Digital Dementia? STOP Screen Addiction

 

 

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Tools for fighting digital dementia

What is digital dementia? This term was coined several years ago in South Korea, where doctors reported alarming rates of memory and cognitive deficiencies. Children’s brains began to respond much like those who experienced brain injuries. Many researchers contend that the more that you train your children with electronics, the less capacity they will have to pay attention, develop emotionally, and function well in a classroom. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time to one or two hours per day. Some parents think that the suggestion is overkill, and that children aren’t harmed by electronic use. Excessive media use has been linked to memory loss, difficulty with paying attention, and obesity. Why? Because your brain and body aren’t exercising when you are staring at a screen. I find myself siding with AAP and researchers, and believing that adults, and entire families, may also benefit from limited screen time.

Have you ever taken a look around the store, or restaurant, and observed the families in the room? Are they interacting with each other? Are they truly present? Are their faces obscured by devices?  Sadly, you may notice that far too many kids are not only using devices for hours on end, but they are currently addicted to them. Many people would prefer to argue over the existence of digital dementia, without considering the necessity of monitoring the technology use of our children. I have been working with Superkiddo to help him remain more fascinated by his books, and toys, than he is by any gaming system, or mobile device. My mom friends and I have pledged to keep each other accountable in our quest to not raise screen zombies. We implemented the following tools, and so far, they work:

 

  1.  Research Roundup: Search engines are powerful, and readily accessible; however, they aren’t necessarily designed to help us get any smarter. Sure, you can get results faster, but will you really learn anything, or appreciate the work that it takes to find the answer? Let your children see what it takes to dig into multiple sources, and how to navigate the reference section of your local library.
  2.  Read Actual Books: You know…the ones with paper pages. I love my e-reader, and it has its place. I noticed that the more that I read from a device, the more that Superkiddo wanted to play on it. He never saw what I was doing as reading, even if I showed him that only words, not pictures or videos, were on the screen. When I began to spend more time with physical books again, my child stopped asking for so much screen time.
  3. Celebrate Imagination: My family frequently visits the Disney Parks. We are fascinated every time that we arrive. The exhibits, rides, and experiences weren’t created by people who were only staring at the creations of others on a screen. The Imagineers had to use their own creative imaginations to develop what we get to see and enjoy. Our children can be the same way. Encourage them to explore nature, delve into arts and crafts, and build with their toys. Show them that they can have great fun, and create incredible things, without screen time.
  4. Go Outside: I am sure that my fellow Southerners are yelling at the screen, but it is TOO HOT. I agree; however, it isn’t 100 degrees all day. Pick a time at which you, and your family can get outside. You may not have the time to load up the car, and head to the beach, but you have time to at least walk the block, kick the soccer ball around the yard, or ride your bikes. Yes, I am always encouraging physical activity, but trust me, it is great for you.

 

I do not pretend to have all of the answers; however, I am noticing an alarming, expanding trend in far too many children. Our kids are addicted to mobile devices, and aren’t moving enough. Why aren’t we, the parents, the grownups who should know better, doing anything? Perhaps we aren’t sure what can be done. Perhaps we appreciate that technology makes life easier, and we try not to dwell on any potentially negative side effects. Am I suggesting that we eliminate technology? Absolutely not; however, I think that we can take small steps to help our children focus on the world beyond their tiny screens.

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Our kids will follow our lead. If they see that we enjoy books, they will more than likely prefer them. If our children see that we are active, and looking for things to do outside, they will want to as well. It may seem easier to just pass our phones to our children at restaurants, in the car, or when they are bored, but I believe that it will not benefit us in the long run. Schedule, and monitor screen time for children, and encourage them to use their brains, and move their bodies. I believe this will enable us to help our children grow healthier, and smarter.

Do you solve your children’s boredom with a digital device? Are their favorite toys actual toys, or gaming systems, phones, or tablets? What are your views on monitoring digital access? Do you believe that researchers are off their rockers, or do they have a point? I would love to know your thoughts.

 

#Review: No Weapon Formed

 This post contains sponsored content, and/or affiliate links.

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Author Michelle Stimpson has a dynamic new addition to her Boaz Brown series, No Weapon Formed. This sequel invites the reader to delve into the lives, and marriage, of LaShondra and Stelson. Many Christian fiction authors only paint the prettiest pictures of the easiest relationships. Stimpson gives a realistic view of the dynamics of marriage, family relationships, and the inner conflict that takes place when someone questions if their marriage even stands a chance.

