Making you reconsider having children, one post at a time

Up Before The Sun

So I found myself up and out of bed at 5am, in the hopes of being able to watch The Quest from last night online and do my recap. Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m recapping that train wreck? Well, there, consider yourself informed.

 

Anyway, ABC didn’t have it up on the site yet, and I didn’t want to turn on the living room tv to see if it’s available On Demand yet, because I didn’t want to wake the kids up two and a half hours early.  What ensued was two hours of peace and quiet, while I cleaned the kitchen and listened to Spotify’s Acoustic Morning mix.

 

I was thinking about how my mom told me that she used to get up before me and my brother, to get all her housework done before we started our days of interruptions.  Of course, our interruptions looked more like “MOM! Can you help me put this dress on my Barbie? Danny’s playing GI Joes and Barbies with me and she has to get ready for the Marine Ball.”  (Not an actual quote. Maybe.)

 

When my kids interrupt me, it’s usually due to bloodshed or impending bloodshed. And it happens no less than six times an hour. No, really.  Most days, I’m pretty sure they hate each other. Other days, I think that it’s ME they hate, and they’re just pretending to hate each other to drive me further out of my mind.

 

This summer has been rough. My girls are of a certain age. I can practically see the hormones starting their surge through the nine year old. And the six year old? Well, she marches to the beat of her own drummer to begin with. Trying to deal with her almost-tween sister is not helping matters on her end, either.

 

I have no real point to this post today, except to brag that my kitchen is clean. Mostly.  And it’s 7:30am. And I got to see a mommy and baby deer cross my yard shortly after sunrise.

 

Baby deer are kind of doofy. Adorable, but doofy.

 

It’s time to wake my kids up, now. Kimmie got up a little bit ago, actually, when I was making too much noise changing the garbage bag. She walked across the house and climbed into my bed and went back to sleep. I don’t know if she even realized that I wasn’t in there with her. Sleepwalking for the win!

 

Maybe I’ll get up ridiculously early tomorrow and clean something else. Or just take my coffee on the patio and look for that doofy deer again.

 

Quick status on the lack of TV. Quick because I’m sick.

I am so sick. Stuffy nose, throbbing sinuses, sore throat, ready to curl up and die kind of sick.

But, the TV hasn’t been on in my house once, at least when Joey’s around, anyway.

I’ve been watching a Harry Potter marathon on my laptop in my bed for the past three days, and Kimmie gets her daily dose of Diego when she gets home from school, hours before Joey.

Funny story: The other day, I fell asleep on the couch while Kimmie was watching TV (told you I’m sick) and when Diego was over, she wandered off and started playing with something in her bedroom.

I was still asleep when Joey’s bus dropped her off outside.

Kimmie saw Joey coming up the walk, and tore ass into the living room, snapped off the TV and yelled, “MOMMY! SISSY IS HOME! TURN OFF THE TV!!”

Anyway, these past several days have been challenging, to say the least. When Joey gets home from school, I’m faced with the inevitable “What can I doooooo?”

I generally respond with, “Well, you can do your homework, or clean up the mess you left in the living room. Or you can play with something for a little bit, or have a snack.”

But being sick, my response has been more along the lines of “I don’t care, just go away and don’t turn on the TV.”

My house looks like the third circle of hell right now.

But as messy as everything is, and believe me, it is super duper messy, I have been witness to my kids playing nicely together, using their imaginations, and leaning on each other for things they normally bug me for.

Joey even made Kimmie breakfast the other day, while I tried to get all the mucus out of my face.

I don’t think this would be the case if the answer to Joey’s daily whine was “I don’t care, go watch TV.”

I bet this blog isn’t making much sense, because I’m three shades of wasted on two different cold medications, and I haven’t slept for more than a few hours at a time in the past 3 days or so.  But, suffice it to say, I am having warm fuzzies towards my kids, and I think it’s largely because of the current TV ban.

Now if I could just get Joey to eat her vegetables without a fight.

