Monday, March 30, 2015

How to talk to your kids about mental illness & suicide

Suicide is a tough topic to talk about for many reasons. I will admit for a long time I never thought of bringing up the topic with my kids. Most adults do not understand suicide, so how can you talk to your kids about something you don't understand? I'm sure some people feel it is inappropriate to even think about talking to your child about such a thing. But, the sad fact is troubled children (some even still elementary age) are choosing to commit suicide. Suicide among children and teens is being discussed in the media more than ever. I think most parents would agree they would rather their children about sensitive topics at home than on the playground.

Visit Molly Green to read the rest of my article.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Goodbye, Cable. Why we pulled the plug on cable tv.

I never thought I'd say this, but we canceled our cable tv. My whole life use to evolve around tv & the Tv Guide was my daily schedule. Even when my children were little the tv was on all the time. We also bought a wonderful friend for our tv. Tivo! What a treasure! I loved having the power to record tv shows & movies without a VHS tape. I loved being able to pause the TV when my kids were loud & trust me I did that a lot. We even added Netflix to our Tv & enjoyed the power of streaming movies into our home. No more renting movies, the movies came to us! Who would want to give that up? 

                I will say I have known a number of families who have given up cable. Of course I thought they nuts. My husband & I would talk about cutting off cable to save money, but I honestly refused to even think about it. I mean, I couldn't live without my Hallmark movies, Lifetime movies or Christian TV channels. Our cable company always puts these channels on the priciest packages. It costs us more money $$$ each month to get this family friendly station, but it was worth it right? That's what I told myself. 

                Over the past few years I've noticed nothing good was on tv anymore. New tv shows are not family friendly. Cable movie channels seemed to air either nothing but the same movies over & over again or new movies/tv shows that were filled with adult content. Tv shows I loved & enjoyed were often canceled. Our favorite tv channels were no longer what they claimed to be & only aired reality tv. I mean, why would I want to sit & watch a family whose children scream throughout supper time? Then, instead of handling this problem as a family, they bring in a stranger & tv cameras to help "save" their family.  Maybe it is just me, but that's not what want to watch when I turn on the tv. My kids can stress me out enough, I don't want other peoples kids stressing me out.
                Our last straw came when our cable company switch to digital only. Our kids have tvs in their rooms (GASP I know, I know) & they could no longer watch tv without cable boxes. We got this cool little thing call Roku that allowed them to watch tv through the internet. We subscribe to Netflix & joined Hulu Plus. My husband crunched some numbers & we decided we don't need cable anymore. He placed the call & we were done. I calmly waited for my world to crash around me & I was surprised it didn't.

                Actually, it took our cable company a few weeks to completely cut it off. We had time to say goodbye to cable. I took time to wean myself off cable by watching Netflix or Hulu Plus. By the time they cut it off I was ok. My world was calmer.

                I have family members who are tv addicts too. When I told them we canceled cable I was asked what was wrong? Why? They seemed a little surprised we gave it up willingly. It's been kinda funny seeing other peoples reactions to this. I have had people agree that they need to do this one day, others think we are crazy & other people tell us they cut it off a few years ago. I told one mom how we canceled it & she smiled, then said "Isn't it great?" I smiled & agreed.

                I also think knowing we are saving a lot of money gives me peace about this, but I've also seen things change in positive ways. I'm reading more, I'm listening to music instead of watching tv, my kids are playing outside a little longer, my husband comes to bed earlier well at times & I'm enjoying watching The Cosby Show in order!  We have made time for family movies nights & family game night. 

                Yes, I admit there are some tv shows I will miss seeing but that's ok. I'm sure I will see them & catch up with them one day. I've learned life is not about is or isn't on tv & I'm shocked that I can say that. While tv can be educational, make you laugh or just give you an escape there is also a real world out there that can do the same thing for FREE. Walking around the block as a family won't cost you anything.  

                I'm not putting down cable companies or saying you are a bad parent if you have cable in your house. This was a choice our family made & it works well for us. We may get cable again one day or maybe an antennae to see if we can pick up local stations, but right now we are happy with our choice & streaming subscriptions.

