Our Screen Free Experiment

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Being a mom is exhausting. Being a mom of a child with special needs is exhausting. Being a homeschool mom of a child with special needs is exhausting. In short, life is exhausting. In my exhaustion, I used to look forward to those times during the day when I could set the kids up in front of a show or on the iPad, so I could get a break and get a few things done around the house.

Junior has been in Occupational Therapy (OT) since he was 2 years old. Because of his hearing loss, he has some sensory issues, and sometimes gets frustrated from his speech delay. He was acting out, and having multiple meltdowns a day. I couldn’t take him anywhere because I just didn’t know how he was going to react. I started to withdraw from my friends and was praying for answers. Usually, to calm him down, I would turn on a show or give him the iPad.

About a month ago, I came across a book conveying the harm of screen time on a child’s brain. As a last resort, I decided to try the 3 week “media fast” outlined by the book, hoping it would improve Junior’s behavior and Tater’s concentration.

I was prepared for a struggle. I imagined days and days of screaming and whining and “I’m bored”. I knew it was going to add to my already heavy workload to have to figure out how to keep them occupied.

Guess what happened?

Day 1…We stayed out of the house most of the day at the playground to eliminate temptation. The kids asked for the iPad or a show a few times, but weren’t overly distraught about not getting it.

Day 2…Blocks came out. Lego creations were built. Hot Wheels had races. They only asked for a show once.

Day 5…Tater pulled me aside and said, “Can the media fast last for 3 months instead of 3 weeks? I feel so much better.

Day 9…Books, books, more books. We were going to the library every day to keep up with their reading!

Day 13…Junior’s attention went from running around the house and not playing with anything for more than 30 seconds, to sitting at a single task for 15 minutes.

Day 16…One meltdown for Junior in almost two weeks…which is amazing, since we were having at least one meltdown every day.

Day 21…I finally let them watch one movie that was on the “approved” list. They sat mesmerized for an hour. Then they didn’t ask for another show again after that.

It’s Day 24 now. Junior has only watched one movie and one TV show. I have received countless compliments about how well my kids behave in public. Just today, we went to a birthday lunch and the kids sat for 2 hours at the restaurant. They were engaging, they colored, and not once did they ask to play on the phone. This never would have happened a month ago.

Amazing things happened in the 3 weeks we did the media fast. Next time, I’m going to tell you how you can do it yourself at home. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be, and I am so incredibly happy with the results. I hope I can be an encouragement for someone else to try a media fast if their child is struggling with attention issues, sensory issues, and behavioral problems.

6 Things I’m NOT Doing So I Can Enjoy My Kids’ Childhoods Instead

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I know it’s cliché, but kids really do grow up too fast. Tater turned 8 a few weeks ago, and I was having a Mommy Meltdown about my baby growing up, and how on earth did this happen, and so on. I kept thinking about the last four years since Junior was born, and how stressed and busy I was, and how I just wanted a break–until I looked back and realized how much I missed because I was so anxiously awaiting the day that life would calm down. Life never really calms down, the challenges just become different. But, it really made me consider how fleeting time is, and how I really just need to enjoy the kids every single day. They will never be as young again as they are today. So, here are 6 things I’m not doing, so I can enjoy my kids’ childhoods instead:

 

1. Not Glued to My Phone
Technology is one of those double edged swords–phones and computers are useful and often necessary, but it’s also easy to become a slave to our devices. Instead of making it a point to check my phone for messages, emails, or anything else during the day, I’ve been putting it away and only checking it when the kids are in bed. My goal is that I’m never looking at a screen when they come looking for me.

 

2. Not Out and About All the Time
We have had a ridiculous amount of appointments since Junior was born 4 years ago. Several days a week, we are out of the house most of the morning, and once we get home it’s time to do school, cook, clean, and otherwise get caught up on life. I never feel caught up, and it’s stressful for everyone when you’re always trying to play catch up.

A couple weeks ago, we had no therapies or doctor’s appointments planned for an entire week, and I had forgotten how blissful it is to be home. We were able to play, do art projects, do school and get all the household chores done without feeling stressed. I’m moving our schedule around so we’re home more, so I can spend more time playing than driving.

