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Dec 26, 2012

My Current iPhone Homescreen - Version #1

Phones are an important part of our life in this day and age because they basically store our lives and businesses.  That's why I think it's important to share & find new apps that may improve our productivity, organization or lives.  Every so often I am going to write about new apps that I love or share my current iPhone home screen.  Why am I going to do that?  Because I love apps and download quite a few to test out.  

Above is my current iPhone home screen -- I'm OCD about this screen.  I want to make sure that everything on my home screen I need or use and definitely want it to look organized and neat.  Why do I have only three rows of apps when my iPhone holds 5 rows?  Basically because I want it to look clean and streamlined.  I only want what I use every single day on my home screen and that's what's there.

Sparrow Mail - I never liked the look or feel of iPhone's native mail app so I went searching for a new app.  Sparrow may cost $2.99 but it's an amazing app for mail.  You can add multiple e-mail accounts and it looks clean and is extremely easy to organize your mail.  I'm actually obsessed with this app right now.

Chrome - I'm a loyal Chrome user on my PC & Mac so it's only fair that I use Chrome on my iPhone & iPad as well!  I absolutely love how fast chrome loads versus Safari and love how bookmarks & recently viewed pages stay on the home screen of the app as well.  It's great!

Camera + - I use my phone as a camera multiple times a day, it's one of my favorite things to do with my phone.  Camera + actually takes than the native app and I love the zoom & grid features. 

Google - Anyone who knows me knows that Google is one of my favorite things.  I am constantly Googling random facts or things I need to know about.  Instead of constantly opening Google up in my browser, it's only fair that I have the app for easy access. 

TD Bank - Easy access to my checking and savings account & account balance. 

Week Cal - I just like this app better than the native Calendar app.  I think it has a better interface and easily switches between work, personal and other calendars I may have.  It just has a more clean interface to the app and calendar. 

Pocket - Pocket is one of those apps that I can't live without.  I can easily send websites and blogs directly to Pocket to read later on.  It's similar to Instapaper and was formerly called Read it Later.  This is an app I definitely recommend to everyone.  

Reeder - BEST RSS reader.  I love it!  (I don't love the way my unread count continuously goes up though! LOL I subscribe to too many blogs!)  It's feature heavy and allows you to mark all read/unread, keep favorites and edit your subscriptions right from the app.

AnyList - I have to be honest, I use other "list" apps too but AnyList is one that I can't seem to part with.  I'm not 100% in love with it but I don't hate it either.  I love the fact that the "banner" tells you how many tasks you still have to get done.  It's helpful because the annoying number of undone tasks continuously has me looking at it to see what I can get done to make that number go down or away. lol

Evernote - I just recently fell in love with Evernote but seem to use it quite a bit.  I use it in conjunction with Pocket and Reeder.  If there's something I want to save to use later I will use Evernote to index it so it is easier to pull back up later.  This app is so feature packed and has so many advantages...

SongPop - Love Love Love this game. Enough said. 

Dialvetica - Has definitely replaced my native "phone" app.  Firstly, I don't use my phone too much for actual calls and talking so I don't need to constantly use the "phone/contacts".  However when I do need to make a call Dialvetica knows who I call the most and lists them first with all of their contact information.  This way it is extremely easy and quick for me to pull up one of those contacts to call, e-mail or text.

TweetBot - I used to use the regular Twitter app just until a few days ago.  I'm currently testing this app out because I wanted a change of pace.  I'll probably know within a week or so if this app is a keeper for Twitter...I use it quite a bit so I need something that I actually like!

The other pages have:  

2nd Page:
  • IM+ for cross platform instant messaging.  
  • AT&T Navigator for GPS -- I love this app even though it costs me monthly.
  • Calculator because I'm # challenged.
  • Farenheit since I always want to know the temp and love how it shows it in a flag on the front of the icon.
  • App Store just because I'm such an app addict.
  • Optimum is my cable provider and I love that I can watch TV from the app, manage my DVR and use my phone as a remote via WiFi.
  • Capture as a video recording program.
  • Settings since I use settings quite a bit.
The third page has all of my folders which I name with verbs instead of other titles.  I use titles such as "work", "photograph", "listen", "watch", "shop", "organize", etc...  I feel it makes me more productive for some reason!  I also have a folder for apps that I am currently testing and a folder for the native iPhone apps that I barely ever use. :)  

I love that my phone is organized, it makes me feel like I have at least one thing under control in my life.  

