My kid doesn’t have an iPhone—yet.

Silas-on-the-phone

Kickin’ it old school. 

In a few weeks I’ll be ready to trade in my old phone for an iPhone 5. When I do, my kids will get possession of my old 4s.

And by “my kids,” I mostly mean my 9-year-old daughter. Out of all my kids, she’s the one who already uses my iPhone the most. She loves to take pictures, make videos, and text her grandma. She looks up recipes, gardening tips, and random science factoids. (With lots of supervision, because that last part—the part about googling stuff on the internet—makes me nervous.)

My 11-year-old son uses my iPhone too, but only occasionally, mostly to check baseball scores, the weather, and playing word games.

I know lots of kids have their own iPhones these days, but I’m still getting used to it—and am still surprised at how many of our personal friends have given them to their 9- and 10-year-old kids for birthdays or Christmas.

My kids won’t get “ownership” of my old phone, exactly, but starting in a few weeks, it will be available to them more often than it is now. (With WiFi only—no data plan.)

Knowing this transition is coming, I’m trying to think a few steps ahead. I can already foresee two huge issues: adult content (I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean, right?) and total screen time.

I’m planning on following Kristen’s instructions to kid-proof the phone, ensuring they won’t be able to accidentally access adult content on it.

And I suspect we’re about to outgrow our screen time “system.” Right now it’s is dead simple: during daily rest time, they can watch a show or movie (usually 25-45 minutes in length) if they choose. If they want to use my iPhone for two minutes to take a picture, check baseball scores, or ask Siri a question, I usually say “yes” and hand it over.

So we need to kid-proof the phone and upgrade our screen time system, but I suspect that’s not all there is to it.

What’s your experience with kids and digital devices? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, rules, precautions, and all the other things I don’t even know I don’t know. 

P.S. Why we got a tv for our kids after 8 years without one, and cell phone etiquette basics.

My adolescent marriage {on my anniversary}

13 things I've learned in 13 years of marriage
Today is my 14th anniversary.

Since I started blogging in 2011, we’ve celebrated our 11th, then our 12th, and our lucky 13th anniversary.

I’ve had more conversations than usual this spring—just coincidentally—with friends who’ve gotten divorced, or are in the middle of one. Those talks are sobering: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes our marriage work, and what makes us go off the rails sometime.

Will and I married at 21 and 22. There’s so much I loved about marrying young (I wonder if that’s because of our personality types—I’m an INFP—but that’s another post for another day) but with the perspective of years it’s easier to see how that could have gone either way.

Fourteen years. Some people would say our marriage is in its own sort of adolescence right now. That never made sense to me, although, ironically, I do see a parallel between our fourteen-year marriage and the twenty-something years.

Meg Jay, who wrote a wonderful book on making the most of your twenties, says that one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-something years is to “slide, not decide.” It’s too easy, in your twenties, to walk blindly down the path of least resistance instead of living with intention during this decade.

I’m not a twenty-something anymore, but I recognize those same challenges in my fourteen-year marriage. We have four kids and two jobs and interesting side gigs and a fair amount of craziness in our day-to-day. I hate to say this, but we are busy. Life is packed.

It would be so easy, when it comes to our relationship, to walk down that path of least resistance, which—in my mind—looks a whole lot like long-term survival mode instead of consciously, deliberately, intentionally nurturing this relationship that means so much to me.

I understand how that could happen to a marriage, and how it does happen, everyday.

But on our anniversary, I’m reminded of why we went all in and how glad I am, (almost) every day, to put my lot in with this guy.

Reflections welcome in comments, whether you’re not-yet-married, hope-to-be-married, swear-you’ll-never-marry, or sixty-years-married. 

P.S. More thoughts on marriage.

Gift ideas for men (fathers and otherwise)

I’m re-running this post from the archives because Father’s Day is right around the corner—but these gifts for men are season-less. 

Men are notoriously hard to shop for, but don’t despair. Here are a few low-key ideas for the hard-to-buy-for man in your life:

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club is a new subscription service that sends high-quality razors to your door for $1/month. (Will upgraded to the $6/month plan after a few months, but the $1 plan ain’t bad.)

Grab a gift card here to let him choose his own plan. Great for the last minute: print it and you’re done.

Gift ideas for men (fathers and otherwise) | Modern Mrs Darcy

Stationery

The Art of Manliness has their own line of manly-themed stationery–you can choose from 25 different manly motifs.  I especially like “true north” and “skipjack.”  ($15/box of 15)

Monogrammed note cards are always a nice choice. But high-quality plain note cards are versatile and cost a lot less.

gift ideas for men (fathers and otherwise) | Modern Mrs Darcy

Moleskines

Slim notebooks like Moleskines are everywhere these days and come in a huge array of sizes and colors.  My favorite is the pocket-sized notebook because of its usefulness as a productivity tool.  The Moleskine brand is a classic (and quality) choice but there are many good (and cheaper) options.

gift ideas for men (fathers and otherwise) | Modern Mrs Darcy

A nice pen

The Bullet Space Pen ($20) is a good choice for a pen geek, but if your guy’s got a favorite brand already, go with it. My husband loves the inexpensive Pilot G-2 ($2), so I’d buy him a box of those and call it a day.

gift ideas for men (fathers and otherwise) | Modern Mrs Darcy

Beef jerky

Buy it or make your own. I love Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for chipotle beef jerkyAlton Brown’s jerky recipe has 124 (!!!) 5-star reviews at the Food Network–but I haven’t tried it yet, mostly because I haven’t wanted to fork over the money for those air conditioning filters.

