Parenting 101: Screen Time, Your Kindergartner and You! AKA Parenting While Distracted!

This post originally appeared on Mumbling Mommy Blog as the post Parenting 101:  Are Your Dummies Making Your Kids Dumb?  After reading "Parenting While Distracted' today I knew this could use another go round.

Are you making your child fall behind in their physical and intellectual development?  We parents worry over every inch of our sweet newborn baby's development, our toddler's developing motor skills, and our preschooler's language skills.  We try and fail and try again to be our best version of a parent.  If there is one thing you could do to improve your child's chances, you would jump at it, right?  Many parents do this one thing that keeps their child from learning as fast as their peers, picking up social cues  and communication skills.  I've done it a few times but I have seen other parents do it so much I have to warn the rest of you against it.  
A letters game I didn't even realize they could play.
I underestimated their intelligence.

Facebook.  Smart phones.  Iphones.  Android.  Ipad.  HD Television.  Nook.  Games.  These things erode your child's intelligence (not to mention your own).  These days there are so many engrossing distractions from real life and laundry  it is  a wonder anyone can hold a face to face conversation for more than a moment.  Remember talking?  Remember parenting?  We are parenting while distracted.

I am preaching to myself, Lovelies, let me reassure you.  I am preaching to myself.

Last week my daughter Portia came home from school to joyfully tell me she had completed her weekly book page for school all about me.  I asked her what she said.  She said she wrote that my favorite thing was The Computer.  She said I had too much "Screen Time".
Ouch.  Whoa.  OhmyLorditistrueIhavefailed.  *AHEM*

I often spend an hour in the morning online.  Most mornings,not every, but most.    I write, I read blogs, I check two emails and two Facebooks...that alone takes thirty minutes.  My girls are three and five years old and have been raised to be independent.  I tell them "Boredom breeds creativity and builds character!"  They play well together and can usually get themselves dressed without much of my help.  Thus my morning screen time.  I also have a smart phone and use it a lot to communicate, look things up, and so forth.  While I limit their screen time to about an hour and not every day of the week, I myself loose time online quite often.  The line of productive online work and distracted rabbit trail of fun is quite blurry.  
Boredom breeds creativity!

I want to live my life.  I want to enjoy real people in front of me.  I want to take care of my house and our children so well that when my husband comes home from work he can just enjoy our life together instead of feeling like he has to pitch in.  Unfortunately many days I let work slide and gravitate to the comfy computer chair instead.  (Pinterest will ALWAYS more interesting than folding laundry or doing the dishes over and over, amiright?)

Using and enjoying technology is wonderful!  Using it too much, however, robs my little girls of all the lessons available to them about life and relationships and Things from just doing life together.  When I am online too much we are not baking together.  We are not finding a craft to do. There is a chance I could loose one of my children under that growing laundry pile.  I loose time, and smiles and I get crabby.  I may shout that "I am working!" in order to get them out of the office area.  I may not get any writing done because my daughters keep coming to me for attention.  I know how to redirect, but many times a kid should GET the attention they pester for.  It is why I am home with them.

I may also hand them a screen of their own.  NPR had a recent story about how some forms of screen time can maybe help child development.  I offer the NOOK as a treat, several times a week.  We only have one and there are only a few options on it for them, but they get excited about it.  The same with the television.  We do not have cable, we watch things through ROKU and stream Netflix.  They love watching anything on TV and because it is rare they are entranced and zombie like in their worship.   If I need an hour of quiet to write or make dinner alone, I know I can always turn on a screen for my kids.

But I don't.  

Sometimes I give up on my own screen time.  I pull up the kitchen stool and let them slop raw egg or  breadcrumbs everywhere(AKA "stirring"). Maybe I pull out toys they forgot they had from the basement.  I'll often get out the markers and scissors and let them go to town. I give them chores around the house.  

It would be easier to turn a screen on for them, but sometimes I just don't.  I want them to learn about their world hands on.  I want them to entertain themselves...even if I get interrupted.  A lot. From the Huffington Post article "Kids and TV: Watching An Extra Hour Can Harm Kindergarten Performance"  I know that letting them watch too much TV or other screen time stunts their brain development, creates addictive feelings for more stimulation and hurts our relationships.  Have you ever tried to get a little kid's attention when they are staring rapt at a screen?  It can be hard for them to get my attention too.   When I am parenting while distracted by a screen.

I know that for my children to grow up well, screen time needs to be a treat, not an on all day way to spend a life.  The pediatric community has specific guidelines on media use.  I ache when I see parents who just leave the idiot box running all day.  They are shortchanging their children's ability to relate to and grow up in a much more exciting and entertaining world.  I know that doing real life is much better for my children than passively watching fake life on a screen.  Now I simply need to remind myself.  I do not want to be a dummy.  I want to live well.

