[UPDATED]: SCREEN TIME FOR BABIES

Back in July I wrote an article about screen time for babies and how it is a big “no-no” for children under 2 years of age. As much as I wish I were updating this article with new info about how it is not only good to let your kids watch TV that young, but also recommended for admission into Ivy League schools later in life, sadly I am not. I am here to confess that I am a complete failure at this; my 1 year-old daughter loves watching Baby Einstein videos and they have made the last few weeks more bearable for everyone in this family.

If you have been keeping up with my PCS adventures, then you know that my family has been without household goods for 34 days now. The first week was especially hard because not only did we not have anything in our house, but also my husband was not home to help entertain our LO. That’s when I turned to Baby Einstein and never looked back. I stumbled upon one of the videos on YouTube and played it for her; it magically kept her still and focused for 20 minutes. I then found a whole series of Baby Einstein classics on Amazon Prime and introduced a different one each day while I cleaned and prepped our house for moving out. I even had them saved to my iPhone for her to watch on our 14+ hour plane ride and they truly were a life saver. Now that we are temporarily living in a hotel until a house becomes available, Baby Einstein videos help break up our day and keep things exciting for our LO. Continue reading

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Trees for Troops

Now that the holidays are upon us, do not be surprised if our blog posts become few and far between. We have not forgotten about you, we are just spending time with our families. I feel very lucky that this year my husband and I get to share our daughter’s first Christmas with family. Not all military families are lucky enough to share the holidays with their spouse and children, much less their extended family back home. I saw this story that recognizes the sacrifice of military members and their families during the upcoming holiday season and just had to share with our readers.

There are many ways to spread holiday cheer, and donating Christmas trees is one of them. Minter’s Farm, a family-owned and -operated Christmas tree farm in Georgia, is part of a network of tree farms around the U.S. that donates trees to the Trees for Troops program through the Christmas Spirit Foundation. For the 11th year, FedEx will collect the trees from various farms and deliver them to troops at military bases across the U.S. and in Guam. It’s just one more way we help with How the Holidays Arrive.®

Making the holidays special for military families
FedEx is expanding their support of the armed forces this holiday season by working with the USO and continuing their support of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation’s Trees for Troops program. Marvin Hill, a FedEx employee and 35 year military veteran, said, “The holidays start with a tree.” Hill himself was a recipient of a tree while stationed abroad and said he loved the feeling he would get when the Christmas trees were delivered.


Since the Trees for Troops program launched in 2005, FedEx has shipped more than 176,000 real Christmas trees to service members and their families – covering every branch of the military at close to 65 bases in 17 countries.

Trees for Troops kicked off in Indianapolis on Nov. 15 when real Christmas trees were loaded onto FedEx Express airplanes for overseas bases. Personalized holiday messages sent via Twitter and with #treesfortroops or #fedexcares were tied to each tree before they were sent to bases. 


Tomorrow MCAS Miramar, our home base, is distributing Christmas trees from this program. I hope these trees bring joy to the recipients and I wish everyone near and far a very merry Christmas!

Back-to-School Mini Series: Online Organizer for Busy Moms with Busy Kids

My husband and I are known for our punctuality. You can ask any of our friends and they will tell you “the Morris’ are never late, in fact, they are always early.” That is actually how we met. We both regularly showed up to Cross Country practice 15-minutes early and a bond was formed. Now that I have a LO that 15-minute early arrival is getting shorter and shorter. I hate to admit it, but I have even completely forgotten about some meetings and events that I promised to attend. If it does not get put on my calendar right away, with a bunch of alerts, there is a good chance I’ll miss it. I get overwhelmed just thinking about all the activities and events that will be added to our schedule once DD is enrolled in school and sports. Apparently, 1 in 3 parents have messed up picking up/dropping off their kids from extracurricular activities because of disorganization. Oh geez, that is definitely going to happen to us. I try to keep all of our appointments and DD’s playdates on a Google calendar that is shared with my husband, but I can guarantee you he either a) has forgot how to access it or b) has it disabled so that it does not send him alerts. This is going to be a real problem in a few years and I think I’ve found a solution.on-the-go-planner.jpg

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nikki Sacks, the co-founder of PodKeeper, an online organizer for busy parents with busy kids. Nikki told me a little bit about her family and what inspired her to create PodKeeper. Nikki and her husband both have successful careers along with two school-aged kids. Go ahead and add room mom and a youth soccer coach to their resumes and you’ve got a very busy family. Nikki said they wanted a better way to manage all of the day-to-day activities so they came up with PodKeeper. PodKeeper is a game changer for parents as they can easily access the schedules and details for many groups from a single dashboard.

