Over the course of the past five years, I’ve been pregnant three times and have given birth to and cared for three rookie humans. I’ve learned a lot of stuff about parenting and have developed some strong opinions about baby products over the course of that time.
*************************WARNING: HUGE, but valuable, DIGRESSION*********************************
For example, do not allow yourselves to be sucked into the lies propagated by one Dr. Brown that said Dr.’s bottles will keep your kid from being gassy and colicky. All Dr. Brown’s products will do is cause you to forfeit seven hours a day cleaning all the gajillion parts that comprise these bottles. Will and John were fed with Dr. Brown’s bottles (when they drank expressed milk). With Kat, I decided to try just the regular Medela bottles and save myself the headache of Dr. Brown’s. The result is that I notice absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in the amount of gas that she has compared to her brothers. Free yourself from Dr. Brown’s bondage and just get regular easy-to-clean bottles. Then use the time you’ll save in bottle cleaning to read War and Peace.)
***************************************DIGRESSION IS NOW OVER**************************************** In other words, I feel that I’ve been around the pregnancy/newborn/toddler/preschooler block enough to be able to intelligently navigate the gadget-infused world of 21st century parenting. However, one gadget that I did NOT have the benefit of having when the boys were babies is the smart phone. I’m just here to say that the parental perks that such a device affords are bountiful, and I am adding smart phones outfitted with the following apps to my list of “must-have” baby equipment. This device has not only made parenting a little bit easier, but I think it’s actually saved me money as well. Also, I think it’s worth noting that most of these apps can be beneficial to the child-free as well. Therefore, I thought I’d do everyone a solid and share the top five coolest apps I’ve found that no 21st century parent, or anyone really, should be without.
This app is pretty useful for those with school-aged children. As children get older, they have this tendency to go to preschool/school/church where arts and crafts are all the rage. Once your child begins attending some form of educational institution, your house will become the repository for all the artwork that your kids make at these establishments. These crafts range in complexity from stick figures drawn on scratch paper to huge three dimensional posters labeling the parts of the flower, and the irritating thing about it is that your child believes each creation to be more valuable than the Mona Lisa. Don’t get me wrong. You will also find your child’s artwork to be absolutely precious as well, but your admiration of their work will be tempered by a small voice in the back of your mind that asks, “Where in the Hell am I gonna put that?” Some people are “savers.” They have scrap books and bins and boxes of everything their children have ever done. For those people, sacrificing order in their home for the preservation of memories through the artifacts of their children’s old school work is a no-brainer. For people like Bill and me, though, saving all that artwork is just a huge mess. And we don’t like mess. We love Will and his art; we’ve kept a couple of exceptionally well-done and easy to store pieces, but the rest of it we’ve thrown away. Will, on the other hand, wants us to keep everything. This is where the Artkive app has been invaluable. Basically it allows you to take pictures of your kids’ art projects, date them, and file them away in your phone where you can easily transfer them to a tablet or computer or even print the pictures and store the hard copies somewhere. The benefit is that you can keep a visual record of every picture, sculpture, birdhouse, and diorama that your kid makes, and you can do so without turning your house into an episode of Hoarders. The app even allows you to have separate files for each kid. It’s a win-win. I recommend it. This takes me to the second must-have app. This one is awesome even for non-parents.
An issue I’m constantly facing is the fact that all of the pictures that I have of my kids are digital, yet my kids’ grandparents have not yet embraced the digital age. This isn’t such a big deal for my parents, who live in town, but Bill’s parents live all the way in Florida and see the kids maybe three or four times a year. Outside of those occasions, and given their lack of participation in social media, they rely on my correspondence, printed photographs, and the U.S. Postal Service to stay abreast of what’s going on with the kids. For a while, I was terrible about sending pictures because I stopped using a legit camera and relied mostly on the camera in my iPhone. (Prior to wireless printers) hooking up my phone or camera to a computer to upload the pictures for printing was a pain in the ass. Even once we got a wireless printer that enabled me to print directly from my phone, photo paper and printer ink is expensive enough that printing pictures myself was a rare occurance. Then I found the Kicksend app. This app lets you send photos directly from your phone to the photo printing retailer of your choice (I typically use Walgreens). Unlike the retailer’s individual apps, the loading of photos on Kicksend is really quick and you can, with just a tap of your fingers, even have the pictures printed at a retailer close to the recipient. For example, I have printed pictures for my mom to pick up. If I wanted to look cheap and lazy, I could even have pictures printed at a Walgreens or Target near my mother-in-law in Florida and she could pick them up and pay for them herself. This app also makes saving your Artkive photos easy for those of you who (like me) sometimes worry that the internet will die and I will lose all my memories. Kicksend is great for getting prints of many pictures, but the next app on my list is great for sending specialized picture greetings to relatives.
