recent kids headphones study

onanoff

I was thrilled to see the Wirecutter’s review of kids headphones. There is not enough said about the brands on the market that don’t offer volume-limiting. When marketing to kids, it should be an obvious inclusion. After 80 hours of research Wirecutter’s resulting choice, a pair that goes for $100 on Amazon, looks pretty great. But I’m skeptical of bluetooth with kids—it sounds like a nightmare trying to resolve the pairing anytime it goes wrong (and you know it would). But the comfort level looks amazing for a child over age seven.

That said, the pair they awarded second place to are the OnanOff Buddy Headphones, which we’ve had since last spring. Built-in-splitter. Yup. I know. Brilliant. Solves so many issues, no matter what weird scenario you’re in–only one of the airline seat tvs in your row is working, only one of the downloaded shows is actually interesting, one of your iPads died enroute. And they retail for $33. Recommend.

invite the kids!

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Last week I wanted to hear Lucy Keating speak at the athenaeum, a library and event spot up the street from me. Lucy wrote dreamology a fantastic and fun young adult novel set in Boston. I loved the writing and admire Lucy for writing such a lighthearted and inventive novel. The event was at noon, so I needed to make a plan for all the three of the girls to attend with me.

The situation reminded me of one my favorite kids-tag-along hacks that I learned from my friend Ashley. Ashley brings her daughter to ballets, plays, and events of all sorts. She buys special candy treats, and then, puts the candy into new bags. The plastic that candy is packaged in is quite possibly the noisiest thing on earth, times ten if you’re in a silent symphony hall. But if you decant the candy into new disguised bags, like the girls are holding above, not only will your children be able to eat silently, but also only a few people will even notice you are bribing them! Win win.

The talk was a real treat for me. And I loved the chance for Lux to see a young woman (Lucy is my age) author up front, talking about her writing process. Lux picked up phrases here and there and would look over at me and smile in recognition. Joan and Alma were rather oblivious but happy to not be at left at home anyway.

Do you have any favorite tips that makes it easier for kids to join adult events?

digital grannies

digital grannies and organizing photos

Two weeks before Alma was born I was at dinner with a tableful of moms. At my corner of the table conversation turned to photos and organization. I found the three other moms overwhelmed and dismissive. One didn’t have access to the photos she wanted of her newborn–they were all on her husband’s computer because their nice camera was his. One couldn’t seem to delete a particularly unflattering photo of herself that was appearing on her synced television screen at unpredictable intervals. One wearily said she really wanted to understand Apple’s iCloud photo service but found it (understandably) mysteriously complex. All three seemed deeply frustrated.

I was frustrated by the conversation as well. The apathy and the confusion, the fluttering of hands and “oh wells” that followed. How had these moms been told it wasn’t worth their time to figure this out? Why wasn’t it worth it get their digital shit together and know where their favorite photos were?

Most of us feel that though we have not quite figured out how to handle our digital shoeboxes bursting with photos, everyone else has. But I think at least in the case of young moms, we are not figuring it out. We are studiously documenting with fingers crossed that the dusty hard drive in the cupboard will be pulled out one day, and all with be uploaded. We are snapping away with ever-better cameras, adding extra zeros on to our collection with every passing month, and yet at a standstill about what to do next.

At this point we’ve all got an attic full of wonderful photos, but the attic is really an illusion: everything could be erased if we haven’t taken the time to embrace them.

It would be nice to take advantage of the businesses offering solutions to this problem but it’s also impossible to believe any of the businesses will exist in the same way in 10 years. It’s hard to keep up with their updates and subscriptions. Thus we sit on our files like old mattress money stuffers, believing a house fire is too horrible to imagine.

But house fires of this type happen all the time. Not just ye old hard drive crash of yore, but also the inadvertent house fire in which you’ve simply lost access to that photo because it is loaded onto a hard drive buried in the closet and you’ve lost the cord.

Is a photo backed-up, yet inaccessible, still a photo in your life?

Part of the trouble is that our digital lives are still often dismissed as self-indulging and ephemeral. Instagram accounts are mentioned with an eye roll. Collecting photos annually and having them printed and bound into books takes hours, truly hours to put together, and feels hard to justify when we’ve already posted it and relished the photo elsewhere. While we’d love our children to someday say “she kept a tidy lovely home” about us, it feels less important to imagine them saying “she did such a great job of documenting our family’s life together over the years.”

