Friday, August 29, 2014

Let's Talk

I feel like I need to do a follow up to my blog post that spread around like wildfire the other day.  It nearly got more hits than my entire blog has for the past eight years.  Between the link to Rod’s post and this website, there were a lot of comments and a lot of judgment about the fact that my 7-year-old even has an iPod. 

For the record, not that it matters really, but my husband and I did not purchase any of the devices they have. One has an old iPhone (with no phone) and a kindle and the others have very old iPods. They were gifts.  Could we have said no?  Absolutely!  Do I wish we had?  Not really.  The fact that they have the devices was not the point of my article nor is it the issue here.  Having the iPod for entertainment - to play games, to listen to music, to use the walkie-talkie app they love, to take pictures of their dogs and make movies of their Lego creations - none of that is the problem.  We try to regulate and balance the amount of time they spend with these things but give me a break….we just returned from a nine hour road trip to and from Florida and I would have gouged my eyes out had they not been able to Cut the Rope and Craft Mines in the back of that minivan.  Maybe some other kids entertain themselves with quiet rounds of I Spy and reading classic novels for hours on end.  Mine don’t.   On that same trip they also ate Lunchables and had some blue box macaroni and cheese.  Send me to mommy jail. 

I did experience a parent fail moment and that was why I posted the article.  To maybe save another parent from the same sad, tearful conversation I had to have with my little boy.  For another point on the record, we don’t even have cable TV.  We have a subscription to Amazon Prime and we did have Netflix until we realized it was redundant with the Prime account that I can’t and won’t cancel because I like having paper towels and coconut oil delivered to my door in two days.   But guess where my son heard the word that led him to the search on YouTube?  Cable television in our condo from the vacation we just returned from.   Not even cable with HBO or any other channel like that - just regular run of the mill cable TV.

I could (and perhaps should) have disconnected it in the rooms where my children were hanging out but honestly it didn’t cross my mind.  Mainly because my oldest son only wanted to watch Duck Dynasty and they were all excited about watching Full House and America's Funniest Videos and Jessie or whatever non-stop.  As far as I saw, that’s all they watched when we were all even there. Was he channel surfing and heard it?  Or was it on a show he was watching?  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter.  He heard it, he searched for it, and the rest is blogger history.  It's all over regular TV you know.  Porn that is.  Let's call it what it is.  I was watching Miss America with my daughter last year and the network showed a preview for something that sure enough looked like porn to me.  

No, my fail wasn’t in allowing him to have a piece of technology, even though some may disagree.  My fail was in knowing there was a small crack in the boat and filling it in with Elmer’s glue.  I knew there was the capability on that iPod to get on the internet through what we believed was a strong filter.  For the last point on the record, my husband is an IT professional and this was the strongest filter we knew of.  We had tested it and it had not failed.  Until it failed. 

My main point of the article and my mistake was in abandoning my responsibility as a parent and entrusting it to someone (something) else.  And in saying we need to "soldier up" as parents, I mean that fighting this war starts in our own homes.  Porn is an ugly word.  In all honesty my stomach turned just seeing that word in the same sentence with the reference to my precious little boy.  It’s so ugly that I was shaking as I hit publish and put that article out there.  And it’s so ugly that no one wants to talk about it.  

But it’s the elephant in the room.

It’s the elephant in our living rooms.  It’s the elephant in our schools.  And it’s the elephant in the pew next to you at church.  Parents, we need to be talking about it.  And if you’re in the ministry, particularly children’s and student ministry, and you’re not talking about it, you’re really contributing to the problem.  We need each other!  Like my friends and I discussed, because we are neighbors and our children spend so much time at one another’s homes, we need to be in solidarity.  We need to know what our kids' friends are allowed to have and see at their homes. We need to know how much unfettered access they have to the internet at school and church.  Yes church!  Because even if your kids don’t have access to any devices at your home, even if you don’t get a single television or movie channel in your home, even if they have no access to the internet whatsoever - if they go to school, or to someone else’s house, (or a condo at the beach!), chances are great that they will have access.    We simply can’t escape it because it’s there and it’s all around us.   All we can do is the best we can do.  We need to talk about it.  And then we need to do.  

Keep the conversation going, friends. 

Note:  I received many, many emails from friends and strangers in response to this article who had similar experiences.  There are some great resources out there:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Soldier Up, Mom

A few weeks ago an article went viral on my Facebook feed entitled “The Day My 10-Year-Old Discovered Hardcore Porn on his iPhone.”  As one Mom after another shared and commented about how frightening and horrible it was and wondered what do we do to prevent it, I commented on several of those shares (perhaps a little smugly and proudly) that WE had installed an excellent filtering program on all of our devices that even filters YouTube.  I most likely left the impression that WE have no worries in this house, that our kids can watch their iPods and kindles, even those annoying Minecraft how to videos on YouTube, and WE don’t have to worry about them seeing filth. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I could have entitled this blog post “The Day My 7-Year-Old Discovered Porn on His iPod” but it might look like I’m trying to one-up that other Mom.  Which I’m not.  Because, trust me, this is one Mom competition I’d rather lose. 

