Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweethearts Dance

I've been trying my hand at digital scrapbooking. Here are a few pages that I made from the Sweetheart Dance. We had all of the kids over to our house for dinner, and it was great fun!

They all looked so nice!!!

We're going "old school" with our TV

Dean has been unemployed since October, and thankfully, we've been "OK" financially. All of the bills are paid, we have food to eat and clothes to wear. There is just very little "wiggle room" for many extras. The budget is tight...about as tight as it can get without getting really aggressive.

We've had this running debate...well, mainly it has been me complaining about the kids and the TV. When Dean and I married, the one practical asset he owned was his big TV. It's about 12 years old, but it's really big (don't ask me how big...just big). It's also klunky....takes a whole sofa table of its own. It's been a great TV!

Three years ago, we re-did our master bedroom and treated ourselves to a 42 inch TV (and don't ask me why I know how big that one is an not the other one). It's not top of the line, but it is a flat screen, and it is awesome!

We have 1 DVR in the house (remember the budget issue we had two until the lay off). The remaining DVR has been attached to the main TV in the living room. The kids record everything under the sun, clog up the memory on the DVR and basically watch WAY too much TV when they really should be doing other studying. I have threatened and threatened to take the DVR and put it in our room. First, we have the HDTV, and we only get the good channels with the HDMI cable and the box that enables the channels. Second, if we are paying over $100 a month for cable (and I recognize that this is a selfish indulgence), then I think the box should be in our room!

On Tuesday, Dean took the box back to Comcast and picked up the one that works for our HDTV. Mariah got wind of this while the switch was happening and was in a dead on panic because "she hadn't watched her show." (Secret Life of the American Teenager) This only reinforced my whole point!

To be fair, we did not leave them hanging with no means of recording shows. We hooked up a VCR....yes, you read correctly....a VCR. Dominique (who is almost 12) was full of questions.

"Can I tape two shows at once?"
"No. You can only tape one show at a time."
I thought her head might explode.

"How does it work?"
"There are these things called tapes...we'll get you some and show you how to program it."
Again, perplexed look in those baby blues...

"Do I have to be home when it is recording?"
"No. You can set it up ahead of time."
A bit of a relieved look.

If the worst things that happen to my kiddos is that they have to program the VCR (and it's a new VCR/DVD combo) to watch their favorite shows from cable TV, they are living a pretty privileged life. They haven't really complained too much about it because, honestly, what can they say? They love the "on demand" features and the recording privileges and the guide features, but they won't die without them.

We haven't yet made it through a weekend yet without the DVR downstairs, and because of the Olympics, hardly and of the regular programs are on right now to even need recording. So this might have a bigger impact in a week or so. I'm sticking to my guns, though. I work hard, and I should have the DVR with my nice TV in the comfort of my master bedroom. When they work hard and earn money to pay for their cable bill, they can have a DVR where they want it. We did offer them a 6 month advanced payment plan if they each want to pony up $30, we'll get the 2nd DVR for the living room. 30 bucks each for 6 months....let's see how worth it is to them....he, he, he.

At least their TV is in color. At least the TV has more than 4 channels. At least they don't have to walk across the room to change the channel. They have no idea how good they have it!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Big Love for the Big Easy

The Davis family celebrated the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints by indulging in beignets. Dominique LOVES to make them. You'll notice in the photos that she is sporting our "New Orleans School of Cooking" apron to make the occasion that much more authentic. Congratulations to all of the Saints and their fans of the "Who Dat" Nation!

Carolyn and Julian Jesse (aka Uncle Julius)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why Teenagers Should Not Be Allowed To Text

I have thought about this topic for YEARS. Several months ago, we took the extreme (and unpopular measure) of taking texting away from all of our kids. This was not an easy decision, nor was it one that we came to over night. I'm a firm believer that there is much more bad than good to come from texting. I wanted to share our story with my friends so that you can know in advance what some of the risks are then make your own decisions.

