How I Realized that I Needed to Limit Screen Time for My Kids

I don’t want to admit it, but I know that I have become the mom who lets her children have too much screen time. You know, when she gets busy cleaning or planning or cooking or whatever and decides that while she gets these things done, and in order to be able to get these things done the kids can watch a movie or play games on the tablet or whatever device to “keep them busy.”

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I did it. I was there. This is how I know: the kids whined and complained ALL.THE.TIME., they weren’t happy with turning off any show (even if I gave them fair warning), there was a lot of disobedience, bedtime became difficult, they were always hungry (bored is more like it), and I was angry and irritable.

It was very easy for me to go from “harmless” intentional screen limits to a nonchalant and permissive attitude. “Sure you can watch a show, I need to catch up on dishes.” “Okay, let’s do a movie night, I need to fold laundry.” “Alright, you can play games on the tablet, I need to pay bills anyway.”

I don’t have an issue with my kids watching shows or movies but I do have a problem when their eyes are glued to a screen all day, every day. (They really didn’t watch all day, every day… but it felt like it.) And I knew that I didn’t want them to have access whenever they asked. I had actually used TV as a reward if my daughter was ready for her day on time. She could watch one show before we started school, and that was usually it for the day.

But then quiet time came and they were behaving well, why not allow them more TV while I am on the computer doing work in the afternoon? Then, they were quiet and occupied while I cooked dinner. But as I became more lax, and this became more than an occasional occurrence, I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing. I knew they were getting too much screen time.

I started brainstorming how I was going to get out of this, because it was great to have time to myself, but I knew this was such a very bad habit that I had allowed. I talked to a couple of friends. One recognized too much screen time in her home and implemented no screens because she was just so sick of her children’s behavior. Another friend revealed that she’s had days like mine where she’ll allow screen time for her kids so she can get some of her work done. She also mentioned that they have certain times they allow screens. To really kick me into gear was another blogger who I regularly read. She is currently doing a series in the month of October called 31 Days of Screen Free Activities for Kids.

It was quite convicting to see this series just as I had been contemplating what I would be doing to quit all this screen time nonsense. Rosilind has come up with an amazing list of things you can do with your kiddos – check it out! Seriously, this could not have come at a better time.

After seeing what other mommas have been through and what they do in regards to screen time, I have come up with screen time rules in our house. Well, a screen time schedule, I suppose. This is what it looks like in our house right now: Wednesdays are Kid Movie nights, Friday afternoons each child may choose one show and they can watch those 2 shows together, the weekend allows each child 30 minutes of time on the tablet. That’s it!

Yes, only 3 opportunities are built in for screen time. And to explain a little, Wednesday nights are movie nights because we host an informal Bible study and they can look forward to this “event” and be occupied in the other room. We will occasionally say “let’s have a family movie night” which is a great surprise for them, obviously not on days that behavior was an issue. And I will occasionally have a specific educational game available for school lessons that they can do for 10-15 minutes on the computer or tablet. But not yet. I don’t want to give too many exceptions, I just can’t.

My reasons for the “schedule” are: that it is too easy to become lax, it gives a sense of consistency, and it seems to be just the right amount that the kids look forward to the screen time but not seem to want more. I have a feeling that a lot of behavior issues for my 5 year old are not only because I allowed so much screen time but because there was a lack of regularity and consistency in day to day life. We have been all over the place and I can see how it’s hard to know what mom expects if things are always changing. But that’s for another post.

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We are in week 2 since the addition of the screen time schedule and I have already seen an improvement in behavior, manners, imagination, desire to be helpful, and kindness. The kids have been perfectly fine with the rules and I have had no complaining about the rules. There are times when my daughter asks to watch something but she’s totally okay when I tell her to remember it for when she gets screen time. They have been playing very well with each other. I “caught” Elle reading a book to Finn this morning, it was so lovely to see. Several times I’ve seen them take dolls or stuffed animals on adventures. It didn’t take too long for them to figure out what they could do to keep busy and play.

