Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why You Live There {A Message For My Canadian Friends}

To all of my Canadian friends,

Lately I have seen innumerable posts and tweets from all of you asking "Why in the world do we live here?"
Photo credit- National Post


What? You mean you don't like -40 degree weather? Well, I guess that's understandable.

In all honesty, during the five years that we lived in Canada, I often asked my husband (usually after spending several hours outside working on a cold winter day) "Why in the world does anyone choose to live here?" At one point, I even took it back several generations and asked "Why did anyone ever immigrate here? It must have been summer when they settled or they never would have stayed!"

I get it. Cold sucks. It's hard to get motivated to do anything when it's snowing and freezing outside and all you want to do is stay in bed or sit next to a fireplace. It's a pain bundling up every inch of every child to prevent frostbite. It's a hassle to scrape the snow off your car. It gets old removing your snow covered boots every time you go into a home or office. It's even hard to leave Canada when you do decide to take a break from the snow because they have to first de-ice the plane.

But I know why you stay there. I know why you endure a 9 month winter over and over every single year. I know why you don't just pack your bags and buy a one-way ticket to the Bahamas.

The healthcare. Overall, Canadians have really good healthcare. For EVERYONE. Yes, you may pay higher taxes but EVERYONE is covered and you don't have expensive insurance premiums or those pesky co-pays. You get to choose your own doctor and, if it is urgent, you will get seen as quickly as anywhere else in the world. Your doctors are intelligent and well-trained. Your hospitals are modern. You have one of the longest lifespans of any country. And no one in Canada ever loses their home because of a medical crisis that they cannot afford.

The safety. Canada, you're the safest country in North America. Your citizens own guns just like your neighbors to the south but somehow people don't die from gun violence nearly as often. Violent crime rates are also low. Kids still play out in the street and doors remain unlocked in many neighborhoods. Most people die from farm accidents and car wrecks and natural disease and things that our grandparents died of- not shootings, gang violence and drug overdoses.

The scenery. It's breathtaking. Anyone who has seen Lake Louise, the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the coast of British Columbia, the skyline of Toronto or the rocky beaches of Peggy's Cove is going to fall in love and want more.
Photo credit- Huffington Post Canada


The people. The first time I visited Canada with my now-husband, what immediately grabbed my attention (after noticing how damn cold it felt) was how nice you are. You Canadians know how to laugh and you know how to let loose. You seem to have mastered the philosophy of "Work hard, play hard!". You're a jovial bunch and you make life a whole lot of fun.

Tim Hortons. You don't realize how good Tim Hortons is until you move someplace that doesn't have them. Your Timmies is like a supercharged Dunkin' Donuts. They have some of the best food and some of the best TV commercials. They are community-minded and support youth sports and other programs. And you can buy an entire meal for the $4.50 you'd spend at, ahem, some other coffee chains.
Image credit- Tim Hortons

Hockey. If you asked the residents of many countries what they consider to be the national sport, you might get a dozen different answers. Maybe football or basketball or baseball or soccer. Maybe tennis or badminton or rugby. But in Canada, there is no doubt. It's hockey. And, from my hockey-obsessed husband, I have learned that it is not just a sport. It's a national pastime. It's a bonding tool. It's part of your culture and it's in your blood. True story, when my husband and I were dating, I bought a hockey package on the sports channel so he could watch as much hockey as he wanted, anytime (we weren't living in Canada then so televised hockey was hard to find). I'm pretty sure that was the hook, line and sinker for deciding that I was marriage material.
Photo credit- thrivesports.com

Acceptance. You helped write the book in tolerance and, in most places, people of different ethnicity, skin colors, religions and sexual orientations are more than just tolerated, they are accepted. New immigrants from all around the world choose to call your country home and they are welcomed and celebrated. Diversity is more than just a fancy tag line for your company's PR department, it is a part of everyday life.

Summer. As difficult as your winters are, the few short weeks of reprieve that you call "summer" are absolutely glorious. Those of us closer to the equator are envious of your long summer days and the warm, but not usually scorching hot, temperatures. And, grateful that the snow has finally melted and that the sun is shining, everyone moves outdoors. Parks, swimming pools, lakes and mountain trails teem with humanity as an entire nation seeks exercise, Vitamin D and the companionship of friends and neighbors you probably haven't seen as often during the cold winter months. Summer is filled with barbecues, wonderful gardens that are carefully tended, games of neighborhood street hockey, camping trips and bonfires. It renews your will to live and makes you believe that you can do it all over again next year.
 Photo credit- Huffington Post Canada

My friends living in places where it is -40 (seriously, do thermometers even measure that low?), my thoughts are with you. If they can get your plane de-iced, you are more than welcome to come visit us in the south.

