Screen Ban

We have a Screen Ban at our house from 11am-5pm. This is a new thing for us, just started the day after school got out for the summer. Music is allowed during this time but no other internet, no TV (exception granted for the Olympics), no video games, no movies.

It’s been a good move, though the kids might beg to differ. Of course it isn’t perfect- they complain, sneak whenever our backs are turned, watch TV at friends’ houses. But other things have happened too. Sometimes they’ll hang out on my bed and read while I’m folding laundry. The dogs get an extra walk. We go to the pool. They play board games. They help me in the kitchen. They make stuff up.

#5 asked if he could make a fort recently during the Screen Ban hours. An indoor fort.

I was a big fan of forts when I was a kid, both indoor and outdoor. Indoor forts we made by stringing sheets and sleeping bags over artfully arranged furniture. My sister’s brilliant contribution was the addition of a box fan, placed just so in order to extend a sheet into a “room”. Outdoor forts we made with whatever wood we could find in the patch of woods behind our house: scrap lumber, branches, sticks, logs. Outdoor forts rocked because you could add to them over the days; you didn’t have to dismantle them to give your mom the sheets and chairs back.

#5 mostly makes indoor forts because we don’t have a yard or woods per se, unless you count the property that doesn’t belong to us and contains all the trees that keep landing on our house. He did make an outdoor fort once but I literally couldn’t get to it when he wanted to show it to me, it was in such a steep and treacherous part of the “yard”.

He wanted to make a fort this day upstairs, and offered to take it down before dinner because it uses all of the dining room chairs. He didn’t want to make it downstairs in the music room because #2 was down there and, I quote, “She’s really annoying when you’re trying to build a fort.”

If you asked her, she would probably say the same thing about him.

Once he made the fort, he started working on me to let him sleep in it. He even offered to take it down so everyone could eat around the table and then rebuild it. I’m just so thrilled any time something non-electronic happens that doesn’t involve arguing or tears that I relented. It was pretty cool- it came out round inside.

This picture was taken the morning after, before 11am. Hence the TV.

My permission secured, he went to work on getting #4 to sleep in there with him. Because it’s a little scary and lonely to sleep in there by yourself.

When I got home from work, it was odd how dark and quiet the house was. The dogs were crated, #4 and #5 were asleep in the fort and the sitter was on the couch using her laptop. We said goodbye in whispers but the dogs woke up anyway.

The dogs were so totally discombobulated by the fort. They whined in the crate because there were nearby laps they weren’t in. I let them out to take them outside but they beelined for the fort instead. Except Jack couldn’t figure out how to get in it, so I helped him.

Go in here, Jack.

Then came a series of nails on the floor and much dog activity. In and out and all around the fort. I took them both outside briefly but afterwards neither one would calm down at the same time, all the while crawling in and out of the fort and on #4 and #5’s heads.

I went to forcibly remove them, but #4 protested sleepily and said that Casey was under the covers, which she was. Somehow Jack also ended up naked, which makes him harder to grab because he’s quite wiggly and there’s nothing to hold on to when he’s naked. Well, nothing good anyway.

At this point, #5 sat up halfway and said, “Why is it so hard to sleep?”

I told them if the dogs got too annoying to put them back in the crate and went back in our room to read.

More whines. More nails on the floor. I heard the crate door open and shut, twice. Then more whines. Lots and lots more whines. The crate door opened again, and then there was the unmistakable sound of Puggle Demolition Derby.

One of these days I’m going to record that. It defies description. My friend Jeremy, who is owned by two pugs, refers to it as “weaseling”.

#4 and I opened my bedroom door at the same time.

Me: Are they being annoying?

Her eyes were wide and she nodded vigorously: Yes!!!

So I let them in and squished their little heads together in an embrace, reminded them I was the big dog and told them to calm the hell down.

Them: wiggle wiggle


Them: wiggle wag

Me: Big dog! That’s me.

Them: whine

Me: Shut it.

Them: lick

Me: awwww.