So YES we have this supposedly great and awesome filter on all of our devices and we pay about $70 a year for it.   Look, I’ve been on my computer trying to shop for a swimsuit at Lands End and the filter blocked me.  Annoying, yes.  But assuring.  I remember thinking wow….if I can’t even get on here and see the tummy-sucking-miracle-fat-hiding-mawmaw-swimsuits, my boys will NEVER be able to discover Victoria or her Secret.   And I’ve been on YouTube trying to see how to quickly defrost CHICKEN breasts, and it blocked several videos AND ads that probably had nothing to do with fowl or a thawing method.  Again I remember thinking, good.  This is really good.  Nothing to worry about.

Then last night happened.

My youngest son was visibly shaken as he was getting ready for bed.  I knew something was wrong when I saw he was wearing his flannel pajamas with the mountain bears printed all over them on one of the hottest August nights this month.   He seemed almost disoriented and I asked him if was sick as he was trying to quickly crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head.   He then reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his little iPod, and tossed it to me saying he doesn’t deserve it anymore because he is bad.  “I’m bad, so bad….I saw bad things.”  My heart started racing and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Because I knew where this was going.  Very calmly and quietly I assured him he was not bad and there was nothing in the world he could ever tell me that would make me think he was bad.  “What did you see, sweetheart?” I asked.  After about ten minutes of me coaxing it out of him, with a wobbly still-tiny-smidge-of-baby-left voice he told me he was searching for a word he had heard and he spelled it for me.  T-t-i-s.  (I quickly unscrambled and knew what he meant).  He went on to tell me he searched for this on YouTube (the app is not even on his iPod….he must go through the “filter” app to access it!).   He told me he saw pictures and videos.

My stomach turned.  I ran through all the “How To” files I’d stored away in my mind.  You know those files….situations you’ve thought about as a Mom and how you’d handle…you file them away for another day.  Usually one you hope will never come.   Turns out I didn’t have a file for this.  Because I honestly thought we had done everything on the front end to keep it from happening. 

I ran my fingers through his hair and pulled him close and started talking to him from my broken heart.  I asked him if he knew what that word meant before he searched for it.  He said no.  I told him it is a very crude and ugly word for something that is not crude and ugly.  I told him what the proper word is and I asked him if he knew why God made them like that on women?  He said no.  I told him it was the miraculous and wonderful way that God made women able to feed their babies.  I told him how every woman who has those is made to feed a baby, and those women in those pictures and videos are either already someone’s Mommy or they will be one day.  And what God meant for a beautiful purpose is twisted and made into something very wrong and ugly by those pictures and videos. 

We continued to talk and then we prayed together and I left him to sleep as I walked back to my room for a sleepless night.  I cried for the ugly, messed up, twisted, and sick world out there that I can’t protect my children from.  I cried for what he had seen that I couldn’t un-see for him.  I cried because I had abdicated MY parenting duties to some stupid computer software that I thought would protect my children.  I cried because I can never get back that bit of innocence he lost way, way too early.  I cried as I went onto YouTube, put in that same search and saw just the thumbnails of what he had to have seen.  I just can’t bring myself to actually click on the videos.  I cried because, when I went in to check on him later, he was curled up with Big Bear in one arm and his little blue and white checked blanket in the other.  He’s still a baby. 

I’m mad now.  And I really hope my anger continues to burn because I need it to fuel my diligence.   I need my guard to be up and to stay up.  This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.  I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah.  I don’t care.  I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them.  I will continue to pull back and hold on for dear life.   Don’t do as I did, friends.  Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.  Do as I am doing now.  Uninstall any and all browsers or video apps on your kids’ personal devices and set the restrictions where they can’t install apps anymore without asking you first.   Have one central computer in a public area of your home that they may use, with permission, and still with filter software installed.  But remember that’s not the first line of defense in this war.

You are.   

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Things I'm Loving This Summer

I was starting to get sad that summer is coming to an end with school starting and all.  I was saying that I never remember as a kid going back to school in August.   It was always after Labor Day when we went back to school.  Summer break is supposed to be three full month of sleeping late, beach going, pool baths, and popsicle stained faces.  June, July, and August...that's summer!  So as I was so sad that we're supposed to be back in school mode and strict(er) schedules in another week or so (because even though we homeschool, we follow the local school calendar), we decided to book our beach vacation in August.  So it really made no sense to start school and then go on vacation.  And it makes no sense to come back from vacation and start school immediately.  What DOES make sense is to go on vacation, come back and recuperate, and then start school after Labor Day.  Just like the good old days.  Kicking it old school this year, y'all.

