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Why I Think Screen Time Limits Make Kids Happier

Why I Think Screen Time Limits Make Kids Happier

We used to take the approach that once the kids get their homeschool and chores done, they could do what they want with their free time. For a million reasons, that wasn’t working, so recently we had to tweak our policy on that a little and institute screen time limits. Before you tell me how scary that sounds, let me tell you that we all had a rough two days, as they had to redirect their free time focus from TV, tablets and video games (and I had to receive the grievances). But now we’re all better off.

Here’s how our day typically goes. When Mister leaves for work, we all go to the table and get our homeschool day situated. We do not break for summer, so this has been our weekday routine for years. That is, until we were all down with flu. Somehow, I got hit the hardest and I was sick longer than anyone else, so I relied heavily on screens when I needed to recover. (Thank goodness we go all summer!)

Once we recovered, we had a heck of a time getting back to our school flow. Learning time and chores started to be treated as an interruption to their day, and they reached for the remote or tablet as their default activity. Although we got back to our school time routine, the screen habit had taken root and there were fireworks every time I asked them to do something else.

We used to let the kids spend their free time how they wanted, but I found that screen time limits made them happier. Click through to read about what our balanced screen time approach looks like in our house. #parenting #kids #screentime #screentimelimits #kidsbehavior #add #adhd #tantrums #kidstv #tablets #happykids #discipline #happyfamily

Additionally, I saw subtle but building changes in their demeanor. My previously chill kids started to launch into full-throttle emotion at the teeniest issues, and we all took turns butting heads all day. It was not a happy time.

So, I saw three main problems in our house after our two weeks under the weather…
1. Reaching for screens to the exclusion of all else
2. A distorted sense of how daily responsibilities should be treated
3. Reduced emotional control

I figured #1 and #2 could be addressed with screen time limits. Another homeschool mom friend said she had to limit screen time to Friday through Sunday so that screen time would be completely off the table for those days. If it’s not an option, they will neither reach for it nor ask for it. Then, they would be forced to read, draw, play legos, pretend, kick the soccer ball…anything but sit there and vegetate in front of the TV or tablet. I borrowed her plan.

Imposing screen time limits also helped me start learning time and chores without much protest. I’m not saying the grumbles are gone–that’s just not realistic. But now it’s once again an assumed part of our day instead of an interruption to their Mario board or episode of Jessie.

As for emotional control, my chill kiddos have returned! I cannot say for sure whether or not their tantrums had anything to do with screen time, but I imagine the problem came from a combination of me nagging them to get through their to-do lists, from the overstimulation effects that electronics have on our neurons, and from the general sense that no matter what they were doing, they would rather be doing something else. The freakouts still happen, but the part of the brain that moderates all of that seems to have come out of its slumber.

Screen Time Limits – How We Do It

So, here’s what we’ve been doing for two weeks now, with more success than I could ever have imagined.

No screens before breakfast, ever. Mister and I recognized a year or two ago how much impact morning screen time has on our kids’ behavior.

No screens Sunday through Thursday. If it’s not an option, they don’t ask, I don’t have to say no, and there’s no negotiation and protest. It keeps things simple. We make exceptions for doctor’s waiting rooms and long car trips, because come on. Sanity.

Friday through Sunday screen time is earned throughout the week. We cannot do limitless, wild west style free time anymore, lest we end up re-training and pulling our hair out every Monday again. When school and chores go well, they can earn up to two hours per weekend day. When they do not go well, time goes down.

It may sound strict, but my kids are so much happier when they know what’s expected of them. Not to mention, as a homeschool family, we’re together a lot. Clearly defined expectations keep everything running much more smoothly.

 

 

DIY Bug Spray with Research-backed Tick Ingredients

DIY Bug Spray with Research-backed Tick Ingredients

We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw another round or two of snow up here on our mountain, but I’m already gathering supplies for my summer to-make list. I have my water-resistant sunblock recipe ready to go (glad you asked…yes I’ll share the recipe soon!), my favorite SPF lip balm melt and mix is ready to roll, and I made it a point to update my DIY bug spray to include ingredients that ticks absolutely hate.

