Archive - September 2015

Screen Detox Part 2
Screen Detox- 9 Days In
REVIEW: Bluetooth Trackers (Never Lose Your Kids Again?)

Screen Detox Part 2

It seems like there was a lot of build up to this moment. 14 days without screens ended on Friday, Elliott’s birthday and the day we left for a weekend in Gatlinburg. We didn’t use screens on the way there and I noticed lively (and loud) car games being made up in the backseat as we drove along. There were moments when I missed the silence of screen time in the car but I pressed on for the greater good. At this point we still weren’t sure what kind of TV viewing/screen using we wanted to return to. I had planned to let them watch a movie in the cabin that evening after all the exploring, swimming and birthday partying was over.

Once we arrived at the cabin the kids let loose exploring the bedrooms and game room and porches with breath-taking views. We went for a swim and then returned to the cabin to prepare the birthday dinner and dessert. (This was interrupted, in a good way, by a surprise visit from my sister and law with my brand new nephew) Who needs TV when you have a newborn to hold! The kids were enamored with little Jonah and enjoyed every moment of his little baby ways.

The kids did end up watching a bit of TV before they fell asleep that night. It was a treat, each room had a big television and it felt almost like their own personal movie theater. They were allowed to do the same thing the next evening. On the way home I did not allow them to use screens. Rather they made up games and talked about the fun things they had experienced that weekend. We dreamed about future adventures and asked each other questions.

Once home, with screen usage on the table again, it was time to set forth the new guidelines. The old guidelines were no TV or screens on week days. TV/Screens were allowed on Saturday and Sunday in moderation. However, as we said before… controlling that moderation sometimes got out of hand.

Our new guidelines are as follows:

No TV/Screens on week days. Instead choose books, building materials, crafts, science experiments, sports, books on tape or imaginary play.

One family movie night per weekend. This is a family event, something we choose together, make special snacks etc.

Possible 30 minutes of TV or screen on Saturday morning. This does hinge on behavior and attitude.

When we were detoxing we noticed better sleep patterns, more self-starting behaviors, less whining, and less melt-downs. And above all, we found better things to do. That’s the bottom line as a family with small children. There are much better things to spend our time doing than watching a screen. It’s not necessarily the easiest choice… our house is messier, our intentional interaction with four children must increase and we have to watch our own screen usage as well. The best choices for our family are not always the easiest, but I feel certain that we will continue to see the fruit of our labor when we intentionally invest in the lives of our children.

Screen Detox- 9 Days In

As promised I’m going to share about our TV fast, or detox as the professionals call it. First, let me explain our TV and screen rules prior to the fast. We only allowed TV and screens Friday through Sunday. Friday evening the kids typically viewed a movie together, and then watched about 2 hours of TV on Saturday and Sunday. They really enjoy getting up early and watching Netflix on Saturday mornings. I viewed this time as relaxing for them. However, it quickly became the very opposite of relaxing. They fought over which shows to watch, manipulated each other and sometimes ended up watching more than they were supposed to. Our oldest was also finding ways to sneak in screen time. He was playing a dinosaur role playing game on the ipad, each day an egg would hatch and a new dinosaur was added to his collection. He began by asking if he could check to see if his egg had hatched each morning. I saw no big deal with letting him take a quick peek each morning and consented to this “illegal” screen time. However, being the crafty sinner… I mean young boy, that he is, this quickly spiraled into 10-15 minutes of hiding somewhere and actually playing the game. We gave him a couple warnings and then finally put an end to the egg checking scheme. This decision was met with massive moodiness and disrespect. When challenged with his disobedience he was not repentant… instead he challenged us back with his disrespectful attitude.

This left Calvin and I thinking. We know screens are addictive. Our kids often have a hard time sleeping. Screens make everyone argue… everyone is cranky. Even with strict limitations we began to feel that screens were not healthy for our children.  Calvin pulled up a study from Psychology Today which suggested a two-week tv detox and we decided to give it a try.

