09 August 2018

Screen-Free Babyhood: The First Six Months

Before Cyrus was born, I declared to the family at large that he would be a "screen-free baby." Now, I don't even know if this is an actual term or not, but I knew what I wanted for his babyhood, and it was a life of entertainments other than backlit screens with flashing lights and sounds and colors.

I'm not anti-technology. I'm a blogger! I appreciate social media, and the potential it gives me for creative expression and staying in touch with long-distant family and friends.

But...I am a little bit anti-technology. I appreciate all of the benefits...but...I think in many instances, the plethora of screens and technology we now live with sometimes deteriorate our quality of life rather than add to it. In the smartphone epidemic, to me, I see played out some words written by C.S. Lewis in his work of genius, The Screwtape Letters. Advice from a more experienced demon to his nephew on making his human's life less than worthwhile:

"You will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say...'I now see that I spent most my life doing in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”

I have many good memories of family movie nights when I was growing up, and time spent watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood while my mom was cooking dinner. I'm not intending on a screen-free childhood for Cyrus, but during this very early time of his life, I see no reason to start laying the groundwork for a future in which he naturally turns to any available screen at any available moment, simply because that's what is his ingrained habit.

We're nearly six months in to screen-free babyhood at this point, and I am under no illusions--I know the first six months are the easiest! But I have every intention of continuing as long as these habits are beneficial to our family life. 

What does screen-free babyhood look like?

For us, it just simply means that the baby isn't allowed to look at screens for entertainment purposes--with exceptions only for video calls with faraway family, and photo-taking. We do use Youtube for Cyrus, but not for videos, just for playing music for his daily dance-parties with Angel...and sometimes for playing hymns or classical music when I'm rocking him to sleep.

In addition, Angel and I generally stay off our computers or phones when we're taking care of him while he's awake. He often can't have our full attention, as there's lots of housework and other work and social activities that happen during his waking hours, but whenever he can have our full attention, I don't want a habit of taking care of him with one hand and checking email with the other to develop. This means that any blog post writing or photo and video editing or emailing happen while he's asleep, and times when Angel and I sit down to watch a movie at home have become rare indeed! Cyrus mainly hangs out in our main room of our home, and our computers are kept in the office, which means that we have to be more intentional with our use of computer time instead of casually turning them on whenever (this is easier for me than for Angel, haha!).

What have the results been?

Well, he's a not-quite six month old baby. I don't think there are any results at this point, but I know I sure appreciate our playtimes and watching Angel and him play. I like the family dynamic we have going--because the option of laying baby in front of a video while we busy ourselves getting something done is not an option, we have to be more creative with how we accomplish tasks, and we use available family time intentionally. One interesting comment we received when he needed to get some physiotherapy at the hospital. We got out a toy for him to watch and reach out for during the session, because this boy loves his toys, and the therapist made the comment, "Actually, that's really good that he can be entertained by a toy! Most of the babies that come in here, the parents have to get out their phone and play a video in order to calm them down and entertain them."

What makes screen-free babyhood possible?

I will admit that we have some awesome factors that were in place long before he was born, which have helped us in choosing entertainments other than screens for our little guy.

- My family is totally on board, they understand my heart behind wanting to delay the introduction of screens as fun entertainment for the baby, and completely adhere to Cyrus's rules about screens--yes for Skype calls, no for anything else. If the family does want to watch a movie together (recently they watched The Hobbit trilogy over the course of a week), various people end up taking turns with Cyrus, taking him on a walk outside or reading to him in another room...or sometimes he naps and we all watch a show together for a bit (rare, but it has happened!).

- Angel and I don't have a TV set up in our home. When we do watch a show together, we watch it on the laptop. A small screen works good for the two of us. We haven't had a TV set up since we moved overseas, sort of by accident, but at this point, we're just used to it.

- I don't watch TV alone. I initially imagined that I might want to sign up for Netflix when he was born so I'd have something to watch during long nights of taking care of baby. But I never signed up for it, because I just don't naturally want to watch TV by myself. For me, it's a social activity, which means that my late-night nursing activities have been mostly reading or....semi-sleeping. ha!