Prevalence of tick-borne illness including Lyme is increasing with no sign of slowing down. If you’re interested, you can compare maps from 2001 to 2015 (maps here) – it’s a little alarming when you’re smack in the middle of a blue zone.

A few years ago, my then four-year-old son came down with a high fever and extreme fatigue in the middle of summer. He rarely caught colds, and after a day or so we noticed a peculiar red circle rash pattern forming all over his body. We took him to the doctor, who thought the notion of Lyme was ridiculous and he begrudgingly ordered the tests I requested. Results came in confirming Lyme, and fortunately we caught it early enough to clear it completely with antibiotics.

We’re among the lucky ones. Not everyone gets the rash or fever – a large portion of infected individuals show no symptoms at all. That means if they didn’t notice a poppyseed-sized nymph embedded on their scalp, they will not realize they’ve been infected until it is too late to clear the infection.

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Lesson learned – we need better prevention. Since the tick bite, we started our unofficial protocol when we come in from hiking trails and wooded parks.

  • keep a comb in the car and do thorough tick checks on the kids, ourselves, and each other after spending time in wooded or brushy areas
  • thoroughly check any gear we took along
  • look for ticks on clothing
  • keep the dog’s hair short in the summer so we can check her for hitchhikers

Where’s the bug spray in our prevention list? Well, I refused to use bug spray on any of us because of the main active ingredient, DEET. It has been somewhat publicized that there can be adverse effects in children, but I’m also finding information about its effects on adults that I’d rather not deal with. Manic psychosis? Seizures that power through anti-convulsants? Cardiovascular effects? Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and skip it, thanks.

Once I started exploring plant properties, I learned that there are essential oils out there that bugs simply do not like. For a while there, my DIY bug spray was made of half witch hazel and half water mixed with citronella essential oil to keep the mosquitoes away. We smelled like tiki torches but hey, no bites!

Now, I’m finding that ticks have very specific distastes. In addition to repellant promise, I’ve found that some essential oils such as tea tree, geranium and eucalyptus can even be lethal to ticks (tea tree study, geranium and eucalyptus study).

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Armed with new information and a small arsenal of essential oils, I decided to reformulate my basic citronella DIY bug spray with targeted ingredients. The lineup…

Lemon eucalyptus
Studies such as this one have shown it has strong tick repellant properties, comparable to DEET.

Lavender & Geranium
The same study showed weaker but still somewhat repellant properties of lavender and geranium. I opted to include them because it makes the formula smell so much better (bye bye, eau de tiki torch) and both offer a little extra protection.

Tea tree
Tea tree essential oil has been shown to actually kill ticks

Citronella
Because I still don’t like mosquitoes

Don’t you love scrolling and scrolling through a never-ending soliloquy when all you want is the recipe already? Here you go.

DIY Bug Spray Recipe

1/4c water
1/4c witch hazel
10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil     Get it here*
5 drops geranium essential oil     Get it here*
5 drops lavender essential oil     Get it here*
10 drops citronella essential oil     Get it here*
10 drops tea tree essential oil     Get it here*

Combine all ingredients in a dark glass spray bottle*. That’s it! Since the essential oils tend to float on top, give it a good shake every time you apply.

While I wish I could claim this spray will make us all invincible against ticks, lions, light sabers, et cetera, I cannot. We still go through our tick check, after hanging out in areas with trees and brush.

Ready to play outside?

Fear’s Place

Fear’s Place

This week, we did something that scared the daylights out of me.

I was thumbing through my favorite blogs on the way to Hoss’s wrestling tournament today, and I landed on a short and insightful piece on how physical and mental discomfort helps us grow. Since I was a nervous wreck about his first throwdown in a full-contact aggressive sport, it fit the day.

Wrestling was not at all my idea. In fact, we put him in not one, but two situations where we were sure he would get knocked around a little, then hate it. But it backfired, and here we are. It’s the first of my kids’ activities that I didn’t choose for them.

Could this be one of those times that marks the transition to big kid?

