Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {February 28, 2014 edition}

Welcome to our weekly feature where we share some things we’ve found interesting during the week that should give you something to encourage your family over the weekend.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

How to Talk with Your Kids about Money Issues [ChristianPF]

My Wife is a Super Model [for the family] Amazing. So is mine! :)

I Think We May be Missing Something Very Important [We are THAT Family]

Ten Fun Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Your Kids [My Kids' Adventures]

The True Identity of Andy’s Mom in Toy Story Will Blow Your Mind [Jon Negroni] Okay, so this one’s just for fun, but it’s way cool!

Family Tweet of the Week

Our Week in Review

Not all these posts were written in the past week, but these are the five posts with the most views in the last week.

#5: Why We Switched to Republic Wireless and Lowered Our Phone Bill by $70 Per Month

#4: How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals

#3: Your Calendar and Your Family

#2: How I’m Using Google Calendar for Pretty Much Everything

#1: The Importance of the Family Table

What Did We Miss?

What family links, tweets, or videos did we miss this week? Contact us with links you’d like us to consider for future Friday’s Family Friendly Finds! You can also contact us if you are interested in writing a guest post for our site. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thankful Thursdays {February 27, 2014 edition}

Thankful Thursdays

It’s time for another Thankful Thursday, where we simply ask for your prayer requests.

This week, we are asking for some attribute of God for which you are thankful. Part of our prayers should be that we praise God, so what is an attribute of God that you are thankful for? Share in the comments!

NOTE: The prayer for this week will be at about 9PM (Central time) this evening, so leave your comments before then, please.

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The Importance of the Family Table

If there is one word to describe our culture, it’s probably “busy.”

Our schedules are packed from morning to night, and for those of us who are Christians, we would say that the activities of the day are important. This post is not written to question whether we are doing good things. But I do want to ask one question: how often does your family gather around your table and eat together?

Our "Family Table"

Our “Family Table”

The family table is so important, and our nation has basically forgotten it. Think of a typical house on a typical evening. A regular, middle-class house probably has a dining room, but we consider it a “formal” room, so we don’t sit there for supper. Instead, we pile around the TV set and watch something.

Why? Because, on the other evenings, we are trying to line up our schedules to meet at a restaurant, and just sitting on the couch is better than nothing.

Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to watch TV while eating. We do that. Quite often, in fact. It’s also not wrong to go out to eat. It’s fun and provides a little break from routine at times.

But why do so few families regularly meet around a table in the quiet of their own home to eat a meal together? In other words, why is the “family table” a foreign concept in so many homes?

Think back to your childhood. For many of us, we could recall so many meals–and not just at holidays–around our table. We might not remember specific conversations or even specific dishes that were served, but we can remember that life happened around that table.

When we are sitting in a quiet room (not a noisy restaurant) and our eyes are on each other (not on the TV), it is amazing what happens. People open up. Questions can be asked and answered. Compliments are given for the quality of the meal, or how well one of the children set the table. Some of the best “tutoring” in math or spelling can occur when there isn’t a single worksheet to be seen, because there is real conversation going on.

All of this happens simply because we have a meal together. We aren’t talking about fancy meals, either. I think that we have used the excuse that says, “We aren’t fancy around here,” as a way to excuse not eating around the table. Leah is a wonderful cook, but there are quite a few nights when we have soup and sandwiches or I grill us each a plain chicken breast and we have a veggie or two. While she’s a wonderful cook, we don’t try for gourmet-level dishes every single evening! Instead, we eat good meals and enjoy a few quiet minutes together in conversation and, well, just the joy of eating.

It may not be supper at your house, but it may be breakfast. Whatever meal it is, take (rather, make) the time to sit down with no distractions and be together over the joy of a meal. In the next 7 days, if you will do this even 3 or 4 times, I think you’ll be amazed at the difference in tone and patience around your house.

Why?

Alignment of Schedules. Part of the reason so few families eat together is because they are, literally, too busy. But when, in the midst of that busyness, we can all align even 20 minutes for a meal, there is a unity that cannot be replaced.

