Team Wharton

How we're handling screen time

1705_boys_screentime 

I had strong thoughts about how we'd handle screen time with our kids even before I was pregnant. I'd love to share an update on how we're handling screen time with the boys. 

In short, they get very limited screen time and our approach is essentially as I imagined it would be. Among my in-person and online friend circles my sense is that our family is among those that have the most restrictive screen time rules with their kids. I wanted to share our approach to screen time not to make anyone feel guilty about the screen time their kids have. Just like anything parenting related that I share, my intention is to be honest about how we're handling something that can have many options. This is how we're choosing to approach screen time right now, and it will surely change as the boys get older. 

Our approach to screen time for the boys is based on how I grew up (no television was allowed on the weekdays), how Chris and I currently consume media via screens, what I've read about the importance of active versus passive activities for kids, and also just my own parent gut feeling. Trying to synthesize the different articles, studies, and recommendations about screen time for kids leads me to believe that there are wonderful, age-appropriate programs and games for kids. And that allowing them to watch or play these within reason* is not detrimental to their development. However, I haven't read a study that says that it's MORE beneficial for a child to be using a screen versus not using a screen. For us the conclusion is we'd rather create an environment with very limited screen time. It's certainly not the only conclusion. 

But the boys don't have a completely screen-free life. Here are the ways our boys do get screen time right now at ages 2 and 4:

+ During haircuts.

Chris cuts the boys hair every 4 - 8 weeks at home. So far the most reliable way to get the boys to sit still is to let them watch something on the computer. During haircuts Dash has watched part of The Incredibles movie and parts of Lego movie. More recently we have put on episodes of Sesame Street for them and I'd love to show them Reading Rainbow, which I still have vivid memories of watching and loving.

+ During airplane flights.

We fly about once a year with the boys, usually a two-hour flight to Austin. We pack lots of activities and snacks but queue up a couple shows and games as plan B. Cedric is only just now getting to the age when watching something might hold his attention.

+ To see pictures of themselves or friends.

When we take pictures of the boys they usually want to see the picture we took so we'll show them. Sometimes that leads to swiping through pictures but it'll only be for a couple of minutes. 

+ At school.

In Dash's preschool class they occasionally watch short videos related to what they are learning. Dash is also enrolled in a preschool computer class that is offered through his school. He attends once a week for about an hour. I don't feel it's essential that he learns how to use a computer at this age but he really enjoys it so we've been happy for him to go. Cedric gets very limited screen time at school. 

+ At grandparent's houses.

When we visit my parents in Austin or when Dash has a sleep over at Chris's parents we let the boys watch a movie or show. 

By limiting screen time our intention is to teach them to be resourceful about entertainment and inspiration. When they are old enough to choose how to live their lives and how much time to spend watching screen-based programs I hope we've given them a foundation for being more likely to choose a book or to be outside or to hang out with friends rather than passively consuming via a screen. I am not saying that letting your kids use screens means they won't read or be outside or have friends. But I do feel concern over the amount of television Americans watch on average (5 hours PER DAY) and also the effects that it can have on health and happiness (a blog post that Chris wrote but with some great references linked). We're biased, of course, because we chose to ditch our television. But then what is parenting if not instilling the values you deem important in your kids?

I'll admit that at times I have thought, "It would be so much easier if I could let them watch something right now!" Although ultimately allowing regular screen time actually feels like it would be much more difficult rather than essentially never allowing screen time. In instances where we've shown the boys pictures on our phone or when they have been able to watch a video they has asked for more pictures and more videos. Usually a "no" from us leads to whining or a melt down. So in our house no screen time also means one less thing that might cause a melt down. This feels significant! 

I remember when Dash was around 18 months or 2 years old when he first started noticing our phones. We would show him a picture occasionally or a Blue's Clues episode. This was around the time when Cedric was born AND when Dash was waking at 4 AM most days and sometimes we really did need a way to get Dash to sit quietly in one spot for a few minutes. However, this led to Dash being even more interested in our phones and getting upset when he couldn't hold it or watch something. It reinforced our thinking that essentially no screen time is just easier to manage than some screen time. 

 

* The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends no screen time except video chatting for children 18 months and under. They recommend and hour or less of high-quality programming watched with a parent or caregiver for children ages 2 - 5. 


Conversations with Dashiell & Cedric

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Cedric is officially joining these posts! Mostly everything he says is cute right now but he's had a couple zingers that I've been able to write down and remember. He seems to have good comedic timing already and loves doing little "bits" once he sees that he's making us laugh. Right now there's a lot of poo humor. :)

We haven't quite hit the stage where the boys are having long conversations together although I think it's super close. Ah, can't wait to hear what they'll have to say to each other.

