balancing “screen time”

IMGP8598i’ve been thinking a lot about the healthiest ways to incorporate apps and technology into our family life. many parents deal with the issue by setting a daily time limit, and while that seems so nice and tidy and easily quantifiable (there’s even an app for that!), i know that if i were playing an interesting game and i was just about to complete a challenge and someone told me i had to turn the game off right at that moment …. i’d whine and complain and possibly even throw a giant fit too. i would also feel like i had a right to use up every minute of my maximum allowed screen time every day, as though if i didn’t use it all up, i’d be getting cheated out of my rightful screen time.

if the happy family tried that option, i’d spend large portions of my day having conversations about “just 5 more minutes” or “but i’ve only had 25 minutes of screen time!” or “that screen time didn’t count because i didn’t like that game” or “what if i called granna on facetime, would that count?”* and other “referee” questions in which i’d be constantly re-interpreting and re-creating arbitrary rules.  that makes me cranky.  plus, those questions are not teaching my child the bigger life lesson of how to include technology in a balanced diet of daily activities.

my friend carisa kluver created this wonderful model for teaching kids how to balance their own media diet (follow this link!  read the article!), but i found that it was too abstract for me to explain to my 4 year old, so i broke down the first component — balance — into a system that he could understand and for now, i’ll judge the quality and engagement components myself.

IMGP8584

i started by listing big category names for the activities in our lives and i came up with seven: play, go outside, make something (art, food, etc.), screen time, quiet time, chores (or “housework”), and read (or write, or listen to a story, etc.).  with the happy little dude’s help, i created 7 illustrations (on circles of paper) to depict each of those activities.

IMGP8607(i was especially excited about the illustration he drew of a train going through a tunnel when i asked him what we should draw for “play.”)

IMGP8611then i talked to him about how these are seven different activities we can include in our day and that we need to try to keep them in balance and not just do one or two for the whole day. i realized as i was trying to explain the “balance” concept with my hands that i didn’t think he’d had much (if any) experience with a set of balance scales, so that analogy was a bit weak for him.  since then, we’ve played together with this app and he’s referenced the same “balance” hand gestures i used originally, so i think he’s getting it at some level.

IMGP8590either way, there have been at least several occasions where he’s asked for screen time and i’ll say, “i think we’ve had enough for now, it’s time to do something different” and, instead of fussing about it, he’ll hold his hands out to either side as though weighing something and say, “because otherwise we’ll be out of balance, right mom?” and then he’ll run through the different balance circles in his head (now that we’ve done them often enough that he has them memorized) and he’ll pick an activity that we haven’t done yet today.  we don’t do every activity every day and we’ve already had the discussion about how we can’t do six of the activities for 5 minutes each and expect to get 2 hours of screen time (although i’m guessing we’ll have to have that particular conversation more than once).  it’s not a perfect system (there are still more requests for screen time than any of the other circles) but for now, his response has been even more positive than i’d hoped.

IMGP8578here’s the thing … talking about the balance circles helps me, too.  it forces me to not just obsess about trying to get all the housework done in one day.  it reminds me to go outside with him more often.  i don’t have to just fall back to saying, “go play while i put the baby to sleep,” instead i can say things like, “why don’t you go have some quiet time while i’m putting the baby to sleep and afterwards, you and i can make something together?” it also helps me to realize that i don’t need a giant list activities for us to choose from every weekend, but having one or two special “make something” activities in mind is a good idea (but if i need last-minute inspiration, there’s always my pinterest board). in other words, the circles keep me in balance as well.  and the best part?  i feel like the conversations we have about screen time now are helping him form habits that will serve him well the rest of his life, instead of just honing his negotiation skills haggling for more minutes.  they’re helping me improve my own screen time habits as well!

if you’d like to use balance circles similar to ours, i redesigned a few, cleaned up the illustrations a bit and made a pdf which you can download here.  if you’d like to create your own balance circles, you can download a blank form here.  i’m sure some of our circles will change over time and we’ll add new ones too (“homework” comes to mind), but for at least a little while, we’ll use the balance circles.

*by the way, the answer to this question is: “facetime with granna does not count toward your daily screentime except if you spend the whole time playing tiny bang story with granna.  then, that’s just working the system, buddy.”

