Shopping List

I asked my kids to make a grocery list so I could go to the store today. This is what they requested:

Fiber One Bars
Goldfish
Popcorn
Ice Cream
Capri Sun
Orange Juice*
Stick Butter
BBQ Sauce
A1 Steak Sauce
Salsa
Tortilla Chips
Baking Cups
Tangerines*
Blueberry Muffins*
TP*
Noodle Boxes
Bisquik
Freezer Bags*
Pepsi
Mini Marshmallows
Choc. Chip Muffins
Cookie Mix
Sprite
Dr. Pepper
Rootbeer
ChexMix
Club Crackers
SunnyD

80% of the items on this list I would classify as goodies, treats and snacks. I love all of those things, but I have to keep in mind that . . .

If I give in and buy all these items,
I’ll have no money left to buy the good, healthy stuff.

The way we choose to spend our time is very similar. Movies, Farmville, Survivor, Hobbies are all good and fun things, but I have to keep in mind that . . .

If I allocate too much of my day to these kinds of pleasures,
I’ll have no time left to spend with God.

Christmas gifts for the Homeless

My husband and I decided to take some of the money we would have spent on our family this year and instead spend it on others. We’ve always contributed to gift projects like Angel Tree, and helped to support local families in need, but we wanted to do something that would get our kids involved in a more direct way.

After careful thought and prayer we decided  to help the homeless by putting together a care packages full of useful items and then personally giving them to 5 people we find living on the street.

Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about the sorts of things that we would like to have if we were homeless. I’m so proud of my kids for coming up with a very creative list of items. This last Sunday we went shopping using the list we had created. We let our kids choose themselves what they wanted or didn’t want to include. The only rule was to stay under $25. We were amazed at what we were able to purchase for $25. For instance  one of the care packages has:

  • Super cute Christmas Blanket
  • Gloves
  • Socks
  • 4 waterless toothbrushes
  • Package of Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • 12 individually wrapped pastries or crackers
  • 3 sets of plasticware
  • Can of vienna sausage
  • Can of Soup
  • 2 Carabiner clips
  • Plastic Shower Curtain
  • and one mesh bag to hold it all

Tonight we took time to wrap and assemble each care package so it would be special, fun and unique to the person who receives it. Thursday, on Christmas Eve Day, we will hop in the car and begin our search for 5 homeless people to give our gifts to. I have to be honest, I’m a little nervous, so I’m asking for your prayer.

Please pray that

  • God would direct us to the right 5 people
  • Our choices of items would be perfect for each person
  • We would clearly show the love of Jesus to each person we meet
  • As we find each person, we would not have to turn others away
  • We would be safe
  • That we will remember every day how blessed we are

Thank you so much.

TV Influenced my kid, how about yours?

My 9-year old son, Brendan, had a friend over after church last Sunday. They played out in the yard all afternoon and had a great time.

When I went to put him to bed he proudly said, “I ate a cricket’s head today.”

cricket1

“Wow! . . . Um, why would you do that honey?” I asked.

“Joel and I were playing Man vs. Wild.” he answered.

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I’m not opposed to the show Man vs. Wild, and I think it’s kind of funny that Brendan actually ate a cricket, but I’m left wondering what else is he picking up from watching TV? Is it good, is it bad? Am I monitoring it enough? How much time IS he spending in front of the TV?

If you don’t think TV has an influence on our young people, good or bad, you’re fooling yourself. If my real-life story isn’t enough proof, check out some of these studies:

What do I need to know about children and TV
Lots of stats and interesting information. 

Children And Watching TV
Good insights on actively participating in viewing with your child.

As parent, it’s your responsibility to know what your kids are watching and the message that their absorbing. Make a commitment this week to track the hours they spend in front of the TV and take time to watch some shows with them. Then filter those influences against God’s word and decide for yourself what should be allowed and what shouldn’t. 

Nickels and Dimes

Is it just me, or are all parents in America getting nickeled and dimed to death?

I just went through my check book and over the last month, my family has spent an additional $363 in unbudgeted items for my kids. This figure includes money spent on class projects, class parties, baseball banners, silent auction donations, field trip costs, ministry donations, church events and more.

As “good” as all these things are, at some point I’m going to have close the check book and just say, “No, we’re not paying for that. We’re going to have to sit this one out.” It doesn’t take much to break a family budget when you’ve got three kids still at home.

What I’m seeing with many organizations fighting budget cuts and lack of funding, is an assumption that they can continue the same programming and events by passing the burden of cost onto the participants. They do it in such a way, that it’s difficult not to comply. For example: I signed my son up for baseball, but didn’t plan on the extra $50 for a banner, silent auction donation and opening day fundraiser. If I choose not to pay, then the burden falls to our team mates. My child also goes to public school, but I didn’t plan on spending $36 for a field trip that happens during school hours. If I choose not to pay, then he’s given a packet of tedious homework to do instead of getting to experience the trip.

