Life Without a TV

TV or No TV


Note: This article was originally published in 2012, yet has changed to many lives that we felt the need to repost it. We hope you enjoy!


Life without a TV : Our Story

Written by Jen Hansard, co-founder of Family Sponge and Simple Green Smoothies

It was autumn of 2004 and I had just married my high school sweetheart. Ryan and I were finishing our undergraduate work at CSU Long Beach and working insane jobs to keep the student loans at bay. We had very little time to actually spend together as newlyweds and the time we did have, we spent watching TV because we were exhausted from the long days. After a few months of this numbing routine, we sat down and had the big conversation about what we wanted for our lives and if it revolved around a TV. Well, we quickly decided to get rid of our TV—that was seven years ago.

It wasn’t a radical decision at the time. We just knew that something had to give. So out went the television and in came books (lots of books), cooking, lengthy discussions, hiking, marathon training, Yatzee tournaments, bowling dates, and much needed sleep. Ryan even learned to juggle five balls and ride a unicycle. Life as we knew it slowed down and we finally caught our breath.

TV or No TV

In 2007, our son was born and most of our time was spent infatuated with his bowel movements and babbles. When Jackson turned 18 months old and I was 8 months pregnant, I cracked and bought a Netflix subscription for our computer. Sesame Street moved into the house and one month later, my daughter was born. We now use Netflix daily and let the kids each pick out a show to watch. This gives them commercial-free shows like Caillou, Dora and Sesame Street. And it gives us a much needed break.

Sometimes Ryan and I catch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy before bed or watch a movie. It’s something we look forward to and do on rare occasions. It’s like a date night— yet we can do it in our home without paying for a sitter.

To stay up to date on world events, we use and . If there is a big disaster, our parents and friends call to let us know. If there is a big sports game that Ryan wants to watch, he heads to a friend’s house and they watch it together. Or sometimes we even head to the stadium to catch the real thing as a family.

We are definitely out of the loop with the latest TV episodes and new fancy products. Sometimes we are buzz kill on the conversations that go “Did you see… last night”, but that is perfectly okay with us. The unexpected joys from life without a TV trumps any setback by a long shot.

TV or No TV

Perks that have come from not having a TV in our home

1. No cable bill. We have saved over $5500 these past seven years by not having a cable bill (and that is a very conservative estimate). Not to mention what it would cost to buy a TV, speakers, dvd player, dvr, etc.

2. We don’t see commercials. This makes passing by the toy section in Target a walk in the park for our kids. And also hides a lot of the consumerism brainwashing from Ryan and me.

3. We don’t have to arrange our furniture with a TV in mind. It’s nice to choose what is the focus of the room— right now it is our hodge-podge wall of family pictures that dominate the living room. You can actually see our home right here.

4. We have become more creative. We listen to lots of music, do puzzles, board games, art projects, nature walks, cook together, ride bikes, read books and write books. We make elaborate snowmen when it snows, jump in puddles when it rains, and collect hundreds of leaves in the fall.

5. Oh, the places you go! With the money we have saved and our appetite for adventure, we have made traveling a part of our family mission statement. In the seven years, we have backpacked through Europe, took a month-long road trip from Los Angeles to Glacier National Park in Canada, three trips to Amsterdam for art shows and architecture admiration, spent a week driving to Denver, Taos and the Grand Canyon, and did many red-eye flights to NYC for art shows. We even drove across country from LA to Tampa, FL along Route 66 with the kids for 10 days. With that kind of traveling, people think we have tons of money. But we honestly don’t. We just don’t have a TV.

TV or No TV

Interested in going TV free? Here are tips Ryan & I came up with to help the transition:

1. Be intentional. Have specific things to replace your time like reading some classic books (we have enjoyed Robinson Crusoe, The World According to Garp, East of Eden.) Ryan made a list of things he wanted to accomplish and when he was bored he would pull out the list and do one of them.

2. Do it together. For us, it was a team decision and I think that is why it was such an easy change. We both felt the same way and wanted to give it a try and it has definitely helped us grow closer together. (We honestly had no idea that it would be a 7-year TV strike going into it.) Replacing electronic screens with loving relationships has been the greatest benefit of going TV free.

3. Set guidelines. If you are going to use Netflix like we do, it helps to have a plan. For us, each child picks out a show to watch in the afternoon (after naps and quiet time). If they are sick or it’s been a crazy day, we bend the rules for sanity’s sake. But we are very intentional about how much time is spent in front of the computer screen each day.

4. Have a time frame in mind. Getting rid of TV forever is a hard pill to swallow (I am not there yet!). Why not set a goal of 3 months without it? Cancel your cable service, store the TV in the garage, rearrange your furniture so nothing feels missing and see how it goes. Take the money you save on your cable bill and buy some books, board games and juggling balls to fill the time.


