Daily Life Hacks · Product Review · Technology

How technology fuels my day

I love my car! I really do – I enjoy driving in to work and having a little quiet “me time” to drink my coffee, listen to talk radio and sing loudly! In recent months, my always reliable car had a few less-than-reliable moments (e.g. dead battery, broken coolant hose thingie). In an effort to keep my 2007 Nissan Altima alive for a few more years, I’ve recently started taking the Metra into to work daily.  Now I know what you are saying, “Why would you not take the Metra to work? You can save yourself a bunch of money by not having to pay for downtown parking.” While yes, that is true, but for me, my alone time in my car is priceless! But, alas, I’ve decided that having reliable transportation outside of work hours is more important that my alone time in my car.

Thankfully I have tons of gadgets and apps to keep me totally occupied on my commute.  However, it’s not just my commute that is fueled by technology as I have realized that my whole life is plugged-in.  I am totally accessible via a myriad of technology and communication devices nearly all the time and it is by choice. I want to be able to pick up my phone, laptop or ipad to connect to the world, for function and for fun.  Here are a few of my life hacks via technology that keep my day afloat.

ParkMobile App:  Any frequent commuter knows that there are apps for checking train and bus schedules like Transit Stop and OnTime Metra, but are you aware that you can pay for your Metra parking via an app?  It’s great!  Running late for the train?  No worries if you have the ParkMobile App.  It’s synced to your debit/credit card and you can pay for your parking via your smartphone.  This app has truly been a lifesaver for me, especially when I don’t have exact cash in my wallet when I arrive at the train station.

Apple iBooks:  I know many will agree, but don’t you ever feel like you’re a bag lady going to work? Lunch, work bag, purse, coffee cup, maybe laptop sleeve?  It’s crazy!  I love having Apple’s iBooks synced on my iPad Mini and iPhone where I can have few books, newspapers and magazines all downloaded and ready for me to hit the train in the morning.

Target In Store Pickup:  I love Target, as many people do.  But today I wanted to share my appreciation for the technology that Target has implemented to help busy adults do their Target shopping while on the go.  I can ride in to work and go through my shopping list.  Then select the items for Target’s In-Store Pick-Up, place the order and then pick up my purchases on the way to the train for my commute home. This is a great feature especially if there is a Target close to your office or home. It saves a ton of time, especially when your day is short on time, or when you realized that you used up your last nighttime diaper on your toddler the night before…just sayin’!

Spotify: My nephew Brian turned me on to Spotify a few years back and I love it.  It’s an online streaming website (free) where you can choose any artist or any album and listen to their music via your desktop or mobile device. The desktop version is free but you have to pay for the mobile devise access.  I know many people listen to Pandora, but the major difference is that Pandora is playlists of different artists based on styles of music, where this is artist- and album-based online streaming. I listen to music all day long via Spotify while at work and It’s great. If you think of a song you haven’t heard in awhile, I bet you can find it on Spotify!

Apple Facetime: I cherish the fact that my husband and mom both have iphone so I can facetime with them from work when I need my “Jimmy fix.”  I love seeing my little toddler running around the house, playing with his daddy or reading books with his grandma.  Facetime allows me the opportunity to stay connected with my son, get a few screen kisses and hugs, and let him know that I’m just a call away.

WGN-AM Podcasts:  Sometimes when I’m not interested in reading while on the train I listen to The Download with Justin Kaufmann podcasts .  I discovered Justin Kaufman’s show when I was on my commute home from teaching at DePaul on Monday nights and I love the context of his show that many of my peers in their 30’s would enjoy too.

PBS Kids App: For me, this is the app if you don’t want to clog your DVR with kids’ shows.  My son doesn’t watch a ton of TV, mostly just dances around to the music in commercials (or the Jeopardy! theme when my hubby is catching up on his DVR).  But recently he wants to cuddle up and play with my cell phone before his bedtime.  So I downloaded the PBS Kids App which I saw in a commercial on PBS.  It’s amazing! It’s most of the PBS shows all in one app that you can download whenever you want.  It’s like having a mini portable DVR for my son directly in my phone. He loves Super Why! and is recently discovering Daniel Tiger and Thomas the Train.

While many people think that technology is ruining the world (and I do agree that it’s hindering some of our basic communication skills), many advances have undeniably made our lives even more functioning in this fast-paced world. So- what are some of your technology life hacks that you’d like to share with busy parents?


Education · Product Review

2MM Review: Toddler Flash Cards

As a working Mom, I have great anxiety to making sure that my little one is learning everything he can, especially because he’s not in a daycare learning center, but being taken care of out of our home.  I’m constantly reading up on what learning milestones should toddlers reach by certain ages, (which will be a future blog by Cally Will of raisingwills.com).


My son has always loved to look, feel and listen to us reading him books ever since he was a baby.  As posted in many magazines and journals including this article in Parents Magazine, there are great benefits to reading to your infant. We’ve always tried to read to him daily since he was a newborn and he loves to cuddle up on my lap and read his favorite story of the day, (really who am I kidding – this kid will sit and listen to me read 5-6 books at a time).


While recently reading a few parenting blogs I noticed that some toddlers were starting to develop their vocabulary through the utilization of flashcards.  So I went online to start researching which products I think would be the best fit for Jimmy.  Knowing that he loves his touch and feel books, I wanted to incorporate this in my choice of flashcards.  I found a product on Amazon.com called,  DK My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards (First Words).  After reading a review from a father of a 16 month old child who loved them, I thought, let’s give this a try!


When I received the box the first thing I noticed was the sturdy construction of the box and the Velcro closure which kept all the cards secure in the box.  The box is small enough for a diaper bag so it’s a great travel toy.  The cards are made from a harder card stock than I would have anticipated with a laminate on the front of them, in case your little one spills on the cards.  The touch and feel aspect of the cards is really nice for little ones who might not be as verbal yet, but can still listen to you read the cards and feel the touch sensations.


