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

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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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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {Valentine’s Day, 2014 edition}

Welcome to the re-launch of what used to be known as our Friday Links Roundup. With the new emphasis on our blog toward families, we are calling these posts our “Family Friendly Finds.”

Family Friendly Finds

This week, we have some great posts for you to check out over the weekend. Enjoy!

The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids about Sports–Or Any Performance [Fuller Youth Institute]

The Parenting Olympics [for the family]

Date Ideas for Every Season and Every Budget [Of the Hearth]

Leave and Cleave…My Spiritual Journey of Angst [Choosing Gladness]

5 Daddy Date and Mommy Date Ideas for Quality Time with Each of Your Kids [My Kids' Adventures]

Family Tweet of the Week

Video of the Week

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!

Week in Review

Each Friday, we plan to link to the most-viewed posts from the previous week, in order of their popularity. Here’s where people were coming this week:

#5: Big News: Video Summer Series

#4: How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals

#3: Exciting News: The Faughn FAMILY Blog

#2: Why Wait for Valentine’s Day?

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

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Book Review: Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men

Stephen Mansfield’s book that describes itself a “an utterly invigorating guide to being your most masculine self” was a book I looked so forward to reading. At first, I was very thrilled by what the pages contained. Mansfield begins with his “Four Manly Maxims” that are important for men to hold. I agree with them wholeheartedly, and he illustrates his four points very well.

For the remainder of the text of the book–which is the bulk of the material–Mansfield then shares many traits that men need to have in their lives. Traits such as humility, humor, presence and many others fill the pages. Each chapter, then, uses a historical figure to illustrate that masculine trait and how it made a difference. In theory, it was a good idea. To my mind, though, this stretched the book a little far. The chapters are very uneven, both in length and in their strength. Personally, I think Mansfield tried to do too much in one book by covering all these areas in addition to the “manly maxims” that are in the first part.

Overall, the book has some great material for illustrations and quotations. It is obvious that Mansfield has done his homework in collecting materials for each of his chapters. I would have rather the book dug more in-depth into the “manly maxims,” and the multiple chapters on qualities been another book. Trying to do both watered down an otherwise good and very needed book.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers (formerly Booksneeze), in exchange for an honest review. I am not required to give a positive review.

Thankful Thursdays {February 13, 2014}

Thankful Thursdays

Welcome to our first ever “Thankful Thursday!” As we mentioned on Monday’s post, Thursdays are set aside for prayer requests. The concept is simple: leave a comment below and at a set time, we will pray for those you have listed.

NOTE: Today, we plan on praying at 3:00PM Central, so please leave your comments by then.

So, who do we need to pray for? Leave a comment and let us know!

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

Nearly anytime I see a report that trumpets some great discovery about how males and females are different, I have to laugh. Does it really take a scientific study to tell us something that any trip to the park or the mall would make abundantly clear?

However, some of the information about why there are differences really is interesting. One of those has to do with the way a boy’s brain is wired. It helps to explain some of the difficulties we as parents might face in raising a young man.

boys brain

To those of us without a medical degree, the brain has “gray” and “white” matter in it. Doctors have very fancy terms, but I can grasp the two colors! A study by Richard Haier and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen “discovered that male brains utilize nearly seven times more gray matter for activity while female brains utilize nearly ten times more white matter.” (1)

What does that mean?

The gray-matter parts of our brains are very localized, almost like cubicles in an office building. Each one does one task and focuses on that task. So, when a boy is doing something, these “localized” portions of his brain are focused on that thing. It is one reason why, if your son is playing a game and you try to talk to him, he may not even notice you. It could be that he is not being unsympathetic or uncaring. It could just be that his brain really is “tuned in” to what he is doing.

White-matter portions of the brain, in the other hand, are far more interconnected. Think of a major interstate exchange in a big city, and you’ll have some idea of the picture. Girls use these parts of their brains more, which is why they can usually transition more quickly from one thing to another than boys. Simply call your children, who are playing a game, to the dinner table, and usually the girl will come more quickly than the boy. The reason is because her brain is more wired to make such quick “switches” between thoughts and activities.

What does this mean for our sons? Of course, every child is different, but let’s look at some general applications from this simple knowledge.

Focus on One Task. This is not a bad thing. The typical boy can focus on one thing, but will often work at it for-seemingly-ever to figure something out. He may be impatient when he can’t do something well, but he’ll stay at it more often than girls. This is a good trait for his future, because he will be more likely to stay with a job until it is done.

Fear of Failure. This is a negative of this almost “tunnel vision” approach boys have. He may give up very quickly on a task because he thinks he cannot complete it. He would rather use this strong work ethic in something he can “win.” By the way, this helps to explain why so many boys are virtually (or literally) addicted to video games. Once they find one they can improve on, they will play for hours. However, if he doesn’t finish “level one” in a try or two, he may give up. Obviously, we must work with boys to help them overcome this fear and to learn that failure is okay, so long as he gives his best effort.

Patience. Obviously, all children need patient parents, but boys are often picked on because they don’t “drop what they are doing” and “get here right now.” Of course, they need to learn responsibility and the need to see the desires of others, but boys naturally will be slower at transitioning from one task to another. Give him a moment to come out of “his world” and into what you need him to do. Work with him in getting quicker at these transitions.

Relational Struggles. Boys can seem, and can literally be, oblivious to what others are doing, even in the same room. Because they have this tendency, we jump on them and can fail to help them develop the ability to be more aware of not only the presence of others, but the needs of other people. This is a struggle that will continue, but it can be improved. It has to be molded, however.

We never want to “excuse” a boy’s behavior, simply because this is part of his natural makeup. Parents do need to understand his mind, though, so they can know not only what they want him to become, but also where they are starting.

QUESTION: What are some other positives and negatives of a boy using his “gray matter” so much?

(1) This post is based upon some research found in the book Raising Boys by Design by Gregory L. Jantz and Michael Gurian. It is a book I highly recommend for parents or for those who counsel families. You can get a copy from Amazon here. (The quotation above is from page 21.)

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Photo credit: Nathanial Burton-Bradford on Creative Commons

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