Apple’s Watching

new_shiny_toys_I’ve been a Fitbit fan since the beginning. Five years of tracking steps and movement, and I’m definitely a more active person because of it.

That said, it’s time to move on. When Apple announced the new Watch with GPS support and a future Pokémon Go app…yeah. Sorry, Fitbit. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve been saving my pennies to buy an Apple Watch, and it arrived a couple weeks ago. I even splurged for a colorful band.

My watch and I are still in the getting-to-know you phase. I appreciate the regular nudges to move around, and Apple has incorporated mindfulness into the routine as well with the Breathe app. I like that I get notifications without having to open my phone, though there aren’t many apps I use that are supported by the watch yet. That’s OK, since I’m mostly using it as a fitness tracker.

The most useful non-fitness-related app is the integration with Todoist; being able to walk through the grocery store and check items off my shopping list without opening my phone is cool. I’m not interested in browsing Instagram or Twitter from my wrist. No big thing.

One of the primary complaints from others is the watch’s size, but I have a large frame; it doesn’t look preposterous on me, and it’s smaller and much prettier than my Fitbit Surge. The screen isn’t as hard to read and interact with as I thought it would be, and I love that I can use Siri to send messages while I’m on the go.

The biggest downside I’ve discovered is an inconsistency with Apple’s Workouts app recognizing “exercise” minutes in the Activity app.

For example, if I set up a workout for a brisk walk (30-40 minutes at 3.0 mph or greater, sustained heart rate well within my target zone) and get only 10-15 exercise minutes.

Whereas if I don’t use Workouts and do the same walk (or even a less intense pace), I’ll get 20-30 exercise minutes. I’ve calibrated the watch twice now, but this happens regardless.  I’d have to run to get Workouts to recognize my activity as “exercise-worthy”, and everyone knows I don’t run unless I’m being chased by a large, hungry animal.

Until Apple can make their own apps play nice, I’ve scrapped using Workouts in favor of just walking. It’s not as exciting as logging my walks in an app, but I get a greater sense of satisfaction from seeing exercise minutes that I sweat my fat butt off for, thank you very much!

The other thing that bugs me is the lack of support for sleep tracking; I wasn’t doing that with the Fitbit because the band irritated my wrist if I didn’t take it off at night. The Apple Watch’s band doesn’t seem to irritate, so I’d love to be able to wear it all night, but the battery wouldn’t hold up. It seems like such an obvious thing, and I wish the batteries were up to the task.

But the truly terrible thing about the Apple Watch? Niantec still hasn’t released the Pokémon Go app! I’m awaiting the announcement with baited breath, ie. obsessively checking Apps for an update. I can’t wait to be able to walk my eggs without holding my phone.

I’ve been eyeing the Watch ever since it was first announced, and I’m glad I waited. They don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, obviously, but I’m pretty happy with it.

😃+

2013 in review

2013 was rough–stressful in both good and bad ways, and looking back I’m floored at the amount of stuff our family has been through. There’s been travel, moving, new additions, injuries, and work–we’ve run the gamut, and I’m proud of all of us for making it through with relative good humor and patience. Hopefully 2014 will go a little easier on us.

A rough timeline of events:

  • A work trip to Hawaii in January made for a picture perfect start to the year
  • In April, we adopted Atticus. I had no idea one puppy could be so much work! But he is a sweetheart, and he’s calmed down quite a bit since we first brought him home. He likes to lay on my feet on the couch at night while I write or work.
  • In May, I traveled to Italy for work. Our team stayed in a rustic countryside villa in the hills outside of Florence, which was as amazing as it sounds.
  • We sold our condo in central Maine and moved north (the nearest Starbucks is in Canada, if that tells you how far north we are), back to my childhood home, to be closer to family. Easily one of the best decisions we could have made. The girls are thriving, and we’re loving all this space.
  • Gwen turned two in September, and boy, did she ever turn two. She owns her two-ness. She climbs, she runs, she’s maniacally happy and sad in one breath, she’s persistent and driven, and she wants to do everything by herself. Yep, definitely two.
  • Speaking of Gwen, we had that burn accident in September, which landed her in the hospital for three days and scared us all pretty badly. Thankfully everything turned out OK, we held it together, and she came out mostly unscathed. Though now she likes to tell everyone, “Mama spill hot coffee on my monkey shirt! Hurt. I cry.”
  • Another trip, this time to San Francisco and Santa Cruz for the Automattic company meetup.
  • We were without regular internet access until November, which made things difficult for working at home, but we managed. Got pretty familiar with the very few free wi-fi spots in town, and drank a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee.
  • I wrote not one but two novel-length pieces of X-Files fanfic, completing my first NaNoWriMo! Woohoo! I’m in the process of publishing the first novel here.
  • November also marked my second European trip of the year, this time to London, and I really want to go back; I feel like I could have spent weeks there.
  • I worked a lot. I may have spent more time in pajamas than is considered socially acceptable. I continue to marvel at how lucky I am to work with the people I do, and to get paid to do the stuff I do. From home. In my pajamas with the Ninja Turtles on them. Yeah. I love my job.
  • I struggled with depression, and it took a lot of time and convincing for me to acknowledge it, but with help from an SSRI and therapy, I’m ending the year from a happier, more balanced place.
  • Ellie turned five in December, which feels like a personal milestone for me. When she was a newborn, I remember thinking of five as some magical, mystical age in the distant future, and now it’s here, and I am so proud of my smart, funny, beautiful little girl. She drives me crazy, but I love her to pieces and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.

