TV is a Tool

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, How Do The Moms Do It, It Gets Different, Making Time for Me, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, SAHM, School-Age, ToddlersTags Leave a comment

I learned a long time ago that I was a much better parent before I actually had kids. I thought picky eaters were the result of indulgent parents. (Guess what! I introduced my duo to the same foods at the same time off the same spoon and one only eats things that are beige and crunchy. He came like that, I didn’t do that to him.) I also thought my kids wouldn’t watch a lot of TV. That one makes me laugh now!

While we are at it, I also sort of thought I would have ONE baby at a time and well, that didn’t happen either.

I am not ashamed to admit thatI use TV as a tool to give myself a break and distract my kids from mayhem. I have been home with them since they were one, and with no family nearby and no babysitters to speak of, I rarely had any time for a break. Not long before my boys turned three I started trying to work from home. I had a small Etsy shop and did custom sewing. I enjoyed the quiet time while they slept and the creative outlet helped me refresh. I was able to use the 2-3 hours they would nap to work on projects and promote my business online.

In contrast, while these two were awake, there was rarely a quiet moment. Here’s a small snapshot of the chaos my duo managed from a very young age. I didn’t include any of the photos where there was blood — and there was blood, more than once. Nor did I include any naked shenanigans, which was also incredibly common. You’re welcome.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me Teamwork: Trying to remove outlet covers with a pretend screwdriver, escaping through the dog door onto the concrete patio, trashing a closet, using an entire box of tissues to decorate their room, working together to escape their play area and unrolling all the toilet paper.

Remember when I said my kids weren’t going to watch a lot of TV? That didn’t last. They were nearly two before we ever turned on the TV for one single half-hour of something with educational merit each day. But then guess what? They turned 3 and all bets were off. Three, in our house at least, was the worst. Ever.

But before that, when my boys were not even two, they figured out and verbalized to me, “There is one of you and two of us and we want to do this!” when I was home alone with them. Most of every day they worked together to outsmart and out-maneuver anything I did. They overcome any childproofing efforts we made and they were giving up naps.

They gave up their nap long before I gave up their nap.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me The dresser was moved into the closet, which also had a lock, which did not dissuade them from pulling every stitch of clothing out. They also raided the fridge and the pantry, took a Sharpie to the carpet, and flushed things that should not be flushed.

When they were awake, which quickly became all the time, they were in constant seek-and-destroy mode. BUT, when the TV was on they sat, quietly and slack-jawed and provided me a brief respite. They weren’t trashing toy bins or flooding the bathroom. They weren’t trying to escape baby gates or scale cabinets. They just sat. And it was quiet.

In the beginning, we stuck mostly to educational stuff. They were picking up songs and letters, colors and numbers. And more importantly, they were giving me the break I needed to do crazy indulgent things like shower and cook meals.

At age 5, they still watch mostly stuff with educational merit, but there are more and more mindless shows thrown in there too. By age 4 they could each name 100 superheroes (give or take) and they knew all sorts of crazy phrases and giant words they probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They have picked up all sorts of cultural references and they incorporate storylines and theme music into their play.

So there’s the truth: My kids watch too much TV. Way more than they should, for sure. But it helps me get things done and it keeps them from clobbering one another or trashing our house. Judge if you want, but TV in our house keeps the peace. Now that they know how to turn on the TV and navigate around, my work is done and I can retire from Mommyhood.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
Look how sweet and well-behaved!

Allow me to share some things I have learned since becoming a Mom who uses TV for distraction to get a little time to myself. (It’s OK, I give you permission* to use TV as a tool to entertain your kids.)