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the wild rompdress: a free pattern and tutorial

the wild rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.comi am sooooo excited about this new pattern and tutorial!  ever since i started shopping for baby girl clothes, i’ve been loving this new (to me, anyway) concept of a dress with a full bodysuit (or “onesie”) attached underneath it.  only one piece of clothing to keep track of, cuter than a plain bodysuit (also hides blowout stains better with the two layers!), better belly coverage than a dress, win, win, win!

see my cute bodysuit?  :: www.thisishappystuff.comonly problem?  there doesn’t seem to be an industry-standard name for this article of clothing (onesie dress? (no, that’s this) romper? jumper? dress? (too general) body double? (no, that’s this)) and so i was unable to find any online tutorials or patterns for how to make one.  so…. i designed one myself.  and came up with this name and i’m sticking to it.  without further ado, i now present…. the wild rompdress!

supplies needed:

pattern (download it here)

knit fabric (i used 2 t-shirts)

3 sets of snaps

1″ wide strip of rib knit (a yard long or so)

+———————————————–+

prepwork–  print and assemble the pattern like this:

wild rompdress pattern :: www.thisishappystuff.coma note about sizing–this pattern still sort of fits my 4 month old girl, but some of the rompdresses i’ve sewn her are starting to get a bit snug.  i debated whether to call this “3 month” or “3-6 month” and, well, as you probably know, not all 3-6 month babies are the same size, and there is no industry-standard size, so… i think it will fit most 3 month old babies, and might fit petite 6 month olds.  in general, softer, stretchier knits will be more forgiving in the size and fit.

1.  cut out the dress.  here’s the original shirt i cut dress pieces from (the curved hem is helpful, but not required):

the "before" picture :: www.thisishappystuff.com and here’s how i laid the pattern piece on it (note:  this is only through the front layer of the shirt, not both).  (also note:  if you are making the flat front option, fold the pattern on the pattern’s dotted line and place that line on the fold)laying out the pattern :: www.thisishappystuff.commake a tiny clip where the pleat is marked:snip, clip! :: www.thisishappystuff.comfor this one, i chose to include sleeves.  i liked the bound edge on the shirt’s neckline and decided to use it as the hem on the sleeves.  for another version, i liked the pintucks on the bodice and incorporated those on the sleeves.  get creative!

laying out the sleeve :: www.thisishappystuff.com

when all the dress pieces are cut out, you’ll have this:

rompdress pieces :: www.thisishappystuff.com

 

2.  cut out the bodysuit.  i cut this one from a pair of stretchy pants:bodysuit before :: www.thisishappystuff.comthere was a little bleach spot on the pants, but that’ll be underneath the dress and no one will ever see it, so no worries! when your bodysuit pieces are cut out, this is what you’ll have:

rompdress bodysuit pieces :: www.thisishappystuff.com

3.  sew pleat detail onto dress. (note: if you’re making the flat front option, skip this step)   mark a 3″ line where you’ve clipped the fabric, parallel to the center fold.mark the pleat :: www.thisishappystuff.com

sew on that marked line: sew the pleat :: www.thisishappystuff.com

mark the center fold with a pin, then match the pin up with your seam to form the pleat.pin the center, squish the pleat :: www.thisishappystuff.com

press the pleat flat and pin it.  press the pleat :: www.thisishappystuff.compin the pleat :: www.thisishappystuff.comi find it helpful to put two pins in the front, and three pins in the back to help keep front and back clear for the next few steps.

two pins in front, three in the back :: www.thisishappystuff.com4.  sew side seams.

i wanted to note here that since i preserved the original shirt hems on the dress and since the curve was different than the pattern, when i lined up the side seams for this step, the arm holes didn’t line up.  it’s more important that the hem line up, so…oh no, the sides don't match! :: www.thisishappystuff.com

just trim the arm hole to match up and you’re good to go! easy fix :: www.thisishappystuff.comrompdress bodysuit side seam  once your side seams on both the dress and body suit are sewn, press them open.side seam pressed flat :: www.thisishappystuff.com5.  sew the neckline.  this step will connect the dress to the bodysuit.  you have two choices here– with seam binding or without.  the brown polka dot dress you’ve seen so far in this tutorial was sewn without, so i’ll show that option first.

option a:  finished edge (no seam binding)

the trickiest part of this entire pattern is figuring out how to orient the two pieces when you sew them together.  especially if you’re choosing option a.  so just trust me when i say that you want to turn both pieces inside out and tuck the bodysuit inside the dress so that the pressed seams are both facing you (not facing each other).the tricky bit of the rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.com

sew a 1/4″ seam around the neckline only.  in this example, i also sewed the armholes, but it ended up making the dress a little too snug, so please don’t make that same mistake.do as i SAY, not as i DO :: www.thisishappystuff.com

once the seam is sewn, turn the dress right side out, press the seam flat and crisp, then top-stitch right next to the seam (again, only around the neckline).

