Keeping My Internet Under Control

We’ve never found a great internet filter for our family. Everything we tried wasn’t compatible with our operating system, blocked too much, let too much through, or just didn’t give us enough control.

I’m all about control. At least where it comes to my children and what they’re allowed to watch, search, and play online.

Just before Christmas we had an internet search problem and I went back on the hunt for something that would work for us.

I saw a little write-up for a device called Circle, and had finalized the purchase within 5 minutes.

The control it gives is amazing!

Not only can I set a filter level for the wifi in our whole house, I can control the individual (too many) devices in our home. All the images here are from the phone app I control the Circle with. Password protected, of course. Constant vigilance, you know.

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Here’s the home screen. Each circle corresponds with someone in our family, and a device or two is assigned to their profile. The shaded circles are currently paused. Or I could hit that pause circle and pause the internet in the entire house.

Magical.

Let’s tap that house circle.

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It takes me here, with a run-down of what the overall stats are for the whole house. Also, see where it says devices? There are 16 devices in my house that can access the internet. 16!!!!! I was baffled!

Let’s take a closer look at those devices.

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Too many. But what can you do when your husband is tech nerd? In addition to the things I would normally think of (tablets, PCs, phones), I can also control my TV! I love smart TVs. And our PS4. And so many more things I had no idea had access.

Filter Settings is where you set an overall filter for your house. And then, you can choose access to some individual sites and categories. I personally have the app store turned off because that is a place I don’t feel like I have enough control over. There’s a control for blogs, email, social media, and a long list more.

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At the bottom of this particular screen, there is a privacy and safety menu. Yes, absolutely, to ad blocking. Lots in inappropriate stuff pops up in those side bars that I might not notice, but my sweet, curious boys sure notice an ad of a girl in a pair of underwear you read about that are serving a great good in other countries.

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That last little orange bar is where you can go in and make exceptions for specific websites you know and trust that are blocked by Circle. Like your (or my) husband’s Fantasy Baseball and Football. (Gambling sites, you know.)

This is what an individuals screen looks like.
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This is my littlest guys screen. His filter level is set to kid. He has the Nintendo DS assigned to him, which also has internet access. Call me stupid, but I didn’t realize that until this year. We’ve had that thing for about 6 years.

He is currently paused because he hasn’t earned screen time today. Since the DS is really more about playing game cartridges that don’t require internet access, I don’t have a time limit set for him, but the bigger boys have some Kindles that I certainly set a limit for. Otherwise, they could play Star Wars Commander for hours.

I can also pause and unpause the internet while I’m away from the house, so if I leave the boys with a babysitter and they get their tasks done, the sitter can just text me and I can turn the internet on and they can play.

I’ve talked to some parents who have kind of looked at me like I’m a little overbearing because of this, but let me tell you, nothing is more terrifying to me for my boys than unlimited access to the internet. It used to be you had to go to the convenience store and pick up a magazine, or go into a curtained off room at the video store, to get porn. Now, you can do an Amazon search for boobs and see aaaaalllllllll kinds of inappropriate book covers. (Ignorance was not my friend, and my children are smarter than I. Also, more curious.)

I’m not getting paid for this (although that wouldn’t be too bad). I’ve just come across a product that works for us. Not just works, it has been a life changer.

Well worth the $99 for a little peace of mind.

https://meetcircle.com/

 

 

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Goodbye to 35

My birthday was yesterday, and at the risk of sounding cynical, I keep my birthday expectations really low. Like, non-existent. That way I’m always surprised that anything at all gets done to celebrate it. I’m a real kill-joy, I know.

And I kind of buck against the idea of adult birthday parties. I don’t want to invite you to a social event where you feel obligated to bring me a gift. Maybe you would have brought a gift out of the goodness of your heart, but, still, the idea is a little awkward to me.

But, yesterday may have changed how I will celebrate others’ birthdays forever.

It really was a normal day. So normal, in fact, I had to be up and ready to take one of my kids to the dentist at 7:30. But my sweet husband remembered and wished me a happy birthday while I was getting ready. Truthfully, I had totally forgotten.

Then, that cute boy I was taking to the dentist gave me a bag of m&m’s in the car. A big deal for him, since, you know, candy.

Before I even got that boy dropped off at school, a friend called to wish me a happy day. And she’s not even on Facebook! That means she has it written in her calendar!

I got home and got a text invitation to lunch, picked up the boys from school where another friend gave me a small cake, went to said delicious lunch complete with brownie for dessert, and came home to flowers from my husband.