  • Streaming is awesome. Get yourself Netflix or Amazon Prime or something on-demand. My kids have only ever watched on-demand shows either from Netflix or from our own personal video library, which we stream to our TV via AppleTV. They also have channels on the AppleTV you can stream if you do have cable. (We don’t. We canceled it when I was pregnant to cut our monthly bills.) Plus there is a PBS channel my kids love too.
  • Paying for a streaming service means my kids don’t watch commercials, ever. They never have to flip through channels, hoping there is something decent on. They just pick something and watch it. We stayed in a hotel recently and they were so flummoxed not being able to control what was on, but subsequently asked for every single thing each commercial endorsed. That was only about an hour’s worth. I can’t imagine living with that every day. Netflix is less than $10 a month, a fraction of the cost of cable and without the commercials.
  • Making them agree on a show and take turns picking has helped them understand sometimes you do what someone else wants. Is it always peaceful? Nope. But then, neither are kids sometimes.
  • Netflix streaming truly is unlimited. Believe me, we’ve tested it. More than once I have thought, “Gee I am glad we don’t get a monthly usage report showing we watched the same episode of Octonauts 437 times so far.”
  • Use parental controls. I mean, if you are going to plop your kids in front of a neglect-o-magic, at least be a little parental. My kids have their own profile and they are locked into ratings for 8 and under. They can’t accidentally watch Orange is the New Black.
  • Be careful trying to replace paid streaming content with YouTube. It’s crazy easy for kids to click on the next thing YouTube thinks is related and find something you’d really rather not have them seeing.
  • Not everything on TV is terrible. My kids are actually pretty smart and know a lot of things because of TV than they would be otherwise. Sometimes they will start talking about some creature they learned about and will tell me 32 facts about it and I am blown away they retained so much. They also smash things like Hulk so there’s that.
  • Try to quiz them after they’ve watching something to make sure they are actually learning. Tell me something about [whatever] that you didn’t know. It makes them recall what they learned and it creates a dialogue. Even the mindless stuff has morals sometimes. How do you think he felt when that happened? What would you do if that happened? Especially great for kids who might struggle with emotions.
  • When they were in preschool in the afternoons, we had a no-TV-before-school rule, because sometimes it is hard to turn off without a fit. We made the rule and stuck to it. It was disputed the first week or so then they accepted it. Now with them starting Kindergarten we’ve made a no-TV-on-school-days rule so they can stay focused on their schoolwork and activities. They know it’s the rule and it’s non-negotiable. (Exceptions made for sick days.)
  • We do a LOT of stuff that isn’t watching TV, I promise. They are exposed to lots of things in real life too. We try to get out of the house every day and we’ve filled the past 5 years with tons of educational and mind-broadening activities. And a lot of TV.

I know the recommendations of nearly everyone who recommends such things say kids should limit screen time, and TV is not a babysitter and it’s bad for developing brains. All of which is probably true. But in our house, my kids watching TV is essential to MY mental health.

* Permission granted in this instance has zero actual authority and is offered without guarantee or responsibility.

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Twinfant Tuesday: “Mothering” on Mother’s Day

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Categories Discipline, Emotion, Infants, It Gets Different, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Twinfant TuesdayTags 3 Comments

I remember my first Mother’s Day.  My girls were right at four months old.  I was incredibly grateful to have joined the ranks of motherhood, but I was tired…so very, very tired.  How wonderful it would have been to have a break.

But I didn’t get a break that year.  I changed just as many diapers, washed just as many bottles, dealt with just as much laundry as I had the many days before.

While I have yet to enjoy the elusive “day off”, my subsequent Mother’s Days haven’t been quite so grueling.  Certainly at six years old, my girls are largely self-sufficient.  They’re bundles of energy, but they’re so much fun.

I wanted to spend the day with my girls on Sunday.  I’m working full-time these days, and they are in kindergarten, so our downtime is a tiny fraction of what it used to be.  I cherish being with them on the weekends, and I wanted nothing more than to hang out with them and enjoy the spoils of being a mommy.

What I didn’t see as part of my Mother’s Day “bliss”, though, was disciplining my children for talking back to me, or for saying an inappropriate word.  I counted three time-outs between the two girls.  At age six, that’s a bit unusual (fortunately), but it had to be done.

And I certainly didn’t plan to get a “throw-up call” from Baby B a couple of hours after bedtime.  She somehow didn’t get any on her bed, but it was all over her…prompting a full shower and then drying her hair, and then doing a big load of laundry.

During these not-so-blissful times, there was a part of me that wanted to say, “Seriously???  On Mother’s Day??!!!  The last thing I want is to put you in time out!

But I stopped myself.

We may take a break from time to time (a well-deserved break, no doubt!), but our job as mothers never stops.  It changes, and it gets easier in many ways, but this is who I am.

This line of thought helped me keep things in perspective on Sunday.  Certainly I would have enjoyed a perfectly planned day, complete with some pomp and circumstance and some quiet time…and I definitely plan to eek out a pedicure in the next couple of weeks…but in the midst of not-so-fun, I was reminded how important my job is as a mom.

If you’re in the midst of the twinfant stage, hang in there.  If your kiddos are older, but still tucker you out just as much, that’s OK.  If you took some time “off” this weekend, hope it re-energized you.

Whatever stage we’re in, may we keep perspective.  May we appreciate it for what it is.  And may we feel the importance of our roles.

Hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day, in whatever way you marked the day!

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Infants are Easier

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Categories Attitude, Difference, Infants, It Gets Different, Lists, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Twinfant Tuesday2 Comments

My twins are so solidly in their toddlerhood now that it’s hard to remember when they were infants. Perhaps it’s better to make a list of all the things that were easier to do when they were younger.