So what is a parent to do? I could stand up, and make a fuss, and refuse to do my part, but I’m not that brave. Instead, I’d like to start an underground movement that would hopefully take the world by storm. It’s a new way of rethinking things with the goal of saving us all a little extra cash. It’ll help us step away from the mind set of doing things bigger and better and push us to get back to the basics. Here are some crazy ideas to get it started:

  • Let kids create their own team banner and skip the end of game snack. Savings: $50
  • Cut the cost of the field trip from $36 to $15 by going to the mission that’s 40 miles closer to home this year. Savings: $21
  • Bring a sack lunch to Big Bear ski trip. Savings: $10
  • Build a California Mission out of recycled goods and scrap paper. Savings: $50
  • Plan a movie night with the youth group at church instead of going bowling. Savings $20

   * * * * * * *

Let’s get rid of the idea that the basics are boring. We need to learn that fun doesn’t always cost money, and bigger isn’t always better. Really, if you think hard, any great experience you’ve had, happened because of the people you were with, and not the surroundings, or money you spent making it happen.

As a ministry planner, I’m committed to not nickel and dime my families to death by asking them to fund our events. Instead, I’m going to get creative and provide an environment that will allow for tons of fun, excitement and learning on a shoestring budget. If I can’t do it with what I’ve been given by God, through budgets and supplies, then I won’t do it at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of these items used to cost much less, if not be totally free, but with every organizations shrinking budget, the cost of doing business is getting shifted more and more to the participants.

Drugs, Spin the Bottle, School Fights – Part 2

If you’ve done your homework from Part 1 of this blog post, you’ve hopefully gotten some good conversation out of your Jr. Higher. I’m sure you discovered a few of their beliefs that may have gone slightly astray from where you’d like them to be. Here are a few tips on some creative ways to redirect and intentionally guide them back to better ideas and values.

The Set Up

Instead of telling your Jr. Higher how wrong their views are, work up creative ways to help them experience and see where their beliefs are not accurate.

For example, my son has begun to put more emphasis and importance on the outside appearance of people than he is on their personality and who they are on the inside. Left unchecked, this belief could cause him to make poor choices in girlfriends, his wife and his friends as he grows older.

St. Patrick’s day is coming so I’m going to bring home two gifts. One gift will be wrapped in cool paper and look very appealing. The other I’ll put in a recycled gift bag or maybe even a lunch sack. Inside the “Cool” looking gift will be some sort of cheesy toy. Inside the “ugly” gift will be a new CD he’s been wanting.

During dinner, I’ll bring out the gifts and let him choose. He will most likely choose the “cool” gift, so I’ll give his brother the other gift. He’ll be in for quite a suprise, when he opens the “cool” gift with the cheesy prize, and his brother opens the new CD from the lousy, cheap bag. Even if he chooses the “ugly” gift, the experience will still make an impact because he’ll witness and experience the same idea, only instead of being sad he chose the “cool” gift, he’ll be elated he chose the “ugly” one. That would have even a greater impact in the long run.

By taking the time and effort to set him up, I’ve helped him experience that sometimes the outside of the package isn’t a good picture of what might be on the inside. 

It’s important not to ruin the experience by explaining the purpose of it to your kids. Just let them sit and soak on it. However, I will follow this experience up later in the week by starting a conversation with the boys when we have some time together. I’ll start it by asking Jarrett, “When you picked the “cool” gift, what were you hoping would be inside?” That’ll spark a conversation between the three of us that will then open the door for them to share their thoughts and ideas.

Side Note: I can include Brendan, age 9, in the set-up because he’ll be happy with either gift.

Make it Cost

Know that your kids are going to make poor choices and be prepared. In fact, be prepared to deal with some of the same issues over and over and over again. But don’t take it personally and don’t think that you are failing as a parent.

When you kids do make poor choices, make it cost them something like time, money or labor. 

Last weekend, Jarrett had a friend over and they were playing hide-and-seek all over the house. (I thought they were too old for that, but I guess not.) Jarrett hid in a pile of laundry that was waiting to be put away on the love seat in my bedroom. In the process of being found, he tossed the pile of clothes all over my bed, all over the floor, all over my room. I didn’t discover the mess until I went to bed that night. I could have yelled and screamed but instead, the next day, I told Jarrett he could put away all my laundry for me. When he asked why, I calmly and simply said, “Because it’s not where I left it. Thank you for the help today.”

I don’t like to use restriction or take things away unless it absolutely necessary. Instead, I prefer to give my Jr. Higher additional responsibilities appropriate for the poor choice he made. It needs to be a cost that will help to emphasize that choosing poorly or taking shortcuts, desn’t pay off.

