July 27, 2006


Serona's parents are here for a visit and we have been having a great time. We have had very HOT weather still, hovering in the low 90's most of the time. It has been a busy and fun week filled with things like: going to the pool (grandma even went down the water slides with them), riding bikes into town, playing at the park, taking walks around the pond, visiting the zoo, the arboretum, and the history museum.

The adults have spent lots of time sharing in wine tastings, good food, great conversation, golf and finishing up much needed to be done house projects and gardening. A few more days to enjoy each others company.


Robin Update

We are still observing them daily but with the grandparents here we have put on hold blogging observations. The babies have nearly all their feathers now and we expect to see them leave the next sometime in the next few days.

July 21, 2006

One Opinion Matters

Too often people feel paralyzed by situations thinking they have no control over anything outside of themselves. We may get frustrated, angry or disappointed by something but never do anything about it. We convince ourselves that one opinion does not matter and one person can not make a difference. We see it over and over again as people feel more and more ineffectual in our society.

One of the areas I think this is most rampant is in the realm of customer service. In the day of big box stores and conveniences it seems customer service is nearly non-existent often. We have fought so hard for the bottom line we wonder where customer service went. It is not a hard surprise. But I will say there are exceptions though and if you look for and demand customer service you will receive it. But you need to expect it and be willing to fight for it (in pleasant ways).

Two personal examples from my own life these past few months can be seen. Just last month I was disappointed by a t-shirt display found at a local Target. I talked to the manager and shortly thereafter the tshirts were no longer on display at the store. I went through the channels but did so in a kind and respectful way, yet still firm about my beliefs and the reasons behind them. I have no idea if others felt the way I did or not and expressed their opinions or if it was just based on mine, but I was pleased with the results.

Just this week there was another example. We have a family membership at a gym/club. My kids spend some time in their kids center which has a big wide screen tv in the littlest kid room (primary ages 1-4), though sometimes older kids sit in there and watch TV too. This is the only room available to the youngest children and where many of them spend most of their time. There is also a wide selection of toys in this room. When I dropped my kids off they were playing Dora the Explorer, when I returned they were playing Shrek. I was surprised to discover that they were showing PG rated movies in a toddler room much less in any room in the child center. It is not the movie Shrek persay that bothered me, though I would not let my 2 year old watch it, and here she was watching it. Maybe you think it is a great kids movie and that is fine, I did not question the particular movie what I questioned was the policy of showing PG movies to children without their parents present.

For your information, this is the definition of a PG movie from the MPAA:

"This is a film which clearly needs to be examined by parents before they let their children attend. The label PG plainly states parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but leaves the parent to make the decision. Parents are warned against sending their children, unseen and without inquiry, to PG-rated movies. The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. However, these elements are not considered so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film. The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is difficult to draw. In our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments without incurring some disagreement. As long as parents know they must exercise parental responsibility, the rating serves as a meaningful guide and as a warning. "

Now we let our kids watch some PG movies, but we watch them with them or before they watch them. It is our responsibility as parents to decide what is and is not appropriate for our particular children. We take this seriously and we do different things for different kids. For instance our 5 year old can watch things we don't let our 7 year old watch because they are affected differently by different things. But the point is that as parents we are making this decision. By showing a PG movie in a child center you are removing the parents decision - unless you are going to have a policy that says it is your policy to make those determination what is and is not appropriate for all kids (including the one to four year old set).

I asked about the movie and its rating (which I already knew), I asked about their policy and then I went to find the manager on duty for the entire club. I calmly explained why I objected to a policy that allowed children to watch rated PG movies without their parents present or without their parents even knowing. The manager was very understanding and said he would talk to the child center. Today when we went I asked about what television programming would be on and they informed me that there was a recent club wide meeting explaining a new policy which states that only G rated movies will be shown in the child center. I was very pleased and made sure to take the time to thank them and tell them I was impressed by their responsiveness and their change in policy.

