Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Man-Child

I recently listened to a radio broadcast with an author speaking about raising boys. She spoke of so many issues our boys face, but she specifically directed her book and her research to the mothers of boys. I was riveted! It was such an amazing hour of information, i bought the book before i even got to listen to the second segment.

( you can listen to it here and link to Part 2 )

One of the things that really struck me is when she was explaining what researchers have discovered about boys and video games. Boys' brains are apparently hard-wired to enjoy task-oriented activities as well as the satisfaction of completing a goal or honing a skill. Within the video game framework, you have all of the above and the boy never has to get off the couch! His brain's needs to "hunt it, kill it, drag it home, and get better at it tomorrow" are all fulfilled with some flicks of his thumbs.

Generally speaking, maybe this isn't a problem, but apparently, researchers are specifically looking at why we have 20-something young men still living at home playing video games all day... and they believe it is directly connected to the success of video games in fulfilling that part of a boy's nature. I'm sure we can all agree that a young man who will not go out and get a job or attend college courses to obtain a career cannot be considered a success. And apparently, the problem lies in the fact that these boys are having their needs met and do not enjoy trying to have those same needs met in the real world. Gulp.

We all know that cleaning the toilet or taking out the trash has very little payoff - unless we are internally motivated and can see the big picture. This boy, the one who plays video games as a favorite past-time, isn't gaining internal motivation and mental "atta boys" for doing those tasks, and he isn't learning to see the big picture - because everyday tasks cannot provide the same gratification the video games do at the same effort level.

( I'm trying to nutshell this for you, as well as put my adolescent psychology spin on it, and i'm not sure i'm doing a very good job, so just go listen to the radio show! LOL )

Okay, now for how it applies to me. :)
I talked with my husband about this issue, and we agreed to limit those sorts of games more for our son than we currently do - we are, in fact, seeing evidence that he gains little satisfaction from life's tasks and is video game focused. And today, i spoke with our son about it. He understands. He believes it is even likely a real issue. And he is compliant with the plan.

Best of all, without the video games tonight, he built a paper game board and played it with me before bed. Then he built another one for tomorrow. Ahhh, it is so nice when God drops information into my lap, i obey His prodding, and i get immediate feedback.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Soup's On!

As partial vegetarians who eat limited dairy products, i strive to stay creative with our meals. When autumn first arrived, the weekly-pot-of-soup began. We call it Soup Saturday. (We also have Spaghetti Sunday. But i digress.)

Every Saturday, i put on a big pot of soup. Easy enough, right? Only....

Challenge #1: it has to be vegetarian.
Challenge #2: it cannot contain dairy.
Challenge #3: 3 out of 5 of us don't really like a lot of vegetables.
Challenge #4: i have to change it up; it must not be the same soup week after week.
Challenge #5: there has to be enough of it to feed us on Saturday AND for one meal during the week.

So, after at least 4 weeks of doing a new creation in soup every weekend, i am back to our first favorite soup today. Ahh... the smells of onion and garlic fill the whole house this morning! I am so looking forward to digging in!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Parenthood: The Game is ON!

For some reason, our culture has become very competitive in a lot of areas of life that make no sense: my landscaping is better than yours, my SUV is newer, my kids are involved in more activities, and i'm a perfect wife, etc.

But the area of competitiveness in adults that boggles my mind the most is in the arena of parenting. Parenthood is absolutely the most demanding job on the planet, and if you do this full-time, all the time, without daily all-by-yourself breaks and a 2-week vacation every year, you deserve (but will likely never get) a medal of honor.

And rather than acknowledge that good parenting doesn't always come easily or naturally, we put on a mask for others as if to say: oh, this is fun and rewarding and i never feel overwhelmed! If you can TRULY say that - like, in the shower, all by yourself, between you and God - then go grab yourself a badge (or a straight-jacket, 'cuz you're delusional! LOL) and come back tomorrow. You don't need to read any further.

If you haven't hit your "uh-oh, what's the right way to handle this situation" meltdown yet, just keep waiting; it's coming. If you had an easy baby, you'll get yours back later. If the toddler years were a breeze, wait for the teens! And if this is you, please stop telling the other mothers how great your children are at the exact moment that they are bearing their souls to you about how anxious they are over Junior's recent behavior! So. Not. The time.

One thing i have always refused to engage in is the GAME of parenting. You can sit there and listen to me tell you that my child gives me the run-around or has screaming tantrums, and you can respond with, "Wow, my Joey would never do that! I just don't have that problem." Go ahead. I will not hit you. I promise. But i might say, "well, you should just thank God right now that He hasn't asked that of you, then." Because, seriously, folks, our kids are born sinners just like we are. Do you do everything right all the time? Do you absolutely never fudge on anything you know you should do a certain way? (think of your driving....) Of course not. So why do we have to pretend our kids are perfect?

I get it: our kids are a reflection of us, of our parenting, of our values. But sometimes, our kids are just exactly who God made them to be. Whether we like it or not. Sometimes, our kid has autism, emotional outbursts, behavior issues, speech delays, vision problems, self-control issues, or any host of things not going perfectly right inside his/her little body. And at the end of the day, it is our job as parents simply to love them and encourage them to be the best version of themselves they can be. Because, when it comes right down to it, any other expectation is just setting them up for failure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

If I were President

Okay, with lots of disappointments come lots of swirling thoughts. My morning devotion is about taking hold of the good thoughts and throwing out the bad ones so that i cannot be taken hostage by negativity. Aptly timed, in my opinion!