All Hands On Deck. This should not just be “mom’s job” every day. The kids can help with all parts of the meal, as can dad. From preparing the food to setting the table to cleanup, this is a great way for every person in the family to play a role in getting something important done.

Fewer Distractions. Turn off the TV. Unless you are expecting an emergency call, leave the cell phones in another room. Close the blinds, if you have to. Make this about time where your whole family is “there” for each other with nothing to interrupt.

Shared Values. There is no way to put this in words properly, but eating and communicating shows that you are placing a real value on family togetherness. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Sea World that proves you put an emphasis and value on family. It could, instead, be eating some fish right in your own house!

Story. Talk at the table. Ask good questions. (This is something I need to work on.) Share memories and stories. Let life happen through the telling of tales from both that day and in “yesteryear.”

I know we are all busy, but this is truly important. Don’t get so caught up in the next game, event, club, business deal, or just being tired to miss out on a wonderful blessing that could happen in your own home. It doesn’t cost much, and it isn’t hard, but having a true family table will change your home for the better.

QUESTION: What are you some of your favorite memories or tips about the family table? Share in the comments!

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How I’m Using Google Calendar For Pretty Much Everything

Yesterday, we wrote about how our calendars should reflect our priorities. Today, I want to show you how I’m trying to live that out with one tool: Google Calendar.

I have tried nearly every possible way to keep up with my schedule. From simple pieces of paper to wall calendars, I’ve tried all sorts of things. For some time, I had played around with Google Calendar, putting one or two things on there, but not really using it fully.

Why I Like Google Calendar

In 2014, though, I am trying to use this one tool like crazy. So far, I love what I’m seeing. Before getting to some specifics of how I’m using Google Calendar, let me share why I like it.

1. Easy to Use. While Google Calendar is “feature rich,” I know a handful of features, and that’s all I really care to use. Putting in events and setting up reminders is as easy as using something like email or Facebook, and I like that.

2. Syncing. The calendar is on my laptop, my phone, and anywhere else I can check the internet or add the app. When I put an event on one device, it’s on them all.

3. Sharing. Leah and I share a calendar called “Adam and Leah” (we’re so creative). She can add events, and so can I, and we both can see them on our calendars.

4. Color-coding. I’ll talk more about this in the “how-to,” but each of my calendars (I have three) is a different color, so I can know what “area” of life this event or activity fits in at just a quick glance.

5. It’s Google. I use Google products for all sorts of things, from Gmail to our new phones, which are Android devices and, thus, sync almost effortlessly with Google. Even if you don’t use Google as heavily as I do, though, it is a trusted company and keeps support of the calendar very well.

6. Clean. I can’t stand calendar apps that are crazy complicated in their looks. Google Calendar is about as stripped-down as you can get, which I love. This helps me see what I need to see at a glance.

How I Use It

Now that I’ve shared some things about why I like Google Calendar, let me show you how to get started and how I’m using this free tool.

To do that, I’ve created the following screencast that I hope you’ll find helpful. It’s about 10 1/2 minutes long, so watch it and see what we’re doing to use Google Calendar a lot for work, home, and even at Lebanon Road!

(trouble viewing? Click here to watch on YouTube.)

Other resources

Google Calendar Tutorial 2013: Introduction and User Interface [YouTube; simple and straightforward video for folks who are brand new to Google Calendar; 10:00 in length]

5 Hidden Google Calendar Gems [YouTube; this is a great video if you want to dig a little deeper. It's how I learned how to add the sports calendars; 7:33 in length]

How to Add Google Calendar to iOs [Google support; If you use an iPhone or iPad, this can be a bit tricky, but it's worth the extra couple of steps]

Scheduling, Productivity, and Google Calendar [Kreative Knowledge; this is a long post, and includes a video, but does a great job of walking through the major features of Google Calendar.]

