Category: Family

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

Unless you’ve had your chicken head under a rock, you’ve heard about the newest Netflix sensational series: 13 Reasons Why. Should you watch it? Should you let your kids watch it? Do you need to watch it together? Far be it from me to tell another hen what to do concerning her chicks but here are my 13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why.

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

Teens and Tweens everywhere are obsessing over 13 Reasons Why. They aren’t the only ones. Everyone from arm chair psychologists to Christian radio celebrities have been talking about Netflix’s newest show, based on the popular book by the same title by Jay Asher, and its relevance to kids today. Everyone is weighing in on if parents should be using the series as a springboard for starting heavy discussions with their children. It tackles everything from suicide to bullying in today’s American culture.

You’ve seen the ads, you heard the hype and you’re still wondering: Should we be watching 13 Reasons Why? Maybe yes…maybe no. Aside from flagrant adult language, mild violence, and disturbing sexual assault scenes, there were several issues of concern that I noticed running through the series and I’m here to lay them out for you.

Here’s your parent’s guide to 13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why:

1) Flippant about Finality

The main focal character of this show is Hannah who seems very much like your average, everyday, American teenager. So, it should come as no surprise to any parent of a teen/tween person that she has a tendency to be a bit…flippant. As a parent, I am used to my daughters being flippant about many things: their classmates’ behavior, their room cleaning efforts, their dedication to Biology homework. There is really one area that I think they probably shouldn’t be flippant about- Death.

From the very first episode of this series, we get the feeling that Hannah isn’t taking her suicide too seriously. The tapes set a tone of exaggeration and self-deprecation. Making light of our own mortality is nothing new to this genre. Other characters in popular young adult fiction, such as Hazel and Gus from The Fault in Our Stars, also minimized their terminal conditions but it seems irresponsible and immature coming from someone who dies by their own hand.

BOTTOM LINE: Life is considered sacred in our home. It was disturbing to see the main character talk about hers with such little regard.

2) Revenge…From the Grave

While many other young adult authors have tackled the subject of suicide portraying somber characters in somewhat gritty fashion, 13 Reasons Why seems to take the melodramatic to a totally new level.

Producers claim the show focuses on how “insignificant actions of individuals can have a profound cumulative affect on others”. It feels more like a “Pretty Little Liars” episodes with the anti-heroine gaining redemption through revenge after death. This feeling is perpetuated by the fact that ALL of the tapes are given to ALL of the list participants…meaning everyone hears everyone’s tape. The premise of the show is a circa 1990’s way of airing everyone’s dirty laundry.

The way the show is filmed in flashback, gives the illusion that Hannah is ever present to witness the “confrontation” of her offenders. This is obviously not true, but it can be very easy to forget how this filming technique skews reality and gives a romanticized view to young adults that are considering suicide and want others to see the pain they have caused them.

Another shocking aspect of this series is that, by and large, no character catharsis occurs after having listened to their own tapes. Instead of contemplating how their actions have contributed to the hurt of another, many are instead concerned with keeping their actions from becoming known by others.

BOTTOM LINE: This isn’t a story about hurt and repentance. Most of the ripple effects caused by Hannah’s actions are not focused on the pain her choice causes, only the scrambling of others to save their reputations in the aftermath.

3) He Said, She said…

Gossip and slander are definitely tackled in this series. It’s one reason 13 Reasons Why is a great teaching opportunity to show young people how often relationships can be unnecessarily strained through misunderstandings. It shows how we can present “facts” in a way to justify our actions while not fairly representing other parties. It is a shame that so many characters in the show participate in slander and gossip without truly showing any remorse for their actions or how it effected another individual.

Because this show is set from the first person viewpoint of one of the characters, all of the events that take place are colored by that individual’s views. While that makes for good TV, it also means that the story being shown is often one sided, missing information, or conflicting based on whether Hannah knew all of the facts before she chose to tell us her story.

The irony in all of this is Hannah blames the misrepresentations made by other characters for her decision to kill herself even as she turns around and does the exact same thing. She also never atones for her misrepresentations. It muddies the water when the person we are supposed to feel sympathy for is engaging in the very behavior we are supposed to abhor.

BOTTOM LINE: In our house we teach that you say what you mean and mean what you say. Encourage your kids to delve deeper into rumors and find out all the “facts” before passing judgement on others.

4) Rebuttals are Futile

As mentioned above, Hannah chooses to confront those who wronged her after death. Because of this, the characters involved have no way to reach out, explain or atone for their slights (some quite small and some large). Hannah repeatedly laments that no one cared about her or tried to talk to her about the things that were going on in her life, but by confronting the other characters in this manner, she has removed any ability for anyone to do exactly that. We are left with are a first person account of events that are then shared with many parties (some of which were not even at fault) where the accused has no way to defend themselves against their accuser.

Throughout the series, there were many times and many opportunities for Hannah to reach out to those that cared about her. She chose not to all the while convincing herself she never had the opportunity.

BOTTOM LINE: The main character in this series exhibits a very immature way of dealing with the conflict around her. By refusing to open up to people who hurt us, we keep ourselves from being able to heal or allowing others to make positive change.

5) Raising the Petty to Painful

There are some pretty bad things that happen to Hannah during 13 Reasons Why. There are also some pretty small slights that almost seem pretty petty when you are trying to justify taking your own life. While it is difficult for parents to understand why some things we view as trivial can make such an enormous impact on the fragile teenage psyche, some events in this series are truly heinous.

By “producing tapes” for both the trivial and the awful, 13 Reasons Why elevates the small slights that we should be teaching our kids to overcome to the same height of awful situations such as sexual assault that should never be overlooked or minimized. Instead of making everything seem important, it trivializes the latter by lumping it in with generalized teenage behavior.

BOTTOM LINE:  While gossiping and misunderstandings are a part of every teenagers journey, sexual assault and rape SHOULD NOT BE and shouldn’t be painted with the same wide brush.

6) No One is Innocent…Even the Innocent

The main theme of this series involves 13 audio recordings that are produced by Hannah before she kills herself. Each tape centers around a particular person that contributed to her decision to end her young life. This is made clear from the very beginning of tape #1. The tapes are then distributed as a whole collection, to each person “owning” a tape.  However, the first person that we see “experience” the tapes is Clay, a young man who is left in turmoil for days. He cannot fathom anything he has done to Hannah to contribute to her decision to take her own life.

When all is said and done, Clay is right. He has done nothing to warrant Hannah taking her own life. Certainly nothing that any young, shy, teenage boy should be made to feel such heavy guilt over. Clay’s only crime against Hannah is that he didn’t profess his feelings for her. While this situation may make for sensational fodder in a teenage TV drama, exactly what lesson does this teach young viewers? Are we trying to tell kids that they should be making relationship choices based on how the other half will or will not react, or do we want them making these choices based on what is best for them personally?

BOTTOM LINE: Emotional blackmail and manipulation are heaped upon characters in this series. Make sure your kids understand that they should never feel pressured into commitment with another person based on the manipulative actions of the other individual.

7) Overly Accountable…Except for Hannah

This is a show about teenagers. Teenagers are limited in their decision making by both cognitive and structural constraints. While some of the infractions that Hannah experienced should never happen, regardless of age, some were so slight in nature to be easily explained by young people just not always being the best decision makers.

It seems unfair to lay the burden of a person’s suicide at the feet of someone because they chose to act immaturely and hide someone’s compliments. Should they suffer because they weren’t at an emotional level where they felt comfortable starting a deeper relationship? Is it unforgivable to be unable to comprehend how delaying one decision would lead to an awful car accident…but that’s exactly what Hannah has done.

While spreading rumors and telling lies and passing photos of someone should not be encouraged, I wonder if the implications of this show will be to frighten young people. Will they second guess every interaction they have with classmates for fear that they will in some way cause that person to do something drastic. Ultimately, Hannah chose to kill herself. Hannah.

BOTTOM LINE: Teens/Tweens make mistakes. They should be taught to use their best judgement but to also expect grace when they don’t have all the answers.

8) Adults Can’t be Trusted

During the course of Hannah’s story, she approaches two adults in an attempt to reach out for help before deciding to take her own life. In one case, while well meaning, her teacher minimizes her experiences and adequate help and guidance isn’t provided. In the second attempt, the adult in authority belittles Hannah and refuses to provide any real help at all.

The message in 13 Reasons Why is very clear: Don’t bank on the help of adults around you. They will not understand and will only cause further harm. Not only is this a false premise, its dangerous to perpetuate an “us” against “them” dichotomy when sometimes only adults are equipped with the knowledge to truly handle certain circumstances. This is NOT the lesson we want our kids to learn in our home. In fact, it is the opposite.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you’re going to let your children watch this show, be aware that the fallacy that adults are undependable needs to be addressed and corrected.

9) Parent’s Can’t be Bothered

This problem centers around the same theme as mentioned above. During the course of Hannah’s story, her parents are completely unaware of the hardships that Hannah is facing. They are extremely distracted with other ongoing issues in both their finances and marriage. Instead of the family unit coming together to help Hannah through this trying time, her parents are kept in the dark.  They are left picking up the pieces after their child inexplicably decides to take her own life.

While I am sure the show is trying to present the disconnect that occurs between many teens/tweens and their parents, you could argue that presenting Hannah’s parents as completely self-absorbed only reinforces a dangerous stereotype that perpetuates the myth that kids today are “facing it alone”.