Although the series targets the challenges of the interracial marriage of LaShondra and Stelson, there are insightful moments for adult readers of all backgrounds, and stages of life. The author has a fabulous method of using humor to teach the lessons of her stories. You may recognize yourself, or people you know, in the zany mix of characters. If you have ever experienced conflict in your relationships, found yourself at odds with tradition, and had your faith challenged, then you will relate to, and enjoy this storyline. No Weapon Formed is quite the enjoyable read, and I found myself laughing loudly, and talking back to the book on several occasions. I look forward to more by Michelle Stimpson.

 

About The Author

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Michelle Stimpson is an author, a speaker, and an educator who received her Bachelor of Science degree from Jarvis Christian College in 1994. She earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2002. She has had the pleasure of teaching elementary, middle, and high school as well as training adults. In addition to her work in the field of education, Michelle ministers through writing and public speaking. Her works include the highly acclaimed Boaz Brown, Divas of Damascus Road (National Bestseller), and Falling Into Grace. She has published several short stories for high school students through her educational publishing company, Right Track Academic Support Services, at www.wegottaread.com. Michelle serves in women’s ministry at her home church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, in Dallas, TX. She regularly speaks at special events and writing workshops sponsored by churches, schools, book clubs and other positive organizations, and she has taught writing classes at the University of Texas at Arlington. Michelle lives near Dallas with her husband, their two teenage children, and one crazy dog.

Social Links:

Twitter:  @StimpsonTweets

Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/Michelle.Stimpson2

Email: stimpson.michelle@gmail.com

Website: http://www.MichelleStimpson.com

About The Book

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LaShondra and her Boaz, Stelson, are living the ideal American lifestyle, except for the subtle and not-
so-subtle ways society keeps reminding them that they aren’t the norm. She’s African-American, he’s Caucasian, and their oldest child is already tackling the question of identity. It’s bad enough when outsiders show their ignorance or disdain. But when the issues come from family, LaShondra finds herself wondering if Stelson can truly comprehend the challenges looming on the horizon.

When a church picnic leads to a head-on clash between LaShondra’s fears and Stelson’s optimism, the truth prevails. But that’s just the beginning. LaShondra learns that the drama during the family outing was only a set-up for an even more rigorous spiritual battle to save her family. After turning her back to the pressures at work and yielding to Stelson’s leadership, LaShondra finds herself interceding for a husband she hardly even recognizes anymore.

Is this the beginning of the end for the couple that truly endeavored to honor God’s ways, or will this season fortify their marriage for His glory?

Genre: Christian Fiction

Series: Boaz Brown

Paperback: 248 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 21, 2014)

ISBN-10: 1499642784

ISBN-13: 978-1499642780

Excerpt

Hwuuuuu. Sheeeee. Hwuuuuu. Sheeee.

“Stelson. Turn over on your stomach.” I shoved my husband’s shoulder, attempting to wake him.

No response.

Hwuuuuu. Sheeeee. Hwuuuuu. Sheeee.

“Stelson. Roll over.” A little louder, a little stronger push this time.

The television illuminated his glare at me, displaying the kind of anger that only a Church of God in

Christ usher gives a member chewing gum in the sanctuary. “What?”

I demanded, “Roll over. You’re snoring.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I’m not even sleep,” he protested.

“You think I woke you up so I could lie to you?” He crumpled up his face, flipped onto his stomach with a grumble and turned his head away. I didn’t care about him getting upset. He wasn’t the one who had to rise at 5:00 a.m. so he could work out, get himself dressed, and then get a 6 month old and a 4-year-old up, fed, dressed and at the daycare before 7:15 a.m.—all the while hoping to make it to work by 7:45 a.m. To be fair, Stelson would have helped with the kids if I’d asked him. But why should I have to ask? Shouldn’t it be instinctive to think, “Wow, my wife is really busting her behind with the kids. Since I have a morning off, I should use it to help her.”? Apparently this is not common sense. Within seconds, my husband was at it again. Only this time it wasn’t so much the sound as the annoying vibration of the rattle in his throat and nose. How have wives slept through snoring husbands for centuries?