Now I realize that sometimes older children want to watch a movie and they may not be thrilled at G rated options. Still having a G rated only policy makes sense in an environment where young children are watching television without their parents present. After all the MPAA clearly states: "This is a film which clearly needs to be examined by parents before they let their children attend" I applaud my club for taking a stance on this and being responsive to my inquiry. I am very pleased with the customer service I received there.

Now I am just one person to be true. But I am one person who also represents likely opinions of others who would not say what they felt. If you have an opinion that is based in reasoning and you express that and make it clear to the right people chances are that opinion will be at least considered and perhaps even result in a change that you wanted to see. You will never know if you never say anything.

As someone who is not afraid to state my case and my reasoning I have found that often companies and individuals will atleast listen to you, and if your reasoning is sound often even do what you suggested. So please don't feel like you are just one person, because your opinion counts and if you expect that it will and act like it should it usually holds more weight. There may be a lot of people in this world but not a whole lot speak up and stand up for what they believe. Don't be afraid to try and if nothing happens at least you know you did all that you could on your end. Then you can decide what to do from there.

Just my .02 and experience,

July 18, 2006

Birthday Tea Party

For Rhiannon's 7th birthday I agreed to host a tea party for her and her friends and their dolls. This I must admit was a stretch for this non "girlie" mommy! But it came off wonderfully and very girlie. I put a lot more work into it then I thought I would but it was worth it to see what a fun time she had and how much they all seemed to enjoy themselves.

Rhiannon chose to send email invitations this year. We invited the girls and their favorite doll to come for some tea in their nice dresses. There was a cute picture of little dolls sitting together in a group in beautiful dresses that she picked out herself. The guest list was quite tough for her as I gave a strict size limit because everyone had to fit comfortably around the table. She ended up choosing several friends from her homeschool group and several from the neighborhood. Though there were more she wished she could invite.

Even as an adult these mixed group parties are a strain on me so I was a bit concerned about how it would go with the kids not really knowing one another. Even the neighbors she invited do not really know each other all that well. It was quite and took a little longer to break the ice but everyone got along really well and were playing nicely by the end. In many ways I think the kids handle this better than we as adults do.

For me majority of the work happened beforehand. Yesterday was the big shopping day gathering all the supplies I needed. I decided to purchase little teacups and saucers for each of the girls to use at the party and take home as their gifts. I went to many stores and finally ended up at Goodwill where I found them. We also picked up some little pink satchels from the wedding aisle in the party store and some candy and little trinkets to put in the cups. To each satchel we attached the girls nametag and it made seating set, the cups pre-chosen and gave the girls an easy way to keep track of their items.

This morning I was up early baking, preparing and setting the table. I also made Rhiannon her yearly flower crown. Each year we make the kids a crown of fresh flowers to wear on their birthday. A fun tradition that we all look forward to. It is easy to do. You gather a selection of fresh flowers, some floral wire and floral tape. You size the floral wire to the child's head and then snip it off (sometimes you need to roll two wires together to make a wider headpiece). Then you lay the stem of the flower on the wire and use tape to wrap around the flower and the floral wire until it is secure and then repeat until the crown is done. In the beginning it took about an hour now I can do one in under 30 minutes. They are beautiful and the kids love them.

The table was set, the house was relatively clean, the flower crown done, the food finished and the girls arrived. They began by playing with their dolls and all Rhiannon's American girl clothes and horses and other doll supplies. After a bit of that they came to the table for the first course of our tea. I made little tea party menus that sat at each girls place setting and here is the text - there were fancy little images and nice fonts on their actual menus.

Welcome to Rhiannon's 7th Birthday
Today's Menu

Pink Lemonade
Hot Flavored Teas
Water with lemons

Peanut Butter and Jelly
Cucumber and Cream Cheese

Honeydew Melon

Rose Cupcakes
Sugar "Cakes"
Triple Chocolate Cake

The sugar cakes were actual sugar cookies (in american revolutionary time they were called cakes) that the girls got to decorate themselves with different colored frostings and sprinkles and candies. The rose cupcakes are pictured above. They were easy though time consuming to make. The rose part is fruit by the foot separated and wound around the top to shape a rose. The leaves were made by twisted fruit roll ups.