Next time, I promise we’ll get back on track and talk more about the whole TV thing in better detail.  When I’m not quite so fuzzy.

In the meantime, I’m going to go try to get some more mucus out of my face.

What’s wrong with my kid watching TV, anyway?

In my last post, I talked about how I figured out that Joey, my seven year old bundle of fun and love, is addicted to television.

Well, to be fair, mostly my husband did the figuring. I just kind of went along with it.

But since we’ve started the dialogue about the effects of nearly unlimited iCarly on our kid, I’ve been doing some research, and it ain’t good.

 

I’m sharing this article, from Dr. Adam Cox’s Family Matters newsletter, to give you an idea of the stuff I’ve been reading. It’s written in fairly plain English, as opposed to the three separate studies I slogged through over the past couple of days, so you’re welcome.

 

The basic gist of the studies and Dr. Cox’s article is that TV can be some seriously bad juju for our youngsters. Their little spongy brains are soaking up everything they can right now, including the bright lights and big animations on the television screens.

 

From Dr. Cox:

In fact, for young children especially, it is the incredible stimulation that TV provides that makes it so potentially damaging. All of the flashing bright colors, loud sounds, and frequent fragmentation of reality that television encompasses is far too much stimulation for most young minds to manage. At the same time, children are like a magnet for this type of gratification, and as most parents know, can become addicted to the neurological stimulation of television very quickly.

 

How did I know that Joey was addicted? Well, the truth is, until I started researching television addiction in children, I didn’t know she was. But looking at it now, with a slightly altered perception, I can see very clearly where she’s been exhibiting signs of addiction for quite some time.

 

Here are some more gems from Dr. Cox that made me sit up and take notice. Take a look and see if your kids are exhibiting any of this type of behavior.

Just like what happens when a person is exposed to any drug, repeated exposure to television has the effect of dulling a person’s senses. This is precisely what we as parents experience when we ask our kids to tear themselves away from the television and in return get a blank stare or grunt and shrug!

How many times have I asked Joey a question, and had to repeat myself three or four times, because she’s watching TV and not paying attention to me? If I had a nickel for each instance, I’d be typing this from my villa in Spain.

 

With younger children, requiring them to make a transition away from a stimulation source to which they are “hooked” often results in an instant melt-down.

I talked about this a lot in my last blog. Asking Joey to turn off the television to eat dinner, do homework, go to bed, or anything else, really, resulted in a melt-down of epic proportions.  This was our first clue that there was a problem.

 

Kids who are addicted to television care increasingly less about the content of what they are watching, and more about getting another “hit” of electronic stimulation.

This one really hit home. I used to say things to Joey like “Dude, you’ve seen this eighteen times, like, in the past week.” Response? Blank stare.

Surprisingly enough, this didn’t raise any red flags to me. The reason I was unconcerned with her watching the same stuff over and over is my own behavior.

My brother and I used to watch movies together and when we found one that we loved, we’d watch it till we had it almost memorized. We weren’t watching it to stimulate our brains electronically. We were watching it to purposely memorize our favorite parts. The real zingers, the witty comebacks, the things that made us laugh so hard we couldn’t breathe. And then we’d put those things into our every day conversation, more often than not.

This is why most people can’t stand to be in a room with the two of us. We’ll keep the normal conversation going for a while, but then all of a sudden, one of us will say something like “Trumpy, you do stupid things!” and it’s all over.

Anyway, point is, Joey watching the same show more than once didn’t bug me, until I read that and realized that my kid has increasingly become less interested in what’s actually on the television, and more interested in just making sure the television is on.

 

Dr. Cox has some tips about what to do to control the TV in your house.  In my next blog (maybe tomorrow? Who knows?!) I’ll talk about what we’re doing in our house, starting with the very drastic step of pulling Joey’s plug for the entire month.

Is TV turning your kid into a zombie? Yeah, mine too.

