Entries Tagged as 'the internets'

ditching cable and streaming TV


How to ditch cable and stream TV @ohbotherblog

I get questions every so often from people who are interested in ditching cable, so I figured I’d put this down in one place once and for all.

When I moved last fall, I chose not to bring my cable package with me. Since having kids, my personal TV-watching time has decreased, but I couldn’t give up television entirely because, yes, I let my kids watch TV sometimes (!) and because my dad (aka my daycare) appreciates being able to watch TV throughout the day. So here’s what we do in my house:

  1. I switched to Verizon as my Internet provider (about $56 a month for the enhanced Internet package to accommodate streaming.)
  2. I have a Roku, which ranges from $39.99-$99.99 on Amazon.
    1. I also have an Apple TV in my upstairs bedroom, though I actually prefer the Roku.
  3. I have Amazon Prime Instant Video through my Amazon Prime/Amazon Mom account ($99/year, so $8.25/month).
    1. There are some shows/movies that require purchase, so I try to be discerning. For example, Season 2 of Yo Gabba Gabba is free on Amazon Prime, but you have to purchase other episodes or seasons. I finally broke down and purchased Season 4 for my own sanity.
  4. I have Hulu Plus for new episodes and full seasons of current TV shows and some movies ($7.99/month).
  5. I have Netflix for movies, older seasons of TV shows and Netflix Original Series, like House of Cards, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange is the New Black ($7.99/month).
    1. If you can do without the Netflix Originals, this is a platform you could probably forego as there is quite a bit of overlap with Amazon and Hulu.
  6. I just signed up for Sling TV, which allows you to stream live TV on cable networks like Disney Channel, ABC Family (because I love Pretty Little Liars), AMC, ESPN, TBS, HGTV, Food Network and more ($20/month). You can also add HBO for an additional $15 a month.
    1. I signed up for Sling essentially just to be able to watch the Mad Men series finale live but it’s looking like it may become an integral part of our TV routine.
  7. I purchased a AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna for $24.99, which attaches to the wall behind the TV and gets me two networks (NBC and Fox)… and their weird digital channels (my Fox station has a digital channel that has all 1970’s sitcoms).
    1. This has been great for my avid Dateline viewing and some live events like awards shows that are on NBC or Fox.

So, for a $65-75 starting investment (Roku Stick + digital antenna), you can take the first step of saying goodbye to cable. Yes, I am still paying about $100 a month for my Internet and various streaming channels, but it’s less than I was paying for cable + Internet previously and I essentially have on-demand access to just about any TV show or movie imaginable. And, it keeps both my toddler and my dad happy. Annnnnd, most of these channels have mobile apps as well so you can stream on your phone or tablet.

By the way, if you don’t already have an Amazon Prime membership, I highly recommend, if only for the free two-day shipping. I Prime everything, including toilet paper (TMI?).

guesting for susquehanna style


Guest blogging for Susquehanna Style @ohbotherblog


I’m pretty psyched to share that I’m going to be guest blogging for Susquehanna Style, Central Pa’s style magazine. Check out my first post–an intro to me, this blog and my crazy life–over at Susq Style now!

I’ll be writing monthly blog posts for the magazine, in the similar vein of what I do here–basically demonstrating my feeble attempts at motherhood, Pinteresting and life in general.

I know what you’re thinking, “But, Meg, how can you write a monthly blog post for them when you’ve been sucking so much at posting on your own blog?” And to that I say, “You’re right. Oh, bother.” 

Gatsby’s birth story, or how I live tweeted my labor again


As I shared, I was not particularly loving the final week or two of pregnancy and was trying pretty much everything to get this little guy out.

Stuff that does not work to induce labor:

  • Having the doctor strip your membranes
  • Spicy food: Mexican, curry, triple-chili powder chocolate cupcakes
  • Third trimester tea
  • Pedicures/foot massages
  • Labor Cookies
  • Scrubbing the floor on your hands and knees
  • Sweeping the floor
  • Skipping
  • Bouncing on a large ball
  • Walking miles and miles
  • Running on an elliptical
  • “The thing that got you into trouble in the first place”
  • Anything to do with your nipples
  • Evening Primrose Oil
  • Jumping off the bottom step
  • Squats and lunges
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Dancing
  • Full moons
  • Walking miles and miles

What Does Work to Induce Labor: Having a baby that’s ready.

