09 December 2017

Days 5 & 6

Day 5:
What I learned: This afternoon as I dried my hair & got ready for the annual Christmas dinner that evening for our church's women's group, I felt like listening to some Christmas music, so I turned on my Christmas music on my phone to listen to while I got ready.  And earlier in the week I had used my phone to play an audiobook that the boys & I listened to while we drove to their piano studio.  So I updated the limits of my little experiment to allow for using the phone to listen to music, or to listen to an audiobook in the car.
What we did: Isaac got home from school first and he sat down to read a book.  I sat down next to him and asked him what he was reading, and he showed me the book in a series of kids historical fiction books about children who lived through natural disasters or wars.  He was reading one called I Survived the Nazi Invasion.  Isaac's 10, and I wondered how much he understood about this.  I asked him if he knew who the Nazis were, and he told me he had learned at school that they were the people who invaded in Europe and made Jewish people move to work camps or killed them.  He said they are reading Number the Stars aloud in his class.  I told him that had been a book I really liked as a child.  We talked for a few minutes about the Holocaust and how it made us feel, and then I let him go back to reading.  I spent some time getting ready for a church dinner that night.  And then I had a talk with Kolby about his school work.

Day 6:
What I learned: It's easy to forget.  Even though I'm trying to follow some pretty strict guidelines for this technology experiment, it's still really easy to forget.  Like when Michael called and we chatted about a class we were considering signing the boys up for.  Then when I got off the phone I just automatically started searching online for details about the class, before I caught myself and put the phone away.  I'm so used to using the phone to look up information about whatever comes to mind right when I think of it.  So part of this experiment is training myself to get used to something different.
What we did: After school the boys & I walked up the street to our neighbor's house where I dropped off the three oldest boys for a scout campout.  Then Isaac & Courtland & I walked with our dogs up to the little dog park up the street.  We stayed for a while and let Berkley run and get her energy out.  Then when we came home I took the boys and we drove around the neighborhood for a little while looking at Christmas lights, and stopped to visit my parents for a bit before coming home.

06 December 2017

Technology Experiment: Day 4

Day 4:
What I learned: Although the purpose of this little experiment was not to increase my productivity around the house, I’ve noticed that I can get a lot of stuff done in the afternoons lately. I haven’t really been focusing on my “to do” list after school this week, since I’ve been focusing more on spending time with the kids for the most part instead of on what I’m getting done. But lots of the time I just invite one or more of the kids to help me with what I’m doing. And since I don’t have the distraction of multitasking with my phone in the afternoons, I can get more “actual” things done around the house (as opposed to getting “digital” things done, such as correspondance, scheduling, etc.)  And you might think I would be left with a lot of those “digital” things to catch up on after the kids go to bed at night, and there is a little of that, but nothing much.  Here’s to un-multitasking!
What we did:  Isaac helped me wrap my last Christmas gift (done, woohoo!). And then the boys and I brought in chairs, sports equipment, and some decorations from the yard since we’ve been having high wind warnings for tonight and tomorrow. Then Courtland & Isaac went with me to mail a box for Christmas & pick up Camden’s bike from the repair shop. When the boys went upstairs to play I did some laundry, did a little writing in a workbook that I hadn’t gotten around to doing for the last few months, and then we got dinner ready. After dinner Michael was going to work on typing up his notes that he had left over from work today, but instead he decided to read Harry Potter to the boys, and I sat and listened with them.  We accomplished a lot this afternoon, but it didn’t feel too rushed or busy. 

05 December 2017

My Technology Experiment: Day 3

I'm on Day 3 of my little technology experiment that I wrote about the other day: here.