Sometimes I think about blogs as this century’s cross-stitch sampler. I’ve encountered criticism of them as aggrandizing digital wastes of time. A trend. People still say things like “I don’t read blogs,” as if they were a category of acquired taste. But they are the next in a long historic line of homemaking habits, small lovely tributes to our abilities and hopes. Even if the writers gloss things over, even if they make life appear too clean and breezy. Though in theory written and created for others, they will always bring the most pleasure to their creator.

Like meandering the over-loaded toothpaste aisle wishing the one satisfactory product would reach out and shake our hand, there are more options for dealing with this than seem necessary–Flickr? Google Photos? iCloud Photo? Given that almost everyone has a iPhone, Apple has an almost moral imperative to offer the best service for our attic-less granny selves. And I think they do. But they’ve buried this knowledge under so much poor product branding. I kid you not: there are actually three separate products and these are their names: iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo, iCloud Photo Library. Yup. They must be enabled in different ways and they offer different things. Is this solvable and still incredibly functional? Yes. (how to turn on iCloud Photo Library) Google Photos, for those using their phones as their only-camera is an incredibly easy option. They compress very large photo sizes, so they are not a good fit for your wonderful DSLR shots.

Why not do both! Take one minute, one actual minute, to download the Google Photos app, and one minute to enable it to backup your photos. When you open your app again it will have built fun videos from your trip to Texas last summer and compiled every single shot you managed to get of Grandma in 2015 into one handy folder. It’s eminently browsable and wildly searchable.

Then sign up for another option, like the iCloud. I know, it costs money! But it costs a fraction of one month’s internet bill. Upload all your photos again, and the big ones too this time. Dig your old hard drive in the closet, find a plug, and upload all those too.

Let’s celebrate that we’re not dashing to the grocery store to be handed a small envelope packed with four fantastic photos and twenty crummy ones. Celebrate that there are no shoeboxes full of crumpled negatives under the bed. That we don’t need to buy pink hole punches at Creative Memories shops anymore.

But, take that freed-up time to go all in with one of these products. Whichever one you pick, use it, read the emails they send you regarding product developments or changes, set as many auto uploads as you can. Or use two, if you got the time, and play around with them! Curate and print multiples of what you discover. After the work of curating thousands of photos down to 100 of your baby’s first ten days, redouble the effects of this labor by printing a book not just for yourself but a copy for grandparents.

Take that code that keeps popping up on facebook and give chatbooks’ automatic book printing a try. Print a big colorful newspaper print from Parabo Press. Print 25 photos from that Maine college friends trip on Artifact Uprising’s gloriously thick square prints and mail them to your friends.

The point is: it’s worth it. This bit of housekeeping, the annual fee, a few hours work on the front end, perhaps an hour every week, it’s worth it.  If the old romantic adage was throw away the bank statements and keep love letters, the new one is upload the photos, all of them. Relish the photos and the opportunity to back them up, not because you finally got around to deleting all the bad ones and perfectly edited the rest for light and color, but because you love them.

homedrawn calendars

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Lux and I sit down and make these calendars fairly often. The lines are forever uneven and many times the last few days of the month have to be squeezed into one square due to lack of drafting. The symbols are rudimentary and would be meaningless if she hadn’t been sitting next to me as I drew, and explained them.

They allow for anticipation (the best part of any event!), and also preparation–like in the case of December having far more babysitters than any previous month.

They comprise what I refer to as my growing collection of mom outsider art. Outsider Art is a term I was introduced to by my art-major friends in college. They kindly said it described the charm of my half-life stick people and extremely rustic sketching abilities. As a term it’s not that popular to use any more (it can be seen as needlessly discriminatory–why not just call it art, though it was created in the backwoods of Mississippi?).

And it wouldn’t have applied to me anyway because though I have no skill, I could have been trained, or at least I lived within the potentials of being trained, social-economically, mentally, and geographically.

ANYWAY. These calendars are very helpful to us whenever something is too distant in the future to discuss usefully. Like when was Halloween approaching and I was going to die if I had to tell her one more time how far away it was. So I would simply remind her to consult her calendar and count the days herself. And my plan with “movie day,” was to eliminate all queries about movie watching throughout the week. Friday was decided and marked on the calendar. I made a four day one when we went away and my mom came. And a shorter one for a long weekend when I was out of town.

They content most, if not all, of the repetitive questions that come as a verbal assault on my daily kitchen calm. Lux just asked me to make a brand new one for January, a very apt thing to do in the new year.

 

 

World’s Best Mom Watch

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photo from American Apparel. Not my long fingers, alas. 

