Getting Ready for Screen Free Week 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Happy Screen-Free week Eve!  Tomorrow, April 29th is the start of the week long National Screen Free week running through Sunday, May 5th.  We are mostly ready to go over here (although I need to double check my pinterest recipes for meal planning this week before tonight!  eek!)

The Screen Free Week website and the CCFC website (Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood) both talk about how Screen Free week can help remind families to 'turn off the tv and turn on life.'  And Sarah from Diapers&Daises recently wrote about the importance of unplugging and logging real face time with your kids.  And this blog post about how this family survived Screen week last year was a helpful confidence booster that we would be able to do it a whole week.

We are participating in Screen Free week because we are both aware of how much of our day is spent staring at a screen.  Not just the kids watching tv or movies, playing on the iPad (and streaming Netflix) and playing with our phones...but also (even maybe MORE so) how much time Brandon and I spend time staring at a screen - computer, iphone, iPads, television.  There is a whole lot of mindless scrolling going on and a week long break from it is usually a  nice reminder of how just much of our day it consumes.

We will have a piece of paper over the tv this week that says "Broken.  Will be fixed next Monday"  And we will both only use our computers for work purposes.  The iPad will sit untouched on top of the fridge all week (hopefully out of sight, out of mind).  We will need to use our phones for actual phone calls (since we don't have a house phone) but we're swearing off any phone apps including instagram and pinterest (!!)  No personal email, no blog updates, no pinterest perusing, no facebook, none of that.  At least that's the goal for the upcoming week.

But if we are being honest here...dare I say it:


7 days without having the tv to distract the kids for 20 minutes so I can make dinner?  7 days without checking pinterest or updating my status?  7 days trying to get Grey to take a rest in the afternoon without the iPad?

...double gulp...

Because I realize how insane this is (or at least feels in today's day & age), I made a pretty detailed list of activities to make it through the week.  I designated each day with a theme and I'm planning to have activites ready to go when things head south.  Here is the projected plan:

Screen Free Week 2013 Plan of Attack

Monday:  'Entertainment' Day
Dress up in costumes
Dance Party
Musical Parades
Make sock puppets
Learn and tell jokes

Tuesday:  Art Day
Shaving cream Bath paint
Make Ned the iPhone Monster
Sidewalk chalk
art windows  (using contact paper)

Wednesday:  Cooking Day
Breakfast:  Pancake Bites
Lunch:  Mini Pizzas
Mudpies outside
Dinner:  Meatloaf cupcakes
Dessert:  Haystacks

Thursday:  Book Day
Trip to the library
Read books in funny places (like in the bathtub and in a closet with a flashlight)
Dinnertime Read Aloud

Friday:  'No Electricity' Day
Play Games (Hot potato, puzzles, ThinkFun Zingo)
2p-4p:  Mom's Group Event (my first to host!) at the Quemahoming Dam with crafts & a simplified nature walk
Cook dinner over the fire (hot dogs, baked potatoes, and smores)
Candlelight bedtime

Saturday & Sunday are free play days.
We are planning to take the dogs for a long walk in the woods near my parents' house.  But also letting the kids pick what they want to do.  Boredom can be a good thing to learn (good Lord, do my kids need to learn that!) because it fosters independent thinking and creativity.  Boredom is something my children need more big time.

So there you have it.  Wish us luck!
I will be back next week with a full update on how (if!) we survived and made it all week as a screen free family.  I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm somewhat terrified, but I don't like anything if not a challenge - hah!  Who knows, maybe we'll be so inspired that we might incorporate regular Screen Free days into our routine - like this Momma.

Good luck to any other mommas & families out there participating in Screen Free week!!

If this is the first you are hearing of Screen Free week - or if you can't/don't want to committ to a whole week of Screen Free living, Check out this pinboard with lots of ideas and ways you can incoporate some screen free time this week.

Beating the winter blues with toddlers

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring has finally arrived and just in time, because we were starting to go a little stir crazy over here (me especially).  Spring brings mud and mess in the house, but also makes for tired, happy children.  My kids are the go-all day sort.  We have to wrestle them into naps or quiet time while the rest of the day is fast paced mess-making, running, and destroying.