 

Available Now:
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Author Tour Schedule: http://wnlbooktours.com/michelle-stimpson/

 

Reviewed byJust Jeanae received a promotional copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own, and were not influenced by any other factors. Many thanks to WNL Book Tours for the opportunity to support this release. 

#spon #New #Bookblast #Lottie by Jeanetta Britt

lottiebannerThis post contains sponsored content.

The author is offering a giveaway. See the rafflecopter for details. 

One winner will receive: an autographed copy of all three books in the Lottie series: Pickin’ Ground (The Lottie Series Book 1) In Due Season (The Lottie Series Book 2) Lottie (The Lottie Series Book 3)

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Publication Date: May 31, 2014

Book Title: Lottie Genre: Christian Fiction

Print Length: 235 pages

Publisher: Twelve Stones Publishing LLC (May 31, 2014)

 ASIN: B00KP1IJSO

About The Book lottiecover

Oh, no! Rose is back! If Lottie isn’t having enough trouble being a newlywed and taking on her duties as the first female African American Senator in her native state of Alabama, her sister Rose is trying to make the moves on her husband, Chaney. Rose has had a crush on Chaney since high school, and it looks like she’s not done yet. And in spite of her love for her community and her political pursuits, Lottie has to learn to open her heart and fight for her family. Family, however, is not always what it seems—family is the people who love us. Lottie, the third book in the Lottie Series, follows the murder mystery in Pickin’ Ground, and the story of personal and community redemption in In Due Season. Lottie explores the fulfillment of marital love that overcomes selfish ambition, political corruption, and family pain. “There is no love like married love!”

Available Now:

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About The Author

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Award-winning author, Jeanetta Britt, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Fisk University and Top Ten from The University of Michigan. She completed a successful executive career that spanned over three decades in Dallas, Texas, before returning to her native Alabama. “But,” she says, “my faith in Jesus Christ means more than anything, and it has proven to be the most valuable asset in my life.” She also says, “That’s why I write Christian Fiction novels and Gospel poetry . . . to share the love!”

 

Social Links:

Email: brittbooks@msn.com

Website: http://www.jbrittbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JBrittBooks

 

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#New #Contemporary #Romance: Married in the Nick of Nine

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Publication Date: July 2, 2014
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Diverse Arts Collective
ISBN-10: 0615620744
ISBN-13: 978-0615620749

About The Book

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Cassandra Whitmore is facing yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Her love life is as dry as the Sharpie pen she uses to mark an even more dreadful day on her calendar—her upcoming 30th birthday. Driven by the maddening ticking of her biological clock, Cassandra is determined to meet, fall in love with, and marry “The One” within nine months. When Cassandra accompanies her cousin to a nightclub, her Type-A quest to meet a man is quickly rewarded by a stranger’s velvety, baritone voice asking if he might occupy the seat next to her. He’s Nicolas Harte, whose good looks leave Cassandra speechless, but not for long. After mustering enough courage to strike up a conversation, she learns Nicolas is everything she wants in a man—smart, successful, and available. There’s only one catch: He’s “GU” (geographically undesirable). Nonetheless, Cassandra falls in love with Nicolas and makes the uncharacteristic decision to move from Los Angeles to New York to be with him. But Cassandra gets a rude awakening when she discovers there’s something rotten in the Big Apple.

About The Author

MarriedBlast2

Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theater pieces—the community response was overwhelming. This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s “One, Woman Two Lives,” starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences. In between plays, Alretha’s first novel, “Daughter Denied,” was launched in 2008 and in 2011, Alretha launched “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” Her third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine,” spawned a four-book series that has been acquired by Soul Mate Publishing. “Married in the Nick of Nine,” the first book in the series was released July 2, 2014.

Social Links:
Email: Alrethat@aol.com
Website: http://www.Alrethathomas.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alretha.thomas
Twitter: @AlrethaThomas

Trailer:

Paperback and Kindle versions are available for Purchase on Amazon:

This author is giving away a free Kindle copy of Married in the Nick of Nine. See the Rafflecopter for details.

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Tour Hosted by wnlbooktours.com

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Author Tour Schedule: http://wnlbooktours.com/alretha-thomas/

Many thanks to WNL Book Tours for the opportunity to review, & support the blast for this new release.

LEGO® Kidsfest Dallas

legofest2I am SO excited! The LEGO® Kidsfest is coming to Dallas, and my family was selected to receive complimentary passes! If you have a young child who loves to build with LEGO bricks as much as Superkiddo does, then you might know just how much celebratory screaming has been going on around here.