I thought it might be time for a blog post on my most irregularly updated writing outlet.

I thought this because I started chatting on Facebook with some folks about the fact that my daughter isn’t allowed to watch TV, at all, for the rest of the month. They, of course, wanted more information and Facebook just isn’t the right platform for a diatribe about TV.

So, here I am.

Those of you who signed up for email updates from this site, who are pretty sure that someone murdered me after my last post on meal planning, surprise!

 

So on to this TV nonsense.

 

I have always been a fan of television. When I was a kid, it was Sesame Street and the Electric Company, and then 3,2,1, Contact! which was the science show on PBS. I was a big fan of Square One, too, even though I typically despise math.

Not all my favorite shows were so educational, though. I loved Strawberry Shortcake, She-Ra, her brother, He-Man, Tom & Jerry, The Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters.

The list goes on and on (and on, and on, and on…..).

But, when I was a kid, kid shows knew their place. A couple hours of PBS in the morning, and a couple hours of cartoons in the afternoon. And I never watched all those hours; by the time I was watching the afternoon cartoons, I was too old to be too interested in Sesame Street.

And of course, there was the Saturday Morning Cartoon Marathon Session, where my brother and I would chew on cereal and fight over the remote control till about noon, when TV got boring again.

 

This is no longer the case.

Now, we have Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, the Disney Channel, Disney😄, and more channels that cater to children all day and all night. Heck, even my beloved PBS has given in, with PBS Kids Sprout, which can be found playing Bob The Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine at any time.

And herein lies our problem. Or, at least, part of it.

 

My Joey has always been what I lovingly refer to as “high maintenance.”  She was the baby that would only sleep on me. She was the toddler who needed to be on my back, literally, while I cooked dinner. She was the kid who couldn’t play by herself and needed constant interaction and constant supervision.

You guys, this constancy started the day after she was born.

It was six months before I could shower without hearing her scream in the background, and that was showering while her father was home and playing with her. She desperately needed me.  I’m not sure what it was that made her so terrified to be without me for even a second, although I have some theories, but trust me when I say you have no idea how exhausting this was, unless you’ve had a similar type child.

One day, I discovered that she liked the Muppets. I discovered this because I freaking LOVE the Muppets and was watching a video, while I was, of course, holding the baby. I noticed that it was grabbing her attention here and there, and I decided to experiment. I put her in her swing, facing the TV.

 

Okay, stop right there, because I hear the Parent Police warming up their sirens.  Yes, I’ve heard all the studies recommending that children be kept away from screens till they are two years old, at least. And I was totally behind that. Until I discovered that I could put her down and brush my teeth if there were music and lights coming from the idiot box.

There’s this thing called survival mode, and I was there. And the TV rescued me.

 

And so, I take full responsibility for the fact that I likely brought this on myself.

 

It started out innocently enough, mostly with some age appropriate whining at bedtime. What kid wants to go to bed, anyway?

Then we started having some whining about going to school some mornings. When asked what she’d rather be doing, Joey would tell us she’d rather stay home and watch TV.

Somewhere along the line, all of this turned into full on scream-fests when Joey was asked to step away from the television. Bed time, dinner time, homework time. Any time, really.

 

Our daughter is addicted to television.

 

Don’t laugh; it’s an actual condition. I Googled.  Apparently, in our days of technology, we are breeding an entire generation of kids who are completely dependent on technology for everything.

 

Run a test. Do your kids know how to find out how to spell a word using a dictionary? Do they even know what a dictionary is? Besides the Dictionary.com website, I mean.

Hell, I’m a writer. I do this for a living, and I don’t have a dictionary on the shelf in my office, because internet!

 

Now, interestingly enough, the little O kid, Kimmie? She could give a total of two craps about TV. She’ll watch it if it’s on, and she has some shows that she really enjoys. (That Diego song is burned into my brain. I’ll have alzheimer’s and not remember who she is, but I’ll still be humming that damn song.)