Holding them  Boy, I wish for the days when each baby weighed 10 pounds and could easily be held at the same time. They didn’t wiggle around, or twist their bodies, or arch their backs, or slide down your sides, or lean their entire weight away from you. These days my kids definitely make their intentions known. Babies blissfully don’t have intentions.

Feeding  Babies are relatively clean. There might be a spit-up or two, and burping them could be a little tedious, but these are things you expect and can anticipate. As toddlers, when they decide that the food they loved yesterday is what they are throwing at you today, you will be wishing for those burp cloths back. My kids are good eaters, and they still make a big mess. At this point they can also say that they’re hungry. Loudly and repeatedly until they get fed what they want.

On the move  Heavy and cumbersome as they are, infant car seats and the strollers they attach to are really as safe and easy as it gets. Venture into the land of shoe wearing (and the eating/ taking off of them), handholding (or wrenching their hands out of yours while walking through a parking lot), and trying to keep toddlers in strollers (or just trying to put them in while they’re arching their backs and screaming), and let’s just say you will start to regret complaining about the infant car seats. Don’t get me started on what to do when they go off in opposite directions.

Playing  Once upon a time a simple squeaky toy or blanket was all that was necessary to amuse a baby. In fact, nothing was needed at all as long as baby had something to look at, like Mommy’s face. Now? Toddlers have the attention span of a few minutes, at most. Mine are not interested in television yet (except to press its buttons and climb it), and their entire playroom full of toys is old news. I cannot keep them in one place past a couple of hours before they’re fighting and biting each other out of boredom, including our own house.

Sleeping  Infants sleep a lot. Toddlers don’t sleep as much. Enough said. These days trying to figure out when nap time will be is sometimes a guessing game. When they don’t sleep (for whatever unknown reason), cranky toddlers will eventually get on your last nerve.

…Maybe I just miss my little babies. Sniff.

lunchldyd is mom to 19mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister. Though the days are tough around here, she feels lucky to be able to spend her summer vacation with them.

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Separate Preschools – An End of Year Update

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Categories Classroom Placement, Independence, Individuality, It Gets Different, Preschoolers, Same Gender, School, Special Needs1 Comment

Preschoolbeforeandafter

Some of you might remember my post last summer about separating my twin boys for preschool, not into different classes, but into different schools. We are wrapping up the school year so I thought I would share a bullet-point list update of how the year went. One kid was done two weeks ago, the other finishes today. (Making up the snow days.)

DSC_0700

Good

  • Independence. Every discussion on separating twins in school eventually independence is cited as a main reason to separate. In our case, I didn’t feel like they were ready to be apart, and they didn’t really understand what was happening. However, it was very clear to us as parents that one was incredibly reliant on the other, to the point he would defer to his brother to answer questions about the alphabet or counting. Being in his own school, he has been able to demonstrate he can do those things on his own, without his brother.
  • New Experiences. Both boys love their teachers and have enjoyed going to school. They love telling each other about what they did today in school and they are able to share these experiences with each other.
  • Excelling in the school. Without the other to lean on, they have each grown and really prospered.
  • New friends. They have both made new friends and look forward to seeing them at school. We have set up playdates with new friends and it is nice to see them form friendships without each other. 
  • Progress. This time last year we were at such a tough place, middle-of-terrible-3’s, a kid with un-dagnosed, indeterminate delays, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating. Now a year later it is so much better. We have answers, strategies and we are all working together. It’s truly amazing to see how much progress we have all made as a family.

Bad

  • Juggling two different school calendars. One kid goes four days a week, one goes two days a week, overlapping only one day, but forcing us to be two places at once. Both schools were considerate of the situation within our family and invited the other kid to class parties. It never worked out though, it seemed whenever the parties were scheduled, one or the other was sick, or the other was in class that day in the other school. Both schools had a policy of no siblings on field trips, but requested parents to accompany their kids. Every field trip except one we couldn’t go because the trips, of course, fell of a day the other was NOT in school. 
  • Dependence. My boys are very close and play well together (most of the time.) They have active imaginations and finish each other’s thoughts. They devise games and scenarios and have similar interests. We have a playgroup we have played with since the boys were babies, comprised of other twin families, and whom my kids play with really well. It was surprising to read in a progress report that one of my sons did not have any friends, did not play with any other children and did not seem to socialize with anyone other than the adults in the room. Considering how social he is at home and with his playgroup friends, this was unexpected. He has since made a couple friends and seeks them out occasionally, but without the companionship of his brother it seems like he is less confident in making friends.
  • Emotions trauma and drama. The first weeks were really hard. Tears, tantrums, acting out, you name it. Same thing happened after Christmas break and the first few days of spring break after they’ve been together 24/7 again. We’ve also seen a lot of jealousy when one kid has something fun at school like a field trip or pajama day. One kid would have a bring-your-favorite-toy day and the other would want to bring one too. I was always writing notes explained weird outfits or things in backpacks. 
  • The Twin Thing. When we have been invited to parties or playdates, I am not really sure how to include/not exclude the other kid. I have been “that Mom” who invited her other kid to a playdate because I didn’t want to have one miss it because he has a twin brother. At age 4, playdates are still a Mom-goes-too event and as far as I am concerned these two are a package deal for now. Eventually they can have their own social calendars, but for now where one goes we all go.