But if you are seriously questioning why you live there, remember that your beautiful country has a lot going for it. Go grab a Timmies, turn on a hockey game and hunker down. Even with your bitter temperatures, some of us still have a little bit of secret Canada envy.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Three Years In

It has been over three years since we added two children to our family through international adoption.  It is hard to believe how much our children have grown and changed during that time. We've certainly faced challenges and experienced growing pains along the way but we have also made great progress bonding as a family.  As parents, we've had to adjust our expectations, learn when to be flexible and when to hold firm and wisely select which battles to fight and which to sit out.

In the beginning, when we were newbie adoptive parents and when our kids were freshly grafted into our family, we repeatedly got the question "How are you doing?" It was hard to answer. Well, we're functioning. We've gone from 2 kids to 4 but we're feeding them, educating them, loving on them and most days we have more smiles than tears.

Now that that we're more seasoned adoptive parents and since the "new" factor is long gone, the "How are you doing?" questions have ceased. I take that as a good sign. If people don't ask how we're doing and don't call Child Protective Services on us, we must look like we're doing okay. All six (yes, we've added more children since our adoptions) kids are appropriately clothed, fed, happy and healthy the majority of the time so we must be doing something right.

In many ways it seems like just yesterday that we were completing paperwork, awaiting a court date, arranging travel plans, hugging our new children for the first time and starting those first few honeymoon months together as a family. At the same time, in many ways it feels like they have always been with us. Our younger children cannot remember a time before their siblings were a part of our family. We have a sense of "normal" again. We laugh often and have fun together. As any adoptive family knows, these are BIG milestones.

But there certainly have been and continue to be many challenges. I won't go into details of our kids' lives because I wouldn't be too happy if my husband and kids blogged about all of my weaknesses and struggles and I owe my family the same respect. At the same time, I feel like it's important to honestly share how far we've come and how far we still have to go because adoption is such a two steps forward and one step back kind of process, an ebb and flow of trust and caution, a delicate balance of rawhide rope and velvet mixture.

Both of our kids perform at grade level in regular ed classrooms. They are happy and social, well-liked by friends and teachers. We have found schools where they feel safe and happy.

One of our kids is tightly bonded to us. Our other is a work in progress and it has been challenging and slow. We see baby steps and just have to remind ourselves that Rome wasn't built in a day. Most of the things that were challenging for us in the beginning- food insecurity, untruthfulness/lack of trust, whining and other negative attention seeking behaviors and sibling jealousy have all but subsided.

Current challenges include when to be a therapeutic parent versus when to let natural consequences play out. If a child forgets their jacket for the third time in a week, is it somehow going to help our bond if I show that I'm there to meet their needs and to deliver the coat to school? Or am I failing to allow my child to learn the lesson of natural consequences which, quite possibly, might help them remember not to forget it again?

Another challenge lies in trying to establish reasonable expectations for our children and to ensure that they are reasonable goals for THEM, not compared to other kids their age, not compared to siblings, not based upon some fictitious image of our children or who we hope they may someday become.

Knowing when to grant a bit more freedom and when to keep their world small is also an ongoing struggle. Life in America can be overstimulating for anyone.  Add a challenging past, attachment concerns, food insecurities and other factors into the mix and daily life can be very overwhelming. At the same time, if we aim to prepare our kids to function in society some day, we need to allow them some freedoms and responsibilities (as scary as that can be)!

The other day I was asked to share about the single most challenging aspect of adoption. It's realizing our shortcomings as a parent, whether it be a lack of patience, inability to find the right words or feelings of being completely overwhelmed. It's knowing when to be a therapeutic parent and when to lower the boom. It's finding the right balance between safety and allowing our child to explore the world around them. It's taking that first step to show love even in the moments when we're not feeling it. It's watching our children struggle because they came from a very different background than many of their classmates. It's working slowly, so very slowly, to build trust and not giving up.

It's all hard.

But it's all worth it and it does get easier for everyone involved!

Three years in! We're making it. I think we're going to be just fine.
 Photo courtesy of Jayme Parker


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Your Mother Didn't Tell You {Unless You Are Black}

My child, you may have noticed by now that sometimes you get treated differently. No one wants to talk about it and, if you do bring it up, you will be met with anger and denial. But it's true. It is alive and well.

