VTech Connect-to-Cell Phone System (Home Phone Convenience Without the Cost!)

Vtech connect to cell

Maybe I’ve been out of the loop, but I didn’t even know a product existed that allowed you to use your cell phone like a home phone.  My family hasn’t had a landline in four years; we just didn’t think it made sense.  I have to admit, though, sometimes the mad search for my ringing cell phone is frustrating.  By the time I find it, the person has hung up!  My friends and family complain that I’m the hardest person to get a hold of, but it’s impossible to be glued to my cell phone at all times.  Even if it is by my said, I often need two hands to do housework, play with my daughter, or get ready.  So when VTech’s Connect-to-Cell Phone System showed up at my door, I couldn’t wait to try it!  Even my husband (who rarely comments on anything associated with my blog) thought the system was brilliant.  Then again, this was something he could really benefit from since he works from home.

Key features of the VTech DS6421-3 Connect-to-Cell:

  • Push-To-Talk acts as a multiple handset walkie talkie system to instantly communicate with any or all of the handsets within the system.
  • HD Audio provides an extended frequency band allowing for the signal to be reproduced and tuned for a fuller and clearer sound.
  • Make and receive landline and cellular calls – Connects to BLUETOOTH enabled cell phones to make and receive calls with the ease  of a home phone system. Two cell phones can be actively connected to the base. Cell calls can be made or received from either of these two active cell phones. Pair four different cell phones to the base unit.
  • Voice Announce Caller ID audibly announces the name and number of the caller on all of the handsets and base unit. (how cool is that??) No need to find the handset to see who is calling.   Makes screening calls that much easier (love it!)
  • With the touch of a button, the handset speakerphones makes hands-free conversations easy.
  • Expandable up to 12 handsets using only one phone jack.
  • Access your cellular phonebook directory – Download your cellular phonebook directory to this cordless phone system.  Dial a landline or cellular call from the directory for easy access. Stores over 6000 directories from up to four different cell phones. No need to input names and numbers into your cordless phone. (Thank Goodness!)
  • Pair four different cell phones (or headsets) and have two devices actively connected. Cellular calls can be made or received from either of the two active cell phones. Landline service not required, works great for cellular only households.

There are so many more great features, you can check them out for yourself, by going to VTech’s website here.

As the holidays approach, I knew things around the house would be getting even busier–and messier–making all the features of VTech’s phone system that much more appealing.

In a recent holiday survey, Vtech found:

  • 46% of respondents said they would spend more time with family/friends if they had an extra set of hands to get things done (51% of all females); higher with moms at 48%.  37% of respondents said clean the house quicker; 47% of moms
  • 31% of respondents said phone calls ranked the highest as the biggest distractions to getting more done at home during the holidays.  24% of respondents (48% of moms and 40% of dads) said kids needs/events
  • 81% of respondents (92% of parents) ranked a device that could help you multi-task and get more things done  as very/somewhat important

I guess I’m not the only frazzled parent out there who wishes I had more hands!  After trying out VTech’s Connect-to-Cell phone system, I’m thinking it might just be the perfect gift for some of those hard to buy for people on my list this year.

Disclaimer:  I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of VTech and received a product sample to facilitate my review.  As always, all opinions–good and bad–are my own.

 

Family Ties

My sister and I spent our childhood pretty much attached at the hip. We have subsequently spent most of our adult lives thousands of miles apart. She has a job that has moved her around quite a bit, I have my own business here in Phoenix and am, therefore, not moving any time soon.

premiere dress

My sister

little boys

The early years: my sons

For a while, our lives were quite different. She was rising up through the ranks  in her career,  and I was beginning to have babies and trying to start a business while keeping my head above water. She was flying to a premiere in L.A., wearing a fabulous dress and getting her hair and make-up done, and I was trying to get breastmilk out of my work shirt, and trying to picture a life without a “Boppy” and immunization records.

