Why Nobody Died When We Got Rid Of TV.

kids_in_hallway
I mentioned recently that we don’t have TV. Readers reacted. It was cute.

Our decision to remove television from our daily lives was not entirely for the reasons you might think. Also, our kids are actually allowed to watch it a little from the internet. But they rarely choose to. So here’s how that phenomenon came about and why…

The Reasons: A Combo of Old-Fashioned Values, Creativity Values, & Futurist-Techie Geekiness

Old Fashioned Values: It’s probably obvious from my blog that I only embody some old-fashioned values while many others I shun. I’m quite strict and traditional when it comes to what I think is appropriate content for children — more strict even than many of the religious families I know. There are a lot of “children” shows that are surprisingly not really child-friendly.

Restricting content is the easy part, though. You just tell the kids why they can’t watch a certain show and then empathize with their wishes that TV producers wouldn’t deliver that kind of content to children. Kids understand honest reasoning, and they respond well to your empathy toward their unfulfilled wishes.

Creativity Values: It’s the general limiting of time on the television that I found difficult. For years we let our kids watch TV, more than I ever thought I would as a parent. I am an avid non-watcher. I always thought I’d be good at limiting the amount they watched. It turns out that if you’re also distracted with an exciting lot of projects you enjoy, it’s hard to monitor amounts. And when a child sinks into the TV habit, it’s hard for him or her to motivate themselves to do creative stuff.

Plus, all day, everyday, our kids were constant infomercials to Izzy and me, pitching sales lines like, “At Best Western, if you drop a towel, they’ll pick it up for you!”

We supposedly needed this mattress, and that kitchen device, and a million different other things. The kids were adding items to their own Christmas list every single day starting Dec. 26 of each new year.

Futurist Techie Geekiness:
Then something amazing happened. Television shows began to appear on the internet! Izzy loves diving into the future headfirst before anyone else has gotten there, and as soon as a handful of shows became available online he sat the family down and made a proposition. He told the kids that we would let them each buy a TV show episode from Netflix every week in place of the TV. They could also watch some shows online.

The kids agreed. We canceled the satellite. For probably four years now, absolutely zero shows feed though the big black box in our living room. It only works for gaming and DVD’s now. We don’t even have local channels.

Then The Magic Happenend

Something truly magical and amazing happened two or three weeks after we got rid of TV — the kids lost interest! They stopped requesting the weekly show we promised to purchase for them. Since that time, internet television has grown and shows are easier to access than ever (and are usually free) but our kids only sit down to watch them around once a month or so. It’s amazing.
dinner_outside
A few weeks ago we were having dinner and one of the kids piped up, “It’s so weird how a bunch of my friends will start talking about some toy that they all know about but I’ve never heard of it. It’s because they learn about all this stuff on commercials.”

The other of our older two children agreed to noticing the same thing.

Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought. They’re going to tell us that it bugs them how weird and different we are from everybody else.

“So, how do you feel about that?” I asked.

“It’s okay,” one said.

“Yeah, I don’t care,” said the other. “It’s just weird that they all know about the same things.”

Wow. I was not expecting them to be cool with that. I mean, I personally have never minded being different all my life. But I don’t know many other people who are cool with it.

So we talked about how much time they have to be creative and make things — which they do daily — and they said it’s a good trade.

We may be secularist, vegan, non-materialist, non-TV weirdo’s, but we’re a bit Leave It To Beaver, too.

How to get kids who will make your breakfast for you

muffin
. . . In two easy steps.

Step 1 –

Introduce them to an amazingly delicious but healthy breakfast, like these Jam-filled Oat Bran Muffins.

Step 2 –

Make oatmeal. Over and over again.

Enjoy!

If your kids are anything like mine, you will eventually wake up to them begging to make breakfast for you. And you’ll get to enjoy those muffins again, but without the effort.

Jam-filled Oat Bran Muffins

from The Joy Of Vegan Baking

16 muffins

2 Tbsp. ground flasseed
6 Tbsp. water
2 cups oat bran
1 cup unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 non-dairy milk (try oat milk!)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, or use less if desired)
1/2 cup strawberry (or any fruit) jam preserves, or fruit spread, preferably unsweetened

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease your muffin tins.

In a food processor or bowl with electric hand mixer, whip the flaxseed and water together, until you have a thick and creamy consistency. This can all be done by hand, but a food processor/hand mixer does a better job in 1 to 2 minutes. It also makes it creamier than can be done by hand. ( I use my Braun hand-held mixer).

In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed mixture, milk, and oil. Stir in the walnuts, if using. Add to the dry ingredients, and mix just until blended.

Fill the prepared muffin cups less than half full with batter. Place a dab of jam or preserves in the center of each cup. Add more batter to fill the cups two-thirds full, concealing the jam. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool in the tins for 3 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire.

A.D.D. Mom

cake
There are some days when it’s best that I just stay out of the kitchen. Today was one of those. Cooking and baking are like hobbies to me that I get to do every day. Sometimes it’s a problem, though, that my family depends on edible results for their sustenance. When my brain is in malfunction mode, my inability to carry a single thought from the recipe book to the the mixing bowl can destroy my otherwise good cooking.

When we hear about A.D.D. we hear how it affects children in school, especially boys. What we rarely hear is how it affects mothers like me.

Even on days when my thoughts are clear and orderly I have to double or triple check the ingredients before I commit to the irreversible…

1) To see what the next ingredient is.