BOTTOM LINE: This show portrays parents as being unreachable and disconnected to their children’s lives. Make sure your kids realize this is not the case in your home.

10) See Nothing…Say Nothing

You’ve heard the hype. 13 Reason’s Why tackles difficult themes: The worst of which are suicide and sexual assault (rape). A character (Justin) in the series is granted a tape because he leaves his intoxicated girlfriend to be raped by another boy from her high school. We find out that Justin does nothing to stop the assault while it was happening. However, Hannah also witnesses the rape and does nothing to help her friend or stop the attack.

This show takes a horrible crime (rape) and instead of focusing on the true victim (Jessica) concentrates all attention on the two characters that had the ability to stop the attack but chose to do nothing. You would think that if the series was going to go in this direction that eventually the people that sat by and allowed it to happen would experience some type of growth or there would be some type of moral “lesson” learned. Nope. Poor Jessica is just left to find out by listening to a tape that the assault happened and that those closest to her knew and did nothing.

BOTTOM LINE: I want to raise kids that have the moral fortitude to stand up and do the right thing regardless of how they are “feeling” about their lives at the time. Helping others in the time of crisis should transcend your personal baggage.

11) Perpetuating Misunderstandings, Lies, and Foolish Decisions

Everyone in this show makes awful decisions…repeatedly. Almost the entire cast is made up of characters with incredibly tragic flaws that cause them to place themselves in danger and prevents them from being able to communicate in any real way whatsoever.

Is this what we are to believe is happening all across America? Are there really no well-adjusted high school kids out there that don’t drink, talk to their parents, and can hold an intelligible conversation with their friends when their feelings are hurt? Throughout the entire show, it is difficult to find many characters that exhibit normal behavior or have normal relationships with anyone.

By presenting only the bad, this show reinforces the stereotype that all teens/tweens make awful decisions when left to their own devices. I don’t normally look to TV programming to exhibit role models for my kids, but good grief…this is ridiculous. My own daughter was left wondering if SHE is the weirdo.

BOTTOM LINE: Make sure your kid understands that this is not an afterschool special or some public service announcement type broadcast. The characters on this show are stereotypical and NOT representative of the whole.

12) Where’s Hannah’s Tape?

All of the people responsible for Hannah taking her own life are given recordings. But, there is not one specifically made for the person that bears the most responsibility of all: Hannah. It’s very difficult to talk about this without it sounding like I am blaming the victim but the entire show posed a real problem for me as a parent:

How do we raise kids that feel in control of their lives when they are watching a show where the protagonist has decided that everyone’s opinion/actions/decisions are more important than her own?

This is not about belittling a young person that feels at the end of their rope. We need to be there to support them and help them to work through the problems that they encounter with friends, boyfriends, classmates, etc. But, I can’t help but think that while we are listening and trying to empathize, we also need to be teaching them that all of that “stuff” that they think is SO important… is really temporary and fleeting.

BOTTOM LINE: Raise your kids to know that THEY control their own destiny. We can raise kids that are considerate of the feelings of others, but ultimately, they themselves must be responsible for their own actions.

13) Hannah May be the Biggest Bully of Them All

Hear me out. I believe that really, Hannah is the biggest bully in this entire series. If Hannah weren’t dead, if she hadn’t committed suicide, and had made these tapes and distributed them to all of these people, what would be the reaction towards her?

In many cases, she takes very personal accounts and has made them public to people that aren’t even involved in the situation. She blows many events completely out of proportion as a way of attracting attention regardless of who she is hurting. She blames individuals for slights without first giving the person an opportunity to explain themselves. She causes innocent individuals to beat them selves up emotionally over things they haven’t even done. She takes the time to speak personally to all of these people that “wronged” her, yet doesn’t do the same for her parents who are devastated by their loss.

In my book, that my friends, is a bully.

BOTTOM LINE: While this show might be helpful in showing the inter-connectedness between events and how relationships can be hurt by miscommunication, the main character of this show is NO heroine. As a parent, while you obviously wouldn’t want your child to take their own life, there is not a lot of Hannah’s other behaviors that you would want to see your kids emulate.

Should you let you kid watch 13 Reasons Why? Maybe…maybe not. As with any pesky parenting decisions, the right answer often depends on you personal parenting priorities and style and now you’re armed with the parenting guide to show you my 13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why.  The show is useful in sparking discussion with teens about taboo topics such as suicide, personal responsibility, sexual assault, and bullying. But- you might want to make sure you watch too, or have some talks to remind your kids what they’re seeing on the screen isn’t just sensational- it’s fictional.

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

Raising girls (little women) is hard work. If you are the mother of a pre-teen or teenage girl and are honest with yourself, you’ve discovered the answer to why animals sometimes consume their young. They can drive you crazy. It’s just the way it works. It’s hormonal and stuff. Find out how to stop the struggles and start raising up girls in a world trying to pull them down.

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Mothering girls in this day and age isn’t easy.  It’s an incredible task- raising strong, self-assured and independent but also humble, um-narcissitic and interconnected chicks. See? No small feat.

As a 21st century mother, I feel like my clucking is reduced to a whisper compared to the “advice” they receive from the world. It seems like that “advice” is getting further and further from the truths/habits/beliefs that I want my little hens to absorb. I have a feeling I am not alone.  So then, what advice should we give our pre-teen and teen girls? What do our daughters need?

I am not an expert. I do not play one on T.V. Many times, I have been the worst mother on the block. I assure you that I will be again at some point in the future (my personal bet is next week). My parenting “career” has been blessed with triumphs and cursed with failures. But after raising three girls with no fatalities (yet) and spending hours in counseling with young ladies, I have come up with a list of things that I believe we (as mother hens) need to consider to support our daughters to their full potential in this rough and tumble world.

You might agree with some of these. You will probably disagree with others (some feathers might even get ruffled). I hope, if nothing else, the following causes you to reflect on things that you DO believe will improve your relationship with your daughter/s. I hope it helps you raise up a women that will go out into the world and make some improvements. Lord knows we need some.

EMBRACE THEIR UNIQUENESS.

No, REALLY embrace it. Don’t just say you embrace it. A lot of times, as mothers, what we really want is for our kids to “blend”. Sure, we say we want them to be special and stand out. For many of us we mean “special in a way that maintains the status quo with their peers”. I don’t know if we have some kind of leftover pain from our own terrible middle/high school experiences and we want to shield our girls from that. Can I get an ‘AMEN’? Maybe we are just overly worried about what others will think of them or how they will judge us as mothers. When we say “just be yourself” there are unspoken caveats that run through our brains. Is being like everyone else really what will make your daughter happy? What could we be giving up for the sake of conformity?

Are we really willing to sacrifice what might be the most intriguing thing about our girls because of potential backlash/disapproval? Does the fact that my daughter wears old Beatles shirts and would rather draw all day then go to the mall mean I have failed as a parent? Does it mean she isn’t as happy as her trend setting peers? No. We need to stop trying to stamp down what makes them different. We need to teach them to  embrace that part of themselves and to search for ways to use their unique abilities/gifts/thinking to help them in their adult lives. It may be that the very thing that others find “different” is what will make your girl very successful and fulfilled in the long run.

SHOW THEM THEIR IDEAS ARE IMPORTANT.

It is easy to discount the ideas and thoughts of a tweener/teen girl. Very very easy. As mothers trying to raise women in our society, I think the importance of this one area can not be overstated.

Don’t get me wrong- I am not some gong-banging, bra-burning, man-hating feminist. If you look at the propaganda of how our culture stereotypes women…folks, we still have a LONG way to go. Your average girl spends quite a bit of time watching shows/movies, etc. that show girls with less than stellar cognitive abilities. If female models ARE shown to be intelligent and smart, they are most always also portrayed as manipulative and/or selfish and destructive.

I have had the fortunate fate of working in higher education for a long time now. Some of the most brilliant people I have ever met have had X & Y chromosomes. After talking with many of them, it’s apparent they grew up in households where their intelligence was nurtured and encouraged. It’s not enough that we pat them on the head when they get an ‘A’ in Social Studies. We need to make it a daily habit of listening to them and helping them to develop analytical skills. Challenge them, respect their ideas, and encourage them to delve deeper when they don’t understand something. Try not to give a flippant answer or just dismiss them. Soon they will be entering a society where their thoughts will be dismissed all too readily. We need to show them now what it looks like when their ideas are taken seriously so they can leave the coop and demand that same seriousness out in the world.

LAUGH WITH THEM.

Living in a house with multiple females can be tense at times. At our house, there is a lot of door slamming, eye rolling, and tearful shouting (sometimes the girls do it too). Emotions run high, lives are ruined, clothes are borrowed without asking, and don’t get me started on the failure to complete chores! It doesn’t make for a very happy environment and there are long stretches of time when laughter, excluding the maniacal kind, is nowhere to be found in our coop.

Why does a disagreement with my daughters turn into the Hundred Years’ War whereas my son and I can find the dirty dishes, yell, threaten to run away, pout, clean the said dishes and be cuddling in bed together within a half hour? Because we have a tendency to only remember the negative and dwell on it. When your daughters tell you that you only spend time yelling at them for everything- it’s because they BELIEVE that you only spend time yelling at them!!! YOU know they are exaggerating, YOUR ROOSTER knows they are exaggerating…but your little HEN doesn’t feel they are because they only focus on the yelling. On top of this selective memory thing, a lot of tweener/teen girls feel persecuted at the slightest admonishment during this time because they are so harsh on themselves and expect no less from others. And then…there’s the HORMONES! Lose~lose~lose!

