings are valid and real, and just because they are kids doesn’t mean they can’t feel big emotions. As kids, though, they probably won’t understand them. When first taking them out of school, be armed to the teeth with patience.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. Every day may not be a grand adventure. You may find yourselves sitting at your dining room table all day doing school work. Some days you’ll traverse about outside all day, exploring. Some days you’ll stay inside all day playing. Some days, you will need a break, and let your kids go into the backyard for the day. It’s all okay. Balance is key to most things in life. Remember this: learning is always happening. Letting your kids feed their imaginations and take mental breaks is important (for you too).
  • Don’t be a meanie. If you read my first bullet, you saw that our kids needed to be deschooled. What our kids didn’t (and still don’t) need was for us to be an intimidating teacher, possibly akin to the teacher that drove them from school in the first place. Don’t threaten them by saying you will send them back to school. The best way to drive a wedge between you and your children is for them not to trust you. You’re the parent first. Remember that. You are the parent FIRST. It’s okay to hug your child or console them when they are frustrated. This is something they can’t get in school, and will mean so much to them as they get older. When your child feels anxious, sad, scared, or mad, you’re there to help them navigate. It’s one of the best things about homeschooling. 
  • Having a schedule (even if it’s loose) is key for us to do this successfully. With two working parents (I work full time from home), we weren’t sure how this would work. I started making a habit of starting work by 6 AM. Yes, that’s early, but walking 10 feet to my computer in my jammies? Well, it’s not that bad. If Elliott works in the afternoon, he does the teaching in the mornings, starting around 9 AM. If he’s at work at this time, I start the school day at 9 AM. We’ve noticed that if the school day hasn’t begun by 9 AM, or so, we rarely get our groove. From 9 AM until about 11 AM, both kids are fully immersed in school. When they are finished with Reading, Handwriting, Spelling, Language, and Math, they have a lunch and Minecraft/Scribblenauts break. When this time is over, they both have 45 minutes of quiet reading somewhere, alone. If I’m not done with work before this time is over, they play (Lego, outside, Hero Factory, drawing – ANYTHING GOES, except cooking, as I want to have a house still standing at the end of the day). When my work day is over, around 2, we go somewhere or study History together. We are growing various plants from seeds right now, for Science. The schoolwork portion of the day is only 2 or 3 hours. This will get longer as they age and have materials that are more dense. Because the school day is short, we make sure there is plenty to do around the house that doesn’t involve iPads, TV, or computers. While we see value in learning with these tools, it’s not a habit we want our kids involved in for hours and hours a day.
  • Don’t compare your kids to brick & mortar school kids. Just don’t. They are not the same. They are not necessarily learning what you’re learning. They are using different curriculums. They may be way behind or way ahead of where your children are. We still keep in touch with our old school friends, and we have friends that are teachers. When we’d meet up, I’d often find myself asking parents what their same-aged kids were learning to see if we were keeping up with school “standards”. I realized, quickly, that Classical Education can’t compare with a standardized curriculum. My kids are doing well. The school kids I was trying to compare them with are doing well, but their education isn’t the same. One benefit of homeschooling is teaching your children to their level. If they’re ahead, they won’t be bored with material they already know. If they’re behind, you can take more time with them, and learn at the child’s pace. 
  • You make choices for your children, and we make choices for ours. It’s all good. Whether or not your kids are in school or you homeschool, we can be friends/relatives/countrymen. Thank goodness we have free will and the capacity to do what’s best for our own families, right? Our kids are happy and thriving. They are smart, friendly and fun. They are free-thinkers. They are doing well, and I’m sure your kids are too.  
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February 4, 2006 + 8

I’ll never forget when I first saw you. 

I thought, “His hair isn’t black.”

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I remember the first sounds you made.

They are etched in my forever memory. 

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We didn’t know we needed you.

You made us a family. 

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I’m so thankful for your life.

I’m so grateful to be a part of it. 

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Happy 8th birthday, Noel.

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So far, so good.

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It’s been 6 days since my personal Facebook experiment started. I’m so glad I did this.

