We are the pioneers

Full disclosure: Back in 2016, both Shep and Maj had their own ipads and without even realizing it, they were on them way too much. When I tried to tell them their time was up, Shep would lose.his.mind. Like an addict. It was creating so much negativity in our home. Mainly from the struggle of trying to get them to put them down. 
One day my mom sent me an article that shook me and that very next day I took their ipads away cold turkey. The change was immediate. I actually think my kids were relieved. They entertained themselves better, they behaved better, they played better. Over 3 years later and we have never gotten the ipads back out. I'm honestly not sure where they are. Shep and Maj do occasionally get on our phones, but we only have approved apps they can get on, mainly little learning games. But honestly I don't think even that is ok, but I want to be honest here. I'm writing this, but I'm also working on it.

The thing is, you don't know what you don't know until you know it. Handing Shepherd a phone to look at a video while I change his diaper, whats the harm in that? He won't stay still, I need to change his diaper. There's a sale on iPads, wow that's a great deal, lets get one for the boys. I wish I knew what I know now, I wish I had the same thought process in 2012.

Right now, parents right now. We are the pioneers. We are the first parents to have to navigate the world of smart phones, of social media, of unfiltered access to the entire world at our fingertips. We have to figure this out.
I've been thinking about this so much for months on end. I've read so much, opinion pieces, research, just educating myself. Guys, its a crazy world. I would much rather raise my kids in the days when they could go ride their bikes and come home when the streetlights came on.
THIS WHOLE WORLD IS WALKING AROUND LIKE ZOMBIES, and the sad thing is its starting as soon as kids can hold onto a phone! GUYS!

I pick up Shep from school, and the middle school kids are walking around, staring down at their phones. My friend teaches middle school and she said she can't get them to pay attention because they're watching YouTube under the desk. I can't.

 I'm a big believer in practicing what you preach. I cold turkey quit Instagram and Facebook for 3 months in 2018, and while I did come back to it, it changed the way I approach social media. I can't go on about this, then spend my time scrolling like a mindless zombie. I unfollowed pretty much anyone I don't know in real life, I don't follow "influencers" and the people I still follow that I know in real life, I "muted" so I have the option to look a them still, but don't just scroll them. Its still hard. If I let myself, I could just scroll social media all day because its entertaining.

I feel like I'm fighting against the strongest current. Its everywhere. Its so hard. Sometimes I think the only way to beat the game is to get out of it.

I feel like what is good for you, is almost never easy. And what is easy is almost never good for you. 

We're a few years away from this with our kids, but I want to talk about social media. I do hope that by the time my kids are old enough, maybe social media will have changed. Gotten better? Probably not, but I can pray. I saw this and I think this is true.

Social media wasn't a thing until I was an adult. Facebook started when I was a freshman in college, and it was very different back then. Instagram didn't come about until I was married. Can you imagine going through middle school with Instagram? With Snapchat? With screenshots and Airdrop? With unfiltered access to the internet? With all the other things kids today are exposed to that I don't even know about because I'm old. I genuinely don't think I'd be the same person.

I don't want to send my sons out into this world. I want to go off the grid. I can't send my boys into a world, where porn is becoming acceptable for kids. Oh sure, parents recoil in horror at that thought, but they are still giving their kids smartphones. Even if I don't give them to my kids, they have access to the same things because their friends will have smart phones. I can't send my daughter out into the world where she'll be asked to take nude picture of herself to send to boy (CHILDREN!). I can't do it. I want to do something about it, so I'm starting with this conversation. 

I have so many thoughts on this that I have a hard time editing them down. So this may come out jumbled and in eloquent, but I'm posting it anyway because we have to talk about it. I realize words like "porn" and "school shootings" are polarizing and sound extreme. They aren't. This is what is happening. And as adults if we are uncomfortable with something, why in the world would we leave our kids to deal with it and figure it out on their own?
As a parent, Joey and I have committed to our kids to being open and honest and not awkward. No matter the question, we will answer it honestly. The more embarrassing the better. Get it from me and not your friends or google. Please ask me. In our house we don't want anything to be a "conversation." We won't be having The Talk with our kids. It will be an ongoing open and honest conversation. I want our kids to know they can ask us anything. Even now, if they ask, I tell them the honest answer. Kids can tell if you're skirting around something. I obviously make the answer developmentally appropriate, but I answer it honestly. Shep asked me the other day how girls can tell they're pregnant. I said every month girls get something called a period and if they don't get it, they can take a pregnancy test and know if they're pregnant. I don't think he really cared, he didn't ask any follow up questions. I could have dumbed it down, but I am starting it now, that if he asks, he gets a real answer.
This conversation needs to be happening more often. Please have this conversation in your circles. These are children and we are the pioneers.