Above all, Google Calendar is a tool, and it needs to reflect not only what “has to get done,” but our priorities. Get a free account and think through your priorities: worship, family time, and work. Then get to putting those on the calendar and enjoy the difference being organized makes!

QUESTION: Do you use Google Calendar? What are your favorite features? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Your Calendar and Your Family

Your calendar says a lot about you. I’ve heard it said that, you can look at someone’s checkbook register (now, I guess that would be their online bank statement) and their calendar and have a good indication of their priorities and goals. It’s hard to say if that’s 100% true or not, but it certainly is a decent indication

366192378_af0d750c6f_b

So, today’s post asks a really simply question: does your calendar show that your family is a priority?

How often have you found yourself saying, “We just don’t have time to go on a date anymore?”

Have you put it on the calendar?

“We would do a family devotional, but there’s just no time.”

Stick it on the calendar.

“I don’t remember the last time I took the kids out for a fun afternoon.”

Guess what the answer is!

So, what does your calendar say about you and your family? How about we start filling our calendars with our priorities first, and letting other things take what’s left, instead of the other way around.

Tomorrow, I plan on showing you what I’m trying to do with Google Calendar this year to make it my all-in-one tool for scheduling stuff and getting a lot more done.

QUESTION: What are some things you try to put on your calendar, so your family gets the best of your time?

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Photo credit: Joe Lanman on Creative Commons

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {February 21, 2014 Edition}

Welcome to our Friday finds. We hope you enjoy all the treasures we have for you, and will use them to find some encouragement this weekend.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

You Don’t Hear Much about That Any More [Jim Faughn]

Protecting Our Marriage [A Bible Commentary]

3 Things You Can Do Today to Make Your Marriage Better [We are THAT Family]

Why I’m Glad My Kid Didn’t Make the Cut [for the family]

Does Healthy Eating Really Cost More? [Of the Hearth]

“Discovery” magazine for kids, February issue [Apologetics Press]

Family Tweet of the Week

 

Our Week in Review

Out top five posts this week. Not all of these were written in the last week, but these are the most viewed posts of the last week.

#5: Big News: Video Summer Series

#4: To My Son, After a Special Day

#3: Why Your Son Doesn’t Answer: Understanding a Boy’s Brain

#2: How Pornography is Robbing Men…and Boys

#1: Why We Switched to Republic Wireless and Lowered Our Phone Bill by $70 Per Month

What Did We Miss?

What family links, tweets, or videos did we miss this week? Contact us with links you’d like us to consider for future Friday’s Family Friendly Finds! You can also contact us if you are interested in writing a guest post for our site. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thankful Thursdays {February 20, 2014}

Thankful Thursdays

This is our 2nd installment of “Thankful Thursdays.” The idea is simple: leave a comment with a prayer request and we will take the time pray for you.

THIS WEEK, we are asking you to put in some things you are especially grateful for right now. So, leave a comment about something you want to thank God for today!

NOTE: Today, we will be praying around 6:30PM Central time, so please leave a comment by then.

Why We Switched to Republic Wireless and Lowered Our Phone Bill by $70 Per Month

I love cell phones. I especially love smartphones. I have owned an iPhone and an Andriod (HTC Inspire) over the last 6+ years, and, honestly, it is hard to consider ever leaving a smartphone behind.

However, I can’t stand how much our cell phone bill is (or, rather, was). Further, I despise cell phone contracts. Sure, you get a nice phone, but at what price?

So, with our current AT&T contract set to expire in early 2014, I started researching pretty much any and every alternative I could think of. I searched online, got recommendations from friends, and even talked to some folks in stores. It would be hard to list every company and option that I researched. (Leah got sick of hearing about it, since this lasted for almost six months.) AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Ting, Cricket, T-Mobile, Boost, Straight Talk, Virgin Mobile…and quite a few more were all researched heavily.

Finally, we decided to switch to Republic Wireless. The odds are, you haven’t heard of this company, but I hope to persuade you to consider them in today’s post. The reason is really simple: our cell phone bill will now be less than $50 per month…total.