This app will send personalized greeting cards using the photos stored on your phone or tablet without the hassle of uploading images to places like Shutterfly and having to buy mass copies of your photo greeting. All you do is choose your occasion, choose the card option you like best, add the photo and your greeting and Ink will print the card AND MAIL it to your desired recipient. The coolest thing is, it costs $1.50. This includes postage. You can’t buy and mail a generic greeting card that cheap and the cool thing is that these cards are personalized. Here’re the cards I sent Bill for Father’s Day (yes, I was way early in getting him his cards, but we’ll be out of town on Father’s Day.)
These were so cute, they have a personalized message on the back, AND they arrived in three days after I ordered them. This is a cool app to send picture greetings for just about any occasion.
2. iBaby Log
This app is great for parents with newborns. The coolest thing about it is that it’s absolutely free. Prior to Kat’s being born, I polled Twitter to find out what were the best baby apps. I actually paid $5 for one of the apps suggested to me (and it got great reviews as well). Then I saw this free app, tried it out and found that it did everything the $5 app did, but the interface was actually a tad easier to navigate. Granted, you have advertisements pop up, but this was no big deal in my opinion. Basically, this app lets you record those things you have to record for your newborn with a touch of your finger. This included things like when the baby feeds, for how long, which breast (if you’re nursing– this was a great perk for me because I always forget which boob got drained last). You can also record diaper changes, when they happened, if they were wet and/or dirty, etc. You can record with the baby sleeps, wakes up– basically all those functions that are pretty important, especially when the baby is newborn. The app also takes the data and puts it into graphs and diagrams so that you can see overall trends. This is really helpful at pediatrician appointments when they ask your things like how many diapers the baby has in a day, how much/often he/she eats, etc. Before this app I could never remember trifling details like that. I don’t use it anymore now that Kat is organized into her own schedule, but it was great to have when she was newborn. And because it was free, it’s no big deal if you use it for six weeks then never use it again.
Okay. Brace yourselves for the coolest parent app I’ve found yet. It’s a supercool one.
1. Baby Monitor 3G
Guess what. You don’t have to buy one of those video baby monitors at $300 because this app turns your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch into a baby monitor. This particular app is unique to iProducts. There may be an android equivalent, but you’ll have to research that. I didn’t use a baby monitor with Will at all and only used a sound one with John so that Will and I could go outside and play back in those days when he took a morning nap. Now with Kat being a newborn and also as the boys get more independent, I’ve found that it would be nice if I could keep an eye on the kids from another room but I’m not about to go buy a video monitor this late in the parenting game. With this app, I don’t have to. It syncs between all your iDevices (you could use as many as 3-4 devices, I think) and allows one to function as the baby device and the other to watch on the parent device. You can also use it as an intercom to communicate with your kids from an undisclosed location if your choose. So, if I really want to take a nice hot bath but don’t want to spend the time worrying that Will and John are killing each other in my absence, I just set my iPhone up in the room where they are, then set my iPad up in the bathroom. Voila! I can watch them play whilst soaking my cares away. I can also yell at them from the bathtub if I want to. It’s awesome and it only costs $3.99. Buy the app once and it automatically loads onto any other device associated with your iTunes account. I’m really excited about the opportunities for voyeurism that this app affords. Moreover, it freaks my kids out when I yell at them remotely.
So those are a few apps that have made my parenting life easier, and really, iBaby Log notwithstanding, most of these apps can be useful for the childfree as well. Did I miss anything cool? Do you know of any other apps that one should not be without?