My Before Screen Time Checklist

Kids and Screen Time

Kids and Screen Time

After 10:00am in order for my kids to have screen time, they must do the following:

  1. Make your bed
  2. Have your personal prayer, Bible journaling, or worship time
  3. Straighten your room (Mom must check it)
  4. Feed your animals (Skyler-Rabbits, Canyon-Chickens, Brooke-Cats, Hillman-Dogs)
  5. Do one chore (Ask Mom)
  6. Read for 30 minutes (ReadLive and Nessy count too!)
  7. Do one math fact sheet
  8. Play outside for 1 hour

Chicken Scratch

Chicken Scratch Quote

My funny flock of chickens that free range the “Ranchito” have gotten braver and braver lately.  In search of the first greens of Spring, they have wandered far from the confines of the coop.  In the front yard they are loving the morning showers that the sprinklers bring, and in the back they have found the dog food bowls and get caught stealing it red-beaked everyday. Ranchito ChickensFriends and guests, whether kids or grown-ups are always taken aback when one of my friendly hens come puffing her way right up onto the front porch.  I think they add a bit of charm and character to the place, others may say a bit of crazy.  Either way, here they are.Willow with Ranchito ChickenAbout this time of year you better believe that I put those girls to work!  Their free-loading days of winter are over!  I lure them into my soon-to-be planted garden with scraps from the kitchen and a bag of mealworms, and let them get busy on that fallow ground.  You see, chickens scratch.  That’s what they do.  They are constantly clawing and pecking at the ground looking for bugs, worms, and weeds to consume.  And while they are essentially tilling the earth, they are (ah-hem) fertilizing it as well.  It’s a win-win for us all.  They get the tasty treats right below the surface, and I get soft, fertilized, de-bugged soil.

But planting day is quickly approaching!  As soon as those tiny vegetable plants go gingerly into the ground, as soon as those seeds begin to sprout, the garden will become a “no chicken zone.”  The gate will be locked and those same beaks and feet that served me well in the past will be banned until next year.  You see, my silly hens don’t know the difference between a weed and a tomato plant, a dandelion and a zucchini.  Left to roam and scratch in the wrong season they would pull up every bit of fruit (or veggies) I am trying to grow.

What was helpful in one season is destructive in another.

I have been in a scratching season myself lately.  Maybe it’s the whole turning 40 thing.  Maybe it’s the door closing on more babies and the familiarity of that role, as my children shoot up like the weeds on my lawn.  Maybe it’s the powerful and scary pull into new ventures.  Where am I fearful, where am I holding back, where am I wounded?  What am I good at?  Where am I weak?  I have honestly been praying for insight and revelation into why I am the way I am about some things.  I have asked the Lord to show me how I got into some places of the heart and spirit I might not want to stay.  “What is the root of this insecurity?  Where is the worm of pride or anxiety buried deep?  What happened in the past that I need to dig up and fertilize with the Truth of God’s word?”  Scratch, scratch, scratch.  And it has been good, and hard, and healing, and painful all at once.  It has led to much confession and repentance.  It has brought down walls of long-employed defenses.  It has started much needed conversations. My scratching season has allowed Jesus to get at some deep places where the ground of my heart has been too hard in the past.

But, at some point the scratching has to cease to let the growth begin. 

Of course we never move out of a confessing season. When we close the gate on repentance we wade into dangerous waters indeed.  But the tilling up of the past must give way to the sowing of new seeds, the tending of new ways, and the eventual harvesting of God glorifying fruit in our lives.  After all, Jesus says in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  The fruit cannot grow in ground that is always being scratched up.  Not in my garden and not in my life.  What was helpful in one season can be destructive, growth-stunting, and maybe even self-indulgent in another.

Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?   I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  My fear is that we indeed do not perceive it.  If we are constantly looking down to scratch at old ground, if we are continuing to look back at old hurts, if we are always looking inside at our old selves, we may miss Spring.