Where We Were

Previously, we were customers with AT&T and, to be honest, we were quite pleased with their service. We just didn’t like how much our bill was, and we did not like being trapped by a 2-year contract just for me to have a nice phone.

All these years, I have had a smartphone and Leah has not. She has never really wanted one, but her phones were unwieldy, especially for texting.

So, we paid for a small shared phone plan, and added a very small text plan for her. Additionally, we paid for me to have a data package. I did not pay for texting on my phone, but used Google Voice for free texting.

Still, our bill averaged about $116.00 per month. Some of you are reading that and going, “So what?” I know that’s not a huge bill, but it was far more than we wanted to pay. It just seemed crazy to pay that much, especially when only one of us was using a smartphone.

And, have I mentioned, we were in a two-year contract, which I hate?

Why Republic Wireless?

After tons of research, we decided to give Republic Wireless our business. Admittedly, this is a fairly new company, but they are well-established, and their share is growing.

The reason is very simple: they are very inexpensive and do not require a contract.

To start, you must purchase a Moto X phone through Republic Wireless. These phones run $300 each. Yes, we paid $600 for our phones,*** but I think you’ll see why very soon. By the way, I love the Moto X. As a former iPhone owner, I will even say that I like it more than the iPhone. It is extremely fast and has tons of great features. Even if you aren’t a tech person, though, it is super easy to use. [A good review of the phone can be found here.]

Now, why would we dole out that much money for phones? How about to lower our cell bill by about $70 each month!

Republic offers four plans:

  • Wi-Fi only talk, text, and data for $5/month.
  • Unlimited talk and text over cellular, and Wi-Fi only data for $10/month (this is Leah’s plan)
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data over Wi-Fi and 3G network for $25/month (this is my plan)
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data over Wi-fi and 4G network for $40/month

So, with the two we chose ($10 for Leah and $25 for me), our bill is only $35 per month, plus tax (which isn’t much at all). Our bill should not ever be over $50, and will probably not approach that anytime soon. And, remember, there is no contract. We can come or go whenever we want with no early termination fee!

Now, consider where we were at (about $116/month) and where we are (let’s say $46/month), and you can see why we were willing to pay so much for our phones. We are saving around $70 each month on our cell phone bill! It won’t take anytime for us to make up the money we spent.

Let’s do the math for a moment.

Currently, we use AT&T, and our phones cost us nothing. Our average bill, however, is about $116. So, in the course of a year, we averaged spending just shy of $1400 ($1392, to be exact) on our AT&T plan.

Now, we did have to buy our phones from Republic.*** So we have to start at $600, but if our bill is $46 each month, that’s only $540. Add in the $600 for the phones, and we are at $1140. In other words, we will save about $250 our first year, and that’s with the price of the phones added in. In the coming years, we’ll save hundreds of dollars a year over our old plan. Just compare $1392 for a year to $540. How does pocketing an extra $852 dollars sound? You could give more, support a mission effort, pay off debt, or use that money to save up for another purchase in the future; all instead of sending it to a cell phone company!

UPDATE (April 15, 2014): Republic will begin offering a Moto G phone for only $149 starting on April 17, 2014. This phone will feature the $5, $10, and $20 per month plans only, but makes a much less expensive option for purchasing the phone.

How Do They Do This?

I kept wondering the same thing. It really sounded too good to be true.

Republic Wireless utilizes Wi-Fi in a very unique way. If you are in a Wi-Fi zone, your calls, texts, and data are automatically sent through that network (provided you are logged on), which saves on the cellular network. Republic is counting on a lot of users utilizing Wi-Fi to offset their costs.

When you aren’t in a Wi-Fi zone, calls are texts (as well as 3G and/or 4G if you have those plans) are run over the Sprint network. Now, I know what you are thinking: “You had me until Sprint.” Trust me, I felt the same way at first. THEN, however, I discovered that, when you are not on a Sprint network, Republic automatically roams to Verizon’s network, for free!

It’s not a bad plan: you have Verizon as a backup!