Racism.

Sons and daughters, please be careful as this is delicate ground. I don't want you to wallow in self-pity. I don't want you to be afraid. I don't want you to be stifled in your passion or creativity or enthusiasm. I don't want to take away from all of the LIFE that you have ahead of you!

But I want you to be aware.

Child, I know that you do not steal or disobey rules or break laws but there will be some who assume that you do simply because of the color of your skin. All the more reason to be sure that you NEVER give anyone reason to distrust you. Don't allow them to make stereotypes into truth.

Value your education. Some will falsely assume that you are uneducated or destined to be working class. Prove them wrong, all the while with manners, poise and class.

Respect authority. I say this not because I think you wouldn't but because it needs to be said. Racists are scary. Racists with power and weapons are terrifying.

My child, I want you to be PROUD of your beautiful skin, of your heritage and your culture. But I also want you to be safe. I want you to know that, outside of our family, our close-knit community, our safety zone, that others may not take the opportunity to get to know you before judging you. This is not your fault. And it breaks my heart that I cannot change their hearts.

In his famous speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." We're not there yet. And that is why mothers like me are still having these conversations with children like you.
 Photo credit to Jayme Parker




Monday, November 10, 2014

Sometimes Moms are Crazy...And It's Okay

Motherhood- a state of being where sometimes you do things that may seem illogical and/or irrational to others because your gut instinct tells you to do so

This past summer we moved. We've moved several times so that in itself wasn't such a big deal. What was a big deal was what happened after our old house sold.

Let me back up a little bit. The reason we decided to move from our acreage in a small, adorable little village in the first place is because we spent way too much time driving in the car. My car is big but, seriously, we practically lived in there. Many times we left home before dawn and didn't get home again from school/gymnastics/dance/track/soccer until after dark. We found a house that was much more centrally located to our kids' schools and activities and we fell in love with it. It was big- almost twice the size of the small little house in the country. It had a huge yard with a pool and a beautiful fountain. It was on a cul de sac. Finally, our kids who had never learned to ride a bike on our bumpy dirt road could get some practice!

We listed our house and, after what seemed like hundreds of showings and repeatedly cleaning the place and putting away toys and tidying the countertops and rushing home from work to whisk away the pets before the showings, it sold. Then we had inspections on the new house. We fell out of love. As the selling realtor put it "It has good bones. It just needs some cosmetic work." As our contractor put it "This is a money pit. If you want to lose money, buy this house or buy a race horse." We bought neither.

So there we were. Our house was sold with an impending closing date and we had nowhere to go. We're pretty fun people but it isn't exactly easy to find friends who will welcome 7 people, four dogs, two cats, a lizard and five chickens.

Back to the drawing board. Our sweet realtor took us to dozens more showings. We searched online. We went to open houses. And then we found a house that seemed perfect. It had everything on our list- four bedrooms upstairs so all of the kids could be together. Two different kids' bathrooms so girls and boys could each have their own. Master bedroom down. Separate study for adult work space. Two living areas. On a cul de sac. It was so perfect that it seemed like it must be meant to be. We made an offer. After a bit of a discussion and some back and forth, it was accepted.

I should have been happy. I should have been excited. We'd found a house, a really nice house, in a good neighborhood with everything on our wish list. But it didn't feel good. In fact, I spent the next two nights worrying and rethinking, sure we'd made a big mistake. My gut instinct just told me that something was wrong.

I talked to my husband. He asked me to try and pinpoint what it was. Was it the fact that the house was cookie-cutter and similar to the others on the street? Was it because the entire backyard was taken up by a giant pool where my babies could drown and because there wasn't much grass? I didn't know. But it didn't feel right.

On the third night of sleepless worry, it hit me. The chickens. We were going to have to find a new home for the chickens if we moved to the middle of the city in a cookie-cutter neighborhood to a house that has no real yard and a HOA that gets cranky if you park on the street.

Our kids would be okay with moving houses. They were fine with the idea of getting new neighbors. They had willingly helped pack up their art work, the small tiles decorated with stones that they'd made for our garden and all of the other memories that our previous house held. But I knew that I couldn't bear to ask them to say goodbye to our beloved chickens, the little tiny chicks we'd brought home just a few months before, one for every kid in our family, and nurtured into adulthood, the chickens who were due to start laying eggs ANY day, an event our kids were very eagerly anticipating. I just couldn't do it.