Sometimes the only way to combat this perception and get through times like this is to open the top on the kettle and relieve some of the pressure (stress) from the situation. I know a lot of women like to bond with their girls over shopping or getting their nails done, etc. but don’t discount the need to just be silly and cut loose. Have a girls night where you watch hilarious movies or take a minute out of your day to text them a funny picture or inside family joke that you know will make them laugh. Not only are you reinforcing “good” memories and mending fences, but you are teaching your daughters to self soothe as adults from stress in a way that is free, non-fattening, and doesn’t require an appointment. Win~win~win!

SHOW INTEREST IN WHAT THEY ARE INTERESTED IN.

As I mentioned, I have three daughters. Three. Out of the three, only one of them is pretty close to my own personality. She and I share a lot of the same abilities, faults, sense of humor, and interests. Two peas in a pod. So, guess what? I find myself struggling to understand the interests of the other two.

While I am content to sit with chick #3 on the couch and share a bag of popcorn while binge watching Sherlock, I can not for the life of me understand why one would want to watch soccer games on T.V. being broadcast by stations that don’t even SPEAK ENGLISH! Another REALLY enjoys video games whereas the thought of playing Super Mario Cart for hours makes me want to go lay down in the university parking lot.

Regardless of whether you are interested in the activities they like or not, attempt to be an active participant somehow. We spend a lot of time, as a society, talking about how it is important when raising sons for fathers to spend time pursing interests with their boys but we don’t really talk a whole lot about mothers doing the same and what impact it has on development. When you show your daughter that an activity or hobby of hers is important to you- you are saying that she is important to you. The more important she thinks she is to you, the more likely you are to maintain open and honest communication that may allow you to speak into her life and offer valuable instruction concerning a situation that you would have otherwise been denied knowledge of.

 LET THEM SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS (WITH GUIDANCE).

This is probably one of the hardest suggestions to follow on the list. If I had a nickle for every time I took matters into my own hands and “solved” one of my kids’ problems when I should have offered wise counsel and instruction on how to take ownership of the situation…

While we need to strive to let kids work out issues on their own regardless of whether they are male or female, mothers of girls really need to take this to heart and do their best give their daughters skills to manage conflict and then only push their beaks into the fray when absolutely necessary. Why? Because of the shoddy examples of female conflict resolution that the world presents. Is it any wonder that “girl drama” seems to be escalating when the media, etc. glorifies the latest celebrity cat fight or messy divorce? The more outrageous/stupid/petty the reaction the better!

We need to raise women that know how to handle conflict in a mature and sensible manner and can practice those skills now (while under our supervision) because they are going to face it alone in their marriage, at their workplace, and in their relationships with their children and if their only conflict resolution skill set involves a “twitter” war of wits or manipulative pouting- we are in for it.

HELP THEM TO SET REALISTIC AND CHALLENGING GOALS.

I can’t relate to you how many times I have seen girls that have no concept of goal setting, even well into early adulthood. Now, I know a lot of our daughters declare that they are “going to go to college” or do this and that, but in reality, THAT in and of itself does not a goal make.

Serious goal setting is so much more than that and if our girls can grasp it from an early age, there is no doubt in my mind that they will have more success in the future. Successful people are goal setters, plain and simple. So, what is a goal then? For a goal to be powerful and complete it has to not only contain the end result your daughter wants to achieve but the steps and methods she is going to use to achieve it.  It isn’t “I am going to go to college” as much as it is “I am going to get into ABC college by taking a preparation course for the ACT, sitting for the test both my junior and senior years, taking any advanced coursework I qualify for in high school, maintaining a 3.5 GPA my senior year and etc. etc. etc.”

Why is this type of goal setting so important? Because it provides not only their ending point “college” but a road map of how they get from the present to that point. When you can see the path ahead, it makes it easier to stay on track when the final destination seems very far away. A lot of people aren’t unsuccessful because they didn’t have dreams- they are unsuccessful because they didn’t follow or stay on the paths to reach those dreams! We have to try to raise long term female planners in an age when anything over 8 seconds is considered an attention span ABOVE average.

HELP THEM IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP THEIR STRENGTHS. In the course of my current employment I ask a lot of girls “What are your strengths?” No answer. The seconds tick by and they start looking alarmed as if they are waiting on me to tell them or give them a clue as to the answer.

How sad is that?

No doubt that some of them know. But then you have to ask the question “why don’t they want to talk about it?”As a culture, do we still view confident girls as being ego-maniacs or too proud so they instinctively keep quiet? I don’t know the answer. My own experience leads me to believe that for whatever reason, girls either A)seem like they haven’t spent much time thinking about the subject or B) don’t want to address it or haven’t explored how it applies to areas of their life enough to engage in conversation about it.

As their mothers, we should be the FIRST people in their life to help them figure/point out what they are good at and where their aptitudes lie. We need to help them to examine how their strengths can be leveraged and used to make them successful women. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in a Middle School/High School but it sure doesn’t seem like there are a lot of girls lining up to do this job for you. Even as a grown women, a lot of us don’t have someone in our corner supporting us to develop our gifts. How many opportunities have been missed? How many songs haven’t been written or mountains haven’t been climbed?

Because of our role as their mothers we have the amazing gift of not only helping our daughters to see their potential but then acting as a role model for them of how to be supportive of other young women around them. Why is it so important to me that you teach your girls to be supportive as teens? Because some day they might be the women that interact with MY daughters! Ah…I look forward to the days when “Mean Girls” only brings up vague memories of a horrible movie.

BUILD THEIR SELF-ESTEEM BY REMINDING THEM WHO’S OPINION COUNTS. If you were to look at American culture from the outside, you would argue that we are one of the most self-esteem-building civilizations that has ever lived on the planet!!!  We’ve decided that trophies are awarded for participation, red pens can’t be used for grading and cyberspace is full of pictures of pouting, duck faced, perfectly groomed girls of every shape and size. It appears that we are ALL about ourselves ALL of the time. So, why do we have so many young women with low/little true self-esteem?

Something about trophies and softened correction and selfies isn’t getting the job done. That’s why.

So, if self-esteem can’t be predicted by selfie count, what is going on? First, we have to look at what self-esteem really is. One way to define esteem is the worth or value that one places on something or someone. Self-esteem then is the worth or value that we place, feel or have about ourselves. This is where it starts to get tricky. A lot of times, the way we view ourselves or the amount of self-esteem we have is based not on our own opinions of our abilities/talents etc. but is a reflection of the esteem we believe others hold for us.

If we have a high self-esteem but no one around us shows esteem for us, we can either be left with a false positive self-esteem (unfounded pride or narcissism) or our self-esteem drops in response to the belief that others do not hold us in high regard. Do you see the danger our daughters now face in regards to self-esteem in our current society? They are watching a society too consumed by itself to notice them to gauge how much value and respect they have for themselves.

It’s more important now than ever that we begin to show our daughters that its not the quantity of esteem (instagram ‘likes’) that is most important but the quality of the people around them that they look to for validation. What is the character of the person who’s opinion your daughter holds most dear? We need start explaining that they will only see a true and accurate reflection of how others view them when they are careful about who they give this power to…because it IS a powerful thing to a young girl/woman.

When your daughter comes home and someone from school has said or done something to damage their self-esteem, it isn’t enough to dismiss it as mean kids/teens. Help your daughter learn to evaluate whether the opinion of the offending party is a true reflection by comparing it to what important people in your girl’s life think about them.

FOCUS ON WINNING THE WAR TO DECIDE WHAT BATTLES ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. Remember when we were talking about goal setting for the girls? We need to be active goal setters in how we raise them too! What is the end result we are looking to achieve with our daughters? Some of us may want our girls to be highly educated and have challenging careers. Some may want theirs to grow into women that have compassion and put the needs of others ahead of their own. Some may want to raise up an individual that brings laughs and light to millions. Some (hopefully every hen) may be planning for all of these things!

Regardless of what values you hold dear for your girls, its important to really set down and decide not only what kind of woman you want to raise but come up with a game plan on how you will accomplish this and what things/thoughts/ideas you need to impart to them. I always tell my class that very few people are successful, really successful, by accident. This holds true for parenting as well.

What does this have to do with the day to day battles that we have with one or more smaller females in our house? EVERYTHING. You’ve heard the saying that we should “pick our battles” implying that some battles just aren’t worth winning and cause more strife than they are worth. Let’s keep “picking” them but instead base our choices on whether or not the battle is crucial to the overall goal that we have in raising up a woman. It won’t cause the battles to go away (hormones alone wouldn’t allow for it!) but I believe when you view battles in this context you can’t help but see every argument as an potential learning experience for yourself and your girl/girls. That change in perspective might be the difference between broaching a subject with grace and selling the offending female to the gypsies.

