From Media & Technology

Finding Balance in a Media Saturated World

Finding Balance in a Media Saturated World

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While writing a few weeks ago, a photograph of Perez Hilton showering with his toddler came across my newsfeed. (Technically, I was taking a break from writing and scanning Facebook. Writer’s downfall.) Anyway, I struggled to move beyond the obvious questions, like, Why should I care when victims from the latest mass shooting remain in the hospital? and Why is this even news? Why would he post this? I stop and take it in. They look happy, like they’re having fun. Father-son clean-up time. In our home, there were many times whoever was going into the shower took the dirtiest toddler for a quick rinse-off before dinner. Universal commonalities of parenthood.

I read the comments. (Ugh! Why do I do that?) Some people were outraged. Mortified. Scolding. Outspoken, in a way only the internet allows, because a grown-ass man shared a shower with his son.

Finding Balance in a Media Saturated World

Let me acknowledge something. I’ve worked in environments where it’s frowned upon to discuss showering with your child, sleeping with your baby or letting your child run around naked. I worked where these activities waved red flags of inappropriate adult-child behavior. I’ve been among sexually abused adolescents and adolescents who were perpetuators of sexual abuse. It’s not pretty. It’s humbling and it’s a million other things all at the same time. I know these photos can spark the dark things in life.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.11.42 PMBack to Perez’s shower posts. Granted, they weren’t the most well thought-out in Instagram history. They were, however, mild compared to other instagramming celebrities. They appeared authentic moment-capturing posts of a day-to-day parent living in a selfie-riddled world. Could they trigger those living in fear of an adult hurting a child? Absolutely. People who fear abuse happening again; individuals who fear they themselves may be tempted to abuse a child in a shower; and those living in a world of generalized constant fear could easily and grossly be triggered by that photograph. Sometimes, fearful people live shackled by rules. Rules including: Thou shall not shower with your toddler. And, thou shall scorn and judge all those who do, for they most certainly have evil intentions.

Somewhere, we have to step back. We have to take ourselves from the centricity of every post, every photo, every story on the news. We can relate it to our lives, without making it our lives. Relating to others makes their lives relevant, meaningful to us. We have to be mindful of where they stop and we begin. We also have to tend to our needs and identify and understand our triggers.

Somehow we’ve got to find the good in others, for it most certainly exists. Check your surroundings. If you hear a meow and you’re not in Africa, a zoo, or a big cat refuge it’s probably not a lion. It’s most likely a common domestic house cat. If you live in San Antonio, it’s probably a feral un-neutered stray. You definitely don’t need a high-powered rifle or bow and arrow to shoo it away. Don’t let fear become negative judgementalism, leaving you in fear for your life and the lives of everyone else.

No doubt, terrible things inhabit our world. I believe we’re called to speak up and protect the lesser among us. BUT, not everything is horrid. Not every white van wants to kidnap you. (Women understand this, men may not – another post lurks here.). We can be mindful of our surroundings walking to the car at night, without frantically running in a chaotic panic only to lose our keys while fumbling in the parking lot darkness.

When I walk across our pasture, sometimes I get stickers in my socks. Sometimes, I find beautiful, tiny things. Some of the beautiful tiny things have pointy sharp edges. I don’t stop walking and I don’t quit looking. The beautiful things I find are worth it.

This teeny little sharp bud is smaller than a babies new tooth.
This teeny little sharp bud is smaller than a babies new tooth.

We pay a hefty sum for constant media and never-ending connection into all the world’s multiplying minutiae. Within this sum, we lose something valuable. It’s conscious work to see things for what they are. Instead of a photo of a smiling dad and an impishly grinning toddler in the shower (all parts, but smiles covered), do we, instead, see a pedophile? Do we see a toddler at risk for becoming (gasp!) gay from showering with his father? What are we seeing? I’d really like to know.

