Tag Archives: Technology

Bedtimes Apps for your Toddler

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Total non-guilty admission: We love technology and think apps can be a REALLY good thing for children.

While bedtime is a time that we genuinely treasure – full of books, made-up stories, quiet songs and last minutes cuddles before The Duchess drifts off – we also sometimes need a step between the chaos of the day and that quiet period.

Here are a couple of apps that we have found have that lovely, calming touch right before the bedtime hour.  Image

Nighty Night is an interactive bedtime app where the user puts each of the farmyard animals to sleep by switching off the light in their room.

ImageIllustrated by Oscar-nominated Heidi Wittlinger and narrated by Scottish actor, Alistair Findlay, Nighty Night is stunningly done.  His beautifully soporific voice coupled with the sound of crickets and that instrument of glory, the glockenspiel, is enough to send me off to sleep.  A free version is available on Android, where your little one can put 6 animals to bed, or there is a fuller in-app purchase option (£1.99) for 13 animals.  On iOS you can purchase Nighty Night for £1.99 for all 13 animals.  Image

The Best Friend introduced us to Sandra Boynton (not in the flesh) when she bought us The Going to Bed Book in hardcopy shortly after The Duchess was born.  We loved it as it was, but when the app was in a Play Store sale, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have an interactive version.

We’re glad we didn’t.  Produced by Loud Crow, the little touches are what make this book especially wonderful.  With the lovely voice of Billy J Kramer providing narration (who I SWEAR sounds like Christopher Walken – you know, if Walken wasn’t so intense), a melodic piano tune playing in the background, and interesting interactive touches on each page – like turning on the bath tap and popping the bubbles from the tub – it is definitely one of our personal favourites and one we’d suggest to all parents of young children.

GoingtoBed2The Going to Bed Book is available on iOS for £2.49 and currently all Loud Crow apps are on sale in the Google Play store.  Unfortunately, I can only see the listing in US dollars, which is priced at $2.84.  This converts to £1.82.

I’d suggest both Nighty Night and The Going to Bed Book for children between the ages of 2-5 years old.

And just as proof that Billy J Kramer was the better choice for narrating The Going to Bed Book, here’s an old video of Walken on Jonathan Ross telling the story of the 3 Little Pigs.

Remembering 20

January has been a weird month for me.  Ever since returning from our trip to America, I have been wandering in this unexpected desert of dissatisfaction.  My ambitions have wandered.  I have gone from wanting to stay in my job to wanting to be a stay at home parent to wanting to open a burger bar.  (I blame you for that, Britain.  Sort your burgers out!)  My thoughts have wandered.  I have found myself losing hours of my time flicking through site after site on the tablet, knowing that I’m searching for something, but not really knowing what it is that I want to find.  I have been hoping, whatever it is,  that I would find it on Not on the High Street.

I could feel it all happening.  I knew the cause of my tiresome circuit through this decision-less desert.  I was simply dissatisfied, but I continued to do the same things day on day through the month of January.  I felt it affecting me.  I felt it affecting how I was parenting.  I couldn’t muster up the motivation to do more.  I would just let her get on with playing as my thumb would repeatedly slide across a screen – searching.

And then last week The Duchess turned 20 months.  That doesn’t even sound like a real thing, does it?   20 months.  Lost somewhere between a baby and a girl.

I decided that I should probably start to look into the local pre-schools.  In some areas of the UK, it can take up to 18 months before a place becomes available for your child.  And so this morning, as she was picking at the remnants of her breakfast, I leaned across the table and asked excitedly, “Do you want to go see a school today?”  She didn’t raise her eyes as she flicked the toast on her plate, “Yup.”  I grinned.  “You don’t know what school is.”

I carried her up to the painted yellow door of the tired looking building because carrying is what you do when they are still little enough.   Despite the neglected exterior, the large room was brightly coloured with children scattered on the floor, sitting in a reading nook and on themed tables, engaged in various activities.

“Hi, I’m Jane.  We spoke on the phone.”  She was the supervisor of the pre-school.  She was a slim, middle-aged lady who took the time to chat with me beyond just the standard explanation of how the school runs.  I liked her.  She invited us to stay and let The Duchess play.

As she started to make her way around the busy room, I looked back at a group of children on the floor.  About 10.  Adults were around, but not needed in that corner at the moment and 10 children were there by themselves.  Without their mummies.  Without their daddies.    Playing in a room, in a village and getting on with life.  Because that’s how school works.  My child will move from being solely ours each day to being one in a class of many.

She is 20 months and I was reminded of how special this privilege of parenting a toddler is. This time is precious.  It is so, so precious.