Mommy and daughter bouncing on the labor ball @ohbotherblog

Gatsby’s Birth Story

On his due date, March 23, I woke up to some really mild contractions around 7am, while I was lying in bed. I didn’t think too much of it because I had literally been having contractions for about three weeks at this point. I kept an eye on the clock—they were about 8 minutes apart. As an hour ticked by and the contractions got a bit stronger, I began to realize that this might be it, but I still didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Side note: Having to rely on your own assessment of your discomfort to make that call to the doctor really sucks, especially when you’re a stubborn mule like me who likes to think she’s tough. Having your water break—like mine did with Holden—is at least a clear sign of labor, although, boy, does that make your contractions so much more intense.

Around 8am, I got up and took a shower (I had this weird thing with both pregnancies where I wanted to get myself “ready” to go to the hospital). My contractions were lasting about a minute, were 3-6 minutes apart and were still relatively mild. I called my doctor’s office at 8:36am and my parents at 8:42am. My mom took me to the hospital while my husband stayed at the house with still-sleeping Holden.

We got to the hospital around 9:45am. I wanted to make the walk to Labor & Delivery rather than take a wheelchair, and I could feel my contractions intensifying and coming faster. My OB met me in L&D for my exam: I was 5 cm dilated and still kinda thick by that point, so she wanted to put me on the monitor to see how I progressed before deciding if they would “keep” me… which pissed me off because 1) I knew this was it and 2) the contractions were getting stronger and being strapped to a bed (without meds) is pretty much the last thing you want when you’re in labor.

I was only on the monitor for about 20-30 minutes before they came back to admit me and take me to a room—I guess my moans of pain and the huge peaks of my contractions on the monitor told them this was the real thing. My OB told me then I was a bit too smiley when I first came in and that’s why she didn’t admit me right away… so if there’s a next time, I’ll keep that in mind.

In the middle of a labor contraction @ohbotherblog

Like my labor with Holden, the time from being admitted until receiving the epidural was a blur of pain. Contractions were coming every minute or so and, while they weren’t at the same excruciating level of my first pregnancy (when my water broke), they still felt like I was being eviscerated with a rusty bread knife every 60 seconds. I was still strapped to a bed, receiving IV fluid before they would give me the epidural and still on the monitor. So no walking or ball-bouncing. Just me alone with my pain.

Around 11am (so after about an hour), the doctor gave me the painkiller, Stadol, which doesn’t stop the pain of the contractions but “takes the edge off”—which means makes you kind of high so you can’t focus on the pain as much. It made things a bit better, but the real joy came when my anesthesiologist entered the room around 11:15am.

Getting an epidural @ohbotherblog

I endured one more painful contraction before the sweet, sweet nectar of anesthesia washed through my body and I began the blissful, zen-like ride of no feeling—like, I literally couldn’t even feel my legs. Also, I was still kind of high.

So now that I was feeling good, it was time to let my friends know where I was and to start…

My Labor Live Tweet, Part Deux

(ps – I also live tweeted my labor with Holden, which you can read here.)

In case you don’t feel like scrolling through all the pages, here is the “highly popular” video of me dancing to “Push It,” like I did last time:

Around 1:50pm (so after about 2.5 hours), the doc came in and said I was about 9.5 cm dilated and we’d start pushing within the hour… which came as news to me because I had no idea I had progressed that quickly. I was still feeling nothing. Like, my leg looked and felt like a huge hamhock lying in bed with me.

She came back around 2:20pm and said it was time. So even though I couldn’t feel what I was doing, I was going to push this baby out. They wheeled over the mirror—always a surreal experience—and I watched as, with three pushes that I couldn’t feel, the baby slipped on out. The process took less than four minutes. No drama, no tearing (thank god—guess those padsicles weren’t really necessary).

They put my beautiful baby boy on my chest and I was still in shock that it had all happened so quickly. But here he was, right on time.

And nothing would be the same again.

explorey stories: story time app


Explorey Stories - educational app that makes reading come to life @ohbotherblog

While we’re talking about education, I wanted to share something that a friend sent me the other day.

