One second, every day

I'm probably late to the party on this one but one of my favorite apps lately is 1 Second Everyday*, a phone app that helps you take little video snippets of your life and stitch them together chronologically to make a movie. (If you saw the movie Chef, the son used this app in making the movie of his dad's food truck.) 

You might be thinking that the last thing you need is another app or reason to take more photos/movies but I promise this one is easy peasy. No need to think up cleverly worded posts, no fiddling with things at the time you're filming, no need to pose or think about likes or followers. Just take a few frames of video now and then (the more candid and random the better) and later (you don't even have to do it that day) you choose which clip to represent the day and upload it to the app. There's something magical about capturing the lovely, mundane everyday moments as they fly by--and then seeing them in one cohesive movie.

You can also create other projects not based on the one-a-day format. When we went away this long Easter weekend (Australia takes a four-day holiday), I decided to do one to remember our time together:

*not a sponsored post, I just love to spread the joy


Here's an idea that kind of rocked my world. A few weeks ago, my friend Bridget posted this on Facebook:

Isn't that brilliant?! It feels satisfyingly rebellious to wrest technology into using it the way WE want to use it. When I asked her more about it, she said it's been working really well--keeping up on details, sharing celebrations, revealing daily worries and joys--basically using the technology to help feel closer as a family. She said, "I figure that's what social media should really be for anyway--keeping in touch with those you truly, deeply care about. And who more important than family ties?"

So now I'm curious. Here we are on the other side of the world from extended family and I'd love to minimize the distance and be better at being a part of each other's lives in real ways. (This is why I started blogging in the first place, to provide distant family with a portal into each other's worlds.) What other creative/rogue/connecting ideas am I missing out on? Do you use social media to keep in touch with family? How do you connect across the miles and generations?

All that glitters

Once upon a long while ago, one of my friends asked a group of us for help in solving a vexing parenting question. Her three-year-old son was constantly getting into her jewelry box. There was just something about all those chains and glittery things that was impossibly attractive to him and his three-year-old brain. She tried explaining to him, reasoning with him why he shouldn't get in there. She tried every discipline tactic she could think of--time out, taking away privileges, offering rewards, reminding him in advance, but still, no luck.

What to do, what to do?

After a moment or two, somebody piped up, "How 'bout moving the jewelry box?" 

Ah! Of course. Duh. Sometimes the answer is just to move the jewelry box. Problem solved. Instead of asking for more self control than his little three-year-old brain possessed, this way set him up for success rather than taxing his ability to comply.

. . . 

I think technology can be a little like that jewelry box for a lot of older kids and teens--so glittery and promising and accessible. Sometimes its attractiveness outpaces their developmental ability to exercise self control--it's hard enough for those of us firmly in adulthood!  There are times, especially in the beginning, when you've just gotta move the jewelry box now and then and set them up for success.


A few things we've tried at our house, admittedly with varying consistency and success:
 - Back a few years ago we came up with a simple and direct formula: music practicing = screen time. You want to go online? Let's see, did you practice today? You practiced for an hour? Congrats, sounds like you get an hour on the computer! That worked for quite a while, in fact, when they were a bit younger. And it mostly took me out of the equation, which I liked.

- We have a rule about phones, ipods, and computers in bedrooms. Before bed, all devices are out on the kitchen counter or in the hallway, no exceptions. 

-  Use good manners. For instance, if you're texting during family time (even in the car, hanging out in the kitchen, etc.), be prepared to be asked to share out loud the entire text conversation; siblings may or may not act out the scene. 

- No texting and driving, no excuses or exceptions. Put your phone in the glove compartment if you need help remembering this rule. 

- We know the passwords for the kids' devices.  We will definitely try to respect privacy but reserve the right to do checks now and then to make sure usage and apps, etc., are appropriate to our agreed-upon expectations. (Cell phone bills are also wonderful documents to check now and then for details of when and who and for how long.)

- We've tried turning off the wireless router completely at the kids' bedtime but that means the parents are out of luck, too, so we didn't keep that going consistently*. 

- We're a bit wary of iphones, through experience. Content is more difficult to monitor since it can be accessed (filterless) anytime, anywhere. 