As a rule though, if the TV is off, she won’t even think to turn it on. The only exception to that is when she’s sick and just wants to lie on the couch. And who can blame her?

It’s probably noteworthy that she was a super easy baby, who would nap on her own for hours on end, and didn’t even bother looking in the general vicinity of the television till she was at least 18 months old.
Like I said, I brought this on myself.

 

So, back to Joey. We’ve been having a few really bad weeks. She’s been acting out and being generally bratty. I don’t use that word lightly, either. In fact, I kind of hate that word. That’s a subject for another blog though.

In addition to her acting out, Joey’s been displaying the aforementioned aversion to anything not related to television. So, between a full fledged tantrum when it’s time for bed, constant fighting with her sister, being completely disrespectful to not only both of her parents, but also to her grandparents, I was ready to take action.

I just had no idea, of course, what action to take.

 

My husband’s got some amazing instincts when it comes to this stuff, though. He’d been telling me for a while that he thinks the TV is a big part of her problems, and I just did not see the connection. My eyes have since been opened.

 

On Saturday night, the girls wanted to stay up to watch The Santa Clause 3. It was on till 9:30, which is a full hour past their bedtime. But we had nothing planned for the morning, so I relented, figuring if anyone woke up grumpy, we could all cuddle back into bed for a short winter’s nap.

But, when 9:30 rolled around and the movie was over, Joey freaked out. She didn’t want to go to bed, she wanted to watch more TV. I chalked it up to her being up and hour past her normal time, and waited it out. She fell asleep pretty quickly once she stopped screaming. Really.

 

The next night, we got all our business settled and ready for school with plenty of time to spare, so the girls got to watch a little TV before bed. Of course, during the show they were watching, they saw an advertisement for the next show that was coming on, which was a brand new episode of one of their faves.

Joey asked, of course, if they could stay up to watch it and I advised her to tape it on the DVR so she could watch it after school the next day. She threw a holy fit.

No, seriously, not just a regular fit, but a holy one.

I’m maybe a little ashamed to admit that I largely let my husband handle it, because Joey exhausts me at her best. Sometimes, I just need a drink and a bubble bath.

I heard him tell Joey that if she didn’t calm down, she was going to lose TV privileges for a week.

She did not calm down.

He upped it to a month.

And that’s how we find ourselves here, on the first day of a month of no TV in the house. Or at least, no TV for Joey.

 

This insanely long blog post is just the backstory for the week’s posts. Next time (maybe tomorrow? Who knows on this blog, right?), we’ll go over the science of childhood television addiction. And I’ll even share links, because I’m still an investigative journalist at heart.

Meal Planning 101

It’s ten after three in the afternoon, the oldest O kid isn’t even out of school yet, and I’ve got dinner in the oven.

This is largely because the beef bourguignon needs to cook for a good three and a half hours, and we need to eat around 6:30.

It’s also because I meal planned this week.

Yes, I know what you’re saying. “Shaaaaaaaa…… you tried this already and not a single one of us were the least bit interested in your meal planning angst. Are you really going to talk about it again?”

I am. If you don’t like it… well, come back tomorrow and I’ll write about something else.

So here’s what I did. I went to Food.com and found a bunch of great recipes. I looked at my calendar and figured out what I could handle where (For example, the four hour extravaganza we’ll be experiencing tonight wasn’t feasible on Monday when we were going out right after school.)

And then I used Food.com’s new Menu Planning feature to drag and drop my meals to the days of the week. No, for real. I don’t need to leave Food.com ever.

I’ve added some of our family favorites that I can’t find on Food.com to my own online cookbook there, and now I can drag and drop them, as well.

Then, I can add all the ingredients to an editable shopping list, and send it to my phone. Or my husband’s phone, which is much more likely, honestly.

Genius. And FREE.

And that’s all I’ll say about meal planning. At least for now.

 

*I am in no way affiliated with Food.com, I just think it’s an awesome site. I’ve received no compensation for this post. Except, of course, the peace of mind that comes from having a plan set up for the week.