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Some jumbled thoughts:

Why are kids allowed to have phones at school? Why has that even started? So they can call their final goodbyes if there's a school shooting? What is this world? Are we just going to not worry about if they're cheating on tests? How do kids even learn with the distraction? How much harder is developing real friendships when communication is always through a device.

This is affecting kids vision, their posture, their development. When Shep went to the eye doctor a few years ago, he told us that more kids are having glasses than ever before because how much they stare at screens is affecting the way their eyes develop.

Its not enough to put "parental controls" on their devices. First of all, kids are smarter than adults when it comes to getting around stuff like that.

Kids are being exposed to porn. Porn is addicting. You can't say, "Oh they don't know what they're watching." Its addicting and its life ruining.

Social media is hurting kids. Bullying, peer pressure, comparing themselves to others, self esteem, porn, self harm, anxiety, eating disorders. Shall I go on?

Pop up ads are pretty much impossible to block and they are usually not appropriate.

Kids don't have the ability to regulate this in their brain. Its literally not developed. I am an adult and I know social media is a curated version of people's lives. Kids see it and think other people are having more fun, are more pretty, are more liked. They compare themselves. Self harm and suicide rates are rising and what do you think has changed? Social media.

"Everything in moderation" does not apply here. This is not ok.

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Some info from articles about kids and screen time:

Smart phones are PROVEN to create the same effect on developing brains as drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and gambling.

For every 30 minutes of daily handheld screentime and 18 mo old gets, his risk of speech delay increases by 50%.
(Yes, research shows it makes a difference if it is a handheld device. That used to be something I thought, "well, I don't care if he watches tv, so its no different to watch a show on the phone. Its different!)

If you sign up for Instagram and put your info in that you are a male between the ages of 13-25, it automatically puts the "Explore" page with accounts with naked women and inappropriate memes.

CDC linked teen suicides (on the rise) with increased social media usage.

Time Magazine: Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax
Over 200 peer-reviewed studies point to screen time correlating with increased ADHD, screen addiction, increased aggression, depression, anxiety and even psychosis.

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Finally, these are all screenshots I've taken from Collin Kartchner's Insta stories. He is an advocate for NOT giving kids smart phones and he's traveled all over the country speaking about this. He often will post screenshots of things people send him (obviously with their name hidden) and it is heartbreaking and scary.

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I know this is a lot I just shared. I encourage anyone still reading to follow @collinkartchner on Instagram. He is so informative.
Right now my oldest child is 7, and we're hopefully at least a few years away from his friends having smart phones. I'm worrying and advocating about it ahead of time, in hopes that things will change for the better by the time he's of age to deal with it.

