Monthly Archives: February 2012

App Review: Getting (and staying) Organized with Cozi

Disclaimer: I have not been approached by anyone to write this review and I will receive nothing for it. Should you choose to purchase the item featured here, I will not receive any compensation whatsoever. You’ll be more organized, though, and that’s compensation enough for me.
This is the first in a series of monthly reviews that I will share. Products, services, and apps reviewed will all be chosen based on their suitability for use by parents who are attending college. (I do not intend to turn this blog into a review blog, so I will limit my reviews to one per month.)

It should come as no surprise that John and I can’t afford iPhones, neither the phones themselves nor the monthly bills that would come with them. I think an iPhone is the purchase I am most looking forward to when I graduate college and get a grown-up job.

We’ve come up with an alternative that works rather well, however.

John and I both have the cheapest cell phones/plans available and we both have iPod touches, too. With WiFi at home and at work/college, this isn’t as inconvenient as I had expected it to be, though I have been known to get a phone call from Campus Services every now and then because someone found my iPod in the bathroom. Again.

I love my iPod touch and I have since the moment I wrestled it free of its excessive packaging. Since then, I have been an enthusiastic sampler of free apps.

Two free apps that have been major factors in keeping my family and me organized are Cozi and iStudiez Lite. (I use iStudiez Pro now, but I started with the Lite version. Both are very good and obviously I like the Pro version better–more options to customize.) The iStudiez review will be posted next month.

Now on to the review!

Cozi is a web-based family calendar that integrates shopping and To Do lists with meal planning and a family journal. Each family member has a color in the calendar so it’s easy to see who needs to be where at what time. The shopping list updates in real time as you add items or check them off and it’s linked to your meal plans. The To Do list can be assigned to a particular family member.

Image representing Cozi as depicted in CrunchBase

My favorite aspect of the Cozi app, though, is the calendar reminders.

I don’t know about you, but I am a very, VERY forgetful and disorganized person by nature. I have lost my keys because I left them on the roof of my car, I’ve forgotten diaper bags, and I’ve even forgotten to pick up children from the bus stop a time or two.

My Cozi account is linked to my cell phone and I receive text reminders to do important things, like pay bills, pick up children, and go to work.

With five of our six family members in school and the 6th in preschool, we’re pretty tightly scheduled. I struggled for a long time trying to design a system of my own for keeping track of everyone’s activities and then I stumbled on Cozi.

There are a couple of things about Cozi that I don’t like. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I hate these things! I hate that the ad-free version of the app cost me $6.99 but now it’s free–you do need a website account in order to use the app.

I hate that the ad-free account on the website is $49.99/year (regular ad-full accounts are free). In the interest of saving money, John and I deal with ads on the website. They’re not that bad, really. The ads on Facebook are worse.

I would have to say in all fairness that Cozi is the app that has organized our family better than any other system I have tried–paper calendars, write-on/wipe-off calendars, generic cell phone calendar, etc. I have tried it all. I am a huge fan of  Cozi and I talk it up every chance I get.

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I had a job, or why I didn’t go to college before I had kids

I had a job straight out of high school at a local fast food restaurant. It was a decent job for someone my age that had no job skills or work experience and it carried me through that first summer as an official adult. It was hard work, but they had to pay me to be there, right?

When fall rolled around that year, I registered for a Calculus class and an English class at my local community college. My parents made too much money for me to receive any kind of Pell Grant-thing and no one had talked to me about scholarships, so I hadn’t applied for any. I ‘borrowed’ money from my parents–I should probably pay them back someday–to take those two courses, but I hardly ever went to class.

Lucky me, the instructors still practiced instructor-initiated withdrawal (they don’t any more) because I would have failed both classes if my professors hadn’t had me withdrawn from their classes. Something about me rarely coming to class, never having my homework done (when I did bother to show up), and missing all the test days must have tipped them off that if no one was making me do it, it wasn’t going to get done.

My first semester of college was a total flop.

Fail

The next spring, I got married. I kept working, but had no real interest in attending college and my then-husband (now ex) had no interest in supporting my decisions regarding college or anything else. Then I got pregnant and then divorced before the baby turned 1. I kept working, but by that time, I was feeling a stronger interest in attending college, but with no idea how to go about it.