What is LEGO Kidsfest?
LEGO KidsFest is a hands-on, educational, all-ages LEGO extravaganza! It features millions of LEGO bricks, multiple construction zones, dozens of life-sized LEGO models and displays, LEGO Friends, LEGO Chima, LEGO Star Wars, live LEGO Master Builders, and so much more, all covering three acres of space.

There will be five identical sessions available during LEGO Kidsfest, including the following activities (schedule is subject to change):

  • LEGO Model Gallery: dozens of life-sized models made entirely from LEGO bricks
  • LEGO Master Builders: live demonstrations and activities from the crew who get paid to play
  • Race Ramps: build a custom car, then race it down the ramp against friends and family
  • LEGO Chima: choose a tribe and test battling skills with the whole family
  • LEGO Star Wars: build and display a Star Wars model
  • Creation Nation: build your own creation to add to a custom map of the U.S.
  • LEGO DUPLO: younger visitors can explore imagination through building
  • LEGO Retail: purchase LEGO merchandise and official KidsFest tour goods
  • Brick Pile: a gigantic pile full of LEGO bricks for creative play and enjoyment
  • Monochromatic Builds: bricks of a single color to foster group creativity
  • LEGO Friends: build for the five empowered friends from Heartlake City
  • LEGO Ninjago: spin the way to being a Spinjitzu member
  • LEGO Mindstorms: build and program robots and snakes
  • LEGO City: using the imagination to create buildings and vehicles to the urban diorama


Enter to win free admission:
One of my readers will win (2) FREE tickets to the opening night session of LEGO Kidsfest Dallas on Friday, August 29, 2014 (4-8:30pm).

The winner will be randomly chosen by USFG on Monday, August 4, 2014, and will be announced on my blog.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

You must be 18 to enter, and only 1 entry per day is allowed. See the contest form for all official rules.

How about a discount?
Even if you aren’t selected as the winner, you can still enjoy the fun of the Dallas event. I am elated to let you in on a little secret: you can save on your passes to LEGO Kidsfest! For a limited time, my readers can save $2 on each adult ticket purchased prior to August 8. That means that everyone who uses this deal will pay kids prices! These events have been selling out in past cities, so HURRY! Visit http://www.legokidsfest.com/dallas/  and use code “DTXB14″ to get this deal.

There’s something for everyone!

Meet me there, & let’s hang out with our favorite LEGO heroes!

I encourage you to LIKE and Follow LEGO KidsFest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest ticketing updates. I hope to see you there!

Just Jeanae has been compensated with free passes in order to complete a review. All opinions expressed are always my own. Many thanks to US Family Guide for the opportunity to visit and review this event.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Trust me when I say this: unless your grandma was Ina Garten or B. Smith (Go ahead, & google them, youngins), Brussels sprouts were probably not the best dish that she ever made you eat. In fact, most would agree that their childhood memories of Brussels sprouts are far from fond. Thankfully, this method allows us to take a second look at, and request several helpings, of this delectable dish. I dare say that we can create better memories of Brussels sprouts by cooking them this way.

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IngredientsBrussels2
1 lb of Brussels Sprouts
3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (Pasolivo is my latest passion!)
1 Teaspoon of Alaea Hawaiian Salt
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Crushed
1 Teaspoon of Black Pepper *optional*

 

 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut off the ends of your Brussels sprouts, and peel away the outer layer. Remove any discolored leaves.
  3. Slice the Brussels sprouts in half.
  4. Place them into a large bowl, and mix with the olive oil, garlic, and seasonings.
  5. Spread evenly onto a sheet pan.
  6. Roast 35-45 minutes.* Continue to check your Brussels sprouts after 25 minutes, and shake the pan to help them brown evenly.

*Some people like them extra crispy, and super brown. I am not into charred food, so I prefer to cook them just long enough for a slightly crispy exterior, and tender interior.

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Variations:
If you are lucky enough to have Pasolivo Lemon Olive Oil, a bit of lemon zest would make a fabulous addition during plating.

My pork loving friends often borrow this recipe, and tweak it with bacon. Apparently, the bacon will crisp nicely in the oven with the Brussels sprouts.

Add slices of onions, carrots, or potatoes for a nice mixed roasted vegetable medley.