Ugly

  • Germs. Lots of them. One preschool class is a pertidish of plagues, two was ridiculous. We just got through the longest, crummiest winter in Chicago in a century so we were inside, a lot. And with two classes full of oozing, snotty, sneezy preschoolers exposing our family to bug after bug, we pretty much had something or another in an endless cycle the past seven months. We had so much plague at our house, it was gross. Pink eye, tummy bugs, endless coughs, colds, fevers, snot. Yuck.
  • Uncertainty. We had to wait until May for the IEP meeting to find out whether my one son would continue in the early childhood program. Truthfully I wasn’t sure he would, he’s done so well meeting his goals. So we had to enroll him in the other school with his brother so we could save two spots in one class. At the meeting we were told he would definitely be going back next year, that he still has ground to cover before he’s ready to start Kindergarten. Due to their November birthday, they will be almost-6 when they start Kindergarten and have another whole year of preschool where they will be 5 most of the year. After this year of preschool, though, it is uncertain what will happen next. Whether they will be back together, separate classes, separate schools, separate grade levels. 

 

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 4-year-old twin boys who just finished up a year of preschool, separated and on their own. They all survived and thrived.  Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.

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When Mommy Is Sick

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Categories How Do The Moms Do It, It Gets Different, Medical, Single ParentingTags Leave a comment

When Mommy Is Sick, from hdydi.com. Sadia reflects on how different it is to be a sick single parent with big kids than infants.Remember how my little M came home from her Christmas vacation feverish and pathetic? I caught her virus and became equally feverish and pathetic.

It started with a cough and quickly blossomed into what I suspect is this year’s flu. When I realized I might be contagious, I elected to work from home rather than bringing my germs into the office. That afternoon, my cough worsened and I was certain I was about to be very ill. I begged off work to stock up on easy foods and medication.

Let me tell you that it’s far easier to be a sick single mother of 7-year-olds than of infants.

When Mommy Is Sick with Infants

The last time I was this sick, my daughters were babies. I had a blog, but wasn’t blogging with any regularity and I certainly wasn’t recording how hard those first few months were. I have vague memories of those days of fever and pain.

On the worst day, my fever around 103°F, I remember thinking there was no way I could carry the babies and their car seats to the car to take them to daycare, so I kept them home with me. I was so weak that I remember crawling into the nursery and feeding my babies, one at a time, holding the bottles through the slats of the cribs as I lay on the floor. I changed their diapers through the slats, too. I was too weak to lift them out of their cribs. They stayed in there all day.

My husband was in Iraq and I was too proud/worried to ask the neighbours for help. The only close friends I had nearby had babies younger than mine–we had 5 little ones born on the block within a 12 month period–or were elderly. I wasn’t going to risk passing on what I had to them. Our families were thousands of miles away.

I was well enough to take the babies back to daycare the next day. One of the teachers didn’t live too far from me. She told me to call her if I were ever in the same situation again. She would be happy to bring the babies into school for me. It hadn’t occurred to me to reach out to my daycare community. I’ve never made that mistake again. I also make sure that my friends and my daughters’ friends’ parents know that I’ll be there for them in a crisis.

When Mommy Is Sick with 7-Year-Olds

When I was at the store last week, I focused on picking up food that my kids could prepare themselves: a fresh gallon of milk for cereal, hummus and pita chips, pre-sliced apples and baby cut carrots, sandwich fixings. For myself, I picked up generic multi-symptom flu meds, bananas, chamomile tea, and the few frozen meals available with sane quantities of salt.

That night, I took my acetaminophen-laced meds before driving out to get my girls from after school care. I explained to them that mommy was very sick and that I needed them to be very grown up. It turned out that M had eaten dinner at the Y, but J had skipped it. I showed them their self-service options and told the girls to clean up after themselves.