Here's what Dashiell and Cedric have been saying lately...

A few Dash-isms that we love so much
This day = today 
Last day = yesterday, or last week
Next day = tomorrow

How Dashiell spelled his name out loud for a long time
D-A-S-H-I-E-L-L-L

Me: Good night.
Dash: Be careful in your bed...

Me: Do you know any facts about dinosaurs?
Dash: Dinosaurs have fossils in their belly!

Dash: I'm fast like emergency!

Dash: I'm not 3. I'm 61.

Dash: I want you to have another popsicle so your belly can get big like mine.

Chris has trained both boys to respond with "the bomb!" when he starts, "Daddy is the..." On a recent morning Chris made Dashiell hot chocolate at his request. But he made a pretty big mug, which Dash drank quickly and then complained of a stomach ache...
Dash: Daddy's not the bomb anymore...

Dash: We don't say poopy butt. (He's told me this several times. Ahem)

Me: How did you sleep?
Dash: Five.

Dash: There's a thousand dollars of sand in the bathtub!

Dash: After I turn 3 - you're not going to like this - I'm going to turn 4. And you're never going to see me because I'm going to be taller than you.

Me: Dash, what do you call your blanket?
Dash: Judy.
(have never heard him call it that before or since)

Dash: I'm sweaty. I need a snack. Sweaty means I'm hungry.

Dash: Don't put up your windows Daddy, or you can fall out of the car.

After bedtime one night Dash, looking very sad, walked into the front room where we were. He had one arm pulled into his shirt (a new trick)...
Dash: I'm sad because I don't have an arm.

Dash: I have chemicals in my office
(no idea on this one)

Me: What woke you up?
Dash: Well, my brain!

Dash: When I grow up, I'm going to be a T. Rex.

Dash: I have million. I'm giving away dollars.

We were playing hide and seek from Chris. I was hiding in a closet with the boys and we were pretending to be scared of Chris finding us.
As he pushes Cedric out of the closet...
Dash: Go Cedric, be brave. 

Me: Cedric, what do we have for Thanksgiving?
Cedric: Horses!

When we turned on the windshield wipers...
Dash: That's the car's tears!

Me: Dash, what's the biggest number you can think of?
Dash: ...38!

Dash: Where ever you are, you are with me.

Me: Dash, what's the most important thing.
Dash: To love your family.

Cedric: Toots, guys!

More conversations with Dashiell & Cedric


Our 2016 Christmas cards

Our 2016 Christmas cards! | RISING*SHINING Our 2016 Christmas cards! | RISING*SHINING

Every year I enjoy creating our family Christmas card and sending them all across the country, from San Francisco to Brooklyn, and even to Canada! I designed our cards myself again this year and I'm so happy with how they turned out.

Here are our cards in previous years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015 (so many!).

Originally I thought I would do a collection of photos from the year like I did in our card last year. But then I remembered the awesome family picture we took together during Chris's birthday trip to Prescott. Plus the fact that our boys were really into dinosaurs this year. And so the idea of using the photo + RAWWR! was born. On the back of the card I love to include a few notes about the year and what we've been up to.

I used Adobe Photoshop Elements (and my basic design skills) to make the card. Before diving in I browse Pinterest or some of the popular Christmas card sites to get ideas for font pairings and layout. I grabbed the Grand Hotel font for free online. And then I just start tinkering and am able to pull something together over one or two evenings. A key for me is to block out time to make the card. I don't want to feel stressed and rushed. So I start to think about designing the card in early November to leave time to make it and have it delivered by early December.

As usual, I designed our card to fit on a two-sided 5 x 7 postcard and ordered a set of 100 (the postcard order is 100 minimum but I like to send lots of cards so that's okay!). In previous years I've used OvernightPrints and GotPrint. This year I used VistaPrint because they were having a great sale when I was looking to order (a bit before Thanksgiving). My order was discounted from $50 to $32.97! I get so much satisfaction from not only creating our cards but paying so much less than the typical $1 - 2/card.

For envelopes I purchased brown kraft paper envelopes at Hobby Lobby. On the back I added two strips of festive washi tape and am still using our trusty address stamp from Three Designing Women (have replaced the ink pad once in 8 years!).

If you didn't get a snail mail card from me, please consider this a virtual card from my family to yours!

Today we're off to see Rogue One with friends at Alamo Drafthouse (!!) before my family arrives and then it's holiday festivity through the next week. The best!