 

3. Not Thinking About Tomorrow
I’ll admit it–I’m terrible when it comes to living in the present. I’m always thinking about the next thing…tomorrow, next week, my to-do lists, my life goals–that I often forget to be in the present. Right now. I want to enjoy my kids’ little faces while they’re still little, and not look back and regret that I didn’t fully enjoy the time with them. Instead of thinking about the next thing when I’m with them, I’m trying to stay in the moment–thinking about what I have right here and right now. What do I see? What do I hear? I just want to soak it all in and create memories in the now.

 

4. Not Spending Too Much Time On Meals
How many times have I heard “Momma, can you play with us?” while I’m trying to make dinner? Too many. I have to tell them later, but of course later never happens because too soon it’s bathtime and bedtime and tomorrow. So, I’ve started incorporating more slow cooker and freezer meals into our weekly menu so dinner is healthy and yet quick. My mom always used to tell people that it didn’t matter if she spent 20 minutes or 2 hours on a meal, as long as everyone was full and happy. Luckily, there are tons of healthy crock pot recipes that are a snap to prepare. (My slow cooker black beans and chicken tacos are always a family favorite.)

 

5. Not Forgetting to Have a Plan
Not so much a schedule, but in order to get the most out of our time, I’ve found it to be helpful to have a bit of a plan for the day. I may plan breakfast, outdoor play time, art project, lunch, school time, and a movie. Nothing too specific, but just a guide so I’m not standing around at 2pm wondering what on earth we did all day.

 

6. Not Ignoring the Little Moments
My doctor’s office has a sign that says “Never forget to enjoy the little blessings of today. Someday you will look back and realize they were the big blessings.” I love that. Right now I may take for granted when Junior wants me to pick him up and carry him to the car, or when Tater reaches up to hold my hand in the parking lot, but someday I’m going to look back and miss those little hands and that soft hair, and those sweet little voices.

Years from now, I’ll be wishing for “just one more day” with them being little, so I intend to enjoy that “one more day” right now.

 

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DIY Magnetic Travel Puzzle

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As you’ve probably already noticed, I love making travel games and toys for the kids. Between my felt funny faces, lap tray, and travel Lego tray (which always gets compliments while on airplanes), I really enjoy coming up with new ways to keep the kids occupied during long trips.

For our most recent trip, I wanted to figure out a way to make a travel puzzle. I knew they needed to be magnetic, but couldn’t figure out an easy way to make it happen. I happened to be wandering around Lakeshore, and saw magnetic dots–I knew those would be perfect. I found a puzzle on clearance at Target for $4.99 (it was a 48 piece and just barely fit on the magnetic cookie sheet I purchased at the dollar store so I would make sure to measure before you choose your puzzle), and got to work.

I put one magnetic dot on the back of each puzzle piece, and that was it. Like seriously folks, this could not have been any easier. I kept all the pieces in a zipper bag, and the kids were able to use the magnetic cookie sheet to keep the pieces secure and put together. This travel game was definitely a hit, and cheap and simple to boot!

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Vacationpocalypse Redux

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You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been around much the last month or two. After I got back from my Jeopardy! audition in Seattle, I started not feeling right. I went to the doctor a few times, saw a couple of specialists, had surgery, and was not in a very bloggy mood until I just received the “healthy all clear”. Praise the Lord! So, all is well, I am back, and I wanted to share some photos of our trip to Texas last week. Remember Vacationpocalypse last year? Well this trip followed that one up nicely.

Our kids had the opportunity to be a flower girl and ring bearer at a friend’s wedding in Fort Worth, Texas. We decided to fly out a few days early, so we could spend some time touring the area, and we had a few “field trips” planned as part of our homeschool curriculum.

It’s a 3 hour flight from San Diego to Dallas. Well, not even three hours. I think the total flight is around two hours and forty-five minutes. Between take off and descent, it’s only about 2 hours in the air. No problem! This would be easy. We got to the San Diego airport and found a parking space right in front (never happens), then made it through security in five minutes (never happens either), and our flight left 15 minutes early, with an early arrival time planned (woohoo, Texas steak dinner here we come!)

Texas has been getting record rainfall and flooding the last few weeks, but the storm in Dallas wasn’t supposed to move in until after our 5pm flight was to arrive. Everything was going smoothly, the kids were doing great on the flight, and I was anticipating a nice steak once we arrived.

About 10 minutes before our arrival time, the captain came on and said there was a lightening storm in the DFW area, and no planes could land, but that we would circle until a path opened and arrive about 20 minutes late.

