on the outside, looking in

Last weekend my little family of three went on a get-away trip to San Antonio.  We had a great time and made an effort to keep our phones put away except for a few snapshots here and there.   We didn’t even verbalize set phone-rules, we just wanted to be sure we enjoyed each other more than we enjoyed our technology.

Here are things we noticed:

  • our conversation was focused on us, not on what we saw on Facebook
  • our kiddo thrives on adventure – even if it means taking a different path than we did to get to the same place
  • we actually had productive conversations about our parenting goals and family goals
  • we laughed.  a lot.
  • we didn’t miss our phones

Here is what we noticed at other tables in restaurants:

  • the people dining hardly looked at each other
  • heads hardly ever looked up from phones when servers brought their meals
  • phones were still in one hand while eating with the other
  • often the only conversation that occurred was in reference to someone showing a picture on his/her phone
  • KIDS are glued to tablets and phones

I remember my husband saying, “I’m glad that’s not us – I’m glad we don’t have our phones out.”
And I remember thinking, “Today.  I’m glad we had the willpower to put them away today.”


This video impacts me every single time I watch it and it reminds me to have a healthy respect for my phone.  There is a time and a place to use your phone.  Exercise some willpower and learn the difference.

It’s hard.  It’s SO hard to create a healthy distance from technology when it’s everywhere AND when almost everyone in our circles is using it as well.  Our kids are growing up in this new environment, and it’s our responsibility to set good examples for them.

With a smartphone it’s hard NOT to:

  • answer that work email so you can show that you’re a team player
  • text a friend with something funny your kid just said instead of laughing with your family
  • look up that web address immediately after seeing it advertised
  • check the weather/traffic … over and over again
  • post the family picture you just took on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter and so on
  • play a game instead of sitting idle for 5 minutes while you wait in line
  • check Facebook. again. and again. and again. and again.
  • post a great quote on Twitter instead of really enjoying and soaking in that book


Several weeks ago, my friend Lauren posted this link on Facebook – I know, the irony of it all, but stay with me here.  It’s basically a challenge to see how long you can go without picking up your phone and here’s the gem of it all… the minutes ticking by while your phone sits idle, is rewarded to people who don’t have phones.  In fact, they don’t even have water.   Read more here, and take the challenge.

Do some good to yourself, your family, your boundaries, and to total strangers who can’t ever repay you.


just … stop.

image (2)


When I was a kid my mom didn’t use the phrase “time out.”  In fact it was a phrase typically used at basketball practice or when my dad would scream at the TV during a Hawkeyes football game (yes, I’m from Iowa — no, I’m not an Iowa State fan — but for the record, I don’t root for the Hawkeyes either).  Honestly, I don’t even remember my mom shooing us away so she could take a “mommy time out” and search for her sanity.  She was pretty even keeled.

She sighed more than she yelled, but for the record I would have preferred yelling.  Sighing just leaves you hanging … like “what is she thinking?”  My mom rolled with the punches and went to band concerts, volleyball games, softball games, basketball games, plays and girl scout meetings.  I’m one of three girls; we were involved in a lot of stuff!  I also don’t ever remember her complaining that she didn’t have time for herself.

Why am I sharing all of this with you?  Because I can’t help but wonder what has changed.  Now I constantly hear these words coming out of my mouth, “If I just had an hour to myself!!!!!” … interesting that I never finish that thought, I just leave it hanging… kind of like my mom’s sighs.  (my sisters are making our mom’s sigh-sound as they read this — that’s how impactful her sighs were!)

I’m calling a time out on myself.

I refuse to read another book about what I should be doing until I figure out what I’m going to STOP doing.  I think the first thing to go is this belief that I have to have an hour to myself especially when everyone is home from their busy days — says who?  God gave me this great kid and amazing husband and all I do is crave time to myself?!?!?!  Um… that’s a bit twisted.  Afterall, I couldn’t wait to get married, and I prayed and prayed that the infertility treatments would work despite my medical issues so that I could have a child to love and care for — and sorry for my transparency but, I think I’m sort of pissing it all away. (I take that back, I’m not sorry for my transparency)

I love my phone.
You guys know this already. And though I am temped to give you a list of things justifying my idolatry towards this piece of technology, I will just let it be.  Even though it’s killing me a little inside.

But do I LOVE my family?

So what if I don’t get to the next level of Candy Crush (for the record, I have not touched Candy Crush since I gave it up for … well not Lent but for Jen Hatmaker… I mean for ME).  So what if I don’t get a pedicure.  So what if I don’t finish reading all the posts on Facebook.  So what if I don’t gab with my friend for an hour about all the funny things that happened this week.

Moderation is the key… I dislike that word, it reminds me that I have to eat in moderation and that bugs me because I love food.