I didn’t feel like my temperature was falling even an hour later. I came out from my room and asked the girls to prepare for bed, telling them I didn’t feel good. J asked if she could take my temperature. I asked her to open the box of thermometer probe covers, applied one to our thermometer–we still use the two the NICU sent home with us 7.5 years ago–and popped it in my mouth.

102°F. Great.

M and J had changed into their pajamas and brushed their teeth. I reminded them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry and sent them off to bed after J brought me a wet washcloth to try to cool my neck and forehead. I kissed them on the top of their heads instead of nose and cheek as I usually do.

J asked me how to set the alarm clock because she was going to check on me every two hours. I told her that I appreciated the thought, but needed her to get plenty of rest to maximize her chances of staying healthy. She wasn’t pleased.

I posted my fever on Facebook and asked for advice. Several friends recommended taking ibuprofen, but I discovered that the only bottle I had had expired. I figured I’d try to push through.

I dozed feverishly until 9:00. On the hour, my two sweet girls scuffed into my room, each in a bathrobe and slippers and holding her nightlight. They wanted to see how I was. Since they were up anyway, I asked them to load up in the car so Mommy could pick up medicine. They were unable to help me at the 24-hour drive through at CVS Pharmacy, so we had to all go inside to pick up a bottle of ibuprofen.

I ordered pizza delivered a couple of times during the week I was most unwell. The girls’ Girl Scout leader took them to their scout meeting and their teacher dropped them home. I loaded and ran the dishwasher as my daughters made their way through plates and cups, and I disinfected around the house as best I could to keep my virus to myself. I also cleaned the cat litter and took out the trash.

Otherwise, though, my daughters have been pretty self-sufficient. I’ve reserved my energy to spend with my girls, talking to them about their days, talking about the things they find interesting, picking up after them, especially dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and dirty floors. They’ve helped out by making their own meals, putting away clean dishes and clothes, and taking care of their own basic physical needs. I’ve dropped them at school and picked them up, run their baths, and checked their homework.

Poor M felt terribly guilty for having passed on her virus to me, so she needed extra affection to help her understand that I had chosen to risk getting sick because I loved her … just as she was doing in caring for me. J tired of working to get along with her sister and needed me to intervene a few times.

There’s been a lot more TV at our house than I’d usually allow, but given that eating a meal wore me out so much that I slept for two blocks of 8 hours the following day, I feel like we’ve been doing really well.

Ever wonder if it gets easier? It does!

How do you manage care for your children when you’re sick?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Twinfant Tuesday: It Gets Easier

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Categories Feeling Overwhelmed, It Gets Different, Parenting, Twinfant Tuesday3 Comments

I wrote this post last December, when my fraternal twin boys were three months old and some wonderful people reminded me that it gets easier. A year later, I often think about this day and how much it helped me…and helps me still.

Being a parent to 3-month-old twins is hard.

I get lost in the minutae of the moment…how much sleep they’ve gotten today, how the hell we’re going to transfer from 5 naps per day to 3 without ever staying awake longer than 2 hours (math = more fun with sleep deprivation!), and how to institute that perfect bedtime routine.

But thankfully the universe delivers periodic reminders of the big picture.

Yesterday, my husband and I loaded the boys into the Baby Bjorns and set off to Golden Gate Park. We took a beautiful walk around Stow Lake. He goes back to work tomorrow, after a wonderful vacation together, and our conversation was drifting from our fun holiday memories to the logistics of returning to our daily routine. There is simply too much to do in a day, and inevitably our needs are not going to get totally met. My back was starting to ache with the weight of it all. And the weight of little R. He’s getting so heavy!

Suddenly we hear a shout, “Are they twins?” A family was drifting alongside us in a paddle boat. Two tousle-headed boys pedaled in tandem, the parents reclining peacefully in the back. Grins adorned each face. In the fading afternoon light, the picture was idyllic.

“Yes,” we called back. “Three months.” We must have looked it too, with our tired eyes and spit-up stains and my awful too-big-but-still-the-only-fitting maternity jeans.

The parents’ voices were full of sincerity. “It gets so much easier. In a few years, they will be carrying you!” They gestured to their 11-year-olds, cheerfully ferrying their parents around the lake. “Two is much better than one. They’re best friends and we have so much fun. It really does get easier.”

I absolutely believe them.

Keep sending me reminders, universe, that one day all the tiny things I worry about will be a distant memory, that change is inevitable, that the days are long but the years are short.

Remind me that all our problems are the result of abundance – wonderful, crazy, soul-stretching, too-much-ness – and that the thing to do with abundance is to embrace it.

Keep reminding me, universe. It gets easier.

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