So Friends, let’s certainly do the work of tilling up the hard ground of our hearts when they are overgrown with the weeds of past offenses, old sins, destructive thought patterns, and just general fruitlessness.  There is a season for scratching.  There is a time for relinquishing it all to our Father and letting His Spirit reveal, forgive, heal, and then fertilize those fallow places with His Word.  But then there is a season for newness!  It’s Spring!  A season to focus on, and protect the seed He is growing in our lives.   2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

For now my scratching season is over.  I don’t want to stay too long digging up the old that I hinder the new.  I am hopeful that the work my chickens are doing this Spring will produce a fruitful garden this summer.  And I am confident the work the Holy Spirit and I did will produce a harvest in due time. (Galatians 6:9)

On the Other Side of Middle

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  

E.E. Cummings.

Yesterday I turned 40.  It really happened.  No amount of stomping my feet, and covering my ears while yelling, “Nahnahnahnah,” stopped the calendar.  I even asked my mom what time I was born, thinking I had a full day left of my 30’s… nope.  3:30 am.  So before I even opened my eyes, the deal was done.  40.  When I opened my Bible I found myself in II Corinthians 4:16 which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Nice.  Listen Paul, I know that was meant as an encouragement, but to a girl on her 40th birthday it felt a bit harsh (and found me reaching for all the skin care products I could find). I remember my parents turning 40.  It was all “Over the Hill” and black balloons and buzzards.  Nobody better be coming at me with that!  I have celebrated with good friends, with a surprise visit from my precious family, with PadThai and Vanilla Coke, and am still looking forward to a romantic weekend getaway with the hubs.  It has been much more sweet than bitter.

It is interesting having a January birthday because each new year literally ushers in a new age for me.  Most years this happens under the rush of putting away Christmas and getting back in the groove of “real life” after the holidays, but this year holds more weight, I suppose.

40.  It’s a weird age.

I feel as though I am straddling some invisible line, trying to find secure footing on one side or the other.  Middle aged? The middle of what?  Because right now I am in the middle of raising these four children.  I am in the middle of laundry days and American History and endless ballet rehearsals and tween emotions and YMCA basketball.  I have a kindergartner for goodness sakes!  But, man do I feel my age when I go into his classroom.  Every other mom is fresh-faced and excited to be there with a toddler in the stroller and a baby strapped to her chest.  And I can barely muster up the energy to buy the cupcakes… because I have been to approximately 4,327 school parties/feast/programs at this point and I’m over it.  Because, you know, I’m 40.

The footprint is well-worn on that side of the line, deeply embedded in the rich, comfortable ground of what I know.

Like any responsible 40 year old woman, I asked for a puppy for my birthday.  You see, we lost one of our old girls over Christmas, (you may remember her from Well-Worn Words), and my count is off.  We have always had 4 kids and 4 dogs.  That is the deal.  So now all of a sudden, when we have 4 kids and 3 dogs, my headcount is off.  (I may lose count of chickens, cats, and rabbits around the Ranchito but I know how many kids and dogs I have!) Obviously I need a puppy to fix it!  I have texted my husband countless pictures of red-merle, blue-eyed, fluffy Aussie babies.  He has texted back all the angry faces.  I have even named her in my heart! And it’s my birthday!!

But in the name of true transparency, I admit, maybe it goes a bit deeper.  Do you know what I know?  How to take care of all the people, all the animals, and all the things.   I got it.  I have passed that test and it is part of my sure footing on the old side of the line.  Give me something to care for, a baby anything, and I know my role.  It’s simple, right?   I just spent the weekend with my precious sister-in law and even more precious angel niece.  My sis-in-love is just finding her footing on that side of the line, getting a vision for her days, learning to be present in the diapers and and schedules and first words (and she is rocking it, I must say)!  She hasn’t even been to a single class-party yet.  Bless her heart.  Easy it may not be but simple, it is. (Trust me young moms!) Just keep them alive!  Then maybe you teach them what the cow says, how to sign for more yogurt bites, that they need to say “please,” that the “A” says “Ah.”  Right?  Here is how to wash your hair, how to tie your shoes, how to ride a 2-wheeler, how to multiply by 7.   My good friend (and fellow 40ish mom of 4) said it’s like looking at your life through a toilet paper roll (that apparently only you are capable of changing out).  The view is focused, honed-in, simple.

And then, a day like yesterday happens, and life snatches the homemade telescope, and you find yourself blinded by the panoramic scene.  My eyes are blurred, searching for the focal point, trying to adjust to the light.

It’s slippery on the other side.  This fresh ground is unsure and uncharted.  I don’t know which rocks will hold me and which ones won’t.  I don’t know where the dangers lie and I can’t see very far ahead.  But there is something a bit ill-fitting about the old footprint on the other side, something a bit suffocating and crusty.  And I think I might be up for the challenge of discovering new paths.

There just may be room to run.

I am working through Lara Casey’s PowerSheets this year, defining the things I want to let go of, naming my fears, and charting my goals.  I have also been praying through my “word of the year.”  Initially I wanted it to be something like “present” or “intentional” or “cultivate.”  Those felt deep and sounded good.   Do you know what I landed on?  PERMISSION.

My Word of the Year: Permission

I cringe a bit even as I type it.  It feels selfish and shallow and not at all what I am usually about.   But as I faced the fear that maybe 40 is too late for new callings, I began to write things like, “I will give myself permission for creativity, permission to ask for help, permission for space and margin, permission to refuel, permission not to live in the Red Zone, permission to GO FOR IT!”  Lots of permission.

On the old side of the invisible line that I suppose is marking “middle age” in my life, everyone is having a big ‘ole pep-rally for “Simplifying.”  And I get it.  Splash in the mud-puddles, take a nap, say yes to messy, clean out the junk drawer,  ignore the Cheerios on the floor.   But, I’ve sort of been there, done that.  Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  Do you know what most of my days consist of…

Clean Countertops

wiping the countertops clean.  All day.  Every day.  Clean the countertops.  So, in the end my life will amount to clean countertops?  Vacuumed floors?  Empty laundry baskets?  Or, can I transition with grace, over to the other side where the ground is pliable and unpredictable?  Do I have the courage to let my eyes adjust to the light of the unknown?

Suz and LesleyIn his second letter to Timothy, Paul says “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  II Timothy 1:6-7.   My mother is a stunning example of this for me.  There are few women more simple than she.  She is extraordinarily easy to please. Picky is not even in her vocabulary.  She is emotionally sure and stable, never one to rise and fall on a whim.  Her world is pretty small and she likes it like that.  Her countertops are spotless.  But every Wednesday morning for as long as I can remember she has taught in-depth, Precept Bible Study for 75-100 women.  And she brings it like a boss.   She gets up there, with her handwritten notes, her overhead projector, and her unparalleled knowledge of the Word and she straight up fans into flame the gift of God without an ounce of timidity!  When my eyes adjust, that’s what I see over on the other side.  I want to be just like her.

In Jen Hatmaker’s book “For the Love” she has a chapter entitled “On Turning Forty” that I revisited this week.  She says, “I know what I am good at now and I do it.  I’m not apologetic and uncertain and aw-shucks about running my race.  I no longer tiptoe through my own life, doubting my gifts and my place, too scared to go for it, seize it, pray for it, dream it. When you are forty, you no longer wait for permission to live.”  Exactly.

So I am giving myself permission to put down all the “mommy books” and blogs and anthems that pull on me to default to the simplicity and safety of what I know, that make me melancholy, that make me feel like I am closer to the end than the beginning.  Philippians 3:13-14 says, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”   I trust that my calling is in front of me, on the other side of middle, not behind me.  And I trust that it is bigger than clean countertops.  And I’m giving myself permission to go for it over the next 40 years!  And I have no idea exactly what that will look like but I also trust C.S. Lewis when he says, “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”

So here is to the other side of middle, to new paths, to fanning the flame, to permission and to 40!  Join me on the journey?

But, Babe, if you’re reading this, I STILL WANT THE PUPPY!  Red Merle puppy

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