So I told my husband that I didn't want to move. In a blubbering sobs, I told him how our family needs a unique house with a yard for the kids to run and play...a space that feels just right...and room for the chickens. He listened. And he said that, if it didn't feel right, that we shouldn't buy the house.

Now, keep in mind that we'd already paid the earnest money on the house when our offer was accepted. When you back out for any of the reasons listed above (cookie cutter, no yard, chickens), it is not refunded. We're certainly not the kind of people who toss around thousands of dollars like it's pocket change. We can't afford to do that. But, as my husband pointed out, you can't put a price on happiness (and, in that moment, I knew exactly why I'd married him and I knew I'd do anything on earth for him).

We found another house. It's funky and weird and one of a kind. It has plenty of space for all of our kids and pets, feathered friends included.

We haven't regretted our decision. Sometimes a mother's heart just knows.
 Photo courtesy of Jayme Parker



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Teenage Parenting: A Lesson in Remembrance


"It's not the way it was when we were kids."
"Kids of this generation just grow up so quickly."
"It's so hard to be a parent in this day and age."
"Technology has made parenting so much more challenging."

We hear it over and over. We've heard it enough that we've started to believe it, that parenting today is more challenging than it was for our parents and our grandparents.

I'd argue that it's not.

In the depths of our parenting self-pity, we seem to have forgotten what it was like when we were kids. We've erased those mischievous and devious and forbidden things that we did from our memories to convince ourselves that, yes indeed, parenting today is more difficult and our kids today are more at risk, more promiscuous, more precocious than ever before.

Take cell phones, for example. It is true that when we were growing up, no one "sexted" pictures to each other. We didn't even have cell phones until my later teen years and they sure couldn't send photos or videos. However, judging by the number of kids caught "viewing the anatomy" of one another in cars in the high school parking lot, not having a modern cell phone sure didn't stop anyone. And then there was the boy I knew whose father was a prominent medical professional. The boy "borrowed" dad's patients' nude photos and shared them with his buddies after school. No cell phone necessary, thank you very much.

A few months ago, my almost 14 year old daughter made a comment about a good looking older boy at her school. I almost flipped. I mean, holy cow, she is only 13!!! And that boy that she pointed out is in high school! Maybe I should get her into counseling. Maybe I better pull her out of school and educate her at home if she's spending her days looking at boys. Perhaps I should call the parents of the boy and tell them to tell him not to dress so sharp and not to wear so much cologne. But, just before I lost it, my memory came to the rescue and I recalled the first time I went to summer camp. Not only was I smitten with a boy but we snuck off into the woods to kiss...gasp! I was only 11 or 12, several years younger than her.  And from the depths of my memory I recalled my sixth grade boyfriend and how we "went out". We actually didn't go anywhere but we were an item and everyone in sixth grade knew it. Somehow, with all of the "going out" and secret rendezvous in the woods I managed to grow up without becoming a prostitute.

And of course there's the Internet where kids can get into all kids of trouble- searching anything and everything they want to know about, accessing pornographic material and chatting online with people who are adult sex offenders cloaked as innocent teenagers.

But you know what? Kids have always been and always will be curious. Before it was the Internet, it was digging through parents' nightstands and bookcases and trying to find the smutty books and trashy magazines at the library. Before it was online perverts it was friends' uncles and overly friendly neighbors and so and so's big brother's friend and less anonymous but still just as damaging sexual predators who tried to befriend children so they could abuse them.

In many ways I feel like we're raising children in a safer generation than the generation in which we were raised and the generation of our parents. Issues like sexual abuse and bullying are spoken about more openly in schools, at extracurricular activities and at home. We talk about suicide and mental illness and, just maybe, a little bit of the stigma has gone away. There are more birth control options than ever before and it is more accessible. We have cell phones to document where we are and who we're with and kids can call parents if their cars break down or if they're running late (and we, as parents, can text or call our kids to check up on them, a luxury our parents and grandparents certainly didn't have). We have more tools to help us educate our children, to diagnose learning disabilities and to make it so every child has a shot at a quality education. And we have online communities, support groups, blogs and resources, resources, resources at our fingertips.

Parents, we're going to make it and our kids are going to be okay. There will always be new gadgets, new technology, new temptations. But the basics are unchanged. We're not living in a brave, new world. We're just repeating the same circle of teenage parenting.

It just looks a little different now that we're the parents.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Common Myths About Big Families


If I had a dollar for every time that I'm told "You sure have your hands full!" or "Wow, that vehicle is like a bus!" or "Your family looks like the United Nations," or "Do you run a daycare?" when our family is out, I'd be a wealthy woman.

