The best use for a camera phone EVER

No, not taking pictures of celebrites at airports.  And definitely not for 'role model' professional athletes to snap pics of their 'junk'.  The best use for a camera phone, I've decided, is to help you remember STUFF.

My latest and greatest realization is that scraps of paper or notepads on my mobile get lost or are not updated enough to be useful.  So, since we have a whiteboard in the kitchen, I scribble random errands or things we need from the store as they run out.  And, almost every morning, as I grab my keys & purse, I snap a picture of the whiteboard, as such:

Then, when I am out-and-about, if I have time for that store or errand, I know exactly what I need.  Because honestly - who the hell would remember peanut butter, nail polish remover and lemons?  Those ingredients suggest that I am either making a bomb or doing a Martha Stewart project...

When you pick up the items or complete the errand, delete the photo and move on.

Have camera phone, will travel!


These are a few of my favorite things...

No, not like Oprah's favorite things, where you'd be getting freebies and hyperventilating from the excitement.  A more quiet favorite things list, along the lines of the Van Trappe family / Sound of Music favorite things, like girls-in-white-dresses-with-blue-satin-sashes-rainbows-that-stay-on-my-nose-and-eyelashes-brown paper-packages-tied-up-with-string...

These are some of my favorite organizational / time-saving / planning tools and websites that I've found of use either currently or over the years.

I hate prepping for meals and grocery shopping, but it is a necessary evil.  Important for the amount of time I have in a day or week to be running around looking for ingredients, and also key for dinner time after everyone has had a long day, we're hungry, but oops! don't have any idea what we're eating, what's in the fridge or pantry, etc.  Now, usually in the spring and summer this gets easier because we grill a lot and can do more with fresh veg and fruits, but the basics are still needed, and if I can plan ahead and have them on hand, it is an easier evening.  So, without further ado, here is a great tool from Real Simple magazine/website that works for my brain in terms of planning your meals for the week AND having a go-to shopping list all at the same time:

Another system I've used in the past and may need to re-start with is The Fly Lady.  Now, don't be overwhelmed by her busy website and personal/religious ideals.  Her cleaning schedule is what I have interest in, and there is some real value and sense to it.  My recommendation is to review the "getting started" or "babysteps" section and then copy and paste it into your own calendar or a word document...but make no mistake - the woman is a genius for boiling down the essentials into (and I paraphrase here):

  • Get up and get dressed!
  • Attack your house in sections, not all at once
  • Clean as you go
  • Don't go to bed with a dirty sink!

As we know, I am a list-lover above all other things.  So having a set list of chores or things that need to get done throughout the week or month can be very helpful.  It also works when my darling, loving, very helpful husband has a momentary stroke and dares say - all while looking around at the pandemonium in our home - "Sure, I'll help, but what even needs to be done???"  Then I can just point to things on the list that haven't been checked off, all while counting until 10, 20, or 5,000,000 before I speak what is really on my mind.  Simplemom.com has some awesome downloads that I've used as a starting point - as with many things, you may want to use this kind of list or system and then tweak your own version to what is needed for your household, life, and expectations.  But she even has tools for road trip packing, goal-setting for the year, meal planning, and the one I adore the most, the Master Week Checklist.  I am also thinking the Pre-Schooler Chore Chart may need to come into play soon :  )

Now, before you think I'm a Tiger Mother, know that my expectations for the kids is pretty low.  Maybe too low.  But with C soon to turn 4 years old, I think it is more than time that she get involved with taking care of her own toys, etc.  Currently her jobs are:
  • Straighten bed and army of stuffed animals when getting up in the morning
  • Put away toys before bed / when finished playing with them throughout the day
  • Bring dish and cup to the kitchen after meals
  • Teeth brushing and patiently standing through my flossing efforts
  • Being adorable and sassy at all times
But, as she grows up, she and her brother will be expected to do more.  M already has eyes on both of them to start shoveling next winter, but that might be a bit premature.  They do both seem strong, though...

Here is a chore chart I've been using for myself the past weeks.  It has things on it like:

  • Drink 8 glasses of water
  • Go to sleep before 1am!
  • Take 10 minutes to yourself
  • Journal
  • Solve world hunger
  • Moisturize
But, you can use it any way you like.  It is from a new favorite website, where I recently ordered some awesome wall art.  And I am thinking my new favorite wedding gifts or baby gifts might be from them and them alone from now on - totally fresh, original, personalized items from Name Your Design.  Definitely check them out online and on facebook, but also check out this free download for a simple chore chart anyone can use:

The woman who is behind the awesomeness of Name Your Design is Stacy Amoo-Mensah, and she happens to be the designer of some key items that I love from my next favorite thing, which is stationery!  I love handwritten notes, special announcements, and fabulous holiday cards.  For the past five years I've found all that and more from Tiny Prints.  So much so that having as many babies as the Duggar Family could be worth it just for the baby announcements alone...if you are having an event or milestone, they have the perfect paper for it.  Easy to work with, exceptional customer service, and total quality no matter how big or small your order...check them out!:

So, what do you mean it isn't smart to just write checks and pay bills and not track or plan for anything?  That doesn't work????  Oh, my.  Oops.  Well, here is a web-based tool that can help you (me) get out of that mode and start budgeting and tracking your spending in a really simple, easy-to-use fashion.  I like that it is flexible enough that it encourages you NOT to spend a ton of time with set-up - just guesstimate and commit to coming back after a month or two to adjust based on real-time spending.  Give it a whirl - free trial offered:

And now, for my new very, very, very, very, very favorite, absolutely amazing, life-altering favorite thing:  synching calendars!!!