In present-day America, such self-denial is apt to require heroism. In practice it may mean giving up many or most of the luxuries which I have come to regard as necessities, at least until I have acquired sufficient self-control to use these things without being enslaved by them.   —  Thomas Merton


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Life without TV: Speak your mind!

How do you feel about going TV free? Have you done it before? Share some tips or thoughts with other Family Sponge readers in the comments below.



POSTED BY ON January 3, 2014         |           Comments { 246 }

What’s Your Less Than Perfect Parenting Confession?

family sponge photo

Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood

“The best moms are the ones that don’t have any children yet.”
—  Kate Devine Brady

I don’t know about any one else, but I remember before having my son, I thought I knew everything there was to know about parenting.  I was, after all, a teacher.  I had a degree in early childhood education, had been a Nanny, and had worked with children since the time I was fifteen years old.  I even dated a few guys that acted a bit like children.  I was good with kids.  People always marveled at how well I understood them, how patient I was, and how children were drawn to me.

During the early months of pregnancy, my husband and I did our due diligence and talked about how we were going to raise our son.  What we would and wouldn’t do, what kind of parents we would and wouldn’t be.   We had it all figured out, and were sure we were going to be the best parents ever.

Have you ever judged other parents before you had kids of your own?  Not necessarily to their faces; but did you ever give a look, or think to yourself that you would never?  I would never let my baby sleep in bed with me; drink formula or eat anything that wasn’t organic.  I would never let my child throw a temper tantrum in the middle of a toy store; never bribe him with candy; and never put him in front of the television so I could have just 10 minutes of peace.  I would never allow my teenager to talk back to me, get a tattoo or nose ring, and so on, and so forth.


You had children of your own and you realized just how hard parenting is; the lack of sleep, intimacy with your spouse, and balancing act of it all.  You forgo the homemade pasta with pesto made from the garden, for the boxed Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese.  You give into co-sleeping because you are just too tired to get up for the fifth time in less than two hours.  You hand over the iPad because you want just 10 minutes to finish a conversation with a friend you haven’t been able to talk to in over 6 months.

You just do the best that you can and most of all, you stop judging and begin to understand: the mother who hasn’t slept in three days because her daughter has strep throat and gets ice cream for breakfast because that’s all she’ll eat; or, the mother who’s juggling three babies under the age of four, trying to pay for groceries while her boys are running around the store like wild things; and, the mother who’s child drops his only cookie in the sandbox, so she swiftly picks it, shakes off the sand, and hands it right back to him thinking, “ a little sand never hurt anyone.”

Because as a parent, I know that nobody is perfect.  I’m not.

What are your less than perfect parenting confessions?


POSTED BY ON September 21, 2013         |           Comments { 20 }

No Sleep For the Weary


Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood


I’ve never been a good sleeper.  I’m a morning person and night owl, all rolled into one.  But when I became a mom, the insomnia really took over, and I can’t even blame it on motherhood.

As a newborn, my son was a great sleeper.  He put himself on a schedule and slept through the night at six weeks.  I was lucky, but I guess that lack of sleep was a consequence of the responsibilities of parenthood, more than the actual physicality of it all.

I enjoy my quiet evenings after both my husband and son have fallen asleep.  We all know as mothers, whether you’re a stay-at-home or working mom, we have little time for ourselves.  The spare moments we do find in a day are quickly filled with things that need to get done.  Nap times are spent cleaning, doing laundry or making dinner (okay, I’m not much of a cleaner, so that’s not my excuse.)  We trade in getting our nails done to finger-painting; lunches with girlfriends to play dates at the park; and nights out at the movies to story telling at bedtime.

So, it’s those moments, after the house is quiet that I can sit down and find the time for me. 

Unfortunately, this is also precisely the time that my mind goes into overtime and I become preoccupied with thoughts of what needs to be done, and then: How will it all get done?

We’ve probably all been there; you’ve watched the clock for the third time in ten minutes.  It’s just past two in the morning and you start calculating how many hours of sleep you can still get before you have to get up in the morning.  You’ve tried meditating, reading, giving up coffee… yet sleep still won’t come easily to you.  So what do you do?

Because I struggle, clearly, with an “open” mind and letting my thoughts run wild.  That’s why I’m here, in fact, because I can’t stop thinking when I should be sleeping…


POSTED BY ON August 15, 2013         |           Comments { 5 }

How to (really) wash your fruits and veggies


Why should you wash your fruits and veggies before eating, you ask? GERMS!