                So, is something you want to try? Just try not watching cable for a week, I know it isn't that easy. If you have Netflix or Hulu Plus only watch tv through them or watch DVDs. You may be surprised & enjoy it. I know other families who went to extreme & put all the tvs in the garage. I'm not sure I could do that, but you never know. 

                Our next journey homesteading may be getting rid of our land line & buying chickens. 

                 I know to a lot of people this may not seem like a big deal. We are still watching tv on Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime. But, the main big deal for me is how much money we are saving. I'm also glad we are not supporting some of the new tv shows on cable tv. I personally feel a lot of new shows are not family friendly. Some things airing on network tv is what I use to only see on HBO or Showtime. Canceling cable has given us more control of what we do watch & when we watch it. This is what works for us.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How private is your online world?

So as some of you may know we canceled cable back in July. It's been an interesting adventure & I've recently written for another blog about it. I'll share that link here once it is published. Anyway, we've been enjoying the freedom of streaming tv & for me that means catching up on old Lifetime movies which are my guilty pleasure.

I'm currently watching one called "I can make you love me" aka "Stalking Laura". The movie is a true story & as I watch it I remember when this really happened. The stalking hit it's peak around 1988. I actually think I remember an interview on Oprah with Laura Black. I was around 12 or 13 at the time.

So anyway, as I'm watching this I've been creeped out at how this stalker tricks a co worker into showing him Laura's private files, followed her to her local hang out & given her weird gifts. Yet then I think of how easily he could stalk her today online. No need to trick a co worker to find out her birthday (he used that as an excuse to get her address), he could just Google her name & find her info online. If he wants to know her local hang outs he can view her Facebook status & family photos. He could befriend a family member to learn more about her & so on.

I think it's very important for us all into todays world to learn how to protect our privacy. But, before I get into that a lot of times it is really helpful to look people up online. Instead of calling a new friend for their address you can just look them up online. Or a stranger calls your phone you can simply Google their number to see who they are. Want to check our your teens new friend? Check Facebook & social media sites. Even work places look at us online.

Do you know how to protect your privacy online? I'm still learning but there are a lot of things you can do & the first one is very simple. DO NOT USE YOUR REAL NAME AS A USER NAME. It is a USER name for a reason. A USER NAME is "another name to use instead of your real name". I see people online using their real name on public forums & sometimes they slip up saying their city/State. I once saw a friend do this & I freaked her out finding all kinds of things about her by typing in her first name, last name, city, state & her place of work. It scared me too, but it made a point to a lot of my friends online.

Educate yourself on social media privacy. Facebook has them & I've found after updates they turn some privacy settings off so I check them every now & then. Make sure your kids do the same. While I'm speaking of kids I will say every parents needs to FRIEND their kids who are school age. You need to know who your kids are talking to & make sure they don't give out private info.

I've found "friending" my kids on Facebook is very helpful when family & friends "friend" them too. We once had my sister inlaw tell me that my oldest had something "inappropriate" on her Facebook page. My sister inlaw knew my daughter would not do that & was concerned. So was I. My husband & I looked on Facebook & could not see anything wrong. It didn't show up on our feeds & neither did it show up on my daughter's feed. We then tried look at her feed on different browsers & we then saw something.

It was a photo with some cuss words on it. Long story short since my daughter's Facebook feed was slow at the time it was pulling in things from her friends feed. Her friend had "liked" a photo with cuss words on it & it was then on my daughters feed. My husband & I couldn't see it since our Feeds were busy & active at the time. We had this happen another time with a family friend from our church. He just warned us he saw something concerning posted on her feed & he let us know.

Now some may think I'm encouraging our family & friends to be nosy & tattle on my kids Facebook feeds. What I'm saying is as that old saying goes "It takes a villiage to raise a child." There are times I can't look out for my kids & it's nice to know I have sister inlaws, brother inlaws & family friends who can alert me if they see something bother some.

Some may think cuss words on a photo on Facebook is no big deal but the way I see is it is I don't want my children to be thought as someone who would cuss & then share that cussing with others.  Our family does not cuss & we feel it is wrong to cuss. Those are values my husband & I teach our kids. A lot of our friends do not cuss either & they would feel offended if they saw cussing on Facebook. We would not want our kids to be the one offending them.