Wishing you a cozy weekend and a very merry Christmas if you are celebrating. 


Managing our family photos

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Digital photos can be so overwhelming. So! Overwhelming! We can fill up our phones, dump the photos somewhere and then tap, tap, tap our way to thousands of more photos. Quickly there are photos across devices and clouds (what is this cloud exactly again?) and it's hard to know even where to start. But there is hope! 

My system for managing our family photos does not require a lot of work, keeps my phone from getting filled to capacity and has me regularly printing photo books that are family keepsakes. I have an iPhone and was originally using albums in iPhoto to organize my photos and it was OK albeit a bit clunky. And then I discovered my current system using Google Photos and I feel like "Family photo management? CHECK!" It is incredibly satisfying, especially as someone who loves taking photos but has never scrapbooked or even been great at printing photos. If I can do this, so can you!

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Right now my approach is to create one family photo book for each calendar year. For each of my boys I also made albums for the first year (for Dashiell to 21 months, which is about when Cedric came along). So each January through December I'm organizing photos into one Google Photos album for that calendar year. Then at the end of the year I upload all those photos into Blurb, create a simple photo book, order, and done!

Below I've broken down my system into the tools I use and the process I follow. I would also HIGHLY recommend that you first pop over to the post at Bneato Bar, which is where I got the idea in the first place. She goes over some of the technical parts of getting set up in detail and getting your photos over to Google Photos in the first place. You can do it!

Tools:

+ I use the Google Photos app on my phone and also use Google Photos on my laptop. I use the app to synch the photos from my phone while I have wifi (at home or at work) and I use Google Photos on my laptop to sort the photos into albums.

+ I take all photos with my iPhone 6S.

+ All my photo books are created and printed using Blurb.

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Process:

+ Synch photos on phone to Google Photos using app. About once a month or so I synch/back up all the photos on my phone to Google Photos. I do this by opening up the app while I'm on wifi (to avoid using data) and tap the Assistant tab. The app automatically starts backing up all photos. I leave the app open and set my phone aside and let it finish the back up. 

+ Delete photos from phone. This is so scary the first couple of times! But once all the photos have been backed up to Google Photos I go into my iPhone photos, select all (which can be done by holding down your finger on one photo to select and then dragging down - just learned this!) and delete! 

+ Organize photos into Google Photo album(s). At the beginning of a calendar year I create an album in Google Photos called "Team Wharton [YEAR]," so this year I'm working on Team Wharton 2016. After I synch new photos from my phone I'll open Google Photos on my laptop, select all the photos that are candidates for being included in our annual family photo book and add them to our Team Wharton album. I'd also like to start doing albums for trips that we take so this would be another album that I would create, like "PNW Adventure 2016." You can select and add photos to Google Photos albums from your phone but I find it easier to do on a laptop.

Another thing I like is being able to make my Team Wharton albums shared with Chris. This way he can add photos that he takes right into the album. I'll admit that he is not adding photos regularly so as we head towards the end of the year I'll have to make sure I get all his 2016 photos but in theory you could have several family members contributing photos. 

+ Create an annual photo book using Blurb. At the beginning of a new calendar year I create a photo book in Blurb for the previous year. I set time in my calendar to do this over a few days, like my lunch break at work for a week, or a few nights post-bedtime. This is key! If I don't put it in my calendar it doesn't happen.

When I'm ready to start I'll make sure that I have pictures from Chris as well as from the grandparents to complete the Team Wharton album. Once that is done I open Google Photos in my laptop, select all photos in the Team Wharton album, and download them to my computer. This is so that I have all the photos in one spot to upload to Blurb.

Next, I open the Bookwright software from Blurb (it has to be downloaded to your computer). I've found that I've had to re-download this when I make a new album, not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but it's quick so not a big deal. I always choose the 7 inch x 7 inch photo book with an image wrap hard cover and glossy paper. I've been really happy with the quality.

In the Bookwright software I upload photos from my computer and select all the photos that I just downloaded from my Google Photos album. All the photos appear in a "photo bin" at the bottom of the Bookwright software. 

Then, over a few days, I build a photo book. I do each spread fairly quickly and intentionally don't spend a ton of time thinking about layouts. The photos are uploaded in the same order as they were in Google Photos and so maintain chronological order for the most part. So I work from the left side of the photo bin to the right and the photo book ends up in chronological order as well.