My roommate/co-worker was taking a college-level accounting class and I was interested in the material she was learning. I may have flipped through her textbook a few times. Which may or may not have made me more interested in this whole accounting-thing.

And now, 11 years later, I’m attending college. I’ve almost got my 4-year degree in Accounting (just 10 classes to go!). And then I can get a real job. Just like a grownup.

P.S. After the lovely employees of my local financial aid office sent a  scathing polite email to our parent university, requesting an updated timeline, my appeal was reviewed and approved. I’m saved! I finally received my funding on Friday, which is good, since I spent the money for the electric bill on all the textbooks.

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Things I do for Science

External view of a fetal pig

Fetal Pig: Image via Wikipedia

Flat connectivity structure of propionaldehyde

Propionaldehyde: Image via Wikipedia

 

So I disposed of the bodies this week. . . . Yeah bodies, little pink pig ones that had been used over the past week and a half in the anatomy lab for dissection. Funny how there does not seem to be a problem ordering the fetal pigs and using them in class, but when it is time for disposal my name seems to keep popping up. All there was to do was let the excess preservative fluid drain off and put the carcasses in a plastic bag for the dumpster, which was not in any way difficult. But people at the college where I work seem to be hands off when it comes to doing the dirty disposal and cleanup  and you can call for volunteers and hear nothing but crickets in response. Had an inordinate amount of fun pushing the sealed garbage can down the hallway and vaguely telling people that I was disposing of the bodies when they asked what I was doing, the looks and reactions were priceless. First they looked confused, then offended, then they would either think of something that they had to be on the other side of campus for, or they would remember that I worked in the science lab and I was disposing of dissection carcasses and start to laugh. Either way it was fun to startle the students and staff out of their routine for the moment.

I also had a good time re-bottling  some of the chemicals for the organic chemistry lab this week. I was working in the lab doing this at the same time the geology professor was using the lab to sort and research some of the fossil specimen that she had not had the chance to go through. At lunchtime we were still hard at work and I finally got to re-bottling the propionaldehyde, which is an organic aldehyde that happens to have the spell of apples. So as I am in the middle of filling small dropper bottles of this stuff, I start to hear groans from across the room from the geology professor, who apparently had not had lunch yet and the smell from what I was working with had been torturous.

I am a part-time technician’s assistant at the college where I attend classes. I work primarily with the chemistry technician, but often need to work with the biology, physics and geology professors to make sure they have what they need to hold class in the labs where I work.

Love my job!

Back to hitting the books,

John D.

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Monday Laziness

Today is my day at home with Niece. We had big plans to work on our Valentines and eat leftover spaghetti for lunch, but I’m too tired for Valentines. And it’s cold today, so we’re snuggled up with blankets, me with the laptop for extra warmth, eating granola bars and watching cartoons.

I tried really, really hard to get my homework done while the kids were awake this weekend, I swear I did. But it’s hard to concentrate on anything while the kids are noisily engaged in Epic Battle MCCXXXIV: Ninja Turtle-Princess vs. Darth Maul & Co. 2nd Edition.

So I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls for a while, contemplated taking a nap, and then watched Downton Abbey. But it was a special 2-hour episode and I didn’t get started on my homework until 10:00 p.m.

And that’s why I’m tired today.

I actually did manage to get my homework done and turned in on time yesterday, but not having anything due TODAY is not exactly motivating me to do any of it EARLY, which is going to hork up my weekend I’m sure.

John and I are celebrating our 8th anniversary this weekend and I’m sure he would appreciate it if I wasn’t bogged down with homework, as would I. We have big plans to send the children to my father’s house–the first time he will ever have all four of them spend the night at the same time, he’s a brave one my dad–and maybe go catch a grown-up movie and have dinner or something.

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Rather Have a Root Canal?

So I have a root canal scheduled at the dentist for tomorrow. . . . makes me wonder why the phrase “I’d rather have a root canal” was created. So tomorrow I will drop off my niece that I watch during three days of the week with grandma, go to my dentist appointment, pick the niece back up, go home and then continue on with my three classes worth of homework.

Honestly, I’d rather have a root canal, but wait! Does that turn of phrase still apply? Do I get the use of this after I just had that particular procedure done?