I was surprised that many of the girls did choose hot tea, I thought it would be all lemonade. I was further surprised when several asked if I was serving green tea, which I then brewed. Initially, I brewed all sweet fruit flavored teas and of course we had pink lemonade as a stand-by. As expected the PBJ went much faster than the cucumber cream cheese sandwiches, though several did try them. Of course dessert was the preferred course.

In between the courses the girls played outside in the yard, visited the robins nest, played American girls, played dress up, drew on the chalkboard and played hide and go seek. The younger two, Sirah and Ciaran, were entertained by our wonderful babysitter who did an excellent job just spending time with them and keeping them from trying to attend the party. They of course also received their share of the treats.

After dessert, and a singing of "Happy Birthday", Rhiannon opened gifts. She received many wonderful gifts and she appeared to enjoy them all and be thankful. I never did like the whole opening of gift thing at a party but we do it and I always breath a nice sigh of relief when it is over and went over without a major issue coming up. She was thankful to everyone and the girls ended their time with more American girl doll play, learning the minuet, and playing hide and go seek. The last girl left at 5:30, nearly 4 and a half hours after the party begun!

It was a great time and Rhiannon appeared to enjoy herself. It ended up more expensive and more time consuming than I initially thought but it was a special day and one that I think built a memory in her mind. I love those moments when I can see Rhiannon enjoy being a little girl, instead of growing up too fast so those moments I treasure. I think I had as much fun as them, even though I was the hostess. Hopefully I did a good job, since that is not high on my skill set. At least little girls in 2-4 grade are relatively easy to please and have a short memory.

After they left, I did a quick pickup, a quick dinner and then packed the kids into the car to go to a friends house for another cook day for our dear friend who just got out of the hospital. Our homeschool group has organized several cook days for her so people can come together and maker her several items or dishes at a time. We finally arrived home after 10 and ready for bed after a very busy but wonderful day!

Going to bed exhausted,

Robins Day Two

First thing this morning the kids got up to check on the robins and were happy to report they are doing just fine. I came out a bit later and snapped this photo. We noticed much more activity today with the robins continually looking for food and making more noises. They also appear to already have more feathers than yesterday. They still look so helpless and have a cuteness to their own.

Today we got glimpses of the father robin as well as the mother. We watched them work together to gather food for the babies and the father brings the food to them more often. We noticed the father is thinner and a slightly different color than the mother. Also the father has a different way he approaches the nest. He flies directly under the deck but lands on the rail next to the nest, looks around and then flies into the nest. The mother is still making two full circles around before flying under the deck and into the nest. We think in general the father is spending more time with the nest during the day than the mother is. In the evening the mother is still sleeping on the nest.

Rhiannon had a birthday party today and the girls all took turns looking at the robins nest and several went back over and over again to visit them. Our kids spent much time looking at the robins and the first thing they tell someone is about the robins nest and take them out to see the baby robins. It is great to see them so excited about robins. This morning Rhiannon and I spent quite a bit of time reading up on robins online and learning all we could. Tomorrow we hope to get to the library to get out some books specifically about robins.

Horseback Riding

This past weekend Serona took Rhiannon horseback riding with one of his co-workers. Ms. B as we will call her was very generous and kind with Rhia. She taught her to care for horses and let Rhia help groom the horse and then she got to ride. She was excited and enjoyed herself. She rode in a European style saddle and trot by herself in a ring. She also got to ride bareback some and she really enjoyed herself with that.

Rhiannon really has an enjoyment of horses that I think is here to stay for awhile. She had a special time being able to enjoy riding so much and being up close with horses. I have a feeling many days of horses are in our future.

July 17, 2006

Robins Day One

We have decided to keep a daily log of the robins until they fly out of the nest. For those new to this post we found a robin's nest under the corner of our deck and have been observing it since before the eggs were laid.

Today the eggs hatched. We checked the nest at 6:30am and discovered that two of the eggs had hatched and only one remained. Later this afternoon we discovered that the last egg had hatched and we took these pictures and some video clips.