A while back, I read Hands Free Mama‘s post about putting down electronics and embracing real life. I made a half-hearted attempt at disconnecting. It didn’t last. It maybe never really started. But this has been a clean break, and since I stopped using Twitter some months ago, I’m virtually social media free. It feels great. And I am almost certain that I’ll make this permanent. I can only speak for myself, but being invested in the lives of others to the extent that Facebook allows, is too much for me. I used to worry that if I wasn’t friends with someone through Facebook or Twitter and I deleted these from my life, then I would delete these “friends” from my life. Now, I am reminding myself that if these are our only means of being able to communicate, then we aren’t that close.

I’ve been thinking about a comment I received from my long-time blogging friend, Steph. We met before the days of Facebook and Twitter. She mentioned that her family had vacationed and she took photos but didn’t Instagram them. It was more fun creating the memory than logging it, and making sure your social media world saw it. Personally, every time I put something out there on social media, including Instagram, I’m regularly checking for “Like”s and “Love”s and replies, and it goes on, and on, and on. So, not only have I put a thought or place in time out there, then I want to know that people saw it. And if they saw it, did they like it? Do they have something to say about it? Check. Check. Check. Reply to comments. Check again. Reply again…and so on.

It’s EXHAUSTING. And it’s crazy that this exhaustion stems from something I can make totally absent from my life.

I want to be exhausted from real, tangible things. I am determined to embrace real life again.

 

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In With the New

907216ac6d6a11e382c20a843c9fae85_8Today, I deactivated my Facebook account. This happened about 2 hours ago, and I’ve already noticed something: I have a lot more time to do things. Simple, simple things, like the dishes. Like answering my kids right away when they need me. Like making a pizza from scratch. Like sitting down and writing this: something that’s more than a silly blurb about my kids, a rant about some news item, or commenting on someone else’s status. The plain and simple fact that this tool has seeped into my life to this degree really speaks volumes to me. And I’m glad that I am breaking ties with it.

Granted, I have the day off today, but even when I don’t, I have too much that otherwise engages me. Yesterday, I took the kids to a Noon Years Eve party at Union Station. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about leaving my phone in my purse when we’re out and about, not even to take pictures. Although pictures are nice and I love taking them, I have realized lately that I don’t need to document every single moment of every single day. That’s what memories are for, right? Anyhow… One activity was homemade soda in the Test Kitchen. I looked about me as the kids were intently listening to the instructor, and I noticed something: while the kids were engaged with the instructor, almost every parent had their face in their phone. Scrolling through Facebook, texting, taking pictures. What kind of example is this setting? I am as guilty as the next guy, but really…we are expecting kids to pay attention in real time, but we aren’t setting an example by listening and watching along too. And the kids…they notice.

You might ask yourself (as I have MANY MANY MANY times), “What does it matter? I’m sitting right here with them. I’m here. I’m present.” Now ask yourself how many times your kids have tried talking to you while you’re on the phone, and you’ve said, “Just a sec”, or looked up after they’re done talking to you and said, “What?”, or not paid one lick of attention to what they’ve said, but still distantly replied, “Yeaaaah”, or “Mmmmhmmmm”. Or, when your kids want you to pay attention to something, and ask you ten million times to watch watch watch or look look look, because they know that you otherwise half-heartedly pay attention. No? Just me?

I want this year to be one where my kids know that they have their mom present in their lives, and not addicted to the screen. We’ve always limited time on video games and computers for them. However, I’ve never set limits for myself, which isn’t fair, and is sending a mixed message. How confusing for them. This can be no more.

It’s been so long since I’ve sat down and written anything longer than a paragraph because I’m just so busy. But I’m not. This morning has already proven that in spades.

I honestly have no idea if this will be read by anyone, and it really doesn’t matter. I am content with this choice. I hope this year brings you health and happiness. Cheers.

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Scenes from a Road Trip

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We’re on our first family road trip.

We have been telling the kids since June that we were going to Mt. Rushmore. We’re actually going to Disney World.

Twenty hours in the car. Obligatory trip to Cracker Barrel & inaugural trip for the kids to Waffle House (yum). ABBA on the radio.

We spent last night at a hotel before we venture into 4 nights of camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness (we’ll be actually camping…as in a tent. Disney, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and two days in the Gulf of Mexico.

If things continue like this, we’re in for an incredible week.

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