We got our oldest daughter a cell phone when she was 11 and in the 6th grade. At the time, we lived downtown, and she was "in charge" of herself and her two younger sisters on the long walk to and from school. It was a good hearty walk in a downtown neighborhood. We got the phone "so we could get ahold of her" or in case of an emergency. Honestly, I think this is why most parents get their younger children cell phones.

When we first got the phone (over 6 years ago) the texting plans weren't like they are fact, if you think about it, texting is still a relatively new form of communication. When plans became more affordable and when companies used words like "unlimited texting," it seemed like a great freebie to add to the account! We added texting to the kids' accounts maybe three years ago. By that time, I'm fairly certain our oldest (a boy) also had a cell phone.

Texting seems completely innocuous, but it is not.

It first "hit me" in 2008. We were on a family trip to Disneyland when my first generation RAZR that I had loved and cherished for nearly 3 years finally bit the dust. I bought a new phone at the closest T-Moblie store we could find (conveniently located by Huntington Beach). I was worried that I would not be able to get my data off of my kaput RAZR; I had saved most of my data directly to the phone because there were some features lost by saving directly to the SIM card. The T-Mobile guy told me of a local place where they could retrieve my data. I use my cell phone for a mix of personal and business....but mainly business. I recall that I had 96 contacts on my phone. These names and numbers included pretty much everyone I dealt with on any kind of a regular basis for work and personal. (Now I have a blackberry and have the entire corporate directory at my fingertips...but I digress).

As we went to see this miraculous Asian woman who used her ninja superpowers on my beloved RAZR, I kept making a big deal about potentially loosing all of that contact information. My oldest daughter said, "That's nothing, I have over 300 people in my phone." "WHAT?" If I thought really long and really hard...added up all of my facebook friends, my relatives, the 100 people a year I send Christmas cards to, I probably still couldn't easily identify 300 people in my circle of friends....let alone 300 that I would call regularly. I was STUNNED. I called her bluff and told her to read me "just the As" in the list. She had over 50 people in her phone contacts with the first or last name A. As we quizzed her on how she knew each person, I had a horrifying parental moment.

As parents, we try and keep responsible tabs on our kids. We want to meet the parents of anyone whose house they will be at for an extended period of time. We put serious limits on any sleepovers...regardless on how well we know the parents. We must know any kid who comes into our house. No friends allowed in the house when parents aren't home. We want to know where they are at all times (for a whole host of reasons). In short, we had taken great care to do our due diligence and make sure they were safe and that we were aware of the people they were engaged with.

The fact that we didn't know many of the people in her A list was disturbing...but what was even more disturbing was that SHE didn't know some of the people...they were friends of friends who she only texted...or they were other people that she'd never met face to face. What had we done? In our efforts to be protective and safe, we'd given our (then 14 year old) daughter a device that allowed her to access anyone....and as we all know in today's world, there are people out there who are evil and will misrepresent who they are to a child.

I freaked out, and for a short period of time, we took away texting. I was viewed as Draconian, unfair...mean. You pick it, I was called it. Still, I thought this was the right thing to do.

We then employed another strategy...let's let the kids "earn" texts. We were able to successfully use it as an incentive and a deterrent. That worked for a while, but it was "never enough." They always wanted more texts. If they had lost a texting privilege, they employed all sorts of tactics to get texts...they would bully or blackmail or bribe a sibling...they got friends to "lend" them cell phones. It was UNBELIEVABLE the things that they've done...and those are just the things we know of.

We try reason. "Why don't you pick up the phone?" They had talking minutes. They had virtually unlimited access to the home phone. Their replies ranged from, "I don't like talking on the phone" to "it's not convenient." Did I mention that we have 1 phone that the kids can use. It's an analog phone tethered to the kitchen wall. We used to have cordless phones, but they'd take them to their rooms and talk on them until late in the night. Then the phone would go dead...then we could never find the phone to recharge it....

Finally, finally, finally T-Mobile introduced Family Allowances. This gave us a compromise. We could control the number of texts they were allowed (as opposed to unlimited), and we could also control the times the phone was active (ensuring that they were not texting or talking during school). Family Allowances has one fail safe called "always allowed numbers." This allows for up to 10 numbers to be added to a line so that even if the phone is turned off or out of minutes that the phone can always be used. Our "always allowed" numbers included me, Dean, home and a few other folks. There are also "never allowed" numbers.