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More questions than answers

I mentioned in my last post that I have "more questions than answers" when it comes to the religion part of Christianity and I wanted to elaborate on that a little.
More than ever before I'm aware of my privilege.  I've grown up in church, Southern Baptist church to be exact. I don't claim that anymore. Its been years since we've been to church regularly. I get so sad, because I see that too often Christians are the ones turning people away from Jesus. Jesus is the best thing that could happen to anyone. Jesus is for everyone. God isn't scary. Jesus is literally the Good News. And I don't want to go to a church where I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing a gay friend or a black friend or a divorced friend etc etc for fear they'd be offended or made to feel a way. I don't want to belong to a church where predominately old, white men are making the decisions. I am a christian and I love Jesus, and  I also am someone who has questions and I believe with my whole heart that God welcomes them. I welcome them in other people. I welcome feedback and other ideas than my own. I love hearing what other people think and are going through and the answers they're getting to their own questions. I have full faith in Jesus and a big helping of skepticism about the way people understand him. I know the Bible holds up, so who would I be if I blindly believed all I've been "taught."
I am yearning for Jesus more than I ever have in my life, but I am over religion and church and christians.
When we moved here 3 years ago, we started looking for a church. I do want my kids to grow up in church. I do want to belong somewhere. But we both said we aren't going to go through all it takes to get 4 kids plus ourselves out the door to go to a church that we aren't getting anything out of.
I told God I was going to start praying relentlessly for Southland, our church we used to go to, to open up a campus here. It seemed far fetched because at the time I think they only had 2 satellite campuses outside of Lexington. Even if they opened another one, there were plenty of other places to choose from. I prayed that prayer all the time for the next few years, and in 2019 that prayer was answered. In March of 2020, Southland is opening a campus in Richmond. I am so excited and hopeful, and if I'm being honest, a little nervous that I'll be disappointed.
So there you have it. For a long time I've felt like to the world, I'm probably viewed as pretty conservative. But to the church I'm probably viewed as liberal. I actually fall somewhere in between. So lately I've been contemplating what that means and how I fit/want to fit into the church today.
 I'm still on a journey to figure out what I believe and just trying to articulate that.
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Word of the Year - Decade Recap


I started doing a "word of the year" in 2012. I realized every year I have the same resolutions, and those resolutions are something I will just always be working towards being better at. Eat healthy, exercise, drink more water, read more books.  Instead, by picking one word to focus on throughout the year, my hope is always that on December 31st I'll be able to look back and see where that word has taken me and what I've learned. Really, its one of the best things I've ever done for myself, my word of the year. That collage above is something I started this year. Every year I'll paint a new little canvas (I think its 3x3 or something) with our word on it to hang on our gallery wall.

Since we've just entered a new decade I've been very nostalgic. It seems like a bigger deal, going into the 20s. Maybe because I'm getting older and I have more life to look back on now and see how fast time goes. Who I was entering the last decade and who I am leaving it are not the same. Thank God! 
I have a motto in life. I didn't think of it on my own...I believe I read it in a Glamour article interviewing Michelle Obama. I never forgot it.
"I never consider myself a finished product."
That's my life motto. I want to always be growing and changing and learning. I'm eternally curious. I want to always ask questions. I want to take hard looks at myself and see where I can do better. I want to evolve. 

2012
GROW

This was the year we became parents. We had so much growth as individuals and as a couple. Nothing stretches your soul more than becoming a parent. 

2013
INTENTIONAL
I spent this year (my first full year as a mom) focusing on being intentional as a parent. 4 kids later and I can say (pretty much) everything I do or don't do I have thoughts or reasoning behind. Joey and I are pretty loose in a lot of ways as parents on purpose and it goes back to being intentional. I think a lot about what kind of mom I want to be and I'm intentional about not sweating the small stuff, and even less sweating the big stuff because I know Who Is Really In Charge and letting my kids be who they are and celebrating their uniqueness. I thought a lot this year about how I get to decide who I want to be, its not decided for me.

2014
FOCUS
Honestly, "focus" was too broad. I can't really look back on this year and feel like I had a lot of focus. #youwinsomeyoulosesome
I did learn going forward that I needed to keep my word simple and straighforward.

2015
CHANGE
 
At the beginning of 2015 I was feeling really restless and just ready for something different. I've always known "if you are praying something is happening, whether you can see it or not." And this year I got to see that proven and was given the testimony of it for my life. It scared me to start praying for change. I was honestly terrified to put that out there and see what God would do with it. It wasn't like I was unhappy with my life, I actually was sooo happy. But I just knew we were ready for more. 
Within 6 months, Joey had accepted a job with Coke in Utah, we sold our house, moved our family across the country, and I found out literally hours before getting on the plane that I was unexpectedly pregnant with our third child. We could not have fit more change into 2015 if we tried. New job, new house, new state, new baby. I even cut 10 inches off my hair for the first time ever just because I wanted to embrace change. 
If you are praying, something is happening. 

2016
EXPLORE
 Living somewhere new was so fun and we wanted to take advantage of living in proximity to places that we otherwise would probably not have gone. I made a huge "bucket list" of things I wanted to do and we crossed off almost every single one. 