Jump Into Their World

If you really want to get a more comprehensive view of your Jr. Higher’s world, volunteer to work with them. You can do this through church, at their school, or through sports. I’d recommend not volunteering directly with your child, but with their peers. I volunteer at our church’s Jr. High group on Wednesday nights, but I work with a group of girls. That way Jarrett still has freedom to do his own thing without his mom hovering around.

I have gotten so much insight by being around kids his age. Although I’m saddened by many of the issues that the kids are struggling with, it’s reassuring to know that it’s not just Jarrett who’s got problems. Some of his quirks and bad habits are just a part of the stage he’s in. Here are few things I’ve observed over the last few months about most kids in this age group:

  • Life is all about friendship.
  • It’s okay if I talk bad about you, but not if you talk bad about me.
  • I don’t want to be picked on.
  • The way I look is important.
  • I talk in half sentences cause my friends know what I mean.
  • Every sentence ends with, ” . . . and, yeah.”
  • I know what’s right, but it’s hard to do what’s right.
  • I want to know that I’ll be missed if something happened to me.
  • I don’t understand why people say one thing, and do another.

Lastly

Surround your Jr. Higher with other adults who share the same Godly values as you. Get them involved in a youth group on Sundays or during the week. Encourage their grandparents to invest some one-on-one time with them. At this age they begin seeking validation for their beliefs, and what mom and dad think, just doesn’t count. 

You want you kids to hear good stuff, from lots of different sources and from people they respect. If they don’t get that reinforcement, it will become harder and harder for them to resist those worldly temptations. They won’t have any reason not to believe the lies that marketing, TV shows, movies and even friends tell them about they way they should choose to live their lives.

Drugs, Spin the Bottle & School Fights

. . . Drugs . . . Spin the Bottle
. . . School Fights . . . Scary Movies
. . . Girlfriends . . . Dating

I’ve had some great conversations with my 12-year old son, Jarrett, over the last few weeks and the above are just a few of the topics that have come up. If you talked to Jr. High kids across America, I’m certain the resulting list would be similar. It’s almost like there’s this magic door that opens in the 6th grade exposing kids to so much more of the world than we would like.

So as a parents, how can we raise our children to make choices that are honoring to God and respectful to themselves and others? Below are the first three steps I recommend taking. These steps will help you get the best picture of what your child is being influenced by, if they are struggling with anything, and what they think and believe about their world in general.

Listen & Observe

You can’t provide guidance for your child if you don’t know what’s happening in their world. Be intentional about spending one-on-one time with him/her. This will open the doors for some great communication.

If you struggle with getting your child to talk openly, find a casual environment, conducive to conversation, where you can spend a few hours together. Good places to try is the mall, miniature golf, fishing on the lake.  Bad places would be the movies, the dinner table or places that keep you too busy to chat. The more time you allow, the more interesting and honest the conversations will be. It takes children time to build trust in a adult and their motives. They live in a world that is quick to judge, quick to rebuke and doesn’t always value the ideas of this younger generation. 

Your goal is to provide a safe environment that encourages their thoughts and ideas. Don’t offer advice or correction during these meaningful conversations. Save that for later. Just be attentive, be observant and ask good questions.

Remember, sometimes children simply struggle with articulating their thoughts, so allowing plenty of time gives them an opportunity to put their thoughts into speech. You’ll have to resist the urge to finish their sentences, otherwise you’ll be putting words into their mouths, and they’ll just be saying what you want to hear, and not what they really think.

Keeping the Conversation Going

You can easily get a conversation going by asking questions. Avoid general questions like, “How was your day?” This would be too broad, and won’t help your child to focus on a particular subject. Practice asking questions like, “Hey how is your friend Jake doing, I haven’t seen him in a while?” By honing in on a specific topic or person, it will get the gears in your child’s head rolling. If they don’t answer right away, just wait. They may be thinking.  Once they answer one question, they’re likely to jump to a new topic on their own. If they don’t, ask another question and then wait. Patience is the key.

Once your child is engaged, keep the conversation going by asking them more open ended questions.
“Why do you think your teacher handled it that way?”
“What would you do if you were faced with the same situation?”
“If you could change one school rule, what would it be and why?”
“What do you mean by . . . . ” 

Be sure to . . . repeat what they say so they know you are listening.
Empathize with them, “That must have been a hard decision to make.”
Build their self-esteem, “That was a wise decision.”

But don’t . . . make judgement with your mouth or your face if you disagree with their thoughts. Don’t give advice unless you are asked. Don’t tell them what you think, unless you are asked. Don’t lecture. Don’t dominate the conversation. If you do any of these, your conversation will mostly come to an abrupt halt.

Remember, you are there to listen. Correction, guidance and discipline, if needed, can come later.