Day 3:
What I learned:  Tuesday is usually our crazy-busy day of the week (think 5 piano lessons at two different locations, 1 boy with an after school dog walking job, homework & a quick dinner, then 4 of the 5 boys are each off to different boy scout or cub scout groups at different times/locations that evening.  And Michael is Elijah's scout leader, and I'm the cub scout committee chair so I help out with the awards when we have our monthly pack meetings, also on Tuesday nights).  So one reason that I was initially hesitant about how I could realistically avoid using my phone after school is Tuesdays -- I wondered how to avoid checking my phone when trying to arrange carpools to/from scouts, communicating with the various scout leaders & piano teachers, etc.  So today was my first Tuesday doing this, and it worked out totally fine.  I realized that I have a perfect opportunity already built into my regular Tuesday schedule to check my phone if I need to contact anyone about scouts: I drop Kolby & Elijah off at their piano studio early in the evening, and then I can take a few minutes to briefly check my phone after I drop them off.  I did that today, spent about 1 minute checking, didn't have any messages I needed to respond to anyway, and I didn't feel like I was taking away from my device-free time with my kids.  (It's funny how I've gotten so used to checking my phone frequently that I feel like it's necessary -- but really it's not.  After being away from my phone all afternoon/evening, I didn't have any texts or calls, and I only had 4 emails, none of which required time-sensitive responses.  I'm starting to let myself relax & not worry about it, because if there really was an emergency someone would call me.  :)
What we didI started out by walking to the mailbox to send a letter with Isaac & Courtland.  Then I worked on packaging up the second to last of the Christmas gifts I have left to wrap.  And I showed Isaac & Courtland how to change the ink cartridge in the printer and how to print our family photo for this year's family photo frame ornament, and we got it hung up on the tree.  After we finished that I read for a short time, then I got dinner prepped and took the older boys to piano.  When I got back I sat down next to Courtland on the couch and he said he wanted to snuggle, and then he went and picked up the binder out of the basket of Christmas books and asked what it was.  I told him it had our family Christmas letters in it from each year, and asked if he wanted me to read one to him, and he said no.  So instead we looked at the photos and how the family grew each year, and he thought it was really funny to see the signatures at the bottom of each letter, especially the scribbled "signatures" of the boys when they were especially young.  That wasn't really a big deal at all, and we didn't spend too much time sitting together and looking at those pictures & letters together before we had to do dinner and then leave for pack meeting, but it's something I likely wouldn't have taken the time to sit down and do with him if I had been distracted by "getting things done" on my phone or computer instead.  

So here's my updated goals/limits for my technology experiment, since I updated how I do things on Tuesdays:

The Plan:  No computer or cell phone use on weekdays from the time the kids get home from school until the kids' bedtime (while at least one of the kids is with me).  

•I can answer phone calls.  
•I can use the computer or phone if it’s specifically needed for an activity with one of the kids (can take a photo of the kids with my phone, help my kids work on genealogy, look up a recipe to cook together, look up contact info/directions if we are going somewhere or need to call someone, etc.) 
•I may check my phone briefly after dropping my boys off at the piano studio on Tuesday evenings to check/answer messages that are needed for scout carpools that evening, if necessary.
•I can use the phone to send someone a quick message if I feel prompted to reach out to someone at a certain time. 

Matthew 15:4

Our church is doing the annual "Light the World" 25 Days of Service again this December at LDS.org.  It is a great opportunity to take a few minutes each morning with the kids to think of ways we can serve those around us.  Today's theme is Matthew 15:4, "Honor thy father and mother."

I was thinking about my parents, and all they have done for my siblings & me, and for my kids and my nieces & nephews.  And all that my in laws have done for my husband and our family, & his siblings and their families.  And now that I'm a parent I can appreciate a little better all they put in with late nights, creative activities, worries, family trips, siblings bickering, birthday parties, illnesses, family home evenings, messes, lessons, family meals, homework, laughter, & family traditions.

I love family photos and the memories they represent.  Today I enjoyed taking a little time to look back through photos of my parents with us and our kids, and photos of Michael's parents too.  So I thought I'd share some of those here.   Thanks for everything you've done (and still do) for all of us!