Over the summer we gave the two oldest teens 2000 texts a week. This may seem like a lot, but they could use that in two days. This troubles me on so many levels. I didn't like it, but I was willing to live with it. I also reserved the right to "spot check" texts at any time (which I never did). I wish now that I had. I was adamant that they would go back down to 1000 texts during the school year. I should have been suspicious when this didn't seem to bother them too much.

Three things happened that changed our minds about allowing texts for ANY of our kids.

First, our two oldest hacked into our T-Mobile account and put their friends on the "always allowed" list...usurped the security features and essentially gave themselves unrestricted access to 10 people. They stayed under the radar on this for several months because they still were careful to stay within their allotted minutes. They were not constrained by time, however, and they had the ability to text during school and all night long. When we finally figured out what had happened, the phones were shut off and physically removed from them for 2 months. It was a complete violation of trust.

Second, we discovered the reality of "sexting." This is texting sexually explicit words or sending images. There had been some high profile cases in Utah, but I thought, "Why would a kid EVER do that?" Apparently, it is much more common than I think any parent knows. There is a "sex game" that kids play over text when they are bored. Apparently, it is not uncommon to also take pictures of oneself partially clothed or completely unclothed and send it to a "friend." Remember....these are phones in the hands of young people.....and I am the idiot who expected them to know better and not do that kind of a thing. I actually think they do know better, but I don't know that they had enough restraint or common sense to not be tempted to do those kinds of things.

If one minor takes a photo of him/herself and sends it to one other minor...even if the intent is for only the recipient to see it, it is distributing pornography to a minor. In Utah, it is a felony. A felony! A felony record cannot be expunged from your juvy record even when you hit 18. That means that a stupid choice that you made to snap a naked photo of yourself and send it to another kid can affect your life FOREVER! Let's face it...put a camera on a phone in the hands of a curious teenager...they are bound to do some crazy things...and of course, they will share it with their friends.

That conversation set me back and definitely created a few new wrinkles in my already furrowed brow.

Finally, when we did give the two oldest kids back their phones, we put "only family" on those "always allowed numbers." They figured out that because they are on each others always allowed list that the time constraints didn't apply. They texted each other ALL day at school...which clearly was not the point. We now have only me, Dean and the home phone as "always allowed numbers." They can't even text each other.

So, we made a tough and very, very unpopular choice. We don't allow or kids to text. They can still text us; and they do quite regularly to check in or ask a question. They can still call us any time...which was the ENTIRE point from the beginning of the cell phone saga. The point was ALWAYS for us to be able to get in touch with the kids and for them to be able to get in touch with us. They are welcome to use the home phone. They have some talking minutes on their cell phones each month. They would like us to think they are the most deprived kids on the planet. They are not. I don't feel badly AT ALL that we took away texting. I think it was the best thing we could have done for them!

I've heard all kinds of reasons that parents continue to let their kids text:

All the kids do it.
That is HOW kids communicate these days.
That is "their" language.
I only want to be able to get in touch with them.
I trust my kids.

Choose whatever reason you want. I promise you that as an unknown adult male calls your child's cell phone and asks, "Who is sending texts to me from this number?"...your perspective will change. I promise you that when you realize that your kids can't spell because they use txt language that your perspective might change. I promise you when you realize that your kids have an actual aversion to speaking on the phone and would only rather text, your perspective will change. I hope you never have to experience some of the really, really bad things related to texting. If you had, it would change your perspective.

I love my kiddos. I am certain that they don't agree with us now, but I hope when they have their own precious souls to take care of that they will love them enough to do things that are unpopular, too. Why would I ever, ever open that kind of window to the world for them with complete unfettered access. It's too much for a least it is too much for my kids. I just wish that more of my friends who are parents would REALLY stop and THINK about the tool they have given their child when they give "unlimited texting." In my heart, head and gut I deeply believe that young people should not have unlimited texting or any texting at all.