seamed edge :: www.thisishappystuff.comrompdress, topstitched edge :: www.thisishappystuff.comoption b: seam binding (this one is less confusing!)

for this option, just tuck the bodysuit (right side out) inside the dress (right side out) so that everything is oriented exactly the way it will be in the final outfit.

they roared their terrible roars :: www.thisishappystuff.comand gnashed their terrible teeth :: www.thisishappystuff.combaste the two layers together with a 1/4″ seam. cut a 1″ wide strip of rib knit and press it in half to create the seam binding:

rib knit seam binding :: www.thisishappystuff.comsew  this rib knit seam binding along the neckline with a zig-zag stitch that overlaps the unfinished edge of the rib knit.  stretching the binding a bit as you sew (and not stretching the garment as you sew) will result in a smoother finish.

we'll eat you up, we love you so! :: www.thisishappystuff.com(see that armhole above?  that’s what it should look like instead of the photos of the brown dress, no matter whether you choose option a or option b)

6.  finish the sleeves (option 1) or armholes (option 2)

option 1:  sew a seam on the sleeves and press open:

rompdress sleeve seams :: www.thisishappystuff.com...pressed open :: www.thisishappystuff.commatch up the unfinished edge (the curved edge) to the armhole on the dress.  start by lining up the sleeve seam to the side seam of the dress (right sides together).  then, continue to pin the back of the dress to the sleeve.  once you’ve pinned the back, pin the front.

the next tricky bit :: www.thisishappystuff.comit should overlap the back like this:

rompdress shoulder seam (inside out) :: www.thisishappystuff.comtuck the sleeve under your sewing machine foot and sew all the way around:

how to sew rompdress sleeve :: www.thisishappystuff.comrepeat on the other side, then turn it inside out and it should look like this:

rompdress top :: www.thisishappystuff.comnote:  if you have access to the intended recipient of the rompdress, now is a good time to try it on.  if the arm holes or neckline are too tight, you can fix both of those issues by increasing the circumference of the sleeve.  if you just need a slight adjustment, rip out the sleeves, sew a narrower sleeve seam and repeat the sleeve-setting steps above.  if you need a lot more room, try adding a bit of fabric between the seams of the sleeve to extend the circumference further.  as long as the front and back of the dress/bodysuit overlap a bit, it will still work fine!

option 2:  armholes

the easiest way to finish the armholes is to overlap the front and back at the shoulders (with the back flap on top) and pin in place.  i measured the circumference of the armholes and found them to be about 9″ but as long as your two sides are the same, and as long as the rompdress fits (see note above about how the size of the armholes determines the fit of the dress) then finish the edges with seam binding similar to the neckline shown. hey, haven't we seen this already?  :: www.thisishappystuff.com

finished armholes :: www.thisishappystuff.com

7. finish the bottom of the bodysuit using more rib knit seam binding.

rompdress finished bodysuit edge :: www.thisishappystuff.comadd snaps (see tutorial for how to set snaps here).  i usually fold the bodysuit in half vertically to find the middle and place one pin on the middle front and one on the middle back.  then, measure about 1″ to 1.5″ away from the middle pins and place pins there.  add snaps where your pins are.

snap, snap :: www.thisishappystuff.com8. stand back and admire your work.  it’s done!

the wid rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.comhere are a few other examples i’ve sewn up:

the flat-front option (in this example, the teal fabric is a rib knit and the stripe is a regular stretch jersey.  i don’t necessarily recommend doing this as it was very difficult to keep things from stretching out of shape, but it did result in the largest size of the samples i made!)–

the wild rompdress (flat front version) :: www.thisishappystuff.comthe first one i made:

the wild rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.com

here are the pintuck sleeves i mentioned earlier:pintuck sleeves on the wild rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.comand i was out of snaps and impatient to finish this one, so i just cut snaps out of an old white onesie.  not the most attractive option, perhaps, but if you don’t want to mess with setting your own snaps, this is a perfectly serviceable option! second-hand snap tape on the wild rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.comsince this was the first one, the first iteration of it had a bodysuit that was way too tight (i’ve fixed that in the pattern that you’re using), so i added these side panels with the dress pattern.  i actually kind of like that detail, and if you do too, just piece your fabric together before cutting out your pattern. pretty gussets on the wild rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.comand one more, just for cute’s sake:

the wild rompdress :: www.thisishappystuff.comi would love to hear your feedback on this pattern and see any garments sewn from this pattern.  what do you call this piece of clothing?  let the wild rompdress start!