I think it’s incredibly important that we model good friendships to our children and that we go out and enjoy ourselves with friends when the opportunity arises.  I think it’s incredibly important to have time away from our spouses so that we have fresh and fun things to talk about.  I think it’s important to stay connected to long time friends and even current friends — but ya’ll — I’ve been doing it wrong.  It should be God, family, friends (and everything else).  So an hour in the morning reading scripture or my bible study books?  Totally legit.  Or an hour having coffee with a friend while everyone is gone doing his own thing?  No problem.  An hour on the couch scrolling through Twitter while my son is glued to the television…. dude.  Right. Between. The ii’s. (for iPhone and iPad… see what I did there with the…. see the i’s… nevermind)

I know I just blogged about this the other day, but this whole idea of having a list of things I am going to STOP doing seems much more inviting than a list of things I am going to START doing.  It reminds me of New Year’s when everyone has these lists of cool things they are going to conquer, and by February they don’t even know where the list is.  I don’t want to be that person.

So what are you going to stop doing?

I have another game to delete from my phone, I can tell you that right now…

I was a brat last night

 I got more sand in my teeth last night.

22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  Matthew 5:22

Ok, I didn’t call my son an “idiot” and I didn’t curse him but good golly miss molly did I have attitude with him.

Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/
Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/

We were playing a cool Lego Wii game based on the Indiana Jones movies.

Have you ever heard kids play video games together, specifically the ones where they have to WORK TOGETHER?!?!  It sounds like this…

Me: “Woah – nice shot!”
My boy: “Where do we go now? Let’s look over here. What’s this green ball?”
Me: “Wait!  When you go that way it pulls me off the screen!”
My boy: “I know, so just come this way so we can see what this is over here.” (said in a “duh” tone of voice)
Bratty me: “NO – I don’t WANT to go over there.  There’s nothing over there! UGH, forget it – I’m not playing this anymore with you!”

(for the record, you have to push that green ball off the top of that dome to get to the next level — apparently every 10 year old boy knows this and moms do not… just go with the flow, ladies and let the boys lead you)

I don’t know what it is about playing these games with my son that makes me revert into a bratty 9 year old girl, but sadly it happens.  I am more patient than I used to be, but y’all, I have a controlling nature that is brutally mean to my child when he makes judgement calls with which I disagree.

Was I angry? Yes.
Annoyed? Yes.
Did I walk away? Yes.
Did I walk away before opening my mouth? Uh … do I have to answer that?

I think I called my son “annoying” or something similar; because I’m a grown up and I know how to handle my anger properly.  I know, I have issues.

So again last night I went to bed picking sand out of my teeth and I still have some grit in there today.  I didn’t keep my feet squarely planted on the rock of Christ that is found in His instruction, and down I went … face first into the sand.   Another shot at playing the game his way will ensue today – but not before I pray and then apologize to him.

Maybe you have anger issues with your kids, especially when they are in that obnoxious wonderful stage of learning how to assert themselves because they have good ideas that are worth listening to.  Maybe you need some prayer too before you open your mouth and fill it with sand.  Let’s pray this together:

Lord, thank you for not punishing me the way I SHOULD be punished for speaking to my child in ugly ways, using ugly words.  I don’t know why I think those words won’t hurt him, but it’s obvious that they do.  I strongly dislike the way it feels to know I have caused him hurt.  Create a strong desire in me to let him lead on things that will not matter in 2 years — or in 2 minutes for that matter.  I want to create confidence in him and I want him to know I have his back, even if I am disappointed by his actions. Remind me that my words stemming from anger don’t just hurt him, but they also cause tension in my relationship with You.  Forgive me, Lord, and give me another opportunity to shower my child with grace.  AMEN.

I think I’m going to need some dental floss for this mouthful of sand.  Hopefully apologizing to my child wholeheartedly will be the rinse-aid I’m needing.

Do you struggle with keeping ugly words in your mouth when your kids are pushing your buttons?

my phone booth needs a lock

I’m not running for my life.
But I am totally running for my sanity.

When my father in-law was sick and living with us, we were in a small rent house and building a home better suited to fit all of us.  There was no room to breathe in that rent house.  There was little privacy and an adorable 3 year old boy who was in an eternal state of glee to have his whole family under one roof.  I couldn’t even pee without someone knowing about it, or without the said 3 year old invading my privacy.

So I hid in the master closet to make phone calls to my lifelines.  

Through frustration and tears, my friend Nicole helped me find laughter – we somehow coined the master closet as the phone booth.  And it stuck, I still go into the closet to make calls.  When I am in the phone booth I have THREE doors I can shut to distance myself from the people I have chosen to live with, and those whom I happen to love.  But ya’ll, my phone booth needs a lock.

Photo from: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/
Photo from: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/

It’s nearing the end of summer and I am thrilled beyond thrilled that my child will have his friends around him at school to share physical “comedy” acts, fart jokes, and discussions about battle equipment – because I’m pretty much over it at the moment.  It has come to things like this:

Mom I’m hungry.
K… eat something.