A friend of hers has launched a Kickstarter campaign to get his educational children’s project off the ground. It’s called Explorey Stories, and it’s an app that combines story time with experiential activities for your kids. It will help you turn classic stories (Fairy Tales, Greek Mythology, Bible Stories, Shakespeare, etc.) into fun “adventures.”

Every Explorey Story begins with the Adventure Pack, which is a list of items you will use to tell the story: sheets, pillows, towels, sugar, etc. You will find all of the Adventure pack items in your home, which is one of the coolest parts of the project, IMO. So you go on an expedition to complete the Adventure Pack, and then the story begins.

Then, each Explorey Story consists of spontaneous activities to encourage play (called Sidetracks) and educational experiments (called Road Trips). The Road Trips are performed after the story and reinforce many math, science, fine arts and language arts principles.

So it’s almost like a lesson plan in a fun story time app. I love the concept. They’re halfway to their goal, with 16 days to go. The project will only be funded if they reach their $15,000 goal by August 8.

Here’s the video from their Kickstarter. Check out their campaign, and feel free to donate if you’re so inclined.

 I’ll let you know if they make it!

holdy’s favorite apps


the 3 best iphone apps for your baby or toddler @ohbotherblog

Holden has been obsessed with my iPhone pretty much since birth. For Christmas (when she was about six months old), I got her this Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case for my old iPod touch.

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case @ohbotherblog

She was a big fan.

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case @ohbotherblog

The only thing I found was that I prefer to put the iPhone/iPod in upside down to avoid the plastic cover for the home button. There’s a protector screen to keep your baby from getting out of apps, but that also means mom and dad can’t get out of the app either.

So what are Holdy’s favorite apps for the iPhone/iPod? These are Holdy’s choices:

Baby Silencer – Free

We started using the Baby Silencer app to calm Holdy in the car because she hattttttttttted car rides so much. It’s basically like those psychedelic screensavers from the nineties, set to music. The graphics on the screen respond to touch, so the baby can interact with the colors and sound.
Baby Silencer App @ohbotherblog

Overall, the app totally lives up to its name. Holden loved it as an infant, and she still loves it today. Plus she can interact with it even more now that she’s a toddler.


Elmo Calls – $.99

The Elmo Calls app is so fun. It’s like FaceTiming with Elmo! There are audio calls, video calls and even voicemails. The Sunny Day Sampler Call pack comes with your $.99 purchase of the app and includes nine calls.

You can also download free “Special Visits” calls (like for car trips and visits to the library) and calls for holidays. You can also purchase special packs for bedtime, going potty, going to school, etc.

Elmo will FaceTime your child with the Elmo Calls iPhone App @ohbotherblog

We started using Elmo Calls when Holden was about six months old. Seeing her face light up when she sees Elmo on the screen is priceless, so $.99 for this awesome app is totally worth it.


Peekaboo Barn – Lite/Free. Full/$1.99

The Peekaboo Barn app is Holden’s current favorite. In this adorable app, a bouncing barn houses various farm animals. Your baby opens the door to see who’s inside and learns the animals’ names and the sounds they make.

The Peekaboo Barn app is so fun for toddlers

I started with Peekaboo Barn Lite, which is free and includes three animals (pig, rooster and cow). Now that Holden is a bit older, I bit the bullet and paid the $1.99 for the full version, which includes like 10 (?) animals, plus a cute final animation where all the animals are sleeping. The fact that the app will keep her occupied for like seven glorious, silent minutes pays for that $1.99 several times over.

Peekaboo Barn was designed by artists and educators. It has been a top 20 educational game on the iTunes store nearly every day since its launch and was named one of the top 50 iPhone apps for kids by Babble in 2010 and 2011. We love Peekaboo Barn!
So those are our old standbys when it comes to iPhone apps. What can I say? Holdy loves her some apps.

using facebook promoted posts to boost your blog traffic


So, despite the fact that I “do” social media for my j-o-b, I’ve been pretty lazy about promoting my blog on social media. I mean, I didn’t even really share posts on my own personal Facebook until a little over a month ago. I think part of the reason for that is 1) I wasn’t sure if this whole thing really sucked so I wasn’t quite ready to put it out there and 2) I didn’t want this to be a blog that just my friends read. But, on the other hand, it is a little disheartening to write something you put a lot of time and thought into and then only 11 people see it. So I decided it was time to get a little traffic.