I see a dad, a happy (and squeaky clean) toddler. That’s all.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.25.36 PM

There are and will continue to be movies of the week; best-selling books; heart-wrenching recollections from a best friend who, as a child, suffered at the hands of an adult; and maybe our own traumatic haunting childhood memories. The dark side exists. If we don’t take care of ourselves, and seek counsel when needed, that free-reined darkness can permeate our perspective and existence leaving us seeing the world through a dark lens. What do we miss? Do our children begin to see the world through our darkened glasses? Do those dark lenses affect how we treat others? Our health?  Our soul? and so much more? Therein lies the tally of the cost ringing up a long receipt.

We need balance. Something between fear and full-on devil-may-care destructive risk taking attitudes and behaviors. How is balance found? Where is it found?

 

The alien looking planet surface on the bottom, is really a close up of one of the leaves in the above photo. #perspective
The alien looking planet surface on the bottom, is really a close up of one of the leaves in the above photo. #perspective

This brave new interactive open-viewing world calls for introspection, honesty, and mindfulness. And dialogue. Dialogue without fear. Courage to ask questions of ourselves and others. It calls us to show up — for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and our children — show up before fear takes over. It’s begs perspective, too. We need to acknowledge of our perspective.

In re-reading my post, I want you to know, it didn’t escape me — the nonchalance with which I wrote this sentence: “Why should I care, when victims from the latest mass shooting remain in the hospital? and why is this (Perez Hilton) even news?”  And, then, I talked and talked about Hilton’s photograph and the thoughts it bore, anyway. All the while those victims still recover. That, my friends, is a whole other post whose words currently bounce off the walls of my brain.

Great ideas for putting the phone down and being present with your kids.

Ring the alarm: The Phone is on

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I’m calling it CPADD – cell phone attention deficit disorder and I’m guilty of it. Are you?

I like to think I am pretty good at being present. I’m a good listener. I can shut the world out and focus on a task. I play with my son. I do yoga. I read. Books and articles start to end. I do breathing exercises while sitting in heinous traffic jams.

So why can’t I put down the phone when I’m at home? Why do I need to bring it to the park? It has a camera right? For safety, ah ha. Why do I need to have my phone in my line of vision for 80% of my day?

Great ideas for putting the phone down and being present with your kids.

 

In my city, using a cell phone while driving is illegal. Distracted driving comes with a fine of $400, a potential court fee, a potential fine of $1000 if you receive a summons or fight your ticket and three demerit points applied to your driver’s record (we have a total of 6 points). Our governing bodies have had to police hand held use in vehicles yet every day you can see people using their phones in their car. What is it about our nature to want to be everywhere all the time? Why do we feel the need to respond to emails/texts/call immediately? What is it about the present that is so daunting that we need to escape it?

Something that resonates with me from my travels in Northern Canada is the idea of sitting silence. To paraphrase a dear friend of mine, Paul Andrew, “learning to sit in silence and be with yourself is a great challenge, but offers great rewards.”

We all have tasks and needs that require our attention, of course. But since I’m not in a profession that demand that I be ‘on call’, why can’t I put away my phone when I’m parenting my son? Why can’t I be present in extended moments of time with the people I’m closest to?

Since I’m the only one who can change my CPADD as I’ve yet to hear of a law for distracted parenting, I’m putting myself on a challenge and calling out to others who want to join me in opening even just a small part of the day to be cell-phone free. There’s a basket that sits in our front hallway that acts as a catch all for keys, mail, lip balm, sunglasses. And it’s now officially been made my free zone. The place where I drop my phone when I get home that allows for two things: one, my phone has a place to be out of my sight and reach and two, I can be present with my family for the precious hours in the day we have together.

It’s a challenge, for sure. But just when the urge to reach out and see what is going on ‘out there’ creeps in, I tune in to a softer inner voice, that of Paul reminding me of the rewards to sitting silence. Of being present, of parenting as best I can, in play and in guiding, in the sound of wind or music or laughter and tears in the playground or at home that need nothing more then my acknowledgment and being. Hands free.

Thinking about when to let your kids start using social media?

A Conversation About Social Media

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Thinking about when to let your kids start using social media?