Rhiannon made the observation of how the mother robin approached the nest had changed. Now she flew around in two circles observing for predators before approaching her nest. She also appeared to be keeping a close eye on us as we looked at the nest. I will not let the kids touch or disturb the nest in any way so we have to climb up to get a look at the babies.

The kids were not surprised at how the babies looked because they had seen pictures before. I think if we had not known ahead of time they would have been surprised that the babies were not soft and cuddly and cute. Instead they were prepared and excited for them. They especially enjoyed seeing the babies open their beaks.

Tadpoles and Robins

Well it has been an exciting weekend here for our animal watching. Both of our tadpoles got their back legs on Friday afternoon and early this Monday morning two of the robins hatched out of their eggs!

The kids are about as excited as can be. We had anticipated the eggs hatching midweek so what a pleasant surprise to wake up this morning (very early if you are wondering) to discover that two of the eggs have hatched!

Days of watching birds and tadpoles will fill our week I am sure. The kids are excited. Well back outside.


July 13, 2006

Shopping the perimeter

When you grocery shop where do you spend the most time? For me, when I am good, we try to shop the perimeter which means majority of our food comes from the outside aisles of our store. This being produce, refrigerated and frozen sections for us (as we skip meat altogether). We do get a few items from the middle but try to limit the amount we get from there.

Take yesterday for example we went grocery shopping and spent most of our time in the produce aisle. When the kids were real little I started the produce "treat". As kids always ask for something I told them as their "treat" they could pick any one thing from the produce section (fruit or veggie) bagged candy does not count! Then I stuck to it. We tried and discovered we liked mangoes, papayas, blackberries and lots of fresh pineapple! It works great and sometimes you come home with interesting selections. Yesterday's treats included cherries (Sirah), watermelon (Ciaran) and green beans (Rhiannon - no joke). Sometimes it is normal things like bananas and oranges but the kids have learned I am probably buying them anyway so don't tend to choose them. We shop for a lot of items in the produce section especially in summer when fresh veggies actually can be a centerpoint of our meals and snacks!

Our only middle of the store purchases yesterday included: flour, cold cereal (I concede to this for my convenience, taco shells and tortillas, black beans, box of pasta, and bread. Everything else was fresh ingredients (except the bags of frozen veggies I keep on hands for lunch - do they count as fresh?). I have learned that the secret of shopping on the perimeter is fabulous. It does two main things for you. First it forces you to eat more whole foods and natural foods as you skip most of the processed and packaged meals. Second it forces you to eat healthier. Look at your shopping pattern the next time you go in the store. Do you spend more time on the outside or going up and down all the aisles in the middle? If you decrease your middle time you will find you eat healthier and often tastier meals and they are cheaper. After all the bag of cherries I bought on sale yesterday was cheaper than a bag of chips and I had a cart full of fresh fruit and veggies (some though not all organic) plus all my staples and we came in under 100!

Even better I can not tell you how many times my kids have asked today "Mom can I have a piece of fruit?" Enjoy the fresh bounty of summer and use fruit as treats use veggies as main dishes or atleast main accompaniments and shop the perimeter. Give it a try!


Grilling Dinner

With the heat being so high here in the Twin Cities 90's and up we have been into grilling this week. Our grill also has a griddle on it so the other night I even made scrambled eggs on the grill!

Tonight's dinner was simple and delicious. This was just the right amount of food for me and the kids.

Grilled Veggies and Tempeh
1/2 eggplant
1 small zucchini
1 red pepper
1 package of tempeh

(cut in rounds or slices appropriate for grilling)

Simple marinade

1/2 c olive oil
garlic salt

I just brushed the veggies and tempeh with the marinade instead of soaking them and grilled until cooked. Simple, delicious, little cleanup, and the kitchen is still cool!

July 12, 2006

Robin's Nest

We have a real treat this year. We have a robin's nest set right underneath our deck. The robin family has built their nest in the corner of our deck. If you look closely you can see the nest through the floorboards of our deck. You can place a chair right underneath it and see inside to look at the eggs.

You even have a fantastic view of mama robin sitting on the nest from our family room couch.

