Last week I received a box of Christmas gifts from one of my dearest friends in the world. She lives in Austin,Tx. I live in London. We both have children. So I understand that getting to the post office to ship a large box internationally is a pain in the ass. I do not hold it against her that her package arrived exactly 4-months after Santa returned to his icy lair and I hope that she does not hold it against me that once her package arrived, in order to get a good grip on it, I placed in on top of the large box of Christmas gifts I have yet to get to the post office to send to her.
Being a Mom is full of these vignettes. The thoughtful purchase that remains on my desk for months before I ship it off to its intended recipient without much more than a sticky note attached that says, “For Hayden” scribbled on it instead of the lovely and heartfelt note I originally intended.
I know that I am now responsible for 3 human beings as well as myself, plus the nurturing of my relationship with my husband (their father) which is like another human being. But it feels like I am running (often into the ground) an institution much larger than that. An institution for crazy people. How can people need so many different things at different times? And why don’t they just wake up and get dressed in the morning without me bugging them? Why do they wake each day like newborn foals taking on each step for the very first time?
And is there an app to fix all of this?
Answer: Sort of. And in honor of American Mother’s Day, here are eleven of them. And Happy Mother’s Day. You’re awesome.
Not so much an “app” as a service. Hello Fresh takes grocery shopping and meal planning off of the table for a few days each week. You can choose your subscription, for instance choose the “vegetarian” box, the “family” box or just the “standard” box. You can choose 2-4 people, 2-5 days a week. The app is the icing on the cake, so to speak. With it you can customize boxes, pause meals and recall your favorite recipes. This doesn’t completely replace going to the grocery store, but it does a great job of taking the stress off of buying and cooking dinner off the table. Also – meals average $4 to $5 per person. Great prices, no waste, no braincells compromised.
Shutterfly was one of the first online-printing websites way back in the days of old (1999) and it is still going strong, growing, adapting, and improving. Download the app and find yourself ordering coffee mugs, calendars, framed photos and more while you are you on your morning commute. Every moment of our lives feels documented by camera…it’s about time to display those photos, don’t you think?
Grace needs to be a wolf in the end of school play. I am about as crafty as Warren Buffet, which, sadly, makes that the only thing we have in common. But I want her to have a better costume than an ill fitting nylon robe ordered from Amazon Prime the day before the event. Enter: Etsy. Homemade princess costumes. Adorable felt wolf masques. Sexy bustiers for Mardi Gras. You name it, Etsy puts it in your well worn, Mom-of-the-year hands.
Shutterfly does it all but sometimes you want something a little more artistic. My current favorite is Artifact Uprising. Picture this, You go to little Betty’s 7th birthday party and snap away. Get 12 decent pics. The cake, some kids dancing, a few balloons and Little Betty crying after the balloon poodle popped in her face. Upload your shots and a few days later Little Betty’s mom gets an attractive package with 12 gorgeous shots on matte paper held together by a wooden block to remind her of her party. Guest #1 position: Secured.
Spotify is your Diva-free personal DJ. At home in the evening? Put on Acoustic Covers. Morning coffee with Moms? Try Coffee House. Kids in the car? How about Feel Good Friday. Working out? Put on the SoulCycle mix. Don’t worry about keeping up with what those darn kids are listening to these days. Just download onto your phone, turn it on and sync with whatever hamsters are running your sound system and rock out. (There is even a White Noise playlist that you can play on your phone speaker to help your children go to sleep in a strange place when you forgot to pack their blankie).
Need some pictures hung? Need a server for a dinner party you are hosting? Need someone to take your cable box to the company and sit for 3 hours waiting to turn it in so you don’t get flagged as having stolen it? Need a leaky faucet fixed? Need some Ikea furniture assembled? Need to clone yourself? Answer to all of the above: Yes. App to change your life: Taskrabbit. Type in your zipcode / postcode + the job you need done and within minutes someone is at your disposal to do the job. Rate is agreed in advance. Taskers are rated by the TaskRabbit community ensuring the likelihood that they show up on time, do the job requested and leave when it is over. Alternatively, brows all of their taskers and make a list of all of the things you are going to scratch off from your to do list.