So we try our best to pass the winter attempting to get our children's energy out in lots of different ways.  This is how we did it with a toddler and pre-schooler this past winter.

20 Ways to Burn Pre-schooler Energy in the Winter

1. Put them in the Bath.  There is no other place that our children are so confined while also content.  We take regular baths, bubble baths, themed baths, baths with special toys, painting baths, music baths, and raining baths (with the shower on).  When Mumma needs a break from the crazy - it's bathtime.

bubble bath plus jacuzzi jets make for a hilarious (albeit huge mess to clean up) bath.

2. Move and make sounds like animals.  If you're feeling ambitious, paint faces appropriately.  Use this pinboard for inspiration.

3. Pretend the floor is made of lava and you can only move around jumping from couch to couch.  Pillows on the floor make for safe rock pathways.

4. Cook something together.  Knead bread, tear apart ready-made cookies, mix pancake batter, have them put the muffin liners in the pan, make popcorn in an old-school popper, etc.

5.  Go to the mall and don't shop.  Ride the $0.25 machine rides, hit the playground, and cough up $6 to jump on the indoor trampoline.

7. Let them jump on the bed.  Our bed jumping usually starts with Grey jumping and then requesting to be tripped and then tackled and then usually we end up in a huge tickling battle.  Sometimes when he starts losing control over his body from being so restless, I just say, "Honey, go jump on the bed.  I will tell you when you can stop."

8. Get out the magnetic books.  My kids love Magnetic Funny Families and On the Farm Magnetic Story & Play Scene both by Top That! Publishing.

9. Consult Pinterest.  We found lots of fun activities to do - like bubble blowing, indoor snow exploration, painting with evaporated milk, putting puff balls into containers, and dropping food-colored vinegar into baking soda to name a few.

10. Keep in mind all Pinterest ideas are not created equal.  I tried to have the kids play with a "shredded paper texture bin" at the suggestion of pinterest.  Oh, they had fun alright - but it was the hugest mess ever and I find shredded paper to this day (3 months later) in nooks and crannies.

11. Make forts.  We use pop-up tents, traditional rope and blanket styles, and for the quickest set up and clean up:  a fitted sheet over the top of the crib.

12. Taped roads and toy cars.  We had a packing tape road mapped out on our kitchen carpet for over 5 weeks this winter.  We sometimes used legos for buildings and tunnels or paper towel rolls for car chutes.

13. Sleepover in a local hotel for the night, especially one with an indoor pool if possible.  The kids, my sister, and I had a little mid-winter 'summer' vacation at our local Comfort Inn.  I was able to get a room for under $100 and the kids were so happy to put on their swim suits in the middle of winter.  Grey loved being in the pool and Gem loved the warm bath afterwards.  They even got to eat donuts in bed while watching tv after a morning swim.  It was a great mini vacation when we had major cabin fever in the dead of winter.

14. Pay attention to the moon.  Since its hard to have interaction with nature during the winter months, we try to stay connected to the outdoors by watching the moon.  We have our awesome 2013 Phases of the Moon Calendar from EarthSky and we spend good portions of our conversations wondering if the moon is waxing or waning on any particular day or attempting to draw the moon phase for the day.

15. Have mini celebrations for any and every holiday.  We sprinkle surprises throughout the winter months with tiny parties and activities in honor of all sorts of holidays ranging from Lunar New Year, to St. Patrick's Day, to Mardi Gras, to Earth Hour.

16. Bring small playgrounds indoors.  Luckily, our small playground fit easily through the doorway to come up from the garage where it was stationed throughout the winter.  The kids loved having it moved into our living room (near their toys) to climb and slide indoors.

17.  Seek out local indoor play spaces.  Our indoor play spaces are limited here in town, but we got to play in one on our way to visit Aunt Kitty in Pittsburgh.  The kids loved running around going bananas and playing with all sorts of new toys.  Check out this website:  Family's Day Out for a quick search in your zipcode to view local spaces for family fun.

18. Take them outside.  Bundle them, duct tape gloves on (but seriously), and bring a hankie for snot noses.  Build a snowman, throw snowballs for the dogs to catch, teach them why we don't eat yellow snow, and catch snowflakes.  When sled riding  encourage them to pull their own sled and walk back up the hill themselves.  Nothing makes for tired kids quite like walking uphill in a snowsuit and snow boots.

