Back to School: Best Apps for Parents

Getting your kids back to school doesn’t have to be stressful. These great apps will make your life easier now -- and all year long.

1. School Supply List
This easy-to-use app will make sure you don’t forget any supplies this year. It lets you create separate lists for the students in your family and then combine them to make shopping easier -- and take advantage of any sales. You can also sort the lists by items or stores.
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Cost: Free

2. SaleLocator
Whether you want the best prices on school supplies (or TVs, shoes, toys or just about anything), this app uses your phone’s GPS to find sales near you as soon as they’re posted for the exact items you’re looking for.  
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free

3. Cozi Family Organizer
This app’s motto is “Family Life. Simplified.” And boy, does it live up to it. Cozi does it all -- allows you to share a family calendar, create to-do and grocery lists, and more, keeping everything and everyone synced. Plus, it sends out automatic texts or emails to family members so no one misses an event or appointment, saving you the time and mental effort of reminding everyone.
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free

4. RedRover
This app makes spontaneous afterschool playdates (or any get-together) a snap.  You can post that you’re at the playground near the slide and invite several friends to join you at once. Another feature we love: It filters locations by whether they’re kid-friendly and have clean restrooms.
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android
Cost: Free

5. MyHomework
No more forgotten math tests or last-minute realizations that a miniature replica of the Taj Mahal is due tomorrow. This app will help you and your kids keep track of assignments, tests and more with a simple color-coded calendar and reminders on your devices. 
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free

6. iEarnedThat
Trying to motivate your child to clean his room (without all the yelling and threatening)? Skip those old-school sticker reward charts and use this app instead. Simply snap a photo of a reward your child wants (say, a new toy) and this app breaks it into up to 60 puzzle pieces. Your kid can then earn the reward one puzzle piece at a time -- no stickers required.
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Cost: $1.99

7. Is It Contagious?
Should you keep your child home from school because he (or his schoolmates) have an illness other kids could catch? This app, created by the folks at KidsHealth.org and reviewed by pediatricians, answers that dire question about dozens of common childhood conditions from pinkeye to ear infections and more. (Of course, you should always check with your doc too.) In addition, you get essential info on prevention, symptoms, treatment and when to seek immediate care.
Works with: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free


What are your favorite back to school apps?

Also read:
Best Apps for Grandparents

 

Best Apps for Grandparents (Happy National Grandparents Day!)

According to Nielsen, people over 55 are snapping up smartphones faster than any other age group. That’s no surprise, especially with the slew of new apps that can make it easier to boost everything from your brain to your golf swing with a tap of your touch screen. So, just in time for National Grandparents Day on September 9, here are our picks for those apps that deserve space on your smartphone or iPad -- or the device of a special senior in your life.

1. Words with Friends
This addictive, Scrabble-like game, which you play with others, is a great way to keep your mind sharp while staying connected to friends and family. Plus, you have days to make a move, so you can play at your own convenience.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free

2. Swing by Swing
An amazing, easy-to-use -- and free! -- tool for golfers. It uses GPS to show your current distance to the center of the green as well as any obstacles on the course, with an accuracy rivaling similar devices retailing for hundreds of dollars. It also includes a scorecard that keeps track of your shots in stats and graphs so you can see if you improve over time.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free

3. How to Cook Everything
Enjoy cooking? It could take your entire retirement to make all the 2,000 dishes in this electronic version of Mark Bittman’s award-winning cookbook -- and most of them are gems. Plus, you get excellent how-to illustrations and plenty of information on ingredients. You can even email your favorite recipes to friends.   It’s especially easy to browse recipes and search by ingredients. 
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Cost:
$4.99 (a more limited version is free)

4. NPR Mobile
This app is like the best, most powerful portable radio ever for fans of fantastic public broadcasting. It gives you unlimited access to NPR news and music anytime, anywhere, including podcasts of shows you might have missed. You can even create a playlist of stories to listen to while driving or doing another activity.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Compatibility with Androids varies by device
Cost: Free