“Your mom and I have heard you pleas, but our position remains unchanged. NO SOCIAL MEDIA.” All your friends are on facebook, instagram, or snapchat, you claim, but we are not swayed. “How about JP, EH and BL? we remind you. They are not connected to social media.   Nor are GD, HC, or UD. We are aware that your friends through soccer are connected, but we do not know them as well as we do your school friends.”

“All right, all right,” we respond to your heated rebuttal. “We hear you. You want to spread your wings and meet and interact with more people than you do in your school,” (an admittedly very small independent school). “Social Media, however, is not the best way to do it.”

“You’re right. We are older than you, and times have changed, but older does not mean wrong. There are healthier, safer ways to meet new people,” we continue.   “Take soccer. You have made many good friends through your team(s) and have done so the old-fashioned way—face to face.”

It’s not just those friends whom you’re interested in interacting with, you point out, you want to connect with girls.

“How about the girls at school,” we counter. “Many of them have crushes on you. Why not pursue one of them?” You have known them too long, you moan, you see them as sisters or friends, not girlfriends. “What’s the rush? Girls can wait,” we argue. You brush off the comment, irritated that we have steered away from the topic at hand.   Girlfriends can wait, you agree, but if you’re going to tap into the pulse of the broader world, you need to be connected to Social Media.

Perils abound there, my wife and I argue. There are predators in chat-rooms who impersonate teenagers. And there are troubles that young, immature minds can get into. We recount a tale told to us by an internet-safety expert who visited the boys’ school. The girlfriend of a HS boy sent him nude pictures of her. When, later, she broke up with him, he became angry and sent the photos to his school community. The girls parents contacted the police who charged the HS boy with possessing and disseminating child pornography. The HS boy has been branded a sex-offender.

I would never have shared those pictures, you cry, offended. I would have deleted them.

“Of course, we know that you would have showed greater kindness/judgment than the high schooler in question, but our point stands. Social Media leads to no good.”

You give us a charming, beseeching smile. “You don’t want me to be left behind socially, do you?”

****

My son might not always be happy about them, but these conversations are essential. Keeping the lines of communication open with one’s children is always a good thing. Such conversations can be illuminating for the parent as well. Despite my words, I grow less and less sure of my position vis-à-vis social media. There are certainly dangers that surround it, but most can be avoided with common sense. It seems to me that a parent should trust that his or her child would and could make healthy and safe decisions regarding social media. What’s the point of all the coaching/educating we do as parents if not to let our children interact freely with the world that surrounds them (a world that includes social media). I still have significant reservations regarding social media and children, and another year without it will not clip my son’s social wings irreparably. But the time seems unavoidable when I will relent and let him connect to facebook, instagram or snapchat. I can imagine how the news would be received and how I might deliver it, but I am not ready to have that conversation quite yet.

 

Struggling with family rules for media and social media? Check out these ideas!

Parenting Perspectives: Family Media Rules

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This month in our Parenting Perspectives series, we are tackling family media rules. Hopefully, you’ll find a variety of perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Struggling with family rules for media and social media? Check out these ideas!

Screen Time

When our kids were younger, we were very strict about screen time, but in recent history we have loosened up a bit. Our limits are based on a few things. Did you do anything else today? Especially now that summer is here. Is it changing your behavior? If our kids are asked to turn off electronics and that results in meltdowns etc. then we modify usage. Or are certain show contributing to poor choices in other aspects of their lives. If so then we help our kids pick different things to watch. Our kids rarely watch tv, they use Netflix, because of the steady stream of commercials we can then avoid. – E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

We have a Friday Night Family movie night. No more than 30 minutes screen time – this may include a family video game, or a show (like Daniel Tiger). We have not always been disciplined with this, when our oldest was an only child, Dora ran rampant – we can’t even believe that now. We have seen the negative effect too much TV time has, so we are much better about that this summer, and we have noticed the difference in their patience, and overall satisfaction with their day. – E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We let them watch about 1-2 hrs of TV a day – usually in the evening after pick up when I need to get stuff done (ie dinner etc). This includes all screen time. If we think they’ve watched too much then we’ll have a no screen time day. – C.H. (children’s ages – 2.5 & 4)

