Am I Addicted to My Phone?

Are you familiar with the Holderness Family? They went viral back in 2013 with their Christmas Jammies video. I’ve been following Penn and Kim on social media for awhile now because I appreciate their tongue-in-cheek humor about parenting in the 21st century. They started a podcast last year that I check in with occasionally – I found myself listening to their latest episode last night while shuttling the kids to their respective ball fields. Titled Breaking Free from Social Media, the episode is about the impact screen time and social media has on not only our everyday lives but also our mental and physical health.

When the iPhone was released in 2007, I coveted it from afar. It wasn’t in our budget to upgrade our phones and my pink RAZR was pretty bangin’. But in 2011, Clay and I finally jumped into the iPhone pool and have yet to get out to dry off. I’ll be honest and admit that I find it absolutely intoxicating to literally have the world at my fingertips. I don’t leave the house without my phone and even when home, it isn’t very far from my side. I use it to watch Murder, She Wrote episodes on Hulu, I listen to music and podcasts, I use it as a camera, I check Facebook and Instagram multiple times a day, and Wikipedia and I are quite tight. It is the last thing I look at before falling asleep and the first thing I look at when I wake up. It is much more than just a phone – it is an extension of myself. And I think I want to change that.

Women strive to be the picture-perfect Pinterest mother that looks amazing, hosts the best birthday parties in town, posts the most “liked” photos, and serves delicious, nutritious home-cooked meals in her neat, organized home after ferrying the kids to school and a host of extracurricular activities on time.

Mommy Burnout by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler
Visit Dr.SherylZiegler.com

On the podcast, Penn and Kim had a discussion with Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, author of Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process. They talked about how social media is creating an environment in which women (and men) feel pressure to cultivate the ‘perfect’ life – both online and offline. One interesting topic that came up was that a lot of parents are like me and Clay. While we limit our kid’s screen time, we make very little effort to formally put limitations on ourselves. And I know that we can do a better job monitoring the amount of time we’re mindlessly scrolling through our phones. After all, what message are we sending to our children when we tell them to put their devices up while we’re still using ours to read a listicle on BuzzFeed and to check the latest news alert from CNN?

I do not believe that we can solve the problem by eliminating our smartphone use all together. There are too many benefits associated with my phone that I am not willing to give up. But there are steps I can take to help reduce the amount of ‘mindless‘ consumption I endure on a daily basis. Some examples include:

  • delete Facebook app (keep Instagram)
  • delete Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video (no longer watch TV on my phone)
  • remove the Gmail alerts
  • delete Buzzfeed (keep major news sources)
  • no longer charge my phone on my nightstand (leave downstairs at night)

I am going to take the next few days to really think about how I want to change my phone habits and devise a realistic technology plan for my family. What about you guys? What tips and tricks do you use to help keep your social media and technology use in check? Any advice welcome!

Our 5 Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes

Clay loves to lovingly tease me about my cooking. Well – not my cooking per se because my experience as a prep chef at an upscale bistro and my love for well-prepared food have proven me to be damn good cook. He gets a kick out of the fact that I almost never use recipes. I use a dash of this, a pinch of that, and add a little pizazz when needed. I’ll follow a recipe to a T when baking but when it comes to cooking – all bets are off. Therefore, whenever someone asks me for a recipe of a dish I made, I always seem to respond along the lines, “Uhhh…well – I use a little bit of this, a lot of that, add butter at this time (because it’s law that butter makes everything better), and do this right at the end!” A food blogger I am not.

Seeing as how spring is our busiest season and baseball practices and games are ridiculously long, our slow cooker gets used the most this time of year. And as delicious as eating Five Guys may be on a weekly basis, our heart health is important to us so we try and keep our meals there to a minimum despite it being so easy to grab a bite there on our way home. I am always on the hunt for delicious meals that utilize the slow cooker because on the days when we have Little League practices from 5pm – 8pm, it’s impossible to find the time to cook a meal for the kids that doesn’t involve chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.