The robin has laid three eggs and the kids are so excited to watch the nest each day and see what happens. Based on what we have read and our estimation on when the eggs were hatched we should see the babies born sometime next week! The kids can hardly wait.

I am proud of them. They have been so good about only looking at the nest and never touching it. They have had friends over who have encouraged taking the nest down for a better look but the kids were firm about not touching the nest which is still undisturbed. They spend quite a bit of time just looking at the eggs and trying to catch glimpses of the mama robin rolling her eggs or incubating them.

We have been learning some interesting things about robins. Their eggs are really quite blue and they typically lay 4 eggs, one each day until they are done. We believe our robin is done laying eggs because it appears that she has started incubating them. According to what we have read the robin usually waits until the last egg is laid before beginning the incubation process so the eggs will all be born in close proximity to one another.

We talked tonight about what the hatching process will look like and how it will be for the chicks. We talked about what they are going to look like and saw some pictures. Not what the kids expected. Then we talked about how the early weeks will go for the robin family.

It is quite exciting here and is even receiving more attention than the current tadpoles and the plethora of grasshoppers they have managed to catch over the past few days.

I love summer!

Summer Movie Camp

Many movie theaters offer free kids movies on day a week for the summer. They are generally movies that were in the theater last year - but still good movies. The best part - the kids get to watch a movie for free on the big screen in air conditioning. Check out your local theater to see if they are participating. I know that AMC theaters offer a program as that is the program we attend. It is a nice break now and then.

July 11, 2006

Summer Dinners

Dinner is much more fluid and interesting in the summer. We eat at all different times and in all different styles. Yesterday was an outdoor day filled with the sprinkler and backyard play and the kids did not want to come in so I decided to be fluid.

Dinner began with ice cream cones on the deck. Nothing better than that is there for a first course of dinner? Then I made some lemonade and set out a blanket on the deck and brought out tall glasses of lemonade, a big bowl of edamame and some cut up tofu. No plates or silverware. Cleanup was super easy and the kids were about as happy as could be about eating tofu and edamame since they had ice cream and lemonade first.

What are you having for dinner tonight?

July 10, 2006

It Takes a Village aka Support Group

Somedays I am frustrated by the times in which we live and the isolation that comes so commonly with living in suburbia. Part of me thinks I would really enjoy farm life and more community based life. I would enjoy the companionship of doing my tasks and responsibilities with other women and my kids having other kids to play with.

We live in a time and an area where you really need to make your own communities, often not based on location but on common interests or intersections of life. Don't get me wrong we live in a nice neighborhood and get along with our neighbors well. We share lawn mowers, snow blowers, power tools and help each other out. We get together for wine, grilling and bonfires with more regularity than many neighborhoods. We enjoy each others company, having fun together and always willing to lend a hand when it is needed.

Yet this is not the type of community I am talking about desiring. I am talking about a community of people who you work and live life together with. Women I can cook, clean, craft, mend and watch kids together with. A guess what I am looking for is a women's circle of sorts. A group of women that support and help each other out and form a sort of extended family for my kids. Something regular and dependable.

I have pretty much accepted that what I envision or desire is not likely to happen. I have made efforts and attempts with some friends and acquiantances over the years and it never seemed to be the right fit or the right time. Sometimes I feel like a person not in connection with our current times. I think this type of group has a hard time working given the distances of many of our self-selected communities and the differing values and demands on families now. So we have to create communities sometimes in unexpected or unusual ways.

Still I have found an outstanding community in our homeschool support group. I am continually amazed at the group of families that has been joined in this group. I have met some incredible women through this group. We have over 75 families in our group. I do not know all of them and naturally I have developed closer relationships with some I see more or have more in common with. Still that big network is always available to us.

Our homeschool group has seen so much fruit in the past years and in many ways we have received more support and truthfully given more support through this community than through some churches. When there is a need, whether it be for prayer, support, help or even physical items it is continually met. We have witnessed and felt the strength of this groups prayers in very real and tangiable ways. Still it has never seemed to be draining. What is given is given from the heart in generous and unselfish ways. There is something so powerful in seeing a community rally around one of its members.

