Friday Finds: Apps I Love

Like most moms, I pretty much live on my iPhone or iPad.  I have them with me wherever I go so I can jot down ideas while waiting for lacrosse practice to end, manage social media networks in between client meetings or try to beat my very Scrabble-savvy friends (I’m speaking to you Kelly King) in Words with Friends as I take the train home from a day in the city.

Mobile has made my life easier, but not all apps I have downloaded do the same.  Here are a few of my very favorite mobile apps (as mentioned above, I have an iPhone and iPad—not sure if all of these are available outside of the Apple world):

Awesome Note:  I’m not the most organized, so anytime I can find something that puts all of my things in one easy to find location, I grab it.  Awesome Note combines my calendar with my to do lists and allows me to break my lists into sub-lists so I can separate work, personal and even kids things as needed.  It also allows me to write down quick ideas, add photos and even share info with friends.  Cost:  $3.99 (iPhone)/$4.99 (iPad)

HootSuite:  In addition to being an avid HootSuite user on my computer, I also use the mobile app on my iPhone and iPad.  It makes it so easy for me to manage multiple social media accounts (I manage social media for clients as well as for myself) on the go—which, quite frankly, is when I do most of my social media management.  Cost:  FREE

Mint:  For anyone that knows me, they know that budgeting is not my thing—so, Mint is the perfect app for me.  It gathers all of my financial info (checking, bill payments, savings, etc.) into one easy to use location.  It also sends me reminders when bills are due, accounts are low or when I have been charged a fee for using another bank’s ATM.  Cost:  FREE

Zite:  This is my newest obsession.  Zite is a personalized magazine for your iPhone or iPad that automatically learns what you like and delivers all the great news, articles, blogs, videos that you want and makes it easy for you to share via Twitter.  Cost:  FREE

These are a few of mine–what are some of your ‘can’t-live-without’ apps?

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She Took The Leap..

I’m really not one for inspirational quotes, but I was so moved by the one I recently found via the time-suck known as Pinterest:

I am the kind of person who really likes to know what is going to happen in any given situation.  But, the truth is, life doesn’t always work out that way.  We don’t always get to see the next chapter of our life or know that the very next step we take is going to be the one headed straight for a life changing moment.  There are times when we just have to jump–to leap–and have faith that (to quote the great Bob Marley), “every little thing gonna be all right!”

So, today, I leap. And, I hope you will leap too!

“But, this was the biggest thing in my life. I mean, I’m 8 and I’ve never had a bigger day. Except maybe when I got an iPod.”

Over the weekend, my youngest son lost the first game of his baseball playoffs.  This came as a crushing blow to the small boy who had dedicated his whole summer to becoming a better player.  He spent countless hours practicing pitches with his dad, searching the Internet for batting tips and grabbing the latest edition of Sport’s Illustrated to find every story and photo of baseball players.  At the age of 8, he was already starting his day by watching ESPN and every Lego creation he made had something to do with a ball field.

The kid was obsessed.

Which is why the loss during the first round of playoffs was so hard to take—for all of us.   I looked at his hot, sad face and I melted–I wanted him to know that this wasn’t the end of his baseball career, but just the beginning.  “But, this was the biggest thing in my life.  I mean, I’m 8 and I’ve never had a bigger day,” he said through tears as we loaded his gear into the trunk.  Wow.

My immediate parent reaction was to go through a litany of stories of how this really isn’t the biggest thing in his life, but I stopped myself and realized that in his young world, this really was the biggest day of his life.  He was playing on a real baseball field, with a real scoreboard and a real announcer saying his name every time he got up to bat.  This was bigger than when we got our dog, bigger than his cousin getting married, bigger than his good friend’s mom having a baby.  This was a very big deal–and a very big disappointment that hurt just like those very big disappointments I have faced in my adult life.

So, we did what we had to do—we took him for ice cream and let him stay out past dark playing with his friends.  It was over ice cream that he shared with me once again how this was the biggest day of his life.  “Except maybe when I got an iPod,” he whispered.  “That was a big day, getting an iPod.  Hey, do you think I can get a bigger iPod for my birthday?  And, what kind of party should I have?”

And just like that, the very bad ending to his biggest day ever was filled with hope for a brighter future of even bigger moments and opportunities.  We should all be so lucky to bounce back so quickly.

Friday Finds: Organizing the Unorganized

“I would be more organized if my family would cooperate with my system”—yes, that is an actual quote I used at the beginning of the school year several years ago.  It was the year I created a master calendar—complete with multiple dry erase markers so every person in the family had their own color.   Soon after the first week, someone borrowed the orange marker for a school project, so I improvised and just made two kids share the same color.  The following week, another marker disappeared (mysteriously found months later in the sandbox) and due to an aggressive game of ‘throwing the backpack so my brother can’t get it”, several of the calendar events were erased off of the board.   Needless to say, my calendar system did not make it past the first full month of school.

I would love to blame the family for my lack of organizational skills, but the truth is, it’s me.  While I love the IDEA of being organized, I really don’t like the process of getting (and keeping) myself organized.  So, this week’s “Friday Finds” are things you can use to keep yourself on track even if you are living a hopelessly disorganized life:

Binders:  Each of my three children has their own binder that includes pocketed dividers with a section for ‘school’, ‘sports’ and ‘other’.  Papers I need to keep (i.e. sports schedules), are put in the right section while papers that need to be returned (i.e. homework) are put in the pocketed divider.  And, now that it is back-to-school time, you can really load up on extra binders.  Go online to school supply shops such as The Write Stuff (disclaimer: They are a client of mine) and supplies will be shipped to you. Caution:  Make sure you have a 3-ring hole punch handy.