5. Pocket Yoga
Yoga is great for improving flexibility and lowering stress levels. Whether you’ve never tried it before or have been practicing for years, this app will make yoga easier and fun. In addition to step-by-step illustrations, there are detailed voice instructions to guide you through every pose, including each inhalation and exhalation. It comes with 27 different yoga sessions and includes three different difficulty levels. And you don’t need to be connected to the Internet to use it.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android
Cost: Free

6. RxmindMe Prescription
This app makes it easy to remember to take your meds with reminders that are simple to set up and flexible enough to accommodate meds taken at different time intervals. Another great feature is Prescription Quantity, which counts down the number of pills you have left so you know when it’s time for a refill.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Cost: Free

7. iTriage
Created by two ER docs, this app helps you quickly figure out if those symptoms you’re having are caused by a medical condition and if you need to get treatment. If so, iTriage finds the nearest hospital, emergency room, urgent care facility, pharmacy and more -- then provides maps and directions for how to get there. Having this on your phone could literally be a lifesaver.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Cost: Free

8. Skype
If you don’t already have this incredible app, you should. It lets you make high-quality video or voice-only calls to your grandchildren -- or anyone else. It’s free if the person you’re calling also has the app, or dirt cheap if they don’t. For international calls, rates are shockingly low.
Works with:
iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android (as well as Macs and PCs)
Cost: Free

What are your favorite apps? Tell us below!

Back to School: Smart Tips From Mom Bloggers

If you’re like me, the end of August and return to school is bittersweet. You might mourn the carefree days of summer but relish getting your time back.

Making the transition back to school can be quite a change for kids and parents alike. Kids who’ve been sleeping in -- my teens can stay in bed till noon -- now have to get up at 6 a.m. again. Leisurely lunches eaten when hungry now require planning and packing. And homework? Yes, it’s time to start that drill too.

But going back to school doesn’t have to be a grueling task for you or your kids. We got some of our favorite bloggers to tell us how they solve the four biggest back-to-school challenges and make the transition a better experience for everyone.   

Savvy Moms:

Jen Singer
City
: Kinnelon, N.J.

Blog: MommaSaid.net






Denise Schipani
City:
Huntington, N.Y.
Blog:
DeniseSchipani.com

Book: Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later



Debbie Abrams Kaplan
City:
Westfield, N.J.

Blog: FriscoKids.net and JerseyKids.net






Susan Carraretto
City:
Vancouver

Blog: 5MinutesForMom.com




Back to School Challenge No. 1: The Rude Awakening

After two months of going to bed and getting up whenever they want, kids need to get back on a schedule, one that often involves waking up early. How to you get them to do that?

· Jen: “Two weeks before school starts, I move their bedtimes back by 15 to 30 minutes at a time until we reach something more school-friendly. Once school starts, their schedules generally make them tired enough to adjust quickly to an earlier bedtime.”

· Denise: “Parents worry too much about how to get kids back on track because they feel they have to negotiate with or wheedle or trick their kids. I just tell them straight up: This is the deal, kiddos. Parents should never take a school-age kid’s word for it that they are ‘not tired.’ If your kids are anything like mine, they go full-on until they go to sleep, so it's rare that they act tired. I have to decide for them that it's bedtime or they might just stay up too late. When I tell them it's lights out and they comply, guess what? They're asleep within minutes.”

Back to School Challenge No. 2: The Morning Rush

For many families, the toughest hurdle is getting kids out the door on time. This is especially hard if you have to get ready for work as well. 

· Susan: “Call me a bad mother, but I bring my two girls -- ages 4 and 7 -- downstairs and let them watch a few minutes of TV while I make lunches, get their breakfast into them, dress them and do their hair.”

· Debbie: “The key is to get organized the night before, with backpacks ready, clothes laid out and lunch planned (if not made). It's important that the kids know what time they'll be woken by mom or the alarm, what time they're expected downstairs for breakfast and to get shoes on, and what time they'll leave the house.”

· Denise: “Rushing children, in my observation, never works. Instead, I give them times that things need to happen by, and these times are always the same. Say my son has to be out the door at 7:45 -- I prompt him to head upstairs for dressing and tooth-brushing at 7:30, no exceptions. He knows it, I know it and it happens. As with all things to do with parenting, consistency is the key to everything.”