I suppose I will go back though the ages with anthropology, and wade through the economics, and finally round out my day with with obscure theories and statistics that somehow work with organizational theory and behavior. *sigh* And what makes this process insanely difficult is the daytime children’s television that will be entertaining the niece while I attempt to focus through the local anesthetic which will invariably wear off during my first half hour of study. Dinosaur train! (head throbs); Super Why! (jaw aches); Sid the Science Kid! (takes yet another dose of Tylenol). Yeah, I can totally see this one coming.

So I guess I will have to do some more research and find out who uttered that they would rather have a root canal, and what the alternative was. Will keep you posted.

Back to hitting the books,

John D.

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guilt of the parental variety

I imagine it must be difficult for our children to have parents who are in college full-time. A couple of our children have expressed an interest in joining a local scouting troop, but our restrictive schedule doesn’t allow for participation in scouting. I felt awful when I explained that we just couldn’t commit to attending weekly meetings and the occasional weekend events. (Are scouting weekend events more frequent than occasional? I don’t even know!) Then there is the cost of uniforms for rapidly growing children, materials for projects, plus badges, books, and who knows what else.

One of the children would like to learn martial arts, which our budget (and schedule) unfortunately doesn’t permit, either.

And of course all of the kids want Techie Things–netbooks, iPods, LeapPads–expensive things that our budget can’t absorb. (One of the kids did get a Kindle for Christmas because I am quickly becoming the Master of Budgeting. I  found it on sale and used a coupon, too, which made it that much more affordable. We are also discovering the mixed joy that is free Kindle books. Sometimes you strike free-book-gold, other times you get what you pay for…)

I worry that we’re depriving our kids of the things and experiences that will help them to connect with their peers, help them engage with our community, and help them to feel that they are having a happy childhood.

But on the other hand, we are showing them the value of education. They are exposed to such an incredible variety of things that they would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.

One child became enamored with the study of rocks and minerals after my Geology course last summer. He was thrilled when I gave him the box of rocks and minerals that I no longer needed when I completed the course (with an A!). He has spent many happy hours examining his treasures, adding to his collection, and sorting the various rocks into categories of his own making. Is he a geologist in the making? Who knows.

But if he is, I want full credit for that.

Mineral collection

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when mommy goes to college

When you are a parent, attending college is a delicate balancing act.

Parents who don’t attend college have the work-life balance to worry about–deciding whether to work outside the home, or work at home, full-time or part-time, or whether one parent should stay home with the children full-time.

These are decisions that parents must think carefully about before deciding what is best for the children AND the parents, and then they have to decide what option makes the most sense for their families right now.

Parents who attend college have to balance work and life like any parent, but we also have to fit  school in there somehow.

Fellow students and professors at our college ask John and me how we do it. How do we handle taking 12-15 credits (sometimes 9, but that’s rare) a semester, plus work, plus take care of our four children and our dog. John tells them that we don’t sleep. He’s only sort of kidding, we obviously sleep at night, but not as much as we should, so yeah, we’re tired a lot.

What we don’t tell people is probably what they really want to know but are too shy to ask: the truth about our finances.

The truth is that we barely scrape by most months. We receive just about every kind of government assistance that we qualify for: housing assistance to pay rent, food stamps, day care assistance, Medicaid, and federal grant funding and scholarships for college.

This semester, my financial aid was denied. I filed an appeal (barely on time, but I filed it!) and now I’m playing the waiting game. It’s been two weeks and I still haven’t heard anything.

And now I’m freaking out. EVERYTHING is riding on my financial aid appeal.

The child care assistance office needs my financial aid information to finish processing my renewal application. The day care needs the approval from the child care assistance office to process January and February’s billing. John and I will have to pay the full amount if our child care assistance application is denied.

And I need the financial aid to go through because I don’t have $2,000 laying around to pay for my tuition. If my appeal is denied, I will have to withdraw from all of my classes. If I am no longer a student, I’ll be fired from my student job.

So that’s where we are today… waiting for the financial aid office to do something with my appeal. Will they deny it? Will they approve it? Who knows! But they better do something quick because my child care assistance caseworker said she will have to deny my application on Friday if my financial aid hasn’t come through by then.

In the meantime, I have chapters to read, notes to take, homework to do. I can’t ignore my classes because what if my financial aid appeal is approved?

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