Who here hates group texts and emails?? EVERYONE! They become so cumbersome the more people you add to them and the more details you try to flesh out. Something always gets mixed up or completely overlooked. My husband absolutely hates group emails. I’m pretty sure he just stops reading them after the first reply all. I don’t blame him, but that leaves me sifting through emails looking for important details. Through the PodKeeper web app, parents simply create an online group called a “Pod,” invite other parents to join, and finally have a place to stay on top of all the details. They can also manage household details with their spouse or a co-parent by creating a family Pod. PodKeeper acts as a personal planner app and syncs with online calendars.

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Here is a screenshot of a discussion board for one of the Pods

PodKeeper is geared towards anyone who is in charge of organizing an event, team, class, etc. or who wants to be informed about said event. As an organizer, all you have to do is add the email addresses of the people you want to contact and they will be invited to join your “Pod.” I am excited to share PodKeeper with my family. Just this week, my aunt sent out an updated family contact list with 44 email addresses on it! (We have a big catholic family.) You can imagine how insane those email chains can get when we try to plan family events. When we start using PodKeeper, we will be able to easily schedule events like “pumpkin carving” and “ornament exchange;” create sign up lists for food and party supplies; store files and photos from the events; and even provide important last minute updates. I can already tell you some people in my family (*cough* *cough* my husband) will not join PodKeeper. I asked Nikki if this will be a problem for the group or that individual. I worried that if he does not accept the invite he will be left out. Nikki assured me this would not be the case at all. As long as their email address has been added to the Pod then they will be up-to-date with all the information via email. It also syncs with Google calendar, Yahoo calendar, Apple iCal and Microsoft Outlook.

If that hasn’t already convinced you to give PodKeeper a try, I am not sure you are involved in enough activities. Go volunteer to organize the next playdate and introduce PodKeeper to your group; you will look like a genius!

Learn more by visiting http://www.podkeeper.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube.

Screen Time for Babies: If this is wrong then I don’t want to be right

As a FTM I am constantly worried about messing up my kid. I am frequently reminded that I have no clue what I am doing. Should I have taken a test before they allowed me to leave the hospital with a baby?? Probably. I’m trying to follow all the rules. Use the ABCs of sleeping (Alone, on her Back, and in a Crib). Check. Exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months. Check. When introducing solids at 6-months old start with vegetables first so baby doesn’t get hooked on sugar. Check. No screen time for the first two years. Errr, what?? How is that even possible?

For the first two weeks of DD‘s life I really embraced being a couch potato. Those were the good ole days, when she slept for 20 hours a day. As long as she was in my arms or on my chest I could literally be doing anything else and it would not bother her. I basically lived on the couch catching up on all my TV programs. Being a mom was a piece of cake. Then I read an article that said even having the TV on in the background was not good for the baby. OMG what am I going to do all day? Luckily a new, growing baby is a lot of work and left very little room for watching TV.

Nowadays, I try really hard not to turn the TV on in front of DD. She makes too much noise babbling and yelling at us or the screen to enjoy a show anyways. We wait until she is asleep before watching anything. Sometimes the 45 minutes DH and I watch TV before bed is our only alone time. It is a great opportunity to relax and reconnect.  BC we watched a lot of TV together. It was fun discovering a new show with him or re-watching an old favorite. We have spent a lot of money at Best Buy over the years filling our DVD cabinets with our beloved shows. We have even hosted TV show themed parties and movie marathons. Xfinity recently did a study that says TV is the glue to a stronger marriage. I definitely find this to be true, now more than ever. With a baby in the house, it is hard to find time to be a normal couple.

Impact of TV on Relationships-Infographic

Anyone who has ever met my husband knows he does not like to cuddle. So I cherish the time we spend sitting next to each other on the couch sharing a blanket and watching TV. This is our “cuddle” time. TV brings us together and keeps us together. Just the other day we started watching a new show “Rick and Morty,” and DH asked how I like the show. I told him that I thought the show was OK, but what I absolutely love about it is how hard it makes him laugh. He said that made me sound like a serial killer. If liking something that makes someone I love genuinely happy makes me a serial killer then I guess I’m guilty as charged.

