TV: My necessary evil

Last week, amid potty training and puke, I think Eliza watched each of the 7 DVR’d episodes we had of “Dora the Explorer” 2-3 times.  She sat latched to me like a lap parasite for hours on end in a Dora daze.  I wouldn’t normally allow such a thing, but during a 104.3 degree fever, she can do whatever she wants.  And besides, it dawned on me that when I was home sick as a kid, that’s pretty much all I did.

Now I’m trying to wean her from the experience, because she thinks she can still say, “watch Doda” (she has the Latin rolling her Rs thing down) and she’s going to endlessly sit in front of the tube mesmerized.  Obviously, I don’t want her to watch hours on end of television every day, but I must say that it is a wonderful time buyer sometimes.

I remember reading that the American Association of Pediatricians recommends that toddlers watch no more than 1-2 hours of television per day.  At the time, I was pregnant with Zach, and I laughed at the thought, saying to myself, “Who allows a toddler to watch even THAT much?  Eliza only watches about 20-40 minutes.”  Once Zach came along, I knew exactly what toddlers watch 1-2 hours a day.  Or more.  Those with siblings.  (Or fill in the blank because I completely understand now.)

In my perfect world, I entertain my children all day long with educational games, puzzles, and toys.  We run around and chase each other.  We sing songs.  Zach sits still (safely) somehow while Eliza obeys my every command so I can get things done like cooking and cleaning.

In my real world, I have to prioritize because there is no way to keep a clean house, nurse a baby, entertain a toddler, plan and make baby food and healthy meals, have clean clothes, run errands, and tend to others’ needs 24/7.  Something’s gotta give.  Right now, it’s television.

First thing in the morning, in order to be able to nurse Zach, pump extra milk, and make some breakfast for Eliza, I put on an episode of Dora.  I don’t know how else I could do it (though I am all ears for suggestions).  We generally watch another episode sometime before nap in the afternoon because I need to buy more time to get things done.  After nap, we often watch another episode, usually while I’m trying to make dinner.  And I must confess that some days, like today when it’s rainy and wet out, we’ve already watched four episodes.  (I know I promised not to mention it, but Eliza has spent the past day and a half regressing in her potty training.  She is not sleeping well, either, so having to pee and poop and holding it in endlessly is really causing problems.  We’re back to her clinging to my lap, begging for boots and Isa and Tico and Benny and all her Latin TV friends.)

Does this make me a bad parent?  I know I’m not the only one who wonders that.  Last week I was at a friend’s house and she turned on Yo Gabba Gabba and confessed that sometimes she sets her two in front of it to get some peace and quiet.  Then she said, “I know that’s bad.  Is that bad?”  It was like I could tell she thought I would never do such a thing, and I would judge her for doing it.  And I said, “No that’s not bad, I do it, too.”  She was so relieved.

Why is it that it’s so hard to feel like a good parent when you can’t keep the card house from falling without a little help?  No, I don’t propose letting television raise your children.  We do play games, sing songs, read books, and chase each other.  But the dishes have to get done somehow, too.  And the cooking.  And the cleaning.  And the laundry.  I’m curious to know from other moms how much they think is too much.  And I’d love some tips on other types of distractions for young children.  Because I, too, can only take so much “Dora Dora Dora the Explorer, DORA!”

Document life’s funny moments so you can remember them.

It’s really hard in this information age to feel like I’m doing enough to document all the greatest, fleeting moments as they’re happening.  Never before have we had such easy access to photos, videos, blogs, etc. to mark milestones.  So far, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.  For example, I actually kept a calendar on my refrigerator when I introduced Eliza to solids so I could mark what days I introduced each food to her.  Of course, I did this to keep track in case she had an allergic reaction to something, but also because, remember, I’m a control freak, so I wanted to introduce her to every fruit, vegetable, meat, bean, herb and spice I could think of between six months and a year, and there’s no way to remember if your child has yet tasted, say, cardamom or kohlrabi.  (Maybe I was only that adventurous in my memory, but whatever.)