 

 

cute mom and toddler

My sis & niece

More recently, with the birth of her first baby about 22 months ago, my sister  is in the forays of early motherhood and chasing a toddler, and I am navigating a household where no more naps are taken, but two school-aged boys may or may not jump off the dog kennel onto the couch in superhero fashion. The divergence of our lives the past 20 years is narrowing again and our circle is beginning to get smaller.

family picture

A recent family picture

There was a time when my boys were really young and I was a nap Nazi and a hyper-scheduler and every time my sister  looked at me I felt like she thought I had three heads, and maybe I did. I had my second son on a Thursday and saw my first patient in my new practice on a Tuesday. Not exactly the best timing, but at the time, it is what I felt I had to do. I don’t imagine I was much fun in those days, and she probably wondered whether I ever would be again. I wondered if there was ever going to be a time where she would understand the pressures and demands and stress I was experiencing. I wanted her to love my babies as much as I did, but seeing them once or twice a year was not really enough to forge the tight bond for which I had hoped. When your kids are under the age of three, they are only friendly with people they see often, people with whom they have established memories.

Fast forward almost nine years from the time I had my first, and she was finally having her first. Although I hated the desperation in her voice as she was describing the frustrations of no sleep and early mommyhood, I loved being the one she called for advice or for simply an ear. I wished I could have given her a shoulder. It was very hard to be so far away and not have the ability to hold my sweet little niece and give my sister a break without her having to worry about her baby being cared for. Because to me, that is what family does. They are the people with whom you can trust in caring for your most valued possessions without worrying about them. We had two or three days here and there–not nearly enough time for me to be a trusted face for my niece or for my boys to really spend some quality time with their aunt.

Then this past summer came. My sister was in the throws of looking for a different job….she had some time to spare–we planned a family vacation, and then my boys got to spend an extra week with my parents and my sister, her husband, and their new niece. They came home with the kinds of stories that can only come with time real time spent in the company of the ones you love. They loved their niece, they constantly played with their uncle, and they were doted on by their aunt. The story was coming together….closer to what I had always wanted for us.Toddler and her cousins

Now there is a real possibility of her finding work here where I live. I can barely think about it because I dare not, lest I jinx it. They have been staying with us and other family off and on the past few weeks–and any time they aren’t at our house, my boys are wondering when they are coming back. You see, there is no other reason that 9 and 7 year old boys would be so infatuated with a 22 month old cutie pie, except for that family bond and time that establishes and cements these core relationships. My sister is over the hump and confident in her motherhood and I am basking in these boy years where they still let me kiss them. We are both relaxed for the most part, sharing the best bond of sisterhood and motherhood. She watches  me looking adoringly at her daughter and I look at her cracking up at my silly boys’ antics. It just doesn’t get much better. And my niece? No stranger danger with me anymore. This morning I got a kiss and a smile–none of that “Who is this lady that loves me?” look. My sister and I are geographically and emotionally closer all at once. Our lives are converging–no longer parallel three time zones apart…..attached at the hip, and hopefully within the same time zone, state, county, and maybe even zip code.

Sisters

Too Young to Die

I found out last night that a former 4th grade student of mine passed away this week.  I had just seen her post on Facebook the previous week about loving her friends and family.  Of course I “liked” the post, but had no idea I would not be seeing her around on Facebook anymore.  Her name was Kylie, and she was one of the sweetest girls I ever taught.  I remember her getting sick the year I taught her as well.  She ended up at the hospital for about a week and I remember taking her work and a stuffed teddy bear.  This week she was back in that same hospital at age 18, a freshman in college.  This time she did not make it back home, but passed away due to complications of pneumonia.

(Kylie on the left around the age I taught her)

I was in shock when I saw the post come through yesterday of people tagging her in candlelight vigil pictures (her name spelled out in candles with a beautiful picture of her in the center).  I didn’t know what to make of it at first since I had just seen her post on Facebook days before.  Why were they tagging her in pictures and having a picture of her surrounded by candles?  I went to her main Facebook page and got some answers.  She passed away at the hospital in Norman, OK on Wednesday.  I saw some posts from other former teachers, and one in particular from a high school teacher that mentioned she had been sick and hospitalized while in high school as well.  I was in shock, saddened, and confused all at the same time.  I could this happen to a bright, beautiful, young girl with her life in front of her.  She was so sweet and caring.  How does this happen?