What are your beliefs, strengths, weakness and truths about screen time in your lives?  Share in the comments below.

Don't Compost That Apple: Choose Juicer or Blender for Better Green Smoothies

I might have just reused my littlest kid's cereal bowl for my eldest daughter's breakfast.  Without washing it first.  She didn't know any better but I did.  I'm sharing this so you understand I am frugal and lazy at the same time.  I juice fruits and vegetables for smoothies and I also use a blender and I get lots of questions about it so here we go:  Which is better, juicing produce in a juicer or blending it up in a blender for a smoothie?

My husband and I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead a year or two ago and really got a new appreciation for juicing our fruits and vegetables.  As an admittedly lazy mama to two little girls I had to discover the truth for myself.  The first juicing question to answer is not which is better: using a juicer or a blender (and does it have to be a $500 Vitamix blender?).  The question to ask is what do YOU mean by "better"?

Do you mean which makes tastier concoctions?  Which blends better consistency?  Which is easier to use?  Which is healthier for your body?  What is your definition of "better"?   For me I want the most bang for my organic produce  buck.  I also know whatever is easiest is what I am most likely to realistically do.  Have you ever cleaned a juicer?  Not on the fun list.
Plus when I just use my juicer there is a lot of leftover pulp, skin, and fiber that I just throw in the compost.  I did try reusing the pulp for soups or baked goods, but it was tricky and icky and didn't work well for me.  (Remember, I am lazy!)

For me, "better smoothies" meant Healthier, Easier and Frugal.
I coveted the Vitamix and the showmanship of the Costco demonstrated is breathtaking.  Do you know that thing makes hot soup too?  Alas I am not going to spend $500 on a blender, unless it washes itself too.

I have a perfectly lovely Oster glass blender and tried doing some fun things in it.  There was a smoothie recipe for an Apple Cinnamon Smoothie and the author mentioned chopping apples and tossing them in a blender.


Not a VITAMIX?  A simple old blender?  I did this.  I loved this.  Turns out, a blender is ok for most smoothies if you can enjoy a thicker smoothie.  The plus is you get the satisfaction of a fuller feeling with the fiber staying in your drink and you do not waste all the skin and fiber of your organic produce by chucking it into the compost.

Here are some Beginner Green Smoothie tips to help you enjoy the healthier side of juicing or blender smoothies.  Just jump in and experiment.  I'd love to hear any tips you have for me!

1)  I have a jar I mixed up of pollen, chia seeds & ground flax seed I keep in fridge and always add 1-2 Tablespoons to my smoothies.

2) I often chop romaine lettuce, apples (with skin) and blend it with a small amount of water, then add frozen banana, maybe frozen berries etc.

3) Find a juice bar and try their concotions to learn what you want to make.  I love juicing the "Green Sea"  drink from ROOTS Juice Bar in Valparaiso, Indiana.  I took a menu & copied the Green Sea which is juiced apple, parsley,kale, lemon then blendered with avocado and sea salt. It is worth getting my juicer and blender both dirty.

4) Make enough for two days.  I always store leftovers juice & smoothie for the next day.  Drinking yummy leftovers RIGHT NOW!

5)  Glowing Green Smoothie is a favorite, and yes I just use my Oster Blender. The Glowing Green Smoothie Recipe by Kimberly Snyder | GGS Recipe

The Glowing Green Smoothie Recipe by Kimberly Snyder ...
Kimberly Snyder, author of the Beauty Detox Solution & Beauty Detox Foods shares her famous Glowing Green Smoothie recipe, which helps to increase energy and gi...
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7)  Pinterest is a perfect and find a bunch of juicing recipes and start trying them out.

For me choosing to use a blender for most of my smoothies just works the best.  I don't use a lot of recipes, I kind of just throw whatever is available into my blender and whir away.  A good green smoothie and Dorito flavored popcorn make my life pretty swell.  Now I'm on the hunt for smoothie recipe that tastes like doughnuts, then I won't have to wash a plate!

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Need Adventure? Try Geocaching, Mamas! "Pleasure Cache" NPR (88.1 WVPE) Radio Commentary with Michiana Chronicles

NOTE: You can hear this on MP3 HERE.
This is an overlooked oldie post.  Hope you geocachers & geocacher wanna bes enjoy.  