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Give Brussels sprouts another try. You just might surprise your family, and yourself, with a new favorite vegetable.
 

When The Death Is Announced On Facebook

 

Most bloggers can tell you about the friendships that we often start online.  We can’t explain them; we just happen to find a connection with, or grow to care about certain people. Before you know it, BAM: we are one big, wacky, assorted mix of friends and family. Today’s post references once such relationship, and how I found myself coming to the defense of a new member of our assorted mix within the sisterhood.

briana4I haven’t had much time for posting this week. The title of this post gives a clue as to why, but let’s get a bit of background first. I met Melisha through fellow singers, and ministry friends. She had the sweetest spirit, and the most adorable daughters. We connected over values, raising children, favorite artists, etc. When she posted a video on Facebook as a response to the “gospel challenge,” her “friends” list exploded. At first, it seemed like a good thing, but things soon turned ugly. Thousands viewed and shared her singing footage, and found reasons to ridicule and disrespect her. They failed to learn about the hearing issue that affected her speech. They also failed to understand the history of abuse, and bullying that has tormented her since childhood. All that most of the viewers and sharers of that video cared about was the opportunity to laugh.

Last weekend, I received an urgent message from Melisha. Her  adorable little girl, Briana Speed, became mysteriously ill, and was being rushed to the ER. What followed is still a blur, but it included time standing still as doctors looked at Melisha, and advised that they were unable to confirm any brain activity. It is still impossible to process it. How does this happen? Why did it happen? To date, there are no answers. The events of the past few days remain a medical mystery, and ended in heartbreak.

Obviously, this mother is suffering excruciating grief, and reached out to “real life” and online friends and family for help. Amazingly, there were no huge numbers of shares and responses. How is that possible? THOUSANDS viewed and shared the “gospel challenge” video.  When I sent alerts, and requests for prayers before beautiful Briana was declared brain dead, the responses numbered in the hundreds. These were the same people who didn’t hesitate to share the “hilarious” and “awful” singing video post just days before.

briana7-4-14I am baffled. I am angry. I grieve with my friend, and I am confused by the many who decided to friend her recently. Did the followers and “friends” do so out of curiosity? Were they hoping for more laughs? When the emergency erupted with her daughter, where did everyone go? How could so many people see a need, and say and do nothing?

You may be thinking perhaps they prayed without leaving comments, and you may be right. My only points of reference are the words from my friend, the comments on her urgent requests for support, and the responses to my personal requests to several ministers and friends. I have to tell you that the supportive responses were few.  When over 1,200 were asked to post information about Briana, and ask their friends to pray, only 200 did.  When I contacted the same pastors, and worship ministers, who took delight in sharing the comedy of the “gospel challenge” video, only 3 got involved. Three.

So, here we are. A grieving mom is preparing to say goodbye. The groundswell of onlookers and comments dried up. The requests for help? So far, have mostly gone unanswered.  Is this post just about helping to support and encourage a single mom as she prepares to bury her child? No. This also isn’t meant to shame anyone. I get it: some people may very well not have the means to send anything, but many of the people, who had the time to ridicule her days ago, definitely have the capacity to help her. Prayers, and kind words mean the world to someone who is hurting. A simple card, or small donation, when combined with other small acts, can add up to one huge, love-filled bundle of help. Little becomes much…

I have no idea how cyber-bullying (there simply is NO other way to describe what people intentionally wrote about her) has become a pastime for adults, and Christian adults at that! I just know that I have witnessed the best and worst of people over the past few days. Those of us who banded together, and prayed for a miracle, formed an even closer circle of love and prayer when the outcome wasn’t what we expected. Our sadness isn’t just for the beautiful baby who will be buried next week, and the family she left behind, but it is for all of the people who used the “gospel challenge” to feel superior for 30 seconds. It is possible that many of the authors of the hate riddled comments have no idea what Melisha felt when she read their words, or that she suffered a traumatic loss just days after. Some know, and apologized. Others know, and they just don’t care. I just have to say that I care, and stuff like this has to stop.

Death wasn’t just announced when beautiful Briana left this earth; death was present when the many sharers and responders to Melisha’s video decided that their words and actions were appropriate. They demonstrated what happens when compassion and common courtesy die. When they chose to speak anything other than love and life, they were speaking hate, and death. Is it normal to joke, and tease with our friends, or even to tell someone that we disagree with something? Definitely; however, the heart behind our words should never be about tearing someone down. Love builds; hate tears down.