I was thinking back a funeral my husband attended a few years back of a co-worker whose son died of Leukemia at the age of six.  Why?  What did that little boy do to deserve that?  I thought of my good friend whose sister just lost her baby daughter at 39 weeks.  Her room was set-up, clothes were ready to be taken to the hospital, there was so much hope for a new life into this world.  Why?  Why did she not have a chance to enter this world?  What’s the reason?

Unfortunately, there are no answers as to why.  Nobody did anything.  Nobody deserved anything.  There is no rhyme or reason of why people are taken at different ages and for different reasons.  This is where your beliefs come into play.  What do you believe?  Even if you are religious and believe in God it can be a hard concept to wrap your mind around.  I asked my mom last night, “What do you think Heaven looks like?  Do you believe in a Heaven?”  She said she did and that she believed it was the most beautiful place surrounded by no pain, but only by love.  She said she spoke with a friend about reading the book “90 Minutes in Heaven,” and that her friend claimed to have a similar near death experience.  She said to my mother, “Don’t ever be afraid to die.  It’s beautiful.  It’s comforting.  It was the best thing I have ever experienced.  I saw my loved ones who had passed on.  I saw the tunnel and the light.  I am not afraid to die when the time comes.”

Those words were comforting to me but confusing as well.  I am a person who likes to see to believe, and with religion it is more about faith than evidence.  I do believe in God and a Heaven.  I guess I just need to have stronger faith in that faith.  It’s hard to imagine that with young ones dying at such a young age that there is some purpose in their death, but I guess we must leave that up to something or someone greater to decide.  The most we can do as mortal individuals is to take life and cherish it when we have it.  Pay attention to the beautiful things in your life, cherish your children and family members, help others and take care of your community, know what is important in your life and what is not worth worrying about.  I am guilty of letting small things get me upset.  Unimportant things.  I think everyone can be.  When I think of these young souls it helps me to cherish what I have here on the Earth now.  Go hug your kids, leave the dishes dirty for a day, spend time outside in nature, be with your family.  Live your life to the fullest each and every day!  Know what is important and focus on all you have in your life.

Kylie’s last Facebook posts said:

Kylie Johnston If I have you on my Facebook you are on there for a reason. You have either taught me a lesson, been there when I needed a friend, given me advice, or taught me patience. For whatever the reason, I am glad that we are friends. I love all of you.· October 6 at 1:15pm via mobile ·

Kylie Johnston Thanks everyone for your love, support, and prayers. I am beiginning to feel better and I appreciate the kind words.· October 7 at 10:07pm via mobile ·

Kylie Johnston BOOOOOOOMER!!!!! · October 8 at 2:46pm via mobile · (Kylie was an OU fan!)

Kylie Johnston Really sick. Listening to the rain, watching lifetime movies, and eating soup. Happy Saturday everyone.· October 8 at 6:48pm via mobile ·

Kylie Johnston So sick I can barely lift my head off my pillow. Thank you mother nature for the beautiful rain that I plan to fall asleep listening to. · October 9 at 8:15pmvia mobile ·

Kylie Johnston Delete Facebook or not? Such a hard decision! · October 11 at 12:08am via mobile (So many are glad now that she decided to leave her page so they can visit her and talk to her there!)

* Kylie passed away at 2am on October 12th.  It’s fitting that her funeral is held on the “Sweetest Day,” as Kylie was such a sweet and caring person.

(Kylie’s Facebook profile picture)

Kylie:  Rest in peace sweet girl.  You are in a good place without ailments.  I pray for you and for your family.  May their hearts heal from the emptiness they must feel without you.  You were a bright light on this Earth and you left such special memories for everyone that knew you.  Rest well.  Your Teacher, Mrs. Wheeler

(One of her Senior pictures)
* Have you lost a loved one at a young age?  How do you deal with the pain of losing someone so young?