This tiny Casio edition, released by American Apparel, is the best mom watch ever. The six numbers across the top designate a timed alarm you can set with the push of a button. I use it daily to pleasantly resolve sharing fights with my girls. The timer goes off 3 or 5 minutes later and they trade whatever toy was in dispute. They believe in the power of the timer because it is loud enough that we can all hear it beep, thus I never forgot to tell them to trade.

I also use it for clutch phrases such as “We’re leaving in 5 minutes.”

It tells you the date and day of the week. It’s slim, lightweight, and the leather strap is pinch-free. It doesn’t have a light, which is a bummer with infants’ night waking. (Or is it?)

I used it obsessively after Joe bought it for my birthday last year, then I lost it on vacation. Then last month, my Aunt Anne bought me a new one, hooray!

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Loved: pipsticks

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Pipsticks, a subscription for sticker lovers, was begun by a graphic designer who hunted for great stickers for her children and fell down her very own rabbit hole of an idea. She started a company sourcing cool stickers, packing them up, and sending out them to the delight of children everywhere.

I took an instant liking to this little project, besides the mom-invented part which is super, because the packaging is so cheerful and fun.

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One envelope lasted us several weeks as we parceled out “two sheets” at a time for ferry rides, special treats with babysitters, and quiet time activities. Included in each envelope are a few sheets of paper and a postcard to decorate, an easy addition that is just right for those of us who fling distractions in our bags as we walk out the door and hope for the best.
The price runs between $13-15 a month, with at least 15 sheets of stickers included every time. For you bargain-hunting-whizzes, I know this is not a total steal. But for a mom who wishes she had stickers on hand much more often and who can never remember which store nearby even sells stickers, (me, me) it’s perfect. 
I think it would make a fantastic gift to request from loved ones because 1/ Ultimately it adds nothing to the toy pile. 2/ Lux asked over and over “WHO sent us these wonderful stickers??” Such a fun thing to get in the mail regularly and say they came from Grandma and Grandpa or an old friend.
If you try Pipsticks, and you sign up for a Club or Family membership, enter the code DEAR at checkout and get your first month free. Win.

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Pipsticks sent me two free months of stickers to see if I liked the service, posting about them was my own decision. Hooray.

Tis the season

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tis the season for banana bread with coconut or chocolate pudding with ancho chili powder.

tis the season for throwing out old socks with holes in the toes.

tis the season for risking a smile for stranger.

tis the season for heating up some water, grabbing a towel, tucking underneath, and taking some deep breaths.

tis the season for asking your partner for a backrub.

tis the season for pulling out a calendar, turning to June, and writing in every fun thing that you miss.

tis the season for asking your best friend from high school what movie she loved lately.

tis the season for keeping five dollars in your jacket for the next person who asks.

tis the season to practice your easter egg dyeing skills and then make your grandmother’s egg salad recipe.

tis the season for deciding that a pint of raspberries isn’t so extravagant after all.

tis the season for going to the museum and searching for the painting with the most flowers.

calendar from philadelphia’s omoi zakka shop, who specialize in Japanese imports. 

plated, a review

My mom is both very generous and very tech savvy. She frequently laments that she does not live closer to help me out more. Thus it was not a shocking surprise but still a super pleasant one when I found a gift for four dinners from plated in my inbox. Mayhaps she had seen a recent Facebook post wherein I basically swore off cooking dinner until Joan was two.

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I immediately clicked onto their site and selected two dinners to be shipped for that Tuesday. Lamb burgers with a greek salad side, and broccoli chicken curry. I specifically picked two things that I wish I cooked with more frequently–lamb and curry.

Obviously I was immediately smitten with having everything neatly labeled and divided. I think the cooking channel has made us all long for that:

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The only thing either dish needed from my pantry was olive oil, salt and pepper. Both dishes were designed to be prepped in about thirty minutes.

The whole family really liked both dinners and I particularly liked that the easy recipes taught me a few techniques. For example–the lamb burgers came with directions to quick pickle red onions, mix feta into the mayonnaise, and lightly toast the buns beforehand. All of these were easy things that completely upgraded the dish, things that I typically wouldn’t think to do. I had an aha! moment when I read “Wipe pan clean from burgers. Return to heat and briefly toast buns in the pan.” So simple, yet I never do it.

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I love cookbooks, I read them all the time. I love trying new recipes. But I appreciated the user-friendly aspect of something like this. I think it’s perfect for people who say “I’m terrible at cooking.” Or for a young single guy who wants to cook at home, but has no idea where to start. You could do a couple weeks of this, and go forth feeling like you know what you’re doing and have some serious experience under your belt. For me, it helped me snap out of the “whaaat do I make tonight?” rut that I was knee deep in.