Posted in baby stuff, crafty stuff, tutorials | 3 Comments

movie monday: summer storm

although this footage was taken over a month ago, something very similar happened yesterday, so i got motivated to edit it into what you see here.  enjoy!  (and go out and get muddy!)

 

Summer Storm from carissaabc on Vimeo.

Posted in kid stuff, summer, video | 3 Comments

dinner: the playbook (part 4, or “i can’t stop trying these recipes out!”)

i’ve now made three more recipes from dinner: the playbook.  first up–buttermilk herb baked chicken fingers.  one thing i was surprised by was the color of the chicken fingers when they were done baking–white as skeleton fingers!  i popped them under a broiler for a few minutes and got a bit of brown, but despite the pale color, they were nicely crunchy (at least on the top… the bottom sides were a bit soft). IMG_3417 i thought they were delicious, but mr. happy stuff was lukewarm on them and i had to coax the happy little dude to eat one (his eating habits are soooo unpredictable these days!).IMG_3419

the good part about their response was that there were two chicken fingers leftover.  which i then toasted a few days later and used to top this salad which was super fantastico delicious!  i almost want to make more chicken fingers so that i can eat this salad again…. but i don’t really use a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breast since (when you’re eating locally sourced, small farm chicken) it’s such a pricey cut. IMG_3443 i also happened to have some rice leftover from some rare chinese takeout that made its way into our house last week, so i tried out the crispy rice omelet.  this isn’t the prettiest photo (i barely remembered to snap a shot before it was eaten), but it was yummy.IMG_3459 the most recent recipe to get tried out was the chicken parm meatballs and i have to say they are by far the biggest winner of all the recipes we’ve tried from the book so far.  the happy little dude asked for seconds and at them with gusto.IMG_3471after much wheedling, i was able to convince him to save three for a lunch later this week.  doesn’t it look handsome? i’m a bit jealous that he’ll be the lucky recipient of this lunch.  i’m adding a note to this recipe:  make a double (or possibly triple) batch.  (apparently, it freezes well too!)IMG_3472

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movie monday: chatty baby

someone’s getting talkative!

chatty baby from carissaabc on Vimeo.

flashback to another chatty baby

another flashback

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dinner: the playbook (part 3)

seriously, i did bookmark some recipes that weren’t purely familiar comfort food, but when my boy asked for pizza and it was just the two of us for supper that night (another frisbee night), i couldn’t resist trying out the pan-fried whole wheat pizzas.  once again, a familiar recipe with a new technique. IMG_3364this one? this one was an unqualified hit.  it really was easy and way more delicious than the pita pizzas we’ve been using as our emergency last-minute pizza option.  definitely going to do this again.  but next time, i’ll make sure i have more of my favorite toppings so i’m not left with “just cheese.”  also, i recommend not doing this when the baby is starvingly hungry and you’re the only parent in the house so you’re forced to choose between burning your pizza or letting the baby scream while you put her down for just a minute to go and check on it.

IMG_3365 IMG_3363

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dinner: the playbook (part 2)

IMG_3360the second recipe that i knew i could pull off on a working weeknight was the spinach and feta omelet.  the technique she describes is a bit different than the one i usually use, so i followed it as closely as i could, although it’s hard to know exactly how hot the skillet should be, so i may have overcooked it in an effort to avoid raw egg, but the parts that weren’t overcooked were a wonderful texture and flavor (reminiscent of my old family favorite spinach souffle recipe).

IMG_3357the happy little dude has recently decided that he “hates eggs” so i just made him one with simple sharp cheddar and convinced him to eat half of it.  mr. happy stuff was playing ultimate frisbee that evening, so i still have no idea if he would have liked it or not.  again, not a new recipe, but a new (to me) technique that bears a repeat attempt.