Okay, I professed my love of Etsy to make me all faux-crafty but sometimes creativity takes time. More than once I’ve set my heart on a fabulous costume only to find out that it is custom tailored and takes 6 weeks to arrive. You really have to be on top of things sometimes. When you aren’t, when your son tells you three days before Halloween that he really, really wants to be Steve from Minecraft and begs, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, please, please can you make me a Steve costume? I can help! I can!” You say, “Go to sleep. We’ll see what we can do.” And with a few taps on your phone, you’ve got a Steve costume showing up by 7pm the next day. Bam!
Whatsapp offers the dual benefit of providing you with free international calling (calls go over the internet) and also a solid group messaging platform. It is the second part that we are harnessing for our Making Mom’s Life Easier list. At the beginning of the school year insert in all of the mom’s phone numbers and give the group a name “4th Graders” Then, when someone gets confused over, say, when the wolf costumes are due or whether maybe someone took your daughter’s shoes home because she came home barefoot, you can quickly and easily text everyone on the list.
Since keys first came into my life as a young latchkey kid, I have been trying to figure out a way not to lose mine. My most successful run was probably the dirty old shoelace hanging from around my neck. Since that fell out of fashion, I’ve not been so successful. This fact is clearly making its way around our social circles because I received two sets of TILE for Christmas. (One in that package that just arrived from Texas.) I have to say, though, it is brilliant. Hang it on your keychain or adhere with some super sticky stuff that comes with it and with a few touches to your iPhone locate anything lost anytime. You can also name things so, for instance, “Guest Keys” or “Keys to Mom and Dad’s House” which is doubly handy when you think to yourself, what in the world is this set of keys for? I should throw them away.
Remember that time we were 25 and in Hawaii and we forgot to tell anyone where that speech was that we wrote for the boss? And remember Odette had to email us and we had to try to explain how to find it in the labyrinth of files on our desktop computer? And remember that we couldn’t give it one more pass before she had to print it out and give it to the boss who was leaving in 15 minutes to deliver the speech for an award he was receiving? Well I do. And so does Odette. What we wouldn’t have given for Dropbox that day. Dropbox is a hard drive that lives in outer space and you can reach it anytime, from anywhere, as long as you have internet and the password. You can collaborate on documents – so Odette could edit the speech and we could take a look at it from the beach. Or you can save photos or project notes so everyone involved can have access to all information. My advice? Just make it your default location for any saved documents and forget saving anything on your desktop. You can divide into folders and subfolders as you see fit. You can share as you see fit as well. And, for the moms, you can use it for classroom collaboration, “Hey everyone! I’ve invited you all to a Dropbox folder so you can upload any pictures you took from this year’s End of School Play. Maybe we can pull the best dozen and send an Artifact Uprising collection to the drama teacher?”
The internet has broken so many promises to us. It was supposed to make us more efficient, but then it gave us Instagram. It was supposed to help us keep an eye on our kids, but then it gave us Fess and Yik Yak. It is high time we put our foot down and take some power back. Use your apps for good, not evil. Make them work for you. Paperless Post can be your invitation b*tch. Choose from gazillions of designs and customize at will. Make it pretty, make it funny, make it edgy, make it sophisticated. Track responses. Send reminders. It all happens in one place. Oh, and guess what? It also tracks all of the invitations YOU receive so you can make sure you’ve appropriately responded to invitations and picked up the right gifts for the right day. The app on your phone makes it quick and easy to respond to invitations, track times and locations and even double check the names of the hosts. Invaluable. (Quick life hack: Print the invitation, fold it in half and use a hole punch to punch a hole in it. Tie a ribbon through the hole, using that to attach the invitation to the gift. Place gift by the front door and tell your son or daughter that it is their responsibility to remember it on party day if they want to bring home a goodie bag.)
Those are my 11 apps to make you a better mom. Things to help you save time, hack creativity and appear organized. Apps to help you harness the power of your phone to work for you instead of you working for it. Things that will allow you to spend more time using your phone for what it was intended: Selfies with your kids.