We continued to circle for 2 hours…every 30 minutes the captain would come on and promise us only 20 more minutes. I started to not believe him. It was now 7pm, and we had no time table for landing.

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Finally a little after 7pm, we were told we were beginning our initial descent–into Wichita Falls–about 120 miles north of DFW to refuel. We considered renting a car to make it down to DFW, but they never let us off the plane. We sat on the tarmac for FOUR hours. Junior was not having any of it…it was meltdown central on that plane, and I don’t blame the poor kid. A 3 hour flight had turned into 9, and I had only packed enough snacks and games for 3 hours. Finally, at 11:30pm, we landed at DFW. No one on the plane got dinner, so we were all hungry and crabby. After getting the rental car and driving an hour to the hotel, we finally settled in about 1am.

The only upside, I told my husband, is that if we ever wanted to fly to Europe, we know the kids could do it =)

Next Post: Photos of my 33 oz Texas tomahawk steak, sitting on a live longhorn steer, and the ring bearer and flower girl in action.

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“Shhhh. They Don’t Know They’re Learning” DVD List…for home or travel!

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I know a lot of parents try to tough out traveling without using technology, but sometimes you just need to switch on the DVD player for sanity’s sake. Having logged over 130 hours on road trips or plane rides with one or both of my kids since 2014, I know a little bit about traveling with kids. (plus we have another 30 hours+ worth of traveling planned for later this year), and sometimes turning on a DVD is just the best option for everyone. It tends to reset the atmosphere, gives some peace and quiet, and helps the time pass more quickly. Even though Tater gets carsick while reading or coloring in the car, she does fine watching shows, so I make sure to stock up on quality shows.

But, not all DVDs are created equal. I try to make sure that the DVDs we have in the car for traveling are educational, but also fun and enjoyable. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning! Here are my top picks for Educational DVDs to pick up for your next trip (or even just to have around the house!)

(My kids do have plenty of non-screen time during our travels as well…check out some of my DIY travel games for road trips, and my simple DIY Travel Lego Tray!)

Toddler and Preschoolers

  • Leapfrog Letter Factory
    • This is such a great show for kids who are learning their ABCs. Both of my kids were able to learn and practice their letter sounds. Junior still asks to watch it on occasion, because it’s entertaining, even though he already knows the letters.
  • Leapfrog Math Circus
    • This is another wonderful Leapfrog DVD, that teaching counting by 10s.
  • Leapfrog Math Adventure to the Moon
    • In this DVD (can you tell I love Leapfrog shows for little kids??), children are introduced to skip counting, which is a major foundation for multiplication.
  • Meet the _____ series
    • Meet the Letters, Colors, Numbers, and Shapes are four of my top DVDs for little kids. Much like the Leapfrog series, they introduce kids to learning in a fun, engaging, and sing-songy way.

Young Grade School (K-4th)

  • Wild Kratts
    • This popular PBS show teaches kids about all about animals. The fast-paced cartoon action is enough to keep all the kids entertained.
  • Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
    • I grew up playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on the computer, and enjoyed watching the cartoon version. Both kids love these DVDs, and will watch each episode over and over. Tater spouts off trivia about geography, history, natural wonders, and science. It’s adventure mixed with information that keeps my kids enthralled.
  • Liberty’s Kids
    • This is a cartoon take on Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. It’s fast paced, exciting, and includes all the episodes that teach about the American Revolution and incudes the lives of such historical figures as Benjamin Franklin (the main character voiced by the legendary Walter Cronkite), Paul Revere, and George Washington.
  • Popular Mechanics for Kids
    • This is a fun series for hands-on science learning. Tater didn’t like some of the “gross” episodes about reptiles and bugs, but she loved the rest of them.
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
    • Do you know how adorable it is to hear your 3 year old singing Conjunction Junction?! Too adorable. This DVD includes all 46 of the Schoolhouse Rock! songs on one disc. My kids love rocking out to this DVD. In fact, it’s in our car’s DVD player as we speak.
  • The Magic School Bus
    • With the exception of a few “millions and millions of years” dinosaur episodes, this entire series is really great. I used to watch it when I was young, and learned so much about science. My kids have the entire series on DVD and really enjoy it.

Do you have a favorite educational show? Let me know in the comments!

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