I got these cards for Jimmy when he was about 12 months old and from the first moment we opened the box he loved them.  I would take them out one by one and tell him what the item was on each card. He would look at it, feel it (sometimes taste it), and then we’d move on to the next.  After a few weeks of doing this, he was hooked on flash cards.  Now, he opens the box, dumps all the cards out and finds his favorite ones to play with around the house.

I’ve notice that through this playful and educational interaction with him, he is starting to become more verbal and attempting to say more words than before:  Shoe, Sock, Boot, Dog (his favorite).  And while not saying all the words on the flash cards, he is starting to recognize the pictures.  We’re playing a game now when I put about 3-4 cards on the floor and I can ask him to identify a particular item from the cards. For example, if I ask him “which one is the baby?”  He’ll pick up the card with the baby on it, give it a hug/kiss and then toss it to the side for the next item.  It’s so much fun!


Two-Minute Mom rating – Five out of Five Bottles! These cards are great for early learners and very easy to use for parents.

Family · Product Review

Be Thankful for the Little Things

While social media posts blow up over the “red cup” controversy or the latest jackass comment from a US presidential candidate, I’ve decided to try to look at the positive things in life and actually count my little blessing this month of what I’m truly thankful for this year. Some of my “blessings” may seem silly to you, but I think we all need a little more silliness and a few more smiles in this world.

10. My iPhone Headest- while this materialistic item may seem mundane to some, when I see my iPhone earbuds it reminds me that I finally have an amazing work/family balance in my life. I’m able to take late night and early morning conference calls from my home, allowing me to make more time for my toddler, when I would have had to spend that time in the office earlier in my career. Being physically present during these tender years of my son’s life mean the world to our little family.

9. Infantino Squeeze Station- When my son started eating solid foods I was thrilled to be able to make his baby food at home. I love cooking and I truly enjoyed being able to make home a home-cooked meal everyday. When he started feeding himself, we easily switched to the graduate organic pouches for him to still feel empowered while feeding himself. Recently I noticed that many of the pouches have 10+ grams of sugar in each, which was extremely shocking to me. I’m so happy I found the Infantino Squeeze Station where I can make my own pouches and control the content of his daily meals.

8. Quiet Car- When I am able to take the train into work I’m extremely blessed to sit in the Metra Quiet Car. Don’t worry – I’m not one of the “shushers” who yells at individuals for talking in the quiet car.  For me, the quiet car is my 30 minutes of me time. This little slice of quiet time allows me to read, catch up on Facbook posts that I’ve saved from months ago, pay bills or make my shopping list.  I know – not total zen/yoga me time, but it’s my time to catch up on all the little things I want to do.

7. Amazon Prime- Being a busy Mom I don’t always have time to run to the store to grab whatever we need.  When this mostly comes into play is when we have a birthday party early on a Saturday morning and I have to work late on a Friday night.  Amazon Prime allows me to order a gift and, within two days, the gift has been delivered to my house and I’m ready to wrap it on Saturday morning just in time for the party.  It feels like my Amazon Prime membership has already paid for itself many times over.  Running low on diapers?  Ordered! Cannot find the only organic snack my son loves?  Ordered! Left my iphone charger in a hotel?  Ordered! It’s been a lifesaver for my family.

6. Kureg- Okay, okay – I know there are lots of nay-sayers regarding the waste or “toxic mold” that lives in this coffee pot, but for me I LOVE my Kureg! My husband and I are coffee drinkers, but only one cup at a time.  If we had a pot of coffee made, we would drink it all day long.  And now that we have a child and watching what we are eating/drinking, having the portion control of one single cup keep us on task.

5. Olay products- When I have long nights and early mornings, my godsends are Olay products.  I have about 3-5 products in my arsenal at all times. My favorites are the cleansing cloths which wash away the day’s make-up and leave my skin feeling soft, clean, fresh and ready for bed.  My daily ritual is citrus scrub in the morning, lotion during the day, and the cleaning cloth at night.

4. Nivea In-Shower Lotion- I absolutely HATE putting on lotion when I get out of the shower.  I hate having to wait for my skin to dry from the lotion before putting on my clothes to get ready for work.  Especially in the summer, I’m beyond too sweaty after getting out the shower to even think about turning my body into a slippery mess! Thank God for this new Nivea In-Shower Lotion.  I love the way my skin feels after using this product, but PLEASE read the instructions – if you don’t, the next person using the shower after you my slip and fall!

Grandma and Papa

3. My Parents- I am very blessed to have both my parents still alive today and to have a close relationship with them.  My husband’s parents passed away even before we met and well before we had kids.  While I’m lucky to still have my parents around in my life, I am extremely lucky that my son is allowed to have two of his grandparents around.  His love and affection for my parents is truly a wonderful experience to watch.


2. My Toddler- I know each person who becomes a parent says that their kid is the best, but mine really is! My son has brought more joy into my life than I could have ever imagined.  My son is cute, mischievous, sweet, caring and the most loving kid in the world! He is a true little boy, rough and tumble, but strong and sweet.  He is the most perfect blend of all the good attributes me and my husband have combined.  We are so lucky to be his parents.

John and I

1. My Husband- this man is my ROCK! His never-ending love and support for me in everything I do is absolutely remarkable. I’m completely spoiled! My husband cooks dinner most nights, takes care of our son when he’s not at the firehouse and really listens to me and supports me in everything I do! I really don’t know where I would be without him in my life! We both had long journeys to find each other, so in the end we are very aware of how lucky we are to be together and we never take that thought for granted.