It should not take tragedy for people to realize that love is better than hate. It should not be more enticing to defame than it is to defend. Cyber-bullying should have no place with people who call themselves Christians. Love should be our response at all times. As Melisha frequently says, “you have no idea what someone is going through behind closed doors.” Well, I hope that my giving a few of you a glimpse behind her normally closed doors, that maybe you will reconsider your responses to others. I am asking you to please pray for my friend, and I challenge you to use this ordeal as a reminder to find a way to say, and do something nice, for someone online.

Get Stronger & Keep Moving

 

Many people speak in clichés, or subscribe to multiple motivational speakers. Why? They are looking for the answer, the magic pill, or ticket to what it will take to make their situation better. I dare say that I have discovered the greatest ticket, and I apply it to my everyday life.

Awesome daySomeone recently asked me how I battled a weight loss plateau, and another person asked how I dealt with certain stressful situations. I didn’t have a cliché. I didn’t have an item purchased from an infomercial. I only had the script that repeatedly plays in my head.  When others said that I couldn’t, I told myself that I could. When there was silence instead of support, I cheered myself on.

The strong weightlifters that you see in competitions didn’t randomly wake up one day, and decide to lift the heaviest weight in the gym. They had to build their muscles to get to that point. There were days of pain, frustration, and seemingly absolute failure. What separated the power lifters from the mini muscles on the sidelines? It was their decision to keep trying, keep working, keep pushing through the pain, and focus on the end goal.

We could investigate other success stories from corporate executives and entrepreneurs, to movie stars and triathletes. What would we find as the common denominator? They all made the decision to believe that they could. Perhaps someone gave them a shot, or preferential treatment, but in most cases, the most successful people that we applaud are those who kept pushing, working, trying, and believing until they achieved their dreams.

How does this translate into our health and fitness goals? Simply put: if you don’t believe that you can get in shape, then you never will. If you think that you cannot complete a marathon, 5k, or survive a bootcamp with my favorite trainer (she’s crazy!), then you never will. Successful weight loss, strength training, running, weightlifting, and all other physical endeavors require the same thing: keeping the mind focused on the end goal.  There are days on which I truly do not want to exercise. I could surrender to the feelings and thoughts that keep me on the sofa, or I could tell myself that I can keep moving.

We will hear many voices of dissent. Some will come from well-meaning family & friends, and others will come from “the haters.” The loudest voice that we often hear is the one in our heads. We have to train that voice to only speak what will keep us moving forward. We will be as strong as we allow ourselves to be. It starts with what we believe.

I believe in you! I know that if you do not give up, and just keep the faith, that you can accomplish your end goal. Will there be setbacks and distractions? You bet. Can you overcome them? Only if you decide that you can.

What will you believe about yourself today? What actions will you take to backup your belief? I am cheering you on!

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Earth to Echo #Review

 Many thanks to Moms of Faith for seeking to partner with moms who wish to preview entertainment releases, and share their perspectives. All images are courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

echo1Earth to Echo begins as neighbors are packing up, and preparing to say goodbye. We learn from our narrator and primary videographer, Tuck, that the Nevada neighborhood is being uprooted to make room for a new freeway. Tuck uses his online video channel to express his feelings about the situation. When he and his friends, Alex and Munch, investigate an odd disturbance to their cell phones, they discover a digital map. They make a decision to lie to their parents about their whereabouts, and ride their bikes out into the desert to follow the map. They justify their decision by lamenting that it will be their last time together before everyone moves away, and they assume that keeping their cameras on will suffice for safe supervision.

The map eventually leads them to an alien robot, which they name Echo, and their crazy adventures begin. The kids are led all over the place, eventually add another member to their team (Emma), and discover that all is not what it seems to be. They decide to band together to help Echo, and bond over the moments of their last night together.

echo3The characters are typical for the current culture of media offerings for children and teens, and once their backgrounds are presented, their lines, feelings, and actions are quite predictable. Alex is a foster child, who has issues with being left behind. What happens on their adventure? Of course, there is a moment when he is abandoned, and the strength of their friendship is called into question. Munch is socially awkward, presumably living with a compulsive disorder. Will his overpowering need for things to be in a certain order goof up their master plan? Emma is the rich, popular girl, who is miserable with the life that her parents expect her to live. The band of misfit friends have to decide if they can trust her enough to join their mission. Tuck is the overlooked younger brother in this family, who speaks in Hollywood’s typical clichés for young African-Americans, and finds his identity in documenting everything for his internet video channel. Also in true, annoying Hollywood fashion, out of an entire neighborhood that is being forced to relocate, of course Tuck’s family is the one that hasn’t prepared, and bought a new place to live yet. Seriously?