19. Go old school on them.  Play the games that you remember from your childhood - before technology ruled the land.  Hide & Seek never (ever, ever) gets old.  Tag (or 'Chase Me' as its called in our house).  Pull them around in a laundry basket.  Dance party to The Contours- Do you Love Me.  Sing songs that have body movement too (our favorites:  Itsy Bitsy Spider, If you're Happy & You Know It, 5 Little Monkeys, the Hokey Pokey, and Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee).

20. Facetime with friends and family.  If we are starting to unravel and things are getting out of control and destroyed - I go to facetime.  The kids love seeing and talking to family and friends, especially their best friend and our favorite cat, Miles.  But then it usually turns into putting on some sort of show (via dance or ninja moves) for the screen - which in the end, burns energy - win, win.

How do you keep the little ones from climbing the walls in the winter months?  Hmm,  actually how can I get them to climb the walls?  Seems like a good energy-burner now that I think about it!  Do you spend your nights searching pinterest for solutions?  Or maybe your kids are not feral and destructive like mine?  Oh, lucky, lucky momma if that is the case. 

What's on your...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Since B and I stayed up last night until after 2am working on a last minute kitchen face-lift project that we can almost wholly thank to an overly ambitious afternoon on 5hour energy...I am not in the frame of mind to put together a proper blogpost.  However, I'm overdue, so I'm taking a cue from Lindsay over at a Design So Vast and completing a fun and different list that is probably meant to reveal something about my inner workings...we shall see.

What's on your...

Vanity – No vanity at our house, but the word vanity takes me back to my mother's vanity that I remember as a child.  It seemed so grown up and had bottles lined up delicately on top of a mirrored plate.  I remember feeling like I had to put each bottle back exactly where I had found it when I dusting was my chore.  If I had a vanity it would be infinitely more boring than my mother's because I wear only two pieces of jewelry and rarely use perfume.  Poor Gemma - maybe I should get her one instead.

Perennial to-do list – Never-ending laundry, never-ending emptying and reloading the dishwasher, constant wondering if the house will ever get a deep cleaning when the children are this young...or ever really, because I don't appear to be the 'deep cleaning' sort of gal.

Refrigerator Shelves – whole milk, soy milk, IC Light, leftover Earth Day 'dirt' pudding, hamburger meat for tomorrow's meal plan, a half-finished jar of spaghetti sauce, and thawed frozen blueberries.

Itinerary – Finish the variety of house projects we have going simultaneously - none of which are fully and totally complete, Plan the 5th annual Beer Olympics, make plans for our summer vacation to Florida with the Kochs.

Fantasy Itinerary - Cambodia, Ireland, Costa Rica (again), Japan, Thailand (again), Rio, Montana, South Africa, Greece, Turkey, Scotland...Actually - close your eyes and spin a globe.  That's where.

Playlist - Country is what is most prevalent on our car radios, but when I'm making dinner I youtube videos to play and I've been youtubing these lately:  You are my sunshine - Noah Guthrie, When I was your Man - Bruno Mars, Mama's Broken Heart - Miranda Lambert, Wagon Wheel - Darius Rucker, Shine - Florida Georgia Line, Ho Hey - The Lumineers, Home - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Stay - Rihanna.

Nightstand – A picture of my sisters and I, my gratitude journal, a book about raising a son, a daily writing book, a book about entrepreneurship, a pen, and my phone.

Workout Plan - 10-minute trainer three days a week, trampoline football or 'ninjas' with Greyson daily.

iPhone - Instagram, Pinterest, Red Stamp, and Shutterfly. 

Top 5 List – a hot drink in the morning, Brandon's kiss on my neck when he gets home, the way Grey has started scrunching up his nose when he asks a question, Gemma's full blown smile, our bed.

Bucket List – Write a book, start a non-profit, jump out of an airplane, and take our kids to Thailand.

Mind – The giant to do list, Greyson's volatile swings from violent energy to neediness for cuddling and attention, Gemma's defiance and strong will, wondering if I'll ever stop worrying about every aspect of our kids, my coworker who unexpectedly lost her husband yesterday, poems by Tyler Knott Gregson. 