I started slowly. About two weeks ago, I posted on my personal Facebook encouraging my friends to “Like my blog already.” I got about 50 Likes off the bat, which isn’t much, but it was enough to give me access to Facebook Insights, which are analytics (numbers/metrics) for your Facebook Page. You access your Facebook Insights via the admin panel at the top of your Facebook Page.

Using Facebook Insights for your blog @ohbotherblog

Insights will give you info on number of Page Likes (and new Likes), Post Reach (how many people saw your posts), and Engagement (how many people Liked, commented or shared). Insights will also show you specific reach and engagement for each post. You can go super in depth with your Insights and find out follower demographics and geography, see what times your Fans are online, and your best post types (links, photos, status updates, etc.).

Using Facebook Insights for your blog @ohbotherblog
So now that I had access to my Insights I could see how few people were actually seeing my posts. Starting with a super-low number of Followers obviously isn’t the best, but coupling that with the fact that the average post from a brand page only reaches about 16% of Facebook fans meant that like six people were seeing my posts on Facebook.

So Facebook offers an easy an inexpensive way to “boost” your post and get it in front of some new eyes. I mean, there’s nothing worse than posting something you think is blog gold and it turns out it’s going into an Internet black hole. So I started dipping my toe into Facebook Promoted Posts about a week ago.

You choose the post you want to promote (the blog gold) and click the “Boost Post” button at the bottom right of the post. The minimum is $5, which, for me, got me a new audience of 700-1,400 people. Pretty sweet. You can choose to promote your post to People who Like your Page and their friends, or you can target other users by geography, gender, age and interests.

Boost your Facebook post views with Promoted Posts for your blog @ohbotherblog

Through boosting just a few posts, my Facebook Page views are up like 2000% (which, lets be honest, wasn’t hard to do) and my promoted posts have reached 1,200 people or more (who wouldn’t normally have ever seen my posts). After boosting my first post, my blog traffic increased 418%. AND I’ve gotten 14 news Facebook Likes.

So, anyway, I’m a fan. I mean, see how that post up there with the adorable croc flipping the bird only reached 7 people? Yeah. Give it a shot on your blog and let me know how it goes!

google’s adorbs mother’s day video


Maybe it’s because it’s my first Mother’s Day, or maybe it’s just because I’m exhausted, but Google’s new “Here’s to the Moms” video has melted my cold, black heart. Who’s cutting onions in here?

in defense of the first lady’s “single mom” comment



The traditional media, the twitterverse and the blogosphere all have their tongues wagging over a recent slip of the tongue by Michelle Obama. In an interview Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama mistakenly called herself a “busy single mother,” before quickly correcting herself. Responses have ranged from theories that our president and his wife are estranged to annoyance/outrage by mothers who feel the single mom comparison is unfair.

Because my husband works out of town during the week, I have sometimes jokingly referred to myself as a “weekday single mother.” I don’t say it to disparage the situation of any other mother, whether they have a partner or not. I say it because… sometimes I want to be able to go to the bathroom by myself. Or dart off to the grocery store. Or be able to make dinner with two hands.

When you are raising a child without a partner (or you have a partner who is less-than-helpful), there are sacrifices and compromises you make. I would never say I don’t have help: my parents and in-laws are a fantastic support for my daughter and me. But sometimes, yes, I do feel like I’m doing it alone when my husband isn’t here. I do understand that the struggle of being a truly “single parent,” is the struggle of supporting your family on one paycheck, which I am fortunate to not have to do.

But I have also learned not to judge any other woman’s or parent’s struggle. As the oft-pinned saying goes, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”


by Simon Walker for dribbble.com


my birth story, or how i live tweeted my labor


how I live tweeted my labor

For the full birth story, water-breakage, Exorcist-style contractions and all, check out my birth story over on Spearmint Baby.