 

Kristin Wheeler

30 Minute Meal: Pecan Crusted Chicken

I’ve recently developed an adoration for Greek yogurt.  A friend of mine said to me the other day: did you know you can cook with it too?  Really? in actual food and not “baking”?  Bring on the challenge.  I found this recipe in an old Betty Crocker booklet my neighbor passed on to me.  I modified it to my liking and…voila!  A delicious dinner in under 30 minutes.

Prep: 15min  Total time: 30min  Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3  to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
  • 3/4  cup Italian style panko crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/2  cup chopped pecans
  • 2TB brown sugar (optional)
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1  container (6 oz) Greek plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

Directions:

  1. Between pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, place each chicken breast smooth side down; gently pound with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/2 inch thick.
  2. In shallow dish, mix bread crumbs, brown sugar, pecans and parsley.
  3. In another shallow dish, place yogurt. Dip chicken into yogurt, then coat with crumb mixture.
  4. In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Cook chicken in oil 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink in center and coating is golden brown.

Serve & Enjoy!

Photobucket

Living the Dream

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

O.K., so I wanted to title this post “Boring is Good”, but realized no one in their right mind would read a post entitled with the word boring!  This is what I have to say.  There once was a time when I did things like skydiving and “black water rafting”, but that was all back when I was young, immortal and most importantly not yet a mother.  Not long before I had my own children, I watched a toddler close to me go through a life threatening disease.  After years of treatments and hospital visits the child was cured.  In subsequent conversations with the mother she would say “We are all healthy, nothing new or exciting is going on in our lives, but that is just the way I like it now. Boring is good.”   Twenty years ago, that was the antithesis of my life motto.   Even after getting married, for many years as we established our home and family, there seemed to always be something exciting to report on to our friends.  There was a steady flow of new jobs, births and moves.  Now that the kids are a bit older, I guess we’ve done what they call “settling down”.   Much of our time is spent shuttling  kids to games on the weekends and doing  family-centric activities.  It has gotten to the point that when someone asks me ‘what’s new’?  I feel so boring! I have nothing to say!   The thing is, I am also at the point in my life where I look at that as a GOOD thing! To me it means there is no drama, and no angst (other than the gnawing question of how we’ll pay four college tuitions). In this economy, with high unemployment, foreclosures, war, natural disasters, and potential health problems, I am embracing boring.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

This is not to be confused with being bored.  I always tell my children, “there is no such thing as being bored!”  This is about being excited about life everyday without needing drama to stir things up.  I once had a friend ask if I got bored being a stay at home mother. I was surprised by the question, because, as I told her, I wished I had enough downtime to be bored.   My life was chaotic with four little kids!  Now that they are older I do get moments of down time, but I know now how precious they are, and savor every second of them without ever feeling bored.  When my wanderlust  does grip me from time to time, I remind myself how I always knew it was time to head home from my travels.  I would find myself in an exotic location peering not at the spectacular scenery around me, but into the glowing windows of  thatched village huts, wistfully thinking of the lucky family cozy inside their home together.  When asked, “what’s up” my husband and I will mostly respond with our motto of  “living the dream”.  Sometimes, when the question comes from a friend who I’ve previously described my “boring is good” theory to, I will answer that my life is boring at the moment. Knowing that I mean that in the best possible way, they will often reply with a wink and a smile, and say in return “boring is good”.

 

Photobucket

Banana Split with a (Watermelon) Twist

Here I come again with another watermelon recipe!  If you missed last week’s watermelon cupcakes, you should click on over and try them.  They are really good!  Since we are still in the middle of summer, the heat is plentiful and watermelon is our favorite light dessert… here is a light twist on the banana split.

