The Decision that Ruined My Son’s Life

….or so he says.

It all started innocently enough, a new video game my 10 year old daughter heard about from friends and asked if she could play, too. We checked it out and didn’t find anything alarming, so we said sure and off she went. She’s never been a gamer, so we were fairly amused and intrigued to see her hunkered down with her device, building all sorts of intriguing virtual creations, via the world of Minecraft. All so very innocent and innocuous…until her little brother caught the fever. He’d never done anything online before, was pretty much consumed by his Lego’s, so we saw no red flags warning us….Stop! Don’t Do It!

If only we’d known then what we know now.

Maybe summer hit at the wrong time in our son’s Minecraft love affair. Maybe he had too much time on his hands. Maybe it was just too hot outside to do much running around outdoors. Or…maybe…he’s just a whole lot like both of his parents: Type A, OCD, all-in…whatever you want to call it. He started out playing on his iPad, but quickly evolved to the X-box–and before we knew it, our 6 year old was utterly consumed by the world of Minecraft. It was all he wanted to do, all day long. It was all he talked about–even in his sleep. Even, on occasion, racing into our room in the middle of the night to tell us some cool nuance he’d just discovered or wanted to try out. Oiy.

Now, that’s not to say there was no good, because there was. Lots of it. His imagination took flight, and we soon discovered we may have a budding architect on our hands. Or a natural-born storyteller (ahem). Maybe both…but definitely a gamer. By the end of summer, our earlier fascination had turned to frustration…and some other less than attractive emotions. Because for our son, playing Minecraft was not passive. It obsessed him. Consumed. He would talk to his world as he played. And fuss. Complain. Yell. A perfectly happy kid could sit down to play, transforming in a very short time to a grumpy grouch. And his now soured mood would transfer to every other aspect of his life. Heaven forbid we told him it was time to put the device down and come eat dinner…run an errand…take a bath. And don’t even get me started about group play. I quickly learned there are reasons that, technically, Minecraft is for older kids. Yes, from a technical standpoint, younger kids can easily navigate the world of Minecraft (and do really cool stuff). But from an emotional maturity standpoint, they’re just not ready for someone else (a sister, a cousin, a friend) to enter their world…and make mischief (which is, in all fairness, an intriguing part of the game.) If he spent hours (and I do mean hours) building some master creation, only to have his sister slip in and catch his world on fire….OMG. The rest of the day wasn’t only ruined, but drama and fighting would ERUPT, and our blood pressure soared.

Which brings me to the end of summer–and our decision. By the time July rolled into August, my husband and I had not only had enough, but we realized we had a problem, and it was up to us to solve it. We did some research on the game, as well as on kids and screen time, and, after talking with a friend who goes “device free” during the school week, we decided that’s what we needed to do, as well.  Our 6 year old was starting kindergarten, and we couldn’t have him obsessing about a video game day in and day our, not when our schedules were getting busier, and sports were starting up. So. We announced that Monday-Friday were going to  become “no screen time” days.

Needless to say, he freaked. Shock quickly gave way to anger, to yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth, to absolute mania. We couldn’t do that! We didn’t understand! We were being mean! And yes…we were ruining his life. His LIFE, I tell you. RUINING it.

But we held firm. This was one of those occasions where we knew what needed to happen, and we weren’t about to let any amount of ranting change our mind. It was time to be the parent, not the friend. And so school began, and the devices got put away.

For the first week, he begged every single day. He pleaded. He tried negotiating. Deal-making. And…yes…threats. But we held firm (and let him know in no uncertain terms that threats were NOT going to be tolerated around here.) Then week two rolled around and…nothing. No pleading. No whining. No negotiating. It was like he finally realized we were dead serious, and there was no getting around our decision. And then, glory be, other changes began occuring. The Lego’s came back out. He began drawing pictures again. Making forts. Doing all those things that I once thought drove me crazy (and, yeah, probably still do, but at least they engage him physically and mentally and he’s not glued to a device.)

Now, a month into the school  year, and it’s rather stunning how dramatically the “device-free weekdays” has changed our family. Our son is more relaxed. He’s not amped up and talking Minecraft 24/7. And he’s REALLY gotten into his taekwando classes. He’s about to test for his first “color” belt–a yellow–and he’s (on his own) practicing like crazy.

Does he still long to play Minecraft? Yes. Does he count down the days of the week until Friday afternoon, when he can dive back into his virtual world? Yes. Does he squeeze in Minecraft as much as he can on the weekends, between soccer and softball and t-ball games? Well, yeah. But come Sunday evening, the devices go away, and peace returns.

Did our decision ruin his life? He might still tell you yes, but as for the rest of us-my husband and 10 year old daughter and myself-we’d tell you our decision was one of the smartest we’ve ever made.