Once I hit full term in my first pregnancy, I was mentally ready to deliver this baby. We had just hired my interim replacement at work, so pretty much the day she arrived, I felt like it was okay for me to “go.” I had been having minor contractions on and off in the night during weeks 37 and 38 but nothing serious or lasting more than 30 seconds.

I tried every trick I could find on the Internet: I drank Earth Mama Angel Baby Third Trimester Tea. I put Evening Primrose Oil capsules up my hoohah when I went to sleep at night. I massaged my own nipples (and even tried out the breast pump on them). I ate Mexican food. I walked for miles. With my husband working out of town during the week, sex wasn’t a possibility, so I… took care of that task myself. I helped my cousin stain her hardwood floors on my hands and knees. I purposely sought out bumpy roads to drive on. I went strawberry picking.

The night before I gave birth (at 39 weeks, exactly one week before my due date), I worked late and then took a long walk with my dog around 7pm. At 3:15am, I awoke for my regular pee break, but when I perched on the toilet, I felt a little leakage before I actually peed. When I crawled back into bed, I felt a little more leakage. Part of me thought it could have been my water breaking; the other part thought I probably just peed myself and figured I’d wait it out.

The contractions started to come. Minor. Lasting about 45-60 seconds. About six minutes apart. I was tracking the contractions in my iPhone app and decided, if this is going to be the real thing, I was going to go ahead and shower and get myself ready.

Around 4:30am, I went to the guest bedroom to wake my mom, who was staying with me while my husband was working out of town. We decided that I should call the doctor. I told him I was pretty sure my water “broke a little.” Because I had a special circumstance with my placenta and umbilical cord, a velamentous cord insertion (VCI), he advised me to come on into the hospital. At this point, my biggest concern was getting to the hospital only to be sent home; I was really hoping my water had broken and it wasn’t just in my head. I called my husband and told him to start the 3-hour drive home to the hospital and that I would call him and tell him to turn around if it was a false alarm.

During the 5-minute ride to the hospital, my contractions got somewhat stronger and closer together, but they were nothing beyond some mild discomfort. We arrived at the Emergency Department at 5:35am and I was wheeled up to Labor and Delivery to be examined.

The nurse used a large Q-tip with solution on it that would turn blue if amniotic fluid was detected. When she swabbed, the Q-tip just barely turned blue, so she wanted to use her (gloved) finger to examine. WOOSH. If my water wasn’t broken before, it certainly was now. At this point, I was 1 cm dilated and “thick,” but I was officially in labor. I was admitted, called my husband to tell him “all systems go,” and made my way to my delivery room.

Then all hell broke loose. Within 10 minutes of my water breaking, I was writhing in pain on my hospital bed, back arched Exorcist-style. The pain was searing; I didn’t know what to do with my body. The contractions came in waves, less than 2-minutes apart.

The next two hours are a bit hazy because I think I literally blacked out from pain several times. What I recall is this: because I came in at only 1 cm dilated, the nurse suggested I hold off on the epidural for a bit and try walking, which consisted of me stopping every five steps to double over in pain and clutch the railing on the wall. I tried the big bouncy ball, only to end up tossing it across the room and lie screeching on the floor in the fetal position.

When it came to the epidural, my husband and I agreed that we would just see how things went with my labor. I didn’t have a birth plan, other than for all of us to get out of there alive (my husband included). I consider myself to have a high threshold for pain and to be a pretty tough cookie. The fact that I was begging for mercy within the first hour of my labor had thrown me for a real loop.

When the nurse came back to my room and found me splayed on the floor, red-faced, wild-haired and moaning like a feral cat, she agreed that it looked like I could use the epidural. After helping me into bed and examining my progress, she determined that I had gone from 1 to 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced in one hour, which apparently is pretty fast. I felt a little vindicated hearing that.

At that point, the anesthesiologist came in and became my new favorite person. Just the idea that the epidural would be kicking in soon got me through the last couple contractions. And then the nirvana washed over me. Luckily for him, my husband arrived just after I received the epidural (probably lucky for our marriage as well). I settled into bed, checked into the hospital on Foursquare to announce to my social network that this was happening, and the waiting game began.

Then I took to Twitter for (maybe?) one of the first-ever labor live tweets (spoiler alert: there may or may not be a video of me high on epidural and dancing to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” in there):

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