Pleasure is a funny thing.   It can show up to stretch with a feline nonchalance  into unexpected moments. This morning I stretched before I got out of bed.  It was delicious.  I forget how much pleasure can be found in a slow leisurely full body stretch.  Later in this day, walking in winter sunshine with my friends was pure pleasure.  All three of us pushing our tiny people in strollers hoping they would doze in the sun and fresh air.  We had no agenda or particular destination until I suggested we go after a geocache

We are mothers.  We fill many of the stereotypes of the un-showered unkempt un-private bathroom time many people have of motherhood.  We struggle for alone time and live for naptime.  The baby’s nap, not ours.  Well usually not ours.  If we could dream and indulge in pleasures I think it would be us all alone and it would probably be quiet.  Or loud, it could be loud music that makes us smile, that makes us feel a little naughtier like when we were younger and more careless.  We would probably chat with a friend or make a craft. Most Mamas wouldn’t geocache.
Recently we cached at McCormick Creek without luck.

Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt for worthless things in surprising places.  I bet you there is a geocache within ten miles of your home right now.  In the Michiana area there are maybe several hundred alone.  Enough to keep you busy hunting.  They can be a puzzle where you gather information to solve it.  They can be a container as small as your fingertip or as big as a barrel hidden somewhere that cachers can find and re-hide again and again. is a great resource if you are curious and want to know more.

When I was single I would go geocaching constantly.  I would adventure out at night at all hours to be the first to find a new geocache.  I even went out in winter snow because it is easier to find something when you can follow other people’s tracks.  I spent entire days hunting for caches alone and with friends.  I found over two hundred and placed several of my own.  Now I do not geocache.  I have these two small people to lug in and out of the car.  I don’t drag my children through the woods or bushwack in brambles.   So I do not cache.  I miss it.

Until I got a smartphone I also had technological stumbles too.  But now.  OH!  Now I can turn my phone on when I have some time to kill and search out a nearby cache.  I have taken my husband and older daughter and shared the thrill of the find with them.  And today I took my mama friends geocaching.
Another post fete geocaching adventure with John:
how else would we find this random military 'museum' in Crown Point?

We pushed our strollers through mud.  We appointed one of us to watch all three strollers while the other two of us foraged.  We wandered.  We laughed.  And we found it.  A peanut butter jar geocache wrapped in camouflage tape with a log book inside to sign our names.  None of the trinkets interested us so we put it all back as we found it.  We smiled and laughed at ourselves and I think the two of them will look again for caches.  We enjoyed the unexpected fun of hidden treasure and instead of mamas with great responsibilities, we were kids again.  Kids playing in the mud, in the bushes.  The pleasure of a surprisingly warm day and a hidden treasure were ours.   And the small people in those strollers?  They were stretching and sleeping in the sun.

Lust, Sin & Money in Marriage (AKA Dave Ramsey and Andy Stanley on a Cargo Bike)

The next time you and your spouse fight over money, ask them one simple question:  "Honey, would you please feel insecure in our marriage and develop deep anxiety about our relationship so I can over spend our budget by $100 at Target? Yeah.  Ask them that.  Before you go shopping.  Or maybe try "Dear, could you spend money on that fancy car you want and not pay our mortgage on time so I can feel afraid that we will loose our house?"  It's a technique I keep to myself most of the time.  I learned it from Andy Stanley and you can read the story about it here.  

As I look over my daily life, I know I have it good.  We live under our financial means so while we don't go to Disney like everyone else, we also do not fight over credit cards and debt like everyone else.  But we do disagree about money, and that is usually my fault.  Our latest stressor wasn't repairing and adding an addition to the front porch, we had money saved for that.  It wasn't spending $3,500 on a new air conditioning system, we had an emergency fund set up for that(thanks to John's dedication & our Dave Ramsey education). What we have been discussing heatedly for weeks is an $1,800.00 bicycle. Whaaaat?  Yup.  And I've been a $50 used bike girl in the past.  

My current bike is so much nicer than anything I've had before and was a freebie from Whitney and Richard!  I buy used things, cheap things, and budgeted things.  But after learning about cargo bikes a few years ago and then my friend Joshua having a Yuba Mundo I can touch, ride and see:  I'm in love.  Or lust.  I'm a little obsessed.  I have been biking instead of using our car a lot during the past two years and I love it.  I'm empowered by the connections I make in the town we live in.  I enjoy using my body instead of fossil fuel to go places.  I appreciate that I cannot buy as many groceries or things I do not need from Target when I only have the bike trailer.  I love how using the bike instead of a car makes life move slower on purpose. After researching and experimenting with additions to my current bike, I really want this serious cargo bike.  I look at as almost replacing a car, so the cost doesn't seem as outrageous as it is.  Right?

Since we do not use credit, I know we need to save up for any big purchases.  We save monthly towards things like our new used car, the porch project, a new computer.  It takes time but having a goal helps.  Sometimes.  