They ship to a surprising number of places (like, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California!) which makes them a potentially awesome Christmas present.

And for those of you googling this stuff–there is another service out of New York called Blue Apron. Here’s the skinny on a couple of the differences between these competitors. 1/ The menu for plated changes every week, and you can decide your order up to 24 hrs before it ships. 2/ Blue Apron is $3-5 cheaper per plate, but you do not get to pick the food, you just pick whether it is vegetarian or not. 3/ plated has an optional monthly membership that discounts each plate. Blue Apron is cheaper overall, but requires you to receive a certain amount of dishes each week.

I’ve still got two more dinners to order–I’m eyeing those potato goat cheese cakes for next week! This isn’t sponsored, just a personal review. BUT do note: if you use a referral code to sign up, you get two free plates!

Laundry Day

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Sundays are laundry days around here. Since we’ve been married we’ve done our laundry at a mat. We use one enormous front loading machine for $4.25 a load. Then we spend $2.50 on one big super hot dryer. We keep a small plastic tupperware of Charlie’s Powdered Soap in the bottom of the dirty clothes bag at all times. It’s scentless (Joe likes this) and biodegradable (I like this) and cheap (we both like this). After it’s done we like to dump all the laundry out on our bed and fold it together. Joe prefers that I do not fold his tshirts. I help him flatten them out and pile them all up on top of each other and then he takes over. When we first got married, I barely folded my clothes at all, typically just tumbling them into my drawer in a pile. We iron strictly on a novelty basis, once every two months or so. My clothes always seem to compose 30% of the laundry compared to his 70%. Plus mine are tinier. I feel like I blinked, and suddenly we’re doing FOUR people’s laundry every weekend. Now Joan claims the smallest percentage, but not for long, I promise you.

In our new apartment the laundry mat is about five blocks away and down a big hill. Our dirty clothes bag is basically the size of me and I can barely carry it when full. After my third trimester of pregnancy with Joan began, Joe started making it an outing and often takes Lux along with him to do it. I realize this makes me very lucky as homemaking wives go.

Occasionally we fantasize about opening a laundry mat. I’m not kidding. We’re attracted to this idea because the laundry mats in our neighborhoods are dumps. There is nothing that flags my eye quicker than something that could be SO much better. I mean, people spend time in these places all day long, and they barely vacuum it. They punish you for having to be there. And they punish their employees, who seem to work seven days a week, all day every day.

It would have a wall of magazines for you to read while you waited. There would be shelves of board games to borrow and play with your friends. A small espresso bar with just enough counter space for you to stand and finish your espresso. Maybe an old fashioned Internet cafe desk, with two computers to be rented by the minute (big throwback to studying abroad, hey oh). A juke box. A nice collection of vintage postcards to purchase and mail. You know, the good things. You get could your laundry done…and oh, enjoy yourself too.
laundry_day

oh life

Because each day of My First Week is uniquely woven with its own challenges, such as:

  • go outside
  • go outside and go to the pediatrician
  • go outside, get caught in rainstorm, find out Joan hates rainstorms
  • drive to the midwife and gently rear-end someone and resolve that midst newborn screams
  • go the grocery store with one in the cart and one in the sling
  • (and it’s only Wednesday!)

…I’ve been trying to jot down daily life notes more frequently. Of course this is the same goal I’ve had for awhile, and to that end I’ve used this easy set-up offered by Oh Life since last year:

ohlife

Nice notes, but tragically widely interspersed, right? Once you sign up, Oh Life emails you at the end of every day and asks “How’d your day go?” Just respond to the email and they compile it all for you in a pseudo-journal (skeuomorphism!) style. Despite all our complaining, the internet is still full of great free things, I think.

It’s decompressing for me too. I find that the wonderful moments bob to the surface of my memory once I’ve written down a few of the more embarrassing and chaotic ones. For example, in the case of the unexpected rainstorm: after we arrived at our friends house totally drenched with Joan screaming, I settled on to their couch and watched Lux learn to cut out hearts and airplanes in sugar cookie dough. Soon it smelled like baking cookies and my sling, Lux’s shorts, and bunny (of course) were spinning in their dryer, and I decided I didn’t need to go to the grocery store that day after all.

And that’s really all this week adds up to, I think. Feeling embarrassed, exposed, disorganized, messy, and learning to love it or ignore it, as the case might call for.