CHALLENGE THEM TO THINK BIG. It seems like the last few decades in our country have been marred by more and more bad news and deflated dreams. You can’t turn on a T.V. set without someone talking about how graduating college students will never find jobs and the growth of new business starts is crumbling. If you think your daughters aren’t putting two and two together or paying attention to these headlines, you are wrong. I meet a lot of students that come to college with no real interest in a subject area but choose a degree because their parents are “hoping I’ll be able to find a job” with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating all students major in Philosophy or Art. I understand the concern and worry about this for my own children. But at the same time, I want my daughters to also be able to imagine a world where they can accomplish something great. There are plenty of people in this world that will be telling your girls they “can’t”, I just think someone (mother hens to be specific) should be reinforcing the belief that they “can”.

If their dream seems unrealistic, instead of trying to set the bar lower or make the dream smaller-how about teaching them to brainstorm ways they can change the big dream to be easier to attain? Try helping them locate resources to work towards their goal. Not only will working together bring you closer but you might just find that impossible dream that your daughter had starts looking more and more achievable to you too!

TEACH THEM TO BALANCE FEELINGS WITH THOUGHTS.
The simple truth is that we live in an age where we are encouraged to make decisions based on how we “feel” about a situation/person/event or if our “feelings” dictate a certain response. A very clear example of this is the American brand of consumerism. We’ve been trained to confuse want (desire) for need (practicality). One is fueled by emotion whereas the other is fueled by reflective thought.

While this is encouraged in both men and women today, it seems to come more naturally to those of the female gender and I have seen it cause more heartache (in my own life and others) than you can possibly imagine. I see a lot of girls that are only capable of looking at life’s events through “feeling” colored glasses. Hens are (in general) more apt to allow ourselves to give uneven weight to emotions even when they run counter to how our heads are interpreting our environment. Sometimes, we are so lead that we refuse to put our thinking caps on at all until a decision has already been made and we’re left on the flip side wondering how we ever ended up (fill in the blank).

Balance is key. We were given brains AND hearts (the metaphorical kind)  for a reason. Our daughters need to grow up learning to resist a culture that says “do whatever makes you happy for the moment” and learn that the wisest choices for their lives are made when both parts are in on the decision making. As mothers we need to try our hardest to model this type of decision making for their benefit (I know, I’m asking for an impossible thing) but like I always tell my girls:

FACT CHECK THOSE FEELINGS BEFORE YOU REACT

SET THE EXPECTATION THEY SHOULD BE VALUED FOR THEIR MIND, THEIR APPEARANCE & THEIR SOUL. OK. If you haven’t already tuned me out, this may be the one that sends you over the edge and you start questioning the judgement of poultry.

I believe we need to be raising daughters to value their mind, their body/appearance and their soul. Too many times it seems like we are really good at two out of the three and we pat ourselves on the back as mothers for being pretty good at this “parenting” thing. Heck, sometimes we only focus on one and pat ourselves for that too!The truth of the matter is, there are really three facets that make up a well balanced grown woman.

Oh, I’ve heard a lot from women that believe we should focus on the mind and that education and learning etc. is what will set our daughters up for success. That regardless of their interests and abilities, this should be our first and foremost priority of female chick rearing. Others claim we should be focused on the soul and the character of a person. That if their heart believes they should live in the underside of overpasses for their entire life we should encourage and embrace it. As far as the last, I haven’t actually found a real-life mother specimen willing to admit its all about their daughter’s looks but I KNOW they are out there because I’ve seen Toddlers and Tiaras.

By the same token, sometimes we think we should cover the mind and soul part but that the looks part shouldn’t be important at all in an advanced society. To that I declare “Chicken Puckey”. In our attempts to take away the importance of someone’s appearance we are basically invalidating that portion of who they are. I don’t think girls should be consumed with what they look like. As mothers, I think we need to keep a balanced and open opinion about embracing all the aspects of our daughters without discounting a huge chunk.

As moms it is our job to teach our daughters to value themselves holistically and that means supporting and encouraging them to pay attention to and work on every facet of their being. Successful, happy, engaging and enlightened women have mastered all three areas and I think we should strive for nothing less than that for our chickadees.

Lecture over.

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RAISING UP WOMEN
14 Day Challenge

It’s a 14 day study perfect for an accountability partner project or ladies’ group.

 

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Don’t you just LOVE Halloween? The caramel apples…the pumpkin patch…peeing your pants from watching scary Halloween movies?! I’m actually not so great with that last one, which is why I have the Greatest Spooky List of Halloween Movie Favorites for you EVER:

Halloween Movie Favorites

Halloween Movie Favorites

20 Halloween Movie Favorites for Tweens 

(or scaredy cat adults)

 

hocus-pocusHOCUS POCUS

There’s no way to go wrong with this one. It has it all: Comedy, Flying Witches, and a Dance Number that will be stuck in your head until Santa shows up!

After 100 years in the ground, the Sanderson Sisters are back to round up the children of Salem in an attempt to make themselves young and beautiful.

Did I mention there’s a talking cat and Bette Midler?

Halloween cinematic gold!

THE ADDAMS FAMILYadams-family-1

They’re creepy and their kooky, mysterious & spooky…

How can you get through Halloween without the hijinks of the Addams Family?

Uncle Fester is missing? Or is he?

This movie is a film adaptation of the show we all watched and loved as kids with Christina Ricci knocking it out of the graveyard with a hilariously sinister portrayal as Wednesday Addams!

aadams-family-2ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

If The Addams Family wasn’t enough and you’re still wanting to see if Pugsly makes it out alive, try the sequel-Addams Family Values! Joan Cusack plays a kooky femme fatale out to get Uncle Fester’s fortune and Wednesday’s ready to burn girl scouts at the stake to get out of Summer Camp!

 

 

 

LABYBRINTHlabyrinth

Back in the day before vampires ruined glitter- there was a Goblin King that would snatch your obnoxious, crying brother if you asked him!

Jim Henson teamed up with David Bowie to produce a movie gem perfect for getting you in the Halloween mood. Sarah’s a girl with a big imagination and a squalling toddler that has to venture into a fantasy world and snatch back her brother before her parents get home from ‘date night’.

 

beetlejuice BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE, BEETLE.. I’d better not!

Ghosts, a Farm House, and Winona Ryder make up the scene for this 80’s cult classic where a newly deceased ghost couple (barely cold in the ground) have to take extreme measures to keep their home from being taken over by yuppies.

Michael Keaton dons some goofy duds and decides to clear out their house in exchange for marriage with the new family’s eno daughter!

 

CLUEclue

It’s a game, it’s a movie, it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ wrapped up into 90+ minutes of mayhem and mystery!

Follow your old favorites like Professor Plum, Ms. White, and Colonel Mustard as they try to figure out why they’ve been brought to such a spooky old house and who’s killing off the guest. While there are a few scenes with minimal blood, this movie is more about being goofy then gory so it’s scaredy-cat approved.

 

edwardscissorhandsEDWARD SCISSORHANDS

Wanna watch a movie about a guy with razor sharp digits but Freddy’s a little too hard to stomach? Edward’s your guy!

Johnny Depp gives another crazy-good performance about a misunderstood stranger that would rather bathe your dog and trim your hedges than cause you any nightmares. Winona Ryder pops up again as Edward’s love interest that must keep her testosterone-fueled boyfriend from taking advantage of the timid monster.

THE CORPSE BRIDEcorpsebride

In case you’ve gone longer than 5 minutes without watching a spooky collaboration between Johnny Depp, Helena Bohnam Carter and Tim Burton, sit down and enjoy this stop-motion film about lost loves and ‘doing the right thing’.

Don’t let the ‘Corpse’ part fool you- She’s prettier than most living women and aside from the worm inside her head- scare free. If you loved ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ then you’ve got to check this one out too!

 

nightmare-before-christmasNIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Speaking of which, if you haven’t seen it, this flick is bound to get you into the Halloween spirit. Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town, is just a guy trying to find out if he’s missing out on life.

With his trusty skeleton dog named Zero in tow, Jack’s determined to change his fate and bring Christmas to his band of misfit, monstrous Halloween Town citizens.

The love interest Sally ‘seems’ to think this is a good idea and lends aid although her ‘seams’ keep holding her back.

GOONIES goonies

There are few things from the 80’s better than this tale of a group of misfit friends trying to save their seaside neighborhood from a group of yuppie, golf course developers.

Following a map they find in the attic, these adventurers go in search of an illusive pirate treasure while trying to avoid ‘boody’ traps and a family of blood thirsty convicts. Sloth’s not easy on the eyes but he’s not pushing the  ‘terror’ meter and except for a little language, this movie is a great way to get ready for pumpkin season!

hotel-trans-1HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA

Who doesn’t like Adam Sandler? blah, blah blah

Dracula has moved out of the crypt and is the sole proprietor of a luxury resort for monsters. He’s got everything- including a 118 year old daughter ready to spread her bat wings and experience the world. That’s a major headache when you’re trying to keep her inside and shield her from all humans.

Add one wayward traveler and a whole cast of traditional spooky favorites and you’ve got a great movie for kids and adults alike.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 hotel-trans-2

Dracula’s got a new grandson and everything would be perfect if little Dennisovich would just pop out some fangs.

While Mavis and Johnny try to figure out whether the hotel is the right place to raise their spawn, Drac and his buddies are determined to ‘scare’ the monster right out of the little tot.

Between trying to keep Mavis from moving and entertaining his overbearing and judgemental father, Drac is losing the battle to keep his human in-laws a secret.

the-witchesTHE WITCHES

Luke is convinced there’s something fishy about the convention of women descending on the hotel where he’s staying with his grandmother. He’s right-they’re witches!

