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October 24, 2014
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Hip Mom: The Hip Mom Gets a Hip Phone

Up until quite recently, it is possible that I did not have a very hip phone.  It is even possible that my phone was a flip phone. A DUCT-TAPED flip phone. A flip phone with a numeric keypad that fills its owner with terror when she hears a text come in – because she will have to TEXT SOMEONE BACK.

As of October 14, however, I became the proud owner of the much-heralded iPhone 4s. A beautiful, black, boxy bauble with a sexy cheetah case to boot. 

Yes, my phone looks hip. But not only does it look hip, it is a panacea for a mom running around town with her hair on fire. While I know you all are aware that you can check your email at soccer practice on an iPhone, or note a reminder to procure cinnamon toast, or, gasp, TEXT your friends with a keypad, this phone is nothing short of a personal assistant/photographer/videographer/BFF all rolled into one.

First: The pictures! Techie gurus proclaim the iPhone 4s as the demise of the point-and-shoot camera, and I can see why — the shots are perfect. Crisp, perfectly lit. And once I (well, my husband) figured out how to upload Mac-type pictures to my PC (use a program like Picasa to edit your photos on a PC), it’s quite seamless.

Before my iPhone, I was always that mother who forgets the proper recording equipment at every.single.event. When every other parent cracks out the video camera, lighting and camera crew at the recital, game, or Pre-K graduation, I am that mom who is just grinning and sheepishly waving to her offspring from the audience. But because I never forget my PHONE, I can now take perfect videos (which you can edit right on the phone) without having to lug anything extra besides children.

What else is a bit revolutionary with the iPhone 4s? A chick who lives in the phone named “Siri.” Siri is a fully functioning voice command system. What does this mean? You can use your phone just by talking to it! Siri can send messages, set reminders, call your pediatrician and add an appointment to your calendar. Yesterday I needed to know where the nearest FedEx was, and Siri found me nine nearby locations. So it’s sort of like you’re a celebrity with your own personal assistant. Well, kind of.

Now, yes, my precious phone was a bit pricey. The iPhone 4s starts at $199 for the 16 GB version. But since I am not a huge consumer of texts, data or minutes, the monthly payment is not much more than it was with my former phone.

And! The jillions of “apps” you can tinker with! One “app” (doesn’t just saying the word “app” make me sound super hip?) I try out is Cozi Family Organizer. It is an online family scheduler that allows you to input every family member and his or her schedule, and then share it amongst all the members of your family. You can input recurring appointments and one-time appointments; I can even specify that Colette’s preschool has pizza day “every last Tuesday.”   

While it is a bit of a nightmare to input everything up front (five kids and their soccer practices, games, piano – ugh!), once everything is in, it is easy to just add an appointment.

 

One huge plus: some schools have their calendars available for upload straight to Cozi, which is a major perk for me. Yay, because I can never keep straight when Winter Break ends and starts, when “Professional Days” are – and now I have everything on my phone straight from the Jenks website. And, dang, now I have less of an excuse to miss the PTA meeting.

Another great app for mummies is RedRover. When your friends join you in Red Rover, you can easily invite them to play dates, coffee, or over to your place for a nice glass of Pinot while the kids run amok. But what I like best about Red Rover? It takes your current location and lets you know where to find the nearest kid-friendly restaurants. There is also an emergency function that allows you to dial 911 and find the nearest hospitals, which is certainly wonderful should you find yourself in Pawhuska at a soccer tournament and your son’s ankle is dangling at an odd angle after a particularly slippery tackle. 

Now on to Mama’s role as chef. There are many apps that help you cook and shop. The Epicurious app is superb. You can search recipes by super-easy categories such as “Kid-Friendly Mains,” “Weeknight Dinners,” and my favorite, “I Can Barely Cook.” Then when you find a recipe you like, you just add it to your shopping list and, voila, Epicurious produces a categorized shopping list with all the recipes you mark. So easy to follow as you trudge through Target. But, unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to add other rather critical items to my grocery list, like diapers and dog food. 

If your evenings are like a Nascar race, what with all the kiddie comings and goings, crock-pots can save the day. And yes, there is an app with just crock-pot recipes — Crock-Pot Recipe Finder. You can browse by ingredient, cuisine (French or Mexican, anyone?) or course (sides, stews, main dishes). My husband PVT declares the “Tomatillo Chicken” recipe a resounding success. Like Epicurious, you can add recipe ingredients directly to a shopping list. 