I get it. Big families attract attention and it isn't all that common to see a big family these days (especially one made up of kids of all different sizes and skin tones).

There also seems to be something inherently fascinating about big families. I'm not sure if it's because people just assume any mom with a bunch of kids must be stark raving mad or if it's because they're mentally trying to figure out the logistics of having "so many kids" but, from "Jon and Kate" and their crew to the Duggars and their nineteen kids, somehow everyday family life suddenly becomes interesting when you multiply the "average" number of children in a US household by three or four or more. And, it is true that something like a simple stomach bug that may visit an "average" family for a few days does feel like a major epidemic of horrific proportions when you have half a dozen vomiting children at home.

It also seems as if there are many myths and misconceptions about big families that we often hear. I've tried to address a some of them, both because I feel like many people really are intrigued and want to know and also because I'm sure that other big families get asked the same types of questions (or people in our communities have the same questions but are hesitant to ask).

Myth #1- All big families are poor.
Though we'd certainly have more money if we didn't have such a big family, most big families are big because we choose to have a bunch of children. While the bank account of every family (big and small) is different, there are plenty of big families who are financially stable. It is probably a false assumption that a family is large because the parents are unemployed, can't afford/aren't educated about birth control and spend all day procreating.

Myth #2- All big families are wealthy.
Seriously. I often get asked if we're really rich and if we're poor in the same day (by different people, of course) because we have "so many kids". The other thing that I hear repeatedly is: "Your husband must have a really good job to support all those children!" Thankfully, he does have a good job. But we both work full-time and we both use our degrees to help support our family and to allow our kids to participate in activities and events just like families with fewer children. Again, there are probably some big families who are wealthy but there are plenty of others who have to stick to a budget and whose children wear hand-me-downs and clothes bought off the sale rack.

Myth #3- The husband and wife in a big family must not believe in birth control.  
Statistically speaking, most women would probably have WAY more than four, five or six kids if they didn't believe in birth control.  Some big families may not believe in birth control but that doesn't hold true for the majority of us. Heck, even the Vatican is rethinking their stance on contraception. Most of us realize that a big family is a blessing but that, at the same time, there does come a point where it is probably unwise (physically, financially or otherwise) to continue adding more children.

Myth #4- Kids in big families don't get to spend as much time with their parents/don't have as many toys/don't get to participate in as many activities/don't have as many opportunities. Parenting any child is a conscientious choice. We choose to devote our days and nights and free time to our children, no matter how many we have. As we add more children, we just work harder. And most moms of many kids work REALLY hard to ensure that all of the children have opportunities, plenty of love, special one-on-one time and all of their needs properly met.

Myth #5- If you have a bunch of children, you must practice a certain religion.
Along with getting told that I have my hands full, I'd also be able to buy something new and fancy if I was given a dollar every time I'm asked if we're Mormon or Catholic. While I really like almost all of the LDS and Catholics that we know, we are neither. Usually I reply with "No, we're just passionate Protestants." I do get some really perplexed looks when I park our big ol' van outside of Total Wine...

Myth #6- All moms with a bunch of kids stay home (ie- don't work outside the home).
Lord knows there certainly is enough work around the house that I could justify being a full-time domestic goddess but, like many other moms of big families, I work full-time outside the home. Remember that thing above about paying for school, clothes, food and activities and not being poor? Mmm hmm.

Myth #7-  All moms of big families are really fertile.
We have six kids. One was a happy surprise. One was conceived using fertility treatment. One was conceived through IVF. Two grew in another woman's womb. And one is an exchange student. I know many other moms of big families who have also grown their families through assisted reproductive technology and various other non-traditional methods (adoption, combining households after a divorce, raising foster children, etc). If we were repeatedly getting pregnant solely because we were really fertile, there is that birth control thing mentioned above (and, believe you me, if you have a bunch of kids, no one lets you forget about it).

Myth #8- Large families rely on welfare/"the government"/other financial aid for support.
It seems so silly that I even need to mention this but often we do get asked if Uncle Sam or taxpayer money is helping support "all those kids". Absolutely not. I can't speak for every big family but I do know for certain that most large families are very self-sufficient, incredibly hard working and that many parents would get a second or third job before expecting anyone else to help cover their expenses. When we are asked this question, I always answer with an emphatic no (and then add that when they, as taxpayers, start paying for my children then I will be happy to listen to their input on our family size, if they think we have "too many" and whether or not they think we should add more kids some day).