They’re out to get rid of all of the children in England and Luke’s got to stop them before it’s too late.

THE GOOD WITCHthe-good-witch-the-movie

In case those other witches aren’t to your liking, you might enjoy this little movie about a mysterious outsider that takes up residence in a small town’s notoriously haunted house. She’s running a strange little shop full of strange little things but she seems harmless enough.

This made-for-tv movie is pretty short on scary and a great ‘halloween’ treat for even the most scaredy scaredy-cats!

THE BOOK OF LIFE

book-of-lifeIf you like sugar skulls and festive parties, this movie is a good choice. Manolo is trying to be true to his heart while still honoring the wishes of his family.

What we have here is a guy that would rather play the guitar then wrestle a bull and to make matters worse- he’s caught in a love triangle between his childhood sweetheart and the town hero. When the Mexican folklore Ruler of the Remembered and the Ruler of the Forgotten get thrown into the mix, mayhem ensues.

 

 

THE WATCHER IN THE WOODSwatcherinthewoods

Let’s face it- Bette Davis can be scary!

Even so, you can safely watch this 80’s Disney film about a normal family that moves into a old English Manor that they are renting from a cranky ol’ Bette Davis.

It’s not long before they’re hearing voices and wondering if their new home is haunted with the ghost of a missing young girl.

 

something_wicked_this_way_comes-frontSOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

While we’re traveling down this spooky memory lane, all you scaredy cats should pick up a copy this old thriller.  The title alone should make this film a Halloween favorite in your house.

Two friends find a curious oddity in the woods and before you know it, the mean people in the town aren’t problems anymore and the boys’ dreams are coming true.

Step on up to Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival. You’ll get everything you ever wanted and it won’t cost much…just your soul!

THE BURBSthe-burbs

Ray…poor Ray. He’s on vacation and so bored that there’s nothing to do except spy on his weird neighbors. (In his defense, one of them makes Boo Radley look like the guy next door.)

When the old man down the street goes missing, Ray gathers his equally paranoid suburbanite friends and before you know it, they’ve broken in next door and set the place ablaze.

Good times.

practical-magicPRACTICAL MAGIC

Sister witches. Is there anything better than sister witches?

How about three sets of them?! Sally and Jillian are just average witches plagued by a curse that kills every man that dares to love an Owens woman. When their curse ends up landing them in hot water, the two are left trying to clean up their own mess without the help of their aunts played by the most awesome Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest!

It’s a story about learning to accept yourself, whipped cream, and midnight margaritas.

THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES

harry potter

Harry Potter Movies

Last, but not least, there is no better holiday than Halloween to curl up onto the sofa with a mug of butterbeer and binge watch muggles and magical folks for about 20 hours.

Feel free to also try this at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July or even next Saturday if the mood strikes.

 

What Halloween movie favorites does your family enjoy in October? Help me make a complete list for scaredy cats!

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Marriage Relationships

All the hens I know do it in some form or fashion in their marriage relationships: Undermining our husbands. Find out 5 ways I was undermining my husband and why I’m determined to stop and build him up instead.

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

It’s sometimes a lot easier to tear down and undermine the people we love instead of taking the time and making the effort to build them up. After 15 years of marriage, four kids, a house, and two cats I seem to find plenty of ways to undermine my husband’s thoughts and feelings while struggling to keep our house operating from week to week.

We all have bad days and even worse moods, but this pattern can have a devastating effect on marriage relationships and how supported our husbands feel in their own home. Some are overt and some are thinly veiled, but I’ve identified 5 things that I was doing in my marriage to create a nasty pattern and how I’ve decided to stop it in its tracks.

Keeping a List and Checking it 1,000+ Times

Santa’s not the only one with naughty and nice lists. I am a great list maker. Know which list I am the best at compiling? A list of every annoying thing my husband has ever done and every mistake he has ever made. Before you start thinking Mr. Rooster is just married to a dragon lady, let me assure you I am NORMAL chicken. It’s just human nature to forget the way that doughnut we just ate tasted and remember every single detail about the day our husband gave us with a toaster for our anniversary. No matter how hard you might try, you can’t help but remember past wrongs whenever the bloom is falling off the “love” rose.  We may have even forgiven wrongs committed by our spouse in the past, but short of some science fiction mind swipe- you’re not ever going to forget.

Want to do know what you can do though? Refuse to bring it up ever again. This is the part of the story where I usually fail but I’m ready to fight-like-mad to fix. We might not have control over the memories that enter our brains, but by God, we have the ability to control the words that come out of our mouths! If you are like me and struggle with regurgitating old wounds while in the midst of arguments then think twice before doing it anymore. Bringing it up over and over again could be doing more damage to your marriage then the original event/harsh words/etc. ever could.

If you’re in the heat of an argument and your best defense or evidence is an incident that occurred 10 years ago, chances are you don’t have a great foundation for your position.

Woulda, Coulda, Shouldas

My second favorite past-time (besides list making) is concentrating on all of the things that I find distasteful, frumpy, or obnoxious about my true love. He should wear different shirts to the football game, he really could shave that part of his neck that is scruffy and scratchy and he would rather sit at home watching hours of the most ridiculous shows on T.V. then go out to eat with friends. I like to think about all of these things when we are arguing or there’s an undercurrent of tension in our home. I figure it’s ok because I never actually “say them” out loud.

But, is it?

Marriage is a game of give and take and sometimes we want to change things about our spouse to make them fit some perfect image that we think would make us happier. Who doesn’t want to be married to their dream guy? But, when I am concentrating on my husband’s negatives, I don’t leave a lot of room in my brain for focusing on his positives.

We’re really good at finding greener grass but really bad at fertilizing our own lawn. When I find myself thinking about the things I would change in Mr. Rooster, I am going to make a conscious effort to stop and think of three things about him that I couldn’t live without. If we spent three times the amount of brain power concentrating on our husband’s positives rather than negatives, I bet we’d even start remembering why we liked those guys in the first place!

Mum’s the Word

Often called the “cold shoulder” or the “silent treatment”, I am a master at shutting down verbally. BUT ONLY when it suits me. Sometimes it suits me in the heat of battle and I shut down all communication to “win” an argument that I am seriously “losing”.

Other times, I deploy this tactic when we’re not even fighting (that’s when it’s called pouting I think) and I’m just not happy with the way the world is spinning.  We tell ourselves that we are just trying to avoid more conflict and harsh words, but is that really the truth? Silence can be used dismissively. It says that the person it is directed towards is not in control of the situation. That whatever they want to communicate is not as important as your need to withdrawal.

If you’ve ever been asked by your husband what is wrong and you’ve replied with “Nothing” there is a possibility that your husband has felt belittled or undermined. While there are always times that it would be better to say nothing at all then to speak hurtful words you don’t mean, make a conscious effort to evaluate the situation the next time you are tempted to hold your tongue. Will doing so improve the situation or are you just using the silence as a way to gain the upper hand or to punish your spouse? Too many times I’ve chosen silence over civil conversation and I’m determined to reverse this trend and talk things out with my husband sooner rather than later.

The Bestest Mom- EVER!

I am a super parent and know EXACTLY what to do with children regarding all things and in all situations. This, of course, is only the case when my husband thinks we should say, do, or decide something different when parenting our kids. For the most part, Mr. Rooster and I see eye to eye on a lot of things: We like the same movies, we both love the outdoors, we share the same last name…

BUT, when it comes to our kids, I am always ready to jump to the conclusion that I know a better way or have a higher parenting I.Q. I’ve been known to scream “I don’t care what your father said, that is NOT how you clean your room” on many occasions. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s picking out church clothes or mending a scratched knee, if I am around I am convinced I can do it better.

Most of the time, I make my superiority known after the fact. I’ll ask Mr. Rooster to help get the kids ready and then question why he’s putting plaids with stripes. Not only is this demeaning to my husband (who is a really great father and tries really hard btw), it’s demeaning to my husband IN FRONT OF MY KIDS! I know I have let this pattern get bad when the little monsters start running to me AFTER they have already asked their father’s opinion. What does that say to my husband? I’ll tell you what it says! It says that my husband’s best is not good enough for his own offspring. I’m determined not to say that any more! Sure, my kid may end up taking school pictures in his awful holey Batman t-shirt, but my marriage will need a little less saving.

He’s Got the Moves Like Jagger

I like Mr. Rooster to romance me. I think it of it as one of the top duties in his “husband” job description. He should plan fancy dates for us and remember my favorite perfume, and tell me I’m beautiful, etc. etc. etc. Basically, if there’s any romancing going on, my husband should be the instigator since he loves and admires me SO much! Right?

Wrong answer. We’ve been married for over 15 years and seen hundreds of married couples and I am here to tell you, your husband needs to be pursued. When we leave all of the romancing and pursuit to our husbands, we are inadvertently denying them of something that we expect to receive all the time…admiration. You know how great it feels when your husband remarks that he likes your new dress or that you look sexy? That’s how he feels when you say the same things to him.

I’m not advocating anything rude or unseemly, but I’m ready for a change. Instead of getting upset that Mr. Rooster doesn’t ask me out to dinner for our anniversary, I’m going to ask him. I can plan a romantic weekend getaway at a local bed and breakfast just like he can! Ladies, its time we became the pursuers (just a little) instead of always expecting to be the pursued. It might not make YOU feel cherished to worry with the dating details but it will make HIM feel like a million bucks!