Mom? Can I watch TV?
Sure, in any room but this one.

Mom, come quick!  You’re never going to believe what just happened on Minecraft!
(under my breath … maybe if I sit still long enough he will forget that he called out to me!)

This is all terrible.  I’m supposed to love him and cherish him and want to play games with him and romp at the park with him and ignore his smelly head and kiss and hug him.  But it’s HOT in Texas, people.  No one is interested in hugging unless we’ve been in air conditioning for at least an hour, if not longer.  The park?  Ghost town.  Even the spiders are hiding.

Tonight I am reminded that when I try to stir multiple pots at once, they all boil over and I find out the eggs never cooked all the way through.  What is the Greek I am speaking?  Multi-tasking is NOT, I repeat, NOT always helpful.  I have a child begging for my attention, blogs half-written, chapters for class half-read, and my husband half-noticed.

This is no bueno.
I am going to spend some time in my phone booth to reassess what is important this week.
And I will pray about conquering them one at a time.

Because my family, my faith, my work, my studies, my writing, my friends — they are all worthwhile and they all deserve my undivided attention.

In case you struggle reading between the lines,
that means stirring one pot at a time.

Take a deep breath, step out of your phone booth, and conquer one pot at a time.

can your kids do tricks?

Cowboy takes a bow
Cowboy takes a bow

Anyone can teach a dog to do tricks, and often times in parenting that’s what we teach our kids to do … tricks.

I firmly believe that when we teach people to do something just for the sake of doing it, or to make them look good or fit in society, we aren’t giving them life skills.  We are teaching them tricks.  Now I fully admit that teaching them tricks is easier and can be done from behind the wheel while racing to school and everyone is still eating breakfast in the car.  I know, I get it.  But what I’m saying here is that I’ve seen some results of my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-parenting, and I’m not impressed with the results.

I don’t want to teach my kid tricks anymore. I want to do heart-work with him, not behavior-work.  Behavior modification is exhausting and he still misses the toilet anyway.  And YES, I know this will take time and I will have to put my phone down to do it.  In fact it might even take prayer and seeking wise advice from those who have already been through this parenting stage.

So …how do we do it?
That’s always our next question. (Other than, how long will this take?)

As school ramps up, don’t teach your elementary aged kids the trick of keeping their mouths closed while the teacher is talking. Instead talk to them about what it feels like when someone talks over us.  Because I am an awesome parent and I read “all the books”, I’ve been known to turn the table on my child every now and then.  When he gets in trouble for being disrespectful at school, I’ll shake things up at dinner and talk over him for about 3-5 minutes.  When I can see he is getting the picture, we talk about how it FELT to be talked over and interrupted.  Prize winning parenting?  Probably not.  A new found understanding of empathy?  Score one for mom. 

I stink at praising my son for HIS work – he loves to draw, I love to draw… perhaps you can see the problem already.  I tend to judge his work based on how I would draw something and I question his placement of weaponry (for more reasons than simply artistic).  I’m sending the message that I think his drawing stinks (high five to those of you who said “drawering” in an SNL sort of way) but that’s not my intent at all!  Instead I should say, “WOW, that’s a creative way to make the blood drip from his nose!”

Please tell me my son is not the only one.

Actually, don’t.
Don’t tell me my son is the only one.Because then I will have to take action and I’m only capable of one step at a time here, people.

Kids are verbally brutal to one another in this generation (aw snap, when did I turn into my mother?!?!). They pick on each other for their clothes or how they speak or because of their lack of athletic abilities. Sure, being kind to another’s face is important, but teaching your kids that what they say about others after they have left the room is what shows true character.  The bible says, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  So every time we speak, people see more and more of our heart-nature.  Talk about x-ray glasses!  If I had a post it note stuck to me from all the things I said recently which revealed pieces of my heart, I would desire a shredder and sunglasses.

A grown-up “trick” in this scenario would be putting a smiley face after a rude comment on Facebook or saying “you know I’m just kidding” when really you did mean that those pants were hideous and you wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

Yuck.  I don’t like how it feels when I do things like that.  I don’t like saving face, I don’t like the way gossip makes me feel, and I really don’t like that heavy feeling of “dang it, I yelled at my son AGAIN!”   I would love to spare my son this adult grief and just teach him about heart-nature from the get-go.

The bottom line here is that if we keep putting band-aids on our kids’ behavior, we won’t ever encourage their heart-growth.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have been known (a few minutes ago) to say things like “DUDE!  Just … SHUSH!” or other uplifting mothering comments such as “If you aren’t ready in 3 minutes I’m leaving without you.”

I, Ann, vow to make an effort to quit parenting on the fly, to speak from my heart instead of from my pool of witty and sarcastic come-backs, and to stop nitpicking the choice of sub-machine guns sketched in 2B pencil,  I didn’t say I was going to change overnight, I said I was going to make an effort.

Who’s with me?