Walls of your Favorite Room in Your House – Three framed books open to some of my favorite quotes in them.  (The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith).  This print framed in thick frame, and a black & white photograph of a woman's hands making the shape of a heart on a park table that I bought off of the street near Lincoln Center when I lived in New York.

Liquor Shelf – American Honey, Bacardi White Rum, Gentleman's Jack, and Crown Royal Black.

Last Credit Card Statement - our (finally finished!) Family Yearbook for 2012 from Shutterfly, half the payment for my blog update design from Let Birds Fly (can't wait!), Disney Princess-inspired dresses for Gemmi from the Little Wellies shop.

Screensaver - no screensaver, just straight to energy-saving sleep mode.

TV Every Night - Usually a movie for the kids (recently its been Rio every.single.night), occasionally Duck Dynasty marathons, sports, or if I'm awake by myself - episodes of Dawson's Creek on Netflix (!) or Girls on HBO.

Play along!  What's on your...

peace, please.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I am working on a sweet little post about all the ways we try to get our pre-schoolers energy out during the winter months.  It's cute and has happy pictures and I was having a good time combing through my winter photo albums and pulling out all of our activities.

And then I made the mistake of checking facebook for a minute and now I'm just sad and tired.

I have not been watching the news.
I have not been frequenting facebook (for the exact reason mentioned above).
I have not been checking news blogs or online newspapers.

I just don't have it in me to read about what is happening in Boston right now.
I just can't stomach it.

But above all, I cannot stand to read my newsfeed.
The newsfeed filled with battle cries for blood of the second suspect.

Why is the justice for bloodshed only more bloodshed?
Why are my 'friends' exclaiming their approval for the death of a young person (a child by some standards).  By no means am I making light of what happened.  It was awful and horrible and unforgivable and there is a need for justice for the city and for everyone who was affected.
But I am horrified and embarrassed to live in world where we rally together to call out for the death of another human.

I have refused to be a part of those mobs before.
And I cannot be a member of them now.
It is not in my spirit to call for the hanging of my fellow man.
It is, however, in my nature to pray for justice to be served and peace come to those that were affected.

I will finish my winter blues post some other time this weekend, because right now I need to stare at my napping babies and pray that their hearts always be filled with compassion and patience.  I will send my thoughts and wishes for safety to the people working to right the wrongdoings and for the safety of everyone in the city of Boston.

I hope that while reading my post today, you found some peace yourself from the madness of the world today.  Stay safe and believe in good.  We must believe in each other.

An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind.
-Mahatma Gandhi

An Offsetting revolution

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Something tragically awful has happened again in our country.

I feel deeply sad and confused.  Each time the thought of what happened comes into my mind, I send a little wish of peace and love to all of those who have been affected by this latest tragedy.

I also feel infinitely small.
I feel small because I truly believe that people are inherently good and I am continually astonished when these things happen.
I feel small because I don't know how to make it right.
I don't know how to fix this.  Any of this - whatever this is that makes some people so sad, or angry, or vengeful, or maybe it's all just really hopelessness.

In fact, in the grand scheme of things, I am small.
I am one human.
One woman.
One wife.
One mom.
One daughter.
One sister.
One friend.
One writer.

I am small by myself.  My impact may be great to those closest to me, but any farther beyond that I am but a dot.

But I am writing this - and you are reading it.  You, out there.  Another small person.

And maybe together we can fix this.
Maybe we can fix this world with an Offsetting Revolution.

There is already so much more good than bad.
there is.
there is.
Do you hear me?

But it is so hard to see it today with the headlines bleeding and technology tempting and reality tv screaming and cursing for our attention.
Don't look away, they whisper.
Fear everything, they demand.
Trust no one, they warn.

And all that does is leave us by ourselves.
and scared
and alone.

I promise you, there is good.  There is good inside of you and there is good inside of others.
Look around, I encourage.
Don't be afraid, I cheer.
Surround yourself with people that are joyful and grateful, I plead.