Do you struggle with showing your spouse respect or find yourself undermining your husband? Share your experiences and if you’ve been working to stop.

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

Stop Undermining Your Husband and Improve your Marriage Relationship

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The Year We Skipped Christmas and Lived

The year my husband and I got serious about getting rid of all of our debt…we got REALLY serious. How serious? Serious enough to skip Christmas…almost! This is the story of how a perfectly normal family made the decision to continue SAVING MONEY over the holiday season and lived to tell the tale.

savemoney

Saving Money During the Holidays

Things were moving right along in our family plan to stop spending, save money, and get out of debt once and for all. Then, we hit a snag. When I had put my foot down about no extra spending, I hadn’t anticipated that this declaration was going to come to a head around October of that same year. (Evidently, Chickens don’t look very far into the future.)

After much discussion, we decided that our spending freeze WAS going to extend over the holiday season and when we declared our intention to “opt out” of Christmas with our extended family, you would think we had decided we were going to marry the girls off to Russian spies on the Black Market.

It was ugly. At least…at first.

My mother worried that we were short changing the children. Other family members were convinced that we were really destitute and just didn’t want to talk about it. I think one Aunt was worried she would see our faces on milk crates or some such.

None of that happened. In fact, it was pretty awesome.

Saving Money Didn’t Freak Our Family Out

After the initial shock wore off, it was really like any other Christmas holiday. I was so concerned that we were going to feel strange or ostracized when we showed up to the get together with our family size bag of chips and dip and no presents for anyone. We didn’t. While everyone else tore into wrapping and gift bags, we sat around in the circle cheering them on. My kids were excited to see what everyone got and I think for the first time, we focused our attention and seeing our loved ones get excited instead of concentrating on what we were tearing open.

Not only did I not feel like a Christmas leper, I had several family members tell me how they admired our commitment to our goal. I wasn’t called a cheapskate and banished from the family. Some even remarked how they were a little jealous that I seemed so much more relaxed during the holiday season and that they wished they were brave enough to just “take a year off”.

Saving Money Meant Less Shopping & Less Stress

I can’t express to you how much less stress there was while “skipping Christmas”. Although we bought several individual small things for each child and did stockings, I was able to reduce our gift shopping and buying by at least 75%! No running from store to store looking for sales. No wondering if the person was going to like the present that was selected! IT WAS BLISS! I spent the time I saved by not shopping, buying, and wrapping on more important things like cooking and baking with my children and making some new ornaments for the tree.

Saving Money Refocused Our Idea of Christmascindylouwho

We were the typical American family. Over the years, our holiday focus seemed to shift from family and spiritual connections to present and gift acquisitions. We all spent so much time and energy picking out items and then wrapping said items that we had very little time left over to concentrate on why our family chooses to celebrate Christmas at all. During the year that we “skipped Christmas” I would stop and find myself feeling a little like Cindy Lou Who. It was like being a spectator to a sport that I had played my whole life but never really thought about why I was playing.

We didn’t get a lot of gifts the year we “skipped Christmas” but, as a family, we did spend more time focusing on learning about our beliefs and making new traditions then we spent filling up our baskets. That worked out pretty good too.

Saving Money as the World Kept Spinning

All told, the most crazy thing about ducking out of the holidays was the fact that it didn’t really feel all that crazy. I like to buck the system now and then, but even I was worried. What would happen if we didn’t spend a lot of money and have as many gifts as usual? Would the chicks revolt? (Nope) Would our family and friends think we were weird? (No weirder than normal) Would Christmas come and go and feel like just another day on the calendar? (Didn’t happen either) We just simply didn’t have as much stuff to put away after the holidays. I also had help making Christmas breakfast instead of everyone vanishing right after the wrapping was shredded.

I was afraid that we would miss the “feeling” of Christmas…but it turns out we might have rediscovered the “meaning” of Christmas instead.

What’s the craziest thing you ever did to keep saving money? Have you ever thought about “skipping Christmas”?

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easylabordaydessertThe holidays are such a rush and if you live anywhere in the lower 48…the idea of heating up the oven for a Labor Day dessert when it’s still 90+ degrees outside is enough to make you want to skip the cookout altogether! Never fear…BrainyChicken has a solution. The best part? It only requires 3 ingredients and takes all of 1 minute to make!

Evidently, this is a rather old dessert recipe that became quite popular in the 80’s and my mother-in-law has been making it ever since. I love how easy this dessert comes together . It’s versatile because you can add just about any canned pie filling to cater to any taste (or distaste)!  You’ll love the fact that all of the ingredients can be stored long term (canned and freezer) so go ahead and  buy in bulk ahead of time so needed items are always on hand in a pinch.

SHOPPING LIST

1 tub of Coolwhip (usually found in freezer section)
1 can of Pie Filling (as you can see from the pic, my favorite is blackberry but I have also used strawberry, cherry & blueberry)
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Mix all three ingredients gently and then allow to chill and set in the refrigerator. The longer you allow the mixture to chill, the more firm it becomes. Left long enough- it resembles a mousse. You can also spruce it up a bit by putting it into a pretty parfait dish or decorating the top with fresh fruit. This dessert is SO GOOD and I never have any left over! PROMISE!

Happy Labor Day from my brood to yours!

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“I wanted to be a stay at home mom.”

If you’ve read any of my writing, you know that no one likes to joke around more than I do. However, there is a topic that has weighed so heavily on my heart for years, I feel like it’s time to be serious for a moment and address it.

sahmletter

I am 41. I have 4 children, a spouse, a couple of degrees and a decent career. I am debt free (freedom IS awesome & you can read about how Mr. Rooster and I did it on my blog), have two cars, a nice warm home and every day I live with the realization that I have missed a large part of my calling.

Struggle, Regret and I are not strangers. Throughout my life I have hit rocks: A parent lost to violence, abuse during my childhood and teenage years, divorce and remarriage and forging blended families- but through all of this- the struggle that still causes me to have the most regret is the fact that I am a full time working mother instead of a SAHM.

Not every mother/wife grapples with this choice. In fact, there are many women that would feel smothered and claustrophobic or less fulfilled if they were to give up their careers and tend to their home and hearth full time.

I am not talking to these women. I have admiration and respect for all mothers (regardless of their vocational choices) but the inability to trade work outside the home for more time to devote to their household, spouse & children is a heart wrenching topic for many.

When I got married (for the second time) and became a Christian, I felt a very strong urge to stay home with any future chicks that Mr. Rooster and I were going to add to the coop. Mr. Rooster, however, did not feel the same. So, while many of my friends spent the first years at home with their babies, I juggled full time employment while trying to keep a household of 6 from imploding. And I smoldered. And I withered.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life. ~Proverbs 13:12

I had a sick heart. A VERY sick heart. After years of contemplating the situation I’d like to share a little humble advice for any other woman that finds herself in the situation of desperately wanting to stay-at-home but still working outside of her home.

Fear
While it would be easy for me to write that the decision for me to continue working was made by Mr. Rooster alone, that wouldn’t be the full truth. A LARGE part of me wanted to be at home more than anything but there was a small sliver of fear in my heart that kept me from pursuing avenues that might have allowed me to come home and still earn income.

Being a typical first born over-achiever, I worried that it was irresponsible of me to walk away from a good job when so many people were out of work and unable to find employment. I worried that my skills were limited and that I wouldn’t be able to find a niche or talent that could produce any actual money. I worried that the talents that I thought I did have were not in great enough demand or marketable enough to be used as income potential. I worried. A lot.

Looking back, I was way ahead of the curve for mediums like Pinterest and blogging. I had photo editing skills, photography skills, and webdesign skills (nun-chuck skills) that all could have been used to generate income from home had I been brave enough to find out. Remember- it’s not all about you and your abilities and limitations! If your desire to stay home has been placed there by God then you have no idea how much he can bless the work of your hands. I didn’t understand that when I was younger. Don’t make my mistake. Spend QUALITY time assessing any skill set that you have or can attain that might make staying at home possible. Don’t just resign yourself to working outside of the home forever and continue to nurse a bitter heart!

badmother
I remember how my heart would rip every time I missed a Valentine’s Day party at school or forgot to go to the store and pick up the bag of candy corn that we were supposed to supply for the Halloween party. I watched all of these SAHM’s around me thinking…there’s no way I can keep up with their scrapbooking and home decorating and PTA membership. My heart would break and I would feel like a failure every time one of my children would want to know why I couldn’t stay home like _____’s mom so they didn’t have to go to afterschool care. Too often I relied on my older daughters to take on responsibilities earlier to accommodate for the fact that I couldn’t be there and doing so (while necessary) was an endless source of guilt for me.

But guess what? I am a little older now and while I wouldn’t consider my kids raised (they are over the age where their personalities are still mutating) it turns out that kids with two working parents turn out like a lot of kids that only have one working parent. Does that mean it isn’t worth staying home? No. All I am saying is that I spent a lot of time believing things that were lies that caused my spirit to suffer.