With my oldest child, we really didn’t let him have hardly any screen time until he was 3 years old. I started letting him watch an hour of tv a day while my younger son was taking his afternoon nap. It was the easiest way to keep him quiet. Now, both our kids can have an hour of screen time a day. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We mainly let our kids manage their own media consumption. They know our rules about violence and our expectations about maintaining balance in their activities and taking care of their responsibilities (like homework and chores). Sometimes they need gentle reminders about balance or encouragement to try something else if a video game gets a little heated. We also have a no media policy on family vacations – it’s good for everyone to take a break and spend time together. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

Our limit is 40 min/day – basically 2 shows without commercials. This gives the kids time to decompress after a long day at school/daycare & me time to make dinner. Our rules tend to vary when we’re on vacation or some weekends based on what else we’re doing. – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

During the school year, our kids get screen time during breakfast and one hour of screen time after school. We occasionally allow additional screen time if they complete homework quickly. As a family, we watch a few sitcoms weekly and do not count this against screen time. We don’t have set limits for weekends but do try to keep the kids off their devices/away from the TV as much as seems reasonable for the mood of that particular day. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Movie Ratings

As they are young we rarely watch anything that is not G rated. – E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

We typically screen the movie first. But we have seen some at the theater for the first time together. I recently took them to A Night At The Museum (the first one on a re-screen), and though there were parts they really enjoyed, it was too much for them. At one point, my daughter put her head inside her camera bag and hid, and my son held up his hand and yelled “stop”, as if there was oncoming traffic. It was a learning experience for me, and I liked how sensitive and empathetic they were to what was going on. – E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

As for movies, I check common sense media to judge whether or not the kids can watch the movie. We try to stay away from violent television or cartoons. However, when my oldest child turned 6, we let him watch Star Wars. He had been obsessed with Star Wars ever since he was 4. Someone was having a Star Wars birthday party at the park. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We’ve always used Common Sense Media to get good information about a movie’s content. At this age, we care less about the rating and more about the presence of violence or misogyny. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

The subject matter of PG movies is usually just a bit over our oldest’s head. The biggest thing I look for in a movie is emotional intensity – we’re very much into silly movies right now. Too much “real” emotion can be difficult for our oldest. – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

For movies, I find ratings not that helpful at this point. He self selects somewhat with movies. For instance, finding nemo was too much. He really loves the cars movies. I refuse to let him watch bambi, fox and the hound, dumbo, etc because I can’t handle them. One of the movies I really regret letting him see is the lego movie. One of the things he struggles with is inappropriate modeling of fighting behavior in places where it’s discouraged (school), so we try to minimize that content as much as possible. – V. J. (child’s age – 6)

We do not allow the kids to watch an R rated movies. We watch PG-13 movies with them and will stop the movie if it becomes too violent or too sexually explicit. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

I periodically check his Netflix. When it comes to movies, we are more flexible with language and sexual content, but inflexible with violent treatment of women, etc. He really has little desire to push the envelope and see movies that are R rated. – D.M. (children’s ages – 14 & adults)

Internet

Research. We want them to understand that the internet can be used to gather information. An example would be finding a butterfly or bug outside and then trying to match in online with google images. We’ve done some nonfiction books on Bookflix through the library. –  E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We haven’t established any online rules yet. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

Our son is 11, so our rules on this will soon have to evolve. But, for now, the kids are not allowed to participate in social media or join any site where they can communicate with other users. We do allow YouTube, as the site’s standards are decently strict. Nevertheless, we do spot-check monitoring of what they are watching. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Video Games

Our kids play some educational games and have since preschool. We will use TV or iPad when our child’s anxiety is amped.- E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