We are now 9 days into our TV fast. I promise you, the first 3 days were the most difficult. No glancing at a quick funny cat video on daddy’s iphone, no checking to see where Megalodon was last spotted, no 30 minutes of Sprout for the 3 year old once the big kids headed to school, and worst of all NO Friday night movie. Nada. Nothing. No screens.

The first three days we battled with moody kids. Liam (3) even grabbed my phone and ran off. We began to see the effects of these little once in awhile screen uses. They begged and pleaded and we held our ground. And we did something else. We played with them.

We pulled out beads, and crayons and science experiments. We jumped on the trampoline. We played board games and read questions to each other from little card sets. We listened to more music, we read more. As we inserted ourselves into their lives more we found they complained less about their lack of screens.

The week days were not bad. They are not accustomed to watching TV on those days anyway. But as the weekend approached we knew we needed a plan. On Friday night Calvin drove the kids to the church where they ate a pizza and raw vegetables (gotta off-set that pizza treat!) and roller bladed and played basketball on the courts. On Saturday we spent the morning on the soccer fields and ate lunch together afterwards. We then cleaned up the house together and the kids rode bikes, made things out of sticks and had some crafting time. By the time Sunday hit they were actually breaking out on their own. Elliott and Liam spent HOURS outside playing with a nerf shooter and exploring the small wooded area behind our house. When Liam woke up this morning, Monday morning, He said “I want to play in the secret fort.” This is a drastic change from “I want to watch a sprout show when the kids go to school.” That one sentence alone showed me that this fast was effective in beginning to reset his brain.

I can’t wait to share more when we complete the fast in 5 days! We are coming up with new guidelines as we approach the end.


REVIEW: Bluetooth Trackers (Never Lose Your Kids Again?)

Disclaimer: The folks at XY Find It Beacon and My Buddy Tag very kindly provided their bluetooth tags for this comparison review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Probably like many of you, I have seen banner ads all over the internet for a product called TILE. Attach these trackers to things you don’t want to lose: keys, wallet, purse, laptop bag, camera, luggage, etc. Download the app on your phone and be notified whenever the item is out of range and be able to see just about how close (or far) you are to retrieve your belongings. What a great idea!

With four, very quick, little ones I began to wonder if the TILE would work well on kids. It could be great for camping or public parks… mainly for the older children as our attention is often on the youngest one. After searching the Internet, I discovered there are a ton of companies that make this type of product. Over the past month, I’ve been able to try out the XY Find It Smart Beacon and My Buddy Tag.

What both of these do:
You attach these trackers to things you don’t want to lose: keys, wallet, purse, laptop bag, camera, luggage, TV remote…or in my case, children.

Download the tracker’s app to connect the tracker with your iPhone or Android phone. If the tracker is within Bluetooth range — about 33 feet — all is well. If you and your tracker get separated, though, your phone lets you know with a message and/or sound.

Buddy Tag

Buddy Tag

XY Find It Beacon

XY Find It Beacon










As you walk around, a graph on your phone screen shows you if you’re getting closer to the tracker or farther from it, like the old “warmer, colder” game. These products won’t tell you which direction an item is from you, just the general distance.


Buddy Tag

XY Find It Beacon

XY Find It Beacon










If your phone loses connection with one or more of your items, you will get an app notification or email with the time and map locations when your tag was last seen by the app.

Look and feel: The Buddy Tag is made specific for children so they have a variety of wristbands that you can choose from. The designs are not very good and actually call attention to themselves, where I’d rather them be as discreet as possible. You can remove the tag and attach it other ways but you’ll lose one of the unique benefits of Buddy Tag (read below). The XY Find It comes as a stand-alone tag. (They are both about 1/3″ thick and the width of a quarter)

Unique Features of Buddy Tag:

Water Alert: The Buddy Tag has a water alert feature that only works when the wristband is worn. The wristband has to be worn, and it has to be submersed into enough mass of water for the alarm to sound. We tested it out in a bathtub of water and an 8 year old. Every time his hand was submersed under water the alarm went off (it really did work!). It’s designed so you don’t get an alert to sound when the child is just washing hands.