04 December 2017

My Technology Experiment: Days 1 & 2

Last week our kids' school had a screening of a documentary called "Screenagers," which explored the effects of technology usage by kids and teens.  Although none of the information in the film was really new to me, it did have a strong effect on me.  I felt sad for the many kids that I know spend way too much time on a device and way too little time outdoors and interacting with their families, I wondered about the effect that my kids peers will have on them (even if my kids don't currently get as much screen time as most kids in our area, they still interact with many kids for whom this is the norm every day), I felt cautious/concerned about the effects screen time has already had on my kids and the potential negative effects it can have on them in the future, and it caused me to give more thought to the examples that my husband & I set for our kids with our patterns of technology use.  Michael had a work commitment that evening, but I wish that he had been able to see the film too.

Although the film mostly focused on kids, it did include a little segment at the end about parents' device usage and how it can effect the family.  Although the film didn't suggest anything like this, after watching it I found myself sincerely asking "Could I [would I] be able to stop using my computer & my cell phone from the time my kids get home from school in the afternoon until they go to bed at night each weekday?"

That sounds like a simple question, but there are a lot of different things to consider as I tried to decide on if I could do that in a realistic, reasonable, sustainable, and wise way.  I asked a few of the other parents what their perspective was about that question as we discussed the film, and the prompt response I got from each of the parents I asked was that it'd be possible to put away the computer, but not the phone.  That was the general consensus from each of the parents I talked to.  But I thought it might be possible.

Although I do waste time on Facebook or searching for things online sometimes, I generally don't  do things like spending hours on social media or playing online games.  But I do often use either my computer or my phone to "get things done" throughout the day, including when my kids get home from school.  Usually they are good things or necessary things that I'm doing (*On my phone: responding to emails/texts about school, scouts, piano lessons, my kids' dog walking or babysitting jobs, play dates, birthday party invitations, inviting someone to a church activity, sending out reminders about cub scout pack meetings, adding event dates to our family calendar, reading the scriptures or listening to a religious talk, listening to an audiobook when I drive in the car, listening to music when I'm getting chores done around the house, posting details about a weekly group bike ride I host on our facebook group, sending a message to my neighborhood or my kids' school facebook groups, sending out birthday invitations for my kids, coordinating school & church volunteering, looking up an address or directions, tracking my bike ride route on an app, using the flashlight or calculator, checking my kids' grades, backing up our family photos, writing on our blog, setting a timer, setting my alarm, taking photos, shopping on Amazon or Craigslist, etc.  Oh yeah, and making phone calls.  *On my computer: documents, emails, genealogy, paying bills, ordering my groceries, photo editing, backing up photos & other computer files, shopping on Amazon & craigslist, spreadsheets, presentations, creative projects, making flyers, landscape design, coordinating school & church volunteering, etc.).  I use my phone & my computer A LOT.  And a lot of the things that I do on my phone & computer are things that previous generations of moms still had to do, just not on a mobile device (calendars, bills, phone calls, invitations, photography, etc., etc., etc.)  So when the kids come home from school, I've never really had much of a problem with being on the computer or cell phone when the kids are home from school in the afternoons/evenings.  Even though I do recognize the fact that I sometimes don't give my kids as much attention as I otherwise would without my device, or I sometimes get frustrated with my kids when they interrupt or pester me when I'm doing something I need to get done.  

When the idea popped into my head the other day to block off a certain time each weekday to be device free for my kids, it did appeal to me.  Some definite pros would include 
1. Being a better example for my kids (especially since we limit their device usage a lot compared to many kids in our area, so it would be good to show them that I can limit my device usage too and I'm not just asking them to do something I won't do myself),
2. Having more quality time with my kids -- a few distraction-free hours per day is a lot (and can be especially important now, with about 4 1/2 years left before our oldest will likely be leaving home),
3. Making a conscious effort to do things with my kids, whether they are fun activities, or even just inviting them to help me out with a task that I need to get done and we can do it together,
4. And I do think it would be better for me -- the studies are showing that too much screen time can have negative effects on our sleep patterns, and can increase depression & anxiety.  Plus I figure we're more likely to feel better when we have more quality interactions with other people.