How is screen time limited in your home?

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What I Have Learned: Meal Planning and Putting it to Paper

I have struggled with this whole meal planning business off and on. I have come to realize that meal planning just doesn’t happen. It is something I have to work hard at doing. It has to be purposeful, intentional.

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The classic method of pen and paper is usually what works best. I can jot down an idea, scribble it out, move it to another day with an arrow. It’s just easier to “think” when writing, opposed to using a calendar on the computer or some meal planning service. Now, I have used Plan to Eat and liked it but it hasn’t been a consistent tool for me. If you are more of a computer organizer I’d highly recommend checking them out (I am not an affiliate, just a mom who is speaking from her own experience). Plan to Eat is pretty user friendly and especially after you build your recipes. I think the best part was that it automatically created a grocery list based off your meal plan. And you can delete items you know you already have so that you only get a list of what you need.

Anyway, like I said, pen and paper has proven to be a true friend when it comes to meal planning. I really enjoy using this two week schedule printable. It has spaces to include breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas. I typically shop on Tuesdays and occasionally I’ll go on Monday or Wednesday depending on the food situation or my schedule that week. So having the two week layout helps me to start my plan for the week on Tuesday and wrap around to the following Tuesday. I try to plan for 8 days because there is always a day I plan a meal and then when it’s time to make it I am not in the mood for cooking that meal. This way allows me a little wiggle room.

How do I know what meals to plan? Great question! I have found it helpful to come up with categories. My categories are Pasta/Grain, Asian, Traditional, Vegetarian, Mediterranean/ Middle East. You might think up Italian, Chicken, Pork, Soup/Stew/Crock pot/ Casserole, Skillet, Salad, Breakfast for Dinner, Pizza night, or even Cajun. My family likes to eat very different cuisines and they can be pretty particular about their food. I think that’s a big reason it has been such a challenge for me to plan. I also don’t want to feel obligated, nor do I have the time, to cook 7 days a week. That’s why you only see five categories.

Here are my categories and what they mean to me in more detail. Pasta/ Grain means cooking spaghetti, or pierogi, or gnocchi, or quinoa, or orzo and whatever sauce and veggies to go with it. Asian means a lot of different choices like Indian curry or Thai curry (and there are a bunch of curry ideas for both) or peanut satay chicken, or stir fry, or fried rice, or homemade Chinese food. My traditional category is cooking up a meat, veggie, and starch. So I might make a meatloaf with mashed potatoes and peas. Or I’ll make herbed chicken thighs with roasted potatoes and green beans. Maybe I’ll make Jamaican jerk chicken breasts with sweet potatoes and broccoli. Fajitas, burgers, and Shepard’s Pie also fall into this category because they are a meat with a veggie and starch.

The vegetarian category is the most difficult because we are not fans of substitution type meals. No tofurkey burgers or lentil “meat”loaf for us. We like our veggies and want to eat more of them, definitely. But I haven’t found any “go-to” vegetarian recipes that aren’t curries. But nonetheless, here are some meal ideas I have listed: grilled cheese (actually – you have to try this Blueberry Balsamic grilled cheese from Amanda K. by the Bay) with butternut squash soup, mushroom and kale and wild rice casserole, red beans and rice. Not too inspiring but I guess we can work on that. And for the last of my categories I have Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food. I like to make a Greek salad with chicken, or tabbouleh and felafel, or spiced chicken kebabs.

I plan to cook five days a week and I plan a day of leftovers. Okay, so that is only six days, what about the last day? What do you do for a meal that day? Well, it all depends on my mood or what’s on the calendar. Usually, almost always, there is an event on the weekend – that serves food, or we go to my in-laws – and they prepare a meal, or we have enough leftovers to come up with something to eat, or I’ll make something “easy”, or we’ll get takeout. This is where you know you and your family’s style. For us, I try not to cook anything big on the weekends. This is the time I want to spend with my family, not spend time in the kitchen cooking (or cleaning). I know for some families it works best to make the big meals on the weekends and save the easy or quick stuff for during the week.