I also like to eat.

A quick update on The Ending Entitlement Project: We went on vacation recently, and I was worried about how that was going to affect TEEP. It did take a couple days, but we are largely back on track.

In addition to that, Joey has taken on some added responsibility by learning how to do the laundry. Yes, LAUNDRY!

But that’s all for another post.

Because, today, we’re going to talk about my nemesis.

Meal planning.

It seems that I have always been struggling with the “what’s for dinner” conundrum. Before we had kids, my husband and I decided it was just easier to eat out most nights.

We said it was just as expensive to cook, if you’re only cooking for two, because you can’t get two servings of pork chops. (We are liars. And if you’re also telling yourself these things, you’re also a liar.)

And besides, we could never agree on what to eat anyway.

Well, we could never agree on which restaurant to go to. Once we were there, we usually got the same dish.

You’d think, at some point, we’d just make a list of our favorite dishes at restaurants and start figuring out how to make them at home. But no.  That’s not how we rolled.

Once Joey was born, we continued eating out more than not. To be fair, I was deep in the throes of PPD and going out to eat was something I could look forward to.

Yes, it was so bad, I was looking forward to a trip to Applebee’s. Like, all day long. Not kidding.

And then, this crazy thing happened. Joey actually started to eat. And then, suddenly, she started eating enough that it warranted buying her own meals. And THEN I realized “OMG I AM FEEDING HER CRAP AND MACARONI EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!”

And then I started cooking more. Not at all enjoying it, and we were still going out fairly often, but I’d cook.

Then Kimmie came along and something ELSE happened. My BFF, Lianne, came to visit to help me with the baby and the toddler. She brought with her a love of Food Network.

I knew who most of the people were, but I’d never actually sat in front of the TV and watched their shows.

Turns out, watching the Food Network is fairly inspiring. And one day, while Joey and Kimmie were both napping, I found myself nodding along with Paula Deen as she breaded and baked some taters and told me how awesome they’d be.

And then I realized I had everything I needed to make those taters myself.

And suddenly, I was REALLY cooking.

So now I like to cook. I hate to figure out what to cook.

There was a time, for about a week and a half, where I had every meal and snack planned out the day before and that was an awesome week and a half.

I don’t know what happened. Probably, I didn’t get to the grocery store on time and it all fell apart.

And here I am, hoping my husband takes my kids to Fuddruckers while I’m at work this evening so I don’t have to deal with it.

Again, it’s the PLANNING and NOT the cooking that bugs me.

Tell me how meal planning works at your house. Unless you’re like me, and don’t do any meal planning. Because I don’t want to be like us anymore. If you just come here and tell me “Oh, I don’t figure out what’s for dinner till 3:02 every afternoon and then I run to the grocery store to get the goods and cook it up,” NOT HELPFUL.

And I’m not talking about just dinner here, folks. I want to plan out breakfasts, lunches AND dinners. And maybe even a couple snacks. YES I AM SERIOUS.

If you’re like me and don’t want to be like us anymore, stay tuned and we’ll work this out together. If you have advice, there’s a little comments button down there. USE IT.

Also accepting links to sites that spell this stuff out like they’re talking to my dog. Patient and authoritative, that is.

The End of Entitlement Project Begins!

Sorry I never got around to doing that promised blog last week. Let’s sort of do it now.

My original plan was to show up here with a list of things I eventually want my children to be responsible for, and then pop my list into a calendar and neatly compartmentalize a to do list for each goal.

I’ll bet you already know that didn’t happen.

Instead, I’ve decided to approach this with a bit of a freer spirit. That doesn’t require me to do much thinking or planning because…lazy.

The first thing I decided to shoot for is a clean bedroom. My girls share a bedroom, so cleaning it can be a real PITA.  “But that’s not miiiiiiine.” “She’s not dooooooing anything!” etc etc etc. Barf.