I'll write another update when we're approaching one year of Screen-Free babyhood and we'll see where we're at by then! I have some idea that when we do start incorporating videos or cartoons, I'd like to keep all of his video entertainment in Spanish since he has less exposure to Spanish in his everyday life, but we'll see if that works out. All of you experienced parents can go ahead and sigh and shake your head at the bright-eyed ideals of young parenting...but in the meantime, just let us young parents have our fun. Because it is so very much fun, isn't it? :)
01 August 2018

Baby: Five Months

At some point, life with baby just begins to feel like life. I love all of the new "milestones" we're experiencing with him which are probably less of actual baby milestones and more just new experiences as a family!

Notes on the past few months:

- Many of the latest adventures have already been blogged about, but Cyrus met three of his aunts for the first time, went on his first family vacation, and had a tarantula in his bedroom, so we've had an exciting couple of months!

Baby's first hike and first waterfall! Rookies that we are, we packed the Ergo, left it in the car, and carried him without it.

- Cyrus seems to be extremely extroverted at this current stage of life. He loves leaving the house. Whenever we are in an elevator with strangers, he immediately decides that the strangers are his new best friends and smiles at them and "talks." At any large gathering he'll typically be trying to chat with people non-stop. My mom says this characteristic reminds her of me as a baby--always wanting to talk to strangers, always thinking that obviously they wanted to talk to me. Cyrus is making many elevator friends for us.

- He went swimming for the first time!

- He doesn't sleep through the night, but he always wakes up happy and hungry. He just kicks and slides his arms around in his bed until I wake up from the movement, and gives me the biggest baby grins at 2 in the morning because he is ready to eat!

- Cyrus has started joining Angel on his morning or evening jogs, riding along in the stroller for 5k or so.

- He goes into phases where he learns something new and then does it incessantly. When he learned to blow bubble, he'd do it non-stop for long periods of time. He learned how to stick out his tongue and then he was always sticking out his tongue. He learned about how fun it was to grab his feet shortly before I took his 5-month old photo, which explains the pose.

- I love dressing him up in his baby jeans and nice shirts. Angel, on the other hand, prefers him in onesies, and that's what he wears when we're staying home because it is so hot...but when we're going to air-conditioned places, I break out the baby jeans!

- I sometimes wonder what the point of giving a baby a name is. I think we're calling him by his name more often than before, but still it's a lot of nicknames which seem to change daily. Weirdest one is "Chicken Nugget."

- We read a lot of books together. Angel recently read him the entirety of our Spanish translation of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish", and I don't think he'd ever read the book before, because when he finished he told me, very seriously, that that is a very funny book and I was like, "I know right?! Dr. Seuss is awesome!"

- My younger sister had a modeling gig for a line of wedding dresses last month, which got us all into joking that we're all going to be different kinds of models (i.e. some of us can be mom models, grandparent models, others can be preteen models, or sports equipment models, eating food models, etc, etc), and baby boy is going to be a "baby model," and because of his good looks, "V" birthmarks on the forehead are going to become the latest in baby fashion.

- One of his favorite games to play is "Baby Godzilla," which you can see me playing with him in his five month video. When he plays it with Angel, it becomes "Baby Chupacabra" and all of the cries for help are in Spanish, so I guess that's being a multi-cultural family in a nutshell, for you.

Linking up with What's New with You?
30 July 2018

Beauty "Rules" I Live By

Go bare-faced often enough so that people are used to seeing you without makeup. If you wear make-up too often, people who see you without it will automatically ask "Are you sick?" or say "You look tired!" and....who wants that?

Find the ever-elusive clothing that is both gorgeous and comfortable. Don't bother having a closet full of ugly-but-comfortable clothing along with cute-but-uncomfortable clothing. The perfect blend of both ideals is out there, so don't spend your clothing money till you find it. Better a small variety of clothing that meets both qualifications than a large variety that doesn't. The same rules applies to shoes. Better one pair that is comfy and very pretty than five pairs that are only one or the other.

Never wear mascara to church {I know myself. I cry too often in church. Mascara just doesn't work for me there.}

Smile! I didn't go through the braces torture treatment at nine years old for nothing.

