Category Archives: Technology

Twelve Educational iPad Apps

When David and I decided to homeschool neither of us knew what that meant. However, David knew there were a ton of educational apps available on the iPad and so he gave me a blank check and said “buy what you need”.  We’ve done a lot of technology experimentation and so I’d like to provide you with a list of our favorite apps.


letter school1.) Letter School

Hands down the most used app of the school year. Max attended The Handwriting Clinic this year and the occupational therapists recommended this app.  It is a very simple idea – kids must trace letters with their fingers. The difference is that they have to draw the letters IN A VERY SPECIFIC SEQUENCE and completely on the lines or they get it wrong.  It teaches the kids the proper sequencing of handwriting and provides positive reinforcement with a video.  This app is really targeted towards grades Pre-k through first grade but Max enjoyed using it as well (second grade).

stack the states2.) Stack The States

This was another very popular app in my family.  This is a combination of state recognition and Tetris. The idea is that the kids are asked a multiple choice question regarding the states. If they get the question right they get to “stack” the state and they keep stacking until they’ve reached a goal. Lucy (age 10) has LOVED this game. I will catch her playing it in bed before she goes to sleep at night.

hopscotch3.) Hopscotch

This app teaches kids basic object-oriented programming by creating little programs for a team of adorably cute monsters. David and the kids have loved this app. The kids have learned to debug and think sequentially. They simply “drag and drop” boxes of code which tells the monsters to do certain things on the screen.  However, if the kids don’t load the boxes of code in the proper sequence nothing happens or it happens in the wrong order.

human body icon4.) Human Body

Have I mentioned how much the human body grosses me out? Well it does. It is pretty gross with all of its fluids and parts and nastiness.  However, this app makes it seem like this super cool machine that does all kinds of super cool things. Kids get to explore the body through different tasks — like feeding it.  Once you’ve given your person food you get to see an inside look as to what the body does with the food — but it’s all animated and cute and not gross like in real life.

math ninja5, 6 & 7.) Marble Math, Ninja Math, and Fraction Squeebles

Okay, so this is a three in one.  These are three separate apps but they are all math oriented and all about math facts. Lucy loves Fraction Squeebles and Marble Math, Max likes Math Ninja. These are all good and basically offer different sorts of games to teach Math facts.  If you want something a bit more advanced or that will teach actual math concepts you might want to visit Khan Academy but for basic math fact drills these are all good.

telling time8.) Telling Time

I’ve been told that most kids don’t really master telling time until 5th grade.  This game allows you to control difficulty level which is nice if you have multiple players at varying ages.  Younger kids can start with simple O’clock and half past times and work their way all the way up to calculating future time.  This has been great for both Max and Lucy and both have been able to tweak it to meet their ability.

monkey word9 & 10) Word Bingo and Monkey Word

Harper especially loves Monkey Word but both of these apps are good at teaching sight words.  Word Bingo is really targeted more towards 1st grade and older and can be adjusted for difficulty. Monkey Word is for the K-1st grade crowd but who doesn’t love the Monkey? He gives you stickers and makes funny noises.

seven little words11) Seven Little Words for Kids

This is not meant to be “educational” but I find it to be a great vocabulary builder for the 4th-6th grade crowd.  It’s a simple game of synonyms.  You are given a clue, similar to a crossword puzzle, but are provided with word fragments that must be unscrambled to determine the word that fits the clue.  I have the adult version of this game on my phone and sometimes Lucy and I can sit and play together

planet discovery12.) Planet Discovery

A full disclaimer that this app isn’t cheap and requires in-app purchases so be warned.  However, it is a very robust app that has provided Lucy quite a bit of information. This app was designed by the Discovery Channel and allows kids to travel the world watching videos and reading information about countries and regions.  Lucy’s favorite part is the ability to dress a virtual doll in traditional clothing from these countries.




I have a confession to make.  I am a complete failure at getting my kids to do chores.  When it comes to delegation I am much better as a manager than I am as a mother.  As the kids have gotten older their messes have gotten bigger.  I’ve reached a point where I either need to say “screw it. I will just hope that we end up on Hoarders” or “fine, I will beat you into submission”.

And don’t bring up “chore charts” with stickers.  I’ve tried that and inevitably Lucy does all her chores, Max’s chores, earns her prize and then Max is left crying.  She also then follows up every request with, “if I do that will I get a star”?  At some point I get so frustrated I rip up the chart, and tell Lucy she’s a “star-grubber” and to back off.  In other words, it isn’t healthy.