I have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight now and realize that many of the ways I thought my working outside the home would warp my children just…didn’t. Working moms aren’t bad moms. If you struggle with feeling like a bad mother try to remember not to judge yourself in ways that you would never think to judge a fellow working friend. Our God doesn’t “do” guilt! That’s something that we, as petty humans, specialize in.

slack
This goes along with my previous advice: You CAN’T do it all. Enough is enough! Yes. There are just some things that working mothers don’t have time to do that SAHM’s get to do. Maybe we buy our birthday cards on the Halmark aisle at the grocery store instead of making one straight out of the pages of Martha Stewart Living.  We contribute to the money pool for buying the homeroom teacher gift instead of whipping up a gift basket. Sometimes we have to tell friends that we can’t help them with projects due to our other commitments. It’s life. Not the end of the world like it feels sometimes.

And that’s how it feels. Guilt makes it feel like we don’t measure up to what all the other moms around us are doing. Cut yourself some slack. Only one person in history could be all things to all people and He’s not you! You know who’s sitting around thinking about all of those little things that you AREN’T able to do? You. That’s probably it. You feel guilty for sending store bought treats for your son’s class on his birthday but all the kids in class are just thinking “Awesome! Treats!” (Your son included) It’s not going to kill your family to eat take out pizza ever-so-often (or twice a week) and not all of  the kid’s clothes have to match for church every Sunday. Chill- show yourself some grace!

guilt
Don’t let your guilt or sadness destroy the time that you DO have with your children. I let myself get so consumed with being sad and focusing on what I WASN’T getting to experience with my kids, that I didn’t feel up to doing what I COULD do with my kids. Isn’t THAT crazy?!? I would go to work for the week and throw a big huge chicken pity party all weekend and wallow instead of going to the museum or taking them to the community pool, etc.

Maybe you aren’t the type of chick that runs to the mattress to curl up into a ball. Are you the type that feels guilty about being away from you kids and over-compensates by over-indulging them with material things that you mistakenly feel are necessary to “balance the scales”? Do you shy away from making them take on a reasonable amount of chores and shoulder more burden yourself because you feel like you “ought” to be doing these things?

Do you try to run your home as a SAHM when it is physically impossible to do so and work full time outside the house? This scenario, while it might seem less destructive, isn’t really healthy either. While you might have the best of intentions, you could be robbing your children of the opportunity to learn about responsibility and community building. It can leave you a frazzled wreck to be around during the time that you do have to spend with your family.

A far healthier reaction is to just admit that we need help and teach your children/spouse that by everyone pitching in, there is more time for true family bonding on weekends or evenings. Many hands make light work- and light hearts!

control
Wanting to stay home and not being able to can change your heart. Maybe you are like me and have a spouse that would prefer that you continue to work outside the home. Maybe you are in a financial situation where there really is no viable way for you to currently quit your job to stay-at-home. You may not be able to control this decision, but you CAN control whether it destroys your relationships.

To be totally honest, I harbored a lot of resentment about the situation for many years. I even let it build and fester into bitterness. I wondered if I had married the right person. I wished I had married someone in a different line of work. I envied friends around me that had support from their spouses to stay-at-home. It became so overwhelming that it started to have a negative impact on my relationship with my husband and my children. With my children, I was stressed and short tempered all the time. With my husband, I was despondent or angry. It almost cost me my marriage. Almost.

I finally had to come to a decision that I wanted to stay married and keep my family together more than I wanted to get my own way. I realized that while I was busy being upset and angry, I was missing the time that I DID have to instruct and impact my family. Even worse- I was being a TERRIBLE role model for my kids. I was teaching them that some trials in life ARE too big to overcome. That’s not what I believe or what I want them to grow up believing! I justified my jealously and anger because I felt that what I wanted to do (be a SAHM) was a noble cause- but I wasn’t acting very noble about the situation. We CAN choose to be content in our circumstance…in fact, that’s exactly what we have been called to do.

pray
Don’t ever give up praying for healing. Don’t ever give up praying for a way to stay home. If you have a spouse that doesn’t see the benefit in having a parent at home full time, seek wisdom and guidance on what to do instead of shutting down or becoming bitter. Find other mothers in your friendship circle that have figured out viable ways to make money while still staying at home with their families and ask them to sit down with you and really share how they did it. Come up with a  game plan. Find the solution instead of focusing on the problem.

My 2 cents– If you are holding back from coming home thinking that your lifestyle will change too drastically, I can tell you from years of experience of seeing every kind of family from every different socio-economic background- we almost all end up with excess anyway. Be brave. Be bold. They are going to continue to print and make money. There will always be a way to make more of it later, but those first few years with your kids don’t ever get to come back around. My “baby” is now in the 4th grade and it feels like just yesterday I was driving him to daycare through tears. Take the chance and try it. Remember, the world won’t come to an end because your budget gets stretched to the limit.

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We’ve tried paper. We tried dry erase board. We even tried Popsicle sticks. Nothing worked. The truth was…we had TOO MANY chicks to use one stinkin’ chore chart! No matter what my brainy chicken head came up with, we never had enough room or it was never convenient enough to accommodate the fact that my kids like to swap chores faster than Pokemons. And then…inspiration struck… I give you the LARGE MAGNETIC CHORE CHART!largemagneticchorechart

I needed a magnetic system where chores could be swapped back and forth at will but large enough to keep everyone’s accounting in one localized place. Sure, the side of the fridge is a large metallic surface, but I’d already covered it with our homemade, super duper cheap awesome family calendar (brainy chickens self-promote when possible). What to do…what to do. Then, I had a great idea and went to Autozone.

Yep. AUTOZONE. What you see before you is a $10 oil drip pan. It’s huge! It’s shiny! It holds a million magnets!

Magnets for the “Chores”

For the “chores” I decided to go to Hobby Lobby and buy 1 in round wooden circles in the wood section. They were pretty cheap at 2.99 per package. I had to buy a lot of them. As I mentioned before…I have a lot of kids. I went to the scrapbook paper aisle (which I normally avoid like the plague) and bought some coordinating papers. Then off to the magnet aisle where I purchased a big package of round magnets to glue on the back.

Avery.com has templates that you can download for Word and I typed up the list of 20160812_071622_resizedchores that I wanted to be represented on my circles. After formatting, I cut my scrapbook paper down to size and fed it through my home printer and voila. I also used the same paper to make name headers for each of my kiddos but you could get super creative and decorate your chore chart any way you like. I used 1 in circles because I was able to pull out my old scrapbook punch thingy and perfectly cut the printed circles out to glue onto the hole punchfront of my wooden discs. It was super easy this way and didn’t take long at all.

After that, I used a glue gun and attached my magnets to the back of my circles which was also fast and easy.20160812_071557_resized

The whole process only took about an hour and when finished, I had a ginormous chore chart that would accommodate all three of my chicks and was light enough to hang on our hallway wall with velcro command strips.

Seriously, it was wicked fast, wicked easy, wicked practical for three kids, and looks wicked cute.

If you have made a large magnetic chore chart before, what materials did you use?

 

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familybookclub

They say that out of the mouth of chicks comes the very best of ideas… Family Book Club was born!

When our tiniest 9 year old chick suggested Family Book Club, I’ll admit I was hesitant. If you had seen that faces of my two teenage chicks, you would think he had suggested that we stop regularly bathing or using copious amounts of hair products. Let’s just say that not everyone was on board and I wasn’t in the mood to listen to the clucking.

However, as I am committed to producing chicks that are also brainy and he DID ask to do something remotely MENTALLY CHALLENGING in the heat of summer- I was unable to deny his request. So began our very first FAMILY BOOK CLUB! Now, your average 9 year old has interesting ideas about what constitutes a book club: 1) There is no wine. 2) Everyone does not have to read the same book. 3) well…

Family Book Club Basics

Book club basically consists of everyone in the family meeting at a designated time (2 evenings a week and Sunday afternoons) at a designated place (our living room) with something that resembles a book (i.e. words on paper or kindle) where we sit for approximately 30 minutes in mostly silence (unless someone gets the giggles) and after the allocated time we discussed what happened in our books for that session.

That’s it. No matching t-shirts. No cleaning the house to get ready for company. No obligatory snacks to make for missing guests. Simple. And ABSOLUTELY perfect!

The very first night we piled into the living room~ and something MAGICAL happened.  it was one of those moments as a parent where you start to think that maybe you are doing something right and your kids aren’t going to need extensive therapy. It was profound how relaxing and “right” it felt just being sitting on the couch with my kiddos reading a good book while Mr. Rooster sat beside me learning strange quirky things about presidents. Needless to say…our world was ROCKED by the experience and I believe that this is a new family tradition that we’ll be doing for many years to come.

I’ve sat trying to put into words what I think is so awesome about Family Book Club and because what happens in book club doesn’t have to stay in book club, I’m about to tell you why you should take a pencil, marker, or carving knife and put it on your family “to do” calendar right this very minute:

What Family Book Club Has Done For Our Famil

QUIET

 During these family moments is is amazing how quiet our house gets. It’s as if all the crazy of a big family stops at the same time and our house “settles”. There’s no T.V. blaring, there’s no music coming out of the girl’s rooms. Nothing. Just silence. Silence is soothing folks and it’s hard to come by in a house full of chicks.

SLOW DOWN

This time allows everyone in our family a period of much needed rest. (I’m not talking about what you think you’re doing when you’re laying in bed binging Netflix.) Yes, you’re still using your brain to process what you are reading but everything takes on a very slow, organic pace. In a family of 5 with two athletes, we don’t often find a lot of time to just “be still”. Family Book Club requires it. I am convinced that we are less stressed because of the forced stillness of participating.