So, I haven’t had a calendar up yet for Zach, but I’m going to go get one now for sure.  It’s nice to have a record of food introductions that’s easy to read.  But the other reason to keep a calendar handy is that it makes it super easy to jot down the dates of first teeth, first steps, first words, first anythings, and of course, funny moments.  (My mom suggested this.)  I have not been using a calendar for these things (yet!), but rather several different tracking devices.  My problem is I am a perfectionist, which is a really paralyzing disease because I end up waiting to do a lot of things until I have time to do them exactly as I imagine I should do them.  What this leads to is inaction.  I’m trying to get better about this, so I have a nice journal I use to record my favorite moments.  But I also have a couple of random notebooks around in case I can’t find the journal or am afraid if I wait until later I’ll forget.  Shoot, if I were at a restaurant, I would use a napkin to document the moment and just put it in my filing folder later.  (I’m cured!)  And I’m okay about not having everything in one neat and tidy place because all I really need to know is that someday, if I wanted to make a perfect scrapbook or baby book, I’d have the resources at my fingertips.  And finally, I have Zach and Eliza’s e-mail addresses.

Just after my children were born, Greg set up an e-mail account for each one.  I try to send them notes whenever I think about it (sometimes every few weeks, sometimes every few months) to tell them how they’re doing, or describe their milestones, or their personalities, or just how much I love them.  E-mail is so nice because it automatically time stamps your thoughts, so someday my kids will know exactly what I was thinking on a particular day in history.  We decided on Gmail accounts because the messages won’t ever be automatically deleted.

So, don’t get paralyzed by perfectionism.  The important thing is to keep a record – somehow – of the truly important stuff.  If you have ideas on tracking your kids’ greatest moments and milestones, please post them!

Baby food suckers beware.

Now that Zach is six-months-old (as of yesterday, sniff sniff) and started solids last week, there is a new pungency to his diapers.  (Incidentally, we are about to fast-track Eliza into potty training, which is another post entirely, but having two children creating such stenchy messes is too much to bear.)

As a type-A person, of course with Eliza I pretty much made all of her baby food because, well, it’s healthier, less expensive, and what any self-respecting woman who takes her stay-at-home job seriously would do (right?).  Now that I have even less time to plan and prepare Zach’s food, though, I’m looking for more shortcuts.  My mother-in-law bought me the Beaba cook baby food maker for Christmas with some of those individual, 1- and 2- oz. containers for freezing the food.  The Beaba cook is nice and convenient, easy to use, and easy to clean in the dishwasher.  I’ve already figured out that you don’t have to change the amount of water you are supposed to put in it for steaming depending on the amount of food you’re cooking.  And it’s nice that after steaming, you can then blend the food right in the contraption.

However, suckers beware.  From what I can tell, it is no easier than using a regular pot with a steaming insert on the stove, and then using my hand blender (I have the Breville handheld food processor) in the pot to mash up the food.  There are a lot of pieces in the Beaba cooker as well, versus an easily removable blender handle and a pot and a steamer insert for the other method.  And finally, the cooker only holds so much food.  It’s not conducive to making large batches of baby food, or cooking meals that have items that require varying cooking time.  So it’s lifespan is going to be short in my kitchen.  Thus, if you want to make baby food and save some money, buy a hand or immersion blender, which is much more multifunctional for years to come than a specific maker of baby food.

As far as freezing extra food goes (which is the point because for a little effort I get a lot of meals), these individual little containers are freaking frustrating and stupid.  You have to run each one under water to get it to pop out, which is highly irritating and time consuming.  Of course, washing them in the dishwasher is a pain as well because they could easily fall through.  For Eliza, I used ice cube trays I had on hand.  I wrapped saran wrap around them a few times, froze them, ran them upside down under a bit of water, and then easily popped all the frozen food cubes into a freezer bag.  Sometimes you really don’t need all these specialized contraptions.  This is one of those instances.  Just use your ice cube trays and some saran wrap.