I guess both kids first played a game at 2. This is partly because I enjoy games, and I sold my wife on the idea that there’s more strategizing, more communication in games than in TV.  The games we have tried so far were: The Beatles Rock Band and The Lego Movie video game. We’ve also tried Wii Sports. The best games allow opportunities for strategy. – E.S.  (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We have a few apps for kids on my ipad, but my kids haven’t started playing video games yet. I actually used an app to potty train my kids. The other apps we have are lego apps and learn to read apps. As for more typical video games, I figure once we let the genie out of the bottle, it will be hard to get it back inside.  -A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We don’t have strict regulations – but definitely check out any games before buying and after buying – with adults we trust who are gamers. We live on almost 5 acres – he is kicked outside periodically. I don’t have strict times because he has friends who homeschool, public school, etc and they all have different schedules. I’m more flexible when he’s playing online with kids I know. – D.M. (children’s ages – 14 & adults)

We’ll use the ipad for car/ travel over about 45 minutes. Sometimes we’ll take it in with us, but not often. When sitting still at a restaurant seems like it will be a challenge, we will use the ipad. We’re really interested in building basic coding literacy, so we are encouraging apps and board games (robot turtle, etc) that teach him how to build sequences of steps to accomplish an entire task. – V. J. (child’s age – 6)

Social Media

We have not crossed that bridge yet. Maybe at 15, with friends approved by us- mostly consisting of family that lives out of town? I would prefer a program like Ello, which is ad free and focuses more on creativity. We’ll probably make our kids “friend” us until they are 17. – E.S.  (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

Our boys are going into 6th grade and are itching for social media accounts. We decided to start with Instagram. Before they got their accounts, we asked them to spend a month curating the pictures (and captions) they would use on an Instagram account. It was like a trial run, where we could give them feedback before they actually got their accounts. They have to let us follow them and can’t block us, plus we know all their passwords. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

No social media at this point. I’m hoping I have at least another 6 years before I need to think about it. And who knows what options we’ll have, then! – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

Our kids only have email at the moment and we know their user names and passwords. We haven’t determined [social media rules] yet. Our generation of parents are on the vanguard in terms of allowing/monitoring social media use and, as such, there are no proven standards to follow. We’ll have to make it up as we go along. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Great tips to get your kids hooked on good music!

A Parent’s Guide To The Ultimate Playlist

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Great tips to get your kids hooked on good music!I think in all journals and blogs, themes begin to emerge.

A theme that you may see reoccur in my writing (even though this is a parenting blog) is the impact of late 80s, early 90s John Cusack movies.
You see, if you were raised in the Sony Walkman generation, then you know all about the connection between music and life – and the power of music. One of those moments came when John Cusack played his boombox for the girl he loved, stretching his arms in the air, so the music could be the heard at the utmost level.
I made similar moves in my courtship of my wife, I know, not very original, but I found it to be highly successful. And though those years are over, (minus the daily car serenade). I am still connecting music to life and constantly making the ultimate playlist for my family.

THE MAKING OF AN ULTIMATE PLAYLIST:

CAUTION: If making a playlist consists of finding your favorite genre of music on Spotify, and clicking shuffle all, read no further. This is NOT for you!

Make no mistake, the makings of a great playlist is an art form, and rules definitely apply. In the words of John Cusack in High Fidelity: “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.” My top five rules for making a playlist for your own family are as follows:

Parenting guide to a mixtape

RULE 1: INTRODUCE YOUR KIDS TO A VAST AMOUNT OF MUSIC

There have been hits and misses when introducing music to my kids. For about 2 years, Adelaide was obsessed with The Beatles. She learned even the obscure songs, like “You Know My Name, Look Up The Number.” She loved when all the teenagers screamed at Beatles concerts, and even picked up a favorite Beatle: Paul. We watched the movies, and liked all of them, except Help.

But as successful as The Beatles introduction was, countless others were met with: “Turn that down!” And “Why do they sound like that?” And even “This song is for people who don’t like music!”
Some things will stick, and others won’t, that’s just how it goes.