We're not cool enough to have iphones yet, but M and I have entered the 1990's and rock the blackberry.  Recently I realized - eureka! - that we can use these time-and-soul-sucking gadgets to our advantage in a way that has actually changed our lives for the bestest.  (So really, circling back to Oprah and her favorite things, this may mean that M and I are living our best lives!!!!  Gasp!!!!) 

Like everyone else on the planet, we are busy.  Work, kids, medical appointments, family commitments, friends, fun, and the plumber all have to happen in any given day.  It was getting to a point where our paper calendar at home wasn't being updated (cough - M - cough) or wasn't being looked at (cough - M - cough) and things were getting missed or wires crossed in terms of who was supposed to be where on what day and when.  A friend of mine swears by Google calendar as a fabulous shared-calendar, but I knew that we (M) wouldn't check it and enter details on it enough to make it work for us.

We realized that we can use the calendar function on our phones to schedule and update each other...our phones have an "invite attendee" function much like Outlook, MeetingMaker or other calendar applications do, and that if we just send each other anything that the other person needs to either be aware of or attend, it will be right on their own calendar.  To make things clear, we agreed upon a "naming" system where the person responsible to attend is listed in parenthesis after the name of the event, so that you know whether it directly affects you or not.  Then, the "meeting request" is sent via email, and the other person can accept, make changes, or reject the time.  This has made life SO much easier, as we now communicate more regularly and effectively about the timing and scheduling of appointments, plans, etc.

I don't have a link to suggest for this favorite thing - too much depends on what phone you do / do not have and whether that even would make the most sense for you.  But Google Calendar is indeed another way to go if everyone in your life would agree to check it and use it to its advantage.

Okay, that seems to be enough sharing for now.  Clearly I'm in a Spring Cleaning / Organizational mode.  Are you?


I suffered from Post-Partum Depression...

...and I wouldn't wish that experience on ANYONE.

Except that in the aftermath, I've learned so much about myself, about the people around me, about my role as a mother, about chemicals and hormones and the need to take care of yourself.

A friend and mentor is going to our state capitol (and hopefully even further!) in order to lobby for funding for mandatory screening by health care providers for women at their 6-week post-partum visit.  I definitely agree that Pennsylvania should be the third state in America to commit to this kind of offering by obstetrician's, doula's, and other practitioners.  Below is the personal statement I wrote supporting Senate Bill 39.  It doesn't tell the whole story, but maybe I'll share that some other time...

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, in 2010, I was in the depths of despair – scared and unsure of my future as I dealt with post-partum depression.  I felt almost physical pain from the feelings of disconnect and confusion as I navigated a new normal that I was terrified would be a permanent reality for me and my family.

What a difference two years can make.

With my first child, born in 2007, I felt good, healthy, and happy.  Hormonal changes did not affect me in severe ways, and I had a good post-partum period.  But after my second child was born just two years later, in 2009, it was a totally different experience.  A difficult delivery, my son’s stay in the NICU, hormonal changes – who knows what combination of factors led to this post-partum period being so dramatically different from my first.  But it was.  And in that two-year time period, my obstetrician/gynecologist office had started using a simple but powerful tool that ended up being part of my saving grace.

What a difference a simple form can make.

I vividly recall filling out the Edinburgh Post-Natal Depression Scale.  Even in the midst of the hurt and shame and confusion I was experiencing about the way I was feeling, it felt so good to read through the form and honestly check the boxes, giving name to what was truly going on inside me. While I had already started seeking help for post-partum depression, the very fact that I had this form, this tool to clearly acknowledge and name what I was thinking, was in itself a type of healing for me.

What a difference post-natal screening for depression can make.

I was lucky – concerned family, friends, my health care provider and even my pediatrician noticed that I was “not myself”.  They realized that I needed help, and assisted me with what I needed to get better, to fight through the depression and come back to myself, to my husband, children, family and friends. 

What a difference you can make.

I am lucky to be a patient of a caring and aware group of physicians who are using screening tools to help women like myself recognize and seek help for post-partum depression and anxiety issues.  But a woman shouldn’t have to be lucky to have this assistance.  Practices should be required by law to provide this truly life-saving service to their patients.  It is a simple form, but one that examines complex emotions.  

Post-partum depression does not just affect the woman that just gave birth.  It affects her spouse or partner, the infant just born, other children in the home, other family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  The state of Pennsylvania needs to take care of all of our citizenry by offering women and their families this basic but essential care.  Please fight for legislation to allow for funding, research, and the implementation of mandatory post-partum screening.

Thank you, in advance, for making a difference.