30May

Lightening Review: Circle by Disney

I know it’s a busy season and time is short. But I’ve got several things we’ve been using and loving that I wanted to tell you about. So for the next week or so, I’m sharing quick reviews. Today, meet Circle by Disney…

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We love the internet. Matter of fact, Andrew and I both use it to make a living, feed our family, and to keep us informed and entertained. But we fully acknowledge that the internet isn’t all cute cat videos and blogs about adorably messy families (waving).

Andrew had our internet locked down with Covenant Eyes and something with DNS in its name. It was mostly effective, but it also meant that, half the time, I couldn’t use the internet either. Because I am technologically challenged and I find i.p. addresses, l.m.n.o.p. addresses, and servers frustrating.

Enter: Circle. We hooked this bad boy up, created different levels of internet blocking, and assigned every single device in our house a name and a level.

What We Love: 

  • It really works. It’s a tight filter and we’re satisfied that we’re reasonably protected from unsavory internets.
  • It’s easy to unblock a site… and reblock it. Quick taps on the apps on our phone, no i.p. addresses to enter. Simple.
  • We can track every device, every site visited, alla time.
  • If any device logs into our wireless system (which is password protected), it’s automatically filtered through our Circle. And I receive a text notifying me that there’s a new device. So if you sit in my driveway to borrow my wifi, I know you’ve been there. 😉
  • We received text notifications if the Circle goes offline or is unplugged.
  • Circle lets us know how long we’ve all been on the internet and what we’ve been doing while we’re there. Convicting and helpful!
  • One tap on the Pause button and the internet is off for the whole house. (Real Life: Our kids don’t have access to internet on any device but the computer in the kitchen, so this feature isn’t useful… yet. But another year or two and I’m gonna love it.)
  • We can use it to set time limits on apps that use the internet.

What We Would Change:

  • The history provided by Circle only gives a short url. Sometimes, a longer url would be helpful to determining if a site is a good choice.
  • Only manageable with an iphone.
  • I wish it would let me set time limits on ANY app.
  • It was a bit tricky to get it to work with the boys’ Kindle Fire. We had to allow amazon.com so their kindles would connect to the server. There were a couple of websites we use often that go through several secondary sites to deliver content. We had to un-filter all of those secondary sites in order to continue usage.
  • Can we just carry our Circle with us everywhere, please? (HOLD THE PHONE: Perhaps we can?!?!)

Specifics:

  • Purchased: January 2016
  • On a scale of 1 to 9 footprints, 9 being the highest, we give this an 8 feet rating.

8 out of 9 footprints! That's Really Good!

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Not Enough

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May is always weird, isn’t it? School year is wrapping up, you’re still digging out spring and summer clothes, the house is trashed after a year of schooling, and you can’t find that suspicious smell in your pantry.

I’m typing this sitting in the local elementary school’s library. Let that sink in for a minute…

We’re  having one of the kids get some tests done through the public school system since we pay taxes and stuff. So I scored a quiet minute by myself amid the half-sized chairs and the school hamster named Humphrey.

As grateful as I am for the sweet people we’ve encountered in this process, hauling my curriculum and my kids’ work into a public school to be analyzed by the gurus there is the intimidating equivalent of a homeschooling gynecological exam. And no matter how bright my kids are, how polite, how engaged they are with learning, I still wonder if I’m failing them. I know that dyslexia is really just the way God wired their brains. There’s some genetics involved, but other than that, it’s not because I didn’t put them in preschool or because I chose a bad reading curriculum. Matter of fact, every therapist we’ve talked to has let me know that I made the right teaching choices for my dyslexic kids. That’s why they can all read!

And yet… there’s that voice in the back of my head. The one that knows all the places I fail them. The one that knows their daddy had to take over math because when it comes right down to it, the finer points of sixth grade math elude me. (I’m working on it.) We’re fielding lots of IEP meetings and testing this month and it’s enough to make a mama feel on shaky ground.

Then, there’s the housekeeping…

As I sorted through the kids’ clothes a few weeks ago, I observed all the holes and stains in their favorite clothes. Some items never actually made it into the laundry room – they just wore them into oblivion, too in love with their favorite shirt to actually peel it from their body and put it in the wash. I looked at some of the outfits, smelled some of the arm pits, and wondered, “I let them wear this? What kind of mother am I?”

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#whatwillawore

Before you call the cops, they had plenty of clean and lovely clothes. But I didn’t monitor every item of clothing every minute of every day and… some items didn’t make it where they were supposed to. Plus, my kids don’t really bother telling me if something is ripped or stained. They don’t care. They are genuinely surprised when I do. (Seriously, you should see the looks of surprise when I tell them to change. They look at me like, “Really, Mom? This bugs you?”)

In months like May, amidst the meetings and the concern about that smell under my sink, I wonder if “somebody else” could do it better. Maybe Somebody Else could make the letters form on the page for my people in a way that I can’t, maybe they could find that one pair of pants that still fits amidst the 30 that don’t …

Even in my overwhelmed state, I know this: I’ve got seven kids that I love and I was an only child who was loved. I know that number of kids has little to no effect on the fallibility of the human element in parenting. Neither does my age, their age, whether I’ve got boys, girls, toddlers, or teens.

We all fail our kids.

We are never enough for our kids. We don’t love them as well as He can. We don’t show enough mercy, enough discipline, and all the grace in between. Even if I folded every sock and lovingly placed it in its designated slot every single night, if I hand-stitched their clothes from cloth I made with my teeth, and fed them vegetables for breakfast, if I spoke in a voice like an angel and multiplied fractions like a pro – I would fail these people I love.

But all praise be to the One who IS enough – who IS the perfect parent we can point them to. My kids won’t see me do it all perfect, but they can watch me cry out to Him to help me be enough for them. Because while I’m a failure and I don’t always remember to thaw something out for dinner, I’m the mama He chose for them. He looked at me and said, “She’s good for them.”

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Matter of fact, I’m the perfect Mama for them. Somebody might do one or two things better, but they are not the whole, messy, never-finishes-a-sentence but loves-them-to-distraction package I am, God-designed for my kids.

So we come to the summer resting months, where we clean the house, clean out the curriculum, and clean our brains of all the mush. I’m resting, I’m reorganizing, and I’m on my knees every day, begging God to help me not miss the important stuff, to not lose sight of the goal, and to grant me grace and mercy I don’t deserve but I need so desperately.

Now look me in my serious eyes, internet, and repeat after me: You are the perfect mama for your babies, even in all your not-enoughness. We know Jesus is our Enough. And we will keep praying and teaching our babies to let Him be their Enough, too.

So don’t beat yourself up, Mama. Keep working, keep praying, and keep loving those babies with love that comes from Him.

And speak Truth to yourself and to your friends until you believe it.

I’m off to go hunt down the smell in the washing machine…

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