Just last night we organized a meal prep for a dear friend who is currently in the hospital. She has been hospitalized for over a week now and is still looking at more time there, she has three small children 16 months-8 years. When she returns from the hospital she will have a very restricted diet that requires extensive meal preperation time. As a group 10 of us got together last night at a mutual friends home and we made around 10 recipes for her from soups to sides, main dishes to desserts, just some starter food she can keep in her freezer.

All the supplies were gathered and recipes with specefic instructions written. Each person started doing some prep work for one recipe. It was crowded at times in the kitchen but overall it worked really well - we had most of the food prepped and just waiting for the oven within an hour and a half. We got to a point where we had more people then we had work left. Everyone did some work, we even had two young teens there helping out. It was rewarding to see how much we could accomplish and how much time and energy our small effort could save our friend.

In the middle we took a break and prayed for our dear friend, for her healing, comfort and strength. We prayed for the work of our hands to be successful and healing to her and for so many other wonderful things. As I stood in a kitchen full of people rallying around our friend I was just struck by how blessed I am to be part of a group like this. I am continually reminded of what a special support group I am a part of and to not take it for granted. I am continually touched by the serving and giving hearts of my fellow Christian sisters and brothers.

Our family has been on the receiving end of support many times over through this group. When Rhiannon had her surgery this winter people rallied around us in prayer, making meals, helping with our other kids and even doing our laundry! Want to support someone in an unusual but very loving and serving way? Show up at their house with laundry baskets and take all their dirty laundry and return it the next day with clean folded clothes! Twice this happened to me this past year and I can not express how touching and helpful it was. To this day Serona and I still talk about it and what a blessing it was. I will pay it forward someday.

So if you are reading this from our support group. Thank you! Thank you for being a blessing to my life and so many lives around you. I do cherish you. Sometimes the support comes in helping in real physical tangiable ways. Sometimes it comes through giving a homeschool tip or curriculm suggestion. Sometimes it comes in just being a person who can have empathy in what we are going through. Sometimes the support is a gentle but firm correction or reminder when we walk astray. Sometimes the support is just a smile or a phone call to say hello. Sometimes the support is reaching out to me when I am new or have been absent for awhile. There are so many ways we can and do support one another as homeschooling moms. If you have a group you are part of that helps support you and you cherish, take a moment to say Thanks to them.

There are so many struggles we all face throughout our lives. Having a group of supportive people around you helps so much. As homeschooling parents we have different demands and challenges and it is so special when we can find a group to help us through those times. It is even more satisfying when we have the opportunity to bless others through the gifts we have been given as well.

If you are not part of a support group of any kind, I encourage you to find one. Whether it be your community, church, neighborhood or fellow homeschoolers. Having support in place when you need it is so helpful. But having an opportunity to serve others from your gifts is special too. We were not designed to be solitary creatures, there is a reason we have a desire for companionship and community. We can not do everything on our own and it does take a village to raise a child and I contend to raise healthy adults as well!

Peace in Him,

July 9, 2006

Television and Screen Time

Recently a reader posted the following comment:

Terri Henderman said...I'm new to homeschooling and my children at just slightly older than yours. I originally chose to homeschool becuase of that my children were mimicing from other children at school ( who got it from the television). I utilize the internet to help with teaching and therefore have filters to help protect my children. I keep haveing the same old problem with the television though. I don't think its completely "evil" so I dont want to get rid of it and its hard to preview and watch everything before or with my children.

Have you had issues with this? What do you think about television content? Post a blog about it.. I bet we'd all like to read.

In order to answer this question I need to first make an important distinction for everyone to understand. To me there is a difference between television (cable, satellite, digital, local) and "screen time". Screen Time includes television but it also includes watching movies, dvd's, computer games, and internet time. All the time our kids spend in front of a screen. Our family chooses not to watch television at all (with extremely rare exceptions like the olympics, presidential debates and ingurations). However, my family does have its fair share of "screen time" including plenty of movies.