Back to School Challenge No. 3: Packing a Healthy Lunch

Sending kids to school with a nutritious lunch isn’t always easy. Although school lunches are mandated to be healthier this year, many parents still prefer their kids bring food from home for financial and health reasons.

· Jen: “We have a rule that they can’t buy lunch more than twice a week. My teens make their own lunches, so I make sure there are good choices available, including lettuce, cooked pieces of chicken or turkey, quality cheeses that are actual cheese, and natural cold cuts that have no nitrates or nitrites, MSG or preservatives. I buy organic snacks, and I provide water or iced tea with no high fructose corn syrup.”

· Denise: “I pack milk in reusable plastic bottles, a sandwich (a rotating roster of PBJ, cream cheese and jelly, turkey or ham and cheese); some sort of fruit (grapes, berries, an apple, orange slices, or if I'm out of fresh fruit, applesauce or a juice-packed fruit cup) and a yogurt of some kind. Once or twice a week, I let them buy school lunch, which I'm not crazy about, but I get around my distaste by requiring that they take a fruit and drink milk.”

Back to School Challenge No. 4: The Homework Grind

Toughest of all perhaps, is the return of homework, which can quickly bring on whining and tears (from both parents and kids!)

· Denise: “Homework is one of those necessary pieces of the day, so I make it a rule that homework gets done first, no exceptions. So they get home, take off shoes, wash hands, maybe have a snack (but only if they ask!) and then it's down to work.”

· Jen: “I let them have some down time after school, so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of work. Then I set a time they need to begin homework and a time they need to finish. If they want to take a break and play a game on the Wii or watch a 30-minute TV show in the middle of homework, I allow it, as long as they hit the time deadline.”

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Smiling

Most likely, the last thing you think about when you’re posing for your latest Facebook shot is the science behind your smile. But there’s a lot more to a smile than meets the eye. Here are 10 little-known facts that will have you beaming.

1. Smiling has body benefits.
Every time you frown, you’re unnecessarily exhausting 43 facial muscles, while smiling only uses 17 muscles. Some studies show that beaming can benefit your blood pressure levels. Add a laugh and you’ll also slim your middle -- the movement exercises your abs, diaphragm, shoulders and heart. Scientists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville found that laughing can stoke your calorie burn by up to 20 percent.

2. Grinning is human.
One thing that separates us from animals is our capacity to smile. We don’t learn how to smile from our surroundings; rather, it’s a natural mechanism that’s hardwired in us from birth. Studies have shown that newborn babies crack their first smile as early as two hours after delivery.

3. Women are more likely to smile.

Fact: The average woman smiles approximately 62 times a day. In that same day, a man only flashes his pearly whites a mere eight times. Interestingly enough, a Yale University study found that the difference declines when the two genders share the same occupation. Why? The researchers believe that it could be because every workplace has an unspoken “smiling standard” that’s followed by all employees.

4. There are different types of smiles.
Happiness isn’t the only thing we can express when we turn up the corners of our mouths. During his research at the University of California, San Francisco, scientist Paul Ekman discovered that people smile 19 different ways, depending on social situations and emotions, including fear, grief and hatred. All types fall under two larger categories: heartfelt and artificial. You can differentiate the two: Sincere smiles cause the corners of your eyes to scrunch up -- insincere ones don’t.

5. Beauty comes from a smile.
When asked to select more attractive counterparts, study participants at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen pointed to those people who were beaming. In another recent lab report, 69 percent of those asked said that women look younger and more attractive when they wear a smile rather than makeup.

6. Smiling leads to a longer life.

Research conducted at the University of Illinois has suggested that people who generally feel happy and smile more often have a longer life expectancy of nearly a decade. In another study that looked at baseball cards, Wayne State University scientists in Detroit concluded that those athletes who flashed their pearly whites in their pictures lived on average seven years longer than those who didn’t.

7. Healthy marriages thrive on smiles.
People who grin consistently are more likely to have healthy marriages, say researchers at DePauw University in Indiana. Some say it’s because smilers can more easily express their emotions, and others think that people who grin often attract happier people, allowing them to form stronger, more positive connections.