RULE 2: DISCUSS THE MEANINGS OF SONGS

How many times have the kids corrected my lyrics? Countless. The key is to know the meanings of songs, and have discussions about what they mean. This will help someday, when you finally introduce them to the poetry of Bob Dylan, or the enigma of Milli Vanilli.

RULE 3: ORDER IS IMPORTANT

Consider that ‘shuffle’ is your true enemy. It’s like shuffling the events of your day, in random order. Let’s see, I wake up, do the dishes, cook dinner, get dressed… come on. There’s order to things – and it matters. Start with some energy. It’s a hook, then, more energy – but don’t blow the roof off, pace it out after that. Save the slower, longer songs for the end.

RULE 4: BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

Don’t allow your family playlist to include music that raises your blood pressure and sets your teeth on edge. So what if your kids love “Let it Go”. When you have tuned it out after the 4,386th listen it no longer has a place on your playlist. You are part of your family too and your opinions and taste matter most. And also, you set the tone. Allow your (obviously superior) tastes to gently guide the still impressionable and therefore malleable tastes of the younger, more inexperienced members of your household.

RULE 5: SHARE YOUR MUSIC

Compilations are meant to share- and sharing a playlist was never this easy. When I was a kid- you’d have to go to great lengths to make the same mix tape for multiple people. Now, it’s a link. Take advantage of this, and share your playlist in the comments section.

Here is my playlist with some detail, but the importance of a playlist is to share it.

  1. All Is Love – Karen O & The Kids

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND8RfApgGIA

Karen O + kids music = plain awesome. She made the soundtrack for Where The Wild Things Are, and it’s a masterpiece with just the right amount of rebelliousness, mixed with sweetness, and innocence, yet full of heart that is always longing, and searching for more.

  1. Raindrops on the Kitchen Floor – Mason Jennings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2s3Ek38DN4

If I could only choose from the catalog of one artist to create our family’s playlist, Mason Jennings would be that guy.  He captures beautiful moments and incredible feelings in his songs – yet has a way to make them a part of everyday life.

  1. Don’t Slow Down- Matt and Kim:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_xr_oio_0I

When this song comes on in our car, look out because the kids are using whatever they can reach for drums, and singing along is not optional. Matt and Kim are THE FAVORITE in our cars.

  1. Dance, Dance, Dance – Lykke Li

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQEJ5BhxTxc

Sweet, loving, soft, and the best message ever, about being shy, but still having this overwhelming desire to dance.

  1. Body Movin’ – The Beastie Boys

Dance party song, gets all the energy out!

  1. Butterfly Nets – Bishop Allen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jcp3nPN74cM

Time to come back down with something softer. The singer’s voice is so sweet, so sincere, and again, it goes back to the innocence of youth.

  1. Young Lion – Vampire Weekend

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og77RKz1_ec

Vampire Weekend has so many amazing songs, but this one is special for our little guy, and his learning, whether it be to walk or to jump. It all takes time, and it’s hard to wait, especially when you have an older sister.

  1. I Feel It All – Feist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_v1DGyKCbc

Love this song – and emotions are a big thing in our house – all emotions are allowed and we truly do feel it all.

  1. Violet – Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MvQ1pZqaqU

This was quite possibly the first song Adelaide learned enough lyrics of to be able to sing along.  That’s some kind of milestone, and besides that, Thao is simply The Shizzle.

  1. We Can’t Be Beat – The Walkmen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9r2DHgfa1Y

Dad rock at its best.  Sometimes, your life evolves seemingly in sync alongside a favorite artist.  It’s nice to grow older together.

  1. Just Try – Mason Jennings

The perfect end. Sunshine in life. Just try and say that this happens everyday – just try-and see- if that flies.

How about yours?

 

 

 

Help! I’m drowning in artwork!