I thought a lot about it, and I decided that a good way to go about trying this little experiment would be to set some pretty strict limits on my phone & computer usage during that after school time each weekday, but with some exceptions that would be necessary/useful and that I thought would be acceptable.  This is definitely a work in progress, but these are the parameters of my experiment so far:

The Plan:  No computer or cell phone use on weekdays from the time the kids get home from school until the kids' bedtime (while at least one of the kids is with me).  

•I can answer phone calls.  
•I can use the computer or phone if it’s specifically needed for an activity with one of the kids (can take a photo of the kids with my phone, help my kids work on genealogy, look up a recipe to cook together, look up contact info/directions if we are going somewhere or need to call someone, etc.) 
•I may check my phone a couple different times on Tuesday evenings to check/answer messages that are needed for scout carpools that evening, if necessary.  I’ll limit the amount of time spent on this as much as possible.
•I can use the phone to send someone a quick message if I feel prompted to reach out to someone at a certain time. 

I plan to do these things to help make it easier:
•I’ll plug my cell phone in to charge on the kitchen counter after school when we’re home.
•I’ll actively try to make arrangements earlier in the day to avoid cell phone & computer use during that time (arrange carpools earlier in the day if possible, prepare scout pack meeting documents earlier so I won’t need to do it after school, set a reminder to check emails/texts right before the kids get home from school, etc.)
•I will use a sticky note to jot down things I need to remember or items to be added to the grocery list, and I can add those to my phone after the kids go to bed.
•I will make adjustments to the alarms/reminders on my phone so it’s not going off frequently during the after school hours. 

I decided that I don't have a problem with answering actual phone calls (I don't spend too much time talking on the phone anyway).  But talking to people is a good thing, and that way people can reach me if they need to.  And one of my big hesitations about this plan is that I might sometimes miss text messages about time sensitive matters (planning a carpool for scouts, someone asking me if my son is available to babysit, someone offering to give away or sell something that I would be interested in, and just generally responding to people in a prompt & polite manner).  So I did make allowances for arranging carpools on the days my kids have evening activities (although I hope I can generally get those things worked out earlier if possible).  But I think overall I probably just need to get past my idea that I need to respond to people right away, and figure that it's ok to respond within a few hours in most situations, and if someone needs a quick response or there is an emergency they will call.  I think that once I give this experiment a try for the first few days and work out the bugs, I may send a little message out to my family & friends to let them know what I'm doing & why, so they'll know to call me if they need anything.  And part of me says it's crazy that I would feel a need to make an announcement to people that I'm planning to not answer texts or emails for a few hours each day, but on the other hand I do feel that way so I'll probably just go with it.

So, I've tried it out for a couple days.  Here's what I've learned & accomplished with this experiment so far:

Day 1:
On Friday I jumped in and gave it a try.  It helped for my to plug in my phone on the kitchen counter so I didn't have the urge to check it regularly.  What I learned:  One way that I stay organized is by writing down reminders & notes for myself as soon as things come into my mind -- normally I would add something to my calendar or my grocery list or my reminders on my phone, so instead I pulled out a sticky note and wrote my notes down on that, then I just added them to my phone later that night.  I also learned that I needed to turn off several of my alarms/reminders so I wasn't having to walk over to the phone to turn them off so frequently throughout the afternoon.  And I learned that it didn't seem as hard as I'd expected.  (It was from 3pm until about 5:30pm, since my husband and I left at 5:30 to go to our temple that evening without the kids), so it wasn't that long.  What we did: At first I kind of wandered around the kitchen -- doing a little tidying up, starting to read a magazine article and quickly losing interest.  Then I walked out in the back yard with Isaac and we pulled several weeds in the yard together.  And then I gave Isaac & Kolby each haircuts.  I felt good about not using my phone or computer, not that it was really that long to go without them, but more because I was doing it deliberately with the design to do things with my kids instead.