If you skip washing your produce (whether organic or conventional), it’s like letting your kids skip washing their hands before dinner time.

To protect your family from consuming any unwanted pesticides, wax and the inevitable bacteria that clings to your fruit from the farm or in the grocery store, you have to wash your produce– and good. And a bonus to using a fruit + veggie spray is that the spray helps food last up to 200% longer (based on independent lab tests and results based on specific microbial testing). Also, because the spray inhibits browning, kids may be more likely to eat fruits/veggies that they would otherwise resist. Pretty awesome, right?

We’re excited to share with you how to wash your produce with the help of our good friends The Honest Company! We’re partnering with them in this sponsored post because their biodegradable fruit + veggie wash really gives you squeaky clean produce.

We were on the hunt for a simple fruit and veggie wash that would be quick, easy to use and good to our environment. The Honest Company sent us their 100% non-toxic Honest Fruit + Veggie Wash and cleaning accessories, which are bright, beautiful and colorful, but also all natural and safe for plant-based cleaning.

It’s time to say hasta la vista to waxy fruit layered in pesticides, bacteria, toxins and unwanted chemical gunk. Let’s get started!


How to really wash an apple




These can be the waxiest of the bunch and since the skin is so full or fiber, you want to scrub these little guys.

1. Spray with fruit + veggie wash generously and let sit for 1-2 minutes
2. Scrub well with a bristle brush (We love this bamboo brush)
3. Rinse well with water


How to get squeaky clean carrots




Root veggies that grow in the ground, like carrots, need an extra scrub to remove excess dirt or hard-to-remove microbes.

1. Spray with fruit + veggie wash generously and let sit for 1-2 minutes
2. Scrub well with bristle brush (We love this bamboo brush)
3. Rinse well with water

How to properly wash potatoes





Whether you peel your potatoes or keep the skin on, you want to still wash them well. Even if you’re removing the skin, an unwashed potato can transfer bacteria from the outside of the potato onto the peeled veggie. The same goes for any fruits and veggies that you’re slicing.

1. Spray with fruit + veggie wash generously and let sit for 1-2 minutes
2. Scrub well with bristle brush (We love this bamboo brush)
3. Rinse well with water
4. Pat dry with a towel


How to properly wash spinach



For lettuces and other leafy greens, you want to spray, wash and pat them dry.

1. Place your leafy greens in a colander
2. Spray with fruit + veggie wash generously
3. Rinse well with water

TIP: Say goodbye to soggy, spoiled leafy greens! To keep your leafy greens fresher longer, store them in you fridge in an airtight container placed between paper towels. Or freeze them in a freezer-safe bag (yup, you can freeze your leafy greens).


How to properly wash strawberries



Place your strawberries in a colander and rinse water over them (don’t fully submerge them in water).

1. Place your strawberries in a colander
2. Spray with fruit + veggie wash generously
3. Rinse well with water

These delicate berries need a little extra lovin’ to prevent mold, so they last longer. Honest spray helps do just that. Rinse berries right before you’re ready to eat them.



If pesticides don’t scare you…

Think about all of the different hands that have picked it up your produce and put it down at the grocery store or Farmer’s Market! Yikes!


Family Sponge readers can enjoy $10 off a minimum purchase of $40 using the code HonestlyFamily.* Get your hands on The Honest Company’s natural and plant-based Fruit + Veggie Wash, plus dish brush here.


PS: The Honest Company is an incredible company that we LOVE to support. They donate products, time, and money to charitable organizations that address social and health issues impacting families in need. Their current charitable partner is Baby2Baby. Let’s help absorb the good!

*Limited to first-time buyers (one per customer) and expires August 16, 2013.


POSTED BY ON August 9, 2013         |           Comments { 3 }

Fun Food For Kids

Fun Foods for Kids 1

By Britney Manuel of BtanJerine & A Simply Raw Life

If you have an Instagram account no doubt you are often inspired by enticing pictures of food photos on your feed.  Amongst some of my favorite foodies, I am forever inspired by the creative genius of @idafrosk, @pomverte, @redhongyi, and Maroondah Yarra Ranges Kids (on Facebook) just to name a few.  They have the cleverest ideas, and the most fun ways for kids to eat food (@redhongyi is more of an art form).  I was inspired by this fruit rainbow by Maaroondah (mentioned above).  It was an easier project I could do in relatively 10 minutes.

And since summer is here, I thought that a huge plate of fruit would be a wonderful thing to have on hand to help encourage the little one, and myself to grab something better than a cookie (although there is always a soft spot in my heart for cookies).  And looking at all these colors who would want to grab anything else?