Below are some of our favorite slow cooker recipes that our family enjoys during this time of year (click the heading to see the original recipe). All of these yield leftovers and some of them can easily be repurposed into another meal (tacos, nachos, etc…) later on in the week. How can you not love that?

Mississippi Roast

I discovered the recipe about five years ago and it has been a staple in our house ever since. We will eat it as a pot roast the first night and then shred the meat for tacos later on in the week. I’ve modified the recipe over the years to accommodate our tastes (see notes below) because I’ve found the au jus packet unnecessary and 1/4 cup of butter to be superfluous.

  • 1 ranch packet
  • 1 jar of pepperoncini juice (we like a bit of a kick so I also add at least half the pepperoncinis in the jar)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Chicken and Dumplings

There are a lot of slow cooker recipes for chicken and dumplings but unfortunately, a lot of them call for cans of condensed soup, which we don’t consume in our household. The ingredients in this linked recipe are what I typically use when I make chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker except I use a can of cut-up (raw) biscuits instead of making homemade dumplings. Because if I’m using the slow cooker, it means that I certainly don’t have time that day to make dumplings. Ha.

  • 4 chicken breast
  • 1 container of chicken stock
  • chopped celery, carrots, and onions
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • salt and pepper

Slow cook the above ingredients. When done, use an electric beater to shred the chicken or pull apart with forks. Then add a couple of cups of milk and more broth/stock/white wine if desired (you get the choose the consistency…it’s all part of the fun of cooking!). If you are going to be away from home for awhile, you can always add the milk and extra broth/stock in the beginning.

About 45 minutes to an hour before dinner will be served, I add the cut up pieces of biscuit dough and close the lid. See this Pillsbury recipe for details about using biscuit dough as dumplings. But don’t actually use these ingredients because mushrooms are nasty and don’t belong in chicken and dumplings.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is another staple in our house and a crowd-pleaser. I follow this recipe fairly close. I add more seasoning than it calls for because more flavor is always a good thing. And I also add Tajin Clasico Seasoning with Lime because it’s amazing. I tend to use chicken stock instead of chicken broth for more depth of flavor. Additionally, if we have limes on hand I’ll add a few fresh squeezes because acidity in soup is wonderful.

Barbacoa

This is another recipe that I follow pretty closely as written. I use beef stock, add a few more cloves of garlic, and omit the oregano. I also add Tajin Clasico Seasoning with Lime seasoning.

Chicken Tiki Masala

Even if you’re not a fan of Indian food, chances are you’ll like this recipe…it is a great primer into the world of curry. I don’t use the heavy whipping cream – we always have sour cream in the refrigerator so I almost always add a cup of that instead. My preference is making chicken tiki masala in my cast iron pot but when we have a million activities going on in the afternoon and evening, I’ll toss the ingredients (including yogurt) in the slow cooker that morning with great results come dinner time.

Okay – I showed you mine, now you show me yours. What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?

Life Lately – Dies Lunae

Thoughts on a Monday morning set the tone for the rest of the week.

Happy Monday! Since Monday’s roots are firmly planted in the latin phrase dies lunae (day of the moon), it seems fitting that the moon was still visible as I walked the kids to school this morning, despite being back in the world of Daylight Savings. Serving as the natural satellite of the earth, the moon is often associated with the power of femininity, wisdom, and time. Therefore, I can’t think of a better reason to use this Monday as a glimpse into the happenings of my life and some thoughts swirling around inside my head.

Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.

Yogi Berra

With official spring just a few days away, the weather is trying so hard to leave winter behind. We’re in the throws of Little League and preseason practices, which means that our evenings belong to diamonds once again and our basket of ball gloves is back by the front door. The pace of life as a parent in Northern Virginia feels somewhat like being shot out of a cannon into traffic on 495N.

Being stationed here again with school-aged children has us double-guessing whether we want to be back here during their high school years, which is a strong possibility should Clay decide to stay in the Army beyond 20 years. There is an artificial sense of unnecessary competition – many parents pushing their children toward goals that accomplish very little in the long run. A lot of children in these neck of the woods are scheduled from morning to night and are not encouraged to use their imagination nor enjoy the benefits of being bored. As a result – the ability to perform well on a standardized test is replacing the need for creativity and ingenuity. Or at least it seems that way.