Everyone slept after that. #4, in fact, managed to sleep until ten a.m. which earned her this picture that she doesn’t know I took.

I noticed she also added a fan. Aunt Beth will be proud.


Did you ever build forts as a kid? Is anyone else doing screen bans this summer? I told my chiropractor about it and he thought it was brilliant; then he told his kids and now they’re pooling their money to take a hit out on me.


She Hurts My Soul

We’re doing a summer reading challenge at my house with #2-#5. We let #1 off the hook because she done graduated.

Schools send home a suggested summer reading list with the kids on- wait, I don’t actually know when they do this. Last day of school? It doesn’t seem the list would have a very good shot at making it home if that were the case. Second-t0-last day of school? Do they mail it the week after school gets out? I have no idea. I only know that the list for each kid always makes it up onto either the bulletin board or the fridge, with one exception.

I’m lookin’ at you, #4.

Not that all the other kids eagerly hit their summer reading lists before they start sleeping til noon, eating popsicles for breakfast, and staying in their pajamas until dinnertime. The only one who reads voluntarily even if we’re not having a power outage is #2.

But their lists always go up. Then we commence ten weeks of them not reading anything on their lists, and me using ineffective methods of trying to get them to read.

This is baffling to me. My mom used to have to force me away from my books.

This year I gave each kid a certain number of pages to read every day, the equivalent of twenty to thirty minutes of reading. It’s what they supposedly do anyway during the school year.

There’s even a reward: if they all meet their page goals I’ll buy them a new Wii game. No, the irony is not lost on me. Get off my ass.

Here’s our progress:

  • Immediately after we started the challenge, #2 went away to volleyball camp at the Naval Academy. Even while playing approximately 187,046 minutes of volleyball every single day, she finished her entire six weeks of reading in ten days.
  • #3 dug into her list and our bookshelves and found some things she liked. This is a first. She stayed up late many nights reading, not texting boys. I know this with certainty because her phone is broken. She liked The Lovely Bones and The Maze Runner. She finished last week.
  • #4 acted as if I were asking her to strangle kittens instead of read.
  • #5 loves the Magic Tree House books. They were on his list last year, but I think this late interest is a result of him being a full year younger than most of his classmates. I’m cool with that. He likes to come into our room to read because it’s quiet.
  • #4 now isn’t even keeping up with lying to me about reading.

After the first week of the challenge, all the kids give me updates. #4 tries to escape. I call her back into the kitchen.

Me: How’s your reading?

#4: Good.

Me: How much have you read?

#4: Um. I don’t know.

Me, narrowing my eyes at her: Have you read at all?

#4: Yes! I was just in my room for twenty minutes reading!

Me: Well, what’s going on in your book?

#4: Um, I can’t remember.

I make her bring it to me. The book is a challenge for her, which is the point. She’s heading into sixth grade and needs to step up. I try to come up with ideas to help. I tell her that as long as she makes an honest effort, I’ll count it. She can fall short of the goal, but if she’s trying, we can work something out. She reads nine pages out loud to me while we’re in the kitchen. It’s a good book.

I think that’s the last time she reads.

I got home from work the other night and found this:

Her jotted-down user name and password for a kids online gaming/virtual world site.



You hurt my soul, #4.

Not to be a total doomsayer, but I’m fairly confident she won’t miraculously bust out her reading chops over the next two weeks. Overall, the challenge has been a success: two of three kids who swore they hated to read are liking reading.

#4 is a happy, well-adjusted, smart kid with good grades who would just rather be swimming or skateboarding or pretty much anything else besides reading. She has a ton of friends and whenever she gets in trouble, it’s usually hilarious. Not a bad place to be, really.

But what about the reading challenge reward? The deal was that all kids had to make their goals to get the Wii game. I can’t very well get a game and be all like, “Don’t let your sister play it!”

I’m open to ideas (unless you live in this house and I refer to you by number, in which case a suggestion such as “Give them their own Wii and TV in their rooms!” will just earn you extra chores).

How do I reward the kids who made their reading goals?