Always wear sunscreen on the face. I use a mineral/"mechanical" sunscreen because that's what I prefer--I've been using the "Yes to Carrots" brand for years.

Stand up straight. So, funny story. When I was really young, probably about 7 or 8 years old, I learned in school that people could tell who George Washington was from a distance because he had such good posture while riding on a horse. I don't even know if that is true, or part of the legends surrounding Washington, but for some reason it inspired me, and I've been a strong believer in good posture ever since.

Always own one pair of jeans that fit fabulously. Such jeans are difficult to find, and it's probably hard to find more than one pair, but do get that one pair. I have exactly one pair that fit really, really well, and I love them.

Find a good haircut that works with your natural hair texture and stick with it. Also, your natural hair texture often changes throughout make sure your hairstyle works for the hair that you have now, not the hair you had a decade ago.

Get professional photos taken once in a while. It's easy to skip this in the era of digital camera...but once in a blue moon or so...get the professional photos. We had a professional photographer at our wedding in 2010 and then the next time we got professional photos taken was 2017. Both times I am super grateful for. Maybe we won't wait seven years before our next professional photos. Maybe. :)

If all else fails...just hold a baby. Hanging out in the presence of cuteness bestows beauty by osmosis...I went to beauty school so you can trust me on that one.

What beauty rules or policies or procedures do you live by?
22 July 2018

Celebrating 27 Years

What did my birthday look like this year? Neither Angel nor I had work, and it was pretty much perfect!


5:00 a.m. Wake up with baby and feed him. He's wide awake after eating and I put him in his crib, where he rolls around and kicks and talks to himself until Angel wakes up and bathes him and take care of him while I keep sleeping.

6:30 a.m. Angel and baby come back into the bedroom playing the "Happy Birthday" song on Angel's portable speaker to wake me up. Cuddle with Cyrus for a bit, then take my shower, get baby dressed in my favorite pirate ship t-shirt (because babies should obviously wear mom's favorite clothes on mom's birthday), and feed him and put him down for a nap.

7:20 a.m. Chapatis for breakfast! Angel went to pick up a couple of the tortilla-like flatbreads from the roadside food stall while I was feeding the baby.

7:35 a.m. Beginning my sewing project. I had planned on spending my birthday with a good bit of extra free time for sewing and reading. I did get a pretty good headstart on my sewing project of choice the evening before and had several of the big pieces already together. It was a dress for little Sarah using fabric that Mom had bought for me to make her a dress with...back at Christmastime. Oops. Well, in my defense, I didn't have any patterns in her size, and I had to wait for some to be brought to me from America. Together with Sarah, we picked out a dress pattern that had some fun little complexities that I was excited to try out--cold shoulder cut-outs, bell sleeves, criss-crossing straps in the was a very fun pattern.

10:30 a.m. I finished the dress completely! I took a break in between to feed the baby after he woke up and then brought him to grandma's house for playtime while I continued sewing.

I do my pilates workout, which is just following along to a youtube pilates video, and then I do my makeup, and put on my new watch which was my birthday gift from my parents. This was a pretty special gift--my parents gave me a watch for my high school graduation, and I loved it for many years, but a year or so ago, somehow the battery leaked acid into the face of the watch, ruining it. Mom had the idea to buy me a new watch for this birthday, and we went out shopping for it together, and I ended up picking out the exact same watch that I'd originally picked out for my graduation, just in a different color. What can I say? I guess I know what I like? Also, I did actually try on some different styles, and it is not particularly easy to find a watch with a strap and face that look appropriately proportioned on my child-size wrists.

Read my book for a while, Project 1065, by Alan Gratz.

12 noon. A friend stopped by with birthday presents, including a bouquet of purple/pink roses!!

I read for a bit more, and then

1 p.m. Went downstairs to my family's house, baby was still napping, so I opened up presents from my sisters: a polka-dot circle skirt and a craft kit for making paper cacti! Ever since I wrote The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger, it's become tradition for people to give me things with a cacti motif. We ate lunch together, of fried chicken, pumpkin, and baked potatoes. Then I painted my nails while hanging out with the family. When baby woke up he was hungry, and ate again.