Initiate the Hard Conversations

There are some topics that your kids may never bring to you, no matter how much they trust you. They are just too difficult. When it comes to things like drugs, alcohol and sex, these are the topics that you will need to be more forward with.

You can start these conversations the same way:
“I heard the drug dogs were on campus today. What was that like?”
“One of your sisters classmates were drunk and wrecked her car the other day. What age do you think it’s okay to start drinking?”
“It sounds like you’re really learning to appreciate girls. Tell me three ways you can a show a girl you care about her.”

Again, questions like these will begin to pry open the door to conversation and let your kids know that these topics are not off limits to talk about. Remember patience is the key. They may try to avoid the topic or laugh and giggle, but it’s important to keep going. You may want, or need, to feed them bits of information to provide some education on the subject, but allow enough spacing in between to ask them what they think or if they have any questions. It’s okay for there to be silence. It gives them time to think.

You might be fearful of exposing your child to information that they might not know, but it’s only a short matter of time before they do. Wouldn’t you rather be the first person to influence them instead of the last? If they are already aware of a certain issue they won’t be so enamored with it when their friends talk about it for the first time. It’ll be old news and they’ll already have a firm foundational belief from which to make decisions. If they’re not aware of a new topic, their curiosity will most likely get the best of them, and without a firm foundation they’ll rationalize their poor choices with poor excuses.

These techniques will work for any age child, but I think Jr. Higher’s are the hardest. Your job this week is to spend some good time conversing with your child. I’m sure you’ll have a few surprises, good and bad jump out at you. Becoming a good listener takes patience and practice. I killed plenty of conversations with my kids with my poor choice of words or responses, but I’ve gotten much better with some intentional practice. The last few week have proven that my effort has definitely paid off.

Next time I’ll offer some suggestions for upgrading beliefs when they go astray, correcting the mistakes they will make, and furthering your understanding of this particularly puzzling age group.

 

Helpful Resources:

Wayne Rice – Has written several books on understanding Jr. High kids. They are insightful and helpful.

Love And Logic Parenting – Books, CDs, DVDs, Tapes For Parents From America’s Parenting Experts.

Boundaries with Kids – A book about when to say yes and when to say no to your children.


Look both ways . . . before you give your kid a cell phone.

Look both ways before crossing!

A lesson learned about putting technology in the hands of our children.

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A friend of ours, we’ll call him “Dad”, purchased a new cell phone for his 12-year old son, whom we’ll call “the son”. This wasn’t the son’s first phone, but a replacement, and it had more bells and whistles than the first.

Everyone was happy.

Until one day, when the son said, “Watch Dad!”

The son pushed a button on his phone, held it up to the stereo speaker where some music was playing, and behold, listed on the phone screen was the name of the song, the album and the band. “See, my phone can tell me what music is playing where ever I go. I just hit this button and it automatically ID’s it. I can even download the song right to my phone if I want to!”

“Um, wow son, I uh, I think it costs money to do that.” said the Dad fearfully.

The son cheerfully responded, “No Dad, it’s free! It’s a free app I downloaded.”

Dad, “I don’t think so. I think you get charged for air time son.” 

And in a flurry of panic, Dad ran off to call the cell phone company. He quickly melted into a pile of shock when he learned that the son had rung up a cell phone bill of more than $1,000 and the month wasn’t even over yet.

After much crying, pleading and begging by the Dad, the generous cell phone company knocked 50% off the bill. Wheww!! Half the bill gone, but in my book 500 bucks is still a lot of money.

Dad then took the time to research where it had all gone wrong and discovered that his son’s nifty new phone had some pretty nifty music capabilities, with lots of free applications. The applications were free, but each time they were used, it ate up bandwidth, and that cost $1.99 per MB. 

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Would you let your kids cross the street on their own, much less play in it, without teaching them about the dangers involved? Of course not, but I see more and more parents handing these technology laden gadgets over to their kids without educating themselves or their children before letting them out loose to play.

Sadly the dangers out there aren’t as simple or benign as an astronomical cell phone bill. Built in cameras, text messaging, picture messaging, mobile TV and internet capabilities opens our kids up to a world of temptation and serious pitfalls if we’re not educated and diligent guardians for them. 

If your kid gets hit by the world of technology that is traveling full-speed ahead, as a parent, you only have yourself to blame if you haven’t done your homework and educated your kids.

 

Interesting, shocking and helpful links about kids and cell phones

Have You Heard of Sexting?
Kids take nude pictures of themselves and send them to all their friends.
In January of 2009, Dr. Phil featured a 12-year old girl on his show who fell into this trap. 

Texting on the Move
Walking and texting has increased visits to the local ER.

Students Texting to Bully and to Cheat on Tests
Cheating, bullying and inappropriate conversations via texting.

Managing Cell Phone Use by Children
This article lists some options for controlling your kids cell phone use, including who and when they call or text, and what they can view and receive.