Monday, September 16, 2013

Disconnecting to Reconnect: Our First Week's Attempt

Is it just me?  Is my family the only one taking the path of least resistance when it comes to spending time together?  I'm afraid our quality time has consisted of showing each other our favorite YouTube videos, and watching a movie on Netflix.  Those would be best case scenarios. A mediocre scenario would have us all glued to our own screens in the same room.  Worst case scenario? It's every man for himself with his own screen in separate rooms of the house.

Push is coming to shove.  This family is not spending enough time together.  We're all guilty. My husband heads to the bedroom to watch sports on TV.  Bridger goes to his room to listen to his iPod, text his friends, and Skype a certain someone, and I park myself in my recliner with my MacBook. It wouldn't be as bad if we were all watching a movie or involved in playing a video game together.  It's the solitary screen time that bothers me the most.  I am probably the biggest offender.  They say we notice the faults in others we most wish to change about ourselves.  I know I have an addiction; Mark calls me the Internet Ranger.  It's time for us to disconnect so that we can REconnect.

Yes, I am still pondering that YouTube video from a couple of weeks ago (Disconnect to Connect).  In case you didn't see it, I'm going to add it here:

I am looking for any and all activities that we can do that will make us better people, build our relationships with each other and our friends, and benefit our school or community.  Anything that keeps us active or mentally involved without our vegetating in front of a computer or TV screen.

We started with easy things:  baking, music, visiting friends, delivering baked goods.  While Bridge is at school, I'm trying to get in exercise, chores around the house, and checking in on friends and family.  I will admit that I still spend plenty of time blogging, but I am trying to schedule those times before anyone is up, and while Bridger is at school.  A bonus of all of these non-screen activities:  I will have much more interesting things to write about.  I can't simply point out fun "pins" on Pinterest every day, now can I?

Week of September 9
Pumpkin Pie Walnut Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Monday:  Bridge helped me make cookies when we got home from the high school.  I got dinner in the oven (Easiest Chili Cornbread!) while he went longboarding with Tanner.  I delivered cookies to friends while the casserole was baking, and I stopped to take pictures of the boys.  They followed me home to have dinner together. The two of them devoured the casserole with compliments and gratitude. 

After Tanner went home, Bridge made an attempt at his advanced math, and set it aside to play his guitar.  He used my laptop to get lyrics and chords to play.  We sang songs, and I read in the recliner while he played.  Around 9:15, I told him he would need to finish his homework.  We made it from 3:45, when I picked him up until 9:15 when I headed to my room, without individual screen time and no TV.  Beginner's luck?  Whatever!  We did GREAT for our first attempt.

Spending time with friends doing favorite activities!
Marley & I walked to "where the blacktop ends."

Tuesday:  During the day while B is at school, I'm trying to spend less time in front of a screen, too.  Today I visited a friend I had not seen for a very long time, and took Marley for a two mile walk in between downpours of rain. I cleaned sinks and toilets, and did some laundry. I find I'm more productive when I break up my writing with things that get me moving.  

When we first got home from school, Bridge grabbed his longboard and headed out in the drizzling rain, supposedly perfect boarding conditions.  He came back wet and cold when Tanner didn't show up.  

Mark's Ovation guitar has become
a new friend for Bridge.
While he played the guitar, I made peach jam to put on home-baked (not homemade; I have my limits on weeknights) whole wheat rolls.  While he ate rolls, I read out loud the first chapter of Bill Bryson's book: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Bridge fell asleep sometime around page 25.

Bill Bryson was born ten years before I was, and I'm liking this exposure to life in the fifties and sixties.  Times were simpler, and people appreciated what they had.  (This $3 book from the thrift store was a good investment.)  Bridger was so full from his snack he never was hungry enough for dinner.  We enjoyed another pleasant evening.

My Happy Helperton
Wednesday:  We finally had a break in the weather, so when we got home, Bridge grabbed a shovel to level out our driveway with the new road base on the canyon road, and I jumped on the riding lawnmower.  He was done in a jiffy, and relieved me of mowing. After he went long-boarding for an hour or so, we ate pizza that I made according to his request:  white chicken bacon artichoke.  It was GOOD!

While he finished up dinner, I read the second chapter of The Thunderbolt Kid, then we watched a couple of Comedy Central shows we'd recorded, and then while he did homework, I read some more of my book.  He had some tough homework, and when it still didn't make sense with the assistance of, he packed up his school bag and said he'd get help tomorrow before class.  He kissed me goodnight, and took his guitar downstairs to Skype his certain someone.  Three nights down, and I'm pretty pleased that things have gone so well.