A couple of months ago David directed me to Chore Monster and suggested I look into it and see if I thought it might work for our family.


Chore Monster is in no way compensating me or giving me free stuff for writing this blog post, although I would welcome both because I’m not above selling out.


I no longer have to remind my kids what chores they need to do because they both can access a customized list via their electronic device (for my kids it is old i-touch phones). They get reminders when chores are due.  They earn points for each completed chore, and then they can cash these points in for prizes.  DO YOU KNOW ALL THE PROBLEMS THIS HAS SOLVED?

1. ) My kids don’t ask me for ANYTHING – because now they know if they want something they need to earn enough points.  Instead, they just ask me to add it to the prize list.

(click to enlarge)

2.) I don’t have to nag at my kids to do their chores because they know what they are supposed to do, and if they don’t – they don’t get prizes.

3.) No stealing chores.  Now they each have their own list, and most importantly, they can keep track of their OWN chores.  Checking them off when complete.

(click to enlarge)

In addition, when the kids complete a certain number of chores they get to play ‘MONSTER CARNIVAL’ which is this little game where they get to spin a wheel and win monsters that they collect. The Carnival, along with other games the kids can play comes with a membership which is about $30 for 6 months.  If you want to use the basic chore application it is free – FREE!!! We started with the free version but after seeing how great it was working with our kids we quickly upgraded.

The interface is cute, slick and easy to use.  The tech support is fantastic with personal emails and fast response. I even made a recommendation for improved navigation and it was changed within 48 hours.

The only critical thing I have to say is that it took us some time to set it up.  David and I probably invested a total of 3 hours spread out over a couple of days to tweak chores, points and rewards to the point where we liked it.  However, it has made the weekly grind of getting chores done so much easier. Not to mention that now Max and Lucy COME TO ME with ideas of chores I can add or ways they can help around the house.  They are willingly making beds, emptying the dishwasher, picking up toys and doing laundry — and that is priceless.

Ode To The Mini-Van

I spent much of my youth growing up in Detroit – the motor city – and I have always found it strange that although car companies will tell you that women are the final decision makers when buying a vehicle, they still have not figured out how to market to us.  They either try to appeal to our sense of style/color or they try to tell us that it is cheap.  Listen up Detroit! First of all I could care less what color my car is.  Outside of avocado green or neon pink it is really not a deciding factor in buying a car.  Second, although I’m interested in price (obviously) it is not the only thing that interests me.  Marketing anything tech related to women is all about FUNCTION. What is it going to do FOR ME? And will it make my life easier or one more thing I’ve got to wash and feed?  This brings me to my second most important Mommy tech item that I own (my iPhone remains at the #1 spot), my Honda Odyssey.

Now, in the world of mini-vans and soccer Moms the Honda Odyssey is the Cadillac of mini-vans and I must admit that I LOVE MY HONDA ODYSSEY.  I was one of those women who swore up and down that I would never drive a mini-van.  That I would rather have every shred of my cool persona stripped from me than be caught dead in a mini-van.  As a result I drove a Ford Expedition.  I actually drove two Ford Expeditions – one used, one new.  I hated it.  It was a big, huge, mammoth vehicle to drive.  It sat so high off the ground that getting small children in and out was nothing less than a Herculean effort. I felt like my kids were so far away from me in the back seat that I really needed some sort of messaging system in order to talk to them.  It guzzled gas (at one point costing me $75 to fill the tank)  and It was difficult to fit into the driveway.  And then, I herniated my back. The doctor was clear; “you cannot lift or carry your children. EVER.”  That was it. How was I going to get my 18 month old son into his car seat in the Expedition if I couldn’t lift or carry him?  While recovering at my in-laws house David surprised me by purchasing our first mini-van.  I had no choice.

Since that fateful summer I have become a convert. An evangelist for the glory of the mini-van.  My kids can get in and get out without my assistance.  I can open all of the doors with a flick of a button.  The built in mirror lets me keep an eye on them in the backseat. They are close enough to the front that I can reach behind with one hand and give them a juice box and still drive with the other hand. I can quickly dispatch the “look of terror” and espouse threats from the front and enforce order in the back.  The back seats easily fold down to carry large items and when the seats are up the trunk is sunken in to ensure that your groceries don’t go flying all over the trunk (something the Expedition most definitely didn’t have). Honda understands Moms and the Odyssey is proof of that. The gas mileage is reasonable, and the engine has enough “get up and go” that even David isn’t embarrassed to drive it.  It is big enough that it can tow our jetski and small enough that I don’t have to worry about it not fitting in the garage.