We spent yesterday afternoon walking around the various monuments scattered along the National Mall. We enjoyed a picnic snack and discussed various travel options for this summer. Our last little getaway wasn’t the best so we’re hopeful that our planned week-long trip for Spring Break in April yields better results. We’re going to Savannah and Amelia Island – we are looking forward to exploring the Hostess City of the South and relaxing on the beach. We think we’ve narrowed down our big summer trip (hopefully purchasing airfare this week!) and we have little weekend road trips planned throughout the spring and summer – like Hershey Park and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg.

This guys officially started his new position last month. We’re happy to have him home more – he was previously an aide-de-camp, which meant he was away often at various locations throughout the world. Now that he is no longer an aide, I am considering writing about my experience of what it was like having a husband who served as one for 18 months. It was definitely unlike anything else we’ve experienced thus far in his career!

We saw this guys yesterday while at the Lincoln Memorial. He was dressed as Abraham Lincoln but made no effort to interact with the visitors and spent his time scrolling on his smartphone. So I’m not sure if it was a coincidence (unlikely), or if he was on some sort of a break, or if he was a performance artist with a message about how addicted to technology we are as a society. I’d like to think that it is the latter. I recently started tracking my phone usage with the screen time function and I am absolutely horrified by how much I am using my phone. I didn’t think I was addicted to social media but my screen time reports say otherwise. I am definitely going to make some changes on how I incorporate my phone in my everyday life – I’m just not sure how yet!

And finally, I’ve been focusing a lot lately on what I don’t have in my life rather than cultivating the good that already exists in my little world – as evident by my previous post. I don’t regret writing that piece. The conversation that emerged afterwards on social media proved that I wasn’t alone in my sentiments. This life isn’t easy but since I’m not getting out of it alive, I might as well make the best of the cards we’re dealt. So in that spirit – may your Monday be filled with enthusiasm, prosperity, and grit. I know mine will!

When I Say I’m Fine and I’m Not

Last week was a not my greatest showing. If I were on stage in a bedazzled gown competing for a ‘scholarship’ (::eye roll::) awarded for irritability and annoyance, I would’ve been a contender for at least the Top 10 – no swimsuit parade necessary. I was frustrated. I was angry. And I was exhausted from trying to argue with myself. I did my best to hide it from my husband and kids but my poker face failed me and my inner turmoil was noticeable. So when Clay asked me if everything was okay, I responded with, “Yeah – I’m fine.”

Except I wasn’t fine. And he knew it.

______

Despite growing up in a two-parent household with three younger siblings, there were moments when I felt like the people tasked with loving me the most didn’t really know me. By all accounts, my childhood was happy. I played with my siblings, I had plenty of friends, and I actively pursued sports. But despite having the outward appearance of an active and social existence, I slowly came to the realization that no one truly got me. I was the ‘quiet’ one in my family – I devoured books and often found myself retreating into the comfort of my own thoughts. And a move across the country during my middle school years pushed me deeper inside my head.

I’m sure the dichotomy I experienced as a teenager is far from unique. I often felt like the true me existed somewhere in the space between the image I projected and the thoughts that never left my head. Even though I had a boyfriend, friends, a job I loved, and a busy calendar in high school, I’d feel lonely because I felt that no one really knew who I was – and perhaps that’s because – like most teenagers – I was still discovering who I was as a person.

And then I met Clay during my first few weeks away at college. Over those formative years, our relationship grew into something that I’ve struggled to put into words since. We spent hours talking about anything and everything. We laughed when no one else did. We learned how to effectively communicate and create spaces where we could retreat when we wanted to leave the rest of the world behind. I finally had an understanding of what life is like when someone truly gets you.

18 years later – it’s safe to say that he still gets me. So when I say that I’m fine and I’m really not – he knows.