We use Pear Budget to track our spending each month and we have wiggle room built into our spending plan.  As John and I discussed the cargo bike and our budget, I realized a painful truth:  If I hadn't overspent our budget every month for the past year, our finances would be in a place NOW where my husband might just buy the cargo bike for me.  Even though it is incredibly expensive.  

There is a reality where we might just have had resources to do the porch project and paint the garage and take care of the air-conditioning system and buy the cargo bike.  But we do not.  I am EXCEPTIONALLY grateful we could take care of the things we did take care of.  How blessed we are in our life. But.  I am reaping the sin of my over indulgences; $10 here, $30 dollars there...and I thought the little things didn't matter.  They do.  So when we choose to happy NOW, we may defer a later, bigger happy.  

I could tell John was upset about our budget.  He was upset with me for always going over our budget and not being too worried about it.  We were in our room as John got ready for work.  I'd been campaigning to buy the bike and our conversation grew more intense. I began praying and asking for God to help our conversation, to help change me.  I suddenly remembered the Andy Stanley talk I shared with you before about taking responsibility for ourselves in life. It taught me that when I choose to be Irresponsible, I am inadvertently asking someone else to Be Responsible for me.  Like John and me and finances.

As I realized I'd shot myself in the foot for getting the cargo bike, I looked at John and thought about how things looked from his perspective. I thought about what he must feel like as the sole breadwinner of our family. I asked him the question I mentioned earlier.   "John, would you please be tense and angry and worried because I spend too much money?  I know regardless of how much I actually spend, any spending makes you uncomfortable.  I'd like you to worry about our future, about paying for college for our daughters.  Darling, would you please be torn between loving me and being grateful I am fun and being disappointed in the way I poorly steward our money?"

John looked at me with love as my eyes filled with tears and he said, "This is why it is so great being married to you."

We are honest with each other.  We know our weaknesses and we talk a lot and this strengthens our marriage. We didn't, however, resolve our situation that day.  It has been an ongoing issue in our marriage and I ache over it because I cannot seem to stop myself from indulging in these little shiny things I want now.  I wanted to share this painful life lesson with each of you hoping you never have to ask your spouse, your friends, your family to take responsibility for you...You are strong enough and smart enough to do this yourself.  So am I. We were made to be responsible.  

p.s.  Thank you, John for bearing with me as I grow as a person and your wife.  Thank you for being responsible for me and to me.  I love you.  You are a gift to me and I will continue to work on myself so I continue to be a gift to you.  

Friends, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions and stories about living within a budget in the comments.  Please share!

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Girl Powered Friendships: I'm All About That Bass!

My Best Friend in Valparaiso is moving to North Carolina tomorrow.  Whitney is the kind of friend who calls and offers to take my kids to the park.  A lot.  I needed that kind of friend as I navigated the waters of toddlerhood.  Whitney's daughter Corinna is Libby's BFF.  Whitney reminds me to take it easy, to roll down hills, to live life in a more physical, active way than I would naturally.  I expect we will stay friends even over the miles, but the daily interaction will be a loss to me.  Even amidst my many other wonderful girlfriends.

So we have been spending a lot of time together...and FINALLY hit Silver Spoon Saturday night for Kereoke Night!  We both sang, had a few bevvies and talked.  As I waited for Whitney to pick another song to sing, I people watched.  It was good looking people watching at the Silver Spoon.  I grinned as I watched a young thin tall blonde pick up another young thin but petite in stature blonde.  They laughed and kept doing it, egged on by their companions.  

I had to jump in.  Since I quit Weight Watchers and am embracing my curves as best I can...I sauntered up to them and said, "Yes, but can you pick ME up?"  I probably weigh twice what her little friend weighs...or three times?  THIS is what happened.

Then I got challenged.

Pretty funny, I am sure.  Ah, to be young and in my twenties again...NO WAY!  I love my life, if not my thighs.  Heck, I have never loved my thighs properly anyway.  I love being my age now and living my life.  Good friends, great family, good life.

Then I found this video on my Facebook Feed this morning and had to play it about three times, even letting my littles watch it with me.  Despite a bit of language.

Mehgan Trainor "All About That Bass"  even with some language, is a fun body image anthem I enjoyed.  I am pained when my five year old talks about eating less "to be healthy" (what we say instead of referreing to weight loss efforts) or when she teases me about my "fat arms" as she plays with my batwings.  I meant to be so careful with what I say about myself, other people, and yet...the message communicates.  

As Portia & Libby watched with me and I tried to say it was a Body Anthem song I choked up.  I want them to feel beautiful all their lives.  I want them to have good friends who live an active life with them.  I want my girls to love themselves and other people with open peaceful balanced hearts.  And I hope they love that bass!