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Practical Ideas for Managing Kid's ArtworkLike many parents of small children, I have a love/hate relationship with the artwork coming home from school.  I love the clever uses of paper plates and hand prints.  (I mean, really — who knew so many animals could be made from hand and foot prints?)  And I love that the kids have the opportunity to get messy and creative.  However.  Like most parents, I struggle with the amount of it coming home.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not asking for less artwork.  I’m just struggling to find a process for dealing with it.

http://tampabay.citymomsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2014/10/FullSizeRender.jpg
http://tampabay.citymomsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2014/10/FullSizeRender.jpg

I figured out long ago that I need to triage.  I keep the “firsts”, the kids favorites, and my favorites,  letting the macaroni covered items go out with the trash.  I’m actually pretty good about that.  (David at Unclutter has some great tips for figuring out which pieces are the keepers.)  And I have a plan for dealing with the art in the long term.  I will take pictures, store an even smaller amount of artwork in a box, and print a photo book of selected artwork…not that I’ve implemented that part yet.  When I’m ready for it, Artful Kids has great advice on how to take good pictures of your child’s artwork.  And apps like Keepy, Canvsly, Artkive, and Art My Kid Made all provide good options for storing and using digital images of your kid’s artwork.

My pain point is the in the immediate term.  When we get home, the bags go on the floor, the kids go off somewhere, and I make dinner as fast as humanly possible.  When we (ahem, I) get around to cleaning out the school bags after dinner/bedtime, I’m not up for doing an immediate triage.  I’m up for going to bed.  So, all of the paperwork from school ends up in a pile on our countertop.  The same countertop that the kids try to eat breakfast from in the morning.  The same countertop that ends up being a repository for our mail.  The same countertop that…well, you get the idea.  Monday is not so bad, but by the time Friday rolls around, the kids are lucky to find a place big enough to place their little cereal bowls.  And let’s not talk about the chaos that ensues when someone spills their milk.

And so, once a week, I manage to cull through the accumulated paperwork.  A part of it goes in the recycling bin.  Some of it sticks around, waiting for me to hang it up on the wall for a brief period of time.  Rotating the artwork is a pain because I use tape to hang it to the wall.  Tape that tears the paper, doesn’t really stick to the wall, etc.  It’s a pain.  So, I usually end up with a Valentine’s Day picture still hanging up in May (if, in fact, it is still hanging).  Some of the artwork continues to stick around in a pile, waiting for me to take it upstairs to its final resting place in a box.  Which I do. When I remember.

When it comes down to it, I have an artwork intake-and-display problem.  And here is my fix.  It involves hanging storage baskets, magnetic boards, and getting the kids to help (really, they’re old enough!).  First, I got two wire storage baskets big enough to hold a reasonable amount of paper.  (These are very similar to the baskets I got at a local home goods store.) The storage baskets are hung on the wall, at a level low enough for my kids to reach.  When we get home, their new task is to take out the papers from their bag and put the artwork and worksheets into the baskets.  Triage is not necessary at this stage; they just need to show me the art or worksheet and put it into their basket.  The baskets are a couple of inches deep; I estimate I’ll need to clean them out once or twice a month.

Art they would like to immediately show off can now be quickly hung up on two new magnetic boards.   The ones I got are from Steelmaster (from the Soho Collection — ooh-la-la!) and are AWESOME. They solve the problem of easily displaying the artwork and let me quickly swap out artwork. In addition, the magnets are so strong the artwork would stay attached through a minor windstorm.  Bonus: It’s so easy, my kids (at least the oldest one) can do it.  Two of the boards fit together perfectly over my countertop.  I used a few 3M Command strips to adhere them to the wall, making installation a breeze.  Here is what the magnetic boards look like installed:

 

Magnetic artwork boards
Magnetic artwork boards

There are, of course, lots of great ideas on how to display kid’s artwork.  Jean at The Artful Parent has some really clever ideas making artwork displays reusable and beautiful.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to one or two of them.  For now, I’m hoping that my intake problem is solved and art “clutter” will no longer plague my kitchen countertops.

Tune Into Family. Finding Connection in the Age of Media Devices.

Tune Into Family. Finding Connection in the Age of Media Devices.