Upcoming in 2014? More travel. Potty training (redux). More fanfic writing. Working. Family. And hopefully a happier, more positive outlook on the whole.

😃+

2012 in review

More of this deliciousness in 2013

More of this deliciousness in 2013

This year started out a bit rough, but ultimately turned into one of the best yet.

Some of my favorite things:

  • Watching my kids grow. Gwen is running away from babyhood so fast we can barely keep up, and Ellie has grown six inches in the two days it took me to write this. Even more exciting is watching their relationship unfold. Two kids definitely present more challenges, but seeing them play and laugh together makes it all worthwhile.
  • My new job. I felt a little weird leaving the university after so many years, but it was definitely time for a change, and I’ve found a second home at Automattic. It’s humbling, exciting, and some days I even think I kick ass a little (others, not so much, but you can’t win ’em all).
  • I’ve visited more new places in the last six months than I have in my entire life. Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Winnipeg, plus our family trip to New York… and there will be more in the coming months. As hard as it is to leave my family, travel is one of my favorite things.
  • Creatively, I’ve felt inspired and happy with the work I’ve produced, both in quantity and quality. Most of it was WordPress themes, but there’s been some illustration, too. I always feel happiest when I’m making things, no matter the medium. More of that in 2013, please!
  • It probably qualifies as one of my healthiest years to date, with particular focus on improving on and creating good habits. I floss daily, exercise frequently, and take my vitamins!
  • Celebrating five years of marriage, twelve years of general together-ness, and four years of parenthood with this fella.
  • I discovered the wonder and light that is coffee! This tweet pretty much sums it up.

BFFs

Some challenges:

  • With a lot of new changes (even good ones!) comes stress, which for me translates to anxiety and minor dysphoria. Some of this is seasonal, though, and will probably pass by spring.
  • I’m still not where I want to be, health-wise, despite my progress. Not sure where to go from here, but I’m learning that the result is the process. More doing, less thinking about the doing. I’m starting up Health Month again in January, we’ll see where it leads.
  • Balancing work life and family life is more difficult without clear boundaries between office and home. We’ve made a few changes to cope with that — hiring someone to help clean the house every couple weeks (she’s a lifesaver!), instituting a no-work policy in the evening hours so we can focus on the kids — but I still feel like my attention is in a constant tug-of-war, which creates feelings of guilt on both sides. I can’t be everything to everyone, and I have to learn to accept good enough.

Park with papa

Some favorite photos:

[slickr-flickr set=”72157628996657277″ search=”sets” items=”49″]

So, what’s next in 2013? I’ve never been much for setting big goals — I don’t fare well under that pressure. But the new year has a number of things in store for us, and given last year’s challenges, I have a general idea of what I’d like to do differently.

  • We’re moving back to northern Maine, in an effort to stay closer to family, save money for travel, and get away from the “city.” This is a biggie, and I’ve been meaning to write about it more, but you know, *insert excuse here*
  • I’d like to take more time for books. I miss reading, and the kids are getting better at entertaining themselves (!) so I think I might be able to pick up the occasional book this year. I have a stack of stuff from Swaptree on the shelf of my bed’s headboard, plus a bunch of ebooks on my iPhone.
  • In an effort to balance myself and my life, I need to be better about living in the present, not trying to live in the future.
  • I’d love to start taking photos again, maybe?
  • In less than a month I’ll celebrate my 30th birthday. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about the big three-oh, but I think it’s going to be positive.

Happy new year, all!

😃+

Printing in the age of Instagram

Initially I was kind of an anti-iPhone-photographer snob… but I’ve found I’m way more likely to document the moment with my phone than dig out my hulking digital SLR with its inconvenient manual-focus portrait lens, not to mention the time it takes to transfer the resulting photos to my computer (provided I can find the camera cable, which is a challenge in and of itself) and process them in Photoshop, then wait for them to upload to the printing company. In the face of all that hassle, the simplicity and ease of use of the iPhone camera cannot be denied. It may not be fine art, but my family memories aren’t fine art, and truth be told, I love some of the photos I’ve taken with that camera.

All but three months of Gwen’s first year were stored not in an album or keepsake box, but on Flickr and Instagram. I thought about this a few weeks ago — I haven’t printed a single snapshot since Gwen was three months old. And I thought about how strange and uncomfortable that felt. Ellie has a thick baby album full of 4×6’s, Gwen has… an Instagram account.