Robyn vents

Some days I wish I were just a mom, a regular stay-at-home-mom. Not that there really is such a thing. But the whole work-at-home-mom gets tedious. Like trying to balance everything is wearing me out and I feel pulled in so many directions. I thought that when Busybee started Kindergarten, things would get a bit easier, but the pick up situation at her school is overly complicated and takes forever. And then there’s helping her with “family projects” and homework – not that I mind spending time with her, I don’t, it’s actually pretty fun.

But I have my book deadlines, which the current one is really giving me fits, I’m running late, which I hate and would never have happened in pre-kid Robyn, but now it seems to be a fixture of my life – just goes to show that I still haven’t compensated enough time when picking said deadlines. In any case, then I decided to fulfill a life-long dream and take swimming lessons. The lessons themselves only take 30 minutes, but they’re at the university, which is not super close to my house and parking is obnoxious.

My house is never all picked up and tidy and clean at one time. It’s like I can manage one room a week and the rest of the house goes to hell. Needless to say I’m living in that Calgon commercial from so long ago, feeling overwhelmed and unsuccessful at everything.

Just seems like if I didn’t have my “job” (which, of course, I love) then I could just be a wife, mom and homemaker. It’s a wistful thought, not anything that will ever happen, nor anything I truly want to happen. But it’s nice to daydream sometimes about a simpler life. Any of y’all ever do that? Do you struggle to balance it all? What are your tricks to making everything run smoother? 

Exercise + Family = FUN!

family walking

A family that plays together… well, they have fun together.

A family that exercises together…well, they are healthier together.

So, it stands to reason that a family that plays and exercises together… well, they’ll have fun and be healthier together! ☺

My family loves to play tennis, run, walk and dance. Last Christmas, we had a family reunion and held a 5K family fun run in our neighborhood followed by a family tennis tournament on our community court. Trophies were even given away to the top female and male finishers in each event. Several nights, we fired up our Wii and spent hours taking turns with our Just Dance games. Fun was definitely had by all!

family run day

This past weekend, I ran the Rock n Roll Philadelphia half marathon.

rock n roll philly

It was my first time visiting Philly and let me just say I loved the city! More importantly, I loved the opportunity to spend a fun, healthy weekend with family and close friends. Our group had people flying in from Florida, California and Las Vegas, plus one who drove from DC and another from the Philly area. It was a memorable weekend with close friends, a sister, a niece and a daughter—all of us enjoying the blessing of time together.

rocky pic

Whether it’s a walk in your neighborhood park, playing a sport like tennis, or participating in an organized event like a Rock n Roll race, the main thing is to stay active and have fun. Keep your family movin’ and groovin’ and getting their heart rates up. ☺

So, what do you and your family do for exercise and fun?

Books to Read Aloud with Your Child

While cleaning out my email tonight, I found this list that my daughter’s kindergarten teacher of books to read aloud to your kids. It’s such a great list, I thought I’d share it here. I believe she got it from Pizza Hut Book It! Program. They have some great resources there, so be sure to check it out!

20th Century Children's bookI was very impressed by this list. We have definitely read all of the Infant to Preschool books. We haven’t read all of the “All Ages” books, because I can’t read The Giving Tree (aka, Call Your Mother) without bursting into tears. And, Little Women as all ages? Um. No. But, we’ve read all of the Infant to Preschool books (thanks in part to The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury–which is a book I can’t recomend highly enough). We’ve read almost all of the 4-8 Year old books, but I’m excited to try the ones I hadn’t even heard of. Yeah. There were some I hadn’t even heard of. How is that even possible?

As for the 9-12 year old books, we’re just getting to those and I can’t wait to dive in.

How about you? Have you read all of these to your kids? Are there any favorites? Are there any you think were left out?

All ages:

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Infant to Preschool

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

4-8 years old

  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  • Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
  • The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
  • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
  • Are You My Mother by Phillip D. Eastman
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
  • Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  • Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
  • Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • Arthur series by Marc Brown
  • Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  • The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

9-12 years old

  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L ‘Engle
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats fo Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Lois Sachar
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Chirstopher Paul Curtis

Young Adult

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  • The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Reblogging….because I couldn’t have said it any better

If you’re a mom of girls, you gotta read this because it’s so very true and so delightfully written. And while we’re talking about glitter, a mom in my bible study group said glitter was the herpes of the art world – how hilarious is that?

Glitter is the Devil (And Other Things Moms of Girls Learn)

Plus we already had all of the girl stuff, which made things easier because I place an inordinate amount of importance on logistical household efficiencies. Our boy name was Jessica, and Jessica was going to look just precious coming home from the hospital in his little pink gingham Lilly Pulitzer classic shift dress.

But I’m tired of talking about our fake son Jessica. Let me tell you what I know about raising little girls:

– See more at:

Domestic Violence Has No Place in Our Society

stop domestic violence 1
I’m not a lawyer, a judge, a trained victim’s advocate, or in any way a professional in the field of law enforcement, so I have to admit that my statements here are my unprofessional opinion.