2) To see what the amount of the ingredient is, because I forgot to pay attention the first time I looked.

And sometimes…

3) To see if that amount was supposed to be in teaspoons or tablespoons. Or to make sure I didn’t jumble two ingredients at the second look, because I am good at mixing things up. And not just in a bowl.

Today’s Baking Catastrophe

Today I was baking ginger muffins. Unfortunately, I cooked the lemon zest into the sugar, instead of the ginger Izzy minced for me. No worries. I had another lemon and could grate more zest for when it was supposed to go in, so I trashed the unhappy concoction and started over with ginger and sugar. Too bad I forgot to perform Recipe Triple Check Steps #2 and #3 because I failed to actually measure out the portion of ginger I needed. Izzy had minced three different meal’s worth in the food processor and in my happy state I just put it all into the pan with the new, un-lemonized sugar. Ginger falls into the Less Is More category of life’s little luxuries.

My spirits were high, though. An area in which I excel is that I can always tell when I’ve done something wrong within minutes. My ineptitude rarely surprises at the moment of no-return when we actually sit down to eat my mistakes. So when I realized I had way too much ginger in my saucepan, I fished out what I actually needed from the melting sugar, threw the rest of the ginger away (oops, there goes two of the dinners on our menu for the week), and decided that the bit of sugar that was already mixed into my portion wouldn’t make a huge difference to the recipe. Through much experience, I’ve gotten good at figuring out when it’s okay to work with what I’ve got and when I should just start all over.

I continued with my baking, but by now I knew to send my two adorable helpers out of the kitchen. And they understood. They already know that seemingly insignificant distractions— like my handing a cup of flour to one of them — can really throw me off.

When My Usual Coping Strategies Fail Me

So here I was, alone in my kitchen with only my own wandering mind to distract me from my purpose, and I thought I was in the clear. But A.D.D. — at least my version of it — loves to twist the most basic information that I happen to be using at a given moment. It’s like April Fool’s Day every day of my life, but I’m the joker and the jokee.

Today the basic information that became my brain’s target was the amount of butter (or in my case, Earth Balance) in a stick. How long have I been baking with butter or butter substitutes? Let’s round to twenty years.

So, fast-forward to the moment of mixing where I’m looking at this crazy butter concoction, waiting for my beater to beat it into a recognizable form, and it just does not look normal. It was yellow puffs of clouds separated by narrow streams of brown sugar and ginger. One and a half hours after entering the kitchen to make muffins, I remembered (too late) that a stick of butter equals a half cup. Not a quarter cup.

I was out of ginger. I was out of lemon. I was out of the desire to do any more baking. Izzy took over the kitchen and we sipped smoothies instead of butter-muffins.

Some days are just worse than others. So why did I think my brain lapses would go away by dinner-time of the same day when I began the chili and cornbread for tonight’s dinner?

I Gave My Son His Most Embarrassing Moment

My oldest is in 6th grade, ruling the school as only 6th graders in elementary school know how. They’ve had a section on the medieval time period (yes, I successfully spelled medieval without the spellcheck!) which culminated in a great Medieval Feast this week. Every year I’ve seen the 6th graders come to school for their feast in actual medieval costuming. I’m talking serious costuming, not the homemade or Walmart kind.

Self-Revelry Time

My mom raised me in homemade costumes, and most of my kids’ costumes have been homemade as well. I’d like to say I’m creative that way, but really I’m just kinda cheap. I didn’t want to take the homemade route for Blake’s medieval feast, though. I mean seriously, my oldest will be in junior high next year! This feast will be one of his best memories from elementary school. So I surprised him and rented a really beautiful knight’s costume (from a wonderful shop owner who gave me a good discount since it was a school event).
knight
Blake was also supposed to bring in a non-paper and non-plastic plate and cup. I was so excited to provide him with a metal Armatale platter and a stainless steel adult beverage shaker goblet. I packed it in a brown cloth bag that I never use and sent him to the feast.

And I flirted with, but refrained from, giddiness all day, resisting unusual urges to pop in at the school and check things out.

Confession Time

When we picked Blake up from school, I was surprised at his less-than-enthusiastic response when I asked him how his day was. He handed me the bag of dinnerware as he said, “There was something weird in the bag, Mom.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to say,” he said.

Israel and I exchanged the typical parental glances you have all exchanged yourselves if you have children who know how to speak. I opened the bag up and saw the platter. I saw the goblet. It all looked fine so far. And then I moved them out of the way to dig deeper and found something rather strappy and made of fabric. I pulled it out, shook it a bit to untangle it, and then shoved it right back in again when I recognized the Victoria’s Secret logo etched into the thong waistband.

Israel and I started cracking up. I think it’s better for Blake’s recovery that way — you know, to laugh about it.

“I’m so sorry, Blake!” I told him. I swear I don’t remember ever using that bag before.

I encouraged Blake to talk about it. For therapy.

So here’s how it went down. He pulled his platter and goblet out of the bag, and out slipped the above-mentioned accompanying item.

“What’s this?” he said out loud and began to untangle said strappy item while his friends watched on, curious, until the nature of the formerly unrecognizable item became apparent. And then he shoved it back into the bag.

At least it wasn’t in any sort of showy pattern or color. And I think it’s better for him that there was less of it, rather than . . . more.

I think. . . ?

* * *

Note: Today’s blog post is a response to the Carpool Queen’s Confession post and her question: “Because I’m all about laughing ministering to the needs of others, what can you confess to and make everyone else feel better?”