Rainbow Fruit Plate


8 strawberries
1 orange
1 banana
3 kiwis
1 basket of blueberries
about 20 grapes



Cut all fruit and arrange in the shape of a rainbow on a plate.


NOTE:  You can use any fruit to make this medley, and the amounts don’t have to be exact. Keep it simple and improvise with whatever you have on hand.


Another fun food for kids idea: below is “cloudy with a chance of rain” that I made from @pomverte.

Fun Foods for Kids 2

Join the Discussion!

How do you get your kids to eat their fruit? Green smoothies are a hit in our house.

POSTED BY ON July 15, 2013         |           Comments { 11 }

Mango Creamsicles

Mango Creamcicles

By Britney Manuel of Btanjerine & A Simply Raw Life

With summer in full swing, longer days, and warmer temperatures, eating dessert for breakfast seems apropos.  And when there’s no added sugar or dairy you can indulge the little people and let them think they are being totally naughty, without the mom guilt.  Recently my little one has been displaying signs of allergies to dairy, and so I am trying to make alternative to her favorite foods.  Ice cream is something that we enjoy (probably a bit too much).  But I didn’t want her to feel like she was sacrificing anything.  I wanted it to taste like a real treat.

It’s a super simple recipe that I prepared in 10 minutes.  And it’s a great recipe to include your little people on.  I was inspired by the Facebook page Sistah in the Raw.  (However i’mm not exactly sure where I saw a similar recipe.)

Mango Creamcicles 2


Mango Creamsicles Recipe


2 mangos sliced
2 cups frozen mango chunks (I use Trader Joe’s)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 lime squeezed
2 tablespoons honey



Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender. Pour into pop molds and freeze for at least four hours.

Makes about 12 pops

NOTE: These measurements are approximate and you could use more or less of any ingredients you feel necessary.


Join the discussion!

What’s your favorite summer treat? Share it with us in the comments below.

POSTED BY ON July 8, 2013         |           Comments { 15 }

Feeling Protected


Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood

When our babies are born we hope for perfection.  This includes ten little fingers and ten little toes.  What we don’t account for are the unforeseeable bumps and bruises, illnesses, broken bones, and surgeries that may come throughout their lives.  Some are expected (fevers, colds, and the flu), some are prepared for (by wearing helmets, seat beats, and knee pads), but how do you handle the news of  something you didn’t plan, or prepare for?  More importantly, how do you prepare your child?

As a mom, I want to protect my baby, protect him from what is present, and protect him from the future.  I want to save his innocence, and keep him away from hurt.

But we all know that life doesn’t work that way.  We can’t hide our children from experiencing what life is, and we don’t want to shelter them from living.  So how do we protect them?  And from what do we protect them?  Are we doing more harm than good from keeping them overly protected?  Or, do we teach them resilience by letting them fall down, and then simply being there to help them up?

Children are resilient, probably more than we are as adults.  Perhaps this is because they don’t hold the same fears we do, or that they trust more, give more freely, and accept what is.

When my son was two years old, he had to have surgery.  I wasn’t afraid of the surgery itself; we had an excellent doctor, one I trusted and felt 100% comfortable with.  The procedure was “simple”, correctable, and minor in the bigger scheme of things, but I was still afraid.  I was afraid because I didn’t want Braden to feel pain, be scared, worried, or “scarred” for life (not literally, of course).  I didn’t want him to fear the hospital, doctors, and nurses.  I didn’t want him to not trust that I would always keep him safe, or feel that I had, in some way, failed him, because he would feel pain.

Of course, Braden would feel pain whether or not he had this hospital experience.  He will feel pain when he falls and scrapes his knee.  He will feel pain when a toy is taken away from him by a friend, when he hears “no” after he asks for a second helping of ice cream, when he misses Daddy because he’s been away for so long, or when he experiences his first heartbreak.  As a mother, I want to protect him, but my job is not necessarily to prevent the pain, it’s to help him through it and help him prepare for it.

And so, that’s what I did.  I prepared Braden for his hospital experience.  I shared with him what would happen, what to expect, and how it might feel before and after the surgery.  I did my best to hold it together and provide a sense of confidence as he went through it.  It wouldn’t have been fair, after all, if I put my fears onto Braden.  This was his experience, his story to create, his feelings to have.  I only wanted to provide a solid foundation for him to feel safe.

As expected with children and their resilient and magical way, Braden sailed through the experience.  He was informed, empowered, and comfortable.  I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, or that he didn’t feel discomfort, but he knew what to expect, trusted what was happening, complied when necessary, and voiced his discomfort when he needed to.

I think, or I hope anyway, that he walked away from this experience feeling protected, healed, and loved.


POSTED BY ON July 6, 2013         |           Comments { 4 }