3 p.m. Finished my book.

4. p.m. Time for a birthday dessert! Brownies with candles. Angel had already started cutting up the brownies before we put the candles in, The family quietly sang Happy Birthday to me in the kitchen since Cyrus was napping in the other room, and we ate our snack. After that, I got out the paper cactus kit that my sister had given me and began working on that project.

I like these, because they won't die, unlike the cactus that Angel gave me a couple years ago, which lived for about a year before giving up the ghost.

The family decided to watch The Greatest Showman, which turned into a singalong, while I continued working on my paper craft.

I fed Cyrus again, because at

6 p.m. Angel and I went out on a little birthday date. I'd requested a visit to the beach about 10 minutes away. Which is not the quietest place on a Saturday evening, but I often feel like we don't visit the beach often enough--I never tire of the wonder of the water crashing against the shore, and simply noticing how big the ocean is in comparison to the little island we live on. Since there were a good few people on the beach, it was a good time for people-watching, too. We saw three different couples with professional photographers, doing photoshoots in wedding clothes. We saw a group of people doing very complicated yoga poses that involved people balancing on top of other people.

We weren't sure where we wanted to eat, so first we popped into one new restaurant to look at the menu, and ran into some friends there. Nothing on the menu looked just right for dinner that night, so we walked to another restaurant, this one an old favorite of ours, where we ran into more friends! This is how common it is to run into people you know whenever you leave your house. :)

8 p.m. We returned home, and picked up Cyrus from the family's house. He was in quite an active and alert mood, so after we went home and he had his bath, we all played on the floor for a while, placing toys just out of his reach so that he would push himself around and grab for them, and then I read him a couple Bible stories from his kids' Bible.

9:30 p.m. Cyrus was starting to wind down, so I fed him and put him down, and then worked on the computer for a bit--typing up this blog post, replying to birthday messages and emails...all that good stuff.

10 p.m. Bedtime!
13 July 2018

Spider Encounters of the Worst Kind


I feel like all of my best stories begin with: So.

I was making cookies at my parents' house, and Cyrus and Angel were both napping at home. I ran home to check on them, and peeked into Cyrus's room where Angel was sitting on the couch, holding Cyrus, and he said to me, "Look up in the corner. There's a spider, but I don't know if it's real or fake."

I looked up, and instinctively jumped back. Yep. Spider. "Angel!" I whisper-yelled, because baby was sleeping on his chest, "Did you put that spider there?"

Angel looked at me and said, so seriously that I believed him, "I do not remember putting any spider there."

I ran to get my glasses, took one look with 20/20 vision and said, "Angel, that's a real spider."

He jumped up, ran out of the room to put the baby in his crib, leaving me to keep an eye on the spider and make sure it didn't move.

Angel still wasn't entirely convinced it was actually a real spider, but I was, because the way the legs were posed was not exactly symmetrical, and if you've seen a lot of fake spiders (anyone married to Angel sees a lot of plastic bugs), you know that the legs are almost unfailingly posed symmetrically.

Angel grabbed a mop and a broom...and his laptop and turned on Facebook Live. Because of course.

I stood outside the room holding two sandals in case the spider tried to make a break for it under the door...and that's where the video begins.

After all of this was over and the spider was safely disposed of (I suggested that he take it outside and bury it under six feet of soil, but he didn't go along with my suggestion), Angel obviously decided that the thing to do was to find his toy spider and play with it and Cyrus.

My response? Well, I'm alternating between a laid-back response of "Oh well, that sort of thing tends to happen once in a while" (????) and feeling like I'll never be able to trust my own home again after this sort of betrayal. I was just thinking the other day about when I'll feel comfortable putting Cyrus in his own room at night. The spider incident may delay that date slightly...

P.S. You may notice that in the video we call the spider a tarantula. I don't really know if it's a tarantula or not, and I don't particularly care. Mostly I'd classify this spider as the genus "I really don't want this in my house" and species "don't come back")

P.P.S. Once upon a time, Angel made me watch Arachnophobia. I do not recommend.