Since I think Terri's question revolves around television that is what I am going to focus on here. I have been TV free for 13 years now. During this time I have owned a television set but have not paid for any sort of television service nor have I watched local free network channels. I started this before I was married and Serona adopted it when we got married and we have continued it in raising our children. We do own a pair of bunny ears that we take out every few years for major events we feel it is important or enjoyable to watch. However our children have had very little television exposure.

This past year while watching the Olympics Rhiannon (soon to be 7) was astonished that her grandparents in NY were watching the same thing at the same time. She also could not understand why we could not pause the action for her to take a bathroom break. That is how rare TV watching has been in our home.

My reasons are many and they are personal reasons. They work for me, they work for our family, they may not matter to you or work for your family. So what I say in this post is my opinion and I am sharing it because I was asked - skip it if you want, read it if you want. That being said I have some pretty strong feelings that we have made the best decision for our family and my language will at times be strong - that does not mean I think everyone need make the same choices.

I first stopped watching television because I found it to be a waste of valuable time. I was a freshman in college and I watched people around me spending lots of time watching television in groups or individually. I did not find it very enjoyable in general and there were so many more interesting things to do in college besides all the things I needed to do - like study and competitive debate.

While in college the internet took off and I also began reading newspapers and magazines more for debate. I realized how I could get more thorough and less biased information through these mediums in quick and efficient ways and the pull of the need to watch the news to know what was going on became null. Once I stopped I realized how much time this freed up. I was filling my time with much more useful and interesting things.

After doing this for a few years when I went back and tried to watch television I found nothing interesting on it. I also saw the dowhill slide it had taken. I was not subject to the frog sitting in the frying pot syndrome rather it was like a slap in the face at how the standards had decreased and over the past few years seemingly disappered altogether. I found that I saw things that other people did not or was bothered by things that others thought were just fine because they saw them day in and day out.

Our first year of marriage we found how much we loved this freetime that other couples filled up with the television. We read together, we played board games, we went on dates, we had great conversations, we took walks together and many other things that engaged us together and filled our time. We made lots of memories together. When we wanted some movie entertainment we rented a film that we wanted to see. We knew what to expect (if we wanted to) and enjoyed watching something together that way on our own schedule and by our own desires. We were never subject to the flipping to see what is on and settling for something.

We had kids soon after we were married and our feelings grew even stronger. As I looked at what was offered on television I just was completely against going back to watching it. I found it easy to find good children's videos for the few times I wanted my kids to watch television. I could easily watch them with my kids or before my kids because it was not all the time and we had the time to do it together or for me to do it ahead of time. The few tv programs that I thought might be worth my kids time I could prewatch on video and see the exact episode they would see before them. Better yet they were not exposed to any commericials or advertisements. We filled the rest of time reading books and playing with toys and then board games instead.

As they got older they did learn about what they were missing out on. We discussed it and our reasons for not having them watch television. We explained how we let them watch movies instead for their screen time and then they were seeing things they enjoyed that were appropriate without annoying ads. We could watch on our schedule and the things they wanted. I have always been open with our kids about why we make the decisions we do (in age appropriate discussion and timing)and I found they were responsive to this.

Have their been downsides? I suppose my kids have suffered a little teasing and a little lack of entertainment knowledge in comparison to their peers. They don't know who the purple dinosaur is, Rhiannon did not understand who the PowerPuff girls were when her friends played a game, and Ciaran has not watched typical superhero cartoons. However, if we watched television they would not have watched any of that anyway as I would not have allowed it because it is at best a waste of time and at worst teaching things I don't want them to know or model yet. These downsides pale in comparison to the benefits we have from our no television policy.

Do I think television is evil? No. Do I think television is valuable? On a very rare occasion yes. Do I think television is a waste or inefficent use of time? Most often, yes. Do I think my kids should watch it? No. There are many more valuable things for them to do with their time. Even including screen time I would much rather have them watching a pre-selected video which I can either prescreen myself or use a trusted sources like Kids In Mind to get a general idea before we watch it together and talk about anything that comes up immediately as we see it together.