But neither of these sites allows you to make your comprehensive weekly grocery list (mine will include everything from a ball pump to sushi to Greek yogurt).  The best grocery app is Grocery Gadget, which allows you to compose your grocery list online and creates a categorized list of all your items. As you shop and check things off, Grocery Gadget actually remembers and orders your items the same way next time you shop. Grocery Gadget even holds current coupons for many stores, so you can review those as you shop. This makes PVT very happy.

So much of motherhood is input and output, isn’t it? Potty Predictor does everything but wipe tushies in the potty training process. The first few days, you input every time your child drinks. Twenty-five minutes after you record a drink, the app will remind you to take your kiddie potty. If it’s a successful trip, you enter that in, as well as any oopsies that may have occurred. When you’ve tracked enough information to see a potty pattern, you switch the app to prediction mode. Now the Potty Predictor will automatically set alarms telling you when you should take your child to the bathroom. This sounds great to me – for my last two kids I’ve gotten all ready to potty train, and then while my kid is happily wearing big kid underwear, I start making dinner, or nursing a baby, or tackling a pile of laundry and then TOTALLY forget to take the kid potty until it’s too late. Potty Predictor even comes with a virtual sticker book for your child. Thank goodness I still have a kid left to potty train!

If you hit the mall for some holiday shopping, there’s even an app that will help you navigate a new mall. Say you need to figure out how to get from Gymboree to Nordstrom (ah, I can dream):  just ask the FastMall app. It provides virtual maps and step-by-step directions for getting around the mall. FastMall also provides a directory, including store descriptions, reviews and phone numbers. And if the store is having a sale or promotion, then that will pop up, too. Oh, and the potty feature? Just shake your phone and it will point you in the direction of the nearest mall potty. 

Or perhaps you’re taking Junior on his first plane ride to Grandma’s this year for Christmas? Oh dear. You don’t know where to begin with the whole packing nightmare, do you? Before you start loading up the entire nursery and the whole baby-medicine aisle at Walgreen’s, consult the Baby Travel app. It asks you a series of questions such as: Are you going to a cold climate? How long will you be gone? How many children? Once you’ve answered the questions, the app generates a packing list based on your input – and even separates it out for each child you input. The list of things is very thorough – maybe a bit too thorough (it tells me to pack a PopaTot for Sylvie – what is that?!), and as you look it over, you can delete unnecessary items or add in your own. Lists can be archived so you can reuse them later on.

There are even apps that help you RAISE your kids! The iReward Chart app lets you set up accounts for your children and assign them different tasks – say, doing their homework without complaining, cleaning up their room – whatever you the Mama choose. Selected tasks show up next to empty stars, one for each day of the week. As your children finish tasks, they can tap the stars and watch them add up. iRewardChart also contains a list of rewards that your children can earn with their stars – like ice cream or $2! You can assign a star amount to the different rewards so your children will know how many they have to earn for each reward.

And then, perhaps my favorite app, even though my kids are a bit too young to be texting yet, is LRNthelingo. It’s like the Rosetta Stone for parents trying to translate teen-speak. It provides explanations and descriptions of text codes, emoticons and slang. Say you’re looking for something specific – how about “Jacks.” Ah, you will learn that when your kid texts that he needs $5 for some “jacks,” he needs cigarettes! Oh, great! Sure, I suppose if you respect your child’s privacy, you might have issues with this app, but I think I’m not going to worry about privacy until my kids are 21. Or so.

Finally, Weather Bug is a wonderful app for this whacky Oklahoma weather. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set the kids’ shorts and t-shirts out the night before, gone to bed sweltering in 98 degree heat, and then sent them to school shivering, not knowing a cold front had come in.

Of course there are just plain fun apps, too. My dear friend Ravishing Red Ann, a two-year iPhone veteran, loves her Starbucks app – she can just reload her card directly from her phone, and more quickly earn free Eggnog Lattes.

OK, those should keep you busy for a while. Ah, I’ve got to run now – even my gym has an app, so now I have one less excuse to run off to Body Pump!

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