Now that we know our categories and we know how many days to plan to cook something you just plug it all in. Here was last week’s plan. I know that my hubby loves homemade pizza so that works for Tuesday. A family member has been staying with us for a while and agreed to cook Wednesday. Thursday’s plan is to cook Jambalaya (maybe the “Mediterranean” category will have to change to the “Other” category). Friday we’ll cook burgers and dogs since we have a bunch leftover from July 4th weekend. Saturday I can make a salad with grilled chicken. And Sunday will be soup and grilled cheese.

I had actually, for the first time, made a plan for two weeks out. My goal is to not go shopping again until the 21st. So for next week’s plan I have written down Leftovers on Monday, Chicken with sweet potatoes and a veggie on Tuesday, Tikka Masala on Wednesday, Teriaki stir fry on Thursday, homemade pizza on Friday, Leftovers on Saturday, Make a sauce and do spaghetti on Sunday and Monday we will try rice and beans.

So far writing it down on paper has been super helpful. Over the last few months I’ve been able to keep dinner on the table and there have been maybe 2 complaints. And when I say complaints it means that we ordered takeout when we really shouldn’t have and that the meal really was a dud. My hubby knows he can be a difficult customer and he has loved my cooking and loved that he can count on coming home to a yummy meal. My confidence has really grown since I decided to refuse to fail.

And now with a few months of weekly meal planning under my belt it’s time to try shopping every two weeks. Eventually I would like to go monthly. It’s a lofty goal, but I find that the more trips I make the more money I spend. It will also leave a little extra time in my week to go other places with the kiddos for nature walks or field trips or play dates.

Another trick I’ve learned about planning my meals is to write down on my master list (the list with the categories and meal ideas) any meals I’ve made that my family loves. Lately we are enjoying homemade pizza (with a copycat Uno’s Chicago pizza dough crust), Thai red curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, and I recently found this Jambalaya recipe that now will go into regular rotation – it’s super YUM and easy to make. And yes, my children eat all this spicy food, usually. 🙂

Writing down dinner plans have been priority to lunch and breakfast. As long as we have eggs, steel cut oats, cereal, and leftovers then everyone can eat breakfast. I’ll also go to our local bagel shop for “yesterday’s bagels,” a bag of seven for $2. Can’t beat that.

And for lunch, well, that’s the next part of meal planning that I need to learn to plan. I’ll get deli meat every so often for sandwiches or my hubby will eat leftovers or eat out. The kids and I will eat PB&J or chicken fingers or leftovers. Yeah, these meals need a little more love and care, but I’m happy that I have found what works for me. Good old pen and paper – and the discipline to use them.

What is your meal planning trick? How do you get it done?

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National Library Week! Celebrate! Reasons to Love your Library!

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Don’t you just love your library? I know I do. Just type “library” in my search box. I love that I can take my kids to not only pick out books to read and take home, but for them to socialize with the other library loving kids. I love that my children get to listen to a story teller, be entertained by a musician, see a magician, create a craft, hear a story, and learn to love books!

Reasons to love your library:

  1. Books!
  2. Community
  3. Story time
  4. Special events
  5. Movie showings for a night out with the family
  6. Book signings
  7. Meet the author
  8. Literacy programs
  9. Free place to play when it’s too cold to go outside
  10. Cool place to go when it’s too hot outside
  11. Newspapers
  12. Magazines
  13. Internet service
  14. DVD’s to check out
  15. Place to read
  16. Place to meet friends
  17. Place for a meeting (business, nonprofit, community organization)
  18. Buy books at rock bottom prices (see what we scored at our last Friends of the Library sale)
  19. They put books on hold for you so you don’t have to drag your kids out of the children’s department to find them
  20. They bring books from other libraries for you
  21. They help you find hard to find resources
  22. Museum passes for discount prices, or free!
  23. Job & Resume help
  24. Downloadable books
  25. Friendly people who love the library

Here are some real life stories of people who love their library and how it’s made a difference in their lives.