And right then, I made a decision to be more present.  Because in 18 months this time will change.  She will start school and that will be the next huge step towards independence – a step that is away from me.

So this is what I’m going to do.  3 things.  Only 3.  But I am going to do the poo out of them.

1. Put the technology down.   I don’t want her to feel that she has to compete with a piece of plastic for my attention.  She is my daughter.  I also don’t want to teach her that this is what relationships are like when she is someday old enough to have technology of her own.  Who knows what kind of crazy hologram, space contraption will be on the market by then.  She is watching me and I am teaching her how to treat other people.

2.  Doing stuff together.  I’ve just started a book (read: a whole 3 pages in) where he opens by observing, in a restaurant of non-engaged people,  a mother and daughter completely lost in each other’s company during a simple game of cards.  Doing stuff together builds relationships.  I will not buy a ticket for the crazy train and assume that I have to create a pinboard of elaborate activities in order for it to be worthwhile.  The kid likes it if we walk into town and scream “bus” whenever one passes.  Doing stuff is easy.  There is no excuse.

3. Look closely.  I am going to look closely at the way she crinkles her nose when she is pleased with herself.  I am going to focus my eyes as she lifts her hand to wrap her chubby fingers into mine.  I am going to study the tendrils of hair that fall and tickle the bottom of her neck.  I am going to relish and remember 20 months.  And 21 months.  And 22….. Image

An Unintentional Absence

Oh.  Hi there.

…..Wait.  Don’t shout.  I know I didn’t call to say that I’d be gone for a little while.

You thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere?  I’m so sorry that I worried you.  That was irresponsible.

Let me explain.

It started with one little decision.  On some unmemorable night three or so weeks ago, I got home from work and I decided that instead of blogging I’d do housework.  And then the next night, I decided I would finally get around to checking out the new Sorkin, The Newsroom.  Then there were some work-related things I needed to catch up on, and my Dad visiting and the Olympics and then I wanted to watch more of The Newsroom and well, I just lost track of the time.

Though over time, that one little decision became an intentional decision to take a little blog-iday, a little break from blogging.  I wanted to see if I could cope with it.  I wanted to see if maybe I even liked it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we – how I – live my life lately.   The world communicates differently now than it did when I was 10.  So much of the world documents their lives online.  We put up statuses about our days, we comment on how much a friend’s child is growing or what a nice job they’ve done on their house or on how envious their vacation looks.  We spend hours tweeting with people we’ve never met.  We build relationships with people that we may not have seen for years, that we rarely see now, that we may never meet.

Blogging can so easily pull you more prominently into this world, especially if your desire is to try and increase your readership.  And no lie, I have wanted that.  I do want that because I love to write and I hope that people enjoy reading LOAEP.

The Native and I often joke that often social media seems an opportunity for us to beg people to stroke our egos.  “Like my status, like my photo, like my life.  Like me!  Please, please like me!”  And maybe you can’t fully appreciate this if you don’t blog, maybe you can as long as you have any sort of notion of social media – but it is easy to begin to update, upload, download, and comment for acceptance.  All of the sudden you are living your life to please this cyber audience that exists somewhere “out there.”

As an expat, I can’t ignore what a godsend social media can be when my family and friends long  somehow to be involved in our lives, but neither can I ignore how convoluted our priorities can become by taking part in it because while my fingers were busy tweeting and my camera was snapping away for that next upload and my mind was busy constructing my next blog post, I would find myself missing moments and opportunities to live life in a more connected way with the people who are right in front of me.

I know I’m not saying anything new.  Watch WALL-E .  (How can a non-verbal robot say so much?)  I do think I needed this break to re-prioritize.  I still want to write.  I love doing it.  But I don’t want to obsess about whether I’m a top blogger.  I don’t want to take pictures simply because I need content.  I don’t want to live with my phone in my hand because I want to raise LOAEP’s profile.  I don’t want to live life next to family and friends as we lose ourselves in this “connected world” that is so readily at our fingertips.

I want to remind myself what “connecting” means by disconnecting a little bit more.

Who’s with me?

John Lewis, You Make Me Weak

Americans, John Lewis isn’t a man.  I mean, I’m sure he is a man somewhere and I’m sure (but not as sure) that at one time there was a John Lewis related to what I’m about to tell you, but this John Lewis is actually a department store in the UK and every year they release a Christmas commercial.  You Brits will know the ones.

Before you roll your eyes, I knooow that the marketing team that came up with this advert must have been paid a handsome sum.  I know, I know that they are trying to sell you their department store in the hopes that you will BUY things from their department store.  They are especially trying to sell their department store to weak parents, like myself.  But even with all of that knowing in my head, this advert can break me.  It can emotionally manipulate me to the point of wanting to wrap my arms around the television and rub my cheek against the screen, all while sobbing hysterically into the bosom of that 2D little boy and as The very real Duchess looks on, baffled.   Too much?   I’m not saying it’s right.  I’m saying the emotional manipulation is working.