After a few weeks of him not hating practice, it came time to test his skills in a real match with kids he didn’t know. He paced the house all morning. I paced the house too, in different rooms, so he wouldn’t pick up on my nerves. We left, we arrived, and waited.

Me shredding a napkin, a full two hours before anything started. Mister noticed I was doing this without realizing it and thought it was funny so he took a pic.

When his number came up, he took the mat. I was sure he would freeze, or get a facefull of rubber, or come off bleeding. Instead, he pinned his opponent in 35 seconds. After that, my nervous energy changed to eager excitement, and of course Hoss was pumped.

His second match, he went hard but lost, during which his shoulder took a twist that didn’t jive with my understanding of human shoulder anatomy. He was fine, but the straining, the look of pain and panic on his face…moms don’t like that.

Back to shredding napkins for me, uncertainty for him.

He won his third, and based on a points and brackets system that I don’t yet understand, that landed him second place in his weight class, and a new love for a sport.

He was happy when he won, driven to give it a little more when he lost. He was thriving in an arena I hadn’t chosen for him.

There was some legit fear, literal discomfort, and a whole lot of growing happening in that gym that day.

On the other side of fear, Hoss found a challenge, a killer workout, a new sport to get excited about, effort rewarded, and a little more of his likes and himself revealed.

On the other side of fear, mom found a the sweet side of loosening the grip, of letting the kids grow up and start learning to fly.

 

Sometimes We Say Things

Sometimes We Say Things

Sometimes we say things, and we have to say them out loud because it makes them more convincing.

FINALLY, I can get a cute handbag now that I don’t need those diaper compartments and sections for baby gear.

Because we’re sad that the days of diapered bums and lugging baby gear are over, and it’s sad to leave such a special and transformative time behind.

flat_rock_lake

Thank goodness the nursing days are over and I can get a full night’s rest!

Because we miss the long days and nights of equal parts chaos and quiet, snuggling close and deep breathing baby head smell.

threeshore

We’re having so much fun now that the kids are more independent. 

We are, but now we’re starting to think about not being as needed, or needed at all, and while it’s a far cry from where we are right now, it will someday be reality.

twotrail

I’m so relieved I don’t have to yank my homeschooled kids out of bed and deal with buses and homework.

Because every hour of every day, we wonder whether or not the hardest and most high-stakes decision we’ve ever made was the right one.

Ah, motherhood – so strange. Celebration and mourning over the same milestones. Sure, we’ve found bright shiny silver linings. But we can’t pretend the clouds aren’t there. Clouds aren’t all bad; after all, rain helps things grow.

sunset

Why I Became Health and Fitness Obsessed This Year

Why I Became Health and Fitness Obsessed This Year

No, it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. But by coincidence, January 2016 marks the time when I made the decision to not just change some things, but overhaul my health and fitness habits.

I didn’t have particularly unhealthy habits. I’ve always been a real food, treats on special occasions, play outside, chemical conscious kind of girl. I wasn’t (and I’m still not) on a weight loss mission and spandex culture never really appealed to me.

But, the world seemed to grab me by the jaw and give me a clear direction of where I have to go from here.

Here’s the story.

It’s late summer 2015, and it’s coming to light how bad my Nana’s Alzheimer’s disease is getting. By Christmas, we’re hitting the reset button on our conversations every 30 seconds. Several times through Christmas Eve dinner she thought she was at a wedding, and my brother would bring her to a wall to show her the photo of the two of them dancing at his wedding a few years ago.

She repeatedly asks how many children I have, though they’re standing right in front of her. She claims she never saw me pregnant, but she absolutely did. I know this because I remember she loved telling me I was eating well, winky winky.

Christmas Eve, 2015 marks the day I decided that Alzheimer’s is the disease I fear most.

Around the same time, my active, athletic, hardworking, relatively young father-in-law gets diagnosed with cancer. Pretty much anyone would fit the picture for cancer better than he would, but we all know cancer doesn’t always follow the rules.

He had been on a chemo regimen before Christmas, and had to take frequent rests during gatherings. I think that threw us all.