So in celebration of my continuing summer break, I wanted to share some of my favorite things right now.  Because all both of you might be amused and vaguely interested.   

EOS Lip Balm

Oh My Gosh!  I was in Dallas a few weeks ago and saw this multi pack of these little round lip balms while I was out shopping.  It came with a bonus water bottle which I really needed, and because we are lip balm addicts in this house (and lip balm snobs), I'm always searching for the perfect lip balm.  I can call off the dogs now because the search is over.  This is THE best.  Ever.  The flavors are amazing and it leaves your lips feeling great.  And it lasts a long time.  These are little round containers of yummy goodness, y'all.   Just don't carry it around in your pocket.  Looks weird.    And you're probably thinking I'm weird for being this hyped up over lip balm.  You might even think I'm selling the stuff or getting some commission or kickback.  But, alas, I'm not.  I'm just a fan.  With moisturized lips.  

A Work in Progress:  An Unfinished Woman's Guide to Grace (by Kristin Armstrong)

I read this book a few years ago and it was one of those books that you find at just the right time, with just the right message.  I have re-read it at least four times since then, and am now facilitating an online book club, reading through it and discussing it with friends from all over.  It's a wonderful, easy read that doesn't require a lot of time but inspires a lot of thought and soul searching.  And yes, it's Kristin Armstrong who was married to Lance.  And yes, she and I would be best friends if we just lived closer, I just know it.  I can't recommend this book enough.  I give it as gifts, and it's never further away than my nightstand when I need to be reminded what I'm really striving and reaching for every day, and it all comes down to letting every area of my life be marked and defined by grace.  And I'm not getting any commission from this either, but probably should, as many copies of these book that have been bought by me or because of my recommendation!

Rowing Machine

So yeah, it's quite a jump from lip balm to a book to a rowing machine.  But I LOVE this thing!  First of all, it comes apart into two pieces that can easily be stored out of sight, but easily put together when it's time to exercise...thereby reducing the urge to hang clothes on it like we did with the elliptical machine we used to have.  But I also love the fact that you can get a killer workout in jut 30 minutes, working your core, your arms, and your legs all at the same time.  I'm all about multi-tasking in the shortest amount of time possible.  It's also a great workout for runners, and it makes me feel less guilty when I don't make it outside in the thousand percent deep south humidity for a run.  But the best thing about it is that it's something the whole family can use.  In fact, the monitor has several "games" on it where you play by rowing faster or slower, which moves your little fish up or down in order to avoid being eaten.  So when my kids want to play video games, sometimes this is their only option.  Winning!   And again, not getting paid for this review.  Just wanted to share the fitness love.  

Jamberry Nail Wraps
So ok....a few months ago I noticed one of my good friends from law school was posting constantly about these things on her Facebook page.  Quite honestly I thought she had lost her mind.  All these crazy, patterned nail wraps...polka dots, paisley, floral, stripes....I thought, what in the world?  Who would wear something like that and why does she keep posting all this stuff?   I don't even paint my short, stubby nails and haven't in years.  Ain't nobody got time for that when you're chasing three kids around all day!  So I sure wasn't interested for me.  But I do have a fancy painted nails loving nine-year-old daughter who ruined one of my best towels a while back with bright pink nail polish.  UGH!!!  Made me s'mad!  

So I started taking notice of these wraps and thought it would make a great birthday present for the towel destroyer.  But since I couldn't decide on one pattern, I was going to buy several of them.  But then it occurred to me that maybe I could host a party for my friend and get some for free, or at least at a discount.  So I called her and she asked me if we had even tried them yet....I said no....and she offered to send me a sample.  Well, we got these cute little sample wraps in the mail, put them on a few of our fingers and I watched my daughter dance around the house saying this was the best thing EVER.   I even put the teal polka dots on my fingers and I have to admit, it was SO cute! matched my favorite Tiffany cup which was just a bonus happy.   And in the span of about an hour I had gone from just ordering, to hosting a party, to selling them myself.  Because I thought wow, if there are more people like me whose daughter has ruined their good towels, they're going to think these are the greatest things ever too!

And yes, I actually DO make a commission off of these.  But I also love them and think you would too.  And I don't know what has surprised me more....the fact that I'm selling nail wraps, or the fact that I'm wearing polka dots on my fingers....and loving it!

Go here to learn more about Jamberry... and save your towels!!!