It’s the little things that matter most!

EnvelopeHave you ever noticed how the littlest of things could have such an impact on your life? Most of the time, we are looking for the big signs, but while we are doing that, we are missing the most precious moments ever. It seems the world just passes by each and every day at an alarming rate. Sometimes it feels like the things we want to change aren’t happening quickly enough, while the things we dislike just keep coming.

The other night, my youngest child said to me, “Mom, you need to get the mail because I think it’s full” my response was, “I just grabbed the mail an hour ago”. Well, she left it at that and didn’t say more. Now I am trying to remember if there was any disappointment in her eyes from my response, but I’m positive that there wasn’t. She just went about what she was doing and said nothing more about the mail. 🙁

Unfortunately, I didn’t grab the mail until today. Of course, as usual, from the first glimpse nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There were bills (yuck) and advertisements (aka junk), but once I looked even further as I was tossing the junk, and filing the bills, there was an envelope that was addressed to my youngest with extra writing on it. I thought that was odd, so I opened the envelope and took out what was inside. It was a handwritten letter. I read the letter three times saying to myself this is so sweet, but it doesn’t make any sense. Why was this addressed to my daughter when it was here writing on the letter. All kinds of silly things went through my head like, “did she write this one of the times we were up at the in-laws’ cabin?”,  etc… I decided to take yet another look at the envelope to see if I was missing anything. A couple things struck me as being odd, like the fact that the envelope was postmarked for the 29th of March, but yet it is the 10th of May and thats when the light bulb went off and tears just started flowing down my cheeks. It was a letter from my daughter. That is why she said, “Mom, you need to get the mail because I think it’s full”. Tears of joy along with tears of sadness – for not checking the mailbox immediately – were flowing nonstop. The pictures below say it all.

Letter

This experience has made me realize that maybe I don’t see as much as I should. Everywhere around us, there are amazing sites and sounds to absorb if you stop for a moment to see/hear. The little things like the sounds of birds chirping, the smell of a newly bloomed flower, the smile a complete stranger gives to you out of kindness, or the hugs from your children. Being a mom isn’t alway pretty, but it is always worth it.

We all have the honor of being a mom. No matter how difficult it might be at times, I still would never trade this job for anything else in the world.

Be proud of who you are.

What have you missed or noticed that truly made a difference in your life? Please share below.

Kids and cell phones

Little Girl with Cell PhoneA little history

When we first got our teenage son a cell phone he was thirteen. We had thought that we might be in for some trouble. Will he text too much? Will he download a bunch of games? Will he use up a ton of our shared minutes? Now at the time, there were far less controls for these things at the carrier-level, and apps weren’t the new-fangled smart phone app-store types of apps. Surprisingly, though, he did none of this – even to this day, he barely makes any phone calls, and most of the texting he does is with me. Most of the usage was as an alarm clock, camera/video camera, and music player. So, for him a cell phone was an absolute non-issue.

Up to this point, our next oldest son, had been dropping hints non-stop for no less than two-years – wanting a cell phone, different phones that were cool, all the cool things he could/would do with a cell phone, what kind of phone this friend or that friend has (you wouldn’t believe the number of twelve-year old kids running around with cell phones) – you name it.

Fast-forward to this last Easter

We finally broke down and decided that it may just be a good thing for the kid to get a phone, after all he was doing really well in school and keeping up with his homework. Now, it’s hard not to get into anything other than a smart phone these days, but you can’t have the younger kid with a better phone than the older one…or can you? Well, after all was said and done, it was going to cost next to nothing to upgrade the other phone, so why not? Two smart phones, two Easter gifts, real simple. It was basically a hit, and everyone was happy. Android phones, an app store, a bunch of free app potential, free unlimited texting.

Fast-forward again to the next cell phone bill

Just as we had suspected, the younger one was using the crap out of his phone. Texting left and right, making calls, downloading free games, the whole deal. Okay, so why is this cell phone bill so big? I had expected a larger than normal bill just due to the fact that we would have hookup charges for the extra line, and rebates on the hardware take forever to come back. Despite that, then why were the charges on his line so big? What’s this extra $20…and what the hell is “premium messaging“? So, I’m on the phone to Verizon trying to figure out what this is, and what can I do about it.