Interesting ideas I've heard from others: 

- Changing the wireless password at bedtime every night; it takes a little extra effort (and knowing me, I would forget the new password all. the. time.) but it's a great way to give everyone a break from constant connectivity*.

- A technology contract.  You probably saw the viral post about a mom's contract with her son a few months ago. I like the idea of putting into writing the expectations and consequences so there are no surprises down the line. (I also really like her "slow tech manifesto.")

- A computer app that shuts off the computer after a pre-set amount of time. (I have friends who swear by this and who tailor the restrictions to each child's maturity by using unique sign-in and passwords for each child to get on the computer.)

Ideally, I'd say most of us try to balance our parental monitoring of content and screen time with gradually transitioning more of the responsibility to the kids. After all, they're eventually going to be out on their own with unfettered access so it's good to develop the skills and discipline to manage this themselves (i.e., bringing the jewelry box back into reach and letting them practice self control and decision making when they're ready.) Okay, enough with the metaphor already.
So, tell me, how do you approach technology use in your family? 

. . . 

* Here's a pie-in-the-sky idea!

Dear technology manufacturers, 

I have idea for a new kind of wireless router but have neither the know-how nor the means to make it happen. Plus, I want it now. Like yesterday. I can guarantee you will have many many takers. Ready? Here goes:

Please design a wireless router that has a dual-password system with programmable timers. One password would be timed to be in charge of the wireless network from, say, the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  This would be the general family password that all members of the household would know and be able to use to access the internet (if we could also add a filter or something at the router level that would also be great, mkay?).  At a certain time,  the nightwatch password would kick in, known and used only by the parents in the house, making rogue after-hours internet surfing very difficult for the younger set.

Simple as that. 
Or does it already exist? Do tell.




App happy

Okay, ready for a little Monday sharing time? Help a girl out. I feel like I'm just scratching the surface when it comes to the apps I use on my phone and I'm definitely in a rut. I think a little clean-out is in order to get rid of tired old unused ones and to refresh with new ones. What are your best and favorite apps?

Here are my tried and trues:

- Mailbox : this is my favorite email app. Its clean design and intuitive functions just please me. You can delete, save, reschedule, and file emails with a swipe of your finger. And if you empty out your inbox, there's a lovely reward photo to inspire you, a new one each day!



- Instagram (of course) : Okay, this is an obvious one but maybe you haven't taken the Instagram leap yet?  Such a simple, elegant way to capture daily sights and stay connected with friends & family. Sometimes (most of the time?) a picture really is worth those thousand words. I also recommend using Printstagram to print photos, books, and magnets from Instagram photos, too. I sent Lauren off with a couple of little books and a bunch of printed square photos for hanging on her walls. They're great quality and not at all spendy.



- Flipagram : Okay, I'll admit this is my one new app lately; I just got this a week ago after being intrigued by a couple of examples on Instagram. You can create a slideshow/stop motion video in three easy steps: Just choose the photos from your phone photo library, select the speed (or time frame for the video; if you want to post it to Instagram, keep it under 15 seconds), and pick the music soundtrack (optional). Though it has relatively low ratings, they recently overhauled the app to fix a couple of bugs and I've had nothing but a good experience with it.  Here's one I made to celebrate our one-year Aussiversary this last weekend.

Instabackground: This is a fun way to personalize your home screen on your phone. Instabackground helps you create a custom wallpaper from your Instagram and camera roll photos. Not necessarily an essential, day-to-day app but definitely a fun one.

My Fitness Pal: I'm currently watching what I eat and monitoring my exercise activity in an attempt to get more fit and lean. (This is a post for another day but I am currently on a quest to (a) feel more happy to see myself in photos and (b) feel more energy and more like jumping into fun activities without feeling self-conscious. Or tired. Or lumpy.) This app is terrific at tracking food and activity and scale numbers plus it allows you to connect with friends to cheer each other on. I also like that it allows you to choose metric units or pounds. Love it. 

Pic Tap Go: This is, hands down, my favorite photo editing app. It combines some of my favorite features of other photo apps (whitagram, VSCO, Snapseed) into one app. And it allows you to upload non-square photos to Instagram, too! Win-win. 