Yes, I am a woman, so my thoughts on the topic —if you look at the statistics—may seem skewed to side with my gender.

But setting aside my profession and gender, more importantly, I am a PERSON! My sense of humanity and compassion for others precludes me from violence against another.

So, when I say that I am appalled, disgusted and saddened by the issue of domestic violence, please understand that is an abysmally gross understatement.
enough is enough
If you’re not a sports fan, until yesterday you may not have heard about the latest headline-generating incident about an NFL player’s domestic violence charge.

But with new, more condemning video being released, it’s safe to say that the NFL, the player’s team, the local prosecutor and the police completely botched this case from the very beginning.

Today, the case dominates the airwaves—from our morning talk shows to ESPN, from newspapers to the web, and everywhere in between.

The silver lining here—and I cringe to even type those words—is that now more people are talking about the evils of domestic violence. Hearing a sports commentator state, “The question shouldn’t be why the victim goes back to the perpetrator, but rather, why does the perpetrator continue to be violent” is important. This backward attack—blame the victim, not the perpetrator—needs to stop.
shattered domestic violence

Domestic violence—physical, mental, emotional—does NOT begin by the victim. The person does NOT ask for it. And “just get up and leave” isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Domestic violence MUST stop.

Victims need assistance, not condemnation!

All of us deserve to live in a home, a town, and a world where we feel safe and secure. Healthy love and a healthy relationship doesn’t hurt!
stop domestic violence

If you or anyone you know needs help, please reach out. There is support available, even when it seems like a situation may be helpless.

So please, put these websites and phone numbers below in your contact list. You never know when you, someone you love, or someone you meet might need them.

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

My face is falling.

When my daughter was about four years old, she looked at me very seriously, tapped my cheek and said in the saddest voice, “Oh, mommy. Your face is falling.” I don’t know if I had frowned or if she noticed the fine wrinkles that had started to show up around my eyes and cheeks. Whatever the case, at that time I thought what she said was funny! Aw! So cute. After all, I wasn’t “old”! And pshaw! I certainly wasn’t vain.

But she’s twelve now, and her prophetic words have started to come true. My. Face. Is. Falling. I have to admit, for years I felt kind of…hopeful. Smug, even. That maybe I’d age astoundingly better than other women of my age. Oh, it was all a delightful fantasy! One day about eight months ago…I woke up and shuffled down the hallway to get my morning coffee and thought…what’s up with my eyes? They feel so weird. My eyelids were smushing my eyelashes. Were my eyes just swollen from a bad case of allergies?

No, my friends. At some point in the night, just like that (**snap!**) my upper eyelids had done a little landslide down the mountain and now rested against my lower eyelids. Worse yet, they STAYED there. It’s changed the way I look, even causing a little crease at the corner of my eyes. This change, added to my neck, that’s decided to start doing the limbo (LOWER!) and my hair that is now (Boing! Boing! Boing! turning gray and wiry, has forced me to face reality and acknowledge that yes—apparently I’m at least a little vain, because these changes, if I have to be completely honest, bother me.

Mind you, when I talk about vanity, I don’t mean I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror admiring myself and obsessing over my appearance, I just mean the idea of saying goodbye to my younger self is a little unsettling. It means…changes. A graduation of sorts, to “the next part” of life. It’s normal to feel this way, isn’t it?
I’ve always been determined to age gracefully. So…how to do that. I’m not sure, I’m still working through that part. Here are some of my current strategies:

1. I wear sunscreen. Sun damage is the cause of a lot of my aging issues. I’ve got sunspots and wrinkles from spending days at the lake and several years living in Panama, before anyone cared about sunscreen. I used to have the best tan. Now I’m paying for it. No need to compound the damage with more.
2. Makeup. I’ve realized: LESS IS BETTER! And that frosty, shimmery eye shadow is NOT my friend.
3. I indulge in skin care/cosmetic products that work for me. For example, I love products with argan oil in them.
4. I’m more careful of my diet. I’ve gone really heavy on the veggies, and have started working more organic, clean foods into my diet. It’s not about counting calories or losing weight, but about feeling better.
5. I drink a lot of water. I’ve also replaced diet sodas with LaCroix sparkling water.
6. I’ve become more active. I just FEEL better when I’m outside and moving and doing something.
7. Most importantly, I look at the beautiful women I admire so much. My mom, my grandmother, my aunt and mother-in-law, and so many other lovely women who are part of my life every day. They are gorgeous and smart, and have shown that age is something to be proud of—not concealed or ashamed of. Each year of our lives is a blessing. It’s important to measure them by the meaningful relationships we enjoy with the people we love, and our accomplishments, big and small. Not by the lines on our faces.