We love Perky Jerky at my house. Will might be getting a case of this for Father’s Day (and then the rest of us will end up feeling guilty for snitching it).

A homemade pie (or three)

Bake one up, or pay someone to do it for you. My neighborhood is home to a wonderful pie kitchen, and one of their bakery pies would convey as much love as a homemade one (and you wouldn’t have to sweat the results).

A Trapp black pepper candle

This amazing scent is delightfully unexpected, and not one you’d think of as “feminine.” Give him the gift of a masculine-smelling dwelling with a Trapp Black Pepper Candle. He’ll appreciate his bedroom not smelling like a flower garden.

(This is a personal gift–don’t buy a Trapp candle for your father-in-law.)

What not to give

No fatherhood books, unless hand-crafted by his offspring.

No gifts that nag: no tool to finish the long-delayed project, no gym membership, no t-shirts bought specifically so you can trash favorite (holey) tees.

No CDs, movies, or video games unless specifically requested, because they’re a little too generic. These make great just-because gifts, but steer clear of these for important occasions.

Know your guy

Men can be challenging to buy for–but it’s not impossible to find a suitable gift if you think outside the box.  When women want to show love through gifts, we tend to think on the grand scale.  But really, men just want to be known and appreciated for who they are.

So what does your recipient really like? Go with that–whether or not you’ve seen it in a magazine layout–and you can’t go wrong.

We could all use some ideas, so share your best gift ideas for men in comments. 

jerky photo credit: Flickr user FottosVan Robin

Parenting the good kids and the odd ones out

parenting the good kids and the odd kids out

A few weeks ago, before all this craziness of moving started, my husband and I attended a home educators’ conference in Cincinnati, and I promised you thoughts.

I think I have a dozen blog posts piled up from the event.

We only attended a handful of conference sessions, but we hit all the sessions we could with Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind. She shared some very personal things about her family—things I wouldn’t dream of putting in a blog post—explaining that “older women are supposed to share whatever wisdom they have with younger ones.” I’m a decade or so behind her, and I’m so grateful she did.

Minus the personal details, let me share the gist of the session that I can’t stop thinking about: on parenting the good kid, and the odd kid out.

Susan said, “Every family with three or more kids has one kid that they just can’t figure out.” (I’m curious to hear your thoughts—is this your experience, as a child or as a parent?)

I have four kids, and do I ever relate. 

The odd kid out

The odd kid out isn’t necessarily a social misfit; instead this is the kid who isn’t like her siblings, the one who doesn’t fit neatly into your family system. There are many possible reasons this kid doesn’t groove, among them:

• slower chronological development (either physically or emotionally)
• different ways of processing information
• lack of awareness of social cues
• different priorities

These kids tend to have their struggles early in life: their struggle is to find their place.

The good kid

The good kid, on the other hand, is the one who seems to practically raise himself. This is the kid who doesn’t put a foot out of line, who doesn’t get his name written on the board, who gets his homework done early and puts himself to bed on time.

That all sounds great, so what’s the problem?

• Many good kids operate out of fear.
• They’re afraid people will reject them if they fail, so they never fail.

The good kids tend to struggle in the middle. These are the kids who sail through adolescence drama-free, only to have a massive breakdown in their early thirties.

(I was a good kid.)

Bringing it home

After listening to Susan explain about the good kids and the odd kids out, my husband leaned in to me and said, “can a kid be both?”

My thoughts exactly.

Before we heard Susan speak about her family—and the dynamics at work within it that affect so many other families—we knew we had issues, and that we weren’t really satisfied with how we were approaching it. But we had no language with which to talk about it.

This new perspective has been incredibly helpful as Will and I take a hard look at our family dynamics, see what our individual kids needs from us, and examine Susan’s action points. I’ll share a few in a future post.

(This is the same reason I geek out about personality assessment tools—they give their users a language to talk about what’s going on in their heads, their work, their relationships.)

I’m also grateful that Susan made it clear that “the good kid and the odd kid out both have the same distance to go.” It’s easy for parents to think that the odd kids out are (unpleasantly) challenging and the good kids are pure joy to parent, but that’s just not so. Both these kids have their struggles, but those struggles look very different.

I’m eager to hear about your experience with this. Tell me about growing up as the good kid or the odd kid out, or the sibling to one. Parents: do you see these dynamics at work in your own family? I’d love to hear the details. Feel free to keep your comments anonymous on this one.  

P.S. Your kids need to hear joy in the lifestyle you’ve chosen. And 7 books I read over and over again.