How do you organize your phone? What are some of your favorite apps?

Dec 25, 2012

Santa was good to my girls this year.

When I left my house to go to see Les Mis last night it was snowing like crazy.  As much as I hate snow I was extremely excited since it was Christmas Eve.  There's just something about snow on Christmas Eve/Christmas that makes it really feel like the Holidays.  I was hoping the snow would stick a little, enough for us to have a white Christmas but by the time I got out of the movie theater the snow had turned into rain.  

The girls were sleeping on the couch when I got home so I carried them each to my bed.  Alayna was perfectly fine and still asleep when I put her in her bed but Olivia was scolding hot.  I had a feeling that she had a pretty high fever so I put her in bed and got a thermometer.  Turns out I was right, she had a 102 temperature and refused to take Tylenol for me until I dissolved the meltaway on a spoon for her.  She went back to sleep and woke up again 10 minutes later crying that she didn't feel good... That went on for about 2 hours.  Finally at 5:30 AM she was asleep soundly, her fever seemed to be down a little bit and I was able to make sure that Santa put the presents under the tree.  

Olivia and Alayna woke up about an hour later and shook me awake to open presents.  Keep in mind, I only had an hours worth of sleep and was falling asleep while the presents were being opened.  However I stayed awake enough to take a few pictures of my girls opening presents.

They made out like little bandits! They got a Fisher Price Serving Surprises Table, pretend food, Alayna got a guitar & Olivia got a keyboard, Journey Girl dolls, Play Doh, games, craft sets, dollhouse furniture and so many more goodies that we can't wait to play with together!  After opening presents Olivia asked if she could go back to bed and not play with her toys until later; that's when I really knew she was sick.  She usually wants to rip open everything and play with it right then and there.  

After presents we prepared for my uncle and grandma to come, just our usual small family get together, for dinner.  We had a great Christmas despite Olivia being sick.  I still have no idea where we are going to stick all of these new toys but we now have an excuse to put together the second bookcase that we've had in a box for about 4 months! :)  I hope everyone had a great Christmas! 

Dec 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone!

'twas the night before Christmas and all through our house,
Cookies were baking the scent was so grand,
Kiddies all dressed in their PJs by the tree,
Ready for later that night & Santa Claus to land.

Merry Christmas to all our readers! Dinner is done, the alarm for the cookies just sounded, we are off to put the cookies and carrots on a plate with a nice glass of milk for Santa and Reindeer! My little elves will be off to bed soon, anxious for Santa's arrival tonight! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas Eve with their families!

From our family to yours. :)

Pre-Christmas Adventures with our Family!

Due to my new job (that I have been at for almost 3 months now!) and my mom, kids and I being sick, we were pretty late on doing everything Christmas this year.  I didn't get to do my Black Friday haul but still got my shopping done by budgeting $100 every week for my kids, family and friends presents.  I think I did pretty well with what I had and have no complaints at all.  Our tree (shown above!) was put up the weekend after Thanksgiving but we did not get around to decorating the tree or the house until just two weeks ago.  We went a little overboard this year getting decorations done...I mean putting a Christmas toilet seat topper on the toilet and a Christmas rug in the bathroom. 

Next came Olivia's 5th Birthday & Party on Dec. 21, 2012.  I couldn't believe my little princess turned 5, it was so hard to accept that she was another year older because she is my little baby! (And she will ALWAYS be!)  We had her party at Michaels Arts & Crafts with just a few of her friends from Pre-School.  The party went over extremely well, even though we only had 3 other girls aside from my two!  Olivia had so much fun and couldn't stop talking about her big girl party!  We all made foam Gingerbread Houses in honor of Christmas, which was right around the corner!  I also took some time out of my morning to make Snowman cupcakes for her party, which turned out adorable!

We didn't get to see Santa until yesterday, the day before Christmas Eve and boy was there a line.  We waited for about an hour and 45 minutes to see Santa at the mall, but that hour and 45 minutes was so worth it when my girls got up to see him!  They told him what they wanted for Christmas and Olivia got to tell Santa that her birthday had been just a few days before.  She was super excited when Santa said, "Happy Birthday!" to her.  The picture came out great and I also snapped one really quickly on my phone as well! 