So you can see that TV is a big, important part of our lives. I’d like to be able to include our LO in this bonding time, but I seriously don’t want to cause her any developmental harm. I’m not saying I want her plopped in front of the TV, vegging out for hours during the day so I can have “mommy time”, but I’d like to not feel guilty if we have the TV on after lunch and a show captivates her attention for 10 minutes. There are plenty of other things I can feel guilty about as a mom; I don’t need TV to be one of them.

Being the Nervous Nelly that I am, I did a bunch of research on the topic at hand and found some interesting information. At first, I found that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) specifically discourages any passive screen time for children under 2 years old, i.e., plopping kid in front of TV/using TV as a babysitter. “The concern for risk is that some kids who watch a lot of media actually have poor language skills, so there’s a deficit in their language development. We also have concerns about other developmental issues because they’re basically missing out on other developmentally appropriate activities,” says Dr. Ari Brown, the lead author on the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 policy statement discouraging screen time for babies under 2.

Ummm, no thanks! The 10 minutes of peace and quiet I get while DD watches TV are not worth her missing the boat on language and other communication skills. Apparently just having the TV on in the background, is enough to delay language development. As parents we speak about 940 words per hour when a child is around, but when the TV is on that number drops to 770! Fewer words mean less learning. Yikes! It is not just the number of spoken words that are crucial to a child’s development, but also the exchange of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language used during conversation. Whenever one party, child or parent, is watching TV, the exchange comes to a halt.

I totally get what the AAP is saying, but I have a hard time believing that parents are able to stick with this recommendation in this day and age. My LO FaceTimes with her Grandparents at least once a week, she loves sitting with her Daddy when he is playing computer games, and I am constantly using my iPhone in front of her to take our daily Tinybeans photos (if you are not sure what Tinybeans is, check out Claire’s post Keeping up with Tinybeans). Basically, we have already failed her as parents. I refuse to accept this fact so early in the game though. I am also super annoyed with the internet for showing the AAP’s 2011 statement first on all the search engines I am using. Have they not revised this in the past 5 years? FaceTime was barely a thing when this statement came out. Come on guys get with the program! Tell me I’m not making my kid dumb!

Bazinga! More recently (2015), the AAP is rethinking their original ban on screen time for children under 2. They are now suggesting it is OK in a controlled situation where the child is still interacting with a parent or a live person on screen. The AAP still doesn’t want kids watching hours of mindless television or YouTube videos, but “the latest neuroscience research shows that the more a digital experience approximates live two-way communication, the more a child younger than 2 will understand and process it,” Brown said. For instance, when a child is sitting and watching a TV program or a video on an iPhone, there’s not a great deal of activity in the brain. But when the child is watching someone they know or even someone they don’t know on a webcam during a video chat, “there’s a whole lot of brain activity going on,” Brown said. Boom! Winning! I feel a 1000 times better now, don’t you?

I am a little disappointed that I wont be sharing an episode of Game of Thrones with my LO anytime soon, but any and all guilt that I felt about letting her watch Baby Signing Time while I wash the dishes is completely gone. I may actually be helping her development with that show! It is currently the only show she watches. I think there is something about the other babies on the screen that intrigues her. I know there are a lot of other well-designed shows out there that teach kids literacy, math, science, problem-solving, and pro-social behavior. Children get more out of these interactive programs like Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street when they answer the characters’ questions. Go, Diego, Go, a spin-off from Dora the Explorer, is one of Claire’s son’s favorite shows. Hopefully she can rest easy tonight knowing that this show is not melting his brain, and conversely has been given several awards stating that it is an outstanding children’s program. Way to go Claire!

So basically TV can cause a lot of developmental harm to your child, but if you use common sense and set limits for screen time you will be doing alright as a parent. Babies’ brains are growing fast and are easily influenced by stimuli. Try to eliminate any and all non-interactive screen time for children under two years old. FaceTime, Skype, and other interactive TV shows are OK, but should be utilized with a parent. If you are unsure about a show your child is watching, check out Common Sense Media which helps families make smart media choices. Hopefully this information is useful for other moms out there and removes some of that “mom guilt” we all tend to put on ourselves.