The Tech-Wise Family – Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper PlaceThe Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With every article and book that I come across connecting anxiety/depression with smartphones and social media use (and there seems to be a deluge lately), this book seems more and more essential. Highly recommended if you have children (and even if you don’t) and are trying to think through the “proper place” for technology in your family (and really, your life). For a taste, here are the “Ten Tech-Wise Commitments” Crouch explores and defends in the book:

1 We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
2 We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.
3 We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play, and rest together.
4 We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
5 We aim for “no screens before double digits” at school and at home.
6 We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
7 Car time is conversation time.
8 Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
9 We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
10 We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.

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Some Favorites from my Year in Books (Toddler Edition)

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I read anything this past year with as much intensity and care as my toddler son read the rotating stack of books we got from the library every couple of weeks. Reading to my son is one of the great pleasures of parenting – even when it’s the same book over, and over, and over again. Below are a few (the list could be much longer) of the books we both enjoyed over the course of the year (my list of grown-up favorites is here) Also, it should be mentioned that anything including Thomas the Tankengine is basically Tolstoy according to my son, and he registers a strong protest at the absence of the friendly blue engine’s oeuvre from this list.

  • Owl Babies (popular on nights when mom was at work)



My triumphant return

And now, my triumphant return to blogging with a deep analysis of Kant’s Critique of Pu…. hahaha, just kidding, the new baby has destroyed my brain (and soaked up all available time in her vortex of loveliness and helpless need). In the meantime, here is Coleridge putting his late nights with a new baby to good use (one of my favorite poems):

Frost at Midnight

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;

Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,

And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,

My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould

Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.


Getting ready for an arrival … or a departure?

From Anthony Doerr’s (enjoyable) memoir, Four Seasons in Rome:
Having a baby is like bringing a noisy, inarticulate foreigner into your house and trying to guess what he likes to eat.
Later in the book, Doerr reverses the metaphor:
Maybe being a new parent is like moving to a foreign country. There is a Before and an After, an Old Life and a New Life. Sometimes we wonder who we were before. Sometimes we wonder who we are now. Sometimes our feet get tired. Sometimes we find ourselves reaching for our guidebooks.
We have made this trip before (the baby we are waiting for is #2), but it has been a while since we’ve had our passports stamped, and I find myself dusting off the guidebook in hopes of reminding myself of the terrain. Sleep schedules? Feedings? The landscape all looks different anyway, with a toddler on the scene. Like preparations for any big move, there are many details to iron out, rising anticipation, and a growing sense of bewilderment in the face of all we don’t know.

Dad Fiction – Charles Yu’s “Fable”

But what kind of story could the man tell? The man wasn’t a good enough storyteller. He’d had a kind of allegorical thing going for him once, but he’d lost the trail. No map, no legend. He no longer knew what stood for what.

He looked around. He was in the darkest part of the forest. He didn’t know this area. The cottage, the clearing in the woods, it was all so small, and so far from everything. The sounds coming from the trees were frightening. The man realized now what he had done. He had tried to ignore the story.

From Charles Yu’s short story in the New Yorker, Fable, which I thought was a nice mix of irony and emotion. It risks sentimentality, but for me at least, as a sometimes anxious dad, trying to keep my life together with the rented cottage and whatnot (and a little blacksmithing on the side), trying to figure out where I’m at in my story (aren’t we all?), I found it moving. Yu’s discussion of the story, if you like that sort of thing, is here.

Oh the Places You Will Go (in 2016, as the parent of a toddler)

In response to the NY Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2016 (which … [glances at bank balance] ha, hahahahaha … ha), I offer the following list of 27 places to go, for parents of young children:

  1. The public library.
  2. The park.
  3. That weird rest-stop bathroom beside the highway because the baby had beans for lunch and oh good grief, we got leakage, this is not a drill, I repeat, not a drill, just pull over, yes, right here, how is it even possi-.
  4. The park again.
  5. The zoo.
  6. Costco. (A father: “Look at the deal on these wipes! Seriously! That’s like, .37 cents less per wipe compared to Target! I just did the calculation on my phone! Should we be recording this moment for posterity? High fives for everybody!”).
  7. Anywhere that gets you out of the house after it’s been raining for five days straight. Anywhere. Even Costco.
  8. The park again.
  9. The bookstore.
  10. The office. So you can, you know, pay for diapers (why did no one ever tell you how much diapers cost?).
  11. The museum.
  12. The park. Again.
  13. That place that offers free food for kids on Tuesday nights.
  14. Bed. Because children don’t care what day of the week it is, breakfast is always served at 7am sharp.
  15. The pool.
  16. Vacation. (From work, not from your children. There is no vacation from your children).
  17. The construction site, to say goodnight (or an old house in Paris, covered with vines).
  18. The farmer’s market.
  19. The sidewalk. You can collect leaves you find and point at cool cars that go by (with or without children).
  20. The Island of Sodor.
  21. The coffee shop (drive thru).
  22. The backyard, by yourself, to stare into space and worry about how you will pay for a new set of tires.
  23. One of those terrible, germ-infested ball pits.
  24. The doctor.
  25. The park. Because it really is great. I mean: Swings. Slides. Benches.
  26. The biggest puddle you can find.
  27. Deep within yourself, in case you need a reminder that yes, you will survive, and yes, you’re going to miss all of this someday.