Then there’s that always looming idea that my mom was 38 when she was diagnosed with the cancer that would take her. I’m 33, and in my head, the countdown is on. My overall health has to beat the clock.

If all that isn’t a wake-up call, I had a health scare of my own.

Let’s set the scene. We’re in the baby life stage for six years in a row, seven if you count pregnancy. It seemed that when my youngest turned two, life became easier than it had been in a long time. I wasn’t pregnant or nursing, everyone started sleeping. Everyone fed themselves, two thirds were wiping their own noses and tushes, and thanks to slip ons and sandals, everyone started putting on their own shoes!

Life became a lot less hands on, and I had space to notice myself again. What I noticed needed to be addressed ASAP. I went to the doctor with a whole laundry list of strange symptoms I could have brought up – losing my hair, weight loss, breakouts – but I settled on fatigue and forgetfulness. I expected to be politely and respectfully laughed out of the office, because we’ve all heard of “mommy brain” and how many tired mom coffee memes are circulating the internet?

Instead, she took one look at my face, a quick look at my hands, and asked me some questions to which I answered “yes” over and over. She gave me a STAT bloodwork order and a stern warning not to elevate my heart rate. My test results confirmed her suspicions.

What I thought was silly mom stuff was actually a severe (but treatable) condition that could cause me to have a heart attack. It could be fixed if I either underwent major surgery or would take Class I carcinogens for the rest of my life.

“Can we wait a couple months? I could try this diet and those supplements…” I asked.

“You’re a heart risk. Let’s get you to a more stable place before we try things,” she answered.

My case was severe and treatment was necessary, so I went on two prescriptions that would remove immediate threats. I figured I would do this short-term to lengthen my runway once I decided to go off of the medicines and try to get my body to reset itself.

While I was on the medications, I made some intense lifestyle changes. Gradually, I cut coffee, cut sugar, lowered carbs, began intermittent fasting, tripled my already high vegetable intake, added superfood shakes, prioritized sleep, ramped up my physical activity (once cleared to do so), drastically reduced household and personal care toxins. By the time I was able to go off of the medications, my body was better equipped to function without them.

I’m better now. The best way I can describe how I feel is…undead. This is how I’m supposed to feel, and it’s incredible.

Several friends have said to me, just in the last few months, “I don’t know what it is, but you look amazing.”

It’s not a new lipstick. It’s a new life.

But I’m not finished.

See my family members’ stories up there?

I’m terrified.

But more than fear, I feel readiness.

I crawled out of a hole that I didn’t even know I was in, and now I’ve got my feet on the ground, in broad daylight. And I’m suited up to climb.

Having a healthy basis back, I’m ready to become the best version of myself that I can. There’s no better way to give what I’ve got to my husband and kids than to have something in the tank to give.

I’m never going into that hole again.

 

The Gift That Made Me Say, “Do I Have To?”

The Gift That Made Me Say, “Do I Have To?”

Me and my big mouth.

A few months ago, I had a fleeting thought of something I might want to try, sometime in the unforeseeable future. And then that thought went away.

Until Mister brought it back, and put it into a box.

Want to know what I’m talking about? He took a video of my reaction, and here I am sharing it with you, PJs and unbrushed hair and all. That’s right, my first public YouTube video and I’m straight out of bed.

Yes, I opened up a gift and said, “Do I have to?”

I grumble in jest, though. I’m pumped about doing a mud run! As grown-ups, we don’t get many excuses to get dirty, climb up things, swing from things. And how often do we forego challenging ourselves for what’s comfortable?

He nailed the gift this year.

Now, it’s up to me to figure out how to train for this thing.

I’ve been doing the gym thing for a while, so we can check weightlifting off of the list. My upper body strength could use work, so bodyweight work will help me make a respectable showing when I need to climb and pull myself up. Balance work is probably a good idea so I can get across mud puddles or whatever there may be, and then there’s that endurance thing that I don’t like so much.

I’ll come up with a little mud run training program and post it soon.

If you’ve done something like this, be sure to leave me some pointers!

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