Panic Button: Okay, this is also known as the button that you don’t want your kids to know about. Your children will be pressing the panic button non-stop just to annoy you. Ours did that, so I disabled the panic alarm feature in the app. I can see why they would want to add that feature but this would only work for older children mature enough to understand the importance of it. The XY Find It is not a product designed specifically for children so it does not have this feature.

Battery: The battery should last about a year. Because of the waterproof feature of the Buddy Tag, you cannot replace it on your own. They do guarantee at least 12 months of battery life so if a unit dies within the 12 months, the company should replace the unit.

Unique Features of XY Find It Beacon:

Built-in Speaker: Because the primary use of the XY Find It is using it for items like keys or purses, there is a speaker that you can set off in order to help find your item. However we found that it isn’t very loud. If you’re anywhere outside of your home, you may not even be able to hear it with all the background noise beyond your control.

Battery: The battery should last about six months. Unlike the Buddy Tag, you can replace the CR2032 battery on your own.


Whether you’re trying to keep tabs on your keys or your kids, these little things are pretty cool. Neither of the brands I tried drained my phone battery a ton and for $25-$50, it’s worth preventing the headache of looking for keys or panicking over “lost” children in public areas. This would have come in super handy when Elliott silently hid under a futon at Nana’s house. We did in fact panic and almost called the police by the time he made his way out.

Check out XY Find It Smart Beacon and My Buddy Tag if you’re in the market for one.


The idea and topic of community has been a well-visited thought for me recently. Recent events that transpired at the seminary I attended reminded me, once again, how much we truly need authentic community. There was something special about New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Most of us bonded through our evacuation/hurricane stories but aside from situational community we also benefited from what I like to call proximity community. We lived, stuffed into little apartments, at each others doorsteps. We often prepared meals together, drank morning coffee together and prayed together. It wasn’t uncommon to physically gather for prayer when we were struggling. As you can imagine it can be difficult to find authentic community after experiencing authentic “proximity” community. Staying plugged into our church, serving and leading small groups has definitely helped us but I’ve discovered, after being a part of many small groups, that community has to be intentional to be effective. Intentional in that you sacrifice, walk with, protect, hold accountable and love those you choose to be in community with.

Community without sacrifice is just hanging out. As the world changes around us, as the moral compass of our country declines; our community will become essential to our survival in an increasingly difficult climate. At times walking in close community with each other is uncomfortable. When we allow others to provide accountability they become privy to the sensitive details of our lives. We rely on them and they rely on us.

Human nature, at times, pulls away from anything that makes us feel vulnerable. But God’s design for the community of believers is clear.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  (good gracious! does this verse not speak to us in the present!)

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

Acts 4:32 “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

To be honest, there is nothing special I can add to the discussion about the merits of community. There are books upon books about why small groups and community are imperative to the Christian walk. However, I can say that I value my people more and more every day. My bible study girls on an ever-notifying group text. My small group, where sometimes it seems we have little in common but are learning to lean on each other through life and love each other deeply. My adoptive momma community that “get its” when no one else does. My “old friend” group where we don’t see each other as much as we should…. but when we do our conversations prove that our values align and we will walk through anything together.

Reading the paragraph above fills my heart with joy. There was a time when I found myself resisting these types of relationships out of fear, and even comfort. It is often easier to focus on the business of family life. But iron sharpens iron and sometimes I just need to talk to another mom in confidence and sometimes I can help one of my sisters as she struggles through doubt and worry. We are all hurting, sinning, hard-to-love at times people. But we are better together. We are better when we see that we were never meant to walk alone. And today and in the days that come we will need each other more than ever.


All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal