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Screen Time Zombies

Like most parents, I’ve struggled with how much screen time my kids watch in any given day and felt like I was being held hostage to their habit.  My boys are great kids, get good grades at school, and participate in activities like Boy Scouts, but I must admit, technology was turning them into little teen Zombies. Fearing that the negative signs of entitlement, depression, and anger were surfacing for our boys due to unlimited amounts of screen time, Rae and I decided to take action and implemented some new house-rules.  Instead of the old, “get on whenever you like”, screen time needed to be earned by completing the following each day: 1. stay calm and show kindness to everyone in the family; 2. complete a minimum of two chores; 3. eat a healthy meal with the family at the dinner table; and, 4. finish all homework. When these four requirements are completed, the boys earn one hour of screen time per night.  Screen time includes any device, so texting is included. 

As you might expect, both of our older boys responded with objection that we were ruining their lives.  Going from unlimited screen time, to only one hour, seemed like an impossible feat to them at the time.  But to everyone’s surprise, it actually didn’t take long to make the switch.  After only a couple days, the whole family was much more engaged and happier.  Wesley has returned to playing outside on his scooter and skateboard, building skate ramps and a mini-skatepark in our backyard. He asks to go to the Skate Park at least once a day or to the new pump track his grandparents discovered near UCSB.  Wil is practicing music again on his trumpet, has started writing his own music, and experiments making candy in the kitchen.  And although it’s never perfect, both boys are helping with Oliver more often, playing, and reading to him. 

Only one hour per night may seem a bit rigid to some people, especially when there’s such an emphasis on teens keeping up with social media and our tech-crazed world.  But as Rae and I see it, we are thrilled to see creativity blossom in our kids again.  We’ll take the mess of board games and puzzles in the living room over device Zombies any day. 

I Love my Routine

We all have daily routines that make you reflect on either how precious or what a struggle life can be.  It’s easy to get stuck on the negative routines as we go about our busy over-committed lives, but I’ve made it a priority to focus on the simplicity of a routine that brings me instant comfort and always results in a smile. After all, a smile i a great way to start your day and is one of the most contagious feelings out there.

One of the morning routines in our home is that I have preschool drop-off duty for our 4 year-old son, Oliver. The same drive everyday can get old and mundane, but not in this case. When I take Oliver to school, he asks to hold my phone in the car so that he can pick out music, which usually means we are listening to, “We Will Rock You” or “One Night in Bangkok”. It fascinates me that a preschooler already knows how to find and play songs from a smart phone, but we all know that’s the way of the world we live in today. Thank God he has good taste in music. 

When Oliver and I get to school, we hold hands walking up to the classroom, skipping or jumping the lines in the concrete.  We then sign-in together, put his lunch in his cubby, and say “Hello!” to Henry, the class pet bunny.  We hug, and then Oliver says, “I love you”, and runs up to the step-stool at the classroom window and waits to see me walking back to my car.  On the way out, Oliver always waves, and says, “Bye Daddy, God bless you!”. We both smile and I leave for work with a smile, knowing that I’m the lucky one that gets to repeat this precious routine all over again tomorrow.

We all have set backs

Set backs can have a big impact on our lives and I have definitely been through mine.  In August, I broke my right foot while training for the Pier to Peak half marathon.  One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years, is that I have a habit of pushing myself beyond my limit, going “all out”, which can have its good and bad consequences.  Those around me often say, “don’t over do it, Rich”.  When I set my mind to do something, I  just go for it.  But set backs can have a subtle, or sometimes loud, way of reminding us it’s time to slow down.

During my goal of training for Pier to Peak, I woke up at 4:00am following a long 26 hours of traveling home from Europe. I was excited to get back to my training and started a nine-mile run up Mountain Drive with a new pair of Nikes on. It was still dark and I was so focused on starting my run, that I missed the eroded edge of asphalt. I went down hard, not even 100 feet into my run. 

On the way down, I immediately heard a crack, as I rolled over the top of my foot. Willing myself to get back up and run it out, I convinced myself I’d be fine.  Step one, two, and down I went again, sharp pain increased.  I sat for a few minutes and tried again and again, but of course the pain made me immobile. My next thought was that I would go home, ice the foot, rest, and try again tomorrow, but halfway through my drive, I finally surrendered to the pain, and decided the ER was calling my name.  

Xray confirmed that I broke my foot and it would be wearing a fancy black boot for eight weeks.  Sadly I had to forfeit my first attempt at Pier to Peak and wait another twelve weeks before joining my morning workout at Fat Club.  Message received loud and clear…It’s was my time to slow down. 

My son wants to work with me

My three year old, Oliver,  asks me every morning, “Daddy, where are you going today?”, and more often than not, I tell him I’m going to work.  His answer is always the same, “I go with you?”, to which I typically say, “Sorry buddy, not today”. His quick response is, “but I want to

”.  And I say, “I want you to come too, but I don’t know how much I would get done if you did”.  Like a knife to my heart, he walks away disappointed.

Oliver’s best attribute is his smile. After a disastrous two months, I believe we can all do more smiling right now, so I’m sharing this story to hopefully get you to do just that.  My wife and I made plans for a lunch date last week, Oliver included.  When they arrived at the office, Oliver smiled at all my co-workers, jumped right in my lap, and finally had his “day at work”.  He typed on my keyboard, worked with the mouse, talked to the receptionist on the phone, and had his share of snacks in the break-room.  But the best part of it all was he was confident and loved every minute.  It reminded me of a past mentor of mine, John-Roger, who would always advise me to, “Go where the fun is”.  Like smiling, we could all use a little more fun in the new year, and I am no exception.  So to sustain the joy Oliver spread throughout my office, before leaving work, I ordered three new toy Nerf guns for my boys and the game is on when I get home.  Spread joy where you can today!

Life Changes Fast

It is amazing how quickly life can change.  When the Thomas Fire hit the hills above our community on December 4th, many people in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties had already been displaced by mandate or by choice.  For Californians, the act of packing up and evacuating, has sadly become the norm, as it brings back memories of the Tea Fire and the Jesusita  Fire, and the half dozen fires we’ve experienced just over the past 10 years. I am awe-struck with the mobilization that took place, with over 8,400 firefighters courageously making their way onto the front line to fight this beast.

During the evacuation period, I was very disjointed with the disruption of my daily routine and felt a sudden void of inner balance. I expect each of us is coping in our own best way, but what’s eye opening when natural disasters occur, is that we very quickly take inventory of what we are grateful for.  The things that matter most become so clear.  For me that is the time I had with my family and in-laws while evacuated up North in Paso Robles.  We played board games, cards, corn hole, and talked around the dinner table late into the night.  A much needed respite from work and the temptation to check social media.

I believe it will take a lot of time, money, and national resources to heal from the enormous destruction of Thomas, and I find myself extremely worried about its impact on our local economy.  But I also believe that gratitude can be found in the mess, because the fire broke preconceived boundaries between our neighbors, strangers, and the tireless first responders.  In a time where society feels sadly divided, our community came together with one common goal, safety for everyone.

I wish you and your family a Blessed Holiday!

Let’s be prepared

So I've had a lot of request from this video as to where these items can be purchased and what the items actually are.  So I've put a list together of what they are.  I would suggest that you only need to get the items you don't have or can't substitute with something else.  Also, for those of you that know me, I do tend to believe that you get what you pay for, and I do most of my shopping at REI (for this kind of stuff).  REI is like Nordstrom, you are going to get great service and if you don't like it or have a problem with it, they take care of you.  With that said, please find a list in the attached link: Prepared Go Bag

I did find my compass it was in Wesley 10 essentials bag.