Life’s Little Inconveniences

Years ago when the Native and I were back in the States for Christmas we saw this washing and dryer set that were being sold for a family home.  It came up to our necks in height.  It boasted that it could wash up to 18 pairs of jeans.  And I say it again to my British readers out there, 18.PAIRS.OF.JEANS.   Let me put that into perspective for my American readers, when I load our washing machine here I honestly feel that I am taking a risk if I put in more than two pair.

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, America is a country of modern conveniences.  I find myself thinking about this more since I have become a mom because the British household, while undeniably comfortable, often doesn’t carry the same level of modern convenience that I was afforded when I lived in the U.S, and I have to wonder is it easier to get those parental jobs done in America than it is here.

While some Brits do have dishwashers, I would say at least an equal number have a different kind of dishwasher.  It has ten fingers that, multiple times a day, are getting sweated up in a pair of bright yellow marigolds.  I would LOVE to have a dishwasher, but even if we bought one we’d have no where to put it, because of lack of space.

photo via wilkinsonsplus.com
So fashionable, so chic

And then there’s the laundry.  Oh the laundry, always waiting for me, staring at me, telling me to do more because the thing is, while we do have washing machines, many British households don’t have tumble dryers.   That’s right; we hang out clothes out to dry on sunny days and drape them over airers on the remaining 355 days of the year.  I find this mind-boggling since a “hot” summer (we’re talking 80F) has now become a thing of nostalgia, maybe even folklore on a present day school playground.  This, coupled with the fact that people start to think apocalyptic thoughts about global warming if we get through a week without rain, makes me wonder why tumble dryers aren’t everywhere.  But they are expensive to run.  They take up space that people don’t have.  They are just something that we can do without.

photo via amazon.co.uk
Reckon there’s a way for hot air to blow out of one of these?

And without the wonderful hot blast of air that presses those wrinkles out of wet clothes, once our clothes are hung, they usually need to be ironed, too.  My pile of ironing is supernatural in that it is infinite.  I get through one and another is waiting.  It’s just the way it is.

I understand within all of this moaning and groaning about how ‘easy’ those Americans have it with all of their bright, shiny, glorious appliances (sigh), while my American working mom friends get only 6-8 weeks of maternity leave (if any), I am now enjoying my 9 months at home with The Duchess.  So while living here means that the practical inconveniences might be a bit of a nuisance sometimes, I’d choose those 9 months of cuddles at home any day, even if they are over a massive pile of wet laundry.

The Worst Thing

I debated on writing about this because it feels too personal. I carefully walk the line between light-hearted and completely open book blogdom because I think there are some things I’d just like to stay ‘in house’. But as it is incontestably the most difficult thing about being an expat, and the complexities of it increase when you’re an expat parent, I know I can’t avoid the  topic. Family. At some point either me or the Husband (or both) will have to be away from one of (ooor both of) our families. Happiness, concerns, milestones, joys, emergencies, the everyday will have to be shared over the phone, text or via webcam. It does make me appreciate technology because I know that not that long ago we would have been limited to a dodgy phone line and a paper and a pen, but it still doesn’t replace a face-to-face talk, the real life tightness of a hug, or being in the room when something incredible happens (even if it is The Duchess’ 50,000th smile).

Last weekend we were faced with a medical emergency with one of my family members back in The States. Different family members sent texts to keep me in the loop, but that night I struggled to sleep as I not only worried about the person involved, I was also considering what I would need to do if I had to fly back at a moment’s notice. I would have to bring The Duchess with me because she is breastfeeding and I don’t have any frozen milk at the moment. The Duchess doesn’t yet have her passport. But the worst thing was the worry about if the worst should happen. I was stuck in England while all of my other family members were there at the hospital supporting the person involved. The difficulty of that is inexpressible.

I’ve already thought about things I’d do differently in retrospect. A) Have an emergency stash of frozen milk if the baby wasn’t coming B) Get a passport for the baby as soon as I can after birth C) Maybe even have a prepared packing list for the baby so I can do it quickly, but even with finely executed preparation I can’t change the crux of the problem. I live far away.

Emergencies remind me of this, but in everyday, non-emergency life I know we are making the best of it.  We send weekly picture texts and try to Skype every week, but there will always be a bit of sadness wherever we live because whether in joys or concerns, the remarkable or the mundane, any way we slice it someone is always missing out.

If you live far away from your parents or in-laws, are there any things you do to support or to help include the ‘missing’ party?