Oh, and what happens if you start a call in a Wi-Fi spot, but then leave it? No problem. That’s why you must purchase the Moto X from Republic. It is equipped with a “Wi-Fi handoff,” so you do not drop the call when you leave a Wi-Fi zone, and the handoff really is seamless. If you enter a Wi-Fi zone, your phone stays on the cellular plan until you end your call, so the transition is seamless that way, as well.

A few weeks ago, just after getting my phone to try out (you get a 30-day trial with full refund of the phone and the service plan if you are unhappy), I drove to Southeast Missouri to help with a funeral. I took the phone with me to test the signal. From Nashville, Tennessee to Dexter, Missouri I had signal the entire trip, except for a very short stretch (about 5 miles) in Western Kentucky. In that stretch of no signal, by the way, my AT&T phone only had one bar of service. I have since taken the phone to Henderson, Tennessee and had signal the entire time, as well.

UPDATE (April 15, 2014): We have now taken our phones to the Jasper, Alabama area with no problem as well. We are well satisfied with the coverage in/around Nashville and all places we have taken the phones thus far.

We are more than pleased with the phone (the Moto X rocks), and the service is more than admirable. But the cost? And having no contract?

How could we pass that up!

I will give two negatives before ending. First, the data signal is a bit slower than I was used to before. However, it is not slow; just slower. I just wanted to let you know that, in case you literally “live” on your phone for data. I use mine a lot, but don’t go crazy with it, so it’s no big deal to me. Other than that, we are perfectly happy with the performance of Republic on the Moto X.

Second, there is very little customer service. In fact, the customer service at Republic Wireless is basically a series of forums, but it is remarkable how much information is there. You can email them, and I have done that once, with a response in less than a day. I don’t mind this way of doing things for two reasons: (1) it keeps prices very low, and (2) how often do you actually use customer service, except when you are trying to lower your bill?

Interested?

If you are interested in switching to Republic, please use THIS LINK. If you use this link and stay with Republic Wireless for more than the 30 day free trial, I will get a $20 credit, and so will you!

[***Lest you think Leah and I have an extra $600 just lying around to buy gadgets and gizmos, we saved up for this purchase. We took some extra money for a few months and bought the phones. As far as money out of our regular budget, we only paid for shipping.]

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? Please leave your thoughts below about our switch. Let us know what you think.

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How Pornography is Robbing Men…and Boys

There can be no doubt that pornography is a major problem in our society. Even some, who a few years ago, thought that “a little porn” was “no big deal” are now reversing course. As we see this industry grow into a literal powerhouse economically, it is clear that the “adult” industry is here to stay.

But at what cost?

pornography robbing men boys

Pornography is not just a problem for men any longer. Though we are going to confine our thoughts in this post to males, it is now estimated that fully 30% of those who regularly visit pornographic websites are female, and the number is growing. More startling, though, is the suggestion that this growth in female users is because the number of men who are regular visitors is about as high as it is going to get. So many men are hooked that those who sell this smut must look elsewhere, and they are finding a lot of females who are ready to look, too.

Pornography is not just something that provides a little “tease” or even a little “escape,” however. It is dangerous. We know that it is habit-forming (dare I say, “addictive”), and research has proven that time and again. The earlier the exposure, the more likely a problem or even an addiction can form. Boys now average the age of just 11 for their first exposure. And the age is dropping.

But from young boys to older men, and every age in between, pornography robs men. It is a thief that takes a lot, and gives very little back. What is it robbing men of?

Redeeming the Time. Every mouse click can lead to a few more mouse clicks. When the internet first started really growing in popularity and usage, we kidded about how it was a “time suck.” A person would sit down to find out the score to the game, and two hours later, finally log off from the ‘net. Now, many men sit down to “just” see one picture or short video clip, only to look up and it’s been the same two hours, but the time has been spent alone, filling his mind with sexually perverted imagery. Many have lost their jobs over this issue, not necessarily because they were viewing porn, but because they were wasting valuable working time and not getting their work done. The time that is spent viewing pornographic pictures or videos is time that is not being spent doing what God has put us on the earth to do.