Stalking can take many forms I've known people who have been stalked online, impersonated online & had family photos stolen. One woman I knew had a woman stalking her for about 5yrs. It all began on a Twins forum. This woman shared her photos on a public forum. Another woman took these photos then made another account on another forum. This woman then pretended to be my friend, pretended these babies were hers & even wrote about the twin babies using their real names. My friend took all the precautions she knew by changing her user name, removing photos from the public form but then went someone else online to keep sharing more photos. She thought the new site was safe & felt safe using her new user name was safe. This woman some how tracked her down & kept stealing the photos. She was even so sure of herself she made a new account on that same forum posting as my friend then using her current avatar like she was throwing it in her face that she could get away with it.

My friend went to the police but at the time nothing could be done. As I said this went on for 5yrs. I've lost touch with this friend but last I heard it was still going on.

How do you protect yourself from this? One thing my friend did was often Google searching her own name to see what came up. This is how she found the stalkers other accounts. She stalked back her own stalker quietly & tried her best to build a case against her. As I saw it didn't work last I heard.

Have you Googled your name? I have & all I found was I'm a character in a book series. lol That was weird to see.

The online world can be scary when it comes to your private life. I used to be active on Yahoo Answers & one thing I saw often was some users known as trolls finding family photos & claiming the people in them are their family. It was easy to see they are lying at times. I once found someone using some wedding photos claiming they were from their recent wedding. The user asked something like "This is my husband Mike Jones& I'm Betty Jones. Do you like our wedding photos?" The fact they used their "real names" tipped me off they may be troll. Most adults do not use their names online. The photos had a watermark on them. I look up the photo company, found the website, clicked Wedding Photo Samples & saw these exact same wedding photos were published back in early 2000s not 2013 as the "troll" claimed. Some may shrug this off but it is creepy someone can take your wedding photos then write a story claiming this is them & they were just married a week ago.

I've seen this over & over again on Yahoo Answers & it makes mad to see it used with photos of children. One user put up photos claiming they were the girl in the photo who was about 15. She was asking if she was pretty & did she have a big butt. The photos again were watermarked. A simple Google search took me to Flickr to a womans account last used in 2010. The teen girl was now 4yrs older. I actually messaged the woman giving her a link to this trolls account. It showed this troll had stolen a lot of their family photos. The woman actually didn't even know the account was still active. She removed the photos quickly. She was thankful I let her know about it.

I'm not trying to scare anyone or play internet detective but people really need to understand how your private life online is not always private. While I'm guilty of putting up family photos on Facebook I'm still a little concerned at times. I have the security settings high on my account & hope it does it's job.

A Law & Order SUV once had Stabler say something like "We can lock our doors & teach our kids not to take candy from strangers but when our kids get on the computer we are letting millions of strangers/pedophiles into our home." That's a very true & powerful statement.

I don't like ending on negitive notes so I'll try to flip all this into a positive by playing Pollyannas "nice game."

The online world & real world are full of strangers. Most of them are nice people. We can't live our life in fear. We just need to educate ourselves & our children. That is the best we can do. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The joy of teens

The teen years . . . do you dread them or did you dread them? When my kids were little I had friends often say "Just wait until they are teenagers" & would tell me it was worse than the "terrible twos". I admit I dreaded it.

I was talking with a friend today while we were at the pool & we came to the subject of teenagers. We both have kids around the same age & our oldest kids are 18 have been best friends for many years. While watching our kids splash & play around the pool she said to me "Don't you just enjoy these years? It is much easier now than when they were little." I had to agree with her.

I started thinking about when my kids were little. I have always homeschooled my kids. Our first year of homeschooling was tough. My oldest was 6, my middle daughter was about 22mts & I had a newborn. Life was very busy. I'll admit I often did as the mom in "Moms Night Out" I hid from my kids in the closet & cried. Of course the kids were safe in bed at the time.