After meeting Santa we ran over to mail our letters at Macys.  This was especially important to Alayna since every letter that's "mailed" is a donation to the Make A Wish foundation.  Alayna has a best friend that has been in the hospital in Philadelphia for almost an entire year.  He needs a heart and kidney transplant and so far has had no luck, but he is part of the Make A Wish foundation and that cause has become very dear to my 7 year old's heart because of her best friend.  

So today I got a bit of last minute wrapping in when the kids were still asleep and I am in between doing some cooking for tomorrow and getting ready to bake cookies for Santa.  Tonight I'm going to be seeing Les Miserables with one of my friends at the movies so I want to make sure I get everything done with my girls and get them into bed before I leave!  Santa will be here before we know it and I'm sure he'll leave lots of presents for my girls -- they've been good this year. (We won't talk about the times they weren't!)

Merry Christmas Eve to all of you!  

Dec 20, 2012

Mommy Gone Crazy -- Where's my sanity?

This is my day after I leave work today.  

I usually work until 4pm with my day job and get home by 4:30pm, I work about 30-35 minutes away from where I live.  Today I have absolutely no free time at all today, not even after 11:30 when I finally get home from finishing shopping.  

A few weeks ago I found out that I have a leak in my air valve on my front passenger side tire and it keeps losing air. I finally just put electrical tape around the air valve, it did help, but when it rains it looses it's sticky and it starts losing air more rapidly again.  The only time I can get to the dealer is on Saturdays and they have no time until after Christmas to see me.  Finally, I called Firestone and asked if they can do anything for me.  Thankfully they said that they can replace the air valve for me instead of the whole sensor -- but my air pressure light will still be on my dashboard.  Who cares about the damn light, I just don't want to have to constantly fill my damn tire with air every other day!  I set up an appointment at 4:40pm for that, directly after I get home.  

Yesterday my oldest, Alayna, woke up with a fever, horrible cough and very scratchy throat.  I figured it was just a 24 hour thing and gave her Tylenol while she stayed home from school.  Optimism is definitely my thing because I thought she would be better this morning.  WRONG!  She still had a fever this morning and felt even worse so I kept her home again and made a doctors appointment for her at 5:15 today.  Now I have to run home from Firestone after that is done, get Alayna, my mom and Olivia and go to the doctors office.  Why do I have to bring them all with me?  I have a job interview at 5:45 with H&R Block.

For the past 7 years I have worked seasonally at H&R Block as a receptionist and this year will probably be no different.  Yes, I do have a day job but unfortunately I need a second job to help catch up on the bills we were late on when I was unemployed.  I figure that this seasonal job (jan-april) will help with paying those bills down so we are current on all of our bills.  Right now we don't have too much leeway with money after paying bills and I wish we had some extra. So basically I have to leave my mom and the girls at the pediatrician's office while I run to the interview and then pick them back up.

After that (bored yet?) I have to finish Christmas shopping, I'm going out with one of my friends for a few hours of sanity tonight and then come home and make:
  • 18 Christmas bags for Alayna's class
  • 22 Christmas bags for Olivia's class
  • 22 Birthday/Christmas cupcakes for Olivia's birthday tomorrow. (Class)
  • 15 Birthday/Minnie Mouse cupcakes for Olivia's birthday party tomorrow night
  • 15 Goody bags for Olivia's birthday party tomorrow night
I also have to prep her Birthday activity for her party since we are having a bunch of 4-5 year old making foam gingerbread houses at the party.  I'm going to be up until probably 3 am doing all of this and I don't know how I'm going to do it.  Nobody better bother me tomorrow, I'm sleeping for as long as I can before I have to do a million more things....

Dec 19, 2012

My Experience with Being an Adoptee.

Twenty-Seven years ago I was adopted at just a month and 2 days old.  My mom has always told me the story of how she got the phone call from Pat, her case worker, and how I was brought home on a very rainy April 19, 1985.  I have been asked so many questions in my lifetime about being an adopee, from those who are curious about the whole situation.  Because of that, I thought that I would address them here for anyone who is also curious.

"Can I ask an adoptee questions?"
It depends on the person and how open they are about being adopted.  I always welcome questions from others and never felt shame about being adopted.  I actually feel incredibly special because I had two mothers who loved me enough to give me a great life that I may not have otherwise had.  I love to educate others on what it's like to be an adoptee.