Go to your local library this week and say thank you to your library workers! Celebrate this week and share what the library helped you create. There are Unlimited Possibilities @ the Library!

And don’t forget, many of our libraries are in trouble and need your support. Sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

What is your favorite reason to love your library?

Shared at the Homeschool Mother’s Journal

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4 Reasons for a Morning Routine

The door is rattling, it’s 5:34am, the two year old is awake and ready to start his day. I am in bed wishing that for just one morning 6:30 would be considered an appropriate time to rise and shine. Finally, I stumble down the hall to open the bedroom door.

reasons for a morning routine

“Mama” he calls out with his arms up. This is the point where, depending on the day my mood, my heart melts at his loving cry or I feel utterly deflated. Knowing that “my time” is gone, I sometimes set him up at my desk to watch Curious George on my computer so that I can steal away a few more moments of sleep. Sometimes, I give him an applesauce cup at the table so that I can get in some time on the computer before my daughter awakens.

Before I know it, everyone is up and ready for me to make breakfast or coffee or help is needed with getting dressed. I make coffee while my hubby is the shower. I find clothes and dress my son. Then, I usually make eggs or pour cereal into bowls for breakfast for the kids and myself (hubby is not a traditional breakfast eater so I’ll make guacamole or he’ll heat up leftovers).

Back to my desk: I want to plan my day, read my Bible, prepare for lessons, and play a little bit in blog-land (reading and writing). A little while later I realize that I have spent entirely too much time at my desk… and I haven’t even showered or dressed myself. Stress and worry ensue. This is NOT how I want to begin my day.

My routine (the one that is written down, not the one that I practice) begins with making coffee, making my bed, making lunches, putting away dishes, and getting dressed by seven o’clock. Then by eight I want to have read my Bible, checked email, and finished doing what I do on the computer. At eight I can begin breakfast and finish chores such as laundry, dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom. It’s better to get all that stuff done early so I don’t have to worry about it. If this is all complete by 9:00am when I like to begin school, then I’m a happy camper.

Now that is all great, but over the last couple of months it just was not working for me anymore. I questioned why it wasn’t working and what I needed to change to make it actually feel like I am accomplishing my tasks and getting ready for the day in a reasonable amount of time – AND how to do all of this with little to zero stress.

Reflecting upon my routine made me realize that I had not factored in a very important piece, or two important pieces who run around with wants and needs calling me Mommy. My “perfect” routine consisted of me doing desk duties, things that tend to require a little more focus, right in the middle of the morning scramble! No wonder things aren’t working.

Here are 4 reasons for a morning routine:

1. To ensure that quiet time with God happens. Every day.

2. To provide a time to shower and get dressed. Because we moms tend to spend more time on the little people in our lives. And let’s be honest, making an effort to be dressed (sweats don’t count) can really boost your confidence and make you feel super terrific.

3. To prepare and plan for my day. The day just works better when I know what’s on the agenda.

4. To complete a few key tasks. There are a few which can help keep the day moving along smoothly if they are done ahead of time.

These are things that have to happen to start the day right. And these reasons are why it’s so important for me to attain a working morning routine.

Routines don’t have to be confined to strict time limitations, but they do provide structure. This framework creates a flow or rhythm: do task one, do task two, etc. Once in place, a routine naturally gets you doing what needs to get done. You know what is first, what’s next, and what’s last. Chaos is avoided because you and your kids know the order things should go. Without a routine you never know what you’re gonna get.

Stick with me to see what changes I’ve made in my morning routine in an upcoming post.

But for now… Do you have a morning routine? How do you start your day?

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