Ingredients:

  • Bananas (1 per person)
  • Watermelon
  • Toppings: granola, whipped cream or whipped topping, berries, chocolate syrup to drizzle.
Instructions:
  1. Cut bananas in half lengthwise and place the halves on plates.
  2. Top with watermelon balls formed with an ice-cream scoop.
  3. Add dollops of whipped cream, then sprinkle on berries and chopped nuts or granola.

 

Serve and enjoy!

 

—-

Photo credit: Disney Family Fun

Photobucket

How to Plan a Memorable Family Reunion

My mother-in-law and a cousin

My husband’s extended family meets every year in June for a Family Reunion on my mother-in-law’s beautiful property in Litchfield County, CT. It’s been a week since the most recent one, and we are all still basking in the glow of it. Even though we have one every year, we never know who will make it, if the weather is going to cooperate, or which families will stay over in tents. These unknowns keep it fresh and unpredictable, and therefore each year we look forward to what some might see as a great big hassle, but we have come to view as heaven. I’ve learned so much from my husband’s side of the family about their simple, yet well thought out approaches to bringing a lot of people together. They have spent years fine-tuning this event, so I am hopeful that you will find this information useful if you‘re considering throwing one yourself.
The first step is to pick a date that will work for the majority. We have found that late June, just after public school ends, tends to be the best time to achieve the greatest turnout. Email blasts have been an amazing method for the quick dissemination of information, starting with a “Save the Date” message in the late winter.
Once the date is set, my mother-in-law crafts a reminder email to give the details of our gathering. This goes out twice: once in the spring, and then again just before we meet. It’s been mostly the same format for years, but occasionally an improvement is made, so this is very helpful. It includes the basic info such as:
“People are welcome to come to the property as early as 10am with their own picnic lunch, chairs, blankets, etc. We provide soft drinks and beer, and at 4:00 we will have finished the roasting of the pig. Please bring a dish to share for that evening’s meal. Anyone wishing to camp out may do so. There will be a breakfast served on Sunday morning for those who stay.” The camping component is new, and usually includes about 4 families, allowing for some extended shared moments making s’mores around the fire. That’s it! It’s pretty simple and straightforward stuff.  To accommodate the sometimes 70-100 people, a nice port-a-potty is rented and placed in the orchard. That cost, as well as the pig, the beer, and maybe some new shuttlecocks and water balloons, is pretty minimal considering the large number of people who attend.

The two families who live on the property have the important tasks of beautification and the main course, which includes lots of gardening and a mowing before the event, getting the float on the pond, and starting the roasting of the pig. They do an incredible job, and the place always looks breathtaking and inviting, not to mention, smells yummy upon one’s arrival. My task in recent years is to make the soft drinks on that day: lemonade, iced tea, Tang, etc. My husband’s is to get the badminton net up, the slip-and-slide out, spruce up the horseshoe pits, and rake the pond beach. After that, we wait for people to start coming.

There is a ‘cheat sheet’ on the table outside next to the blank name tags that lists those families who are planning to attend that year. My mother-in-law so wonderfully supplies the names and ages of all the children, so we can have a prayer of figuring our who’s who in the sea of 40 kids who keep growing and changing every year to spite us. Of course, the nametags help a great deal, too.  Sometimes I think we should all wear them every day (!), but that’s just me.
Because we are a ‘green group’, we use recyclable cups that people put their name on with a Sharpie so they can reuse them all day, and we serve the meal buffet-style with real plates and silverware. Not everyone can do this, but my sister-in-law has amassed a large amount of these items over the years from various sources, and it makes such a difference in the amount of garbage we create, or, rather, don’t.
For some reason, the weather has always been kind to us (some say it’s the ancestors smiling down), and the children have such fun cooling off in the pond or chasing each other with water balloons. The adults play games as well, or have a swim, but a lot of emphasis is placed on catching up on each other’s lives.  The crowning moment of the afternoon is a traditional, but humorous song that one family, with five grown sons, leads us in every year.  It’s priceless to see all the young ones join in as they come to know the words.  All in all, it really is heavenly .
So there you have it – the easy recipe for creating great family connections and memories.  Now, go ahead, pick a date and make it happen.