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dinner: the playbook, challenge (part 1)

photo 3as soon as i read about jenny rosentrach’s most recent challenge, i signed up.  i was thrilled to be one of those selected to participate (a free advance copy of her upcoming cookbook?  $50 gift card to target?  yes!!!).  my book and gift card arrived in the mail last week and i eagerly opened it and began combing through the recipes.  we are still in that lucky, blissful stage of new-baby-hood where friends are bringing us meals to help us with my transition back to work. on the days when we don’t have dinner delivered to our front door, i’m still figuring out how to juggle everything and we’ve been getting by with the “standby quickies” that have always been family favorites (chili, taco salad, pita pizzas, quesadillas, mac & cheese from a box, i’m sure you all know the drill).  i wasn’t sure how i was going to squeeze in three new recipes this week, buuuuuut… it turns out that jenny has thoughtfully included some “standby quickies”of her own in this book.  i’ve made three things from the book already this week and as soon as i can get my hands on some fresh dill, i’ll be cranking out a fourth recipe.

if you follow me on instagram or twitter, you’ve already seen sneak peeks of these, but i’m only just now able to sit down and blog them (i’ve got about a 20 minute window left, so maybe i’ll just do the first one for now).

on monday, for lunch (we were having dinner delivered by a friend, but i don’t work mondays, so i had a bit of time to make lunch), i decided to make her “easy homemade macaroni and cheese.” photo 2i almost felt like i was cheating (weren’t we supposed be trying to break out of our ruts?), but…. it wasn’t from a box, and i’ve been meaning to try mac and cheese from scratch for awhile to see if it would be as wildly popular with my boy as the boxed stuff is.   i was surprised at how quickly and easily the cheese sauce came together (and it wasn’t all lumpy like i’d expected it to be!  may have been because i only had whole milk in the house and so i used that??).  my boy doesn’t like anything “crunchy” (unless it’s a fresh veggie or fruit) and the bread crumb topping wasn’t going to fly with him, so i made my first alteration (true to jenny’s style) by topping only half of the dish with bread crumbs and serving him only the crumbless side.  i also shredded cheese over the top of his portion once it was on his plate (in a nod to the genius of noodles & co.) and threw some trusty baby carrots on the side and put it on the table next to the ambulance.

photo 4my own plate had a serving from the crumb side and some leftover carrot salad i’d made last weekend.  (and also some traffic cones because, y’know, safety first!

photo 5the verdict?  he finished his portion, but didn’t ask for seconds and when i packed it in his lunchbox the next day, he said he didn’t eat much of it  and the second day of “seconds” came back untouched.  i thought it was tasty, but a bit dry and i wondered why homemade mac and cheese almost always calls for the dish to be baked when you never bake the boxed stuff.  i haven’t given up on a homemade mac and cheese recipe and i liked the roots of this one.  the next time i make it, i’ll try skipping the breadcrumbs and the baking and just serving it fresh out of the pot.  it’ll be faster and creamier anyway.  i might even take it a step further and throw in a chunk of cream cheese (like noodles & co.) if i’m feeling especially decadent.   i wrote notes in my copy of the book.  that’s a good sign.

photo 1

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movie monday: sibling fun

my baby sister from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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tutorial: refreshing the elastic in best bottom diapers

IMGP8068-002it’s been awhile since i’ve done a tutorial and this one is fairly specific, but i didn’t find any other tutorials quite like this online, so i thought i’d share my solution to saggy elastic on cloth diaper covers.  although we use best bottom diapers, this tutorial would work on any similar diaper covers.  so… if your diapers look like the brown one below:

IMGP8067-001then your diapers could use some fresh elastic.

you’ll need these supplies:

IMGP8072the ball point bodkin is optional–you could use safety pins–but it’s a really handy tool that makes this job soooooo much easier.

step one:

IMGP8075make a tiny perpendicular incision in each end of the bindings on the legs and the back center of the diaper cover.

step two:

IMGP8077thread a 3-4″ piece of elastic through the end of the bodkin, then insert the ball-end into one of the incisions and pull it through.

IMGP8079IMGP8082IMGP8086step three:

when you get the elastic to the end, sew it with a compact zig-zag stitch both perpendicularly across and then parallel to the elastic.

IMGP8087 IMGP8090step four:

pull the bodkin all the way out and adjust the elastic to the tightness you desire, then zig-zag both directions again and trim any remaining elastic away.

IMGP8089IMGP8097that’s a little perkier!  just to be clear, in the brown diaper cover above, the inner gussets had 4″ elastics and the outer gussets had 5″ lengths.  when i compared the finished diaper to the brand new diaper (the green one above), i decided to change the lengths to 3″ and 4″ for subsequent diaper repairs.

that’s it!  i’d love to hear if this tutorial is helpful to you.  i’ve also replaced the velcro on these covers in the past, so if you’d like instructions on how to do that, let me know and i can try to put together a tutorial.

 

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