8. Smiling releases endorphins.

Research shows that the simple act of turning your mouth up, whether authentic or not, can help release endorphins, feel-good hormones. Serotonin, a natural stress-reducing chemical, also increases when you smile.

9. You can fight a cold with a grin.
Cut down on those sick days by plastering a big, cheesy smile on your face. Every time you flash your teeth, your body produces greater quantities of antibodies and T-cells (or white blood cells), which may give your immune system a huge power boost.

10. Smiling is contagious.

During an experiment conducted in Sweden, participants reported that they found it very difficult to frown when they saw other participants smiling. Many began to turn their mouths up without even realizing it. Start smiling and the whole world will smile with you.

How many times do you think you smile in a day? Tell us below and see how you compare to others …

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/svetikd

Boost Your Confidence: Stories From Real Women

When the going got really rough for these three women, they all found ways to stay positive. These stories can help to build confidence, achieve your dreams and be your best self -- no matter what life throws your way.

Go the Extra Mile
Learning to carve out “me time” can have a positive effect on our outlook and health. Sure, it can feel good to do things for other people, but overdoing it can be a bad thing. Taking time out can make us learn to love ourselves even more.

Kerrin D., 40: “After five years of dating [someone] I thought was the one, we had a breakup, and he immediately started dating my best friend. They’re now married. Although I was devastated, it created an intense motivation, and I decided to run the New York City Marathon.

“Training was a serious commitment, but it also meant that I was able to take time for myself -- something I hadn’t done much of in the past. My runs helped me clear my head and prioritize time, and in time, myself. 

“On the day of the marathon, I had an “aha” moment. About halfway through the race, I realized I was no longer running for revenge -- it was all about me. This moment made crossing the finish line one of the best moments of my life. The entire process -- the training, the running, the accomplishment -- was a serious confidence-builder. I got a lot stronger, both physically and mentally, and I realized that I’m not defined by anyone else.”

Breathe Deeply
Even something as simple as focusing on breathing has vast mental benefits. It helps nurture mind, body and spirit. By concentrating on the basic needs of life, we can positively impact our outlook and health.

Jessica A., 35: “I first experienced symptoms of depression in high school. At its worst, I couldn't think straight or focus and I didn't enjoy time with friends. I met my husband after my junior year of college and I don’t remember our first years as particularly joyful -- even with all of the early romance.

“After nine years living with depression, we decided to start a family. I committed to feeling better -- for good. I made the biggest effort by practicing yoga. I made an effort to incorporate some breath with movement every day. Later, I found a book called Yoga for Depression and that helped me actively incorporate the practice into my life.

“Yoga, for me, is about feeling in touch with my body, stretching my muscles and making sure I'm breathing and not holding any tension. I think that taking time to calm my mind and let go of tension in my body, to slow down, really helped me emotionally.

“Managing our life can be a challenge, but I make the effort to remain positive. I find it satisfying that my quest for a healthier lifestyle helped [create] a healthier body and mind, and that the two continue to support each other.”

Mix It up
Appreciating the small things can help us achieve our ideal life. Taking control of the things that make us unhappy can empower and better our lives. Sometimes, it is as easy as making a shift in our daily schedules.

Melanie C., 35: “When I worked in an office, it was a cycle. I would get up, go to work, come home, watch a little TV and go to bed. Repeat. I was so involved in my work, the rest of my life was put on hold.

“Then at 29, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was devastated and thought that my body had betrayed me. Eventually, I came to the realization that this news was giving me permission to actually live my life. I learned to appreciate and take advantage of every day.

“I soon changed jobs so I could have a more flexible schedule, and I no longer dreaded the daily grind. In fact, I now look forward to experiencing every moment. My schedule is a mix of work, play and family time, and I finally feel like I’m living my life.

“Dictating my own schedule has made me much more confident. Part of that may come with age, part of it from the cancer diagnosis -- I can put things in better perspective now -- and part of it by landing in a better place. But most of it comes from the fact that I’m the one -- not my job or the cancer -- controlling my own life now.”