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But, wait, there’s more! My doorbell rang with flowers from a dear friend who lives in Idaho, and when I walked out the door to take some books back to the library, another friend had put a “Happy Birthday” banner on my garage door.

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I came back from the library to a beautiful handmade card from the sweet friend who took me to lunch, my visiting teachers stopped by with a gift, brownies, and hugs, another friend stopped in to give me a hug, my mom made me a delicious angel food cake with strawberries and bananas, and I got a few gifts from my family.

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The true highlight, though, was a simple text from someone I’m trying to rebuild a relationship with. The fact that that person, who also isn’t on Facebook, remembered and acknowledged my birthday was truly the best of all.

Now, I’m not telling you all about this to show how spoiled I was (I really was), but to let you know that I truly was surprised and amazed. Writing this blog has caused me to shed tears about things that haven’t really been thought too much about in a while, and it was such a true gift to be reminded that I have some very dear friends who care about me.

It also showed me that I need to be a better friend and let other people know they are important to me and I love them. All of these people went out of their way to show me they loved me. I can do that, too.

36 is the year of being a better friend.

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Constant Vigilance!

Please tell me you recognize that quote.

I’m reading Harry Potter to my kids right now and we are in book 4, where Alastor Moody is introduced. Even though he turned out be be bad disguised as good (a whole other topic for a whole other time), he had some great advice. Also, I would love to have a sneakoscope and foeglass. The sneakoscope would work just like in the book, but my foeglass would warn of temptation and sin.

But back to my point. Professor Moody’s dramatic piece of advice to the students for fighting against the Dark Arts was, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my need for more searching prayers more often. Especially morning and night. For a week or two, it was new and magical and I felt welcomed back. Then, all those things that were excuses before came sneaking back in without my noticing. I tried to pray in the mornings in the middle of my getting ready. Showered, dressed, and hair combed, but still needing to put on my eyelashes and dry my hair. My intent was that it become a part of that process.

Then one morning I had somewhere to be. Time was of the essence, my brain was going a million different directions and I totally skipped past it. For a couple of days…

The evenings slipped most quickly, though. Golly, that bed has a power of temptation all on its own. I can pretty well ignore it all day, but as soon as the last kiss and hug has been given, my bed calls to me. “Come. Lay down. Relax. The bedtime gauntlet is over and you can just tune out here until the morning gauntlet. You neeeeeed this.”

I have no self-control. I’m practically running at it’s siren call, and before I know it, I’m enveloped in the warmth and comfort of my heating pad and blankets. About 30 seconds before I’m asleep, I realize I forgot to pray. At first, I would grab the extra blanket from my bed, wrap it around me, and get on my knees. Last night I did the huddle under the covers thing.

And yes, praying is praying and you should absolutely pray no matter what the circumstances, but my intent is to have more meaningful, heartfelt prayers, presenting my best-self before the throne of God.

Huddling under the covers doesn’t cut it.

Constant vigilance is hard!

I realized one thing that had changed in those first few weeks was that I was trying to not get lost in Facebookland everytime I felt bored or overwhelmed or like I wanted to kill people. So, I decided to remove that app from my phone. And Pinterest. I don’t end up on Pinterest very often, but if I really feel like I have time to waste and nothing new is coming up on fbland, I’d end up there. So, those are gone. It was too tempting to get sucked into a screen coma.

A friend wrote on Facebook (ironic) recently that she realized every time she got on Facebook, she was actually looking for something to read. That’s true for me. Especially something mindless. I can peruse Facebook while children are talking to me and still comprehend both things. Or tune both things out.

But, my idle time was very idle. Since I feel like I have very little time to read anyway, I decided to use that bored time to open the Gospel Library app on my phone. Not to read scriptures, because I really need to focus to get anything out of them, but I could easily read a small amount of the Ensign.

I was really proud of myself the other day when I realized I’d actually read all the talks from October’s Conference!

Please don’t point out that it took me three-and-a-half months. That might burst my bubble a little.

But that is the point. Remembering to do the little things are what will help us be constantly vigilant and in a place where we can feel and recognize the peace and love of the Spirit. Then we’ll also be able to realize when that warmth is slipping away a little. I realized it this morning. That’s why you get this long-winded essay.

In Harry Potter, the Dark Lord lost some of his power and slipped into the background for a while, but he built up his strength and watched for every opportunity he could to regain his power.

When we slip into complacency, Satan seizes those opportunities and builds upon them.

“Constant vigilance!”