Different Types of Adoptions
It seems as though some people don't know there are different types of adoptions.  My adoption was a closed adoption, meaning that my parents had absolutely no contact with my biological parents and didn't even know who they were.  All my mom knew was the very vague and small amount of information she received from the adoption agency.  She also receive some "Non Identifying Information" which is a small document with basic health and general information about my biological family.  

There are also open adoptions which became more of the norm in the 1990's.  This means that the adoptive and biological parents know each other and are allowed to share information about the child.  They are even able to get together with the child a few times per year, based on the legal agreement with the adoptive family.   I think this is a great option since the adoptees get to know about their biological family, why they were adopted and have access to all of their health information.

"Do you know your real parents?"
My "real parents" are the parents that adopted me.  Giving birth to a child makes you a mother and a father, yes, but not a "mom" and a "dad".  The love, nurturing and caring though the years makes real parents.  That is something that birth parents cannot do no matter how much they love their biological child.  

"Do you ever want to meet your biological parents?"
I met my biological mom and siblings back in 2003.  The adoption agency who placed me assisted in the search but I also hired a private investigator who specialized in adoption reunions to find another adopted sister.

All my life I had dreamed about how my reunion would be and when it finally happened, it was nothing like what I imagined.  I felt very let down and actually did regret the reunion for a few months.  I felt like the imagining was better than the actual outcome.  My biological mom was very quiet and never said that she loved or missed me, which is what I wanted her to say.  Now, almost 10 years later, I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet her.  My biological mother and grandmother passed away in May and June of this past year and even though I never got a chance to know them too well and ask questions that I still had, I am grateful for the times I had with them.  I will always admire my biological mother for having the strength to give me a better life.

"Do you ever wish your biological parents would have kept you?"
While I do wonder what it would have been like to stay in that family, no.  I don't wish they would have kept me at all actually.  Meeting them and hearing how tough their lives were made me feel more thankful for what I actually had growing up.  I am thankful to my (adoptive) mother for giving me everything that my biological family wouldn't have been able to give me.

"Why were you given up for adoption when other siblings weren't?"
Believe it or not I have been asked this quite a few times.  I have a 32 year old brother and a 30 year old sister that my biological mom kept.  My other sister is 29 and I am 27.  My biological mother placed me and my older 29 year old sister.  Why?  Thankfully when I found out I had siblings I also found my non identifying information that explained to me what happened.  My birth parents were unmarried and my birthmom decided to try to parent the two older siblings.  When my sister and I were born, unfortunately, she didn't have the means to take care of all of us.  She decided to give my sister and I a better life.  The one thing I have never been clarified on is why they separated my older sister and I.  Both my mom and her mom said they signed papers saying that they are willing to accept other siblings from the same birthmom but my sister's mother never got a call about me.  That's the one question I have that has gone unanswered for years.

Dec 18, 2012

What's with the Elf on the Shelf craziness?

My 7 year old came home from school one afternoon and asked me if I could buy an “Elf on the Shelf” elf.  I was actually surprised she even knew what it was since she is one of the most selectively deaf children on the face of the planet – but anyhow…  I thought about it for a few minutes, knowing how much parents rave about the tradition, but dismissed it.  Why?  I can barely remember to grab my laptop bag when I’m off to work in the morning.  There are days I completely forget about activities and constantly have to use a “reminders” app on my phone to remind myself of anything.  How was I going to remember to move a little elf around every single day?  My dismissal wasn't due to lack of creativity – I could definitely think of creative places to put the elf, I just didn't have the time…or the memory.  (I suffer from a very bad case of CRS – Can’t remember shit.)

Long story short, I felt like a horrible mother for not wanting to start this tradition.  Especially since we had an elf for our decor (somewhere) that looked almost exactly like Elf on the Shelf that we used to have up when I was a child. (Saving me $30…)  I felt like maybe I was the only mother in the entire modern world who did not have an Elf on the Shelf tradition to carry on with my children every year.  Well, yesterday I got an e-mail about a blog by a mom named Jen from the blog “People I Want to Punch in the Throat” and I was rolling on the floor hysterically laughing.  Though she has an Elf on the Shelf, this mom suffers from CRS as well and makes me feel so much better about my reasons not to have one at this point.