NO ELECTRONICS

During Family Book Club there are no electronics. No phones. No T.V. No game systems. Nothing. Everyone is unplugged and offline. While I wouldn’t consider our family excessive users of technology, it all starts to add up and overlap pretty quickly and I believe it keeps us from being able to truly relax. Family Book Club affords us upwards of 45 minutes three times a week where everyone’s attention is focused in our living room. It’s awesome.

INCREASED QUALITY TIME

It’s true that I spend a lot of time with my husband and kids. A lot of that time consist of racing around in our car to different appointments or games or cleaning the house or bickering about chores or doing homework. Yes, we’re together, but it doesn’t sound like much fun, huh? Family Book Club lets us spend quality time together where we actually TALK to one another about things that are totally unrelated to the menial everyday chores and obligations that life throws at us.

IT’S DEEPLY PERSONAL

This is the best part. Participating in Family Book Club gives everyone in my family little insights into what makes the rest of us tick. We can find out what interests the girls or what our son finds the most amusing/heroic about Percy Jackson. Even after over 16 years of marriage, it still surprises me what Mr. Rooster chooses to spend his time reading and what insights he gleans from it. During discussion times we (Mr. Rooster and I) have the ability to really see how our children consider things and challenge them to look at the world in a different way. It turns out…we aren’t just reading in Family Book Club…We’re investing in our family.signature

The truth of the matter is…sometimes taking a road trip or car vacation with children makes you feel like laying up UNDER the wheels instead of climbing on top of the seat. There are so many things to cram into such a limited space and only so many ways to keep them from killing each other when everyone’s within arm’s reach. It’s like making your entire family sit in a one piece bathroom with wheels for hours on end. Vomit. Use these great Family Car Trip Tips/Hacks to make your adventure a stress-free success!

family car trip tips

family car trip tips

Now, if we were rich chickens, Mr. Rooster and I would just save ourselves the headache and load all the chicks into a plane to reach our destination. Alas, we are not rich and have too many kids. So, over the years of traveling with a LARGE family, I have picked up some of the very best tricks for making the experience as pleasant as possible for all involved…or at least allowed us to survive numerous extended car trips without casualties:

Family Road Trip Tip #1: ARE WE THERE YET?

car trip map tracker

car trip map tracker

An average child can ask this question every 5 minutes (without fail) for the length required to complete a 1200 mile car journey. That’s AVERAGE. Solve this problem by letting your kids keep up with the journey themselves. I map our journey from home to our destination and fit it onto an 8X11 sheet of paper.

Taking a highlighter, I trace the route that we intend to take from point A to point B (I even change the colors as we are going through different states to keep it interesting). I put this map into a clear plastic sheet protector and secure it with tape. After that, I tie an expo marker to the hole with a string and place it into the car organizer. You child can watch for major cities and use their black marker to keep track of how far you’ve gone. When you are headed home, wipe it off and use it again from Point B to Point A.

Family Car Trip Tip #2: ORGANIZE THIS.

Did I mention Car Seat Organizers? If you’re shaking your head thinking your kid has

car seat organizer

car seat organizer

outgrown one of these things…you’ve probably lost your mind and don’t dread long car trips with your spawn. You can pick them up about anywhere and they can hold everything from a cup to sunglasses to wet wipes to… yep. Anything you can cram in them.

They’re great and keep the small stuff that might get broken or stepped on from ever hitting the floor. We have this one that we picked up from Walmart. I like it because it has a high pocket where we can fold back their Kindle covers and hang for their movies. (More on that later)

 

Family Car Trip Tip #3: KIDS ARE TRASHY.

car trip trash can

car trip trash can

I don’t want to talk down to you like this is your first rodeo but I am AMAZED by how many parents go on a long car trip and use a discarded McDonalds sack as their only trash receptacle! What are you gonna do if one of your little chicks ever gets sick in the car from said McDonalds? For this very reason and because the trash can inevitably gets kicked over 1,001 times when the kids get in and out, splurge and get one that has a lockable lid. We actually use a container that is supposed to store dog food.

Family Car Trip Tip #4: KIDS WANT TO SLEEP (We hope anyway). 

We have 3 kids that still take road trips with us…that means three blankets and three

Seat Belt Pillow

Seat Belt Pillow

pillows at the minimum if we are lucky. Add to this amount of traveling bedding, the fact that two of them have to sit on the same seat (GASP!) and wage WWIII over seat division when they’re sleepy. I finally had a nervous breakdown and decided that the regular pillows had to go and that they needed a way to sleep from a sitting position more comfortably.

I made a pillow that wraps over the seat belt like this for each person and they are SUPER easy! Go to the fabric store and buy two fat squares and a bag of stuffing. Cut the fat squares into actual squares and then turn right  sides together and sew around three of the edges. Mark off a 2 inch section from the middle and sew two parallel lines the length of the pillow. Turn right side out, stuff the two big sides with stuffing and press and hem the final edge together. They are easy to use and take up A LOT less room in the car!

 

Family Car Trip Tip #5: YOU NEED EXTRA ORGANIZATION.

car trip shower caddy

car trip shower caddy

If you have a third seat with a second bench seat, then the fancy smancy car organizer isn’t going to work for your back row. I was tired of our eldest (High Queen of the Back Seat) losing everything and then complaining when it got trashed. We tried a backpack, but she takes everything out of it to find something and somehow her junk miraculously gets strung out to the point where I find her lip balm in the front seat floor board. Now we just get a cheap shower caddy from Walmart and she puts her stuff into that for the journey. It keeps her chargers and stuff together but makes it easier for her to find it. It looks like this one but with less shower stuff in it because we don’t let her bathe in the car…anymore.

Family Car Trip Tip #6: DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE OLDIES.

I discovered this tip by accident and can’t believe that it actually works, but it does. We had gotten so used to letting our kids watch movies in the car that I think they kind of

Artemis Fowl Book

Artemis Fowl

got bored of them and it didn’t really make a long trip feel any faster for Mr. Rooster and I. Now, in the age before kids were born with an iphone embedded into their hands, we used to do this thing called reading books.

After that era came the listening of 8 tracks, cassette tapes, and then…CDs! This is where I need you to stop: Books on CD!!! Now that our kids are getting older, we sit down as a family and think about books that we would all like to hear (Percy Jackson series comes to mind). We go to the library and check them out before a trip. Even if the kids are watching movies, Mr. Rooster and I can still be entertained and it’s amazing how the kids will turn the screens off to listen to a good book.

 

Family Car Trip Tip #7: HIDDEN TREASURE CHEST.

Glove Box Organizer

Glove Box Organizer

Remember when I said you have to try and cram your whole house into your car and you run out of space? What if I told you there was a hidden treasure chest in your car that you probably never think of? Your glove box. Mine is normally full of junk…car manuals, insurance cards, etc. Take everything out that you don’t need (store insurance cards in your visor maybe?) and use this space for something else while you are traveling. I keep wet wipes, car sick medicine, an extra set of ear buds and car chargers in this area during long trips. Just put your regular stuff back in when you get home and no one will be the wiser.

Family Car Trip Tip #8: SPEAKING OF EAR BUDS.

We have to travel with a lot of ear buds…even more buds than kids because they are

Altoids Mint Tin

Altoids Mint Tin

broken, misplaced, or left in the Cum & Go public toilet for some unknown reason. In my experience, if you sneeze on the delicate wires of a pair of earbuds, they self destruct. Keep them safe by putting a few pairs together in an old Altoids tin (this also conveniently fits into the glove compartment, the shower caddy or the car seat organizer, btw!)

 

Family Car Trip Tip #9: SOMETIMES YOU NEED A DROP CLOTH.

plastic table cloth

plastic table cloth

You know those heavy duty plastic table cloths? The ones you can pick up at the Dollar General during the summer for outdoor picnic tables? The kind with the fuzzy felt backing that snags on every sharp or sticky surface known to man. You can cut one of those puppies up and lay it in your floor boards.

Secure it down to the door frame with duct tape to make a make shift drop cloth. They aren’t going to last forever, but you would be surprised how long they hold out. A lot of times, parents that don’t allow the kids to eat in the family car (who are those CrAzY people anyway?) relax the rules for road trips and that’s how you end up with petrified blue chewing gum stuck into the floorboard of your Pathfinder forever.

AND NOW THE ABSOLUTELY BEST CAR TRICK/TIP IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF FAMILY CAR TRIPS…

Family Car Trip Tip #10: I GIVE YOU- THE KINGSTON!

kingston hard drive

kingston hard drive

Back when our kids were little, we purchased a vehicle with the little video screens in the headrests where you shove the dvds into the top. They were great. Car trips became so much more pleasant cruising down the highway to The Little Mermaid or Astro Boy.

Then, the age of the personal tablet hit and our kids weren’t happy. WHY did they have to agree to watch the same movie??? (can’t you just imagine the whine) Over several Christmas holidays, we got everyone in our family a Kindle Fire. But guess what, they don’t have that much storage. You can only put a movie or two on them without running out or purchasing more SD cards. The Kingston with WiFi solves this problem. We can load over 50 movies to ours! The kids can log in on their own tablets using an App to the WiFi allowing all three of them to watch whatever they would like from the library. Ah…Bliss again. Best $70 or so bucks you’ll ever spend for long family car trips. Til something else better comes, anyway!

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