Rating
Earth to Echo is rated PG for mild action, peril, and language.*  I found that the action was not overpowering, or scary. In fact, it was so ridiculous at times that it was comical. Perhaps that was the director’s intent, but it was often quite difficult to find many of the moments in the movie believable.

Parents with kids who are Superkiddo’s age range, 5-8, should handle this movie with caution. The presence of children as main characters might mislead parents into believing that all of the content in the film is young child appropriate. That is far from the truth. Unfortunately, there are several social situations that you may have to explain to a younger child, and the entire premise of the movie involves children who willingly conspire to deceive their parents. Tuck lies about kissing a girl. In addition to lying, there are brief moments of older kids making out, and Tuck’s older brother is found in a presumably drunken stupor in a bathtub. You may have to help reinforce a younger child’s understanding of the difference between fantasy and real life.

As far as language is concerned, there are frequent uses of the word crap…so much so, that it felt as if they were getting bonus points for finding another reason to use the word. You will hear “oh, my God” several times, as well as the unfinished phrase “what the…”  Munch says that something is “scary as balls.” There is an allusion to having a crush on, or sleeping with another friend’s mother.

What about that other alien movie?

Many people have lamented that the film doesn’t live up to the success of E.T. There really isn’t a close call in the race between the movies.  Why? 1) Dave Green isn’t Steven Spielberg. That isn’t meant as an insult; they simply have two different styles. 2) Echo, the robot-like visitor is nothing like the so ugly that he was almost cute alien E.T. 3) Earth to Echo is less about the visiting extraterrestrial, than it is about the kids and their friendship.

Children who are 8 and older will appreciate the antics and bonds between the friends, but younger children may need a strong reference base to understand better decision making, and to not accept anything presented on the screen as reality. Overall, Earth to Echo has a few cute moments, but they aren’t enough to save the movie. Most adults will not consider this movie to be anything to phone home about. The kids will love it, and that is probably the point.

echo2*Learn more about the film rating system here.

Reviewed byNote: I attended a screening of this film, with a group of moms, for the purpose of facilitating a faith-centered review. Many thanks to Moms of Faith for the opportunity to review this film.

Easiest, Tastiest, Vegan Chocolate Chip Pancakes

cookingHere is something to make and eat before you fire up the grill this weekend.

I am sure that many families with allergies will agree that not all allergy-safe pancake recipes are great. In fact, not all allergy-safe, or alternative ingredients have a reputation for tasting as delicious as the original. This is one of my household’s favorite pancake recipes, and I would dare say that it beats the odds for great tasting, allergy-safe ingredients. You can tailor the ingredients to fit your allergy needs. For example, if you cannot use soy, or rice milk, the recipe has been tested to work with coconut, and almond milk. Use the same discretion when it comes to your flour, and oil choices.

pancakes1Try it, and I am sure that you will agree that you have found the easiest, tastiest, allergy-safe recipe.

 

Ingredients:pancakes

1 cup of flour

3-4 tablespoons of sugar

1/8 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 cup of milk (we use Silk vanilla soy)

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1/4 -1/2 cup of chocolate chips (We use Enjoy Life mini chips)

1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

  1. Preheat your pan/griddle to medium heat.
  2. Use one bowl to combine all of your dry ingredients.
  3. Mix, and use fork to break up any lumps.pancakes2
  4. Add your wet ingredients.
  5. Mix until your batter is smooth.
  6. Add your chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon batter onto your cooking surface.pancakes3
  8. Watch for the edges to set, and flip.
  9. I typically flip another time just to get the perfect brown on each side.
  10. Add your favorite pancake toppings, and enjoy. (Lightning McQueen plate, and begging puppy are the norm around here, but optional for you)

pancakes4

Superkiddo felt that the recipe is best shared with his favorite pancakes song… Enjoy!

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