We must offset it together because when we give love and hope and peace to each other - we are no longer small.  We are great and powerful and able to lift the heaviness of the hearts of the world.

or gossip,
or impatience,
or harshness enters your day

- in any form -

make an attempt to offset it with
or gratitude,
or patience,
or courtesy.

Be the bright spot in someone's life today.  Be the bright spot of your own life today.

Be grateful.
it is hard to be anything but nice if you are grateful.

If each small one of us offsets with kindness once today, imagine the release of negativity from our collective hearts.  What can and will you contribute to our shared human experience?

Shared joy is double joy.  Shared sorrow is half sorrow.
-Swedish proverb

Gift for new moms: Excitement, Photo, and Text Message Book

Saturday, April 13, 2013

You know how just about all good ideas you hear of or have yourself come from Pinterest these days?  After almost anytime someone says to me, 'what a great idea!' or 'Great recipe!' my response has been, "Thanks, it was from pinterest."  My point is, it appears to be difficult to stumble upon something original these days.  Hard to find someone who comes up with a great idea that they didn't find on pinterest first.

Well after letting Grey pick out a book to read yesterday, and he brought over his Text Message book from his Aunt Kitty - it suddenly dawned on me that my very own sister is a real life original in this day and age of Pinspiration.

So in honor of all of my friends and family members who will very soon be delivering new little bundles of joy (to all of you soon to be mommas out there in cyberspace), here is a wonderfully, beautiful, and (as of today, 4/13/13, still) original idea for a gift for the new momma and baby.

My guess is that I'm not the only pregnant lady who makes a "Text Message" list before her delivery date.  In the modern world of communication, people in your life tend to be separated into three categories:  (A) The people close enough that actually come to the hospital when you have a baby, (B) the people close enough that are on the send-a-text-when-we-go-to-the-hospital-to-have-the-baby-and-then-again-when-the-baby-is-born and then (C) everyone else who finds out in the Facebook status or blog update.

This Text Message list has been given(for both of my kids) to my sister, Kayla.  She has the unfortunate duty of typing in phone numbers of people she doesn't necessarily talk to and then updating and responding to their texts throughout the day.  She is the girl that sends out the picture of our new baby to say - "hi, this is Tab's sister, the baby is here!" She is the giver of our biggest news and the receiver of a multitude of congratulatory texts.  And her middleman duty allows B and I time and energy to dedicate all of our attention to our new little human.

And since my sister is amazingly awesome and creative, she decided to save all of those text messages and responses from our favorite friends and family members on our Text Message List and put them together in little books with photos from their first few days of life for both of our kids.

She used Shutterfly to put the books together and used a combination of pictures she had taken those days as well as pictures from my camera.  The books are sleek and simple (Greyson's is a little worn now as we frequently look at it to see 'Baby Booboo').

Both books start with the text messages that Brandon sent from the delivery room to keep our immediate family posted on the progress of our babies.

And the rest of the book is filled with photos and the simple, short messages received via texts from our family and friends.  Some messages were funny, all of them congratulatory, and some sentimental.  The best part about all of them is that they were the unfiltered responses from our closest friends and family when they received their first word that our babies were born.  These were the first reactions to our big news - and since we weren't able to celebrate with them face to face - these messages are a beautiful and meaningful snapshot in time of their excitement.

In means so much to me to have these books that hold all of our friends' and families' reactions on the day our babies were born.  On that day, we - as the new parents - are so preoccupied and tired and overwhelmed with love that I hardly remember who responded or didn't, let alone what they said.  Our kids' Text Message books is a beautiful way to go back and remember that day and feel all the love and excitement that our babies brought to the lives of those we love.

If you are the friend/sister/mom/family member of a momma to be:  consider this a wonderful idea for a gift.  Some suggestions if you are thinking of making your own Text Message book:

1. Save the text message responses and know who is who.
    [I gave Kayla a list of numbers and corresponding names.  She took it upon herself to add the list to her contacts so that she'd know when she looked back through her text messages which messages should be included in the book].
2. Don't be rushed.  Waiting a few months to finish the books allows you to collect photos over the first few days and weeks of the baby's life, and also leaves some time for the Momma to become nostalgic about the baby's birth, as that tends to happen when babies grow up.
       [Kayla gifted me our kids' books months after they were born - Greyson received his on Christmas when he was 8 months old and Gemma received her on her first birthday].
3. Don't think it has to be some elaborate project, usually the more simple the better.
4. Leave the messages just as they were.  I love reading "OMG" and see the funny misspellings or multitude of exclamation points in the messages.  These are the unfiltered, first reaction from our friends and family.  Their excited response is most beautiful and meaningful to see it saved in its unedited version.