Myth #9- All big families have conservative values.
Not true, though the majority of big families probably are conservative (due to obvious factors- religion, background, family values, etc). However, I am making it my personal mission to populate the earth with as many little open-minded, hippie, fun-loving, tree hugging liberals as possible.

Myth #10- Big families rarely leave home to go on vacation, don't eat out in restaurants and don't go to friends' houses for dinner (because it's too hard with a bunch of kids).
Though it may not be the most relaxing of meals, our kids are usually on GOOD behavior when we're out. They are used to eating in restaurants and they are good travelers. I've discovered that overall most kids from big families are adaptable and well-behaved, likely because they are used to being self-sufficient and entertaining themselves and also because most parents of lots of kids don't want a whole pack of rude little brats. Oh, and about that dinner at friends' houses thing. We LOVE having people over for dinner and we love being invited to dinner. Most big families understand that it's expensive and a lot of work to cook for so many people so most of us are more than happy to supply several of the dishes (or even bring the whole meal) when we receive a dinner invitation.

Myth #11- Kids who grow up in big families wish they had fewer siblings to "compete with".
All of our kids actually beg for another baby/for us to adopt again. Crazy, I know. Overall, I don't think any of them are too traumatized by being one of several kids in our family and having to share mom and dad.

Myth #12- After you've already parented several children, you know all the ropes and it's not as exciting or fun or "new" the fifth, sixth, seventh....time around.
This I can say with certainty. Every time I've seen that second line on a pregnancy test my heart has been filled with joy. Every time I've received a new photo of a child who we are adopting I am beside myself with excitement. With EVERY child it has been a joy to watch them grow and learn. It never gets old whether you're parenting your first child or your fifteenth. It does get slightly easier (because you know what to expect) but it never, ever gets boring or old.

There you have it. A few of the things that you wanted to know about a big family but were afraid to ask (though some people certainly aren't afraid to speak up!). Have more questions or want to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave feedback in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hey Teen, We Need to Chat (Face to Face)


Hi there teen, can you put down that tablet/phone/computer for just a minute? I know, eye roll, right?

But, really, we need to chat.

I see you sitting there on your device for countless hours, texting friends, watching videos and shows, Facebooking, Instagramming, Tweeting...what I do not see is you sitting IN the same room as your friends and having actual conversations. I don't hear the excited chattering I'd expect from a fun, social teenager.

Can these friends of yours who you spend hours "talking" to tell from your posts and messages when you are sad or upset? Or do your words and pictures convey one message and your heart says another? My child, nothing replaces actual, physical friends and face to face conversations. It does your heart and your mind good.

Will these online friends be there for you in real life when you need them? To celebrate your achievements and to help you up when you're down? I know they may feel like they're just a click and instant chat away but what happens if they don't log on today...or ever again?

I worry about your "high school experience". Are you joining clubs and activities, are you going to dances or are you and your virtual buddies too cool for all of that? Maybe some day they'll make online sports and band and theater so you don't even have to put down your iPad. I kid...sort of.

When I ask about pressing issues facing your generation you list bullying, dating, racism, drugs, cancer and suicide. How do you know if friends are suicidal if you don't look in their eyes and listen to the tone of their voices? How do you learn how to have a conversation with a member of the opposite gender (or the same gender or whatever gender you are interested in) if you don't talk face to face? How do you expect to stay healthy if you don't get up off the couch and put down the iWhatever? How do you know what is on someone's heart if you have to interpret their messages through abbreviated text chat and emoticons?

Please don't take this as another "mom lecture". It is not intended to be. I like gadgets and devices and a reason to sit and look at my social media accounts as much as anyone. But please don't lose your life because you're so busy texting that you walk into oncoming traffic (I actually saw a girl do this today...thankfully the drivers were paying attention and she didn't get hit). Please don't forgo your real, living friends for internet buddies. Please don't underestimate the importance of learning how to read the expressions on someone's face, the tone of their voice or their mannerisms as they speak. And please don't let the world pass you by while you sit inside posting photos of yourself, your meals and the spider that crawled across the floor of your bathroom.

I want you to live a life that is worthy of incredible Facebook posts and awesome Instagram photos and fun tweets. Document the incredible life that you are living, the experiences that you are having an the friendships made along the way. Live extraordinarily, adventurously and then broadcast it far and wide!

I guarantee, you will have a big audience.