-Run pee: This app gives you approximate times (and descriptions of the scenes when to leave) to, well, take a bathroom break during a movie. Maddy and I swear by it. Seriously. It's a moviesaver! 

Living Earth: I like this one for keeping track of what time it is around the world. (This way I avoid making that pesky middle-of-the-night phone call when I miscalculate the time difference. Awkward!) Plus it's just gorgeous with its interactive globe featuring different maps of weather, up-to-the-minute cloud coverage of the globe, and other cool features. 


Living Earth

Living Earth

Okay, now it's your turn. What am I missing? What apps are your top shelf favorites? 

. . . 

No apps were harmed in the creating of this post nor were any bloggers paid. These opinions are my own, un-recompensed ones. 

TV parenting


Entertainment Weekly recently had a March-Madness-style bracket game to determine TV's best couple of all time and it got me thinking. What about television's best parents?  

For your consideration, I submit Tami and Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights (may it rest in peace & dvd sales). Heck, I'd nominate them both for best couple and best parents. (And look, I think EW staff agree with me.) Their believable, sparky (that's a word, right?), evolved partnership deftly captured the reality of marriage and parenthood in a way that left me feeling both understood and inspired. Spot on, FNL. Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler said that what allowed them to establish that partnership was that the writers told them from the start that they were never going to break them up.

Oh, and my runner up nominees? Adam and Kristina Braverman from Parenthood.
What think you?

p.s. This might seem like a silly exercise (and, okay, it is) but, surprisingly, it's sometimes media parents that make an impact. Once upon a time I helped conduct research on teen parents. When we asked for examples of parents they looked up to most or wanted to emulate, they quite often cited a fictional tv parent or a celebrity. Ever since, I'm always glad when a television couple demonstrates a relationship and parenting that's worth emulating.

Secure base, activate

We've probably all heard about "attachment" by now, especially in terms of the connection between parents and young children. This concept shows up when babies are under stress and they reach out to get comfort and assurance by connecting with someone they love and trust (usually it's the mama but it can also be the dad or another caregiver). 

[To study attachment relationships, there's a classic experiment called the "strange situation" where a young child is placed in a room with a parent (typically mother) and some fun toys. Then a series of things happen, spaced a minute or two apart: a stranger comes in and sits down, the mother gets up and leaves, the mother comes back in.   While children differ widely on the specifics of their responses, researchers have found that securely attached children move closer to, touch, or glance at their mothers--their "secure base"--when the stranger comes in. They're checking in with the person they trust to make sure their safety is assured. If they're upset or stressed they go to their "secure base" for comfort and security.]

Remember Dumbo and his mother? That's some good secure base seeking right there:

While the attachment research is mostly centered around younger kids, I've noticed (very unscientifically, mind you) that it exists in older kids and teens when they're under stress as well. I'm convinced that we're still their secure bases; it just shows up differently! The stresses are less frequently about physical safety but more often about emotional and social and academic security.

For instance: secure base texting. Sometimes--not always--I'll get a text in the middle of the day from one of my kids: a test has gone badly, someone said something mean, an injustice needs to be righted. They just want to reach out, connect, and be reassured. They want their mom.  A couple of exchanged texts and reassurances later and they're on their way again. Straight-up secure base action.

(Once I was at a conference and got a funny text from my daughter that said just this, in all sincerity:  Mom! If y=2, what's x?   One of my all-time favorites.)

Another example: secure base venting. Sometimes big kids save all the grit and stress of their day just for us. Have you noticed this?! They wear a mask of cheerfulness (hey, sometimes!) and competence and even cool all day long and then, to our utter delight, when they get home to our safe nests they vent and unload the whole mess of stress. In the process, quite often they feel better and we feel worse. They need someplace safe, a secure base to do this. You're it! Consider it a high compliment.  (And if you find yourself getting sucked into the stress of it all, go ahead and call your secure base and then carry on.) 

Have you noticed this phenomenon or is it just me? Where else have you seen it happen? I'd love more examples to support my theory so please chime in...