Please share any ideas you’ve enjoyed when your family gets together. We are always interested in tweaking and improving the experience.

Photobucket

Summer Dessert: Watermelon Cupcakes

Living in the South, I’ve become a big fan of cool desserts in the summer.  After attending many summer barbecues and picnics, I’ve noticed that someone always brings the famous frozen watermelon to alleviate some of the heat.

Here is my spin on a classic summer dessert that will satisfy the entire family.  I urge you to make these ahead of time and place them in the freezer inside a cupcake tin for at least 2hrs.  Although not necessary, they will become that much more refreshing!

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 Cupcake Liners
  • 8 Cupcake sized pieces of seedless watermelon (see below)
  • 2 Cups Cool Whip
  • Sprinkles for decoration

Directions:

Place the liners in an 8-cup cupcake tin. Cut 3-inch thick slices of seedless watermelon. Cut round cupcake sized pieces from the slices. Put a watermelon ‘cupcake’ in each liner. Place a dollop of Cool Whip on each cupcake. Decorate as desired with sprinkles. Makes 8 cupcakes.

NOTE: freezing them makes them more portable and cooler for dessert, specially if they are being transported or going to be left outdoors for an extended period of time.

Enjoy!


Photobucket

VIDEO Diary Day 5: Bloopers & Reuniting With Old Friends

I have been so excited for this day.  We drove from DC to Richmond, where  we are staying  for a bit with a very good friend of mine that I met at my first television station in Sherman, TX.  Back then, it was the only station in the country to be three affiliates; ABC, NBC & FOX.  I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but that was the case.  Now, it’s simply the NBC affiliate.  Tracy and I had so many good times together.  I saw her through several boyfriends, was in her wedding  five years land several moves later, and now we both have families.  In 1998, when Tracy and I met, I was the only one of my friends married, so my husband and I would often “host” the holidays at our house. Rather, it was an apartment that my husband and I shared with a roommate because we were so broke.  She, too, has become a life-long friend and the memories of those days in the sweltering Texas heat, I will forever cherish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOj21ulLPo8

Anxiety About Leaving Your Kids….

My husband and I are going on a trip to Ireland for our 10-year Anniversary.  I am definitely excited about the trip, but I’m not too excited about leaving my kids behind.  Even when I am exhausted and losing any bit of patience I have left at the end of the day, there is nothing more I want than to be with my kids.  I can’t imagine being apart from them for an entire week!  No stories at night, and no hugs and kisses!  I’m not sure how I’m going to survive.  Everyone says once I’m there safe and sound and having fun, then it will be easier.  I guess we will see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(At our Wedding – June 2001)

The kids are staying with my parents, and they live close to my brother and sister as well.  There will be a lot for the kids to do with their Papa, Gaga, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins.  Hopefully, they will be entertained and not missing Mom and Dad.  I will probably be the one missing them more!

I will be able to talk to the kids each night on Facetime (the Mac version of Skype), so at least I will be able to see their cute little faces and speak with them.

(Family Photo – Papa, Gaga, Aunts, Uncles & Cousins)

A week will probably fly by!  It’s all planned out and we will be moving around (Dublin to Cork to Killarney), so I’m sure I will be back home before I know it.  I love my kids, but I love my husband as well.  This should be a nice time for us to focus on “us,” which we have not been able to do in a while.  It’s easy to put relationships on the back burner when you are raising two kids.  Focusing on married life is very important as well, which I fully understand.  The kids are now ages 4 and 6 , so I am finally ready (sort of) to be able to leave them – but ONLY for a week (my husband wanted longer)!   I will post after my trip and let you know how it all goes!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(My two cute kiddos who I love SO MUCH!!!!  I will miss them!)

* Have you left your kids for a trip?  How old were they?  How did you feel?  Any tips on getting through the week?

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Kristin Wheeler