Thursday:  We live about 25 miles from the high school. I drove from home to the high school and back three times today.  After the second trip, there were all three of us at home:  Mark, Bridger and me.  While Mark took a nap, I read some more of The Thunderbolt Kid, and toward the end of the third chapter, Bridge fell asleep.  I woke him up to eat dinner.  The guys watched a little football and then at 7:15, Bridge and I drove back for my THIRD trip to Monroe for his first Sevier Valley Symphony practice.  He gets so excited about music.  Tonight we learned that he will have an opportunity to take some private tuba lessons, in addition to his guitar lessons.  The boy dines at the banquet of music daily.

Friday:  This morning, after I took B to school, Mark and I enjoyed a yummy breakfast of Ginger Spice Waffles with Chunky Peach Syrup.  We talked over breakfast, and then actually went for our first hike together this summer!  In June, my rheumatologist scared me away from hitting the trails, and it took the wind out of my sails for many weeks.  I have decided that I will no longer live a fear-based life.  We went, and it felt so great to be outside together!

Bridger went home with a friend after school let out at 1:00.  The poor kid is being raised as an only child, so I welcome any opportunities he has to spend with another family.  I totally get that he needs interaction with his peers.  His friends' families tend to have musical and academic children, too, and the boys share a similar sense of humor and enjoy a congenial camaraderie.  I consider his friends an extension of our family.

This afternoon, I admit to using my laptop more as Mark has been catching up on his Thursday night football.  We ate a dinner of leftovers, and Mark watched a little more football.  Another storm is brewing, and there is a football game tonight.

The pep band has been promised that if 100 of them show up, Mr. Cavan will shave his head. That may be a lofty goal, even on a good weather night, but I admire his band teacher's spirit!  I plan to get over there around half-time to watch my former students perform as a drill team, and to get some pictures of Bridger with the band.  Oh, I hope the weather cooperates.  Tomorrow, Bridger has the additional requirement of getting up by 10.  That child can sleep, I tell you.  He accepted that new rule with goodnatured negotiating, but I held firm.  I told him I would prefer NINE, so he should just be grateful for ten.

Saturday:  Mark and I had breakfast together, and Mark went to bat for Bridger, saying that he's such a good kid, and has put in overtime with his music this week; just let him sleep.  I am all talk, and easily swayed.  So we did. At 11:15, I gently woke him up with the invitation to Ginger Snap Waffles and Peach Syrup.  He ate breakfast, and he and Mark watched a little football. Mark and I invited him for a walk, but he declined.  It started to rain, so I was able to check that off of my bucket list:  "laughter in the rain; walking hand in hand with the one I love...."  I'm weird; I admit it.

By the time we got back, Mark's parents were there.  We changed out of our wet clothes, and I started dinner.  Bridge took a nap (that kid can sleep, like I said) and after he had his dinner, we all watched a movie:  Now You Don't.  Don't bother.  It wasn't that great.

Sunday:  Mark and I accompanied his parents to church after I made a colossal mess in the kitchen with my homemade peach syrup. Apparently, when the blender lid isn't on, and one presses PULSE instead OFF, one can expect to clean sticky surfaces within five feet of the blending station.  Bleah.  It soaked the calendar hanging on the fridge, the cabinets, the solid surface cooktop, and the floor.  I figured a little church might be a good idea to balance out the awful thoughts I had during my breakfast fiasco.  The talks were good ones, focusing on rendering service and finding happiness even in trials.  Who couldn't benefit from those topics?

While Mark and Bridger watched football off and on, I admit I used my laptop.  The afternoon wasn't a total cave in on the disconnect concept:  I did manage to read another chapter of our book to Bridge, and I listened to him play his guitar on the porch before it got too hot this afternoon.

CONCLUSION:  This is a goal worth pursuing.  I cannot in good conscience "let come what may." Taking the path of least resistance has been a cop out. It wasn't that difficult to come up with things we would enjoy doing, and the outcome was worth it.  We will never be a TV-free family.  I will never agree to a house without a wi-fi connection.

The time we spend away from our TV screens is time well-spent.  We have more activities to enjoy together:  board games, hiking together, spending time around our fire pit, and going camping. Once we start doing more activities, more opportunities will present themselves. I feel like we will only grow closer as a family the more time we spend together doing things intentionally. Living a life with intention dovetails nicely with living a life fully dwelling in the moment.

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