So i was thinking: what if i ran for the office of President of the United States of America? Hmm....

First, i've never cared for politics in general, though i see them as a nearly-necessary evil.
Second, i've never considered that i would be any better as a politician than anyone else.
However, i now understand something: if the people who believe politicking is a problem in our country continue to sit on the sidelines, we will continue to get political figures who love to play the political system. Is that how we get better? I think not.

So, my platform would be as follows:
- you can have your abortion, but don't ask for help paying for it. There is a simple solution to an unwanted pregnancy: don't have sex if you can't afford a baby. Sure, that sounds harsh, but mostly, i believe America is divided because women and men are afraid the conservatives are going to take away the right to abortion. Maybe our country will come to that, but it should be a majority vote. All i'm saying is, the American people should not have to pay for abortion if they don't personally have to obtain one.

- you can have your religious views, but don't force them on the majority. Not everyone who lives in this country is a Christian, but the majority still is. That might change, but for now, Christianity is the reason our country has been so successful and the deterioration of our country is largely linked to declining morality (all moral issues are of God, by the way, because without God, we could not know the presence or absence of good/evil).

- you can receive help from the government if you need it. Those systems are in place for the benefit of those who need it, and i couldn't in good conscience abandon those programs, but there has to be a limit. We cannot continue to subsidize women refusing to get married. We cannot continue to subsidize men refusing to grow up and take responsibility for their actions. We cannot continue to encourage women to have baby after baby with no job, no husband, no way to feed it or clothe it or house it, and send the message to the young men of this country that they can have their fun and step aside because "we've got this." If a woman and man can't take care of the children they already have without a handout, perhaps those men and women should have their reproductive rights interrupted. That, the government can pay for. I have seen this system first-hand. I am not operating on misinformation or bias. The basic system of getting something for nothing has never built a strong person or a strong nation. It has to stop.

- you can have a job and pay taxes, and your reward will be that you will earn exactly as you work. If you earn little, you will be taxed little. If you work hard and earn more, you will be taxed more. But the bottom line will be the same for everyone: flat tax. No penalty for getting ahead. No penalty for earning more. Just fair taxes. Remember, if you make $12,000 and are taxed at 10%, you will pay $1,200 in taxes and if you make $200, 000 and are taxed the same, you will pay $20,000. So the wealthy will still pay more than the poor, but it will be FAIR. Part of this would be tax incentives for continuing education, which would allow for greater opportunities for the individual (and our nation would be benefited by this as well). Then, we can offer incentives to the wealthy who support the charities that support our country. Otherwise, fair taxes and fair deductions.

- we need a defense. Period. Peace is a grand ideal, but it doesn't work because there will always be enemies, opposition to peace, and the willingness of others to commit violence in order to gain what they are after. So, we need the ability to defend. We also need the ability to go after something that could cause a bigger threat, so we need to be able to be proactive. Military men and women make so little money, put themselves in danger (and many lose their lives!), and live apart from their families for months and years at a time. They live in conditions we would never consider supporting if we had to "walk a mile in their shoes." And they do it for a love of country, for the promise of continued freedom. I would support our military and not handicap them.

- lastly, we need an educational system in which parents are equally responsible for a child's learning. No longer can we afford to ask our teachers to be the social skills teacher, the playground monitor, the bully-buster, the referee, and the drill sergeant, only to ask them why our children aren't learning their math facts or their history lessons. No one person should have all that responsibility and so little support. Parents should be required to invest time and energy into their own child's education. A system should be built to encourage this.

Basically, those are my issues. Some are likely polarizing, as would likely be the case with any candidate. But mostly, i think we need to remember that the "common good" needs to be our focus. Not all the way to one side or only 49% of the people get represented every 4 years. Balance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Over the past few months, i have been working with my son on the concept of calories, specifically, calories and weight management. He has finally figured out that calories must be "burned" by the body or they will be "held onto" by the body as fat. He has also grasped the idea that it takes a lot more work to burn the calories than a person might initially think, going into weight management for the first time.

Now, we are working on portion sizes. This concept was tougher. The cereal box says 120 calories per serving, but it can be tough to estimate how much a serving is, not to mention that every food we consume has a different portion size. So my friend gave us some Weight Watchers serving utensils and we were excited to try them!

The next day, we served up what we discussed would be a good, healthful, balanced meal for lunch. My son helped me decide what that would be (mostly they were all his suggestions, believe it or not!) and we set to work getting it onto the table. As we used each implement to serve each component, it was fun to SEE how portion sizing works out in a real world application. For example, the scoop for starch was the same size as the scoop for vegetable, but the starch scoop was 1 serving and the vegetable scoop was 1/2 serving. The protein utensil was smaller than he expected, but provided plenty of chicken after he saw it demonstrated.

So we had Rotisserie Chicken, green beans, broccoli, and baked smiley potatoes. Half of our plate is green, which i reminded the kids was a really good thing! Our starch serving is much smaller than it would have been if we had just eaten what sounded good. And we didn't add any butters or oils, so we ate only the fats found naturally in the foods.

Overall, we did a pretty good job learning how to "design our meal" with the help of some portion scoopers. :)