I took a gander at my overall goals. Raising productive, well adjusted adults who can work together. And, you know, not having to spend three hours cleaning their room every time company comes over.

Also I want to reduce the amount of stress in this little house. Messes are stressful. Even more stressful than having a mess is trying to get two kids to clean up the mess. I needed to motivate them.

I thought long and hard about what best motivates my children. They are not spurred to action by promises of treats or rewards. Which is just as well, because I hate bribery. They don’t like being told they can’t do something, though. 

For example, under the threat of losing her Duplo blocks, my little monster cleaned up her Duplo blocks. When she was told she would not be allowed to go to have her friends over if her art stuff was still all over the living room, my princess cleaned up the art stuff.

I hate being the police officer though. I hate being punitive. (Not being punitive is not the same thing as not teaching discipline, but we’ll just save that for another blog if it’s all the same to you.)  So I started trying to think of something that would work in every situation, that would spur the kids to action, and that wouldn’t make me feel like I was taking something away.

At about this time, my kids started arguing over the remote control. “Spongebob!” “NO! Timmy Turner!” “NO! SPONGEBOB!”

And then it hit me. Not the remote control. The solution.

The next day, over lunch in a public place (to hopefully avoid them slicing me open and leaving me for dead), I spelled out the deal.

“Every morning, you guys will be responsible for making your bed and making sure there is nothing on the floor of your room. I’ll come in and check, and if everything is cool, everything is cool. But if someone forgot to make their bed, or one of you leaves toys out, or clothes lying on the floor, no TV for the day.”

“THE WHOLE DAY?”

“The whole day.”

“But what if the stuff on the floor is Kimmie’s?”

“I want you guys to learn how to work together. If one of you doesn’t hold up your end of the deal, neither of you get to watch TV.”

“NO FAIR!”

And there was much whining and gnashing of teeth. But I stood firm. Even though, honestly? Yeah, I was thinking I was nuts. I wasn’t solving problems, I was creating them. I could hear the fights in my head already.

Part of me, though, was really hoping that this was going to work. That Joey and Kimmie were going to decide that being able to watch the new Victorious is more important than being right.  That they’d start helping each other out, as necessary.  That their room would be clean for more than ten minutes at a time.

Guess which part of me was right?

I’d be lying if I said there was no fighting. But not more than usual, really. And my kids are, in fact, working together. It’s true that the older girl is doing the lion’s share of the work in there, but little Kimmie dutifully makes her bed, to her own Kimmie-fied specifications, every morning. And she’s been better about putting her toys away when she’s done with them.

I added a little sweetness to the pot and told them that they get to do a room inspection in my bedroom every day, too. And if I’m found lacking, they can ban me from the television for the day.

We’ve been operating thusly for the past week, and today was the first day of a totally dark TV. We had friends over last night, so we were all tired and there was more than the usual mess in both our rooms.

When I walked into their room this morning, Joey said “I don’t think we’re watching TV today, are we?” and I said “No. But I don’t think I am either.”

Instead, we spent the day hitting Target for some vacation supplies, eating a yummy dinner and following it up with board games. It was a great day. With no TV.

This is a win/win for my family.  If we all clean up, the house is in order and everyone feels good about it. If we don’t, the TV is off all day and we spend more time connecting as a family. There is no downside, here.

I’m sure that the girls will get up tomorrow, make their beds and finish cleaning up their room, because they’re ready for iCarly and missing Big Time Rush. I know I will most definitely be cleaning my room in the morning, because Sunday night = True Blood.

Okay, homework time. Find out what motivates your kids. Don’t ask them. They will smell what you’re cooking and they will lie. Just think about it. It’ll come to you.

Figure out how you can use that to motivate them to begin taking the baby steps you laid out for them in last week’s homework. Get your partner on board, if that’s part of your thing, because this needs to be enforced by everyone in the family to work. Then it’s time for a family meeting.

Let me know how it works out in the comments!