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Getting Technical

mission control
Magoo runs our mission control

When my mom was raising me, I'm sure she never imagined what technology would look like by the time I became a mother. To her, my life today would have seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel, a sort-of technological freak show of devices that she wouldn't think of needing, but I would find it hard to live without.

I remember renting a VCR for my 5th birthday party to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks. My little head nearly exploded. Watching a MOVIE? IN MY HOUSE!!? Amazing! Now just a couple of decades later, my kids can watch a movie at home, in the car, or even on my cell phone.

Gone are the days of paper planners three inches thick. I remember my mom's "binder of life." Heaven help us if it went missing or if we spilled something on it. We'd never be on time for an appointment again.

As much as I'd hate to lose an expensive piece of equipment, the data on my PDA is so thoroughly backed up that it would take very little effort to retrieve my entire schedule and upload it to a new device. Dan and I sync all of our laptops, desktop computers, and PDA/phones to a server, so that no matter what computer we're on, our calendars are synchronized and up to date.

On this tiny little helper I also store thousands of pages of shopping lists, writing projects, e-books and recipes. If I'm at the grocery store and I decide I want to make a certain meal that week, I just look up the ingredients in my recipe file and pick them up while I'm out. If I want to check the hours of a certain store, I log on to the Internet with my phone and check the store's website.

I have an inexpensive navigation system in my car that takes me wherever I need to go, eliminating the need to look up addresses or directions in advance. Hmmm...I'm in downtown Seattle and I suddenly need a Mexican restaurant STAT. I just press a couple of buttons on the navigator and it directs me to the nearest chimichanga. Nice!

Although technology is a great help to me when I'm running errands, one of the best things about the tools I use is that they help me avoid being away from home. Much of the time my mom spent IN line I can now spend ONline. I will never again drag my children to the DMV to renew my car registration, or all over town to do comparison shopping. I pay all my bills online and subscribe to a money- and time-saving grocery coupon search service.

little helper
Little helper

Does this make me a hermit-mom, hiding away in my dungeonous nerdery? Quite the opposite. Because I've cut down drastically on the errands I need to run, I can choose when and how I want to spend time with my children. I'd much rather spend 30 minutes ordering camping gear online and then take the kids to the park for a few hours, than drive downtown to the camping megastore to ask the sales person about tent features while the kids gnaw at my pant legs.

Because I put my library books on hold in advance, I have more time to spend browsing and reading in the kids' section when we go for an afternoon storytime. My friends and I use the web to organize a giant babysitting co-op so we can always find someone we trust to watch our kids when we need help.

Evites make baby showers and birthday parties a cinch to plan and other online resources help us check for local activities, weather, and directions. I also use the Internet to look up children's health advice and to research preschools.

I think the best thing about all the technology at my fingertips is that I have so many options my mother didn't have. From online shopping to at-home career choices, I have the opportunity to decide for myself in ways she couldn't have dreamed.

She provided in-home childcare for many years so that she could afford to stay home and raise her own children. I have the option of staying home while pursuing a writing career, or any number of other telecommuting ventures.

Out of all the tools available to me, I can choose those that best serve my family and then make them work FOR us. The possibilities are endless — as long as I use the tools to enrich my life, rather than letting them take over.


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