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Holding Fast to the Word of God

I teach Sunday School to a group of fabulous 10 year olds at church. It’s such a great age because they are beginning to come into their own. They are just getting into that tweenager stage so they don’t have the full attitude yet and are starting to ask their own gospel questions and look for their own answers.

A few weeks ago, our lesson was on a vision had by a Book of Mormon prophet named Lehi. We call it “The Vision of the Tree of Life.”

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of the vision: Lehi sees a tree with fruit, there is a rod of iron leading to it which keeps people safe from mists of darkness, dirty rivers, and a great and spacious building. The tree represents the love of God, the rod is the Word of God, the mist is tempation, the river filth, and the building represents pride.

Here are the specific links if you’d like to read for yourself. It’s good stuff.

1 Nephi 8; 1 Nephi 11; 1 Nephi 12

As I was teaching, I noticed something I hadn’t before. That’s the wonderful thing about re-reading the scriptures. New stuff, even though it’s old stuff.

Anyway, something Lehi said about the iron rod made me pause in the middle of my lesson and mark the scripture so I could think about it more later on.

…they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.

And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.

-1 Nephi 8:30-31 (italics added)

Some of the people had taken hold of the handrail and some had let go and were making their way to the building. But the verbs used are what really got me thinking. What’s the difference between pressing forward and holding fast, and feeling their way?

I typed those phrases into Google and came up with these:

Press forward – to move forward; to struggle forward; to continue. syn – advance; make up for lost time; pick up speed, proceed forward; progress. (synonyms from thesaurus.com)

Hold fast – remain tightly secured; continue to believe in or adhere to an idea or principle; stick or become stuck to. syn – attach; cement; cleave. (synonyms from thesaurus.com)

Feel your way – to judge where you are going by touching with your hands instead of looking; to act slowly and certainly because you are not certain how to do something.

Sounds like pressing forward is not always easy. It denotes difficulty and catching up. Living the gospel and standing up for what you believe are certainly difficult. Facing loss, sickness, heartache, or having a trial of faith can make it truly challenging to even struggle forward. But those who do press forward progress. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when I’ve felt like I was playing catch up with the Gospel. But I always knew there was a light I could look to to find my way, even if I had let go.

Holding fast indicates not giving up, even when those terrible difficulties arise. One of the synonyms for this is cleave, which Google defines as “become very strongly involved with or emotionally attached to”.  The irony of this for me is that I didn’t feel that deep emotional attachment to Jesus Christ and my beliefs until after I had gone through the darkness, had let go a few times, and finally found my way back. That time of drawing close to my Savior and trusting Him with my heart and soul is when I truly grew to love Him.

Oppositely, feeling your way conjures images of darkness or not being able to see, experimenting with one thing or another trying to find what feels right. There is no light to look to. There is no solid handrail to grip when dark and difficult times arise.

Someone shared this personal experience in the magazine for youth, The New Era:

I was 14 and struggling. I didn’t have many friends. Those I had were beginning to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, pornography, and immoral behavior. The pressure to participate was growing daily. I was struggling to stand up for my beliefs. I was struggling to find friends. I could understand why temptation was called “mists of darkness” (1 Ne. 12:17). I felt blind to the light of the Spirit.

Pressing forward and holding fast vs. feeling your way to me is equivalent to light vs. darkness, hope vs. despair, love vs. hate and anger.

Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on this:

Our times are turbulent and difficult. We see wars internationally and distress domestically. Neighbors all around us face personal heartaches and family sorrows. Legions know fear and troubles of a hundred kinds.

This reminds us that when those mists of darkness enveloped the travelers in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, it enveloped all of the participants–the righteous as well as the unrighteous,the young along with the elderly, the new convert and seasoned member alike. In that allegory all face opposition and travail, and only the rod of iron–the declared word of God–can bring them safely through.

We all need that rod. We all need that word. No one is safe without it, for in its absence any can “[fall] away into forbidden paths and [be] lost,” as the record says.

I’ve been through some stuff, but I’m not standing before My Maker right at this moment, so I know there will be more stuff. Having a hope in Jesus Christ helps me not want to cower in a corner and hide until the great and dreadful day when He comes again.

As my boys are fast approaching the searching and experimenting teenage years, I have a lingering fear of what they will choose. But I also have a deep hope. If we as their parents keep the light of Christ alive in ourselves and our home, they will have a place they can look to for guidance and answers, even if they are feeling their way instead of holding fast. We’ve certainly had our times when we were feeling our way along as well, and (hopefully) sharing our own experiences will help them see the need to hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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