I love the pages with a single photo and full bleed (to the edge of the page) so I do that a lot. It's a simple but impactful layout. Or I'll sometimes put a few photos together on a page but have found that my favorite is the single photo with full bleed. I don't worry about how long the book is getting, it'll be what it will be. I don't add text. I've had thoughts of writing with sharpie on the pages afterwards but so far haven't done that with any of them.

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

Putting together the photo book takes me a few days but once I get going it's not laborious and it's so fun to see all our adventures from the year. When I'm done, the photo book gets uploaded to Blurb where it can be saved or ordered. Blurb often has discount codes so if I can't find one at the time I'll wait a few weeks and check again.

....and that's it!

I've been surprised at how much the boys love to look through the family photo books already - I thought they would be something they would enjoy "one day" as adults. And looking through them helps solidify my memories of things as well - that trip to the park where the bee was buzzing around us, the day we checked the mail in the rain. The little everyday adventures that are so abundant and specific to this time of life but pass so quickly.

An easy solution for managing family photos | RISING*SHINING

I'd love to know what memory keeping works for you, or if you have any questions about what I'm doing just ask in the comments. 

Happy organizing!

P.S. We chatted all about family memory keeping, including my approach with Google Photos on The Girl Next Door Podcast!

 


Our PNW adventure

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

In October Chris and I took our first trip without the boys since Cedric was born. We chose the Pacific Northwest because it's so completely different from where we live in Arizona. Although we're learning to love the desert we still crave trees that are tall and abundant, green, rain, cold and water. We knew we'd find it all in the Pacific Northwest. And we did.

Visiting our country's national parks is something I want to spend the rest of my life doing so we set our sights on Olympic National Park with our last night in Seattle to visit Chris's brother and to eat at Delancey.

Chris's sister so generously offered to keep the boys during our four-night trip and Chris's mom helped out a lot as well. We were a bit anxious to leave them, just the general parent worry, but knew they would be in the best hands and have a great time. Once we got on our way and heard they were doing doing I was able to put my worry aside and fully relax. 

From start to finish our trip was everything I had hoped it would be - perhaps even more. Our Airbnb cabin overlooked a rushing river and had a cozy gas stove. We basked in incredible scenery, hiked in ancient forests, took in the view from a windy, cold mountain top and combed the seashore. We ate well at every single meal, didn't feel rushed or overwhelmed with multi-tasking, and had long and uninterrupted conversations. I read an entire book start to finish and the latest issue of The New Yorker. I didn't check social media or email once (the best). 

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

It's hard to pick favorites but two days in particular stand out. On our first day we did several short hikes in Olympic National Park, lunched at Lake Crescent Lodge (roaring fire, moose on the wall, dining room overlooking the clear lake and grey day), soaked in slippery sulphur hot springs for three hours surrounded by evergreen trees with occasional chilly rain and felt rejuvenated physically, mentally and emotionally. We ended the day watching the third presidential debate (the first we'd be able to watch) next to the gas stove with wine, cheese, crackers and ice cream. A perfect, perfect day.

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

The other stand out day was the second to last. As we drove up to Hurricane Ridge the temperature dropped 30 degrees and the fall color was nearly unbelievable. We listened to political podcasts covering the election the entire way. Then we headed toward Seattle via ferry (Chris says the ferry ride is one of his favorite parts of the trip!) and checked into our posh Ballard hotel. We played dice at Essex, I discovered the Americano cocktail and then had a long conversation with Chris's brother. Followed by the best meal and deep conversation at Delancey including cookies and ice cream. I asked for a signed menu and was so generously given one.

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

I'd love to share our favorite recommendations from the trip (after a few more pictures....)!

Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING
Outdoors

Ancient Groves hike

Exploring Lake Crescent

Sol Duc Hot Springs - highly recommend!

Clallam Bay

(We were bummed to discover that the roads to Rialto Beach and the Hoh Rainforest were not open due to storms the previous spring.)

Ballard Locks and salmon ladder

Meals

Barhop (recommended by a Matrimoney listener, thank you Jill!) - great pizza and the Ediz Hook IPA was delicious.

Lake Crescent Lodge

Alder Wood Bistro

Puffin on 101

Country Aire Natural Market (another great recommendation from Jill)

Essex

Delancey

Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast

Accommodations

Cozy cabin on a river in Port Angeles, WA

Hotel Ballard (Chris had a hard time sleeping through noise from the bar across the street, I didn't notice it but I'm a deep sleeper)

  Our adventure in the PNW | RISING*SHINING

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Which is the sound of me remembering how lovely and relaxing our trip was. If I missed some of your favorites please share, we'd love to go back hopefully before too long.