Good luck mommas to be!  Sending wishes and love for a fast and easy delivery.

To my Kayabella,
you are amazing.  These books make me weepy every time I read them.  I feel lucky I get to share your thoughtful idea with pinners around the world. thank you so much for hoarding text messages for months to do this for me and the kids. I have so much payback someday when you get to be the mumma - it ain't even funny.
i love you. SCF
your biggest fan,

Greyson's Superhero 3rd Birthday Party

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We organized a superhero party for Greyson's third birthday this year.  We were determined to keep the party small and simple this year (even though the superhero party pinboards had me guilt-tripping about it being like this or like this)  and the small & simple turned out to be perfect for our guy's third birthday.  With pinboard guilt, it is important to continue to remind myself that Grey is less concerned with the decorations and how good the photo backdrops look than he is with having fun and being with people that love him.  And also, he's three - he basically wants to eat cake and play the whole time - so those were the things that were the focus for the party planning.

We did a few things to make sure it would be quaint and intimate by first organizing the party on a Thursday night from 5:30p-7:30p and only inviting very close friends and family (>20).  We made his invitation on Shutterfly (as always) with a little help from Grey's dress-up bin.

We ordered Grey's favorite food for dinner:  Chicken wings (from Tollgate - in BBQ, Buffalo Ranch, and Sweet Chili I the only one that has a chicken wing loving three year old?  Again, I need to create a list of 'You might be raising a Redneck...) and we also ordered chicken tenders for the non-loving chicken wing guests.  I made Mac&Cheese (and added Goldfish on top at Shelly from the Cunningham family in Bush Alaska's suggestion - thank you!  it was a huge hit!) My Mom brought over dipping veggies and Gigi mixed up a big salad.  And we ordered a Superhero themed cake that I topped off with some dollar store action figures:

We are lucky to have friends and family that participate in my silly requests, so almost all of our party guests showed up at our door with their Superhero (of any kind!) to celebrate Grey's party.

Spiderman, Bolt the dog, Merida from Brave, and Megamind

Super Chum and Princess Abba

Jesse and Woody from Toy Story

Princess Tiana from the Princess & the Frog and Spiderman
After our chicken wing dinner, Brandon set up an obstacle course for the kids to run in our living room (since it was still too chilly outside) - which he acted out on his own once as an example that had me laughing hysterically.

The kids all waited in line patiently for their turn to

Go through the tent

And ride the donkey across the room

and climb through the tunnel (hah! while the baby jumper dangles precariously from the couch above!)

Make a basket

and shoot Grey's toy crossbow at the target

Then we played a super safe game from my childhood where four men toss children in the air on a blanket.  This was our Superhero 'flying' lesson.

Then it was time for some gifts followed by the cake and the birthday song.  I'm sure I'm not the only Mumma who can barely choke her way through the birthday song every year.  It's just too much to see my baby sitting there with his face lit up by candles and a little grin on his face while everyone who loves him gives him all their attention while singing happy birthday.  My poor, poor little Mumma heart just cannot handle it.

It was a great small & simple party.  Booboo got to do his favorite things;  eat cake & chicken wings and play with his friends and family.  And we got to enjoy our boy's birthday with him because were didn't have all of the fuss and stress that comes with a big and elaborate party.

He got some wonderful gifts on top of that (thank you!) which we will be sending out the below thank you (Shutterfly again) to make sure everyone knows how grateful we are to have them celebrate our boy.

Happy birthday to our darling Greyson Rudy - Booboo boy,
I cannot believe you are three.  I cannot believe what a little man you are becoming.  You surprise us everyday with the things you say and do.  You are a great big brother and a wonderful kid all together.  We are so lucky that you are ours.
love you forever and ever
even when you get so big,
Mumma & Dadda

cake for breakfast on his real birthday