Besides the time waste issue I have three other main reasons for not having my kids watch regular television. First, it is allowing someone else to teach my kids morals, behavior and attitudes that I object to as the norm. I think this is at the heart of Terri's question to me. Television tend to depict families, parents, and authority in unkind ways. Television tends to promote behavior, choices and attitudes in children that I do not want my children or any family member to model. Any you do not know it until you see it on the screen or don't see it on the show but rather in your kids if you do not watch it with them. If we want to help our kids see positive role models in television, try to older television shows like Little House on the Prarie and the Waltons (both available on DVD). Or better yet turn the set off and let them see you and their siblings positive behavior. Let them spend time with some families who exhibit the values you want in your kids. Read good books that teach these behaviors and values. If they are not watching it, they are not modeling it. Of course you will have to untrain and reteach what they have already learned, but that is easier to do without a daily diet of the values you are trying to unteach.

The second reason is you have very little control over the television. For all the rating systems, show explanations and parental controls you still are subjecting your family to what is on at any given time and are more likely to settle for something just so you can watch something then you are if you preselect ahead of time. Even if you find a good program - each episode varies greatly and you do not know the content until you are in the middle of it. Even if the show is great the clips for upcoming shows may presnet your children with material completely inappropriate for them. All the CSI type ads in family programs is disturbing and some of these are the least offenders. Having not watched it for so long I was shocked at what the upcoming show clips show and present to young children who are watching another program that is "geared to them" - complete loss of control.

The third reason is the advertisments. I could write a whole book on this and others already have. Why expose my kids to advertisments over and over again and teach them to be disatisfied with what they have and always wanting for more. Why give the products and companies I don't see as valuable free time trying to convince my family they are great? A DVD skips this problem entirely. So does TiVo I will concede.

Much of what I have said I disagree with other than waste of time and content can be answered with a TiVo type device. Not that I am recommending them but I suppose if you love TV they would answer some of the concerns of watching TV with young children. Personally we still find it better to just keep the thing turned off altogether.

If you think I shelter my kids that is your opinion and you are entitled to it. We do prescreen what they watch, they are young. We will continue to do it because it is our responsibility as parents. We let our kids watch a wider variety of movies and probably have the only kids their age I know who can regularly answer trivia pursuit star wars movie edition questions correctly. We have made the choices we see best for our kids and I am sure you make the ones best for your own. I just encourage you to think through the choice you have made and make them intentionally.

I don't think you can control the influence of the television on your child without regulating it in some way. If you see behavior in your child that you do not like and you want to correct then you need to correct it. Some may say you need to continue allowing them to watch it so they can learn to overcome it. I would not. You don't cure an alcholic by having him go to the bar every day. If you want to eliminate things from your child's behavior then you probably need to eliminate the source. That may mean taking the time to watch everything with your child or prewatch it or it may mean restricting or limiting the time they watch things or in some cases eliminating it all together.

I will say my kids do not think television is evil. We do not teach them that it is. We do not think it is evil either. However in our life television has little to no place and that works really well for us. The kids are well adjusted and they still get more "screen time" then I think is ideal. A post for another day though.

Just my .02

July 5, 2006

Grandparents visit

We have not fallen off the earth. My parents are visiting from New York and we are just spending lots of time with them and enjoying the little time we have together. We have spent lots of time at the pool, playing games (Zingo is the current favorite), doing puzzles, eating ice cream and other treats, and many other fun things. We have spent an entire day at the MN Zoo and another entire day at the Mall of America enjoying the rides. We watched fireworks and have just enjoyed each other's company. What a blessing to have two weeks for my kids with their grandparents, not to mention for Serona and I as well. Hope you are enjoying your summer.

Frog Update

Well it is official we have raised a frog! Ciaran received tadpoles for his birthday from friends in April. Today the final transformation was made to frog for one of those tadpoles. The kids really enjoyed watching te proccess from tadpole to rear legs, to front legs to froglet losing his tail, to being a frog.

We are still not positive what kind of a frog this is. We are guessing some sort of tree frog as he was climbing up the side of the terrarium without falling. We still have two other tadpoles left that have not made the metamorphisis yet.

Ciaran is just so excited and even the rest of us are getting in on the excitement.