True marital intimacy. Pornography makes a woman into nothing more than an object. She becomes something to conquer and do with as the man pleases, then dispose of for another conquest. In other words, it removes the soul from the body. True, God-given sexuality combines the whole of man and woman in a bond that is not only innocent, but intimate. If a man is viewing all these other women, he cannot fully concentrate on his wife, and he will struggle to be truly intimate with her.

Appreciation of real beauty. Those who are addicted to pornography often speak of how it takes “more and more” to find the same level of fun. They sometimes mean that in volume, but they also mean it in the types of things they want to see. The girl who was super good looking yesterday no longer measures up, as the industry churns out newer, raunchier, and more seductive material. With high-quality cameras, computer editing, and airbrushing, the girls are no longer even real in their proportions or their looks. Now, his wife is not quite what she used to be, either. Instead of seeing how beautiful his wife really is, he will begin to think about any flaw she might have, and he will fail to appreciate her true, and God-given, beauty.

Evangelism. Men who struggle with pornography only see bodies. They do not see souls, so why would they preach or teach others the need to be saved? He will especially struggle to talk to women about salvation, because (frankly) that’s not what he’s thinking about when he looks at a woman any longer. He isn’t thinking about her soul, because pornography has removed that thought from his mind.

Every man and boy needs to realize that pornography is no laughing matter. It is a thief, and thieves need to be apprehended.

QUESTION: What else does pornography rob a man of? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Further Reading:

The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain [Christian Research Institute]

Wired for Intimacy by William M. Struthers [Kindle book on Amazon]

How Porn Affects the Brain

“The Truth about…Pornography”

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Photo credit: Alfred Fitzpatrick on Creative Commons

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To My Son, After a Special Day

Dear Son,

You may not long remember what happened Saturday, but I won’t soon forget it. If you do remember it, your mind may go to some of the things that happened that you found a bit unpleasant. I know it was noisy, and the game lasted a long time, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forget our day.

I asked you if you wanted to go watch a basketball game, and I know you aren’t really into sports, but you decided to go anyway. Mostly, that was because you found out grampy was going to be there, too, but that’s okay. That’s part of what made it a special day. A boy needs his grandfathers, and you have two wonderful men there, as well.

The game was not a sell-out, and the play on the court was completely awful. I’m not even sure you realized that the game went into overtime, causing us to have to sit through more of the terrible shooting and sloppy passing.

But what I remember more is that is this: every time I looked in my rear-view mirror in the car, or in the seat to my right in the stadium, there you were. My son. My boy.

Every night, I thank God for you, and I pray words of gratitude that God has allowed me to be your daddy. You are a wonderful young man. But daddy gets too busy sometimes. At other times, I’m just tired. You don’t get all the attention and love you need, but daddy is trying to do better. That three-hour Lego project a few weeks ago wasn’t the easiest 180-minutes of my life. But the smile on your face upon finishing the fort was worth it. Taking almost 90 minutes to set up probably 200 dominoes a few days ago was an exercise in patience for both of us (especially when we had to rebuild a few lines that fell early). But, your joy at the falling tiles was a great few moments.

And then…Saturday. We left at 11AM, and didn’t get home until about 4PM. Five hours for you, daddy, and grampy to be together. You were bored a lot of the time, and you don’t like loud noises, but you made it through. You loved the band (that’s okay; daddy does, too), and thought it was amazing that people could hold other people up in the air to do cheers. You even liked some of the noises the crowd made, even if the guy sitting behind us was super annoying.

But, through it all, there was your sweet face. Every day, I see you growing more and more out of the “little boy” phase and into the “big boy” phase. I do not know what God has planned for you for your future, but I pray often that He allows me to be around for a lot of it. And I pray that you grow to see why days like Saturday may not have meant a lot to you, but they mean the world to me.

Thank you for a very special day, son. I love you.

Daddy

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