It turns out that there are some incredibly spammy things that go along with crappy little free applications in the open Android Marketplace, and it sure looks to me like they are honing in on the kids. For instance – quizzes, ringtones, and other “premium” (shiny) things like to rear their ugly heads, and engage in some real shady/sleezy opt-in practices, not making it real clear to a youngster that this is a service that will be charged to your [parents’] bill, and if you don’t notice, it will continue to charge every month! Since this is a third-party, there isn’t anything that the carrier can do for you, money-wise, but they can help you opt-out and block further charges. However, since the billing cycle doesn’t jive with the third-party charge cycle, watch out – you just might get hit with more charges, even if you opt-out and start blocking immediately.

Lessons learned

  • Actually read your bill and don’t just let an auto-payment let it slip through
  • Block out “premium” stuff – the carrier can assist you, or you can usually always do it yourself online
  • You can block a bunch of other things you may not have known about that might do potential damage
  • Buy the insurance – full-price replacement hardware is expensive!
  • Teach the kid what airplane mode is, and why you won’t be able to get a hold of them if it’s on
  • Teach the kid that battery life is a precious resource, and how it goes fast when you do cool things
  • Find out your school’s policies regarding phones and electronic devices – they like to take them away

Benefits

There are a few benefits, and after all, cell phones are here to stay. You can definitely feel a little bit safer knowing that you should be able to get a hold of your child with a little training. Also, they will have the ability to call for help, if necessary. You can also sign-up for things like GPS tracking for that added bit of security – for our carrier (Verizon) at this time, this feature is an extra charge, but it’s not outrageous. It’s also worth mentioning that the opportunity for lessons in responsibility can be taken advantage of here. As an added bonus, you are probably inheriting a powerful tool that can be used as an incentive and/or taken away for misbehavior.

P.S.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing Android or Verizon (or any other carrier) here. In fact, I don’t blame them, nor do I blame my son. Just a little heads-up on things that you may or may not be aware of!

What am I missing?

 

My Teen Sucks at Driving!

It seems as though rocking at video games doesn’t give teens an advantage after all. In a way, it’s kind of a sweet vengeance to witness how bad he sucks in the real world, when all he used to do is brag about how good he was at any of our driving games, mocking his siblings.

My oldest son has his drivers permit. Sadly, while trying to be polite, he is going to need some serious practice time. I was foolish to think that with all the racing games he has played – and dominated in – over the years, that he might be a natural. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

He knows he isn’t good, even with my nonstop encouragement. He seriously believes that he will not get any better. As for my beliefs, I know he will. This has been a real humbling experience for him. My question is, how to keep him as motivated with learning how to drive as I am with teaching him.

Family Fun Night Activities

Nothing is more fun than having a night full of laughs and quality family time. My children always look forward to having this kind of night. This is a time where everyone is hanging out doing something special and not worrying about anything else. The great thing about family fun nights is that you don’t have to spend a ton of money on it.

I have made a list of our top four category activities that we like to do. Within each category, I have also broken down more specifically different things we do as a family to have fun on special nights. Remember these are just suggestions of things that work great for us.

1. Dinner and a movie: Yes, it is that simple. My children like to turn our family room into a makeshift movie theater with the exception that we have blankets and we all cuddle up. Of course, you don’t want to forget about the popcorn.

2. Game night without the tv: This is where a family has many choices to choose from and truly it’s a personal preference but I have listed off a few ideas

A. Card games-Rummy, Go fish, Slam, Uno, 31, Cribbage

B. Dice games- Yahtzee, Farkle(also known as 10,000)

C. Board games- Monopoly, Scrabble, Dominoes, Jenga, Apples to Apples

D. Puzzles- I know this might sound boring but we all enjoy it in our household

3. Video game night: This is a time when I truly appreciate video game playing. My family owns each of the game consoles. I am going to list some great games to play as a family for each console.

A. Nintendo Wii: Playground, Wii Sports (bowling), Mario Kart, Madagascar Kartz

B. Playstation 3 without Playstation Move: ModNation Racers, Rockband, Guitar Hero, Little Big Planet, Little Big Planet2

C. Playstation 3 with Playstation Move: Start the Party (absolutely hilarious), Sports Champion,

D. XBox 360 with Kinect: Kinect Adventures, Dance Central

4. Making treats: This is a no brainer since all kids including us adults like treats. My four children are always so excited and just itching to help in anyway even with the cleanup part afterwards. Making treats is not something that has to be difficult. Great ideas include, baking cookies, cupcakes, Rice Krispy treats, Ice cream sundaes, and making Smoothies.

In conclusion, this list is to give ideas. Your options are not limited to my list but limited to your imagination. The goal is to have fun with your family. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to remember to laugh hard, laugh long, and laugh together as a family.