2017
SETTLE
We started this year saying our word was "rest," and quickly realized that was not going to happen with 3 little kids. So we changed it to "settle." After a somewhat abrupt move back to Kentucky at the end of 2016...we had already made the decision to move back and Joey had accepted a new job, but we didn't expect the death of my mother in law. When we found out she died I packed up 2 suitcases and we were on a plane home a few hours later. No time to say goodbye, no time to pack up our Utah home. I never got to "say goodbye" to Utah and that's something that if I let myself think about I get angry. It ripped the rug out from under us and we were spinning.  It was so much. We were mourning her and grappling with the way she died and it was chaos. We needed a year to just be and get ourselves and our home together. 

2018
LISTEN
This year I chose "listen." I wasn't really sure what I was expecting or wanted out of it, but I decided to go with it and see what God would show me. About a month before Shepherd was going to start kindergarten, I decided to completely quit social media cold turkey. I wanted to really enjoy my last month with him, distraction free.  Facebook started in 2004 when I was a freshman in college, and I realized I've spent some time on social media pretty much every single day for the past 14 years. Isn't that crazy? So for 3 months, I did not post or look at social media at all. I took Facebook and Instagram off my phone. And this should be obvious, but I think I needed to experience it to really know...but my mind was clearer. Go figure not spending my spare time scrolling strangers Insta posts gave my brain more room to think. The draw of social media is really that we are all used to being entertained 24/7 at this point. By quitting it, I was entertaining myself with things that were life giving to me, instead of mindless scrolling about stuff I don't even care about. 
It gave me a fresh perspective on how I want to spend my spare time and changed how I approached social media going forward. 

2019
GOODNESS
For 2019, I chose the word "goodness." Again, this year I chose a word not sure what I wanted out of it or having any expectations. I prayed about it and put my focus on it throughout the year, and whats exciting is that without me even realizing it, in hindsight I see God showed up for me and answered my prayers for goodness this year. And it was better than anything my small little mind could come up with. 
Three things stood out the most when looking for goodness this year. One, I said at the beginning of the year that I wanted to read the entire Bible through this year. Well, turns out, that's pretty hard. At least for me. So that didn't happen. Instead, I joined a bible study. And while I'm realizing I may have more questions than answers when it comes to the religion part of Christianity, I am more sure than ever about Jesus. I found out I actually love studying the Bible, and I've never truly done that before. I've always just read the Bible, not dove in and studied it.
Number two when I look for goodness over the past year. When I pick a word, if anything comes up throughout the year and I'm making a decision, I ask myself what my word would do and I do that. Haha. So when I couldn't decide if I wanted to sign up for FASTer Way to Fat Loss, I thought about goodness and decided to go for it. Through that 6 week program, I learned that I am capable of eating truly healthy and exercising, which is honestly something that always seemed too daunting to take on. I found something that works for me, and that in itself is a relief. I also confirmed through all that, that although I want to be healthy, my worth and confidence does not come from my appearance.
Third, this year I took steps to repair a friendship and it felt like a weight off my shoulders that I didn't realize was there. Very thankful for grace and time.

2020
BOLD

I've been thinking and praying about my word for 2020 since October. Not just a new year, but a new decade! I didn't want something small. I want to go big for 2020. The only word that kept coming to my mind was "bold." At first I was like, no I don't want that word. Bold is scary and requires action and its much easier to stay in my comfort zone. Something I've realized about myself...I'm not sure when it started or how I got here...but I've realized I tend to keep my true thoughts to myself, especially if I think/know whoever I'm around won't agree with them. And I don't do it out of fear or wanting to fit in. That doesn't matter to me. I think I do it out of just not caring. Other people's opinions don't really matter to me, it doesn't bother me if someone agrees or disagrees with me. But I think it bothers other people. And I don't care to debate or change someones mind. So I just keep my thoughts to myself. But what I've realized, in doing that I'm not letting people know me. Or worse, my silence is taken for agreement and people think they know me. So that is one thing I want to work on this year. But, I'm excited to see what God has in mind and where He will take me.















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