Whether I’ve lost my “cool” factor by succumbing to this item I don’t know and I no longer care. What I have discovered is that mini-van owners have an understanding. We look each other in the eye and give a nod that says, “it may not look cool but this is the best damn vehicle I’ve ever owned”.

iPhone Applications For You And Me


I’ve discussed before my absolute, complete, and utter adoration of my iPhone.  Up until recently cell phone technology has held little interest for me.  While some people mastered all the many function of their cell phones I used mine only as a phone. Then it happened – David bought me an iPhone and my life has forever been changed.  I frequently tell people that next to my mini-van (which I’ll discuss in a later Tech ‘o Beth feature) my iPhone is my absolute most necessary mommy device.  From the simple ability to balance multiple calendars on one phone (this way David and I are always in sync and never have to worry about double-booking each other) to the convenience of being able to take photos of the kids and instantly email them to my parents.  I love, love, love this device and if you don’t own one you must do whatever it takes to get one in your possession. (and I mean ANYTHING!!)

One of the coolest things about the iPhone is the ability to download applications that cover everything and anything you can think of, from a menstrual cycle tracker to games that can entertain your kids. Here is a short list of five of my “must-have” applications for the iPhone:

1.) Restaurant Nutrition by Healthy & Fit Communities

Restaurant Nutrition by Healthy & Fit Communities

This little application provides you with the menu and nutritional information for almost all the major chain restaurants.  Trying to figure out whether a Big Mac is better for you than a Quarter Pounder? Well, you can find that information here.  Want to decide if you should take your kids to Chilis or Boston Market? You can see what their menus have from this little device.  It also allows you to map the nearest location of any of the restaurants listed (I use this all the time to find an Arby’s. They never seem to be close).  I love this application for its ease of use and the fact that it is always updating with new information and data.  I feel so much more empowered to make smart food selections for my kids with this application at my fingertips.  The best part? It’s FREE. That is right, it is one of the many free applications you can download for the iPhone.

2.) Facebook & Twitterific

As a blogger I like to keep in constant contact with my blogging peeps. My online community is a big deal to me and almost every tool that I use online to stay connected has an iPhone app that can be easily downloaded and used.  This is a no-brainer, but these are also two apps I use every day, every hour.

3.) Flixster

The number one thing David and I like to do on date nights is go to the movies.  However, we are notorious for not deciding on a film or a time until we are half-way through dinner. Usually I’m the one frantically trying to print the film listings from my computer as we race out the door.  Now, no more worries. Flixster allows you to identify your “favorite” theaters and see all the current films and show times.  It is wonderful and alleviates so much stress from date night. You can also access trailers, descriptions and critic reviews.


Yes, I'm on a diet

4.) Lose It! by FitNow

This application allows you to set a goal weight and then determine how quickly you want to lose the weight. (1lb a week, 2lbs a week, etc).  It then calculates how many calories you should eat each day.  It provides you with a log where you can track your food intake and track your fitness. In addition you can customize if you want to track sodium, carbs, fat, etc. This was another free application and I love it. It is very user friendly.

5.) Games

Now, the iPhone comes with a built in iPod which is great for storing cartoons.  I have saved my sanity more than once by having the ability to instantly provide my children with ten minutes of a Dora cartoon. The other component to this though are the games you can download.  There are hundreds to choose from but the ones my kids like to play the most are “Rolando” by Hand Circus and “Spore” by EA.  David and I are rather partial to a good electronic solitaire game and there are several word puzzles you can download.  All of these are perfect for when you are waiting at the gynecologist’s office pretending that you aren’t naked and cold.

This barely touches the surface of fantastic applications for the iPhone.  If you have a favorite please tell me about it in the comments section. Don’t keep great apps to yourself!  Technology, for me, is all about function.  What can it do for me? And I can honestly say I use EVERY SINGLE function and feature of my iPhone.  If I could give every mother in the world two things it would be a cleaning lady and an iPhone.