How about you? Do you have any strategies to share for aging gracefully? Is it something that troubles you—or not at all?

From Zero to Panicked in 60 seconds flat

Two years ago I had this conversation with the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates:

Her: We’re thinking about moving to another school district.

Me: Why? Did you or your husband get a new job?

Her:  No. We’re worried about Jennifer’s class rank.

Me: Um … okay.

Her: This school district is so competitive. It’s almost impossible to make into the top ten percent. And you, if you’re not in the top ten percent, you don’t automatically get into UT, A&M or Texas Tech. And if you can’t get in there…

Me: Um ….

Her: What do you think?

Me: Don’t colleges know how competitive our school district is? Shouldn’t that matter?

Her: <Looking at me like I’m a naive idiot> Um ….


At the time, our kids were in the second grade. I thought she was crazy. Like, bat-shit crazy. Why would you move (actually sell your house and move) so your kid could go to an inferior school district in the fear that ten years from now his or her GPA might not be competitive?

Flash forward to Monday morning. Someone forwarded The Geek an article from Money Magazine ranking colleges. He’s rattling off interesting facts:

Him: Did you know most of the really good colleges are upwards of $150,000?

Me: <choking on coffee>

Him: Did you know Stanford only accepts 8% of its applicants?

Me: Uh???

Him: Oh, look, Harvard only accepts 6%.

Me: <gasping for breath>

five minutes later

Me: How do we feel about moving to a shitty school district?


Okay. So we’re not moving. Yet. But I am officially freaked out. My daughter is in the forth grade. Middle school is right around the corner. Those days when I have to think about class ranking and dream colleges is right around the corner. Like so many times in my past as a mother, parts of me are at war. On one hand, I don’t want to be the crazy mom who moves the whole family to engineer a better class rank for my kid. On the other, I want her to have options. I want her to get into any school she wants to go to. I want her to enjoy her childhood. I worry that we’re not doing enough. I remind myself that I got into Texas A&M (and so did her father) and that was good enough for both of us. I don’t want to push too hard, but I’ve always felt my parents didn’t push enough.

What if she wants to go to Harvard and doesn’t get in. What if she does get in and we have to pay for it? What if pay for it and then … and then … my baby is going to live in Boston!!!!

What if she never moves back? I’m going to have to move there too! I’m going to have to learn to drive in the snow! 

Thank goodness for The Geek. While I was hyperventilating, he pointed out several wise things: we still have time, we have savings, our kids are bright, we didn’t go to Harvard and we’re okay. Remembering all of that helped. 

But here’s the bottom line: I’m going to panic. Every time I think I’ve got this parenting thing under wraps, there’s going to be something to freak me out. I can go from zero to panicked in sixty seconds flat. Okay, in this case it was more like fifteen minutes. Still, you see what I mean right?

Here’s one of those things I never knew about parenting: I would be afraid all the time. I would be afraid of crazy crap that I would totally make fun of under other circumstances. And I would always be trying to hide how afraid I am. Because here’s the deal: I’m okay telling The Geek when I’m afraid. I’m okay telling you guys. I’m not okay with the kids knowing it. They don’t need my crazy in their heads. My girl will have her own fears about college and they will come soon enough.

So, what about you? Are you thinking about college yet? What makes you panic?



Emily McKay lives in Central Texas with her family and her chickens where she writes YA horror and eats lots of cookies.

Please Take a Stand

Me, again, with another one of those activist blogs. I was actually going to blog about slutty Halloween costumes for girls. I’ll write that one later this month. I know you’ll want to weigh in on that topic.

But this topic couldn’t wait, because there’s a company that needs a little push to do the right thing.

In my opinion, there are 3 crimes that don’t get enough attention and whose perpetrators are not punished sufficiently.

  1. Child abuse and/or neglect
  2. Elder abuse/neglect
  3. Animal abuse/neglect

Children, the elderly, and animals are the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society. They need our protection and our stewardship the most.

Here’s the scenario. The CEO of a company called Centerplate, which is a sports catering company, walks into an elevator with a miniature Doberman pinscher. He doesn’t know the camera has an elevator. He doesn’t know that his 52 seconds of interaction with the dog is filmed. He doesn’t know the video catches him repeatedly kicking the dog, yanking her leash, and dangling her off the ground.


The video is out there. I haven’t watched it because I don’t want to see this sick guy do something like that to a defenseless dog.

So what’s happened to this guy? Has he been fired? Has he said he was sorry? No. He’s still employed by Centerplate, he’s made excuses and lied about his behavior, and the company gave him a slap on the wrist.

That’s not good enough for me. I signed this petition, emailed Centerplate, am tweeting them, and am passing the link to a third party article about the abuse and the petition on to you.

We have to stand against abuse. All abuse. Our society is defined by the way we treat its weakest members.