Monday, December 10, 2007

Lighting Up The Night

We have several friends who live about two hours away from us. Because they're all clustered in one area, we're often the ones driving to go visit all of them. We've done the drive so many times now, I think we could do it in our sleep. We often drive back at night, which leaves the passenger in the boring position of staring at the cars. Reading is difficult to do without distracting the driver or creating too much glare on the windshield. Our SUV has map lights in the ceiling, but those are too bright to the driver to use for any longer than a few minutes.

The Parent Bloggers Network sent me the Autolite Spotglo as an alternative to those dark, boring drives. It's a reading light that clips onto your seatbelt so that the light is only focused on your lap.

I like how small it is. The Spotglo stores easily in the glove compartment - even an overcrowded one like ours. It clips easily over the seatbelt and doesn't add a huge weight to the shoulder belt.

The light has two settings: low and high. Low was sufficient for me, but I used the high anyway to prevent any chance of eye strain. It's a bright, white light - I was impressed with the light strength.

The only problem I had with it was that it was hard to get the right angle on the light. While it works great for men and kids, it doesn't angle so well for women with anything over a B-cup. I had to hold it in the right position several times or lean forward slightly to get the best light. If they ever redesign it, I'd suggest having the light on a hinge so that it could move out and away from the main unit (even just an inch or two) for better positioning.

The warnings in the package say that this isn't to be used by the front-seat passenger, but since our back seat was filled with sleeping children, I wasn't able to use it any other way. It didn't distract my husband, though, so I would continue to use it in the front seat.

Cordy was a little too young and sleepy to try this out, but when she's older this will be perfect for her to read her books in the car on long drives. At that time I will probably be thankful this product can save me from countless refrains of, "Are we there yet?"

If you do a lot of driving at night, or long-distance driving, the Autolite Spotglo is a good product to have with you for your passenger, or your kids in the backseat. I think we'll be getting a lot of use from this on our long weekend drives.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Organizing My Attempts To Organize

I try so hard to be organized, but always fail in some way. I found a great online system to keep the entire family organized, even when we're not together, but can't get my husband to keep it updated. I have a nice personal calendar, but still can't remember to put my bills in one place or find my daughter's school papers.

So when the Parent Bloggers Network asked me to review the Family Matters organization system by Day Runner, I said sure, why not? After all, it's an entire organization system, which has to be better than just an organizer, right?

When I opened the box, I was impressed with how much was packed inside. I pulled it all out, examined everything to see how it all worked together, and then made a pact with myself to put it all to use.

Included was a paper monthly calendar, an undated dry-erase monthly calendar, a planner, storage boxes, activity folders, and door hangers. All are color coded so that each family member can have their own assigned color. The goal is that each family member's schedule can be merged into one system, to prevent those arguments of, "Wait, what do you mean you have an exam to take? I have rehearsals tonight!" (Not that we ever have those arguments. Ahem. Anyway...)

The paper monthly calendar is a great replacement for my current monthly calendar. It's larger and has a lot more space for writing, plus it has color coded areas for each person. Mine starts with January 2008, but I've already started writing appointments and my school schedule on it. Until then, we're using the dry-erase calendar. I have a feeling we'll use the paper calendar more, since Cordy has shown us the one down-side of dry-erase is that small children can easily wipe it off.

What I love most are the storage boxes and activity folders. These are so useful to keep track of bills that need to be paid, papers Cordy needs for school, paperwork I need for Mira's next doctor's visit, and lots of other stuff. I plan to buy some more folders so that each person's storage box can have multiple folders in it for different activities.

The only products that didn't get any use were the door hangers. Cordy saw these and immediately snatched them up to play with. (They do look like little people, after all.) I don't think they would have a chance at staying on a doorknob with little hands around.

Overall, I like the Family Matters system that Day Planner has designed, and I think this could be a very useful tool for keeping busy families organized. I'm looking forward to getting the infocenter when it's available, and I hope that this system will help me stay a little more organized in the new year.