Monthly Archives: February 2013


Aurora Bridge – A Photograph


Rationing Screen Time for Kids

If you have kids, you may be in the same boat as me – suddenly realizing that they are spending too much time in front of display screens. My wife and I are trying to ration their screen time, and I’d love to hear what you think about our method.

Our house has seven screens of various sizes, all connected to the infinite, interactive, on-demand Internet, and six are mobile devices; one television, two laptops, two tablets, and two phones. With this amount of gear, we almost always have a spare device wherever we are.

As parents, we want our kids to be comfortable and familiar with the technology given its increasing importance in global culture and commerce. We let them use those devices in order to learn how to use them and also as rewards for good behavior. But we’ve also been guilty of using those screens as babysitters when we needed to get things done or have a break from the kids. Personally, I’ve also been really bad at modeling good behavior when it comes to when and where I use my screens.

With that backdrop, the past few months have seen our kids more frequently pestering us for screen time. With one of our children, that pestering recently went beyond whining into full-blown, angry temper tantrums in public. Their expectations obviously reached the point of feeling entitled to play or watch something whenever and wherever they want.

This saddened me. Somewhere along the way, we failed our kids in setting and enforcing limits around screen use. We lost control.

The method we’re using to get it back is screen rationing, and this magnetic whiteboard with colored magnets is helping us to keep track of it all. To enforce the time limits, we use our kitchen timer or a timer on the device they are using.


Here are the rules that go with the board, and the rationale behind each rule:

  1. Each colored magnet is worth ten minutes. Discrete and concrete time units.
  2. Only mom or dad touch or move the marbles or all marbles are lost for the day. A deterrent to tampering.
  3. TV time can be shared or pooled. Encourages cooperative behavior for shows longer than 30 minutes.
  4. Computer/phone/tablet time cannot be shared or pooled. Caps total screen time per day to two hours per person.
  5. Both people lose time for fighting, no matter who started it. Deterrent to fighting.
  6. Time is lost for misbehavior. Consequences for bad behavior.
  7. Time used cannot be earned back. Used means used.
  8. Time lost can be earned back with good behavior or performing additional chores. Reinforces good behavior.
  9. Bedtime is still bedtime, even if you have time left. Limit setting.
  10. Time resets at bedtime. Every day is a new day.
  11. Time cannot be given to the other person. It’s not their responsibility to allot time.

We’re prepared for a rocky first few days or weeks for everyone as we all get used to this new structure, but we’re hopeful that the benefits will spill over into other areas.

What do you think?


College Dreams – A Photograph


30,993 of ???

Still working on that novel…


My soul was damned from the start and it is no wonder to me that I will die here.

Those who do not suffer from melancholia do not understand the density of it. It is a thick mood, unlike the airiness of happiness.

Like water, looking into it from above refracts the view and masks the true depth. The energy to swim to the surface is more than moving through the aether, and it is easy to tire and sink again.

Often overlooked is the fact that even a substantial improvement that is shy of neutral leaves one in the depressive state. Contrast that with a letdown of happiness that can leave one with a tingly, residual happy glow.

The graph of sadness is also often logarithmic, which explains how hard it can be to escape its clutches. We track below the x-axis and struggle to turn positive. This belies the easy mendings and cheer-us-ups that suffice for those whose mean resides above.

I sought refuge from it all in the wild, open spaces of this great land while working towards our manifest destiny. Each victory buoyed me for a piece, but I kept slipping below. I followed the sunset to this place and its summer beguiled me and lifted my spirits.

But now my mood reflects the weather of this accursed place. Foggy, overcast, bounded and hemmed by diffuse grayness and the dark, towering firs, cedars, and pines that sag under the weight of ever-present water dripping from boughs and coursing through their slow veins.

I swim in mud-puddles of sewage and stumble on root-choked trails haunted by grizzly beasts who barely contain their animal natures when visiting the town. There is no light here, it was only a mirage in this culturally deserted forest, and I sink into the understory.

Sunshine is but a memory to be made in the future, and the brief respites from the gray cacophony that do peek through taunt me with their promise of a warm embrace by instead feeling tinny and sharp.

I secretly hope to fall into these mists and be bourne away ocean-side, to drift across a hurricane’s eye and dwell in the peaceful waves as my foul storm spends itself in furious, reeling, tumblings.

I am already spent. I am ready. The surface is a mirror, and I cannot tell if I am above or below, I am floating.

Down, down, and away; up, up and away, it does not matter. I am helpless against the physics of it.

Being of the soundest mind I can gather at this time, I hearby bequeath the remainder of my estate after the settlement of my debts to Talisha, a local Native chieftain, who showed me the greatest courtesy as I negotiated his heritage away from him.

I know that my meager remains will not atone for the travesty forced upon him, his people, and their lands, but it is my fervent hope that it will support potlatch until such time as they are in a position to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

Set by my hand in the presence of Thomas Burke, December 29, 1887, Seattle, Northwest Territories.

(Signatures follow)

[Bartholomew died the following day of smallpox.]