1. Nike Training Club. I can use the gym at the London Business School for free while we’re here, and I really wanted to do some weight-lifting/toning (I wasn’t worried about cardio since I’m walking a ridiculous amount every day, generally pushing two children in a big stroller). I did some searching online for a free program or app, and this one had a lot of good reviews and holy cow I love it. It’s really nice to just show up at the gym, start the program on my phone, do the whole thing, and not have to think about how long to do it, how many reps, etc. I’ve been doing it for all of two weeks, so I’m obviously an expert now. Either way, I highly recommend it. Did I mention free?
2. Kindle. Almost three years ago, I won a Kindle at Bart’s office holiday party. I don’t use it tons at home, but I always take it with me when I travel, and over the summer and this fall it’s gotten a lot of use. Then, on a Friday morning a few weeks ago, Ani stepped on mine and cracked the screen, making it completely useless (unless you prefer to read only 3 or so words on any given page). I ordered one of the new Kindles that just came out a few weeks ago, but I didn’t like the touch screen and I ended up sending it back. I just ordered an older generation one that Staples still sells and my mom is bringing it over when she comes to visit. I will be so relieved to have it again – I was surprised by how much I MISS that thing.
3. Watch. Sometimes hi-tech isn’t better. I haven’t worn a watch since mine died shortly after Ella was born. And even though I always have my phone with me, the idea of pulling out my phone basically never occurs to me. Way too inconvenient, especially when it’s buried in the stroller under a pacifier, my Oyster card, a couple of snacks, and my keys. You can’t imagine how many times a week Bart and I have the exchange, “What time is it?” “Time for you to get a watch.” I’m loving having a watch again, especially one like this that goes with everything.
4. Chip Credit Cards. Before we left the US, we called our credit card company and found out we’d be paying a 3% transaction fee on every purchase we made while out of the states. That thrilled me not at all. We signed up for a different credit card that had no international transaction fees, and when they came, they had a little chip embedded in the front. This has turned out to be fantastic because there are a fair number of places here that won’t even take a swipe card anymore. (Lots of stores have the wireless payment option too, but our credit cards don’t have that feature. In fact, you don’t even have to get an Oyster card for the bus anymore if you have a card with the wireless payment; you can just scan your credit card and you get the Oyster card fare without carrying around an extra card or having to fill it up constantly. We are seriously behind on credit cards in the U.S., I guess). Frankly, I don’t even carry a wallet here almost ever because I only ever use my credit card and my Oyster card for the bus or tube.
5. iPhone cover. I’ve just noticed recently how embarrassingly filthy my phone cover is (I’ve had it for about two years) and I ordered it based on the fact that it was the cheapest one I could find, since I was feeling poor after getting a new phone. It’s definitely time for an upgrade and I’ve been eyeing some of these fun ones. (Frankly, I probably should get a new iPad cover too since I use my iPad a lot when I’m cooking and it’s also getting pretty sad looking, but . . surprise! Living in London is making me feel poor too).
6. The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa H. Barker. I stumbled on the audiobook for this at my library’s Overdrive site, and was hugely inspired by it. We’ve always been pretty careful about how much screen time our children get, but with all our traveling and the lack of other toys (seriously, the only toys we own are the two scooters we ordered when we got here), they were definitely playing more and more on the phone and iPad, and this book made me strongly re-evaluate. We’ve totally cut off Ani from any screentime, since she’s under 2, and the only time Ella uses it now is to listen to audiobooks (so she’s not really USING the screen, it’s just playing the books to her). It’s been a big relief to me to stop keeping it as an option, and I feel like they play together much better, and use their imaginations more now that the screens are pretty much non-existent. (Warning that there are some fairly graphic sections of the book where it talks about navigating tech and online spaces with pre-teens and teens and some of the experiences kids have with adult content from a really young age. I ended up skipping past some of the accounts that were too much for me).