In my defense, I said everything was fine because my frustrations were Army-induced and I knew that there was absolutely nothing either one of us could do that would immediately alleviate my desire to continuously scream “It’s not fair!” while stomping both feet. You know those little twinges of jealousy that begin to sprout when someone announces that the military is sending them to an amazing place? Or when a spouse is able to have a fantastic career? Or when the family gets to experience something amazing at the hands of the military? Normally I am able to prevent those little jealousy buds from sprouting into something bigger but lately I’ve been cultivating an environment inside my head that was allowing them to thrive.

All of these unproductive, poisonous, and infuriating thoughts that I’d unsuccessfully fought off came to a head last week. So on Thursday night, we put the kids to bed and then opened up a bottle of wine as we settled in for a conversation that we went into knowing it would be difficult and likely filled with statements that could be misinterpreted and hurtful.

I consider myself pragmatic. I understand that the Army does not owe me anything. I get it. As a spouse – I am nothing in their eyes. If anything – me and my children are financial burdens and obstacles for the Army to get around in order to have more of my husband and his time. This May marks 15 years in the Army for Clay. And since I’ve been in the picture since his cadet days, I’ve been by his side for the majority of the ups and downs – often times with an annoyingly positive attitude. I’ve encouraged him to compete for difficult positions. I’ve hugged him tight before sending him off to war. I’ve turned down job offers because we received last minute orders across the country. I’ve consoled children because they miss their dad. I’ve gone weeks without communication. I’ve learned to be flexible and how to manage last minute changes to plans. And I’ve learned to give when the Army asks for more.

To Clay’s credit – I’ve felt like an active participant when it comes to his career. Whenever he is presented with an opportunity, we discuss it and make a decision together. But there is only so much control we have when it comes to the Army – beyond choosing to stay or leave. It’s no secret that I dream of living overseas. Honestly – there have been times when the prospect of doing so is the only thing that keeps me happily grinning and bearing it for the sake of the Army. At times it has been so close that I can taste the hefeweizen and chianti. But then something ‘better’ for his career comes along and he is given an offer he can’t refuse.

I told Clay as tears of frustration poured from me that it is absolutely infuriating that I am sacrificing so much for the sake of his thriving career in hopes of ‘someday’ getting stationed somewhere I really want to live. When we were in our twenties, it was easier to accept the not-so-great aspects of the military – after all, we had our entire lives ahead of us. But now we’re in our mid-thirties – I no longer feel invincible. Time is slipping through my fingers like handfuls of sand. I told my husband how there are times when I wake up feeling like a barbell is on my chest – weighing me down and preventing me from realizing my hopes and dreams. And I told him how the death of Luke Perry has only exasperated these feelings.

Growing up, I’d go into the family den and sink into the brown velour couch as I turned on the TV. As soon as Beverly Hills 90210 came on the screen, I’d set the ‘jump’ button on the remote to ensure that I’d have a quick getaway should one of my parents come into the room. They didn’t approve of their 9-year-old daughter watching the exploits of high school students in California but nothing was going to keep me from Dylan McKay on Wednesday nights. I am the age now where I think of 52 as young.  I explained to Clay that Luke Perry’s untimely death is just another sad reminder that we aren’t guaranteed time.

Perhaps one of the more disheartening aspects of my little breakdown last week is that if you were to ask me if I like having a husband in the military, I’d answer, “Yes!” approximately 94% of the time. I honestly do not currently desire a life on the ‘other side’ and do not wish for my husband to throw in the towel. But it sure would be nice if the Army threw a little carrot my way. Moving overseas is not in our cards anytime soon. It’s a tough pill to swallow. And his next assignment will likely be in a place that I don’t really want to live. I’ll make the best of it. I always do – complete with a smile. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t growing tired of doing so.

Clay and I talked a lot about our future that night as we shared a bottle of Restless Earth cabernet sauvignon. He understood my frustrations and expressed his own frustrations with having a career that demanded so many areas of his life. I explained that I just need these moments to wallow and stomp my feet because it can be incredibly difficult to constantly be molding my goals to fit within the confines of his ever-changing career. I am human, after all.

Last week, I wasn’t fine. But I am now.