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Tune Into Family. Finding Connection in the Age of Media Devices.The four of us are sitting on the patio of a local burger joint on a Friday afternoon.  The hectic pace of our school and work week has slowed to a pleasant stroll and we greet the weekend with a toast to free time.  The sun warms our backs, thawing the last chill of winter, and promises a summer ahead of road trips, hiking, and family adventure.  There is nothing else on the agenda today except this juicy jalapeño cream cheese burger and a movie later on.

As I’m ruminating on the divinity of weekends and sinking deeper into burger bliss, my oldest daughter leans over and says, “Check it out, Mom.”  She indicates an approaching family.  A mom, dad, and two kids walk toward the entrance of the restaurant in a straight line.  The mom is texting on her phone; the dad is talking on his.  One son is watching a movie on his device with ear buds connecting him to the action.  The other is playing a game on his device, twisting and turning it to defeat his electronic nemesis.  Their synchronization and coordination is impressive.  They manage to navigate a busy parking lot and uneven stairs up to the patio, communicate with the hostess, and find their seats without looking up from their devices.  It was so well-choreographed and mechanical, it could’ve been a scene from a satire parodying “The State of the American Family,” only there were no cameras and the celebrity guest-host never shouted, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”  This was a real picture into another family’s way of being and it was different enough from our own to garner my daughter’s attention.

After our meal, we pile back in the truck and make the short drive to the local movie theatre for opening night of Home.  In one scene of the movie, the alien Boovs who have overrun the planet Earth speedily walk in a systematic pattern while manipulating their personal devices.  The protagonist, Oh, wants nothing more than to celebrate the arrival at their new home with friends, but much to his dismay, his attempts at connecting with his device-wielding fellows are rebuffed. Again, my daughter leans over and nudges me, “It’s like the family at the restaurant.”  I tend not to ignore moments of synchronicity such as this.  It was eerily similar.

Since that day, I’ve reflected.  My children’s world is different from the one I grew up in.  My world was different from the one my parents and grandparents grew up in.  “Time stands still for no man.”  Yeah, I get it.  Technological advancements come and amaze (or bewilder!) us all.  Then they ride back out of town into a dusty sunset of obsolescence only to be replaced by the newer, faster guy in shinier packaging.  Yes, I know it’s a testament to human ingenuity.  I know people’s lives are improved in countless ways by the ever-turning wheel of progress.  But still, I pause.

I think I’ve managed to distill my reservations down to two categories.

First, I’m nostalgic.  I believe in wearing watches, not checking the time on my cell phone.  I like writing notes to friends and relatives on paper, cool paper.  Paper that feels nice and cheers my heart when I send it and hopefully feels the same coming out of a mailbox full of ads and bills.  A “thank you” or “get well” text just isn’t the same.  I’m glad that my daughter knows that before there were cell phones, there were home phones.  And before individual phone lines, party lines!  Albeit, she is aware of a party line because of a Doris Day movie we watched together and not because of any real experience, but I like it that that little piece of “before now” is a part of her awareness.  I hope she values an old black and white movie as much as the newest 3D blockbuster and that she appreciates a Benny Goodman tune as much as Katy Perry.  It gives her some perspective about her place on the historical timeline and connects her to those who have gone before her.  And that brings me to my second point.

It’s about connectedness.  In my mind, technology shouldn’t hinder community or connectedness.  When we’d rather peer into the lives of our “friends” by viewing their status updates on Facebook than invite them over to dinner, there’s a problem.  When we slavishly respond to texts, emails, and calls on our phones rather than attending to the people in our presence, we’re missing the boat.  When we pacify ourselves and our children with the blue light of a screen, we’re running from something we really ought to confront.  When we hold a device in our hand more frequently than the hand of another human, we’re losing touch.

Our Friday night outing steeled my resolve to keep technology in our family in its proper place.  Sure, my family has access to computers and iPads.  We need to be technologically savvy enough to participate in the world.  It’s our reality.  However, our reality is also that we crave love, attention, and human interaction, eye to eye, hand to hand.  I hope we celebrate the arrivals of weekends and homecomings together, turning off our devices and tuning in to each other.

Photo Credit:

Family Eating Outside