Day 2:
Today I did some prep work before the kids got home from school -- I turned off several of the alarms on my phone so they wouldn't be such a distraction in the afternoon, and I checked my phone messages, and printed out the cards I needed to prepare the cub scout awards for tomorrow's pack meeting.  I tried to be conscious earlier in the day about things I needed to get done on the phone/computer in order to be able to stay off them in the afternoon.  What I learned I had put some thought into it since Day 1, and I had decided that there were certain things that I was ok with using the phone or computer for -- I was ok with using the device specifically for an activity with my child (taking photos of the kids, working on genealogy together, etc.  We didn't end up doing anything like that today, but I don't want to limit it so much that we might miss out on an activity we may enjoy together.  What we did: I had to get the scout awards ready for the pack meeting, which is something I've always done by myself in the past.  But this time I asked Isaac if he wanted to help me, and he was happy to.  Then we went out and pulled a few weeds in the front yard and trimmed the vines.  Later, while the boys cooked dinner, I tried to read a book while also acting as referee for their arguments about how best to prepare the meal they were making.  (I also ended up showing them the easiest way to divide egg yolks from egg whites, after letting them try out a few different creative methods on their own).  :)  After dinner was cleaned up, I would normally probably have used my phone or computer to check a few things off my "to do" list, but instead I did a puzzle with Camden twice -- he wanted to put it together, then turn all the pieces over and put the whole thing together again backwards.  I wanted to read one of our Christmas books to the boys, but they were more interested in the puzzle & playing a board game with Dad after dinner, so I rummaged through the Christmas boxes in the garage & pulled out the CDs of the Forgotten Carols audiobook & music, a Christmas time favorite from when I was a kid, and I enjoyed listening to the first CD while Camden & I did the puzzle.  Then I tried to glue back together the pieces of a ceramic ornament that had accidentally been broken, but I didn't have too much success -- I'll have to try a different kind of glue some other time.  Today was longer than Day 1 -- 3:00pm to 8:30 when the boys went upstairs to do their bedtime routine, and I admit I did feel a draw to quickly check my messages to see if there was anything important, but I held out and didn't do it until after the boys went up for the night.  And guess what?  Nothing important that couldn't wait until that night.  Nothing important enough to interrupt spending a little time with the kids.  I think I'm going to like this.  I haven't really made a big deal to the kids about it, I don't imagine they've really even noticed a change yet.  But it's kind of fun to see what simple activities I can do instead for a few hours.

Oh, and Michael just told me that he set his phone on the counter and avoided answering a call during dinner and checking the phone after dinner while he played a board game with the boys. Didn’t know that he might try it out a bit too.

I'll try to come back later & give another update about how it goes from here.  Wish me luck . . .

24 November 2017

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love the day after Thanksgiving, when we go and pick out our Christmas tree and get it all decorated together. 

Now it feels all nice and cozy at our house (and that’s not just because we’re having record temperatures in the 90s here this week). 

This little wooden nativity set is one that I grew up with as a kid. 

The boys’ little Christmas tree upstairs that  we let them decorate themselves. 

Courtland has been asking if we could get the “Little People” nativity out for a couple weeks now. And he lost no time getting it all set up. 

Had one casualty — of course, it had to be the hand painted ornament that my Grandma Bev made for my first Christmas — (yes, I cried) — hopefully I’ll be able to super glue it. 

It’s Official

Kolby is officially taller than Nana. 

31 October 2017

Hppy birthday Kolby

I thought this was a sweet letter Michael gave to Kolby this morning on his birthday.  

27 October 2017

Camden's contest

Camden was excited to show me the video of him winning the whipped cream eating contest at his class party at school today.  Such a proud moment.  :)

21 October 2017

Morning at the Pumpkin Patch

My boys (and husband) don't just walk the corn maze, they play a pretty serious game of tag in the corn maze every year. 

This time the boys decided to go for some of the specialty pumpkins that come in different shapes & sizes. Those'll be fun to carve.