Electronic Calendars:  I’m a fan of technology—especially when it comes to calendars.  The calendar on my phone, computer & iPad are all connected, so whatever device is closest when the appointment needs to be made, I can use it and it will automatically go on the master calendar.  I also suggest you try out some of the Internet-based calendar programs such as HatchedIt—great for busy families (and most now have mobile apps–so you are always connected).

Weekly Plan: This is by far the best thing I do.    I purchased a magnetic weekly calendar notepad from Target (OrganizHer) that allows me to add my schedule and “their” schedules so everyone can quickly see who has what each day.  There is a ‘to do” list on the back for everyone as well.  I realize this may seem redundant since I also have the master online calendar, but quite honestly, my kids never look at the online calendar, but do see the weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

What are some of your best organizational products/tips for those of us who are unorganized?

Kid Quote: “You know what is in the middle of that cornfield? Drugs.”

The road trips to visit family in Indiana have always been an adventure.  When my kids were young, they were always amazed at how many cows and horses we would see along the way and the idea of people living without “near neighbors” was something their suburban minds could barely comprehend.  But, now that they are older, our car drive conversations have changed and are no longer centered on cute farm animals.

During our most recent trip, my middle son educated all of us that drug dealers often clear out the middle of cornfields to plant marijuana—a fact he learned during his 8th grade health class.  This statement, while possibly true, is the perfect example of how being the parent of a teen changes everything.  It changes the way we see the world because our kids are suddenly seeing the world so differently.  The cornfield, which used to spark conversations about fresh corn on the cob, has become the focus of a ‘just say no to drugs’ discussion.  Who knew?

The hard part of parenting, which I was convinced would be left behind with the midnight feedings and diapers, is actually just beginning.  It is less about taking care of them and more about teaching them to take care of themselves–a task that is so much easier said than done.

 

 

Hello, Again….

First and foremost, welcome back to all of my Patio Mingling readers—I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you! I have decided to dust off my personal blog and once again begin telling stories of my life and all of the unbelievable characters that are part of it each day (yes, my teenagers, I’m talking about you).  To start things off, I am going to begin posting a weekly challenge every Monday–and this week my challenge to you is to “Be Brave.”

Over the weekend I was visiting my 83 year-old mother who was telling me the most wonderful story about how she got her first teaching job in Mishawaka, IN.  She delighted in the details—telling me exactly how she got to Mishawaka, the interview with the school’s superintendent and even how she found her first place to live.  I asked her why she decided to leave her hometown (a place where she would someday return to raise her own family) in pursuit of a career that she could have easily started in the town where she was raised and where most of her family still lived.  “Because everyone wants a chance to make it on their own,” she said without hesitation.  “I was brave when I was young.”

Really?  Brave when she was young?  From everything I have witnessed as the daughter to this amazing woman, she has been brave every day of my 43 years—a quiet courage that I can’t quite put into words, but I hope exists inside of me.  But, at this moment in her life, leaving the comforts of her home and family must seem like an impossible feat.  She smiled as she continued with her story saying, “I can’t imagine how I ever did something like that.”

Is bravery really wasted on the young?  Does our youth and naivety allow us to do things our older, wiser selves would never consider doing—and, does this mean we may be missing out on some of the ‘good stuff’?  After all, had my mom not gone to Mishawaka, she may have never met my dad –a moment that obviously changed her life forever.

My challenge to you this week is to do something brave—something that makes your stomach churn with excitement and that will most certainly be the beginning of a story that ends with you saying, “I can’t imagine how I ever did something like that.”

Let me know what brave things you are doing!  You can find me on Twitter @PattiMinglin or “Like” Patio Mingling on Facebook!

Disconnected

We no longer have a landline for our home phone.  I realize this isn’t that big of a deal in today’s world of cellphones and Internet, but for some reason not having the phone is sending me into a slight panic.  The panic has very little to do with the fact that we are totally screwed should we lose cell signal or that telemarketers will no longer be able to find us.  My panic has to do with what a lack of home phone means for J.  Yes, J.  The youngest of our clan who quite frankly has only used the phone to talk to his grandmothers a couple of times each year.

 

But, it was J who struggled to memorize this number and when he finally accomplished the goal, he said, “Now I know how to tell people where I belong.”  While I had completely forgotten about that preschool (OK, more like kindergarten) accomplishment, it came rushing back to me the minute my husband said he had made the call to cancel our phone service.  The one number that represented “where we belong” for the past 12 years was no longer there and I started to feel as if I was doing a disservice to my children, especially J who didn’t have a cellphone number to call his very own.

 

While he would love to use this as an excuse as to why a 7–year-old boy needs his own cellphone, the truth is, J doesn’t care about the home phone. So, why is this such a big deal to me?  Perhaps I’m the one who has been feeling a bit disconnected from “where we belong” lately as I watch my kids get older and realize that life does move on and, gulp, change–the phone was just a tangible way for me to keep hold of something familiar.

 

Or, perhaps this is another one of those parenting moments where I turn a basic situation into some type of life altering experience.  When I asked J how he felt about not having a home phone his reply was as deep and meaningful as the statement he made when first learning his phone number.  “I didn’t know we still used that,” he said as he worked on his Lego skyscraper. “Did you get new snacks at the store?”

 

OK, maybe not quite as profound, but it does put things into perspective.