Next year I may break down and use our elf or buy a new Elf on the Shelf for my girls.  Unfortunately, it’s too late to start it now, but it might be fun.  Maybe I’ll make a New Year’s Resolution to actually exercise my brain, even though it would be hard! (I’ve been forgetful all my life and becoming a mommy just made it worse.)  It would be a cute tradition to start with my girls that they could carry on when they get older and maybe this little damn elf WILL keep my kids in check. (Lord knows they need it!)  I love to jump on those damn bandwagons, why not the Elf on the Shelf one as well!

Do you and your family have an Elf on the Shelf?  Do you get super creative or slack off and forget to move him?  

Dec 7, 2012

What do you think about getting a child a computer?

My oldest daughter just turned 7 in October and for over two years she has been heavily into computers.  At age 5 she asked me to show her how to use the computer to play games and I obliged.  After all, this is the age of technology and I feel the more kids understand it the better off they are.  

For the past two years she has had 30 minutes a day after school to use my computer and play the games she wants to play, which I have absolutely no problem with.  However, this year she asked me if Santa could bring her a laptop just for herself.  After thinking about it and deciding that I could splurge on a small Netbook for my daughter, I set off to look for the perfect laptop for a 7 year old that will last, be easy for her to use and something that can grow with her.

I am on various discussion boards aimed at moms and asked around to see if anyone knew of laptops that would be perfect for my little girl.  I got some great ideas but also a lot of people who told me, basically, that I am spoiling her and handing everything to her on a silver platter.  Then I also got the parents who decided upon themselves, without knowing me, that I’m not watching what my daughter is doing on the computer and I have to be careful.  First of all, I may be 27 years old but I know how to parent thank-you-very-much.  I am 100% aware of what my daughter does on the computer and implement the correct parental controls so she does not see things she shouldn’t see.  I feel very confident that my daughter knows what is right and what is wrong but I also watch what she is doing when she is on the computer.  

Kids in our school district began using computers in Pre-School and it continues all the way up to 8th grade.  Both of my daughters have computer classes to learn the important skills that will be needed in the future.  Computer skills are absolutely vital these days because of the wealth of information that they can learn from websites.  I grew up learning how to use a computer and now have a day job working all day on a computer, I know the importance of learning the skills and using the computer.  I am a very technologically savvy mom and want my kids to do the same.  I’m not trying to spoil them, I want them to learn to be independent, gain computer skills and be able to look something up when they have a question.  I believe it is important for them to learn problem solving skills via the internet and I will always push that.  Of course, I will also always monitor them to make sure that they are making the correct decisions online and will take appropriate action if any of my rules are broken.  

What do you think about getting a 7 or 8 year old a laptop?

Dec 6, 2012

Do Cell Phones Change the Way You Live Your Life?

Do you change your plans according to how much battery power you have left on your phone?

I heard this topic on the radio this morning as I was driving to work and thought it was a great topic to write about.  Before I listened to this banter this morning I never realized how much my phone and it’s battery controls my life and the life of others around me.  I never actually thought that others got just as frantic when their battery percentage was low or when their phone died and they were unable to communicate with others.

Before cell phones we made plans, got to where we had to go on time and had no interruptions as we hung out with friends, our families, went to the movies, etc...  In the age of iPhones, Blackberries and Droids, it seems like our life is primarily controlled by a small electronic communication device -- aka: Cell Phone.  This device is our lifeline and as funny as it sounds, our phones are pretty much permanently attached to our hands or our ears.  We might not realize it, but our phones are growing more and more important to us everyday that we use them.  When was the last time you went out for the night and did not touch your cell phone?  Probably never.  We rely so much on our phones to check up on others, allow others to check up on us and communicate via text message to the point that we start to seem rude to the people who we are with.  Our lives, our businesses and our schedules are all controlled by that phone.

I couldn’t believe how true they were on the radio this morning.  I was able to relate to every word they said about the topic.  

Postponing leaving for work or an event because your battery is low?  I’ve done that.  
Carrying your wall charger around with you wherever you go? Yep, it’s always in my bag.
Cutting time with friends or family short because your battery is low? Definitely.
Asking to borrow someone’s phone in order to let friends/family know your phone died? I’ve asked more than once.
Panicking when your phone battery dies? All the time. I fear that happening.

Sad?  Very.  I can’t believe how dependent we have become on our cell phones.  It’s crazy how much power that little device has over us.  Who else thinks they need a cell phone intervention?

Please comment and let me know, does this happen to you?  Do you let your phone battery dictate when you leave for something or how early you go home?