I love digital photography, but there’s something satisfying about holding a photograph in my hands, the tactile richness of a stack of freshly-printed images, the thrill of receiving a new packet of photos in the mail. So I decided to do something about it! I went back through my archives, beginning with this photo, taken last Christmas when I first got my iPhone:

Baby Gwen

And the latest photo of my little mischief-maker:

*melt*

 

… and everything in between, which, when I sorted through it all, came out to about 300 photos.

That was almost enough to make me throw up my hands and add a few dollars to Gwen’s therapy jar (I have a few years to come up with an excuse as to why her sister has an album and she doesn’t, anyway) but after some research, I settled on PostalPix, which lets you order prints (and other products) directly from your iPhone. A few weeks later, I have a handful of envelopes full of beautiful prints, and I’ve assuaged my guilt (at least temporarily — I still haven’t worked up the ambition to put them in an album). Plus, new photos never have to touch my computer — I take them on the phone and have prints in my cart with just a few clicks. So easy.

My only complaint is you can only print in batches of 40 (when I started this process it was 60) so having a large backlog of photos meant I had to be methodical about what I’d already printed and what I hadn’t. Now that I’m caught up it’s better, but it would be much easier to purchase unlimited prints in one go. All the more reason to keep my standard printing company (iPrintFromHome — have to plug them because I love them) for large orders, and use PostalPix for snapshots.

Another iPhoneography-related service I tried recently was StickyGram, which turns your Instagram photos into magnets (I’m kind of a magnet addict). Sure, I could just use an ordinary magnet to stick my kid’s photo to the fridge, but what would be the fun in that? Photo magnets up the cute-factor. While I won’t be using StickyGram as often, it has nothing to do with their quality or service — it’s just my bank account might get mad at me, and my fridge can only hold so many magnets.

😃+

2011 in review

It’s that time again! 2011’s highlights:

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: We had a baby!

serious cute

I spent most of the first nine months of 2011 gestating this cutie, and as such, 75% of the year is a blur. But yeah, she’s pretty awesome. I can officially remove “Have a home birth” from the life list, since Gwen is most definitely our last child and, once again, the home birth didn’t work out. In retrospect, I’m not disappointed with either of my babies’ births. The experiences were just as powerful and life-altering despite having taken place in a hospital–and I got two amazing kids out of the deal so I can’t feel bad about that!

In July Tim started a new work-from-home job, putting his WordPress expertise to work at Automattic. While this isn’t my accomplishment to share, it’s certainly had an impact on our family. Prior to this we worked together in the same office for several years, but he quickly realized he couldn’t keep up with both workloads and resigned from his position at the university in August. The new job also means more travelling and that’s been difficult for both of us. So far he’s been to Montreal and Budapest, and next month he’ll spend a week in Hawaii (the stinker!) Despite those challenges, I really can’t complain–his new schedule offers more flexibility than the university could, the benefits are excellent and it’s a significant step up in his career. We’re still figuring out how to navigate this new world, but I have a feeling it will get easier as time goes on.

I had my gallbladder removed shortly after Gwen was born. Although certainly not something I wanted, in one sense I’m glad it happened. It was the wake-up call that allowed me to take a critical look at my daily habits and take steps to better myself. I bought a Fitbit which motivated me to start exercising and monitoring calories again, and after just a few weeks I feel ten times better about myself and my abilities. It’s a careful balance between doing the work and becoming obsessive about it, and while I don’t always win that mental battle, I’m getting better.

Creatively I don’t have much to show for myself. I’m not feeling the illustration bug, my shops have been dormant most of the year, and I have a few ideas for photo shoots but it’s too darn cold outside and there’s not enough room in our house. Meh. I did spend a few months teaching myself about WordPress theme development and crossed off “learn PHP” from my life list, so that’s something!

Three of my list items had to do with the kids–make their Halloween costumes, make Ellie a birthday cake (I didn’t bake it but I decorated it, so I’m counting this one) and take them to Santa’s Village–so it’s easy to see where my focus was this year. However, Tim and I also took our first “long” trip away from Ellie in April to see Iron & Wine in concert (something I never wrote about due to pregnancy yuckiness) which was fun. And I visited my extended family in North Carolina for the first time, crossing off another state on my “visit all 50 states” goal.

Overall, I would say this was a banner year for personal and family growth, not so much creativity. That’s an acceptable exchange, though. I’ve devoted many years to creative pursuits, so it’s only fair that other things come into focus for a bit. As the kids get older I will have more time to spend with my projects, but right now it’s all about them. Seeing how much Ellie has grown and then having our second child has made me keenly aware of just how fast it goes by.

Next year I’m looking forward to more of the same–more introspection as I get closer to my thirties and more time spent enjoying my family. I’m hoping to travel a bit, too–nothing crazy long distance, but now that we have a bit more disposable income I want to get out of the state occasionally!

Happy new year, all!

😃+