I remembered one busy morning I was already worn out & I had not even eaten breakfast. I wondered how long was I in the kitchen trying to prepare breakfast for my children so I could at least sit for a moment & eat myself. Before I could eat I had to tend to the kids. That meant filling up sippy cups, figuring out what they wanted to eat that morning, change dirty diapers, put a child on the potty for potty training, clean up messes, vacuum up crumbs of Gold Fish & Cheese Its which my son lived on, stop fights, clean up more messes, refill sippy cups, change another diaper & let's just say I could list many more things that had to be done. But where was I . . . oh one busy morning I actually set a timer to see how long I was in that kitchen every morning. It showed I was in there for about 2hrs. Of course during those 2hrs I was rushing in & out of the kitchen doing everything else that had to be done. So after about 2hrs I'd get to sit for a moment to eat breakfast. By then I was ready for them to take a nap & guess what? It was almost time for lunch! Back to the kitchen . . . or at least try to get back to the kitchen.

I then thought about this morning. I slept in a little bit, my oldest had taken out the dog & already eaten. My middle daughter & son fixed their own breakfast & cups. I then fixed mine & headed back to my room for quite time with God. Yes, I'm a bad momma who eats in bed while I pray. lol

So honestly things are a lot easier that my kids are older. They can do more themselves & one of them is even driving which is wonderful. I had to stop driving awhile back due to medication I take & migraines that can cause vision problems. My kids now understand that I need quiet time with God so they are quiet most mornings while I pray.

Don't get me wrong my kids are far from perfect. I still clean up messes a number of times a day, I have to remind them to pick up after themselves, their rooms sometimes follow them down the stairs into the livingroom, I have to correct back talk & often have to remind them that even though they are taller than my short 5' I'm still their mommy & they need to respect that.

My oldest is now 18 as I said. It's been a joy to see her growing in a woman of God. She is thinking of going into the ministry & wanting to maybe go to a Christian college. She has led devotionals at Christian camps & gone on mission trips too. I'll admit she is a far better teenager than I was. lol

All in all I feel very blessed to be able to enjoy my children as teenagers. Well, my son won't be a teenager until September. It's hard to believe my baby will be 13yrs old. My middle daughter will turn 15 this year & start driving. That is the scary part of raising teenagers. Your child behind the wheel of a car!!!!

My point is I love my kids, I love spending time with them & I feel blessed to be their mother. I'm thankful they are growing up & able to do things themselves. But, I'm not done just yet. We still have a lot of work to do before releasing them into the world. I'm thankful for that time & pray all 3 of my kids will continue to walk in the Lord once they leave our home. That is my goal our goal as parents. I want my kids eyes to be on the Lord.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Look to the birds

I'm sitting here listening to baby birds tweeting outside my window. Their mom has arrived with food & they are hungry.

Could you imagine leaving your little ones up high in a nest & go look for food? You have no idea how long it takes but you have the faith you will find it. It doesn't matter how long either, you are on the hunt for food to feed your babies.

This reminds me of one of the first Bible Verses I learned as a new Christian. "Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?" - Matthew 6:26.

So why should we worry? I know I could take the gold metal on worrying. My mind can take something small, roll it in ball until it becomes so big I have no more control over it. Then it tumbles & turns in my mind coming up with more worries & more worries. It is so easy to say we should just put it in Gods hands which are way bigger than ours but often we cling to that worry & it does us no good at all.

I remember Joyce Meyer speaking about Matthew 6:26. She said something like "You never see a bird having a nervous breaking screaming what ifs. The bird sits in faith that food & shelter will be available. I'm not sure what a bird having a nervous break down looks but I'm sure it looks pretty silly which makes me think I must look pretty silly when I worry nonstop.

As corney as Pollyanna's "Glad Game" sounds I often play it. Pollyanna said "Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about—no matter what 'twas." So no matter how bad or impossible things seem there is always something to be glad about. Even if it is just being glad you woke up that morning.

So remember to "Choose Joy" each day. Like that mama bird outside my window I'm sure she is joyful to be resting her wings even if it is just to feed her babies because she has to go right back out looking for more food once they are all fed. She has been doing this for at least an hour. I get tired just thinking about all the work she has to do.